Strange Glances and Strawberry Fruit Spread

            "Are you sure it's secure?" he asked, craning his neck to look through the small shaft in the ceiling.

            "Yessir, this duct's gonna be completely safe when me and the boys get done with it!" The man's lifted eyebrows and skeptical expression revealed how little confidence he had in this statement. Taking out a small pad and pen from his side bag, he jotted down a note to himself. Exiting the room, he let out a frustrated sigh.

            "Good construction workers are so hard to come by," he muttered. Immediately, an underling scuttled up to him.

            "The new crew is not to your liking, my lord?"

            "No, not at all. How am I supposed to secure an evil fortress when I can't be sure that the ventilation ducts are too small for people to crawl through?" he took a deep breath and tried to return to his usual state of calm and cool indifference. "I know I thought of what to do with them …" The servant gestured to the small notepad he still held in his hand. "Ah, yes! Fire the contractor then have him fired at."

            "Gladly, my lord!" the servant departed, walking quickly in the direction of the room his superior had just come from. Seconds later, there were a few inarticulate screams and then gunshots. Smiling to himself, the man again noted on his pad: must hire new workers ASAP.

            Christophe was, to put it bluntly, ridiculously attractive and uncannily charismatic, just like his father. Though, in his old age, his father had gotten somewhat wrinkled and a bit gray, but those were the things that made an evil overlord look all the more fit for his position. Having had much too many things to think about when he was in his prime years, his mid-life crisis had waited until he was 74 years old to strike. Now that it had arrived, Christophe was feeling the brunt of it. The old man wanted the whole fortress re-secured, the guard retrained, and the serving staff re-intimidated into submissive behavioral patterns. Sometimes Melvin just asked too much of his son.

            "Christophe! Christophe!" Thinking something awful had befallen his father, he ran towards the source of the screaming. He skidded almost comically to a stop in the doorway of his father's study. Melvin appeared unharmed yet supremely annoyed. Once Christophe was close enough, he thrust a pickle jar into his son's hands. "I can't get it open," he pouted. Both sighing with relief and fighting the urge to strangle his father, Christophe obligingly opened the troublesome jar and handed it back.

            "Anything else I can do for you, Father?" he asked in a patronizing tone.

            "Yes, how is the ventilation securing coming?"

            "Uh," he started lamely before trailing off and running a hand nervously through his blond hair. "I, um … I had them killed."

            "Again? Christophe, this is the third time this week! The construction crews can't be all that bad."

            "I know, Dad." He gripped Melvin's hand. "I just want everything to be perfect. When I eventually become insane with jealousy and lust for power and kill you to take over your empire, I want to be sure that you died knowing that the only person who could possibly penetrate your fortress and harm you was your traitorous son." Melvin gave him a warm paternal smile.

            "That's my boy. By the way, some of my minions captured the beautiful princess yesterday. You know, the one the latest hero was valiantly trying to earn the love of." Christophe thought for a moment before giving a sound of recognition. "Anyway, she's in the dungeon and you can go persuade her to marry you and rule over the most powerful empire on the planet by your side."

            "Sounds good to me!" Christophe strode out of the room quickly, hoping to get to the princess before the rabid squirrels in the dungeon did.

            When he arrived, the princess had retreated to the corner of the cell and was surrounded by a pack of said diseased rodents. Wincing as her piercing shrieks assaulted his eardrums, he bade the guard open the cell and shoo away the squirrels. The pesky critters were soon dispersed and Christophe entered the cell. Eyeing him warily, the princess did not move from her huddled position in the corner.

            "I know what you want," she said scornfully. "You just want to marry me and make me your beautiful and dark queen! I won't have it! Jason will come for me!" Christophe gave her a sly grin.

