© Copyright 2019 - Vaughan - Used by permission
Storycodes: FF; magic-act; escapology; challenge; offer; prepare; M+/f+; magician; camera; video; cage; cuffs; shackles; collar; padlocks; water; tank; submerge; curtain; switch; audience; reveal; rescue; cons; X
My life partner, Angie, pointed it out to me; I would have missed it, because it was in part of the paper I do not read.
"What do you reckon to this?" she said as she handed the paper to me and tapped the page in the area she thought might be of interest. "You are always saying you a looking for a challenge."
I focused on the page I had been handed and quickly found the item Angie was bringing to my attention.
The small ad read, 'John Franklin challenges any aspiring escapologists to escape from the 'Death Cage' in under five minutes. Successful challengers will receive £1000.' And a contact phone number.
Naturally, I was intrigued, so I rang the number and left a message.
That evening I received an email in response, which was odd as I had only left my name, phone number and the fact that I was interested in the 'Death Cage' challenge.
I opened the attached documentation and discovered the nature of the challenge and the safety procedures that were being put in place. The final paragraph seemed a bit odd. It simply stated, 'If you succeed you get £1000; if you fail you get to experience magic and what your companion has experienced throughout the challenge.'
I showed the pdf to Angie to ask what she reckoned. Her assessment was, "Handcuffs behind your back, 20 seconds, no 30 seconds, because you'll need to release both hands; neck shackle, another twenty seconds; two sets of leg shackles, 40 seconds and the cage's padlock another thirty seconds. I make that 2 minutes. Add that on again for being underwater makes 4 minutes; so five minutes sounds do-able. Admittedly, you can only hold your breath for 3 minutes, but they'll be providing an air-hose, so that shouldn't be a big deal. I reckon, if you can handle the pressure of doing this for a live audience and this John Franklin character, you should go for it."
Between us we agreed that it was worth taking this challenge to the next stage, which was emailing for further details and contracts. The next evening these details arrived, but I had spent most of the day in the tank in the summer house in the garden practicing getting out of handcuffs behind my back underwater. I had even improvised an arrangement so that it would be more like the planned arrangement for the 'Death Cage'
The details confirmed the details of the escape and the safety arrangements and the contractual obligations on both me and the John Franklin's people. Their obligations seemed to be to provide all the equipment required at the appointed time and place, to have all the safety arrangements in place and to provide the payment if I succeed or get me out if I fail. My obligations seemed to be to turn up at the appointed place and time (at their expense), try my best to succeed at the challenge and to bring a companion with me to see fair play.
There were two things that gave me slight concern; the first was they said they would be offering more challenge on the day, for more reward; and the second was they insisted I name my companion and that they sign the contract with me. The contract made clear that the extra part to the challenge was entirely optional, I guessed this would allow them to add some element of drama into the stunt; not only would I succeed or not, but would I be up for the extra challenge? I assumed the bit about naming my companion was so that they could prepare the extra paperwork, but it turned out to be more than that.
After careful consideration, we signed contracts and began negotiations about times and places. We even researched who John Franklin was; it turned out that he was a small-time magician who had landed himself a series of six half hour programs and hoped to use these as stepping stones in his magical career, but he was not being entirely selfish, because he was allocating a small amount of time on each show to a specialist performer to show their stuff. I was soon booked as the specialist performer, with Angie as my companion, for his first recording, which by this stage was six weeks away.
Those six weeks were a blur; when I was not working my day job or sleeping, I was in the tank practicing with the specified hand-cuffs and padlocks. The practice was paying off, I had the handcuffs, neck-shackle and leg restraints off in under three and a half minutes and the padlock to the lid of the cage should be no trouble.
The day of the challenge dawned and we travelled to the studios where the stunt was going to be recorded and got there mid-morning; the show was going to be recorded live that evening. The remainder of the morning was spent being introduced to the crew that would be supervising my escape and checking over the equipment. Then John Franklin took us out to lunch.
Once the meal was ordered, he asked, "How do you envision this escape of yours going?"
Naturally, I had expected some question along those lines, so I had an answer. "I've practiced so that I can do it in under four minutes, but as I can see the clock from inside the tank, I'll add to the drama, by taking my time I can be out a few seconds before the five minutes is up."
"I thought you'd say something like that, which is why we added the extra challenge option to the contract. What we want is a genuine 'Will they make it?' situation, rather than a 'Can they time it right?' one."
