No one wanted to attend the soiree, yet curiosity compelled them to make an appearance. Regret gnawed at some of them, but it was too late to back out. Sitting around the room of antique furniture and ornate decor, everyone was uncomfortable; that is, everyone but the host. Vlad seemed very much at ease having them in his home. He was extremely gracious, courteous, inviting.
“The weather has been reasonably nice this week,” Rob said, breaking the silence awkwardly.
Jennifer looked at him and rolled her eyes. “Really, Rob? The weather?” she whispered under her breath. He shrugged his shoulders.
“Yes,” Vlad answered pleasantly. “It has been unseasonably warm. I, myself, do not mind the Winter’s chill. I am, you could say, more cold-blooded.” A grin spread across his face, but this did nothing to assuage their trepidation; in fact, the eerie facial expression only added to their uneasiness.
Jennifer and Trisha gave each other knowing looks. Trisha started biting her fingernails until Ryan discreetly touched her arm. It was a signal they shared. Her anxiety caused the nail-biting ever since she was in sixth grade. In response to her husband’s gentle reminder, she placed her hands in her lap.
Vlad stood up and all eyes went to their host. “Please excuse me while I prepare to bring out our hors d’oeuvres.” He left the room and immediately the hushed conversation began.
“Well?” Jennifer said looking around at the other five guests.
“It doesn’t prove anything,” Rob stated.
“He hasn’t been to any of our daily gatherings, and we’ve been sure to invite him,” Jennifer pointed out. “We’ve only seen him out at night, and he wasn’t even at the convention.”
“And yet he invited us here,” Gary added from the corner of the room. Gary was older, wiser. They always looked to him for advice. He had been a big supporter of George Bush, Sr., voted for Ross Perot, and then for Barak Obama. He was certainly unbiased and impartial. They always put more stock in what he had to say.
“Do you find it just the slightest bit odd that there are no mirrors in this place?” Trish asked.
“Maybe he’s just not a vain person,” Ryan justified. Jennifer rolled her eyes and Rob gave a slight chuckle.
“I’m going to ask to use the bathroom,” Morgan said conspiratorially. “There’s surely a mirror in there.”
“Just look at the windows,” Trish pointed out. They looked around and noticed the thick material of the black-out curtains pulled across every window.
“What do you think, Gary?” Jennifer asked.
Gary sighed and leaned forward in his chair. “I think–” he started to say, and then abruptly stopped when Vlad entered the room with a tray of edibles.
“Telling secrets?” he asked with a smirk.
It was silent for a moment and then Morgan asked, “Do you mind if I use your powder room?”
Vlad indicated where she could find it and she swiftly made her way down the hall. Their host walked slowly around the room proffering the tray of appetizers. Though delicious, the guests could not fully enjoy their food with such unsettled stomachs.
Morgan reentered the room and gave a subtle shake of her head and returned to her chair.
Jennifer could no longer take it. “Vlad, we have a question,” she stated as boldly as she could muster.
“Jenn, please,” Morgan pleaded. Jennifer held up her hand. She would not be dissuaded.
“What is it you would like to know, Miss Jennifer?” Vlad spoke calmly as he looked directly into her eyes with a wide grin.
Jennifer was at a loss for a moment. She felt as if he could read her mind, even see directly into her soul. She swallowed and started again.
“We would like to know…” she started. Rob put his hand on her leg. She looked down.
“Yes….?” Vlad prompted.
Jennifer looked back up and said, “We want to know, are you–a Democrat?”
There was an audible gasp from Morgan. The rest of the guests simply held their breath.
Vladimir closed his eyes for a moment, opened them and smiled widely, displaying his teeth.
Days later, missing persons reports were filed, but no traces were found. The detectives learned of the dinner party and searched the house, but found no one. As they were about to leave, the detective noticed something on the chair in the corner of the room. Had it been there before? Surely not. He walked over and picked up the red cap before dropping it into an evidence bag.
Copyright © 2020 Brandon Ellrich