Eileen Gets Off Lightly.

 

On a spring Saturday in 1967, most of the personnel at the Royal Navy base on the South Coast were anticipating a boring day, just as dull as every other working day. The exception to this rule was Eileen O'Connor, an attractive twenty-four year old member of the WRNS, who was afraid the day would be anything but boring. It could be the day when she got her come-uppance, but she wasn't going to let that happen. That was why she had arrived at the warehouse nearly forty-five minutes early, to steal a march on her colleagues in the stocktaking.

 

It was her own fault, getting involved with Dennis Hogarth. She had known in her heart that he was no good. He was a foreman at a car factory, but he seemed to have unlimited money, a nearly new Aston Martin and apparently, part-ownership of a racehorse. She didn't ask how a foreman's wages paid for it all. He was very interested in her, but looking back, she realized that, when he found out that she worked in a Royal Navy bonded store, he became even more interested. God knows why she had allowed herself to get sucked into his dishonest scheme, but she had. She had finished with him now, but the damage was done. The cigarettes were gone, the stocktake, called at a momentís notice, was today. Eileen couldn't help thinking her supervisor, Petty Officer Sally Arrowsmith, had her suspicions.

 

It had sounded simple. The RN cigarettes, in their distinctive white and blue packet, were brought in from the manufacturer, and then distributed to naval bases around the country by hauliers. One of these was an associate of her friend Dennis. Her job was to book out five thousand cigarettes, while handing over and additional five hundred. These would be spirited away, while the main consignment arrived at the right place. Eileen was to falsify the records by not recording some deliveries from the makers, so the loss wouldn't show up. All she had got out of it was some dining out from Dennis, but then she had paid for that in his London flat, in kind. Yes, he had done better out of it than her, if only because none of the profit had come her way.

 

She had come to her senses, she thought, but now she was worrying about being discovered, branded a thief, losing her job, her role in the Navy. Going to prison even. She had decided that the way to save her bacon was to be involved in the stocktake. So she volunteered, though she might have been seconded to the task anyway. She was going to count and record the cigarettes herself, and there wouldn't be a discrepancy found. This was why she had arrived early. She would fill in the forms, and sign off those shelves, before Sally and Shirley got in. That would hide it, in the short term. She could worry about the long term later, when the pressure was off.

 

So, unaware of the watchers, she arrived, let herself into the warehouse and, after locking the door behind her, set to work immediately. She left her navy blue jacket on the wooden coatstand, filled the electric kettle and turned it on. Now to work. She went over to the window, pulled the cord to raise the blind all the way up, and looped it round the hook. She liked to have some natural light, she got eye strain without it. She rolled her sleeves up past her elbows, grabbed a pencil and a pad of inventory tickets and began to record the fictitious stock count. There were thousands of the cigarettes, in packs of five hundred, but there should have been seven thousand more. If she was quick, nobody would ever know. If I'm lucky, I might just keep my job, she told herself.

 

As she walked round the bank of Dexion shelving to the first location, she thought she noticed movement, outside the window, but she ignored it. There was only a high wooden fence on that side, why would anyone be there. When she went closer and peered out, she couldn't see anything suspicious. She turned her attention back to the stock count.

 

The three men who stood, pressed up against the wall of the warehouse, looked at their leader. He was considered the leader because he was the one who planned their "jobs", and did the research. "Thought you said nobody was here on Saturdays. That's what he said, wasn't it?" he turned to the third man for back up.

 

"There never was, when I checked. It's busy on weekdays, but closed at weekends. I've got contacts. Nobody comes here at weekends except for stocktaking. And thatís once every six months, unless there's an emergency".

 

"So maybe there's an emergency" said the other. "We all saw her. Thatís why we're hiding round here, isn't it". The others both nodded. They had seen and watched as the full-figured blonde, very efficient -looking in her uniform of dark blue jacket and skirt, over a white shirt and dark tie, walked up to the wooden door and unlocked it. She hadn't seen them because they saw her first. They had dived behind a bank of dustbins and watched as she strode past. She should probably have been wearing a hat, but she didn't have one, the leader thought. Did that mean no superior officers were going to be around?

 

Once she was safely inside, they crept along the side of the building to the window. M, which was how the leader liked to be addressed, motioned, with a finger on his lips, for them to be silent. The window hadn't been cleaned in months, he had to press his face close to see in. The woman had started work. She had hung her jacket up and rolled her sleeves up, and she seemed to be alone. That was good. But then she looked over towards the window. He quickly edged away.

 

She hadn't seen them, obviously. The window didn't open and nor did the door. "She's on her own" he said. "Looks like she's writing, filling forms. But the main thing is, there's only one of her. She'll probably let us in. We can deal with her easily enough "

 

"How" asked Tom, the man with all the questions. "We didn't bring tying-up stuff, there wasn't going to be anyone here. And, we aren't wearing masks . She'll be able to describe us".

 

"Not a problem, is it?" the third man,(who was known to one and all in the criminal world as C)." Women have always got enough things to tie them up with. Stockings!" he added, for the benefit of his puzzled colleagues. "And this one's wearing a tie as well. Hands, feet and gag as well. Everything provided . If we want to blindfold her, there'll be something in there".†††

 

With a grin, M turned to Tom. "C's the man, if there's any tying up to be done. Women, that is. His area of expertise, you might say. Takes a pride in his work, specially the well-stacked ones, and the fat ones, now I think of it. In fact, he's quite sulky if we're on a job where there aren't any lady cashiers to tie up. He's cheering up a bit now this Wren's turned up".

 

"S'right, fate is smiling on me" said C. "What we going to do, then, just knock the door and she lets us in?"

 

"Didn't hear her lock it, actually" said M. "Let's just see".

 

Eileen was recording a quantity of two thousand cigarettes against a location which actually held only one thousand, when she became aware of the door opening very quietly behind her. She suddenly felt uneasy, she wasn't expecting the others just yet. She turned round slowly, wondering who she would see.

 

Well, it wasn't Petty Officer Arrowsmith. She saw three male figures in silhouette, walking towards her, one of them closing the door behind him and sliding the bolt across. Something I should maybe have done, she thought, suddenly worried. Who were they? They weren't in uniform, in fact they were a bit too casually dressed for anybody who was at work. "Who are you, I'd like to know? "She said in her best officious manner.

