Master Detective Clue
by Lizz Browne

Now, just a few things before I post the story:
1) The only thing outrageous is that I'm actually posting this! Its definitely one of the worst things I've EVER written!
2) I titled this piece Master Detective Clue because it reminds me of when my friend and i were little and we would spend hours playing that game and having her grandma make up clues for us to follow.
That said: Read at your own risk. It may be hazardous to your health.

Lydia Kessler looked around her as she waited for the man to wrap up the clams she was going to cook for dinner that night. Lydia hated clams, but for some reason her husband Paul liked them. The Kesslers had only been living in Cabot Cove for two years, but already Lydia was sick of the little town. Born and raised in the heart of Chicago, Cabot Cove was far too boring for her taste. Nothing exciting ever happened, except for the occasional murder, but Jessica Fletcher usually solved them so fast the townspeople didn't even have time to start rumors about who the killer was.
What this town needs, Lydia thought to herself, is a little stirring up. A little adventure, and a little mystery. A little mystery even Jessica Fletcher couldn't solve...

"Tourist season is finally over!" Seth Hazlitt exclaimed as he and Jessica strolled down Main Street arm-in-arm. "I thought it would never end!"
"Oh, Seth!"
Don't 'oh, Seth' me, woman! Even you have to admit that this year was particularly awful. And it's just going to keep getting worse! Every year, more and more city people are..."
"Seth," Jessica reached up and placed her hand over his mouth, "hush. We go through this every year. Just enjoy the winter. No tourists, just friends and neighbors."
"Where are you going this winter?" Seth asked.
"What do you mean, where am I going?"
"Visiting...anyone?" he asked hesitantly.
"You mean George?" she asked.
Seth nodded, slightly embarrassed. She held his arm a little tighter and replied, "I don't think so. Perhaps more towards spring. But I'll definitely be here for Christmas."
Seth smiled, relived. "Peace and quiet at last. No more..." he glanced sideways at Jessica, "adventures until next summer."
Lydia Kessler, who was standing nearby had heard the last comment, and started thinking to herself. No more adventures? We shall see.
"Lydia?" her husband Paul called to her. "Come on, Lydia. It's time to go."
"Yes," she said to no one in particular. "Time to go."

Later that night, Lydia entered the living room where Paul was watching TV.
"Honey, I have to go to the hospital. They're short-handed tonight, and have a lot to do. Don't wait up for me."
Paul sighed. "All right. Go save some lives."
Lydia smiled and kissed her husband good-bye. Before leaving the house, she picked up the phone, dialed a number, and let it ring only once before replacing the receiver.

