Award-winning Performance

by Sam Leo

Suppressing a yawn, Thomas Jensen walked into the classroom--a classroom designed to accommodate forty students. As he crossed in front of desks arranged in neat rows, he nodded and smiled at the other students in this very special class.

There were, besides Tom, exactly two of them, both men. Rarely did this particular class ever have more five students, and, in spite of the fact that the student body at UCLA was currently over eighty percent female, it was quite rare for any of the students in the special one-year major that included this course as a the centerpiece to be women. Tom, like the others men, was there to learn one skill--how to kill women. At graduation, only a few months away, he and the others would be certified as legal executioners.

Tom sat down at his desk and waited, and just a few moments later the professor, Dr. Alfred Leestrom, walked in and put a few books down on the table at the front. "Good morning, gentlemen," he said. "The discussion on hanging techniques we'd planned for today will have to be postponed. Today we have an opportunity to observe a special situation, an execution carried out by someone who is not certified but who has been given a special permit to conduct them. I am of course speaking of the film industry, where actors are given special permits to act as legal executioners so that such executions can be filmed." He leaned against his desk. "As you all know, such scenes require supervision by a certified executioner, and I will be performing this duty myself in today's shooting. I want you gentlemen to observe the proceedings carefully, take notes, and later we will discuss the techniques used and whether any of them could have been improved upon in any way." He glanced at his watch. "And now," he continued, "we must first go and visit the Warehouse, since we've also been asked to provide an actress for this scene." He pushed himself up away from the desk and headed for the door, and the three men followed behind him closely.

A visit to the Warehouse wasn't something any of the men would have objected to, they all--Tom included--spent a fair amount of their time there. The Warehouse was a converted dorm, converted to allow classes to be conducted there in addition to providing housing for an all-female population that at any given time averaged about two hundred women and girls. Almost all of them had been, through the machineries of the modern slave trade, purchased from their parents, their husbands, or their boyfriends, and were currently legally owned by a consortium of Hollywood film studios. Since the majority of them would end their lives in front of a camera, their appearance was of primary importance in their selection, and the classes conducted at the Warehouse were designed to teach these women how to accept their deaths gracefully and beautifully. As they were, as were most women in the modern world, quite free with their sexual favors--in their case even more so than was average, since they all knew their life expectancy was quite limited--the Warehouse acted as a magnet for the men on campus, and the future executioners were not an exception.

After a short walk across campus, Leestrom and his students entered the Warehouse. Being young men, the students could not help being a little distracted, as they always were here. Stunningly beautiful young women were everywhere, almost all of them scantily clad, and many of them made it a point to make eye contact with the men and offer them winning smiles.

"Keep your mind on business, gentlemen," Leestrom cautioned when one of the men lagged behind. "We'll go Miss Stauton's acting class and get our volunteer there." After negotiating the hallways, Leestrom opened a door with a frosted-glass pane and walked in.

The blond woman at the front, probably about forty or forty-five but still quite attractive, turned toward them. "Good morning, Alfred," she said with a smile. "Right on time."

"Hello, Emily," he acknowledged. "Good to see you." He glanced at the class, which consisted of about thirty girls, each as lovely as the ones they'd seen in the hallways. "Have you told them about the shoot?" he asked.

"Yes, I have."

"Good." He turned to the class. "So you all know that today we're providing an actress for a scene to be shot over at J-Mar Studios. Rather than simply choosing one of you, I'd like one of you to volunteer." He smiled. "To help you decide, I should tell you that this is a speaking part, that it's a polystick, a nickel or dime lag, and that I'd expect the peel to be about seven."

In describing the scene, Leestrom had spoken in a sort of a Hollywood code or shorthand, one that he knew the students would understand. Tom, of course, understood as well; a "polystick" meant multiple stabs with a blade, as opposed to a "monostick"--a single fatal stab wound--and as opposed to other methods, such as a "pop" (gunshot) or a "squeeze" (manual strangulation). The "nickel or dime lag" meant that the time between first injury and death was expected to be between five and fifteen minutes; a "penny lag" meant a virtually instantaneous death while a "dollar lag" meant long drawn-out torture. The "peel" was short for "pain level," (written as "PL") measured on a scale of one to ten, where one was practically painless and ten was sheer agony.

Immediately, almost all the girls raised their hands.

Among them was a girl Tom knew slightly, a newcomer who'd been there only a couple of days. Her name was Belle Davies; she was a tall slender girl with long dark hair and green eyes. Leestrom smiled. "Seems I must choose after all," he said. He paused to confer with Emily for a moment, then pointed toward Belle and nodded. She smiled, rose from her seat, and walked up to the front. She was dressed in a thin bare-midriff blouse and a very brief denim skirt; Tom watched her, noticing how very long and shapely her legs were.

Not that he hadn't noticed before. He felt a small pang of disappointment. He'd met Belle two days earlier, on her the first day at the Warehouse, and had hoped to get to know her better. So far, though, he had only had coffee with her once in the Warehouse lounge, and knew little more than that she was a volunteer, not a slave, and that she hailed from Mississippi--a true Southern Belle. That particular evening he'd been called away by a prior commitment and things had gone no further. He castigated himself for not moving faster. Now it was too late, she'd be dead before the end of the day.

