La Cioccolata
Home Sweet Home
by Gillian B
Part 4: More Research and Development

The gun that Coco had developed to deliver an anaesthetic to a victim in the form of a narcotic powder had proved workable at least in principle, but as her experience with Mrs Harman had demonstrated, while it was effective, it could be hazardous to the user. She had conceived it as a means of delivering anaesthesia at a distance. Anaesthesia at close range was already part of Coco's personal armoury. She had made use of chloroform on a number of occasions, but that required her to grapple physically with her victim in order to succeed. Given Coco's small stature, this was a considerable risk, even though she was strong for her size.

Coco had slightly reduced the hazard to herself in In Coco's first encounter with Mrs Harman, she had used another device for the first time, a veterinary surgeon's anaesthetic gun. In fact 'gun' was something of a misnomer as the device had more in common with a stapler in the way it operated. The business end, 'muzzle' for want of a more accurate term, had to be pressed against the intended victim. On pulling the trigger, a spring loaded needle would pop out, penetrating clothing and skin, deliver a measured dose of an anaesthetic drug and then retract. Coco then had to wait thirty seconds or so for the injection to take effect and she was well aware that a lot could happen in thirty seconds.

Being able to knock out a victim while not actually coming into physical contact still seemed to Coco to be a very worthwhile goal, so she continued to research the topic. A wildlife film on television provided her with an obvious precedent: another tool borrowed from veterinary medicine, the anaesthetic dart guns used to bring down large animals for treatment.

Clearly, a dart gun designed to fell an elephant at a range of fifty yards or so, would not be suitable for a human subject. The power of the projectile would cause terrible injury and the anaesthetic dosage would probably be lethal. However, Coco reasoned, the principle seemed to be sound, it was just a question of scaling the delivery.

Coco already had experience using her injection gun. The anaesthetic it used came in pre-filled bottles to load directly into the gun, so she would need to obtain some more of the same stuff for this project. The challenge would be to construct the means of delivering it. It was immediately clear to Coco's engineering mind that there were two quite distinct, almost completely independent design problems to be solved. The first, and the one Coco's instincts suggested would be the more difficult, was the projectile, which would have to be a sort of flying hypodermic syringe. The second, the dart gun itself, was probably little more than a glorified popgun and she anticipated no great difficulty there.

Burglary of the dispensary at a veterinary surgeon's office, was no great test of Coco's skills with locks. Her difficulty was her almost complete ignorance of the expected contents of a dispensary, particularly when it became obvious that there were no bottles there with the name of the drug she was looking for. The intended quick, low-risk raid became tense and protracted as Coco was forced to read her way through pharmaceutical text books to identify a suitable substitute. Eventually she found a candidate drug that she thought might be a substitute.

Having obtained the drug, Coco had no idea of how much to use nor how effective it might be. She concluded that the only option was to experiment on herself, but only after she had some understanding of what the consequences might be. For several weeks, visits to her university library included time spent among the veterinary medicine shelves as well as her more accustomed haunt of the engineering section.

Coco's understanding of human and animal biology was rudimentary, as she was well aware. As an engineer, she felt comfortable with numbers and had hoped to be able to find a formula that would link body mass with anaesthetic dosage or at least to find enough data to derive one herself. It rapidly became clear that no such simple relationship existed and that she would eventually have to use herself as a human guinea pig.

Coco finally arrived at a dosage that she was confident would not kill her. Quite what the effect would be she could only find out in one way. With great care, she loaded a syringe and double-checked that she had filled it with the right quantity. She sat down at the desk in her workroom and rolled up the left sleeve of her sweater. Resting her arm on the desk, Coco offered the tip of the needle up to her bare skin and hesitated. How could people like diabetics who had to self-inject bear to do this to themselves? Coco applied gentle pressure. She was surprised at how far her skin dented without the needle penetrating. She wondered if she should have practised with distilled water first before trying the actual drug, but it was too late for thoughts like that now. Abruptly, the needle was through her skin with a slight popping sensation. Coco had read enough about human anatomy to know how far she had to push the needle in to achieve penetration of the muscle. She felt another lesser pop as the needle passed through the muscle sheath. After the initial penetration of the skin, the experience was not proving as painful as Coco had expected but was nevertheless very unpleasant.

