Tea Story: Lady Lavender & the Poison Tea, Part 1
By Mike Bevel
Lord Neville Pekoe
"You are quite sure?"
"Would that I were not."
"Well... poo. This certainly changes everything." Lady Lavender Pekoe chewed absently on the tip of her carefully manicured fingernail. "The plan wasn't to kill Lord Neville, right? At least not right away. We're both clear on that?"
"I don't know that we necessarily had a plan, per se. 'Something with arsenic,' I believe, was as far as you got."
"How droll, Sebastian, this preemptive blame-pinning you've started. 'As far as you got.' Do be sure to mark that down in your appointment book: 'Today, I was crafty.'"
"Now nothing. You think you can make wild declarations of love to me - in my home - nay, in my and my husband's home-"
"But Monica, it was you who sedu-"
"-and then just sort of off-the-cuffly pin his poisoning on me? Do don't be stupid, Sebastian. With so few other charms to recommend you, don't be a spendthrift with your wits."
"Monica, I must insist-"
"Of course you must. It's what I fell in love with, your devil-may-care insisting. 'I insist, Monica, I must kiss you!' 'Monica, I insist that you accept this-" somewhat gaudy '-necklace.' 'Monica, I insist we must poison your husband's tea if we are ever to go about our lives being happy.'"
"I never insisted we poison Lord Neville's tea!"
"Really? How clumsy of me to have written so in my diary. And how even more clumsy of me to have lost it." Lady Lavender Pekoe traced the pattern of the mother-of-pearl inlay on the tea table that separated her from Sebastian. "How most clumsy of all, indeed, if someone who shouldn't should happen to find that diary."
The ticking of the clock on the mantle kept the room from being truly silent. Monica kept her gaze leveled on Sebastian. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a silver and turquoise cigarette case, and fished a lighter from the pocket of his waistcoat. "I have a diary, too, you know," he said.
"Of course you do. And where is this first-time-I've-ever-heard-of-it diary?"
"Don't worry about it, Monica. But I have one. And maybe I wrote in mine that at 9:27AM on Tuesday I espied the lovely and treacherous Lady Monica Lavender Pekoe adding drops of what appeared to be arsenic to Lord Lavender Pekoe's morning tea."
"Can you be sure?"
"'Treacherous'? Sebastian, flattered though I am, if I believed for a moment that you even knew how to spell 'treacherous,' I might find myself feeling a modicum of soulful despair right at this moment. However, you can't even read the instructions on a pack of matches without furrowing your brow and moving your lips. You'll understand if I don't believe you and this mystery journal. Now. Are you absolutely positive he's dead?"
"To the best of my ability."
"Sebastian, you have no abilities. You felt his pulse? You did that mirror thing under his nose? I've seen Lord Neville sleeping and it had often given me hope of an early widowhood."
"For one thing, Monica, I do so have abilities, so I'll thank you very much for taking back that untrue sentiment. The boys at the club tell me all the time that I make a brilliant whiskey sour, and just the other day a stranger complimented me on my spats."
"Do try to make your second point germane to the death of my husband."
"Well, as far as that goes - he's an awfully unnatural color and he doesn't blink."
"He never does."
"When he sleeps? He never blinks, though his eyes are open. It's most unnerving."
"Well, this looks more dead than unnerving."
"It couldn't be both? You don't think there should be something unnerving about a dead man in his bed? A man who has met his untimely end through murder and poison?"
"You confuse me sometimes with your muddled talking, Monica."
"Just... go in there a second time and really check to make sure that he's dead. I have to change the next step of our plan, now, since I wasn't planning on Lord Neville dying of poisoning."
"Then remind me again why we poisoned him?"
"The arsenic would weaken his heart and his constitution."
"So you did have a plan, all along!"
"Of course I had a plan all along you idiot. After several months of this, you were to take Lord Neville grouse hunting where something dreadfully frightening would happen. Lord Neville, then, would die of a heart attack or, as the police like to call it, natural causes. Then, I'm free and so is all of Lord Neville's money."
"You mean we're free, right?"
"Whatever. Just go and check on him. And see if Williams has any tea brewed."
Left alone, Lady Lavender Pekoe began to plot in earnest. Clearly something would have to be done with Mr. Sebastian Grey as well. She wasn't even sure why she had involved him in the first place, though he was incredibly good looking. Still, the world was full of attractive men and she, as the beautiful widow of a murdered millionaire would have no trouble at all in society. The rub, of course, was how to pin it on Sebastian without him having a chance to say anything.
Speaking of Sebastian, he was gone longer than Lady Lavender Pekoe was expecting. She was about to get up from her chair and look for him when he appeared in the doorway, holding the tea try with some cakes, biscuits, and two tea cups.
"Did you travel to China for the tea and the tea service?"
"I couldn't find Williams anywhere. Lemon?"
"Yes please. He's no doubt in the port cellar, supplementing his income. And Lord Neville?"
"I doubt he's with Williams, Monica."
"I know that. I mean is he really and truly dead?"
"I'd like to see something deader."
"Figure of speech."
"I don't like it."
"Anyway, he's dead all right. Cake?"
"No, thank you. This tea is dreadful. Did you brew it?"
"No? But I thought you said that Williams was nowhere to be found."
"Then where did you get the tea?"
"It was waiting there for me in the kitchen."
"It tastes like Early Grey mixed with... burnt almonds? Sebastian, how can you get tea wrong? It's only a short step away from water. How do you remember to breathe in and out, moment to moment?"
"Maybe if you added more sugar?"
Williams listened to the bickering from outside the door, a bottle marked 'arsenic' in one hand, the other holding back a malicious grin from his face. The forged will from Lord Lavender Pekoe, denouncing his wife as a philanderer and leaving everything to his "faithful servant, Williams," waited for him in his carrying case downstairs with the rest of his luggage. With Lord Lavender Pekoe out of the way, he'd only have to wait for the poisoned tea to take effect. Carefully placed notes would guide the police to poor, handsome, stupid Mr. Sebastian Grey's double murder/suicide. Williams's carefully laid plans would lead him to a quiet house by the seaside, where he would have to make tea for no one but himself.
P.S.: Lady Monica Lavender Pekoe did not die. However, Williams more than likely will. Later.
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