BFF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Lesley!!  Over Here!!”

 

I smiled as Lesley Blair, one of my oldest and dearest friends, waved back at me and came over to the corner table of the coffee shop.  It had been two years since I last saw her, when she moved away with her parents to Birmingham, but she hadn’t changed a bit – well, she had dyed her blonde hair pink, but apart from that she was just as I remembered her. 

 

“Angie!” she said as she hugged me, and then sat down, “You haven’t changed a bit.  How are things with you?”   Lesley had called a couple of days before, surprising the life out of me, and saying she was coming down to look at universities, and could we meet up?

 

So here we were, in a coffee shop off Charing Cross Road, and once we had complimented each other on how we looked – her in a purple leather jacket, skin tight jeans and crocodile style leather shoes, me in a pair of grey leggings, a blue tunic and blue suede ankle boots – we got down to the serious business of gossip.

 

“So how are your family?  How old is that sister of yours now – 13?”

 

“Coming on 21 – or at least she thinks she is,” I said with a laugh.  “You know what teenagers are like – they think they know everything, but try telling them they’re wrong and...”

 

“Hey – we were as bad, especially at guide camps.”

 

I had to smile and nod at that.  Lesley and I had been in the same Guide troop, and we had indeed been a pair of little horrors, running the leaders ragged.  I had grown up a lot since then, but still – Lesley was right.  It was there we learned how to tie ropes – not just on tents and sticks, but also on each other.

 

Still, we grew out of that, and I wondered if Ali would go the same way – no chance.  She has always been the quiet one of the group, but she has also been the one who has been most proud of our heritage.  Even when she was eight or nine, I could see what a lethal combination that was going to make – in the sense of she would use that sense of our family importance to win friends and influence people.

 

I tried to help her to not walk that path, but hey – when do little sisters listen to big ones?  She became insufferable, a real bully in far too many ways – and then a year and a half ago, that began to change, starting with the break-in at our house.  That scared me – but I coped.  It scared Mum – she coped.

 

It scared Alicia – and she did not cope at all well.  I had been tied hand and foot and gagged in my room, but I could hear her crying and pleading in Mum’s room.  I was angry I could do nothing to help her, but at the same time I wanted her to stop.  After that, she became quiet, withdrawn – but I also heard Mum and Dad talking about problems she was having at school, particularly with a girl called Jenny Craig.

 

“Hey – what are you thinking about,” Lesley said as she looked at me over her mocha.

 

“Family,” I said quietly, as I took out a photo of Andrew and showed it to her.  “Wow,” she said as she looked at him, “How old is he now?”

 

“Seven months – no, eight,” I said with a smile.  “He’s starting to crawl, and driving Mum and Dad crazy.”

 

Lesley smiled, and said “I’ll bet?”  She then took my hand and said “Hey – I heard about what happened during the summer.  How are you coping?”

 

“I’m all right now,” I said with a smile, “I had some therapy, and we all talked about that night.”

 

That night – it was the 65th birthday of Miranda Craig, an old friend of my Grandmother’s and I had been invited to go to the theatre with the rest of the women from both families – Holderness and Craig – and then to a meal afterwards.  Grandmother had been getting me more involved with the running of the Manor House, and I think this was some sort of reward for everything I had done over the previous year.

 

And it had been some year – starting with Alicia’s pen friend Heidi, who came to stay.  I liked her – very level headed, and very polite.  Then they went with my cousin Suzie – otherwise known as the Human Tornado – to spend the day with Grandmother, and once again they fell victim to a robbery.

 

Something about that day sent Alicia crazy, and for a couple of weeks she, Heidi and Suzie seemed to spend the whole day together.  Then there was a sleepover for Suzie at the Manor House – and...  Well, I only heard second hand, but apparently Alicia and Jenny had an argument on a par with the legendary Barn Storm that Grandmother told me about. 

 

Whatever – after that, Ali was much more her old self, and when Mum and Dad asked if I’d help out on a special day for the kids, I agreed.  Funny thing about that day – I discovered the Craig girls were not as bad as Alicia had painted them, especially Jenny, but her sister Cassie – my god, I had found another Suzie.

 

“Hey,” Lesley said, “You drifted off again.  It must have been terrifying though, to be bound and gagged like that.”

 

“You’ve been in a robbery before, Lesley.”

 

“Yeah – but I didn’t realise it until it was too late – you had armed men tying you up in ways I can’t even imagine!”

 

That was true – after we had been to the theatre, and eaten at the manor house, Grandmother and Miranda got us all to play a tie-up game – us been my mum and me, Aunt Susan, and Miranda’s daughters.  But then, the gang we now know as The Scorpion Gang ran in – and the next thing you knew, we were semi-stripped, tightly bound, gagged, hooded and in fear of our lives.

 

Literally in fear.  All I could think of all that time was the experiences I had had over the last year – you see, Grandmother in her usual forthright way had found out I was thinking of teaching as a career, so she encouraged me to help teach some of the younger members of the family how to play tie-up games properly.  There was something of a family tradition in this, so over part of the holidays I taught some of Alicia and Suzie’s friends how to do it safely and properly, while at the same time helping Grandmother with events at the house, such as the annual Halloween party, and birthday parties.

 

I have to admit I was a little scared at first, but first Mary and Cathy, then Suzie’s younger friends after what I later found out was a memorable sleepover, made it easy for me by being so enthusiastic.  There was an added bonus – I got to rib Bobby something rotten.

 

Bobby is Suzie’s brother, and heir to the title of Lord Holderness.  Even with that, he’s still a typical teenage boy – which is why I was so glad none of the others were there that weekend.  I don’t think even the redoubtable Suzie and Cassie would have coped – especially when things got really weird.

 

You see, there are a couple of family legends in the Holderness family – one is of the Holderness Shadow, the spirit of the brother of the first Lord Holderness that protects us.  The other, less well known one is that of a woman wronged, who was taken in by the first Lord Holderness, but died in childbirth.  Her daughter was raised as a Holderness, but eventually found out the truth and fled to the new colonies as they then were.  She left behind two pieces of jewellery, and a story that her mother’s spirit would find a way to repay the kindness shown her.

 

How does that relate to the most terrifying night of my life?  Because just when I feared we were not going to get free, the strangest thing happened.  I had never seen the Shadow myself, but both Alicia and Suzie had sworn they had – but that night, I saw him, clear as light, as the man holding us at gunpoint was shot and then died.  He was shot by a woman called Anne Duncombe – a friend of Grandmother’s from the US, but that was not the only shock that night.

 

While we were held in a room upstairs, the Craigs were downstairs in the library – and they were saved somehow by another woman – a woman we learned a few days later was the direct descendant of the woman helped by Lord Holderness. 

 

Her name was Sara – and she was a lot more important to our family then any of us realised at the time.  A few weeks later, we all spent a weekend away – Bobby, his friend Colin, Alicia and Jenny came and learned the truth, and then we worked through our feelings on what had happened that night.

 

During the weekend, the kids found out something Grandmother told me later – Sara was more than just a woman who had helped us.  She had special talents and skills, but more than that she was a distant relative – as was Heidi Strong, Alicia’s pen friend.  More than that, our families had all crossed paths more than once over the years – almost as if they were destined to be together.

 

If you believe in such things.

 

I’d also made a new friend – a young French girl called Chloe, who knew the girls from their visit to the US last year.  She was a charming and polite girl, but she had had experiences similar to mine, so in a way we ended up helping each other.

 

We also discovered our parents, especially our mothers, aunts and grandmothers, seemed to recover overnight.  What’s more, something had out a real spring in their steps.  A week or so later, Mum told me exactly what – and I’m not going to repeat it here.

 

“You’ve drifted off again,” Lesley said as I shook my head.

 

“Sorry – just remembering,” I said with a smile.  “Honestly, Lesley, I’m fine now.  In fact, I’m more than fine.”

 

“Oh-ho,” Lesley said as she sat back and looked at me.  “Go on, what’s his name?”

 

“His?”

 

“Angie, the blush is visible from Mars.  Come on – spill.”

 

“Edward – Edward Holmes,” I said with a smile.  “He’s the older brother of one of Alicia and Jenny’s friends, and he’s at university.”

 

“Oh, the older man – I like it.  Where did you meet him, then?”

 

“The Summer Ball.”

 

“Oh I remember the one I went to,” Lesley said as she looked around the cafe.  “Do you still...”

 

“Hmm,” I said with a nod.  That had been an incredible night – and I have to admit, seeing him for the first time when the guests went down the greeting line, he cut a dash in his formal suit.  He was a good dancer as well – both on the main floor, and then when...

 

Anyway, we’d kept in touch since, and I knew he was coming home next week for a reading week, so we’d arranged to get together.  Once, that is, I’d found out what Grandmother wanted to see me about later that day.

 

Which gave me an idea.  “Hey – are you free on Wednesday?  You can come up to the house and meet him then.”

 

“Yeah, I can do that,” Lesley said with a smile.  “So are you thinking of going where he studies?”

 

“Nah – different subjects,” I said with a smile.

 

“Well I’m glad you’re happy,” Lesley said as she put her empty cup down.  “So what have you been up to recently?”

 

“Oh, this and that,” I said with a smile – but I couldn’t tell her the that part.

 

A few weeks before, at the start of the school term, there had been a big meeting of the adults with Mister Craig and Mark Williamson, who does the personal accounts for Granddad, where some business had been discussed.  Mum, Aunt Susan, in fact all the mothers had been entertaining at the meeting, so I had been left with babysitting not only Alicia and Jenny, which wasn’t too bad, but Suzie and Cassie.  At least over the last year they had grown up a bit – but a new pair had inherited the title of the Holy Terrors.

 

They were Patty, Jenny and Cassie’s cousin, and her friend Rachel.  I’d never met them before, but it turned out they had all the enthusiasm of the other four for games – and none of the restraint.  I figured I was in for a fun afternoon – but then this masked man comes in, and says he’s going to rob the house we’re in.

 

I had heard tales of how precocious Cassie had been, and Suzie, but nothing prepared me for Patty basically berating the robber for not tying us properly, and then coercing Cassie and Suzie into showing him how to do it properly!

 

Had I not been concerned for their safety, I would have said something there and then – but by the time I had recovered my senses, they had started to tie each other up, and the blooming robber was following their example!

 

What was even worse was when Mister Craig interrupted him, and then announced it had all been a game he had arranged!!

 

Once he had left, and I was untied, I went into the kitchen to ask him what was going on – I knew it had been a real robbery, and he said it was a game?  He sat me down, and explained everything – that he had said that because he knew the young man, he knew he had made an incredible mistake, and that no harm had really been done – except perhaps to me, for which he apologised.  He then asked me to keep it quiet, for the sake of the kids, especially Patty and Rachel.

 

I tell you, the worst part of been the oldest is this – you know more than the kids, but can’t tell them, and you don’t know everything the adults know...

 

Speaking of which, I looked at my watch and said “Damn – I’m sorry Lesley, I need to get up to the manor house.  Can you call me later and we’ll sort out Wednesday?”

 

“No problem – I want to meet this beau of yours.”

 

“Just so long as you don’t try to steal him,” I said as we hugged, and I left the cafe, heading to the underground to catch the train home.

 

It was nearly six by the time the taxi got me to Holderness Manor, and Mrs Bridges opened the door as I paid the driver.

 

“Good Evening, Miss Angela,” she said as I walked in, “Your grandmother and Aunt Susan are waiting for you in the library.”

 

“Thanks Mrs Bridges,” I said as I walked in.  Grandmother was sat in her favourite armchair, wearing a grey twinset with her plaid skirt and brown shoes, while Aunt Susan was sat opposite her,  sipping her coffee.

 

“Ah there you are Angela,” Grandmother said as I took off my jacket and folded it over the back of the couch, “How was Lesley?”

 

“Pink – literally,” I said as I sat down, “I’m sorry if I kept you waiting.”

 

“No problem,” Aunt Susan said as I poured myself a cup, “We’d only just started.”

 

“So, what are we discussing,” I said as I sat back.

 

“Well,” Grandmother said, “As you know, we are having this reception and party on Saturday to honour Robert and Colin.”

 

I nodded – Mum had told me how my cousin and his friend had allegedly gone on a fishing trip with their dads, but in reality were planning to join the Craigs, Alicia, Suzie and Rachel for a weekend long tie-up game organized by their dad.  On the way, they had seen a group of men acting suspiciously, followed them and called the police – and it turned out they were a group known as The Edwards Gang, wanted by the police for a string of robberies. 

 

Aunt Susan had apparently just about forgiven them for the subterfuge, helped by the fact they were both to be awarded a Police Bravery Medal.

 

“Well, we have invited quite a few people to come to the Manor House afterwards, and I am afraid we need to call on your services once more, Angela, to be hostess alongside myself and Susan.  Will you be able to help us?”

 

“Who is coming,” I asked as I sipped my coffee.

 

“Colin, his parents, and his cousin and his parents.  Tommy and the family will also be here, and we have invited Martin and his parents as well.  Their friends will also be coming – and I understand that Mary’s brother will be coming as well.  So you will have someone of your own age to talk to – if you wish.”

 

I must have blushed again, as Aunt Susan said “Lucinda, don’t tease the poor girl.  Look, Angela, Lucinda thinks it’s time I started doing some of the hosting duties, and I could do with the support.  Please?”

 

“Of course I will,” I said with a smile, “After all, Bobby and Colin are the heroes of the hour, right?”

 

I saw Grandmother smile for a moment, before she said “Excellent – then as the hostesses, we need to prepare the menu.  So, this is what I was thinking...”

 

 

Saturday was a nice, clear, sunny day – which I guess was just as well, as it meant everyone was in a good mood as we gathered for the ceremony in the town hall.  I still think of Bobby at times as the kid in shorts running round the house, so to see him in an actual suit, wearing a shirt with a tie as well, and shiny shoes – well, let me put it this way.  He and Alicia are the same age, but while Ali still has the most annoying tics, Bobby is reasonable sensible – except when it comes to Cassie Craig.  When it comes to her, he’s a little kid again.

 

Suzie was there as well, in her light green party dress.  It had puffed sleeves, and a skirt that comes to her knees, but underneath she was wearing a pair of black wool tights and black shoes.  Uncle Alexander and Aunt Susan were wearing smart clothes as well, as was Mrs Jacobs, his other grandmother.

 

She was there with his cousin Tommy, and his parents.  He looked really uncomfortable in a shirt and smart trousers, while his aunt and uncle were beaming at him.  Aunt Susan looked over at me and smiled – she looked nervous, probably because I know she’s not very comfortable acting the hostess.  Normally my mum helps out, but with Andrew here now it’s difficult.  I had the feeling Grandma wanted Aunt Susan to do more anyway.

 

As for the other hero of the hour – Colin was there with his Mum and Dad.   Mr Hampton was in his smart uniform, but he wasn’t doing the presentation – the Chief Constable had come to do that honour.   He looked almost as uncomfortable as Bobby, but like him he kept looking over to the over side of the room, smiling and nodding.

 

I could see his cousin Brian was here as well, with his parents, looking as uncomfortable as Tommy.  I had the distinct feeling they wanted nothing more than to be kicking a football around outside, but that may have to wait.

 

And what was drawing their attention at the other side of the room?  That would be Jenny and Cassie Craig, sitting with their parents.  Jenny was dressed like her mother, in a smart grey jacket and trousers over a white blouse, while Cassie had on a blue dress with elbow length sleeves, a thin black belt around her waist, and white socks with black leather shoes.  I could barely see the scar in her leg from the accident, which was a good thing.  Mrs Craig was looking at the twins, sitting in their car seats in their pink and blue outfits, while Mr Craig was deep in conversation with his sisters and mother.  All were smartly dressed as well – especially Cassie Craig senior.  For some reason, she and her partner Jo were in dress uniform, even though both of them were now teachers – in fact, Miss Frost taught both Jenny and Ali.

 

In fact, the room was filled with the sound of babies cooing – as well as the twins and Andrew, Danny Brown was here with his mum and dad.  From time to time, I caught Aunt Susan looking at them as well, and I wondered what she was thinking.

 

“Penny for them?”

 

I was startled out of my thoughts by the voice behind me, and I turned to see Eddie – sorry, Edward sitting behind me with her sister and their parents.  “Sorry,” I said as I turned to talk to him, “I was looking round and didn’t hear you come in.”

 

“Very few people do – nice outfit, by the way.”

 

I blushed when he said that.  I had on a silver grey dress, with a white floral pattern, under a black jacket, dark hose and heels.  I don’t normally dress up like this unless it’s a formal occasion, but today I felt I had to make an effort.

 

So had Ali, who had put on a blue long sleeved blouse, a knee length skirt of the same colour, and unusually for her dark tights and heels.  I had wondered why, and then I followed her line of sight and I saw Martin Davies sitting there with his parents, next to Cathy Harmer and her mothers.

 

In fact, the room was full, as the Chief Constable stood at the front and said “Ladies and Gentlemen...”

 

Now, I had heard the story of the weekend a few weeks before, when we all went to Jenny Craig’s 14th birthday party, and the tale had been told by the human dynamo sitting in the front row with her mother, swinging her legs up and down under her long gypsy skirt as she crossed and uncrossed her arms – Patricia Pickering, new owner of the title of Most Likely To Get You Into Trouble With Ropes award.

 

Apparently John Craig had really gone to town with this game – he had arranged for a group of his friends to act as real robbers and kidnappers, and the group had spent most of the next three days very tightly bound and gagged, while they acted out the roles of kidnappers and hostages.

 

Now, if I’m being honest, the thought of three days without any of the girls speaking or causing trouble sounds like heaven, but the way Patty explained it they really did not know what was going to happen from one minute to the next – Mister Craig had planned everything with the others, including hiring this place called Wissenden Hall for the weekend.

 

As for the gang Bobby and Colin saw – according to Colin’s dad, they had got wind of this and were planning to really kidnap all of them to force him to commit some heinous crime.  So in that sense, they deserved this honour – by all accounts, this was a very well known gang.  I couldn’t help but think back to the weekend I was involved in for a moment...

 

“And so, it gives me great pleasure to present these medals to two very brave and resourceful young men – Robert Desmond Holderness and Colin James Hampton.  Come on up, boys?”

 

I joined in the applause, but my mind was already starting to shift into hostess mode – sorry, but it’s the way I work sometimes.

 

Once the handshakes and the photos and the cake and the tea were over and done with, I went back to the Manor House with Grandma, Aunt Susan and Mr Bridges, to be there to greet the others and make sure everyone knew where to go.  Grandmother was wearing a teal sleeveless dress under a matching jacket, while Aunt Susan was in a white short dress with heels.

 

As we drove up to the manor house, Mrs Bridges was waiting.  “There has been a telephone call while you were out,” she said as we got out of the car.

 

“Oh,” Grandmother said, “who from?”

 

“Miss Duncombe – she said your guests will arrive in about an hour from now.”

 

I looked at Aunt Susan as we heard that name – why would Anne Duncombe have called Grandmother.  We then looked at her, as she nodded and said “Very well – you had better go to meet them, Mr Bridges.  We will manage without you for a little while.”

 

Mister Bridges nodded and got back into the car as I said “What guests, Grandmother?”

 

“Forgive me, Angela, but I must ask you to wait until later before you find out – the others are starting to come.”

 

The first of the cars had indeed arrived, as Aunt Susan tapped me on the shoulder and said “Good luck,” before she went in with Grandmother.  I smiled and welcomed Pippa and her mother, then showed them in, followed by Alicia and the rest of the family.

 

“Nobody else here yet,” Alicia said as she looked nervously round.

 

“If you mean Martin, not yet – and you do know he’s staying for the week as well?”

 

Alicia nodded – one of the things Grandmother had told me was that Ali, Suzie, the Craigs and Patty’s friend Rachel were going to stay on after the party for the week, and that she had also invited Colin, Brian and Martin to stay.  At the time, she said “It will make a pleasant change to have the Manor House full again.”  I bit my tongue – I was staying over as well, and I was wondering how to keep most, if not all of them quiet.

 

The guests kept coming – Colin with his family, Uncle Alexander with the others.  Bobby and Colin were all for taking off their ties, but Grandfather had come out to meet them, and one look from him was enough to convince them otherwise.

 

And the guests kept coming – Mary with her family, Eddie smiling at me as he went past; Martin and his parents; Hazel and Clare with their parents; Cathy and her mother; the rest of the Craigs...  Car after Car, until eventually Grandmother came out and said “I believe that is everyone, Angela – the children have gone outside, and the adults are in the ballroom.”

 

“Hold that thought,” I said as one last car drove out, and a young girl, about the same age as Patty got out, wearing metal framed glasses with her hair in pigtails.  “Ah, you must be Rachel,” Grandmother said as she stepped forward and shook the hands of her parents, “I am Lady Holderness.  Welcome to Holderness Manor.”

 

“Thanks you for inviting her,” her mother said as her father took out a suitcase, “I hope she behaves herself.”

 

“I am sure she will be as well behaved as my own granddaughter,” Grandmother said with a smile, “Are you sure you cannot stay?”

 

“Sadly, no,” her father said as he closed the boot of the car, and Mrs Bridges came out to take the suitcase in.  “Now Rachel, you be a good girl, all right?”

 

“Yes Papa and Mama,” she said as she hugged both of them, and then waved as they drove back down the gravel driveway.  “I believe you will find young Patricia with the others in the garden, and Rachel?”

 

“Yes, Your Ladyship,” she said as she stood there with her hands clasped together in front of her.

 

“No games until you are given permission, understand?”

 

She nodded and then ran into the house, Grandmother putting her hand round my shoulder as we walked in.  “Relax, Angela,” she said with a smile, “It promises to be a most interesting week.”

 

As we walked in, Bobby’s Aunt Lesley came over and said “Thanks again for letting Tommy stay, Lucinda – it’s the first chance we’ve had to have a break together in years.”

 

“My pleasure,” Grandmother said with a smile, “Come – let’s go and get a drink.”

 

Now, as a rule, I hate these sort of parties, but this one was different for a number of reasons – one of which was the chance to see Eddie again.  We found a quiet corner and talked for a few minutes, before he said “Your grandmother has asked if I can come over tomorrow – any idea why?”

 

“Maybe she and Grandfather want to have The Talk with you?”

 

He looked at me with a shocked expression, then burst out laughing.  “I guess I’ll find out,” he said as we re-joined the crowd, walking round and making small talk with everyone.

 

About an hour or so later, Grandfather tapped on the side of his glass and said “Ladies and Gentlemen, I wonder if I can just say a few words?”  We stopped talking and looked on, Eddie next to me as Grandfather looked round the room.

 

“I wanted to thank you all for coming today, and joining me and Lucinda in celebrating the bravery of Robert and Colin, for which they received a medal today.  I cannot be prouder of my grandson than I am right now, and I am sure Barry feels the same way about his son.  So please, raise you glasses – to Robert and Colin.”

 

I could see them both blushing like mad as the entire room said “Robert and Colin” – and then Cassie and Jenny ran up and hugged them both.  I had to stop myself laughing as Grandfather said “I have another announcement to make – linked, in a way to the events of that weekend.”

 

For some reason, I could see that Uncle Alexander and Aunt Susan looked nervous now, while Bobby and Suzie looked on as well.

 

“I have to tell you all,” Grandfather said as he looked round the room, “that Alexander, Susan and the children are going to be moving house in the near future.  An opportunity has arise which allows them to move to a larger home, should they wish to add to the growing stack of Grandchildren Lucinda and I enjoy having round.”

 

I looked at Mum and Dad, who had no idea what was happening wither.

 

“The girls spent the weekend of their game at a country house, and having inspected it with Alexander, I spoke with him and he with his family.  I am pleased to tell you that I have purchased Wissenden Hall from the current owner, and when certain renovations have been completed, Alexander and his family will be moving in.  It will become a second home for the Holderness family, to be passed down the line of inheritance.  IT does not take too long to travel between here and there, and they hope you will all visit once they have moved in.”

 

“Surprise,” I heard Bobby say to Cassie, who was speechless – a rare sight to see at any time.

 

“Did you know,” I said as I looked at Mum and Dad.  “They told us earlier – it doesn’t change a thing, you know, apart from the fact you get to see them in a bigger house.”

 

“True,” I said as I looked at them, but that wasn’t the last shock I was going to have that day.

 

I saw Mister Bridges come in and whisper something to Grandmother, who nodded and then waved to me to follow her.  As we left the hall, she said “I must take you into my confidence, Angela, as you will be staying this week as well.  We have two other guests with us, but I must ask you to keep their presence here a secret for today – if the others knew she was here, there would be questions, and I do not believe she is in a fit state at this time to answer them.”

 

“OF course Grandmother,” I said as we climbed the stairs, “but who are they?”

 

“You know them,” was all she said as we climbed the stairs and stopped outside the Grace Room.  Turning the handle, she walked in and said “I have Angela here – can she see her?”

