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Langley Mystery Weekend is the cat's meow

"Mystery Weekend's high priest Basta Ra, John Ball (left) calls upon ethereal powers to find a killer. Helping him in his inquiry are Rufus Ratskiller (kneeling), Mayor Lloyd Furman, Petunia Bush, and Claudia Chicken Little Catswell.Matt Johnson, staff photoLangley Mystery WeekendMuch Ado about KittiesSaturday and Sunday, Feb. 23-24, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., downtown LangleyProduced by the Langley South Whidbey Chamber of CommerceInformation: 360-221-5676Accommodations Line: 360-321-6765When Mike Hill and his wife moved to Whidbey Island last year from California, they got here just in time to witness the wackiness known as Langley Mystery Weekend.We just thought it was great that the whole town plays 'Clue,' said Hill, who became the new owner of the Langley shop Violet Fields.So great, in fact, that this year he's helping write the mystery. His co-writers are Saranell DeChambeau, a longtime Whidbey resident who has taken part as an actor in the two-day interactive mystery play for many years, and Langley Chamber of Commerce director Loretta Martin.I'm sort of acting as transcriber and polisher, Martin said. I guess you'd call me the recording and organizing secretary to the group of three.Actually, when the whodunit is completed just prior to this weekend's event, Martin will be the only one who knows who did it.The fun thing about writing this is that Loretta is going to choose who the actual murderer is, Hill said. We're not going to know. She doesn't want any of us to spill the beans or lean toward one character too much as we're writing clues, so that gives us a reason to make sure all the characters have equally strong motives.Participants in Langley Mystery Weekend, now in its 17th year and with the title Much Ado About Kitties, pay $1 each for a packet that contains a mystery newspaper, a solution ballot and a map denoting the scene of the crime and the location of clues in shops throughout town. Players who guess the murderer (and correctly mark the ballot) are eligible to win in the Sunday afternoon prize drawing.And what a collection of characters they'll have to choose from. The premise of the mystery is that the town of Langley is about to select a candidate for Cat Catcher -- a position which, noted Hill, is one step below dog catcher -- when one candidate is killed behind the local museum on election night. It was just after the November elections, Hill said of the initial brainstorming session for the mystery, and we were trying to tie the mystery in to current events. We just decided to have some sort of election, so it's a nonsensical election.After that everything just sort of clicked, he said. The actors are helping out with ideas to flesh out their characters. They are all excited about it, which makes my job that much easier, Hill said.Inspired as they were by the Presidential balloting confusion in Florida, the writers named the deceased cat-catcher candidate Chad. He was running on a platform that detailed a three strikes penalty for cats who were caught roaming the streets too often. His wife, Dimples, is one of the suspects.We're trying to do a lot of plays on words with the characters, both phonetically and written, Hill said. Another suspect, for example, is Chad's opponent, Kitty Kitsap, who was running on a pro-cat platform. Yet another possible murderer is Lief, the president of the local garden guild, even though he would seem to have an alibi; he was actually a Chad proponent, because he's tired of the community's gardens always being used as impromptu kitty litter boxes.Those are just a few of the characters in the twisted and humorous plot.The story becomes very involved, and everyone has a reason why they want to kill Chad, said Hill.How involved? Well, at one point during the mystery it's revealed that Chad's ulterior motive for the harsh cat laws he wanted to impose was his connection to the Yukon mafia, a group known for its illegal trade in cat pelts.Calm down, cat lovers, it's only a mystery play, one whose plot will evolve right up until the actual Mystery Weekend.Hill said the number of Langley stores and shops participating as clue repositories for the scavenger-hunt sleuthing will determine the number of clues -- likely be between 30 and 40.The clues will all lead in different directions. Some of them will be false, said the writer. Once the participants get all of the clues and lay them out, they lead in a certain direction, so there should be a path that they can follow. "

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