Exercising the craft—September 7, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Murder Mystery: I’m sure you’re all familiar with the mystery detective trope where our hero detective has to discover who the murderer is. For today’s story, invert the roles: The murderer has to figure out who among the cast of characters is the detective.

http://oneminutewriter.blogspot.com/2015/08/sunday-story-murder-mystery.html

***

All anyone at the dinner party could talk about was the murder Camille had committed. Except, of course, no one knew she had done it. And while she had arrived enjoying the fact that so far she’d gotten away with it, by the time they reached the main course—after the Chinese amuse bouche of hot and sour tofu served in soup spoons, a pair of spring rolls for each of the eight guests, and a simple wonton soup—Camille began sweating into her lo mein.

Her friend, Trudy, in her typical kooky way, had asked all of her arriving guests to gather into the formal library on the first floor of the house without saying a word to one another. When the last person came in—a short little man with beady eyes and a nose that hooked over his upper lip—Trudy walked in behind him and clapped her hands.

“All right, everyone! First, thank you for coming. I can’t wait for all of us to get to know one another this evening.”

Camille noted the sparkle in Trudy’s eyes and wanted to roll her own. With the silk dress that brushed her knees and elbow length sleeves, Trudy looked like she needed to move onto the set of a black and white sitcom. It didn’t help that Trudy rocked the dress like no one else Camille knew.

“I thought it would be fun, though, if we spent some time talking…” She held up a finger and grinned, conspiracy swishing with her hemline. “…but not discuss our jobs. We’re going to guess who does what!”

The platinum blonde who had teetered in on her four-inch pencil heels right behind Camille crossed her arms and managed to push up her bust all at the same time. Camille wondered whether the blonde could get the top of her dress to pop just to save all of them another one of Trudy’s agonizing games.

“Now,” Trudy said, either not seeing or ignoring the shift of the mood in the room, “I thought it might be fun if I distributed notecards with everyone’s professions on them. I’m going to give each of you two cards with jobs written on them. One card is the real profession of someone else in this room. The other one’s a fake. Hang on to the cards, and if you think you’ve figured out who does that job you hand it to the person at the end of the night. The person—or people—who guess right get first pick of dessert. This way everyone wins!”

She turned to the credenza behind her and reached into the small top drawer. After rummaging through it for a few moments, she pulled out notecards and began distributing them.

“I love little party games like this!” Trudy declared as she went around the room. “It makes the evening so interesting.”

The blonde read both of her cards and smirked as Trudy moved to the next guest.

“Waitress and paralegal? Really?”

Trudy smiled at the woman over her shoulder just as she reached Camille. “It’s a game, Avery. You know, an ice breaker. Help you get to know new people. Be social?”

Avery shook her head, and Camille took a moment to share a smile with her before she read the first of her own two cards.

Police detective.

Camille’s heart began to pound, but she flipped to the second card. Her eyes went over the letters, but the profession title didn’t register in her brain. She started thinking, instead, of the dim room two weekends ago. Of the feel of warm gunmetal against her palm. Of how she had supported the butt of the gun with her left hand. Of how easily the silencer had allowed her to exact her revenge.

No one had figured it out yet, although the local media had covered little else since then. When she’d killed the second person—the coffee barista who had annoyed her every day for the last three years—the newspapers and websites bled opinions. It helped that they had. Camille’s victims hadn’t bled much at all.

She’d started to wonder whether she should go after someone new, but then three nights ago Trudy had called. And even though Camille found Trudy’s little mystery nights annoying, Camille decided she needed a break. The stress of deciding who she should target next had caused her to wake up with bloodshot eyes.

And now she stood in a room full of people…and one of them was a police detective.

“Isn’t that murderer supposed to be a waitress?” the hook-nosed man asked Avery.

Avery’s eyes got wide, and her immaculately lined lips pursed into a large O.

“You’re right! That’s the theory, anyway,” she said. “Of course, I read in the Gazette that the cops think the murderer could also be a bartender.”

That sparked it right there. Everyone else in the room joined the conversation. Even Camille managed to throw in a quip or two. But her heart fluttered through every word that came out of her mouth.

By the time Trudy signaled for her wait staff to serve the lychee ice cream, Camille started wondering whether she might have made a mistake. Was there a different way to get her revenge? Did the barista really need such an extreme lesson in manners?

“So, Camille?” Trudy asked, turning to her with a bright smile. “Do you think you know whose card you’re holding?”

She looked down at the cards sitting on top of the napkin in her lap. Did she dare make a guess? Maybe she’d found her next victim in Trudy. Would serve her right for throwing this ridiculous party in the first place.

The sweat came back and beaded on her upper lip.