"Good morning, boss," Loren said as she entered the performance hall.
Barry Jones, known to the public as The Great Zordac looked up at his assistant and smiled. "Good morning, yourself," he replied. "Ready for a busy day?"
Loren sat the two cups of coffee she'd brought with her on a nearby trunk. "You bet," she beamed. "That's why I brought us a caffeine booster. "Large black coffee with a shot of espresso, just as you like it."
"You're the best," replied Barry. "Anyway, I was wondering if you'd be willing to try something out for me."
"Sure, what's up?" asked Loren.
"I can tell the crowd is getting a bit underwhelmed with the current escape artist routine, so I was designing a new trick, but I need to make sure it can't be detected."
Loren nodded. "Makes sense. What do you need from me?"
Barry held up a straitjacket. "I've got this straitjacket rigged up with a release built into the right sleeve, but I'm not sure if it'll be visible when I'm engaging it."
"So you want me to just watch it while you try it out?" asked Loren.
Barry shook his head. "Not exactly," he replied. "I was wondering if I could get you to do the honors so I can watch it since I know precisely where to look."
Loren was taken aback. "Me?" she stammered. "I don't know the first thing about escapology."
"It's not so difficult," answered Barry. "Inside the right sleeve there's a hook which disengages the buckle connecting the arms. Once I get you cinched up, just pull the release, so I can see how it looks from the viewers' point of view."
Loren shrugged. "Well... okay."
"Relax, I'll guide you through it," said Barry, opening the straitjacket. "Hold your arms straight out."
Loren held her arms out in front of her, and Barry pushed the straitjacket over Loren's arms and torso. He walked behind her to fasten the buckles at the back, and then he reached underneath Loren to connect the crotchstrap.
"Do you have to connect everything?" Loren questioned.
"It doesn't hook up properly unless everything is buckled," replied Barry, pulling the crotchstrap snug. He walked around to Loren's front. "Not too tight, is it?" he asked.
"I guess not," answered Loren. "I'm just not used to being on this end of the trick."
"You're doing fine," said Barry. "Now for the last part..."
Barry took the ends of the sleeves and passed them through a loop on the front of the straightjacket, and then walked behind Loren and pulled the sleeves tightly behind her back and fastened the final buckle.
"And that's it," he replied. "How do you feel?"
"Like I'm in a cocoon," answered Loren, wriggling her hands around. "So where's this release switch, because I'm not feeling it."
Barry's smile dropped. "There isn't one, you dumb cunt," he replied in a dark monotone.
"What?!" gasped Loren, her mouth agape.
"Drop the act, Loren," said Barry, "if that's even your real name. I know you've been snooping around the books trying to find out where all the money is coming from and where it's going. So tell me, are you local or federal?"
Loren, realizing her cover was blown, began to stammer, "W-W-What are you talking about?"
Barry sighed. "I don't know why I even bothered asking. When Sergio's boys get here, I'll let him get the answers out of you."
Her mind racing, Loren shot her leg out and smashed her foot into Barry's groin. As he bent over in pain, Loren darted toward the back of the hall. Without the use of her arms, she couldn't run as fast as she wanted, and darting through the doorways slowed her down.
Just as she reached the exit and was about to press the latch to escape outside, she was yanked backward as Barry grabbed the straps on the back of the straitjacket.
Loren kicked and screamed as Barry dragged her back into the rear of the hall. At this time of day, however, there was likely no one outside to hear her cries.
Barry dropped her and took a rag and roll of duct tape off a nearby cabinet. "That little stunt just cost you," he muttered as he knelt down and straddled Loren's body.
Loren grunted as Barry shoved the wadded-up rag in her mouth. Her groans turned to whines as Barry wrapped the tape over her stuffed mouth and around her head several times, sealing in her cries.
Barry shifted backward and wrapped Loren's thighs in a few loops of tape. He repeated the process at her knees and ankles, and in moments, Loren was reduced to a silent, squirming mass.
Barry stood up and stared at Loren's prostrate form. "That should keep you out of trouble until Sergio gets here. Let's see if you learned anything as my assistant."
As he walked away, Loren pulled and tugged at her tape and canvas prison, but the bonds held fast. No one at the bureau was expecting her to check in until late this evening, and even if she missed one check-in, they wouldn't get concerned before tomorrow.
Loren heard Barry tell Sergio he'd see him in an hour. Tears began rolling down her eyes as she continued her struggles.