When everyone came downstairs for breakfast, we found Mr. Boddy’s body lying face down in the kitchen. To everyone else, there was no evidence of foul play, but they were all at least entertaining the notion. How could you not with such an abundance of motives and suspicious characters all gathered in one spot?
A weeklong snowstorm had left mountains of snow piled against the walls of Boddy’s mansion like buttresses. All roads were impassable so no ambulances or police cars would be arriving anytime soon. The landscape was as bleak as a Henning Mankell Wallander novel, as bitingly cold as Stieg Larsson’s Sweden. But if this were a Larsson book, I’d at least have a coffee and cigarettes.
My name is Colonel Mustard, and I’ll save you all the trouble of parsing the contrived clues – I did it. The question is whether my grating, two-dimensional companions will figure it out. I rather wish they would. This is a situation that needs to be brought to a boil.
A French philosopher once said that hell is the others. He must have met my companions.
First, there’s Mrs. Peacock, the widow in blue, with four husbands who have either disappeared or died mysterious deaths. She’s so obviously a black widow that she might as well a have a scarlet hourglass stitched on the back of her vintage Chanel jacket. When this is over, I’m going to have to ask who does her criminal defense work, and perhaps her wills and trusts as well.
Next, there is Professor Plum, who is so absent-minded that he couldn't be trusted to find his spectacles, much less a murderer. I think that losing his tenure at the university must have unhinged the dotty old fool. If he leaves his glasses in the library again, I’m going to abrade his skull with the oft-discussed candlestick.
Finally, we have Miss Scarlet, once a beauty but now somewhat carp-faced from collagen injections. She tried her hand at movie acting, but botox has now limited her range of expression to a single look of mild surprise. Like everyone else here, she’s quite capable of murder, but I happen to have gotten there first.
And please don’t get me started about Mrs. White and Mr. Green, whose personalities are every bit as monochromatic as their names.
Which brings us to the crime itself. While my companions blather on about candlesticks and poisons, they fail to spot the weapon that is right in front of them in the kitchen wastebasket.
I had served with Boddy in the Falklands War and knew that he had a severe allergy to shellfish. Yes, the murder weapon was a prawn, the deadliest of the crustaceans when administered properly. They all knew that I had a long history with Boddy and they all witnessed the single, manly crocodile tear that I shed at the sight of his body prone on the black and white tile kitchen floor.
I had prepared our dinner for the coming evening, promising everyone my signature dish from the mess hall during the war – beef stew a la Mustard. A stew is best when it’s allowed to marinate overnight, so I let everyone know that I was leaving the pot in the refrigerator. I had spent enough time with Boddy to know that he tended to wake in the middle of the night and eat anything in the kitchen that wasn’t nailed down.
As expected, Boddy had helped himself to some of the stew and rinsed the spoon so as not to be found out. But before he could leave the kitchen and creep back to his bedroom, his throat had constricted and then swollen shut from an allergic reaction as he gasped his last breaths writhing about on the floor.
Tonight, our sorrowful gathering will enjoy the rest of my beef stew with no ill effects. While Boddy had made a fuss about his dietary restrictions, this was a beef stew and obviously contained no shellfish. What my fellow diners won’t know is that the secret ingredient in the stew that gives it its subtle flavor is the ground prawns that I had found frozen in the refrigerator. If any of my imbecilic housemates would examine the contents of the wastebasket and find the prawn shells, even they could deduce that I was the murderer.
So now I must listen to that charlatan Mr. Green droning on about conducting a séance so that Boddy might identity his own murderer. As if he would know who killed him, anyway. I feel like a piece in a board game that no one knows how to play properly. My role is predetermined, by fate sealed, and yet still it fails to arrive.
Oh, but wait a moment, now I get it. I’m already in hell, aren’t I?