Flash: In the Dining Room with the Knife (D is for Dining Room)

D is for Dining Room

Plum, Green, and I decided on a civilized game of billiards before dinner. I would be leaving Green and Plum to it at some point, needing to change. The Reverend and the Professor never changed for Lord Boddy’s formal dinners, but my wife would have my head if I did not put on a proper appearance before one of her fellow nobles. I had married above my station, and Lady Mary never let me forget my place in the world.

I opened the door to the room, shoving the heavy door on my way in, talking over my shoulder to Green when the door hit something. Looking down, I discovered Lord Boddy on the floor, his face nearly unrecognizable, the lead pipe beside his body covered in blood.

I froze. As did Green.

I’m ashamed to say Plum reacted first, pushing past the two of us, checking for a pulse. Holding my breath, I waited for the determination. A few seconds pass before Plum announced, “He’s dead.”

Lord Boddy hosted our periodic get-togethers, this one our fifth or sixth since the group of us saved the world. He had been cut from a similar cloth to my wife, and they got on far better than I would like, a fact I have brought up in the past when he dropped by unannounced in our London quarters. Of our original group of eight, only six have survived the three decades between our secretly heroic actions and today, myself, Reverend Green, Professor Plum, Odessa, Prince Azure, and Lord Boddy. I guess I should say only five survived to today. Remy’s assassination shortly after her election to Parliament had shocked us, but Mr. Violet’s heart attack brought us together again when Lord Boddy had his first house party after the funeral. Now this.

Shock, grief. Before.

This one made me angry.

Beating an old man, the oldest among us, to death in his own home.

Had to have been one of the servants. I charged off to find them.

The Library and Study were empty, but the Lounge held Plum’s daughter and the housekeeper playing checkers. The innocent simplicity after the brutal death of an old acquaintance made my blood boil. “Mrs. White, I’m surprised to find you here.”

The twenty-something maid quickly responded, barely looking up from the game she was clearly losing, her black pieces few among the towering red kinged pieces held by Samantha, “Whatever for, sir? Dinner is not needing plating for another hour and the young miss needed a distraction after changing from her horseback lessons with Mr. Green.”

Like one cares about meals or entertaining spoiled children when murderers are running rampant! Murderers of honest men. Likely the very person in front of me, or she is in collusion with the killer.

Finally, the servant raised her eyes from the board with a sigh. “What do you be needing me to do, sir?”

A growl in the back of my throat before I take a few more steps into the lounge, “I need you to–”

I hold back a jump when I feel a hand upon my shoulder, fighting the instinct to grab the hand and flip the person over onto the thick green carpet. Behind me, Plum spoke in his constant steady voice. “Now, Martin. Caution is warranted.”

He always went on about caution and thinking things through, and, damn it, the man was right far more often than wrong. “But Plum, we must–”

“Wait on the arrival of the police.” The crypto specialist hardened his voice. I knew better than assume his Professor persona left him unwilling to act. While Green, before he found religion, and myself were considered the “thugs” of our band of patriots, the brains of the group racked up a far higher body count. When Plum’s voice drops into his death mode, I always still. I may be the bull – but one can outrun a bull. Plum just adds a checkbox on his to-do list and follows up at a later date. “Detective Silver is in route as we speak.”

Police and procedures, bah. I’m certain I could find the killer within the hour if I acted now.

“Police?” Maid’s voice squeaked. “Now why would be needing them, and a detective at that.”

Plum broke eye contact with me, after he sent enough ice through them to freeze me in place. He thought he had things under control. Dropping a film over the violet, violent windows into his shadowed soul, the Professor turned to the girls. “There has been an accident.”

Shaking off the chill of death, I couldn’t help a black laugh and added, “If running face first into a lead pipe several times in the billiard room could be an accident.”

Predictably, the women screeched. The housekeeper fluttering her hands around and Samantha, Plum’s daughter by an American he met while teaching abroad, shrunk in her chair. The professor pushed past me, deliberately bumping into my chest, and crossed to the women. Kneeling before them, he reassured them, “I’m sure Marty,” he stopped a second making certain I knew he used that hated nickname deliberately, “didn’t mean to startle you. Mrs. White, please go and help Monsieur Brunette finish the meal preparations. Detective Silver will be here with Officer Peach in about an hour. We should eat before they get here, otherwise we will be very hungry by the time they finish with all our statements.”

“But, sir, a murder, a body, how can we possibly eat, how can I–”

I didn’t have time to listen to this drivel. I left, walking to the great hall with its silk wallpaper decorated with little yellow flowers. Pulling back a fist, I punched it as hard as I dared. The delicate wallpaper covered very solid walls, and I’ve broken my hand before punching what I thought was plasterboard and ended up being a stud.

Boddy was dead. I pounded a fist against the wall again. Sure, he had been a pretentious prick, but he also risk life, limb, and title saving the world. He provided the lodgings we needed; him and Azure, not yet a Prince, quietly provided millions of pounds worth of equipment. And he died here, under my watch, no one the wiser.

I quick-marched to the billiards room. Why had no one heard anything? Beating a person to death with a bludgeoning weapon was noisy.

I should know.

Nodding at Green who stood outside the billiard room, I moved to open the heavy door.

