Bring Out the GIMP (Girls in Merciless Peril)

PLAYING THE GAME (a story in two parts)

By Eda Chang

PART 1: October 21 -- November 5

October 21

"Eda, you are going to receive a package. Its contents may seem strange to you. But, believe me, it's on the level and you just have to accept its invitation. You will love it, trust me. But I can't tell you more."

And, although Eda's friend, Mira, often said that she couldn't tell Eda more, she usually did. But not this time. Eda had no choice but to wait, hoping that Mira's vague description would be enough for her to know which package she meant when it finally came.

October 25

Eda knew the second she saw it that it was the package that Mira had told her to expect. She certainly recognized the name on the return address ... Marco Garcia. She knew that he was very rich. That he owned a mansion outside of Lima that was certainly one of the most expensive homes in all of Peru, on five acres of lush grounds surrounded by 10 foot walls that created absolute privacy. She knew that he lived there only when he was not living in one of his several other homes in various parts of the country.

Eda also knew that people whispered that Garcia had not achieved his wealth legitimately. But that didn't bother Eda because what she had also heard, but not yet experienced, was that, when Garcia was in town, he liked to throw kinky parties. She even knew a few people -- not really friends -- who claimed to have gone to parties there, but she doubted it. These parties were said to be every exclusive. And now, in the package that she was holding might be an invitation to one of these parties. An invitation that Mira may have arranged for her. How else would Mira know about it before she did?

There was a letter taped to the outside. Eda quickly opened it. Soon she would see what all this talk ... or lack of talk ... was about.

"YOU ARE INVITED to the home of Marco Garcia," Eda's eyes sped over the first page. It was an invitation, as Mira had promised. To a party this coming Saturday, October 30. At Garcia's mansion, address given, although everyone knew where it was. Eda was thrilled to be invited, but this did not satisfy her curiosity. Would she have to wait until Saturday -- still five days away -- to learn why these parties had become infamous?

She turned to the second page ... and there were the details that began to give her a clue. Her excitement built.

"Time: 7 p.m. to midnight EXCEPT: You and a few other special guests have been assigned roles to play. Depending on your role, and how the scene plays out (which is never certain), the party may extend to 10 a.m. on Monday, November 1."

"If you accept this invitation, you must agree to remain in your role the entire time. Not everyone will be playing roles, and those who are not will NOT be participating in the role-playing aspects of the party. In fact, it is unlikely that they will even know that there is any role-playing going on in their midst.

"Your host, Mr. Garcia, may or may not also be role-playing. If he is, then he will receive a package as well, and will know only what is in the package, so that he will not have an advantage over the other players."

A party within a party, Eda thought. Only the smaller one really interested her. The one for the "few special guests" of which she was to be one.

Eda continued reading: "Role-players may be asked ... or forced ... to do things that they would not do if they were not playing their roles. Some of these things may be sexual in nature. Some may be non-sexual but 'unpleasant.' It depends on your role and how events transpire. Nothing is certain."

Now this was getting more interesting. Force. Sex. Unpleasantness. And a second warning that "nothing is certain."

"Depending upon what excites or horrifies or repels you, you may enjoy the weekend or you may not. It may be the best weekend of your life. Or it may be the longest and the worst. Which it will be I cannot predict for certain, but I have reason to believe that you may very much enjoy yourself or I would not have invited you to play.

"No one will suffer any visible physical injuries that will not heal within 72 hours."

Eda stopped to digest what she had just read. There was not just the possibility of "unpleasantness," but of "injury." This was more intense than she had expected, but was no doubt why Garcia's parties had the reputation that they had. Which more excited than worried her.

That there might be sex games didn't bother Eda. She was no prude. "Forced" and "unpleasant" might just describe that she might not have the choice of partners or devices or positions. She could live with that. Her only limits were well beyond "unpleasant," and she couldn't believe that these weekends could have gone on for so long if any of the activities were of the kind that would have exceeded her few limits. But "injuries"? Probably just a legal disclaimer that Garcia's lawyer insisted he put in the invitation. Maybe someone had gotten hurt once at one of them. But if any "injuries" would heal within three days, the risk seemed fairly minor and was not going to stop her from attending.

"To accept, call the number below before Wednesday noon and advise that "number 3 will be attending." Eda could see that the word "Wednesday" and the number "3" were handwritten into the otherwise typed invitation. This furthered her notion that the number of role-players would likely be no more than a handful. "If we have not received your acceptance by that time, your role will be given to another and you will not be admitted to the party."

Eda took a deep breath and turned to the next page, headed "Your Role." She continued reading. "You will play the role of Eda Kawani." So Garcia was using real first names, but not real last names, and he was not overly concerned whether the ethnicity of the guest matched the ethnicity of the role. Unless Garcia thought that all Asians were the same, or at least that all Japanese and Chinese were.

"Eda Kawani is a member of the revolutionary People For Freedom (the PFF) that supports the violent overthrow of the Peruvian government." Eda sat down, fascinated. "Eda has infiltrated the government, and now holds a mid-level position. She has been invited to a party at the home of Defense Minister DeLaPena." So that must be one of the male players. DeLaPena.

"The PFF is headquartered in Arequipa, in the brick house at the end of Calle Valencia. For a brief time, one female PFF member had managed to become DeLaPena's girlfriend, and she learned that he keeps important information regarding the government's plan to control the PFF insurgents on a micro disk in the top right-hand drawer of the desk in his study. However, he ended their relationship before she had a chance to steal the disk.

"Eda must steal the disk and pass it to her contact, Pierre Francisco, who will also be attending the party. Francisco supplies arms to the government, but has recently been assisting the PFF surreptitiously." A second male player, Eda thought. Francisco.

Eda's heart raced. Before even finishing the description of her role, she telephoned Mira, who hardly had time to put the phone to her ear before Eda shouted, "I got it. I got the invitation."

"Great, but don't tell anyone. You're going to go, I assume."

"Yes. Oh, yes. It sounds wonderful. You've played before there?"

Mira paused. "Yes. Once. But say no more. I may even see you there Saturday." Mira hung up the phone.

Eda went into the bedroom and lay on her back on the bed to finish reading the invitation. "Here are some hints for you, but how you play your role is entirely up to you: (1) It may be easier to steal the disk after 9 p.m., by which time most of the guests will have arrived. (2) The drawer will be locked. A common article that women usually carry may come in 'handy.' (3) Others, of course, will also be playing roles. Some will be playing persons trying to help you succeed in your mission, and others will be playing persons trying to stop you from succeeding. (4) You have been told the names of (and something about) some (but not all) of the other players, and some (but not all) of the other players have been told your name (and something about you)."

The invitation ended: "You are to wear the clothes in the package. A limousine will pick you up on the evening of the party at 6:50 p.m.

"There will be a reward for you if you succeed in your mission."

Eda wanted to call right away with her acceptance, but thought that might appear too eager. So she decided to force herself to wait until the next day to accept.

Eda then opened the package, and found that it contained four boxes. Eda opened the largest first. In it was an avocado-green halter dress. Eda checked the size. Size 2. Well, he had her size correct. Obviously, whoever gave Garcia her name had also told him much more about her. It could only have been Mira, Eda thought.

Eda stood up and held the dress against her body. Very nice. Certainly much more expensive than anything that she had ever bought for herself. Came to just above the knee. Strap clasped behind her neck. Form fitting. Some cleavage. Eda laughed to herself. "Some" cleavage was the best she could ever hope to provide -- at 5'5" and 115 pounds, "cleavage" was not her greatest asset. Of course, being thin had its benefits as well. She knew that, cleavage aside, she would look great in this dress.

In the second box were shoes. Black heels. Open toed. Ankle straps. Size 6. Eda preferred to squeeze into 5-1/2. Maybe Garcia knew her sizes better than she did.

The third box held undergarments. A strapless white under-wire Size 32B. White lace panties. Cut high on the leg. Frillier than her own taste. But,hey, she was not going to be playing herself, she was going to be playing a role. And a half slip. Not something that she would normally wear, but again ...

And in the fourth box, a black purse. A small clutch, big enough to hold the only things that mattered. The micro disk. A nail file. Isn't that why the word "handy" had been in quotation marks? But she would also bring a hairpin just in case she was misreading what she thought was a transparent clue as to how she could open the locked drawer.

When Eda tried the clothes on -- she just had to try them on right away -- she realized that a small button on the left side of the dress was not just decorative, but actually opened a small slit into which she could fit her middle three fingers but no more. As she reached inside the slit, though, she could feel that the opening was right at the level of her panties, and that, on the inside of the panties, at her left hip, was a thin pocket just large enough to hold ... a small micro disk. Eda immediately took the micro-tape out of her audio recorder and slid it into the pocket. When she closed the button and smoothed her dress, it was barely noticeable. And the micro disk would be much thinner, she imagined. The disk would be invisible. Eda marveled at Garcia, who no doubt was testing whether "Ms. Kawani" would discover this small piece of assistance that he had provided in her wardrobe. Eda could not help but wonder what other clues there might be, and whether she would discover them in time for them to be useful to her.

For the next 30 minutes Eda practiced concealing the micro-tape her hand, opening the button, inserting the tape into the pocket, and closing the button again, all with her left hand only. And then performing the same tasks in reverse to remove the tape and give it to ... who was she to give it to? Eda checked the "role play" instructions. Pierre Francisco. She would be ready. And she would be "rewarded if you succeed." Rewarded by one of the wealthiest men in Peru. She also would be punished, no doubt, if she failed. Very exciting.

October 26

"Garcia residence." The voice was male and sounded middle-aged.

"Hello. This is, uh .." Eda couldn't believe how nervous she was.


"Um... Number 3 will be attending." Eda read the exact words off the invitation, fearful that, if she said anything different, she would not be allowed to attend.

"Good. Mr. Garcia will be pleased."

"Before you go," Eda blurted, "is there anything else I should know? I've never been to one of Mr. Garcia's parties before."

"No, Ms. Kawani," the man responded without hesitation. "Mr. Garcia looks forward to seeing you." The click on the line ended the conversation. Another sign, though, that the number of role players would not be large. Otherwise, how would he know immediately who "number 3" was? Hers really was a special invitation.

October 30 -- 6:30 p.m.

Eda had been ready for an hour, repeatedly finding herself in front of her mirror to make certain that she looked as good as she could in her beautiful new, and expensive, dress. [see Eda pic] And at least three times she had greeted the mirror, extending her hand to an invisible Garcia. "Mr. Garcia, I'm Eda Kawani, and I'm so pleased to meet you." Eda was greeting Mr. Garcia for a fourth time when the knock at her door came. The clock read exactly 6:50 p.m.

"Ms. Kawani. I am Diego." The driver held out his arm, and Eda took it. Out the door and down the steps to the limousine parked directly in front. Eda hoped that some of her neighbors might see this, but she determined to look straight ahead, as if it were an everyday occurrence for her, so she did not see if any were. She had decided that, because the invitation did not say that she should wear anything other than what was in the packages, she would not wear a watch or a coat. Fortunately, the evening was pleasantly warm.

Eda had never before ridden in a limousine. So large inside. So luxurious. She sat in the very back and sprawled out in a less than dignified pose, but quickly assumed a more sedate pose when she realized that Diego was looking at her through his rear-view mirror.

"Ms. Kawani," Diego closed the window between them to allow her the privacy that she had already thought she had, and spoke to her through a sound system. "It is only a short drive to Mr. Garcia's. Do you have any questions I might be ... allowed ... to answer before you arrive?"

"Well, can you tell me how many guests in all will be at the party?"

"Yes. There should be about 70."

"And how many will ... not be themselves?"

"I really don't know. Perhaps just 5 or 6. Or 10 or 12. And that's more than I should be telling you."

So she was right, she thought. Just a few. So it would be like a cat and mouse game. Although Eda knew that, given her assigned role, she was the mouse.

-- 7:00 p.m.