"I, sort of, expected that was the reasoning, but if I don't like the extra challenge aspect, I know I don't have to accept."
"Exactly," he confirmed.
"The paperwork says that with extra challenge comes extra reward; so make your offer and we'll consider it." I deliberately included Angie, because she has a better idea of what I can and cannot do, especially on top of all I was already prepared for, and also because I know she worries and it makes her feel better to have her say.
"Firstly, let me say you don't have to make a decision immediately," he began. "We'll show you the extra equipment this afternoon and you announce what you decide at show time."
"That's fair." It would have been an instant 'No!' if I did not get to check the equipment or I was being pressed for an instant decision.
"The extra challenge comes in three parts; part one is a lid on the tank, part two is your lovely companion, Angie," he smiled at her, "shackled to the lid on the tank and part three would be withdrawal of the air hose partway through. Part one would gain you an extra thirty seconds of performance time. Part two would gain you an extra minute, because you'd need to release Angie before you could get out. And for item three we would have to work out when to remove the hose, but on the plus side, we would supply oxygen enriched air to compensate for you not being able to hyperventilate beforehand."
"So, those are the extra challenges. And the rewards?"
"Well, if you accept any part of the extras we'll pay you your original £1000 and £1000 per part you accept, plus another grand if you accept all three and we'll double it if you succeed. So you could make as much as 10000."
"Ok, so the rewards are not insubstantial."
At this point, his mobile phone went off. He looked apologetic, but still checked it. "I'm sorry, but I've got to go. A friend has arrived, late as usual, and I've got to teach her how to act when I pass the buzzsaw through her middle." He rose from the table and we began to rise to follow him. "No, don't worry, you don't need to come; I'll make sure your meal is paid for, while I get something to take away and I'll get someone to send a taxi to get you back to the studio. Enjoy your meal and I'm sure you have lots to discuss." Then he caught my eye and he said, "And remember if you fail, you'll experience magic and what your lovely companion has experienced throughout the escape."
Immediately and without a backward glance he rushed to do what he had to do and was lost from sight. I was slightly stunned, by his last remark; I certainly was not planning on failing, possibly not succeeding in time, but not failing; and reminding one of the possibility is not what one professional does to another professional.
The food arrived and we ate, but it did not get the attention it probably deserved, because we were talking about the extra challenges. To my surprise, Angie seemed in favour of the lid on the tank, because the extra time it would take was less than the extra time it gave. She even seemed to be neutral about the removal of the air hose, but most resistant to being attached to the lid of the tank, which I put down to her innate shyness, rather than any concern that I might not be able to release her in order to release myself. The entire result of our talk was we would have to inspect the extra stuff before we could make a decision.
At the end of the meal we left and found a taxi waiting, which got us back to the studio about the same time the crew got back from their canteen lunch. They showed us the lid for the tank, which hinged and would be held down by three padlocks, with holes in so that the padlocks could be reached. Then they showed us how the air hose withdrawal would work; there was a remote release mechanism between the actual hose and the mouthpiece which with the addition of the pumped air would produce a dramatic flurry of extra bubbles when it broke free. And finally they showed us the bars mounted on the ends of the tank that Angie could be shackled to; she would be attached to the ends of the bars away from the access holes in the tank lid, but cuffs can easily be slid along bars allowing access through the access hole for the side padlocks (hence Houdini's remark that sometimes the challenge is keeping the restraints on until the escape starts).
When we had the privacy we agreed that the lid would be a great addition and the air hose thing would be OK, as it added drama, as long as they did not do it more than two minutes before the end. Angie was most resistant to being an extra obstacle in my release; eventually she admitted she worried when I was involved in an escape and she coped by not watching and having faith in my abilities, but this would force her to confront the process of me escaping, which she knew I delayed from suspense purposes. It took me a while, but I convinced her that being more involved was the worth the extra four thousand it would gain us; I even promised her a weekend away together with part of the extra money.
Once we had decided, I went to find John Franklin to relay our decision to take on the entire extra challenge. I found him talking to a very shaken-looking woman about his age (mid-twenties), who judging by her mascara had been crying a lot. I was about to convey what we had decided, when he said, "Don't tell me, I don't want to know until the show, but let Ben know so he can make sure the gear is ready, then get to costume and make up so that you and Angie look the part."
