I was sitting in my office one sunny afternoon, sorting through papers from former cases, when suddenly there was a knock on my door.
“Come in, Jones.”, I said already knowing who it was. Jones, my assistant walked in and handed me a letter.
“It just came.”, he said. I opened the letter to find out it was an invitation to a fancy dinner with one of my not so close friends, Michael Stevenson. He was celebrating a deal that he had just made at work, with a few of his other friends and colleagues. He had rented out the entire restaurant. As I read further down the letter, I found out that the dinner was later that night.
“My gosh, Jones!”, I exclaimed, “the party is later today! I wonder why the letter got here so late.” After I got ready, I called for a cab. The ride took a while, but I was able to make it just on time. When I walked into the restaurant I instantly discerned Michael in the corner at a large table with four other people. They were sitting and chatting when I walked up to them.
“Ah, William”, said Michael as he got up from his seat, “Good to see you.”
I smiled and said, “Good evening, Michael.”
As I sat down I looked around the ornate table. There were napkin holders, a small ice bucket, and candles all around the table. Michael sat back down and began to introduce me to his friends.
“Everybody, I would like you to meet my dear friend and former colleague, Detective William Richards.” Gesturing to a man who was sitting and smiling at me, Michael said, “This is Jonathan Squire, my friend from college, we have known each other for…I don’t know…20 years? Jonathan also works for me. And this fine lady here is Mrs. Anne Cole. She has been my neighbor ever since I moved to my new house. Over here is Jacob Reiner. He works for me and has been my assistant for ages. He helped seal the deal early yesterday morning. We were able to complete the deal so early together that we were able to take the entire day off! This is Mrs. Molly Johnson. Molly and I met at a fancy dinner much like this one, and have been friends ever since.”
As Michael said each of their names, I shook their hand. As I was introduced to them, I noticed something odd about Anne Cole. She was sweating and her gaze didn’t remain in one spot for more than a second. She seemed to be fidgeting with her dress very often. Soon after, the appetizers began to come out. Everybody put their napkins on their laps, and began to eat. Michael ate only the bread, I remember that he was a very picky eater, and talked joyfully and it seemed that everybody else shared that joy, except for Anne Cole, who was just looking around the room and occasionally picking at her food. She was like a small twitchy mouse trying to avoid people. The conversation at the table shifted from business, to politics, back to business, then to current events.
“Have you guys heard about the attempted sabotage on that mailman?”, said Michael energetically. When I heard this I turned quickly toward Michael.
“What sabotage?”, I asked.
“Oh, you haven’t heard? It’s been all over the news.”, replied Michael, “Someone was seen running away from the scene yesterday evening after attempting to steal the mailman’s bag. An undercover cop was there at the time so he interfered, but the person still got away. In the fight between the cop and the criminal, the criminal was thrown back, and he tripped over a fire hydrant and landed on his leg, and after this, left the scene. Nobody saw the person’s face and whoever it was was quick and didn’t allow many observations to be made. The mailman was hospitalized, but they think that he will be fine.”
“That is quite odd.”, said Molly Johnson. “I don’t know why someone would want a mailman’s bag.”
Suddenly, Jacob Reiner began to cough quite violently. Jonathan Squire got up so quickly that his napkin fell off of his lap and into the ice bucket. Jonathan began to slap Jacob on the back and after a few seconds he stopped coughing. Jonathan sat back down and put his wet napkin on the floor.
“Whew! I think I was choking on this bread!”, said Jacob breathlessly.
Just then the waiter came back with the wine bottle and offered us more wine.
“I don’t drink,” said Michael, “But I would like a water, please.”
After pouring the rest of us wine, the waiter brought out a water and gave him ice from the bucket. I tried the wine only to find that it was second-rate wine with a very bad flavor. The talking ceased as everyone drank their drinks and ate their appetizers. Michael then, suddenly got up and I noticed that he had a strange look on his face.
“I…need to use the restroom.” said Michael quickly and then he rushed toward the restroom.
“What’s wrong with him?”, asked Molly Johnson is a quiet voice.
“I’m not sure.”, I replied.
As the minutes passed with no sign of Michael we began to worry.
