An assortment of eccentric guests gathers at a Swiss inn. One of the guests disappears, then reappears dead at the bottom of a ravine. The body proves to be a hoax, a stuffed mannequin. Then a real murder occurs, the poisoning death of the inn's only maid.
"Concentrate. Empty your minds of all thought."
You find it hard to do both, but you give it a try. Marina Popov is sitting at the head of the library table while you and five other guests lay your hands flat and touch fingers in a circle of energy.
"Bertha Thurgau, spirit of the departed." She chants the words in German, Bertha's first language, just to make things easier. "Speak to us, Bertha. Let us know of your pain."
The séance was Marina's idea. Martin Urfe, the amateur magician, and Sabata, the crippled, prophetic artist, had ridiculed the notion. But the others seemed enthusiastic and you personally see no harm in it. Sabata sits in the doorway and Urfe stands beside him, their arms folded in cynical bemusement as Marina chants, half in German, half in Russian.
An icy chill sweeps through you. Mrs. Peacock to your right also feels it, her hand shivering next to yours.
Suddenly, Marina's head falls back and she gasps, struggling for breath.
When she straightens her long, white neck you see another face within her face. Her lips curl and her voice now speaks in a familiar peasant German.
"I should have known. The beast. I should have known better."
"Why did you take Mrs. Peacock's ring?" From a card, Colonel Mustard is reading the first of the questions you'd been given to ask.
"It was my ring," Bertha whispers through the beautiful medium. "See how he repays me?"
"Who?" Mustard asks. "Who gave you the ring?"
"Calvin Fox?" asks Peacock. "Where is Fox?"
You wait breathlessly as Marina's face assumes a sour, pitiful look. She opens her mouth again, throws back her head - and laughs.
"What in the name of God are you doing?"
The harsh accusation breaks the spell. In the doorway, blocked by Sabata's wheelchair, stands Fritz. The blind innkeeper has been there long enough to hear exactly what you've been doing. His eyes are ringed with grief.
"We are good Catholics here," he shouts. "I will not have the black arts performed under my roof."
Marina tries to reason with him. "Your cousin wishes to speak with us."
"My cousin is in heaven. You can do what you will in the home of that demon. Ian Masque can lead you to hell and back. But while you are my guests..."
"Am I really a demon?"
Fritz nearly leaps out of his skin. "Mr. Masque," he says, his voice now meek and deferential.
Standing by the innkeeper's ear is an imposing man - tall, with a hairless head and face. Even without Fritz's help, you would have known him. Your host unbuttons his traveling coat and smiles thinly around the room.
"Ian Masque," he says. "Have I interrupted something?"
"Not at all. Excuse me for not meeting you at the dock." Fritz scurries to make the man comfortable and to atone for his misguided comments. Masque, it seems, has just arrived on his private steamer, the Rhine Maiden, along with the final two guests.
Miss Diana Scarlet is lovely and young, with a strangely familiar face. And then you realize where you'd seen it before. "You're in the movies."
She is pleased to be recognized. "Only the "B" pictures, I'm afraid. But thanks for remembering. Mr. Masque was kind enough to transport Dr. Kell and me from the Austrian border. His yacht is quite spectacular."
Dr. Julia Kell you have heard of as well. A psychiatrist from Germany, Kell is a protégé of both Freud and Jung, one who hasn't been frightened away by the clouds of war. "I am interested in all new disciplines," she says with a prim Teutonic accent. "This ceremony we just interrupted..."
Fritz has prepared a welcoming tea for the new arrivals and as the group wanders up to the second floor lounge, Marina Popov starts to explain. The disappearance, the scarecrow body in the ravine, the murder. Masque seems particularly interested by the description of Calvin Fox.
Copyright © 1998, 2010 by Newfront Productions, Inc.
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