Welcome to Wissenden
“Suzie, have you finished sorting your books out? The men want to start loading up from your room.”
“All done, Mum,” I said as I put the last of my books into the wooden box, and took a look around my room. I’d slept in this room all my life, from nursery to now, and I was having the strangest feelings – excitement and sadness all at the same time.
Since going back to school this year, it is almost as if someone was telling me “Suzanne Holderness, I need you to be a brave big sister.” Not that I have a little brother or sister – although Bobby can be a big sissy at times – but three times since September I’ve found myself having to pretend to play a tie-up game when it was anything but.
And all of them had something in common – apart from the fact they happened with my cousins and friends. They all involved Patty, Cassie Craig’s cousin, and her cute friend Rachel.
The first time was when we all went to Patty’s house – Mum and Dad had some big business meeting with Cassie’s parents, so they had decided we should all be together with Big Cus Angela to watch over us. No sooner had the adults gone, than a masked man burst in and said he was going to rob us.
Of all the people that have held us hostage or robbed us – and we’ve had far more than our fair share, when you think about it – this was the worst. So bad Cassie had to teach the guy how to tie us up.
What made it worse was that Patty thought the whole thing was a big game set up by Mister Craig to keep us entertained – and her friend Rachel though so as well. It was the first time I had met her, so we had no idea if she had even played any games before, or even been tied up.
Turned out she had, but that’s another story. Anyway, I almost felt sorry for that guy, especially when Cassie’s dad walked in on him. Still, that was a fun day – unlike the next time we had to pretend it was a game.
There was a knock on the door, and I saw Dad standing there, with a man in blue overalls behind him.
“Come on, Suzie,” he said as he took my hand, “the man needs to pack your things into the van now. Let’s go and have a last look at the back garden.”
“All right Dad,” I said as I followed him out of my bedroom – for the last time. We went downstairs and out of the back door. The kitchen looked funny, with the dresser now packed away and no food in the cupboards, the fridge empty and switched off.
We went out to the garden where Mum and Bobby were sitting on two deck chairs, with some cans of coke on the stone between them. Dad and I pulled the other two open and sat down, as we looked round.
“I still can’t believe you talked me into this,” Mum said as she leaned forward, “It’s a hell of a step up, Xander.”
“I know,” Dad said with a smile, “but look at it this way – it’s an adventure. The kids stay in their schools – we just have to drive them a bit further each day.”
“I was thinking about the day we brought you home, Suzie,” Bobby said as he sat back. “There was snow on the ground, and Dad had to clear the driveway and put salt down before we could even come and get you.”
“I remember that day – we had to wrap you in three blankets before we even got you into your car seat.”
I could well believe that – the perils of being born at the end of December. Anyway, it was true – we were leaving the place I had called home all my life, and starting a new home in a new place.
The last place on Earth I ever expected we would end up – and all because of another more serious kidnapping we had to treat as a game for Patty and Rachel.
We had all agreed to spend the weekend at Cassie and Jenny’s place, and she had suggested we dressed up in some old clothes her grandmother had given her. Well, we had just started when some masked men came in, said they were going to play a game with us, and took her dad away.
Which was, of course, a big fat Porky Pie – All of us, especially Cassie and Jenny, knew this was no game. They had met these men before – before I first knew them, they had been held hostage over night while their dad had been forced to steal from his bank, and this group was led by the same man.
There then followed possibly the most unusual weekend I had ever spent, as we dressed in clothes from the 1950’s – when Grandma and Granny Jacobs were my age – and then spent almost the entire time tightly bound and gagged, even when we slept.
Not that we were unable to move – we spent the time awake playing games like hide and seek, or dancing, or watching films, or reading. But the only time we were free was when we ate and went to the bathroom. The man who was in charge – Jay was his name – was nice enough, but there was always the feeling that we did not know what was going to happen next.
Especially on the Saturday, after lunch, when we were blindfolded and taken in a car from their home to a place I had never seen before. It was a big old house, with the windows covered in blankets and shutters, but I never saw the outside – only the rooms on the inside.
Like I said, we had to pretend it was a big game so as not to frighten Patty and Rachel, who treated it as one big lark, but there were other things going on. Alicia was with us, and she wasn’t feeling very well on the Friday or Saturday morning. I don’t know what was wrong with her – she got better anyway – but spending the Saturday afternoon and night in that strange place was both terrifying – and exhilarating.
As was the way we were bound – Jay’s men tied us up on the Saturday lunchtime, with our hands covered in tape and socks, wrists behind our back and held to our waist, around our ankles and legs, and then around out tummies and our shoulders. They then tied an extra band – between the shoulders and tummy, that rubbed a lot against my chest, and – well, I still haven’t figured out exactly what it feels like, and it’s been nearly three months now.
It irritates, it makes me feel strange – and yet it feels nice and snug at the same time. How can that be?
Anyway, after the Sunday lunch Jay and his men disappeared – and the next thing we heard was my brother Bobby calling for us. Now Cassie, being a great fan of Bobby, managed to get her legs free and went to greet him – only for her foot to fall through a rotting floorboard as she ran to him.
It turned out we were being held in an old country house that Bobby knew as a former Scout retreat – a place called Wissenden Hall. The strange thing is, despite the fact we were pretending it was a game, I liked the place. It was big, had lots of rooms, and we had a grand old time jumping around and playing there. It was just pure dumb luck that Cassie got hurt when she did.
Bobby wasn’t the only one there – Colin, his friend from school who goes out with Cassie’s sister, was there, as was Dad, Colin’s Dad, Cassie’s Dad, her Aunt Cassie and her partner Jo. I later found out they had been looking for us – Colin’s Dad is a high ranking police officer, while Cassie’s aunt and her friend used to be army officers, and apparently know a thing or two, as Dad put it.
The hardest thing of the weekend, actually, was when Dad told me I had to pretend to Mum it was a game. I don’t like lying to Mum, but we had treated it as a big game, hadn’t we?
As it was, I told Dad all about the fun we had at the hall, and he just nodded as he listened to me. I didn’t know Grandfather had been talking to Dad about some things – or where my enthusiasm would lead.
In fact, I didn’t think much about it and until a couple of days before the half term holiday, when I got home to hear Mum and Dad talking to my grandparents. I heard Mum say “All right – but we need to tell them,” when I saw Bobby sitting on the stairs.
“What are they talking about,” I said as I put my bag down and hung my coat up.
“I’m not sure,” Bobby said as he looked at me. “I got back a few minutes ago, and heard them talking.”
The door opened and Mum looked out at both of us.
“You’d better come in,” she said with a smile, “there’s something we need to tell you.”
“We’re not going to have a baby brother or sister are we,” I said as Bobby and I sat on the couch. Our grandparents were standing by the mantelpiece, as Dad and Mum held hands and looked at us.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Dad said as he looked at Mum, who shook her head. “No, it’s not that – look, you know that one day we will live at Holderness Manor, right?”
We both nodded – Dad was heir to the title of Lord Holderness, although he rarely talked about it. If he was mentioning it now, this must be serious. We both looked at Grandfather, who shook his head and said “No don’t worry – I’m fine.”
“No, we’re not going to live there yet,” Dad said, “but we do think it’s time you both got used to how it feels to live somewhere like that, so – we’re going to move house. You’re still going to go to your current schools, and you won’t lose your friends – in fact, you will have plenty of room for them to visit at our new home.”
“So where are we moving to,” Bobby said as he held my hand.
“A place you’ve been to before – both of you,” Mum said as she looked at us. “We will be moving to Wissenden Hall.”
Dad said our faces were a picture after Mum said this. There was silence for a minute or two, before Bobby said “But...”
“It’s not in too bad a condition – just needs some new floorboards and re-wiring, which should not take too long. The thing is, it’s not just going to be a family home for us – it’s an investment for the future. Someday, Bobby, and hopefully a far away day, you will live there with your family, as the heir to the Holderness title.”
I didn’t follow much of what happened after that – except the bit about telling no-one until the weekend. Everyone else found out on the Saturday, when we had a party to celebrate Bobby and Colin getting medals for capturing the Jay Edwards gang.
Well, most of them – Jay Edwards himself got away, as we found out a few weeks later. That week after the party, however, we played the dress up hostage game again for two days, helped Angela make a video, gave Jenny Cassie and Alicia the fright of their lives – and met a special lady called Sarah again, who had visited earlier in the summer. I found out she was a cousin of mine, and also that she had been hurt.
I also spent the week with Brian Hampton, Colin’s cousin – nice enough boy, but his definition of fun was running around the place with my cousin Tommy and then chasing us – all of us.
Still, he is cute...
“All right Mister Holderness – we’re done.”
Dad turned and looked at the man who was standing in the doorway. “Thanks – if you head to the hall, Mister Boyce will be waiting for you. We’ll be along shortly.”
He nodded and said “Lock up and move out” to the other removal men. “Want to take one last look round,” Dad said as he stood up, and we went back into the empty house.
We walked back through the kitchen, and into the front room, Mum touching the walls as we looked round. “It’s all right to be sad,” Dad said as he looked at us, “After all, you’ve spent your lives here.”
I took one last look round, before saying “Yeah – but we need to go now, don’t we?”
Mum and Dad nodded as Bobby watched the removal van move off. “Come on,” Dad eventually said as he held the front door keys in his hand, “Let’s go.”
The last time I was taken to Wissenden Hall, I had been bound, gagged and blindfolded, and I was too worried about Cassie when we left to pay much attention, so it was a new thing for me as Dad turned off the road, through the gates with the big “SOLD” sign attached to the wall, and up the driveway to the large hall. The removal van was already parked outside, and as we stopped I saw a young couple standing by the back of the van.
They both had light brown hair, the woman wearing a blue denim dress over a brown roll necked sweater while the man had on a pair of overalls. “Who are they?” I said as Dad turned off the engine and stepped out of the car.
“Good afternoon Mister Holderness,” the man said as he walked towards us. “The men have started to take the furniture in, and we’re making sure it goes where it needs to.”
“Excellent,” Dad said as he shook the man’s hand. “I trust you and your wife have settled in?”
“We have – and thank you. The rooms are fantastic.”
“Our pleasure,” he said as we walked up with Mum. “You’ve met my wife and Bobby before, but this is our daughter Suzie. Suzie, this is Mister Boyle - he and his wife will be helping us around the hall.”
“Like Mister and Mrs Bridges,” I said, smiling as the young woman walked over. “Hello Suzie,” she said as she looked at me, “I have some freshly baked cookies in the kitchen. Why don’t you and Bobby come and taste them for me?”
“All right,” I said as Bobby and I followed Mum and Mrs Boyle into the house. As we walked in, I saw Mum stop for a minute and look around.
“What’s wrong,” I said as I looked at her.
“Nothing,” she said quietly, “I’m just – it’s just...” She looked at me and smiled, before saying “I knew one day we would live at the Manor House, but I never thought we would live somewhere like this before then. It’s just going to take a little getting used to, that’s all.”
