Reversal of Fortune

by Jack Peacock

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© Placed in public domain by author - Jack Peacock

Storycodes: F+/m; mpov; prison; bond; kidnap; cuffs; electro; cage; torment; punish; trick; revenge; torture; nc; XXX

Continues from


“On your knees!” Edith snapped at me. Slowly I struggled to get my legs under me so I could obey her order. As usual my hands were cuffed behind my back, with a waist chain to keep them in place. I was forced to sleep like that every night after I foolishly directed an unflattering remark toward one of the guards. She didn’t appreciate it and found a most uncomfortable way to demonstrate her displeasure.

At least they let me kneel on my sleeping pad. The bare concrete floor was murder on my knees. I was surrounded by several guards, all women, and every one of them with those electric prods pointed at me. I’d felt their bite too many times to make trouble, but they didn’t take any chances even though I was powerless with my bound hands.

One of the guards put away her prod long enough to reach down behind me in order to fasten the irons on my ankles. In some ways they were worse than the handcuffs. There was a heavy manacle that locked snugly on each ankle, with a short, solid bar linking them together. I could sit, kneel or stand and that was about it. Walking was impossible with the rigid bar preventing any back and forth movement.

“I trust you slept well? Your lawyer complained we were treating you poorly. That’s not true, is it?” Edith used her prod to lift up my chin.

“I slept well, ma’am,” I replied, trying to hold back my anger at being forced to sleep on my stomach all night. Sally, my Advocate as she called herself, was the only person in this place that didn’t show disgust at the sight of me. Unfortunately she wasn’t around to hold back Edith, who lived for the moments when she could inflict some new variation of the endless misery that had come to represent my life from the moment I first woke up here.

“We’re supposed to see to it you get three meals a day. This morning we have some nice buttered oatmeal for you. Eat as much as you like. You need to keep up your strength.”

She turned to pick up a large bowl from the cart outside the cell door. “Here you go. There’s plenty more; all you have to do is ask.”

They provided very little food or drink so I was famished. The aroma of hot oatmeal made my stomach rumble. Edith knelt down in front of me, a spoon in her hand and the bowl in the other. “Naturally we have to observe security precautions, so I can’t free your hands. Open wide.” She scooped up a spoonful of the porridge. 

It was humiliating, being fed like a baby but I had no other options. Hunger overruled pride; I opened my mouth. Edith suddenly dropped the spoon and poured out the oatmeal over my head. Some of the porridge ran down my face; I used my tongue to lick the traces running close to my mouth.

“Pretty good, isn’t it?” Edith enquired in a pleasant voice. It didn’t fool me. “There’s another bowl, if you ask nicely.”

“Please, ma’am, may I have another bowl?” I nearly choked on every word but an empty stomach makes one do what is otherwise intolerable.

Edith came back with another bowl, also full of oatmeal. “I’m sorry for spilling that last bowl. I’m so clumsy.” She set down the bowl in front of me. Whenever Edith apologized it invariably meant something worse was on the way.

Suddenly one of the guards behind me painfully grabbed my hair and shoved my head down, face first into the bowl. “Bon appétit,” Edith laughed.

Maybe I had to eat like a dog from a feeding dish but I didn’t care. While I had the opportunity I grabbed large mouthfuls, swallowing as fast as I could. Every time I looked up there were Edith’s high heeled, black leather boots, inches away from my face.

“When he finishes, hose him off as best you can. His Advocate scheduled a meeting later today.” That was directed toward the other guards. Edith took a step back and crouched down to speak to me. “Be sure to tell her you have no grievances about how we take such good care of you. Your friend Sally won’t be with you every minute of the day, and night. We will remember that.” 

I got the message. Sally couldn’t protect me if she wasn’t around. For now Edith held all the power, but I promised myself a day would come when the chains came off. Then she and I will have a very different type of conversation.


“After all that he must hate the sight of you,” Sally joked. She and Edith were working out how to proceed with the upcoming trial. It was all a carefully scripted deception, though he didn’t know that.

“I’m sure he’d wring my neck, if he got the opportunity. I can tell he’s bottling up all that anger inside. Much as he’d like to get to me, he’s also scared of what I can do to him. You can see on the video how he cringes when I walk in the room.” Edith picked up a sheet of paper. “He’s got to be close to the breaking point. We’ve followed your script to the letter. Everyone knows your reputation, Sally, and appreciates how effective your strategy is when properly applied. I almost feel sorry for this guy.”

Almost, that was the key word. Edith had a reputation of her own, the main reason Sally sought out her services for projects like this one. While Sally was focused on breaking down his ego, destroying his mental state, Edith relished any opportunity to inflict degradation and humiliation on men in general. Sally never asked why, in case it got in the way of their professional collaboration. Allowing emotions to cloud one’s judgment was always risky in Sally’s line of work. Revenge and justice were fine as motives for a potential client but had no place in how she laid out her scheme for the subject.

“Anyway, here’s the plan. I need to build up his hopes this trial will finally provide answers, so he’ll have some idea of those terrible crimes everyone but him knows about. These hopes have to revolve around my help,” Sally smiled at the term, her trademark, “when I save him from your especially brutal treatment over the next two days. I will be suitably outraged when I rescue him from your inexcusable conduct. I leave it to your discretion how you’ll make his life a living hell. That’s your area of expertise.”

Edith laughed out loud. “From the top of the mountain to the bottom of the canyon, I get it. Your client wants to crush his spirit. I’m looking forward to it.”

Sally knew all about Edith’s vicious streak. It’s what made her the type of specialist Sally needed for her own success in projects like this. The two of them often worked together, though they would never be friends. There was the common ground of mutual respect, but it was the respect of two scorpions facing off against each other. If circumstances ever placed one of them at the mercy of the other, there would be no compassion offered or expected.

