#13
THE ART OF MURDER – PART 1
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
AZURE CITADEL – TANGIERS, AFRICA – JUNE 1926
 
Prince Philippe Azure is a tall, authoritative man of thirty-five. In both strength and size, his royal highness could easily over-power a group of thieves or bandits. His brow is low and his eyes are alive with fire.
 
Since his father’s death, the responsibilities that fall upon a King have been given to his elderly mother and himself. Though the coronation won’t officially come to pass until he marries, Prince Azure shows no signs of speeding along his Kingship.
 
The worldly Prince oils and sharpens the blade of a long sabre with a grinding stone and rag.
 
“Your highness,” a man in a red uniform stands over a table with a large map spread out on it, “It will take at least seven days to cross the Atlantic.”
 
“Ready the steamship, Commander .” Prince Azure speaks like a resonant baritone.
 
A lean, stunning woman in her mid-fifties steps into the room wearing a see-through blue negligee and a loose flowing shawl. She has amber colored eyes and light skin, tanned like golden butter. Her hair is coarse and curly, with long tendrils falling beyong her shoulders. She wears a large sapphire around her neck. Prince Azure and the commander in red look up to see her as she enters the room.
 
“My love, please wait in my private wing.” Prince Azure turns to the woman, “I will be upstairs soon.”
 
The woman does not cover her exposed breasts or show any signs of modesty. Instead she steps between both men with a hand on each other their shoulders. She is much shorter than both men but holds herself with a sense of strength and power.
 
“Without me we wouldn’t be nearly this close to demise of Blackwell Grange.” The woman says, “Sir Benedict the Fourth killed your father, Philippe. Benedict the Fifth killed his own nanny and mother. Hugh Black and Peter Plum are psychopaths who use their knowledge of drugs and various therapies to turn any sane person mad. Or worse…”
 
“We’ve turned a blind eye to the voodoo you’ve performed under this Palace’s roof.” The commander narrows his eyes
 
The woman smirks, “When you are given the power intervene with nature’s wishes, you do so. Power is what makes a person. The lust for power is what drove Sir Benedict to murder your father, Philippe.”
 
Prince Azure closes his eyes in respect for his father, “I know what happened. I don’t need you to remind me in every one of your empowering soliloquies.”
 
“I don’t think you realize how close you came to the end of your life.” The woman forcefully turns Prince Azure’s head to the right, showing his mangled ear, “You nearly lost that ear.” The woman fiercly turns to the commander in red, “Don’t forget the other bodies that Sir Benedict had strewn about the Villa. Those girls on the paintings…”
 
“I sent a dozen men to kill those bastards in the Villa.” The commander says, “All of my men were slaughtered and their bodies defiled. The most promising General I’ve ever met was impaled onto a suit of armor.”
 
“Justice will be served.” Prince Azure steps in front of the mature woman and kisses her on the forehead, “Your daughter is making certain that every member of that family dies. She’s already inside Blackwell Grange.”
 
“I don’t exactly trust her,” The commander in red frowns, “She has had so much time to kill and she still hasn’t even touched one of them.”
 
“Clearly she is waiting until the time is right to kill them all at once.” The woman says, “Dr. Black has a lot of guests at Blackwell Grange currently.”
 
“These things cannot be hurried.” Prince Azure says, “We reach their shores in six days. Ready the crew and Captain Brown. We will cast off in two hours.”
 
“Are you sure this is the only way?” the woman asks
 
“You will be safe here.” Prince Azure says, “Assist my mother in my absence. She is too deep-rooted to care about all the requests from the mundane world.”
 
“I’m coming with you.” The woman crosses her arms
 
No you aren’t.” Prince Azure turns to the commander, “See to it that a guard is with her at all times.”
 
The woman drops her arms to her side, “Really, Philippe? Will you really go that far?”
 
“Your highness,” The commander rolls up the map, “Shall I leave a message address from you to your people?”
 
“That would be a treasured guesture.” Prince Azure smiles, “Be sure to write a small segment for my mother to recite from the balcony when the people assemble in the court.”
 
The woman crosses her arms angrily.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
BLACKWELL GRANGE – CONNECTICUT – JUNE 1926
 
In the rundown shack in the forest, Emily Peach eyes Ben Black the Fifth carefully as he circles around her with the Pistol in his hand. His eyes are twitching and his mouth keeps tightening and untightening.
 
