Author's Note – Entered in Hopeless Romantic 999's "It's Elementary, Dear Wetherall" challenge. I like the basic premise, though I'm not at all sure how the actual mystery will come out. Mystery just isn't my genre, though I've tried a few unsuccessful times to write it. I enjoy Sherlock Holmes, though, and my writing has markedly improved since last I tried, so I'm willing to give this genre another go. Here's hoping that this turns out better than my "Murder at the Bakery." It was horrible. Trust me. This is a couple years after the books; Kate is eighteen, Reynie… Reynie was seventeen as is Sticky, and our resident poet is the healthy age of eight. Also, there is something in here that, if seen from a screaming fangirl's perspective, might seem like Kaynie. This is not so. This is no Kaynie! Really. Truly. Honestly.
Disclaimer – I don't own the Mysterious Benedict Society or Blue's Clues. Heck, I don't even like Blue's Clues, but I had fun referencing it. Fun fact; I gave the detective his name just for that reference.
Warnings – Character death (It's a murder mystery. What do you expect?)
~Ledroptha Curtain and the Case of the Enab's Bane ~
~Murder in the Mansion, or, Old Enemies and New Detectives~
Reynie was dead. There was no blood – none at all, in fact. Still, he was most undeniably deceased. He lay on his back in Mr. Benedict's dining room, spread eagle, his face twisted with pain and his skin deathly pale.
No one else was in the room, the Perumals having rushed away to contact the police, the ambulance, the fire fighters, anyone to help their foster son. Everyone else had gone with them, not wanting to stay in the lonely gray house with a dead body, for they all knew in their hearts that Reynie was beyond help.
And indeed he was, for the poison that had ended his life was potent and fast-acting.
Now the Perumals, the Washingtons, the Benedicts, Moocho, and Kate sat crammed into the van on the way to the police station. Miss Perumal was sobbing into Mrs. Perumal's shoulder, Sticky was crying softly in his parent's arms, Constance was sitting between her two adopted sisters with her face in her hands, Moocho was mopping his eyes with his oven mitts, which he had neglected to take off in his haste to assist the Perumals, and Kate, the only one who was collected enough to drive, gripped the wheel hard enough to break a person's hand, if she had been holding one.
Reynie's death was painful, made no less so by the dull ache that was Mr. Benedict's demise, still undiminished after all these months, and the hurt that was paramount to agony for Kate – Milligan, killed on what was supposed to have been his last mission as a secret agent.
The overcast sky seemed to reflect the mood of the morose group in the car as they drove through the bleak landscape that Stonetown adopted in November. The first snow of the season was yet to come, though it had been predicted for next Friday. Kate fought down the urge to cry as she thought of how much Reynie had been looking forward to it – to snowball fights and snowmen and steaming mugs of hot chocolate to take the bite of cold from his nose. No! I can't cry – I have to get us to the station. Kate thought resolutely.
After half an hour of sitting and weeping, they arrived at their destination. Moocho was out at once and holding the door open for the Perumals, the Benedicts, and the Washingtons. They filed out, too distraught even to thank the former circus performer. Miss Perumal managed a sort of mumble, but it was unintelligible to the point where he couldn't be sure if it was thanks or just a supressed sneeze.
Kate got out without a word, her hands aching from how tightly she had been gripping the wheel. Together, they all walked to the cinderblock building that housed the police department. With downcast eyes, they filed in.
A kind officer asked them what had happened. Miss Perumal told her how Reynie had seemed to choke on something, how the whites of his eyes had turned purple, how Stick had recognized it as a certain kind of poison, and how, minutes later, Reynie came to lie in the position he was currently in. It was a horrible tale indeed, and by the time she had finished, even Kate had succumbed to tears.
"We have to know w-who d-d-did it," Miss Perumal finished tearfully.
"I'm not sure that it was murder, ma'am," said the kindly policewoman, who had been scribbling notes down on a clipboard. "It could have been just a mistake. I admit, though, I don't know much about this," she consulted her notes, "Enab's Bane you're talking about."
