Worth a Shot
I stood and lifted my glass and dinged it a few times with the flat of my butter knife to get everyone’s attention for the toast. The dulcet tones of the crystal glass rang melodiously throughout the great hall and gradually the din of people talking and eating subsided as all eyes looked my way. I looked out across the sea of tuxedos and evening gowns, the crests and swells of this sea glittering with all manner of diamond necklaces, gold tie pins, and jewel encrusted lorgnettes (the latter belonging to the Dowager Lady Camilla Codswaddle of Larkwaddle Hall).
However, before I could speak, a shot rang out and the wine glass shattered in my hand. I stared at it for a moment, a bit nonplussed, when suddenly I was hit as by a speeding locomotive and I found myself laying on plush carpeting, slightly under the dinner table, with what appeared to be a panting ox on top of me. The room erupted into chaos with the women (and the Honorable Neddy Feckleston) shrieking in high pitched tones and the men harrumphing and what-what-what-ing in their more baritone voices. I heard a scuffle somewhere in the room.
I grunted and attempted to extricate myself from under the ox, but to no avail. All my hours on the links had done nothing to prepare me for moving several metric tons of beef off of my person.
“Just sit tight, Sir Popplewell,” said the ox in a distinctly American accent.
“It appears I have no choice,” I said, resigning myself to my fate, which appeared to be either suffocation or the popping of a vital internal organ like a sat-upon balloon. Then, after pondering the situation for a moment longer, I asked, “I beg your pardon. Have we met?”
“Not officially,” he said, his accent still American. “I’m Terrence. I’m your bodyguard.”
“I see,” I said. “What happened to Percy, my regular bodyguard?”
“He was incapacitated just before dinner.”
“We found him tied up and unconscious in the conservatory.”
“How extraordinary,” I said, attempting to extricate my hand from where it was pinned between me and the ox so that I could adjust my Prince Nez. “What on earth was he doing there?”
“We think he received a message from someone posing as you, asking him to come there.”
“How extraordinary,” I said, managing to adjust my Prince Nez just the slightest bit. “Why on earth would I ever want to see him in the conservatory? I haven’t been there in years.”
I heard a voice from near the foot of the table yell, “It’s clear! We got ‘em!”
I felt the ox roll off of me and then a fist as big as a Yorkshire ham grabbed the front of my jacket, lift me up off the ground, and set me on my feet. I looked bewilderedly around the room. At the foot of the table I saw two beefy Scotland Yard types holding firmly onto Nigel Brimble, my butler. He was glowering at me like a madman.
“Nigel?” I said in shock. “Was it you that fired the shot?
“Yes,” he yelled maniacally. “And I’dve got you clean through the heart if this Charlie hadn’t tackled me at just the wrong moment.
“But why?” I asked, flabbergasted. “You’ve been with me for years.”
He shrugged. “I’m a butler. It’s what we do.”