Road Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum had pinned it up on the cork board in the kitchen, so every morning I got to see it, and every morning I felt a little warm glow inside.  It was a page of pictures from the July Ball that had appeared in the local paper, and right in the middle was the picture that had been taken of Bobby and me.

 

Looking at the caption for the gazillioneth time, I read “Robert Desmond Holderness accompanied by Cassandra Paulette Craig as they walk to meet their friends.”

 

Believe me; I got no end of ribbing at school the day after those pictures appeared, and most of all from Pippa and the twins.  It was a good thing it was the last week of term, and only two days at that, or else I think I would have burned up with embarrassment with all the jokes I was hearing.

 

Mind you, they were like a cold drink of milk compared to Patty - she never stopped every time we met up.  Which is why, today, Jenny and I had made sure she could not interrupt us as we sorted out which clothes we were going to be taking on holiday.

 

We managed that by telling her we did not think she could get out of the same sort of tie the two nice robbers had used on us, and she had accepted the challenge.  So right now, she was lying on my bed, her head pulled back by the length of rope from the knot holding the scarf over her mouth to the one around her tummy, while her ankles were pulled right back and held to the same band of rope.  She was wearing long socks on her hands and feet, so that the only bade skin was from the sleeves of her t-shirt and the bottom of her shorts to the sock ends.

 

She wasn’t able to say a lot either - under the scarf was a band of the special white tape, under that a knotted strip of towel, and under that a folded handkerchief.

 

“Swhrwgng,” she mumbled through the muffler as Jenny helped me to pick out some dresses.

 

“You’ll have to wait and see,” Jenny said as she shook her head at one of my party dresses.  “Dad hasn’t done this since Cassie was a toddler, and I had just started school.”

 

Dad and Mum had sat down with us the first day of the school holidays, and explained that with David and June arriving, and all the other things that had happened, we weren’t going to be able to go away as a family this year.  Instead, Dad was going to do something that he hadn’t done for a long time - he called it a road trip, but essentially all of us, along with Aunt Jessie and Patty, were going to go on a tour round the country, visiting a few people and places and staying in a caravan which he had borrowed for the trip, as well as a couple of tents.  We got to pick where we would sleep each night.

 

As to where we were going, all Dad would say was “It’s a secret,” and would not answer any other questions about it.  When I asked Jenny, she just smiled and said “Wait and see - it’ll be fun!”

 

Mum poked her head in the door to my room, and said “You all right there Patty?”  Patty nodded as Mum looked at the pile of clothes on my bed, and said “No, you can’t take that dress - make sure you have at least one pair of jeans in there, though.”

 

“Why won’t you tell us where we’re going Mum?”

 

“Dad wants it to be a surprise, all right?  You can’t take the scarf either - you know that needs to stay here.”

 

I looked at my peach scarf, with my name in the corner, and sighed as Jenny laughed.  “You miss him, don’t you?” she said, and I found myself nodding without thinking.

 

Bobby had gone off on holiday with his family a couple of days ago, and when he called round last Sunday all he would say was he was heading north.  We’d gone for a walk in the park, and played at the swings for a little while we talked about what we were going to do later in the year.

 

My mind kept going back to the night of the Ball, as I stood in front of Bobby, unable to move, unable to speak, unable to do more than look at him as he took me in his arms and danced round with me.  It had been a magical evening, but the fact it was him and me, I felt as if nobody else mattered.

 

Well, that wasn’t strictly true - Jenny and Colin, Suzie with Colin’s cousin, Alicia with a boy she knew from school, and even a cousin of Bobby’s for Patty to be swept off her feet by - it was amazing.  I felt truly like a lady of the manor, and looking at the scarf again had brought it all back.

 

“Look on the bright side,” Jenny said with a smile, “You’ll see him again soon enough.”

 

“I suppose so,” I said as I folded up some other clothes, “but I guess we can have fun while we’re away, can’t we?”

 

“That’s right - after all, going to places you’ve never been before.  Look on it as an adventure.”

 

Yeah, that was it - look on it as an adventure...

 

********

 

 

Aunt Connie and Uncle Dave came round on the Saturday morning to help Dad load the car up - they were going to be keeping an eye on the house while we were away.  Aunt Cassie wanted to be there, but apparently an old friend of hers from her previous job was leaving, and she just had to be there.

 

Granny was also away, visiting some old friends near where she grew up, so as I watched the cases being loaded into the back of the car I was literally kicking my heels against the seat of the couch.  I was wearing a white short sleeved blouse and a pair of brown shorts, and I had my hat I got from Grandpa Carter on my head.

 

“Good morning, Cassie - where’s your mum?”

 

“She’s putting June and David into their car seats,” I said as Aunt Jessie came in with Patty.  The holy terror was wearing a yellow sundress with a pair of sandals on her feet, as well as a hat just like mine.

 

“You got one too,” Patty said as she sat down next to me, “but mine looks better.”

 

“No it doesn’t.”

 

“Yes it does.”

 

“No...  It...  Doesn’t.”

 

“YES... IT... DOES...!”

 

“Girls,” Aunt Jessie said with a smile, “they both look nice, but you’ll need to take them off before you get in the car, all right?”  She was wearing a white skirt with lace tiers, that came to just below her knees, tennis shoes and a blue t-shirt, and had a blue scarf tied over her hair.

 

“Hi Jess,” Mum said as she came in, “got your bags anywhere?”

 

“They’re in the hallway,” Aunt Jessie said with a smile, “The babies?”

 

“All safely strapped in,” Mum said, and then she gave a small gasp.  She was wearing a pair of bright blue leggings that came to just above her knees, and a long white smock top.

 

“Everything all right,” Aunt Jessie asked, and Mum nodded with a smile.  “Just fine,” she said, “I’ll get John to grab your bags, and we’ll be off in a few minutes, once we’ve got the three of them ready to travel.”

 

“Sounds fun,” Jenny said as she came in, wearing a knee length green skirt and a matching t-shirt.  “What do you mean by that?”

 

“Dad will explain,” Mum said as she took Aunt Jessie by the arm.  “Come on, you can help me pack the picnic.”

 

The two of them walked off, as Uncle Dave came into the room.

 

“Looking forward to your trip,” he said as he looked at the three of us.

 

“Don’t know,” Patty said as she kicked the front of the couch, “I don’t like it when I don’t know where I’m going.”

 

“Well, the first part of your trip is going to be a real mystery tour,” Uncle Dave said as he held up three sleep masks and a roll of the special white tape.  “Take one of these masks each, and put it over your eyes.”

 

“Dad did say it was going to be a mystery tour,” Jenny said as she took one of the blindfolds and slipped it over her head.  I watched as Patty took her hat off and slipped hers on, and then I did the same.  I felt someone picking up the hat from my lap, and then Uncle Dave said “Put your hands together in front of you.”  At the same time, I heard the lovely squelchy sound that tape makes when the end is pulled free from the roll, and I knew what was coming next.

 

Sure enough, I felt the tape sticking first to my left wrist, and then to my right as they were held firmly together.  “Don’t worry,” Uncle Dave said as he tightened the band around my wrists, “your father tells me he has somewhere very special in mind for your tea stop.”

 

“Yeah - knowing Dad, it’s probably some boring old car park,” Jenny said as I listened to the sound of the tape being used, and Patty’s giggles next to me.  The next thing I felt was my ankles being pulled and held together, and then Uncle Dave saying “Right - on your feet little one, you’re coming with me first.”

 

I stood up, felt a hand on my arm, and then started to hop as I was guided through what I presumed was the house, and then towards the car as I heard Dad say “Thanks Dave - right, Poppet, up and into the car with you.”

 

I felt myself being lifted up, and sat down in what I presumed was one of the car seats, before I felt the tape around my legs below my knees, and the car seat belt being fastened over me at the same time.

 

“Now, I need a little quiet for the first part of the drive,” Dad said, “So open wide please.  If you need a toilet stop, grunt three times quickly and I’ll tell you how far we have to go.”

 

“All right, Dad,” I said with what I hoped was a smile, before I felt a soft piece of cotton entering my mouth, and then the tug on my face as the tape was smoothed down over my lips.  Sitting back, I waited as Patty was made to sit next to me, secured into place and gagged, and then Jenny on the far side.

 

“Comfy, Girls,” I heard Aunt Jessie say in front of us, and I mumbled something about how much I liked how I was.

 

“All right, Dave,” I heard Dad say, “I’ll call you when we get there, but I’m sure there won’t be any problems.”

 

“Just get going - and stop worrying.  See you all in a  couple of weeks.”

 

I could hear the twins gurgling a little in front of me, as Mum said “Right - let’s get this road trip underway,” and I felt the car start to move off.  The day before, we’d watched Dad hitch a big caravan that he had borrowed from a colleague at work to the back of the car, so we knew it wasn’t going to be a particularly fast journey.

 

“Anyone want to play I Spy,” I heard Dad say, and the chorus of groans from the back gave him the answer he was expecting.  “Fair enough,” Dad said as he turned the radio on, and I felt Patty try to nudge me in the ribs.

 

Well, I knew what to do with that - as I reached over as much as I could and tried to tickle my darling little cousin - with little success, but the muffled laughter told me Jenny was having more success than me.

 

At least the music was good, as Dad stuck on first a Disney songs one - which we tried to sing along to, but - well, come on, you can guess what happened.  Then he put on a story CD, as the car journey seemed to take an eternity.

 

Eventually, however, I felt the car stop, and we heard Mum and Dad get out of the car and talk to someone outside.  I could smell something through the open car door, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

 

“Well now - why am I not surprised to see you three like this?”

 

“Grnne,” I said through my own gag, “whrrw?”

 

“Miranda, you were right - some things never change.”

 

The voice was deep, and had a funny rolling sound to it, but I heard Jenny say “Ncljfr?” and then I knew where we were.”

 

“First stop,” Dad said as the seatbelt around me was unfastened, “Say hello to your great uncle Jethro, Cassie.”

 

“Hhllncljfr,” I mumbled as the blindfold was removed and I saw him smiling at me.  He had a brown face that had lots of crinkles and lines in it, and his short hair was grey, but his eyes were kind and a lot like Granny’s.

 

“Dear god, girl - how long has it been since you have been here?  You’re growing bigger than a new born foal now.  Come on, get that tape off them and get the three of them out here.”

 

Dad peeled the tape away from our mouths and then untied us, as we hoped out and stretched our limbs. We were parked in front of an old farmhouse, and I could now see Granny standing there, in an old white sweater and jeans.

 

“It’s been far too long, Jethro,” Mum said as she hugged the older man.  “Are you all right, girl,” he said as he looked into Mum’s eyes, smiling as she nodded.

 

“And you must be young Patricia,” he then said as he held out a hand.  A great pleasure to meet you, young lady.”

 

“Thank you,” Patty said as she smiled sweetly and shook Uncle Jethro’s hand.  “Well, come in, come in,” he said as he walked to the open door, “and let me good a good look at the new arrivals.”  He was wearing a brown jacket over a checked shirt and corduroy trousers that squeaked as he walked.

 

The door led into a large, really old looking kitchen, with a big black stove on one side and a big wooden table in the middle.  Aunt Jessie and Mum put the two car seats on there as Uncle Jethro looked into the faces of the two babies.

 

“It never fails to move me when I see new life,” he said as he put his arm round Granny.  “You girls can go and explore if you want - your gran will come and tell you when tea is ready.”

 

Well, we didn’t need to be told twice, as we walked out of the kitchen and wandered from room to room, each one filled with a mixture of old and new - like the front room, which had some really old armchairs and a brand new big television with a satellite box attached.

 

“Let’s have a look upstairs,” Patty said, and before either of us could have a chance to stop her she left the room, and started to walk up the stairs.  We could hear the adults talking as we followed her, and saw a number of doors leading off from the hallway.

 

“I wonder what’s in here,” Patty said as she opened one door, only to see a closet with a big white cylinder behind some shelves.

 

“Not much there,” she said as she opened the next door, and motioned us in.  IT was a bedroom, with a single bed that had some sort of ornate cover on it, and in the corner was a set of old books sitting on an old bookcase.

 

“There’s a complete set of the Famous Five books here,” Jenny said as she looked at the covers, “You don’t think this was Granny’s room at one time, do you?”

 

“Could be,” I said as I looked under the bed, and drew out a funny looking cloth doll that had a back face, big white eyes and was wearing a funny red suit with a striped waistcoat.  “What do you think this was?”

 

“Wow - have you seen what’s in here?”

 

Patty was standing in front of an old wardrobe, and as we walked over to her we could see there were a number of dresses hanging up.  As she looked in, Patty took out a green dress and held it next to her, saying “Do you think this would fit me?”

 

“Oh come on, Patty,” I said quietly, “you don’t want to try it on, do you?”

 

“Yes I do,” Patty said, and she quickly took her clothes off, putting on the dress and saying “Can you do it up for me?”  It was green, and had a round collar.  The sleeves came to just below her elbows, and had a little button on the cuff, while the skirt flared out from the waist and came to below her knees.

 

Jenny walked over and fastened the buttons at the back, as Patty looked at herself in a mirror on the back of the door.  “Put these on as well,” she then said as she took out a small pair of white gloves, watching as Patty slipped them onto her hands and said “This is actually quite nice - do you think your granny wore these once?”

 

“Who knows,” Jenny said as she took out a second dress.  This one was made of red gingham, and had a funny collar with two little squares at the front.  Like Patty’s dress, this one had button cuffs that came just below the elbow, and a flared skirt.

 

“This might fit you, Cassie,” Jenny said, “why don’t you try it on?”

 

Well, I wasn’t going to let Patty have all the fun, so I slipped out of my clothes and put the dress on, waiting as Jenny fastened it up and then handed me a second pair of gloves.  The skirt of this one came to my knees, but she had been right - it did fit me.  Patty and I took turns walking with airs and graces round the room, while Jenny took out a third dress.

 

This one was royal blue, and had a green checked second layer under the skirt.  It had side panels, and a more tailored front, as well as a small white collar with a green thin ribbon bow at the collar.  “Can you give me a hand with this, Cassie,” she said as she took off her outfit and stepped into it, pulling the sleeves up her arms so that the cuffs sat at her elbows.  She knelt down as I buttoned up the back, and then put on a third pair of gloves.

 

“These dresses are lovely,” she said as she twirled round and looked at herself in the mirror, “I wonder how she looked in them?”

 

“Well, given I tended only to wear them for Sunday best or parties, I always thought I looked wonderful in them.”

 

I turned round quickly, the skirt rising up a little as I did so, and saw Granny standing in the doorway, her arms folded as she smiled at us.

 

“Sorry, Granny,” Jenny said, “We’ll get out of these.”

 

“No, no,” Granny said quietly, “Come on down - tea’s ready, and you can give your parents a big surprise.”

 

“Oh,” Patty said with her innocent smile, “What’s that?”

 

“Just what lovely young ladies you are,” Granny said as she stood to one side, and we walked down the stairs.

 

“My my,” Uncle Jethro said as we walked in, “Did they find your room, Miranda?”

 

“It would appear so - I’m amazed those dresses are still there, and in such good condition.”

 

“Well,” he said as we sat down and took some warm bread and butter, “I took them out of storage for a charity auction.  Mind you, they do fit them very well - would you girls like to keep them?”

 

“Can we,” I said with a big smile as I looked at Mum and Dad.

 

“That’s very generous,” Dad said, “but only if Granny says so.”

 

“Oh they can have them,” Granny said as she poured some tea.  “After all, they need to be little ladies from time to time, like at the ball a few weeks ago.”

 

“The one at Lucinda’s place?  Do they still play the games and do the dance?”

 

“Oh yes - young Cassie here was the belle of the ball this year.”

 

I blushed as Uncle Jethro looked at me, and then smiled again.  “So you like playing tie-up games,” he said as he sat back, and watched us as we ate the bread and cakes.  “It brings back a few memories, eh sis?”

 

“Oh yes - we’ve relived a lot of old memories recently,“ Miranda said as we all sat and drank.  There was a wonderful smell in the kitchen, all fresh baking and wood, as Granny talked about some of the things that had happened over the last year.

 

“Hmmm,” Uncle Jethro said as she told him about the Mother’s Day games we played, “so Cassie here is the bright hope of the future, eh?  Remember that day you challenged me to keep you tied up all day, Miranda?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Granny said with a smile, “I spent the morning lying on the shelf in the old airing cupboard, and the afternoon in bed.”

 

“How old were you Granny,” I asked between bites of fruit cake.

 

“I was - what, nine, and you were twelve?”

 

Uncle Jethro nodded, and then said “But you could never get out of it, could you?”

 

Now that got my attention.  “You were that good, “I said, and he just nodded.

 

“Oh yes - if I tied your granny up, she knew she was going to be stuck like that for hours.  Only our father was better than me.”

 

“I love been tied up,” Patty said as she looked at her mother, “and I can be tied up tighter and for longer than anyone else.”

 

“Oh no you can’t,” I said quietly, “I’ve been tied up all night before now.”

 

“Well, I bet I could stay tied up all day and night.”

 

“No you couldn’t”

 

“YES I COULD!!”

 

“No - you couldn’t,”

 

“All right,” Patty said as she stood up and looked at me, “I bet you that I can stay tied up and gagged all day and all night every day of this holiday!”

 

“Deal,” I said as I stood up, and then realised that everyone else was looking at me.

 

“Cassie,” Jenny said as she shook her head, “Do you know what you just did?”

 

“Well, this is interesting,” Uncle Jethro said as he rubbed his head.  “First things first, lassies - you can’t stay tied up and gagged twenty four seven, or you’ll starve and not go to the toilet.  Also, what if you go to a public place?”

 

“How about this,” Dad said.  “If we’re in public, no.  If you need to go to the toilet, or eat, no.  Obviously if you are washing or changing, no - but all the other times, we’ll keep you tied up and gagged, and see who can last longest.”

 

Patty and I looked at each other, and then spat on the palms of our hands and shook to seal the deal.  Jenny looked at us, then at Mum and Dad, before saying “Same goes for me, right?”

 

“Right - you don’t want to be left out?”

 

Jenny shook her head as Uncle Jethro stood up.  “Well, how about we start now,” he said as he went to a basket, and took out three pairs of large brown socks.  “Put these over your hands, and then come and stand in front of me.”

 

The socks were so big they came up to the cuffs of our dress sleeves, so that as we stood in front of him we wondered what was happening.  I watched as Uncle Jethro took a length of brown rope, and made a lasso with one end, before he passed it over my head and then pulled it around my tummy, trapping my arms by my side as he did so.  He then pulled my hands together behind my back, and used the rope to tie my wrists tightly together over the socks, my palms pressed together.

 

He took another length of rope, and as he tied Jenny I tried to move my hands.  It was impossible to do so, and the gloves and socks meant I could not even begin to pick at the knots, never mind find them.

 

As I watched, he pulled Jenny’s arms into her sides, and then as he moved her arms back he pulled a little tighter to fix her arms in place, then tied the rope around her wrists before he tied the two ends either side of her arms to the band.  As Patty got the same treatment, he checked all of us and then left for a few moments.

 

“Where did Uncle Jethro go,” Jenny said as she looked at Dad.

 

“To get these,” she heard him say as he came back, and laid some things on the table.  He started by picking up three large handkerchiefs, and putting one into each of our mouths, before he took three ties and used them as cleave gags.

 

“Whtshtht,” Patty said as she saw Uncle Jethro take a roll of thick brown tape out of a drawer.

 

“You’ll see,” was all he said as he took a large black square, folded in into a triangle and then tied it over my hair, covering it as he tied the corners together over the point at the back of my neck.  “You’ve still got those scarves,” Granny said as he used a white one on Jenny, and a blue one on Patty.

 

“I have - and they’re going to be glad,” he said as he took the roll of brown tape, and tore the end free, before he wound it tightly round my head.  It smelled a little funny, but it certainly stuck, and I knew the scarf was a good move for me and the others.

 

As he tape gagged the other two, I tried again to move my hands, but to no avail.  “Now then,” Uncle Jethro said as he picked up a checked cap and put it on his head, “How would you girls like to have a tour of the farm?”

