The Unsolved Case

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The Unsolved Case

Post by AArdvark » Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:06 pm

I didn't feel this one ended properly, so.....

The Unsolved Case

"O, if you please, madam, could I speak to you a moment?"

It might be thought that this request was in the nature of an absurdity, since Elsie Udderson, Miss Marble"s bovine maid was actually speaking to her mistress at the moment.

Recognizing the idiom, however, Miss Marble said promptly, "Certainly, Elsie. Come in and shut the door. What is it?"

Obediently shutting the door, Edna sauntered into the room, pleated the corner of her apron between her fingers, and swallowed once or twice. The copper bell around her neck clanged dully.

"Yes, Elsie?" asked Miss Marble.

"Oh, please, ma'am, it's my cousin Gladdie. You see, she's lost her mind. Right out of her 'ead she is."

"Dear me, I am sorry to hear that. She's at Old Hall, wasn't she, with the Skinner hags?"

"Yes, ma'am, that's right, ma'am." Elsie took a moment to break wind, sonorously punctuating her statement. Miss Marble ignored the odor.

"Gladys has changed lost her mind before, though, hasn't she?"

"Oh yes, ma'am. She's always one for madness, Gladdie is. She never seems to get better, really."

"And this time it's different?" asked Miss Marble.

"Yes, ma'am, and it"s upset Gladdie something awful." Miss Marble looked slightly surprised. Her recollection of Gladys, who had occasionally come to drink gin in the kitchen on her "days out," was a stout, giggling girl of unshakably equable temperament.

Edna went on: "You see, ma'am, it's the way it happened, the way Miss Skinner looked."

"How," inquired Miss Marble patiently, "did Miss Skinner look?"

"Gladdie says she's a right bitch, she is. Oh, ma'am, it was ever such a shock to Gladdie. You see, one of Miss Emily's brooches was missing, and they went and blamed it on Gladdie. And then it turned up again, pushed right to the back of a drawer in the dressing-table, and very thankful Gladdie was. "And the very next day a plate got broken, and Miss Lavinia, she bounced out right away and told Gladdie to fuck herself sideways. And what Gladdie feels is it couldn't have been the plate and that Miss Lavinia was just being mean."

Miss Marble nodded. Though having no particular care for Gladys, she was quite sure of the girl's honesty and could well imagine that the affair must have upset her enough to drive her mad.

Elsie said, "I suppose, ma'am, there isn't any thing you could do about it?"

Miss marble pointed a bony forefinger at her. "Tell her to stop being a servant. Go into business and make a fortune. It's what I did."

"Oh, She's not got the brains for anything like that," said Elsie.

"Of course she does," Miss Marble said, "everyone does. What she needs is a push. Once she gets her bearings she'll be alright. Let me think on this a bit, Elsie. I may be going up that way tomorrow. I'll have a word with the Skinners."

"Oh, thank you, madam," said Elsie.

Old Hall was a big Victorian house surrounded by woods and park land. It was set well back, all by itself without any neighbouring houses. Two maiden ladies by the name of Skinner owned it.

Miss Marble was acquainted with the Skinner sisters, though she didn't know therm well. Miss Emily, the younger, spent most of her time in bed, suffering from various complaints which were largely imaginary. Only Miss Lavinia believed devoutly in her sister"s martyrdom and patience under affliction and ran errands and trotted up and down to the village for things that 'my sister had suddenly fancied.'

It was the view of the village gossips that if Miss Emily suffered half as much as she said she did, she would have sent for Dr. Fuckstikk long ago. But Miss Emily, when this was hinted to her, shut her eyes in a superior way and murmured that her case was not a simple one, the best specialists in London had been baffled by it and that a wonderful new man had put her on a most revolutionary course of treatment and that she really hoped her health would improve under it. No humdrum G.P. could possibly understand her case.

"And it's my opinion," said the outspoken Miss Muttonsthupper, "that she's very wise not to send for him. Dear Dr. Fuckstikk, in that breezy manner of his, would tell her that there was nothing the matter with her and to get up and not make a fuss! Do her a lot of good!"

Failing such arbitrary treatment, however, Miss Emily continued to lie on beds and sofas, to take strange little pills and nostrums, and to reject nearly everything that had been cooked for her and ask for something else, usually something difficult and inconvenient to get.

The door was opened to Miss Marble by Gladdie, looking more depressed than Miss Marble had ever thought possible. In reality Gladdie was hung over, having self-medicated herself with gin. The sitting-room, which had been partitioned into a dining-room, drawing-room, bathroom, basement, attic and housemaid's cupboard, was dim and gloomy. Miss Lavinia rose to greet Miss Marble.

