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It was fast food and murder

Tamara Merrill, left, takes a crack at Candy Cavanaugh
Tamara Merrill, left, takes a crack at Candy Cavanaugh's riding crop in Langley Saturday while young Mystery Weekend junkies Leslie Coomber and Rachel Tibon, at right, wait for Cavanaugh to sign their character autograph book.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Without a large body of evidence from which to work -- or even a body for that matter -- about 40 people still fingered a killer in Langley last weekend without the help of a single trained detective.

With fast food on the menu and a brand-new chef's knife bloodied in defense of haute cuisine, Langley's 18th Mystery Weekend made about 1,300 people feel like Hercule Poirot for a day or two on Saturday and Sunday. On the trail of a fictional murderer who couldn't stand the thought of a fast-food stew restaurant coming to Langley in the fictional plot, the best detectives in town decided all clues led to Freida Frenchy Frey, a character played by Joanne Lechner.

Frey reportedly did the deed because she could not stand the thought of having a fast food restaurant in Langley.

As always, it was not the solution but the job of getting there that brought out a Mystery Weekend crowd made up of people from all over the West Coast. Tamara Merrill, a Morgan Hill, Calif., resident, said she and seven friends have been traveling to the event for six years. In that time, two members of the group have successfully ferreted out the killer. Merrill almost did last year, until her friends convinced her she had the wrong perpetrator.

"Last year I was right and they talked me out of it," she said.

The event sucked in mystery lovers of all ages. Decked out in trench coats and armed with the aliases Jane Bond and Nancy Drew, Langley Middle School students Leslie Coomber and Rachel Tribon already had their quarry in their sights by early Saturday morning. They pointed the bloody finger of blame at Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman, who was again playing himself this year.

"We think he may be part werewolf," Coomber said.

Sponsored by the Langley-South Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, Mystery Weekend brings more than 1,000 people to the city every year to be part of the annual murder mystery and to generate some late-winter business for local merchants and lodgers. Loretta Martin, the chamber's director, said the turnout Saturday was excellent, in spite of the cloudy skies. Sunday's attendance, which brought only 287 new players to the event, was thinner than usual.

"I think it had something to do with the Olympics," she said.

Randomly chosen prize winners who solved the mystery were Susanne Mayer of Oak Harbor, Linda St. John of Renton, and 12-year old Ivy Ostenberg of Seattle. All three received weekend recreation and lodging packages from local merchants and bed and breakfast owners.

Martin said the weekend was a success both in terms of mystery fun and commerce. She said more people participating in Mystery Weekend stayed overnight on South Whidbey than in past years. The overall number of participants was about the same as in 2001.

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