 

“YSPLS,” Patty shouted out, as we formed a line and came outside with Granny and Dad, following Uncle Jethro as he made his way over to a barn.

 

“We’ve got a few lambs in here still,” he said as he opened the door, and we walked in to see five little lambs sitting in a sheep pen.  “Their mothers rejected them, so we have to feed and look after them.  I’m afraid you can’t feed them, but they’re not hungry now anyway.”

 

Patty walked between the lambs, stroking them with her sock and glove covered her hands, her eyes smiling as she did so.  “Let’s go through here,” Uncle Jethro said as we left through a door on the other side of the barn, and looked out over a field of cows and calves.

 

“Well now,” Granny said as she looked at a barn across the yard, “That one brings back a few memories.”

 

“Why,” Dad said as he looked over, and then said “Oh yeah - it was that barn, wasn’t it?  The one you and Lucinda were left in by Granddad.”  We all looked over at the barn, stacked high with hay, and then at Granny, who was smiling quietly.

 

“Whthppnd,” Patty said as we walked into the barn, and looked at the bales around us.

 

“A long time ago, Lady Holderness and I had an argument,” Granny said quietly, “and my father caught us.  He tied us both up, gagged us with rags, and made us stay here until we calmed down.  It taught us both a great deal about how to deal with anger, isn’t that right Jenny?”

 

I looked at Jenny, who nodded slowly, probably remembering the fight she and Alicia had last summer.  I got a whole new level of love for Granny that point, as she smiled and said “Let’s head back - you girls need to get going if you’re going to get to your overnight stop at time.”

 

We nodded and walked back to the farmhouse, as Mum and Aunt Jessie were coming out of the caravan.  “Any of you girls need the toilet,” Mum said, and we all shook our heads as Dad opened the door to the car.

 

“You girls take care now,” Uncle Jethro said as he gave us each a bone crushing hug, then granny did the same, before we climbed in - me first, then Patty, then Jenny. As Dad took some rope and started to tie out ankles together, Uncle Jethro said “A word, ladies,” as he walked with Granny and Mum back into the house.

 

I wondered what was going on, but Dad just looked at us and said “Give them a minute.”  Eventually Aunt Jessie and Mum brought the twins out and strapped their seats in, Aunt Jessie sitting between them as Granny looked in.

 

“Enjoy your trip girls,” she said before closing the door, and Dad set off.  We sat back and watched as we left the farm behind, then along the country roads and onto the motorway.

 

The sun was starting to set as we pulled into what looked like a big parking lot, with caravans and tents dotted round the edge.  Dad slowly moved the car round, and then reversed back as he parked the caravan.

 

“Right,” he said as he turned and looked at us, “you three are getting to sleep in the tent tonight, while we look after the babies in the caravan.  You can go and sit in there while I put the tent up and get some supper - fish and chips sound good to everyone?”

 

We all nodded as Aunt Jessie climbed out, taking the carry seats into the caravan before Dad lifted me out of the car  and carried me in, sitting me on the brown upholstered seat before leaving and returning with Patty.  He and Mum then helped Jenny to hop in, before Dad left to take care of the tent.

 

“We’re going to be staying here for a couple of days,” Mum said as he took David out and sat with him, “and tomorrow there’s a county fair going on in the town - we thought you might like to go to it.”

 

“Btthnwwntbtdp,” Patty said as she looked at her mother.

 

“Well, we have an idea about that, but you’ll see,” Aunt Jessie said as Mum started to feed David.  “Right now, we need to untie you and you need to get ready for supper.  Then you can change and get ready for bed.”

 

Looking out of the caravan window, I could see Dad putting up a large tent by the side of the caravan, and smiled under the tape gag...

 

********

 

 

“You know, kids, there is nothing quite as good as fish caught and cooked in the same day.”

 

We all sighed contentedly as we pushed the plates away, our tummies full of fish and chips.  Patty picked up her glass of squash and drained it in one go, before saying “Can we get changed now, and get tied up for bed?”

 

“Hey, hey,” Aunt Jessie said with a smile, “calm down - plenty of time for that, so let your food go down first.”  Patty gave a little pout and crossed her arms, the sleeves of her dress riding up a little, but she didn’t complain as Jenny and I went to do the washing up.

 

“You know,” Jenny whispered to me as I washed and she dried, “that spending the whole trip tied up and gagged might not be that practical?”

 

“Well, I’m not going to be the one to give up first,” I said with a smile.  “Patty needs to be reminded she’s the youngster here.”

 

“Says the tweenager,” Jenny replied with a laugh.  “Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to show you both instead.”

 

I smiled and shook my head, as Mum said “Right - your nightclothes are laid out in the back of the caravan.  Go and change, leave the dresses on the bed, then come back here.”

 

The three of us went to the back of the caravan, which had a screen over it and our clothes stored away, and changed out of the dresses.  It was a warm night, so Mum had laid out a pink vest and shorts combination for me, and a pale blue t-shirt and knee length leggings for Jenny.  Patty had a short sleeved white nightdress, which just covered her knees.

 

As we walked back in, Dad was standing there with a roll of the special white tape.  “For bed,” he said quietly, “its hands in front, waist and ankles only, and the gag is only one layer.  We don’t want any accidents during the night, so all three of you need to put your hands together palm to palm in front of you now.”

 

We did as Dad asked, watching as he taped our wrist tightly together, then as we lowered them he wrapped the tape around our waists to keep them in place.  He then walked to the door, opening it and saying “If you will walk this way?”

 

Patty almost tripped over in her eagerness to get to the door first, as Jenny and I followed her out of the caravan, across the short dark path and into the tent where a light was hanging from the top.  Three sleeping bags were laid out on mats, opened up so that we could lie down in them before Dad taped our ankles together.

 

“One of us will come and wake you up in the morning,” Dad said as he tore a strip of the tape off, and smoothed it over my lisp before he gave me a kiss on the forehead.  “Sleep well, all of you.”

 

“Gdnngthdd,” I mumbled as he tape gagged Jenny and Patty, and then dimmed the light before he left the tent.  We looked at each other as my eyelids slowly closed.  I wanted to stay awake, I really wanted to....

 

********

 

“Mrnnnggsseee.”

 

I opened my eyes to see Patty sitting up in her bed, the sun streaming through the tent door as it flapped a little.  I looked at her, and said “hfubntsd?”

 

Patty nodded, and I started to wonder if anyone had seen her, before Aunt Jessie came in and said “good morning you three, ready for another day?”

 

I nodded as Jenny slowly turned over and said “stthbcnesml?”

 

“It is indeed bacon,” Aunt Jessie said with a smile as she produced a pair of scissors.  “So go to the toilet, wash your hands and then join us in the caravan for some breakfast.”

 

We nodded as she cut us free, and we went to do what we needed to do, then sat with her, Mum and Dad to have bacon sandwiches, while the twins watched us from their car seats.  They had on one piece suits, blue for David and lime green for June, and they seemed happy enough, gurgling away and waving their hands around a little.

 

“So,” Jenny said as she looked at Dad, “What’s this fair we’re going to today?”

 

“It is the Somerset and Avon County Fair,” Dad said with a smile, “so lots of farm produce, displays and things to see.  They have a theme each year, and guess what today’s is?”

 

“I don’t know,” I said, “come in an onesie?”

 

“Not quite,” Dad said with a smile, “but it is the sixtieth anniversary, so they are encouraging people to come in clothes from the past.”

 

“So can we wear those dresses again,” Patty said.

 

“I’m afraid not,” Aunt Jessie said, “they need to be cleaned.  You’ll need to get something suitable from the hanging closet in the curtained area.”

 

“Fair enough - but how can we be tied up and gagged for that?”

 

“You’ll see,” Dad said as he winked at me and Jenny.  “So, go, wash, brush your teeth and get changed.”

 

We nodded as Patty jumped up and raced for the bathroom, calls of “there’s no hurry” falling on deaf ears.

 

Fifteen minutes later, we walked into the back of the caravan and closed the curtains, as Patty said “All right, what can I wear,” and opened the closet.  She stared at it for a few minutes, before saying “Wow -  come and look at these?”

 

Jenny and I walked over - and hanging there were the clothes we had seen in the wardrobe yesterday.  “What are they doing here,” Jenny said as she looked through, and then said “This would suit you, Cassie.”  She took out a hanger and showed it to me.

 

There was a sleeveless red blouse, with little capped shoulders and pearl buttons from the small collar down the front, as well as skirt that had a red, black and white tartan like print on it.  There was a thin black belt at the waist, and as I held it against me, it just covered my knees.

 

“What about this for me,” Patty said as she took out a second hangar.  This had a blue cotton pinafore dress on it, the shoulder straps attached to the bib at the front by two big white buttons, and a sleeveless blouse under it.  The collar was like my one, but it was white with blue thin stripes.

 

“Cute,” I said as I stuck my tongue out, and then gasped at the dress Jenny was looking at.  It was green, with what looked like a white underskirt, and had a white collar and stripe down the front, as well as one a little way up from the hem of the skirt.  It had short sleeves, and a panelled area around her tummy from which the skirt flowed out in little pleats.  There was also a little white decorative bow at the neck, and where the two white stripes crossed, and three little pearls under each bow.

 

“Let’s wear these today,” Patty cried out, and we helped each other into the clothes, each of us putting on a pair of white ankle socks and black shoes.  We then walked into the front room, and saw Mum had put on a white dress with short sleeves and a flowing skirt, while Aunt Jessie was wearing a dark blur sleepless blouse and trousers that came to just above her ankle.

 

“Like them,” Mum said, and we all nodded.  “I thought Uncle Jethro was selling these,” Jenny said as we twirled round, our skirts coming out a little.

 

“Change of heart - Granny thought you might like them instead,” Dad said as he came in.  “So you can wear some on some of the days, and your other clothes on the other days.  As this is a day for dress up, they seemed a good choice.  So, I suppose we need to get you three ready for the show?”

 

“I don’t get it still,” Patty said as we each put on the white gloves from yesterday, “how are we going to be able to go out tied up in public?  Won’t people notice?”

 

“You’d be surprised,” Jenny said, then she looked at me, then at Dad.  “But...”

 

“A bet is a bet,” he said as he produced some lengths of thin cord.  “Hands behind your backs, wrists crossed please - unless you want to give up now?”

 

Well, that wasn’t going to happen, so I turned and crossed my wrists, Patty doing likewise, as Dad tied them tightly together and tied a second length around our waist to keep them in place.  As he did the same to Jenny, Mum folded up three clean handkerchiefs.

 

“Open wide - and remember, they stay one until we need to have lunch,” she said as one by one we had the cloth put into our mouths, and then Dad stuck a long strip of clear tape down over our closed mouths.  Patty tried to move her lips, then nodded silently, satisfied that this would keep us quiet for now.

 

We watched as Jenny was gagged, and then Mum said “One last thing - to cover the ropes.”  We looked as she produced what looked like ponchos, but were actually three light blue travelling capes.  She fastened one around the neck and shoulders of each of us, and they came down to near the hem of our skirts covering our waists and arms.

 

“Now then,” Dad said as he grabbed his jacket, “you three, out to the car.”  We filed out of the caravan and into our seats in the car, sitting down in our chairs as Dad strapped us in.  “No leg ropes - it might be a little awkward,” Dad said as he then went to fetch the twins, and the rest of the family settled into the car.

 

Dad had unhitched the caravan last night, so he made sure the door was locked and the tent secure before we set off, driving down the road as One Direction played over the CD.

 

It took us about an hour to drive into the large field they were using as a car park, and I was just grateful it had been dry for so long as we were helped out of the car and walked to the entrance.  The lady there took a look at us, said “nice costumes,” and then took our money as we walked in, Mum pushing the double buggy as Aunt Jessie and Dad walked with us.

 

Dad had been right - there was a lot going on, with big bulls and horses been paraded round a ring made of straw bales, lots of animals in little pens to look at and pet (if we had been able to), a line of vintage cars and lots more.

 

There were also lots of food stalls, and the smell of the sausages, and other things, were slowly driving me mad.  I looked at Patty, who was standing staring at a little pen of newly hatched chicks, and wondered if she was feeling the same way.

 

“Well now, Lady Holderness, I see you dressed up for the occasion.”

 

My eyes opened wide at the voice, and I slowly turned round to see how it could possibly be them.

 

There they were - Lady Holderness, resplendent in a lime green dress coat with black collar and pockets, matching gloves and shoes.  With her were her son and Mrs Holderness, who was wearing a red sleeveless slip dress with a flower motif on the shoulder, and next to them was Bobby and Suzie.  Bobby had on a checked shirt and a pair of brown trousers, while Suzie was wearing a red dress with a white collar and cuffs on her short sleeves, the skirt coming to her knees and white dots on the red fabric and a big bow at her back. She was also wearing a pair of white gloves, and smiled as she saw us standing there.

 

“Hey - what are you doing here,” she called out as she ran over and hugged me, then looked at my face and gave a little giggle.  “Oh dear,” she said quietly, “You’re not able to talk right now, are you?”

 

I shook my head and looked over at Patty and Suzie, who were standing with Aunt Jessie, unaware of who was with me.  Suzie giggled and walked slowly over to Patty, her fingers wriggling as Bobby said “Well now, this is a nice surprise.  What brings you to the...”  He stopped and looked at me, then smiled and said “Oh - I see.  Not a lot to say today then, hmm?”

 

“Mbltr,” I mumbled as Lady Holderness finally turned and recognised us.  “Hello, John,” she said as she walked over, “Have you been visiting old haunts again?  Colonel Barthurst, may I introduce you to John Craig?  His grandfather was Eli Smethurst.”

 

“Oh really,” the man who was with Lady Holderness said.  He was a big, broad-shouldered man, with a big ginger moustache and a checked jacket on, “So is Jethro your uncle?  I thought he was going to be here this year.”

 

“He sends his apologies - he needs to be at the farm for an inspection of the animals,” Dad said as she shook the hand the Colonel held out.  As he did so, Patty yelped and turned round to see Suzie standing behind her, grinning from ear to ear.

 

“You will have to forgive the girls for not talking,” Dad said as he looked at us, “They agreed to keep silent all day in return for a special treat tonight.  Would you three like to go with Bobby and Suzie?”

 

We all nodded as Lady Holderness said “Perhaps you can bring them to our private dining tent in an hour, Robert?”

 

“Of course, Grandma,” he said as he put his arm round my shoulder and led me away, Jenny following with Patty and Suzie.  As he did so, he whispered in my ear “Well, I see you dared it again - but nice touch to do it so openly, and nice outfit too.  The cape suits you.”

 

I blushed and nodded as we passed a food stand.  “Oh - hang on a minute,” Suzie said as she went up and bought a hot dog, Patty’s eyes widening as she watched Suzie slowly eat each morsel.

 

“I’m going to guess you girls have not had anything to eat since breakfast,” Bobby said as he gave me a squeeze and I nodded in reply, blushing at the embrace.  As he did so, a few people walked past and smiled, talking in whispers to each other.

 

“Whtrudnghr,” Patty tried to say as we walked round the stalls.

 

“Oh, Grandma invited us to come and join her today - we’re staying at a hotel a few miles away from here.  People tend to forget she grew up round here as well,” Bobby said as we stopped to look at a group of rabbits hopping round an enclosure.  “So are you staying at the caravan park?”

 

“Fradeert,” Jenny said as she swung her body from side to side, looking at Patty as she eyed the rabbits.  I could see the slight smile under the tape as it crinkled round her mouth.

 

I could see a couple of girls looking and pointing at us, so I nudged Bobby and looked at him.

 

“Hmm,” he said as he looked up and saw the girls smiling at him.  He smiled in reply, then said “Did you know you’ve become something of a celebrity?”

 

I shook my head, as we walked on and past a stall, which was inviting people to try and knock a pyramid of six cans over.  “Hang on,” Bobby said as he bought three balls, and started to throw them - the first one taking all six down!

 

“We have a winner!!” the man shouted out, as he handed Bobby a fluffy rabbit doll - which he then showed me as he whispered in my ear “For you...”

 

Patty was staring at it as well, and Jenny was shaking her head, as Bobby threw the second ball and won a second one.  “Would you like one as well,” he said to Jenny, but she shook her head from side to side as he carried them both for us.

 

We walked round the stalls, the food aromas starting to drive me to distraction, until we eventually arrived at a small tent, with a rope across the entrance and a sign that said “Private.”  The uniformed man at the door looked at Bobby, who said “My grandmother is expecting us with our guests.”  He then unhooked the rope and allowed us in, where we saw Mum, Dad and Auntie Jessie talking to Bobby’s parents and Lady Holderness.

 

“Ah, there you are,” she said as she smiled at me.  “Robert, kindly remove their capes and anything else you may find, before we sit down to dinner.”

 

Bobby nodded a she unbuttoned my cape and removed it, then peeled the tape away from my mouth and took out the handkerchief.  “So, why are you doing this,” he said as he untied my hands and the rope around my waist.

 

“I’ll tell you,”  I said as I rubbed my hands, and then watched as Suzie did the same for Patty, “if you’ll tell me why those girls were looking at you and me?”

 

“Ah - that,” bobby said as Suzie said “I like your dress “ to Patty.  He took my hand and led me to a chair, sitting me down before he picked up a copy of a magazine.  “I suspect Country World is not on your reading list,” he said as he turned to a page, and showed me the photographs on it.

 

“Oh my god,” I whispered as I saw him and me on the dance floor, and the others being escorted around the July Ball.  “I thought that photographer only sold them to the local paper.”

 

“Well, he didn’t” Bobby said with a smile, “does that bother you?”

 

I didn’t know what to think - it was bad enough getting ribbed at school, but this felt different.  In fact, it felt - well, it felt flattering.

 

“Oh look - Cassie and Bobby are famous!!!”

 

I turned and looked at Patty, while Jenny walked over and looked at the pictures.

 

“Oh my,” she said as she saw one of her and Colin, “do I really look like that?”  She smiled at the way she looked, with the tiara on her head and her gown almost moving in the picture.

 

“You did,” I said with a smile, “but you never saw it.  I think you looked better in the ropes, though.”

 

“Never mind the photos,” Suzie said with a smile, “why the ropes and gag?”

 

“Oh - the bet,”  Patty said as she twirled round, “I bet these two that we could spend as much as possible of our holiday tied up and gagged, and the winner - who will be me - gets a special treat.”

 

Suzie looked at us, and then a big grin spread over her face.  “That sounds like fun,” she said as she looked at her mum and dad, “Can I try that?”

 

“Whoa there,” Mrs Holderness said with a smile, “I know the girls did it today, but they had to wear capes and things to cover up the ropes.  You can’t go out in public for the whole day tied up like that.”

 

“Your mother’s right,” Mister Holderness said, “but I have an idea - why don’t you come over to our cabin tomorrow for lunch, and you can all spend the rest of the day together?  Anne and Simon are bringing Alicia and Andrew over for the day.”

 

“Would you like that,” Dad said as he looked at us.  We all nodded as Lady Holderness said “Well, shall we eat?”

 

“Here,” Bobby said as he handed me the bunny, “for you.”

 

I smiled and hugged it as we walked to the table, and sat down to a meal I was not expecting I was going to get.  As we sat down, Bobby whispered in my ear “You know, after lunch I could take you to look at the animals - but you’d need to be bound and gagged again.”

 

I nodded - that was something I could  look forward to.  I saw Dad was talking to Mr Holderness, and they both smiled as Dad whispered something into Mum’s ear and Suzie’s Dad whispered to her Mum.  Whatever it was, they both smiled and nodded, but I had no idea what they had talked about.

 

The lunch was very nice - cold ham and salad, with profiteroles afterwards, but we were very careful not to get anything on our dresses and other things.  Eventually, however, Lady Holderness stood up and said “Well, I must go and rejoin the Colonel.  I will see you all tomorrow?”

 

“We look forward to it,” I said, and she smiled at me as she left the tent.  As the flap closed, Bobby said “I guess I’ll just have to get you three ready to head out now.  Ready to be tied again?”

 

Patty nodded her head eagerly as Aunt Jessie shook hers, but I said “Bobby, can you do the full job - just not our ankles?”

