After School Special

Cassie is lying on the bed next to me, giggling happily away as she looks and winks in my direction. The bottom of her white pyjama top is starting to rise up slightly, but I roll over and gently pull it back down before turning and nodding in return to her. I'm glad she's happy - after all, it's just another game to her, albeit a little longer than the ones we have played so far.

April's sitting on the floor, watching us as well. I can see she's more relaxed now, which is a good thing. I was worried earlier that she was going to hurt herself, but she must have remembered the golden rule of tie-up games - relax and have fun.

I just wish Mum was in the room with us, but that wasn't allowed. I last saw her - what an hour or so ago, according to the clock by the bed. I hope she's all right - she looked even more scared this time. Mind you, that's not too surprising - the man with the baseball bat seemed to want her to be scared, but I can't imagine why.

So, here we are again, playing a game that I know is not really a game, but you have to look after your little sister, don't you? I'm glad April is here as well - she made it a lot more bearable earlier on, when we had to take turns taping each other's wrists together in front of us after they first arrived.

I guess it helped we tried something similar last Sunday, when we first knew April was going to be with us tonight....


********

 

"All right, you two, what do you want to play now?"

April was watching us while Mum and Dad were out for the evening, and the DVD had just finished. I was in a t-shirt and shorts, while Cassie was wearing a blue jersey dress with a thin white belt around her waist. We both had white ankles socks on, while April was in a short sleeved denim dress and cork sandals.

Cassie looked at me, and then smiled as she said "We want to play kidnappers!"

"All right," April then said with a smile in return, "So which of you am I kidnapping?"

"No," I said as I reached down and picked up something from the floor, "We're going to kidnap you." Cassie and I looked at each other, before jumping up and running at April, pushing her back into the seat before she had a chance to stop us. As Cassie put her hand over April's mouth, barely covering her lips, I tore loose the end of the roll of duct tape in my hands and started to tape April's wrists together.

"Npplsddnt," April mumbled, but we could tell she was laughing as she tried not to push Cassie down onto the floor. She was sitting in an old rocking chair that Dad had bought, and she moved the chair back and forth as I pulled her wrists over and started to tape them down to the wooden arm support.

"We need to shut her up," Cassie said in a voice that she was meaning to be menacing, but unfortunately sounded like Minnie Mouse with a bad cold. Anyway, I nodded and tore a strip of the grey tape off, waiting as Cassie took her hand away before pushing it firmly down over April's mouth.

"Ullnvrgtwwft," she mumbled as Cassie climbed off her lap and held her ankles together while I wrapped the tape round them. Her legs were bare, so the tape stuck firm as I wound it round several times, then said "Let them go." Cassie let go, and as April's feet fell to the floor she looked at us with eyes full of - well, of laughter.

"Now," I said in as deep a voice as I could muster, "What sort of ransom can we get for this lady, Shorty?"

Cassie looked at me, mouthing "Shorty?" before saying "Let's see - I think we need to get her to talk."

"Hnnn, onnnn," April said as we both approached her, before squirming like mad as I started to tickle her ribs, while Cassie went for the backs of her knees......


********

 

"I hope they werenít too much trouble, April?"

"No trouble at all," April said to Mum as she accepted the payment for babysitting. Cassie was already in bed asleep, but she winked at me as I stood there in my nightdress.

"Before you go, April," Dad said as he held the door open. He was going to run April home in the car. "Are you free next Wednesday night?"

"Yes, I think I am - why?"

"I have an important business dinner, and we both need to go. Would you be able to come round, say at 6.30, and watch the girls for us again?"

Well, it's Wednesday, and the clock by my bed is saying 11 pm, but April is still here, and so is Mum. Dad - I have no idea, he left much earlier with one of the men. The question in my mind is, how much longer is the man in the balaclava and jacket going to stand there watching all three of us...

 

It's a strange feeling, just lying here, not able to do much except nod as Cassie says something through the covering on her mouth or April tries to keep us awake. It's kinda nice, but also means I get time to think over silly things - what we're going to have for tea tomorrow, how I'm going to get that Science worksheet completed on time, just why Bindy seems to prefer that guy on The Voice to Justin Beiber - that sort of thing.

Looking over, I can see Cassie starting to close her eyes. Good thing - she's exhausted, and it means she can get some rest. Looking down my legs at the bands of brown rope around my nightdress, I guess at some point I'm going to drift off as well, but I don't want to. April nods as I look over at her - she's sitting with her feet in that horrible position we have to do sometimes at gymnastics, and she looks like it's hurting her a bit. Maybe he'll allow her to move at some point.

