Gail drove down the quiet suburban street on a Thursday evening and pulled into a driveway of a house that looked like a cookie-cutter image of all the others in the neighborhood. She picked up her clipboard and glanced at the couple in the back seat of her car. "This home is right in your price range, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. It has a finished basement, and two large bedrooms."
The woman in the back glanced at her husband and said "Looks okay from the outside. What do you think, honey?"
The man said to his wife, "I guess," then looked at Gail and said, "How many bathrooms?"
Gail looked at her clipboard and said, "Two and two halves?"
"Uhm," said the man, "It's been a while since elementary school but doesn't two and two halves equal three?"
Gail laughed. "Not in real estate. It looks like it has full bath upstairs, a master bath off the master bedroom, a half bath on the first floor, and a half bath in the basement."
"I'd like to see it," said the woman.
Gail led her two customers to the front door and rang the bell in case the seller was home.
A geeky-looking guy in a Starfleet Academy- tee-shirt opened the door.
"Hi!" said Gail holding out her hand. "I'm Gail from Land Ho!"
"Oh, yes," he said. "Your office called me this morning and said someone would be showing my house to some buyers. Come in."
"Thank you," said Gail. To the couple, she said, "Come on in."
Gail let the buyers through the foyer and into the L-shaped living room. Gail twiddled the dimmer switch and said, "As you can see, the light over the dining table is controlled by a dimmer switch, to set the mood of the evening."
"Mmm, hmmm," said Mr. Johnson.
"Can we see the kitchen?" asked Mrs. Johnson.
"Right this way!" said Gail.
"Uhm," said Mr. Johnson. "It's wired for cable, right?"
Gail looked at her clipboard, "Yes. I don't think the seller would mind if we turned the TV on for a second." She stepped across the room and turned on the TV, and the cable listings started scrolling down the screen.
"The kitchen..." said Mrs. Johnson.
"The kitchen, "said Gail as she stepped into the kitchen, "has all new appliances, including a stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator, smooth-top electric stove, and dishwasher."
Mrs. Johnson spent some time looking in the drawers and cabinets.
"You said it has two bedrooms?" said Mr. Johnson.
"Yes. Shall we go upstairs?"
"Sure," said Mrs. Johnson.
Gail led her buyers upstairs and stepped into one the master bedroom. "See! What a large bedroom!" said Gail.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson walked through the bedroom and peeked into the master bathroom.
She then showed her buyers the main bathroom off the hallway and the second bedroom.
"Very nice," said Mrs. Johnson.
"Not bad," said Mr. Johnson. "Can we see the basement?"
"Sure!" said Gail, and led them back downstairs and then down to the finished basement.
"Oh, a medieval motif!" said Mrs. Johnson as she entered the recreation room that resembled an English pub with exposed beams and stonework.
The room was filled with odd-looking items of furniture, some covered with drop cloths. The homeowner was sitting on a sofa reading a magazine. Spider plants and other plants hung from heavy hooks bolted to the ceiling.
"Very nice!" said Mr. Johnson. "A very cozy pub-like atmosphere."
Mrs. Johnson stepped into the laundry room while Mr. Johnson explored the utility room.
Gail walked over to the seller, "You must be the seller, Mr. Fredashay?"
"Yes. You can call me Ben."
"Has it been on the market long?"
"Just this past week," he said. "A few people have been through it so far, but while I was at work. This is the first showing when I was home."
"So you're still packing up to move?" she asked.
Gail laughed, "I know how that is. What is that for?" she asked pointing to a large wooden X mounted on the wall with eye-bolts at the ends of each of the arms of the X."
"Uhm, It's just a piece of exercise equipment," he said.
"I see," she said. And what is this thing?" she asked pointing to an, obviously, home-made 4' cube plywood crate with a two-piece padded top with a 6" hole in the center where the two pieces meet.
"Just a table," he said as his face turned red.
"Oh," said Gail imagining how such a table might be used and feeling herself getting wet down there.