 

He smile a beautiful evil grin, then said “Maybe tomorrow - for today, I’ll just add one extra rope, if you want.  Line up, all three of you.”

 

We formed a line and allowed Bobby to re-tie our wrist and arms, and then he asked us to sit down.  Very carefully, he folded our skirts back, tied our legs together above our knees, and then as we stood up the skirts covered them.  He replaced the cloths in our mouths, the tape, and then helped by Suzie we had the capes put back on us.

 

“Right then,” Bobby said as Suzie poked him in the ribs.  “What?”

 

“I want the rope and tape too!”

 

“But Suzie, we don’t have a cape to cover you up.  Don’t worry,” he said as she saw him frown, “I’ll take care of you later.”  That seemed to cheer her up a bit, as Mr Holderness said “I’ll call Simon in the morning, so that he knows.”

 

“Whtrrthtkgbt” I mumbled as Bobby led me out of the tent, Suzie following with Jenny and Patty.  Patty immediately tried to run off, but Suzie stopped her and said “Better if we all stick together,” guiding her in the same direction as the three of us.

 

We spent the next couple of hours looking at the large horses and bulls, who all seemed incredibly gentle as we passed between them, taking care not to step in  anything.  Turned out Bobby knows quite a bit about the animals, given he lives in the town, but then I realised something.  His grandmother came from around here, so he must have spent time on the farms as well.

 

All too soon, the time came for us to go home, and Bobby gave me a big hug as we walked back to the car.  The twins were already in, so we took our seats and watched Bobby and Suzie wave us off.

 

“Well,” Dad said as we left the field, “that takes care of tomorrow, but the day after that we need to move on to the next place.  You girls want to watch a movie?”

 

We nodded as Aunt Jessie turned round and started the DVD player that was hanging in front of Patty.  As we watched The Princess and the Frog, however, I was aware of a small problem I was beginning to have.

 

It was a little irritating at first, but as we headed onto the main road the itch at the side of my nose started to get worse and worse.  I started to an impression of a witch wriggling my nose, but it just did not seem to make a difference.

 

I must have started twisting round as well, because Patty nudged me in the ribs and said “nnngfp?”

 

Well, of course I did not want to give up, but even as I shook my head I was starting to twist my face round in something - well, it must have looked funny, because Patty started giggling and then Aunt Jessie looked round.

 

“Something wrong, Cassie,” she said as she looked at me, and I tried to tell her by wriggling my nose and looking at it.

 

“Do you need the toilet?”

 

I shook my head at that, and then looked at my nose again.

 

“Oh - got an itch that needs scratching?”

 

I nodded vigorously at this, as Aunt Jessie looked at me and smiled.  “Sorry, kiddo - you’ll have to wait until we stop now,” she said as she turned round, and I allowed myself to let out a very muffled huff.

 

Fortunately, when we did stop the first thing she did was scratch my nose, giving me blessed relief as we climbed out.  “Right then,” Dad said as he looked at us, “You need to go in, get yourselves sorted out and changed.  I’m going to go into the woods to sort something out - Mum and Aunt Jessie will bring you when you are ready.”

 

“Wllwbtdpgn,” Jenny said as she looked at Dad.

 

“Not to begin with, no - too many people about.  But when you get to where I’m cooking supper, you’ll see.”

 

Patty literally ran into the caravan, Jenny and I following as Dad emptied the car and brought the bunnies in, and then went off as Mum removed our capes and untied us.

 

As the gags came off, she said “I suggest you go and put on t-shirts and shorts for now - you can’t wear those where we are going.”

 

“I need to go a place first,” I said as I ran to the toilet, desperate to do something...

 

********

 

Half an hour later, we were no longer the smartly dressed young ladies, but instead were in shorts, t-shirts and trainers as Mum picked up a basket.

 

“Right,” she said as Aunt Jessie put the twins into a buggy, “let’s go.”  We walked out of the caravan, and a short distance into the woods, before we saw Dad by a burning fire, set in a ring of stones.

 

“There you are,” he said as we walked over, “I thought you’d enjoy some camp food tonight - and then I’ll tell you a story.”

 

“What about the bet,” Patty moaned, but then she saw Mum put the basket down, and take out a roll of white tape.  “Legs only while we eat,” she said, “but I’ll join you as well - Aunt Jessie is going to look after the twins tonight.” 

 

“Well, if I put the buggy next to me, I’m sure I can look after them with my legs bound as well,” Aunt Jessie said, so we sat on a circle of stones, far enough from the fire to be warm but close enough to reach it with some forks Dad had tied to sticks, and waited as Mum walked round and taped our ankles, then our legs together.

 

As she knelt in front of Aunt Jessie, she said “Does this remind you of anything?”

 

“Brownie camp,” Aunt Jessie said without a moment’s hesitation, “and Hailey.”

 

“Oh yeah - I heard about Hailey,” Dad said with a smile as he speared a sausage on each of our forks and handed them to us.  “Just hold them at the edge of the fire and watch them cook,” he said as Mum sat down and taped her own ankles and legs.  I looked at the sausage as it started to turn from pale pink to brown and sizzled a little.

 

“Who was Hailey,” Jenny said as she turned her sausage over.

 

“Hailey was a girl in my class,” Mum said as she took her sausage, “small kid, mousey brown hair, freckles.  She was nice enough to the other kids, but she was really into the whole Brownie thing.  Back in those days, we still had to wear those brown dresses with the little scarves, and she loved wearing it.

 

“Anyway, we went away for a weekend camp in our troop, and on the Saturday night we were all sitting round a fire, in our brown dresses and yellow neck thingies, singing camp songs and all that stuff as we toasted marshmallows.”  Mum took her sausage out of the fire, looked at it and then bit ingot it.

 

“Nice - try it,” she said to me, so I looked at the charred meat and bit in.  It tasted so sweet, with the juices that started running down my chin - I never knew a sausage could taste so good. I looked at Patty, who for once was quiet, slowly chewing her sausage.

 

“What your mum is forgetting to mention,” Aunt Jessie said as she picked David up and started to give him a bottle of milk, “is that leader of this particular troop was one of our teachers at school, Miss Hawkins - a real battleaxe, who seemed to be a living embodiment of Thatcher in dress and looks.  Hailey’s dad was a local union rep, so she seemed to take great delight in trying to do Hailey down.

 

“Anyway, this particular night for some reason Miss Hawkins started to fall asleep at the fire, with her head resting against a wooden pole - it was there in case a canopy had to be out over the fire.  Well, we both looked over at Hailey, and there was the most wicked gleam in her eyes as she said ‘Let’s play a trick on Miss Hawkins.’

 

“She walked behind her, moved her so that she had her back against the pole, and then used some duct tape that had been left around to tape her wrists together.  She then walked round, taped her ankles and legs, before sticking a length of tape over her mouth.  We all just sat and watched, trying to stop ourselves from giggling too loud and waking her up, then we all sneaked off and left her there, going to our own beds.”

 

We looked at Mum and Aunt Jessie with amazement.  Now, Jenny and I had never been to brownies or guides, while Patty - well, we didn’t know for certain.  But to know they had seen this happen...

 

“When did she eventually wake up,” Jenny asked as Dad gave her another sausage.

 

“Well - we actually have no idea, but when we filed in for breakfast the next morning she wasn’t there, and the second in command took charge for the Sunday.  We later found out that an Akela from a Cub Scout troop had found her trying to call for help, freed her and took her to the local A&E. She was all right,” Mum added as she saw our shocked faces, “and she did eventually laugh about it, but we never told her who did it.”

 

“What happened to Hailey in the end,” Patty said as she bit into her third sausage.

 

“Hailey?  She is now Hailey Parsons, the Schools Minister,” Dad said with a smile.  “Who wants some marshmallows?”

 

Mum and Aunt Jessie looked at each other and burst out laughing as we finished our sausages and took the sticks Dad was offering, with gooey marshmallows stuck on the end.

 

“Aunt Jennifer, Uncle John, can I ask you something?”

 

“Sure Patty,” Dad said, “What is it?”

 

“Why can’t we sleep tied up and gagged as we were during today?  I’d love to know what it is like.”

 

All four of us looked at each other as she asked this, while Aunt Jessie said “Patty, I thought we talked about this...”

 

“It’s all right, Aunt Jessie,” I said as I looked at my darling little cousin.  “Patty, just before the summer holidays last year a group of men broke into our house, and held all of us hostage.”

 

Patty smiled and said “Yeah - I heard about that, but you made it sound like fun - like the big day you all got tied up at the Manor House.”

 

I had to smile and say “Yeah - I suppose we did make it feel that way, but the truth is, we looked at it that way to deal with it.  There were three men, who burst in, tied us up, and then made Mum and Dad come back so that they could make Dad do something at work.

 

“We were made to change into our bedclothes, then had our wrists tied tightly behind our backs with socks on, ropes around our waist, our arms and tummies, our legs and our ankles.  They them stuffed big clothes in our mouths, tied them in with thin cloths, and wound tape round our heads - not the nice white tape, but silver tape which hurt as it pulled on our hair.  If they had not made April tie our hair back in pigtails and hold it out of the way, well...

 

“Patty, we may have thought it was fun, but looking back we were made to sleep like that all night, and anything could have happened.  We were lucky - very lucky - but we didn’t sleep much.  I ended up hopping into Mum’s room and sleeping with her - Jenny hopped in later, right?”

 

Jenny nodded as well.  “Patty, seriously - I managed to sleep, and woke up to find both April and Cassie had gone.  I found them both, but for a moment I was really scared as well.

 

“We don’t want to frighten you, or stop you playing the games with us, but we have rules for a reason - and that night was one of the reasons.  Trust us - it’s better this way.”

 

Patty now looked a little scared, as Aunt Jessie held June.  “They’re right, Patty,” she said quietly, “I have no problem with you playing the games, but it can be a really scary place out there, so you need to listen to these two and us, all right?”

 

Patty nodded, but as she looked at us there was still that wicked gleam in her eye.  I found myself looking at her and thinking “Was I like that at Aunt Cassie’s place?”

 

Eventually, we had eaten our fill, and Dad picked up the tape.  “Right then, hands behind your backs please ladies - I want you to be nice and quiet for this story.”

 

“Oh goodie,” Patty said as Dad taped her wrists together, then smoothed a length of tape over her lips.  He did the same for all of us, as well as Mum, before he sat down and looked at us over the flickering flames.

 

“Many years ago, on a cottage that was near the wild North Sea, there lived a young girl whose name was Deborah.  She lived with her grandmother, and old dear with silver grey hair that was always in a tight bun on her head, unlike Deborah who had long black hair that blew wild in the wind as it came off the sea.

 

“Now Deborah worked at the harbour, as one of the fisher women - the ones who sorted through the catches from the boats, and prepared them for market. Every morning, she would kiss her grandmother goodbye and head down the path that led to the harbour, and every night she would bring home food and drink for them to have for supper.

 

“On this particular day, she walked down the path in the summer sun, her grey skirt blowing in the soft breeze and the hem of her tunic moving with her.  She had her black hair covered with a patterned shawl, and she was smiling, because it was a very special day for her. It was her eighteenth birthday, and her grandmother had promised her a special treat.

 

“As for her grandmother, she busied herself during the day around the cottage, but her work was interrupted that day by two gentlemen who rode up to the front of their home.  ‘Good day, sirs,’ she said as she paused from sweeping the path, ‘May I be of service to you?’

 

“’We are looking for food and lodging,’ the older of the two said, ‘perhaps you may be able to help us?’

 

“’I fear not good sirs,’ her grandmother said as she looked at them.  ‘I live here alone save for my granddaughter, and there is only room for us.  I can direct you to a fine lodging house...’

 

“Her grandmother did not complete that sentence, as the younger of the two men dismounted, and pointed a loaded gun at her.  ‘I think we will stay,’ he said quietly as he escorted her inside, and the older man took the horses to the back of the house.”

 

We sat there, listening to Dad as the fire slowly started to die down, and wondering what he was going to say next.

 

“Eventually, Deborah walked back to the cottage, with a basket under her arm which contained a fine piece of roast beef - a present from the butcher.  As she walked into the cottage, she called out for her grandmother, and then had the shock of her life.

 

“She could see her grandmother, sitting in the old stuffed armchair, with her hands tied together in front of her with thick, rough rope.  Her arms had also been tied to her side, hugging her shawl close to her as it hung over her white blouse.  More rope was around her legs, pulling her skirt in above her knees, and round her ankles.

 

“There was also a thick white cloth pulled between her lips, forcing her lips apart as she tried to speak to Deborah, but it was no use - she felt a firm hand grip her shoulder and heard a rough voice say ‘I hope that is our supper you brought - we’re starving.’

 

“The two men had escaped from a local prison, stolen the horses from a house some way away, and were now looking for somewhere to spend the night.  They made Deborah prepare the beef with some vegetables for their supper, find them some beer, and then bound her in the same way as her grandmother on another chair.

 

 

“As they sat, watching the two intruders devouring what food and drink they had, her grandmother looked at Deborah, and then out of the window, as the sun started to set over the horizon, and the large silver disc of the full moon could be seen.

 

“’Hey - stop grunting,’ the older of the two men said as he looked at Deborah, who was trying to free herself.  He turned away - but if he had only looked for a few more minutes, he would have seen something to make his blood chill.”

 

We were watching Dad intently now, as the flames of the fire cast long shadows over

the ground and his face.

 

“She did not feel any pain, or realise what was happening at first, but as the rays of the moon shine through the window she looked down, and she could see her fingers were lengthening, her nails growing longer and sharper.  She looked over at her grandmother, who simply nodded and watched with her, as Deborah felt her body start to change.  She felt stronger, and new smells and scents started to assail her nose.  She could also feel her body filling out, as the ropes seemed to stretch and then snap free from around her arms and wrists.

 

“The younger man looked up at this point, and his mouth opened wide, his eyes full of terror as he stood up and backed up to the wall.  The older man then looked round, and stood up himself as Deborah got out of the chair and started to walk - no, to shuffle forward.

 

“’Holy Mary, Mother of God,’ he whispered as he went to pick up the pistol, but Deborah watched as if in a dream as long fingered hand grabbed his wrist and squeezed it, the nails sinking into his skin.  He started to scream then, but no noise came out, only a tiny little whimper as she walked towards the younger man, bringing the older one with her.

 

“And all through this her grandmother watched, saying nothing but smiling with contentment as Deborah showed the two intruders the error of their ways...”

 

I could see Patty watching Dad, transfixed as he poked the fire and the flames shot up.

 

“The next morning, the local police officer called to see Deborah and her grandmother.  He told them that two escaped convicts had been seen heading that way, and to keep their eyes open for them.  They said they would, and waved the officer on their way, before looking towards the cottage.

 

“’Why did you never tell me,’ Deborah said as she hugged her grandmother.

 

“’What - that I was a witch and you were the daughter of a warlock and a weirdling?   I would have told you last night, but we had guests - and you know it is impolite to ignore guests.

 

“’But now you know - and you must learn to deal with the consequences.  Come - let us attend to our guests.’

 

“The two women walked into the cottage, and looked at the doll’s house that Deborah had retrieved from the spare room.  They could see two men inside the locked building, both with white hair and faces that seemed to be screaming all the time.

 

“’There there,’ Deborah said, “We’ll let you go - eventually...’”

 

The fire slowly died down as Dad stood up.  “All right,” he said as he cut the legs free of all of us, “Time for bed - you three get ready, and we’ll secure you as we did yesterday.  I just need to clear up and put the fire out...”

 

********

 

The next morning saw us all up, dressed and eating breakfast bright and early.  Jenny and I had decided to put on our long gypsy skirts today, with ankle socks and sneakers on our feet.  Mine was brown, while Jenny’s was blue.  She had put on a matching short sleeved blouse, while I was wearing a white t-shirt.  Patty came through, wearing a knee length denim skirt and blue short sleeved top.

 

“I am starving,” she said as she poured herself a bowl of corn flakes.  “Where are Aunt Jenny and Uncle John?”

 

As if by cue, Mum and Dad came in.  Mum was wearing a pair of blue leggings and a blue and white smock top with swirly patterns on it, as well as flat shoes, while Dad was in trousers and a shirt.

 

“Hey,” Jenny said as she listened to a quiet humming sound, “I don’t remember there being crickets round here.”

 

“You probably just have not heard them before today,” Dad said as Mum let out a giggle.  “Let’s eat.”

 

I have never seen Patty eat and drink so quickly - so quickly, in fact, that she started to have hiccups, making the two of us laugh as Aunt Jessie tried to help her to get over them.  At least that gave time for both of us to finish our breakfast, brush our teeth, and present ourselves for inspection.

 

“Wait for me,” Patty eventually said without gulping as she went to do her teeth, while Dad said “Can you both lift your skirts for a moment?”

 

We reached down and pulled our skirts up above our knees, watching as Dad tied a length of rope between our legs above them.  He did not tie them tightly together, but left a length of about three or four inches between them.  Tying the knots off, he then said “Let your skirts drop, and see if you can walk.”

 

Well, it was more of a shuffle than a walk, but we were able t at least look reasonable normal.  “Brilliant Dad,” I said with a smile, “this will work until we go for lunch.”

 

Patty came back, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, and Dad tied some rope under her skirt before he made us stand in a line, and cross our wrists behind our back.

 

I smiled as I felt my arms being drawn together, and then fixed to my back with a rope belt around my waist.  “Are we going to wear ponchos or capes today Dad,” I said as I watched him wrapping rope around Jenny’s wrists.

 

“I think ponchos would be best - I’m going to take you into the woods around here for a walk before we head off.”

 

“Is Mum coming,” Jenny said as she looked at Mum and Aunt Jessie, who were clearing away the breakfast things.

 

“Go on,” Aunt Jessie said, “the twins are sleeping, and I can keep an ear open for them.”

 

“Sounds fun,” Mum said with a giggle, “Can you sort me out after the girls, John?”

 

Dad nodded as he tied some rope around our arms and tummies, then said “Why don’t you girls sit down for a moment, and I’ll get Mum ready before we all go out.”

 

We all sat down, Patty and me swinging our legs at each other as Jenny looked out of the caravan window, as Dad took Mum to the back of the caravan.  We heard her giggling and laughing, before she came in, a black poncho covering her upper body.  A strip of flesh coloured plaster covered her mouth, and I could see her smiling as she walked towards us.  Her legs weren’t tied at all - I guess because they were a bit difficult to cover, but she stumbled a little as she walked, which meant she was playing along with us.

 

“I need you to open your mouths girls,” Dad said as he showed us three sponge balls.  We all opened our mouths wide, and I felt the sponge tickling my tongue a little as he pushed it in.  Closing my mouth, I felt it expand and push my tongue down as he smoothed a strip of flesh coloured plaster over my mouth, then did the same for the others, Mum watching and wriggling as if she was a captive watching her children being tied up and gagged by robbers.

 

As I watched her, I knew she was having fun - and despite what I said to Patty last night, as I looked at her I could hide the fact that I was enjoying myself as well, particularly as Dad found three white crocheted ponchos and put one over each of us, covering our upper bodies so that our arms could not be seen.

 

“Now,” he said as he helped Mum to stand up, “Let’s go into the woods.  This way, if we see anything, you won’t scare it away.  Patty?”

 

“Hmmm,” Patty said as she looked at Dad.

 

“No running off ahead of us - if we want to see the animals, then we need to stay together and stay quiet, all right?”

 

I looked at my cousin, who seemed crestfallen for a moment, but then nodded in agreement as we formed a line behind Mum and Dad to leave the caravan.  We walked past the tents and onto a path that led to the woods behind us, our trainers crunching the twigs before we started to walk on a dirt path.

 

We walked for about twenty minutes, Patty bumping into me from time to time, until Dad held his hand up and we stopped, Mum giggling a little as she did so.  I saw Jenny give her a funny look, and then shake her head as Dad pointed to a gap between the trees.

 

“Look,” he whispered, and when we did we saw a little baby deer eating some grass, its mother watching from a little distance away.  We stood for a few minutes, entranced by the sight of this small, almost cartoon like animal eating in peace and tranquillity.

