Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mystery at the Castle. Chapter One: Friends for Life

It's been over a year since I shared a Progressive Story Project so let me re-introduce you to the concept. A Progressive Story is a collaboration, a challenge, and to me personally, a gift. I'm grateful to be able to coordinate and publish them.

A diverse group of bloggers, each with their own personal focus, their own voice and individual style of writing, come together to craft one story, one cohesive piece of fiction that I then get to share here on my blog.

Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story presented by www.BakingInATornado.com | #blogging #collaboration

The way it works is that one participant writes a piece of a story, then each subsequent writer adds their contribution and passes it on to the next. In this way, everyone impacts but no one controls the piece. Where the story goes is up to us all. The challenge is to write a cohesive story. And thanks to some very talented friends, we've done that many times already. This is the 7th time writers have come together to collaborate on this project. Be sure to check out all of the previous stories:

Our first story was a holiday fantasy called A Holiday Story.
Next came a darker piece, Storm Past.
For our third project, we chose to revisit A Holiday Story and added four more chapters.
Sincerely Sarah was a story of personal strength.
Take Aim was about compassion, standing up for yourself and for others.
And Skin Deep was about choices.

Which brings us to today, chapter one of our newest story, Mystery at the Castle. To the far right at the top of each segment is the name and link to the blog of the writer of that section.

Mystery at the Castle, a Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story resented by www.BakingInATornado.com | #blogging #collaboration

Chapter One: Friends for Life
Karen of Baking In A Tornado

'Why am I doing this?' she thought for about the 100th time. But she knew why, she loved her girlfriends. They'd been friends since college, 15 years now. Although she got together with a few of them here and there throughout the year, this once a year event is something none of them ever missed. No matter what, all 8 girls, women now actually, came together for a weekend of renewed friendship and uninterrupted fun.

'I just cannot believe Kathryn chose this', she thought, also for about the 100th time, since she'd heard the plan. 'Yes, each year one of us gets to choose and plan the entire weekend and yes, this is Kathryn's year. But renting out a castle on the coast of Rhode Island and planning a murder mystery weekend? Really? I mean it's not like Kathryn doesn't know what I do for a living.'

Still thinking that Kathryn could have chosen a different activity, yet knowing that it is always more about being together than anything else, Jill entered the formal dining room for dinner, surprised that she was the first to have descended the grand staircase for the kickoff of their weekend together. Looking around the room, Jill located the bar and headed in that direction. Not easily surprised, she actually was a little taken aback when she saw someone slumped in a chair behind the bar. 'Ah', she thought as she got closer, 'this is how it starts, a fake death. Let the mystery weekend begin.'

But the fictional mystery weekend was, in fact, not beginning. That was not an actor or a dummy. That is a real person and she was actually dead. If anyone would know, Jill would. After all, she's been a coroner for 10 years now.

Sarah Nolan  

Kathryn and Jill were sitting in the courtyard outside of their dorm, grasping their cups of hot coffee in their hands to help ward off the bitter cold air.

"A coroner? Really? That's such a creepy profession!" Kathryn said, scrounging up her nose at the thought of dealing with the dead.

"It's not creepy, it's a necessary part of life. More than that though, it's a chance to help tell someone's story who no longer can. If I can help just one Jane Doe find peace, it will all be worth it," Jill said, thinking back with sadness. No one knew the reason she picked this profession, not the real reason. That was her cross to bear and she didn't want to share that with anyone, not even her closest friends.

"Oh Jill . . . you and your crusade to save the world. You know you are going to change it one day, right?" Kathryn said, shaking her head.

But Jill wasn't so sure about that. Because to change the world, she had to risk her secret being exposed and that wasn't something she was willing to do. Her family's lives depended on that.
Diane of On the Border 
The instincts honed over ten difficult and rewarding years kicked in.

'Touch nothing, Jill!' she reminded herself sternly. 'Just take everything in . . . '

She pulled out her phone and stabbed '911', then, with it pressed to her ear, crouched down to get a better look at the silently slumped figure.

She sucked in a short, shocked breath and her phone fell from numbed fingers. "Kathryn?" she whispered. "Kath?"

Jill didn't know how long she crouched there, staring at the face of her friend. The wide, sightless eyes. The blue lips. The protruding tongue.

A voice from somewhere nearby finally penetrated the fog that seemed to have grown around her.

"911. Please state the nature of your emergency. Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? This is 911. Hello?"

Jill started blankly at the phone on the floor, then shook her head and picked it up. She again pressed it to her ear and tried twice to produce a voice from her constricted throat. "He . . . Hello?"

"This is 911, Ma'am. Please state the nature of your emergency."

