Discovery, Dust and Danger
Chapter One. The Hemsby Clues
Historical research wasn't the sort of occupation that appealed to many young women, and when Nina was 20, it wouldn't have appealed to her. Initially she went into the conventional occupation of working in a bank. A steady job, a reasonable wage, but no real prospects and not much of a challenge to the intelligence once you had worked there for a few years. Her helpful nature ensured that she was taken advantage of by her immediate bosses. She found herself standing in for sick colleagues, working late at night without overtime, and sometimes manning a sub-branch on her own. Strictly speaking this was against all the rules and she could have refused to do it, but her nature was to help out rather than to rock the boat.
It was on one of these occasions, where she was manning a small sub-branch on her own, that she met Ray. Ray the small time robber who specialised in finding largish amounts of cash, in the care of a lone female staff member. Ray had relieved Nina and her employer of a reasonable amount of money, enough to keep him for a few weeks, and his robbery procedure had required that she was bound, gagged and blindfolded. Ray had also allowed himself a treat in the form of giving her a good spanking, a treat which he reserved for ladies of her physique. It had been something of a turning point in Nina's previously rather dull existence. She found the whole experience more to her liking than she at first cared to admit, and her acquaintance with Ray had become a friendship, a sort of working partnership. He had recognized something in her, maybe a kindred spirit. He was a person who liked to keep a low profile, and not attract attention, while actually succeeding in something quite impressive.
It wasn't that Nina was a wallflower, far from it, but she liked to be taken seriously as a person, and not merely judged as the well endowed blonde that she was. And because Nina didn't like to draw attention to herself, she chose to dress in an inconspicuous way. Her usual mode of dress was more formal than a lot of women her age . She usually dressed in a blouse or shirt with the collar buttoned, and a skirt, and whatever jacket, jumper or waistcoat went with this. As it happened, every time she had been tied up, she had been dressed like this. It had started with a burglary in her final year at school , then it had been the bank uniform, some of her later jobs as a cashier of one kind or another, and now it was part of her chosen working attire while she was a historical researcher. She had not realised when she took the job just how at risk she would be from criminals, but she had come to accept it. The money was good and the work was very interesting. When she had completed the diploma course, at the beginning of this career, after leaving her job at the bank, her first boss had summed the work up by describing it as a lot of dust with a little danger. And of course, the satisfaction of solving a mystery. Sometimes, making a genuine contribution to the sum of available knowledge in the field. The price that she and her colleagues sometimes paid for this was to be the victim of a robbery.
The criminals were not dangerous psychopaths, just people who wanted to bend the cause of justice to their own ends. They didn’t see her as an enemy, more as a person who might get in the way of their plans. Someone who had to be restrained and silenced for a while. In all of the escapades that she had become involved in, she had never felt that her life was threatened. Being tied up now and again was an unwelcome interruption to her work, but she had to admit, once the moment of danger was past, that it did add some excitement to her life.
The prospect of having her bottom smacked while her hands were bound definitely added spice to the situations she sometimes found herself in. There was a feeling of being a naughty little girl about it all. Again, Ray had started all this. It was definitely as if he had spotted her inclination at their first meeting, although he denied it. She wondered where he was now. They had met for a coffee a few times after the first bank robbery, and she had helped him to commit later robberies, risking her job in the process. But then one day she realised that it had been months since she had heard from him, and from then on, she never heard from him again. Probably done something really serious and left the country, she thought.
The Hemsby investigation.
