Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


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The sun was setting as Steed parked the rented Mustang convertible at the foot of the hill. Beyond some menacing-looking wrought-iron gates, a path wound upwards to a large house. The house was a mansion, really, three stories high, complete with a tower that rose over the front door, a widow’s walk on the roof, and a one-story conservatory at the side. Lights were already burning in some of the windows, and the carriage lantern over the door was lit.

“Doesn’t look particularly friendly,” said Mrs Peel.

“No, it doesn’t,” said Steed. “But this is where the current trail of clues leads. Do you think it will rain?”

Emma looked up at the sky, where stars were beginning to glimmer in the deepening dusk.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “May as well leave the top down.”

Steed hoisted himself up to vault over the car door without opening it when he heard a sudden cry of “FORE!” seemingly from out of nowhere.

“Steed, look out!” cried Mrs Peel, as a golf ball came plummeting out of the sky, aimed directly at the car’s bonnet.

Steed whipped off his bowler, leaned over the windscreen, and caught the ball just in time. He looked into the hat and glowered at his catch.

“Where on earth did that come from?” he said.

Before Mrs Peel could answer, there was another shout of “FORE!” Looking in the direction from which both the cry and the first ball had seemed to come, they saw a second ball rocketing towards them, and also the person who had launched it:  a man stood on the roof of the mansion’s conservatory, a cigar in his teeth and a golf club in his hands.

Steed caught this ball, too, then jumped back behind the steering wheel, placed his bowler on the seat beside him, the balls rattling about inside it, and started the car.

“Steed,” said Mrs Peel, “I do hope a few errant golf balls aren’t frightening you away from questioning the inhabitants of that house.”

“Not at all,” replied Steed. “Just putting the old girl out of range, and then we’ll walk back.”

Steed, golf-ball-filled bowler in one hand and umbrella in the other, soon arrived at the front door of the mansion with Mrs Peel. Apparently the golfer was done with his practice, since no fresh shouts or golf balls emanated from the side of the house. Steed rang the doorbell, then raised an eyebrow at Mrs Peel when the sound of a foghorn moaned from inside. Mrs Peel grimaced back at Steed. She had gone back and forth deciding what to wear for this part of their day’s investigating, but now was glad she had chosen her favorite black leather fighting suit, since the situation here was odd at best and definitely unpredictable. She braced herself for whatever was coming next.

The door creaked heavily open.

“Yeee-eee-eesss?”

The voice that intoned that word was so deep it seemed to come from the bottom of the earth.

Steed and Mrs Peel looked up at the owner of the voice, and froze. Towering above them was a cadaverously thin man, deathly pale and seven feet tall, dressed in a butler’s uniform.

“Good evening,” said Steed, once he had regained the ability to speak. “We happened to catch these in passing, and thought that the owner might like to have them back.”

He showed the butler his bowler, swirling the two golf balls around inside it. Before the butler could answer, a man’s voice called out from inside the house.

“Who is it, Lurch? Let them in! Let them in!”

Lurch the butler opened the door and stood to the side. As Steed entered, Lurch held a hand out towards him and groaned. Steed paused, unsure what was intended, but then realized that the butler was offering to take his hat and umbrella. With thanks, he handed them to Lurch after removing the golf balls and putting them in his pocket.

Steed and Emma then stepped into the foyer, where they were met by a dapper man with dark hair and a mustache. He was wearing a damasked smoking jacket and holding a lighted cigar.

“Hello!” said the man. “My name’s Addams. Gomez Addams. And you are?”

Steed smiled and extended his hand. “I’m Steed, John Steed, and this is Mrs Emma Peel.”

“Aha!” cried the man. “Cousins from across the Pond! Welcome, welcome!” he said, shaking Steed’s hand vigorously. Then he turned to Mrs Peel, and when she offered her hand, took it, bent over it, and kissed it with a flourish.

Enchanté, madame, enchanté. Welcome to my humble home. You must meet my wife.”

The man turned and called back into the house.

“Tish! Tish! We have guests! Come and meet them. Oh, that’s fine, Lurch,” he said, turning to the butler, who had closed the door and was awaiting orders. “How about some drinks for Mr Steed and Mrs Peel?” Lurch bowed and glided away, taking Steed’s hat and umbrella with him.

“Won’t you come in?” Gomez said to his guests, gesturing towards the interior of the house.

Steed and Mrs Peel followed Gomez into a side parlor, catching one another’s eye and exchanging quick grins behind their host’s back as they did so. Like the entrance, the parlor was decorated in an antique fashion, with flocked, dark wallpaper, dark hardwood wainscoting, furniture of apparently Victorian vintage, and a series of what seemed to be family portraits on the walls. Mrs Peel noticed that the eyes on the portraits did tend to follow one about the room. It was unnerving, because she was quite sure this was no optical illusion, but she didn’t want to mention it in front of Mr Addams.

“Please, take a seat,” said Gomez, brandishing his cigar. Steed perched on a nearby divan, while Mrs Peel went over to a large armchair.

“Not that one!” said Gomez, as she was about to sit. “It bites, and we haven’t been able to break it of the habit yet.”

Emma raised her eyebrows but said nothing, then went over to join Steed on the divan.

“Now, what brings you here on this fine evening?” said Gomez.

“Golf balls,” said Steed. He stood up, took the golf balls out of his pocket, and handed them to Gomez. “These are yours, I believe.”

Gomez examined the balls closely. “Why, so they are! How ever did you come by them?”

“He caught them,” said Emma. “In his hat.”

“In his hat?” said Gomez. “You mean that terrific bowler hat? That was you in the car?” he said to Steed. “How wonderful! My aim is improving.”

