Socialiate's Switch and Swindle

When the dessert was fully consumed by all, Mrs. Winters prepared the guests for that which she had described to Alexandra as the ‘last stage’: the final murder, and then the unveiling of the murderer, whoever it might be. A naturally curious child and eager learner, Alexandra wondered so much, to the absolute point of wondering, if there was such a thing, who it was. To her, this was still only entertainment, and she dared not to let her mind wander into the fantasy of the ‘other life’ and death, especially when her love still had charge over the mysterious, and potentially deadly, object known as the jewelled cane.

"Now, where were we?" Mr. Winters addressed the black canopy above.

“He was dead, wasn’t he?” smiled Joshua. He, like a couple of the other male guests, had become a little intoxicated on the drug of the household’s fine wine.

Peter Stones, helping himself to the wine too, froze, but then turned to Mr. Newton and grinned as his confirmation. If any guilt or surprise had flashed through his eyes, it was gone by the time they centred on Joshua’s.

“And now, I suppose, I should head back to my afterlife.”

By now, the maid had become accustomed to souls crashing down onto the table, and even did not start when Peter Stones pushed past back to the exterior patio. That time, though, Alexandra made a mental note to keep her learnéd eyes trained on every track of his movements. Mr. Stones watched her too, but with greedy disdain.

Mr. Winters once again spoke to the ceiling, as though he expected it to give a better reply than the people around him, or perhaps in case the answer to his questions was written above.

“Oh, indeed.” he reminded to himself, becoming the chief detective in the case once more. “And what seemed to be the motives for this third downfall?”

“He knew something of his brother’s doings!” Cynthia piped up. She was rather a girl whose mind was fixed solely on one thing at a time.

“Perhaps it was Cynthia,” muttered Azura, spitefully. It was a wonder that she was still bothering to take part, when her expression showed that she clearly wanted nothing more to do with the tiresome folly. At least she had those moments to appreciate the acting that was going on around her; and Alexandra was thankful that the lady herself had chosen to be more mature with her own role.

“I say, it still adds up to you, madam,” Rhaïd hinted as politely as he could.

“Well, evidently. Doing the younger Renfield in was the next step taken after disposing of the elder one. Miss Winters was just a problem eliminated. It mostly adds up in my mind,” Cynthia declared decidedly.

Joshua frowned with Alexandra; whether he was wondering about that little thing that didn’t add up was another question, for he might just have been displaying his lack of encouragement on his fiancée’s views.

“I say, hang on, chaps. It seems that this mystery is no longer situated around the Renfield and Peterson families.”

“Definitely. What about me?” The once-deceased Daphne lifted her head off the tabletop.

Her mother glared at the girl, and glided a hand across her back to persuade her to return to the land of the dead. Both Cynthia and Azura scowled deeply, their features tinged with disgust. Joshua Newton did his best to ignore the remark and its consequences.

“What I mean to say is that the swindle is not the last of it. We should concentrate, in my opinion, on the something that Toby Renfield did.”

He had left all traces of his childish character behind, and left all evidence of silliness with the pudding. The wine, however, was still there, clasped like a child in his hand, but his acting did not flow with the influence of the drink.

“Swindle?” Mr. Winters and Ms. Peterson both cried. He in curiosity, she with some regained fury.

“Yes, my character has been lying. I mean, I’m not really ill. Of course that was always plain.” Joshua had no trace of remorse in his confession, but Azura’s complexion coloured bright red.

“As a result, three innocent people have died for nothing?” said Cynthia, her voice filled with angry wonder.

“Of course not, sweetheart. Three persons died because of reasons unknown to us at this point. Perhaps it is the same as we previously presumed, perhaps not.”

“All that adds up to the fact that, nevertheless, I’m still innocent,” said Azura indignantly.

“On the contrary. We will need to look into your previous acquaintance with Mr. Renfield senior and junior,” Rhaïd added in.

“I protest! Surely, my rights-”

“There isn’t time enough for all that again,” Mrs. Winters interrupted briskly. “The killer could strike again at any moment.”

Then why did it seem to Alexandra that she did not appear at all daunted by it?

Rhaïd had picked up on that obtuse, floating fact too. She saw him open his mouth, pause meaningfully, and realising that he wasn’t in the best of positions, closed it again. He narrowed his dark eyes, and frowned at the mistress of the house, contemplating whether to say what was on his mind.

Cynthia stared into her empty wineglass. Alexandra could see that she was suddenly shaking.

“Maid, another drink,” she called, in a voice a little too high-pitched for someone supposedly in calm temperament.

“Cynthia, do be careful it’s not poisoned,” joked Joshua.

Unfortunately, the joke was lost on his fiancée, and it had the reverse effect on the girl’s distress, making her state of panic more dire, and with her trembling fingers, she knocked over the clear cocktail that Alexandra had just poured.

Slipping under the veil of her character once again, Alexandra tried to calm down the anxious woman.

“’Tis only a light cocktail. I can fetch you ‘nother one. This is only a game, miss, ain’t it?”

“I don’t know,” sighed Cynthia, dabbing at her eyes with her handkerchief, as Alexandra careful dabbed at the stain on the tablecloth. “I’m very sorry, I don’t know what came over me there.”

“Darling, it is fine.” Azura’s words were all-knowing and almost kind. Had the lady had a change of heart during such a threatening time as this?

“It happens to the best of us,” she finished.

The End

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