Ensign has that stately-yet-rumpled look I've always admired: wavy hair all on end, wrinkled linen shirt, soft tan drawstring pants, leather sandals which bend with his feet. A man so naturally alert he may allow himself a little laziness in dress. His clothes do not appear to have seams, or the stitches are microscopic, or they are a part of his body, the natural external expression of his calm and easy focus. He has a gentle face and a natural laugh. Still, he is going to kill us soon.

We were tricked into coming up to his penthouse. I was among the last to arrive; I met the twins in the lobby and we went up together. They chattered and gawked at the chandeliers, I tried not to speak.

As soon as we step into Ensign's chambers the locks click behind us and the game is on. The others are huddled together against the wall, as frightened people will do.

The blonde blurts, You won't get away with this. No one actually laughs, but she has the sense to look ashamed about it. Ensign says, It is so kind of you to be concerned about my alibi. No need. That door is fitted with sensors which scanned you as you entered, reading and recording the numbers of any credit cards you carry. He glances at a screen embedded in his desk. Hmm. Eliza Roberts, one student-limit Visa, expires next week, looks like I made it just in time.

He tilts back in his buttered-leather chair; it gives a slight, expensively decorative creak. To all appearances you are downstairs, all of you, in the restaurant and casino, spending money with your cards. Liza, right now you are - he taps the blue screen - enjoying too many glasses of merlot in the ampitheatre annex. A crude tactic, to be sure, but we're under a time constraint tonight, and you'd be amazed how well sales records stand up in court.

We get to business, which is Ensign describing what's in store for us. He has planned out our individual deaths, tailored to our personalities, keeping in mind what we are each most afraid of. He speaks at great length about how we will be converted into pieces of meat or simply smashed. Most of the fourteen are weeping, shaking, what you'd expect. I have just gone cold (it's easy) and I am sorting the mail on the end table. I rip the letters open and read them. It appears Ensign is a famous and much-loved author.

Sounds in this room: Ensign's soothing voice, sobs, me ripping envelopes. Ensign does not like it when I interrupt his death talk to tell him what he has received in the mail. One envelope addressed in pencil to "Ensing, Sir," big childish scrawl, has chocolates in it, which have melted all over the letter.

It is almost time to begin, he says. Who's first? I will gladly take volunteers.

One of the twins breaks for the window and no one stops her. She is gone without a scream, 40 floors till her end. When the others see this is an immediate option which does not involve dismemberment, they take it. Ensign murmurs to the hesitant that they will be dead long before they hit the ground. They nod and shuffle out into the air.

The last girl but me stands on the sill, facing in. I can see the skyline behind her, it's nice from up here. Will my father be there, she whispers. Probably not, says Ensign, distracted with paperwork.

Good, she sighs, and smiles, and tumbles back.

All right, good good, says Ensign. So much easier when they do it themselves. Now, one more. He smiles at me, his lips are well-tended, calm, beautiful.

When the bodyguard comes after me, I do not run, as there is nowhere to go. I do scream, but it does not connote Help but Get Away Mother Fuck. Screamed up into the massive bodyguard's face, two feet up from mine. A pitiful offensive move, but it is what I have left. I keep my eyes open through this brief animal burst, I do not shut my eyes when it is over. My breath is rough. I am so fucking angry.

Very well then, you're the one, says Ensign, behind me. He clicks the locks on a briefcase, he hands me a ring with two little gold keys, small but very heavy. They are shaped like square celtic knots and I know better than to look at them too long, they would melt and change and win a power over me, and we are not having that. Ensign says, They go to the roof of the car, you'll see. Meet me there.

We hurry down the stairs together. There is a snag in the carpet which might have tripped me before, but within this adrenaline, every movement is a glide. We are royalty, heads up. Downstairs I signal the maitre d', who rushes over, but not for me. He wants to trade private jokes with Ensign in a simpering deferential manner that proves the rumors of Ensign's ridiculously generous tipping.

My dear man. It is the lady who needs your assistance, not I. Ensign pats the disappointed maitre d' on the shoulder and sweeps away through the gilt doors. I twinkle the keys at this portly, gaping man and he is transfixed. I'll be needing the car, I say.

Oh - I do regret - I can't bring it to you - the keys know what hands hold them and they wouldn't allow me - plus the car is in a . . . location -   I interrupt, I'll come with you, then, you will take me there. He is relieved and grateful that I have seen the solution. Yes, yes, straightaway. He offers me his arm, I raise an eyebrow and stride ahead.

When Ensign shows up, I am behind the wheel thrumming the motor and smoking a silver cigarette. Get in, I say, and he does, and kisses me. I break it to say, If we do this I am going to need some decent clothes. I'll drive.

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