“For all of us,” Bobby said as he took her hand, me taking the other one. “This is going to be very different, isn’t it?”
Mum smiled as she looked at us. “Yeah, let’s face it together,” she said with a smile. “Come on – you’ve spent some time here before. Show me where the kitchen is.”
“Well,” I said as I looked round, “we ate in that room there, so I presume the kitchen is that way?”
“Good guess,” Bobby said with a smile, “and the smell of fresh baked cookies will help as well.” We all laughed at that as walked into the kitchen, watching as Mrs Boyle laid a plate of steaming hot biscuits down, as well as a mug of coffee for Mum.
“Thanks,” she said as she sat down, “and its Susan, I don’t like to stand on ceremony. What’s your name?”
“I don’t know, Mrs Holderness. Mister Bridges was...”
“Mister Bridges, God bless his soul, is old fashioned. What’s your name?”
Mrs Boyle smiled and said “Rebecca. My husband’s name is Abraham, but he prefers Abe.”
“Very well then – and I guess that is why you would prefer Saturday as your day off?”
“Indeed,” Mrs Boyle said as she gave us each a glass of milk. I know Mum wanted to be on first name terms, but I knew she would be Mrs Boyle to me and Bobby.
“These are delicious,” I said as I bit into one.
“I’m glad you like them,” Mrs Boyle said as she smiled at me. “I know you’ll need some time to get used to your new home, but if you ever want to come and help me...”
I nodded before Bobby said “Drink up sis – I want to show you round.” I finished my milk, swallowed the last of my cookie, and thanked Mrs Bridges before we went out of the kitchen, and into the dining room. As we did so, I saw the tall dining chairs, and put my hand on one, remembering when Jay Edwards and his men had us all tied to them.
For some reason, I also thought back to a few days ago, when I went with Cassie, Patty and Rachel to meet the daughter of their new neighbours. Her name was Lisa, and her dad knew my dad and Cassie’s through some business connections. We’d been invited to go for a sleepover, while at the same time her brother Charlie was going to come to our house and meet Bobby and Colin.
The last two times I’d gone to visit a friend I’d end up tied and gagged – you’d think I’d be used to it by now with Cassie as a friend – but when we sat down to eat dinner, and a gang of masked armed men burst in and took us hostage in Lisa’s home, both Cassie and I looked at each other and thought the same thing – not again!
They dragged Lisa’s dad off, tied us to the chairs while we ate, and it looked as if we had a copycat gang with us – until out of the blue Jay Edwards appeared. He actually apologised to me and Cassie, as well as Patty and Rachel, before we were all changed for bed, tied and gagged as before, and left alone in the house until the next morning.
And you want to know the most amazing thing? Patty and Rachel thought it was another game as well! I know I thought some of the first times it happened to me were games, but I’m older now. I wonder if I was that willing to accept even a year ago?
“You’re thinking about the weekend, aren’t you?”
I turned and looked at Bobby, nodding as I said “At least this time we won’t have to look for loose floorboards.”
“Yeah – want to see the rest of the house?”
When I nodded, I also sighed as I saw Bobby produce two lengths of rope from his back pocket. “The workmen are still here,” I said as I looked at the removal men carrying my bed in.
“No problem – I’ll tie your knees under your skirt, and if we move quickly they won’t see your bound wrists.”
Well, he could not say fairer than that, so I let him tie my wrists behind my back and then sat down. I had on a long sleeved blue sweatshirt and a pleated gypsy skirt that came down over my knees, so by the time he was finished the ropes were hidden under the floral material.
“One last thing,” he said as he picked up a roll of clear tape, tore a long strip off and smoothed it over my lips, before looking out of the door. “Coast is clear,” he said as he took my arm, and walked me to a door next to the dining room. Opening it, we looked into see a computer desk and filing cabinets.
“Dad’s office, off limits,” he said as he looked at me, smiling as I nodded and then standing behind me as two of the removal men came past. He then walked me past the double staircase and into the front room – the one where we had watched television and played games.
The set was still there, as was the couch, but some of the chairs from our home has also been brought in. I looked round, the room freshly painted and new curtains up against the front windows as the men walked past.
“In here,” Bobby then said as he took me through the dividing doors into the back room, and I saw for the first time the back garden through the large windows. I would have gasped in amazement – I never knew how large it was. Not as big as the lawn to the trees at Holderness Manor, but still much bigger than I had ever seen before.
“The wood is part of the grounds as well,” Bobby said as I looked at the trees. “We can explore them later. This is going to be our study room come party room – Dad’s going to set up the computer over there, and we’ll have a table to work on as well as the books. What’s more, these doors open right up, so they can watch us and make sure we get the work done.”
I nodded again as Dad looked in. “Furniture coming in here now,” he said as he looked at us, “Take Suzie through the side door and up the stairs.” Bobby nodded and led me out of another door, watching as the removal man carried a desk in before he walked me up the staircase.
I remembered from before the corridor went both ways from the top, but was surprised to see the left hand side walled off, with a locked door. “That’s where Mister and Mrs Boyle will live,” Bobby said as he walked me down the corridor, and then stopped outside two rooms. “I’m on this side, and this room is yours,” he said as he opened the door on the right and showed me in.
I recognised the room instantly – even with a coat of light green paint and my bed now in the corner. It was where Cassie and I had spent the night, tied with the rope from our chest to the old bed top...
“I know,” Bobby said quietly, “but it is your room now. Will you be all right in here?”
I nodded and looked out of the front window, where Dad and Mister Boyle were talking to the delivery men. Turning back, I looked at the rest of the room, and something struck me.
“Your books are still to come,” Bobby said as he looked at me.
“Oh, you mean the supply box,” Bobby said, and he had a smile that told me he was hiding something. “We found somewhere else to put that – come with me.”
He then showed me Mum and Dad’s room, as well as the three spare bedrooms. “Well, spare for the moment,” Bobby said as he closed the last door, “sleepovers they will be full.”
I nodded at that – Mum and Dad had already said our first weekend there, we could have some friends to stay on the Saturday and everyone would come to lunch on the Sunday. The one exception was Patty – she had to go somewhere else with her mum, but Rachel was going to come with Mister and Mrs Craig, along with Jenny and Cassie, as well as Lisa and Charlie.
“Now, do you want to see the attic?”
I nodded as he took me out of the room, and down the corridor to a door at the end. As he put his hand on the handle, however, we heard Mister Boyle say “I’m sorry, kids – you cannot go up at your father’s instructions.”
Bobby looked at him, and said “Oh yeah – they still putting the partition in.”
“I’m afraid so – it’s a lovely day, why don’t you take your sister into the garden?”
“Oh yeah,” Bobby said with a smile, “There’s something out there you need to see.”
He took me by the arm, Mister Boyle smiling as we walked past him, then walked down the stairs and through the kitchen into the back garden. “I really want to show you the forest,” Bobby said with a smile, “but I did promise Dad I would show you something first. What do you think of the garden?”
I liked it, but I really wanted to go for a walk in the woods. As I started to walk towards a gap in the trees, however, I heard Bobby say “Hey, Suzie?”
“Ysss,” I said as I turned round, wondering what he wanted.
I could see he was smiling, so I shrugged and looked up past him, into the trees as the sun shone down through the leaves, reflecting off the glass windows that sat in the...
“WHYTSSSHTHTTT,” I cried out as I saw the glass windows in the trees, and then suddenly realised there was a wooden staircase going up from the grass into the trees. I walked over to Bobby, my eyes fixed on it, and then saw the treehouse, the wood blending with the trees so that it was almost invisible.
“Want to look inside,” Bobby said as he looked at me. I must have nodded my head off in response, as he said “Follow me,” and walked up the staircase, me walking carefully behind him as he opened a trap door and went in.
I followed him up, stepping on the wooden floor as he closed the door behind us. We were in a small hall, a door leading off directly in front of me and one on each side.
“That’s a built in toilet,” Bobby said as he pointed to the door in front of me, “which of the other rooms do you wish to see first?”
I did a little Eenie Meenie Miney Mo in my head, and then indicated the door on my left. Bobby opened the door and showed me in. There was a small television set on a unit, and I could see a games console had been installed, with some of our games arranged in a row in the unit. There was also a DVD player, and I could see a cabinet of DVDs as well.
“Dad set this up last week,” Bobby said as he sat in one of the bean bags. “It’s all safe, so if we want some time by ourselves, we can come here – or with the others. Want to see the other room?”
I nodded and walked across the hallway with Bobby, coming into a large room with a carpet on the floor. I could see our supply boxes stacked up on one side, as well as some mats and folding chairs.
“This room will probably have many uses,” Bobby said quietly. I looked round, and then said “Ntteemmm.”
“Sure,” he said as he untied my wrists and removed the tape from my mouth.
“Oh... My.... Goodness,” I finally said, “This is amazing! Do you think we could even have a sleepover in here?”
“I guess we could, if you really wanted to keep the girls separate from us – but Mum and Dad would have to say yes to that as well,” Bobby said with a smile. “So, think you could get used to this?”
“Oh I may do, given time,” I said as I looked out of the window onto the grounds. “What time is it?”
Bobby looked at his watch, and said “About three – why?”
“Got time to show me some of the woods?”
He smiled and said “Sure – I’ll show you Wissenden Lake.”
“There’s a lake?”
“Not in the same way as the Manor, but there is one. Come on.” He walked out of the room and opened the trap door, allowing me to walk out first before he closed the door, and we set off to explore the woods.
After tea that night, we all sat in the front room, talking about some of the things we had found out in the woods.
“Well,” Mum said eventually, “we can’t stop you playing around in the woods, but make sure you have your mobile phone with you – and that you get back at the time we tell you to get back if at all possible. I don’t suppose there is a map of the woods anywhere, is there?”
“I think there might have been one in the boxes Bobby discovered in the attic,” Dad said, which made me look at him as something occurred to me.
“Where did you three take the girls that day,” I asked him, actually enjoying the fact he looked a little uncomfortable as he said “Well, we went for a picnic lunch, and then to the cinema, but – well, we may have had the lunch here...”
“It’s all right,” Dad said as he ruffled my hair, “I said they could, and it gave Bobby a chance to check out a few things for me. Maybe one day your beau can whisk you away like that.”
“Yeah – like that day is coming,” I said with a smile. “Listen, when the girls come on Saturday, can we go into the woods for some of the time?”
“So long as you follow the rules – and you’d better tell them to bring some wellies. It might be a bit wet on Saturday, all right?”
Well it wasn’t Saturday morning that was wet – it was Friday night, as I looked out of my bedroom window and saw the rain streaks and the parting grey clouds. I shrugged my shoulders, and went to have a shower, before pulling on a pair of blue jeans and a baggy white jumper.