"As Miss Staunton has told you," Leestrom told the girl as she came to stand near him at the desk. ""we're to provide an actress for an FX scene with J-Mar. The scene is to be shot this afternoon, on their sound-stage." The professor glanced at his watch. "And we'd best go now, Belle is supposed to meet with the director and her co-star in an hour. Our bus is waiting."

"Any of you girls who want to tag along, feel free," Emily added. "I'm sure Belle's performance will be well worth watching, she's proven to be one of the most talented actresses we have here." Belle smiled at the compliment, and about a dozen of the girls rose and moved toward the door. Along with the three male students, they followed Leestrom and Belle out to the waiting vehicle.

Belle, along with her friend Marie Phillips--a Southern California girl who'd been at the Warehouse for a couple of months, who Tom knew fairly well, and who had introduced Tom to Belle--by chance seated themselves one row ahead of Tom in the bus. As they rode, Belle turned around and looked back at him. "Looking forward to this?" she asked. There was no rancor in her voice; there hadn't ever been any hostility or reproach from the Warehouse girls toward future executioners like Tom. On the other hand, she was not quite able to offer him a smile.

"I don't know," he answered honestly. "If they plan to shoot you once in the head from a long distance, then no. You are far too good to waste on a scene like that, Belle."

She did smile then--and Belle was one of those girls whose whole face lit up when she smiled. "Thank 'ew," she murmured. He found her Southern drawl enchanting. "And you know it isn't that anyway. You heard Professor Leestrom say it was going to be a knifing, didn't you?"

"Mm. Yes, he did. So far so good. As long as they don't have you wearing a Victorian outfit when they do it, and as long as they don't want a single heart-stab from the back. Again, you're too good for anything that quick."

"You also heard him say 'polystick.'"

"Mm. Yes I did. Nothing about outfit, though."

"You know anything about J-Mar studios, Tom?"

"Not much. Sorry."

"I do," Marie said. Marie was a shorter girl than Belle; her hair was light brown, cut short, her eyes surprisingly dark. She was more than attractive as well, but "cute" rather than classically beautiful. "They do soft-hard shoots. Soft for the US, hard for the Euro market. They might want you to do some porn, Belle."

"That's fine," Belle said quietly, her demure manner a contrast to her words. Her eyes flicked down. "I don't mind."

This exchange caused a distinct stirring in Tom's pants. "You ready for this, Belle?" he asked her.

She nodded. "I'm a Warehouse girl, right? That means I can be executed at any time. I'm always aware that each day, when I come to class, I might not be going back to my room. I have to be ready. When I volunteered originally, I assumed I'd be executed in the arena."

He cocked his head slightly. "I didn't know that. Why didn't that didn't happen?"

She shrugged. "The studios send out scouts checking the stock for the public executions. They can't make offers to criminals, of course, but they can make offers for request girls and volunteers. In my case they offered me five thousand--to go to my family, of course--and a little more time to live, in comfortable surroundings. I took it, of course. I'd tried to get daddy to sell me, he wouldn't. At least that gave him something." She laughed briefly. "And I got two more days to live. Wow."

Tom frowned. "You had to sign for unlimited, though, didn't you? Or at least extended. Five Kay is really cheap for those..."

She made a helpless gesture. "You're talking about slaves. As a slave, unlimited, I guess I might have gone for twenty or more. I--"

"I'd say eighty to a hundred."

She flicked her eyes down and smiled again, demurely. "Thank you again," she said. "But I'm not a slave, I'm still a free woman. I could get off this bus right now and go back to Mississippi. All the consortium could do is sue me, I wouldn't be a fugitive. It's a risk for them."

"Volunteers," he said, "get to choose their method in the arenas. How were you going to have it done?"

"I was going to have my throat cut."

That caused even more stirring around Tom's groin. "Well, anyway, that wasn't what I was asking, I was asking if you felt ready for this."

She pursed her lips. "Yes, but--it just isn't--what I'd hoped for. A throwaway scene in a B-movie. I'd hoped for something more--meaningful."

"Oh, I don't think you're looking at it right, Belle," Tom said quickly. "The point is, it'll be immortalized on video. The fact that it's a B-movie doesn't matter at all."

She did smile then. "You really think so?"

He nodded vigorously. "Yes, I do!"

Her smile widened. Her teeth, he noticed, were almost incredibly perfect. "Thanks, Tom. That helps."

He smiled too; about that time the bus pulled in to the parking place it was assigned at the studio. The professor and the students disembarked, went inside, and were shown to an unused sound stage where the director and Clay Mellon, the actor they were told was playing the "psycho killer" in the film, were waiting. Canvas folding chairs had been provided for them.

Standing, the director watched as the students took their seats. "Any one of these girls would do fine," he said to the professor. "Have you picked one out?"

"Yes," he said. He gestured toward Belle; she stood up. "This one, Belle Davies."

The director grinned. "Excellent choice, Alfred, as always." He scanned her up and down. "At least as far as I can see. Can I have a look at the rest of you, honey?"