With the required depth of penetration achieved, Coco pressed down on the plunger of the syringe with her thumb to deliver the test dose of anaesthetic. She immediately withdrew the needle from her arm, put the syringe down, glanced at her watch and clicked down the button on a photographic darkroom timer sitting on the desk next to her. For nearly thirty seconds, Coco felt no effect whatever. She was just beginning to think that she had been too cautious with the dosage when quite abruptly her vision darkened and she could feel her balance deserting her.

Coco had no memory of falling off her chair, but when consciousness returned to her, she was lying on the floor. Her first thought was to find out how long she had been unconscious. She made a move to get up but immediately experienced an excruciating headache and gut-wrenching nausea. The room appeared to tip and spin dizzily. Forcing her unwilling body to comply, Coco dragged herself to her chair and used it to heave herself up onto her knees. She attempted to read the timer still sitting on the table, but her eyes refused to point in the same direction for long enough, let alone focus accurately. She settled for pressing the button again to stop the clock; she could read the elapsed time later.

Collapsing back onto the floor, Coco closed her eyes and waited for the nausea to wear off. After what seemed like a very long time, she risked opening her eyes again. The room stayed reasonably still this time but her head still hurt abominably and the nausea was still there although much diminished.

Once again, Coco used the chair to haul herself upright. She sat down and examined the timer. It seemed that she had been unconscious for a little less than ten minutes. She had lost some time between injecting herself and starting the clock, but that was balanced by the time it took her to get back to the timer to stop it. She looked at her watch. It was just over half an hour since she had looked at it previously, so that was about ten minutes unconsciousness but at least twenty minutes recovery time afterwards.

With regret, Coco realised that she would have to do at least one more test with a reduced dosage. Her target was to achieve about five minutes unconsciousness, which would be ample time to tie up or otherwise restrain a victim.

Coco decided to leave her dart gun project for a few days until she was feeling better. When she resumed the endeavour again, she concentrated on the delivery mechanism. Coco had been surprised at just how much force was required to penetrate her arm to the required depth. A thinner needle would require less force, she reasoned, and it could also be quite short, little more than the required penetration depth, so the strength would not be much compromised.

The injection mechanism turned out to be a more difficult problem than Coco anticipated. She imagined that it was just a matter of engineering a hypodermic syringe to fly like a dart, probably with flights at the back like an arrow so it would fly straight and with a bit of weight to depress the plunger when it hit its target. She rapidly discovered through experimentation that her simplistic view would result in a prohibitively heavy dart. It would instead be necessary to devise a spring-loaded injection mechanism. This device would have to be sensitive enough to activate when the dart struck its target but also not so sensitive as to trigger prematurely on being fired from the gun. Furthermore, she discovered, the flow of anaesthetic through the needle had to be regulated to prevent the whole thing blowing itself back out of the target's skin. Her final refinement was to find a source of minutely thin hypodermic needles with the outlet hole in the side, not at the end, so that they would not clog with skin cells or clothing fibres on impact with the target.

After the complications of the dart, Coco found the design of the gun to be a breeze in comparison. She started with a toy gun, made in die-cast metal and loosely resembling a German Luger, which saved her having to construct a trigger mechanism. She removed the barrel and substituted a length of three-quarter-inch copper pipe. Coco dismantled a carbon-dioxide powered soda water siphon bought from a junk shop. The moulding which retained the pressurised carbon dioxide bulb and the release valve were the only components she needed. The bulb proved to be too large to conceal inside the handgrip of the gun, so Coco was forced to mount it inside a bulky construction sticking out from the back of the gun, in line with the barrel.

Target practice proved frustrating at first as the muzzle velocity for the gun was necessarily slow in order to limit the damage caused to the victim's flesh. Because of that it was necessary to tilt the muzzle slightly upwards so that the dart followed a curved trajectory to its target. Eventually Coco satisfied herself that she could hit any target with sufficient accuracy up to a range of about fifteen feet. A lingering worry remained that the flight of Coco's dart might actually be slow enough for an astute victim to dodge it.

With the gun complete to her satisfaction, only one test remained for Coco to perform: trying it out on a live target. As usual, Coco planned to make use of her standing arrangement with Mrs Harman for them both to be live subjects for each other's experiments in developing modi operandi for future jobs. Most often this meant that Mrs Harman was in the role of unsuspecting victim to one of Coco's schemes.

