Please don't try to take this seriously, it might cause injury.
A very happy belated birthday to the beyond marvellous Lady Grantham! The J.J. Astor reference is especially for you. Hope you had a lovely day!
It seemed rare nowadays to find people who did their jobs for the sheer love of the work, Molesley thought, as he sipped his cup of tea in the Crawley House kitchen at the end of another long day. Mrs. Crawley, perhaps, before the war, with all her work at the hospital. Some of the servants at Downton – Carson, certainly, and Miss O'Brien. But generally the people he knew were just trying to find a way to pay the bills. Mrs. Bird, Beth, Mr. Crawley, most of the servants he had met.
Even he wouldn't say he loved his job. It was pleasant enough, and he was good at it, but he appreciated finishing work each day. Besides, he got his enjoyment out-of-hours. It was too simplistic to call it a 'hobby' – a freelance profession, a vocation, a calling.
For years now it had been his pastime, and occasionally his employment. And what years they had been! He hardly remembered what it was like to do dull work during the day and then spend your free time doing dull invisible mending or having dull conversations.
He didn't usually take commissions, only when the money was far, far too good to pass up. Like that one man he had been paid to get rid of – what had his name been? Alton? Astor? It was a long time ago now. The money had been so spectacular that it would have been foolish not to take it. Unluckily for Molesley, Astor had got wind of something from one of his spies and had left for America before the plan could be carried out. Unluckily for Astor, the ship he had taken had been the Titanic. Molesley's anonymous commissioner had thought that Molesley himself engineered the whole thing, and had honoured his payment in full. That had been very amusing. He was good, but not quite that good.
He hadn't taken a commission in years, though; somehow it took all the joy out of the thing when you were being paid. It was a little tasteless. The Turkish diplomat had been the most recent one, nearly six years ago. Molesley didn't pretend to understand politics, but this had been important. He could have told that by the size of the cheque he received, even if he hadn't read the newspaper in his life.
It had been simple, anyway. A new type of cleaner for the glasses, passed onto one of the more gullible footmen. Some people might call poison a cowardly option, but they clearly didn't appreciate how elegant it made things.
Since then he had received numerous commissions, some too low-paying, others just dull. There had been a surprising couple of requests for the Dowager Countess' demise, which he had thrown on the fire. Sometimes caution was the best strategy, and there were always certain people one did not want to mess with.
He didn't really want to get rid of her, anyway. Certainly she could be fussy and irritating, but she wasn't as bad as Certain People. Mrs. Crawley, for one.
Molesley clenched the teacup tighter in annoyance at the mere thought of her. She simply wouldn't stop meddling, rambling on about erysipelas or some such rubbish. Couldn't the woman recognise rope burn when she saw it? (Caused from knotting thick string. Very tightly. Around someone's throat.) He had considered ending her interfering there and then; most people would have been thankful for it, he was sure. A taste of her own medicine…quite literally. Tincture of steel in one's morning tea surely wouldn't be any good for anyone. Or maybe cyanide would be better. It was all very well to experiment, but sometimes the tried and tested methods were the best after all.
He hadn't bothered in the end, and then the wretched woman had almost got him sent off to war. For heaven's sake, he might be an experienced murderer, but he was a professional, not a butcher. Who did she think she was?
But Mrs. Crawley was nothing compared to him.
John Bates. God, how he hated him.
It had started off from trivial reasons. He had got the job with Lord Grantham despite being utterly unsuitable for it, and then had clung onto it by the skin of his teeth. He always had to be in the right. Even when he was blatantly wrong, everyone made excuses for him. And then the Anna situation had just been annoying.
Molesley had liked Anna, he had to admit (pathetic, he knew, but even psychotic killers were occasionally vulnerable to affairs of the heart). However, he had soon gone off her after seeing how deeply her attachment for Mr. Bates ran. After his departure, she had become positively maudlin. Most tedious. He had amused himself for a while by trying to get her alone so he could engineer a tragic accident, or perhaps a suicide (those were always fun, he hadn't done one of those in a while, and the girl was grief-stricken over Mr. Bates, so it was at least plausible). But it had been too much bother in the end. Anyway, he could always save her for later. After he had got rid of Mr. Bates.
He had planned to drop the whole thing against Mr. Bates after he left with his wife. He really had. But things had got serious when the man had the temerity to interfere with his plans. Namely, his next murder.
The Earl of Grantham. Molesley had never liked the man (far too stupid). He had been delaying disposing of him for years, but the opportunity had come his way. Mr. Bates was gone, Mr. Carson was trying to be everywhere at once and was, in all probability, about to explode from the effort of trying to keep Downton together. It had been an excellent chance, and when this kind of chance came along you did not fritter it away.
Molesley had planned everything to the most minute detail, as he always did. The new shoehorn with the concealed blade in the handle. The half-hour he would have before supper to plant the evidence (he just couldn't decide who he wanted to frame. It would either be that footman-turned-manager Thomas – a good opportunity to get rid of him was not to be sniffed at, annoying man – or one of the daughters. They had three, they'd never miss one. The middle one, perhaps, who spent most of her life wandering about moping all day and complaining about being ignored. It had always irked him to no end. She should try being a servant).