"Yes, sir. Of course," she answered. Quickly, without making any attempt to make it into a strip-tease, Belle removed her blouse and her skirt. She wasn't wearing a bra, and her breasts were high and firm, medium-sized, with delicate nipples. She laid her clothes over the back of her chair and stripped off her tiny thong panties, revealing clean-shaven pubes with smooth even lips. The director said nothing immediately; Belle pirouetted slowly.

"Absolutely perfect," the director said. He turned to the professor. "My congratulations, Alfred." The professor nodded; the director turned back to Belle. "The script calls for some porn," he said bluntly. "That okay with you?"

"Yes, sir," Belle answered.

"Good. We're all set, then."

"May I dress now?" Belle asked demurely.

"Oh, sure, go ahead," the director said with an offhand wave of his hand. "After you do, sit up here in the front and I'll tell you what we're going to do." She dressed quickly--although she did not bother to put the panties back on--and sat down, looking very attentive. "You're only slated to play two brief scenes," the director told her, "and they won't demand much from you. In the first, you're sitting at a makeup table with several other women; you only have a few lines. You'll be wearing a stage costume at that point." He handed her a script. "They'll all leave after that, and you're the last one to go. You get up, walk over to the costume rack, and take off your costume; at that point you'll be nude except for your shoes. You'll move to the right-hand edge of the rack, and when you do, Clay, here, will step out. He is going to kill you, in fact, so it shouldn't be any trouble for you to act as if you're frightened. He'll grab you by your hair and threaten you with a knife. Your only line at that point is, 'No, please, I'll do anything.' Clay'll unzip his pants and take out his dick, you go down on your knees and suck it. If he can come, that's fine, if he can't we'll cut and switch to a double, we do want a come shot for the Euro market. Make sure we can see the come drooling out of your mouth. We'll cut again right there so we can clean off any come that might have dripped on you. After that we'll do the final scene. Clay'll pull you back up by your hair, push you against the wall, and stab you several times." He turned to Clay. "Remember, you want to hit her belly at least four times and her tits at least twice. Straight in-and-out, we don't want a lot of gore but we do want a lot of blood and we'd like it to spurt out, so be sure you go in deep each time." His manner was as casual as if he were describing a dinner scene. Turning his head, he looked at Belle again. "Try to keep your body still while he's stabbing you, we don't want him to cut you. Also, try to keep your eyes open. Otherwise, your natural reactions should be fine."

Belle nodded. "Do you want me to try to fight him?" she asked, her voice soft. "I can, I think, without really interfering with what he's doing."

The director peered at her keenly. "Can you let him do you without fighting? Keep your hands down at your sides? Like you were surrendering to the inevitable?"

"Yes, sir," Belle answered. "I'm sure I can do that."

"Good," the director patted her shoulder. "That's what we want. Study your lines now, and we'll do a rehearsal in about an hour."

"Yes, sir," Belle answered demurely. She brushed her hair back, opened the script to the bookmarked page, and started reading. For the most part, the other students sat quietly, waiting. Tom, sitting beside her, looked over at the script. He watched her turn pages with long delicate fingers; he gazed at her profile. She seemed so very calm, considering that she knew very well that she was living the last few hours of her life, that in a very short while she would be pushed against a wall naked, trying to stand still and be controlled while an actor repeatedly plunged a knife into her body. Eventually she became aware of his gaze and looked up.

"It isn't much," she said. "I think I pretty well have it already."

"That's good," he said noncommittally.

The script still in her hand, she gazed at him for several seconds. "It'll be a good scene, don't you think?"

He nodded. "I think so. A lot depends on Clay Mellon's skill, of course." He hesitated. "And on the way you play your part..."

She nodded in turn. "I am worried about that. I'm pretty sure I can do what it takes, but of course, you never know until you're there. There are no second chances." She sighed. "And this one won't give me much time to think. Clay's playing a psycho. He's supposed to do me really hard and fast. The script says he supposed to do one, then pause for a second, then another, then several more 'in a frenzy.' It won't give me much time to adjust or anything."

"You probably won't need to do that," Tom said reassuringly. "The director told you, your natural reactions are pretty much what they want. All you have to do is stay still and keep your hands down."

"I know. I told him I was sure I could do that. I think it's more that I hope I can."

"I'm sure of it, Belle."

She gave him a half-smile. "How can you be sure when I'm not? Your expert opinion as a future executioner?"

"Absolutely," he said with a grin.

"Have you personally killed any girls yet, Mr. Future Executioner?"

"No," he told her. "Not yet. But we are at the point in the semester where we start getting practice girls, so I won't be a virgin much longer."

"Practice girls?"

He frowned slightly. "You've never heard about our practice girls? Oh, well, you've only been at the Warehouse a couple of days. The state provides all the schools that have courses leading to certification with practice girls. They're class C's and D's that have volunteered for state execution or request girls." He shrugged. "Gives us real-life practice and cuts costs for the state. By the time we graduate, each of us will have done eight--by varying methods--and Dr. Leestrom will have done maybe a dozen more as demos."

Belle nodded slowly. "I see. That's what I meant before, that's something more meaningful. Helping to train future executioners." She gave him a frank look. "In a way I would have liked to have been one of your practice girls, Tom."