A little later, Gail was driving her buyers back to her real estate office. "So, did you like that house?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Johnson. "It had such a beautiful kitchen, didn't it dear?"
"Yeah!" said Mr. Johnson. "I really liked that party room in the basement."
"That was nice," said Mrs. Johnson, "But I wonder what all those weird shapes were down there."
"Oh, he's probably a sculptor or something," said Mr. Johnson.
"But how do all those plants do so well in a basement room without any sunlight?" Mrs. Johnson asked. "They couldn't have been there that long. I wonder what he REALLY used that room for."
Me too! thought Gail.
After dropping her clients off at the office, she called the homeowner and asked to see the house again. "As a Realtor," she said, "I'd like to examine the kitchen and closet space for the next showing."
"Now?" he asked.
"Whenever is most convenient for you," said Gail. "How about tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow is Friday, and I'll be at work all day. Realtors have been bringing people through it all week while I'm at work, so I have no problem with that."
"Good!" said Gail.
The following day, Gail was in the house once again. She walked right past the kitchen without even glancing in, and opened the door to the stairs and went down to the finished basement. She stepped over to the crate and examined it. The two-piece top was hinged on the edges and the two pieces lifted up easily.
Inside, the bottom was padded with foam rubber, but lined with plastic--like, maybe, a plastic shower curtain. She kicked her shoes off and lifted a leg up and stepped inside. Kneeling inside it, she closed one of the top panels, positioning her neck in the half-circle that, curiously, was just the perfect diameter for a neck to pass through. The panel didn't quite close down completely. She tried to pull it down so that it would be flat and level, but it wouldn't fully close. She flipped it open and over the side of the box and the pulled the other panel closed instead. That one, too, wouldn't close all the way.
Never mind then, she thought. Rather than forcing it and risk breaking it, she left it ajar.
Gasping, she felt herself getting wet. What if Ben came home early from work on a Friday and caught her messing with his dungeon furniture? Dismissing the thought, she lifted the panel and stepped out of the box.
She should leave now. What purpose is there in lingering, she asked herself. It's obvious what this box is.
She took a step toward the stairs. Then she turned around. It was still early. Even if he left work early on this Friday, it was still the morning hours.
She looked around the room again, and began to undress. She removed her blouse and bra, and folded them neatly and set them in a chair where she had placed her shoes. Then she pulled her skirt off and folded it on her other clothing. Wearing just a panty, she hesitated, then removed that as well and placed it folded on the rest of her clothes.
What am I doing? she thought as she felt her juices drip down one of her legs. Well, I'll get inside for just a few minutes, give myself release, then leave. He'll never know I was here.
She stepped inside the box again and closed that one top panel over again placing her neck in the half-circle. Again, the panel wouldn't close down fully.
That's actually a relief, she thought. No way to get trapped.
She imagined that, if both panels would close fully around her neck, it would look like her disembodied head were sitting upon a wooden table. She then reached out and swung the other panel up and over. She had to lift up slightly so that both panels would close around her neck.
With both panels ajar encircling her neck, she lowered herself slowly. Knowing that the panels wouldn't close fully, she lowered herself carefully not to pinch her neck in the narrow neck opening formed by the two panels.
She slowly lowered herself to the point where the panels had barely closed before, when she heard a distinct CLICK!
The noise startled her and she flinched against the panel that held her down.
"Aaah!" she screamed involuntarily. Her heart began pounding.
She swallowed hard. They can't be locked. It's just nerves.
She pushed the panels gently upward, but they were solidly in place.
No problem, she thought. I'll just squeeze my hand through this hole and find the catch.
But there was barely a fraction of an inch of clearance around her neck. She couldn't fit her hand through.
She tried to swing her legs out from under her and press against the box with her feet, but the interior of the box was too cramped to get any leverage.
Panic set it. She started pounding on the panels and the walls of the box with her fists, but the box was too solid, and the top panels latched too securely.
Shit! she cried.
Gail swallowed and tried to gain her composure. I'm in no real danger. He'll be home later and let me out.
.... There is more of this story ...