Tuesday, May 3, 2022


Disclaimer: The following story is a purely fictional account. Any relationship to any real person living or dead is coincidental. The narrative contains male-on-male bondage and restraint with sexual themes. It is intended for mature readers who wish to view such material, and for whom it is legal to do so.

The author is grateful to slavebladeboi, a reader and friend who agreed to review this story before publication, for the valuable help and insight he provided.

Copyright © 2022 by POW. For spam prevention, an animal name has been added to the author's e-mail address. Remove the animal name to get the actual address: POWauthor zebra at yahoo dot com. This story may be freely copied and distributed so long as it is copied in its entirety, unchanged, including the author credit information and disclaimer. Other POW stories are available at https://powauthor.blogspot.com. The author welcomes feedback.


Table Of Contents
  1. Ambush
  2. No Safety In Numbers
  3. Taking Control
  4. Bait
  5. Stymied
  6. Patience
  7. The Telluride Room
  8. Mister Mountain
  9. Kill Or Be Killed

1: Ambush

Assassin! The very sounds that make up the word are sinister. Those hissing s's evoke a stealthy cobra poised to strike; the "-in" at the end rings like a bell tolling the end of the line for the intended target. When you hear "assassin", you think of snipers lurking in hidden shadows, weapons poised and ready, waiting with infinite patience for an opportunity to take the shot. Or of sleek, black-clad infiltrators, slipping through darkness on silent feet past an array of alert but hopelessly outclassed guards, doing the deed with a flash of silver and a splash of blood, then sliding out just as silently, leaving the evidence to be discovered hours later. Or of poisoners, working their craft with subtle finesse, concealing the seemingly-innocuous result in the unsuspecting victim's food or wine or air and being miles away at the moment of consummation. Assassination is lethality made sexy, the fetishization of murder, it is the intersection where violence and grace tenuously overlap.

Those were the thoughts that consumed my attention in the hours before the strike, scenes of various assassination techniques turning over and over in my mind, one image leading to the next and then the next and then circling back again to begin the cycle anew. It kept me tense, on edge, which was both helpful and not. Helpful in that it kept my guard up and my senses keen and alert; not helpful in that it was too early. Too much adrenaline too soon. I was wasting cycles, needlessly churning through what-ifs that would never be relevant to my particular circumstances. Later I would want to draw on all my resources, and living on high alert prematurely would only leave me drained when the time came.

But it turned out all right. I hit a slump as expected, but early enough that I was able to ramp my edge back up, reaching peak alertness in the minutes leading up to my target's appearance. As the appointed hour drew near, my mind felt like it went into overdrive with events happening around me at what seemed to be 80% speed, not slow-motion enough to feel like the world was paused, but definitely enough that I felt like a god among mortals. I skimmed across the surface of reality like a seabird gliding above ocean waves, only the tips of my wings and toes dipping in and getting wet as I hugged the ever-changing contour. In my case the sea was one of bodies, not water, and I passed through the crowd of anonymous faces as just one more anonymous face myself, no more noteworthy than any other, breezing effortlessly between them, each one I passed oblivious to my presence.

I played a hunch, making a guess as to where my target would be when the time came. The minutes ticked down, then the seconds as I surveyed the throng with hyper-acute senses. I glided into a gap between a potted palm and a narrow table, my back to the wall to ensure that no one could surprise me from behind but with room to bolt left or right should that become necessary. I looked down at my phone as the moment neared. Three... two... one.

A face materialized on the tiny screen. I took a few seconds to memorize it, then toggled the view to the locator beacon that had been affixed to my quarry, a beacon that, now that it had been activated, would allow me to home in unerringly upon him wherever in the area he might be.

My hunch paid off. He now appeared on my map of the building, revealing him to be on this very floor, in this very same room as the tiny alcove I had selected for temporary shelter. Looking up, I scanned the faces I could see. No luck, but I did not expect to spot him on my first reconnaissance. Checking the map once more, I determined the general direction I would need to go, then moved swiftly but not in a manner that would attract attention. Not just yet. Ten seconds later I had found another temporary shelter and scanned the room once more.

There he was, perhaps a dozen steps away. A glance at the map confirmed it. He was a handsome fellow with sandy blond hair and a face that seemed to be smiling even when it wasn't. A warm, open face, the sort that inspires trust and friendship and goodwill on first acquaintance. He wasn't even trying to hide. There was no mask concealing his features, no recently-grown beard, not even a pair of sunglasses, as if he had no idea he might want to make himself difficult to identify. Some cynics might find such naivete worthy of scorn, believing that someone with such poor survival skills deserved to be ejected from this Darwinian world as early as possible. I, on the other hand, found it endearing. Charming. He was a visitor from a different, more civilized time and place. It was almost a shame to have to take such a man out, but I was not about to let sympathy for the victim slow me down, not for a moment.

I crossed the space that separated us, angling sideways so as to approach him from behind. He showed no sign of noticing me but kept laughing and chatting with the small group of men he was with. In the crowd, I was no different from any other random body; no one had any reason to suspect me of having any motive for being behind him other than to pass between his back and the back of the person in the next conversational knot.

I moved to pass by with him placed at my left shoulder, then casually swiveled to face toward him, as though I needed to turn sideways to fit through the gap. He was standing with hands at his hips, thumbs tucked into his belt loops. My brain was still buzzing with adrenaline, but my voice stayed calm and level. "Excuse me," I said.

Click, click. Smoothly, with well-practiced motions I got the manacles locked around his wrists, then yanked the ratcheting chain between them tighter. These custom-made cuffs are very handy for a surprise capture. The two wrist cuffs can be separated up to a little more than shoulder width apart at their maximum extent, allowing me to get one around each wrist simultaneously when the victim is standing as this one was. Then all it takes is a bit of pulling to shorten the connecting chain and bring the cuffs together. And of course, re-lengthening the chain requires a key.

The target started squirming the moment he figured out what was going on, but by then it was already too late. With every click of the ratchet, his hands were drawn closer and closer together behind his back, and though he bucked and spun in an attempt to stop me, he was at too much of a disadvantage. Some of his tugging actually helped me pull the connecting chain tighter. Within three seconds, his hands were hopelessly trapped behind him.

"... but I'm afraid your number has come up," I continued.

"Aw, dude! Seriously?" he protested. He yanked at his hands, once more, realized they weren't going anywhere, then looked at the ceiling and shook his head in disbelief. "You have got to be kidding me!"

By this point his friends had realized something unusual was going on and were starting to react. I heard a loud, descending-pitched "OOOOooooohhhhh!" and a "Damn, you got snagged!" and other calls that I didn't pay attention to. My still-hyper-aware mind was fully focused on my victim, who looked into my eyes (though all he would have seen were two black patches against an equally-black mask) and made one more feeble attempt to protest. "Come on, the game hasn't even started yet."

"Incorrect," I said. "The game started..." - I pulled my phone out and took a look at its screen - "...fifty-four seconds ago." This brought renewed catcalls from my victim's friends along the lines of how he had been taken down in less than a minute. I ignored them, but with the constant awareness that any of them - or any other man in this room - could have me as the target in his crosshairs. So far it seemed my effort to get the earliest possible start was working, but it would be best to get myself someplace less exposed, quickly.

"Now. Are you going to try to run? Or resist? I'd enjoy either. But I'd prefer that you come along quietly to someplace a little more private. Unless you'd rather we handle this right here in the lobby?"

The game is called Assassin; you may have heard of it in other contexts. It enjoys minor popularity on college campuses, for example, though the versions there usually involve "killing" fellow participants by touching them with a plastic spoon. Here at the Mountain Men Leather Festival in Denver, Colorado, the variation we play is a bit more NSFW.

For those who have never been to Mountain Men, I highly recommend it. Three days - Thursday night to Sunday night - of leather, men, bondage workshops, men, gear, steel, men, ropes, and oh yeah, men. It's held at the Stone Trace Hotel And Conference Center on the northern edge of the downtown core, and we basically commandeer the entire hotel for the duration. The official highlight of the event is the crowning of the year's Mister Mountain on Sunday night, but for all the lip service that attendees pay to the notions of "building community" and "upholding traditions" and "giving back", let's face it: most of us, we're here for the men. Oh, don't get me wrong: nobody's actively opposed to making the world a better place in general, and for people like us specifically, and we do appreciate the work that the organizers put into pulling the event together and making sure everything goes smoothly. It's just... do we really have to hammer the point home so much? I've head the phrase "building community" so many times now it just makes my eyes roll every time the words enter my ears. I think it's safe to say that most of us are mainly here to see people we don't often get to see and to make the most of the brief but intense time we'll have before the party breaks up as all parties inevitably must.

Most of the activities and layout and such are similar to what you would find at other leather conventions: there's a vendor exhibit hall in one of the larger meeting rooms and a puppy park, a rubber zone, and bootblack stations in various smaller ones. Several activities are scheduled throughout the weekend, like a pub crawl on opening night, a formal dance at the end featuring the newly-crowned Mister Mountain, and in between at least two dozen workshops and demos on topics ranging from "how to tie your very first knot" all the way up to, I dunno, "advanced breath control techniques for low-earth orbit" or some such.

I come here every year for just about anything and everything. In years past I had seen and heard about the Assassin games going on, but had never played before or even paid particularly close attention given all the other distractions that go on here. After last year, though, I was intrigued so I studied up on how it worked and learned that it was something I would probably both enjoy doing and be good at. So this year I signed up.

Before the event, anyone who wanted to play pre-registered online. For this particular variation, space is limited to a dozen people. At check-in time, I told the helpful gimp at the registration desk that I was one of the players. He took me aside into a small room, out of sight of the rest of the milling crowd, where he introduced me to the game manager who handled the Assassin-specific portion of the registration. I had already installed the necessary app on my phone. He gave me a code to enter into it. The app then assigned me my alias for the duration: Four O'Clock. The manager pulled out an ankle band, keyed the same code into it, and had me strap it on. He made a point of checking that the fit was comfortable but snug, then locked it in place. There are only two ways that band is going to come off my leg: either with a key that I don't have, or by destroying it.

The ankle bands are what make the game work. As soon as each one was activated, it started broadcasting its location to the hotel's wi-fi network. The game server verified that all twelve were up and running and then, at exactly 8:00 on Thursday evening, turned the player systems on. Each assassin got informed of who his target was at the same time and the game began.

As Four O'Clock, my target was the next man around the dial, Five O'Clock. It was his photo that appeared on my screen and his location that showed up on the interactive map that the app provided. My guess that Five would be hanging out in the lobby when the game began gave pretty good odds - it seemed like at least half the guys attending were either in the lobby getting ready to head out for the pub crawl or else checking out the vendor area just down the hall. A more prudent player might have avoided such public spaces... or else been ready to take advantage of them as I was.

Five O'Clock gave a dramatic sigh. "I'll come quietly," he said.

"Not too quietly, I hope," snickered one of his friends.

I led him off to one of the smaller conference rooms I had scoped out earlier. Two of the friends - acquaintances, maybe? - followed us in. The snickerer was one of them, and he took video as we went. I left the door ajar in case anyone else wanted to enjoy the show, but set myself up so that I never had my back to it for more than a second or two at a time.

I unfastened Five's belt and zipper, then helped him kick his pants off. Then I unbuttoned his shirt but left it on - it would have been awkward to try to remove it with his hands secured as they were, and releasing his wrists was not on my agenda. I sat him down in one of the well-cushioned office chairs and his friends helped me tie him up. (I set a towel on the chair first. Rule Number One of leather fests: DO NOT disrespect the housekeeping staff! These people have a crap job and they get paid crap wages to do it. They are not interested in our kinks, they derive no enjoyment from what brings us pleasure, and they are responsible for making the hotel presentable to civilians again once we're through with it. If you do anything to make their jobs harder, you only bring shame down upon your head and the kink gods will arrange to ruin your next orgasm.)

I spread Five's legs apart with his knees attached to the armrests and ankles attached to two of the five wheeled starfish-arm-style legs at the base. A few loops of rope around his chest kept him from leaning forward and then, just for grins, I looped another rope around his neck and the chair's headrest. As long as he sat upright he'd barely even know it was there, but if he tried to lean forward he'd choke himself. His hands stayed cuffed behind his back, held even more securely in place by the way they were pinned between the chair back and his body. I've been tied like that before. It's a helpless feeling.

Snickers spent more time recording than helping, which was fine. This was my assignment, after all, not his. The other guy, though... Simon, I learned as we worked... now he was an able assistant. I made a note to exchange contact info with him before we parted in case he wanted to play other games once this one was over. Five endured the binding with good grace, heckling Simon once for screwing up one of the leg ropes and having to undo it and start over again.

"Shall I gag him?" I asked Simon, mostly rhetorically.

"Oh, hell yeah," Simon agreed. Five did no more heckling after that. We acquired three more spectators over the course of the tiedown, and then it was time to get started. I brought out a pair of clover clamps and attached them to his very appealing nipples, then gave the connecting chain a tug to set the teeth. He winced but didn't make a sound.

Then I slapped a latex glove on my hand, squeezed some lube into it, and started working his dick. He had managed to keep it soft all throughout the binding stage. Some guys stiffen right up when the restraints start going on, others enjoy it in a sensual rather than sexual way. Five seemed to be of the latter sort. But a few minutes of squeezing his dick and toying with his balls while occasionally tugging on that nipple chain got him nice and hard.

Then it was just a matter of steady strokes and firm pressure. Soon enough he was taut like a bow string, his body straining against the ropes. I loved watching his biceps flex as he fought to find some sort of comfortable position for his arms to be in, but they weren't going anywhere. The effort did make the clover clamps bounce around nicely, though. He even managed to jangle the chain a couple of times with all his squirming.

When Five started getting close, I paused to turn my phone on and start recording. Video proof of an assassination is not required, but it's helpful to have in case there's any dispute. Snickers would have his own recording, but I didn't trust him nearly enough to rely on that. Simon offered to hold my phone for me, but I declined. I'm a paranoid fella, particularly when it comes to this game. I don't like people touching my gadget in general, and I like the idea even less now while I'm in the middle of the hunt. Simon seemed like a nice enough guy, but he could be a player himself for all I knew. No. He would not be touching my phone.

Instead I propped it up on a chair and aimed it at Five, who was still breathing heavily, cock pointing straight up into the air, desperate for the touch that would let it unleash its pent-up burden. I obliged it, zeroing in for the kill. A fresh dollop of lube for my fingers and soon enough he was clenching and spasming and then: jackpot. The cock in my hand pulsed and throbbed and spat out a hot, wet, creamy load of jizz all over his belly and waist while the onlookers cheered and applauded, attracting more attention from passersby in the hall. I kept going long enough to make him really start thrashing and shouting muffled four-letter words at me through the gag, then had mercy and stopped. Simon helped me untie him; the rest of the crowd, including Snickers, disappeared now that the show was over. Once free, Five shook sensation back into his hands, used the towel to wipe himself clean, then put his clothes back on.

I stashed all the gear, including the soiled towel, in my bag. Then I logged the kill on the app on my phone; Five did the same on his, confirming that I had captured him, tied him up, and extracted a load from him. The video evidence would not be necessary this time, it seemed. Nevertheless, I would enjoy replaying it later all the same. All in all, a very civilized kill. We even shook hands. Five asked if I would take the mask off so he could see my face. I declined, kindly, and we parted ways.

Elapsed time: forty-three minutes.

When we left the conference room, the lobby was much emptier than it had been. The pub crawl was underway. I pulled out my phone to check on my next victim's whereabouts, but he was not in the hotel and thus, presumably, out at one of the bars.

The rule is very strict: players must be in range of the hotel's network at all times. The only exception is if you leave the grounds to take part in official fest events, and the only official event that takes place elsewhere is the pub crawl at the very beginning. Now, nobody monitors the bar-hoppers to ensure that they all do only Officially Sanctioned drinking at Officially Sanctioned locales. You could technically go anywhere and do anything, so the net effect of the exception to the rule is that the game usually gets off to a slow start. It gives players a few hours of grace time to enjoy before constantly having to look over their shoulders, because once you're back on the grounds, there's no place to hide.

That seemed to have been Five's plan until I thwarted it. Before too long I saw him emerging from the registration area, leg presumably now freed of a burden he had no need to carry around any longer, heading out the door with Simon to go catch up with the rest of his buddies. And probably endure several rounds of teasing over his speedy ejection from the game. Poor guy... if he had gotten himself out the door a few minutes earlier, he would have been safe for a few hours. Them's the breaks.

Ah, but he'd be fine. With his big aw-shucks grin and laid-back temperament, he would take the ribbing in good grace and be none the worse for it. I couldn't have killed a better first victim.

At that point I felt myself beginning to crash. Spending the afternoon in mental overdrive had taken its toll and a nap started to seem like a better and better idea with each passing minute. The next event after the pub crawl was the introduction to this year's Mister Mountain contestants at 11:00 in the main event hall. Plenty of time for a couple hours' shuteye before then.

I took the stairs. Climbing seven flights up to room 724 was not a whole lot of fun, but it was better than taking the risk of finding myself trapped in an elevator with someone who turned out to be an assassin wanting to claim me as his victim. Upon reaching my room, I set some early-warning snares, made sure the door was securely locked, and then in no time at all, I was sound asleep.

You might think that the game mechanism is backward. Shouldn't the assassin be the one who gets to get off, not the victim?

At first blush, that seems like a reasonable point of view to take. But there's a flaw in the reasoning, which is: the hunt doesn't end with your first kill. As soon as you take your first victim out, the system assigns you your next one. In my case, that would be Six O'Clock, the victim Five would have been hunting for if he hadn't wasted the first sixty seconds of the game standing out in the open.

Every player gets assigned to the next one in line, all the way around to Twelve whose victim, naturally, is One O'Clock. When you take your victim down, you inherit his target as your next one. And so it continues until only one man is left standing.

See why it wouldn't work? I don't know what your refractory period is, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the desire or ability to fuck a second victim into submission soon after doing the first, never mind a third or fourth. Best-slash-worst case, you could find yourself having to schtupp eleven bums over the course of three days, which sounds like a dream come true and I'm sure there are some big talkers out there who would be bragging up and down how they'd have no problem handling that, but I know my limits and honestly, somewhere between Friday night and Saturday morning I'd be looking down at Helpless Bound Victim Number Whatever and saying "dude, whaddaya say we just, you know, cuddle?"

So it's set up the way it is: to assassinate someone you have to tie him up and extract an involuntary load out of him. I say "involuntary", but the reality is more complicated. When registering for the game, all the EULA text makes it clear that you are implicitly giving consent for any of the other players to tie you up and get you off any time during the weekend. But an attempt is only complete after that squirt happens, so there's an incentive for the victim to try to stave it off, stop it from happening. That, of course, is tough to do and there's no time limit after which the assassin must release the victim, so... it may take hours, but sooner or later, your helpless victim is going to shoot for you. When he does, you log it, the system statistics are updated, and your next victim starts showing up on your map.

Another feature of the way it works is this: at any time, the only information you have about any of the other players is about your one currently-assigned victim. You don't get to see anything at all about anyone else.

That's what was keeping me so on edge. I had full knowledge about my target - what he looked like, where he was at any moment when he was on the hotel grounds - but I knew nothing at all about the guy who was pursuing me. All I knew was that he was out there somewhere, he had full access to my image and whereabouts any time he wanted, and I wouldn't have a clue he was coming for me until the trap was sprung.

Now, I like to play to win, and there's an obvious strategy that would minimize my chances of getting picked off, and that strategy would be to hole up in my room as much as possible, then take out the last other man standing at the end. But seriously, who would come to Mountain Men just to spend the whole time alone in a hotel room?!? That'd be insane, a waste of a perfectly good once-a-year leather festival.

Nope. Not worth it. And so my plan was to take a couple hours' nap then go back out on the prowl, even though every second outside my locked room exposed me to risk. It's not like there was anything substantial riding on the outcome. The winner of the game received nothing more than bragging rights. Much as I wanted to win, it was more important to actually play.

Besides, I still had my secret weapon.

2: No Safety In Numbers

My alarm woke me a little before 11:00. I checked my phone - so far, my kill was the only one. I couldn't see that from my in-the-game player view, but it was evident from the public view that was accessible to anyone, a perky message that showed there were still eleven players remaining. There were no details about who was gone and who remained, but simple deduction informed me that Five was the first and, so far, only victim to fall.

Six O'Clock now showed up on my map. He was on the main floor of the hotel in the vendor exhibit hall. I took a good long look at his photo to remember his face. But that was all for the moment. I figured I'd let him wonder about me a while longer while I took a look at the contenders for this year's Mister Mountain title.

I checked my snares before opening the door. A peephole is fine for everyday use, but it's got its limits when you're involved in a game like this one. There are huge blind spots on either side of the door where a lurking assassin could easily stay out of sight, pressed up against the wall and invisible from inside the room. So I had left threads down on the floor, stretching out on either side of the door along the carpet a short distance from the wall. If you didn't know they were there, you'd never notice them because they matched the color of the carpet. I gave the left one a tug and it slid easily, then repeated the action on the right. If someone had been standing there, his weight would have prevented the thread from moving. No resistance: no threat. It wasn't foolproof, of course, but it gave me enough confidence to open the door and venture out after one last check through the peephole. Sure enough, there was no one waiting outside.

Gear bag in hand, I made my way carefully and alertly down the stairs to the event hall, and found a spot in a rear corner where I could lean against one wall and have a second one beside me, limiting my exposure, and with a door beside me that I could escape through in case Three O'Clock decided to come after me during the show. The hall was pretty crowded and I was definitely kept on edge every time someone drew near. It didn't matter whether it was a couple deeply engaged in conversation, a group all swaggering past together, or a singleton making his solitary way to wherever he was going: any one of them could pose a threat. I stayed on my toes, ready to bolt if necessary.

Music, an emcee's voice, cheers and clapping, then more talk about "building community", yada yada yada. I should build a drinking game around that phrase next year, try to enlist a big group of people. I wonder if the emcee would notice that every time he said those words, he got treated to a view of the undersides of fifty glasses?

It wasn't hard to tune out the spiel, focused as I was on every walking body that angled my way. Eventually he finished and then the contestants were taking the stage. Maybe it's just me, but I don't really get the elaborate complications that go along with these sorts of contests. I mean, it seems clear to me that it's a beauty pageant. Fundamentally, we're picking the guy we think has the cutest smile or the nicest biceps, the one who fills out his leathers in the most appealing way, with each judge casting his ballot according to his own totally subjective but ultimately physical-attractiveness-based criteria. Straightforward, right? And yet the contest organizers ensure that each competitor has a charity that he represents and volunteers with and also some sort of demonstrable success, whether in business or the arts or writing or whatever it may be, because... that matters? It's a beauty pageant!

Oh well. I'm either in the minority or else no one is willing to stick his neck out and call it for what it is, the same way I'm not. There must be some value in pretending that there's some sort of Greater Social Significance to the contest, and that's fine. I just pretend to go along with it even though it doesn't make any sense to me. I guess it gives them more to talk about as they introduce the gentlemen. It would get pretty tiresome if the only thing that could be said about each one was "How about that ass, eh?"

