“Is that really what you meant to do?” She sighed and surveyed the bodies around the dinner table.
“No, of course not,” said Derek.
“Hmm, but it’s quite a mistake for you to have made. Bit of a problem really. Do you see?”
“Of course I do, Dearest. But then I am dyspeptic remember.”
“Dyslexic, Derek – as well you know, though if you’d eaten any of your spaghetti al pomodoro then dyspepsia would have been the least of your problems.”
“Yeah, it’s a good job neither of us eats tomatoes and we stuck with the carbonara, eh? To be honest, I do feel a bit of a chump.”
“Chump? Bloody hell Derek, that’s some understatement, even by your standards!”
“Hmm, but in a way they can only blame themselves. You’ve always said tomatoes are the devil’s fruit, haven’t you.”
“Well, yes. But…”
“… And it’s exactly that sort of thing that makes me mad. Tomatoes being fruit. It’s like you have to call bananas a herb and – aren’t raspberries ‘drupes’ or something? God, it’s ridiculous!”
“Calm down, Derek. You know getting agitated about this kind of thing never solves anything.”
“Sorry. It’s a shame they had to die like that. I didn’t know it would be so painful for them. It wasn’t a very nice way to go.”
“You’re all heart! And no, it wasn’t,” she said, recalling their three guests severe abdominal pains and then death, after eating the tomatoey and peccant pasta.
“Who would have thought that such a simple mix-up would have such unforeseen consequences,” he said.
“So you’re still expecting me to believe it was one of your oversights are you? When was the last time you saw arsenic as an ingredient in any Italian cookbook?”
“Come on, be fair – I’ve never cooked Italian before. And it’s not my fault that arsenic sounds like garlic. And anyway, I wasn’t expecting to see it- everyone knows garlic’s French.”
“Come on yourself, Derek. You’ve never baulked at garlic bread have you!”
“When you put it like that, Dearest, it seems so obvious. When you think about it, arsenic and garlic are quite different fellows altogether,” he chuckled.
“You mean one is known to all chefs everywhere, and the other is a deadly poison. Oh Derek, I do wonder why I married you sometimes – you do tend to stick your feet into things. I thought that after our last dinner party things like this would stop happening.”
“God, I wondered how long it would be before you brought that up.”
“Well, it was the worst night of my life – just so…embarrassing”.
“Worse than tonight then?” he teased.
“Ha! But really, Derek, That night I knew putting rats in the ratatouille was just your very unique sense of humour, but a mouse in the moussaka was a rodent too far, and then pouring urine in the pea and ham soup was both vindictive and unforgiveable.”
“But it was funny. You called them ‘stuck up,’ remember – said you didn’t like them.”
“I didn’t! They were ghastly people. But I just wanted to bring them down a peg or two – you know, beat them at Bridge after the meal. Not for you to put strychnine in the stroganoff.”
“Nothing was ever proven, Dearest, as well you know. Anyway, getting back to this garlic business, they should make these things clearer in the recipes.”
“So it’s Fanny bloody Cradock’s fault is it? I don’t suppose there are too many other people up and down the country making your kind of mistakes. Anyway, whatever the rights and wrongs, we are left with the same problem as last time.”
“Don’t worry. The washing-up will keep to the morning,” said Derek.
“Well I’m not doing it, if that’s what you’re implying. I was thinking more of what to do with these bodies.”
He sighed, “Yes, I suppose you are right. Have you got any better ideas this time?”
“Me! Why is it always me that has to sort your messes out? In case you’ve forgotten, it was me who buried the evidence when you reversed over next door’s cat. And who covered for you when you burned down the cattery? Yes, Muggins!” again!”
“OK, OK, I’m hardly likely to forget am I, with the number of times you go on about it. And I’ve got good reason to hate bloody cats.
“Don’t you swear at me, Derek Cripps. I’ll not have it!”
“Sorry Dearest. I’m just a little on edge. But you know you’re the practical, methodical type, while I’m more the creative sort.”
“Creative? You’ve just killed another three people!”
“OK, OK. I don’t need reminding. How many more times are you going to go on about it? – These things are bound to happen every now and again to even the best of us. Anyway,” he countered, “what about you bludgeoning those people you didn’t like on holiday for hanging their swimming costumes outside of their caravan?. – Pretty destructive I would have thought. Kettle…black!”
