THANKS FOR THE COFFEE – A CLASSIC CUPPA

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with apologies & sincerest admiration to Dame Agatha
Cover Design adapted by Spencer Stewart

Cyril Marple awoke with a start. The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the air of his immaculately tidy cottage. He sat up in bed and perused the surroundings of his prim bedroom. The rose patterned wallpaper was the same as always. The leather bound copy of Sir Titus Weatherspoon’s autographed copy of “Poisons of the World” was just as he had left it the night before, opened on the Chippendale bed stand and bookmarked to his favorite chapter on Curare, the deadly South American poison favored by the natives indigenous to the Amazon rain forest. The Big Ben alarm clock showed the time to be 7:45 as an early morning sun pierced the fine Irish lace of his bedroom curtains with the promise of a warm and peaceful day in the quiet English village of Runnycheese on Cornbread. The song of a red-rumped Swallow from a branch outside his window caught his attention and he rubbed the wispy silver hair on his nearly bald pate. “My word!”, he ejaculated. “I’d completely forgotten. Cuthbert!”
Mr. Marple rose from the rumpled bed and eased into his red brocade dressing gown, a gift from his older sister, Jane, who lived a short distance away in the village of St. Mary Mead. Like his sibling, Cyril had never married, and lived the unencumbered life of a life long bachelor, a man firmly set in his ways and daily habits, and the inviting, but unexpected aroma of freshly brewed coffee rising from the kitchen had caught him unawares. Cyril brushed past the rumpled size 46 tweed trousers draped carelessly across the polished mahogany bannister and bounded toward the kitchen, the smell of coffee and frying bangers and mash filling his nostrils.
“What ho, Old Trout!” came the exuberant exclamation from amidst the chaos of Cyril’s formerly pristine kitchen. Pots, pans, flour, lard, tins,eggshells, knives, forks, whisks, butter, butcher’s paper, beans, grounds and a vast array of assorted debris littered the kitchen. In the eye of this hurricane of clutter stood a husky figure of a man, his snowy white beard flecked with raspberry jam,his bottle thick spectacles dusted with flour, holding aloft a fork with a large rasher of dripping Canadian bacon. A smile and the air of gentle satisfaction floated about him like the London fog. “Care for a cuppa?” he asked.
“Good Lord, Stephensby! Look what you’ve done to my kitchen!”
“Well, good morning to you, too, Old Man. A stout English breakfast was the least I could do, after your hospitality last night.”
The memory of the previous evening came creeping back on stealthy cat’s paws. The public house. The warmth of the fire. The exquisite port. That sixth or seventh glass of port. Marple closed his eyes. When, seconds later, he reopened them, the grinning face of his corpulent companion still beamed at him from the ruins of his kitchen. A small black cloud of smoke was beginning to rise from the toaster.
With an agility that belied his large stature, Cuthbert Stephensby simultaneously crammed the bacon into his eager maw, whirled toward the burning toast and flipped it into the already overflowing dustbin, and grabbed the percolator from the stove.
“Come now, Ducks”,said Cuthbert. “Sit down and have some breakfast. I have some news that just might get your juices flowing. Here, drink this!” he ordered, offering a slightly stained antique porcelain tea cup overflowing with bitter coffee as Mr. Marple surveyed the battle zone for an unoccupied chair. Marple pulled the dressing gown tighter as he brushed aside some loose tea and an errant sausage from atop a kitchen chair and sat gingerly down. Mrs. Glossop will have a fit come cleaning day, he thought, as the rotund raconteur pushed a plate literally dripping with sausages, fried tomatoes, cheese and what, he suspected, had once been black pudding toward him, leaving something like a slug trail across the flour-dusted table. “What, no spotted dick?”, Marple inquired.
“Laugh if you like, Cyril, but you’ll need your strength today.”, said Cuthbert. “While you were sleeping in, the Vicar from St.Waldo, the Blessed came ’round. There’s been a death in the village last night. …..and it looks like MURDER!

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