While You Were Away…
Wednesday, 31st October
They say that you can know somebody all your life, and still not realize some things about them. I realized how true that was a few weeks ago, when I discovered a whole new aspect to two of my oldest and dearest friends.
I’ve known Alicia and Jenny since we all started at the school, and somehow I managed to stay their friends without either of them actually liking each other. I never quite understood why - from my viewpoint at the time, they were very similar, but I’d forgotten about that quaint English custom of family honour, and never really appreciated how Alicia felt about been a Holderness. Still, I was a little too much in awe of her to say anything, so I just tried to mollify her as best I could.
The second half of last year, though, was when things got really bad. I knew about the break-in at Alicia’s house, but when the news came through of what had happened to Jenny and her family, she was the one that got all the attention. So there was I, Mary Holmes, playing piggy in the middle until the summer holidays.
Now I, at that time, had absolutely no idea what happened to both Alicia and Jenny over that break - all I knew was that she had a friend staying from the US, and she was going to be spending most of the time at Holderness Manor, her grandparent’s place. So when we all returned, and the first thing that Alicia did when she came in was sit next to Jenny, I knew something had happened. I remember making some sort of crack about shock therapy - just how close to the truth I was I only found out later.
A few weeks back, Alicia roped me in - roped me in, now that is funny - to help surprise Jenny when it was her birthday. That was when I learned what had really happened -and the games she and Jenny, and their family, like to play. I met her sister, Angela, and the rest of her family as well, as we had a party I and Cathy will never forget.
Oh, yeah - Cathy Harmer, my other best friend. She had been invited to help us out as well, but I swear neither of us thought too much about it, except it would be a great game to play. Instead, we were introduced to a whole new world of games - and I hate to admit it, but I loved every second of it.
It was at the party we found out that the Holderness and the Craig girls would be away for half term, so when I got a call from Angela to ask if Cathy and I could help out with a Halloween party, and possibly stay over at Holderness Manor for a few days, I accepted - provided my parents agreed. Well they had no problem, and neither did Cathy’s two mums, so here we are now, in the back of a car been driven up to the Manor house on a cold Wednesday afternoon.
I had on a white long sleeved top under a black t-shirt, jeans and short black boots, with my light brown hair falling over my jacket, while Cathy was looking out of the car window, her black hair falling loosely over the shoulders of her denim dress. “So we’re helping at a Halloween party, right,” she said as she turned and looked at me over her glasses.
“So I understand,” I said in reply, “apparently they do this every year, but with Lady Holderness out of the country and Alicia’s mother on a break with her father, Angela has to play the host.”
We both had our bags in the back of the car, which was been driven by Mr. Bridges, Lord Holderness’ man around the house. Also in the back were two costumes that we had picked out - it was going to be a fancy dress party, after all.
The car eventually came to a stop and Mr. Bridges let us both out, saying “Go right on in,” as he opened the car boot and retrieved out clothes. As we walked up, the heels of Cathy’s Ugg boots crunched on the gravel and we saw the smiling face of Mrs. Bridges at the door.
“Welcome back, Miss Mary, Miss Cathy,” she said as we came in. “Miss Angela is in the drawing room. My husband will take the bags upstairs to your room.” She showed us to the main room at the front of the house, where Angela was sitting at the table, looking over a list she had made on a sheet.
She’s a few years older than us, but it was still a shock to see her wearing a light coloured cardigan over a white blouse and grey skirt. “Very lady of the manor,” I said, in as light a tone as I could, as Mrs. Bridges closed the door behind us.
“Hmmm? Oh this - I had to talk to some of the local businessmen today to pay some bills, and Grandfather did not think wearing a pair of leggings and a Kaiser Chiefs t-shirt did not quite fit the image of a Holderness.” She stood up and walked over, saying “Thanks for coming and helping out,” as she did so.
“Hey, it gets us out from under our parent’s feet,” Cathy said as she sat down. “So what’s the game plan?”
“Well,” Angela sat as she sat down, and I could not help laughing as she sat in a very lady like manner, with her legs to one side, “Bobby and Colin are helping to decorate the main hall at the moment. The kids all start arriving at about six, and the party goes on until nine. After that, well I hope you can stay for the rest of the week. The girls get back on Sunday morning, and we can have dinner that night before you go.
“Sounds good,” I said as I sat down. I hadn’t seen Bobby or Colin since the birthday party, but they were both cute guys. “So what are you going to be wearing tonight?”
“Wait and see,” Angela said with a smile. “Did you follow my suggestion?”
I nodded, and looking over I could see Cathy had as well. I genuinely had no idea what she had brought, but my costume was complete.
“Good,” Angela said as she stood up. “It’s four o’clock now, and Mrs. Bridges said we could grab something to eat before we got ready. Come on.”
When Cathy knocked on my door at a quarter to six, I was sitting on the bed, pulling on the pair of black leather boots I had brought and making sure the cuffs were turned down below my knees. “Ready,” she said as she came in, her black hair held back by a crimson headband that matched the leotard and body stocking she was wearing. A pair of red leather boots and elbow length opera gloves completed her outfit.
“Very chic,” I said as I picked up the bolero jacket I had borrowed from mum and slipped it over my shoulders. My black swim suit and an old pair of her fishnet stockings, as well as a blonde wig she had worn for a while, completed the outfit.
“A canary and a witch - how appropriate,” Cathy said as we walked down the stairs, where a number of kids were taking off their coats and handing them to Mrs. Bridges. We walked into the main room, where Angela was standing with her cousin Bobby and his friend Colin.
Angela was dressed as Catwoman, in a dark grey bodysuit with the zip pulled down a little, black gloves and knee length boots, with a cat eye mask on her head. As for Bobby and Colin, they were dressed as henchmen, complete with striped jumpers and black eye masks. They looked at us as we walked in, and there was something of a glint in Bobby’s eye as he looked over.
“Ah good, my two heroines for the night are here,” Angela literally purred as she looked at us. “The four of you get to be chaperones for the night - keep an eye on the children, make sure that none of them come to any harm, and help me out with the games when the time comes. I’ll also need your help with handing out some goodie bags later, but we will come to that in due course. For now, everybody have fun.” She smiled as she walked off, her heels clicking on the floor as she did so.
“Hey Mary, Cathy,” Bobby finally said as she left, “Thanks for coming and helping out.”
“No problem - what sort of games are we going to be playing?”
“Oh the usual - apple bobbing, treacle scone eating, nothing too difficult. I hear you’re going to be staying for a few days as well?”
“That’s the plan,” Cathy said as she smiled in response, “What about you two?”
“We’ll be back on Friday for the weekend,” Colin said as he grabbed a sandwich and bit into it. “We’re having a big gathering to welcome the girls back Sunday night, and I think we may have one or two other surprises planned,”
“Oh yeah,” I said as I raised an eyebrow. Knowing Bobby now, I suspected those surprises would involve ropes in some way, but how tired would they be? Bobby could see the look in my eye, as he said “I spoke to Suzie this morning, they’re having a great time, and are looking forward to a typical New England Halloween party tonight.”
“Anything happen to them?”
“Not much,” Bobby said with a smile, and that smile told me enough. I’d never met Heidi, but I had seen the video of that special day, and I knew what had happened. “Let’s go to work,” I said as the four of us set out around the room, talking to the kids in their costumes as the parents lined the walls and sat on the seats.
The party passed without too much, incident - the usual number of kids throwing up from eating too much, and tantrums, but not too many of them. As the party was drawing to an end, however, Angela said in a loud, clear voice “boys and girls, the time is coming soon for you to head home, but my two assistants will have a surprise for you when you leave. It seems the two heroines who have been here today have been held hostage, and only you can find them to get a reward.”
Cathy looked at me and said “We’ve been captured?” I shook my head, only to feel a hand on my arm as Bobby said “You need to come with us,” he said in a ridiculous attempt to impersonate Clint Eastwood, but as I looked over I saw Colin with his hand on Cathy’s arm, so I just shrugged and said “What are you going to do, you fiends?”
“You’ll see,” Colin said with a smile as they led us out of the room, and into the library. There were two seats set side by side, and to one side I could see a pile of goodie bags waiting to be handed out.
“The deal is,” bobby said with a smile as he helped me to sit down, “that the kids get to find you, then get a bag from us before they leave as a bribe to get them not to say how or where they found you.”
“And how are they going to find us,” Cathy said with a giggle - she had seen Colin pick up a length of rope and hold it, and we both had a fairly good idea of what was coming.
“Hands behind your back,” Bobby said in a commanding voice, and I smiled as I moved them through the slats of the chair back and I felt my wrists been drawn together.
It was a simple tie - our wrists were tied together and then secured to the chair back, while Colin tied our ankles to the front chair legs. They then tied a rolled up scarf into our mouths, not the really effective gag we had sampled on our last visit, but enough to give the illusion that we were been silenced.
“If you want,” Bobby said as he pulled the cloth around my mouth and tied the ends together at the base of my neck, “we can do something a bit more once the kids have gone.” That was the moment they picked for the first kids to come in, so Cathy and I mmphed as much as we could as they looked at us.
“Damn,” Colin said as he looked at Bobby, “They found our captives. What are we going to do?”
“Here,” Bobby said as he picked up two goody bags and handed them to the fairy and the ghost standing before us, “If you take these bags, and promise not to say anything to anyone, we won’t capture you. Deal?”
“Deal,” the boy said as he and his sister took the bag. “Go out of this door,” Colin said as he held the door to the corridor open,” and meet your parents. Thanks for coming.”
This went on for some time, as the kids came in, saw us, either giggled or stared as they were handed their bags, and then left through the other door. Eventually, as we heard the clock strike nine, Angela came in with the last group of three, smiling as they took their goody bags and left.
We waited five minutes until Mrs. Bridges came in and said “that’s the last group going with their parents. I’ll sort some supper out - it will take about an hour.”
“Thank you Mrs. Bridges,” Angela said as the door closed. “Well then,” she said as she stroked our cheeks with her gloved hands, “We have some time to play. How purrrfectly wonderful. Boys?”
We watched her as Colin and Bobby slipped behind us, and their fingers started to tickle our ribs.
“NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN” we both screamed out as we tried to wriggle out of the way, but their tickle assault was relentless, as we tried to kick our bound ankles up and down on the floor - without much success, given the way they had tied them.
“You do realize,” Angela said again as the boys stopped, “that you are going to be my guests for the next few days. I prrrromise a Purrrfectly good time, if you will play with me as well.”
I looked at Cathy, Cathy looked at me, and we both got what that meant. “Whtrugndtdts,” Cathy mumbled at Bobby and Colin folded their arms and stood either side of Angela.
“You’ll see,” Angela said as she took off her eye mask, “but tomorrow. Tonight we’re going to have a late supper, then get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow I’ll give you the guided tour.” The two boys started to untie us as she removed our gags. “Hungry?”
“Yeah,” Cathy said as she worked her jaw, “I am - let’s eat.” We made our way to the kitchen, where Mrs. Bridges had prepared a “little light supper” - a full salad platter, which the five of us devoured.
“Grandfather will be back on Friday night,” Angela said as she bit into a piece of granary bread, “so we have the house to ourselves for the next two days. The boys need to leave early tomorrow to take care of something, but they will be back Friday morning.”
“We’ll show you all a good time then,” Bobby said with a smile. I wondered what he had in mind, but by that point tiredness was starting to take over, as I stretched and yawned.
“Bed,” Mrs. Bridges said as she cleared away the plates, “I will make breakfast when you all wake up.” We got up and left the room, heading for our beds.
Thursday 1st November
When I opened my eyes and looked up at the ornate wooden carving above my head, I wondered for a moment just where I was, and then I remembered. Pushing back the covers, I drew my knees up to my chin as I held my legs and looked round the room.
“I can see why Alicia is so proud,” I said to myself as I slipped off the bed and walked to my very own en suite bathroom - a luxury I had never had before. Turning on the shower, I stood under it for a long time, before toweling off and heading to my case.
When I had got to bed the night before, my night clothes were on my bed, but I had not realized until I opened the case that the rest of my clothes had been put away. Opening a drawer, I found some undergarments and started to get dressed, wondering what else I was going to have to get used to.
Walking down the stairs, I saw the grandfather clock on the floor show 10.30 as Angela came out of the office. She was more casually dressed today, in a white sweatshirt and joggers, and she had a pair of slipper socks pulled over her feet.
“Hey,” she said as she looked at me, “Hungry?”
I nodded as I came to the bottom of the stairs. I had put on a pair of black leggings and a long blue jersey, with a pair of slippers on my feet. “Yeah - I’m not too casually dressed, am I?”
“Nah - I may have to dress up sometimes over the next few days, but I want to relax as well. Come on, I think Cathy came down a few minutes ago.”
We both walked into the kitchen, where Cathy was sitting at the table, while Mrs. Bridges was cooking something that smelled like sausages and bacon at the stove. “Sit down girls,” she said without turning round, “I’ll have your brunch in a minute. The boys said to say hi - they left a while ago.”
“What are they up today anyway,” Cathy said as she looked at us. She was wearing a green t-shirt under a pair of denim dungarees, and I caught a glimpse of her slippers under the table.
“I believe they are heading into town to visit Churchill’s Bunker - something to do with their History assignment. At any rate, they won’t be back until tomorrow morning - they’re going to stay at Master Robert’s house tonight. Sit, eat,” Mrs. Bridges said as she set three plates with a full English breakfast on it in front of the three of us.
“Thanks,” I said as I picked up a knife and fork and started to eat, while a mug of tea was placed in front of me. “So what are we going to do today?”
“Well, I can give you the tour of the manor house if you want, provided I don’t get dragged off to do something else,” Angela said with a sigh. “Let’s just eat up and then see what happens.”
You know how it is - there is something you really want to do with certain people, and something happens to screw the chances of that happening? Well, that’s the way this morning decided to go. We finished our breakfast, thanked Mrs. Bridges, and headed to the front room to start the tour when Mr. Bridges came out.
“I’m sorry, Miss Angela,” he said with a small frown, “but your grandfather just called. He needs you to meet with the head of the Parish council to discuss the arrangements for the Christmas Fayre on the grounds in a month’s time.”
“Let me guess,” Angela said with a sigh, “Grandmother is the head of the organizing committee?” Mr. Bridges nodded and said “I am truly sorry, but your grandfather did say it was important.”
“I’ll bet,” Angela said with a sigh. “Look, I need to go and get changed - but I’ve got an idea of what you can do instead. Can you wait in the library while I go and get changed, and bring some things down?”
We both nodded and walked into the room as Angela headed upstairs. “I always wondered how Lady Holderness kept busy when her husband is in town,” Cathy said as she sat in a leather armchair and picked up a book, “Now I know.”
