Cassie the Heroine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think I have ever been so nervous in my life as I was sitting in the front row, Mum and Dad holding my hands on each side.  Granny was sitting next to Mum, and Jenny on the other side of Granny, while behind me was Aunt Connie, Uncle Dave and Aunt Cassie.  Suzie and Bobby were also there, with their parents, with Lady Holderness sitting directly behind me, her hand on my shoulder.

 

On the other side of the hall was sitting Pippa, her hair in the usual pigtails.  She looked as if she did not want to be there either, tugging at the sleeves of her white blouse.  Her blue skirt looked as stiff as she must have been feeling, but she looked over at me and smiled, her glasses slipping down.  Her mother leaned over and pushed them back up, smiling at Mum and me as she did so.

 

Hazel and Claire were there as well, in matching blue cotton dresses and flat shoes, looking round and talking to each other and giggling as they looked at me.  Their parents were there as well - as were a whole group of other people who were there to watch the ceremony.

 

“Eyes front, Poppet,” Dad said as he nudged me, and I gulped as I saw Lord Holderness come to the front of the stage.

 

“Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,” he said as he looked round the hall.  “Thank you all for coming here today for this very special presentation, to a very special young lady.  Before we make the presentation, I am going to ask Detective Chief Inspector Barry Hampton if he would say a few words.  DCI Hampton?”

 

“Here we go,” I heard Colin say in a stage whisper behind me, “Dad gets to make a speech - again.”  I stifled a laugh as I watched his father step forward, running a nervous hand through his hair, and cough a little.

 

“Thank you, Lord Holderness,” he said as he looked at me.  “We hear an awful lot - far too much if you want my honest opinion - of the problems with the youth of today in the news, which makes it all the more delightful when it is possible to say something positive about the young people of our community.

 

“All of you will have seen or read the reports of what happened a month ago in the David Lloyd Health centre, and then later that night.  What must have been a terrifying ordeal was made more bearable by the quick thinking and actions of a young lady, who showed a courage and thoughtfulness far greater than you would expect of such a young lady.”

 

I shifted uneasily, the petticoat under my yellow sundress rustling a little as I heard this.  I started to swing my legs to and fro, my highly polished black shoes coming in and out from under the chair as Mum and Dad gripped my hands even tighter.

 

“With that in mind,” I faintly heard him say as my heart started to pump in my chest, so hard I thought it was going to burst, “I want to ask Lord Holderness if he would present this Police Bravery Award to a very special young lady, in recognition of her actions on that day - Miss Cassandra Paulette Craig!”

 

“On you go, dear,” Mum said gently as she and Dad helped me to stand up, and I walked slowly to the steps at the side of the stage, the clapping and cheering giving me courage as I slowly walked up the stairs and across to where Lord Holderness and Colin’s father were standing.  They both smiled at me as I felt a ribbon being placed round my neck, and saw the medal on the front of my dress.

 

“Thank you,” Lord Holderness said as he handed me a framed certificate, and then knelt at one side of me, Colin’s father on the other as I saw flashes of light and heard the cheering, the clapping - all for me.

 

And the really funny thing?  All I did was what I do anyway - just in a slightly different way.  After all, that day started very much like any other Saturday - well, actually, not quite like any Saturday.  We had a visitor first thing....

 

********

 

“What do you think Jenny - the pink one or the green one?”

 

“Cassie,” my big sister said with that sense of exasperation I always love to hear from her, “Does it really matter?  It’s a swim party for goodness sake - whatever one you wear, you’re going to be underwater for most of it!”  She was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a black t-shirt, with white ankle socks.

 

“I know - but these things matter.  I’m not a toddler anymore!”  I stuck my tongue out at her as she went to the door of my room, then said “Go for something different - the red one” before leaving me to pick the swimming costume for later that day.  I pulled down on my grey sweatshirt, covering the waistband of my joggers, and shook my head for a moment.

 

I had finished all my homework the night before, and was getting my things together for Hazel’s swim party that afternoon.  I had my goggles and swim cap ready, as well as a big fluffy towel, and had packed them all into my grey duffle bag, but I just could not decide what costume to wear. 

 

I did not even hear the doorbell ring, so intent was I on the selection, but when I heard Mum call out “Anne!  And is this who I think this is?”  I abandoned all attempts at careful choice, closed my eyes and picked one at random, then stuffed it into my bag and ran down the stairs.

 

Mum was gently lowering herself into our rocking chair, her hand at the base of her back, while Jenny was looking at a small car seat which was sitting on the floor.  She was sitting next to Alicia’s mother, who was putting a large holdall on the floor beside the seat.  Mum had on a blue pair of those special pants she had bought, which tied at the front of her now very large tummy, and a long t-shirt that stretched over her bump.

 

“Hello, Cassie,” Mrs Bowden said as she looked at me.  She had on a blue smock top with a long sleeved black top underneath, black leggings and flat shoes, and there was a big smile on her face.  “Would you like to meet Andrew?”

 

“Yes please,” I said as I walked round and knelt on the floor next to Jenny, both of us staring intently at the baby that was sat in the car seat.  He looked so small and tiny, wrapped up in a blue blanket with a little cap over his head, but I could see a shock of blonde hair underneath it.

 

“He looks so small,” I said quietly as I looked at him, his blue eyes darting from side to side as a little bubble appeared at the side of his mouth.  “Was I this small, Mum?”

 

“Smaller,” Mum said as she leaned forward.  “But he will grow up quickly enough.  Enjoy it while you can Anne, enjoy it while you can.”

 

“Come on, Jennifer, it’s not as bad as you make it out to be,” Mrs Bowden said with a smile.  “Look, let me go and make you some tea or something - you look as if you could do with a mug.”

 

“Thanks,” Mum said as Mrs Bowden stood up and went to the kitchen, then she turned and looked at the two of us looking at the new arrival.  “So what are you thinking,” she said as she looked at us.

 

“He looks so small,” Jenny said quietly, “do you think our new arrival will be as small?”

 

“Honestly,” Mum said as she let out a groan and put her hand behind her back, “I don’t think so.  Be a dear, Jenny, and pass me over a couple of cushions - I need the extra support.”

 

Jenny picked up a couple of cushions and put them behind Mum’s back, as I reached down and put my finger in the baby’s hand.  I thought he looked at me when I touched his hand, and then he tightened his tiny little fingers over mine.  I had to smile when he did this, and said “Hey - he’s got a strong grip.”

 

“Takes after his father,” Mrs Bowden said as she came in, handing Mum a mug of tea before she sat down.

 

“I can see why Alicia has fallen in love with him already,” Jenny said as she put her finger in his other hand, “He looks so adorable - not at all like his cousin.”  I looked at her and nudged her in the ribs as she said this, sticking my tongue out at her comment.

 

“Ali said the same thing,” Mrs Bowden said with a smile, “but when Bobby saw him last week, all he said was ‘When will he be able to play football?  And when can we take him to a game?’”

 

“I can imagine Alexander may have something to say about that,” Mum said with a laugh.  As she did this, the telephone rang and Jenny went to answer it.

 

“Cas,” she called out a minute later, “It’s Pippa.  Can you come and talk to her please?”

 

“Sure,” I said as I came into the hallway and took the phone.  “Hey Pippa - what’s up?”

 

“Hi Cas,” I heard Pippa say at the other end of the line, “You getting ready for the party as well?”

 

“Just about ready - why?”

 

“Listen, can you ask your mum if you can come and sleepover tonight?  Hazel and Claire are coming over, and you can bring a friend if you want.”

 

 I smiled as I said “Give me a moment,” and went back into the room.

 

“Mum - can I sleep over at Pippa’s tonight?  Hazel and Claire are going to come over as well, and I can take a friend.”

 

“Well, Jenny is going out tonight, but - bring the phone in and let me talk to her.”

 

I went to the hallway and brought the phone back in, handing it to Mum as I sat down.  “Hello Pippa,” she said as she smiled at me, “can I talk to your mother please?

 

“Janice?  It’s Jennifer Craig - tell me about this sleepover.”

 

I sat and watched as Mum nodded, and then said “Well, if you can take Cassie home with you, I’ll get John to bring her night bag over when he drops Jenny off.”  She looked at me and said “Do you want to invite Suzie?”

 

I nodded to that, so Mum said “All right, Janice - I’ll let her stay overnight.  She’ll ask her friend Suzie to come, and I’ll tell her father how to get to your place.  Will six o’clock be all right?

 

“Great, thanks Pippa.  It gives me and John a night on our own - I’m not sure how many more of them we are going to get.  See you tomorrow.”  She ended the call and handed me the phone.

 

“If you pick out some clothes,” she said to me as I jumped up, “I’ll ask your father to run round with them tonight.”

 

“Thanks Mum,” I said as I took the phone to the hallway, then ran up the stairs.

 

And that was how it began - by that time tomorrow, a lot happened and I found out a few new things....

 

********

 

“So how does it feel to be the hero of the hour?”

 

My eyes were still smarting a bit from all the bright lights as I walked back down the stairs, accompanied by Lord Holderness.  He smiled at me and said “Well done,” as Mum and Dad hugged me, and then Jenny asked the question.

 

“I don’t know,” was my honest reply, “but does this mean we can have some cake?”

 

“Oh yes, poppet,” Dad said as he ruffled my hair, “It means you can have all the cake you want today.”  I smiled at that thought, before I heard a low groan and looked at Granny.

 

“Not me,” she said shaking her head, as Aunt Connie held her back and smiled.

 

“Dave,” she said, and I could hear she was not exactly herself, “I think we need to go somewhere.”  I looked at Uncle Dave, only to see that he was as white as a sheet on a hospital bed - or the one at Pippa’s house.

 

“Come on,” Granny said as she picked up her coat, “I’ll drive you.  There’s nothing to worry about, girls,” she then said as she looked at me and Jenny, “I just need to take your Aunt and Uncle home to pick something up.”

 

“Is your aunt all right,” Suzie said as she came over.

 

“I think so - she probably just has a sore back, right Dad?”

 

Dad just nodded his head, as he put his hand around Mum’s waist.  “Come on,” he eventually said, “Cake you asked for, and cake you shall have.”

 

********

 

“Do you want a slice of cake before you go?”

