A chill wind blew through the partly open window as Margaret Ann led the visitor into her bedroom. The veiled stranger, dressed all in black, seemed out of place within these off-white walls. Turning as she reached the wooden bedstead, Margaret Ann faced her guest.
“Have a seat on the bed, please.”
There was no chair to offer in these cramped quarters, plain as the smile, stitched like a lie, across Margaret Ann’s wrinkled face. A spider made its way across wooden floorboards.
“I’ll stand,” replied the veiled woman, her gloved hand quietly closing the door.
Smiling no more, but straight backed, Margaret Ann fixed her gaze where she judged the visitor’s eyes to be.
“I hope you’re well?”
“How I am is of no concern to you. I bring news. You may prefer to sit down.”
Margaret Ann’s voice wavered uncharacteristically.
“Dead,” the guest intoned.
A low moan escaped Margaret Ann, but she steadied herself with one hand against the wall. Her guest remained motionless, inscrutable.
“My God, how?” croaked Margaret.
“By his own hand.”
The words fell like a guillotine, dropping Margaret Ann to the bed. A tremor wracked her body and wrought forth a throaty groan. But the news hadn’t killed her. Not yet.
“I’ll be brief, since it seems you are not well.”
Margaret Ann’s back stiffened, but her face remained buried in blanket.
“On discovering he was low-born, your bastard became emotional. It seems the great investment my late husband and I placed in him was insufficient to tame his wild spirit. An inability to control emotion was ever the hallmark of your stock. It is a mercy his anguish was brief. A single gunshot put paid to his suffering.”
Margaret-Ann’s liver-spotted hands clenched her handkerchief.
“I’ll see myself out,” said the visitor. “You will not hear from me again.”
A black-gloved hand closed the door behind her. Shortly after, the sound of a motorcar engine burst into life, then quickly dwindled out of earshot.
Alone, finally, Margaret Ann wept, but the only sound was the ticking of the clock on the mantel.