“The life of a country landowner,” I said as I went and looked out of the window. “What’s the book anyway?”
“At the Vila Rosa, by someone called Houseman,” Cathy said as she flipped through the pages. “A bit different from the Hardy Boys, at any rate. I guess we may be left to our own devices, for the morning at least?”
“I’m not sure - maybe we can have a look round on our own,” I said as the door opened and Mr. Bridges came in. “My apologies, Miss Mary, Miss Cathy, but Miss Angela asked me to give you these, and asked if you would put these onto your hands.” He handed each of us a pair of cleanly laundered white socks, bowed slightly and left the room.
“On our hands?” I said as I looked at Cathy. “Does this mean what I think it means?”
“Looks that way,” I said as I unrolled the ball and pulled the socks onto my hands, “I guess we may not be moving that much.”
“You’d be wrong,” Angela said when she came in, “in part at least. I do have to leave you both for a while, but I want you to have fun as well. She had put her blonde hair up in a bun, and was dressed as the lady of the manor again, in a tweed skirt and jacket with a round necked camisole top underneath. “Put your hands behind your back once you have the socks on your hands.” As she said this, she held several lengths of cord up in her hands.
“So what are you asking us to do,” Cathy said as she pulled the socks over her hands and crossed them behind her back. “I’m going to let you go walk about,” Angela said as she wrapped the cord around her wrists and snugly bound them together, “but I need you to stay out of certain rooms. If the door is open, you can go in, but I need to ask you to stay out of the others.”
“Fair enough,” Cathy said as she looked over her shoulder and watched Angela cinch the cords between her wrists, then pull them into her back with a length of rope around her waist, “but why can’t we go into those rooms?”
“Privacy,” was all Angela said as she tied the rope between her arms and back. “Your turn Mary.”
As I felt my wrists been pulled together behind my back, I looked at Cathy, and saw the smile on her face as she looked round. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” I said as I felt the coils tightening behind my back.
“Funnily enough, yes - it feels liberating in a strange sort of way. I can see why the others like it so much.”
“I know,” I said as I felt the rope going round my waist, “Have you heard from them today?”
“Still too early - five hours behind, remember?” Angela cinched the rope between my arms and waist, and then walked in front of us. “Now, do you want to be gagged?”
“Only is we can have the same sort of gag as Alicia,” I was surprised to hear myself saying. I glanced at Cathy, who nodded and smile din response.
“What has my sister done to you,” Angela said as she held two folded scarves in her mouth. “All right, open wide and say nothing.” I opened my mouth and felt the silk on my tongue as Angela pushed one scarf in, then the second one into Cathy’s mouth. Picking up two lengths of toweling strip, she pulled one into each of our mouths and secured them behind our heads, then folded two headscarves in half and tied it over our hair so that the point lay down the back of our heads, covering our hair.
“Whtsstthtfr,” I mumbled, but as Angela picked up a roll of silver tape I understood why. “To protect your hair,” she said as she tore the end free and started to wrap the tape tightly around our heads, covering the gags and trapping the scarves underneath. After she had wrap gagged Cathy, she opened the door, took us both by the arms and walked us up the large staircase.
“Now,” she said as she left us at the top, “You can have a look round. As I said, please don’t go into any room where the door is closed - I’ll be back to find you as soon as I’ve finished this.”
She headed down the stairs at the sound of the doorbell, and we heard her saying “Mister Blaine - how nice to see you again,” as we started to walk down the corridor. The first door that was open was on the left, and as we pushed it open we found ourselves in an old playroom.
“sthsssswhrthppnd,” Cathy mumbled as we looked round, and I imagined the sight of Alicia, Jenny, Suzie, Cassie and Alicia’s American friend Heidi all lying on their stomachs on the floor, so tightly hogtied they could barely move with the towels bound to their backs as well, and a shiver ran through me.
“Utt?” I looked at Cathy and nodded as we walked out of the room, and made our way down the corridor. I looked in the room Cathy was using, she looked in mine, and we saw a number of other rooms and offices.
At the end of the corridor was a single wooden door, which stood slightly ajar. As I pushed it open, I saw a set of stairs heading upwards, turning a corner as they did so.
“Wnttlk,” I mumbled to Cathy, and as she nodded her head I walked through and started to climb the staircase. There was another door slightly ajar at the top, and as I we both made our way up I realized it was probably some sort of attic. Using my shoulder, I gently pushed it in and entered.
It was indeed an attic, with a number of trunks and boxes lying round, as well as some stuffed armchairs. As we walked in, however, the door closed shut behind us, and we heard a voice saying “We were wondering how long it would take.”
Turning round, we saw Bobby and Colin standing there, dressed in t-shirts and jeans with more rope in their hands. “I told you they would be curious,” was all Bobby said as we were escorted to two armchairs and sat down, while they crossed and bound our ankles tightly together, and then our legs below our knees, both sets of binding cinched between our legs.
“Yeah,” Colin said as he patted Cathy on the head, “so it’s a good thing we’ve got something to show them.” He held up a DVD, while Bobby wheeled a trolley over with a small TV/DVD combination set on it. “We’ve never watched this either,” he said as he switched on the set and Colin pushed the DVD in, “so we thought you might like to watch it with us.
Now that the shock of their sudden appearance had passed, and the realization we really had no choice sank in, Cathy and I made ourselves as comfortable as we could, as the screen filled out and we saw “The Last Day of Summer” appear as a title card…
As we watched, I realized we were watching a film of the day I had heard Alicia and Jenny talking about - the one at the end of the summer holidays when their families had a huge gathering of some kind. We saw this empty cellar or something, with three young girls lying on mattresses. Even with the gags, I recognized Alicia and Jenny, and figured the other girl had to be the mysterious Heidi. She had shoulder length blonde hair, and was dressed the same way as the other two.
We watched, fascinated as the rest of the party were brought in. “How come you weren’t there,” Colin said as he looked at Bobby.
“Scout camps,” he said quietly, “but if half of what I have heard about it is true, then I missed one hell of a party.” Given what we had experienced at Jenny’s birthday, I could believe that.
The film continued, as we watched the party freeing themselves, then head to where a breakfast was been served. As we saw them dressed in their gym outfits, but with rope snaking down their arms and around their bodies, I looked at Cathy and said “thsslkkfn,”
“Maybe we should try this on the three of them later on,” Bobby said, and I could see he was taking mental notes as we watched them taking part in the races outside. When the mothers and other older women appeared, however, I could see Bobby’s jaw physically drop as he said “MUM? She didn’t tell me she had been there!”
“Well, I can see this runs in your family,” Colin said with a smile. “Enjoying it so far, girls?”
Actually, I hated to admit it, but I was enjoying it, as the mother and daughter race took place, and then the scene shifted to a big room inside, and we watched them been brought in one by one in their school uniforms, and been tightly bound and hogtied. As we watched Alicia, Bobby stopped the film and looked at us.
“Uoooo,” Cathy said as she looked at me, while Colin handed Bobby a length of rope. We sat still as they wound it round our arms and stomachs, fixing them into place against our sides as we felt the rope rubbing against our bodies. It was tight and firm, but not uncomfortable, as the two boys helped us to kneel on the floor and pulled the chairs out of the way, and then helped us to lie on our stomachs.
“I wonder how far we can bend their legs back,” Bobby said as he pulled my bound legs back, listening to my gasp as he made my heels touch my covered fingers. I am actually fairly supple, given the gymnastics I do, but it was still a surprise when he tied my ankles to the rope around my stomach.
Glancing over at Cathy, I could see the same thing in her eyes as she was hogtied, and then an old white woolen scarf tied over her mouth. I felt the warm fuzzy wool against my own mouth, as I was further gagged, and then they started the film again, sitting next to us as they watched.
We saw the test sequence, then the film of the six girls, sitting or lying with mothers and grandmothers as they rested in the afternoon sun. “They look so peaceful lying there,” Colin said as we saw Alicia and Suzie lying there.
“Yeah, but I know them too well,” Bobby said as the camera shifted to showing Cassie stetting with what I presumed was her aunt, and Jenny with an older girl who had long blonde hair that I did not recognize. “She looks so cute sitting there, though.”
“Yeah - I guess she does,” Colin replied, and I looked at them, wondering who it was they were talking about. The scene shifted then to the staircase, and we watched as each of the six girls was carried down the stairs, in their best dresses but very snugly and securely tied and gagged.
“That reminds me,” Bobby said as he watched, “Sunday night the Craigs are coming here to collect Jenny and Cassie, so we’re having a formal dinner. Want to come?”
“If your grandparents will allow me - but I’ll need to go home and change first. I have to be at church on Sunday morning.”
Bobby nodded as we watched the family groups assemble, and then enter what must have been the dinner hall. We didn’t see the meal, but we did see the speeches, the gifts, the toasts - and then the singing.
It was a revelation to me to hear them singing a song of thanks - at least I thought it was - and then the firework display, before it said “And now - Jenny’s Birthday.” Cathy and I looked at each other, as the scene changed, but before it began we heard Angela calling out “Mary? Cathy? Have you managed to get into the attic?”
Bobby and Colin looked at each other, and as Colin stopped the DVD Bobby knelt between us and covered our mouths with his hands. It’s not as if we needed the extra muffling layer, but it was kind of fun to watch him sweating out of the corner of our eyes as the footsteps echoed on the staircase.
“Girls are you…” Angela stopped at the top of the stairs, looking in at the door and seeing us lying there. Funnily enough, the sight of her standing there, looking much more like the grand Lady Holderness than she may have realized, made Bobby jump more than we wriggled.
“Robert Desmond Holderness,” Angela said as she stood there, her arms folded, “I was under the distinct impression that you and Colin - and he can come out from behind those chairs - were meant to be visiting a site of national historic interest. Care to explain what you are doing here?”
“Well, Angela Bowden,” Bobby said as he stood up and crossed his hands, “I do not believe you have the authority or the right to ask me that question in that manner. After all, I am the one who is in line to be Lord Holderness.”
“True - and in the meantime, I’m the one with the hotline to our grandmother, and to your mother. Shall we discuss the implications if she was to find out before Sunday?”
I had met Lady Holderness, and she was a formidable lady, but I had never net Bobby’s parents. From the look on his face, however, I could see that he had either a helpful amount of respect, or else an equally healthy amount of fear, for her.
“You wouldn’t,” he said as he looked at his cousin, “You would not dare…”
“Want to try me? I came up to see if these two young ladies wanted something to eat, but I can see that might be a little difficult at the moment.” She looked at her watch and sighed. “Look, I have another meeting in half an hour. Why don’t you take these two out for a walk in the grounds - stick their coats over them and they should be fine. You can even leave those scarves over their mouths - it looks like they’re keeping the chill out.”
As she turned to leave, she said “Dinner tonight is at six thirty - make sure they are able to eat when you come in.”
We looked at each other as Colin turned off the film. “So we’re going to walk the grounds? We’d better make sure they are nice and warm.” I relaxed a little as they untied my legs from my chest, and started to remove the rope around them.
“Did you see the way she looked at you,” Colin said as he helped Cathy to her feet. “I swear she looked just like your Grandmother.”
“Do not go there,” Bobby said as the two of them walked us down to our rooms, “I noticed that as well, and it scared the bejesus out of me. Mary, let’s go to your room and get your coat, Colin will get Cathy’s, and we’ll see if the path to the lake is not too leaf covered.”
I stood there, mutely watching as he opened the wardrobe and brought out my green padded coat with a fur lined hood. Putting it over me, he fastened it up and tucked the arms into the coat pockets before helping me to sit on the bed while he helped me pull a pair of wellies on.
As we walked out, I saw Cathy coming with her duffle coat on and her Ugg boots on her feet. “Come on,” Bobby said as we walked down the stairs, Colin grabbing two coats from the stand as we headed out of the door, passing Mr. Bridges as he was washing the car, and walked round and down the lawn.
The last time Cathy and I had done this, we had a pleasant enough time, but as the wind was blowing this time across the ground I was actually glad of the extra muffling around my face. Through the large windows, I could see Angela talking to a group of older people, and very much acting the lady of the manor. It actually made me laugh, even if it came out as a muffled “mmm” as we walked down the lawn tot eh gap in the tree lien that led to the lake.
The leaves had all turned brown and gold, dropping from the trees even as we walked past them, and they crunched under our feet as we walked down the path. As we passed the simple wooden cross, we stopped for a moment, looking at the red poppies that had started to bloom nearby.
“That’s funny,” Booby said as he knelt down and looked at them, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen poppies growing around here. I wonder why they are here now.” Standing up, he took another look at them before we walked on, but it was obvious he was thinking about something.
The clearing was still as beautiful as I remembered it, but the low mist that seemed to be hanging over the surface of the water on the lake made it look almost like a scene from a Jane Austen novel. We had been reading Pride and Prejudice in class before the holidays, and we had watched the old TV version, and somehow I could see Colin Firth rising from the lake in his wet shirt, striding over the field.
“Ulrrt,” Cathy said as she nudged me, and I could see the mist covering the lenses of her glasses as she looked at me. I nodded and sat on an old log, watching with her as Bobby and Colin started to throw stones across the water, the flat missiles bouncing over the surface as they did so.
“Hssqud,” Cathy said as she nudged my side. I looked at the two of them, and I had to admit, she was right in some respects. He was the next but one Lord Holderness after all, and some day all of this was going to be his. Having said that, though, I wasn’t interested in him. Colin, on the other hand…
Looking up, I could see the sun starting to set over the tree line, and heard Bobby say “We’d better get back” as the two boys walked back up towards us. We both nodded and started to walk back towards the house, with the boys walking behind us.
As we crossed the lawn, we could see Angela walking up and down the lawn with one of the local store owners. “We’ll set up the refreshments tent over there,” we heard her say as we approached, “and have the hot chestnuts over there. Ah, there you are - you’d better get inside and wash up for dinner. I’ll change and join you shortly.”
We headed into the house and up the stairs, stopping in my room as Bobby untied me and Colin untied Cathy. As the gags were eased from our mouths, I breathed a sigh of relief and said “Thanks - that was actually quite fun. We don’t have to dress up for dinner, do we?”
“Nah - I think Angela actually wants to dress down. Anyway, get cleaned up - we’re eating in the main dining room tonight, and I think Mrs. Bridges might have a little treat planned for us. Colin, I need to talk to you outside.”
As we entered the dining room, we could see the table had been laid out, and Angela was already sitting down, with Bobby and Colin sat next to her at the table.
“There you are,” Angela said with a smile. She had changed into a t-shirt, but for some reason she did not get out of the chair. “Have a seat and Mr. Bridges will take care of you.”