 

Mum was looking at me across the dining table, as I finished my lunch.  “Yes please Mum,” I said as I took the plate, and drained the rest of the fruit juice from my cup.  I had changed out of the joggers and sweatshirt into a pair of jeans and a long sleeved blue top, and my feet were snug and warm in a pair of thick socks and trainers.

 

“Dad will take you to the sports club, and then bring an overnight bag over for you later tonight,” Mum said as she poured herself a cup of tea.  Dad nodded as he put his cup down and wiped his chin on a napkin.

 

“Give me five minutes,” he said as he stood up, “and I’ll be ready.”  As he left the kitchen, Jenny came in and sat down.

 

“Is Dad still going to take me tonight,” she said as she poured herself a glass of juice.

 

“Oh yeah - the big date with Colin,” I said, and I giggled as I said it.  I just found it difficult to think of my big sister going out with a boy - it wasn’t nasty, just funny, and the fact it was making Jenny blush made it even funnier.

 

“Get your coat, Cassie,” Mum said as she stood up.  “Time you weren’t here.”

 

I stood up, stuck my tongue out at Jenny as she drank her juice, and then went to get my blue padded coat.  As I was putting it on, Dad came down with my duffle bag in my hand.

 

“In the car, poppet,” he said as we walked out to the garage, and I climbed in the back, strapping myself in as Dad started the car and we headed off.

 

The sports club had been built next to the big shopping centre at the far side of town - a big white block that looked as if it was just another shop front or warehouse or whatever those buildings big parcels come from are.  Anyway, Dad pulled into the car park and turned the engine off, before he got out and opened the door for me.

 

As I got out, I heard Pippa shouting “Cassie,” and I looked to where she was standing outside the entrance.  As always, her long brown hair had been platted into two pigtails, and she had on her steel rimmed glasses.  She was also wearing jeans, but with a red t-shirt over a white long sleeved top.

 

Her mother was standing with her, wearing a black leather jacket over a brown jersey dress, and knee length shiny black boots.  “Hello Cassie,” she said as I walked over, “I’m glad you could stay over tonight.”  She had shorter brown hair, and smiled at Dad as he handed me the duffel bag.

 

“Thanks for inviting her, Jackie,” Dad said as he stood with us.  “I’ll bring her bag over with her friend Suzie later.”

 

“Suzie,” Pippa said, “She’s the one who did that amazing magic trick at your party isn’t she?  I heard she was related to the family who live at the Manor House.”

 

“Yeah - they’re her grandparents,” I said as a few more of our friends turned up.  “Don’t let that put you off, though - my Aunt Cassie teaches her class, and apparently she’s a real trouble maker.”

 

“Sounds fun,” Pippa said as we saw Hazel and Claire walking over with their parents.  As always, they were dressed identically, this time in denim dresses with a white jumper underneath, and black Ugg boots over their white tights.

 

“Sorry we’re a bit late,” their father said as he joined us, “but I had to get their bags packed.”

 

“I’ll come and get them now,” Pippa’s mother said, and as she and their dad walked over Hazel’s mum said “Right - in we go.”

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow Cassie,” Dad said as he waved to me.  I waved back and then followed the others through the large glass doors.

 

I’ve stayed in a few hotels with Mum and Dad, and when I went inside I thought I was in one of them again.  There were a few big comfy chairs scattered around, and a big white desk with a woman in a white blouse standing behind it.

 

“Good Afternoon,” she said as we walked towards her, “Can I help you?”

 

“We have a swim party booked for this afternoon,” Hazel’s mum said as she showed her a letter.  The woman looked at it and said “Ah yes - if you would all come this way?”

 

She pressed something behind the desk, and two glass doors swung open to allow us all to walk through.  Hazel and Claire’s dad joined us as we walked through, and then down a corridor, past some rooms in which we could see men and woman running and doing other fun things.

 

Their mum had on a cream sleeveless jacket over a grey jumper and a pair of shiny black trousers, that creaked in a funny way as she walked.  I could see them looking at me and stifling a laugh as we stopped in front of a door with “Party Changing Room” marked on it.

 

“If you will go in here,” the other woman said as she opened the door, “You can store your clothes in the locker.  The pool can be accessed through the door on the other side.”  She smiled at us as all twelve of us girls walked in, their mum joining us as their father left with the woman from the desk.

 

“Get changed quickly girls,” she said as she sat down, “You don’t want to waste a second, and there will be drinks and snacks afterwards.”

 

Well come on - twelve kids in a room with the prospect of a swim coming up?  It became a race to see who could get changed first, as I pulled my blue swimsuit out and started to strip off.

 

Well, race is probably the wrong word - more like a mad scramble, as we had to be reminded to put our clothes and other things in a bag, and then into lockers before handing the keys to their mum.  We then almost ran through the doors at the other side of the room, and into the swimming pool.

 

“Wow,” Pippa said as she followed me out, squinting for a moment, “They got inflatables and everything!”

 

They had as well - the pool was a small one, but it had been divided in half.  One side was fairly clear, although there were a number of mats floating on the water.  On the other side a large inflatable was running the length of a pool, with bumps, tunnels and other things to scramble over and through.

 

Dad had taken me for swimming lessons with Jenny, so I was confident enough to go straight for the obstacle float, Pippa following me.  Hazel and Claire went into the other side at first, both in red swimsuits, and played with some of the others.

 

Well, what can I say?  I’m not sure how long we spent in there, but I loved every little second of it

 

Eventually, however, we had to come out, and so we went back into the room, and dried ourselves off.  As I pulled my jeans back on, Hazel shouted over “Hey Cassie - how’s your mum?”

 

“She’s fine thanks,” I called back.

 

“Excited about the new baby?”

 

“Yeah - I saw the little brother of Jenny’s friend today.  He was so cute; I couldn’t wait to see what my little brother looks like.”

 

“Or sister,” Claire said as she pulled her jumper on.  “You don’t know which it is yet, do you?”

 

“No,” I said, “but I hope it’s a boy.  Then I have a brother of my own to boss around.”

 

“I wish I had a brother or sister,” Pippa said, “It would be good to have someone to talk to like that.”

 

I finished lacing up my shoes.  “There may still be time,” I said as I looked at Pippa.

 

“I’d need to get a new dad first,” she said, then shook herself as she said “So where’s the party food?”

 

As if on cue, the door opened and the woman from the desk came in.  “Come with me,” she said, and we were led to a large play room.  One side was a large play frame, with slides and a ball pool, and against the wall on the other side was a table with jugs of juice, sandwiches and other snacks.

 

“GREAT!” we all called out as we descended on the food, and Hazel’s mum and dad sat next to the ball pool.

 

I ate and drank, and then realised I needed to visit the little girl’s room.  As I left the play room, I could see the desk at the front, and that two men were talking to the woman standing there.  They didn’t notice me, but I could see they were big men, one of them with ginger hair and the other with a black woollen cap over his grey hair.

 

Anyway, I saw the sign for the toilet, and went in.  When I came out a few minutes later, I saw that the woman and the two men had gone, and there was nobody at the desk.

 

I could also see a chocolate machine, next to the desk, and I had sudden hankering for a bar of chocolate.  I had a little money in my pocket, so I walked down and bought myself a bar of Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate.

 

I was about to go back to the room when I heard a sobbing sound from a door behind the desk, and I - well, I was curious.  The door was solid white, but it was a little bit ajar, so I sneaked over and had a look inside.

 

I could see the lady from the desk kneeling on the floor, next to another woman, and the two men were looking in a big metal box.  That was not really caught my attention though - what did was the fact the two women had a strip of what looked like white plastic around their wrists, holding them together behind their backs.

 

The ginger haired man suddenly looked over at the door, and for a moment I thought he had seen me, as I put my hand over my mouth.  As he turned back to look at the safe, however, I sneaked away from the door, and looked round.  There was a telephone on the desk, which I just managed to reach up and lower gently down.  Trying to breath normally, I picked up the receiver and dialled three digits.

 

“Emergency,” the female voice said “Which service please?”

 

“Police,” I whispered, “there are some bad men - robbers I think - at the place I came to swim at.”

 

“All right dear,” the female voice said, “Don’t put the phone down.   Are the bad men still there?”

 

“Yes,” I whispered.

 

“All right, what’s your name?”

 

“Cassie - Cassie Craig.”

 

“All right Cassie - I want you to hide this phone, but do not touch anything.  Then I want you to hide where the men cannot find you - I am going to send someone round, all right?”

 

“All right,” I whispered before I hid the telephone under the table, and then went back to the play room.  I knew I had to keep the others in there, and I had an idea how.”

 

“Hey Cassie,” Pippa said as I walked back in, “That took a while.”  I nodded and then said “Everyone in the Ball Pool!  Let’s see who can hide the longest!”

 

********

 

“This,” Dad said as he tapped his fork on the table, “is incredibly good carrot cake.  How’s your éclair, Cassie?”

 

I gave Dad a big thumbs up as I chewed on the pastry, trying to make sure I did not get any chocolate on my dress.  We were all sitting at a table at the side of the hall, with Mum and Dad each side of me and Jenny sitting opposite.  From time to time someone would come up and say something to me or Mum or Dad.

 

Aunt Cassie was outside the hall, talking on her mobile phone when Hazel’s mum came over.  “Cassie,” she said as she looked at me, “Why didn’t you say something that afternoon?  If we had known what was going on...”

 

“What would you have been able to do, Barb,” Mum said as she looked at me.  “Cassie made sure everyone stayed in the room, out of the way of harm.  She did the same later, and the twins came through it.”

 

“I know,” she said, “and I will always be grateful for that.  I just wonder what would have happened if I had known everything.”

 

“Barb, we have to teach our kids what to do in real life - we taught Cassie to get help when it is needed, and she did just that.”  I saw Aunt Cassie walking in, putting her phone in her bag.  Hazel’s mum smiled at me and walked of as Dad said “Well?”

 

“She’s in the room now - Mum says Dave is fine, and Connie is screaming the place down.”

 

Jenny and I looked at each other, wondering what was going on.  I really felt as if something was happening, something big - which I did not feel on that day...

 

********

 

I always wondered what it would be like to be one of a group of dogs that catches a scent - well I got the feeling as everyone ran to the ball pool and dived in.  “Let’s see if we can all be quiet as well,” I said as I looked to the door, and then jumped in after Pippa.