It took me about ten minutes to find Ben, the floor manager, and let him know what equipment would be needed. He also gave me directions on how to get to the costume department. I went back to our dressing room and we went to costume. Costume for me was simple; a swim suit in an intense blue with a couple of black lines and a fluffy white bathrobe. Costuming Angie was not anywhere near as simple; they wanted a sexy damsel-in-distress look, but Angie's natural modesty complicated this, along with the requirement that wrists and ankles should be free of clothes so that it was clear that she was restrained and not to get in the way of my efforts to release her. In the end, she was outfitted with a white calf-length dress with a deep neckline, short sleeves and a slit up to mid-thigh, under this was a tight body-suit, which did wonders for her waist and cleavage and finally a pair of white strappy mid-height heels. She was accessorised with a necklace of what looked like pearls and matching earrings.
Then it was on to make-up, where the bare minimum was done with me; foundation, eyeliner and a whole can of hair-lacquer to hold my short hair in place. Angie got the works; her fingernails and toenails were painted, fake tan was applied to all visible areas of skin, her face was made-up to match the sexy damsel-in-distress image they seemed to have in mind for Angie, much emphasis on eyes and lips and then they added more curl to her already curly hair, primarily to make sure it did not end up with it in the way. As we were leaving for a light canteen snack before the show, the head make-up lady, told Angie not to cry, because her the eye make-up would instantly turn her into a panda.
The period before the show was uneventful, although I did notice some admiring glances for Angie, which I did not mention, in case it would make her reconsider her part in the stunt.
At the appointed time, we were called to the wings and watched John Franklin perform the buzzsaw illusion. The woman I had seen earlier was lain on the travelling table, on top of a piece of wood that had just been sawn to show the reality of the buzzsaw, and the table travelled under the saw with the blade splitting the wood under her and appearing to pass through her bared midriff. She seemed a lot less upset than earlier, but she still eyed the rotating blade with a nervousness, which I wondered whether showed how good an actor she was or embodied a genuine uncertainty as to the outcome of having it appear to pass through her. Naturally she survived her ordeal, but seemed awed by what had happened and relieved it was over.
Now it was our turn. John Franklin introduced us as people he had known for a while (which was true if five minutes in a restaurant counted). We went on and he explained the basic concept of the escape. "We suggested some additions to this escape, did you decide to go with then?" he asked.
Noting that he was being vague, I paused, to give the editors a chance to ramp up the tension, before being vague right back. "Yes, we decided that we'd go with all of them, but Angie isn't particularly happy about her part."
"Quite understandable; being an obstacle in your partner's escape would make anyone nervous," he commented.
Then we got down to the business at hand, while John Franklin provided commentary to cover what would be, to the observer, the dull part of the procedure. First I knelt on the grid that was the base of the cage and clamps were placed over my calves and ankles held in place with padlocks, then I bent down and a collar was put round my neck and padlocked to a short chain attached to the floor of the cage. The sides of the cage were folded up and pinned in place and the top of the cage slotted into place, hinged down and the padlock put in place. The final part of me being locked into the death cage was me putting my wrists near the lid and Ben closing the handcuffs round my wrists with the chain between over the central bar of the cage's lid, thus holding my wrists up from my back and straining my shoulders a bit.
In this cramped and uncomfortable position, I was fed the air hose while two bars were attached to the cage. Four large men took an end of a bar each and lifted the entire assembly and a young lady took charge of my air supply. As soon as I was over the tank I gave a thumbs up to indicate I was ok and ready to proceed. Carefully the men lowered me into the water, while the young lady stage hand clipped the hose into position on the hinge side of the tank. The water was icy cold, which was good, because the body's natural reaction is to restrict blood supply to the peripheral parts of the body and so preserving more oxygen for fuelling the core bodily functions, effective lowering your metabolism; the downside being that your hands go numb before too long, which is not ideal if you require them to be dexterous and sensitive. As the air began to pump with the sweet tang of added oxygen I looked up to check I could still see the clock; I could, so I made another thumbs up gesture to show I was happy to continue.
The final stages of the preparations I did not see, because my view was confined to looking through the cage and the clear Plexiglas walls of the tank at the studio floor and the legs of the crew doing their jobs. First came the rush of additional cold as they poured two buckets of additional water into the tank to convince the audience I was truly submerged, this was accompanied by some muted thuds as the other two crewmen fitted and closed the tank's lid, then the air-hose lady attached the padlocks to hold it down. More water-muffled knocks and bangs followed telling me that Angie was being shackled to the bars on top of the tank. I spent this time to remember my planned sequence of escape and generally calm my nerves, by breathing deeply to increase the oxygen in my system.
