Tonight’s holiday party was Mackenzie’s first visit to her employer’s ancestral home, a newly renovated fourteenth-century castle on a secluded private estate in the Scottish Highlands.

The grounds and castle were stunningly beautiful. However, after a few glasses of wine, my curiosity got the better of me, and I wandered off to explore the castle. Gradually the sounds of the party faded away until I was alone in the night.

One of the more stunning rooms I discovered was just off the castle’s great hall, the library with its floor to ceiling bookshelves, filled with priceless first additions. As I perused the titles, I noticed a particularly intriguing one, “The Life of the Marquis de Sade.” Removing the large leather-bound tome from the shelf, I was about to open it when I noticed the chandler’s light reflecting off something on the shelf that had been behind the volume. Peering into the opening I suddenly realized I was looking at what appeared to be a hidden switch. Unable to resist, I reached into the opening and pressed it. With a faint click, the bookcase swung inward revealing a short, torch lit stone walled passage, ending with a staircase heading downward.

Quickly glancing around to assure myself that I was still alone, I replaced the book on the shelf and stepping into the passage, closed the bookshelf concealed doorway behind me before starting down the steps. The steps, while well lit, lacked a handrail and were treacherously steep, especially for a woman wearing high heels. One hundred steps later, I found myself far below the castle, in a short passageway that led to a large wooden door.

Unsure of what to expect, I pulled back the door’s massive iron bolt. The heavy door opened into a surprisingly large and well-lit dungeon, its stone walls lined with torches, interspaced between iron grated prison cells. Arrayed within the dungeon’s central chamber were literally dozens of the most brutally diabolic instruments of medieval torture ever imagined.

It wasn’t until I reached the far end of the dungeon that I discovered an obscenely diabolic looking iron maiden, one of the iron maidens used by the inquisition during the Catholic persecution of the Highland’s Druids in the early eleventh century. Standing there transfixed and staring at that horrifying instrument of torturous death, it was in that brief timeless moment, that I suddenly realized, I was no longer alone in the night.

Turning, I saw him. Dressed in black leather, with a matching face concealing hood, he looked impossibly ominous. He knew he was death incarnate, and I knew he’d come to claim my life. Setting aside, my now almost empty wine glass, I smiled suggestively, “So, what kept you?”

Smiling beneath his face concealing hood, her employer walked over and placed a leather gloved hand on Mackenzie’s bare shoulder as he replied, “When you’re the host of the party, one must wait for the opportune moment to slip away.”

“This is quite the dungeon. I never knew your ancestors had such a bloodthirsty history.”

“It wasn’t until I started renovations after inheriting this castle that the dungeon’s hidden entrance was rediscovered. Going through the archives, the last cryptic mention of the dungeon’s existence dates from near the end of the Scottish Wars of Independence in 1328. When a young woman apprehended while attempting to flee the castle in the dead of the night was brought to this dungeon for interrogation. She confessed to being an English spy, then went to her death within the iron maiden.”

Seeing the look of disbelief in Mackenzie’s eyes, he continued, “Of course, when we first discovered this dungeon everything had either rusted or decayed to uselessness. I hired a small company in South America, one that specializes in recreating dungeon furnishing, to faithfully recreate all that you see around you.”

Still finding it hard to believe, “You hired someone willing to recreate actual instruments of medieval torture and death? Ones that actually work?”

Smiling at the growing look of horror on Mackenzie’s face, “They all work just like the originals, after all what kind of a dungeon would this be if they didn’t? Of course, if you’d like a demonstration, I’ll happily oblige.”

While not fully sure that he was telling the truth, I suspected that accepting his offer would likely cost me my life, still I replied, “Alright, if you’re really telling the truth, show me.”

Smiling darkly beneath his face concealing hood, he slid his leather gloved hand down and opened the zipper of Mackenzie’s already revealing dress, allowing its figure-hugging leather to slip to the floor leaving her wearing nothing but her high heels. He could feel her starting to tremble as he secured the snug fitting iron collar around her throat and the iron manacles around her wrists and ankles.

Growing steadily more terrified with each passing second, I allowed him to guide me up onto the iron maiden’s blood splattered stone pedestal and secure the maiden’s chains to my collar and restraints. Standing there, in helpless disbelief, I watched as he slowly started to close the maiden’s horrifying spike lined doors.

Seeing the fear in Mackenzie’s eyes as he started to close the iron maiden’s doors, her executioner casually mentioned, “I think you will have more than enough time to discover just how effective these recreations actually are. After all, the last dozen or so women who I’ve put to death within this iron maiden, most took over a day to die.”

Listening to the high-pitched screams of agony coming from within the locked iron maiden, the executioner removed his hood and poured a glass of wine, thankful once again, that most beautiful young women, like Mackenzie, are so easily lured to their unspeakably torturous deaths...