Jake and Grace Wexler are the first to arrive at J. J. Ford’s party. The judge asks Mrs. Wexler how she is related to the Westing family and decides that the woman is nothing more than a “prattling pretender” when her answer is confused and evasive. Other guests come in, and Jake goes over to talk to his daughter, Angela. The young girl cringes when he immediately asks about Denton Deere; it seems that, in the eyes of others, she has no identity apart from her fiancé.
The only people at the party who are not Westing heirs are George and Catherine Theodorakis, the parents of Theo and Chris. Theo in particular bears a startling resemblance to his father; they are both wide shouldered and slim waisted and they have the same thick, black hair. As Judge Ford circulates among the guests, James Hoo begins arguing with his son, Doug, about the boy’s preoccupation with running. Grace Wexler criticizes Angela’s hair and tells her that she has made catering arrangements with Mrs. Hoo for her wedding shower Saturday. Close to tears because of her powerlessness in the face of her mother’s controlling nature, Angela retreats to the kitchen, where she runs into Crow. The dour woman is deeply sympathetic to Angela’s situation but cannot show it; deftly hiding her feelings, she wordlessly hands the unhappy girl a dishtowel so she can muffle her sobs and wipe away her tears.
The party is a gloomy affair, with players focused on surreptitiously getting information on the clues of others. Everyone goes home disappointed.
On the third snowbound day, Theo Theodorakis and Doug Hoo organize a meeting of the heirs at the coffee shop. Turtle awakens in her tiny room that morning to find that she is alone; no one is there to help her braid her hair. Furious, Turtle goes to her partner’s apartment, brush and comb in hand; to her surprise, she finds that Flora Baumbach makes excellent braids. The unhappy child tells Flora that her real name is Alice and that her mother does not think she is pretty. Flora gently responds that “all mothers think their children are beautiful.” She adds wistfully that she once had a child named Rosalie, who was “exceptional...the lovingest person that ever was.”
At the meeting, Theo suggests to the group that if they put their clues together, they will have a better chance of winning the inheritance, which could then be divided among everyone in equal shares. Sydelle protests, saying that she should get a larger share because she is the only one who thought of taking notes. Angered by her “self-congratulatory pose,” James Hoo slaps Sydelle’s missing shorthand pad on the counter; he claims to have found it on a table at his restaurant. His partner, Grace Wexler, who is familiar with shorthand, has examined the notes and declares them “pure jibberish.” The secretary fights back vehemently, retorting that she is “no fool.” Sydelle had known that none of them could be trusted, so she had written in Polish.
At the judge’s suggestion, the players write down questions they have for the others on pieces of paper. Doug Hoo facetiously inquires about Turtle’s real name, and Grace Wexler responds that it is Tabitha Ruth. Judge Ford asks if any of the players had actually met Sam Westing; James Hoo raises his hand and Grace Wexler is undecided. The judge does not answer her own question.
The meeting comes to an abrupt halt when there is an explosion in the kitchen; Catherine Theodorakis comes out covered with tomato sauce. Mr. Hoo insists that...
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it must have been a gas explosion, but Catherine reports having seen red and purple sparks flying all over the kitchen. George Theodorakis is convinced that it was a bomb. Later, while Sydelle Pulaski is translating her notes in her apartment with Angela, Turtle bursts in, demanding the newspaper that was taken from her room. When Angela returns the paper with an apology, Turtle reminds her sister that she has left her engagement ring on the kitchen sink again; Turtle senses that Angela does not want to get married to Denton Deere.
The newspaperman gives Judge J. J. Ford the information that George Theodorakis had once escorted Sam Westing’s daughter, Violet, to a party. The judge also knows that three other heirs have connections to Westing—herself; James Hoo the inventor; and Sandy McSouthers, who had been fired from his job at the paper mill. She decides to hire a private investigator to learn more about the others. When she looks in the yellow pages under Investigators, she is shocked to see a familiar name; another of the Westing heirs is not who he seems to be.