Dark clouds roll

Chatterbox: Pudding's Place

Dark clouds roll

Dark clouds roll across the sky as you run a finger down the spine of a new journal. It's just perfect for you: leather cover, nice old paper smell, and simple lined papers begging to be filled with enticing new mysteries. The overcast sky and your own excitement almost make you miss the sleek envelope tucked into the front cover. You pick it up, noticing the lack of a stamp or return address. You know you shouldn't open such a suspicious letter, but you find yourself openeing the flap anyways, careful not to break the fancy scarlet seal. You carefully remove a heavy piece of paper and read the cursive print:

Dear Chatterboxers,

I know of your love for mysteries and investigations. You all hold promise of growing into great detectives, and I would like to help you on your journey to becoming one, being an experienced investigator myself. Please come to The Alston House on June 19th for an immersive experience that will improve your skills and give you a taste for what it's like to be a true detective. It will be a short trip, and all necessities will be provided. Only ten of you will be accepted, so please reply quickly.

Hoping to see you there,

Dr. Ellis Verin (they/xe)

Assistant Andrew Spencer (he/him)

P.S. the popcorn will not be free because no popcorn will be provided.


This will be a short ski lodge, taking place over just one day, with ten guests (no AEs or CAPTCHAs allowed!). No form, just reply with your name / nickname, pronouns, and a short description of your personality.

I will be leaving for a trip tomorrow and I won't be back for a week. I'm hoping all spots will be filled by then. If you join after ten people have already joined, you won't be included. 

submitted by Dr. Ellis V
(June 11, 2022 - 7:36 am)

Aww no, I was hoping to join, but I had to do something that took more time than expected. Do you think I could join late maybe?

submitted by Midnight Phantom, age sad., Aww shoot
(June 12, 2022 - 2:43 pm)

jaybells!!!!! oh my gosh hi, it's so good to read you!!! yeah -- i expect i'll only be back in this thread but i can only really get my ski lodge fix here on the CB :)

submitted by Bakerlooo, age 18, here
(June 12, 2022 - 7:37 pm)


submitted by Bakerloo, age 18, here
(June 13, 2022 - 8:11 pm)

de de deee dum da dee dum da dee

submitted by Bakerloo, age 18, here
(June 15, 2022 - 2:03 pm)

Hey, you're one of the OG CBers, right? That's cool. I like your CB name. 

submitted by Periwinkle, age Pi, Somewhere in the stars
(June 15, 2022 - 2:51 pm)

@Midnight Phantom, I'm so sorry, but I can't make room for another person.

Thank you for your patience! I'll get the first part out as soon as I can- today or tomorrow with any luck. 

submitted by Dr. Ellis Verin
(June 20, 2022 - 2:24 pm)
submitted by Top Hat, age Toppinton, Top o’ the morning
(June 20, 2022 - 8:56 pm)

Ellis Verin stood in front of the fire blazing in the grand fireplace. The Alston House was fit for a grand period drama story, with sweeping velvet staircases, bookshelves that nested together like friends huddled to whisper secrets and reached the ceilings, and vast open rooms with chandeliers and expensive furniture to boot.

Yes, it was perfect for the Chatterboxers. Ellis could imagine the story now, seeing it unfold...


Andrew Spencer drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the limo. He didn't regret applying to be Dr. Verin's assistant, but he wasn't exactly thrilled to chauffeur ten teens for an unknown amount of time before his real job began. No matter; these kids had responded to a call to become a fabulous detective. They'd probably be fine.

Darkling was the first to be picked up. They forgot to put on a seatbelt and promptly started rolling the window up and down. This was not appreciated by Morning when she arrived, but she was too uncomfortable to say anything. Things got better when Peri arrived and started a conversation about musicals. By the time the last person (Tealeaf) was picked up, the CBers had developed one group that was singing various Hamilton lyrics and another that was discussing the relationship between nihilism and toast.

Andrew (and admittedly a few of the CBers) were grateful when the limo pulled up to a long, tree-lined road that lead to a secluded brick mansion with a wide porch, wilting flower boxes and ivy snaking up the sides. The inside was much better maintained, though no less mysterious. The CBers rushed inside and started looking around the main area. Tsuki wondered if the wax fruit was real while Bakerloo speculated about when the mansion was built based on its architecture, though he wasn't very knowledgeable about such things. It was long before they were all impatient, wondering when Ellis would appear.

