PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES…
AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE…
I was stuffed. Mouthwatering filet mignon. Lobster. Shrimp. Caviar. And the chocolate soufflé? In the name of John Wayne’s horse, you’ve never live until you’ve scarfed down an actual French soufflé whipped up by real life French people.
The Count’s servants cleared the dishes and the attendees made small talk.
We were all gathered around a long, rectangular table. The Countess sat at the end closest to the door while her hubby sat on the far side near the wall.
If you can imagine that you were the Count, then from where you were sitting, you’d of been able to see me sitting next to your wife, then my wife, the Muffster, to my right, Lord Blackburn next to her, and after him, Sir Rupert, who was really working overtime on that alibi.
“Fill me up, my good man!”
Reynaldo, the Count’s sommelier, poured the revered public servant another one. I lost count of how many he had. Poor Rupert. It couldn’t have been easy for a gent who barely touched the stuff to get that smackered. He no doubt felt it in the morning. Another reason why I owed him.
Can you conceive of how loaded a man must be to have an employee who just takes care of the wine he keeps in his damn summer home?
I bet the Count couldn’t have even counted it all.
Muffy rested her head on my shoulder. She unfastened a button in the middle of my shirt, reached up and rubbed my chest through my undershirt.
“Let’s tour the countryside tomorrow, mon cheri. France is so beautiful.”
I’d heard it was too. The last time I visited this part of the world, I was too busy getting shot at by Hitler’s stooges to notice the ambience.
Alas, I had to disappoint her.
“Baby,” I said. “Something’s come up at work. I’m so sorry, but we have to fly back home tomorrow.”
Muffy’s eyes. Whoa. If she could have burned a hole through me with them, she would have.
“Jacob, no! We are celebrating our love!”
“Duty calls, cupcake. Sorry, but that’s life when you’re the wife of a private dick.”
Muffy frowned and returned her head to my shoulder again.
“I trust it’s something very important?”
“You know it, baby.”
I miss the 1950’s. You could just tell your wife what was what and she’d just be ok with it.
But then again, Mrs. Hatcher Number Two did eventually pump six shots worth of hot lead into me, so I could be mistaken about that.
“This is the best meal I’ve ever had, Count Rickard,” Lord Blackburn said to our host. “Even better than the time I decapitated a wild boar with a pen knife and roasted its flesh on a spit.”
“I’m glad it was to your satisfaction,” the Count replied.
I’d never seen a man with more breadth and baring than Rupert, and that’s why it was a sight to behold when he lost control.
“Tell us another one about some defenseless damn animal you claim you slaughtered but you know you didn’t you pompous ponce!”
“Sir Rupert!” Lord Blackburn shouted. “Why, I never!”
“You never, what? Exercised a minute in your life? I believe you, fatty.”
RR would go on to win a nobel peace prize, so you can forgive him.
“Perhaps you’ve had enough?” Count Rickard asked as he reached for Rupert’s glass.
With swift reflexes, Rupert grabbed Fabes’ hand before it got anywhere near his hooch.
“I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough!”
Across the table, Signora Bellavenuti gabbed it up with the Countess.
“Ugh, I simply abhor boring people, darling. Have you heard that little man who keeps going on and on about Sartre this and Nietzche that? Patooie!”
“I’m right here!” Professor Fremont protested.
He really was. Right next to her.
“Yes, I know you are darling but please, it’s not polite to listen to other people’s conversations.”
Next to Fremont was Yakubovich. The rotten bastard sipped on a martini.
“Another display of Western excess,” the Russki said. “You all eat like pigs while the masses starve.”
“You didn’t seem to mind the way you gobbled it up, Yaku-bobber. One would think a good Commie would have only had one bite then distributed the rest of it throughout Siberia.”
To my surprise, Yakubovich stood up, walked around the table, and stopped at my chair.
“Oh Yaku-booby, sit down. Don’t ruin the Count’s fine shindig.”
“I said, ‘stand up.'”
I did as he asked and expecting a bout of fisticuffs, I was taken aback when the old commie grabbed me up in a big bear hug instead.
“Is this some kind of Stalinist trick?” I asked.
“No,” Yakubovich said as he let me go. “No comrade, is my apology. I have been rude to you all evening. You won. I lost. I have been a poor sport.”
“Admitting you’re wrong is the first step on the road to recovery, Yakky. Now just get Kruschev to admit the same.”
To my surprise, Yakubovich laughed and returned to his seat.
“Run a bath as soon as we get back to the room, baby,” I whispered to Muffy as I sat back down. “I need to wash off the pinko.”
Between Yakubovich and the Count was Ambassador Charbonneau, his mind still on the English-French trade dispute from before.”
“Sir Rupert,” Charbonneau said. ” I’ve devised a plan that will make everyone very content.”
“Balderdash!” Rupert cried. “I’m too cocked to pretend to give a moldy shit, Patrice!”
Reynaldo was on the opposite side now, filling Signora Bellavenuti’s glass. He was a handsome lad and the Signora looked like she wanted to eat him.
“Such strong muscles, darling,” the Italian dame said as she stroked the sommelier’s arm. “You must model for me.”
Fifi, the Count’s maid, set a porcelain cup in front of me, poured some tea, and then proceeded to do the same for Muffy.
Charbonneau pressed on.
“It’s all very simple,” the Frenchman said. “You continue to levy tariffs as planned on French goods, thus keeping the tax happy members of the British parliament happy, but then you lobby the Prime Minister to order a reduction on port entry fees for all French vessels to make up the difference. What do you say?”
Keep in mind, Sir Rupert, as the British Secretary of State, was his country’s Chief Ambassador and the face of the United Kingdom to the world.
“Do you know what I say to that, you lousy frog?! I’ll tell you what I say to that…I…I…oh, what’s wrong with all of you?”
Every face on the other side of the table recoiled in horror.
“What is that?!” Signora Bellavenutti cried. “Fanculo! What is that smell?!”
Fremont sniffed the air, then covered his nose with a handkerchief.
“I’ve heard of existentialist expressionism but this is ridiculous.”
Yakubovich’s eyes were watering.
“What?” I asked. “What’s going on?”
Then I heard it. It wasn’t loud or even obnoxious.
It was the teeniest, tiniest squeak.
And then the smell followed.
“Jimmy Stewart’s stutter! What the hell is that?”
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