Join Chief Inspector Mattas on a rollicking romp of who-dun-it.
Jack McFarlane, the owner of a very successful publishing company, is celebrating his 60th birthday by throwing a house party at his luxurious country manor. The guest list (enumerated below) includes his children, his older brother, younger sister, his business partner, a few close friends, and his college sweetheart. McFarlane's wife passed away five years ago, and it's suspected he's been looking for someone else to share his golden years.
The guests arrived on Friday evening and are staying until Sunday afternoon. McFarlane has planned a full itinerary for their enjoyment. On Friday, there was a formal costume ball. Sometime during the entertainment, McFarlane was heard arguing with someone in his study (according to his daughter). She didn't interrupt and could not understand what was being said.
McFarlane returned to the party ten minutes afterwards. All the guests noticed he seemed to be in a furious temper. A little while longer, when the guests were all hot from dancing (and champagne), McFarlane suggested they all take a walk down to the pool and gazebo area for some fresh air. He showed the guests around his garden which includes a maze made from hedges. Soon, however, he left his guests to wander around on their own and headed to the gazebo...alone.
The guests milled around for a while in the garden, and then headed back to the house. (But not all at the same time). An hour later, his son realized McFarlane still had not come back in. He went in search of him, and found him in the gazebo. At first, he thought his father had fallen asleep but it soon became apparent he was dead.
The EMS and police were notified, and they established McFarlane had been stabbed in the heart. The weapon was one of McFarlane's daggers that he collected. No fingerprints; it'd been wiped clean. On the floor of the gazebo, Detective Jeff Mattas found two curious objects: a torn scrap of paper with the words "...ber your pr..." and a silver cat charm.
What happens next? Thus begins...
The Silver Panther
The large double door shook madly and then swung open with a bang as a short fat man wearing a wrinkled brown suit entered. He was wheezing heavily and a concerned uniformed policeman followed closely behind him with a glass of water. The fat man stopped suddenly and spun on his associate. “Why was that door lehcked?”
The officer looked confused. “Lehcked?”
“Yes, yes, lehcked…who lehcked the door?”
“I do not believe the door was locked, Chief Inspector.”
“Nyot anymeur, you fewl!” Slowly, the man turned around and faced the fifteen guests that had been gathered. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, I am Chief Inspector Mattas. I will prove beyond any shadue of the doubt, that one of you here in this reum is the murderer of Monsieur Jack McFarlane.”
“Iz zere something funnayyy?”
“You said, reum…like that guy in the movies.”
“This iz a very serious matter and everyone in this reum iz under the suspicions.” He moved to within inches of the lady's face that had laughed and pulled out a small note pad. “And yeu are?”
Holding back another laugh the woman answered, “Veronica Sorensen…”
“And what iz it yeu deu…?”
“Nothing…I’m an old friend of Jack’s.”
“Ah…now we are getting somewhere.” He spun on his heels. “I will ask each of yeu a series of questions. Ef you answer them correctly, yeu will be allowed to leave.
“Let us start with William McFarlane, shall we?” He walked up to a pudgy man with balding hair. “Monsieur Billy, tell me what is it yeu deu?”
“I’m a television and film director—Jack was my younger brother.”
“Yes, yes…that iz correct—yeu may leave.”
The man was startled. He turned and walked out the door.
“And yeu are Monsieur Billy’s wife?”
“Yes, I am a retired actress.”
“Yeu are verrry young for ze Billy-boy, no?”
“No! What are you saying—that I married him to get a starring role in a motion picture?”
“Yes, I alrrready kneow that. You may leave.”
She walked off flabbergasted. “Well, I never….”
He moved to the next person. “And yeu are…?”
“Evelyn McFarlane Knightley…I am Jack’s sister.”
“You are the English, no?”
“Yes, I’ve lived in England for many years, but since my husband’s mysterious death, I have recently returned to the states.”
“Yes…yes,” he tapped the side of his bulbous nose, “I am verrry geud at distinguishing accents. I ‘ave one of my own, yeu kneaw. You are free to go English woman.”
He moved down the line of suspects. “And yeu…what iz yeu name?”
“I am Dr. John McFarlane Jr., Jack’s son—and this is my wife Susan. We are both professor’s at Notre Dame.”
“Ah…Notre Dame, I miz it. Do they still have ze balls?”
“Balls? What do you mean?”
“Ze balls…ze balls! Yeu kneaw, ze ding-dong, ding-dong balls.”
“Oh…bells! No, you must be confusing it with some place else.”
“Yes, I kneow that. I was just testing yeu. Yeu may both leave.”
He faced a beautiful woman. Bent in half and kissed her hand. “Ah…yeu are a verrry pretty gurl. Are yeu also related to the diseased?”
“Yes, yes, that is what I meing.”
“Yes, I am his daughter, Sonia Vaughn. I worked as a makeup artist at my Uncle William’s studio. And this is my husband, Evan Vaughn.”
“Yes, yes…ze makeup artist. I too ‘ave a bit of the skill for ze makeup. ‘ave yeu ever done a minky?”
“Excuse me…a minky?”