 

Even Patty was silenced by it; her eyes wide as she watched the mother and baby walk together, and then leave the clearing.  “Look over there,” Dad then whispered, and we saw a sleek, slowly moving brown and red fox walk along the edge of the clearing, their ears high and twitching as it looked round.

 

“It’s checking for danger,” Dad whispered as we watched, “which means one of two things.” We watched as it seemed to bark, and then three cubs followed it out, looking round as they started to run across the clearing.

 

I felt Mum bumping into me, and her muffled “sreee” as she twisted round, before Dad motioned for us to start walking again.  We headed along the path, as it turned and twisted round the trees, before Dad stopped us again and motioned with his hand to look up.

 

As we did so, we saw a group of grey squirrels climbing the trees, looking from side to side as they picked nuts off the high branches of the trees.  We all smiled at that, before we moved on looking round for any other animals.

 

As we found ourselves by a stream, Dad turned right and led us on a path that walked down the path, the water making a funny sound as it ran over stones and twigs.  If I listened carefully, I could hear the buzzing of insects as well, which seemed to follow us everywhere.

 

Suddenly, Jenny said “Wwww” and looked at the far side of the stream. We looked as well, and saw a group of rabbits moving round a small mound by the stream.  It was the cutest thing I had ever seen, their little white tails showing as they hopped to and fro...

 

Dad glanced at his watch, and said “We need to head back - come on.”  He took us a bit further down the stream, and then we found ourselves back at the caravan park.  We walked across the open space, people passing us without a second glance, and went back into the caravan.

 

The twins were sitting in their chairs on the floor, gurgling away as they looked at us, and I thought for a moment June was winking at me as we sat down, Mum giggling again as she did so.  “Hello my little angels,” Dad said as he knelt down and played with the twins, while Aunt Jessie came back into the caravan.

 

“How long have I got,” she said as she looked at Mum, who had very happy eyes.

 

“The hotel is about a mile away, so we’ll walk over.  If you take one car seat, I’ll bring the other.”  Dad picked up David, and the changing bag, while Aunt Jessie picked up June and we left the caravan again.

 

This time we turned in the opposite direction and walked down the road, with me smiling under the plaster gag as we passed the other kids.  There was a bit of a wind blowing, so it wasn’t unusual for all of us to have the ponchos on, but as Mum walked I could hear her giggling away as well, putting her head on Dad’s arm from time to time.

 

Eventually, we came across a large stone building, and we walked round the side of it, coming across a few wooden cabins that were some way away from the main building.  Dad led us towards one of them, and knocked on the door, smiling as Alicia’s dad opened the door.

 

“Welcome, welcome,” he said as he opened the door for us, “come away in.  The kids are in the main room, and we’re in the kitchen.”

 

He opened a door to the side, and we walked into a large room, with lots of comfy chairs and a large set of glass doors that looked out onto a lawn.  But there was nobody else in the room.  We looked round, and then went to look out of the window to see if anyone was there.

 

 

“NGGNDDNNYHHHHHHHH”

 

I turned to see Patty looking at me, laughing and rolling her shoulders as if she had just been tickled, but nobody else was near her - expect me and Jenny, who was looking on just as mystified.

 

“Httkldm,” she said as she looked round, and then went to look behind a brown leather couch.  I went with her, as Jenny watched from beside a matching chair.

 

“HHHHHHEWEEMM”MMMM”

 

We turned round to see that she had fallen on her knees, and was laughing as if someone had tickled her as well, but once more there was nobody to be seen or heard.  As we looked at her, the door to the room opened and Alicia walked in, wearing a pale green skirt that came over her knees, a matching short sleeved top and flip flops.

 

“Hi you guys,” she said as she looked at us, “Want a hand getting those ponchos off?”

 

“Whhttkldm,” Jenny said as she looked behind the chair.

 

“Something bothering you,” Alicia said as she stepped forward, and then collapsed to the floor in fits of laughter.  I caught a fleeting glimpse of someone diving to the back of the couch, as Alicia looked round and said “SUZIE!!!!”

 

Smiling under my tape gag, I ran round the couch to see Suzie kneeling there, her hand over her mouth as she looked at me.  As she took her hand away, I saw her mouth was covered with a strip of clear tape.  She looked at my mouth as well and said “Wwww.”

 

I looked up to see Alicia removing the poncho from Jenny, and then taking the tape and sponge ball from her mouth.  “Thanks,” Jenny said as she worked her mouth, “can you ungag the others as well - but not Suzie.”

 

“Whhntmm,” Suzie whimpered as she stood up.

 

“Well,” Alicia said as she went over to Patty, “for one thing, you promised Bobby you would stay gagged until lunchtime, and that’s another twenty minutes or so.”

 

Suzie pouted a little, but nodded as she agreed with her cousin.  “Also, you have been tickling them, haven’t you?”

 

Suzie nodded again, coming round and sitting on the couch as Alicia ungagged Patty, then me.

 

“Well then, we will have lunch, and then - god help me - we’re all going to be tied by Bobby as much as possible before we go outside.  So do you think you can curb your unbridled energy for a few more minutes?”

 

Suzie nodded again, poking me in the ribs as Alicia said “How’s your mother anyway?”

 

“Full of beans, by the way she’s been giggling all day.  What about yours?”

 

“Same - and so is Aunt Susan.  I guess they all had their vitamins this morning.”

 

I nodded as they said this - Mum really was a bundle of laughs today.  IT was this moment that Bobby came in and said “Guess what - lunch is ready early, but I need to make sure all five of you are seated correctly.”

 

“Let me take a wild stab at what that means,” Jenny replied, “like the picnic?”

 

“Exactly,” Bobby said with a smile, “Come on.”

 

We walked into a large dining room at the back, where Mum, Aunt Jessie, Mrs Holderness and Mrs Bowden were already sitting.  Mum had been ungagged and her arms freed, but they all had their ankles and knees tied to the front legs of the chairs with ribbons, and a band of rope around their waists.

 

“Sit in the chairs, Girls,” Mr Holderness said, “and we’ll soon have you ready for dinner.”

 

Bobby took care of me himself, tying my ankles with pink ribbon but not my knees, and then fixing me to the chair with rope.  “So girls,” Alicia’s father said once we were all secured, “how have you spent the morning?”

 

“We went for a walk in the woods, “Patty said as I accepted a chicken leg, “and saw deer and foxes and rabbits...”

 

“And Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my,” Bobby whispered into my ear, making me giggle.

 

“No we didn’t,” Patty said, “but we did see squirrels and all sorts of wonderful things.”  She then thought for a moment, and said “Mum, are there bears in those woods.”

 

“Only the kind that are nice to you,” Aunt Jessie said, as our mother started giggling to each other.

 

Suzie looked at me and said “Mum’s been like this all morning - she really must have had a good night’s sleep...”

 

I could see Jenny and Alicia looking at our mothers in a funny way, as was Bobby, so after I swallowed my chicken I said “What’s up?”

 

Jenny looked at me, and then said “Nothing - I guess this is the first time they’ve got together since the weekend we went away, and they are remembering.”

 

I knew the days she was talking about - we’d gone to Suzie’s other grandmother’s house for an overnight stop, and left Mum in particular very upset.  When we came back, it was as if she was her old self again - although I didn’t see her until the next morning.  When I’d asked Jenny what had happened, she just shook her head and said “Mum’s better now - that’s the important thing.”

 

And it was too - I hated seeing Mum so sad, and ever since then she’s been very happy.  I smiled at her and she smiled back, before she started talking again to Mrs Holderness and Mrs Bowden.

 

Lunch was great - cold meats, salads, and fried potato slices.  Jenny and Alicia talked to Bobby about what they had planned for the rest of the summer, while Patty and I talked to Suzie.  It was while we were doing this that Patty once again dropped us right into it - and all because Suzie said one thing.

 

“I don’t believe you - it was bad enough being gagged all morning, but I don’t believe you’ll be able to keep this bet.  For one thing, what happens if you have to stop at a service station while driving round?  And what about theme parks and fairs - what are you going to do at them?”

 

“Well,” Dad started to say, “We are allowing some down time, but...”

 

“Oh we can do it all right - in fact, I bet we could ride in the caravan tomorrow and nobody would notice three kidnapped girls being held captive in it.”

 

I could see Mum and Dad, and especially Aunt Jessie, were not happy at that suggestion.  “Patty,” her mum said, “I really think that might be a step too far in your bet...”

 

“I bet we could stay there for the whole day - after breakfast of course - even if Uncle John was driving on the motorway.”

 

“Patty,” I whispered out of the corner of my mouth, “Remember what I told you last night...”  It was no good however - she kept going on and on and on about it.  So much so that Bobby said “All right - if you manage it, I’ll pay for a day out in London for all of you.  If Dad allows me to, that is.”

 

“Who’s the idiot at this table,” Alicia said with a smile, but I really was worried about that - and a little frightened.  Bad enough to be immobilised all day in the car - I had heard Dad saying he wanted to get up to the Lake District tomorrow - but in the caravan?

 

“We’ll discuss it later,” was all Dad said, as we went back to eating our lunch, but something told me tomorrow was going to be a very different day...

 

 

 

Once Lunch was finished, Bobby’s dad stood up and said “Well, I think you younger ones could do with spending some time outside - but I understand Robert has promised you that you will need to be properly prepared.  Perhaps you should all take a moment to take care of anything you need to - Robert?”

 

We were soon released from our chairs and made our way to the toilet, returning a few minutes later to see a box of supplies on the floor.  Bobby reached in and took out five pairs of socks, handing one to each of us and saying “On your hands, please ladies.”

 

I pulled them onto my arms, and then watched as he took two small sponge balls and handed them to me.  “Hold these tight,” he whispered into my ear, “and then cross your wrists behind your back.”  I smiled and did as he asked, waiting as he tied my wrists tightly together with rope and then passed a second length round my waist to hold them in place.

 

I then heard a ripping sound, and as I looked over my shoulders I saw him wrap silver tape round my balled hands, keeping them curled up in two silver gloves.  Satisfied, he then started on Suzie as the others waited their turn.

 

“No way we’re going to be unable to undo these ropes now,” Jenny said as she found her wrists and hands being secured by Bobby.

 

“That’s kinda the point,” Bobby said as he finished off my sister, and then moved on to Alicia as Patty and Suzie kept bumping into each other.  Once he had finished with Alicia, however, he came back to me with a long length of rope and said “Now to secure those arms of yours.”

 

“Why - afraid I’m going to try and tickle you with my taped wrists?”

 

“No - afraid you’re going to complain I haven’t tied you properly,” Bobby said with a smile as he passed one end of the rope around my arm, above my elbow, and then tied it firmly in place before he wound the rope around my back, then around my other arm, and round my tummy.  He did this several times, before tying the end off, so that my arms were locked in place, and then used a second length of rope to tie my upper arms to my body, making sure it was nice and tight before he used two little pieces of pink ribbon under my arms to tighten it.

 

Smiling, he gave me a hug from behind and a kiss on the cheek, before moving on to so the same to Suzie and Patty.  I walked over to the window and looked at my reflection in the mirror, the two bands of white around my body keeping my arms nice and firmly in place.

 

By the time I’d turned round again, bobby had moved on to Alicia, but she was whispering something into his ear.  I watched as he did something different with her and Jenny.  Instead of winding the rope around their arms and tummy, he used it like a lasso to pull their arms against their sides, around their tummy and shoulders, and then used small ribbons between their arms and bodies.  It looked as if it wasn’t as secure as us, but as I watched them both trying to move their arms I realised it was just as tight.

 

“All right.” Bobby said as he looked at us, “can you all take a seat, and I’ll tie your legs and ankles next.”  He moved around each of us, folding our skirts back to tie our legs below our knees.  Suzie had on a blue skirt with a white trim that came easily over her knees, white socks and black shoes, with a blue short sleeved top, so when Bobby folded her skirt back down it was as well hidden as for all of us.  He then tied our ankles together, side by side, making sure the rope was well tightened by passing it between our legs.

 

“I love this,” Patty said to me as we sat together, “but I wonder how we’re going to be kept quiet.”

 

“I think it’s the full arrangement,” I said with a smile as Bobby picked up five handkerchiefs, folded them into small pads and said “Right - you each get the same layer of the gag in turn.  Open wide please.”

 

“Here we go again,” Alicia said with her eyes wide, but she did as we all did - opened wide and let him put the soft cotton in our mouths, then waited as he took a strip of white towelling, tied a knot in it and then pulled it between our lips to keep the cloth in place.

 

“Hrwggrrndthmybrrybsh,” Patty started singing as we heard the familiar ripping squelching sound, and then I felt the white tape sticking to my jaw before Bobby wrapped it tightly round my mouth.

 

As he tore the tape loose and smoothed it down, he glanced from side to side and then kissed my taped mouth, prompting Patty to start singing “bbelfscssy, bbelfsscsssy, bbmmsmdsmdsmdds” as he wound the tape extra tight round her head, then as tightly as me round Suzie, who was looking at both of us and laughing while he did so.

 

Once Jenny and Alicia were tape gagged, he picked up five white silk squares, folded them into bands and tied them round our heads to cover the tape, then walked over and opened the doors to the garden outside.

 

“Shall we,” he said, as one by one we stood on our feet and started to hop over towards the bay windows.  As we did so, I caught a glimpse of Dad hugging Mum from behind, and Mum giggling and squirming round, before we all went out into the summer sun.

 

There were some picnic blankets laid out on the grass, but we could also see at the base of the hedge some rabbits bouncing around, so while the three of us hopped towards the hedge, trying to be as quite as possible, Alicia and Jenny hopped over to the blankets and managed to sit themselves down on them.  As they sat looking round and trying to talk to each other, we managed to get as close as possible to the animals.

 

Because we couldn’t talk, I think they looked on us as safe obser.... obs...  lookers as they just hopped round, sniffing and nibbling on the grass and flowers as we watched.  We could hear some giggles and laughing from inside the lodge, but it didn’t bother us in the slightest, so engrossed were we in watching.

 

So engrossed, in fact, that Patty did not notice the squirrel which had sat on her shoulder for at least a full five minutes, quietly nibbling away at a horse chestnut shell that it had carried with it, trying to open it.  I notice it eventually, and so did Suzie, as we turned and watched her.

 

“Whtsst,” Patty said about five minutes later, as she finally realised we were all watching her, Bobby included as he stood next to me.  She then slowly turned her head to see the grey and red animal sitting on her shoulder.

 

“Don’t move,” Bobby whispered as Patty stared wide eyed at the visitor, “It will go away in a little while of its own accord - and if you move or cry out, you may scare away the rabbits away.”

 

We then heard a click, and I turned my head slowly to see Dad standing there, smiling as he took pictures with our camera.  “Oh this is definitely one for the album,” he said quietly before he took more pictures of all of us, and then walked quietly back into the house as the squirrel hopped off Patty’s shoulder, and the rabbits disappeared into the hedge.

 

“Rsstm,” Suzie said as she started to hop round the garden, Patty and I looking at each other before we hopped off after her, our skirts risign and following with each hop as we tried to catch her up.

 

As we did this, Alicia and Jenny were watching - and noticing Bobby creeping up behind me before he started to tickle my ribs, bringing me to a sudden stop as I fell onto the grass on my knees.

 

“Gotcha,” he whispered into my ear as Patty and Suzie turned to watch me - not noticing Aunt Jessie and Suzie’s mum coming out from the room, and sneaking up behind them.

 

So when they joined me suddenly on the ground, the victims of two unexpected tickle attacks, I joined in laughing as well, both Alicia and Jenny laughing along as they fell onto their sides on the ground.

 

Even Dad was laughing as he watched from the windows with Mum, his arms around her as she leaned against him.  I laughed as well, as much from the tickles as from the sight of everyone so happy, before Dad said “All right - I’m afraid we need to head back now.  I’m taking all of you out for dinner tonight, so that means you’re going to have spend some time untied and able to talk - but don’t worry, the bet’s still good.”

 

We nodded and hopped back into the lodge, Aunt Jessie and Mrs Bowden helping Alicia and Jenny to stand up and follow us in.  “We’ll need to remove the gags I’m afraid, and the ropes around your ankles,” Mister Bowden said, “but your ponchos should cover you up enough for the walk back.  We’ll collect the rest tomorrow when we join you for breakfast.” 

 

“And we’ll be dressed up,” Mrs Bowden said “so you lot can put on some of the old clothes as well.  Your mums will help you pick the outfits tonight so you can put them on tomorrow.”

 

“What about the caravan,” Patty said once Aunt Jessie had ungagged her.

 

“We’ve been talking about that,” Dad said, “and we have a plan, but we’ll take about it tomorrow.  We need to make an early start as I have to take the tent down anyway.  Now, let’s get the ponchos on you and head back.”

 

We - well, I’d like to say waved goodbye as we left the lodge, but we couldn’t, so we settled for saying we’d see everyone tomorrow as we started to walk down the path.

 

“I love this place,” Mum said as we walked back towards the caravan, “Thanks for bringing us back here John.”

 

“Did you come here as a boy, Dad,” Jenny asked as we left the hotel behind us.

 

“Quite a bit - when your Granddad was able to get leave, we had to take what holiday we could, so we’d come and camp here and split our time between the farm and the local area.  Your granny always knew the best places to go round here for fishing or watching the wildlife.”

 

When we got back to the caravan, Dad untied us, and then we headed in the car to a local bar, where we all had a big meal before heading back to the caravan.  After we had changed into our pyjamas, and brushed our teeth, Mum ushered us into the back of the caravan before saying “You need to pick your outfits for tomorrow - so let’s do so now.”

 

Patty went first, and after a few minutes picked a green dress with no sleeves and a round collar.  As she held it up against her, we could see the skirt came to just below her knees.  She also picker out a puff sleeved blouse, with green stripes down the front and no collar.

 

Jenny then picked out a grey checked dress, which had capped sleeves and a belt around her waist, and a matching jacket that had the biggest white collar I had ever seen.  Not to be outdone, I picked out a blue dress which was also sleeveless, but had a matching blue jacket, the sleeves of which came to just above my elbows while that of Jenny’s jacket came to just below her elbows.  My dress also had two thin white lines on the top, which had a little squiggle on the lower one, and three on the big skirt.

 

“All right - that’s for tomorrow,” Mum said, “for now - bed!”

 

********

 

 

Dad wasn’t kidding about the early start the next morning either - when I opened my eyes and looked at the little clock next to my sleeping bag, it was seven thirty, but her had already removed the tape from Patty and was untying Jenny.

 

“Up and at em, my dear,” he said as he peeled the tape away from my lips, “I need you to go and get ready while I take the tent down and pack things away in the car.”

 

I nodded and said “all right, Dad,” holding my wrists up as he removed the tape, and then going to the bathroom before I joined the others in the caravan.  Mum was already up and dressed, in a sleeveless white blouse and light blue pants, sorting through a bag of pastries and other food.

 

“You’d better go and get dressed,” she said as she looked at us, “there are white socks and shoes there for all of you.  Put the jackets on as well - it will be a bit cold this morning.”

 

Why Patty had to feel each morning was a race to get washed was - all right, I knew why, but it meant she had to come back and re-wipe her chin while I went in and put on my blue dress.  Jenny had already put on the grey dress, and was looking at her jacket.

 

“I can see why Granny would like these clothes,” she said to me as I sat down and pulled on my white socks, “I wonder what Colin would make of this?”

 

“Why don’t you ask him one day,” I said as I put my shoes on, and then picked up the jacket as Patty ran in, stripped out of her pyjamas and put on her blouse.  She stepped into the dress and put her arms under the straps, then waited as Jenny fastened up the back before she put her shoes and socks on.

 

“We have company,” Aunt Jessie said as she looked in on us.  She had also dressed up for the occasion, in a white short sleeved sundress with a flowing skirt that came to her knees, stockings and flat shoes.

 

As we came out, we saw Bobby and Alicia standing there.  Bobby was wearing a short sleeved shirt and grey trousers, and had a bow tie fastened around his neck - it made him look very smart.