 

"Shut it! I give the orders now" said one of the men, the one nearest to her. Eileen was taken aback, she hadn't expected this sort of response. He spoke like a man who expected to be obeyed. Just as she was deciding what to say, he spoke first. "We're in charge now, keep quiet till I speak to you. Got it?" Eileen stood open mouthed, staring at him, also aware that one of the men, over by the window, was cutting the cord on the window blind. "Got it?" he demanded again, louder and more intimidating.

 

"Yes, I've got it" she said. "What's going on?" The window blind clattered down. She turned quickly to see the man pulling the thin brown cord free.

 

"The cigs" he said, pointing to the bank of shelves."They'll do for a start, this lot. Then we'll have a look round."

 

"What about me?" she asked slowly."What do I have to do?" It had dawned on her by now that it was a robbery. And they were taking the cigarettes. Her mind was racing ahead.

 

"You don't do anything. Just to make sure you don't, my mate's going to tie you up. Then we'll do what we came for". Now he was standing right in front of Eileen, and she had to look up at him. To the right, the second man had extracted the cords from both ends of the blind and was folding it. She couldn't help noticing how much there was. Eileen hadn't been tied up before, and the thought of it scared her. Glancing again at the man with his bundle of cord, she wondered how much of it a professional criminal would use to tie somebody up. On the TV, in the crime dramas, the bad men just tied their victimsí hands behind their backs, and their feet together, and quite often, the victims got free in a few minutes. And if they didn't, they were rescued by John Steed, or The Saint.

 

It didn't sound quite so bad when she thought of it that way. Her discomfort probably wouldn't last long. But she felt she should make an effort to deter them, not cave in too easily. "You won't get away with it" she said. "The police will find you". She had to say something. "And there's no need to tie me up, there's three of you, I couldn't stop you if I wanted".

 

The tall man chuckled" You'll be running down the road shouting for the police as soon as we left, wouldn't you? We want an hour or more to leave town, so you'll have to be tied up. You know it makes sense".

 

Eileen could see that it made sense. She was also starting to realise that, if the gang got clean away with all the cigarettes, then her theft would never be discovered. Like the man said, she'd be tied up for an hour or so, but it was better than being exposed as a thief. She didn't intend to get caught up in thieving any more, but nobody would listen if she got found out, she knew that.

 

Tied up, though. How, and where, she wondered. There weren't any chairs in the building, just the six foot by three foot table that was right next to them. She was about to find out. The cord man draped the cord over her shoulders, drew the ends forward across her chest, under the arms, round the arm and across to the other arms. He repeated this a few times, pinning her arms to her sides. Looking down, Eileen could see all the loops of cord round her body, above and below her breasts. She tried to move her arms, but she just couldn't. He hadn't done her hands, but she knew that was coming. She hoped they would be tied in front, it would be more comfortable, and she wouldn't feel so helpless.

 

Just as she feared, the man pulled her hands behind her and pressed them together, her wrists crossed. She felt the cord coiling round and round them, horizontally, knotted,then round a few times vertically and knotted again. She didn't bother trying to move. She guessed there was no chance of escape. But amazingly, the man hadn't finished. She felt him fumbling around behind her shoulders, he seemed to be passing cord under the first cord, the one draped round her shoulders. There was some pulling, and her bound hands were drawn up towards the middle of her back. Eileen marveled at the amount of work, and skill even, that went into tying her up. From their point of view, it meant a successful crime, no arrest and prison, it made sense when she thought about it. And, unknown to them, it might just means she didn't get blamed for the stock discrepancy.

 

"Better put her on the table, so we don't have to watch her" said the tall man.

 

Eileen wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. "What d'you mean, put me on the table?" she demanded, forgetting to be co-operative for a moment.

 

"This" said the tall man, suddenly sweeping her off her feet, an arm pushing forward behind her knees, another behind her shoulders supporting her. To her astonishment, and indignation, she was dumped on the table, sitting with her legs together in front of her, the man quickly pushing her ankles together, one foot across the other so she wouldn't be able to stand up, and wrapping the cord round them. She watched as the cord was pulled tight around her black-stockinged ankles. "Nearly done!" he said, grinning at her. She almost asked him what else needed to be done, but she kept quiet. She might not like the answer!

 

And then, he was asking the questions. "Are all the fags up this end" he asked. "Any booze in here? What's over that side?" he waved a finger towards the opposite wall of the building.

 

"Over there? Its uniforms and bed linen, stuff like that. Not the sort of thing you want, is it?"

 

"Ok. Wouldn't be lying to me, would you?" He looked along the bank of metal shelves.

 

"No, I'm telling the truth. Why wouldn't I? You're taking it any way, I'm all tied up and can't stop you, why wouldn't I tell you?" Eileen protested. "It doesn't matter to me if you take the lot, just get on with it" She was thinking ahead. Sally Arrowsmith one rank above her, and Shirley Wright, who was an eager beaver, always trying to make a good impression, would soon be here in the building.

 

Will it work out for me, or not, she asked herself. The gang might escape, with the cigarette stock, Sally and Shirley will find me tied up. Nothing I could do against armed robbers, was there? Or, the robbers will grab Sally and Shirley and tie them up too. Either way, nobody knows that I took anything. It didn't look like anything could go wrong. Then she realized that there was a way that she could still finish up getting in serious trouble. What if the two Wrens spotted the robbers first, and raised the alarm, ran to get help. And the gang got caught before they stole anything. That would be bad news. The gang would deny taking anything, but somebody would check and confirm that a lot of stock was gone. With a sinking heart, she realised that the situation would be worse than the one she was already in. Right now, nobody knew about her thefts.

 

She came to a decision. The crooks mustn't get caught, she thought. But what can I do, sitting here, trussed up, unable to move. An idea came to her, quickly enough as they do in desperate situations. She knew Sally and Shirley were coming, in fact they should be here any minute. They could foil the robbery, but not if the gang knew they were coming. She had to make sure they were captured by the robbers, before things turned for the worse. She looked at the three men, who were standing by the shelves, talking so quietly that she couldn't catch what they were saying. As she watched, one of them gathered four of the big packages together in his arms and strode past her to the door. She couldn't turn easily but she heard the door open. He was followed by the other two, both with arms full. "We'll be right back, don't try anything" said one of them, the one who had tied her up.

 

As if, she thought. I want you to get clean away with it. How could she warn the robbers without it seeming suspicious. As she watched them trooping past, an amusing thought crossed her mind, and without thinking, she said "You lot remind me of the seven dwarfs".

