She half-turned and stepped aside so that Ben and I could be seen clearly. Harriet whipped the cape off Ben, showing that he too was bound a la guillotine. The audience were delighted.
Ben walked forward.
"I would like to thank Sylvia, Ruth and Harriet, and the other members of the costume groups we belong to, for their support and encouragement."
Whatever he was about to say was interrupted. Harriet and Ruth gagged both of us. The audience laughed again. This time Harriet said:
"It was a joint production but I thought that the maidservants should have the last word."
Harriet and Ruth hustled us off-stage. Bound as we were, we couldn't resist.
All that had been rehearsed. But off-stage, the zentai-clad female devils grabbed us. Two pairs bound and gagged Harriet and Ruth and carried them off, two each pulling us along to follow. We went down to the basement. Ben thought that was carrying the joke too far and started to struggle. Three of the devils left us women and held him tighter.
We went into the museum with the guillotine. I watched helplessly as Ben was pushed onto a chair and held there. Harriet and Ruth were tied to pillars. Four devils grabbed me and lifted me to the bed of the guillotine. I lashed out with my legs before they strapped me down, face up, looking straight at the poised blade.. I shook my head violently as one of the devils swung the demi-lune across my neck and clamped it in place.
I was really frightened. Not only was I completely helpless but that guillotine blade was a real threat. The demi-lune was cutting into my throat. Although my gag was loose, only looking effective, it was impeding my breathing and the constriction around my throat was painful. I panted through my nose. A hand grabbed the ends of the scarf gagging me and tightened it cruelly. I couldn't breathe through my mouth and I was panicking. Surely they didn't mean to decapitate me? The devils hadn't said a word since they attacked us.
I heard Ben struggling, rattling the chair against the floor. Then I was delighted to hear his voice.
"You stupid bitches!" he shouted. "Can't you see she can't breathe?"
His face appeared above mine, thrust between me and the blade. He unclamped the demi-lune and ripped it from the guillotine. I shrieked uselessly into my gag as I heard the trip of the blade's release. Ben's head and mine were under that blade. Ben didn't seem to care. He unwound my gag, unstrapped my body and ripped off my fichu, tearing the loops on the gloves in his hurry.
He came around the machine and lifted me into his arms.
"The blade," I croaked, "Why didn't the blade fall?"
"It couldn't," Ben replied with a laugh. "It is screwed in place, the grooves it should run in aren't there, and the edge is plastic."
He put his fingertip on the glittering edge and moved it along. He showed me the unmarked finger.
We untied Harriet and Ruth from their pillars. The zentai clad devils had gone. We never did find out who they were. Our most charitable assumption was that it was a joke that went wrong; that they knew the guillotine couldn't be operated; but they had forgotten that the demi-lune could strangle me.
Or had someone really tried to murder me? I'll never know.
I don't care. Ben and I are living together again and the twins will be born soon.