Coco had already established that Mrs Harman was in the kitchen, busy with the early stages of food preparation. No guests or other visitors were expected, so the only consequence to Mrs Harman being put out of action for a while was likely to be that Coco would end up doing the cooking. Coco briefly considered dressing as if she was engaged in an actual job but decided that might alert Mrs Harman to something going on should she catch a glimpse of her approaching. Sweater and jeans would be fine. Coco removed her slippers so that she would be able to make a near-silent advance on her target in sock-covered feet. She pushed a handful of rope into her pocket, took up her weapon and went in pursuit of her prey.

As expected, Mrs Harman was still in the kitchen. She had her back to Coco and seemed oblivious of Coco as she stood at the kitchen door. The range was within the fifteen feet that Coco regarded as the maximum range for her gun, but Coco wanted to get a clear shot at Mrs Harman's upper arm, where there was a large well-defined muscle with plenty of depth. She stepped silently several paces to the side and brought swung her right arm up to level the gun. Coco squeezed the trigger gently and there was an almost inaudible phut as the gas cartridge discharged. She could not believe that the action of the gun could be heard over the noise that Mrs Harman was making at the sink, but as soon as the trigger was pulled, Mrs Harman spun around to face her attacker. As Coco feared, the flight of the dart was so slow that it was possible for the target to move significantly before it hit home. She watched helplessly as the arc of the dart's trajectory ended at Mrs Harman's ample bosom.

Coco was now faced with two imponderables. She knew that it took about thirty seconds for the anaesthetic to take effect when it was injected into a muscle, but she had no idea how much coordinated reaction a victim would be able to mount in that time. The second point was that Mrs Harman had taken the dart in her breast and Coco hadn't the remotest notion of how that would compare with the intended target area in terms of transporting the drug around her body.

Mrs Harman gave a squawk of pain and indignation, snatched the dart out of her breast and flung it aside. Coco stood rooted to the spot as Mrs Harman charged at her. She had not expected a reaction as immediate and determined as this. It was obvious that Coco was about to be attacked physically, so she bent down and sent her prototype dart gun skittering away across the floor to protect it from the mêlée that was clearly about to take place. As Coco was still rising, Mrs Harman piled into her, tackling her like a rugby forward. Coco was no lightweight, but the momentum Mrs Harman had built up was all but unstoppable and she went down like a rag doll.

Coco tried not to end up underneath Mrs Harman as she was borne down. Her attempt to twist free was in vain and a knee on her stomach knocked the breath out of her as she hit the floor. Wheezing for air, Coco was helpless to resist as Mrs Harman turned her over and she found herself lying face down on the floor with her intended victim sitting straddling her bottom. Mrs Harman grabbed both of Coco's hands in one of hers and helped herself to the rope that was sticking out of Coco's pocket. On some level, Coco knew that she just had to resist Mrs Harman's onslaught until the anaesthetic took effect, but she was so totally intimidated that she seemed quite unable to mount any worthwhile defence. Now completely in control, Mrs Harman methodically bound Coco's wrists together with her own rope then swivelled herself around to begin on her ankles.

Now that the initial shock of Mrs Harman's counter-attack had passed, Coco tried to rally herself to fight back, even though, with her wrists and ankles already tied, she was in a seriously weakened position. Mrs Harman moved her weight from Coco's bottom but still held onto the bound wrists with one hand. Coco took the opportunity to roll onto one side in an attempt to squirm away. Mrs Harman hung on to Coco's wrist binding with one hand and used the other to deliver a ferocious slap across Coco's face which left her ears ringing. Momentarily stunned, Coco was too shocked to resist as Mrs Harman used a third length of rope to link her wrist and ankle bindings. She noticed that Mrs Harman seemed to be less coordinated and was fumbling with the rope as she tied the last knot. Abruptly Mrs Harman keeled over unconscious on top of Coco's legs, twisting them painfully under her inert body.

Coco struggled against the weight pinning her uncomfortably to the floor and eventually managed to work her legs out from under Mrs Harman. She took stock of the situation. It had taken a lot more than the thirty seconds she had bargained for before Mrs Harman had succumbed to the anaesthetic dart. It was hard to gauge just how long it had taken, but, Coco estimated, it was probably still no more than a minute. She was shocked at just how thoroughly the tables had been turned on her in such a short space of time. There was no reason to suppose that the anaesthetic would last any longer or shorter a time once it had taken effect, so Coco realised that Mrs Harman could be conscious again in as little as five minutes. If she was to do anything to redeem the predicament she now found herself in, she would have to do it quickly.