The nearest man, the one who had tied her up, stopped, smiling thoughtfully.

 

Nodding toward the tall man, he said "I suppose he would be "brainy" as it's him who thinks up the jobs we do. And I must be "ropey", 'cause I do the tying up, if anybody needs tying up" he grinned at her. Eileen suddenly felt her cheeks colouring up, here she was, bound hand and foot, having a jolly chat with the robber who had captured her.

 

"What about him?" she whispered, glancing at the third man as he hurried past with an armful of boxes.

 

"Oh, him". He thought for a moment then laughed mischievously. "He'd be "spanky". Maybe you'll find out why".

 

Eileen found herself blushing even more. Surely he wasn't serious. The man wouldn't really be going to spank her, could he? She completely forgot about Sally and Shirley, but from nowhere, the tall man was back, standing next to them. He had something in his hand.

 

"Someone in the building, down the end" he muttered quietly."See to this one". As he handed the object to his colleague, Eileen saw that it was the first aid tin, the lid hanging open. Tipping the contents onto the table, he picked up the smaller of the two rolls of muslin dressing. There wasn't much left, it was only the size of a golf ball.

 

Eileen didn't grasp the significance of the bandages, but it sounded to her as if the other two Wrens had arrived, at the other end of the warehouse "It's my two mates, come to help with mmmmmmph" The man didn't want to hear what she had to say. Without a word he pressed his hand against the back of her head and forced the ball of muslin into her mouth, stopping her in mid-sentence. She was taken by surprise and before she could move to one side, he had unrolled the other, larger roll of bandage and was wrapping it round her head tightly, covering the lower part of her face. She wanted to say "there's no need for this. I wasn't going to warn them" but her mouth was filled with the muslin bandage and the man was busily wrapping her face with more of the stuff. He was standing behind her, but he kept leaning over her shoulder to move the bandage, making minute adjustments, and grinning at her when he caught her eye. Now she felt panic. It hadn't been so bad when, although tied up, she was able to talk to her captors. Now though, with her mouth stuffed, her arms and hands bound behind her back, her feet tied, she really felt helpless and vulnerable. She thought once again of the "seven dwarfs" conversation. Oh my God, she thought, "spanky", what did he do to earn that comment? If he decided to spank her, trussed up like this, there's nothing she could do about it. He was there, going back and forth, and she was right under his nose. But the other one hadn't finished with her yet. He had finished with the gagging, but now he had the remaining cord. She watched in dismay as, after pushing her skirt up away from her knees, past the top of her stockings, he passed the cord under her thighs, wound it round three times, then cinching it between her legs and knotting it. Like all the other cords round her arms and legs, he had pulled it very tight. Surely he didn't need to do that, she wondered. All these ropes were going to leave marks. All over her, she realised. But it was the ones on her wrists that other people would see. She'd have to explain them, every time she went out. But the good thing was, there wasn't enough cord left for any more tying. But her discomfort wasn't complete. Taking her by the shoulders, he tipped her over and lowered her carefully onto her side, on the table.

 

"Don't go away" he quipped as he hurried away on the heels of his colleagues. Eileen squirmed around to see where they were going. She couldn't see far now she was lying on the table, the rows of shelves blocked her vision. She knew they were going to intercept the two Wrens, but she wouldn't be able to see. At least the robbers would capture them, rather than the other way round. It suddenly occurred to her that the men hadn't threatened her with anything, no gun or knife. They had been intimidating, they had said they were robbers, they said they were going to tie her up, but she hadn't seen a weapon. She wondered how that made her sound. She decided to say that they had a knife, when she spoke to the police.

 

Would Sally and Shirley be tied up like her, she mused, or would the men find another means of keeping them quiet? The thought of the overbearing Sally Arrowsmith being intimidated and tied up was an amusing one. Eileen didn't like her. A plump brown-eyed brunette who was a flirt with men and a backstabber with women, it would be good to see her getting her come-uppance. Eileen was sorry she wasn't going to be able to see it. But maybe, having captured the two Wrens, the gang would bring them to this end of the building to tie them up. At least that way she would know the robbery had succeeded, and she wouldn't be held responsible for the stock loss. If being tied up uncomfortably for a while was the price she had to pay, she could handle it. She wasn't so sure about a spanking, but maybe that wouldn't happen.

 

At the other end of the warehouse, the tall robber waved a hand, signaling his two colleagues to stay back, behind the rows of shelves. The shelves were full of boxes, containing things that didn't interest them. The goods they wanted were outside the door, at the other end. The fourth man, who hadn't come inside, was loading them into their stolen van.

 

"Watch a minute, see what they do, how many of them are there" the tall man whispered.

He observed as the two women arranged various sheets of paper on a desk. One was talking, seeming to be instructing the other. She was a plump brunette, dark hair pulled back from her forehead and pinned up at the back . She must be about five eight, he thought, quite tall for a woman. Her companion was a few inches shorter, with straw-coloured blonde hair also pinned up, but with a fringe. She looked bored, the other one was doing all the talking. Obviously Wrens, both wore white shirts with sleeves rolled up, dark blue skirts and ties, black stockings and laced shoes. He wondered if any more of them were about. His eyes scoured the nearby shelves, and he spotted some washers. Whoever had assembled the shelves had cut a corner and not used them.

 

With a deft flick of the wrist, he threw one of them over the shelves into the next aisle. There was a clang as it hit the shelving. He was amazed how loud it was, for such a small object. The two Wrens turned abruptly in the direction of the noise. The shorter blonde one took a couple of steps toward the aisle and peered along it. Turning back, she asked "you hear that?"

 

Her colleague looked at her, rolled her eyes and said dismissively "For a moment there,I thought Miss O'Connor might be about to honour us with her presence. No such luck". She glanced towards the source of the sound. "Looks as if it's just you and me, Shirley"

 

The tall man who had heard all this turned to the two behind him. "There's just the two of them. Didn't need to pull the gun on that one back there, keep it out of sight unless you have to scare them" He stepped forward. "Come on" he said.

 

Wrens Sally and Shirley looked up from the desk suddenly to see the men standing one on either side of them. Frightened, Shirley looked round to see a third man behind them.

Sally was frightened too, but as the senior rank she thought she should try to deal with the situation. What could they want? Who were they?

