“Untitled” Mystery Writing

Anonymous Student

I first saw him early Sunday morning, outside the courtyard. He pulled up to the front gate in a rather shabby vintage Aston Martin. There was a large crack running down the rear window, and the front bumper was missing. Watching from my bedroom window, I was dissatisfied with the sight of a man dressed all in red, from his boots to his fedora. He was nearly as old as my mother, and was thin as a snake. I took him as a relative, or a friend, who’d come early for the funeral. I never knew much of my father’s friends. Maybe I should have gone down to the foyer to meet him, to get to know what my father was like. He never was one to talk, even when I returned home from college. He spent most of his time in his office, away from the rest of the family. He was very secretive in his last years, and stingy with his riches. He didn’t really deserve the family fortune, and he never really talked to us anymore. But, even with all that, I still would never call him a bad father. And no matter how terrible Dad thought he was, he certainly didn’t deserve a bullet in his head.

The family estate was inherited by my dad when my grandpa had a close brush with cancer. When he thought he was a goner, he gave his son his estate, his fortune, and his summer home. He told us that he wanted to help us adjust, and to give away his gifts rather than leaving them behind. Fortunately, however, he recovered shortly after, and now still lives in his grand estate with us. Father kept him here, refusing to loan him any money to return to his summer home. I’m not sure why, but I could hear them argue often.  

Later that night, I was called downstairs to dinner. On my long journey there, I made my way through the same halls and rooms I’ve lived in for twenty-eight years now. The wide wood stained crown molding. The decorative paintings and statues that no one ever bothers dusting. The fireplace, as large as our front door. Hanging high above its mantle was the lion’s head, a trophy from Grandpa’s hunting days. Entering the dining room, I saw my family. My mom, sister, and my grandparents. Unexpectedly, I noticed the man in red, at the head of the long draped table. 

“Mom, who is he? Why’s he in Dad’s chair?” I asked, trying to keep my voice down. The man in red kept his attention on his plate, as if I were a ghost. Mom took a deep breath. 

“Mary, sit down and eat.” she commanded, “ It’s not a big deal. In your father’s will, he stated that when he… passes away, we should hire his friend to investigate any mysterious circumstances.”

“Mysterious circumstances? We already know what happened. The police said Dad committed suicide, Mom. And why him? We’ve never seen him before. What’s so special about-?”

“Mary!” she yelled defiantly. “I will not tolerate this behavior! We have a guest!” She gave a sharp stare, and I gently took my seat. Grandpa scowled at me. My sister frowned at me, disappointed. She was much younger than me, almost out of high school, and hasn’t left her room since Dad passed. I wanted to be mad at her, but I’m just glad I can see her again. 

In a courteous attempt, I asked the man in red “So, sir, will you be staying with us, or do you live nearby?” 

The man in red looked up at me, a warm smile on his face, and said “Your mother said I could stay for a few days. Don’t worry, I won’t be using your father’s room.”

“Very funny…”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I was just trying to lighten the mood-” 

“Who are you to talk to me like that, huh?” I scolded, “In case you forgot, it was us that let you in, gave you dinner, and a place to stay. In fact, I’m not even sure why you’re here! There’s no murderer! No foul play! How do we even know my father sent you?” 

The man in red kept to his dinner with constancy. 

“Mary, please, that is enough!” Shouted my Grandpa. 

“No, it’s not!” My face was flushed, and my breath was heavy. I couldn’t stop myself if I wanted to. My eyes began to swell “There’s no reason for him to be here! Dad’s gone, end of story. Both all of you and Colonel Mustard should realize that!” 

The man in red dropped a fork to his plate with a loud clang. “Alright, I draw the line at name calling. That’s just immature.” 

“Immature? You’re calling me immature? You impudent, inconsiderate-” 

“Mary, is it? Please, I don’t mean you or your family any harm.” The fact that he was able to keep such a calm demeanor caught me off guard. “I can never understand exactly how you feel, but I grieve for your father as well. Believe me. I don’t know if there was any foul play, or if he really was the only one involved, but I want to follow my friend’s wishes regardless. After that, his will may be distributed to… anyone who didn’t murder him.” 

