Book One of the Polis Chronicles

Post Mortem Party

What Use to be San Francisco – Pier 29 – 2101

Chapter One

Polis sat on a bench and watched the frothy tide recede leaving tons of plastics and other pollutants in it’s crimson wake. A three-legged man awkwardly scuttled along on mountains of trash that were once sandy beaches as far as the eye could see. His bald head and upper body were red from exposure to the harsh sun, and his three legs gave the illusion he was a crab searching for food.

Polis had been hired to put on a Post Mortem Party by leaders of the ruling tribe – the Skull clan – based in The City. They had looked for him for years. Hoping to employ the legend. When a clan member found him, purely by chance, in the crumbling ruins of an ancient native American city carved into sandstone hills, he wasted no time in asking him if he would honor the Skull Clan with his presence and a Post Mortem Party.

Polis was famous in an apocalyptic world where only the strongest survived. For decades humans ate their alien attackers because there was no other meat source. A constant state of alien incursions contributed to the food supply. The great irony being if the aliens quit attacking mankind would starve someday.

When that day came, the last vestiges of civilization crumbled and were replaced with a newly formed cannibalistic societies worldwide.

The last taboo was broken as people split off into tribes and occupied the skeletons of cities long destroyed. There was no world governments. No United States of America. No Europe. No Russia. No China. No India. No Pakistan. No South America governments or a Canadian government.

Technology had suffered to the point there was no longer an internet, radios, televisions and washing machines. No dish washers. No electricity. No automatic coffee makers or alarm clocks. No power saws, or motorcycles. No cars. No buses. No trucks. No planes or trains. No running water. No 7-11 liquor stores (which were among the last businesses to disappear in early 2076).

Polis didn’t have laws to live under. He roamed the world catering Post Mortem parties because it amused him. There was precious little entertainment in his daily survival routine.

He was a tall, heavily muscled killing machine who’d spent his entire life hunting everything from the last Grizzly bears (2092) in North America, aliens (three different species), and human beings since the aliens quit invading the earth. He was ruggedly handsome with a full beard and long flowing raven black hair with two silver streaks down the middle. When he smiled his pale blue eyes gleamed with wicked mirth. When he was serious, or mad, his eyes turned into twin beacons of concentrated energy that crackled when he blinked. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him, and his sculpted body looked like a statue of an ancient Greek god.

Polis was the mastermind who came up with the Post Mortem parties. The parties also served as his calling card wherever he went, and he was treated with respect. He could travel freely under the circumstances and seldom worried about someone hunting him. The parties were done with varying themes depending on the group he was catering too.

This San Franciscan tribe who just hired him had high expectations. They wanted to be challenged on just how the victim died. He would provide clues that eventually led to the answer. His reward for a good party was always the rarest cuts of meat, and sex with whatever females he wanted from within the group. His libido was still strong despite the fact he was pushing 50 years-old.

Beside the main course of meat, there were vegetables that varied in the areas he went to. String beans and corn were the two most cultivated as far as he could tell. They were grown in every place he traveled. But some tribes grew squash, potatoes, and even harvested wheat for bread.

Hunting meat meant a tribe had to go outside their own population and stalk wanderers and other tribes to stock their larders. Human jerky was the most common way it was preserved for future consumption. There were some tribes that had chefs who could cook up wonders with internal organs and special body parts like heads and buttock steaks. They usually held an honored position in the tribe. When someone like Polis arrived the tribe could count on some much needed entertainment. As a famous wanderer he also brought news from other areas which he always gladly shared with his hosts.

Always a controversial subject, Polis would discuss the subject of human mutants. During the last world war in 2058 nuclear bombs blossomed across the planet leaving behind radioactive areas that would last a million years. For decades human beings tried to avoid those toxic areas. Not everyone was successful and those that weren’t and still lived, birthed monsters that often resembled walking nightmares. Some had heads of animals long ago extinct. Extra limbs were common. Some barely resembled humans. These mutants were not on the menu of any tribe because it was feared their meat was poisonous.