The ride was over quickly. Diego was ushered through the gates of Garcia's mansion and up the circular driveway. There was already a lot of activity. "Ms. Kawani," Diego anticipated Eda's thought even without seeing her, "don't think that you are late. Mr. Garcia staggers his guests' arrival times to keep the party fresh longer. But I have been directed to remind you that your instructions start now."

Eda didn't have to be reminded. She had been anticipating and practicing her role for five days. She thanked Diego as her door opened and a hand entered to assist her from the vehicle. The hand belonged to an older man who welcomed her, but not by name, and told her that she would find Mr. Garcia on the right side of the room as she entered the home.

-- 7:05 p.m.

As Eda entered the house, she glanced around the room, not recognizing any of the faces. She looked for Garcia, whom she knew she would recognize from the many photos of him she had seen in the papers. While Eda felt lovely in her fine new dress, she could see that most of the other guests were dressed even more formally ... and expensively ... than she. Most posed proudly for the two photographers snapping photos, hoping, no doubt, to find their photo in the next few days to the pages of Careta's society pages.

Eda finally spotted Garcia standing at the far corner of the room. And there, next to him, holding his arm, dressed beautifully in white, was ... Mira. [see Mira pic]

Eda was now certain, as she had nearly been before, that it had been Mira who had suggested that Garcia invite her, and possibly even told him that Eda would like the type of play that Garcia had in mind. But Eda had to remember that Ms. Kawani did not know Mira. Or whoever the woman on Garcia's arm was supposed to be.

Eda began to walk toward Garcia, and, as she focused her attention on him, she heard several guests greet him by name. She caught his response to only one of these guests, an attractive woman in a yellow dress whom he called Anna. [see Anna pic] She sensed some tension between them. But she saw Mira quickly tug Garcia's arm when she saw Eda, and pull him away from Anna. Mira whispered in Garcia's ear, and he nodded.

"I am Marco DeLaPena," he spoke in a low, even voice, extending his hand as Eda reached them. "How nice of you to come." Having smoothly ushered away the others, no one except Eda and Mira could hear him. So Garcia himself was playing a role. This did not surprise Eda. And the role that he was playing was that of ... the host of the party. Minister DeLaPena. How natural. So she had already met one of the two players revealed in her invitation.

"Eda Kawani. I have very much looked forward to this evening," she said, taking his hand. Even better than in the mirror, Eda thought. Then Eda turned to offer Mira her hand. "Eda Kawani. A pleasure."

"Mira DeLaPena," Mira extended her right hand in return, and Eda noticed the huge diamond on its fourth finger, which Eda certainly had never seen on Mira's hand before. "Well, soon to be Mrs. DeLaPena," Mira corrected, "but we have not set the date yet." She stared up lovingly at Garcia.

So Mira had a role also, although Eda far preferred her own role to one that might involve nothing more than an obligation to sleep with Garcia ... or rather DeLaPena. Yes, he was rich and seemed charming. But so much older and not the most physically fit or attractive. Eda was willing to wager that her contact, Pierre, would be far more to her liking physically.

"Ms. Kawani. Please enjoy yourself. Many of the guests have been here before and I'm sure one would happily show so lovely a guest as yourself around my 'humble' home." DeLaPena turned to kiss his future wife, who reached up to hug him tightly around his neck. It was clear why Garcia had selected Mira for this role. She was one of the most beautiful women Eda knew. About the same age and height as Eda. Probably even around the same weight. But Mira's weight was ... much better proportioned. Unlike Eda, Mira probably hadn't been concerned about too little cleavage since she was 14 years old.

Eda smiled and walked toward the center of the room, knowing that already she could discover, if she wished, whether any guest in the room was a role player. All she had to do was ask how long he or she had known Minister DeLaPena. A guest not playing would no doubt give her a quizzical look and ask who she was talking about. But those who were playing could not deny knowing him, or at least knowing who he was, since, after all, he was their host and they were in his home.

Of course, Eda realized, there was risk in asking any guest this question, since, if the guest were a role player, Eda would be revealing that she was a player also. And she mustn't forget that she was the mouse. So she had better be sure that she wanted to know -- or was willing to take the risk -- before she asked.

But Eda knew that she could practice on the two men that she had seen greet Garcia by name as she arrived. Obviously, they were not players, since Garcia had made sure that they did not hear him introduce himself to Eda as De La Pena. She saw one of them standing alone near the bar, so she walked up to him. "I'm Eda Kawani. How are you? How do you know our host?"

The man told her that he worked for one of Mr. Garcia's companies. "I was told by our host to ask someone who'd been here before to show me around, since I haven't. I assume you've been here before? Would you mind?"

"It would be my pleasure," he replied instantly, and soon the two were walking down a hallway. This really is a great dress, Eda thought.

Garcia had quite a home. Eda guessed there were at least thirty different rooms covering its two levels, and at least 10 bathrooms. Eda paid particular attention to the location of the bathroom closest to DeLaPena's study. Both were at the end of the main level, far enough away not to be visible from the main party room. She noticed no security guard stationed outside the study, and, even more amazingly, the door to the study was left open and its lights were on, so Eda could actually look in and see the desk. It was probably left open intentionally as part of the game, she thought. Garcia wanted to give her a reasonable chance to succeed in her mission by not making her task impossible. But as they turned back, Eda saw a man wearing a security guard uniform and hat walking up and down the corridors. She noticed another guard pacing the hallways upstairs. Maybe it was made to look easy because it was a set up. Eda couldn't be sure.

There was also a basement level, but it seemed that it was too secluded from the rest of the house, and that her escort was a bit too interested in investigating it with her, so Eda made an excuse they she needed to get back to the party to see if an unnamed friend had yet arrived.

-- 8:00 p.m.

Standing alone at the buffet table, a handsome man, mid-30s perhaps, approached Eda. "Why is the most beautiful woman here all alone?" Eda looked up.

"Does that line ever work for you?" With his looks, she knew that it did, that it had with her, and that probably any line or no line worked for him.

"No, but anything I say would be a line to you. I was supposed to meet someone here, and it looks like she didn't show. Are you here with anyone? May I at least ask your name?"

"You can ask. But who is asking?"

The man stared at her for a longer than natural time, and Eda knew that he had expected her to give him her name before he gave her his. He must be a player, Eda thought, who is trying to decide whether she was, and, if she was, who she was playing. He finally went for it. "My name is Pierre."

Eda found herself nodding unconsciously. "Eda. I will ask you to dance when the time is right," she responded softly, smiled and walked away slowly. That had been easy, she thought. Contact made. Well, it had been easy because he had done all the work, taken all the risk. Now, as hard as it was for her to walk away from such an attractive ... and seemingly interested man ... she better not be seen for too long with him. Maybe that would come later. Or maybe his interest in her was just for purposes of the game. She certainly hoped not.

But Eda could see that the time was now already moving toward 9:00 p.m., and she knew that she needed to begin to ready herself mentally for her task. She decided to make a trial run, down the hall to the nearby bathroom. If all was clear, she might go for it right then. If not, there would be time for the real run later. It would depend upon where the security guards were. But the party was in full swing now, all the guests were there, and the invitation had suggested waiting until all the guests had arrived by 9 p.m. before making the attempt. And now that she knew which one was Pierre, she could pass the disk to him almost immediately after she lifted it, and have completed her mission in a matter of minutes.

-- 8:30 p.m.

It was hard for Eda to believe that all eyes were not on her, or that anyone in the room could not hear her heart beating, as walked down the hall toward the study and bathroom. She tried to act naturally -- how did one normally act when walking to a bathroom? -- but she was too conscious of every movement and every sound to act naturally.

About 40 feet before she reached the study, she passed the main floor's security guard. She was surprised when he nodded to her as they passed, since she found it hard to believe that he could even see her with his hat pulled so far down on his head.

The bathroom was two doors past the study and she continued in stride past the study, forcing herself not to look inside it. When she reached the bathroom, and raised her hand out to grab the door knob, she was startled to bump into a young woman in a red dress who had opened the door to exit at the same time. [see Woman In Red Pic] After they each excused themselves, Eda watched the woman walk back toward the main room, and noticed that the guard had already turned the corner. Eda wondered if she had lost too much time to make the attempt, but decided that she could not know what might happen later, so that this was as good a time as any.

Eda had watched the guard carefully earlier in the evening and estimated that he took about three minutes between the time that he rounded that corner out of sight of the study and the time that he returned into its view. Eda wished that she hadn't so stubbornly refused to wear her watch or she would know exactly how long he took. But the door to the study was still open and the light was still on. She determined to do it then. Within the next two minutes she would either have succeeded or failed in her mission.

Eda had her nail file in her hand as she entered the study. She moved quickly to the desk, pulled on its handle, confirming that it was locked -- Garcia couldn't make it too easy, after all -- and nudged the tip of the file into the keyhole at the top of the drawer. She jiggled the file with no luck, but, on her second try, she felt it catch, and, after a quick twist, she heard the lock click. She looked around quickly to make certain that no one had heard the slight sound of the click.

Eda took a deep breath and opened the drawer far enough to look inside ... and she saw the disk, pushed upright against the left side of the drawer. She pulled it out and palmed it, then closed the drawer. She was not sure how much time this had all taken, but doubted that it could have been more than a minute.

Holding the disk and nail file in one hand, and her small purse in the other, Eda moved to the doorway to see if anyone was in the hall. No guard. No one else. She walked into the hall and headed back toward the main room, straightening her dress and putting the nail file and disk into her purse. The guard rounded the corner and came into view just as she snapped her purse shut. He again nodded "Ma'am" from under his pulled-down hat as he passed her, and she mumbled an incoherent response. After he passed, she turned to watch him look into the study and then move on to the other rooms on the floor.

Eda could not help but let out a huge sigh as she reached the main room. She sat down in the first empty chair that she found and closed her eyes. It was a familiar voice that she heard seconds later. "Are you all right, Ms. Kawani." It was Mira, looking concerned.

Eda opened her eyes and smiled broadly. "Yes, quite all right. Thank you, Mrs. DeLaPena to be." Mira had never told Eda any other name for the role she was playing that evening. Mira returned the smile and then walked back across the room, where Eda could see that DeLaPena was talking with a man she had not noticed before whose features she could not make out over the distance.

-- 9:15 p.m.

Eda waited several minutes before making her way to a different bathroom -- one on the side of the house away from the study -- to slide the disk into the small pouch in the side of her panties. She then returned to the main room, and waited for the band to play a slow dance, conscious the entire time where Pierre was. She moved quickly toward him when she finally heard a song that expected a couple dancing to it actually to hold each other, and approached him boldly, interrupting his conversation with a young couple she had not met. "Sorry to be so rude, but he promised me the next slow dance." She reached for Pierre's arm, and led him to the far side of the dance floor.

She whispered into his ear as soon as they took their first steps. "After a minute, I will put my arms around your neck, and you will put your arms around my waist and hold me tight."

"Does that line usually work for you?" Pierre was obviously far more relaxed than she.

Eda ignored Pierre's reply and continued: "There is a button at the left hip of my dress that your left hand should be able to reach if you hold me tight enough. If you open it, you will be able to slide at least two fingers under the side of my panties."

"Now I'll bet that that line works for you all the time," he whispered into her ear and kissed her neck.

"Stop..." She could not recall ever saying a word more insincerely. How she hoped that this Pierre might be her reward and she his for a successful mission. How she hoped that, after all this was over, he'd hold her like this and slide his fingers under her panties, looking for something other than a micro disk. But, for now, she knew that the pounding of her heart was not yet for that expectation. For now, she just wanted to finish her mission.

"The disk is in a small pouch. You should be able to slide it out and put it in your pocket. Then you can put your hand back and close the button."

After a few seconds she felt him move his arms more tightly around her waist, as she had instructed. She relaxed as much as she could to enjoy the moment, to enjoy his body pressed against hers, now that it was up to him to finish the work now.