Sticky straightened at once, his face clearing of all expression and his hands (previously replacing his contacts) going to his sides. "Enab's Bane is a plant belonging to the caedo family. It is the only plant discovered so far that falls into this grouping. It is extremely rare and only grows in the region of North America that has recently been established by Stonetown. Once used in Native American rituals, this plant has recently been discovered to be one of the most powerful toxins known to man. There is no known cure to ingesting it, though unconfirmed instances have claimed to have used heavy applications of sesquipedalian palindromes to cure the haemorrhaging that occurs from physical contact. Enab's Bane has also been featured in the latest horror movie entitled, "Murder in the Laboratory." Enab's Bane is currently being investigated as a possible cure for cancer and as another possible source of power. Symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, internal bleeding, rapid swelling of the lymph nodes, and, most strikingly, the whites of a victims eyes turning a light purple. Death occurs within minutes of consuming the plant. Now grown in Stonetown laboratories, Enab's Bane is now being tested so that scientists can ascertain the chemicals that form such a powerful toxin." As Sticky finished his speech, his shoulders sunk back into a depressed hunch and his face, perfectly expressionless a moment ago, crumpled back into his previous expression.
The officer – Officer Darcy, as her badge read – gave Sticky an odd look.
"He has photographic memory," sobbed Mrs. Washington. "He m-must have read that in 'Science T-today.'" Sticky nodded soberly.
Darcy's face cleared slightly, although she still looked upset by the news and impressed by Sticky's perfect memory. "Hm. Well, it does sound like it wasn't an accident. But murder? We haven't had a murder in Stonetown for eighteen years!"
"What about Milligan?" asked Kate, her eyes flashing with sudden fury. "That was murder. That was in Stonetown."
"Milligan? Who's Milligan?" Darcy was confused.
"Kate," said Rhonda soothingly, "Milligan was a secret agent. His death wasn't publicized. Few people even know that he existed, never mind that he was a secret agent and that he was killed in Stonetown. Calm down." Her voice was gentle, but her eyes were firm. Don't lose your temper, they seemed to say.
Kate glared at her for a moment, then lowered her eyes to the floor. Milligan, Mr. Benedict, and now Reynie – she wanted to know who was responsible for these deaths, and throwing things or kicking holes in walls wouldn't help.
"Well, I'll have to send my men to the mansion to see. If they think that it's murder, we can call in the county detective. Until then, though, I would hesitate to call it such. I'll come right away, but isn't it more likely that somebody just accidentally picked some of this Enab's Bane when they were picking lettuce or something?"
"If you had been listening to Sticky," growled Number Two, speaking for the first time, "Then you'd know that the only place it's found in the world is here in Stonetown." She popped a handful of sunflower seeds into her mouth and began chewing furiously.
"Yes, but it could still have been picked up and put into his food by accident." Darcy was looking more and more unconvinced of what she said, and her eyes darted between the faces of the group before her.
"Stonetown isn't agriculturally suited to growing much of anything besides grass and Enab's Bane," said Sticky miserably. He pushed his contacts back into place. "The only way to mistakenly get it into food would have been to go to a laboratory or a government-protected fenced-in habitat and pick some using gloves dipped in formaldehyde. And then put some in his food. It would be pretty hard to do by accident."
"He's been murdered, you snob. Don't just gawp like a frog! Do something!" Constance added, her face red and puffy from the crying she had been doing.
"Constance…" Rhonda intoned softly.
Darcy looked distinctly unsettled now. "Well… Maybe you're right. I guess I'd better go at once. Will one of you stay here in case the detective drops by? He was supposed to be coming around sometime today for –" she blushed furiously, "– a dinner date." Darcy's quick green eyes scanned the room, looking at Miss Perumal and the other adults hopefully.
"Kate, would you stay, please?" Number Two asked politely.
Kate frowned. She wanted to be in the thick of things, even if the only action was investigating the scene. What she did not want was to be stuck here in the police station, cooped up and not knowing what had been discovered.
Just as she was about to voice these opinions, however, Mrs. Washington spoke up. "Yes, y-you and M-Moocho stay h-here. Y-y-you c-can always drive the detective to the mansion if he c-comes."
Kate bit her lip. "All right," she muttered unhappily. "I'll stay."
As the others filed back through the door, Constance stayed behind. "Sorry," she mumbled, her eyes averted from Kate's. "About Reynie, I mean. He was –" she broke off, apparently overwhelmed by her emotions. The girls turned away from each other, both pairs of eyes brimming with fresh tears.
Moocho gave Kate a tremendous pat on the shoulder, hard enough to send most people staggering. Kate, however, merely looked up at the strong man and gave him a watery smile. Then she strode off, heading for where she knew she could find a place to run to burn off the horrible, crushing feeling of sadness that was plaguing her.