As I sat down, I saw some lengths of rope on the table, and realized what was going to happen. Mr. Bridges took the rope and wrapped one length around my waist, holding me against the back of the chair, before tying my ankles to the front legs and pushing me in to the table. Once Cathy had been bound to the chair in the same way, Mrs. Bridges started to serve the first course.
“So you watched the DVD of the summer event,” Angela said as she picked up a knife and fork and started to eat her smoked salmon, “even if it wasn’t exactly what I thought you were going to do. What did you think?”
“It looked like an amazing day,” Cathy said as she looked down the table, “Was it?”
“It certainly was an event - did you recognize everyone?”
“Most of them - I knew Heidi of course,” Bobby said as he looked at his cousin, “but who was the other American girl. “That’s Natalie, her cousin - she came with Heidi’s mother and aunt for a short visit. They got - forgive the phrase - roped in to the events.”
“I recognized Jenny’s parents,” I said as I ate my own starter, “but who was the other girl Jenny was tied with in the afternoon?”
“That would be April, their babysitter - she was with them when they spent the night as hostages in their own homes before the summer recess.” I recognized the name, and had heard what had happened, but now I could put a face to the name. “She looks like a nice girl,” I finally said, “do you know her?”
“I met her for the first time that day,” Angela said, “but that day affected her a lot. It still hurts her a little to think of it.” She watched as Mrs. Bridges cleared the plates away and brought the main course.
“Those games looked like fun,” Colin said as he cut into the chicken, “It’s a pity we can’t do this ourselves.”
We all looked at Angela as she said this. “Why not? I’ll guarantee that tomorrow I have no meetings, and we can educate these two ladies in some skills, give them a chance to practice their skills.”
Bobby looked at her cousin, and asked a question that was certainly in my mind.
“So we can surprise them,” Angela said with a smile. “We start tomorrow after breakfast…”
Friday 2nd November
After a good night’s sleep, Cathy and I came down together for breakfast, with both of us wondering what was going to happen today. We’d both decided to wear sweatshirts and jogging pants - I think we both realized we were going to need our wrists and ankles covered, at the very least.
Bobby was already having some cereal when we came in. “Angela’s gone off to get some supplies,” he said as he looked up, “And Colin will be back at lunchtime. His father wanted him to go an errand with him today.”
“So,” Cathy said as she poured herself a bowl of Special K, “What exactly are we going to be doing today? What sort of skills are you going to be teaching us?”
“Well,” Robert said through mouthfuls of food, gaining a reproachful look from Mrs. Bridges, “This morning we’re going to show you how to tie someone up so they genuinely can’t move. You felt what it was like yesterday, but Angela is going to show you how to do it on a willing volunteer.”
“You,” I said with a smile.
“I’m one of them,” Bobby said, “And Mrs. Bridges here will be the other.”
“Oh,” I said, “and who gets who?”
“Wait and see,” Mrs. Bridges said as she set out some glasses of fruit juice. “Master Robert, you need to take your guests to the playroom when they have finished - I’ll come up with Miss Angela as soon as we can.”
“And what happens after that,” Cathy asked as she looked at Bobby.
“Walkabout, and then some exercise,” Bobby said with a smile, “You’ll see.”
Bobby opened the door and showed us into the room we had peeped into yesterday. This time we took a good look round, seeing the bean bags, boxes and chests for the first time.
“So this is really it?” Cathy whispered. “This is the room that the Robber tied the five of them up in?”
“So I’m told,” Bobby said as he opened a window. He was wearing a grey jumper and trousers, and looked a little more formal than the previous few days. “I never heard the full details, but from what I overheard between Suzie and Cassie Craig she was very very descriptive of how it felt to be immobile. We gave you a taste of it yesterday, but today we’re going to show you, step by step, how to do it.”
The door to the room opened and Mrs. Bridges came in, followed by Angela. The housekeeper was wearing a pair of beige slacks and a green smock overall, while Angela had on a pair of black leggings and a pale blue smock top. A pair of white sports socks was pulled up her lower legs.
“Sorry I wasn’t around earlier,” Angela said as she put a bag she was carrying down, “but I had to take care of putting someone off until tomorrow to see Grandfather. Right - ready to learn how to stop your friends and their sisters from moving?”
“You bet,” I said before I realized how loudly I had said it. “Your sister sure knows how to pick them,” Bobby said as he opened the bag and looked in, “What do you think she’s doing right now?”
“Sleeping in a bed, I hope,” Angela said as she reached down and pulled out a pair of socks. “Right - we’re on a steep learning curve here, so pay attention. I want you both to take a length of this rope and feel it in your hands - tell me what it feels like in your hands, as opposed to round your wrists.”
I held the rope in the palm of my hand, watching as Mrs. Bridges took the socks from Angela and pulled them up over her hands, covering her wrists and the cuffs of her top. “Now,” Angela said as she sat on a box, “Why do you think I covered your hands with socks yesterday?”
“I presumed to stop us opening doors,” Cathy replied as she looked at the older woman. “That was part of it, yes,” Angela said with a smile, “but the other reason is it stops you from trying to pick at the knots around the rope. As you can tell, it’s soft and pliable, but strong.”
I nodded - I’d already worked that one out. “So part of the fun is to make it as difficult as possible for the person to free themselves?”
“Ideally, you have to make it impossible, and I want to show you two ways of doing that. Mrs. Bridges has put the socks on, like you did, and one of you will tie her wrists behind her back after she crosses them. As for me, I want that person to tie Bobby’s hands together in a different way, all right?”
“Fair enough,” Cathy said with a smile, “but who gets who?”
Angela took a coin out of her pocket, and tossed it in the air. “Call it,” she said to me, and I simply said “Heads.” She caught the coin, put it on the back of her hand and lifted her palm. “Your choice,” she said to Cathy, who rubbed her hands together and said “Come here, Robert,” bending her finger towards herself at the same time.
“Great,” he said as he walked over and turned round, “Hands together, Angela?”
“Yes please,” she said as she gave Cathy a length of rope. “I want both of you to double it over and hold the rope. Mrs. Bridges, please cross your wrists behind your back.”
The two volunteers came and stood in front of us. I looked down and saw my hand was actually trembling as I held the rope, and one look at Cathy showed me she was feeling the same way.
“It’s all right, girls,” Angela said quietly, “I want you to pass the rope around their wrists, take the ends through the loop in the centre and pull it gently until you cannot pull it any more. When you pull, pull the ends back against the loop.”
Very carefully, I wrapped the rope around Mrs. Bridges’ wrists, pulling it around her sock covered wrists. As I tightened the rope, I saw the grey sinking into the white cotton, but I could also see how the rope held her wrist together. Looking at Cathy, I could see her doing the same to Bobby, his palms pressed together behind her back.
“Now wrap it round two or three more times, on top of each loop, and keep the rope taut. When you have about six inches left, tuck it under the top rope and pull it tightly.”
I did as Angela instructed, as I watched my volunteer’s wrists being held even more tightly together. When I thought I had done enough, I passed the ends under the top loop and waited.
“Now, take those ends and pass them between the arms - as you pull, it will tighten the coils and lock their wrists firmly together. When you’ve done that, tie the ends together securely, on top of the binding, where they might be able to reach it.”
“How can they reach it if they are tied like this,” Cathy said as she cinched Bobby’s wrists. “I haven’t hurt you, have I?” she then asked as she tied the ropes off.
“Nope,” Bobby said as he looked over his shoulder, “It doesn’t hurt. And the problem is not me getting my wrist ropes off. The problem is me getting them off Mrs. Bridges.”
“Bobby’s right,” Angela said. “If there is more than one person tied up in the room, we need to make sure they cannot free each other very easily. Now I’m going to show you how.” She took a roll of duct tape out and tossed it to me. “Mary, I want you to tape the top of the socks to Mrs. Bridges arms, and then give the tape to Cathy.”
I peeled the end of the tape, and passed it over the tops of the socks, making a grey band around my volunteer’s arms, and then passed the roll to Cathy. “Cathy,” Angela said quietly, “I want you to warp the tape around Bobby’s hands, covering them from his wrists to his fingertips, so that it looks as if he has a single glove on.”
“Revenge for yesterday,” Cathy said with glee as she taped Bobby’s hands together, covering them so that he could not move his fingers and hands at all. “That’s good,” Angela said as she inspected our work. “Now, select a longer length of rope, and use it to secure their wrists to the small of their back. You do that by tying the rope around their waist, and then passing it between their wrists and back as you did between their arms.”
I did as Angela had instructed, saying “Have you done this before,” to Mrs. Bridges as I forced her wrists against her back. “Many times, Miss Mary,” she said as she looked over her shoulder, “Don’t worry, you’re doing just fine.” I glanced over at bobby as a white belt appeared around his waist.
“Now,” Angela continued, “you need to secure their arms to their body. There are actually quite a few ways of doing this, but we need to keep it simple for now. Take the longest length of rope you can find, and tie it to their left arm, above their elbow.” As we did this, she then said, “Wrap it round their stomachs, keeping the rope tight, and then tie it round their other arm.”
I wondered why she had said this, but as I wound the rope round Mrs. Bridges I could see why - it fixed her arms into her side and provided extra security. “Now wind it round their arms and body, and tie it off behind their back, “Angela continued, and as I did so I realized what she was doing was very effective indeed.
“Good job for a relative newbie,” Bobby said as he tried to twist his arms round. Mrs. Bridges nodded as well, and I felt something like pride.
“Now, both of you sit down on the floor and we will deal with your legs.”
We helped our two models to sit down against a bean bag, as Angela sorted out more ropes. “Now, when it comes to ankles you have to decide if you want to take the risk of them hopping or not. If not, you cross the legs - if yes, you don’t. Bobby, could you please cross your legs, while Mrs. Bridges will keep her ankles side by side.” As Bobby crossed his legs, Angela handed me a length of rope. “Mary, I want you to tie Bobby’s legs, and Cathy to bind Mrs. Bridges. You get a turn with each of them that way.”
“That seems fair,” Cathy said as she knelt by the older woman’s feet, and I knelt by Bobby. “Do them the same way you did the wrists, nice and tightly.” As I wrapped the rope around Bobby’s sock covered ankles, I could see him smiling out of the corner of my eye.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said as I cinched the ropes. “You’re thinking, when do I get to do this to Alicia, right?”
“How did you…”
“I felt the same way when Angela taught me, but I get to practice on Suzie most of the time now. You’re good though - I’m not going anywhere for a while.”
“No, you’re not,” Angela said as she handed the two of us another length of rope. “Now, tie their legs together, just below their knees, and make sure you cinch it between their legs. One that is done, they can tell you how it feels.”
I tied Bobby’s legs together, while Cathy took care of Mrs. Bridges, and they both tried to wriggle their legs. “Good job, Miss Mary, Miss Cathy,” Mrs. Bridges eventually said, and Bobby nodded in agreement.
“Right,” Angela said as she stood up, “We need to silence them next. When you had the scarves in your mouths yesterday, but before anything else was done, how did it feel Cathy?”
“With the scarf in my mouth? It felt strange on my tongue, but it still felt as if I could say something, even after you put the towel strip in my mouth. It was only when you added the tape I felt silenced.”
“That’s a fair assessment - a scarf alone will not silence someone, you need to stop their tongue working as well as their lips. I could tell it was not the first time you experienced it yesterday, but is this the first time you will have gagged someone else?”
We both nodded as she handed us a folded piece of cloth each. “Well, don’t be afraid - push the cloth into their mouths, then use a length of toweling between their lips to hold it in place.”
We looked at each other, and gagged our first person, pushing the cloths in and watching as they both closed their lips over it, then taking a length to toweling strip and pulling that between their teeth, passing it round their heads and tying the ends together at the back of their necks.
“Gddnn,” Bobby mumbled as we watched Angela tie a scarf over Mrs. Bridges grey hair. “I did this yesterday to protect your hair,” she said as she passed Cathy the duct tape. “Wrap that tightly around her head - it won’t hurt her, so long as you keep the tape over the scarf that is covering her hair.”
Cathy gingerly stuck the end of the roll of tape against Mrs. Bridges’ cheek, and started to wrap it round. “We need to protect the hair, because if it gets trapped in this tape it is pure murder,” Angela continued as Cathy kept going, and the muffled voice of the housekeeper grew more silent.
“As for my delightful young cousin here,” Angela said as she looked at me and Bobby, “use this.” She passed to me what looked like white duct tape, but as I peeled the end loose it made a very different sound.
“This is that medical tape, isn’t it,” I said, and Angela nodded in response. “This won’t damage the hair, so do your worst.” Well, I didn’t need to be asked twice, as I wrapped Bobby’s mouth and head in the tape.
We both stood up and looked at our captives, securely bound and silenced on the floor. “They look like they’re not going anywhere, don’t they,” Angela said as she sat down, and we had to admit she was right.
“Well,” Angela continued as she looked at us, “We’re not done yet - not with young Bobby at least.” He looked at the three of us, then at Mrs. Bridges, who just smiled with her eyes and nodded…
“Roll him on his stomach,” Angela said with a smile, “and take his shoes off.”
“Uwldntdr,” Bobby said, but he was in no position to argue as Cathy and I pulled him flat on the floor, and then rolled him onto his stomach. “Cathy, pull his legs back,” Angela said as she passed me another length of rope, “and Mary tie that around the rope between his ankles. Then I want you to take the rope and pass it around the rope that is linking his elbows, so that his heels are held nice and tightly against his legs.”
“Mggnnggtufrtsss,” Bobby mumbled as Cathy held his legs, and then I tied his ankles to his other ropes. “Now,” Angela said, “I’m going to leave you and Cathy alone for a few minutes. But before I go, I want you to watch - because by the end of today, you two are going to able to do this.”
We watched, fascinated as she helped Mrs. Bridges to her feet, and she started to hop to the door, her smock riding up and down as she did so, but with apparent ease and grace. The two of them left, and as Angela closed the door we both turned and looked at Bobby, his sock covered feet up in the air.
“We had so much to ask you yesterday,” Cathy said with a smile, “but you two made sure we could not, so now we’re going to show you how we feel.” Bobby turned his head to try and look at us, but come on - we’re two thirteen year old girls, and his feet were so tempting, as were his sides. Bobby screamed out in muffled laughter as we got to work on him…
“Have fun,” Angela said as she watched us coming down the stairs.
“Very much so, yes,” Cathy said as the large front door opened and Colin came in, taking off his coat and scarf.
“Hey you two,” he said as he hung them on the large coat stand, “Where’s Bobby?”
“Upstairs,” I said as I hooked my thumb over my shoulder, “in the playroom. Why don’t you go up and have a word with him?” The three of us watched as Colin ran up the stairs, while Angela looked at her watch.
“Three… Two… One.” She counted off, and on the last word we heard Colin begin to laugh his head off. “Yup, we’re open for business,” Angela said as she walked to the kitchen.
