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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)

TITLE: Dinner at James Manor
By Leigh MacKelvey
04/11/07


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May 15, 1952 ... As Vicar of the small village of Wimbly Station, I received an invitation to dinner at James Manor, which in itself is not unusual. Seating a vicar at oneís table somehow brings a respectable status to a party. However, added to the card was a note from Daphne James asking me to observe a certain house guest. She was contemplating marriage to said guest and would value my opinion of his character. I remember mulling over the strange request when Mary, my housekeeper, laid before me a cold potato supper and I turned to thoughts about the fine food at the Manor.

Neville Stephens was a charming man who captivated attention. Daphne appeared genuinely in love. Nevilleís eyes were for her only. I spoke with him at length and could not find anything disturbing to report. I did notice the elbows of his jacket were threadbare and found it odd that Daphne, heiress to great fortune, was considering matrimony with someone beneath her station. Ah, well, you cannot judge a manís character by material means.

After dinner, Daphne invited the women to retire to the drawing room for sherry and then to her bedchambers to view her emerald brooch. The brooch was a well-known piece of jewelry in the village. Never wearing it on her person, she showed it at parties for entertainment. Itís value was greater than that of the Manor itself and it was kept under lock and key in her chamber drawer. I had seen it myself on many occasions.

I promised I would join the men for cigars and wandered off to find the lavatory. While inspecting the tiny wrapped soaps, I heard screams for the police. The brooch was missing! The Inspector arrived forthwith. Guests were gathered into the drawing room, questioned, then asked to remain in the room while a house search was conducted. It seemed a fortnight passed until finally Neville Stephens was cuffed and accused. Amidst loud protests, the brooch was produced and said to have been found in his suitcase, packed and made ready to go. Daphne fainted, was given a sedative and put to bed. Neville was driven to the pokey. I walked home to the Vicarage.

I must tell the rest of this story. ( And what is it to you that I have told it my way thus far, since it is mine to tell?) Walking home, a struggle began to take place within me. Moral dilemma broke into battle. You see, on the day I received the invitation from Daphne, I also received another postage. The Vicarage was to be audited for financial discrepancies. I must replace the stolen monies I had been investing for my future. ( I ask you, whatís a poor vicar to do for retirement?) The invitation to the Manor brought on a scheme. I took a quiet trip to London where I had a replica of the emerald brooch made with costume jewels.

I kept the brooch in my pocket during dinner, watching for a chance to switch it for the real. My observation of Neville played into the plan. He was poor; he would be suspect. There would be no need for further investigation if the brooch were found in his belongings. Later, if the emerald was discovered as fake, they would assume he had the real jewel and would not be able to squeeze confession of its whereabouts from an innocent man.

Quite by accident, I overheard Daphne ask the butler to unlock her drawer in preparation for the showing. I did not go the lavatory after dinner, but to Daphneís room. I pocketed the famous brooch then hurried along the corridor of guest rooms until I found Nevilleís chambers. I packed his suitcase and buried the fake brooch underneath his knickers.

Yes, I, a poor vicar, did a terrible deed and have suffered miserable conscience. It is the reason for writing this confession. I cannot allow a man whose only crime is poverty to be condemned or a gracious women who has been kind enough to take me away from cold suppers be left with a broken heart. Nor will I live with the guilt of thievery. I address this confession to the good Constables of Wimbly Station and to my Bishop.

I am ready to face the consequences. God has won the battle of my soul. I go on with His strength.

Samuel L. Brideberry, Vicar of Wimbley Station


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This article has been read 955 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Rhonda Clark 04/12/07
Love it! This is a nice twist to the topic. The idea of having the perpatrator tell the crime, but you don't realize it until the end. Great job.
Edy T Johnson 04/12/07
Nothing like a British mystery, my favorite kind! You have a well-developed character in your narrator, more genuine than the "flat" sort one might expect in a short story.

You also have produced such atmosphere, somehow, that I could easily see the story playing out on the TV screen. I'm impressed!
Loren T. Lowery04/12/07
Do I see a bit of Agatha Christy in this piece? Great all the way through.
Julie Arduini04/12/07
Yep, this is how its done. I felt like I was there, and what a twist with the true thief as the narrator. Excellent!
Catrina Bradley 04/13/07
Ahh - a true mystery!! I felt like I was reading a story from Ellery Queen magazine! One note - "it's" is only used when you mean to say "it is". Such talent flows from your pen (or keyboard). Love love love this entry!
Jacquelyn Horne04/16/07
A different approach to mystery. Good job. I liked it.
Esther Gellert04/17/07
This was a great story. The characters were well developed and the ending a complete surprise.
Cheri Hardaway 04/17/07
Excellent and quite masterful job! Reminded me of Agatha Christie and Clue all rolled into one. The twist at the end puts it over the top! Nice work. Blessings, Cheri
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/17/07
I felt like I was playing a game of Clue! You really surprised me with the narrator as the criminal. I loved how you worked it out so everyone got what he or she deserved. An excellent mystery1
Joanne Sher 04/18/07
Excellent voice and so engaging - I loved the twist also. Very well written!
Rita Garcia04/18/07
loved the POV! Great reading!!