Note to Scooby fans: This is AU, or alternate universe, so none of the gang has officially met. Perhaps they've seen each other in a store or something, but no official introductions. Thank you.
Note to Christie fans: Set in a timeless age, this is neither 1939 nor modern day. They will have some old-fashioned speaking, and there will be references to modern technology, so there is no specific time, and the original characters from the book will not be included with the exception of Owen the mystery man. Thank you.
Note to ALL: I got some of these last names from tombstones because I'm a cemetery creeper. Just kidding. But I really did get them from gravestones. And cemeteries are very calming. Ahem! But no actual combinations of the names used are real people. If they are, I apologize to the living or dead people whom they belong to. This is the only author's note I will write until the end of the story. ALSO! If you can guess the song and band whose lyric I use at the beginning of the chapter, you will receive an honorable mention in the Epilogue. Plus if you can solve the mystery you might get an extra-special shoutout...Thank you!
Disclaimer: I do not own Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None, anything affiliated with Scooby Doo, or the awesome band the Foo Fighters whose lyrics I am using for the titles of the Prologue and Epilogue, OR any bands I'm using for the other chapters. If I owned any of them I would be stinking rich and this would be actually a book now, wouldn't it?
"What if I say I'm not like the others?" Well, you'd be wrong. You are.
Prologue: You Know They All Pretend, And So It All Began
Marianne Bower, R.N.
The pen paused over the checklist of names. Yes, all was in accordance with the list. All were coming; Owen had made sure of that by playing to their interests in the invitation letters. A smile crept over the face of the pen's holder. All was good and all was right. Justice would reach out its chilled, frostbitten fingers of sinew and at last touch where short-tempered and blustering law could not reach its own reddened, angry fists.
At last. Owen picked up an apple and bit into it. The juice was sweet, the skin smooth, the flesh suitably crunchy – a good omen. Owen was happy. Yes, this would work. Owen smiled, set down the apple, and began to make another list. Lists were very important.
And Owen was happy.
Fred Jones whooshed down the road at a speed that was enjoyable and certainly not legal, but hey, he thought, it's just a little old country lane. What could happen? He straightened his sunglasses and grinned, swerving around an old square car that was doddering along. "Bet they got their license from some ancient old woman," he chuckled to himself. He had a car dealership to get to. No time for old lady drivers.
Jones whistled blithely and zipped down the road. Nope, no time at all.
Velma Dinkley scowled at the bright blue convertible as it swerved, narrowly missing her. "Speeding maniac, must have learned to drive from his kid brother," she muttered. This was Gramps' car; if she let anything happen to it Gram would have a cow and throw her out of the house. Then what? She didn't have a job, she couldn't pay bills or rent.
Yet, she promised herself. I'll have to make a good impression on Mrs. Owen. Although she knew deep down already that the job was as good as hers. She could handle paperwork with no problems.
Velma sighed and slowed to a stop at a light. If she could make it in time.
Jennifer Morley's steady hands flew with her knitting needles, a disapproving frown on her face as usual. People often marveled that her hands were not troubled by arthritis. Silly fools, she thought them. Her knitting was for the Lord's glory. The Lord does not punish those who glorify Him.
The woman's frown deepened when a flight attendant offered her a drink. "I don't believe in alcoholic beverages," she said stiffly. The flight attendant apologized hurriedly and set the glass back on her cart. Good riddance, Jennifer thought scornfully. Alcohol merely clouded the mind, and the drunkard's place was in the lake of fire.
She kept knitting. Surely the airplane would land soon, and then she could see what this business with Mrs. Owen's children was about.
Daphne Blake studied the woman across the aisle and up a row. Strict, she thought, like a schoolteacher, and probably one of the kinds of people who nitpick a matter until it bled to death. She jotted this observation down and quickly sketched the woman's old-fashioned forest green dress. Perhaps the "olden days" would make a comeback and this knitting lady would become a model of good fashion.
