Friday, January 11, 2008


John stood opposite Claudius in the largest room of the castle: the dining room. They hadn’t cleared the table after dinner yet, so everyone was expecting the fight to be pretty awkward.

The plan John and Jeannine had concocted the previous evening had gone off so far without a hitch, mostly because Claudius’s spy had been killed (Claudius, incidentally, only vaguely wondered why Bob had never delivered a report. See, there’s that hubris Jeannine was talking about!)

The men looked at each other with intense loathing. Claudius had only loathed John for about an hour, however. Earlier that day, John had decided to trick some traveling actors into putting on a play exposing Claudius’s evil deeds, which left Claudius without any doubt regarding what John knew.

Wasting no time, Jeannine had come to him immediately after the play, convincing him that open combat with his nephew would be the best course of action.

“Think about it logically, sir.”

“Do you have to call me ‘sir’? We’re married!” said Claudius.

“Yes, I do. But really, now that John knows you murdered his father, he can’t be allowed to live,
can he?”

“No, of course not!”

“And what better way to kill him than to do it yourself? It will certainly win you the adulation of your subjects.”

“I do enjoy adulation…”

“Then it’s final. You’ll accept John’s challenge for open combat,” said Jeannine.

“What challenge?”

“Oh, he’ll be challenging you to open combat soon. I mean, probably. It’s not like I know or anything; I’m just guessing,” said Jeannine quickly.

The next part of the plan was left to Bill, who was to make a diversion. He had something
spectacular in mind.

Just as John and Claudius were about to begin their fight, all of the castle’s lights went out, and Bill entered the room, a white sheet draped over his head.

“Boo! I’m John’s father’s ghost! Everyone, look at me! Woooooo!” wailed Bill, who had forgotten to make eye holes and consequently bumped into a wall every few seconds.

“Hey everybody, look over there! A diversion!” yelled a guard.

Everyone in the room turned his attention to Bill’s charade, and Mischa took the opportunity to sneak up behind Claudius and stab him in the back.

“Arrggh!” yelled the bleeding king as he fell writhing to the ground.

The guards all rushed over to the aid of their dying monarch, mistakenly assuming they’d be able to cure him and thus neglecting to call a doctor. Jeannine stared down at him, her face eloquent with satisfaction. So did John.

“Before you die, Uncle, are there any murders you’d like to confess to?” asked John bitterly.

“It wasn’t my fault!” pleaded Claudius. “I’m not the man responsible for your father’s death! It was…him.”

“Who? Whom are you talking about? My father’s ghost told me that you murdered him as he slept, you evil…man!” shouted John.

“Yes, that is true, but, it was not my idea…” insisted Claudius. “I was only…following orders. The man…responsible…is…Josiah…Mal…”

Claudius died, never getting a chance to pronounce the final syllable. John, Bill, Mischa, Jeannine and all the guards stood in stunned silence for a while.

“So!” announced Bill. “I guess now we have to go after Josiah Mal! But who is he? I’ve never even heard of him before. I hope he’s nice.”

“Bill, why don’t you go man some garbage?” suggested John.

“Man some gar…oh, I get it! Man garbage! Garbage man! That’s hilarious! You’re really funny, John. I don’t know why –”

“Shut up, you idiot,” interrupted John. “and follow me. We’re going to go after Josiah Malum. It’s back to Washington!”

“Wait!” said Jeannine. “You will find that Josiah Malum is no longer in America. Desperate to find a new assistant and continue his plan, he has decided to search abroad.”

“FIRED?!” yelled John, Bill and Mischa simultaneously.

“What? Where’d you get that from? That’s not what I said at all,” said Jeannine. “Anyway, Josiah is currently looking in Rome. If you wish to find him, that is where you must go.”

“Well, all right then,” said John. “We’ll go to Rome!”

“May I come as well?” asked Jeannine hopefully.

“Can you cook?” stipulated John.

“No, but I really, really hate that Bill guy. I don’t know how you put up with him, honestly.”

“Welcome aboard!”

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