FOOTSTEPS TO MURDER

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

Indeed, they could all remember it, as if it had just taken place, rather than being a whole year ago; so sharply was it etched on their minds.

As pre-arranged, at exactly five minutes to three, the French windows into Third’s study were opened and all eight of them, with Sir Stanley at the head, marched into the room. They all wore skin gloves, to avoid incriminating fingerprints.

The tall, lank Third was sat behind his desk, studying some business document, while the strains of a Wagner opera oozed from the CD player. He looked up and was at first shocked and alarmed by the sight of eight, usually compliant people, stood before him, and glowering at him with a strange, unnerving intensity. He dropped the document to the desk and switched off the CD player. Shock was then replaced by outrage and anger. Though he knew, instinctively, that something serious was afoot. Third didn’t like surprises; except when he inflicted them on other people.

He got to his feet and glowered angrily at the assemblage before him. Even on the edge of his own extinction - with the odds for once stacked against him - he was a formidable figure to behold.

’What’s the meaning of this intrusion,’ he growled, his eyes dilated with fury. ’I gave specific instructions that I wasn’t to be disturbed till tea time.’

’What we have in mind just won’t wait,’ insisted Sir Stanley.

’Am I not the master in my own house?’ insisted Third, with typical bravado.

’Not any more, Third; you pathetic, miserable excuse for a human being,’ snarled Sir Stanley.

’Get out of here, the lot of you. Do what I tell you, d’you hear?’

Sir Stanley pulled out a revolver from a side pocket. ’For your despicable cruelty to your wife - for your constant abuse of servants and underlings, for your commercial chicanery, dishonesty and underhandedness; for your entire lack of human trust and decency - we have decided, all eight of us, that yours is a life not worthy of continuation. Since the law has proved incapable punishing your lurid crimes - though it regularly condemns and sentences far lesser villains - we have decided at act as your judge, jury and executioner, in the name of humanity.’

’Let the swine have it,’ urged on Brackenberry.

’The dirty dog; shooting’s too good for him,’ fulminated Mrs. Field.

’Put that gun away you cretinous buffoon, and get out of this room with the rest of those miserable curs.’

Oblivious of those words Sir Stanley aimed the gun.

Third looked angrily at his wife. ’Did they twist your arm to join in this conspiracy, Anne?’

’She was the one who suggested it,’ said Sir Stanley, with a positively gloating sneer.

’And now I’m going to watch you squirm,’ said Lady Anne.

’This is treachery!’

’We’ve had to take the dirt from you, for years, Third,’ snapped the irate Tower. ’Now it’s our turn to dish it out.’

’And not before time,’ echoed Bosworth.

’You bunch of creeps. You’d be nothing without me.’

’We’d be a damn sight happier,’ said Lancaster.

’Why don’t you pull the trigger, Buckingham?’ insisted Brackenberry.

’You can’t shoot me. I’m too important to die.’

’Hark at him,’ cried Mrs. Field; ’arrogant and full of himself to the end.’

Those furious words, so typical of his self-centered egomania, were the last to issue from Third’s lips. Though he looked as frightened and alarmed as a cornered rat. Five bullets were shot into his torso, and he fell and expired, entirely unlamented on the floor, as gulls took wing outside and their cries filled the air.

Mrs. Field looked down at the slain creature with merciless contempt. ’Be Jasus, he hasn’t escaped the wrath of God. All his sins will return to haunt him. They will. He will face his day of judgement, and condemnation for his crimes. And all the ill-gotten gains he had accumulated will be of no help to him at all, begorrah. Death alone would be too kind an end for such an evil, heathen existence.’

After the murder they all retreated to an adjacent room. A champagne bottle was popped open by the butler and eight glasses were filled with foaming nectar to celebrate the event. Indeed such was the high drama and intensity of the occasion that for once Mrs. Field felt that she could exempt herself from her self-imposed prohibition against booze. For the hapless Sir Richard it was indeed the afternoon of his discontent. He had performed his last scene, in the lurid melodrama of his life; and the curtain had fallen over his performance on the human stage.

Normally to drink in the celebration of the death of someone - particularly if you had a material hand in bringing that drastic situation about - would seem appalling bad form, and lack of taste. But Third was a glaring exception to this general rule. Indeed they felt positively elated and euphoric, at his speedy demise; as if released from some fetid prison cell where they had been locked and chained. And indeed they were lost in wonderment that such a hated tyrant - who seemed to be such a ubiquitous, almost permanent feature of their lives; a dark shadow that no light could penetrate - could be got rid of so swiftly and easily. And all of them, without exception, wondered why they had not taken such action years ago. There was no shame at what they had done, only regret that they hadn’t done it earlier.

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