A Mystery Of Confusing Events

Submitted for Contest #64 in response to: Set your story in a Gothic manor house.... view prompt

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Oct 19, 2020

Crime

“Is there anything else that you will need?” Asked her Aunts butler as he set the tray of tea on the table in the dining room, an elderly gentleman, about the age ninety five, with slick white hair. “Oh, no sir, I believe that’s all, thank you.” Orchid replied politely. Orchid had only been at her Aunt’s Gothic styled mansion for about three days; she was still trying to get used to the quietness about the manor but try as she might she didn’t think she would ever get used to the reclusive silence.   Aunt Tess being older than not, had a head of white hair, and what seemed like no emotion whatsoever, she despised loud noises claiming that they would reignite the pain of her headaches she seemed to get so often. She never spent time with Orchid, even though Orchid was sent there to spend the entire year with her Aunt, her Aunts health was not at it best so Orchid’s mother and father thought it was a good idea for her to spend a few months with her Aunt as an energetic pick-me-up, so to speak. The whole idea sounded great to Orchid, she had heard so much good things about her Aunt and was excited to meet her for the first time, but the only thing her Aunt had said to her the whole time she was there was, “Hello” Once and, “This is Wade, the butler. If you need anything ask him.” And that was it; her Aunt had no care whatsoever of what Orchid said or did as long as it was out of her way. “Wade,” She said quickly before he left the dining hall, “is it all right if I explore the mansion?” “You may, as long as you do not get in the way of Madam Tess, she has complained of a massive headache this morning.” He replied dryly. “Oh good,” She thought to herself as she ate her breakfast, “I’ll have the whole day to myself. I can explore part of it today and part tomorrow! Maybe I’ll find secret passage or two.” She stood up and started for the sitting room, there was a grand fireplace there, she was almost certain there would be a passage to another place in the mansion. She walked up to the fireplace, it was a beautiful masterpiece carved out of a huge block of marble. With flowers, leaves, vines, and trees carved out to make it a magnificent part of architecture. “Oh where, oh where, would there be a trap door or something of that sort,” She said to herself. “Aha!” she exclaimed, “there on the grapevine, in a cluster of grapes, on the bottom there’s a hickory nut!” She softly pushed on it, and then as if it were a magic trick, the fireplace slid back than to the side. “Oh my goodness!” she jumped back in surprise, “I didn’t actually expect that to work, I just felt intelligent.” Once it slid back she grabbed a small flashlight from the coffee table behind her. She turned to the new opening in the wall, she took her first step into to the darkness, Crunch, she stiffened. She slowly directed the flashlight to her foot. “Ah!” She screamed as she jumped back, it was the cleaning maid. She was, dead, Orchid ran as fast as she could, screaming all the way on the top of her lungs. Her Aunt marched out of her room and grabbed Orchid by the arm. “What is the meaning of this? Waking me up in the middle of my nap! Running about like a headless hen! You have brought about my blistering headache once more!” Aunt Tess yelled as all the staff gathered round to see what was all the commotion. “A b-body in the sitting room!” Orchid  gasped out, “Who is it child, who?” asked her Aunt “The cleaning maid!” Orchid raced to the sitting room, her Aunt and the rest of the staff closely at her heels. She pushed the piece if the fireplace in and it opened up to display the maids body lying on the ground. There was a shriek from the maid’s sister, Maud, who also worked at the mansion. “What happened? How could this be?” said Maud frantically. “Calm yourself Maud, Wade call the police. Orchid, make Maud a cup of tea. Everyone else stay here until the police can question everyone.” Aunt Tess sat down on the cotton sofa; funny to Orchid it seemed Aunt Tess’s headache had by some miracle dissipated. When the police arrived Maud had calmed down quite a bit and was eager to find her sisters killer. “Would Maud Waters please come forward for questioning?” One of the officers asked politely. This was said to everyone in the room, Orchid’s Aunt had given the police a list of everyone who had been working that day, and who normally worked there. It wasn’t a very long list because of how little the staff was at the manor.  One of the police officers said that they believed her to have been poisoned, but was not sure. They said that they could not be certain of the cause of death until after an autopsy has been finished, which would not be until a few more days. Orchid, still being a bit shaken even after the police had left, went to her room for the rest of the evening. Her Aunt went to her own room and the rest of the staff went home. “This is very strange indeed,” said her Aunt as she walked to her room, “very strange to happen to the cleaning maid of all people.”

