Friday, October 25, 2013

Frightening Friday: A Fancy Dinner Party Where Someone Dies

You're inviting us to what? We're busy that night.

DINNER. For some, it's a word that induces extreme hunger pangs. For others, a sense of warmth and togetherness. But for a few unlucky souls, it is a word that brings terror.

I hope you are prepared for a dinner that is the last kind. Our final Frightening Friday story for this October is not for those of you who are sitting in your supper nooks licking your lips as you dream about a nice risotto dinner. And it is definitely not for those of you lounging in your remembering nooks, thinking about dinners with your grandmother that didn't involve her dying in her soup. It is for those of you trembling in your dark and spooky closet nooks, clutching your childhood teddy bears as you await today's story. I hope you have your best dinner attire on for...

A Fancy Dinner Party Where Someone Dies

It was a dinner party unlike any other dinner party.

I mean...there were similarities, of course. For instance, there were guests who arrived with empty stomachs. There were cocktails. There was a grand silver tray of pickles, sausages, and cheese cubes all poked on tiny sticks. There was a host who shouted, "Make yourself at home!" and a guest who did by taking a nap on the parlor sofa next to the fireplace. But this dinner party had something that most fancy dinner parties don't have. And that thing was villainy.

But who or what the villain was remained a mystery throughout the first course of the dinner. Everyone ate their salads completely oblivious to the villainy that was to come. They dabbed their faces with fancy cloth napkins, not understanding that soon....very soon....someone at that very table would be murdered.

I suppose I should introduce you to the guests now. There were seven of them. Pay close attention to any signs of villainy, or you may soon live to regret it.

At the head of the table sat the host of the party, Sir James John Upton-Starbucks. Upon sitting down at the head of the table, he shouted, "MY SEAT! MY SEAT! HOST SEAT! I CALLED IT." For Sir James John Upton-Starbucks, despite being a prestigious duke, was often quite childish. It might interest you to know that this childishness drove him to two things: collecting trampolines and extreme jealousy of anyone who bounced on them for too long. Did this jealousy and childishness drive the duke to murder? Perhaps. I'll go on.

Sitting next to the duke on his right was the Lady Milicent Upton-Starbucks, his wife. Upon sitting down at the table, and rolling her eyes at the duke's loud claims to the head seat, Lady Milicent said, "Everyone, don your bibs now!" For her ladyship hated it when people got crumbs and mustard stains on the collars of their fancy dinner attire. Was it this particular disdain for crumbs and mustard stains the cause of the death of one of the guests later during the meal? We shall find out very soon.

Next to her ladyship was an extremely mysterious and extremely veiled woman. "Hmmmmrrrrfffff mrrrrffff," she said as everyone took their seats at the dinner table. This was because the heavy veil made it difficult for her to understand. Was she saying, "I shall sit here next to the hostess because she is so beautiful and kind and delightful at conversation," or was the mysteriously veiled woman saying something like, "I will murder one of you very soon"? Perhaps you should read on while you ponder that mystery.

To the right of the mysterious, veiled, and muffle-voiced woman sat a gentleman of very high regard, Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. He was a gentleman for two reasons. The first was that he was a viscount. The second was because, as everyone was seated at the dinner table, he ran around and politely pulled out everyone's chairs. "Mother always said that a gentleman does gentlemanly things," he said as he took his own seat. But perhaps his gentlemanly title and gentlemanly behavior was a cover for something else: something like MURDER.

The far end of the table, opposite the host, was reserved for Sir James John Upton-Starbucks's younger brother, Stuart. "Does everyone have enough room?" he asked, pulling his place setting far to the corner of the table so that it almost toppled onto the rug. "I don't want to be in anyone's way." He wasn't, but Stuart suffered from a terrible ailment that made him believe he was a giant, even though in reality he could hardly see over the table. "I'm so hungry, I could eat a village," Stuart said quietly, licking his lips. Did a giant hunger drive the duke's brother to dispatching a fellow dinner guest? We shall soon see.