Padding down the stairs in my white socks, I went into the kitchen to see that Bobby was already there, making a start on his breakfast. “Morning,” he said as Mum passed me a bowl of cereal, “Ready for a busy weekend?”
“I guess so – it’s only us today isn’t it Mum?”
“That’s right,” she said as she sat down with us. “The parents are coming tomorrow – I actually think Rachel’s parents are coming as well, so it will give us a chance to meet them.”
“So they get here after lunch?”
“Cassie’s parents are bringing some of them after lunch – Anne and Simon are coming here for lunch. Then the others will join us tomorrow. I think Colin’s coming after lunch as well, isn’t he Bobby?”
Bobby nodded and said “Yup – that’s right.” He was wearing an old green jumper and jogging pants – which suggested he had the same idea as me for later on.
“So I guess it’s smart clothes for tomorrow, and scruffy for today?”
“Correct – and we are going to take them for a little walk when they all get here. Colin’s bringing the supplies.”
“Is it all right if we go and play in the playhouse until they get here, Mum?”
“Once you have tidied your rooms and done your homework, yes you may – so eat up and get started!” We both nodded at that and started to eat a little more quickly, then headed to our rooms to tidy up.
As it was, it was nearly eleven by the time we had both finished, which is when there was a knock on the door and I saw Mrs Boyle going to open it. “Good morning,” I then heard a familiar voice say, “Is Bobby at home?”
“Hey Colin,” my brother said as he poked his head round the corner, “Come on in. Is Brian with you?”
That made me come and look out, to see Colin and Brian standing there, both wearing old jeans and t-shirts with wellies on their feet. “Leave your boots in the hallway for a moment,” Bobby said as Dad came out and greeted Colin’s father, “we can go and get a drink before we go outside.”
As Bobby took the boys into the kitchen, I saw a car pull up, and Hazel, Claire and Pippa jumped out. “Hey there,” I said as I waved at them, “Welcome to my new home!”
“Wow,” Pippa said as she came in, looking round the hallway through her glasses, “This is a big place. We can have so much fun in here.”
“You have no idea yet,” I said as Mum came out to talk to Pippa’s mother, while I pulled on a pair of wellies. “Mum, I’m going to take the girls out to the playhouse.”
Mum nodded as I led the three of them out through the back door, and up the staircase into the tree house, letting them all come up before I closed the door. Pippa was wearing a sleeveless padded jerkin over a grey hooded top and joggers, with brown wellies on. As for Hazel and Claire, they didn’t have wellies on, but they did have lace up hiking boots with thick woollen socks covering the bottoms of their jeans, as well as thick jumpers.
“Oh my,” Pippa said as I took them into the room with the supplies, “You really have traded up. When do we start calling your Lady Suzanne?”
“You don’t – just think of this as one massive play house,” I said as I looked out of the window. “This is my playground now – and yours as well.”
“All right girls – hands in the air and no funny moves.”
We turned to see Bobby and Brian standing in the doorway, scarves wrapped round their heads and pointing toy guns at us. “All right ladies,” Bobby said with his muffled voice, “Take those boots off, and lie face down on the floor.”
“What are you going to do to us,” I said as the four of us followed their orders.
“We just need to keep you out of the way until we have robbed the place,” Brian said as he looked at me, “Got any rope in the house?”
I indicated the boxes with my head, as Bobby walked over and took out four lengths, passing two to Brian and keeping two for himself. He knelt beside Pippa and crossed her hands behind her back, tying them together with one length of rope as Brian did the same to me.
“Well, it’s always fun coming to your place,” Hazel said as she winked at me, watching as Brian made sure my wrists were secured together before going over and starting to tie her up. He was definitely getting better – the rope was snug and tight – but I was already hoping Bobby had no plans to go the whole way. The fact our hands weren’t covered was a good sign, mind you...
Once we all had our wrists tied, they made us sit u and sat me and Pippa back to back, as well as Hazel and Claire. We watched as they tied our ankles tightly together, as well as our legs below our knees, before they took a long length of rope each and pulled us together at our chests.
“You’ll never get away with this, you crooks,” I called out as Bobby pulled the rope tighter around our arms, and then passed it between our bodies.
“Like you’re going to be able to stop me,” he said in reply as he rolled up one of Mum’s old scarves, tied a knot in the middle, and then pulled it into my mouth, securing it around my head. I heard Pippa grunt a little as a scarf was pulled into her mouth, and then saw the twins gagged in the same way.
“Right,” Brian said as he hit Bobby in the arm, “Let’s search for those jewels.”
The two boys left us in the room, as we started to struggle and try to get free. I turned my head to Pippa and said “snnuusststllamnn?”
She nodded and waited as I probed with my fingers, and eventually found the knot that held the rope tight around her wrists. I then started to gently pull and push at it, trying to slacken off just one tiny little bit of it in the hope Bobby had left an out for us.
And true to his word, he had, as I slowly started to unravel the cords and she felt her wrists part. “Gttt” she said as she then found the knot of the rope around my wrists, and started to untie them.
The twins were doing nothing, except trying to talk to each other through the knotted cotton scarves that Brian had used on them, and wink at us as they did so. They were having the time of their lives, as was I, as my hands came loose and we both wriggled them round the front, before starting to untie our legs.
“Lady Suzanne? Are you in here?”
“NHRRRR!” I called out as I heard Colin at the door. He ran in, looked at us and said “Thank God I have found you! Your parents have been besides themselves with worry.”
He eased the scarf out of my mouth, allowing me to say “Thank you, Inspector – now free my friends before you free us.”
“What happened to the two crooks,” Hazel said as the wet scarf hung down from her neck.
“Oh I took care of them,” he said as he released the twins form each other, then untied their wrists, before he untied Pippa from me. “Would you like to see them?”
“Oh yeah,” I said quietly, “I want to give them a piece of my mind and see them arrested.” We walked over to the other side of the tree house, once we had put our boots and wellies back on, to see Bobby and Brian playing each other at football on the games console!
“Oh hey Suzie,” Brian said as he looked at me, “How did you get free?”
“No thanks to you two,” I said as I threw a cushion at both of them. Colin just shook his head before saying “Anyway, I came to tell you all that your mum says lunch is ready.”
“Thanks Colin,” Bobby said as he stopped the game. “Come on – when the others get here, we’re going to go for a walk in the woods.”
Mum and Mrs Boyle had prepared a huge pot of homemade chicken soup for us, as well as some sandwiches, so we were all full up by the time we heard a car pulling up outside.
“I’ll get it,” I said as I ran to the front door, opening it up to see Cassie getting out of her father’s car, alongside Rachel and Lisa. Cassie was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans, the legs tucked into black Wellington boots, which she carefully took off as she walked in, and a blue jumper.
“I like what you’ve done with the place,” she said as she came in, making me laugh.
“What is it?”
“I know Bobby brought you here half term week – don’t worry. I’ll keep your secret.”
She smiled as Rachel and Lisa came in. Rachel was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and jeans, while Lisa was wearing a pair of grey tracksuit bottoms and a matching zip top with a blue padded jerkin over it. They were followed by Cassie’s dad and Charlie, Lisa’s younger brother, carrying the bags between them,
“Hello John,” Dad said as he came in, “Got a few minutes to talk business? Mister Boyle will take the bags up to the rooms the girls will sleep in tonight.”
“Of course,” Mister Craig said as I took the girls into the front room, followed by the other three. Charlie heard Bobby call to him, and made his way into the kitchen.
“Lisa and Rachel,” I said as they came in, “these are my friends Hazel, Claire and Pippa. Girls, this is Lisa Williamson, Cassie’s new neighbour and Rachel Rigg, Patty’s school friend.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Pippa said as she hugged Lisa. “So, are you one of the tie-up gang as well?”
“Well, in a way,” Lisa said as she bowed her head down, “I like being tied up, but Cassie needs to teach me how to tie someone up.”
“Which is on the agenda for the slumber part of tonight,” Cassie said with a smile, “if I can get a willing volunteer...”
“I don’t think that will be a problem,” I said as the others burst out laughing. “Anyway, welcome to Wissenden Hall. We’re going to go for a walk in the forest this afternoon – guided by the experts in this area, Bobby and Colin.”
“Oh yeah,” Rachel said as she sat down, “and will we get a choice in where we go?”
We turned to look at the doorway, to see the four boys looking at us, ropes and tapes in their hands.
“We’ll give you all ten minutes to go to the toilet and get your footwear on,” Bobby said with a smile, “and then you’re coming with us.”
“Where’s Jenny,” I whispered to Cassie as I pulled my boots on.
“She and the other girls are coming at dinner time tonight – they had something to do in town today. I guess they miss the walk.”
“All right then,” Bobby said as we gathered, “I need you to stand in an Indian line. Lisa, you take the front, and the others move in behind you.”
“I’ll go after you,” I said as I stood behind Lisa, followed by Cassie, Pippa, Clare and Hazel, with Rachel at the back. The boys then handed us each two lengths of rope, and said “Right, crossed and bound wrists behind the back, and then tied to your waist.”
We all did as we were asked, Charlie saying “Let me” to Rachel once she had bound Hazel’s wrists, and then the boys tied the waist rope of the girl in front to the belly of the one behind.
“Now,” Bobby said as he produced a roll of the special white tape, while the other three secured our legs together below our knees, leaving a little rope between them, “Lips together – this is a silent walk.”
“Talk to you all later,” Lisa said over her shoulder as she allowed Charlie to smooth the tape over her mouth, and the others took turns to gag us, before Bobby said “Right – got the supplies Colin?”
Colin held up a rucksack as Charlie stood with Brian. “Does every day you spend with the girls end up like this,” he said as Bobby took Lisa by the arm.
“Oh no – this is positively quiet,” Bobby said with a big grin as he looked at me. “Wait until they have their slumb....”
“Bobby! What did I say to you at the kitchen table?”
“Oh, yeah – sorry,” Bobby said as he followed with Charlie, Colin bringing up the rear. That was enough to tell me that, if I was going to teach Lisa a few things, I’d be better doing it earlier in the night rather than later.
While I still had a chance to do so.
That was for later however, right now we were being led through the kitchen, much to the amusement of Mum and Mrs Boyle, and out into the garden, as we were led to the side of the lawn and into the trees.
The path was a lot like the one at the manor house, except it was level rather than on a gentle slope. It was also funny seeing the sun shine down through the brown leaves, giving the ground a funny dappled look as the leaves crunched under our boots.
We’d only walked a little way when Bobby whispered “This is where we saw the men coming out of the house when we came here that weekend, to join in the big game.”
“Big game?” Charlie looked at Brian, who said “Yeah – the one they were coming to play with the girls, only they saw this bunch of criminals planning to ambush the girls, so they alerted the police.”
“Wow,” Charlie said as he let out a low whistle. I was picturing the two of them crouching there, seeing the windows all covered up, and wondering what was going on in there...
