It was the social event of the year in the industry.  After decades of excellence, John Smith was retiring to a well-deserved life of leisure in the Florida Keys.

The retirement party was by invitation only, and Smith’s contemporaries were honored to receive engraved invitations to the event.  John Smith was a very private person with very few close friends in the industry – but everyone knew his work and appreciated the man’s artistry and professionalism.

The black tie event was held at the elegant Harbison Hotel.  After a social hour of drinks by the bar, the crowd made their way to their tables for hors d’oeuvre.

Frank Little munched on something that was unidentifiable, but very tasty.  In between bites, he turned to his colleague, Mike Brown.

“I never though he’d hang it up, Mike.  Why do you think he’s leaving now, when he’s still performing at such an elite level?”

“Maybe he’s tired of dealing with all the paperwork,” replied Brown, not bothering to wait until his mouth was empty.  “The stress probably wasn’t good on his heart, either.  Maybe his bank account hit the magic number to allow him to retire and he decided to actually enjoy what’s left of his life.”

“You’re probably right,” responded Frank.  “We should all be so lucky.”

As the meal moved steadily from one course to the next toward the main dish, a band played music from the 80s and the guests were treated to a video show chronicling John Smith’s career.

As the waiters brought out the entrée – a choice of prime rib or lobster – many of the guests noted John Smith’s absence from the event.

“Imagine that,” remarked Bill Jones.  “Missing your own retirement party.”

“John’s always been a pretty private guy,” responded Jane Doe, “but this certainly takes the cake.  Who would miss the opportunity to be honored by your colleagues?”

“John Smith would, apparently,” replied Bill.

By eleven o’clock, the party began to wind down.  In spite of the conspicuous absence of the guest of honor, everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves.  The food, drink, and entertainment were all of the finest caliber – exactly what would be expected from something honoring such a great man.

The next morning, Bill Jones began to complain of food poisoning and began to experience a considerable amount of nausea.  In the middle of the afternoon, he dropped dead in front of his toilet.

News of Bill’s demise never had a chance to reach the other party guests.  Soon they, too, were experiencing the symptoms.  Two days later, 80 percent of the party guests were in the city morgue.  It was being reported as one of the worst cases of food poisoning in history.

John Smith smiled from afar.  His “retirement” party had been the perfect way to lure the elite contract killers into one place and expose them to a deadly poison.    Last year had been a slow year for business, but he anticipated a sharp increase in his market share.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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