So what happened tonight? Well, it started typically enough. It would have been about six o'clock, and Cassie and I were at the dinner table, eating some burger and chips. We had changed out of our school uniforms, and got our homework almost finished. All of it in the case of Cassie - she had to write two paragraphs about the book she's reading in class. I had finished my maths, but I still had to read a chapter of a book for English.

It was warm earlier, so I was wearing a green smock top with short sleeves, a pair of black cycling shorts and some slippers. Cassie had on a grey t-shirt and joggers, with white socks. I collected up the plates and took them to the sink, while she went through to the living room to watch a program on the Disney Channel.

Dad came in, fastening the black bow tie around his neck as he said "April should be here in a few minutes, Jenny - make sure you and your sister do everything that she tells you, all right?"

"All right, Dad," I said as I looked at him. He had some sort of job at a bank where Mum also worked part time - I don't really know what it is, but he has to wear a suit to work every day. He usually liked to wear older clothes at home, so to see him in a black suit with a funny tie around his neck was unusual.

"You like nice, Mum," I heard Cassie say from the front room, and I went in to see what she meant. Mum was in the room, wearing a deep red floor length dress that had gold clasps at the shoulders, and a v-necked front that showed her neck off. There was a string of pearls round her neck, and she had put on a pair of white gloves that went almost up to her elbow with a gold bracelet over her left wrist.

"Yeah, you look really nice, Mum," I said as I sat down and picked up the book I needed to read. Dad came in, kissed Mum on her mouth and then went to answer the doorbell. I heard April say "I hope I'm not late, I had to come straight from college", and then saw her walk into the room with a pile of books in her hands. She was wearing a padded sleeveless jacket over a brown woollen sweater, a faded blue denim skirt, dark tights and short black boots - I think they're called Uggs for some stupid reason.


"You're fine, April," Mum said as she fixed a pair of earrings in her ears, with a clear stone in each one, "They've both eaten, and the number if you need to call us is by the phone. You two behave yourselves now." As she finished talking, Mum put a long cream coloured shawl over her shoulders, and waved as she went to the front door. Cassie and I went to the window and waved to them as Dad helped her get into the car, and they drove off.

"Right," April said as she put her books on the small table, "what do you two want to do tonight?"

Cassie looked at me, with that gleam I knew so well in her eye, but before she could say anything April said "No, not that - how about we play a game or something. Would Sorry be all right?"

"Yes," I said as I looked at Cassie. I thought we may have a chance later to play the game she wanted - Mum and Dad weren't due back until later. April smiled as she left the room for a moment, returning with the oblong box the game was kept in. She opened it, took out the board and laid it on the table, but before she could put any pieces out there was a loud knock on the door.

"You girls finish setting this up," she said as she went to see who was there. "I want to be green," Cassie said as she picked up the four game pieces and put them in the start circle. That was fine by me - I like to be blue anyway, so I did the same with my four plastic things.

"April, do you want to be red or yellow?

"April?"

I looked to the door to see April standing there, but it was who was with her that made Cassie yelp slightly. There were four men, big and strong looking, one of whom had a gloved hand firmly clamped round April's arm. Two of the others were carrying what looked like toy guns, while the third had a bigger version of the bat we use for softball in his hand.

"You look funny," Cassie said, and in one sense they did. All four had black woollen masks, I think they're called balaclavas or something, pulled down over their heads, so that we could only see their eyes and mouths. They looked at us, before the one holding April said "Do it."

I saw her swallow before saying "Jenny, Cassie, I want you to listen to me. These men are going to be staying for a while, and they want us to do what they tell us to do. Don't be scared - I'm going to stay with you all the time, all right?"

She smiled as I said this, which made Cassie smile, but I could see her looking at the man beside her as well. "Both of you," he said in a quiet voice, "Sit up on the couch and put your hands on your laps. You two," he said looking at two of the other men, "Make sure nobody else is here." I watched them leave as I helped Cassie to stand up and we sat next to each other on the couch.

"You're Jenny, right?"

He looked at me as I said this, so I nodded and said "Yes," looking at him the whole time.

"Well, Jenny, this is going to be a night of fun and games for you, your sister Cassie and your babysitter. When your mum comes home, she'll play as well, all right?"

I nodded slowly - I had already figured out this was like that afternoon, but there were more of them, and somehow the black face coverings made them look more menacing. So when Cassie said "What sort of games," I had to kick her to stop.

"Hereís the first one," he said as he took something out of his pocket and tossed it to me. "Tape your little sister's hands together in front of her."

I looked at the thing he had thrown onto my lap. It was a thin roll of white plastic tape, like Dad uses sometimes to repair cables and the like. I looked at April, who nodded, and I saw a tear in her eye.