“Come on,” Bobby said as we walked on, taking small steps at the same time as much as possible. Partly it was the way our legs were tied that dictated this, but mostly it was out of a desire not to slip and bring the rest of the line down.
There was a rustling sound in front of us, as both Bobby and Colin stopped and held their hands up to indicate we needed to be quiet. Oh yeah – a line of seven semi-bound and tape gagged girls can make a lot of...
“Oooo” Rachel said as a vixen suddenly appeared to the side of the path, looking at us over her brown snout as if she was wondering what we were doing in her home. We stood stock still, watching her as she looked back over her brown back and let out a sharp, high pitched bark.
This was the cue for three little cubs to follow her out, running down the path after her as they disappeared back into the trees. It was a beautiful sight, as we watched the rustling leaves.
“Let’s go – see if you can see anything else,” Bobby said as we walked again, following the path deeper into the forest before we saw a green band around a tree where the path forked.
“The green band marks the boundary of the grounds of the hall,” Colin said as we turned down the second path, which led us back through the forest, eventually opening out on a small pond. The path divided as it went round both sides, as Bobby said “This, believe it or not, is what we’re calling Wissenden Lake.”
“Urkddng,” Hazel and Claire said as they started laughing. “Hey,” Bobby said in mock indignation, “in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that bad. Besides, you should see the frogs.”
I could, as I looked into the water. There were a few frogs swimming round in the water, while insects hovered over the water’s edge.
“No fishing though,” Charlie said as he looked into the water, “It’s too shallow right?” Bobby nodded as Brian said “So where does the water come from?”
“There’s a little stream flows through the forest and comes in there,” Colin said as he pointed to a little gap in the path. “And it flows out down there, so watch your step on the part.”
We stood there for a moment, the sunlight dancing on the water, before Bobby said “come on – I want to show you the camp fire site.”
We set off again along the path, walking until we came to another clearing. This one had some logs arranged in a circle around an open area, which had an inner circle of stones, and I could see a pile of twigs and wood was already in there.
“Brian, Charlie, release the girls from each other and get them to sit down,” Bobby said, while Colin put his rucksack down, removed some paper and put it carefully into the pile of wood, and then set fire to the paper with matches. As we sat down, we watched as the fire began to catch, and soon the wood was sending waves of warmth over to us.
“Now,” Colin said as he produced some twigs, and a bag of marshmallows, “Who’s for a toasted one?”
Well, how could we refuse such a kind offer? We all nodded as the tape was taken off our mouths, and the boys roasted some marshmallows over the burning wood, before letting us eat them off the sticks.
“Now this is a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon,” Pippa said as she looked at us, “Been fed by the boys around a fire.”
“So how did you know this was here?” Charlie said as he popped one into his own mouth.
“Colin and I used to come here until a couple of years ago for Cub and Scout weekends,” Bobby said as he winked at Cassie, “so we know the woods fairly well.”
“So was it you who had the idea for the playhouse?”
“Playhouse,” Lisa said as she looked at Bobby, “What playhouse?”
“We’ll show you on the way back,” Colin said with a smile. “I genuinely think you’ll be surprised.”
I had to stop myself from laughing out loud at that, as Brian gave me another marshmallow to chew on, the warm melted inside oozing out as I bit into the burnt crust. “Thank you,” I said, watching him blush as he said “You’re welcome.”
As we sat and ate, and talked amongst ourselves, we didn’t realise it was getting darker, until I heard Bobby’s mobile phone ringing. We all watched as he answered it, and said “Oh yeah – be right back” before looking at us.
“We need to head back before it gets too dark.” As Bobby put his phone away, I looked round and realised it had started to get dark – the warm red light was glowing in the dimness.
“No ropes between you – but stay close. Charlie, you come with me – Colin and Brian, being up the rear.” We set off in a lien along the path, not going too fast but not stopping to admire the scenery any more, until we came out onto the lawn, the lights shining out of the windows at the rear of the house.
“What on earth is that,” Lisa and Rachel said, almost in unison as they saw another pair of lights, this time in the trees to the left hand side of us. As we looked up, we saw someone appear in that light, and then heard Alicia shout down “There you are – what happened, Bobby get lost?”
“Ha ha very funny,” Bobby said as he looked up. “Jenny up there with you?”
“Yeah – Mary and Cathy as well. You’d better get into the house and cleaned up – Aunt Susan says dinner will be ready in an hour.”
Bobby nodded as we trooped round the house and in the front door, managing somehow to take our boots off while the boys untied us. “I’ll show you where you’re going to sleep,” I said as we went up the stairs, and turned right.
“This is my room,” I said as we passed my door, “Cassie, you, Lisa and Rachel get to share my room, while Pippa, Hazel and Claire get the one next to that. I guess the other girls are getting the other spare room on this side, while the boys get the one next to Mum and Dad.
“Is there going to be enough room,” Rachel said as she looked at me. “what do you think,” I said as I opened the door, and they saw the three camp beds with sleeping bags on them.
“Yeah – enough room,” Cassie said as the two younger girls went in. “You all right sleeping in there,” Cassie said as she looked at me.
“I managed before,” I said with a smile as we went in, and started to talk about my plans for that night...
Dinner was a massive pot of lamb stew with dumplings and baked potatoes, followed by bread and butter pudding – just what we all needed after an afternoon tramping through the woods.
“Right,” Mum said as she pushed her chair back and stood up, “You lot into the front room for a while.”
We all trooped in sitting down as the older girls came into the room. They were all dressed the same way – jeans, white trainers and black sweatshirts that had something printed on the back.
“Holderness Hornets,” Rachel said as she squinted at the writing through her glasses, “What are they?”
“Ah – yes – well, erm, let me put it this way,” Jenny said with a slight stammer, as she looked at Colin, as if she was asking for his help.
“Oh no,” he said as he sat back, a big grin on his face, “You can explain this one yourselves.”
“Hold on,” Charlie said as he looked at them, “I play for the U10 Hornets team. Why are you wearing their sweatshirts?”
Alicia really was blushing now, as she said “Well, we kinda sorta got dragged into...”
“And I recognise you,” Charlie continued as he pointed at Mary, “I’ve seen you with your brother at some of the games. He used to play for them didn’t he?”
“Busted,” Cathy said, as she pulled off her sweatshirt to reveal the team strip top. “We all tried out today for their new ladies team – and we got picked to take part! Games are Sundays, so it doesn’t interfere with the shop, and it means we get to play some of the other teams.”
“Oh yeah,” Bobby said with a smile, “and what do your school friends have to say about this?”
“No idea,” Alicia said as she sat back, “and not really my concern, not anymore.”
“Good,” Colin said with a smile, as Dad came in. “So you got picked? Congratulations – Anne will be very proud.”
“Oh yes – she used to play for the youth team until she was too old to join the team. That stupid rule they have about not allowing ladies teams between the ages of 11 and 16...”
“And on that note,” I said as I stood up, “I’m calling our slumber party to order. What are you four going to do?”
“Sit back, relax, eat chocolates and watch Strictly,” Mary said with a smile. “You youngsters are on your own on this one.”
“Right then – my room, twenty minutes, and bring what I asked you to with you,” I said as I went upstairs, the others following.
I was finishing buttoning up my pyjama top when Cassie and Lisa came in, talking to each other. Lisa was wearing a purple short sleeved nightdress with a picture of Winnie the Pooh on the front, while Cassie had on her green cotton pyjamas. Rachel had already come in, and was wearing a long sleeved white nightdress that buttoned up the front, as well as a pair of white bedsocks that come to the hem that covered her knees.
“I heard the others talking next door,” Cassie said as she closed the door, “they have make up with them. I brought what you asked about for tomorrow – what about your side?”
“In there,” I said pointing to the wardrobe. “I know Alicia has something for Mary and Cathy as well.
“Could you start to teach me now,” Lisa said as she looked at Cassie. “I’m a bit nervous, and I know you three better than the others.”
“Fair point – Rachel, will you be our willing volunteer?”
“You bet – do I need my hands covered?”
“Not for tonight no – Besides, I think your brother is plotting something with my brother, and we need to give them something to do.” I reached under the bed and pulled out a bag, opening it and handing a length of rope to Cassie.
“Right, Lisa, we usually start with the hands,” she said as she gave the young girl the rope. “As you know, they normally et covered first, but not this time. I want you to double over the rope, and hold the ends in one hand and the centre in the other.”
As Lisa did this, Rachel turned and crossed her wrists behind her back. “Now,” Cassie said as she stood with Lisa, “Wrap the rope around her wrists, horizontally, and then feed the ends through the centre, before pulling gently back against the rope.”
I smiled as Lisa followed Cassie’s instructions, and saw her smile as Rachel felt her arms come together. “Now, keep it taut, and wrap it round three times,” Cassie said, watching as Lisa did so. “Then tuck the ends through the top, like this, separate them and wrap them between her arms. This keeps the rope tight around her wrists, and makes it more difficult for her to move them.”
“Wow – so that’s how he keeps them tight together,” Lisa said as she tied a knot and then tucked the ends into the wrists bands. “Not bad,” Rachel said as she looked over her shoulder, and I had to agree.
“Now,” Cassie said as she took out a longer rope, ”we usually tie some rope around the waist, to lock our wrists against our back. Take the rope round, cross the ends in front of her, bring them back and tie a knot, then wrap it round and pull the band tighter between her arms and her back.”
It took Lisa a couple of attempts to get it right, as Cassie demonstrated for her and then let her do it on her own, until Rachel said “Great.”
“Right, sit on the bed, we’ll get Lisa to do your legs next.” Rachel jumped on the bed, and watched Lisa as she crossed and bound her ankles in the same way as her wrists, then folded the skirt of her nightdress back and tied her legs together, making sure she passed the rope between her legs as well.
“Not bad for a first attempt,” Cassie said with a smile as the door opened and the other three came in. “Right, which of us do you want to give you a makeover...”
“I don’t mind,” Rachel said as she looked at us, ”You decide.”
“Dangerous words,” I said as I looked at Cassie, and then picked up a red lipstick.
For the next couple of hours, we sat and talked about school, brothers and boys, Lisa telling us about some of the games she had played with Charlie as we helped each other. I had found some old bandanas that we used as hair bands, while we used powder on our faces and blusher, and then started to try out the eye liners and lipsticks that the other girls had brought.
As I looked at myself in the mirror, I knew I hadn’t done as good a job as Mummy does when she makes me ready for special days, but I still thought I looked fairly good. The light blue eye shadow matched my pyjamas, and I loved the way my lips looked really big and red with the lipstick.
Cassie had also taken care of Lisa, binding her in the same way as Rachel at her request, so that the two girls were sitting against the bed as I put a bottle on the floor.
“Truth or dare,” I said as I spun the bottle, and the open end came to a rest pointing at Lisa.
“Truth,” I said as I looked at her, “what is the longest you have been tied up?”