He did it so smoothly that she was not sure that he had. But his smile a few seconds later, as the dance ended, told her that the "exchange" had been made. And when she pretended to smooth her dress as Pierre walked away, she could feel that the disk was gone. Unfortunately, she knew that they could have no further contact. At least not until after midnight.

-- 10:00 p.m.

Eda was surprised to see guests begin to leave, but then remembered that most had arrived before her 7 p.m. invitation. Eda realized that, as the number of guests dwindled, the last ones would be the role players.

She was feeling very satisfied now. She wondered what she had risked had she been caught. But she had not. She had dared enter the study when she could have been walking into a trap, but it was not. And at midnight or shortly thereafter, she would learn what her reward was for her success. Other than the thrill of the role, the party had been nothing special. Good food. Lavish surroundings. But nothing to excite her.

Soon, though, things would get much more interesting, she suspected. Even though she had succeeded in her mission, other players who had failed in theirs -- and certainly there would be some who had failed, likely even failed because they had allowed her to succeed -- would be required to pay the consequences for their failure. Would be required to face whatever the invitation meant when it said "force" and "sex" and "unpleasantness." Perhaps she herself and the other successful players would be on the giving end as part of their reward.

Since she knew that Pierre had been a role player, she expected that he must be somewhere close by, but, glancing around the room, she could not find him. Certainly, he would stay for the real party to come. Mira was still here. Still hanging onto DeLaPena's arm. She looked bored. Eda imagined that the first time she had played she had probably had a more interesting role and had expected another one tonight. Maybe Mira's first role had been like the one that Eda had this time.

Eda decided that, since she had completed her mission, and successfully passed the disk to her contact, and since most of the few remaining guests would be role players, there was no longer any reason to hide the fact that she was playing a role, or what role she was playing, something that she had sheltered very carefully all night, telling only DeLaPena, Mira and Pierre. Since it was still before midnight, Eda now had some time to have fun with her role.

She walked up to a group of four men standing at the bar. "I don't believe that we've met, and the party is already almost over. I'm Eda Kawani. How do you all know Mr. DeLaPena?"

Two of the men looked bewildered, but the other two stared at her. Now this was fun. She had uncovered two more role players.

"That's a subject usually discussed in private, Ms. Kawani," one of them said harshly, taking her by the elbow and moving her aside, out of the hearing of the others. "Don't be so smug. If it was you, we'll find out."

"And who are 'we'"? Eda was indeed feeling smug.

The man did not respond. Instead, he motioned to the other and the two walked toward the door where Mira and DeLaPena were standing, saying good-bye to several guests. Eda could see Diego hand the two men their coats -- military jackets of the Peruvian National Intelligence Service (SIN). She had seen those before. One appeared to have the gold cluster that she thought represented a Major. The other had the bars of a lesser rank, perhaps a Captain.

Eda watched as the two SIN agents shook hands with DeLaPena, speaking briefly to him before leaving the room. Players leaving? Eda began to wonder.

-- 11:00 p.m.

With no more than a dozen guests remaining, Eda watched as DeLaPena, with the loyal Mira on his arm, approached her.

"Ms. Kawani," his voice was friendly. "I understand that earlier this evening ..." Eda's heart sank. He couldn't know, could he? "your tour guide did not give you an entire tour of the house." Eda's body relaxed.

"He did not show you the wonderful projection room that I have on the basement level. Please allow me." He offered her the arm that Mira was not holding, and began to walk down the hall in the middle of the two women, toward an elevator that connected all three levels. "It is a truly wonderful room and I have many very interesting films." Two male guests followed them. Eda glanced briefly back at them. Both looked vaguely familiar but she could not place their faces.

Eda guessed that these "interesting" films would be pornographic, and that they would usher in the start of the real party. Only two women, though, and three men. Maybe DeLaPena just liked to watch, she thought. Or maybe ...

The projection room could have been mistaken for a modern movie theater, but with fewer seats. About 30, Eda estimated. But only the five of them were there, so they all sat in the front row, with DeLaPena seated between Mira and Eda, and the two men flanked on the sides of the two women. Eda now had a clear look at the one sitting next to her. She thought that he might be the man that she had seen from afar very early in the evening talking with DeLaPena, but she was not certain.

Before giving the signal to the projectionist to start the film, DeLaPena rose and turned to the small group.

"I hope that no one objects, but the film that I have chosen for tonight, although quite short, is, as you may have guessed, one of the more pornographic in my collection. I think that at least one of you may also find it rather ... revolting."

Revolting. An interesting choice of words. DeLaPena couldn't be referring to the men, she reasoned -- what man would find pornography revolting? So he must be referring to either me or to Mira. But he must mean me because he couldn't mean Mira. He wouldn't show someone for whom he was obviously making a play something that he thought might offend her. Or would he? Wait. Yes, he would. To see how she reacted. To see whether she really was someone into what he was into. Yes. It's Mira he's talking about, not me.

As the lights of the projection room dimmed, two more men entered the room, one from each of the doors at the side of the projection screen. In the darkness, Eda could not further make out their features.

-- 11:30 p.m.

The black-and-white film opened slowly on a shot of an empty room. For about 10 seconds nothing happened, and then a lone figure entered the room from the right of the screen, moving quickly to a desk. The figure took just a few seconds to open the top drawer, remove something from it, look around, and quickly leave the room. The film ended, no more than 30 seconds after it had begun, with a shot of the again empty room.

Eda's hands had immediately grabbed the sides of her chair after the first shot of the room. When the lights came up less than a minute later, she found herself staring up at the faces of the two men who had entered the room when the film had started and had now moved to stand directly in front of her seat. The two SIN agents. The two men with whom she had been so smug just a few minutes earlier. Her body began to shake.

The agents grabbed Eda's wrists, roughly pulled her to her feet, and then turned her to face the others, holding her firmly by her wrists and elbows. Eda looked at Mira, whose stare back was as cold as the others.

DeLaPena rose, and moved toward the frightened Eda. He moved his face close to hers. "It was quite fortunate that you made your move before 9 p.m. There is only enough tape in our cameras to run until 9 o'clock. Then the guard has to leave his monitoring area, go to the control room, remove and label the tapes and insert the next batch. It usually takes five to ten minutes."

9 p.m. She had been warned and she had ignored the warning. She had made it all so easy for them. Eda could feel her knees grow weak, but there was no danger of her falling while the SIN agents held her.

"I'll bet that you both thought you were going to fail in your mission." DeLaPena looked at the two men who had followed them into the projection room. One, she figured, must be the security guard, whose face she had never really seen under his hat. And the other ...

"I was monitoring all of the cameras and about to give up hope. I knew that, at 9, I had to go to the control room and figured that the spy must have learned about the short gap in our system from one of her accomplices and that we would lose her. And then she just wandered in to the study. I couldn't believe it. I knew right away the way she acted that she was the one."

"You never did make contact with the player who could have told you that you had to go in between 9 and 9:10, did you, Ms. Kawani?" DeLaPena chided her. "That might have helped, don't you think?"

"Because we wanted to catch your accomplice also, we didn't arrest you right away," he continued. "But you had contact with only a few people after leaving the study -- we were watching you -- and you must have been nervous, because you never did pass the disk to anyone. We thought you might leave it taped somewhere in the bathroom that you visited, but you didn't. We checked carefully. I don't think that you totally panicked, not after braving entry into the study when it looked like it must be a trap. I think that your contact either couldn't figure out you were the spy, or chickened out or just didn't show."

So had Eda been more daring in the main room, she could have found help. But she thought that once she had found Pierre -- or, more accurately, once he had found her -- there was nothing more that she needed. So wrong.

"So, Ms. Kawani, why not make things easy for yourself and give me the disk." DeLaPena held out his hand, seemingly expecting her to comply.

-- 11:45 p.m.

"I ... don't have it. I mean. I didn't steal it. I ... couldn't find it in the desk and I did panic. You saw how fast I left the room." This was the best that she could come up with on the short, and tense, notice given her. But she knew that everyone in the room had seen her remove something from the desk, even if they could not identify it as a micro disk.

DeLaPena smiled. "Well, at least you don't deny that it was you in the room. But how could you? So visible in your very green dress. I don't think anyone else at the party was wearing that color. But as you wish. We do not do our interrogations here, however, but in the interrogation room."

Eda felt herself being lifted nearly off the ground as the two agents propelled her toward the projection screen, which rose to the ceiling as the wall behind it slid open to reveal a large room. Eda and the agents entered first, followed by the others, before the wall slid closed.

As she looked around the room, everything became clear to her -- the invitation's reference to force, injury and unpleasantness. For the room into which she had been brought could only be described as a medieval dungeon, bathed in flickering light from torches along the walls. Chains hanging from the walls and ceiling. A pillory. Rack. X-frame. Table filled with ... items that she could not see in the dim light, but that she knew must be designed to inflict horrible pain. She could also see a glowing brazier filled with hot irons. "All injuries will heal within 72 hours," the invitation had read. Hadn't it? She was sure that it had. Hadn't it? She instinctively pressed her knees tightly against each other, trying to remember the exact assurances in the invitation.

Eda had thought the room was empty when the group arrived, but she soon heard a muffled moaning coming from ... the pillory. As her eyes adjusted to the dimness around her, she could gradually see that the pillory was not empty. No. Inside its frame were the head and wrists of a female subject.

DeLaPena noticed Eda's focus on the pillory. "Ms. Kawani, it seems that you would like a closer look of how we treat spies." The agents immediately moved Eda close to the front left side of the pillory, near its occupant's left arm, for a better view. The woman, however, whose head was fixed in the middle slot, could not turn enough to see who had entered or approached. But, hearing the sounds of arrival, she began to scream through what must have been a gag, as her protests grew louder, but remained muffled.

Eda now could see that the woman's ankles were chained to hooks in the floor that were separated by the width of the pillory, placing her in a position that forced her to hunch over so that her back was nearly parallel to the ground. Although she was not completely naked, she might as well have been. All that she wore were her stockings and red garter belt.

Red. Eda realized that she recognized the woman's tear-stained face. The woman in the red dress that Eda had bumped into outside the bathroom just before Eda had entered the study. She could now see that same red dress laying torn on the floor under the pillory, next to the woman's bra, neither, obviously, any longer offering her any protection. Her panties were not on the floor. Eda guessed that they were stuffed into her mouth to form the gag under the tape that kept her from spitting them out.

Eda could also see one of the reasons that she continued to groan. Pulled up from the floor under the center of the pillory, and attached to retractable wires that struggled to return to the floor from which they had been pulled, were two alligator clamps that had been firmly attached to the captive's now stretched nipples and that were trying to stretch them even more.

"Even after three hours in our company, she denies that you passed her the micro disk," DeLaPena's voice seemed to express pity for the poor woman. Three hours, Eda thought. She has been here since right after I bumped into her outside the bathroom. Just before 9 p.m.

She claims that she is just the wife of an importer, and not a spy," DeLaPena continued. "Elena Liliana. A nice alliterative name, wouldn't you say? But Ms. Liliana was the only guest not in the main room during the time that you went to the study, and she returned just about the same time that you did. If you really do not have the disk, Ms. Kawani, and we will discover that shortly, then Ms. Liliana is the only other person who could have it, I think."

"Give her one more chance to confess," DeLaPena directed the agents. "Maybe she has had second thoughts about her denials."

The agents handed Eda to the Guard and the Monitor and approached the restrained Elena. The SIN Major walked to the front of the pillory and viciously stripped off the tape from across Elena's mouth. He then pulled out the red panties that had indeed filled her throat, as Eda suspected, took out a nightstick that Eda had not before noticed hanging from his belt, and lifted her chin with it until her neck was arched as far as the pillory allowed, her eyes now on him.

"Ms. Liliana, we apologize for ignoring you for so long while we went to bring in your cohort. Who, by the way, has confessed that she gave the disk to you." Eda felt a hand across her mouth, in case she felt an urge to warn Elena that she had said no such thing. "So save yourself more pain, my precious. Tell us where it is."