The last two guests, sitting side by side to the left of the duke, were a very handsome couple. The man had a strong chin and jawline, a marvelous head of hair, and a winning smile. The lady also had a strong chin and jawline, a marvelous head of hair, and a winning smile. Seeing themselves and their own handsomeness in each other, the couple was soppily in love. As everyone was getting seated at the table, Lord and Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio were looking into each other's eyes and sighing the deep sighs of two people in love. Was their love so great that it led to murder? How would I know...yet?

Of course, no dinner party at the fancy home of two aristocrats would be complete without a butler, a valet, a cook, and a maid named Constance. They are also suspects, so don't forget to eye them suspiciously as well.

The murder occurred during the main course, quite an inconvenience for anyone looking forward to dessert. The cook, whose name was Pauline, brought a large roasted turkey and a side of potatoes to the table. Everyone smacked their lips loudly as they were served, especially Stuart Upton-Starbucks, who said, "Fee fi fo fum. I love turkey...and also gum." (He wasn't good at rhymes.)

"BIBS," said Lady Upton-Starbucks, fussily, gesturing at Constance to run around and secure everyone's bibs back under their chins, in the off chance that they had come dislodged during the aspic course.

Only one thing was said after that before the lights suddenly went out, and that thing was, "Mmmmmmffffffffff!" Was the veiled lady asking someone to pass the gravy? Or did she know what was coming? No one had a chance to ask her because, just then, the lights in the dining room went out.

There was a scream and the sounds of a scuffle. Then, there was another scream and the tinkle of glass breaking. As the lights continued to be out, there was yet another scream and a shout of, "Will someone please turn the lights back on and also who keeps screaming?"

Very shortly after that, a very brave-sounding voice said, "I'm feeling along the wall for the light switch! The lights will be back on soon!"

And another voice replied, "Thank goodness! I'm terrified. Not so much of the dark but of being in the dark with leftover aspic."

"And what is wrong with aspic exactly?" came another demanding voice, clearly slighted.

"Nothing," said the aspic-hating voice. "I'm just not a fan. It's basically meat Jell-O."

"Is that what that was?" said yet another voice. "Now I'm terrified of the leftover aspic as well. But also of the potatoes being cold when we finally get to eat them."

"I'm getting closer to the light switch!" said the voice of the person who had been searching for the light switch. "I've just passed the sideboard with the candelabra on it."

"Well, personally, I loved the aspic," came another voice. "My compliments to the cook."

"She has a name!" said the slighted voice from before. "It's Pauline. God, you're such an elitist."

"My hand is almost on the light switch. It's a mere inches away," said the light switch searching voice.

Everyone sighed in annoyance at the continued darkness, the aspic disagreement, the elitism, the screaming, the broken glassware, and the future coldness of the potatoes. Everyone except the person who had been murdered. But none of the people in the room knew about that part yet, so that was not on the list of annoyances.

And just then the lights came back on.

"I found it! I found the light switch at last! IT WAS ME! YOU'RE WELCOME!" exclaimed a person who everyone could now see was Sir James John Upton-Starbucks himself. But their excitement was cut short. For someone was lying dead with her face in the turkey.

And that person was Lady Milicent Upton-Starbucks.

"NOOOOO!" shouted Sir James John Upton-Starbucks, distressed that his wife was dead with a carving knife in her back, but also because her collar was COVERED with turkey grease, a thing she would have completely hated. Somehow her ladyship's bib had become dislodged during her murder.

"My god," said the gentlemanly Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. "Someone in this room is a murderer."

"Yes, indeed," agreed the handsome Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio.

"Mmmmrrrrrrrfffff fffffrrrrrpppppp," said the veiled lady, which meant either, "It wasn't me!" or "Oh, boy! I do love a mystery!"

Sir James John Upton-Starbucks rushed to the door, closed it, and locked it with the key from his vest pocket.

"Everyone be seated," he said. "No one shall leave this room until we've figured out who the murderer, or murderers, are."

