A Challenge - Finish Writing This Mystery Story

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The challenge is to finish writing this mystery story in which every sentence must include at least one title from the 67 movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock. All 67 titles must be used in the story and each can be used once only.

I have made a start, can anyone finish it for me?

PLEASE NOTE: if you wish to do a complete story of your own, go right ahead. It will be included in the judging.

NOTE ALSO: you will be forgiven if you do not wish to use one or more of the following:

"The Alfred Hitchcock Hour"
"Startime"
"Suspicion"
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
Elstree Calling
Sound Test for Blackmail
The repeat (H. remade it) of The Man Who Knew Too Much

MY STORY SO FAR:

Full of suspicion and, I confess, feeling something worse than stagefright, I entered the soon to be notorious house. A phonograph played Waltzes from Vienna in a room inhabited, I later discovered, by the lodger. I ascended the thirty-nine steps to the third floor and slipped quietly into Harry's room.

What met my eyes kept me spellbound for a while. "Frenzy," I thought. "Some psycho has turned this place over."

At the rear window I held aside the torn curtain and looked out. North by northwest, beyond the family plot, could be glimpsed the the hotel Rebecca and I had been staying at, where we had signed in as 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith'. The view was rich and strange, but Harry's room was high and a touch of vertigo made me turn away.

The trouble with Harry, the Manxman, was that he was the man who knew too much and he wasn't above a little blackmail now and then.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Each story-conclusion or full story posted here will be judged by Listologists when THE TIME LIMIT of 16 January 2006 has been reached. A poll (or something) will be held to decide the best one.

Why that particular date? It will be my 6th anniversary as a Listology member. [Stop, bertie, you're breakin' my heart!] I will post my own completed story on or shortly after 16 January 2006. PLEASE NOTE that the time limit for entries in this contest has been extended to Thursday 16 February 2006. The reasons for this are (1) the holiday season, and (2) to allow for more entries.

THERE IS NOW A PRIZE for the winner of this contest. (No the winner won't be me.) I promise to send the winner a DVD of any Alfred Hitchcock directed movie he/she chooses, as long, of course, as the movie is available on DVD in the winner's DVD 'region' - if not, an alternative prize will be negotiated.

If the winner does not want to send me his/her address, I expect we can arrange to have the prize sent 'care of' his/her local post office. Or, indeed, wherever the winner wants it to be sent.

Good idea, but do you really want one single person to finish it? I think that will be pretty hard. If everybody contributed one (or several) part(s) to the story, this could turn out VERY interesting.

If you agree with that (of course you don't have to), this'd my part of the story. I dunno if it's 'mystery' enough (so it's up to you to judge), but anyway: But, somehow I fell asleep soon, and with easy virtue I dreamt of something that had happened to me many years ago: I had gone over to the Jamaica Inn where I had met a young and innocent girl. Her name had been Mary, and she had been the farmer’s wife. We had left the inn, gone downhill and passed several hours in the pleasure garden. Finally we had had some champagne, in her hotel-room with the number 13. During that night the shadow of a doubt had suddenly overcome me.

Sorry, 1922, but I disagree. I think it would be much harder for several people to finished it. The conclusion of a mystery story has to be planned as a whole, which is something a string of individuals just couldn't do. Difficult enough for one person to finish a mystery another has begun.

Please try to finish the story yourself. My plan (now that you have forced me to plan) is to post every story-conclusion I receive (not that I really hope to receive many) and then hold a poll on which one is best. I plan also to include my own conclusion (yet to be written).

Thanks for your effort so far, but please try to finish it.

Okay, that's fair. As soon as I have finished mine, I'll post it here.

1922 - how is your entry coming along? Not that there's any need to rush - I have decided to extend the closing date for entries for a month to Thursday 16 February 2006. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Disclaimer: Hey, you said all 67 titles...

I have not read 1922's post, and I am spoilerizing my entry, in case someone wants to write their story without noticing any of mine.

Harry Paradine's body lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, and obviously, I thought, "Murder!" As Harry's files had been flung all over the floor, I suspected someone Harry had been blackmailing had been trying to sabotage Harry's racket, and things had gone downhill from there. Harry had shown up unexpectedly, and the startled saboteur shot Harry and ran far away. Possibly headed to Madagascar for an Aventure Malgache, as they say in la France. Bon voyage, you filthy bastard. Hope you've got a lifeboat, because I have what it takes to catch a thief, a jaywalker, or a murderer any day of the week.

Just then an angel with eyes the color of topaz walked into the room. The ring on her finger gave her away: Harry's wife.

"You must be Marnie Paradine," I said, with the smug self-assuredness of a secret agent.

"It's Mary, actually," she said, jolting me back to earth, "but my nickname is Alfred Hitchcock since I've always adored his movies."

Luckily, her figure did not resemble that of the real Alfred Hitchcock; she looked like a farmer's wife, full of easy virtue. I love Rebecca, but whenever a situation like this one with Alfred Hitchcock presents itself, I can't help feeling like I want to plant a few seeds in someone else's pleasure garden, if you get my drift.

"I've been listening to Startime all afternoon, since James Brown always cheers me up during my darkest days," Alfred Hitchcock said calmly. "I've been feeling a little better, but I when I saw your commercial that said 'Dial M for murder,' I knew I had to get in touch with a brave private detective."

I asked her what her marriage was like, and she replied, "Oh, Harry had an elastic affair or two. I once caught him in bed with Juno and the paycock at the same time" - I didn't want to ask what a paycock was, but I had a pretty good guess - "but it's not like he thought loyalty was for the birds or anything like that."

