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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)

TITLE: Rich Men and Strong Tea
By Betty Castleberry


“Don’t look now, but there’s Patricia with a new man.” Beth looked at her plate as the couple entered the restaurant.

Her lunch partner, Lori, looked up. Beth reached an ample arm across the table and dinged Lori’s hand lightly with her spoon. “I said don’t look.”

“What did you expect me to do? He’s good looking. Look at that thick silver hair. Where’d she find this one?”

“Beats me. I guess you heard her fiancee left rather suddenly. Just disappeared.”

Beth stabbed at her chicken. “Yes, I heard. He seemed to be so much in love with her. He absolutely doted on her. They already had the invitations printed, the cake ordered, and everything. I find it odd he left like that. Patricia’s no kid, you know. Not many widows get the second chance she got.”

Patricia and the gentleman sat at a table near the two women. Patricia spotted them, and waved a greeting. “Hello girls. This is Harry. Harry, Lori and Beth.”

The ladies called a hello and waved back.

Beth whistled softly. “I bet he’s rich. That’s watch looks expensive. Her fiancee was wealthy, too. I think she likes money. A lot.”

Harry said something to Patricia, then left the table. Patricia looked at her friends and winked. “Little boy’s room.”

Beth and Lori smiled and nodded, then pretended to give their full attention to their lunch.

This seemed to be the opportunity Patricia was waiting for. She reached into her purse and removed something. After one last glance in the direction of her friends, she dropped it into Harry’s glass of tea and gave it a quick stir.

Beth raised an eyebrow and whispered. “Did you see that? What is she doing?”

“I don’t know, but I hope it isn’t poison.”

Beth’s jaw dropped. “Why would you say that?”

“I don’t know. It’s just that I wonder what really happened to her fiancee.”

“Surely you don’t think she offed him?”

“Well, all of a sudden she’s wearing extra nice clothes, and driving a brand-new car. You said yourself he was wealthy. What if she just wanted his money?

"Oh no. Maybe we just witnessed a crime.”

“I think you watch too much TV. I admit her fiancee’s leaving is a little strange, but I don’t think Patricia’s a murderer.”

“You’re probably right. Let’s keep a close eye on Harry when he comes back. If he keels over, we’ll know it wasn’t sugar she put in his tea.”

Right on cue, Harry returned to the table. He picked up his glass and took a long drink.

Beth squirmed in her seat. “I really hope he’s going to be all right.”

Lori swallowed hard. “Me too.”

The two ladies ate in silence, stealing glances at Harry. They lingered over dessert, almost afraid to leave.

A loud crash came from Patricia and Harry’s table. Harry had tried to stand up and had fallen across the table, knocking his plate to the floor.

Beth bounded out of her chair. “Oh my gosh. She did poison him.”

Lori slapped both hands up to her cheeks and stared wide-eyed at the man lying across the table.

Patricia patted his face and spoke to him. “Harry, are you all right? Harry? Come on, let’s go home.”

A waiter appeared at Patricia’s table. “Is everything okay? Can I do something?”

Beth grabbed his shoulder. “Yes! Call the police. She’s poisoned him.”

Patricia jerked her head toward Beth. “Poison? Wha...”

“We saw you put something in his tea.”

Patricia’s face went blank for a second, then she started to laugh. “Poison? That was fiber. Harry’s been a little, uh, irregular lately, and I put some powdered fiber in his tea. He isn’t feeling well today either, and I think he fainted. He’s had the flu.”

Beth looked suspiciously at Patricia. “Where is your fiancee then?”

Lori chimed in. “Yeah, where is he?”

“He went back to Springfield. Things just didn’t work out. Harry is my cousin, and we’re
going over our aunt’s estate. She left us both a little bit of money. That’s how I bought my new car, just so you don’t get the wrong idea. Wait, I think you already have. Some friends you two are. I’m taking Harry home.”

Beth and Lori watched as Patricia helped Harry out the door.

Beth picked up her purse and faced Lori. “You and I don’t need fiber. We’re regular enough. Regular buffoons, that is.”