“Not counting that time when the men robbed us?” Lisa thought for a moment, before saying “I think it was the time Charlie persuaded Dad that Mum and I could spend the night in bed together, both tied up and gagged with tape, and then they made us both breakfast in bed the next morning.”
“Sounds fun,” Rachel said as she kicked her legs to and fro. “Wish I could get Mum and Dad to do that for me.”
“Are they coming tomorrow,” I said as Lisa kicked the bottle with her bound feet, and sent it spinning round.
“For lunch, yes – once they have been to Chapel,” Rachel said with a smile as the bottle came to a rest pointing at Pippa. “Dare,” Lisa said with a smile, “I dare you to put that sponge in your mouth and keep it there with your lips closed for five minutes.”
“No problem,” Pippa said as she did just that, and then spun the bottle, waiting until it stopped in front of Cassie. Then she said “Trf – dullkbbbeee?”
Cassie blushed – which, given her cheeks were rouged and her lips red as rubies, was quite some achievement, before she said “Yeah, of course I like Bobby – and I am so glad my darling cousin is not around to hear me say that.”
She then spun the bottle, before saying “Damn – I need to go to the toilet. Hazel, I challenge you to make sure your twin sister cannot answer the next question.”
“Hey,” Clare said as Hazel grabbed a scarf, and Cassie ran out of the room. We watched as Hazel rolled the scarf into a band, knotted it and then cleave gagged her twin sister, before saying “Right – my turn.”
We kept the game up for another fifteen minutes, before I noticed that Cassie had not returned yet. “Lisa,” I said quietly, “Can you and the other girls keep quiet for a few minutes – I’m going to go and see what’s happened to Cassie.”
“Sure,” Lisa said as she looked at me, “what’s wrong?”
“I fear the boys,” I said as I left the room, and checked the bathroom. No sign of her. Playing a hunch, I walked downstairs and looked in the front room. The television was on, and I could see the backs of the heads of the four older girls watching the film.
Had I actually gone into the room, I would have realised very quickly they were in no position to tell me where Cassie was – the boys had got to them first, and the silk scarves I would have seen around their heads hid the usual very effective muffling gags.
But, as Grandma has a habit of saying, it’s easy to be wise after the fact, so I went into the kitchen to see Mum and Dad sitting at the table. Mum took one look at me and said “Okay – next time, you let me do the makeup, all right?”
I looked at Dad, who was just shaking his head and laughing, before I said “Have you seen Cassie? She went to the toilet a while ago, but she hasn’t come back yet?”
“No I haven’t” Dad eventually said, “but the boys went upstairs a while ago.”
“Oh boy,” I said as I ran out of the kitchen and back up the staircase. Opening the door to my room, I could see Lisa was still there – and nobody else.
What’s more, Lisa now had bands of rope around her tummy, shoulders and below her chest, and she had a white scarf tied over her mouth. I looked at her as her eyes seemed to look over my shoulder, before I said “They’re behind me, aren’t they?”
“Why yes, yes we are,” I heard Bobby say as he pulled my hands behind my back, and I saw Charlie come up from the other side of the bed. “Just tell me you haven’t used the extra ropes on Pippa, Hazel or Clare,” I said as I felt my wrists being drawn together, “they’re not used to them.”
“Don’t worry, we reserved these ropes for you three,” Charlie said with a smile as I saw the rope going round my waist.
“So where are they,” I said as I felt my wrists pressing against my back. “The attic’s out of bounds, after all.”
“You’ll see soon enough,” Bobby said as my arms were pulled into my side, the rope pressing against my tummy as he did so, and then around my shoulders. “Now then, will you walk quietly or not?”
“Not,” I said as I stuck my tongue out, so Bobby held a folded cloth in front of my mouth, smiling as I allowed him to push it in and then pull a folded scarf between my teeth. I then heard the squelching pulling sound as he wrapped the white tape around my head, before tying a folded grey scarf over the band.
Charlie helped his sister to stand up, and then she jumped out of the room ahead of us, Bobby holding my arm as we went into the other bedroom. Rachel and Cassie were lying on the bed, hogtied as they looked at us, while Clare, Hazel and Pippa were sitting back to back on the floor. They had their arms linked, and then their wrists tied together in front of them, the rope going down to their knees where it joined the band below their knees, and another band holding their ankles together.
All of them had the scarf over their mouths, and were wriggling round, but they were smiling with their eyes as Lisa and I were sat on the floor opposite the others, and I watched Bobby tying my legs together.
“Now then,” Colin said as he looked at us, “We need to find your treasures. Naturally, you would not tell us without some persuasion.”
“Snshrlly,” Cassie said as she looked at him.
“So,” Brian said as he sat on the floor and looked at Clare, “We’ll just have to torture your friends to find out where you keep the strongroom key.”
“HnnuddntntnnngggAAAAAAA” Clare screamed out as Brian started to tickle her feet, and then Colin started to tickle Hazel’s. Well, I wasn’t going to say a word, so we watched as they tickled all three of them.
“No good,” Bobby said as he and Charlie walked over to the bed, “I guess we’ll have to deal with these two instead.”
“Hnudnt,” Cassie said as she tried to squirm out of the way, but it was no good – Bobby started to tickle the soles of her feet while Charlie tickled Rachel’s sides.
Of course, this was going to mean war at some point, but there wasn’t a lot we could do about it at this point in time, so we just had to contend ourselves with laughing like mad as all of us were tickled in turn.
The fun was only interrupted by a knock on the door, and Mum saying “All right you lot – it’s nearly eleven o’clock. Dad is taking care of the older girls, but you need to let them go now and get to your beds.”
“All right Mum,” Bobby said as one by one we were untied, and the gags removed, and then we said good night to each other before we went to our beds.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself today,” Lisa said as she looked at me from the camp bed, “Thanks for letting me stay overnight.”
“Hey, it’s my pleasure,” I said as I heard the older girls come up the stairs, “We’ll have some fun tomorrow morning as well.” I lay back in the bed and allowed myself to drift off to sleep, knowing what lay ahead...
“Good morning sleepy head.”
I opened my eyes to see Cassie standing next to the bed.
“What time is it,” I said as I rubbed my eyes.
“Half past eight – your mum wants us downstairs for breakfast now, and then we need to get dressed for the day.”
I nodded and got up, and then pulled my dressing gown on before I headed downstairs. The dining room was busy, with all the girls getting bowls of cereal and then sitting down to eat them.
“Where are the boys?” I said as I looked round.
“Not here yet,” Mum said as she and Mrs Bridges brought in a pile of hot toast and some butter. “So eat up and enjoy the peace.”
I intended to – I had big plans for all the girls that day, and we would need to dress first...
“So what happened to you lot last night,” I said as I looked at Alicia and the three older girls. “I thought you were watching a film.”
“We were,” Jenny said with a grin. “What we didn’t expect was your dad to make sure we all stayed in the same room.”
“Yeah – binding our ankles to each other, and our legs,” Mary said as she winked at Cathy, “and then our wrists in front of us, with tape and cloth for our gags. We were able to watch the film in peace.”
“So,” I then said as I looked at Alicia, “You’re all ready to play your part this morning?”
“You still haven’t told us what we’re going to be doing,” Hazel said as she ate a spoonful of Cheerios.
“Oh that’s easy – the Junior Sleuths of Holderness will be having their monthly meeting this morning, and there will be – trouble.”
“So do we get to dress up?”
“We sure do,” Cassie said, “Your outfits are upstairs – once you have all finished your breakfast.”
“Just remember two things,” Mum said. “Play upstairs or in the playhouse, and keep the clothes clean for lunch – we do have guests afterwards, after all.”
“All right Mum,” I said as I finished my breakfast, “Girls, if you get changed we’ll meet in the front room at ten thirty.” I went up to my room and grabbed my towel, making sure the clothes for the four of us were laid out on the bed first.
When I came back in, Rachel and Lisa were heading for one of the bathrooms, while Cassie was waiting for them to return. “Nice outfit,” she said as she looked at mine.
“Thanks,” I said as I put on clean underwear, and then pulled the pink poodle skirt up, fastening it around my waist with a blue belt that had a heart shaped buckle. The skirt went way down over my knees, as I put on top a round necked top with a floral print, and then pulled on my blue socks and sneakers. A pair of pink gloves completed the outfit.
As Lisa and Rachel came in, Cassie headed to get washed. Rachel looked at the blue dress, and said “Wow – this is a real classic.” It had a white collar and cuffs on the short sleeves, and the skirt came to just below her knees. As she put it on, and I fastened the back, she also noticed the red bow tie at the front.
I loaned her a pair of white socks, black shoes and white gloves, while Lisa was looking at her outfit. “I’ve never worn anything like this,” she said as she put on the white short sleeved blouse, and the knee length red skirt, with black shoes and white gloves as well.
“That’s part of the fun – dressing up and pretending to be a young girl in the fifties,” Cassie said as she came back in. She then looked at her outfit and said “Different.”
“But it will look good on you – I picked it especially,” I said as she pulled the grey jersey on, and then the mustard coloured knee length skirt. It had a flowing cut, and a black zigzag pattern at the hem and pockets. What made it look really cute was the mustard coloured scarf that she pulled on, tying the ends under her chin, before putting on her shoes and gloves.
“Right,” I said as I opened the door, “Shall we join the others for the meeting?”
“Where on earth did you get the idea for this meeting,” Lisa said to me as we walked down the stairs.
“Oh, Bobby showed me some stories he had found about a group called the Snowden Snoops – girls the same age of us who get into trouble. Somehow it seemed appropriate.”
As we went into the front room, Pippa was waiting. She was wearing a brightly patterned brocade waistcoat over a round necked white top with long sleeves, a long blue skirt, pink socks and sneakers, with a pink ribbon holding her hair up.
“Where are Hazel and Clare,” Cassie said as she came in.
“Deciding who gets to wear which outfit – here they are now,” she said as we heard the footsteps behind us.
“Good morning ladies,” Hazel said as she walked in, her gloved hand raised, “So sorry we are late.”
“Indeed,” Clare said as she followed, “Our maid was so tardy.” I groaned and rolled my eyes as I realised they had got into character.
Hazel was wearing a short sleeved red checked dress, the skirt flowing to just below her knees. The dress had a red collar tied in a bow, and cuffs, with a belt around the middle. A red ribbon was tied in her hair, and she had on black shoes and white gloves.
Clare was wearing a white skirt of the same length, with an abstract pattern on it, and a short sleeved white blouse. A wide red elastic belt was around her waist, and like the rest of us she had on white gloves and black shoes.
“All right then,” I said as we all sat down, “I call this meeting of the Holderness Sleuths to order. Hazel, Clare, how goes the case of the Bedazzled Bride?”
“Cousin Clara is in the clear,” Hazel said with a high pitched and posh voice. “Turned out it was the flower arranger all the time.”
“Good – I hope they got off for their honeymoon?”