 

“Come on in,” a male Australian voice said, and as I came in I stopped, looking in shock as the small, blonde haired woman who was sitting on the bed, her right arm in a sling.  She looked pale and tired – not the way I remember last seeing her, and the watch on her wrist had a pale green face.

 

“Sarah,” I said as I sat next to her, “What happened to you?”

 

“Hello Angela,” she said as she turned and looked at me, “Not exactly the way I hoped we would meet again.”

 

“Sarah has had a rather trying time of it recently,” Grandmother said as she looked on, “so Anne asked if she and Brian could stay for a few days, help her to recover and regain her strength.  I hope she can join you and the girls later, but for now she will rest in here.”

 

“What happened,” I said as I saw the white bandage under the v-necked top of her pink jumper.

 

“She’ll tell you another time,” Grandmother said gently.  “For now, let her rest.  Brian, if you need anything, just come and ask.”

 

“Thank you,” her partner said as Grandmother and I left the room.  “What happened,” I asked again as we walked down the staircase.

 

“I’ll tell you later – for now, we have duties as the hostess to perform,” Grandmother said – and that had to do for then.

 

As parties at the Manor House go, it wasn’t the most boring of times – and Eddie being around made it a little more bearable than usual.   The fact I was co-hosting with Grandmother and Aunt Susan made it easier as well – my job was mainly to make sure the younger kids didn’t get too far out of hand, but for the most part they behaved themselves and spent most of the afternoon outside.

 

Even Alicia was quieter than usual – she and Jenny spent most of the time in the corner with Martin and Colin, while Bobby and Suzie were treating Cassie like royalty.  Bobby told me that she had hurt her ankle at the end of the weekend game, but the way she was walking round, and talking with her friends, you would not know that had happened.

 

Even Tommy and Brian were joining in, chasing the twins and Pippa round the lawn outside as the parents talked.  Eventually, however, the afternoon drew on, the sun began to set, and those who were going started to collect themselves together and leave.

 

I had to go and help Mrs Bridges for a few minutes, but I did hear Suzie and Cassie talking to Pippa, Hazel and Claire, saying “when you come here tomorrow, you’re going to have such a big surprise!”  I had heard Granny talking with the parents, and saying she would love to see them tomorrow morning – unfortunately they were going away for a few days, but they would at least be able to stop for the Sunday morning.  Mary was coming over at lunchtime tomorrow with Cathy, and they would stop over for the night and spend Monday here as well.

 

As for the rest of the week – I had heard dark rumours that Martin, Colin and Bobby were planning something, and Lesley would come over Wednesday.  Then there was Brian and Sarah – a question I asked Grandmother about when she came in.

 

“Well,” she said as she sat down, “from what I can gather, there was an incident involving Heidi and her friends, as well as Anne Duncombe.  Sarah had to use her – unique talents to resolve the situation, but at some point she was injured.  Anne felt a complete change of scenery would be the best cure for her, and given her connection to the family, I said I would be delighted to have her stay.  Once she feels up to it, we will let the others know she is here, but not before.”

 

I nodded – Grandmother had a lot of experience in areas Mum would not talk about, so I left it at that.  It was then that Mrs Craig came in, and said “Angela, I’m going to need your help with something, if you don’t mind.”

 

“Of course, Jennifer,” I said as Miranda, John Craig’s mother, came in.  “What do you want me to do?”

 

“When most of our guests have left,” Mrs Craig said as they sat down and looked at me, “I want you to round up Bobby and Colin.  This is what they’re going to do...”

 

 

 

“See you tomorrow, Mary,” Jenny said as he hugged her friend.  “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Eddie said with a smile before he followed Mary and his parents.

 

“Now then, Jenny,” I said to her, “Can you find Cassie, Alicia, Suzie, Patty and Rachel, and join me in the library please?”  She nodded as she went into the main room, Bobby and Colin coming the other way

 

“What’s the buzz, Angie,” Bobby said as they came up to me.

 

“Library,” I said quietly, and led them in there.  After a few minutes the six girls came in, looking at the three of us as Patty said “Yes, Teacher?”

 

“Your mum,” I said as I looked at Jenny and Cassie, “has asked the three of us to get you all ready for a tie-up game.”  

 

“Hands behind your backs, girls,” Colin said as he held up several lengths of cord.  Bobby and he took turns to tie their wrists together behind their back, their hands uncovered and their wrists crossed, before they wrapped ropes around their waists as they usually did.  More rope then went around their arms, just below their elbows, and round their stomach.

 

“Now, all six of you need to sit in the chairs, and allow the boys to bind your legs,” I said quietly, watching as they all sat down and had their ankles bound tightly together, and then their legs below their knees.  “I love it when they look like this,” Rachel said as she swung her legs up and down, and I had to turn away to stop myself from laughing.  How on earth did they get to be like this?

 

“Angela?”

 

I turned back and said “Sorry – now, Mrs Craig has asked me to do something different – Bobby, Colin, I need you to find Tommy and Brian and bring them here please.”

 

As the boys left, I looked at the girls.  “Mrs Craig has asked me to tie two bands of ropes around your arms, above and below your chest.  I understand this happened during the weekend away, but is it what you want?”

 

All six of them nodded, so I started with Patty.  On her and Rachel, it just looked like two more bands of rope holding their arms firmly to their sides.  As for Jenny and Alicia, it made them both look – well, older if truth be told, but they smiled and nodded as I made sure they were tightened under their arms.

 

It was the effect on Cassie and Suzie that was unexpected.  They’re still just little girls, but as the ropes pulled their arms into their sides, and their tops were pulled over their chest, I heard them gasp slightly and then wriggle round.  When this was done to me, that night at the manor house, I was embarrassed – and then scared witless.  They, however, seemed to be secretly enjoying it.

 

My blushes – and theirs – were spared by Tommy and Brian coming in.  “Coo,” Tommy said as he looked at Patty, “They did a real job of you.”

 

“Says you,” Patty said as she stuck her tongue out.  “Boys,” I said to them, “why don’t you keep the terrible duo quiet?”

 

“Gotcha,” Brian said, as he picked up two sponge balls and pushed them into the mouths of Patty and Rachel, before he used white tape and wrapped it round their heads.  “Fnksabnsh,” Patty said as she looked at me.

 

“Now then,” I said as the door opened and Grandmother came in, followed by Miranda, “Take Patty and Rachel to the playroom please, Boys – we’ll tell you when time’s up.”

 

“Arr Aye Captain!” Brian said as he helped Patty and Rachel to stand up, the two boys escorting them out.  “Ready,” Grandmother said as she looked at me.

 

“Ready,” I said as Miranda opened the door, and Mum and Dad came in, along with Uncle Alexander and Aunt Susan, Mister and Mrs Craig, Mister and Mrs Brown, Cassie Craig and Jo Frost.

 

“The babies will be safe with Mister and Mrs Bridges for the moment,” Grandmother said as she closed the door.  “Thank you all for coming in for a few minutes.”

 

“No problem,” Mum said as she saw the four girls on the couch, especially Alicia.  “Although – who did the tying for you, Alicia?”

 

“I did,” I said quietly, “at the request of Mrs Craig.  I also asked them if this is what they wanted.”

 

“That’s right,” Jennifer Craig said, “Because this is how they were bound when we finished the game that weekend, well we had the gags but...  Connie, what I’m going to say now is under the Craig compact, understand?”

 

“Yeah,” Connie said as she looked at Jennifer, “but why aren’t you saying the same to Cassie.”

 

“Because I already know what she’s going to say,” Cassie said quietly as Jo stood with her.  “So does Alexander, Bobby and Colin – and the girls.  So don’t be angry at what you’re about to hear.”

 

“Xander,” Aunt Susan said as she looked my uncle, “What happened that weekend?”

 

“I’ll tell her,” Jennifer said, before she took a deep breath and said “It wasn't a tie-up game arranged by John.”

 

The room was silent for a few minutes as everyone looked at Jennifer and the girls.  “But,” Susan eventually said, “When you say it wasn’t a game you mean...”

 

“I mean we really were held hostage over the weekend by an armed gang – Bobby and Colin got the medal today for informing the police, but the truth is, they were the ones who found us – in a way.”

 

Mum was gripping Dad’s hand, and I realised I was gripping my own arms hard, as Jennifer said “Maybe I’d better start at the beginning.  It began on the Friday morning, when the girls had put their outfits on and were having breakfast.”

 

We all listened as Jennifer told us about the men invading the house, one of them taking John while the others bound and gagged all seven of them, but only after they had been convinced to say it was a game, to protect Patty and Rachel.  How they had only been freed to eat, wash and change, and then on the Saturday driven in the family car to Wissenden Hall.

 

Bobby then told us how he had found the house empty with Colin, then called their fathers.  They in turn had decided to get Cassie Craig and Jo Frost to help.

 

As for the rescue – the boys told us the full story, and how Bobby had got into the hall, opened the doors and then saw Cassie.  It was while she had been jumping to him that a floorboard had given way, and she had injured herself.

 

“Thanks for reminding me,” Cassie said, as we started laughing – which at least broke the tension.  Aunt Susan looked at Uncle Alexander, and said “You didn’t tell me so I wouldn’t worry, right?”

 

“I’m sorry I had to lie,” he said quietly, “but I was worried for both of you.  I hope you understand, Susan.”

 

“And if something had gone wrong?”

 

“We must be grateful it did not,” Miranda said quietly.  “Lucinda and I were told by John and Jennifer the truth at Jenny’s party, and we decided then that the girls – and the boys – should stay here this weekend.  Where is Martin, by the way?”

 

“His mum called,” Bobby said quietly, “he should be back in a few minutes.”

 

“I’ll tell him the truth – later,” Alicia said with a shy smile. 

 

“Good,” Grandmother said.  “Girls, when bad things happen in the family, we know it is important to be able to talk things over.”  I thought back to the weekend we all spent together, and could see the others were thinking about it as well – all except Cassie and Suzie.  “So this week, all of it if necessary, is there for you to talk about what happened, and how you feel.”

 

“Honestly, Grandma,” Alicia said, “I feel fine.  It scared the hell out of me, particularly the first day, giving what else was happening with me, but once I knew it was only for a few days I began to settle down and enjoy it – as much a is could.”

 

“What was wrong on the Friday,” Bobby said as he looked at Alicia.

 

“Something you never have to worry about,” Dad said, Bobby looking at him for a moment before he said “oh.”  I never had my dad down for a diplomat, but full marks to him for that.

 

“Ali’s right,” Jenny said.  “Cassie and I had met the gang before...”

 

“You had?”

 

Miranda nodded as John said “It was the same group that held Jenn and the girls hostage overnight – I recognised the voice of their leader immediately.”

 

“Anyway,” Jenny continued, “the worst bit was the first day, and especially when we were blindfolded and taken to the other place.  Once there, however, we were told it was only for another day, so we relaxed and it became much more of a game after that.”

 

I looked at Cassie and Suzie, who both nodded in agreement.  “It wasn’t even as bad as the time we all were taken to Aunt Cassie’s house,” Cassie said, “because – well, Jay made it a real game.”

 

“Jay?”

 

“His name was Jay – Jay Edwards.”

 

“Oh God,” Mum said as she looked at Dad.  “Him?”

 

“Actually, you know what the funniest thing was?”

 

We all looked at Cassie, and said “what?”

 

“If you set aside the fact we were held hostage by an armed gang, and we were very tightly bound and gagged for almost three days, the weekend was almost exactly what I had planned.  I wanted us to be the girl detectives again, and held captive by the bad guys – which was what happened, right?”

 

 

“And how do you feel, Cassie,” Grandmother said as she looked at her.

 

“I feel good – yeah I got hurt, but that was my fault.  In fact – I wonder if we can do it again?”

 

“Do it AGAIN?”

 

I looked at Mrs Craig and laughed – I knew exactly how she felt.  “Yeah – Rachel and Patty loved playing the game, but we,” she said as she looked at Suzie, Jenny and Alicia “had to be held back because we knew the truth.  If we do it again, we all have to have the same sort of fun.  Can we do that – for the next three days.”

 

I looked at our parents, who were looking at each other.  “Well...

 

“Please – it’s going to help us.”

 

“All right,” Grandmother said “but it can only be for two days.  There are other things we wish to do.  How will you dress?”

 

“Fifties clothes – oh.”

 

“You just remembered the others are coming tomorrow,” I said quietly.

 

“No problem, I am sure we can find something,” Grandmother said.

 

“There is another problem,” Jennifer said quietly, “I cannot take part.  It is not possible for me to leave the twins alone.  Someone else will have to play Mother if you play this game.”

 

I could see her looking at Mum and Aunt Susan, but then to my surprise I heard myself saying “I’ll do it – then I can keep an eye on them.”

 

“Excellent,” Grandmother said.  “Well, I’ll ask Mister Bridges to bring some drinks in.”  As she went out, Jennifer took me to one side.

 

“Are you sure you want to, Angela,” she said quietly.  “It would mean for most of the next two days, you will be tightly bound, gagged fully, and have to sleep like that – and when Cassie means tied, she means hands covered, and the ropes – all of them.”

 

I nodded, then said “It’s all right, Jennifer – I’ll manage.”

 

“Well, if you’re sure,” she said quietly, “Thank you.”   She then re-joined her husband, as I wondered just what I had signed myself up for...

 

 

 

I got to bed at about ten that night, so I was surprised to be woken up at five thirty by Grandfather.

 

“Up you get,” he said as I opened my eyes, “I have a drink here for you.  The game starts in half an hour, and you need to be ready for it.  Do what you need to do, and meet us for breakfast at six.”

 

What was funny was the way Grandfather was dressed – he had on a dark jumper and trousers, and a black hat was sitting on his head.  At any rate, I got up, pulled a dressing gown over me, and then went down to the kitchen.

 

The stuff for breakfast was laid out, but nobody else was around – except for Uncle Alexander.  At least, I presumed it was him – he had a black balaclava covering his head, and was wearing a blue boiler suit.

 

“Just in time to give the girls their breakfast,” he said as the kitchen door opened, and I saw Bobby and Colin escorting Patty and Rachel into the room in their dressing gowns.  They also had black balaclavas over their heads, as they sat the two girls in the chairs.  I saw they had their hands on their heads, as their waists were tied to the back of the chairs and their legs to the front legs.

 

“Bring the next two down,” Uncle Alexander said.  “Sure thing boss,” they said as they left their room, and then he said to me “You can start by giving these two their breakfast.”

 

“Sugar Puffs please,” Patty said, followed by Rachel asking for Ricicles.  I poured some of each of the cereal into a bowl and handed it to them as Suzie and Cassie were brought in, and tied to their chairs.  A few minutes later Jenny and Alicia came in, and were bound to the chairs as well, before Uncle Alexander and the boys sat down.

 

So this was my first part in this game, to serve breakfast to girls and captors alike.  Well, it was a gentle start, and it was actually fun to have the girls talking and chattering, excited about the day ahead.

 

I even got a chance to eat some toast and drink some more coffee myself – barely, as uncle Alexander said “I’m taking Mummy with me, to sort out your clothes.  Eat up and say nothing to raise the alarm.”

 

He took me by the arm and walked me up to the playroom.  “Sorry for the early start,” he said as he showed me in, “but apparently that was when they were woken up.  If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one with an early start to the day.”

 

I smiled as I saw Tommy and Brian emerging from a room at the bottom of the corridor, before I was shown into the room.

 

“The costumes have come from Miranda and Mum,” Uncle Alexander said as I looked at them.  “Your first duty of the day is to lay them out and label them – well, check them anyway.  I see Mum dealt with them last night.”

 

One look told me there was a theme for the day, and that theme, for some reason, was Poodle Skirts!  Uncle Alexander handed me the first clothes bag, which contained a white top, and a pink floor length skirt and cardigan.  The skirt had a picture of a black poodle on the front, with a white leash going up to the waist.  There was also a pair of white ankle socks, a pair of pink sneakers, and a white scarf with black polka dots.

 

“For Patty,” Uncle Alexander said, as I laid the clothes out on a bed and then pinned a note with “Patty” written on it to them.  I then did the same with the outfits for the other girls.

 

For Rachel, there was a white short sleeved blouse, and a deep red skirt with a black poodle and leash on the front, black shoes with white ankle socks, and a red neck scarf.

 

As for Suzie and Cassie, Suzie’s outfit was very similar to Rachel’s, save she had a black poodle embroidered on the chest pocket of her blouse, and what looked like black and white bowling shoes as well as a black elastic belt.  Cassie had been given a dusky pink top and cardigan, and a green velvet poodle skirt this one with a pink poodle on the front, white socks and white trainers.

 

The two older girls had slightly different outfits.  Jenny had a similar outfit to Suzie, except her skirt was crimson red, and she had a red neck scarf.  As for Alicia, Grandmother had found a white round necked top, a brown leather belt and shoes, white socks and a long blue skirt with a white poodle on the front.

 

Once I had pinned Alicia’s name to that set, Uncle Alexander took my arm and led me to the room opposite.  Inside, I found a hair dryer, several rolls of white tape and some white silk scarves.

 

“The first of the girls will be with you shortly,” he said as he stood by the door.  “Mother has to dry their hair and complete their gags before they are taken to the first room for the morning.”  I could hear footsteps, excited calls, and then doors opening and closing, and the voices getting quieter and quieter.

 

Then the door opened, and I had to stifle a laugh as Patty and Rachel hopped in, their skirts twirling, rising and falling as they did so.  The two of them were thoroughly secured, with rope holding their wrists together behind their backs, around their waists, tummies, and above and below their chest, as well as their ankles and legs below their knees.  I knew the last part because I could see them when their skirts rose up.

 

“Come here you two,” I said as they hopped over, their lips closed over a knotted strip of towel that had been tied between their teeth.  As they stood in front of me, I dried their hair, then adjusted the scarves around their necks before I wrapped the special tape around the heads, sealing the gags in.  I then folded a white scarf into a band, tied it over Patty’s mouth and kissed her, then did the same for Rachel.

 

“Let’s go,” Uncle Alexander said as they both hopped out of the room, and Suzie and Cassie replaced them.  I dried their hair, finished their gags, then sent them off as Jenny and Alicia came in.

 

As I sent them back out, giggling as their skirts went up and down, Bobby said “Time for you to get washed and dressed Mum.  Use the bathroom down here, and then enter the first room.”

 

I looked at the clock in the room – it was only seven thirty, but I was ready for a shower.  As I went in, I saw their nightclothes neatly stacked, so I added my own and then did all I had to do.

 

Putting on a dressing gown, I went into the playroom, and saw an outfit with a piece of paper pinned to it – one with my name on.  I smiled as I put on the underwear, then pulled the blue striped top over my head, before I put on the long blue skirt with the black poodle on the front.  A black belt went round my waist, before I put on the white socks and trainers.

 

“Not bad,” I said as I looked in the mirror, and then left the playroom – only to be met by Tommy, yawning his head off as he held out two sponge balls.

 

“Hold these,” he said, and I took them in my arms, before he opened the door to the next room and said "Go in.”  AS I did so, I heard him mumble “Back to bed” as he walked away.

 

“Hi Angela,” Brian said as he looked at me, in his Spiderman pyjamas.  “Hold your hands out.”  As I did so, he tore the end off a roll of silver duct tape, and then taped my fist into balls.  Not content with that, he then pulled white socks over my hands, taping them to my sleeves.

 

“What have I let myself in for,” I said quietly as Brian opened the door and showed me into the next room.  Bobby was there, in his boiler suit and with a length of rope in his hands.

 

“Cross your wrists behind your back,” he said quietly, and I did as he asked, breathing slowly as he tied the rope tightly around them, holding them firmly together.

 

He then walked me to the next room, where Mister Craig was waiting.  “Thank you for volunteering to do this, Angela,” he said as he tied my wrists to my waist, making sure he cinched the ropes between my arm and back.

 

“What else is going to happen,” I said as he took my arm and waked me into the next room, closing the door behind me.  “Surprise,” I heard a voice say, and I turned round suddenly.

 

“Eddie?  You’re helping with this?”

 

“In a way,” he said as he started to tie my arms to my stomach below my elbows.  He was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, and smiled as he fixed my arms to my side.  “I’m going to catch forty winks next, and I’ll see you later.  Apparently I’m needed when some other girls come later.”

 

Once my arms were locked in place, I was taken across the corridor and into another room.  “Mum,” I said as I went in, “What are you going to do?”

 

“Jennifer asked me to tie the last set of chest ropes,” she said as she picked them up, “apparently, she has a no boys rule on this one.”

 

“I can guess why,” I said as Mum passed the ropes around my arms, below my chest, and then pulled it so that my arms were forced into my sides.  As she passed it above my chest, I felt the tension above and below my chest, and saw the way my top stretched over them.

 

“Penny for them?”

 

I looked over my shoulder at mum, and said “I was remembering that night.  It’s the first time since then somebody has done this to me.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it,” Mum said as she tied the ropes off, and then turned me round.  “How does it feel?”

 

“Strange, different – I guess I’ll have to deal with it.  Jennifer did for two days.”

 

“Good girl,” Mum said as she kissed my cheek.  “Next room.”

 

As she opened the door, I went next door, to find Colin waiting for me.  “Have a seat,” he said as he pointed to a chair, and I carefully sat myself down.  He then took his rope and tied my ankles together, side by side, as I tried to move my arms and wrists.

 

“Ohhh...” I said as he cinched the ropes and he looked up at me.  “Everything all right,” he said as he saw my closed eyes.

 

“Yeeeee Yes, everything’s fine,” I said as he stood up and helped me to stand up.  He then helped me to hop into the next room, where Grandmother was waiting in her dressing gown.

 

“No one else is getting to do this part,” she said as she let me sit down, lifted my skirt up and tied my legs together below my knees, tightening it between my legs as she did so, and then folding the skirt back down again.

 

I was surprised when I jumped into the next room to see Brian Carter there.   “Have the other girls seen you,” I said when I came in.

 

“No, no – Mrs Bridges took care of them, but she went to take care of breakfast for Sarah, so I said I would help out.  Nice outfit.”

 

“Thanks – Casey wanted a fifties theme.”

 

“Cute kid – I saw her hopping to the staircase.  About eleven, not red headed?”

 

“That’s the one – so what do I get here, half the gag?”

 

“That’s right,” Brian said as he picked up a washcloth, “open wide now.”

 

I allowed him to push the cloth into my mouth, then tie a knotted length of torn towel into my mouth and around my head.  Finally, I went back to the room where I started, Uncle Alexander waiting for me with the tape and a scarf in his hand.

 

Aunt Susan was also there, the hairdryer in her hand as she looked at me.  “Dear God,” she whispered, “you really are beginning to look more like Lucinda every day.”

 

“fnksslt,” I mumbled as she began to dry my hair.

 

“I meant it as a compliment,” Aunt Susan laughed over the noise of the hair dryer.  “It’s funny how Alicia takes after Simon, and you have your mother’s looks, that’s  all.”  Turning off the dryer, she looked at me and said “Have fun – and try not to hop round too much.”

 

Uncle Alexander wound the tape round my head, tied the white silk band over that, and then said “Ready, Mother?”

 

“Sllfrb,” I mumbled through the layers as he helped me to jump to the top of the stairs, and then to sit at the top.  Bobby was waiting at the bottom as I came down, and then escorted me to the library.

 

“HLLMMM” the six of them called out as I jumped into the room, three on one couch and three on the other, as I was taken and sat in the armchair between them.  Bobby then turned on the television, and as a service started on one of the satellite channels Uncle Alexander said “Time for church, ladies – sing along.”

 

“Hbbb,” I said as the choir started singing, and we all sang along, the boys standing at the door and watching.

 

It was during the sermon that we heard the sound of the doorbell ringing, and the boys put their fingers to their lips as we heard voices outside.  Eventually, I heard Grandfather saying “In here girls,” and as the door opened Pippa, Hazel and Claire came in, dressed in jeans and jumpers.

 

“Hey what’s – oh boy, you all look funny,” Pippa said as she put her hands to her mouth, “Aren’t they girls.

 

“Girls?”

 

She turned round to see that Bobby and Colin had hand gagged Hazel and Claire, while Eddie had appeared, also now wearing blue overalls and a balaclava.

 

“What’s this – three more snoops,” he said with a laugh.  “Bring them with me boys – we need to make them just as comfy.”

 

“Got it,” Bobby and Colin said as they escorted Hazel and Clare, while Eddie took Pippa by the arm and walked her out of the room.  As they did, the preacher said “Place all your trust in him, and he will make your paths straight.”

 

“Vrffnnnee,” I said to myself, hearing the others laugh under their gags and then turn to the screen.

 

The sermon on the service they had managed to find was on “Love your neighbour”, but the preacher was dry, delivering a long, meaty and frankly boring exposition.  As he finished, however, the door opened as Bobby, Colin and a very sheepish looking Martin escorted Pippa, Hazel and Claire in.

 

“Ndwhrrwrurler,” Alicia said as she looked at him.  “Ah there you are,” Uncle Alexander said, “Did you take care of the alarm system as I asked you to.”

