New York, 1958
The country home of Dr. Davies Daishi was a large estate surrounded by many lonely cypress trees and tall iron gates. The heavy wooden doors, equipped with a set of large knockers, had been opened for the past few hours, silently awaiting the first guest. At around 7:00, the cars began to arrive.
The first man to step up towards the house was the chief of the Telltale City Police, Martin Guru. The man, although the chief of police, was what people would refer to as “nefarious,” but he also happened to have a very stale sense of humor, which he usually kept to himself. He strolled up towards the door, a burning cigar in his right hand, and walked into the house’s foyer, where he was greeted by Mrs. Avistew, the head maid.
The second people to come were Dr. Darthington Marsden, an aspiring college professor, and his wife, Jennifer. The two of them never really seemed to get along, seeing as how Jennifer was always blowing away Marsden’s paychecks by buying expensive pearls and dresses, very much like the ones she was wearing at that very moment. Neither of them looked very happy to be next to each other.
The third man to approach the great house was Abraham “Secret” Fawful, a very well known mystery novelist. His books had never, at any point, made him very much money, but he got his recognition from the reviews. The only bestseller he ever wrote made him very little money, but enough to buy him a small apartment in New York City. The only reason he agreed to attend this little gathering, despite knowing nothing of any of the other guests, nor this mysterious Dr. Daishi, because he felt as if he really needed to be among strangers. He didn’t know why, he just seemed to need it.
A few minutes after Mr. Fawful had disappeared into the house, a long white limousine stopped in front of the house. Out of the car stepped one of the most recognizable faces in the world: the Academy Award-winning actor Samuel Coolsome, whom the newspaper had dubbed “Heart Throb.” The doctor didn’t really know why he was called that, seeing as how he usually played the part of a misunderstood bumpkin in most of his romantic epics. And although he usually wore a big, stupid grin on his face for the photographers, he didn’t look happy at all as he approached the house.
The next and final guest to arrive was the famous composer Albert Alcore Morris. The man was an opera conductor by trade, but never really made it big in classical music. He once referred to classic composers such as Beethoven and Rachmaninoff as “hacks.” A truly pompous sort of man. The melancholy/vexed expression on his face remained as he entered the house.
Dr. Daishi, after having seen the last of the guests enter the house, turned to his bedroom fireplace, where he had a log burning. He leaned over the mantelpiece for about a minute, underneath the head of the deer that he shot the spring before, and downed what was left of his Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola. He then replaced the glass on top of his bedroom’s bar, and walked over to the desk beside his king-sized bed. He opened the drawer, and removed the Koyosegi from the bottom. He fiddled with the locks for a moment, before it clicked open and revealed both a box of .38s and a Colt Police Special revolver. He pushed open the cylinder and slowly placed a round into each chamber, and clicked it shut. He then replaced the revolver into the box, locked it, and placed it back into the drawer.
The guests had all gathered in the bar room, upon the polite request of Matthew Johnro, the butler. Every man had an aged whiskey or scotch (Morris only drank Irish coffee), and every woman had a glass of Dom Perignon.
Marsden had approached Johnro, who had a platter of drinks, and politely said, “So tell me, Johnro, exactly what is this… Dr. Daishi a doctor of?”
“The doctor is an expert of the psychology of the criminal mind. He has written a number of books on such subjects as why people like to steal, why people commit felonies for money, and especially why people commit murder.”
Chief Guru had just then strolled up next to them, the cigar still smoldering in his right hand. “It’s quite obvious why people commit murder, Matthew. Someone doesn’t like someone, they plug ‘em, we catch ‘em. It’s a simple as that.”
Johnro laughed a timid little laugh. “You really don’t understand, Mr. Guru. He believes that people commit murder because deep down, we are all thrill killers, or that we are all insane, no matter what we try to do about it. “
Fawful had now also come over to join in the conversation. “Actually, I’ll have to agree with both Dr. Daishi and Mr. Guru. People really only commit murder because of some hidden hatred, or for some wrong done to them by the victim, or, as the doctor seems to put it, for the simple thrill of committing murder, which eventually turns into insanity and takes away any recognition for the life of a fellow human being. But, murder could also be for financial reasons, like a man kills his brother for his dying mother’s inheritance, or maybe it could be for personal dramas. Say a man comes home early from work one night and hears the familiar ‘thumping and moaning’ coming from his bedroom. He knows exactly what’s going on, so he goes into his study, pulls out his Police Special, walks in and shoots the two point blank. Simple as that. Or, it could also be that he knew about it all along, which would be making a spur-of-the-moment shooting into a premeditated murder. There are other ways that would cause romance to be a motive for murder. A woman doesn’t like her husband, but she doesn’t want to leave him because he’s filthy with dough. She also happens to have a secret lover. Out of greed, she orchestrates a plot to have her lover murder her husband. It’s happened before, no doubt about it.”
Marsden laughed. “You’re the author, aren’t you? The guy who writes those murder stories?”
