Miranda stared at the formal dining room with poorly-concealed disgust. The heavy oaken table and chairs lent the room a stern and stolid ambience. She didn’t really care for the furnishings but she’d not been consulted on them. Her dear husband, Edmond had made that decision, as with so many others, both confidently and unilaterally.
He was of the belief that the furnishings in a man’s home should be a reflection of the man himself. Frowning, Miranda thought he had managed that with his usual misguided aplomb. Where he saw strength, solidity and dependability, she saw stodgy, outdated and pretentious. All the more regrettable, she mused, that Edmond would be constitutionally incapable of understanding how her impressions of the room could possibly differ from his so widely. Edmond was, if many things, certainly not a man given to understanding others on a personal level.
She wasn’t sure what she disliked most about these formal dinners. There were so very many disagreeable aspects that selecting a single one seemed an insurmountable task. Was it the actual nuts-and-bolts of preparing and serving dinner for twelve? No, that was not it. Edmond employed sufficient staff to make such matters easily manageable. The banalities of food preparation, table service and such would be taken care of with little ado.
Perhaps it was the social intrigue of the seating? That was, certainly, a requirement fraught with peril. Edmond’s seat would, as always, be at the head of the table. She would occupy her usual place at the table’s foot. That left a minefield of ten seats to assign. Her husband’s protégé, Charles, would be seated to his right. That was a necessary given. With a sigh, she imagined it a given that the seat across from Charles would, yet again, remain empty. Though he consistently maintained he would be bringing a companion to these affairs, he had never managed to do so. She had every reason to believe the awkward lad was as queer as a three-dollar bill but kept her suspicions to herself. Edmond had an unaccountable fondness for Charles and would have been quite angry at the mere suggestion of such. With an uncharacteristic giggle, she wondered if Edmond was quite aware of Charles’ proclivities and availing himself of such. The mental image was priceless!
Shaking off the untoward thought, she set to the remaining eight seats. William Hansen, Edmond’s financial manager, had been with him for the better part of 30 years. What had not been with William for anywhere near that time was the bleached-blonde bimbo he had dumped his wife Constance for. Miranda thought the young tart too vapid and brainless to form any lasting opinion of. The insipid cutesy banter between her and William, though, was enough to put anyone off their feed and so she saw fit to place them as far away from her as the table allowed.
That made the process considerably easier from that point on. Nearest to her would be Cedric and Amelia Trask. Cedric was Edmond’s Chief Operations Officer. He was a small, beady-eyed little man of no particular interest to anyone but his wife. That Amelia had been in the same sorority as Constance made it simply expedient to allow as much space as possible between her and William. Amelia observed all the required social proprieties but her loathing of William was clearly evident to all.
Two seats remained and those would be filled by Edmond’s chief investor, Ernesto Saladino and his wife, Maria. They were a greasy, noveau-riche couple who were barely a generation out of the barrios of whatever Third-World pesthole they’d come from. Their command of the English language was so poor she doubted anyone would care where the couple was seated anyway.
She wondered what Edmond would think if he knew that she was fully aware of the reason for tonight’s soiree. Under attack from both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, Edmond intended to divest all of his holdings as quickly as possible and run like a scalded cat to the nearest country that offered refuge by virtue of a strict policy of non-extradition. The purpose for the dinner was to give those of his inner circle both something of a heads-up and to inform them of his impromptu version of a severance package for them.
She imagined he would be livid to know how intimately aware she was of his business dealings. By no means a foolish woman, Miranda had taken steps many years ago to ensure her own interests would be protected. So, while there would be much weeping and wailing in this room tonight, none of it would be hers. She allowed herself a delighted smile at what she did have planned to make this evening’s get-together an extra special night.
As the dishes were cleared and coffee and desserts had been served, Edmond launched into the unfortunate news he had to share with his inner clique. As Miranda had expected the tumult and uproar were both immediate and quite intense. As voices rose and fingers were pointed, she dabbed her lips with a napkin and slipped quietly out of the room.
Exiting the house via the east French doors, she strolled across the verdant lawn to a spot she had selected some days prior. From her vantage point atop a low mound, she had a clear view of the formal dining room. She withdrew a pack of cigarettes and a slim gold lighter from her small clutch and lit up. She sucked in the smoke, savoring its harsh tickle at the back of her throat. Edmond hated when she smoked. There were a great many things Edmond hated, but they would very soon be matters of little import to her.
She reached again into the clutch and withdrew the wafer-thin remote control unit. With an exaggerated wave to the house and its squabbling occupants, she depressed the unit’s single button. As one, the eleven small explosive charges she’d placed beneath the dining chairs detonated. A tremendous gout of flame tore the entire side of the house away in a shower of glass, wood, stone and bodies.
Miranda placed the unit back from whence it had come and, this time, withdrew her cell phone. She confirmed her flight details before calling Stefan. He was already en route to meet her and before dawn would be sharing space in the island home she’d purchased the year before. With the funds she’d been siphoning from Edmond’s business over the last 15 years, she and her boy toy could enjoy a very comfortable life far away from the demands of proper society and social conventions.