Elena was shaking her head "no" from the beginning of the Major's speech. Finally, she appeared to realize that the gag had been removed. "No. I'm innocent. No. I demand to call my lawyer." Her voice was very raspy. She had obviously spent much of the last three hours screaming.

"I see you still have your sense of humor. That's good. A sense of humor is important. But now that we've had our joke, it's time to continue." The Major reached down to the floor under the pillory. Near the location in the floor that had held the two clamps now secured to Elena's nipples were two other clamps also attached to retractable wires.

The Major pulled these up, moved his fingers between Elena's legs, attached one to each labia, then released them to allow them to retract as far as they could against the resistant flesh. Elena sucked in her breath so quickly when he released the clamps that the sound was more that of a throaty scream. Any movement now by Elena, either above or below her waist, would increase her pain significantly.

Eda watched with eyes wide open. And realized that none of the torment would create physical injury that would not heal within 72 hours. All within the rules. All within that to which Ms. Liliana, the importer's wife, no doubt had consented. And to which Eda herself had also agreed.

"Or perhaps you might care to produce the disk and save her the pain?" DeLaPena's question was now directed to Eda. The hand slid off of her mouth. At the same time, Eda felt herself pushed down onto a chair, and her wrists tied around the chair's back. She was to have a special seat to watch the show that was about to begin.

-- October 31 (on into the night and morning)

Eda offered no response. Her eyes were fixated on the figure of Elena as she struggled to remain as still as possible to keep the clamps from pulling and tugging mercilessly against the most sensitive parts of her body.

"Very well, then," the Major continued. "I believe that it is your turn, again." He nodded to the Guard, who could hardly contain his smile.

The Guard immediately took Elena's red panties from the Major and returned them to the inside of her mouth. "I was never into screamers during sex," his face was close to hers as he sealed her gagged mouth with a new piece of tape.

Eda could see Elena shut her eyes tightly as the Guard moved behind her. He tested the clamps holding her, and Eda could hear the muffled screams. Then he unzipped his pants, and leaned over her prone back, his hands reaching for her breasts.

Looking at the Guard as he began his violation of the helpless Elena, many things about him became apparent to Eda. He was sexually prudish. Here he had the chance to take this beautiful woman any way that he wanted, and he had chosen one of the most conventional. Well, not exactly. He had not removed any of the clamps, so, with each thrust, Elena felt herself stretched beyond what she thought that her body could endure. So the pain that he caused her was perhaps as much a turn-on for him as the sex. And, as Elena tried vainly to keep her body still, her resistance to his motions into her allowed him to penetrate her more deeply. This was probably the best sex he had ever had, Eda thought.

The Guard was also shy, Eda concluded. While he wanted to enjoy his opportunity, he chose to do so in a manner that didn't expose himself to his viewing audience. Perhaps he would have preferred to have no audience. Maybe he had taken opportunity with Elena during the past three hours, when the others were not there to observe. But for a meek man, what better way to show his power than by brutalizing a helpless woman in front of strong men like DeLaPena, the Major and the Captain?

Inexperienced. Eda could tell immediately that the Guard was not going to take long with Elena. But that did not really signal inexperience in this situation, did it? He was not interested in her feelings or her enjoyment of this encounter. Nor did he need to make it last for his own fulfillment or for the realism of the scene, which was designed to gain Elena's false confession. The efforts to obtain that confession were not going to end when the Guard finished with her.

It was difficult for the observers even to tell when the Guard has reached his final climactic thrust, but he was soon zipping his pants and moving around the pillory to stand in front of Elena. He kissed her taped mouth. "There's so much more to come for you, my traitor."

Eda felt her wrists untied from the chair in which she was seated, and her body lifted by its elbows. She turned enough to see that the hands holding her belonged to the Captain and to Mira. Eda was pulled away from the recovering figure of Elena to a far corner of the room, where suddenly a bright light from the ceiling was shone directly down on her, limiting her vision to a circle of light about eight feet in diameter, surrounded by complete blackness.

"Ms. Liliana needs a rest." Eda could hear DeLaPena's voice, but could not see him. "Which means that it is time to prepare you for your own interrogation." Eda's felt her heart rate quicken and intensify.

"You will be given one chance to do as you are told. If you disobey, we will do it for you and you will suffer the consequences of your disobedience." The voice was now the Major's. "Do you understand?"

It took Eda a few seconds to realize that the Major was waiting for an answer. "Yes," she said softly.

"Remove your dress and then clasp your hands behind your neck."

Eda had expected just this, and nakedness had never bothered her. She reached behind her neck, and undid the halter strap of her dress. She then slid the dress off, and tossed it outside her circle of vision, in the direction of the Major's voice. "Mira, examine it for the disk," she heard the Major direct.

Eda placed her hands behind her neck, clasping her fingers together, as she had been ordered. She knew that this accentuated her bosom hidden by the strapless bra, and she thought that she could hear some of the men react. She assumed that they approved, since only a man interested in nothing but the size of a woman's breasts would find her body unappealing, she thought.

After a period of time to allow the other men to enjoy the sight, the Major again spoke: "Now turn around to face the wall. Remove your slip, and then remove your heels without bending your knees."

So now he wants to see my other side, Eda mused. Again, she obeyed, turning away from the others before sliding her slip down and off, and then bending to unlace the straps of her shoes. She was sorry to lose them. They made the lines of her legs so long and firm. After undoing the straps, Eda turned away from the wall, and kicked the shoes off in the direction in which she had thrown her dress, then reached down to toss her slip there as well.

"Hands behind neck." Eda obeyed. She was now wearing only her strapless bra and high-cut panties. She hoped the others liked the show. She guessed they would stare at her for about 30 seconds before she was ordered next to remove her bra. If they thought that that would test her, they were wrong. Nor would removing the last of her clothing. Perhaps that would impress them.

Instead, though, after another 30 seconds or so, the Captain moved into her spotlight, walked slowly around her, and then stood behind her to confirm that her fingers were still clasped firmly together behind her neck. She did not turn to look back at him, so she did not see him remove a small knife from his belt, and had no warning when, with a single flick, he slashed the knife through the back of the bra. With no shoulder straps, the bra immediately fell to the ground, leaving Eda naked from the waist up. She heard a low murmur from outside the circle.

And then, before Eda realized what he had done, the Captain flicked the knife at her right hip, and her panties twirled around her left thigh, but only for the moment before a second flick freed them to fall into the Captain's hands. The Captain picked up the fallen bra, and, as he left the lighted circle, told Mira to examine them as well.

Eda was now left standing completely naked, her hands clasped behind her neck, as DeLaPena himself entered the circle. "So, Ms. Kawani, the disk is not in your clothes, which means that we will have to check your person ... thoroughly. As we did Ms. Liliana." DeLaPena moved his hands to Eda's breasts, and gently rubbed her nipples between his forefingers and thumbs.

DeLaPena continued to play with Eda's nipples as he directed a question to the Major. "But Major, I first have a question for you. When during the process of interrogation of an uncooperative subject ... are these removed?" DeLaPena was staring into Eda's eyes, which widened noticeably.

"Within the first 24 hours," the Major responded matter-of-factly. "Exactly when depends on how crucial it is to get the information quickly."

"And what about down here? How long is she allowed to keep this?" DeLaPena moved his right hand down between Eda's legs to finger her clitoris. Eda had to steady herself to maintain her balance.

"An hour or two longer. Usually they talk before then. But not always."

Even though she knew that this must certainly be an idle threat, since it was so far beyond the limits stated in the invitation, the very thought of it, while being forced to stand naked in this position, sent shivers through Eda. To think also that some subjects of real interrogation actually faced such a horrible fate.

"Yes," DeLaPena noticed Eda's fear. "And such small pieces of flesh. Why, if the women were dressed normally, it wouldn't even be ... visible ... to anyone that she had suffered such a cruel loss, would it?"

A myriad of thoughts instantly raced through Eda's mind. Her invitation. What were the exact words in it? No injuries that do not heal within 72 hours. No, there was more. No ... visible physical injuries ...

Was DeLaPena ... Garcia ... now telling her that the words on the invitation were only meant to refer to injuries to her face and hands and arms and legs? To the normally visible parts of her body? The parts not normally covered by clothing? That wasn't how she had read those words. They couldn't have meant that. Eda's mind was racing and her body quivering.

And no one knew that she was here -- other than those now threatening her. And the only one of those whom she knew was ... Mira. Had Mira betrayed her? Had Mira fallen for Garcia and agreed to sacrifice Eda for is pleasure and her life of future ease? No, Eda couldn't believe that. Mira was her best friend. But still, If anything happened to Eda and Mira didn't tell ... or was not able to tell ... But the problem wasn't really whether Mira would or could protect her. It was whether Garcia thought that Mira would not, or knew that he could prevent Mira from protecting her, or ... Garcia was a powerful man. Did he think that he could do anything that he wanted and no one would dare stop him or punish him for it? What had she gotten herself into?

Eda's mind could no longer handle the possibilities. All that she knew was that she no longer knew what the rules or limits of this game were, or whether it was even a game at all. Terrified, Eda's knees buckled. No one caught her as she fell first to her knees and then in a heap to the ground, her mind eased only by unconsciousness.

-- October 31 (deeper into the night)

Eda did not know how much time had passed before she came to. Even before she opened her eyes, she realized that she could not move. Her arms had been restrained over her head and her back was arched and aching, pressed against a wooden ... what? It took her a minute to remember where she was, what had happened. And that she did not really understand exactly what was going on, how much of this macabre scene was real and how much was fantasy. If any of it were.

As she opened her eyes and turned her head slightly, she could see that she had been chained to a wooden wheel, and that her body, forced to bend to the wheel's arc, was arched about 30 degrees beyond vertical, stretched tight from head to toe. Eda glanced down, but knew even before she did that she was still completely naked. She wondered if DeLaPena or the others had yet realized that she had come to. As soon as they did, she was sure they would give her their full attention.

Eda remembered the other woman, the woman in red, the woman who had become DeLaPena's victim only because she had had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eda wondered if she ... Elena something ... was receiving more of her interrogators' attention while they waited for Eda to revive.

As Eda's eyes adjusted to the dimness of the dungeon -- the spotlight had been turned off -- she saw several figures seated around a table near the adjacent corner of the room. She couldn't make out exactly who they were or how many? How many others had there been? DeLaPena. Mira. The Major. The Captain. The other two men. The woman in red -- or rather, once in red. That made eight in all counting Eda. Over by the table were ... Eda could make out five, which left two others elsewhere in the room or gone from it.

It didn't take Eda long to discover where or who the other two were. A loud groan from Elena drew Eda's attention to her right. Elena was now lying face up on a table, her wrists cuffed and chained to its top, her ankles separately cuffed by chains that ran up through a ring in the ceiling and then back down to the table. It was as if Elena's body had simply been rotated 180 degrees from its position in the pillory. Her back remained perpendicular to the floor, though she was now face up rather than face down, while her parted legs were still bent 90 degrees from her torso, though they now extended upward rather than downward.

That was not the only difference between Elena's previous and present positions, however. The clamps to her body had been removed. And, replacing the rather mousy Guard, was the Major himself, as naked as Elena, lying on top of her, his hands holding her chained hands, his chest against her chest, his loins against ... well, not just against any more, as Elena's groans increased and then turned to screams.

And cuffed to the Major's wrists were the other ends of the chains that held Elena's ankles. Each time, just as the Major prepared to thrust into Elena, he spread his hands to the sides of the table, which pulled the chains holding Elena's ankles outward, further separating her legs and allowing him to thrust himself more deeply into her. Before each new thrust, the Major pulled his hands apart a little more. And each time Elena's screams increased by just about the same proportion.

Eda glanced back toward the others, all of whom were staring, mesmerized, at the Major, who had developed a definite rhythm with his subject. He pulled his hands apart, separated her legs, thrust more and more deeply into her, held his position, moved back and put his hands together. Then again. And again. And again.

