Beetlesmith's Ch. 07bydresbach©
It was the evening of the dinner party, and Karen was doing her customary freak-out with these types of events. It was her behavior when stressed, consisting of her moods bouncing between a short-tempered, nervous anxiety to one of giddy playfulness. Fortunately, the caterers arrived, which gave her something to do other than worry about the upcoming frivolities. My only worry was that she was already hitting the sauce pretty hard, and was well into her second glass of wine. Anymore, and I was going to rethink administering the elixir to her, or even call the whole thing off.
"How many does that make?" I asked, tapping her glass as a mild rebuke.
"Just my second," she said apologetically, and then added with minor irritation, "Don't bug me about it, I'm nervous...Okay!"
"All the same, slow down. You get anymore tipsy and even Jackie will start sounding coherent next to you...Okay!"
It wasn't long thereafter before the guests started to arrive. Mark Cope was the first. He was a bit surprised at being invited, particularly because his divorce from his ex-wife, Linda, wasn't very amicable and that she was still good friends with Karen. Karen assured him that he was still counted as friend, and that it wasn't fair he should be ostracized from our group, even though Linda hated his guts.
Mark and I were always cordial with each other, but never what one would call friends. He was slightly shorter than me, muscular, with dirty blonde hair that always seemed to need barbering. He was prone to wearing golf shirts, always combined with v-neck sweaters and khakis, and had a typical ex-jock persona, who was now selling cars since hanging up his cleats. Cope wasn't classically handsome, and it was obvious that any boyish good looks were not aging well. However, he had a roguish quality, particularly when he smiled, which he did freely and often. It was probably what Karen found most attractive about him, besides the rumors of his equipment, and as I studied him closer, I had to admit that he reminded me of a more or less harmless, lighter variety of Roger Kendall. That was probably another reason why Mark was on Karen's mind of late, and gave me a little insight into her thinking and emotions that I hadn't known before.
The Averys arrived next. They were about ten to fifteen years my senior. Both were tall and lean in build, and to use an old, yet apt cliché, they appeared to make a handsome couple. I say appeared, because as I would find out, their outward conformity in looks didn't match their internal animosity toward each other.
By most anyone's account, Jack was a brutally handsome man, and his good looks were matched only by his reputation with the ladies. His dalliances with female clients and the office secretarial pool were legendary in the company. Yet, unlike others so inclined, his peccadilloes never seemed to interfere with his business sense and rarely became a negative concern in his running a smooth operation. That is except one time, when it was rumored Denise walked in on him at the office after hours. It happened long before I became a project manager, and since that time I never heard of another incident with him at the office—although some the male business clientele still spoke of him with hushed reverence.
Standing in our foyer, Jack Avery was impeccably dressed as usual, wearing a well-tailored, dark suit that contrasted well with his whitened, full head of hair. I thought he wore too much gold, however. Many gold rings, a gold watch, and as I would find out, a heavy gold chain. All of which, when coupled with a deep tan he always possessed, made him appear as a lothario rather than a top-drawer executive. His one, overriding character was a loud and boisterous laugh, which could be heard and easily distinguished above even the noisiest settings. Some at the company remarked that if ever you were separated from the group at a crowded convention, just wait a few moments and you'll hear Jack's characteristic chortle. It worked better than a foghorn in a heavy mist.
In all of this, Denise was his exact opposite. Whereas Jack looked and acted vibrate and young for his age, the few times I'd seen Denise, she seemed to be carrying a heavy burden about her. Evidence of which was mostly expressed as the small, telltale lines that radiated out the corners of her eyes and mouth, and care lines that wrinkled her forehead. That's not to say she was dour in spirit or prone to melancholy. Quite the contrary, she was always quick to smile and had a bright, infectious laugh.
To sum up her personality in line: she had a regal beauty, but a peasant's love for life and people. What I found most enduring about her was that every time she smiled, two, deep creases formed, one on either cheek. These were not care lines, but natural creases that she probably had since birth, and when she smiled, it was as if they formed parentheses that accentuated her lovely mouth. Coupled with her narrowing eyes when she laughed, these features gave her face an impish quality that I found alluring. It was difficult for me not to become sexually excited whenever she smiled. However, I could tell she was self-conscious of her deep creases, for every time she caught herself in too gay a mood, she would quickly move a hand up to cover her mouth. All of that aside, even with her regal beauty and impish, infectious smile, I always got the impression she was some walking 'Portrait of Dorian Gray,' where each of Jack's infidelities was expressed as a new wrinkle or care line on her lovely face.
