John F. Dillon
It was the third time in less than an hour that Huxley stood before the mirror admiring his features. He liked what he saw. He always did.
Huxley was an extremely confident and often devious individual. Although nothing officially had been said, he knew The Partners were considering a replacement for the recently departed Department Director and felt the choice would be made at tonight's dinner. 'Didn't The Partners always make such decisions at an extravagant dinner?' he asked his reflection.
Two weeks earlier, on a warm spring day, the normally healthy looking Department Director slumped over his desk, a victim of a heart attack. He was 34 years old, three years older than Huxley.
After what he considered a respectable waiting period, Huxley submitted a note to be considered for the vacant Department Director position. At the time he knew his chance to be considered would be slim but that changed with the claim of authorship to Greenwald's recommendation.
Earlier in the week, he saw an envelope in the Outbox on Greenwald's desk addressed to The Partners.
'Why would Greenwald, of all people, be communicating with The Partners?' Huxley asked himself, and adroitly slipped the envelope into his shirt. He then carried it to a private stall in the mens room where, with the skill of a surgeon, he severed the envelopes flimsy seal. Inside, Greenwald had suggested a means to correct inefficiency in the company's business model.
He made a few inclusions and rewrote the document on his desk computer then applied his signature before returning the envelope to Greenwald's 'Outbox'. The following morning, the document was received by ThePartners.
While the suggestion proved to be of great value, The Partners were very reluctant to acknowledge it with more than cursory comments of appreciation on the company's public address system. As anticipated by Huxley, the mild, timid Greenwald lacked the courage to claim authorship. Therefore, Huxley was not completely surprised when, two days later a formal invitation bearing the name of one of the city's well-known restaurants, the date, time, and an enclosed reply card with a stamped envelope, arrived at his home. The invitation was extended to Huxley and an escort.
Obnoxious and abrasive Huxley's personality precluded social interface. Most of his business associate avoided him and he had no personal friends. In reality, there was no one he could ask.
He rejected the idea of employing a professional escort service telling himself that he didn't want to be discovered hiring a escort when in actuality it was his parsimonious nature that cringed at the thought of spending the money. Frugality also dictated his dress. Although form decreed the traditional dark suit and conservative tie, Huxley chose a light tan jacket, dark brown slacks, olive colored shirt, and multi-colored tie. The pretentious thought of hiring a limousine was also dismissed because of financial considerations and Huxley arrived at the restaurant by taxi.
The doorkeeper held the large smoke glass and oak panel door and extending a greeting to the nonresponsive Huxley when he approached. Inside waiters in black tuxedos moved about white-cloth covered tables with flowered centerpieces. The excitement of the day had resulted in one skimpy breakfast and when the Maitre d ushered Huxley to a secluded corner where the The Partners waited with their wives, a large double hinged door opened and a waiter emerged bearing an assortment of dinners to a waiting tray stand. The scent of food waffling from the kitchen and off the passing tray to Huxley's nostrils immediately awoken his salivary glands and he began to salivate.
As he stood behind his chair during introductions, Huxley became aware that he was at least a generations younger than any of the others at the table. The knowledge he would be replacing the Department Director, the organizations youngest member temporarily relieved his discomfort and he smiled. 'I can't miss,' he told himself. 'I'll be the only one with any durability.'
Eventually, everyone sat and engaged in conversation while the waiter distributed menus. Huxley's stomach continued to groan while he perused the various items before quickly settling on one of the specials. Any thought of a quick serving was erased when one of 'The Partners' suggested a Martini Cocktail before dinner. Huxley had never tasted a Martini Cocktail yet when the others restated the request, he followed their selection andrepeated the order to the waiter standing nearby. For someone who on rare occasions only consumed a dark beer, it was a bad choice.
The response to his first sip from the frosted glass was an involuntary shutter and a quick squinting of his eyes. He looked to the others who pretended to be busy in discussion but none missed his reaction. He tied another small sip, then another. To his delight, the drink gradually became more enjoyable. It also produced a pleasant unexpected effect. Huxley became congenial.
The waiter eventually completed dinner orders and furnished another round of drinks while awaiting food delivery.
The first martini had loosened Huxley's tongue. The second rendered him mute. The third stood untouched. Its sides glistened with the moisture of melting frost that reflected the reddish glow of a nearby goblet of merlot.
Huxley's head rose and his mouth emitted a gurgling, slurring, sound when he attempted to reply to a question from one of 'The Partners'. Instead of a response, his mouth suddenly gushed whatever was in his stomach to the tabletop. His glazed eyes slowly closed and his head lowered to join the discharge on the table.