"Impossible," he said--since he was not sure what else to say to this. "As I just said, all our practice girls are C's and D's, girls that wouldn't even be in the arena. You're--"

"Class A, I know, I've heard that a thousand times in the past week."

"Hell, I would have said AAA!"

She laughed again. "You have to have really big tits to be AAA. I'm just a C cup."

He leaned toward her a little. "Let's say you were a Class C," he said. "If you ended up being my final exam, we'd be expected to negotiate a method. What would your preference have been?"

She shook her head. "I wouldn't have done that," she answered. "Whatever you proposed, I'd accept."

He stared at her. "And what if I'd proposed burning you at the stake?"

"Even then." She gazed at his eyes steadily. He didn't answer right away. "Is that what you would have chosen?"

He shook his head. "No. Actually I would have chosen the method you've ended up with, the knife. Piercings in your abdomen and between your ribs. But I would have chosen small blade slow sequence. Death by exsanguination."

Her smile returned. "That," she said, "would have been ideal for me. Even more perfect than having my throat cut."

Tom continued to stare at her. "Damn it, Belle, now you've got me wishing you were a class C." He shook his head. "You and I should have gotten together before this..."

"Yes, we should have." She touched his hand, and to him it felt electric. "Sometimes," she said softly, "things just don't go the way we might have liked. There's nothing we can do but accept it." Her fingers wound around his. "And make the best of it. Talking to you has been really helpful for me. I'll know you're watching, and it'll make a difference."

He squeezed her hand. "You can bet I'll be watching," he assured her. "From as close as they'll let me stand."

She leaned slightly toward him. "Maybe..." she started to say.

But, at that point, the director returned and asked her if she was ready for a run-through. She answered that she was. The director told her they'd do it once casually, then once as a dress-rehearsal, and, if all that went well, they'd shoot the actual scene. With Tom at her side and the other students trailing along behind, they went to the soundstage.

There, Belle took her place at a generic dressing table such as is often seen backstage in theaters. Two other actresses were there; all three were seated before the mirror.

"You'd better hurry, Janine," one of them said to Belle after the director called for action. "You don't want to be the last one here. It's not safe to be alone these days."

Belle looked up at her and smiled. "Oh, I don't think I'm in any danger, Marilyn," she said, speaking her lines like a pro. "I can't believe the Mardi Gras Killer would be here, tonight. And why me? I'm not special."

"I wouldn't be surprised," "Marilyn" said, "if his other six victims hadn't said the same thing."

"She's right, Janine," the other actress chimed in.

Belle waved a hand dismissively. "I'll be fine. Besides, I think it would be cool if the guy did show up. You never know, he might be interesting!"

"Damn," the director whispered, "she's a natural."

"Don't joke about it," Marilyn said. She made the motions of pulling on clothes. "It's not a joke."

"I know," Belle answered. "You two go ahead. I'll be along in a few minutes." The two other actresses then rose and left the scene area, leaving Belle alone. She gazed at herself in the mirror for a moment, teasing her hair, then got up and walked to the rack of costumes and street clothes behind her. There she started to undo her top.

"No need to strip right now, honey, this is a walk-through," the director called. "Just make the motions." She nodded and obeyed; after a moment Clay stepped out from behind the rack. Her eyes wide, she shrank from him, but he grabbed her by her hair. He waved his empty right hand as if he were holding a knife.

Belle didn't struggle. "Please," she begged, sounding like she meant it. "Please, I'll do anything..."

"Anything?" he said. He reached down and made the motion of unzipping his pants. Belle, her eyes flicking from his groin to his face and back again, sank slowly and gracefully to her knees. She moved her face close to his pants and kept it there for a moment. Finally, Clay pulled at her hair to indicate that she should get up. She did, without resistance. He then turned her and pushed her up against the wall, then made a motion toward himself and toward her that Tom did not quite understand.

"You'd said you'd do anything," the actor reminded her. "So take this blade for me!" He then struck at her midsection as if stabbing her. Keeping her torso still, Belle rolled her head to the side and let out a series of very authentic-sounding gasps and groans as he "stabbed" her repeatedly. Her arms were down at her sides, her fingers arched, her fingertips against the wall. After Clay had "stabbed" her six times she started sinking down, ending in a sitting position with one leg extended.

"Could not ask for better," the director said as Belle rose. "Honey, you are terrific. We'll go to makeup now. The full dress rehearsal is next. If that goes as well, we'll shoot the scene." The actors involved, Clay and the three women, were then moved to chairs where makeup experts worked over their faces. Belle, the only one who was going to play a full nude scene, was asked to remove her clothes. She did, and her whole body received a light dusting of powder while her nipples were given a slight accent--amid comments from the makeup girls that she needed almost nothing. She was then given a sequined "showgirl" costume which she wriggled into, and the other two actresses were dressed in similar costumes in different colors. Clay was given his "Mardi Gras Killer" outfit--a black shirt, pants, and gloves, complemented by a harlequin mask that covered almost his whole face and several strings of Mardi Gras beads dangling from his neck.

Then, after everyone was ready, they ran through the scene again. Again, Belle delivered her lines perfectly; and this time, when she went to the clothes rack, she slipped out of her costume and hung it up just before Clay made his appearance--this time holding a retractable-blade stage knife. At his demand, she dropped to her knees; he unzipped his pants and pulled out his limp cock. Belle leaned forward, scooped it up with her lips, and pulled it into her mouth. Watching, Tom found he was getting erect faster than Clay was.