“Angela - what did you mean by we’re going to do what Mrs. Bridges did?”
“You’ll see - lunch is in fifteen minutes,” Angela said as she headed for the kitchen, leaving Cathy and I to look at each other.
“That’s better,” Bobby said as he pushed his soup bowl away. “I was really ready for that.”
“By the way,” Colin said as he looked at the two of us, “I have the photos ready to upload on Facebook at your word.” Bobby looked at the three of us, shaking his head and mouthing “you dare” at the two of us.
“What would it take to stop us from doing it?” I said with a smile, looking at Bobby the whole time. The look in his eyes was like that of one of the new Year 7 girls at the start of the year - pure panic.
“Hold that thought,” Angela said as she stood up. “We need to teach you how to move when you are roped up, and the only way to do that is to rope you both up. Why don’t you go and wait in the library - I’ll be in shortly.” The four of us got up and walked out of the kitchen, while Angela went to talk to Mrs. Bridges.
“Walkabout?” I said as we sat on the chairs. “In our sock covered feet?”
“We’re not going outside the house,” Bobby said, “At least not yet, but we will later. Right now, you need to feel confident in walking when you can’t walk very easily.”
“How did Alicia and Suzie learn?”
“They learned from Jenny and Cassie is my understanding - and they taught themselves. Angela likes to take a slightly different approach.”
Cathy took her glasses off and wiped them with a white hankie. “So I see - what do you think she has planned.
“Practice for you two,” Angela said as she came in. “Mary, I want you to show me you learned something this morning, and tie Cathy’s wrists and arms. Don’t worry - she gets a chance to take care of you later today.”
“Fair enough,” Cathy said as she stood up. “Do I get to wear socks?”
“Nope - we’re gonna tape your hands, so Cathy, palms together please.”
As I held the rope, I realized my hands were not shaking as much as this morning, so I quickly went to work, tying Cathy’s wrists together as I had seen her do to Bobby that morning. Once I was done, I used a second length to fix her wrists to her waist as usual, and then took the tape from Angela. It was a strange feeling, peeling that grey tape away from the roll and covering Cathy’s hands with it - but not as strange as ten minutes later, when Angela was doing the same thing to my hands.
“Now, you know because you’ve seen the film just how good Cassie, Suzie and Jenny are at moving when their legs look like rope bound sausages,” Angela said as we sat down, “and I want you to be approaching that sort of level. I’ll accept being as good as Alicia, but before you get to that stage I want you to see how you can move when your legs are restricted a little bit. Have you ever heard of a hobble?”
Cathy said “I’ve heard of a hobble skirt - Mummy and Mum have one each. Is it like that?” As for me, I started thinking of the film I had seen called Misery, and I was fairly damned sure it was not that one.
“Close,” Angela said with a smile. “That works by effectively making it very difficult to move your knees, and therefore walk properly. I want to show you two ways - one on each of you - of doing this with rope, and then the boys are going to show you some of the hall and explain what the pictures are. Once they’re done, we’ll go outside and try something else.
“Can we ask questions this time?”
“Sure - but that means later you get cleave gagged. Now, to work. Mary first.” Angela knelt down and tied a length of rope between my legs, above my knees, but rather than forcing my legs together as she left a gap between them, wrapping the rope around them so that I had a band between my legs.
She did a similar thing to Cathy, this time leaving the gap between her ankles, so that she had a length of rope between them. “Right,” she said with a smile, “Both of you stand up and walk round the room a bit, see how it feels.”
Cathy and I slid forward and stood ourselves up, waiting a moment until we steadied ourselves, before we started to walk round. I was able to move my feet with no problem, but I was amazed at how well the rope between my knees was restricting my ability to move. As for Cathy, she soon started to shuffle forward on her feet, taking tiny steps like the time she played one of the maids in a school production of The Mikado.
“Take them on the tour, Bobby,” Angela said as she opened the tour, “then meet me in the kitchen in an hour, and make sure they have some outdoor footwear with them. Enjoy yourself girls.”
Well, it was certainly an educational hour, as Bobby walked us round the ground floor, pointing out some of the paintings and explaining the history. As I looked at a portrait of the first Baronet Holderness, he told me and Cathy the story of the Holderness Shadow.
We listened, transfixed at some of the stories he told. I know I had heard Alicia and Jenny talking about the shadow or something, but to hear this family legend was something different, something new. Now I understood the cross in the wooded path, but something else struck me.
“Bobby, yesterday you said you’d never seen poppies grow there. Why is that unusual?”
“I’m not sure - but for as long as my father has been alive, nothing has grown there except grass. Now flowers start growing - look, let’s move on.”
He took us up the stairs, which was an interesting thing to try, and then showed us some of the portraits and landscapes, especially of the Manor House and the grounds. Colin listened intently as well, some of this obviously new to him as well, but eventually Bobby looked at his watch and said “we need to get going - there’s not a lot of daylight left, and Angela wants you to try something in relative safety.”
We made our way down the stairs and into the kitchen, stopping only to pick up a pair of trainers for each of us. Angela was waiting in the kitchen, a number of lengths of rope and two bandanas sitting on the table.
“Right,” she said as we sat on the chairs she had pulled out, “I want you to try hopping round with your legs properly bound now. First, we tighten the bonds you have in place. Boys?”
Bobby and Colin knelt in front of us, and retied my knees and Cathy’s ankles, this time making sure they were tightly bound side by side, before they slipped our sneakers on. They then tied my ankles and Cathy’s knees, as well as our legs on the other side of our knees.
“All right,” Angela said as she rolled the bandanas in to bands and tied a knot in the middle of each one, “Help them to stand up and make sure they can stand straight.” We were helped onto our feet, and we took a moment to steady our bodies. It felt very strange, been unable to move our legs in this position, but as we looked at each other - well, we realized just why the others liked it. There was an immediate sense of danger and uncertainty, and it was actually quite intoxicating not knowing if we were going to fall over or not.
“Open wide,” Angela said, and I tasted the cotton on my tongue as she pulled the knot of one bandana into my mouth and tied the ends around my head. I watched Cathy as the same was done to her, and then as Bobby opened the door to the lawn outside. “Take small hops, and if you feel unsteady at all one of us will catch you,” he said as he looked at us.
Well, there has to be a first time for everything, so I took a little hop, moved about six inches forward and waited to balance again, then another hop, then another hop. Cathy looked at Colin, who took her glasses off before she started - a sensible precaution, given the first hop she took she almost toppled forward. As Colin helped her to steady herself, she nodded and said “fnks” before hopping over and joining me.
There was a small sill at the door, which the boys lifted us both over, before we hopped towards the lawn. Once there, Angela wrapped the scarf around her neck and said “Right - knock yourselves out you two. Hop around, if you fall over we help you up, but the more you practice the better you will get.”
She watched as we set off across the lawn, Booby and Colin standing near us as we made our way to and fro across the grass. It was cold, but we did not really feel it, as the exercise kept us warm and, and - oh dammit, it was fun!
We had no idea how long we had been out there, but we knew time was probably up when we heard an older male voice say “I see you are keeping our guests entertained, Angela.”
The shock made me fall over, but as I rolled over and looked up I saw a grey haired, very well dressed gentleman standing next to Angela. Bobby had also stopped, as he said “Hello Grandfather.”
“Hello Robert, Colin,” Lord Holderness said as he looked at us. “Nice to meet you again as well, Mary, Catherine. I came out to tell Angela I was back, and to let you know that Angela and Robert’s parents will be joining us for dinner tomorrow. Please, carry on with your - fun.”
He turned and walked back into the house, as I looked at Bobby. He knelt down and took the scarf out of my mouth.
“It’s all right - he knows we play these games, but we tend not to do it when he’s within eyesight. I think we need to get you both untied and back into the house - we can talk again after dinner, in the playroom.”
It was several hours later when the five of us met in the playroom.
“Mum and Dad are coming tomorrow night,” Bobby said with a smile. “So are mine,” Angela said, “and I think it gives us an opportunity to see if you have really learned your skills. I’ll tell you how tomorrow, but we need to teach you something else before that. So get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
I stretched and yawned, then stood up and left the room, as Cathy followed me out. Going to my room, I stripped out of my clothes and went to have a shower, returning after a few minutes to dry myself off. Putting on my pajamas, I walked towards the bed to get in.
I didn’t even hear the door open - that was how tired I was, so the hand over my mouth was a complete surprise.
Saturday 3rd November
I woke up suddenly, wondering for a moment why I was not in my bedroom - and then I remembered. I had been “escorted” up to the attic, where I found both Cathy and Angela already waiting, both in their night clothes and both with their wrists tied in front of them - as mine were a few minutes later by Bobby.
He had already “invited” the two of them to our home away from home, and helped us to lie on one of three camp beds, before tying our ankles, our legs above our knees, and then rope from our wrists to the knee binding. We were lying on sleeping bags, which he then zipped up over us and pulled closed around our necks, before putting a strip of duct tape over our lips and turning the light off.
We had lain awake after that, trying to mumble to each other, until I saw Angela start to push the tape away from her mouth, wriggling her jaw and using her tongue to loosen it until it hung from her cheek like a grey strip.
“I’ll kill him later for this,” she said as she shook her head from side to side until it fell to the floor. “But it does give me an opportunity to show you a lesson in what does not work. Namely, a single strip of duct tape does not a gag make. Try working your mouth around until you feel the tape coming away, and use your tongue to moisten the inside. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.”
I started to try and work my mouth from side to side, and sure enough I found after a while that the tape was working loose from my top lip. As it did so, I had the opportunity to use my tongue to lick the tape. Once I got over the initial taste, I found I could push it out with my tongue, so that eventually I too was able to speak - Cathy following suit a few minutes later.
“Does this happen a lot around here,” she said as she rubbed her cheek on the side of the mat she was lying on.
“Rather too often,” Angela said with a slight laugh. “Listen - are you two comfortable?” I wriggled a little in my sleeping bag, and said “Yeah - why?”
“Let’s make this a sleepover of sorts then - in the morning, I’ll show you how we can free each other from this, but for now let’s rest.” She closed her eyes and lay there, as we all soon feel asleep…
Until now, as I saw Cathy begin to stir and wriggle round. “Good morning,” she said as she looked at me over the neck of her sleeping bag, “Sleep well?”
“Actually, yes,” I said as I moved my body round, trying to see if I could open my bag. “But I do need to get out of this sleeping bag. Maybe Angela can…” I looked over to the third bed, only to see Angela sitting out of the bag, her knees at her chin as she picked at the ropes around her wrists with her teeth.
“Mrnngg” she mumbled as we watched her pick the knot apart, and shake her wrists free, before she started to untie the rest of her ropes. “How… How did you get out of the sleeping bag,” I said in a quiet voice.
“Trade Secret - I’ll tell you later,” Angela said as she shook the rest of the ropes off, and then released us from our sleeping bags. “Now, Hollywood and television have a very simple view of how to tie someone up so they cannot move. Take you two - wrists tied to legs, legs secured. You can’t get out, right?
“Wrong - bend your knees to your chest and see if you can reach the knot on the top of your wrists.”
I sat on the bed and did as Angela had instructed me, discovering with no small sense of joy that I could reach the knot and start to unpick it with my teeth, smiling as I felt the cords loosen around my wrists. I was soon able to wriggle one hand free, as I watched Cathy shake her hands loose
“That was ridiculously easy,” I said as I got off the bed, “Did Bobby really think that would hold us?”
Angela smiled as she walked to the door. “Young Robert and Colin still have a lot to learn - so today I thought we could explode a few other myths for you, so that you can see why we seem to be so strict. Come on - I’m starving, and I have no idea what time it is…”
It turned out it was just after ten - Mrs. Bridges looked at us as we came into the kitchen with our dressing gowns on, and served breakfast without a second thought.
“Your grandfather was looking for you, Miss Angela,” she said as she put some fruit juice on the table, “he said to tell you your parents would be arriving at four, and they want to discuss tomorrow.”
“Fair enough,” Angela said as she put a spoonful of cereal into her mouth and chewed it, “That gives us a few hours. Have you seen Robert anywhere, Mrs. Bridges?”
“Master Robert went out with Master Colin earlier this morning, I believe to look at the marker. He seemed to be very curious about the flowers growing there.”
Angela looked at both of us, and shrugged her shoulders. “Let’s finish breakfast and get dressed. We can meet up then - ay at eleven thirty at the latest - and I’ll show you why they get it so wrong…”
When Angela joined us, we could see she was in two minds about what to wear. Why else would she have on a cashmere cardigan over a white round necked top, jeans and mid-length black felt boots?
“Right - Myth Busting time,” she said as she closed the door. “Let’s start with wrists - remember how I tied you both yesterday - hands covered, ropes snugly tied, then against your back?”
Cathy nodded as she polished her glasses and put them back on. “Yeah - I presume to stop us getting free. But surely it is impossible to release your hands when they are tied behind your back? In front, yeah - I got that, but behind us?”
Angela smiled as she picked two lengths of rope from the bag she had brought in. “Glad you asked - why don’t you both come here and stand in front of me, and put your hands together behind your backs, palm to palm?”
It was cold outside, but we both had on shorts over dark leggings and long sleeved sweaters, with pop socks on our feet. We stood to attention in front of Angela with our backs to her, enjoying the now familiar touch of the cords against our wrists.
“Now then,” Angela said as she finished off the ropes around my wrists, “your hands are free to move around a bit, apart from the obvious restriction to each other. All other things been equal, how easy to you think it would be to free each other with your hands like this?”
We looked over our shoulders at the ropes, then I stood still and allowed Cathy to look at the ropes around my own arms. “I could try to pick them apart with my teeth,” she eventually said, picking up on what we had learned earlier.”
“Do you think you could do it with your fingers?”
“Not with my eyesight - but Mary could try to do mine.” I nodded and waited as Cathy turned and backed up to me, until I could feel the rope around her wrists with my fingers. Moving my arms up slightly, I managed to find the knot on top of her wrists, and tried for a few minutes to tease the knot open, looking over my shoulder every minute or so.
“Difficult, but given time I could do it. I think using teeth might be quicker, though?” Angela nodded, and replied “You’re right - if your mouth is not gagged or something stops you using it, then teeth is best, but fingers can be good too. Crossing the wrists makes it more difficult, but not impossible. Out of interest, however, which of you two is the more athletic or gymnastically inclined?”
We looked at each other, before I said “Probably me - why?”
“Sit down, Mary, and see if you can wriggle your arms under your bottom. If your arms are free, then sometimes the easiest way is to free yourself like that.”
I sat myself down on the floor and tried pushing myself up by the hands, then discovered that I cloud indeed slip my bottom between my arms. I took a few minutes and several deep breaths, but I finally managed to slip my arms so that my wrists rested under my knees.