And perhaps, she thought wryly, pigs would sprout wings.
"A drink, miss?"
Daphne glanced at the tray. "Maybe later I'll try a glass of red wine. But not now, thank you."
"Yes, miss." Polite and subservient, she noted. With a toss of luxurious red curls she refocused her attention on the man beside her. He wasn't very talkative, and kept dozing off, only to return to consciousness with a snort. An older man, balding; probably in some war or another Daphne decided at last. Yes, an officer of some sort. She smiled to herself. With observation skills such as hers she could always fall back on reporting if the nanny job didn't agree with her.
She leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes to drift off. Vaguely she wondered what the Owens would be like. They must have unruly children to call a nanny – or two, they'd said! – but Mrs. Own seemed nice enough…
Bradley Sylvester snorted awake again. It wasn't right, putting him next to this pretty young thing. She looked too much like Angela, what with that red hair and such. "War's done too much to your nerves, old boy," he mumbled to himself, turning to look out the window. He wondered groggily if they were nearing…where was he headed? Ah, yes, Marwood to take a boat out to Manse Island.
Sylvester fished around in his briefcase for the letter. There it was, from a man called Ulysses something or other. Oliver, perhaps.
I am most interested in compiling a collection of stories from World Wars I and II. As I understand you fought in both and may be of service in this collection. A man by the name of Jacob Moore, who I believe served under you for a time, recommended your name to me when I mentioned this interest of mine, and I would be pleased if you would join me on Manse Island, 23 September of this year. It is in fact a Friday, which is when I am told you would most readily be available. Many thanks for your participation in this little game of whims,
Ulysses N. Owen
"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Jonathan asked sadly. Scoobert Doo nodded and licked the boy's face smilingly. "Promise me you'll come home!"
"Ri romise," Scooby told him. As a therapy dog he knew it might be a long while depending on how severely Mr. Owen's wife was traumatized, but Jonathan didn't need to worry. Scooby always came home.
"Say good-bye to Scooby now, Jonathan," Mr. Bentley told his son, lifting him onto his hip. "He's on a job now, but he'll be back when Mrs. Owen is feeling better, alright?"
Jonathan nodded sorrowfully and waved as Scooby trotted off down the road to Marwood to meet the ferry. Scooby knew to stay on the sidewalks; he was responsible. He would be perfectly safe.
Norville Rogers fidgeted nervously in his seat. The cab driver was chattering still about the weather – still! After a three hour drive to Marwood, the silly old man was still on the weather!
It was a nice day though, the young man thought. The trees had not yet lost their leaves entirely, the roses were still tricked into being in full bloom and the sky was a lovely shade of blue. His friends would have appreciated it, but none so much as he. He truly believed he had been born in the wrong time period; because he cared nothing for mechanics or technology he had been called a tree-hugger among other things back in school. Rogers preferred the term environmentalist to the names he had been subjected to, but none of that mattered now, not when he had a preserve to secure.
He hoped the landscape wasn't ruined by many buildings on Manse Island. The stay would be unbearable if it was marred by human hands, and wasn't his whole purpose of coming to see if Mr. Owen would consent to a conservation area?
The chatty cab driver at last pulled up to the ferry dock. "Now, you 'ave a nice vacation with all 'em other younkers, sonny!"
"Right," Rogers murmured, only half-listening. He was taking in his fellow passengers. The redheaded girl in the purple tee-shirt and jeans looked like a possible ally for nature. She caught him watching; how embarrassing. The girl shifted a notebook, also purple, to her other arm and smiled pleasantly before turning her attention elsewhere. He returned the smile too late and slid his gaze to the older, heavyset man with the prominent grey moustache. No, he would be against the preserve; the soldier types always were. Now, the old-fashioned woman with the knitting project, she might be helpful if it were presented as a tribute to the old ways she so obviously clung to. Mid-sixties, he would put her age at. He wasn't sure about the blonde woman. She looked classy, and had a professional air about her. She could go either way.