The next morning, Seth burst through the kitchen door where Jessica was making breakfast.
"Good morning, my dear!" he said kissing her cheek.
"Seth, are you feeling all right? You're so...happy." She said a little worriedly.
"I'm perfectly all right. It's just such a lovely day, probably one of the last warm days of the year, and I want to share it with you. What do you feel like doing today?"
"Let's see if Caleb will take us out to one of those little uninhabited islands for a picnic!" Jessica found herself getting caught up in his enthusiasm.
Her words finally began to sink in. "What do you mean, I'm so happy. Why shouldn't I be?"
"There is no reason why you shouldn't be happy. You just seemed...extra happy, that's all. Here." She handed him a cup of coffee.
"What, no eggs?" he teased.
Jessica threw the dish rag at him. "You're early. I wasn't expecting you for another ten minutes, at least."
He laughed. "You know me too well."
"No such thing. Your best friend can never know you too well."
"Well..." Seth began but the loud ring of the telephone interrupted their conversation.
"Seth, be a dear and get that will you?" Jessica, who was busy making breakfast, asked.
He picked up the phone. "Hello? Oh hi, Mort."
Doc, have you or Mrs. F. seen Lydia Kessler within the last 12 hours?" Mort asked him.
"I haven't. Hold on, I'll ask Jess." He covered the receiver with his palm and asked, "Jess, have you seen Lydia Kessler lately?"
"Yesterday afternoon, when we were in town, but not since then. Why?"
Seth shrugged and put the phone to his ear again. "She hasn't seen her either. What's this all about, Mort?" Seth listened intently for another few minutes, then hung up the phone and turned to Jessica.
"Lydia Kessler is missing. She told her husband that she was called into work at the hospital around 8:30 last night, and when she wasn't back this morning, he called the hospital looking for her. The staff there told him that she was never there, and that no one called her in last night."
"That's very strange, Seth. Sounds to me like she ran away. But for what reason?" she set his plate down, and took her seat opposite him.
"I don't know. She's kept to herself the two years they've been here."
"That's...very strange." Jessica repeated. She opened her mouth to add something, but was interrupted by the sound of a thump against the front door. "What on Earth...?" They both got up and went to the front door to see what the source of the noise was. Jessica opened the door to find a battered copy of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises on the doorstep. When she picked up the book, a scrap of paper fluttered to the ground.
"Did the paper boy run out of newspapers?" Seth asked as Jessica picked up the piece of paper and unfolded it. Printed in thick dark letters were the words: Look To the East.
"To the east? For what?" Jessica asked.
Seth followed her gaze. "Nothing out there but the cemetery."
I wonder what we're looking for."
"Lydia?" Seth asked, suddenly. "I mean, we just hear about her disappearance and then this strange clue appears on your doorstep. Seems to me, someone's playing a twisted sort of game with you, Jess."
Will you help me?" she asked him.
"You honestly didn't think I'd let you go out there by yourself, did you?"
"Good. Let's go!"
"Wait a minute, Jess." He grabbed her hand and pulled her back inside. "We haven't finished breakfast, and besides, shouldn't we tell Metzger about this?"
"You're right, as usual."

Forty minutes later, Seth and Jessica pulled up at the gates to the Cabot Cove cemetery. Mort hadn't been in his office when they called, so they went without him.
"The cemetery is huge Jess. Where do we start looking?"
"I don't know," she replied, "Doesn't Paul's family have a plot here somewhere? Maybe we should start there."
After a few minutes of walking around, they came across Paul's family plot. There were two stones there for Paul and Lydia.
"Doesn't look like they were planning on going anywhere." Seth commented.
"What's that?" Jessica saw a small piece of paper on the ground next to Lydia's headstone. She picked it up and unfolded it. Part of a cut up picture fell into her hand.
"I'd be expecting more clues if I were you." Seth said looking over her shoulder.
"Seth this is just bizarre."
"Most everything you get involved in is far from normal." He said dryly.
"Seth, that's not helping." She scolded.
"What would you like me to do, Jess? The only thing we can do is wait for another clue. We'll get no where with Jess that bit of photograph."
"What makes you think that we'll get another piece of the picture with the next clue?" Jessica asked him.
"It's obviously some kind of puzzle. What did the paper it was in say?" he asked.
Jessica unfolded the paper again.
"Well done." They read in unison.

"Lydia has been gone more than 24 hours now, so she can officially be listed as missing. I put out an APB and contacted the state police. They're keeping an eye out for her." Mort said the next morning when Seth and Jessica stopped by his office to fill him in on everything that had been happening. "Now, what are these clues you've been receiving?"
"We got this one yesterday, and found this part of the picture on Lydia's headstone out in the cemetery. This one," Jessica picked up a second piece of paper. This one was purple. "This one we got this morning."
Mort took it from her and read aloud, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."
"Ridiculous if you ask me. Movie quotes." Seth snorted.
"We found another piece of the picture in the library's copy of Gone With the Wind." Jessica said.
"What are we supposed to do with these?" Mort asked.
"Wait for more." Seth said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Mort glared at him.
"All right, boys, play nicely." Jessica broke in.
"If you're getting these clues every morning, let's stake out your house and grab whoever is leaving them." Mort said.
"Fine with me." Jessica replied.
"All right...Andy!" Mort called
"Yes, Sir." Andy said appearing from the back room.
"6am tomorrow morning, you and I will be in position at Mrs. F's house."
"I'm coming too." Seth spoke up.
Jessica opened her mouth to protest that it wasn't necessary, but decided it would be best if she just agreed to it.
"You'll wait inside with Mrs. F." Mort ordered.
It was settled. Seth and Jessica left to finish their errands in town, and Mort went back to his game of Spider Solitaire on the computer.