“Yes, I am.” Fawful took a gulp from his scotch.
Guru smiled, shifted his whiskey to the other hand, and shook Fawful’s hand.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Fawful. The wife loved that one you did about the guy who cut people up in their own bathrooms. What was that one called?”
“The Kansas City Carver.”
On the other side of the room, Samuel Coolsome sat on the couch between Mrs. Marsden and Morris. Mrs. Marsden looked ready to drool all over him, while Morris sat quietly with his Irish coffee and cigarette.
“I absolutely adored you in The River Boat Gambler! That scene where you kissed Rita Hayworth… oh my, how dreamy!”
“Yes, Ms. Hayworth sure knows how to kiss a man.”
“You know, you look even better off screen then you do on it.”
“And may I say, madame, you look absolutely gorgeous in that dress. And the pearls you where around your neck are only a mere distraction from your beautiful face.”
Mrs. Marsden blushed a bit, turning her head away from him and giggling. Morris rolled his eyes sarcastically in a what-a-ham gesture and drank some more Irish coffee. Morris loved Irish coffee, even though he was Italian-American. Maybe it was because he liked the sound of it more than the taste. He also found the drink to be a bit ironic, seeing as how coffee keeps you awake and whiskey puts you to sleep, but either way he found it to be a good mixture. And the dollop of whipped cream on the top somehow enhanced the experience of drinking it.
“So, the great Albert Alcore Morris,” said Dr. Marsden, who had just appeared out of nowhere.
The saying of his name made him choke on his drink a bit.
“I’ve heard your pieces. I always listen to concert music when I am in my study, and I am actually a great admirer of your work.”
“Well, thank you, Doctor.”
“Believe me, everything those newspapers said about, completely false. There’s no way that you…”
“If you would excuse me for saying it, Doctor, I would rather not discuss the subject of my… lawsuit, thank you very much.”
He took a long draw on his cigarette.
“Your lawsuit? I thought it was you who was being accused of…”
“ENOUGH, DAMN YOU!”
Morris hadn’t realized that his sudden outburst had drawn every eye in the room onto him. He began to shrink back into his seat, with Marsden leaning back like he was preparing to be punched.
“I…I, uh… I apologize for that. I just… shit.”
I didn’t take long for Morris to lose all of the unwanted attention. Fawful left his spot at the bar to re-approach Johnro.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you, Matthew…”
“What is it sir? Will you have another brandy?”
“Oh, yes, thank you.” Johnro took Fawful’s glass and refilled it with cognac.
“What is it you would like to ask me, sir?”
“Exactly what are we doing here? I mean, I never even knew who this ‘Dr. Daishi’ was until yesterday. Why did he invite us up here if we’ve never even met him?”
“Why don’t catfish have kittens?”
“I don’t know.”
“Same goes for your being here. He didn’t tell me why he invited you men and women up here, just to write and send out the invitations, tell the wife to make some veal and minestrone, and find a swell bottle of champagne. The scotch is over fifteen years old, from the doctor’s native land of Scotland, and the bourbon, being over twelve years old, was made during prohibition by Chicago bootleg…”
“That’s quite alright, Matthews,” Fawful said, “As long as the booze tastes good, I don’t need to read up on its legacy. But thank you, anyway.”
“Not me,” exclaimed Guru. “I like to know where my vices come from.”
“So does Dr. Daishi, Mr. Guru. He does love his liquor, almost as much as he likes Scottish cuisine.”
A bell rang.
“Ah, dinner,” Johnro said.
The guests found themselves seated at the grand dining table, a large glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The room consisted of the one large table, a number of portraits hung on the walls, and a large window overlooking the backyard. Mrs. Avistew was going around the table, pouring soup into the bowls. They both looked very tired. From what, they did not know. Both her and Johnro stood in the back of the room.
“Well, I do believe that if anyone is to break the silence, it might as well be me,” Mrs. Marsden said. She turned her head towards Fawful, sitting beside her and drinking a glass of Port. “I’ve read several of your books, and I must say, you are quite the writer.”
“Thank you,” he said. “Ever since I was a teenager, I was loved crime stories, thrillers, stuff like that. I mean, I read books by Doyle, Poe, Hammett, Christie, Chandler, you name it, I’ve read it. So, I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
“You read Agatha Christie?” Dr. Marsden said with a bit of surprise in his tone.
“Yes, doctor. I am quite an admirer of hers.”
“One of my students over at the university recommended a novel of hers entitled ‘The A.B.C. Murders.’ I must say the novel had me quite enthralled, especially the way the murders were carried out. The victims having their names in alphabetical order, only one of those murders having serious significance. Damn good read, I must say.”
Marsden downed a mouthful of bourbon, the alcohol burning his sinuses.
Guru spoke up, “I used to read the pulps when I was still a detective. Black Mask, Dime Detective, Spicy Detective Stories, so on and so on. I’m also partial to Biggers, if you’re okay with a Chinese detective. Personally, those movies don’t do them any real justice.” He looked over at Coolsome, who had remained silent this whole time. “How often do you go to the movies, Sam?”
