EDITING ENDS HERE!!!! PLEASE DO NOT READ ON!
. . .
Twenty-three minutes had passed since Widow Percival’s sudden sickness. The commotion in the house had finally begun to lessen. Widow Percival was laid in bed and given medication. Miss Harris stayed by her side hoping her aunt would awaken. Dr. Redden said Widow Percival had passed out during her ordeal but would be fine. Everyone was worried and gossiping about what had happened.
The female servant having been delayed in helping get Widow Percival and Miss Harris comfortable left to check on the dessert. As she neared the kitchen, she found herself smelling something burning. She rushed into the kitchen surprised to see smoke coming out of the oven filling the small room. She coughed removing a pair of oven mitts from the table.
“Oh no,” she cried, “the apple crumble is burning.” The girl quickly opened the oven and while holding her breath removed the charred pastry. Turning on the facet she filled a small jug of water gently pouring it over the food. She rubbed her eyes stepping backwards towards the counter. The girl then opened a window to let the smoke and smell escape. “What to do now?” She looked around. “Where is that old woman? How could she let this burn? What will I tell the guests?” The girl sighed. “I guess I will have to make something quick. Where are those peaches?” Stepping over to the pantry, the girl tied an apron around her waist. She reached for the pantry door and opened it. A pair of bare feet shone brightly in the light. The toes pointed upwards, straight and still. The girl screamed as she recognized the face. The old maid lay there dead.
. . .
“Miss Chesterfield!” yelled Mr. Melrose as he exited the mansion heading towards the gardens. “Miss Chesterfield,” he called again. No answer. “Now where has that woman gone off too?” Mr. Melrose scratched his head. “Miss Chesterfield answer me.”Mr. Melrose approached the garden gate. “Miss Chesterfield,” he called. “Hello? Miss Chesterfield?”
From a distance Mr. Melrose noticed a bright red plumage sticking up over a small squared bush. He hurried over. “Miss Chesterfield, you need to return to the mansion.” No answer. “Hello? It is rude to not answer.” He stepped nearer. “Are you asleep?” Still no answer. “Miss Chesterfield?” Mr. Melrose rounded the bush.
The sight that he saw threw him backwards. “Oh my God,” he said clutching a tree. “Oh my God.” Mr. Melrose almost vomited. He tried to avoid looking at Miss Chesterfield, but the look on her face was too terrifying to turn away. Gathering his legs, he rushed back to the mansion crying, “Help! Miss Chesterfield has been murdered!”
Beyond the bushes staring wide-eyed into the sky, Miss Chesterfield did not move. She sat there in the breeze with her mouth wide open as if in a silent scream with birds pecking at her tongue. A broken teacup scattered the ground by her feet, and on the mossy bench Miss Chesterfield had etched in four letters with her fingernails. R O S E
. . .
“What in God’s name is going on?” demanded Goodwill as Mr. Melrose rushed into the house yelling, “Murder, murder! Miss Chesterfield has been murdered!” It had only been less than a minute after a female servant had screamed about the dead Margaret. The looks on all the faces in the room went tense with fear and confusion.
Rouge turned to a male servant. “Sir, I need to you gather the other servants and come with me.” Rouge then went to Goodwill. “Constable.”
“Go with Mr. Melrose to the garden and keep everyone else away until I arrive.”
“Yes, Rouge. Lead, Mr. Melrose.”
“This way, Constable.” The two men left. Miss Harris came running down the stairs.
“What is going on?” she cried. “Why is there so much yelling and screaming?”
“Go back upstairs, Miss Harris,” said Mrs. Norris, “you will be safe there.” Mrs. Norris followed Miss Harris up to Widow Percival’s room.
“What do you mean?” Miss Harris’s voice faded as she reached the top of the stairs. The small dog whimpered in her arms.
The room became silent. Everyone looked at one another clenching their teeth. Madame Scarlette scooted closer to Mr. Lancer, who poured himself another glass of whiskey. Mr. Norris broke the silence. “Inspector Rouge, what do we do now? There is a murderer among us.”
“Indeed there is. Come with me, Mr. Norris, and help me investigate the body of Maid Margaret.”
“What about Miss Chesterfield?”
“The dead can wait their turn. Come, come.”
Rouge, followed by a curious Mr. Norris, and a few servants carrying bed sheets walked to the kitchen. The smell of burnt pastry masked the smell of death. Appearing before the opened pantry door, two bare feet glowed in the light. Rouge called for a lamp, lit it, and placed it on the shelf inside. The maidservant’s opened eyes glistened as bright circles. Rouge stepped over the maid’s body. He crouched down brushing Margaret’s course hair off the floor. Blood was puddled underneath. Mr. Norris covered his mouth and turned his head as Rouge observed Margaret’s bloody skull.