The rising sounds that poured from Elena's lips with the Major's every movement, soon filling the room, made it clear, as if it weren't otherwise clear, that Elena was in a state of pure ecstasy. From the time that Eda had first seen Elena in the dungeon until now, Elena had been brought out of hell and into heaven. And Elena seemed to remain in heaven for an eternity. The Major's stamina and ardor were quite impressive. Eda could not help but wonder how long it would take him to recover from this encounter, whether it might be in time to direct some of his talent toward her before the night was through. Or was she destined to receive only the attention of the milquetoast Guard? Or the unknown Captain or Monitor? Or perhaps DeLaPena himself? Maybe the delicious Mira? But she hoped for the Major.

Finally, though, Eda knew that Elena's last scream, which was joined with the Major's own, would begin the process -- though in this case it might be a slow process -- of bringing Elena back to earth, if not eventually all the way back to hell. And that it could only mean that the attention of the others would soon again be directed at her.

As the Major rose from the prone Elena to put his trousers back on -- no underwear, nothing else, just his trousers -- Eda caught his eye. He smiled at her as he freed Elena's ankles from the ceiling chains and her wrists from the table. He then raised and pushed her back up against the wall, and re-chained her wrists to the wall at a 90 degree angle at the sides of her head. He left her legs unchained, extended in front of her on the table. This placed Elena in a seated position on the table facing outward, and gave her a good view of the entire room.

The Major then walked back to the others. When he reached them, he turned and pointed in Eda's direction, no doubt betraying that she had regained consciousness. It would be just a matter of minutes now, Eda knew, before she would learn what they had in store for her.

The last time that Eda had had the feeling that fate was going to enter her life within just a few minutes had been right before she had entered the study to steal the disk. And, afterward, she had felt so smart and smug and successful, imagining the kinds of rewards that DeLaPena would bestow upon her for being so brave and so clever, matching the button on her dress with the pocket in her panties, passing the disk so cleverly to Pierre that, even though she was being watched, no one saw. Being just the best game player of them all.

And what had all this "success" gained her? The opportunity to be chained naked in this dungeon, with five men and a woman -- still a friend, or now just another tormentor, she could no longer be sure -- set to torture her for a disk that she no longer had. Under limits that might not exist at all. In a game that might be a much different game than the one that she had thought she was playing. Or might not be a game at all.

As her mind wandered through these thoughts, Eda did not notice that the Captain and Mira had approached, and were now standing between her and the still gasping Elena. The Captain spoke first, as Mira handed him a small object.

"Ms. Kawani, do you know what this is?" Eda saw that he was holding an alligator clamp. She knew what they were used for. She had just seen them used on Elena. Eda had experimented with them herself once or twice, although the ones that she had used had much smaller teeth than the one that the Captain was now waving in front of her face.

"And you will see that this one has a special feature." He opened it a few inches in front of her face, and she could see a needle extending from one prong. "It attaches this way," he pushed the needle through Eda's left nipple without warning. Eda grunted from the pain, looked down and saw a trickle of blood. "That way, no matter how hard you might try, you cannot shake it off." The Captain released the other prong to pinch Eda's nipple between its serrated teeth. Eda screamed. She had never played with this kind of clamp, or with any clamp set nearly as tight as the Captain -- or Mira -- had set this one. Eda's eyes began to water, as Mira handed the Captain another object that Eda knew must be a second clamp identical to the first.

Once more the Captain held the clamp directly in front of Eda's face to confirm Eda's fear, then attached it to her right nipple in the same manner that he had attached the first to her left, doubling her pain. Eda closed her mouth and bit the inside of her lip hard to stop herself from screaming again.

"Feel how tight her skin is in this stretched position." The Captain, looking at Mira, began to rub the left side of Eda's body, from her shoulder down to her thigh. Mira began to rub the right side of Eda's body.

"Unfortunately," the Captain continued to stroke Eda as he spoke, "we need information from you and we need it fast. After the sun rises, it may be too late for us to find your accomplice." Mira handed the Captain two long wires with plugs on their ends. Eda could see that the plugs at the ends of the wires fit perfectly into a slot in the middle of the outside of the clamps. And that the other ends of the wires also were fitted with plugs that attached ...

Eda heard the sound of the cart before she saw either DeLaPena or the object that he was wheeling toward the Captain. Once it entered her field of vision, it took her no time to understand what it was. Should she have expected anything else, she thought to herself? So DeLaPena might not be into originality, just effectiveness, she thought. After all, what is more commonly used in a dungeon to loosen silent tongues than a small electric generator?

But all that Eda knew was, original or not, expected or not, DeLaPena was going to send electric current -- at what levels she did not know -- through her upper body, and that, if he were not extremely careful, it could interfere with the electrical activity of her heart and kill her. And, at that moment, Eda had no idea whether DeLaPena intended to be careful or not.

Eda fixated on Mira -- who seemed to be participating too readily and enjoying Eda's plight too much for Eda to feel that Mira's presence would protect her in any way -- as she attached the wires first to the clamps that were disfiguring Eda's nipples, and then to the generator itself, before walking away to leave operation of the generator to the Captain. No doubt under the direction of DeLaPena, who now stood no more than two feet in front of her.

"Sir." The Captain held out what looked like a pair of chopsticks. Eda had no idea where they had come from. DeLaPena nodded. "Yes, we'd hate to lose her too soon. Isn't that true, Mira, my dear?" From her seat at the table, Mira laughed.

The Captain approached, and, before Eda realized what he was doing, he had inserted into her open mouth a small pair of pliers that squeezed and grabbed her tongue, and pulled it about an inch out of her mouth. With his other hand, he placed one of the chopsticks above her tongue and the other below, and pushed them against her lips. Dropping the pliers, the Captain then secured the chopsticks around Eda's tongue with two strong elastic bands that held her tongue tightly in place outside of her mouth.

"We would hate for you to swallow your tongue before you told us all that we wanted to know," the Captain explained. Eda could immediately feel the drool escaping from her mouth and running down her neck. How could she tell them anything now, she wondered, when she could not talk coherently? Maybe, she feared, they didn't really want her to tell them anything. Maybe they just wanted to torture her.

DeLaPena observed the Captain's handiwork with approval. After a few more seconds, DeLaPena uttered the single word. "Begin."

Since the Captain had now moved behind DeLaPena, Eda could not see what he did, but she immediately felt a surge of current into her body that continued to grow until it felt like a midget had climbed into her, taken out a knife and begun to cut her from the insides out.

Eda tried to scream, but all that could escape were loud throaty choking sounds. While she had experimented before with clamps -- apparently too mildly to be on any help to her now -- she had never had the nerve to experiment with electricity. As a child, she had once accidentally stuck her small finger into a light socket, and she remembered the jolt that she had received even to this day. But this ... why had DeLaPena started this on such a high setting? She could only guess that he was either trying to get her information immediately or he was trying to kill her. At this point, it didn't really matter much which.

Eda had no idea how long the current surged through her. Probably for no more than 10 seconds, she realized, although it seemed like an hour. When DeLaPena finally signaled the Captain to turn it off, Eda felt her body collapse onto the wheel, not having even realized that she had leaped out from it farther than her bonds would seem to have allowed. And now, her body totally bathed in sweat, she was panting desperately to regain her breath, her chest heaving in and out, the clamps still attached to her nipples. Her lungs wheezed so noisily that even those at the table on the other side of the room could hear her clearly.

"Ms. Kawani," DeLaPena's voice had an iciness to it that Eda had not before noticed. "That setting was 1. The settings go up to 5."

One? That setting was one? That setting couldn't be one. He can't be telling me the truth. That was a one? Eda's mind was whirling, almost crazed. No, he's playing with me. He's trying to scare me. Oh, yes, and he's succeeding.

"I hope you are ready for a more reasonable dose now. To be applied for a more reasonable length of time. If you wish it to stop, just nod your head that you will tell us the name of your accomplice. If you nod your head, and we stop, and you do not tell us, then I will immediately turn it up to 5."

More reasonable dose? More reasonable time? He has to be kidding. No one could survive much more than I just received, Eda thought. If he is serious, then I can't put myself through this any ...

Eda suddenly felt pain unlike any she had ever experienced, as the current surged through her far more intensely and savagely than it had the first time. She knew that her mind would soon snap in an effort to disassociate itself from such tremendous pain.

But first Eda had to try to think. Why exactly was it that she was subjecting herself to this torture? To protect her "accomplice" who himself was nothing more than a role player? To win a game? If this was a game. Eda could not think of any reason why she should not tell DeLaPena whatever it was that he wanted to know. She nodded her head frantically and prayed that he saw that she had decided to cooperate. That she had had enough.

If the word luck could be used at all to describe Eda's situation, then Eda was in luck. DeLaPena was staring at her and saw her crazed head movements, although he waited a few more seconds to be sure before signaling the Captain to stop. Again, Eda's body crashed down to the wheel, her wrists and ankles chafed and bloodied from their futile struggles to free her body from its helpless predicament.

DeLaPena continued to stare at Eda until the frantic mutterings trying to escape her chopsticked lips eased. "Good. You have finally come to your senses." DeLaPena moved his hands to Eda's breasts and released the clamps, carefully pulling the needles out to avoid any more damage than they had already done. That she was now so bathed in sweat, he thought, might have increased her pain from the current. But, whether it did, she was now ready to talk. Electricity was such an effective means of persuasion.

DeLaPena pulled the chopsticks apart and off Eda's tongue, allowing her the desperately needed ability to speak. "The name," DeLaPena demanded, "or we can go right to level 5."

It took Eda another gasping, chest-heaving minute before she could speak, but DeLaPena understood her need for time to recover and did not press her to speak sooner.

Finally, Eda was ready ... but, in the haze of pain that now filled her mind, she could not immediately remember the handsome Frenchman's name. After all, they had been together for no more than a few minutes, and he had said it only once. Eda began to panic, anticipating the wrath of the increased electricity with which DeLaPena threatened her body. DeLaPena knew that he had given her ample time to recover and would not give her much longer before ...

Wait. The invitation. His name was on the invitation. Picture the invitation in your mind, Eda thought. Its words. Focus. French. His name sounded like French but wasn't French. That had been her reaction the first time that she had read it.

"Francisco." Eda was so relieved that she shouted the name at the top of her lungs, startling DeLaPena.

"Ah, Francisco." DeLaPena smiled. "Francisco who?"

"No, no. Francisco is his last name. Jesse Francisco." Relief poured from Eda's body.

"Jesse Francisco?" DeLaPena seemed puzzled. "I don't think we had any guests by that name. Was this a guest or someone else?" Eda's relief faded as quickly as it had arrived. "Sweetheart," DeLaPena glanced to Mira, "go check our guest list for the name Jesse Francisco."

What was DeLaPena doing. Was this a ruse. "Yes. That's his name. He is a French arms dealer," Eda insisted, then watched Mira walk back to the table where the other three men had remained, but with their attention now focused entirely on Eda's plight. Mira picked up a few sheets of paper, and, scanning them, returned to DeLaPena, shaking her head.

"No. Wait. No. No." Somehow through her pain and fear Eda's mind had cleared enough to picture the invitation in her mind. "Not Jesse. Pierre. Pierre Francisco. Pierre Francisco."

DeLaPena looked at Mira. Mira nodded. Eda sighed in relief. DeLaPena turned back to her. "A French arms dealer, you say. Supplying arms to the rebels?" Eda could not nod quickly enough in response. "Yes. Yes. And to the government."

"Ah. Playing both sides. Very good for business, no doubt. But not very good for his ... or your ... personal safety." DeLaPena stroked Eda's cheek, then leaned over and kissed it gently. "Major," he ordered, turning toward the table, "see if you can locate this Mr. Francisco." The Major jumped to his feet, and was out the side door of the room without a word.

DeLaPena then returned his attention to Eda, whose breathing had almost returned to normal. He stared at her for a moment, moving his eyes up and down her stretched body, before smiling at her again. "Ms. Kawani, seeing you in this 'extended' position reminds me of a song from that famous American musical South Pacific. You know the one." He glanced over to the men at the table. "What song does Ms. Kawani's position remind you of?" The men all looked bewildered.

