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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by bluetomatoes on January 23, 2011
"This is the full version. Warning: It's quite long."

The Murder at Kensington Manor

I poured myself another glass of wine and stood up, a little unsteadily, for a toast.
"To my husshband," I slurred, "Letscchh hope he comeschh back in time for cake."
I drank deeply. Luckily, everyone in the room was even more drunk than I, so they failed to notice what a fool I was making of myself. The butler passed me, heading back to the kitchen. I grabbed his coat and pulled him close to me. "Go check on my husccchband please. Hessch been gone toooo long,” I whispered. "As you wish, madam," he replied, wrinkling his nose at the scent of my breath. My husband, Lord Kensington, had left quite a while ago to 'get a drink'. Parties always left him stressed and exhausted, even when we were celebrating him. A few minutes after he had left, Miss Elizabeth Delacroix had exited the room, and has yet to return. It's no secret men in this time occasionally partake in certain 'activities' with women other than their wives, but it irked me that my husband had a mistress. I loathed that fresh-faced, corseted idiot. The butler returned, pale-faced. "Ma'am, you should come with me," he said nervously. I stood up and followed him down the hall to the study. I gasped when he opened the door. My husband lay on the floor, bleeding from his head. A book lay open on the floor next to him. I rushed over, but was too afraid to touch him. "I checked his pulse, Madam. I am truly sorry," the butler said quietly. The sight of my dead husband had quickly sobered me. "Go find Elizabeth Delacroix," I ordered the butler. He scurried out of the room. There was no question about the killer. The only question was: why did she do it? Elizabeth entered the study a moment later. She gasped at the sight of the body on the floor.
"Yes, I am sure you are shocked at the state of my husband," I said, rather sarcastically. "Where were you when he was murdered, only a few minutes ago?" Elizabeth stuttered, her face flushing. “Lady Kensington, you accuse me of murder?” “Answer my question,” I ordered. She paused for a moment and then spoke carefully, “Well if you must know, I was in the bathroom, powdering my nose.” I picked up my skirts and marched out of the room. As if I should believe such outright lies. It was an insult to my intelligence. “Ladies and Gentleman, the celebration must end early,” I announced once I had reached the ballroom, “Our guest of honor is in a bit of a---predicament.” Immediately, a murmur waved through the room. I could only catch snippets of conversations, "What's going on?" and "Well, I heard that . . . " "Everyone out!" I yelled forcefully. I would not have people gossiping about my husband or me. Slowly, the guests began to trickle out the doors. "No, you don't!" I caught Elizabeth's arm as she attempted to leave. She slapped at my arm, "Let go of me, you old hag!" she said indignantly. I dragged her back into the study, back to the murder scene. "My butler is riding out to get a policeman as we speak. You are not going anywhere until he gets back." She sat down heavily in an armchair and put her face in her hands. After sitting quietly for a few moments, she looked up at me. “I didn’t kill him,” she said softly. I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself down. “We will see about that when the policeman arrives.” As I spoke, the butler and two policemen burst through the door of the study. All seemed quite winded. “I hurried back as fast as I could, madam,” the butler said. “Thank you,” I replied to the butler and then spoke to the police. “As you can see, we have a murder on our hands.” The two men circled the body, picking up the book and examining the wound on his head. “Well, ma’am, there is not very much we can do for you,” the shorter man spoke, “ We can move the body for you if you’d like.” “Do you know who I am?” I questioned the two men, hands on my hips. They remained silent. “Do you know who this is?” I gestured to my husband. “This is Lord Kensington. He is an important man in our society, and I expect you to investigate his murder!” The two policemen looked at each other and shrugged. “Madam, we are not really trained to do that sort of work,” the shorter man spoke again, “I suggest you hire a detective. I hear Walsh is fairly good.” The other policeman nodded in agreement. “Please leave,” I said as politely, yet firmly. The two men shuffled out. I turned to Elizabeth, staring at her for a moment. Her eyes were bloodshot and her face was blotchy and pale. I took pity on her, “You may leave.” She stood up, paused for a moment, and then exited the room. I walked behind my husband’s desk, sat down in his chair, and held my throbbing head. I couldn’t afford to pay a detective because it was my husband who had died. He was the one who provided for the two of us. We had two adult children, but I wasn’t going to rely on them to take care of me. I would have to prove Elizabeth guilty by myself.
