XII.3

I had ignored him. Instead, I had taken the main staircase again, this time passing nobody but my shadow and my past, meaning to head to the guest bedrooms on the second floor to look for Nicky. I took myself past another bust of an old Sir Karkroff, before I realised that Nicky would not be staying in the Hall, returning to her own house across the way. No wonder nobody had seen her.

On my lonely descent, I was given an aching silence, and time to think about the mystery again. I tried going back over, imagining the scenes in my mind, as if I were watching them on a portable player. Nobody would have been able to put the Cyanide into Ivor’s cup without being noticed around the table; and I had noticed that everybody’s eyes were focused on those of another person. So all had a counterpart that they had been watching, and had been watched by. Thus, the only conclusion I came to there was that the Cyanide must have been slipped in amongst the disorder of kitchen-preparations. However if his soup had been poisoned, then it would be correct to believe that target could have been any of us, myself included.

The idea had probably been supposed first by the poisoner; only he or she would confuse us by making Ivor the intentional unintended victim. My head hurt. Perhaps what Elsie had been concealing had been the point of Ivor’s poisoning. Elsie might not talk, but Ivor could have always gone to the authorities. Then, that left me full-circle with the dilemma. To be exact, it left me with several errs in my reasoning.

Surely everybody would have had their eyes on each other in that close-knit kitchen? And yet, I myself had not taken any notice of anybody else; I could not even declare where it was that they had placed themselves. It might seem easy to sprinkle the powder into one of the out-laid soup bowls. How could someone do that in amongst the business that was going on? They would have had to have been a major distraction for all eyes to be facing the same way…

"But wouldn't they have seen-?"

The guilt set in again; it was I who had been enough distraction for someone to sprinkle the Cyanide powder into Ivor's exact bowl. And, even without that, the idea had been planned to the very detail. We had created a system, from which nobody would have looked up or broken away. The murder, unspoken, was hidden amongst them.

It chilled my bones; fabled fear had become real…again, without my knowledge. When had those thoughts and ideas morphed themselves into physical agonies?

Standing at the front door, I was suddenly taken by a thought, a change of tack, that led me around into the small dining room again. Though the placemats were still laid out, the place had become bare, dilapidated in cobwebs again; I pushed through into the kitchen, jogging over to the cup and soup, both Ivor’s, I knew, because both had been slurped up quickly, a contrast to the slowness that came with we adults in discussion. I pulled a face at the orange-red sauce in the bowl. One after another, I sniffed the glass and the bowl, knowingly looking out for one thing.

And there it was, just as Carrie had supposed: the sweet, almond-like smell, with a hint of bitterness to it.

“Urg,” I grunted, tipping the rest of the thick liquid down the sink.

Hearing footsteps, I dived into the ajar pantry cupboard, noticing how little food there was kept in that space. I peeked into the light of the kitchen, watching with a frown decorating my face, as Caroline marched in, breathlessly running her hands through her hair. She froze as she looked upon the half-washed crockery, her eyes darted from side to side, before she pulled out a vial and a cotton bud from her small handbag. It took me a minute more to see that she was still wearing her evening dress.

She brushed the cotton bud around the bowl, soaking it in the slop, before bottling it inside the vial. Her actions bold, she pushed both of Ivor’s meal-things into the sink, and began to run the hot water with soap. Having done enough, she finally brushed her hair back behind her, pocketing the vial, and marched out up the stairs that acted as a back-way, her heels clacking loudly on the linoleum floor.

My face a picture of pure puzzlement, I peeked out of the pantry, checking for others around the kitchen or the dining room.

The End

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