Chapter Twenty-One: Ulric #AtoZChallenge 2023 Who Killed Sir ABC?

Hello, and welcome to my 2023 A to Z Blogging Challenge! For a detailed explanation of what I’m up to this year, see my Theme Reveal. But basically, I’m taking all the suspects I made up for my A to Z last year (with help from several commenters!) and putting them all into an actual murder mystery. See the sidebar for links to last year’s posts; if your device doesn’t display sidebars (if, for example, you are visiting on your phone), the links will be under the comment section, right under my A to Z 2023 participation badge.

Chapter Twenty-One: Ulric

Ulric turned a single blue and baleful eye upon Crowner. “Are ya,” he barked, “accusin’ me of murder? Hey?” His other eye opened with a snap. “Have you up for slander. Libel. Whatsit. Not right, goin’ round accusin’ perfectly respectable old men who’ve already been done out of their rights by young blighted whippersnappers.”

Crowner looked at him, surprised. “Are you perfectly respectable, sir?” He said. “I had no idea.”

Ulric glared. “Watch yer tongue, boy! Anyone who gets to my age is perfectly respectable. Unless she’s an old witch like that thing in the corner.” And he gestured at Kathy, who stuck her tongue out at him. “She ain’t respectable. And I don’t see why she’s allowed in a drawing-room, anyway. Servants’ Hall about her mark. Everyone should stick to their own class, I say. But of course, with young blighted Adam runnin’ the show here, everything’s gone to the dogs.” He barked, rather like a dog himself. The little black dog in Josephine’s lap stirred in his sleep and made an answering moaning noise. Of the two, Ulric was the more convincingly dog-like.

Kathy stared at Ulric with interest. “I don’t see but why you shouldn’t hang him for the murders, now I think on it,” she said brightly. “He’d be no loss. And it might serve as a warning to other gentlemen not to grow all crabby-like in their old age.” She nodded in approval of her own drastic suggestion.

“She poisons people left and right,” said Ulric. “Tried to poison Cecil, likely. Not that I mind that. Poison the whole lot of ‘em, for all I care.” Ulric’s gesture seemed to indicate a very wide field for Kathy to operate on—possibly the entire population of the globe.

“Your opinions are of course very valuable to us,” said Crowner woodenly. “What were you doing when you noticed your house was on fire?”

“Sitting at table over port. Then me butler came in, said the place was on fire, and he thought I’d best leave. Didn’t like that, servant comin’ in and orderin’ the master out of the place. Fired him on the spot. Fire him about twice a week, only he never seems to go. All to the good, really. Don’t know where I’d have got another butler who’d agree to conditions. Servants’ Hall drafty. Full of spiders. Leaked, too. Tended to flood. As for the kitchen, I didn’t ask how they managed to cook in it, and they didn’t tell me. Let them get on with it. I’m going to miss the place. Of course, now I expect the legal wallahs will finally come to their senses and put me where I belong, in the Court.”

Gregory stirred uncomfortably. “They really won’t, Uncle Ulric. It’s really mine, and it was really Adam’s, and there’s really not a thing you can do about it. I think you must know that, only you’re too stubborn to admit it.”

Ulric growled. “Turn me out into the snow, eh? Not right. Not Christian.”

“But Uncle,” said Hattie, “you’re fabulously wealthy. You must be. You must be paying those servants of yours their weight in gold to endure what you call ‘conditions’ for this long. You can afford to live anywhere, do anything you like. Invest in promising business ventures, or… or anything.”

Ulric stared at her. “Who are you? Don’t know you. Not my niece. Don’t have any nieces, thank God.” And he glared at Hattie as if he suspected her of being an imposter.

“I’m your great-niece. Your sister Gertrude—”

Ulric growled. “Don’t talk to me about Gertrude! Bad lot. Always puttin’ herself forward. Came to a bad end, too.” He looked pleased.

“She died a respectable widow in her seventies,” said Hattie.

“Exactly. Died. Like to think of it.”

“All of this,” said Crowner, not without truth, “is incredibly interesting, but if we could get back to the murders? It seems to me, sir, that you might have had a chance to poison the whiskey decanter while you and Dr. Daniel were having your drinks.”

“He didn’t,” said Dr. Daniel. “I’ve thought of that, of course. But I was the only one who touched it.”

Ulric scowled. “I’d have liked to have brained the young scoundrel,” he said. “Mace to the face, what? That would serve him proper. But poison? Too fiddly. Not enough crunching. Not for me.” And then, he repeated “mace to the face” several times under his breath, as if he liked the sound of it.

The Vicar looked at Ulric in horror. “Really, sir!” he said. “I know you feel a certain bitterness about your position, but this will not do! You talk of un-Christian conduct—well, all this vengeful, violent imagining is deeply and profoundly un-Christian! And as for—”

“You weren’t exactly in a forgivin’ mood yerself, padre, when you came away from your last little chat with my blighted young nephew. Thought you were alone, I expect, but I heard you all right! I heard you! Swearin’ like a sailor. Unbecomin’, in a man of the cloth. Thought of writin’ to the Bishop about it. Then I remembered he was only that little tick Brimmers, who I used to kick downstairs at school, so I didn’t bother.”

Crowner turned to the Vicar, aware as he did so of a peculiar creeping sensation in his skin. He’d learned something very important in the past few minutes, he was sure of it. And as soon as he realized what that something was, he’d know who had committed these murders.

“Tell us all about it, Vicar,” Crowner said, beaming.







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  1. I sent you an email.

    Wait. I just got a poison pen letter..
    Who is there?


  2. I think Ulric is not the murderer. If he were, I suspect several more of the local residents would already be dead. I’m also not sure he’s fabulously wealthy as Hattie hopefully suggests when she hints he might invest in her hat business. If he is not wealthy, and the butler remains in spite of Ulric “firing” him twice a week, I have to wonder if Sir Adam wasn’t financing Ulric’s life.

    Dr. Daniel volunteering that only he touched the whiskey decanter, in spite of the self-incrimination of such a statement, rather seems to absolve both of them of the crime because the good doctor simply isn’t conniving enough to say such a thing as an attempt to hide his guilt in plain sight.

    So is it the Vicar’s reportedly unseemly conduct after his chat with Sir Adam indicative of something far worse? Let’s see…

    • I think you may be right; Ulric would have a much higher body count, if he once got started. And I like your suspicions about Ulric’s true financial position.

      Yes, I think the doctor might be out of it, although it is hard to know for sure; he might be secretly terribly, terribly clever. And I think at least that he is smarter than he thinks he is.

  3. Poor man seems a bit crabby. Wonder why his servants stay with him. Does he indeed pay them well – does not seem to fit with the crabby demeanour.

  4. Ulric is certainly a lot of fun – speaking purely fictionally of course!
    I agree that if he were actually to carry through on his murderous impulses the entire village would probably be depopulated.
    But what if he’s not merely dithering and Hattie is, in fact, not his great niece? Or what if the Vicar is even more un-Christian than mere swearing would suggest? But best of, all, what if…

    • I heartily enjoyed writing Ulric. I think I may have enjoyed writing this post the most of any so far this year.

      He probably would go on quite a rampage, yes. And, I mean, if he killed everyone in the village, he could live in Clutterbuck Court, or at the Vicarage, or anywhere he fancied. He could even rotate between them.
      What, indeed, if… THE BUTLER DID IT???

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