Columbo in the Clue Mansion

I’m sorry to bother you ladies and gentlemen, Lieutenant Columbo here. Now this might sound silly, but please bear with me.

There’s been a murder.

I got an anonymous call last night that a person had been killed at Boddy Mansion. Right, that’s what I said. Are you kidding me? But I thought I’d better go have a look.

To be honest, the place gave me the creeps. And it was a dark and stormy night to boot. You just can’t make stuff like this up.

Long story short, I got there and no one knew anything about a murder. It wasn’t until later I realized I’d been set up. Because Mr. Boddy was killed while I was in the house.

I don’t know how they did it, and I can’t prove it, but one of Mr. Boddy’s six guests killed him. And they’re trying to frame me. Is that rich, or what? I think this is the first time I became a suspect in my own investigation.

So I’m asking for your help. I’ve got evidence to prove three of the seven of us have alibis, thanks to the security cameras placed around the mansion. I need you to sort through the details of who was doing what where, and what kind of a weapon they had with them.

Six of us were peacefully employed, minding our own business. One of us was committing murder. If you think you figured who did what, email me your solution. If you have any questions, you can post them below. Here’s what I can tell you.

•   Mrs. White was watching TV in the Dining Room with the candlestick on the table.

•   Col. Mustard was playing billiards in the Billiard Room with the lead pipe. I don’t know why he didn’t just use cues, but that’s not relevant to this investigation.

•   Mrs. Peacock was knitting in the Library. There were no weapons in the library. It’s a library, there’s only books in there.

No one was in the Hall or the Lounge. We’re not sure who was in the Kitchen or the Study, because there’s a secret passage connecting them. But maybe you can figure it out from these clues.


1. Miss Scarlet was reading but didn’t have the knife.

2. The person with the gun was smoking but not in the Kitchen.

3. The murderer was in the Conservatory but it wasn’t Mr. Green.

4. The two people in the Kitchen and Study were myself and the guest who was making a phone call.

5. The guest who had the rope wasn’t in the Study.

6. Professor Plum had the wrench.

I’m sorry I can’t give you any more specifics than that – I need you to be unbiased and objective so that the answers you come up with are based solely on logical deduction, and not anything I tell you.

I’m depending on you folks to clear my name. I hope this doesn’t make you feel bad, but it’s my neck on the line.

Oh, and one more thing.

Good luck.

Based on a logic puzzle written by Shelly Hazard on

Solutions will be posted next Monday. Meanwhile, put on your thinking cap to deduce Columbo’s innocence and the real killer’s guilt! Send your answers to May the best detective win!

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Secondhand Magic, Part II

The second half of my 15-page entry. Does it make you wish for more?


Mort has his notepad at the ready, talking to a crusty old DECK HAND.


Harry Smith, feet up on the dash, binoculars on Mort.


MORT: Have you seen anything suspicious, anything out of the ordinary?

DECK HAND: No, I can’t say I have.

MORT: Really? Do you- well, I mean have you- Do you know if there are any gangs around here?

A sudden commotion gets their attention.


A crowd of people in various stages of confusion and shock. Mort tries to make his way through the obstacle course but can only glimpse pieces of the boat below the wharf.

CROWD (ad lib): What the… Some kind of prank. Call the cops!

Mort tries to negotiate his way through.

MORT: Hey, give an old man a break!

His dignity notwithstanding, Mort carefully goes to his knees and crawls inside the huddle.

The view is worse. But he’s able to wiggle through bit by bit, gradually gaining ground.

He sees the deck. The edge of the fish net sprawled open. The dark, scaly tail flowing out of the net.


Smith looks up from his crossword, can’t find Mort.


A foot shifts, crushing Mort’s hand under it. He cries out and hits the offending leg with his free hand.

The foot quickly moves and a head looks down.

MORT: Watch it!

MAN: Sorry.

Scooting forward in the inches that the shuffle has afforded, Mort can see the whole of the fishing deck, its crew milling around the strangely captivating catch.

For a moment, all Mort can see is the long tail extending outside the huddle of fishermen. Presently they shift enough to reveal what looks like…


Sprawled across the net – lifeless – wet hair plastered across her scaly face, back and arms.

