When the applause stops, I step to the microphone and wait until all the men in cages focus on me. Raising my hand, I signal to George and he wheels a cart onto the stage. Knives of various sizes and utilities cover the top of the cart and I scan the assortment of tools before turning to the men behind me.
"The eight men you see on the stage are what remain from a much larger group. There were Gamer Gate supporters, Men's Rights Activists, and some were..." I pause and smile. "Some were Republicans."
The crowd jeers and throws objects at the glass wall separating the stage from the seating area. I watch George exit the stage before I raise my hand once more for silence.
"I know, the horror. Republicans in Holden Farms? Not on my fucking watch."
A roar fills the auditorium, making the hair rise on the back of my neck. "But, these eight prisoners aren't on trial for being Gamer Gate supporters or even that dastardly crime of registering as a Republican."
Taking the remote George gave me into my hands, I approach the cage closest to me. "Do you know why you're on trial?"
Without a pause, the man answers, "I post anti-feminist rants on the internet."
A chorus of boos rains down onto the stage. Moving to the next prisoner, I repeat my question.
"I voted for George W. Bush. Twice."
Laughter erupts from the corner of the stage and I wink at Ana as she tries to compose herself. The emerald green dress she wears sparkles in the stage lighting and I can't help admire her beauty. Shaking the distraction from my mind, I return my attention to the prisoners.
"As ghastly as that is...you are not on trial for that. No, you are all on trial for one reason - you are all rapists."
Silence falls over the crowd while I kneel to lower my face to the level of the next prisoner. "Do you know the function of the third button on this remote?"
"No..." he stammers.
Looking over my shoulder, I watch the women moving forward out of the seats and pressing against the stage.
"It lowers the glass."
The man shows no recognition that he understands my meaning. Behind us, hands pound the glass and screams fill the room. Lifting my arm, I signal to George and the music begins to play.
I press my mouth against the cage and sing to the man. "Blood will follow blood, dying time is here..."
Ana walks onto the stage and unlocks each of the cages. Following close behind her, Saul pulls the men free and throws the men, one by one, in front of the glass enclosure. Holding the remote high in the air, I close my eyes and let the music pulse in my veins.
"The verdict is GUILTY." I open my eyes and stare down at the men in front of me. "I sentence you all to death."
I press the button and the glass disappears into the opening in the stage. Women rush forward, grabbing at the weapons on the cart. Screams mix with the music when the women reach the pile of prisoners at the front of the stage. Blood covers my vision and I almost miss one man managing to crawl from the pile of bodies, making a path towards the stage exit.
Saul, Ana, and I watch the man leave a trail of blood, pulling his body forward with the one arm that functions. Ana smiles and lifts her eyes towards the exit. Waiting is a small figure wearing a white dress stained with blood. Charles stands next the girl with his arms locked behind his back. When the man reaches the feet of the girl, she pulls a long thin sword from a hidden sheath.
The screams from the stage end and all eyes watch the girl remove the hood covering her face. Mary Holden lifts the sword high into the air.
"I didn't do anything. She...is wrong. I didn't rape anyone." The man says, trying to point at me with his broken bloody stump of an arm.
Mary smiles and swings the sword, severing his leg at the knee. The man's screams bring a cheer from the crowd of women watching. Writhing in agony, the man places his hand on Charles and tries to lift himself.
"Are you suggesting the Master of Holden Farms is lying?" Charles asks the prisoner.
"No, yes...I didn't rape her..." he manages to say between screams.
Mary places the blade against his neck and the room becomes silent. "I have bad news for you. I don't care."
Swinging the sword, Mary severs the man's head from the body and laughs when it rolls along the stage. Saul stomps on the head, crushing it and the entire room erupts in delirious cheers.
PRELUDE TO A TRIAL
My heels clicking against the stone floor of the passageway echo off the walls and I look over my shoulder to be sure Charles continues to follow me. He's close behind me, within an arm's reach and I smile when I notice his face is quite pale. The boy's fear of the trial amuses me. I don't have the heart to break the news he won't be on trial.
I stop in front of a set of steel double doors. To the side in a machine with a hand-print reader extending into the hall-way. Charles surveys the scene with wonder and I wait for him to piece together the puzzle.
"I've never been in this part of the mansion. Is...this where you hold the trials?"
