"...and we would have gotten the contract, if it hadn't been for that one little missed detail." Jeff shook his head and sighed.
"That's ridiculous," Doug said. "Not to mention petty."
"These guys play hardball," Jeff replied. "Real hardball."
A clunk of glass against wood took their attention from the conversation. Pam's wine glass tottered slightly on the side table as she took her hand away from it.
"Doug..." she said. "I don't feel so good all of a sudden."
Joan was on her feet in an instant. "You look a bit flushed," she said. She put the back of her hand against Pam's forehead. "She's really warm," she said, looking back at Doug.
"Do you want to lie down?" Doug asked her.
"Yeah. I think that would be a good idea." Pam tried to raise herself out of her chair but immediately slumped back into it. "Whoa. What was in that wine?"
"You want some help?" Doug asked.
Pam nodded. "I can't get my feet under me."
Doug put down his glass and stood. "Jeff, would you give me a hand?"
The two men helped Pam to her feet. When she was standing, albeit unsteadily, Doug put his hands under her armpits and Jeff took her ankles. Together they lifted her and began moving towards the living room doorway.
"I can't feel my feet," Pam said.
"I'm probably just holding your ankles too tight," Jeff said. "Your circulation will come back once we put you down."
They moved into the kitchen. Jeff put her feet down for a moment and opened the door to the basement. He took her ankles again, and they began carefully to descend the steps.
"Where are we going?" Pam asked. "The bed's upstairs."
"You've got a fever," Doug said. "It's cooler in the basement. There's a cot down here."
When they reached the bottom, Jeff put her feet down again and switched on the ceiling light. He then moved to the far end of the room and opened another door. He returned to join Doug, and the two of them carried Pam into the smaller room.
"How's she doing?" Joan asked as she reached the bottom of the stairs and headed towards them.
"She's a bit confused, I think," Doug said.
"Well, make her as comfortable as possible."
Joan switched on the light in the smaller room, and Doug and Jeff lifted Pam onto a wooden counter.
"I can't feel my arms and legs," Pam said, her voice dry and panicked.
"Don't worry, hon." Joan said. "We'll take good care of you."
Jeff slid the hem of Pam's sweatshirt up while Doug removed her sneakers and unbuttoned her jeans.
"What are you doing?" Pam's eyes darted around the room. Her eyelids were wide, her pupils large and black.
"Just trying to keep you cool, sweetie," Doug said.
Jeff had managed to pull the sweatshirt off her arms and over her head and was now reaching under her to unfasten her bra. Doug had removed her socks and was sliding her panties under her butt cheeks.
In a matter of moments, Pam was completely naked on the wooden counter.
"This is messed up," Pam said, a sob cracking her voice.
Doug gathered up the clothes and handed them Joan. "I think we're just about ready," he said.
Joan gazed down at Pam. "My, she's lovely," she said. "Just lovely."
Jeff stepped over to the counter and patted the little bush of hair between Pam's legs. "Majorly cute," he said.
"Oh my God." Tears began to run down the sides of Pam's head.
Joan swatted Jeff's hand. "Stop that, Jeff. What would Linda say?"
Jeff jerked his hand away like he'd been scalded. "Geez. Sorry."
"I'll just take these clothes upstairs," Joan said.
"Okay, hon," Doug replied.
Doug moved to a cabinet at the foot of the counter and opened it. He pondered for a moment, then withdrew a large knife. He scanned the contents of the cupboard again, a slight frown on his face.
"Ah. There it is." He reached in again and pulled out a long sharpening steel. He turned back towards Jeff and began running the edge of the knife along the steel.
He paused a moment, thinking of something.
"Here. Take this for a sec, would you?" He handed the knife and the steel to Jeff and stepped out into the main part of the basement.
"Honey," he called up the stairs. "Would you bring the bucket down? I forgot it earlier."
"Sure, love," came the reply.
He returned to the smaller room, where Jeff was rhythmically running the knife's edge along the sharpening steel, making a high-pitched ringing sound with each stroke. He handed the implements back to Doug.
Doug took up the sharpening rhythm. "So, what'll be this time, Jeff?"
Jeff put a hand on his chin as he looked Pam up and down. "You know, I think I'll have a bit of thigh this time."
"Grilled or broiled?"
"Hmmm... Grilled, I think."
In the distance, the doorbell sounded.
"Trina and Evan are here," Joan called from upstairs.
"Great," Doug said. "Now we can really get this party started."
"I don't know about you," Jeff said, "but I'm really getting hungry."
Pam let out a long, rasping, blood-curdling scream.