“Do you know how small the wooden box that I was locked in actually was?” Mr. Black asks, “I could barely move my arms. I couldn’t bring my hands to my face. I was stuck in a box on my back breathing the same air until someone came to watch me scramble around on the cold floor eating the three-day-old mush left over from the feasts and banquets inside the Mansion.”
 
Miss Peach’s entire body is shaking like a leaf. She knows she must stay calm, but the fear consumes her all the same.
 
“Professor Plum did this to you, didn’t he?” Miss Peach hesitantly asks
 
“Family is supposed to be kind to each other.” Mr. Black says sadly
 
“Peter… Professor Plum is my uncle.” Miss Peach says, “I… I’m your family.”
 
“I’ve seen how this family treats each other.” Mr. Black says, “If you’re one of them you deserve the same.”
 
Miss Peach lowers her head, fully expecting the sharp strike of a bullet to the top of her head. She stares at the floor, too afraid to look back up at her crazy captor and the Pistol he has pointed in her direction.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
Colonel Mustard and Monsieur Brunette tentatively listen for gunshots, but there are no more. The Loft above the Stables is beginning to leak from the downpour of rain. Colonel Mustard keeps glancing at the Lead Pipe near Monsieur Brunette’s feet.
 
“The art of murder,” Monsieur Brunette looks down at the Revolver , “Lorrainne paid the ultimate price for the entertainment of Sir Benedict Black the Fourth. Madness runs in the family. Rose and Hugh are as cracked as Benedict the fourth and fifth.”
 
“You’ve been on the lam for so long,” Colonel Mustard sadly looks up at the man, “Why wait until now to bring the truth into the light?”
 
“It was my brief relationship with Rose Black.” Brunette scratches the back of his neck, “I have reason to believe that Sir Benedict Black IV is still alive and well inside Blackwell Grange.”
 
“That’s impossible.” Colonel Mustard says, “He’s dead. I went to his funeral.”
 
“Did you see the body?” Brunette asks, “Tell me, Colonel, have you been into absolutely every room in that mansion.”
 
“I grew up there.” Colonel Mustard says
 
“Since Sir Benedict the Fourth’s elleged death, have you been into every room?” Brunette rephrases the sentence
 
“No.” Colonel Mustard replies with a sense of uncertainty
 
“I’ve done a fair sweep of the Cellar and Second Floor.” Brunette says, “The First Floor is always occupied. I haven’t gotten to the Third Floor or the Attic.”
 
“The Third Floor is just a bunch of smaller guest bedrooms, a parlor, and a trophy room. I think there’s a tiny sewing room near the middle of the house. The Attic is a depository of worldly possessions.” Colonel Mustard groans, touching his throbbing head, “If you are so innocent, why did you bludgeon me yesterday? What is Miss Peach’s role in all of this?”
 
“Miss Peach doesn’t know a goddamn thing. I was the one who found her and put the notion to reconcile with her birth father. I am a master of disguises and tricks. Once here, I befriend the German cook.”
 
“Fraulein Bloom?” Colonel Mustard says
 
“She provided me a cover for sneaking around here.” Monsieur Brunette shrugs, “She thinks our relationship is much grander. In truth, it’s already over in my mind. I was planning on having this same conversation with you yesterday. So I struck you when you were out with Miss Peach. She panicked and explained to me that a bunch of guests would be arriving and might hear us if you started screaming for whatever reason.” Brunette says, “Had I known you were going to be this cooperative, I might not’ve knocked you unconscious first. I must apologize for the attempted brain damage. I had no idea you’d be struck again today.”
 
“I was certainly struck much harder today.” Colonel Mustard touches his head in pain, “I still don’t feel right.”
 
“You can certainly understand the urgency of the situation, now that we’ve brought Lorrainne into this.” Brunette says, “I want us to find Sir Benedict, Colonel. There was a time when we used our talents together.”
 
“You want me to find a man who is already dead?” Colonel Mustard says
 
“I am certain he is alive, Colonel. Don’t make me get someone else involved.” Brunette points the Revolver at him, “Any one of those people would do it for money.”
 
“Yet you picked me.” Colonel Mustard sighs
 
“You are a tragic hunter with a nose for blood,” Brunette puts the Revolver away, “I picked you because you are capable.”
 
Colonel Mustard slowly stands up, “Am I free to go?”
 