Mort stares in disbelief.

SUE (OS): Mister Glover?

He looks up and sees Sue.


The front door opens to a tiny kitchen. Sue leads the way, wiping her feet and banging through to the adjoining room.

SUE: My car’s in the shop, but I can drive you back sometime after five o’clock. Hello! Dad, you home?

Mort enters more sedately, glancing around the small galley kitchen with dishes in the sink and worn linoleum.

Sue is back.

SUE (CONT,D): It’s just us, have a seat. You want some coffee?

Mort eases into one of two chairs squeezed into a makeshift breakfast nook. Sue gets the coffeemaker started.

MORT: Sure. Y’know I bet that mermaid froze to death.

SUE: It is October.

Mort observes the CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS in the window.

MORT: You’re worse than the department stores. Christmas already?

SUE: Can’t help it, I LOVE Christmas. I start planning December twenty-seventh. By January first, I know exactly where I’ll be and what I’ll do on Christmas Day.

MORT: That’s very impressive. And a little bit nuts.

Sue flops down opposite him as the coffee pot percolates.

SUE: Stick with me and you’ll hear yourself saying those words a lot. What about you?

MORT: Nah, I’m just nuts.

SUE: No, I mean what are you doing for Christmas? Oh. (catching herself) I probably shouldn’t ask you that the day your wife gets stabbed.

For some reason this makes Mort laugh. Sue joins him.


MORT: My wife was a cold woman. She could hold a snowball for hours and it wouldn’t melt. That’s how cold she was. Like a fish.

Mort is showing her a WEDDING PHOTO of Maxine and him at 30. Mort grins from ear to ear, while Max is more demure.

SUE: She’s pretty.

MORT: I worshipped the boots she walked in. Well, at first anyway.

He flips to a more RECENT SHOT of Max alone.

MORT (CONT,D): Marriage has a way of showing you what you don’t want to see when you’re head over heels for a good lookin’ girl.

SUE: Think we’re being followed.

Mort looks back. Sure enough, Harry Smith is behind them, trying to look nonchalant.

SUE (CONT,D): Hang on, I’ll lose him!

MORT: What? Oh- oh boy.

As Sue pulls a daring 180 and ducks into an alley amid a flurry of horns honking and annoyed shouts. Smith stops just short of an accident, cursing.

Sue laughs and Mort looks impressed.


Sue’s little two-door sedan pulls up to the marina lot.


Sue walks Mort to the door.

MORT: Thanks for the ride. And the coffee.

SUE: Sure. Take care, Mister Glover.

She watches him go inside, then looks the house over curiously.


Everything is quiet and dark. Mort flips on the row of light switches by the front door, turns the corner and comes face to face with MAXINE.

Mort cries out and stumbles back in shock.


Sue is creeping around the deck to the back of the house where a RED STAIN marks the wooden floor. She flips her PEN LIGHT around the area, but nothing seems out of place.

She continues carefully around the edge of the house and is suddenly GRABBED FROM BEHIND. A hand over her mouth covers her scream.

JACK: Shh!

Jack turns her so she can see it’s him and takes his hand away. Sue is mad.

SUE (whispers): What are you doing here, you-

Jack grabs her again, finger to his lips. Voices.


Mort is sitting at the kitchen table, head in his hands.

Maxine/Claire finishes pouring tea and sits opposite him.

CLAIRE: I know it-it’s hard to believe. But truly, I’m not Maxine, I’m-

MORT: Claire. I heard you the first time, I’m not deaf, I just… I saw you-

CLAIRE: You saw Maxine, Mister Glover. She is dead, I’m- I’m so sorry.

Claire looks anxious and conflicted. Beyond them, two faces appear at the sliding glass door – Sue and Jack.


Sue and Jack exchange incredulous looks.

SUE (whispers): Isn’t that his wife?

MORT (OS): And the mermaid they found this afternoon… you expect me to believe that was you?

SUE: But how can- shush, I can’t hear!

CLAIRE (OS): –body I’ve had for the last forty years. Yes.


CLAIRE (CONT,D): I know it sounds crazy, but I need your help. You’re the only one I can turn to.