I could have listened to her all day, but I had a case to solve, so I could not let this turn into the Alfred Hitchcock hour. As I studied a length of rope left on the floor, Alfred Hitchcock continued rambling. "The most romantic night of my life was when Harry proposed to me in the old watchtower, and then we made a toast in the watchtower over tomorrow. I knew about the blackmail, of course - Harry used to say, 'Always tell your wife.'"

I wasn't really listening, as I was searching the strewn-about files for clues regarding the Paradine case. I noticed Harry's numbered folders containing everyone's dirty secrets, and number 13 looked particularly thick. Though I knew she was only talking as a means of hiding her grief, Alfred Hitchcock was really trying my patience as she babbled, "Harry told me once he had a foreign correspondent who grew figs through caprification. I had to look up that word - it was in the dictionary right under capricorn."

I picked up folder 13 and read the story of Burt Nickel, a.k.a. the Mountain Eagle, a CIA assassin who carried out secret missions in communist Jamaica during the Cold War. He matched my profile precisely, and I knew I was right beyond a shadow of a doubt. I was just about to open a bottle of champagne in celebration, when Alfred Hitchcock stopped me. "Burt Nickel was killed in a Jamaica Inn six years ago," she said, and I got a sneaking suspicion that I had the wrong man.

The maid yelled Alfred Hitchcock's name, and she whisked away, mumbling to herself, "What is Elstree calling about?" Grateful for the privacy, I picked up folder number seventeen, which also looked thick, and I couldn't believe what I saw: hundreds of photos of my wife playing the skin game, in positions she had adamantly refused to perform with me!

I rushed back to the hotel wondering how I had been so blind to the fact that Rebecca was the murderer, no matter how young and innocent she was. She had insisted we sign into the hotel with those pseudonyms; the rope on Harry's floor must have been the the necklace I gave her for our fifth anniversary; of course, the money jar in the kitchen clearly marked "BLACKMAIL" now seemed like such a sound test for blackmail, but alas, hindsight is 20-20. When I finally got back to the hotel room, she - well, you know the old story: the lady vanishes. Judging by the "Two For One: Plastic Surgery and Lacuna Inc. Memory-Erasing" brochure she had left on the bed, I assumed she was changing her appearance and wiping her memory of me, so even if I did ever see her again, we would recognize each other as well as strangers on a train. The house across the bay, the four-door sedan, the white picket fence - all that had meant nothing to her. I was the man who knew too much misery; I pulled out my gun and slowly raised it to my temple.

THE END

Here is my story without the spoiler tags:

Harry Paradine's body lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, and obviously, I thought, "Murder!" As Harry's files had been flung all over the floor, I suspected someone Harry had been blackmailing had been trying to sabotage Harry's racket, and things had gone downhill from there. Harry had shown up unexpectedly, and the startled saboteur shot Harry and ran far away. Possibly headed to Madagascar for an Aventure Malgache, as they say in la France. Bon voyage, you filthy bastard. Hope you've got a lifeboat, because I have what it takes to catch a thief, a jaywalker, or a murderer any day of the week.

Just then an angel with eyes the color of topaz walked into the room. The ring on her finger gave her away: Harry's wife.

"You must be Marnie Paradine," I said, with the smug self-assuredness of a secret agent.

"It's Mary, actually," she said, jolting me back to earth, "but my nickname is Alfred Hitchcock since I've always adored his movies."

Luckily, her figure did not resemble that of the real Alfred Hitchcock; she looked like a farmer's wife, full of easy virtue. I love Rebecca, but whenever a situation like this one with Alfred Hitchcock presents itself, I can't help feeling like I want to plant a few seeds in someone else's pleasure garden, if you get my drift.

"I've been listening to Startime all afternoon, since James Brown always cheers me up during my darkest days," Alfred Hitchcock said calmly. "I've been feeling a little better, but I when I saw your commercial that said 'Dial M for murder,' I knew I had to get in touch with a brave private detective."

I asked her what her marriage was like, and she replied, "Oh, Harry had an elastic affair or two. I once caught him in bed with Juno and the paycock at the same time" - I didn't want to ask what a paycock was, but I had a pretty good guess - "but it's not like he thought loyalty was for the birds or anything like that."

I could have listened to her all day, but I had a case to solve, so I could not let this turn into the Alfred Hitchcock hour. As I studied a length of rope left on the floor, Alfred Hitchcock continued rambling. "The most romantic night of my life was when Harry proposed to me in the old watchtower, and then we made a toast in the watchtower over tomorrow. I knew about the blackmail, of course - Harry used to say, 'Always tell your wife.'"

I wasn't really listening, as I was searching the strewn-about files for clues regarding the Paradine case. I noticed Harry's numbered folders containing everyone's dirty secrets, and number 13 looked particularly thick. Though I knew she was only talking as a means of hiding her grief, Alfred Hitchcock was really trying my patience as she babbled, "Harry told me once he had a foreign correspondent who grew figs through caprification. I had to look up that word - it was in the dictionary right under capricorn."

I picked up folder 13 and read the story of Burt Nickel, a.k.a. the Mountain Eagle, a CIA assassin who carried out secret missions in communist Jamaica during the Cold War. He matched my profile precisely, and I knew I was right beyond a shadow of a doubt. I was just about to open a bottle of champagne in celebration, when Alfred Hitchcock stopped me. "Burt Nickel was killed in a Jamaica Inn six years ago," she said, and I got a sneaking suspicion that I had the wrong man.