 

As for Alicia, she was wearing a knee length white and red striped dress that came to just below her knees, and black shoes.  The stripes were vertical on her skirt and the matching short sleeved jacket, and horizontal on the top of the dress, and there was a white Wendy collar on the top.  There was also a thin white stripe around the jacket and the skirt, with a button detail on the left of the jacket and the right of the skirt.

 

She was also standing a little awkwardly, with her knees nearly touching, and I said “Did you tie your legs together as we did yesterday?”

 

“Dad did it for me,” Alicia said, “but Grandma and Suzie are outside as well.”

 

As we stepped out we saw Lady Holderness standing there, in a green fitted jacket and skirt with a matching pillbox hat on her head.  I could also see Suzie, who was wearing a lovely blue sleeveless dress with big pockets on the front of the knee length skirt.  It had a belt around the waist, and a collar that formed a sort of diamond at the front.  She had on underneath a short sleeved fawn coloured jersey top, white socks and black shoes like mine on her feet.

 

Mister and Mrs Bowden, and Mister and Mrs Holderness were walking towards us as well, as Mum and Dad laid out some fresh pastries, fruits and cereal bars on a table.  They had also set out some garden chairs, as Dad said “Let’s have breakfast - I’ll fetch some coffee from the caravan.”

 

“You look nice today, Cassie,” Bobby said as he held out a chair for me.  “Thank you,” I replied as I sat down, “You look rather handsome yourself.”

 

He smiled as he sat with his parents, and we started to eat.  They were going on to a themed day at a local country house, so they felt it was the right occasion for them to dress accordingly.

 

“In fact,” Alicia said to Jenny, a white scarf holding back her dark hair, “we’re going to have the same bet as you lot - travel there bound and gagged, but we want you to prepare us properly for it.  In return, Bobby will help you get ready for your trip.”

 

“Oh yeah,” Patty said excitedly, “We’re going to be riding in the caravan.”

 

Jenny and I looked at Dad, who shook his head and said “All right - but Aunt Jessie is going to go in there with you for the first part of the day, and Mum the second part.  Also, when we stop for lunch, you are freed - no questions asked, all right?”

 

We all nodded - I had a mouthful of croissant at the time - and the conversation turned to a question from Lady Holderness.

 

“So where are you heading today, John?”

 

“Up to Windermere - I have a private pitch booked at a farm there.”

 

“Are you planning to go to Bowness tomorrow?”

 

“Hopefully - I’ve hired a launch for the day to go round the lake.  Why do you ask?”

 

“I will tell you later,” Lady Holderness said with a smile as we continued to eat.  “Suzie,” I said as I looked at her, “If you and Alicia plan to be bound, how are you going to cover your arms?”

 

“Grandma has travelling cloaks,” she said with a smile, and I nodded.  Different for us in the caravan - we would be hidden - but they needed to be hidden a bit more.

 

Eventually, Dad looked at his watch and said “We need to be going soon - why don’t you youngsters go into the caravan and take care of Alicia and Suzie while we clear up, and then I can tell Bobby what to do.”

 

We headed in and Jenny went to fetch the ropes we had brought home last night.  “Do you want the clear tape or the flesh coloured plaster,” I said as I looked at the other two.

 

“Clear tape,” Alicia said quickly before Suzie had a chance to answer.  She stuck her tongue out at her older cousin, then turned her back and crossed her wrists for me so that I could tie them together, while Jenny took care of Alicia.  They both had short white gloves on, their fingers wriggling as we tied their wrists tightly together, and then some rope around their waists to hold them against their backs.

 

As they were doing this, Bobby said “We may as well get you ready as well, Patty,” and grabbed my favourite cousin, as she pretended to try and get away for about ten seconds.  Once that was out of the way, she crossed her wrists behind her back as Bobby picked up some rope and tied her wrists together, then fixed them to her waist.

 

By this time Jenny and I were wrapping rope around the arms and tummy of Alicia and Suzie, using the same triple loop way that Bobby had tied my arms to my side yesterday.  I looked over at him, as he did the same thing to Patty, with her sticking her tongue out as her arms were brought into her side, then he said “Your uncle said to do this,” as he tied her upper arms to her side around her shoulders, then tied tow lengths of ribbon between her arms and body.

 

“Going to do that to us as well,” I said to him, and I smiled as he nodded in reply, before taking Patty to one of the three beige couches that ran along the back of the caravan.

 

“Ready to be quiet,” I heard Jenny say, and looking back I watched her push a folded hankie into Alicia’s mouth.  “Come on,” I heard Suzie say impatiently, so I gagged her as well, waiting as Jenny smoothed some clear tape over Alicia’s mouth before I did the same to Suzie.

 

It was then I noticed the video camera which was fastened down to the side table, the red light blinking.  “Are we recording this,” I said as I looked at Jenny.

 

“Yeah - Dad wanted it for some reason.  I think it’s hooked up to the car somehow - a safety measure,” she replied as I watched Bobby cross and tie Patty’s ankles together, then fold her skirt back and tie her legs together below her knees.

 

“Now, are you going to be quiet or do I have to gag you now,” he said in his best kidnapper voice to Patty - but she just laughed and said “Do your worst.”

 

So he did - he pushed a small wet washcloth into her mouth, and then tied a knotted strip of towelling between her teeth to hold it in place.  He then used a rubber band to hold her hair back, and started to wrap silver tape tightly round her mouth.

 

“Well,” Jenny said with a shrug, “I suppose she did say she wanted to know what it felt like.”  I had to nod in agreement - but I hoped it was only going to be for the morning, and Dad would do something else later.

 

Once Patty was silenced, Bobby helped her to lie on her side on the couch, and then looked at me and Jenny.  “Stand face to face please,” he said as he picked up more rope, the three others watching as he very carefully tied me and Jenny up in the same way.

 

I smiled as I felt the ropes securing me little by little, until my upper body was wrapped up tighter than me in a sleeping bag on a cold night.  He then walked me over to the middle couch, which ran along the back of the caravan, and tied my ankles and legs together before doing the same to Jenny. 

 

I winced a little as the tape stuck to my face, but Bobby was very careful to lift my hair out of the way so it wasn’t trapped by the tape, before doing the same to Jenny.  He then helped us to lie down, with my feet towards Patty’s head and my head towards Jenny’s feet, as Dad walked into the caravan with Mr Bowden and Mr Holderness.

 

“They look nice and secure, Bobby,” Dad said with a smile, “Are you girls all comfortable?”

 

We all nodded as he opened a cupboard and took out a collection of canvas belts.  “I need to make sure you won’t roll off while I’m driving,” Dad said as he started with Jenny, and passed a long strap around her thighs, strapping her down to the couch.  A second one went round her waist, and a third round her tummy.

 

He did the same to me and Patty, making sure the straps held us firmly down, before Aunt Jessie came in and placed a DVD player on the table, then took a seat next to it.

 

“Are you sure you’re going to be all right in here, Patricia,” Dad said as the others smiled at us.

 

“I should be,” Aunt Jessie replied as she looked at us, “just avoid those sharp turns, all right?”

 

“Well, we need to get going,” Bobby said as he looked at his dad, “Enjoy the rest of your holiday.”

 

“Hvfffn,” Alicia said to Jenny as Suzie nodded to em and Patty, and we watched in silence as they walked stiffly out of the caravan.  “We’ll stop somewhere near Birmingham for a picnic lunch, and then Mum will take the rest of the journey.  Enjoy the trip.”

 

He smiled at us and then left the caravan, closing it as Aunt Jessie sat at Patty’s feet and turned the DVD player so that we all could see.  “Now,” she said as we heard the car engine start and a slight lurch as we moved off, “I think this will interest you all.”

 

We watched as the DVD started - the new Jungle Book Disney one, as we bumped along the field.  It was an interesting journey, but as the feel changed from bumpy to smooth and we watched the trees through the caravan windows change to open sky, and the film continued, I felt a bit stiff in my arms.  I decided to ask Dad for a change of position after we had stopped...

 

After the film had finished, and we watched some Phineas and Ferb, we felt the caravan slow down and then stop, before the door opened and Mum came in.  “Lunch stop,” she said as she removed the straps, “help me to untie them Jessie - this is a busy service station.  We can leave the rope under their skirts, but that’s it.”

 

When we got out, we found out we were just south of Manchester, and as Mum said we were in a service station.  We went with her to the toilet while Dad fed the twins in the back of the car, then he opened the boot and we sat on it as we ate sandwiches and drank some squash.

 

“Still think it was fun to be tied and gagged like that for a long time, Patty,” Jenny said as she watched our cousin rub her wrists.

 

“IT was fun, but I’d hate to spend the night like that,” she said with a smile.

 

“Can we have our hands in front of us when we set off again, Dad,” I said as I picked up a banana.

 

 

“Of course you can,” he said as he drank some coffee, “You looked a bit uncomfortable towards the end there.”

 

“How do you know,” Jenny said as she looked at Dad.

 

“I’ve got the video camera hooked up to the Sat Nav screen,” Dad said as he looked at the front of the car.  “Mum was watching you the whole time.”

 

When we had finished, Jenny and I took off our jackets, and then we allowed Dad to tie our crossed wrists together in front of us, and then to our waists, before he tied our arms to our sides and then our ankles after we sat down. Once we were securely strapped in place, he pushed a folded hankie into our mouths then covered them with strips of the white tape, as Mum took her place next to Patty.

 

We all watched Ice Age 3 for the second half of the trip, and towards the end I noticed we were going a lot more slowly, and the caravan seemed to be making a lot more turns.  IT was also beginning to get a little darker through the windows, before the car and caravan finally stopped and Mum freed us.

 

As we stepped out, we found ourselves in a field, but instead of being bushes around us there were hills rising up into the distance - bigger hills than I had ever seen before.

 

“Welcome to the Lake District,” Dad said as he took the tent out of the back of the car.  “We’ll have dinner in a little while - why don’t the three of you have a walk round for an hour or so?”

 

Jenny took a look up the nearest hill, and said “Do you think we have time to take a walk up there?”  As Dad looked at the path, he smiled and said “I think so - but Aunt Jessie goes with you, and you change into something more suitable, like jeans and sweatshirts.”

 

“Can we be tied and gagged again,” Patty said as she looked at the path.

 

“Arms, yes, with ponchos, but not your legs,” Mum said as she lifted David out of the car, “these are steep paths at times, and if you trip you need to be able to get up again.  As for gags - not this time, but maybe tomorrow.”

 

“Why not?” Patty said as she pouted her lips.

 

“You’ll soon find out - now hurry up and get changed.”

 

Well, it only took us a few minutes to take off our outfits - which, to be fair, were a bit crumpled and marked - and put on warm sweatshirts and jeans.  Dad then tied our crossed wrists together behind our back, and to our waists, as well as around our tummies, before Mum slipped a poncho over each of us.

 

“Let’s go,” Aunt Jessie said as she came out - she was also wearing jeans and a jumper, and had on a pair of hiking boots as opposed to our sneakers.  She led us through a gate at the side of the campsite and then we started to walk up the side of the hill.

 

I soon found out why Dad had said no gags - as we climbed up the side of the hill, we started to pant a little, and I realised this was harder work than any of us had realised.  Still, as we climbed up, and saw sheep grazing on the hillside totally ignoring us, I realised that we had come into a completely different place from the farm and the area where Granny grew up.

 

“How big is this hill anyway,” Jenny said as she caught up with Aunt Jessie.

 

“This one?  Not that big - maybe just over a thousand feet.”

 

“Not... That... Big..,” Patty said beside me.  “This makes Cockleroi look like a small hill.”

 

“It’s not that much bigger,” Aunt Jessie said as we reached the top, “Have a look round.

 

We stopped to catch our breath then looked down.  We could see a huge lake stretching far off into the distance - but the real surprise was the high hills, mountains almost, that stretched up from the sides of the lake into the sky.

 

“Wow,” I said as I stood and looked at them, the tops disappearing into clouds.

 

“It’s beautiful,” Jenny said as she sat on the grass and looked down at the lake, boats like little toys floating on a bath full of water.

 

Aunt Jessie smiled and said “yes, it is - I always loved coming here when your mum and I were kids.”

 

We both turned and looked at her when she said this.  “This is where Granny and Granddad Carter came for their holidays,” Jenny finally said.

 

“Oh yes - they loved to come here, and we used to go for really long walks in the hills as well as boating trips on the lake.  Which brings me to an important point,” she then said as she looked at us.

 

“Tomorrow we will be spending the day down there, on the lake, going on a trip round it.  Now, there are rules about going on a boat, and we have to be very very careful about safety.  So, for one day tomorrow, the bet is off as far as going about in public tied up and gagged.”

 

“But that means I lose,” Patty said as she frowned.

 

“Not at all - we’ll allow you this one time, but it’s important you are able to move freely when it is needed, and be able to talk and answer questions.  I promise you, we’ll make up for it later, but unless we specifically say so, ropes and gags are a no-no for the day.”

 

Patty still looked unhappy, so I said “Don’t get upset - I still think you’re going to lose anyway.”

 

“No I’m not,” she said as she poked me in the side with her body.  “You’ll see.  Besides, we won the bet with Bobby, didn’t we?”

 

“Oh yeah,” I said with a smile, “and we have the evidence.  Just wait until next time I see him.”

 

I looked over to one of the hills, and was surprised to see the sun starting to set over the top of it.  “It gets darker earlier up here,” Aunt Jessie said as she stood up from the slope, “so we need to head down to the camp now.  We’ll eat, and then I think you three need an early night.”

 

“With tape?”

 

“With tape,” Aunt Jessie said to Patty, shaking her head as we started to walk back down the hill.

 

As we walked back down the hill, we started to smell meat cooking, and as we came back in we saw that Dad had started the barbecue.  David and June were lying in a portable cot outside, in their romper suits, while Mum was sitting reading a book.

 

“Perfect timing,” Dad said as we came closer, “Jenny, can you go and get some drinks from the fridge, and we’ll have dinner.”

 

As Patty and I sat down, June opened her eyes and looked at us, and I could see a smile on her face.

 

“She’s starting to recognise you,” Mum said with a smile as she saw the one I had.  “So is David, but I just got him off to sleep.  John, I’ll take a sausage if you have one ready.”

 

“Coming right up,” Dad said as Aunt Jessie and Jenny brought out drinks and salad things, and a I sat back, looking at the reddening sky as the light slit up our campsite.  It had been a great holiday so far - but what was next?

 

********

 

 

 

“Baaaaaaaaa”

 

For a few moments, I thought I was still counting sheep in my dreams, but as I opened my eyes I heard the sound again, and saw the shadow on the side of the tent.

 

“Whhttt,” I mumbled through the tape covering my lips as I saw the small shadow walking round the side of the tent, and then saw the front flaps start to move.  I wondered for a moment if it was going to get in.

 

“Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

 

Patty woke up and looked at me, then at the shadow as it belated again, before calling out “MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM”.

 

“Hey, hey - on you go,” we heard Dad say, and the shadow disappeared off as he opened the tent and looked in.

 

“Sorry about that - one of the locals just wanted to say hello,” he said as he came in, carrying a pair of scissors with him.  Peeling the tape away from my mouth, he cut my wrists and ankles free and then helped me to sit up.

 

“Would he have hurt us?”

 

“Nah - he’s more scared of you, I think,” he said as Jenny stirred and watched him freeing Patty.   “Mrggndd,” she mumbled as he walked over and started to untie her.

 

“Now then - you three get washed and changed.  I suggest shorts for today, and then we’ll have breakfast.”

 

“This is going to be funny,” Patty said as she got off her mat, “not spending the day tied up and gagged.”

 

“Well, never say never,” Jenny admitted as she stretched and yawned, “but I guess it is going to seem a little strange.  Anyway, for once I’m taking the bathroom first.”  And with that, she grabbed her washbag and towel and ran off to the caravan.

 

Patty and I looked at each other, before she said “Is Jenny all right?  She doesn’t normally run off like that.”

 

“I’m sure she’s fine - it’s probably just one of Dad’s undercooked sausages,” I said as I went to the flaps and looked out.  There were a few sheep at the edge of the field, but they seemed to be staying out of our way now.

 

After a few minutes, I picked up my own washbag and went into the caravan. When I walked in, I saw that Mum and Jenny were sitting talking quietly on one of the couches, and Aunt Jessie was dropping something in a brown paper bag into the bin.  I caught a glimpse of a red stain on it, before she turned and said “We found a hamburger your dad forgot to cook - one of the sheep had trodden on it, so we need to lose it.  You go and get washed Cassie - we’ll have breakfast in a few minutes.”

 

Well, I went and washed my face, then went to the back of the caravan and pulled a pair of blue shorts and a matching t-shirt from the pile. Once I had those on, I sat down and pulled on a pair of white socks, fastening up my trainers when Jenny came in.

 

“Are you all right,” I said as I looked at her.  She looked a little white.

 

“I’m fine - you go and start eating, I’ll be there once I’m dressed,” she said in a way that I knew meant that was it.  SO I left her alone, dodged out of the way as Patty ran past me, and sat at the table with Mum and Dad.

 

“Are the twins still asleep,” I said as I looked at Mum.

 

“Oh yes - they’ll wake up when they are good and ready.  Do you want some Frosties?”

 

“Thanks,” I said as I took the box and shook some into a bowl.  “So will we spend the whole of the day on the lake, Dad?”

 

“Most of it - we’ll have dinner in a pub afterwards.  Listen, Cassie...”

 

“Yssddd,” I said through a mouthful of Frosties and milk.

 

“Jenny’s not feeling one hundred per cent today, so go easy on her - you and Patty, all right?”

 

“Sure Dad,” I said as I looked at him.  “Was it one of your sausages?”

 

“Yeah,” he said with a smile, “I think it was.”  He and Mum looked at each other, as Jenny came in.   She had put on a green short sleeved blouse and knee length pants, and started eating without saying anything.

 

“So when do we go,” Patty said as she bounced in, in a pair of denim shorts and a white top with a frilled hem below her waist.

 

“When we’ve cleared up,” Dad said quietly, “now eat.”

 

 

An hour or so later, we all got into the car, Mum sitting with me and Patty while Jenny sat in front of us with the twins, and then Aunt Jessie up front with Dad.  I hadn’t seen the road when we drove in, but as we left I realised why the last part of the journey had been so different.

 

The road wound round the side of the hills, as we slowly made our way into the centre of a town that was called Bowness.  It was a quaint little place, but as Dad found a car park and stopped the car we saw just how busy it was.

 

“Can you give me a hand Jenny,” Mum said as she got out, and with Jenny’s help assembled the pushchair, then took the car seats and fixed the twins in.  Patty and I helped to carry one of the two picnic baskets Mum had packed, and Dad and Aunt Jessie carried the other.

 

“It’s a lot of food,” Patty said as we started to walk out of the car park, taking care not to bump into people, “does going on a lake really make you that hungry?”

 

“Oh it can, it can,” Dad said with a smile as we crossed the main road, past a lot of funny looking shops.  I saw a butcher’s shop, but it wasn’t selling beef or pork alone.

 

“Rabbit?  They eat rabbit here?”

 

“They do Cassie.” Mum said, “But we eat beef, pork and lamb as well.  Don’t let it upset you - I won’t ask you to eat Thumper.”

 

“He might give you a tummy ache,” Patty said with a laugh, and I looked at Jenny. She hadn’t hurt it, which was probably as well.

 

Eventually we came to the side of the lake, which seemed to stretch even further into the distance now that we were next to it.

 

Dad talked to a man at the front gate, and then we all walked through, Dad looking along the row of boats until he came to a large barge which had “Spirit of Windermere” painted on the side.

 

“Ahoy on board,” Dad called out, and after a few minutes a grey haired man, with a beard and wearing a white shirt and trousers, appeared from inside.

 

“Mister Craig?   I’m Bill Pickering - we spoke on the phone.”

 

“Glad to meet you, Bill,” Dad said as they shook hands, “Permission to come on board?”

 

“Of course - we’ll cast off once I’ve had a little chat with all of you about safety on board.  Your other guests are already here.”

 

“Other guests,” I said as I went onto the boat and walked inside.  There was a group of six people - three women and three girls - standing looking out of the windows onto the lake, and one of them turned and smiled as I came in.  She was a little taller than me, with shoulder length black hair, and wearing a white sweatshirt and jeans.