 

It wasn’t that big a pool, and we weren’t that quiet, but I just wanted everyone to be in the same place - so that they did not go outside.  The two men did not look like the two we met at Holderness manor, or even the ones that spent the night with us - they looked different, even sounded different.

 

After a few minutes, I heard Hazel and Claire’s mum saying “What’s going on outside?”  I whispered something to Pippa, and as she nodded we both jumped out and grabbed her mother, hearing her say “wha...” as we dragged her back and pulled her into the ball pool as well.

 

“MUM!” the twins shouted as they jumped on her, while Pippa and I went to grab a glass of juice.  As I turned round, I saw a police woman look into the room through the round window in the door, and nod before she turned away again.

 

I let out a low whistle, which made Pippa say “Something wrong, Nancy Drew?”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“You look as if something’s happening and you don’t know what to do about it.  Something up?”

 

I was spared the embarrassment of trying to lie by the door opening, and a familiar face putting his head round the door.  I recognised Colin’s dad from when he had come to parties at the Manor house, and when he saw me he actually smiled.

 

“Hey,” he said in a neat, quiet voice, “Sorry to interrupt your party, girls, but I was wondering if I could borrow Cassie?  I promise she will be back in just a couple of minutes.”

 

The entire party turned and looked at me, as Colin’s dad said “actually, I need her to get a message to her big sister - she has a big date with my son later today, and poor Cassie has to tell her dad where to take her.”

 

“Ooooo - Cassie has to help her sister,” some of the girls said, making me blush as I walked to the door and went outside with him.  I could see a few more policemen in the entrance area, and the police woman from earlier talking to the lady from the desk.

 

“Sit down, Cassie,” he said as he walked with me to a low bench, and we both sat down.  “We met at Holderness Manor, didn’t we?”

 

“That’s right,” I said with a smile, “You’re Colin’s dad.  You talked to us after that funny business at Aunt Connie’s house as well.”

 

“Yup,” he said as he took a packet of Polos out of his pocket and gave me one.  “You did a very brave thing earlier, Cassie, and I wanted to thank you for calling the police when you saw the two men.”

 

“Daddy taught me to do that,” I said as I sucked on the mint.  “Is the lady all right?”

 

Colin’s dad looked over and said “Not right now - she’s had a big scare, but I think she’ll be fine.  You’ve had a few scares like that, haven’t you?”

 

I nodded, before saying “Did you catch them?”

 

“Well, I can’t tell you that right now,” he said with a smile, “but what you did meant we got here in time to stop too much happening.  The two women are scared, and a bit sore, but they will get better, I promise you.”

 

“Good,” I said with a smile, “I hope they get over it.  Are you going to tell my mum and dad?”

 

“Eventually,” he said as he stood up.  “I’ll talk to them later.  Right now, I wanted to say thank you and well done.  When I talk to them, I’ll be sure to mention that.”  He put his hand on my head and ruffled my hair, then said “Go back to your party - the girls will be wondering who the strange man who took you out was.”

 

I stood up and went back to the door, when he said “Oh, and Cassie?”

 

“Yes, Mr Hampton?”

 

“Tell your dad he can pick them up from the disco at ten, all right?”

 

“Sure,” I said with a smile, and then ran back into the room.  I was thirsty - and happy I had helped someone.

 

“What happened?  I just saw a police car leaving.”

 

Pippa’s mum was waiting as the four of us came out, accompanied by the twins.  Hazel and Claire’s mum followed us out, as we carried our bags with us.

 

“Some sort of dispute in the club - I’m not sure, we heard nothing,” she said as she kissed Hazel and Claire.  “Now, you two be good girls for Pippa’s mother, and I’ll see you both in the morning.”

 

“See you. Mummy,” they said as they waved at their mother, who turned and walked back into the building.  “Right,” Hazel said as the door closed, “Let’s go and have some fun!”

 

“Why not,” I said as I followed Pippa and her mother to a nearby Skoda Octavia.  I climbed into the back with the twins, while Pippa sat in the front with her mother on, a booster seat on the cushion.

 

“”When we get back to the house,” she said over her curtain, “You can go and play in the front room while I sort some tea out.  Once your friend gets to our house, Cassie, we’ll eat and then you can go to Pippa’s room.”

 

Pippa lived in one of the new estates on the outskirts of town, and as we drove to it I realised I had never really been to this part of the town before.  The houses looked nice, with big canopies over the front doors and front lawns with big garages.

 

We pulled into one of the drives at the end of a round road, and got out of the car.  “Nice house,” I said to Pippa as we walked to the front door.  “Big, roomy - bigger than mine.”

 

“Bigger does not mean better,” she said as we walked in.  “Take your shoes off and leave them in the hallway - we never wear them inside.”

 

Hazel and Claire kicked their boots off, while I unlaced my trainers and put them next to Pippa’s.  We then walked into her front room, while her mum went into the kitchen.  “Anyone want to watch a DVD,” Pippa said as she opened a cabinet.

 

“Have you got The Princess and The Frog,” Claire said, “I love that film.”

 

“Got it right here,” Pippa said as she took it out.  “Let me put it in, and then I’ll get some drinks.”

 

She left us for a few minutes, as we sat on the floor in front of her big television.  When she came back, she was carrying four big glasses of squash, one for each of us as she started the film.

 

 

It was just finishing when I saw our car pull up in front of the house through her front window.  “Suzie’s here,” I said as I stood up and walked to the window, waving as Suzie got out from the back of the car.  Her red hair was pulled back into a short pigtail, and she was wearing a blue pinafore dress over a grey jumper, with a pair of short brown boots on her feet,  She waved at me as she came up the pathway, and then ran into the room in her sock covered feet as she hugged me.

 

“Cassie,” Dad said as he looked in the door, “Quick word please.”

 

I walked out and followed Dad to the door.  “I gave Jackie - Pippa’s mum - your overnight bag.  Mum put your blue pyjamas in, and there is a change of clothes for tomorrow.”

 

“Thanks dad,” I said,  but he then whispered “Mr Hampton popped round to see me and your mother.  We both think you did a very brave and good thing today, and he’ll come round tomorrow to talk to you, all right?”

 

I nodded and hugged him, then whispered “He said to tell you to pick Jenny up at ten.”

 

“I know,” he said, before he called out “See you tomorrow Jackie” and ran back to the car.  I walked back into the room as Pippa’s mum looked in.

 

“Tea will be in five minutes, girls,” Pippa’s mother said, “I hope you’re all hungry.”

 

“Thanks mum,” Pippa said as we all sat down.  Hazel sat next to Suzie and said “Is it true you’re going to be a lady one day?”

 

“No,” Suzie said as she settled down, “but my brother will be Lord Holderness one day - assuming he still wants to be.  Granddad is the current Lord Holderness - he lives up at the Manor house.”

 

“So how come you know Cassie here,” Claire said as she sat down.

 

“Her granny and my grandmother are old friends - so she and her sister came to the Manor house last summer for a visit.  Mind you, we then got tied up by the nice robber...”

 

For one minute, I felt just as Jenny must do when I blurt something out.  “You got tied up?  Now I know why you weren’t scared at your birthday party, Cassie - it wasn’t the first time.”

 

“Nope - or the last.  Grandma told me about the contest at your house on Mother’s Day, Cassie - and how close you came to winning the escape game.”

 

“Escape game?”  Pippa took off her glasses, wiped them and then put them on to look at us.  “Spill it Cassie, just how many times have you been tied up?”

 

“Well...”  My blushes were spared by Pippa’s mum calling out “Come and eat girls.”

 

“Oops,” Suzie said as we walked to the dining room, “Did I say something wrong.”  I just shook my head - I knew we would have some explaining to do later.

 

********

 

“Hey Cassie.”

 

I turned to see Bobby standing there, Suzie giggling behind him.  “Oh hi Bobby,” I said as I put my fork down, “How are you doing?”

 

“Can’t complain,” he said, and there was a slight blush in his cheeks as he said it.  “Where did your Gran and Aunt Connie go?”

 

“Aunt Connie needed to go home for something - I’m not sure what.” I said as I looked at the others talking on the other side of the table.  “Whatever it is, it’s got Aunt Cassie and my parents worried.”

 

Bobby took one look at them, and then put his arm round me.  “Cassie,” he said quietly, “Was your Aunt Connie holding her back when she left?”

 

“Yeah - yeah she was, why?”

 

He smiled, a big broad smile as he said “You’ll find out soon enough.  Excuse me, I need to have a word with your father about something.”  He walked off as Suzie nudged me in the ribs.

 

“I wonder what he’s going to say to your dad,” she said as I found myself blushing.  “Suzie, are you going to get me into trouble again?”

 

“Trouble?  When have I ever got you into trouble?”

 

I turned and looked at her, my eyes raised.  “Oh yeah,” Suzie said, “I guess that’s kind of why we’re here, isn’t it?”

 

I nodded as Aunt Cassie’s mobile phone went off, and she walked out of the room, talking into it.  It was part of the reason we were there, and in one piece...

 

********

 

The pizza was great, and Suzie and I helped with the washing up while Pippa and the twins dried and put away the dishes.  I could hear them giggling and talking to each other, as I whispered to Suzie “You know, of course, this means war?”

 

“Sticks and stones,” Suzie whispered back, “besides, how do you know they will be upset or frightened?  Maybe we can persuade them to play as well?”

 

I glanced over at them before saying “We’ll see - but I doubt they have much here.  Let’s finish the dishes and find somewhere private to talk to them.”

 

“Thanks for the help girls,” Pippa’s mum said as if by cue at a school play, “Why don’t you go up to Pippa’s room and have fun.  I’ll finish off down here.”  Well, I didn’t need to be told twice, as I almost dragged Pippa out by the arm and said “thanks,” as we all walked out.

 

“Let’s go up to my bedroom,” Pippa said as we ran up the stairs, and into her bedroom.  It was big - much bigger than my one or Jenny’s.  She also had a thing for pink, with a Hello Kitty quilt cover and pillow case.

 

“Right,” Hazel said as she closed the door, “Spill it Cassie - what did Suzie mean?”

 

Taking a deep breath, I said “Well, if you really want to know - I like to play tie-up games with my family and some of my friends.  Suzie is one of them, and she’s right - the day we met we were tied up by robbers.”

 

“Oooooh,” Claire said as she sat on the bed, her legs swinging, “was it scary?”