Karen got the two a drink and took them for a quick tour of the house.
Fashionably late as usual, Jackie was the last to arrive, and beautiful as ever. She was wearing a long black skirt that extended almost to the floor, complimented with a white, sleeveless blouse that did little to hide her ample cleavage. With her, she had brought one of the two women that I briefly met at her office.
"William, you remember Cecilia, don't you?" Jackie said as she kissed me lightly on the cheek.
"Hello, Mister Henry," Cecilia said nervously as she extended a hand.
"Of course I do, welcome," I said taking her hand in both of mine, "And please call me Will."
I didn't recognize her at first, and then realized that she had changed her hair since I saw her last. At the DMV, she sported a short afro, but now her hair was long and straight. She was also stunning in a long, pale yellow, sleeveless dress, the color contrasting wonderfully with her deep ebony skin. Her most striking feature, however, were her light brown eyes, which sometimes radiated a deep amber color and other times a pale gold depending on how the light reflected off them.
I was about to offer them a drink and find Karen, when Karen came up beside me. I thought she was going to have an apoplexy, "Jackie, the party was for six! Can't you count?"
Seeing the look on Karen's face, Cecilia took a quick step behind Jackie, saying in almost a whisper, "Jackie, I don't think this was such a good idea."
I started to laugh, "Nonsense, you're here and that's all that matters. We're both very happy to have you, and we have plenty of food and drink...Right dear?" Karen grumbled an acknowledgement before I continued, "And this lovely person is my wife, Karen, and although you wouldn't guess, she is really quite sweet and accommodating...Right dear?"
Karen softened when she realized her anger at Jackie was inadvertently making Cecilia uncomfortable, "Of course, please forgive me. I get nervous sometimes planning these parties." Then turning to me, she said while giving me an exasperated eye, "The more the merrier it would seem." Well, she hadn't softened too much.
Seeing that I should separate Karen from Jackie before blows were landed, I said, "Karen, why don't you take Cecilia and get her a glass of wine. Then she can help you set another place at the table."
When Karen and Cecilia left us for the kitchen, I looked at Jackie with my own exasperated expression.
Jackie started to defend herself with typical Jackie-babble, "I didn't think you'd mind. I know you put a limit on the number of guys, but I didn't think that included the ladies," she paused to give me an exaggerate wink. "Anyway, when I told those two nymphs at work I was coming here tonight, both of them were begging to tag along. I mean, I didn't even say we were 'doing' anything tonight, so don't worry about that...Well, maybe a little since I hinted about something to Cecilia on the way over. You know, nothing too obvious, just, 'Robo-cock this' and 'Robo-cock that' and maybe something about Karen and a strap...Anyway...You know, just to get the juices flowing," she winked again. "But really, all I said to them for sure was that I was invited to a small party of yours...Really, that was it...Anyway, before I knew it they had just about signed their pensions over to me as a..."
"You mean she paid you?" I asked, finally getting a word in edgewise.
She looked at me with slight indignation, "No! I'm just saying that I could almost make a small fortune doing this if I had a mind."
"Well, it sounds like if you lose your job with the DMV you can always try your hand as a pimp."
"Look who's talking Mister, 'hey Jackie, come over for a small party, wink, wink, nothin's gonna happen but bring some lube just in case, nudge, nudge.'
Laughing, I said with mock incredulity, "I find that insulting, I would never tell you to bring your own lubricant. Just out of curiosity, is this the married one or the single one?"
"She's single!" she said with renewed indignation, "What do you take me for?" I was about to say, but she snapped, "Oh, shut up."
