Melissa Farthingale was dead. She had been found in the barn. It was obvious that she had been murdered. She had been drowned, stabbed seventeen times, and was found hanging from a rafter. Further medical tests showed that she had been poisoned, and had also been stomped by a horse. Someone had made very sure that she was dead. The question was who had done it?

Melissa had lived on a small island in Lake Erie. She was a recluse living in a large Victorian house. Her house staff consisted of Mrs. Calzone who acted as chef, groundskeeper and housekeeper, and Mr. McAuliffe who acted as the butler and handyman, and who piloted the boat to the mainland.

In an unusual occurrence, Melissa had invited two guests for the weekend. No one else had visited the island in decades. One guest was the private investigator, Virginia Creeper. The other was the horticulturist, Lady Slipper.

The guests had been picked by McAuliffe at the pier at Port Clinton, promptly at 5 PM on Friday. Dinner was served precisely at 7:15. Coffee was served in the library. “Ladies”, said Melissa, “I need to speak to you about something very important.” “What is it, Miss Farthingale?” asked Creeper. “It troubles me deeply. I need to think a bit more. Meet me back here in the morning.” With that, all retired for the night. There were five people on the island.

They did not meet the next morning. When Melissa Farthingale did not appear for breakfast, Mrs. Calzone went to her suite. She was not there. It was not until later that she was found in the barn, and the police were called.

“Okay, who did it?” asked Detective Grunblatt, from the Put-in-Bay police department.

“I did it”, said Mrs. Calzone. “I poisoned the pickled kumquats. I knew that only she would eat them. She was an evil woman. I was her illegitimate daughter. She gave me up for adoption. She was a wealthy woman, but she never had a cent for me. I’m glad to see her dead.”

“I did it”, said Mr. McAuliffe. “I stabbed here seventeen times! She was an evil woman. She has been abusing me for lo, these many years. Not only am I the father of her illegitimate daughter - - ‘Oh, that’s you, Cynthia’ said he in an aside to Mrs. Calzone - - but also, I’m the source of her wealth. It was I that invented the widget. She patented it. I’m glad she’s dead.”

“I did it”, said Virginia Creeper. “I drowned her. She called me here about a rare orchid that she had discovered. She didn’t realize that it was my father whom she had bankrupted so many years ago. He committed suicide out of despondency. The woman had no feeling. I’m glad to see her dead.”

“I did it”, said Lady Marilyn Slipper. “I hanged her from the rafter in the barn. It was I who had discovered the new orchid on the island. It would have been the highpoint of my career. She took all the credit for it. It was mine, though I could not think of a good name for the orchid. She had it copyrighted as the Farthingale Orchid. I hated her. I am glad to see here dead.”

“Ah”, said Detective Grunblatt. “That explains almost everything. But who stomped her with a horse?”

All eyes looked blank. “Detective Grunblatt, there hasn’t been a horse on the island for five years”, said Mr. McAuliffe. “That was when she had the young stallion gelded. She sold him shortly thereafter, and there has been no other horse on the island since.”

“Neigh.” The sound was heard through the open window.

~ © Paul (
© Photograph of the Victorian house by Paul (
June 2004

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