One week later
“Cassie? Someone’s here to see you?”
I looked up from the book to see Bobby standing there, a big bag of chocolates in his hand.
“Hey Cas,” he said as he walked over and sat down beside me, “How’s the leg?”
I looked down at the tunnel that was holding the blankets off my right leg below the knee. “It itches like crazy, if truth be told, but Jenny keeps saying that’s a good thing. It means it’s getting better.”
“She’s right, you know,” he said quietly, “it does mean it’s getting better, but I still wish it hadn’t happened in the first place.”
“So do I,” I said quietly, “but it did - and you can’t blame yourself for it. I don’t.”
He looked at me, and I saw him smile - the first time I’d seen that for a few days.
“Alicia and Suzie are downstairs as well - they were wondering if they could come up, but I said I wanted to see you first.”
“How are they?”
“Sore, but at least they’re talking about it - if we’ve learned anything as a family through all that’s happened, it’s that we need to share.”
I nodded at that - Rachel’s mum and dad visited yesterday, and had a long chat with my mum and dad about what happened. Jenny and I had explained why we did what we did as well, and at least it meant they would allow Rachel to go round to Patty’s house again.
I shook my head and looked at Bobby, who was holding my hand.
“I’m just glad you came out the other side - if it had...”
“Bobby,” I said quietly, “You’re the real hero in all this. If you and Colin hadn’t come round on Saturday, and found the door open, then you’d never have started looking for us, and then...”
I don’t know why, but I started crying at that point, letting out huge sobs as Bobby just held me with my head on his shoulder.
“It’s all right, Cas,” he said quietly as he patted my back, “Let it all out, trust me, you’ll feel better for it...”
“Bobby? Is Cassie all right?”
I could hear Mum, but I didn’t move. “She’ll be fine,” I heard Bobby say, “Just give us a few minutes.” And so I started to think about the last weekend, all the way back to the Thursday night...
“Homework done - check. Clothes tidied - check. Room cleaned - check. Good work, Cassie - now you have the chance to relax.”
I smiled as Mum riffled my head, and then went to check on Jenny. We all had the day free from School that Friday, so Mum and Dad had agreed to let us all spend the weekend at our house, knowing full well how we planned to spend most of the day.
“Yes, you can all wear some of Granny’s clothes, so long as you don’t get them dirty,” was what Mum had said when I first laid out the idea - now all I needed was to gather everyone together, which meant we needed Alicia and Suzie to come. Alicia was heading into town with Jenny tomorrow to do some research for a school project, but she would be staying the weekend as well - her parents were taking Andrew to her other grandparents, and Angela was away for a week’s holiday.
The ring on the doorbell allowed me to slip out of the room and run downstairs in my joggers and t-shirt, opening it to see Patty and Rachel standing there with Aunt Jessie. “In you go, you two,” she said as they ran past me and into the front room,
“Thanks, Jessie,” Mum said as she took the two bags from her. “Did she bring Bobbi as well?”
“I think she’s in her bag somewhere,” Jessie said with a smile. “How does it feel to have a weekend without the twins?”
“A blessed relief all round,” Mum said with a sigh. Granny had come round earlier, to take David and June with her until Sunday. She said something about “giving you a break” to Mum, but whatever it was she meant I could tell she had agreed without hesitation.
“Right, well - I’ll leave them to you and John. See you on Sunday.”
“See you,” Mum said as she waved Aunt Jessie off, then said to me “Go on - but nothing too strict, all right? You need an early night.”
“All right, Mum,” I said with a sigh. Patty, Rachel and Suzie were all going to rest in my room, while Alicia used a camp bed in Jenny’s room. I walked into the lounge, to see that the two of them had already got started.
“You can’t feel it through them, can you,” Patty said as she tied Rachel’s ankles together over her new black leather boots.
“No,” Rachel giggled as she looked down, “but they still feel well locked.”
“Cas, can you take care of me?” Patty jumped onto the couch and swung her legs up, showing me her black felt boots over her purple leggings. I took some rope and tied her ankles tightly together as well, then her legs below her knees, before I did the same to Rachel over her white tights.
“So I guess that means hands in front and a scarf,” Patty said, and Rachel nodded eagerly. I did what they wanted - for Patty, I kept the cords over the cuffs of her purple sweatshirt, and for Rachel it was over her bare wrists - she had on a black and white smock top.
Tying their wrists down to the ropes between their knees, I then went to the cupboard and found two bandanas, which I rolled up and tied between their teeth. “Right then,” I said as I sat down, “let me...”
“They couldn’t wait, could they?”
Jenny came in, in her jeans and blouse, and sat down to listen as I nodded, then laid out some of my ideas for the next three days.
“Oh come on, Bobby, admit it - you only came with us to see Cassie!”
I had to nudge Suzie in the ribs to stop her from giggling as she sat next to me.
“All right, O beloved and wise cousin - I came to see Cassie as well. But I wanted to be sure Trouble here was really staying for the whole weekend. The idea if a weekend free from interruption had to be seen in concrete.”
Alicia smiled and turned to look out of the window, as Suzie swung her legs to and fro. She had put on her blue bib dungarees over a grey t-shirt and leggings, with her feet in her favourite sneakers.
Alicia was more formally dressed, in the sense of she had on a knee length skirt and a roll neck sweater under her grey leather jacket. My combat trousers and brown shirt seemed overly silly, but I wasn’t looking to impress.
Not really anyway.
“We’re here,” Dad said as he pulled up outside Cassie’s house, and got out of the car, holding the door open for Suzie as Alicia got out on the other side. “Come on Bobby - you can help me with the bags.”
I made my way out, watching Suzie as she ran up the path, and saw Alicia shaking her head.
“You all right,” I said as Dad handed me a bag.
“Yeah - just... Just a little under the weather,” she said quietly as we walked up to the door.
“Hello Suzie - they’re in there,” I heard Mum say before Suzie came into the room.
“Couldn’t wait to get started, could they,” she said as she looked at Patty and Rachel.
“Whtbtu,” Patty mumbled through the red cloth in her mouth.
“Oh I can wait - I suspect I won’t be moving or saying much over the weekend,” Suzie said as she sat down. I heard Alicia say “May I use your bathroom, Mrs Craig,” and Mum telling her where it was as Jenny stood up.
“I’m happy with what you suggest,” Jenny said, and then she left the room, closing the door behind her.
“So what were you suggesting,” Suzie said. I grinned, and told her of my idea for tomorrow.
“Hi Jenny,” I said as she came out of the room, “Is Cassie in there?”
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t go in - she’s telling them just how much they won’t be able to move tomorrow morning. Mum, can you tell Ali to come upstairs when she’s finished?”
I saw Mrs Craig nod, and then say to Dad “So Alicia as well?”
He nodded and said “Started the day before yesterday. Keep an eye on her, will you?”
“Hello Alexander,” Mister Craig said as he came through from the kitchen. “Want to stay for a coffee?”
“I wish I could,” Dad said with a laugh, “but I need to get back. I have a meeting tomorrow in London, and I have to catch the early train. Come on Bobby.”
“Say hello to Cassie for me,” I said as we left the house, and walked down the path to the street. There wasn’t a lot of traffic around - just a couple of parked cars and a grey van across the road and down a little.
“Right then,” Dad said as we set off, “Early night for you as well - you have to spend all day tomorrow on the History project.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said with a groan, “but at least it means I’ll be free Saturday...”
“Right then,” Mum said as she brought in a tray with glasses of milk and a plate of cookies, “You four, eat and drink up, and then ready for bed. I have this horrible feeling you’ll all be up far too early tomorrow.
“Yes, Mum,” I said and then laughed with the others. “We’re going to have such a wonderful day tomorrow...”
“Wow - your Grandmother really did have some beautiful clothes.”
I nodded as we stood in the spare room, looking in the large wardrobe that Mum and Dad had stored the clothes we got from Uncle Jethro during the summer.
“So the idea is we’re all going to be the girl detectives again,” I said as I picked out a bag, which had in it a white short sleeved blouse that had a big collar that formed a square on each side of the buttons, and a red knee length skirt.
“Aw no - I don’t want to be Tuppence again,” Patty said with a groan as Jenny helped her by fastening her dress at the back, and then tying the big bow at her back. It was red, with white polka dots, and had a similar collar to mine in white, as well as white trim on the short sleeves and the skirt. She already had on the white socks and black shoes, and started to put a red headband in her hair.
As for Rachel, she was looking at herself in the mirror, twirling round as the skirt of her dress rose just above her knees. Her dress was pink with little white flowers, and a slightly smaller and more rounded white collar. She also had a white band at the front, and above the hem of her skirt, but like Patty she had a big bow tied at the back.
“Actually, Jen, I think I could get away with this dress today - what do you think?”
Alicia was fastening up the last of the buttons on the front of her blue knee length dress. It had an open collar, and the sleeves came to just below her elbows, with big pockets in the skirt. Picking up a red waistcoat, she put that on over the top, and then sat down to put on the matching red shoes.
“You might - this makes me look like Sandy in Grease,” Jenny said with a laugh. She did indeed look like a fifties schoolgirl, with her wide blue skirt that had a horse printed on the front on the right hand side. She also had on a white blouse with puffed short sleeves. The blouse had thin black vertical stripes on it, and she was pulling on a pair of white gloves before handing one to Patty and Rachel.
I fastened the red belt round my waist, then slipped on my red shoes before helping Suzie. She had picked out a white dress that had alternating horizontal and vertical black stripes running across the material. It had a funny square collar that was almost the reverse of mine - it was split at the back and hung over the front.
“Thanks,” she said as she pulled on her gloves, having first put on a pair of white shoes. “I think we all look the part now.”
“Agreed,” Jenny said as she opened the door. “Well, as the older sisters, we need to get you downstairs for Mater to serve breakfast.”
We trooped down and into the kitchen, to be greeted by “My goodness, we are dressed up to go out on the town.”
Dad was sitting at the breakfast table, dressed for work in a dark blue suit, white shirt and striped tie. Mum was wearing a pair of pink leggings with a flower print, a long t-shirt and a pair of flat shoes.
“Sit down, girls,” she said as the front doorbell rang. “I’ll get it - probably the postman,” Dad said as he stood up and walked out of the room.
“Now then,” Mum said as we heard the front door open, “who would like... Oh my God.”
We all looked at the door that led to the hallway, and all of us had the same basic thought - even if our faces said different things. This was not going to be a normal weekend.
Dad was standing in the doorway, but he wasn’t alone. There was a big man behind him, wearing blue overalls, and he had a black balaclava pulled over his head. He also had a gun in his hand, as he looked at all of us at the table.
“Hello, Cassie, Jenny, Mrs Craig - are these your friends,” he said, and my mind flashed back to that night he had spent with us before - when we had been trussed up tightly all night and Dad had been taken away.
I looked over at Jenny, and I could see she had recognised the voice as well, as had Mum - she had very slowly put the bowl she had in her hand down, and simply said “Please - not again...”
“Why don’t you stay in here,” the man said as he pushed Dad back out of the room, and closed the door, “and finish your breakfast. We’ll tell you what’s going to happen after that.”
I was remembering that night - the fun we had, being tied and gagged so tightly, but I also remembered the look of fear on Mum’s face when she came back that night - and I could see a similar look of fear on her face now.
As for Suzie and Alicia, they had their hands together in front of them as they looked at the gun in the man’s hand. I knew that was a real gun now - so much had happened since that night - but Suzie wasn’t sure. Alicia was though, as Jenny said “It’s all right Ali - let’s just have our breakfast.”
As for Patty - she nudged Rachel and said “I guess Uncle John has arranged another game!”
Now - about that ‘game’ the previous week at Aunt Jessie’s house. I was so glad that Patty and Rachel had found it so exciting - and to be honest, I guess Suzie and I had as well - but I had seen the look in Jenny and Alicia, and especially in Angela. It was only later I realised Dad would not have done something like that without telling Angela - but after she talked to him, she played along.
This - this was different however. This was real, and I wasn’t sure exactly how we were going to explain this to Patty - and especially Rachel.
“All right girls,” Mum said as she put the bowls in front of us, “:Let’s all have our breakfast, and then you can start to play your games, all right?”
“That’s right, girls,” the man said as he smiled at us, “You need to have a good breakfast.”
So we started to eat our cereal, but as Patty kicked me and whispered “This is going to be so good” I just shook my head a little. Yeah, I was a bit excited, and yeah I could imagine what was going to happen, but all the things Mum, Dad, Granny and especially Aunt Cassie had told me - well, I just ate my breakfast and waited.
Eventually, as Alicia and Jenny gathered the bowls and glasses, Dad came back in with two more masked men. Mum looked at him, and I could see he was worried as he said “Sit down, Jennifer - I need to explain what’s going to happen.”
“Girls, these men are going to be playing a very special tie-up game with you this weekend. I need to go to work, and I may have to stay away for a day or two, so I want you to do everything that they tell you.”
“Oh goodie goodie,” Patty said as she and Rachel clapped their hands, before Dad said “Please, Patty, listen to me for the moment. I’ve told them that you are spending the weekend pretending to be girls in the time your granny was young, and they have agreed to do the tie-up game around that theme. So you will listen to them, you will do what they say - and most important of all, I want you to enjoy the game.”
He looked at the four of us - me, Suzie, Jenny and Alicia as he said this. I could see Alicia had gone very pale, but Jenny took her hand, gave it a little squeeze and said “We understand, Dad - just promise us you’ll be home as soon as you can.”
“All right,” one of the men with Dad said, “you’re going to be spending most of the time bound and gagged, like real hostages, but we’ll make sure you get fed and have toilet breaks. As Mister Craig says, just do everything we tell you, and we’ll all get along just fine.”
Mum walked over to Dad, and said “I’ll make sure they behave - you just do what you have to do.” She then hugged and kissed Dad, as the nice man said “all right girls - we need you and your mum to come upstairs. Give your dad a hug and kiss as you go past.”
Jenny went first, hugging Dad and saying “we’ll look after them,” as he kissed her forehead, then Alicia was hugged. I went next, burying my face into his tummy as he said “Be brave for them Cassie” and then taking Suzie’s hand as we walked up the stairs. Patty and Rachel followed us, and I heard Mum saying goodbye to Dad as we were walked into Mum and Dad’s room.
“I remember you two from last time,” the man said as he looked at us. “Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t keep you in separate rooms.”
“I want us to be together,” I said quietly, “so tie us and gag us as tightly as you need to, so tightly and so well we cannot escape. But please, keep us all together.”
He looked at Patty and Rachel, then said “Even them?”
“Especially us,” Patty said in a haughty tone. “Don’t you think we’re as capable as the others?”
“Patty,” Mum said quietly as the two other men came in, carrying two duffle bags between them, “Please, just play the game as they say.”
“One thing,” Mum then said, as she whispered into the man’s ear, looking at Alicia as she did so. He looked at her as well, as she trembled slightly, then said “All right, we’ll keep a special eye on her.”
“All right girls,” he said as one of the other men brought in a number of pairs of white socks, “Put these on your hands, and then line up.”
“That won’t work!”
“Patty,” Jenny said quietly, “please remember what Dad said...”
“But it won’t - if they just use socks, Cassie can rip them open. They need to do more first - tape our hands or something!”
“She’s right,” Rachel said as she nodded her head, “Cassie’s really good.”
I could feel their eyes on me, and so I swallowed hard and looked at Mum.
“Listen - we’re all going to play the game, but you can’t watch all of us. So let us help you - I’ll take care of the two youngest kids, and Jenny can take care of our friends Suzie and Alicia. You can watch what we do, tell us if we are doing something you don’t like and we’ll change it. We can remember what you did to us that night, so we should be able to do it as well.”
“Yeah - she’s really good,” Patty sang out, as Alicia said “I’d prefer it if a friend did it, if that’s all right to you, mister robber.”
The man looked at us, then nodded and said “All right - Mrs Craig, I want you to lie on the bed, hands on your head and don’t move. Cassie, Jenny - do whatever you need to do.”
He opened the first of the duffel bags, and as Jenny and I looked in we could see they had indeed brought a lot of things. We took out tow sponges, and as he watched we used a pair of large scissors to cut them in half, then gave two halves to each of the others.
I also took out two rolls of silver duct tape, handing one to Jenny before I stood behind Patty and Rachel, and she stood behind Suzie and Alicia. “I want you to hold these tightly in your hands, and make little fists,” I said, watching as they did so before I stared to wrap the tape around their hands, making them into little silver balls.
“I really can’t use them now,” Rachel said as she looked at the silver fists her hands had become. I then helped them to pull a pair of socks over their hands and up their arms, before wrapping tape over the sick top and their arms.
“Right then,” I said as Jenny put her hand on Alicia’s shoulder, and whispered “be brave” while Suzie looked at the white that ran up to her elbow. “Jenny and I are going to take care of your hands and arms now.”
I watched as Jenny took four lengths of rope from the man, and handed me two of them. Patty crossed her wrists behind her back, singing and humming to herself as I tied them tightly together, passing the rope three times around and then twice between her arms before I tied the knot out of reach of - well, where her fingers would have been if they weren’t covered in glove, sponge, tape and sock.
Rachel cooed as I did the same thing to her, then tied the usual rope around their waists to lock their wrists in place. I could see Jenny had done the same to Alicia, while Suzie looked at me and nodded as her wrists were tied to her back. She knew what was going on as well, but was going to play along.
“Arms,” I said to Jenny in agreement, as I tied Rachel and Patty’s arms to her side as I usually did - wrapping the rope around their tummy and their arms below their elbows. As I knew the men would not leave us alone together if we were not completely secured, I also tied a second length of rope around their upper arms and shoulders, before using two shorter lengths to tighten them under their armpits.
I could see Jenny had done the same to the other two, before we said “Where do you want us to be sitting?”
The two men looked round the room, then said “At the foot of the bed - you’ll all be sitting there.” So I helped Patty and Rachel to sit on the floor next to each other, near the window, while Jenny helped Alicia and Suzie to sit down by them.
“Ali, are you going to be all right,” Jenny said as she took yet more rope, and started to tie her friend’s ankles tightly together.
“I’ll cope - so long as we’re together, I’ll cope,” she said with a little smile, as between us we tied their ankles tightly together, then their legs below their knees.
“Not bad,” the man said as he looked over them. “Right - take a washcloth and out one in each of their mouths.”
“No - that’s too much,” Mum said as she looked up, but before the three men could say anything I said “She’s right - for Patty and Rachel, it is too much. Please, use some of my dad’s handkerchiefs for them.”
Patty glared at me, but before she said anything I said “Patty, it could really hurt your mouth to have a big washcloth in it for a long time. Please, trust me.”
“Well, all right,” she said as one of the men found four large hankies, “but I want everything else the same, right Rachel?”
Rachel nodded, and then they opened their mouths to allow me to push two folded hankies in. Suzie and Alicia got the washcloth, and I could see Suzie’s cheeks bulging as Jenny tied a knotted strip of towelling between her lips.
“Mlfngths,” Rachel said as she nudged Patty. I could see Jenny talking quietly to Alicia, as we were handed four cotton scarves with squiggly patterns. We folded them into triangles and tied one rover the hair of each of the four girls, before we wrapped the silver tape round their heads to keep the gags in.
“Vrrgg,” Patty said as she looked at me and Jenny. “Guess we’d better of all the way for now,” Jenny said as she went to the wardrobe, took out four head squares and handed two to me, so that we could fold them into bands and tie them over the tape.
“Well,” the nice man said as he checked our work, “I can see you really do know what you’re doing. They won’t be going anywhere so long as you all are in here, right?”
“We promised we would,” Jenny said quietly, “so what now?”
“Get off the bed Mrs Craig,” one of the other men said, “and tie your daughters up in the same way.”
We winked at the others as Mum slowly got up, walked over and hugged both of us. “You know what’s really going on,” she whispered into our ears as she did so.
“Yeah, Mum,” Jenny whispered back, “so we’ll play along for Patty’s sake.”
We then took the cit sponge that Mum gave us, and allowed her to first make our hands useless, then bind us in the same way as the other two. We were sat with Jenny next to Patty, and me next to her, before our legs were bound, and then our mouths gagged in the same way.
“Go and find something for them to watch,” the man said to the nice one, and as he went downstairs he said to Mum “Anything you wish to say, Mrs Craig.”
“Just be gentle,” she said as we all watched her hands transformed into silver balls, covered with socks, and then her arms and body bound. They did a slightly different thing for Mum - she still had rope round her waist, but they used one long length of rope and tied her arms to her side above and below her chest, before using the ends of the rope to tighten them.
She sat next to me, smiling at all of us and saying “I hope you’re enjoying this,” as he bound her ankles and legs together, not just below her knees but around her thighs as well, then gagged her. Unlike all of us, he used a head square to cover Mum’s hair, but she soon had the band of silk covering the silver band as well.
“As you all look like girls from the fifties,” the nice man said as he came back, and put a DVD into the television player Mum and Dad have, “You can all watch this until lunchtime.”
We watched the screen, then cheered through our gags as Grease started. Alicia wriggled a little, but by and large we sat still, the men taking turns to watch us as the film went on.