"That's enough for now," the director called as Clay's member started to harden. "We don't want to waste it. Let's go ahead." Belle allowed his half-erect penis to drop from her lips. Clay let go of her hair for a moment, then tucked himself back into his pants and zipped them up--somewhat awkwardly, since he was still holding the knife. Seizing her hair again, he pulled her up and pushed her against the wall. Then, using his left hand, he removed a string of beads from his own neck and draped it around hers, making clear the motion Tom had not understood in the run-through.

"Cut," the director called. He rose from his chair and walked onto the soundstage. "You look clumsy zipping up your pants, Clay," he said bluntly. "And we want that part in both versions, we'll only cut the actual sucking and the cumshot for American. How about you tuck the knife into your belt while she's going down on you?"

"When I use the real one," Clay pointed out, "I'm liable to cut my belt."

"Hm. You're right." He turned his head. "Props! We need a scabbard over here!" he yelled. There was a brief delay, but after a short wait a young man came trotting over with a scabbard. Clay threaded his belt through it, and the director told them to try it again, starting at the point where Clay emerged from behind the clothes rack.

This time the director called for a cut at the point where Belle started to suck him, reminding her to keep her hair thrown to the far side so the camera's view was unobstructed. They started again, and this time all went smoothly; at the end, Clay held Belle against the wall and struck her abdomen and her breasts six or seven times, lightly, with the stage knife. Again she put on an excellent performance, "dying" with conviction.

But the director stopped it again. "Look," he said, coming over to where Clay and Belle were standing. "You want to kill her, of course, but you don't want to make it too quick. We want spurting blood, but we don't want her to lose it all at once." He ran his fingertips down over Belle's belly. "You're staying too close to the center of her body down here. Go to the left and right." He poked her belly lightly, an inch or two off the center line. "That way you can stick the knife in deep, and she won't fade on you immediately." He glanced up at Belle. "It'll hurt you more, naturally. You don't have any problems with that, do you?"

She shook her head. "No, sir."

Clay agreed, and they ran through the scene yet again. "I don't see any other problems with it," the director commented after the scene was over. "Let's take a thirty-minute break. When we come back, we'll shoot it."

Tom watched Belle walk naked to the makeup chair where she'd left her clothes; she put them back on, then joined him. "You did great," he told her.

"I hope so." She smiled faintly and shook her head. "Just a little over thirty minutes left to live. It seems so strange. I am ready, but it seems strange even so." She touched her abdomen. "I just hope I can control myself when he starts sticking the knife in me."

"I'm very sure you'll do fine," Tom told her reassuringly. "Your attitude about all this is so good... it'll carry you through." He shook his head. "I surely do wish we'd gotten to know each other better before today, Belle."

She put her hand on his shoulder. "I do too, Tom," she said. She glanced around, then shrugged. Reaching out, she took his hand. "We have," she said, "just thirty minutes. We should make the most of them." He gave her a questioning look; in reply, she pulled him toward a darkened and unused area of the studio. Rounding a corner she found a director's chair sitting against a wall and stopped there. Standing close to Tom, she tipped her face upwards. Taking the cue, he took her in his arms and kissed her passionately.

From there, things progressed very rapidly. Tom was never sure exactly when or how Belle removed her shirt, only that her bare breasts were under his hands and then her nipples were in his mouth. She did not ever remove her skirt, she just hiked it up around her waist. She was thoroughly wet and Tom was utterly hard; she sat down in the chair, put her legs up, and he pushed into her with a passion and urgency he'd never before experienced. After just a few minutes, Belle arched backwards and moaned as her orgasm overtook her. Tom was not very far behind; she wrapped her legs around him, pulling him in deep, and he erupted into her. Still shaking slightly, he leaned forward to kiss her; she clutched him to herself. Slowly, reluctantly, he pulled himself out of her.

"That," she murmured, "was probably a mistake. I probably should have taken your cum in my mouth. Now it might be draining out of me while we're doing the scene."

"I wouldn't worry about it, I imagine it'll get taken care of," a voice from behind them said. Tom turned quickly; the speaker was Marie Phillips, who, along with a number of the other students, were standing there, watching them and grinning. "And for what it's worth, I don't think it was a mistake at all."

Somewhat embarrassed, Tom tucked himself back in his pants. "I," he said, reaching out to Belle, "have to agree. This was not a mistake. The only mistake was that we didn't get together sooner."

Belle stood up, adjusted her skirt, and put her top back on. "I won't argue with that," she said. She glanced back toward the soundstage. "How much more time do we have?" she asked.

"Just under ten minutes," Marie supplied.

Belle smiled and shook her head. "Well," she said, "I suppose we should get back over there. I don't want to be late to my own execution."

Tom put his arm around her waist; with the other students following, they walked back to the soundstage. Fifteen minutes later Belle, Clay, and the two other actresses were playing the scene again--only this time, they were bathed in stage lights, boom mikes hung just over their heads, and the cameras were rolling; a dozen or more crew members were involved now. One of the other actresses stumbled slightly leaving the set; the director stopped the action and started over from the beginning. The second time they had a "lighting problem" and they started a third take. Tom watched Belle closely, wondering how she was taking delays in a scene that was going to end in pain and death for her. If it was bothering her, she gave no sign of it whatever.