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This article has been read 1350 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita Neuman04/12/07
Excellent, hilarious story! One small thing: "fiance" is a man, "fiancee" is a woman. That threw me a bit. Otherwise, I was very impressed with this entry!
Lynda Schultz 04/12/07
What an unexpected ending! You had me on tenderhooks right to the finale. Good stuff.
Sara Harricharan 04/12/07
LOL! That was a good trick with the fiber, nice bit of suspense with Harry fainting. I loved the last line best of all. ^_^
Jan Ackerson 04/12/07
Love the title, love the gentle nudge to us about the consequences of leaping to conclusions...very nicely done.
Venice Kichura04/12/07
LOL! That is great! I was wondering, myself, what she put in the tea. Very well crafted & humorous as well.
Loren T. Lowery04/13/07
Snoopy old ladies always make for a great mystery.
Myrna Noyes04/13/07
Intriguing title of a cute and clever story! :) I loved the ending and the great message, too!
Cassie Memmer04/14/07
Good story! You took us step by step, building the intrigue. Then gave us the twist. Cute. Nosey old ladies! LOL! I enjoyed it!
Joanne Sher 04/15/07
Definitely fun - good job on building up the suspense.
Catrina Bradley 04/17/07
Imaginations can take us in the wrong direction all right! Love the humorous mystery - great writing here.
Jacquelyn Horne04/17/07
I liked this. So easy to read. What buffoons! A humorous mystery.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/17/07
I loved the characters and the humor and the way you put them all together into a great mystery.
James Wood04/17/07
The premise is a little flimsy, when subjected to scrutiny. He's ill with the flu, but he arrives flashy and handsome? Also, who goes galavanting around with the flu? Lastly, the surreptitious way she adds powder to his drink, in front of people who have no idea of the context of it is a stretch. Very few people are so socially inept, without some attempt at explanation. Needs rewriting, but the overall idea is a good one.
Rita Garcia04/17/07
Wonderful story! Has all the right ingredients, and well written!
Shari Armstrong 04/17/07
LOL - I'm completely picturing the ladies from Arsenic and Old Lace - in reverse LOL. LOVE it!
Cheri Hardaway 04/17/07
A delightful read! Good work. Blessings, Cheri
Joanney Uthe04/17/07
Suspenceful and well-written. Great setting for the story and great characters.
dub W04/18/07
Oh, how I love a premise that isn't so blatant it dominates the thoughts - well composed. Like others, I have forced myself to go to work with flu, lots of empathy there. Love the way she adds powder to his drink, in front of people who have no idea of what is going on - I do the same to Miss P's tea, I imagine what others might think. This is a dandy, worthy of note. I don't usually review this level, but this one caught my attention.
Debbie OConnor04/18/07
Ha ha! This is awesome...it would have been a great humor entry too. Absolutely excellent. A real contender, I'm sure. :)
Angela M. Baker-Bridge04/18/07
I tried so hard to guess the ending but I wasn't even close! A definite mystery to me.
Lauren Bombardier04/18/07
I think this is very well-done! I could really see this going on in my head.
CeCe Lane04/18/07
I loved it. Especially the last line. Too funny. Good job!
Helen Paynter04/18/07
Thought I'd show some solidarity in the face of adversity!!
This is a fun piece. I liked the characteristation, and the punch-line was very funny. Good work, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Marilyn Schnepp 04/18/07
The complaint by the author of a harsh critique led me to Level 4 which I don't usually visit; I also Had to check out the Hints in order to find the same "portrait of person in a hat" to go by in order to track this story down. One tiny adverse critique against umpteen upon umpteen flattering critiques shouldn't have caused much of a stir;...especially if, like me, you only had a total of 3 comments in all, with none of them too encouraging. However, I really liked it...but did find one mistake just before "watch". Don't feel down...you've got SRO in this crowd of commenters.
LaNaye Perkins04/18/07
You grabbed my attention from the beginning and held it to the last word! Great writing!
Brenda Welc04/20/07
I ABSOLUTLEY loved your story. I was right there in the midst of the action and i could identify with the characters! Gret Story! Great writing! Keep up the great story telling!
Jeffrey Snell04/20/07
Subtle (and not so toward the end) commentary on gossip! Well done.