When they first started to work together, Mrs Harman had been impressed at the speed with which Coco could immobilise a victim by paying particular attention to the way that she tied wrists and ankles. If she was going to leave anyone alone for any length of time, she always applied a more complex binding, but being able to render someone largely helpless with only two or three short pieces of rope gave her a significant advantage. She realised ruefully that Mrs Harman had been an attentive student and had tied her up as efficiently as she would tie someone up herself.

Having struggled fruitlessly against the rope securing her wrists, Coco was sure that escape would be possible only with a prolonged effort and might well be completely out of the question. The only chance was to find some way of cutting her bonds. She was in a kitchen well supplied with knives, but they were all in drawers or beside the sink and she was on the floor. Coco worked her way laboriously across the floor. With her hands and feet roped together, even though they were linked quite loosely, Coco had to propel herself by pushing with her knees, the denim of her jeans frustratingly slippery on the tiled floor.

Eventually Coco reached the bank of drawers where cutlery was kept. The sharp kitchen knives were all in the top drawer which seemed to tower hundreds of feet above her head. If Coco's ankles had not been tied to her wrists, it would probably have been a relatively easy matter to get to her feet and then it wouldn't have been too difficult to open a drawer, even with her hands tied behind her back.

Quickly formulating a plan, Coco rolled herself onto one side with her back to the drawers. She reached out behind her with her bound hands, feeling for the knob on the lowest drawer. She attempted to use it to push herself up to achieve a kneeling position. The drawer slid smoothly open on its runners and Coco overbalanced, toppling to the floor again. With grim determination, she repositioned herself to use the open drawer itself as something to lean on to push herself upright. This time the drawer tried to close, threatening to trap her fingers, but Coco achieved her goal and ended up kneeling alongside the drawers. She shuffled herself around on her knees so that she was facing them. To Coco's delight, the knob on the top drawer was at exactly the right height to pull open with her mouth. She closed her lips around it and shuffled backwards on her knees pulling it open as she went.

The sides of the drawer were significantly lower than the decorative front. Coco repositioned herself to crane her neck over the side of the drawer in the hope of picking a knife up with her mouth. It was going to be a precarious stretch balancing on her knees but Coco was almost certain she could reach a viciously sharp vegetable knife with which she should be able to cut herself free in short order. She stretched out to grasp it only to have her progress abruptly halted as a hand grabbed her by the hair and pulled her back. A vicious slap across the face sent Coco sprawling across the kitchen floor.

No forward planning. That's always your trouble, girl, growled a fully conscious but unsteady-looking Mrs Harman as she sat down on one of the kitchen chairs. Great at clever toys; bloody useless at watching your back.

Coco said nothing. Mrs Harman was absolutely right; she was very proud of the clever toy in this case, but she had been totally unprepared for her victim's devastating counter-attack and unexpectedly rapid recovery. Coco's guts twisted into a knot of fear; Mrs Harman could be utterly ruthless when she was out to teach Coco a lesson or if she felt that her dignity had been violated or, worse still, both.

"Nothing to say, girl?" Mrs Harman asked archly.

Coco's mouth was dry. "How are you feeling, Margot?" she asked, trying to stop her voice from becoming a terrified squeak.

"I'm sure you know exactly how I feel. My head hurts like hell and I feel like I might puke any minute."

"No, it's not very nice," Coco agreed, at a loss for anything more apposite to say.

A deathly silence fell as the two women regarded each other impassively.

"So..." Coco ventured hesitantly. "What happens now? Will you untie me please?"

"Well, let's just consider the situation," Mrs Harman replied slowly and gravely as if she was delivering a weighty opinion. "You came in here to try out your toy gun on me. I assume that didn't quite go according to plan. You didn't mean to shoot me in the tits, did you?" Coco shook her head. "Anyway, you had your gun and what else? Oh, yes, a lot of rope and a pair of socks. So I can only imagine that I was supposed to wake up with a monster headache, feeling like crap and all trussed up. And I shouldn't think the socks were to keep my feet warm either."

"I thought I might put the socks over your hands to protect your wrists," Coco explained brightly, if unconvincingly.

"How very considerate," Mrs Harman replied sarcastically. "And I suppose you were going to untie me as soon as I came round, because you were just demonstrating your gadget?"

Coco hung her head contritely.

"Well, girl, it seems to me that anything you're prepared to give you should be prepared to receive." Mrs Harman got to her feet, wincing slightly at the pain in her head when she moved. She stepped over Coco and went to the cupboard under the kitchen sink. She moved the various bottles of cleaning fluids at the front of the cupboard out of the way and brought out the plastic storage box that Coco knew contained the household rope supply.

