I've been partaking since Wordzzle Challenge #57, April 2009 - originally at my blog The Island of the Voices. I had no intention from the beginning to write a long story; it just somehow turned into one. After six or seven months, I began to feel the need of a summary! (Both for myself and for new readers). In connection with that, I also decided to move the story to this blog. The earlier posts remain at their original site as well, but from Challenge #90, the story is only published here.
The number in front of each paragraph in the summary refers to the number of the Wordzzle Challenge. These numbers are also used in the titles of my blogposts. (One day, I intend to add my own chapter headings...)
I have highlighted a few time references to remind you that while the series has been going on for a almost a year, within the story only about 48 hours have passed since the beginning of the events...
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(57) On a hot summer Friday afternoon, Dr Adam Challenge arrives at the house of a Brigadier General, who is a rather eccentric old patient of his, suffering from paralysis caused by apoplexy. In his pocket, the doctor has a mysterious invitation to a slumber party. He finds the Brigadier General in the garden at the back of the house, apparently asleep. When he does not wake up, the doctor tries checking for his pulse, but cannot find it. At the same moment, there is the sound of an explosion from the grill behind him, and a burning sausage falls on the ground and sets fire to the dry grass. Dr Challenge is seized by panic and we learn that for some (unexplained) reason, he is afraid of being suspected of arsonry. He runs away; but the butler, Bumblebee, catches a glimpse of him through the kitchen window.
(58) The Brigadier General's granddaughter Diana, from her room upstairs, also watches Dr Challenge drive off. Diana is studying to become an interpreter/translator.
(59) Back at his office, Adam has second thoughts about his own behaviour. He also begins to suspect that maybe it was not the Brigadier General who sent the invitation in the first place, but Diana, whom he has known since she was rather a mischievious young girl, coming to live with her grandparents after the death of her own parents.
(60) Bumblebee takes the usual afternoon drinks out into the garden, sees the fire, pours a jug of juice over the worst of it, and pushes the General's deck chair out into the shallow end of the swimming pool. Standing in the pool, he makes a call from his cell phone. At the same time, a delivery van from the grocery store arrives at the front of the house.
(61) Adam, driving back to the General's house, is thinking back on his first marriage, which was very short because his wife was killed in a car accident which included fire.
Diana is getting ready to join her grandfather in the garden for afternoon drinks, and we also learn that she has some experiments in mind which include good timing to work out. We also learn that William, the delivery boy, has a sort of crush on Diana ever since their childhood and school days.
(62) William and Diana arrive in the garden at the same time, and William has a stroke of genius and puts out the fire by turning on the sprinkler system watering the lawn. At the same time, Dr Challenge again drives up at the front of the house, determined not to let his past control his present.
(63) The ambulance and Police Lieutenant Skittles arrive on the scene to find the Brigadier General revived, but somewhat confused. He is taken to hospital, while Skittles tries to get a grip of what has happened; which is not easy, since everybody is trying to give their own version all at the same time. He decides to interview them each in turn, and Bumblebee suggests using the library as interview room.
(64) The library turns out to be a room full of curious objects. Apparently the General is a collector of all kinds of odd things. Skittles finds this rather distracting. He also finds the butler somewhat evasive when it comes to answering questions.
(65) After Bumblebee has gone to fetch Skittles an aspirin and a glass of water to swallow it down with, Diana comes bursting into the room and says everything is her fault. She denies having tried to kill her grandfather or having started the fire on purpose; but she confesses to having tried out some experiments, as part of trying to write a detective story herself. The experiments involved trying to get the sausages to explode at exactly the right time; but she had not counted on starting a fire. She also confesses to being in love with Adam Challenge but says he does not know it.
(66) [I did not take part in this week's Wordzzle.]
(67) [I did not take part in this week's Wordzzle.]
(68) Adam and William are waiting on the terrace, and don't have a whole lot to say to each other. A cat comes strolling by, and William follows it round to the kitchen. Diana is still talking to Skittles in the library, and is now pouring her heart out to him about what it was like growing up in her grandparents' house. She was always a child of great imagination. In her childhood, she played it out in wild games. Now, she tries to make use of it in becoming a writer.
(69) Bumblebee comes back with the aspirin and water for Skittles, but Diana thinks they are meant for her and takes them, while Skittles has to go without. Bumblebee also brings a letter, which Diana recognizes as one she wrote to herself, for the purposes of her book. She calls it a blackmail letter. We also learn that the name of the cat is Puddles and that she has the habit of strolling off from time to time.
(70) Diana, without explanation, puts the letter, unopened, in a ginger jar in the library. She then goes on to explain again about her sausage experiment, and also happens to drop the hint that Dr Challenge had come to the house earlier in the afternoon, then driven off again, and then come back. She thinks Skittles should ask him about that.
(71) Skittles decides to take Diana's advice and interview Dr Challenge next, but feels in need of a short break first, and asks to use the bathroom. Diana then shows him upstairs, and besides a very uninteresting bathroom, he also gets a glimpse of her room.
(72) Skittles finally gets his aspirin, and also asks the butler if he can carry on the interviews in another room instead of the library. He and Adam are shown into the drawing room, which is less full of strange collector's items, but the pictures on the walls reveal that Diana is quite a good artist, too. The doctor does not seem very keen to interviewed. Skittles finds him evasive and is getting suspicious of his motives.
(73) Adam shows Skittles the invitation card to the slumber party, and gives his own interpretation of it. He says he thought the General might have been planning to commit suicide. Skittles' thoughts however turn to Diana, and wonders if it's not more likely that she was behind the invitation.
