“It gives me great pleasure to be here today …”
God! Whoever first uttered those words should be shot. If I had a pound for every time I’ve said them ... But what am I thinking? I usually charge £250 - and that’s cheap by some standards. If they want a Duchess to open their stupid building or fȇte they have to pay.
“Sir Robert …”
Sir Robert indeed! I know for a fact that he bought his knighthood. He was plain Mister when his firm came to fix the roof all those years ago. There’s a whole acre of it, and we had to sell the paintings to pay for the work. I didn’t meet him then, naturally – Gerald always dealt with tradesmen – but I’ve never forgotten his name. The Long Gallery is horribly bare and the rain still comes in, but that’s not the reason I’m here.
Gerald should never have trusted him, of course, but would he listen? “It’s a sound investment, old girl,” he said, and as he’d always looked after the finances I couldn’t stop him sinking our savings into the man’s Spanish building scheme.
When the investment went sour, Gerald fell totally to pieces, but fortunately I was born with a practical streak. We moved into the old nursery wing – much easier to maintain after we had to let most of the staff go - and we opened the main house to the public. Oliver came down from Cambridge to manage the business side of things, Davinia runs the restaurant and I help out in the tea-rooms – visitors love being served tea and scones by a Duchess. The rest of us have adjusted quite well, but the shame of having to leave his Club tipped Gerald over the edge, poor darling. He spends his days pottering round the garden wearing old tweeds and the gardener lets him think he’s in charge. That is what I cannot forgive, and it’s all the fault of this ghastly little man.
When the agency called to ask if I would open Sir Robert’s latest project I couldn’t believe my luck – I was being handed a golden opportunity for revenge. The man obviously has no idea what Hell his shenanigans put us through – these criminal types never do – but that’s all to the good. If my plan succeeds no-one will even suspect we have any connection.
“Sir Robert has shown me around this excellent facility this afternoon.”
I had to admire every corner of the damn place, and pretend to be interested while technicians explained the machinery. The little creep kept pawing my arm as we walked round and he patted by bottom more than once. He quoted the prices of equipment as if he had paid for it himself, instead of lining his pockets. Careful, Marjorie – don’t give the game away now you’re this close - just get on and finish the speech.
“You must all be very proud of being involved with such a splendid establishment”
That should do it - look at them all, trying to appear proud and modest at the same time.
“And finally, it only remains for me to declare the Sir Robert Catnip Centre open.”
You’d have thought with his money he’d have changed his name before he got his knighthood, but it’s lucky he didn’t - I wouldn’t have known it was him otherwise. Now – all I’ve got to do is cut the ribbon and I’m on the home straight. There, done it – now for the difficult part.
Take a deep breath, turn, smile, and offer him the scissors. He’s too far away - perfect. Now, step towards him, stumble on the edge of the red carpet. Fall forward with a lady-like shriek of dismay, and the job is done.
Those scissors are sharper than they look - they’ve gone right through his waistcoat. Oh no! I can feel a fit of hysterics coming on, but just one giggle would be fatal – I’ll have to scream instead. A lady is expected to scream at the sight of blood, and there is an awful lot of it.
Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? Steady on, old girl, this is definitely not the time to be quoting Lady Macbeth.
Just keep your head and everything will be all right – after all, a true blue-blooded Duchess should be able to get away with murder.
....................................................... Oh - and I don't write murder stories either 😃