 

"Can I help?" she asked. It wouldn't do to be rude, they might just have permits of some sort. They grinned. One of them replied.

 

"I think we're all right, thanks. We've got what we came for".

 

Something about their manner made Sally think the situation was about to get worse. She was about to demand an explanation when the tall man spoke again. "We've taken the cigs. That's all really. Trouble is, you two turned up, so we've got to make sure you stay quiet for a while, till we're away"

 

"Oh" Shirley muttered slowly, not liking the sound of what she heard. As a sixteen year old , she'd been working after school in her uncle's petrol station when it had been robbed. Much the same words had been used, and, with her aunt, she had spent a horrible hour tied up in a back room. Now she sensed that it was about to happen again.

 

"You mean it's a robbery?" Sally asked incredulously. "What for, for heavenís sake?" She waved a hand towards the nearest shelves."There's no money here, just naval stuff"

 

"And tobacco, but no matter, we've got that now. There's just you two to deal with". As Sally scanned the warehouse he added "needn't bother looking for the other Wren. We met her already"

 

"You haven't harmed her, have you?"Sally suddenly remembered that she was responsible for Eileen.

 

"Calm down, she's fine. She's a bit tied up, shall we say" He grinned. "But now it's your turn. Going to do what we say?"

 

"And if we don't? " Shirley blurted desperately. She didn't relish the idea of being tied up.

 

The man didn't raise his voice, but continued "we don't need anybody to get hurt, do we? We just don't want the alarm raised till we're a long way off"

 

Sally could see that they stood no chance against the three men. "We'd better do as they say, Shirley". She tried to sound optimistic and upbeat, though she didn't relish being tied up by these men. Her natural instinct was to flirt her way out of confrontation, but she wasn't going to do that this time. It could all go badly wrong once they were tied up and helpless. "The sooner they finish, the sooner they leave". She looked the tall man in the eye. "That's right, isn't it?" she asked, trying not to sound worried.

 

"The lady understands" he said, turning to the others.

 

"You needn't really tie us up" said Sally hopefully. "There's nothing here to tie us with, the packing stuff is all down the other end". It wasn't quite true, in reality. It was the goods receiving area, and last time she had been here, the two draws at the side of the desk contained a few rolls of tape. And, she recalled, a big pair of sharp scissors. She hoped they were still there.

 

"Not a problem" he said. He turned to the others. "Remember what I said about stockings. And ties. They make it easy for us".

 

Turning back to the Wrens he continued "you two can take your ties and stockings off. It'll save us pulling the place apart finding things to tie you with"

 

Both women stood open-mouthed, then Shirley stepped forward, hands on hips. "If you think we're......" her voice tailed away as he put a finger to his lips.

 

"If you don't, we will. My pals would love that. I'm just trying to keep these red blooded boys under control. All right?"

 

"All right" said Sally, stepping in before the situation deteriorated."We're doing it. Shirl, I'll stand in front of you so they don't watch you"

 

"Thanks" said Shirley sulkily. Having taken her stockings off, she tossed them on the table, hoping that her defiant expression conveyed her contempt. She unfastened her tie, making sure her collar stayed buttoned. She didn't want them looking down at her ample cleavage any more than could be helped. Dropping the tie on the table, she moved round in front of Sally, to give her colleague some privacy. Soon Sally's tie and stockings were on the table with Shirley's. Like Shirley, she had left her collar buttoned.

 

"Leave your shoes off" said the chief robber. "It'll slow you down a bit more". He gestured downwards. "Now get on the floor, face down, both of you".

 

Shirley looked down, then turned angrily towards him. "Look, its concrete. It's cold and it's dirty. Do we have to?"

 

The man who had been referred to without his knowledge, as "spanky", spoke." Why are we talking about this? Normally we steam in, make a noise and everyone does what we tell them" he exclaimed, exasperated. "How come a stroppy bird is saying no to us?"

 

"He's right" said the tall man. "Look, down on that coconut matting! And quick. While we are still being gentlemen".

 

The coconut matting was a six foot square on the other side of the desk. Defeated, the two Wrens shuffled over to it."Gentlemen wouldn't tie us up" grumbled Shirley as she lowered herself to the floor. While the tall man watched, the other two knelt, one at the side of each Wren, and got to work. Each one began by placing his victimís wrists in a crossed position behind her back.

 

"Owww" Shirley moaned, as having wrapped a stocking a few times round her crossed wrists, the man pulled it as tight as possible, then knotted it. "Does it have to be that tight?". Sally, having her hands bound just as tightly, gritted her teeth and said nothing. She was just hoping they wouldn't be trussed up so thoroughly, they wouldn't be able to get to the draw. And that the scissors were still there.

 

She consoled herself by recalling the last time she was tied up, it wouldn't be as unpleasant as that. That was something that Shirley didn't know about, as a Wren of the lowest rank. When she gained her promotion, Sally had heard things about initiation ceremonies, and how awful they could be. She hadn't believed them, but she should have. When it was her turn, she was invited to turn up at the entrance to a complex of wartime buildings at a far corner of the base. She hadn't ever been there herself, but this evening she turned up, dressed as instructed in her new uniform, new insignia on her cap and jacket, though with the same white shirt and navy blue tie. Wrens of rank, who she didn't know but hoped would be her new friends, were there, eight of them.

 

"Do you know what that is?" a tall fair Wren asked her, pointing to the left ďIím Geraldine by the way. One of your new friends ". Following her direction, Sally looked down a flight of six concrete steps, which led to a metal door set in the side of an overgrown grass mound. Sally shook her head warily. "It's an Anderson shelter. A place of safety". The others laughed, in a way that Sally didn't much like. She noticed that one of them was carrying some folded bedsheets, and another one had a brown paper carrier bag. "Let's show our new colleague the place of safety" said the blonde Wren, making her way down the steps.

 

"Come on" said another, taking Sally by the forearm and leading her to the steps. The door swung open, creaking as it went. A light came on, switched on by the blonde. They all trooped inside, Sally was surprised how much room there was. The floor looked like it hadn't been swept since the war. Leaves and dust were everywhere. To Sally's surprise there was a table, covered in dust, and against the wall, a pair of bunk beds. The bedclothes were covered in dust and mould as well, and Sally's eyes were drawn to the spiderwebs that hung from the ceiling.

 

"We call it the duffer test" said a thin-faced, black-haired Wren. "Like Swallows and Amazons". She looked at Sally accusingly. "You've read that, of course?"

