A poisonous visitor, then Madge’s past is revealed

Welcome to the Evening Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Launched last year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began last Monday and runs each day in the Echo for a fortnight. Called Personal Services, this story was written by Sue Dukes (right) of Skibbereen, and is one of two soaps chosen from work submitted by students of the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. In this chapter, Madge’s past crimes...
A poisonous visitor, then Madge’s past is revealed
"Her face turns puce... Felicity leaves in a cloud of venom." Picture posed by model

Episode 7

SWEET bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells… now that’s a blast from my childhood, but there’s nothing sweet about the woman barging through the door, larger than life.

Bolstered by a few too many designer chocolates, her expensive clothes fit too snugly to do them justice.

“Hello, I didn’t expect to see you again, Felicity.”

“It’s Mrs Webber.”

Well, that puts me in my place. She didn’t actually say, for the likes of you, but it’s what she means. Not for my appearance, if you get my drift, but for my station in life. Never mind the Stations, this one’s god is station: who is above her (not many) and who below (the rest of us, including god, probably).

The mental image of her actually meeting someone above her perceived status is almost unimaginable, all that flesh vibrating with obsequiosity.

Now, that’s a bit of a mouthful, but it kinda builds a picture, don’t it?

Eyes like marbles wedged into a sandpit, she gives me the once over. “I thought I’d give you another chance.”

“That’s so amazingly generous.”

“It is. My back still isn’t right...”

“Despite all those highly bribed specialists?”

Her face turns puce. I’m thinking, heart attack or stroke?

“They were not bribed. I paid the fees they demanded for the service they provided. Now, are you going to help me or not?”

“Not,” I say.

There’s a long silence. From somewhere I discover a smidgen of sympathy; she came here knowing that would be my response, but didn’t have the sense to truly believe it. After all, money buys everything, doesn’t it?

But sympathy only goes so far. In all my years of helping people, she’s the only one to bring litigation for malpractice to my door. It hadn’t crossed her mind that I might have qualifications coming out of my ears, that I wasn’t working the Harley Street scam because I didn’t want to. Maybe she still chooses not to believe it.

“I need you to help me,” she said. “You’re the only one who ever could.”

I leaned back and crossed my arms. “Mucked that one up, then, love.”

“But you can’t just...”

“I can. Please leave nicely before I throw you and your upholstered rear-end out of the door.”

“I’d see you in prison.”

“Been there, got the tee-shirt.”

The bell jangles harshly. Jim is there holding the door open, in invitation. Just my luck he’d heard.

“You won’t sort me out, yet you sort out that dwarf who just left?”

Her sneer wasn’t a patch on Jeannie’s, yet she blanched visibly at my expression and took a step back.

“That lovely girl is better than you in just about every way imaginable. Now squeeze into that ridiculous status symbol outside, and try not to drive over any human beings as you leave.”

“Shouldn’t tangle with Madge,” Jim advises. “She’s killed better men than you.”

I wince. Thanks, Jim.

Felicity leaves in a cloud of venom. I told her she should lose some weight, but she’s not prepared to miss out on those society luncheons.

I put the kettle on, and Jim parks himself on the sofa.

“Saw the car outside, thought you might need a hand,” he says.

‘I appreciate the thought, Jim, but I’m capable of dealing with my own problems.’

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t be a good neighbour if I didn’t try, would I? So why were you in the clink? Did you kill someone?”

I sighed. “Jim, things are never that simple. It wasn’t just one, it was several.”

His beady eyes light up at the thought of all that gossip.

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