Brunette nods, “Don’t give me a reason to put a bullet between your eyes.”
 
Colonel Mustard stares harshly at the thin, lanky Frenchman, “If I find out you are lying to me about any of this, you’ll think a bullet between the eyes sounds pleasant.”
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
On the third floor of Blackwell Grange, Miss Vivienne Scarlet comes to the top of the Grand Staircase, looking down three stories down to the Hall. Her mind is racing over what happened in the Parlor. The fact that Miss Dove threatened her is one problem. But the only thing she can think of is what is going to happen to Dr. Black now that it is apparent the pending marriage is of convenience and gain.
 
Miss Scarlet runs into Mr. Clay in the upstairs hallway as she comes down from the third floor.
 
“Vivienne,” Mr. Clay says, “Did you hear gunshots?”
 
“No.” Miss Scarlet raises an eyebrow, “Why, what’s wrong?”
 
Mr. Clay sighs, “Vivienne, we need to talk.”
 
“You’re leaving me aren’t you?” Miss Scarlet stares at him with disappointment in her eyes
 
Mr. Clay frowns and looks at the floor.
 
“Edward,” Miss Scarlet vacantly stares down the long hallway, “I know I’ve been distant since we arrived here…”
 
“What happened to us?” Mr. Clay can’t bring himself to look at Miss Scarlet
 
“On the train, when I left for a cigarette,” Miss Scarlet begins, “That man who taunted us in line – he came and tried to drag me away. I don’t know what he was doing or what he intended, but he fell off the train. He’s dead. He has to be dead. He couldn’t survive that? Could he? He fell between the train cars. There was blood everywhere.”
 
Mr. Clay is silent for a moment. He leans forward and hugs her.
 
“He’s dead.” Mr. Clay says, “That much is true. But it is not your fault. I don’t want you spending another moment worrying that it might be your fault.”
 
Miss Scarlet tries to speak but Mr. Clay stops her.
 
“Vivienne, I made a promise to your stepmother while you were out there. I told her that I felt something amazing and something real with you. I want us to make it.” Mr. Clay looks into her eyes
 
Miss Scarlet’s eyes find his.
 
“That bastard would have hurt you, killed you, and raped you –” Mr. Clay becomes overwhelmed, “It doesn’t matter. He is dead. You didn’t kill him. You survived him.”
 
Miss Scarlet throws her arms around his neck and starts crying. Mr. Clay hesitates for a moment before hugging her tightly in return. He closes his eyes and buries his face into her hair.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
In the Kitchen, Mrs. White takes the whistling tea kettle off the range. The Kitchen is dark and the rain has begun to pick up. Mrs. White sighs, looking up at the high windows.
 
Mrs. Peacock and Mrs. Meadow-Brook stand near the boarded back door.
 
“I can’t stop wandering around.” Mrs. Peacock says, “I’m just worried we forgot a closet with a window, or another secret passage that no one remembers.”
 
Mrs. White pours the boiling water into a ceramic teapot filled with dry tea leaves.
 
“This will warm you up.” Mrs. White adjusts the wooden bucket on the table to accommodate the leaking ceiling, “These chilly sunny rain showers can make you sick for a week.”
 
“Oh, thank you.” Mrs. Meadow-Brook smiles, hurrying to the table, pouring a cup of tea and quickly returning to Mrs. Peacock’s side.
 
“I suppose I ought to check the Lounge and Study again.” Mrs. Peacock motions for Mrs. Meadow-Brook to follow her.
 
As the two exit the Kitchen, John Boddy and Professor Plum enter the room. stand near the barricaded Secret Passage.
 
“Mrs. White, have you seen Fraulein Bloom?” Professor Plum asks
 
“Do you need me to fix the two of you something to eat?” Mrs. White asks
 
“No, it’s not that,” Professor Plum says, “I just haven’t seen her since the shooting died down and we started boarding up the mansion.”
 
“Come to think of it,” Mrs. White scratches her chin, “I haven’t seen Fraulein Bloom, Miss Scarlet, or Miss Dove.”
 
“Mr. Clay popped downstairs to make sure we were alright.” John says, “He seemed to be dealing with his own issue.”
 
“It’s probably Miss Scarlet causing him turmoil.” Mrs. White says, “The two of them haven’t been in the best moods since they arrived.”
 