 

"Of course", Sally had replied. She was beginning to feel uneasy about her situation.

 

"The test tells us what you're made of. If you're up to the job. If you aren't, you're not going to fit in".

 

"Just tell me what I've got to do" demanded Sally, getting impatient.

 

"Nothing, dear" said Geraldine . "We do it. You just have to show you can deal with it. Don't cry, don't bear grudges and don't snitch". One of the other girls was unfolding the sheets and laying them on the top bunk, covering the filthy fabric that was already there. While watching her, she noticed some movement next to her. Her curiosity was aroused when she saw another Wren taking a folded length of hemp clothesline from the carrier bag. "This test was about staying in here overnight, because it's haunted" the bespectacled. Wren explained.

 

"Haunted, eh. Good thing I don't believe in ghosts then, isn't it" said Sally scornfully.

 

"That's good" said the other. "A while back, one of your predecessors sneaked out when we had all gone, and came back at the crack of dawn, pretending she had stayed all night". She turned to the others, smiling, "we found a way of making sure it doesn't happen again, haven't we?"

 

"Haven't we just" said another voice from behind her.

 

"Now your bed's made, time for night-nights" said Geraldine . " Ready for your dummy?" At this, Sally had looked round to see the bespectacled Wren holding up a length of white fabric with a large knot in the middle. At the same time, she was grabbed from behind, her hands pulled behind her back. As she opened her mouth to protest, the Wren forced the knotted fabric between her teeth and into her mouth, passing the ends to an unseen person behind her. With the speed of a team who had done this many times before, they set to work. "We don't like our gels causing trouble" said the bully in a mock-headmistress voice. "If they're tied up, that doesn't happen. And with that in your mouth, you won't be screaming when you see the ghost". She wanted to shout something like "You can't mean this", but her wrists were being tied securely behind her back, and the clothesline was going round and round her body, pinning her arms to her sides. They obviously did mean it.Finally, her feet were tied together at the ankles and she was lifted from the ground, carried across the room and placed face down on the top bunk. She could smell it, even through the new sheet. Looking sideways, she glared at them. She wasn't going to give them a laugh by trying to speak through her gag. "We'll come and get you in the morning" said Geraldine."Watch out for the ghost. And we'll say goodnight now" . She gave Sally's bottom a slap, and much to Sally's dismay, the other Wrens all did the same as they filed past.

 

There was nothing Sally could do. She knew she was trussed up too securely to get free on her own. She just hoped they were joking about leaving her there all night. The whole thing was a prank, after all, wasn't it? And she didn't believe in ghosts.

 

Even so, she was grateful that they had left the light on. Being bound and gagged in here all night was going to be awful, but in the dark would be so much worse. She rolled over onto her side, facing out into the small room. As time passed, the spiders, who had scuttled away when the room was full, started to appear again. She watched as one repaired a web around the electric light flex, then dropped out of sight. It, or one just like it, climbed the wall opposite a few minutes later. She consoled herself with the thought that they wouldn't climb over her, they would be frightened by her movement. In one of the webs she could see the wrapped carcass of some insect, an unwelcome reminder of her own situation. A bit like a spider's victim. Tied up, juices sucked out, she quickly banished that thought. Then she wondered again about the ghost. There wasn't a ghost, she knew that, but what if someone in a white sheet came in. She wouldn't know who it was. They could do whatever they wanted with a bound and gagged prisoner. Sure, it would only be part of the initiation, but it might not be very nice.

 

The trouble was, as the night wore on, she found herself wondering more and more about what a fake ghost might do with her. What if it was some Lesbian Wren, or some lecherous sailor.?

 

While thinking these thoughts, she had drifted into sleep. When she was woken, at 4.30 the next morning by Geraldine and the thin brunette , she couldn't help feeling slightly cheated by the ghost's failure to appear. And it had been true, she did now think of those girls as colleagues.

 

At least it wasn't going to be like that this time, she reassured herself . We might be here for a couple of hours, but we'll be missed. Someone will come looking for us, she thought. That realization made her feel more stoical about her plight.

 

Once the pair had their hands bound, their captors moved on to tie their feet with the second stocking. Once this was done, the men used the ties, but in different ways, without reference to each other. Sally groaned inwardly as her captor passed the necktie under her bound hands and down to her feet, threading it between them and cinching it round the stocking that tied her ankles. As she was wondering what came next, he pulled it back towards her hands, drawing her bound feet upwards over her bottom. "Nearly done" he said, because he had seen her trying to look over her shoulder. "Keep still!" he emphasized his order by giving her a none-too-gentle smack on her bottom. She fought back the urge to comment, this was one of those situations where she just had to keep quiet and hope it would soon end. As he pulled the tie tight and knotted it, leaving her hands and feet bound close together, only a foot apart, she knew she wouldn't be able to move around. She'd be able to roll over, but that was all. A muffled squeal from Shirley, lying next to her, made her look that way. The other tie was being used on Shirley, but in a different way. Shirley made a protesting grunt as a big knot, in the middle of the tie, was forced into her mouth. She gave Sally a desperate look as her captor knotted the ends at the back of her head. She looked as if she was going to burst into tears. Please don't , Sally pleaded silently. Shirley lowered her head to the floor in despair.

 

Sally turned to look up at the tall man, who was smiling as if in approval. "Why are you doing this to us? You've got what you came for. Who do you think you are?" she wailed.

 

He thought for a moment "Your littIe Irish friend said we were like the seven dwarfs. My friend who's just looking after you thought of dwarf names for us. That was before we gagged her, of course. D'you want to know our names?"

 

Sally, sensing some more unpleasantness and humiliation, said nothing. He wasn't deterred. "I'm Brainy, because I'm clever. He's Ropey, he likes tying people up. The lad who's attending to your mate, he's Spanky". There was a moment of silence. Sally didn't know what to say. Shirley lifted her head from the floor and gave Sally a look of desperation. By way of response the man patted her bottom twice.

 

"You're wondering why, I can tell". He was looking down at her. "You're dying to ask, aren't you".

 

This is all Eileen's fault, Sally thought. I know she's been stealing, that's why I planned the stock check today. If it wasn't for her, these guys would be robbing an empty warehouse. Shirley and me wouldn't be here, tied up, hoping we're not going to get spanked. Eileen would pay for this.

 

She might as well oblige, it couldnít get much worse." Why is he called that" she said as calmly as possible.

