7 – A Cup of Tea and The Well
As usual on a Thursday Stuart Maloney is being difficult. That is his nature. Just a bloody difficult bastard. Everyone he knows says so. That is everyone who knows him says so. There is a subtle difference. Some would prefer not to know him. In fact everyone would prefer it. If something is so very blatantly red he would demand an apology if you even mildly asserted it is red when he had pronounced it is orange. That is how difficult he is. Always.
Thursdays is cleaning day. Mrs Elsie Mop, yes that is her real name, arrives normally at nine o’clock after dropping her two kids at school. Except today it is ten past nine. She had received a call from Mrs Maloney, Ruth, that if she wanted cream milk for her tea to buy some as only fully skimmed was at home. A bad start is not good but a very bad start in these circumstances is simply the epitome of worst. Ten minutes falls into the worst category. Adds fuel to an already troubled soul. Ten minutes and forty three seconds is recorded. The threat to deduct twenty six pence from her pay real.
Elsie decides to hide in the bedrooms. Spring cleaning in July. Making sure there are no bed bugs. Anything that is remotely plausible. Ruth is left to take the flack. Always is. She can absorb it without even taking a breath. Years of practice and torment. Peeling potatoes and making pie. Two of the only things not to attract derision. One sort of pie or another that is. There is variation. Stuart lives mainly on pie. He likes it. His only display of passion. She makes it because it keeps him off her back.
Around the house Stuart has no skill. As you would expect he is not inclined to help. Cooking is definitely a no go zone. However, he does make all the tea that is drunk at 24 Acacia Avenue. Insists on it and is not refused. And not just a breakfast tea. Any sort. Last count there were over twenty two varieties in the larder. Thinks it gives the impression he is the man of the house. The good husband. He only drinks Earl Grey. Ruth only drinks Green.
Thursday night is go to Spanish lessons night for Ruth. She is off at six. Gets back at ten. Never late. Always spot on. While she is out Stuart uncovers a wallet containing tickets to Spain. On Monday. One Way. Is infuriated beyond explanation. How dare she leave me. The Spanish teacher? He puts the wallet back in it’s hiding place. Goes to the shed and gets the packet of rat poison used to clear out the vermin from underneath. Crushes it up into a fine powder. Opens up the well that he found buried when digging the vegetable patch. Thirty feet deep and full to within two feet of the top. Perfect. Sunday afternoon is the day. Two cups of tea and crumpets at five. Always two cups. Sunday afternoon and they settle down at five. Stuart makes the tea. A pot for him and a pot for Ruth. Ruth toasts the crumpets. Butters them when hot so they are all drippy. That’s how he likes them. Eats them quick before they get cold. As always Stuart does not wait. Pours the tea prior to Ruth bringing crumpets. When she arrives he is drinking his tea. She puts the crumpets in front of him. Stuart first every time. She waits until he has finished half then takes one for herself.
Around two o’clock in the morning if the neighbours were awake they would have heard a reasonably loud splash followed by scrapping metal, a bang and half an hour of digging. The next day the house is empty. On the table are two cups and two plates. One cup is full. Untouched. The other completely empty. On one plate, the one next to the full cup, is a complete crumpet. Not touched. The other plate is empty but there is a half eaten crumpet on the floor and the chair is overturned. Upstairs the doors to one wardrobe are open. The cupboard empty. The suitcase that lived on top gone. On the dressing table is a small phial with the lid off. It is empty. Downstairs in the kitchen one drawer is open. The draw where the wallet had been hidden. The wallet is gone. Outside there is no sign of the well. On the edge of a large, newly dug area are two foot prints close to each other. One a size four the other a size nine. The toe on the left of one is touching the toe on the right of the other.
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