“No.” The Reverend stepped in front of me. “Peter said no one in or out until the police get here.”

“Bugger.” I muttered under my breath. The man was always a step ahead of everyone but Odessa, and I knew he was right. But why hadn’t we heard anything. “I just wanted to check something.”

“What?” Green’s fiery emerald eyes bore into mine with his hollow fanaticism and loyalty.

I considered. While Plum would never murder someone by beating them to death, Green just might. His collar and divine call could be a ruse to cover his ruthlessness. All of us still had bounties on us of one sort or another. Mine, Odessa, and Orchid required us alive and delivered to our opposite numbers in our stalled game of world domination. While violence was just another tool in the box for Plum and Odessa, Green and myself enjoyed it, in some cases a bit too much for polite society. Could Green be tired of being a man of peace?

“Why did we not hear the screams? Was Boddy’s throat cut or crushed first?”

Green shook his head. “The Billiard Room has special paneling so the sound doesn’t carry when people are playing. The sound proofing likely kept us from hearing anything.” Green put a hand on my arm. “Brother, while the beating looks horrific, it was likely quick. At least he didn’t suffer.”

I shake off the hand and make for the stairs, passing the conservatory where my wife, Azure, Odessa, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. Green, and Sir Black were enjoying their daily pre-dinner wines. Mrs. Peacock seemed to have recovered from yesterday’s blow up with the terrible teens, or at least medicated herself to my wife’s normal levels and didn’t care anymore. I inform Mary I am changing for dinner and went to our rooms.

As normal, putting on my uniform recentered me and my purpose. When Wadsworth came by to announce dinner I was ready to face the meal and the inquisition to follow. I know we will find the killer among us and the staff. My bet was Lavy Lavender, the gardener. He doted on Madame Rose, Boddy’s sister, and hated the Lord, deliberately bringing in flowers that set off Boddy’s allergies for every meal’s centerpiece.

Be interesting to see if anyone is missing during the meal.

I give my jacket one final jerk into place before leaving the room. My thoughts drift uncomfortably to Odessa. Like Plum, she was a killer, and unlike him she loved violence and action as much as me until she met Black and underwent a weird transformation to a giggly girl dressed in pink. Some days I miss the old Dr. Orchid … and our affair. Carefully gathering up the thought, I locked it firmly into its closet in the backmost part of my mind.

Instead, I consider my circle and the circle beyond for the possible murderer among us killers while I made my way to the dining room.

Plum was out. And his Mrs. Peacock useless. Maybe Green. I kept him high on my list, though his wife and son were deterrents against returning to his old ways, the habits that had me pull him and his pal Violet out of their cells and use them for our needs. Azure was never alone enough, all of us grabbing every second we could with him before he took over his father’s position as head of his home country. The coronation was already scheduled. No, Azure wouldn’t do anything to risk that.

Odessa. I shake my head. Beating someone? Not likely. Whipping sure, or torture, but poison was her method of choice when death was involved, just like Plum.

Then there are the servants. The housekeeper, beating isn’t a woman thing and she didn’t have the upper arm strength. Wadsworth, Lavender, and Brunette were with us thirty years ago. If they were going to act, they would have before now.

My wife? I laugh aloud. That slush could only lift a bottle, not a lead pipe. Pity the house and everything were in her name. I like my comforts too much for a divorce, and she was polite enough to look the other way about my indiscretions. At least in public.

That left Sir Black, Odessa’s husband, and Madame Rose in the house. Madame Rose wouldn’t do anything, content with her crystals and herbs, and Black got his knighthood for poetry.

So Green.

I felt naked without my blade. If I have to go against him, the fight cannot be fair. He had lost weight, saying the pulpit required the ability to give marathon sermons and so he worked out regularly. I, on the other hand, have gained everything he had lost and then some. Hunting was my primary exercise outside of pushing pens, and since I wasn’t able to leave the country because of the codes and secrets in my head, my big game treks around the world had been denied me for a quarter century.

Do I confront him at dinner, or should I run my thinking past Plum first? My lip curls at the thought of asking Plum for anything. He was allowed out of the country, even though he create the codes I memorized. People don’t pay attention to the bookish sorts, more the fools them.

Arriving in the dining room I find it in chaos. The housekeeper has dropped the soup course on the floor. Mrs. Peacock was having hysterics, and my wife, far too early in the evening, was already passed out on the floor with an empty bottle beside her.

I step closer and discover her eyes are open and glassy.

Unlike the anger that rose up when I found Boddy, I discover I only feel relief looking down at Mary’s corpse. But I know I cannot show that in this crowd, as more people tumble into the room in response to Mrs. Peacock’s screams. “Oh, no,” I cry mournfully, picking up my wife’s body.

And jump back startled. She hadn’t drunk herself to an early grave. A steak knife protruded from her chest.

In the Billiards Room with the Lead Pipe
In the Dining Room with the Knife

(words 2,108; first published 4/5/2020)

2 thoughts to “Flash: In the Dining Room with the Knife (D is for Dining Room)”

    1. Thank you for dropping by! I just got to read about Sawyer – between the phone and the toilet, he was instantly relatable and sympathetic. Great writing. Sorry I couldn’t leave a comment there. My wordpress account is related to work and I can’t leave messages that way.

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