“Severe wound to the back of the head. No signs of a struggle. Elongated blood streaks show her body was dragged.”
“There is a little bit of blood over here, inspector!” cried one of the male servants pointing at a teapot on the far counter.
“Murdered while she prepared tea and deserts.”
“What killed her?” asked another servant.
Rouge smelled Margaret’s wet sticky hair. It smelled of peaches. Rouge looked around the pantry. A broken jar lay on the floor; all the peaches had been eaten earlier. “She was bludgeoned by a jar of peaches. Then dragged to the pantry.”
“Absolutely revolting!” cried Mr. Norris. “Why would someone want to kill poor old Margaret? She never hurt anyone.”
“Ever action has a consequence, even the good actions. Someone wanted her dead.” Rouge closed Margaret’s eyes and spoke to the servants. “Take her out carefully. Treat her with respect.” Rouge then looked at Mr. Norris. “Go with them and phone the local police. Tell them we have a situation and to stay on standby if we need them.”
“Right away, Inspector.” Mr. Norris frowned looking at the body. “Poor old Margaret,” he said, “she did not deserve this fate. May God have mercy on us?”
The servants covered Margaret’s body and quietly removed her from the house. Watching from out of the kitchen window, Rouge spotted Mr. Norris returning with Mr. Melrose. Both men looked very distressed. Rouge having the urge to listen in on their conversation hid in the pantry’s darkness. The two men entered the kitchen.
“This is horrible,” said Mr. Melrose. “First Henry, then Margaret, and now Miss. Chesterfield. Whoever could be next?”
“I am not taking any chances. I plan to get my wife and leave town.” Mr. Norris rubbed his sweaty forehead. “I am starting to think Widow Percival was supposed to die as well.”
“My thoughts exactly. Someone must have put something in her tonic.”
Mr. Norris leaned against the kitchen counter lighting a cigar. “Who gave her the tonic?”
“Her niece, Miss Harris of course, but I remember Dr. Redden giving Miss Harris the bottle the other day from Henry’s stash in the medicine cabinet.”
“Dr. Redden is not one to hurt old women. He was also the one who administered the drug that saved Widow Percival.”
“That is true.” Mr. Melrose searched the cabinets for a glass. “Speaking of Dr. Redden, have you noticed the act he has been playing? He wants us to believe he loved and respected his brother. Such hogwash. The two men never got along. Ah, here is a glass.” He lifted two glasses out of the cupboard. “Would you like some brandy?”
“No, thank you,” answered Mr. Norris.
Mr. Melrose returned one glass began pouring brandy into the other glass. “Did you notice how Mr. Lancer was the only one who did not react surprised to Widow Percival’s ailment?”
“Yes, I did. That man always worries me. He has no emotion unless when he plays the piano.” Mr. Norris rubbed his head. “Why do you think someone want to murder Margaret? I can understand Miss Chesterfield but why kill the old woman?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, your wife did fetch water for Widow Percival when she went down. She was in the kitchen and could have easily murdered Margaret.”
Mr. Norris did not look happy. “That is my wife you are accusing. She would never hurt anyone.”
“Alright, sorry. I did not know you were so sensitive.” Mr. Melrose tapped his fingers on the countertop. “What about that suspicious detective? He keeps asking about the rape of Eva Harrow.”
“We should all be to blame for that incident. A bribed jury caused a guilty Henry Redden to slip free. We should have never given the man the upper hand. I remember Mr. Lancer was the lawyer for Miss Harrow and in the audience it was me, you, Miss Chesterfield, my wife, Widow Percival, and Dr. Redden. We bribed the judge and the jury as well as the witnesses to give false testimony and save Henry. Such corruption.” Mr. Norris puffed out a plume of smoke.
“How were we supposed to know that nineteen years later it may be connected to as series of murders?”
“If that is the case, then we are all in danger. So far the ghost of Eva Harrow has claimed two of her tormenter’s lives and one failed attempt.”
Mr. Melrose swallowed the rest of his drink. “We cannot tell the inspector or the constable. Both would see to it that we go to jail for what we have done. We have all kept this a secret even Miss Chesterfield took it to her grave, and that means something.”
“How many more people are going to die before we too keep this secret to our graves?”
Mr. Melrose grabbed hold of Mr. Norris’s tie. The man’s arms rose in defense. Mr. Melrose looked around; spying no one he continued. “No one, absolutely no one is to know, understood, or by God, I will kill you myself. I will lose everything, my job, my reputation, if word gets out”
“Understood,” stuttered Mr. Norris.
“Good.” Mr. Melrose let go turning to fill another glass. Rouge crept to the secret passage within the pantry. He figured he had heard enough and it was time to check on Goodwill at Miss Chesterfield’s body. He closed the secret door behind him.
. . .