Secret Senior Sleuths Society Mysteries Book 1

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Chapter 1

The Case: Madame Sleuth

               Senior communities were not what they seemed to be. On the outside, people thought it was a slow-paced life with bingo, bridge and billiards all the time, but it was a facade. I’ve lived in Peacock Perch for ten years and I could attest to the antics and amateur intrigues here every day.

For years, I kept my ears open and my eyes on everyone and everything. I have stacks of notebook logs uncovering betrayal, bombastic deceptions, blasphemous libel, many breaches of the peace, illegal betting, bribery, and some petty burglary, to name a few. So I searched the community for the best and the brightest to create the Secret Senior Sleuths Society, a clandestine collection of clue finders and case busters, under my close direction and supervision, to crack open the illicit capers here in “the perch.”

Our society was secret, as we must stealthily move within and investigate. I hand-selected several superior individuals who have shown an aptitude for puzzles and possess particular skills and exceptional experience to produce results. We all have code names to conceal our real identities to the rest of the people in “the perch.”

And now, we have a genuine case to solve,    a real puzzler. This was a true testament to my genius and leadership.

Scuttlebutt revealed one of our residents, Willow Wisteria, was missing. It was up to us to track down the truth of what happened to her and why.  

The team has arrived. I will make my grand entrance and announce our task.

          “Welcome to the Secret Senior Sleuths Society. I am Madame Sleuth, the presiding investigator. I am pleased to announce we have a novice newcomer in our midst, so I will explain our primary principle to you and as a reminder to us all—Secrecy, Sleuthing and Success.”

          “Our next order of business is a new case. It’s a prophetic puzzler. I’ve named it “The Case of the Vanishing Vixen.” I have a flair for alliteration, don’t you think?”

          “Our vixen in this case is Willow Wisteria. Since we constantly monitor the Mugbook and Nosy Neighbors social media apps for intelligence information, we have noticed a high number of posts discussing Willow’s disappearance.”

“Did anyone drag the ponds?” Master Mayhem joked.

“Ahem. Master Mayhem. That form of jocularity is neither helpful nor honored. This is a detective society; perhaps you should start a “jesters” club if you wish to be a comedian. I am sure they will appreciate your prurient peculiarities more than we do,” I ordered.

          “Now, as I was saying, the missing person is one of the single women members of Peacock Perch who lives in the Parrot condominiums. Based on reports, she is not well-liked in the community. Preliminary investigation reveals that she is disagreeable, distasteful and even detested by some people.”

“That could make the investigation both easy and difficult at the same time. It means she may have a lot of enemies to suspect, but not a lot of friends to provide information,” Captain Cluemaster said.

“That could work in our favor,” Daring Detective offered. “While family and friends can often be the primary source for details regarding whereabouts, habits and personal information, but since she’s alienated most of the people in ‘the perch,’ absolutely everyone is talking about her.”

“Seems like we’re jumping the gun. Maybe she’s on vacation or visiting someone. People come and go a lot around here. Has anyone checked her condominium? How do we even know she’s missing?” Sir Red Herring asked.

          “Sir Red Herring, if we knew all the answers, there would be no need to investigate!” I responded.

“Now, if I may continue. Since our victim was prolifically involved in groups and activities in the area, there should be plenty of paths to follow to decipher and deduce clues. And thanks to our handy retired electrician, Sherly Sparks, secret cameras have been placed all over Peacock Perch and we have hours of gossip footage to review.”

“Madame, what’s all this about cameras? Isn’t that an invasion of privacy?” Inspector Instinct objected.

           “I’m not comfortable with cameras, Madame; we never discussed that. They need to be taken down immediately, and the footage needs to be destroyed,” Daring Detective objected.

          “It was my executive decision as presiding investigator. Just the social media posts were not enough, so we needed a little reconnaissance. Besides, they are hidden cameras, so no one will ever know they are being filmed,” I explained.  

