A bolt of lightning knifed across the sky, illuminating the ancient house on the hill in an ominous light.
Detective Lassiter pulled his coat tighter against him as he ran up the long driveway, eager to get out of the cold wind and rain. He finally reached the mansion's front door, which was adorned with an iron lion's head knocker and a hand-printed sign that read PLEASE KNOCK.
"Spencer!" He shouted at the door, ignoring the sign. "Spencer! I'm here! What the hell is going on?"
Another crash of thunder shattered the night, but the dark house remained silent.
"He's probably not even here," Lassiter muttered to himself. "I can't believe I actually fell for it…"
He turned to leave, nearly colliding with Juliet, who had suddenly appeared on the step behind him.
"O'Hara!" He barked, surprised to see her. "What are you doing here?"
"I don't know," she shrugged, pulling a folded paper out of her pocket. "I got this letter from Shawn saying to meet him here at 9 PM on Halloween night."
"Yeah. I got one, too." Lassiter confirmed, his eyes suddenly growing wide. "Oh, God! I didn't lock my desk drawer! He's probably at the station right now! Going through my stuff…touching things…"
He was about to make a run through the storm back to his car, but at that moment the mansion door swung open. Shawn was standing in the doorway, wearing a charcoal gray suit, complete with tails.
"Good evening." He greeted in a low, eerie voice.
"Spencer!" Lassiter growled. "What the hell is going on?"
"If you'll step inside, Sir," Shawn replied with a twinkling eye. "The other guests have already arrived."
"Other guests?" Juliet repeated, walking into the house without a moment of hesitation. "Who else is coming?"
Shawn didn't answer. He waited until Detective Lassiter finally decided to come in out of the rain, then clasped his hands smartly behind his back and strode ahead of them through the large foyer, not for a moment breaking his butler character.
"If you'll just follow me, Ma'am. Sir. All your questions will be answered."
Lassiter and Juliet exchanged curious glances, then shrugged and followed Shawn into the study.
What other choice did they have?
Inside the study, they were surprised to discover that there were, in fact, other guests.
Four of them, to be exact.
Sitting alone on the couch in the center of the room was Gus. As the detectives entered, he glanced up at them questioningly, clearly as confused about what was going on as they were.
Henry was standing alone by the fireplace, silently taking everything in as he poked absently at the blaze.
Karen Vick was standing in the corner, staring at the fourth guest, who was laying facedown on the floor, a chalk outline drawn around his body.
Juliet almost laughed when she realized it was Buzz.
"Can I interest anyone in fruit or desert?" Shawn asked, closing the study door behind him.
"Drop the butler act, Shawn." Henry growled. "Just tell us what the hell we're doing here. And why are you wearing my suit?"
Shawn sighed, breaking character for the first time.
"Rentals were, like, 70 bucks, Dad. Stealing is free."
"I want it back." Henry muttered. "And you'd better not get any fruit or dessert on it, either."
"Can I interrupt, here?" Chief Vick spoke up for the first time. "I have an obvious question…Mr. Spencer, why is Buzz lying facedown on the floor?"
Buzz lifted his head.
"I'm the body!" He grinned.
"Bodies don't talk, Buzz." Shawn reminded him.
Buzz immediately closed his mouth and laid back down.
"Right . Sorry. I keep forgetting."
"Body?" Juliet's eyebrows were arching with interest. "What's going on, Shawn?"
Shawn turned off one of the lights, casting the room into partial darkness as the shadow of the fire danced on the walls.
"Muuuurder." He intoned darkly.
"Someone murdered McNab?" Lassiter snorted. "Makes sense. It was just a matter of time…though I always figured they'd shoot you first, Spencer."
"Why would someone shoot me, Sir?" Shawn asked innocently, slipping back into the butler character. "I'm just the butler."
"You don't even know what a butler does!" Lassiter shot back.
"I buttle, Sir."
"Shawn!" Henry snapped, rapidly losing patience with this game. "You told me we were having dinner…there's no dinner, is there?"
"Not until you solve the murder."
"Buzz's murder?" Vick clarified, glancing down at Buzz again, who was doing a surprisingly good job portraying a corpse.
He hadn't scratched his itchy leg in three whole minutes.
"Exactly!" Shawn grinned. "Someone here…murdered Buzz. And you all have to figure out who it was."
He held up a piece of paper, then dramatically put it in his breast pocket.
"I have the murderer's name written down. Throughout the night, you'll uncover clues as to what happened. At 7 AM tomorrow, I'll reveal the killer's identity."
"7 AM?" Gus asked, his brow furrowing. "Why 7 AM?"
"The people who own the house get back at 8." Shawn explained breezily. "And it'll take me at least an hour to clean up and get the security system back up and running."
"Security system?" Chief Vick suddenly sounded concerned. "Mr. Spencer, please tell me we're not breaking and entering."
"We're not." Shawn promised, then added as an afterthought, "…entering, maybe. But not breaking. There was definitely no breaking involved."
"He's joking." Gus said quickly, noticing Vick starting to reach for her cell phone. "Shawn wouldn't break or enter."
Vick glared at them both, but finally dropped her cell phone back into her pocket.
Shawn smiled brightly.
"Let's solve a murder!"
"Well, I say the butler did it." Henry muttered. "Let's eat."
Shawn rolled his eyes.
"Dad! Come on! It's Halloween! What better way to spend the scariest night of the year?"
"Eating!" Henry snapped, heading for the door.
"Yeah!" Lassiter agreed, following closely behind.
"Okay…" Shawn sighed. "Then I guess we'll never know."
"Know what?" Juliet asked.
"Who the best detective in the room is."
Henry and Lassiter both stopped dead in their tracks, slowly turning back around.
Shawn was grinning from ear-to-ear, knowing he had them both on the hook. Now he just had to reel them in…
"I just thought it'd be fun…" he continued, shaking his head sadly. "To have a little friendly competition. To see who the best is. To separate winners and losers…but I guess that kind of thing doesn't appeal to anyone here…"
Henry and Lassiter were both scowling now, but they came back into the room.
"All right, Shawn." Henry grunted. "I'll play your little game. But I'm telling you right now…there'd better be a damn dinner at the end of it!"