Previously published in Hardboiled Detective #11 ©1991
Granny Gumption sat quietly, composing her notes on the frontboard of the Townshend Goddard breakfront secretary. Gumption, of course, was not her real name, nor was she anyone’s grandmother. But the name given to her by a whimsical newsman so many years previous when she had solved her first murder had stuck and now, to everyone in the Northern Worshire fishing village which she loved so dearly, she was Granny Gumption, the luncheon party woman who solved all those beastly crimes the police could not.
With a sigh, knowing she was right as usual, she consulted the hands of the handsomely polished Simon Willard grandfather’s clock in the corner of the mansion’s sitting room. Nine o’clock. The others would be gone. Now was the time. Pushing herself up with the dignity of age, Granny crossed the hall to confront young master Wayne alone in the burgundy drawing room. He was pouring a brandy for himself as she entered.
“Such a waste,” she thought, and then proceeded forth to do her duty.
Seeing her enter, the young man quipped airily, “Can I offer you a drink, Granny?” indicating the Waterford crystal set at his elbow.
“No, thank you,” replied Granny coldly. She rested her weight on her cane, her owl-like eyes seeming to pierce young Wayne’s soul.
“So, have you solved the murder yet?”
“As a matter of fact, I have, young Wayne.” Granny answered accusingly, “You murdered Doctor Carstairs.”
“You’ll be expected to prove that.”
“I imagine the missing diaries can be found under the flagstones in front of the groundskeeper’s shed,” snapped Granny succinctly.
A dark expression settled on young Wayne’s brow. “Indeed. So, what was it that tipped you off?”
“Your hands. Those well-manicured hands. Hardly the hands of the prodigal son who supposedly spent ten years labouring in the Peruvian tin mines.”
“And have you told anyone of this?”
“No. I wanted to offer you the chance to come forward on your own first, to preserve what’s left of the honour of the Prescott family name,” Granny retorted tartly.
“Thank you, Granny. I’m not sure you understand how much I appreciate that.”
And, with that said young Wayne reached out in one quick, serpentine motion, snatching Granny’s cane from her liver-spotted fingers. The old woman tottered forward, off-balance, then jerked awkwardly back, spinning her arms in circles to keep her balance. Young Wayne tapped the cane against his palm, testing its weight.
“My cane!” Granny squawked frantically. “Give me back my cane!”
Young Wayne held the cane loosely like a pool cue, then swung, shooting the hook end sharply into Granny’s solar plexus. Granny folded broken and hurting, dropping to the floor coughing blood. Young Wayne snapped a kick that caught Granny on the jaw, breaking it in two places, stretching the old woman supine. Then, the young heir raised the cane above his head, only to bring it down hard on Granny’s face.
The old sleuth’s sharp, beak-like nose shattered into a bloody, misshapen blob. Several more stout blows shattered her glasses, driving razor-sharp slivers slicing through her eyeballs until they broke apart like soft-boiled eggs, their greyish jellied mass oozing down the old woman’s wrinkled cheeks.
Granny writhed helplessly on the floor, futilely flailing her withered arms to ward off further blows. Her keening cry if anguish and terror echoed through the empty mansion, a single sustained, high-pitched squeal sounding like nothing but the devil’s tea kettle.
Laughing at the old woman’s bloody pain, the young millionaire launched his athletic body upward into the air and then came down hard, striking Granny squarely in the center of her chest with both feet, shattering her ribcage—crushing her like a bug. The keening cry ended abruptly then, but young Wayne, his face flushed red, contorted by his rage, jumped up-and-down, up-and-down on the old woman until long after she was dead.
And, later, when his fury had finally expended itself, young Wayne downed another brandy, bathed, and then changed into a fresh suit of clothes. Going to the master safe, he removed all the family monies and jewelry, along with a sealed envelope containing a full set of false I.D. complete with passport. He left the manor for the last time without regret. As for the crushed corpse in the drawing room, the servants would take care of that.