Lord Gray and Nurse Silver enter the room suddenly. Lord Gray is holding his arm in pain, staring angrily at John Boddy and Professor Plum from across the room.
 
“How’s the arm, Lord Gray?” Professor Plum calls out from across the room
 
“It hurts like hell!” Lord Gray is short of breath, sweating heavily
 
“Don’t look at him.” Professor Plum whispers to John, “He’s looking right at you. If you look, he’ll say something and then a whole big scene will play out.”
 
“Oh, but I do love a good scene.” John smirks
 
“Get it out of me!” Lord Gray looks at his bandaged arm with desperation in his eyes
 
“Mrs. White, can you bring me the first aid kit?” Nurse Silver asks
 
“Get this bullet out!” Lord Gray pounds his fist against the counter, “It burns. It aches. My whole arm feels numb.”
 
Nurse Silver looks around the room, “Mrs. White, do you have any ice in the freezer?”
 
Mrs. White nods.
 
“Do you have thread and a needle?” Nurse Silver asks
 
“I do.” Professor Plum pulls a small metal sewing case out of the breast pocket of his jacket.
 
Mrs. White and John eye him strangely.
 
“You never know when you might need to put a button back on.” Professor Plum shrugs
 
Nurse Silver takes a box of matches from the counter and burns the tip of a Carving Knife .
 
“Are you sure about this?” asks Nurse Silver
 
“It could be a lead bullet poisoning me. For God’s sake get it out!” Lord Gray moans
 
Nurse Silver pulls the scarf off of the wounded shoulder and lay’s his arm flat on the counter. Mrs. White rushes over with the first aid kit and begins to help Nurse Silver clean the wound.
 
“This is going to sting.” Nurse Silver pours alcohol over the wound.
 
Lord Gray howls in pain, clentch his fist and kicking at the floor.
 
“Whiskey!” Lord Gray gasps
 
Mrs. White rushes and grabs a bottle of Whiskey from the cupboard above the sink. She takes off the cap and gives the bottle to Lord Gray.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
In the Courtyard, Colonel Mustard slowly comes out of the Stables. Monsieur Brunette stands at the door of the Stables.
 
“Stay low and out of sight.” Brunette says, “Whoever was shooting that gun earlier might be the same person who attacked you with the Pipe. If that’s the case, you only have luck on your side.”
 
Colonel Mustard rolls his eyes. He squares up his chest and confidently strides past the Gazebo, across the rainy Courtyard, and straight up to the front door of Blackwell Grange. He bangs on the locked door.
 
“Lucky bastard,” Brunette smirks. He looks up to the tallest tower and notes that the window is open, even in the rain.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
In the Lounge, Mrs. Peacock and Mrs. Meadow-Brook enter the dark, empty room to see the Secret Passage to the Conservatory is open.
 
“You don’t think…” Mrs. Meadow-Brook is speechless
 
Mrs. Peacock turns on a lamp in the center of the room.
 
“Do you think someone is in there?” Mrs. Meadow-Brook asks
 
Mrs. Peacock doesn’t reply, but slowly walks towards the hinged painting.
 
The rain picks up outside as thunder and light quickly snap and growl in the distance. The lamp dims and flickers but remains on.
 
“Patricia, don’t!” Mrs. Meadow-Brook says
 
Mrs. Peacock reaches the dark entrance to the Secret Passage and looks down the curving, stone staircase. She can barely see three feet into the tunnel, let alone determine if someone is in there waiting with a gun.
 
Against all better judgment, Mrs. Peacock holds her dress as she steps into the door behind the painting of the country-side nymphs.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
In the Kitchen, John Boddy and Professor Plum hold him down as Nurse Silver carefully puts the searing tip of the Knife between the bullet and Lord Gray’s ruptured skin. Lord Gray screams in pain, dropping the bottle of Whiskey. The hot Knife hisses upon contact with his skin. Nurse Silver takes the opportunity and violently digs the bullet out, sending Lord Gray into a screaming frenzy.
 
Nurse Silver tosses the bloody bullet onto the floor. Mrs. White just stares down into Lord Gray’s face with a hint of satisfaction.
 
“P… Please.” Lord Gray stutters. Quite a bit of blood has spilled out of the wound and onto his chest, the counter, and the floor.
 
