Summary: It’s a story mostly suited to the season of Halloween with one of the Cartwrights in the mode of self-appointed avenging angel and working hard to make sure no on knows his choice of a second job.
Word Count: 1393
The Billiard Room was quiet when he left. I could hear the music from the party though. We had played billiards, and I let the man win two games and some wagers before I began to use my skills and win all that money back and a sizeable portion more. I knew that he was getting angry. He had seen me lose to my old friend, Dobbins, repeatedly only a few hours before showing no skill whatsoever despite a great deal of bravado and a willingness to bet far in excess of talent. As he realized that had been a scam, his face became florid and he demanded to know what scheme I was employing. I blithely said I had lured him there to kill him. Shocked at first, he began to laugh nervously at first and then with mirth. I didn’t laugh. It made him nervous once more and then demanding. Over and over, he asked what possible reason I could have to want him dead as I had only met him that day.
“I have known men like you. You make the world worse for being in it. I have made it my mission to remove men like you from the world when I have the opportunity to do so. This is one of those opportunities.”
He asked what weapon I planned to use to kill him and looked at the weapons collection on the wall behind him. Picking up one after another, he slid his hand over each blade or tip and pointed each one in a threatening manner at me. He was taller, heavier, and much more muscular than I. If he had wished, he could likely have killed me with any of those weapons, but I simply looked at him calmly until he had picked up and replaced each and every weapon in the collection. He was gaining confidence then and using valuable time. It was going well as far as I was concerned. He talked too, and as he talked, he exhibited more and more bravado even promising legal action for my threat.
Of course, he probably had drawn the same conclusion that things were going well, but he was at a deficit in knowledge. I knew quite a bit more and was pleased to see my plan proceeding so smoothly. Sometimes my plans did not go as well, and then I had to improvise, and things got messy. The risk increased exponentially when that happened.
Having finished his exposition with the weapons and seeming to think he had cowed me sufficiently with them, he moved to more ordinary items like the matched candlesticks, and other items in the room doing the same with each of them until he must have touched every item in the room that could have been used as a weapon with things proceeding much as I had planned.
It was then that I spoke again as calmly as I had spoken earlier. “Sally Ann is a good friend. She used to be a saloon girl, but she works as a midwife now. We have had many interesting discussions. Are you aware that she is an herbalist too and has vast knowledge of plant substances and the effects of many of them on the human body. Some things are beneficial and some extremely harmful. She has often offered advice to me on methods of poisoning those who don’t deserve to live any longer. Her husband was one such man. He was bestial. He made a lot of promises to her, but once they were married, she found out that it was all lies. He got her out of the saloon girl life and into something much worse. We worked together the first time with him as the target. I keep her secret. She keeps mine. This time, she gave me the recipe for a wonderful herbal oil that is readily absorbed through the skin. I coated every weapon and movable object in this room with a thin layer of said oil. It took quite some time. I thought you might wonder why I was wearing these thin leather gloves, but you never thought to ask. Earlier, you wondered what weapon I would use to kill you. The answer is simple: all of them.” I shrugged and tossed a towel to him then. “You might want to wipe your hands with that to remove the oil. I’ve changed my mind. I can’t kill you in cold blood like this. It’s not gentlemanly. Instead, I propose we meet at dawn with dueling pistols. Will that be acceptable?”
He grabbed that towel and scrubbed away at his hands as if it mattered while rejecting my dueling proposal with disdain.
“You’re crazy. I’ll have you arrested. I’ll have you in court and take everything of value that you have. I’ll take what your family has too for good measure.”
None of it was of any significance of course. I had lied about both my change in plans and my challenge to the duel although I suppose the second part wasn’t truly a lie. He would be dead by morning so the challenge was moot and therefore not a lie. You see, the oil would have penetrated already because the whole interchange between us had taken nearly an hour. I only offered the towel so that when he fled the room as he felt the effects begin, he would not inadvertently transfer any of that poisonous concoction to an innocent or perhaps not so innocent but unintended victim. I only meant to do him harm this night and not any others there even though there might be others who deserved some punishment. There might even be others in this mansion who deserved the same fate, but for more than one to die would invite too much attention. More importantly, there needed to be certainty before such a fate was bestowed upon anyone. It was not something that was done randomly or on a whim.
The vial of poison planted in his pocket, and another on his bedside table in the guest room, the suicide letter detailing his terrible guilt for his evil deeds should be enough to end any serious investigation of murder although suspicion could likely linger for years. He did not seem the type to carry guilt nor to end his own life over such regrets. Many other men of his ilk knew that he had gotten several young women with child most often forcefully taking them, but what they did not know was that he was the fiend who then mercilessly smothered them with their own pillows snuffing the life out of them and denying a future to the babe growing in that unfortunate woman’s womb each time as well. No one ever knew he was the one who had done any of it. He knows enough about law and evidence to cover his tracks well. This time he had taken a woman in whom Hoss Cartwright is interested. Now I know that Hoss will be willing to take Miss Maybelle Winkell as his wife even if every other man scorns her in her condition. She will live and the babe will live. Hoss will have a wife. It’s a good and decent result, and no more women will suffer the fate of those unfortunate enough to have crossed paths with Mister Janus Gilliam.
All went well with my plan except he was so big and so muscular that the poison didn’t work as fast as I and Sally Ann had expected. While I was hurriedly cleaning, he made it to the stairs and stumbled down them shocking everyone at Annie and the Swede’s party. The man was about to tell my father who had killed him but only managed to say my father’s name before the poison finished its work. I do need to be more careful in the future especially as I may have to do something about that wicked little gold digger Miss Annabelle Mayhew before she does any harm to my brother Joe.
2 thoughts on “My Life’s Work (by BettyHT)”
Thank you. I like to write mysteries, but I admit casting this Cartwright in that role was a stretch. For a Halloween story though, it worked.
Oh my, very well done! Loved it. Thank you!
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