Clare and Hazel both nodded, as I turned to look at Cassie. “What about the problem your aunt was having with the bank manager?”
“The attempted blackmail – all...” I stopped as I looked up and Jenny came in, carrying a tray of drinks and biscuits. She had on a yellow dress, with a knee length poodle skirt adorned with two black dogs, a panel on her tummy and dungaree straps that went over the shoulders of her white round collared blouse. A pair of black heels and white gloves competed her outfit.
“I figured your girls would be thirsty,” she said as she laid the tray down, “Cass, I need a word with you when you have a chance.”
“All right, Mum,” Cassie said as she winked at Jenny, who just smiled as she walked off. “Mother,” Rachel mouthed at Cassie, who smiled as she said “Will you excuse me one moment?” She stood up and walked out of the room, as we continued our discussion.
We were interrupted a few minutes later by Alicia, who came in with Bobby. Bobby was wearing a shirt and chinos, but Alicia had on a red coat dress with a black check on it. It had a white collar and a black lace bow, and buttons down the front in two lines as well as on the cuffs at her elbows. A red scarf was tied over her hair.
“Oh forgive me,” she said as she looked at us, “My son and I were looking for your mother Suzanne. Is she at home?”
“I believe she is in the kitchen with Suzanne’s mum,” I said, wondering what Bobby was up to with my cousin. “Thank you very much,” she said as she left us, and we kept talking.
It was only after a while I realised that Cassie had not come back. “Where has she gone,” I said as I looked round, the others doing likewise.
“She can’t have gone too far,” Pippa said as she stood up. “Suzanne, you come with me. Lisa and Rachel, you check the other rooms, Hazel and Clare you look upstairs.”
“Right,” we said as we split up, and made our way to the different rooms. As Pippa and I walked into the kitchen, we saw Cathy and Mary standing there, preparing vegetable sticks.
Mary had on a red checked short sleeved dress, with a white collar and string bow. Her white gloves were on the side, as were Cathy’s. She was wearing a red and brown dogtooth pattern gymslip dress over a white blouse, the sleeves coming to her elbows.
“I’m sorry I was looking for Cassandra,” I said as I looked at them.
“I think her mother took her for a ride into town,” Cathy said without looking up.
“She would not have left without telling us.”
“It was a snap decision,” Mary said as she did look up, “Don’t worry, I’m sure she will be back soon.”
We both looked at them, before quietly leaving the room. “They would not have left without telling us,” Pippa said as we looked along the hallway. “So what’s going on?”
“No idea,” I said quietly, “but I intend to find out. Come on – let’s find the others.”
We went back into the front room, finding it empty as we expected, and there was nobody in the library. As we walked out, however, we caught sight of two pairs of black shoes disappearing on somebody’s shoulder into the kitchen.
“Let’s check upstairs,” I said as I pointed Pippa to the stairs. We walked slowly up, passing Mister Boyle who was walking down in a suit, shirt and tie, and started to check the bedrooms.
Ours were empty – but the ones the older girls were using most certainly was not. Jenny was lying on the bed, staring at us over a white scarf which was tied tightly over her mouth and around her head. Her arms were tied above her to the headboard and her ankles tied apart to the foot of the bed.
“WHRESSMDHTR!” she screamed at us as I ran over and eased the cloth off from her mouth, Pippa helping to remove the folded napkin that sat under it.
“Where’s Cassandra,” Jenny said as she looked at us. “Two men grabbed us before we could leave the house, and one of them dragged me up here and tied me to the bed.”
“We don’t know,” Pippa said quietly, “We thought you had gone out. At least, that’s what the two women in the kitchen said.
“Women? What women?”
“The two.... We’d better untie you.”
We quickly released Jenny and ran down to the kitchen - only to see the two women had gone.
Hazel and Clare had not, however – they were tied to two of the kitchen chairs, screaming at us through the thick cloth gags that filled their mouths. “What happened,” Pippa said as she ungagged Clare.
“They got the others – they said if we don’t pay the ransom in the next hour, they won’t be coming home!”
“They? Who are they?”
Clare looked at Jenny and said “The two women who were in here – when we came in, they grabbed us and tied us to the chairs. They then left, but they said unless Mrs Craig delivers the ransom to the Summer House within an hour, they would all disappear.”
I then realised it must have been Rachel I saw been carried out earlier, so I said “What’s the ransom?”
“Two bags of potato crisps and eight cans of Coke.”
“We’ve got to pay the ransom,” Jenny said with a sigh, “but it seems so unusual.”
“We’ll deliver it – but we’re going to rescue the girls as well. Mrs Craig, you put the items in a bag – we’ll take it to the Summer House, but we need you to do something for us.”
Twenty minutes later, Pippa and I were walking to the playhouse, carrying a bag between us. As we approached the bottom of the stairs, we saw Mary standing at the top of the stairs, smiling down at us from the other side of the hatch.
“Do you have the ransom?”
I raised the bag up, and said “Where are the others?”
“Come and see,” she said as she stood to one side, watching us as we walked up and then closing the hatch behind us. She indicated the door to the left, and as we walked in we found the others sitting there, waiting for our arrival.
Cassie, Lisa and Rachel had white silk scarves tied over their mouths, but it was obvious there was more under there from the way their cheeks bulged. Their ankles were tied together side by side in front of them, and I guessed their legs were tied together under their skirts – given the four bands of rope that held their arms to their sides at their waists, tummies and chest.
Alicia and Cathy were standing by the window, their arms folded as they looked at us. “I’m guessing you found her mother,” Alicia said as she looked at Cassie, “We had to make sure she could not stop us borrowing her darling daughter.”
“Well, here’s the ransom,” I said as I put the bag down, “now let them go.”
“Oh, but that’s only part of our plan,” Alicia said with a smile. “Boys?”
I heard the door opening behind me, and turning I saw Bobby, Charlie, Brian and Colin come in, holding coils of rope and grinning from ear to ear.
“I might have known your son had something to do with this,” I said as I looked at Alicia, “I should have recognised you from the start. You’re Ali Bain, the woman responsible for more robberies than anyone else in the area.”
Alicia smiled and said “My son is such a good assistant. But now we have the rest of you little interfering brats here, we can start to empty Wissenden Hall of all the treasures therein. Tie them up, boys.”
“With pleasure, mother,” Bobby said as he and Charlie started to bind my arms behind my back, while Colin and Brian moved Pippa’s arms behind her back and started to tie them together.
“You know you’ll never get away with this,” I said as my arms were bound more and more tightly to my sides.
“Oh I think we will – by the time anyone discovers what we have been up to, it will be too late.”
Pippa and I were made to sit on the floor, watching as the boys tied our ankles together, and then our legs below our knees. I’d already resolved not to tell Mum about the extra rope under my chest that Bobby had tied, but my god was it frustratingly nice! I didn’t even notice as Charlie folded my skirt back, tied my legs together below my knees, and then folded the skirt back.
“Open wide,” Bobby said, and I allowed him to push the sponge into my mouth, then the knotted strip of towelling, before Charlie wrapped the tape around my head. I could see Pippa was getting the same treatment, before a folded silk scarf was tied over our mouths.
“Right then,” Bobby said as he stood up, “We’ll go and start emptying the place. Will you three be all right in here, Mother?”
“Oh yes,” Alicia said with a smile, “I think the three of us can keep an eye on five little snoops. Just make sure her mum and the other two are secured again.”
“Got it,” Bobby said as the boys left, Alicia adjusting the gloves on her hands. “Ladies,” she then said to Mary and Cathy, “Shall we go into the next room? I shall prepare some tea.”
“Delightful,” Cathy said as the three of them went to the other room, leaving us alone. I looked at Cassie, and said “Urmsmsmffn.”
“Gd,” Cassie said as she wriggled her arms round, and I could see the usual look of confusion in her eyes – never mind those of Lisa and Pippa. Rachel was humming away quietly to herself, as I pushed myself up against the wall, and then jumped over to the window.
“Whtrrulkngfr,” Lisa said as she wriggled onto her own feet.
“Bkp,” I mumbled as I saw two familiar faces coming slowly across the lawn, and then heading to the staircase.
A few moments later, the door slowly opened and I saw Hazel and Clare peep round the corner, smiling at the five of us.
“Comfy,” Hazel said as she looked at me.
“Vrrmsh, bnts,” I said as I turned my back to her, while Clare walked over to Lisa. It took a few minutes for them to take care of the knots, but eventually I was able to remove my gag, and say “Nice one girls – you waited just the right amount of time.”
“Well, we’ve had plenty of practice,” Clare said as she peeled the tape away from Lisa’s mouth. “Keep the voice down – we know the other three women are in the next room.”
“Where’s Mum,” Cassie said as she stood up.
“Safe,” I replied, “I asked her to go and call the police as soon as we came into the summer house. Now, how about we pay a little visit next door and secure the other three members of the gang?”
All the others nodded at the idea, grabbing the ropes as I opened the door to the connecting corridor. We could hear all three of them laughing, as I slowly opened the other door and looked in. They had their backs to us, watching some old comedy film on DVD.
Opening the door fully, I waved the girls in. Cassie and Rachel stood behind Alicia, Lisa and Pippa behind Mary, and Hazel and Clare went behind Cathy.
We waited a few moments, then I shouted “NOW!” Alicia turned her head as her arms were pulled behind her back, and said “Very clever – I knew I should have had these two brought over as well.”
“Hindsight is a great teacher,” I said as I watched the girls start to bind our three captors. “It’s taught me a lot about how to make sure the bad guys – or women – don’t escape either. Make sure they cannot move their arms, girls – we want them to be comfortable as well.”
“You said they would be no trouble,” Mary said in mock horror as Lisa helped Pippa to bind her arms to her side, as I had shown her the previous day, “you said they were a bunch of kids.”
“Yeah well, I was wrong,” Alicia said as Cassie and Rachel passed the rope around her upper arms. We had decided not to tie the rope below their chests, in case we were interrupted, but they didn’t seem to mind.
“The ransom is still here,” Pippa said as she looked at the bag on the floor.
“Well, let’s get these three beauties secured,” I said as the girls made all three of them lie on the rug, face down, before tying their ankles and their legs, then putting them in a hogtie, their feet up in the air as they wriggled their gloved fingers.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking,” Lisa said as she looked at Cassie.
“Actually, I am – what do the rest of you think?”
“Gags first,” I said as I pushed a sponge into Alicia’s mouth, and then wrapped the white tape around her mouth. I watched the others gagging Mary and Cathy, before I slipped the heels off Alicia’s feet.
“Hnuddntntnnnnneeeeee” Alicia said as I started to tickle her feet, watching her wriggle round as the others got the hint, and then started to tickle the three older girls, making them giggle out loud as they wriggled on the floor.
Cassie and I backed off a little, opening the bag and taking a can of Coke each as we watched them tickling their captives.
“Great morning, Cassie,” I said as I opened the can.
“I thought so,” Cassie said with a smile as she started to drink her can.