So I first got to meet, or at least see from a distance, Mr. Kristof Angusson, a man of Icelandic extraction who owned and managed a fitness club and volunteered with Second Harvest food bank. Next up was Rodney di Ferro, who didn't look the least bit Italian, was a published novelist and gave his time to Horns Of Plenty, a charity that placed gently-used musical instruments with music programs in struggling schools.

Then there was Cody Grant, a former Premier Lacrosse League player who now spent his time advocating for renewable energy; Tobias Lindt, photographer and Peace Corp organizer, and finally Burl Mendez, entrepreneur and Big Brother program coordinator. Rounds of applause for each.

Throughout the ceremony, I paid just enough attention to the stage to keep track of what was going on while monitoring the crowd with a particular eye on the part of it closest to me. As a result, I was one of the few who noticed a brief scuffle over in the other rear corner, the one opposite where I was standing, just as Mr. Lindt was retreating to stand in line with the other contestants and Mr. Mendez was being introduced. The disturbance was over quickly with the opening and closing of a door, the counterpart to the one I was standing next to.

Spidey senses tingling, I decided to skip out on the rest of the proceedings, ducked out my local door, and weaved my way through the corridors over to the opposite side. Whoever was involved in the scuffle, Six was not among them - I checked my map as I walked and it showed him still in the vendor room. I worked my way down some twisting hallways, following the sounds of the struggle that was still going on, keenly aware of being out in the open.

I caught a glimpse of flailing arms and legs just as they disappeared through a doorway. Racing up to it, I saw them: four guys, three of whom were trying very hard to subdue the fourth. The room they had gone into was a small meeting room very similar to the one I had done Five in. One of the three had just left off the struggle to come close it but I brazenly stepped inside before he could shut me out.

Immediately the struggle paused. There was a brief moment of tension where we all stared, frozen, gazing inscrutably at one another in a way that made me think of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. I could almost hear the eerie whistling music. Then the captive tried to take advantage of the distraction and the other three had to once again focus on keeping him under control. He was a big guy, tall and muscular, and clearly in no mood to be taken down quietly. The door-closing guy got around behind him and was able to get an elbow around his neck while the other two hung onto his arms, and eventually they reached a stalemate once more.

"How 'bout showing me your ankles?" the man holding the intended victim's right arm said, turning his face a bit toward me but not loosening his grip on the arm clenched between his fingers. I obliged him, tugging my left pant leg up and showing off my ankle strap. There was a sound of indrawn breath and the atmosphere in the room became even frostier than it already was.

I held my phone up, flashing the screen toward them just long enough to give the impression that I was sharing information without actually revealing anything. "My target's not here," I said. "No red dot on the map in this room. So if anything, you guys are more of a threat to me than I am to you." I didn't think I was in much danger, actually. Even if one of these men was Three O'Clock and I had stupidly presented myself to him like a lamb for slaughter, I figured they were distracted enough with their current victim that I could get away fast if necessary. Besides, one of them clearly couldn't be my assassin because he was busy taking out someone else. Even if both the others were in the game, my odds were still pretty good. "So... I showed you mine, how about you show me yours?"

There was a brief pause while the three communicated via glances and shrugs, and then the one who had first spoken nodded. "Tom and I are players," he said, using his chin to point at the man holding the victim's other arm. "Fred's not. He's just here to help."

"I'm happy to help too," I offered. "As long as I'm not on any of your screens. That's your victim, right?" I asked, still speaking to the only one who had spoken so far. He nodded. Turning my attention to Tom, the other arm-holder, I said "You're not exactly in a position to check your phone right now, so you might be my assassin. How about we call a temporary truce while I help you get this guy tied down, then you take a look and tell me whether I need to get the hell out of this room. If so, you give me ten seconds head start." More silent communication; the lead guy just shrugged - not his concern - and then Tom said "Okay."

So we worked together, my nerves singing and on high alert the whole time. I closed the door and locked it, then dove into the fray to try to bring the victim under control. He absolutely did not want to make this easy. He fought, and fought hard. I like that in a victim... gets my blood pumping. But it meant that my presence, as unwelcome as it had been at first, turned out to be a real help to the assassin and his crew. The guy was tall, strong, and a serious squirmer. It took all four of us to get him subdued. They might have been able to manage it without me, but the outcome was by no means certain. It's possible that against only three tops the prey might have broken loose and made his escape.

Bit by bit, we got restraints applied and secured. I had my gear in my bag, but did not offer any of it. This was not my show and if the guy in charge didn't come prepared, that was his problem, not mine. He had brought plenty of rope, as it turned out, but nothing else, so rope was what we used. Fred and I held onto the struggling victim's arms as best we could while Tom and the lead assassin got loops around his ankles, one at a time. Once they had ropes in place to help control his feet, we lifted him up onto the table and laid him down on his back. Fred and I continued to pin the victim down while the other two tied the ends of the rope to the table legs.

You'd think the guy would have given up fighting at that point, but no, he kept right on struggling. I was definitely feeling some fullness down under at that. I love a good "make me" scene, and this was sure shaping up to be one. Not my scene, though, which I needed to remember. I was a guest, and an uninvited one at that. So I did my part by bearing down as hard as I could on the forearm that had become my responsibility, trying to hold it in place while the lead guy roped it up and secured it to the table leg. Occasional sounds of applause from the event hall worked their way in through the closed door, but mostly they were drowned out by the sounds of us attempting to tie a man who was very determined not to be tied.

Once all four limbs were down, we could relax a bit. I pulled Tom aside to ask him to check his phone to see if I was on it. He did so and then flashed it toward me, showing a map with a red dot on it up on the fifth floor. His target was apparently up in his room and I could therefore be reasonably confident that I would not be joining the angry guy tied to the table. Not immediately, at least. We chatted a bit while the other two applied more rope to the still-squirming victim. I learned that the lead assassin's name was Brian - funny how this game inverts the usual online safety protocols: giving away your real name is no big deal, but giving away your in-game name is potentially disastrous. Tom and Brian knew each other outside the game and had both signed up.

"We knew it would be possible that one of us would end up targeting the other," he told me. "And that still might happen."

The game rules are fine with that. You can recruit helpers from within or outside the game. Subduing an actively-resisting man without doing actual damage to him - which would definitely violate the rules - can be a tricky proposition, and having assistance can mean the difference between defeat and victory. Group takedowns can be fun, as we had just demonstrated, though working alone is more my style; see my handling of Five. That means my main strategies are necessarily ambush and surprise rather than brute force. I'm happy to join in and be a part of someone else's temporary posse, though.

"Or if we make it down to the final two," Tom continued, "we'll both be targeting each other. Of course, to get to that point, one of us would have to take you out first."

"I welcome the challenge," I replied. Then Brian called us back over to help him add more rope to the spread-eagled target. By the time we were finished, the guy was well and truly bound. Wrists, elbows, thighs, knees, ankles, plus a rope around his sturdy neck to hold his head down. He kept trying to fumble with the knots at his wrists and some duct tape would really have come in handy to keep those agile little fingers from undoing all our hard work. But there was none to be had (well, except the roll in my bag, which I was not offering and which no one asked me for), so we just kept a close eye on his progress and every time he seemed to be getting somewhere we re-tightened the knots.

I particularly admired the way the victim didn't beg or plead or try to bargain. A lot of grunting, growling sounds issued from his mouth and nose, but nothing intelligible. Hot, very hot. Like a trapped beast. Without saying a word he made it very clear that though he might be captured, he would never be tamed.

Then Brian unzipped the victim's fly and fished out his goodies. That was a little bit tough to manage with his pants still being on him and the thigh ropes running so close to his groin. It would have been handy if we'd been able to strip him down before starting the ropework, but subduing him had been enough of a challenge as it was. Brian would just have to work with what he had.

His weapon of choice was a vibrating fleshjack, one of those silicone sleeves attached to a battery-powered handle. He first took a couple of minutes to get the target good and stiff, then held the well-lubed fleshjack in place.

I love the way the "against your will" orgasm works. The victim is lying there, totally helpless. The one thing he wants most of all, of course, is to bust free, but second only to that is his desire to not shoot a load. Seems simple enough. Usually it takes effort to crank a load out, after all, so not shooting one should mean all he has to do is lie there and do nothing.

But it doesn't work that way. His body betrays him. As much as he wants to not think about the sensations coursing through his crotch, he can't help it. He can try to ignore them, he can try to concentrate on family problems or weepy Lifetime movie plots, but the little jolts of pleasure keep insidiously working through his mental defenses. At some point, it just becomes a charade: his conscious mind keeps insisting that he doesn't want to come, there's no way he's going to come... and yet his hips are thrusting and his thighs are straining and his breath is coming in shuddery gasps and it's very, very clear that his conscious mind is not the part that's in charge.

And that's exactly how it played out for Brian's target. He lay there on the table while Brian worked his dick with the vibrating fleshjack, Tom twiddled his nipples through his shirt, and Fred and I kept on eye on the bindings, pulling the knots tight again every few minutes as needed. I was even able to relax a bit because with the door locked, Three O'Clock wouldn't be able to get to me. He might be lurking outside, of course, waiting for me to emerge, but that was a problem I could think about later.

"Just submit," Brian crooned as the humming demon in his hand did its work. "It's gonna happen sooner or later. Make it easy on yourself. Let it go." The target continued to only grunt and growl. It took a good long while, though none of us grew bored. Eventually things played out as they were destined to: his muscles started flexing and straining just a bit harder against the ropes and his grunts started to emerge accompanied by explosive puffs of breath. He was losing the battle and he knew it.

Brian fished his phone out, turned it on, and handed it to Tom. "Here, you wanna take some video for me?" Brian asked. Tom did so.

"I bet this big guy wouldn't mind a souvenir of his own," I said. I had noticed the bulky rectangle of his phone in his front pocket as we were tying him. No one - least of all the phone's owner - stopped me from reaching in and extracting it. The device was password protected but, conveniently, he had neglected to turn off facial recognition. I just pointed the thing at him and very soon I had his phone unlocked and was browsing to find the camera.

Something caught my eye on the main screen, though: the Assassin app. No one was watching me, so I thumbed it open and was immediately presented with a photo of...

...my own face.

It took me no time at all to draw the logical conclusion. The man on the table was Three O'Clock.

This was the guy whose current assignment was to take me down. He might even have been in the event hall earlier scoping me out as the Mister Mountain contestants were being introduced, stealthily working his way toward me with an eye toward my capture and involuntary semen extraction. But his plans were foiled when Brian (aka Two O'Clock, as I now knew) and his posse had jumped him and dragged him out of the event hall into this tiny private room. A good thing for me, too. This guy was strong and an experienced fighter. He would have been able to overpower me handily. I wouldn't have stood a chance going up against him one on one.

The next implication followed immediately after the first: the moment Two's assassination of Three was confirmed in the system, he would inherit Three's victim assignment, which was: me. Mr. Four O'Clock. Remaining in this room after that news broke would be a spectacularly bad idea.

And then the third implication: Three knew who I was. And yet he hadn't said anything, even as I helped to render him powerless and tie him down. Why wouldn't he have told his captors who I was, that they should subdue me while they had the chance?

All of this flickered through my head in the two seconds or so after I opened the app. I quickly shut it again - no sense revealing this knowledge to the rest of the room prematurely. Instead I launched the camera, set it to video, and started filming.

My mind kept racing as Three fought his losing battle against the impending climax. Was it possible he didn't recognize me? I had my leather executioner-style mask on, after all. It covered the top half of my head and extended down to the tip of my nose with a thin liner over the eyes so that I could see out without much obstruction but no one could see in. Most of my recognizable features - hair, eyes, ears - were hidden. Maybe Three hadn't had a chance to identify me in the event hall before he was taken? Or maybe he hadn't even been looking for me then, maybe he was only there to watch the show? The same way I was letting Six sashay around the vendor exhibits unmolested, letting the constant effort of staying vigilant slowly sap his stamina. Could that have been what Three was doing? So many questions, so few answers!

Whatever his reasoning, he hadn't spoken a word to betray me. I couldn't be sure if that was by choice for reasons he wasn't sharing or because he didn't know my secret and therefore had nothing to reveal, so I didn't know whether I owed him any gratitude. As he steadily drew closer to shooting under the fleshjack's relentless assault, I decided that even if I did owe him gratitude, it was a debt that could be settled later with nothing more than a "thanks". I didn't owe him any help now to break free of his bonds or to launch a guaranteed-to-fail attack on Brian / Two O'Clock. No, he was going to squirt his juice out, and soon, and that was just the way the game was going to play out.

I could tell the moment he finally gave in to the inevitable. It was apparent in his body language and in the tone of the grunts he emitted. They shifted from being strained sounds of resistive effort and became more pleading. He held out right to the end, too. It could only have been a second or two after I detected the change in the sound that his dick started pulsing and spasming and then an enormous white jet spurted out of the tip and sprayed his shirt from navel to nipple. That was followed swiftly by several more until a giant puddle of the stuff was rapidly soaking into the fabric.

I set Three's phone down on the table next to him. "Well, thanks for letting me take part in your kill," I told Brian, "but I should get going."

"You sure you don't want to stick around?" Tom asked. "Brian's next victim might be in the event hall too. We could use your help again...?"

"Thanks, but I've stayed in one place long enough. My own hunter might have tracked me to here, in fact, and could even be waiting right outside the door." I lowered my voice as if conscious of being overheard. "Best if I open it up quickly and make a break for it. Just in case."

There was zero chance, of course, that my hunter was waiting outside the door since he was already right here in the room with me. I'm not sure if they believed my lies or not, but there was no further objection to me heading out. I made a show of opening the door fast and bolting through, though. And I kept on jogging all the way up all seven flights of stairs to my room. With any luck, by the time they finished logging the kill and untying Three so he could confirm it, the red dot that would appear on Brian's map would show me safe and secure in room 724, with no hint to suggest I'd ever been anywhere else.

3: Taking Control

The following morning I got up a little after 7:00, late for me but then I'd stayed up late the night before. I checked my phone and saw that Six, my current target, was in a room on the third floor, probably his own but possibly someone else's. According to the app's public view, we were down to nine players, which meant that someone else had been killed last night in addition to Three. I had no way of knowing who the third victim was, of course, but I figured the odds were pretty good it was not Brian, which left me in an unusual but welcome situation: I knew what my current stalker looked like.

This had an unexpectedly uplifting effect on my psyche. Instead of wandering around in a state of hyper-vigilance, I could relax a bit. Not completely, but some. I only needed to register Brian's presence near me as a threat. And, by extension, Tom's and Fred's as well, but these were faces I now knew and could easily recognize. Every other man in this building? No problem.

For a while, at least. Over time, that would change. And, of course, my guess that Brian was still in play could be wrong. Still, I judged the odds safe enough for now that I could go and enjoy breakfast downstairs like a civilized person instead of ordering overpriced room service food and waiting an hour and a half for it to arrive.

I got dressed: black T-shirt, black jeans. I opted for a plain eye mask this time, going out Robin-style rather than full Batman. Wearing the same disguise all the time lessens its usefulness as a disguise. I tucked the other two masks into my bag (the third was a full-coverage hood with eye and mouth holes) in case I wanted to swap headgear at some point while I was out. I checked the snares outside my door - all clear - then headed out, jauntily deciding to take the elevator and regretting it the moment the doors closed. When the car stopped on the fifth floor to take on more passengers, I exited and took the stairs the rest of the way down. What if one of the incoming faces had been Brian's? I did not like the feeling of being trapped in a small space with only one unreliable exit.

Why so scared? Whenever I explain how the game works to someone, they'll usually ask why I don't just take the offensive. Attack my attacker. The answer is that I'd be disqualifying myself if I did. That's one difference between the game of assassination and the real thing (besides the difference where no one actually dies, of course). The difference is: you can't fight back. In real life, if someone is trying to kill you, you can - you should - fight back. Even to the point of killing him instead. If it's a choice between him or you, far better for you that it be him.

In the game, though, there is no preemptive retaliatory strike, no reversing the roles of assassin and victim. All you can do is try to escape. It's a bit frustrating at times... I could take Two down, I know I could! If it was just the two of us, I'd estimate my chance of being able to overpower him, get him tied up, and complete the mission at maybe 75%. But if I did, I'd be out of the game because he is not my designated target. Only at the end of the game, when it's down to the last two players, does it become an equal competition, man on man. We're not there yet, so my only two options are running and hiding.

Neither sets well with me.

Breakfast was satisfying. Call me a cheap date, but I love those included-with-the-room breakfast buffets at hotels. Scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon, toast, those delicious diced potatoes, fruit, pancakes or waffles or pastries if I feel like splurging and having dessert for breakfast... I could wake up to that day after day and never get tired of it.

After breakfast, I sauntered over to the vendor hall to check out the displays and wares. Ah, I was a kid in a candy store! All the cool gear laid out to be seen and tried on! This early in the day the room was mostly empty. Not many people were wandering about and only two of the booths were open and staffed. Birds Of A Leather had their usual array of fine garments and other items to choose from. I bypassed the jackets and harnesses and trousers and such in favor of more practical gear, spending a pleasant quarter of an hour inspecting cuffs, binder sleeves, hoods, and lockable shorts.

I hadn't planned on buying anything until I was on my way back up to my room, but then I noticed an attractive oversized cuff case. That I could buy right away and it actually made my task of carrying things easier. Due to the long chain my custom cuffs have, the set doesn't fit easily into a standard-sized handcuff case. The BOAL case was was belt-mounted and had plenty of room, so no longer did I need to choose between keeping them in my bag where they were quiet but inaccessible, or in my hand where they would be immediately available for use but would jangle and be constantly in the way. The cuffs came out of my bag and went into the case, and that was one less thing I'd need to wrangle if I happened to come across Six as I meandered around the hall.

Speaking of Six, I took a moment to check - still in his room. Jeez, it was almost 8:15 already... was he going to sleep the whole day away?

I stopped at the Forge And Fetter booth next, a place whose name always makes me think it should belong to an English pub rather than a kink supplier. They always have the most amazing brushed steel gear, collars and cuffs and leg shackles and such, always with top-quality workmanship. Their restraints are made out of solid corrosion-resistant material rather than just having a rustproof coating, and the hinges and locks are all seamlessly integrated into the main piece with no sharp edges to catch on. These are chains you can wear for years, sweating and showering in them without ever having to take them off. Naturally, they're terrifyingly expensive.

Today they were showcasing a set of five-point restraints that I would very much like to have tried on. It was a beauty, all shining silver and perfectly-beaded welds. But even though Brian and friends were currently nowhere to be seen, that was too much risk to take on. I had to assume he knew where I was at all times thanks to his map, and if I were to put those chains on, even for a moment, I would be practically begging fate to choose that moment to send him walking in to find me.

So I ended up just trying on a collar, a silky oval of brushed stainless steel, thick and heavy and imposing. And yet it was shaped to fit smoothly around my neck and rest comfortably on my collarbones. I could see being made to wear something like that long term. I'd adapt to it, sure, but I'd constantly be aware that it was there - the perfect collar, in other words. But then, with regret, I took it off because somehow, no matter how many times I checked my pockets, I couldn't find several hundred dollars' worth of loose change floating around in them. Dangit! So I reluctantly moved along.

The Sir Stephen's place was easily the largest of the booths, but it wasn't open yet, which was a shame. I had heard folks talking yesterday about their vacuum bed and suspended cage. It would have been nice to see either or both of those in action, though, again, not with me as test subject, not at this time.

At the far side of the Sir Stephen's section I saw a man with a face that looked vaguely familiar but which took me a moment to place. What caught my eye first was how devastatingly handsome he was, and the sense of familiarity only started to bloom after a few seconds of checking him out. I was able to place him in context before too long: this was one of the Mister Mountain contestants, and his name was... it was... it would come to me...

Cody, that was his name, Cody Grant. He was engrossed in checking out a neoprene dry suit in a display case and hadn't noticed me. I hovered nearby, but not too closely, until he was ready to move along, then did the same so that we could "just happen" to pass each other. "Good luck in the competition," I said with a nod as we passed by, and got a "Thanks" back in a suave baritone voice that just melted like butter in my ears.

I decided I now knew who my favorite for the Mister Mountain contest was.

One more look at my phone: Six remained stubbornly in his room, his dot still unmoved from where I'd first seen it in the room, presumably the spot where the bed was. I meandered around a bit longer. The puppy park was deserted but there was no mistaking the room's purpose. It was filled with chew toys, tails, leashes, doggie hoods and paws... everything the aspiring human canine would need to make his doggie dreams come true.

Several other fun side rooms were also currently equally empty of people but clearly intended to see some use at some point during the weekend. Two were set up like classrooms and I could easily envision the tables at the front being equipped with gear of various forms and the seats occupied by people eager to learn how to put the gear to use. More interesting was a "wet room" whose walls and floors had been entirely covered with rubber sheets all sealed together. It wasn't hard to imagine things getting very sloppy and messy inside.

Best of all, though, was a room equipped with various dungeon-style furnishings: two bondage chairs, a flogging frame, a fuck bench, a crate with holes for neck and wrists, an X-cross, several small cages and one huge one. The big cage was absurdly oversized, easily large enough to lie down in and stretch out in any direction. It had vertical steel bars on all four sides, spaced closely enough together that there was no chance of squeezing anything larger than an arm between them. It had a sliding door rather than a hinged one, currently closed and locked. Inspecting the mechanism, I saw the telltale mark of Forge And Fetter's craftsmanship - it stood to reason that something like this would be their work. There was no key lying around in any obvious place, which was probably a good thing because if there had been one, I would have been tempted to use it to go inside just to see what it felt like and then, of course, fate, Brian, etc. As it was, I risked sitting in each of the chairs for a moment, then decided I had pushed my luck far enough and left the room with its one single exit behind.

Six was still in his room. But... zooming in revealed that his dot had moved. Conclusion: he was awake (finally!) and moving around, perhaps taking a shower, brushing his teeth, getting ready to emerge from his room and start his day? Maybe it was time for Four O'Clock to stop thinking about avoiding Brian and go on the offensive instead...

Climbing two sets of steps was much easier than climbing all the way to the seventh floor. I found room 313 without difficulty, passing a few guys heading for the elevators or back to their rooms on the way. The morning lull was ending, it seemed, and things were going to start getting crowded again.

During a time when the corridor was empty, I knelt down and examined the floor for threads just in case Six took the same paranoid level of precautions that I did. Nope, no obvious snares. I could hear the bathroom fan running inside the room, so I meandered around a bit, staying out of sight of the peephole and tensing up every time I heard footsteps in the hallway. But Brian and posse never appeared, so I just nodded to the various gentlemen as they went by and passed the time pretending to be engrossed in my phone while waiting for someone to emerge, mostly flipping between Six's photo and the red dot showing his location.

There came a faint change to the omnipresent background hum - Six had turned the bathroom fan off. A quick check of the phone revealed that he was on the move, bustling about inside the room. My heart rate started climbing as I waited for him to open the door. I re-checked my supplies for the dozenth time to make sure I would have everything I needed right at hand: capture cuffs in their convenient new case, check; folded length of rope partly sticking out of one pocket, check; black bag with drawstring sticking out of the other, check. I was ready. I crouched down against the wall next to the door on the latch side, thinking that would give me half a second's more time if he emerged wary and on guard.

Click. I heard the chain being withdrawn. Then more clicks as the inside knob was turned and the door swung open a few inches, then paused. That's good, it showed he had some sense of situational awareness, a healthy amount of caution.