The maid yelled Alfred Hitchcock's name, and she whisked away, mumbling to herself, "What is Elstree calling about?" Grateful for the privacy, I picked up folder number seventeen, which also looked thick, and I couldn't believe what I saw: hundreds of photos of my wife playing the skin game, in positions she had adamantly refused to perform with me!

I rushed back to the hotel wondering how I had been so blind to the fact that Rebecca was the murderer, no matter how young and innocent she was. She had insisted we sign into the hotel with those pseudonyms; the rope on Harry's floor must have been the the necklace I gave her for our fifth anniversary; of course, the money jar in the kitchen clearly marked "BLACKMAIL" now seemed like such a sound test for blackmail, but alas, hindsight is 20-20. When I finally got back to the hotel room, she - well, you know the old story: the lady vanishes. Judging by the "Two For One: Plastic Surgery and Lacuna Inc. Memory-Erasing" brochure she had left on the bed, I assumed she was changing her appearance and wiping her memory of me, so even if I did ever see her again, we would recognize each other as well as strangers on a train. The house across the bay, the four-door sedan, the white picket fence - all that had meant nothing to her. I was the man who knew too much misery; I pulled out my gun and slowly raised it to my temple.

THE END

The man in the trenchcoat moved quickly along the boulevard and then ducked into the lobby of the bar at Number 13, Rue Sésame. While still shaking off the rain he was approached by a woman of easy virtue all decked out in blue fur.

"Welcome, secret agent Malgache. I confess that I had my doubts as to whether you'd come out on a night like this."

Malgache, spellbound as always by her beauty, just stood there blinking in the light.

"Come now, I have some champagne that will help warm us up." She led him to an out of the way table against the back wall that was partially hidden by a torn curtain. Through the rear window of the bar he could see two figures, one tall and thin, one short and round, across the parking lot waiting in the rain.

They both sat down as she turned to him and sighed, "To tell you the truth, there was never a shadow of a doubt in my mind that you would come for me." Her hand went to the wet red fuzz on his cheek as she stared into his eyes, allowing the vertigo to overtake them. Then she looked down, laughed and said, "You always were the man who knew too much and cared too much about me."

She shifted slightly away from him, "So have you really retired to the house across the bay to grow sunflowers? Don't you ever miss the espionage game and tracking down notorious criminals? Remember when we took down the Manxman and his alphabet syndicate? Wouldn't you rather be with me helping to save the world than living out the rest of your days sitting on your family plot?"

"Those are the two strangers on a train I took who have been following me," she said nodding towards the two silhouettes across the parking lot. They seem to think we found the Paradine topaz and kept it for ourselves..." Her voice hushed, "I need your help because someone has been trying to blackmail me." Getting no response she picked up her purse, "I have to freshen up a bit, stay here while I play the skin game."

"36! 37! 38! 39! The 39 Steps that it has taken me to reach this table are full of danger, ah-ah-ah-ahhh!" Malgache looked up at the tiny, purple-faced gentleman with suspicion. "I am the foreign correspondent for the Multiplication Times," he said in a voice loud enough to be heard by the customers at the bar. The man's black cape and his monocle combined to make him look rich and strange, "I'd like to interview you for our crossword puzzle."

He slid into the booth, saying "You may call me marnie, just one of my 57! 58! 58 sensational aliases ah-ah-ah-ahhh!" He leaned forward and whispered, "you may think that you're out of the spy business but the woman you are so taken with is a member of the international terrorist organization known as The Birds. They are led by the big yellow one who calls himself the mountain eagle. You must know that once that woman has what she wants the lady vanishes,leaving only dead men behind. If you don't believe me you should ask yourself why the Paradine Case was never closed."

They both heard the door to the ladies room open and shut leaving the small man only the time to hiss "The Alfred Hitchcock hour approaches and you have only one, one wonderful chance to save your life ah-ah-ah-ahhh!" and he disappeared back behind the curtain.

"Who was that little psycho you were talking to?" the woman asked.

Well," she said, returning to the subject, "I just can't believe that you're happy planting flowers north by northwest on a little field behind the bed & breakfast we used to own. Remember how all of those intelligence operatives would register as 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith.'

"Oh, I remember how you said that you knew I was the one when I used the cover name 'Rebecca Capricorn.' When I asked if there were any messages under Capricorn you told me that every star of the Zodiac had called to complain about my beauty and furry cuteness. Then when you proposed and gave me the ring you said that the gems in my eyes must have been stolen from the treasure you had buried in the backyard..."

Suddenly a large figure loomed over them and, extending a phone in a feathery yellow hand said, "it is someone from Elstree calling. Dial M for Murder or '9' to get an outside line."

She tucked the phone under her ear and whispered, "I have a sneaking suspicion that I know where it is. It's buried behind the Jamaica Inn. Have Tully dig up the pleasure garden out back..." After a pause to listen she said, "Yes, he's still here and I think that it's time he unwrapped his Alfred Hitchcock presents."

Just then there was a scuffle across the room between the yellow giant and the small man in the cape who was yelling, "You are 1! one tremendously evil saboteur!" There was a flash of a knife and the small man staggered over to their table only to gasp with his dying breath, "The watchtower over tomorrow has 3, 4, four beautiful gates, ah-ah-ah urghh..."

"Murder!" the woman in blue screamed. The bar errupted in a frenzy of panic and then the room went dark.
....
Malgache awoke to the smell of suet and a low voice in his ear saying, "C'est une aventure Malgache, tres surréaliste., non?"