As the others watched the film, I looked round the room. They’d closed the curtains while Jenny and I had been tying up the others, and I guess they had closed the curtains in all the other rooms as well. Patty and Rachel were mumbling along to the song, while Jenny and Suzie were sitting with their heads against Alicia. She looked a little better now, I think because the initial shock of everything had worn off, but I could see she was still scared.
As for the men - they were quiet, but I knew they meant business. Last time had been exciting - and yeah, it was a bit exciting this time as well, but unlike last time I knew they meant business.
I was also worried about Dad - and wondering just how long they were really going to stay.
Suddenly, I felt movement next to me, and I realised they were untying Mum and helping her to stand up. “We’re going to take your mum to prepare you some lunch,” the man said, “You will stay here until we carry you downstairs, understand?”
We all nodded, as the nice one said “Don’t worry - I’ll put something else on for you to watch in the meantime.” I actually heard Alicia and Jenny groan as Scooby Doo started - but it was a fun thing to watch.
After about twenty minutes, one of the men came back in and knelt next to Rachel. “Don’t struggle,” he said as he put his hands under her and lifted her up, “I’ll be back for your friend in a minute.”
“Nmmcmngt,” Patty said as she pushed herself up the bed, and then hopped after the man and Rachel, her skirt rising and falling with each hop. The nice man in the room went to stop her, but I called “NNSLLRRT” and shook my head as he looked at me.
“The other one’s following you - make sure you keep an eye on her,” he said as he called down. “Look call me Jay, Cassie,” he said as he smiled at me, “In fact, all of you call me Jay. I know this can be scary, but I’ll try and make it as non-scary as I can.”
I nodded and said “fnku,” wondering what was going on downstairs. I was glad we had a name now - even if it wasn’t his real one.
Thirty minutes later, we heard thumps, and then Patty and Rachel hopped into the room, Rachel looking down through her glasses as she did so to make sure she didn’t trip. Jay and the other masked man helped her to sit down, and then said to me and Suzie “I suppose you two cam move like that as well - just remember, the rest of your family are up here, so don’t try to raise the alarm.”
We both shook our heads and pushed ourselves onto our feet, our skirts falling down before we hopped to the door, hearing Patty call “tsshknsp” after us.
I was glad the twins were away as well - I don’t think Mum would have coped, as I sat on the top of the stairs and started to slide myself down. Taking each step at a time, I wondered what Bobby was up to...
“Bobby? Lunch is on the table!”
I saved the report I was writing to my tablet, and came down to the dining room. Mum was sitting there, drinking coffee from a mug as I started to dig into my ham sandwich.
“So how’s the report coming along,” Mum said as she looked at me.
“Getting there - I’ve covered the Triple Alliance, and the oppression of the Serbs, but I need to do a bit on Imperialism and the expansion of the colonies.”
Mum looked at me, smiled and said “Boring, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said quietly, then looked at her as she burst out laughing. “It’s important to do this, Bobby - not just because practice makes perfect, but because we need to learn from the past. Only then can we avoid making the same mistakes.”
I nodded and ate the rest of my sandwich, then started to drink the milk.
“Suzie’s not here, and Dad’s in London - can I ask you a serious question?”
Mum looked at me, put her mug down and said “Yes?”
“What do you really think of Cassie?”
She looked at me, before saying “I like her a lot, Bobby - and her family and our family do seem to have become great friends. Why are you asking?”
“It’s silly, but it’s something I keep hearing Suzie and her cousin Patty saying when they think I’m not listening - they call her Lady Cassie, and me Lord Bobby. I know it’s in fun, but sometimes...”
“Sometimes you wonder if there’s more to it than that?”
I looked at Mum and nodded slowly. “Bobby,” she finally said, “You and Cassie have a lot of growing up still to do. When the time comes, you’ll know how you truly feel about her - when that happens, come and talk to me and Dad. Promise me that?”
I nodded, and then said “I wonder what they’re doing for lunch?”
“Knowing Cassie, something involving ropes,” Mum said which made me laugh.
“Right - that should hold you in place.”
Suzie and I had hopped into the dining room, where the other masked man was waiting by two of the chairs. They had helped us both to sit on one of them, and then tied ropes around our tummies and the chair back, as well as the seat and over our skirts.
Mum came in, carrying two bowls of soup. I realised now what Patty had said, as she placed them in front of us and then stood back, her hands in front of her. She still had her gag on, the pale blue silk around her head as she looked at us.
“We’re going to remove your gags, and your mother will feed you.”
With that, I felt the scarf around my head being removed, and as I looked at Suzie we watched each other as the tape, towelling and facecloths were removed. “Can I have a drink of water,” Suzie croaked out, so Mum poured some clear water from a jug into a glass and held it to her lips, then let me have some as well.
Mum then tucked a napkin into the front of our dresses, and started to give us spoonfuls of the creamy chicken soup.
“How are you holding up,” I said to Suzie once I had swallowed the first mouthful. She swallowed hers, and then said “I’m fine - it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. But it’s not a game, is it?”
Mum shook her head as she gave Suzie another mouthful, “No, it’s not,” I said as I looked at them, standing against the curtains that covered the glass doors to the garden. “Remember I told you about the men who held us hostage overnight - before we first met.”
Suzie nodded as I swallowed some more soup, before having a drink of water. “Is this the same gang then? So your dad is...”
“Doing everything he can to protect us - he must have convinced them to play along and make it seem like a game.”
“Smart girl,” one of the men said. “Especially for your young cousin and her friend - do we scare you?”
“A little,” I said as I looked at them. “We’ll play along, and make it a game, but we’ll do what you say. Can I ask for one thing though?”
I looked at Mum, and said “If you’re still here at dinner time tonight, can we all eat together? You can tie us all to the chairs, and we’ll do whatever you say, but it would be easier for you and for us.”
The men looked at Mum, who nodded as well, before saying “All right - one of us will go and get some pizzas or something, and you can all eat and talk together - but no funny stuff.”
“We won’t and thank you,” I said as Mum fed me the last spoonful of my soup then let me finish my drink. She then whispered “Fnkumbrfgrl” into my ear before giving each of us a hug.
“Good one, Cassie,” Suzie said as she sipped her drink. “It’ll make it seem more like a game if we are all together.”
“That’s the idea,” I said as I saw the men take two fresh facecloths from Mum’s clean laundry basket. “Right then - you’ve had something to eat and drink, so it’s time for the gags to go back on.”
We nodded and opened our mouths as the fresh cloths went in - I could taste the fabric softener on it, but I had no choice but to let him pull the towelling strip back into my mouth, then wind the tape round and tie the scarf over it.
“Toilet break next,” one of the men said as he untied Suzie from the chair, then removed the rest of the ropes, as well as the socks and tape from her hands - but I saw the way they laid them carefully on the table. “Do not touch the gag,” he said as he helped her to walk to the downstairs toilet, and Mum sat next to me.
“Usgd,” she mumbled as she hugged me, and I felt her cheek on my hair. “Lkftrlshswlk?”
I wondered for a minute why Mum was so worried about Alicia, but Suzie coming back in stopped me thinking of that. She stood in front of me, holding the sponge in her hands again as they were covered in tape and the socks, before they tied her as Jenny had done so before. She was then sat in the chair as her ankles and legs were bound again, before I was released from the chair and untied.
“Same for you - do not touch the gag,” the man said as I was escorted to the downstairs toilet, and did something I realised I really needed to do.
A few minutes later, I washed my hands and then looked at myself in the mirror. My hair was completely covered by the red cotton scarf, and the black silk band covering my lower face was indeed hiding the tape band around my mouth.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the look in my eyes - excitement, fear, courage, what - but I knew I would have to be strong for the others. I then heard a knock on the door, and stepped back out, returning to the kitchen and taking the sponges in my hands as I was re-tied.
Once I was done, we both slipped off the chairs, Mum giving us a hug and a kiss before she went back to the cooker, and we hopped to the stairs, pushing ourselves up and then back into the room.
“Smmlrt,” Jenny said as she looked up at me, and I nodded as I joined Patty and Rachel on the floor. The man then helped her and Alicia to stand up, and they jumped to the door as well, while Jay looked at us.
“They’ll be back soon, and then your mum,” he said quietly. “Then we’ll see what we can do this afternoon.” I nodded and then looked at Patty and Rachel.
They both nodded and I could tell they were smiling under the scarf and tape, but I hoped their jumping around earlier was not going to cause problems for us later. For now, however, I was happy to sing along with them.
It was another twenty or so minutes before the older girls came back, Alicia looking a lot happier now. They sat next to us, and we waited until Mum was walked back in. Her upper body had been rebound, and she was made to lie face down on the bed before Jay and the other man rebound her legs.
To my surprise, they then pulled her legs back and tied her ankles to the ropes around her chest. “If you kids get out of line,” the other man said, “We’ll do the same to you.”
Now, I could see the gleam in Patty’s eye, so I looked at Jay and said instead “Cnwpl?”
“You want to play? What game do you want to play, Cassie?”
“Oh no,” the other man said, “if they start moving round, someone might notice...”
Jay looked at me, than winked and said “Come on - they want to see if they can move around when tied up like that. I think we know they can, so provided they promise to keep quiet, and not try to open any of the curtains or blinds, then let them play. Do you want to be leader first Cassie?”
I nodded, then looked at the others. Patty, Rachel and Suzie were all for it, but Jenny and Alicia shook their heads.
“Wllsstwfmm,” Jenny said as they pushed themselves up, then hopped either side of the bed, laying themselves down either side of Mum. She looked at them, and said “Fnku” as Jay removed the glasses from Patty and Rachel.
“Don’t want to break these, do we? I’ll keep an eye on them.”
The other man looked at us, shook his head and then left, as I decided what to do first.
“Ltsg,” I finally said, as I pushed myself up onto my feet, the other three following suit, and we hopped forward a little, turning round to look at Mum, Alicia and Jenny. The older girls had their heads next to Mum’s but they lay on their stomachs and watched as I said “Ltsdd shssld. Cntclphnds, ssss....”
I looked at the other three, and said “jmpotthlft” before jumping to my left hand side, my skirt rising and falling as I did so. The others followed suit, giggling as they landed on their feet, then we jumped back to the right again.
“Nhhpthstm” I said as we jumped back and then leaned to the left and right instead of thumping our feet down. I saw Jenny look at Alicia, who was just shaking her head as Mum leaned over and rubbed against her cheek.
“Tsllrrtbscrd,” she mumbled, “bttrrtrlks.” Alicia looked at Jenny and Mum, then nodded as we jumped to the front, to the right to the left, turned round so that we were side on and did the same again.
“Ruddngshshrmcrna,” Jenny called out, which made me stop and look at her.
“Csselsss - mtrn,” Patty said as she looked at the others, “fllm.”
With that, she started to hop to the door, Rachel right behind her. Suzie and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders as much as we could, and said “Sultr” as we followed them, Jay taking up the rear.
We made our way into Jenny’s room, which was a bit of a mess, with the drawers opened. That didn’t seem to stop Patty, however, as she jumped over to the camp bed Alicia must have been sleeping on and sat herself down, Rachel joining her.
“Whtbtsss,” I mumbled, and Patty looked over to Jenny’s bed. Suzie and I jumped on, as we were watched from the doorway. I saw her curtains had indeed been drawn - just like all the others.
Rachel was swinging her legs up and down, looking down at the ropes under her red skirt, before she said “whtwllwdptte?”
Patty said nothing, but instead started to swing her legs in and out, saying “Isspwfmlttle,smfngbggnnggwf - b.”
Suzie and I just looked at each other - we were both remembering the night in Pippa’s house, when we had played a similar game, so I said “BD,” looking down on what we were sitting on.
“Nnnn,” Patty said as she shook her head, and so the game carried on. It took a good long while before Jay said “Book.”
“Ysss,” Patty said as she looked at him, “Urtrn.”
“All right then,” he said as he looked round the room, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with - H.”
Rachel looked round the room, and then said “hngr.”
“No - try again.”
We went all round the room, saying all sorts of silly things, before Suzie finally shot her head up and said “HSTJ!”
“That’s right - Hostage,” Jay said with a smile, while I groaned. “Now, why don’t you take over as leader?”
Suzie immediately leapt to her feet and hopped out of the room, only waiting when she realised we had to get up as well. “Spree,” she mumbled through her white cloth, the stripes on her dress moving with her as she swung from side to side, the ropes holding her arms tightly to her body.
We soon joined her, however, as we hopped into my room, and Suzie sat herself down against the far wall. It took a little while for me to join her - I had to make sure my red skirt covered everything - but Patty and Rachel just let themselves sit on the floor with a bump.
“Everything all right up there,” we heard one of the other men shout up.
“No problem - carry on,” Jay said as Suzie looked at all of us. “Rsscrssthflr,” she said, and she started to shuffle on her bottom, the skirt falling down over her knees as she started to make her way across the floor.
“Nwwwulwn,” Patty said as she followed her. I decided this was one I did not want to win - I was more worried about the others rubbing the bottoms too much on my carpet, if truth be told - so I followed, but more slowly. The real surprise was Rachel.
She tore across the floor, her skirt flapping like mad as she shuffled past Patty, past Suzie, and reached the door first. “Ewwn,eewwnnnn,” she screamed out as Jay helped her up to her feet, then each of us as we arrived.
“Well done,” Jay said as we finally were all standing in a row. “So you get to decide where we go to next.”
Rachel stood for a moment in thought, then winked at Patty before she hopped out of the room, and to the spare room - the one Granny sleeps in when she stays over with us. As we went in, she stopped and looked round. There was the bed, a wardrobe, and a dressing table.
“Ltspplpkbb,” Rachel then said as she hopped over to the side of the bed, and managed to get down on her knees. The three of us then allowed ourselves to fall onto our knees at the far side, while Rachel slowly lowered her head down the side of the bed - and we all did the same.
It had been years - years - since Jenny and I had last played peekaboo, so I was probably a little rusty. We all slowly started to raise our heads above the mattress - only to duck again as Rachel started to look over as well.
I truly had no idea how long we did this for - all I wanted to do was keep Patty and Rachel happy at this point, so when Jay looked out of the door, then said “All right - we need to go back and join the others,” Suzie turned round and said “dwhfft?”
“I know,” Jay said with a smile, “but I promise, you can be first for what happens when you have had some dinner, all right?”
“Llrt,” Suzie said as we all pushed ourselves up again, and then hopped back into the room. As we went in, Jenny looked at me and said “Frreebdlrt?”
I nodded as we sat on the bed, Patty and Rachel next to Jenny, Suzie and me next to Alicia. As we sat down, Suzie reached back and bumped her sock covered hand against Alicia’s, who turned and nodded in response.
“Now,” Jay said as he removed the rope holding Mum’s ankles to her back, allowing her to drop them to the mattress with a sigh, “my friend has gone to get some food. Just relax for a few minutes, and then we’ll all go downstairs.”
“Msprrdflfu,” Mum said as she moved her head from side to side, looking at each of us in turn, while Jay waited for somebody downstairs to say something. After what seemed an eternity, we heard a door open and close downstairs, and Jay said “All right - can you all line up, smallest first, and then follow me.”
“Ugtthptntjnne,” Patty said as she and Rachel stood in a line, Rachel behind her. Suzie went next, then me, then Jenny, Alicia, and finally Mum. “Let’s go,” Jay said, as we all started hopping out of the room, along the hallway and to the top of the stairs.
One of the other two masked men was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, as Jay said “Slide down as you did before, then wait for the others.” Patty nodded, sat on the top step and slid down, stopping at the bottom as the man helped her to stand up and hop to the side, her skirt coming down and covering her knees.
One by one we went down, one by one we reached the bottom and waited for the others to catch up. As Alicia came down, she seemed to be taking it very slowly, very carefully, her skirt catching under her a few times. Jenny encouraged her to keep going, until we finally were together again, and waiting for Mum.
As we then hopped into the dining room, I was surprised to see it was nearly seven o’clock. “Come with me,” Jay said to Patty as she was hopped over to one of the dining chairs, and lifted into it. Jay then untied the ropes around her shoulders, tummy, waist and hands, before using the rope that had held her hands to her back around her waist to tie her to the chair.
He then removed the socks, cut away the tape from her hands, and finally removed the gag from her mouth, except for the handkerchiefs in her mouth. “Now, not a word until everyone is sitting down,” he said, and Patty nodded as he came back and escorted Rachel to her seat.
By the time we had finished, Patty and Rachel were sitting opposite to Suzie and me. Jenny was next to me, and Alicia next to Rachel, while the man tied Mum’s waist to the chair as she rubbed her wrists. He then removed the pale blue scarf, cut away the band of tape, and untied the towelling, before Jay came round with a plastic bag like the one we use for sandwiches.
“You can take the cloths out now, and put them in there,” he said as we removed the washcloths and hankies. As he was doing this, the third man had put some plates and glasses out, and then laid pizza boxes and bottles of Coke on the table.
“Where’s Dad,” Jenny said after she had moved her jaw a little. “I want to talk to him.”
“You’ll talk to him later - he’s fine, and he knows you girls are as well,” Jay said quietly. “Now, you’d better eat them before it gets cold.”
“This looks great,” Rachel said as she took a slice of cheese pizza, “and I have had a fantastic day! I want to thank Mister Craig when I see him.”
“Oh yeah,” Patty said as she clapped her hands, then grabbed a slice of ham and pineapple, “this is even better than the day we spent at my house. I haven’t had so much fun before!”
“Well, I’m glad you’re having fun, Patty,” Mum said, but the way she said it, and the way she looked at the rest of us, told us what she really was thinking.
“It’s the best day I’ve ever had! To be tied so tightly we can hardly move, to have to do what we were told - and all of us played along. Thank you. Mister Robber, thank you aunt Jenny, thank you everyone - you all acted as if it was real - especially you, Alicia?”
Alicia looked at Patty, and I knew that look - it was the same look I had seen in the playroom at Holderness Manor, and I suddenly realised that Alicia really was a bit scared.
“Patty,” Jenny said as she put her slice of pizza on the plate, “I think you should...”
“No - no it’s all right, Jen,” Alicia said as she shook her head. “Patty - I have been held captive a few times, and...” She looked at my cousin’s beaming face, then said “... and I know how it felt those times, so I’m just reliving those memories. I’m glad you were so convinced - I’ll keep up the good work.”
“Thanks - you’re all great,” Rachel said with a smile, and the two of them started talking as they ate. Suzie put her hand on Alicia’s before saying “Thanks, Ali - I know what you must really be feeling.”
“Believe me, Suzie - you have no idea,” Alicia said with a little smile before she squeezed her cousin’s hand. “Now eat up - we have no idea how much longer the game is going to go on for.”
“Yeah,” I said as I looked at Jay, “How long are you going to keep us like this?”
“You’ll find out soon enough Cassie,” Jay said as he and the other two men shared a separate pizza between them. I poured a glass of drink before handing the bottle to Jenny, then said to Mum “Why have they come back?”
“I don’t know, Cassie - I didn’t even get a chance to ask your Dad what happened when they came in. We’ll all just have to keep playing the game until it is over.”
I saw her look at Jenny and say “Yes?”
“Was it worse than this that weekend?”
Mum looked quickly round the table, then nodded her head a little bit as she grabbed both Jenny and Alicia by their free hands. “If we play together, stick together, then we’ll all get through this. All right?”
Jenny and Alicia nodded, and took the hands of me and Rachel, while I held Suzie’s and Rachel Patty’s.
“TOGETHER!” we all said and then released hands.
“So,” Suzie said as we finished our meal, “if this is the gang that held you hostage last year, does that mean what I think it might mean?”
I was going to answer when Alicia said “Look, my parents are going to start looking for me at some point. What are you going to do - stop me talking to them?”
“Yes,” was all one of the other two men said, which killed the conversation for a few minutes, as we finished off the pizza and drink. As I pushed the plate away, Jay said “Right - everybody finished?”
We looked at each other and nodded, as the other two men walked down both sides of the table. I saw then move Alicia and Jenny’s hands behind the back of the chair, then one of them took mine and did the same. There was a rasping sound, as I felt a thin plastic strip pull my wrists together, but I noticed Mum still had her hands free.
“Now, you wanted to know how much longer we’re going to be here, Cassie?” I nodded, before Jay said “Remember when we were here last time, and we made you, your sister and your mother sleep while tied up and gagged very tightly?”
“Yes,” I said quietly, realising what was coming.
“Good - because you’re all going to spend the night like that tonight.”
Mum shouted out “NO!” But she was drowned out by the scream of “YES - FINALLY I GET TO DO IT!!!”
“Patty,” I said quietly, “Please stop shouting. You’ll upset mum.”
Mum was looking at the three men now, eyes wide open. “Please,” she said quietly, “They’re just kids. Lock us in our rooms or something, but...”
“You managed last time,” Jay said quietly, “and you’ll manage this time. After all, Cassie and Jenny managed by all accounts, didn’t you?”
We looked at each other, and we had to admit we had managed - but more through sheer luck then anything. Of course, we’d learned a lot more since then, but still.
“Aw come on Aunt Jenny,” Patty said as she looked at us with her big eyes. “I’ve heard so much about what it was like, and it would still be part of the hostage game. I want to know what it’s like - and Rachel does as well, don’t you Rachel?”