"Very good, Charles." I place my hand on the palm reader and wait until the bell rings and the light turns green. Smoothing the dress of wrinkles, I pull the door open.
A wall of noise greets us and I smile. Chants and cheers echo in the hallway and I lead Charles into the theater. Walking through a small tunnel to reach the stage, suddenly the main space opens in front of us. Every seat in taken and the crowd roars when I approach the microphone placed center stage. Charles stops, mouth open, eyes studying the number of women screaming from the seats behind the glass.
Behind us on the stage there are several cages suspended in the air by metal cables and covered with thick sheets. I stand at the microphone for several moments, letting the energy of the crowd wash over me. How I've missed this feeling. Closing my eyes, I search my memory for a certain image - John from Utica.
"Welcome to Holden Farms." I speak into the microphone. "Today there will be a trial."
A deafening roar rises from the crowd and I tap a button on my phone to begin the first song. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica.
"Take a look to the sky just before you die, it's the last time you will..."
The women sing with one voice and an energy fills my veins for I know the moment ticks closer. Nothing makes me happy like a trial at my mansion. I hum along with the music, waiting and waiting. As the final guitar chords ring, I raise my arm and silence falls over the theater.
George walks onto the stage, all eyes upon him. He hands me a remote control with three buttons, each labeled with a purpose. I press the first button and the sheets covering the cages fall to the stage, revealing the men inside. Charles gasps and I fight the urge to laugh at his sensitive soul.
Eight men hang in cages above the stage, most missing limbs and covered in bandages. A few have IV wires sticking from arms, necessary to keep the prisoners alive. I hear hoots and cheers rising from the crowd, but keep my eyes on the men, surveying the condition of the prisoners. Wild terror on their faces, I press the second button to lower the cages. When the metal hits the stage, I again signal for silence in the theater.
"Are you ready for a trial?"
The crowd screams in one voice - the answer is yes. Holden Farms is ready for the trial.
DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON
Noon arrives via the grandfather clock on the wall clanging twelve times, but my eyes remain on the man tied to a cross-like wooden structure in the middle of my bedroom. Duct tape mutes his attempts to scream and the man's struggles to free himself cause the rope to cut deep into his wrists. Blood drips and drips onto my carpet in rhythm with the ticking of the clock. Turning my gaze to the end table next to the bed, I rise and take the champagne flute in my hands.
"I've never had this drink. Did you know it was a particular favorite of Hemingway?"
The man shows no sign he understands my meaning and I sip the drink. I shiver at the taste and drink more.
"I must admit this isn't to my liking, but Hemingway is a favorite of mine, so I will indulge him. Oh, the title of that book tickles at my brain more than you know. Death in the Afternoon."
I nod at the worn copy on my bed, though the man can't turn his head enough to follow my eyes. No matter. Placing the champagne flute on the table, I smooth my dress and approach the man. Pulling the duct tape away from his lips, I listen to him gag and cough for air.
"Do you know who I am?"
"Yes, I recognize you from the news. What am I doing here? I didn't rape anyone."
That's not what George told me, sir. "Are you telling me the women that accused you are lying? Is that what you expect me to believe?"
He begins to respond, but no words escape his lips.
"Tell me your name, sir."
"Daniel. My friends call me Danny."
I close my eyes to stop the tears, memories biting at my mind. A wave of red anger flows over me as I fight to push the images of him from my thoughts.
"That was my father's name. Daniel Thomas." The words sting my lips and I grab for the drink again, finishing it in a gulp. "Another please, George."
The hidden door opens and George prepares another cocktail for me. I open the top drawer of the end table and retrieve my knife. The man watches in silence, eyes straining to take in the scene unfolding just beyond his sight line. When he notices the knife, color runs from his cheeks.
"Are you going to kill me now?" His voice cracks and trips over the words.
I smile and wave the knife round his head. Before I answer, I unbutton his jeans and begin pulling the fabric lower to expose his genitals.
"No, not yet, sir." I smile again and lock eyes with him. "Do you know why they call me the Butcher of Vegas, sir?"
"I am happy to show you." Placing the knife against the base of his limp cock, I drag the blade gently, careful not to cut him. "The last moments of your life shall be a story, sir. I will call it Death in the Afternoon."