Corporate Malfeasance

A tuxedoed maitre d'hôte led them through the darkened restaurant to a well-laid table situated immediately beneath a reproduction of Géricault’s Le radeau de la Méduse. Mr Seneca sat first, Dudley and Stephens after him.

Dudley said, “This is a lovely place, sir. I didn’t know we had any New Guinean restaurants in New York.”

“It is nice, isn’t it? Well, nothing but the best for my star representatives,” said Mr Seneca.

Stephens, sensing that he was falling behind in the sycophantic olympics, chimed in with, “Absolutely first class, sir. I don’t believe we’ve the better of it in London,” clumsily licking at the old man’s boots.

The men made light conversation, each of the two sales representatives trying to align himself more closely than the other with the founder of Swift Semiconductors. Melville’s recent retirement meant a promotion for someone, after all. In due course, they each chose a specialty of the house, the Donner Party Kabobs for Stephens and the Man au Vin for Dudley. Mr Seneca took a chef’s salad and an artisanal cheese plate.

The dinner, which all agreed was superb, was cleared to make way for the dessert course. It was just then, during the silence immediately succeeding the bus boy’s rapid denudation of the table, that Mr Seneca said, “You’ve something more in common than a longing for advancement, you know.”

“What’s that, sir?” asked Stephens.

“My wife.”

Dudley and Stephens looked at each other, looked at the table, looked pained. Mr Seneca shook his head and poured another glass of wine for himself, then topped-up their glasses.

“Yes, yes, I know all about it.”

Mr Seneca pulled a set of folders from his oxblood leather valise and circulated materials collected by private detectives, including photos, time tables, receipts and a raft of other precise and incriminating data.

“Stephens, how long have you been with us?”

“Twelve years, sir.”

“And you, Dudley?”

“Ten and a half, sir.”

“Yes, right you are. You’ll recall your recent physical examinations with our in-house medical staff, I take it?”

While the two men made mumbling affirmations a waiter brought a set of silver serving trays, each with a domed lid, placing one before Stephens and one before Dudley.

“Dr Korowai and I have been very close for years. The cheek swabs made during your recent visit were done to collect genetic material from each of you, the purpose of which shall become clear. Your just dessert awaits you beneath these domes, gentlemen. Before you lift them, I’ve a modest proposal for you: clean your plate and be promoted. Now, I’d like to introduce you to—”

Mr Seneca reached to grasp the cover of each platter, and, with a flourish, lifted the lids, “— your sons!”

On each plate was the head of a young boy, his skull open at the top and oozing smooth custard. The two sales representatives stared, first in disbelief and then in recognition, at these hatched cuckoo eggs fresh from Mr Seneca’s nest.

Stephens jumped up from the table and, shaking his head, staggered back toward the door.

“You shouldn’t be so dramatic, Stephens, you’ve already eaten most of him, after all,” said Mr Seneca, as the waiter and the maitre d'hôte caught Stephens by the elbows and wheeled him into the kitchen, from which his screams soon echoed.

“And you, Dudley?”

Dudley, full of the Protestant work ethic and capitalistic vigor for which his countrymen are known, lifted his spoon. He conveyed brain pudding from his boy’s skull to his mouth, trying neither to vomit nor to savor its sweetness. Mr Seneca looked on with something that wasn’t quite pleasure, but may have been a species of satisfaction.

“Don’t worry, Dudley, the corporate insurance plan has complete coverage for Kuru.”

This entry is part of my journal, published January 14, 2006, in New York. Another piece written by reader request. In this case the theme was cannibalism.