 

“A little,” Suzie said as she sat down and looked at the others, “but it was really just a great big game, wasn’t it Cassie?”

 

“Well,” I said, and then realised that this might just be an opportunity, “I made it a game, but it was a little bit scary as well.  Why are you so interested anyway?”

 

“Oh I don’t know,” Pippa said as she lay back on the bed, “I used to dream of being the princess in the tower, held captive until the knight comes along to rescue her.”

 

“Or the rogue - I’ve seen Tangled,” Hazel said with a smile.  “So is there a handsome knight for you Suzie?”

 

“Not really,” Suzie said as she picked up a copy of a Nancy Drew book, “but Cassie does.  My big brother has a real crush on her.”

 

“SUZIE!!!!”  I shouted out, but I could feel my cheeks getting red again.  The other three cooed and started to chant “Cassie has a boyfriend, Cassie has a boyfriend...”

 

“All right, all right,” I said as I waved them down, “so I like Bobby.  That doesn’t mean he’s my boyfriend.”

 

“Yes he is,” Suzie said in a most pleasant tone, “He bought you a special brooch for your birthday, and I heard him saying to Colin...”

 

“Who’s Colin?”

 

“Her sister’s boyfriend,” Suzie said, and now I was really getting embarrassed.  “I heard them talking in his room, and Booby was saying how much he liked looking at Cassie, and Colin was saying...”

 

“All right, all right,” I said as I sat down, “so I like her brother, I find him funny.  Does that mean he’s my boyfriend.”

 

“I’m sorry, Your Ladyship,” Suzie said as she got up and curtseyed to me, the others laughing out loud as she did so.  I could have crawled into a corner and died at that point, but instead I laughed with them.

 

Eventually, Claire said “That aside, what is it like to be tied up?”

 

“Not that scary really.”

 

We all turned and looked at Pippa, who was leafing through a book.  She looked at us and said “Well, at least it doesn’t look that way in the books.  I’ve never really tried it myself, but...”

 

“Pippa,” I said with a smile as I looked at her, “Is that strictly true?  After all, you’re the one who just said you dreamed of being the damsel in distress.”  Pippa blushed and looked at us, before she closed her book, put it down and said “Well...”

 

“Pippa?”

 

She looked round, then gulped and said “Don’t tell mum, but a couple of times when I’ve been reading my book I used one of my skipping ropes to tie my ankles together.  I always did it over a pair of socks, so she never saw, but I got a feeling of what it was like.”

 

“Well now,” I said as I crossed my arms and took on the tone of voice Mum uses on me when I do something wrong, “Would you like to show the rest of us what you did?”

 

Hazel and Claire watched, their eyes wide as Pippa got off the bed and walked over to a wardrobe, taking a skipping rope out as she went back to the bed and sat on it.  Bringing her legs up, she wrapped the rope around her ankles and tied it loosely off, so that her ankles were rubbing against each other.

 

“Cool,” Hazel said as she looked at it, “Can I have a go?”

 

“Well, I can’t get off the bed now, but maybe our expert rope tier can help you?”

 

“Me too,” Claire said, “Anything Hazel does I do,” but I could tell from her voice she wasn’t quite as certain.  “You’ll find some more skipping ropes in the cupboard,” Pippa said as she looked to the cupboard, so Suzie went over to fetch a couple.

 

“Sit down with your backs against the wall,” I said to the twins as Suzie came back.  Taking one of the ropes, I knelt next to Hazel while Suzie knelt with Claire, and wrapped the rope around their ankles.  We didn’t cinch the rope, or even tie it too tightly, but it was tight enough to make sure that all they could do was wriggle their ankles up and down.

 

“How does it feel,” I said as I tucked the ends of the rope into the bands.  Pippa looked on as Hazel moved her legs around, then said “It doesn’t feel too bad, and I can still move my legs a little.  Is this way you were tied?”

 

“No,” I said quietly, “but, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, you need to work up to that.  It’s better to take it nice and gentle to begin with.”

 

“She’s right,” Suzie said as she stood up, “I did this first, but then...”

 

“Then?” Claire said as she looked at us, and I could tell she was really nervous, “I’m not sure I like this.”

 

“Oh, come on Claire,” Hazel said as she poked her twin sister in the ribs, “don’t tell me you don’t like this.”

 

“I’m not sure I do,” Claire said.

 

“It’s all right, Claire,” I said as I knelt next to her, “Take it easy.  If you don’t want me to do this, I won’t do it.  If you want me to untie your ankles, I will.”

 

“No,” she said as she looked at me, “I’m not letting my sister beat me - but is Pippa tied as tightly as us?”

 

“Unlikely,” Suzie said as she walked over, “If you tie yourself, you do it as tightly as you’re comfortable with.”  She slipped two fingers between the loops and pushed them apart to demonstrate this.

 

“Can you tighten it,” Pippa said, so Suzie pulled the ropes a bit tighter and re-tied it.  She smiled and said “So what are we going to do now?”

 

“Oh, that is tight,” Pippa said as she moved her legs up and down.  “Suzie, could you tie my hands as well?”

 

“If you want,” Suzie said as she went back to the cupboard, and found some more ropes.  “What about you two?”

 

“I want to,” Hazel said, but Pippa shook her head.  “Not me - I don’t want to,” she said as she looked at her twin sister.  “You’re weird,” she then said as she stuck her tongue out.

 

Suzie put Pippa’s hands together in front of her, palm to palm, and tied her wrists in the same way as her ankles, while I did the same thing for Hazel.  “It’s all right,” I said to Claire, “The point of these games is never to do something you don’t want to do.  It’s meant to be fun, not scary to play the games.”

 

“Thanks,” Claire said as she smiled at me, then started to tickle her sister.  “NNOOOOOOO” she screamed out in laughter, as I looked at Suzie, Suzie looked at me, and we both looked at Pippa.  “What?”  She said as we looked at her and started to talk over, “What are you planning to doooooahahahhhhhhhh!!!”

 

Oh come on - of course we weren’t going to turn down an opportunity to tickle her.  We spent the next twenty minutes tickling Pippa as she rocked around on the bed, the ropes working loose as we did so, and then turned our attention to Hazel and Claire, making sure they got their own fair share of our fingers.

 

By the time we had finished, the skipping ropes were on the floor - which just as well, for Pippa’s mum opened the door and looked in to say “Why don’t you all get changed into your pyjamas and nightdresses, and I will bring up some milk and cookies.”

 

“Thanks Mum,” Pippa said as the door closed.  I went to my bag and opened it up to take out my blue pyjamas, which I quickly changed into.  Suzie had brought a pink nightdress with white cuffs and hem, which came to just above her knees.

 

The twins had onesies - I’m not joking, they had one piece sleepsuits with sewn on feet.  Hazel was in a blue one, with a picture of a black cat on the front, and she had a matching band holding her blonde hair back.  As for Pippa, hers was bright yellow, with a picture of a blue bird on the front, as she pulled her long black hair back and wrapped a scrunchie round it to hold it in  a pigtail.

 

As for Pippa - well, it seemed her love of Hello Kitty extended to what she wore to bed.  She had on a pink vest top and shorts, with the white kitty face prominently printed on the front of the vest.

 

The door opened again and Pippa’s mother came in, carrying a tray with five glasses of milk and a big plate of biscuits.

 

“Here you go girls,” she said as she put the tray down on the dressing table.  Her boots must have been downstairs, as she wore a pair of brown slipper socks over her feet.  “Now, don’t sit up too late - I know how these parties can be.  I don’t want you all so wound up you cannot sleep.”

 

We could hear the doorbell ringing, and as her mother said “I wonder who that can be” we grabbed a glass of milk each and a biscuit.  “Thanks mum,” Pippa said as she walked out and closed the door behind herself.  “So what do you want to do first,” she said as we sat on the floor.

 

“How about we play a game,” Hazel said as I heard the footsteps on the stairs, “We could play Spin the Bottle or something.”

 

“BOR-ing,” Claire said with a laugh.  “I’ve got some nail polish in my bag - we could do each other’s nails.  I’ve even got some makeup if you wanted to try.”

 

“Sounds fun,” Pippa said, “How about I go and get some facecloths first?”

 

She stood up and went out of the room, and I could hear snatches of talking from downstairs.  Pippa’s mum sounded as if she was upset about something, but as Suzie nudged me in the ribs and said “What do you think - deep red or purple,” I turned back to look at what Claire had brought.

 

So when Pippa said “Guys,” and I turned round, seeing the red headed man standing behind her with his hand on her shoulder and the gun in his hand, I was as surprised as the others.

 

I was just grateful I reacted the way I did - it saved us a lot of trouble later on.

 

********

 

“Hey Cassie!”

 

I turned round to see Pippa, Hazel and Claire standing there, looking at me.

 

“Hey - sorry, I was miles away for a minute,” I said as I smiled at them.  “I just want to go home now.”

 

“I can imagine,” Hazel said as she nudged me in the ribs, “so has Bobby spoken to you yet?”

 

“Bobby?  Yeah, but he said he wanted to have a word with Dad as well.  He sounded very formal about it.”

 

“Maybe he wants to go on a date with you like his friend did with your big sis,” Pippa said as she looked at the two of them talking.  I could also see Jenny talking to Colin at his table, and had to stop myself from giggling at that.

 

“So listen,” Claire said, “Suzie has invited the three of us over to her place next week.  Are you coming?”

 

“Not her place,” Hazel said, “Her gran’s place.”

 

“The manor house?  Yeah, I think Granny’s going to bring us.  She went with Aunt Connie and Uncle Dave, so...”

 

I stopped as I saw Aunt Cassie walk in, a huge beaming smile on her face.  She went right over to Mum and Dad, and I watched as Mum shouted “YES!” standing up and then sitting right back down again.

 

Jenny was looking over as well, and we both knew something magical had happened.  Dad beckoned us both over and said “Well, Girls, you have a new cousin - and his name is Daniel.  Daniel David Brown.”

 

We both started to jump up and down with excitement - which I am so glad I did not do that night.  Suzie, on the other hand...

 

********

 

I recognised him as soon as I saw him - he was one of the two men that had been at the leisure centre.  “There are five of them up here,” he called downstairs to someone, “What do you want me to do?”