“Is it worse than when we spent the night tied up at your house? And can I have Bobbi as well?”
“That was tape, Patty - this is ropes, the same as we’ve had all day, and the same sort of gags. Honestly, it’s not as much fun as you...”
“I want to do it and it’s my game as much as yours. Please, Mister Robber, tie me up and gag me as tightly as you can.”
“Anything you want.”
Patty and Rachel grinned like devils as Patty said “thank you thank you, I love that, I’ve wanted so long to do that! This is so great!” We looked at each other as they untied Mum from the chair, and she started to clear away the plates and glasses.
I looked at Alicia, and there was a look of wild panic in her eyes. “What if I need to do something, to go to the toilet? I’m not sure I can cope all night...”
“Make sure you do everything you need to do when you go to the toilet,” Mum said as she picked up Alicia’s plates. “I have something you can put in your panties you wear tonight that will help as well. But if it gets to a certain point...”
She looked at Jay, who nodded. “One of us will be keeping an eye on you all night. If it is absolutely necessary, then we will let you go and change - but you will be tied just as tightly afterwards.”
“I guess... I guess that will have to do,” Alicia whispered as Mum started to wash the dishes. “Don't worry, Ali,” Jenny said in a kindly way, “I’ll be with you as well - that’s the plan, right?”
“That’s right,” one of the older robbers said, “two to a bed, and your mum sleeps on her own.”
“Listen,” I said quietly, “if we’re going to do this, there’s a few things you need to know. Our arms and hands are going to be pressed against our back, so sleeping on your back is a problem. You’ll need to sleep on your side or your tummy, and keep your head to the side.”
“Also,” Jenny said, “You’re going to be breathing in and out through your nose, so try not to cover it. The good news is, you’re probably going to be so tired you will sleep without moving.”
“I’m not tired,” Patty protested as she tried to move.
“Wait and see,” Jenny said as Mum finished putting away the dishes, and then was led out by one of the robbers. “Look, if we are going to be gagged it would be dangerous for us to have our heads covered - in case the scarves slipped at all. Can I make a suggestion?”
“Go on,” Jay said as he looked at her.
“Look under the bed in my room - you’ll find a box with rolls of micropore tape in it. Please, use that instead of the duct tape, and then we don’t need our hair covered.”
“But I like having my hair covered,” Rachel said.
“You can have it covered again tomorrow,” I said, “because tomorrow we’ll all wear some of granny’s clothes again. We’re going to be still playing the game tomorrow, aren’t we?”
I looked at Jay, who confirmed my fears by simply nodding. “Fantastic,” Patty said again, “I love being a girl detective - even if we are in the clutches of the villains.”
He looked at me and Jenny, then went outside and shouted “Check under the older girl’s bed while you’re up there, and bring down a box if you find it.”
“So how long are we going to sleep?”
“As long as we need to,” Alicia said quietly, “I hope...”
I was watching the local news when the telephone rang. “Can you get that for me Bobby,” Mum shouted through from the kitchen, so I got up and walked into the hallway.
“Holderness - how can I help you?”
“Very regal Bobby – how’s the homework?”
“I’m done, Colin - how are things at your end?”
“All done as well - fancy going to the pictures tomorrow?”
“Depends - what are you thinking of going to see?”
“Ah, well have a look when we get there - and if there’s nothing really on, we’ll go and gatecrash the girls.”
“I’m not sure Suzie would thank me for that, you know - but it’s an idea. Hang on.”
I put my hand over the phone, and said “Mum - are you all right if I go out with Colin tomorrow during the day?”
“That’s fine, but don’t forget your grandmother and grandfather are coming over tomorrow night. I need you back by six.”
“Got it,” I called back, then returned to the call. “Outside the Odeon at eleven tomorrow?”
“See you then,” Colin said as he hung up, and I went back to watching the rest of the Channel 4 news. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was on after it, and I did not want to miss that.
I saw Mum look in at the door, smiling as much as she could, while one of the men pulled Rachel’s chair back.
“You’re first,” he said as he cut away the plastic tie around her wrists, and then released her from the chair. “Go with Mrs Craig, and she’ll tell you what to do.”
“You need to wash and do your teeth, Rachel,” Mum said as she went upstairs with Rachel and Jay, while one of the other men walked behind Patty and started to untie her.
“So I guess we get to change for bed one by one,” I said as Patty stood up and rubbed her wrists. “Will we be coming back down here?”
“For a little while,” the man said as we heard the toilet flushing upstairs, “Now, you come with me.” He took Patty by the hand and led her out of the room, leaving the four of us with the third robber.
As soon as she was out of earshot, I looked at Suzie and Alicia and said “I am so, so sorry you both got caught up in this mess.”
“It’s not your fault,” Alicia said quietly, “but Patty - it was bad enough at her house, but this takes it into a whole different level. Does she not even know?”
“If she does,” Jenny said, “then she’s hiding it, and we need to do everything we can to make her believe this really is a game. It hurts like hell, and I can’t scratch this huge itch I’ve got on my nose, but we need to keep going for their sakes.”
I could see Alicia squirming round, and asked “I know you’re scared, Alicia - we all are, but this is how we need to do this to cope with this.”
“Cassie,” she said as she looked at me, “It’s not just this situation. It’s - oh god, how can I put this...”
“It’s like when Mummy gets a bit irritable for a day or two, isn’t it,” Suzie said as she looked at her older cousin. Alicia looked back at her, and smiled as she said “Yeah - it’s like that. Rotten timing on my part, eh?”
We heard footsteps on the stairs, and looked over to see Rachel coming in with Jay, wearing a pair of white pyjamas with red spots, and a pair of white bedsocks. “Time to get tied up,” she said as she took two new sponges and held them in her hands as they were taped and covered with socks.
“Did you find the box,” Jenny asked, and Jay nodded as he placed two wide rolls of white tape on the table, then taped the socks to Rachel’s sleeves before he tied her wrists together behind her back. The bands of rope soon went round her waist and tummy, before she was sat on the chair. Jay knelt down and tied her ankles together, while the third robber released Alicia from the chair.
“You need to go next, don’t you?” he said, Alicia merely nodding as she was led out of the room, and Patty brought back in. She had on a pair of blue pyjamas, and said to all of us “I feel much better now - do I hold these?”
“Talk to you later, Patty,” Rachel said as she opened her mouth, and two more clean handkerchiefs were pushed in. They had obviously ripped another towel up, as a knotted length was tied between her lips while Patty had her hands covered, and then bound behind her back.
“Enjoying the game, Patty,” Jenny asked as she watched the robber binding Patty’s arms, while I heard the squelchy sound of the white tape coming off the roll as it was wound round Rachel’s head. “We won’t cover it for the night,” Jay said as he patted Rachel’s head, “I think that is quite enough by itself.”
“Gssss,” Rachel mumbled, and then nodded as her eyes sparkled. Jenny was then untied from the chair, and escorted up the stairs as Patty was sat in the chair and her legs bound. Alicia returned a few minutes later, wearing a long blue nightdress with short sleeves, and allowed the man to start to cover her hands after he had gagged Patty.
“Feeling better again,” Suzie said to her, and Alicia nodded as her covered wrist were pulled behind her back and tied together. I was beginning to feel like I needed to go to the toilet, so as I watched Alicia having her arms bound to her side I started to fidget in the chair.
I watched her as she was sat in the chair, and her skirt lifted up so that her ankles and legs could be bound, while Jenny came in. She was wearing a blue vest and shorts.
“Your turn,” Jay said as I felt the strip cut away from my wrists, and my legs were untied. “See you all in a few minutes,” I said as I walked past Jenny, holding the sponges in her hand, and walked upstairs.
“All right, poppet,” Mum said as I met her at the top of the stairs, “go in, get washed, brush your teeth, and then come out.” I went into the bathroom and did as she had asked me to, just as if I was going to sleep in my bed in a nice, normal way - which was not going to happen.
As I came out of the toilet, Mum said “Now, go into the box room there - you’ll find your nightclothes laid out for you. Bring your outfit here when you have finished.” I went into the room to find a pink short sleeved nightdress, a clean set of underwear and a pair of bedsocks on the low cabinet Dad uses for papers. There was a piece of paper with “Cassie” written on it, which I put to one side as I started to undress.
When I was ready, I came out and handed the clothes to Mum, who placed them in the basket at the top of the stairs. “Let’s join the others,” the man said as I walked downstairs to the dining room. As I walked in, I saw that one of the men was binding the rope around Jenny’s shoulders, while the other three were sitting at the table, bands of white tape around their mouths.
“Hold these,” Jay said to me, and as Suzie was untied and walked out of the room I felt the tape going round my hands, and then the socks over them before they were taped to my bare arms. I stood still, trying to breath normally as my arms and upper body were bound with tight bands of rope. As I was sat down, Suzie came back, wearing a blue cotton nightdress, and the men started to bind her as well.
Mum came in with the third man, and stood watching us as I was gagged, the tape sticking to my mouth and cheeks, and then they finished with Suzie. “We’re going to let you watch some TV downstairs for a little while,” Jay said as I watched the man talking to Mum. “What do you like to watch?”
“Hwwbbtt gll,” Suzie said as she looked at us. Jay looked at his watch, and said “All right - all of you, hop into your front room.”
We jumped off the chairs and hopped in, while Jay went upstairs with Mum. “There are things you need to prepare for tomorrow,” I heard him say, before we all went and sat in front of the television, while the theme music for Glee started.
I could hear Mum moving about upstairs, but eventually there was silence, and then Mum came into the room. She was wearing her cream satin nightdress, but her arms were tied like ours, and her mouth had the white tape wrapped round her head.
“All right - time for you to go to bed. We have an early start for day two of the game tomorrow.” We all nodded and pushed ourselves onto our feet, and then hopped over to the stairs, before pushing ourselves up.
“You two are going in here,” Jay said as he opened the door to my room, but allowed Patty and Rachel to hop in. They went over to my bed, and lay on their sides facing each other as one of the robbers went in.
“Gdngthgrls,” Mum said as we went to the door of Jenny’s room, the other robber taking her and Alicia in. Suzie and I were escorted to the spare room, as we hopped past the cot and lay down on the bed.
Jay smiled at us as he tied a length of rope to our ankles, and secured the other end to the leg at the bottom of the bed. “Sleep well,” he said as we turned to face each other, and then turned the light off, holding Mum’s hand as he took her to her room.
Suzie and I looked at each other in the half light, but I slowly started to lose focus, my eyes growing heavier and heavier...
“Come on you two - time to wake up.”
I slowly opened my eyes to see Suzie lying across from me, her red hair trapped under the band of white, and for a moment I forgot where we were. It was so warm and nice under the blankets, and I couldn’t move...
“Sorry, girls, but it’s time for you to get up and have breakfast.”
I turned my head to see Jay looking over us, and then I remembered what was going on. “Whttmst,” Suzie mumbled as he took the blankets off us and untied our ankles from the rope holding them to the foot of the spare bed, leaving the lengths attached as he helped us to sit up.
I looked at the clock, and then looked again - it was only twenty to six? I could hear the sound of the others moving in the hallway, however, so I stood up and started to hop over to the door, Suzie following me.
I saw the arms of Alicia, held tightly behind her back as she was following Jenny to the stairs, and then we went down, joining the others in the dining room as one by one we were tied to the chairs around our waists, and then they started to untie our arms. I brought mine round and rubbed them as Mum came into the room.
“Good morning, girls,” she said as she looked at us, and then went to fetch the breakfast bowls and glasses. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans and an old denim blouse, the sleeves rolled up, but I could see the rope marks on her wrists and arms.
“Morning, Mum,” I said as the gag was removed from my mouth, “Did you manage to get some sleep?”
“A little,” she said with a smile as she put the bowl down in front of me.
“We slept all the way through,” Patty said as she and Rachel filled their bowels with Rice Krispies. Rachel nodded, before saying “I was a bit sore, but I feel all right now. So what’s going to happen today?”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Mum said as she poured some orange juice for each of us. “How are you feeling this morning, Alicia?”
“I’m feeling better thanks,” Alicia said as she picked up her spoon. “Once I’ve been to the toilet and changed, I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better.”
She smiled, but I could see she was still a little uncomfortable. “Tell you what, Alicia,” Jenny said as she looked at her, “I think we’re going to be hostages again for at least part of today, so why don’t you pick what we do this morning?”
“But it’s got to be fun,” Patty cried out before stuffing another spoonful of cereal in her mouth. “I want to have fun.”
“All right,” Alicia said quietly, then she looked at the three men. “I assume we’re going to be upstairs for most of the morning?”
“You are,” Jay said as he looked at her.
“Good - then we can play hide and seek, so long as we stay upstairs.”
Jay looked at the other two masked men, then said “All right - but I get to see where you hide, even though I won’t help whoever’s it, and I make sure there’s nothing there you can use to get free.”
“We won’t get free - you can make sure of that,” Rachel said with a big smile. Jay shook his head and laughed as Mum sat down and ate her breakfast as well, sipping from a hot cup of coffee as she did so.
That was when the cell phone went off, and Jay answered it.
“No, quiet night. They’re having breakfast at the moment before we explain what’s going to happen. They’re loving the game - for the most part.” He looked over at Jenny and Alicia as he said this, before walking to Mum and putting the phone to her ear.
“Hello? Oh John, thank God - are you all right? Are you doing what they want you to do?” I could see Mum actually relax a little as she talked to Dad, and then said “Dad wants to talk to you two. Jenny first.”
Jay took the phone over to Jenny, who listened for a minute, then said “Yeah, Dad, we’re loving the game - thanks for organising it. Patty and Rachel are especially grateful.”
Jay then put the phone to my ear, as I heard Dad say “Hello, Poppet. Did you manage to get some sleep?”
I nodded and said “Yes, Dad - did you?” I heard him laugh and then say “Poppet, you need to keep being brave for a while longer. I promise you, I will be back as soon as I can, but please, play along and keep the kids safe. I love you.”
“I will Dad,” I said as I looked round the table, while Jay took the phone away. He looked at us, then the two other men, before saying “Understood.” Ending the call, he looked down the table.
“All right, girls, we need to get you washed, dressed and ready to play today. We’re going to take you upstairs, two at a time. One of you will go into the main bathroom, and one of you will go into the bathroom in Jenny and Cassie’s parent’s room. You get twenty minutes to shower, do the toilet and dry off, and then another twenty minutes to get changed before we bring you back down here to join the others.
“Youngest first,” he said as the two men untied Rachel and Patty, and let them stand up. “See you guys later,” Patty said as I felt my hands going behind the chair, and a thin plastic strip fastened round them, looking Suzie, Jenny and Alicia as the same thing happened to them.
As they went up the stairs, Alicia said “Thank God - I had the worst possible night, but we can’t let them see that, can we?”
“No we can’t,” Mum said as she put her hand on Alicia’s shoulder.
“Is Dad all right,” Jenny said as Mum started to clear the breakfast bowls away and place them in the sink. Mum looked at us, saying nothing but nodding as she started to run the water.
“Hide and seek?” Suzie said as she looked at her cousin. “Are you sure everything’s all right?”
Alicia looked at Suzie, and I could see a tear in the side of her eye as she said “Not really, Suzie, but this is like that time you were with Cassie at Pippa’s house, right? We need to make this fun so Patty and Rachel don’t realise what’s really going on.”
“I’m afraid so,” Jenny said as she tried moving her arms, “so let’s take the time in the shower to gather ourselves together - we need to be strong for them, all right?”
Our talk was interrupted by one of the men coming down, and untying me and Suzie from the chairs. “Let’s go,” he said as I watched Mum sit down and start to talk to Jenny and Cassie.
We walked up the stairs, and then down to Mum’s bedroom. As he opened the door, I saw the other masked man standing there, and heard the sound of water running.
“You wait here,” he said as he took me by the arm, and Suzie was walked back to the main bathroom. I stood there, waiting quietly as the water stopped running, and after a few minutes Patty came out. She was towelling her hair, and wearing a bath robe as she looked at us.
“Your turn now,” the man said as he cut the plastic strip away from my wrists. “As for you,” he said as he looked at Patty “Go into the walk in closet and get changed, you’ll find your clothes hanging up there.”
I went into the bathroom Mum and Dad use and closed the door, locking it behind me. It had pale blue walls, unlike the white in the main bathroom, a toilet, sink and a shower with a glass door, unlike our bath and shower. On one of the shelves I could see my underwear on top of a bath robe, and a piece of paper with “Cassie” written on it pinned to the top.
Well, I went to the toilet, and then stepped under the shower, turning it on and allowing the warm water to wash over me. There was a bottle of Mum’s shower stuff there, a dark pink colour, so I put some of that on a flannel and started to wash myself over.
Fifteen minutes later, I was combing my hair in the mirror, having dried off, put on my underwear and the robe and tied the belt round my waist. I looked at my wrists, and flexed my fingers as I ran the brush through my damp hair. “See you guys later, probably,” I said to myself as I put the brush down, looked in the mirror, and then opened the door.
I was in time to see the swish of a peach coloured skirt as it left the room, and then I saw Jenny standing there, waiting patiently with her hands behind her back. “Feeling better now,” she said as she looked at me. I nodded and said “My turn to go into the wardrobe?”
“That’s right - be quick,” the masked man said as he cut the strip of plastic away from Jenny’s wrists, watching as she rubbed them. “Somehow I prefer the socks,” she said with a little smile as she walked into the bathroom, and I walked into the wardrobe.
The first thing I saw was one of Mum and Dad’s suitcases, sitting on the floor. Then I saw an outfit with my name on a piece of paper pinned to it.
It was a mustard yellow round necked top with elbow length sleeves, and a long blue skirt with a large - well, it looked like an orange cone with the top cut off and a handle on it, with lines of the same colour coming out of it, and it was big and bold on the left hand side of the front. There was also a gold belt, white socks and a pair of sneakers.
It didn’t take me too long to put it on, and as I fastened the belt around my waist I saw the hem fall down to nearly cover the shoes. Taking a deep breath, I walked out into the room, to see the man waiting.
“You know the drill by now,” he said as he handed me the two halves of a sponge, and picked up the duct tape. “Yeah - let the kidnap game go on,” I said with a half smile as I squeezed the sponges, and felt the tape sticking to my hands before they were covered in a clean pair of white socks, and taped to my forearms.
“The two little ones are real fire crackers,” the man said as I felt him pulling the rope tightly around my covered and crossed wrists, “do you think they suspect anything.”
“If they do,” I said quietly as the rope went round my waist, “It’s not because we’ve let anything slip. What are you doing with my dad anyway?”
“Just play along,” he said as my arms were tied tightly to my tummy with the rope, passed around and between my arms and body to lock them in place, and then around my shoulders, with the two small lengths under my arms.
“Ready,” I heard the second man say outside, and the door was opened to me, allowing me to walk out at the same time as Suzie.
“Nice outfit,” she said as she saw me standing there, so I gave a little twirl, the skirt rising as I did so to reveal my socks over the top of the sneakers. She was wearing a green dress, with short sleeves. The top half looked like a blouse and waistcoat, with little flowers in white on the sleeves and under her chin, and three little buttons on the front. She also had a little collar with white trim, and the skirt flowed out to just below her knees. On her feet she was wearing white shoes.
“Thanks, you look good yourself,” I said as we were walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. As we came in, we saw Jay kneeling in front of Rachel, tying her ankles together while Patty said “Lfffle” through her gag.
Patty and Rachel were wearing similar outfits to mine. Rachel had on a white soft sweater, with her sleeves pushed up over her elbows to allow the socks to be secured, and a long soft pink skirt like mine - but she had a white poodle on the front of hers. As Jay tied off the rope between her legs, he then lifted the skirt up, keeping her panties covered as he tied her legs together below her knees.
As for Patty, she had on a white blouse, and her skirt was peach with another poodle on the front. I could see her shoes and ankle socks under the hem of her skirt, her ankles and legs obviously bound in the same way. Both of them were now gagged, with white cloths covering their mouths.
“Come here girls,” Mum said as we turned to look at her, and saw she had a hairdryer in her hand. “We need to make sure your hair is dry - they’re going to use the special tape instead of the duct tape, but it still needs to be dried off.
“All right, Mum,” we said as she turned the hairdryer on ,and started to run her fingers through my hair. The clock on the cooker was showing the time as ten past seven, and already two of us were unable to move much or speak. This was going to be a long day.
Once Mum had finished, Jay told us both to open our mouths, and we felt the cloths been pushed in, before he tied a fresh piece of knotted towelling between our lips, then wrapped the white tape around our faces. It stuck fast, but he still tied a long white scarf around our mouths as well.
“Sit down girls,” he said, so we walked over and sat down, me next to Patty and Suzie next to Rachel. The two firebrands were swinging their legs and trying to talk to each other as Jay tied my ankles together, then folded my skirt back and tied my legs tightly together below my knees.
“Oh boy - I guess we are the grownups today,” I heard Jenny say, and I looked at them as Jay moved over to Suzie.