Before Gomez could exclaim further, Lurch entered the room pushing a drinks cart clinking with decanters and glassware of every sort. He was preceded by a slender, elegant woman, with long, straight, black hair. She was dressed entirely in black as well.

“What is wonderful, my love?” said the woman.

“Cara mia! This man caught two of my golf balls! In his hat!” said Gomez, gesturing towards Steed, who had stood to greet the woman.

“Mr Steed, Mrs Peel, may I present my wife, Morticia Addams? Morticia, these are Mr Steed and Mrs Peel.”

Emma stood to greet Mrs Addams, and they exchanged smiles and gracious nods. Steed stepped forward and bowed to his hostess.

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance, madam,” he said.

“Likewise,” she replied.

Introductions affected, Mrs Addams and her guests sat down, while Gomez went over to the drinks cart.

“What’s your poison, Mr Steed? Vodka? Gin? Brandy? Hemlock?”

Steed blinked at the last suggestion. “Brandy would be lovely, thanks,” he said, not wanting to be rude by refusing, while inwardly hoping that Mr Addams was thoroughly acquainted with which decanter was which.

Emma and Morticia accepted snifters of brandy as well, while Gomez made himself a gin and tonic. He went over to the chair he had warned Emma about, splashed about half of his drink onto the cushions, then sat down somewhat gingerly. Steed and Emma watched from the divan, tense, waiting to see what awful thing a biting chair would do, but then Gomez relaxed and seemed completely at ease. Emma frowned.

“I thought you said that it bites,” she said.

“Oh, it does,” replied Morticia, “everyone but Gomez, and even then it only allows him to sit if he shares his drink with it.”

“The gin mellows it a bit, I think,” said Gomez, “but it really would be nice if I could find a less damp solution to the problem.”

“Pugsley did try last week, with a hot dog, but it didn’t work,” said Morticia. “Pugsley’s our son,” she said to her guests. “I had to replace the seat of his trousers, and Lurch couldn’t find where the hot dog had gone. We thought the chair had eaten it, you see, but it had only rolled away under the divan. Nobody noticed until Thing started pushing it around the house, and by then nobody could tell that it had ever been a hot dog in the first place.”

“… ‘Thing’?” said Steed.

“Yes, Thing,” said Gomez. “He’s a family pet of sorts. And here he is now, the little rascal!”

Steed and Emma looked this way and that, trying to find the source of the skittering noise that had become louder. Suddenly, Steed jumped up with a shout. Only his quick reflexes and respect for his host’s brandy prevented him spilling his drink.

“Something grabbed my foot!” he said.

“Thing, dear,” said Morticia, who from Emma’s perspective apparently was addressing the coffee table, “manners. You know it’s not nice to grab guests without permission. Now come out and say hello properly.”

Small drumming noises came from under the table. Then a disembodied hand darted out from under it and jumped onto the arm of Morticia’s chair. Morticia stroked it between the knuckles, and it wriggled with pleasure.

“There,” said Morticia. “That’s better. Thing, these are Mr Steed and Mrs Peel. Mr Steed, Mrs Peel, meet Thing.”

All Steed could manage was a faint wave, after which he rubbed his mouth with his hand and tried to regain his composure. Emma at first stared blinking at Thing, but then broke into a wide smile.

“Oh, he is simply charming! Look, Steed! They have a disembodied hand for a pet!”

Steed nodded and mumbled something inaudible, then took a rather large sip of brandy. His eyes widened. He looked down into his glass and then up at the ceiling, frowning and muttering to himself as if trying to puzzle something out.

Emma turned to Morticia. “May I?”

“Certainly,” said Morticia.

Emma extended her hand and stroked Thing on the forefinger. Thing wriggled back along the arm of the chair towards Morticia, pulling its fingers into a fist.

“Don’t worry,” said Morticia. “Thing is often a little shy at first. Give him some time and you’ll soon be fast friends.”

Steed stopped his ruminations to goggle at Morticia’s insistence that Thing was shy, but he didn’t have a chance to say anything about it because Gomez said, “So what do you think of the brandy, Mr Steed?”

Steed took another sip of the brandy. He swirled it around his mouth pensively, then swallowed.

“Jean Filloux, 1953?” he asked.

“That’s it exactly!” said Gomez. “You must have quite a palate, Mr Steed.”

Steed smiled. “Well, I … ”

“So nice to meet someone who appreciates fine wine,” said Gomez. “You must come down and see my cellar!”

Gomez stood. “Tish, my dear, Mrs Peel, will you excuse us gentlemen for a brief moment? I wish to get Mr Steed’s opinion on my cellar.”

“Certainly, Gomez, and perhaps afterwards our guests would do us the honor of joining us for dinner?”

Steed looked at Emma. She smiled at him and raised her glass. Then he turned to his hostess.

“We would be delighted,” said Steed.

“Excellent!” cried Gomez. “Now come along, and I’ll show you my collection, and maybe together we can find something fit for the occasion.”

Steed bowed to the ladies and made his excuses, then turned to follow his host, wondering whether the food would be as interesting as the inhabitants of the house had turned out to be so far. Although, he thought, if the brandy were any indication, Mr Addams’ cellar was likely to make up for any deficiencies in the cuisine.

Back in the parlor, Emma sipped her brandy and smiled as she watched the two men stride away, Gomez brandishing his cigar as he talked animatedly about wine while Steed listened intently. The Addams family might have their quirks, she thought, but what family didn’t? And she certainly couldn’t find fault with their hospitality. Besides, making new friends was always fun, and she and Steed hadn’t done that for a long time. Emma settled back into the divan’s cushions, looking forward to a nice conversation with Mrs Addams and what promised to be a very entertaining evening.

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