Jack's Dinner Party

“Did you hear? There’s another one gone missing.” A vague tone of interest plagued Joan’s voice, “The press are reporting it as some sort of Jack the Ripper copycat. Of course so many people are up in arms about it. You know what I say?”  Here she goes again. Queen Joan – master of the opinions. Her voice will overpower you as much as her perfume; it’s kind of like being punched in the nose with a fist made of sweetened roses.  She pauses for a second or two to look around, like a tigress waiting to see if a gazelle will interrupt her story.  No one did, so she continues. “Good bloody riddance!”


A chorus of laughter from her inebriated lackeys.


I smile guiltily, pretending to be one of them, still the newest to the office, best not to rock the boat. Especially as I was one of the few that Jack invited to his dinner party. Apparently he has them every month.


I start drinking my wine, waiting for the laughter to die down. It takes a while. Just as the hyenas reach their last little tittle of laughter Jack brings in the meat. A big bit of beef wellington cut into ten slices, two each for the ones eating it, which was everyone besides me. I’m having a vegetarian option, a nut roast.


Jack placed the meat in the middle of the table alongside roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables, ready for people to help themselves.  As he placed the meat on the table there was a certain proud look about him, and rightly so. Even I could appreciate the beauty of the meat, blushing in the middle suggesting a soft delicate tender texture. And the scent in the air! A delicate symphony of rustic meat tones with under notes of those crisp soft potatoes. Joan slobbered and drooled - much like a particularly repulsive bulldog - whilst eying up the meat.


She diverted her gaze long enough to notice she wasn’t getting enough attention anymore “And this is why I’d never be a vegetarian. Animals are meant for meat and meat is meant for humans! Won’t catch me eating food meant for the meat any time soon!” Again her babble of buffoons laughed in dull synchronisation.

And here I was thinking she’d forgotten me. Ah well even a little bit pissed you can tell she really meant what she said about the meat.


“Well no point in letting it go cold!” Jack chimed in over the laughter, “Dig in!”


And my god do they. I don’t think I saw anyone move that fast at the Olympics! Like a pack of vultures swooping down on the almost dead, scared they might be reinvigorated and get away.


They all take a small portion of vegetables. I thought that would count as the meats food, I guess that would make us the meat now. I have a grim chuckle at the idea.

“We were just saying Jack,” speaking with her mouthful now, does Joan’s beauty know no end? “How another one of those tarts have gone missing.”

 “That’s a shame. Still I don’t doubt the police are doing all they can.” The others had inhaled their first bit of beef already, Jack was different. Taking time to expose the flesh of the potatoes before applying the gravy, relishing his food, making it the best it could be.


“They probably are, and that’s the joke of it. All of a sudden a few whores go missing and the men in blue are a buzz of activity. But when some little shit keys my car? Well they just all sat around with their thumbs up their arses!”


Yeah. That’s the same thing…


Another bout of laughter. Again I smile guiltily trying not to attract attention – the obvious sheep in wolves clothing – I glance at Jack who rolls his eyes, exasperated.

“Hey didn’t another girl go missing last month?” A plump man red faced from the wine named Peter pipes up. Why does Jack invite them? He gets on with a lot of people in the office; none of them are here – except me.


“Yeah they did!” Joan answers as Jack goes to open his mouth, “we spoke about it last time we were here.”


“It’s almost like you invite us round to celebrate Jack!” Peter might have made me laugh this time, if I was confident that everyone found the joke as absurd as I do. Instead there was definitely a tone of malice bouncing around the walls, echoing in their laughter.


Jack had the same look as me as he started to cut into the dead flesh on his plate and prepare a fork load. A guilty smile, pretending to be one of them.


“Nothing as macabre as that I’m afraid” Jack said with a cheeky smile, “I just think these meals help us relate better at work.” He brings the fork to his mouth; a gleam of excitement sprang to his eye, an almost unnatural one.


“Hey, maybe it’s ol’ Jack here, taking them away from the cold street.” Peter seems to be making a nice comment, everybody waits, confused at his kind thoughts.

Jack’s eyes seemed to widen. It was only for a second and barely a movement but I thought I saw them…


“The door to your basement looks excessively sturdy” Peter finishes, everyone laughs, even Joan – which Peter looks very proud about.


“I can assure you all; my alcoholism is such that there would be little room for a sex dungeon amongst the wine bottles.” There was a subtle change in Jacks voice now, a forced calm, too subtle for the others to notice. He puts his fork down, still having not eaten any of his meat, and arises to pour everyone some more wine. Almost as if he was getting a bit too nervous to stay seated.


No I’m letting my imagination get the better of me.


“Maybe he’s been good enough to invite them to dinner” Joan carried on. Everyone looked at her, gormless in confusion. Until she gestured to the meat and everyone understood. Tones of laughter mixed with mock disgust filled the room.


I notice Jack wiping his hands on his trousers, his palms oddly sweaty.


No maybe not sweat, he probably got gravy on his hands. Everything is fine.


“Well the meat would be nice and tender what with all the pounding her punters gave her” Peter holds a bit of meat up in a mock toasting gesture, “here’s to the sex industry!”


Another chorus of laughs.


“We’re joking of course jack,” Joan carries on, “we know you wouldn’t feed us meat that is probably riddled with HIV!” Jack looked more perturbed at that comment than any others.


The rest of the meal passed, everyone’s hunger dictating their silence. Then once everyone had finished I looked across and saw Jack hadn’t eaten any of his meat.

I give him a quizzical look – an accusing one. His eyes change, from a forced calm to a realised panic. He knew I knew.


“Bloody hell! Aren’t you going to eat that? Don’t tell me the fairy’s vegetarianism is catching!”


This time I actually smile at Joan.


“Don’t worry, I’m fairly sure I’m not infectious. Jack mentioned he was feeling a bit sick earlier, probably just gotten the better of him,” I pick up his plate with grim satisfaction, “why don’t you finish it? No sense wasting it.” I pass the plate to Joan who eagerly receives it.

 

Well. That’s my high ground gone.


I look at Jack, this time we share a look. A knowing grin.