Jill made numb lips move. "My friend's dead. Kath. She's dead. She planned this to be a murder weekend and now she's dead." Vaguely, she realized she was babbling, but nothing seemed to be connecting in her brain at the moment.

"Could you please repeat that?" the voice on the other end asked calmly. "Did you say someone was dead? Please give me your address."

Jill blinked. Address? Where were they? "It's a castle," she said, finally. "Kath arranged it. I . . . don't know the address."

"Please keep talking, Ma'am. We've triangulated your position and officers are on the way."

"Tell them it's a castle. And Kath is dead. Strangled."

"Did you say strangled, Ma'am?"

"I hope Kath let someone know the weekend schedule or this reunion is really going to be a bust!" someone said.

Jill turned her head, almost dropping the pone again. "Charly!" she squeaked.

Dropping the phone Jill stared at Charly, dressed to kill of course, in her Gucci suit and Coach purse. She said "well . . . did she let everyone know WHERE this God forsaken place is? Wait, what's wrong?" She moved toward the bar.

"NO! STOP! Jill said. "You can't come any closer."

"What in the hell is wrong with you?" Charly said, pushing Jill aside. She stopped dead in her tracks. "What, what the heck? Okay Kat THIS shit is NOT funny! Get UP NOW!" she yelled.

Jill grabbed her arm before she could grab the slumped over corpse that was their friend's now lifeless body. "No, don't Charly. It's Kat. She's dead, for real. This is no game."

THUD, and now Charly was on the floor at the exact moment the double doors flew open and in came the gang, all bright eyed, bushy tailed, giggly and clueless to what they were walking in to.

Jenn, Ash, Heather, Steph and Melissa came into the room like they were taking over the Paris runway. Jill rolled her eyes, was she the ONLY practical one?

She hopped off the floor and over to greet them before they compromised the scene any further. "Stop, please stop, don't move." Looking puzzled they saw Charly on the floor. Ash jumped and clapped her hands "ooh goody the fun has already started! Who did it, the butler with a knife, the maid with a broomstick, oh wait no, there's no weapon," she giggled.

"This is NO laughing matter and it's not a game! PLEASE listen to me for once!" THIS got their attention, for rarely did Jill assert herself when they were all present.

"Okay, we will not move, but what is going on? Why is Charly on the floor and is that Kat in the chair? What happened?" Melissa asked.

Sirens could be heard outside, then footsteps, it was all so fast. Four armed officers entered the room and walked around the ladies. "What happened here ladies?" asked the first officer. He looked at Melissa, then Jill. "Well, is someone going to speak up or not?"

Melissa seemed very offended and replied "WELL, WE were trying to find out when you burst into the room and shoved us aside!"

'Oh Lord' Jill thought, 'we're all going to jail!'

Jill stepped forward and began to explain to the officer. When she had finished, the EMS workers had arrived and Charly was sitting up on the floor with an oxygen mask. The other ladies were looking awful pale and Jill felt as if she was in a horrible nightmare and desperately wanted to wake up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Read on! Chapter two: Suspicion ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh, and I don't forget today's recipe, Fruited Butternut Squash.

A flavorful side dish, mashed winter squash is studded with fruit and topped with pepitas to highlight its sweet and nutty flavors. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Fruited Butternut Squash

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Fruited Butternut Squash

1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and chopped 
2 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP melted butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup cranraisins
1 small can mandarin oranges, drain and pat dry
1/2 cup pepitas (can substitute chopped pecans)

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
*Cook the squash in the microwave for 3 minutes. If it's not fork tender, return to the microwave for another minute or until it is.
*Mix the maple syrup, brown sugar, melted butter, salt and pepper into the hot squash. Mash completely, then add the cranraisins and mandarin oranges.
*Transfer to the prepared casserole dish and cover with tin foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the tin foil, sprinkle the top with pepitas (or pecans) and return to the oven, uncovered, for 3 minutes.


  1. I am intrigued. I love those mansions in RI and I love a murder mystery. Great set and great chapter one! The writing seems really cohesive and engaging.

    1. I love those mansions in RI too, seemed like a good backdrop for the story!

  2. I'm so excited to finally see the finished article! Eeeeeeeeee!

  3. I love our stories!! Can’t wait for chapter 2.

  4. Yay!! I can't wait to see what happens next!

  5. Oh my GOSH I can't wait to

  6. That's how far the story went when it was my turn... now to wait...

    1. Just one week. Meanwhile we're getting chapter three started.

  7. Oh, I was devouring the story and you all stuck a cliffhanger in there. Now I have to wait until next week. How can I bear it? Alana ranblinwitham.blogspot.com


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