The Case of the Veuve Clicquot

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

The beginnings of a story that has been in my mind for many years. If only A. Christie had thought of it before me!

Chapter 1 (v.1) - The Case of the Veuve Clicquot

Submitted: February 01, 2013

Reads: 156

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 01, 2013

A A A

A A A

Saturday

Mr Drayton’s friends could be described as ‘interested’, like any good acquaintance, ‘affectionate’ perhaps when necessary, but Verve Cliquot? Not a single name fitted the obviously opulent gift.

“Ariadne…”, probed the Inspector, working his way into her musings , “I can see you’re shaken. We’ll leave it here for today. Do contact me if anything springs to mind, but it is up to us now, to find the seemingly, hopefully absent wielder of this bottle.”

“Thank…you, Sir. Do keep me updated, if thi…ings come up, or you think…of…anything I might…” An awkward farewell to someone in the professional echelon she once longed to join.

“Right. We’ll see ourselves out thank-you.”

The guests of her neighbour’s unexpected ‘hoorah’ had dispersed themselves throughout the house and the grounds, whether by boredom, shock or respect, which made it rather difficult for poor Ariadne to leave.

The police had since cordoned off the kitchen and attempted a removal of the ferreting guests, but the Inspector had desired a human inventory, plus preliminary questioning, and commanded that all guests were to report back to the garden house by 9.00am the following morning. That would be Sunday, a useful day for safely gathering in abundant suspects, but a royal pain for our heroine, who would rather enjoy an extended scramble through the woody right-of-way, extending off behind Mr Drayton’s and her swab of land.

As would be expected, there was a latent chill in the dark air. Having temporarily vanquished the guests, fulfilling her neighbourly obligations, Ariadne breathed a deep breath, filling her nasal cavity, throat, lungs, forehead with a damp, sharp shock, clearing the last wave of adrenalin and sending her stumbling toward sleep.

She felt remarkably dull in the aftermath of a murder. Even the word sounded distant. Struck with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot…the irony was hard to ignore. Catching her pants on the slimy wooden fence, she felt especially clumsy and human. Creeping through her door, up the staircase and into her quiet domain, Ariadne wrote hurried reminders about the morning in fear she may take the whole palaver for the product of a bad sleep. One last peek over the field, however, granted her a view of semi-fluorescent police tape. Unlikely to fade too easily.

 

The party had begun, in Ariadne’s mind, two weeks prior, when an uncomfortably floral note appeared in her immaculate letter box. Drayton. Note paper. Party. Something was amiss and she didn’t wait to brush her teeth before hopping across the field for an obligatory ‘visit’ to the purportrator.

“Morning, Drayton! You in?” peeking in the larder door, always open of a morn.

“Ariadne?!” barked a voice from the guts of the expansive homestead. “Coffee?! Come through.”

“Don’t mind if I do, thank-you. I found your delightful invite this morning.”

 She entered the kitchen and took up place at an expansive, gnarly island bench. Drayton sighed his way into the room, wearing his waders and kitted out for quite the adventure.

“I take it you’re here to probe, or simply amuse yourself at my expense?”

Hardly thrown by this, Ariadne laughed, paused a beat, and said, “…Well, yes. The first option. Drayton, a party?! Who’s invited? Me, I know that, but I’m not doing any flipping catering or anything you’ll no doubt require.” At his somewhat silenced visage, she faltered, adding, “I mean, I’ll sweep the porch, kitchen, sorry Drayton.  Just, please explain.”

You see, Mr Drayton is actually Sir Drayton, a man bookending a long line of pompously important people. In truth, he’s pompously important himself and has dedicated the last 10 years of his life to obliterating that adjective. After a lifelong series of tragic events, Drayton landed his current residence, heart-warming bank accounts and, in keeping with the Nature’s balance, lost all living relatives. Unlikely? Just like his apparent party.

“Ariadne, neighbour, you know me not. Dear, bumbling soul, I do have friends and the desire for a wholesome social calendar and simply because my last few years have been lacking in this department, I’d appreciate your support, not patronising gawking.”

He poured two mugs of thick, black coffee – fairly comparable with watered-down treacle – and inhaled deeply. “I’m off. Fishing. I don’t wear waders for the thrill.”

“That’s good. I’ll take this with me. Pop over later, I’ll be home from one…sorry D.”

With a pound of regret in her heart, Ariadne took her deserved leave. Drayton’s coffee remained steaming well into the next hour and she took this as a sign to respect the silent brew she, every morning, takes for granted.

 

Sunday

 

Our heroine woke with a start at 6.43am. She had, in fact, woken with such a start on the hour, most hours of the night. With 6.43 glowing from the bedside and, at last, a scrabble of floppy, happy dogs easing up the stairs, she determined to sit up, stand up and do what scrambling she could before 9 o’clock. A foreign, heavy feeling kept her rooted still for some minutes as a double-speed vision of yesterday evening’s affairs struck her from behind. An unfair shot – she was hardly yet conscious – but she fought back with an Ariadne classic, the keep it moving mantra. Her mother’s voice far too often bellowed, ‘Nothing good comes of those who stagnate!’ Sleeping-in was clearly not one of the family fortes.

Out in the field behind her back fence a small, faun-coloured rabbit sat watching her through the grass. Long grass, staring rabbit, twitching nose, poised front paws, ears slowly following their fullest trajectory, listening for signs of sudden change.

Ariadne soon found herself rooted once more, nose twitching, unsure of herself for one moment too long. An extraordinary clamour of sound and motion sent her heart racing, as half a field of partridges took flight to the left. Now facing that direction, the sight of police tape around Drayton’s building sent her, too, running, leaping, dashing uphill toward the bracken.

With not long before her appearance at the garden house, the basket was filled less than usual with blackberries, twigs, stems of stinging nettle, acorns. An expansive vase in the larder was always overflowing with a chorus of woodland plants, bits and bobs. The least likely to make it in the world of floral presentation, the better, in her eyes.

Jogging further along the upper edge of the woodland copse, the slowly lifting mist was remarkably beautiful to a thrown mind. On too rare an occasion did she have new perspectives in her life, new happenings through which to amplify her daily surroundings. The butter was never left out, but when it was, she found a quiet thrill in the mellow sensation of butter under a fingernail, forced upon her thumb with an overly brisk scooping-up of the dish. A chest lid left open, had she been distracted after retrieving a blanket from within, gave off an unusual shadow, leaning against the wall, drawing her attention to the mysterious chips in the paint, many inches higher. Little signs of the previous residents were to Ariadne like messages through time; portals through which a glimpse of another life could be stolen...

 

TBC


© Copyright 2019 Amy Griffin. All rights reserved.

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