“Don’t you be smart with me!” she scolded. “But you agreed they were annoying, and you know what the smell of chlorine does to me.”
“See, it’s not just me then is it? And you are the practical one – Calor gas piped in through their window, then tent peg, mallet, forehead, WHACK! You killed them with just one blow each – one blow! Simple and effective – that’s practical. I would have made a right bloody mess of it. Anyway, you don’t think I’m creative? – I thought my slipping those man o’war jellyfish into Aldershot lido, and throwing that tabby into the cement mixer showed imagination of the highest order.”
“There’s no need for you to be so proud of yourself. You’re so bloody clumsy with your ‘creativity. Remember all your Fancy Dan garrotting in the woods claimed that rambler?”
“That was a mistake, granted.”
“It certainly was – amputating his foot like that.”
“He shouldn’t have been walking there. And yes, I finished him off creatively enough after that, didn’t I.”
“I’ve never considered ‘finishing off’ an already mutilated walker with a Swiss Army Knife creative. And what made you think that a wire stretched across a path is a good method of ambushing a cat? For a start: how many cats do you expect to find in woodlands?”
“People take them caravanning with them.”
“No they don’t!”
“Bloody cats. All sat on pillows on their fat fluffy arses, coughing up furballs on your carpet, when they should be catching rats.”
“That’s the last time you’ll swear in front of me, Derek, and your being facetious about this doesn’t get over the indisputable truth about feline anatomy: when walking, cats hold their necks horizontally and not vertically which makes them quite unsuitable for a clean garrotting, even at a low level.”
“ God, you can be so infuriating,…Dearest!”
“…And that’s why you love me, remember. But meanwhile these bodies aren’t disposing themselves. The freezer is no use as it’s already pretty full, and there’s good stuff in it I wouldn’t want to waste, and it wouldn’t do to mix up beef bourguignon with slices of the Reverend and his cronies.”
“Supposing we just cut them up and posted them to fictitious addresses around the country, perhaps sending them from different post offices to prevent any nosey clerk from remembering us. We could have a lovely day out – take a picnic perhaps?”
“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation again. Firstly there’s the smell, then the juices seeping from the packaging – it’s too high risk. I’m afraid it’s just going to have to be the cats again.”
“But you know how much I hate cats!” said Derek.
“Yes I do. But if this helps you think twice the next time we have people over…”
“Well, it didn’t this time, did it!”
“Derek, I’m not liking your attitude. And are you now saying you poisoned them on purpose? Look, I know your feelings towards cats – you have made them perfectly clear…
“Derek! OK, so we didn’t realise back then that the minced meat would attract every single cat in West Berkshire to our back garden, but the fact is they consumed the whole of the electricity meter man you throttled. I don’t know why you take such umbrage with them.”
“Cats – they shit everywhere. Meter man – he just annoyed me, wanting to poke around in the cupboard under the stairs. He wouldn’t have understood.”
“You could have just told him to send an estimated bill, or come back in 10 minutes, giving you time to move stuff from that cupboard, but no – out comes the Hoover cable, and before you can say ‘Boston strangler’ there’s another cadaver for me to deal with. That poor man. And I bet he’d seen a lot worse things under people’s stairs.”
“You sure about that?”
“That’s not the point. Anyway, you brought the plague of cats upon yourself.”
“Maybe, but the number of shits that those, those….shits shit in the gravel drive is disgusting.”
“They’re cats! What do you expect them to do after eating all that fresh meat?”
“If they were dogs they’d do it, but they’d do it loud and proud where you can see it – not surreptitiously like cats, sneakily leaving half covered time bombs for me to tread in every time I put some recycling out.”
“Tintle doesn’t do that.”
“Your sweet little Tintle does it more than any of them! He’s a cat too, remember. I’d recognise his shits in a police station turd line-up no problem.”
“You leave my cat alone. In fact, I don’t want you harming any more cats.”
“Not even that ginger one from round the back – the one you say leers at us?”
“OK, he can be the last one, then that’s it with the cat murders. Promise me.”
“Alright Dearest, I’ll promise – but only if you come up with a better way of shifting the meat this time.”
“Oh Derek, you have such a charming way of putting things. Let me think about it for an hour or two while you chop the corpses up. I’ll see what I can do.”