Lavinia Skinner was a tall, gaunt, bony female of fifty. She had a gruff voice and an abrupt manner.

"Nice to see you," she said. "Emily's lying down, feeling low today, poor dear. Hope she'll see you, it would cheer her up, but there are times when she doesn't feel up to seeing anybody. Poor dear, she's wonderfully patient."

Miss Marble responded politely. Servants were the main topic of conversation in the village, so it was not difficult to lead the conversation in that direction. Miss Marble said she had heard that that nice girl, Gladys Holmes, was leaving.

Miss Lavinia nodded. "Wednesday week. Broke things, you know. Can't have that shit from the servants."

Miss Marble sighed and commented that Lavinia was indeed a heartless bitch and wouldn't they reconsider? Did Miss Skinner really think it was wise to part with Gladys?

"Know it's difficult to get servants," admitted Miss Lavinia. "The Devereuxs haven't got anybody, but then I don't wonder, always quarrelling, jazz cigarettes all night, meals any time, what's the world coming to. I pity them! Then the Larkins have just lost their maid. Of course, with the judge grabbing her and forcing her to do things at six in the morning, and Mrs. Larkin always with her riding crop, I don't wonder at that, either. Mrs. Carmichael's Jam-pats is a fixture, of course, though in my opinion she's the most disagreeable woman and absolutely bullies the old lady."

"Then don't you think you might reconsider your decision about Gladys. She really is a nice girl. I know all her family; very honest and superior."

Miss Lavinia shook her head. "I've got my reasons," she said importantly.

Miss Marble murmured: "So be it, then." She reached into her oversized handbag and produced a silver plated .32 revolver with pearl grips. She pointed it at Lavinia.

"Oh dear," said Lavinia. "Have you lost your mind?"

"Let's go in and have a word with Miss Emily."

Miss Marble made Lavinia walk before her to the bedroom where miss Emily was resting on the bed. Miss Marble closed the door behind her. The dim light showed Emily to be a thin, indecisive-looking creature, with a good deal of greyish yellow hair untidily wound around her head and erupting into curls, the whole thing looking like a bird's nest of which no self-respecting bird could be proud. There was a smell in the room, urine, stale biscuits, and camphor.

"What's going on?" aked Emily in a thin voice.

With four sharp cracks Miss Marble put two bullets each into Lavinia and Emily. She eyed the bodies calmly as she blew the smoke from the barrel.

Gladdie poked her head in the door. "Oh! My, you've shot them both! That's murder, that is."

"No," said Miss Marble. "It's liberation. I've liberated you, Gladdy. You should be happy. Now come in here and listen to me. You've got a long day ahead of you. Tomorrow is your day out, isn't it?

"Er, yes, ma'am." she answered, eyeing the bodies.

"Good. Now first, help me drag Emily off the bed so the blood doesn't stain. We'll roll them in shower curtains, it'll be easier to move them. Next, you are to dig a hole for these two, somewhere out of sight of the road. The vegetable garden should do. Be neat."

"Yes, ma'am. I'll put them under the rhubarb."

"Fitting, I should say. Next, clean up the house, neat and square. After you're done with that you are to get dressed in Lavinia's clothes." She rummaged in her bag for a moment. "Here is a wig that will help with the disguise. You are to drive their car to Paddington station and leave it there. Be sure to wear gloves. It should be quite dark by then so change back into your own clothes. Roll the wig into a newspaper and leave it in a rubbish bin. Take the 11:15 train back here. Come straight to my house, you can spend the night. Do you have all that?

"Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am. But what about the police?"

"Oh, bother the police. It will be days before these two are missed. Inspector Dhipshit will eventually come around and ask questions. All you need tell him is that Lavinia took Miss Emily to London to consult a specialist doctor. Simple as that."

"But what if I'm arrested?"

"Nonsense. You've done nothing. Tomorrow we'll work on your prospects for the future. But right now you have a job of work to do, so get cracking and make sure everything looks normal. Don't want Inspector Dhipshit to suspect anything. No doubt he'll come round and ask me for advice. I'll just make up some kind of village story. He'll leave more confused than ever."
Gladdie still looked afraid. Miss Marble smiled at her as she reloaded her revolver. "Be cheerful, Gladdie, this is the first day of the rest of your life."

She thought for a moment and then smiled. "I'm the one that should be sad." She chuckled to herself. "It will be the one case that I didn't solve."