The Pit

“How’s our little worm doing tonight? Comfortable?” Edith’s voice grated on my nerves. No, I wasn’t comfortable at all, and she knew it. I was jammed into a tiny cage, just barely large enough to hold me. My wrists were cuffed together behind my back, with the connecting chain on the outside of the cage bars. My ankles were also bound together, held down by a length of chain through the bars at the other end. I was hunched over, knees under my chin, head forced down by the top of the cage. A large gag was stuck in my mouth, preventing me from answering her question.

The cage bars pressed in all around me. When I looked up Edith was standing there, a sinister smile on her face. “We’re going to give you the day off, so you can rest up before your trial starts. If you need anything, just speak up. We do our best to provide the highest level of hospitality to our valued guests.

I could see several guards standing behind Edith. All of them burst into laughter at her sick joke. Edith’s idea of hospitality had to come from the Spanish Inquisition.

“Do you meditate?” Edith asked innocently. “A good way to relax is to contemplate your inner soul, to get in touch with your subconscious. Though in your case, considering what you’ve done to so many women, maybe you’d rather not revisit old memories. The pictures of those children…” Edith trailed off.

What women, what children? I wanted to yell out at her, demanding an explanation. I kept hearing the innuendo, over and over, but never any details. I could see the expressions of revulsion on all the women facing me, yet I had no clue as to why they hated me.

“Okay, lower him down into the pit.” I heard a motor start up before I began to sink down into the floor. “I hope you rot in the innermost circle of hell for what you did. We’re going to give you a little taste of what awaits you.”

The cage dropped down until Edith and her group were out of sight. All I could see were the dull gray concrete walls sliding past. When the cage stopped I managed to turn my head to look up just in time to see some kind of cover slide over the top. I was plunged into darkness.

So this Pit was supposed to be a new kind of solitary confinement? Aside from the cramped conditions in the cage I wasn’t bothered with confined spaces or the darkness. Maybe Edith believed I was susceptible to claustrophobia? I could live with where I was if it meant she wasn’t subjecting me to something worse.

Lost Memories

More than once I struggled with the bonds on my wrists, hoping to gain some small bit of freedom. It was useless to try, and I soon gave up. My back ached and my legs were killing me from sitting in such a restricted space. I tried yelling through the gag, which proved to be an exercise in futility.

Maybe I wasn’t claustrophobic but solitary can affect anyone. I can’t say which is worse, the darkness or the silence. The only sounds were my breathing and the occasional clink of chain if I shifted in my bonds. The complete absence of light fueled my anxiety. What else was in store for me, in this Pit?

I had plenty of time to reflect on why I was here. Retribution for some imagined wrong? Or maybe vengeance for that unknown yet obviously horrific act I committed? If I were really guilty, why couldn’t I remember the details behind the accusations?

Could it be a case of mistaken identity? It would explain why I had no idea of what the supposedly unspeakable crimes actually were. Sally, the Prosecutor, Edith, even the other guards all claimed to have seen the pictures, clear proof of my evil nature. I banged my head against my knees. Everyone was positive I was guilty, so why couldn’t I remember?

Eventually I had to face one conclusion that I didn’t want to face. What if it was all true and what I’d done was so sickening even I couldn’t live with it? Repressed memories, deliberately suppressed to protect my sanity, were a distinct possibility that fit all the facts. Could I be guilty? Edith’s last comment, about children, preyed on my mind. Was I some kind of monster, trying in vain to hide behind a façade of amnesia?

No, I told myself; don’t let them get to you. You did nothing wrong. That’s what I wanted to believe, yet doubts kept creeping in. If only I could get some sleep, have time to think clearly, instead of constantly being subjected to abuse. How long would I have to sit in this cage, buried in what they called the Pit? My body was a mass of aches and pains due to the stress of being confined and unable to move. I was dead tired but couldn’t fall asleep. Why, why were they doing this to me?

The Creepy Crawlies

No matter how bad it seems, there’s always that one more step we never see coming. As miserable as I was, sheer exhaustion was still lulling me to sleep when my eyes snapped open in horror. Something was crawling up my leg.

Without thinking I tried to smash whatever it was against the bars of the cage. I felt the satisfying crunch but my relief was short-lived. This time something was on my back. I tried the same maneuver but my arms got in the way. Whatever it was, I couldn't shake it off.

We all have irrational fears. For some it’s falling off a cliff, or being trapped in an elevator. Confinement didn’t bother me, or I’d already be in some psychotic state from the length of time spent in this hole. My worst nightmare was waking up in bed, in the dark, with cockroaches crawling all over me, under the blankets.

I can still point to the day when it began. I was seven years old, a normal kid in every respect, and was lucky enough to have my own room. Bedtime my mother tucked me in as usual while my dad stood in the doorway. Lights out and before long I was fast asleep. Sometime later I woke unexpectedly.

I felt the creepy crawly making its way across my waist. Those tiny legs were a nightmare come true. My screams were loud enough to wake the dead. In a flash I was out of the bed and huddled in a corner of the room, shaking uncontrollably. My dad burst in first, followed by my mother. The lights came on and I saw it, some kind of insect twitching on the sheets. My dad scooped it up in one of his huge hands while my mother knelt down next to me, trying to calm me down. I saw the light from the bathroom door come on, followed by the flush of the toilet. The monster was vanquished but it did little to help me. It took a week before I could force myself to sleep in that bed again.

A second bug was on my left foot. My imagination ran away. Bugs were all around me in the dark, their antennae swinging back and forth, looking for me. Even over the sounds of my screaming into the gag I could hear the rustle of their tiny legs scurrying across the floor. They were coming for me.

In a panic I lost all control. I was thrashing around, desperately trying to escape my bonds and the cage, yet I wasn’t aware of the bruising. There was only one thought in my head, and that was to get to my corner, where I’d be safe.