I took a moment to catch my breath. After I was able to ease my temper, I asked the man in red “Only a few days?”

“Only a few days.” 

“Okay… okay.” The only sound in the room was the shrill scrape of my chair against the wood floor. I stood up, took my plate, thanked my mom for the meal, and told them “I’ll eat in my room tonight.” My mother didn’t argue. She knew we all needed some time alone, and didn’t want to make the man in red feel any more unwelcome. As I walked away, I could hear my Mom whispering to the man in red. 

“I’m so sorry about that. Mary’s always been the.. Outspoken one of the family.” 

Returning to my room, I placed the full plate on my dresser, and crawled into bed. I let a few tears escape my eyes as I stared into the empty ceiling. I thought about Dad, about how truly happy he was before Grandpa’s diagnosis. Whatever it was that pushed him over the edge, made him into someone he’s not, I had to know. It couldn’t be this simple. Maybe Mom was right. Maybe someone did murder him. All I did know was that tomorrow morning, the man in red won’t be the only detective in this house. 

 

That next morning, before the rest of the family was awake, I found myself at the front of Dad’s office. I’ve never seen the inside of those double doors. Before today, I never had much reason to wonder. There was a small padlock holding the handles together, with a keyhole on the bottom. Just as I was beginning to wonder how strong the lock was, I heard a familiar voice behind me.

“Need a key?” It was the man in red, with a silver key in his open palm. 

“Well someone got an early start to the day, didn’t you? How did you find this?” 

“Your father had a small compartment in the ceiling fan of his room. Inside I found a small Chinese puzzle box, which had this key.” 

“Dad was always clever, I just didn’t think he was that secretive. How’d you solve the puzzle, anyway?” 

“A hammer.” 

“Ah, maybe you’re the clever one after all.” 

I twisted the key into the padlock, and it dropped to the floor. The doors creaked open to reveal what was more a cubicle than an office. There was a small filing cabinet tucked away in the corner. A large oak desk took up most of the area, and the walls were lined with bookshelves and antiques, some of which were more considered artifacts. “Ancient Greek pottery, Mayan carvings, Zulu weaponry. Some of this stuff could be worth thousands… maybe millions.” The man in red remarked, “Were these your Grandfathers?” What really caught my eye was the disheveled piles of torn paper on the desk, spilling onto the floor. 

“My grandfather was a hunter, not some sort of huge history buff.” Kneeling down, I picked one of the papers off the floor. Some sort of hand drawn blueprint, maybe a floor layout. Strange symbols were scattered everywhere. “Hey, do you know what any of this means?” The man in red brought himself away from a taxidermy falcon, and knelt down beside me. 

“That’s a floor plan for a bank somewhere. I recognize the markings. It’s a code.” 

“Well, what does it mean?”  

“Your dad was either planning, or having already done, a bank robbery.”

I jumped off the floor. “Hold on, my dad was not a thief. Now, I don’t know where he got any of this fancy stuff, or how he could afford it, but he didn’t steal anything!” 

The man in red continued to shuffle among the papers on the floor. “Well, we don’t know anything yet. I mean, look at all these. Museums, antique shops, more banks… Your father was involved with some bad people. Actually, this might be a good lead.” 

“A lead for… You think my father may have actually been murdered? Mom was right?” Suddenly, My heart skipped a beat, and I felt a huge weight in my stomach. “I think… I think I might throw up.” 

I felt my knees buckle under me. Before I hit the ground, the man in red grabbed me and stood me back up. “Hey, hey, look at me. We don’t know everything yet, okay? If he was murdered, I promise you, I’ll find the person who did this. You hear me?” My eyes were glazed over. “Mary? Snap out of it.” He tapped my cheek, and I was back to my senses. He sat me down in the huge wooden chair behind the desk. 

“Now, I’m going to prepare for interviewing the family. They should be up soon. In the meantime, I want you to look in that filing cabinet over there,” he pointed, “See if there’s anything else we should know.” 

“Wait, interview us?” 

