Ghosts, Mystery and Murder
A treasure hunt in a gothic manor
Ghosts, Mystery and Murder
Jarret and Detective Quinn stood at the top of the hidden stairway looking at each other.
“You found it,” the detective said. “You get to go first.”
Jarret reached in and flipped the light switch. Light came on in the stairwell and below.
The detective followed him down.
The room had bare cement walls and floor. Rows of dusty wooden wine racks, all empty, filled the space. A lone rack against the wall facing the stairs looked different, newer, less dusty, and held one bottle. They looked at the label, Chateau d’Yquem, 1936.
“Is that a good one?” Jarret asked.
“Couldn’t tell you,” the detective said. “It’s not in my price range. But if it’s down here I imagine it’s one of the best.”
Against the back wall were four large wine casks with oval fronts. The casks were two feet thick with their staves butting against the back wall. The oval fronts were five feet high and four feet wide. Each barrel had a stopcock set into the front six inches above the bottom staves.
“We have our wine cocks,” the detective said.
Jarret looked around the room. “I don’t see a clock.”
“No, and I don’t like the idea of bringing them down till we know what we’re going to find,” Detective Quinn said.
“Then let’s see what happens if we turn a cock,” Jarret said.
He knelt and turned the cock on the first barrel left, then right. Nothing happened. He did the same on the second barrel, again with the same result. But when he turned the cock on the third barrel to the right, they heard a loud click and the front panel of the barrel was free to swing out. The barrel staves formed a short tunnel into the room behind. Jarret went through and found a switch on the wall low enough to reach before going in all the way. He flipped it and Detective Quinn came through behind him.
The walls were crimson silk damask embossed with fleurs-de-lis above wainscoting of mahogany. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling over craps, blackjack, and poker tables. A mahogany bar was along one wall. A small stage was beside it with a piano and three microphone stands. Round tables with four chairs and tablecloths now dust-shaded gray were bunched in front of the bar and stage. Camelback sofas, settees, and love seats, all padded and posh, were along the walls. An opulently carved grandfather clock stood alone in the center of one wall.
“Looks like old Gavin ran a speakeasy,” Detective Quinn said. “No wonder his son’s a teetotaler.”
“Do you think Lester knew?” Jarret asked.
“Maybe not,” the detective said, “but we need to find out.”
The detective went to a door across from the cask-tunnel entrance that also looked like an entrance. He opened it, flopped the switch inside, and called Jarret.
A pier extended across the front with cleats along the edge for tying up boats. A long counter was built into the wall with nautical gear laid out: coiled ropes that had the sharp muscular tar smell that gave ships their essence, small anchors and buckets with ropes attached, extra cleats and oar locks. Pegs on the wall above the counter held sets of oars.
A floating dock designed to rise and fall with the tide reached into the water at one end of the pier. Stairs led down into the water at the other. The grotto itself disappeared into the darkness of the cave beyond.
“This is how his clients came and went,” Detective Quinn said.
They looked around a little longer then went back inside. Another wall had two doors. The first opened to an office. Detective Quinn sat at the desk to check the drawers while Jarret went to the cabinets along one wall. The cabinets were empty. One desk drawer had decks of playing cards still in their wrappers. Another drawer had racks of chips sorted by color. The other drawers were empty. No ledgers or papers.
The detective felt under the middle drawer and found spring clips sticking down. He knelt and looked at them.
“Mr. Owlin, what do you make of this?”
Jarret came over and knelt. “Looks like a small pistol would fit,” he said.
The detective grunted and got up.
The next door opened to a private poker room with two poker tables and its own small bar, presumably for the high rollers. Covers formed to fit the tables were draped over them but something was under one of them. Detective Quinn looked under an edge of the cover, then had Jarret help him carefully lift it off. Underneath was a desiccated body in fashionable clothes. Beside the body was a gray Alpine hat with a bright blue macaw feather in the band. A dark stain around the edge of the underbrim of the hat got the detective to roll the head to one side. He put his finger on the hole he saw there.
“Bigger than a thirty-eight, smaller than a forty-five. He was killed somewhere else where he bled,” the detective said. “I’d say this changes the hunt.”
“The wound matches the position of the bullet hole in the photograph upstairs,” Jarret said. “Whoever doctored the photo knew about the murder.”
“As if we don’t have enough cryptic clues,” Detective Quinn said.
“Do you think one of the guests did it?” Jarret asked.
“Assuming this is Russell Revlis, the immediate choices are Sheila Graves and Brent Breckmore because of their connection to him, but being down here in the speakeasy also puts Revlis, Tobias Truman, and Professor Prince in the picture since they’d all been to the manor for the first treasure hunt.”
“What do we do now?”
“We have to close off the speakeasy till the police can go through it, but other than that we have to let everyone go about their business and hope somebody does something that tells us more. We need to tell Revlis and Miss Graves first, and I want them together when we do so they don’t each put on their own show for us. Then we tell the rest.”
They came back up and closed the mirror door. They slid the left-side drawers back in hoping no one had seen the mirror opened. Then they took Revlis and Sheila into the library. The other guests watched them leave the dining room with vastly curious looks.
When the two were seated, Detective Quinn started in. “I’m afraid I have bad news for the two of you. Mr. Owlin found the way into the wine cellar.”
“That’s not bad news,” Sheila said.
“But what we found there is. The turn-the-cock clue opens a door to a speakeasy, and in the speakeasy we found a desiccated body that has been there for years. Beside it was a gray Alpine hat with a bright blue feather.”
“Russell,” Revlis said with dejection at the same time Sheila said, “Russell?” as a question.
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