Croonford Detectives Case 26: Frenchies and pansies
Note: I don't speak French. No offence to the Parisian police.
Please comment on the story here.
"Wow, that was really amazing!" Lin exclaimed as she and Reinhard entered the detective’s headquarters.
"Yeah, nice Dim Sum. Thanks for introducing me to not-so-common kinds of Dim Sum and helping me sharpen chopstick skills," he added.
"I'll make you into a Cantonese and chopstick cuisine expert shortly, " she smiled.
"And you can make me an expert in German and Jamaican cuisine."
"Yeah, it was pricey though," he added.
"Still worth it. As I mentioned before, its great therapy after being bound and gagged for a long time. I'll cover more of the cost next time." He didn’t like being second to this wealthier girl but didn't state that.
"Uhm…on that note, what should I call you now? Dear, honey..." They were a couple for over a month and Reinhard was still unsure how to be a boyfriend.
"Just call me by my name and I'll call you by yours. Something wrong?" The something was how she was dressed. Lin's maroon dress emphasised her cleavage and he was trying hard to control himself. Lin attempted to kiss him but he said, "Let's continue working on the missing and damaged gadgets," quickly changing subject. "And think of new ones."
Just as the couple were about to get to work, the door opened and the other detective couple, Michelle and Mark entered. "How are you two lovebirds?"
"We're doing just fine," Lin quickly answered then the door also opened and the newest male detective, Richard Weaver, entered.
"Thought it was Jenn. Surely, she can't be late again?" Chelle wondered after they all greeted Richard.
"Oh, she didn't tell you? She's preparing for her school..."
All their mobile phones buzzed. Heading to Paris for a trip organised by my French teacher. Back next week. Take care if a case crops up xxx
"Oh well, that leaves us and to bring you up to speed," Mark remarked.
"There's training?" Richard asked.
"Oh no, everything is on the job," Lin answered. "Haven't finished constructing all the gadgets for you but here are some of the main ones." Richard was armed with the male version of the hidden penknife - normal penknife hidden in a wallet, radio implanted in a mobile phone cover and the laser pen. He received a quick summary of their work and with no news to investigate, Lin and Reinhard were left to build gadgets.
Jenn had been to Paris before with her parents but that was for holiday and many years before. This time it was all work with her teacher Madame Béatrice Laurent making her class quickly identify famous sights and the history behind them on their notebooks during the Eurostar trip.
"Can I compare my answers with yours?" Her classmate Bethan whispered as they passed through the customs at the Gare du Nord train station.
"No cheating!" Madame Laurent shouted in French and the whole class fell silent as they boarded the bus to their hotel.
Back at Croonford, Lin was about to enter the school grounds when Mrs Patricia Homerton, the discipline mistress, called her. "Miss Chan, hold-ups aren't part of the school uniform. Please return home with tights of correct denier and show me."
Lin groaned, wishing the half-term break would arrive faster. She waited for the discipline mistress to leave before heading to her locker instead where she kept spare tights. Later during break time, Reinhard caught up with her.
"Was that unintentionally or did you flout that rule intentionally?" He asked.
"It's a silly rule and it's just me." she smiled with him wondering if it was her showing off her fashion sense.
"Let me ask you what is this huge contraption you stored in our science club room," she opened the room. "What is...
Reinhard had part of his mind of his girlfriend's hosiery but quickly answered.
"You know the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? This is my version of Professor Potts breakfast-making machine." Indeed, it was almost a replica, except there was a frying pan where the eggs and bacons, not sausages would be cooked on. A frying spatula on a mechanical arm was present obviously to turn the food and there was a small plastic container to spray oil.
"That amazing!" She was about to hug him but refrained to even though they were alone - the school forbid students from showing affection towards each other. "You aren't going to demonstrate it here, are you?"
"No, I don't want to trigger to fire alarm. Got permission to use the field behind the Old Cannons pub. Say some afternoon this week?"
Jenn scored well in Madame Laurent first task but that was just the beginning. After breakfast, she set the class to a more challenging assignment. "Go out around Paris and write an essay about a sight of something unusual. Don't go to the common tourist sights like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower. You may work in pairs and have until 9:00 PM. Good luck."