(74) Skittles continues the interview with the doctor but feels himself getting nowhere. At the last moment, he remembers what Diana told him, and asks the doctor why he first came, then left, and then came back.
(75) Adam finds himself facing the unpleasant fact that he was actually seen when he left the house the first time, and tries to give a very lame excuse for that. He then fakes getting an emergency phone call, and leaves.
(76) Skittles finds Bumblebee and William in the kitchen. Skittles sends William off; he is not interested in interviewing him, which William finds rather disappointing. Bumblebee confirms Diana's statement about the doctor's comings and goings.
(77) Skittles talks to Diana again and asks her about the invitation card. She confirms that it was she who sent it, not really caring much whether Adam would take it as just a joke or as an actual invitation to spend the night with her. Skittles does not tell her about Adam's idea that it might be interpreted as a suicide warning.
We also follow Adam back home, and learn that not only was his first wife killed in a car accident involving fire, but on top of that his second wife was also killed in a fire.
(78) We get a glimpse from the General's hospital bed and learn that he is still not being coherent or able to give his own version of what happened the day before.
(79) Before Skittles leaves the General's house, he goes back into the library. He is very much tempted to read the letter that Diana put into the ginger jar. He takes it out of the jar and looks at it, but resists the temptation to open it.
(80) Adam Challenge has a bad night with nightmares, and is not pleased when Skittles rings his doorbell early on Saturday morning. Skittles suspects the doctor of perhaps planning to leave town, and warns him not to do so. He still does not really have anything to accuse the doctor of, but is finding his behaviour suspicious anyway.
(81) We get a glimpse of William's Saturday morning at the grocery store. His boss is angry with him for the delay last evening, won't listen to William's heroic story, and gives him extra chores to do.
(82) Skittles goes to the hospital and tries to interview the General. The General is now sitting up, eating and talking, but is still saying nothing that makes any sense.
(83) Outside the General's room, Skittles runs into Diana, who convinces him (or more like orders him) to have coffee with her in the hospital cafeteria. This time, it is Diana who takes the part as interviewer, and starts asking questions about Skittles rather than the other way round.
(84) Diana skips her plans to go bowling and asks Skittles – whom she now calls John – to go with her to a modern arts exhibition instead. Skittles finds himself continuing to obey her suggestions, without quite being able to explain to himself why.
(85) [I did not take part in this week's Wordzzle.]
(86) Diana drags Skittles through an art exhibition of which he understands little or nothing. Modern art is not really his thing. In spite of this, he finds himself asking Diana to also have lunch with him.
(87) We're back with Adam Challenge, whose Saturday started out badly, but his mood improves when he is able to successfully help deliver triplets into the world.
(88) Skittles and Diana go to a restaurant called The Casbah, but do not have time to order before Diana gets a curious phone call. Skittles only overhears her part of it, and first assumes her grandfather's condition has grown worse. It turns out however that it is her cat Puddles that has had a fatal accident.
(89) Skittles talks to his friend Turtles on the phone and complains that while he thought he was solving a mystery, he now seems to be stuck in a sugar-coated romance instead, and he is not too sure how he feels about that.
(90) William spends his Saturday evening alone watching a film about love; and Diana spends hers in her room, thinking about Men.
(91) On Sunday Morning, Dr Adam Challenge decides to go to church to find out what rumours may be spreading in the village about Friday's events. William makes the same decision, because he is longing to build up his own reputation as hero. Diana also arrives at the church, driving a little red sports car and wearing a spectacular diamond necklace. We find out that her last name is Haven.
(92) Lieutenant John Skittles also decides to go to church, and brings his friend Matthew Turtles (also a police officer) along for support.
(93) A sermon about avarice is preached; Diana seems very friendly with William; and Skittles finds himself jealous.
(94) Diana invites William, Skittles and Turtles back to the house with her for lunch. A discussion of the sermon brings up the topic of the General's various collections of obscure objects, and Diana mentions some old "broken bones" which might or might not be ancient relics.
(95) [I did not take part in this week's Wordzzle]
(96) Adam is surprised that nobody seemed to take much notice of him at church; but receives a new mysterious written invitation, for afternoon tea.
(97) Sunday afternoon, Diana and her guests are having coffee on the terrace, but return indoors when they hear thunder. In the library, much to the surprise of the two police officers, they find the Brigadier General himself waiting for them, apparently not much the worse for his near-death-experience the other day. We learn that there are three more cats in the house, a Siamese (named Goofy) with two kittens.
(98) William is sent to fetch a treasure chest containing the ancient relics, and the Brigadier General starts to tell a story about an Indian Chief named Baying Wolf.
(99) The door bell rings, and it turns out to be Dr Challenge, coming to check up on how the General is doing. He, too, is surprised to find the old man alert and in story-telling mood. William comes back in with the chest. The chest is opened, and turns out to contain a ribbon, a feather and some small pieces of bones. The General starts again on his story.
(100) It turns out that the General is the great-grandson of the Indian Chief Baying Wolf. The items in the chest belonged to his grandmother Sparrow, and were handed down to him by her daughter, the General's mother, Little Lark. From her he also learned other secrets of that Indian tribe.
(101) Bumblebee brings the tea and knocks over a lampshade, and there is again a bit of a break in the story-telling. However, we are again reminded that Diana is an aspiring writer, and has been carrying on some experiments which were important to the recent events.
(102) [I did not take part in this week's Wordzzle]
(103) The General reveals that one secret he learned from the old Indians was how to put himself into a coma-like trance.
The summary will be added to as the story proceeds.