 

"See if you can guess". He said. "Give her a clue, Spanky".

 

"What, like this?" Sally, turning to look sideways, watched in horror as the man grabbed the hem of Shirley's skirt and pulled it up to expose her bottom. With both hands, he began to beat a tattoo on Shirley's buttocks. After nine smacks, he pulled the fabric of her dark blue sports knickers and let it ping back. "Not very imaginative, is she?" he commented, resuming the rhythmic smacking of Shirley's bottom.

 

Shirley's face was flushed with embarrassment, and there were tears in her eyes. Tears of anger, Sally knew. She couldn't imagine anything more embarrassing than being trussed up and gagged, then having your skirt pulled up and your bottom spanked, in front of colleagues. Was she going to be next? Speaking on Shirley's behalf might make them stop, or it might make them start on her. She might find she was the one being spanked! It was then that she realised the unexpected benefit of having her hands and feet tied together behind her back. To spank her, they would have to undo that last piece of tying. One thing she knew, Eileen was going to be punished for causing all this.

 

Sally had a brainwave. "The rest of the team get here at half past" she exclaimed" That's probably them now". It had the desired effect. The tall man looked round.

 

"D'you hear anything?" he asked. "Stop that for a moment " he said to the man who was slapping Shirley's upturned bottom.

 

"I didn't hear anything" said the spanker. "Who's coming, anyway?"

 

"Naval ratings. Sailors!" Sally blurted the words out enthusiastically. "We're only here to hand out forms. The sailors do the lugging about". She was on a roll." They could come through either door. They'll give you a spanking when they see what you've done".

 

The third man chipped in. "Look, we got what we came for, almost. We aren't off the premises yet, remember. What if it's true? I don't fancy being here when they come. Letís just go".

 

"Mm, yes, letís get out" said the tall man."Put her down, come on".

 

"Ok" said "Spanky". Flippantly giving Shirley's bottom a final slap, he got to his feet. "We must do it again sometime". Shirley grunted a muffled obscenity through her gag, while Sally said nothing, amazed that her lies had scared them away. She lifted her head to watch as they hurried away, disappearing behind the shelving. Somewhere a door closed, and some minutes later, she was sure she heard a vehicle, louder at first, then fading into the distance.

 

They were on their own. Eileen was somewhere over there, on the far side of the building. The gang had said she was tied up. Well, she can stay tied up, for all I care, she thought angrily. But now they were alone. Bound and alone, gagged too in Shirley's case. There was no team of sailors coming to rescue them. They would have to free themselves or wait.††††

 

She turned to Shirley, who still looked tearful, but was now trying, with bound hands, to push her skirt back over her bottom. "We're going to get ourselves free, we are" she said in her most positive tone. "There's a pair of scissors in that desk draw". Shirley gave her a resigned look and mumbled something unintelligible through her gag. She rolled over on her side and began to maneuver herself into a sitting position. "I can't do that" said Sally. "Look how I'm tied. I can't go anywhere, but if you can get the scissors out, you could cut me loose, then I'll untie you". She was thinking fast, but this would do for a start.

 

Shirley looked over at the desk. The lower of two draws had a handle that was low enough that she could probably reach it, even with hands tied behind her back. She began to shuffle across the floor on her bottom. A few minutes of groping behind her with tied hands, and squirming slowly forward a few inches at a time, and the draw came slowly open. Shuffling round again, she was able to peer inside the draw. What scissors, she thought. The draw was empty. Sally was looking hopefully at her. Shirley shook her head. "No scissors" she tried to say through her gag. Sally understood, but she wasn't happy.

 

"Why aren't there?"She demanded impatiently. "What's in there?" Shirley shook her head emphatically. It wasn't her fault the scissors weren't where Sally had once seen them. Sally sensed her annoyance. "I'm not cross with you, I just thought we'd get free quickly. I wonder where they are. It's Goods Inwards, for heavenís sake. They've got to be around. They're opening packets all the time." She thought for a moment. "What about the top draw? They've got to be in there. Can you get that open?"

 

Shirley rolled her eyes in a gesture of resignation, an unspoken message that wasn't lost on Sally. "I'd do it if I could. I didn't ask to be trussed up like a Christmas turkey. It's bloody uncomfortable if you must know" . The dark humour of their situation suddenly made her smile. "Here we are, been threatened and robbed, tied up tight, you've been spanked, and we're just bickering about who's been treated worse. I'll stop whingeing". Sally had to remind herself that she was the one who held the (slightly) higher rank. She should be taking the initiative.

 

Meanwhile, Shirley had thought of something. She had managed to get into a kneeling position, by leaning across the open draw. Once she was on her knees she used her hands to push the lower draw back in place, then fumbled behind her for the top draw handle. Sally was thinking about the next step. If the scissors were there, it would be up to Shirley to use them, because she was bound in a way that allowed more freedom of movement. All Sally could do was squirm about, face down, or possibly roll onto her side.

 

Having pulled the draw open, Shirley peered inside. "Mmmm" she squealed through her gag, in such an affirmative tone that Sally knew the scissors were found. Shirley looked back at her. Sally couldn't help thinking how her delighted expression seemed out of place, on somebody who was bound and gagged. And there was still a problem.

 

"Can you get hold of them anyway?" Sally asked. Shirley looked back, her face more serious. She thought for a moment, then turned so that her back was to the draw. Fortunately, they hadn't tied anything round her arms and body, so she was, with some stretching, able to get her bound hands over the edge of the draw. Finding the scissors with her fingers was easy, but getting a grip on them was harder. She dropped them inside the draw twice before finally letting them drop to the floor. She stopped to rest for a minute. Sally hadn't realised what hard work it was, but looking at Shirley, red-faced and perspiring, with half of her hair now unpinned, she understood the effort involved.

 

It was progress, but there was a long way to go. "Well doneĒ Sally exclaimed, realising as she spoke how patronising she sounded. "We're still tied up, but at least we've got scissors to get free with". But the scissors were on the floor now, and somebody had to reach them. "There's not much I can do, tied up face down like this" said Sally, hoping she sounded encouraging.

 

Shirley got the message. She tried to lean sideways far enough to reach them from a kneeling position, but with hands tied behind her back it just wasn't possible. She would topple over and hurt herself, and she thought she had suffered enough. Her bottom was still smarting from the spanking. She carefully moved on her knees, over to the desk, and lowered herself into a sitting position , which reminded her just how sore her backside was. And shuffling round so that she could reach the scissors didnít help. Once she had managed to grasp the scissors, that was just the start of the next job. Sally had that already worked out.