In fact, when they got to the part where Clay, as the masked Mardi Gras Killer, burst from behind the clothes rack and seized Belle's hair, the director stopped it to tell Belle she did not look fearful enough. The next take, however, was satisfactory. Tom watched as Belle sank to her knees, tossed her hair away from the camera, and waited while Clay sheathed the knife and took out his cock. Using the same motion as before, she scooped it up with her lips and began sucking it, and this time the director did not call for them to stop. She worked his cock skillfully, drawing it deeply into her mouth and working her tongue around it, making Tom wish he'd had the opportunity to sample her oral technique. It took a little while, but at last Belle was successful; Clay stiffened and she held still as he ejaculated into her mouth. Once he was finished, she tipped her head, parted her lips, and let the white fluid drain from the corner of her mouth; it dripped onto her thigh. Clay, perhaps having forgotten the director's instruction that there was to be a cut at this point, drew the knife back out of his scabbard and started to pull Belle upward by her hair.

The director yelled "cut!" and, releasing Belle's hair, Clay turned toward him. As he did, the point of the knife caught one of the strings of Mardi Gras beads hanging from his neck; the string broke, and beads started spilling onto the floor with a clattering sound like a sudden hailstorm. Clay made a futile grab at them, then shook his head and shoved the knife back into the scabbard. Belle rose to her feet, the director called for a janitor to come and sweep up the beads, and Clay took a step toward the director. The mask he was wearing probably impaired his view, because he stepped squarely onto the still-rolling beads. His feet shot out from under him, his arms windmilled frantically for a moment, and he crashed heavily to the stage floor. Belle's hands went to her mouth; Tom, the director, and several of the students laughed out loud.

Clay, however, was not laughing--and he did not get up immediately. "Damn it!" he yelled, throwing off the mask. "It isn't funny! Shit!" He sat up slowly, grimaced in pain, and held his right arm. Belle, a look of concern on her face, knelt beside him. "I think I broke my damn wrist!"

Being cautious of the still-rolling beads, the director, the other actresses, the crew, and, a moment later, Professor Leestrom, gathered around him. "Sprained," Leestrom pronounced after examining the actor's wrist. "Not broken, I'm sure."

The director's brow furrowed deeply. "Can you finish the scene, Clay?"

The actor tried to move his wrist and groaned. "I don't think I can even hold the knife, much less use it. Not at the moment, anyway."

The director rolled his eyes, then turned to the professor. "How long?" he asked succinctly.

Leestrom shook his head. "If we ice it, perhaps an hour or two. But even then it may give him trouble after he uses it once. He might start the scene and be unable to finish it. To be sure--well, overnight, at the very least. And even then he should test it first to be certain."

"This," the director said, "is going to cost us a lot of money. We'll have to keep this set and get the whole damn crew back here in a day or two just for one scene." He looked utterly disgusted. "And it was going so well..."

"Maybe not," Belle said unexpectedly.

The director looked up at her. "What do you mean, honey?" he asked. "Clay's out of commission. We sure don't want to risk him poking a hole or two in you and not being able to finish the job. Alfred, here, would never forgive me."

"Well, you were going to use a stunt double for the cumshot if Clay couldn't manage to--"

The director gave her a tired smile. "Honey, maybe you don't understand... Clay had to get a special executioner's permit to do this legally. He had to go for training. None of our stunt doubles have that training or that permit."

"But he does," she argued, pointing at Tom.


"Tom's about the same size and build as Clay. In the suit and mask, no one would be able to tell the difference. He's an executioner-in-training, he has a permit. He could do the scene and we could finish today as planned."

The director looked around at Tom, who was staring speechlessly at Belle. "You are about the same size," he agreed. "You have any acting experience, Tom?"

"Uh... no..."

"He doesn't really need any," Belle insisted. "All he has to do is pull me up off the floor, hang a string of beads around my neck, push me against the wall, and kill me. He can handle it." She paused. "Of course, you'd have to leave out that line, 'take the blade,' Tom's voice is nothing like Clay's..."

"Oh, that isn't a problem at all," the director said. "The sound is mixed in anyway, Clay can deliver the line himself, off-stage. If necessary he could do it some other time. The mask covers the lips so your boy doesn't even have to try to lip-sync it." He turned back to Tom and cupped his chin in his hand. "You done any executions yet, son?"

Tom shook his head. "No. Not yet."

"You think you can handle this?"

He hesitated, but a glance at Belle's eyes eliminated his reluctance. "Yes," he said finally. "I'm sure I can."

"Is it okay with you, Alfred? We might end up wasting one of your girls."

Leestrom shook his head. "She would not be entirely wasted even if you were unable to use the footage," he replied. "Our executioners-in-training need hands-on practice. Finally, Mr. Jensen has been an excellent student. I believe him fully capable."