At a quarter to six the next morning, Jessica opened the door to find Mort, Seth, and Andy looking grim.
"We're too late." Mort said.
"They were already here." Seth added.
"Whoever it was, they left this." Andy piped up handing Jessica a blue envelope.
"Colorful," Jessica commented as she opened the envelope and pulled out a paper the same shade of blue. "Where would one get matching paper and envelopes in this color?" she asked.
"Any store that sells stationary. I already looked into that with the purple one. No body has bought anything like that in awhile." Andy said.
"What's this clue say, Jess?" Seth asked.
"You mean, you didn't open it?" she replied, surprised.
"No." Mort said. "It's your clue."
Jessica laughed and read aloud from the piece of paper, "And quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore!'"
"That's rather foreboding isn't it?" Seth said.
"Where is this clue leading us?" Mort wondered.
"Well two clues in the library seems silly." Jessica said. "Come in, let's talk about this inside, not in the doorway."
They all went inside, and Jessica put on a pot of coffee. Each was silent, trying to think of another place they might find The Raven. Just as Jessica was pouring the coffee into mugs Andy exclaimed, "I've got it!"
"What is it, Andy?" Jessica asked, as she soaked up the coffee she had spilled.
"The Community Center. There's that framed copy of The Raven that hangs on the back wall."
"Brilliant!" Mort cried, "Let's go!"

"Looks like you were right, Andy." Jessica said as he pulled yet another part of the photograph out, along with a third blue paper that matched the other two perfectly. It read: 2 to go.
Back at Jessica's house, they put all three pieces of the photograph together. Mostly it was just some grass, and a pretty blue sky, but there was a small corner of a white house visible.
"That looks so familiar, but I can't place it." Jessica said.
"I'm assuming that once we get all the pieces of the picture, that will tell us where to find Lydia?" Mort asked.
"That's my guess." Jessica told him.
"Well, I suppose that's all we can do today, until we get more clues. Lydia doesn't seem to be in any danger, at this point. I mean, there's been no other communication, no ransom note, no nothing." Mort said. "It's almost like this is all a big joke,"

Lydia didn't think she was in any danger either. She was the one that was behind the clues.
"This really was brilliant, Conrad." She said to her partner in crime. "Such an adventure!"
Conrad however, wasn't having quite so much fun. "How long until this is over, Lydia?" he whined, "And how much am I getting paid?"
"Two days if they're smart...PAID?! Who said anything about pay? This was just for the thrill of playing with a bunch of people's minds. You're not getting paid for this."
Conrad was outraged. "Lydia Kessler, you promised me some money for this. I'm taking off work for this you know! I demand I get paid or..."
"Or what? What're you gonna do? Hold me for ransom?" Lydia laughed.
She was mocking him. After all he'd done to help her, she was MOCKING him! He couldn't take it...he WOULDN'T take it! Conrad reached for the nearest blunt instrument; an old forgotten piece of piping, and hit Lydia over the head with it. She fell to the ground, dead. What was he to do now? He couldn't give himself up. Not without a fight. Jessica Fletcher. She would make good bait.

At his usual time the next morning, Seth pulled up in front of Jessica's house. He'd had a very strange feeling the night before. It almost felt like a premonition of some danger that was to come to Jessica. He came around the side of the house, and nearly fainted at the sight that met his eyes. Lydia Kessler was propped up against the door: dead. Dried blood stained her clothes and the flag stones on which she sat, and Seth could clearly see the head wound that had caused her death. In her cold and stiff fingers she clutched a pink envelope.
"JESSICA!" Seth yelled as he hurried around to the other door. He searched his pocket for his key ring, and finally found the right key. He inserted the key into the lock and swung the door open. He ran through the house calling for Jessica, but she was no where to be found. At last, he made his way back to the kitchen and called Mort.
When Mort and the paramedics arrived, they carefully pried the envelope from Lydia's grasp and opened it. The fourth clue read: Ports in a storm, comfy and cozy
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mort asked.
Seth didn't hear him. He was more concerned with another note in the envelope. Think fast. She's next.
"Mort?" he asked, his voice quivering. "What happens if we can't do this?"
"We have to."
"'Ports in a storm' suggests the harbor." Seth said. "Do Paul and Lydia have a boat?"
"I don't know. Caleb would, though." Mort said.
"Well come on! No time to waste!"