Polis watched the three-legged man bend over and pick something out of the endless trash heap. He idly wondered if the rumors were true about mutant meat, but had no intention of finding out first hand.

Breaking out of his reverie, Polis stood up and stretched his powerful muscles much like the great cats that once roamed in Africa, before walking back from the pier to the main street. He had three days to prepare the party.

As he boldly strolled down the street he could see murky figures flitting in and out of the ruined buildings on either side of him. The dark shapes moved along with him, keeping pace and murmuring in the shadows of long forgotten banks and clothing stores. The smaller ones were children and he could hear their high voices rising in alarm as they stayed close to the adults. The sun was slowly setting and the shadows grew longer as Polis looked for a place to spend the night.

Years ago, when he visited this area he met a man and woman who befriended him when he was injured from a wound inflicted in a knife fight with a mutant who had three arms, three hands, and three knives. Min and Ord didn’t live with any tribe, somehow staying out of everyone’s reach while going about their own lives. Both were fearlessly independent, choosing a lifestyle with few friends. He recalled his amazement when instead of killing him for food, they carried him back to their hideout and treated his deep knife wounds, sewing them up with red thread. They recognized who he was, and treated him with respect.

If memory served they lived near an old Wal Mart store (it’s sign having miraculously survived for over a century) that had been partially overgrown with vegetation migrating from the nearby park that still had a bronze statue of a sailor with no name on it. He walked up to the statue and made two quick bird calls and waited for a response. When he turned around they were standing there staring at him. For a moment he wondered if they remembered him, but when Min smiled he knew they did.

Long time,” Ord observed.

Yup.” Polis drawled in his favorite western accent.

“Good to see you Polis. What brings you back?” Min asked as her tongue teased her lips lightly and provocatively.

Chapter Two.

“You can take the blindfold off now,” Ord advised.

Polis peeled the rag away, blinked, and stared at a cave entrance. It was Ord and Min’s lair. He followed them in. They all walked in the darkness for a couple of minutes before Ord stopped and lit a torch that was mounted on the rock wall. The sudden bright light cast shadows that twisted and danced in the damp cave like frolicking fairies.

The trio moved in silence as the tunnel snaked through the bowels of the mountain until they stepped into a small cavern that had multiple entrances and exists. A crude bed, two chairs and a table made it Ord and Min’s home. Polis noticed numerous wooden crates stacked in neat rows next to an old fashioned bank safe. It’s door was closed. How something that massively heavy ended up down there briefly puzzled Polis, but his attention was drawn away to the table where Ord had laid out a large map made from human skin.

See here?” Ord asked. “We know where all of the tribes are located for miles around.”

“Happy hunting grounds,” Polis observed with a wry smile.

“Knowing you, a post Mortem Party is in the offing. It’s the only thing Min and I can think of that would bring you back here,” Ord said.

Polis studied his two friends for a moment before replying.

Ord was a tall lean man with muscles that wrapped around his arms and legs like snakes. They seemed to quiver even when he stood still. His eyes were somewhere between black and brown with yellow dots in the center. His thin lizard-like lips concealed a long tongue that darted in and out when he spoke, causing him to lisp. An old scar stretched from his forehead to the corner of his upper lip. His breeches were made from a collection of old animal furs, as was his jerkin. He wore a dagger in a leather scabbard that hung from the rope around his waist.

Min was a lithesome woman whose smile could steal souls. Her perfected sculpted body was covered with a jumpsuit made from leather and colored scraps of cloth. A small silver dagger was trucked into a belt of cracked brown leather. Her smooth well-tanned skin concealed the corded muscles beneath. At only five-foot five, she was a diminutive figure next to Ord’s seven-foot frame. Her jade green eyes twinkled with secret knowledge. Her pixie-like face was unblemished. Like Ord, she was also an efficient killing machine.

“You’re right my friends. I have a contract with a tribe here.

“Which one would that be?” Min asked innocently.

The Skull Clan,” he calmly replied.

