Under a full Halloween moon, Turtle, dressed in her witch costume, tentatively explores the blackness within the Westing mansion. According to Doug Hoo’s stopwatch, she lasts for eleven minutes before she exits the house, screaming. Summoned by a “throbbing whisper, ‘pur-ple...pur-ple,’” Turtle found the corpse of Samuel Westing lying in a four-poster bed on the second floor.
The next morning, Turtle sees a picture of the dead man on the front page of the newspaper under the headline “Sam Westing Found Dead.” Westing’s estate is estimated to be worth “over two hundred million dollars.” He is described as a “dedicated gamesman” who often played the part of Uncle Sam at the annual pageants he staged on the Fourth of July and who had a keen interest in fireworks, which he stored in his mansion and set off every year on his front lawn. The article goes on to describe the tragedies that marred Westing’s life. He was divorced from his wife, and his only daughter, Violet, drowned on the eve of her wedding. As a businessman, Westing was sued by a fellow inventor “over rights to the disposable paper diaper.” Sam Westing had not been seen in recent times. After being severely injured and reportedly disfigured in an automobile accident several years previously with his friend, Doctor Sidney Sikes, Sam Westing had “disappeared from sight.” It was rumored that he continued to control the vast Westing Corporation from a small island in the South Seas. Julian Eastman, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, expressed surprise and sadness upon learning of his death.
There is no mention of how or by whom the body was found. Only four people know Turtle had been in the house—Doug Hoo, Theo Theodorakis, Otis Amber, and Sandy McSouthers. The next day, Otis Amber delivers letters to sixteen residents of Sunset Towers, telling them they have been named beneficiaries of Sam Westing’s estate and summoning them to a reading of the will.
The body of Sam Westing lies in an open coffin in the library of the Westing house, where the will is to be read. Westing is dressed as the patriotic Uncle Sam; in his hands is Grace Wexler’s silver cross, which Turtle had been carrying and had dropped during her precipitous flight from the mansion the night before. The cleaning woman, Crow, is dressed in black as usual. She opens the door for Grace, Angela, and Turtle, who are the first to arrive; Jake Wexler has refused to come. Doctor Denton Deere, Angela’s fiancé, and Mrs. Flora Baumbach, the dressmaker, come in next. They are followed by Otis Amber, who bursts into the room with a flourish; Doug Hoo and his father, in contrast, enter silently. After Sandy, wearing his doorman’s suit, makes his appearance with a cheery greeting, Theo Theodorakis arrives, pushing his brother Chris in a wheelchair. The boys’ parents have not been invited. Chris’s body twists grotesquely. Denton Deere, trying to impress Angela, whispers his diagnosis: “pyramidal tract involvement.” Mortified by her betrothed’s pomposity, Angela picks up her purse and rushes from the room.
Grace Wexler, who is surprised by the motley assortment of guests, has already concluded that she is the only rightful heir, and condescendingly greets the next invitee, Judge J. J. Ford. When Angela returns to the room, Grace Wexler and Mr. Shin Hoo inform E. J. Plum, the bumbling young attorney who will be directing the proceedings, that their spouses will not be attending. Crow then comes in, “eyes lowered, without a word,” followed by the last expected heir, Sydelle Pulaski, who “totter[s]” in on a...
(This entire section contains 719 words.)
gaily painted, purple-and-white-striped crutch that matches her outfit; she is a ludicrous figure. To her delight, everyone is staring. Denton Deere is befuddled by the secretary’s fake limp but wants to further show off his medical expertise, so he offers a contrived diagnosis under his breath. Turtle regards the undulating stripes on woman’s dress and idly recalls Otis and Sandy’s Halloween story and the words of the traumatized prankster in the asylum: “purple waves.” With much ado, Sydelle finally plops herself into a chair, takes out a shorthand pad and a pencil, and imperiously tells Mr. E. J. Plum that he may now begin.