Henry Richards had been working as a butler for the family for years. It had been such a long time that most of the family members had forgotten how long it had really been. Not that they cared about his years of employment, or his age. He had always been very good at his job, and that was the most important thing to the family. As long as his age wasn’t becoming a limitation, he could be sure of his employment.
Mr Richards was exactly the kind of perfect butler one sees in the movies. Quiet, precise, old-fashioned and unnoticeable but always there when you need him. He never asked questions, nor did he give his critique or comment when he wasn’t asked to do so.
Mr Richards lived with the family and had always had his own room in the attic of the house. There he had everything he needed. A bed, a wardrobe, a washing table, a toilet and a desk. The family never came to his room, and the only time a family member had been up there, was to show him his room on his first day of employment. The butler’s room was small and apart from its furniture, empty. There were no portraits or other personal things, exept from his suits, in the room. He had no family members, and there where no other employees apart from him in the house.
On Friday morning at five o’clock, Mr Richards’ alarm went off, like it did every day. It took him a lot of huffing and puffing to get out of his bed. It was only when he got out or into bed when his real age was given away by the protesting of his bones. He washed himself, got dressed and went downstairs to make breakfast, first for him, then for the family.
Mr Richards’ breakfast consisted of a simple bowl of cereal which he ate while he read the day’s newspaper. When he was done, he washed up and started working on the breakfast that was expected to be ready for the family in an hour. The family’s breakfast consisted of toast, scrambled eggs, freshly squeezed juice, sandwiches, roasted bacon, cooked beans, jacked potatoes, a small bowl of fruit salad, a glass of milk and a cup of tea. When he was done cooking, Mr Richards brought everything upstairs to the dining room and readied the table.
He was almost done when he spotted a dark figure running across the garden towards the house. It wasn’t unusual for the youngest members of the family to come home just before breakfast was served. Mr Richards knew not to take action right away and continued his work while waiting for his signal. Soon enough he heard somebody softly whistle just outside the dining room. Mr Richards returned the signal by whistling one of his favourite tunes and continued finishing his work.
When the family had all finished eating their breakfast and the dining room was finally cleared again, it was time for Mr Richards to clean up. He took the empty plates and dishes downstairs again and put them in the sink, so they could be washed up when he had the time. This was either when all the members of the house had left, or when they had all gone to sleep.
At nine o’clock the butler could be found near the front door. At this time on this day, the housekeeper would come by to come an clean the house. Mr Richards would open the door for her, explain her as brief but still as detailed as possible what needed to be done, and leave again so they could both get back to their work. However, today the housekeeper was late. Normally she would arrive and ring the doorbell at exactly five past nine.
But today she was late. Very, very late.
It was already half past ten and Mr Richards was still nervously pacing back and forth the hallway, waiting for the arrival of the housekeeper. If she didn’t arrive quickly, he would be forced to leave his post to still be able to finish all his work in time.
Two of the family members walked into the hallway and looked surprised when they noticed Mr Richards. He quickly bowed to them and informed them that the housekeeper was late today and that he was very sorry. The family members waved the nervous butlers words away and told him to get on with it, and so he did.
The rest of the day the butler worked his usual schedule, but whenever he could, he snuck off to the hallway to see if maybe the housekeeper had arrived yet. His hearing wasn’t what it used to be and so he was afraid that he might have missed the ringing of the doorbell.
At the end of the day, the housekeeper still hadn’t arrived. Nervously sweating the poor Mr Richards decided to inform his masters. They, however, didn’t really seem to care for the absence of the housekeeper and told him that, for next week, he should hire someone else. Mr Richards felt bad for the woman who had been perfectly punctual and working for them for about ten years. But to his opinion quality came before loyalty, and so he agreed.
The next morning the reason for the absence of the housekeeper was revealed. The butler dropped his spoon into his cereal when he read the article in the newspaper. It said that the woman, the housekeeper, was found dead early that previous morning, and that a possible person of interest was spotted fleeing the scene. The memory of the dark figure running towards the house yesterday morning crossed his mind…