 

"It's probably best if you try to snip through the stocking on my wrists. I was thinking you could cut the tie, but if you did that, you'd have to cut the stocking as well, so it saves you a job" she announced.

 

If Shirley hadn't been gagged, she would have suggested that, once the tie was cut, Sally would be just as mobile as she was, and might care to do something, rather than just issuing instructions. As it was, she shuffled on her bottom, across to where she could reach Sally's bound wrists. Straining to see over her shoulder, she was eventually able to force one of the scissor blades between the stocking and Sally's wrist. After an endless cycle of trying to close the scissors, she sometimes felt the fabric being cut, lost her grip once or twice, she heard Sally shout "It's looser. I can feel it. Keep going!" Shirley could feel it as well. It was suddenly easier to push the blade between Sally's flesh and the fabric. Two more determined snips and Sally's hands were free.

 

Stretching her legs, she turned over and sat up. After rubbing her wrists, she leaned forward to her bound feet and started to pick at the knots. "This is bloody impossible " she complained. "

"I need these". She leaned across and took the scissors, which Shirley was holding behind her back. Shirley, who had momentarily though that she was about to be untied, watched resentfully as Sally cut through the nylon. "That's great" she said as she rubbed her ankles. Looking at her wrists, she said, looking at Shirley "It's going to take ages for these marks to go. And It's that thieving bitch's fault"

 

"Now I had better see to you, hadn't I? The police need to be called and everythingĒ. She looked around, scissors in hand, the got to her feet, unsteadily at first. "I wonder if they disconnected the phone" she said, as if somebody was there to answer.

 

"Mmmmmpphh!" Shirley grunted desperately to attract her attention. She had a sudden fear that Sally was going to rush off, forgetting about her, or just seeing her as a piece of evidence. Sally looked down at her.

 

"You need to be untied, don't you ďshe said to Shirley, as if she was talking to a child. She squatted down and began to unfasten the knots that held Shirley's necktie gag in place. Able to speak once again, she ran her tongue round her lips.

 

"You can't imagine how much I need a glass of water" Shirley, ungagged, had a lot to say. "A drink, cold water. As soon as I'm untied". She frowned. "What thieving bitch? You mean Eileen?"

 

"Who else" said Sally. "but if those thugs took all the cigarettes, the stock check won't prove anything. She'll get away with it". She was raising her voice, and Shirley knew this meant she wasn't going to let it drop. "It can't be right that she gets away with it!"

 

"It will prove the robbers took all the fags" said Shirley, getting impatient."Come on, untie me. please!"

 

"Right away" said Sally, but Shirley wasn't happy to see her getting to her feet. "I just need to go to the ladies. I'm simply bursting". She pushed her shoes back on her feet, then set off in the direction of the toilets, at a brisk pace.

 

"Oh, come on. What makes you think I'm not desperate too?" she called after Sally. She was sure that Sally was going to report the robbery. An officer would come, and see how efficiently Sally was handling things "So I have to stay tied up while you get set to show off" she shouted. She was so angry at her treatment. She wanted to stamp her feet and bang her fists on something, and being bound hand and foot just made it doubly frustrating. She just wanted to scream.††††

 

Sally knew that the direction she had taken would lead not just to the toilets, but to the area where Eileen had been working. The robbers had tied her up and left her here, she knew that much. It shouldn't be hard to find her. She had a score to settle, and didn't want Shirley trying to talk her out of it. Or indeed, knowing anything about what she was going to do. She and Eileen would know about it, and nobody else.

 

The gang had joked about tying Eileen up, so Sally wasn't surprised to find her still in the same predicament. She had expected to find the trussed Wren on the floor somewhere ,though, finding her lying on the table, on her side, could be useful. She quickened her pace towards where Eileen looked up at her with an expression of relief, or at least hope. "I bet you think I'm going to untie you, don't you", Sally said quietly. She didn't want to be overheard, not by Shirley, and not by anybody who might come in.

 

Eileen hadn't been able to hear much of what went on at the far end of the warehouse. She had heard male and female voices though, and that meant that some Wrens, probably Sally and one of her team, had arrived. The gang had come back this way, but the Wrens hadn't . She guessed that they must have been captured by the robbers, and left bound and gagged.

 

She had watched the robbers returning with some apprehension, because she hadn't been able to forget the man's remarks about the seven dwarfs. One thing she didn't want was the attention of someone who was nicknamed "spanky" because of his preferences. Her fears were well-founded. As they hurried past, he broke his stride and stopped by her table. Eileen couldn't help making eye contact, lying on her side. His expression was one of gleeful anticipation. Going behind her, he took her by the shoulder and turned her over, face down. She tried to struggle, she didn't want to be spanked. Not by this man, while his grinning mates watched. He placed a firm hand in the middle of her back and held her down. With the other hand, he administered a well placed smack on her bottom, followed by two more in quick succession, before she was saved. "Hey! Come on, we got to go. Put her down!" shouted the tall robber. The other one laughed. The man didn't need to be told again, though, he hurried away with the others.

 

Eileen's foremost feeling was relief. How easily they could have stayed, they could have all spanked her, or worse. She wondered if this sort of thing often happened when women got tied up in robberies. Her bottom was still smarting but her pride was hurt even worse.

 

The minutes passed, and turned into an hour. It was anything but comfortable, lying on the table, tied up with what she thought of as unnecessary severity. She had squirmed around, turned this way and that, rolled over on her front, then her back, every position became intolerable after a few minutes. She had looked over the edge of the table and she knew she didn't have the nerve to let herself drop off onto the floor. She could get injured falling from this height, killed even, with no hands to break her fall. So she stayed on the table, putting up with the discomfort, hoping that rescue wasn't far off.

 

How long would it be before someone else came in, she wondered. It suddenly struck her that the only people who might miss her were tied up themselves. But they were witnesses to the crime. And nobody would ever be able to prove that she herself was a thief, because all the evidence was gone.

 

Every now and then, she could hear Sally's distant voice, too far away to understand the conversation. Did it mean she hadn't been gagged? She certainly wasn't any more. And then she heard Shirley, raising her voice. Something was happening over there. And then Sally walked into view.

