A Colorful Evening

Was it a wrench, a pipe or a knife that brought the party grinding to a halt? Only a few people know the answer…

Under the Arch

A Colorful Evening

Was it a wrench, a pipe or a knife that brought the party grinding to a halt? Only a few people know the answer…

The torso of a person holding a champagne glass with a silver ring on their finger. The person wears a dark blue outfit with light blue gems.

Colonel Mustard, with the candlestick, in the library — or was he? This is Clue, reimagined. (Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

Shay Jones, Contributing Writer | Dec 11, 2022

The cars began arriving around 6:30 p.m., and by 8 p.m., the hallways were crowded with people in formal attire calling out to old friends, observing the decor or heading for the bar. The string quartet bowed the classics, the grand chandeliers held dozens of bright candlesticks and the red of cold cheeks began to fade as guests entered through the double doors. There were maybe 80 people milling around the ballroom, which had spacious wooden floors and arching ceilings triple the width and twice the height of my apartment.

“Gaudy ring or earring?” My co-worker asked, carefully loading his pipe. He covered the end with a small lid, exhaling once its contents had been tucked safely away.

“My ring is not gaudy, Jackson, but use the ring,” I told him, and he accepted my choice of signal with the same smirk he wore to every event.

“Let’s head in then,” Jackson said, and with my hand lightly in his palm, he guided us deeper into the lion’s den.

Jackson and I were the seventh car to arrive — exactly the seventh. The only entertainment I had from sitting in the cold car, waiting for others to pass us, was timing the minutes between each of the driver’s dramatic sighs. But arriving near the front of the burgeoning crowd was worth it — we weren’t directly addressed by staff, yet could see the ballroom, the doors and the tables clearly.

I found a spot along the wall columns hidden from the grand entrance, but facing the “livelier” sections of the party. I had a rather good view of the refreshments table. There were no sitting tables and only two dozen or so chairs, forcing people to walk around in lazy loops and search for acquaintances. I could spot the giggling women, who flocked to the powder room in groups, and the idling men, who seemed to be longing for a bar with more liquor. 

There were people purposefully squeezed between others to prevent squabbles, either between an associate or disgruntled spouses or paramours. I caught a few glances of people stalking toward the doors or away from each other. But there wasn’t quite enough noise, not yet. The murmur of the crowd was barely louder than the music had been.

Just as the quartet ended its first break and began a waltz, I made a well-calculated “accidental” bump into the host’s cousin, my damp fingers meeting her heavily-powdered cheek. She was blonde, thin and had lungs that projected a shriek across the ballroom. I had gotten the attention I wanted.

“Oh! I do apologize, miss, I am so sorry for my misstep. Oh your makeup, oh I’m sorry,” I gasped, holding her forearm with my eyes wide and regretful. She clasped my hands, shaking them between hers and trembling in her peacock blue dress as she murmured, “Oh, but it was just a slip, oh I’m alright, goodness dear, oh what a shock.”

After my profuse apologies and her tittering, nervous laughter attracting the gossipers, she sauntered off toward the powder room, and I caught the eye of the burly man who’d been shadowing her. He tilted his head to me, and as I took a glass of champagne from a passing server, he approached.

“Augustus Plum, pleasure to meet you.”

“It is indeed,” I exhaled, smiling up at the party’s host. 

The purple handkerchief in his pocket caught my attention as his brow furrowed, confused.

“Avery White, a great pleasure to meet you. I’ve only heard good things from your wife, sir.”

“Ah, yes. May I ask where you know my wife from?”

“Knitting.” I took a sip from my glass and smiled. “She hasn’t made an appearance at our meetings in quite some time, though. I was absent from the last one, perhaps I just missed her.”

We both chuckled, and he glanced down at the floor. 

“Yes, she did mention something like that,” Plum said, gesturing with a pair of fingers. “Said she may make a erm…scarf, or something of the sort.”


His expression soured for a moment, his eyes flicking back toward the shout as a man made his way toward us. With notable disgust, Mr. Plum turned to the approaching man and sneered so broadly, it appeared to be a smile.

“Mustard. How are you?”

Plummy, so nice to see you. I’m well, thank you. Your party is lovely as always.”