Jenny was wearing a red and white candy striped blouse, a long blue skirt that covered her legs to her ankles, black shoes and a black belt. As she turned and cuddled into Mum, I saw the socks taped to the sleeves of the blouse at her elbows under al the rope.
Alicia was wearing one dress over another - the top one was a blue pinafore dress, with a belt round her waist and a skirt that came halfway down the lower half of her legs. Under that was a red, blue and white striped dress, with short sleeves, and I could see the bottom of that dress as her blue one rode up slightly. She also had a pair of black shoes on, and smiled at all of us as Mum quickly dried her hair.
Eventually, all six of us were fully bound and gagged - but I noticed that Alicia and Jenny had a slightly different set of ropes around their arms and chest. They were more like the ones I could now see the man tying around Mum - above and below their chests, with shorter length under their arms around both bands. I made a note to ask them about it later as Mum was gagged, and then made to sit in the chair as her legs were tied.
“All right now,” Jay said as he looked at us, “You can go and watch cartoons in the front room for an hour, and then we can play hide and seek.”
We all stood up and started to hop into the front room, our skirts rising and falling as we did so, and I realised that for most of us it was next to impossible to see our feet - as the skirt came up it billowed out like the parachute in the parachute game, and then it fell back down again as we landed on our feet.
The living room curtains were still drawn, and I could see a sleeping bag rolled up in the corner, so I figured one of the men must have slept in there. Mum sat herself down on the couch, Patty and me sitting next to her, while Suzie sat with Rachel in one of the big chairs. Alicia and Jenny sat themselves in front of the couch, their skirts spreading to cover their legs as Jay turned on the television.
And wouldn’t you have known it? He turned it to Boomerang, and they were showing The Perils of Penelope Pitstop! Three episodes in a row!!
It had been a while since I’d watched it, but I could see Patty and Rachel looking at it intently, especially when Penelope was captured again and again by the Hooded Claw. She was tied to a log in a sawmill... She was tied up in a car driving helter skelter down a steep hill to a cliff face... She was strapped to the wing so fan aeroplane... And all through this, Rachel kept saying one thing.
Patty was laughing alongside her as I put my head on Mum’s shoulder. “Tslrrt,” she mumbled to me as we watched the cartoons, and I guess it was all right. I was still a bit scared, but we had to make it a game for everyone.
Eventually, Jay came in and said “Right - time to go upstairs. You go first,” he said to Mum as he and another of the masked men helped her up, “and the others will follow.”
So we pushed ourselves up onto our feet, and started to hop to the door, Alicia and Jenny moving more slowly than the rest of us. It was actually more difficult than I thought it would be to get up the stairs in these skirts - we had to make sure we didn’t trap the material under our shoes, which is difficult when you can’t see them - but eventually we all made it up, and into Mum’s room.
We watched as the two men helped Mum to lie on her stomach, and then place her in a hogtie again, before one of them said to Jay “I hope you know what you are doing” and we were left with him. He picked up a pillow and placed it under Mum’s head, saying “I’m sorry, but it has to be this way” to her before he turned to us.
“All right - which of you is going to be it?”
We all looked at each other, before Alicia said “Ldddttt - hwlng?”
“Count to one thousand,” Jay said as he opened the door “but remember - I need to see where you’re hiding.”
“Lssstwfmmm,” Jenny said, “nddthssshm.”
“Ready - go!”
The four of us started to hop around as Alicia closed her eyes and started counting “N... tw... fry.... fr....”
“Oh there you are - I was beginning to think you were going to spend the entire morning in bed.”
I nodded to Dad as I sat down and poured myself a glass of orange juice. It was only 9:30, which is early for me on a Saturday, and I still had on my shorts and pyjama top. Dad was sitting at the table, reading the paper and drinking his coffee, while Mum put a plate of bacon and eggs in front of me.
“So, what are your plans for today,” he said as I started to eat. I swallowed the piece of bacon I had in my mouth, before replying “I’m meeting Colin later - see if there is anything good at the cinema, and we’ll get some lunch after that. What about you Dad?”
“I need to go up to the Manor House this morning,” he said as he turned the page, “Your grandfather wants a report on the business meeting yesterday.”
“I thought he’d finally retired from all that?”
Dad folded his paper and looked at me with a smile. “He may have retired, but he is still the Chairman Emeritus of Red Ribbon, and he likes to keep abreast of what is happening. He wants me to tell him about the latest deal with the Far East, so I will go and I will talk to him and I will bore him to death with all the figures.”
“Rather you then me,” I said with a smile.
“Once you have been to the cinema, and gorged out on chicken nuggets or whatever you decide to eat, what will you do then?”
I shrugged my shoulders and said “I don’t know - hang around in town for a bit perhaps. Why?”
“Well, I wonder if you could do me a favour.” He stood up and went out into the hallway. He returned a few minutes later with his suitcase, which he put on the table and opened before taking out a long, thin white envelope.
“You want me to play at postman?”
“In a way - I was meant to give this to Cassie’s dad yesterday at a meeting, but he called in sick and did not attend. Can you drop it off at the house for me? It might give you a chance to see what the girls are up to as well.”
“You want me to spy on Suzie?” Mum sat down and said “No - we just want you to tell us what they’re up to, that’s all. Jennifer would have called if there was any sort of trouble, but - well, it’s nice to know.”
“And nothing to do with the fact it keeps me out of the house for most of the day, leaving you two alone?”
“Perish the thought,” Dad said, but I saw him wink at Mum as he said it. “All right,” I said as I took the envelope, “Colin and I will drop it round later today. Possibly even earlier if there is nothing good on at the cinema. Now, can I finish my breakfast?”
“I’ll have some more coffee then,” Dad said as he held his mug out, smiling as Mum poured the coffee.
I just shook my head and returned to the bacon and eggs...
“... nnnhndrnntht... nnnhnfrnntnn. Nfsnd!”
I could see Alicia from my hiding place as she opened her eyes and looked around. I had no real idea how much she had been listening, or if she had peeked, but I was not about to give myself away as she started to look round the room.
Jenny was sitting on the end of the bed, having a very muffled and quiet conversation with Mum, who I could see nodding and shaking her head as Jenny talked. Jay was standing in the doorway, and he winked at me when Alicia had her back turned, looking at the door to the bathroom.
She was listening as well, as she slowly turned her head and looked directly at me. I shrank back a little, but then she turned round and hopped over to the bathroom door, which was slightly ajar. Turning, she pulled the door open by pushing one of her sock covered hands inside, and then forcing it back. Looking in, she disappeared into the small room for a moment, and then said “THRURRR - GSHHA.”
I had to stop myself from laughing as Suzie hopped into the bedroom, shaking her head as she jumped over and sat on the bed on the other side of Mum from Jenny. Alicia put her head down and rubbed it over Suzie’s red hair, and then started to look round the room again.
I held my breath, pushing myself as far back into my hiding place as I could, drawing my knees up as I felt the rope tightening under them. I watched her as she jumped around the room, the blue skirt raising enough to show the bottom of her red striped underdress, and looked behind chairs and on both sides of the bed.
I was safe in here, no way was she...
“hwwdduknw,” I said as I lifted my legs up and kicked open the door of the walk in wardrobe, then shuffled myself out on my bottom.
I looked down at my long blue skirt, and saw a slight line on it - a line where the door of the cupboard must have trapped a little. “Hhhh,” I said and then laughed as I saw Jenny and Suzie giggling away with Mum.
“Two down, two to go,” Jay said, as he stood away from the door, indicating Alicia should look outside. “Cnegwfr,” I said as I pushed myself up the side of the bed. Alicia nodded as she looked at Jay, who simply said “Well, you know the rules.” That was not a definitive no, so I looked at Suzie, who shook her head to indicate she was going to stay there.
I followed Alicia out of the room as she looked up and down the corridor. The doors to the spare room and the bathroom were closed, which I took to mean a hint from Jay they were not in there, so we hopped first to Jenny’s room, Alicia pushing the door open with her back before we both hopped in.
I could see the two lengths of rope tied to the foot of the bed, and the covers that had been pulled down. The wardrobe was closed, and everything else seemed to be in place. Even Jenny’s schoolbooks were neatly arranged on her desk, and the chair was only a little way out from it, sitting as it usually did.
Alicia looked round the room, then jumped over and sat down on the bed for as moment, her bound ankles to the side under her dress. She looked round the room, then at me as I stood against the wall, and indicated with her head towards the desk.
I looked over, and saw sticking out from under it a thin piece of pink fabric, blowing slightly in the breeze from the doorway. I smiled under the gag, and nodded, as I said “Nffnggnhrm ltsggg.” I started to jump towards the doorway, Alicia pushing herself up and following me, but we stood there and waited, watching as the slip of pink became a pink skirt, and we saw Rachel shuffling out from under the table.
She moved very well for someone who a couple of weeks ago had never been tied up, as she shuffled back to the bed and pushed herself up, concentrating intently as she did so. It was only when she was sitting up, and through her glasses she saw Alicia and me standing there, that she went “Hffeee” and stood up, following us back to Mum and Dad’s room.
“Ucnwwttnhr,” Alicia said as Jenny looked at her, while Rachel hopped in and sat on the floor, Suzie sliding down to sit next to her.
“Cpng,” Jenny said, and Alicia nodded as we both hopped back down the corridor, this time into my room.
I had to stop myself from uttering a shout of complaint at the way my bed had been left by Rachel and Patty, with the covers half on the floor, but I stopped myself in time, as Alicia and I looked round the room. My cupboard was open, but I could see inside and there was no sign of her there. Nor could I see her behind or beside any of my furniture.
Alicia was having similar problems, so she said “llklswhr” and hopped back to the door. “Lccshp,” I said as I sat down on the bed, and then lay on my back, stretching out my legs as I did so.
I lay there as I heard the giggling, unsure of where it was coming from, but as I turned to look over the bed I saw Patty sticking her head out from underneath.
“Gsshha,” she said through her gag with a giggle.
“nnn- gsshsu,” Alicia said from the doorway, earning a look of frustration from Patty as she wriggled her way out from underneath. “Utskkdm.”
“NNdddnt,” I said as Jay came in, and helped Patty to get to her feet. “All right you three, back into the bedroom now,” he said, and we hopped back down the corridor, only to hear Jenny saying “Crrflfulgtdsse.”
As we came in, we saw Suzie and Rachel jumping round in a circle, their skirt flying up as they did so. In Suzie’s case, it showed the ropes under her knees, but for Rachel the skirt really was billowing out, still hiding her knees but showing the ropes around her ankles as she jumped round.
I knew one thing - that looked like fun, and Patty was obviously thinking the same thing, so as Alicia went and sat on the bed we all started to jump round, making our long skirts fly out like parachutes as we did so.
I wasn’t sure how long we did it for, but we were interrupted by one of the other masked men coming in. “It’s getting close to noon,” he said to Jay, “time for Mummy to sort out some lunch before we do what we have to do this afternoon.”
He untied Mum’s legs and helped her to stand up, before saying “We’ll come and get you in about half an hour” and walked her down the stairs. We all looked at each other as Jay said “I tell you what - see if you can escape while I watch. I’ll even help you.” He placed a pair of safety scissors on the floor, stood back and watched us...
“Hey Colin,” I said as I approached the entrance to the cinema. Colin waved back and said “I wondered where you’d got to - Dad had to go off and take care of something. So what do you fancy watching?”
I looked at the list of films, then pointed to one and said “that one - hey, do you mind if we go round to Jenny and Cassie’s house later? I’ve got something to pass on to their dad.”
“Sure,” Colin said, “We’ll give them a big surprise...”
I’d been watching both Jenny and Alicia for about ten minutes, trying desperately to find some way to use the safety scissors to cut their ropes, when I realised just how inescapable these ropes were. They were sitting back to back, their legs to their sides as they tried somehow to open up the blades and hold them in a way that one of them could start to saw away at the ropes.
The problem was, with our hands wrapped in tape and in the socks, there was no way we could hold them in one hand, and having our wrists crossed meant you had to try and hold it between them - which them made it next to impossible to saw at any rope!
Patty and Rachel were giggling away on the floor watching as well, while Suzie was sitting next to me, looking into my eyes to see what I was thinking. I knew what I was thinking - the only way to get free was to free our mouths or our hands. The hands were next to impossible - even if we weren’t gripping the sponges, the tape would stop me clawing at the cotton socks.
As for the mouths - well, we were just too well gagged. The only thing missing would be...
“Time for lunch,” Jay said as one of his fellow robbers came back in. Alicia looked at him, her face sweating on top of the silk band, and shrugged her shoulders as we were all stood up and started to hop to the door, Patty laughing and giggling at the way her skirt rose and fell.
So once again we gathered in the kitchen and were sat round the table, our waists tied to the chairs before our arms and hands were untied and out gag removed. Mum was cutting some sandwiches and fruit at the sink, and laid them out for us with plates and glasses of juice before she was sat down.
Before we got a chance to say anything, however, Patty looked at Mum and said “It’s not fair!”
“It’s not fair!”
I had to stop myself from laughing out loud as Colin and I left the cinema.
“I mean it - the first decent film for months comes along, and the projector breaks down? What are the chances of that?”
Well, he had a point - Ender’s Game was a film I had looked forward to seeing as well, but we would just have to come back another time, with the free passes that the cinema had given us and everyone else in the theatre.
“Hey - Bobby! Colin!”
We turned round to see Martin walking up behind us, a bag in his hand. “Hey - not working at the music store today,” Colin said as he joined us.
“I get a lunch break as well you know,” Martin said “and I needed to go and pick something up. Listen, you guys eaten yet?”
We looked at each other, and said “Nope - got a suggestion?”
“Let’s go to Subway,” Martin said as he pointed to the nearby cafe, “I want to talk to you about an idea I’ve had for a surprise for the girls.” Well, we had a little extra time, so we nodded and went over with Martin.
“NO! Patty, I don’t want you to!”
I have rarely heard Mum say no, but this time she looked as if she meant it. Alicia and Jenny were also looking at our cousin, and shaking their heads.
“But it’s not fair!” Patty said as she scowled at the rest of us. “You and Alicia and Jenny get another length of rope too hold you tight, and I think we should have it too.”
“Patty,” Alicia said quietly, “trust me, it isn’t as much fun as you seem to think it is. When we were playing hide and seek, the rope under my chest was rubbing against me, and it made things more difficult.”
“But why? Why did you get it and we didn’t?”
Good question in my mind, so I looked at Mum, who looked at Jay. He looked at the four of us, swallowed and said “It’s an age thing - as you get older, and you get tied up, we need to make it more difficult to move your arms and this does it. Trust me, you’re fine as...”
“But it’s just not Fair!” Patty grabbed a sandwich and bit into it - and for once, much as I hated to admit it, I was wondering what the fuss was as well. So I swallowed my food, and said “Go on Mum - let all of us try it just for the afternoon, and that will keep her quiet - well, relatively speaking.”
Jenny shook her head and said “Cassie, please, you’re not old enough yet.”
“Come on Jenny, what harm can it do?”
Mum looked round the table, then shook her head and said “all right - but just for this afternoon. I don’t want it for any other part of the game.” She looked at Jay as she said that last part, who nodded, and then went back to eating his food.
“Thanks, Cassie,” Rachel said “You’re making this a really extra special game!”
“Yeah, thanks Cassie,” Patty said, but I knew I may have done something Mum didn’t want. I just hoped she wasn’t too mad at me.
“Eat your fruit, Suzie,” Mum said, and we went on the slices of apple, melon and oranges. “I don’t know how much longer we’ll have to eat.” I could see one of the masked robbers leaving the room for a moment, and wondered the same thing.
“Martin Davies, can I just say you have a truly evil mind?”
Martin blushed and said “Thanks” as we looked over the table at him. “But do you think she will go for it?”
“Well, Jenny owes her payback for her birthday last year, so I think we can count on her help - and Angela’s always up for that sort of thing. I can even ask Grandpa if we can use Mister Bridges again - although I’m still paying off the favours from last time.”
“Last time - what happened then?”
We looked at each other, then at Martin, before Colin whispered “Well, it began when we picked the girls up, handcuffed them, and took them for a picnic...”
“So what are we going to do this afternoon, mister kidnapper,” Patty said as Mum stood up and started clearing the plates.
“It’s going to be a surprise,” Jay said as the other two men prepared the handkerchiefs, towelling strips and other binding material, “Starting right now. Same as yesterday - we’ll gag you two at a time, let you go to the bathroom, and then bind you.”
The masked man had brought down seven silk squares, so when the silver duct tape appeared we all knew what was going to happen. Sure enough, Patty and Rachel had the hankies in their mouths, the knotted strip of towel, the scarf over their hair and the band of silver tape, and then they used a white bandage around their heads to cover the tape.
“Right,” the man said as they were untied from the chair and their legs released, “Upstairs, both of you.”
As we watched them walking up the stairs, Jay sat down and looked at us.”Can I ask you a question, now that the younger ones are out of earshot?”
“Do we have a choice?” Jay laughed at Alicia’s comment, and then said “No - where did you learn so many tricks, and get so skilled at tying each other up? I mean, we’re good, but you go further than we usually do.”
Jenny and I looked at each other, while Mum listened, and then I said “Honestly? You taught us a lot, the last time you made us spend time tied and gagged. After that, we kept experimenting - and then there was the incident at Hol... Your grandmother’s place, Alicia.”
Alicia nodded and said “Have you heard of the Gentlemen Robbers?”
Jay looked at us, before he said “Yes but they don’t... Well, not normally... It was you girls? Well I never.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing - just something I heard on the radio once. Well, if I was responsible, I’m glad you learned the lesson well,” he said as Patty and Rachel came back in, their hands behind their back again and bands of rope around their waists, tummies, elbows and shoulders. It looked tighter than before, as Jay said “Your turn now Cassie - open wide.”
“Well, I’m stuffed,” Martin said as he looked at his watch, “and I need to get back to the shop. When will you know if we can do this?”
“I’ll talk to Grandpa later,” I said as we all stood up. “Call me later in the week.” Colin and I left the cafe with him, and as he turned left to head back to the music store, we turned right and headed for the bus station.
“Right then,” I said to Colin, “Let’s take this to Mister Craig, and surprise the girls. How do you think they will be?”
“Knowing that lot, unable to move or speak,” Colin said, and we both laughed as we walked along.
I had to admit, as I watched the two men binding the legs of Jenny and Alicia, that I could see what Alicia meant now. Once I had finished in the bathroom, they had covered my hands as before, crossed and tied my wrist together tightly behind my back, and then tied the rope around my waist, then my arms and tummy.
It was the new way they’d tied my upper arms that was different. They had used a longer length of rope, wrapped to round my arms and body at my elbows, pulled it tight and then wrapped it around there and my shoulders a few times. It certainly held my arms more tightly to my side, but it also stretched my blouse a little bit over my upper body.
It felt funny rubbing me under my training bra as well, but it was snug, and it felt all right. I did remember what Alicia said, however, and sat still. I could see Suzie had come to the same conclusion, but Patty and Rachel? They just looked the same as before, but with one more band of rope around their tops.
Mum was sitting at the table, her mouth now gagged in the same way with the white covering her taped mouth and the bottom of the black scarf covering her hair. There was something in her eyes - a different look as Jay spoke to us.
“Right - for this afternoon, we’re going to be doing something a little special. But it needs to be a surprise, so we’re going to blindfold all of you.”
“Hgrrrt,” Patty said as one of the men put a black sleep mask over her eyes, and tied it tightly at the back of her head. Rachel was next, and then me, leaving me in darkness as I heard the other three grumble as well.
“Oldest first,” Jay said, and I heard the scraping of chairs as, I presumed, Alicia and Jenny were moved somewhere. We sat in silence for a few minutes, before I felt myself being lifted up and carried over someone’s shoulder - one of the masked men, I presumed. I could hear Suzie behind me, half gigging, half questioning, as we were carried for a few minutes, and then sat in some sort of seat. I felt more pressure on my front, then heard a clicking sound, and Jenny saying “whrhrw?”
I had absolutely no idea what was going on, as I wriggled round and felt the ropes on my chest as well as whatever was holding me in place, but then I heard more movement and laughter, and realised Patty and Rachel had joined us. Hopefully, Mum would be with us soon as well.
And that was when things got very different. I heard a whirring sound, and then doors slamming - car doors. Suddenly I realised what it was I was sitting on, as Jay said “We’re going to go for a little trip” and then we heard music - as we were pushed back into our seats and the floor started vibrating under us.
“We’ll see you at the house - follow in the van,” Jay said, and then we moved off, Patty and Rachel singing along to the music - well, mmphing along. We all joined in, as I began to wonder what was going to happen next...
As Colin and I turned the corner and walked up the road, we saw a grey van coming down. Colin looked at it as it passed us, two men in boiler suits sitting in the front, and muttered something to himself as we crossed the road, opened the gate and walked up the garden path.
Pressing the doorbell, we both stood there, looking up and down the road as we waited for someone to come and answer, but there was no sign of anyone at home.
“Hmmm - want to bet they’re all not in a position to answer,” Colin said as he looked at me. I nodded, and then looked at the garage door. “Well, they won’t mind if we slip in,” I said as I grasped the handle and pulled the garage door open. It was empty, and I could see the door that led to their kitchen was open.