A tap on the end of the tank told me that all was ready and as I wanted to get on with it I made the agreed double thumbs up to show I was ready. I glimpsed Ben's face and then his hand holding out three fingers; the countdown had begun and I was already moving my lockpicking tool from where I had it palmed to the tips of my fingers. One of Ben's fingers folded away, then another and finally the entire hand was taken out of my sight; the escape had begun.
To aid my concentration I closed my eyes and took a moment to concentrate on the planned sequence of the escape, then I began the dramatic thrashing about; given my constrained position it was not much, but is served to cover the fact I was using the pick to release the handcuffs. Ten seconds can seem like an eternity, but it took me that long to find the key hole in my cuff, partly because Ben had put the cuffs on my wrists so that the hole I was looking for was on the wrong side.
A quick check confirmed it would be easier to transfer the pick and release the other wrist first so that's what I did. With one cuff released, I opened my eyes to check the time on the clock, while I transferred the pick back to the now uncuffed hand; forty-three seconds; where has all that time gone, I am usually out of the first cuff in about twenty five seconds. I put it down to the minor problem with the orientation of the cuff and possibly nerves, and took another deep breathe from the air hose.
I closed my eyes again and tackled the other cuff. With the picking hand free it is not to long before the second hand is free. Another time check, One minute nineteen seconds; I think I must have missed something, but I still had a little over five minutes for eight padlocks and four more sets of cuffs, but now I could work with both hands and the strain between my shoulder blades had eased.
I moved to start on the neck shackle, but noticed a camera through the glass of the tank and paused to give a smile, which I hoped said, 'I am doing ok, but not as ok as I had hoped,' and a brief thumbs up, before continuing to release myself from the bottom of the cage. I grabbed the padlock holding the neck shackle to the chain in my left hand and fitted the pick into the keyhole. A few jiggles and it was open but I bumped my elbow on the side of the tank and accidentally snapped it back shut. Rats!
A little more circumspectly, I released the neck padlock again. The original plan had been to remove the collar once it was released, despite this seeming to be unnecessary, but it would fill time to make the escape seem more life and death at the end without me floating about doing nothing. I decided with the two mistakes that had already been made that it would be a waste of time, so I just skooched back a bit to get easier access to the last four padlocks holding me to the cage. While I reached for the first of these I looked at the time again.
Two minutes and thirteen seconds! I knew I had lost a bit of time but that seemed a lot. Was I missing something? Was there too much added oxygen? I'd heard that an excess of added oxygen can impair your faculties, like being drunk, but surely they would not do that. 'Concentrate!' I told myself.
I went to work on the padlocks holding my legs to floor of the cage. I soon had both my calves free and the shackles open so I could sit back even further to make it easier to reach the ankle shackles. I decided on another time check in the hope that I could calm myself a bit by seeing that I had made back some of the time I had lost. As I looked up the clock ticked over to three minutes; good, but not great, I had not lost any further time, but not gained any either.
As I leaned back and worked on my ankle restraints, I closed my eyes once more. Another bump of an elbow on the side of the cage reminded me that I should be more careful to avoid needing to pick these locks twice. The first padlock fell away, so onto the second, but where was it? A feel about told me that in my thrashing about it had changed position and was jammed under my buttock. I changed position and repositioned the lock so that I could pick it. Once I had it in my grasp it fell away with a few deft movements of the pick I still had in my hand.
'Stay calm!' only four locks on the lids and the cuffs restraining Angie to go. Another look at the time, which I was rapidly feeling was becoming the enemy. Three minutes fifty-two seconds! 'Surely it can't have taken that long.' I felt the edge of panic, so I paused to just breathe the enriched air which I knew I would be losing in another minute. I turned on my side and felt the hinge of the neck shackle catch on one of the bars of the cage; maybe not removing it had been a bad idea after all.
I looked towards the audience, feeling certain that they could see me; I could not see them, or even the cameras, because it seemed my movements had splashed water through the holes in the lid and water was running down the outside of the tank. I looked up and saw that the skirt of Angie's dress was soaked and the added weight had pulled on the rest it opening up the slit to show more leg than she would be comfortable with. 'I bet she looks good,' I thought.
'Don't get distracted!' I admonished myself, 'Focus!' My hand found the padlock securing the cage shut and it was soon open and removed to join the other five padlocks on the tank floor.
