Miss Scarlet danced onto Mike’s lap. The chants of ‘going down, going down’ stopped abruptly and Jack started to apologise. In his haste to gulp back his drink and get the glass on the table, he’d managed to scatter the carved wooden pieces everywhere. Reverend Green was now swimming in a puddle of alcoholic communion wine and Miss Scarlet was living up to her reputation.
‘Sorry,’ said Jack. ‘Rioja stopped play.’
June got up from the table and walked over to the area that Mike designated as the ‘library’. She looked back at her husband, who was still apologising and swishing wine all over the board with a soggy tissue. Her deadly look had more depth than the red puddle on the table and much darker history than Chris’s mock mansion.
As host, Chris was desperate to keep the game going, but his appeals were ignored as glasses were refilled. Mike and Jack went over to June and squeezed onto the settee. Despondently, Chris sloped off to the dining room where, with a few pieces of brown paper and a trip to the Oxfam shop, he had turned the room into something that looked a little like an Old Hall. ‘Food in fifteen,’ he muttered.
‘Cheer up mate,’ Jack called out, ‘it was hardly a game of life or death.’
For over ten years, the ‘Game Gang’ had met monthly for a game and an excuse for a drink. There were five members originally, until Deborah had met an un-gamely end. She had ridden her bike into the Leeds Liverpool canal. Foul play was never suspected, even though some of the gang knew she had been cheating.
Chris, Deborah’s husband, had the idea to restart the ‘Games Gang’ nights and kicked off by sending out invites to ‘Chris’s Cluedo Mansion’.
Life had to go on.
So he planned a real murder mystery night. One which, he promised himself, would end in silence. Stunned silence.
Chris had introduced additional rules to the game. On the Cluedo board was Thanatos, a promoted chess pawn. Throw a six and you could place Thanatos next to any opponent’s piece. The opponent then had to down a glass of wine before the rest of the players could chant ‘going down’ six times.
He also had a secret end game; his hand-written note stowed away in the yellow ‘guilty’ envelope.
Deborah had been cycling home alongside the canal bank, when an unfortunate accident occurred. The coroner had described it as ‘tragic’, stating that Deborah had, almost certainly, hit her head on the stone towpath, after skidding off the track.
Chris had reacted like a loyal and devoted husband would, on hearing such news. His brother Mike showed little upset over Deborah’s fate, but was, as usual, very concerned over the welfare of his younger sibling. Ever since their dad had left them, Mike had been over-protective of his younger brother. Even now he was being his guardian. Mike had not told his brother that Deborah had been playing away from home.
What Mike didn’t know was that the other member in Deborah’s under cover life was sitting next to him on the settee.
Jack and Deborah’s affair started after one of the ‘Game Gang’ nights. Carpet bowls had been organised as the excuse to competitively drink.
When Deborah and Jack had crawled around the floor, they found their hands touching far too frequently and lingering on each other for far too long. A couple of weeks later, sharing a crumpled bed in the Leeds Travelodge, Jack compared those first moves to Twister.
‘More like Poker.’
Deborah slid down inside the bed.
‘I’ve been dealt another full hand.’
Chris brought out the lasagna and apologised that it was the servants’ day off.
As he played mother, he suggested that they finish the game after the meal. The consensus of opinion was that if he wanted to carry on he would have to play with himself.
‘I’ve had to do that for a while already.’
June laughed just a little too loudly.
When his three guests were seated Chris went back to the table in the ‘cellar’ and pulled his note out of the guilty envelope.
‘It was Chris.
With the fence post.
On the canal path.’
He screwed it up and dropped it into a wine glass.
‘Next time I’ll organise Risk,’ he thought.’
Originally published: The Times Short Story Competition Winner