At 9.30 the next morning Nina arrived at the old museum annexe. She guessed it was going to be cold inside, and she would probably be in there for over an hour. On a grey November morning in an empty building, she knew what to expect. As always for work, she was dressed in a three-piece suit of jacket, waistcoat and skirt, with a long sleeved shirt buttoned at the collar. Today’s suit was a brown herringbone material, with a white button-down shirt. Knee-length dark brown leather boots, with low heels, completed the outfit. She took out the bunch of keys and looked at it. The big one must be the front door, and the other two would be for cupboards inside. She locked the door behind her. Historical research had its share of dishonest and unscrupulous characters. A lone female researcher in an out-of-the-way building could easily be relieved of the results of her research at the last minute, as she knew from past events. Her work revolved around tracking down documents and artefacts, and some had a high cash value. Others could be used to resolve issues of ownership of land and business assets or sometimes, works of art. In cases such as this there were sometimes some unscrupulous individuals who had an interest in the documents remaining undiscovered. The present case was one of these, as last week’s visit from an intruder at the museum had proved.
The man who was lurking behind the uncared-for buddleia that almost obscured the doorway kept as quiet as a mouse as she passed. She had no idea that she was being watched as she unlocked the door and entered. But the watcher saw a well-upholstered woman in her mid-forties, with light brown hair in a long bob. Her face had a studious look, undermined by her turned-up nose. She had nice eyes, he thought. She had seemed to look straight at him as she glanced at the bush. He wondered what lay behind that academic outward appearance.
He moved up closer to the door as she closed it behind her. Waiting for two minutes, he tried the handle. Unbelievable. She hadn't locked it
She went inside and walked down the corridor to the library room. She had been told that the caretaker had put all the tea-chests in a store room on the first floor, but she knew from past experience that instructions were not always followed .The room was however empty, at least the chests and books had gone. The packing material was still on the table, untidy rolls of corrugated cardboard and some rolls of wide brown packing tape. A large pair of scissors. A hessian sack was there too. She hadn’t seen one of those for years, she wondered how long it had been here. She looked around the dingy room. It smelt musty and she was tempted to open a window to let some fresh air in. It would be cold air, but she was going to be upstairs.
The window hadn’t been opened in years, but the stiffness meant it wouldn’t blow about. She made her way upstairs and into the store room. There were two staircases that led to each end of the upstairs corridor. As she passed a window she noticed a cigarette packet on the ledge. Curious, she thought. She knew the caretaker here was a non-smoker, unlike her. On a whim, she picked up the packet and flipped it open. There were four left. Strange. Whose were they?. She supposed some workman had forgotten them at the end of a job. Then, uneasily, she wondered if the owner of the cigarettes had been in the building more recently than the caretaker. She was sure she could smell smoke faintly, but she dismissed the thought. That would mean the smoker had been here very recently, maybe was still in the building. She entered the store room. Just before she closed the door, she was sure she heard sounds from the ground floor. She ignored them and strode over to the walk-in cupboard where the labelled tea chests were lined up on the floor, against the wall. She turned the light on. It was just a dim bulb, 40 watts she guessed, hanging from the ceiling. There should be a label that referred to ARP, or at least World War 2. She took her jacket off and draped it over the back of a chair. It was quite stuffy up here. She felt a radiator and realised it was slightly warm. The caretaker must have been here. She knelt on the floor in front of the first chest and carefully lifted the manila folders out of the chest one by one, reading the scrawled labels on each. Doing so caused dust to fly everywhere. For the sake of staying presentable later, she unbuttoned her cuffs and rolled her shirtsleeves up past her elbows. The first chest did not contain the file she was looking for, so she replaced the folders and started on the next one. Eventually she found one which bore the word “Hemsby”. The allegedly questionable deeds for transfer would be in here, and also the real identity of the former owner of the land.
The faint sounds were there again. Nina realised she wasn’t going to be able to concentrate with that distraction. When she thought about it, it was obvious that the open window was allowing a breeze in, and the noises must be rubbish blowing about, or doors rattling. She had better close the window or she wouldn’t get anything done. She hurried down the stairs to the library and over to the window. It didn’t seem very windy. She closed it and latched it. Turning to leave the room, she noticed that the stuff on the table didn’t look the same. She was sure there had been two rolls of tape, now there was one. The sack had gone as well. And the scissors. Yes, she was right. Someone was here, or had been. Maybe they had gone now. Maybe not. Why had they moved those things? She was beginning to think it might be unwise to stay here alone. She could call the caretaker. Her phone was in her jacket pocket, upstairs.