"Cassie," I said as I turned to look at her, "We're going to play one of our games now, all right? Put your hands together in front of you like we do at Sunday School." She did as I asked, and I peeled the tape off and stuck it to her bare wrists, wrapping it round her slim wrists as it held them together. Tearing it loose, I smoothed it down and smiled as Cassie smiled at me, saying "Nice" as she looked at her bound hands.

"Now," the man said as he let go of April, "You tape Jenny's wrists together." She walked over, and took the roll of me before I put my hands together and held them up in front of me. It only took a few minutes for her to tape my wrists together, before she looked at the two men.

"I'm going to take her to the kitchen," he said as he grabbed her by the arm again, "Keep an eye on these two for a few minutes." He walked April out of the room, as the last man sat down and put the bat he was carrying in his hands.

"Would you like to play the game with us?"

I looked at Cassie, amazed she could say such a thing, but I was even more amazed when he said "Of course I will - Can I be red? Then your babysitter can be yellow."

"You want to play a game with us?"

"We're going to be here for a while," he said as he looked at me, "so yes, I would like to play the game, but not until my friend comes back with your babysitter, all right?"

A few minutes later, April came in, carrying a tray with three juice cartons and four green bottles on it. "He's going to play with us," Cassie said brightly as April put the tray down on the table. "He is?" April said as she looked at the man sitting there.

He smiled and said "Yes - if you can set up the pieces, then we can start. It will help pass the time before we need to make a phone call."

"Make sure she's secure first," the man who had come in with her said, "I'm going to the kitchen to sort some things out."

As he left, April set up the remaining pieces, while the man put the bat down and picked up the roll of white tape. As she put the last yellow piece on, he said "Put your hands together in front of you," and I watched him tape her wrists together as well.

"You know if you try anything, it's not you who will pay," he said as he looked at April, and she nodded, glancing at us as she did so. "Le's pay, let's play," Cassie said excitedly, which made him smile. "All right, Cassie," he said, "youngest first."


********

 

It just hit me - they knew who we were. That means - that means they must have been watching us, which explains how they knew Mum and Dad were out - and what happened later.

 

April's head is starting to roll to the side as well, resting against the ropes that are running over her shoulder as her eyes close. The man's still awake, though, looking at each of us in turn as he smiles in my direction. He wasnít really so bad, when he played the game with us earlier, and he did try to make it feel like a game, but I can't forget too easily what he did. As Cassie catches her breath through her nose, I look back up at the ceiling and think back to earlier...


********

 

"Sorry!!"

Cassie smiled as she looked at the man, before picking up the red piece and returning it to the start circle. He smiled as he shook his head and said "I guess I deserved that one." He picked up the next card on the deck and placed it back down, watching as Cassie picked up her juice carton and put the straw to her lips.

It was getting close to eight o'clock, and this was the second game of Sorry! that we had played. I'd won the first one, after a close run race with April, and Cassie was well on her way to winning this one against a spirited defence from the masked intruder. At the back of the room was the one who seemed to be leading the four men, looking through an old bureau that Mum and Dad use to keep some papers or something in. Where the other two were, I had no idea, but April had been allowed to go and get more drinks for us.

I tried twisting my wrists round again as April took her turn, but the tape was keeping them firmly held together. It wasnít uncomfortable or pulling at my skin - it just felt tight around them. There was something else that felt a bit wrong as well - a result of drinking too much juice.

"Please," I said as I picked up a card, put it down and moved my piece forward five spaces, "I need to go to the toilet."

The man turned and looked at us. "All right," he eventually said as he walked over and took April by the arm, "What about you, Cassie - do you need to go as well?"

"Yes," she said as she smiled in reply, "but I can wait."

"All right," he said as he helped April to stand up from where she was kneeling, "You and Jenny come upstairs with me. Keep an eye on her until I come back with the youngster, and then I'll take her up."

April and I left the room with him, climbing the staircase until we reached the bathroom door. "Remember what we said earlier," were his only words to us as he opened the door and allowed us to walk into the bathroom, closing it with a little gap behind us.

"What did they say earlier," I whispered as we looked at each other. April had kicked off her boots earlier, so she was standing there with brown ankles socks showing over her feet.

"Just that you two need to behave yourselves," April said as she smiled weakly. "Look, I know you're a big girl, but I'll need to pull your leggings and pants down, then back up when you have finished, all right?"

I was just glad I didnít need to do anything more than a number one, so within a few minutes all three of us were walking down the staircase.

"... So I fell asleep on mummy's lap," we heard Cassie say as we walked into the room. The masked man turned and looked at us as the other guy said "Come with us, Cassie," and she left with him and April. "Your sister is very talkative," the man said as I sat back down. "She was telling me about what happened to you two and your mum a few weeks ago."