"Okay, it's worth a shot," the director said. "Let's run through it, see how it goes. Your cue to go, Tom, is when Clay finishes his line." Tom started to walk toward Belle, but before he'd taken two steps the director stopped. "On second thought let's go straight to the dress rehearsal. Let's get him into the costume so he can get used to the view through the mask." A few minutes later Tom found himself dressed in the same black suit Clay had recently been wearing, the beads dangling from his neck, the mask covering his face, and the retractable-blade stage knife in his hand. Belle, having been cleaned up and touched-up by the makeup girls, took her place on stage, kneeling as she had been before the accident.

"Okay," the director called. "You don't have to be in exactly the same position Clay was in, we'll use a viewpoint shift to mask any differences. You know what to do?"

"I think so," Tom said. He looked down at Belle, who was gazing back up at him with seemingly trusting eyes. Smiling behind the mask even though he knew she could not see it, he grabbed her hair and gently pulled her to her feet. Then he turned her and pushed her up against the wall. In a moment of inspiration he decided to risk a small shift in the pattern; instead of taking a string of beads from his neck, he slipped his right arm smoothly down through one of the strings, then guided it over his head, down his left arm, and over her head--so that he did not ever have to let go of her hair, as Clay had done. The director said nothing; Clay, from offstage, spoke his line. Belle put her hands against the wall and Tom, taking that as his cue, struck her belly, moderately hard, with the stage knife. As before, she acted the part beautifully; he struck her belly and breasts seven times before she started to sink down.

"Cut," the director called. He gazed directly at Tom. "Basically, very well done. I like the added touch with the bead string, we'll keep that. Two things: one, you need to be a lot rougher about pulling her up. Two, don't stand quite so close to her when you're sticking her. We want to catch some close-ups of the blade going in, and we need to get a view past your body."

"I have one question," Belle said. "I've been 'going down' after Clay or Tom stops hitting me with the stage knife. When we shoot the real scene, should I do that? Or just go down when I can't stay up any longer?"

"Hm. Good question. Tell you what, Tom, let's do it this way: stick her six or seven times, just as you did, then pause. If she's still up, give her four or five more." He laughed. "And repeat as necessary."

"I'm sorry, I do have one other question myself," Tom said, his voice sounding hollow behind the mask. "What happens after she's down? I didn't see that part of the script..."

"The script," the director answered, "says that the Mardi Gras Killer walks away, leaving her lying dead on the floor."

"But she may not be dead in fact," Tom pointed out. "Or even unconscious, she might still be squirming around. In fact she probably will be."

"You think?"

"He's likely correct," Leestrom inserted. "And she may well be still moving. I propose you allow Tom to kneel beside her and finish the job."

The director pursed his lips. "Okay. Do that--but only if necessary. I want to stay as close to Ellison's script as I can. If she's lying limp on the floor, not moving, just walk away."

Tom nodded. "Understood."

"Okay. Let's run through it again. Oh, and don't hit her too hard with that stage knife, we don't want her body marked up."

"Got it."

Another rehearsal take was called for; when they'd finished, the director sat nodding. "That was just about as close to perfect as we have any right to expect," he said. "Let's get in there with the makeup, make our girl look as good as possible, and then let's do it for the camera." While the makeup girls were working on Belle, a prop man came out and exchanged the stage knife Tom had been given for a real one. Before dropping it into the sheath, he tested the point and edge; it was good steel, very sharp. Quickly, he walked over to the chair where Belle was receiving her final makeup. Her eyes closed, she looked totally relaxed.

As if she sensed his presence, she opened her eyes and gave him an almost painfully open and free smile. "Sometimes," she said in a soft sultry voice, "things have a way of working out just the way you want them to."

"Yes they do. Belle, I--"

"I'll be your first girl." She took a deep breath. "Perfect..." He took her hand; she clutched at his fingers, the pressure belying, to an extent, her calm exterior. Seconds passed. The makeup girl said she was done; neither Tom nor Belle seemed to hear her. Then the director called them back and loudly announced that this was the "real one," that there were no second chances. Belle, still naked except for her shoes and looking radiantly beautiful, knelt on the stage in about the same place and position she'd been in when she'd finished giving Clay his blowjob. Tom stood in front of her where Clay had been standing and grabbed a handful of her hair.

"Action," the director said.

After a fraction of a second's pause, Tom jerked on her hair. She came to her feet, slowly enough to allow him to continue pulling her hair for a moment. He then turned her and pushed her toward the wall. The transfer of the string of beads went very smoothly; they hung nicely between her bare breasts. Her eyes wide, she gazed at Tom's eyes through the mask with a most amazing mix of excitement, passion, and terror. As before, her arms were against the wall, her hands arched on her fingertips. Tom drew the knife out of the scabbard. He could see--and feel, through his grip on her hair--her body trembling slightly. He checked his position, making sure he was standing far enough to his left that the camera could see past him.

"You'd said you'd do anything," Clay intoned from off-stage. "So take this blade for me!"