“Looks like their mother left Alicia and Jenny in charge,” I said as Colin and I walked up to the door and into the kitchen. There was nobody there, but I could see the clean plates and glasses in the draining rack at the sink.
“Jenny? Where are you?” Colin walked into the other downstairs rooms, but I had a feeling if they were anywhere, they would be playing upstairs, so I went up to Cassie’s room and knocked on the door.
“Cassie? Are you in there?” I didn’t get an answer, so I walked in and looked round the room. It was the usual organised chaos, and I noted with amusement the two lengths of rope tied to the foot of the bed.
“Guess they slept tied up,” I said to myself as I moved to the other rooms, but there was no sign of anyone - just the beds, with the lengths of rope tied to the foot.
I looked down the stairs to see Colin holding a white refuse sack. “There’s an awful lot of tape and towel strips in here,” he said quietly. “Any idea what sort of game they were playing this weekend?”
“None - but you’d better come and have a look up here,” I said, waiting until Colin joined me. We checked the rooms again, and then walked into the one I knew her mum and dad used.
There was only one length of rope tied to the foot of that bed, but that was enough to give me the collywobbles. “That’s funny,” Colin said as he looked at it, “Jenny’s mum would never have agreed to them being tied up in bed if she was also going to be.”
Something else had caught my eye, however - three plastic strips that lay on the floor by the bed, cut through with the end still going through the hasp.
“She’d never have used these either,” I said as I looked at Colin. “Something’s very wrong here - I think we need to call someone.”
I only had the music in whatever we were travelling in to pass the time, but eventually we did stop, and Jay said to us “Just sit quietly girls - we’ll take you in one by one.”
I heard doors opening and closing, and then a cool breeze on my face as one of us - Patty by the high pitched muffled sound - was carried out of the vehicle. I waited patiently, until I felt the pressure on me released, and I was carried out. I could hear the crunch of gravel under someone’s shoe, then wood, before I sat down on something that I nearly sank into.
“Hhsthr,” I heard Rachel say, so I said “csssee” as the footsteps retreated and returned, retreated and returned, and then finally I heard Mum’s muffled voice as she came in.
“All right girls,” I heard Jay say, “Let’s get those blindfolds off.”
I felt the cloth come off my eyes and blinked for a few minutes, before looking round. I was sitting on an old red couch, with Patty and Rachel next to me. Another old couch, this one brown, was beside us, and Suzie was sitting on that between Jenny and Alicia. They were both looking round, thinking the same thing as me.
Where the hell were we?
“We’re going to be staying here overnight,” Jay said as he stood behind Mum, who was sitting in an old wooden chair. Her arms were pulled over the back, and there were bends of rope around her waist, tummy and over her shoulders, holding her firmly to it. Her legs were tied to the front legs of the chair at her ankles and legs, but she had the same bandage as the rest of us over her mouth.
“Don’t worry,” Jay continued, “Mum packed some nightclothes and a fresh outfit for you to wear tomorrow, as well as toiletries and things.” He glanced at Alicia as he said this, who seemed to be grateful. “Your dad wanted this to be like a real kidnapping as well as a game at home, so he found this place and told us to bring you here.”
Patty and Rachel were almost jumping for joy in the seat beside me, but I wasn’t that keen on jumping at the moment.
“Now, your mum is going to stay in this room for a few minutes, but I thought you might like to have a look round the house, see what there is. You can see there’s a television here, and we have a DVD player, so after dinner tonight you can watch a film before you go to bed. Now, up you get, and hop with me.”
The two terrors were up in a flash, while the rest of us took some time to get to our feet - partly because we were in a very soft couch, and partly because - well, these extra ropes were annoying me in the way they rubbed against me. Once I finally got to my feet, and started jumping, they rubbed under and on top of my chest, and I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it.
“Nwducewhwsdn,” Jenny said as she hopped beside me, and I had to nod in agreement. It was a new feeling, as we bounced along, and not only did my skirt rise and fall, but my chest seemed to as well. I decided instead to concentrate on not falling over.
Wherever we were, the rooms had the heavy curtains closed and taped into position, so no way were we going to see outside. The room led out into a large hallway, which had a set of stairs that actually went in two different directions up to the top floor.
“Have a look in here,” Jay said, and we saw a large dining room with a kitchen to one side. “You’ll eat in here,” he said before he closed the door. “Now, why don’t you start to make your way up the stairs, and I’ll show you where you’re going to sleep.”
“We’ll show your mum later,” Jay said as Patty sat on one set of stairs, Rachel on the other, and they started to race each other to see who would get to the top first.
“Hi, this is Jennifer Craig. I’m sorry I can’t come to the phone at the moment, but I’m a little tied up with the girls. Please leave a message.”
I turned off my mobile phone again and looked at Colin, who was sitting with his father at the other side of the table in the cafe. I’d tried calling Cassie’s mother as soon as I had a bad feeling, and this was the fourth time - and each time the same message.
“I know it sounds crazy, Dad,” Colin was saying as he looked at his father, “but I really do think there’s something wrong here - and Bobby does as well.”
His dad nodded, then said “but you saw the note - the one you found eventually on the dining table?”
We had eventually found it - a hand written note that said “Sorry Miranda - decided on impulse to take the girls to Alton Towers for an overnight stay. I’ll see you tomorrow. Love, Jennifer.”
“You have to admit,” he continued, “it would explain the missing family car, as well as their absence.”
“I know it seems right,” I said suddenly, “but the rooms weren’t tidy, and all that tape and cloth...”
“I know, I know - but come on, you know what they’re like,” Colin’s dad said.
“What who are like,” Dad said as he sat himself down. “What’s going on, and what’s so important that we had to meet here and not at home.”
“Can we have another coffee, Frank,” Colin’s dad said to the man behind the counter, and then he told Dad everything that we had found and told him.
“It’s probably nothing,” he finished, “but I’ve asked one of my men to have a quick look round the Craig house, and someone’s discretely checking Alton Towers.” He sipped his coffee, then looked at Dad and said “What?”
“It may be nothing,” Dad said quietly, “but while I was at the Manor house I tried to call John - there was something I needed to check with him - and...”
“And his phone was switched off.”
Colin’s dad stopped, his cup in his hand, then said “Switched off?”
“Yes - went straight to voicemail.”
“Does that mean something,” I said as I looked at both of them. Dad looked at me and said “Do you want to tell them Barry?”
“Not here,” he said as he stood up. “We need to go and see someone else.”
“You will be sleeping in these rooms, two to a bed as before.”
Jay had shown us three bedrooms, each with a double bed and a table and chair. “Your mum will be sleeping in here,” he said as he showed us a fourth room with a single chair, “and you will spend a bit of time today and tomorrow in here.”
He opened another door and allowed us to hop in. The room was a large one, and there were rows of bookshelves along one side, as well as soft cushions and various games to play. “Hwww,” Patty said as she hopped in and twirled round, her skirt rising again as she looked around the room, the heavy red curtains taped shut over the windows along one side. Rachel joined in, but this time the four of us just looked round and watched.
“Jay - you up there?”
We watched as Jay went to the doorway and said “Yeah - what kept you?”
“We needed to buy the food for today and tomorrow, didn’t we? We’re going to need your help down here, so make sure the kids can’t go anywhere.”
Jenny and I looked at each other, as Jay came back into the room. “all right - I want each of you to pick a book that I will open for you,” he said as he looked at us. Patty and Rachel went over to a shelf, and pointed with their sock covered hands to a collection of Asterix tales.
Suzie and I hopped over to another bookcase, exchanging quizzical looks with each other as we looked and picked out two copies of Nancy Drew books in large print, while Jenny and Alicia picked a couple of books of photographs. Jay found some pillows, placed them on the floor and propped the books on the front of them, before saying “I’m sorry, girls, but I need to ask you to lie on your tummies - I can’t risk you hopping round while I’m not able to keep an eye on you.
“Rugnntrnkls,” Patty said as she jumped over and lay down. Jay nodded, adjusted her skirt, and then pulled her ankles back and tied them to the rope around her tummy, doing the same for Rachel as she lay next to her.
We all had to lie in front of our book, and have our legs pulled back, but Jay tied our ankles to the band of rope under our chests. “I’ll put the radio on for you,” he said as he walked to an old radio in the corner and turned it on, finding radio 1 as we all concentrated on our books, turning the pages with our noses when we wanted to move on.
“Now don’t move,” he said as he went out of the room, and down the stairs. I wasn’t going to - the hog tie rope was pulling the chest rope up under my training bra, and I did not like it one bit - but I couldn’t say anything in case it scared the younger two, who were giggling as they fought to see who was going to turn the page next.
“Don’t worry, Susan - I’ll get him something to eat after the movie which is not fast food, and I’ll tell him he should have called you before to tell you what had happened. We’ll be back later tonight. Bye.”
Dad ended the call, then looked at me and said “If this is a false alarm, then you and I need to have a long chat sometime about lying to women - it’s never a good idea.”
“And if I’m right?”
“If you’re right - then we will be spending some time calming your mother down, because we lied to her. Either way, welcome to the grown up world,” Dad said as we turned into the drive way of a modern looking house. Colin was sitting in the front with his dad, and he was saying nothing - in fact, it looked as if he was trying to remember something.
“Who lives here,” he finally said as his dad stopped the car. We all got out and walked up to the front door, his father ringing the doorbell as we waited. A few minutes later, it was opened by a tall, brown haired woman who was wearing a black and white tunic top over black leggings with silver patterns on the side, and black slippers.
“Good evening,” she said as she looked at Colin’s dad. “How can I... Alexander? What are you and the boys doing here?”
“Who is it Jo,” a familiar voice called out, and I saw Cassie Craig senior walk to the door, dressed in a vivid blue tunic and pants, with a glass of wine in her hand. “Well, this is a surprise - come in, come in.”
We all went into the house, Cassie closing the door behind us. “I think an introduction is in order - DCI Barry Hampton, this is Captain Jo Frost, my partner. Jo, Barry is Colin’s father.”
“Ah, the hero of Holderness Manor,” Jo said as she shook his hand. “So to what do we owe the pleasure?”
“I’m not sure it is pleasure,” Dad said. “Can you think of any reason why John would have his mobile phone switched off?”
The smile on Cassie’s face was still there, but I could see a hardening in her eyes. “Perhaps you’d better come in and sit down, and start at the beginning,” she said as she indicated a door with her hands. “Let me get some drinks for all of you first.”
“Thanks,” I said as we walked into an open plan sitting room, and sat on a corner unit of leather couches. Jo sat herself down in a chair opposite, before Cassie returned with four bottles of Coca Cola.
“I get the feeling you’re not drinking,” she said as she handed us each one. “All right, start at the beginning.”
“Go on Bobby,” Dad said as he looked at me, “You go first...”
As I turned the page, the smell of something tasty came up to the room from downstairs. The voice on the radio announced that it was six thirty and news time, before Jay and one of the other men appeared in the door.
“All right then,” he said as he looked at us, “Time for tea. Do you want a hand standing up?”
We nodded as our legs were released, and then we hopped in a line out of the room, our skirts falling over our legs and twirling with us, as we got to the top of the stairs and started to make our way down. The third masked man was waiting at the bottom with Mum, who at least had been untied but was still wearing her gag.
Once we had all come down, we were made to hop in a lien into the big dining room, where we were all sat round a large round table. As had happened with each mealtime today, our arms were released, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the ropes were finally taken off my chest and my hands were uncovered. We held our arms up as our waists were tied to the chair, and then our chairs pushed in.
The six of us sat along one side, while four empty chairs were opposite - one from each of the robbers and one for Mum, I realised as she started to serve up burgers, chips and peas, putting a plate in front of each of us as our gags were removed.
“Thanks,” Patty said once she was able to talk, “That was a fantastic surprise!”
“I know,” Rachel said as she picked up her knife and fork, “I really do feel as if I have been kidnapped and taken to a lair somewhere. Your dad is the greatest, Cassie!”
“Yeah - yeah he is,” I said as I started to cut into my burger. I just hoped he was all right.”
Cassie waited until we had all finished, then said “Hmm - I know it’s not like Jennifer to go off like that, but it is possible. Having said that, she would have called John, and he would have answered - but you say his mobile phone is turned off?”
“Yeah,” I said, “and Mrs Craig’s seems to be permanently on voice mail.”
“Have you tried calling the girls?”
Colin looked at me, I looked at Dad, and we all took our mobile phones out. “Colin takes Jenny, I’ll take Suzie, and you call Cassie,” he said as we looked through our contacts, and started our calls at the same time.
“no answer?” I said as I looked at Colin, who shook his head.
“Strange - even if they were playing, Jennifer would have answered or Alicia,” Dad said, and then we heard another mobile ringing.
“Excuse me a minute,” Colin’s dad said as he stood up, looked at his phone and walked out of the room. “I wouldn’t worry,” Jo said as she put her glass down, “You know what the girls are like - they probably can’t answer them right now.”
I smiled and looked at Colin, then noticed he was watching his dad intently as he talked on the phone. He turned and looked at us, then said “Right - get out of there, touch nothing, and make sure you leave everything exactly as you found it. I’ll call you later.”
Ending the call, he sat down and said “Cassie, have you got a whisky?”
“What’s wrong Barry,” Dad said as Cassie poured a glass of brown liquid and handed it to Colin’s dad, who took a long drink.
“You’d better get Alex one as well,” he said as he put his glass down. “That was my colleague. He was about to leave the Craig house when he heard a phone ringing and tried to find it. He eventually tracked it down to a blanket box, but when he opened it he didn’t find one phone - he found five mobile phones.”
Dad looked at him before saying quietly “and?”
“And three of them were ringing at the same time - and stopped at the same time just before he called me.”
I looked at Dad, whose face had turned white, before saying “Can I start worrying now” to Jo.
The sound of the mobile phone ringing made us all stop and look at Jay, as he answered the call.
“Yeah, all settled. How are things at your end?
“No, they’re eating. Once we get them ready, I promised them they could watch a film and then get them into their beds.
“All right - just for two minutes.” He put the phone next to my head and said “Daddy wants a word.”
“Hello Dad,” I said as I looked round the table. “You gave us a really wonderful surprise, bringing us to this house.”
“I know,” Dad said over the phone, “and I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am this has happened. But I need you to be as brave as you were at Pippa’s house for a little while longer, all right?”
“Yeah, of course we’ll keep having fun, Dad, but we hope you can join us really soon.”
“So do I, Poppet, so do I. I need to talk to Mum now - tell the man, will you?”
“Of course - I love you Dad,” I say before Jay removes the phone. “Please, let him talk to Mum,” I said as I picked up my knife and fork again. I watched as Mum talked quietly into the phone, and then Jay turned the phone off.
Suzie had been very quiet - much too quiet for her - but when Mum had started to eat again she said “So what will we be wearing tomorrow?”
Mum swallowed a chip, then said “I brought one fresh outfit for each of you. The game will end tomorrow night, isn’t that right?” She looked at Jay, who nodded and said “That’s right - we’ll end the game tomorrow, and you can tell your friends all about it at school on Monday.”
Mum nodded and smiled at all of us, as Patty and Rachel went back to eating. I was hungry, but there was something else on my mind.
“So what was your favourite part of the day, Patty,” Jay said as he looked at my cousin.”
“I guess it was the hide and seek - although the ride was fun as well. What about your, Rachel?”
“I liked twirling round in the skirts - it was fun to watch it coming up,” Rachel said with a big smile. “What about you two?”
I looked at Suzie, who said “I just loved all of it, dressing up, being so tightly bound and gagged - and the trip was a real treat, wasn’t it Cassie?”
I nodded, and then said “It was also fun being tied a different way - even if it did feel a bit funny.”
“I’m sure it did,” Jenny said as she looked at me. “I have to admit, I preferred just having time to think. Were you the same, Alicia?”
“I actually liked the hide and seek - it was fun to go round all the rooms.”
“Well, I’m just glad you’re all having fun,” Mum said as she was allowed to stand and fetch our pudding - Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream!
“Here,” Jo said as she laid out the Chinese takeaway containers, “dig in.”
She had ordered the food while we had sat there, trying o take stock of what we knew so far. The girls and Mrs Craig were missing, and both Colin and I knew something had happened at the house. Then there was the business with the phones...
“Cassie, Bobby - I’ll know who you’re talking to usually. What is it?”
“Two things - how can you eat, and what is the issue with Mister Craig not having his phone on?”
Cassie Craig looked at me, and then said “Easy one first - whatever situation you are in, you need to eat to conserve strength. Besides, it helps me think.
“Now, did Cassie tell you about the night she, Jenny, her mum and the babysitter were held hostage?”
“Yeah - it was before she met Suzie.”
Cassie nodded, and then said “Ever since then, their father has had additional security measures in place, and one of them is a simple one - he never switches his mobile phone off. That way, if there is a problem, we can call him and see if he knows. No answer, we try again twice. Third time, we take action.”
“But what if he’s in a meeting or something?”
“Good point - then he texts us in advance to let us know.” I watched as she took out an iPhone and looked at the screen. “I’ve had two texts from him - one yesterday, to say he would be in a meeting all day, and then one at ten this morning to say the girls were playing a game, and he had been called into a private meeting. I hadn’t acted, as he said he would call late tonight. Now, however...”
She picked up a spring roll and bit into it. “Barry, if something is wrong, then we have to keep this under wraps. If they’ve taken the kids to force John to do something, then if we make a wrong move...”
“I know,” Colin’s dad said as he looked at mine. “We need to do this quietly and under the covers. I think the first thing we need to do is figure out who might be doing this, and where John is.”
“But the girls...”
“Colin,” his dad said, “you know they are some of the bravest, most resourceful girls out there. They’ll cope.”
“Patty,” Mum finally said as she put her spoon down, “How did the extra rope feel to you?”
Patty stopped eating for a moment, and then said “I guess my arms were more tightly held, so I can see why you and Jenny and Alicia got it today, but to be honest that was all it was to me - why?”
I was looking to Jenny, who just shook her head from side to side as she was listening.
“Good,” Mum said as she looked at Jay and the two other masked men, “because I don’t want the younger kids to have that rope again. Now that they have tried it, don’t do it. I know I can’t stop you doing it to us, but...”
“NO - THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!”
We all looked at Rachel, who blushed and said “Sorry - but Patty asked if we could have it, and now we have it’s not fair for us to be different from you. I liked it, being more snug and secure.”
“Good for you, Rach,” Patty said with a big smile, “I couldn’t have put it better myself.”
“Listen, both of you,” Alicia said as she looked across the table, “I know this is a wonderful game, and we’re all enjoying every second of it, but...”
“But what? Why don’t you want us to have all the ropes you do?”
I could see that all three of them were stumped, and there was some sort of unspoken thing going on between them.
“Patty,” I finally said, “Honestly, if there is no need, then all it will do is make you more uncomfortable during the night. Please, do as Mum asks.”
“BUT... IT’S... NOT... FAIR!!!!”
“All right,” Mum said as she stood up and looked at the four of us, “all right - I don’t want an argument, and if that’s what you want, then Jay - tie the extra rope round their arms tonight.”
“You’d better do it for all of us,” I said as I looked at Suzie. She stared back at me at the moment, then at the others, before nodding and saying “Yes, all of us.”
“I know, Jenny,” I said as I looked at her, “but we all have to be treated the same way, or else the game is different for each of us. So tie the three ropes around us - tonight and tomorrow.
“Are you agreeing to this, Suzie,” Alicia said as she looked at her cousin, and I could see the concern in her eyes. I wasn’t 100% sure about it either, so I was glad when Suzie nodded and said “Yeah - I’m sure.”
I looked at Mum over by the sink, and for a minute I thought I could hear her sigh and cry as she washed the dishes...
“One good thing about takeaway - no dishes,” Dad said as he collected up the plastic boxes and put them in a bag, clearing the table we were all sat round.
“Right,” Cassie said as she came in, “I’ve called Jessica and Mum, and told them Jennifer took the girls away on an overnight trip, so they should be settled.”
“Angela, Anne and Simon are away, so no need to contact them, and I’ll take care of Susan,” Dad said as Colin and his father came back in.
“Bobby, do you remember the van that was coming down the road when we turned into it?”
I thought for a moment. “Yeah - grey Ford Transit, two men sitting in the front. I think they had on boiler suits - yeah, blue ones.”
“That’s the one,” Colin said as he handed his dad a slip of paper. He then left the room as Colin sat with us.
“So what do we do now,” Dad said as he looked at Jo and Cassie.
“Well, the worst part about something like this is this bit - the waiting while we find out as much as we can. Alex, you said John was meant to attend a meeting with you yesterday?”
Dad nodded. “He was - but his office said he had been called into an all day meeting. I remember when I called it was a different voice - not his usual secretary.”
“Male or female?”
Colin’s dad came back in. “Well, we’ve got our first firm lead. I just talked to my number two - we can trust him to keep quiet - and he ran that number plate Colin remembered through our records. It was stolen three days ago, but the CCTV cameras at place it was parked captured the theft. He’s having the pictures checked again. What we need to find is Johns’ car - do you know the licence plate?”
