“There I was, naked as the day I was born, strung up by my toes, flapping in the breeze over a pot of boiling
water. The local primitives were restless, dancing about in a circle and preparing to boil me alive for their supper!”
Lord Alistair Blackburn was a corpulent fellow. A charter member of Her Majesty’s Society of Royal Adventurers, he wore a khaki colored shirt and shorts and a pit helmet to top it all off. He was a bit of a bombastic blowhard, offering up tall tales and exaggerated yarns to anyone who would listen.
I hate it when people do that.
Muffy and I smiled politely.
“How’d you escape, Al?” I asked.
“Luckily I’d studied that particular tribe’s dialect and told them I taste terrible. They set me free but I had to walk for an entire day in my all together until I found an outpost.”
I felt sorry for every animal who had to witness that. Blackburn was definitely not skipping any meals. In fact, if his story was true, then those bushmen must have had some extra strength rope.
The great game hunter was just one of the people who’d received an invitation to the Count’s dinner party that evening.
Count and Countess Rickard were famous all over Monaco for their dinner parties. They collected people like a hobbyist might gather up rare coins. They loved entertaining and they threw a top notch soiree.
We were all gathered in the Rickards’ sitting room, an expanse that was greater than the average person’s home. It was fancy cigars, premium brandy, and good conversation until dinner was ready.
“Now then,” Blackburn continued. “Halfway through this most treacherous trek, I had the misfortune of coming face to face with a pack of unruly hyenas…”
Change that to mediocre conversation. The Muffster and I were bored out of our gourds. I tuned out Lord Blackburn and perked my ears toward the conversation happening on the couch opposite the one I was sitting on.
Signora Bellavenuti was whirling her brandy sifter and doing her best to ignore the ramblings of noted philosophy professor Arthur Fremont. A fellow American, Fremont was a twitchy little fella with a mop of curly hair and a lazy eye.
“A true nihilist would argue that life has no meaning but if a lack of meaning brings meaning to a nihilist’s existence, then can there really ever be a true nihilist?”
The Signora was not as good as Muffy and I were at nodding politely in the face of less than stellar chitter chatter.
“Ugh, darling, please,” Signora Bellavenuti said as she flapped her fingers up and down toward her palm, waving goodbye, “I have spoken to burros with more interesting things to say. Shoo! Shoo! Away with you!”
Crestfallen, Fremont marched off to the back corner, where he nursed his drink. Yakubovich was already there, still licking his wounds from the drubbing I’d given him earlier at the poker table. The Count decided it would be sporting to invite the loser to break bread and it wasn’t mi casa so who was I to argue?
“The first seven hyenas I was able to take out with a stick I’d managed to chew to a point with my teeth, but the eighth I had to strangle with my bare hands. And do you know it continued to laugh until its very last breath?”
The Lord’s chubby face grew grim.
“The image of my hands wrapped around that beast’s throat as it giggled like a school girl haunts my nightmares to this very day.”
“Whoa,” I said. “What a predicament.”
“Indeed. Now, let me tell you about the rhino I stabbed in the face in Botswana. It was charging at me, you see, and…”
Lord Blackburn’s rant was being drawn out by a conversation happening to my left. Two men sat in oversized comfy chairs, wrapped up in a heated debate.
One of them was Sir Rupert Roundtree. I considered him a friend. The first time I met him was in North Africa during World War Two. He was a tank commander then and saved me from a band of angry, sword swinging locals. The second time was in Hong Kong not long after the war. By that time, he’d been appointed as Chief of Police in the then British controlled city state, and he and his men stopped a band of thugs who wanted to slice and dice me.
Since then, Rupert had worked his way up in the world. He’d gotten himself elected to parliament and was currently serving as the British Secretary of State.
As you can imagine, I had a lot of respect for him. Roundtree was physically fit, an athletic type. He had a thick handlebar mustache that took up half his face and long sideburns.
Charbonneau had a poor excuse for a toupee. It looked like a damn chinchilla taking a nap on his head. The coloring was off. The hair on his sides was silver but the toupee a deep black. You’d think someone at the rug factory could have peppered it up a little.
The man chewing Roundtree’s ear off was Patrice Charbonneau, the French Ambassador to England.
“Patrice, old boy,” Roundtree said. “Must we dampen the evening with talk of politics?”
“Yes monsieur. French merchants simply cannot operate with the outrageous tariffs imposed on goods exported to your country. Something must be done. There is no precedent for the current rates and if you consult the treaty that was signed in 1949, you’ll see clearly that…”
Roundtree spaced out of the lecture he was getting and looked around the room only to do a double take when he spied my kisser.
“Pardon me, Patrice, I have to go see a ghost from my past.”
“But the hardliners are calling for action and I cannot hold them back any longer!”
“Yes,” Rupert said as he stood up and patted Charbonneau on the back. “Let’s put a pin in this conversation for later, shall we? I swear I’ll return and listen to all your problems posthaste.”
The MP strolled over to me and I stood up to greet him.
Lord Blackburn didn’t even notice.
“That beast came close to goring me but I managed to dodge its thrust at the last minute and smash it right between the eyes with my machete.”
“Lord Blackburn!” Rupert said. “Might I steal Hatcher away from you for a moment?”
Copyright (c) 2015 Bookshelf Q. Battler 2015
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