She looked over at Ord and they simultaneously offered to help him out if he needed them. Their eagerness amused him. They could make things more entertaining. But why? What was in it for them? They were also predators, so he could understand why they might have volunteered. Hunting for meat was both a pastime and a necessity in this cruel world. Still he asked them,

Why do you want to help me?

“Because it sounds like fun and we haven’t had any Skull Clan meat in years. If Min’s memory is right they had a special spicy taste unlike the other tribes,” Ord explained.

“One other thing,” Min added, “They’re the most powerful tribe in this area and have numerous warriors who are fierce fighters.”

“Is that so? Polis asked. “Why don’t you show me where they live on this map of yours?”

Chapter Three

Skullton the Great grabbed his terrified minion by his throat with one arm, lifted him off his feet, and shook him like a leaf. His powerful bronze arms and naked upper body gleamed with sweat as he questioned him.

“Why don’t you know where Polis went? I sent you to keep track of him you maggot!” he roared.

“I tried…” he wheezed before passing out.

The leader of the Skull Clan was not happy. That meant no one was happy as he tromped through the compound looking for his wayward son who should of reported to him a day ago. He’d sent him on a scouting mission to see how close the new tribe that was reported to be in the general vicinity was. Lut was his only offspring and he expected total obedience and loyalty from him. Someday Lut would lead the Clan and continue to expand it’s power east of their current home. Today he’d be satisfied with him just showing up with some news.

The newly arrived Snake tribe had traveled for months, from what use to be Texas, to the West Coast. To their new home in the San Francisco area. Along the way they raided other tribes for meat and killed any wanderers they came upon. In hard times they didn’t hesitate to eat one of their own for the good of the community. Their leader, Geronimo, came from a legendary line of warriors. It was he who accepted the challenge his tribe had to take on. Their hunting grounds weren’t producing enough meat for everyone. It was time to move on and go west according to the tribes elders. He had proudly led them on the trek.

Now they were in a new home. One that had to be quickly fortified before enemies could attack them. He organized work gangs that salvaged building materials from the ruins that were once cities and small towns.

As the Snake Clan’s warriors and their wives built up a wall around a large perimeter, others cleared patches of land to plant corn. It was spring time. They worked franticly to be safe and ready for the hard winter ahead. That meant sending out small hunting parties for meat which would need to be cured and stored away. It was one of those hunting parties that caught Lut’s attention from his perch on the second floor of what was once a multi-level mall. His pale blue eyes followed them. His face was blank. Focused on the three hunters as they passed below him. News! Now it was time to report back to his father.

Polis looked down from the tree limb he Ord, and Min, were on and watched a lone figure work his way around a group of three men. He was going in the opposite direction. Alone. Turning to Ord and Min Polis asked them to stay put.

This is my kill.”

They nodded. Understanding.

We will watch your back. Good hunting,” they chorused.

Polis was already working his way down the tree and a moment later he disappeared off into the direction the lone man had gone. He paced himself in the pursuit fully aware that he would need all of his strength and cunning to catch his prey. His plan was to render his prey unconscious because he didn’t want any marks on his body. He didn’t want to use his hatchet, or machete. Much too easy for his hosts to identify. He slowed his pace down as he instinctively knew he was getting near his quarry.

Lut was loping along toward the tribal compound and thinking about what he would say to his father when something suddenly tackled him and drove him to the ground so hard he couldn’t breath! He saw a pair of pale blue eyes before losing consciousness. Polis had choked him into submission without killing him. After tying his hands and feet, he threw Lut over his shoulder and headed back to where he left Ord and Min. He was curious if they had any novel ways of killing without detection. He wasn’t sure if they played with their food or not. If not, he had plenty of options.

Skullton the Great had temporarily forgotten about his wayward son, and was supervising the construction of a grand thirty-foot dining table in honor of Polis and the entertainment he was going to provide the clan. Shullton wanted seating for Polis, six of his favorite wives, and his entourage of syncopates for the evenings festivities.

Having Polis visit was considered a good omen. His legendary status would bring more honor to the House of Skullton, and send a message to the world about how mighty their clan was.