I hid a smile behind my glass at the nickname; it seemed like this short, wiry man was rather confident in his social standing, wealth or both. They shook hands, Mustard straightening his tie and trying to appear taller as Mr. Plum took a step back. 

“Yes, thank you. As always, Scarlett planned most of it. If you’ll excuse me, I do believe I have to go answer to our chef, beg your pardon,” Plum said hastily, nodding his head to the two of us and slipping away. 

Mustard turned to me and I suddenly wished I was the chef, hidden away in the kitchen with butcher knives and free of these eyes. His suit was entertaining, at least, fitted and slightly yellow if my eyes weren’t mistaken.

“Jeremy. Jeremy Mustard.” His eyes went up my figure as he extended a hand, both annoyance and interest in his gaze. “And you are?”


… is what I wanted to say. 

“Avery Green. Mrs. Green,” I repeated, shaking his hand and making sure my ring was visible. His smile took a hit but remained strong as he placed his hands on his hips.

“Ah! And where is your husband, madam?” 

Deceased, I could have said, weeping or laughing to put him off. In the restroom, was a better alternative.

“Just there” is what emerged from my mouth. “My Jackson just went looking for a spare handkerchief.” 

It wasn’t a complete lie. 

“I see. Well. Good party, isn’t it? Fine alcohol, finer company.” 

He was inching closer while he talked, moving his wine glass with him in the hopes that I wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately for him, my eyes were part of my livelihood, so I was aware of most things that tried to encroach upon my space.

“Yes, but of course. Mr. Plum was just telling me of the other guests and the… quartet he’d decided upon. The music… ”

“Darling,” I heard suddenly, and the relief took over even as the volume made me start. “Will you introduce me?”

“Yes, of course. Mr. Mustard, this is Jackson Green, my husband.”

“Ah, nice to meet you.” 

As they shook hands, I caught sight of dust on Jackson’s hand, the back of it. He had made it at least so far, surely the pipe had done its job. 

“Have a good chat with our friend, dear?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. We… oh, ex-excuse me,” he said, wincing, and Jackson brought his hands up only to sneeze into them violently. I waved my hands and patted his arm, cooing. Ice hit my veins when I saw light purple between his fingers, a partial handkerchief keeping his hands clean and signaling he’d done his part. All well and good, but a glance at Mustard couldn’t determine his view. My mind raced.

“Are you alright, darling? Sick? Did you drink?”

“I, oh, I’m afraid it’s my allergies, likely — thank you for asking, dear,” and he brought my hand up to his face. The skin around my ring burned as he gave it a chaste kiss, dropping my arm right after. My mind continued to reel as Jackson said something, anything, to Mustard. In my head, there was only the signal and get out repeating, alongside it’s done.

“I’m very sorry, Mr. Mustard, my husband’s allergies are um, rather fierce — I’m going to take him for some air.”

Mustard let out a huff before gesturing with his arm, nodding. I took Jackson’s arm, but he was the one who dragged me toward the door. We passed the servers and the turquoise-dress cousin from earlier and left the warmth of the party behind. The jarring impact of my shoes on stone steps started to wake me as Jackson called for our driver.

“That — the kerchief, Jack, are you insane?”

“What? I genuinely needed to use it, I’m sure the man didn’t see it.” But he glanced behind us even as he spoke. We were 50, 30 feet from the car when the music suddenly died down — and the piece had bars and bars to go. I held on to Jackson’s arm, fanning my face as the attendant hurried to open the car for me.

“He’s dead! Augustus Plum is dead!”

Jackson urged me into the car as the staff around us turned toward the building. I recall ducking down under the arm of the gawking boy holding my door, the metal of the car scraping my ring before I made it onto the cold seats. Jackson knocked on the glass for our driver’s attention as he clambered in after me, and my door swung shut. As we pulled off and Jackson made himself comfortable, I could only squeeze my fingers together until I felt every knuckle. 

We’d left. We’d really done it. 

“Think we left anything behind? You destroyed the pipe after?” I asked him, mostly for reassurance.

“Yes, I did, and no, we left nothing. I don’t think they have a single clue, darling.”