Ava let her hands trail down the sides of her yellow dress. Maybe it was too bright, too bold for a murder mystery dinner.
The invitation had arrived on her doorstep shortly after her brother arrived. She left him there, to unpack his things and catch up on sleep. She didn't want to go, really, but it was all anyone in the apartment could talk about. It seemed as though they had all been invited, and everyone was too curious to turn it down.
When she arrived at the seventh floor storage room, it was no longer the vacant space she knew. A long, mahogany table stretched across the center of the room. The places were meticulously set, with white plates and shiny silverware to match.
Her invitation indicated she was the sidekick, someone who was supposed to help discover the murderer. It was about 9:15 when the conversation and theatrics settled into full swing, and the clues were starting to make sense.
Still, Ava felt unsettled. The unblinking eyes of the Ringmaster seemed to bore straight into her. They were supposed to have left the city already, she was certain of that. Yet, him and his striped pants remained, along with his shadow and his monkey. No one else seemed to question it in even the slightest way, but after the circus, his presence was enough to send chills down her spine.
Leaning against the back of her chair, Ava sat and watched, waiting for clues. She checked her watch. It was almost 9:30.
A minute later, the lights shut off.
Adrenaline coursed through her veins. This is it, she thought, this is when it will all come together.
When the lights flickered back on, everything felt wrong. Across from her, a scream pierced the silence. The ringmaster’s sidekick was lying facedown in his soup, blood overflowing from the bowl.
At first, Ava thought it was the dinner, the theatrics. Then Tom checked his pulse and declared him dead. She wanted to scream, to run out of the room with tears streaming down her face. She was just glad that she wasn't leaving the party in red.