The ceiling fan creaks as its turgid blades spin half-heartedly. Gravity pulls close the stifling air, stretching it heavily across the sweat-ridden figure laid out upon the sofa like a corpse.
“Grooover…” it moans, scrabbling feebly at pinstriped fabric. “How did it come to this?”
The figure collapses again, spent, and silence settles once more upon the room. Save for the humble squeaking of the ceiling fan, all is still. It is curious, then, that the figure should have gone to such lengths to address an empty room; but who can know what thought flits through the head of that richly-dressed and languid form? Let us leave it to its ruminative huddling for the moment.
The room which it inhabits is expensively appointed, outfitted with the sort of furnishings designed to impress rather than satisfy. The dark purple carpet is impractically soft; the leather armchairs so deep one could sink in and be lost forever; and along the wall beside medieval paintings stand proud oak bookcases lined with dusty tomes unread in this life or any other. There is wealth in this room, and taste – but the sort of taste arrived at by well-funded trial and error. Here is intimidation by furniture, status carved from stately trees. One does not visit this room – one is suffered to be entertained.
“Grover…” comes the moan. “What happened to it all?”
This time, the figure’s plea does not go unanswered. The tall oak door swings inwards noiselessly, allowing through a short, bald man clad all in black. A true gentleman’s gentleman, he does not so much enter the room as insinuate himself into it gently, treading upon the impossibly soft carpet bearing a silver tray. Upon the tray is perched a frothing stein and a plain white card, steepled carefully in the middle.
“Master,” Grover says, “they have arrived.” Like the Red Sea before Moses, the fingers of the hand flung dramatically across the master’s face part slowly, and his rheumy eyes focus on the white card held before him. Then, the ancient orbs light up, glinting as they haven’t done for a year and more. The huddled figure struggles, bone-white soul patch wobbling on a weak, unsteady chin.
“Well, don’t just stand there, Grover! Send them in! But help me up first.” Pillows propped; frothing tonic administered, the master reclines upright as Grover ushers in the three awaited men, who approach the settee with measured steps and respectfully bowed heads. Luxuriously maintained beards sprout forth in bushy abundance from their three unshaven necks.