Jenn paired up with Bethan then looking up Paris, they decided on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD isa multilateral consortium to improve international development and its headquarters is there. Both girls were interested in international relationships, but they picked that OECD headquarters not for its role, but because of the history of the building itself. The headquarters occupies a very majestic château, specifically the Château de la Muette, was once a royal hunting lodge of Charles IX, King of France. It was passed as a second château to Louis XV, then Louis XVI then the Montgolfier brothers. It became a third château bought by Baron Henri James de Rothschild as his residence but taken over by the Nazi German Navy during World War II and post war, the headquarters of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), then finally the OECD.
The girls found this information online but wanted to ascertain if there was any more history they could find for their essay. They did make a great choice but the problem was getting there. The Metro train near their hotel suffered a fault so their trip to the La Muette Metro, the nearest Metro near the OECD. By the time they exited the Metro gates, it was nearly noon. They finished taking photos from a distance of the surroundings -which were either embassies or upper-class residences then they learnt there would be a short tour of the headquarters organised by a university and they allowed the pair to join in.
"We have over an hour before the tour, want to grab lunch, oh, excusez-moi, "
Bethan felt her elbow strike someone. The tattooed guy shouted a word back she wasn't familiar and Jenn quickly pulled her away.
"What did he say? My French isn't so strong," Bethan asked.
"He...called you the 'B' word. Let's find lunch." Jenn shook her head.
After much searching, they found themselves in a nearby new and not-so-expensive Parisian Cafe eating filled baguettes. Just as Jenn was about to finish her meal, she noticed a commotion outside, excused herself and head back out.
That same afternoon back at Croonford, Reinhard had set up his Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-inspired device. His mind was wondering what his girlfriend would be wearing when Lin arrived wearing jeans, red sweater and matching top.
"I bought the eggs and bacon as requested," she said and he loaded them on the various parts. Checking that the various components were in order, he switched on the device. A train rolled down a set of train tracks, carrying two plates.
Simultaneously, eggs were spinning on a miniature Ferris wheel and mechanical arms picked up two slices of bacon and placed them in a frying pan with oil sizzling. The arms automatically turned the bacon in a few minutes then lowered them onto the plates. Next, more arms caught two eggs from the Ferris wheel and cracked them into the fat from the oil and the bacon with the arms turning them and soon enough, the eggs joined the bacon and the rolled down on a ramp onto a table set up.
"How is it? Is it cooked properly?" Reinhard asked.
"It's great! Although I'd like my eggs a bit runnier," his girlfriend replied and before he could say he couldn’t figure how to make the arms fry eggs different ways, she hugged him, licked her lips and was about to kiss him when both their phones buzzed with a message from Chelle.
Bethan told me Jenn went missing in Paris.
All the remaining teen detectives quickly congregated at their headquarters with this startling news. Jenn had spotted the same man who Bethan accidentally knocked. He and several other similarly-tattooed men harassing ladies and women nearby and hurling lewd insults at them. Jenn had spotted some Parisian policemen and called them to address the harassment but not of them reacted. Jenn called again and as she turned back, strong arms behind grabbed her. Jenn's cry was cut off with a large hand over her mouth and simultaneously Jenn felt cold metal locked around her wrists as her arms were yanked behind her back. She was unceremoniously dragged and pushed into a dark police van which took off.
"She was with Bethan who accidentally knocked some French man who cursed Bethan then Jenn left part of the way through their lunch, " Chelle read out to the others what Bethan told her.
"Surely the police there will be investigating?" her boyfriend Mark wondered.
"Maybe. Would she have any of the gadgets with her?"
"May have or didn't bring since she had to pass through customs, "Lin answered. "We've got to think how to save her."
Jenn was thrown wildly against the interior of the van as the vehicle jerked wildly. After a few minutes and several light bruises, she managed to sit on one of the benches and twist her arms to her front. Why am I arrested or kidnapped? Who are these people? These thoughts continued until the van suddenly stopped and the back door open, revealing two burly men wearing uniforms with Préfecture de Police stencilled in front.