“It’s only standard to consider the family. However, I trust you enough to not question you. You obviously loved your father more than most people love their own. I don’t think I’ll interview your sister, either. She’s much too young, and won’t want to speak, regardless.”

“Thank you,” I whispered, “I’m sorry about last night. I don’t know what came over me. I just… I-” 

“I know. Trust me, I know.” 

The man in red took one more look at the office before shutting the doors behind him. I sat, alone, in a room I was never supposed to enter, and a secret no one was supposed to find. Could this be why Dad kept all the money? Grandpa had quite a large inheritance, but not large enough to buy all of this. And why have these artifacts if no one else can see them, or if they wouldn’t be sold to someone else? 

“Never mind the questions,” I told myself, “I need to know the truth.” 

I kicked myself out of the chair. I made my way to the cabinet, delaying every step. With a shaky hand, I reached for the handle. Pulling slowly, my mind raced with what new possibility I may discover. Arsonist? Politician? World-famous ice-skater? Instead, I found a small red envelope, wax sealed, labeled as follows. 

Dear, William

For your eyes only!

Your Last Instructions: 

“William? Who’s William?” I thought, tucking the envelope in my pocket. Checking the other drawers, I found nothing but small bits of metal, and piles of ash. The envelope remained closed, for now, despite my curiosity. After the interviews, I’ll meet with the man in red, and we can exchange our findings, though I doubt he’ll have anything important to say. My family are honest people.

On my way out, I remembered to lock the office door. Kneeling down, I gently placed the lock back as I found it. When putting the silver key in my pocket, I heard someone walking towards me.

“What are you doing?” It was my younger sister. 

“Jesus Christ, Emma! Don’t just walk up on me like that. It’s creepy!”

There were bags under her eyes, and she wrapped herself in a large silk blanket. She peered down at my pocket, trying to work out what I was holding. “What are you doing in Dad’s office? He told us never to go in there.” 

“I-I’m just…“ I stuttered, and let out a deep sigh. “I’m helping the detective.”

“No way! Can I help?” 

“Emma, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Just go get some breakfast.” 

“Well, then if you won’t let me, I’m going to tell Mom.” 

She darted towards the kitchen. I reached across the floor and grabbed the tail of her blanket. After tugging for a moment, she let the blanket go, and disappeared into the long hallway. “You know what, go ahead! Tell her! What’s she going to do? I’m an adult!” 

I was locked in my room for the remainder of the morning. I could faintly hear the man in red downstairs, conducting his questioning. I find it pointless. My family isn’t cruel. And even if they were, they aren’t smart enough to commit a murder. Obviously, neither am I. Suddenly, I remembered my findings. The little red envelope haunted me. Should I open it, or find the man named William? Who would William be? A friend of my father? Maybe it was some sort of pseudonym. I could ask questions until I’m blue in the face, on and on, forever. Before I knew it, I closed my eyes, and rested for a while. 

I awoke to the sound of my bedroom door creaking. In stepped the man in red, with a plate wrapped in tinfoil. I sat myself upright, my eyes struggling to stay open. When he faced away to close the door, I quickly took the envelope from my nightstand, and buried it beneath the covers. The man in red sat in the rocking chair across from my bed. 

“Hey, kid. I brought you some breakfast, If you’re hungry.” He set the plate on the nightstand. “Look, I might have some bad news… about your father.” 

“O-okay. What did you find out?” 

“Your grandfather was… not on the best of terms with your dad when he passed. Did you know that?” 

I thought back to the few weeks before dad passed. “They did fight. Quite often. I’m not really sure what about.” 

“I thought so, meaning your grandfather isn’t telling the full truth. Apparently, after your grandfather recovered, your dad wanted to keep the family together at all cost. He, in your grandfather’s words, held him hostage in this house. He wouldn’t give him the money to move to his summer home.” 

“Then what did he do with the money?” 

“I’m not entirely sure, but my closest guess is that he used it to conduct all those robberies.” 

