Monday, September 19, 2016

One More Cup Of Coffee ... Part 6

One More Cup Of Coffee ... Part 6

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, or actual events is purely coincidental.

After arming myself with the largest carving knife that I could find in the kitchen, I hid out in one of the empty rooms on the second floor of the Pendleton mansion, and I waited.

The room was dark and dank, musty, and if I dared, I would have opened a window to let the night air in. I knew better. Maggie had some kind of inner sense about Pendleton. Any indication of the slightest change in the mansion would be immediately on her radar, and she would hunt me down in an instant.

An hour past, and I waited to hear her car come up the drive or her shrill voice shouting "Bryce, I'm home," but nothing. The night remained as quiet and as calm as ever. Pendleton was asleep in its stagnant history, and so I waited.

By the early morning hours, I grew more and more confused. Maggie had never stayed out for an entire night, and still there was no sign of her. Finally, I heard a car pulling up the gravel drive, and I steadied myself for the inevitable confrontation. I listened for the whirr of the garage door opening, but the familiar sound never materialized, and instead of hearing the front door opening with its usual creak, I heard the sound of men's voices, and incredibly, doorbell chimes completely unfamilar to me.

I left my hideout and found my way down the stairs. When I reached the front door, I looked through the stained glass side window, and to my surprise, saw two state troopers standing on the doorstep. I dropped my carving knife in an umbrella stand by the entryway, and I opened the door hastily.

"Are you Mr Bryce Hoskins?" one of the troopers asked.

"Yes," I replied, "I am Dr Bryce Hoskins."

"Mr Hoskins, my name is Officer Grimes and this is Officer Mallory, may we come in?"

"Please," I offered. "Of course, please come in."

The two officers entered Pendleton, and I directed them to the parlour. My hands were shaking, and I worried that the state troopers would notice the nervous agitation rippling through my body.

"Please," I suggested, "have a seat."

"No thank you, Mr Hoskins," one of the troopers said glumly, "I'm afraid we have some bad news."

"Bad news?" I wondered, trying to control my sudden excitement.

"There has been an automobile accident. Mr Hoskins, it appears as if your wife's car has gone off the road on Old Cassidy Road just south of where it meets County Line."

"And my wife?" I asked.

"I'm afraid the car burst into flames on impact. We can only assume that she did not survive the event."

I stood and looked at the two troopers incredulously. I didn't know whether to whoop with delight or fall to my knees in some pretense of anguish. I simply sat on a settee, while maintaining as blank an expression as possible.

One of the troopers began making notes in a small notebook. As he wrote, he looked up at me and asked, "Mr Hoskins, we have no record of your residence here. Do you mind telling me how long you and Miss Fontainebleau have been married?"

"Not at all," I began, and over the course of the next fifteen to twenty minutes, I explained to the troopers how Maggie and I had met, how she nursed me back to health after a gunshot wound suffered at Lonnegan's Diner, and how we eventually became man and wife.

Satisfied with my account, the state troopers offered their condolences and indicated that they had to leave to rejoin the investigation taking place out in the field. As I closed the door behind them, I propped myself up against the door frame, and I began to laugh, quietly at first, but before long my laughter turned into what I can only describe as an obscene howl. I had won. Maggie had no family, no heirs, and to the best of my knowledge, not even a will. Pendleton Park was mine.

I decided that the occasion called for something of a celebration. So, I made my way to the kitchen, through a small door, and down a flight of steps to the wine cellar. I switched on an overhead light and picked out an especially fine vintage of Chablis. Then I switched off the light and returned up the stairs. When I stepped through the doorway and back into the kitchen, I stopped in fright.

There, by the French doors leading to the rear lawns, was Maggie. She was holding a revolver in her hand, and in an all too familiar posture that I remembered from my encounter with Billy Bottenfield, she was aiming it directly at my face.

... To be continued ...




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