“Yes, yes…ze minky—like a chimpanzee minky.”
“Zat iz what I said—minky.”
“No, I’ve never done a mon…uh, minky before.”
“Yes, yes, they speet and throw poo, yeu kneaw—filthy creatures. You may go, Sonia.”
He studied the big man in front of him. “And yeu? Yeu are Evan Vaughn…and what iz it yeu deu?”
“Well, I used to play football for the Oakland Raiders, but now, my wife, Sonia is helping me break into the acting business.”
“Acting, heh…? We shall see. I will name a situation for yeu, and yeu will sheuw me this acting. Are yeu ready?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so…”
“Okay, monsieur, focus now. I want yeu to be…a wandering transvestite!”
“What? No way! I’m out of here you crazy fool.” And with that he walked off in a huff.
“And yeu call me a crahzy fewl? Yeu are no actor, monsieur. Go! Go back to yeu futballs! Yeu will never make it in dese town!”
He approached an unkempt woman in her late fifties with glasses slipping down her nose. “And yeu are…?”
“Anita Warren—novelist.” She held her hand out to be kissed, but the Chief Inspector just shook it, firmly.
“So, yeu are ze writer, huh? What iz it that yeu ‘ave ret?
“Books…books! What books ‘ave yeu ret.”
“Well, I write mystery novels, mostly. Perhaps you have read my latest, “Don’t Answer the Phone.”
Just then the phone rang.
“Why what, Inspector?”
“Why du yeu tell me to don’t answer the pheaun?”
“Yes, the pheaun that iz rrrengeng!”
“Oh, phone! No, uh, no…I meant my book.”
“I see….” The Inspector quickly picked up the phone. “This iz Chief Inspector Mattas speaking on the pheaun. Do yeu ‘ave a massage for me?”
There was a pause.
“A massage…a massage, yeu idiot! Don’t you speak the English? Yes, yes, this iz Chief Inspector Mattas…I already told yeu. Uh-huh…I see…okay, then, thank you and goodbye.” He hung up the phone.
“Ah…now we are getting somewhere. There iz a man coming to clean the sweemang poohl.!” He shoved his notepad at Anita Warren and said, “Here, write that down.”
“What? I’m not your secretary!”
“Yeu are a writer, no?”
“Yes…books, not messages!”
“Writers write, no?”
“No!” She threw the notepad at him and stormed out of the room.
“And yeu, monsieur? Who are yeu?”
“I’m John Collins. I’ve had several books published by Jack McFarland’s publishing company. He was a good friend of mine.”
“How leong were you Monsieur McFarlane’s geud friend?”
“Oh, I don’t know…about ten years I guess.”
“Did yeu kneow if he had any relations outside hez marriage—a gurlfriend, perhaps?”
“Not that I know of…Jack was a pretty private guy.”
“Yes, I kneaw…you may go, monsieur. And that leaves us with Monsieur ‘arry Thomas, no”
“Yes, that’s right, I was Jack’s partner at the publishing company.”
“Yes, I see…tell me monsieur, has anything been stolen from your office.”
The man rocked back on his heels. “Why, yes…the famous cat burglar, ‘The Silver Panther’, left a note and his calling card on Jack’s desk…but how did you know?”
“It iz meh business to kneow. And what was stolen?”
“Well…nothing. The safe was left wide open, but nothing was missing.”
“Tell me, monsieur, why would ze Silver Panther break into your office and steal nothing?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“And zis note…what did it say?”
“Jack never did let me read it. He wadded it up and shoved it into his pocket—said it wasn’t important.”
“And are you not the beneficiary on the company’s survivorship policy?”
“Yes, I am. It was designed as a safety net in case either of us died. It’s a very common practice in the industry—it insures that the company will not go out of business and leave its clients in the lurch.”
“Yes…I have taken the liberty of contacting your insurance company and getting a copy of yeur policy—also yeur secretary was kind enough to supply meh with the original from yeur safe—I have them both here.” The inspector pulled two pieces of paper from his inside suit pocket. “That is all—you meh leave now.”
He approached an elderly couple. “And yeu must be the Davidson’s…?”
“Yes, I’m Samuel, and this is my wife, Lorelei.”
“And yeu ‘ave known Monsieur Jack for a leong time?”
“Yes, we’ve known Jack forever. We were friends back in college.”
“And did yeu also kneow Mademoiselle Sorensen?”
“Why, yes,” said Lorelei, “but her name wasn’t Sorensen then…it was Walken—Veronica Walken.”
“Zank yeu, yeu may go now.”
Mattas studied the three remaining people, and then approached them. “Please…be seated,” he said, motioning toward the sofa. They slowly sat down.
“We now come to the part I like best—the denouement. Yeu are Jacob and Michaela Van Walken, no?”
“Yes,” the man said impatiently.
“And yeu also own a publishing company?”
“And this company iz not as big as ze McFarlane company, no?”
“And if you’re gonna ask me if Veronica Sorensen is my mother, the answer is…yes.” He stared wildly at his mother and shook his head. “He knows, Mom, he knows! There ain't no use to hiding it anymore.”