She came to a long, straight hallway lined with prison cells. Here and there petty criminals stared at her, wondering who this bucket-toting girl was and what her business here was. Kate broke into a sprint, running back and forth and back and forth until her tears had stopped and her temper somewhat soothed.
"Ah! Miss Wetherall. So glad to see you. How have you been, lately?" The voice of Mr. Curtain sounded strangely tinny and hollow in the prison. Kate turned to look at her old enemy, who was smiling at her from behind the bars most disconcertingly.
It was a strange thing; the week that they had visited Mr. Curtain after Mr. Benedict had died in a tragic fire in the public library, Mr. Curtain had smiled at them, rather than sneered and yelled and thrown thing at them like he usually did. In fact, he had been almost pleasant when they had visited last time. He seemed much happier, now that his brother was dead.
"Hello, Mr. Curtain," Kate said morosely.
"My! Aren't you down in the dumps today. What's wrong?" He seemed genuinely concerned, and Kate saw no reason not to tell him.
"Reynie died." She swiped at her eyes impatiently, disgusted at herself. What's got into me? Pull yourself together!
"Oh, dear. You must be dreadfully upset. I know you two were close…"
"Good grief! That's what Rhonda said, too. It's not like we were in love, or anything. We were just friends."
"Mm." Mr. Curtain didn't look convinced. "How did he die?"
"Enab's Bane. It's –"
"A poisonous plant, I know. They allow me to read the paper, here." They stood a while, Kate fighting tears, Mr. Curtain fighting a smile.
"They're going to investigate the scene now. They left me behind in case the detective comes." Kate slumped onto a bench directly across from Mr. Curtain's cell.
The man spoke in a voice that suggested great dislike, "Inspector Blue isn't the most intellectually advanced detective in the world. He's quite a bozo, really. He's very kindly, but I doubt that he's solved a mystery in his life."
"Then how did he get his job?"
"The police say he got hired because he was the sheriff's son. I'd say that that's the most probable way for him to have gotten the job." Mr. Curtain looked as far down the hall as the bars of his cell would let him. "Speaking of Inspector Blue, I believe he has just arrived."
Kate jumped to her feet. "Really? Thank you, sir!" she said, and darted off towards the distant sounds of Moocho greeting the Inspector.
When at last she skidded to a halt in the main part of the police station, Moocho had donned his oven mitts once more and was readying the car left for them outside. Inspector Blue was inside – out of the cold – watching Moocho and didn't even glance at Kate as she stopped feet behind him.
"Excuse me, sir," Kate looked at the detective expectantly, waiting for a reply. When none came, she repeated herself a bit louder. Again, no answer. When she said it again, she almost yelled it. At this the man turned around and jumped in surprise, apparently not aware that she had been there.
The inspector was a tall, fit, rather sickeningly handsome man. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, although she knew from a file she had seen Number Two carrying that he was actually forty-two. His blonde hair was cut in a way that made it flop into his baby-blue eyes, making him look like a cross between a puppy and a llama. He wore a uniform that consisted of khaki pants and a khaki shirt with a black leather vest with badges sewn onto it. Kate noted that some of these bore messages like; "Annual Smile Competition (ASC) Second Place" and "Weekly Press Interview," but the largest and most brightly polished identified him as Inspector Ronald Blue.
"Why, a good a morning, a madam!" He spoke very strangely, inserting a's into random places.
"Good morning, Inspector Blue," said Kate miserably. This man appeared to be a bit deaf, and once again she needed to repeat herself to be heard. "Shall we get into the car? I guess Moocho already told you what's going on?"
"A yes he a has! A sorry, about your friend there, a girl." He looked more like a llama than ever as he said it.
If he's the one investigating Reynie's murder, then we'll never catch the person who did it. And the State detective's too busy to come. Who else, then? I'm no detective, and neither are your friends. Reynie was the detective, but he's dead. Reynie's dead. It still seemed so unreal, so impossible. How could he be dead? Who would want to kill Reynie? Kate lead the detective to the car in which Moocho was now sitting.
As they drove back to the Mansion, the sky opened and it began to rain so hard that it was difficult to see where they were going even with the windshield wipers working at maximum capacity. Blue chatted amiably, apparently unaware of Kate and Moocho's grief.