 

“Make sure they stay there,” a man shouted back, so he pushed Pippa into the room and closed the door behind him.   I took a deep breath, tried to stay calm, and said “Hello - who are you?”

 

“None of your business,” he growled at me, “My mate and I are going to be staying for a little while, so we need you to keep quiet and out of the way.”

 

I could see Hazel and Claire holding each other as Pippa stood there.  “They’ve got Mum downstairs - and they said they would hurt me if she did not do what they said,” she blabbed out, as I went over and hugged her.

 

“It’s all right, Pippa,” I said as I held her, “If we stay quiet and behave ourselves, we’ll get through this.  We won’t do anything,” I said as I looked at the man, “Just lock us in the room and we’ll stay here.”

 

He looked round the room at the five of us, Pippa shaking in my arms, the twins holding each other, and Suzie...  I could see the sparkle in her eyes, and before I had a chance to stop her she said the fatal words.

 

“Does that mean you’ll have to tie us up?  All the other robbers I’ve met have.”

 

“Yeah,” the man said as he looked at the five of us, “after all, my friend is tying up this one’s mother.  Maybe the five of you need to be secured as well?”

 

I could hear Claire’s gasp and looked over, seeing she was starting to cry, and Pippa was shaking even more, so I said quietly “You really don’t have to do that - we’ll stay here, just lock the door and...”

 

But it was too late - I saw him take a rucksack off his back, and as he opened it I could see coils of rope in there.  He had come prepared, as he said, “Right - who’s first?”

 

“Please,” Claire said with a sob, “don’t so this to us, we won’t do anything?”

 

“Does that mean you want to be first,” he said, so I swallowed and said “Wait - wait.”  Turning to Pippa and the twins, I said “Look, I’ve been in this situation before.   I know what it’s like, and it can be a bit scary at first.  It also means I know what you need to do - so I have an idea.”

 

I then whispered to Suzie “For all our sakes, play along,” before saying out loud “You tie my friend here up, and then I’ll do the same to the others.  They know I won’t hurt them, and you can check to see if I am doing a good job.  Then you can tie me up last of all.

 

“You can see how scared they are - do you want an accident to happen?”

 

The man looked at us, and then said “All right - but no tricks, because I will check.”

 

“Thank you,” I said as I looked at the others.  “I promise you I won’t hurt you,” I said quietly, “but it’s either me or him - which would you prefer?”

 

Pippa had calmed down a little, and she said “All right - what do we need to do?”

 

“First, we need to protect our wrists - if he is using rope, it can rub and leave a mark.  Pippa, can you give us all a pair of your sports socks?”

 

“Socks?  Sure,” she said as she went to a drawer, opened it very slowly as the man watched, and pulled out several pairs of white sports socks.  We each took a pair, as I said “Put them over your hands - it will keep them warm, and then the rope won’t hurt you.”

 

“Smart girl,” the man said as Claire very slowly pulled the socks over her hands.  “Do you mind if I leave mine off for the moment - I can’t handle rope with them on,” I said, and he agreed as he watched the others don them.

 

“Watch me,” he said as he crossed Suzie’s wrists behind her back, and started to tie them together with the rope over the socks.  He was doing a fairly simple tie - wrapping the rope around her arms four times, and then passing the ends between them to tighten the coils before tying it off and tucking the ends into the binding.

 

“Who’s first,” he then said as he handed me three lengths of rope.  To my surprise, Hazel turned round and crossed her wrist behind her back.

 

“Do me first,” she said, “then Claire might not be so frightened.”  I could see how pale her twin sister was, so I said “Claire, I know how scared you are - I was the first time this happened to me, but we’re all going to do this, and we’ll all pull through together, all right?”

 

She nodded and watched as I doubled the rope over, as he had done, and then tied Hazel’s wrists tightly together.  “Oh,” she said as she felt her wrists coming together, “that does feel funny - and yet it doesn’t hurt?”

 

“It doesn’t have to, if it is done right,” I said as I cinched the rope, tied it off and tucked the ends in.  The man came over and looked at it, then looked at me in a funny way before nodding.

 

Claire swallowed hard, and then turned her back to me as Pippa looked at Hazel’s wrists.  “That does look tight,” she said as I started to tie Claire’s wrists together.  “Just take deep breaths,” I said as I wrapped the rope around and between, “and try to think of this as a game - it helps take the fear out of it.”

 

“Is that how you coped,” she whispered as she felt her wrists coming together, and I just nodded as I finished the binding.  She then turned round with Hazel, and watched as I did the same thing to Pippa.

 

“Now I know how Nancy Drew must have felt,” she said as she felt her own wrists being bound.  “Keep thinking that,” I said as I finished tying her wrists, then turned to the man and said “Now what?”

 

He said nothing, but took a longer length of rope out of the bag and tied it around Suzie’s waist, fixing her wrists into the small of her back.  I took the three lengths he offered me and started to do the same to the others, as he took another long length of rope and wound it around Suzie’s arms and tummy, making two figures of eight around her so that her arms were locked into her side.

 

“Why is he making you do this,” Claire asked as I tied the rope around her waist, “Surely our wrists are enough?”

 

“I don’t think he believes that to be true,” I whispered as I passed the rope between her arms and back, “Maybe he thinks we’ll try and wriggle our arms over our bottom and bring them in front of us.”

 

“Can you really do that?” Hazel whispered out of the side of her mouth.  Pippa nodded and said “I can - so in that sense, I guess he’s doing what he needs to do.”  She stood still as I wrapped the rope around her waist, and then said “How are you three doing so far?”

 

“Scared,” Claire said as she tried to move her hands, “But not as scared as I was earlier.  Howe can you remain so calm, Cassie?”

 

“I can because I’ve been here before - I’ll tell you about my aunt later,” I said as I caught the three long lengths of rope the man threw at me.  “For now, as I said, let’s treat this as a game, or a play - as if we’re acting out something from one of Pippa’s Nancy Drew books.”

 

“Yeah,” Suzie said as she watched me start to wrap the rope around Pippa’s arms and tummy, “it’s fun to be tied up like this.”  I looked at her and shook my head a little, but I had to admit I was a little excited as well.  So I tied the girl’s arms to their sides, one by one, until all four of them had their arms secured firmly in place.

 

 

The red headed man had been watching the whole time, nodding at my work, but as I tied off the rope around Claire’s arms he then said “Right - all four of you, sit on the floor against the bed, side by side.”

 

“Please, do what he tells you to do,” Pippa said as she walked over and sat down, Hazel and Claire next to her and then Suzie.  I knelt next to Pippa as the man knelt next to Suzie, pulling the skirt of her nightdress down before he said “Bend your legs.”

 

“You’d better do the same,” I said to Pippa, and as they both bent their legs I caught another length of rope that he tossed over to me, before he started to tie Suzie’s ankles together side by side.  I silently thanked God he had not crossed her ankles, as it meant an idea I had begun to form in my mind would work.

 

“Don’t be nervous,” I said to Pippa as I wrapped the doubled rope around her ankles and pulled them together, “It just means he wants us to sit here.  We’ll be with each other, and we’ll be able to talk to each other.”  She nodded as I wound the rope around and between them, wriggling her toes and saying “Actually, it feels kind of nice - you’re very good at this Cassie.”

 

“I’ve had some practice,” I said quietly as I moved down, the twins bending their legs as well to allow me to tie their ankles together over the bottoms of their onesies.  Claire said “thanks, Suzie” as I tied her ankles together and cinched the ropes between her legs.

 

“For what, Claire?”

 

“For being so brave and gentle - I don’t know what I would have done if that man had done this to me.”

 

“Oh come on Claire,” Hazel said as she tried to move her ankles, “It’s an adventure.”

 

“Keep thinking that, and you’ll be fine,” the man said as he started to tie Suzie’s legs together below her knees, and then stretched her legs out, pulling the skirt of her nightdress back down.  I did the same to the legs of the other three, and then stood up, saying “So far so good, girls?”  As I did this, I picked up the socks and pulled them over my own hands.

 

They all nodded at me, as they watched the man coming behind me and pull my arms behind my back.  As he tied my arms together, I said “Well, we’re not going to be able to do that makeup or nail polish - I guess we have to play truth or dare instead.  Want to go first Suzie?”

 

Suzie looked at me and then the others, before she said “Truth - Dare is not going to possible for a while, is it?”

 

“Fair point,” Hazel said as she wriggled her legs up and down.  “Who’s your favourite boy singer, and why?”

 

“Not Beiber,” Suzie said with a laugh as my wrists were pinned to my back, “I like that guy who was on the television program - Marcus Collins.”

 

“Nah - Olly Murs for me,” Claire said as she began to sing one of his songs to herself.

 

“NO!” Hazel said as she realised her mistake, “You know I can’t stand him - Bruno Mars is better!”

 

Pippa was watching me as I was made to sit next to her, and allowed the man to tie my legs together.  “How do you remain so calm,” she whispered as I watched my legs being roped together.

 

“As I said, it’s happened to me a few times before,” I said as I stretched my legs out.  “We just need to keep calm and not do anything silly.”  I looked at Suzie as I aid this, hoping she understood as well - and finally I could see what Aunt Cassie had been on about when we spent the night at her house.

 

“PIPPA!!!!”

 

We all looked at the door and saw her mother standing there with a second man - I recognised him as well.  “What have you done to my daughter and her friends,” she said, and I could see the tear stains on her face.

 

“It’s all right, Mum,” Pippa said, “We’re all playing a game.  You want us to play don’t you?”  She winked at me as she said this, and I realised that she too had got the message.

 

“Gag them,” the second man said as he dragged Pippa’s mum out of the room, and I watched the redhead, as he reached into the bag, wondering what he was going to use and how to prepare the girls for this.

 

********

 

“It’s a boy!!  It’s a boy!!”

 

I was jumping up and down for joy as Dad looked on.

 

“Well, I can see you’re both excited,” he said as he eventually sat down.  “Listen - your Aunt Connie wants you to meet Danny as soon as possible, so in a little while we’ll all go to the hospital together.  Right now, I think Lady Holderness wants to have a word.”

 

I nodded and walked over to where Suzie’s grandmother was standing, talking to Colin’s Dad.  “You wanted to see me, Your Ladyship,” I said quietly.

 

“Ah yes - I did, Cassandra.  Would you excuse me for a moment, Barry?”

 

“Of course, Lady Holderness,” the older man said as she took me by the hand and led me to one side.