          “Madame, we all represent this society, not you alone. I believe we should take a vote to destroy the cameras. All in favor?” Sir Red Herring asked and everyone raised their hands.

“Good heavens, people, this is a sleuths society, not a knitting circle. This is an investigation; we are going to have to break a few eggs and a few rules to get to the truth,” I rebutted and saw most of the groups’ hands raised.

“Madame, I believe you’ve been outvoted,” Herring said. “Please have the cameras removed.”

“It’s not as though we are broadcasting the secret footage on the ‘interweb’ or anything. You can hear any of this gossip just sitting at the pool for a day. But very well, I believe they could have been a great asset to us, but I will have them removed,” I reluctantly conceded.  

“Now then, I divided you into teams to review the camera footage from each location. You need to isolate the potential clues and prospective suspects and use the social media posts we’ve collected to identify the motive, means and opportunity for the misdeed,” I said.  

“Or not. There may be no crime here. How long has this person been missing?” Smoking Gun asked.

“According to my sources, we can isolate the time of the disappearance to between two and four weeks ago. No one notified the police as yet because there is no certainty of a crime. But eventually someone will report her missing, so we don’t have a lot of time to acquire leads,” I explained.

          “Two to four weeks? That’s a huge gap. The trail is cold,” said Smoking Gun.

          “Now, that’s not the appropriate attitude! We must solve this case. The timing is a question, part of the mystery we must resolve. The accounts from the people and the posts vary greatly, but the truth will come out in our investigation,” I responded. 

          “I think this sounds like a lot of fun,” Master Mayhem said.

 “I assigned each of you a team. Magnolia Mastermind will work with Sherly Sparks, Newshound and Delta Snoops. Captain Cluemaster, you can work with Mystery Minx and Master Mayhem—good luck, you’ll need it. Inspector Instinct, you and Sir Red Herring are with Queens Quister. And Daring Detective can bring our new member into the fold with Chemical Cluist. And Smoking Gun, you will…”

“I work alone,” Smoking Gun said abruptly and lit a cigar.

“Exactly. I divided the accounts by area, distributed to each team and will disseminate the dossiers. Of course, to protect the innocent and the guilty, all the names in the dossiers and camera footage have been altered with pseudonyms. Since spring has sprung, I took the lead from our victim’s name and I thought flower names would be delightful to hide the identities of the suspicious,” I reported.

“Daring Detective, you will investigate the reports at the community pool and the Slippery Sandals bar. There are some interesting accusations on both the film and in media posts that require interviews and further inspection.

Captain Cluemaster, I believe your military tactics will serve us well at the victim’s residence. There are several issues there that are particularly peculiar. I need a covert operation there to identify the true and false information.

          Magnolia Mastermind, I have a simple task for you. You spend so much time in the card and arts rooms, you know everyone. Follow up on the fanciful accusations and put your master blabbermouth to work and see if you can dig up any more dirt.”

          “Well, bless your heart, Madame.” Magnolia shot a sideways glance and winked.

          “Inspector Instinct, we need your accounting expertise to follow the money to see if it leads us anywhere. This will require a deep dive.

          And finally, Smoking Gun, I also need you to follow up on some posts about a mysterious accident, which may or may not be related. There are some puzzling reports that make little sense. I need your particular set of skills to uncover any relationships, so to speak.

Report any findings back to me immediately. As presiding investigator, I will coordinate all the data and advise each of you of any avenues that require additional analysis. There are many intersecting and overlapping layers to this mystery and plenty of rumors to examine and eliminate,” I instructed.

“Thank goodness for the never-ending stream of nonsensical chatter in our community to give us plenty of rumors and reports to query. Remember to tread carefully when interviewing the suspects—I mean people—we didn’t want to tip them off.

          Everyone is dismissed. Remember, everything is hearsay until it is proven. No one in this community is above suspicion and no one can be trusted—except our group, of course. Happy hunting!” I said.

This work is copyrighted (c) 2021 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, all rights reserved.

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