The cover over my head slid back, letting in the overhead light. That only made it worse, because now I could see them. The platform I was on began to rise, not that I cared. They were everywhere, in the cage, on me and I had no way to get out.

The next thing I knew the cuffs were off my wrists and my ankles, though still bound together, were no longer fastened to the cage floor. Two of the guards were dragging me out of the cage, feet first. The moment I was clear my only goal was to reach a corner of the room. I’d be safe there.

“Watch it, his hands are free.” That came from one of the guards. It didn’t register in my head. I was too busy pulling myself toward that corner. My legs weren’t working too well but I didn’t care. The moment I reached my goal I curled up in a huddle, arms over my head, trying to hide.

An insect crawled out of the cage I had just vacated. I screamed again, even though still gagged. Edith quickly crushed it with her boot heel. I turned away, burying my head between the two walls.

“Careful, Edith,” one of the guards warned. Two other guards had their prods out. Edith waved them back.

I was crying, shaking uncontrollably from fear. Edith reached behind my head, undid the clasp holding the gag in place and pulled it off my head. “Please, please,” I begged. “Keep them away.”

‘Get me a blanket,” Edith ordered. “Don’t worry; he’s in no shape to be any kind of threat.”

One of the guards disappeared, and then quickly returned with a blanket. Edith unfolded it, shaking it out so I could see it was bug free. She wrapped it around my shoulders.

“C’mon, let’s leave him alone for a while. There’s nothing more we can do for now.” Edith stood up and headed for the hallway.

The last guard out shut the cell door, locking it to keep me secured inside. “Will he recover? I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Edith shook her head. “Time will tell. Extreme phobia, if we’d left him down in the Pit much longer he’d probably be in a coma by now. It’s rare to see this level of reaction in men. Roaches make my skin crawl too; but him, I don’t know. Maybe there was some kind of childhood trauma. Pass the word, no more creepy-crawly treatment. Make sure his cell is insect-free too.”

Morning After

I woke up in what I now thought of as my cell. This morning was a bit unusual. I wasn’t chained to the wall, nor was I wearing any kind of restraint. It was a rare luxury to be free of handcuffs.

For the first time ever I was covered in a real, full-size blanket instead of the sheet they usually let me use. In a way it bothered me, though I wasn’t complaining. Anytime Edith or the guards were nice to me it was only a setup for some particularly nasty unpleasantness planned for later.

Two guards appeared at the bars. “Stay where you are. We brought you something to eat.” For once I was happy to follow their order. I watched while one unlocked the door while the other slid in a tray on the floor. They wasted no time in locking the cell door again.

I waited until they walked off before making a quick dash for my breakfast. I dragged the tray back to my little nest, wrapped the blanket around me again, and started eating. Instead of the usual tasteless oatmeal it was scrambled eggs and toast, and a Styrofoam cup of real, hot coffee.

While I ate my thoughts returned to last night and the Pit. The last I remembered, I’d been trapped in that cage when the things started swarming all over me. After that it was a blank. One fact I was sure of: Edith and the guards now were in possession of my innermost secret, one I’d never revealed to anyone. Even Superman had to live with his weakness to kryptonite; how would they use my phobia against me the next time?

Another episode in the cage, down in that Pit, would break me, perhaps permanently. I’d fight with every ounce of strength I could muster, yet I knew in the end I couldn’t prevent them from forcing me back in that cage. That frightened me almost as much as what awaited me in the darkness below.

“Sally heard about what happened. Are you alright? Can Sally help?” I looked up to see Sally standing on the other side of the bars. For once she wore a simple flower print dress instead of the tailored business suit common in her profession. She reminded me of a teenage farm girl.

I was acutely conscious of my naked state under the blanket. The women who acted as my guards, especially Edith, delighted in restraining me in ways to accentuate my lack of clothing. I’d grown used to it, yet when I saw Sally my first thought was to cover myself.

“I’m okay,” I told her. “Please, Sally, don’t let them put me in that hole again.” I was begging her, but I couldn’t help it. “I’ll do anything, confess if that’s what it takes; just keep me out of there!”

“It’s good that you want to confess to what you did, but Sally has already entered a Not Guilty plea. The judge won’t allow a change this late. Sally came to inform you the trial starts tomorrow. The judge would throw out a confession on the grounds it was made under duress.”

Duress? What about all I’d been subjected to by Edith and her friends? Was that normal treatment for prisoners in here? I bit my tongue to hold back an outburst of indignant anger. It wasn’t Sally’s fault. She’d done so much to help me already. I couldn’t afford to alienate my one ally.

So tomorrow I’d finally learn what all this was about. The constant insinuation regarding my terrible crimes, the hints I’d abused children, all that evidence would come to light. It was so frustrating, trying to defend myself against biased assumptions, without any idea what was behind it all. Now the Prosecutor would have to deliver something tangible, fabrications I could dispute and prove to be false. Sally would speak up for me. After all, isn’t that what a lawyer is supposed to do?

In The Corridor

Out of earshot of the cells Edith caught up with Sally. The panic attack last night had been unexpected. Edith needed to know how it would affect their plans.

“Sally? What about this phobia? No one saw it coming. We did get him out of there the minute we realized we’d run into a problem.”

Sally shook her head. “Don’t be concerned. This may actually work to our advantage. If you can leak that I’ve intervened on his behalf, to keep you from using the Pit again, it will increase his trust in me. Make sure he’s uncomfortable, but otherwise go easy on him today. He’ll be preoccupied with the trial tomorrow. I want him to focus on it, to build the anticipation he’ll be vindicated when he’s able to answer the charges.”

Edith laughed. “So, he doesn’t know about how we’re going to conduct the trial?”

Sally grinned, an image that would send chills down the back of anyone who knew her. “Thanks to my efforts he has a slim hope it won’t be one of those show trials, a kangaroo court. I promised him a vigorous defense, which I’ll deliver, word for word as it’s written in the script.”

