Comedy Hour

Reads: 275  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 2  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Angela, who has served as house-keeper to Miss Crabtree for many years, faces the day when all her hopes of a promising future are threatened by the arrival of Major Cross. Then an opportunity presents itself to her.

Submitted: June 11, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 11, 2016

A A A

A A A


Comedy Hour

 

Today is the beginning of the end. I just know it.

I took a deep breath and supported myself; hands resting at the edge of the old butler sink, the comforting sensation of cool ceramic permeating through my rubber gloves.
There is definitely a change in her attitude. Not that Miss Crabtree has been the most cheerful company over the years, but at least she used to let me know when she appreciated some of the things I did for her. “You’ll get all this when I’m gone,” she used to say. Ha! How long has it been since I heard that? I’m convinced the Major is behind it all. It started from the very first day he turned up on the scene. Today is the worst though; the old crow ordering me about like a skivvy. “Now remember,” she'd said after I took up her breakfast. “This is a very special day, Angela, and we don’t want to keep the Major waiting.”

God! I wonder if I should have agreed to this arrangement at all. How long ago was that? Two years -- nearly three now. Back then I was certain I'd made the right decision. But then Major Bloody Cross came along and introduced himself. How old is the sly old fox? Can’t be much more than sixty-five. He must seem like a toy-boy to her. Ha! The Fox and the Crow. He thinks I can’t see through him, but I know exactly what he’s up to.

The din resounded from the bathroom above. That radio must be turned to full volume. I hate Saturdays!
The dishes were still stacked on the drainer. I tried the hot water again, but all the tap would do was shudder in my hand and cough up a mere trickle. Surely she must have filled the bath by now. It’ll be no use asking her how long she’ll be – she wouldn’t hear me over that racket. And what’s more, I’m bursting to go to the loo. The first thing I’m going to do when I get this place is have a cloakroom and loo built off the hall down here; there’s definitely space for one under the stairs.

Laughter boomed from the radio above. I glared at the ceiling. You’d think she’d listen to the Major. He’s warned her more than once about having an electric radio up there in the bathroom. Does she listen? No she doesn’t. Not one for change is Miss Crabtree -- apart from the most recent event, of course.

I counted the cups – one missing. I then remembered: mine was up in my room.
When I came back out onto the landing I stopped outside the half-open bathroom door; a steady pulse pounding at the right side of my head. The ridiculous comedy show was set at full volume and yet she was obviously not listening to a single word. Her voice screeched out above the laughter from the studio audience, her cackling devoid of anything resembling a melody.

. . . ding-dong the bells are going to chime.”

I peeked through the crack in the door. There, at the far end of the bath, perched on the shelf above drifts of rising steam, stood the radio. I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the bloody thing. I must have stood there for well over a minute just staring at the antiquated monster. A waft of cloying lavender reached my nostrils. I could feel the bile rise in my throat.

I was about to return downstairs when I glanced at the electric socket. It was only a fleeting glance, but then my eyes followed the cable as it stretched around the door frame.
“. . . so, get me to the church, get me to the church. . . ”

All I had to do was give the door a good hard yank: surely that would be enough to snap the wire. What a thought. No more bloody Saturday Comedy Hour. Well, at least not until the old crow forks out for a new radio. Even one week without that racket would be heaven.
I watched my hand reach for the doorknob; rubber fingers closing around the handle. My whole body began to shake. I had to bite my lip to stop from laughing.

. . . get me to the church on, get me to the church on. . . ”

Bang!

Help! Angela!”

Another wave of insane laughter spewed out from the radio. I stared at the cable jammed between the door and the frame. Damn!

An-gel-lah!”

Damn, Damn, Damn! I opened the door and stepped into the bathroom.

Yes, Miss Crabtree. What’s the matter?”

The old woman was sitting up in the bath, her scrawny finger pointing up to the radio which now rested precariously on the edge of the shelf above. “Come on, hurry up!” she screeched.
Keeping my eyes fixed on the shelf, I carefully stepped over the cable and moved to the end of the bath. I hesitated. What did she want me to do? Take it down or push it back?
“Don’t just stand there, you stupid girl! The thing could fall on top of me.”
The words echoed in my head,
stupid girl. . . stupid girl. I looked down at the emaciated figure below; stared hard into her cloudy grey eyes. The side of my head began to throb again as laughter bellowed out from the radio next to my ear.

Why are you staring at me like that, Angela?”

