As the man appeared on the podium, Kat scoffed. She had hoped that dinner would come without a helping of pomposity.
"Who is this man meant to be?" she declared under her breath.
"Our host," hissed Audry.
"That's not what I-" but Kat was cut off as Master Bane began to speak.
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I know all of you. I know your deep dark secrets. And I'm prepared that, before these days are done, those around you will know them, too."
Kat's blood chilled. He knew? She had left all evidence of her past self in the back of the hired car except the truth that she would forever glue to her lips. Nobody could know who her father had been...
Master Bane was still talking. The night had become so wild that every crack of thunder echoed above the guests’ heads; every sound was amplified enough to shock those who were sat around the table. However, the man seemed to almost control the weather. He didn’t need to raise his voice as the torrents pounded on the glass behind the guests, and neither was his figure shrouded more by the darkness than he wanted. This, this was power.
"I'll let you eat, but don’t expect me to be absent from my guests for much longer." And with that, he vanished, the edge of a cackle creeping into his voice.
Desmond shuffled forward and revealed the dishes underneath their stainless steel warm-lids. There were an assortment of starters dotted around the table, leading up to the large turkey cut into pieces for many guests, surrounded by tempting vegetables.
"Do help yourselves," Desmond remarked, before he shuffled away, leaving the guests to silence.
Some of the guests reached forward. Kat didn’t lift her head to see who. Most were stuck to the seats, that fact was easy to hear from the lack of movement. Someone passed a plate of vegetables down to Kat, neat nails showing that Audry was trying to appear comfortable though she was breathing heavily.
Kat felt sick. She stabbed at the peas on her plate, unable to eat, despite how hungry she had become.
"Are you okay, Kat?" a voice said, breaking through the reverie.
Kat looked up to see Tom steadily watching her.
"Yeah...well, that kinda threw a dampener on the evening."
"Don't fret about him..."
"Don't fret!" cried Audry. "He's a madman. He almost signed our death warrants."
"Oh, calm down."
"Don't you tell me to calm down! We're gonna die!"
The rabble was suddenly brought to silence by the position of Ryder standing courageously on her chair. The bang that had signalled the silence had come from her dinner-plate falling heavily to pieces on the floor.
"A psychological trickster," she announced. "That's what Mr. Bane is. He wants us to get worked up- and we're playing right into her hands. The only person who's likely to kill us is each other. That door’s locked, but what does it matter. Being calm will do us good."
"And that Desmond must be in on winding us up, too," remarked Andrew.
"Or he's just got used to his master's mental ways."
Kat listened to them argue as she slumped in thought. Why had she come here in the first place? Not for the money, no, as she suspected the boys would have, but for the adventure and mystery, for the chance of forgetting who she had been. Now, it didn't seem worth the risk.
Suddenly the stage lit up once more and Victor Bane appeared in place there.
"I presume, from your intense arguments, that you have all finished meeting?" he sneered. "Good. It's nice to hear the hypotheses of Miss Lythe, though I cannot give an affirmative to them."
Ryder blushed, ducking down from her seat. Victor Bane’s silhouette tapped his feet impatiently, giving Kat the feeling that, though none of the guests could see his eyes, the man was staring at Ruyder all the while she moved.
“Enough! This time I shall not mess around. We shall begin.”