Shirley did not always enjoy parties. On occasion, a celebration was fun for her. It was rare that Shirley decided to host one, but since it was only a small group of her friends, she felt more comfortable doing it. After returning to her apartment, she decided to clean it up a bit before her guests arrived. Her usual level of tidiness meant all she had to do was some dusting around the shelves to prepare, which she was thankful for. Near the end of her cleaning, she heard knocking and the door opened. Shirley immediately recognized who it was, as she had only ever given a key to one other person.
“Ah, Hercules! Make yourself at home,” Shirley called out from her kitchenette. Hercules stepped in and shut the door behind him before taking his addition to the party, chips, to the kitchenette. Hercules looked unchanged since Shirley first met him: blonde, about 5’ 5”, casual clothing, and still living in the apartment right across from her. He had met her during her first case in Hamview. His assistance in that mystery helped lay the foundation of their friendship, which had only grown stronger through their many investigations. Hercules was a valuable friend to have, especially since she was still unfamiliar with most of Hamview and Hercules was a born local who knew exactly what everything was and who the local celebrities were.
While the two were pouring chips into bowls, there was another set of knocks at the door. Shirley excused herself to go and open it, unceremoniously wiping her salty hands on her pants before opening the door. What met her was a wall of muscles, signifying one of her friends had arrived.
“Parvath, you made it!” Parvath Kennicot indeed stood in front of her. He was 6’ 4” with the body of someone who worked out most days – a passerby would conclude that he was a bodybuilder, a model, or an athlete, but all would be far from the truth. Parvath was deep into his family’s mortician business and was considered a prodigy for his expertise and steadiness with a scalpel. He met Shirley during her second big case, in which he was able to assist her in solving a murder at the local art gallery. His skills discovered that the apparent cause of death was fabricated. After that, they remained in close contact, with Shirley calling on him for assistance when needed. Since he lived down the hall, it was no problem for him. He was dressed up nicely for the party, wearing a fashionable purple suit with a complimenting tie.
“Aimi is coming,” Parvath spoke in his deep voice. “Last I saw, she was in the process of being chewed out by Ms. Holloway.” As Parvath stepped into the room, Shirley had a small shudder. Ms. Holloway, despite being nice, had a big temper that flared if she was disturbed. Since Shirley lived in the room right above her, she had to endure more than one speech over her pacing in her room. Shirley was a little embarrassed to be treated like a child by another adult.
True to his word, Aimi bolted in like a shooting bullet. She came to an abrupt stop in front of Shirley and bent over to catch her breath. Aimi was a police cadet with an enthusiasm for her job that matched her speed, which meant that people often viewed her as hyper and ditzy. While she did embody those characteristics, Shirley knew from working with her in her third major case in Hamview that this 5’ 4” brunette, also her downstairs neighbor, was very determined – and a loyal friend.
“Shirley!” Aimi shouted as she stood back upright before launching into a big hug. “Oh my gosh how have you been I’ve heard you solved a new big case I’m so proud of you and I can’t believe you didn’t tell me and,” she rambled. Shirley cleared her throat.
“Aimi?” Aimi immediately stopped talking, her attention on Shirley. “You’re speed-speaking again. Why don’t you come on in and you can repeat what you said, but slowly this time?” Aimi gave a nod, and both entered the room with Shirley shutting the door.
With all four of them there, the setup for the party went smoothly, especially since they had Parvath’s strength and Aimi’s speed. After all the decorations were set up and the food laid out, the group began filling their plates and talking. Shirley asked how the others had been while they asked her about the previous case. Aimi was the most inquisitive out of all of them since she was not present for the case.
“She swore revenge against you? That sounds so scary!” Aimi exclaimed, alarmed that her friend was threatened. Shirley shrugged off the concern.
“She’s in jail and doesn’t know where I live; I worry little about her empty threats.” She took a sip of her drink before turning to Hercules. “Didn’t you say you had something, a token from the case?”
Hercules nodded before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a lighter. The lighter immediately jumped out to everyone’s eyes; the lighter was a smooth, verdant green with a snake intricately designed on the side. Parvath carefully grabbed it and turned it around in his hands, inspecting it. With a raised eyebrow he set it back down, muttering how good quality it was.
“I found it in the trash along with that costume piece. It looked interesting to me, so I grabbed it.” Hercules stated, earning him an “ew” from Aimi. Shirley cleared her throat.
“Thank you, Hercules, for the token from the case.” She then addressed all of them, saying, “And I want to thank all of you with a toast; for another case solved and for our great friendship!” The others grabbed their drinks and clinked them, a cheer for Shirley’s success leaving their mouths.
The next morning, Hamview got the news of the Bear’s Belly Bar’s incident, and of Shirley’s success in solving it. The city was happy that the murderous Psyche was put behind bars, and that one of the most well-known speakeasies was now safe. After a few days, things seemed to return to normal, even if the bar had a bit of a bad reputation from the murder.
In the city’s art gallery, the curator clocks herself in, dons her attire and nametag, and begins going through and unlocking all the doors for the exhibits. As she approaches the special exhibition hall, a pungent smell hits her. She unlocks the doors, opens them wide, gazes out into the room – and lets out a bloodcurdling scream.
To Be Continued...