Let’s Write a Mystery Together Online, Part 3

Here’s the third installment of “Let’s Write a Mystery Together Online”. If you haven’t played yet, please jump in and add your inspiration to our collaborative mystery. The more people who play, the more fun it is to write the story. Parts one and two are here. I’ll take up after the last comment on last week’s post.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “Olivia is going to blame you for the fire and her brother’s death even though she knows you were at the beach with us that night?”

Aiden shook his head almost hard enough to fling off his crewcut. “No. She thinks the family is lying for me, that I wasn’t at the beach. She’ll reveal the secret if I don’t confess.”

“We can’t let her do that,” Julia said though her teeth. “If we could figure out what really happened, we could clear you and satisfy Olivia.”

“If the cops haven’t solved the case by now,” said Aiden, “how can we in 48 hours?”

I gasped. “That’s all the time she’s given you?”

He nodded.

“I wonder.” I pulled at my lip and gazed up at the darkening hills.

“Wonder what?” Aiden screamed. “We’ve got to do something.”

“I wonder if the cops have talked to everyone who might have been here at the mansion that night.” I started up the steep slope and entered the woods.

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  1. “Where are you going?” Julia asked, running to catch up to me.

    “Up to the still. For inspiration. Or a clue.” Doubtful, but I think best in the woods, so I walked in that direction. Julia followed, and I eventually heard Aiden’s footsteps trailing behind us on the leaves and twigs.

    Anybody who knows anything about our county’s history has heard the stories of the crazy old guy with the moonshine still who made millions and did a bunch of other unsavory activities to add to his wealth. Mysteries surrounded the guy’s uncanny ability to evade the law and his sudden disappearance. But nobody, and I mean nobody, knew that he was our great-grandpa. When your ancestors have a reputation as clean as John Wilkes Booth or Al Capone, you don’t brag about your lineage. Aiden, Julia, and I were taught from infancy to never reveal our family history.

    Right before he disappeared, he told Dad and Uncle Jim that he’d hidden much of his wealth, and his kids’ and grandkids’ birth certificates, on the beach. It was a secret they wished they hadn’t heard, and for years they pretended they didn’t. Until a few weeks ago when realtors started zoning the grove of trees by the beach. An excavator and cement truck showed up there, and a public groundbreaking was planned. If shrewd great-grandpa told the truth about the beach, his wealth and our family heritage would be discovered. It was time to act. The reason we chose homecoming night to take care of it in secret was because anyone with enough community spirit to care about the newly zoned beach would be cheering on the team at the football game.

    When we first heard sirens screaming out to the mansion, we were glad because it gave us extra time to search. But after the ashes settled and questions began, the fact remained: all of Kyle’s closest friends except Aiden were there that night. It threw Aiden into the center of everybody’s suspicion since Olivia and Aiden had recently broken up. People said maybe Aiden killed Kyle to get back at Olivia. Bogus. But we couldn’t admit why weren’t at homecoming so we had to keep silent.

    Voicing my unspoken question as we walked, Julia asked, “Why did you tell Olivia about great-grandpa?”

    “Why did Samson tell Delilah about his hair? I was in love and stupid.”

    “Why does she want to blame you for Kyle’s death?” Julia asked the next obvious question.

    “Why did Delilah tell the Philistines to gouge out his eyes? Olivia is hurt because her brother died so she’ll hurt other people out of pain.”

    I held a branch of prickers to the side so it wouldn’t snap Julia and Aiden. “So she’s threatened to say you planned and started the fire to kill Kyle. But you guys were best friends,” I said. “Who would believe it? And why does she hate you that much to destroy us all?”

    We arrived at the old crumbling site of the still, the place where our wicked great-grandpa did way worse stuff than make moonshine. Aiden kicked a rock and sighed. “Because,” he took a breath and Julia waved her hand in a circle, gesturing to hurry up and tell us. “Because she started the fire. On accident. Never meant for it to get out of control. She just wanted to add fireworks to the party, and then it killed her brother.”

    “Why did she confess to you?”

    “She didn’t. I figured it out. I wanted to find out who killed Kyle, so I asked questions. If I hadn’t confronted her about it, she wouldn’t have had to blackmail me. I should’ve gone straight to the cops.” Aiden leaned against a tree and hung his head.

    “So if she can blame you, she stays out of trouble,” I said.

    Julia started pacing and thinking out loud. “She knows you were at the beach, and she knows you won’t admit it.” Then she snapped her fingers. “Hudson!”

    “Huh?” I asked.

    “Hudson went to the party, but since he’s hoping for valedictorian, he made everyone promise not to tell he was there, and he left before the cops got there.”

    Aiden and I stared at Julia. “How do you know that? And how does that help us?”

    Julia beamed triumphantly. “It helps us because

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