Nervously, I looked up at her.

“Go on,” she said. “Try it out. You can do it.”

I gave the instrument a whirl. The noise that it produced was hideous, like the scream of a dying porpoise in the talons of an albatross. Redness burned across my cheeks as I felt my chances of impressing her slipping away.

Instead, though, her eyes twinkled. “It’s okay,” she said. “Nobody is perfect with one of these the first time.”

“Was it…that was for you, too?” I said. “When you first had a turn at this instrument?”

“Oh, it was way, way worse,” she laughed. “Like rusty metal on a chalkboard.”

“Well, at least I’ve kept it well-oiled.”

I thought I saw a smile, as well, but it was difficult to know for sure under the black hoods we both wore.

“Now,” she said, turning back to the instrument of torture onto which a hapless spy had been strapped, “give the rack another turn and let’s see if we can get hi to sing a different tune.”

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