As they pulled into the drive, Blue was still saying, "And a then, when everyone thought a that I a wasn't a going to a solve a the a case, I a solved it! I a noticed the a knees of his a pants as the a knees of my dog's a pants, and –" he broke off as the car lurched to a halt. Apparently realizing the precarious emotional state of the two people now getting out of the car, he broke off and followed them.
When they came to the front door, he stopped. "You know, you a shouldn't a come with a me. The sight of death a might a not a be appropriate for such young, innocent a minds."
"I've already seen his body, you –" Control yourself. Calm down, Kate. She took a deep breath. "I watched him die, Inspector Blue. His body isn't going to be worse than…" she trailed off, her emotions too much. Wordlessly, Moocho opened the front door and led them into the maze.
Inspector Blue looked around in wonder at the complex maze of rooms. Where was this? Who were these people? And why did they have a maze in their house?
After the two-hundred forty-three turns and twists that were required of anyone wishing to enter the house, Moocho, Kate, and Inspector Blue were impeded by yellow tape that marked the dining room entrance. Through the doorway, Reynie's sock-clad foot could be seen. The sound of several people sobbing could be heard from the kitchen.
Skirting the tape, the three traipsed into the kitchen, where they found all those who resided in the Mansion plus the Washingtons and Officer Darcy crying and drinking mugs of tea. Darcy wasn't crying, but she did look very disturbed and was trying to comfort a seemingly inconsolable Constance, who was wailing at the top of her voice and saying shrilly that Reynie's death was all her fault.
"No it wasn't, dear," said Darcy desperately, patting the little girl's shoulder. Constance yanked away.
"DON'T CALL ME DEAR!" she screamed. Rhonda and Number Two were at her side too, both trying to calm the eight year old down.
"Hush, Connie-girl," said Kate softly. Everyone jumped in surprise, even Constance, who must not, in her distress, have sensed the arrival of her friend and the inspector (Moocho had gone to turn off the car engine, which Blue had left running). Constance hushed, though tears still streamed down her cheeks and into her tea.
"Inspector Blue!" Darcy stood up, blushing once again. "So good of you to come. Would you…um… like some tea?"
"No a thanks, Darcy Darlin'. I have a work to a do." He turned to Mr. Washington, assuming that he was the main authority figure. "Take me to Ronnie."
Mr. Washington looked up, startled out of his misery. "Reynie," he said simply, and pointed to the door leading to the dining room.
During the next few hours, as Blue rooted around, dusted for finger prints, and asked repetitive questions, Sticky told Kate and Moocho (who had recently returned) about what they had discovered.
"Darcy said that it's definitely murder. She knows how to go to a crime scene without messing anything up, but she couldn't find any evidence at all. I'm normally pretty good at forensics, but I couldn't make head nor tail of it. There's just some Enab's Bane mixed in with the spinach. And only Reynie's spinach. That's the strange thing. Whoever did it would have had to sabotage the food on the way from the kitchen too the table. And only you, Moocho, could have done that, but we confirmed that it wasn't you."
Moocho looked a bit relieved. "How?"
Constance was in the room with you at the time, remember?" Moocho shook his head. "Well, she was, and she would have sensed it if you had done anything. She thinks that it's her fault for not noticing. That's why she's so upset."
Kate nodded. "I was wondering."
An hour later, Inspector Blue returned from the dining room. "I have a found a finger prints on the a plate!" He declared, obviously delighted with himself. " And I a have traced a them a to Moocho a Brazos."
"But we know it wasn't him, Inspector!" Number Two sounded utterly exasperated.
"A how?" As Number Two and Rhonda explained to the detective what they knew, Kate bent down to speak to Sticky.
"This is a waste of time. Blue's clues are useless! What do we do?"
"Well, we can't solve this. Not without Reynie, anyway."
"There's only one person who'll be able to solve this case." Kate and Sticky jumped. They had not noticed Constance come up behind them. She spoke in a nasal tone that suggested that her nose was plugged up, and her entire face was red and swollen from crying. "We need the help of Mr. Curtain."
Author's Note – I'm reasonably pleased with this opening chapter. It's not my best by any means, but I think that it does a decent job of introducing the mystery and the detective. Hopefully, I'll have chapter two out soon. It's going to be the most difficult, as I don't really know what's going to happen. I know the gist of it, but I haven't worked out the details. So it might be a day, it might be a moth, it might be three months before I have this updated. I'd estimate about a month. Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for reviewing (because you ARE going to review, right?...).