"Yeah - but this is different, isnít it?"

"A little bit," he said as he stood up, "but just keep thinking of it as a game, all right? Now then, let's get on with this game - your move, I think."

********

 



I glanced at the clock as Cassie moved her last piece into the finishing circle and shouted "I WIN!!!" It showed eight thirty, which was normally when Cassie would start getting ready for bed. She was still wide awake, however, and I didn't think we would be in bed for a while.

One of the two men we had not seen for a while looked through the door and said "Time, Boss." The man with us nodded as he stood up from the floor and started to clear the game away.

"Right," their leader said as he helped April to stand up again, "We need you to make a call to Mister and Mrs Craig. Tell them little Cassie has been sick, and they need to come home now."

"But I'm not sick," Cassie piped up, before the nice man said "I know, but itís part of the game."

"What if she doesn't believe me?"

I saw him scowl as he said "Make her believe you," before taking April out of the room again. I stood up to go with her, but the man just pushed me gently back into the seat, and we listened to the phone call as April passed on the message she had been given. Eventually, she came back in and sat down on the couch with both of us.

The nice man picked up the roll of white tape, and said to me "Put your ankles together - we need to make sure you can't tell mum or dad that we're here." As I moved my ankles together, he wrapped the tape tightly round them, before tearing it loose and smoothing it down. I watched the way it stretched as he wound it, knowing I was better just to sit still.

"It tickles," was what Cassie said as he held her feet up and taped her ankles together over her socks. II wondered how it was tickling, until I saw his fingers were stroking the soles of her feet, making her laugh. With April, he crossed her ankles before he taped them tightly together over her tights.

"Right then," he said as he stood up, "We now need to make sure you canít call out." He held up one of Dad's large handkerchiefs, and said "Who wants to be first?"

April looked at me, I looked at April, and we both looked at Cassie's beaming face. "Me!" she said with a smile, opening her mouth to allow him to push the cloth in. I then saw that the other man had brought down three of Dad's ties, as he pulled one between Cassie's teeth and tied the ends together at the back of her neck.

"Tssfn," she said as the same thing was done to me, and then to April. We sat there, looking up as a phone rang and the man who was the leader answered it.

"They're on their way," he said quietly, "Places."

I saw the headlights on the car as Mum and Dad arrived back. I really wanted to tell them what was happening, but when I spoke two things happened. The first was that all I heard was "Mmmddd." The second was the firm hand on my shoulder, telling me to shut up without saying a word.

The front door opened, and I heard Mum call out "April? Where are you? Is Cassie all right?" We all looked to the doorway, as Mum walked in, stopping short as she took in the sight of the three of us sitting there, taped and unable to speak.

"Oh no," she whispered quietly, before shouting "JOHN! GTMMMGFDFMG" Her cries were silenced by the big man grabbing her and putting his hand over her mouth, holding her tightly as Dad came in and said "Did you say someth..." as he walked in the door.

"Good evening, Mister Craig," the man holding Mum said. "Apologies for interrupting your dinner, but as you can see we have some urgent business to discuss with you. Just keep quiet, do nothing, and nobody gets hurt, understand?"

Dad looked at Mum, whose eyes were wide open, and then at the three of us, before saying "All right, just don't hurt them."

"Very sensible," the man said as he took his hand off Mum's mouth and pushed her towards Dad. "Now then, you and Mrs Craig come with me. Your kids and the babysitter will be quiet safe down here - for the moment."


********

 

My eyes.... My eyes are getting so heavy... So very heavy...

 

Whh.... I must have dozed off, because the lights are off in the room. Looking to my side, Cassie is still sound asleep, but when I look down to the floor April is no longer there.

The man is though - he's still standing there, just watching both of us. I wonder where April is - maybe they let her go? Somehow, though, I doubt it, so I go back to thinking about what happened when Mum and Dad came back.


********

 

The man took them both out of the room, and I could hear them talking in the kitchen, Dad occasionally raising his voice and Mum - Mum was crying. Eventually, however, two of them came back with Mum.

"Listen, girls," she said as she wiped her eyes, "I'm going to go upstairs with these men and get changed, and then when we come down we're going to make sure you both get ready for bed, all right?" Cassie nodded, as did I, as I watched her been taken by the arm out of the room and up the stairs by one of the men.

Dad came in next, the black tie round his neck, and he did something nice - he hugged each of us in turn, asking us if we were all right. We both nodded again, as he said "Please, let them speak."

"We were going to do that anyway," the masked man said as he untied the tie that was in my mouth and helped me to push the handkerchief out, before doing the same to Cassie.

"Dad," I said as soon as I could speak, "We're playing a game here, right?"