“I love it! I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. Thanks for including me on your project, Sally. Y’know, I’d even consider a discount if you can find another one like this.”

“Not necessary, it’s the client who’s paying. When I need an expert I hire the best. You’re always at the top of my list, Edith.”

Beast of Burden

I was really out in the sunlight, for the first time in what, weeks, months? I’d lost track of time. This was supposed to be an “exercise period”, according to Edith. Given her history I doubted that was the reason I was here, but the sun on my face felt so good I didn’t worry about what her ulterior motive might be.

“Sally can keep you out of the Pit, but I still get to decide when you need a workout.” So Sally turned out to be my savior. It made sense. Edith would have left me in that horror until my mind was gone. I bet she laughed while I was down there screaming. Edith’s idea of a workout was sure to be bad news, but compared to another visit to the Pit I’d take the workout any day.

As usual the guards had loaded me down with enough heavy metal hardware to guarantee I was no threat to anybody. Wide shackles encircled my ankles, with what had to be a heavy duty logging chain connecting them together. I could walk after a fashion, though it was more of a slow hobble. There were matching manacles on my wrists, but this time connected with a solid bar so I couldn’t quite touch my fingers. A chain ran from the center of the bar to a belt around my waist, sharply restricting the use of my hands.

The courtyard wasn’t large, and the high walls on all four sides cut off any view of the outside world. Still, it was fresh air and a warm, bright sun. Instead of the usual concrete I could curl my toes in the warm sand.

“Over here,” my guard ordered, jerking me to one side with a tug on my arm. She led me to a stack of what looked like four oversize bowling balls, with a steel ring sticking out the top of each one. I dutifully lumbered over to the nearby corner, stopping in front of the first one. Before I could say anything she clicked one side of a pair of handcuffs around my wrist bar before yanking down my hands. The other end of the cuffs went through the ring of the nearest ball.

“Your exercise is to carry these over to the far corner.” She pointed to the spot furthest away from me, across the sand. “Take your time, we have all day. I’ll wait for you on the other side.” She strode off across the courtyard, much faster than I could manage.

When I tried to stand up I discovered they weren’t bowling balls. They were made of iron and had to weigh at least forty pounds each. If she expected me to pick it up and carry it all the way over to where she was sitting down in a folding chair, well, that wasn’t happening.

I was bent over, hands stuck between the ball and the chain linking my wrists to my waist. My hands were too far apart to get a good grip on the ring or the handcuff, and there was no way I was going to carry it one-handed. How did she expect me to move this thing?

Maybe I can drag it, I thought. I curled the fingers of one hand around the cuff attached to the ball, leaned back, and pulled with all my strength while taking a step back. It moved, so I kept going. Instead of getting easier I was struggling to make any progress after five steps. That’s when I discovered the iron ball wasn’t round. The base was a square iron plate that was digging into the sand.

I ran out of ideas. Irritated, I looked over at my guard. She was in a folding chair, leaning back against the wall, in the shade, scrolling on a phone and oblivious to my problem. What was I supposed to do? I jerked on the handcuff in frustration. I was stuck to this thing and had no way to move it. Was it just an excuse for the guards to practice on me with those prods, when I failed to obey to their satisfaction?

“Hey!” I yelled, trying to get the guard’s attention. “I can’t budge this thing with only one hand at a time. How am I supposed to drag it over there?”

She looked up at me, obviously irritated at the interruption. I watched while she reluctantly put away her phone and came toward me. This was a perfect excuse for them to do their worst, but there wasn’t a way I could stop it.

“Look,” I pleaded, “I need both hands to lift this thing up. I can’t drag it through the sand. Be reasonable, I’ll move it, I’m trying to cooperate, but I need a way to accomplish my task.” 

I waited, hunched over the dead weight, unable to stand up straight, while she circled around me, being careful to stay out of reach, even though I had no reach with my hands locked to the iron ball.

I could see she wasn’t at all happy with me. At one point she started to reach for her prod. In a panic I tried to back away. Being attached to a hefty boat anchor put a quick halt to my retreat.

Instead of jabbing me a few times she sighed and turned toward the exit.

“You’re lucky. We’re supposed to go easy on you today. Your Advocate got the judge to issue an order to ensure you’ll be in one piece for the courtroom tomorrow.” She disappeared through the doorway.

A moment later she returned, with what looked like a shortened broom handle. “Here, use this,” she ordered. I took it from her hand, unsure what I was supposed to do with a long stick.

“Slip it through the ring. It’s long enough you can grip it in both hands. Now, I want that ball moved to the corner right away. You’ve wasted too much time already.” With those words of encouragement she went back to her chair to wait for me.

It worked. With both hands I could lift up the iron ball and carry it forward. It was still awkward, having to lean over, plus I had to make my way through the sand. More than once I had to stop to rest, but I finally made it to the corner where my guard was waiting.

“Put it down next to the wall,” she ordered in a brusque tone of voice. One last time I lifted it to complete her command. Exhausted, I all but collapsed onto the sandy floor, kneeling in front of that cursed bowling ball from hell.

The exit door opened. When I looked my heart sank. In strode Edith, prod in hand.

“Release him from the ball immediately! We don’t want to be cruel.” Were my ears lying to me? Edith was demanding the other guard show me some compassion?

A turn of the key and the cuff fastened to the iron ball opened up. Free of my burden I leaned back against the wall.

Not My Problem

I sat there, back against the wall, legs stretched out, and hands in my lap. I wanted to stretch my arms too but the chain from my wrists to the belt around my waist wasn’t long enough to accommodate my wishes.