Nurse Silver quickly stitches him up as best as she can. Slowing the bleeding and squeezing the wound together. She places gauze from the first aid kit over the wound and rewraps the scarf tightly around his shoulder.
 
Lord Gray wheezes in pain.
 
“Does it feel better than the burning?” John asks
 
“Leave him alone.” Nurse Silver says, “He needs to calm down or he could pass out.”
 
Lord Gray exhaustedly stumbles across the room and collapses in Mrs. White’s rocking chair.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
In the Hall, Dr. Black , Mr. Meadow-Brook , and Mr. Green all respond to the banging on the front door. Mr. Green arms himself with a Statuette from the table. Dr. Black grips the Fireplace Poker tightly. Mr. Meadow-Brook stands cowardly against the wall.
 
“Open it.” Dr. Black orders Mr. Meadow-Brook, “If it’s the assailant, we’ll attack.”
 
“A-Are you sure?” Mr. Meadow-Brook’s eyes are wide
 
“Hello!” Colonel Mustard calls from the other side of the door, “Open this damned door!”
 
“It’s Mike.” Dr. Black lowers the Fireplace Poker.
 
“What if he’s the shooter?” Mr. Meadow-Brook asks
 
“Stuff and nonsense!” Dr. Black removes the bar from over the double doors and unbolts the locks. Colonel Mustard enters dripping wet.
 
“What is the meaning for locking me out in the rain?” Colonel Mustard asks
 
“Where on earth were you?” asks Dr. Black
 
“I went out for some early morning hunting. I-I was struck over the head with a Lead Pipe.”” Colonel Mustard says, “When I woke up I was caught in the rain. I waited it out in the Stables. Then I heard the gunshots.”
 
“Where’s your gun?” Dr. Black asks
 
“Lord Gray was hit.” Mr. Green explains
 
“It wasn’t beside me when I woke up.” Colonel Mustard lies, “Is Lord Gray dead?”
 
“He’s alive as far as I know.” Dr. Black says, “Nurse Silver and I haven’t exactly discussed taking the bullet out. We’ve been busy barricading the doors and windows.”
 
“Who is doing this, Hugh?” Colonel Mustard gently touches the bump on his head
 
“I think I need to speak with my brother and Nurse Silver.” Dr. Black says, “If you’ll take lead from here, Colonel. Sgt. Gray, Rose, Mr. Ash, and Emily are all still missing. We assume Miss Scarlet and Mr. Clay are together, though we can only confirm Mr. Clay is alive and well.”
 
“Right,” Colonel Mustard stands tall, “When is the last time anyone saw Mr. Ash?”
 
“I’m not sure.” Dr. Black grips the Fireplace Poker, twisting it nervously between his hands, “Mike, I need you to handle this situation. I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do. I’m a doctor. I’m needed with Nurse Silver right now. You are a Colonel. You grew up here with me. You know about as much as I do about this place. Please just make sure everyone is safe. We all have our parts to do. You defend and I’ll keep Lord Gray alive.”
 
Colonel Mustard nods slowly, “I don’t have much of a choice, do I? Alright, I’m going to need the Shotgun from the Lounge.”
 
“One is missing. I thought you had it.” Dr. Black squeezes the Fireplace Poker tightly
 
Colonel Mustard shakes his head, “The other one can’t be missing too?”
 
“This isn’t good.” Dr. Black says, “Someone stole the Shotguns.”
 
“None of this is good.” Mr. Meadow-Brook is frazzled, “I-I need to make sure Jane is okay.”
 
Mr. Meadow-Brook hesitantly steps away from the three gentlemen and makes his way towards the Kitchen.
 
Dr. Black, Mr. Green, and Colonel Mustard turn to enter the Study.
 
Upon entering the Study, Dr. Black instantly goes to the wet bar and pours three brandies. Mr. Green and Colonel Mustard take one before standing together near the piano and red curtains.
 
“What the fuck am I supposed to do in this type of situation?” Dr. Black sits down on the piano stool. He takes a drink and sets the glass on top of the piano, “Someone, tell me what to do. I don’t know what to do.”
 
“I think we need to call the police.” Mr. Green points to the black telephone on the desk, “I know that’s risky, but we need help.”
 
Dr. Black begins to slowly play the left-hand part of the music on the piano’s music holder. The music is dark, slow, and somber, “This family can’t afford another scandal.”
 