"That's right, Jenny," he said as he stroked my cheek, looking over to April as he did so. "You need to stay here with Mummy and April - Daddy has to go with one of these men and take care of a few things."

"Will you be back later, Dad," Cassie said as she snuggled into his chest. "I hope so, Poppet," he said as he held her head and stroked her hair, "I really hope so."

"Let's go, Mister Craig," the masked man said as he took Dad by the arm. As he stood up, Mum came back in - she had taken off the dress, gloves and shoes, and was wearing a pink pyjama top with a picture of Pooh Bear on it, and purple bottoms. Dad looked at her, shaking his arm loose as he hugged and kissed her, before he waved at us and left the room.

"Cut them loose," the man who had played the game with us said, and she sat perfectly still while one of the others took a knife and cut the tape away from our wrists and ankles. We both stood up and hugged Mum, April watching as she hugged us in return.

"I'm sorry you're caught up in this, April," she said as he looked over at her, "but I'm going to need your help so that we can keep playing the game with these men, all right?"

"Of course, Mrs Craig," April said as she smiled at Cassie, "What are we going to do now?"

"I want you to take Jenny upstairs," M<um said as she let go of me, "and get her ready for bed, then come down and take Cassie up. Can you make sure they have some bed socks on please?"

Now, I normally wear bed socks anyway, but I wasnít sure why Mum was insisting on that. I could see she had a pair of white ones over her feet, and her pyjama bottoms were tucked in, but that was all. Anyway, April nodded as she took me by the hand and led me upstairs, one of the men following us up.

As he stood outside the door, April looked for some bed clothes while I took off my shorts and top. She handed me a long blue nightdress, with a frilly collar, and said "Put that on, Jenny, and I'll find the socks for you." She looked in a drawer as I pulled the nightdress over my head.

"Why are you crying, April," I said as I heard her sobbing.

"I'm sorry, Jenny," she said as she turned round, "I'm just scared, that's all. Please, don't tell Cassie."

"I won't" I said as I sat on my bed and pulled on my bed socks. "I'm a little bit scared too. Do you think they will hurt Mum?"

"I'm sure they won't," she replied as she took me by the hand. "Come on - let's go downstairs."

The clock was showing nine thirty when April brought Cassie back in. She had put on a pair of white cotton pyjamas, which buttoned up her front, and a pair of bright yellow bed socks on her feet. Mum had been allowed to go and get us some milk and cookies, which we sat down to have as she talked to the man who was leading the gang.

"I still don't understand - why now, and why hold us hostage?"

"The people we walk for trade in the Asian markets, Mrs Craig - and we need your husband to be ready when their markets open at midnight your time. So long as you do as you're told, and he does as well, everyone will be ok."

He glanced at his watch and said "It's time - let's get them ready."

"Ready? Ready for what?" Mum watched as he opened a bag and showed her the largest collection of ropes I had ever seen. "Who's going to be first," he said as he looked at us.

"Me," Mum said as she stood up, "You take care of me first, and I want your assurance they will be all right.Ē

"You have it," the man said as he picked up the bag, "Let's go up to your room."

We walked up the staircase, Mum and the man first, then both of us, April, and the other two. As we walked into Mum and Dad's room, we could see the drawers had been opened.

"All right girls," our friend who had played with us said, "We need to make sure that you are going to still and silent for the night. Watch what we do to Mum, and then we will do something similar to you, all right?

"First though, I need you to put these over your hands." He handed to Cassie and me a pair each of my white gym socks.

"Why?"

"You'll see - itís part of the game."

I took the socks from Cassie and unrolled them, before pulling them over her hands. "They're like glove puppets," she said as she held her hand up to her face and closed her thumb and forefinger together. As April put the other pair on my hands, I saw him take out of the bag a roll of grey tape.

"Use this," he said as he tossed the roll to April, "and tape over the ends of the socks on their arms." She nodded as Cassie held her arms our, watching as she wrapped the tape over the sock cuff and pyjama sleeve.

"Are they going to be all right," I heard Mum say as she looked at us. "We're fine mum," I said as I felt the tape pulling at my skin as April wrapped it over my socks, "We can be as brave as you want us to be."

"All right Mummy," the man said as he took a length of brown rope out of the bag, "put your hands behind your back and stand perfectly still." We watched as he used the rope to tie her wrists together behind her back, Mum grimacing slightly as he tightened it up.

"It's going to be fun, Mum," Cassie said, and I could have kicked her at that point. Mum - Mum just smiled weakly as she said "I know, Cassie - we're all going to play the game together, all right?"