 

Eileen was pleased to see her at first, thinking that Sally had come to rescue her. But Sally didn't look pleased to see her. She was red-faced and angry. Her hair was dishevelled, her white blouse was dusty, and she didn't hasve her tie or her stockings on. It suddenly occurred to Eileen that the Wren had probably been tied up with some of her own clothes. Sally strode over to her table and glared down at her.

 

"I bet you think I'm going to untie you, don't you?" she said. Her tone told Eileen all she needed to know. If she wasn't going to be untied, what the hell was going to happen? Sally held her hands out, in front of Eileen's face. "Look at thisĒ she said accusingly. "How long's it going to take for these bruises to clear up". Eileen couldn't help but look at the deep indentations on Sally's wrists. That's what mine will look like, she thought. But probably worse. She glanced down at the many loops of thin curtain cord round her body, that held her, as helpless as a fly in a cobweb. And it won't just be my wrists, it'll be all over me. How long will it take to clear up? I wish I knew. But Sally wasn't looking for answers. "Shirley's had even worse to put up with" she continued, realising as she spoke that maybe Shirley wouldn't want anybody told about her distressing experience. After all, who would want all their workmates to know that they had been spanked. Being tied up in a robbery was bad enough. So she didn't add to her explanation, and Eileen, being gagged, couldn't ask, though her curiosity was aroused.

 

"It's your fault we're here" Sally began, raising her voice as Eileen lifted her head and stared disbelievingly at her. "That's what I said, your fault. I organised the stock check because you've been helping yourself to the cigarettes, but I needed proof. Now there's been a robbery and they took all the cigarettes, so no proof after all. How convenient!"

 

Sally stopped as if an idea had occurred to her. "Maybe you're in on the robbery! "

 

Eileen spluttered a muffled protest. "If you knew what I've been through" she tried to say.

 

But of course, Sally could see it. "They leave you tied up, so nobody knows you are in on it, right?"

 

Eileen couldn't believe what she was hearing. Sally was right about the thefts, of course, and about there being no proof, but she didn't want to be blamed for the robbery.

But things were taking a turn for the worse. "I've got my own way of dealing with this" Sally said, suddenly taking hold of Eileen by the ankles and pulling her feet towards the edge of the table. Eileen hoped at first that she was about to be freed. Sally pushed her feet down towards the floor and pulled her upright, holding her by the knotted cords between her shoulder blades. Then things took a turn for the worse, Sally forced her downwards, so that she was bent over the table, her feet still on the floor. "This is where you get what you deserve "

 

Eileen suddenly realized what was about to happen to her. Oh my god, she's going to spank me, she thought. The mad bitch is actually going to spank me. She tried to stand, but Sally, taller and stronger, pressed her down firmly with a hand in the small of her back. As she squealed in protest, she felt the hem of her skirt being yanked up over her bottom. For a horrible moment she thought that her knickers were going to be pulled down as well, but she was spared that indignity. Her tormentor was in a hurry. "Might as well get it right" Sally said triumphantly. "No point in a punishment that doesn't hurt". Eileen tried to slacken her muscles to cushion the effect of the smack, but it didn't seem to make any difference. It still hurt, right on top of the short spanking she'd had from the robber. Sally's hand wasn't as big, but whereas the robber was spanking her for fun, the Wren was doing it for revenge. "You won't tell anyone about thisĒ Sally muttered, leaning over her."And you better not ever steal anything on my watch". If she could, Eileen would have said that she had no intention of stealing again, that all that was behind her. But with her mouth stuffed with the knotted fabric, some indignant muffled grunts was all she could manage. Held down firmly by the stronger woman, she endured eight more heavy slaps on her bottom before there was an unexpected interruption.

 

They both heard Shirley's voice, on the other side of the warehouse. "Hey! What about me. What's going on?" she shouted. The spanking stopped and Sally relaxed her hold on her victim.

 

"This ends here" she said, close to Eileen's ear. "If you say anything, I'll get you kicked out and sent to prison. Understand?"

 

Eileen nodded her head enthusiastically. Anything to bring an end to this. Now was she going to be untied? She quickly realised that she wasn't. Sally pulled her skirt back down over her bottom, not out of consideration for the bound Wren's modesty, but to conceal her own breach of the rules. "In a while, Shirley and I will come up here, we'll find you and untie you, and you'll be ever so pleased to see us. Because you've been tied up here since the robbers caught you. Got that?"

 

Eileen nodded again. "Good" said Sally emphatically. She pulled Eileen back to an upright position, and holding her by the shoulders, lowered her to the floor by the simple method of knocking her feet from under her. She first sat her prisoner down, then pushed her over on her side, and then, giving her a final slap on the bottom, got to her feet.

 

Eileen looked up at her, expecting some new unpleasantness, but she turned away, walking briskly back to where she had come from. What was going on, she wondered. Shirley must be over there, why hadn't she come with Sally? Why had she shouted? She knew Sally had been tied up by the gang, so Shirley must have been as well. She must still be, or she would surely have come with Sally. The more she thought about it, the stranger it seemed. Sally must have got loose and come over to take revenge, as she saw it, without Shirley's knowledge. So she wanted it kept secret, and that meant that she, Eileen, wasn't going to hear any more about the cigarettes that she had stolen. She felt so relieved, thinking about that. Keeping the job, not being arrested, she realised, was worth what she had gone through. She'd been threatened, tied up, spanked, but she definitely felt as if she had got away with something.

 

One the other side of the warehouse, Shirley was just about to start shouting again when Sally reappeared. Normally Shirley was quite respectful of Sally 's rank, but normally she wasn't left, sitting uncomfortably on a hard floor with her hands and feet tied, while Sally went off doing her own thing. Sally sensed her mood though. "Sorry I was so long in the ladies. Didn't realise how much this business has upset me" she lied.

 

"Yes, well I've been put through it a bit, remember ", said Shirley angrily."Hurry up and get me untied. You aren't the only one who needs to go, you know".

 

Some ten minutes later, Eileen was still lying on her side, bound and gagged, waiting to be found, She hadn't tried to sit up, the way her bottom was smarting, she might regret it.

Suddenly the other two Wrens appeared. As they saw her, they quickened their pace. "Heavens, look, its Eileen." Sally gave a good impression of surprise. "Are you all right? Letís get her undone, poor girl"

 

"Right" said Shirley grumpily."Can't have anyone being left tied up longer than they need to be, can we?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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