"I don't think I'll risk untying your hands and feet," Mrs Harman said as she selected some suitable lengths of rope, "so I'd better just start from where you are now."

Sighing inwardly, Coco decided not to resist as Mrs Harman dragged her from where she had landed after the latest onslaught.

Mrs Harman rolled Coco onto her stomach and inspected the ropes securing her. The wrist binding seemed to be completely satisfactory. She loosened and then re-tightened the knot on the rope around Coco's ankles. She tutted at the rope linking Coco's wrist and ankle bindings as she removed it completely. I think I'd better start again with that one, she commented.

Coco took the opportunity to straighten her legs.

"Might as well stretch while you still can," Mrs Harman remarked ominously.

Mrs Harman began by winding a rope around Coco's waist, pinning her bound wrists to the small of her back. Coco cooperated to the extent of arching her body to make it easier to feed the rope underneath her. Mrs Harman finished off by cinching the binding between Coco's arms and her back.

As Mrs Harman prepared the next length of rope, Coco surreptitiously tested the security of the binding encircling her waist. Her wrists were firmly clamped to her back and Coco suspected that the little movement she could gain by flexing her elbows would shortly disappear.

Sure enough, Mrs Harman's next move was to wind a long length of rope around Coco's upper arms and chest, carefully positioning it just above her elbows. The rope was not particularly tight, but Mrs Harman remedied that by using two more short lengths of rope to cinch the binding between Coco's arms and her body and to fasten it to the rope around her waist.

It was clear to Coco that Mrs Harman was taking no chances of her escaping. She gloomily concluded that she was likely to be left tied up for a lengthy spell.

Mrs Harman turned her attention to Coco's legs next. She tied them together just above Coco's knees, cinching the rope off firmly between her thighs. She lifted Coco's feet off the floor so that her knees bent and gently pressed them towards Coco's bottom. She tested the tension in the binding she had just made by re-tying the cinch then allowed Coco's feet to drop back to the floor.

"Won't be long now," Mrs Harman commented as she rummaged through the supply of ropes again, as if Coco might be getting bored.

Coco consciously relaxed her body. She thought it would be extremely unlikely that she would be able to escape when Mrs Harman was finished with her, but she could at least make sure that she didn't end up under stress.

With suitable length of rope selected, Mrs Harman found the centre and doubled it. She fastened the centre part to Coco's ankle binding then lifted her feet until her knees were bent approximately at a right angle. She looped the free ends of the rope around the cinch between Coco's wrists and waist and brought them back to the ankle binding. Mrs Harman repeated this so there were eight strands of rope stretching between Coco's wrists and ankles. She tied the free ends securely to Coco's now very bulky ankle binding. There were still two very long tails of rope dangling from the knot. Mrs Harman took these free ends together and spiralled them around the bundle of rope she had just formed, working her way towards Coco's wrist binding and drawing them together to form a thick cable. Mrs Harman finally knotted the ends off around the mass of rope between Coco's arms and her waist.

"That should be enough," Mrs Harman remarked with a distinct note of satisfaction in her voice.

The particular skill of Coco's that Mrs Harman had admired was her ability to restrain a person with the absolute minimum length of rope. Mrs Harman had never had problems securing her prisoners, but she believed in taking no chances with the quantities of rope she deployed.

"Now for those socks," Mrs Harman said as she knelt down beside Coco's head. She rolled one of them up into a ball and held it under Coco's nose. "Open," she instructed.

Coco dutifully opened her mouth. Resistance at this stage was utterly futile and there was no point in provoking Mrs Harman by not cooperating.

Mrs Harman stuffed the sock into Coco's mouth and bound it in place with its partner, carefully pushing it between her teeth and knotting it firmly behind her head.

Mrs Harman stood up again and headed for the kitchen door. "Back in two ticks," she assured Coco.

Coco took the opportunity of Mrs Harman's absence to explore her bonds once more. She had been tied up with her hands and feet linked before, but the elaborate method Mrs Harman has used to form that link was entirely new. Experimentally, she flexed her knees but was surprised that the thick cable of rope that Mrs Harman had formed was so inflexible that it resisted any attempt to bring her feet closer to her hands.

When Mrs Harman returned to the kitchen as promised, Coco was still straining against her bonds. "Quite effective, isn't it?" she commented acidly with a thin smile.

Coco gave up her efforts and looked up slightly apprehensively at her captor.