"Mon ami," the voice continued, "you should know better than anyone that love is never a sound test for blackmail."

The woman stood over him to say, "Darling, you know I could never play the the farmer's wife." Gesturing to the tall man beside her she said, "You remember the lodger who left bird seed all over the floor, don't you?"

Monsieur Malgache, "It's not like you to have stage fright and remain quiet with death staring you in the face." The giant bent down to tighten the rope that bound his feet and ankles. "Then again, it isn't as if you have a lifeboat this time to carry you to safety. I hope you've learned your lesson not to sabotage the dealings of the alphabet, next time won't you sing with me."

"The trouble with Harry is that he has too much of a flair for the dramatic. I'm sorry my darling but I've always fallen for the wrong man.You always were the man who knew too much about everything without knowing a thing about anything. You see, Harry and I were having an elastic affair even before we got divorced."

"Sometimes to catch a thief all you need is better bait," the man laughed.

"We went on overnight waltzes from Vienna whenever you were out on a mission. They called us 'Juno and the Paycock.'

Mary I do think that you might be mispronouncing that." The giant turned away to ask Malgache, "Isn't she so young and innocent and loveable and furry? You know you shouldn't always tell your wife when you will be out of town."

Then the big yellow bird lifted his gun and said, "I wish you bon voyage, Elmo Malgache, I'll see you in the next life. Now close your eyes, it's startime."
....
The rain was washing the blood from the body downhill as the two figures from the parking lot stood over it.

"Well, Bert," said the short round one, "this mystery was brought to you by the letter 'M' and the number seventeen."

Brilliant stuff, I enjoyed it a lot.

But why does nobody want to play by my rules?

Nobody wants to finish my story. OK then, I'll change that rule. You can all write your own complete stories. And I'll finish my own by myself.

But the story I'll be writing will use only the 67 titles of movies Hitchcock directed. You have gone beyond that using some titles of movies he only produced. This means our various efforts won't be produced on "an even playing field" - as the cliched metaphor goes. And that's a pity because it nullifies the competitive aspect of my idea.

This isn't aimed solely at you, Odysseus. Three people have responded to my challenge and all three have ignored my rules.

I have learned the lesson.

whoops! Sorry 'bout that.

I could've sworn that there was a build-your-own option. I didn't mean to ignore the rules... just further confirmation of a lifetime of report cards: "Is learning to play well with others."

I tried to wind yours up but I kept getting confused. There's that and the fact that starting with more options (and a clean slate) gives you more flexibility.

Not that I've shown any understanding of the rules but did I use the wrong "67 movies"? Could i have used less than 65! 66! 67! sixty-seven Hitchcockian movies, ah-ah-ah-arrgh!If I chose from the "Producer" list then it's just further confirmation of a lifetime of report cards: "Must pay more attention in class."

Let me tell you that figuring out a way to work in "Startime" was aggravating. I even considered "From the very start I'm eager to impress you..." Live and learn. And thanks for the inspiration.

First of all, didn't I play by your rules?

Second of all, 0dysseus used all 67 movies in the IMDB page you linked to. The only movies Hitchcock produced without directing were Alcoa Premiere and Lord Camber's Ladies, neither of which 0dysseus used.

Thank goodness... there's no way that I could have dealt with "Alcoa Premiere."

...but "Lord Camber's Ladies" might have been fun. (Isn't there something called "camber thrust"?)

I can see where we might have gotten carded even if it was all in the spirit of the game.

Now I have to go exchange this gift for credit. Thankfully I kept the receipt.

Yes, I see that I've made a mess of this, but I didn't make it alone. I'm not taking the full blame for this fiasco.

You're right about the director/producer lists, there are fewer differences than I thought and I apologise to Odysseus for my erroneous criticism. And, come to think of it, I'm glad Odysseus was in the right after all because I really admire his effort.

But it was abundantly clear that I intended, until yesterday, that contributors were to provide competing endings to the story I had already begun. How any of you could have missed that is beyond me. Please don't insist that you have played completely by my rules, because I can't accept that.

So what can be salvaged from this wreck?

As Chinese wisdom teaches us, a disaster is also an opportunity. For my own part I will be taking this opportunity to omit some of the 67 titles from my own story. This is because several of the 67 [thank you IMDb] are not movies. My story will not have the following:

"The Alfred Hitchcock Hour"
"Startime"
"Suspicion"
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
Elstree Calling
Sound Test for Blackmail

Which leaves me 61 to deal with. Harder and easier.

But I did contribute an ending to the story you had already begun. I guess if you just started reading my story with "Harry Paradine's body..." then you might not realize it's a continuation, because it makes enough sense on its own without your introduction. But I intended the story to take place in Harry's room on the 3rd floor, just as you had started it off, and my story contains references to the hotel where Rebecca and the narrator sign in with pseudonyms and to the blackmail that you said Harry was involved in. Additionally, I did not use any of the films in my story that you already used, such as Psycho, Rear Window, North by Northwest, etc. The two exceptions were Suspicion and The Man Who Knew Too Much, but only because Suspicion was on the list twice because it was also that TV show and because The Man Who Knew Too Much was was on the list twice because it was remade by Hitchcock.

The only way you could say I did not play by your rules is that I included the six titles that you are now excluding. The only reason I did that is because you said you wanted all 67 titles that Hitchcock was credited with directing on the IMDB. I figured it was a little silly, but I had fun trying to work Sound Test for Blackmail into my story.