Idiots! What’s taking you so long? You don’t even have legs on it yet! This table had better be done before our honored guest arrives!

Turning away from the frightened craftsmen he lumbered toward the marble columns that still stood in the middle of the compound, remnants of a grand government building that was destroyed in the 21st century. His space, both headquarters and private, was constructed from salvaged marble walls surrounded by reinforced scrape rebar and concrete. It was an impregnable lair for the Clan’s leader, with only two doors. One entrance. One exit. Both heavily guarded by two mute Ebony black warriors with spears, ready to sacrifice their lives to protect their liege lord.

The Great Skullton nodded at the sentries as he entered the room. Waiting for him on a luxuriously restored couch was his first wife, Tem, wearing a diaphanous gown that did little to conceal her well-oiled curves. In a sign of his pleasure he grunted while untying the knot that held his breeches up.

Chapter Four

Geronimo and three of his warriors were hunting for food when they stumbled upon Ord and Min sitting at the base of a mighty tree. The ensuring fight was vicious and quickly bloody. Ord was fighting hand-to-hand with Geronimo who pulled a long wicked knife from his belt. Ord broke away for a moment and drew his short sword before rushing the smaller man.

Min was fighting for her life against three warriors who had surrounded her with knives and hatchets. Her spear and nimbleness leveled the playing field however. Instead of throwing the spear she charged one of the warriors, catching him enough off guard that she was able to plunge her spear into his heart, pull it out and wheel away in time to avoid a slashing knife from the second warrior! The third armed warrior, hoping to catch her off-guard charged her from the side. She had just enough time to turn her spear on him. He impaled himself with his momentum. The third warrior stood back for a moment and snarled curses at her before turning and running away.

When turning to see how Ord was fairing in his fight with Geronimo she was horrified to see her companion repeatedly stabbed in the chest. He was still alive and on his knees when Geronimo severed his head with his broad-bladed knife. He held it up briefly before spotting Min who was charging him with a blood-curdling yell! Laughing, he dropped the head and waived his bloody knife back and forth preparing to meet her desperate charge head-on!

When Polis returned to the tree with Lut over his shoulder, Ord and Min weren’t there. He wasn’t too worried however. They could just be out hunting. He unceremoniously dropped Lut on the ground and stretched his shoulders. The guy was heavier than he looked he thought while idling massaging his sore shoulder. When Ord and Min didn’t appear before it got dark he knew something was amiss.

Time was running out before he had to deliver the meat to the Skull Clan for the Post Mortem party. When Lut started to wake up he covered his mouth with his hand and using the other one he dug into the soft loam around the tree, grasping a handful of the dark soil. With ruthless efficiency he removed his hand and shoved the soil into Lut’s mouth with the other. Then he held his jaw closed until his body stopped spasming. Prying open his still warm jaw he used two fingers to scoop out as much soil as possible. Taking a rag from his ditty bag he used it to wipe the tongue clean. Then he poured a little water from his canteen into the corpse’s slack mouth. Satisfied that no evidence had been left behind he rolled the body into his traveling blanket. He sat it up next to him at the base of the tree and leaned back hoping to get some sleep before day break.

To Geronimo’s surprise Min didn’t throw her spear at him. She held on to it instead and jabbed at him. He expertly parried her thrusts looking for a quick opening. She surprised him again when she backed away a few feet and launched her spear at him! Only a highly trained warrior could have done what Geronimo did, turning at an angle so the spear wouldn’t hit him squarely. It still sunk into his right rib, making him howl with pain and anger. Min turned and ran, never once looking back. She was from a long line of survivors and was fit enough to run for hours. She’d fight again some day under her conditions. For now, she had to put as much distance between her and her attacker as possible.

Polis was already awake when the sun rose in the eastern sky, promising another hot day in hell. Lut’s body had already begun to smell and would only get worse as the day wore on, forcing him to take it to a nearby stream of brackish water to clean it up a bit. Peeling off the clothes he winced at the smell of shit and piss, odors he’d never gotten use to when preparing meat. On completion of his arduous task he rolled the body back up in the blanket.

