Chapter Thirteen

Lady Atherton’s Boudoir

Sergeant Mug, with gloves on so as not to contaminate the scene of the crime, is crouched on the floor.  First, he uses an eye-dropper to collect a bit of liquid that remains in the shattered teacup that is still on the floor.  Then he solemnly lifts up the teacup with tongs and deposits it in an evidence bag.

ENTER Julia Trueheart

Julia:  What ho, Sergeant!  Sneakfork told me you’d come back.  Anything up?

Mug:  Hello Miss Trueheart.  (RISES to his feet)  Well, yes, yes, there is something up.  (LOOKS conflicted)  I’m not sure as I should say, you being a member of the public, and the information being pertinent to the investigation.  (PAUSES)  Or not pertinent.  Funny thing is that it’s not pertinent, far as I can see.

Julia:  Mug, you are mystery-mongering!  Come across with it.  Regard me as Lady E’s eyes and ears until such time as her own arrive.

Mug (With Interest):  She’s coming, then?

Julia:  Should be here any time now.  Had a telegram from her sayin’ she’d be here this evening.  But don’t try and distract me.  I am, temporarily, Nemesis, not an easily-fobbed-off member of the public.  Tell All.

Mug:  Well.  We had the medical examiner’s report on Lady Atherton this morning, and there were some- irregularities.

Julia:  Cast off this pall of discretion!  Out with it!

Mug:  It is a bit complicated, Miss.  (PAUSE for gathering of thoughts)  Well, first, she was dying.  Cancer, and inoperable.  She had a couple of months to live, and that is a generous estimate.

Julia:  Gosh!

Mug:  Yes Miss Trueheart.  That is how I reacted.

Julia:  But there is more?

Mug:  Well, yes.  As you know, Lady Atherton died of a stab wound to the heart.  But if she hadn’t died of that, she would have died of a massive dose of arsenical poisoning that she must’ve ingested within an hour or so of her death.  So, when she was stabbed, she had about three hours to live, though of course the medical examiner doesn’t get as specific as that.  He does say, though, that given her weakened condition and the fact that she hadn’t eaten much that day- only yesterday, that was, though it is hard to believe it- (Puzzled)  What was I saying?

Julia:  Given Lady Atherton’s weakened condition and lack of food, something like that.

Mug:  Right!  He- the medical examiner- says that the poison would’ve acted pretty quick, given the other factors present in the victim.

Julia (Gesturing at the teacup in the bag):  And you think the poison was in the tea?

Mug:  It seems, from what I’ve gathered from Sneakfork and Mrs. Burnstone, that it had to be.  It seems to be the only thing Her Ladyship consumed in the window of time during which the poison had to have been given her.

Julia:  Who brought her the tea?  Sneakfork?

Mug (Gravely):  No, Miss.  It was Mrs. Bogsby.  She admits it.

Julia:  Admits- poisoning it?  Or just bringing it up?

Mug:  Just bringing it.

Julia:  How did that happen?  It wasn’t part of Mrs. Bogsby’s job, surely.

Mug:  No, Miss.  But Mrs. Bogsby was passing the boudoir door, looking for young Lucy, who’d got away from her, and when Lady Atherton saw her passing, she called to her, told her to fetch her some tea.  That was at 6:10; Lady Atherton was alone, and Mrs. Bogsby says she looked flushed and pleased with herself.

Julia:  Hm.  (THEY ARE SILENT, brooding on this information)

Mug:  There’s one thing that you might be able to tell me, now I think of it.

Julia (Abstractedly):  Yes?

Mug:  Was the teacup broken when you entered this room when the body was discovered?

Julia (Grimacing apologetically):  No, I’m afraid it wasn’t.  It got broken in the stampede, when Bysshe, Gadfly, Dane, and I all stumbled in to the scene of the crime.  There was a bit of a rush, and the teacup was broken in the confusion.

Mug:  Oh. (Elaborately casual) Who actually knocked the cup to the floor?  Did you notice?

Julia:  I didn’t notice.  Major Gadfly seemed to think that it was Mr. Dane’s fault, but he would.  They don’t get on.

Mug (Producing his notebook and a pencil):  Could you be more specific about that, Miss?  It might be important.

Julia:  I’ll try.  (PAUSE)  We all stumbled in… I heard the cup fall and the noise of it breaking… and then the Major barked out something like, Dane, you clumsy oaf, look what you’ve done now!

Mug:  Was the Major in a better position to see what had happened than you were?

Julia:  Yes… yes, he was.  He and Dane were both ahead of me.  And so was Mr. Bysshe.  They’d all taken unfair advantage of the fact that their legs were longer than mine to barge in ahead of me.  Faster on the straight dash, if you see what I mean.

Mug (Writing this down):  Ah.  I see.  Well, thank-

A DISTURBANCE- the noise of running feet- from off

VOICE OF RICHARD BYSSHE shouts:  I swear I’ll bloody murder you, Penders-Ghastly!


Julia:  Gosh!



On To Chapter Fourteen!

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