Now that you explain...

I guess it was your inclusion of The Man Who Knew Too Much that fooled me.

So I was negligent and you were too clever, but most of this has been due to my negligence.

I hope we can put this down to bitter experience (for me) and with no hard feelings.

My apologies to all.

I have probably been trying to do too much at Listology, with umpteen lists in progress. From now on I will be more carefull.

No hard feelings. But if you are only going to use The Man Who Knew Too Much once, you should probably put that on your list of titles to exclude, which would take you down to 60.

Point taken.

I have made some alterations to the conditions of the contest. What do you think?

Looks good!

[cont.]
There wasn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind that he was ruining the surprise party at this very moment.

But there Harry was, coming up the stairs yelling, "Marnie, I thought you were in Madagascar!"

"Yeah, it was quite a venture: Malgache to Portugal, Portugal to Algiers, Algiers to France. On the way to France our boat sank in the Mediterranian and we had to row to shore in the lifeboat. I was glad to say 'Bon voyage' to Provence because I wouldn't have missed this party for the world. Did he get the pets that I bought from the two strangers on a train in Brussels?"

"If you're talking about those three filthy rodents, I last saw them running after the farmer's wife. She screamed bloody murder! and then went after them with a carving knife." We started to move about the top floor, looking for Becca and Albert as Harry continued rambling on, "She asked me to tell your son what happened to them but I said, 'You've got the wrong man, toots, because I never saw such a sight in my life.'

"In any case," Harry went on, "how can you afford to buy pets on a foreign correspondent's salary? I didn't know that Mary Paradine paid writers for the Eagle so well."

"Actually, The Mountain Eagle might be going out of business. Mrs. Paradine said that the police had to catch a thief who had stolen the paper's payroll. Something seemed fishy and when I checked with the police they told me Mrs. Paradine was a con artist and that the the lady vanishes after embezzling all the money she can get her hands on."

"Well, we drank all of the champagne on New Year's Eve so we can't drink to yet another one of your employers going out of business. Isn't this number seventeen?"

"It's , number 13 thank you very much. The police say that the Paradine case remains open but I'm not counting on ever getting my money. So I said to myself, 'I'm going home by Juno! and the pay cock-up shouldn't ruin the birthday festivities."

"You know that I always tell your wife that too much month at the end of the money isn't the end of the world."

"I managed to scrape together enough cash to get the Cold War Secret Agent Lego set that my son wanted, complete with Berlin Wall and Watchtower. You didn't sabotage the surprise by telling him, did you?"

"I'm no saboteur in spite of the fact that you should feel free to pay me, he almost destroyed my room looking for his presents."

"That's good because I went to the trouble of leaving the Lego set with the man who lives in the the house across the bay. He says that he'll bring the watchtower over tomorrow. Becca and I have secretly checked into the Jamaica Inn." Harry and I had now looked everywhere in the house as I continued, "We want to have some 'alone time' to play the skin game, if you know what I mean."

"The birds-eye view from my room should make your wife and son easy to spot."

In fact the two of them were in the pleasure garden surrounded by the trees between the house and the inn. The house had once been a home to women of 'easy virtue' and it was located just South by Southeast from the inn.

As we entered the the ring of trees I could see my son in his dirty blue dungarees. My wife was decked out in a topaz top and black pants. The pants were some sort of an elastic affair and very tight.

She rose to meet us, saying, "There you are, honey, I was just about at the end of my rope waiting for you to join us."

Albert was engrossed in his Fisher Price alphabet Speak and Say, listening to it croak out, " Dial 'M' for murder, dial 'N' for necrophelia, dial 'O' for oligarchy, dial 'P' for ptomaine poisoning..."

Harry exclaimed "I don't think that educational toy is appropriate for someone so young and innocent."

"He was born under Capricorn," explained my wife, " and he'll be six on January 6th."

Harry shuffled his feet and muttered "Well, congratulations and happy birthday but I hope that young bertie realizes that it could all be downhill for him from now on."

Well, there's no rule against multiple entries. I never dreamed anyone would take more than one bite.

There are comments I would like to make, but it has just occurred to me that I shouldn't make any (and shouldn't have made those I already have) - I don't want to prejudice the judgment.

Speaking of which, I think the fairest thing would be to impose upon Jim to decide who gets the glory (fair, that is, to everyone but Jim - I hope he isn't working on an entry himself).

What do you say, Jim?

Um...Jim...don't get me wrong. Of course I would be *very* pleased to have you submit an entry :-D

Well that's an unfortunate typo. Obviously the child's mother mispoke when she said "on January 6th," ten days before his real birthday... unless that's part of the mystery surprise. If jim wants to do anything he can fix that slip of the lip and the finger tip.

As for judgement day, I'm trying to avoid it. Rapture has a way of not working out for me. But when the bell rings for Ragnarok I'll be there with bells on. Okay, that strikes fear into the hearts of nobody. But if I ever meet Loki out on the street I'm gonna open up a big ol' flagon of whup-ass.

My multiple entries are intended only as gifts... so beware (I guess.) Next year you're getting a paper mache horse.

There's enough gifts and glory for everyone to share. Unless it involves chocolate... that's all mine!

Don't make me use my flagon!

Can't do it! I'm scrambling to make everything that needs to happen in December happen. I have birthdays, graduations, annual work trips, and more on top of other craziness that happens for everybody else this time of year. Sorry!

Completely understandable. I guess this means I won't get an entry from you either :-D

So the judging will have to be by a poll of Listologists - unless someone has a better idea.