 

“Congratulations,” she said as we sat down, “both on the award and for your new arrival.  It won’t be long until your mother gives birth either, will it?”

 

“Daddy says three more weeks,” I replied, “I can’t wait.”

 

“To tell the truth,” she whispered into my ear, “Neither can you grandmother.  I hear your Aunt Jessica is moving to the area?”

 

That was true - Mum and Dad had heard yesterday that Aunt Jessica and my cousin Patty had bought a small house near to us, and were arriving next week.

 

“Well, perhaps you can invite your young cousin to join you when you come to the Manor House with the others for the visit.  It will do her good to make new friends.”

 

“What are you saying Lucinda?”

 

I turned my head to see Dad standing there.

 

“I was suggesting that she bring her cousin Patricia with her when she visits next weekend.  I trust that is all right?”

 

“It should be - Your mum and I will be busy anyway.  You can see if she likes playing your games as well...”

 

********

 

I could see Pippa’s eyes widen as the man pulled out five big lengths of cloth, and she whispered “no, please...”  Hazel and Claire also looked worried, so I said “Listen - I don’t suppose asking you not to gag us is possible?”

 

He looked at me, and then said “Sorry, kiddo - we have things to do downstairs, and we need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm.  It’s this or tape.”

 

I looked at Suzie, who could see I had an idea and slowly nodded.  “Listen,” I went on, “I’ve had a gag like that before, but this is the first time the girls here have been tied up, never mind gagged.  You don’t want them choking on you, do you?”

 

Hazel mouthed “What the...” to me, but I nodded and said “Look - you have to keep us quiet, I understand, but you can do it in a way that’s not too bad and still stops us crying out for help.  The two facecloths that my friend brought in - You could use them for me and Suzie here, but for the others, please use something else.”

 

He looked at me, and then at Pippa before saying “You got any hankies?”

 

“Top drawer on the left.”  Pippa was crying again, so I said “Don’t worry - I’ll tell you what to do again, all right?  He’s going to fold one of your hankies up and put it into your mouths.  Don’t panic, just keep breathing normally - it will feel funny for a minute or two, but I promise it will soon not be a bother to you.  Watch - he’ll put the facecloth in Suzie’s mouth first - she’s had this before.”

 

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Suzie said as she opened her mouth and allowed him to push the cloth in, closing her lips over it.  “All right, I’ll go first,” Pippa said, and as she opened her mouth the man folded one of her hankies and pushed it in.  She grimaced for a minute, then nodded slowly and sat quietly as he stuffed tow more hankies into the mouths of Hazel and Claire.

 

“Listen,” I said as I looked at them, “We learned a song at school - Frere Jacques.  Let’s all sing along to it - you know it don’t you Suzie?”  She nodded as the man knelt next to me, the other face cloth in his hand, and said “any last words?”

 

“Yes - those scarves are too big,” I said quietly, “Use strips of towels instead, and if you tape over our mouths don’t trap our hair.

 

“Please?”

 

He nodded and then pushed the cloth into my mouth.  As he went to fetch a towel, we all started to sing along together...

 

Frjck, frjck,
Drmevu? Drmevs?
Snelmtn! Snelmtn!
Dng, Dan, dn. Dng, dan, dn.

 

Slowly, the others joined in as I realized the cloths were settling into their mouths, so that as the man returned with five strops of towel, each with a knot in the middle, we were actually starting to smile.

 

“Lthmdts,” I said to the others, who all nodded as one by one we had a strip tied into our mouths, the cloth wrapped round our heads as he secured the ends together at the bases of our necks.  I nodded to the others, working my lips over the cotton strip and watching as they did the same.  I knew they had to get used to the taste, because I had seen the roll of silver tape he had taken out of the bag.

 

My biggest fear was that he would wrap it round our heads, but instead he tore off several strips and smoothed them over the lips of Pippa, Hazel and Claire, two for each of them, and three of me and Suzie.  The tape pulled at my skin, and I could see the tears in Claire’s eyes again.

 

“Dntcrrclr,” I said as I nudged her with my body, “tlblrtulc.”  In my own mind, I was counting my blessings he had only taped over our mouths - it meant an idea I had formed in my mind was possibly going to work.

 

As he finished taping over my mouth, the other man looked in.  “Come on,” he said as he looked at the five of us, “they’re going nowhere, and neither is Mummy.  We’ve work to do downstairs.”

 

The redheaded man gave the ropes around us one last check, and then left the room, closing the door behind us.  We all looked at each other, Claire trying hard not to cry as Pippa tried moving her arms and legs again.

 

“whtdwdnw,” Suzie said as she looked at me.  After all, we had been through this several times before, but the other three?  We had to make this more of a game, so they could see how we coped.

 

“Ltsplisp?”

 

“whtddus?” Hazel said as she turned her head to look at me.

 

“Ltsplisp,” I repeated as I looked round the room.  “Ispwfmltli, somfngbgngwf.... l.”

 

The other three looked at me and Suzie as she glanced around the room, and then said “Lt?”  I shook my head, and then looked at the others.

 

“Wll?  Wtsurgs?”

 

Pippa shook her head for a moment, and then said “st.... lbr bk?”  I followed her line of sight, as she looked at the book on the floor, so I shook my head and said “nnn - hsl?”

 

“Lmp,” Hazel said, her twin sister now not crying but looking at her as she realized what was going on.

 

“CRCT!”  I called out and nodded, as Hazel seemed to smile under her tape covering.  She then looked round the room and said “Ispwfmltli, somfngbgnwf....   t.”

 

“Tp,” Claire said as she stuck her face out, and Hazel nodded.  Pippa and Suzie started to giggle, and the whole mood in the room seemed to lighten.

 

“Kpplng,” I mumbled, and as the four of them continued the game I started to turn myself round, using my bottom to turn and then using my legs to push myself across the floor to the doorway.  Suzie did a great job of keeping them occupied, as I stopped by the door to see if I could hear anything.

 

It was difficult, with the door closed, but I could hear a lot of movement downstairs.

 

“Csee?  Whtudng?”

 

I turned to see Pippa and the others looking at me, so I slid myself back over and said “Wnttceetrk?”  The three of them nodded and watched as I started to move my mouth around, making funny faces that started to make them laugh - right up until the point where I managed to work the edge of the tape away from my mouth.

 

I nodded to Suzie, who started to do the same thing as I rubbed my head on the duvet on Pippa’s bed, working the tape away from my face as she loosened hers and then finally removing it completely.

 

“Hwddudtht?” Hazel said as she looked at me, her eyes wide open.

 

“Eese - utr,” I said as Suzie worked the tape off her mouth.  We both watched, offering muffled encouragement as my three friends slowly moved their mouths and jaws around as I had down, eventually succeeding in loosening the tape enough to have it hanging from the sides of their mouths. 

 

Suzie then pressed herself against the bed and slowly pushed herself up, before looking over her shoulder as she grasped the edge of the tape with her covered hands and pulled the strips away from their mouths.

 

“Whtbttrst,” Claire said as she worked her lips over the cloth in her mouth.

 

“Stscrngu?”

 

I watched as she thought for a moment, and then shook her head.

 

“Kptn - lstfngwndstgtmnbck,” I said, and Claire slowly nodded her head, understanding what I was trying to say.  I then pushed myself up onto my feet, and said “Ustbdtostdnp.”

 

Pippa bent her legs, planting her feet firmly on the floor and pushed up, the other two watching as she managed to sit herself on the bed.  “Cmn - tseseee,” she mumbled in encouragement to Hazel and Claire, who very slowly pushed themselves up as well, so that all three were sitting next to Suzie as I stood in front of them.

 

“Rt,” I mumbled through my gag, “ndufreetsthr.  Sce, wchthm nkpthmsf, lrt?”

 

To my great relief, Suzie nodded and said “Ltskpplng.  Ispwfmltli...”

 

As the four of them continued the game, I started to hop as quietly as I could towards the door.  Pressing down as slowly as I could, I managed to open the door a little and slip myself out, pulling it as close to closed as I could behind me.  I stopped for a moment, listening to the two men talking downstairs.

 

“Lot of good stuff here - when does the van arrive?”

 

“Midnight - Do you think those kids are going to be all right up there?”

 

“they’re kids, and you tied them up - what trouble could they cause?”

 

“And Mummy?”

 

“She’s in her room - no way she can raise the alarm how I left her.  Besides, the phone wires are cut, and we have the mobile down here - what on earth could she do?”

 

That made my mind up for me.  As quietly as I could, I made my way down the long corridor, listening at doors until I found one I could hear a crying woman behind.  Pushing down on the door handle, I slipped in and pushed it to behind me.

 

“Cssse?  Whstgngn?”

 

I could now see Pippa’s mother on the bed, her arms stretched out above her head.  She was wearing night clothes, just like we were, but in her case it was a long white sleeveless nightdress.  I could also see the coil of rope around each wrist, and the length that went up to the top of the bed.

 

“Shslrt, Mssbrks,” I mumbled as I hopped over to the bed.  “Dntshtrthmnwllcm.”

 

She nodded as I looked at her.  Her ankles had been tied tightly together with rope, which was attached to the foot of the bed, and her nightdress was gathered around her legs with a second band where her knees should be.  A band of blue and gold was going around her head, and a large pad of silver covered her mouth as she lay there.

 

“ppsfn,” I said as I sat on the bed next to her.  “Plsstclm.”  Once more she nodded, as I looked round the room.  It was obvious someone had ransacked it - there was stuff hanging from open drawers, and I could see several white jewelry boxes at the bottom of the bed.

 

The light was provided by a single bedside lamp, but as I looked at it I saw there was a small switch on the cable, and it was a long one, coiled between the bed and the table.  I had another idea - one that might just work to get us all free.

 

Pippa’s mum watched as I sat on the bed beside her and reached back, fumbling with my sock covered hands until I managed to begin to pull the cord slowly up.  Looking over my shoulder, I managed to get it into her mother’s left hand, and then pull it gently down until her hand was on the switch.

 

“Mssbrks,” I then said as I looked at her, “Lllkftr ppdnfrs, bttlm - duknmrscd?”

 

She looked at me, then shook her head and mumbled “Idntndrstnd.”  That was when I realised I was going to have to do something that would get me into trouble later, so I started to work on the wad of cloth in my mouth, opening my lips as wide as I could until I managed to work it out, the wet cloth hanging across the strip of towelling on my front.