She went back upstairs to the room. As she opened the door to the walk-in, she realised the light was no longer on. The thought crossed her mind that the bulb had gone, but then something happened. There was movement behind her. Something was pulled down over her head, it felt rough, smelt musty. The sack she had seen earlier. Strong hands took her shoulders and forced her against the wall. “Keep your mouth shut and you’ll be all right. Understand?” A gruff voice ordered. “Gonna do as I say?”
“Yes, of course. But what do you want. There’s no money here.”
“Just keep quiet. Don’t want your mouth taped up, do you?”
Nina kept quiet. It was a damp and gloomy old building ,she didn’t fancy being left gagged in this place. Having a sack over her head was enough.. She heard the sound of tape being pulled off a roll.. I was right, one of them had gone, she thought. “Keep still while I fix you up” the voice continued. Her hands were gripped and forced together in the small of her back, wrists crossed. They were swiftly bound with the tape, tightly wrapped round many times. She heard the scissors cutting the tape. He began wrapping more of it round her, passing below her bust and pinning her arms to her sides. After passing it round her five times, he stopped. “Better not use it all up on your arms” he said . “May need it for the rest of you”
He stepped away from her and she heard the rustle of paper. “Thanks Professor. For leaving a window open, and for saving me the trouble of finding this.”
Nina’s spirits dropped. The word "professor" gave it away. He was after the same documents that she had come here for. Until now there had been a faint chance that her attacker was some vagrant who had slept in the building and just wanted to get away without the alarm being raised. Only a faint hope, because a vagrant probably wouldn’t have tied her up at all, and certainly not this thoroughly. But maybe she could plead for some small mercy, something that would ease her discomfort.
“You aren’t going to leave me with this over my head, are you? I could suffocate”. She put on a "defenceless little girl" voice. "I might fall downstairs and hurt myself".
“I suppose not” he replied. “Don’t have anything against you, but I want time to leave the district, you can understand that. If I leave you as you are it’ll take you an hour to walk to the village. That’s long enough for me. No need for you to see me though, so I’ll take you to the cupboard and turn you away before taking it off”. She was guided for a few steps, then the sack was pulled from over her head. She knew her hair was a mess now. “Don’t turn till I’ve shut the door” he said. And count to two hundred before coming out. If you're out before I'm ready you'll be sorry. I'll make things a lot less pleasant for you". He sounded as if he meant it.
She stood as she was told, counting after the door closed. Eventually, at one hundred and sixty, she couldn't hear him anywhere. Was it safe to go? First she barged her shoulder against the door, which opened easily, then she walked over to the window. The sky looked more threatening now as if rain was imminent. She didn’t think it would be sensible to start walking to find help, without an overcoat. She would get very cold very quickly. She didn’t relish arriving windswept and soaking wet, with arms bound behind her back, on some villager’s doorstep and having to explain herself. And her attacker didn’t know that her mobile phone was in her jacket pocket. What a piece of luck that it hadn’t rung while he was there, she thought. As soon as she knew he was well away, she would phone her colleagues at the museum. They knew the risks in her job, and there wouldn’t be any embarrassment at being freed by them. It wouldn’t be the first time that one of them, arriving to help her with a project, had discovered her trussed up and gagged, and she had also rescued some of them from similar situations.