"None of you are any fun." DeLaPena seemed disappointed in their inability to answer his riddle.

"I know which one, love," Mira almost cooed at him. "You Have To Be Carefully 'Taut.'"

DeLaPena beamed. "Absolutely correct. Brains to go with your beauty." He leaned down and kissed her hard, wrapping his arms around her, both of them standing right in front of Eda's stretched body.

"You have to be carefully 'taut.'" DeLaPena repeated his joke. He then slowly pulled out the wooden peg that had held the wheel in place during Eda's hopeless shakings. The wheel was now free to rotate, and Eda felt her body gradually rise until she was staring at the ceiling. This did not present her to her audience in the most flattering way, she thought, knowing that her exposed sex was now at eye level to the others. DeLaPena re-inserted the wooden pin to lock the wheel in this new position.

"And how did you pass the disk to him, Ms. Kawani?" More questions, which meant the possibility of more pain. Eda's body tensed. But she was not about to provide further resistance. There just was no point.

"He removed it from a small pouch in my panties while we danced."

"Ahhh." DeLaPena seemed to appreciate how she had done it right in front of his men's eyes. "So while my men were watching your hands draped around his body while you danced, they should have been paying attention to his hands on your body." The Monitor was holding Eda's dress in his hands now. He called to DeLaPena when he found the button on the side, and pointed it out to him.

"So he just slipped his fingers into your dress and under your slip, and you had the disk waiting for him. Very clever." DeLaPena seemed to pause to consider a bit longer just how clever she had been. Or was it to consider how next to inflict more pain on her for being so clever.

It was several minutes before he again spoke. "Well, Ms. Kawani, I am afraid that, even though your questioning is not yet finished, and there is more information and cooperation required of you, I and the future Mrs. DeLaPena must take our leave. But do not fret. We are leaving you in capable hands. Captain, I think that you will have no further difficulty with Ms. Kawani."

DeLaPena removed the pin and spun the wheel back, past her original position, until Eda now found herself staring down at the floor, her body just inches above the toe of DeLaPena's shoe. DeLaPena bent down, and grabbed Eda's hair to force her to look directly into his face. Although DeLaPena was staring back at her, his words were directed to the Captain. "Diego is going to take us to the airport so that we can get an early start. My plane should be fueled and ready by now, assuming that my staff got more rest tonight than any of us did."

DeLaPena released Eda's hair, rose and again removed the wooden peg, then spun Eda back up to her original position and locked the peg in place. He kissed her on the cheek, then walked toward the room's side door. Mira stood in front of Eda for a few seconds longer, then also kissed her on the cheek and followed DeLaPena out of the room, to destinations unknown.

Now there were just five in the room. The two naked victims, both having had some time to recover somewhat from their ordeals. The Captain. The Guard. And the Monitor. Since the Monitor had played such a small role so far, Eda expected that it would be he who would take her. Unfortunately, the Major had gone off in search of Pierre, so his wonderful abilities were no longer a possibility.

"It is time to resume questioning," the Captain spoke a few seconds after the door had closed behind DeLaPena and Mira, and, as he did, it was the Monitor indeed who rose to approach Eda. The Captain looked at him. "You're in charge," he nodded, and walked away to leave Eda to the whims of the Monitor.

The Monitor opened the chains holding Eda's ankles to the sides of the wheel. She was fortunate that her wrists remained chained high above her or she would have fallen to the floor, her weakened legs unable to hold up her body weight.

The Monitor then snapped a metal collar around her neck, attached to which was a long length of chain. He draped the chain over his shoulder, then reached up and released Eda's wrists from the wheel. As expected, she collapsed into his arms, and he carried her to an open space near the center of the room, before placing her on the floor.

The Monitor then move about 10 feet away and began to wrap the chain around his hand, reducing the slack in it, until it began to tug at Eda's neck. As the Monitor started to walk slowly away from her, Eda could feel herself being dragged by the neck. She struggled to rise onto her nads and knees to relieve the pressure on her neck, and, as she heard laughter coming from the direction of the Captain and the Guard, she realized that she now looked like nothing more than a dog being taken for a walk by a leash, her naked breasts hanging down.

The Monitor's actions made Eda realize that this group of men had quite diverse interests. She wondered if this was intentional on DeLaPena's part. The Major's primary interest -- and he was certainly very good at it -- seemed to be pure sex, the Captain's pure pain. The Monitor was into humiliation -- not successful at all with Eda, since all she felt from his recent attempts to humiliate her was relief that there was a break from the pain. And the Guard. Well, he seemed to be just interested in being one of the guys, at which he was not very successful. DeLaPena himself ... who knew? Eda guessed he was just into the power of controlling people. And not just Eda and Elena, but the men as well. And Mira.

What about Mira, though? How did she fit into this? Was she just DeLaPena's -- Garcia's -- plaything, blinded by his power and wealth? If so, that was a side of Mira that Eda had never seen. Or maybe Mira had just hoped to have a good time, but been unfortunate to receive a role that was as much to her disliking as it was to Garcia's liking. That seemed more like Mira. Hoping to be a real part of the action. Or at least given a chance to watch the action from up close. But this time she been denied both. Eda wondered whether Mira was now on Garcia's plane trying to fend off his advances. Or resigned to her fate that she could not. Eda remembered that Mira often liked to tell her that it was Mira's philosophy to try anything once. "If you like it, you can keep doing it for the rest of your life. If you don't like it, well, then don't try it again, but try something else." So maybe Mira was giving Garcia a try. Making the best of the role that she had been given.

Already exhausted after her session on the wheel, Eda was totally spent by the time the Monitor had led her once around the room and back to its center. When he finally stopped, Eda collapsed, her body flat against the floor. The Monitor tugged on the chain, forcing Eda up on her knees, and motioned her, as before, to place her hands behind her head. Eda obeyed, although she feared that she could not hold her balance this way for very long. The Monitor sat in a chair about five feet from her.

"Now, you have more to tell us, don't you?"

"I'll tell you what I know."

"Very cooperative. I like that. I want to know, first, for which rebel unit you work?"

Eda recalled this information instantly from her invitation. "The PFF. The unit in Arequipa."

"Hmm. One of the stronger pockets of resistance," the Monitor mused aloud. "And where is the group's safe house?"

"It is in the brick house at the very end of ..." Where was the brick house? What had the invitation said? Eda could not believe that, for a second time, she could not remember the information in the invitation. She had memorized it all, she thought. But she had memorized it, she realized, at a time when her mental condition was a lot sharper than it was now after an extended night of pain and fear.

"Where is this brick house? Arequipa is a city of 600,000 people. It has many brick houses."

In the center of town? On a certain street or at an intersection? Near a landmark? What had the invitation said? Eda mind was trying to race through the picture of the invitation that she had in her mind.

"Where is this brick house?" The Monitor's voice was much firmer and more demanding this second time that he asked the same question.

"I'm thinking, please. I'm trying."

"Well, perhaps we can assist you, then." The Monitor signaled the Guard and the Captain, who immediately moved to the restrained Eda. The Captain forced her onto her back, while the Guard freed a length of chain hanging from the ceiling, and secured Eda's ankles in the metal cuffs attached to it. Then, with one long heave on the other end of the chain, the Captain sent the inverted Eda rising into the air, while, at the same time, the Guard grabbed her wrists and secured them behind her back. The Monitor pulled the chain that he was holding, the one attached to Eda's collar, firmly through a ring in the floor and secured it. Eda was left hanging by her ankles, wrists behind her back, her neck collar now secured to the floor.

The Captain and the Guard returned to their table. Eda glanced at the Monitor as he walked toward another table at the near wall and picked up a whip. Whether the one he chose had more or fewer than nine tails she could not count. She then watched as he moved to a position at her side from where he could strike her body wherever he wished. Eda was relieved that her legs were closed, so that one part of her body was protected.

"Where is this safe house, Ms. Kawani?" Without waiting for a response, the Monitor struck the whip forcefully against Eda's taut stomach. The pain that coursed through her from hips to breasts made the outside of her body feel like the inside of her body had felt when the Captain had sent the electric current through her earlier. How long ago could that have been? Eda no longer had any sense of time.

"The safe house, Ms. Kawani?" The next blow struck Eda across the top of her back and arms, just above her restrained wrists, and all she could concentrate on was the pain. With each blow her body was pushed outward by the whip until restrained by the ankle cuffs and neck collar. And there was not enough time between the blows for her to think, to try to remember, to visual the invitation clearly enough ...

"The safe house?" This blow struck her directly across the underside of her breasts, and the sickening sensation that resulted made Eda sure that she would vomit. Again she wondered about the rules about 72-hours and visible injuries. With her head restrained by the collar, she could not look up to see whether these recent wounds exceeded those limits. But they felt like they had.

"I will give you one minute to reconsider your stubbornness. Or I will find stronger ways to assist your memory."

Concentrate, Eda told herself. Concentrate. The brick house. Arequipa. It was a street name. She tried to picture it. A street name. She wished she had been to Arequipa. Maybe that would have helped her. But this was unfair. If she really were a member of the PFF's Arequipa resistance unit, she would know where the house was. She would have been there. She would know how to get there. She wouldn't have to try to remember a street name written on an invitation. She wasn't even sure if it was a real street in Arequipa or just a name invented for the "game." This was unfair. But she had been told to learn the information on the invitation. She had been warned. But she hadn't known what these conditions would do to her mind. To her ability to recall.

"Time is up." The Monitor again raised the whip, and the blow again struck Eda across her already wounded breasts. She howled, trying to twist her body away, to protect herself. Valencia. The name just popped into her head. How it happened she didn't know. Or care. Desperate times perhaps. What difference did it matter how? She remembered it. That was all that mattered.

Before she could speak a new blow crossed her thighs. Eda let out a scream, then forced herself to gulp in enough air to speak that key name. "Calle Valencia." It took her a few seconds to breath in again. "Calle Valencia," she screamed louder, as soon as she could, wanting to make sure the Monitor had heard and would not strike her again.

The Monitor stopped his arm just as it had started forward once again. He looked over to the Captain and the Guard, beaming. The hanging Ms. Kawani had now revealed all of her secrets. The name of her accomplice -- Pierre Francisco. His reason for helping her -- he was an arms dealer. Who she worked for -- the PFF's Arequipa unit. And its location -- the brick house at the very end of Calle Valencia. The Monitor had succeeded. Perhaps his reward was even more than the opportunity to torture the helpless Eda.

The Monitor joined the other two men at the table, leaving for the moment the inverted Eda to contemplate her total defeat. After a brief conversation, the Monitor and Guard left the room, while the Captain returned to Eda.

"Very wise, Ms. Kawani. Very wise." The Captain unhooked the collar around Eda's neck, and then released the chain holding her ankles and gradually lowered her to the floor, where, finally, he unchained her wrists. He felt entirely comfortable freeing Eda from her bonds, knowing that she could have no strength to fight or flee or resist.

A strong man, the Captain easily lifted her over his shoulder, and carried her to the long table on one side of which remained Elena, silent but watching.

But instead of chaining Eda in a position similar to Elena's, the Captain himself sat on the edge of the other end of the table, and pushed himself back onto it until his knees hung over its edge, his feet not quite touching the floor. He then pulled Eda onto his lap, facing him, her legs straddling him. He wrapped her arms around his neck.

"I assume that you want to show me your appreciation for releasing you." Eda could feel that the position of their bodies had instantly excited the Captain, and, as he unbuckled his belt, and then lifted her up enough to allow him to wriggle his pants and shorts down to his ankles, that fact was confirmed.

