La Cioccolata
A Bunch of Flrz
by Gillian B

ON A BLEAK English November afternoon, a woman on a bicycle pedalled slowly up a gravel driveway to a rather ostentatious house standing in about an acre of carefully manicured grounds. The trees swayed gently against a grey sky but there was no sound other than the crunch of gravel under the bicycle's wheels. It crunched in that superior way that only really expensive gravel can.

     The woman dismounted at the front door and propped up the bicycle. She lifted a large cellophane-wrapped bunch of flowers from the front carrying basket and stepped up to the front door. She quickly took note of the small TV camera above the door and the intercom on the wall. She expected nothing less. A deep breath to centre her concentration and then she rang the bell.

     Upstairs, another woman had just emerged from a long luxurious afternoon bath with a good book, a glass of wine and a box of extravagant chocolates. The sound of the doorbell was a disruption she could well do without. Probably it was just Olga forgetting her key again. So unreliable. Gloria Pitt-Propp stalked to the upstairs intercom with its tiny TV screen. There was a bicycle, but it clearly wasn't Olga on the doorstep. Too short for one thing.

     "Yes?" she enquired imperiously.

     "Flrz," came the indistinct reply, the figure on the monitor looking straight at the camera and pointing at a wrapped bunch of flowers. People were so inconsiderate. Didn't they realise that wearing a scarf over one's face not only made the security camera rather pointless but also made their voices even harder to understand than they would be anyway?

     Flowers were probably a peace offering from Derek, Gloria reflected as she wrapped a towel round her hair and another round her body. Some business meeting keeping him late, undoubtedly. Most likely a meeting with his so-called personal assistant. Still, she was comfortable and undoubtedly even more material compensation could be extracted on the basis of this indiscretion.

     Gloria reached the front door and flung it open. The icy blast of air from outside was a minor cost for her dramatic gesture to present herself on the doorstep almost naked, her towel barely covering her nipples and reaching fractionally below her crotch. Even with the critical area covered, anyone seeing her would know that she had a figure to die for.

     The visitor stood impassively on the doorstep. Her figure was largely hidden by a shapeless grey duffel coat reaching almost to her ankles and reminiscent of Paddington Bear. A brown knitted scarf covered the lower part of her face and the eyes above were hidden by dark glasses. About the only discernable feature was the mop of curly brown hair.

     "Good afternoon madam," the muffled figure began, "flowers are always an excuse for something aren't they?"

     Gloria looked puzzled. The remark was so true, but she wasn't in the habit of engaging in idle chat with tradespeople.

     "These particular flowers are an excuse for a robbery," the delivery woman continued smoothly. "Please don't move your hands. If you co-operate, I promise you won't be hurt."

     Uncertain about what to do next, Gloria took a step back. The woman followed her into the house and closed the door behind her. She dropped the flowers, revealing the small but ugly gun she was holding.

     "This is a tranquilliser dart gun," the woman explained. "You must have seen vets use them on TV. I won't hesitate to use it but you really don't want to know what it feels like waking up afterwards."

     Gloria had often imagined how her trim body, honed to fitness by hours of expensive gym time would spell instant defeat for any intruder. Now she was standing here shaking like a leaf and clutching a towel for dear life.

     "Let's get on with it," the delivery woman commanded, an edge of irritation creeping into her voice. She reached into a pocket and tossed something in a plastic bag onto the floor. "Drop those silly towels and blindfold yourself with that."

     Gloria's paralysed mind was glad have something to do. Fixing the woman with what she thought was a self-assured gaze, but actually just looked wanton, she allowed the towel around her body to drop and unwound the one around her hair. She picked up the plastic bag and peeled open its seal. There was a large black silk scarf inside. She thought of trying to cheat with the blindfold but the urge to dramatise was too strong. The scarf was big enough to wrap right round her head twice and to cover her face from below her nose to her hairline. She wound it round her head and knotted the material almost defiantly.