Not enough of it, I hoped.

The door swung wider. Once I was sure his body would be clear of it, I moved, going in fast and low, down below doorknob level. I pushed the door open the rest of the way with my shoulder and wrapped my arms around the pair of knees that awaited me just beyond it. He reacted, but he was slow. I was able to get him off balance and send him tumbling down, but arranged things so that my body was what he landed on, breaking his fall before I shifted and dumped him the rest of the way down to the ground, face down. I'm a kind assassin. I don't want my target conking his head on a credenza if I can help it.

I sat on his butt and set about getting his hands cuffed. My handy-dandy new belt case made it easy to get the cuffs out and start applying them. With nothing propping it open, the door slowly swung shut behind us. Six hollered for help but it clicked home with a rather pleasing - to me - sound of finality. He kept squirming and the extra length of chain between the manacles was very helpful. I was able to get the bracelet parts in place and then start removing the slack just like I had done with Five. These cuffs were the best investment I could have made for this game. Such an effective way to render a resisting prisoner helpless.

He kept struggling even after his hands met behind his back. I leaned down and put my weight on his back, bent my head to his ear and murmured into it. "Relax. Just relax. Stop your shouting. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just here to assassinate you."

I guess he already knew that because he kept right on fighting me, though he did lower the volume a bit, which was considerate of him. Just because I was killing him was no reason to irritate the neighbors! While I was down there, I took a moment to examine his features more closely to make sure I'd tackled the right man. It was hard to be 100% sure because of the awkward angle I was seeing his face at and the contorted grimaces he kept making as he fought my cuffs, but I was pretty sure it was him.

Satisfied I had the correct target, I pulled the black cloth bag out of my left pocket and tugged it down over his head, then tightened the drawstring around his neck enough to keep him from working it off again. He would be able to breathe just fine, but his vision would be majorly impaired and his hearing affected too. Then I grabbed the rope from my other pocket, spun around on his butt, and began tying his ankles together. He fought me on that too as soon as he figured out what I was trying to do, stretching his legs as far apart as the narrow hallway by the door allowed. I had to get up off his ass to reel his ankles in one at a time and get them secured and he sure tried to take advantage of the relative freedom that offered all the time I was working.

But I got his feet tied eventually, then looped the loose end of the rope around the cuffs, pulled it tight, and had him in a hogtie that held him long enough that I could stand up and set some security measures in place.

Despite the sounds of our scuffle, we had managed not to draw attention to ourselves. I retrieved my bag from the hall, found the spool of thread, cut two pieces, and laid them out parallel to the wall as I had done for my own room. Just in case. When I got back inside and re-chained-and-deadbolted the door, Six was still struggling on the floor. He didn't look very comfortable down there so I hoisted him up and plopped him down on the bed, then sat down next to him.

"So," I said. "Got a favorite position?"

"Yeah, upright and untied," he replied, sounding only slightly muffled through the bag.

"Cute, but: no. How about second best then?" He just bucked. I saw his hands twiddling with the knots on his ankle rope - apparently I hadn't tied them off far enough away to be out of his reach. That was OK. I'd be getting him into something more secure in a minute.

"Preferred brand of lube? No? OK, don't say I didn't offer you the chance to make this easier."

"Hey, you want the prize, you do the work." He bucked again. "Don't expect any cooperation from me."

Oh, I can work with that. I can work with that very, very well.

Fifteen minutes later I had him spread-eagled on the bed much like Three had been splayed out last night. It would have been nice to switch things up a bit, but hotel rooms are pretty limited when it comes to bondage options. If your victim is cooperative, you can make use of, say, the bathroom door or the shower stall or even the clothes rod in the closet, but with a feisty one really the bed is the only piece of furniture sturdy enough to trust. Besides, it wasn't a repeat for Six. So: wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, after going through some intermediate steps to make sure my target didn't break free while I was getting him laid out for the kill. I left the bag on his head to make it easier for him to focus on the sensations in his dick without getting unduly distracted.

Having had a bit more time and control than Brian and crew did in a similar situation, I was able to get Six undressed as I was arranging his limbs, so I had a nice, open, full canvas to work on. I started gently, flicking his nipples with my fingers and tongue. He stolidly refused to react. I moved on down to his cock and balls, rolling them around in my hands, sniffing at them all fresh from the shower, giving them exploratory licks. No reaction. He was working hard to stay soft. I kept at it for as long as I was amused by it, but eventually I got bored.

Time to break out the hardware.

I got my electro box out and hooked up the wires to two conductive rubber loops, one around the base of the shaft and the other around the head. The juice, when it got flowing, would go in at one end and out at the other, lighting up all the nerves in between. Without the use of his eyes, he couldn't really tell what I was up to though he knew it must be some sort of bondage. He seemed to be expecting me to add weights or tension or something, although I may have been reading too much into the little body language he was able to convey. Whatever he was thinking didn't matter much anyway - all he could do was lie there and wait.

Slowly, slowly, I turned up the current. The mode was set to "continuous". I find that the pulsey, zappy modes are good for torture scenes, but in this case pain was not what I was after. I dialed the "feel" control way down into the "smooth" range (as opposed to "spiky" which, again, was not right for the current mood). The intensity dial goes from zero to 99. When I've tried this on myself, I start feeling it around 11 or 12, the buzz remains pleasant up to around 20, then between 20 and 25 it gradually transitions to pain, but there's an acclimatization factor, too. After a while at 25, the pain eases and it becomes pleasant again, so I need to up it 30 to get the same effect, and so on. After long enough, I can jump straight from zero to 50 and take it in stride; trying that from a cold start would leave me screaming.

Anyway, the point is: I know my instrument, at least how it works on me. Other guys I've played it on have reported similar results though the exact numbers vary slightly. I felt pretty good that I would be able to have Six humming along toward orgasm soon enough.

Sure enough, he started reacting on 13, tensing up and trying to suck his dick into his diaphragm. He probably felt it before that, but wasn't sure what to make of it because the first words he spoke since that wisecrack about not cooperating was "Fuck, what is that?"

Oh... fun! An electro-novice!

"Electricity," I said.

"Oh, shit... I don't know about this... look, you —".

"It's OK," I said, putting a hand on his shoulder and giving it a squeeze. "I've done this before. Lots of times. To myself and other guys. You're fine. Just relax. That's it. Relax. First time, I guess? It's OK. You're safe."

I turned it down to a point where he couldn't feel it any more, then talked him through what I was doing. "I'm turning it up now. You're going to feel it right about... now." I took it up to 15 which was enough to give him a definite tingle but nothing more. Sure enough, he clenched again, but not as tightly as before. "I'm going to leave it on for about half a minute. You'll get used to the tingling." Half a minute later, I turned it off again, then gave his dick a squeeze. "See? Shut the current off and everything goes back to normal, no trace left behind, no harmful aftereffects."

I turned it back on again, to 15 once more and this time he wasn't spooked. Half a minute later I turned it off.

"Now. Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to give you one minute at that level, then I'm going to turn it off and give you a half-minute break. Then I'm going to take it up one notch higher and repeat. Then again and again, going up one level each time. The only way to make it stop is to shoot, is that clear? If you want the cycle to end, you're going to need to crank that orgasm out."

I leaned down to whisper in his ear. "Actually, if you're really having trouble, like, panic get-me-out-of-here level trouble, we'll stop and I'll find another way to get the job done. But don't tell anyone... once word leaks out that an assassin has gone soft, people begin to disobey you and then it's nothing but work, work, work all the time." I wondered if he recognized that line from one of my favorite movies; there was no way too see if he had cracked a grin under the bag.

Back to my normal voice. "So. Start working on that climax. For your sake."

15 for one minute, off. 16, off. 17, off. And so on up the dial. His dick managed to remain soft all the way up to 22, but then something must have shifted in his system and he stopped thinking of the constant buzz as a threat and started accepting it as stimulation. A different sort of stimulation than friction from a hand or mouth or ass, and a different sort of buzz than a vibrator produces, but stimulation all the same. He started to swell. And from that point on it was just a matter of time.

When the dick is soft, the loops only make tenuous contact with the skin and some current gets past. But when it hardens up, all that skin starts to press against the rubber and make firmer, more solid pathways for humming electrons to hop through. The result: yet more stimulation, even if I made no further adjustments to the dial. Combine that with his helpless immobility and he was a goner.

What I love about electricity is the way you can't ignore it. Sort of like the vibrator that Brian used on Three only more intense. When your dick is gripped by the current, you can't unfeel it, can't pretend it's not happening. It demands that you pay attention.

25, pause, 26, pause, 27, pause. If I had tried to take him up even this high (only a quarter of the way!) at first, he would have thrown a fit. As it was now, he was hungry for it. Each time I would turn the juice off, his dick would bounce and twitch as the overstimulated nerves adapted to not being fried for the moment. Then back on it would go, one level higher and his whole body would tense right up in sympathy with his now very hard dick. I pulled out my camera to record the moment - it wouldn't be long now.

32 pushed him over the edge. 31 came close, but he couldn't quite get there before the minute was up and I shut him down. He wanted it by then, very badly. He mewled and whimpered for 25 seconds, then braced himself for the return of the current. It's amazing how quickly a body can get a feel for how long 30 seconds is. In just a few repetitions, I had him programmed to react in anticipation of when the juice would go back on. But this was going to be the last time, it was clear that 32 would do it for him, and boy, did it. I watched as his cock lifted even higher into the air, then swelled yet further, which I would have thought was impossible without bursting the skin, and then out it all came, driven by squeezing, clenching muscles down below the part where the current was focused.

Since this was his first time, I was kind: I gradually lowered the dial as he was coming instead of cranking it up and letting him fry. There's an art to it - you want to keep the stimulation at the right level as the orgasm crests and then starts to ebb away. Turning it off too soon spoils the experience; keeping it too high for too long would leave him thrashing in the ropes. So I eased it down into the high 20s as the squirting started, then went to the mid 20s as the pulses started to slow, then dropped it to 18, a level where he could feel it but it wasn't dominating his every thought until his orgasm at last subsided completely.

"Holy shit," he breathed as I started removing the loops and then the restraints. "I have got to get one of those. What is it?"

I told him and explained that Sir Stephen's probably had them in stock and if not he could certainly order one, plus all the accessories he might want to add; I'm a particular fan of the bi-polar nipple clamps, although those are most definitely meant for pain, not pleasure. Once free of the ropes, but still unconcernedly naked, he wanted to experiment with it, so I let him play while I gathered the rest of my equipment back into my bag. He tried it on his recently-drained cock, this time with himself handling the controls, and wanted to try it on me as well, but I demurred.

The gizmo was a hit, it seemed. A new electro fan is born.

At last, reluctantly, he handed it back to me and started to get dressed for the second time that morning while I went to let myself out. He grew puzzled when I stooped down to inspect the threads by the door.

"What are you doing?" he asked. I almost answered him but just in time I registered that the thread on the right, the handle side of the door...

... was not moving.

I didn't pull too hard because I didn't want to alert whoever was outside to the fact that I knew he was there, but it was definitely not sliding freely over the carpet with a gentle tug. Of course, it could be a false alarm - the housekeeping crew might have parked a cart on top of the thread or someone might have set a suitcase down. But I didn't think that was the case. I'd have heard voices or other noises if it was housekeeping, and the suitcase idea seemed unlikely.

Far more likely: Two O'Clock - Brian - was standing outside the door, knowing full well I'd have to come out sooner or later.

4: Bait

I quickly ran through some options in my head... try to enlist Six to help me escape? No, he had every reason to want to help Two, not me. Try to bribe him? Maybe I could offer him the electro box in exchange for helping me escape? Better, but still too risky. I decided that my best bet was to try to reverse the element of surprise.

"Nothing," I said, turning toward him and keeping my voice low. Sound carried through the door, but there was a chance Two might not yet know there were two of us in here. "I thought I dropped something on the floor, but it's just a spot on the carpet. Hey, you mind if I use your sink to wash my hands before I go? Somehow they got, heh, a little, uh, sticky."

He chuckled, tucking his shirt into his pants. "Sure, go ahead." I ran the water for a while until he was finished dressing and ready to leave himself. Then I stepped over to the door, put my hand on the handle and jiggled it a little. That should get Two's trigger primed. I opened it just as Six drew near, stepping back as I pulled it wide, and gestured him magnanimously through with an unspoken "after you". The moment he was past me I ducked down as low as I could get and dived forward on his left side.

Sure enough, the moment he crossed the threshold, the trap was sprung. Poor Six didn't have a clue - he thought he was safe now that he'd already been killed! But Two came lunging at him from the right, just as I expected he would. As Six began shouting, I raced around him and headed not left, but right, putting me behind Two's back. With any luck, Two would be so focused on Six for a few seconds that I would get a brief head start before he realized his mistake. Hopefully that would be enough. A bit of luck on my side: as best I could tell in my frantic rush past them, it was just the two of them. Two hadn't brought any helpers along this time.

"WHAT THE FUCK?" Six hollered. "Dude, get off me!" I didn't look back but raced ahead, bouncing lightly on the balls of my feet. "Sorry!" I called over my shoulder, but I doubt he heard me.

I barged through the door into the stairwell and raced downward. Two must have realized his error, or else Six finally figured out why a random stranger was attacking him and explained the situation because I heard the door to the stairwell being shoved open once more as I was halfway between the first and second floors. Enough of a lead, probably. I emerged onto the ground floor and jogged through the hall aiming for the vendor exhibits, keeping the pace brisk but with some plausible deniability.

The rules are clear: running is fine, but we assassins are sharing our game space with everybody else here. The first time a player disturbs non-players enough that someone lodges a complaint, we will be gently but firmly reminded to be more considerate of our fellow fest-goers. The second time it happens, the offending players are ejected from the game right then and there, and if there's a third time the game ends on the spot. So both Two and I knew that barreling full-speed through a crowded corridor was in neither of our best interests. This corridor wasn't exactly crowded, but there were definitely people present and it was necessary to weave between them with quickly muttered "Excuse mes" as I went past. I felt like a kid at a public pool, seeing how far I could push the I'm-not-running-I'm-just-walking-really-really-fast fiction before some grownup yelled at me. I slowed down to pass a couple walking hand in hand just as the hallway opened out into a wider space, then picked up the pace once more. I had no idea how far behind me Two was but I kept imagining I could feel his breath hot on my neck, half expecting to get tackled to the ground at any moment.

Then I was through the lobby and into the vendor hall and I dared to slow down a bit, still moving at a good clip but now more of a purposeful stride than outright flight. I ducked around the Birds Of A Leather booth and looked back. I was further ahead than I'd realized - either I'd had more of a head start than I realized or else Two had been held up by the pedestrian traffic more than I had been. He was just entering the room now.

Of course, he didn't need to run. He had his map. No matter how fast I ran, he would always be able to find me, walking calmly and coolly straight to where I was. Fortunately, he still seemed to be alone. I stood and waited for him until he drew near and stood with a table between us. He slowly began easing around the table and I matched him move for move, staying constantly out of his reach.

"You're a sneaky guy," he said. "How did you know I'd be waiting for you outside the door? Or was it just a lucky guess?" We continued circling the table, slowly, warily. Interesting... he knew about today's deception but hadn't mentioned anything about last night's. Well, I wasn't going to bring it up first.

"Just a lucky guess," I replied. As if I'd actually give away my high-tech spy gadgetry secrets.

"Wait a minute... I know that voice." Damn. I'd had the mask on during Three's assassination, but I'd done plenty of talking. He stopped moving, so I did too. "Hey... you were in the room the whole time! Aw, fuck, you're even sneakier than I realized!"

I gave an ironic little smile and made a token bow.

"Did you know that was Three O'Clock?" He resumed circling, herding me back the other direction this time. I matched him, keeping the table squarely between us and also staying alert for any assistants he might have brought.

"Not right away," I said. The room was full but not packed. Room to maneuver, but bodies to blend in with. Maybe I could use that to my advantage?

"Where are Tom and Fred?" I asked. "Didn't they feel like spending an hour camped out in a hallway waiting for a door to open?"

He reversed direction again. I passed close enough to a second table to transfer over to using it as my shield. It was a little bit larger, which gave me a bit more room for comfort. Two feinted as if he was going to climb across the top and I backed away, but he apparently decided that would be too undignified. There would be no way to avoid knocking off various bits of merchandise, and so he backed off. We resumed circling again, but that sudden movement was enough to attract some attention from the onlookers.

"Tom decided it wasn't a good idea for us to stick together. And Fred... well, it's a corny joke, but he's all tied up at the moment. Not by me, he reconnected with some guy he met here last year."

"Aw, good for him."

"Speaking of tied up," he said, "it's your turn." He made a determined lunge around the table, but I danced around so as to keep the obstacle between us. He made three or four attempts to outrace me, but I was able to remain ahead of him every time. The commotion attracted attention - some of the onlookers were now definitely watching with interest. I spotted at least six: two guys in black rubber suits, one with red highlights and the other with yellow; a lone guy in a ten-gallon hat giving off a serious cigar/master-bear vibe; and a trio of men dressed as I was in generic civilian clothing. One of their T-shirts had a big Jurassic Park logo in it, that one with the silhouette of the T. rex skeleton, the colors of which, probably completely by accident, perfectly matched the accents of the two rubber guys' suits.

All six of them were beginning to take an interest in the dance Two and I were doing. That was not good for me - all Two would need to do is enlist just one of them to help him out and my little game of keep-away would be over in a hurry. I could try to enlist help of my own, of course, but the stakes were much higher for me than for him. If I guessed wrong and a helper betrayed me, that would be the end. If Two guessed wrong and his assistant instead helped me to escape, he would just have to try again later. Best to leave the bystanders out of this, which meant I needed to stop playing table tag and come up with another plan. And lo and behold, as we continued to circle and that Jurassic Park logo came back into view, a glimmer of one began to form in my head.

"That's kind of you to offer," I said when he finally gave up trying to outrace me and dropped the pace back to a walk, "but that's not on my agenda for today." We made another quarter lap around the circle and I came into range of a way to break the stalemate, or at least change it up a bit.

I slipped over to the next vendor's booth. Now there was a long, tall wardrobe between us, blocking my view of him... and his view of me. Instead of doing what he most likely expected me to do - continue toward the far end of the wardrobe where I could see him again - I backed away, ducking my head low and weaving between clumps of people. I was able to get some covering bodies between us before risking a glance back. I saw him looking around, baffled at how I'd managed to disappear. His map, of course, would allow him to follow me anywhere I went, but with any luck I could make it annoying for him and maybe buy myself some time to cobble the rest of the plan together.

I slid through the crowd, never staying in one place too long and constantly keeping an eye on him when I could stand behind some object that would let me see without being seen. In the few times I could catch glimpses of him, it confirmed he was doing what I would expect him to do: splitting his attention between the map on his phone and the place in the room where it showed me to be. Every time he started coming close, I would wait until his divided attention was context-switching to the other view and then make a break for it, coming to ground in another part of the room. By the time I got to fresh cover, he would be standing right where I had been, looking annoyed.

After three or four repetitions of this I had gotten far enough away that I thought I could risk a quick digression. I stopped by the Sir Stephen's booth on my way past where, fortunately, there was an open salesman. I fished my wallet out of my pocket as I walked and extracted a credit card.

"Hi," I said, hunching down low, holding the card out to him and pointing to a pair of handcuffs hanging from a hook with about a dozen others. "I'd like that pair of handcuffs, please, and fast. Can you run the card through and hang onto it until I come back in about five minutes, OK?"

He looked a bit bewildered but in a pleasantly bemused way rather than a grumpy obstructionary way, so that was fine. He handed me the cuffs and I was on my way, not risking a glance backward until I was under the cover of a rack of clothing further around the room.

Time for a quick costume change. Keeping my eye out for Two as much as I could through the racks of clothing that currently screened me from his view, I reached into my bag and pulled out a bright red sweatshirt and pulled it on over my clothes. Ah, there he was, zeroing in unerringly once more on where his map told him I must be. I watched him approach while I dug out a baseball cap and yanked it on over my head. As disguises went, it was cheap and easily penetrated. But it didn't have to hold up for long; if my plan was going to work at all, a few seconds is all I would need.

I made a show of being absorbed in the clothing rack in front of me as he drew near and then came around the side. My heart was pounding - I'd been trying to escape from this guy for the last ten minutes and here he was right next to me with nothing between us but a red sweatshirt. But Two didn't pay any attention to me. Apparently I looked different enough to not register in his eye right away, and I had pulled the disappearing act enough times that he was expecting it so he didn't look closely. Instead he looked down at his phone, which gave me the opportunity I needed. Just as he was about to make the unnerving discovery that the map showed his victim to be right behind him, I spoiled the surprise by means of a different one: I locked one end of my newly-bought handcuffs around his right wrist.

He reacted fast, but I was ready. Instead of trying to secure his other hand, I pulled him toward me and snapped the other cuff around a metal bar at one end of the clothes rack, the one that all the shirts and jackets were suspended from. It wasn't a tremendously sturdy attachment point, but there wasn't much I could do about that. It would either hold him or it wouldn't.

"Hey!" he protested, clanking the cuffs against the bar. "You can't do that!"

"Mmm... sort of..." I agreed, deftly snatching his phone out of his hand and then stepping back and out of his reach. "I can't assassinate you, true. That would be against the rules. But somewhere around here, there's a guy who can."

I watched his face fall as the realization sank in. It's the climactic plot point of basically every movie in the Jurassic Park franchise: at the end, when the humans are hopelessly out-clawed and out-fanged, the only way to save them is: more fangs! Bring on a predator even more fearsome than the one you're being chased by! Hopefully the predator I needed was in the area and would swing by soon, but if not, at least I'd bought myself some time and peace of mind.

Two yanked at the cuffs again - what is it with the instinct to do that? Tugging on metal restraints never, ever works to release them, and yet so many guys do it. Unsurprisingly, it worked just as well this time as it had when handcuffs were first invented.

"Now... time for me to get out of here," I said, twirling the keys to the cuffs around in my fingers. "Don't go anywhere." He glared at me.

I stopped by Sir Stephen's to retrieve my credit card and to thank the salesman profusely for his help. The guy was understandably curious and now that I was no longer in a rush I could take the time to explain what was going on and why I hadn't wanted to use the cuffs I already had for this purpose. He twisted around to see Two off in the distance picking hopelessly at the cuff, then turned back to me, grinning. I then swung by the front desk and asked for an envelope and some tape, which the helpful attendant cheerfully supplied. I slipped the cuff keys and Two's phone into the envelope, sealed it, and wrote "MOUTHY BOY - ONLY FOR RELEASE BY 1:00" on the outside. It was right around 11 AM, so I figured my slightly-weirdly-worded note should be good for two hours. If player 1:00 didn't show up by time 1:00, then well, that was just his loss.

Then I made my way back into the vendor hall and taped the envelope to the far end of the clothing rack where Two couldn't reach it but his assassin would be sure to spot it if and when he came by. Then I left him there, tethered like a goat waiting for the thump, thump, thumping footsteps of an approaching T. rex.