“Yeah,” Dad said as he scribbled the letters and numbers down and handed it to DCI Hampton.
“Good - now my colleague can start a search to see if this had been seen anywhere. At the same time, we’ll circulate the van number plate, and that of their SUV.”
“Why,” I asked as I looked at him. “Won’t that alert whoever has them?”
“Not if it’s done discretely.”
I bit my lower lip again as the plastic strip was tightened around my wrists behind the chair back. Jay then secured Suzie’s wrists as Patty and Rachel were escorted out of the dining room, to wash and change for bed.
Once they had climbed the stairs, I turned to Jay and said “One thing - if we’re going to have those ropes there, don’t hogtie us.”
“Oh,” Jay said, “I got the feeling you liked being tied that way.”
“Not with that extra rope - please, don’t do it again.”
Jay looked at us and nodded as Mum sat with us. “I’m sorry for you two,” she said as she looked at me and Suzie. “I didn’t realize when I said yes to the others.
“Mum, it’s all right,” Jenny said, “If what you say is right, we’ve got one more day to get through - and we’ve survived so far. We can do the extra day - no matter how uncomfortable it is.”
“Jenny’s right,” Alicia said quietly. “I’m feeling a lot better now, so we will get through this. We’ll make Grandma proud, won’t we Suz.”
“You betcha, Ali,” Suzie said as one of the other masked men came back in. “Come with me,” he said to Mum, who slowly stood up and followed him out.
Once she was out of earshot, I was free to ask a burning question. “Jenny?”
She looked at me and said “Yeah - I was wondering when this was coming. What is it, Cas?”
“How does it really feel to you, with that rope under your chest?”
She looked at Alicia, and then said “I’m not sure I can describe it properly - it certainly holds my arms more firmly...”
“And it does give a bit more support to our chests,” Alicia said as she looked at Suzie, “but that’s not what you’re asking about is it?”
“No, it’s not,” I said as Suzie looked at me. “You’re blushing,” she finally said.
“So are you,” I replied, then said “It’s the way it feels when we jump or move - it’s not like anything I’ve felt before. It also seems to make my chest look...”
“The word you’re looking for is bigger,” Jenny said quietly. “Cas, I wish I could explain to you how it makes me feel, but I’m not sure either, it’s just...”
“Time for you two to go up,” Jay said as he untied me and Suzie from the chair. As we climbed the staircase, we saw Patty and Rachel at the top of the stairs, both in white nightdresses with bed socks, and they smiled at us as their arms were tied to their sides with the two bands of rope. We smiled back, waited for our hands to be cut free, and then headed into the bathrooms as Mum watched us.
Once I had finished, I came out and was shown into one of the bedrooms. Mum had laid out a nightdress and a pair of socks on the bed, so I quickly changed into them and folded my clothes, leaving them next to Patty’s. Stepping out, I took the two sponges in my hand and waited as my hands were taped into silver balls again, before Suzie joined me in being tightly bound.
Once our hands were covered in the socks and our wrists tied behind our backs, crossed and secure to our waists, we saw Jenny and Alicia come up, and have the plastic strips around their wrists cut away as well. We were then stood, facing each other as the rope was tied around our tummies and arms, and then above and below our chests.
It felt as strange as before, the front of my nightdress stretching a little, but I said nothing as we were taken downstairs to the large room with the television set. Jay was already there with Patty and Rachel, who were sitting on one of the old couches. Their ankles had been already tied tightly together, and I guessed their legs were tied together under the long skirt, which only showed the rope around their bedsocks.
As for their mouths, they had at least brought some of the special tape with them, the white band encircling their mouths - as it did ours after a few minutes, when Jay gagged us as he had last night. We then sat on the other couch, watching as he tied our ankles together, then folded our skirts back and tied our legs together below our knees.
“Fnku,” we said to him as Jenny and Alicia came in, also wearing long nightdresses. We watched as they were gagged and sat next to us, their legs tied, and then Jay started the film for us.
“I hope you enjoy this,” he said as the credits came on, and we tried to get comfortable.
“There you are - I was beginning to wonder what was going on.”
“I’m sorry, darling,” Dad said as he leaned over and kissed Mum, “Barry had come with Colin, so we ended up at Nandos, and...”
“Don’t tell me - I know Barry likes hot food,” Mum said as she stood up. “Would you two like a hot drink?”
“Sure - oh, Barry has invited us to go fishing with him tomorrow, up at the river. You don’t mind do you?”
“Mind? Gives me a day to clean out their rooms - which badly need it,” Mum said as she went into the kitchen. Throwing myself on the couch, I looked at Dad and said “What are we going to do?”
“Nothing - except get some sleep,” Dad said as he sat down. “You heard Barry Hampton - until we get some idea as to where they may have gone, there is nothing we can do. We need to trust him - and Cassie Craig.”
“Cassie Craig? Why?”
Dad looked at me, and said “You remember that weekend - how we talked of her? She is a lot tougher and more resourceful than almost all of us - with the possible exception of your grandmother. So tonight, we relax, we sleep. Tomorrow - we’ll worry about that then.”
We were all yawning under the tape when the film ended - even Mum, who had joined us halfway through. Unlike all of us, she was wearing silk pyjamas, but she was just as tightly tied and gagged.
“All right,” Jay finally said as we were made to stand, “up to bed.” We hopped into the hallway and made our way up the staircase, as I tried not to think of the way the ropes were rubbing now, and then waited as the two men placed Patty and Rachel on the bed, and tied their ankles to the bottom.
Jenny and Alicia were next, as they too were allowed to lie on their sides and their ankles tied to the bottom of the bed. When we went into the room Suzie and I were going to use, however, Jay said “Hang on - there’s nothing to tie their ankles to.”
“I’ll take care of it,” one of the other masked men said, “You two take Mummy to her bed.”
We watched as Mum was walked out, and then we were lifted on the bed. I looked into Suzie’s eyes as the man tied one end of a length of rope to the top of the bed, and then tied the other end behind her back. I could see her eyes widening slightly as she squirmed round, and then I found out why, as he walked behind me, and I felt him pulling on the band of rope under my chest - the one he tied the other end of my rope to.
“Good night, girls,” he said as he turned the light off and closed the door. In the dim light, I could see Suzie struggling to get comfy, and I had to admit it was - well, it was different. Eventually, however, I slowly felt my eyes close...
“Bobby? Wake up, Bobby, it’s time to go.”
I slowly opened my eyes and saw Dad standing there, dressed in a woollen jumper over a shirt, cord trousers and a gillet.
“I told her to sleep on. Come on - Barry and Colin are waiting outside.”
I got up, put on the clothes Dad had laid out for me, and followed him with a basket out if the house and into the car. Colin was sitting in the back, where I joined him, while Dad put the basket into the boot and then joined his father in the front.
“Well,” was all he said as he drove off.
“We’ve made some progress. Their father’s car was clocked driving into a car park in central London Friday, and then on the M1 on Saturday. I’ve spoken to his boss, and he’ll call me later. Nothing yet on the van or the SUV.”
“So what do we do now?”
Colin’s dad turned and looked at me. “I’m not the only one making enquiries - you’ll see when we get Cassie and Jo’s house.”
“I’m sorry, Cassie, but - oh dear God, did he do this to you?”
I felt the blanket being pulled off me and opened my eyes, to see Suzie looking at me over the tape roll. She then looked past me and nodded as I felt the pressure ease under my chest.
“I’m so sorry, Cassie,” Jay said as he looked at me, “If I had been in the room this would not have happened. Are you both all right?”
I nodded as I rolled onto my back and was helped to sit up. It had taken me a while to get to sleep, but I guess I really was more tired than I thought. I watched as Jay untied the legs of both of us, saying “you can walk down this morning,” and then escorted us down to the dining area.
Mum was already up, still gagged but free of her ropes, as she sorted out some bowls, a carton of milk and some Variety packs of cereal, while the two men were securing Patty and Rachel to the chairs. They both looked as if they had slept all night, as they muffled laughs to each other and kicked their legs about.
Jay sat us each in the seats we had last night, as Mum started to put the bowls in front of us. She looked at us both, her eyes sparkling, and said “Snnbhm.” We both nodded and waited as we were untied, and then secured to the chairs. I have to say, I was the most relieved I had been all weekend when the ropes came off me, and I was able to stretch my arms up and flex my fingers.
As I did so, Jenny and Alicia walked in, looking the happiest I had seen them all weekend. Particularly Alicia, who said “Gdmrngng” to all if us as she was untied and secured to the chairs.
Mum poured glasses of orange juice, then sat herself down as our gags were removed. “That’s better,” she said as she picked up her glass, “Here’s to a fun Sunday everyone!”
“Cheers,” Patty and Rachel sang out, “I can’t believe it’s going to end soon. Wait until I tell my parents all about what happened!”
“Rachel,” Mum said as she looked at her, “I think you’d better let me talk to you mum and dad before you say anything, all right?”
“All right, Mrs Craig,” Rachel said as she poured the Coco Pops into her bowl, and she and Patty started making their plans for the day. I picked the Honey Nut Loops, and started to pour the milk on them, wondering what was going to happen today.
“Come on in all of you - coffee and Danishes on the table.”
As we walked in, we saw Cassie sitting at the table, working on a laptop. She was wearing a pair of combat pants and a green jumper, and there was a look on her face of someone who meant business.
“Barry,” she said as she looked up, “Colin’s boss called. There have been a number of transactions made with his authority, at various locations. The pattern indicates he’s visiting major branch offices of the bank. I’ve told him not to put a stop on things until I or you contact him again - we need to follow the trail and...”
“What about the girls?”
I could hear the concern in Dad’s voice, as I said “yeah - we need to find them as well.”
“And we will,” Jo said, “but we need to do things the right way. We need to keep them safe, when we find them.”
“Excuse me,” Colin’s dad said as his phone went off. “Detective Superintendant Hammond here - right, tell me what you have.”
Colin watched his dad, and then said as he looked at Jo and my dad “Bobby, what exactly did Cassie Craig do for a living before she was your sister’s teacher?”
“Ask her,” I said quietly as his dad said “Great - thanks.” I looked at the clock, which said eight, as he came back. “John’s car has been spotted on CCTV entering the controlled driving zone in Birmingham. Also, the van was seen stopping at a supermarket near High Wycombe yesterday.”
“Better and better,” Cassie said as she started to type on the laptop. “Now for a little GPS work.”
“What on,” I asked innocently.
“John’s phone - it has a hidden location device that allows us to find him if we know the general locality - and now we do. Hopefully.”
“That’s better,” I said as I finished my slice of toast, “Thanks, Mum.”
“You’re welcome poppet,” Mum said as she started to clear up the breakfast plates. “All right,” Jay said quietly, “the same routine as yesterday. Two at a time, upstairs, wash, clean your teeth, dress, then come back in here.”
“What have you picked for us today, Mrs Craig,” Rachel said in an excited voice as I felt Jay move my arms over the back of the chair, and secure them with another plastic strip.
“Just enjoy the day, it’ll soon be over,” he whispered into my ear as he knelt behind Suzie and did the same to her. The other two men then untie Patty and Rachel and escorted them from the room, while Angela and Jenny had their wrists secured.
Once they were out of earshot, Mum looked at me and Suzie and said “Are you two all right? I really did not want you to have those extra ropes last night, but...”
“It’s all right, Mum,” I said quietly, “It was just uncomfortable when I had to lie with them tied to the bed.
Mum looked angrily at Jay, who said “I did not know. If I had, I would have changed it.”
“I believe you,” Mum said quietly, then looked at us again. “Girls, I know how uncomfortable it can be for me, but at your age, I’m really not happy.”
“Mum,” Jenny said quietly, “I know where you’re coming from, but it is only for one day more. After that - we can talk about later.”
“How did you manage, Ali,” Suzie said as she looked at her cousin. Alicia sat for a moment, then said “I thought of Grandma, and what she would do. I also thought of...”
She looked at Jenny and Mum, and there seemed to be something they knew that we did not. “I understand,” Mum finally said, “and I think we’re doing the right thing. We just need to remember, some day, we need to talk about what you have experienced yesterday, and may experience today, all right?”
“Time these two went up.”
One of the men had come back in, and Suzie and I were released from the chairs and walked up the stairs, before we made to stand in front of a bathroom door each. Eventually, both Patty and Rachel came out, and were told to go into the room next door while our wrists were released and we went into the bathroom.
“There you go, Barry - CCTV for the M40 for an hour before the van was spotted at the supermarket. Want me to run the software?”
Colin’s dad nodded as Jo worked on a second laptop, while Cassie was on the telephone as she looked at the first one.
“I hate this,” Dad said as he sat next to me and Colin. “I never like not knowing what’s happening.”
“It’s like fishing, isn’t it,” Colin said quietly, “You have to wait and just allow things to happen.”
“Nice analogy, son,” his dad said as he looked at the screen. “There they are!”
We ran over to look at the computer screen, which showed a vehicle like that Cassie’s parents drove on the motorway. As Jo typed on the keyboard, the resolution sharpened, and we saw the number plate.
“Right - we now know they were on the A40 at 3 o’clock yesterday,” Colin’s dad said with a smile. “We’re starting to make progress - they must have either forced Jennifer to drive the vehicle, or driven it themselves. I’d guess the girls were in the SUV - they would not have stopped at a public place like a supermarket with that many hostages in the back.”
“But do we know who THEY are yet?”
“Yes, Bobby, we do.” Cassie looked at all of us and said “Did they ever tell you about the night they were held hostage with their mum?”
I nodded as Colin looked at Cassie. “Yeah - it was before you returned. Why?”
“It’s the same men - the pictures of the van theft have helped identify one of them as a man called Jay Edwards.”
“Edwards! So it’s the Edwards Gang.” Colin looked at his dad, who said “They have history of this sort of thing - holding the families of senior executives hostage to force them to transfer funds and so on. I suspected them the first time, but there was no firm evidence. This time - we need to find John.”
Cassie held up her finger as her mobile phone went off. She listened to the other side of the call, then said “Thanks - we’ll be in touch.”
“We’ve got John’s location,” she said as she returned to the screen. “Just give me a few minutes - there.” Picking up her mobile phone, she dialled a number and waited.
“Craig, Captain Cassandra retired. Authorization Delta two four Oscar. Go secure.
“We have a fix on the first target. Sending co-ordinates down secure line now. Extract and hold all other parties, but bring target to me. Acknowledge.”
She nodded, then ended the call. “Now,” she said as she stood up and poured a coffee, “We wait.”
I came out of the bathroom, with a towel round my hair and a bath robe on, to see Jenny standing there. “Good luck,” she whispered as I went into the other room, to see my outfit lying on the bed.
Mum had laid out a pink short sleeved dress, with a skirt that came to below my knees, and it had a wrap around the waist with a bow at the back. There was also a pair of white ankle socks and a pair of black shoes.
“Nice choice, Mum,” I said to myself as I put on the clean underwear, dress and socks, and then buckled my shoes on. Stepping out, I held my hands out for the masked man to put the now familiar sponges in, before they were taped, covered in clean socks and taped to my arms.
As I turned round and felt my wrists being crossed, Suzie came out. She had on a blue pinafore dress over a mustard coloured short sleeved blouse, which had a black ribbon tied in a bow under the collar, white socks and black shoes. “So we have on our Sunday best,” she said as she allowed the other masked man to prepare her hands.
“So it seems,” I said as I felt the rope around my waist, and then my arms and stomach. “Please, not so tight on the other ropes today,” I whispered as I felt him pass the rope around my arms under my chest, but this time the request - well it was ignored.
I felt the rope tightening around my arms and shoulders, and then come together under my arms, and as I looked at Suzie I could she was not exactly happy as well. “For the others,” she said to me, “and for Grandma.”
“For Granny,” I whispered as we were walked down the stairs by one of the masked men, and into the front room. Mum was waiting there with a portable hair dryer, while Patty and Rachel were sitting on one of the two couches. They already had a band of white silk round their mouths, as Jay lifted up Patty’s skirt to finish tying her legs together.
My cousin was wearing a blue gingham dress, the skirt again just covering her knees, and a blue short jacket over it with white buttons up the front. The jacket barely covered her arms, as she looked at me and said “fgttglfsntde.”
Rachel nodded as if to say she was the same, but the dress she had on was a cream coloured short sleeved one with light brown flowers and a light brown band like mine. Both of them also had on white socks and shoes, as they kicked their legs up and down while Mum was drying my hair.
Once she had finished, Jay started to put my gag into place - the washcloth, the knotted strip of towel, and then the white tape around my head and over my hair. Finally, he folded the white scarf into a band and tied it at the base of my neck, before saying “Sit down on the other couch.”
I sat down, and watched Suzie getting gagged in the same way before she was walked over. As she sat down, and Jay started to bind her ankles together, Alicia and Jenny came in.
Alicia had on a beautiful red sleeveless dress, with a thin black leather belt, that buttoned up the front, with what looked like tights and a pair of black shoes. As for Jenny, she had on a green woollen sweater, the sleeves pulled up a little to allow the sock to be taped into place, and a long red skirt that came down over her knees. She also had tights on and black shoes, as she winked at all four of us. Both of them had their arms secured the same way we did, and this time - well, it did not feel as uncomfortable, but I still didn’t like it much.
Once Mum had finished drying their hair, and Jenny was being gagged, one of the masked men said “Your turn,” and walked Mum out of the room. For a second, I thought she said “Can I have a smoke first,” before she was walked out. Jay looked at us, and said “You all go to church on a Sunday, right?”
We nodded as Rachel said “Shpl.”
“Well,” Jay said as he turned the television onto CBBC, “When your mum gets down, we’ll put on a service so that you can say you went as well.”
“Run that past me again, Barry.”
Dad looked at the other three as Colin and I ate the last of the pastries.
“John’s phone has a secondary GPS tracker, which we have used to pinpoint the current location of the phone. That follows the pattern of transactions his bank has uncovered - but their primary concern is him and the girls, so nobody else knows. Jo has arranged for some - friends to find and get him out of this situation, and make sure any contact arrangements this gang have had are maintained.”
Jo looked over and said “Don’t worry boys - they are very very good at this sort of thing.”
“But why him first?”
Cassie looked over and said “Two reasons. First, we need something only he knows. Secondly, so long as they think John is co-operating, the girls are safe - and he is the isolated one, not them.”
We all looked round at Jenny’s call to see Mum standing there, wearing a light beige button front dress with a red belt around her waist, and red shoes. She had done her hair in a fifties style, and despite the ropes and scarf she looked like she was a mother from these times.
She came over and sat between me and Suzie as Jay changed the channel, and we saw the church service about to start. Jay stood, watching as we began to sing along to the first hymn, and then pray. I prayed that Dad was safe.
The phone ringing woke us all up, as Cassie snatched the phone up and answered it.
“Excellent - rendezvous time?” She looked at her watch and then said “Acknowledge - ensure the communication lines are understood and kept open. And congratulations.”
Setting the phone down, I saw her breath a huge sigh of relief. “John’s safe - he’s on his way here.”
I looked at Dad, who breathed out as well as he said “Finally - what about whoever had him?”
“He is in custody as well,” Cassie said as she sat down, “and it is probably best if you and Barry ask no more at this stage. Our friends are - persuading him of the benefits of keeping up the pretence for the time being.”
Colin’s’ dad had a wry smile on his face as he said “I guess I have some more covering up to do.”
“Not this time - you’re covered by the Official Secrets Act,” Jo said as she brought more coffee in. “How long?”
“Thirty minutes - then we can instigate stage 2.”
Cassie looked at me, smiled and said “Find Jennifer and the girls.”
We all sang along - well, you can guess what we really did - to the last hymn before the minister stood up and uttered the blessing.
“May God, in his infinite grace and mercy, keep you safe on your journey through life, and may he set your path straight. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and you all, evermore. Amen.”
“Mmmn,” we all mumbled as the organ started to play, and the congregation on the screen stood to watch the procession leave. We decided to remain seated - partly because the old couches were comfy, but mainly because I really did not want to move at that point.
“Most uplifting,” Jay said as he turned the television off. “Now, I am afraid we need to borrow Mum so she can cook Sunday Lunch for all of us. Don’t worry - it won’t take long.”
We watched as the other two men helped Mum to stand up and hopped her to the kitchen, while Jay looked at the rest of us. “As for you lot, you need some exercise to get your appetites going. Come on - on your feet.”
He helped Jenny and Alicia to stand up, after which they turned round and nodded at us, saying “cmmntlbfn” as they moved their heads in encouragement. Patty and Rachel, naturally, were next up, followed by me and Suzie. I was certainly moving slowly, still unsure of what I was feeling, and one look at Suzie told me she was thinking something similar.
“Let’s go,” Jay said as Patty and Rachel hopped out into the hallway, their dresses swirling as they did so. The four of us looked at each other and followed, wondering what it was that Jay had planned. We could smell already that something wonderful was cooking, even if it was something simple.
“All right,” Jay said as we lined up outside the door to the front room, “I think what we need here is a little relay race - see who is the fittest out of all of you. Cassie, you and Jenny pick one of the two younger ones.”