 

“All done, Jay,” Martin said, smiling apologetically at Alicia as we looked at the three new arrivals.

 

Grandmother must have found similar costumes to ours for them as well, as they stood there, their arms bound to their sides in the same way as ours.  Hazel had on a poodle skirt that came down to just above the top of her white short socks, made of a red material with a black record motif on it.  Her black elastic belt around her waist also held in the bottom of her white round necked top, her sleeves hidden presumable under the socks as ours were.  A red bow was tied in her hair, holding it up as she hopped over.

 

Claire wasn’t wearing the same sort of skirt as us – she had on a black and white checked skirt that came as far down as Hazel’s, a wide black belt and a short sleeved orange top.  While Hazel was wearing black Mary Jane shoes, Claire had on a pair of old style sneakers, a band of cloth in the same style as her dress tied over her hair with a bow at the top.

 

And then there was Pippa, looking at us with excited eyes over her glasses.  Her top was a light dusty pink, with a pink scarf tied round her neck, the ends hanging at the side.  A Pink belt was around her waist, while her skirt was a deeper shade of pink, with a white poodle on the front.  All three of them started to hop over to us, their skirts rising as ours had down before they were helped to sit on the floor and watch the rest of the service.

 

The funniest bit was when they started signing along to the hymns.  Now, I need to explain something – Grandfather and Grandmother are what is sometimes called “High Anglican”, or as Lesley used to put it “Smells and Bells.”  Mum and Dad are rather more liberal, but we still go to an Anglican church, while Mister Craig has told me in the past they go to a Baptist church.  I know Rachel goes with her parents to Chapel, but the others I’m not sure about.

 

So why was it funny?  Because, and this may be because they all have the same songs at school assemblies, or perhaps there is more in common between the churches than I thought, they all knew the words, and they were all singing along.  I think they would have even done the actions had they not been prevented by bands of rope.

 

Heck – I would have as well.

 

RGdsgrtbgGd.
RGdsgrtbgGd.
RGdsgrtbgGd.
Ndeldsnshnds.
Hshghrthnskyscrpr.
Hsdpprthnsbmreen.
Hswdrthnthnfrse.
Ndbeeendmwldstdrms.
Ndesnwnmndeslfdm
snsbfrthwrldbgen.
HwndrfltbprtfGdsmeeznpln! 

 

As the band on the screen continued to play, Patty and Rachel jumped off the couch they were sitting on, and started to jump about, twirling and spinning so that their skirts rose up and allowed us all to see the ropes that secured their knees together.  I could hear Uncle Alexander laughing in the background, and then saying “All right – who else wants to dance along.”

 

I think all of them would have raised their hands, so he and his three able assistants helped them all to stand up, watching as they all danced around to the songs.

 

“Want to dance as well,” Eddie said as he sat down next to me.  I shook my head and said “Ntyt,” as I put my head on his shoulder.  Truthfully, I was still trying to get used to having my arms tied like this, with the four bands of rope holding them in place.  It wasn’t that the pressure on my chest was unpleasant – it was just something I was not used to, and something told me that dancing like that – fun as it looked – might not be a good idea at the moment.

 

“Fair enough,” he said as he put his arm round me, “I’ll just sit and make sure the kids don’t hurt themselves.”  I looked over at Uncle Alexander, who merely raised an eyebrow and then watched the others as they danced round.

 

“Well now – it’s good to see they’re enjoying themselves.”

 

I turned to see Grandmother and Miranda Craig standing in the doorway, the girls stopping to look at them as their skirts slowly settled and fell down their legs.

 

“Lunch will be in a little while,” Grandmother said, “I am sure your captors will take you there in due course.”

 

Uncle Alexander nodded as the service came to an end.  “You’d better take Mummy to start to sort the food out,” he said to Eddie, who nodded as he started to untie the ropes around my legs, making sure he preserved my modesty as he folded my skirt back enough to untie them below my knees.  “Let’s go, mummy,” he said as he helped me to stand up, Uncle Alexander saying “Let’s have another dance” as we left the room.

 

“Having fun so far,” he said as he walked me down to the kitchen, and I had to admit I was, despite everything.  Walking in, I saw Mrs Bridges there with Aunt Susan, working at the stove.  Eddie untied my arms and removed the covering from my hands, then removed my gag before saying “According to Mrs Craig, they made her prepare dinner for them.  Given how many there are, help is here, but you get to serve.”

 

“Fine by me,” I said as I flexed my fingers.  “Where are the boys?”

 

“Brian and Tommy?”  Aunt Susan handed me a mug of coffee, then said “They went out into the gardens somewhere once they finally surfaced.  I’ll go and call them in now – they need to get washed up and ready for lunch.”  She dried her hands and went out into the grounds, while Uncle Alexander came in and sat down.

 

“They are exhausting,” he said with a smile.  “So how are you coping so far?”

 

“Not too bad,” I said with a grin, “although how Jennifer managed three days like that...”

 

“Well, technically, the worst was for a day and a half, but I understand.”

 

“Uncle Alexander?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Why on earth did Grandfather buy Wissenden Hall?  IT must have cost a fortune!”

 

“Funny that,” he said with a smile.  “Once all the dust had settled, your grandfather and I had a look at the place with the agent.  It wasn’t that bad a place, despite everything that had happened, and Suzanne had said how much she enjoyed being there.  Also, your grandfather has been trying to persuade me and Susan to trade up.”

 

As we talked, Mrs Bridges had prepared a tray with some food, which she carried out of the room.  “Anyway, we talked to the agent, and – shall we say, persuaded him to sell it to the Holderness estate for a lower cost than he wanted.”

 

“Really?”

 

Uncle Alexander nodded and said “It’s amazing how persuasive the threat of a lawsuit for personal injury can be.  At any rate, it doesn’t need that much doing to repair it.”

 

“But you and Aunt  Susan have always said you wanted as normal life for Bobby and Suzie.  Surely this is not that normal?”

 

“Well,” Uncle Alexander said quietly, “Your grandfather is not getting younger, and he thinks it’s time I stopped being the Financial Director of Red Ribbon Shipping, and started to prepare for the day I become Lord Holderness myself.  Believe me, it took a lot to persuade your Aunt Susan it was the right thing to do, but she agreed in the end.”

 

“What about your current house?”

 

“We’ll rent it out for the moment,” he said as he sat back, “and one day, if she finds the right man, Suzie can have it.”

 

“Yeah well, it’s going to be a long time before Grandfather dies, isn’t it?”

 

I saw a funny look in Uncle Alexander’s eyes, before he smiled and said “Of course it is.  Now, where was Mrs Bridges taking that tray to?”

 

“No idea,” I lied.  I didn’t know if Uncle Alexander had being told about the other two house guests yet, and it wasn’t my job to tell him.  “Right,” Aunt Susan said as she came back in, “I think we’re going to be ready to...”

 

“GANGWAY” Brian Hampton said as he and Tommy ran through the kitchen, dressed in jumpers and jeans.  “Wipe your feet,” Aunt Susan called after them as they ran into the hallway, but whether they heard or not I could not say.

 

“Time for you to lay the table,” Uncle Alexander said as he walked with me to the dining room, where the table had already had place mats set out for everyone.  I started to put out the knives and forks, and the spoons, before placing glasses on the table.

 

As I finished, the door opened and I watched as Bobby and Colin escorted Pippa and Rachel in, their skirts rising and falling as they jumped across the floor and were helped to sit in a seat each.  Their waists were tied to the back of the chair with more rope, before their upper bodies were untied and the covering removed from their hands.

 

“The gags stay until everyone is in,” Bobby said to me as Uncle Alexander came in.  “Patience girls,” Bobby said as he pressed down on Patty’s shoulders, “You don’t want Mum to punish you, do you?”

 

“No they don’t” I said quietly as I looked at them, seeing them giggle as the boys came back with Suzie and Cassie.  As Cassie was tied to the chair by Bobby, Patty started singing

 

“Lddeccsssndlrdbby,

Sttngnatr...

Ksssnggg....”

 

“Want to be spanked,” Bobby said as he looked at Patty, but there was a grin on his face as he said it, and I could see Cassie was happy as well as her hands and arms were released.

 

 

The boys left for a few minutes, before Colin and Martin escorted Alicia and Jenny in, tying them both to their chairs and then untying their arms.  I could see they were taking great care about removing the ropes, and I guessed Grandmother and several others had told them to be very, very careful.

 

As they removed the socks and tape, the door opened and Pippa, Hazel and Claire jumped in, accompanied by Bobby, Brian and Tommy.  The three of them looked at the others as they were sat on the chairs, tied by their waists, and then their arms released.

 

“You’d better bring their lunch in,” Uncle Alexander said, so I started a shuttle run from the kitchen, bringing two pleats of roast dinner in at a time and setting them in front of each of the girls.  Once that was done, I was allowed to bring my plate in and sit down, and then the other adults came in and sat at the other end of the table.  By the time I had sat down, all the gags had been removed,  and the girls were talking excitedly amongst themselves.

 

“This is an amazing game,” Pippa said as she looked at Suzie.  “I’m glad you invited us to take part.  How on earth did you find these outfits?”

 

“Ours came from Granny,” Cassie said as she looked at Miranda, “she must have looked great in them.”

 

“A long time ago, maybe,” Miranda said with a smile, “but now they look good on you.  That reminds me, Jethro is coming over to see me later this week, and he was wondering if he could call on you as well.”

 

“I’d be delighted to see him,” Grandmother said with a smile.  “We can talk about the old days.”

 

“So,” I said as I looked at Hazel and Claire, “how did it feel to be tied the way you were?”

 

“It was nice,” Claire said, “except for that rope in the middle, between my stomach and my shoulders.  It felt – well, it felt funny, and it itched like mad under there.”

 

“You should have said,” Brian answered back, “I would have tickled you there.”

 

“No you would not have,” Aunt Susan said.  “What about you, Pippa – how did it feel to you.”

 

“Funny,” Pippa said as she looked at the other end of the table.  “It pressed into me, and yeah it held my arms in place, but still...”

 

“I know what you mean,” Suzie said as she put her knife and fork down.  “I had it for the second half of the game, and I still can’t get used to it.”

 

“I don’t know,” Rachel said, “It just felt like another way of keeping my arms still to me.  What do you say Patty?”

 

“Meh,” she said as I started to collect their plates up, while Grandmother took care of the others, “I can take it or leave it.”

 

“Well then,” Uncle Alexander said, “We can leave them off after lunch – if that is what you want.  Alicia and Jenny?”

 

I saw them look at each other, and say “Yeah – if that’s what everyone else wants.”

 

“Patty and Rachel”?

 

They shrugged their shoulders as I started to walk to the door to the kitchen.

 

“Pippa, Hazel and Claire?”

 

“We’ll do the same as everyone else.”

 

I was through the door, and putting the plates on the table as Grandmother came in, and I heard Cassie reply in answer to the same question “No.  We had them for the first game, and we should have them for this one.”

 

 

“Did she just...”  I looked at Grandmother, who nodded and said “Jennifer apparently had much the same reaction that weekend.  Why don’t we take the puddings through and listen to the discussion?”

 

As we came back in, the first thing I heard was Alicia saying “Well then, Cassie Craig, answer me this – what is it that annoys you so much about them?”

 

“I don’t know – it’s the way they rub against me, the way they make me feel when I move – a lot of those things.”

 

“But,” Jenny said as she looked at the apple crumble I was putting in front of her, “you and Suzie have both said you want them to stay on.  Why?”

 

“Why did you say you wanted them off?”

 

“I...”  Suzie was blushing as she looked at me for help.  The thing was, how do I explain to a bunch of pre-teens exactly what it was those ropes can do to you?   Jenny and Alicia at least had a little bit of an understanding, but...”

 

“If Suzie and Cassie want them to stay on, then I’ll keep them on,” Pippa said, the twins nodding in agreement.

 

“Great,” Alicia said as she rolled her eyes, “then I guess I’ll have them as well.”  She put a spoonful of crumble into her mouth, but I could see a twinkle in her eye – and Jenny’s.  She was busy chewing some apple, and shaking her head at the same time.

 

“After lunch,” Uncle Alexander said as he looked at the girls, “I thought you might enjoy a game of hide and seek.  I’m sure the boys will be more than delighted to help you all find some suitable hiding places.”

 

All the boys nodded in agreement to this, before Patty said “Who’s going to be it – Alicia like before?”

 

“Not this time – I want to take part,” Alicia said, so I looked round the table and said “I’ll do it – once the men have tied us all back up again.”

 

“On which note,” Uncle Alexander said, “we need to begin the process of getting you all secured.  Pippa, Hazel and Claire – I want you three to go with Suzie’s mother for a few minutes.  There is something you need to do first.”

 

I watched as Aunt Susan untied the three girls from their chairs, and then escorted them out of the room.

 

“Bobby, make sure the team is assembled,” was the next thing he said, as Bobby left the room, along with Colin, Martin, and some of the others.  “Can you help mother start to collect the dinner dishes,” he then said to Eddie, who nodded as he stood up.

 

“Patty, Rachel, you will go first to the toilet – open wide.”  With that, Uncle Alexander replaced the gags in their mouths – the cloth inside their mouths, a fresh length of knotted towelling, the white tape and then the silk scarves around their mouths.  Once they were gagged, he took four plastic zip ties, and used them to secure the wrists of the other four girls behind their backs, while Bobby and Colin returned, untied Patty and Rachel from their chairs, and escorted them out of the room.

 

“Your four talk amongst yourselves,” I said as Eddie and I carried the pudding dishes in, Jenny saying “Own up,” as the door swung closed behind us.

 

“You’re doing a great job so far,” Eddie said as we put the plates on the table.

 

“It’s fun so far,” I said as I leaned against the table, “and I realised something.  Jennifer must  have spent a lot less time tied up than the girls – they made her serve, cook, wash up, sort out their clothes – all the things a mother would do.”

 

“On the other hand,” Eddie said as he looked at me, “she must have had the toughest job of all – having to do whatever they said to protect the kids, especially the human dynamos.”

 

“Tell me about it,” I said with a smile.  “At least by getting them to play hide and seek, I might...”

 

“Might what?”

 

A thought had just crossed my mind, but the question was answered as Brian Carter came in with Sarah.  “I have been relieved of duties for the afternoon,” he said with a smile, “and Sarah said she wanted some fresh air.”

 

“Yeah,” Sarah said as she looked at me.  “Nice outfit – is it a dress up day?”

 

“You would not believe me if I told you,” I said with a smile.  “Oh Eddie – this is Brian and Sarah.  Sarah is sort of a cousin of mine.  Brian, Sarah, this is Eddie Holmes, a – friend.”

 

“Pleasure to meet you Eddie,” Brian said as they shook hands. He was in a checked shirt over a grey t-shirt and jeans, while Sarah was wearing a grey track suit with a pink trim, and a heavy coat over it.

 

“Well, we’re going to go out to the woods for the afternoon.”  Eddie opened the door as Sarah walked slowly out, Eddie and me watching them as they left.

 

“What happened to her – she looks as if she’s been to hell and back,” Eddie finally said.  I shrugged my shoulders, and said “all Grandmother told me was that something had happened, and she needed time to recover.”

 

As I went back in, I saw that Cassie and Suzie had left as well, leaving Jenny and Alicia with Uncle Alexander.  “A word,” I said as I sat down.  “I know how those ropes felt on me, and I’m willing to take a bet you two know as well.  What do you think Cassie and Suzie are playing at?”

 

“Honestly?”  Alicia twisted her hands a little, before saying “I don’t think they know what they’re doing.  I know her mum set the rule that only one of the women could tie the ropes – and I know why – but I don’t think they do.”

 

“So if Martin or Colin asked if they could tie them...”

 

“We’d say no – and I know Dad had a word with Bobby,” Jenny said as she looked at me.  “Seriously, Angela, if they ever figure it out, then we’ll have the talk.  Right about the same time we tell them what really happened here last June.”

 

“Yeah,” I said as I sat back, and looked at Uncle Alexander.  “Suzie still doesn’t know, does she?”

 

He shook his head as Bobby and Colin came back in.  “Your turn,” they said as they held up two washcloths, and looked at the two young ladies sitting in front of me.

 

“Talk to you later, sis,” Alicia said as Bobby started to gag her, Colin doing the honours for Jenny, before they were untied from the chair and escorted out of the room.

 

“Eddie and I will start to get you ready in a few minutes,” Uncle Alexander said as he stood up, “once you’ve had a chance to do whatever you want to do.”  I nodded and went to the downstairs toilet, but it was when I came out that I saw where Pippa, Hazel and Claire had gone to.

 

They were been helped to come down the stairs by Miranda and Grandmother, but were out of the poodle skirts and were dressed more formally.  Claire was wearing a short sleeved grey and white checked dress, with white socks and black leather shoes.  The dress had a skirt that came to just below her knees, flaring out from a gathered waist, and I could imagine she had white gloves on under all the tape, socks and rope.  The dress also had white cuffs that sat just above her elbows, and a funny big collar with little bows on each side.

 

As for her sister, she had on a red dress, with sleeves that came down to the top of the white socks that covered her forearms, and a skirt that came to just below her knees.  There was a black ribbon tie around her neck, that feel down the button detail at her stomach, and she had a matching red hat pinned to her hair, sitting over the red scarf that covered her lower face.

 

Pippa was wearing a dress that was white with broad red checks on it up to the band of rope round her shoulders, and then red at the top and down the sleeves that came to the tape band on her arms.  A gold coloured belt was around her waist, and her shoes were the same colour, while a yellow scarf was tied over her mouth, and a grey one over Claire’s.

 

“We felt that, given they are only here for today,” Grandmother said with a smile, “they should try on the same sort of outfits as you will be wearing tomorrow.  The others are waiting upstairs for you, once you have your own gag applied.”  I nodded and went back to the dining room, where Uncle Alexander and Eddie not only applied my gag, but also the covering to my hands, the ropes around my wrists, waist and stomach, but also after I had sat down bound my ankles.

 

“My turn,” Aunt Susan said as she came in, shooing the others out before she tied my arms around my chest, then lifted the skirt up and tied my legs together below my knees.

 

“Time to play Hide and Seek,” she then said as Uncle Alexander came back in, the balaclava over his head again, and escorted me back to the library.

 

“Hlllmmeeee,” Suzie said as I came back in, and saw the girls sitting in three groups – Alicia, Jenny and Cassie with Martin, Colin and Bobby; Pippa, Rachel and Suzie with little Brian; and Patty, Hazel and Claire with Tommy.

 

“All right then,” Uncle Alexander said as he opened the door to the library,” You have ten minutes to hide, with the help of the other men if you do need it.  My friend,” he said as Eddie came in, “will stay with her and help Mum with opening doors and things, but the other cannot help them.  This is sanctuary, if you are lucky enough to get back here.  Ready?”

 

The girls all nodded as I sat in an old leather armchair watching as they all managed to stand up and start hopping towards the door, giggling and laughing as they left with their charges.

 

“They’re having fun anyway,” Uncle Alexander said as he sat down with Eddie, watching me as I wriggled round, getting as comfortable as I could.  The white scarf over my mouth was providing just enough extra muffling to make it sound as if I was doing more than sighing – because those ropes around my chest were having an effect on me.

 

“Having fun,” Eddie said, and I looked at him with a mixture of embarrassment and daring – daring him to say or do anything else.  He started laughing as Uncle Alexander looked at the clock.

 

“All right – shall we start downstairs,” he said as they helped me to stand up, and we hopped out into the hallway.

 

“Where do you want to try first,” Eddie said, and I started to hop down the corridor, past the portraits of Holderness, and past Grandfather’s office.  I have no idea what the past lords must have thought of as I passed under them, my skirt jumping up and down as I did and revealing my sock and rope covered ankles.  When I passed the portrait of Great-Grandfather, however, I did wonder if he had seen my great aunts in similar outfits, jumping round...

 

They opened the door to the dining room and I looked round, the silence where there had been laughter a few minutes before deafening.  Except...  Except for the little giggle I could hear behind one of the long curtains that hung down from the ceiling at the windows to the lawn.  I hopped over, turned round and pulled the curtains back as best I could – to reveal Rachel, looking at me through her glasses which were perched on the end of her nose, over the light blue silk scarf.

 

“That’s one of you,” I said quietly, “Which means the other must be nearby.”

 

As Uncle Alexander took Rachel by the arm, I looked round and especially at the table.  Mrs Bridges had already laid a white tablecloth on it for later, and it hung down to the floor, the white corners and edges covering much of the underneath – but I could see a flash of a pink skirt under there...

 

“Uccnmmttptee,” I called out, and Patty slowly emerged from under the table, her grin almost visible as Eddie helped her to stand up.  “Time for me to man the sanctuary,” he said as he escorted Rachel out, saying “Let me tell you about the Lords of Holderness” as he did so.

 

“Where to now,” Eddie said as he smiled at me, and I started to hop back out of the dining room, heading down the corridor again and to the other side of the staircase, and the ballroom.

 

The long room was also empty, the large bay windows that led out to the lawn letting the afternoon sun shine through, and I could see Sarah walking at the far end of the lawn, past the tree line with her arm in her partner’s.  There were a set of screens at the far end of the room, with a little gap at the bottom of them, and I could see a pair of trainers just underneath them.

 

“Thswe,” I mumbled to Eddie as I jumped over, my skirt coming right up and exposing my knees as I did so.  As I got closer, I could hear there were two people there, and I was beginning to wonder why I could only see one pair of shoes.

 

I got my answer as I peeped round, and saw Alicia with Martin.  He was sitting up on a bench in front of Alicia, and – well, let’s just say I stopped looking, gathered my thoughts, and then said “Hpmmntntrrptng.”

 

There was a clatter, and then Martin looked round, red faced as he said “hi – just looking for something.”  Eddie laughed and put his face in his hand as I said “Ysssswhr.”

 

Alicia then looked round, and said “Bstdbysss”, before she started to hop out of the room, Martin accompanying her.  “Oh boy,” Eddie laughed out eventually as I shook my head, and we headed back out.

 

It was as I was passing the coat rack that I thought to look behind it – and there was Suzie, giggling like mad as she came out and went to the library.  Shaking my head again, I sat on the bottom step and started to push myself up, to look for the others.

 

“So let’s see,” Eddie said as we made our way up the stairs, “That leaves Jenny, Cassie, Pippa, Hazel and Claire, correct?”

 

“Crct,” I mumbled as I made it to the top of the stairs, and he helped me to stand up.  I looked down the corridor, wondering which room I should look in first, and then I had a piece of good luck – the sight of the door to the playroom opening, and Tommy coming out.

 

“Oh,” he said as he saw me standing there, Eddie looking at him as well, “Err – I was just going to the toilet.”

 

“Don’t let me stop you,” Eddie said as Tommy ran off, and then he whispered in my ear “You want to check this room, don’t you?”

 

I nodded, smiling under the gags as he opened the door and allowed me to jump in.  I wasn’t sure which was more unusual at this point, the blasted poodle skirt that was rising and falling with each jump, or the way these ropes were pressing down on my chest whenever I moved.  I had a new found respect for Jennifer Craig – and as I glanced at Eddie, I saw he was looking at me in a strange way as well.

 

“Whtsst?”

 

“Nothing, nothing,” Eddie said as he shook his head and looked away.  I started to look round the room, looking behind the bean bags and the other seats, but there was no sign of any of the missing girls.  As I turned round, I saw that Eddie was sitting on one of the large toy boxes, the lid closed while that of the others remained open...

 

“Dddy?” I mumbled, “stndpndpnbxpls?”

 

“What, this one,” Eddie said as he opened it up, and looked inside.  “Ah – did you get in and Tommy close the lid,” he said as he reached in and helped Pippa to stand up.

 

“Ysss – cght?” she said as she looked at me.  You see, many moons ago I had played a game of hide and seek, and hidden in one of the toy boxes – I was just glad Grandfather had the foresight to drill small holes in all of them, almost as if he knew what could happen.

 

“Right, Pippa, time for...”  Tommy looked at the three of us as he came back into the room, then grinned sheepishly as he said “oh – I guess she’s caught?”

 

“She’s caught,” Eddie said as he lifted her out.  “Take her down to the library.”

 

“Yes sir,” Tommy said as he took Pippa’s arm and helped her to hop out of the room, the two of us following.  We made our way down and looked into a few more rooms, until we opened the door to the room Alicia was sharing with Jenny, and looked in.

 

Brian Hampton was sitting on one of the two beds, reading a book as we came in.  “Oh,” he said as he saw us, “Nothing to see in here, move on...”

 

Two things made me suspect that was not true – the muffled giggle, and the hem of the red skirt that was peeping out from under the covers of the bed Brian was not lying on.

 

“Mnntshrbttht,” I mumbled as I hopped over to the bed, being careful not to stand on the skirt before I sat down and looked at Brian.  My suspicions were confirmed by the soft “mmmmph” I heard, and then the movement under me as the skirt grew, became a dress, and then Hazel wriggled out from under the bed.