After that it was just a matter of killing time. I took the sweatshirt and the baseball cap off and stowed them back in my bag, then hung around waiting to see what would happen. I figured there was a good chance that he would wheedle some bystander into taking pity on him despite the cryptically-worded note, but no one did. I moseyed around the hall for a while. With Two out of commission for the moment, I got a chance to try out the vacuum bed at Sir Stephen's, which was just as cool as it looked like it would be. Man, the air goes out and that rubber sucks down and there is nothing you can do about it, nothing at all. Better make sure you're comfy in the few seconds you get before you're completely frozen, because after that you're one hundred percent stuck.

I also got to try on the five-point restraints I'd been admiring at Forge And Fetter. That was some seriously heavy metal. Every movement of my body was affected. My gait was restricted, my reach was limited, my ankles and wrists could barely cope with the mass of steel they were dragging around and my neck felt like it was trying to carry a car. I loved it! I wore the set for maybe about five minutes and when it came off, I practically bounced up to the ceiling just walking around the room. For the next few minutes I felt so light I could fly.

After about an hour my wait ended. Two had had dozens of visitors by then and I had diligently kept watch just in case one of them set him free. But then one came by who knew exactly what was going on and what to do about it. He must have been monitoring as I had been. He was short and thick, heavily muscled with a fully-shaved head. I got a good look at him as he set to work. With no fanfare or conversation, he got Two hooded, collared, and leashed. Only then did he go straight to the envelope, pocket the phone, pick out the keys, and detach the cuff from the bar, quickly re-attaching it so that Two's wrists were trapped behind his back. He then used the leash to lead Two out of the room.

Game over, Two. You had a good run. And now I knew who I needed to watch out for next. He might have been One O'Clock, or Twelve, or Eleven... I couldn't really say at this point. But his fireplug body was distinctive; I would definitely recognize him when I next saw him.

5: Stymied

I found a quiet spot to sit down while Two was busy being assassinated. This was as good a time as any to catch of on happenings elsewhere in the game.

We were down to six players, it seemed, and soon to be five. The circle was closing, the noose tightening around those who remained standing. My current target was Seven O'Clock, which told me that Six hadn't taken him out already - if he had, I would have been aiming at Eight or Nine. I noodled around a bit and tried to guess who the others might be, but I just didn't have enough to go on. I knew that two of the remaining players were myself and Seven, but the rest of the clock face was mostly unknown. Of the men from Eight O'Clock to One O'Clock, one of them was currently assassinating Two, three were out of the game, and the other two were still active, but I had no way of knowing which was which. Was Tom among the ones left in the game? Impossible to say.

I flipped over from the public page to my personal view. Seven's photo showed him to be a good-looking guy with close-cropped dark hair and a stern don't-fuck-with-me expression. Was that how he normally portrayed himself or was it just a pose for the game, something intended to deter anyone hunting him? He had a thin shadow of beard, trimmed very short but dense so that it almost looked painted onto his jaw. He wore silver ear studs that glinted in the flash from the photo. A very attractive, very masculine man.

The thought of getting him under my control was very appealing. According to the map, he was in one of the meeting rooms. Probably sitting in on one of the seminars. I wasn't quite ready to take him on at the moment, but it never hurt to do some recon work and a seminar sounded good anyway. So I followed the map to the room Seven was in. Easing the door open so as not to disturb the session in progress, I slipped through and leaned against the wall by the door.

It took me a while to find him because I was standing at the back of the room and everyone but the presenter was facing away from me, but when I did, Seven was instantly recognizable. He looked even hotter in person than his photo showed. Tall, well-muscled... definitely the type of guy I enjoy dominating. Or being dominated by, to be honest, but at the moment, dominating was foremost on my mind.

According to the big block letters on the whiteboard at the front of the room, the seminar was about mummification, though the partially-duct-tape-wrapped body on the table gave a pretty strong clue as well. The presentation was interesting in its own right so I divided my attention between watching that and watching Seven. And keeping an eye out for any incoming fireplug-shaped gentlemen, of course.

One thing became clear as I watched: Seven had a posse of what could only be described as bodyguards. Four of them. All five men had a similar look: shaved heads, military-style clothes that were not quite fatigues but very close. Pants with pockets on top of pockets. They shared similar builds as well: large, bulky, intimidating. They were paying attention to the discussion up front, but they were also taking turns monitoring the room. I hadn't noticed when I entered since I didn't at that point know where to look, but I would guess that at least two and as many as five pairs of eyes had swung my way when I opened the door. If I had made anything like a hostile move, they'd have instantly united to ward me off.

Good thing I'm more of a stalker than a charger.

So I just stood back and enjoyed the very informative demo on taping techniques. The volunteer ended up with a very nice looking, rather snug-fitting custom-tailored outfit in snappy patterns of yellow, white, and green. This was an interesting change for me - I usually take a much more utilitarian approach to bondage: if it works, that's good enough. It was an unexpected delight to see someone taking the time to make something aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.

After it was over, I hung back pretending to be engrossed in my phone until Seven and his posse filed out in a clump. The bodyguards were good at their job, keeping him always at the center of the pack. I didn't even hint that I was anything other than another random bystander. Heck, how was I going to get past four protectors without enlisting helpers of my own? Ugh. I could do that, I guess, but I really prefer flying solo. That other way just didn't sit right... I could see it devolving into some kind of street brawl. "RIVAL GAY GANGS TERRORIZE HOTEL LOBBY", the headline would read. This was going to require some thought at some point... but no obvious answer presented itself, so I figured I'd let the question percolate in the back of my mind.

Having enjoyed one seminar, I wandered into a few more. I also poked my nose into that big room with the cage and the various bondage furniture to see it all being put to use. Once again, it was really tempting to volunteer to be locked in or strapped down or wrapped up, but that was just too much risk. It sure was fun watching other guys take part, though.

The cage drew a lot of attention. It was enormous, large enough that all but the tallest of men could stand in it or lie down either lengthwise or widthwise. Very spacious for a single occupant, so of course the logical conclusion was that it should contain multiple occupants. The key was now present, chained to the cage to make sure it didn't go anywhere so that anyone could use it and a steady stream of inmates did. One guy would get locked in, then two minutes later the door would open and another would come in, repeat. Eventually the first guy would leave, and so on. A constantly-changing population of inmates, as if it was a holding cell.

At one point a group of guys decided to see how many could fit inside at once. The answer was a surprisingly large number. They got 21 in there and it was crowded but they could easily have packed another five in, maybe even ten if they all got really cozy. But then someone locked the door shut and held the key out of reach as far as the chain would allow, and the inevitable horseplay followed. There was catcalling and the general good time that ensues when gear-loving bondage fans gather together with a fun piece of gear to play with.

Eventually I noticed that I had passed the entire afternoon away, only realizing in the early evening that I had skipped lunch. This always happens when I overdo it at a breakfast buffet: I wait for my body to tell me when it's lunchtime, but I'm so stuffed that it never happens. Throughout the day, I kept a lookout for a short, fireplug-shaped assassin coming to get me, but he never showed. I also occasionally looked in on Seven and always found him as tightly guarded as before. The more I saw of him, though, the less I liked what I saw. He gave off an arrogant vibe, a sense of entitlement. I hoped that entitlement didn't extend to the game, but I had to suspect that it did. Those guards... their constant presence suggested that this wasn't someone playing a game, this was someone rigging a game. He wasn't violating any rules, but it left a sour taste in my mouth.

Eh, maybe it wasn't his fault. Maybe the sour taste was only there because his tactic was working. I couldn't think of any way to get past that blockade.

Anyway, by evening I was ready for a break, so I got a sandwich and a salad from the Cherry Creek Cafe, the more casual of the hotel's dining options, carried it up to my room, and ate it there. Then I settled in for an hour or so of napping in preparation for the evening's festivities.

The Friday night edition of the Mister Mountain contest featured "dress leathers". Each of the contestants who had been introduced the night before would be strutting his stuff on stage tonight in formal leatherwear.

Now, again, I'm a functional kind of guy. If things work, that's all I really notice. Clothing, as long as it's doing its job to keep the cold out and cover the appropriate body bits, doesn't really register in my brain. Unless someone is wearing a bright pink feather boa or a superhero costume, I probably won't even notice. As for leathers, if someone is wearing them, I can say "yup, that's leather", but I honestly cannot even see the differences between "dress leathers," "bar leathers," "dance leathers" and whatever other variations might exist. "Business casual leathers," maybe? "Tailgate leathers"? "Lingerie leathers"? Seriously, you could tell me any of these terms was a real thing and I'd believe you. I realize that I'm the odd man out here; most everyone else in this room could point out the differences in microscopic detail.

So "dress leathers" it was and after we got the "building community" filler out of the way, the contestants came on stage in their finery (which looked just like yesterday's finery, to me at least). They were presented in the same order as before. First up was Kristof Angusson, then Rod di Ferro... and only then did I catch the wordplay in his name. Last night the emcee had called him "Rodney", but tonight it was "Rod" and suddenly the nom de porn made sense.

After that came Cody Grant, my personal favorite ever since that brief encounter in the vendor hall. I just loved the guy's smile, his confident-but-not-cocky walk, the way he filled out whatever clothing he was wearing. Whether dress leathers, undress leathers, or anything else, I couldn't imagine him not looking good in them. Heck, I bet he'd even find a way to rock a burqa. Then Tobias Lindt and Burl Mendez rounded out the list of what I was already considering the runner-ups.

My map told me that my target Seven was here, but the room was pretty crowded and I couldn't see him or his posse over on the far side of the room. I was in the same spot I had chosen yesterday, in the back by a door, constantly wary for an incoming assassin. I still had no idea how I was going to get through Seven's ring of guards, but figured I might as well enjoy the event while I was here.

At 11:30, the beauty pageant... 'scuse me, leather contest ended and the crowd dispersed to find other amusements. And then, just like the night before, a commotion developed. I glanced over to see what was going on and found that it was Seven and his group who were kicking up the ruckus. It didn't take long to clue in: in a replay of the ambush Two and team carried out yesterday, Seven and his henchmen had pounced on their victim, who really didn't stand a chance against five burly opponents. In no time at all they had their prey trussed up and were carrying him off to do the deed. Some clapping and hooting followed their exit, but by and large the to-do went unnoticed in the larger crowd.

I knew I would not be nearly as welcome to crash that party as last night's, so I didn't even try. Instead I went into the Zephyr Lounge, had myself a whiskey sour, and happened to meet up with The Man Formerly Known As Five O'Clock, aka my very first victim. The lovable lug was there with the same group of friends I had first seen him with, including that very helpful fellow Simon. I hung out with them for a while, mulling over in my head the possibility of asking them all to help me out with Seven.

Ultimately, though, I didn't. It just didn't feel right somehow. These guys were playful, fun-loving types and Seven's crew gave off more of a prison-gang vibe. Both were sexy in their own way, but it didn't seem right to try to mix the two together. Specifically, it didn't seem fair to throw this group at that one. They'd be (metaphorically) slaughtered. Five had no hard feelings and was pleased to learn I was still a contender. Simon said he would definitely be interested in lending a hand again and I gratefully thanked him for the offer, telling him I would give him a call when I was ready for my next kill. Still... not for this particular target. I was going to need to come up with some other plan.

In the end, I called it quits right after that and went to my room. My nerves were too jangled to remain out in public for much longer. My assassin was out there somewhere and it was a drain to stay constantly vigilant. So off to bed I went, carefully setting my snares on my way into the room. Before going to sleep, I checked the public view. Sure enough, Seven had completed his task. The number of players was now down to four.

Saturday morning I was up early once again. I checked on Seven - he was in room 434, fourth floor, west of the elevators, same wing of the building that my room was in. His dot wasn't moving so I could tentatively assume that 434 was his room and he was presently asleep. He could also be boffing some bottom boy in someone else's room, true, but that seemed less likely. There was no way to know where the fireplug guy was, but once again I had the advantage of knowing what my current assassin looked like. So I decided to indulge in the breakfast buffet once again.

Mmmm... ham and cheese mixed into the scrambled eggs this time. And hash browns instead of diced potatoes. Exactly the same but different. I am such a sucker for cheap breakfast food! I overate again just like yesterday and then set out to wander once more through the early-morning emptiness of the event space.

The large-furniture room was my first stop. The giant cage looked lonely with no one inside it and the door was open this time, though the key had been removed. I inspected the lock mechanism more closely this time. It appeared to have a couple of different modes: manual lock, manual unlock, and lock-upon-close. Right now it was unlocked, so even if the door was closed, it could be easily re-opened. In lock-upon-close mode shutting the door would immediately latch it, but changing the setting required the key.

Meaning: I could not get trapped inside. I closed and opened the door a few times to make sure and then carefully, hesitantly, I stepped inside. It was surprisingly not intimidating. I was expecting more of a sense of captivity, the rush of being restrained, but the space was so large that it just didn't register as bondage or confinement. Maybe I'd feel differently if the door was locked and someone else held the key.

I wandered around some more, killing time at the vendor booths and keeping an eye on Seven. I didn't really expect the trick of lurking outside his door to work like it did with Six - this guy was too careful. He wouldn't leave his room until his posse had sounded the all-clear outside the door. I took a walk down the hallway on the fourth floor of the west wing, but it was deserted and Seven still wasn't moving. Then I headed back down to the event space, keeping a watchful eye out for fireplugs.

I made a couple of purchases this time, just a few small pieces of gear from Forge And Fetter: a chain collar, some leg shackles, and a nice, large key-operated lock. The collar and leg shackles were for my own use later, outside the game, but I had an idea in mind for the lock. See, it occurred to me that the cage may come with a built-in lock of its own, but it would be possible to lock the door closed by wrapping a different lock around one bar of the door and one bar of the frame. So... why not keep a suitable lock in my bag, just in case the cage ever presented itself as an opportunity for a capture?

Hours passed and the hall started to get busier, making me feel less and less safe as the crowds grew denser. I made a couple more passes down the fourth-floor hallway and though I passed a few guys doing the same, none of them were Seven or any of his buddies. Mostly I was just trying to keep moving so as to make life difficult for any pursuers while I tried to think of a way to get to Seven. I thought about maybe heading all the way up to my room on the seventh floor to drop off the new gear since it just added weight to the bag I was lugging around. But I decided to hang onto it on the off chance that I might find some use for the new toys.

Finally, around 11:00, I saw his dot start moving around the room. I took the stairs to the fourth floor and went to go hang out by the elevators. Since the stairs are at the outer ends of the building and the elevators are near the center, going to the elevators took me down the length of the wing's hallway. Sure enough, halfway down the hall, right outside Seven's door, was a small knot of men I recognized, and there were several others I didn't sprinkled up and down the hall. A light crowd, in other words, a good number of people to be anonymous in. There were also a couple of housekeeping carts staffed by overworked, underpaid people who were doing their best to keep the hotel presentable under the relentless onslaught of several hundred horned-up leathermen.

Then several things happened at once. As I neared Seven's door, I edged my way past the posse waiting outside. Right as I got there, the door opened and Seven emerged. I kept walking, veering around the cart as the housekeeper in the next doorway asked Seven if there was anyone else in the room he had just come out of. Answer: no. Is it OK to clean the room? Sure, go ahead. Before the door closed, she propped it open with a wedge. The knot of Seven-plus-bodyguards began following behind me to the elevators, though I only knew this by sound since I didn't turn around to look.

And a plan - a stupid, insane plan - blossomed into being inside my head. I acted on it without even thinking about whether it was a good idea or not.

6: Patience

Halfway to the elevators, I turned around and started walking back toward Seven. "Oh, crap, I knew I forgot something," I muttered, because that's what people do when they suddenly reverse direction, as though onlookers will assume you are insane if you turn around without making some sort of out-loud acknowledgement of it. It's weird how pervasive that effect is - I've caught myself doing it when I'm all alone inside my own home. Walking from kitchen to bedroom, I turn around partway there and say, out loud, to nobody, "dang, I think the fridge might not have closed all the way". Because people who aren't there and who can't hear me will think I'm crazy if I don't explain the sudden reversal, I guess?

Anyway, this put me facing the posse. The guards made sure I did not pass between them and the man they were protecting, but I showed no sign of being a threat and let them shunt me to the side of the hall with a vaguely distracted air about me. Passing the room next to Seven's I called out a loud "Forgot my sunglasses, just a sec" to the housekeeper now deep inside the room and ducked through Seven's propped-open door. I emerged again a few seconds later making loud footsteps, then paused, put a thoughtful expression on my face for a moment, turned around, and walked more quietly back into the room. I'm sure some of the people in the hall saw me enter. What mattered was that Seven, his posse, and the housekeeper next door didn't.

The rooms at the Stone Trace are equipped with tiny closets built into the wall between the bathroom and the rest of the space. I don't use mine - I don't own any clothing that needs to be hung upright. I hoped the same was true of Seven. I slowly, quietly, opened up the door and hooray, the tiny space was empty except for the miniature ironing board that came with the room, with matching mini-iron hung on the wall. I slipped inside with my bag and shut the door.

And that was the plan, in its entirety. Sneak into Seven's room and... wait. That was the stupid, insane part: the waiting. I had no idea when he would come back, or even if he would come back. For all I knew, he could be sleeping in a different room each night.

Well, the good part about it was that the plan was reversible. I was not trapped in here. Hotel room doors do not require keys to open from the inside. By leaving I would forfeit my one possible advantage, but at least I could get out if I needed to. Another advantage: I was safe from my own assassin, or at least I would be once housekeeping had finished in here and closed the door again.

That got me to thinking... what if the housekeeper opened the closet door during the servicing of the room?

The thought, once it entered my head, refused to leave. There was no place else in the room to hide, though. She would be in the bathroom and the bedroom was a wide-open space with no place small enough to stash a body. There was no way I would fit into one of the dresser drawers, for instance. And yet, if she opened the closet door, I could easily envision what would happen next: a call to security, my ungentle removal from the premises, a ban on returning for future events.

What to do, though? Abandon the plan before she came in and started? Sit here quietly and hope? None of the options appealed and I sat and stewed for what felt like a long while getting more anxious by the moment. I was on the verge of bailing out while I still could and had even grabbed my bag of gear to leave. It was the grabbing of the bag that made me realize there was a third option available to me. I set the bag down, opened it up, and set to work. It was impossible to accomplish what I needed to do inside the closet, but that was fine - I did most of the prep work out in the room and only tucked myself back into the closet for the last step. Then I just sat and waited.

As it turned out, my prep work paid off, because the housekeeper did open the closet door. I have no idea why... to check the supply of extra pillows on the top shelf, maybe? But for whatever reason, she opened the door, and this is what she saw:

A mostly-naked, collared, handcuffed, leg-shackled prisoner sitting on the floor of the tiny space, wearing nothing but underwear and folded up like a piece of origami. She jumped back when she saw me, but I made a show of jumping in startlement too, or at least jumping as much as I could while sitting on my ass wearing handcuffs and leg irons.

I looked up at her, not having to pretend to blink and squint in the sudden brightness. In a squeaky, terrified voice, I said "he's coming back for me, he said he would".

It didn't take her long to recover her composure. She pursed her lips, gazed down at me, shook her head, and said "you guys are all crazy, you know that?"

I lowered my gaze to the floor between her feet. "Yes, ma'am," I said, the perfect picture of humbled slavemeat.

And it worked! She closed the door, did whatever else she needed to do in the room, and left without another word to me.

Once she was gone and there had been no sound from the other side of the closet door for a few minutes, I unfolded myself - not entirely gracefully, I admit - and emerged to take my chains off and put my clothes on. The gear went back in the bag, which went back in the closet, and then so did I. I found I really did not want to go back in, since I was still cramped and sore from sitting there so long already. But I really had no choice. If I was out in the room when Seven returned, this would all be for nothing. So in the closet I would have to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I mentioned, I think, that I had seen his dot moving around 11:00. The room invasion took place minutes after that, and everything else that had happened since had taken another hour. It was a little after noon, I had just spent most of the last hour crammed into a tiny space, and now I faced a sentence of unknown duration doing exactly the same thing.

The thought did not appeal.

Here was my problem: my phone was at about a 2/3 charge, but my charging cable was back in my room. Given how much other crap I was toting around in the bag, the 2-ounce charger would have added no burden whatsoever, and yet I had never needed it before, so I left it in the room like usual when I headed out. Oops. Man, was I second-guessing that decision now... I could have spent the time while I waited watching Seven on the map and only gone into the closet to hide when he came near the room.

Without a charger, that wasn't an option. My phone battery would drain to nothing in an hour or two of constant use. I could try to stretch that out by only checking his whereabouts at intervals, but that increased the risk of him walking in on me by surprise. I checked around Seven's room to see if he had left his charger here, but he must taken it with him. That thoughtless, arrogant bastard, didn't he know I would be needing it?!?

So I would need to spend as much time as possible in the closet because I didn't think I'd have enough warning to get back inside silently when he came back. My first clue would be the sound of him inserting his card key into the lock; there would be only seconds to silently hide. My odds of successfully managing it were slimmer than slim.

The closet it would have to be. A tiny little cell that I would have to share with my bag and the ironing board. I got in once more and closed the door behind me. The space was tall enough to stand in, but not completely upright. I had to either bend my knees or my neck to avoid the shelf at the top. Sitting down was also an option, but only if I scrunched my legs up. This was going to be a long, torturous confinement, and I was not looking forward to it.

The irony of that was not lost on me. How many of us have had fantasies where we go "Lock me up! All chained up too, even better! And then forget about me! Just leave me there in storage, like an object, a thing! Yeah, totally hawt, man!" Then we get our wish and... hmm... the reality is different from the fantasy, isn't it?

The reality of long-term captivity is: it's boring. You sit in your tiny cell with absolutely nothing but your own brain for company and entertainment. We live in an era where we've got always-on distraction possibilities right in our pockets. We're used to pulling the phone out when we get bored during a 30-second wait in the grocery checkout line. It can be a major adjustment to be in enforced immobility with no external stimulation whatsoever.

I did have my phone, so I wasn't completely deprived. But I knew I had to ration my use of it, which somehow made the deprivation worse. As the minutes began to drag on and become hours, I forced myself to go as long as I could go without checking it. And when I did check it, it was just to see the time.

I shifted position when I needed to, not worrying about making noise because the room was empty. I knew a time would come when I would have to remain absolutely still, so I took advantage of the relative freedom while I had it. My time sense was very, very skewed. I started out being able to guess reasonably well when, say, twenty minutes had passed since my last check, but I learned that time in captivity is not linear. Twenty minutes at the beginning feels like twenty minutes; twenty minutes in the third hour can feel like eighty or it can feel like five. There were times when my guesses were way under and times when they were way over and it caught me by surprise every time.

Once an hour... -ish... I would check Seven's whereabouts and catch up on the game's public view. Every two hours, after verifying that Seven was still safely downstairs, I allowed myself a stretch break where I would climb out of the closet, work the kinks out of my joints and muscles, use the bathroom if necessary, and then climb back in to resume my vigil.

The huge breakfast helped sustain me through the ordeal. I didn't start to feel hungry until evening, and even then it was just a minor thing, my body saying "hmm, I wouldn't mind a nibble of something" rather than "FOOD NOW". Since food was not an option, it was good that the discomfort from hunger was only minor. I did make sure to drink water regularly straight from the tap in the bathroom, though I started scaling back the amount after 7:00. I didn't want to get into a situation where I desperately needed to pee while Seven was in the room.

Time passed.