     "Now lie down on your tummy on the floor," came the next order. Gloria complied, resting her chin on her hands. "Hands behind your back, please," her captor corrected.

     Gloria braced herself for the sting of the dart gun that she was sure would come but was almost relieved to feel her wrists being bound together. Thin rope was wound round and between her wrists then pulled tight. It didn't feel at all the way she expected it to. She had been tied up on occasions when she was a little girl playing cowboys and Indians and there had been a boyfriend at one time who liked to tie her up. This was tight but not painful and she knew instinctively that she would not be able to escape unaided. She was outraged at being assaulted like this in her own home and angry at herself for giving in. She was also horrified to realise that now the threat of death seemed to have receded, some rebel part of her was actually beginning to enjoy this. The experience was developing into an oasis of excitement in the luxurious but dull desert of her life.

     Firm hands rolled Gloria over onto her back. She realised with horror that her nipples had hardened and there wasn't a thing she could do to hide them. Once again anger, shock and excitement fought within her. She wondered what Derek would think when he found her. Would she be particularly alluring all tied up and naked waiting for him?

     The robber's voice broke into Gloria's reverie. "Open your mouth wide, please."

     Oh no! thought Gloria. She was going to be gagged and that certainly wasn't going to be pleasant. She thought about resisting, but she remembered the dart gun.

     "Open your mouth, please," her captor repeated patiently. "I'm going to gag you. It won't be very nice, but I promise not to make it any worse than it has to be."

     Gloria felt reassured by the promise but at the same time chided herself for her growing feeling of trust towards an intruder who was tying her up. She opened her mouth anyway and felt a damp cloth being packed methodically into it. A finger under her chin signalled her to close her mouth as far as she could. A familiar ripping noise could only be tape being pulled off a roll and, sure enough, two pieces of wide sticking plaster were smoothed over her lips.

     "Now, just wait a minute, but don't move," the robber instructed Gloria.

     Obediently, Gloria lay still. She was oddly disappointed not to have been tied up more thoroughly. She had been developing a mental image of Derek as her dashing rescuer, finding her swathed in ropes like a damsel in distress in the silent cinema serials of old.

     Suddenly, Gloria felt hands working at the knot behind her head, which secured her blindfold. She was baffled. Surely it was in her captor's interests to keep her blindfolded? She didn't want to see the robber and be able to identify her. People had been killed for less.

     Nothing could have prepared Gloria for the sight that met her eyes. The figure leaning over her was totally transformed. The baggy duffel coat had gone, as had the scarf and dark glasses. Instead, the woman was clad from neck to toe in tight black shiny latex. A black leather corset cinched her waist in and did quite spectacular things to her bust. Black leather boots and gloves complemented the outfit. Who would have thought that a woman so obviously unfashionably short and fat could look so, well, sexy dressed like that? Inscrutable green eyes stared at her from behind a black leather eye mask. Only the brown curly hair linked her to the sad figure that had stood on the doorstep a few minutes before.

     Gloria started to relax. This was 21st century Surbiton and costumed villainesses belonged in 1940s American comic books. This could only be a stunt of some kind set up by Derek. Well, it had certainly fooled her at first; she really had been frightened. She just hoped that Derek had thought to cancel Olga's intended visit to do some cleaning that afternoon, even though it wasn't her usual day.

     Still feeling pleased at having seen through the fake robbery, Gloria allowed herself to be helped to her feet and led to the kitchen. This surprised her, as she expected to be left somewhere more provocative than that. Her bedroom for instance.

     The small latex clad woman guided Gloria with a firm authority and sat her down on one of the straight-backed wooden chairs around the breakfast table. The chair was surprisingly plain for Gloria's tastes, but clearly an expensive hand-made item and massively constructed.

     As she sat, Gloria instinctively placed her arms behind the back of the chair. Her captor smiled and nodded. She had not spoken since changing into her costume and Gloria wondered if that was part of her persona as a costumed baddie.

