The Embezzled Endowment - Part Two
At the Deepdale Industrial Estate, Lucy Talbot was in an uncomfortable situation. The local businesswoman had been relieved of her command, one could say. The bus she drove had been hijacked. Worse, she had been left in a dusty, dirty first aid room in an abandoned factory. As if that wasn't bad enough, she was hogtied and gagged, and the man who had done this thought it would be fun to give her a good spanking before leaving her. Hell, he hadn't even pulled her skirt down over her bottom before leaving her. She wasn't sure she was going to be able to do anything about that. She was tied so securely that she couldn't move, certainly couldn't use her hands. The more she peered around, the more she realised there was a risk of her rolling off of the bunk and tumbling to the floor. She'd been pulling against the knotted cords in vain, and all she had done was make things worse for herself.
The smartly uniformed brunette had decided that the people responsible were going to pay dearly for this. But she realised that in the short term, all she could do was wait to see what happened. Why had she been kidnapped? In thrillers, it was always for ransom, but that couldn't be the reason this time. They weren't rich. The family business was doing well enough, but not so well as to attract that kind of attention. It was either that the band members were going to be kidnapped, or the bus was going to be used as a getaway vehicle. What if they were going to help a number of convicts escape from jail?
When she thought of this, she seized on it as a likely explanation. Why else would they want such a big vehicle? They had talked about picking up passengers. The nearest prison was about fifteen miles away, so it was certainly a possibility. The more she thought about this, the less she liked the implications. If the gang picked up a busload of escaped convicts, it would be sensible for them to come back here, where they could stay out of sight, at least in the short term. And while they were here, she'd be bound and gagged on the bunk. They could do what they liked with her, unless there was a leader who kept them under control. Remembering the spanking and the groping that she had endured so far, she didn't hold out much hope of that. The more she dwelt on what might happen, the worse things got, in her imagination. What if they took her away with them as a hostage, threatening to harm her if the police didn't let them through? She imagined herself being dumped, still tied up, out in the country somewhere, or even worse, thrown overboard from a boat. She frantically tried to struggle, but the cords forcing her wrists together behind her back didn't yield at all. You're being stupid, she told herself. Try to imagine the best thing that could happen, not the worst. Well, the best thing would be that the police burst in, right now, and untied her. And they reassured her by having found the bus undamaged. She listened for any sounds at all, having thought of this possibility. There was nothing. Therewas always the chance that they wouldn't come back, of course. Why would they, in fact, having stolen the bus. They didn't need her any more, that was obvious.
Lucy didn't know how much time had passed. She had given up thinking about her own plight. She had realised that, while in TV thrillers, bound heroines and heroes soon freed themselves, in real life it probably wasn't what happened. She was going to lie here on the bunk, bound and gagged, until someone came to her aid. She knew she'd be reported missing during the day, sooner or later, the police would search empty buildings, and this estate would be one of the first places they would look in. It was annoying to say the least, but it wasn't anything to get worked up and frightened about.
As time passed, she began to realise just how annoying it was. When they had first tied her up, she had assumed she'd at least be able to wriggle about, maybe change her position to get more comfortable. The extra binding that she had undergone, when she was placed on this bunk, made that impossible. As the day warmed up, so did the little first-aid room, and Lucy was getting uncomfortably warm. She knew she was perspiring, even staying perfectly still. If only she could unbutton her collar, loosen her tie, she'd be so much more comfortable. But she couldn't, she could just about move her fingers, the ropes prevented any other movement. She twiddled her fingers behind her back, just to at least enjoy that little bit of freedom.
At first she thought she was imagining it, but there was definitely the sound of a vehicle outside. The familiar sound of her own bus. She listened as it got closer to the room she was in, as the engine was turned off and a door opened.
Not long after Lucy's captors left the industrial estate, they were approaching the small village of Forthwick. Or more precisely, the small brick bus shelter at the edge of the village. The one person they expected to see was there, and she was alone. A middle-aged woman, in the uniform of the Severdale Women's Brass Band, propping up a trombone case with one hand, holding her royal blue blazer over her shoulder with the other.
"This one's not bad either. I love a brunette with a ponytail, don't you?" commented the driver. Annie Edwards would have been complemented to hear this remark, but disappointed by one of the replies.
"A bit on the chubby side for my tastes” said one of his colleagues.
"No, no, look at those boobs inside that blouse" another voice added. It was the man who had put the final touches to the tying up of Lucy Talbot.
"Volunteering to deal with her, are you?" said the driver. "Enough chat, masks on".
Annie had dressed in full uniform before leaving home, but after standing waiting for twenty minutes, theought it was time to take her jacket off. She had just done so, and rolled the sleeves of her white shirt up neatly past her elbows, when the bus appeared. She was on the verge of removing her black clip-on bow tie and unbuttoning her collar, but that could wait till she was aboard. She picked up the trombone and stepped forward.