           “This is a very strange turn of events.” Orchid thought as she drank the rest of her tea, “And who would murder her of all people, there wasn’t much anyone had against her.” She sat there making a mental list of suspects. “There was Wade, but he would have no reason, Maud, but her own sister? Hmm… who knows? Well Maud had seemed to recover from shock surprisingly soon for seeing her sister dead, perhaps. And Aunt Tess didn’t seem surprised at all, there was the laundry maid, but I don’t believe she was here today, oh yes she only comes on Mondays and Fridays. And it was Wednesday. So she couldn’t have, there was the cook, he could have poisoned her lunch or a cup of tea,” Her stomach did a flip, “oh I certainly hope it wasn’t the cook, he might poison anyone of us.”  As she continued to think about who it could have been she lost track of time and realized it was time for dinner, “Oh I hope it wasn’t the cook, because I’m still eating whatever he’s made for dinner.” She mumbled under her breathe as she quickly walked to the dining hall.

           It had been one week since the autopsy had been sent out, it said she had died by poison, Arsenic, to be exact.   And Orchid was no closer to finding who the murder was, all she knew was it could not have been anybody. “Who could it be, who could it be.” She whispered to herself as she reviewed the clues she had found over the week, after the body had been moved she had gone down that passage and found it led to the library where it seemed that the cleaning maid had been dusting the book shelves.  There was a new stain on the carpet that seemed to be tea, so she suspected the culprit had poisoned the maid’s tea. She also found a piece of a blue hair ribbon at the scene of the crime of course the police had investigating and had asked her if she knew of anyone who wore blue hair ribbons. She had said the laundry maid did but would think of other people who might have been wearing one.

“Wait a minute,” said Orchid out loud in a bit of a gasp, “the day the cleaning maid was found she wasn’t even working here that day, but how could her body be here? Unless she came for some reason, someone made her tea, poisoned it, and hid her body! For one thing who told her to come to the manor that day?” Orchid quickly jumped up ran for her aunt’s room and lightly knocked on the door, “Yes, who is it?” Her aunts said quiet dryly,

“Um, it’s me Orchid. May I speak with you?”

“Oh, yes I suppose so.” Her aunt opened the door stepped out and said, “Come I was just about to go to lunch, can you walk and talk?” 

“Yes quiet well, and I just had a question, have the police searched the cleaning maids house?”

“Yes and the cleaning maid had a name, its Carol.”

“Oh yes, very sorry I didn’t know her name. And did they find anything suspicious there?”

“Yes, they said there was a note there saying, ‘Come to the manor immediately, very urgent.’ And that was it.”

“Written?”

“Yes, actually very sloppy of someone planning to kill.”

“Hmm, very odd, may I go to the police station?”

“All right, but don’t stay out after dark.”

She knew exactly who the murderer was, and she wanted to see if the police agreed with her.

           It was late in the afternoon when all the staff was gathered in the sitting room, the police was there ready to make an arrest. But they waited until Orchid could come in and explain exactly how she thought it happened. They believed they could get a certain reaction out of the murderer if Orchid was the one explaining how it happened and by whom.

“All right everyone thank you all for being as patient as you waited, I had to get some things from my room. Now I am going to explain exactly what happened to Carol, the cleaning maid, who was found in this room a week ago. Now it started with the note, it was sent directly to the cleaning maid’s house by whom? By our culprit, the hand writing was definitely our very own Maud Waters, but Maud has a very solid alibi helping Aunt Tess and our dear butler Wade rearrange the living room. And actually everyone has a very solid alibi, it could mean only two things; one everyone did it, or two there is a psychotic murderer on the loose. And so all of you shall be arrested and taken to court. ”  

“No,” There came a shrieking wail from Maud, “you knew! You knew the whole time that it was me! How could you turn me in like this you little rat!”

“There you are officers, there is your killer, but I must ask one thing, why?”

“Oh you should know why, because she was going to marry him, she knew I loved him but she was going to marry him anyway! She deserved to die!”

“Marry who?”

“Her fiance, Clark, of course, oh and I was going to marry him once my sister was out of the way! But you’ve ruined everything!”

The police took her away once she was out of the house Orchids aunt asked her how she knew, “Well for one thing,” Orchid said, “she had been acting guilty all week, and another thing all the clues especially the note pointed to her. Did you know she’s an extraordinary forger, she was bragging about it the other evening and I asked her to prove it. I wrote something down and she copied it almost exactly the same.” 

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