“Ann, why didn’t you tell me about the inheritance?” Polly asked.
Ann started. “How do you know?” she asked warily. “Did you read the letter?”
“No I didn’t. You know I don’t much care for reading and writing. Tidger told me. He read the letter by mistake.”
“Ann, now that you are an heiress, you better keep your wits about you,” Polly cautioned her elder widowed sister.
“What do you mean?” Ann was bewildered.
“Ah Ann, ever the fool. Didn’t you notice the doddering fools Wigget and Miller praising you to the skies?”
Ann pinked. “Oh I thought they were being sweet.”
“You’ve been here for the past 6 months and all of a sudden they became sweet? It’s the inheritance, mark my words.”
“Oh Polly,” Ann wrung her hands, “You are the clever one. Tell me what should I do? I don’t like either of them but nobody else will marry me at this age.”
“Humph!” snorted Polly, “I wouldn’t be surprised if my own Tidger wouldn’t marry you himself.”
“Polly!” Ann gasped scandalized, “Do you know what you are saying?”
“Of course I know.” Polly said. “I know my Tidger. He has a weakness for money. Besides, he’s worried about the mortgage on the…”
“But that doesn’t mean…”
“It doesn’t mean, but it could, is all I am saying. And now that the children have flown the nest, we don’t have much in common.”
“Oh Polly aren’t you happy in your marriage?”
“Now don’t be a romantic fool Ann.” Polly briskly set about cleaning up her tiny makeshift kitchen. “Does anyone get married for happiness’ sake?”
“Then why get married?”
“Women get married to have children and stability. Men get married to get an unpaid servant and nurse for life.” Polly attacked the dishes with vigor.
“Tell me Ann, were you happy in your marriage?”
“It was alright.” Ann crossed herself. “May his soul rest in peace.”
“Do you miss him?”
Ann was silent. “Not really.” She said at last. “But I do wish we had a house of our own. That I was independent…”
“Well with your inheritance you could easily set up house by yourself.”
“But that would be so lonely. What would I do alone?”
“I…I could join you.”
“That would be lovely Polly! Will Tidger agree?”
“He doesn’t need to.”
“I am baking his favorite cake today.” Polly held up a bottle. “With a special flavor.”
Polly shrugged. “He’s outlived his usefulness. He’s more of a bother and a pain to be with. I thought I would send him to a happier place.”
“What on earth is the matter with you Polly?”
“You are a fine one to talk Ann,” Polly rounded on her, “Making sheep eyes at my husband.”
“How dare you Polly!”
“Oh I dare alright. Do you think I am blind? You always had a soft spot my Tidger didn’t you? And now the money is making him lean towards you.”
“You are crazy Polly.”
“No I am not. He’s always been a sleep talker. And these days all he says are Ann and mutter about ways to bump me off.” She held up the bottle. “I had bought this poison for you. But since the money I thought it better to get rid of him. After all you are my sister.”
“Don’t worry Ann, you and I will get along well together. Won’t we?”
Ann paled. She wrung her hands but wilted under Polly’s unblinking glare. She nodded.
“Good.” Polly sounded strange and her eyes glittered dangerously.
“You are looking funny Polly. Your blood pressure seems to have shot up. You need to rest. Let me make dinner…”
“No! I am baking the cake.”
“Okay after you bake the cake,” Ann said soothingly, “you go and rest. Let me take care of the dinner, while I think how best to handle this. And you know I love cooking.”
Polly expertly sifted the floor, broke the eggs, crushed the sugar, emptied the bottle and slid the cake batter into the oven.
“Done!” Polly dusted her hands and slipped off her apron. “I am going. You think all you like, but remember that cake is for my Tidger.” She sniffled. “He was a good man. Until you and your money came along.” With a sob she left the kitchen.
Ann heaved a heavy sigh. But there was dinner to be made. She worked swiftly around the kitchen and didn’t pause until she had set the table to her satisfaction.
“Polly,” she walked up to her room, “It’s all set Polly. And I have decided to accept Miller’s invitation for dinner. That way I will be out of the way and you can claim that Tidger had a heart attack.”
“Good thinking.” Polly approved of the plan. Besides, she couldn’t wait to see Tidger’s face as Ann left for a date right under his nose. Oh how she would rub it in.
He would die of a heart attack, she chortled to herself.
Bump her off would he? She would show him – who would bump off whom.
Ann and Miller were enjoying a quiet dinner when the concierge came and interrupted them. He spoke in a low whisper to Miller.
“Ann, my dear,” Miller laid his hand on hers, “We have to go.”
Ann stared at him and paled. “What’s the matter?”
“Come let’s go.” He was gentle with her as he led her out of the restaurant.
The scene at home was one of utter chaos. The dinner Ann had labored over, lay spattered all over the floor. Alongside it, Polly lay senseless while Tidger was weeping softly in one corner.
“What happened?” It was the doctor.
Tidger wiped his face and attempted to gather himself. “I…I don’t know doctor. We were having dinner. She had finished eating and I was almost done. She got up to get the cake and appeared to get dizzy. She gave a gasp and grabbed the tablecloth before keeling over. She…” he choked, “she hasn’t moved since then.”
“ You ate the same thing?” The Inspector peered at the dishes. “What was in this empty bowl?” He sniffed suspiciously at it.
“Soup. I finished it.”
Tidger shrugged. “Don’t know but it was real tasty.”
“The bowl looks clean, as if it has been been washed.” He pinned Tidger with his eyes, who flushed and blustered, “Look here Inspector…”
“It was clear soup Inspector,” Ann controlled her sobs, “I…I helped her make it.”
“She was fine before that?” The doctor interrupted.
“Yes. She was perfectly fine. She cooked dinner. She even made my favorite cake.” Tidger paused. “She did complain of uneasiness once or twice.”
“Hmm, looks like she had a heart attack.” The doctor stood up. “She did have high blood pressure and diabetes.”
“My poor Polly. What will happen to me now?”
Ann was too busy crying in Miller’s arms to console Tidger.
She didn’t even speak to him at Polly’s funeral. She moved out of his house the same day.
It was only months later, after the doctor had declared Polly’s death to be due to natural causes and police had given Tidger a clean chit that Ann met Tidger at a common friend’s house.
“How are you?” She looked at him critically. “You’ve lost weight.”
He gave a tired smile. “I am not much of a cook. And,” he coughed, “I haven’t been sleeping too well either.”
“Come over for dinner tomorrow. Miller, you come too. Around 7.30 pm?”
Tidger was early.
“How’s the paperwork for the inheritance progressing?” Ann asked as she cut him a piece of his favorite cake.
He bit into it and closed his eyes in bliss. “Almost done.” He mumbled indistinctly through a full mouth. “Shouldn’t take more than a month now.”
“Good. Poor Polly must be turning in her grave to know that she was the one who got the inheritance not me.”
Tidger grinned. “Aren’t I smart?”
“Only in showing me the letter first. You shouldn’t have washed the soup bowl.”
“I thought there could be traces of the poison.”
“They wouldn’t have been able to detect it.” Ann was confident.
“I am sorry.” He deferred to her greater wisdom. “What next?”
The doorbell rang.
Ann rewarded him with a kiss. “Now it’s time for you to woo me. Make it nice and slow.”
She went to let Miller in.
Just enough delay to raise suspicion but not confirm it.
As always, patience was the key to success.
A/N This story is inspired by WW Jacobs short story A Golden Venture and linked to Story Club # 10
So what do you think? Plausible? Any loopholes? Doubts? Loose ends? Go on say it, I am sure you found something!