It wasn't until the door opened that she realised it wasn't Lucy Talbot at the wheel, but a man in a Ronald Reagan mask. And three more of them were suddenly at the door, surrounding her. She was pulled aboard, hands grabbing her arms, another hand over her mouth.
"Do what you're told and you won't get hurt" a voice growled, close to her ear. "Got it? Nod if you understand ". Annie nodded as much as she could with the rough hand over her mouth. "You and your mates are coming with us" she heard one of them say. "No prize for you today".
She was being dragged to the back of the bus, as it pulled away. "You're going to be tied up. Don't make it more difficult than it needs to be". Annie wanted to say, there's no need to tie me up, I won't make any trouble, but they weren't waiting for assurances. The hand pulled away from her mouth, but immediately, a strip of surgical tape was stretched across her mouth and pressed down against her skin. Just for good measure, a second and third strips were pressed down too, slightly overlapping the first one. One of her captors was doing this, while another held her upright. The third one had forced her hands together behind her back and was now binding her wrists tightly. She winced at the tightness of the cords, surely it wasn't necessary. She hadn't been tied up before, but surely it was possible to tie someone securely without it being painful as well. But the man hadn't finished yet, now he was winding the cord round her upper arms and round her body, below her breasts and then above them. As there eyes met, his through the eyeholes of the mask, she could have sworn he was grinning. "There" he said."All neatly packaged. You can sit her down now. No need to tie her feet till we get there". He gave Annie's bottom a slap “move along down the bus" he joked. Annie tried not to overrbalance as the man holding her pushed her down into one of the four seats at the back of the bus. Two of the men seared themselves at the front, behind the driver, while, to Annie's dismay, the last one sat next to her, his arm round her shoulder.
"Won't be long till we're there. Two to pick up at Fainby and we're done," the driver announced. Annie was puzzled because, no doubt, they all knew exactly where the bus was going, and why. Now the excitement had passed, the fearful experience of being pulled aboard, captured and tied up, Annie began to wonder what was going on. Was it a plot to kidnap her, as she had thought for a moment? Obviously not, if they were picking up somebody else. Her two bandmates who were due to board at Fainby, the next stop. Penny and Sophie were going to be abducted as well, by the sound of things. But they weren't the only band members. Had the others already been captured? Where was Lucy Talbot? She should have been driving the bus, was she in on the plot?
It wasn't long before the bus arrived at Fainby, and Annie's mind wandering was forgotten, as she watched the abduction of sisters Penny and Sophie.
"Aren't there any young birds in this band?" commented the driver, addressing nobody in particular. "These two look like they won't see forty again".
The two ladies wouldn't have been pleased to hear this, because they both took a pride in their appearance. Both were blondes, and had been to the hairdresser earlier in the morning in preparation for the performance. They weren't as slim as they had once been, but Annie, listening disapprovingly to the comments, thought they weren't bad for their age. She wondered resentfully what they had said about her.
The pair, both in their band uniforms of black skirt, bow tie and white shirt, were waiting with blazers over their shoulders, instrument cases on the floor next to them, when the bus pulled into view, and were chatting to each other when it stopped. Penny, who boarded first, only noticed the masked driver at the same time as a second masked man grasped her arm and pushed her to the middle of the bus. There shesaw Annie, eyes wide above her tape gag, hands out of sight behind her and lots of rope tight around her upper body. She turned to the man behind her, but didn't know what to say. Obviously she was going to be trussed up just like Annie was, and so was Sophie, who had now been pushed inside the bus right behind her.
"Oh my God, Annie, what's going on? What have they done to you?" Sophie wasn't lost for words, even if she was just addressing silly questions, to a gagged woman who couldn't answer. "Where's Lucy?"
Sit down there, next to each other" ordered the man who had pulled them in. As the two sisters hastily sat down, they noticed the two other masked criminals sitting, one next to Annie, and the other turned to face them.
"We're all going for a short ride, think of me as your tour guide" said the most talkative captor. "If you just keep quiet and do as I say, no harm comes to you. Anyone got a problem with that?"
The bus was moving again now, and both sisters had noticed that it had missed the turning that it should have taken. "Why's Annie all tied up like that?" Penny asked. When she first saw Annie bound and gagged, she had assumed that she and Sophie were going to receive the same treatment. They were being kidnapped after all.
"We're not picking anyone else up, you're the last. She'd have warned you, so she had to be tied up, kept quiet".
"So we're not going to be tied up?" Sophie asked, immediately feeling guilty because Annie had been. "You could untie Annie now, now we're here, couldn't you?" she said. She felt a bit better for having suggested that.
"We could, but she's a warning to you two, to do what we tell you". He flourished a loose bundle of cord in front of them. “Plenty of it left for you two, if needed," he said, taking in their dismayed expressions with some amusement.
"Ok" said Penny. Sophie was about to say more, but an elbow in the ribs from her older sister persuaded her to say nothing.