When the time comes I will advertise the poll on the homepage.

It seems that, along with the other embarrassing mistakes I have made here, I am holding this contest at the wrong time of year. I suppose I could extend the time limit by, say, a month. Do any of you have any thoughts on this?

I have a question... can a title be used more than once as long as it's not used as THE title in the sentence, or can names like rebecca and mary not be repeated? either way is fine with me, I'd just like to know.

I would prefer no repeats, just to make it difficult but not too difficult. And please read all of the contest conditions above - which have been changed a couple of times but are (I hope) set in concrete now.

that will work. I don't think I repeated any, i tried not to now that you clarified that... I can't garantee it will even qualify as a mystery(i don't have much experience in the genre), but I tried my best.

Good work. If you've finished it, just post it here in the comments section.

alright, I know I was actually in the process of writing it as I asked those questions but I've finished now so here it is...

A large man entered the room with a wisp and a clack that left a torn curtain waving in the window by the door. The violent entry and the overall menacing build of the man quickly sent the four men playing at the card table into a frenzy. “Vertigo!” One of the card players screamed at the man, who was obviously an agent notorious for his trouble with keeping his identity a secret. His profession and his apparent weakness made it quite overt to all the card players, without a shadow of a doubt, what the man would do next. Dead men with information quickly made murder an elastic affair. The four players, all rich and strange, were still holding their cards as they dropped to the ground; dead and filled with lead. Four bullets; that is all it took to turn the skin game into a funeral and fill the family plot. The large man walked over to the card table decorated with four bloody bodies and picked up the top card off the deck composed with a stark likeness of the mountain eagle. It was a four of clubs and in the center of the four icons was the number thirteen, written in bold black ink. “Rebecca” said the large man as he slapped the card face down on the table.

A beautiful but freakishly short woman sat at the bar sipping champagne. It was nearly nightfall at the Jamaica Inn and seats at the bar were beginning to become scarce. “You look young and innocent.” A man sat down next to the short woman and ordered two Waltzes From Vienna, the specialty at the Jamaica.

“Aventure malgache” the woman returned as if unimportant. The man only nodded as she continued without turning to look at the manxman, “they call me Becca, and you?”

“Vertigo’s the name, but it’s more of a nickname given to me after I experienced a bad case of stage fright.”

The woman giggled and began to tell the man a story as if they were strangers on a train. “North by Northwest of this house I have back in the states there’s a river. One day I was taking a swim and by chance stumbled upon a topaz...”

Spellbound, the man interrupted the story. “Stop right there, and please tell me you know something about Juno and the paycock.”

“I confess, I don’t really know why you have arranged this meeting.”

“You are secret agent thirteen?”

“Number seventeen.”

The man stood up with a puzzled look on his face and asked, “so you don’t have the ring, the wedding band?”

“No, I was sent here by the lodger with a password to meet a man who needed to speak with me right away.”

“Just my luck, another saboteur hot on my trail. You wouldn’t happen to know how I can find the real agent thirteen, or is it you that orchestrated this whole sabotage?”

Becca laughed as she ordered another drink and an appetizer dish called the pleasure garden. “Who knew, under Capricorn, that I, a Scorpio, would be accused of such a scheme. No sir, I know nothing of your suspicion.”

It was much later, near midnight, at the Jamaica and seats at the bar were plenty as the wrong man, who had contacted the wrong woman, entered the bar a second time. This time around only an unusually tall woman with bright red hair in a white dress sat at the bar looking like the farmer’s wife out on the town. The distinction was an easy virtue for the man as she was the only one sitting at the bar. He sat down next to her and ordered two drinks as he took a glance out the rear window of the Jamaica. She stated without inflection “the paradine case.”

“I’m going to get straight to it because I can’t afford to go through the 39 steps to figure out who you are and what it is you can tell me, so please, are you thirteen and can you tell me where they took mary?” There was a downhill urgency in his speech.

“Yes; and no, I can only tell you who to blackmail and with what.”

“If you aren’t immediate there is going to be a murder!” He slammed his fist against the bar and spoke as if he were on the lookout in a watchtower over tomorow.

“Harry has your wife and you will find him in the house across the bay on top of Hopman’s Hill. The trouble with harry is that he has no reason to do such things to people except for his own pleasure. He has four men to get rid of and new idea he finds amusing then he sends the man who knew too much on a wild goose chase. The sad part is the psycho always gets his man; five for the price of one. What he doesn’t know or suspect is that I’m done playing games and whenever you do something worth mentioning you always tell your wife. To catch a theif you need to be sneaky, but to catch a murderer you need to be trusted.” She handed him an envelope that had ‘Marnie’ printed on it and a piece of yellow paper with the phrase ‘Dial M For Murder’ written on it in fancy black letters. “Tell Harry his wife sent you, and that you know all about Mr. & Mrs. Smith. He’ll let your wife and whatever foreign correspondent he has locked up this week go free and all I ask in return is that you kill him.” The man got up from the bar to start toward the back door of the Jamaica and as he opened it he looked back to make certain the lady vanishes without any more surprises.

The birds flew over the house on top of Hopman’s Hill as the rope was cut freeing the young woman our hero had come to save. “Bon voyage” said the man who normally had trouble delivering such dramatic phrases as he shot harry right in the heart.

Thanks for taking part. I can't allow myself any comments on your work because I don't want to influence anyone's votes in the judging.