The next morning, I dressed in my husband’s clothing. I had never attempted to solve a murder by myself, but I figured that petticoats and skirts would only slow me down. I had just sat down to eat when the butler, Kipling, walked in behind me. I turned around, “Good morning!” I greeted him. He had turned quite pale and had a frightened look on his face. “Lady Kensington, you gave me quite a fright! I thought you were the ghost of your husband!” I laughed softly, “Even his ghost would be welcomed here. I miss him so much already.” I turned back to my breakfast. “Sit down, please,” I said to Kipling. It was an odd command, but nonetheless, he pulled out the chair across the table from me and sat. I pushed my plate aside and folded my arms on the table. “I need you to help me solve the murder.” He was silent for a moment, but then replied, “ Alright, madam. I will help you.” I stood up, excited. “Let us go, then. First, we must find Elizabeth Delacroix.”
We walked out to the stables and Kipling tacked two horses and we mounted them. “I would figure she would still be in her house at this hour,” I said to the butler. “We need to ride north, to the mill. She lives right across the river from it.” We took off, galloping down the dirt road.
Soon, we reached her modest house on the riverbank. I dismounted quickly and handed the reins to Kipling. I marched over to the door and pounded on it loudly. I waited for a few moments before knocking again. Kipling joined me at the house. He peered through the window, trying to spy movement inside. “I doesn’t look like anyone is home, ma’am,” he said, slightly puzzled. “Well,” I replied, “That’s not going to stop me from finding out what I want to.” I leaned down to the door handle and pulled a hairpin from my bun. I stuck it in the keyhole and jiggled it for a few seconds before I heard a click. I straightened myself up and stuck the pin back into my hair. The butler looked at me, a look of amazement and disgust upon his face. “Don’t stare at me like that,” I said, annoyed. “I learned how to do that when I was about five, alright?” I pushed open the door and entered the dimly lit room. Scanning the room. I looked for cabinets and drawers that could contain clues to the reason she murdered William. I shuffled through a stack of mail, but nothing seemed to be of importance. I went over to her writing desk and searched through the drawers. A copy of The Pickwick Papers, an ink well, and a half-melted candle provided no hints. “Kipling, have you found anything of interest yet?” I turned around to find him deeply engrossed in what seemed to be simply a piece of crumpled paper. “What is that?” I asked, walking over to him. “It’s an unfinished letter to some courtier of hers,” he replied. I peered over his shoulder at the scrawled writing. All I could make out was I am truly sorry but I cannot be with you. “Of course she can’t be with him,” I said snidely, “She was with Lord Kensington!” Kipling didn’t respond, so I wandered over to the dusty window. “It appears Miss Delacroix hasn’t been home in a while,” I spoke across the room. Just then, I saw a figure walking towards the house. “Kipling, Kipling!” I whispered hoarsely, “There’s someone coming! We have to get out!” We ran further into the house, trying to find a second door out. There were none to be found, so we dived into the pantry, hoping who ever was coming wasn’t hungry. The door creaked open and the sound of footsteps filled the house. Whoever was here would easily notice that someone had been rifling through Elizabeth’s belongings. The footsteps grew closer to our hiding place and we tried to hold in our haggard breathing. The figure paused in front of the door to the pantry, but they were not looking in our direction. Slowly, they turned towards us. My eyes widened in fear. The door opened slowly and Kipling crouched down, ready to jump. The door gaped open and the butler sprung out, bringing the person to the floor.