"Don't look so worried, it's just a blindfold," Mrs Harman explained, holding up a black woollen scarf for Coco to see. She knelt down and carefully removed Coco's spectacles before wrapping the scarf across her face, knotting it securely at the back of her head. She adjusted the scarf so that it covered Coco's nose to prevent her rubbing it off easily.

"Now," announced Mrs Harman as she stood up, "I'm going to bed for a few hours to sleep off this headache you've given me. When I get up, I might just think about letting you go. I'll see how I feel."

With that, Mrs Harman left the kitchen and Coco squirmed miserably in her bonds, trying to find a comfortable position to wait out her confinement.

Some time later, she had no real clue how long, Coco heard the front door open and close. After a few moments, footsteps approached the kitchen. There was the click of a light switch then a small gasp. "Ooh, you gave me quite a turn. I wasn't expecting to find you all tied up like that."

Coco recognised the voice as that of Charlotte Harman, Margot Harman's daughter. She mumbled urgently through her gag.

"I haven't a clue what you're saying. Half a mo while I get the gag out and you can tell me again."

With relief, Coco felt the knot securing her gag slacken and then the sock being pulled out from between her teeth. She opened her mouth as far as she could while Charlotte teased out the second sock packing it.

"Thanks, Charlie," Coco croaked, her throat parched. "Would you untie me please?"

There was a moment's silence from Charlotte. "Mum tied you up, right?" she inquired.

Coco nodded wordlessly in reply to spare her dry mouth.

"Better not then," Charlotte replied regretfully. "Mum'll go ballistic if I do that."

Coco sighed deeply. She had been half expecting that.

"I'll get you some water to drink though," Charlotte offered brightly.

It looked as if that would be the only relief she would get, so Coco nodded her acceptance. She heard footsteps and then water running as Charlotte crossed to the sink and filled a cup.

"Let me get the blindfold," Charlotte remarked as she returned to Coco. "It makes everything ten times harder to do when you're blindfolded."

Coco felt the knot behind her head loosen and then blinked at the sudden brightness of the light flooding into her eyes. It was now dark outside and the light was from the fluorescent tube on the ceiling above her head. As her eyes accommodated to the light, Coco focussed on the cup that Charlotte was holding for her. It was plastic and had a lid with a spout on it.

"Sorry about the baby cup," Charlotte apologised, "but it's about the easiest thing to drink out of if you're trussed up on the floor."

Coco noticed the ring of practical experience that she had heard in so many of Mrs Harman's remarks. She said nothing, but lifted her head off the floor and sucked thirstily at the cup.

"Not too much, otherwise you'll need to pee and that's not funny when you're tied up."

Reluctantly, Coco relinquished the cup, acknowledging to herself that Charlotte was probably right.

Charlotte had been squatting next to Coco. She took the cup back and carried it to the sink. Various sounds followed, which Coco recognised as being associated with the making of a pot of tea.

After a few minutes, Charlotte squatted down next to Coco again. "I'm going to take my tea upstairs to my room," she explained, "so I'd better get you done up again."

Coco had little option but to submit to Charlotte as the damp sock, now unpleasantly cold, was carefully reinserted into her mouth and then tied in place.

Charlotte inserted a finger between the gag and Coco's cheek. "I don't think that's going to be too tight for you," she commented.

Coco grunted non-committally in reply.

The inevitable blindfold followed. Coco was not surprised to discover that Charlotte's approach was a carbon copy of her mother's. First she wrapped the scarf across Coco's face and knotted it securely then she spent nearly half a minute carefully adjusting it to cover Coco's nose and to lie snugly against her cheeks.

Coco heard Charlotte's footsteps receding as she apparently left the room then heard her return a minute or so later.

"Lift your head," Charlotte's voice instructed. Coco did so. "Now down again." Coco discovered that her head was now supported by a pillow. She turned her head to one side and settled it into the most comfortable position she could find.

"I'll leave you to it," Charlotte said, not unkindly. "I expect Mum will untie you before too long."

Coco sighed inwardly and resigned herself to a long uncomfortable wait. On balance, she felt that her partnership with Mrs Harman was a good thing for her criminal career. The opportunities she now had and skills she was learning probably outweighed falling victim to Mrs Harman's wrath and her rather capricious sense of rough justice from time to time. There was certainly never a dull moment living with Mrs Harman.

End of part 4
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The Chronicles of La Cioccolata
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© Gillian B 2006