Another change of position and I could reach through the access hole in the lid of the tank between Angie's ankles. Reaching through, I snagged the lock and positioned it so I could quickly have it undone once I had changed hands. As I changed hands the neck shackle once again bumped against the cage's bars, causing a small loss of precious momentum. Nonetheless, I reached through and the lock fell open at my touch and I unhooked it and tossed it away.
I took another look at the timer to find out how soon I was going to lose my air supply; I did not want to be surprised by the sudden flurry of bubbles when the air hose broke away at the agreed time of five minutes and three seconds. The clock showed four minutes and fifty-five. While I reached for the second lid padlock I counted in my head to be ready; I had reached six when I felt the change in the texture of the water and shortly after a light thump on my back as the air-hose snaked its way out of the tank. I spat out the now useless mouth piece and grimaced for the camera I knew would be watching for a reaction. I had hoped to already be releasing Angie at this point.
The second padlock was soon thrown away and I was reaching for the third; the one between Angie's restrained wrists. This was positioned and unlocked in a matter of another ten seconds. Time was getting tight. I had just over a minute to release four cuffs and get out of the tank.
I considered changing the plan again; the fine print said I had to release Angie's wrists before her ankles, so she could not get off the tank lid and open it for me before she was properly released. I was thinking about unlocking her ankles first and taking whatever penalty was due, but Angie already had slid one wrist to where I could get to it. I decided that rather than cause Angie more concern by changing the plan, I would have to proceed as planned.
Angie was shaking with nerves which made the fiddly job of releasing the first cuff a little trickier, but it was soon done and another wrist presented. While I was liberating Angie's other wrist, I saw something happening out of the corner of my eye. Between us and the cameras John Franklin and Ben were holding up a deep red cloth. Even before I had finished the cuff I was working on I had a last glimpse of the timer; it showed six minute and two seconds. Then as the cuff opened, the cloth settled over the tank; I was now in darkness.
I mentally cursed John Franklin and crew for cheating as I turned inside the cage to release Angie's ankles which I knew she would have in position for me, despite the added distraction.
I reached through and instantly found the cuff on her left ankle. I began to hear, muffled by the water the beeps that indicated the last ten seconds. Then I dropped my pick; the coldness of the water had taken its toll at last.
As I heard the electronic beeps countdown the final seconds of the challenge, I was groping for the dropped picking-tool. I was resigned to failing the challenge, but there would be very little to do to rescue me, just finish releasing Angie's legs and open the lids. I would have acquitted myself well and if it had not been for several avoidable mistakes I could well have succeeded.
The final beep seemed so much louder than the previous nine. I realised my head had gone swimmy for a moment. Things were different from what they were a moment ago; I was out of the water, but still under the cloth. Instinct told me that I was now on the lid of the tank and that I should get off. I rolled off onto the floor in the direction of the audience; there was a hush that seemed to ask, 'What is going to happen now?'
I struggled from the folds of the cloth to see what was going on. And was greeted with a small cheer, which suddenly stopped as they noticed something that I had not yet.
I turned and looked at the tank, expecting to see both lids open, but they were both shut. How had I got out without opening the lids? Then I noticed the lids were once again padlocked. Then the key thing I had missed hit me; inside the cage in the tank full of water was Angie, shackled exactly as I had been.
"Get her out of there!" I yelled, but the crew were already rushing toward the tank, with keys and lifting bars in hand. I felt the urge to rush forward and help, but realised that I would only be in the way; I felt so helpless. Angie was desperately trying to move to release herself, but all these constrained movements contrived to do was cause her hair and skirt to float about her.
As the padlocks holding the lid of the tank were released, I was hoping Angie had not breathed in any water when she unexpectedly found herself underwater. I hoped she was not drowning while I watched totally impotent to help her in any way.
Much to my relief, the lid slammed open and the four men who had lowered me into that tank of cold water, began to attach the bars to the lid of the cage. At this point I suddenly wished that the lid was locked, because if it was loose the whole cage would jam in the tank and delay the time when my Angie would be able to breathe again. I took half a step toward the tank, thinking I would check, but then John Franklin took hold of me and said, "There's nothing you can do, rely on them to do their jobs and don't interfere." It took a huge effort of will to take that totally correct advice.
