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Mystery

Part 1

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The rain pounded ceaselessly against the unyielding brickwork
of the old manor.  The endless stratus clouds hid all evidence
of sunlight, plunging the English countryside into a shadowless,
featureless gray.  Inside the mansion, its occupants had more
weighing on their minds than the weather.

As the the last figure to enter the parlour took a seat, the one
standing figure spoke.

"My dear companions, it has been a trying weekend for all of us,
to be sure.  But, before the constable arrives, there is something
I must tell you."  He paused.

"Blast it all, Hadley," came an outburst from Horton Quarterman
sitting in the back, "get on with it."

"I'm sure, as a banker, that you are not accustomed to waiting for
others.  Perhaps this is good medicine for you, getting a notion
of what your customers go through."  Hadley paused only long enough
to let Quarterman draw a breath for protest and then cut him off before
he could start.

"But...we have business to which we must attend this afternoon.  Deadly
serious business.  One of us...one of us here today, sitting in this
parlour, is a murderer."  Lightning flashed.  A gasp went around the 
room followed by a sharp blast of thunder to punctuate the statement. 
It was impossible to tell who among them was genuinely surprised and who
was merely acting the part.

"The reason I gathered you here today, is to reveal the culprit."

Hadley looked out the window vacantly.  The tension thickened,
threatening to strangle those unfortunate people entangled in its grip.

"It isn't me!"  The shrill voice of Tellius Malbouch surprised no one.
Few had even acknowledged the foreigner this weekend.  Most regarded
him as not worthy of contempt, and similarly, suspicion.  Until now,
as almost all eyes turned to regard him in a new light.  In one outburst,
he had ruined his chances of escaping accusations and worse.

"Mr. Malbouch," Hadley turned from the window to face the Estonian.
"I have said nothing yet as to the name of the murderer.  I think it's
fair to say that everyone has their fair share of skeletons in the
closet.  But before we can name the villain, we need to understand one
another, all of us.  So, I think perhaps each of us might want to
say a few words, before I proceed.  If I make myself clear."

Hadley looked across the room but was unable to read the expressions
of the faces of his fellow "guests."  Except, of course, for Malbouch,
who had seemed terrified from the moment he arrived.

In a moment of sadism, he said, "So perhaps you should go first,
Mr. Malbouch."

"Oh, well very OK by me then," Tellius began. "I wa-"

"Don't you think we should go in order, working 'round the room in
a planned fashion so as not to miss anyone?"  Most turned to look in
the direction of Robert A. Burns, but some just stroked their foreheads
wincingly, trying to make their rediscovered headaches go away.  Burns
and his wife Marilyn were "new money" thanks to some great business
deals struck by the Atlantic India Rubber Company under Burns' 
direction. Robert was all too glad to hold forth on just about any 
subject.  He was rich now, so he imagined himself to be highly intelligent.

Hadley couldn't pass up this opportunity.  "Very well Burns, since
we all know so much about your Atlantis Rubber and India Ink Company,
let's all hear from your wife Marilyn."

Robert quickly lifted a finger as a point of order and began to correct
Hadley on the name of his company when Hadley interrupted again with a
curt "Mrs. Burns?"


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