The Very Thought of Murder

Love, marriage, and murder collide while Florence Chase is spending a weekend at the old ancestral home of her childhood friends, Camelia House. Before the weekend can even begin though, one of the guests dies unexpectedly in a car accident. But how much of an accident was it? And, more importantly... who knows more than they're letting on?


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3. Chapter Two

Florence came downstairs for breakfast at 9 o’clock exactly, the second to arrive. Jane was already sat at the table, The Times laid out in front of her, and a piece of half-eaten toast and marmalade to her left.

‘Good morning!’ Florence said cheerfully. Jane looked up, clearly startled out of thought.

‘Oh, good morning Florence. Sorry, I was rather in my own world. How did you sleep?’

‘Very well, thank you, yourself? Did your headache get any better?’

‘Headache? Oh, yes, it did, thank you.’

Andrew was next down to breakfast and took the seat next to Florence.

‘Good morning ladies, fine day isn’t it?’

‘It’s August, Andrew, I’d expect the weather to be fine.’ Jane replied dryly. Florence laughed.

Lillian was next to arrive, followed by Louisa. Lillian was unfairly beautiful, even with just half of a dozy smile pasted on her face, and sleep still in her eyes. But her smile did not remain, as soon the topic turned to her husband.

‘Has anyone seen Jacob? He wasn’t in bed this morning.’

‘I wonder...’ Louisa mused aloud.

‘What?’

‘I just... I wonder if it was he who took one of the cars out last night. Those engines do make an awful racket. I heard one start at about midnight, just after we all went to bed. Although, it may have been my imagination; I was rather sleepy by that point.’ Louisa laughed at herself, but her words had returned Florence’s mind to her uneasy feeling from the night before, and thinking of it, the feeling returned, stronger than ever.

‘I heard the car too. It was the one closest to the gates, I remember. I looked out of my window, you see, to see what was going on. I thought it was odd for someone to be going for a drive at that time of night. I mean, it was practically pitch black last night, so I couldn’t see who it was.’ said Florence.

‘That was probably him; Jacob enjoys going on late night drives. He says it gives him time to think. Gives him time to see his mistresses, more like.’ Lillian stated her husband’s infidelity matter of factly, as though she had been used to the idea for a long, long time. ‘I didn’t realise he had one near here too, though.’

‘Well, I’m sure he’s just in the village, I wouldn’t worry.’ said Andrew, pouring himself a cup of coffee. ‘He’ll probably turn up with the other guests this evening. Speaking of which, who wants to help me choose which records to play? Lillian?’

‘I’m afraid I have some letters to write, perhaps Florence could help instead.’
Andrew turned to Florence. ‘Well, Florrie? How about it?’

Florence smiled, ‘I have nothing better to do, why not?’

 

In the drawing room, Andrew heaved out a box of records, containing all the latest hits; ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schon’, ‘Let’s Fall In Love’ and ‘You Oughta Be In Pictures’ were the last three they decided on.

‘How about giving this a test run?’ asked Andrew, placing the last record on the gramophone. The music started to fill the room, like water. Andrew held out his hand and they began to playfully sway together.

‘This is a far cry from chasing each other through the mud, isn’t it?’ Florence said, laughing.

Andrew laughed too. ‘I suppose so.’

‘Do you really think Mr. Clare will be back this evening?’ Florence asked, as Andrew threw her into a spin.

‘I can’t think why he wouldn’t. Although, I hope he doesn’t.’

Florence paused, and looked up at him. ‘Why?’

Andrew pulled away from her and turned off the music. ‘He’s just... he’s not exactly the most likeable of fellows. I only mix with him anymore because of-’

‘Lillian?’

Andrew ran a hand through his hair and looked at the floor. ‘Partly, yes. How did you know?’

‘Neither of you were exactly discreet last night.’

‘Touché. But that’s not the only reason. I owe Jacob a debt.’ When Florence looked askance, he explained, ‘He helped me out a few years ago when I got into financial difficulty. I’ve paid him back now, almost, with what I inherited when Father died, but... Well, he likes being associated with a lord, let’s put it that way.’

‘I see. But if you don’t like the man, then-’

‘Lillian.’

‘I see.’

 

The drawing room door opened then, and Phillipa swept forwards, in a beautiful peach sequined evening gown.

‘What do you think, darlings?’ she said, striking a pose.

‘You look wonderful, Mother, but the party doesn’t start for another-’ Andrew checked his watch ‘8 hours.’

‘I know, darling, I know. I’m just giving it a test run.’

‘You look wonderful, Phillipa.’ Florence said. ‘If you don’t mind, would you help me choose which dress to wear tonight? I’ve brought two, and I’m just not sure which is more appropriate.’

‘Give me five minutes to change, and I’ll come to see you.’

 

A knock at Florence’s bedroom door preceded Phillipa’s entrance.

‘Oh, hello, Phillipa, thank goodness, I’m in such a pickle, I don’t know whether to wear my new blue dress, or my mother’s old red.’

‘Ah, that red dress. I still remember her wearing it. I believe she was wearing it the day she met your father, in fact. The blue is lovely, of course, but the red is a classic.’

‘The red it is then!’

‘Wonderful! How’s your room?’

‘It’s perfect, thank you so much for letting me stay here for the weekend.’

‘Not at all darling, not at all!’

Florrie leant against the bedpost. ‘It brings back so many memories, being here. Happy ones, of course.’ she added hastily, so as not to offend Phillipa.

‘Of course. It seems an age ago, now.’ Phillipa settled herself into the armchair in the corner. ‘Do you know, this used to be the children’s nursery?’

‘I thought I recognised the wallpaper.’ Florrie laughed.

‘Yes, the stripes are rather striking, aren’t they?’ Phillipa’s voice took on a note of nostalgia. ‘It seems like yesterday, they were all toddlers, bouncing around at my feet. And here they are, all grown up, and trying to make their own choices, the best choices. I sometimes feel I have to intervene, you know? I would do anything to make my children happy.’

‘Most mothers would, wouldn’t they?’

Phillipa’s eyes, already a stormy blue, darkened as she replied, ‘I would do more.’

 
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