 

“Swurskrt,” I said as I looked at her, and she looked at Brian, who blushed a little.  “oopsie,” he said quietly as Eddie helped her to stand up, and then escorted her out of the room.

 

“neenlsnher,” I said as I looked at Brian.  He shrugged his shoulders, then said “I need to get another book,” before he started to walk to the door.

 

“TSHHHH!”

 

I looked to the wardrobe, and then to Brian, who was grinning sheepishly.  Pushing myself onto my feet, I hopped over to the wardrobe, and tried to open it – without much success, as my covered hands made it impossible for me to even try to grip the ornate handle.

 

“Allow me,” Brian said as I jumped back and watched him open the door, allowing me to see Claire as she hid in the back behind the dresses.

 

“Out you come,” Eddie said as Claire jumped forward, the ropes holding her legs firmly together as Brian stood up.  “Brian, take both of them down to the library please.”

 

“All right – might be a better book there,” Brian said as he helped Claire to jump out, and Eddie looked at me.  “Shall we?”

 

We checked the rest of the rooms, but there was no sign of Cassie or Jenny – which left two possibilities.  They could still have been downstairs, and reached sanctuary, but two things were making me think otherwise.  The first was the fact someone would have come and told us – it did not take that long for Brian to get the other two girls down there.

 

The other thing was the fact we had not seen Bobby or Colin anywhere – and something told me they were keeping a close eye on their very, very close friends.  Which only left one possibility.

 

“Pnnthdr,” I said to Eddie as I nodded to the simple door at the end of the corridor, “Well now – why am I not surprised,” he whispered as I sat on the bottom stair, and started once again to push myself up.  As we approached the door at the top, I could hear laughter and Bobby saying “Dear god – that must have been a sight on the Saturday...”

 

Eddie put his finger to his lips after he had helped me to stand up,  before he took the door handle and gradually opened the door inwards.  I could see Bobby standing there, laughing as Cassie jumped round and round, her skirt rising to reveal her bound legs below her knees as she laughed out through her gag.

 

“Nice.”

 

Bobby turned suddenly as Cassie stopped, her skirt slowly falling and covering her legs as she looked at both of us.  “Cnsdrurslffnd,” I laughed through the gag as Cassie said “Dmmm.”

 

“After you,” Eddie said as he opened the door, Bobby taking Cassie by the arm as he walked and she jumped to the stairs.  I watched as she sat down and started to descend, before looking round the rest of the attic.

 

Everything looked normal, but as I looked to the far end I saw the edge of a red skirt flapping.  I started to jump over, as I heard muffled giggling.  When I got within sight, Colin suddenly appeared, his cheeks bright red as he said “Errr – hi?”

 

“Tsssnjlsnnt,” I heard Jenny say, but when I hopped over to look I saw that her red scarf was no longer around her neck, but over her eyes – and her shoes and socks were on one side on the floor.

 

“Tickling session,” Eddie said as he came over, looking at the blindfolded girlfriend.  She nodded and blushed as well, as Colin knelt down and put her shoes and socks back on.

 

“You only tickled her feet, right,” Eddie said as he looked at Colin.  “Of course – where else would I...  No, not there,” he said as he removed the red scarf, and tied it back round Jenny’s neck.

 

“Tkkhrrtthlbre,” I mumbled as Jenny stood up and started to hop with Colin’s help.

 

“Well, Mummy dearest, I think that is all of them – true?”

 

“Ysss,” I mumbled as I looked at Eddie, wondering what he was going to do.  So I was surprised beyond belief when he hugged me, and then kissed my gagged mouth.  I closed my eyes as I felt his lips against mine, even under the silk and tape, before he said “Let me take you back down.”

 

“WhtddumMMNNNN,” I screamed out as he lifted me onto his shoulder, holding me as he carefully made his way down from the attic, along the corridor and then back down the stairs, where Grandfather and Grandmother were watching, Grandmother stifling a laugh as he set me down.

 

“Reminds me of the day you had Alexander kidnap Anne, just before the wedding,” she said with a smile.  I looked at her, and made a mental note to ask her about that another time, before I hopped into the library.

 

“Oh good – just in time to help judge the Statues game,” Uncle Alexander said as I saw all the girls standing round the room.  He turned on the radio, as they all started to jump and dance around, moving to the music as their skirts all twirled round with them.

 

The boys were standing round the room, talking to each other and laughing as even my sister got into the act – and then I was sore tempted to join them as well, until the music stopped, Suzie landed on her feet in a  funny way, and promptly toppled over to be caught by Brian.

 

“Mhhrrr,” she mumbled as she fluttered her eyelids at him, making us all laugh as Uncle Alexander said “You’re out, little one.  Right – the music begins again!”

 

“Ndddtstdn,” I said as I flopped into one of the leather couches, next to Suzie, who snuggled in next to me and said “Hvngffn?”

 

I nodded – despite everything, I was having great fun, as one by one the girls fell by the wayside and sat down, in groups of two or three, until at the end there was only Alicia and Jenny left standing.

 

“Ready,” Uncle Alexander said as he started the music again – but like a cunning fox, he chose a slow song, Alicia and Jenny looking at him before Colin and Martin came forward, and started to dance with them instead.  The look in their eyes was one of shock, then they rested their heads on their partner’s shoulder as Uncle Alexander came over to me.

 

“Time to help prepare tea for the family,” he said as Eddie stood up and opened the door, “Come with us.”

 

I hopped down the corridor to the kitchen, where Mrs Bridges, Aunt Susan and Mum were preparing some food.  “I think we’ve got enough people on cooking duty,” Mum said as she looked at me, her eyes wide at the way I looked, “so if we untie you, you need to set the table, all right?”

 

I nodded as Uncle Alexander said “the gag stays in place until you sit at the table as well, and you are secured in place.  It’s a help yourself meal anyway, so we won’t have more than one course.”

 

I nodded and sat down while Aunt Susan and Mum removed all the ropes, and then Eddie took off my gloves.  I looked at my hands as I gave him the sponge balls – they were a little red, and felt sweaty, but Mum gave me a damp cloth to wipe them with.

 

“Better,” she said, and I nodded as I rubbed my wrists.  The socks had done their job – there was hardly a mark on them – but they still felt a little sore.  I watched as they prepared the plates of meat, vegetables and fruit, as well as the bread and other items for the buffet.

 

“You may start now,” Mum said as she smiled at me, so I went into the dining room and laid the table, with cutlery, plates and glasses, before the boys started to bring the girls in.  I stood to the side, actually feeling very proud of them as they hopped over to the table, sat down and waited until they had been tied around their waists for their arms to be untied.

 

Finally, it was my turn, and only once I was sat down did the boys remove our gags, and everyone else sit down.

 

“So has everyone enjoyed themselves,” Grandmother said as Mum started to feed Andrew, who was sat in a high chair, looking at all of us.  I wondered what was going through his mind, as there was a chorus of “YES” around the table.

 

“I only wish we could stay tonight,” Pippa said as she picked up a chicken leg, “but the three of us have something else to do tomorrow.  Thank you for allowing us to come today anyway, Suzie.”

 

“My pleasure,” Suzie replied as she swallowed some juice.  “Are you still able to come on Tuesday afternoon?”

 

“Yeah – we can’t wait to see what Angela has lined up for us.”

 

To be truthful, Angela could not wait to see what Angela had lined up for them – this was the first I had heard about this.

 

“We’ll see,” I eventually said, “But there is something I need your help with – as well as Tommy and Brian.”

 

The two younger boys looked at us and said “What?”

 

“You’ll see,” I said as I looked at Suzie.  “Does it feel better now that the ropes are off?”

 

“Yes,” Suzie said, “and no – I really can’t explain it.”

 

“Wait until you sleep like that,” Patty said as she looked round the table.

 

“You’re going to sleep tied like that?”

 

“Yes, Mrs Bowden,” Jenny said to Mum, “We want it to be as much like the weekend as possible, if only for one night.”

 

“Me as well?”

 

Suzie looked at me and said “You as well – but don’t worry.  So long as you don’t sleep on your back, it’s not too bad.”

 

“Great,” I thought to myself as I bit into a carrot stick, “What else could possibly happen...”

 

“Hey – I am so sorry that we are...  Oh my goodness, what have we missed?”

 

I turned to see Cathy Harmer and Mary Holmes standing in the doorway, Mrs Bridges behind them.  They were wearing jeans and sweatshirts, which really looked funny against the outfits we were all wearing.

 

“I am just glad you managed to make it,” Grandmother said as she stood up.  “Please, be seated – I think there is still enough food for you to have some.”

 

“Thank you,” Cathy said as she sat next to Rachel.  “We got held up in London by a train problem, but at least we made it to spend tomorrow with you.”

 

“It happens,” Mum said as Cathy said to Rachel “You must be Patty’s friend – what do you think of Holderness Manor?”

 

“It’s amazing,” Rachel said as her cheeks blushed, “I’ve never been in so big a house, and we got to play Nancy Drew and friends as captives, and we played hide and seek, and I met the nicest people...”

 

“We’re glad you like our house,” Grandfather said with a smile, as we returned to the food and the conversation.  Alicia and Jenny started to tell them all about the set-up – the family held hostage, and the plans for the evening.

 

“And you’re going to spend the night tied and gagged like that?”  Mary looked at her brother, and then said “I’m not sure I’d like that.”

 

“I’m not sure I like it either,” Aunt Susan said as she put her fork down.  “It’s one thing entirely to spend the day tied with so many ropes, but all night – I wish you’d all reconsider.”

 

“It’s all right Mum,” Suzie said as she looked at Aunt Susan.  “We did it at Wissenden Hall, and we can do it again.”

 

“She’s right Aunt Susan,” Alicia said quietly, “It’s important we all do it as that weekend – that way, we get the full experience again.”

 

“I hope you’re not expecting us to spend the night like that,” Cathy said, but I swear there was a grin when she said it, and she looked like an excited little girl again.

 

“No – your part in the game comes tomorrow, when you interrupt breakfast,” Uncle Alexander said as he smiled at the two new arrivals, and then looked at his watch.  “And speaking of which – Pippa, Hazel and Claire, with deep regret I have to say it is nearly time for you to go.  If you will go with Susan, she will take you upstairs to change – and we will see you on Tuesday.”

 

“Thank you Mister Holderness,” the three girls said in almost perfect unison as Brian and Tommy freed them from the chairs, and then their legs, before they walked away with Aunt Susan.  “Mummy also needs to go and lay out the clothes,” Uncle Alexander said, “Perhaps you can help with that, Anne?”

 

“Of course,” Mum said as we both stood up, and she led me to the room upstairs where they had changed at the start of the day.  As we went in, she closed the door and then looked at me.  “I forget sometimes how much you are growing up,” she said quietly, “How are you coping?”

 

“Surprisingly well,” I said as I found six sets of pyjamas, and laid them out, pinning a note with a name to each of them.  “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be – although I’ve got to admit, the thought of trying to sleep like that...”

 

“It could be worse,” Mum said, and I knew what she was talking about.  “Jennifer Craig is far stronger than she looks, isn’t she?”

 

“That she is,” Mum said quietly.  “What about Eddie?  Is he behaving himself?”

 

“He’s a perfect gentleman,” I said, and then I saw the way Mum was looking at me.

 

“Really?  So the blush is because...”

 

“He gave me a kiss earlier, that’s all.”

 

“Oh,” Mum said quietly as she put on a shelf next to the other six sets one of my nightgowns, “Maybe we really do need to have the talk with him...”

 

“MUM!”

 

“All right, all right,” she said with a smile, “Come on – the younger girls will be going.”

 

We left the room and walked back down the stairs, where Eddie was waiting with Pippa and the twins.  “Thanks for having us today,” Pippa said as she and the other two walked out of the front door, and Mum went back into the dining room.  I heard Hazel say to Claire “I wonder if Mum will tie our arms like that next time we play...” before they were out of earshot.

 

“Well,” Eddie said as he looked at me, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.  Apparently a picnic may be in the offering?”

 

“Don’t ask me – the man they call Jay is in charge,” I said, thinking of the part Uncle Alexander had played all day.  “But I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“Count on it,” Eddie said as he glanced round, and then kissed me – properly this time, without the covering on my mouth.  I have to say...

 

I have to say...

 

“See you,” Eddie said as he walked out of the door, leaving me in somewhat of a daze.  I walked back into the dining room, and sat down, oblivious to the fact the conversation had stopped and all eyes were turned on me.

 

“Something you want to share with us, Sis,” Alicia said, and I shook my head, saying “No – so who goes first?”

 

“Youngest first,” Uncle Alexander said as Bobby and Colin untied Patty and Rachel from the chair, removing the ropes from their legs and helping them to stand up.  As they did so, he took four more plastic ties and secured the wrists of Suzie, Cassie, Alicia and Jenny behind the chair back, while I stood up and started to clear some of the plates up.

 

We watched as the Terrible Twosome were escorted out of the room, before Grandmother said “Sit down for a minute, Angela.”  As I did so, she turned to the other four, who were wriggling their arms, and said “So far, so good.”

 

“It’s wonderful,” Cassie said as she looked round the table, “Thanks, thanks all of you for allowing us to do this.”

 

“Well, it is a little unusual – but I really do wish you would re-consider the ropes for tonight.  I think you would be more comfortable without that extra band.”

 

“Lady Holderness,” Jenny said quietly.”

 

“Please, Jennifer, it is Lucinda.”

 

“Well – I know it sounds strange, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it was a part of that weekend, and we – well, we don’t mind it too much.”

 

“Really?”  Aunt Susan looked at Uncle Alexander, who said “Oh don’t drag me into this.  I know what you’re talking about, but I also know the rules Jennifer laid down, so let’s just stick to that for now.”

 

“Very well – but I don’t want it to happen again after tomorrow, all right?”

 

“Yes Mum,” Suzie said, but I saw the grin on her face as she said it.

 

“Aunt Susan is right, Suzanne,” I said as I looked at her, the smile disappearing.

 

“I don’t see what the fuss is about,” Mary said as she looked at me, “Surely it just keeps the arms more secure?”

 

“You’ll find out – tomorrow,” Jenny said, making all four of them laugh as Bobby came back down.

 

“You turn,” he said as he untied Cassie and Suzie from the chair and released their legs, and then escorted them upstairs, their wrists held behind their backs with the plastic strips.

 

“For tonight,” Uncle Alexander said after they left, “If you wish, Cathy and Mary, we can bind and tape gag you, but not in the same way as the other girls.  They have experienced it – you have not, but we want you to feel part of the game for now.”

 

“That sounds good,” Cathy said as I picked up the dishes, and started to take them through to the kitchen.   Mum and Aunt Susan helped as well, before Uncle Alexander put his head around the door.

 

“Susan, I need your help in the library,” he said, Aunt Susan drying his hands before she left and Mrs Bridges came in.  We took care of the dishes, and then I went through to see Jenny and Alicia being escorted out by Bobby.

 

“Why don’t you two come with me,” Martin said to Cathy and Mary, “Which room will they be in?”

 

“The Blue Room – third door on the left up the stairs,” Grandmother said as they left as well, leaving the two of us alone.

 

“Grandmother,” I said as I sat down, “I was wondering about the other guests.”

 

“Yes,” she said quietly, “I will tell the girls about them tomorrow, once this game has finished and Mary and Cathy have left.  They haven’t met them before, and I think that is a story for another day.”

 

“Fair enough – but what happened to her?  I never expected to see her so...”

 

“Hurt?”  Grandmother then proceeded to tell me exactly what had happened a few weeks ago in Maine – how the girls had been kidnapped, why it was done, the ordeal of Anne Duncombe, and then the final act and how Sara had been injured.

 

When she had finished, I just said “My God...  Are they all right?”

 

“A very good question – I understand you are going to be making a small film with the younger girls on Tuesday?”

 

I nodded, and then Grandmother said “Amy and Dorothy have requested us to send them some of the records of the adventures of the girls this year, to help Heidi and the others – especially Jannifer’s sisters.  If we can include that short video...”

 

“Then it may help them to see it as a game again?”

 

Grandmother nodded.  “Think of it as part of their weekend away – as when we watched the DVD.”

 

Nodding, I turned as Uncle Alexander came in.  “Mummy’s turn to change for bed,” he said as he beckoned to me.  “We’ll talk later,” Grandmother said as I followed Uncle Alexander upstairs, and went to wash and remove my clothing.

 

I had to admit, I liked the outfit, and I made a mental note to ask Grandmother if I could borrow it for a party sometime, before I showered and put on a bathrobe.  Leaving the bathroom, Uncle Alexander escorted me back to the changing room, where I picked up the white silk nightdress, and began to change.

 

As I left the room, Uncle Alexander was waiting for me.  “You can guess what’s coming,” he said as he walked me into the next room, and gave me two fresh sponges to hold.

 

“You know,” I said as he began the process of covering and binding my arms, “I am so going to take my sweet revenge on the girls for this.”

 

“Never,” Uncle Alexander said as there was a knock on the door.

 

“Is Angela decent,” I heard Bobby say.

 

“As much as I’m going to be,” I called out as the door opened and he came in.  “Hey,” he said quietly, “Can I ask you something?”

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said as Uncle Alexander started to tie my wrists against my back.  “What’s on your mind?”

 

“Tuesday,” he said as he sat on the bed, watching me as my arms were tied to my side below my elbows, “You are going to be doing something with the younger girls, right?”

 

“That’s the plan – why?”

 

Bobby actually blushed as he said “Well, I was wondering if you would help Colin, Martin and me with something.  In return, you get Brian to help you.”

 

“Intriguing – what have you in mind?”

 

Bobby smiled and started to tell me....

 

 

 

 

 

I was still smiling as the white silk gag was tied over the band of tape that covered my stuffed mouth, and Mum tied my arms to my side above and below my chest.  I tried not to look at the way my chest was forced out, or the way the ropes rubbed under it, as I was walked down to the library, joining the others there.

 

Patty and Rachel were in one piece white sleepsuits with red polka dots, Cassie and Suzie in light blue and green pyjamas, while Jenny and Alicia were in long sleeved nightdresses.  All of them were tied and gagged as before – as was I when Uncle Alexander sat me down and tied my sock covered ankles together – Mum had already tied my legs below my knees upstairs.

 

As for Mary and Cathy, they had on vest tops and shorts, their wrists tied together in front of them and then to ropes around their legs below their knees, their ankles bound in the same way.  They had strips of the white microfoam tape over their mouths, but that seemed to be all.

 

“Now then,” Grandmother said as she sat down, the others around the room, “Let me tell you of the time the Holderness Shadow came to the rescue of Desmond’s mother and sisters...”

 

“The year was 1968 – Desmond had gone into town with his father for some reason, leaving Clare and Olivia at home with their mother.  They would have been about ten and eleven at the time, I reckon.

 

“Now, it was early spring, and the girls had just returned from their school, so both were wearing their uniform – a white blouse with a small collar, a heavy blue jumper, a pleated grey skirt that came to just below their knees, white socks and black shoes.  As for Lady Pauline, she had been at a function in the town, and was wearing the appropriate dress for the occasion.  This was, I believe, and Argyle print sheath dress with short sleeves, a thin red belt and a matching pair of shoes.

 

“Anyway, the girls had just returned from school, and called out for their mother, but when they got no answer they went into the kitchen, to see if they could get a snack from Mrs Dobson, who was the housekeeper at the time.  She was not there, so they helped themselves to a biscuit and a glass of milk, staying there to eat them, before they started to make their way to their rooms to do their homework.

 

“They were stopped, however, by a man wearing a suit, pointing a gun at them and ordering them into the library.  As they walked in, they found Lady Pauline and Mrs Dobson sitting there, their hands behind their backs, and cords visible around their ankles.  They also had scarves tied between their lips, and some sort of cloth sticking out from under them.”

 

The girls all mumbled sounds as they heard that.  Given the current binding of all bar two of them, it seemed faintly ridiculous they would accept this, but Grandmother went on.

 

“There was another man in the room, this one carrying a shot gun, and he told the two girls to sit down and put their hands on their heads.  Lady Pauline watched as the second man followed them, and first pulled Olivia’s hands behind her back, tying them together with more of the cord he had used on her.  He had crossed her wrists, and passed the thin rope around and between them, making sure they were tightly held together.

 

“After Claire had received the same treatment, he then knelt in front of them and bound their ankles, the white cord hidden against their socks, before pushing a folded handkerchief into their mouths and using two of their father’s ties to hold that in place.

 

“It transpired they were – well, colleagues of a man about to stand trial at the Old Bailey for murder, and they thought holding the family of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice would make sure their friend did not receive the appropriate sentence.

 

“The four of them watched the sun set through the windows over there, the two men watching them the whole time, before one of them turned on the radio.  After it had warmed up, they could hear the news bulletin start – informing them of the guilty verdict and the sentence that had passed down to their friends.

 

“I remember your Great Aunt Olivia describing the chill that ran through her, as the man raised the shotgun and levelled it at her – and then the room fell dark.  From the corner of her eye, she swears to this day she saw a man like shape moving, and then there was a blinding flash as the gun was discharged.  Lady Pauline screamed out, but both Olivia and Claire let her know that they were all right, while the sobbing of Mrs Dobson told them she too had not been hit.

 

“When the lights came on, as mysteriously as they had gone off, the two men were unconscious on the floor, the gun lying to one side.  Lady Pauline brought her hands round, the rope no longer holding her wrists together, and pulled the gag from her mouth before hopping over and freeing the girls.  They then freed Mrs Dobson, while Lady Pauline went to call the police.

 

“Later that night, the girls described to their father what they thought they had seen.  Taking them by the hands, he walked them to the first portrait in the corridor outside, and showed them the picture of Horatio Holderness.  Olivia still to this day tells of her father gripping her hand even more tightly, and whispering ‘Thank you’ to him.”

 

I could see the others listening, and the fact that Patty and Rachel were starting to yawn.  “I think,” Uncle Alexander said “It is time for bed.  “Form a line and we’ll take you up.”

 

The group managed somehow to stand and start to hop to the door, as Uncle Alexander led the way.  One by one they sat on the bottom of the stairs and pushed themselves up, waiting at the top of the stairs until we had all ascended.

 

“I’ll take Mary and Cathy,” Grandmother said as the two girls hopped to the far end of the corridor, and Uncle Alexander opened the door to Patty and Rachel’s room.  They hopped in and then lay on their sides on the bed, facing each other as Uncle Alexander tied their ankles to the foot of the bed.

 

“Gddntgrls,” I said as they nodded to me, and Uncle Alexander turned the lights off.  We then went to Suzie and Cassie’s room, where Bobby and little Brian did the honours, Brian copying Bobby.

 

In Alicia and Jenny’s room, it was Colin and Martin who bound their ankles to the foot of the bed.  They each kissed the girls on their foreheads and then closed the door, saying “come on – we need to sort out Tuesday” as they went downstairs.

 

“In here,” Uncle Alexander said as we went to my room, and I lay down on my right side, watching him as he tied my ankles to the foot of the bed.  “I’ll need to wake you early to sort out the outfits for tomorrow,” he said as he stroked my head, “so sleep well.”

 

Turning off the light, I looked at the digital display on my clock – it was only nine o’clock, no way was I.....

 

 

 

 

“Good morning.”

 

I opened my eyes to see Grandfather standing there, holding a cup of tea in his hands.  As I looked at the display on the clock, I saw it was 5:30 in the morning – and yet I felt as if I had slept for twelve hours.

 

He started to untie me, and as I felt the ropes removed from my arms I let out a huge sigh of relief.  I had slept so soundly it hardly bothered me at all, and yet the ropes did have a certain effect on me...

 

“I suggest you have your tea,” Grandfather said as he removed the gag, “and ten come and join your grandmother in the changing room.  She will show you their outfits that have been selected for today.”

 

“What about Mary and Cathy,” I said once I had worked the stiffness out of my mouth, and taken a sip of the tea.

 

“They will be allowed to sleep on, and join you later – the others all fell asleep quickly, but they stayed up and tried to talk for a while.”  Grandfather then left me, to do what was necessary, before I slipped a dressing gown on and went to the end room.

 

“Good morning, my dear,” Grandmother said when I came in.  She was wearing an old grey dressing gown, and was searching through coat bags.  “Now, I will hand you the outfits, and you must label them as before.”

 

Nodding, I found some paper and pins, and then waited as Grandmother folded the clothes and handed them to me.

 

The first outfit she handed me was for Cassie, and it was a white short sleeved dress with red and green flowers on it.  There was a red band around the dress at her chest, with a little bow at the front, and I could see the pleated skirt would cover her knees.  It also had a matching bolero jacket, which I placed on top of the dress, along with underwear and a pair of white ankle socks.  A pair of black shoes with little heels completed her clothes.

 

Suzie was also given a floral dress, with a matching short jacket, but this was on a cream coloured background, and unlike Cassie’s hers had little bows on the shoulder straps and no sleeves.  The jacket was also sleeveless, but instead of socks Grandmother gave me a new pair of pantyhose and a pair of red shoes.