Now, you're probably wondering right now why no one suggested calling the police to come and resolve the matter and instead seated themselves back around the table where the corpse of Lady Milicent and the corpse of a turkey lay intertwined together sopping up cold gravy. And the reason for this is that aristocrats don't know how to use telephones. Keep that in mind should you ever decide to call a member of the aristocracy on the phone. He will probably get confused, say hello into the wrong end of the receiver, and eventually hang up in frustration. Always send your correspondence via handwritten note to be delivered by your butler if you ever expect a reply.

"One person here strikes me as extremely suspicious!" cried Sir James John Upton-Starbucks.

"Ah HA!" cried Stuart Upton-Starbucks. "Here you go accusing me again just because I'm a bloodthirsty giant who eats entire flocks of sheep for supper. I'll have you know that in no way could I wield such a tiny knife with these enormous hands!"

"NUH-UH! I accused you of no such thing," replied Sir James John, whose name is sometimes exhausting to type. "I was going to accuse--"

"Ah HA!" cried Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. "You were going to accuse ME! Obviously I'm a gentleman with impeccable table manners. Therefore, I would be the first to offer someone a second helping of roasted turkey. That is how you knew that the knife was in my hands when the lights went out."

"Well, I suppose, now that you mention that, you total poopy butt, however--" replied Sir James John.

"Tut tut tut!" shouted Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, not bothering to look up from making smushy eyes at her darling husband. "No! He was going to accuse me and my extremely handsome husband of the murder. We're so obviously in love. How could he not?"

"I never--" began Sir James John.

"Are you implying that my husband is incapable of committing a murder???" Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio shouted. "I'll have you know that the cornerstone of a good marriage is being supportive, and if darling Edmund Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, the love of my life, wanted to commit a murder, he could do it!"

"You are my moon angel!" cried Lord Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, and the rest of the world disappeared to the very handsome couple as they went back to gazing into each other's eyes adoringly.

"I was actually going to accuse the mysterious veiled lady seated to the right of my wife," said Sir James John Upton-Starbucks. "Who are you anyway? Show yourself, or I shall throw a big tantrum!"

"Mmmmmmmmrrrrrrfffff!" said the veiled lady, which either meant, "How dare you? Isn't it obvious that I'm your mother-in-law and I'm trying to keep your other guests from catching my cold with this veil?" or "Mwahahahahahaha! In a complicated and unforeseen plot twist, I'm Lady Upton-Starbucks's evil, murderous twin, Samantha! And you'll never catch me alive!"

At this point, it's likely that several things are going on in your mind. Perhaps you would just like the suspense to end and to know who the killer is. Perhaps you would like the suspense to go on and for me to continue twisting the plot until I become bored of it. Perhaps you have no opinion at all as you have gone to the kitchen for a snack. But most likely of all, you've forgotten about the other people in the room. Don't feel bad. The servants of wealthy aristocrats are used to being ignored. But I will get to them and their current activities right now.

Told to be seated, the valet, the cook, the butler, and the maid sat down on the floor exactly where they had been standing. The valet sat down next to the sideboard, where Sir James John Upton-Starbucks trod on his fingers in the dark while looking for the light switch, and because he was such a good servant, the valet didn't utter a word in the way of, "Ouch! My fingers!" or "You blundering ass!" Instead, he sat crying silent tears of extreme finger pain as accusations of the guests were made.

The cook sat down next to the fireplace, wearing an expression of concern that dessert, a delicious apple tart, was going to burn, left unattended in the oven. She was also still slighted by the guest who didn't like aspic and intended to poison him later, as she knew exactly which gentleman he was. But, despite that villainy, of the murder of Lady Upton-Starbucks, she was entirely innocent.

Asked to sit, the butler sat down under the portrait of Lord and Lady Upton-Starbucks. He was also crying silent tears, but it was because his grandmother had died in her soup at a dinner earlier that week and he was suffering from painful dinner memories as a result. 

The maid, Constance, had sat down in the dining room doorway. As accusations were shouted and identities were demanded, no one was looking at her. Not one person. She was, after all, just a servant. And that was why, right before the lights went out and the screaming began anew, no one noticed her bloodstained hand creeping up the wall toward the light switch. She really, really hated those bibs.

The dessert ended up burning after all.


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