Oh man, I got so stiff and sore sitting and standing there! So many times I wanted to throw in the towel and say "you know what, forget it, this isn't worth it". The only thing that kept me in there was eroticizing the captivity. This was a leather festival, right? And what better thing could I be doing at a leather festival than spending hours locked in uncomfortable confinement? I imagined that there was a firm, unyielding dom out there who was in charge. I didn't have the strength to stick it out by myself, but my imaginary dom did. He held the key to my cell door and he knew what I could take much better than I did. I could rant and rail and complain till the cows came home, but he wasn't going to budge. He wanted me locked up, and so locked up is where I stayed. He let me out for stretch / drink / bathroom breaks, but on a tight schedule that he rigorously stuck to.

It was just a trick of my mind, but somehow it worked for me. I got myself into a good sub space where the discomfort was real but I could cope with it because my dom was "making" me. He enjoyed my suffering, so I offered it freely to him. And the hours passed.

Fourteen of them.

Seven didn't come back into the room until almost 2:00 AM. Fourteen hours of being stuffed into a vertical coffin.

Well, twelve, plus one and a half later, so I'll round up to fourteen. I had managed to fall asleep at some point, probably several times, but there was one time when I startled myself awake and realized I must have been deeply out. My feet had gone numb and so I stood up as quietly as I could - what if Seven had come in while I was out cold? - and shook life back into them. It shows how well my brain was working by that point that I did not think to check my phone for his whereabouts first.

That was around 11:30 and I did not sleep again after that. Once my brain woke up enough to remember why I was putting myself through this agony, I checked the phone to see Seven still whooping it up in the event area, probably taking in tonight's Mister Mountain presentation. I wondered idly how my man Cody was doing, but the competition was so far removed from my current situation that it might as well have been taking place on another planet. I emerged from the closet creaking like an eighty-year-old man and decided I deserved some freedom. Had I worried about feeling cooped up in my hotel room before? Bah! Having the run of an entire hotel room was the height of luxury compared to what I had just been through!

I emptied out my bladder and waited some more, this time outside the cell. The phone's charge was at 40% so I figured I could monitor him every few minutes and hide myself away again when he started heading for the room. I also learned that another assassination had taken place while I was in storage. Only three players left now. Assuming I could take out Seven, then the game would enter its final stage, where each man was the other's target. And I hadn't even needed my secret weapon yet.

But to get there, I had to kill Seven first. I lingered in the dark room, watching Seven's dot move around on the ground floor every couple of minutes. At one point I put my half-hood back on, thinking that the anonymity it provided might come in handy if things went south later on. The charge on the phone began to drop faster with me checking it so often, but before it became a serious concern, I saw him on one of the elevators. As quickly and silently as I could, I tucked myself into the closet, sitting down because there was no way to know how long he would putter around before going to sleep. I might be there a while.

Two minutes later, the door opened. There were voices at the door - his protective posse seeing him safely inside. The light went on and its glow appeared along the cracks around the edges of the door. More noises, sounds of footsteps and thunked objects and then the TV. He watched that for a while while I sat, all keyed up with nothing to do with the energy. At least the TV would mask any noises I might make, but I carefully made none. That might need to change as time passed, but for the moment I was limbered up from being out the cell so long.

Next he took a shower, leaving the TV on. I considered trying to take him when he emerged, but decided against it. He was a muscular guy and I didn't think my odds of a one-on-one were all that great, even against a naked, surprised Seven. Better to wait until he was asleep.

It seemed to take forever. Logically, the hour and a half I spent waiting for him to finish showering and brushing his teeth and then watching an endless amount of television was a mere fraction of the amount of time I had already spent in that tiny cell, and yet this was somehow harder to endure. My invisible dom was gone and I was hyped up, ready to emerge and make the kill... but I had to wait.

I became convinced that he fell asleep with the TV on. It is possible I could have emerged much sooner than I did, but I had no way to know it. Instead, I sat there as silently as I could, muscles screaming to move. Eventually, the TV turned itself off; it must have been on a timer. I waited five more minutes to be sure, then slowly pushed the closet door open and crept out.

It was dark, but hotel rooms are never pitch black. Light leaks in from under the door and various electronic gadgets all have little glowing LEDs. I kept my hood on just to ensure that he couldn't see my face even in the dimness.

Seven was asleep. I wanted to rush in and do it right away, but I made myself wait until my muscles had had a chance to unknot themselves. I walked on silent feet around the room, taking note of his position on the bed and where each of his limbs was under the blankets. At one point I wandered over to the outer door and noted that he had not set the extra security lock and chain. As quietly as possible, I did that for him. Come on, Seven, basic hotel room operating procedure.

I went back and hovered over him again. It was definitely him - in my bleary state I almost forgot to verify the target. But the ear stud was very visible in the dim gloom and I could make out the felt of his neatly-trimmed beard up close. Wow... leaning over him, the sense of power was intoxicating. I allowed myself to imagine being an actual assassin, the kind that dealt in sharp blades rather than lube and vibrators. The vulnerable victim on the bed was completely helpless to anything... anything... I might do to him. I would never do something like for real, of course, but it was a real mind trip to pretend while I waited for my body to come fully under my control again.

At last, it was time. Seven was deeply asleep. I brought out the capture cuffs once again. Such a help they had been to me throughout the course of this game! Seven's hands were conveniently close to each other - he was lying on his right side on the edge of the bed, facing left, with his left hand tucked under the pillow and the right one under the left forearm. I was about to click them shut when I thought of one more precaution I could take.

See, I would be cuffing his hands together in front of him. This would hinder his ability to resist, but not by all that much. I wanted a playing field that was tilted so heavily in my favor that he couldn't possibly win. So I took a rope from my bag, tied one end to the leg of the bed, looped it around the chain of the cuffs, and tied the other end to the bed leg as well. Now he'd be cuffed and fixed in place with the knots well out of his reach.

And a darn good thing I did that, too. I got the cuffs on his wrists, but the sound was enough to wake him and he instantly shot to full alertness.

"Mother fucker!" he shouted when he realized his hands were trapped at the edge of the mattress. I moved in and sat on top of him. He would have been able to buck me off easily except for those trapped hands. As it was, he could thrash but he couldn't shake me loose.

"Dude, calm down, I'm not gonna hurt you," I explained. "I'm just your assassin." But he kept shouting all the louder, hollering for help. I realized then: he didn't think this was a mugging or a random rapist. He knew full well who I was and what I was trying to do. Members of his posse were probably in the rooms next door. They might even have keys to this room. That's why he hadn't set the security chain on the door. Suddenly that idle moment's whim of putting it in place became far more significant than I realized at the time.

The shouting had to stop. I reached over and grabbed the other pillow and rammed it down over his face. He fought even harder, but at least the sound was considerably more muffled now. He struggled to get loose but I bore down with all my weight, hoping he would just shut up already. But no, he kept at it while long minutes dragged by. For all my dark-side fantasies earlier, I didn't actually want to suffocate the guy, but clearly he wasn't having any trouble getting air the way he was hooting and hollering and carrying on.

Something had to change. I lifted my weight off his body, bearing down harder on the pillow in the process, and used my free hand to work the blanket off his body. He was wearing just boxers. Sitting down on top of him once more, I reached in through the waistband, fished around until I found his balls, and wrapped my fingers around them. Then I just... squeezed. And kept squeezing until his voice rose in pitch and started to sound almost like a squeal. That's when he finally got the message and stopped shouting.

I waited a few seconds, then lifted the pillow off his head.

"That's better," I said, trying to make my voice sound deep and menacing. "Now you just keep your fucking mouth shut. Nod if you understand." He didn't want to do it, clearly, but I shifted my fingers a fraction and he grudgingly moved his head. Only then did I loosen up the pressure, though I kept my grip in place.

"Understand this," I growled at him. "It's already over. You've already lost. Your friends can't help you. All that remains is to get that load out of your dick. There is nothing you can do to stop it. So either sit back and try to enjoy it or don't; it's all the same to me. But if you make one fucking sound I'm going to gag you. Decide now if you want that load extracted with your mouth free or with your dirty sock stuffed inside it." Because I knew exactly where his dirty socks were, having seen the discarded clothing while I was walking around the room.

I didn't even bother trying to get him trussed up in some more artfully-arranged bondage. After fourteen hours of waiting, I was in no mood to delay any further. I got the leg shackles onto his ankles and used more rope to attach them to the leg at the foot of the bed. He decided to start shouting again while I was down out of reach of his head, which just pissed me off. I mean, I like when a guy resists, but the shouting was just annoying.

Never let it be said that when I make a threat I don't follow through on it. I grabbed one of his socks and crammed it into his open yap. He fought that as well, but that was fine because a good bit of sock had gone in so it was just a matter of him trying to push that bit out with his tongue while I tried to push the rest of the sock in with my much-stronger hands. Once it was all the way in, I held it in place with a hand over his mouth while I rooted through my bag with my other hand for some duct tape. I thought about putting a layer of plastic wrap in place before putting the tape in but you know what? Screw it. This guy wasn't coopering in the least, so he could just deal with having a few hairs come out with the tape later. I just wanted to get this done.

Once he was gagged, I finished securing his feet and then it was time to do it. I was seriously ticked off by this point, tired and sore from the long wait and none to happy with his total failure to cooperate. This was going to go as quickly as I could make it happen. No prolonged edging for Seven O'Clock. I had been planning on having some hands-on involvement, but now I didn't even feel like doing that any more.

I yanked down his boxers, dug a vibrator out of my bag, and set it in place. He grunted into the gag and kept trying to get his hands free, but with the knots down on the floor he stood no chance. He may have been trying to keep his attention off his dick because he stayed soft for a very long time. Or it least it felt long, it was probably less than five minutes.

At least his attempts to rouse his pals had failed - there was no pounding at the door. And with the sock in his mouth, his attempts to shout were laughably useless. He realized it at some point and gave up trying.

But by then his cock had stiffened up as it inevitably had to under the ministrations of the vibrator. I changed the angle of the thing so that it was pressed up tight all along the length of his dick and just held it there. Sooner or later - hopefully sooner - it would have the desired effect.

It took longer than I would have liked, but I had to admit to myself that anything longer than 90 seconds would have felt like too long. When I could tell he was getting close, I got my phone out, turned on the bedside light, and started recording. He wasn't as close as I thought and I was acutely aware of the steadily-draining battery.

But eventually I got my money shot, starting from the ankle to get a record of that bracelet, then panning up his body, making sure to capture both face and phallus in the frame when the moment arrived. Pearly white drops sprayed his belly. I turned off the phone and pulled the vibrator away while he was still mid-orgasm; let it be a partly-ruined one, serves him right. I registered the kill, then undid the leg shackles but re-tied the rope around his legs. Then I did the same with the cuffs, tying his hands with the rope before removing the metal. The gag I left in place. Seven glared at me and coughed out some words that I couldn't make out. He repeated them and they became clearer: "you mother-fucking asshole" or something like that.

"Dude," I told him. "It's just a game. Let it go." Man, I have no patience for these must-win-at-all-costs types. The joy is in the play, not the victory. I said before that I like to play to win, but if someone had outsmarted or overpowered me, I'd accept it with good grace. This guy was just being a jerk.

Well, not my problem. I had my proof if I needed it. I left him to set himself free - the knots wouldn't hold him for long - and let myself out. He could keep the rope; a little souvenir of the experience. I made my tired way up three flights of stairs to my room, plugged in the phone, and passed out almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

7: The Telluride Room

I did not wake until 10:30 the following morning. Considering I had done basically nothing but sit in a box for most of yesterday, I was very surprised to sleep so late. Usually I'm up early no matter what. I guess my body was just enjoying the ability to stretch out and didn't want to give that up too soon.

I had missed breakfast, which was probably for the best. I really didn't need a third massive meal inside me, yummy as it was going in. In fact, I wasn't really hungry at all, even having skipped two meals since yesterday morning. My biorhythms were all out of whack, it seemed. A sign of a successful Mountain Men fest.

Well, I was rested and refreshed and the very first thing I did was grab my now-fully-charged phone and see who my final victim - and stalker - would be. Only... it still showed Seven as my target. And the public view still said there were three players in the running. Which meant...

Oh, that asshole. He hadn't confirmed the kill. He knew I had video proof and still he didn't want to admit that he had been beaten. What a jerk.

Well, this was an inconvenience, no more, but it sure spoke volumes about the kind of person he was. There was one minor problem, though... how to get out my door. I hadn't set my snares when I came in before going to bed. This was partly because I was exhausted but partly because there would be no point: with the game down to two players, I would be able to see where my hunter was because he was also my prey. If he was lurking outside my door, I'd know it.

But with the system thinking Seven was still in play, I had no window into my pursuer's whereabouts. One more reason to be ticked at Seven. I would need to go to the registration desk and have the game manager review my evidence. Although...?

I sent a help request through the Assassin app. "Hi. I killed Seven O'Clock last night but it looks like he hasn't confirmed it. Can I send you a video to prove it?" Maybe I could get this resolved without having to even get out of bed.

Ten minutes later, an answer came back. "I'll be happy to review your video. Bring it on down to the desk and I'll meet you there."


One last hope. "I can do that, but I'm a bit worried about where my own assassin might be. Don't break the rules by giving away his location, but can you at least tell me this: if I go from room 724 and take the west stairs down to your desk, will I go past him?"

The response came back more quickly this time. "That path is clear for now."

Good enough, although the "for now" was a little ominous. I threw some clothes on and made a beeline down the stairs. The game manager was there in that little room behind the registration area and thankfully, getting the issue resolved was straightforward. I sent him a copy of my video and he watched it with me there. He confirmed that the guy in it was the player known as Seven O'Clock. Then he asked me what time I had killed him. I told him it was around 3AM and he went and confirmed that my ankle bracelet and Seven's both showed us as being in room 434 at that time. Good enough, he said, and used his godlike manager power to boot Seven out of the game. Done. I thanked him and went straight back to my room.

Jogging and jouncing on my way back up the stairs, my bladder reminded me that it had gone a long time between emptyings and politely but insistently asked if we could remedy that situation tout de suite. Back in the room I took care of that and while doing so I caught a whiff of myself and realized that showering was another thing I hadn't done in a while, so I handled that next. Then the other end also requested an emptying and I figured I might as well brush my teeth while I was at it since that was another task I had neglected last night. Not my greatest showing for routine body maintenance. I then threw on some clean, unsmelly, un-sweat-stained clothes: a blue T-shirt and dark grey jeans.

My point is: it was a good forty-five minutes after I made the jaunt downstairs that I got a chance to check my phone, where I learned that my final target, and the man trying to hunt me down, was...

... Cody Grant.

I had to refresh to display because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. But the image stubbornly persisted: yes, it was that Cody Grant, the Mister Mountain contestant with the world's sexiest smile and the shoulders that could make dress leathers, bar leathers, carwash leathers, coin-op-laundry leathers, and any other leathers look like their sole reason for being stitched into existence was to highlight those cannonballs. That was my intended victim, code-named Eleven O'Clock. He must have taken out the fireplug guy yesterday while I was folded up in the closet.

My mood, which had been thoroughly soured by the experience with Seven, suddenly shot up to the moon. Talk about your win-win situation! I would try my best to get this handsome hunk trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey, but if I should happen to fail in that endeavor, well, what a way to lose!

The map showed that he was downstairs in the vendor exhibit hall. I decided to go get myself something light to eat from the Cherry Creek Cafe, which I could do in relative peace of mind since I could keep an eye on Cody's whereabouts at all times. On my way there I passed by the reception area and noticed a knot of large, familiar-looking men gathered at the door to the little side room and the sound of mildly-raised voices emerging from within. Suddenly I was glad Seven had never seen my face. I had no interest in being drawn into whatever drama he was manufacturing. If the game manager needed to find me for any reason, my ankle bracelet would make that possible. But my case was airtight and I did not expect he would need me to get involved.

I enjoyed my turkey sandwich slowly, savoring the mundane pleasure of being able to sit out in the open and not worry about being ambushed from behind. It made me realize I couldn't live like this all the time, constantly being hunted. And that made me realize that I no longer had any need to hide my face. Cody knew what I looked like and where I was, so I took the half-hood off. It felt good - strange but good - to go unmasked in a public space for the first time since the event began. Peripheral vision! What a marvel!

Cody stayed in the vendor hall the whole time I was eating. The question I mulled over while I ate was: do I try to take him out this afternoon, before the final Mister Mountain show tonight at 8, or do I wait until after and get him during the chaos of the closing dance party?

The best part was: I didn't have to decide. After finishing my sandwich, I took a walk into the vendor hall, not with any purpose in mind, just to see what was going on. I found Cody hanging around the Sir Stephen's booth. I lingered, lurking at a distance, enjoying the view of him smiling and laughing with the guys gathered around checking out the gear. He seemed relaxed, which got me to wondering whether I should make a move on him. But I didn't, preferring to make this a recon mission only.

A few minutes went by and then he glanced at his phone. Immediately, the relaxed pose stiffened into one of tension and alertness and he looked up directly toward where I was standing. It took him only a few seconds to zero in on me staring at him from across the room. The moment he made eye contact, I gave him a nod and then stepped to the side, disappearing behind a rack of clothing and then making my way to the exit. He could have followed me, but chose not to - I know because I diligently watched my phone as I walked away. We both decided to leave that first contact as just that: a ping saying "I know you're there" and nothing more.

That told me that he was paying attention, so sneaking up on him would probably not be successful. That left a few other strategies... ambush attack, distraction, enlist a team, others I hadn't thought of yet but might. I kept an eye on him for the next couple of hours, mulling over how best to take him down. I will admit, though, that I spent more time daydreaming about what I would do to him after I had him bound and helpless than I did thinking about how to get him that way. Probably not the best use of my time but my brain just kept wandering off that way on its own initiative.

I took in one more seminar, this one on piercings and how to do them without losing a nipple to flesh-eating bacteria. Good stuff to know but I was not planning on either getting or doing any piercings in the near (or, for that matter, the distant) future so it was purely theoretical knowledge. It was still an hour well spent - I love exploring parts of the BDSM world that differ from my primary tastes just to see what else is out there. I monitored Cody's movements, of course, watching him head up to his room (or at least a room) for a bit, then come down to meander around the event space again.

As the piercing seminar was wrapping up, I noticed that he was hanging around in the hall outside the room I was in. This, of course, made me somewhat uneasy and I paid pretty much no attention at all to the last ten minutes of what the presenter said. My mind was racing with possible scenarios. Was he planning an ambush? Had he enlisted helpers? The room I was in had two exits. I was near one of them and according to the map, so was he, sort of. He was closer to this door than the other one, and though he wasn't lurking right outside, he was close enough that if I were to walk into the hall, we could have a conversation without shouting too loudly. Or he could come charging at me... or I could go charging at him. I quietly got my capture cuffs out of their case just to have them handy.

What to do? Burst out through the other door and flee? Try to take the advantage for myself? The map showed me Cody, but not any henchmen he may have enlisted. He could have recruited all of the other Mister Mountain candidates easily... and once that thought occurred to me, my brain started once more going down the road of generating not-at-all-helpful fantasy scenarios of being gang-mobbed by all five of those handsome, well-muscled, leather-clad studs and forced to do unspeakable things to every single one of them. Well, if that was to be my fate, so be it, I'd suffer through! But I wouldn't go down without at least some token resistance.

The seminar ended and the room began to empty out. I thought about hanging back and letting the crowd disperse, then figured I'd actually be safer in a group - it would be harder for him/them to get to me in a pack. So I made my way to the door with the initial rush of exiting bodies and emerged into the crowded hallway. I looked straight toward where the map told me Cody must be waiting and sure enough, he was right there.

Holding a white flag.

Well, more of a handkerchief, really, but he was holding it up and waving it in a very flag-like way. Still wary for a trap, I paused and let the press of bodies go past. I was up against one wall, Cody was on the opposite wall perhaps fifteen steps away. There was no chance of having any sort of conversation in the milling crowd, and no one came rushing at me, so I was willing to hang around and see what he wanted to say.

"I'm afraid my hanky code knowledge is a bit rusty," I said once the volume level had dropped enough that we could hear each other. "Does a white hanky in the right hand mean you want to be tied up and milked?"

To my delight, he grinned. Not everyone gets my humor, and it is the worst when you have to explain that something was a joke. But he caught on right away.

"Ah, you're thinking of the left hand," he fired back, that silky baritone voice suffused with mirth. "The right hand means I want to do the milking." Bravo! I love it when someone takes what I serve them and dishes it right back to me.

"Actually, it's just what it looks like," he went on. "A flag of truce. I was hoping you would do me the honor of joining me for dinner. We'll put the game on pause for the duration of the meal and then, after we've gone our separate ways, resume the hunt."

This was not at all what I was expecting him to say. Not that I really could have said what I was expecting him to say, but that was not it. I must have looked hesitant because he continued.

"I know it's early for dinner, but tonight's Mister Mountain show starts earlier than the others and I'll need time to get ready. Please? My treat."

It really was not a tough decision at all. Dinner with the soon-to-be-crowned Mister Mountain, who by the way was looking resplendent in the leathers he had on and I could see no reason why he would need to change anything to "get ready" - he could walk onstage exactly as he was right now and absolutely kill the competition. Dinner with that guy? Uh, yes, please. Sign me up.

"Dinner sounds great. Please, though: let's go with separate checks. There's too much of a weird power dynamic in the context of the game."

"Fair enough," he replied. "That works." He tucked the handkerchief into his pocket. "The truce is now in effect. After dinner, we'll go our separate ways and then the game can resume."

He gestured me toward where the restaurants were and we began to walk.

"There's only about three hours between now and the start of the show. Plenty of time for dinner, but after that... you're not worried I might make you late?" I asked as we went.

"Oh, I can always leave you tied up and get back to you afterward," he said.

I almost started to explain that no, I had meant he would be the one tied up, then realized he had done it to me again - caught my smartassery and served it right back. Eventually he was going to start serving the wisecracks himself instead of just batting back mine and when he did I sure hoped I would be able to keep up. Not just a good body, this guy had brains too.

He led me to the Telluride Room, the fanciest of the Stone Trace's three dining options. I had never actually set foot in the place, not this year and not in previous years. Recall that my taste in food runs toward "cheap and plentiful (excess sodium A-OK)". I don't eat like that all the time, but on a holiday weekend like this when I'm going to splurge, that's what I gravitate toward. My dining companion, on the other hand, evidently had a more refined palate.

The hostess seated us at an elegant little table for two with napkins folded into complicated shapes, a lily in a glass bubble, and an ornately-carved wooden divider tastefully set up to provide privacy between us and the next table over. Definitely unfamiliar dining territory for me. She handed us the menus and as soon as she left an efficient waiter appeared, filled our water glasses, told us the specials, then informed us he'd be right back. I perused the menu and when he returned I opted for chicken cordon bleu served with a cauliflower rice pilaf, julienned carrots, and haricots verts. A far cry from a splortful of scrambled eggs. Cody requested something that had way too many consecutive vowels, but it went by so fast that I couldn't make out what it was and I had already handed back my menu so I couldn't look it up. He also asked for a glass of wine; I stuck with water.

Orders placed and alone once more, I asked him why we were here. "To get to know you," he replied.

"Hmm. As in, to study my takedown tactics so as to turn them against me, judo-style?"