 

“Mrs Brooks,” I whispered, “Pippa and the others are scared, but fine, and I promise they will stay that way, but we’re not going to be able to call for help.  At the same time, the two men are probably going to check on us soon, and on you, so I can’t stay long.  You understand that, don’t you?”

 

She nodded as she looked at me.  It was beginning to get really dark - the men had already drawn the curtains, but what little light there had been from the setting sun was now gone, and the glow of a streetlamp was the only faint thing we could see.  I also realised I needed to try and hide the switch.

 

“If I push this under here,” I said as I took the switch in my covered hands and pushed it under the pillow she had her head on, “and out the wire under your hand, do you think you can reach it?”

 

Pippa’s mum nodded as she stretched her hand down, not much but enough to reach the cord.

 

“Good - when they have been and gone, I need you to get the switch and start pressing the light on and off - three times quickly, three times slowly, three times quickly.  Can you do that?”

 

I looked at her red eyes as she slowly nodded.

 

“Good - you’ll have to keep doing it, but sooner or later someone will get the message.  That’s what Aunt Cassie always says, anyway.  I need to get back to the girls - Pippa is being very brave for you.”

 

I could see the faint smile in Mrs Brook’s eyes as she nodded, watching me as I hopped back over to the door.  As I did so, the cloth fell off the towelling strip but lodged under the rope around my arms - I fact I was grateful for.  If I left it there, then when they came they would know I had been in her room - and the last thing I needed was them to hurt Pippa’s mum.

 

I closed the door to and edged along the hallway, listening to their voices all the time, but I did not say anything until I had gone back into the room, and closed the door behind me.

 

“Whthpndtourggg,” Hazel said as she looked at me.

 

“I needed to talk to Pippa’s mother,” I said as she looked at me, her eyes also red under her glasses.  “Your mum’s fine Pippa, and she’s going to try and get some help.  Right now, the best thing we can do is stay here and try and make the best of it.  Whatever happens, don’t say where I have been, all right?”

 

The twins looked at each other and nodded from their seat on the bed.  I was glad to see they were sitting on the bed, and not doing what Suzie was doing - hopping around the room.

 

“Suzie, for all our sakes, please...”  But my warning came too late, as she bumped into a lamp and it fell to the floor.

 

“ppps,” she said as I heard footsteps on the stairs, and the two men came in.  They looked at us, and as the redhead said “What the hell,” the other man went to check on Mrs Brooks.  I had to think fast, so I said “Sorry - but we need a toilet break, and we had no other way to get your attention, given you tied us up.”

 

“But...  How did you get your gag off?”

 

“I guess it wasn’t tight enough - look, this is my fault, so don’t punish them.  All they want is a chance to go to the toilet - and, I have to admit, I need to go as well.”

 

The other man came back in, saying “she’s not moved - but what happened here?”

 

“They need the toilet.”

 

I glanced at the clock - it was now nine, and we had already been tied up for a couple of hours.  The other man came and looked at my hands.

 

“These socks are loose - we’re lucky we go to them in time, but they’ll need to be retied and gagged properly.  We can’t keep running up and down the stairs.”

 

“They’re kids - what are they going to do?”

 

“I don’t know, but this one,” he said looking at me as he walked round, “has already caused trouble.”

 

“Look,” I said quietly, “We all need the toilet, and the others are still scared.  Why don’t you untie my arms and let me go - you can carry me there - then when I come back one of the others can go.  I’ll then re-tie them, any way you want, and gag them so that they know it won’t hurt.  Will you let me do that?”

 

The other man looked at the redhead.  “She did a good job before - it’s only the socks that are slipping.  I know what to do - you untie her arms and take her to the toilet, I’ll guard them.”

 

“all right - but we need to be quick,” he said as he untied my arms, allowing me to rub my wrists before he picked me up and carried me to the toilet.  When I came back a few minutes later, I saw the redhead untying Pippa’s arms.

 

“Fnku,” she mumbled through her gag as she was picked up, and I was put back on the chair.  “Look,” I said as he left the room, “I know you’re going to tape our mouths more strictly, but that stuff will damage our hair.  Can you find something we can put over our heads?”

 

“Let me look,” the redhead said, and he started to search in Pippa’s wardrobe, eventually finding four old blue scarves.  “Will these do,” he said as he handed them to me.

 

“Yes - but when you do me, lift my hair out of the way please.”

 

He nodded as Pippa was carried back in and was sat on the floor, Her socks were next to her, but as I knelt behind her and picked them up the redhead said “No, put her hands together, palm to palm, and tie them that way.”

 

As the other man carried Hazel out, I could see the roll of silver tape in his hands, so I did as he said, tying her wrist together as she curled her hands into two little fists.  “All right so far,” I whispered into her ear, and she nodded as I cinched the ropes between her arms.

 

“Right,” the redhead said as he tossed me the roll of tape, “Tape her hands together, wrists to fingers.”

 

“Can you make a ball with your hands,” I whispered into Pippa’s ear, and as she nodded and put her hands together IO wrapped the tape tightly round them, covering the rope and her hands so that it looked like a silver ball.

 

“Very good,” the man said, “now tie her arms as before, then gag her tightly.”

 

“Idntwntut,” Pippa said as she looked at me, but as I pulled her arms into her side I said “Look, I’ll make it as comfortable as possible.  All the extra layer means is we will have more problems talking - but we can still make a game of it, all right?”

 

Pippa looked over her shoulder at me, and I could now see the smile over her towelling gag as she nodded.  “Right,” I said then as I picked up one of the scarves and folded it into a triangle, “This is going to protect your hair.  Do you want your glasses off?”

 

As she nodded, the redhead knelt down and removed them stroking her hair back as I tied it the scarf over her head, covering her hair as the point went down her neck.  “Stay calm, breath through your nose,” I said as I tore the end of the roll free, and then pressed it against her cheek, taking the roll round her head three times as she looked straight ahead.

 

“Rugngtdthttm?” Hazel said as she was carried back in, and the other man untied Claire before carrying her out.  I nodded as the redhead lifted moved Pippa back to her place against the bed, and started to re-tie Hazel’s wrists in the same way as I had Pippa.

 

“Whtbtm,” Suzie said as she wriggled round.

 

“Your turn’s coming,” the redhead said as he knelt next to her, “and you’re not going to be any trouble, are you?”

 

I looked at Suzie and shook my head a little from side to side, hoping that I would not be seen as I tied Hazel’s arms back to her side.  “listen,” I said as I then tied the scarf over her hair, “I know we’re your captives but can we ask a favour?”

 

“What?”

 

“It gets boring up here if we are unable to talk - can we have a radio or something?”

 

The redhead looked at me, and said “I suppose so - it may drown out any attempts to call for help anyway.”  He watched as I wound the tape round Hazel’s head, then said to his partner as he carried Claire back “they want a radio to listen to.”

 

“Good idea,” he said as he sat Claire down in front of me and untied Suzie before picking her up, “I don’t want her,” he continued as he looked at me, “to move anyway.”

 

I had a feeling I knew what was coming, but I focused on making sure Claire was all right.  “How are you coping,” I whispered as I bound her wrists and then taped her hands.

 

She nodded, and then turned her head and winked at me, as if to say she was actually enjoying it.  I smiled at her as I continued to tie her up, making sure she was safe and secure before I used the scarf on her hair and taped around her head.

 

As I tore it free and smoothed it down, the other man carried Suzie back.  “Tie her up,” he said as he lifted me in his arms, “and make sure this one did a good job this time.”

 

He set Suzie down, and as he started to re-tie her hands the redhead did the same to me, the other three watching the whole time.  I could see the tips of the scarves against their necks as they moved their heads from side to side, and watched as Suzie was gagged in the same way.

 

“Take care of her, but don’t gag her yet,” the other man said as he left the room, and I felt my hands been taped together.

 

“You are a very bright young girl,” the redhead said as my arms were pulled back into my side, “What’s your name?”

 

“Cassie?”

 

“Well, Cassie, I hope your friends appreciate what you did tonight,” he then said, and I actually smiled as the other man brought back two headscarves.  One was black, and he had rolled that into a band and tied a knot in the middle.  The other was a red and gold one, which he folded into a triangle and tied over my hair.

 

“Open wide,” he said, and the others watched, with a hint of jealousy in Suzie’s eyes, as the knot was pulled into my mouth and tied around my head.  The black wad filled my mouth, as I closed my lips over it and he wound the tape tightly around my own head.

 

“You get the radio,” he said to the redhead, “I want to make sure she can’t do anything else.”  The others watched as he put me on my tummy, and then pulled my ankles back, tying them to the rope around my tummy.

 

“Lcke,” Suzie mumbled, and I shot her a warning glance.  It was bad enough I was like this - well, not bad, really, but I did not want the others to be like this either.

 

She nodded and sat back against the bed as the redhead came back and plugged in a portable DVD player.  “We don’t need this, do we,” he said to the other man, who shook his head.

 

“Good - then this should keep you occupied,” he said as he started a DVD playing - and we saw the opening credits for Mamma Mia coming on the screen.

 

“That should keep them quiet for a while - come on, we’ve still work to do before the van comes,” the other man said, and we were left alone...

 

********

 

The corridor smelt of pine and sparkled - I had to stop myself from sliding down the corridor, it looked so smooth - as we walked under a big sign that said “Maternity Unit”.  As Dad pushed a big door open, and held it so that we could go through, we saw Granny and Uncle Dave standing there.

 

“Ah - here are his cousins now,” Uncle Dave said as we rushed up and hugged him, then Granny while Dad shook his hand.  “Welcome to a whole new life,” he said as Mum kissed Uncle Dave, and then sat down.

 

“So where is she,” Aunt Cassie said as she came in as well.  Granny smiled and took our hands, as she said “come with me.”  We walked a little further down the corridor, and into a room that had four beds, with curtains round each one.  I saw Aunt Connie and ran over to her, almost bumping into one of the nurses as I did so, and saying “Where is he?”

 

Aunt Connie looked tired, and was wearing a funny white gown around herself.  “Danny?” she said quietly, “Over here.”  She looked over to what looked like a clear plastic box, but there was a little bundle wrapped in a blue blanket inside.