Rogers exhaled. There would be a lot of work ahead of him, that much was certain.
Marianne Bower stood quietly as the young blonde fellow zipped around a corner in his blue convertible. Proud young man, she decided. Probably arrogant and thinks he can get whatever he wants handed to him on a platter by a pretty girl. A twinge of remembrance struck her. And Evan –
No, Marianne, she told herself firmly, Evan never really wanted you. He got what he deserved in the end. That was how it always ended in the stories, wasn't it? With the bad guy getting his due…happy endings…
"Well, let's get going!" The blonde man swaggered up to the ferry master, who in turn regarded him disinterestedly.
"Young man, we are still waiting on one more of the Owens' guests," came the bored museum-guide response.
Marianne saw the young man with messy light brown hair perk up visibly. She wondered what he could possibly do to assist the Owens with their rheumatism. A horrible thought crossed her mind. Surely they hadn't hired med school students!
Just as Marianne's doubts were being raised higher and higher, an old-fashioned square car puttered up and halted with some difficulty and wheezing. A young woman, from her stature and face not much more than eighteen, exited the vehicle and breathlessly apologized, pointedly shooting a scowl in the direction of the blonde man.
Drat it. They'd gone and hired med school students.
Thomas Pickett watched, from the window of the manor on Manse Island, the ferryman loading the motorboat. These were the Owens' guests? A handful of people, most young, a few older, and a dog? He shook his head. It was not a butler's place to judge his master's guests. "Dorothy, they're almost here," he called into the kitchen.
"Alright, alright, hold your horses, Tommy! Dinner is nearly ready. It'll give them some time to get to know each other," Dorothy Pickett responded from the kitchen, chiding her husband's worries.
"Merely letting you know." He waited until the boat was halfway across the water before letting himself out and starting down to the jetty. Mustn't let the Owens down, mustn't get any complaints…
Daphne didn't like the uncomfortable silence of her companions. In an attempt to start a conversation and lighten the mood, she cleared her throat and said, "So…" Great, now they were all looking at her. Well, better say something clever. "I'm Daphne Blake," she finally ended lamely. Scratch the clever part.
The little brunette gave her a friendly smile. "Velma Dinkley." Daphne eyed what the other girl was wearing. The orange turtleneck was okay she supposed, but with the cream cardigan and dull red skirt – down to almost her knees! – it gave her the overall appearance of someone who should be behind either a teacher's desk or a library's check-out counter rather than a girl fresh out of adolescence. But she was the first to respond, so, glasses and awful tastelessness aside, Daphne returned the smile. Even had her hair cut to fall just below her chin. Daphne would have to rescue her.
"Jones, Fred Jones," the blonde man said, flashing a cocky grin. Daphne surveyed him. Handsome; maybe she'd go in for him, maybe not. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Blake." She noticed Velma keeping a blank face with some effort.
"The pleasure is all mine," Daphne returned coolly.
The woman from the plane glanced up from her knitting long enough to sniff, "I am Jennifer Morley." Daphne nodded respectfully, earning her a slightly less scornful frown.
"Like, Norville Rogers," the messy-haired man said. Then he returned his attention to the island.
The snorting-dozing man introduced himself as General Bradley Sylvester. Daphne thought he was possibly narcoleptic, but was tactful enough to keep such observations to herself. The neatly groomed blonde woman was Marianne Bower, a registered nurse, and the dog was Scooby Doo. Interesting, she mused. Perhaps the Owens needed more servants than they had let on.
At the shore Velma let the others get off the ferryboat first. Now that she was in no danger of being late, she didn't mind being last. The tired-looking butler reached for her one bag, but she picked it up herself. "It's okay. Do you need any help with the rest of those?"
"Oh, no, I couldn't let you – "
"I can take two more," she offered, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose. That was all it took. He handed her two suitcases and a purple trunk. Velma staggered up the steep path to the house, but kept her mouth shut. The least she could do was help this poor, overworked man. At the same time though, that irritating little voice in her head was warning that her parents would disapprove.