That got a small chuckle, but it wasn't really a laugh-out-loud line so I hadn't expected more. "No, not really. I mean, yes, sure, I'll take that advantage if it's offered, but really I was just curious who my fellow finalist is."

We talked basic get-to-know-you stuff. I found out he was from Austin, Texas, but that he traveled a lot for his renewable energy work. In turn I shared that my day job was in medical billing and that I lived in Colorado Springs, which made me pretty much a local by convention standards in that I drove to the hotel rather than flying in.

The waiter arrived with his wine. He took a sip. "One glass shouldn't hurt, right? I need to stay on my toes tonight. So, from curiosity - and don't answer any question you don't feel comfortable with - how many player removals were you responsible for?"

"You mean how many kills did I make?"

"Mmm... yes, though I'm not keen on that term. I mean, I know the game is called Assassin, but something about the wording makes me uncomfortable. It shouldn't, I know. It's no worse than making kills in a video game or photographers shooting people or one football team slaughtering another. I've got no problem with those metaphors. But something about the up-close-and-personal nature of the act in this game... it just rubs me wrong. I prefer to call it 'Capture And Extraction'. C and E. But if I had asked how many C&Es you had performed, you'd have been very confused. Or else thought you had somehow left the leather convention and wandered into one for your day job."

"C&E... yeah, that definitely sounds like something I'd handle billing for. But 'capture and extraction,' spelled out... that's more military than medical. I like it. Well, then, I have performed three C&Es this weekend. And I helped out at a fourth."

"Three? Wow."

"Why wow?" It didn't seem like a particularly wow-worthy number.

"Well, there are twelve players, and eleven will be eliminated. So the average number of C&Es per player is going to be a little less than one. Anyone who performs even one C&E is already doing better than average. And it's possible to win the game by doing only one. A player doesn't need to be particularly active in the game to win it, he could hide out and only emerge at the end. But you didn't do that. Three C&Es is over three times the average, possibly even the highest in the game. You've been a busy man. Clearly my competition is formidable."

Compliments always make me blush. I tried to deflect and distract, hoping he wouldn't notice.

"Aw, thanks. I mean, you're right, a player could hide out in his room and be safe, but where's the fun in that? So... turnabout and fair play and all... how many C&Es have you performed?"

"Two. Though I'll match your three before the night is through. But tell me about this 'helped out at a fourth'... how did that happen?"

So I told him about Two's takedown of Three and how I crashed the party and then fled like Cinderella from the ball afterward. Near the end of the tale, our food arrived and I got a look at the vowel-laden dish whose name he had spoken earlier.

"That looks really good," I said, gesturing at his steaming plate. "What is it again?"

"Couscous Bidaoui. Chickpeas rather than lamb, with other veggies and Moroccan spices." The name was nothing I had ever heard of, but the individual ingredients were familiar.

"Sounds tasty. Are you vegetarian, then?"

"Oh, I eat meat," he said, and it was masterfully done. The double entendre was there, but it was delivered so subtly that I wasn't sure at first. There was something about his body language, though, a twinkle in his eye that made it clear. Clear, but understated. Some guys, when they deliver a line like that, are so ham-fisted about it that you can practically see their giant Groucho Marx caterpillar eyebrows waggling. Not Cody. He was smooth.

I was really beginning to take a shine to this guy.

"I just don't want to have something heavy in my stomach tonight," he went on. "I know I'm going to get nervous in the run-up to the Mister Mountain announcement so I'm trying not to burden my digestive system. And, then, of course, there's our little rivalry to think of as well."

"Makes sense," I agreed. He then asked me about my other C&Es and so I told him about my ambush of Five at the start of the game and my surprise attack at Six's door. In turn, he told me about how he had taken out Twelve O'Clock in the wee hours of Friday morning after the first round of the Mister Mountain contest.

"Honestly, it just sort of happened. I didn't plan anything, I was too focused on the contest to think about the game. After the show we were milling around doing a meet-and-greet. I checked my phone at one point and saw that my target was in the room, so I looked around and saw him talking with Burl. I just moseyed over, held up some handcuffs and told him 'hey, I bet these would look really good on you. Feel like trying them on?' And he did! He put them on all by himself, behind his back. I double-locked them and then told the others 'Scuse us, we have some business to attend to' and led him by the arm to one of the bathrooms. I don't think the guy even knew I was C&E-ing him until it was halfway over!"

"Dang! You had it easy!"

"I know! The second one happened the same way. This was yesterday afternoon, my target was One O'Clock and I spotted him in the vendor hall at the Sir Stephen's booth, so I stopped by and struck up a conversation not with him but with a guy standing nearby. We talked about various bits of gear and once again, I had no particular plan in mind. Then we watched a guy try out the vac rack and One said 'man, I'd love to try that out too'. 'Why don't you?' I asked, and he explained that he was one of the Assassin players and didn't want to take the chance."

"You have got to be kidding me," I said. All the work I had done to make my kills happen, and this guy's victims just walked right up and bared their throats to him!

"Honest truth. So I turned to the guy I'd been talking with and said 'we can be your guards, can't we?' It didn't take much to persuade him - he really wanted to try out that vac rack."

"I'm surprised. This is the really butch guy, lots of muscles, shaved head, right?" I had figured out by process of elimination that One O'Clock must be The Fireplug.

"Yeah, you know him?"

"I know of him. He was hunting me at one point. He looked like a total top to me, so the fact that he wanted to be restrained... that's unexpected."

"Yeah, looks can deceive. So he agreed that he'd rely on us to fend off any attacker while he was helpless, and as he was getting in place I whispered to my fellow guard, 'Actually, I'm his assassin. If you want to do anything with that information, now's the time.' And he just smiled and gave a tiny shake of his head."

"Oh man. I wish I had been there for that moment after all the air had gone out and you told him the bad news."

"Bingo. The look on his face... absolutely priceless. Ten minutes with a vibrator was all it took. He handled it well. He knew that he had only himself to blame. I helped with the cleanup - wouldn't want to leave that mess inside the bag for the next occupant."

"I'm beginning to get a sense of your hunting style. You use camouflage. You rely on your incredible good looks to deceive your victims into thinking you're harmless, then you get them while they're distracted. It won't work on me." Yes, I was shamelessly flirting.

"I'm getting a sense of your style, too," he said. "An ambush predator who waits in hiding and then springs out on his prey. But I'm forewarned now, so you'll have to come up with another strategy. But I'm curious... how did you know that One O'Clock was hunting you?"

I described my game of cat-and-mouse with Two and how I had left him tethered out for his hunter to find while I watched from afar.

"Oh man! So you have not one but two assists, then! In addition to three C&Es of your own. Wow. I'm really up against some stiff competition. You've taken out a quarter of the field single-handedly and with the assists you've touched nearly half. If those kinds of stats were factored into the final outcome, I wouldn't stand a chance. I need to up my game."

I hadn't thought of it that way, but... yeah, I guess my performance - which I felt like I was just stumbling through and making up as I went along - wasn't half bad. That was a real confidence booster and I felt my blush reflex starting to fire up again. Then he wanted to hear about my remaining C&E, so I told him about the insane spur-of-the-moment plan to wait in Seven's closet. By the time I reached the end of the tale, the food was gone and the dishes had been cleared away, but neither of us felt like ending our truce and conversation. We ordered coffee and kept talking.

"... pretty unsatisfying, actually, at the end. The guy just wouldn't accept that he had lost. I had to go show video proof to the game manager this morning because Seven hadn't confirmed it."

"Oh, there's even more to it than that," Cody informed me. "I'm glad you told me how it actually happened, because earlier today I was chatting with one of the event organizers and I learned that Mr. Seven - his name is Neal, by the way - has been kicking up quite a fuss. He's been complaining to anyone who will listen that someone cheated him out of the game. That someone - you, obviously, though he doesn't know it - lied about being in his room last night because the C&E never happened."

"What the hell? It absolutely did happen! I've got proof!"

I went to pull up the video on my phone but he stopped me with a warm hand on top of mine. "Don't bother, I believe you. Remember, as of Saturday afternoon, you became my victim. I saw that you were in room 434 all afternoon and evening. Every time I checked, that's where you were. I assumed it was your room and you were hiding out, but nope, it was Neal's and you were stalking him.

"Here's the other thing: he's been complaining to the hotel that their security precautions are criminally negligent. That they allowed someone to break into his room last night. He's been demanding to see logs of which keys were used to open his room door and when."

"Are they taking him seriously?" Suddenly I had grim thoughts of criminal prosecution for trespass.

"Hotels have a lot of experience at handling disgruntled guests. They're telling him they're taking his complaint seriously, but they know that they did nothing wrong. Seriously, at a chaotic event like this? Guys are visiting each other's rooms all the time, day and night. And the terms of the Assassin game that we all agreed to make it clear that if a player can manage to find a way into another player's room, that's fair game. He doesn't have a valid complaint and management knows it. They'll probably end up offering him a free night's stay at some future date just to get him off their backs, but it won't go any further than that. And as far as the game manager goes, he just keeps repeating that his decision is final. I assume he's got a copy of that video you were about to show me?"

I nodded.

"Yeah, that's it then. He knows Neal is blowing smoke. But to hear Neal tell it, that just proves that the game manager is in on the conspiracy, and he just won't shut up about how he was cheated."

"Something about this doesn't add up," I said. "How can he claim that the kill never happened, but also claim that there was an intruder in his room at the time it didn't happen?"

"I know, it makes no sense. He's spouting two conspiracy theories and they contradict each other and he doesn't care. It seems like all that matters to him is that he not have people think of him as a loser. Some guys are like that. All wrapped up in their pride and God help anyone who makes them feel like they're not the center of the universe. The organizer was telling me they're considering whether to do anything about him."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, they're still at the discussion stage. They could potentially ban him from future events, but I don't think that's likely. Banning is a pretty big punishment and talking smack isn't enough to trigger it. They've got their eye on him, though, in case he escalates. They're keenly aware that what he's doing is the opposite of building community, which is what this whole event is supposed to be about."

Dangit. He said my triggering buzzwords. I managed to control my reflexive eye-roll, but something must still have shown on my face. "Something wrong?" he asked.

I needed to phrase this carefully... my cynicism about the whole "building community" thing is my own bugaboo and I did not want to come across as not being a team player. "It's just that phrase... 'building community'... I mean, there's nothing wrong with it, of course... I just... you know... it..."

Oh, very suave. An expertly-done job of phrasing my thoughts carefully. My blush reflex rapidly went into full Thermonuclear Meltdown mode. I hoped the heat wouldn't be enough to ignite the beautiful ornate wooden scrollwork of the table divider before I melted through the floor.

Thankfully, Cody swooped in and rescued me from my flapping tongue. "Let me ask this: what does 'building community' mean in your mind?"

"Well, you know. Organizing events like this, for one. Pride parades. Demonstrations at the state capital. That kind of thing."

"Mmm, true, those are all good examples. But they're big examples. Building community also takes place in smaller ways, and I would argue that the small things are even more important than the big ones because there are only a handful of leather fests and pride parades and demonstrations but thousands, millions, of one-on-one and small-group interactions.

"Here's an example: say you go on a first date with someone. It goes fine, nothing glaringly awful, but you know there's no point in seeing him again because you just weren't feeling it. Nothing wrong with you or him, you're just not interested in a followup.

"But then he sends you a message and asks you out again. Uh oh, now what to do?

"One option is to not respond. You don't want to meet with him again, so just ignore him. Another option is to message him back saying 'Hey, I enjoyed our first date, but I don't want to go on a second one. Thank you for thinking of me, though.' Super-awkward, right? What a tough message to write and send...

"But the second way is the right way to do it. If you ghost him, then you leave him stewing for days wondering if you're ever going to respond, if you got hit by a truck, if he did something to piss you off, if he's a horrible person and never realized it until now, and so on and so on. He feel some combination of hurt or defensive or bitter or angry. He's going to be more wary the next time he asks someone out because from his perspective, he's been treated like a jerk for no reason he can see. And maybe he treats someone else badly because hey, that's how he was treated so it must be how the world works.

"On the other hand, if you send him a 'no, but thank you,' he'll be sad but he'll get over it. Rejection always hurts and there are no perfect words to make it not hurt. But if you respond compassionately, if you treat him with dignity, he'll have a reason to expect that he'll be treated with dignity on his next try too. And maybe he'll be nudged toward showing a bit of kindness in turn.

"That's building community."

"I would have called that 'being a decent person'."

"Same idea, different words. Decent people treat each other with respect and kindness. People who treat each other with respect and kindness become a community. Once enough people are on board, then you can allow yourself to believe that everyone you meet will do the same. That's trust. We trust each other to be decent people. The BDSM world is particularly in need of trust. We put ourselves into helpless, vulnerable positions and trust that it will turn out OK.

"When I betrayed One O'Clock, he knew it was all within the context of the game. He trusted that I wouldn't do anything to actually hurt him and I didn't. I didn't take his wallet or inject him with something or infect him with a disease. It was trickery and betrayal, but still safely within a framework of trust."

This was an interesting frame challenge for me, because it made me realize that by that definition of "building community," I'd been doing it this whole time. All sorts of little things popped into my head... putting the towel down under Five's butt before tying him to the chair so no one would have to clean stains out of the fabric; reassuring Six when he was nervous about the electro that it wouldn't actually hurt him and working him into it slowly; keeping an eye on Two after handcuffing him to the clothes rack, not explicitly feeling like I had a duty to keep him safe after restraining him but doing exactly that. I was responsible for putting him there; I couldn't in good conscience just abandon him.

And then there were all the things I had considered doing but didn't. Like, I had thought about looking for one-way doors, the kind that would let you go through in one direction but that would then lock behind you. I considered tricking someone who was pursuing me into passing through one of those doors and finding himself locked out of the building - out of bounds for game purposes. In the time it would take him to get back around to the front entrance, he'd be disqualified. It seemed like a clever way to shake a pursuer, but ultimately it felt too much like cheating, so I let the idea drop. I had also toyed with thoughts of disabling or removing another player's ankle bracelet but again, that didn't feel like good sportsmanship so I didn't pursue it.

This whole time I had been scoffing about the idea of "building community" while actually doing that very thing. It was eye-opening to look at it from that perspective.

"What Neal is doing is the opposite," Cody continued. "His me-first-and-only attitude sows doubt in the framework we've built. It encourages people to suspect that the Assassin game is rigged, that the hotel's security precautions are flawed, that the event organizers are corrupt. It shakes confidence in the atmosphere of trust we've worked to create. So far it's just words and our community can withstand a few words. But if he takes it too far, the organizers may decide that he's not welcome back in the community we're working to build.

"Maybe next time you hear the words 'building community', you could mentally replace it with your preferred term, 'being a decent person'? It's the same thing."

The coffee was long gone, we had settled up our separate checks, and the place was starting to fill up as the time neared a more typical dinner hour. "Thank you," I said, "I never would have thought of it that way, but you're absolutely right."

He tipped an imaginary hat toward me. "And thank you for agreeing to join me for dinner. I very much enjoyed talking with you. But I really do need to get going. Let's declare that the truce officially ends five minutes from now so we've got time to separate. After that, may the best man win."

"Agreed," I said. We stood and shook hands. It was the perfect opportunity for a quote from the same movie I had tried on Six and I didn't even want to resist the temptation. "You seem a decent fellow," I told him over our clasped hands. "I hate to kill you."

"You seem a decent fellow," he replied, not allowing even a hint of a smile to crease the corners of his mouth, though his eyes were out-and-out laughing. "I hate to die."

Goddammit. Could this man be any more perfect?

8: Mister Mountain

Things at Mountain Men were starting to break up and wind down. This was the final night, and after the crowning of this year's Mister Mountain, there would be one last dance party and then that was the end. I wandered through the event space taking one last look. The puppy park was being dismantled. The vendors were packing up whatever wares were left unsold and folding up their booths. The wet room was being stripped of its waterproof coating and converted back into a boardroom. Tomorrow morning it might be hosting a meeting of the executive team of some billion-dollar company with tight-lipped men and women in stuffy expensive suits discussing P&L figures in the exact same spot that twenty-four hours earlier held a trio of latex pigs busily porking each other's rubber-clad posteriors.

The room with all the heavy furniture had been mostly disassembled and all of the smaller items had been packed away. Only two larger pieces were left: the flogging frame against one wall and the giant cage in the center of the floor. I looked around feeling a bit melancholy. It seemed like only a few hours ago I was excitedly signing in, getting settled into my room, and preparing for that first takedown with the whole long weekend spread out in front of me. Now it was almost over. How had the time flown by so quickly?

Then I remembered the fourteen hours spent in Seven's closet. The time sure hadn't been flying then! I guess such things depend on your perspective.

There was little chance of me tackling Cody or vice versa before the show started or while it was going on. I figured my best bet was to be ready as soon as it ended. If he won (and how could he not?), he would have some obligations to attend to afterward - mostly schmoozing with admirers - but there would be time after that to get him. The show was scheduled to wrap up around 8:30, though these things inevitably ran late; the dance would get going at 9:00 and would last into the early hours of the morning. Whenever Cody was finished accepting his accolades... I'd be ready for him.

And I figured maybe it was time to call in some assistance. I sent a message to Simon who, as it turned out, was already down on the main floor. We found each other fairly quickly. He was eager to get on board.

"Seriously? This is the final? It's down to just you and one other guy?" he asked.

"Yup. And wait till you see who it is." I showed him Cody's photo on my screen and his jaw hit the floor.

"One of the Mister Mountain contestants is the other finalist? What, is he some kind of kink overachiever?"

We discussed strategy. I didn't want to disrupt the contest, so I figured I'd try to catch him afterward, whenever that might be. Simon would go distract him with words of congratulations (or, unthinkably unlikely, commiseration) and while he was distracted I would slip my trusty capture cuffs onto his wrists. Then together we would whisk him away to someplace more private to take care of the E part of C&E. Privacy seemed like it would be helpful: it was a tossup whether the crowd would be with me or against me. If I could make a quick capture, it might not matter much. If not, if it turned into a good old fashioned wrestling match (which I would have absolutely no objection to, none at all!) then any bystanders might have more of a say, and they would probably side with Cody. One way or another, we'd see who came out on top. Having Simon on my side tipped the scales a bit in my favor. I was of two minds about having enlisted a helper: part of me was glad for the extra security he provided, but part of me was much happier working alone. One on one, man to man.

We decided to sit near but not next to each other so that Cody wouldn't see us together. That way he would have no reason to be suspicious of Simon when the time came. Simon settled in one row ahead of me and two seats to the side, close enough for a discreet tap on the shoulder if the need arose. Sitting down was such a luxury - no need to stand by the door and feel my heart race every time somebody walked by!

Guys had been steadily trickling into the event hall where the show would be and the volume had been slowly increasing along with the number of bodies. About fifteen minutes before show time, someone cranked up the sound system and then I couldn't really do anything but smile and nod any time someone tried to talk to me and occasionally check my phone to see if Cody was going to try to stage a last-second attack.

It was good I got there early - the place was standing-room-only by the time it started. The lights came down, the music stopped, and our emcee made his appearance on the stage. Applause, applause. Not three sentences into his introductory remarks, the magic words came out of his mouth... and for the first time in years I didn't feel the urge to roll my eyes. I did exactly what Cody had suggested: re-interpreted the phrase in my mind. It helped. Not dramatically - I did not find myself overcome with emotion and feelings of brotherhood and solidarity. I did not feel inspired to link arms with the men on either side of me and start swaying and singing Kumbayah. The effect was mild, but it was there. Instead of feeling like I wanted to fast-forward through the bullshit, I just didn't mind it so much.

The opening remarks were fairly brief - everyone wanted to learn who the winner was and the organizers knew better than to pull that American Idol stunt where they say "And the next person moving on is..." and then you get up, use the bathroom, pop yourself some popcorn, pour a glass of soda, check Facebook while you wander back to the TV, arriving just in time to hear them finish the sentence. Not here. This audience wouldn't stand for that crap.

We had a round of appreciation for the judges, some love for the hotel for putting up with us the past three days, thanks to the vendors for providing the cool new gear that so many of us were going home with, appreciation to everyone who attended and made the event a success (that word "community" got not one but two more mentions during this phase), and then the contestants were brought out for the last time. This time they were wearing "dance leathers". Mmm hmm. TOTALLY DIFFERENT from anything they'd worn before, yessiree, I could tell at a glance.

They very kindly don't rank all five so there is no "loser". I like that - one more touch of "building community." All five men were up there on the stage looking hot as heck and then the countdown started at the second runner-up: "Tobias Lindt!" Applause, applause. Tobias waved and smiled and accepted hugs and backslaps from the other contestants.

I had Kristof pegged for the first runner-up, but started second-guessing myself when I remembered that I had missed two nights of the show. Thursday I had ducked out early to go help assassinate Three, and yesterday I had been cooped up in Seven's closet. The only show I had seen in its entirety was Friday's "dress leather" episode. I had no idea what sort of comments the judges might have had for the other two nights, which meant that all I had to go by was my own estimation of who best rocked their various getups... and I hadn't even seen yesterday's.

So it came as a surprise, and yet not really a surprise, to hear the next name they announced: Cody Grant. I thought I'd feel heartbroken for him - surely he deserved the title! And yet I wasn't, and a few seconds later I figured out why: I knew he wouldn't mind. Deep inside, he might be privately disappointed, but if he was he would never let it show. He would throw his support 100% behind whoever the winner turned out to be because that would be the "building community" way to do it. And he might not even feel disappointed deep down, either. It was possible that not winning wouldn't bother him all, and if that was the case then it wasn't my place to care more about his success than he did. Sure enough, he was all smiles on the stage, accepting the congratulations of the others.

They didn't make us wait long to hear who won: it was Burl Mendez, the Big Brother program coordinator. The award money would be going to that charity and he would now have a bit of extra visibility that could be used for future fundraising. Cheers, applause, etc. I put my hands together enthusiastically along with the rest of the crowd. I was proud to see my man Cody congratulating Burl with a completely sincere smile and a warm embrace.

And purely selfishly, I knew this meant I could get him sooner rather than later.

There was a brief speech from the newly-crowned Mister Mountain, a few closing remarks from the emcee, and then it was done.

"If I could ask you to please all help out?" the emcee said once the formalities were over. "We need to clear the chairs away to set up for the dance, so I'd like to ask that everyone fold their chair and then either pass or carry it to your left." With that, he shut down the mike and the music came up once more. This is the only room large enough to hold everyone, so it doubled as contest space and dance hall; that was why there was a delay between the end of the show and the start of the dance - it took a bit of time to clear the seating out of the way.

I was over on the right side of the room, and the left was looking pretty packed with bodies, so I waited, standing by my not-yet folded chair, for the ones at the left to be cleared away so I could hand mine to the next guy over.

And then the room went black.

At first I thought they had turned the lights out to set the mood for the dance, but I quickly realized it was a much more local blackout: a black cloth hood had been thrown over my head!

I immediately opened my mouth to protest... and the moment I did, something thick and solid got pressed between my teeth. The fabric of the hood formed a woolly layer between me and the hard rubber of the gag, drying out my tongue as I tried to press the invader out. It was no use; no matter how I twisted my head, the hands holding the gag in place stayed with me and kept it there. I tried to bring my own hands up to help out, but they wouldn't move. Meanwhile, I could feel other hands fumbling behind my head, strapping the gag into place and ensuring I'd never be able to get rid of it.