As she scanned the grounds for some sight of the assailant leaving, she spotted the groundsman. He had driven the motor mower out of its barn, but now stood looking doubtfully at the sky. If she could open the window she could call him up here. She turned her back to the frame and groped with her fingers for the latch, which was half way up the side of the frame. She couldn’t quite reach it. If just her hands had been tied, it would have been possible, but having her arms strapped tightly to her sides prevented her from reaching that high. If she could stand on something……
The door suddenly flew open and the man who had captured her came in. He grabbed her and spun her so that her back was to him. “Sorry Professor. There’s a gardener out there. Can’t have you attracting his attention. Down on the floor, quick.” He half pushed and half lowered her to the floor, in a sitting position, pushed her on to her side and turned her face down. He had the tape again . Kneeling beside Nina, he snipped off two strips and plastered them across her mouth in a big X shape. Then he pulled more of the tape from the reel and wrapped it four times round her booted ankles. “Sorry again. You are just in the way. Gotta go now”. He gave her bottom a sharp smack as he got up. She felt herself blushing, and kept her face down. She listened as he left the room and went down the staircase. The external door opened and closed. She decided to wait for a few minutes before trying to get to her phone. He had returned once already and tied her more securely, after all. If he returned to find her attempting to use the phone, he would surely use the rest of the tape to restrain her even more effectively. He could blindfold her, or tie her feet to her hands, probably both. Best to wait.
Why the hell did that have to happen, she thought angrily. Just because he saw the gardener. Now what am I going to do?
After she estimated that 10 minutes had passed, she tried to get into a sitting position. She eventually succeeded by rolling onto her back, raising her feet and legs in the air and doing a sit-up. This made her skirt ride up of course, but nobody was watching her. Now she could shuffle across the floor to the chair with her jacket draped over it. She found that she was unable to reach high enough to get her fingers inside the pocket, so she held the fabric and pulled. The chair toppled over and now she could pull the phone from her pocket. Fortunately, she knew the layout of the numbers on the pad, and that her colleague’s office number was the third one down on the list of contacts. She knew she could dial the number with her hand tied behind her back, but she had to get the phone close to her mouth. Best thing was probably to lay it on the floor and dial, then lay next to it. She chose that approach, and put her head as close to it as possible.
The voice she heard was Gerald’s. She made as much noise as she could, but what came out were "mmph" noises . “that you, Nina?” he asked. She made an affirmative noise. He spoke again. “If you can’t talk, once for yes, two for no. OK” .
“Are you gagged ?”
“Tied up too?
“Have they gone now?”
“took what you went to find?”
“mmm” she was quieter, a bit ashamed about that.
“Are you at the annexe ?”
“Well, its nearly lunchtime so I’m going to the Black Horse. I’ll come and get you around 3 o’clock, OK?” It was an annoying habit of his that he never took anybody else’s problems seriously.
“NNNHH!!”The best that Nina could deliver by way of an angry growl, with her mouth taped.
“See you in about 20 minutes then. Don’t go away”
The phone went quiet. She thought, it would be nice to manoeuvre into a dignified position before he got here. As dignified as I can be when I’m bound and gagged. Face down on the floor was definitely not dignified. Nina’s bottom was one of the things that men had always seemed to notice. Gerald had on several occasions been the one to rescue Nina from such situations and he made no secret of the fact that he was turned on by seeing her tied up. Being face down on the floor when he untied her would almost guarantee getting her bottom smacked once or twice. It had happened before. She wasn’t sure she was in the mood for that. She managed to get back into a sitting position the same way as she had before. She doubted that she could struggle into a standing position without any furniture to lean on, so instead she shuffled backwards to the wall and sat leaning her back against it to await rescue. She left the phone where it lay. She thought about trying to hide it, but the man wouldn't come back, would he? Anyway, she could only hold it behind her, or sit on it. What was the point?
Nina decided not to waste any effort on trying to free herself from the tapes. Some people might have an aptitude for escapology, but her past experiences had shown her that she wasn't one of them. She had resigned herself to a boring and uncomfortable wait when the unthinkable happened. The phone rang. Continuously. It hadn't occurred to her that the man who had attacked her might still be in the building, until she heard his heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. She looked round frantically, wondering if there was somewhere that she could kick the phone to, where he wouldn't see it. It might be possible, if only she could swing her bound feet around .....
