Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: Rich Men and Strong Tea
By Betty Castleberry
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Her lunch partner, Lori, looked up. Beth reached an ample arm across the table and dinged Lori’s hand lightly with her spoon. “I said don’t look.”
“What did you expect me to do? He’s good looking. Look at that thick silver hair. Where’d she find this one?”
“Beats me. I guess you heard her fiancee left rather suddenly. Just disappeared.”
Beth stabbed at her chicken. “Yes, I heard. He seemed to be so much in love with her. He absolutely doted on her. They already had the invitations printed, the cake ordered, and everything. I find it odd he left like that. Patricia’s no kid, you know. Not many widows get the second chance she got.”
Patricia and the gentleman sat at a table near the two women. Patricia spotted them, and waved a greeting. “Hello girls. This is Harry. Harry, Lori and Beth.”
The ladies called a hello and waved back.
Beth whistled softly. “I bet he’s rich. That’s watch looks expensive. Her fiancee was wealthy, too. I think she likes money. A lot.”
Harry said something to Patricia, then left the table. Patricia looked at her friends and winked. “Little boy’s room.”
Beth and Lori smiled and nodded, then pretended to give their full attention to their lunch.
This seemed to be the opportunity Patricia was waiting for. She reached into her purse and removed something. After one last glance in the direction of her friends, she dropped it into Harry’s glass of tea and gave it a quick stir.
Beth raised an eyebrow and whispered. “Did you see that? What is she doing?”
“I don’t know, but I hope it isn’t poison.”
Beth’s jaw dropped. “Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know. It’s just that I wonder what really happened to her fiancee.”
“Surely you don’t think she offed him?”
“Well, all of a sudden she’s wearing extra nice clothes, and driving a brand-new car. You said yourself he was wealthy. What if she just wanted his money?
"Oh no. Maybe we just witnessed a crime.”
“I think you watch too much TV. I admit her fiancee’s leaving is a little strange, but I don’t think Patricia’s a murderer.”
“You’re probably right. Let’s keep a close eye on Harry when he comes back. If he keels over, we’ll know it wasn’t sugar she put in his tea.”
Right on cue, Harry returned to the table. He picked up his glass and took a long drink.
Beth squirmed in her seat. “I really hope he’s going to be all right.”
Lori swallowed hard. “Me too.”
The two ladies ate in silence, stealing glances at Harry. They lingered over dessert, almost afraid to leave.
A loud crash came from Patricia and Harry’s table. Harry had tried to stand up and had fallen across the table, knocking his plate to the floor.
Beth bounded out of her chair. “Oh my gosh. She did poison him.”
Lori slapped both hands up to her cheeks and stared wide-eyed at the man lying across the table.
Patricia patted his face and spoke to him. “Harry, are you all right? Harry? Come on, let’s go home.”
A waiter appeared at Patricia’s table. “Is everything okay? Can I do something?”
Beth grabbed his shoulder. “Yes! Call the police. She’s poisoned him.”
Patricia jerked her head toward Beth. “Poison? Wha...”
“We saw you put something in his tea.”
Patricia’s face went blank for a second, then she started to laugh. “Poison? That was fiber. Harry’s been a little, uh, irregular lately, and I put some powdered fiber in his tea. He isn’t feeling well today either, and I think he fainted. He’s had the flu.”
Beth looked suspiciously at Patricia. “Where is your fiancee then?”
Lori chimed in. “Yeah, where is he?”
“He went back to Springfield. Things just didn’t work out. Harry is my cousin, and we’re
going over our aunt’s estate. She left us both a little bit of money. That’s how I bought my new car, just so you don’t get the wrong idea. Wait, I think you already have. Some friends you two are. I’m taking Harry home.”
Beth and Lori watched as Patricia helped Harry out the door.
Beth picked up her purse and faced Lori. “You and I don’t need fiber. We’re regular enough. Regular buffoons, that is.”
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