The shark’s dead black eyes stared out at the assembled guests, deep and accusing from its prominent position as a centerpiece. Mina looked across the table at the grotesque man before her and shuddered. Why Calvin had insisted on inviting this fool, she’d never know, but for now she’d have to keep her spirits up and try to stop imagining his grisly murder.
Her current favourite was the idea of removing his eyes with a salad fork, with feeding him slowly to sharks as a close second. She plastered a false smile onto her face, then tuned back in.
“And sho,” the fat man said, food falling from the sides of his mouth and quickly being scooped up in his podgy fingers for a second attempt at eating, “the war ish coming to Karlin. All because the Merkian King rejected Jarl Halvard’s girl Eila. I can’t shee why.” He gronfed his food, a term Mina made up to describe the noise as she was fairly certain existing words couldn’t cover the horror, and finally swallowed. “She’s a fine piece of work. Shame she’s a goddamn Sisterine.”
“Harold!” The fat man’s wife, who almost as grotesque in the completely opposite way, stick thin with translucent skin stretched over aged bones. “You shouldn’t say such things in front of our hosts.” She turned to Mina, saying, “I do apologise for my husband. He does get carried away, especially after a few glasses of wine.” It was as if she thought it would make it all better.
It didn’t. Mina glanced at her husband who was sipping his brandy quietly, the lines around his eyes drawn taut by the smile he was barely suppressing. “Now, Harold, you mustn’t feel that we are trying to keep you quiet. The Jarl’s daughter has joined with the Sisters?” Mina asked, probing for more information. She’d been looking for an entrance to meet with the Sisters for a while and this could be her chance. She’d known Eila for years, corresponded with her about the foreign king.
“Aye, girl. Eila Halvard is one of the newest members of the Sisters of Mercy. Sworn off men completely, I’m told. Go around helping the poor, claiming to be touched by the gods. They’re definitely touched. I tell you, if I get much more capital I’ll start my own religion to get back at them. Just need a couple more major contracts then you’ll see it!” He slammed a hand onto the table, causing his wife to jump. “Haroldism! The one true path.”
His wife slapped him painfully across the arm. “You shouldn’t go saying things like that. There’s one true god and he will lead as he always has. His name,” she prodded him viciously with a bony finger with each word. “Is not Harold Montague.”
“Say, Harold,” Calvin said, a rich low tone that was like chocolate running into your ears, “how do you fancy coming with me into the den? You know what they say about discussing business at the dinner table. Shouldn’t do it. Along with some other stuff…” He raised a hand and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Still, nothing important, I’m sure. Mina, darling,” he looked towards his young wife with her fake smile and eyes that screamed for help, “You’re happy to entertain Clarissa?”
Mina nodded, screaming internally. She was definitely not happy to entertain this walking skeleton, but by the time she’d found an argument she could say, the men had retired. “So, Clarissa,” she said, her mind casting long and hard for something to talk about, “how are your boys?”
The Idiot in Tin Foil