Eda's feelings were confused. On the one hand, she was so tired that she just wanted rest. A strange feeling for her. She couldn't remember any time before when she truly had preferred rest to sex. Well, not any time other than in the past hour. And it was not going to be the Major. After seeing his performance, she certainly would have been excited had it been he who was going to take her. But it was the Captain. On the other hand, at least it was not the Guard. Still, she knew that she really had no choice. What she wanted least of all at this point was more pain. So, she thought to make the best of it, at least to the extent that her battered and exhausted body could provide.

Eda moved her body until until she felt the Captain enter her. For a second, seeing his eyes close, she thought about trying to escape, but realized that she would not get far, and that, after she was recaptured, things would be much worse for her. Better just to try to make the Captain happy.

She began to move her body rhythmically, and, after a moment, the Captain opened his eyes, put his arms tightly around her waist, pulled her close to him, and joined her movements. Eda closed her eyes, trying to imagine the two of them ... no, not the two of them, but her and the Major -- in a different setting, a more loving and comfortable setting. As she did, she felt her own excitement begin to take over her body. Soon she found it difficult to separate which sounds were hers and which were his.

But, unfortunately, the Captain was not the Major, neither in rank nor in sexual prowess, and, although he was as good as most of her partners had been, he, as most of her partners, was not totally fulfilling. Especially not after having seen the Major's work. So when the Captain suddenly stood up, with her arms and legs wrapped around him, moved his hands from around her waist to the top of her shoulders, and pushed her down to allow him the deepest penetration he could manage, she knew that it would be over sooner than she needed it to be over.

With his final thrust, the Captain turned them around, so that, when he next leaned forward, it was she who was under him on the table. He pushed their bodies upward until they were fully on the table, straining to stay in her as long as he could. Eda rolled her eyes. Did a man think that this convinced a woman that he had lasted longer? Well, she shouldn't be too hard on him -- Eda almost laughed ... she shouldn't be hard on him because he was no longer being hard in her. It hadn't been unpleasant, just incomplete.

The Captain finally realized that he was no longer much use to either of them, lifted himself off the table, and pulled up his shorts and pants. After buckling his pants, he slid Eda's body to the wall, bent at the waist, and chained her wrists by the side of her head, so that she, on one end of the table, was in the same position as Elena at the other end of the table, about six feet away.

"Gather your strength, my spies. The end will be soon." The Captain looked first at Eda, then at Elena, before leaving the room.

The two women, the only ones now left in the room, turned to look at each other. Figuring that the game was now over, and that, despite her initial feeling of success, she had been totally defeated, and hoped that denial of the promised reward would be the only additional loss that she would suffer, Eda saw no reason to continue to play the role that had consumed her since she arrived at the party how many hours ago she could not now even guess. It had certainly been an interesting experience while it lasted, though, she thought. "Have you done this before?" Eda spoke first, softly.

Elena stared at Eda for a long moment before responding flatly. "Are you joking? What do you think is going on here? This isn't something you get to do more than once."

Now it was Eda who was startled. "What? What do you mean?"

"Why do you think you're here?"

"I got an invitation. To play the role of a rebel spy. It seemed like it would be fun."

Elena laughed derisively. "He finds all ways, I guess. Some less direct than others."

"What you are talking about?" Eda was completely bewildered. "Isn't that why you're here? What was your role beyond being an innocent victim?"

"Nothing. That was ... and is ... my role. Innocent victim. And it's your role, too."

"No. I mean, what role did your invitation tell you you were to play?"

"Eda ... that is your real name?" Eda nodded. "I guess he feels more power if he uses our real names. Eda, I didn't get an invitation to play a role. That's not how this usually works. Don't you know about these Garcia parties? Don't you know what they are?"

Eda's eyes ... and ears ... were fixed on Elena.

"Eda, Garcia pays his friends a lot of money ... and I mean a lot of money ... to help him get women to come to his parties so that he and his friends can have victims to play with in his dungeon while the other guests watch. At least those who want to watch. Not everyone does." Elena's head motioned to the far wall of the room, the wall that separated it from the projection room. "That wall you saw open between the rooms? He can also replace it with a one-way mirror. Didn't you find it strange that so many guests were leaving the party so early?" Eda now remembered her surprise at just that. "They were coming down here to watch the men work on me. Of course, the guests were warned and cleared the room before your arrival, and then came back after you had joined me. So I was the opening act tonight. And you have been the main attraction. Most of them are still watching us now, although not with as much attention as when we are performing. I don't think they can hear us all the way back here. But that's not what they listen for anyway."

"How do you know all this?" Eda was surprised to learn that, in addition to the people in the room, there was apparently a sizable viewing audience, although that didn't really bother much, not as much as it seemed to bother Elena.

"My husband took me to one of these parties before. I had no idea what was in store when we came down to the projection room. When I saw, I told him after a few minutes that I wanted to leave. He said no, he had waited a long time for the invitation. So I left without him. It caused a major rift in our marriage. It took a long time for it to heal. Well, I thought it had healed. But obviously it had not."

"Why did you come back, if this isn't something that you're into?" Eda couldn't decide how interested she really was in Elena's story, or how accurate it was, but, since they were the only two in the room and neither was going anywhere soon ...

"I was trying to save my marriage. We've had big financial problems recently. My husband had become so distant. So, I told him that I would come to this party with him. And that he could stay for the show after, as long as I could leave. He agreed that I didn't have to go to the projection room with him. And I guess he kept his promise. I didn't go to the projection room with him. I was brought straight from the hallway to the dungeon."

A horrifying thought crossed Eda's mind. "Are you here ... I mean, here in the dungeon ... because of me? Because you bumped into me outside the bathroom?" Elena looked quizzically at Eda. "But didn't you think that your role ..."

"Eda. I told you. There are no roles. There was just an invitation to a party. I agreed to come to try to save my marriage. But when I was grabbed and taken to the dungeon, I realized that my husband had something quite different in mind. He wanted to solve our marital problems, all right. Just not the way I had in mind. And solve our financial problems, too, at the same time. I was such a fool not to suspect anything. Just a fool." Elena started shaking her head in apparent disgust at herself and her naivete.

Elena closed her eyes for a few seconds, before opening them again to stare deeply into Eda's. "Eda, the only person who knows I'm here is my husband. I have no other family here. We have no children. Who knows that you are here? No one, I bet."

"No, my friend Mira knows. I think she's the one who got me the invitation."

"You mean Mira, Garcia's girlfriend, the one hanging on his arm all night?" Elena smiled wryly.


"Just Mira. No one else?"

"No, no one else. What are you getting at?" Eda's concern was growing, heightened by the tone of Elena's questions and the fact that Elena seemed to know her answers before Eda even responded.

"The only person who knows I'm here is my husband. He's here, too. The only person who knows you're here is Mira. She's here. My husband is going to get a lot of money for getting me here. Mira is probably getting a lot of money, too. Or maybe she's content with just getting Garcia."

But Eda couldn't accept that that was Mira's motive for inviting her. She knew Mira too well, she thought. Or, by now, hoped. "Mira invited me because she knows that I like these scenes. I fantasize about them. You may not like them, but I do. This has been painful, but very exciting for me. Your husband may have brought you here because he's angry with you, but Mira invited me because she likes me." Eda realized that she was only half convinced by her words.

"Eda, Garcia pays people like my husband, and Mira, all that money because his guests pay him a lot of money to be invited to his parties."

"Look," Eda protested. "I can see people getting off on watching a woman tortured. I mean, I get off on it sometimes. In fact, you were exquisite here tonight. But how much would someone pay? You're exaggerating."

"Eda, they don't pay just to watch torture." Elena paused for a second to make sure that Eda understood what she was about to say. "I thought you must know, but apparently you don't."

Again Elena paused, thinking whether to say ... and how to say ... what Eda didn't seem to know. Finally, she just blurted out the dreadful words. "Eda ... the guests pay ... to watch snuff. Garcia's parties are snuff parties."

Eda's eyes widened as her jaw dropped, and she started to shake her head as the words registered, but she made no sound.

"Without much effort, my husband ends a marriage he wants out of, with no more concerns about money. Your Mira trades a friend for wealth and attachment to the most powerful man in Peru. And what do you think that was with the two men dressed as SIN agents? You've heard of the kiss of death? Well, we each ended our ordeals with what can only be described as the fuck of death." Eda continued to shake her head in disbelief.

"If I'm right," Elena continued, "and I'm sorry to tell you that I'm pretty sure I am, when the time comes, Garcia will have that wall fully opened so that not even a one-way mirror separates us from our audience. So that his paying guests can watch the conclusion in as unobstructed a fashion as possible."

"I don't believe you," Eda was simply not going to accept that this was her fate. "This is absurd. Why are you trying to frighten me? If you were right, why did Garcia leave? He would have stayed for the whole thing." Eda forced herself to believe her words.

"Garcia's played this scene many times, but I bet that it's been a long time since he's been as enamored of another woman as he is of Mira. I hope I'm wrong," Elena offered Eda a ray of hope, "but I'm not," taking away that hope just as quickly.

"But you didn't stay last time. You didn't see." Eda was amazed at how suddenly her mind had cleared to focus on what Elena had just told her. Her words were more plea, though, than reasoned thought.

"No, I didn't, Elena shrugged. "I guess we will both find out for sure within the next few hours."

Eda turned away from Elena. She needed to think this whole situation through by herself. Looking up at her chained wrists, though, she knew that she could do nothing to alter whatever fate might await her. As she tried to think of all the reasons why Elena had to be wrong, or might be wrong, the ordeal of her night caught up with both her body and her mind, and she did not even feel her head slump to her chest after just a few minutes of such distressing thoughts.

-- November 1

Whether it was day or night was not something that the dungeon revealed, so Eda had no idea how long she had dozed, fitfully, before being awakened by a cold hand under her chin. "It is time, Ms. Kawani."

Eda felt her chin raised and found herself staring into the Major's eyes. She wondered if he had found Francisco. Or if that was even part of the game. If there were a game.

As the Major released her wrists from the wall, she saw the Captain on the other side of her. As he and the Major helped her to her feet, Eda glanced to where Elena had been, and saw that she was no longer there.

The Captain turned her toward the far wall, holding her right elbow while the Major held her left. When Eda looked up, she screamed. As Elena had predicted, the wall had opened, and, although two bright spotlights that pointed from the ceiling near the open wall toward the center of the room prevented her from seeing into the projection area, a constant murmur of sound revealed that the room was filled with people.

Eda saw that, while she had been out, someone had placed in the center of the dungeon, about 20 feet from the projection room, two narrow vertical poles about four feet apart. Each rose about eight feet into the air. It was directly at these poles that the spotlights shone. And stretched against one of these poles, facing the open wall, was Elena, her wrists chained, the chains hooked to the back of the pole so that her arms were held over her head, but not stretched tight, her feet able to touch the floor.

Once Eda saw Elena, she began to pull and twist and kick frantically to try to avoid being placed on the other pole in the same position as Elena. In her desperate movements, Eda managed to pull her right arm free from the Captain's grasp, turn and kick him hard in the groin. The Captain immediately screamed and crumbled to the ground, holding his damaged area with both hands. The murmur from the projection room increased to a constant roar. But the Major's strong hand still held Eda firmly, and, upon feeling her resistance and seeing the Captain's temporary incapacity, the Major punched Eda hard in the stomach, and her free hand went to her midsection. As her body doubled over, the Major's open hand chopped down hard on the back of her neck, and Eda sprawled onto her stomach on the floor. She tried to rise to her knees, but fell back down, her brief attempt to avoid her fate over.

Humiliated in front of his audience, the Captain recovered enough to roll Eda onto her back with a sharp kick from his boot, and he then kicked her hard between the legs in repayment for her similar act against him. Eda began to cough uncontrollably, and was still coughing as the Major and Captain roughly pulled her to her feet and dragged her to the pole that was waiting for her. In a matter of seconds, Eda's position against the pole matched Elena's.

As Eda's coughing subsided, she looked toward Elena and could see tears in Elena's eyes. Sensing Eda's gaze, Elena looked back, and sadly and softly offered: "I guess I wasn't wrong."

