The first week in February Berls and I introduced you to the contestants in our Murder at the Reinhart Competition and on that Friday we gave you the start to a mini-murder mystery. If you missed these posts, you can go back and meet Round 1 and Round 2 contestants or read their take on the stories. Today, Laura Bradford will let her super sleuth, Claire Weatherly, begin to solve the murder of Mr. Reinhart. Tomorrow, she’ll wrap it up and identify the murderer! You ready to see Claire’s take on events? Here we go…
Where we left off….It was during this brief recess to dress for dinner that a piercing scream pulled them all from their rooms. The halls filled with the visiting sleuths, actors, and staff – many clearly pulled fresh from showers – and a murmur finally reached them all. Mr. Reinhart was dead.
Diane Weatherly stepped out into the hall and stared at her niece. “Did someone just say Mr. Reinhart is dead?”
“I think so.” Claire placed a steadying hand on her aunt’s upper arm even as her gaze traveled down the hall to the cluster of people pointing down the staircase. “Diane, stay right here. Let me see what’s going on and I’ll be right back.”
Step by step she made her way toward the cluster of people she’d met only briefly during the brief yet thorough tour of the mansion. Although they’d had all of about twenty minutes together so far, Claire had enjoyed the brief interaction she’d had with the other niece-aunt duo, Jill and Jackie. Maybe it was their similar ages to Claire and Diane, maybe it was the fact they were both well read, but either way she liked them.
She bobbed her head to the left and then right until she found Jill in the mix and sidled up alongside the woman. “Is it true?”
With nary a word, Jill guided her focus to the bottom of the stairs and the lifeless body lying prone across the marble foyer, a puddle of blood oozing outward from the man’s head. Claire covered her gasp with her hand and tried to look away. But like a moth to a flame, she found herself looking back at the body—to the knife…to the blood…to the mangled wooden object poking out from underneath the red velvet drapes not more than four feet from the body…
“Claire, dear? Is it—”
Claire whirled around her palms splayed. “Aunt Diane, please. Don’t come any closer. You don’t want to see this.”
“Good heavens, I can…” The words petered from the woman’s mouth as she stepped between Claire and Jill and looked down. Instantly, Diane’s sixty two year old frame started to sway and Claire reached to steady her.
“Whoa. Let’s get you back to the room so you can sit down.”
“No. No. I—”
Meeting and holding her aunt’s troubled gaze Claire hoped the subtle shake to her head wouldn’t go unnoticed.
“Actually, you’re probably right dear. Sitting down might be good. I don’t feel too terribly well.”
Wrapping her arm around her aunt’s shoulders, Claire guided the woman back to their room. Once they were safely inside, she shut the door and immediately began pacing. “Did you see it?”
“The body? How could I not? There was so much blood…”
Claire waved away her aunt’s words and then crossed to the window, her mind already picking through the guests, trying to put faces to the grand introductions they’d all been given upon their arrival. “The elderly woman and her granddaughter…they’re the ones who own the needlepoint business, aren’t they?”
“Needlepoint business?” Diane echoed. “How can you even be thinking about something like that right now?”
For the briefest of moments, Claire leaned her head against the window pane and willed herself to take a breath, to think clearly and concisely. When she was sure she could maintain the necessary whisper, she turned around. “Because not far from the body, and covered in blood, was a needlepoint frame stand. I think it was the murder weapon.”
Diane’s face drained of all color as Claire’s words sank in. “I-I talked to them while we waited for Mr. Reinhart to sign those clipboard of papers his assistant gave him. They were positively lovely women. You can’t possibly think they…think they had anything to do with Mr. Reinhart’s death.”
“What were their names again?” Claire asked even as she reached for the leather bound notebook and silver pen that had been given to all of them upon their arrival. Little did Mr. Reinhart know that the sleuthing that was to be done would concern his own murder.
“The elderly woman was Charlotte, I believe. And her granddaughter was Angie—Angie Curtis. I remember that because I’ve always liked that name.”
“And they have something to do with needlepoint, don’t they?”
Diane nodded. “I believe that young woman who announced us all said they owned a needlepoint business somewhere in the northeast—Maine, I think.”
“It seems likely, then, that one of them would have brought along needlepoint gadgets, don’t you think?”
“But to use a stand to kill someone?”
“Someone killed him, Aunt Diane.” Claire took a deep breath and continued, a motive—albeit a light one—formulating itself in her thoughts. “Let’s be honest. Mr. Reinhart was arrogant, if not downright rude during our tour of this place. I mean, he invites us all here for his big mystery event, yet he found a way to slam all of us in one way or the other.”
“What did he say to you, dear?”
Claire pointed at the old-style rotary phone atop the room’s mahogany desk. “Do you see that? He had that installed in our room for the weekend because he didn’t want to overwhelm me with technology.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He seems to think the Amish shy away from technology because they’re too simple minded to grasp its use.”
“They shy away from it because they don’t want it,” Diane mused.
“I know that, and you know that, but he clearly doesn’t.” Claire took in her own image in the mirror above the desk and swiped a piece of stray hair off her face. “He also doesn’t seem to know what Amish means.”
“Why do you say that, dear?”
“Because he thinks I’m Amish.” Claire made a face at herself and then turned back to Diane. “Before I could correct him, he moved on to those women from Wisconsin. You know, the one who can slip into another person’s body? Mr. Reinhart asked her about that and then proceeded to laugh through her entire answer.”
“I can’t imagine ever treating one of my guests at the inn like that!”
“I know.” Claire looked down at the notebook in her hand and the note she’d made to herself on the top line. “I was trying to wrap my head around that when the younger gal from Maine—Angie—deliberately tried to lighten the mood by talking about a needlepoint project she’s planning to complete while she’s here. Mr. Reinhart turned around, pointed his finger in her face, and told her that she was here to solve a mystery, not make silly little crafts that will likely end up in the trash anyway.”
Diane’s eyes widened. “He didn’t…”
“Oh yes he did.”
Slowly, Diane lowered herself to the edge of her bed and sighed. “I admit, that’s awful, but to kill the man? Isn’t that a bit excessive?”
“Of course.” She jotted down a few questions she needed to ask the needlepointing pair and then closed the notebook with a thump. “I’m going to head out there again and see what I can find out.”
Worry descended across Diane’s face as the women pushed off the bed and stood between Claire and the door. “Claire, please. Let the local authorities figure this out. I don’t want you getting involved. Whether it’s the two from Maine or someone else, there is obviously a crazed loon on the loose.”
Claire gathered her aunt’s hands in her own and gave them a gentle squeeze. “I’ll be careful. I promise.”
Come back tomorrow and finish up the story with Part two and see who Claire thinks is the killer! Now hurry on over to Fantasy is More Fun to see how Katie’s sleuth Sylvie Sydell starts solving the mystery. Tomorrow you’ll get to vote on who did it better! I can tell already it’s going to be hard to choose!