Chapter One - The Dinner
Mrs. Hathaway and her husband were ready to go to the family dinner. Mr. Hathaway wasn't as excited as his wife. He could clearly see a big smile in his wife's face, as if exuding a joy that had not been seen for a long time. But he couldn't help it, he didn't share his wife's feeling, and there wasn't much to do about it.
It'd been a long time since they had seen the family. And everyone would be there. Mrs. Hathaway was nervous about having to find loved ones she hadn't seen in a long time. She ran her hands through the thousandth time in her pearly white dress and took a deep breath. "Are you ready darling?" asked Mrs. Hathaway.
Mr. Hathaway had been ready for a long time, way before his wife.
"Yes, I'm ready", he answered. He was wearing a blue jacket of the purest silk. They were both very wealthy, and even with a lot of money, they didn't like to waste a lot, just on certain things, like clothes. If there was anything Mrs. Hathaway liked to buy, it was her clothes, and they all had to be of the best fabric, cut and stitch.
The couple drove to Julia's home. Julia was Mrs. Hathaway's sister and she had always been a very kind person, and always tried to help and reunite the family with lunch or dinners, even when it was not a special date. Yet, it was difficult for everyone to sit at the same table without fighting 'til the end of the day.
Mrs. Hathaway was a sorta afraid about that following day, but it was always good to meet the people she loved, even if they spent hours arguing about the little things.
Upon arriving, Mrs. Hathaway knocked on the door, which soon opened.
"Olivia! My dear sister! Glad you came!" Julia, an old and beatutiful lady said as she opened the door, very happy. "Well, good afternoon Richard", her humor changed suddenly. Julia has always been concerned and protective of Mrs. Hathaway, as the great older sister se has always been. However, she didn't like Richard, she never did, and she made no attempt to hide her disgust at the love of Olivia's life. "Please, come in".
Julia's house was very beautiful and cozy. The walls were clear, mostly white, and some beige. They were all either with a landscape painting, probably painted by Julia herself, who always had an absurd passion for art, or with photos of relatives. Mrs. Hathaway was very happy to see several pictures of her with her sister in the middle of those endless hanging and crooked pictures.
"You can go and say hello to everyone, we were waiting for you. Dinner will be served soon. I will check if Gerald has finish the dinner. Make yourselves at home" Julia said and left.
The dining room was full of people and the central table was large, not huge, but it was much larger than the one on Mrs. Hathaway's kitchen. There was room for at least ten guests. All the faces were recognized byMrs. Hathaway, who had just entered and who now felt like little girl Olivia again. But then, Olivia saw an unknown face. A man. A new person in the family, perhaps? She was not sure.
The first thing she did was introduce himself to the stranger, so that she could at least meet him before dinner.
"Good afternoon," she said, with the elegance she always had.
"Good afternoon," the man replied. "You must be Olivia Hathaway, am I right?".
"That is correct."
"Julia told me a lot about you two as children and I've heard lots of funny stories. I'm Marcus Hans. But I prefer to be called just Hans. I'm a friend of Julia, she invited me to the dinner, I hope you don't mind."
"No, it's a pleasure to have you tonight with us. Besides, Julia can invite whoever she wants. But your name and your face are not stranger to me. Aren't you Hans, the detective?"
"Yes, that would be me."
"Oh, then it will be an honor to have dinner with you!" Olivia said, now recognizing that man. "The famous detective Hans ... I've always loved your job. The cases you solve are simply incredible!"
"Thank you very much. It's really great to hear that you appreciate my job, because it is not and easy job".
"Oh, surely. I imagine that it's difficult to work solving so many crimes and gathering so many pieces of cases that even the police were unable to solve. I mean, it is really impressive."
"Thank you. I appreciate that, Mrs. Hathaway".
"Well, if you don't mind, I'll say hello to the other guests."
"Sure, go ahead. It was a great pleasure to meet you".
Mrs. Hathaway went to greet the other guests, while Mr. Hathaway sat, frowning and not speaking to anyone.
Mrs. Hastings greeted everyone, without exception; their cousin, Virginia and her husband; the old uncle, at least eighty years old, Hercule and his new wife, thirty years younger than him, Giuliana; Julia's son Mathias (Olivia was not only the boy's aunt, but also a godmother and Mr. Hathaway, best man), and his girlfriend, Celia, who was relatively new to the family, they had recently been married. Ten people.
"My guests, it is a great pleasure to welcome you all here. It was supposed to be a family dinner only, but I invited a friend of mine, Marcus Hans. Hope you don't mind and and welcome him as a member of the family." said Julia, as she returned to the dining room.
"Friend?" Mathias asked, with a mocking voice.
"Yes, son" she rolled her eyes and took a deep breath, joining her hands in front of her body. "All of you, sit down, please, dinner will soon be served".
Everyone sat down, just as Julia asked. Mrs. Hathaway sat on the right side of her husband, just like she has always done.
"You are very rude" Mrs. Hathaway whispered to her husband. "You didn't even said hello to anyone. Mathias is our godson! And Detective Hans is here and he doesn't know anyone. Your attitude was not polite at all".
"That is not my family, Olivia, it's yours. If there is someone to greet, it is you. Since you did, I don't have to. I just came to be with you, because I am your husband. And in fact, Mathias is a very ungrateful boy, if you want to know the truth".
Mrs. Hathaway's sister, who was the person Olivia trusted most, knew that Mr. Hathaway had been extremely unbearable and antisocial for years, and that Mrs. Hathaway was already getting tired of him, as much as she loved him. He forbade her to go out alone and even to wear wigs, which was something she loved to wear, because she was aging and losing her hair.
Gerald soon came with the food, taking Olivia out of her reflections. Huge lobsters were served, and Mrs. Hathaway loved lobsters. Perhaps the sister did this precisely because she liked lobsters, so that she could cheer her up.
Dinner was very pleasant, with very interesting conversations, about employment, family, travel and things that happened during the time that they weren't seeing each other.
Mrs. Hathaway, for example, had not seen any of her family members sitting at that table for at least five years, except her sister Julia, as they sometimes communicated by letters.
"If you don't mind, I'm going to the bathroom," Mr. Hathaway said quickly. That were the first words the man had spoken to the family members since he arrived, and he hoped his part in the conversation wouldn't go much further than that.
He was avoiding any kind of communication with the others at the table and wanted to keep it that way.
"Classless, as always," Mrs. Hathaway thought. It was just one more for the collection of not-so-pleasant thoughts she had about that man. What did it cost the husband to have a little politeness with other people? Olivia didn't even know when she would see them again,and she knew that it could take many, many years.
Shortly after Mr. Hathaway left, the lights suddenly went out.
It was about nine p.m., everything was extremely dark, no one could see an inch in front of themselves. The discussion to guess what caused the blackout started among family members, but soon stopped, due to a noise.
A shrill scream, filled with pain and agony, coming from a woman's voice, took over the room, tied together with neaky and quick steps that no one could hear very well. The light came on again, leaving the guests with a quick sting in their eyes.
When the vision returned completely to everyone, the whole family was horrified by what they were seeing, right there in front of them. Nobody even managed to say a word.
Mr. Hathaway returned from his visit to the bathroom just in time and stood there, gaping.
Mrs. Hathaway was lying on the floor, with a knife to her left, which was not bloody, nor dirty.
She was dead.