            "So this week's hero's name is Jason? Such a pity, but I don't believe he'll be valiantly rescuing you any time soon, my dear. My secretary informed me of the disposal of a man named Jason just this morning." He was patient as the princess went through the routine of shocked silence and disbelief, a sob catching in her throat, then breaking down crying while repeating her love's name over and over. Rolling his eyes and walking over to where the weeping maiden lay in a fetal position, he folded his perfectly manicured hands around hers and looked intently into her face. Her gaze met his and his smoldering charcoal eyes melted her heart. The sobbing ceased. As if by magic, Jason's face was swept from her mind and replaced with the smooth and aristocratic features of Christophe. As she stared at him, spellbound by his beauty, she subconsciously took in every detail: his noble brow, those arched eyebrows over dark, brooding eyes, a thin and perfectly sculpted nose, and ever-so-slightly pouty lips that she just wanted to –

            "My lord! One of the construction wokers' bodies is stuck in the ventilation shaft. We would leave it there, but it's blowing an abominable stench around the whole fortress." The princess's pleasant (if a little inappropriate) thoughts were abruptly cut off by the announcement of a guard. Perturbed that his charming had been interrupted, Christophe sighed and rolled his eyes in his trademark fashion when he was correcting the mistakes of clueless underlings before trudging out of the cell. For the millionth time he wondered to himself why his father hadn't gotten more intelligent and independent minions. It seemed every time he turned around he had to fix some problem that could've easily been solved with little or no brain power. The princess, startled that he was leaving, shouted after him,

            "Wait! What about the … squirrels?" she finished softly as the fuzzy yet not so friendly forest creatures came forth from the shadows they had been lurking in. Christophe, being solely concerned with the rancid odor that now filled his nostrils, did not pay any heed to her distressed cries.

            Several hours later, after much debating on how exactly to remove the body from the tiny shaft, a solution was found. After some cumbersome limbs had been hacked off, the corpse easily slid from the ventilation duct. The juicy splat it produced upon hitting the floor had left Christophe in a much improved mood. Remembering the beautiful princess he had left at the mercy of the squirrels, he descended once again into the lowest cellars of the fortress where the dungeons were.

            Upon Christophe's arrival, the guard chased away the squirrels and unlocked the cell for him. Immediately the princess came running to him and latched herself onto his neck.

            "Oh, I'm so glad you're here! Those squirrels would've certainly been the end of me!" she sobbed into his shoulder. Not wanting his newest silk shirt to get any more wet and full of snot than it already was, he tried to console the princess as fast as he could, whispering reassuring nothings into her ear with as much sincerity as he could muster. She was soon placated and, as before, utterly smitten with Christophe's innate charm. Yet another guard soon entered, interrupting her utterings of undying love and desire to marry Christophe as soon as a priest and a wedding dress could be obtained.

            "My lord, we've just apprehended the Jason you instructed us to do away with earlier. It seems he didn't anticipate attack caterpillars guarding all the crawlspaces near the gardens."

            Christophe allowed himself a satisfied smirk as he commented to himself, "They formulate these intricate and daring plans and figure out how to avoid all the super weapons and minions, but never once stop to think about poisonous caterpillars. It gets them every time." The princess's face fell as she realized just what was going on.

            "You lied to me! Jason wasn't dead!" she cried vehemently. "How could you? You really are as terrible as they all say. I'd never marry you even if … even if you were wearing pink leather pants!"

            Christophe shrugged nonchalantly then pulled out a gun from his side holster and promptly shot her. Melvin was watching the scene from the entry way. He looked at his son like one would an errant puppy.

            "That's the third one this week, Christophe. Beautiful princesses don't just grow on trees, you know?" he sighed disparagingly. "I just don't know what to do with you."

            "Oh, Father, you know I was only following your code. It's kept both of us safe and in power for all these years and will never fail. Remember rule #53: if the beautiful princess that has been captured refuses to marry me, I will not go into a rage and force her to elope with me; I will simply pull out a gun and shoot her."

Melvin patted him on the shoulder. "Good boy. Now how's the progress on finding another construction crew?"

Rule #53 was based off the rule on Peter's Evil Overlord List found at