     The woman knelt on the floor and unloaded several plastic wrapped bundles of rope. She selected one and ripped it open. The rope was soft, pliable white cotton braided cord. She began by lashing Gloria's upper arms to the vertical sides of the chair back. Each arm was tied separately and securely to the woodwork. Several turns of rope went around Gloria's waist and the back of the chair, forcing her to sit bolt upright.

     Gloria was already astonished at how securely she was tied and she had the distinct feeling that more was to come.

     After a few moments' contemplation, Gloria's captor sprang into action again. The back of the chair consisted of wooden sides and top with five verticals in between. She took full advantage of this arrangement by winding rope around Gloria's chest and those verticals, threading it between her arms and body at each turn. Three turns went below her breasts, pressing on her ribcage, and three more went above, squeezing her intimately. More rope was tied to the back of the chair and led up over Gloria's left shoulder, under the lower of the chest ropes then up over her right shoulder where it was tied off to the woodwork somewhere behind her.

     Gloria's legs were clearly going to be next. With a shock, she realised that her legs were unconsciously slightly apart, leaving her crotch open to view. What if her legs were tied to the chair legs and spread even further? She instinctively clamped her knees together. On reflection, though, Derek must have arranged all this and it was for his benefit, so, blushing slightly she opened her legs again. The woman stared at her quizzically but said nothing.

     The small woman could not begin to work out what Gloria was thinking, but if she didn't mind having her legs tied separately, then that was much easier to do. She selected more rope and lashed Gloria's legs to the chair legs at the ankles and just below her knees. For good measure, she tied Gloria's thighs down to the front corners of the chair seat with a few turns of rope above each knee. She finished off by tying Gloria down with several turns of rope across her lap.

     A final inspection revealed one flaw, which was swiftly rectified by tying Gloria's wrist binding to the back of the chair.

     Once her victim was secure, the small black-clad woman went swiftly to work. Bedrooms were always good places to look for jewellery. Women so rarely used safes even when they were available.

     Gloria's dressing table was indeed stacked with a good many promising looking boxes. A search, carried out by the simple expedient of dumping the contents of drawers on the floor, yielded several more in the underwear and hosiery drawers. A search through the wardrobe revealed two more fine brooches still pinned to clothes. All the boxes and loose jewellery were gathered into a convenient plastic bag.

     The next best place to look was the bathroom. There was hardly a bonanza there but a pair of substantial ruby ear studs were lying next to the basin. The abandoned box of chocolates also came under scrutiny. English rather than Belgian, but Thornton's was a very fine brand. She popped one into her mouth to confirm her assessment. English chocolate always lacked that slight edge to the flavour that continental brands had but made up for it with a sweetness and smoothness like a lover's caress. She revelled in the delicious joy that chocolate, especially stolen chocolate, always brought her.

     The woman took her haul back down to the kitchen to sort through it and to keep an eye on her prisoner. It would never do to discover too late that she had an amateur escapologist on her hands.

     Gloria had been enjoying a little fantasy about what might happen when Derek returned as she squirmed ineffectually against the ropes holding her when her captor returned. She was astonished to see the collection of jewellery boxes. Her jewellery boxes. And her chocolates. Something clicked in Gloria's brain. Jewellery... chocolates... a costumed robber... La Cioccolata! She was horrified to realise that she was bound naked to a chair in her kitchen while one of the most notorious jewel thieves in Europe rummaged through her most treasured possessions. Anger boiled over within her and she strained desperately against her bonds.

     La Cioccolata paused briefly and smiled at Gloria, apparently reading her mind. Absent-mindedly, she popped another chocolate into her mouth and carried on sorting out jewellery to weed out any pieces which were not worth the effort of stealing.

     In the silence, as La Cioccolata concentrated on her task, the sound of a key in a lock and then the front door opening could be heard quite clearly. La Cioccolata froze. She had done her surveillance well and knew the regular patterns followed by the household. Who could it possibly be? She looked at Gloria and read triumph in her eyes.