Oh, heck with them! They were gone now anyway and weren't going to be doggedly criticizing every breath she took now. No more incessant comparisons to her older brother – Trent was her hero, but he wasn't perfect either. The accident proved that.
At the front door she set down the luggage and inhaled deeply. "Something smells delicious," she commented, walking inside while the manservant held the door and quietly assured her he could handle the stairs with the bags.
He smiled. "Yes, my wife has been preparing supper in the kitchen."
"Thank you, …?"
"Pickett. Thomas Pickett," he filled in.
"Thank you, Pickett." Velma smiled and made her way to the sitting room, where the others were already assembled and talking. The only available seat was next to the young man with messy brown hair. Not messy in a bad way, she thought as she hung back in the door way. It looked fairly nice on him.
He looked up and met her eyes. She quickly averted her gaze, suddenly aware that she had been staring. Wonderful first impression. "Come sit down," he said, so softly that she was sure she was the only one to hear. "I promise I don't bite."
She chanced looking up again. He wore a tentative smile. "Is it…do you mind?" He shook his head and patted the empty cushion next to him. Grateful for a friendly gesture Velma slid in next to him. Another rebellious act for her parents to roll over in their graves about. "I'm Velma Dinkley," she introduced herself with half a smile.
"Norville Rogers," he answered, looking almost shy.
"Norville?" She couldn't hide her surprise. "Surely you have a nickname!"
"Like, no," he admitted.
"Then I'll give you one," she decided. Taking in his carefree appearance, she asked, "What do you like? Er, enjoy?" Hopefully the odd 'like's inserted into his speech weren't contagious. She'd have to be careful to watch what she said now.
"Nature," he responded immediately. "Food. Not having to be organized to be myself."
She thought a moment. "What do you think of 'Shaggy'?"
Rogers looked thoughtful. "Shaggy Rogers…I like it! But," he added after a moment, "would you call me that?"
"I – I could, if you wanted me to."
"I meant just you, since you thought of it."
She felt heat creeping over her face. "Of course, Shaggy," she tested it. It fit him perfectly, and he smiled. Then Pickett drew the guests' attention to the gramophone. Rather old-school, Velma noted.
"Mr. Owen has requested his guests be greeted by record," Pickett explained, "but not to worry; dinner shall be ready soon."
"Good, because Mr. Jones over here looks hungry," the redhead – Daphne, Velma remembered – said, eying the blonde man as he slid an arm around her. The rest of the company laughed, with the exception of the older woman. Though, Velma had her doubts that she ever laughed.
Pickett started the player, and a voice that was neither old nor young and neither male nor female began to issue from the gramophone. "Good evening, all. If you are hearing this I have only to assume Pickett is faithfully following my directions. Now, you all received letters of invitation asking you to come to Manse Island for various reasons. About those letters – I lied."
"What?" Jones leapt to his feet in outrage.
"Sit down, Fred Jones." The company sat in dumbfounded silence as the record continued. "And no one should dare to think of leaving. You are all in good company here with these fellow pretenders.
"Yes, you are all here because you all pretend. You pretend to be innocent. You pretended in court and you pretend even now. But here I shall strip you of all pretenses and name the charge for which you are here, why I have chosen you.
"You are all murderers."
"Preposterous!" The scowling woman's eternal frown deepened.
"Jennifer Morley, please silence. Not even you are truly innocent. You all are guilty and you all will pay the price. This record is nearly over, and I leave it to you to confess you guilt before those assembled here. If you do not care to, Pickett will turn the record over and I will read off your charges. In a usual case you would be innocent until proven guilty. In this case, you all escaped the law when there was no proof. But justice will touch her fingers to you yet, for you are indeed, guilty. Confess now." The record ended with the scritch-scratch common of records on phonograph machines.
But all ten were suddenly conscious that this was neither an ordinary record nor an ordinary group of strangers.