Mort and Seth made it down to the harbor just as Caleb was about to set out to sea.
"Caleb, wait!" Mort called. When they reached the boat, he asked "Do you know if Paul and Lydia Kessler have a boat?"
"A-yuh," the old fisherman replied, "That one." He pointed to a beautiful forty-foot sailboat.
"Thanks Caleb!" Mort said, and he and Seth went to search the boat for a pink envelope to match the one Seth carried in his pocket. They looked around the deck, and even searched the cabin but found nothing. They were about to give up when Mort thought of something.
"Help me with this sail." He said to Seth. With some difficulty, they managed to unfurl the sail. When it was nearly half-way up, the missing pink envelope fell out and onto the deck. Taking the sail down proved to be far easier, and in no time at all, they were done. The forth envelope contained a forth piece of the puzzle-picture, but the middle part was still missing.
"We'll just have to wait until tomorrow." Mort said.
"All we ever do is wait!" Seth exclaimed in frustration. "I'm tired of waiting!"
"Look, I know you're worried, but that's all we can do."
Seth didn't sleep at all that night.

The next morning, he went out to get the newspaper and was surprised to find an orange envelope on his doorstep. He opened it, expecting another classic movie clue. Instead, it read: The corpse danced at midnight. In a smaller, different handwriting were the words: midnight- Game Over. Seth got dressed in record time and hurried over to Mort's.
"This isn't good, Seth. Do you know how many copies of that book are in this town?" Mort asked. The look on Seth's face told him he did. "I guess we'll have to split up and ask everybody. Andy! We need you too."
Mort took out a map of the town and divided it into three different parts. Then they set off on their search for the right book.
By 8pm they had finished, and not one book had held that last, most important, clue. For some reason he couldn't explain, Seth found himself standing in front of Jessica's house. He let himself in and sat down in front of the fireplace, staring at the place the flames would normally be. On a sudden impulse, he stood and went to the bookshelf. He pulled down The Corpse Danced at Midnight and opened the cover. There lay the final clue. Seth tore open the envelope and pulled out the final piece of the puzzle. When the picture was all put back together, Seth recognized the house at once. He picked up the phone and called Mort at the station.
"Mort, I found the last clue. It's a picture of Jessica's house!"
"I'm on my way," Mort replied. "Don't do anything stupid."
Seth was about to reply, but Mort had already hung up the phone. A few minutes later, he and Andy arrived.
"Where do we start?" Mort asked.
"Well, the attic and the cellar are the only places he could really hide her."
"The cellar is right there, let's start with that." Mort said, walking to the door and pulling it open.
"There should be a switch...there it is." Seth flipped it on and the bare bulb in the middle of the room lit up, revealing Jessica bound to a chair. "Jess!" Seth cried, and raced down the stairs with Mort close behind him. Seth knelt to untie her ropes and a voice said from behind them, "Well done. I almost didn't think you'd make it."
Mort whirled around and was about to reach for his gun, but Conrad said, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." His gun was trained on Jessica.
"Drop the gun and put your hands in the air." Andy said from behind Conrad. He hadn't come down the stairs with Mort and Seth. Conrad gave in, and threw the gun to the floor. Mort and Andy took him to the car as Seth finished untying Jessica and hugged her tightly.
"What happened, Jess?" he asked.
"He killed Lydia. This was all her idea. It was a game, that's all. When we found her she was going to give herself up. It was all supposed to be "harmless fun." Something happened, a dispute over money, I think, and he killed her. He wasn't about to give himself up, so he came upstairs and kidnapped me. And I've been down here ever since."
"Oh, Jess I was so worried." He said embracing her again.
"I'm fine Seth. I don't think he would have really killed me, anyway."
"Oh, that's comforting." Seth said sarcastically.
She laughed. "Well, I'm here now, and I'm fine. And do you know what I think we should do tomorrow?"
"No, what?"
Go on that picnic we planned!" she said and he smiled.