“Impressive,” Angela commented as I slipped my feet through my arms. “Alicia is not flexible enough to do that, but if she was… Now untie your own wrists, and release Cathy. I’ll show you another situation after that.” I nodded as I untied my wrists with my teeth, and then released Cathy, only to allow both of us to be re-tied by Angela, this time crossing our wrists before she tied them, and then securing them to our backs with rope around her waists.
“Remember when I said you can still reach knots with your hands uncovered,” Angela said with a smile. “Well, go to it - I’m going to fetch some drinks, and let’s see if you can free each other before I get back.” She walked to the door and smiled at us before she left, while we looked at each other before we tried to reach other’s bonds.
Eventually, Cathy managed to start to unravel the knot at the top of my wrists, which allowed me a little bit of movement between my arms even if I could not free them from my back. But that was enough, as she slackened off the ropes enough to allow me to pull one hand free, and use that to start to untie the rope around Cathy’s waist.
As I removed the rope around my own waist, Angela returned with three glasses of coca cola on a tray. “Well done,” she said quietly as she laid the tray down, “You have passed the next test. Now you can both see why we fix your wrists, and why we prefer to cover your hands.”
We both nodded, before we sat down and took a drink from our glasses. “When was the first time you were tied up anyway, Angela,” Cathy said as she looked at our host.
“Hmmm - I think it was a Girl Guide camp about five years ago. It was my birthday, and my so-called friends thought it would be a good idea to stake me out on the ground, put a dirty cloth in my mouth, paint treacle over me and see how many bugs started to crawl over me.”
We both looked at her, as a smile broke out on her face. “Relax - they didn’t put treacle on me, but the rest was true. Anyway, I liked how it felt, so after that I started learning. It certainly helped me cope when we were robbed - and, if my little sister had an ounce of sense in her at the time, she would have asked me about it instead of bottling it up inside her.”
We looked at her, and she sat back. “Has she ever told you what happened that night? Dad was out, and we were talking about something or other when these two men burst in, dressed in overalls with stockings pulled over their heads. They made us put our hands on our heads, and then asked Mum all sorts of questions about where we kept our valuables and dad kept his papers.
“Eventually, they made us walk upstairs, and while Mum and Alicia were marched into Mum and Dad’s room the other one marched me into my bedroom. He made me lie on the bed, tide my wrists behind my back, my ankles and legs together, and then in a loose hog tie, before he stuffed a pair of my panties into my mouth and covered my lips with grey tape.
“I could hear Alicia crying, and Mum pleading with them, but for some reason I did not want to give them the satisfaction of knowing how scared I was, so I settled for lying there, scowling at the man guarding me until the two of them scarpered. Once I knew they had gone, I slipped off the bed, found some scissors and cut myself free, then freed both of them
“I remember the look in Alicia’s eyes, red and angry. I’m glad she finally got over it, but for some time there I was worried, I don’t mind telling you.”
We sat, listening to Angela telling this in a matter of fact way, before Cathy said “When do they board the plane back?”
Angela looked at her watch. “I think they leave at 8 tonight our time. Now, let’s talk about how you really keep someone silent…”
“I know you managed to keep us fairly quiet yesterday,” Cathy said as we sat back again, “but that’s not what they do in Hollywood, right?”
“Right.” Angela reached into her bag and drew out two thin white chiffon scarves. “Classic film gag - one of these folded in a band and tied over the poor damsel’s mouth.” Throwing one to each of us, she said “Try it - gag yourselves with this and this alone, and then see if you can talk to each other.”
I folded the scarf into a wide band, tied it around my mouth and then said “Fcours I cn say smefnk.” Looking at Cathy, who had done the same thing, she said “Wll I cn nderstnd u,” then we both burst out laughing.
“Doesn’t work does it,” Angela said with a smile, “and they are ridiculously easy to get off. Just wriggle your jaw and it will work itself down.” She was right too - about fifteen seconds of working my jaw, and the scarf fell around our necks.
“See - acting is all about convincing people the impossible is true.”
“Says the person studying History and Politics at sixth form,” Bobby said as he stood in the doorway. “Grandfather said you wanted to see me?”
“Yeah - can you dig out a couple of dresses upstairs from Alicia’s stuff? I have a lesson for Mary and Cathy, so that they are ready for tomorrow. We’ll be with you in a little while.”
“Dresses? Do I have to?”
Angela stood up, smoothed some imaginary crumbs off her trousers, and looked directly at Robert. “I need to call Grandmother in a little while, Robert - what would you like me to say to her? Or to Aunt Susan later tonight?”
“Well, when you put it that way, Colin and I will go and explore the strange world of my cousin’s closet upstairs,” Bobby said with a slight scowl before he turned and left the room. Angela smiled as she sat back down, and said “Now, where were we?”
“Not for nothing,” I said as I looked at her, “but do you realize just how much you look like Lady Holderness when you do that?”
“So I’m told by Uncle Alexander - he keeps saying something about genes and upbringing. Those scarves - tie them between your lips, and see if that works any better as a gag.”
We took the scarves off, opened our mouths and pulled the band between our teeth, before tying the ends at the base of our neck. The thin material felt funny, but it was holding our tongue down - for about thirty seconds, before I eased it out from under the band and said “nt a lot btttr, sit?”
“Not really no,” Angela said with a smile. “Think for a moment about what you need when you talk - there are three things the body needs to be able to do when you speak. Any idea what?”
“Lps ble to…Sorry, lips able to move,” Cathy said as she pushed the band out of her mouth and let it hang on her chin. I undid mine and put it on the table before saying “I guess your tongue needs to be able to work.”
“Both right - and you need to be able to use your voice box to make sounds. All three are needed, however, for the talk to be completely understandable. The tape gag overnight stopped the lips moving in a way, but not the other two. The scarf there didn’t do much except muffle the sound, or keep your tongue held down for the moment. For a gag to effective at all, you need to stop two of the three working properly - and for full effectiveness, you need all three. Stop the voice box working, however, and some other things you don’t want to happen, happen.”
“So muffle and stop the mouth and tongue working?” As Cathy said this, I looked at her and nodded.
“Indeed - so the most effective gag, like the one you had yesterday, does all three. It’s not as easy as just doing it however.” From the bag she took out some hankies, two bandanas, and several rolls of tape. “So let me ask you a question - how would you start a gag if you wanted to stop the person from raising the alarm, based on what you have learned so far?”
Looking at the pile, I picked up two of the handkerchiefs, while Cathy took a sponge ball. “After three,” she said as she looked at me, and we both silently counted down, before I put the hankies and Cathy the sponge into our mouths.
“Good choice, both of you,” Angela said as she looked at us, “they both keep the tongue held to the floor of the mouth. Now, if the bandana was the next part of the gag, how would you use it?”
I thought back to the gag Jenny had shown us that Sunday, and picked the patterned scarf up, rolling it into a band and tying a knot in the middle, and then pulled the knot between my teeth before talking the ends round my head and tying them together. Cathy settled for just rolling the scarf into a band and pulling it between her teeth.
“Both equally good,” Angela said to us. “The knot provides extra silencing in the mouth, but with the sponge it’s more a case of making sure it does not slip out. Now, both can be pushed out with the tongue even like that, so you need to keep it in with something else - and we tend to use tape.”
She picked up the roll of duct tape and tore off a strip. “One strip of duct tape alone is not enough - it tends to come loose fairly easily. You need to use either several strips, or preferably wrap it round the head, but that needs something to protect the hair - so,” she said as she passed me the roll, “Tear four strips off and smooth them over your lips and mouth to seal that scarf in.”
As I did as she had asked, Angela picked up a roll of the white tape and looked at Cathy. “This stuff, on the other hand, almost moulds to the face and becomes second skin - very very difficult to work off on your own.” She handed it to Cathy and said “Tear a wide strip off and smooth it down over your mouth - see how it feels.”
As I smoothed the last strip of tape on the bottom of my face and under my chin, I watched Cathy smooth the tape over her own mouth, and saw how it stuck to her facial structure.
“Still feel you can talk,” Angela said as she stood up. We looked at each other, and made some unintelligible sounds as she tied a large shawl around our heads, covering our mouths, the scarves, everything as she secured it tightly at the back of our heads.
“Now you know how to keep Alicia and Jenny quiet,” she said as she picked up some rope. “Now, we also need to teach you a bit more about moving about - I’m going to tie your hands and feet, and take you for a little walk.”
“Lttlwlk?” I mumbled as Angela tied the rope around my wrists, and then bend down behind me and tightly bound my ankles together. She did the same to Cathy, then opened the door and said “let’s go - the boys will be waiting for us.”
“Whrrr,” Cathy said as we started to hop towards the door. We felt a bit more confident than we did yesterday, as we made our way to the door and along the hallway, but when Angela started to walk up the stairs we stopped and looked at each other.
“Come on,” Angela said as she looked at us and smiled, “get yourselves up these stairs. I’m not expecting you to hop, and I’m not going to help you. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
We looked at each other as Angela walked up, and then sat ourselves on the third step up. Putting our bound feet on the bottom step, we pushed ourselves up and slid our bottoms up one step, then moved our feet to the second step. Repeating this, bit by bit, step by step, we made our way up until we sat at the top of the staircase, looking at Angela.
“In a little while, you’re going to go down again,” Angela said with a smile, “but first you need to come and change. Can you push yourselves up?”
We nodded as we pushed ourselves to the wall, then braced out feet and used our legs to get into a standing position. Hopping along the corridor, we went into the bedroom I was using, to find what looked like two ballroom gowns on the bed.
“Now,” Angela said as she untied us, “Keep the gags on - I want you to get used to the way this feels - but I want you to change into the gowns on the bed. You’ll find two pairs of heels on the floor, and a pair of opera gloves each. Once you have them on, knock on the door. The boys will take care of you after that.”
As she left the room, I picked up one of the gowns. It was made of brown silk, with a sleeveless top held up by shoulder straps and a skirt that swept out from the waist to a lace lined hem that would almost touch the floor. The opera gloves were made of the same material, while there was a pair of heeled brown suede pumps on the floor.
Cathy was looking at a red long sleeved gown, with little hooks that went over the middle finger, and a long skirt. Her gloves were red, with red patent leather heels. We both changed and looked at each other, wondering if we would look this good at the next prom.
“Rdeee,” I mumbled, and Cathy nodded as I went to the door and knocked. Bobby and Colin came in, with several coils of rope in their arms. Colin whistled as he looked at Cathy, before saying “We need to go to the dances more often.”
“Angela has given very specific instructions,” Bobby said with a smile, “so you both need to cross your wrists behind your back.” We both did so, looking straight ahead as our wrists were securely tied together, and cinched, then secured to our waists as before.
“Can I just say,” Bobby quietly mumbled as he tied my elbows and arms to my stomach, “that you look as cute as Cassie when you wear that sort of dress?” I turned my head and looked at him, wondering what he meant by that as he blushed slightly, and then did something unexpected. Using another length of rope, he tied it round my upper arms and shoulders passing it round my body higher up so that my arms were squeezed even more tightly into my sides.
I looked at Cathy, whose eyes were wide open as the same thing was done to her, and it looked as if she had three white bands around the red of her dress. I must have looked much the same, as she started to shake and giggle while we were both sat down, and the two boys lashed our ankles tightly together.
They then folded our skirts back and tied our legs tightly together, just below our knees, before they folded the skirts back down and helped us to stand up. Looking down, it looks as if the skirt was over an everyday pair of legs - as in I could see nothing. Nothing unusual, except it meant I could not see my feet at all - and I had a feeling that was going to be important.
“There now,” Bobby said with a smile as he and Colin stood back, “Start hopping. Master this, and I guarantee the Craig girls are going to be astonished tomorrow.”
Carefully, and more slowly than when we could see, the two of us started to hop around the room, gaining in confidence as we realized that obstacle was in our minds. We actually started laughing as we moved, the boys joining in as they tried to jump in our way.
There was a knock on the door, and Mr. Bridges came in. “Miss Angela needs to see all four of you downstairs,” he said as he looked us, smiling and shaking his head.
“Come on then,” Colin said as he opened the door, “After you.” Now, up to now we had been hopping round in trainers or socks, but we had heel son and we could not see our feet.
“You can do this,” Bobby said with a smile, so we headed to the door, stopping every so often until we were out in the corridor, moving down and balancing against the wall when we needed to.
Reaching the staircase, we had no choice to sit and make our way back down, making sure we did not trap the skirts underneath us as we did so, until we reached the bottom of the stairs. Bobby helped me up, and Colin Cathy, as we looked to the library door.
“They must be in there,” Bobby said, but I was feeling a little bit more confident, so I hopped over to the door ahead of the others and pushed the door handle down. As it opened inwards, I backed up and hopped myself round, calling out “Sprssss…..”
“Hi Mary,” Angela said as she stood up, “I don’t think you’ve met my parents.” Sitting opposite her were indeed her parents, Mrs. Bowden showing a small bump under her tailored trouser suit. “Mum, Dad, this is Mary Holmes, and the rather shocked girl in the glasses behind her is Cathy Harmer. Mary, Cathy - meet my parents.”
“Uncle Simon? Aunt Anne? I thought you were not coming until later!”
Our embarrassment was spared by the sound of Bobby speaking as he came into the room, looking at Angela and her parents as he did so. “If I had known you were coming earlier, then…”
“It’s all right, Bobby,” Mr. Bowden said with a smile, “we needed to talk to Angela about something, so we arrived a little earlier than expected. Looks as if you were practicing your skills - as well as playing dress up by the looks of things. Are you girls all right?”
“Yssrrr,” I mumbled as we both nodded. “We won’t tell Alicia either,” Mrs. Bowden said as she looked at the dresses and shoes we were wearing. Cathy’s skirt was blowing slightly in the breeze - it was not as full as mine, but it still covered her shoes quite nicely.
“Anyway,” Angela said as if it was the most normal thing in the world to have two tightly bound and gagged girls in ball gowns in the room - which, come to think of it, it probably is for her. “Anyway, it’s not a formal meal tonight, but Grandfather has suggested tomorrow night should be, so I’ve invited your parents to join us for dinner. They will bring your outfits with you, and take you home afterwards - I think that will be the perfect time to tell them what you have been learning here.”
I could see the slight panic in Cathy’s eyes as she said “Whtllfesee”
“Hopefully, they will understand, but if you were to ask Cassie and Jenny’s parents they would tell you it is always best to be open with them.” Mr. Bowden put down his cup and looked at Bobby. “I suggest you let them practice moving around for a little while longer, and then untie them and allow them to get changed.
“Not outside, however - I don’t want to have to get those dresses cleaned just yet.”
