The Secret Masters (Pt. 2)
for a full forty-five minutes. Finally, Eduardo brought his speech to an end and rang the small bell that sat on the podium three times. As a concealed door behind him slid open, his voice took on a more ominous tone.
“And now dear brothers, it is my most humble pleasure to introduce our esteemed leader, Grand Master Howard.”
With that Eduardo stepped down, bowing his head before the dark robed figure that now approached the podium. His cowl was pulled down low so I couldn't make out his features. In fact, the only part of his body that wasn't completely covered was his right hand. At first my gaze was drawn to the ornate ruby ring that adorned his finger but then I noticed that his skin had a distinctive green tint to it and that I was sure that small scales were visible along the creases of his knuckles.
“Good God, Wilkins,” I exclaimed in a whisper. “I always thought that those lizard people rumors were just a bunch of crackpot conspiracy theories.”
“What are you talking about?” Wilkins whispered back, agitated. Then he seemed to get what I was talking about and began to chuckle. “Oh, wait...You mean his hand. He has a skin condition. Lizard people. I'll have to tell him that, he'll get a kick out of it.”
“You don't have to tell him,” I had begun to say, but was soon interrupted by the Grand Master's voice. Though he wasn't, as I had momentarily believed, some sort of lizard man he did have a high, rasping voice that seemed to slide out of his mouth and slither into one's ear.
“Gentlemen, Lady,” he began, though I had no idea who among us was a woman. “We have some new blood joining us tonight. Let us now recognize Good Brother Ford and welcome him into our little club.”
He and several members of the Illuminati began to softly clap and look in my direction. I also noticed that more than a few seemed to be gazing at me with ill concealed suspicion. It would take some work, but I was sure I would win them over eventually. I feigned humbleness and murmured a ‘thank you’.
“Ford joins us not a moment too soon,” The Grand Master continued. “For we are beset with enemies both known...and unknown.”
A gasp was heard from a few of my esteemed brothers. And sister, I suppose.
“What makes you think someone moves against us, Grand Master?” Eduardo asked.
“On this very day, Susan Pilkins of Marlowe, South Dakota lost the Annual Bakers Dozen Bake Off Jamboree.”
Now everyone around me erupted into chaos. Wilkins was on his feet shouting oaths. Eduardo was demanding answers. I sat confounded.
“Remain calm,” The Grand Master said, holding out his arms and indicating that everyone should sit. “As we all know, Susan had the finest recipe for marionberry muffins known to man. The recipe has been passed down for centuries and is inscribed on our highest quality index card, ensconced in our most sacred of Rolodex holders. She had this competition in the palm of her hand. And yet, she was defeated.”
I turned to Wilkins. “Why do we care about some bake-off?”
“Don't you get it, Ford?” He said with a sneer. “Without a ribbon, a blue ribbon, from The Baker's Dozen Susan won't be qualified to enter the South Dakota Betty Crocker Bake-A-Thon.”
Wilkins rolled his eyes. “If Susan doesn't win the Bake-A-Thon she can't enter the Midwest Bakeopalypse and without that....well, for the first time in our history we will not win our trophy in Bake Off Manipulation. It will be a disaster.”
I still had no idea what anyone was talking about.
“Worry not, Ford,” Schneider said from behind me. “We still have the Begonia Festival coming up. I'm sure we have that in the bag.”
“I also have news that does not bode well for the Begonia Festival,” The Grand Master intoned.
Schneider began to weep.