Lord Reginald Jonathon Jeffries III was savoring the last drop of wine in his wineglass. “More wine, sir?” inquired his butler James. “Yes, James, please.” James obediently poured.
Sitting at the desk in his study, Jeffries adjusted his monocle and thoughtfully gazed at James, “You know, James, I am not looking forward to your retirement. You are indispensable to me. In fact, you are like a brother to me, which is why I have included you in my will.”
“Oh thank you, sir, but you are entirely too generous.”
“Nonsense! You have been more loyal to me than my entire greedy, bloodsucking family put together! I mean that! They will get their share of my estate as well, but as far as I’m concerned, you are the only one who deserves it!”
“Again, you are too kind, sir. Oh, by the by, I have hired my replacement. You will be in good hands. My sister is highly competent and comes highly recommended. She will make you forget all about me.”
“Splendid, James, but I shan’t forget about you. When will she be arriving?”
“She’s on her way from Wales. She should be arriving within a fortnight after I have departed. In the mean time, Vanessa will be in charge of the house.”
“Splendid! James, old boy, what are your plans now that you are retired?”
“I shall be wading up to my waist on a secluded Jamaican beach, sir.”
Both men shared a hardy laugh. A fortnight later, James’ sister arrived at the manor. Elizabeth was a handsome woman. Lord Jeffries immediately noticed the family resemblance. “Ah, you must be James’ sister Elisabeth!”
“Please call me Liz, sir.”
“Liz it is then; it is so good to meet you at last.”
“The pleasure is all mine, my lord.”
Jeffries placed his hand on Vanessa’s backside and gave her a swat. “Vanessa, do be a good little maid and introduce Liz to the rest of the staff and show her where everything is.”
Vanessa wanted to punch Jeffries in the eye, but she fought back the urge. “Yes, me lord.” The staff consisted of upstairs and downstairs maids–and no butlers. James was the last.
Jeffries’ son, Reginald Jonathon Jeffries IV, wasn’t looking forward to spring vacation. He was destined to spend it with his father. His father was always pressing his buttons, always finding fault with him, always threatening to disinherit him if he didn’t do exactly as his father commanded. He was one of the few students at his boarding school who actually enjoyed being away from home.
Lady Jeffries also had reason to despise her husband. Jeffries was always flirting with the younger maids. Of course, the maids didn’t like being in the cross fire between Lord and Lady Jeffries.
It seemed as though Lord Jeffries hadn’t a friend in the world. Everyone hated him save for the butler (who was half way around the world), and the butler’s sister. As a result, Scotland Yard was unable to narrow down the list of murder suspects to one.
The leather chair where Jeffries sat in his study was drenched with his blood. His throat was cut. It was Vanessa who found him. At least that is what she told Liz who immediately sent for Scotland Yard.
Everyone seemed to have a motive for the murder, except for Liz. She was new to the manor and was not named in Jeffries’ will. Everyone seemed to have an opportunity to murder Jeffries except for the butler. He was the only party with an airtight alibi.
Everyone save James was seated in the living room. Inspector Dreyfus paced the floor before the crackling fireplace, measuring each suspect’s countenance, body language and any bead of sweat. A crack of thunder and lightning disturbed the silence.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. “Ah, that should be the cavalry arriving to save the day,” Dreyfus mused. Liz opened the double doors and took the hats and umbrellas from none other than Sherlock Homes and Dr. Watson.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson.” Dreyfus smiled broadly at the two men and bowed in deference. “Mr. Holmes, I turn the floor over to you.”
Holmes sauntered over to where Dreyfus was standing, took a puff of his pipe and began: “Thank you, Inspector. Now, let’s solve a murder, shall we? Clearly the murder weapon was the letter opener, since it is covered in blood. Clearly the murderer was someone who was strong enough to overpower Jeffries.”
Watson piped up, “I suppose that eliminates the women as suspects. That only leaves two: Jeffries’ son and the gardener.”
Holmes, of course, had his rebuttal more than ready, “Not so, Watson. The gardener would have been noticed by one of the staff if he had entered the house and made his way up two flights of stairs to Lord Jeffries’ study. Clearly the murderer had to be someone who works on the inside, who wouldn’t stand out like a sore canker. As for Jeffries’ son, he has not one spot of blood on his clothing.”
Watson protested, “But Holmes! Jeffries’ son could have changed his clothes and disposed of the bloody ones.”
“Clearly that is what the real murderer did,” fired back Holmes. “The real murderer had planned everything well and covered his tracks well. Jeffries’ son, by contrast, has no alibi, has motive, opportunity, and made no attempt to hide these facts. It is highly improbable that he would do such a splendid job disposing of bloody clothes but neglect to create an alibi for himself. Further, it is highly unlikely he was dressed as a maid.”
Holmes pulled a bloody maid’s cap from his trench coat. Everyone gasped. “I found this buried in the wooded area. The Lord’s beagle was digging it up.”
Watson was at a loss for words, but he tried, “Then the murderer is a murderess! One of these maids!”
“Wrong on the first count, but you are right on the second, Watson.”
“Dash it all, Holmes! Whatever do you mean?”
“Watson, think carefully. Who has the perfect alibi? Who is not named in Lord Jeffries’ will?”
“Why James the butler is in the will but has the perfect alibi and his sister Liz has no alibi but is not named in the will. What on Earth are you driving at, Holmes?”
In response to Watson’s query, Holmes walked over to where Liz was seated. With one swift pull, he removed Liz’s cap and wig. “Here is your murderess…er…murderer! Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the butler James!”
Dreyfus immediately cuffed James and took him away. The whole room was stunned! Watson included! “Holmes, how did you know that she…er…he…er…that she was a he?”
“Elementary my dear Watson. Liz has a mustache and forgot to shave her legs.”