Otis Amber, Sandy McSouthers, Theo Theodorakis, and Doug Hoo are standing in front of Sunset Towers looking toward the Westing house. Turtle Wexler cycles up and notices that there is smoke coming from the chimney of the house. She says,
"Do you think -- do you think old man Westing's up there?
"Naw," Otis Amber, the old delivery boy, answered. "Nobody's seen him for years. Supposed to be living on a private island in the South Seas, he is; but most folks say he's dead. Long-gone dead. They say his corpse is still up there in that big old house. They say his body is sprawled out on a fancy Oriental rug, and his flesh is rotting off those mean bones, and maggots are creeping in his eye sockets and crawling out of his nose holes." The delivery boy added a high-pitched he-he-he to the gruesome details. (7)
Everyone, at this point, thinks that Sam Westing is dead. We find out later on that Turtle finds his body (she thinks) and Westing has been considered missing for years before that. For most of the novel everyone thinks that Westing died that very night that Turtle found him (Haloween), and only a few people (like JJ Ford and Turtle) end up knowing the truth. Sam Westing is a master of tricks, and he makes several people believe different stories at different times about his identity and whether he is alive or dead. That is part of The Westing Game that he has devised for his heirs.
Source: Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game. New York: Avon Books, 1978.