Here, as promised, is my own completed story. Please note that my story is *not* an entry in the competition. The best way to read it is to right-click anywhere on the page and then left-click on Select All.

Full of suspicion and, I confess, feeling something worse than stage fright, I entered the soon to be notorious house. A phonograph played Waltzes from Vienna in a room inhabited, I later discovered, by the lodger. I ascended the thirty-nine steps to the third floor and slipped quietly into Harry's room.

What met my eyes kept me spellbound for a while. "Frenzy," I thought. "Some psycho has turned this place over".

At the rear window I held aside the torn curtain and looked out. North by northwest, beyond the family plot, could be glimpsed the hotel Rebecca and I had been staying at, where we had signed in as 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith'. The view was rich and strange, but Harry's room was high and a touch of vertigo made me turn away.

The trouble with Harry, the Manxman, was that he was the man who knew too much and he wasn't above a little blackmail or larceny now and then. We went way back, so I knew he had been foreign correspondent for that short-lived weekly, Watchtower Over Tomorrow, before being recruited as a secret agent (code name 'topaz'). Lately he had confided in me his fears that the government was beginning to realize it had placed its trust in the wrong man. True, it was Harry who had broken the Paradine case, but they had sent a thief to catch a thief, and so the ring, the world famous diamond and ruby studded wedding band passed down for generations in that once illustrious dynasty, had gone missing.

That was why I was now cooling my heels here at number 13, Juno and the Paycock Close (a precinct named by one of Harry's more cultivated ancestors, the first of his fiercely proud Isle of Man clan to settle on these shores). Unknown to my friend, I had been 'recruited' by the FBI in the person of a real charmer who insisted I call him 'Marnie'. Okay, I admit it, I had been involved in sabotage of battery hen houses with fellow animal rights activists back in the days when I was young and innocent. I had long ago decided such capers were 'for the birds' - but try telling that to a grinning government goon who waves your past in your face, threatening to make public knowlege of your former career as the saboteur 'The Mountain Eagle' (as I had been known in the animal rights community). These days, as CEO of The Farmer's Wife Poultry Products, I just couldn't afford such exposure.

I was contemptuously mulling-over the g-man's completely unnecessary, and, we both knew, empty threat to, as he put it, 'dial m for murder' if I didn't cooperate, when the triple roar of three heavy-calibre gunshots rampaged up the stairwell and assaulted my eardrums. 'Murder!' screamed the music-loving guest of the house, who got to the entryway before me, then slipped in the pool of blood surrounding Harry's thoroughly dead body, doing himself in by fatally head-butting a bust of Beethoven.

I trod carefully around the corpse and the body, all the while repeating the ridiculous panic signal "aventure malgashe" into the microphone in my lapel pin. As I reached the front door and looked downhill, I was astonished to see my baboon-like buddy the FBI agent emerge from number seventeen - astonished because my dear sweet wife was with him.

Even before either of them spoke, the realization came to me that my marriage had been an elastic affair. And by the same loathsome intuition I saw, without the shadow of a doubt, that he and she had recently played the skin game - very probably in the house across the bay, the very place where he had taped the wire to me and given me his instructions for luring poor Harry out of the hidden chamber his ancestor had built into the family mansion. My staggering mind had even begun to lurch back to that golden day when Becky and I had first met as strangers on a train - when it was wrenched back to the present by her voice as I had never heard it before.

"We've got the heirloom Harry stole, we're going away together, and we're taking the Easy Virtue," she snarled, waving her hand in my face and naming my precious yacht, the up till now trusty vessel in which we had traveled to this regrettable bay-side city. My dear 'Evie', as I sometimes called her, had been in dry-dock for her regular safety inspection, necessitating our patronage of the 'Jamaica Inn' - the tawdry tourist trap visible from poor murdered Harry's window.

"I can't tell you how happy I am that you always tell your wife everything Harry tells you," Becky's new beau said gloatingly as he steered me back into the house at the point of his .357 magnum revolver.

"Don't worry, there's no need to kill you - hmmm, or this panicky fool," he continued, as he dropped the second dead man's pulseless wrist and helped Becky bind me securely with the length of rope I had noticed she was carrying. "The local cops have been told this is a federal sting, and by the time they find out otherwise me and Becky'll be down south of the border - courtesy of your boat - and from there, who knows, but it'll be somewhere 'under Capricorn', as they say."

"The Pleasure Garden", my smirking soon-to-be ex chimed in, "that's what we're gonna call our new place down south. We'll drink your health in champagne as soon as we get there."

After they had gone, irresistible thoughts of my own newfound love, Mary, crowded in on my imagination's travelog of what would be my dear old Evie's final day under sail. As the shipwrights had informed me (and as I had solicitously kept from Becky), she was about to be split wide open from stem to stern by a fractured keel-mounting, and the felonious couple would have just enough time to sail beyond reach of help when it would become a case of 'the lady vanishes'. The boat repairers, to free their dry-dock, had put Evie back in the bay, but during the course of their inspection they had removed her lifeboat - it would be sorely missed - from its compartment on deck.

I smiled as I wished the happy couple 'bon voyage'.

...and Happy[slightly belated]Birthday To You!

[*off-tune warbling*]

Thanks for noticing and giving a damn. [I forgive Jim because I know how very busy his life is at present.] I don't think I'll even mention my anniversary from now on - I mean six years at one site, even one as great as Listology, makes it look like I've got nowhere else to go :-)

I've never been one for looks.

...and I appreciate reminders. I would encourage you to make your birthday an annual event. Don't go anywhere.

I won't if you won't.