“Give him some water. We don’t want him to dehydrate.” Whenever Edith expressed concern for my welfare I really started to worry. She had some plan for me, and I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

The other guard handed me a small bottle of water with a straw in it. Dragging that ball across the sand, in the sun, had been hot, thirsty work. Eagerly I sucked on the straw, desperate for a relief to my thirst.

“That’s enough!” Edith knocked the half-empty bottle from my hand. With sad longing I watched the water trickle out into the sand.

Edith stood over me, at a safe distance, not that I could make a grab for her. “This won’t do,” she announced. “Show me you respect your betters.” She pointed to the ground in front of her. “On your knees, now! Face me, back straight, head down. Acknowledge my authority!”

That was the last thing I wanted but there were two of them, and they both had those electric pain sticks. From prior experience I was well aware they wouldn’t hesitate to leave me convulsing in agony if I didn’t obey Edith’s commands.

Reluctantly I struggled to my knees. Sitting back on my heels I straightened up and lowered my head in a submissive gesture. If not for the shackles I would have lunged at Edith, grabbed her prod and taken out the other guard. It was only wishful thinking. They were always careful to keep me restrained so I’d never have such an opportunity.

“That’s better. Weak little boys like you need some order and discipline from a real woman, don’t you?” I didn’t reply.

Edith stuck her prod into my chest. “Answer me, right now, in a respectful manner. Or you’ll regret the day you were born.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I forced out. It was all I could do to contain my rage.

“Yes, what? Get it right. What is it I’m right about?” She shouted at me.

I clenched my hands. If only I were free of these chains. “Yes, ma’am, I need discipline.” I choked on every word.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Edith turned to the other guard. “You see, when faced with a strong, dominant woman he turns into a scared little child. No backbone at all. I bet he shakes in fear when he sees his own shadow.” Both women started laughing. I didn’t find her comments so funny.

I saw Edith nod. Suddenly the other guard pushed me forward, face first into the sand with a foot in my back. Before I could react she grabbed the loose cuff dangling from the bar between my wrists. She jerked it down and under me, until she clicked it shut around the chain between my ankles. I couldn’t even stand now.

“Rest period is over.” Edith pointed to the other three iron balls across the courtyard. “I want all three of those things over here, right away. Get going, you have a lot of work left to do.”

And how was I supposed to accomplish that? “I can’t stand up like this,” I complained.

I howled in agony when the prod discharged into my leg. “That’s not my problem,” Edith calmly explained. “Start crawling.”

My Turn

So this was the big day, the one where I’d finally be allowed to defend myself. Maybe it was all rigged against me, but I wasn’t going to play along. I intended to go down fighting, in whatever way I could manage.

The courtroom wasn’t quite what I expected. There were the usual tables for prosecution and defense. The judge sat up on a dais, with a clerk to one side. Noticeably absent was a stenographer. Maybe no one wanted a record of what was about to happen.

Being the Defendant I was placed next to Sally. Not at the table though; instead I was placed in one of those old style wooden pillories. My neck and wrists were clamped into place with me in a kneeling position. My ankles were in stocks behind me, with a wooden rod across the backs of my knees. I was bent over, facing down on a sort of table, with a leather strap across my back to hold me in position. No effort was spared to make me uncomfortable.

“All rise,” one of the guards, acting as bailiff, announced. Everyone but me stood up. I would gladly have risen as well but Edith and her cohorts had seen to it I wasn’t going to do much moving around. She was sitting right behind me, where I couldn’t see her. If I acted up it was her job to get me under control. Once they had me in place she whispered some of the ways she planned to keep me quiet if I didn’t behave. I took her at her word.

“Be seated, court is in session.”

Sally reached over to lay a supportive hand on my shoulder. “Stay calm and let Sally do the talking. Don’t forget, Sally is here to help you.”

She kept saying she was helping me, but I had to wonder exactly what she’d done for my defense. Her infrequent visits were always vague on details, despite her constant reassurances.

“Sally, will I get a chance to testify?” I asked.

BANG, went the gavel in the judge’s hand. “You, is the Defendant in your custody?” She pointed the handle of the gavel at Edith.

Edith stood up. “Yes, your Honor.”

“Gag him.” When Sally started to protest the judge cut her off. “I know all about how you coddle criminals, Sally. It’s not going to happen in my courtroom. You’re the Advocate; you are the only one who speaks for the defense. I’m not interested in anything he has to say.”

Edith was already stuffing a gag in my mouth. I felt the straps go around and over my head. Great, how was I supposed to participate if I couldn’t talk to my lawyer? The judge’s last statement wasn’t exactly unbiased either. When I turned my head to look at Sally she wouldn’t meet my gaze.

“Madame Prosecutor, are you ready to open?”

“Request waiving of reading the charges?”

Sally started to object but once again the judge shut her up. “We all know why we’re here. No delaying tactics, Sally. I’m not going to get bogged down in procedural matters.”

I wanted to hear those charges. I felt like I was the only one in the room who didn’t know why I was on trial. I tried waving my hands to get Sally’s attention. There must be something she could do in order to have the charges read out loud.

I did attract the judge’s attention. She pointed her gavel at me. “There’ll be no theatrics. Guard?”

That was Edith’s cue to deliver a painful shock in my side from her prod. The intensity was turned down, but it still hurt. So much for any hope I might actually participate in my defense.

Sally leaned over and whispered to me. “Sally needs you to settle down. You aren’t helping. Trust Sally, she’ll see to it your side is heard. Sally will help you.”

I had little choice but to trust her now. The prosecution went first, which meant I’d discover if all this supposed evidence against me was real. I ought to be able to deduce the crime too. How that would help me remained to be determined.

I had no illusions about my ultimate fate. This trial was a joke, a sick parody I had to endure before they…what? That was the real question, what was to become of me? Why even bother to go through all this, if they planned on eliminating me?

