Walter Palmer, DDS, awoke with a start. Where was he? The last thing he remembered, he was performing a root canal on Mrs. Epstein. Had he inhaled the nitrous oxide? Now he seemed to be sitting on a couch in a Victorian drawing room. Most alarming, two strange men were sitting across from him, studying him.
"Ah, you are awake at last!" the smaller of the two men said. "Now we can begin!" He was a thin, elegantly dressed gentleman with a mane of long white hair and shiny bright red eyes.
The larger of the two men said nothing, at least nothing articulate, just stared at Palmer hungrily and growled. He was built like the proverbial brick sh*thouse, and had a mane of long black hair and the same shiny bright red eyes.
"Who the hell are you?" Palmer said. "Where am I? How did I get here? And what have you done with Mrs. Epstein?"
"Calm yourself, " the smaller of the two men said. "You would think a big game hunter such as yourself would have steadier nerves. I am Mr. Leo, and this is my Russian manservant, Katspov. I'm afraid he's a deaf-mute, so he's not much of a conversationalist, but he has other uses. Would you like some sherry?"
"No, I don't want some sherry!" Palmer exclaimed. "You still haven't explained where I am or how I got here or what happened to Mrs. Epstein! She's got an impacted wisdom tooth that I'm very concerned about!"
"Suit yourself." Mr. Leo poured himself a drink from a crystal decanter. Katspov never took his red gaze off Palmer. "You were kidnapped from your dentist office in Minnesota and secretly transported to an uncharted island somewhere in the Caribbean. Like I said, Katspov has many uses. We got your address from Mia Farrow."
The light bulb went on over Palmer's head. This had something to do with that dreadful Cecil business that had so inconvenienced him awhile back. People were so vindictive! He had had to deal with the bloodlust of the Internet crowd, the intolerance of Twitter. He had even had to suspend his lucrative practice for awhile and go into hiding, which delayed his next safari. "Who are you working for--the Zimbabwe government? PETA?"
Mr. Leo laughed. His laugh was more disturbing than anything Palmer had encountered so far. It reminded him of a pack of hyenas when they were out hunting, only more guttural. "Oh, heavens no! If we were extraditing you to Zimbabwe to stand trial for your crimes, we would be in Africa, not the Caribbean. As for PETA, they are a nice enough organization, but their methods aren't, ahem...extreme enough for my tastes."
Palmer started to sweat. He was obviously in the hands of two maniacs, and would have to talk his way out. But he had been in tighter spots than this--like that time his Platinum American Express card was declined. "I was under the impression that was a perfectly legal lion to take! You can't hold me responsible for dishonest hunting guides!"
"Yes, I am sure you asked plenty of questions about where your lion was sourced."
"I paid them fifty thousand dollars for that lion! If anyone's the victim here, it's me."
Mr. Leo smiled wanly. "And yet here you are, still breathing, whereas our poor brother Cecil was shot, decapitated, and skinned. But enough philosophical debate. I want to show you something."
Mr. Leo got up and walked to a curtained window. Palmer refused to follow, until Katspov locked one vice-like paw on his arm and frog-marched him over. Mr. Leo drew back the curtains. A dozen pairs of hungry eyes stared up at them in unison from a paddock outside.
"Cecil's harem," Mr. Leo explained. "They've been inconsolable since his untimely demise. His brother Jericho has done his best to fill in, but..." He sighed apologetically. "You know what they say: once you've had the king, everyone else is a peasant. We've have them flown in especially to meet you."
A terrible thought occurred to Palmer--worse than being disbarred. "Oh my god, you're not going to feed me to the lions, are you? I mean, that went out with the ancient Romans. Circus Maximus and all that stuff."
"Of course not," Mr. Leo said. "That would be uncivilized."
Palmer heaved a sigh of release.
"We're going to give you a three hour head start, then we're going to release the lions," Mr. Leo said. "There's a fully stocked canoe at the other side of the island. If you reach it, you can paddle to the shipping lanes. I'm sure some tramp steamer will pick you up eventually."
"That's insane!" Palmer cried.
"Not at all," Mr. Leo said. "It's certainly a more sporting proposition than you gave poor Cecil. These canned hunts only ever have one result, you know."
"But I'm a dentist!" Palmer wailed. "What about Mrs. Epstein?" This was like a nightmare, he thought...or a short story he had been forced to read in high school. He wished he could remember how it turned out. He hadn't paid too much attention in class; he was too busy daydreaming about making money and killing animals.
"There are plenty of dentists around," Mr. Leo observed sanguinely. "Lions, however, are in short supply. Now you better get moving. It will be dark soon, and you wouldn't want to get lost in the jungle. Lions are nocturnal hunters, you know."
Palmer gave a yelp like a wounded water buffalo and bolted out of the Victorian sitting room into the surrounding jungle.
Mr. Leo and Katspov watched him flee with satisfaction. "More sherry, sir?" Katspov said. He wasn't a deaf mute. They were just effing with Palmer. There wasn't a canoe on the other side of the island, either.
"Yes, please." Katspov refilled his glass, then poured one for himself. They clinked. "Now go pack our bags. There's a gynecologist in Pittsburgh we need to attend to next."