With distaste she produces a gun.

A gasp draws their attention to the glass door. Jack and Sue duck out of sight, but it’s too late. Claire looks distressed.

CLAIRE: Oh! It’s empty.

Mort opens the door and the two guiltily enter.

SUE: We were spying. Sorry.

MORT: Don’t be.

CLAIRE: I didn’t mean to frighten anyone. But I’m desperate. I’ll do anything if you’ll help me get to Florida. That’s where I met Maxine forty years ago.

Max is pouring tea for the new arrivals.

MORT: Max never went to Florida. She hates the ocean, I could never get her to go with me.

CLAIRE: Well yes, but I think that’s because she knew I’d find her if she got anywhere near it. See I was out on the water by myself one morning and this mermaid shows up. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I thought: what a wonderful thing to happen to me, to see a mermaid.

Sue and Jack glance at each other.

CLAIRE (CONT,D): She told me how she’d been watching humans all her life and how she had longed for just one day on land. I was so moved, or just plain gullible, I agreed to switch.

SUE: Switch bodies?

CLAIRE: Switch bodies. She could live my life for a day and I’d live hers. I mean I was kinda curious, you know?

MORT: Lady, today I’ve seen a stabbing victim, a dead mermaid and a resurrected body. Don’t you think I got enough problems?

He bangs the kettle down on the stove.

MORT (CONT,D): And how the heck am I supposed to listen to a person who committed murder?

SUE: Mister Glover, I think she’s about to explain.

Mort throws up his hands and starts pacing.

CLAIRE: It wasn’t murder, Mortimer. It was self defense. You see Maxine never came back. She left me there in her mermaid body for forty years.

Mort stops pacing and turns to look at her. Jack whistles.

CLAIRE (CONT,D): Turns out there was one little detail Maxine left out of her sad story. The only way to switch back is if one of us dies.

SUE: So you had to kill her! Otherwise you could never get your body back!

Mort freezes. The room falls silent. Beat.

MORT: Florida, huh?

Claire looks hopeful.

MORT (CONT,D): Hey Jacky. You ever sailed a floating house?


Secondhand Magic, Part I

This was written for a contest, in which the first 15 pages of a script were to be entered based on the logline given. Though the entry did not make the top 10, it’s still a fun piece of fiction. Read and enjoy.

After waking to find his wife dead in their backyard, a man conducts his own investigation, and uncovers the hidden life of a woman he thought he knew.



MORTIMER GLOVER, 71, is seated opposite DETECTIVE HARRY SMITH, 45, giving a statement.

MORT: We never had kids, but that’s okay. We kept busy. She was terrific at making stuff – had a real gift. I mean she could design a hat out of cardboard and duct tape. Terrible in the kitchen though.

SMITH: Mr. Glover-

MORT: Yeah, so. She was always moving around, you know? Like she couldn’t keep still in her sleep.

SMITH: Sleepwalking?

MORT: I’d wake up in the night and she’d be gone, so. Sometimes I’d find her in the basement or outside. After a while I stopped looking for her. I figure she’ll come back when she wants to.

Smith is trying to look interested. Mort looks back at him.

SMITH: So it didn’t surprise you that your wife wasn’t in bed this morning?

MORT: Didn’t I just say that?

Smith changes positions and exhales impatiently.

SMITH: Mr. Glover, who do you think killed your wife?

MORT: Are you kidding me? That’s what I want you find out!


Mort and JACK HANSON, 19, are walking out of the station.

MORT (CONT,D): No-talent pretty boys. What do we pay taxes for, anyway? Come all the way down here just to find out the police expect me to track down Maxi’s killer.

Jack pats him consolingly on the shoulder.

MORT (CONT,D): I don’t even know where to look. Who stabs a sixty-nine-year-old woman?


A sleepy Jersey shore diner in the off season. Mort and Jack sit at the counter while LARRY, mid-fifties is behind it pouring coffee.

LARRY: Well Morty, let’s be honest. You sure it wasn’t just – y’know – natural causes?

MORT: She had an ice pick coming out the back of her head. That sound natural to you?

Plates of food arrive in the hands of SUE, 18 and direct.