Yeah, I know - she may be annoying as hell at times, but she’s still family, so we both motioned to Patty to come and join us. We then lined up - Patty first, then me, then Jenny, while beside us it was Rachel, Suzie and Alicia.
“All right then,” Jay said, “to the far side of the hall and back, and the winning team is the one that gets all three back first. Understand?”
We all nodded as Jay smiled at us. “All right then - on your marks, get set, GO!!”
Patty and Rachel started to jump across the floor, their patterned skirts rising and falling a little as they jumped their way across the hallway, and past the staircases. As they did so, I could hear some of the floorboards squeaking when they landed, and for a moment I thought pretending there were mice there would be funny.
There was a deadly serious expression in their eyes, however, as Rachel just made it to the far side first and turned round, jumping back to the muffled cheers of Suzie and Alicia. Patty was determined not to lose to her, however, so she just jumped a little bit further with each hop, until they were almost neck and neck as they came back.
Suzie and I set off like a rocket, our skirts flying up and down as we took our jumps across the hallway. I could also feel the ropes pressing up and down on my chest, and - well, if I was being honest I was starting to get used to the way they were rubbing against me. It was still the strangest feeling, how it moved with me, and I knew I would need to talk to the others about it for some time, but right now - there was a race to be won.
My pink skirt was going in all sort of directions - twirling, swirling, moving up and down, and I could see Suzie’s blue skirt was doing the same. I even caught a glimpse of her bound legs as I turned round just ahead of her, and started to return in the opposite direction.
As I jumped just before the stairs, I could feel the floorboard under me creak, and for a moment I began to sway as if I was going to fell down - giving Suzie the chance to catch right up with me. She glanced over as I regained my balance, and said “llrrt?”
“Wshm,” was my response as I headed off again, finally reaching Jenny a moment before Suzie reached Alicia. They both had the longest skirts on, so it was fascinating watching them as their skirts rose and fell - not as much as the huge skirts they were wearing yesterday, but still hiding their knees as they raced over, and then back again.
They both approached the four of us, our cheers egging them on as they got closer, closer and finally....
Cassie stood up and ran to the door as Mister Craig came in, looking tired as he glanced round the room. He took several deep breaths, looking at Colin’s dad and mine, before he said “What the hell have you done? So long as I did as they said, Jennifer and the girls were safe, but now...”
“John, shut up and sit down!”
He looked at Cassie Craig, and then sat down at the table, burying his face in his hands. I could see red marks on his wrists, and the top two buttons of his shirt were open. I also heard him struggling to control his breathing, before he looked up and said “Cass, don’t get me wrong, but how the hell did you know something was wrong?”
I looked at Dad, then raised my hand and said “I called at your house, Mister Craig, and found it empty, and signs of things not being right. Colin was with me, then we tried calling Mrs Craig, then...”
He looked at me, then shook his head and said “I’m sorry Bobby - you weren’t to know, nobody was meant to know. They arrived Friday morning, and made me do what they asked.”
“The transactions?” Mister Craig looked at Colin’s dad, and nodded. “So my boss knows?”
“I told them to take no action until you were all safe and sound,” Cassie said as Jo walked over and joined her. “One question - were you to call them today?”
“Me - no, they only allowed me to talk to one of the girls and Jennifer last night. I asked for Cassie - I figured she was getting the others to play along with the kidnap game idea.”
“Kidnap game idea?”
Mister Craig looked at Dad and nodded. “I got them to agree to pretend the whole thing was a game I’d hired them to play with the girls. That way, Patty and her friend would not know what was really going on. I knew Cassie and Jenny would recognise the voice - Jennifer certainly did - and I trusted Alicia and Suzie to play along.”
“Sensible plan, John,” Colin’s dad said, “but what we need to do now is find them. We know they were being taken along the M40, and we have some information that they were heading out to the Chilterns at least. Any ideas?”
Mister Craig shook his head and said “none - I was hooded most of the travelling time. Where’s my minder?”
“With our friends,” Cassie said shortly, “He’s going to keep in contact with the others to maintain the illusion you are still doing their bidding. John, we need the Trackstar code for your SUV.”
Mister Craig looked up, and said “You can hack that system?”
“Jo can hack any system - often with permission too,” Cassie said with a smile. “Look, I know you think they’re in trouble, but trust us - we’re going to find them.”
“All right,” Jay said after a few minutes, once we had all sat down again and managed to catch our breath, “Time for Sunday lunch. It may not be totally home cooked, but it will be good.”
The other two masked men took Alicia and Jenny through first, then Patty and Rachel, and finally Suzie with me, and tied s once more to the chairs before they untied our arms and uncovered our hands. Mum had placed plates of melon slices in front of each of the seats, and we could see there was cutlery out for a three course meal. She was at the stove, checking pans as she looked at us and nodded.
Once my hands were free, I brought them round and flexed my fingers, noting that apart from me and Jenny, all the others - even Mum - were wearing a pair of short gloves. I had to laugh at that - and wonder why we had not been given them. Then I realised - they probably would not go with the outfits we had on!
“Thanks,” I said as Jay removed the gag, and Mum sat down with us, watching until we were all able to speak. “Alicia, would you say Grace please?” she asked as we all looked at her - even our captors.
Alicia nodded as we all closed our eyes, and she said “Lord, thank you for helping us to enjoy these last few days, and we ask that you bless this food to us now. Thank you.”
“Amen,” we all said, Jay loudest of all, before we started to eat the coloured slices of fruit.
“So,” Mum said, “who won the race? I heard a sound like a horde of elephants jumping outside, so I presume you were all having one.”
“We did,” Rachel said as we nodded in acknowledgement, “but only because Jenny almost fell over.”
“True,” Jenny said with a smile, “I was lucky to keep my balance.”
“I have to say, I’m surprised at the state of some of the floorboards,” Jay said as he looked at us, “so you need to take care when you go to the toilet and upstairs after lunch.”
“So are we going to be in the big room after lunch,” Patty said with a smile.
“That’s right - and Mum will join you for the activities up there. And I just want to say thank you, Jennifer, for supporting the girls and us these last few days.”
Mum looked at Jay, nodding and saying “I was glad to help them,” before she started eating her food again. Eventually, she picked up the plates, and then brought us each a plate with roast turkey, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, peas and gravy on it.
“Thanks, Mum,” Jenny said as she took her plate, and then she looked at me. “How are you coping with the extra - support, Cass,” she said as she cut into the meat and ate a piece.
I nodded, swallowed my food and said “It took a little time to get used to it, but I think I like it more now.”
Mum and Jenny both looked at me, then Mum said “I’m glad you’re all enjoying it. In a way, I wish the game didn’t have to end, but it is a school day tomorrow. I need to ask one favour of all of you?”
“What’s that Aunt Jenny,” Patty said as she looked over.
“Keep it a secret from your friends for now, until we have a chance to talk to all your parents about it - especially yours Rachel. If they ask what happened this weekend, just say you had a wonderful time playing dress up - which you all did, right?”
Jenny and I looked at each other, realising this was one of those occasions when the Craig Compact was coming into play, so we both nodded in agreement, the others joining in.
I watched John Craig as he bit into a beef sandwich, then looked at me. “It’s all right, Bobby,” he said quietly, “you did the right thing, and I’m glad you’ve kept this to yourselves. The priority now has to be...”
“There you are!” We all looked at Jo, who motioned us over to look at the computer screen. We could see what looked like a parking area in the middle of a high street, and as John stared at the picture he said “That’s our car!”
It was indeed their SUV, parked alongside the other cars with a ticket in the window. “Where is it,” Cassie said as she looked at the picture.
“Stokenchurch High street - whoever was with Jennifer and the girls must have taken it there after they drove to the place they really are. It ties with the van at the supermarket in High Wycombe as well - so we have narrowed our field considerably.”
Colin’s dad looked at the picture, and said “How did you find it?”
“John’s SatNav is fitted with a security tracker - we used that to find the location, and then Google Earth did the rest. Now, next question - were there any large houses in the area, furnished ones, rented in the last couple of places for the weekend?”
“Oh come on,” Colin said as he looked at Jo and Cassie, “There must be hundreds. Bobby and I used to go to a Scout retreat up there a couple of years back - Wissenden Hall - but they closed it down, and...”
We looked at each other, as Cassie said, “and?”
“And they said they were going to rent it out on an as required basis. A sole agent. You don’t suppose...”
I pushed back the pudding plate and sat back in the chair, my hands on my tummy. “That was fantastic, Mum,” I said as I looked at her, and I was glad she smiled - especially as we all agreed.
All of us - even Jay and the other two masked men.”I’ll make some coffee,” Mum said as she stood up, and one of the masked men went over to help.
“Listen,” Jay said as he sat and looked at us, “We’re going to end this game soon, and it’s been a blast, but I don’t want any of you to be uncomfortable this afternoon. If you want, we’ll get rid of the extra band of ropes around your upper arms - give you a more relaxing time this afternoon. What do you say?”
When I heard this, I involuntarily wrapped my arms together in front of me. I wasn’t sure how to respond to this question - the problems with trying to get to sleep last night were still ripe in my mind as I heard Mum say “I’ll let the girls decide.”
“Well,” Patty said as she looked at me, “it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me - I’m still very secure without it, so I’m happy to do without it.”
“Me too,” Rachel said, “It’s a bit of extra fun, but I don’t mind if you don’t do it.”
I looked down the table to Suzie, and I could see from her body language she was thinking about something as well. It would be so good not to have that extra length of rope rubbing against me...
“I’m happy if you don’t do it,” I heard Alicia say, “I know why you did it, but I would prefer not to have that - extra support.”
Faintly, I heard Jenny next to me say “I didn’t feel it as much today - probably because of the jumper - but I would be happy not to have it as well. What do you say Cassie?”
In my mind, I knew this was the opportunity to end that irritating feeling for the rest of the day, to be more comfortable and a little bit more free - only a little bit. It would be so good, feel so good, all I had to do was say yes. I looked round the table, opened my mouth and said “No - I want it to stay.”
Mum was putting a mug of coffee in front of Jay as she heard this, and they both looked at me. “Cassie, can you repeat what you just said please?”
I looked at the others, as surprised as anyone else at what I said. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and thought “I’ll say I’m sorry, and I don’t need that extra rope...”
“I’m sorry, Mum, but I want the extra band of rope. I said last night I would have them all night and all day, and you keep saying I should not make promises I can’t keep.”
Mum just stared at me, as I looked at Jenny. She was laughing, shaking her head from side to side as she said “You know, sis, you never cease to surprise me.”
“I want it as well,” Suzie said, making Alicia look at her and say “What?”
“Cassie’s right - we made a promise and we need to keep it.” I could see the surprise in her eyes as she said this as well, while Alicia said “My God, Jenny, what have we done? We have created a monster.”
“Haven’t we just,” Jenny said with a laugh. “I never would have believed my little sister would have felt the need to be even more secured, and now look. She needs our support more than ever, Alicia.”
“I think they both do,” Alicia said as they both started laughing. I could see Suzie was blushing red, and I could feel the heat in my own cheeks as well.
The really funny bit wasn’t that, or the slightly incredulous look on Mum’s face, but the total bewilderment that was etched on the faces of Patty and Rachel. “I don’t get it,” Patty finally said, “What’s so funny?”
“Ohhh,” Jenny finally said as she calmed down, “I’ll explain it to you when you’re older, Patty - a lot older.”
Patty and Rachel just shook their heads as Jenny poked me in the ribs, and whispered “You really liked it didn’t you?” I looked at her, unable to even nod or shake my head as I felt my hands been taken behind my back, and the plastic strip around my wrists.
“Open wide you two,” I heard Jay say, and I was grateful for the distraction as I saw him push a clean cloth into the mouths of Patty and Rachel, followed by the strip of towel, the tape and the scarf over the whole lot. As the two men took them to the toilet, he sat down and looked at all of us.
“Look,” he said quietly, “I wanted to apologise to all of you.”
“You? You want to apologise,” Mum said as she sat down. “Forgive me if I don’t quite believe you.”
Jay nodded, and said “I understand. Nonetheless, I do want to apologise - I know this has been a strain on all of you, having to play along to keep the two youngsters unaware of what is really going on. I’m also really sorry it has happened to you again. - And for the whole weekend. Hopefully, this sort of thing will never happen to you again.”
“With our track record, I wouldn’t put any money on that.”
We all burst out laughing at Alicia’s comment, before Jay said “Now, would you like a hand with the washing up?”
“In a minute,” Mum said, and then she looked at the four of us. “When this is over, once the dust has settled, you four and I need to have a very serious and adult conversation.”
“About what,” Suzie said as she looked at me.
“You know what,” Mum said as she stood up and went to the sink. “I’ll dry up once the girls are taken care of,” Jay said as he looked at us, and then went to fetch the next set of gagging material.
“Admit it,” Jenny whispered into my ear, “you don’t know what to think, do you?”
“Is it that obvious?”
Jenny merely nodded as Jay said “Open wide” and I felt the damp cloth pressing down on my tongue again.
“I see - that’s very interesting, and I would certainly be interested in viewing Wissenden Hal for the event, but I would need to see it for myself. I happen to be in the area at the moment - would it be possible to see it this afternoon?”
We were in a minibus, driving up the M40, and passing Beaconsfield as we listened to Jo on her mobile phone. Mister Craig was sitting in the back with my Dad, while Colin and his dad were in front of me.
“Oh,” Jo said as Cassie drove, “Well that is unfortunate if it is unavailable for the weekend, but I understand that if they have asked for privacy, you must respect that. I wonder, however, if you can give me some contact details for your client - it would be helpful for me if I could get a reference from him for my employer?”
She grabbed a pen and a piece of paper as she listened on her headset, turning round once to look at Mister Craig as she wrote the details down.
“I see - and am I right in thinking you require payment by Credit Card? No, that is not a problem - thank you so much for your help.” She ended the call, then turned round and looked at Cassie’s dad.
“All right, John, tell me again what the man who held you said.”
Mister Craig turned and looked at her, then said “I was told Jennifer and the girls would be taken to a country house, where they would be held. They would have beds, television, and be fed and cared for, but they would only be freed if I did everything they told me to.”
“How so,” Cassie said as she looked at Jo.
“Because according to the agent, Wissenden Hall has been rented for the weekend, furniture included, by a Mister John Craig, resident at your home address. Rental paid in full, by credit card - but I’d be willing to bet bottom dollar it’s not your card.”
Mister Craig stared at her, and then burst out laughing. “Of all the unmitigated... These guys really have done this before.”
“You have no idea, John,” Colin’s dad said. “The fact you’ve been hit twice by the same gang says something. How long?”
“Another half hour or so,” Cassie said. “We’ll stop in Stokenchurch first, leave you and Alexander to check the car, and press on from there.”
“I’m not one hundred percent happy with this plan,” Dad said as he looked at me and Colin. “We want to do this, Dad,” I said in reply, “and you can’t do anything to stop us.”
I came out of the toilet and held my hands out, almost shivering as I watched them been slowly taped up and then covered once again in the socks. Looking back over the last two days, I was amazed at myself at how well I was coping, what with the ropes and the gags and the pressure almost all the time - but I really had managed to enjoy most of it.
Suzie came out of the other bathroom, putting her gloves back on before she squeezed the sponge in her hands and watched the tape going round them. I could see she was thinking about things as well. To be honest the thing that popped into my head then was how I was going to explain to my teacher the lack of homework for this weekend - but then I figured Mum would write a letter saying I was ill or something.
As I felt the rope pressing my wrists together, and then against my back, there was another feeling inside me. Why the hell had I said the ropes had to stay? I mean, I really did not like the way it rubbed against me, and yet at the same time...
Looking over, I saw Suzie was watching me as well, tilting her head as we felt our forearms been tied to our stomachs. That shiver was getting stronger, as I watched the other masked man wrap the rope around Suzie’s arms above her elbow and her chest, and then pull it tight under, then over, then under, then over...
I barely felt the same thing happening to me, but I did when I felt the man binding me tighten them, pressing down on my chest above and below. IT felt tight, it felt a little uncomfortable - and yet, at the same time...
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I sort out how I felt as we were walked back down the stairs, and made to sit in the chairs at the dining table while Jenny and Alicia were walked out? I turned my head and looked at them, Jenny nodding to me as they were walked out of the room, while Jay was helping Mum to dry and put away the dishes.
I wriggled my arms round as little as I could, trying to get comfortable as Mum looked at me, and then stopped. Patty was giggling as she twisted in her seat, but I didn’t want to do that.
I wanted to do that.
I didn’t want to - oh someone tell me what’s going on! Suzie had the most peculiar expression in her eyes as well, as I felt my cheeks redden while waiting for Jay to come over and bind our legs.
Soon enough, the other two were back, as securely bound as we were, and sat down to let the two masked men bind their legs. “Right,” Jay finally said as he put the tea towel down, “We’re going to go upstairs and play a few games.” As he said this, Mum was being gagged by one of the masked men, while the other started to put the dishes away.
“Your mum will join us once she has taken care of packing your clothes away - I think she might want to judge one of the games - but for now let’s head up. And remember - try to avoid those floor boards that were creaking earlier. Cassie, you lead the way.”
I got myself off the chair and started to hop towards the staircase, avoiding those funny squeaking boards from earlier, as the others followed my lead to the foot of the stairs. We started to push ourselves up, two at a time, as Jay watched from the bottom, then waited for him to join us before we headed to the large playroom.
“All right then,” he said as he walked over to the radio, “We’re going to start with a game of musical statues. Find a space on the floor, and when I turn the radio on start dancing round. You know the rest - when I stop the music, you must stand perfectly still, and whoever moves first is out. Ready?”
We hopped into a space on our own, our skirts swishing in the air, before Jay said “Let’s go,” and turned on the radio to a Franz Ferdinand song. I started to jump around on the spot, watching the skirt on my dress rise and fall with each jump, and I could see Suzie doing the same. I could also see her eyes were closed, and I wondered if she was feeling the same way I was at the ropes rubbing me...
Patty and Rachel, naturally enough, were jumping all round the room, but the big surprise was the way Jenny and Alicia were dancing round, their skirts rising up to reveal the ropes around their knees as they jived to the music, their eyes closed as they sang along.
Suddenly the music stopped, and I froze, my skirt slowly falling to cover my legs again as Jay looked round the room. I then heard a muffled laugh, and the soft thud of someone sitting on a beanbag as I turned to look.
I watched Mister Craig as he took a key from his pocket and unlocked the SUV. We had stopped at their house before heading off, so that he could check the house was locked, change his clothes and get his spare keys, and now we heard him sigh as he said “It looks all right - and I can see something.”
He reached down and picked up a silver bangle, which he held to the light. “It’s Jennifer’s” he said with a sigh. “So, what do we do now?”
“Now,” Colin’s Dad said, “You and Alexander stay here. Go, have a drink, tell him what’s happened to you over the last couple of days - we need someone else to know.” He turned and looked at both of us as we stood there.
“Boys, if you want to back out now’s the time?”
We looked at each other, then went back to the minibus and took out our backpacks. “We’ll start walking, you go on ahead,” Colin said, “We know what to do.”
“And you’re out,” Jay said, laughing as Jenny sat down on a bean bag and put her head back. “Slllrrrtt,” she said finally as she looked at us, and I saw her skirt slide over her legs, “crrenn.”
So Jay started the music again, and we all started to dance round the floor. When he stopped, it was Rachel who fell at the next hurdle, unable to stop herself from swaying to the side as she tried to stand still.
“Sit down, lass,” Jay finally said once he had stopped shaking his head, and helped Rachel by carrying her in his arms and sitting her gently on the long couch. “Fnks,” she mumbled as Jay winked at us, and then turned the radio back on again.
As I started to jump around the room, I could feel the ropes pressing down on my chest, from above and below, and I couldn’t stop thinking of what had happened at the lunch table. I still could not believe I had said what I had said, and the way the ropes were rubbing against me was irritating – even more irritating than Patty when she tries to get us to play rather than do our homework.
And yet – it felt... As they pressed down, and I saw the way I was moving as I jumped, it felt... As I felt the ropes around my arms, my tummy, my chest, it felt...
Honestly, I could not find the words to describe how I felt – and that was as irritating as the way they felt. I could see a look in Suzie’s eyes that told me she felt the same way, as Rachel talked to Jenny – and the music stopped.
“AAAMNNNNNNN” Alicia called out as she flopped down next to Jenny, shaking her head as she laughed at her position, her skirt gently falling over her knees as she looked over at my sister.
I jumped round to see Mum standing there with the two men. She was tied as tightly as all the rest of us, with her arms behind her back, and bands of rope around her waist, tummy, below and above her chest. I could see the top of her dress was a little more open than usual, but as she was hopped over to sit next to Rachel even her skirt was rising and falling, just like the rest of us.
As she sat down, and looked at Rachel, the gold band around her mouth was shining in the light of the sun that was coming through the window. Jay said to Patty, Suzie and me “Shall we see who falls next?” and turned the radio back on.
“You know, I never quite realised just how isolated this place was.”
Colin and I were walking through the forest that backed onto Wissenden Hall – a path we remembered from previous visits, but this was a visit neither of us ever thought we were going to make.