As she said this, our friend picked up a length of rope. "Your turn now," he said as he looked at the three of us, "Who's going first?" I said "Me," and he walked behind me, putting my hands together palm to palm as he tied my wrists tightly over the socks. It was tight, but not too uncomfortable, as I watched the other man wrap a length of rope around Mum's waist, pinning her arms against her back. I soon felt some rope round my waist, as the third man crossed April's wrists behind her back and tied them together as well.

I watched as he tied Cassie's hands, been as gentle and as firm as he could, and secured them to her back as well. With all of us, he passed the rope around between our arms and backs as well, to make sure they were held tightly in place.

"Please," I heard Mum say, "Don't do this." As I looked over, I could see the man had tied her arms to her side, the rope going around her body so that it looked as if she was wearing a tight t-shirt. As he passed the rope over her shoulders, I saw a length pass over my head and I watched as my own arms were pulled into my side, the rope going around my midriff, then my shoulders, then my midriff again.

"I want to be like Jenny," Cassie said with a sad look, and I said "Of course you can be, sis." I looked over at April, who was been tied like Mum, then back as Cassie as he lashed her arms to her side.

"Now girls," he said as he tied the ropes off behind Cassie's back, "You need to say good night to Mummy - we're going to take you to your own room in a minute."


********

 

That was when.... When.... Must... Must stay aw.......

I'm back in Primary School, and Miss Jenkins is telling us to pretend to be the wriggly wriggly worm moving on the ground. Everyone, even Alicia, is on their stomachs moving forward like snakes, but for some reason I'm on my back, moving in the opposite direction, and I'm wrapped up in as heet. Everyone stops and looks at me, before Alicia starts laughing. The others join in - even Miss Jenkins, as I try to sit up, but I canít, the sheet is too tight....

I snap my eyes open to darkness, total darkness. IT was just a dream, a bad dream, as I slowly count to ten in my head. Then I think back to when we were in Mum's room....


********

 

"Hang on," the guy who was with Mum said as he looked at April, "When are you expected home?"

April's eyes widened as he said this. "Oh god," she whispered as one of the three men went downstairs, returning a few minutes later with her phone. He looked quickly through the contacts, before holding it to her ear and saying "Make it good" as Cassie and I watch.

"Mum? Hi - listen, I've just spoken to Mrs Craig, and it seems her and her husband are going to be later back than they expected. They've asked if I can stay the night, so don't wait up for me.

"Yeah," she said as she looked over at Mum, who was staring back as well, "You could say that. I guess they do get held up at these things." This time I did give Cassie a nudge, as she started to giggle again.

"Ok, I'll call you in the morning. Love you," she said as the phone was switched off. "Very nice," our friend said as he took us by the arm, "Now say goodnight to Mummy."

We both walked over and snuggled in with Mum as she sat there. "You're two of the bravest girls I know," she said as she put her head on ours, "I love you both very much."

"Take them into one of their rooms," the man said. We walked to the door, and as I looked back I saw that Mum was lying face down on the bed, her sock covered hands crossed and tightly bound together at the wrists and up to all the other ropes, as the leader took another length of rope out of the bag.

The three of us walked - well, April and I walked, Cassie skipped, into our room. "Stand next to the bed," our friend said as he helped April to sit down on the floor. As she walked to the other side of the room, I looked behind Cassie to see her crossed and bound wrists, firmly held against her back as mine were.

I felt my hair been gently moved, and as I looked over to Cassie I saw that her hair had been tied back into a ponytail with a piece of string. "Why are you doing this," I said as I felt my own long hair been tied back as well.

"You'll see," he said, "now both of you sit on the bed." Cassie and I sat next to each other, watching April as she was made to sit in that funny gym position and her ankles were tied together.

I felt my legs been held, and as I looked down I saw that the man was tying them tightly together over the socks on my feet. He had placed them on his knee as the brown cords went round, pulling the wool against my ankles as he tied them tightly together, before passing it between them to tighten the coils still further. He tickled the soles of my feet as he did this, making me laugh out loud as April tried to look up at us. It didnít hurt, but it was firm, as I watched him do the same to Cassie as she hummed quietly to herself.

"No, please," I heard April say, but when I looked over he was quiet, her lips closed over what looked like the belt from my dressing gown. As she turned her head to the side, I realised I was right - it was the belt from my dressing gown, a thin blue cotton length which was tied around her head.

"Right, girls," our friend said as I turned my head back, "We need to make sure you're going to be quiet for the night. I'm going to put another handkerchief - one of Jenny's - into your mouths, and I want you to close your mouth until I tell you to open it again, all right?"

I nodded as Cassie just opened her mouth wide, allowing him to push one of my school hankies in and closing her lips. I did the same, feeling the linen on the top of my tongue as I watched him leave the room for a minute. While he was out, I watched April as the man with her started to tear the end of a roll of duct tape free, her eyes wide as she looked at it.

