He was stretched across the chaise lounge as if he were only lightly asleep. On the terrace, Professor Apple was throwing up.

The Detective polished his smoking pipe as he looked out at the night storm. The Tendelton Manor house creaked under the weight of the rainwater in the drainpipes. It was a small mercy, but at least the mess made by Professor Apple would be washed away overnight and wouldn’t be too difficult for Mr. and Mrs. Tendelton to clean up.

The body of Kai Davver had been found by the maidservant, who went to fetch the squeamish Professor Apple who, after pronouncing the poor man as dead, went to fetch Reverend Lime, who read Kai’s last rights.

“Is this everyone?” said the Reverend, who had taken off his starched collar and undid the top button of his shirt. He was sweating uneasily. His eyes darted around the room.

“Not quite.” said the Detective. “We’re still waiting for Ms. Violet and Colonel Colemans.”

“I don’t understand why we need to wait for them,” said an elderly and demure woman perched on the sofa as if it were made of solid granite. “Clearly Colemans is too old and useless to have stabbed Kai and Ms. Violet is too preoccupied with being a little tart to consider killing anyone.”

“Mrs. Peafowl, if you could quite contain yourself.”

“My apologies, Reverend. But you know as well as I do that she’s a little slut.”

The Reverend harrumphed and turned bright red. He didn’t know why the Lord required that Mrs. Peafowl and other elderly members of his clergy were so judgmental.

“Judge, lest ye be judged” was what the Holy Book had to say on the matter, and he was not one to shy away from the important teachings.

And so he never judged and kept himself open to new experiences.

Being sucked off by Ms. Violet in the Master Bedroom had been a new one.

“I’m assuming Ms. Violet will be down shortly.” said Professor Apple, coming in from the torrential downpour and still looking a little green.

Mrs. Peafowl raised her eyebrow.

“Were you up there not six minutes ago, Professor?”

Professor Apple nodded as the Detective donned his deerstalker and headed upstairs.

Only minutes later, there was a shrill cry from the Study, and the group sprinted upstairs to find Ms. Violet standing in the middle of the room. She clutched at her chest as blood spurted from a gunshot wound just above her navel. She mouthed like a goldfish at the horrified Colonel Coleman, who stood opposite her.

Ms. Violet collapsed to the floor.

Mrs. Peafowl screamed.

Professor Apple threw up on the shag pile rug.

“And then there were four.”

The group parted and noticed the Detective standing behind them.

“By the end of tonight, we’ll all know who committed these heinous murders,” the Detective continued. “If I’m correct, I think I’ve narrowed it down to—“

Professor Apple threw up again and collapsed. After the initial shock and horror, Reverend Lime leant down and took a pulse.

“The doctor is dead.”

“How ironic,” said Colonel Colemans.

“You mean coincidental,” said Mrs. Peafowl. “A common literary mistake. I retired from teaching in a grammar school, by the way. Irony is when a man is acting distant and upsets his wife, despite the fact that he’s acting distant because he’s thinking of proposing to her. Coincidence is two men meeting in a shopping centre and finding out they’re wearing the same shirt.”

“Three people are dead.”

“It’s the principle though, isn’t it?” Mrs. Peafowl scoffed. “Nobody has any regard for literature these days.”

“Shut up,” mumbled the Detective. “The dinner. It was dinner that was poisoned. Anna, the handmaid, had access to the poison cupboard. And she also has a love of Ivory, doesn’t she? Perhaps even to the point where she’d supply the murderous toxins to anyone who dealt in the trade?”

He turned to Colonel Colemans.

“But it wasn’t her who killed Kai, or killed Miss Violet, was it, Mrs. Peafowl? The stain on your dress. It isn’t red wine, is it?”

“It is.” said Mrs. Peafowl.

The Detective tutted.

He bent over and licked the hem of Mrs. Peafowl’s jacket.

“Oh. It is wine.”

“Anything else, detective?”


The Reverend Lime broke away and fled from the room, heading downstairs and out through the open front door into the depths of the night storm.

“Get him!” cried Colemans.

“He’s the murderer!” yelled Mrs. Peafowl.

The group gave chase downstairs, the Detective leading Mr. Colemans and Mrs. Peafowl. But Reverend Lime had already gained too much distance.

The Detective watched from the door as Reverend Lime ran. He ran until he was just a speck flitting in and out from under the lights of street lamps. He ran into the main road and tried to hail a car.