At first it all happened in slow motion – as if in a dream. I watched my hand dip into the soapy water and felt myself take a pace back from the edge of the bath. I held my breath as rubber fingers gripped the length of cable which extended across to the shelf.
“What are you doing?” There was panic in Miss Crabtree’s voice. “What the. . . ”

Then in an instant; the splash, the blue flash, the sharp crackling noise.

Silence.

I stood and stared at the old lady’s face. Her expression was so strange; jaw gaping, eyes bulging, just as if a photograph had captured her moment of terror. Then the smell: a sharp bitter odour – familiar, but I couldn’t quite place where I’d come across it before.

Then it came to me.

When we were kids my Dad used to let me and my little sister poke the bonfire in our garden with long sticks. All was well until one day Janey got a little too close. A tongue of flame caught her hair. God, the fuss she made. Up it went with a whoosh – amazing to watch. But what I noticed most of all was the smell; that same acrid smell which filled this room now. I looked up at the old woman’s head. Her hair, which had been especially permed on Thursday, had turned from white to charcoal grey. The handsome set waves now scorched and reduced to a frizzle, each strand as delicate as a dandelion seed.

I glanced at the cup in my hand. Oops – the washing up. Taking a wide arc to avoid stepping onto the wet floor, I left the bathroom and went out into the landing. I bent down to pull the plug from the wall socket, but then something made me change my mind. I continued downstairs.

The afternoon light was beginning to fade and the view through the kitchen window made such an tranquil scene. Most of the foliage of the two apple trees had turned to the colour of rust, and the Nyssa Sinensis stood out in bold rich vermilion. I’ll need to clear the leaves from the lawn tomorrow – providing the rain keeps away, that is. I glanced down at the collection of dishes remained stacked up on the draining board. Better check if there are any in the living room, I can’t imagine the Major or the old crow bothering to bring them in.

Two narrow champagne glasses stood close to each other on the dining table: the only clue to the intimacy which had taken place that afternoon. I picked up the bottle and was surprised at the weight. Miss Crabtree must have suggested that more than one glass would just be too decadent. Ha! I could just see the Major having to fight the urge to top up his glass. No wonder he was in a hurry to go – probably off to the betting shop, then on to meet his drinking cronies at the golf club.

Two items sat on the open top of the bureau; the old lady’s pension book (with a fifty pound note tucked inside) and a heavy Manila envelope. Pushing the pension book aside, I opened the envelope: Miss Crabtree’s Last Will and Testament. At least the important details hadn’t been altered: the old crow had kept to her promise all these years. Included with this document was a letter, hand-written and addressed to Draker, Draker and Smythe. The instruction was plain and to the point and it didn’t surprise me in the least: ‘All my assets I bequeath to Major Reginald Cross’.

I tucked the note into the pocket of my jeans and slipped the original papers back into the envelope. I was about to place it back when I had second thoughts. Rather than leave it in full view, I buried it amongst the papers in the second drawer of the desk. I collected up the bottle and glasses and returned to the kitchen. The thought of celebrating my achievement with half a bottle of champagne gave me such a thrill. I was about to plunge my hands into soap suds for the second time that day when the door-chime rang out in the hall. Who on earth could that be?
The Major was standing on the porch. He dismissed me with a wave and marched towards the living room. A moment later he reappeared.

Would you be so good as to ask Miss Crabtree if she’s seen my specs?” The Major’s words trailed off. “No it’s all right, I’ll ask her myself. Where is she?”

Having her bath,” I cocked my ear to the ceiling. “It’s all quiet up there, she’s probably finished now.”

I waited until the Major disappeared up the stairs then stepped into the living room. Just as I thought: the pension book was empty. I was about to return to the kitchen when his voice boomed down from the stairwell.

Good God! Angela, you’d better come up here – quickly!”

It was when I reached the landing I noticed the plug had been pulled from the wall socket.
The Major was standing in the centre of the flooded bathroom floor shaking his head in disbelief at the white figure in the bath. “I told her so many times about that dammed radio.” He turned to face me. “Look, don’t you go touching anything! I’m going down to phone the emergency services.”

Leaving a trail of wet footprints across the bathroom floor, he pushed past and bounded downstairs. I crouched down to the carpet. Taking care not to disturb any prints, I took the plug between my rubber fingers and pushed it into the mains socket.

 

Copyright © James Faro 2014

 

 


© Copyright 2017 James Faro. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

More Mystery and Crime Short Stories

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by James Faro

Comedy Hour

Short Story / Mystery and Crime

The Widow of Duxbury

Short Story / Historical Fiction

Popular Tags