Flash Frenzy, round 36

Prompt: http://theangryhourglass.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/flash-frenzy-round-36/

Missus Ryan wouldn’t be able to complain that he was late today – nor ever again, Dock thought, as he poured the poison into her medicine.

Or so he wished. Dock hated that old biddy, but he wasn’t a killer. He put the cork back into the laudanum and set it next to the mercurochrome, turning its label so that it pointed precisely one-quarter turn to the right. Even though Missus Ryan was in a chair, and hadn’t been down to the cellar since back before her Thomas had been lost in the war, she still had ways of knowing if things weren’t done just so. He’d once put a jar of preserves with the tomatoes, and if he closed his eyes, he could still hear her excoriations ringing off the plaster.

Things had been different in the house before the war. Mister Ryan was demanding, but generous, with a reputation for fairness that’d drawn many a young man to the gates of the carriage house hoping for work. Dock had gotten double-lucky the day he’d shown up – one of the butlers had retired earlier that week, and Missus Ryan was off visiting her sister. She’d tried to get him fired as soon as she’d gotten home, but Mister Ryan got what he wanted, and so Dock stayed. But Missus Ryan stared daggers at him every time he walked into the room, and he could count the number of times she’d spoken to him with a civil tongue on one hand.

How Dock had avoided getting fired the day the telegram came about Mister Ryan – and every day thereafter – was a mystery. He’d always figured that Mister Ryan still held some sway even after he’d passed, but he sure wasn’t about to ask.

Lost in thought, Dock opened the door to Missus Ryan’s parlor without knocking. As soon as the door had swung inward, he flinched, knowing that he’d violated one of the cardinal rules of the house. And then he froze, unsure of what he was seeing.

“Well, do close the door,” Mister Ryan said in Missus Ryan’s voice. “And sit down. I see we need to have a conversation.”

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