Gowry sprang forward with wild courtesy. “I know where it is!”
“Oh, Mr. Gowry, don’t!”
Missy gestured frantically.
Mr. Gowry ran from the room.
“Oh, dear, dear me,” cried Missy.
A moment later, Gowry uttered a loud shriek from the basement, followed by a thunderous crash.
Missy hippety-hopped out, only to reappear moments later, her hand clutched to her throat. “Heavens to Betsy,” she wailed. “Come look. I do believe Mr. Gowry has pitched himself straight down the cellar stairs!”
The next morning Joshua Enderby shuffled into the house lugging a large green velvet board some five feet by three, on which pistols were clasped in display.
“Here I am!” he shouted.
Missy appeared with a rum Collins in one bracelet-jangly hand, her cane thumping in the other. “What’s that?” she demanded.
“First, how’s old Gowry?”
“Broken leg. Wished it had been his vocal cords.”
“Shame about that top cellar step gone loose, eh?” The old man hooked the green velvet board to the wall. “Good thing Gowry lurched for the brandy, not I.”
“Shame.” The wife drank thirstily. “Explain.”
“I’m in the antique-gun-collecting business.” He waved at the weapons in their neat leather nests.
“I don’t see-“
“With a collection of guns to clean-bang!” He beamed. “Man shoots wife while oiling matchlock garter pistol. Didn’t know it was loaded, says weeping spouse.”
“Touche’,” she said.
An hour later, while oiling a revolver, he almost blew his brains out.
His wife came thumping in and froze. “Hell. You’re still alive.”
“Loaded, by God!” He lifted the weapon in a trembling hand. “None were loaded! Unless-“
He seized three more weapons. “All loaded! You!”
“Me,” she said. “While you ate lunch. I suppose I’ll have to give you tea now. Come along.”
He stared at the bullet hole in the wall. “Tea, hell,” he said. “Where’s the gin?!”
It was her turn for a shopping spree. “There are ants in the house.” She rattled her full shopping bag and set out ant-paste pots in all the rooms, sprinkled ant powders on windowsills, in his golf bag, and over his gun collection. From other sacks she drew rat poisons, mouse-killers, and bug-exterminators. “A bad summer for roaches.” She distributed these liberally among the foods.
“That’s a double-edged sword,” he observed. “You’ll fall on it!”
“Bilge. The victim mustn’t choose his demise.”
“Yes, but no violence. I wish a serene face for the coroner.”
“Vanity. Dear Josh, your face will twist like a corkscrew with one heaping teaspoon of Black Leaf Forty in your midnight cocoa!”
“I,” he shot back, “know a recipe that will break you out in a thousand lumps before expiring”
She quieted. “Why, Josh, I wouldn’t dream of using Black Leaf Forty.”
He bowed. “I wouldn’t dream of using the thousand-lump recipe.”
“Shake,” she said.
Their assassins game continued. He bought huge rattraps to hide in the halls. “You run barefoot so: small wounds, large infections!”
She in turn stuck the sofas full of antimacassar pins. Wherever he laid a hand it drew blood. “Ow! Damn!” He sucked his fingers. “Are these Amazon Indian blowgun darts?”
“No. Just plain old rusty lockjaw needles.”
“Oh,” he said.
Though he was aging fast, Joshua Enderby dearly loved to drive. You could see him motoring with feeble wildness up and down the hills of Beverly, mouth gaped, eyes blinking palely.
One afternoon he phoned from Malibu. “Missy? My God, I almost dove from a cliff. My right front wheel flew off on a straightaway!”
“I planned it for a curve!”
“Got the idea from Action News. Loosen car’s wheel lugs: tomato surprise.”
“Never mind about careless old me,” he said. “What’s new with you?”
“Rug slipped on the hall stairs. Maid fell on her prat.”
“I send her everywhere ahead now. She bucketed down like a laundry bag. Lucky she’s all fat.”
“We’ll kill that one between us if we’re not careful.”
“Do you think? Oh, I do like Lila so.”
“Lay Lila off for a spell. Hire someone new. If we catch them in our crossfire, won’t be so sad. Hate to think of Lila smashed under a chandelier or-“
“Chandelier!” Missy shrieked. “You been fiddling with my grandma’s Fountainbleu Palace crystal hangings? Listen here, mister. You’re not to touch that chandelier!”