The sounds of pattering footsteps was heard, and a panting Evans and Judith both ran into the room.
"What's wrong, Miranda?" Judith asked concernedly, phone dangling from one hand. The disconnected wire trailed down the stairs.
With one trembling hand, she pointed to the bedside table. On top of it innocently sat a glass of milk.
"I'm sorry... it's... just the stress of Sonia's death I guess," quivered Miranda, her voice shaky and uncertain. "Somehow I just thought of how she died when I saw that cup of milk and..." She cleared her throat loudly. "I'm alright now."
"Wait a minute," said Evans sharply. Striding over to the table, he bent over and sniffed at the cup of milk. His expression turned grave. "I can't identify morphine like the doctor, but this milk definitely smells strange."
Confusion ran through Miranda's mind. What could the murderer hope to achieve with that cup of milk? Was it really an attempt to kill or ... a warning? And furthermore, who could have planted it?
"Oh. I guess I'll be more careful in the future," Miranda said slowly, thoughts racing through her mind. "Sorry for disturbing you two." Judith came over and patted Miranda's shoulder. "Miranda, there's a murderer somewhere nearby. How can you say this is a disturbance! There's been an attempt on your life."
"I'll be more careful in the future, I promise," Miranda clasped her hands around Judith's and managed a weak smile.
At that moment, the doorbell rang. "It must be Mr Danvon back from the village!" Evans ran down to answer the door, Judith following closely behind.
Miranda lingered for a moment, looking round her room. Why did she had a feeling that she had missed out on something?
Shaking her head, she followed the two down.
Night had fallen, and there were once again four people eating dinner together. Judith insisted that Evans ate dinner with the rest as now "they were all in it together in keeping alive."
Rather melodramatic, Miranda personally thought.
"Well, Archille, so what was Sonia's will like?" Judith asked.
"She left half of her savings to you and the rest to charities. Money can't really be a motive for her death; her savings were only about two thousand dollars in total," Archille answered.
"So little?" Evans burst out. Everybody turned and looked at him. Reddening, he continued," I'm sorry, but I was under the impression that the Fandevons were quite a wealthy lot. And… how could Miss Fandevon afford my wages?"
"John Fandevon, knowing that Sonia wasn't one for money, created a trust fund before he passed away for all these matters. Even the house actually belongs to my firm. The money and this house will truly belong to Sonia only if she marries, and if she never marries, the money will go to charities and the house sold by my firm," Archille smiled. "Doesn't it just sound like some dowdy mystery story?"
"Oh, and I met a young couple today. They seemed quite interested in buying the house after the uneral and everything is taken care of," Archille smiled again, changing the topic to cover up the momentary awkwardness.
"Really? How wonderful!" Judith exclaimed, clasped her hands together. "I'll hate to see this house, after being occupied the Fandevons for so long, fall into disrepair."
"Interesting…" Miranda murmured to herself, noticing how Judith hung on to every word Archille said.
In the hall, a dark figure crept away.
After dinnertime, everybody gathered in the parlour, trying their best to occupy themselves before bedtime came. It was quite scary, really. How everybody tried to appear normal and cheerful, though what was going on inside was quite different. Judith sat by the fireplace, determinedly knitting the beginnings of a scarf. Archille sorted out some accounts by the table, while Evans dazedly polished the same vase over and over again.
Miranda just sat at a corner and watched all of them. Occasionally they would look back at her bemusedly, and go back to what they were doing.
Was she really doing the right thing by being the amateur sleuth and attempting to avenge Sonia, she wondered. She shivered again, the memories of that cup of milk coming back again. Was the murderer one of the three sitting in front of her, or someone from outside? Why was Evans' reaction to the amount of savings Sonia had so extreme? What …
She shook her head. There were just too many questions. Clearing her mind, she began thinking in earnest - using those little grey cells. If Poirot knew her, he would be proud.
She was again in the parlour, but the décor was different. Inwardly, she winced as she watched Maria and John scream at each other. Maria had earlier stormed through the house and demanded everybody be present.
"Tell me honestly. Did you cheat on me?" Maria asked, struggling to keep calm. Miranda could feel undercurrents of rage underneath.
"No, I didn't!" John protested in frustration, his hands running through his hair. "Where did you even get that idea from?"
Slowly, Maria's shaking hand held out a rumpled female undergarment. "This isn't mine. Would you please explain what this was doing in our bed?"
"Maria, isn't it really obvious that I've been set up?" John asked. "I've never seen that blasted panty in my life before!"
Beside Miranda, Joanna smirked. A certain horror and recognition filled Miranda as she recalled what she had overheard the other day.
"No more angry, Mummy," Everybody looked on as Sonia waddled into the room, clasping her hand.
"No, darling, I'm not anymore. I just can't believe how stupid I've been," Bending down, she lifted Sonia and started walking out of the room.
"Wait, Maria. All these years of marriage… Don't you even trust me?" John pleaded, his eyes willing her to believe him.
Maria stopped and looked back. Extinguished of their fire, her large almond eyes were now filled with infinite sadness. "I'm afraid not," Maria gazed at him, and walked off with Sonia.
The whole room was suddenly full of shock.
Miranda's eyes flew open. It was morning again; the room was flooded with sunlight.
She cursed herself – why did she keep unconsciously bringing up all these ugly memories? Then a seed of doubt started budding in her mind… Could it possibly be Sonia sending all these dreams? She squashed it immediately – she wasn't the sort to believe in the supernatural.
"Miranda..." Judith peeked into her bedroom cheerily. "Are you ready?"
"Ejiskavuhlsigasf?" Miranda stared at her blearily. Judith stared at her. "Er... Am I bothering you?"
"Iiechigaimsu," she shook her head. "Coekugidaogiw?"
"Don't you remember? Last night you agreed to go visit Maria at the asylum with me! Quick, the car's fetching us in ten minutes," Judith patted her in a motherly fashion.
Groaning, Miranda crawled out of bed.
"Have you visited Maria recently?" Miranda inquired, as they made their way through the busy corridors of the asylum. Nurses carrying teddy bears to large leather whips to trays of food and everything in between bustled in and out, taking no notice of them.
"Afraid not," Judith answered guiltily. "The last time I came was four months ago. She was muttering incoherently then. I still can't figure out how we should tell her that … well, break the news to her. I don't even know whether she can understand what we're talking about."
"We'll just try then," Miranda declared optimistically. Secretly she hoped Maria could provide her with some clues, no matter how loony she was.
"Here we are!" Judith stopped beside a door labeled 102, smiling cheerfully like she always did when she was nervous. "Err… you first."
Miranda opened the door. Getting a full view of its occupants, she jumped back in shock. "What are you doing here?"
A/N: Finally! Credits to Jeremy for helping me sort out some of my dialogue here =) (Lots of it in this chapter ). Note that the flashback doesn't quite fit with the flashbacks from chapter 2. Relax, there's a reason. Do R/R!