Goddammit, Cody! How had he managed to get the drop on me? I had just seen him up on stage and he was still schmoozing with the other contestants and smiling that gorgeous smile. He must have enlisted helpers as I had done, only he had enlisted far more of them, it seemed, because I was rapidly finding myself unable to move at all.

Besides the hands at my head, other hands were gripping my arms, holding my hands down at waist level, and I could feel bodies pressing in against me on all sides. I tried to wrench my arms free, but the hands that held them were strong, much stronger than I could hope to break loose from. The bodies pressing in against me all felt large. Taller than mine, wider, heavier. In hindsight, it seems crazy that I didn't recognize them by that feature alone, but in my defense, I was kind of distracted at the time.

The hands working to secure the gag finished their task and then my arms were forced backward, behind me. I felt the click of cuffs going on and knew it was all over. I had a spare key, of course, but it was hidden inside my shoe. Getting to it would require time, space, and a bit of contortionism and somehow I did not think these guys would give me an opportunity for that.

"Let's go," said a voice right next to my ear. And that's when I finally clued in.

The voice belonged to Neal, aka Seven O'Clock. This was his posse of bulky bodyguards around me.

My first thought, believe it or not, was to double down on my assumption that Cody must have arranged this. Thinking back, I can't believe it took me so long to figure out that that couldn't possibly be right, but at the time, that's the thought my brain had already latched onto and it's hard to switch tracks, especially in a time of tension and stress. Something in my subconscious knew that explanation didn't fit, but for a long time (though it was probably only a few seconds) I wondered why Cody would have enlisted allies who he held in such low esteem. Maybe he had been lying to me at dinner? So I kept squirming and bucking, all in good fun, hoping that I could break their hold, but I wasn't really in a full panic yet. The knot of bodies began moving with me stuck in the center of it. I was pushed off balance, forced to take steps to keep my feet beneath me, though I couldn't see where I was being taken.

And eventually my conscious mind caught up with what my subconscious already knew, and that's when the pit of my stomach kicked into full-on fear. Cody had not arranged this capture. He wasn't involved at all. Which meant that whatever these guys had planned for me, it was not part of the Assassin game and therefore my safety was far from assured. This was not a kill or a C&E, this was an actual abduction and there was fuck-all I could do about it.

I mean... they wouldn't actually hurt me, would they?

Would they?

I started shouting in earnest but my voice went unheard, muffled by the thick gag stuffed in my mouth and drowned out by the thumping bass of the music. I felt completely helpless and it was scary because this wasn't pretend helplessness that I could stop with a safeword, this was real, genuine helplessness. I had no ability to influence what happened to me at all. Their capture technique had already been used very effectively twice before that I'd seen and maybe more; by now any bystanders would be familiar with the pattern and think "oh, there go those wacky assassin boys again, ha ha aren't they something?" Some of them might even be clapping and cheering - that's what happened the last time this group of predators took their prey. The bystanders would have no way of knowing that the situation was not the same this time. A victim who is struggling for pretend is pretty much indistinguishable from a victim who is struggling for real.

Struggling was getting me nowhere so I decided to change tactics: I went completely limp. Dead weight. Suddenly the guys gripping my arms had to adjust from preventing me from escaping to supporting me. I had a vague hope that I would slip out of their grasp entirely, but I knew that was a long shot and it didn't happen. They recovered quickly and adapted. Instead of letting me slide to the floor, they grabbed me by the upper arms and lifted me right up off the ground. Once my feet were clear of the floor, other hands took hold of them and tucked my ankles between someone's arms and body. That just made my situation even worse. Already blind, now I had no contact with the floor and my feeling of disorientation spiraled out of control. Panic started to setting in. I kicked my legs and twisted my torso but the muscles that held me were far stronger than mine. I was hopelessly outmatched and overpowered. They carried me like a piece of luggage toward whatever destination they had in mind.

The thumping music faded as we passed through a doorway, then continued to dwindle into background noise as we moved farther from the dance hall. I changed tactics from shouting for help from bystanders to alternating threats and questions aimed at my abductors. It really didn't make any difference. I knew that I was saying "put me down and get these cuffs off!" but all they heard was garbled grunting. Which they ignored. I kept squirming but I was unable to even inconvenience my captors, let alone break free of the grip they held me in. I was not at all in charge of what was happening to me.

Under other circumstances, this would have been totally hot.

Instead, my heart was hammering in my chest. This was not in the least bit erotic, this was terrifying, mostly because I wasn't sure what these guys were capable of doing. Clearly Neal had figured out that I was the guy who had taken him out of the game despite all the precautions he had prepared, precautions he probably thought made him invulnerable. I had seen him pissed about it with my own eyes and according to Cody, there was plenty more venom in him than the bit I had seen. So what was he going to do? I mean, come on, it's just a game!

But maybe in his eyes it wasn't just a game. Maybe he felt I had insulted his honor. Maybe I had made him lose face in front of his lackeys. What was playing out now could be because he felt he needed to deliver some sort of comeuppance, teach me a lesson or some such bullshit, in order to regain his standing among his friends. I couldn't know because so far none of these goons had said a word to me, which meant my brain was in overdrive inventing some pretty horrifying possibilities. Rationally, I knew that the nightmares I was coming up with - nightmares that ended with my remains being discovered in a dumpster three days from now - were unlikely to happen. This was a civilized event filled with civilized people in a civilized country! Sure... but that didn't stop me from dreaming up nightmares all the same.

Dammit, I had not signed on for this! I had consented to being ambushed, assaulted, abducted, bound, hooded, gagged, you name it... within the game. These guys were operating outside the game and I wanted no part of it. But there was nothing, nothing I could do to stop what was happening and I am not ashamed to admit that I was truly, genuinely scared.

I heard the thunk of a door closing and the music volume dropped to almost nothing. We were probably in one of the smaller meeting rooms like the one I had taken Five to. Now I could hear my captors, but they still weren't saying a word. They dumped me down onto the floor and someone sat on my back while more weight came down on the backs of my legs. Breathing became difficult but, thankfully, not impossible. I lifted my head up, the only part of me that could move, and tried to figure out what was going on by sound alone.

"Let's get that band off this little cheater," Neal said, speaking at last. Hands lifted the cuff of my jeans, pushing it up along my calf, then started tugging at the ankle band. "You forfeit, cheater," Neal said, presumably to me. I didn't react, which apparently annoyed him because a booted foot pressed up against the side of my face and shoved my head to one side. "You hear me, loser? Game over." I grunted an acknowledgement because I didn't want to have my neck torqued around again, but... did he really expect me to be saddened or angered by that announcement? Because I wasn't. No, what was front and center in my mind was: that ankle band was my only hope of rescue. It allowed people like Cody and the game manager to know where I was. The moment Neal & Friends successfully removed it, they could take me anywhere at all and nobody would be able to find me. The game? Screw the game, I was worried about much more important things. Like not dying.

It didn't take long. They must have had something sharp ready at hand. Soon my ankle was free of a weight that I'd grown accustomed to over the last few days. And I felt more scared than ever.

"Take it at least a block away then drop it in the first trash can you find," Neal directed one of his minions. The weight came off my back and I was hauled to my feet once more.

"This, my little friend," Neal said from directly in front of my face, "is what we call justice. You cheated, so you're no longer eligible to play. In about one minute, that band is going to show you left the building. Out of bounds. Game over for you. You're done."

"I don't care. Just let me go." Or rather, "Ho kheh, huh yehee khoh." I was kind of glad for the gag and the hood at that moment, actually. They kept Neal from hearing the quiver in my voice or seeing the terror in my eyes.

"What am I going to do with you, is that what you said? Oh, not much. Just stash you someplace where you can't cause any more trouble. Don't worry, I'm sure someone will find you. Eventually."

I heard snickering from the minions. I heard the sound of the door opening, presumably so the guy with my ankle band could go dispose of it. And then, completely unexpectedly, from the direction of the open door I heard a much more welcome sound.

"He's already been found, Neal." Spoken in a very familiar golden baritone voice!

There was a pause. I had no idea what was happening. All I could hear was the rustling of clothing as bodies shifted positions. Then, Neal's voice.

"Hey, we're just helping you out, man."

Cody's voice was calm and in control. "I don't want your help. I didn't ask for your help. You do not have that man's consent for what you are doing to him and you need to let him go."

"He consented when he signed up."

"No. He gave his consent to other Assassin players. You are not an Assassin player. You were taken out of the game eighteen hours ago."

"I was cheated out of the game!"

Other voices began chiming in, then, and there were other sounds, too. More bodies, more noises, more movements but suddenly things began to feel very distant and vague. I absolutely did not want to pass out, but my body's chemicals were strongly disagreeing. Apparently my glands had heard enough to decide that the scary threat was past and were now flooding my system with relief hormones - the relaxation reward that our brains evolved to deliver once our bodies had successfully escaped from a charging tiger. Or maybe it was a sudden drop in blood pressure - I had been on high alert so going back down to normal felt like bottoming out? I don't think I was actually in danger of fainting, but it was definitely taking all my concentration to try to force my body systems back into balance so I was not paying attention to everything that was going on. I heard snatches of phrases, some spoken by voices I knew, others by unfamiliar ones, things like "just going to scare him, that's all" and "you guys are going to need to leave", and several very vigorous repetitions of "this is bullshit, man!"

Eventually someone was uncuffing my hands. The gag came out, the hood was lifted off. Neal and posse were nowhere in sight. There, in front of me, was my rescuer, Cody Grant. Others were there, too: the new Mister Mountain and half a dozen others who I did not recognize.

"Sorry it took so long," he said. "I saw them grab you and had to make a split-second decision: should I swoop in immediately or round up help? Whoa, you look like you need to sit down."

"No, no, I'm fine..." I protested, but he pulled out a chair and suddenly sitting down didn't seem like a bad idea at all. The other half-dozen people in the room then took turns asking if I was all right. Someone handed me a bottle of water. I tried to protest that they were all making far too big a deal over this and that I was just fine, really I was. Eventually Cody came to my rescue once again - this time rescuing me from my rescuers - by declaring that maybe what I needed was some calm and quiet. That did it - the rest of the group filed outside. I could hear them talking just outside the door, but the clamor was much reduced, which did indeed help my state of mind.

Cody pulled out a neighboring chair and took a seat. "Obviously, I opted for rounding up help. I figured more bodies on my team would be an asset and I could find you wherever they took you as long as I didn't wait too long. I had a hunch the first thing they would do would be to separate you from your tracking device. And sure enough..."

"Yup," I agreed. "Sure enough." I took another sip of water.

"So it worked out. Again, sorry I couldn't get to you sooner." I tried to wave this away because really, it could only have been five minutes, tops, between when the bag had gone over my head and when the cavalry arrived. It had felt a lot longer, but only because a lot of events had been piled into a very short time. He drowned out my murmured protests. "We got here right as they were talking about trashing the ankle band. John - he's one of the organizers - was right next to me, and that was all he needed to hear. None of those guys will be welcome back next year."

We sat quietly for half a minute or so. I could feel my heart rate slowing and took a couple of deep breaths and then another swig of the water. Much, much better.

"I assume we'll be calling off the rest of the game," he said. "We can go to the manager and have him declare it a draw—".

"Uh uh," I said, holding up my finger and feeling much more firmly in control of my voice now. Not fully up to snuff yet, but definitely on the way there. "Nothing doing. If you're trying to use this as an excuse to avoid that C&E I've got planned for you, it ain't happening."

A grin bloomed on his face. "Fair enough. And actually, that's what I was hoping you would say. But seriously... take ten or fifteen minutes to get yourself together. You're looking better now, but you were downright green when that hood came off. There's no challenge in hunting wounded prey. I want you to be in top form when I bring you down, got it?"

I returned the grin right back to him.

"I have one request, though," he went on. "I'd like to make this just you and me if that's OK with you. No helpers." The last was almost a question the way his voice turned up at the end.

"That sounds good," I said. "After what just happened, it'll be refreshing to only have to worry about one hunter. I'll just need to tell my guy to stand down."

"Oh, you have a guy?"

"Errr... did I say 'guy'? I meant 'guys', of course." He just smirked at that. Possibly because I was smirking too.

"Sounds good. Let's get you fitted out with a fresh ankle band, then. Your old one is... not in the best of shape."

The moment we emerged from the room I was besieged once again by concerned leatherfest organizers. It took a little while, but I was much more convincing this time around in my attempt to demonstrate that I was Just Fine Thank You Very Much. Eventually they believed me and I was permitted to continue on my once-again-merry way. Neal and band were nowhere to be seen, to my great relief.

So we headed for the lobby, I got a brand new ankle band locked in place, and then we agreed that I would take another ten or fifteen minutes to get back into the right headspace. I would hang out in the lobby until I was ready to resume; Cody would monitor my location from the dance hall and once I was up and moving, the hunt would be on once more.

And by marvelous coincidence, Simon was there. Once I was alone, he started angling toward me... and he was carrying my gear bag! I thanked him profusely and then we settled in on one of the sofas. "Man, I'm so sorry, I didn't see them get you!" he exclaimed. "I didn't even know something was wrong until I saw Cody running."

He ran? Awwwww!

"No apology needed. They were really efficient about it. Quiet and effective. If you were looking the other way, nothing they did would have attracted your attention."

He seemed happy I wasn't blaming him, but there was no reason I would; nothing about this was his doing. Even if he'd tried to help, what could he have done against those five hulking brutes? His only recourse would have been to do what Cody did: enlist help. Which he knew Cody was already doing.

"The weird thing is," I went on, "if circumstances were different, I would really have enjoyed being taken down that way. Neal, all of them really, they're all good-looking guys. They're strong and they work together. Everything they did played right into my kind of fantasy: being rendered helpless by overwhelming force. If they'd played by the rules, it would have been a great scene. As it was, though... I was just scared." I don't know why I blurted that out. That's not the sort of feeling I ordinarily would admit to someone I'd only met a few days before. Some kind of residual stress reaction, no doubt.

"I get it. Not erotic at all. A lot of things are like that... two situations can seem exactly the same, but some minor difference makes one a turn-on and the other a dud."

"Yeah, that's it all right." The conversation reached a natural lull point. Which meant it was time for the awkward bit. "Hey, uh, I have to ask something, and I'm really sorry about this, but... Cody and I agreed that we should make the final a solo thing. Well, a dual thing. A duet? No, sorry, what I mean is... I have to take back that request about asking you to help me out."

"It's fine," he said. "No problem."

I felt the need to explain anyway. "I mean... the offer was genuine. I could really use your help. But after this near-miss he suggested we make it just the two of us and I had to agree that it made a lot of sense. I just didn't want you to think I'd led you on about helping. I think you'd be great at this, actually, and I would have loved to have your help going after him."

"Really, it's fine," Simon said. "It would have been nice to have gotten the practice, but I'll have a whole year to build up the skills I'll need."

It took me a second, but I got it. "You're going to play next year?" He nodded, not quite succeeding at suppressing a grin.

"Well, good luck to you!" I said. "And you won't have competition from me because I'm done after this!"

His face fell and he was suddenly all concern. "Oh no, don't let one bad experience ruin it for you!"

"Oh, no no, that's not it. It's been a lot of fun, it's just... pretty much all I did the last three days was play Assassin. All day, every day, I had to constantly be on. There wasn't time for anything else, and there's so much more here to do. It was definitely worth doing once, but next year I'm going to spread myself out a little more. I'll be happy to be your wingman if you want one, though."

"You got it. First thing you can do is teach me how you got Anaar so quickly."

This threw me because I heard it as "an R", which made no sense. Fortunately, he went on. "You knocked him out of the game less than a minute after it began. He's still trying to live that down, by the way. The story is legendary. Total strangers have been coming up to him and saying 'Hey, Minuteman, how's it going?'"

Now I knew who he was talking about. "Oh, is that his name? Anaar? The game doesn't tell us real names, only aliases. But yeah, I'll be happy to show you how I pulled that trick off."

"Later," he said. "You've still got one more kill to make."

"True that," I said, and pulled out my phone to look at the map. Cody's dot was there in the dance hall, right where he said he would be. I was feeling more or less recovered, so I thanked Simon once again for his help and shooed him off to go dance.

It was time to go a'hunting.

9: Kill Or Be Killed

I made my way slowly back toward the pulsing beat in the dance hall. The map showed Cody squarely in the middle of the floor. The question in my mind was: to attack, or to retreat?

Physically, we were probably about evenly matched. If it came down to a grappling contest, it could go either way. I needed to find a way to tilt the odds in my favor.

What had I learned about my victim-slash-pursuer? His main strategy seemed to be deceit, convincing his prey they had nothing to fear from him, then taking them by surprise. It was sort of similar to my ambush strategy, but different. I relied more on stealth and hiding, whereas he stood out in plain sight.

Both strategies were compromised now. I couldn't hide from him thanks to the fact that we each showed up on the other's map. And he couldn't deceive me into thinking he was just a harmless bystander. So what was it going to be? A game of cat and mouse? Or rather, cat and cat? A chase? A contest of endurance to see who dropped of exhaustion first?

I truly had no idea. I had no plan, which came as no surprise at all. My plans had grown steadily more seat-of-the-pants as the contest had progressed. I had started out strong, taking Five down with a plan that unfolded like a well-oiled machine. The followup with Six where I ambushed him coming out of his room was a bit more spur-of-the-moment but still something I had thought through in advance. Then that whole episode with Seven... that was not planned out at all, it was just a matter of seeing an opportunity and taking it. And throughout, avoiding my own assassins had meant reacting to their plans rather than having plans of my own. It was the nature of the game that the victim couldn't see the trap until it was sprung, so being able to react quickly was vital. Cuffing Two to the clothes rack was definitely a spontaneous inspiration. Thank you, dude in the dinosaur shirt, whoever you were.

So here I was, walking toward a man who I had to assume knew I was coming for him, with no plan at all in my head for what to do when I found him.

My capture cuffs were still my best asset, but even they were compromised since I had told Cody about using them on all three of my previous victims. He would be expecting me to try them on him, which very much reduced their usefulness.

Out on the dance floor, I shuffled between the gyrating bodies, working my way toward the center where the map had showed Cody to be when I last checked it from out on the edge. When I got there, he was gone. I whirled around, suddenly convinced he was sneaking up on me from behind, but he wasn't there either. I checked my phone again and it showed him to be over in one of the corners of the room, so I started working my way over there.

Progress was slow. The room was full and the bodies were in constant motion, moving to the music's beat. It took me another minute to get to the corner, keeping my eye peeled for him as I drew near, only to discover that he had vanished once again. I looked down at my phone, which showed him to be over along the center of one of the far walls.

OK, he was toying with me. I decided to stay put for a bit, dancing in my usual uncoordinated way and checking my phone way more often than you would expect someone who's caught up in the joy of the music to do. He didn't move for a good five minutes, so I started to slowly work my way toward him, keeping an eye on my phone this time as I went.

Sure enough, he slipped away as I approached, only this time I watched him in motion. He must have had his eye on my little red dot constantly to avoid me so well because there was no way to see each other across the crowded room, alternately dark and dazzling with flashing lights. Whichever way I followed him, he evaded me. Once, when I thought I had gotten him trapped in a corner, it turned out to be a corner with a door. He slipped out through it and I watched his dot race down the corridor to re-enter the dance hall at the opposite end.

I followed. Of course he stayed ahead of me, burying himself in the crowd before I could get near him. And so it continued. I must have chased him for twenty minutes, weaving in and out between the dancers, making an occasional dash down a corridor, trying to get within range only to have him skip infuriatingly away. Throughout the chase, I never actually caught sight of the man I was pursuing. I started wondering if he had somehow slipped his ankle bracelet off and stuffed it into an accomplice's pocket, but quashed the thought. That would have been cheating and this guy wouldn't cheat. He would mislead and misdirect, but he wouldn't break the rules.

I would have to be on the watch for misdirections.

I decided I was done playing Follow The Leader and just hung out in a corner. His dot hovered on the far side of the room, just waiting for me to give chase once more, but I refused to do it. I just stood there. I wasn't going to play his game any more. Let him come to me.

But he didn't! I waited about ten minutes, during which time he didn't move. And then at last he did... only it was to leave the dance hall. I watched him exit out into the corridor and head off toward the lobby. What the heck?

Knowing that it was exactly what he wanted me to do, I nevertheless gave chase once more. He weaved through the potted ferns and tasteful lamps of the lobby and got onto one of the elevators. That inspired me to put on a burst of speed to catch him before the door closed, but I was too late. He was up on the third floor before another elevator responded to my summons. I got on and held the door open while I made sure he had actually exited. When I saw him heading off down the hallway, I pushed the button for three and went up.

The smug bastard was waiting for me at the far end of the hall. I caught just a flash of his leathers as he disappeared into the stairwell. The map showed him to be climbing, so I was torn between getting into the elevator to be ready for him wherever he emerged and pursuing him on foot. The elevator was too constricted, too slow. I preferred the flexibility that my feet provided, so I tore off down the empty hall. Good thing I'd had plenty of practice climbing the stairs this weekend.

He emerged on the sixth floor and took off back toward the elevators, the only direction he could go. I put on a burst of speed, but it was no good. I was way too far behind him to even see the doors closing with him inside. By the time I got to the elevators, all I could see of him was the tiny dot on my screen going down.

As I waited for another elevator to arrive, I figured out how he must have done it. He emerged on the third floor but had pressed the buttons for four through six. By the time he had traversed the hall, climbed the steps, and doubled back to the elevators, the car was there waiting for him. Meanwhile, my own had gone back down to the lobby, its default setting.

He emerged on floor number four and stood waiting. I wanted so badly to sneak up on him but there was no way to do it. He would be able to watch me wherever I went just as I was watching him. Whether I came down in another elevator or took the stairs at either end of the hall, he'd have plenty of time to see what I was doing and plan his next act.

Dammit! I had to assume I was playing right into his hands somehow but I couldn't see how. Why was he leading me on this pointless chase around the building? What use was that? The logical thing to do would be to stop chasing and make him come to me, but he had shown no interest in that when I gave him the chance before. In order to thwart his plan, I first had to figure out what it was.

Then it hit me: he probably had no plan.

Neither did I, after all. And I was much more of a planner than he was. Both of his previous victims had fallen into his lap. There was a good chance that there was no plan at all. He was just running, hoping that I'd hand him an opportunity that he could seize.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

I ignored the ding of the elevator that had just arrived and went back to the stairs. Slowly, deliberately, I descended one by one instead of taking them two at a time. Then I ambled slowly toward the elevators. As I drew near, I kicked it into high gear, running to try to beat the closing doors. I got a little closer, but not nearly close enough. I got to watch the last bit of movement as the doors closed and then he was whisked away downward.

We played tag across a few more floors and then he exited to the ground floor and made his way back through the lobby to the event space. The corridors, fortunately, were mostly empty although there were a few guys out and about. I got a couple of hands held out for slapping as I jogged by; Cody probably got similar expressions of support. I had ridden the elevator a few times but had made more use of the stairs. Despite all my practice, I was starting to feel a bit winded. And maybe that was his plan. Tire me out?