Our friend came back with two strips of white towelling, each of which had a knot tied in the middle. "Cassie," he said as he knelt next to her, "I want you to open your mouth and bite down again when I put this in your mouth, all right?"

"Lllrrt," she mumbled before opening her mouth. The knot was big, but she managed to close her lips over it. I knew there was no point in arguing as I let him pull the strip into my own mouth and closed my lips over it. It felt funny, the knot of rough cotton rubbing the back of my teeth as if I was brushing them. Looking over at Cassie, I could see her moving her mouth round, but not able to say much at all.

I heard April grunt, and as I looked over I saw her been bent over as more rope was sorted out. That wasnít what caught my attention, however - what was was the horrible ripping sound again as our friend said "I'm sorry" to me. I felt the tape sticking to my jaw, but rather than putting a strip on he wound it tightly round my head, lifting my hair out of the way as he pressed it down to my cheeks and neck. Three times he wound it round, the tape pulling at first but then settling down as it formed a tight band over my mouth. No way was I talking to anyone after this - but at least I knew why he had tied mine and Cassie's hair back.

As he did the same to Cassie, I watched her as her eyes almost started laughing. She was enjoying this enormously - and I have to admit I was as well. As our friend tore the tape loose and smoothed it over her face, he then helped me to lie down on one Side of my bed, my arms under me as the other man came over and knelt in front of Cassie.

I wondered what he was going to do as he lifted the hem of my nightgown up slightly and tied the end of a long length of rope around my ankles. Once he folded back the skirt, however, I found out as he played the rope out a little, then lifted my legs as he started to wind it tightly around them just below my knees. The skirt of my nightdress was pulled in by this, so that I could see my sock covered ankles, but it also held my legs firmly together as he tied a knot to hold it and then played some more rope out.

I turned my head and watched as the other man tied Cassie's legs together below her knees, passing the rope around and between them as he pulled the rope with each pass. As he did this, our friend tied the rope around my legs above my knees as well, making them look like a pale blue sausage as he pulled them tightly together, then fed the rope through the band around my waist and took it back down, passing it round each coil before he secured it firmly around my ankles again.

By the time he had finished, Cassie was lying next to me, rope around her legs below her knees and also her upper legs about half way between her knees and hips. She looked like she was in a white and brown jumpsuit as she looked over and me and mumbled quietly "fnnssnttjne."

Our friend leaned over and stroked our cheeks, saying ďyouíre both going to be just fine. Lie still and it will all be over soon,Ē as he did so. I looked back at April, who had some rope around her neck, forcing her to look down at her crossed legs. She managed to raise it very slightly and nod at us before the other man left the room, leaving our friend to watch over us. I saw that Cassie's pyjama top had risen up a little, and turned to try and pull it down between my hands....


********

 

As my eyes become accustomed to the gloom, I realise with a slight shock that he's no longer there watching us. I look over to the clock by my bed, and the number show it's four in the morning. Maybe he's gone - maybe we can try and wriggle free of this. I turn to see if Cassie is awake.

Cassie - Cassie's not there....

 

I turn onto my side and look where my sister had been before, but there are only the covers, slightly dishevelled and pulled down the side of the bed from the pillows. Where on earth has she gone?

I try rubbing the tape over my mouth against the pillow case - that seemed to work when we were tied next to mum by the other men, but unlike then I canít seem to get the edge to loosen. I try pushing at the very heavy knot with my tongue, but without the tape giving way I know I have no chance of getting that out.

Looking over my shoulder, I can see my hands still held firmly together. My hands are sweaty, but there's no way I can get to the knots, never mind try to twist them loose - they're too tightly held to my back to allow that.

Are they still there, the men? I know our friendís not here, but they could be anywhere - in another room, downstairs... Having said that, my curiosity about where Cassie has gone is starting to get the better of me, and when I roll onto my other side I see that my bedroom door is open.

Slowly, carefully, I wriggle to the side of my bed and manage to sit myself up, stopping to catch my breath as I do so. Eventually, I gather up my courage and slip off the side of the bed, standing on my bound feet as I stop to get my balance.

As I look towards the door, I start to take short, tiny little hops on my feet, trying no tot make any noise as I land on the carpet in case somebody downstairs hears me. It seems to take an eternity, but eventually I manage to reach the doorway and shuffle out into the corridor, the sweat running down my cheek onto the tape as I lean against the wall.

My room is at the far end of the upstairs corridor, and there are three doors along the wall with the banister on the other side - Cassie's room, the guest bedroom and mum and dad's room. Straightening up, I start to shuffle along the wooden floor, my socks rubbing against the rope as I do so.

