He offers me the brandy glass in his right hand, the one I'm certain he has just poisoned. I'm going to have to play this very carefully. One false move could be literally fatal!
My heartbeat is raised and my mind is racing. It's possible that my hands are shaking too, but I must not show a single sign that any of these are so. I take a measured breath in an attempt to calm myself - to appear impassive - and with a polite curl of my lip and a slight nod of appreciation I reach out and take the glass. My eyes never leave his, and his never leave mine...
We watch each other minutely for the slightest sign. He knows I'm doing just that, surely? He's watching me watching him for signs: mocking me! Playing this sick game for his amusement.
As I swill the dark liquid around the bulb of the large snifter, as I was taught to do, I buy myself invaluable seconds to think. He smiles at me and mirrors my action with his own, untainted, drink. I return the smile. He ups the ante and serves back a bigger smile. I volley it with what can only be described as a grin. An infinitesimal beat and he smashes the grin back with an unnerving peal of laughter, bordering on the manic. I do the same. My paranoia peaks and a wave of nausea swells from the pit of my being, as we stand there, face to face, in hysterics.
"Cheers", he practically screams.
"Cheers to you", I venture boldly.
We both tilt our drinks in the direction of the other and fluidly follow the motion through as if to drink...