The next morning I bumped into Mrs Hilton-White leaving the west wing.
“I was working,” she told me. “Bring in lunch at twelve. Mr Hilton-White is home.”
At ten I went outside to ask Alfred if he wanted some tea and I found him spraying the roses.
“This stuff kills beetles dead,” he said, pointing to a large container of liquid. “It’s the only way we can keep Mr Hilton-White’s roses flowering so beautifully.”
As we stood and chatted in the sun, I heard the sound of a car, and then saw a white Jaguar coming down the driveway at speed.
“It’s Mr Hilton-White,” said Alfred, and laughed as I jumped into the flower bed, to avoid being run over. “Look busy,” he advised.
I went inside quickly. Mrs Hilton-White nearly bumped right into me as she ran out to meet him. I was surprised at how she could still run.
I stood and watched as she reached up and kissed her husband on the cheek. Mr Hilton-White was old and wrinkled like a tortoise, but he was dressed very smartly. I like that in a man.
“Bring drinks,” Mrs Hilton-White called to me. “Bring the tray with the gin and tonic to the lounge.”
Prudence had the tray waiting in the kitchen. The door to the lounge was open and Mrs Hilton-White was waiting to take the tray from me. I could just see Mr Hilton-White sitting in the arm chair by the window, behind her.
I would have left them alone and then I wouldn’t have seen anything – except for one small event. One small event that changed everything. That small event was caused by Alfred. As I was heading back to the kitchen he called to me from the garden.
When I went out he told me to ask Mr Hilton-White if he should trim just the red roses or the white ones too.
“I can’t go in,” I told him.
“He won’t mind. He cares for his roses more than his wife.” Alfred laughed.
When I opened the door to the lounge, Mrs Hilton-White’s back was towards me. She didn’t hear me. Just as well! You see, I could walk even more quietly than she could.
That’s when I saw what was happening; the thing that changed everything.
Mrs Hilton-White was standing in front of the drinks tray that sat on a small table. Mr Hilton-White was still in his armchair, staring out the window at his roses. I watched as Mrs Hilton-White poured some drops of liquid from a small bottle she had in her hand, into her husband’s drink.
That was when I thought of what was written in that newspaper article.
…Police have opened a murder investigation… large amounts of glyphosate, found in weed killer, was present in his blood…
And that’s when I had an idea that would change my life.
I would need to find evidence of course. Evidence that would prove that I was correct in my suspicions.
So, instead of going into the lounge with Alfred’s message, I turned away and walked as quickly and quietly as I could through the kitchen and out of the back door.
I headed for the garden shed beyond the flower beds. I was frightened because of what Prudence had told me about the last maid. She had gone into the west wing and then never come back.
There were two, well three, possible solutions to that mystery: the maid was fired and sent home, or she was being kept somewhere on the Hilton-White’s property.
The last possibility I tried not to think about, as I stepped over the newly turned earth of the flower bed. The earth was soft under my shoes as I walked across it. Soft, like it had been dug up recently.
There was a bolt on the door of the shed, but I found the padlock had not been locked. Someone had been in there, and someone intended to come back.
I looked back at the house quickly. The lights were on in the west wing, but I could not see the shadow of any people at the windows. I paused, checking to see if anyone had followed me in the dark. There was no-one. I removed the padlock and opened the door slowly.
Inside the shed there were the usual garden tools: spades, a wheelbarrow, hose, rakes. I found the bottle of weed killer on a shelf next to the bucket that Alfred had used for the mixture that killed the rose beetles. I turned the bottle around and searched for the ingredients on the back. That was what I had come here for.
I took the piece of paper out of my bra, where I had kept it safe. I read the label on the container. Glyphosate – it matched the name in the newspaper that I had copied. It was the same thing that had killed Mrs Hilton-White’s brother-in-law, before her twin sister disappeared.
I thought of that small bottle and Mrs Hilton-White pouring those drops into Mr Hilton-White’s drink.
Tell us what you think: What is Nosipho’s plan?