There were ripples around the room. Mainly because the toilet u-bend had been smashed during the party last night. A palpable silence was dutifully poked by the small crowd which shuffled uncomfortably from foot to foot to foot, like a group of sheepish college students waiting for the cue to start a flashmob. None came.
The police were on the way. The detective had sounded grumpy when he’d ordered them all to stand still until he could get there, but that could have been the fried egg he was chewing, especially since a big glob had dripped onto his tie while he was talking to the hung-over party people. It was his favourite tie, too. The one his favourite barmaid had once told him “brought out his eyes”. He wasn’t too sure what that meant, exactly; he just liked the way R2D2 was dead centre if he tied it right.
He barked a gravelly cough as he pulled into the long, curved driveway in front of the guesthouse, the chipped gravelled surface echoing him. Checking to see no one was looking, he buried his cigarette butt under the stones, not noticing the long tendrils of cat poo which curled up at him. he driveway was a giant litter basket to a loose alliance of two Siamese cats, both of which were peering at the man as he looked first through the windows, then the keyhole before knocking on the front door.
Gingerly, the detective pushed the door open and stared at the low puddle of water which was lapping at the ball and claw-footed entrance table. A paper plate with what appeared to be nik naks on it floated past.
He called out. A muffled voice came from a door behind a spiral staircase. On inspection, it belonged to a man wearing a muffler. It had been chilly last night.
The detective took in the scene. Possibly ten youngsters wearing what could only be described as fancy undress. Partially naked, somewhat covered by feather boas, voluminous hats and items of spandex they all gazed at their feet. On a purple sofa, one was obviously asleep, face down, arms at his sides. One of the cats was sitting on the reclining man’s backside, forming an even more bizarre image.
Muffled man sobbed.
So, what’s the story here? The detective asked, clueless as to forming his own conclusions.
Phobe, the man gasped. He held out his iPhone, and waved at it as if he never wanted to see it again.
The detective held it between his fingers as if it was a dead bird. Muffled man shuffled through the water and retrieved it, swiped his way through to the saved video screen. Pressed play.
The detective looked at the small screen. It had been filmed in this room, that he could see, but a neater, less damp incarnation of the room. Ten kids sitting quietly, reading, knitting, playing chess. One suddenly appeared to have some sort of seizure, and horrible music blared out. Inexplicably, the room was suddenly alive with dancing party people with a mixture of hats, lycra and... nothing. Hell’s Village People.
Muffled man shook his hand at the phone as the music stopped. He had goosebumps on his legs where his cycling shorts stopped. A woman behind him sniffed and brushed a blue feather off her cheek.
Plaaakkkk, muffled man said. Plaaaaaaakiiid.
The detective looked again at the person on the sofa who hadn’t moved despite the noise on the phone. The cat looked up at him, stretched and stepped onto the back of the seat, twisting its claws into the upholstery.
The man was not asleep. He was dead.
All at once the room began to spin, but it was just the detective trying to get his head around last night’s nightcaps.
What’s going on?
It wasn’t our fault/I promise/we didn’t mean any harm/and now he’s dead, a girl gushed the sentence as if it was one breathless word.
We all planned to do the Harlem Shake and have a party but Mickey didn’t get up and at first we thought he was just planking and then we realised he wasn’t breathing so we thought maybe he’d thought up a new one, uh, corpsing, so we left him, but then he was still there this morning and now he’s.... she blabbed
Deb! Muffled man gasped.
The detective shook his head and splashed his way out of the room. In the driveway, he called the coroner. A hooting distracted him- looking up, he saw a naked man squatting on the roof of the house near the chimney. Twit twoo, called naked man.
Damn owlers, muttered the detective, fingering his stained tie.