The caterers informed me it would be a while before dinner was ready, which gave me a little time to make my pitch to Jack for Kendall's position on a more or less one-on-one basis. Once I formally introduced everyone, we seemed to break out into two natural groups, me with the Averys, while Karen spent most of her time in a corner rubbing up against Cope, and clinging to him like cat hair to a dark suit. Jackie tended to float between us. For the most part, Cecilia tagged along with Jackie probably out of fear of being left alone with Karen.
On one such grouping, the Averys and I were making small talk with Jackie and Cecilia, when Cecilia commented on the color of Denise's lipstick and fragrance of perfume. Denise offered to let Cecilia try some, and off the two went to the bathroom. Jackie also took the opportunity to leave Jack and me alone, saying, "Well, I'll leave you two to talk shop. Besides I better get over to your wife before she drools too much on Mr. Cope." With that, she kissed me hard on the lips while giving my ass a little pat and a long squeeze. Then she set off toward Karen. Jack noted the overt, affectionate display, and said as he watched Jackie strike up a conversation with Karen and Mark, "Excuse me Will, but didn't you say she was your cousin?"
I guessed what he was thinking, and played ignorant, "Jackie? She's really Karen's step-cousin, but we just think of her as blood relations. She's a very fun-loving person."
I could see the wheels turning in his head, and thought maybe I should hint to him that Karen and I were developing an open marriage, beginning to explore other 'facets' of what that entails. In effect, get him primed for what was to follow. However, I decided discretion with the elixir was the better part of employment, and left the matter alone. Instead, I shifted gears.
He was still eying Jackie talking with the others, when I asked, "Most of us in the company are wondering what you're going to do now that Kendall has resigned."
He smiled affably, "Ah, doing a little politicking for the job, eh Will?"
I shrugged my shoulders, intimating humility. He continued to smile, "Oh, I don't mind. I like to see that type of aggression in my executives." Then his mood became more serious, "And to be honest, you would have been a natural to take Kendall's place, but I have to be candid with you. The last two or three personnel reports turned in by Kendall didn't paint you in a good light. In fact, they were down-right discouraging."
I knew it. I knew that asshole was fucking me over behind my back. All the while he was banging Karen he was slowly sticking the knife into my career.
"Well, Roger and I rarely saw eye-to-eye on things, and quite frankly I didn't like the direction he was taking the accounts. Now I clearly understand why. It's obvious that Kendall was unstable in all facets of his life—business as well as personal. Moreover, it would seem much of his instability was being pushed my way with his evaluations of my work. Now, let me be candid with you, Jack, and in all sincerity, Kendall is insane. Flat out bonkers. I would really look at any of his recommendations with a dump truck load of salt, and based on what you're telling me now, my only regret was not saying something sooner. I held back out of some naïve aspect of loyalty, to what turned out to be an unstable and volatile supervisor."
Jack didn't say anything, but nodded his head in agreement. I made my final pitch, "Before you make a decision, just do a review of all my past and present accounts. I think you'll see that the ones I had before Kendall took me off them were doing much better than they are now, and most of the real dogs Kendall saddled me with are improved. If you do that, I know you'll see that all of Kendall's decisions concerning me, and the company, were politically motivated and not good business."
A large smile crossed Avery's face, "That's an excellent idea Will, which is why I've already reviewed the accounts." He saw my look of surprise and started laughing, "What, you think just because the Board makes you the boss that they remove your brain first? Once I saw what was happening I started taking a closer interest in Kendall's division. And you're right he was really screwing you over, and in the process screwing the company." He took a step toward me and took my hand, saying, "If I didn't think you could run the division I would've accepted your invitation for tonight. I was going to tell you on Monday and make it official, but now is as good a time as any—congratulations. We'll still need approval from the Board, but really that's just a formality."
I was speechless. It was about this time Karen made her way over to us, and said, "The caterers tell me everything is ready. We can eat anytime you like."
Throughout the meal, I kept thinking about the irony of the situation. All the planning I had done to get the opportunity for this one evening with the boss, alone and outside the office environment.
All that planning, and in the end it was unnecessary. So much so, that I was going to forgo administering the elixir. What was the point in using it now? I had the job. Visions of another Karen and Jackie catfight and how that could affect Avery's decision ran through my mind—or worse, visions of a Jackie, or Karen, or Cecilia, with Denise catfight, or any combination of that nightmare was making me break out in a cold sweat. No, best to let the evening die uneventful, once dinner was finished.