Going to have to get a new one,” he idly thought while walking towards the Skull compound.

After pulling out the still quivering spear, Geronimo was trembling with rage. He’d survive the physical wound, but his pride wouldn’t. A woman almost killed him. Making it even worse was she was the first time any meat had ever gotten away from him! The thought was so humiliating he decided not to tell anyone about his encounter with Min. He’d wait for the dark gods to give him his revenge.

The Great Skullton studied the newly constructed table with an expressionless face. The craftsmen stood nearby nervously awaiting his approval. They sighed in relief when he only grunted non-committedly and nodded at them.

He was pleased. Everything would be ready when Polis arrived. His musicians were preparing a new song praising the Great Skullton and his amazing achievements.

There was a dozen side dishes of hard-to-find vegetables and loaves of course grain bread. The center of the huge table was raised a foot higher so that meat could be grandly displayed and seen by all. Everyone attending would be wearing their best dyed human skin jackets and breeches. He had already donned his scarlet human skin cape edged with human hair, and made from the bodies of several of his enemies. It was accentuated by his darkly bronzed bare chest and the thick golden chain around his neck. He knew he looked every bit the leader. A man to be revered and feared.

Polis came within view of the Skull Clan compound. He shrugged Lut off his shoulder and stretched. The sun was slowly settling in the Western sky when he picked Lut up and resumed his journey. It was semi-dark when the guards called out to him after seeing his approach.

“Whoa! there stranger!” one of the sentries challenged.

Polis stopped at the main gate and laid his load down.

You’re expecting me!” he shouted. “I am Polis!”

The guards instantly turned accommodating and happily hailed their expected guest and threw open the main gate to greet him.

“Two of you pick this meat up and be careful not to bruise it,” Polis said in a voice use to getting results. “No peeking either. It’s the star attraction for the night at a Post Mortem party that will go down in Skull Clan legends.

___________________***_________________________

COMING SOON BOOK TWO

of the Polis Chronicles

Polis and Min’s story continues in this man-eat-man dystopian world where there are no rules and only the strong survive.

_____________________________________

A Dash of Irony

life is a three course meal

of baby food

steak and lobster

and mushed food

sprinkled with

a dash of irony

and a touch of salt

some good whiskey

and wine

while you dine

until it’s time

to pay your final bill

when you’ve had your fill

The Onion’s Obituary

it wasn’t so long ago on a beautiful spring day

that a yellow onion was planted in fertile ground

giving it a dark and warm place to stay

for a 100 days

but a time came

when the yellow onion was game

for a cook with seasoning intentions

to make culinary inventions

so it was plucked from the ground

without a sound

and carried into the cook’s kitchen

where it was awaited by a chicken

that needed seasoning

and the reasoning

was it would add flavor

making it a meal to savor

but copious tears were shed that day

while peeling it’s life away

as stated in the onion’s obituary

Novel Ways To Prepare People For Dinner

Listen to this story narrated by Otis Jiry, Master Story Teller

2037 – Somewhere in what used to be the United States of America

It turned out to be the Mother of all Wars. The Last War to End all Wars. The Final Confrontation. The end of civilization.

The unlucky survivors were reduced to eating one another. There was no other food left on the planet. All the animals, right down to gophers, were gone. Killed, and eaten if possible. The oceans were polluted and no living things were left alive under the waves.

Human flesh, and organs, had been on mankind’s menu for ten years. Since the nukes struck. Nothing grew on the polluted soil of planet earth. There was no such thing as a vegetarian. Everyone still breathing had one food source – their fellow humans. The final taboo.

Wyatt waited. Hidden in the debris of a once multi-story building. He could hear his prey moving noisily on the other side of the street. When an old man stumbled into the center of the street Wyatt’s arrow struck him in the heart. A clean shot.

