A Night at Wakefield Manor

On 12 January, 1936, I was invited to a most peculiar dinner party.

Our host didn’t show at all, because he was dead, and the invited guests were forced to sort the matter out among ourselves.

Roger Wakefield, our esteemed host, died in a most unfortunate way–drugged and left to drown in his private swimming pool, clad in his dressing gown and slippers. Most undignified. The police of course came out at once to deal with it, and after dispensing with the servants (imagine, the fool of a constable sent them home!), he entered the cocktail hour and informed us of the tragic facts of Mr. Wakefield’s demise.

Over dinner, discussion made it apparent that Mr. Wakefield had several arguments over the course of that Saturday afternoon, and that every one of us had a reason to kill him!

I, of course, was concerned that Mr. Wakefield had stumbled upon the truth of a murder I had been involved in over two years ago in the Yorkshire Dales, in which an unfortunate man was stabbed to death–it formed the basis of my bestselling book, The Knife Slices Coldly, but as I have stated before, I had nothing to do with the matter.

Mr. Bates, the departed’s illegitimate son, and a lawyer, had a few reasons of his own, not the least of which was his extensive gambling debt which would be absolved by inheritance of the estate. There was a great deal of fishy business going on with the will, and several guests overheard him arguing with his father. He was also embezzling money from his father, which came to light by way of the secretary, who found a peculiar cheque amongst Mr. Wakefield’s papers.

“Dr.” Mal Practiss, seen here serving the biscuits after dinner, murdered Mr. Wakefield’s late wife via an overdose of sleeping pills. Mr Wakefield suspected the good doctor of foul deeds, and the man was becoming nervous for the state of his license, not altogether surprising since I suspect he didn’t even have one.

Donald Brooks, left, with his loving wife Flo “Wing” Brooks, and Randy Sheets, a popular actress of the day. Mr Brooks was attempting to blackmail Mr. Wakefield, who displayed a natural male interest in the films of Miss Sheets. Mrs. Brooks turned out to be the illegitimate son of Mr. Wakefield’s late wife, by way of Old Woo, a Chinese gentleman. She was determined to avenge her mother’s death. Miss Sheets had starred in a lovely little film, Stiff Upper Lip, although she wanted to branch out into more mainstream and respectable films. Alas, Mr. Wakefield thought her charms better suited to, ah, blue movies, and was attempting to force her to remain in that genre. Frustrated artists get quite hot blooded, you know.

Of course, only one man could be the true murderer, and it turned out to be Sir Roger Wakefield, here being revealed as the imposter that he is. We never learned the man’s real identity, but we discovered that he took advantage of the real Sir Roger’s childhood kidnapping to insert himself into the Wakefield family. (He, of course, killed the real Sir Roger in order to ensure that he didn’t pop up at an awkward moment.) He was concerned that Mr. Wakefield was onto him, and so killed him and attempted to hide the will leaving the estate to Mr. Bates. A devious method of murder, really–quite athletic as a result of his mountain climbing, the man swung onto Mr Wakefield’s second floor balcony after drugging him via a glass of water, and used a board from a scaffold to catapult Mr Wakefield into the pool, where he drowned.

The entire affair was most lurid, and in my opinion several of the guests did not properly absolve themselves, including the elusive E.R.A., Mr Wakefield’s “secretary.” What are these days coming to, when respectable guests at a dinner party are forced to do the work of the police for them?

(Many thanks to our gracious host and coordinator, who made the evening most enjoyable despite my altogether stunned state and lack of sleep.)

[mystery dinner]