14 Smile 2 of 2

When we sat down at table that evening, I was placed between Lady Harriet Montague and Mrs Blaustein. Mrs Blaustein very pointedly turned her back to me and began a conversation with someone else.

Lady Montague asked me about my work and my interests, and when she found out that none of them involved large sums of money, she fell silent and spent the rest of the evening staring at a round cheeked young man whom I might have seen on television at some point.

The dinner dragged on and on. When we finally reached the dessert, I felt like I was going to burst, both because of all the food inside me, I eat a lot when there is no one to talk to, and also because of the impossible situation George had put me in. I heaved a sigh of relief when the waiters carried out the last dishes.

George tapped his glass.

‘Ahem,’ he began, ‘thank you all for coming. I am sure you are all eager to know why I have gathered you all here today. You might have heard some rumours, and I am pleased to say that you will very soon find out if they are true or not. In about ten minutes my butler, Hans, wave at them, Hans. Let them know who you are.’

Hans waved from one corner of the room.

‘Hans will lead you in through the double doors in the other end of the entrance hall where you will find very probably the greatest experience of your lives.’ George beamed across all the gathered people in their finery.

I did not think any of them looked ready to study animals, no matter how exotic, except perhaps if it was as a new fur coat. It flickered through my mind that George might want to make them into clothes, but I discarded the idea. That would bring him in trouble and although George was eccentric I had never one caught him lying.

When George sat down again I excused myself and went out on the balcony to smoke a cigarette. I inhaled and exhaled slowly. Imagining all the things George might come up with. None of them were really plausible. Some of them included waltzing panthers, sometimes with lions, sometimes with George, sometimes with guests. I snickered at the picture of Mrs. Blaustein’s fat frame moving across a dance floor with a panther as her partner. I was not quite sure how one should impress on the panther that she was not food. She sure looked enough like a sausage.

I was shaking the third cigarette from the package when I noticed that the dining room had emptied behind me. I stuffed the cigarette back in and went inside, irritatingly conscious of the smell of smoke I carried with me. I strode into the entrance hall just as Hans was locking the double doors with a padlock. A padlock?

‘Hans,’ I said, ‘are the others in there?’

‘Ah, Mister Thomas,’ he said, ‘the master said you would be along shortly. Yes, they are all in there. All the guests are on the floor, and the master is on the balcony above. If you would like to join him?’

‘Why have you locked the door?’

‘It’s all part of the plan, will you follow me?’

‘Well I..’

‘Please,’ said Hans, ‘come right this way.’

As he strode towards the stairs, I could hear George’s voice muffled by the thick wood of the door. I could not make out a single word. Hans was already halfway up the stairs, so I trotted up after him. I followed him to another door which was not padlocked and also much smaller. Hans opened the door for me and stood aside.

The balcony was on three walls of the hall and from it, I could look down onto the floor of the hall. George was on the balcony facing the doors. All around the walls of the hall were cages with different large predators pacing their cages, snarling or growling, and gathered in a clump in the middle of the floor were all George’s guests.

There was no way from the floor to the balcony. The only exit for the guests was the double doors which were closed behind them.

As I entered George was just finishing a second speech.

‘Have you ever seen anything like them?’ he said, ‘I think not. So feast your eyes my friends.’ He spread out his arms. ‘Soon you will feast on their flesh.’

‘What?’ said Mr Blaustein from the crowd, ‘never in my life, will I eat one of these animals. They’re not even supposed to be tasty.’

‘Hush, now,’ said George, ‘I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to my friends.’ George reached for a lever behind him and there was a scrape of metal as a number of cages opened their doors. The predators leaped out of their cages. My brain was numbed as I watched the female Black Panther plunge into Mrs Blaustein, throwing her to the floor.

Then there were screams, and I ran.

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  1. Super exciting and well-written!

  2. nigelld

     /  February 3, 2012

    Hi Winona Thanks for the chuckle I just had a few names to add to the guest list 😉

  3. Oooh watch out for the black panther!

  4. Let the games begin….suspenseful read


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