“What the hell does that even mean?” Colonel Mustard narrows his eyes
 
Dr. Black adds the right hand and increases the tempo of the song. Mr. Green and Colonel Mustard watch as Dr. Black treats the musical piece with grace and sincerity. The sadness in the song nearly reflects the emotions streaming through the doctor’s head – only the song has a sense of innocence which has long-since been abandoned by the doctor. As the song ends, Colonel Mustard finishes his brandy.
 
“Hugh,” Colonel Mustard speaks calmly, “Why can’t we call the police? Why is Sgt. Gray the only officer who comes to Blackwell Grange?”
 
“There has been a steady pattern of incidents that have occurred.” Dr. Black picks up his drink and stares it, “Blood has stained our floors a few too many times. We are under minor investigation. Sgt. Gray has managed to calm everything down. It’s true that his weekly visits to the Grange are not for our protection, but so that our village can sleep easy. Lord Gray being a family friend and the thick rolls of cash that are stuffed in Sgt. Gray’s pockets are just a couple of the reasons that Blackwell Grange hasn’t been emptied and condemned.”
 
Thunder roars outside. The lightning causes the electricity to dim and flicker. The Study is cast in darkness for several seconds before the lights come back on.
 
“Does the generator work?” asks Colonel Mustard
 
“It’s behind the Gate House.” Dr. Black nods
 
“You understand that we need to handle this carefully.” Dr. Black speaks up, “Whoever is shooting needs to be caught. I don’t care if they’re alive or dead.”
 
“Do you have a hunting rifle?” Colonel Mustard asks
 
“Not anymore.” Dr. Black says
 
“So it’s in the Attic?” Colonel Mustard asks
 
Dr. Black doesn’t respond.
 
“I know that no one ever gets rid of anything here.” Colonel Mustard says, “Getting rid of something just means that it’s going up to the Attic.”
 
“I think we gave it to Rusty.” Dr. Black quickly lies, to divert attention to the Attic
 
“Who is Rusty?” Mr. Green asks drinking his brandy quickly
 
“He’s the gardener.” Dr. Black says, “He’s on holiday in Ireland visiting his sister. He’s due to be back sometime next week.”
 
“I didn’t know Rusty hunted.” Colonel Mustard raises an eyebrow
 
“I don’t think he does.” Dr. Black says, “But he used to be in the army. He likes to practice his positions with the rifle. I figure it keeps him young.”
 
Colonel Mustard eyes Dr. Black suspiciously, “That seems unlike you to get rid of anything.”
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
Miss Scarlet and Mr. Clay walk down the Grand Staircase together. Mrs. Meadow-Brook comes from the Lounge.
 
“Vivienne! Edward!” Mrs. Meadow-Brook jumps as she sees them, “Where have you two been?”
 
“I was with Miss Dove then I found Edward.” Miss Scarlet answers, “Are you alright?”
 
“Lord Gray was shot.” Mrs. Meadow-Brook says, “About half an hour ago when the gunshots were flying at the west side of the mansion.”
 
“I had no idea.” Miss Scarlet gasps, “Is Lord Gray okay? Is Sgt. Gray with him?”
 
“Sgt. Gray, Miss Peach, Mr. Ash, and Rose are still missing.” Mrs. Meadow-Brook says
 
“They are probably upstairs.” Miss Scarlet says, “We didn’t hear any gunshots from up there.”
 
“I saw Madame Rose sneaking around with a Pistol last night.” Mr. Clay says
 
“I think we can put the rest together.” Miss Scarlet shivers, “She seemed so nice.”
 
“Oh dear,” Mrs. Meadow-Brook looks around uncomfortably, “No one thought anything of Rose returning after all these years. She just showed up like Miss Peach.”
 
“That seems to be a common thing around these parts.” Mr. Clay says
 
“My stepmother used to open up Arlington Grange to guests during hunting season.” Miss Scarlet
 
“Oh, that reminds me!” Mrs. Meadow-Brook gasps suddenly, “Your stepmother stepped into the Secret Passage in the Lounge and still hasn’t come out.”
 
“Why did you say something sooner?” Mr. Clay asks angrily
 
Miss Scarlet and Mr. Clay both rush to the Lounge.
 
◄♦♦♦►
 
In the Kitchen, Mrs. White stands near Lord Gray. He slowly begins to open his eyes and take in the surroundings.
 
“You pulled through.” Mrs. White says, “I thought you might not wake up.”
 
