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U3A Writing: Twist Of Fate

Esme has a plan for retired life, and it does not include her husband Bill...

Rose Perry tells a tale of a scheming wife.

Today was the day she had been waiting for.

During the three months since Bill retired from his position as caretaker at the hospital, she had been exceptionally attentive, taking care of his every need.

Bill was enjoying this, as it was quite a new attitude in their relationship.

Esme had never been this attentive in their 30 years of marriage. He relished this change, never doubting that this was just the effect of him retiring and being home with her. Maybe after all these years of routine, Esme was actually enjoying having him around each day.

What Bill wasn't aware of, was that there was an ulterior motive behind all this care for him. Esme had a secret!

For some years, she had longed to be a widow, so for two years prior to Bill's retirement, she had been visiting the library to acquire knowledge on what poisons could be used to eliminate a person without the substance being discovered by forensic examination.

Only a week before Bill's retirement, she found the name of a chemical extracted from a plant, which was used by the Incas in South America, to dispose of anyone who didn't please their leaders. But, how could she obtain this without too many questions being asked.

As she studied the articles regarding this plant, Hellebore Indicas, she learnt that the plant grew in the Northern Territory. The processing of this root to a powder was so simple that Esme couldn't believe what she was reading.

When Bill knew she was going to the library, he encouraged her, as she hadn't shown any interest in reading before, and it seemed like a good thing to keep her happy.

One day as they were having their evening meal, Esme suggested to Bill, that because he had never taken a holiday in his working years, why didn't they take a tour to the Northern Territory, as there were many beautiful areas which she had always longed to see. She had already read brochures and discovered that in one of the organised tours there was one place quite close to the sleeping quarters where the plant grew.

It was no effort convincing Bill that this trip would be enjoyable, as he had always been interested in seeing other places, but his work required him to be close by in case he was needed, even during the holidays.

The day arrived and they boarded the coach in Adelaide and embarked on their journey of a lifetime. All Esme could think of during their trip was this place where the plant was, so she really didn't take much notice of the rest of the trip, although she pretended to enjoy it all. Bill was very happy for her, as she had always been a routine person who spent most of her time at home, not mixing with others.

Even shopping had become a chore because there were people everywhere she went, and it was quite an effort having to comunicate with other folk. She just wanted to be alone.

When the coach arrived at the designated area, Esme found it difficult to contain her eagerness, and restrained herself from rushing off to find the plant.

Soon after they arrived at the living quarters Bill decided he needed a rest after the trip, so while he was sleeping Esme went to search for these plants.

After reading so much about its characteristics, she recognised some growing not far from the buildings. She had prepared for this moment and had brought along some very heavy green plastic bags and a small garden trowel. Fortunately the soil was easy to work. Before long she had four plants in her bag.

She had learnt enough about the plants to know that it wouldn't affect the potency of the chemical even if the plant died, as long as she had the root. She couldn't wait to be home again to follow the instructions from the books she had read.

But there was still another week to go, so she relaxed and pretended to enjoy the tour. Bill was not the type of man to pry into her luggage, so she had no fear about him discovering what her intentions were. If, for some reason, Bill were to see them, he would accept that, because she loved her garden, it was just another plant for her, even though it was quite illegal to take plants from one state to another. Esme had even thought of that. She knew exactly how to conceal the plants, and because there was no odour, they would not be detected without a thorough search.

During the remainder of the trip, she was very considerate to Bill, assuring him that this was the best trip of their lives.

During the week after they arrived home Bill was called to the hospital for a few hours. This was Esme's opportunity to process the plants, which by now were quite dry and ready to reduce to powder.

When this was completed, she stored the powder in a sealed container labelled 'Hellebore Indicas' in the kitchen cupboard beside the over, knowing that Bill never looked in there.

Whenever Bill needed a coffee, Esme would very gladly prepare it for him, encouraging him to sit in the living room, as she wanted to pamper him a little. In his cup of coffee she would add teaspoon of the powder, which was quite tasteless, so he wouldn't suspect a thing.

During the next week Bill decided that because Esme was being so good to him, he would wait until she was shopping and would clean up her kitchen.

He began cleaning in the cupboard beside the oven and soon discovered the can of powder and read the label. He was quite puzzled, as the name on the label wasn't familiar to him, but it was obviously a plant name, and because she was so fastidious, it seemed odd that she would keep an old can like that in her kitchen.

He didn't mention this to her, as he knew she didn't appreciate being questioned about anything in her home. Maybe he would just forget about it. But he couldn't forget!

He decided to go to the library to see if he could find any information about this plant, and it wasn't long before he found a story about the Incas and its use.

By this time, he summed up the situation, and realised that her change in mood, for the better, he thought, maybe meant there was an ulterior motive. He had been married to her for a long time, and knew her nature, but she had never been as caring as she now was, so he had to wonder about it all.

That evening when she made the coffee and took it into the living room, he noticed that she had made two coffees in identical cups. He sat there for a few minutes, to consider what the next move should be. She remembered that her knitting was in the kitchen, so when she left the room to retrieve this, he quickly changed the cups. She didn't notice, and drank the coffee which was meant for him.

Over the next week, there were more opportunities to swap the cups, and he continued to do this, until one evening, Esme complained that she was feeling poorly. She decided to retire to bed early. Bill showed great concern, as she always kept excellent health and this was quite a change for her to be ill.

Bill retired to bed an hour later. Esme was sleeping soundly.

In the early hours of the morning he was wakened suddenly to find Esme struggling to breathe, and as he showed his concern for her and propped her up with pillows, it was obvious to him that this was serious.

He called the ambulance, which arrived within 10 minutes. She was taken to the emergency ward with Bill by her side. Within the next hour there was much activity, the doctors and nurses working diligently to help her.

Alas, there was no way they could save her.

The cause of death was recorded as "Cerebral Haemorrhage."

Bill was devastated at the hospital. Fancy losing his beloved wife as suddenly as that.

But, it could have been him.

A Post Mortem was held because Esme very rarely attend a doctor's clinic, but nothing was found to be untoward about her death.

He thought of the powder in the can, and decided to dispose of it, as it would be dangerous to have in the house. But on second thoughts, he thought that some time in the future he would take a little of the powder to the Agricultural Department, to see if they could name it.

The day came when this was carried out. The result was that it was a harmless chemical, which was derived from a special form of thistle, which was indigenous to Victoria and South Australia, but seed had been transported via clothing and other means during the years.

His concerns were unfounded, but why was Esme putting this powder in his coffee? He had seen her do it.

Well, now he was a widower. Something he had dreamed of for many years. All good things come to those who wait.

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