Recap from previous episodes ...
Andy thought he could act as Zarelda's magician's assistant and investigate into her side activities at the same time. Just as he discovers something possibly incriminating, he goes through with their first show. At the finale of the show, just after the vanishing trick, he remembers smells something chemical before losing consciousness. Andy wakes up locked in Zarelda the magician's sword trick box in the theater's storage room.
I don't know if I was under the spell of Stockholm Syndrome or not, but I felt almost relieved when Zarelda came into view. I could hear her shoes clicking against the floor as she approached. She sat down on something – whether on a box or a chair, I'm not sure – and situated herself near my face. She hovered her face over mine so that she could look me in the eye. Her hair draped down and tickled my neck. “Hello darling.” She slid her hand down my cheek and jaw in a way that was surprisingly tender, considering the fact that I was her prisoner.
I wish I could say that I was totally unaffected by her manipulative ways, but my mind, or maybe my body, was doing strange things to me. It's true that I didn't have the same feelings for her that I had when I first spotted her, a beautiful woman on a plane. The fact that she had kidnapped me and might possibly kill me had put a damper on things. Even so, my hormones had a mind of their own.
“So,” I said, trying to keep my voice from squeaking. “I suppose this is just practice for one of your tricks?”
“Tricks? You know all about tricks, don't you, darling? I thought I could trust you, but you're full of tricks, aren't you?”
Her hand still rested on my cheek, and her fingertips caressed me. What a way to confuse a guy.
“I found your phone,” she said. “I know you know my secret. I know you've been telling your friend, Jack, about my little … side business.”
Was Jack in trouble now?, I wondered. “It's okay,” I told her. “You don't need to worry. I won't get you in trouble. I'll be a good boy. I'll do anything you like. I'd do anything for you. I'll travel with you to Brazil and hide a whole pandemonium of parrots in my gaucho pants …” I paused. A gaucho was a Latin cowboy, I knew, but now that I'd blurted out that statement, I wasn't one hundred percent certain that gaucho pants were menswear. “... I mean in my chaps. We could be the Bonnie and Clyde of animal smuggling.”
She smiled at me in a peculiar way, perhaps derisively. “No, darling. You are a good boy. I know you, Andrew.” She slid her fingers through my hair. “You are someone who likes to obey the rules. I like to break them.”
She stood up suddenly and walked away. When she returned, she hovered an object over my face, a sword, the kind I supposed were used with the sword box in which I was trapped. “Beautiful bit of workmanship, isn't it?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered, trying to keep my voice steady. The grip of the sword was a spiral twist of reddish cherry wood. The pommel at the end was a rose worked in gold. The guard similarly was a rose worked in gold with a gold leaf protruding from either side. I took all this in, while wondering what this unpredictable woman planned to do with this dangerous item.
She touched my face again, her hands on either cheek, and her hands felt cold and wet. It took me a moment to realize that she was applying shaving cream to my face, which she then proceeded to work into a lather.
“What? What are you doing?” I asked. “Do you always give your victims a nice shave before you … before you kill them?”
Zarelda didn't directly answer my question. She continued to massage my face with lather. This had to be, by far, my most bizarre experience “This sword was a gift, as were the others, from my father, when I first began my career as a magician.”
She held my head and face, pulling my skin taut, with her left hand, while she touched the sword edge to my face with the right hand. She was shaving me with the rose-hilted sword. “You see. It gives a nice close shave,” she said. “This is the real McCoy. You, my friend, might be in the toy business, but this is not a toy. It's not merely a prop either. People often wonder if I use real swords in my act.” She slid the sword's edge along my cheek, my jaw and throat. I didn't answer her. I was afraid to even twitch. At any moment, I wasn't sure if she was going to groom me or slit my nicely available throat. I suddenly realized I was bracing my hands against the top of the box.
Just as suddenly, she was done, and to my great relief, she set the sword down somewhere beyond my line of vision. I started to breathe a little harder, feeling my chest rise and fall, as if I'd forgotten to breathe in the past minute or two.
Zarelda leaned over me once again and, inexplicably and confusingly, put her lips to mine and gave me a rather long kiss. A sensation that was part thrill, part chill traveled down my body. It didn't feel so terrible … stupid hormones … traitors! “Listen carefully, Andrew,” she said. “I will do anything, anything to avoid going to jail. Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” I said. My voice came out weak and breathy. Under my current circumstances, I felt practically emasculated. I suppose she knew it and liked it that way.
“Good.” She stood up and lifted the sword once more in a way I didn't like, hefting it high in the air, point down. She stepped away from my face and moved further down the length of the box and of me. With sudden force, she plunged the sword down through the top of the box and between my open legs. I wasn't hurt. I wasn't even nicked, but the sword came within what seemed like centimeters to a very sensitive bit of my anatomy.
From my current perspective, I couldn't really tell how close the sword was to touching me, but I sensed it, and it caused me to hold my body in a kind of permanent flinch. After just a few seconds of this, I felt searing pain through my sore back. My eyes teared up from the pain, and I couldn't even wipe away the evidence of my weakness. My agony was beginning to feel psychological in nature.
She walked away then, leaving me alone, the sword still in its place. I heard rattling, and I realized after a while that it was my body trembling inside the box.
“Dangle Schnot and Boogers,” I muttered under my breath, and then, quoting Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “You wicked old witch.” After that, I might have said something that rhymes with witch. Where was Dorothy with her bucket of water to throw on this evil creature?
I thought of The Princess Bride's Wesley in the pain machine, after his torturer calmly asks, “So, tell me how do you feel, and remember, this is for posterity, so be honest.” All Wesley could do at that moment was whine and cry, to which his torturer replies with a deadpan, “Interesting.” Feeling some sort of kinship with Wesley almost lightened my mood … almost that is.
I told myself to calm down. This emotion wasn't helping my case at all. Zarelda was out of sight. I could remove my shirt altogether – not an easy task in this confined space – yes, pull off the dangle-schnotted zipper pull, remove a button from the shirt cuff, attach the zipper pull there with the remaining thread, poke the sleeve out through a sword hole and pick the lock, with my fingers reaching out through a sword hole below it. Yes, there was a possibility that Zarelda would return to find me semi-naked, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Anything was better than passively waiting in my prison for whatever came next.
To be continued ...© 2017 Susan Joy Clark