 

“Ahoy Cassie - surprise,” she said as we ran at each other and gave each other the biggest hug we could.

 

“Glad you could join us,” I heard Mum say as she embraced the three older women, while I hugged Cindy back, and Jenny embraced Heidi and Natalie, “When Lucinda said you would be here, it gave us the chance to catch up more than we could at the ball.”

 

“Our pleasure,” Heidi’s mum said, “You look well - you all do.  It’s a pity we’ve only got today and tomorrow, but let’s make the most of it.”

 

“Yeah, let’s” Jenny said as she looked at me, while Patty was looking at the man in charge.

 

“My name’s Pickering too - are we related?”

 

He smiled and said “No, I don’t think so - so you’re the only other man on this trip, Mister Craig?”

 

“Looks that way - you need to introduce Patty properly Poppet.”

 

I blushed as I said “Sorry - Heidi, Natalie, Cindy, this is my cousin Patricia Pickering.  Patty, this is Heidi Craig, Cindy Elsworth and Natalie Jenkins, my very special friends from America.”

 

“Oh yeah - I saw you at the big dance, tied up when we were waltzed round. Why didn’t you dance?”

 

“We didn’t have a partner to dance with,” Cindy said with a smile.  “So you’re Cassie and Jenny’s cousin?  I can see the resemblance.”

 

“Yeah, but I’m the cute one,” Patty said as she looked at them.

 

“I hear your families are living together now,” Jenny said to Heidi, “So I guessing a way you’re all related now.”

 

“It takes a little getting used to,” Cindy said as Dad was talking to the man, “but the new house is great.  We had a huge housewarming party just before we came over - invited everyone over, and got Anne and Sue to help set things up.”

 

“Let me guess - invitation in ropes and gags.”

 

“Yeah,” Natalie said as she rubbed her neck.  She was wearing a sleeveless blouse over a long sleeved white top, and a long gypsy skirt, with as always bare feet, while Heidi was wearing a white blouse, jeans and a pair of baseball boots.  “Funny thing was, it was someone who was a complete stranger who collected me and Mum - a friend of Anne’s called Sarah and her husband.   Nice couple.”

 

I saw Jenny look at Natalie for a moment, before the man said “All right ladies - and Mister Craig - a little talk before we get going.

 

“Now, the lake is a deep water lake, so all of us need to wear a life jacket for the duration of the journey.  If you will please take one each and put them on now?”

 

Dad put this funny orange jacket over my head and then tied it round my waist with an orange ribbon, so that is sat snugly over me, then helped Patty as Mum and the others helped Jenny, Heidi, Cindy and Natalie.  They then out one each before the man started to talk again, while Mum put the twins into the portable play pen we had brought.

 

“Right then - I’m not going to say you can’t run around, but once we start you need to stay away from the room through the door behind me, and take great care where you go.  We’ll be on the water for most of the day, and stopping on one of the islands for lunch, but that should be enough.

 

“If there is a problem, I will tell you what to do, but for now - have fun and enjoy yourselves.  The weather forecast is fine, and we should have no problems.”

 

“So,” Cindy said as he went into the other room, “What’s this I read in a magazine - are you and young Holderness an item?”

 

“We’re good friends,” I said, but I knew I was blushing, and she knew it too.  Patty had gone to watch the twins as we felt the launch slowly start to move, and out of the window I saw the wooden pier slowly go into the distance.

 

“Well,” Heidi said as she looked out of the window, “Anyone know how to swim back?”

 

I laughed at her as I saw Jenny talking quietly to Natalie, her friend nodding as she did so.  “It’s a pity Jenny didn’t feel very well this morning,” I said to Cindy as I watched them.  Heidi looked over as well, and said “Don’t worry, kiddo - she’ll be right as rain in a day or two.”

 

“How can you be sure,” I said as I saw Jenny start to laugh out loud.

 

“Trust her,” Cindy whispered into my ear, “she’s Strong.”  I burst out laughing at this as we started to make our way around the lake, moving at a slow, steady pace.

 

As we moved through the water, I said “Hey Patty - enjoying your break from the bet?”

 

“Bet?  What bet?”

 

Jenny and Natalie had joined us, while the grownups were sat around the cot, David balancing on Amy’s knee and June on Dorothy’s.  “We have this bet going on, that when we go out in public we have to be tied and gagged.”

 

“So what happened today?”

 

“Dad wouldn’t allow it - something about safety in boats.”

 

“Your dad’s a sensible man,” Natalie said, “Mum told me a story once.

 

“She and my Aunt Heather were taken out by a school friend on a boat at Portland Maine.  They took a small yacht out a few miles, and anchored while their dad and their friend’s dad had a couple of beers.

 

“Well, while they were up on deck, the three of them were below deck.  This would have been in the late eighties, because Mum told me their friend was wearing a pair of white denim short jeans, a sweatshirt and a blue bandana over her hair.  Both of them had on shorts and t-shirts.

 

“So, this friend challenged them to a tie-up game, not knowing they were both very well practised - most forces families are, if truth be told.  So they used some lengths of boat rope, tied her wrists tightly together behind her back, her ankles, and her legs below her knees, and then used her bandana to gag her.”

 

“That doesn’t sound like much,” Patty said as she came over, “I could get out of that easily.”

 

“Could she,” Cindy said as she looked at me with her eyebrows raised.

 

“Possibly - we need to test that some time,” I said with a smile.  “So what happened?”

 

“Well, they were playing in the room, their captive hopping behind them, when a sudden swell hit the boat.”

 

“A nice guy swam into it?”

 

We all looked at Patty, who simply said “What?” as the three of them burst out laughing.  “A swell is a bigger wave than usual,” Heidi said, “which would have made the boat rock, right?”

 

“Right - Mum and Aunt Heather managed to steady themselves, but their friend fell forwards and hit her head on the side of a wooden bed.  Gave them quite a fright - but not as much of a fright as when their father came down to see what the noise was.”

 

“Your granddad did not like them playing those games?”

 

“He had no problem with them - but he also said not to play them outside the house, and when he saw the bruise on their friend’s head he said he would deal with them later.  They untied her, made sure she was all right, and then they went on deck, telling her father she had slipped and hit her head.”

 

We sat there in silence, until Cindy said “How did he punish them?”

 

“Grounded them for a week, took away their television privileges, and made them spend the next Saturday morning hogtied and tightly gagged in the back of his car as he drove round.”

 

“That sounds fun,” Patty said.

 

“You would not say that - he was a former Gunnery Sergeant, and knew what he was doing,” Natalie said as Dad came over.

 

“Why don’t you go outside for a minute - it’s quite a view.”

 

We all went out and sat on a bench that ran outside, a strip of wooden floor between us and the boat side.  The sun was beating down on us as the boat moved slowly over the water, and we saw the other boats passing as well as the hills rising up the other side.

 

“You know,” Heidi said, “we have nothing like this at home.”

 

“So what have you done since the ball,” Jenny asked as she looked at Heidi.

 

“Touring the country,” she called back.  “It was a present for our mums and us - three weeks over here, seeing all the sights.  We’ve been to London - saw a show, visited the Palace and the Tower of London...”

 

“Went to Stonehenge, and a safari park nearby - the monkeys almost destroyed the wipers on our rental, but they understood,” Natalie said as a speedboat went past,  sending water against the side of the boat.

 

“Then we headed north - we were in Manchester for a day or two, then came up here.  At the weekend we’re going up to Edinburgh, then making our way back down to get the plane home.”

 

“I like Edinburgh,” Patty said as she swung her legs to and fro, “Mum and Dad took me there a lot when I was younger, and Mum took me there just before we came down here.  Is the festival on yet?”

 

“Not yet,” Aunt Jessie said as she looked at us.  “Listen, can you girls come back in for a minute - John wants a word with you.”

 

We trooped back in, to see Dad standing with his hands behind his back.  “We’re going to stop on one of the islands for lunch,” he said with a smile, “but while we’re there, the captain needs to do some things to the boat, so we’ll be there a while.”

 

“Sounds fun,” Cindy said, “but why tell us?”

 

“Because after lunch,” Dad said as he produced three rolls of white tape, “we’re going to have a race...”

 

I saw Patty jump up and down and clap her hands at that, but looking at Jenny I saw she did not seem quite as enthusiastic.  “It’s all right, Jenny,” Dad said, “I don’t expect you to have to take part in the race, and you don’t even have to be taped if you don’t want to.”

 

“No, that’s all right Dad,” she said quietly, “I don’t mind having my wrists and ankles taped, but...”

 

“Tell you what,” Heidi said, “I’ll stay with her and we can talk about what we’ve been up to.  You two can keep an eye on Cassie and Patty.”  Cindy and Natalie both nodded at that, which made me feel a little better.

 

I walked over to look in at the playpen, while Mum was talking with the other mothers.  I could hear a little of what they were talking about - something to do with some therapy sessions Heidi’s mum had been involved in, and how they were all feeling, but I didn’t understand a lot of it.

 

“Hey - why the long face,” Cindy said as she came over and nudged me in the ribs.

 

“Sorry,” I said quietly, “but Mum wasn’t feeling very well recently, and she was really upset for a while.  I’m glad she’s better now, but for a long time she didn’t smile.”

 

“Yeah,” Cindy said as we sat down on the bench, “I can understand that.  After all, Heidi and I have been through some rough times as well.  Still, we found out that things always seem to get better - and I think you will as well.”

 

“Did I hear her say you two live in the same house now?”

 

Cindy smiled before saying “Yeah - I don’t know how much you’ve heard about us, but our mums are living together now, so we’re more like sisters than friends.”

 

I nodded and said “So they’re a bit like Cathy’s parents?”

 

“Cathy - oh yes. I met her at that big party.  Not quite the same, in that they’re not married or anything like that.  But similar, yeah.”

 

“What’s it like?”

 

“Honestly?  We spend so much time together it doesn’t seem that different.  We see a lot more of Veronica, and Nats, and the house is a lot bigger, but we’re still best friends.”

 

“I’m glad,” I said quietly as the boat started to slow down, and then came to a stop alongside a long wooden pier that jutted out from one of the larger items.  “Right,” the captain said, “We’ll be here for a couple of hours, so I hope you enjoy your stay.”

 

“Thank you,” Dad said as the other parents picked up the picnic baskets, and we got off the barge.  There was a very nice wind blowing across the water, as we headed up the barge, walked a little way round the island and then found a sheltered spot to sit down and eat.

 

Mum and Aunt Jessie had prepared a wonderful picnic - cold chicken, sandwiches, salads, and fruit - while Amy, Dorothy and Veronica had brought some things they had bought in the local shops - lovely spiced sausages and pies, and some fruit tarts. 

 

“Do you want lashings of ginger pop as well,” Aunt Jessie said as she watched me pick up a ham sandwich.  I held it to my mouth and looked at her, wondering what she was on about, as Mum burst out laughing.

 

“Come on Jess,” she finally said, “she’s far too young to have seen that one.  Just have your lunch, dear.”  I bit into my sandwich and looked at everyone else, who must have been laughing at the face I was making.

 

“So when do you go back to school,” Heidi said to Jenny as they sat together.

 

“Couple of weeks,” Jenny said as she swallowed a piece of pie.  “I wonder who my teachers are going to be this term - hopefully most of them will be the same.”

 

“Well, I know one new teacher you’ll be getting - your chemistry teacher,” Mum said with a smile.  “Jo Frost is coming back to teach at your school.”

 

I looked up as she said this, before saying “I thought...”

 

“Don’t worry,” Dad said quietly, “She really is coming back as a teacher this time.”

 

“She’s been spending a lot of time at Aunt Cassie’s house recently - has she been spilling some of Jenny’s secrets?”

 

“Oooo,” Patty said as she took a drink, “has she been telling her all about Jenny and Colin?”

 

“Patty...” Jenny said in a low growl, but I could see Mum and Dad looking at each other.  “Am I missing something,” I said as I looked at them, which was when Dad took me by the hand and said “Come with me a minute, Poppet.”

 

We took a little walk round the corner, before Dad said “Cass, there’s something we should have told you before.  Jo is actually living with Aunt Cassie now.”

 

“As in sharing a flat, like April does at college,” I said with a smile, watching as Dad shook his head.

 

“Not quite, Cassie.  More in the same way Heidi and Cindy’s mother are living together, but not quite like Cathy’s parents.”

 

It took me a few minutes to realise what it was Dad was trying to say, before I went “Oh,” and looked down.  “You mean Aunt Cassie really likes Jo, right?  Does that mean I have to call her Aunt Jo now?”

 

“Well, you don’t have to call her Captain Frost,” Dad said with a laugh.  “Jo is probably what she will want, but you can ask her yourself when you see them next week.”

 

I nodded as we walked back to the picnic, and we sat for a while, just eating and talking amongst ourselves.  After a while, Patty and I leaned back on the grass and watched as the clouds slowly blew by, the sound of water lapping against the shore a little way away the only other sound apart from the talking.

 

Eventually, Mum said “I think it’s time to feed the twins.  John, can you take the girls off somewhere?”

 

“If it’s all the same to you, Mum,” Jenny said “Heidi and I are going to stay here.  Dad, can you fix our wrist and ankles before you go?”

 

I watched as Dad took a roll of white tape and secure the ankles of both of them together, then taped their wrists together in front of them, before he, along with Cindy and Natalie’s mum, walked with us back up the hill to the other side. 

 

“Why is Aunt Jessie staying with Mum,” I asked Dad as we went out of sight of the boat and the picnic.

 

“She just needs a little rest, that’s all,” Dad said as we all sat down and looked over the lake to the far side.  “Now then, if you four are ready, put your hands behind your back and I’ll get you ready for the race.”

 

“I wish we had time for a proper game,” Patty said as Dad crossed her wrists behind her back and secured them with the tape.

 

“Well, I tell you what,” Dad said.  “Why don’t all six of you join us tomorrow morning for breakfast, and then we can let all six of them play for a while?  It will give us a chance to get a few things before we head off.”

 

“Sounds good to me,” Cindy said as she watched Dad taping my wrists together.  “What about you. Nats?”

 

“So long as I don’t have to dress up,” she said with a smile, her knees drawn up and under her chin.

 

“Awww,” Patty said, “and we have those lovely outfits to wear...”

 

“Outfits?  What outfits?”

 

Dad smiled as he taped Cindy’s wrists, and said “My mum gave the girls a lot of her clothes from the fifties to wear - they’ve had some on already, and for some reason they seem to like wearing them.”

 

“Maybe we can play dress up as well - pretend we’re a gang of girl snoops who fall into the hands of some horrible villain?”

 

Dad looked at Natalie, before saying “I don’t see a problem with that - you three are similar sizes to the girls, so we may be able to find something.  Of course, that will mean we need a dastardly villain or villainess....”

 

He taped Natalie’s wrists together, and then started to tape our ankles side by side, before saying “right then - a little race for the four of you.  You just need to stand up. Hop to the far side of the hill, back again and then sit down.  First one back wins.”

 

“What happens to the last one back?”

 

Nat’s mum looked at Patty, and said “Last one back gets to be tickled by the other three, I think.  Mind you, we’re not going to help you, so...”

 

I was about to say something, but Dad stuck some tape over my mouth before I could say anything.  Now, I could get this off in a second, but I knew this was just a game, so I played along with everyone else, as Dad watched with the other mums and we started to try to get up onto our feet.  As we only had our ankles and wrists taped, it should have been easy, but we had grass under out feet rather than solid floor or carpet, and we were on a slope, so it was much harder than I thought it was going to be.

 

Cindy was actually first up, but as she got to her feet she stopped and waited for the three of us to get to our feet as well - something Patty in particular found hard, until she managed to somehow stand up and almost fall forward.  Natalie hopped over and stood in front of her until she managed to steady her body, and then we started to hop across the hill.

 

Well, hop up the hill, which was slow for me and Patty, and not quite as slow for the other two, but as we reached the top we soon managed to catch up, and it became a real race over the grass.  As we got closer to the picnic, I saw Jenny leaning with her head against Mum’s chest and Heidi talking to her, but I didn’t get a chance to find out what was happening, as we had to turn round and hop back again.

 

Well, it was a close race, but to my surprise I won!  To my bigger surprise Patty nearly beat Cindy, but it was Natalie who came in last, flopping to the ground as her bare feet stuck out.

 

“You may find these of some use,” her mum said as she handed us some bird feathers she had picked up.  I could see Natalie’s eyes widening as her mum held her by the shoulders, and was took the feather sin our hands, running them up and down the soles of her feet while the other mums tickled her sides.  Her muffled laughs were soon replaced by real shrieks of laughter as the strip of tape came away from her mouth, so I freed my own mouth and said “having fun, Nats?”

 

“YessssssIiiiiiammmmmm,” she screamed out as she wriggled round on the ground, but we had to stop as Dad said “sorry, girls - we need to get back to the boat now.”

 

I nodded as I waited for him to cut us free, and then we walked back to the picnic, where Mum was holding the twins on her lap as Heidi’s mum and Aunt Jessie were putting things back into the basket.

 

“Well now,” Dad said as he cut Jenny and Heidi free, “Ready to head back to shore?”

 

“Are we going back the same way,” Heidi said as she stood up and brushed her legs down.

 

“Nope - the captain is going to take us back the long way,” Dad said with a smile, as we helped to carry the baskets back towards the boat.  “Enjoy your picnic,” the captain said as we came back on board, and we all nodded as we put back on the life jackets and he steered the boat back onto the water.

 

As I watched the twins kicking their legs around in the playpen, I looked at Mum who was smiling back at me.

 

“Is Jenny really all right, Mum,” I said as I saw my sister talking to Heidi, nodding a little to her replies.

 

“Don’t worry about her, she’s just growing up and talking to her friends,” Mum said with a smile.  “I forget sometimes just how much older the two of you are getting.  Just do me one favour, Cass.”

 

“What, Mum?”

 

“Look after your brother and sister as Jenny looks after you,” she said with a smile, and I nodded as I watched David turning his head to look at June.  I smiled and nodded, as the boat crossed over the water...

 

 

 

It was getting dark when we all left the hotel that was opposite the marina, having enjoyed a big meal after our day out.  “We’ll see you at the caravan tomorrow morning then,” Mum said as she hugged the girls, “I’m sure you’ll have a great day.”

 

As we piled into the car, Dad said “Girls, do you mind if you sleep in the caravan tonight?  Your mum and I would like to sleep in the tent tonight.”

 

“YES PLEASE!!!!”

 

Patty’s response echoed my own, but I was too tired to respond, as my eyes slowly closed...

 

********

 “Hey - good morning sleepy head.”

 

I opened my eyes to see Jenny looking at me.  It took me a few minutes to realise that, rather than being in my clothes in the car, I was in my pyjamas lying on one of the beds in the caravan.  It only took me a few more minutes to realise that I had my wrists and ankles taped, and a strip of tape over my mouth.

 

Looking to the side, I saw Patty lying on the other bed, still fast asleep as she breathed in and out through her nose.

 

“You didn’t even flinch when Mum and Dad changed you and put you to bed,” Jenny said as she sat next to me and peeled the tape away from my mouth.  “That must have really tired you out yesterday.”

 

“I guess it did,” I said as I sat up.  “What time is it anyway?”

 

“Just after seven - Aunt Jessie is changing the twins, and I said we’d start to get breakfast together, once I’d cut you free.”

 

“Sure,” I said as I looked at her.  “Are you feeling better today, sis?”

 

Jenny smiled and said “Yeah - I’m sorry I was such a grump yesterday.  I just - well, let’s just say I needed to rest up and get over it.  Come on now - there’s work to be done.”

 

I held my wrists up for her to cut through the tape with the scissors, then once my ankles were freed I went to the kitchen area with her, as we saw Aunt Jessie putting David into his seat.  June was already gurgling away in her seat, in a pink romper suit.

 

“Well, good morning,” Aunt Jessie said as she smiled at me.  “Your mum and dad are still asleep in the tent, so let’s get breakfast ready before they get up.  It will be a nice surprise for them.

 

“By the way, your dad picked something up at the shop last night - it’s sitting on the window ledge over there.”