“Yes, Uncle Simon,” Bobby said as he held the door open. We turned ourselves round and hopped out, listening as Angela said “More tea, Mum?”
“More tea? She is turning into Grandmother,” Bobby said as we hopped down the corridor, and back to the stairs.
“Is that a bad thing,” Colin said as we stood at the bottom of the long staircase. “After all, your grandmother is a very strong woman. I would not want to cross her at any time.”
“Yeah, I guess - hey we need to watch them,” Bobby said as he realized that Cathy and I had hopped up the first three stairs, steadying ourselves each time. On the third step, however, Cathy was starting to overbalance, so they both caught her, lifted her up and carried her to the top of the stairs, then coming back for me.
“Don’t… Don’t do that again,” Bobby said as they put me down and stood there, panting slightly. “I don’t know about Grandmother, but Angela would have killed us both if you had hurt yourself. We need to make sure you can’t move for a while - let’s go to the playroom.”
We hopped back into the large room with the bean bags, where Bobby and Colin helped us to sit on bean bags, before tying our ankles to the ropes around our elbows with a longer length of rope. They also tied a length of string around our fingers, holding them together so that we could not use them on each hand. “Now, let’s see if you can escape at all,” he said as Colin sat down and watched us.
Well, the answer to that was obvious - no way I was going to get free, and looking at Cathy I could see she was thinking the same thing. So I sat back and relaxed, closing my eyes and just doing nothing…
“Mary? Mary, wake up.”
“Gwaya, cfee,” I mumbled, and then opened my eyes to see Cathy looking at me, her hand on my shoulder. The windows were dark, and the light was on in the playroom.
“We need to get changed,” Cathy said as I stretched, and I realized we were both free of ropes and gag. “Dinner is in thirty minutes.”
“Where are Bobby and Colin?”
“Downstairs - it’s six now, and his parents arrived half an hour ago. They let me free, but you were sleeping so peacefully they asked me to untie you instead.” I saw the ropes and other material left on the floor. “Come on - let’s get out of these clothes and into something more comfortable.”
The clock in the room showed six thirty as we both walked down the stairs. I had changed out of the gown and into a pair of trousers with a smart blue blouse, while Cathy had changed into a knee length straight skirt and a jumper, both light green.
“Ah,” Lord Holderness said as he came into the hallway and saw us coming down, “There you both are. Come in - the others are waiting.”
We walked into the front room, and saw Bobby and Colin standing with an older man and woman. The man looked so much like an older Bobby, and a younger Lord Holderness, that it had to be his father, Alexander. Next to him was a smaller woman, with curly red hair, that had to be his mother. His father was wearing a jacket and trousers over an open necked shirt, while Mrs. Holderness was wearing a knee length black skirt and waistcoat over a polo necked sweater.
“Mum. Dad,” Bobby said as he saw us coming in, “this is Mary and Cathy. They helped out with the party on Wednesday, and have stayed around for the last few days.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Mr. Holderness said as he looked at us, while Bobby’s mother just smiled. “I hear you’ve had an interesting time here…”
Our embarrassment was spared by Mr. Bridges saying “Dinner is served,” and we all went into the dining room.
The meal passed pleasantly enough, until the dessert plates were cleared away and coffee was served. I was about to talk to Bobby when his mother said “I hear Angela has been showing you the ropes?”
I stopped and slowly put the cup down and looked at her. “It’s all right, Mary,” his father said as he looked at me and Cathy, “We have no secrets in our families. After all, you’ve seen the film, haven’t you?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Holderness,” I said quietly, “It’s just that we’re still getting used to this idea of what happens, and…”
“And they are very quick learners,” Angela said as she put her napkin down. “In fact, I think they should show you how quick they are - why don’t we do an escape challenge. Mum, Aunt Susan - are you up for it?”
I watched Lord Holderness stand up and walk to the door. “Is something wrong Father,” Mrs. Bowden said as she looked at him.
“Not at all, Anne,” he said as he turned and smiled, “I promised your mother I would call her about now, and then I want to see if Mrs. Bridges would care to join you. Robert, why don’t you go and fetch the equipment?”
As Robert got up and followed his grandfather out of the room, Mr. Bowden and Mr. Holderness moved four chairs from the dining table and set them in a row in the room. “Ladies,” they said as their wives stood up, walked over and sat in two of the chairs, making themselves comfortable, while Angela sat in the third chair, smoothing her skirt down as she sat like the other two, her ankle together and to one side next to a chair leg.
Robert came back in, and motioned to me and Cathy to join him. We walked behind the chairs, as he handed us a length of rope and stood behind Angela. “Mum, Aunt Anne, Angela,” he said quietly, “please put your hands behind the chair back. Mary, you take mum, and Cathy Aunt Susan - I’ll take care of Angela.”
“What about me,” Colin said as he came over.
“You can take care of me,” Mrs. Bridges said as she came in, sitting down in the final chair as the hem of her dress skirt came up. She moved her hands round the back of her chair, as the four of us knelt behind them, crossed their wrists and then lashed them together, cinching the ropes and then following Bobby’s lead by tying the ends around the central spar of the chair back.
“You have taught them well,” Mrs. Bowden said to Angela as she tried to move her hands. “Thanks, Mum,” Angela said quietly as we watched Bobby pull Angela’s waist against the chair back to hold her firmly in place, following his lead and then tying their arms to the chair back where they met.
Knelling in front of them, we tied the ankles of our willing victims together, and then to the chair leg on the left, before tying their legs together below their knees.
“Now,” Bobby said as he stood up, “once we have the four of you nice and quiet, you can see who gets free first. Ready?”
“What’s the time limit,” Mrs. Holderness said as she looked at her son.
“Thirty minutes, then we’ll free you,” Bobby said as he picked up the roll of microfoam tape we had got so used to, “I understand there are still one or two things to discuss about tomorrow night.”
“Like how we’re going to explain to my parents what’s happened,” Cathy said, and I had to stop myself from laughing at how a conservative family like the Holderness clan were going to take that.
“Just like that,” Bobby said as he tore a strip off and smoothed over Angela’s mouth. “Fnks,” she mumbled as the tape was passed to each of us, and we gagged our willing victims. Standing back, we watched Bobby as he started the clock, and the four older women started struggling.
We stood back and watched, Mr. Holderness and Mr. Bowden encouraging their family members, as they twisted their arms round and started to try and free themselves. Ten minutes later, Lord Holderness came back in and stood with us, watching as they tried to talk with each other.
“I’ve spoken to your mother,” he said to Mr. Holderness as Mrs. Bowden and Angela started to try and move their chairs so that they were back to back. “They’ve made it to JFK, and are in the lounge having some dinner before they board.”
“How did they sound?”
“Tired and glad to be coming home. She didn’t say much, but I gather they had some interesting evenings. At any rate, they are due to land at about seven tomorrow. Are you and Simon still coming with me to meet them?”
“We are - what about John and Jennifer?”
“They’ll join us tomorrow night for dinner - in fact, I understand they may have some news for the girls, but they would not tell me what. They did thank you for agreeing to let them stay here for a while tomorrow, so they have a chance to sleep.”
“From what I understand from Lucinda, they are almost certain to sleep on the plane - but I will see them tomorrow. How are they doing?”
“Aunt Anne and Angela look as if they have tag teamed, but my money is not on them,” Bobby said as he looked at the rope around Mrs. Bowden’s waist. He had tied it so that it sat under her bump, but he was still worried.
“Oh,” Colin said as he looked at them trying to untie each other’s wrists, “who is it on?”
“The true escape artist on this house,” Mr. Bowden said as we watched Mrs. Bridges bring her wrists round and reach up, starting to untie the rope around her arms. We looked at her, then at Mr. Holderness.
“Who do you think taught us alongside Mother,” he said with a smile as he looked at us. “Now, let’s watch and see what happens….
Sunday 4th November
The knock on the door woke me up. We’d stayed up until late, Cathy and I listening to the plans for the next day, and gone to bed at about midnight. I looked at the clock, and saw it was eight thirty, then at the door to see Angela standing there.
“Grandfather just called,” she said with a smile, “they have landed safely and cleared customs. They should be here by about ten - time to get up, have breakfast, and get ready.”
The playroom clock actually showed a quarter after ten when Cathy and I saw the large car pulling up from the window. As we looked on, Lord Holderness and Angela’s father got out of the front, then opened the side door as Cassie and Suzie jumped out, followed by Alicia and Jenny. All four of them looked a little tired, but they seemed to be happy, if only to be back, as their grandmothers climbed out of the car as well.
“We’ll bring the bags in,” Mr. Holderness said as they looked round, “Why don’t you go into the house and get something to drink - Mrs. Bridges and Angela are waiting inside.”
We watched them walk along the gravel to the front door, and moved out of the way, waiting and biding our time as they did whatever it was they were doing downstairs.
Time seemed to pass slowly, until we heard footsteps on the stairs. Cathy and I looked at each other and took up a new position, on one side of the door, as we heard footsteps walking past. Once they had passed the door, we both pushed with our feet and sent the two beanbag chairs we had stacked onto their sides, the books on top falling on the floor.
“What on earth,” I heard a very familiar voice say, and the door opened to the room. We tried not to laugh as Alicia walked in, wearing a white sweatshirt and jeans with sneakers on her feet. She looked round the room, saying “who on earth has been in here”, before she turned and went to leave the room. As she got to the door, however, something made her stop. It might have been Cathy sniggering, it might have been my foot sticking out from the side of the door, but she stopped, pushed the door closed, and stared at both of us.
The shock in her eyes quickly passed, followed by curiosity as she looked up and down both of us. “Excuse me one moment,” she eventually said as she left the room, only to return a few minutes later with Jenny, in a red smock top over a pair of black leggings. She stopped as she came in, looked at both of us, then at Alicia, before she burst out laughing.
“Well, fancy meeting both of you here,” she eventually said as we hopped into the centre of the room, turned and looked at them. “So have you been having lessons or something?”
We both nodded - talking was a bit difficult, given the silver tape that was wrapped around our mouths and heads, covering the headscarves that were covering our hair and holding the sponges and scarves firmly into our mouths.
As for our bodies, we had bands of rope securing us around our ankles, legs, waist, arms and stomach, and shoulders, leaving us looking like rope mummies in our pajamas. Jenny walked round us, letting out a low whistle as she said “Who did this to you? They’re good, whoever they are…”
“That would be us,” Bobby said as he and Colin came out of their hiding places, jumping over the seats and grabbing Alicia and Jenny by their arms. “Where are Cassie and Jenny?”
“Telling Angela all about our trip,” Jenny said as she looked over her shoulder at Colin. “So how long have you four been practicing? You’re getting good - all of you.”
“We’ve been here since Wednesday - the girls helped out with the party here, which I noticed you managed to get out of, Alicia…”
“Hey - I would have helped if I had been here, but my services were required elsewhere,” Alicia said with a slightly haughty air, as we watched the boys pull their arms behind their backs and start to tie them together with rope. “So what is this - a mass kidnapping?”
“Nope, we broke in and caught these two, then you two arrived. Now, be good girls and let us make you secure and comfortable.”
“How was the flight anyway,” Colin said as he started to wrap some rope around Jenny’s arms and stomach. “Anything interesting on the films?”
“No idea - I’m not joking, but the four of us fell asleep almost as soon as we were in the air. One minute I was looking at Granny, the next thing I know the stewardess was giving me a bowl of cereal and we were nearly over Ireland.” From my viewpoint, I could see Jenny smile as her arms were pulled into her side, almost as if she was enjoying the fact it was Colin doing this to her.
“Hvagddtm,” Cathy mumbled as she looked at Alicia and Jenny. “It had some moments,” Alicia said as Bobby helped her to sit down, “Halloween was an experience, and - well, we’ll tell you all about them later. How was the party here?”
“Fnnn,” I mumbled, “wllltltultrswl.” That made both Jenny and Alicia start laughing, at least for the time it took the boys to stuff their mouths with scarves and cover their mouths with strips of brown plaster.
“Hey Jenny - where are you hiding out,” we heard Cassie calling out, and the boys went to the side of the door, both Jenny and Alicia raising their eyebrows as they heard two sets of feet running up the staircase. Doors opened, doors closed, and it was fairly obvious they were checking all the rooms.
“She’s not in her room,” we heard Suzie call out, and then Cassie say, “I’ll check the playroom. The door opened and young Cassie bounded in, wearing a blue t-shirt and knee length leggings, saying “Hey, are you two…” She stopped for a moment, looking at the four of us, before Bobby clamped his hand over her mouth, picked her up by her waist and carried her to the side of the door.
“Did you say something, Cas,” Suzie said as she walked in, her skirt moving around her knees as she did so. It was a floral print dress, with short sleeves, and she had nothing on her feet as she came in. She took one look at the four of us, then said “Right… BOBBBBBBBBBBBBBBMMMMMMMMMMMM!” Her mouth was cut off as Colin hand gagged her and made her kneel on the floor, taking a cloth from his pocket and stuffing it into her mouth before he placed a length of the brown plaster over her mouth.
“Mre? Cfe? Hgrrt,” Cassie said as she tried to twist her head out of the way, but Bobby was keeping a firm grip on her, smiling as we watched Colin quickly bind Suzie up in a reasonably simple hog tie, then walk over to Bobby and help him to carry Cassie into the centre of the room. As he removed his hand, Cassie had just enough time to say “What’s happ….” before she too was gagged and hogtied.
“Right,” Bobby and Colin said as they patted Suzie and Cassie on the head, “We’re going to raid the house. Don’t go away.”
They left the room, closing the door behind them, as the six of us looked at each other. “Snjurst?” Alicia said, and we both nodded, watching Cassie and Suzie as they rolled round on the floor.
“Fnkwshldhlpm,” Cathy said to me, and I nodded, hopping round so that Alicia and Jenny could see our hands before we jumped to where the two young escape artists were trying to free each other.
Alicia and Jenny actually started to laugh as we sat ourselves down next to the others, and used our free fingers to start to untie their ropes. When Bobby and Colin had tied us, they had used something like a rope handcuff on us - tying the rope around our wrists and leaving a length of about three inches between them. As a result, and thanks to some tricks we had learned, it only took us a few minutes to untie their wrists.
We sat back and watched as they soon released themselves, peeled away the tape from their mouths and spat out the cloths. “Sisters or friends first,” Suzie said to Cassie as she rubbed her wrists. Cassie looked at the four of us, then said “Friends - after this last week, these two could use a little them time.”
“Whtdssshmn,” Jenny said as she looked at Alicia, who simply raised her eyebrows and sat, her legs to the side as the youngsters started to untie the ropes around us, making a number of comment as we eventually found ourselves free to cut away the gags around our mouths. As I finally spat the last sponge out, I said “Can you two free your sisters - we’re having lunch at one, and Cathy and I need to get showered and changed.”