The prosecution asked to introduce photographs of an explicit nature. Sally objected on the grounds they were prejudicial. The judge overruled her. “Evidence is by its nature prejudicial,” she announced

Then it got interesting. “Your Honor,” the Prosecutor began, “many of these photos contain images of witnesses. Those women agreed to appear in an anonymous capacity, as previously negotiated with the defense.” That was news to me. “We request the Defendant be denied access to the images lest anonymity be compromised.” That sounded like I wasn’t going to see the evidence after all.

Sally jumped in. “Defense argues the respondent has the right to confront his accusers, even if they are only pictures. We ask that all such evidence be made available to the Defendant.” Bravo for Sally, she was asserting my rights.

The judge, naturally, didn’t see it that way. “Protecting the witnesses is of utmost priority. The prosecution request is granted. Guard, blindfold the prisoner.”

Edith must have come prepared. The lights went out when she pulled a hood over my head. What else could go wrong?

The presentation of the pictures went on all morning. There were countless arguments over the content, all of which meant nothing to me since I had no idea what the pictures showed. Sally was doing her best to discredit the evidence, with little success. I expected the trial would be biased against me. Hearing it actually happen did not brighten my mood.

All morning I had to kneel in the pillory, listening to proceedings, unable to say one word about it. At the same time I was aware of Edith, sitting behind me, waiting like a vulture to pounce on my bones. Sally’s help didn’t seem to be accomplishing much either, though I had to give her credit for trying.

Lunch Break

“This is a good time for lunch break. Court will resume in two hours.” It sounded like even the judge was bored by it all. My mouth was sore and dry from the gag. I looked forward to a cold drink of water and some food.

I heard people walking away. I assumed Sally would update me on the trial’s progress but she must have left with everyone else. When Edith yanked off the hood the two of us were the only ones left in the courtroom.

Being released from the pillory was too much to hope for, though I was sure I’d be free of the gag for a while. Edith had other plans.

She crouched down in front of me. Grabbing my hair in one hand she yanked my head up to face her. “After lunch the prosecution is going to talk about the children.” She held up pictures of four teenage girls. “Take a good look. Did you know my sister was one of your victims? Maybe you forgot. I didn’t.”

There it was again. I’d never seen those photos before, or the girls. I could sense the hate, the thirst for revenge in her expression. If she took off the gag I might deny it, but it was obvious she wouldn’t believe me. Her sister? It explained why she singled me out for special treatment, even if I had nothing to do with whatever disgusting crime had been committed.

In a flash the clear plastic bag was over my head. Edith pulled it tight against my face, cutting off my air. I struggled in vain, trying to reach for the bag with my bound hands. I was close to passing out when she finally let go. I had to breathe in life-giving air through my nose due to the gag.

“That’s how Kathy felt, desperately struggling for air in her last moments. She was only 15. Isn’t much fun when you’re on the other end, is it?”

Waiting in the corridor outside Sally watched it all on her phone, monitoring the camera in the courtroom. Of course, there was no 15 year old victim. Those pictures were stock photos downloaded from a website. Edith’s sister Kathy was an accountant in San Diego, pursuing a successful career in corporate audits. Sally had worked the fictional version into the script to provide Edith with the motivation to torment the subject. It was time for her to come to the rescue.

Wrapping Up

I heard the door open behind me. Edith was just about to suffocate me again when Sally’s voice ended it.

“That’s enough, Edith! The judge wants a live Defendant. Lay off.”

Edith stood up to face Sally. “She wasn’t your sister.” For a moment I was afraid she’d continue but instead she pulled off the plastic bag.

Sally came around the table to confront Edith. “Take off his gag. I need to talk to him about the trial. I brought him a sandwich and a bottle of water for lunch.” I saw her drop the wrapped sandwich and water on the table.

Edith folded her arms, took one look at me, smiled with that evil grin I dreaded, and replied, “Sorry, Sally. The judge didn’t rescind her gag order. It stays in place. Stuff the sandwich up his nose.”

Sally leaned over to look at me. “Sally will go see the judge about the gag. I’m sure she doesn’t want you to starve.” She stood up and disappeared out of my sight.

After she’d gone Edith turned back to me. “I forgot, the judge didn’t mention the hood either.” Once again I was in darkness when she forced the dark leather hood over my head. “Shame to let your lunch go to waste.” I heard her unwrapping my sandwich.

So I knelt in my little prison, hungry and thirsty, all through lunch. Once Sally got her turn to refute the evidence I was sure this poor excuse for a court would be exposed as a fraud. Regardless of my future I’d have the satisfaction of proving it was all a pretense.

People began filing into the courtroom. “All rise,” and the trial resumed. The prosecution called the first witness. This might be interesting. Maybe I couldn’t see but I could still listen to the description of my illusory crimes.

What I didn’t expect was Sally's objection. “Defense will stipulate as to the veracity of events in all witness depositions.” What depositions? She had never mentioned them to me.

There was silence in the courtroom. Apparently the judge had been caught off guard too. “If that’s what you want? Very well, witnesses are excused. Madame Prosecutor?”

What else did they have on me? And did it matter? Justice was truly blind when it came to me facing my accusers. “That concludes our case, your Honor. Prosecution rests.”

Sally immediately asked for a summary dismissal, which was denied the moment she finished. “Defense may now present their case,” the judge ordered.

The moment I waited for! Now I’d see Sally in action, tearing the prosecution’s case to shreds.

“Defense contends the evidence is purely circumstantial. In no instance does the Defendant appear in the photographs, and none of the witness statements specifically identify him. We have no other exculpatory evidence to present. Defense rests.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. No defense at all? A hush fell over the room. I wasn’t the only one shocked by Sally’s move.

Finally the judge spoke up. “Court will resume at nine tomorrow morning. I’ll render my verdict at that time.” And that was it. My trial was over, except for the formality of finding me guilty.