     Gloria was ecstatic with relief. It must be Olga.

     La Cioccolata grabbed her dart gun, which she had kept within reach, and flattened herself against the kitchen wall. She had positioned Gloria's chair to be visible from the hallway, so that she could keep an eye on her more easily. That way, she might also provide bait to attract whoever had just come into the house. She stilled her breathing and listened. There was a muffled exclamation from somewhere near the front door. A female voice, so it was probably the woman she had seen arriving on a bicycle on occasions and whom she had mentally tagged as 'the maid'.

     Hurrying footsteps approached the kitchen and La Cioccolata braced herself for action. In a single fluid movement she stepped out into the kitchen doorway, turning to face whoever was approaching and dropped down into a crouch holding the dart gun in a two-handed grip.

     The seconds that followed seemed to stretch out like elastic as La Cioccolata's mind raced to deal with the situation. It was indeed the maid and she was dressed for cycling in cold weather, just as La Cioccolata had been earlier. The running figure was wearing a fleece jacket and jeans. She had big woolly mittens on her hands, the jeans were tucked into thick socks and hiking boots. The whole outfit, for want of a better term, was topped off by a balaclava which left only her eyes exposed. For good measure, she even had a scarf knotted round her neck. Dart guns are horribly inaccurate at any but the shortest range and the darts are not designed to penetrate layers of thick clothing. La Cioccolata hesitated over where to aim then took a chance on putting a dart into Olga's thigh. The dull CO2 phut of the gun sounded pathetically insignificant in the face of the charging woman. Would it stop her and would it do so quickly enough? The darts are not instantaneous, but a heart pumping hard would spread the anaesthetic round the body more swiftly.

     Olga reached the kitchen door before she seemed to notice the sting of the dart. She hesitated and looked down then slowly collapsed to the floor.

     La Cioccolata was breathing hard and her heart was pounding as she stood looking down at the inert figure of Olga on the floor. Olga was a big woman, young and apparently very fit and La Cioccolata was not at all sure that she would have prevailed if it had come to a fight.

     Gloria's heart sank. Once she realised that the robbery was for real, she had been pinning her hopes on Olga arriving eventually and rescuing her.

     Olga's arrival had been close to a disaster but La Cioccolata was in charge again. She thought briefly about stripping Olga naked before tying her up. It would probably make the tying more secure, but would take a long time to do. Stripping clothes off an unconscious person was second only in difficulty to dressing one. She decided to remove Olga's jacket anyway, as it might impede the tying.

     She rolled Olga onto her back, pulled off the scarf and balaclava and unzipped the fleece jacket. It was a struggle to work the jacket off the unconscious woman, but she managed it. Olga was wearing a heavy roll-necked sweater underneath.

     La Cioccolata heaved Olga onto her stomach again and crossed her wrists behind her back. She decided to leave Olga's mittens on; they would not render the binding any less secure and would make it harder for her to escape if she managed to reach a knot. La Cioccolata opened another plastic-wrapped length of rope, aware that she would have barely enough to secure a second prisoner. She worked quickly to bind Olga's wrists tightly. She bound Olga's ankles carefully, pulling the ropes tight against the heavy boots and putting rope under the soles for good measure. Another length was used to tie Olga's legs together at the knees. Each time she used the minimum amount of rope consistent with security and cut off the excess.

     There would be just enough rope to finish the job, La Cioccolata calculated. She took her remaining long length and bound it round Olga's upper arms and chest. Two short offcuts cinched the coils of rope together between Olga's arms and body.

     Lastly, La Cioccolata bent Olga's knees and pushed her feet towards her bottom. The very last piece of rope was just enough to connect the bound wrists and ankles, with the knot carefully out of the reach of fingers.

     Now for a gag. La Cioccolata conducted a quick search of the kitchen and found a cotton dish towel. She ripped it in half then stuffed one half into Olga's mouth before tying it in place with the other half.