Just as Nerd was about to ask Andrew what the holdup was, a door creaked open on the second floor. A person with olive skin, square glasses, and unruly chin-length black hair emerged and walked soundlessly towards the balcony that rested between two sweeping staircases. 

Ellis Verin wore a black blazer and a smirk, and xe was excited to begin.

submitted by Part one
(June 22, 2022 - 10:06 am)

Sabrina was bored from the spiel, and so were most of the CBers, but Ellis and Andrew were interesting. Andrew looked an average white guy- brown hair, tall, could easily be a car salesman. His unassuming nature was a bit suspicious to her, but she trusted Ellis's judgement- surely a detective such as xem wouldn't hire a lunatic or twist-villain type. And Ellis themself was very interesting. They spoke calmly, but their smirk and restlessness spoke to some kind of chaotic energy lying just beneath the surface.

Ellis had welcomed everyone to the mansion, introduced everyone to Andrew and themself, and gone over fairly basic rules- no harming each other, respect the Alston House and everything in it, and do as instructed in terms of the investigation.

Everyone payed closer attention when Ellis mentioned their task, perhaps even Ellis themself. "I have a job for you," Ellis declared. "The Alston House might be beautiful, but there's more to it than it seems. You'll be split up to do different tasks in different parts of the mansion, and you'll all gain different information. Then you'll come back to this room to put your information together and present it to me. Sound good?"

Tealeaf looked around at her fellow CBers, trying not to burst with excitement. Ellis had been very vague- the possibilities of the mystery they were to solve were endless! She tried to focus on the final details of Ellis's explanation.

"Andrew will call you into the library one by one to receive important information, items you will need, and a map of the mansion. But be careful! One of you will be the Murderer- I mean, not really a murderer. But their task will be to sabotage other people and prevent them from getting all the information they need. A good detective needs to be accurate and alert! You'll have to be both to succeed. The rest of you can ask me questions while you wait. Make sense?"

Everyone nodded. Ellis grinned. "Good. When Andrew calls your name, follow him and he'll explain what your job will be and what items you're receiving."

"First up, I have Darkling," Andrew announced. They walked towards Andrew while everyone else awkwardly settled in velvet couches around the grand fireplace Ellis stood before. They folded their hands behind their back. "So, what would you like to know?"


The more questions Ellis answered, the more Leo was amused by them. They still seemed a bit mysterious, but in the same way that Willy Wonka is mysterious. He considered asking Ellis where xe got xer blazer, but instead decided to just watch the scene unfold.

"Is this investigation about the Alston House we're going on true?" Morning asked.

"About 91% true, I'd say," Ellis replied. "I tweaked the story a bit for dramatic effect."

Darkling slouched low in their seat. They wanted to ask bizarre questions just to see how Ellis would respond, but they weren't in the mood anymore. They had so hoped to be the murderer- messing everyone else up and having an excuse to be absolutely crazy? That sounded like the perfect opportunity for them. But, nope.

"Will there be any reward for solving the mystery?" Tsuki asked.

"Only the experience. And bragging rights, I suppose."

"What kind of experience is the Murderer getting from this?" inquired Darkvine.

"They get to know what people are doing wrong, what common weaknesses might be. Basically, they get to know what not to do, which is super important to know what to do."

Darkvine didn't follow that answer at all and decided to go back to drawing dragons.

Once the last person had received their items and instructions, Ellis gave everyone a moment to look at their maps of the Alston House they had been provided. "Ready?" they asked. All ten CBers were. "Excellent. Let the fun begin."


Ellis and Andrew watched the ten guests disperse. "How do you think they'll do?" Andrew asked.

"Oh, I know they'll do just fine," Ellis said serenely.

Both of them were lost in thought. Thinking about the guests, and what would inevitably happen that night. Thinking about their own secrets and plans.

