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Malcolm Rhis-Nelson inhaled the languid wisps of steam rising from his bowl of chestnut Perigord puree.
It smells wonderful, he said.
Unfortunately for old Malcolm, and the rest of my eleven guests, consuming the soup proved an entirely more complicated and embarrassing matter, for I had furnished every place setting (save my own) with a Tantalus Soup Spoon, a novelty utensil whose reservoir is filled in with a high grade, transparent epoxy... making it virtually useless for its intended purpose! Malcolm's starched shirt front attested to that.
Anything wrong, Malcolm, I inquired, raising one eyebrow and consuming my own soup in a most charming manner. Titters and whispers abounded across the Chippendale as the other patsies realized that they too were victims of my ruse most dastardly!
It was becoming painfully clear that Malcolm alone refused to take my deft assault on our aristocratic punctilios in the appropriate spirit. In short succession, he had reacted with shock, fear and humiliation when greeted at the door with a jolt from my Hi-Power Joy Buzzer. (Mrs. Dervasham, that incorrigible dowager, intimated behind her white glove that a small stain could be discerned at the juncture of his trousers' inseam!) And when Malcolm accepted an Adams Novelty Dribble Glass full of Campari and Grenadine before supper, his subsequent rage became the folly of the drawing room! Before we had even been seated to dine, the assembled guests recognized in Malcolm the locus for their own humiliation, and, in a classic case of psychic transference, turned on their feared and vaunted social paragon like a pack of ravenous dingoes!
I clapped twice to summon my Libyan houseboy.
Mahmoud, I growled, playing to the unforgiving crowd, what is the meaning of this? Why is Mr. Rhis-Nelson's shirt front soiled with chestnut and truffle!?
Malcolm seemed appeased as the mute, obedient Berber ministered to his apparel with soda water and lemon, but the rest of the party smirked, sensing some imminent escalation. And in a way, they were right, clever devils! For, as per my prior orders, Mahmoud was secretly injecting Malcolm Rhis-Nelson with a highly virulent strain of HIV I'd developed in my laboratory. The blighter would be dead in less than a fortnight!
Date Written: March 14, 2005
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