Flash Pulp 105 – The Murder Of Eustace Norton, and his wife, Matilda: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

11 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and five.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Of Eustace Norton, and his wife, Matilda: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we discover the truth of a murder in the small town of Hearse.

 

Flash Pulp 105 – The Murder Of Eustace Norton, and his wife, Matilda: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

On a damp Saturday morning, the majority of the population of Bigelow county found itself at the gravesides of Eustace and Matilda Norton.

“It’s a shame to see such an upstanding man come to such an untimely end. A murderer in our midst? It seems unthinkable,” whispered Mrs. Tupper to Mrs. Wills, hoping, as always, that some tantalizing nugget of information might drop from the Constable’s wife’s lips.

“Mayhaps it was Matilda herself who killed him?” was the best reply Mrs. Wills could make.

“Slip him a poisoned drink then turned his musket on her own person? It seems improbable. Why wouldn’t she have simply saved some of the elixir for herself? More plausible is that she discovered his body and, overwhelmed with her grief, she did herself in,” interjected Mrs. Pilfer.

“Who knows what a mental defective might do? It is well known she was a bedlamite. I certainly do not believe it beyond her to have done exactly that. Likely she poisoned the man in a fit of passion, then, realizing there was no other who might take the blame, brought her crazed hand to his weapon and ended her life.” As often happened when defending her gossip-strung theories, Buppy Tupper’s voice had crept into a volume unsuitable for a solemn event, such as a funeral.

Father Burke stifled the conversation with a targeted gaze, his practiced lips never stumbling on the conjoined eulogy.

At the furthest edge of the crowd, from beneath the rough blanket she held aloft to guard against the drizzle, Mother Gran made her single statement of the service, heard only by her grandchild, Ella.

“I cannot abide a murderer.”

* * *

Mother GranGran had been summoned to an emergency at the Norton homestead on more than one occasion, and, at times, Matilda had made her own way to the large spread of land that three generations of Gran’s family worked and shared, so it was not without familiarity of subject that Ella eavesdropped upon the conversation of the chatterers who’d gathered on The Loyalist’s veranda the following Monday.

“The Lord has no love for a suicide,” continued Buppy, the solemnity of the burial having worn away. “That woman was never right. Do you recall the afternoon, perhaps three months ago, in which she stumbled through town weeping and screeching? Covered in mud and screaming – she was a madwoman, like as not.”

The prattler nodded as Ella motioned the tea-spout towards her emptied cup.

“- and her poor husband, attempting to make what he could of her. It’s only luck that she never bore children,” replied Mrs. Madison, eager as always to support her friend’s position. “It’s a surprise he was not driven to turn the weapon on himself.”

“Oh, come now,” replied Mrs. Pilfer, “I understand it does not reflect well to speak ill of the righteous dead, but you’ll have sainted that booze-hound before long. It seems to me you were not so enthused at his character little more than two-weeks ago, when he saw fit to lay his foot to your little Putser.”

Putser, the Tupper’s beloved terrier, had had the misfortune to stray within range of Eustace’s boots as the man was exiting Hearse’s general store. He’d let out three sharp yaps, then a whining squeal.

“Every man has his moments,” said Mrs. Madison.

Buppy was quick to find a new topic upon which to expound.

* * *

Later, as her duties at the Loyalist ended and she walked home with her brother Alvin, also returning from his position of apprentice to the town’s cobbler, Mr. Tupper, Ella began to carry with her a nagging concern. She made her best effort to remain merry, and even as they supped some hours later, she took pains to hold her smile.

She could not help but notice, however, how silently Mother Gran maintained her position at the head of the table, un-joking even as little Rory was caught with his fingers amongst the biscuits for his fourth serving. It had never entered her mind to doubt her grandmother, or to ask after what business the old woman chose to engage in during the late hours, but her cryptic comment at the burial had left a rattling guilt in the girl’s mind.

As the time ticked away and the first round of good-nights were said, Ella slipped into the little backroom which her grandparents shared.

Gran sat upon the edge of her bed, and for the first time that evening, a smirk came to her face.

“You seemed too quiet at dinner,” she said.

“I was of a mind to say the same thing to you,” Ella replied. She repeated some of what she had heard earlier in the day, then, as she completed her recitation, she paused, eager for some explanation that might absolve her increasingly heavy conscience regarding the death of Mr. Norton.

Gran smiled once again, but there was no happiness in it.

“You stop short of asking the question I can hear silently echoing from your words, and I wish I could provide some answer which would lighten your heart, but, in truth, I suspect one day you may take up my role, and it is important you understand the balance of things.

“Matilda had come to me on a baker’s dozen of occasions, seven times to seek my council on birthing, and six times to seek my council on burying. I know not the number before the pair found themselves at the edges of our county, but it is telling that it was me to whom Matilda came, and not the physician, Boyle.

“On the third conception I asked her what might be occasioning her miscarriages, as if the bruising bout her torso did not make it clear enough. The monster’s hands seemed to double in fury at the sight of her rounding, she said, but nothing more. She worked hard when the sixth was imminent, strapping down her belly and servicing her drunken lout only in the dark. She overslept one morning and he saw the evidence pushing at her stomach. By the time she woke he’d drank through what gin remained in the house, and it was only my hard night’s labour with needle and herbs that kept her in our world. The babe, at a seven month count, was not so lucky. It’s departure was bloody work, and a pitiful interment.”

Gran, who Ella had never seen as anything less than stalwart, now seemed to grey and shrink with her age. She continued.

“On the seventh she ran crying when I confirmed her condition, and it nagged at me so that I felt compelled to visit her upon the following day. I knew that even Eustace would have found his way to his labour in the mine by noon, so I expected little trouble. I found the door ajar, a gin bottle open on the table, and the majority of her cranium spread along the back-wall.

“How many more lives would he end? If not Matilda, then some such as the Lindsay girl, who’ll bend for any kindly murmur. I spent the rest of the daylight picking what I needed from amongst the surrounding foliage.

“By the time of Eustace’s return, I’d laid out the tableau. The door was fully open, despite the chill, and a single of Matilda’s shoes was laid askance on the lip of the porch. Upon a rock, along, but some ways away from, his path to the door, I set the remainder of the gin, having topped it up with my own concoction. I myself awaited behind a tree near the spirits.

“If his concern had outweighed his thirst, he might still be alive.”

Ella nodded, and, after a moment, set herself down on the bed, wrapping her arms around the old woman.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

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