"Hello? What's happening? Am I arrested? What fo...." Jenn asked loudly in French until one brandished a baton and the they both shouted "shut up!" Her arms were painfully turn to her back and with the two men locking their arms around hers, she was escorted out. The whole exterior was dark slight disorientating Jenn and she quickly found herself facing a femme or woman whole looked quite muscular. Her handcuffs only then were removed.
"What..." Jenn question was cut off as a bundle of clothes were thrust into her hands.
"Change!" The butch woman barked.
Jenn hesitated as she noticed the two men were standing in eye shot.
"Change!" The woman repeated, advancing towards her now. Sighing, Jenn undressed and was soon just in white bra and knickers. The clothes were brown prison jumpsuit with plastic buttons. She quickly dressed but the humiliation was already done. With her wrists secured again, Jenn was pushed into a cell that stank.
Yet another case where one of the girls go missing, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI Nikki Heath thought. "No, I don't know any police detective of investigating officer in Paris. No contacts. Sorry."
Chelle and Lin looked dejected but thank their long-term police and left.
"Can we go to Paris? It's half-term?" Lin wondered.
"My parents won't like it. I suspect it's the same for the boys."
Lin didn't reply and hate being helpless.
Jenn's wrists were now cuffed to a belly chain and her left ankle was attached to a short chain on the floor. Just as she was started to think of a way out, she heard a snoring noise from the next wall and through the dim light, she saw a figure shoulder-length blonde hair rise.
The similarly-dressed and chained girl coughed several times before introducing herself as Sabrina with a thick Parisian accent.
"I was walking back from school then was pushed to a side road, handcuffed and found myself here." Jenn recounted her story adding the incident where Bethan accidentally knocked that man. "Who are these people?" Jenn asked.
"Well, they can't be proper police," Sabrina coughed again. "Real police wouldn't lock people up like this," She held up her cuffed wrists and before she could continue, the same pair of men who escorted Jenn burst in and one held her while another pasted two long strips of tape over Jenn's lips.
"That's for talking! Don't you dare take it off! You," one of the men pointed at Sabrina, "Shut up!"
Back at Croonford, Chelle, Lin, Mark and Reinhard decided if they couldn't go to Paris, they had to enlist someone's help. It took Bethan quite a while before she answered the WhatsApp call.
The hotel Wi-Fi here isn't strong she typed. Oh, you want me to a girl detective?
Chelle typed yes and explained what they'd like her to do.
Sounds exciting and yeah, I don't think the Préfecture de Police aren't treating this seriously. Bethan was referring to the police force covering Paris. But I don't have your magical gadgets. I don't want to be captured. She silently recalled how she was cable-tied and cleave-gagged in her bra and knickers by a fake drama teacher previously.
We're not asking you to. Run if you see any danger, Lin typed.
As the conversation ended, Richard entered the headquarters.
"Where were you? We......" Chelle asked.
"I managed to secure a cheap flight to Paris," Richard answered. "What do you think? Can I bring any of the gadgets with me?"
There was a pause then Lin answered. "Yes, the identification app. Hopefully Jenn is wearing the corresponding chip on her. I've boosted the range up to four metres. Hopefully the customs there won't check your phone," Lin quickly added the app to his phone before he left.
"I better notify Bethan he's going," Chelle added.
Jenn, now silenced, watched Sabrina inch forward as much as the ankle shackles allowed. "Sorry for your state now. Must be my cough," she said in a softer voice and turned her head as she coughed. Jenn noticed in the dim light that the uniform was quite tight against her body and she wasn't wearing a bra and there was a damp spot her crotch area.
On cue Sabrina continued. "Yes, I'm a model. I was modelling before they picked me up. Not naked, just topless. I need the money to pay for my studies at Université de Paris; my family's not wealthy. They didn't let me use the les toilettes. I don't suppose you model, do you?"
"Nmmph," Jenn's 'no' came out as soft as Sabrina's voice.
"What exactly was a good French-speaking English girl doing in this city?"
Jenn tried to answer but suddenly felt weak and slumped down with Sabrina following suit.