But then the door flew open, her tormentor was back. At first he looked angry, but his expression quickly changed to one of mild amusement. "You scared me" he exclaimed. "Thought you'd got properly loose, thought I'd have to Track you down and tie you up all over again. Didn't do a thorough enough job though, did I?. Didn't know you had that phone." He stooped and picked it up, examining it. "Maybe I'll keep this". He dropped it into his pocket.
Nina gave him a disgusted look .Bound and gagged on the floor, there was nothing else she could do. Her troubles were not over, however. He pulled something from his pocket that she couldn’t see at first, until her twirled it between his finger and thumb. Oh no, she groaned inwardly, not more. It was another roll of tape, it looked like a full roll. He squatted next to her, then without warning, rolled her over onto her face. She heard the tape being pulled from the roll. He began by passing the tape round her crossed bound wrists again, vertically, then took hold of her feet and pulled them upwards. Nina had been tied up often enough to guess what came next, and she wasn't happy about it. Being hogtied meant being almost immobile, only able to wriggle slowly on the floor, unable to sit up. She shook her head in protest, trying to kick against the gripping hand. "No, don't do that. I'm in charge here, don't forget it". She felt a heavy hand descending on her bottom, the force of the smack only partly cushioned by her thick skirt. "Don't tempt me, I could get to like this" he said. "In fact, I do like it". Another smack came down on Nina's bottom. "Got to go, though. I just need to fix you up properly ". He took hold of her feet once again and pulled them up over her bottom, and completed the task of hogtying her. This time she didn't attempt to resist. After all, it wouldn't be long before rescue arrived. It wasn't as if she had any choice. But as she was resigning herself to being left bound in an uncomfortable position, her captor had another idea. "Can't be too careful, can you now?" He fumbled in his coat pocket and produced a paper tissue, taken from a supermarket cafe. Nina could smell brown sauce. He had used it in some fast food joint, she just hoped it wasn't going to be used to add to her discomfort in some way. She could just about see what he was doing. She watched as he folded it twice, then tore it in two. Two pads, about two inches square. He pressed them into place on the sticky side of the tape, with a gap between them. A blindfold, she realised in dismay. She shook her head frantically. "No, please don't " she tried to say, but muffled moans was all that came out.
He laughed "You'll have to speak up" he said as he pressed the tape into place across her eyes. Nina didn't struggle as he wrapped the tape round her head six times before cutting it. She was just thankful that he had used the paper tissue, sauce notwithstanding. "That will do nicely. I've got what I came for, and you won't be doing anything to slow me down. You've had an exciting experience that you can tell your posh friends about, everyone's a winner ". Nina recoiled from yet another smack on her bottom, then to her relief he got to his feet. She listened as he left the room. The last she heard was the sound of an external door closing.
The man didn't know just how often these crimes happened in the world of antiquarian and historical research, that was apparent from his parting remark. Her friends, who might be knowledgeable but weren't really so posh, weren't strangers to this sort of thing. One thing was certain, she was going to have her rescuer call her mobile number as soon as possible, as soon as the tape was taken from her mouth. That phone could be his undoing. Oh, please hurry up, Gerald, she thought. Her pulse quickened at the realisation that, before very long, he, and maybe some of her other colleagues, would be here looking at her, secretly enjoying the fact that it was her and not them. It was only a month or so ago that she had arrived at a solicitor’s office, to collect some documents, and found the man and his receptionist bound and gagged under their desks. On that occasion she had been lucky, if she had arrived half an hour earlier she would have been down there with them, squirming around on the floor
Nina couldn’t see a clock, but she was sure that half an hour had passed since the one-way phone conversation with Gerald. Lying here waiting, she had become aroused by her situation, and it was accentuated by the fact that she could do nothing to relieve it. When she heard the door opening downstairs, on a sudden impulse, she rolled over on her side and lay facing the door. There were footsteps on the stairs, and the door opened. It was Gerald, “ we can’t go on meeting like this” he joked. "They say you shouldn't interfere with a crime scene in case you damage some evidence" he chuckled" So maybe we should leave you like this until the police get here".