We both turned to see Jenny standing in the doorway, her arms folded.
“Well, it was fun,” I said with a smile.
“Mum and Dad are here,” Jenny said as she looked at me, “and they want to see you and Rachel. You go ahead, and I’ll catch you up.”
“I’ll come with you,” I said as I stood up, and followed Cassie and Rachel down the stairs, across the lawn and into the front room. As we went in, I saw that Mister and Mrs Craig were not the only ones who had arrived.
“Hello Suzie,” Connie Brown said as she stood up, her husband beside her, “Have you seen your brother?”
“He’s around somewhere,” Mum said when she came in, “Why?”
“I found something out for him,” she said as the doorbell rang. “I’ll get that,” I heard Dad say as he walked past the door.
“You must be Rachel’s parents – come in, come in.”
Rachel turned and looked to the door as a young couple, younger than Mum and Dad, came in. The woman was as tall as Mummy, with long curly brown hair that fell over the shoulders of her short sleeved blue coat dress, while the man had on a suit, white shirt and tie. He had a funny beard that covered his chin but not his cheeks.
“Hi Mummy, Daddy,” she said as she ran over and hugged them, “Thanks for letting me stay last night.”
“My goodness, Rachel,” her mother said as she looked at her, “Where did you get such an old set of clothes?”
“The girls have been playing dress up with some of my mother’s old clothes,” Dad said as he came in, “This is my wife Susan, and I believe you know John and Jennifer Craig. Susan, this is Diane and Clive Rigg, Rachel’s parents.”
“Good to see you again, Diane,” Cassie’s mum said as she stood up and walked over. “I’m so glad you were able to join all of us for lunch.”
“Well, we felt it was about time we met the parents of the rest of her friends,” Mrs Rigg said, “but I understand Patricia is not here?”
“No – she and her mother had to be somewhere else. May I introduce John’s sister, Connie, and her husband Dave?”
“Pleasure,” Mister Rigg said as he shook Mister Brown’s hand, and then looked again at Rachel. “Rachel, what are those marks on your arms?”
“Oh we’ve all been playing a game,” Rachel said with a smile. “All of us have.”
“A game?” Mrs Rigg looked at Mum, who said “Jennifer, perhaps you and I could have a word with Rachel’s parents in the kitchen. Xander, your mother and father will be arriving soon. Perhaps you can hurry along the rest of the girls?”
“Did I say something wrong,” Rachel said to her dad as the three mums walked off, Jennifer saying “You must see how big the twins are getting...”
“No – I just think we need to have something we’ve been talking about confirmed,” he said as he followed them out, Mister Craig and Mister Brown watching.
“Hey, Mrs Brown,” Bobby said as he came in with Colin, “Thanks for coming for lunch today.”
“Just the boy I want to see,” she said as she picked up her large bag, and took out a cloth wrapped around something. Laying it on the coffee table, she unwrapped a small coat of arms, which had been cleaned up.
“Wow, who did that,” Bobby said as he sat down.
“Helps if you know some people,” Mrs Brown said with a smile. “I got it cleaned, and then did a little research in London. This is the coat of arms of the Wissen family, who apparently built this hall in the early 18th century.”
“So the name of Wissenden...”
“Basically means the Wissen home, yes. The family line died out in the late 18th century, at which point it passed through several hands. And now it’s your home.”
“Wow,” Colin whispered, “so this needs to go over the doorway, right?”
“That would be the tradition, yes – but that is up to your mother and father. Ah – how is the talk going, Alexander?”
“Rachel,” Dad said as he came in, “Would you go and join your parents in the kitchen please?” I could see the worried look on his face, before he said “It’s all right you’re not in any trouble.”
As she went out of the room, Alexander looked at us and said “We felt it was time her mum and dad were told about the games – better they hear it from us, especially as they saw the bruises on her arms. You boys didn’t...”
“No Dad,” Bobby said quickly, “We did not, it wasn’t us who tied up Rachel.”
Dad looked at him, then said “Good.” The doorbell went again, and he left us for a few minutes. I heard him say “Mark! Yvonne! Welcome. The kids are out in the playhouse – come and join the others.”
A few minutes later, Lisa and Charlie’s parents came in, smiling as Cassie said “Hello, Mr and Mrs Williamson – would you like me to fetch Charlie and Lisa?”
“No hurry, Cassie,” Mr Williamson said as he and Mr Craig embraced. “So this is Wissenden Hall – how does it feel to be back here?”
“Strange – but I think they are going to make a home of it,” he said as Dad took his wife’s coat. “First time here for you, isn’t it?”
“It is,” he said as he smiled at the two of us, “I have to say, from what I heard of the state of the place, it...” He stopped talking for a moment as Lisa and Charlie came in.
“Hi Mum and Dad,” Lisa said as she looked at them, “What do you think of the outfit?” She did a little twirl and then stood there, smiling with her hands together in front of her.
“It’s – different,” her mother said as she looked at her. “Are all of you girls dressed in this way?”
Lisa nodded as Charlie said “Yup – they’ve been junior snoops all day, and...”
“You can tell your parents all about it later,” Mum said as she came in, “Right now, you need to go and wash up for lunch. Hurry up now – we’ve got a buffet set up in the dining room.”
“Ah good – we arrived in time then.”
“Hello Lucinda,” Mum said as I saw Grandmother and Grandfather standing in the hallway, Mr Boyle holding their coats. She was in her usual twinset and skirt, while Grandfather had a pair of casual trousers, a blazer and shirt on.
“Mark, Yvonne, you know my mother and father of course,” Dad said as Rachel came back into the room, “and this is Rachel’s parents, Diane and Clive Rigg.”
“A pleasure to meet you both,” Grandfather said as he shook their hands. “Your daughter has become a firm friend of our grandchildren.”
“We were just explaining about their games,” Mum said, and Grandmother looked carefully at both Mister and Mrs Rigg.
“We did wonder,” Rachel’s mother finally said, “but we have been reassured nothing bad happens, and Rachel says she enjoys playing them. So long as it is only a game, and in private, then we can allow it.”
“Thanks, Mum and Dad,” Rachel said as she beamed at us. “Wait until I tell Patty about what has happened here...”
“Lunch is served,” Mister Boyle said as he appeared at the doorway, prompting Dad to say “Good – girls, wash your hands and join us.”
We went to the bathroom, returning with our gloves neatly put away to the dining room to find a long table laid out with the buffet. Lisa and Charlie were sitting with their mother and father, while the older girls were sitting with Bobby and Colin in a corner.
“Suzanne, Cassandra, will you join us with Rachel,” her mother said as she saw us come in. We looked at each other before nodding, collecting a plate from Mrs Boyle and putting some food on it before we walked over.
“We need to ask you something,” Mrs Rigg said as we sat at the table. “We understand why Rachel may not have felt she could tell us the games you play, but can you reassure us that they were just games?”
“They were just games, Mrs Rigg,” I said quietly, but I also glanced sideways at Cassie, who was nodding as well. “No danger of any of us really being in danger.”
“You must forgive our concern,” Mister Rigg said, “but Rachel is very precious to us, and we do not want her to be hurt in any way. The marks on her arms...”
“Normally we wear something over our arms – today we forgot, but they do fade very quickly.”
I nodded as Cassie said this, but something told me they had one more question. “Rachel, would you please fetch me a glass of lemonade,” her mother said, and we all watched as Rachel walked off.
“We know what really happened,” her father said quietly while she was out of earshot, “and we wanted to say thank you. You really are two very brave young ladies.”
“We’re sorry if you think we lied to you, but...”
“Please,” her mother said with a smile, “You did what you had to do. Ah thank you dear.” She took the glass from Rachel and smiled as she sat down.
“Hey trouble – nice scarf.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t make use of it,” Cassie said to Bobby as I made my excuses and walked over to where Mum and Dad were talking to Mister and Mrs Williamson.
“Yeah – I suppose I owe that Jay Edwards character a favour, but I would not want anyone to go through that experience,” I heard him say as I came over. “Hello Suzie – I was just explaining to Mark and Yvonne how much we’re beginning to like the place.”
“Oh yes,” I said with a smile, “I really like it – especially the playhouse.”
“I’ll show you later,” Dad said with a smile. Mister Williamson winked at me as I went over to join Colin and Brian.
“I just realised,” Colin said as he looked at me, “It’s yours and Cassie’s birthday at the end of the month, isn’t it?”
“Yeah it is – I think it’s going to be a quiet year this year anyway, not like last year.” I sipped my glass of lemonade, and said “Where have Jenny and Alicia gone?”
“They’re helping your mother and Mrs Boyle,” Brian said as he watched Alicia pass with a plate of food. She stopped to allow the Riggs to get some off, and then moved on.
Mrs Brown and Mrs Craig were sitting with a trio of high chairs, the three babies sitting in them and gurgling away happily. Suddenly Mrs Craig stopped and looked at Mrs Brown, eyes wide open and staring at her.
Mrs Brown simply nodded, as I wondered what was going on. “Mum,” I said as I looked at her, “Have you any idea why Mrs Craig would be so excited.”
Mum looked at them, as they embraced, shook her head and said “I think next summer is going to be a very interesting time for them.” I had no idea what was meant by that, but I could see Jenny had seen that, and was walking over to them.
I went over to join Dad, who was standing with Mister Boyle.
“Would you strongly object if this went over the front of the door,” he said as he showed me the old shield. I shook my head, and as Mister Boyle walked off he said “Find Cassie for me please, and join me and Grandmother in the library.”
I went off to find Cassie, who was sitting in the corner with Bobby, and took her gloved hand as I walked her into the library. Grandmother was waiting there for me.
“Ah, there you are,” she said as Dad closed the door. “I have been asked to see if the two of you would be willing to take part in a special event next month.”
“A special event? What is it,” I asked as Cassie and I sat down.
“Sarah and Brian, our American friends, are going to get married at Holderness Manor in the middle of January – and they have asked if the two of you would be willing to act as flower girls for the event.”
We looked at each other, and then Suzie said “So, like bridesmaids?”
“In a way – this is a more American custom, and a lot of your friends from New England will be flying over for the ceremony. In fact, Heidi, Natalie and Cindy will be bridesmaids, as will Angela, Alicia and Jenny.”
“You’ve asked them already?”
“Not yet – I will talk to them next, so say nothing, But will you take on this important role?”
“Of course we will, Your Ladyship,” Cassie said, and then added “Will Bobby be the ring bearer?”
“No – but don’t tell him that yet,” Grandmother said with a smile. “Now, on you go.”
We went out of the room, meeting Alicia and Jenny on the way in. “Any idea why Grandma wants to see us,” Alicia said as she adjusted her gloves.
“She’ll tell you,” I said as we spotted Charlie and Bobby, hiding round the corner from Rachel and Lisa...