“Sure thing,” Suzie said as she walked over to Alicia, “after all, you go the drop on us this time. Not later though.”
“We’ll see,” I said as we walked to the door to the room, “We’ll see.” As we walked out, we almost walked right into Lady Holderness, who was standing outside the door.
“Mary, Cathy,” she said to us, but there was a smile on her face as she spoke, “Are the other girls in there?” We both nodded, as she put her hand on the door handle. “I think you had better go and get changed - lunch will not be much longer,” she said as she opened the door and walked in.
“Was that a command?” Cathy said as she looked at me. “Because it certainly seemed to be one.”
“More of a suggestion,” I said as we walked to the bedrooms. “But I think we should do it anyway…”
.”… and so we all spent the night tied on our beds, and it was probably the best night’s sleep we had all week.”
Alicia finished her telling of their week, as we sat around the front room. Lunch had finished, as we were all gathered, including Mr. and Mrs. Bridges, to hear what happened when they were with Heidi in New England.
The thing that struck me was how alike Lady Holderness, Alicia and Angela were when they sat on the couch, legs together and to the side, hands clasped on their laps. They were all dressed differently - Lady Holderness in a round necked top, tweed skirt and brown brogues, Alicia in her jeans and sweatshirt, and Angela in a silk camisole top, fawn trousers and heels. Put that to one side, however, and you could tell they were of the same family.
As for Suzie, she was sitting with Cassie, joshing each other as they listened, but even Suzie was carrying herself in a slightly more formal way. The really strange thing was that Cassie seemed to be copying them, and was looking over at Bobby as he sat with his grandfather. If I did not know better, I would have thought she was trying to impress him, but I soon put that thought to bed.
“Well, I’m glad you had such a good time, and that you are all safely back,” Lord Holderness said as he stood up. “The rest of our dinner guests should arrive by about six, so that gives you all some time to unwind before we dress for dinner. Lucinda, would you and Miranda join me for a moment?”
“Is something wrong,” Jenny’s grandmother said as she stood up.
“No - I just have a few things about tonight to discuss with you,” he said as he held the door open, waiting for the two ladies to leave before he followed, closing the door behind himself. As soon as the door was shut, Bobby stretched out and said “Is there any chance of some more soft drinks, Mrs. Bridges?”
“Not for me,” Alicia said as she stood up and walked to the window, “I had enough of soda and chips - sorry, crisps to last me a lifetime. I actually had to eat kid’s portions in order not to feel so stuffed. Does anybody fancy a walk - I need some fresh air, and I miss seeing the lake.”
“I’d be up for that,” Jenny said, “but it is a bit cold out there - we need to wrap our mouths up to keep the cold out.”
Cathy and I looked at each other. “We can help with that,” we said as Angela winked at us, “if you’re willing….”
Cassie looked at us, and simply said “Oh yeah - what have you got in mind?”
“Coats on first - and Angela, we’re going to need your help afterwards, if that’s all right.” Alicia watched as he sister nodded, and then said “Just what did she teach you this week?”
“A lot,” Cathy said with a smile, “and we’re going to show you. Once you’ve got your coats on, we’re going to give you a muff to wear round your hands.”
Suzie looked at me and Cathy, before she hugged us. “I’m glad you’re in our gang now,” she said as Alicia brought a load of coats in, “especially you Cathy. I always wondered what my cuz saw in you.”
“A good sense of humour,” Alicia said as she pulled her duffle coat on and fastened it up, “even if I didn’t show how much I appreciated it most of the time.” Cathy looked at her, before grabbing a roll of silver tape and saying “Just for that, Ms Bowden, you go first. Put your arms in front of you, one on top of the other.”
“Oh - that’s what you meant by a muff,” Jenny said as she watched Cathy tape Alicia’s arms from elbow to elbow, covering her hands so that it looked as if a silver sleeve was covering her arms. She then wrapped a long scarf round it, so that it looked as if her arms were covered in a muff. I did the same to Suzie, before taking care of Jenny while Cathy saw to Cassie.
“There now,” I said with a smile as I tied the scarf around Jenny’s arms, “Now to make sure your face does not get cold. Open wide now.”
“Oh goodie - tape time,” Cassie said with a smile as she watched me stuff a folded scarf into her sister’s mouth, and then tied a scarf over her hair, the point covering her neck at the back as I secured the ends together below her chin. I then wrapped the tape around her head, and then tied a second wool scarf around her head a swell, so that it looked as if it was just a scarf keeping the cold off her mouth.
“Oh - you have learned a lot,” Suzie said before Cathy silenced her and Cassie, while I took care of Alicia. “Ysssincnsetht,” she mumbled as Alicia looked at us.
“Right then - why don’t I take care of you two, while Bobby and Colin do a little rope work on your legs. Given you spent all night in a plane, your legs need the additional exercise.” Suzie groaned as her brother tied the rope between her legs above her knees, and the boys made their way down while Cathy and I had our arms bound, and a pair of warm ponchos placed over our heads before we too were securely gagged.
“Right,” bobby said as he opened the door, “Let’s go.” We filed out into the hallway, just as the door to the study opened and Mrs. Craig came out with Lady Holderness. She had a huge smile on her face, as she said “Girls, I just…” She then saw the way their mouths were covered, and smiled as she said “Ah - right, a country walk. Enjoy the fresh air. Lucinda, I could use a small drink - and perhaps it should not be so small.”
I looked at Cassie and Suzie, who were looking at each other with raised eyebrows, and it was obvious they had no idea what was going on. “Come on,” Angela said as she walked to the door, “Time’s a-wasting, and you said you wanted to go down to the lake.”
Earlier in the week, when we went to the lake with Bobby and Colin, they ignored us, but this time it was different. This time there were six of us, and as Cathy walked with the two younger girls I went with Alicia and Jenny. It was obvious they had enjoyed their week, and they mumbled some stories to me as we walked down the tree covered path - stories I did not understand a single word of, but what the heck. My two best friends were back, and we could have time talk later.
In the clearing, there was a thin sheen of mist over the water on the lake, the pale light reflecting on the surface as we watched Cathy, Cassie and Suzie running round the clearing. When we’re together, we forget sometimes that Cathy is almost a year younger than us - the joys of how school take kids in meant her August birthday out her in the same year as us.
“Lkllllkthrhvnfn,” Jenny mumbled, and I nodded in response as Bobby and Colin chased them across the field. I nodded in response - it just felt right for some reason to be sitting here, our heads and mouths wrapped up against the cold, enjoying an autumnal afternoon. All too soon, however, Angela came over and said “We need to head back - it’s going to get dark soon, and we need to dress for dinner.”
“Yup - Dress. When Grandfather said a formal meal he meant it, so we need to take our time. Come on - let’s head back.”
We stood up and started to shuffle towards the path that headed back up to the house. On the way back, Alicia glanced over at the stone cross, her eyes widening slightly at the poppies that were still there, and then at Bobby. “Yeah - I know,” he said as we walked on, coming out onto the lawn and walking towards the house as we saw two women standing next to Bobby’s father.
“Mmmms” Cathy mumbled as she looked at them. It was indeed her parents, one in an Armani trouser suit with a white camisole top and patent heels, the other in a mid-length red silk dress with a fur shrug round her shoulders.
“Ah there you are Cathy,” her mother said as we got closer. “I think your dress has been taken upstairs, so why don’t you go upstairs and get changed.” Cathy nodded as she looked at them, unsure of what she could say at the moment.
“That’s all right, Mrs. Harmer, Mrs. Harmer,” Mr. Holderness said with a smile, “Alicia will take the girls upstairs - they need to shower and change anyway. Mary, your parents have just pulled up as well.” He looked at his watch, “and I suggest you hurry - we do not have a lot of time before drinks are served.”
“Let me come with you,” the taller woman in the trouser suit said, and I could see the panic in her eyes before Jenny nudged her and nodded. “Of course,” Angela said with her best smile, “if you will come with us?” We walked into the house through the large bay windows, heading up the stairs as her mother walked behind us.
“In here,” Angela said as she opened the door to the playroom, and we all walked in, wondering what she was going to do. As she closed the door, Mrs. Harmer smiled and said “Aren’t you pleased to see us, Cathy?”
“Ysmmm,” Cathy said, which seemed to make both Cassie and then Suzie giggle. Mrs. Harmer raised an eyebrow, before Angela said “I think it may be easier if I show you, Mrs. Harmer.” She pulled the poncho off Cathy, who blushed as her mother took in the sight before her.
“Well, that’s an interesting muff,” she said with a smile as she stepped forward, “and it is quite warm in here, Let me…” She reached up and pulled the scarf off Cathy’s mouth, the rest of us watching as she saw the silver band around her mouth. As she stepped back, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach, wondering what she was going to say.
The silence was almost so thick you could draw a design on it, as her mother looked at her, then wound the scarf off her arms and looked at the silver sheath that held them together. “Are all of you like this,” she finally said in a very quiet voice, and we all realized that nodding was the only viable option.
“Well,” she finally said as she put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders, “at least they taught you to wear a scarf if someone is going to gag you with that type of tape. One time, Belinda tried that with me, and - well, let’s just say I had a very distinct hairstyle for some considerable time.”
“U… udntmnd,” Cathy said as she looked at her mother. “Well,” her mother said in a way that made both Jenny and Cassie groan, as if they had heard this one coming before, “I would have preferred it if you told us, but…”
“Tlstuwffrnds,” they said in unison, which made her mother look at them and then burst out laughing. “My god - of all the things the two of us were worried about what you might get into, this was never even near the bottom. I presume you’ve taught them?”
Angela blushed as she said “Well, I did some, but I think you really need to blame my cousin Alicia - and Cassie and… Well, all of us, if truth be told. Are you upset?”
“Nope,” she said with a smile, “but I think you need to warn your mum and dad before they find out, Mary. They may not be as open minded as we are.” She reached round Cathy and hugged her, as Angela said “Perhaps we should start to free the rest of you. Bobby, Colin, can you give me a hand please.”
“Could you take care of Jenny and Cassie first please?”
We looked to the door, surprised at the voice, to see Mrs. Craig standing there, her arms folded. “You must be one of Cathy’s mothers,” she said as she came in, “I’m Miranda Craig, the grandmother of these two little rascals.”
“Penelope - Penelope Harmer,” Cathy’s mother said as she took Mrs. Craig’s hand and shook it. “You have some very interesting granddaughters there.”
“They keep me occupied,” she said as I watched Colin and Bobby unwrap the two girls. Once her mouth was free, Jenny looked at her grandmother and said “What’s wrong, Granny?”
“Nothing - your mother and father are here, and they wanted to see you before we all get ready for dinner. Mary, your parents are looking for you as well - I think you should go and see them, they are in the library talking to Desmond and Lucinda.”
“Desmond an… Oh, you mean Lord and Lady Holderness,” I said as I rubbed my wrists. “I’ll go and see them now, Mrs. Craig.” As I stepped forward, however, I remembered a little too late that my knees were still tied, and I started to fall forwards.
“Whoa,” Angela said as she caught me, “you’d better not go down like that.” She stood me back up and untied my legs, as Jenny and Cassie left with their grandmother. Rubbing my wrists, I went down the stairs a few minutes later, opening the door to the library as I came in.
“Ah - there you are Mary,” Lady Holderness said as she looked at me. “Desmond and I have been talking with your mother and father. We’ll leave you alone for a few minutes.” They stood up and walked out, as I looked at Mum and Dad. Dad was in the suit he usually wore for big parties and funerals, while Mum was wearing a light blue short sleeved dress that came to just above her knees.
“Hey, Mum, Dad,” I said as lightly as I could, “I’m glad you could come for dinner. How’s things?” They looked at me, before Dad said “Fine - when were you going to tell us about the games you’ve been playing?”
“What, the hockey match? Well…” I tried to make a joke, but I could see the look on their face, so I said “I was going to tell you right now. It’s only happened a couple of times, but I promise you I was not hurt in any way.”
“Well, as long as it is with friends, and nothing else happens,” Mum said as she looked at me, “That’s all right.”
“You’re not mad at me?”
“So long as it stays safe,” Dad said as he started to smile, “then no. So, this is Holderness Manor? I’ve never visited before - have you enjoyed your stay here?”
“Very much so,” I said as I looked at my parents. “I… I thought you would be mad at me.”
“You’re a young adult,” Mum said as she came over to me, “And you need to be trusted to make some decisions. Just promise me there is nothing - more personal involved.”
“MUM!!!” I shouted out, only to be surprised by the screams that were coming from another room. We both looked out to see Cassie and Jenny run out of the drawing room, and back up the stairs, as their grandmother came out and looked at them.
“Mrs. Craig - is something wrong?”
“No, Mrs. Bridges - I just think they’re a little surprised and excited.”
“They are,” I said as I looked at her, “Why?”
“Because,” their mother said as she and her father came out, “We just told them that they are going to have a cousin soon - and a baby brother or sister.”
I often wondered what the phrase “Jaw Dropping” meant, but as I felt my mouth falling I got the distinct impression I knew now. “You’re pregnant,” Mum said as she came out of the room, “Congratulations.”
“Well, it is early days yet,” Mrs. Craig said with a smile, “Connie is a month further on than I am. But yes, they do seem excited - perhaps you should go and join them.”
Cathy was way ahead of me, running up the stairs as Mrs. Bridges called “Dinner is in one hour, you had better start to dress.” We ran into the play room, where Cassie and Jenny were jumping round like a pair of jackrabbits, Alicia and Suzie watching with Bobby and Colin.
“We’re going to be three, we’re going to be three,” Cassie kept screaming as Jenny ran over and hugged both of us. “Wow - this is going to be so different,” she said as she finally let go.
“I can imagine,” I said as I hugged her back, “but Mrs. Bridges said we have to get dressed. What are we going to wear?”
“Your dresses are in your rooms,” Alicia said as she walked to the door, “but you remember that we like to be taken in ropes to the dining room. Problem?”
“None whatsoever,” we both said in unison. “Good - let’s get ready,” Jenny said as we left the room.
There was indeed a formal dress on my bed - one I had worn to a wedding recently. It was made from dark green silk, with long sleeves and a skirt that came from the gathered waist to the floor. The neck was high as well, giving it a real Victorian look.
I went back into the playroom to find Jenny standing there in her dress. “Wow,” was all I could say as I saw it, the black velvet hugging her body again. “Somehow it looks even better on you this time round.”
“You think so,” Jenny said as Alicia came in, pulling a pair of grey opera gloves up her arms that matched the sleeveless silk dress she was wearing, the dress just covering her feet. “Yeah, we think so,” Alicia said as Cathy came in, wearing her bright yellow puff sleeved dress.