“So you seriously think my grandfather-”

The man in red rested his hand on my shoulder. “I’m not saying anyone did anything. I’m not entirely sure your father was even killed. I just need a little more time to collect as much evidence as I can.”

“Then… you’ll probably need this,” I told him, revealing the red envelope, “I found it in Dad’s office. Maybe we can find out who it belongs to.” He held the envelope as if it was made of glass. I saw his eyes begin to swell, but he quickly wiped the tears away. 

“Mary, you already have,” he sniffled, “I-I’m Will.” 

“Well, Will, nice to meet you,” we both laughed in unison, “You should probably read it.”

He carefully tore open the envelope, and unfolded a small scrap of paper. I watched his face droop as he read. 

“What’s wrong?” 

He didn’t answer. I leaned forward for a glimpse of the letter. Will backed away, moving the letter closer to his chest. “I’m sorry, Mary, but there’s something I have to do. It’s your father’s last wish.” 

“Do you need me to help you?” 

He sighed. “No, I need to call a few of our old work friends over to help me. If I hurry, they should be here in time.” He sprang out of his chair and rushed towards the hall. 

“Wait! I’m sorry. I should’ve given you the letter sooner.” 

He stopped outside the door, his back to me. “No, I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you. Get some rest, Mary. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.”

The door slammed shut. What could the letter have said? Why does he need to bring help? Part of me wanted to chase after him, find the note. Why did he deserve a final goodbye from Dad, and none of us did? The only goodbye I had was being the first one to see him on the floor. My brain is just… wrecked. I decided to take another nap. I wasn’t tired, so much as I didn’t want to be awake. 

I awoke in the middle of the night, not sure when, to the faint putter of an engine. Rolling out of bed, I grabbed my phone, and turned on my flashlight. I tip-toed through the dark halls, as to not wake the rest of my family. As I got closer to the stairs, I heard faint whispers, mostly voices I couldn’t recognize. As I walked, one of the floorboards beneath me made a loud, long creak. I froze, petrified. All was silent. 

Thundering footsteps from downstairs, rushing out the front doors! I sprinted down the stairs as fast as my legs could allow. I headed straight for the front door, and saw three silhouettes dashing to two large trucks in the courtyard. Before I reached the end of the porch, the mystery men sped off down the street, away from the estate. I spotted a small car behind them with my flashlight, revealing a shabby vintage Aston Martin. There was a large crack running down the rear window, and the front bumper was missing. I ran back into the house toward the stairs, calling to my family. As I ran, something sharp slid from under my foot. I slipped, and crashed to the ground. 

With a sharp hiss, I sat upright to get a look at my foot. My sole was littered with shattered glass, and trickles of blood. I pointed the flashlight to whatever I had stepped on. It was an old family photograph. Its frame shattered onto the floor. I looked to the back wall of the living room where it was supposed to hang, and found it empty. Abandoned of its paintings, awards, pictures, everything. The furniture was either gone or upturned. I went across to Father’s office. Quickly opening the lock, I found it empty. The blueprints, the antiques, the artifacts, were all gone. Down the hall, the fireplace, finding nothing but the red envelope, gently placed on the mantle. I snatched it up, and viciously unfolded the letter. 

Dear, William

One last job: 

Take all that belongs to me. Every last morsel of wealth. My family has grown… selfish. Unbearable narcissists. I don’t know if I will be able to bring us all together

again, happy, as we once were. Bring all the help you need. 

 

I dropped to my knees. Tears streamed down my face. This could never be true. This couldn’t be the father I knew. How could I be betrayed like this? The rest of the family came down the stairs, running past each other. Mom flicked on the lights to reveal the result of Dad’s con. Her jaw hit the floor. Though she tried to ask a million questions, her voice was frozen. Grandpa came over, and wrapped his arms around me. He noticed the paper in my hand. 

“What’s this?” 

He took it from my hand, put on his glasses, and carefully read the note. His somber countenance turned into a scowl. Then, he let out a chuckle. And another. It was like he couldn’t stop himself. Though his eyes began to swell, his smile stretched for miles. “Oh, my boy, I always knew you were trouble,” he told the paper, “You always were trouble for us.”