Thinking they had the upper hand over the other. But the night was young, and it held so very many secrets.

submitted by part two
(June 26, 2022 - 4:54 pm)

oh my goodness that is so accurate... I would DEFINITELY just go back to my dragons when murder was being discussed...

submitted by Darkvine
(June 27, 2022 - 8:39 am)

Brilliant job so far! I like how the murderer isn't a literal murderer, a refreshing change-up. I wasn't surprised I wasn't chosen as the saboteur, I usually join ski lodges not with expectations but with the joy of being along for the always-exciting and often intriguing ride! You seem to know all of us CBers quite well, too, which makes the already-great writing even better. I'm looking forward to reading more!

submitted by Darkling , The Umbrella Academy
(June 26, 2022 - 11:39 pm)

Nerd, Tealeaf and Peri chatted quietly as they walked down a hallway upstairs, trying to be urgent but getting distracted by the impressive mansion.

Nerd poked a suit of armor while Tealeaf sighed. "I really hope we don't learn about some twisted, tragic thing that happened here," she said. Nerd moved away from the armor.

"Maybe it won't be a murder-y mystery," Peri suggested, trying to keep spirits up.

There would be murder involved that night. It was a nice try, though.

They walked along for a few more minutes before Tealeaf stopped them. They heard footsteps running towards them and panicked momentarily before realizing it was just Andrew- though with an expression like the one he had, it didn't look like he came with good news.

"What happened?" Peri asked.

"Ellis is gone," Andrew replied. 

"Gone like dead, or gone like disappeared?" Nerd wondered.

"Like disappeared! Good lord, they're not dead."

"Well then, we have to look for them!" Tealeaf said.

"You're already on the right track," Andrew told them. "This mystery you're already trying to solve... well, I'm certain it could tell you why Ellis is gone. Just go on with the investigation- quickly- and you'll be able to find Ellis. Trust me. I have to go spread the word. Good luck!"

The three watched, confused, as Andrew ran down the hall.

"This stuff will lead us to Ellis? That sounds suspicious. And a little too convenient," Nerd speculated.

"Why would Ellis give us this mystery to solve if it put them in danger?" Tealeaf questioned.

"We can't know the answers until we solve the mystery," Peri pointed out. "This is the only way we have to help Ellis."

The three of them looked at each other. What else could they do? They split up to solve their portion of the mystery.


Andrew wandered the halls, having told everyone the news. He hoped it hadn't sounded as stupid as he felt saying it. But that wasn't important. Ellis's business was their own; he had to be sure his plans were coming along nicely.

In another part of the mansion, Leo and Bakey decided to work together on their portions of the mystery to get done quicker and avoid the Murderer. They arrived at the spot marked on Leo's map- a small sitting room- and started looking around. Bakey quickly found a scrap of paper in a drawer, along with an old photograph. The photo was black-and-white and showed what appeared to be a husband and wife. The scrap of paper had a bunch of seemingly random numbers on it.

"Could be the code for a safe," Leo suggested. 

Bakey looked at the bookshelf on the wall next to him. Could it really be that easy? He touched the set of books in the middle of the shelf to discover they were fakes. Removing them revealed a safe. "Well, that's suspiciously simple," he said. 

The two entered the numbers from the paper, and the safe opened up. All that was inside was an envelope. The paper within read: "Aaron and Olivia Alston were married on May 16th, 1884, despite Olivia's family being against their engagement. Luckily, Aaron had a mind for science and earned a fortune for his contributions to the biology field. They were able to live in comfort." A message at the bottom of the page told them that this portion of the mystery was completed and they could report back to the main area.

"Well, that was underwhelming," Leo said.

"There's got to be more to the mystery as a whole. Ellis doesn't strike me as someone to make an elaborate investigation boring," Bakerloo reasoned.

"Yeah, that's a good point," Leo agreed. "I bet we'll find out something weird about Aaron. I don't like the sound of the 'contributions to the biology field' he got rich off of."

The two left to find Bakerloo's assigned spot, and on their way, encountered Tsuki in a hallway. She looked completely terrified.

"You okay?" Leo asked apprehensively.

"No!" Tsuki replied. "Tealeaf's dead!"

submitted by part three, Top
(July 4, 2022 - 11:36 am)
submitted by Top!
(July 4, 2022 - 11:37 am)
submitted by Top!, Top
(July 4, 2022 - 11:38 am)
submitted by Top!, Top
(July 5, 2022 - 1:18 pm)