“I see a couple a month. Saw this one movie the other night, can’t remember the name of it. But it had Charleton Heston as a Mexican.”
“Touch of Evil,” Morris said. He had also kept quiet for the time they had spent in the dining room.
“Orson Welles looks like my grandfather in that one,” said Mrs. Marsden before having another sip of wine. “And you know—“
Before she could finish her sentence, the doors to the dining room slowly swung open, and everyone turned to see. In walked a man of about 40, silvery white hair, and about 6’5. His green eyes rolled back and forth, eyeing everyone sitting at his table. He wore a burgundy smoking jacket and a monocle over his left eye, and also had a fat cigar tucked between his index and middle fingers on his left hand. Everyone knew who he was before he even spoke.
“I am Dr. Daishi, and I welcome you all to my home.” As he walked along the side of the table, his eyes never left the people sitting at the table, and vice versa. As the man passed Guru, Guru could smell the sickly-sweet scent of pineapples and tobacco off of him. Quite frankly, it turned his stomach.
“I do apologize for being late to dinner. I am aware that punctuality is a virtue, and that it is one that I seem to lack. However, I am glad that you were all able to make it out here tonight.”
“Doctor,” Jennifer said, “could you please explain to us why you’ve all brought us here? I mean, I never heard of you until I got the letter from you.”
“Yeah, me too,” Guru said. “What exactly are we here for?”
“Believe me, I shall elaborate momentarily. However, for now, I must ask all of you this: do any of you personally know each other, not including Marsden’s marriage?”
Everyone gave the exact same answer. Whether it was “I don’t think so,” or “I’m not sure,” the answer was still no.
“Alright, then. Then, I shall tell you. You all are here for one reason: you have had your good names soiled by someone here in this room.”
“What do you mean?” Mortis asked.
“I mean someone in this room has information concerning all of you that the newspapers would find quite scandalous. I know. I helped this person gain this information.”
The room went silent.
Guru stood up, squinting slightly with a confused expression. “Wait, just a minute, do you mean to tell me that someone here has been blackmailing us?”
“Yes, sir, I do.”
Fawful stood up. “What do you mean, all of us? I’ve never been blackmailed by anyone! I haven’t done anything to be blackmailed for!”
“We will get to you in a moment, Mr. Fawful,” the Doctor said. “Now, if you and the Chief shall kindly sit down, I will tell you the other reason for your being here.”
Marsden stood. “Wait, hold on, didn’t we all just here you say that you helped someone blackmail us?”
“Yes. I did state that quite clearly.”
“Than it was you who…” Marsden had begun to sweat and shake slightly. Everyone’s attention was now focused on Marsden, who immediately shut up and sat down.
“If there aren’t any more questions…” Daishi waited for a response. “Thank you. Now, as I was saying, the individual who has taken up the habit of making other people’s business his own happens to be sitting right here. Right at this table.”
“Who is it?” Asked Coolsome.
The room was instantly shrouded in a cloud of darkness. Jennifer, like any other woman who is afraid of the dark, screamed. A loud pop and a flash sounded in the room. A door opened and slammed.
When the lights came back on, Dr. Daishi was gone. Everyone looked bewildered and frightened.
“Where the hell did Daishi go?” Marsden exclaimed.
“He must have been the one who darted out the door!” Fawful answered. “Who fired a gun?”
“Nobody could have seen anything in that darkness.” Guru walked past the frightened guests and examined the back wall. He took his fingers and rubbed it against a neat little hole that had just been made. From a .38, he figured.
“Quick,” he said, “we have to find Daishi.”
“NO!” Jennifer shouted. “He’s trying to kill us! He brought us here to kill us!”
“Stop that,” Marsden said, grabbing her by the arms. “Nobody is trying to kill us! It’s simply a gag, that’s all!”
Guru pulled out a penknife and carefully popped the tip into the bullet hole. Within less than ten seconds, he extracted a small lead load. A .38.
“Gag’s don’t fire bullets, Marsden.” Guru said.
Johnro and Avistew had been holding each other close, and although they had still remained silent, they seemed as frightened as the rest.
“I’ll go look for Daishi,” Fawful said, heading for the door. “Coolsome and Marsden, you come with me.”
“I’ll go too,” Guru said. “I’m the only cop here. I suggest Mortis stay behind to watch over the women.”
The four disappeared. After thirty minutes of waiting anxiously, they finally reappeared.
“Well,” Mortis said, a cigarette in the corner of his mouth. “Did you find Daishi?”
“Oh, we found him, alright,” Coolsome said.
Upstairs, in the West Wing of the house, was a small bedroom that was usually made up for guests. In the corner, there is a rocking chair carved out of oak and polished with a walnut tarnish. Sitting in the chair was Dr. Daishi, a crimson trail flowing from his slashed throat…
To Be Continued…