"You have been found guilty of treason." Eda heard the Major's voice come from somewhere beyond the glaring spotlight that blinded her to everything behind it. Perhaps DeLaPena and Mira had not returned. Might that be some small hope for her that this was not what it seemed?

"The punishment for treason is death by firing squad." Elena seemed resigned to her fate, but Eda pulled hard against her bonds even knowing that there was no escape. The chains holding her wrists were locked into the hook on the other side of the pole and easily withstood her feeble efforts.

"Do you wish a blindfold?" A blindfold? What kind of question was that? She couldn't see far enough to see her executioners or her audience without a blindfold. She shook her head "no." A second later, she heard Elena say meekly "yes," and turned to see the Captain approach Elena and cover her eyes with a black cloth, which he tied behind her head. Eda saw further tears escape from Elena's face under the blindfold, and she looked down and could see Elena's knees shaking. She didn't have to look down to know that her own knees were also shaking, since she knew that her entire body was.

The Captain left the lighted area, and, in a matter of seconds, she heard the Major's voice once again --"Ready" -- followed by the movement of metal. The firing squad raising their rifles, she thought. But wait! Why so fast?! Didn't they have other questions to ask them? Other information that they needed? Eda knew that she had no more information. She had told them everything that she knew from the description of her role. But maybe Elena hadn't. Was there really to be no more talk, no more questions, no more torture, no more sex? Just ...

"Aim." More movement of metal and the sound of two clicks. A firing squad of just two, she thought. Just the Major and Captain. But why did the sounds seem to come from a point on Elena's side of the room? Or was she just imagining that, just praying that this really was not to be?

"Fire." Pop. Pop. Two shots. Elena screamed. But nothing hit Eda. Eda turned to see that both shots had struck Elena, one in the chest and one in the stomach, and that two large blotches of red now covered her body, which had leaped from the pole as far as the restraints to her wrists had allowed. What was happening? Was this part of the game? To bring her this far and then stop? But this was certainly no longer a game. If they would kill Elena, there was no doubt that they would kill her, too. Even without focusing on the guests in the projection room, Eda could instantly sense from their burst of reaction following the gunshots that they were both shocked and thrilled to witness such a scene. She even heard a few yell "traitors" and "that's what traitors deserve" in the direction of the two suffering women.

Then suddenly again, unexpectedly: "Fire." Eda was not prepared. She quickly looked forward, knowing that these two shots must be meant for her. Pop. Pop. But, again, nothing hit Eda. And this time there were no more screams from Elena. Glancing again at Elena, Eda could see that one of these two blasts had struck Elena's chest and one had struck her just above her pubic bone. Her body was now fully engulfed in red. Eda watched Elena's arched body slowly slump, until her elbows were held straight, her knees bent and her head fallen to her chest, the red now covering her neck and chin and cheeks. "At least her ordeal is over," Eda offered a silent prayer.

"Left face. March." In an instance the shadows of two men came into sight directly in front of Eda, between her and the projection room onlookers. So there was to be no reprieve. Because there were only two members of the firing squad -- apparently, while watching this scene was something that Garcia's friends were willing to pay to see, actually participating in the firing squad was beyond their limit ... unless it was just something for which he charged more than they could afford -- they were taking care of their victims one at a time. Or maybe it was just to draw out the onlookers' excitement.

"Ready." This time Eda heard the metallic sounds directly in front of her, much more distinct and louder than before. This time, there was no other possible target. It was too much for her. "No. Please. No. This was supposed to be a game. No. Please." Eda was screaming and tugging on her bonds. Elena had asked for a blindfold, but had otherwise died nobly, Eda thought, and here she was screaming like a whimpering child. Even knowing that it would do no good, that she could not help herself.

"Aim." Eda's screams turned into cries and pleas. The tears flowed. Her chest heaved. She lost control of her bladder. She heard the audience roar in delight at her panic and humiliation.

"Fire." Pop. Pop. The first shot hit Eda just under her right breast with a sharp pain that quickly consumed her body. The second hit her left side with more of a sting than a sharp pain. She wondered if it had just grazed her. Couldn't these men shoot straight from 15 feet and put an end to this quickly? But, even without looking down, Eda could see the red that she knew must be blood spray off her body, and she could feel her mind grow faint as her body arched uncontrollably away from the pole, just as Elena's had done a minute before.

"Fire." A second volley, as with Elena, Eda quickly remembered. These two were to finish her, she knew, just as the second two had finished Elena. Pop. Eda felt between her ribs the same sharp pain as the first shot had made. She had thought that she would not be able to feel any more pain, but she was wrong. Pop. This one struck her right in the left breast. And Eda felt her mind fade quickly, even as she realized that her body was falling to the cheers ... and jeers ... from her projection room audience. For a performance well done ... and well worth the price. Death to the traitors.

-- Morning

When she opened her eyes, she found herself alone in a large bed. The clock next to the bed read "9:15 a.m." She pulled off the bed covers, lifted herself up, and swung her feet off the bed. Sitting on the bed, she noticed that she was wearing a thin white nightgown with no undergarments.

Her body ached tremendously. She pulled up the nightgown to check the cause of the pain. Bruises on her stomach and chest. At least half a dozen. She stood up, but then quickly was forced to kneel, holding the side of the bed, feeling the queasiness in her stomach. More slowly this time she stood, and started to walk to the door. Each step brought pain. Her legs were shaky.

Hanging on a hook on the door was a white terry cloth robe. She put it on, and then, barefooted, stepped out into the hall. She saw that she was in a room on the upper floor of Garcia's mansion. She heard noise coming from below. She descended the steps and headed toward the kitchen area, from where the noise was coming. As soon as she entered the kitchen, she stopped and gasped.

Seated around the kitchen table, being served breakfast by Diego, were ... The Major and The Captain. Eda's eyes darted from face to face. Two or three men and one woman whom she did not recognize and figured must have been part of the audience from the night before who had stayed until the end. And, calmly sipping coffee, seated next to the Major at one end of the table, ... was Elena.

"Good morning, Eda. We weren't sure you would be able to join us before it was time to go." The now familiar voice of the Major sounded sweet to her for the first time. "How are you feeling? Were we too rough on you?"

Eda stammered. "I'm ... I'm a bit sore." The room filled with laughter.

"Did you enjoy yourself?" This time the question came from Pierre.

"I .. I guess I haven't figured that out yet." Eda took a seat at the end of the table away from Elena.

"Were all promises kept to you, my dear Eda?" The Major smiled. "Did we do anything physically to you that won't heal within 72 hours?"

"I ... don't think so."

"Of course, what we did to your mental well-being, well, that's something else. That may never heal, am I right?" Again, laughter filled the room.

Eda looked across the length of the table at Elena. "You were dead. I saw your body. I saw the blood. You were dead. And .. so was I. I felt the life leave my body."

The laughter increased. "Eda, you've obviously never played paint ball, have you? Let me tell you, when you get hit with one of those, especially when fired from so close, it hurts like hell. And when the paint is red..." She paused to emphasis her next words. "And, of course, when you have an actress as talented as I playing with your mind." The Major and Captain rose from their chairs to cheer Elena's acting ability. She rose to bow, and then all again sat back down.

"It didn't just sting me," Eda protested. "My mind faded. I went blank."

"Well, my husband's first shot was a tranquilizer dart. That's why you passed out. The plan was that the dart, combined with the red paint ball hits, would make you think that you were dying, and now we know that it worked very well indeed."

That explained the second shot that hit her, Eda realized, the one that didn't hurt the same way as the others and that she thought must have just grazed her. It was a small tranquilizer dart, not a large pellet like the others.

"Your husband's first shot?"

"Yes," Elena leaned over and kissed the Major. "The sex is just so great when we play. Even though we -- unlike some others ..." More laughter. " ... know that it is all a game. It's still so great when you get your mind ... and body ... into it." As Elena leaned back in her chair, the Major flexed his biceps in a feigned muscle-man pose. So the rape of Elena by the vigorous Major had just been sex between husband and wife, Eda now realized. One way to keep a marriage fresh, she imagined.

"Of course," Elena complained, punching the Major hard in his still flexed arm, "it wasn't part of the plan to give me to that wussy security guard as often as you did." Eda noticed that the Guard was not one of the people remaining. "You may need to play games with yourself for a week or so because of that, sweetheart." Elena sneered the last word.

"Hey," the Major defended himself, "for all the time you were our prisoner, you think that you weren't going to have several goes with each of us? And if you knew everything that was going to happen, how much fun would that be? Ask Ms. Kawani how much better it is not to know what's going on." Would the laughter at her expense never end? Half of Eda minded being the constant butt of their jokes, but the other half was just fascinated by what they were telling her.

"So if the Major here is your husband," Eda was beginning to see the picture, "then your story about ..."

"All lies. Everything I told you was a lie. Except that I knew that the others were watching and that the wall would open for the final scene." Elena turned to her husband. "I told her we were having financial problems, so you wanted to let Garcia snuff me in return for a lot of money."

"Don't give me ideas. Especially if you keep spending like you have been." Obviously, the Major and Elena had no financial worries.

"Convincing me that it was not a game, that it was for real, was that part of the game?" Eda was wondering what Elena's instructions had been.

"Oh, no, that was all my idea. I mean, when were chained next to each other on the tables, I was really into it. Thinking about the death scene, I thought I was going to orgasm right there. And then ... you broke out of your role. You asked me, 'Have you done this before?'" Elena's voice mocked Eda's question, which Eda remembered asking, thinking that the game was over.

It was clear that Elena had actually been upset with Eda at the time, but, having obtained her revenge, was now enjoying good-naturedly recreating the scene for the benefit of those who were not there or had not paid it much attention. "That destroyed the whole mood of the scene. We weren't finished yet. We were coming to the best part. I wanted to brain you so bad, and I would have, but," Elena looked around at the others, laughing as she held her hands up in the air to indicate how they had been chained, "well, I couldn't."

Elena gave an evil grin, and Eda heard a few others around the table taunt and tease her that she should not have messed with Elena's orgasms. "So, I decided that I was going to get even with you for that. And I did. I decided to terrify you. To give you either the best or the worst experience of your life. Or maybe both at the same time."

"In fact," Elena was relishing how she had intensified the game for Eda, "why don't you ask the men how startled they were when you started fighting with them as they led you to the pole?"

The Captain's face contorted and he instinctively closed his legs and moved his hands over them for protection. just remembering Eda's kick, although he had repaid it in kind. "Wait a second. There's no need to go into that, is there?" The laughter was now directed at the Captain. "You know, I was amazed," it was the Major who now spoke, "that you still had all that fight left in you. I was impressed. I thought that you were either incredibly strong and focused ... or that you just must absolutely love this stuff ... to respond that way after so many hours in the dungeon. Little did I know that it was really pure terror. Courtesy of my diabolical wife."

Eda finally asked what she had been wondering for a long time. "So where are Garcia and Mira?"

"Don't know." The Captain seemed to speak for everyone. "It's not like him to miss the ending. He usually enjoys those. Especially if he'd have known how real this one was going to look."

"When they said that they were leaving for the airport," the Captain continued, "I thought that was just part of the game, and that they were going to watch the rest from the projection room. But they really did fly off somewhere. I don't think anyone's seen them since." Those around the table shook their heads. "Diego, care to divulge anything you're not supposed to divulge?" Diego just smiled and continued clearing dishes off the table. One didn't last as long as Diego had as Garcia's servant for all purposes by lacking the ability to protect any information that his employer did not want disclosed.

Eda couldn't wait to tell Mira about all the excitement that had happened after Mira had left. Eda felt sorry for her. Missing what she had wanted. And instead being forced to have who knows how many goes with the paunchy Garcia, which she probably did not relish. Because no matter what Elena had suggested, and no matter what Eda herself may have thought during the time that her mind was pin-balling from one frightening thought to another, Eda knew that Mira had not betrayed her. No, Mira had helped her experience a night that she would remember forever.


[PART 2]

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