Jonathan decided to go check in on Michael to see what was wrong. When Jonathan came out of the bathroom soon after, his face was pale and he was shivering.
“He–he’s d-d-dead.”, said Jonathan in a small voice.
Nobody responded or moved. Everyone looked scared except for Anne Cole. After a few minutes the police arrived. Our dinner party, the waiter that had served us, and the cook were required to stay for the investigation as suspects. After I had shown them my badge, the police allowed me to take over the case. I was perplexed. I wasn’t sure how to even start investigating so I just examined the scene. Remembering what happened, Michael went to the bathroom for some reason. He was obviously killed in there, but nobody had left the table.
‘Was it possible that someone at the table made Michael go to the bathroom by using either persuasion or force?’, I thought to myself. Everyone else was patiently sitting up straight with the most honest looks in their eyes that they could muster. I thought back to the dinner. Then I realized something.
“Jacob,” I said making Jacob sit up even straighter, “Did you say that you choked on a piece of bread?”
“Uh, yes I did.”, replied Jacob.
Turning to the cook I asked, “May I see one of those pieces of bread from the basket that was our table?” The cook nodded and walked into the kitchen. A few moments later he came out with the bread in his hand. He handed it to me and I examined it. There seemed to be nothing wrong with it, but there was only one way to make sure. With a little hesitation, I raised the bread to my lips and took a bite. A chewed it slowly checking for any weird flavors. There were none. After I swallowed I walked into the bathroom and looked around. Michael had died in the first stall. That must’ve meant that he was rushed or rushed himself into the closest stall. The police had left the body lying there so I bent down and examined it. There were no obvious signs of stabbing or shooting on the body. I walked back out and over to our dinner party.
Molly asked, “May I go get my bag from the table?”
“Can I get my jacket as well?”, asked Jacob.
“Go ahead.”, I replied. Jacob limped back over to our table.
“Who were the first people here?”, I asked the group.
“It was Jonathan, Anne, and I.”, said Jacob. Anne observed the chandelier when Jacob mentioned this.
“I have come to a near conclusion. Two of you should be very nervous at the moment, and the others should be patiently awaiting my answer. I have narrowed the suspects down to three of you,” I said.
I walked over to the table checked right in front of where he sat. The same place as where his food would be. There might have been a poison where his fork would be. Then I looked at the candles. Checked for fumes or toxic gasses that could have been put on the wick. After that I looked at all the other people’s utensils, plates, and napkins. As I walked around the table, I noticed something next to a napkin.
“Aha!”, I said suddenly.
“What is it? Have you found the criminal?”, asked a police officer.
“Why yes I have,” I replied. I turned on Anne and said, “Now Anne,” As Anne began to open her mouth to speak I continued, “I know what your going to say. I believe you. I have the evidence. Now Jonathan, I know that it was you.”
“But–”, said Jonathan, but I cut him off.
“There is no point. I have used the evidence and it all points to you and Jacob. Jacob pretended to cough so you could get up and ‘accidentally’ drop your napkin in the ice bucket. There was a powdered poison inside of the napkin so the ice became poisoned. I saw the poison on the table. You were the one to drop the napkin. Jacob and you both knew that Michael only drank water because you had worked with him so long. You guys wanted the money from the deal all to yourselves, so you killed him. And you, Jacob, attacked the mailman so I wouldn’t get my letter. You didn’t want a detective interfering with your plan. I think that will be all, gentleman,” I said indicating the police, “Please take these men away.”
A sudden outburst from Anne surprised me.
“When I arrived early, I overheard them plotting. They threatened me and told me that they would hurt me if I told anyone!”, said Anne quickly and loudly.
“I know.” I replied which seemed to calm Anne down.
Jacob and Jonathan were ushered through the restaurant out into a police car and were driven away.
“I am sorry for all the trouble everyone,” I said to all the others, “You are free to go home.” When everyone was walking out Anne Cole walked up to me and said, “Thanks for understanding me; it was so terrible.”
With a smile on my face I replied, “Well, I guess this was a dinner to die for.”
Jack Freilich, Age 12, Grade 7, The Dalton School, Silver Key