 

“Time she and some of the other girls learned to wear them,” she said as I folded and pinned Suzie’s name to the clothes with a pair of white gloves, before she handed me another outfit.

 

“This is for Patricia,” she said as she handed me another sleeveless dress, this one with horizontal red strips around it and a little bow under the collar.  I laid out underwear, white socks and white gloves for her as well, and a pair of black shoes.  For Rachel, there was yet another sleeveless dress.  This one had a white top, and a black and white checked skirt with pockets.  The front of the top and the collars were also checked, while she too had a pair of white gloves, and some tights.

 

 

Then it was the turn of the two older girls, and I have to say that between them Miranda and Grandmother had picked outfits that showed their maturity – well, what they had.  For Alicia, Grandmother had picked a sleeveless sundress, made of off white material with red and orange stripes, a red belt and a frilled front with red edging.  The dress had a white collar, and she also handed me white gloves, tights and black shoes.

 

As for Jenny, Miranda had found a red dress with a white collar and cuffs on the elbow length sleeves, and red shoes.   Grandmother handed me tights and underwear, before she said “And, once they are fed and changed, you will wear this – I wore it when I was dating Desmond, and we went dancing.”

 

“Grandmother,” I said, wide-eyed as she held up the green dress.  It also had elbow length sleeves, and a straight collar at the top, a tapered waist and a skirt that flowed to the knees.

 

“I think you will look wonderful in it,” she said as she laid it out, with underwear, tights, a matching pair of shoes and white gloves.  “But for now, you are needed downstairs to help with breakfast.  I think you will find the boys down there already.”

 

Nodding, I left the room and walked down the stairs, joining Grandfather, Uncle Alexander, Bobby, Colin and Martin in the kitchen.  “Good morning, mummy,” Bobby said as he looked at me, “How did you sleep?”

 

“Like a log,” I said as I poured myself a cup of orange juice.  They were dressed again in the boiler suits, while Mrs Bridges was starting to cook some breakfast bacon and eggs.   “I should not have, but I was so tried that after I put my head down, the next thing I saw was Grandfather waking me.”

 

“So I understand the girls will be going for a walk to the lake later,” Grandfather said as Bobby and Colin left the room for a moment.

 

“I do whatever Jay tells me,” I said as I winked at Uncle Alexander, before I heard the door opening and I saw Eddie come in.

 

“Good morning,” he said as he accepted a cup of coffee, “so what is on the itinerary for today.”

 

“Find out with the others,” Uncle Alexander said as Patty and Rachel hopped in, sitting themselves at the table and waiting as the bossy tied their waists in place, and then released their arms.  I sat and watched as Cassie and Suzie were brought in, and then Jenny and Alicia.  The two older girls looked flushed, but as they moved their arms and started to talk amongst themselves.

 

“So what did you dream of, Cassie,” Patty said as she looked at her cousin, “Sleeping in the strong arms of Lord Robert?”

 

Cassie actually blushed, but said nothing as Suzie said “I dreamed a big cuddly teddy bear had wrapped me in its arms and kept me warm all night...”

 

“Was it a grizzly,” Martin said as he took a bowl of cereal from me,  but the look from Alicia was enough to silence him.   “Now then,” Grandmother said as she sat down, “the game continues until this evening, but Dinner tonight will not involve ropes, gags or anything like that.  I wish to describe what is going to happen for the rest of the week, and there is someone coming tonight I would like you to meet.”

 

“Someone who’s already here,” I thought to myself, as I ate my cereal, and then helped to hand out the bacon and eggs.

 

“Who is it, someone famous,” Rachel said as she dipped a piece of bacon into the yolk of her egg, and then put it in her mouth.

 

“An friend of the family,” is all Grandmother said as we sat and ate and talked, and passed the time, before I started to gather up the breakfast plates and Uncle Alexander said “All right then – youngest first, I think.  Take Patty and Rachel up to wash, change and get ready,” he said as he looked at Bobby and Colin.  “Martin, rouse the team will you?”

 

“I’ll see you later,” Eddie said as he followed the boys out, leaving us to talk after Uncle Alexander had secured the wrists of the other four with plastic ties.

 

“I have to say,” Alicia said as she looked at me, “You look very awake today, sis.  Something happen last night you want to talk about?”

 

“Depends,” I said with a smile, “on whether or not you want to talk about what you and Martin were doing yesterday?”

 

I had to laugh as Alicia suddenly went a deep shade of red, but before Jenny could start teasing her I said “or what you and Colin were doing – not to mention Cassie and Bobby.”

 

“OH yes,” Mrs Bridges said as she looked at the four of them, “Do tell...”

 

Before they could be further embarrassed, however, the door opened and Mum walked in with Mary and Cathy.  “Have a seat and eat,” she said as the others looked at her, “You can be bound after you have eaten, but don’t get the clothes dirty...”

 

“Come on – these onesies cost far too much,” Cathy said as she sat down.  She was wearing a pink one piece sleep suit, with a white front, while Mary had on a tiger patterned one.

 

“So what’s the idea with the hands,” Mary said as she sat down and Mrs Bridges gave them a plate of cooked food.

 

“Part of the game – we go up one by one, get washed, changed and then tied up for the day,” Jenny said as she looked at them.  “Sleep well?”

 

“Like a log – what about you girls?  Those ropes looked tight...”

 

“Just you wait and see,” Alicia said as the four others started giggling.  “Then we’ll see who’s laughing.”

 

“None of us will be,” Cassie said with a smile as the door opened and Bobby and Colin came back in, “because we’ll all have the gags in place until dinner time.”

 

“Fair point,” Suzie replied as she and Cassie were released from the chair, and helped to stand up.  “See you girls later.”

 

“I need to take you upstairs now,” Uncle Alexander said to me, “before the terrible twosome are ready for you.”

 

“Oh, so the title has changed hands,” I heard Mary say as I was escorted up the stairs and into the last room of the parade, waiting until Patty and Rachel came in, wearing their dresses, and looking like proper little ladies.  I dried their hair, then Uncle Alexander gagged them before Eddie appeared.

 

“All right girls, you need to come to the library with me,” he said as he winked at me, then helped the two girls to hop back down the corridor and towards the stairs.  I then waited as Cassie and Suzie hopped in, their skirts moving slightly as they did so, and dried their hair before Uncle Alexander wound the tape round their heads, and added a scarf.

 

The really funny thing was, I was looking forward to being bound and gagged myself – I was enjoying this immensely, even as they hopped out and Jenny and Alicia came in.  They looked at each other, and then mumbled through the knotted strips of towelling “Wrrddeemmee.”

 

“Oh I am so going to get you back for this,” I said with a smile as I started to dry their hair.  If only the two of them knew exactly how soon that revenge was going to be...

 

“All right then,” I said as I dried their hair, “Remember your friends turned up unexpectedly today, so keep them in line for Jay and the other men as well, all right?”

 

They both nodded as Uncle Alexander completed their gag, and then Eddie escorted them out.  As he left the room, I saw him look down the corridor and say “Nice look Sis” before he turned in the opposite direction.

 

I saw what he meant when Mary and Cathy jumped into the room, bound as securely as the others. 

 

Mary was wearing a round necked white top, with a dusky pink scarf tied round her neck, and a long pink poodle skirt – literally one, with the white poodle on the front, that came to just above her ankles.  She had a black belt with a silver clasp around her waist, white short socks and pink shoes.

 

As for Cathy, she was grinning from ear to ear over the knotted towelling strip between her lips.  She had on a similar white top to Mary, and a long blue skirt with a picture of a record on the front.  The skirt came down past her knees, but also allowed me to see her white socks and black shoes.  A black belt with white polka dots was around her waist, and a blue scarf was tucked under the belt..

 

They were squirming round in their ropes, and I could see the way the extra chest ropes was starting to affect them.  “You’re going to be asked to jump about a lot,” I said as I dried Cathy’s hair, then tied the scarf in it, the ends sticking out at the top, “so don’t be surprised at what happens.  We can talk about it later tonight, when the other girls have gone to bed.”

 

“Ghhsa,” Mary nodded as I dried her hair, while Uncle Alexander finished Cathy’s gag.  Once he had finished with Mary, he escorted them both out, saying “I’m going to give them the tour of the manor house, and then we’ll join you in the library for some reading.  Right now, you need to get ready.”

 

I nodded and headed for the bathroom, checking all their nightclothes had been put into the basket before I put my head under the shower, taking my time.  If I was going to spend most of today bound and gagged as well, I wanted to be clean.

 

And presentable for Eddie.

 

And the others of course.  At least, that was the idea as I went into the changing room and put my dress on, adjusting the pantyhose and slipping the white gloves on, before stepping out and finding Eddie there.

 

“Certain young men have gone back to bed,” he said as he handed me the sponge balls, “which means I get to sort your hands out, and start to bind you in one room.  Step in here please.”

 

“If you insist,” I said as we went into the bedroom, and he taped my hands up, pulled the socks up and taped them to the sleeves of my dress, and then crossed my wrist behind my back and tied them tightly together.  As he tied the rope around my waist, locking them in place, he put his hands round y, waist and said “I enjoyed our kiss last night.”

 

“So did I,” I whispered back as he started to tie my lower arms to my stomach, “perhaps we can do it again another time?”

 

“I’d like that – perhaps without the ropes next time?”

 

“There’s always Wednesday – if you wanted?”

 

“I’ll be there,” he said as he tied the ropes off turned me round and gave me a soft kiss on my lips.  “But right now, your mother is waiting in the next room, and we don’t want that to be for too long.”

 

I smiled and walked into the room, where Mum was indeed waiting with more ropes.

 

“Eddie has you nicely wrapped up,” she said as she started to tie the rope around my upper arms and chest, “but I get the feeling he would have liked to have done this as well.”

 

“Perhaps – has Dad ever done this for you?”

 

Mum tied off the ropes, then turned and looked at me.  “You would be surprised what your father and I have done from time to time,” she said, and then she lifted her skirt, and showed me the rope that was tied underneath.

 

“Don’t tell the others I told you,” she said with a smile as she dropped her skirt again.  “But you are getting to be old enough to know that sometimes, ropes can be tied elsewhere.”

 

“My...” I said with a blush.  “If that rubs as much as these do...”

 

“A discussion for later – right now, your grandmother is waiting for you to take care of your legs.”  She walked to the door and opened it, shooing me out as I went to join Grandmother in the next room.

 

“Sit down, my dear,” she said as she indicated the bed, so I took my place and watched as she ted my ankles together, then lifted my skirt slightly as she tied my legs.   She then dried my hair for me, letting Uncle Alexander apply the full gag in the next room.

 

As he did this, I realised that there was a routine to this – and that may have been why Jay Edwards and his gang did this to them.  If you establish a routine, an order, then you know what is going to happen, and a lot of the fear would have been removed just by doing that.  Whoever this man was, he had kept them calm for three days just by doing that – and much as I hated what he had done, or the reason why he had done it, I had to admire him for that.

 

I hopped to the top of the stairs, and then in a  somewhat unladylike manner moved myself down, standing at the bottom of the stairs as I heard Uncle Alexander talking...

 

“Now, this is Lady Alicia Holderness, who died on the Titanic.”

 

“Whsshhshthenlywmn,” I heard Rachel say, who like Patty was staring at the portrait through her glasses.

 

“Why is she the only woman?  Well, she sacrificed her life to save another, and we owe her a debt of gratitude for that.”  Uncle Alexander looked at me and nodded slightly – I had heard the story, and I could see Alicia and Jenny nodding as well.  I had heard the story of the nurse whom Lady Alicia had given up the berth on the lifeboat for – and also knew who her descendant was.

 

“Now, here we have my own grandfather.  He flew with the RAF in the Second World War, and was shot down behind enemy lines.”

 

I knew the story, of course, but there was something about the way Jenny and Alicia were looking at his portrait that was – curious to say the least.  What was even more curious was the way Bobby and Colin were looking at it as well, as if they were trying to look for something.

 

“Ah there you are mother,” Uncle Alexander said as he looked at me, “I think it is time for these girls to do a little learning.  After all, it may be a school holiday, but education is important.  Into the library, all of you, and pick a book to read.”

 

Colin went and opened the door to the library as we all jumped in, the skirts of Mary and Cathy rising and falling much more than the rest of us, before we all looked at the shelves and selected a book each.  I was then invited to sit on the couch, as the other girls were helped to lie on the floor, and then their ankles were pulled back and tied to their chest ropes.

 

Patty and Rachel had a Tintin book, while Cassie and Suzie were looking at a Famous Five book.  Alicia, Jenny, Mary and Cathy had a couple of history books propped up in front of them, while Eddie sat with me and turned the pages of the Poirot novel I had indicated.

 

I have to admit, it was an incredibly peaceful way to pass the morning.  The only sound were the occasional giggles from the girls, and one or two little gasps, particularly from Cathy and Mary.  I could tell they were still getting used to the ropes – and unlike the others, who I knew had experienced this before, this was the first time the ropes would have really pulled on them.

 

 

Eventually, however, Eddie closed the book and said to me, “Time to sort out lunch – come with me Mother.”  Uncle Alexander held the door open as I hopped out, and down the corridor.

 

“Well, well, well – that dress really does suit you, my dear,” Grandmother said as she saw me jump in.  “Alexander, Edward, perhaps you can release her and she can help me to set the table for a buffet lunch?”

 

I sighed as the ropes were taken off me, and rubbed my arms with my free hands.  “No – don’t remove the gag, not yet,” Uncle Alexander said, as he and Eddie watched me help to set the table.

 

“So Eddie,” he then said as they watched us, “What are your intentions towards my niece?”

 

“NCLEELSSNDR!”

 

“It’s all right Angela,” Eddie said with a laugh, “I don’t mind.  I think of Angela as a friend first and foremost, Mister Holderness – a very close friend, who I look forward to getting to know better.”

 

“An acceptable answer,” Grandmother said as she smiled at me.  I must have blushed red, because she then said “Perhaps we should have some air in here, to cool my granddaughter down...”

 

“Hfnnksksvrmsh,” I mumbled to myself as the others started laughing, my own embarrassment saved by Bobby and Colin escorting Mary and Cathy in.

 

“The new guests first,” they said as they sat the two girls in chairs, tying them at the waist before removing their upper body ropes and releasing their hands.  They both flexed their hands as Mary said “Whtbbttthgg?”

 

“Only when everyone is seated,” Uncle Alexander said as the boys left, returning with Patty and Rachel. Eventually, all the girls were settled as the boys went round, removing the gags as Uncle Alexander took care of me.

 

“Oh... My... GOD!” Mary said as soon as she was able to.  “Who on earth decided that extra band of rope would be a good idea?”

 

“It happened to us on the weekend,” Cassie said as she started to eat her cold beef.  “How did it feel to you?”

 

“I can’t begin to describe how it felt to me,” Cathy said as she rubbed her arms, then picked up her knife and fork.  “It felt – strange, wrong, and horrible and yet....”

 

“And yet nice at times as well, right?”

 

Both of them nodded as they looked at Alicia.  “You even slept with them – that explains why you are used to them.”

 

“I don’t think we ever get used to them,” I said with a smile.  “What will we be doing after lunch?”

 

Bobby looked up at me, smiled and said “Going to the other location – you’ll like how we are going to get there as well....”

 

“Oh great – blindfolds again,” Cassie said, making everybody laugh as we continued to eat our lunch.  It was really good to see them all laughing and chatting again, as if nothing unusual was going on at all.

 

As the meal finished, however, Uncle Alexander said “right – Mary and Cathy, you get to go and clean up first.  The rest of you, hands behind your backs.”

 

“Oh, do we get our wrists tied as well this time,” Patty cooed as she did as she was asked, “This is exciting!”

 

“Yeah, well, it’s for the last time,” Suzie said as the thin plastic strip went round their wrists, “so make the most of it.”  We watched as Mary and Cathy were led out of the room, and then started to talk about the weather.

 

“It’s not going to rain, is it,” Cassie said as she looked out of the window.

 

“I don’t think so – I think it’s just a little overcast,” Grandmother said as she looked out of the window.  “Nevertheless, we shall take precautions – Susan, will you help me please?”

 

 

“Of course,” Aunt Susan said as she went off, and Bobby and Colin came back.

 

“For the last time,” they said as they untied Rachel and Patty from their chair, released their legs, and then led them out.  “We’ll meet in the hallway,” Uncle Alexander said as they went out.

 

“Help me with the dishes please Ang... Mummy,” Mum said with a smile as she stood up, and we started to collect the plates together.  “Only a few hours to go,” she whispered as I let out a little gasp in the kitchen.

 

“Yeah – but what about you?”

 

“A little longer – we have a special surprise planned for later,” Mum said with a smile as we sorted out the cutlery, and I heard Suzie and Cassie being escorted up.  Once Alicia and Jenny had gone, I went in and sat back down with the others, watching as Aunt Susan carried in a set of travelling capes.

 

“One each,” she said with a smile, “and Uncle Alexander is going to secure you in here.  Use the downstairs toilet if you need to.”

 

I nodded and went to the toilet, stopping for a minute as I saw Bobby and Colin escorting Mary and Cathy to the hallway.  They had been tied and gagged as before, but their outfits had changed,

 

Mary was wearing a white dress, with short sleeves and a square collar, which had a floral pattern printed on it.  The skirt was fitted around her waist, and then flowed out from there to her knees.  A pair of white socks and black shoes completed her outfit.

 

As for Cathy, she had on a blue and white striped dress, with buttons down the front and a little bow tie at her neck.  She also had on white socks and shoes, the rope around her knees just about visible under the skirt as they stood there, light blue scarves covering their mouths.

 

I went and did what I had to do, then came back in as Uncle Alexander was sorting out the ropes.  “Hands first,” he said as he held out the sponges, and slowly and surely secured me again, the ropes gradually restricting me.  His one allowance was for Aunt Susan to tie the ropes around my upper arms and chest, before the doors opened and the girls were hopped in.

 

Each of them was secured as before, as they stood in a line while Aunt Susan and Grandmother put a travelling cape around each of them, Cassie giggling like a schoolgirl as it was fastened around her.  Even Alicia was happy, as their arms were covered.

 

“And now for the blindfolds,” Grandmother said, as each of them had a veiled hat placed on their heads, the veils pulled down over their eyes.  I knew they could see through the covers, but it gave the impression – especially when I was given the same treatment.

 

“Shall we,” Uncle Alexander said as he opened the door, and I led the way, hopping through the kitchen and past Mrs Bridges as we went to the back door.  I then laughed as I saw the line of wheel barrows, each lined with cushions.

 

We were helped to sit in them, and then our ‘drivers’ took their places – Eddie with me, Martin with Alicia, Colin with Jenny, Bobby with Cassie, young Brian with Suzie, Tommy with Patty, Uncle Alexander with Rachel, Grandfather with Mary and Mr Bridges with Cathy.

 

“Not too fast now,” Uncle Alexander said as we were pushed along the ground, our skirts managing to cover our modesty a little as we made our way to the path through the woods.

 

The air was cold, and if it wasn’t for the fact our mouths were covered I suspect we would have seen our breath in the air as we were wheeled down to the woods, and then along the path.  We bumped down the tree covered avenue, stopping for a moment at the familiar white cross. 

 

After the events of the summer, I had a renewed respect for the legend of the shadow, as Rachel said to Uncle Alexander “Whtsshtths?”

 

“A memorial,” he said quietly, “to an honoured ancestor.  Come on – we need to get to the new hideout.”

 

We continued down the path, until we reached the glade by the lake, and stopped in a line.  As the others helped the girls to get out of their transport, and removed their veils, they started to hop across the grass, their skirts flying up and down as their capes moved from side to side, Eddie carried me over to a log facing the lake and sat next to me on it.

 

“So that’s the famous Mausoleum,” he said as he sat next to me, and put his arm round my shoulders, “it looks really peaceful.”

 

“Mmmtsss,” I hummed as I enjoyed his arm around me, and put my head on his shoulder.  It just felt right as we sat there, looking out over the placid water, enjoying the autumn air as a slight mist started to form over the surface of the water.

 

Behind us, I could hear the girls laughing and giggling as they were being chased or teased by the boys – or in the case of Brian and Tommy, probably being chased and taunted by the girls.

 

It was an amazing afternoon, for one where I didn’t do a lot – just sit there, enjoying the peace and the quiet.   Eventually, however, Uncle Alexander said “It’s going to get dark soon – time to get out hostages back so that they can be collected by the man of the house.”

 

“Time to go back,” Eddie said as he lifted me back into my carriage, and pushed me back towards the house, the others following behind me.  Once we reached the house, we were helped out and made to hop back into the library, our cloaks removed as we were all helped to sit down.

 

“Now stay there,” Uncle Alexander said with a smile, “I’m sure someone will be along soon to release you.  Have a nice day.”

 

So we were left alone, as Patty and Rachel started to squirm over the floor, trying to travel as far as they could on their stomachs.  Suzie and Cassie were just sitting trying to talk to each other, while the other four were looking at each other and trying to talk.

 

It was just like a normal Sunday afternoon – but I could not help shaking my head as I watched them carrying on as if there was nothing unusual about nine tightly bound and gagged young women and girls.

 

“Well, at least this time you didn’t hop away.”

 

I looked to the door to see Mum standing there with Aunt Susan.  They had dressed for the occasion as well.  Mum was wearing a white dress with a short sleeved jacket over it, a red floral print on the material.  A thin red belt was around her waist, and the skirt came to just below her knees.  A pair of red gloves was on her hands, and red stilettos on her feet.

 

As for Aunt Susan, she was wearing a white dress with a black floral print, and a cashmere jacket with the sleeves pulled up.  Her shoes and gloves were white instead of red, and both of them had their hair styled for the period.

 

“Game time is over,” Mum said as she started to untie Patty and Rachel, while Aunt Susan went to Cassie and Suzie.  “Go to the toilet, wash up, if you have gloves put them back on, and then come back in here.  Dinner will be ready soon.”

 

“All right Mum,” Suzie said as soon as she could speak, and the four to hem ran off.  They then untied the other four, and as they left they took care of me.

 

“Well, I’m glad that’s over,” I said quietly, “but the outfits?”

 

“It seemed fitting,” Mum said with a smile as Grandmother came in.  She was wearing a red dress, the skirt of which came half way down her lower legs, which had short sleeves and a white collar.  A pair of white gloves was on her hands.

 

“Well, I see you have survived,” she said with a smile, as the younger girls came back in.  “We will be joined by the men folk shortly – and by one other person.”

 

“Oh,” Aunt Susan said as the older girls came back in, “and who would that be?”

 

“Hello.”

 

We all turned to see Sarah standing in the doorway, looking shyly at all of us.  Her dress was a dusty pink, sleeveless with a patterned front and a large pink bow at her neck, and a knee length flowing skirt.  She also had white gloves on her hands and a pair of pink shoes on her feet.

 

“Sarah?  Have you been here the whole time?”

 

“I have – but I’ve been a little under the weather,” she said in reply to Alicia’s question.  “It is good to see all of you, however.”

 

“It’s good to see you as well,” Mum said as she walked over and hugged our guest, although I saw her wince a little as she did so.  The door opened and Mrs Bridges rolled in a trolley with glasses of champagne – and lemonade for the younger girls – on it.

 

“A toast,” Grandmother said as she picked up a glass, “to family – wherever they may be, and whatever happens to us.”

 

“To family,” we all said as we raised a glass, and then took a sip.  “So you have been playing a hostage game,” Sarah said as she sat down, her skirt spreading out over her legs, “Did you have fun?”

 

“We sure did,” Patty said as she sat at Sarah’s feet, “So have you had any adventures since we last saw you?  This is Rachel – you’ll like her, and she likes our games to, and...”

 

“Patricia,” Grandmother said quietly, “There will be plenty of time to talk to Sarah later.”  There was a knock on the door and Grandfather came in, followed by Dad, Uncle Alexander, Brian Carter and the boys.  All the men were wearing dark suits, shirts and ties, while the boys had smart trousers, shirts and ties on.

 

“Very nice,” Jenny said as she looked at Colin, “You brush up well.”

 

“And you look so much nicer when I can see all of you,” Colin said as they hugged, while Martin and Alicia went off into a corner.  Bobby and Cassie sat side by side, while young Brian and Tommy sat with Suzie, Patty and Rachel.  Mary and Cathy just looked at each other and burst out laughing as Uncle Alexander said “Kids – who can tell.”

 

The dinner gong sounded as he said this, and we all made our way to the dining hall...

 

As we entered, Uncle Alexander and Dad pulled back the chairs for Aunt Susan and Mum, waiting for them to remove their jackets and taking them before they sat and pulled their chairs in.  We all had our escorts – Eddie did the same for me, looking particularly dashing in his blue suit and thin tie.  The men then sat opposite, as Mister and Mrs Bridges started to serve the meal.

