Morgan Thompson ran his hands over the small wooden crate that had just been delivered. How many years had he waited to get his hands on such a valuable commodity?
He opened the crate and lifted the miniature clay cask he'd spent tens of thousands of dollars to obtain. Electricity seemed to travel from his fingertips, up his arms to his head as he rubbed his thumb over the ancient seal. Sweat formed on his brow as he struggled to calm his breathing.
"Will that be all for the day, Mr. Thompson?" his butler asked.
Morgan quickly tried to hide the precious cask from view. "Yes, Thornton."
What if he saw? What if he tells the others? He quickly looked around his study, knowing there was nowhere he could hide his precious elixir. They're everywhere, pawing through my things night and day. As soon as Thornton left the room, Morgan rushed to lock the door. There was only one way to make sure no one took his precious find.
Morgan crossed back to the desk and began to tear at the thick, red wax that covered the top of the container. I'll not share my find with anyone. He crossed to the liquor cabinet and pulled out his state-of-the-art bottle opener.
He managed to extract most of the cork, only a little remaining inside. Once the cask was open, he stared at his expensive purchase. A single sip was worth more than he paid his staff in a week. That's why Thornton and the others want it.
Morgan grinned as he poured the dark red liquid into a glass. Cask in hand, he carried both over to his chair beside the fireplace. He propped the cask against his cigar stand, making sure not to spill a drop. He swirled the precious wine, mesmerised by the way it clung to the sides of the glass. Although a heavy amount of sediment was evident, it was to be expected in one of the oldest wines ever found. Dark crimson in colour, blood immediately came to Morgan's mind. "Oh, but you are beautiful," he whispered.
He inhaled the bouquet, closing his eyes to isolate the individual ingredients used in the making. With his mouth watering at the thought of actually tasting it, he carefully put the crystal to his lips and allowed the smallest amount into his mouth.
Tears sprang to Morgan's eyes as he breathed out through his nose and savoured the flavours dancing on his tongue. Although bitter in taste, the thing he'd most wanted in the world had been worth every cent.
With each sip, his thirst grew. After the first glass, he greedily drank another, no longer taking his time. He heard footsteps above him and stared at the ceiling. Thornton.
Morgan knew his butler was just waiting for him to abandon the precious wine before slipping down the stairs to drink it himself. They were all jealous of his money. It was his life, and there was no way he was sharing what he'd scarified life and love for, with the maggots that worked for him.
The choice to abandon the glass and drink straight from the cask was the logical one. The more he drank, the louder the voices. He could hear them talking, plotting to break into his study.
Morgan knew he was on his own. He was an island of one and his home was being invaded by traitors. Kill or be killed. Kill or be killed. The phrase kept repeating in a loop through his mind as he continued to drink.
When the last of the wine hit his lips, Morgan shook the clay cask, needing another drop. More. I need more. The voices began again. This time his driver, Albert, as well as his housekeeper, Mary, were plotting against him.
Kill or be killed. He rose from the chair and walked towards the fireplace. The brass shaft of the poker seemed to glow, calling to him. Morgan ran a finger over the filigreed handle before gripping it in his hand. He lifted it from its resting place and felt the comfortable balance of weight.
Kill or be killed. Weapon in hand, Morgan opened the study door. His once peaceful home was now filled with betrayal. He knew Thornton was behind it. The fact that he'd been in Morgan's employ for almost forty years seemed to mean nothing to the stoic Brit.
As the eighteenth century grandfather clock began to toll the midnight hour, Morgan climbed the curved staircase. Once on the second floor, Morgan turned down the servant's wing. He stopped in front of Mary's door. All was quiet, but he knew it was a trick.