Officer John Daniels, Deerton PD retiree, walked briskly toward the door of 1057 South County Way just off US 313. The umbrella that had popped up in the Deerton Public Library’s lost and found bin had the place listed on an “if found return to” tag sewn into it, which was just fine with John. Reuniting people with thelir lost stuff was his detective hobby, and even when it wasn’t much of a detective job it was still out and about and away from daytime TV gnawing away at his brain cells.

When he reached the front steps of the old farmhouse, Officer John was greeted at the door before he could even knock. He thought that a little odd, since scuttlebutt had it that the ornate old farmhouse, once owned and improved by a lumber baron, had been caught up in legal squabbles and abandoned. The person at the door was a woman of indeterminate age dressed in her Sunday finest (or perhaps, Officer John thought, what would pass as the Sunday finest for someone who only left the house on Sundays).

“I’m quite quite thankful you’ve finally arrived,” the woman–a shut-in? An ex-farmer? The cleaning lady?–said.

“Really?” Officer John said, clutching the umbrella a bit tighter. “Why’s that?”

“We have been expecting you.”

Before he could ask any other questions, Officer John was ushered into a home that looked nothing like the dilapidated state of the exterior. The interior furnishings were grand and well-kept, and only a few modern conveniences were older than the gilded age furnishing old Mr. Dounton himself would’ve preferred. With the mystery lady alternately shoving and grunting him along, Officer John emerged into the dining room, which was full of people peering at him from under the glow of smoky and dim incandescents. There was a single seat open; the lady (perhaps she was an Amway representative gone to seed?) guided the officer toward it.

When he sat down at the beautifully ornate Second Empire table, Officer John was able to get a good look at the others. There was Mamie Saunders, last scion of the old Saunders family in town and perennial instigator of book-banning drives at the public library. She was carrying and nervously shifting a brown paper bag in her hands, and a slip allowed a quick peek of the volume within: The Joy of Sex. Next to her was Harry Watkins, owner of the sleazy Gun Rack Bar and Grill on Dounton St., who gave Officer John an oily smile even as he nervously twirled a bottle of fine aged wine with a 1927 date.

As much of a surprise as it was to see people he hadn’t particularly liked as a police officer, the other two were even greater shocks. Retired Judge Cynthia Crewe was at the head of the table with a pair of ornate ladies’ gloves still fastened to each other by an anti-theft ink tag before her. And next to Officer John? None other than Popcan Pete, Deerton’s resident (and perhaps only) bum. He was idly flicking around a membership car for the Tecumseh County country club while talking to himself about CIA transmitters concealed in the table.

Officer John had some choice words for some of the folks at the table, most of whom had made regular careers out of rubbing each other the wrong way. But before he could say a word the indeterminate lady parted a curtain and a tall, dignified figure entered the room.

“Luminaries and ex-luminaries of dear Deerton, I’m so glad that we were able to arrange invitations guaranteed to attract your interest,” he said. “My name is Ernest Dounton, and I’ve brought you here to discuss which of the five of you has murdered me.”

From an idea by breylee.

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