The door to Cassie's room is open, and I stop there for a moment before moving myself into the doorway to see if she is in there. She isn't - the bed covers are undisturbed, and her teddy is still lying on the top - but somebody else is in there as I let out a sigh of relief.

April is lying on her side on the floor, her head resting on a pillow as she faces away from me. Her legs have been tied tightly together in the same way as Cassie's, with ropes around her ankles, her legs just below her knees, and her thighs. Her ankles have been pulled back, and I can just make out a rope holding them to the chest ropes which are pulled together behind her back.

As I watch, she mumbles and rolls over, so that I can see her closed eyes over the grey band around her mouth. She seems to be all right, so I turn and start to shuffle again down the corridor, past the spare room and into mum and dad's room.

As I look in, I can see where Cassie has gone. Somehow, she must have woken up and made her way in, because she's lying next to mum on the bed, her head against mum's chest. Her eyes are closed, and she's fast asleep. Mum has her head against Cassie's, asleep as well.

I havenít seen her since we were taken to our room, but I can see that she also has ropes around her ankles, legs and thighs, the ropes tightly cinched between her legs. Thereís also a length of rope tied from her ankles to the centre of the wooden board at the foot of their bed. Her mouth has also been covered in grey tape, which is starting to reflect the light that is starting to come through the closed curtains.

I hop over to the bed, my feet landing on the soft carpet, and lie down on the other side of mum, nestling in next to her. As I rest my head against hers, she turns her head and opens her eyes slightly, looking at me as she mumbles "whrssprl?"

"Slp," I mumble back as I rest my head, my eyes slowly closing as Mum rubs her head against mine.....


********

 

"Jneee? Jnee, wkp."

I open my eyes at the sound of mum's mumbled words, blinking at the bright sunlight that is shining through the curtains. I look over and see that Cassie is sitting up, her eyes twinkling for some reason, as Mum nudges me in the shoulder.

"Sttp - smnsmvng dwnstrs."

As I wriggle myself up into a sitting position, I can hear it now - someone knocking on the front door. From Cassie's room, I can hear April trying to call out with little success.

"DDddeeee," Cassie said as she nodded her head. Sure enough, I can hear the door been opened and Dad calling out "Jennifer? Girls? Where are you?"

"PPHHRRRRRR," Mum calls out as loudly as she could, and we all listen to the sounds of footsteps running up the stairs, and then see Dad standing in the doorway, looking at all three of us.

"Thank God," he says as he runs to the bed, embracing Cassie and me as he kisses us on the head, "Thank God youíre all right." He goes to the end of the bed and unties the rope holding Mum's feet to the board, before he picks Cassie up and carries her over to my side of the bed, sitting her next to me before he helps Mum to sit up.

"Hang on," he says as he starts to gently peel the tape away from Mum's face, winding it round before he reveals a band of green and brown silk around her face, and a large, dark looking knot between her teeth. "What the hell did they do to you," he continues as he unties the scarf from around her neck, removing the gag before he pulls a washcloth out from her mouth.

A policeman stands in the doorway, and says "we found the babysitter - someone will be here to help you," as Dad embraces Mum and starts crying.

"Duhvfntdde," Cassie says as she looks at both of them. "All I know is I've missed you all, and I've been worried sick about you, poppet," he says as he rubs our hair, while two men in green jackets come into the room.


********

 

"No, they seem to have survived it remarkably well, Mum - they seemed to treat it as just a game, albeit a very strange one.

"She's having a harder time, but I think she'll get over it. At least this time they didnít take anything from here - it was me they wanted to do something. The bank knows what happened, so I'm not in trouble.

"Thanks, Mum - I appreciate that. We'll see you then."

Dad put the phone down and came back to the dinner table, where Cassie and I were sitting with mum. "Your granís going to stay with us for a couple of weeks at the start of the holidays," he said as he sat down.

The night had been a week ago - we found out that after I had finally fallen asleep, our friend had untied April, allowed her to go to the toilet, and then re-tied her in Cassieís room. We havenít seen her since - apparently sheís gone on holiday. Mum thought she heard the front door, and the next thing she knew was Cassie snuggling in next to her, then me.

As for Dad - he had been taken to the bank he works in and made to do something by the men, before been knocked out and left there. He and Mum canít believe how brave we were, or how calm. I donít have the heart to tell them why - not yet anyway. Maybe over the holidays.

"That's nice," Cassie said as she looked at me. "We like Granny."

I knew why she was coming - Mum and Dad were worried that something might happen if we are left alone in the house, and I can see why they're worried. They need not be, though - Cassie and I have been practising...

 

 

 

 

 

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