“Shut up, you fool!” the old woman barked at him.
Chief Inspector Mattas disregarded the outbreak and unfolded the insurance policies. “Did yeu know, monsieur, that it iz yeur name that appears as beneficiary on this policy instead of Monsieur Thomas?”
“What? That’s impossible!”
“Yet, here, on dis copy I received from the insurance company, it sheuws Monsieur Thomas as the sole beneficiary.”
“Well, maybe he changed it. I don’t know anything about it.”
“Yes, yeur mother keeps many things from yeu. Did yeu know that Monsieur McFarlane was yeur father?”
“What…? Mother, is this true?”
“I told you to shut up. He’s grabbing at straws—he can’t prove a thing.”
“Which brings us to yeu…Mademoiselle Sorensen.” His gaze fell heavily upon her. “Yeu told the police that yeu had nyot spoken with Monsieur McFarlane for over thirty years and that yeu were surprised that he even invited yeu to ze party—is that correct?”
“Mademoiselle Sorensen, I believe zat in yeur college days that yeu and Monsieur McFarlane were lovers! I also believe that yeu had ze little baby boy, no?”
“So what, Jack didn’t care about us, and then I married Mr. Sorensen—he was a good man—he helped me raise Jacob.”
“Yes, but you needed more monies than yeur late husband could provide, didn’t yeu? And that iz when yeu started a little minky business of yeur own, no? A little grand theft, no?”
“Yes, that iz exactly what I intend to deu.”
He spun around and began pacing the floor in thought, and then he stopped and pointed at Veronica Sorensen. “Yeu were nyot invited to ze party—yeu came feur other reasons. I believe yeu have been in the contact with Monsieur Jack feur a verry leong time and that he has been giving yeu large amounts of monies. Enough of ze monies, zat yeu were able to buy the Van Walken Publishing Company feur yeur son, no? Do not deny it! We ‘ave already seen the ownership papers with yeur name on zem.
“But yeu were nyot satisfied, so yeu planned to murder him, but first teu broke into hiz office and changed the insurance policy. Then, yeu drove out to hiz house to confront him, but were surprized to see zat a party was going on. A party that even yeur son was attending.
“When Monsieur Jack saw yeu, he took yeu into ze private study and yeu argued. Even hiz daughter heard this argument. But what did yeu argue about? Why was he furious to see yeu?
Mrs. Sorensen did not speak, but her face showed her building anger.
Chief Inspector Mattas pulled something from his pocket. “The murder weapon was wiped clean of all fingerprints, but these two items were found at the scene of the crime.” He held up a scrap of paper. “This iz a piece of the note that Monsieur Jack found in his office the day of ze break-in. On it is ritten, ‘—ber your pr—’. A simple note that yeu kneaw only he would understand. This confused me at first, until I realized that Jacob Van Walken was yeur son, and that the note must ‘ave said, ‘remember yeur promise’. Again, do nyot deny it. The note has been analyzed and it is in yeur handwriting, Mademoiselle Sorensen."
She said nothing.
“He left ze study, furious and rejoined hiz guests, yeu then took ze dagger that he used to open hiz mail, then slipped out and went to ze gazebo and awaited for monsieur as planned. When he was able to distract hiz guests, he joined yeu there, and shuewed yeu the note and the silver cat. Yeu tore them from hiz ‘ands, and then yeu killed him in a rit of fealous jage!”
“No, you're wrong…why would I do that?” she asked, as she began to unravel.
“Because yeu were a woman scorned. You kneaw that Monsieur Jack was looking for ze new wife and when yeu discovered that it was nyot yeu, yeu planned to murder him.
"First yeu kneaw that if yeu were caught, yeu needed to make sure yeur son would be provided feur; so yeu changed the insurance policy. The note was nyot to remind Jack that he promised to take care of Jacob Van Walken. No, no...it was so that he would remember hiz promise to yeu, Mademoiselle Sorensen!”
“No! That’s a lie. I loved him—I’ve always loved him. But after he graduated he met that other woman, and then married her—left me pregnant and penniless. When my husband died I blackmailed Jack into helping to get his bastard son started in business.”
“But he promised to marry yeu once his wife was gone, did he nyot?” Chief Inspector Mattas dropped the silver cat charm in her lap. “I believe that thiz beleongs to yeu.”
She grasped the metal cat tightly in her hand. “Yes…I decided to show Jack that I too was rich and famous—that I had become the notorious ‘Silver Panther’.”
Jacob jumped to his feet. “Mother, I can’t believe this…you are a thief and a murderer?”
She smiled up at him, tears welling in her eyes. “A mother’s got to do, what a mother’s got to do, Jacob.”
Inspector Mattas motioned to the officer. “Mademoiselle Sorensen, I arrest yeu in the name of the leahw.”
“Good work, Chief Inspector!” the policeman said. “You have solved another baffling case.”
“Yes…yes…perhaps now I might even be pehrseuded to run feur ze Peubic Office, heh, Castone.”
“Yes, Inspector Mattas.”
“That’s Chief Inspector Mattas, you fewl!”