He weaved into and out of various seminar rooms, always choosing the ones that had multiple entrances. When I would follow him in through one door, he would zip out another. We went back through the dance hall twice more. The rare occasions when I could see him, he looked to be huffing and puffing just as I was. This was getting ridiculous. By the time I caught up with him, we'd both be too exhausted to do anything about it.

Then he emerged from the dance hall, made a dash down the corridor and ducked into the room where all the heavy furniture had been, though it was mostly empty now. A possible mistake? That room only had one door. The map showed him standing right inside it. I emerged from the dance hall about twenty paces away from where he was waiting. The corridor was empty; the door where he was lurking stood open. I stood and thought a moment, but only for a moment. The same instinctive sense of what to do next came over me the same way it had before at Seven's room. Cody wasn't moving, just standing still in that same spot. Resting, maybe? Perhaps he thought to surprise me when I came around the corner?

Well, if so, it was not going to work. I took one more look at my phone to confirm his position, then tucked it into its case in my gear bag. Things could get rough in the next few minutes and I didn't want a broken screen. With no fanfare, I broke into a run. I was going to barrel through that door at top speed, dropping my gear bag at the threshold so I'd have both hands free. Either I'd turn the tables and surprise him by plowing into him or else he would retreat into the room to evade me. And the room only had one door, which I would be closer to. He'd be trapped.

I raced down the corridor as silently as I could. Planting my foot at the threshold, I pivoted and changed direction, dropping the bag and veering through the doorway right at the spot where the map had shown him to be waiting, only... he wasn't there! He must have sensed me coming and stepped away from the door.

The room lights were off and it was darker inside than in the corridor with only a bit of light coming in to illuminate anything. It's a good thing I had already started slowing down, expecting to either crash into him or have to guard the door, because suddenly in front of me I saw a barrier appear as if from nowhere. I was able to stop before I hit it and then what I was seeing registered: black, vertical bars. The Forge And Fetter folks must have moved the cage from the middle of the room closer to the door in preparation for packing it up and getting out out of here. I could have slammed into the side barreling through the door like that. But where was Cody? He had been right by the door; how could he have slipped away so quickly?

I realized my mistake - he must have stepped to the side and either he was right behind me or else he had once again eluded me, escaping out through the unguarded door after I ran past him. Dammit! I spun around to go and noticed more of the vertical bars.

On both sides of me.

And beneath my feet... that wasn't carpet. That was a hard surface.

Suddenly my perspective shifted and I realized what had happened. The cage had been moved, all right. Moved so that its opening was aligned squarely with the room door. And I had plowed right inside it. I raced to get back out again, but there in front of me, moving all by itself as if in a horror movie, the cage door was sliding sideways and the three steps I needed to take to get through it before it slammed shut stretched out like the hallway in The Shining, the sliding door retreating into the distance, the space between me and it growing far faster than I could move. It felt like forever to take those three steps and in the end I wasn't even close. I only managed two of them before the door clanged into place with a crash that reverberated in the empty room. I didn't even question whether the lock had been set to lock-upon-close mode: of course it had.

And then, like an idiot, I put my hand right up to the door to pull at it, thinking to somehow magically open it without a key, I guess? Or that some miraculous five-second rule applied, that the door couldn't really be locked since it had been open such a short time ago? I don't know what I was thinking. It was reflex, just like Two O'Clock yanking at his cuffed wrist because hey, you never know, maybe the metal will just melt away if you tug hard enough. Or in my case, wish hard enough.

And while my hand was there groping at the latch, a leather-clad arm sprouted from the ceiling, grasped my wrist, and held it steady while another arm swiftly wrapped one end of a pair of handcuffs around it then yanked upward and fastened the other end over my head at a junction where several bars met.

His mission accomplished, Cody lowered himself down from his perch on top of the cage, landing gracefully on his toes off to my left. I turned to face him, standing there with my right hand over my head, jaw gaping in astonishment at the sudden reversal of my fortunes. Cody's expression, on the other hand, was the contented, satisfied grin of a man who had had a plan after all, one that had worked out perfectly. I'd been wrong: he hadn't moved from his spot. He'd been exactly where the map had showed him to be, right inside the doorway. It never occurred to me - until now - that the map was a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space. It couldn't show height. Instead of running into him, I had run under him. Exactly as he'd intended me to.

"Well, fuck," I said.

He nodded. "Fuck indeed," he agreed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. "So convenient that I happened to be talking with the Forge And Fetter guy yesterday. He generously allowed me to hang onto this tonight for however long I needed." He slipped the key back into his pocket again.

"How... how did you manage this? How'd you move the cage?"

"Oh, the other contestants gave me a hand. While the show was starting, during the introductory remarks, they carried it right up here next to the door while I stayed far away so you wouldn't see my dot in this room. Then it was just a matter of running you around until you were annoyed enough to let your guard down."

Dang. His strategy of deception had worked on a third victim, even though I had known it was coming, even though I should have anticipated it. Well, I had anticipated it... I just didn't foresee the particular form the deception would take.

I looked around at the setup he'd crafted. There was a bit of room between the cage and the wall, just enough of a gap for a fit, well-muscled, leathered-up body to squeeze through to get access to the rest of the room. A chair had been placed conveniently close to the cage to provide an easy way to climb up on top. I looked up and saw that a black cloth had been placed over the top bars, shielding anyone up there from being seen from within. That was how the disembodied arms had appeared - he had reached down around the edge of the cloth. The cloth had gotten disheveled from his climbing down; he grabbed a corner and pulled and the whole thing flew off to be tossed in a heap on the floor.

Was there any way out of this? I had my spare cuff key, but it was in my shoe. If he left me alone long enough, I could maybe get it out and unlock the cuffs, but I would still be stuck in the cage - which, I can confirm, definitely feels more confining when you're locked in and the key is out of reach. Or maybe it was having my arm cuffed overhead that was giving me that sensation. If I could get the cuff off, the cage was large enough that to subdue me again he would have to come inside with me, and then maybe I could overpower him? Maybe?

"Now... you're a slippery guy and I don't think I have you secured nearly well enough. Let's fix that before we go any further."

Guess not.

He brought up the room lights to better see what he was doing, then set about tying me to the bars of the cage. The music from the dance hall, muffled a bit by the doors but still clear enough to be heard, provided a backdrop soundtrack to his efforts. At each step he kept me fully under control. He did the whole thing from outside, never opening the door, reaching through the bars to get at me. That put him at a bit of a disadvantage, but not enough of one. I fought him as best I could but with a grin on my face, knowing I had no chance. Steadily, I lost more and more control. Soon enough he got my legs secured with temporary ropes and that cost me enough leverage that I couldn't stop him from getting a cuff onto my left hand, which then got attached to the side bars. After that, I never had more than one limb free at a time.

He shucked my clothes off next, freeing and re-tying hands and feet one at a time as needed, stripping me of first my shirt, then shoes, then socks, then pants, and finally underwear. My secret weapon, my last ditch defense, came into view.

"Oh ho, what have we here?" he said, lifting up the steel chastity cage that constrained my dick and inspecting it. "Surely you don't think this is going to stop me?"

I sighed. "Nope. You'll find a way to get it off, I'm sure." As secret weapons go, it really wasn't much of one. More of an annoying "nyah nyah" than a serious deterrent. If I had been taken out earlier by someone less adept, it might have been enough to thwart him, or at least delay him long enough to let me wriggle out of any ropes and break free. Not this guy, though. The way he was confidently slinging rope and steel around I knew he'd have no trouble figuring out a way to untube my dick to gain access.

And to be honest, I was definitely ready to get rid of it. I had put it on on Thursday right after checking into my room. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, an extra layer of defense on top of the security threads and the face-concealing masks. But now It had been more than three days since my cock had last been able to get hard and I was beyond frustrated, definitely ready to slam-dunk the blasted thing into the nearest trash can.

"Take it off?" he said. "Don't be silly. It's fine just where it is."

Oh, shit.

"Really, it's no problem," I babbled. "The key's up in my room, it'd be easy enough to get —".

He silenced me with a finger to my lips, gazing into my eyes through the bars until I stopped trying to speak. "Now you're just talking crazy talk. If you have the key, that means you put this on yourself. Well, then, you'll just have to live with that decision."

Fuck. I hate caged orgasms.

But his point was valid: I had done this to myself. I really had no grounds to complain.

He continued strapping me into place. I ended up attached to the side wall of the cage with my arms tied horizontally out to either side, secured to the vertical bars in several places along their length from shoulder to wrist. He added a few ropes that led up to the ceiling bars too, keeping me from sagging down. My legs were spread out to the sides as well, tied at ankle and knee and thigh. My waist, my chest, my neck... all fastened to the black steel bars. Totally helpless. I could clench and unclench my fingers, I could turn my head from side to side (being careful not to bonk my nose), but that was about all. My caged dick was left hanging in empty space between two of the bars, waiting for whatever stimulation Cody would eventually provide. He was in no hurry to get that started.

By the time he finished with my restraints we had attracted a small crowd of onlookers, guys who had emerged from the dance hall for a break or otherwise wandered by and noticed the activity going on in here. Each one that squeezed through the door added another spectator to witness Cody's triumph, my humil... no. My proud defeat. If I had to lose this game, this was definitely the man I wanted to lose to.

Then he came at me with a hood. "Time for lights out," he said. On it went, and it included a gag so once again I found myself unable to speak. This time, though, there was nothing I needed to say.

Then, at last, it started. A vibrator was placed against the steel of the cage, humming and buzzing and tickling. As with electricity, there's no way to not feel it. I tried to ignore the vibration and think non-sexual thoughts, but the effort was doomed from the start. The ropes, the bars, the hood... it was impossible to concentrate on solving made-up long division problems when my body kept insistently drawing my attention back to all the marvelous kink I was engulfed in. Before long, I could feel my dick swelling up to press against the walls of the tube.

Then the problem was that the sensation was, if anything, too weak. The buzz was working its magic, but the intensity was so low it was going to take forever to go all the way. Cody did nothing to hasten the process, either. As best I could tell he just stood there watching me squirm in my bondage, enjoying the sight while I floated in the dark void, obsessed by the desire to reach that climax but with no way to hasten the process along.

Then I heard the cage door opening and soon felt hands exploring my skin from behind, tracing lines up and down my sides, across my shoulders, out along my arms, down my legs. After a bit they drifted down toward my ass and between my legs, tickling my dangling balls while I pressed my hips forward in an attempt to get a fraction more stimulation from the vibrator. How had he secured that in place, anyway? Something besides his hand was holding it against the steel tube but I had no idea what. Tape, maybe? An accomplice?

His warm leathers pressed up against my back and he spoke into my hooded ear. "I'm curious what sort of gadgets you brought along in that bag. I think I'll take a look."

Like I was in any position to say no.

A minute or so later, he returned, pressing his body against mine and squeezing me against the bars. "I found some interesting toys. Clever little devices that you were planning to use on me, I bet. I think I'd much rather use them on you instead."

Yep. I can't claim to be surprised.

Next thing I knew, he was stroking my ass again, this time rather more intimately. I felt a cold, creamy substance... he was lubing up my hole. And then, gently but firmly, the plug that I knew would be coming - because I was the one who had placed it in my gear bag, planning to use it for this exact purpose but with me on the other end - arrived. He took his time, pressing in then easing up, letting me loosen up to accept the intruder, which was kind but I knew that whether I loosened up or not, that thing was going in. Best to make it easy on myself. And all the while that incessant buzzing kept hammering at my trapped dick, tempting and frustrating and teasing me with the promise of release but holding that release far, far out of reach.

The plug went all the way in and the muscles of my hole closed around the neck. I waited for the next inevitable sensation. It took a few minutes (long, buzz-filled minutes), but then: there it was. A slight tingling around my sphincter that soon grew into throbbing waves of electricity. The cycle took about a second and a half between peaks, oscillating sinusoidally from zero to CLENCH and down again.

Yeah, this was definitely going to push me along towards orgasm a bit faster. Still not breaking any speed records, but a bit faster.

Then he began working my nipples. Oh, man, that drives me nuts. A little tickling, a little squeezing, working them up into swollen erectness in a way that was denied to my dick. It felt really, really good. Then, when they were full and tender; clamps. One right after the other, presumably the ones from my own gear bag once again being used against me. They were no trouble at first, but I knew that as time went by, I would grow increasingly desperate to have him take them off... but the moment when he did would be ten times worse.

So that was me: hooded, gagged, bound to the wall of the cage in a way where I couldn't quite relax into the ropes and let them support me. Instead, I was trying to pull my legs together to gain a little bit of height for my arms and shoulders and to ease the bite of the ropes on my ankles. It added an element of predicament bondage to my situation, where I was forced to exert myself to avoid other discomfort. Every once in a while I gave up and let the ropes take my weight, but before long I would find myself straining my leg muscles once more, seeking that impossible-to-find, constantly-shifting position of minimal discomfort.

And there was an audience of who-knew-how-many watching every teeny tiny limited move I made. I could hear them, vaguely, through the hood, but I couldn't make out much in the way of actual words over the sound of the music from the dance hall. Just a general hum that hammered home the point that I was nothing more than artwork on display, a performance piece put together by artist-in-residence Cody Grant for their viewing pleasure.

All of which would have had me rock-hard if I'd been able to be. Instead, the vibrator kept working slowly, inexorably on the steel tube, which transmitted some-but-not-nearly-enough sensation to my dick. I was moaning into the gag and thrashing my head around.

Then I wasn't thrashing my head around any more. He'd done something to affix the hood to the cage bars. I felt him groping around up there and then, when the hands went away, I found I had lost the ability to move anything above my neck larger than my tongue, and that appendage was mostly blocked by the gag.

I have no idea how long it took. He swapped the nipple clamps out a couple of times, kneading my tits after removing them and sending fresh howls out through my gag, then re-applying them the other direction to compress the bits that hadn't had a turn lately. And every so often he turned up the intensity of the electricity in my ass. The vibrator stayed at its frustratingly low level, but the sensations in the rest of my body were accumulating to the point where they would - eventually - be able to make up for what my dick wasn't getting.

The minutes melted together into an endless blur of darkness, immobility, and strain. My legs were getting sore, my ass was getting sore, my tits were far beyond sore, and I knew that the only way out was to shoot my load. If I could ever get there. My dick wanted to bust out of its steel confinement. My balls were churning and boiling with frustrated desire. I lost contact with the ground and felt like I was floating through space, a disembodied consciousness with a brain and genitals and nothing more. My entire being was focused on making the too-weak sensation strong enough to get me to the finish line. I was a drooling, desperate mess.

It seemed like it was the head bondage that did it - having my head restrained really gets me, it's such a helpless feeling. But I think that's just what I happened to be paying the most attention to. All the other parts certainly contributed to the whole. And in the end, I got there. I felt the bubbling, swirling buildup start to form and I knew I was almost there.

Like the buildup, the climax happened in slow motion. Instead of sudden spasms of SQUIRT SQUIRT SQUIRT, the muscle contractions around my prostate were slow-firing and long-lasting: squIRRRRRRrrrrt pause squIRRRRRRRrrrrrrrt pause squIRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrt. I could feel my dick trying to rise up with each pulse, lifting the tube and then dropping back down as the spasm eased. Milky fluid was presumably dribbling - not shooting - out of the hole at the tip, though I couldn't tell. I was too busy trying to make the orgasm actually feel like an orgasm. But that, of course, was impossible. I kept waiting for that "OH YEAH" feeling to wash over me, but it never quite did. And then, as the spasms started to subside, I yearned for that feeling of relief to come. That's what happens when you blow a load, right? Your body says "ahhh, mission accomplished" and you get a sense of immense satisfaction? Nope. Not this time.

Caged orgasms suck.

So I hung there feeling satisfied-not-satisfied, drained of sperm but wanting to shoot again for real now please but knowing it wasn't going to happen, waiting for my breathing and heartbeat to come back down to normal. He left things as they were for what felt like an overly long while, making sure my dick was well and truly empty, I guess. Then, at last, the electricity in my ass decreased and then stopped altogether, the vibrator stopped buzzing, and, to my short-term hollering but long-term relief, the nipple clamps came off. He was as gentle as he could be about it, but I still moaned as the blood started flowing back into those mashed, over-sensitized nibs. Then he started undoing the straps from the hood and easing it up off my head. The gag came out of my mouth and I emerged into the light to see Cody's face grinning at me and, behind him, the last few spectators to my ordeal filing out toward the door now that the show was over.

He held my phone up and waggled it in front of my face. "One more formality to attend to. You'll do the honors, I hope?" I snorted a half-laugh, half-gasping reaction to the intense experience I had just been through. "Of course."

He moved the phone over to my right hand and I tried to see the screen through the bars. I had to enter a passcode to unlock it - no fingerprint or facial recognition during this game, no way. Once unlocked, I brought up the app... man, it's hard to work a phone when someone else is holding it and your wrist is bound to a steel bar! But I managed. I confirmed that, yes, player Eleven O'Clock had indeed killed player Four O'Clock. I was out of the game.

"Congratulations on your victory, Mister Should-Have-Been-Mountain," I said.

"Aw, thanks. Yeah, one out of two... not bad. Burl's a good man, though. He deserves the title. Now, I've got one more thing I need to attend to." He started easing through the gap toward the door, leaving me acutely aware that I was still securely bound to the wall of a steel cage. "Don't go anywhere!" he smirked, and then vanished down the hall.

I was spent. The eroticism of my straining muscles was rapidly giving way to discomfort, working up toward outright pain. I wanted to stop trying to bring my feet together, but my predicament remained unchanged and so I had no choice. I stood there, hoping he would return quickly.

Which, thankfully, he did. Carrying a very heavy-duty looking set of bolt cutters. He squeezed in through the gap once more and stood in front of me. "I'll get you untied in a sec, there's just one thing I want to take care of first..."

He placed the bolt cutters down around my crotch. I couldn't really see what he was doing - the way I was tied made it impossible for me to bend my head forward to look down because the bars were in the way. So I could only imagine what he was planning to do with those wickedly-sharp edges around my tender testicles and was not pleased with what my imagination came up with.

"Wait!" I squeaked, then fought to get my voice back down to a decently-masculine register. "No need for that! I've got the key in my room, I can open the lock and get the cage off..."

He ignored me, set the jaws in place and squeezed. I felt the snap right through the steel tube. He held up the now-destroyed lock so I could see it and dropped it to the floor once I had stopped babbling and he could see my eyes were tracking it.

Then, from his pocket, he pulled out a brand new lock and showed it to me. It was the same size as the one he had just destroyed. He reached down to my caged cock once more. The tiny click of the new lock being fastened into place was much less obvious than the destruction of the old had been, but nevertheless I felt the tremor all the way through my groin.

"Now listen close," he said, facing me through the bars that separated us. "I'm going to be here again three weeks from now. There's a wind turbine project on the Front Range that I'm involved in and there will be planning meetings all day Thursday and Friday. Friday night I'll be back here at this very hotel looking for a way to blow off some steam.

"You live only an hour away. If you want to come visit, just show up here at the front desk any time after 6 PM on Friday. Ask them to page Cody Grant's room and tell him his guest has arrived. Got that? Three weeks, Friday night, 6PM." I nodded my comprehension. Having delivered his instructions, he set about untying me.

Fuck! Three more weeks in chastity? I wanted the thing off NOW! And yet... and yet... how hot was that, to have this guy in control of the key to my dick, with both him and the key far off someplace else the whole while? Damn hot, that's what it was.

I almost asked him if he was planning to take the cage off when I next saw him. He hadn't, after all, said anything about that. But it would sound like groveling and besides, I realized I didn't need to ask. He had just demonstrated that getting the lock off if I needed to would be easy enough to manage. And he knew that I would know that. Trust, building community, etc. etc. When I showed up here again in three weeks' time, if he didn't unlock me, I'd roll with it and it wouldn't be a catastrophe. And if he did... well, presumably some delightfully pleasant events would ensue. Maybe I'd finally get to see what was underneath those fine-looking leathers.

"I'll be there," I said. "Can I have your phone number in case I need to get in touch with you before then?"

"Why would you need to?" he replied. "I've got your number. I took it off your phone while it was unlocked. I'll be in touch if anything changes."

Aw man... this scenario just kept getting hotter!

The last of the ropes came off and I gratefully got my legs back under my center of gravity. I wobbled out of the cage over to where he was standing. He handed me my clothes and I noticed that the cloth that had camouflaged him on top of the cage had done double duty as a spooge-spatter collector. Ever the thoughtful gentleman and community builder, my assassin had made sure to leave no evidence of his kill in the conference room carpet. I pulled my T-shirt and jeans on and bent down to put on my socks and shoes while he stowed the gear away. Bending was awkward: I still had an electro-plug stuffed inside my ass, though thankfully the wires had been disconnected so I wasn't dragging a tail behind me over the waistband of my jeans.

"Now," he said when I stood back up, "the night is still young. How about we go do some dancing?"

That blindsided me. I thought we were done! I was exhausted from the chase around the hotel and from the ordeal of trying to minimize my discomfort while strapped to the cage wall for the eighty-seven hours it took that stinkin' vibrator to get its job done. I was in the sort-of afterglow phase of a sort-of orgasm and most of all, as I might have mentioned once or twice before, I'm a morning person, not a night owl. I was ready to fall into bed! And on top of all that...

"Um, I've still got this plug in my ass."

"Yes. You do." I stared at him for a few moments and he stared right back, his gaze level. I was the one to blink and look away first.

"Oh, and you'll need this," he went on. "This is a leather festival, you know, and I've never seen you wearing any." He took his own black-and-blue bicep band off, wrapped it around my left arm, and fastened it in place. It actually looked pretty good there. The blue accents of the band were a different shade than the blue of my shirt, but they went together well. They... coordinated. Never thought I'd use that term ever, least of all about myself. Imagine: me wearing a piece of purely decorative, totally non-functional kink gear.

"Now you look the part," Cody said. "Ready?"

"Yeah," I replied. Because why the hell not? "Let's dance."


  1. This is a fantastic story!!!

  2. I've read them all. This is the best by far. :)

  3. Thanks so much! I'm delighted that you guys liked it.

  4. Amazing story and beautifully romantic. Thank you!

  5. I really enjoyed this story. Thanks so much for the time you put in to make it good bondage, BDSM, community and best of all a story with good character development. I hope there is a sequel of sorts so we can understand where their relationship might be going. If not, our imaginations are stoked enough to come up with our own personal happy ending.

    1. Thanks, socalbd!

      I have given exactly zero thought to a sequel so far, but I won't rule anything out. A lot could happen in those intervening three weeks, a lot more could happen afterward in Cody's hotel room, and there's a whole world of possibilities beyond that.

  6. Damn, that 'make me' scene with Three O'clock is just too good. Absolutely impressed by the amount of world-building and plot twists thrown around. That sweet foreshadowing on secret weapon is just the little cherry on top and the pacing is relentless. Definitely one of the best stories.

    Anyway I want to point out that we haven't even been halfway through 2022 and you've blessed us with 3 amazing stories. Hoping you'll crank out some more along the oncoming months!

    1. Zerafalgar, I'm right there with you about that "make me" scene - Four O'Clock and I have that particular interest in common.

      Thanks so much for the kind thoughts!

  7. I too hate caged orgasms!

  8. Such a fun read! Love the romance aspect in it too!