However, I had another thought, or really an emotion. It was coming from that dark place within me, where all feelings that lead to hubris have their beginnings. It was an uncharacteristic feeling of ruthlessness that amounted to just two words, 'Why not?' I felt it once before, at Kendall's health club right before I initiated his downward spiral. Why not? Really, who would care, and if they did, what could they do to me? Nothing. If a catfight did break out, or any number of disagreements, I'd just tell the offending party to stop it. Then I'd tell them to take a cock up the ass in punishment, and they would, gleefully. I felt if anything happened, I could control it, because the hypnotic effects of the elixir would give me the power. Why not, indeed! At last, I smiled to myself, reassured that I was in command of my world.
Karen and I were seated at either end of our long dining room table. The Averys sat to my left with Jack closest to me, while the other three guests occupied the opposite side of the table across from the Averys. Cecilia was to my immediate right, while Mark sat closest to Karen. Once the initial serving was completed, the caterers had left, saying they would be back the next day to clean up and take back the platters and warming pans. In the kitchen, they left two pump dispensers filled with coffee and a large, New York-style cheesecake for dessert in the refrigerator.
As dinner wound down, Jack pushed back his plate, and asked, "Would anyone mind if I smoked a cigar? I always like to enjoy a good smoke after a wonderful meal."
"Oh Jack," Denise said with disfavor, "Not in their house."
"Don't worry Denise," said Karen, "Will's been know to smoke one now and then."
Jack offered one for me, but I declined. He held the temptation out, saying, "It's a Montecristo...Hard to resist."
Suddenly, Jackie piped in, "If Will doesn't smoke it, I will."
"A girl after my own heart," Jack opined, as he clipped the end for her.
Jackie seductively leaned over the table, giving Jack a good view of her cleavage as he held the lighter for her.
"Will, isn't there something incredibly erotic about a woman who enjoys a good smoke," Jack said with a smile and a wink at Jackie.
Jackie sat back in her chair and casually puffed on her cigar, sending wispy, grayish-blue clouds of smoke toward the ceiling.
"Absolutely," I said in agreement, "All we have to do now is put a glass of scotch in her hand and we could sell the image as a male enhancement. We could put Viagra out of business."
I saw Denise and Karen look at each other and roll their eyes in bemusement. Denise said to Jack, "If I'd know that's all it took for your attention, I would have stopped the endless miles of jogging, yoga, and calisthenics and just bought a pack of Tiparillos."
I took that as my cue to prepare the laced coffee for dessert, "Is everyone in the mood for coffee and cheesecake?"
All said they would, except for Mark, who would stick to the wine, and making my job easier in denying him the elixir.
"Karen, want to help me with the dessert while I get everyone coffee?"
With Karen preoccupied with cutting the cheesecake and serving the pieces to the guests, I found it easy to doctor the coffee cups by putting an elixir soaked flimsy into each. They dissolved instantly when I introduced the coffee.
The small talk continued between the guests as I watched for the beginning effects of the elixir. So far, none of the more onerous side effects that I had witnessed the last time had manifested themselves, except for the slight tingle at the base of my skull followed by over-exuberance in the volume and nature of the dinner talk. I was still a bit worried that the pent-up sexual frustration, leading to verbal aggression might cause problems. Particularly given there was another male added to the sexual equation.
It was about ten minutes since ingesting the drug when I noticed Jackie, almost absentmindedly, spinning her butter knife on the table. Each time she allowed the cutlery to come almost to a full stop before repeating the action, and each time she set the knife spinning, a small smile would cross her lips as if it were a private joke. Soon, the small talk died away as each of the guests turned their amused attention toward her.
Finally, Karen voiced what was on everyone's mind, "Jackie, what are you doing?"
Jackie disregarded Karen's question, and seeing that this time the knife ended up pointing directly at Denise, asked, "Okay Denise, truth or dare?"
I believe everyone knew of, or even participated in that old parlor game from our youths, including Denise, but she assumed a tone of faint surprise and naïveté, "Truth or what?"