“Nice dress,” she said as she looked at me, while Cassie and Suzie walked in. Cassie was wearing a long sleeved pale cream dress, the skirt showing her satin shows as it moved, while Suzie had on a short sleeved royal blue party dress with matching gloves.
“So who gets to bind us,” Suzie said as the door opened, and the trio of Lady Holderness, Mrs. Craig and Mrs. Bridges came in.
“We will prepare you,” Mrs. Craig said as she walked to Cassie, and started to tie her wrists together behind her back. “So, how does it feel to know you’re going to be a big sister Cassie?”
“It’s weird - and I’m going to be a cousin too. How is Aunt Connie?”
“She’s fine - you’ll see her in a few days,” her grandmother said as she pulled the ropes tight. As she did this, Lady Holderness was taking care of Suzie, while Mrs. Bridges had crossed my hands behind my back and started to tie them together as well, over the gloves she had given me to wear.
“We’re just going to do the hands and waist as you go down for dinner,” Lady Holderness said as she tied Suzie’s wrist to her back, but answered the collected moan by saying “After dinner, you will have the chance to show the others how you can move around, but for now you need to be released so that you are able to eat. We’ll make sure your legs are well secured, however.”
I nodded as my hands were tied against my back, watching Alicia as she was bound by her grandmother and Jenny by hers. Mrs. Bridges started to take care of Cathy as Jenny said “So that means you have double the number of grandchildren now, Granny?”
“So I have doubled the blessings,” she said with a smile. “Now, you’ll be secured to the chairs downstairs, but your arms will be freed. I believe everyone else will be seated when you come in - including ourselves. Now, all of you be seated.”
We all sat down on the chairs, to allow the three older women to lift our skirts and bind our legs together below our knees, and then around our ankles, cinching the ropes between our legs as they did so.
“One more thing,” Lady Holderness said as we were all helped to stand up. “I want to thank you, Mary and Cathy, for your help here this week. Angela is very capable, but you have been a great assistance to her this week.”
“Thank you, Lady Holderness,” Cathy said as she bowed her head. “Now - we need to gag you and then Bobby and Colin will come and escort you down to the dining room.”
We nodded as we opened our mouths, allowing a sponge ball to be pushed in and then our lips to be covered by tape, before a silk scarf, each one the same colour as our dresses, were tied over our mouths.
“Snntfll” Cassie said as he granny stroked her hair. “Maybe later,” she said gently, “I’ll see you all in a little while.” The three women left the room as Cathy and I started to jump over to the window.
“Heethrgtnggd,” Suzie said as she looked at us,
“Yhhhh, btntsgdss” Cassie said as she looked at Suzie The two of them nodded as they stood up, and Cathy hopped over to a CD player on a shelf. Looking over her shoulder, she turned it on and a record started to play…
Your hand fits in mine
Like it's made just for me
But bear this in mind
It was meant to be
And I'm joining up the dots with the freckles on your cheeks
And it all makes sense to me
I know you've never loved
The crinkles by your eyes
When you smile
You've never loved
Your stomach or your thighs,
The dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine
But I'll love them endlessly
I won't let these little things slip out of my mouth
But if I do
Oh, it's you they add up to
I'm in love with you
And all these little things
I thought Cathy and I were doing well to hop in these ropes, but when I saw the other four dance around, moving their heads from side to side as they bopped to the music, I knew we still had a long way to go.
I hopped round to see Booby and Colin standing there both in smart suits, shirts and ties.
“Dinner’s ready.” He said as we lined up with a series of short hops, “Let’s go.”
We made our way along the hallway, and then allowed the two boys to carry us to the bottom of the stairs, where our fathers and Lord Holderness were waiting for us. “Allow me,” he said as he took Cathy’s arm, and we were escorted in by our fathers, with Bobby taking Cassie’s arm. I could see her eyes smiling as she winked at Suzie, who raised her eyebrows while Colin escorted Jenny. I got the feeling there was something else going on again, as the doors opened and we walked in, sitting with our parents.
All the older women were sitting at the table, smiling as we hopped in, but I could see that the Holderness and Craigs were sitting bolt upright in their chairs. Mum was staring at me as I hopped over and sat next to her, while Dad untied the ropes around my waist and secured them to the chair back. It was only when I looked over that I realized Mum had her waist tied to the chair as well.
“I agreed to this,” she said as the gag was taken off my mouth, “but no more than that, just to be part of the party.” As I looked over the table, I suddenly realized that all the women were sitting the same way, and I wondered if the others had their ankles tied - not Mum, I could see that much, but how many of the others?
The food was amazing, as it had been all week, but there was something different about this. Maybe it was the feeling with more people in the room, or the dresses, or the fact my mum was sitting next to me with rope around her waist as well, but it was different.
“So mum,” Mr. Craig said as he looked at Jenny’s grandmother, “No jet lag?”
“Ask me tomorrow morning,” she said with a slight yawn, “and then we can discuss jet lag. Besides, you have others to look out for now.”
“True,” Mrs. Craig said as she reached over and touched her husband’s hand. “Still, I’m sure they’ll all take good care of me - it’s Dave I feel sorry for.”
“Yeah - he has no idea what he’s let himself in for,” Mr. Craig said with a smile. “Still, the girls look as if they had fun - you didn’t run into any trouble out there did you?”
I watched as Mrs., Craig senior glanced at Lady Holderness, “Nothing for you to worry about, John,” she eventually said, “nothing at all. We played a few games, and went to a couple of parties, that’s all.”
There was a look exchanged between Jenny and Cassie, however, which seemed to indicate a lot more had happened. “Well?” I whispered to jenny, but she just shook her head and said “I’ll tell you later - not here.”
Looking at Alicia, she shrugged and said “Don’t look at me - I have no idea what happened on Thursday night. All I know is I got up Friday morning, and was told to let them sleep.”
“But something happened?”
Alicia nodded. “Like I say I don’t know what, but whatever it was had Grandma spooked. She was very quiet for that day.”
“Hey,” Suzie suddenly said out loud, “We went to see the places in those books by Steve McQueen.”
“That’s Stephen King,” Alicia said with an exasperated groan. “But yeah, we took a bus tour round some of the places in his books. They look so beautiful; you would not think he had such ideas about them.”
I was about to ask why a ten year old would go there, but Lady Holderness stopped me by saying “Well, I’m so glad we’re all back safe and sound - but it is a school day tomorrow, and we need to make sure you all get a good night’s sleep.
“Before you go, however, I wanted to thank again Mary and Cathy for helping out here this week - it looks as if I missed some - interesting games. Why don’t we adults retire to the lounge for coffee - Miranda and I will join you shortly.”
As the men untied the women and they all left, Mrs. Craig Senior looked at us and said “And now, to see how well you move when properly tied…”
Cassie said as she clapped her hands, “with full gags and everything?”
“Yes, dear,” her grandmother said as we were released from the chairs and told to shuffle forward a little before putting our hands behind our back. I watched as Lady Holderness stood behind Alicia, crossed her wrists and started to tie her wrists tightly together, while Jenny’s grandmother did the same to her.
To my surprise, Bobby and Colin stayed to help, taking care of Cassie and Suzie respectively. Suzie was looking at Cassie as her arms were drawn behind her back, and then the rope wrapped around her waist and tummy, and as I looked I could see she had moved her bound legs so that her ankles were against the leg of the chair.
“Lady of the manor?” Suzie said with a laugh, and Cassie just stuck her tongue out as Bobby wrapped rope around her upper arms and shoulders holding them tight into her side as he did so. In fact, all four of them had been treated the same way, and it was only then I realized that my own hands had been pulled behind my back and tied together.
Looking over my shoulder, I said “Angela?” It was indeed Alicia’s older sister, dressed in a midnight black long sleeved gown with a necklace and bracelets, who was binding me as tightly as the others.
The two grandmothers and the two boys were now pushing the cloths back into the mouths of their captives, before the white tape was wrapped around their heads to keep the gag in place. When I saw it held in front of my own mouth, I opened it wide and tasted the soft cotton no my tongue, closing my lips again as the tape was stuck comfortably, yet tightly over my own mouth.
The scarves that matched our dresses were then tied tightly over the tape once more, before they were added to by woolen scarves, which covered our noses as well as our mouths.
“Cnwhhfblndflds,” Cassie mumbled as she was helped to slip off her seat and lie on her side on the floor. “Of course you can, dear - when everyone is ready,” her grandmother said to her as one by one we were helped to hop into the centre of the room and lie, head to tie in a near circle.
I say near, because Mrs. Craig had gone to start to tie Cathy’s arms, while to our squeals of muffled joy Lady Holderness started to bind Angela’s arms behind her back, a big smile on her lips as the rope was passed around her.
“”Talk to you later, everyone,” Cathy said with a smile as she allowed Mrs. Craig to remove her glasses, and then gag her as thoroughly as we were, while Angela sat on the floor and allowed her grandmother to tightly bind her ankles and legs, before she was gagged and then hogtied with the six of us, rope linking our ankles to our chest ropes.
“One thing about transatlantic flights,” Lady Holderness then said, “is you can collect things like these.” She held up a collection of grey eye masks, one of which was soon fastened over our heads, leaving us in near total darkness.
“The idea is simple,” we heard Lady Holderness say, “Get free by any means possible. If you are still bound when you need to leave, then we will make a decision as to what to do with you. In the meantime - have fun.” We could hear their footsteps on the floor as they walked out of the door, and then silence.
That seemed to last an eternity, until I could hear Cassie and Suzie mumble to each other, their high pitched grunts easily detectable as I presume they tried to find each other. I could also hear the rustle of silk as I presumed the others were trying to move around and get some help.
Now, I had no idea what their plans were, but for my part I knew one thing - I wanted to see what was going on. I did not want to say - well, not be part of the gang, but I’ve always been a little scared of not been able to see. I even balked at playing Blind Man’s Bluff in Brownies - that is how much I hated it.
So I started to rub my head on the floor, trying to dislodge the eye mask that covered my face. It took some time, but eventually I managed to start to slide the cloth up my head, brushing my hair back as I blinked at the light.
I could now see Suzie and Cassie in front of me, trying to find some give in their ropes. Their grandmothers had not secured their hands any more than the ropes around their wrists and waist, I suppose to at least give them a chance to get free, but with their eyes still covered it made it very difficult for them.
Cathy had managed to get herself into a seated position, and was trying to find a knot with her fingers, while Alicia and Angela were slowly inching their way to each other. Which left Jenny - but as I looked over to her, she was lying still on her side, and seemed to be…
“Sleeping is the word you’re looking for,” I heard Bobby whisper behind me, and I turned myself round to see him and Colin sitting on two dining chairs, watching the activities. “Don’t worry - I believe she’s done this before. I guess the jet lag finally caught up with her,” he said as he bent down and whispered in my ear. I nodded as I watched her, while Colin walked in his socks over to her and checked her again, brushing her hair away from her head.
He turned and walked to the door while Bobby sat back down and watched Cassie and Suzie. They had managed somehow to get out of their hogties, and were now back to back, working on the ropes that held their wrists together. Cathy had managed to free herself as well, as she wriggled her hands round to her front and started to try and untie the ropes around her stomach.
The door to the room opened, and Bobby and I watched as Mister Craig walked in, removing the rope that was keeping Jenny in her hogtie and then lifting her gently up. He carried her out of the room, and then came back for Cassie. “Time to go home,” he whispered in her ear, and as she was carried out she called out “Cuszeee” while Colin closed the door behind them.
“Two down,” he said quietly as Alicia and Angela turned their heads from the direction of the door and started to work on each other again, “Who’s next?”
That question was answered as the door opened and Mr. Holderness came in. He knelt next to Suzie and said “We need to go home now, kitten,” picking her up gently in his arms and motioning to Bobby to follow him. He nodded and followed his father and sister out of the room, as Angela and Alicia managed to free their wrists. Cathy wriggled on her knees over to me and began to untie my ropes, as Mr. Bowden came in.
“We need to go in a few minutes, Girls,” he said as he looked at Alicia and Angela. “Do you need some help?”
“Nfnksddd,” Alicia said as she pushed the ropes over her head and pulled her eyemask off. Mr. Holderness nodded and sat down with Colin, saying “You had better help Mary and Cathy - their parents are going to be going soon.”
Colin nodded and knelt next to us, removing our ropes as we reached up to start to remove our gags, our faces flush and red with our exertion. It took a few minutes, but eventually the four of us were standing and hugging each other, Angela saying “I enjoyed that - thank you for letting me take part,” as she looked at both of us.
“No thank you,” Cathy said as she retrieved her glasses and put them on, “It’s been a fantastic few days.”
“It has been our pleasure,” Angela said as Mr. Bridges came to the door. “I have placed the bags for the young ladies in their parents’ car,” he said quietly, “but their parents are ready to depart now.”
We hugged Angela and Alicia again, and then walked out to where our parents were waiting, Cathy’s mums smiling as they put their arms around her and walked out of the door. I followed Mum and Dad, trying hard not to yawn, but it had been a very long few days, and I was feeling very tired….
Monday 5th November
“You know, after a week of looking at the way Americans eat, this lunch looks almost…”
“Manageable?” We were sitting round the dinner table at school, Alicia and Jenny looking a little bleary eyed but not too bad given they had only just flown back into the country the previous morning.
“And edible,” Alicia replied as she shoveled a mouthful of shepherd’s pie into her mouth. “Having said which, I could do without a double match lesson this afternoon.” She chewed away at the potato and meat, as Jenny said “So what did you parents say when you got home?”
“We sat down and had a long talk,” I said as I put my cutlery down, “and in the end they said if I wanted to play these games with you, then that was fine - but no further.”
I looked at Cathy, who was finishing off her burger with more gusto than usual. “What about you - your parents have anything to say?”
“At first,” she said as she looked over her shoulder, “Until I showed them some of the tricks I had learnt.”
“You tied them up,” Jenny said as she looked at Cathy. Our friend smiled as she said “Yup - and very impressed they were too. They even let me gag them with two of their bandanas.”
“Amazing,” Alicia said with a smile. “It’s true what they say then.”
“You never know what goes on behind the curtains of Suburbia.” We all laughed at that, as Jenny looked at her phone. “Do you guys want to come round to see some fireworks tonight,” she said as she looked at us. Cathy and I looked at each other, then said “If we can” in unison.
“Can’t I’m afraid - Grandma is hosting the village fireworks tonight, so it’s all hands to the pump,” Alicia said as she looked at Jenny. “She did say she wanted to talk to us about New Year however - I think it’s possible we’re going to invite a few people round for the evening.”
“Sounds good,” I said, “Can we come?”
“I’ll let you know,” she said with a smile as the bell went for the second sitting. “Anyway, we need to tell you everything that happened when we were away.”