“Yeah,” I said as I saw the roof of the house over the tops of the trees. Stopping at the edge of the forest, I saw the grounds that led up to the rear of the building. It all seemed so calm and peaceful.
“Do you really think they are in there,” Colin said as he looked at the house. Handing him a pair of binoculars, I said “have a look.” As he looked through the set, Colin nodded and said “Yeah, I take your point – curtains permanently pulled over all the windows, even if someone is at home.”
I felt my mobile phone vibrating in my pocket, and took it out to answer the call.
“Bobby,” I heard Cassie say, “Where are you?”
“We’re at the back of the hall – no sign of anyone, but I can see the windows are covered. What do you want us to do?”
“Hold your current position – we’re at the front of the hall, parked by the gates. The moment you see anyone come out, call me. And Bobby?”
“For the love of God, stay out of sight. Your Dad would kill me if I got you into any trouble – and then your grandmother would really get started on me.”
I ended the call, laughing to myself. “Might as well get comfy – got any Lucozade in there?”
“Well now, I guess we have our finalists!”
Patty and I looked at each other, Suzie having failed at the last music stop. I could see the sweat on her brow, and her skirt was creased as it stuck to her legs. Even the buttons on her jacket had managed to come undone, the front falling open to show the v-necked collar at her front.
Even so, she had a look of determination in her eyes, that she was going to win this game. It was a look I hope I had returned, as Jay started to play the music again.
This time we chased each other round the room, laughing through our gags as we listened to One Dimension on the radio. It seemed to go on for an eternity, as I saw the way my skirt twirled while I jumped round corners, rose and fell with each hop, and the way the ropes were pressing on me – even if I tried to move my hands, I could feel the way they were connected behind my back, the way they made those irritating, and yet nice...
Did I just say the bands pressing on my chest were nice? I was taken by surprise by that thought, which made me stop – just as the music stopped. I swayed forward, then back and fell – fortunately, onto one of the beanbags as Patty called out “YSSSS! WNNRRRRR!!”
“Well done,” Jay said as he picked me up and sat me on one of the other couches, then placed Patty next to me. “All right, I want you to catch your breath before we play the next game.”
He looked over at the two masked men and nodded. “Go and get things ready,” he said quietly, “I’ll be all right here. Now then, do you remember I said I needed your mother to be a judge for me?”
We all nodded as he looked at us. “Well, I’ll put the radio on for a little while, and you can all have a dance – Mum here is going to pick a winner out of all of you. No prize I’m afraid, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”
We all nodded and got up – with some help from Jay – and then lined up in front of Mum as he walked over and turned the radio on. He then tuned it to an old channel – well, it played old music – and we all started to try to dance to the music.
It sounded like the man was signing about someone’s tiger feet – I watched Jenny and Alicia as they turned to face each other and bobbed from side to side, their heads almost on each other’s shoulder. As for the titanic twosome, they were jumping around and enjoying everything that they were doing.
Suzie and I were quite happy just to jump up and down, and from side to side, trying to figure out what it was we were felling as the ropes rubbed on our chest, under our arms, all over our bodies...
“Grllss?” I looked over to see Mum with her head to the side, looking at us, so I started to jump around as well, before anything else happened.
I was watching the house when I saw two men come out, dressed in blue boiler suits, and walk round the outside of the building. For a moment I though they looked in our direction, but then they just kept going.
“Recognise them?” I said to Colin, but he just shook his head. Then we saw the van, and we both recognised that as they drove to the front of the house.
“Well, we’re in the right place,” Colin said, but I didn’t hear him – I was already half way across the rear lawn, hoping nobody was looking out of the windows as I got to the back windows.
I slowly edged round and looked carefully at the side, but when I saw it was clear I made my way to the front. As I did, I heard the van doors open and close, and I was in time to see the two men make their way back into the house.
I figured if they were going to be moving, it would be soon, so I felt in the pocket of my jeans and took out my penknife. Listening carefully to make sure nobody was still outside, I ran to the side of the van facing away from the large front door, and knelt down.
“What the hell did you think you were doing,” was what Colin said to me as I re-joined him in the woods.
“Making sure they can’t get far except on foot,” was all I said. “The sun’s beginning to set – they should be making a move soon.”
“Well done,” Jay said to Alicia as Mum nodded to her, “the old songs always are the best.
“But now I am afraid I have good news and...” Jay was interrupted by his mobile phone ringing. “Excuse me one moment, I’ve been expecting this call,” he said quietly as he took his phone out and said “Talk.
“So he has done everything we asked him to do?
“Say that again.”
Jay looked at us, before saying “Yeah, I understand. I’ll take care of everything – don’t worry.” He ended the call and then turned to look at us, his arms crossed.
“Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I’m afraid our weekend game is nearly over.”
I could hear Patty and Rachel’s groans as Jay continued “The good news is your father will be coming to collect you very soon now. He may have some friends from the police force with him, just to make it a really exciting end to the game. I hope you’ve all enjoyed yourself this weekend?”
Patty and Rachel nodded like mad, and to my surprise I saw that everyone else was as well – including me.
“Great – so, we’re going to carry you all downstairs, and make you nice and comfortable in the front room. We’ll even put the television on to help pass the time if you want.”
“Fnkujee,” Mum mumbled. “Right – don’t move,” he said as he picked up Rachel, one of the two masked men picked up Jenny and the other Suzie, and carried them down the stairs. A few minutes later, they all came back up and carried Patty, me and Alicia down.
When we went into the front room, we saw the other three sitting on one of the two big couches, with ropes holding their ankles to each other. We were sat on the other couch, and as the two masked men left Jay ran a length of rope around the ankles of all three of us.
That left an old recliner, which is where the masked men put Mum, laying her on her side as she watched the rest of us. As the television warmed up, we saw that one of the channels was showing That Darn Cat – again.
“Cnwsshthtpls,” Rachel said with her eyes wide, and Jay nodded, saying “All right – girls, stay still and stay safe.” With that, he waved at all of us and left us, watching the film. I heard the front door open and close, and then – only the film.
Colin and I had moved around the edge of the wood surrounding the house, so that we could get a view of the front where the van was parked. As we hid there, we saw the front door open and three men come out, dressed in blue boiler suits with balaclavas over their heads.
“Right – we need to get out of here before the police arrive,” one of them said in a higher pitched voice that had a bit of a Geordie twang to it. “We’ve got more than enough to – you have got to be kidding me.”
I had to stop myself from laughing when they saw the flat tires on the van. “All right,” the Geordie said, “You two use the alternative escape route through the woods – meet up tomorrow, in the usual place. And good luck.”
We watched two of the men turn and walk round the house, while the other one started to head for the front gate. “Follow those two,” I said to Colin, “and when they’re a safe distance away, call Jo and tell her where you are.”
“What about him?”
I looked at the third man, and said “Your dad and Cassie are at the front gate – they’ll pick him up.”
“What are you going to do?”
“What do you think – go!” I watched as Colin made his way back along the forest, then took a deep breath and started to walk, very slowly, to the front door.
When I got to the front door, I still wasn’t 100% sure if there was still one of the masked gang inside, so I took hold of the handle on the door and knocked once, waiting to see if anyone answered.
“Whttwwstht,” Alicia said as we all heard something knocking. When we looked to the film, however, the dark haired actress was banging on the door of some sort of garage, so we just assumed it was from that.
Both Patty and Rachel had fallen asleep, Patty with her head on Alicia’s shoulder while Rachel had her head against the back of the couch. Jenny was sitting perfectly still with Suzie, while I was sat quietly, watching the film and moving my bound legs to and fro.
Which was strange, given that they were meant to have been tied to the legs of Alicia. I shuffled forward and looked down, to see that the length of rope had fallen off my legs! I looked to Alicia, who had also noticed, but she slowly shook her head and went back to watching the film.
“Jsststqutle,” Mum said to me from her position lying on the couch, and I nodded back to say I understood. I wasn’t going to tell them the other thing I had just realised.
With all the jumping round, my ankles ropes were a little loose – and I was wondering if I could slowly kick them off.
I started to very quietly, very carefully, move my ankles round, wondering if I had just imagined it or not.
Well, there was no answer, and no sign of masked and armed men running at me, but when I tried the door handle the door was locked. I started to walk round the outside of the house, looking to see if there was an open window or something I could use to get inside, but they were all covered in heavy curtains.
Eventually, I found what I presumed was the door to the kitchen, and tried that as well. It was also locked, but when I stepped back I could see that there was a skylight at the top of the door – and there was a small, a very small gap at the bottom of it.
Looking round, I found an old dustbin that was standing empty, so I moved it over to the door and tipped it over, then climbed up onto the base. I could see enough of the gap to be able to reach the latch inside, so I took out my penknife and very carefully slid it into the gap, working it until the window came loose in my hand and I was able to open it and look inside. It was indeed the kitchen, and the gap looked big enough for me to get through – even though I’d have to go head first on the other side.
“Well, in for a penny,” I said to myself, and I started to push my head and arms through the gap, then my arms. It was then I saw the ladder that was next to the door – lucky for me, as I could grab the top and then ease the rest of my body in, stopping the window slamming shut with my foot.
The room was in darkness, thanks to the curtains drawn over the windows, but it was obvious to me as I looked round that the kitchen had been used – the dustbin had a number of packets in it, and as I looked I saw bags for frozen roast potatoes, peas, and desserts. There were also two foil trays, and the remains of what looked like turkey breast joints.
Heading past the kitchen, I saw the round dining table, and the indentations on the seat told me they had been used – fairly recently. There was also a refuse sack, and when I opened it I saw pieces of tape, damp cloths, cut plastic strips, and very stained lengths of torn towel.
“Well, that kind of cinches it,” I said to myself as I looked round – and it was then I heard the sound of a television playing somewhere. I left the dining room, and stepped out into the hallway. Just as I did, however, I stepped on a loose floor board, and held my breath as it squeaked.
The young girl had just stepped on the loose floorboard, as the masked crooks grabbed her from behind and dragged her into captivity.
“Nvrfls,” Jenny said as she looked at me, and I nodded. I wasn’t going to reply – I was too busy hiding the fact I had let my shoes fall to the floor, and had managed to work one of my feet free from the ropes. No-one else had seen yet, but I was beginning to think about going to see if I could raise the alarm somehow.
We watched as she was tied tightly to a chair, and a cloth tied tightly over her mouth. “Dntcct,” Mum mumbled as she twisted round a little bit, and I shifted myself a little bit forward on the couch.
The vibration in my pocket caught me by surprise, as I crept back into the dining room and answered the call.
“Bobby? It’s Colin.”
“I can’t talk too loudly – I’m inside the hall.”
“I understand – I just called Jo, and gave them the location of the two – ah.”
“Ah? Colin, what’s going on?”
“Sorry – they’ve just been caught. Jo got them.”
I let out a sigh of relief and said “All right – get back up here, as fast as you can. I’m going to unlock the front door and let the others in.”
Ending the call, I dialled another number and waited.
“Miss Craig? It’s Bobby – I’m inside the Hall, and there are no signs of any of the gang.”
“Thank God,” Cassie said at the other end, “Can you see the family?”
“Give me a minute.”
I crept back out of the room, trying to avoid the loose floorboards and looked in the door at the other side. There were three couches, two with their back to me, but I could see the backs of the heads of Jenny and Alicia – and the bands of cloth holding their hair in place.
To one side was a recliner, and I was surprised to see Cassie and Jenny’s mum lying there, wearing a dress that could have come from Grandma’s wardrobe – and making it look good. She also had a band of silk round her head, but then she saw me and raised an eyebrow.
I put a finger to my mouth, and she nodded to show she understood, as I slipped back out and went to the door.
“Sorry, Miss Craig...”
“Bobby, it’s Mister Craig. Are they there?”
“Yeah – they’re watching a film on television. I could see her mother – they’re very tightly bound and gagged.”
“Thank God,” I heard him mutter under his breath. “Can you unlock the front door?”
I started to walk over to the door, standing on a couple of loose floorboards as I did so...
That time I definitely heard the squeak of the floor, and so did Alicia, as we both looked over at Mum.
“Dntwkthtm,” she mumbled as she looked at Patty and Rachel, who were still sleeping. “Gmsvr – rscshr.”
“Rllee? Hoo,” I mumbled under my gag as I looked at Mum. “Jsstststng,” she told me as she looked at me over her gag, but the idea that someone had come to rescue us was just too good to let pass without doing anything.
“Cssewhru...” Alicia watched as I let the ropes slip off my ankles, and then stood up, walking slowly over to the door that led to the hallway. I was stiff, and the other ropes rubbed like nothing I had felt before, but when I got there, and saw who was at the front door, my heart literally leapt.
I got to the two heavy doors, and looked at the locks – especially the two Yale locks.
“No problem,” I said as I turned the two handles, and then pulled one of the heavy doors inside, the bright sunshine making the dust in the air visible. “Time for the cavalry to arrive.”
“Well done, Bobby,” I heard Mister Craig say as the engine started. At the same time, I saw Colin and Jo coming round the corner of the house, and it was then I heard a familiar voice saying “Bbbee?”
I turned round and there she was – in a short sleeved pink dress and white socks, tied ever so tightly round her knees, arms, and chest – four bands of rope holding her arms in place, and a band of white around her head.
But her eyes were sparkling, and I could tell she was smiling.
I literally could not believe it – it was Bobby, opening the door and then turning to see me after I called his name. “Hey Cass,” he said as he looked at me, “I hear you’ve had a fun weekend.”
That was it – I started to run towards him, and that was when I felt the floorboard give way under my right foot, and I stumbled to the floor, my leg going through the wooden plank...
As I fell, I felt my ankle twist, and something going into my right leg, but the gag stifled my screams – if not the crack of the wood. I could hear Mum saying “Whtshppnd” and then saw Colin run in the door with Jo, as Bobby ran to me.
It was like something from a silent comedy, as Cassie started to run towards me – well, hobble quickly – and then the floor gave out under her, making her right leg sink into the wood as she fell forwards.
I ran forward and helped her to sit up on the floor, as Colin and Jo entered the house and ran up to join me. “In there,” I said to Colin, pointing to the room that the call of her mother had come from, and he ran to see the others. I could hear Jenny call out “CLN!” as Jo gently broke the wood around Cassie’s leg and lifted her out.
Her ankle had twisted, and there was a piece of the floorboard embedded in her leg, with blood round it, but as Jo looked at it she said “Well, I don’t think anything’s broken, but you’re going to need a few stitches in that.” She sat Cassie up and removed the silk scarf, and then unwrapped the tape. It was only as she removed the very wet towelling and the cloth that I heard Mister Craig say “Poppet!” and come over to us.
“What happened,” Colin’s dad said as he came in as well, followed by her Aunt Cassie and my dad.
“She was running to me when the floor gave way,” I said as Miss Craig came over and lifted Cassie in her arms. “Hey trouble,” she said as Cassie looked at her, “I hear you’ve had an adventure.”
“Yeah,” Cassie said as she looked at me, “but I think I hurt my leg.”
“Oh that – we’ll soon get you fixed up,” her dad said, before he hugged and kissed her. “We’ll get her to the hospital and get that fixed,” Jo said as she looked at Cassie’s aunt, “you guys need to take care of the rest of the group – and remember, it was a game, got it?”
“Yeah,” I said, and then I remembered something. “Hey – did you guys get the guy who left by the front gate?”
I looked at Colin’s dad, before saying “One of the gang went towards you – all I can tell you is he spoke with a light Geordie accent.”
“Sorry, Bobby,” Miss Craig said quietly, “Nobody passed us. Now go and help the others.”
I watched Jo and her aunt carry Cassie out, and then went into the front room with the others. Colin was kneeling in front of Jenny, untying her ankles having already removed the rope linking the three of them together, while I could see the look of relief in the eyes of both her and Alicia.
Mister Craig ran straight to Cassie’s mum, hugging and kissing her before he removed her gag. “I’m so glad you rescued us,” she said as she looked into his eyes, “And you brought so many others to help as well.”
“Hey – couldn’t let my girl be rescued by anyone else,” Dad said as he untied the rope from around Suzie’s arms, but I could see he was a little worried at how tightly she was tied.
“Hey Dad, and Bobby,” Suzie said as Colin untied the gag from Jenny, “We’ve had a great weekend. Thanks for organising it, Mister Craig.”
“Where’s Cassie,” was the first thing Jenny said when she was able to speak, and I could see her mum had the same question.
“She had a little accident outside – nothing serious, but her Aunt Cassie has taken her to get it checked.”
“She came as well?” Patty smiled and said “Wow – you really did make this realistic didn’t you?”
“You have no idea, Patty,” Mister Craig said as he hugged her, then Jenny, then Suzie. Colin’s dad had freed Alicia and Rachel, and was looking round the hall.
“Listen John,” he finally said, “I think you should get the girls back to your house, and get them changed before their parents come to collect them. Suzie, you go back with Bobby and Colin as well.”
“We’ll need the case I brought our clothes in – it’s in a bedroom upstairs,” Mrs Craig said as she looked at him.
“I’ll bring it back with me later,” he said as he looked at the girls. “Right now, all of you, go back to Cassie’s house. I’ll bring her back with me later on, all right?”
“I’m going to stay with you, Barry,” Dad said. “Bobby, I’ll give your mum a call and tell her to pick you up at the Craig’s later.” I nodded and hugged Alicia, feeling her arms around me as well, before he said “Oh – and Bobby?”
“If she asks – we caught nothing. Understand?”
I nodded and helped Mister Craig to walk the others out, in their wonderful dresses, walking slowly as the feeling came back to their arms and legs...
One Week Later
“Hey,” Bobby eventually said as my tears quietened down, “Feel better now?”
I nodded before I took a paper tissue and dabbed my eyes. “You must think me a real wimp for crying like that,” I eventually said.
“Nah – if there is one thing that is true about you, Cassandra Paulette Craig, it is that you are not a wimp. You have too much of your Aunt Cassie in you for that. Besides, from what I understand, Alicia had a real good cry the other day as well.”
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
“Nah – he’s telling the truth.”
I looked to the door to see Alicia standing there with Jenny and Suzie. “We all have had our cry – I’m glad you’ve had yours now.”
“Even Patty and Rachel?”
“They’re more upset about the fact they can’t tell anyone what happened,” Jenny said as she and the others sat on the edge of the bed. “Anyway, Amscray, Bobby – girl talk time.”
“Yeah like I haven’t heard that before,” Bobby said with a smile as he stood up and left the room, looking at me before he left. “How’s the leg,” Suzie said as she patted the tunnel.
“Stitches out tomorrow – I was lucky, apparently, but it stung like heck when they cleaned it out and removed the wood. What else have you heard?”
“Colin’s dad,” Jenny said, “told us they got three of the gang – but not Jay. They think he slipped out after they drove up to the hall.”
“Apparently Dad and Grandpa had a word with the owner during the week,” Suzie said, “or at least that’s what I overheard Mum and Dad saying. I have no idea what they’re planning, but I get the feeling something big is coming.”
“There you are,” Mum said as she came in and closed the door, “I’m glad you’re all here. There’s something I think we need to talk about.”
“Here it comes,” Jenny said as Mum stood against the wall, her arms folded. “I think Cassie and Suzie are still a little young for that talk, Mum.”
“Not that one,” Mum said quietly, “the ropes. The extra ones we all had on the Saturday night and Sunday.”
“Oh,” I said quietly as I looked at Suzie, “those ones.”
Mum nodded, and looked at all of us. “I know how they made me feel,” she eventually started, “but I never thought you would say you wanted them to stay on, Cas.”
“I never thought I would either,” I said quietly, “but whenever I tried to say no I didn’t want them...”
“...It came out as yes,” Suzie finished what I was thinking.
Mum nodded, and then said “How did they feel on you?”
“They felt... they irritated like hell, and pressed me so hard, but at the same time...”
“At the same time,” Alicia said as she looked at Jenny, “it actually felt quite nice after a while. I don’t know or understand how, but they did.”
Mum nodded and then let out a sigh as she unfolded her arms. “You’re all growing up so fast,” she eventually said, “and I have the feeling that you would not mind feeling the ropes around there again, right?”
We all looked at each other, and then as one nodded.
“All right,” Mum said quietly, “but there are rules. Only when you are indoors, and only if me or one of the other mothers or aunts does it. At no time are any of the boys to do it to you – ANY OF THEM.” She emphasised the last three words as she looked at us, and I wasn’t sure why. Alicia and Jenny seemed to understand, and Suzie looked as bemused as I felt.
“Also, no hogties if you have those ropes – if you want a hogtie, the one underneath your chest has to be removed. I’ll talk to your mothers and aunts, and explain it to them as well.”
“What about Patty and Rachel?”
“You let me worry about Patty and Rachel,” Mum said as she walked to the door, “Do we have an understanding?”
“Yes, we do,” we all said as she left the room. “But why can’t Bobby or Colin do it to us,” I said to Jenny.
She looked at Alicia, and said “I think there are bad memories involved. Right – out of that bed, Cassie Craig. We want you downstairs to watch a film with us.”
“Oh, that sounds good,” I said as got out from under the covers and put on a dressing gown. “What are you watching?”
I almost threw a pillow at Alicia for that. Almost.