As Wyatt searched the body he found two pistols, but no ammunition for them. A buck knife (much like his own), some human jerky, and a canteen of potable water. His kill was older than he liked. The meat would be tough. He’d have to take it to Maude, which meant sharing some.

After “bucking up” the body and putting it in the burlap bag he brought along, Wyatt took his prize to his camp. He lived alone. It was easier that way. You could never be sure that whoever you lived with wouldn’t eat you.

At least, that’s the way Wyatt saw the world.

There were groups of people who banded together. Hunted together, sharing their kills. Some had names like, Patriots Who Love God, or The Freedom Freaks of Fifth Street. They lived by a set of rules that forbade eating anyone within the group.

The groups fought one another when single pickings were sparse. The resulting battles provided the victor with a feast.

A good chef was highly prized. The ability to come up with novel human recipes was a sure way of becoming popular with any group. But there were also independent cooks with culinary abilities that rivaled any group cook.

These independents could get anything they asked for. One of the most famous was a middle-aged woman named Maude. She lived in the massive thickets and vines in what use to be a community park.

If she was hungry, or bored, she’d come out of the prickly maze when called. Wyatt was lucky when he came by. It was one of those days and Maude responded to his calls for her.

When she stepped out from the dense growth Wyatt inhaled deeply. She was a good looking woman. Her tight-fitting human-leather britches and vest showed off her form to good advantage. He exhaled.

I need a recipe for tough meat. Not the usual boil until it comes off the bone method. It’s too bland,” Wyatt said.

Maude smiled and ran her hand through her short blond hair. He was a good-looking young man and she was in a good mood.

“I’ll be straightforward with you. I don’t give my recipes out to anyone. If you want a recipe, go find someone else. I will, however, cook your meat to order.”

“I’m okay with that. What’s your price?”

“Half the meat.”

“That seems kinda high. How about a third?”

“Don’t make me bargain, or the price will go up! It’s not easy turning tough old meat into a succulent repast. It’ll take a day. I’ll use the organs to make some of the tastiest side dishes you’ve ever had.”

“Okay. Here’s the kill. Less than 24-hours old. I’ll be back around this time tomorrow for my half.”

Maude hummed a strange tune whiled skillfully pulling the burlap bag behind her through the thickets. There was something she liked about the young man. Yes, indeed.

She had a special recipe for just this kind of meat. When she got to the overgrown shed she took the meat out, piece-by-piece, and laid it out on the butcher block table.

As she filleted the buttocks a scene went through her head. Thirty years ago. Before the bad times came. She was preparing a chicken to feed her family. It made her queasy when she had to cut off the legs and wings. She thought at the time, “Why didn’t I just go to KFC?”

When Wyatt came the next day she was waiting for him. “Follow me,” she said and plunged into the thicket. He fought his way through the mass of thorns and vines until they came to the overgrown shed.

Maude led him inside. A candle was burning in the center of the butcher block table. Silver trays and bowls were packed with food. Slices and chunks of strangely seasoned meat were surrounded with puddings, boiled eyeballs, kidneys on shicskabobs, and other unfamiliar dishes.

Maude pointed to a chair and urged him to sit. She took the chair across from him and handed him a platter of crispy liver bits.

“Help yourself.”

Wyatt filled his plate up with samples of everything before him. He made sure to use the white napkin she had provided and picked up a sliver fork and knife.

“Bon appetit!” Maude said.

Afterwards, Wyatt felt sleepy. He didn’t plan on staying overnight. He never did that. But he was so tired. When he couldn’t stand up a sense of panic arose.

Maude was still talking about plants that survived the bad times. How there were very few plants, and how she had found a special plant which she shared with him tonight.

“It’s called belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade,” Maude was explaining.

Wyatt was having trouble hearing her, and breathing. Mustering up the last of his strength, he asked her, “Why?”

Maude stopped rambling.

“Oh, that’s simple. I really like young men. They’re much tastier than tough old ones!”

As It Stands, this look at normalizing a taboo is a subject in itself.