SUE: Talkin’ about your wife?

Mort looks up in surprise.

SUE (CONT,D): Everyone else is. Some of ‘em think you killed her, but I say it was an accident. I’ve seen some pretty strange things, you’d be surprised.

MORT: Do I know you?

SUE: My name’s Sue.

LARRY: She’s new. And she’s still learning her manners.

MORT: It’s okay, Larry, let her be.

The bell jingles and Larry goes to help a new customer. Sue leans in confidentially.

SUE: Y’know I bet I could help with your investigation. People come in here and tell me all kinds of things. Yesterday morning I had a customer swear he saw a mermaid in the water.

The bell jingles again and JIM, 65, is jingling with it.

JIM: “Ding-dong, the witch is dead!” Good news, Larry. This is gonna be a great day, I can feel it!

LARRY (glancing at Mort): Hey, alright.

Jim bellies up next to Mort and smacks him on the back.

JIM: Morty, my old friend! My old, single, liberated friend! Larry, give me this man’s tab.

MORT: Aw, now stop it Jim.

JIM: I mean it, I’m buyin’!

MORT: No really, look at me. Maxine was no angel, but she didn’t deserve to be shish-kabobbed in her own back yard either. Now have a little respect.

Mort picks up his fork as Jim backs off, chastened.

JIM: Okay, all right. If that’s the way you feel about it.

Jim meets Jack’s level gaze. Mort takes a bite of his eggs and chews. And chews and chews and chews.


Angle on a NOTEPAD featuring a list of shady characters: GANGS, THE MOB, ASSASSINS, NAZIS.

Mort is sitting at the bus stop, staring at the list. He crosses out NAZIS. Sue sits next to him.

MORT: Shift over already?

SUE: Oh no, I got fired. Just a matter of time, I wasn’t very good. Where’s your friend?

MORT: At the hospital. Just about broke his teeth on your omelet. (beat) I’m kidding.

SUE: That was funny. Kinda mean, though.

MORT: Don’t pay any attention to me. I’m just an old man trying to solve a murder.

SUE: Any good leads?

MORT: Well. You know any gangs around here?


The bus drops Mort next to a sign for SEA VILLAGE MARINA. He heads toward a row of floating houses.


Mort approaches his place, an anomaly of a houseboat – literally a floating house, permanently docked in the marina/housing community, but afloat on the bay.

The front door is still wearing CRIME SCENE tape with a few FORENSICS OFFICERS taking pictures. JUDY, 60, rushes up in a jogging suit and oven mitts.

JUDY: Mortimer! There you are. What an ordeal, I started baking as soon as I heard.

MORT: Don’t worry about me, Judy, I’ll be fine. Hey fellas, how much longer you gonna be?

JUDY: Oh look at you Morty, you’re not fine. You’ll never, ever be fine again. I know that’s how I felt when I lost my poor Harold.

OFFICER: Almost done, Mister Glover.

JUDY: You just come home with me, I can’t leave you alone at a time like this.

Some chatter comes across one of the police radios. Mort attempts to evade Judy.

MORT: I’m fine, really. Thanks.

OFFICER: Mister Glover! Can you come back down to the station, there’s um- a bit of a discrepancy.


Mort, Detective Harry Smith and the nervous MORTICIAN stand looking at an empty slab.

MORT: How can it be missing?

MORTICIAN: Well, ah, we have a few theories but really this is quite unusual. Quite, quite unusual indeed.

MORT: I mean a dead body doesn’t just walk away. Not that I’m any expert, but that just seems to make logical sense to me. Am I right?

SMITH: Mr. Glover, what did you do after you left here earlier this morning?

MORT: What did I do? I was investigating my wife’s murder while you bozos fouled up the evidence and lost the body! I should sue!

SMITH: Mister Glover, please calm down. Someone has clearly gone to great lengths to sneak in here, now I need to know if you have any idea who that someone might be.

MORT: Well I don’t know, I guess whoever killed her.

Harry Smith glances at the Mortician.

MORT (CONT,D): Look, I got an investigation to run. You call me when you screw up again.

Smith watches him go with narrowed eyes.