 

The cold ham and melon was delicious, as Grandmother said “Well, I’m glad you could both stay, Mary and Cathy.  What did you think of the day?”

 

“It was different – and the clothes were fantastic.  Thank you for allowing us to borrow them.”

 

Cathy nodded in agreement to Mary, and then said “Yeah – I wonder if Mum and Mummy may be up for a fifties themed night one night.”

 

“Well, you should ask them,” Alicia said, “especially if you wear those big skirts – what do you call them Grandmother?”

 

“Poodle skirts?”

 

“Why,” Patty said, “because they have poodles on them?”

 

“Strangely enough, that was originally the reason,” Grandmother said with a smile, “but that changed.”  We started to talk about fashions, and other things from her youth, as the starter was finished, the Beef Bourguignon was served and eaten, and then the pudding.

 

“So Rachel,” Cassie said just as she swallowed a mouthful of the apple crumble, “What’s your favourite thing about the Manor?”

 

“Mine’s the attic,” Mary said as she put the spoon down and adjusted her gloves, “Have you been up there yet?”  Rachel shook her head, as I saw Cassie and Jenny giggling, the boys joining in.

 

“I like the woods – they look lovely when they’re all brown, but do you really own the lake as well?”

 

“We do,” Grandfather said, Rachel letting out a soft coo as he said this.  “Wow – you really are rich,” she said as the others started laughing.

 

“Listen,” Uncle Alexander said as he wiped his chin, “It’s a little while until bedtime, so why don’t you go and play in the house for a while.  Tommy, Brian, you take Patty and Rachel, and perhaps Mary and Cathy can show you the attic?”

 

“Can we,” Tommy said as he moved his chair back, then waited for the others as they went out of the room.  As Mrs Bridges closed the door, Eddie started to stand up, saying “Perhaps I should...”

 

“no,” I said quietly, “You should stay Eddie.  It’s only fair you hear this as well.”

 

“Hear what,” Eddie said as he sat back down. 

 

“I am afraid we have told a tiny lie to the youngsters,” Uncle Alexander said, “This game was a game, but we did it to give the girls here a chance to get over their hostage ordeal from a few weeks ago.”

 

“hostage ordeal,” Sarah said as she put her cup down, “What happened?”

 

So Grandfather told them the full story, Eddie sitting back and listening intently.  When he had finished, he looked at me and said “So you had to play the part of Jennifer Craig?  I’m impressed.”

 

“Why thank you, kind sir,” I said as I gave a mock curtsey.  “Actually, I want to talk to her – I suddenly realise just how brave a woman she is.”

 

“Of course she is,” Jenny said in mock indignity, “I’m her daughter and I am the bravest there is.”

 

“Unless Colin’s tickling your feet,” Alicia mumbled, making Colin blush and me laugh.

 

“Still, how are you all feeling now?”

 

“Honestly?”  Cassie put her spoon down and said “I feel fantastic.  I got the chance to play the game properly, and Jay and his men are a thing of the past.”

 

“Perhaps I should meet this Jay Edwards character,” Brian said with a smile, making Sarah laugh as well.  “I’m sure you would charm the pants off him,” she said.

 

“It’s good to see you smile again, Sarah – I know this has been a trying time for you.”

 

Sarah nodded as she looked at Grandmother.  “Yes, well – in a way it’s good to be home.”

 

“Home?  I didn’t know your family came from around here Sarah.  Grandma, why didn’t you tell us?”

 

“Ah,” Grandmother said as she wiped her mouth, “I suppose it is time you and young Cassandra were let in on a little secret, Suzanne.  You as well, Angela – you were not privy to certain conversations a few months ago.

 

“It is a little complicated, but basically Sarah,” Grandmother said as she looked at her, “is Desmond’s niece.”

 

Sarah blushed as she looked round the room, while Cassie and Suzie sat quietly for a few minutes.  I then realised just why Alicia and Jenny had been looking so closely at the portrait of Alexander – there was some similarity between her and Mum.

 

“So you’re a Holderness?  That’s great!!”  Suzie looked at all of us, and then said “but I thought your name was Sidle – Sara Sidle.”

 

“Well,” Sarah said quietly, “I only found out the connection myself a little while ago.  I decided to adopt the name of Holderness, in honour of that connection – so I guess I’m Sarah Holderness now. 

 

“Brian, by the way, is my partner, not my husband – sorry if you got that impression.”

 

“Any more family secrets you wish to share with me,” Eddie whispered in my ear.  I decided not to discuss that weekend – not just yet anyway.   There was another question I needed to ask.

 

“When we were reading earlier, Cassie, you had your legs tied to your chest ropes.”

 

Cassie blushed as Mum said “I thought Jennifer had expressly forbidden that?”

 

“I know Mum did,” Cassie said, “but it happened during the weekend, so I thought it should happen this time as well.  I promise it won’t happen again.”

 

“How did it feel when you were like that?”

 

“Honestly – it felt quite nice and quite scary at the same time.”  Suzie and the others nodded as they said this.

 

“Your mother will be visiting tomorrow night with your father – I suggest you tell her yourself what happened,” Grandmother said, but I could see she was smiling.

 

“That’s a nice watch, Sarah,” Jenny said as she looked at her, “I like the way the face keeps changing from green to pink, then back again.”

 

“It does,” Brian said as he looked at Sarah’s wrist watch, but it was a luminous green on the face again.  “Maybe we need to get it checked.”

 

“It can wait until we get back home – I feel fine, honestly,”

 

“So what happened?  How are Heidi and the girls,” Alicia asked.  I saw a little bit of a shadow pass over Sarah’s face, before she said “They’re fine – they had a bit of a scare recently, but they really enjoyed their trip over here.  Apparently they really liked Haggis after Patty suggested it.”

 

Cassie grimaced as she said “It sounds awful, when she describes it.”

 

“Do yourself a favour,” Jenny said with a smile, “Never ask mum what goes into those hot dogs you love so much.”

 

One thing was abundantly clear to me as we sat and talked – the girls had no fears, no worries, and seemed to have lost any last doubts they had about their ordeal.  If nothing else, the last two days had been a great success – but the yawn I could not stop escaping told me it had left me exhausted as well.

 

“I think Angela is up past her bedtime,” Alicia said with a snigger.

 

“Oh just you wait,” I said, but a warning glance from Bobby, Martin and Colin kept me quiet – for now.

 

“It is getting rather late,” Grandfather said as he stood up.  “In keeping with the times, the ladies may now retire to the library while the men talk a while longer.”

 

“this way, ladies,” Grandmother said as she led the way, and we did indeed move to the library, Cassie and Suzie picking up the book they were looking at earlier while the rest of us sat in the leather armchairs.

 

The conversation passed over many subjects, before the other children came back in.  Grandfather and the others also joined us, as we started to play some card games or read books.

 

“I think it is time for the younger ones to go to bed now,” Grandfather eventually said with a smile, seeing Patty, Rachel and the boys yawning as they stood there.

 

“I think we have to go as well,” Eddie said as he stood up.  “I’ll return the suit in the morning, Your Lordship.”

 

“No problem,” Grandfather said as he stood as well.  “Will you be joining us tomorrow as well?”

 

“I will – perhaps I can return Mary’s costume at the same time?”

 

“That will not be necessary – she may return it when she next comes.  I would like her and Cathy to come on Thursday if possible – I will explain why on the day.”

 

“Thank you, Lady Holderness,” Cathy and Mary said as they stood up.

 

“See you tomorrow,” Eddie said with a wink to me as they went out, and then Mrs Bridges escorted the younger group to their bedrooms.

 

“I’m sorry,” Martin said with a yawn, “but I need to go to be as well.  See you all tomorrow.”  He bowed to Alicia, gave her a little kiss, and then left us, closing the door behind himself.

 

“We’re going to go to bed too,” Cassie and Suzie said as they stretched and yawned, “See you all in the morning.”

 

As the door closed behind them, we all looked at each other – there was something that needed to be said.

 

“Sarah,” Grandmother said quietly, “everyone in the room now knows what happened at the weekend last summer.”

 

“Everyone?”  Sarah looked round the room and said “Everything?”

 

“Well, they know you are the one that saved us with Anne, and they know you are Sara Smite, the descendant of the woman whose husband killed Horatio Holderness.  Jenny, Alicia, Bobby and Colin were all with us at the weekend that Anne helped with.  I want you to know this now, so you know we have no secrets from you.”

 

“And the younger kids?”

 

“Not yet,” Aunt Susan said.  “So I guess we do have to keep one more secret, but amongst us – thank you again.”

 

We all then stood up, and one by one hugged Sarah tenderly, as Brian stood with Lord Holderness.  It was a memorable end to a memorable night.

 

 

 

 

I woke up to the sounds of birds flying through the air, and when I looked at my alarm I saw it was nine in the morning.  Slipping out of bed, I put on my dressing gown and went down, to find Bobby, Colin and Martin sitting round the breakfast table, talking in low voices.

 

“Morning,” I said as I made myself a cup of coffee, “Nobody else up yet?”

 

“I think I heard dark rumblings from the Tornado twins’ room, but nothing definite yet,” Bobby said with a grin.  “So, still up for helping us later?”

 

“What time?”

 

Colin looked at his watch.  “About eleven – they should be up and dressed by then.”

 

I nodded and took a sip from my mug as Patty and Rachel came in, with little Brian and Tommy.  Like the older boys, the two other boys were wearing sweatshirts and jeans.  Patty had on a knee length denim skirt and a white t-shirt, on which was printed a black picture of a dog tied to a tree.

 

Rachel had on a black gypsy skirt with a white lace trim, and a sleeveless white blouse.  “What’s for breakfast – I’m starving,” she said as she sat down.

 

“Cereal and fruit juice over there – Mrs Bridges will bring some milk in for you,” Bobby said as he and the other two stood up.  “See you at eleven, Angie.”

 

“It’s a date,” I said quietly as they went out.  “Morning Cas,” I heard Bobby say, and then Cassie and Suzie came into the room.  Both were wearing knee length white skirts and thick jumpers.

 

“The others are getting up now,” Suzie said as she brought some cereal over.  “Any plans for today, Angela?”

 

“You’ll see,” I said with a smile, “You’ll see...”

 

As we sat and talked, Alicia and Jenny were next to arrive.  Alicia was in a knee length denim skirt and a white blouse, while Jenny was wearing a green smock top over a pleated skirt.

 

 “No jeans or shorts today,” I said as I sipped at my coffee.

 

“Nope – after the last couple of days, we wanted to keep wearing skirts and things,” Cassie said as she helped herself to some Rice Crispies.  “So long as it doesn’t get too cold, we should be all right.”

 

“So have any of you girls got plans for this morning?”

 

“Once Pippa and the twins get here, I thought we could go down to the lake for a while.”

 

“Perhaps I can persuade you to do that after lunch,” I said with a smile, “I need your help with something else this morning.  Willing volunteers, if you will.”

 

“All right then,” Suzie said with a smile, “What do you want us to do?”

 

“Meet me in thirty minutes in the library,” I said as I stood up, “I’ll explain what’s going to happen then.”

 

I had a shower, dried myself off, then put on a slightly more formal outfit than I had considered at first for today – a straight knee length pale blue skirt, and a light blue silk blouse.  If I was going to do this, then I was going to look like a teacher in it.

 

When I walked down the staircase, I was pleased to see Eddie there, smiling as he said “I understand you need a cameraman for today?”

 

“That’s right – I want to do this sort of lesson once and for all, so let’s see if our volunteers have arrived.”

 

Walking into the library, I saw that Pippa, Hazel and Claire had already arrived as well.  Pippa was wearing a blue sweatshirt and grey jeans, while the twins had on matching blue and black smock tops and black leggings.

 

“Hey, you should have said this was a skirt day,” Pippa said as the other girls came in, followed by Tommy and Brian.

 

“Thanks for agreeing to do this for me, girls,” I said as I stood in front of them.  “Eddie, could you start filming please?”

 

The clock was showing ten thirty, as I started to speak.

 

“Hi there – I’ve been asked a few times now if I can teach some of you how to tie someone up properly, and honestly – I’m getting a little tired of repeating the same thing over and over again.  So I’m shooting this film now, to show you both the right way and the wrong way to make sure someone cannot get away.  I have three volunteers here to be the first to be bound – Alicia, Jenny and Cassie, say hi to everyone.”

 

I watched as Eddie turned the camera to the three of them, as they waved and said hello.

 

“I also have three volunteers to bind them – that is Suzie, Patty and Rachel.  Say hello girls.”

 

Eddie filmed them as well, before I said “And watching, to see what they should do, are Pippa, Hazel and Claire, as well as Tommy and Brian Hampton, Colin’s cousin.”  They turned and waved at the camera as I said “Now, before showing you what you should not do, I want to show you the benchmark, the bare minimum that I think is needed to make it difficult for someone to move.  Girls, stand up please.”

 

Jenny, Alicia and Cassie stood up in front of me, their backs to the doors as I said “Now, we starts with the wrists.  Later, I will show you how to make it difficult to use your hands, but for now let’s use a simple technique.  I want the binders to take a length of rope and double it over, and the volunteers to cross their wrist behind their backs.”

 

As they did so, Suzie, Patty and Rachel took a length of rope and stood behind them, Eddie moving to film them.”

 

“Now, you wrap the rope around their crossed wrists, feed the ends through the loop and pull back, then wrap in the opposite direction two or three times.”

 

Eddie filmed them as they did this, the girls looking straight ahead.

 

“Now, separate the ends, and wind then between the arms.  This tightens the ropes, and makes it more difficult to get free.  Finally, tie the knot, making sure it is tight, out of reach of the fingers – on top of the binding is usually a good choice.”

 

Once this had been done, Eddie said “How does it feel” as he filmed the three girls.

 

“Nice and snug,” Cassie said as she put her tongue out, while the three binders selected a longer length of rope.

 

“Now, tying the wrists is not enough – they need to be secured to the body as well.  The easiest way is to wrap some rope around the wrists and their waist, and take the ends between their arms and their back, like this.”

 

“I’m glad you taught me how to do this,” Rachel said as she fixed Alicia’s wrists to her back.

 

“Yeah – one of the few chances I get to be one up on my older cousin,” Patty laughed as she bound Jenny in the same way.

 

“Now, while this secures their wrists, it also helps to secure their arms.  To do this, take a long length of rope, and start by passing it round one arm, just below the elbow.  Then separate the lengths, and pass it round their stomachs, before passing it round their other arms and back again.  Watch as Suzie demonstrates on Cassie here.”

 

Eddie filmed my little cousin as she tied Suzie’s arms to her body, and then Patty and Rachel copied her.  As they tied the rope off, I glanced at the clock, and saw it was ten forty five.

 

“It is possible to add more ropes, but we will discuss that later.  For now, I will ask the three volunteers to sit down on the couch here.”   I indicated the leather couch which faced away from the door to the room, Eddie continuing to film as they ail walked over and sat down.

 

“Next, bind the ankles in the same way as you bind the wrists, either crossed or side by side.  For today, we will show them side by side.”

 

Eddie knelt and filmed as the three girls had their ankles tightly bound, the rope going between their legs as well.

 

“For additional security, bind the legs below the knees at least.  Most films and shows show the rope above the knees, but if you stand that can slip quickly, so below the knees is better.  Again, make sure to take the ends between the legs to tighten the ropes.”

 

As the three binders did this, I looked at Eddie, who was smiling as he filmed them at work.

 

“Now, this at least keeps them secure.  It does not prevent them moving, but it will make it more difficult.  Having secured the volunteer, however, it will be necessary to silence them.

 

“I will go more into the types of gags available later, but for now let us show you one of the favourites of these girls.  It is a little unusual, but it has great effect when you see it.  Alicia, Jenny, Cassie – open your mouths please.”

 

“Talk to you later,” Jenny said before Patty pushed a folded handkerchief into her mouth.  As the other two allowed this to happen, I said “The folded cloth serves two purposes – it keeps the tongue on the floor of the mouth, and it also muffles sounds more.  To speak, you need three things – the tongue to move, clear sounds to come from the mouth, and the ability for the lips to form shapes.  We have limited two of those – and now for the third.”

 

I handed the three girls a roll each of flesh coloured plaster, and said “Now, tear off a long strip and smooth it down over the lips of your captives.”

 

“With pleasure,” Suzie said as she gagged Cassie.  The three of them were so intent on doing the tape they did not see the door to the room opening and closing.  Pippa glanced over, and looked at me, but I gave my head a little shake.

 

“There now,” I said as Eddie panned the camera along the line of trussed and gagged girls.  “The benchmark against which to measure the other things I wish to share with you today.  How do you feel girls?”

 

“Mffnfnn,” Jenny said as she mumbled through her gag, Alicia nodding as well.  Cassie said something like “Wnnttmrrps,” but I chose to ignore that for just a moment.

 

“Now, I need to tell all of you a big secret – move forward a little.”  I knelt on the floor in front of the couch as the three of them sat up and looked at me.

 

“The thing is, when you have a willing victim like this, bound so that it is difficult to move and unable to speak clearly, it makes one thing a lot easier.”

 

“Hhh,” Alicia said as she looked at me, “Whstshtht?”

 

“To surprise them.”

 

“Which is our cue,” Bobby said as he, Colin and Martin jumped up from behind the couch and pulled a clean pillow case over the heads of the three volunteers.

 

“Whtthhhhh!!!!”  I had to stop myself from laughing as Alicia screamed through her gag, before the three boys came round and helped their now blindfolded captives to stand up.

 

“My apologies, sis,” Bobby said as he looked at Suzie, “but we need to borrow these three for a few hours.  We’ll have them back by dinner time.  Come on, the car is waiting.”

 

Eddie was sitting down, laughing his head off as the boys made Alicia, Cassie and Jenny hop out of the room, Suzie and the younger girls watching them with their mouths open.  Eventually, Suzie looked at me and said “Where are they...”

 

“Honestly, Cuz, I have no idea.  They just asked if they could borrow them for the day, and I felt a little payback on my part was in order.”

 

“Oh that was absolutely precious,” Eddie said as he stopped laughing, “Mary is going to die laughing when I tell her about this....”

 

“Anyway,” I said with a smile, “Let’s carry on with the filming.  I need three more volunteers – Suzie, Patty and Rachel, will you help with the rest of the lesson?”

 

“Sure,” Patty said as she sat on the couch, while I handed Pippa a length of rope, Hazel a roll of duct tape, and Claire a roll of white tape.

 

“We now move on to the don’ts of tying someone up.  When you see it on film or in a television program, often you see the poor captive with their hands secured in front of them.  I want you three girls to bind the wrists of our volunteers using the material you have been given.”

 

Pippa crossed Suzie’s wrists together in front of her and tied them with the rope, making sure she cinched it and tied the knot out of reach with her fingers, while Hazel taped Patty’s wrists together, then wrapped the tape down around her hands.  Claire put Rachel’s hands together, and then wrapped the white tape around them several times.

 

“You can see Hazel has taped her victim’s hands as well – why did you do that Hazel?”

 

She looked up, smiled and said “So she can’t use her fingers to try and unravel the tape.”

 

“Very good Hazel – how does it feel to all three of you?”

 

“Tight,” Patty said as she looked at her silver glove, “but not impossible to get out of.”

 

“Why not, Patty?”

 

“Well, I spent days with my hands in tape, socks and tape, so this is more comfortable.  But they forgot to do something?”

 

“And what’s that?”

 

Patty simply raised her hands to her mouth and started to pick at the edge of the tape with her teeth, while Suzie did the same thing with the knotted ends of the rope.  Rachel looked to the side, and started to rub her taped wrist on the edge of the couch.

 

Their methods differed, but before long all three of them were free.

 

“And that is why it does not work,” I said to Eddie as he filmed me, “unless you also gag them, or secure their wrists to their legs, then they will free themselves given a chance.  So first lesson – when tying wrists, always tie them behind their back.”

 

“Lesson noted,” Eddie said as the door opened and Mrs Bridges brought in a tray of drinks.  “I thought you would be thirsty,” she said as she set it down.  “Lunch will be at one o’clock.”

 

“Great,” I said as I picked up a drink, “Just gives us time to discuss gags.”

 

Eddie started filming again, as I said “Now, when it comes to gags, film and television will have you believe a scarf over the mouth or a single piece of tape will stop you talking.  Before we discuss that – girls please secure the wrists and ankles of our willing volunteers – properly this time.”

 

As I watched, the twins and Pippa bound the wrists of Patty, Suzie and Rachel with rope, making sure to cinch it this time, and then to cross and bind their ankles in the same way.  They also tied their wrists to their backs with rope around their waists.

 

“Now, to illustrate what I mean, I want you to fold a scarf and tie it over their mouths, as you see in a movie.”  Once they had achieved this with three bandanas, I said “Right – my three test subjects will now show how easy it is to get that gag off.  Girls?”

 

It took Suzie all of thirty seconds to work the scarf off her face by moving her chin, while Patty but her mouth near Suzie’s hands to enable her to pull the scarf down.  Rachel leaned on the arm of the couch and used that instead.

 

“So, first lesson – those gags, which are called ‘Detective Gags’ are ridiculously easy to remove if that is all there is.  However, that is not the whole story.  On their won, they do a very poor job of keeping someone quiet.  On their own, in fact – Pippa, if you will replace Patty’s gag?”

 

Once Pippa had tied the gag, I said “Patty, please say Hello and good morning.”

 

“Hllondgodmornkink.”

 

Eddie had to stop for a moment while he ceased laughing, then I said “Hazel, Will you please tie your scarf into Rachel’s mouth, as a cleave gag?”

 

Rachel opened her mouth and allowed Hazel to tie the scarf around her head, closing her lips as she did so.  “Now Rachel, will you sat Hello and Good Morning for me?”

 

Rachel nodded, and said “Hlllndgddmrng.”

 

“Now, that muffles it more, because there are three things you need for a gag to work – to stop sound coming out of the mouth, to prevent the tongue from working properly, and to stop the lips moving.  The first gag does the first, but not the other two.  The cleave gag stops the tongue working, but the other two are not stopped.  The first part of an effective gag has to be the stopping sound getting out, and the tongue moving.  Claire, please fold your scarf and put it in Suzie’s mouth.”

 

After Claire had done that, Suzie nodded and said “Hlllndgdmrning?”

 

“Very good, Suzie – the tongue cannot move, and the sound is muffled.  All that remains is the lips not moving.”  I tore off a length of silver duct tape and pressed it down over Suzie’s lips, then said “there we are – properly gagged, right Suzie?”

 

We all watched as Suzie worked her mouth from side to side, and then pushed the tape off her mouth as she pushed the cloth out of her mouth with her tongue.  “Not quite,” she said with a smile, “because one strip of tape is not enough.”

 

“Correct,” I said with a smile, “it is not enough, because most tapes do not stick well enough to seal the mouth.  The exception is a medical tape, such as micropore tape.”

 

Claire pushed the scarf back into Suzie’s mouth, then took a roll of white tape and tore a strip off, smoothing it over Suzie’s mouth.  “Thtsbbtrrrr,” she mumbled quietly, as I said “Of course, to be sure, the tape should be wrapped round the head.  Hazel?”

 

“With pleasure,” she said as she pushed the cloth into Rachel’s mouth, and then wrapped the tape round her head.

 

“Word of warning – you can do this with medical tape, or a bandage, because it will not stick to hair, but duct tape will – so if you use duct tape in this way, then cover the hair with a scarf first.”

 

“So I get duct tape,” Patty said as she looked at me.

 

“No – you get to demonstrate the full gag.”  Pippa pushed a hankie into Patty’s mouth, then used the bandana as a cleave gag before wrapping tape round her head.

 

“Of course, use more layers, you muffle the sound more.  Girls, use the available material to keep our models as quiet as possible.”

 

“Hggdddd,” Suzie said as Claire wrapped her mouth in the white tape, while Hazel cut away the white tape, tied a scarf over Rachel’s hair and gagged her with the duct tape.

 

They spent a few minutes trying to talk to each other, before there was a knock on the door and Mrs Bridges came in.

 

“Lunch is ready,” she said as she looked at the girls, so the gags were removed, and we made our way into the dining room.  Brian Carter and Sarah were already there, as were Grandmother and Grandfather, so we all sat round the table and started to eat.

 

“So is that the DVD over with,” Rachel said as she looked at me.

 

“For today, yes – I have something else to take care of, but I need the older girls for that.”

 

“Fair enough – so what are we going to do this afternoon?” Patty said as she looked at the others.

 

“Well,” Sarah said quietly, “Brian and I were going to take a trip out onto the lake later, perhaps we can all go?”

 

“Sounds a good idea,” Grandfather said with a smile.  “I’ll ask Mister Bridges to get the launch so that you can all go over.  Suzanne and Angela have been there before, but I don’t think any of the rest of you have.  All we ask is a little decorum and silence – once you are on the other side, I am sure the young men will give you all the running around you need.

 

“Sarah, I just want to say you are looking a lot better today.  It would appear the country air is doing you the world of good?”