It’s All About The Type of Meat

Beef-and-Barley-Stew-with-Mushrooms-from-Simply-Recipes

Newcastle upon Tyne, England – Standish Manor

The lord of Standish Manor was a renaissance man. His interests were vast, from cooking to painting portraits of friends and family.

Always a curious child, Hayden Standish grew up in a wealthy family that entertained his every whim.

He was always on the lookout for new experiences. When he was old enough to travel on his own, he went on a world tour that lasted for three years. He visited great cities in Europe and Asia, soaking up their cultures and cuisines.

His most enjoyable experiences were when he left the beaten road for most tourists, and discovered small villages and towns with unusual customs and laws.

He traveled to Bulgaria, and through the Balkan mountains, to the burning desert sands of the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa. He braved the frigid temperatures of the Antarctica, and the humid jungles of South America.

During his travels he kept a notebook full of the recipes of the food he ate. He would immerse himself in the culture to fully appreciate the experience of each dish. He also carried an artist’s pad and pencils to sketch his culinary experiences.

Among the delicacies he sampled were fried cow brains, puffin hearts, drunken shrimp, escamole (ant larva harvested from the roots of the agave plant), Hakarl (fermented basking shark), live octopus seasoned in sesame oil and chopped up before your eyes (it’s still wiggling when you eat it), tuna eyeballs, bullock’s balls, and A-Ping (fried tarantula).

Just before returning home to England, Lord Standish visited a small town – Ardara – just outside of County Donegal in Northern Ireland. While in France, he met a gourmet chef there who strongly recommended Ardara’s famous stew.

Northern Ireland

Ardara’s hilly streets were lined with gift stores and stores selling the famed Donegal wool. A pub, The Rebel’s Revenge, was Lord Standish’s destination. He introduced himself to the chef, and ordered a bowl of his famous stew.

He was immediately impressed with the first mouthful, chewing it slowly and savoring the tender meat base.

Lamb right?” he asked.

“It’s a secret recipe that’s been in my family for over two hundred years. I regret that I can’t answer your question, but please understand it’s our biggest culinary draw,” the chef replied.

“My compliments sir. It’s the best stew I’ve ever eaten.” 

That night, Lord Standish laid awake for hours in his hotel bed, thinking about the savory stew. He got up several times and looked out his window. He had a perfect view of the pub across the street.

The next day he went back for more. And the next day. And the next.

When a week went by he realized he had to have the recipe. No amount of money had moved the chef to share the secret ingredients. He could tell what everything was in the stew, but the meat.

It preyed upon his waking thoughts and dreams like a prowling tiger. Then one night, he got a break.

It was well past midnight. He was standing up and staring out his window when he saw a light flicker momentarily in the pub. Curiosity already aroused, he got dressed and walked out into the tiny lobby area.

A clerk was sleeping in a padded chair behind the check-in counter, as he opened the door. He expected a bell or something, but nothing happened when he went out.

The pub was dark again. He walked around to the side alley looking for a rear entrance. Rusted trash bins and stacks of wooden crates greeted him. Then he saw the back door. It was slightly ajar and light was seeping out from the crack.

Cautiously, he approached it and tried to peer inside without touching the door. It was only an inch-wide gap and he didn’t see anything at first. Then he made out what looked like a human leg on the floor!

Shocked, but unable to help himself, he stood there and stared at the naked leg. He heard the chef’s deep voice telling someone to separate the ribs and to set the entrails aside. He listened to the sound of meat being hacked apart for several minutes.

When he saw a shadow come cross the leg on the floor, he turned and ran blindly into the night! He flew head-over-heels after tripping on something in the alley. The terrified Lord Standish barely made it back to his room before he started vomiting.

One year later.

Lord Standish invited his friends and family to a dinner party.

Recovered from his initial reaction, he now whole heartedly took on the special stew. A connection with a local corrupt funeral home owner provided the necessary meat on a fairly regular basis.

The main dish, Lord Standish’s Stew, was a hit with everyone in attendance.

As It Stands, this is another one of my cautionary tales where I point out you should always know all of the ingredients in something you eat.