     Gloria watched in shocked fascination as her domestic help was trussed up before her eyes. She was acutely aware of her own nakedness as La Cioccolata worked away methodically and dispassionately.

     La Cioccolata stood up and looked at the kitchen clock. It was time to be going. She scooped all the jewellery she had selected and stored it in her rucksack. The plastic wrapping used for all ropes went into the bag next as did the tranquilliser gun. It was important not to leave any evidence which could be used to identify her presence at the scene of the crime. All the rope was new and forensically clean, which was why it had been wrapped so carefully.

     Olga was beginning to come round and, from the look on her face, was experiencing the splitting headache and nausea that seemed to be the inevitable aftermath of the tranquilliser darts.

     La Cioccolata was almost ready to disappear. She hesitated then took a few minutes to sit down and enjoy the ecstasy of the last two of Gloria's chocolates. Gloria and Olga watched her incredulously. With a satisfied sigh, she rose to her feet and carefully placed one of her trademark calling cards on the empty chocolate box.

     Gloria cowered, as far as she was able, as La Cioccolata advanced on her with a black cloth pulled taut between her hands. Don't strangle me! With relief, she recognised her blindfold about to be replaced. As the black silk plunged her into darkness, she realised that, apart from the loss of her jewellery, surely replaceable, she was going to come through this unscathed and that she was going to be the centre of attention for months to come as she told this story over and over again.

     Olga was now fully conscious, growling through the gag and struggling fiercely but uselessly against her ropes. La Cioccolata used Olga's own scarf to blindfold her then left her two victims to their own devices.

     La Cioccolata made her way back upstairs. Her mask and wig went into the rucksack. The black make-up round her eyes and the red lipstick were quickly and efficiently removed and the wipes she used wrapped and tucked away in the rucksack too. She removed the green contact lenses to reveal her startlingly blue eyes and replaced her spectacles. Finally, she brushed out her short grey hair and inspected the result in the mirror.

     She was still incongruously dressed in her latex catsuit and corset. The corset was removed and stored with the rest of her equipment in the rucksack. The duffel coat she wore on arrival needed a little attention to turn it inside out. It was now a navy blue padded duvet coat. She put the coat on and then a pair of black knitted legwarmers which hid the shiny latex above her boots. A pair of bright red woollen gloves in her pockets would cover the leather ones and a matching scarf flung over her shoulder completed the transformation. Of the woman delivering flowers, and equally of La Cioccolata, there was now no trace.

     Not wasting any time now, the woman hurried to the sitting room, where she made her silent exit through the sliding patio door at the rear of the house after switching off the automatic security light outside.

     Waiting outside on the patio was a pair of Wellington boots belonging to Derek, which the woman had stolen on an earlier reconnaissance. She stepped into them, her shoes going easily down inside the plastic supermarket bags with which she had lined the boots. She walked down the immense length of the garden to the fence at the end, keeping to paths all the way. A firm push dislodged the panel of fencing that she had loosened on a previous visit. The boots were abandoned, minus their liners, under some bushes. A few minutes work with a screwdriver restored the fence to a semblance of normality. A really comprehensive search would reveal the Wellingtons and the fact that one panel of fence was secured with screws instead of nails, but she would be long gone by then.

     It was about two miles' walk to the nearest railway station. The woman took an indirect route and altered her appearance twice on the way. The changes were minor, but the kind that confuse later descriptions. The scarf disappeared and she added a floppy hat with the brim pinned up at the front with a big brooch. If anyone had ever thought to ask him, the ticket clerk at Surbiton station would have recalled selling a one-way ticket to Brighton to a cheery woman with an Australian accent and a fringe of bright red hair poking out below her hat.

     However, the ticket she already had took the woman to London, where almost anyone can melt invisibly into the crowds.

The Chronicles of La Cioccolata
KP Presents Contents
© Gillian B 2002