Jessica Fletcher woke, as she did every Saturday morning, in an unfamiliar bedroom (behave, this is not that type of story). She was, as always, spending the weekend in some old friend’s house (see). She looked at her watch, then looked again in surprise.
It was eleven o’clock. It had been years since she had brought an alarm clock on one of these weekends, since every Saturday morning she would be woken anyway by an early morning scream of horrified discovery. This had not happened this morning, which meant that the unthinkable had occurred. Or rather, hadn’t
No-one had been murdered in the night.
Somewhat confusedly she dressed and went downstairs. Breakfast was long over, so she had to make herself instant coffee. She wandered out into the garden where her hostess and her other guests, all inconsiderately alive, were busying themselves in a variety of pursuits. A couple were playing tennis on the court, others were swimming in the pool, others were lying (but alive) on the chaise longues which were there just for lying out on, or for trying to spell correctly.
She sat watching them all, drinking her coffee, and realised that she was bored. This was not what was meant to happen at weekends. At weekends she would go to the house of some friend, and soon a man called, say, John would be stabbed both in the back and in a locked room with an ornamental ceremonial dagger.
The body would be discovered (cue the scream) and Jessica would get to work. She would know she was getting close when the killer would try to kill her, but she would narrowly escape. Since she was over seventy and the killer had already been proved capable of killing John, who was young and worked out twice a week, you can only admire her remarkable luck. Then her host would make some off-chance remark, a light-bulb would go on over Jessica’s head (it was actually visible, though only of course in the dark), and she would gather everybody in the drawing-room, though why they all agreed to show up was almost as big a mystery as where the actual police were.
Once there she would spout secrets about all of them. ”Well, at first I thought it might be the butler, because he’s been stealing the silver and John was blackmailing him about it, or perhaps Mary, because John wanted to end their affair and was going to tell his wife,” and so on, until she had humiliated everyone there. She would then dramatically reveal the true killer, John’s wife. John’s wife would hide her guilt at first behind a veil of bad acting, then suddenly say “yes, and I’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for this pesky old boot,” an expression she had borrowed from another show.
Jessica would go back home leaving everybody happy, except Mary and her husband, who’d begin divorce proceeedings, and the butler, who‘d go to jail for petty theft. The next weekend she be invited to some other old friend’s house and the pattern would repeat itself.
This Saturday, after a tedious afternoon wasted in a deckchair in a sunny garden, she gathered with the rest of the guests (still irritatingly undead, though not in the zombie sense) for dinner.She studied everything and everyone. She tensed as the she saw the butler take the silver cutlery from the table, then relaxed disgustedly as he put it in the cutlery drawer. She suspected her hostess’s young nephew might be there purely to kill her to inherit her money, but he turned out to be a software developer who was twenty times wealthier than his aunt. The two women so obviously having a gay relationship turned out to be just that, so obvious and open about it that they were insusceptible to blackmail, and therefore to sudden panicky action.
Suddenly one of the guests, a wealthy millionaire married to a 20-year old wife, started to choke, clutching at his throat. “At last,” thought Jessica, but he was rapidly Heimliched by said wife until he coughed up a chicken bone that had gone down the wrong way, which is in fact the only way a chicken bone can go down. It transpired that the young wife actually adored him. Jessica knocked back the rest of her wine in one gulp, refilled her glass to the very brim, and stormed disgruntedly off to the library.
There she tried to occupy her brain on a book (Wally was wearing a red stripy jumper and big glasses, for God’s sake, it was simple to find him), tried playing a board game (Professor Plum with a candlestick in the study) and even watching a DVD (he’s obviously dead from the very start, she thought). She was slouching moodily in an armchair when her hostess came to find her.
“Do come and join us in the drawing-room, Jessica,” she said. “Normally we gather round the piano on evenings like this, but in honour of having a famous sleuth such as you here we’ve decided to play “I Spy”.
Jessica punched her in the face.
Jessica Fletcher woke, as she did every Sunday morning, in an unfamiliar bedroom (nope, still not that type of story). This time, though, she was in a top bunk, there was a bucket for a toilet in the corner, and there were bars on the window.
Punching one of the most respected ladies in Napa Valley had earned her 30 days in jail. She got up, fell off the bunk, dragged on a most unfetching set of overalls and was brought to the breakfast room to once again share a meal with a set of strangers.
The conversation here was very different, though. During the night someone had had their cigarettes stolen, a gun had been found hidden in a toilet cistern, an inmate had been beaten up in the shower, the first four feet of an escape tunnel had been discovered beneath the floor of the kitchen and someone had luridly and dyslexically graffitied “GOAL SUCKS” on the wall of the warden’s office.
Jessica mentally rolled up her sleeves. She was starting to feel at home.