When the men had hoisted the cage from the tank, I took what I realised was the first breathe since my yell, my head seemed to have a dull ache. As the cage touched the floor, John Franklin let go of my arm and I rushed to see that Angie was alright. She was breathing heavily with her hair plastered to her face and the skirt clinging to her legs. It took the crew nearly a minute to release Angie and she stumbled into my arms; during this time I took a little time to bless the foresight of the costume department for making Angie wear the body suit under the dress or she would have been rather more exposed than she thought. The air hose lady came up with two white fluffy dressing gowns and we were bustled off stage.
Once in our dressing room, I had time to consider what had occurred. While I felt my failure to escape in the allotted time was my fault, Angie ending up lock and shackled in the cage underwater was entirely down to John Franklin and his team and all the worse for not let us know it was a possible scenario.
I was becoming angry, but could not think what to do about it. Eventually, getting dry and changing into our own clothes became the priority. Finally I asked Angie, "What happened?"
"I don't quite know. I saw you drop the pick in the dim light under the cloth they flung over us as the beeping from the timer started, I was about to reach forward and put it in your hand, when just before the final beep, I took a very deep breath and was suddenly in the water with my neck and shins shackled to the base of the cage. I've never been so frightened. At least I had the presence of mind to hold my breath until they rescued me; I never realised it was so hard."
"Me?" I said, "I've never felt so helpless; wanting to help you, but being totally unable to, in fact if I had got any closer I would probably have delayed them getting you out, which feels doubly helpless."
"That's kind of how I feel, every time you are doing any remotely dangerous escape. You know, trying to help would probably worse than standing back and hoping."
"I guess that's what Franklin meant when he said something about me feeling what you feel while I escape. And if you believe in magic that swimmy feeling in my head when it happen must have been it. I guess we were kind of warned, but very obliquely. He'd better have a good explanation or I'll not be answerable for my actions. Make that a very, verrrry good explanation."
We sat and wondered if we could get a cup of tea, while the adrenalin subsided.
About ten minutes later. John Franklin knock on the door and entered.
Before he could open his mouth, I said, "This had better be good, because we are not happy and if we don't leave happy, we'll be suing you for breach of contract for as much as we can get."
His smile faltered for maybe half a second, while considered what line would best keep him and his reputation from being dragging through the mud. "What a performance! You certainly earned your ten grand."
For a moment, I wondered what he was talking about, so I asked aggressively.
"You were marvellous," he said. "I auditioned some professionals, but they had nothing on you. They were too smooth to make the illusion look credible. But you with the couple of fumbles made it look truly death-defying and you were incredibly fast; if we hadn't tweaked the timer to run fifty percent faster, you'd have been out long before the time limit and the magic couldn't have happened."
For a moment part of my brain did the maths. I had got to the point I had got to in a few seconds over four minutes even with all the extra obstacles and recovering the pick and undoing the last of Angie's shackles would not have taken the whole of the final minute of the original challenge. I was mentally patting myself on the back, when another part of my mind reminded me that my failure to finish in the allotted time was not my beef with Mr Franklin, but the fact he had tried to drown Angie.
"Now I understand why you say I earned the money, but what about what happened next? Angie was completely unprepared for her dunking, possibly near drowning."
I looked at Angie for confirmation and support; she looked sheepish instead. "I wasn't totally unprepared, but I had been warned I would end up in the water."
"When?" I challenged.
"When I rang my cousin John to congratulate him on getting his TV deal. I wished him well and expressed some disappointment that I was failing to let you know how stressful your 'hobby' was for me. He suggested that he could help, if I was prepared to seem in danger and arrange that you get involved. He called the illusion 'The Drowning Pool'; it took me some time to find it, 'coz there's a band called the same thing that gets the top hits when I searched on YouTube, but once I understood the concept it seemed like the only way to make you see how bad it makes me feel to be helpless while you escape."
"You're right!" I admitted, "I've been selfish in not considering how you feel when I do my thing. I'll give it up, if you ask me to."
"Before today I'd have said, 'Yes, please give up escapology.' But having been in the spotlight and properly the centre of attention, rather than just someone who came along with you. I have some idea of the buzz you get from it. I want to join you in escaping; you can train me. I'll probably never be as good as you, but together we could be better than anyone."
John interjected, "You are the best amateur I have ever seen."
"Do you really mean that?" I asked looking at Angie, she nodded. "You know I love you?" She nodded again; she seemed almost at the point of tears. "Angie, will you marry me?"
She closed the two paces between us, said, "Of course, I will, Brenda!" and we hugged until we were out of breath.