 

We got the breakfast bowls and plates out, and set them up on the table, then found the boxes of cereal and set them out.  “I’m just going to get some milk and bread,” Aunt Jessie said as she pulled her coat on over her sweatshirt and joggers, “Watch the twins for me.”

 

We both nodded and then picked up the magazine that was sitting there.  As we idly flipped through it, looking at the pictures of big houses and horses, we both stopped at one particular page and stared at it.

 

“I see you found it,” Dad said as he came into the caravan, Mum walking behind him.  Oh, we’d found it all right - a picture that had been taken at the fair of the three of us in our capes, with Bobby and Suzie beside us, with a caption that said “Even the kids got into the spirit of the theme...”

 

“That’s another one for the scrapbook,” Mum said as she sat down.  “Where’s Jessie?”

 

“She went to get bread and milk,” Jenny said as she put the magazine down.   “Patty’s still out like a light.”

 

“Well, she didn’t last much longer after we put you to bed,” Mum said as she ruffled my hair.  “The air on the lake must have just got to you - or the big meal afterwards.”

 

I smiled at that, as we heard the sound of someone jumping, and turned to see Patty hopping in from the sleeping area, jumping into Mum’s arms as she got a big hug.

 

“Let’s get started,” Dad said as he reached for the box of corn flakes, “after all, we have guests coming in...”

 

“Good morning,” Heidi said as she looked in at the door, “We saw your aunt at the shop, and she said to come right up.  She also said she’s going to pick up some fresh pastries.  Our mums are coming with her.”

 

“So long as you can forgive us being in a state of slight disarray,” Dad said as he stood up.  Heidi, Cindy and Natalie were all wearing shorts and t-shirts, Natalie barefoot while the other two had on flip flops.  “There’s cereal on the table, and I’ll get some more spoons.”

 

“Do you mind if we sit on the couches to eat, Mum,” I said as she finished releasing Patty, and I saw her run to the toilet.  “It will give you more room at the table.”

 

“Good idea, Cassie,” Mum said, so we all grabbed some cereal in a bowl, put some milk in and sat on the brown couches.

 

“So,” Cindy said as she swallowed a mouthful of Rice Crispies, “What’s the game plan for today?”

 

“Well,” Jenny said, “I think we can play a game of Girl Detectives.  Like we said yesterday, we have a lot of Granny’s old clothes, so we could dress up - you lot could pretend to be Nancy Drew and her friends, and we can be the prim and proper English schoolgirls.”

 

“Aw, that’s no fun,” Patty said quietly, “I’m not prim and proper.”

 

“True,” Cindy said, “but Nancy and her friends had a very real habit of being held hostage by the bad guys.  I’m sure if we snoop enough, we can find some bad guys.”

 

I looked over at the table as we talked, but Mum and Dad showed no sign of listening.  “Look who I ran into,” Aunt Jessie said as she came in, followed by Amy, Dorothy and Veronica.  Heidi and Cindy’s mums were wearing blouses and slacks, while Veronica had on a light blue summer dress.

 

“They smell delicious,” Mum said as she looked over, a bottle in her hand as she fed June, “come and join us.  John - can you make some coffee please.”

 

“Hang on,” Natalie said as she looked at me, “Does this mean I have to wear - heels?”

 

“We’ll let you go barefoot for once,” Cindy said as she poked her friend, “but just this once.  So where are these clothes?”

 

“Mum,” I called over, “can we go and get changed?”

 

“You can show the girls the clothes, but you three need to get washed and dressed first,” Mum said, so we went to the curtained off area at the back, opened the place where the clothes were hanging and said “What do you think?”

 

“Wow,” Heidi said as she looked at the plastic covered outfits, “these look gorgeous.”

 

“I’m getting washed first,” Patty said as she ran off, while Cindy took out a dress and said “Can I try this on?”

 

“Sure,” Jenny said, and we watched as she put on the short sleeved dress.  It was made of a crimpled yellow material, and had a small Peter Pan collar as well as rounded front that came down from the shoulders to half way down the buttoned front.  Cindy finished fastening the buttons, and then slipped a thin green belt round her waist, before saying “What do you think?”

 

“It suits you,” Heidi said as she twirled round, the skirt rising from below her knees.  I saw Patty come in, and picking from the collection a white pinafore dress with blue cornflowers on it.  The dress for this flowed out from her waist to her knees, as she put it on and said “I want to be like a summer flower today.”

 

“I’ll go and get washed now,” Jenny said, and I nodded as she left the room, watching Natalie as she picked out an outfit.  “Well, if I’m going to wear old clothes, let’s give this a try,” she said as she pulled her t-shirt off, and put on a yellow round necked jumper, the sleeves of which only came down to below her elbows.

 

I watched as she then put a grey dress on over it.  It had no sleeves, but the collar was rounded with a little cut out and a gathered waist, held in by a matching belt.  It had a darker grey trim round the collar as well as the big pockets in the skirt, which came to just below Natalie’s knees.

 

“Different,” Heidi said as she finally found an outfit she liked the look of.  “I think this will suit me,” she said as she held up the blue cap sleeved dress and the diamond patterned jacket.

 

“Your turn,” Jenny said as she came back in, so I went to get washed and dressed, listening to their giggles as I started to run the water.

 

When I returned a few minutes later, Heidi was fastening the jacket over her dress.  “It does fit well,” she said as she twirled round, “but that really does suit you Jenny.”

 

I looked at my big sister, who was putting a red cap on her head.  The cap matched the red coat dress she was wearing, the two rows of buttons going down her front and the sleeves folded to just below her elbows.  There was a little black bow just below the collar, and a black belt gathered the dress round her waist.

 

I stood there, open mouthed as Patty said “What?”

 

“Sorry - it’s just you look so much like Mum in that dress,” I finally said.  Jenny smiled, and then said “Come on slowpoke - pick your outfit.”

 

Fortunately, the one I wanted was still there.  It was a light blue dress, with puffed short sleeves and a belt round the waist, the skirt down to my knees and a little black bow under the round collar.  “Can you help me to put it on,” I said to Jenny as I stepped into it, so she helped to button it up the back before I put on some white ankle socks and shoes.  Patty, Heidi and Cindy had done the same, while Jenny had on a pair of low heeled red shoes, and Natalie - Nats was barefoot as usual.

 

“Well, shall we see what the weather is like outside,” Jenny said in an accent that would not have disgraced Downton Abbey, “Come along now.”  She led us out of the changing area, to find Heidi’s mother sitting at the table, looking at the paper.

 

“Oh my goodness,” she said as she looked at Heidi, with her blue skirt swirling, “your grandmother would certainly approve, Nancy.”

 

“Thanks, Mum,” Heidi said with a smile.  “Bess and George are going to go for a walk with me and my English friends.”

 

“How do you do,” Jenny said as she stepped forward, “My name is Jane Marple, and this is my friend Tuppence and her little sister Agatha.  It is a pleasure to meet you.”

 

“The pleasure is all mine,” Amy said with a small bow, and I heard Patty say “Little sister?  I’m gonna....”

 

“Hush, Agatha,” I said in a clear voice, “Behave.”  Patty folded her arms and let a grump, but I saw the smile play on her lips as well.

 

“Well, enjoy your walk,” Amy said, “but be careful, the radio says that there have been some very strange looking men seen in the area.”

 

“We’ll be careful, mother,” Heidi said as we walked out of the caravan.  It was a clear, bright morning, and the grass was dry underfoot as we walked towards the car.

 

“So what sort of men do you think have been hanging round, Nancy,” Nats said as she walked on the grass.

 

“No idea, George,” Heidi said, “but they can’t be any worse than those diamond smugglers we brought to book.”

 

“Diamond Smugglers?  How exciting,” Jenny said.  “We have to deal with bad men who kidnap our friends, or try to rob our houses, but to meet a real diamond smuggler...”

 

“You wouldn’t think so if you were tied up and gagged in a sinking boat,” Cindy said with a laugh, but as I passed the back of the car I saw the boot was open.  “That’s funny,” I said as I walked over and looked inside.  “Hey, girls - come over here!”

 

The other five ran over, and saw a large canvas bag inside.  As I slowly opened it, I saw gold covered bars of chocolate, and a note in an envelope.  Cindy looked inside, whispering “Oh my,” as I opened the note.

 

Here’s your ransom - now release my sister!

 

“Oh my goodness!  A kidnapping!  We need to find a policeman and...”

 

“Hush Agatha,” I said as I looked at Patty.  “We don’t know whose car this is, or what has happened.  Don’t you want to find out first?”

 

“I suppose so,” Patty said, a cute smile on her face as she clasped her hands behind her back.  “But I don’t want to be held by bad men again.”

 

“Then don’t do anything stupid like going off on your own,” Jenny said as we put the note back and closed the door.  “I wonder whose car this is.”

 

“I don’t know,” Cindy said, “but there’s a tent over there.  Perhaps someone there knows?”

 

“Let’s go and ask them,” I said, so we all walked over and I called out “Is anyone home?”

 

There was no answer, so I lifted the flap up and looked in.  I could see someone in a sleeping bag, her dark brown hair covering her face.

 

“Hello?”  I said, but she did not move or reply.  “Let me have a look,” Heidi said as she walked in, and shook the shoulder of the quiet woman.  She then stepped back as the sleeping woman rolled over, and revealed herself to be Dorothy, a strip of sticking plaster over her mouth as she looked at us.

 

“Hey!”

 

I heard Patty call out, and said “What is it, Agatha,” as I slowly turned round.  But there was no sign of her - none at all...

 

“Agatha?  Aggie, where are you?”  I looked round the campsite, but there was no sign of her, no sound of her - nothing.

 

“Jane,” I said as I turned round to where the others were standing at the mouth of the tent, “Agatha’s disappeared.”  Jenny looked round as well, then said “she may have gone back to the car - George, you free this woman and find out what’s going on, we’ll go and look there.”

 

“All right,” Cindy said as she knelt down by her mother and started to peel the tape away from her mouth.  We heard the sound of “thank you” and then we turned the corner to look at the car.  The door at the rear was still open, but when we looked in the bag with the golden bars had gone - as had the envelope.

 

“Where have they gone,” Natalie said as she climbed into the back of the car, but there really was no sign of the bag.  We all looked at each other, wondering what was going on, before Jenny said “We’d better go back and see what that woman has to say.”

 

We walked back to the tent, to find the front flaps closed.  “George,” Heidi said as she pulled the flap back, “How is...”

 

There was nobody in the tent - no Cindy, no Dorothy, nothing.  All there was to show she had been in the tent was a pair of white gloves left on the sleeping bag.  Heidi picked up the pair in her own white gloved hands, before saying “All right - something funny is going on here, and I’m not amused.”

 

She and Natalie looked round the tent carefully, looking for slues, while Jenny looked at me, clasping her black purse to her side in her own gloved hands.  “Tuppence,” she said quietly, “I have a horrible feeling that we are in a spot of bother here.”

 

“I agree, Jane,” I said quietly, “Agatha would not disappear just like that.  Perhaps we should take a walk round and look for clues ourselves.”

 

“I agree,” Jenny said, as she looked in the tent.  “Tuppence and I are going to have a further look round.  I suggest we meet again at the caravan in thirty minutes.”

 

“Agreed,” Heidi said as we started to walk towards the far side of the field.  “Have you any idea who may be behind this,” I said as we looked over the hedge at the hills rising into the sky.

 

“None whatsoever - nor can I think of any reason why anyone would want to take Agatha.  Well - actually, if I am being honest, I can think of several good reasons why I would want her to disappear.”

 

“That is my sister you are talking of, Jane,” I said to Jenny in a reproachful voice, but I was struggling to stop myself from laughing out loud at what she said.  I love Patty to bits, but she did have a habit of speaking before engaging brain - and I was still trying to work out how she was going to cope at school with that habit.

 

We heard a pushchair coming closer, and as we looked round we saw Aunt Jessie pushing the twins around the field.  “Excuse me,” Jenny said as she came closer, “I am sorry to bother you, but I wondered if you had seen a young girl wearing glasses and a sundress nearby?  We seem to have lost her.”

 

“I’m so sorry,” Aunt Jessie replied, “but I have seen nobody while walking my charges.  Perhaps you should ask at the office at the far side of the field?”

 

“Of course - so sorry to have bothered you,” I said and we walked off, not noticing Aunt Jessie smiling as she watched us.  “Perhaps we should head back to the caravan and see how Hei... Nancy and Bess are doing.”

 

I nodded as we walked back to the caravan, and as we went in the living area was empty.  It was only a minute later that Heidi came in, and said “Any joy?”

 

“Nothing,” Jenny said with a frown, “Did you and Bess find anything?”

 

“No - she went off to look at the office and see if they had seen anything, and she said she would meet me back here.”

 

“When was that?”

 

Heidi suddenly went to the back of the caravan, then came back and said “fifteen minutes ago - I thought she would be back here already.  I wonder where she has got to?”

 

“Nancy,” Jenny said quietly, “This is beginning to look more and more like somebody is trying to get us all.  What are we going to do about it?”

 

“We need to stick together and not go off on our own - and we need to find the other three as soon as possible.  I don’t like what’s happening here.”

 

We all looked at each other, before there was a knock on the caravan door.  Jenny looked at us, then went to open it, only to find Veronica standing there.

 

“I am so sorry to disturb you,” she said as she stood outside, “but I am looking for a Miss Nancy Drew.  Is she here?”

 

“I’m Nancy,” Heidi said as she stood up, “What’s happened?”

 

“I’ve just come from the office,” Veronica said, “your friend Elisabeth has been taken ill.  I need you to come with me right now - she’s asking for you.”

 

We looked at each other, and the same thought could be seen in all our eyes.

 

“IT’S A TRAP!!!”

 

“Tuppence,” Jenny said as she picked up her black bag, “I need you to stay here, and open the door for nobody.  Nancy, I’ll come with you.”

 

I nodded and watched as the two of them followed Veronica out of the caravan, closing the door behind them.  I sat at the breakfast table, looking at a magazine on the top, and wondering how long it was going to be before they either got back or I had to go and rescue them.

 

Do you know what everyone forgets about in caravans?  The toilet - and I had done so as well, not even hearing the door open or the footstep until I felt Mum’s hand over my mouth, and heard her say “Not a word, little one - I have your sister, and we’re going to join her.”

 

I nodded slowly as I raised my hands, only to hear a very familiar squidgy sound before a length of the super stretchy sticky tape was placed over my mouth.  I then allowed her to take my hands behind my back and tape my wrists together, before I was stood up and a scarf tied over my mouth.  “Walk,” Mum said, and I allowed her to walk me out of the caravan, down the stairs and across the ground.

 

After a few minutes, I heard a  door open, and my shoes hitting wood as three muffled voices greeted me.  The blindfold was taken off, and I saw Patty, Cindy and Natalie sitting on a row on a wooden bench, tape over their mouths, their hands behind their backs and a white band around their ankles.

 

“Number four,” I heard Dorothy saying, and as I was turned round I saw her standing there with Aunt Jessie, their arms folded and big smiles on their faces.  Mum walked me over and made me sit next to Cindy, before she knelt down and taped my ankles together.

 

“Where are the other two,” Aunt Jessie said as Mum stood up.

 

“They’ll be with us in a few minutes,” Mum said as she looked at us.  “Once they’re here, we can take care of them all.”

 

Somehow, my heart both rose and sank at that announcement - glad that we’d all be in the same place, but wondering what was in store for us.  Cindy nudged me in the ribs and looked at me, a smile visible under the tape as she mumbled “Tldduuu.”

 

Now, I could get this gag off with a little effort, but this was part of the game, so I sat quietly, twisting round for a few minutes until the door opened and Veronica came in, her hand on Heidi’s arm as she was escorted in, and then followed by Dad with Jenny.  As was the case with all of us, their mouths were covered with white tape and their hands were behind their backs, as Dad said “Well, we got all the snoops at last.  Took longer than I wanted it to, but we can take care of them sooner rather than later.”

 

“Whtrigntdwfs,” Jenny mumbled as she sat next to me and had her ankles taped together, followed by Natalie.  “Oh don’t worry, Miss Marple,” Dorothy said as she looked at her, “we’ll explain everything in good time.  In fact, you are the most important of this little collection - honestly, these are meant to be the best girl detectives on both sides of the pond?”

 

“Now, now my dear,” Dad said quietly, “if we are going to obtain the McGuffin Files from this fine young lady, then we need to treat them with every due courtesy.  In fact, if we are going to get them to tell us anything, we need to work with kid gloves - so make sure you put them on.”

 

I stopped myself from groaning as the four mothers put on a pair of kid leather gloves each, and then stood in front of us.  “So, are you going to tell us,” Dad said in a menacing voice.

 

Now, I had no idea what he was talking about, but Jenny started to play along a swell, saying “Ntachns” through her gag. 

 

“I thought you would say that,” he said as he looked at Jenny and Heidi, “but what if we torture your friends?”

 

“Trchr?” Patty said, but I guessed what was coming, as did Cindy.  It was her mother that started with her, and mine with me, as Aunt Jessie placed her fingers on Patty’s ribs and Veronica on Natalie.

 

When you have tape over your mouth, you hope you don’t start coughing, but laughing causes all the same sort of problems, especially when you are being tickled like mad by someone who knows where all your ticklish spots are.  In my case, Mum went for the backs of my knees, while Aunt Jessie settled for Patty’s ribs.  At any rate, the effect is still the same, as all four of us wriggled round and tried not laugh too much.

 

“LLLRRTTT,” Natalie finally called out.  “Tlllthmnnnse?”

 

“Tlthmwht,” Heidi said - and I could see she was trying to keep up with what was happening, but it was Jenny who eventually said “Tkmmggfff.”

 

Mum went over to her and peeled the tape away from her mouth, saying “Yes?”

 

“I’m confused,” Jenny said, “What exactly are the McGuffin files, and why do you believe I would have them?”

 

“Oh I think you know of what we speak, Miss Marple,” Dad said as he knelt down and looked into her eyes, “after all, you were given them by young Hercule when you saw him in Ypres last month.”

 

“But I have never been to Ypres,” Jenny said in a defiant voice, “so I have no idea what you are talking about.  Now, if you let me and my friends go, then we will allow you enough time to make your escape and nothing more need be said about it.”

 

“You have never been to Ypres?  But we have the pictures of you entering the train to the continent!”

 

“May I see the evidence?”

 

Dad went to a bag, took out a copy of the magazine he had bought yesterday and showed Jenny the picture of him and Colin at the ball.  She looked at it for a moment, laughed and then said “Oh you foolish man - this is my twin sister, Joan Marple.  You have the wrong sister!”

 

Dad stood up, and said “I think not.  I need to go and search her domicile - tend to our guests, my dear, and make sure they are fed and watered.”

 

He left the building we were in, as all of us had the tape taken away from our mouths, and Mum helped Aunt Jessie to open some packs of sandwiches.  “Well, no reason why you should starve,” Mum said as she held an egg and cress and which in front of my mouth, “eat up - I’ll give you a drink in a little while.”

 

Well, if you’re going to have a picnic lunch in a strange place, and be tied up while you’re having it, then egg and cress is a good choice, and I enjoyed the difference.  I think we all did, actually, even Patty - although the way she devoured a pork pie...

 

“Having fun,” Mum said, dropping out of character for a moment, and we all nodded.  “The bit with you in the sleeping bag was a master touch,” Cindy said to her mother, “you really fooled me with that trick.”

 

“Let me guess,” I said with a smile, “tape over the mouth, but free underneath the bag?  Patty pulled that one on us a few months ago.”

 

“Some tricks are older than the hills,” Dorothy said, “but still work.”  She took a bite out of a chicken leg, and smiled as we all took a drink from a box of fruit juice.  As I took a drink of the apple juice, I glanced over at the others, who were all either eating or nodding.  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day - unless we were all really properly tied up.

 

As if by cue, Dad walked back in, and my eyes widened when I saw the amount of rope that he had with him.

 

“Turns out she’s telling the truth,” he said as he looked at us, “Which is a pity, because it means we need to dispose of all six of them.  Start with the kid.”