After everyone left Edith pulled off my hood. Sally was nowhere to be seen. What could I say to her? Her help was no help at all. I was never going to leave this place alive. Worst of all, I still didn’t know why I was here in the first place.

The Verdict

“The judge is going to announce your verdict today,” Sally explained to me. “Sally is positive it will be good news! We presented a strong case for your defense. Remember, Sally promised she would help you.”

One sentence does not make for a strong case. After all that build up, her promises to help, the result was a letdown. I was no wiser about the reason for my kidnapping. The likelihood I would be rescued had evaporated into nothing. Nor was I going to be released by my captors. They had some plot in mind for me; I just didn’t know what it might be.

Maybe Sally was optimistic about the verdict but I wasn’t. This time I was on the floor between Sally and the Prosecutor tables, hogtied with my hands in a rigid cuff behind my back, and a larger version holding my ankles, linked together with a solid steel bar. A gag silenced me, with a hood thrown in for good measure so I couldn’t even see what was happening.

“I’m right behind you,” Edith had whispered in my ear when they dumped me in the courtroom. “You act up, the judge gave me permission to use any means necessary to keep you in line. Please, please, throw a tantrum and make my day.”

I felt Sally’s small hand on my shoulder. “Try to stay calm, no matter what the judge says. Sally is here for you.” She was trying to reassure me. For what reason, did she know the verdict already?

“All rise, court is in session.” I heard everyone else stand up. At the moment I wasn’t able to join them.

“After weighing the preponderance of the evidence submitted, I am, reluctantly, forced to render a Not Guilty verdict. I do so with the greatest regret. Defendant, this is not a finding of innocence, only insufficient legal proof. I’m sure no one in the courtroom has the slightest doubt about your guilt, but there are times the legal system is less than successful in rendering justice for the victims.”

I couldn’t believe what I heard. Not guilty? Did that mean it was all over?

“Did you hear it?” Sally asked excitedly. “That’s it, your imprisonment is over. You’ll be home in a few days, after the paperwork is completed.”

“I am ordering the Defendant to be declared persona non grata. Court Clerk will prepare an immediate deportation order. Until then Defendant will remain in custody until the Border Guard has arranged for transportation. Court is adjourned.”

Remain in custody, deportation, what was going on? I expected to be freed immediately.

“You may not be aware you were moved to another country,” Sally explained. I could hear people walking by as they left the room. “Sally can’t reveal where you are, but there are no diplomatic relations with America. The Border Guards will take you to a neighboring country where you can catch a flight back to the U.S. Persona non grata means you aren’t allowed in this country. The court order gives the government the right to hold you until you can be driven across the border.”

So they weren’t going to let me go, at least not immediately. I’d borne all their indignities this long; a few more days wouldn’t make a difference. The law was on my side now. For the first time since I’d been brought here I was hopeful about not only surviving but returning home to a normal life. After that, well, I was determined to pursue every possible avenue, government, the press, to shed some light on what had happened here. They would pay. The day would come when I’d be the one laughing while Edith was on trial.


I almost felt human again. It’s amazing what a long, hot shower, haircut and shave will do to lift the spirit. For the first time since I arrived I had clothes again. My old suit, the one I had on when they grabbed me, had been cleaned and pressed. I was still sore all over from Edith’s loving attention, but I’d survive. Nothing could spoil this day.

The Border guards were two large men in some kind of military uniform. The shoulder patch I didn’t recognize, except the writing appeared to be some kind of Arabic or Asian script. Although I protested that I had no intention of escaping, they were very insistent about handcuffing my hands behind my back, and of course that included a waist chain to ensure I didn’t try to slip my hands around front. A matching set of leg irons, with a short connecting chain, left me barely able to walk.

I wasn’t happy about it, though given my weakened condition and the obvious fitness of the guards I decided it was better not to resist. It would be an uncomfortable ride in the car, for however long it took to reach the border. Compared to what I’d already faced I thought it best not to risk being kept in this place one moment longer than needed.

I figured they were through when I was hooked up until Edith, of all the people I never wanted to see again, wheeled in the chair. I knew what it was, one of those maximum security, high risk prison restraint wheelchairs. They all but threw me into the fiberglass shell. I sat up to fit my arms into the cutouts in the back. There was an opening for my cuffed hands too. At least the cuffs wouldn’t dig into my back.

One guard pulled a wide nylon strap across my waist. The other pulled down two straps over my shoulders, pinning me to the chair. They finished off with a clamp over my ankles and more straps across my calves and thighs. I wasn’t going anywhere except where they chose to take me.

Edith leaned in close, nearly eyeball to eyeball. “The next time we meet I won’t be so nice to you. You think you had it rough in here? You have no idea what I’m capable of. I’m looking forward to showing you.”

“Screw you, Edith.” I was going home, and there was nothing more she could do to me. “If we ever do meet again, it will be me picking you out of a lineup.”

I saw her eyes narrow in anger. For a moment I was afraid she’d use that prod on me one last time, despite me being in the Border Guard’s custody. Instead she only smiled. “You have a good trip home.” That was out of character for her, which left me puzzled.

They wheeled me out to the back of a van. I went up a ramp and into the back, where the two men secured the chair to the bed of the van. One sat down facing me while the other one shut the rear door. A moment later we were on the move.

If I wasn’t strapped down I’d be jumping for joy. My luck had changed. Against all the odds I was leaving this place intact. Fortune had smiled on me, reversing a hopeless future into a day to celebrate.

“I don’t suppose you could loosen some of the straps? They’re kinda tight.” After I asked the guard just stared at me before saying something in a language I didn’t recognize. He didn’t speak English so we weren’t going to have much of a conversation on the way to the border. Resigned to an unpleasant trip I closed my eyes, dreaming of my first taste of freedom waiting for me once I was out of this country, wherever it was. They had to release me from this torture chair once I was out of their jurisdiction. I wouldn’t miss the handcuffs either.