And then everything had been ruined by something completely out of his control. Mr. Bates' return. Was he to be plagued by that man forever? It was honestly getting ridiculous. He had indulged many a fantasy involving bludgeoning that smug expression off Mr. Bates' face with the shoe horn.
But no. This time it was much better to be sophisticated. He was a proper killer, efficient, good at what he did. When a job needed doing it had to be done properly. He had learned that from watching his father weed and prune the garden, and from his mother sewing buttons and restitching hems. He had learned it from working as a valet for the last fifteen years. A stitch in time saves nine, and all that.
This wasn't to be some silly little crime done on the spur of the moment. This was to be a masterpiece.
He had planned every detail.
He had needed to dispose of Mrs. Bates. That had been a shame; the woman certainly had talent for blackmail, if nothing else, and she could have proved helpful. But sometimes sacrifices had to be made. Anyway, there was no point in being sentimental. There were some people who had all the appearance of being able to manage this kind of thing, but then something happened that made it clear they would be utterly useless. Look at Sir Richard Carlisle. Ruthless, well connected, able to manage that whole situation with Vera Bates and the blackmail. And then when his fiancée was involved he just went to pieces. Getting into a fist fight, indeed! Molesley had been rather disappointed in him. Surely the obvious solution was simply to kill Mr. Crawley? Goodness, why did everyone else insist on making things so complicated? Why was he so alone in his genius?
He shook his head slightly and took another sip of tea to calm himself down. He was supposed to be reminiscing over triumphs, not having some kind of existential crisis! After all, it was almost as good remembering back over past successes as it was actually carrying them out. And this particular plan had been brilliant.
He had killed Mrs. Bates. He had timed it for just after Mr. Bates' visit to her, and had lurked outside while Mr. Bates went in to see her. Their argument could be heard in the street. (Everyone except him was so careless.)
He had passed Mr. Bates on the pavement afterwards, knocked into him and given him a small cut on the head, all whilst keeping his face hidden. The man hadn't even noticed; he had been too busy muttering away under his breath about Vera this, Vera that.
And then the evidence planted in Mrs. Bates' house, the long wait for the police to catch on, the trial, the sentence, the satisfaction that John Bates was imprisoned and unable to explain his innocence.
It was magnificent. It had, quite frankly, been his best plan to date. Perhaps some people would think that he planned too much, but Molesley had no patience with that sort of person. (In fact, he usually ended up killing them.) Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, that was his motto.
He had already had one failure, and he didn't want another.
He cringed to think about that time, when he had been so arrogant. It had been years ago after a string of successes; his ego had inflated and he had decided to aim higher. At the Countess of Grantham.
How had he been so stupid? It should have been easy to carry out; the woman was so dozy that he could have stabbed her and made it look like she'd walked into a knife that had been inconveniently sticking off the edge of a table. It was a job for an amateur.
He should never have underestimated that ladies' maid of hers. Infuriating woman. If there was one thing Molesley didn't like, it was meddlers.
But then again, it wasn't entirely Miss O'Brien being clever; it was far more down to his own error. He had stupidly allowed himself to be seen…arranging things, and, while he would have looked perfectly innocent to any other watcher, it would have to have been Miss O'Brien that he was noticed by. And he had a funny feeling that she knew more about everyone else than she let on.
He had been sorting out a simple accident up at Downton. It would have been quick and painless, very little blood. It wasn't as though Miss O'Brien would have had to spend hours cleaning stains from Lady Grantham's dress; it most probably wouldn't even have torn. He supposed some people still felt loyalty for their employers. Terribly old-fashioned, but there you go.
Good Lord, that terrible woman and her terrible hairpins. Molesley winced at the memory. He still got blind spots sometimes. Some people were so violent.
Never mind. He swilled the rest of his tea in the cup, his mind far away. That had been long ago, and he had never been so careless again. He had learnt from the experience. He had improved. And now surely this must be the high point of his life. Mr. Bates jailed and facing death. The sentence had been lessened, but that was scarcely a problem. Another murder or two. That would do the trick. Perhaps Anna's 'suicide' would start investigations off, if she left a note: I can't carry on lying any longer…I love my husband, but not enough to spend my life covering up his crimes…there have been others, not just Vera…
Now who to choose? Someone dead since before Mr. Bates' arrest, obviously. Miss Swire? William the footman? It wouldn't have to have been suspicious at the time; Molesley was very experienced at planting evidence by now. He supposed it came from being a valet; once you knew how to remove stains and clues, it was a piece of cake putting them back.
Oh, it didn't matter that he might not have the ridiculous obsession with his job that some people like Mr. Carson had. He had plenty to keep him occupied.
Molesley drained his teacup and stood up briskly. Enough dwelling on past matters. He had a great deal of work to do.
If you made it to the end of this, it would be lovely if you could review - I'd really like to know what you think!