Oh no. After not having a clue about your favourite movie, I'm again ashamed. Actually I don't even now the date...
Anyway:

Happy [very belated] Birthday To You!

Prevent it from happening again.

It's only my Listology Anniversary we were talking about, not my actual birthday. My LA is 16 January.

Loved the "short lived weekly, Watchtower Over Tomorrow."

I also enjoyed the "hen house" to "birds" to "Farmer's Wife" little mini-story.

"Thoroughly dead" was hilarious (especially if intentional) and I would have loved to have seen that zaniness all the way through. If unintentional then: How bizarre. But I choose to believe in zany because of the head-butt delivered to Beethoven. That made me think to myself: I know the Beethoven bust is as iconic as Jayne Mansfield's but shouldn't it have been a bust of Richard Strauss?.. or anyone else who might have written waltzes from Vienna?

I know that "Becky" is so that you can work in "Rebecca but where/why does "Evie" come in? Have I just missed it?

Very nice, even excellent. Spoilerization did make it tough(er) to read. I found at the end that I wanted to know why the lifeboat was going to be missed. Perhaps they are off to look for the Treasure of the Sierra Madre in your continuation of the story using the films of John Huston.

Perhaps not.

Thanks for these comments. I was beginning to think everyone was maintaining a 'polite silence' about a stinker of a story. But "excellent even" is quite gratifying.

It is arguably a fault that the story fails to tread the fine line between humorous and serious, but then, Shakespeare was criticized for that too...[ahem].

Of course "thoroughly dead" was a zany re-emphasis of the three heavy-calibre gunshots. Butt as for Beethoven vs Strauss, it was Harry's home, not the panicky lodger's.

I'm afraid you badly missed the boat on "Evie" - I thought it would be obvious that Evie came from the initials E[asy] V[irtue].

And...damn!... if you didn't get why the lifeboat was going to be missed after the EV, out at sea, finally succumbed to her fractured keel mounting and "split wide open from stem to stern", well, you must have missed the whole point of my penultimate paragraph - and the sharp irony of my "bon voyage". Tell me it ain't so.

Unfortunately it was so.

I got the Evie reference when it was made but four paragraphs later it was gone from my mind.

For my story(ies) I found it difficult to wrestle each strand of a sentence back towards a central narrative. All of those different titles kept trying to move off into Nonsequitur City.

Yes. You and Shakespeare both have been unfairly maligned for blending humour and drama in your respective versions of A Hitchcock Title Story and Henry V... *polite silence*

Behold! befuddled browsing - bane of Bard and bertie both.

I haven't forgotten. Next weekend, I'll have enough time to write the story.

I look forward to reading it.

I only wish Jim had done one. There's still time, Jim :-)

The closing date for entries approacheth. YOU HAVE ONLY A COUPLE OF DAYS TO GET YOUR STORY ENTERED AND WIN THE BIG PRIZE. Closing date is Thursday 16th - no new entries will be considered [though they will be read] after midnight on that day.

Bertie, I have bad news, but I won't be able to enter the story. Right now, I haven't got enough time.

I'm infinitely sorry. :(

But be sure that you WILL get to read a story from my part. I don't know when though.

Sorry.

"Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once."

Pessimistic revision: "Time is nature's way of keeping everything from going wrong at once."

I'm very sorry you won't be in the contest. But I'm still holding you to your promise to post a story because I still want to read it.

Hmmm, I've just been thinking about time, and I suspect that Baruch Spinoza - and the pantheists in general - were wrong to make God subject to the constraints of being 'inside time'. There are indications that being inside time is logically incompatible with omni-perception, omni-science, and omni-potence. See my article, Philosophy and Perfection or, the Unavailability of the God's-eye View.

I'll keep my promise.

I really enjoy your philosophical contributions. Great.

-------------------------------------------------
yocineo, ¿y tú?

HINT-Since you are not a contestant, you *can* be a voter.-HINT

I'll do so.

Voting is now closed in this contest. For the outcome, see the Listology homepage.

AJDaGreat is officially declared the winner of this contest. My congratulations to the winner and my thanks to the competitors and voters.

THE VOTERS WERE: Odysseus, grandpa_chum, RosieCotton, Jay BamBaLam, Wezzo, 1922, and Eve.

THE TALLY OF ALL VOTING WAS:
AJDaGreat - 3
grandpa_chum - 1
Odysseus - 2
Odysseus - 1

Now that the competition is over, I want to remark how deafening the silence has been about my own story. Is it so bad? I'm naturally curious to know what people think of it.

Any comments - criticisms?

...Two branches of the tree outside scraped eerily against the music room downstairs. I wanted to be the hero, the saint, but I was a coward. I needed deliverance from this zoo of unvanquished suspicion.

Distant thunder reminded me of my home in the big city, my golden fortress of peace that holds my three daughters and the goddess who is my lonely wife.

But my inner eye knew the middleman Harry was an enemy of the people, the home and the world. I would have to sing the song of the road and take on the expedition to catch this stranger, this adversary, even if it meant some days and nights in the forest.

Next door, I asked the chess players with the philosopher's stone and the elephant god from the kingdom of diamonds in the world of apu to join me. The Bengali poet from Mount Kanchenjungha in the state of Sikkim, Rabindranath Tagore, declined.

I was optimistic though my time was short and my company, limited. This was turning into another "Adventures of Goopy and Bagha."

Suddenly, Harry turned himself him. We celebrated like it was Pikoo's Day.

Oh, wait. I did that wrong...