“Don’t bother,” Cassie said to Bobby as she passed him, “Lisa is talking to her parents.” I laughed at the disappointed look in Bobby’s face as we went back into the room.
“Mum,” Cassie said as we walked over to her parents, “I’m going to be a flower girl!”
“I know, and I’m very proud of you for saying yes,” Mrs Craig said as Rachel sat with her parents.
“Can I ask you something?”
“You called Rachel’s mum Diane, but I’ve heard you call her Kerry before. Why?”
“Ah – yeah. Well, Rachel’s mother’s full name is Diane Cerys Rigg – she grew up in Wales. She likes her friends to call her Kerry – but when I spoke to her the other day, she asked me to be a little more formal. Truth to tell, she’s a little in awe of your grandparents, Suzie.”
I had to laugh at that – how could anyone be in awe of Grandma and Grandpa?
“And what were you and Aunt Connie talking about earlier? You seemed very happy about something?”
“Hmmm – oh we’ll tell you later. Right now, I think your friends need to talk to you.”
We both looked over to see Pippa and Rachel waving at us. “See you later,”
We both skipped off to join them, Rachel saying “come out to the playhouse.” As we ran out onto the grass and climbed the stairs, Lisa, Hazel and Clare were waiting in the larger of the two rooms.
“We needed to get out of there, leave the grown-ups to their talk,” Lisa said as we closed the door behind us. “Are we going to be disturbed?”
“I don’t think so – I saw Bobby and Colin being taken somewhere by Granddad, and the four older girls were going off to have a chat on their own. As for the grown-ups, Mum and Dad are talking to them.”
“Good,” Lisa said as she looked at Cassie, “because I think we need to play a game with just the seven of us.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“You don’t happen to have a Monopoly board up here, do you?”
“Sure,” I said as I went into the other room, coming back a few minutes later with the Monopoly set, “but only six can play.”
“That’s all right,” Lisa said as she took the box, “I’ll be the banker. We’re going to play a game of Speed Monopoly – with a twist.”
“And that twist is?”
“As each player drops out, they get bound and gagged, so that they cannot take part anymore.”
“Intriguing,” Pippa said as I laid out the board, “Who usually wins at your house?”
“Dad – not surprisingly,” Lisa said with a smile as she shuffled the property cards, and dealt three to each of us. “Right – pay for the properties now, and Rachel goes first.”
We settled down and started to play. The funny thing about Monopoly – I’ve played it many times, with my family as well as Cassie and others – and one thing always seems to hold true.
I end up with the best and worst – they had dealt me Old Kent Road and Mayfair, as well as a station. Still, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade – and a few rounds later, I had Park Lane in my possession as well.
It wasn’t long before Cassie was bankrupted, and as she paid her last fines she said “All right – keep me out of the game now.”
“Show me what you’ve learned,” I said as I looked at Lisa. “All right,” she said, “But let’s go all out.”
“Look in there,” I said as I looked to a chest at the side of the room. Lisa got up and looked in, taking out two sponge balls, a pair of sports socks and a roll of silver tape, before saying “You know the drill Cassie – hold these.”
“Gotcha,” Cassie said as she hold the sponges, while Lisa wrapped the silver tape around her fists. Covering her hands in the socks, she then taped the tops to her arms.
“Oh yeah – so Cassie can’t use her fingers to rip the socks. Neat trick.”
I nodded in agreement to Pippa’s comment as we started to tie Cassie up, me working on her legs while Lisa tied her wrists behind her back, and then to her waist. I then helped her to tie her arms to her sides across her stomach as the others watched.
“I want the extra rope.”
Lisa and I looked at each other, and then I said “Are you sure? Mum isn’t here...”
“Oh come on, we’re all friends here – and none of the boys are around.”
Lisa nodded and said “I’ll do it,” passing the rope around Cassie’s arms below her chest and pulling it tight, while I took care of her arms around her shoulders. “That’s good,” Cassie said as she wriggled round, and I saw the grin on her lips.
“We need to cover that up,” Lisa said as she folded a cloth, and held it in front of Cassie’s mouth, “open wide now.”
“All right, you fiend,” Cassie said with a laugh, before she allowed Lisa to push the cloth into her mouth, and then tied a length of towelling between her lips. “What can we use for tape,” she said as she looked at me.
I adjusted the scarf on Cassie’s head so that it covered her hair at the back of her neck, and then wrapped the silver tape around her head. “So long as something covers the hair, we can use duct tape,” I said as I tore the tape from the roll and smoothed it down. “Now, whose turn was it?”
“Ffnfnktwsrshl,” Cassie mumbled as she wriggled round, so Rachel picked up the dice and threw them again.
Soon she was next to Cassie, grinning under her tape with a blue scarf tied over her hair. She had fallen victim to Pippa’s death corner at the No Parking square.
One by one the girls fell by the wayside, until it was me and Clare, with Lisa watching our every move. We both had properties, we both had hotels on some, and a reasonable amount of money – it was a question of who ran out first.
So I was most pleased when Clare landed on Mayfair.
With a hotel.
And with insufficient funds to pay the rent.
“Ah well,” she said as she accepted the sponges, “Well played, Your Ladyship.”
“Wrong person,” I said as I winked at Cassie, “but let’s make you comfy – and then I can claim the victor’s spoils.”
“Oh,” Lisa said as she looked at me, “and what’s that?”
Lisa looked at me with angry eyes, but I could see the smile under the band of duct tape as I wrapped it round her head. All six of them were now tied and gagged in the same way, with scarves over their hair to protect it, and were wriggling their feet in front of me.
“Rachel? Where are you?”
I turned at the sound of Mrs Rigg, and walked to the door. Mum, Rachel’s mum and Cassie’s mum were on the other side. “Sorry to interrupt your game,” Mum said, “but Rachel’s parents are about to go, and they wanted to know if Rachel wanted to go with them.”
“Errr – she’s a little tied up at the moment,” I said with a sheepish grin.
“May I see,” Mrs Rigg said, so I opened the door and let all three mothers in. Mrs Rigg looked at her, her hand to her mouth as she said “Oh my – are you all right like that Rachel?”
Mum and Mrs Craig were looking at something else, then at me. “Suzie?”
“All our work, Mum – the boys are nowhere around.”
“Mllrrtmmm – cnesttltlwhllngr?”
“It was strange enough when that man robbed us,” Mrs Rigg said, “and yet, I can see she’s not upset. I guess when you are with friends, it is easier to deal with.”
“I told you Kerry,” Mrs Craig said with a smile, “we make sure nothing bad happens as much as possible. You have nothing to fear.”
I saw a smile on the face of Mrs Riggs as she stood up. “If I let her stay, can you bring her back with you?”
“Of course,” Cassie’s mum said, “We’ll drop her off on the way home.”
“I’ll see you later then, Rach,” her mum said, Rachel nodding as the three of them left. As Mum went out, she turned and said “Suzie, Lisa’s parents will be leaving soon as well – perhaps it is time for the game to come to an end?”
“Yes, mum,” I said quietly, “I guess it is about time for everyone to go.” I walked to Lisa and started to untie her legs, as well as the ropes around her chest. As she got onto her feet, however, she shook her head when I went to untie the rope around her waist.
“You don’t want your wrists untied? What about the gag?”
“It’s all right – she can keep them on for now, and I’ll get them back to you in due course.”
I turned to see Charlie and Lisa’s dad standing in the doorway, looking at all of us.
“It’s not the first time Lisa had been driven home like that,” Mister Williamson said with a smile, “and somehow I suspect it won’t be the last. Suzie, thank you for inviting Lisa to stay overnight – someday perhaps we can return the favour without a bunch of armed men interrupting the fun.”
“Tsssfnksssze,” Lisa said as she walked over to the door, and followed her father out, Charlie behind her.
“Uddbtrfrrsdss,” Clare said as she looked at Hazel.
“Mmtttt,” Pippa said, “bfrrrprntscm.”
“Yeah – I had,” I said as they all stretched their legs out. As I removed the ropes, Cassie and Rachel were nudging each other, giggling like mad as the ropes and gags were slowly removed.
“Hey – girls, Pippa’s mum is here to take you home. Suzie, come and say goodbye to them – Bobby and I will bring Cassie and Rachel down separately.”
“Do we need to change first?”
“No,” Dad said as he looked at them, “We know you will return them in a few days. Come on – we don’t want to keep them waiting.”
As we headed down the stairs, we passed Bobby and Colin coming up. “See you in a few minutes sis,” he said with an evil grin, as we headed into the house. Pippa’s mum was in the hallway, her eyes widening when she saw Pippa’s outfit.
“Oh my,” she said as she took off and wiped her glasses, “You are quite the little lady when you wear that, aren’t you? And both of you as well – have you enjoyed your sleepover.”
“Oh yes,” Pippa said as she gave me a great big hug, “I hope we get to do it again soon.”
“So do I,” I said with a smile as I hugged Hazel and Clare. “See you at school tomorrow.” I stood in the doorway and waved them off, turning to see Mary and Cathy coming down the stairs in their tracksuits.
“We need to get going as well,” they said as they picked up their bags, “but we left Jenny and Ali ready to go home, just as you asked us to Mister Holderness.”
“Thanks girls,” Dad said as they headed for the gates. “Why don’t you come with me, Suz, and we’ll see how they are?”
I took Dad’s hand and we headed up the staircase to the bedroom, looking in to see Jenny and Alicia sitting on the bed, bound and gagged in the same way as I had left Cassie and Rachel.
“I’ll take Ali home later,” Dad said as he looked at her, “but first we need to help Jenny downstairs.”
“Nnned,” she said as she got to her feet, and started to jump to the door, her skirt rising and falling as she covered the distance of the bedroom, and then headed along the corridor.
“You all right in here for now,” Dad said to Alicia, who nodded as we followed Jenny to the top of the stairs, waiting as she slid herself down and joined her mum and dad at the foot of the stairs.
“Jenny and Rachel are already in the car,” her dad said as she got to her feet, “Colin will help you out. Alex, thanks for everything.”
“It’s my pleasure John,” Dad said as he shook Mister Craig’s hand, while Mister and Mrs Brown helped carry the babies out. “See you soon.”
I hugged Jenny and said “thank you,” before I walked out with her and Colin, seeing both Cassie and Rachel as they were strapped in the back of the car. “See you soon,” I said as Jenny got in and Colin fastened the seat belt over her, then closed the door.
As they went down the driveway, I waved after them, before hugging Dad.
“Well, I think they liked staying here,” he said as we walked back in, joining Grandmother and Granddad in the front room.
“I meant to say, Alexander,” Grandfather said, “I want to see you tomorrow to review the applications to rent your old house. Also, John and Miranda will come over tomorrow after work. There is the small matter we need to discuss.”
“What matter,” I said to Dad as I looked at him.
“You’ll see, Suzie,” he said as he ruffled my hair, “You’ll see. Now, I want to see your homework.”
Sunday night – everything was getting back to normal...