 

“I think being amongst family has provided the greatest help – talking of which, where are Jenny, Cassie and Alicia?”

 

“The boys took them – somewhere,” Suzie said with a smile.  Grandmother looked at Grandfather, who smiled and said “Well, they did ask if I would help them with something.  Mister Bridges took them somewhere, and will pick them up somewhere, and that is all I wanted to know.  They will be back in time for dinner tonight.”

 

“Fair enough,” I said with a smile.  I was sure a full explanation would be coming – eventually.  I looked at Sarah and said “Have you spoken to anyone in Maine since you go here?”

 

“I spoke to Anne, she’s – as well as can be expected.  She’s going to sort out something for the girls eventually – a get-together is you will.  After that, we will have to see what happens.”  She smiled as she said that, and then said “Did I hear you say that Jennifer was coming over tonight, Lucinda?”

 

“I did indeed – I’m sure you will enjoy meeting her again.”

 

“Will anyone else be coming with Aunt Jennifer,” Patty said.

 

“Apart from your Uncle John?  Wait and see, young Patricia.”

 

And that was it on the subject as we all talked and ate, then went and put on coats and wellington boots for the walk down to the lake.  As we walked, I stayed behind with Sarah, who was carrying a large bunch of flowers, and Brian.

 

“Grandmother told me what happened,” I said as we walked along, Tommy and Brian Hampton chasing the girls in front as Eddie kept an eye on them.  “I just wanted to say thank you – for then and for last summer.”

 

I saw a small smile cross over Sarah’s face, before she said “You’re welcome – although trust me, I never want to face a situation like that again.”

 

“Still,” I said as we crossed into the woods, “to allow that to happen to you, to save the kids...”

 

“Some of those kids are family members as well, in a distant way,” Brian said quietly.  “It’s almost as if we are all connected in some way.”

 

“What about you, Brian – you’re Australian, so why are you involved in all this?”

 

Brian looked at me, and said “I just felt drawn to Sarah – if that makes sense.  Still, somehow – and don’t ask me how – this feels as if I am home as well.”

 

“Where does your family originally come from, Brian – you’re not a Native Australian, after all?”

 

“No, I’m not one of The People,” Brian said with a smile, “Maybe I need to dig into the family archives a little bit, see if I can trace my ancestry as Sarah did.”

 

“Why not?  You never know what you’ll discover,” I said as we passed the white cross, and onto the glade.  Mister Bridges was waiting with the launch, taking us over the lake to the island and...

 

“What is this,” Rachel and the others said as we stood in front of the marble building.

 

“Well,” Suzie said quietly, “it’s our family graveyard.  Come on in, I’ll show you around.”

 

As they went in, Eddie and I went with Sarah and Brian to the side of the building, where there was a simple white cross in the ground, surrounded by flowers.

 

“Hello,” Sarah said as she knelt and laid the flowers on the ground.  “I just came to say thank you – for everything.”

 

“So is this the grave of her ancestor,” Eddie said as he stood with me, and I realised he had his arm round my shoulder.

 

“It is,” Brian said as he stood with us.  “The links go back over centuries, if you look carefully enough.”

 

We watched Sarah as she stood up, and then walked back over.  “Hey, are you sure you’re all right,” Brian said as he walked to her, “You look a little pale.”

 

“I’m fine,” she said with a smile, “just felt a little dizzy when I stood up.  What are the others up to?”

 

“Hopefully showing some decorum,” I said quietly as we walked back round, and then joined them in the launch.  Once we were on the other side, we allowed them to play in the dale, with the proviso that Suzie had them back up to the house in an hour, and made our way back along the path to the manor.

 

As we walked up the garden path, I saw two women standing talking to Grandmother.  I recognised them both – the tall, thin brown haired woman, dressed in a white jumper and long gypsy skirt with a shawl tied over her shoulders, her black leather boots just visible, and her friend, tall, with longer lighter brown hair, over a cream coloured jacket which matched her tailored pants.  The heels of a pair of brown boots could be seen, and as she turned to look at us I saw her brown top under the jacket.

 

“Hello Angela,” she said with a smile, “It’s good to see you again.”

 

“Good to see you as well, Jo.  This is Sarah and Brian, and...”

 

“Eddie Holmes,” he said as he grasped the hand held out to him, followed by Brian.  Sarah, however, was looking at the woman with grandmother, and said quietly “Hello, Cassandra.”

 

“Call me Cassie – everyone does, and you have more right than most,” she said as she hugged Sarah.  “Jo, this is not just any Sarah – this is THE Sarah.”

 

Jo looked at Sarah, and said “Oh – THAT Sarah.  In that case, I have one thing to say to you?”  We all watched as Jo literally lifted Sarah off the ground, and said “Thank you – thank you for all you did.”

 

“Sarah,” Grandmother said, “Allow me to introduce Captain Jo Frost – the partner of Cassandra Craig.”

 

“Oh, now I see it,” Eddie said as he looked at Cassie senior, “You’re Cassie’s aunt, right?”

 

“Correct – and you must be the young man Lucinda was telling us about.  Come along in – Jennifer and Anne are trading baby stories at the moment.”

 

We made our way into the library, where Mum and Jennifer Craig were sitting.  Andrew was crawling around the floor, while little June and David were lying on a playmat, reaching up to a mobile above them and gurgling away.

 

 

“There you are,” Jennifer said without looking as the door opened, “Anne and I were just...”  She stopped as she looked up at Sarah, then without a word got up, walked over and hugged her.

 

“Careful,” she said as she looked at me, “I’m still a little tender around there.”  She rubbed her shoulder as Jennifer looked at her, and said “Thank you – just thank you.”

 

“Why don’t we leave them to talk for a moment,” Grandmother said as she guided me, Brain and Eddie out.  “Angela, my dear, will you help me with some coffee?”

 

“Perhaps we should go and make sure the kids do get back,” Eddie said to Brian, who nodded as they followed us into the kitchen, then headed out of the back door.

 

“Surprised?”

 

“You did say Jennifer was coming for dinner tonight,” I said as we arranged some coffee cups, “but Cassie and Jo is definitely a surprise.”

 

“It was to me as well – but it gives them a chance to say hello, and to talk matters over that others need not hear just now.”  As she put the coffee cups down, she said “You know, there’s something else different about Sarah?”

 

“Oh?  What?”

 

“I’m not sure – still, let’s not worry about that now.”  She opened the door as I carried the coffee cups on a tray, and we returned to the room.

 

As we walked in, I saw Mum and Jennifer talking with Sarah, while Brian Carter had returned and was in animated discussion with Cassie and Jo on some matters.  Laying the coffee cups down, I poured as the other three came over and joined us.

 

“While you’re here,” Sarah said quietly, “Anne Duncombe has asked if it would be possible for one or two of you to do a favour for her.  The girls have been through a rather harrowing ordeal recently, as have some of the mothers, and she feels a few days away for all of them, going through some of the things you all did when she came over, may be beneficial to them.”

 

“Why?” Jennifer asked as she sipped her coffee, “What happened to them?”

 

As Sarah told the story from her perspective, I got a real feeling of the pain that she went through, while Brian sat with her and held her hand.

 

“Anyway,” she finally said, “Anne feels if one or two of you could spare a week, it would be of great help to her as well as the others.  I know it’s asking a lot, but...”

 

“I will come,” Grandmother said immediately, “but I think it would be unfair to ask Jennifer, or Anne, or Connie to come.  Cassie, perhaps you and Jo can get a leave of absence for a few days?”

 

“It would be an honour to return the favour,” Cassie said quietly.

 

“I’ll come too, if that is all right.”

 

“But what about your coursework?”

 

Looking at Mum, I said “I can arrange to take a week off college, if I commit to doing the project work in that time.  I think – no, I feel I need to give something back to the others, particularly Chloe.”  Looking at Sarah, I saw her nod as she said “I know she would appreciate that, if your mother is in agreement.”

 

“Then it is settled – let us know the dates and we will take it from there.”

 

The conversation then moved on to other matters, such as the three babies being introduced to Sarah and Brian, until I could hear a familiar voice from outside the door saying “Come on Martin – just this once I’ll forgive you, but next time...”

 

The door opened and Alicia came in, with Martin looking in over her shoulder.  “Oh – hi Mum,” she said as she looked at us, and took the rather fetching black scarf she had over her hair off.  “We’ve...”

 

“Just got back, I know – You can tell me all about it later.  Right now, the six of you need to go and clean up for dinner.”

 

“Gotcha,” Alicia said, as they turned and closed the door behind themselves.  “Young love,” Cassie said as she shook her head, “Who would have thought it?”

 

“Well, perhaps we should go and get ready for dinner as well,” Sarah said as she and Brian stood up, and left the room.  As the door closed behind them, Jennifer turned to Mum and said “Is she...”

 

“I don’t know – she might be...”

 

“I think she is, but she doesn’t know it yet,” Grandmother said with a smile.

 

“She is what?”

 

All three of them turned and looked at me, before Mum whispered something into my ear.  My eyes must have shot open, as I said “Oh... My.... God.”

 

“Say nothing to anyone until it is confirmed,” Grandmother said with a smile.  “Given her past history, I think that would be wisest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After dinner, the kids went en masse up to the playroom, while the older people stayed round the dinner table to talk.

 

“Jennifer,” I said as I stood up, “Could I have a word with you please?”

 

“Of course, I wanted to talk to you as well,” she said as she stood up, and followed me out into the garden.  It was a warmer night that the last few, as we sat on the bench and looked over the tree line.

 

I was silent for a few minutes, with my hands together, so I was surprised when Jennifer said “I’m going to guess you found it a very intense experience.”

 

Nodding, I said to her “When I heard about it not being a game, I realised just how brave my sister and the others were, but the thing I did not know – could not know – was just how brave you were.”

 

“Bravery is Cassie and Jo’s department,” Jennifer said as she sat back and looked at me, “I just did what any mother would do – look after her charges and keep them safe.”

 

“Don’t sell yourself short,” I said as I looked back at her.  “To keep calm, when those armed men were watching you the whole time...”

 

“Let me tell you a story,” Jennifer said.  “Just before my wedding, Cassie and Connie went a night out with me and Jessica to a nightclub.   While we were there, Cassie and I stepped out for a cigarette.”

 

“I didn’t know you smoked?”

 

“Only on rare occasions now – anyway, while we were out two men started robbing the bar, and we watched from outside.  Cassie sent me to get the police, and then went in and stopped the robbery.  For a long time, I thought she was the brave one and I was the coward.  It took me a long time to realise something.”

 

“What?”

 

Jennifer looked over the sky at the setting sun, then said “Bravery is something that takes many forms.  For Cassie, it’s a physical bravery, but for me it was trusting her not to let Jess and Connie be hurt.  It also involved her trusting me to go and get the police, and not to get into a panic.”

 

Looking directly at me, she then said “That weekend – and the times before – my first and only thought was doing whatever it took to keep the kids safe.  Even If it meant being involved in securing them, or gagging them, or being restrained myself, I had to do it for them.  I think you understand that now.”

 

I nodded, before she said “Some day, you will have children of your own, and you’ll realise just how true what I am saying is.  Until then – you had a taste of it, and thank you for that.”

 

“Jennifer?”

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“Those chest ropes...”

 

“Ah yes,” she said with a smile, “I was wondering when you were going to ask about them.”

 

“I know how they made me feel – my God do I know how they made me feel – but why did you agree to all the girls having them there?”

 

“I didn’t at first – I understand from Anne the conversation you had on Sunday night was very similar to the one I had on the Saturday lunchtime.  But you also realised something else, didn’t you?”

 

I nodded, and said “You needed them to follow the same pattern, the same order, or else they would get frightened.  More than that, Patty and Rachel were following the lead of Cassie and Suzie – so if they asked for it, the terrors had to do it as well.”

 

“I’ll tell Jess you called her daughter a terror if you want,” Jennifer said with a smile, “but essentially yes – I got the feeling even Mister Edwards was against it at first.  But that means you have a second question.”

 

I nodded, and Jennifer said “Patty and Rachel, no.  Alicia and Jenny, yes.  Suzie and Cassie – I don’t think even they know yet, but they will, which is why I set down the rules.”

 

“Then I need to ask your permission to use those double chest ropes for a project I need to finish tomorrow – if that is all right.”

 

“Fine – but no hogties to those ropes.  That’s my golden...”  She must have seen something in my face, as she said “I’ll talk to Cassie about that myself.”

 

“Thanks,” I said quietly.  “You do know my cousin has a real crush on Cassie?”

 

“Oh we know,” Jennifer said with a smile, “and we’ll let that run and see what happens.  Right now, I could do with some coffee.”  She stood up and stretched, but as I stood up as well she turned, hugged me and said “Thanks for being their mummy for two days.  Some day you’ll be a great mother.”

 

I blushed and stammered some sort of thank you, but who knows?  Maybe one day...

 

When we went back in, I was greeted by a chorus of cheers.

 

“It appears that the younger generation are going to Chessington tomorrow,” Alicia said with a smile, “leaving us with Mary and Cathy for you to deal with.”

 

“Sounds like a fun day – wish I was coming.”

 

“No you don’t” Mum said with a smile, “I think you need a break from the youngsters, especially if Lesley is coming over tomorrow.”

 

I had to agree at that – and also because the filming I wanted to do, it would be better if it was the older girls...

 

 

 

 

 

“Come on you lot – we need to go and pick up the others.”

 

I watched from the door of the kitchen as Brian, Tommy and the girls ran out of the house, Mister Bridges following them as they set off for their day at the theme park.  All of them had on fleecy jackets, except Cassie and Suzie, who had on padded gillets over thick jumpers, and all of them had knee length or over the knee skirts.  While Patty and Rachel were running out, I saw that Cassie and Suzie were a little more awkward in the way they walked.

 

“What’s up with them,” I asked Alicia as she came down the stairs.  She was wearing a blue sun dress over a long sleeved white top, a pair of cork sandals on her feet.

 

“They tied their knees together under the skirt,” she said as she walked past, “Wonder how long it will take the others to realise?”

 

Alicia just smiled as she went into the kitchen, me following behind her.  Bobby, Colin and Martin were sitting with my grandparents and Jenny.

 

“So what exactly is it you need us to do today,” Bobby said as I sat down.

 

“Well, yesterday I managed to do some stuff to video on simple ties, and why they don’t work, and gags.  I want to finish off today with going through the different ways of tying someone, to the full works.  I’m hoping Mary and Cathy can help with that.”

 

“Sounds fun,” Mary said as she, Cathy and Eddie came in.  Mary was wearing a brown smock top over grey leggings, and brown Ugg boots, while Cathy had on a pair of denim dungarees over a black rill neck sweater and black ankle boots.

 

“Good,” I said as I bit into and swallowed some toast.  “That should take us up to lunch, and then you’re on your own – I have a friend coming over.”

 

“Well, I guess we need to go and get ready,” Jenny said as she and Alicia stood up, leaving the room as Eddie accepted a cup of coffee.  “Want me to film again this morning,” he said as he looked at me.

 

“IF you can – what about your college work?”

 

“Edward will be spending the afternoon with me,” Grandfather said.  “He has some questions around macro economics he wishes to obtain my view on.”

 

“You’re welcome to it,” I said as I drained my cup.  “Right – library in thirty minutes, everyone.”

 

 

 

 

When I walked in, Alicia and Jenny had joined Mary and Cathy.  They had opted to wear pinafore dresses over silk jumpers  - Alicia had a white dress over a black jumper, Jennifer a denim dress over a red jumper.  They both also had a pair of bedsocks on their feet.  By contrast, the boys were in sweatshirts and jeans.

 

“Now then,” I said as I opened the rope box, and Eddie started filming again.  “We left this at the reasons for proper gags.  Now let’s look at proper use of ropes – the do’s and don’ts, starting with the hands behind the back.   Boys, take care of our volunteers.”

 

I watched as Bobby, Martin and Colin bound the wrists of the four girls behind their backs, with a simple wrap and cinch tie.  “Now, as you see the hands are behind their backs, so they should be unable to get free.  Ladies, prove me wrong.”

 

It was a sight to behold, as Alicia and Jenny stood back to back and worked on each other’s wrists, while Cathy knelt and picked at Mary’s wrists with her teeth.  Once that was loose enough, she managed to wriggle her bottom through her legs and pick at her own ropes.

 

Ten minutes, and they were all free.  “There you go,” I said to the camera, “now let’s see how to prevent any of that happening...”

 

I picked up eight small sponge balls, and handed two to each of them.

 

“The first thing to do is to stop someone using their fingers.  If you squeeze these and make a fist, your fingers sink into the sponge.”

 

As the four girls held their hands out in front of them, squeezing the balls, I then said “To make sure the fingers stay in place, tape over the fists.”

 

Which is what the binders did, before covering their hands in socks and taping the top to their arms.  “It is possible to just cover the hands with socks, but if the sock is worn you can tear it with a finger, so either use new socks, or do this.”

 

“No way we get out of this,” Cathy giggled as the boys then moved their hands behind their back, crossed their wrist and tied them tightly together.

 

“Now, the socks also provide protection from the ropes rubbing the wrists – but we still secure them to the waist with a longer length of rope, taking care to cinch it behind their backs.”

 

Once the four girls had their arms secured, I said “Now, it is important to continue to secure the arms, usually by several bands of rope around the arms and body.  We start with the rope around the stomach and lower arms, as the boys will now demonstrate.”

 

“Enjoying this,” Martin said to Alicia as he tied her arms into place.

 

“Very much so – but you don’t get to do what you did yesterday,” she whispered back to Martin, Jenny indicating the same thing to Colin.  I made a mental note to ask Bobby about that, before saying “now, tell me if you can move your arms much.”

 

“A little,” Mary said as she moved her arms up and down, “but not too much.”

 

“Then we need to make sure you cannot move them at all – for this, we need at least one more band of rope, around the upper arms and shoulders, and then use two smaller lengths under the arms to tighten them.”

 

Once they had been applied, I said “Now, this in itself makes it virtually impossible to move the arms, but it is possible to add an extra band, as I will demonstrate on my sister.”

 

Standing behind Alicia, I tied some rope around her arms and upper body just under her chest, pulling her arms even more tightly into the side as Eddie filmed from a safe angle.  I saw the way it made her clothes tighten on her as I tied the shorter lengths under her arms, and then looked back at the camera.

 

“This will provide extra security, but – and it is a big but – it also means the rope rubs in areas of the body which may be more sensitive than others, particularly in older damsels.  My advice on this is twofold.  First, ask permission of an older person before you even begin to think of doing it.  Second, if you are a boy, find another girl to do it.”

 

I motioned for Eddie to stop filming for a moment, and then looked at the four girls.  “I’m not going to say any more than that on tape, but to you I will say this.  I do know what it feels like, I know how much it both terrifies and fascinates you, and the feelings it can cause within you, particularly when you move.

 

“As you get older, however, those feelings are going to change and differ.  All I want you to do is be aware of that – and of the way it makes you look to others.  Just be very careful – and you,” I said as I looked at Martin, Colin and Bobby, “remember the rules that have been laid down.

 

“Next time.”

 

I then bound Jenny, Mary and Cathy with the extra band of rope, before Eddie started filming and I said “Now, with the upper body secure we turn to the legs.  Girls, sit down.”

 

As they did so, I said “We start with the ankles.  If you wish them to move around after they are bound, keep them side by side, but if not cross them for extra security.  Alicia, Jenny – cross your ankles, while Mary and Cathy put their ankles side by side.  Boys, use the same binding method as you do on the wrists.”

 

Once they had their feet ted together, I told the boys to bind their legs below their knees.

 

“Now, we come to the gag – and I want to show you a very effective gagging method.  We start by taking a scarf or bandana, folding it and placing it in your damsel’s mouth.”

 

“Ready,” the boys said, as one by one the four girls had their mouths filled with folded bandanas.

 

“Now, use a knotted strip of towelling or cloth, and pull the knot into the mouth, tying the ends together at the base of the neck.

 

“Shssgnggltwe?” Jenny mumbled as Colin did this to her, the others getting the same treatment.

 

“Now, wrap tape around their heads – and remember, if using something that sticks to hair, such as duct tape, tie a scarf over their hair first.  Today, however, all the boys will use micropore tape.  They then will tie a folded scarf over the whole gag, to cover the material.”

 

Once my willing volunteers were secured, I said “now, you have a question to ask – to move or not to move.  If not to move, then you need to stop your damsel using her legs independently of her other limbs.”   I picked up two cushions, put them on the floor, and said “Alicia and Jenny, please lie on the floor and put your heads on the cushions.”

 

“Hgdddrfrtnw,” Alicia said as she and Jenny slipped off the couch and lay down, her fears confirmed as Colin and Martin hogtied them, securing their ankles to the chest ropes – the ones below their elbows in this case.

 

“Why not the wrists?  Because it can cause more discomfort to pull on your wrists.  Securing them to the rope around their arms and stomach or upper body makes it more comfortable, and easier to deal with.

 

“Of course, it does nothing to prevent the tickling.”

 

Ignoring the muffled cries of Jenny and Alicia, I said to Mary and Cathy. “Girls, stand up and hop to the door.”

 

They both got onto their feet, laughing at the others as Bobby opened the door, and Eddie filmed them hopping away.  “As you can see, with practice it is relatively easy to move when tied up, but how about going up and down stairs?  Let’s look at the right and wrong way to do it.”

 

When we reached the bottom of the staircase, I said to Mary “Try and jump up each stair – Bobby will follow you up.”  I watched as she made a really good attempt at it, but it took a while.

 

“There is a better way, Cathy?”  She nodded and sat on the second step, using her feet to push herself up one step at a time, Eddie and me following.

 

When we got to the top, Bobby had helped Mary up.  “As you can see, using your feet and bottom is rather less exhausting,” I said as Eddie filmed his panting sister.

 

“Now, going down – NEVER attempt it by jumping down a step at a time – you will miss.  Also, never go backwards – you need to see where it is going.  Two methods – first, to repeat the way Cathy came up.  Mary?”

 

This time Mary slid herself down on her bottom, one step at a time, until she reached the bottom and stood up, turning round to watch.

 

“The second way is to get someone to carry you.”

 

Taking the hint, Eddie handed Bobby the recorder and then lifted Cathy in his arms, the girl giggling as she was carried down the stairs and set on her feet.

 

“OF course, you can secure the damsel to a chair, a bed or something else – but that is for you to discover.  The main thing is have fun, and don’t hurt each other.”

 

Eddie stopped recording, and then burst out laughing.  “You’re going to make a great teacher some day,” he said with a smile as we escorted Mary and Cathy back into the room, letting them sit and watch the tickle torture on Alicia and Jenny.

 

“Having fun, I see.”

 

I looked up to see Sarah and Grandmother standing there.

 

“Yeah – just finished the film,” I said with a smile.  “I’ll add it to the other material later for the disk.”

 

“Good – we may need it,” Grandmother said with a smile.  “Anyway, lunch will be ready in an hour – make sure they are free by then, if you please.”

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, the girls went off with Bobby, Colin and Martin to spend some time in the attic – I wasn’t about to ask what – while Eddie went with Grandfather to talk business studies or whatever.

 

I changed out of my morning clothes into a pair of skinny blue jeans, and a white sweatshirt, and was just pulling on a pair of walking boots when Mrs Bridges showed Lesley in.

 

“Hey – welcome back to the Manor,” I said as we hugged, “How have the college visits gone?”

 

“Quite well actually – I think Imperial is a possibility,” she said as she sat down.  She was wearing a black leather jacket over a grey wool dress, with knee length light grey boots.

 

“I see you dressed up for the visit.”

 

“I see you dressed down – but I forget this is your home as well in a way.  So what have you been doing all week – keeping an eye on the younger ones?”

 

“In a manner of speaking,” I said with a smile, “We have my sister and cousins, and all their friends, around the place at one time or another.”

 

“Sounds quiet right now?”

 

“Yeah, well – the really young ones went off to Chessington for the day with some of the parents, and Alicia’s friends are all upstairs somewhere.”

 

“And the mysterious Eddie?”

 

I laughed and said “In conversation with my Grandfather – so I am staying well clear of that one.  Hey – guess what I found.”

 

I picked up a photo album and opened it, showing one picture in particular to Lesley.  It showed two young girls, about seven or eight years old, in long party frocks, with their arms behind their backs and bands of white rope around their waists and stomachs.   Both had scarves, the same colour as their dresses, tied over their mouths, but it was obvious they were grinning.

 

“Oh my god,” Lesley said with a laugh, “that was what – ten years ago.”

 

“Yeah – Grandmother was looking through some old photos to show Sarah, and...”

 

“Sarah?  Who’s Sarah?”

 

“She’s a distant cousin of mine – lives in the US, but is over on a visit.  Anyway, she gave them to me afterwards.”

 

Lesley looked at the photo, and said “Such a picture of innocence – whatever happened to that girl?”

