Disclaimer: Here we have Ellen Raskin, Puffin Books, and all other owners of The Westing Game. And here we have me. Can you tell the difference? No? Well, trust me, it's there.
I. Table 8. "Otis Amber."
So someone took that bait. Good. Amber's privileged information was only half the reason I included him in the Game; the real reason was because his name made him such an ideal Red Herring No. 1. It was nice to see that someone worked hard enough to be taken in by it. It gives a man a sense of fulfillment.
I was surprised that it was Table 8, though. That night of the first reading, when I was sizing up the heirs and guessing which of them would get the farthest, all my money (figuratively speaking) was on Turtle Wexler or one of the Theodorakis boys; Angela and the Pulaski woman didn't even occur to me. It just goes to show, I guess, that even a master of disguise can occasionally be taken in by appearances.
II. Table 5. "Ed Plum."
This one took me by surprise. When I was dividing up the clues, I went by ear as much as by anything else, and "purple waves for fruited sea" had a nice ring to it. It didn't even occur to me, until James said the word, that the combination of "purple" and "fruit" might make people think of a man named Plum. (Though, truth to tell, the main reason I picked Plum to read the will was because of the associations with Clue's Professor – it fit in nicely with the whole game theme – so maybe I should have seen it coming.) At any rate, he's not the answer.
III. Tables 4 & 7. "No answer."
There's always an answer if you look hard enough. Theo and Josie-Jo both know that; they're not stupid. Only they think that the answer is going to harm someone who doesn't deserve to be harmed, and so they refuse to give it. I'm honestly not sure whether that's an admirable attitude or a contemptible one – but, in any event, it's not the attitude that wins Westing games.
IV. Table 3. "Mr. Westing was a good man."
Heh. No, I don't make any particular claims to that. Josie-Jo was right: when it profited me, I could lie, cheat, and steal with the best of them. I never had any regrets about it; that's the way the game is played.
Still... when Chris made his little speech just now, I almost wished I'd done things differently. There was such touching faith in his eyes; it would have been nice to have earned it. It was as though I'd set up an impregnable defense and realized too late that I needed to let one of my opponent's pawns in. Oh, well, that's the way it goes sometimes.
V. Table 1. "Boom!"
Sorry, Sun-lin, but explosions aren't my style. (And, despite what she said on the bulletin board, I don't really think they're Turtle's, either.) I always preferred the slow burn: turn on the heat under a person, let him percolate in his own juices for a while, and see what happens. It's worked for me in business; it's worked for me in chess; and, heaven knows, it's worked for me in the Westing Game. In my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined the amount of psychodrama that those thirty-six little squares of paper towel unleashed during these past two weeks.
VI. Table 2. "$11,587.50."
A funny kid, that Turtle. Who else could have turned "O Am Mountain Sea" into a stock-market tip? (Not a bad idea for a game, either; I'll have to remember it.) Even if it's wrong, it's the right way of thinking. The girl's a true Windkloppel, whatever her last name may be.
Just hang in there, Tabitha-Ruth Wexler. If this thing pans out the way I suspect it will, you'll wind up with a lot more than $11,587.50 in your pocket.
VII. Table 6. "Mother."
Ah, Berthe. My queen, my betrayer, my victim, my Red Herring No. 2. The things we've done to each other...
Still, it's almost over now. And it's strange, but, now that I've finally put you in the place that I've dreamed of seeing you in for the past twenty years, I don't for the life of me know why I wanted you there. I remember all the accusations against you that I hoarded up in my heart over the years, but the passion, the burning desire to make you suffer, is gone. It's as though it was somebody else's – which, in a sense, I suppose it was. So, for whatever it's worth, I'm sorry, my dear.
The queen's sacrifice is a patzer's move, anyway. In real grandmaster play, you don't sacrifice queens: you trade them. And then you take pawns and make replacement queens out of them. Brown-haired, freckle-faced pawns, with minds as sharp as a razor and hearts as fiery as...
What am I saying? Get a grip on yourself, Windy. You can start mooning over your new queen when she stands in front of you at No. 4 and says, "Hi, Sandy; I won!" In the meantime, there's still work to do. You've got a trap to spring, you've got a death to fake, and then there's a whole pile of paperwork waiting for you when you get home. Better get a move on.
Hold on to your hats, folks. Round Two of the Westing Game is about to begin.