The Poisoned Umbrella

by Cath Barton

You’ve all heard about the man who was killed in strange circumstances while crossing Waterloo Bridge in London. Or maybe waiting for a bus there. Anyway, the story went that he’d been stabbed in the leg by an umbrella that had had some sort of poison dart in it. Either he was a Russian spy, or the chap who did it was. I don’t remember. But I do know what happened to the umbrella.

Here’s the scene. It’s a Monday. Bad enough day of the week anyway, what with having to go back to work after the weekend I’ve had, though that’s another story….. Then to make it worse, what starts out as a beautiful July day, not a cloud in the sky, turns suddenly and dramatically stormy. So there I am getting off the bus near my place of employ with no raincoat, no brolly and the sky dark as night with rain lashing down.

There’s no way I can turn up at the office soaking wet. I’ve got an interview scheduled with my boss and I’ll be out on my ear after a short lecture of the “turning up on time and dressing for success” nature. No ques-ti-on about it. But as luck would have it – and she turns out to be on my side this morning after all – there’s one of those tourist stalls just by where I get off the bus. You know – “Kiss Me Quick” hats with a picture of Queenie on them, rude postcards of London barmaids and the like.

I look amongst the tat and, blow me, they actually have umbrellas. I’m going to go for a nice red one and then I think better of it. In my line of work it’s black or black. So I ask the woman on the stall if they’re got a black brolly and she says no, only red or blue. Then she suddenly remembers something – apparently the night before some geezer had brought a beige-coloured brolly back. Said it didn’t open properly. But when she’d checked it had seemed perfectly alright. She’d put it under the counter. Says I can have it cheap, just in case it really is faulty.

Okay, it’s not black, but it’s an inoffensive colour and it’s no time for argument. Anyway cheap’s good in my book. After all I’ve got a perfectly good umbrella sitting at home where it’s no use to me in this farrago. So, hurrah, trouble over, problem solved. I get to the office without getting wet and my interview and the rest of the day pass off as straightforward and boring as can be.

Till teatime. I pick up the brolly from under the desk and there’s a little puddle on the carpet. Oh dear. Then I think if I scarper quickly the cleaners’ll mop it up and there’ll be nothing said.

Next morning there’s a kerfuffle at the office. Dead dog. Belonged to one of the bosses. Used to sit under his desk all day but he’d let it roam about the office after everyone else had gone if he was working late. They reckon it ate poison. No-one knows how. But I do. That’s how I know it was that umbrella. That Monday was the day after it happened – the Waterloo Bridge thing. And the stall where I bought it was, guess where?- on Waterloo Bridge!

And what happened to the brolly, did you say? I got rid of it. Left it outside someone’s door. Casual like. Who’s to know?

Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny, Wales, where she writes, sings, garden, walks and generally enjoys life.

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  1. #1 by Bonnie on August 22, 2010 - 5:26 pm

    Fun post, Cath! Enjoyed the way you were interwoven with the crime. Excellent journey.

  2. #2 by Joe Gensle on August 22, 2010 - 7:38 pm

    Wot, and no call to Scotland Yard!!? Well written, and this yank can now go an look up ‘farrago; brolly; scarper; kerfuffle,” but because they’re fun-sounding and I’ve learned something today! Well done!

  3. #3 by Milo James Fowler on August 22, 2010 - 9:14 pm

    I’m with Joe: great vocabulary here; and awesome job setting the scene

  4. #4 by Sandra Davies on August 22, 2010 - 9:57 pm

    Smoothly told, plenty of humour and I had no problem at all with the language!

  5. #5 by Gita on August 22, 2010 - 11:26 pm

    I was hoping that you left it in the doorway of your arch-enemy, your rival at work or an old boyfriend/girlfriend who done you wrong. That was a fun read!

  6. #6 by Judy Adamson on August 24, 2010 - 12:26 pm

    Cath strikes again!

    I enjoyed that – and have tweeted it for others to enjoy!

  7. #7 by Mike Handley on August 25, 2010 - 1:17 am

    I love the pacing and phrasing here, Cath. It’s as if you were sharing this during lunch. Like Gita, I was sure you were going to provide a poetic ending (okay, so I’m dark sometimes). But I still wasn’t disappointed. It would be interesting to see this as a collection of tales, having each one pick up where the last umbrella was left.

  8. #8 by E A M Harris on March 11, 2015 - 12:15 pm

    Brilliant. I really enjoyed it.

  9. #9 by hibernianfc on April 27, 2015 - 1:53 pm

    So pacey, it left me breathless at the end, and that wonderful involuntary sensation of the hair on your neck standing up…

    I guess I liked this one…a lot!

    • #10 by Cath Barton on April 27, 2015 - 5:49 pm

      Gosh, thanks for looking back on this!

      • #11 by Adrian Ford on April 28, 2015 - 12:26 pm

        Hi, Cath. Yes, it was a link from a recent PG short! Any more from where this came from?

  10. #12 by Cath Barton on April 27, 2015 - 5:51 pm

    How lovely that people are still reading and enjoying this wee story of mine – very gratifying, thank you!

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