 

“Probably became a hellion,” I said as we both burst out laughing.  When we had calmed down, I said “So, you never said if you still played the games?”

 

“From time to time – if I find the right partner to play with,” she said as she sat back.  “Right now, I’m between boyfriends.”

 

“Oh – what happened?”

 

“Well, he thought he could get fresh with me when he had my hands tied behind my back – a few well chosen words, and a well aimed heel, and he soon backed off.

 

“Permanently.”

 

I had to laugh at the one, and then said “Hey – you’ve been to the States a few times, haven’t you?”

 

Lesley nodded, before saying “Yeah – why?”

 

“Looks like I’ll be going in a few weeks – any tips?”

 

“Order half portions in restaurants, remember the cops have guns, and hit the malls.  Apart from that, have fun.”

 

“Oh I intend to – do you know who I thought of the other day?   Justin Broome.”

 

Lesley threw her head back and laughed as she said “My god – what brought him to mind?”

 

“Oh, it was a game I saw my cousin Suzie playing with her friend Cassie – do you remember the time we were all at your house, and we played a game of cops and robbers?”

 

“Was that the time you wore that new cowgirl outfit?”

 

“Yeah – those ridiculous denim shorts and the cowboy boots, and you had on that brown frilly blouse with the grey skirt and over the knee black socks!”

 

Lesley laughed and said “Oh yeah – he made us sit back to back, tied our wrists in front of the other one’s stomach, then tied our ankles and legs before slapping the plaster over our mouths before he started monologue on us!”

 

“That’s right – we almost choked from laughing!”

 

“We would have if mum hadn’t come in and chased him out of the house – what happened to him anyway?”

 

“Oh, I ran into him in town two weeks ago – he’s working at the bank now.”

 

“Good for him,” Lesley said, as we started talking about old times and old friends.  I completely lost track of time, until I heard excited screams and realised the younger ones had returned.

 

“OH come on,” I heard Patty say as she opened the door and came in, “You know we would have tied our legs as well if you had – oh hello Angela.  Sorry if we interrupted.”

 

“It’s all right, Patty,” I said with a smile, “This is Lesley, an old friend.  Lesley, this is Patty, a friend of Suzie’s.”

 

“Hi,” Patty said as she ran out.  “Look, I’d better get going,” Lesley said as she stood up, “Keep in touch, all right?”

 

“I’ll do that,” I said as we hugged each other, and then I walked her out to the sound of the girls screaming.  As I closed the door, I turned to see Sarah standing there.

 

“Good friend?”

 

“Yeah – I miss seeing her sometimes.”

 

“I can see that – can you come with me a minute?”

 

She walked down the hallway with me, and stopped at the portrait of my great Grandfather.

 

“So this is Alexander,” she said as she looked at him, “my grandfather.”

 

“A very brave man by all accounts,” I said as I looked at her.  “There is a bit of him in your eyes.”

 

“More of my mother, I suspect,” she said with a smile.  “Although...”

 

“Yes?”

 

She then looked at me, and said “I saw him again – the Shadow, when I rescued the girls.  He helped calm me down after I – well, after I lost it a bit.  That’s his job, isn’t it – to protect and keep the family safe.”

 

“So the legend says – I’ve only seen him once, and even then it was a blur.”

 

Sarah nodded, and then said “Do you ever think about that night?”

 

“Sometimes – and then I give thanks for the rescue.  You?”

 

“More often than you may think,” she said with a sad smile.  “Still, that is the past, and I am getting hungry.  Let’s get ready for dinner.”

 

 

 

 

 

The dinner passed quietly – well as quietly as a dinner with a bunch of hyperactive kids who have spent the day on rides and eating junk can be.  I did think of asking if any of them had been on the Vampire and someone had seen their legs, but thought better of it.

 

Before Eddie left, however, we went outside and looked at the clear night sky.

 

“I’m afraid I need to go back tomorrow,” he said as he took my hand, “I have to sort a few things out before next week, so I’ll drop Mary and Cathy off and then go and back.  I was wondering...”

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“Well, when I come back at Christmas, would you like to go to the pictures with me, and get a bite to eat before hand?”

 

“I’d like that,” I said quietly as I looked at him, “I’d like that very much...”

 

 

Thursday morning had been quiet so far, with the kids all having breakfast and then splitting into two groups – Tommy, little Brian, Patty and Rachel had gone up to the playroom.  Patty and Rachel were wearing short sleeved sundresses, with skirts just over their knees, white socks and flat shoes, but the way they were walking suggested they had their legs tied again.

 

And they weren’t alone – Alicia, Suzie, Cassie and Jenny were all wearing long skirts, the tops of their socks just about visible under the hem, and long sleeved blouses.  Bobby, Martin and Colin had taken them outside, where they had gone for a walk before the guests arrived at lunchtime.

 

 

As for Sarah and Brian – they were with Grandfather, Grandmother, Mum and Dad, and Uncle Alexander and Aunt Susan in the library, and I was not about to disturb them.  So I was reading through some notes at the kitchen table when the front door bell rang.

 

“I’ll get it,” I said as I walked to the door, opening it and stepping back as Pippa, Hazel and Claire ran past.  The twins were wearing denim skirts and jumpers, while Pippa had on another gypsy style skirt and a short sleeved top.  I had a quick word with her parents, and then they drove off.

 

I barely had time to go back before the door bell rang again, this time with Eddie dropping off Mary and Cathy.  Mary looked at me and said “so you’re going out with big bro?  Make sure he treats you right,” before she went to the kitchen, her blue sundress covering her legs while the sleeves of her jumper covered her arms.

 

“One of these days,” Cathy said as she walked after her, her dress moving with her, while Eddie watched them both move off.

 

“Sisters – what are you going to do?”

 

“Don’t ask me,” I said as I turned to look at him, his big blue eyes focused on me.  “Drive safely.”

 

“I usually do,” he said as he leaned down and pressed his lisp against mine.  I closed my eyes and welcomed the kiss, returning it...

 

“Well well, I see we arrived at an awkward moment.”

 

I opened my eyes as we both looked at the man standing there, his eyes twinkling as a smile was on his sun tanned, lined face.  He had short grey hair, and was wearing a brown suit, white shirt and tie.

 

“I’m sorry, can I help you?”

 

“It’s all right Angela – he’s with me,” Miranda said as she walked up behind him.  “This is my brother Jethro – Jethro, this is Angela Bowden, Anne’s oldest daughter.”

 

“Of course – you just reminded me of Lucinda for a moment,” Jethro said as he took my hand and kissed it.  “Is your grandmother home?”

 

“Hark, is that the dulcet tones of Jethro Smethurst I hear on my domicile?”

 

“Lucinda,” he said as he walked in and hugged Grandmother, “How are you?”

 

“Very well – but all the better for seeing you,” she said as she took him by the hand.  “Come into the library – there is someone I wish you to meet.”

 

“I presume that is Sarah,” Miranda said as she came in.  She was wearing a pair of brown trousers and a cream coloured sweater, with a brown pashmina shawl wrapped around her shoulders.

 

“It is indeed – are the others coming?”

 

“They will be along shortly – so you and young Edward?”

 

Eddie had made his excuses and headed off, as I saw the car going down the driveway.

 

“We haven’t scared him off, have we,” Miranda said as I looked at the receding vehicle.

 

“No – he had to go back to college today anyway,” I said with a smile.  “So, can I get you a drink?”

 

We headed to the kitchen, where we sat with Mrs Bridges and talked as the coffee brewed.  As she poured out the drinks, Grandmother joined us, saying “We needed to introduce Jethro to Sarah and Brian – tell him she is a distant cousin.  I don’t think he needs to know the whole truth – not yet.”

 

For some reason, Grandmother had chosen today to wear a silk rill necked sweater and a pair of cream linen trousers.  I was, like the other girls, in a blouse and skirt, and I found it funny the oldest female members of both our families were not doing so.

 

“Have the girls been behaving themselves,” Miranda said as I caught a glimpse of Cassie running across the lawn through the window, in her slightly constrained gait, with Bobby chasing after her.

 

“So we’re going to have all the children here this afternoon,” Miranda said as Mrs Bridges joined us, “You’re going to need a holiday after this, Angela.”

 

“Oh, it’s been fun,” I said, “but I need a break.  Maybe a little holiday...”

 

“Well, we have agreed to take a trip to Maine for a few days,” Grandmother said, “so that may help.  Mind you, if we’re dealing with young Jannifer’s sisters, I’m not so sure...”

 

 

 

“Oh you’ve dealt with Patty and Rachel, you can deal with anything!”

 

I laughed at Miranda’s comment, as the door opened and Jennifer came in, alongside Connie and Cassie.  They had one car seat each, which they sat on the kitchen table as Mrs Bridges looked at the three youngsters.

 

“They’re getting so big now,” she said as she tickled their chins, “has Danny started crawling yet?”

 

“Given half a chance, he’ll race Cassie on a good day,” Connie said with a smile.  “So where are the rest of the happy breed?”

 

“The older ones are outside, the others upstairs – why?”

 

“Uncle Jethro was wondering when he was going to see them,” Cassie said as she went to the door and called out “Hey – we need you in here.”

 

The sound of gentle running soon turned into clomps and hugs and chatter as they came in, and made their way into the library.  As we walked through, the girls along with Bobby and Tommy came down from the playroom, so that we had a full room by the time we were all in.

 

“Quite a gathering,” Jethro said as he smiled and looked at them all.  “So what am I going to tell you about?”

 

“Tell us about the Barn Storm,” Patty shouted out.  “Cassie and Suzie keep talking about it, but I’ve never heard the whole story.”

 

“Oh no, not that old chestnut,” Grandfather said with a laugh.

 

“No no, some family traditions have to be kept,” Jethro said, so he told the girls and boys about the fight, the boyfriend, and then how their father had tied Miranda and Lucinda up in the barn until they had sorted things out between them.

 

“Wow,” Patty said as she looked at Miranda, “This thing really does in the family, doesn’t it?”

 

“Oh I think I can still teach you a thing or two, young lady...”

 

“I can still beat you any day of the week, Miranda Smethurst Craig!”

 

“I sense a challenge coming on,” Grandfather said with a smile.  “Jethro, why don’t you give the girls a lesson in old school tying?”

 

“We don’t have any farmer’s twine, do we?”

 

“No – but we can bring the stash of ropes into the dining room and work there.”

 

“What do you say Miranda,” Grandmother said with a smile.  Miranda nodded and said “Bring it on,” as we went en masse to the dining room, Suzie and Alicia going off to fetch some supplies.

 

“All right then,” Jethro said as he took his jacket off and put it on the back of a chair, “Stand facing each other girls, and hold your hands together behind your back.”

 

“Why don’t you cover their hands,” Patty asked as Jethro took two lengths of rope from the box the others had brought in, and bound his sister’s wrist together tightly, cinching the rope as he did so.

 

“No need to – not if you do it properly,” he said as he bound grandmother’s wrists in the same way.   “It’s Bobby isn’t it,” he said as he looked at my cousin, “can you take off your shoes and give me your laces?”

 

Bobby slipped his trainers off and handed Jethro the laces, which he promptly used one of to tie Grandmother’s thumbs together, and then weave it between her remaining fingers.

 

“Clever,” Jenny said as he did the same to Miranda.

 

“And not quite as sweaty, but just as effective,” Miranda said as Jethro used two more lengths of rope to tie their lower arms to their stomachs, and their upper arms around their shoulders, then smaller lengths between their arms and body.

 

“No rope around the waist?”

 

“No, young Patty,” Jethro said with a smile.  “If I was to tie them together, then I would tie one round their waists, but do this right and you don’t need any others.  Right, O dear sister?”

 

“You haven’t lost much of your touch, O dear brother,” Miranda said as she tried to move her arms, without much success.

 

Sarah was watching intently as well, her arm in Brian’s as Jethro pulled two chairs from the dining table, and said “Have a seat for a few minutes ladies.”  I watched Grandmother and Miranda sit down, as he took a long length of rope and tied Miranda’s ankles together, cinching the band between her legs and then wrapping the rope around her shoes, further securing her feet together.

 

“Yeah – then they can’t slip their shoes off,” Suzie said approvingly, watching as Grandmother had the same treatment.  He then tied their legs tightly together below their knees, above their knees and around their thighs, each time tightening the bonds with ropes between their legs.

 

“There now,” he said as he stood up, “What do you think?”

 

“Not bad,” John Craig said as he looked at his mother, “You haven’t lost much of your skill.”

 

“Of course not – I work on a farm,” Jethro said as he smiled at everyone.  “Now, you lot use a lot of tape, but let me show you a real old fashioned silencing.”  He took two large clean handkerchiefs from his pocket, folded them neatly, and then out one into each of their mouths.

 

He then selected two thin chiffon rectangles, and used them as cleave gags on each of them.  “Urdgngngthffgg,” Grandmother said, and Miranda nodded as she watched Jethro take out two more, larger scarves.

 

“Quite right,” he said as he folded them into triangles, then bands, before tying a knot in the middle and then putting that on top of the first scarf, the knot sitting between their lips.

 

“But they can push them out, surely,” Jenny said as Jethro then took out two larger head scarves and folded them into triangles.

 

“I suppose so – if they could open their mouths,” he said as he put one over Grandmother’s head, the point at the back of her neck, and then passed the ends around her head, pulling them round each other under her jaw and closing her mouth over the knot, before talking the ends round her neck and tying them under the other knots.

 

“WOW,” Patty and Rachel exclaimed as Miranda had a scarf tied over her hair, “that really will stop them!”

 

“and just for the final touch,” Jethro said as he took a large grey shawl, folded it into a thick band and tied it over Grandmother’s lower face, covering her mouth and nose as he tied the ends together with a double knot.  A brown shawl did the same for Miranda.

 

“All done,” he said as he picked up his jacket and put it on.  “Anything to say, girls?”

 

“ntalllttt” I barely heard Grandmother whisper, before Jethro said “Well, you know the drill – who can get free first.  You can get up, jump around, move around, so whatever is necessary – but nobody in this room is allowed to help you.  If you are ready – GO!”

 

“COME ON GRANNY,” Cassie and Jenny shouted as Miranda started to twist her hands around, but I could see why Jethro had used the laces now – with no way to separate the fingers, it was almost as difficult to use her hands as if they had been covered.

 

Suzie and Alicia were cheering on Grandmother, with Bobby and Martin joining them while Colin, Patty and Rachel joined the other sisters.  Cassie senior was holding young David, Jennifer had June and Connie Danny. 

 

Mum had young Andy in her arms, who seemed to be watching the proceedings intently, as did all the other family and friends.  Eventually, Grandmother got onto her feet, and indicated to Miranda they should try and hop out of the room.  Miranda nodded and stood up, as they both started to hop over to the door to the hallway.

 

Before they got too far, however, the door opened and I heard a familiar voice say “Well now – so this is where you’re all hiding?  And I see a challenge under way – too late for me to join in?”

 

“Mum,” Aunt Susan said with a hint of surprise, “I did not know you were coming over today.”

 

“Well, I was invited by Lucinda, but I see she might have forgotten in the excitement.”  Irene Jacobs looked at the two women in front of her, before saying “Let me guess – Jethro’s work, right?”

 

They nodded as Jethro looked at her, and said “Well now, if it isn’t Irene Jacobs.  Long time no see, my bonny lass.”

 

“You know Suzie’s grandmother?” Cassie said as said young cousin ran up and hugged her granny, almost tripping in the process.  Irene was wearing a camel coloured jacket over a brown open necked dress, with her greying red hair pulled back for once.

 

“Oh I know Irene from way back,” Jethro said with a smile, “Her father used to work for the Ministry of Agriculture, and she used to go with him to conferences and the like.  I haven’t seen you for a while though – not since you moved to this area.”

 

“Well, I had my own family to bring up,” Irene said with a smile.  “So, which of you two is winning?”

 

Miranda and Grandmother looked at each other, before they nodded and said in unison “nffrrr.”

 

“Still the champion binder,” Jethro said as he and Grandfather found a seat for each of them to sit on.  “Would you care to join them, Irene?”

 

“Of course I will – but not with one of your demon ties,” Irene said with a smile.  “I’ll let my own grandchildren take care of me – Bobby, Suzie, Tommy, get to work.”

 

I watched with the others as the three of them tied Irene to the chair – her arms taken round the back by Bobby as he tied her upper body, while Suzie helped Tommy to bind her legs to the front legs of the chair, and then her lap to the seat.

 

“By the way, Uncle Jethro,” John Craig said, “I can’t thank you enough for the clothes.  The girls have all made a lot of use of them in games.”

 

“Well I’m glad” Jethro said with a smile, “they were just taking up room anyway.  What have they done with them?”

 

“Mainly got tied up and gagged in them – a lot.”

 

Jethro nodded.  “Miranda told me – well, some family traditions have to be kept up.”

 

“Did you ever tie up Granny and Lady Holderness when they were younger,” Jenny said as she looked at Jethro.

 

“Oh quite a few times – but always in fun, and always with our father’s permission.    Do you two remember the Medieval Faire?”

 

I saw both Miranda and Grandmother roll their eyes and nod, as Jethro continued “The local church had decided to have a summer fair with a medieval theme, and wanted suitable stalls – a dunking stool, stocks, things like that.  Well, both Miranda and Lucinda had agreed to serve teas, but that meant they had to get into costume – the full works, long dress with a laced bodice, wimpoles, everything.

 

“That was fine – but what nobody had told them was that all the serving staff had to take a turn in the stocks.  Now Miranda was fine – she had got hold of an old brown muslin and cotton dress, with a black laced front, and looked the part.  But Lucinda had found a real princess dress – red silk, with a white front, gold lacing and trim, and gold sandals.

 

“I probably should have said something, but didn’t, until Lucinda came up to me and said ‘Where’s Miranda – your father was here a few minutes ago, and then she disappeared....’

 

“That was when my father appeared with her father, both in peasant clothing, grabbed Lucinda and walked her to the stocks.  She could see Miranda being helped out, covered in eggs and flour.  Oh the stick she raised then, when she realised what was about to happen.”

 

I saw Grandmother shake her head, and heard her muffled laugh.

 

“So she went into the stocks,” Jethro continued, “and she threatened to scream the place down.  Well, they fastened her in, and then used a scold’s bridle on her.”

 

“What’s that,” Patty asked as she looked at him.

 

“Well, little Patty, remember when you came to the farm, and you saw the bit in the horse’s mouth as he was led to the stable?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Well, that’s called a bridle - so imagine watching Lady Holderness, with something like that in her mouth and around her head...”

 

Mum, Uncle Alexander and I all turned and looked at Grandmother, who shrugged her head and said “Yssthppnd.”

 

“So, there is your grandmother, in the stocks, unable to speak, and a whole lien of the local kids with eggs, flour bombs, soft fruit...”

 

I got the picture, and so did the others, as the whole room burst out laughing.  “OG that must have been a sight,” John Craig said.

 

“Well, later she said her hair was the softest it had ever been, because of the egg shampoo,” Jethro said, and grandmother actually blushed under the gag.  By this time, the others had gagged Irene as well, with a knotted cleave gag visible under the white tape.

 

“Well, there’s no way we could get away with anything like that now,” Cassie said with a slight pout, “they would never allow us to throw eggs at people.”

 

“Neither did we,” her father said.

 

“No – you just tried to recreate the Barn Storm with your sisters one holiday.”

 

“WHAT!” Cassie and Jenny chorused as they looked at their father.  “Oh yeah,” Connie said as she looked at her other aunt, “I remember that.”

 

“So do I,” Cassie senior said.  “We were on holiday on the farm, and – what were we wearing?”

 

“Let me think – I had on a black vest top, white shorts and hiking boots.”

 

“That’s right,” Cassie said, “and I had on a white blouse and jeans.  Anyway, we were playing in the barn, on the haystack, when John surprised us and said he wanted to tie us both up. 

 

“So he made us kneel facing each other, and used baking twine to tie our wrist together behind each other’s back.”

 

“Which hurt like the dickens on my wrists,” Connie said.  “Anyway, he then tied our ankles together, and then our wrists to each other’s ankles, before wrapping twine around our legs, waists and shoulders.  He then used two old rags to gag us with cleave gags, and told us we had to work our differences out before he would let us go free.”

 

“But were you fighting at the time,” Jenny said as I saw her father blush.

 

“Nope,” Cassie said, “not at the time – but to make it worse, Dad called John to come and help him with something, and her forgot to come back.  It was only when Mum came to find us for dinner that they discovered what he had done.  Dad was a little upset as I recall.”

 

“A little?  He made me help Uncle Jethro for the rest of the week, mucking out, and then grounded me for a month.  Not one of my finest moments.”

 

“Listen,” Uncle Jethro said, “why don’t we have a race?  Bind and gag the girls, and see who can be the first to hop to the tree line and back.”

 

“YES!” was the chorus of approval, as Uncle Alexander said to me “You’re excused – we’ll let the others have their fun.”

 

“All right - but let me help binding them for this.”

 

 

 

Thirty minutes later, Grandmother, Miranda and Irene had been carried outside by the boys, and were watching as all the girls were escorted out.  They all had their wrists crossed and tied behind their backs, and their arms secured to their bodies with ropes around their waists, stomach and shoulders.  I saw there was no extra band – which I was grateful for.

 

Their mouths were covered with scarves, but I could see the bulge underneath.  “Funny thing,” Jethro said as he stood next to me, “when we bound their legs, all the Holderness and Craig girls only needed their ankles tied, but the others had to have ankles and legs tied.”

 

“Really?  I wonder why that was?”

 

“I wonder,” Jethro said, but a look at him told me he knew as well as I did they all had their legs tied under the skirts.

 

 

“The race is simple,” Grandfather said as they lined up along the stone path, “Race to the tree line and back.   On your marks...  Get Set...  GO!”

 

They all started jumping off, skirts rising, giggles coming back, as Dad came up beside me.

 

“I’ve been talking to your Grandfather,” he said as I watched them disappear down the lawn, “and he told me about the proposed trip.  We’ll need to get a passport and things sorted out for you – so Sarah is going to look after the girls tomorrow, while you come with me to do that.  We need to visit a specific office, given the timeframe.”

 

That hadn’t occurred to me, but it made sense – I needed an adult passport now anyway.  As I saw them turn and start to hop back, I said “Fair enough – I guess the holiday is over, right?”

 

Dad nodded, and said “Yeah – but you enjoyed it, didn’t you?”

 

“CMMNNNSSSEEE” I heard Irene call out as my little cousin jumped towards her, but it was Patty who was beating her.  I smiled and nodded – it had been a great time, much better than I had expected.

 

“Well done my little angel,” Uncle Alexander said as Suzie jumped into his arms.

 

“You had better release them now,” Dad then said, “so they can get ready for dinner.  We’ll take care of these three.”

 

“Fnkuvrrrmsh,” Irene said through her gag, but I could see she was smiling as well.

 

 

 

 

 

As I put my coat over my dress on the Friday morning, I walked to the library and peeped in.  Sarah and Brian were sitting there, looking at the girls as Sarah told them some stories.  They were as quiet as church mice – not surprising, given they all had tape gags on, and their bound wrists tied to their legs.  Simple, nice – and I wish I could have stayed to hear more, but Dad was waiting in the car, and we had a drive ahead of us to London.

 

Dad had already put my bag in the car – given it would be a late return; I was going home and then coming back tomorrow to say goodbye to the girls.

 

It was close to eleven by the time I got there on the Saturday morning, in time to see Sarah and Brain come down the stairs, with Mr Bridges carrying their case for them.

 

“Are you going today as well,” I said as Grandmother came from the kitchen.

 

“I’m afraid so,” Sarah said with a smile, “I feel so much better, we’ve decided to head home.  I need to see a few people over there – but I look forward to your visit in a few weeks.”

 

“So do I,” I said as I hugged both of them.  “Have a safe flight.”

 

“I hope so – I felt a bit queasy this morning,” Sarah said as Brian escorted her out.  I looked at Grandmother, she looked at me – and we both nodded at the same time.

 

“Come on you three,” I heard John Craig say, and as he carried the bags down the stairs I saw Patty, Cassie and Jenny walk down with them.  “Thanks for being our mummy,” Patty and Cassie both said as they hugged me, and then ran out with their father.

 

“Thanks – for everything,” Jenny said as she hugged me as well, and then she headed out.

 

“Wait for me,” Rachel said as she ran after them.

 

“Someday, we must get her parents to come to dinner,” Grandmother said quietly as she turned and went back to the kitchen.  I went into the library, where I found Alicia and Martin sitting in one chair, Colin and Bobby sitting in a corner, and Suzie reading a book on her own.

 

“Hey,” Alicia said as she looked up, “did they get off all right?”

 

“I think so – what are you two up to?”

 

“Oh, just discussing where we can go next Saturday.  Why?”

 

“No problem, I’ll leave you to it,” I said as I went out and closed the door behind me.  It had been a good week – an interesting week as well, but I was looking forward to the next trip already.

 

It promised to be – educational.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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