posted on: Wednesday February 10, 2010
Dara Plath ’13/Portfolio Staff
It was a brisk day at the DeWitt mansion. The afternoon light streaming in through the tarnished windows granted everything it touched a golden sheen, as if it bore the hands of the great King Midas. The light bounced along the arm chairs and scampered up the bookcase, coming to an abrupt halt at the feet of Mr. Warren Albert. He wore brown, mottled oxfords and his suit resembled the dismal soot powdered faces of the chimney sweepers. Mr. Albert’s own face was round and cleanly shaven and would have been considered quite handsome if it were not for the scar he had beside the corner of his left eye. It dripped down onto his cheek and curved along his jaw, as if someone had attempted to sketch a picture on his face. Mr. Albert was one of four guests staying at the mansion. Sitting besides him was Miss Eliza Newman. She was a young girl with a delicate figure and blonde ringlets which had the tendency to bounce playfully up and down. She sat reading a book, though her eyes made no movement along the pages. Mrs. Adelaide Greenwich stood by the fire, staring into the blaze as if it was about to reveal some clandestine prophecy. The flames licked the edges of the hearth and made a shrill crackling sound, like the laugh of a beggar woman.Nick Gatesworth walked into the room then, carrying a cup of tea which he stirred slowly with a silver spoon. Nick, a man of 24 years, always had a wicked smile on his face, as if he knew some scandalous detail about everyone in the room. He walked towards Eliza, who shyly averted her eyes from his gaze. The guests had been invited to use the mansion for a weekend of exquisite food and company while the owner was away on business. The abysmal silence that penetrated every floorboard and crack in the wall suddenly ended with the entrance of Detective Norman Burch. He scrutinized each guest in the room, interpreting their hushed demeanors as blatant guilt. Detective Burch tapped his pen impatiently against his notebook. He was supposed to be having dinner with his wife and had even put on his best suit for the occasion; it was Valentine’s Day after all. These were the facts: At precisely 2:00 p.m., while the guests were eating their lunch of delicately sliced sandwiches and tea, a scream was heard from the second floor. An investigation made by Mr. Albert and Nick concluded that the maid, a Miss Clarissa Bunn, had been poisoned. There were other facts about the case that did not add up. First fact: At approximately 12:00 p.m., Mr. Albert was found pacing along the second floor hallway. The maid had walked up the stairs to find him very distraught, his face as red as a spring rose, and muttering to himself. When he saw Miss Bunn, he went silent, and headed down the stairs. Second fact: Early this morning, Nick and Eliza were spotted having a soft conversation in the corner of the library. The maid walked in, needing to dust the books, and noticed that Eliza was upset. When Nick saw Miss Bunn, he took Eliza by the arm and guided her out of he room. Third fact: At 2:10 p.m., right after the incident took place, Mrs. Greenwich was observed eating a piece of double chocolate mousse cake. This was a strange occurrence since she never ate sweets of any kind.Detective Burch pondered over these strange happenings. He knew as least one of the guests sitting in the room was guilty of the death of Miss Bunn. Though the question still remained: Which one? As the detective was considering this scenario, the telephone began to ring. He picked it up and listened to the man on the other end. Mr. James Fodder, the chief of police, had called to inform Detective Burch of some startling information.These were the facts: Between the hours of one and two, Mr. Edmund DeWitt, prominent owner of the DeWitt mansion, mysteriously drowned. His body was discovered by the groundskeeper of the villa he was staying at in the south of Florida. The detective did not know how to contend with the details given to him. He informed the guests of the recent misfortune and to the surprise of everyone in the room, Eliza fainted. Nick leapt to her aid, catching her in his arms before she hit the ground. That is when they discovered it. Hidden in the bodice of the young girl was a piece of paper. Upon further scrutiny, it was discovered to be not just any ordinary letter, but a valentine addressed to none other than Mr. Edmund DeWitt! Eliza, who had woken up at this exact moment, turned a very pretty shade of pink. Nick stood up and eyed her sordidly, as if he had some unpleasant taste in his mouth. Mrs. Greenwich gasped and placed her small hand upon her cheek. Mr. Albert grunted, evidently distracted by his own private concerns. All of the facts began to add up. First fact: Two weeks prior to the present day, Eliza had visited the DeWitt mansion with her older brother, Thomas. It was then that she fell madly in love with its owner. Nick, who happened to be college friends with Thomas, met Eliza around the same time and became infatuated with her. Second fact: A few days ago, Eliza overheard Mrs. Greenwich speaking about Mr. DeWitt’s apparent affair with his maid. They were supposedly in love and wanted to run away together. Third fact: In a fit of lovers’ rage, Eliza poisoned the maid in an attempt to dispose of her competition. Little did she know that Nick had concocted a similar plan: he had arranged for Mr. DeWitt to be murdered so he could be with Eliza. For Detective Burch, this explained Mrs. Greenwich’s strange behavior for she undoubtedly put the pieces together and felt overwhelming guilt for her gossipy nature. Unbeknownst to all, Mr. Albert was a sleepwalker prone to pacing and muttering to himself and had nothing to do with the case. The sun was starting to set and tiny stars were beginning to appear in the night sky like flowers that bloom in the sunlight and close at the onset of dusk. Detective Burch was finally heading home after an arduous day at work. He mused upon the strange and fanatic tendencies of the heart. Passing a woman selling roses on the corner, he stopped and bought one for his wife, whom he loved more than anything in the world.