Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction #31 where the quest was to use the words batch, catch, latch, patch and coriander in the story.
"So, ladies and gentlemen," Mr. Coriander paused to light his pipe. "It has been a long weekend, has it not? And I am sure you are all anxious to depart this terrible place and return home. And all but one or two of us shall be able to do just that."
"One or two of us?" Mrs. Henry asked, her hand fluttering to her locket. "Why not all of us?"
"Surely you have guessed that we have all gathered here in the parlour because I now know who killed Mr. Bentley? And further that I believe one of us here in this very room is the murderer!"
"It can't be one of us!" Mrs. Henry gasped, looking around at her guests in all their finery. They were a cool and reserved batch of old money and good breeding.
"And why not? We are all humans who are, if nothing else, animals. When threatened do we not lash out or flee? Are we not all capable of having our mental strings snagged in a patch of madness where all civilized reason leaves us? And the only sensible way forward is to lay waste to one of our fellows?"
"But we are all civilized individuals of good reputation! We do not murder!" Mrs. Henry cried, reddening. She began to worry harder at her locket until the latch broke and the necklace fell into her hand. She looked at Mr. Coriander, furious.
"Ah, but you are wrong, Mrs. Henry." Mr. Coriander said with some satisfaction. "Do you not now wish to do me in? Your prized locket has been broken. I saw rage in your eyes just now. You'd like to bash me in the head with the fireplace poker, wouldn't you."
"You mock me, Mr. Coriander." Mrs. Henry said quietly turning away.
"See here now, you jerk! You can't talk to my aunt that way!" Paul said and he moved quickly to catch the locket that was slipping from Mrs. Henry's hand.
"I can talk anyway I want, Mr. Henry." Mr. Coriander puffed on his pipe, delighted with himself. "I too am a free man of means."
"But I thought we all agreed that the gardener was responsible for Mr. Bentley's death." Paul whined.
"Perhaps you all agreed on that," Mr. Coriander walked toward the mantel of the grand fireplace so that he could stand in nature's own spotlight shining through the parlour's windows. "But I believe differently and I'm prepared to prove it to you right now as we wait for the police to arrive."
"You called the police?" Mr. Galveston asked, finally looking up from his paper. "How common! Usually we handle this kind of thing quietly."
"Usually?!" Mr. Coriander barked and moved out of his good lighting. "What do you mean, 'usually,' Mr. Galveston? Are you in the habit of pinning murders on servants?"
"Yes, quite." Mr. Galveston stated and looked back at his paper. "Paul, would you mind terribly handling this as you handled Mr. Bentley?"
Mr. Coriander began to sputter. He gasped for breath as his face turned green and he dropped to the floor, dead.
"I anticipated you'd ask, Mr. Galveston." Paul said, picking up Mr. Coriander's pipe. "Right before we met here, I lined the mouthpiece of Mr. Coriander's pipe with poison from Auntie's locket. What shall I tell the Inspector when he arrives?"
"Ah the usual," Mr. Galveston sighed. "One of our guests let his imagination run wild. Fancied himself a kind of Poirot after we played at detective with the local murder mystery drama club. Let him know that all is well and that Mr. Bentley escorted our Mr. Coriander back to the city. And don't forget to tip the Inspector well for his trouble. Later, we'll put them both in Mr. Bentley's car and push them over some cliff or other"
"Yes, sir," said Paul, reaching for his wallet.
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Galveston," Mrs. Henry cooed. "It's so good to have that all cleared up. Tennis anyone?"