 

Jenny and I walked over and looked in, to see the most beautiful little baby boy lying there, his eyes closed.  He had a mop of brown hair peeping out from under the bonnet, and I could see his little chest rising and falling.

 

“Don’t wake him up,” Granny said quietly, “both he and your aunt need to get some rest, but you stay a few minutes.”

 

“Hello Danny,” I said as I put my finger against his cheek “I’m your cousin Cassie.  Welcome to the family.”

 

I vaguely heard Aunt Cassie say “How are you, Sis,” but both Jenny and I were captivated by the latest member of our family.  I didn’t even hear Dad come in and say “time to go girls - we’ll see them both again tomorrow.”

 

He walked the two of us out as Mum came in, and we sat outside.  “He looks so perfect Dad - do you think out new baby brother or sister will look like that?”

 

Jenny walked off to find a toilet, as Dad whispered in my ear “I don’t know what he’ll look like, but you’ll still love him.”  I looked at Dad, who nodded and put a finger to his lips - I was to keep a secret.

 

********

 

The music from the DVD was loud, loud enough to stop us from being heard if we called out, so as we watched the big blonde woman starting to sing I started to hum along, looking at the others and nodding to encourage them to join in.   Suzie did so immediately, and then the others followed along, our hums trying to keep up with the tune as she danced around the old building.

 

“mmmmm, mmmmmm

Mm mm, mmmmmmmmm”

 

Now, I toyed with the idea of trying to sing along, but from the look in the eyes of the other three I could see they were happy enough just to be doing anything to keep their minds off the situation, so we kept humming along, swaying from side to side as we did so.

 

At first at any rate - it wasn’t long before Suzie managed to push herself up on her feet and start to jump about in time to the songs, making her way around the floor.  I looked to the door, but it looked as if either the music was so loud they could not hear the thumping downstairs, or else they just were too busy doing whatever it was they were doing.

 

Pippa looked at Suzie as she danced about, and said “cnidtht?”  I looked at Suzie, shaking my head slightly - I had promised her mother I would keep Pippa safe, and the last thing I wanted was her hurting herself.

 

To her credit, Suzie jumped over and sat on the bed, before saying “Cnusthrfrst?”  She nodded to the side of the bed, and I watched as Pippa managed to push herself back into a seated position on the side.

 

“Furjmngmmvng,” I mumbled, and I started to wriggle away from the bed, moving like a worm to create some space.  “Wwww,” I heard Hazel and Claire say in unison, and as I looked over I say them starting to slide themselves over on their bottoms to join me as I turned myself round.

 

We stayed there, me on my tummy and the twins on their bottoms, and watched as Pippa slowly stood herself up, and started to make little jumps on the floor to match those Suzie made.  “Wndrfl,” Claire called out, and as I looked at both of them I could see their eyes were sparkling.  They were enjoying watching the others as they danced to the next song, Suzie watching Pippa just in case.

 

“rursr?”

 

I looked over at Claire, who was looking at the ropes holding my ankles to my back.  “Nnnn,” I said as I shook my head, “msdt.  Bsdsdsmflxbl.”  I wriggled a bit more again to show her, which made the bottom of my pyjama jacket rise up slightly, exposing my tummy.

 

Claire looked at her sister, Hazel looked at her, and then I felt their taped hands rubbing my waist on either side.  “NNNNNNN” I called out - it wasn’t that ticklish, but I could feel their intent.

 

Pippa and Suzie looked over at me, and then they both started laughing under their tight gags, falling backwards and onto the bed as Donna and Sam started singing SOS - a song that made me think of Pippa’s mum, and what she must be doing.  The twins stopped and looked at the screen, as Suzie and Pippa sat up, and we all started to sing along.

 

S whnurnrm, drlncntuhrmss,
Tlfugfm, nfnglscnsfmss
Whnurgn
Hocnevntritgn
Whnurgn
Thghetr, hocnecrin

There we all were, singing along and enjoying ourselves, and I was the happiest person there.  None of us were afraid, none of us were worried about what might happen - we were just having fun.

 

Pippa slid down onto her floor as the twins made their way back over to join her, Suzie sitting on the bed as I wriggled over to try to join them while the film went on.  They watched, cheering me on with muffled calls, especially when Suzie started to jump around again - this time over me as I lay in the centre of the room, each clearance getting a new cheer.

 

We were so caught up in what was going on, the music playing loudly over our cheers and the contact with the floor that I was taken by surprise when I saw the three women in very shiny clothes signing at the end.

 

“Grls,” I called out, “stpmvngnsttldwn.”  Suzie looked at me, then at the film, and nodded as she hopped back over to the bed and allowed herself to slide back onto the floor.  I looked at all of them thankful that for all the jumping and moving the ropes had not slipped much, as the six people sang the last song and the credits rolled.

 

The DVD went back to the main menu, and as I looked at the clock I could see it was nearly midnight.  “Shhhh” I hissed through the gag as I tried to listen and see if I could hear anything.

 

I could hear footsteps, and then the redhead man saying “It’s about flaming time - where have you been?”

 

“Hey,” a voice I had never heard before say, I had to make sure it was this house first.  Nice touch having the lights flashing upstairs and the loud music - made it look as if a party was going on.”

 

“Yeah, the music was - flashing lights?  What flashing lights?”

 

“The ones in the upstairs windows - what the hell...”

 

I swallowed hard, hoping that Mrs Brooks would be all right, before I heard muffled shouts coming from downstairs, and then heavy footsteps on the staircase.  The door to the room opened, and I closed my eyes, expecting either the redhead or the other man to start shouting at us.

 

“Hey - they’ve got some kids tied up in here.  One of you get upstairs.”

 

I opened my eyes to see a man in a funny jacket standing there, the word “POLICE” clearly visible on the front of it.  He had a blue jumper underneath, and a hat on his head.

 

“FNKGD” Pippa called out as a woman in a similar costume appeared behind him, and looked in.  “Check the front bedroom,” she said as the other man left, and then she said “Which of you is Pippa?”

 

“Mmm” Pippa said as she nodded her head.  The policewoman took a pair of scissors from a pouch on her belt, and snipped at the tape around Pippa’s head, peeling it away and then untying the towelling strip and removing it.

 

Pippa spat out the cloth as we heard the first man say “Call an ambulance,” while the policewoman said “It’s all right Pippa - the men who tied you up are in our custody now.  Are you all right?”

 

“But...” Pippa looked at me as I shook my head - better the police hear what happened later.  “Thank you,” she then said “But I want my mummy.”

 

“Where is she?”

 

As the policewoman cut the tape away from the mouths of Hazel, Claire and Suzie, I looked up to see Mrs Brooks coming in, a blanket wrapped round her as she held it close to her body.  I could see the rope marks on her wrists, but what was clearest was the relief on her face as she said “Pippa - thank god you’re all right, are you hurt?”

 

“I feel a bit sore, Mummy, and my mouth’s dry, but Cassie helped us all through it.”

 

“Cassie,” the policewoman said, and as she turned she saw me for the first time.  I nodded and waited as she cut the rope that was holding my ankles to my chest, and then cut the tape away before she untied the black scarf.  the knot had been so big it had filled my mouth, but as she eased it out I said “thank you” and then smiled at Mrs Brooks.

 

“It worked,” I said quietly, and she nodded as she hugged Pippa.  “It did - and thank you.  This girl saved all of us, officer.”

 

The policewoman looked at me, and said “Want to tell us what happened?”

 

“Later,” I said as I wriggled round, “Can you untie us first - oh and the men?  I saw them earlier at the sports centre - they were the ones who robbed it.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“I’m sure,” I said quietly, “but they don’t know I saw them, or called the police from there.”

 

It was the turn of the other four to look at me now, as Pippa said “When you told us to get into the ball pool, then, it was because...”

 

“Time for that later,” the policeman said as he looked at the ropes around us.  “Let’s get you untied, and get you to be checked over - I’m sure someone will come and talk to all of you later.”

 

I looked at all the others, who smiled and nodded, Pippa mouthing “Thank you” to me as the police officers started to untie them.

 

Well, they did - Colin’s dad to be exact.  First, I had to explain to my dad what had happened when he came to the hospital, with Hazel and Claire’s father right behind him in the early hours of the morning.  I told him everything - and when DCI Hampton came that afternoon to the house, I sat with Mum and Dad and told him everything as well.

 

“Well,” he said as he closed his notebook, “you’re the heroine of the hour right now, Cassie.  The two men had been looking at Pippa’s house for some time, and knew with the five of you there her mother was more likely to let them take whatever they wanted.  I think the last thing they expected was a pair of junior escape artists - but you behaved with remarkable courage last night.  In fact, I think you might get a reward for this.”

 

“Really,” I said brightly, and then shut up as Mum and Dad looked at me.

 

“Of course, the papers will want to talk to you, but all we’re telling them is that two men broke into a house last night and held the mother and five little girls hostage.  One of them,” he said as he looked at me, “kept the others calm, and managed to help the ,other raise the alarm - and that’s it.  Do you understand, Cassie?”

 

I nodded as I looked at Mum and Dad - I knew this was something the Craig Compact covered, and I was going to keep quiet about the rest.  “What about Suzie’s grandparents?”

 

“I think you know how good they already are at keeping secrets,” DCI Hampton said with a wink.  “Anyway, you need to get some sleep.”

 

“Oh,” I said as he stood up to go.  “I meant to ask - how did Jenny’s date go?”

 

He smiled as he said “I understand she had a fun night - but not as fun as yours.  John, Jennifer - I’ll be in touch.”

 

********

 

“Come on you two - time to go.”

 

Dad took both of us by the arm and walked with Mum and us towards the car park.  As we did so, Mum groaned and held her back.

 

“Another kick?”

 

She nodded and smiled “It can’t happen soon enough,” she said as he opened the front door and helped her to climb in.  As he opened the back door, we saw a glint of light on two pairs of metal handcuffs that were sitting on the seat.

 

“Kidnap,” Jenny said as she looked at me.

 

“Kidnap,” he said as he fastened the cuffs around our wrists in front of us, and then strapped us both into the car seats.  Tearing off a length of the brown plaster, he smoothed it over my mouth, and then Jenny’s, before saying “That’ll hold you until we get to the lair.”

 

I sat back and smiled - it was good to be the heroine, but it was still better to be the captive...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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