Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Mystery Stories (Death in the Elevator)

Several months ago, while bored on the way to Florida by van, I engaged my family in a quite remarkably silly game. We would construct four mystery stories, each of us writing a section of a story and then trading them around and each writing the next section of a different story, without talking about them aloud. But we added a catch: In our mystery stories, the last section would be written first, the first section second, the second section third, and the third section last . The results were as different as they were hilarious; some nearly perfect, others so wrought with continuity issues it makes your head spin. We ended up with two semi-traditional mysteries, a sci-fi mystery, and a love story. I'll be posting these stories over the next several days. So now, without further ado, the first mystery story: Death in the Elevator.

Trent Donovan woke up on the morning of Thursday, October 9th just as he did every other morning. He ate a bowl of Multigrain Cheerios, drank a glass of avacado juice, then looked at his agenda for the day. He was meeting with a client on the 23rd floor of the brand new Swankton Inn. Trent was a private investigator. The client, one Jai O'Malia, was convinced someone was trying to kill him, though Trent wasn't clear on why. The 21-year old gay Scottish banker was a good-natured sort of man, always friendly and ready to help out. In fact, Trent was quite looking forward to seeing him again.
As he walked into the Swankton, he couldn;t help but be consumed by the Swankiness. This went beyond Swanky. It was so elegant , refined, and expensive as to be quite impossible to describe in a single adjective. Trent walked up to the elevator and pressed the call button.
It was quite a long wait, but eventually an elevator showed up. The door opened and Trent walked in. THe elevator was quite fulll already. In the back was a small woman with a bird on her shoulder. Next to her was a portly fellow with a finely trimmed beard and an enormous nose. By the controls was the young elevator boy, and standing opposite him was Jai. A paragon of irrepressible flamboyance, , he was wearing a purple kilt that clashed horribly with his argyle socks.
"Sorry about all this," said the elevator boy, "I'm Johnny and I'm the lift operator. This is the only elevator that goes to 'Tres Cher', the Swankton's unique dining experience, so I'm afraid it's a bit crowded. Also, please watch your step as this was supposed to be a glass-bottomed elevator and the glass doesn't arrive until Tuesday."
Trent edged his way around the gaping hole in the floor towards where Jay was conversing with the portly fellow.
"Well Dr. Bates," he was saying, "That's one way to look at it. But as I always say, better a clean kilt then tattered knickers!"
Dr. Bates forced a laugh, althought he obviously didn't get it.
"Woof," said the bird.
"23rd floor please," Trent said.
"Can do," Johnny replied, "But it may take some time; the elevators been running a little slow ever since the meteor shower."
"I guess that's what happens when you build an elevator in space," Jey commented, wondering to himself why the spelling of his name kept changing.
"When I loaned out the money for this hotel, I told Mr. Bontregger he should put it in Arizona, on the plot of land I was going to sell him that used to be an ancient Navajo burial ground. I ended up selling it to Arizona municipal landfill instead, and probably upset a lot of Navajos in the process."
There was an awkward silence during which the elevator party contemplated the meaning of this shameless exposition.
"So," said Mrs. Bontregger, "You're the man who loaned my husband the money for this hotel in space."
"Ay," said Jéi, in a Scottish accent that did not match the suddenly French spelling of his name.
"Do you know my husband spent four years in prison and lost control of his right leg because of you?" Mrs. Bontregger scolded.
"Whatever do you mean?" Trent asked, suddenly curious.
"I'll explain in the next scene," Mrs. Bontregger promised. And she did.
"Dr. Bates," Trent said, trying to begin a little light-hearted conversation after that unusual exchange, "Did you sprain that ankle playing hopscotch?"
"Golf," he stated quickly, "Eh - nineteenth hole - some hooligan ran into me with his golf cart."
"Are you quite a golfer, then?" Jay asked, returning to an earlier spelling of his name.
"Yes, since I was a... er... wee lad growing up in Scotland."
They wereall pondering how a man could be born in Scotland yet have such distinctly American Indian features. Suddenly, the elevator stopped. The doors opened but there was no one waiting to get on.
"AAEEAAH!! He's Dead!!" screamed an unrecognized voice, "CALL THE POLICE!"
Through the space where the glass was supposed to be , Trent peered out and could see a crowd gathering and the kilt-clad body lying on the ground below. But before he spoke, the elevator doors slammed shut and the elevatorbegan to shake violently. Trent looked from one passenger's face to the next as they all grabbed frantically for the handrails. Neither Jai nor Jay was on board.
The bird flew hysterically from one side of the elevator to the other while Johnny lunged for the controls. Dr. Bates sucked calmly on his lemon popsicle.
"I'll certianly have to complain about this elevator service," remarked Dr. Bates.
"Oh, just shut up and eat your popsicle before you get the floor all sticky," Mrs. Bontregger blurted, "What's become of our Scottish friend, then?"
Trent and Johnny collided as they both reached for the emergency controls.
"Do you have a liscence to operate this elevator ?" demanded the bird.
"I used to be quite an accomplished elevator operator myself," offered Mrs. Bontregger.
"But she had to stop," interjected the bird, "Because of her phlebitis."
The elevator lurched to a halt, and everyone panicked.
Mrs. Bontregger screamed.
Johnny the elevator boy shouted, 'Hey now, that's my job!"
Dr. bates fainted, and Duke began to bark incessantly.
Meanwhile, Trent calmly tied his shoelaces.
"The reason I stopped the elevator," he said cooly, "Is that I have deduced the identity of the killer."
All eyes rested uneasily on the gaping hole in the floor.
"Only one person on this elevator had motive, opportunity, and... what's the other thing?"
"Strength of will?" suggested Mrs. Bontregger.
"Flatulence in the extreme?" tried Johnny.
"No, no! Means, that's it!" Trent went on, "Only one person, and that is our friend Dr. Bates."
"But how, and why?" asked Johnny, nervously eying the unconcious portly physician.
"How? While Johnny was showing us the elevator's light switch, the not-so-good Doctor kicked him into the gaping hole. As for why, that one was a bit trickier. It was Dr. Bates' comment on the game of golf that tipped me off. A real golfer would never have-"
But trent's exposition was cut short by the doctor's abrupt awakening.
"Woof woof," went Duke.
"Nice work, Trent!" said Dr. Bates, "But you'll never take me alive!"
With that he jumped into the very hole with which he had dispatched his victim.
"But Trent," said Johnny, "We're so much closer to the bottom now, he'll survive."
"Iwouldn't count on it, Johnny, You see, while you were calming Duke, I switched the labels on the up and down buttons. In fact, we've been headed not toward the lobby but toward the revolving restaurant. I think our doctor will have a nice, long fall."
And they all had a good laugh and went up (down?) to the restaurant for dinner.

So that's the story! But now comes the fun part - the CHALLENGE! As I post these mystery stories, I'll be running a contest. Whomever accumulates the most points will be the winner, and will recieve one free commission from me - either a story or a paint at Blogg or a guest appearance in the toaster story- their choice. Points will be given as follows. Five points for being the first to guess, in the comments, where the seperation between the writers occurs. Hint: this time one segue is in the middle of a sentence. Ten points for correctly identifying who wrote each section (Myself, Nathan (who writes Proving Ground), our older brother Levi, or our mother). When I post the next story I'll post the winner and the correct answer if it was guessed. This will be the case for every section and then, after the last story, an extra round will be available to rack up more points. Remember, guessing first is part of winning so check back often!