It took a while but we eventually came to a stop. This had to be the border crossing. Finally I’d be free of the restraints. I was looking forward to the trip to the airport, preferably in the comfortable rear seat of a big SUV.

The guard took a card out of his shirt pocket, studied it, and pronounced with a thick accent, “We are border.” When I heard the back door open I tried to turn my head to see out but the sides of the chair blocked my sight.

My guard got up and walked past me. Why didn’t he undo me first? Maybe the driver carried the keys, as a security measure. That made sense, in case I somehow overpowered the guy in the back while thoroughly immobilized.

Someone did enter from the back door. The moment I got out of this van I’d raise both hands as high as I could and as far apart as possible. Then I’d walk to the car instead of shuffling along with a hobbled stumble.

The new guy was dressed in an all-black police uniform, including one of those military style berets. I caught sight of the shoulder patch, two crossed sabers and some unintelligible script underneath. It didn’t explain where I was. He sat down, facing me exactly like the last guy.

“Can I get out of this thing? Are we going directly to the airport?” Sure, I was in a hurry to get home or at least put some distance between me and this part of the world.

“No English,” my new companion announced. Great, I was still in the dark about what was going on. Then the back door slammed shut and the van started moving again. That wasn’t a good sign. “Hey,” I yelled. “Aren’t you going to release me? I’m no criminal.”

“No English,” the guard repeated. I tried to twist and turn in the chair straps, without much success. My new guard sat there, staring at me like I was some kind of idiot.

It looked like they were going to leave me trussed up until I boarded the plane. I didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. In frustration I balled my hands into fists and yanked on the handcuffs behind my back. Like every other time I tried the same maneuver the cuffs did not magically spring open.

After what felt like a day-long trip, but was likely closer to an hour, the van slowed to a stop. Finally, this must be the airport. If these new guards were as bad as the women I had to deal with they’d probably wait until the very last minute to release me. Since I was in a wheelchair they could take me right to the loading gate. No doubt they’d make a show of unhooking me in front of the other passengers just to embarrass me.

I heard the rattle of a garage door opening. The van backed into what must be a loading dock of some kind. Light flooded in when the back door opened. My guard leaned over to release the clamps on the chair. Someone else, I couldn’t see who, took hold of the handlebars and pulled me out of the van. I heard the click of boot heels on the concrete. It brought back bad memories.

When the chair spun around I saw the rear wall. There was a glass window, with another one of those uniformed guards sitting behind it. Next to him was a wide, solid metal door. I heard the buzz when an electric motor started up. The door slid sideways. This was not what I was expecting.

After we went through I heard the door shut behind me. We were in a bare room, nothing but grey concrete walls and one other door. Where was I? Was this some kind of high security waiting room for deportees? How much longer before I’d get out of this chair? My shoulders were killing me from being forced to hold my hands behind my back.

The far door opened. In came a short woman with a scarf over her head. Sally! I had no idea she would accompany me but it was a relief to see her. She’d straighten this out.

“Sally, thank god you’re here. Please, can you get them to release me? Trust me, the last thing I’m planning is an escape when I’m about to catch a plane home.” Everything would work out now she was here. She was my one bright, shining beacon of hope throughout this entire episode. I didn’t realize how much I’d come to rely on her until this moment.

Sally came over to stand in front of me. “Didn’t they tell you at the border?”

“Tell me what? No one spoke English. I asked for help but no one understood.”

She shook her head. “Sally is so sorry. It’s shameful no one explained what’s happened.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “What? What’s happened? I’m still being deported, aren’t I?”

I could see the sad expression on her face. “Yes, you were deported, to this country. What Sally didn’t know is that there’s a warrant for your arrest here too. Sally is very sorry she has to tell you there will be another trial. You will be held on remand at this prison until then.”

In a split second my world came crashing down. “No, no, no!” I yelled. “They can’t do this to me. I was found innocent of the charges!” I still didn’t know what those charges were.

Sally sighed. “It was a verdict of not guilty, insufficient evidence, not innocence. The courts here don’t recognize that kind of verdict. Sally truly regrets this reversal. It’s unfortunate, after what you went through the first time.”

That’s when I heard those boot heels behind me once again. There was something familiar…

“It’s so good to see you again.” There she was, Edith, now dressed in a woman’s version of that all-black uniform. “Because I took such good care of you before, I was asked to look after you again.” She leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Remember my promise?”

I lost it. Everything possible had gone wrong. Instead of an airplane seat I was looking at my worst nightmare, smiling at me with that malevolent grin. I turned to Sally, my last hope. Without her help I was in danger of losing my sanity.

“Please, Sally,” I begged her. “You’re all I have. Will you be my Advocate again? Can you keep Edith away from me? I don’t think I can survive another day with her in charge.”

Sally leaned over to look deep into my eyes. “Sally tried to help you, even though you never confessed your guilt. Sally can’t help you now. Sally is the Prosecutor in your case. This time Sally will make sure you will pay for what you did.”


Sally turned off the sound. “I trust you’re satisfied with the results?”

The man on the screen, in a straitjacket and strapped into a bed, was shouting incoherently. “You do good work. Yes, the contract is fulfilled. Your balance will be in your account within two business days.” Sally’s client nodded in approval. “No chance of a recovery?”

“Doubtful,” Sally replied. “There have been a few cases but those are rare. I’ll turn him over to you for disposal. I understand there’s a medical regime which can all but guarantee a permanent psychotic break. I have a contact if you need it.”

Sally never got involved with that end of the business. This had been an exceptionally delightful experience. When she looked into his eyes, and yanked away his last hope, she saw the lights go out. In what was left of his mind he lived in a never-ending nightmare, one entirely of her making. She had taken away his sanity, his ego, his personality in an instant. It had been a good day.


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