Your cue, Tom told himself. Your cue, do it, now, it's time for you to kill this incredible woman. Time dropped into slow-motion for him, and, he suspected, for Belle as well. The knife flashed forward and, with a characteristically wet "choonk!" sound, the blade sank smoothly into her abdomen, down low, on her left side, and it went in deep. He felt her jerk; instinctively, after inflicting this first wound, he paused for just a moment, holding the blade deep inside her and recalling as he did the feeling of holding his cock inside her, just a few minutes before. Glancing up at her face, he saw that her expression was absolutely perfect for the "surrender to the inevitable" concept the director had mentioned. Her wide eyes were fixed on his, but her head was turned slightly away from him, her mouth open, a slight frown furrowing her brow. She had not moved her hands and arms at all, and one knee was gracefully cocked. Holding her hair tightly, Tom pulled the knife out quickly and immediately buried it again, a little higher and to the right of the centerline of her body. Blood began to pour out of the first wound and Belle's body spasmed again as the knife went into her. Tom whipped it out and slammed it back in, under her ribs on her right side, piercing her liver. This time, when he pulled the blade free, he was rewarded by a spout of blood. Without pause he plunged the blade back into her again, just above her navel, angled a bit so he wouldn't hit her aorta or spine. She turned her head from side to side and gave a little whimpering cry, but she kept her torso still and never moved her arms. Tom snatched the blade out, turned it so it was lying horizontal, and stabbed it into her left breast, high up, just under the nipple, and very deep. Belle, blood spouting nicely from two of the abdominal wounds, groaned loudly. Tom whipped the blade out and immediately drove it into her right breast an inch inside the nipple--but carefully angling it so he did not pierce her right lung. Blood spouted from this one, too, as it came free.

He stopped there for an instant, holding the bloody knife poised. Belle was not falling; her head was arched back but she was still watching him, her fingertips working at the wall and her legs alternately flexing and stretching out. Incredibly, she retained enough self-control to turn her head to the side and tilt it a little, so that blood spilled from the corner of her mouth in a steady stream rather than covering her chin--exactly the way she'd let Clay's semen drain. As he himself had suggested, he went on; planting the blade deep in her belly near her navel, yanking it out immediately, and driving it back in between her ribs under her left breast. Blood gushed out as it came free; he drove it home again, just below her solar plexus, and this time was rewarded with another spout as he pulled it out. As her blood splashed against his shirt, he buried the knife in her right breast again, this time going in right through the nipple but again not going deep enough to compromise her remaining lung. Snatching it out, he paused again.

Belle, her eyes still wide open, her gaze still fixed on his face, started sliding down the wall. Blood was no longer spouting from any of her wounds, but it was running freely down her body and onto the floor. Her face was completely relaxed, it appeared that she was no longer feeling any pain at all. She looked almost impossibly sexy. Tom held on to her hair, helping her slide down softly; he released her only when her rear end was solidly down on the floor. She fell over slowly and gracefully toward the front of the soundstage, ending up mostly on her back along the wall, but with her legs turned outward, her knees slightly bent as if she'd been posed that way. Her eyes open and staring, she laid perfectly still. Tom, after a moment's pause, turned and walked away.

"Cut!" the director yelled. "Beautiful! God damn, just beautiful!" Tom, having pushed the mask up atop his head, came back out from behind the scenery. As he came out, he noticed that Belle was, incredibly, blinking her eyes and trying to raise her head.

"Tom," she whispered, her voice weak. "Tom, I'm not dead... please... hurry..."

He rushed to her, knelt beside her, and cradled her head. "You did that to play the scene the way the director wanted?" he asked, incredulous. "You played a death scene after you'd been stabbed? While you were dying?" Focused on Belle, he didn't even know that the director had called for all the cameras to start shooting again.

She swallowed, then nodded. "Now," she gurgled, "you... finish it..."

He leaned down and kissed her blood-spattered lips, and was even more amazed when she kissed him back. He drew out the knife and pressed the point into her flesh just under her breastbone.

She managed to raise an arm and touch his shoulder. "Slow," she murmured. "Gentle... come into me..." Tom shook his head and pressed in firmly with the knife. A second later, he felt the point break though and it started sinking gradually back into her body. She raised her other arm and held both his shoulders tightly, showing more strength than he imagined she still had. Then--although he'd believed there was nothing she could possibly have done to shock him more--she managed to do it again by breaking into one of her brilliant smiles.

"Come into my heart," she said, struggling to force the words out. "Into my heart..." A little more than an inch of the blade was inside her at that point; she squirmed a little on the floor.

Tom pulled her up a little more so that her face was close to his. "Into your heart," he agreed. He kissed her again, and while they were kissing he pressed the blade on in. He felt it slice through her diaphragm; knowing she'd be unable to breathe again, he sped up a little. She suddenly spasmed violently, going rigid against him, and when she did he drove the blade smoothly on home, driving it through her heart. One of her legs kicked out wildly; her fingers drummed on his shoulders.

Then her arms fell away, and her lips, still pressed against his, became still. He moved his head back and looked at her face. Her eyes were open, her mouth was closed, and her features had relaxed into the most peaceful expression of repose he'd ever seen.

"That," the director said, leaning over Tom's shoulder, "was one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen in my life. She will, I guarantee, be nominated for an Academy Award for that. She might win, too--it'll be the first time an award has ever been given for a real death scene."

"Yes," Tom said, laying her back down on the floor gently. "She was the best." He rose and started to remove the costume, wondering as he did if he was going to be able to go back to Professor Leestrom's class.