Mrs. Peafowl looked away as she heard the horn blast and the screech of tyres.

“I suppose it was him, then,” she said.

Neither the Detective nor Colonel Colemans replied.

Mrs. Peafowl turned.

The Detective was stabbing Colonel Colemans over and over with a thin pocket knife. Blood poured down front of his military vest decked with a variety of medals.

Mrs. Peafowl screamed as Colonel Coleman slumped to the ground.

“No,” muttered the Detective. “It’s me, always me.”

“But why?!”

“She never decided. The Ar’gartha made this world and never put a cap on it. Never a close, no, just one big circle.”

“You’re not making sense.”

The Detective plucked the monocle from the eye of the deceased Colonel and held it up.

“Déjà vu, essentially. There’s always some doctor named after a fucking fruit that’s always losing his lunch. Always some slut called Miss Red or Ms. Scarlet or Ms.—”

Mrs. Peafowl was crying. “I don’t understand! You’re mad!”

Mrs. Peafowl backed away, shaking in fear. She found the telephone on a fancy dresser and picked it up. But when she went to dial, there were no numbers of the dial pad.

“No use dialing the police,” muttered the Detective. “No police, just me. No maids or servants or butlers.”

“But what about the one that found the body?” said Mrs. Peafowl. “And the two owners, Mr. and Mrs…”

She suddenly felt lightheaded.

“Tendelton? I must admit; that’s a new one. Sometimes it’s Mr. and Mrs. Black. Other times, Mr. and Mrs. Bodie. They don’t exist. The maids don’t exist. This is just set dressing and actors that never got cues.”

He flung forward with the knife, but Mrs. Peafowl ducked away.

“And you think you’re so special? Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Mrs. Fifty-Something-Spinster-Retired-Teacher to go with the Yellow/Mustard Old Military Chap and the Anglican Priest that’s always got a thing for the young Twentysomething Hot Student?”

Mrs. Peafowl climbed the stairs, but she couldn’t feel her legs. The Detective was gaining on her.

“There was a murderer, and there has to be a murderer.”

“But I don’t understand!” cried Mrs. Peafowl. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because if I do it enough, maybe she’ll be appeased. Maybe she’ll break the circle.”

Mrs. Peafowl tripped over as she sprinted across the landing.

The Detective loomed over her.

“But there are other ways of doing this, Mrs. Peafowl.”

The old lady looked up, doe-eyed.

“You know you don’t exist, right? You’re not real?”

Mrs. Peafowl opened and shut her mouth. She remembered vaguely of being a schoolteacher, but where and for how many years she had no recollection. She taught English, but had trouble conjuring up any ideas of what books she might have taught.

“I don’t know anything,” she whimpered.

“Of course you don’t,” said the Detective. “You were made with just the bare bones. Enough to make you walk and do everything you needed to just to get by. If the creator had more time, maybe she would have done something. But you’re just…a shell. A vessel.”

As the Detective spoke the words, Mrs. Peafowl began to dissolve, slowly, disappearing into the air around him.

The Detective left the Manor and headed towards the small train station several miles away. The rain washed the worst of the blood off of his coat, but it was no matter. He’d become used to it as a matter of course, and nobody had ever commented on it. In fact, nobody even spoke to him unless they were inside one of the houses. The people on the trains, the folks walking through the villages…they walked and went through certain routines, but that was it. There was no way of interacting.

Just set dressing.

The train clacked as it passed the Manor, the Lakehouse, the Estate House, the Castle, and finally stopped at the Old Farmhouse.

But these were all just names, he knew, for the same thing. Manors. Guests. A murder. No culprit. Manors. Guests. A murder. No culprit. Ad infinitum.

As he stepped off the train and looked up at the manor on the hill, this time surrounded by sunny daylight, he felt the urge to scream.

And scream he did, as passengers with blank expressions went about their business and blood dripped from his coat.

Far above, in the atmosphere, you can even see the thick and fluffy clouds float across the cornflower blue sky.

If you look close at the clouds, you may see a thread. A fibrous, linen thread in each one. If you were to zoom out further, you’d see millions and trillions of these hair-like fibres, interlocking together to make paper.

Even further, you’d notice the crumpled manuscript in a drawer, next to a packet of headache tablets, two old gloves, and a pile of wax candles.

Outside the drawer is a very small bedroom.

In bed, Agatha Christie slept on through a mild hangover.