“I don’t want to do this,” Alex says.

“Shut up,” she says. “It’s too late for that now.”

“Why?” he says. “Why is it too late? I could just let you go.”

“If you let me go,” she says, “I’ll kill you. Maybe not today, but soon. You know this.”

Alex nods. “Yes,” he says. “I wish it were otherwise.”

“Wish in one hand and do something in the other, my mother used to say, and see which one does something. Get on with it!”

Alex sighs and puts on the gloves and the goggles. She spits at him, hurls insults and curses at his back, none of which makes him feel better. “Someone has to do this,” he says. “I mean, it’s a requirement.”

“— you,” she says, and looks startled.

“No swearing,” he says. “It’s a law.”

“— the law.” Her face turns purple.

“Not that kind of law.” He removes her shoes and socks. “Like the law of gravity. Put this in your mouth.”

“— you,” she repeats.

“Put it in your mouth or you’ll bite off your tongue.” She twists her face open and he puts the leather cord between her teeth. He takes hold of her ankles sadly. “Excruciator.”