 

Aunt Jessie nodded as she made Patty stand up and turn to face us.  “I’m going to free your wrists,” she said as she stood behind her, “and then I’m going to give you something to hold in each hand.”

 

Patty nodded, and we watched as Aunt Jessie knelt behind her, and we heard the sound of the white tape being taken off the roll.  Patty winked at us, before we saw a length of rope, and she said “That’s tight,” before a rope belt appeared around her waist.

 

Dad then came over and tied rope around her stomach and arms, binding them together and then taking a length of rope around her upper arms and shoulders before using two smaller lengths to tighten them under her arms.  He then turned her round, and we saw her crossed and tied wrists - and the white gloves that covered her balled fists, made of tape.

 

“Her sister and friend next,” Dad said, as Mum and Aunt Jessie made me and Jenny stand up and face the others... 

 

“Hold these in your hands,” Aunt Jessie said, and I felt a sponge ball being placed in the palms of my hands.  I closed my hand around it, and then heard the squidgy peeling sound before the tape was wrapped around both of my hands, making them into little white gloves.  I glanced over to the side, and saw Dad was doing the same to Jenny, before my wrists were crossed behind my back and I felt the rope going round and between my arms.

 

It felt so good to be tied properly, especially as Dad must have taught Aunt Jessie how we like to be properly secured.  As I watched her pass the rope around my waist, Heidi’s mum went over and cut the other three free, before saying to Cindy “Put your gloves on - you’ll need them.”

 

As I watched, Aunt Jessie wound another length of rope around my arms and tummy, so that when she had finished my arms were locked into my sides, and my wrists against my back.  Jenny was similarly bound, except Dad had taken the rope around her arms and tummy both lower and around her shoulders - an extra layer which Aunt Jessie soon added to me.

 

“Ladies,” Dad said as he looked at our American friends, “why don’t you make sure these three are quiet as we discussed, and we’ll take care of Miss Drew and her friends.”

 

As they walked over to Heidi and made her stand up, her mum walked over with three more sponge balls and said “Open wide, brats.”

 

“I’m not a brat, I’m the daughter of a Lord of the mannnnnr,” Patty said as the sponge was eased into her mouth, followed by one for me and Jenny.  Veronica then picked up three lengths of towelling, and tied a knot in the centre of each one, before using them as cleave gags on the three of us.  Once that had been accomplished, Dorothy pressed a long length of the wonderful white tape over our lips.

 

“That really is tight,” Cindy said as the rope was wrapped around her arms and legs, but I was in no position to argue or even answer her back.  “Remember we need to take them out of here back to the caravan,” Mum said, “so we need to disguise the gags.”

 

Veronica nodded as she took from a bag three large scarves, the same colour as our dresses, and folded them into bands before they tied them around our heads, covering the tape completely.  She then produced three headscarves, folded them into triangles, and tied them over our hair - well, in Jenny’s case, her hat - took them under our chins and tying the ends together tightly.

 

When they had finished, I tried to move my mouth, but the cloths and tape were pressing down so firmly I could hardly make a sound or move my lips.  I looked over at Patty and Jenny who both nodded as Mum said “All right Miss Drew - open wide.”

 

We watched as the other three were gagged in the same way, while Dad looked out of the door.  “All right,” he said as he took my arm, “let’s go - and no funny stuff.  We have guns, and we know how to use them.”

 

As we walked out, I realised we had been in the hut on the far side of the field, as we walked Indian style over to the caravan.  I also had figured out Amy had the twins, so they were somewhere else, as we were walked into the caravan and helped to sit on the floor.

 

“Secure their legs,” Dad said, and one by one we watched as our ankles and legs below our knees were tied tightly together with rope, going around and between us until we were unable to move them.

 

Then, one by one, we were rolled onto our stomachs and our legs pulled up and back, before our ankles were secured to our chest ropes.  Mum made sure our skirts covered our bottoms, as we wriggled round and looked at each other.

 

“All right,” Dad said as he placed something on the floor by the caravan door, “We need to get out of here and destroy the evidence.  I guess you kids are going to go out with a bang.”

 

I looked up and saw in his hand four brown tubes held together with tape, and the alarm clock that had been in our tent.  He turned the alarm so that it would go off in thirty minutes, and then said “Well, we need to find your sister, young Miss Marple.  We’ll be sure to send her our regards.”

 

“You’re not really going to leave them to die, are you,” Mum said as she looked at us.

 

“What else would you do,” Dad said, and they left us there, hogtied and unable to speak, looking at each other with only the ticking of the clock to break the silence.

 

“Ugrlslwssgtnttrble,” Natalie said as she twisted round, her shoes falling off her feet as she did so.  She looked over her shoulder and said “Fnlle” before looking at us.

 

“Whttttt?”

 

I could see both Amy and Cindy laughing under their gags, as Jenny tried to shake her head from side to side.  It was no good, however - the hat under the scarf meant there was no movement, and the alarm had gone to twenty minutes.

 

I looked at Jenny, who in turn was looking at Heidi.  The floor of the caravan was cold, and I think she was a little afraid to start moving, but Heidi started to wriggle her way slowly towards us, as Cindy rolled over to Natalie to see if there was any way she could try and free her.

 

But with our hands taped up like this?  It looked next to impossible to me.  Patty had her eyes closed, and she seemed to just be enjoying the inability to move or speak.  So I realised it was going to be up to me, as I started to wriggle my way across the floor towards the open doorway.

 

As I moved over, I watched the minute hand moving across the face of the clock.  Twelve minutes...   Ten minutes...  Eight minutes...

 

Inch by inch I moved over, inch by tantalising inch as the minute hand slowly counted down.  As it showed two minutes, I finally got within reach of the alarm, and was silently grateful that they had left the door open.  The only thing was, how to get the alarm out, sitting as it was on a low stool.

 

“KKKTUTTTT” Jenny screamed at me, so I looked at the rug I has somehow got on, rolled onto my side and with all the strength I had swung my body round, my eyes closed as I prayed I would connect.  I felt my legs hit something, heard a bumping sound, and then the alarm clock going off - outside.

 

“WLDDNNNTPNS,” Heidi said as I opened my eyes, and saw the stool and alarm clock on the grass outside.  I also realised I was breathing incredibly heavily, but I felt like I was on top of the world.

 

“Oh thank god - it didn’t go off.”

 

I looked up to see Mum standing there, looking at us.  “I knew he was evil, but to try to kill kids,” she said as she slid me back across the floor, and then looked at me.

 

“Hllll,” Patty said as she looked at Mum, her eyes wide open, “Idntfflswl.”

 

Mum looked at her, then undid the scarves from her head and removed the tape, towelling and sponge.  “Thank you,” Patty said quietly, “I was having real trouble for a minute.  You’re nice, not like the man.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Mum said as she stroked her hair out of the way, “but we do have to get away.  Your older sister - Tuppence, isn’t it - was very brave.”

 

“She is,” Patty said as she smiled, “and she really looks after me.  Can’t you let us go?”

 

“I’m afraid not,” Mum said, “but you are younger - I don’t think we need to gag you as tightly.   If you promise to be a good girl, I’ll do that for you.”

 

Patty nodded as she looked at me and said “I am a very good girl.”

 

“All right,” Mum said as she picked up the white and blue scarf, and rolled it into a band.  “Open wide now.”

 

We all watched as she cleave gagged Patty, then said “I’ll get the police to come - be patient,” before she left, closing the door behind her.  We lay still for a moment, watching Patty as she started to push the band of cloth out of her mouth, finally gasping as it fell around her neck.

 

“We need to get free,” she said quietly, “but I can’t do it myself.  Tuppence, can you lie still for a minute?”

 

I nodded as Patty wriggled over, and then with her teeth started to pull the scarf down that was over my hair, until it hung around my neck.  I then lifted my head as she used her teeth to pull the band of silk down from my mouth, before saying “Now, rub your mouth and cheek on my hands.”

 

The others watched silently as I rubbed the tape over Patty’s hands, eventually nodding as it stuck to her white fist balls and started to come away from my mouth.  Once it had done so, Patty watched as I pushed the towelling strip and very, very wet sponge out with my tongue.

 

“Give... Give me a minute,” I said as I caught my breath then said to Patty “Roll over with your back to me, Aggie - I’ll use my teeth to untie you as much as I can.”

 

“Got it,” Patty said as she rolled over, watching over her shoulder as very slowly I picked at the knots between her chest and legs with my teeth, eventually managing to free her legs so that she could stretch out.  I then managed over the next twenty minutes or so to get her arms and wrists free, so that she could sit up and move her taped up hands in front of her.

 

“Great job, Tuppence,” she said as I smiled at her, “Leave the rest to me.”  She raised her hands to her mouth and started to pick away at the tape with her lips and teeth, while I wriggled over and started to remove the gags from Cindy.

 

Yes, Cindy - Jenny’s family, but Cindy’s my friend.

 

As it was, Patty soon had the tape off; the sponge balls falling to the floor as she untied her legs, then went to help Jenny.  It was as she was releasing her legs that we heard Amy say “Oh Thank God - you girls are all right!”

 

We looked at her as she ran in and started to untie Heidi and Natalie, who had been watching patiently, while Cindy started to untie my knots with her teeth.  “The police had an anonymous phone call - someone said you had all been taken hostage and were in peril.  Your dad has gone to try to stop the gang getting away.”

 

“It’s all right, Mum,” Heidi said when she was finally able to speak - Jane and her friends managed to save the day.  I’m sure daddy will catch them all.”

 

“One thing I don’t understand,” Jenny said as she shook the last of her ropes off, and then came over to help me.  “What are the McGuffin files anyway?”

 

“Not important,” Amy said as she hugged the girls, “what is important is that you are safe, despite everything.”

 

“And that,” Dad said as we suddenly realised he had been filming us, “is a great end to the play.”

 

“You’ve been filming us,” Natalie said as the others came in, Mum and Aunt Jessie carrying the twins.

 

“For private viewing only,” Dad said with a smile.  “Still, I did promise a copy to Lady Holderness.  Apparently, she’s putting something together to send to you, Amy.”

 

“Really?  That sounds interesting,” Heidi said as she stood up and brushed her dress down.  “So what time is it anyway?”

 

“Five o’clock - and I need to buy a new alarm clock,” Dad said with a smile.  “Look, why don’t you girls go and get changed - I’ll go and get some fish and chips.  You need to have a traditional meal before you head north.”

 

“You’ll eat well up there,” Patty said as Dad want off, and we went back to the changing area, “Just wait until you try haggis...”

 

********

 

As we waved them off into the fading light, I cuddled Mum and said “Do we really have to go home tomorrow?”

 

“I’m afraid so, dear,” Mum said as she hugged me back.  “If nothing else, I need to take the twins to the practice next Tuesday, and we need to buy your new school clothes.”

 

I nodded, then said “So how are we going to go back tomorrow?”

 

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

 

I smiled and yawned, as Patty and Jenny went to get changed.  One more night camping, and then the road trip home...

 

“So are we sleeping in the tent tonight,” Jenny said as we came back in, having gone to the bathroom and changed into our pyjamas.

 

“Nope,” Mum said as she looked at us from the brown couch.  We could see her wrists and ankles were taped, as she sat there in her nightgown.  “Tonight, we’re all sleeping in here - Aunt Jessie as well.  Dad’s going to look after the twins in the back, but we’re going to have a girl’s night.”

 

And so it was - Aunt Jessie joined us in her shorts and top, and we sat together for hours, talking about our holiday, our adventures, and what we all were looking forward to for the next few weeks.  Eventually, Dad came in and said “It’s after midnight girls - time to be quiet” before he tape gagged us all and turned off the lights...

 

********

 

 

 

It was eight o’clock before the twins crying woke me up, as Dad was carrying them round.  “Mum’s gone to get changed,” he said as he looked at me, lying there unable to speak, “and when she gets back, I need to free you all.  We need to pack up for the trip home.”

 

I nodded and waited until Mum came in, dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a cream coloured sweatshirt.  “Thanks, John,” she said to Dad as she took June, and then Dad put David into his carry seat, before he cut the tape away from my wrists and ankles.  I took the tape off my mouth, and then went to the bathroom as he woke Jenny and Patty.

 

I knew this was the last day, and I had been tempted to ask if we could wear Granny’s clothes, but I decided instead to wear a denim pinafore dress over a t-shirt, the skirt coming to my knees.  I was pulling on my socks and trainers when Jenny came in and dropped a towel into the bag.

 

“Home today,” she said as she found a blue gypsy style skirt and pulled it on, followed by a grey sweatshirt, “Looking forward to going back?”

 

“A bit - I want to see the girls again.”

 

“And Bobby?”

 

“And Bobby,” I said with a smile.  “After all, he owes us for that bet.”

 

“The bet?” Patty said as she came in, “I’m gonna win that one, you know.  No way am I giving up.”

 

“Neither am I,” I said confidently, “so bring it on.”

 

“All right, all right,” Jenny said with a smile as Patty pulled on a knee length pleated skirt and a short sleeved blouse, “but we all know I’m going to win this...”

 

“Girls,” Mum called through, “can you give me and Aunt Jessie a hand to put the kitchen things away.”

 

“Yes, Mum,” we called back in unison, as we went in and packed away the rest of the items.  When we had finished, Dad came into the caravan and said “Now, girls - would you like to ride home in the caravan.”

 

Jenny nodded and said “But not with our hands behind our back - that got uncomfortable.”

 

“All right - Patty, are you happy to sit in the caravan with them.”

 

“I will,” Aunt Jessie said, “but only if you tie me up as well.  I know - did you read that article in the magazine about that thief?”

 

“The one who used the mother’s love for their daughters to make them pretend it was a game?”

 

“That’s the one - why don’t you be him?  Let’s pack the things away, and then we can get started.”

 

Well, what more incentive did we need?  We packed everything else away - Dad had already put down and stored the tent - and then we sat in the caravan, reading the comics as Aunt Jessie read at the table.  When there was a knock at the door, she went out for a few minutes, then returned with Dad, who had a bag in one hand and the other hand on Aunt Jessie’s hand.

 

“Girls,” she said as we looked at her, “My... My friend here has come to help us all play a game.  You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

 

“I don’t know you,” Jenny said as she played along, “Who are you?”

 

“A friend,” Dad said “who thinks you need to set a good example to your little sisters.  Understand?”

 

Jenny looked at us as we nodded, then said “All right - what’s this game?”

 

“Well,” Dad said as he put the bag on the table, “I’m going to make sure that you all cannot move for a little while - including your mother.  Then I’m going to pretend to rob you, and stop you from raising the alarm - but only for a little while.  Then you’ll be free, and the game will be over.  Does that sound like fun?”

 

“Does Mummy get to help out?” 

 

“Your big sister can help as well,” Dad said as he took two lengths of cord out.  “why don’t you two hold your hands out in front of you, and mummy and big sister will do something to stop you moving them apart.  Then I will do the same to them - all right?”

 

Patty and I nodded as we held our hands out, and watched Jenny and Aunt Jessie tie them tightly together, before Jenny sat beside me, and Aunt Jessie next to Patty, watching as their wrists were tied tightly together as well.

 

“Now then,” Dad said as he smiled at us, “I’m going to use some more rope to make sure you can’t move your legs apart, all right?”

 

“How are you going to do that,” Patty said as Dad knelt in front of Jenny and tied her ankles tightly together, working along the line to secure all four of us.  Patty swung her legs to and fro, before saying “I could still get up and hop away you know.”

 

“Patty,” Aunt Jessie said with a hint of fear in her voice, “Let’s all just play along, all right?”

 

“We will, Mum,” Jenny said as Dad then worked back along the line, tying our legs together below our knees and then our wrists to the leg ropes.  Once he had done, he said “Now, I need to make sure you cannot get out of the seats very easily.  Why don’t you two little ones shuffle back a bit?”

 

Patty and I slid back on the chair, our legs stretching out a little, before Dad fastened one end of a leather belt to a hidden hook on the couch, passed it round our waist and then secured it at the other side of us.  For Jenny and Aunt Jessie, he used a length of rope to tie their upper arms to their chest, and then fixed the ends of the rope to the couch.

 

“There now,” Dad said as he looked at us, “I think the four of you are going to have stay there for the game, aren’t you?”

 

Aunt Jessie looked at us, and then said “Please, just take our things and go.”

 

“Oh Mummy, that is part of the game,” Dad said as he looked at us, then took a roll of brown sticking plaster from the bag, “but first I need to make sue you cannot talk to each other, until I have come to free you.  That way, none of you has an unfair advantage.”

 

Aunt Jessie looked at us, and nodded before she said “Me first - I want them to see there is nothing to be afraid of.”

 

“What is there to be afraid of in a game, mummy,” Patty said as she looked at her, while Dad tore a strip of the plaster off and smoothed it over her lips.  He then did the same for each of us, before he said “All right then - the game starts now, and I will tell you when it is over.  However, here’s something to help pass the time.”

 

Dad put on the DVD player, and we watched the start of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone while he left the caravan, closing the door behind him.  A few minutes later we felt the lurch as he started to move off, and sat back to watch the film...

 

It was a different trip from the last time we did this, but it was just as much fun.  The plaster held just like the white tape, so we could only mumble to each other as we drove along the motorway, the hills and trees flashing past us as we travelled.

 

We made one stop on the way back, Mum coming into the caravan and removing our gags before giving us each a box drink.  She offered us the chance to go to the toilet, but we all shook our heads before she re-gagged us and we set off again - this time watching the Chamber of Secrets.

 

All too soon, I recognised the houses of our street through the window, and a few minutes later we pulled into our driveway, Aunt Jessie sighing as we came to a stop.

 

“End of the journey,” Dad said as he came in and started to untie us.  “You need to help me to take the bags in, and then sort out the laundry.”

 

“What about Granny’s clothes,” Jenny said as she took the plaster off her mouth.

 

“We’ll take them last,” Dad said as I removed my gag, “but let’s do this - I’ll order some pizza once we have finished.”

 

********

 

 

 

“That sounds as if you had an incredible trip!”

 

I nodded across the table to Colin as I drank through the straw.  Jenny and I had met up with Bobby and Colin in town, the Tuesday after we got back, and we were sitting in McDonald’s after a trip to the pictures.

 

“It was great fun - I hope the girls had a good time in Scotland as well,” Jenny said as she held Colin’s hand.  “And we won two bets.”

 

“Two?  Oh yeah - you need to tell me what you want to go to in London,” Bobby said as he looked over at me.

 

“What about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?”

 

“If we take Patty, can she be Violet Beauregard?”

 

“No - she’s Veruca Salt?”

 

We all ended up laughing at that, before Bobby said “All right - I’ll get Dad to sort it out.  I’ll let you know when it is.  So, what are you going to do for the rest of the holidays?”

 

“This and that,” Jenny said as she looked at Colin.  “Alicia called last night, and asked if we’d make up a foursome with her and Martin.”

 

“Oh,” Bobby said as he looked at them, “choral society recitation?”

 

“Nope - Book of Mormon.  You’re too young, Cassie dearest?”

 

I didn’t mind - Suzie was going to come round that particular night, and she and I were going to teach little Patty the joys of being bound properly in a sleeping bag.  I felt we owed her that much.  Then we were going to help Angela do something special to send over to the US with some other things on a DVD, with the help of Pippa, Hazel and Claire.

 

“Two weeks and we go back - summer holidays end too quickly,” Bobby said as he took out of the window.  I had to agree - but boy, what a holiday...

 

“Hey,” Bobby said, “by the way, who won the holiday bet?”

 

“What - oh the tie up bet?”  Jenny looked at me and said “I think we’ve called it an honourable draw.  So we all got a treat yesterday - a big box of chocolates to share between us.”

 

We had as well - in fact, Patty was at her house at that point, having eaten a few too many of the strawberry creams.

 

“Anyway,” Colin said as he stood up, “we need to get going.  You two ready.” 

 

Jenny and I nodded as we stood up, steadying ourselves with our hands on the table as we did so and our skirts falling over our knees.  “Is this still part of the bet,” Bobby said as we moved forward.

 

We looked at each other and nodded, the rope around our legs above our knees restricting our movement.  We were determined to get used to this - really determined...


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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