There was a loud thump as they collided and then a moan. I stepped out, peeking around Kipling to see whom it was he attacked. A man I had never seen lay on the ground, groaning. “Pardon me, but who are you and what are you doing here?” He tried to sit up, but Kipling pinned him down. “My name is,” he gasped for air, “Alexander Clarke.” I had never heard the name before, but that didn’t change anything. “And what are you doing here?” I questioned again. “I’m, erm, a banker. I need the mortgage payment.” I looked him over for a moment. He was young, with curly brown hair and a smattering of freckles. His clothing was plain, not in a sense that he was poor, more just middle class. I decided not to believe him. “Come, sit over here,” I order Alexander Clarke. He sat down in a rickety wooden chair at the kitchen table. “Do you know my name?” I began to interrogate him. Alexander looked down, flushing slightly. “I--I don’t ma’am. Should I?” “Not necessarily, Alexander,” I responded, “I am Lady Kensington. You have probably not heard yet, but my husband was murdered yesterday.” Alexander looked up and gasped, seeming overly shocked. “Now, you see, I cannot afford to pay for a detective to find the killer for me, so I must do it myself with the help of my butler here, Kipling. If you could answer our questions, it would be of great help. Do you think you can do that?” He nodded in acknowledgment. “All right, then. First of all, what are you doing here in Elizabeth Delacroix’s home?” “Uh, well ma’am, Lady … uh” he stuttered, tapping his nails on the tabletop. “Well, you see . . . I guess if . . . You must understand,” “Just spit it out!” Kipling yelled impatiently. Alexander looked down at his hands, fidgeting around. He suddenly looked up, frowning. “I don’t have to tell you anything,” he said in a huff. He stood up and marched out the door. Neither the butler nor I tried to stop him. He had a good point. What did we have to offer or hold against him that would get him to speak? “Okay, then. I guess we should return to the manor,” I spoke to Kipling. I shuffled out the front door and climbed onto my horse. We road the miles back home in silence. The lack of clues we had found discouraged me. I did not want to give up on finding proof that Elizabeth Delacroix was the slayer of my husband, but I didn’t even have a theory of the reason she did it to work off of. Kipling and I reached the stables and dismounted. I handed him the reins and walked drearily to the entrance of the house. I wandered into the kitchen and asked one of the servants to make me a pot of tea. I slumped into a seat at the table. Just as my attendant began to pour me a cup, Kipling flew into the room, waving the letter from Elizabeth’s in his hand. “Listen--,” he puffed, “to this.” He plopped down in the chair across the table and paused to regain his breath. “Dear Alexander, my dear, I am truly sorry but I cannot be with you,” Kipling read aloud from the letter, “ My father says it is not right for a woman of my wealth to be with a commoner like --” I reached over to the butler and ripped the paper out of his hands, mid sentence. “Dear Alexander,” I said excitedly, “Dear Alexander! This is fantastic! We must find Miss Delacroix, and soon!”
We ran out to the stables once more and mounted the horses. “I think I have an idea of where she is,” Kipling said. He road off quickly, and I followed. Soon, we reached a market. I scanned the crowd, spying Elizabeth at a stand selling jewelry and cloth. Quickly, I jumped off the horse and pushed through the crowd towards her. “Elizabeth,” I panted, “Do you know Alexander Clarke?” She looked down guiltily. “No, no, no dear, it’s fine. It’s important in proving your innocence in the murder.” Elizabeth paid for the necklace she was holding and then dragged me off to a quiet corner. “Yes, I do know him. What does this have to do with who killed Lord Kensington?” “He was in love with you,” I said, “and he thought you and William were having an affair.” Elizabeth fiddled with her hands and flushed a bright pink. “Yes, well, I knew he was in love with me, but why would he think William and I were together?” I stared at her, confused. “You mean you weren’t involved?” Elizabeth stuttered over her words, “No, no we weren’t together. In fact, I was in love with someone else. It just wasn’t Alexander.” I grabbed her sleeve and dragged her towards the horses. She called out in protest, “What are you doing?” I gestured for her to hop on the horse with Kipling as I mounted mine. We galloped away from the market as I explained, “ Alexander was jealous of your ‘relationship’ with my husband. He thought if he got rid of William, you two could be together!” “What a twisted thought!” Elizabeth’s nose wrinkled in disgust, “Even if we were having an affair, that would not have changed anything!” We reached Elizabeth’s home. I had guessed Alexander would return to search through her house again, or whatever he had been doing there before. All three of us hopped off the horses and ran into the house. Alexander stood at the back of the room, holding a small notebook. His eyes widened and he froze in fear. Suddenly, he careened toward us, pushing us aside and running out the door. I was not going to let the man who killed my husband get away! I followed Alexander through the mud of the riverbank, through the river, and into the woods. After running for roughly five minutes, I was able to grab his coat, tripping him up. I pinned him to the ground and waited for Kipling to come after us. A few minutes passed by before Kipling, Elizabeth, and two policemen caught up with us. “Alexander. Clarke,” the chubbier of the policemen panted, “You are under arrest.” He took out a pair of bracelets and placed them around Alexander’s wrists. I stood up and gazed down at the mess I had made of myself. I was covered from head to toe in leaves, burs, mud, and water. “Lady Kensington?” the butler said, gesturing to my face. “Yes, Kipling?” I replied. “You’ve got a little something right there.”

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