“Now, now, Ms. Peterson,” scowled Mr. Winters, he the objecting schoolmaster. “Remember your cause to stay in character.”
“Oh, of course I am. Do you think an actress as famous as moi would ever go out of character?”
What odd rhetoric, Alexandra mused to herself, I suppose it is something of a celebrated person’s remark, not to be used for we common people. She almost laughed out loud and had to stuff a fist into her mouth. For this tight contraction of her face, the maid received a confused glare from Mrs. Winters, before the former contorted her body that she would turn away, hidden.
However, the men buckled under the mocking, flickering lashes of Ms. Peterson. She remained beautiful only to the male sex of her generation, who proceeded to fold themselves up and retreat back into the shell of silence.
Alexandra caught Mr. Biggins tucking away his invitation and instruction sheet, his eyes, saucers of rich chocolate, filled to the brim with concentration. Having glanced up the table at Daphne, he looked back at Mrs. Winters. Both the attentive guest and his hostess were becoming a little annoyed at the young woman’s lack of consideration, she once again chatting to her acquaintances, with leisure, and not bothering to conceal her own boredom. Nevertheless, the lady gave Mr. Biggins a curt nod in return. It was all very mysterious to Alexandra, but she acknowledged that it was all part of the plan; no doubt the solution would become clear soon enough.
“All I’m saying,” Mr. Biggins continued, turning swiftly back to Mr. Stones, the man whose character was his character’s sibling, “is that, brother, you’re losing your chance to inherit any of my vast fortune…”
Mr. Biggins made a big show of lifting up the previously-untouched brandy glass from his place at the table, and tipping its entire contents down his throat in one go.
Always an improviser, Azura was the first to understand what he was doing.
“You must know, Mr. Renfield, that diseases like these are not to be taken lightly, and they are terribly impossible to cure.”
“‘Diseases like these’-?” Mr. Biggins started. It was to be an unfinished sentence though, as the man suddenly dropped the glass he was holding- it hit the floor with a loud clang but, luckily, did not break- and his hands shot up to his neck. There sat he, Thomas Biggins, gasping for air, and frowning, between convulsions, at the people with whom he had been in conversation. It was as though he blamed one of them (or, to think, both) for the lack of breath he was experiencing.
And then it stopped.
The character, Tobias Renfield, had collapsed, dead, face first into his own luncheon, in the midst of an argument with his wasteful brother. Now all was needed was a policeman, or a Detective like the great Poirot, to storm in and solve the case.
On the other hand, it was clear to Alexandra that the person of Thomas Biggins was still alive, his breathing a little irregular as he tried to stay as still as he possibly could between the broccoli and brussel sprouts.
Suddenly the room was filled with Mrs. Winters’ excitable laughter and the loud clapping of her hands, the jingling sounds of bangles constituting the majority of the volume. She laughed for a full minute, appearing an oversized child for that time, and then she stopped and dabbed at her weeping eyes with a frilly handkerchief.
“Oh, very good, very good. I say, how can you achieve such good acting-work, Mr. Biggins?”
The man lifted his head and shook the oily greens from his visage before replying with a devilish wink to the mistress:
“Much practise, ma’am.”
And then there was Toby Renfield, the dead body, again in the greens