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Who dunnit? Mystery Weekenders to find out

Isabella Bertha “I.B.” Fuzz is on the trail of a murder. The shortest retired Texas Ranger can’t stop thinking about finding a body behind Langley’s Braeburn Restaurant.

She’s been knitting in her living room ever since.

I.B. has a few ideas “who dunnit.” Some shady characters have come back to town. A number of criminals from Langley’s past two decades are now making a living writing books about the murders they have been accused of committing. Celtic expert Tel Yibson and criminal lawyer J. Edgar Hooter are back, and confessed murderess Antoinette Beaverpelt is out of the hoosegow. Jackson Lumberpool, half-time show promoter for croquet and curling tournaments (demoted since a certain incident), has been in town looking for work.

But, despite the criminal influence, I.B. has plenty of operatives on the case hunting down clues.

A slew of suspicious characters are running rampant in Langley and a few good sleuths are needed for Langley Mystery Weekend Feb. 28 and 29. The amateur detectives will have to work fast, since Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley is scheduled to stop by that Sunday at 4 p.m. to drag away the criminal. Afterwards, the sheriff — who is also a mystery author, will hold a book signing. He could hardly help it, since this year’s mystery is all about “The Murders They Wrote”.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Langley Mystery Weekend began as an idea to bring people to sleepy South Whidbey in the winter.

While she admits Mystery Weekend could have been attempted in another town (and often is), Langley-South Whidbey Chamber of Commerce director Loretta Martin said a strong mix of writing and acting talent in the area has given Langley’s mysteries a boost.

“All the years have been crazy. We strive to make that part of the Langley Mystery Weekend allure,” she said.

Past murder plots have poisoned Dr. Ric Prael, allowed someone to kill while they were sleepwalking, and given way to duel confessions.

There was the year of the hanging Chad. Or, at least, the hanging of a guy running for cat catcher, who was named Chad.

For two years the Yukon Mafia ran amok with their run on animal skin trading. Chad got tied up with the Yukon Mafia after he decided he could sell the skins from the cats he caught.

Mystery Weekend has served up banana slug pate, vampires and werewolves running loose, and blubber-on-a-stick. Actually, it’s all a bit of a mystery.

“We want to be different from any other mystery out there,” Martin said.

In many ways it is. Langley’s mystery takes place in a real town, in real time over two days, which sometimes lends to fun confusion.

A couple of years ago, a car’s emergency brake went out, and after a short roll the car crashed into Langley Town Park.

“People thought it was part of the mystery, but we’re not that fanatical,” Martin said.

And crime scenes are now moved a little off the beaten path to divert confusion.

“We’ve had people call the police because they thought it was real,” Martin said.

Then there was the year Denise Whittaker died — or at least that’s what her fake obituary said.

“People called her mother and gave their condolences,” Martin said.

In year 20, there could be a double cross on the horizon. But don’t feel sorry for the person getting the fake axe.

“The person who is dead is chosen for a reason. They were evil and the world is better from it,” said this year’s Mystery Weekend co-author Mike Hill.

Sleuths of all ages will scour Langley for clues. A cast of colorful suspects will dodge their questions.

Active with Mystery Weekend for more years than she can count, Saranell DeChambeau, aka Isabella Bertha “I.B.” Fuzz, has been a regular attraction.

Merchants around town will help the sleuths and clue them in. Take notes wisely — red herrings will be flying through Langley.

Mike Hill moved to the island in 1999 and immediately fell into Mystery Weekend.

While working at Violet Fields, a downtown Langley shop he and his wife own, he soon realized people were coming in asking him for clues. He created a character of his own with a Rose Parade crew chief jacket, photos from the parade and a tall tale of seeing the deceased down in Pasadena.

“I got so carried away and could see how I could add clues of my own, but didn’t have a clue how this thing worked,” he said.

Needless to say, it soon got back to the chamber office that Hill was tossing out clues that didn’t seem to fit.

Moments after Martin scolded him for throwing red herrings, she recruited him as a writer for the next year’s Mystery Weekend. He’s been a member of the writing team since.

“There’s always ideas percolating in the back of my mind,” he said. “Even if we don’t use it doesn’t mean it’s tossed forever. You’ll probably see it in Mystery Weekends down the line.”

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