Madame Laurent did not allow any student to leave the hotel after they handed over their essays. Bethan waited for her teacher to be busy then slipped out wearing dark clothes. It took a short time for her to reach the La Muette Metro and just as she got out, a figure in the shadows greeted her, "hello Bethan."
"Oh, it's you! The debater who keeps getting first place lately. I was nearly got to hit you," she replied.
"No hard feelings, I hope. Let's go find Jenn; I don't want to miss a feelings, debate with her."
She led him to the bistro and they combed the surrounding area, with Bethan asking passe-bys if they had seen her friend. Just as the Welsh student though it was a futile chase, she spotted a bag in a rubbish dump.
"Hey, that's Jenn's school bag!" she called and Richard lifted it up with his gloved hands. Nearby, he spotted a painting of a small pansy flower. Despite it being just a drawing, he snapped a picture and asked Bethan to direct them to the detective in charge of the case.
Captaine Sophia Toussaint had a heavy workload that afternoon but accepted the teenager’s request. Jenn's bag was immediately sent to her forensics team and after some questions with Bethan translating for Richard, she was going to dismiss the teens when Richard pulled out his phone and showed the picture he took.
"I spotted it near..." He began and the officer's eyes narrowed, simply asking for a copy and dismissing the teens.
Jenn awoke with the sound of a van's engine and the seat beneath her vibrated. Her eyes confirmed that she was in the same van she was when captured. She was still cuffed and gagged with rope wound around her breasts. Across her sat Sabrina who was also chained not gagged. The same two men in Préfecture de Police uniforms were beside her while the butch-like lady was in a corner. All three carried SIG Pro semi-automatic pistols directed at their captives, ensuring their silence.
Just as Jenn considered her options, sirens blared and she heard a series of pricking sounds and was thrown against the side as the vehicle jerked to a stop. Immediately, she heard a voice outside call, "This is the Police nationale. You are surrounded. Exit and release the hostages."
The butch woman leapt across swiftly grabbing Jenn in one tight arm lock while the other two men locked their arms around Sabrina. As they dragged that girl, one unlocked the door, revealing a horde of police officers with weapons raised.
"Release the girls!" Captaine Toussaint yelled.
In response, Jenn felt a cold metal ring press against her neck. No, I don't want don't to die today, she wailed as the French police officers slowly lowered their weapons. Jenn closed her eyes then there were two muted shots, with blood splattering on her face and she tumbling down.
"Subjects down. Incident secured," Captain Toussaint radioed in her microphone as other French police officers helped the girls up, unlocked their chains and removing Jenn's gag. As she was escorted, she was surprised to spot her debating rival Richard behind the police cordon.
Jenn had to remain in Paris for further interviews with the police but managed to return to the UK just before half-term ended. She was happy the police found and returned her phone, purse and even school uniform.
"They were going to sell you?!" Lin gasped as Jenn met up with the rest of the detectives the Sunday before the return of school.
"Yeah, some perverted organised crime group. They were going to sell me to some family in exchanged for money to buy weapons. The other girl Sabrina was about to be sold as a model to some North Africa gang. They disguised themselves as police officers and were looking for teen girls in the 16th arrondissement of Paris which is a wealthy area where Bethan and myself were. That tattooed man and the harassment was staged."
"And the pansy painted on the wall was the gang' sign. I was lucky to catch sight of it," Richard added.
"It was a harrowing time with no gadgets, well except the tracking one, on me. Hope I can have some that custom agents won't suspect the next time."
"We'll work on it," Lin patted Jenn's hand.
The detectives split up and Jenn stopped Richard.
"I forgot to say 'thank you' for coming after me," she extended her hand.
"You're welcome. It was interesting using Lin's gadget," he held up his phone. Oh, lucky I sewn the identification chip on my bra she thought. No, I'm not going to talk about it.
"Would you like a cup of coffee, tea? My treat."
"Uhm, next time. Going to Skype with that girl Sabrina."
Meanwhile, Lin asked Reinhard if he would like to search for Halloween costumes.
"Uhm, I'm not a fan of that hope that's ok with you," he replied.
"Ok, we'll work on your breakfast machine then." She hugged him.
Michelle, Lin Ling, Jennifer, Mark and Richard will return in 'The Birds and the Bees'.