“Where’s Nurse Silver?” Lord Gray reaches for his throbbing shoulder.
 
“We need to talk about Richard.” Mrs. White says
 
“Is he still missing?” Lord Gray asks, “I knew police work would only bring to his destruction.”
 
“It’s not that,” Mrs. White shakes her head slowly, “I don’t know where he wandered off to in all of this.”
 
Lord Gray sighs, “Then what do you need to talk about?”
 
“When is he going to know that I’m his mother?” Mrs. White asks
 
Lord Gray looks around to be certain the Kitchen is empty.
 
“Never.” Lord Gray says forwardly
 
“I gave him to you because you couldn’t produce a child with my sister!” Mrs. White says
 
“And I knew you’d try using that against me.” Lord Gray says, “Sadly, I hold no sympathy over the matter. He has been raised as my son and he will remain my son.”
 
“He deserves to know the truth of his birth.” Mrs. White says
 
No he doesn’t.” Lord Gray says, “Richard is already confused and struggling to get through life. Do you want me to crush his heart? I can’t tell him that you and Dr. Black made him during your illicit affair?”
 
“What Dr. Black and I did is our own responsibility.” Mrs. White says, “It’s time we face the stark reality to having a child and getting rid of it.”
 
“On top of that,” Lord Gray squeezes his shoulder in pain, “You’d put Brenda through knowing that Dr. Black had two children without her knowledge.”
 
“I don’t care what Brenda does with that information.” Mrs. White crosses her arms, “Since when do you care about Brenda? This isn’t about her. It never was.”
 
“No, it’s always been about you.” Lord Gray says, his jealousy and loathing fully taking over,“You control everything behind the scenes at Blackwell Grange and now, for some reason, you think you have the power to control our lives. You don’t get to decide what happens and when. I will not allow you to medle in my business.”
 
“He’s my son.” Mrs. White says
 
No, he isn’t.” Lord Gray says, “You gave up that claim when you gave him up. I forbid you to tell him.”
 
“You forbid me?” Mrs. White repeats, “I resent that. I will do as I please.”
 
“I will personally see to it that you are fired and left to rot where all poor, elderly widows beg on the street.” Lord Gray growls viscously
 
“He’s my son!” Mrs. White throws her arms to her side in frustration
 
Lord Gray stands up slowly; his anger towards Mrs. White masks the pain from where the bullet was taken.
 
“I’ve made myself very clear.” Lord Gray says, “It’s time to think about how important you actually are to Dr. Black. You’ve been replaced twice. Yvette was hired several years ago and Fraulein Bloom was hired mere months ago. They each do the jobs that you once were capable of doing all by yourself. Your time at Blackwell Grange is coming to an end. I hear the way Dr. Black and Professor Plum sneer at you. Miss Dove practically hates you and that nosy little rat-face. Mr. Ash can’t even stand the way you prattle on and on.”
 
Mrs. White closes her eyes but remains resilient.
 
“Don’t think for a moment that Richard actually wants you in his life.” Lord Gray says, “He is my son. Mine!”
 
“You sit no higher than me.” Mrs. White narrows her eyes
 
Lord Gray fiercely slaps the old woman across the face with the back of his hand. His family ring bruises her cheekbone. Mrs. White loses her balance and falls to the floor, steadying herself on the table.
 
The old woman is shocked and frightened by the sudden strike. The wounded Lord finally feels the pain from his wound and sits down upon a wooden chair.
 
“Fill the bucket.” Lord Gray orders
 
Mrs. White hesitates and then picks up the Water Bucket from where it is on the hearth. She takes it to the sink and begins to work the pump. Once the Water Bucket is full she places it on the table.
 
“Remember were you are.” Lord Gray says, “Now clean my blood off of this Kitchen. And while down there on the floor with your brush and bucket, keep your eyes down and don’t forget that you are the help. Your fling with Dr. Black was nothing to him. Richard is nothing to him.”
 
Mrs. White picks up the Water Bucket and places it near the flagstone slabs that are stained with blood. Lord Gray stands up and walks to the back door, unlocking it and taking a wooden bar off of it.
 
“Oh, Blanche,” Lord Gray opens the back door, stepping out into the rain, “If you tell Richard anything about his true parentage, I’ll drown you in that Water Bucket.”
 
 
TO BE CONTINUED