The gang had decided beforehand that having two women both being tied up, on the moving bus, might attract attention. Annie had been alone, so it was easy for them to deal with her. The two new captives, seeing her already trussed up, would do as they were told for fear of being treated the same. What they didn't realise was that, once the bus arrived at the abandoned industrial estate, they were going to be tied up anyway. Once the hired gang had prevented them from joining the ranks of their brass band at the competition, the job was done. As soon as the Competition Committee realised that some skullduggery was tasking place, they would decide it wasn't possible to proceed with the contest, and it would be called off.
The two sisters knew nothing of this, but if keeping quiet was what it took to avoid being tied up, then that was what they would do. As the bus wove it's way along the road to the unknown destination, they stared out of the windows, on the one hand trying to avoid eye contact with Annie, while occasionally unable to resist looking at her. Penny had always assumed that belng tied up just meant hands behind back, and feet together, which was what happened in television thrillers. But here was Annie, trussed up like a parcel, ropes all round her arms and body, her blouse pulled tight across her breasts by the cords. Her mouth covered by strips of tape, Annie looked so worried, her eyes wide over her gag, as a masked man sat with his arm loosely round her shoulder. She couldn't help noticing that Annie's feet weren't tied, and wondering if that meant that Annie had experienced more than just being tied up. But then she remembered that her bandmate's bus stop was only five minutes before theirs, and the bus hadn't been late. The relief she felt was partly for herself and Sophie, neither of them knew what the next few hours had in store for them.
As the bus took a left turn, heading away from the trunk road toward the industrial estate, both sisters exchanged puzzled glances. Both knew that the estate was no longer in use, it had been quite a local controversy when the last business there had closed for good. Penny didn't say what she was thinking, that the derelict factories were the perfect place to hide some prisoners. The word made her shiver. Prisoners, that's what we are, she thought. But why? Why isn't Lucy driving the bus? There were two possible explanations that she could think of. Lucy could be the mastermind behind whatever was going on. But why? Another option was that the gang had already captured Lucy. And since she wasn't driving the bus, she was probably at the industrial estate already. Probably tied up like Annie was, she realised.
It must be something to do with the band performance, she reasoned. One of the men had said they weren't picking up anyone else, and that didn't make any sense, not at first. She wasn't wearing her watch but she guessed that by now, Diana and Carol would be standing at their bus stop, wondering why it was late. Her train of thought was interrupted, as the bus suddenly pulled into the car park of one of the disused buildings.
The men all suddenly sprang into action. "We're there" said the one who had done all the talking so far. "Everyone does what they're told, and nobody will get hurt". He went to the front of the vehicle and opened the door. "You two, out first" he gestured to Penny and Sophie. They looked at each other, each hoping that her sister had thought of something. Despairingly, Penny got to her feet, and Sophie followed her, both of them clutching their jackets and their instrument cases. Guarded by a masked man, they watched as Annie, helped down the steps with arms bound behind her, was led out to join them. "Don't worry, Annie, we're all together now, whatever's going on". Sophie tried to sound reassuring, as if the women had some influence over the situation. She couldn't help thinking that Annie looked as if she was trying not to cry.
Penny had noticed this as well. "Can't you untie her now?" she addressed the man who was still gripping Annie's arm."There's no need for her to be treated different to us".
"Don't you worry about that, dear, she won't be, not for much longer". One of the others had opened a door, one that had once led to the reception area of the factory.
"Come on, this way" he urged them. Sheepishly thev three women followed him, the two sisters at the front, while Annie, already bound except for her feet, was hustled along behind them. Soon they came to the room where Lucy was already imprisoned.
Inside the poorly lit room, with its dirty frosted glass window, the women gasped in dismay as they saw Lucy Talbot, their missing driver. Penny was the first to speak. She tried to sound reassuring. "Don't worry, Lucy, we're all here now. Things can only get better!" she said brightly. She was trying to cheer herself up as much as the others. She was at least relieved that Lucy, hogtied face down on the bed, looked angry rather than frightened. But looking more closely, and seeing that Lucy's skirt had been pulled up, exposing her bottom, that worried her. What had been done to Lucy, and was it going to be done to them as well?
As the three women and three men squeezed themselves into the room, the women trying to avoid touching the men, one of the gang tossed a bundle of white cord down on the bed, right in front of Lucy. She turned her face hastily away, as if she thought it was to be used on her. From the same bag, he produced a roll of wide adhesive tape, and dropped that as well.
Penny and Sophie both watched in despair as their immediate future became apparent. "You could just untie them, and drive off" Sophie suggested hopefully. “We’re miles from anywhere. We'd take ages to walk to the nearest phone. You'd be miles away by then."
They couldn't see the expressions on the faces of their captors. "Never thought of that, did we, fellers?" said the one who had unpacked the cord. For a brief moment, the women didn't recognize the sarcasm.
"I still think tying them up's the best idea" said one of the others. The sarcasm continued "Two of them haven't been tied up yet. It won't be fair for them to miss out".
"Let’s just get on with it", the third man wasn't inclined to be flippant or flirtatious. "This one can go on the bunk, the other two on the floor. Get on with it! Do their hands while they're standing up, and tape their mouths, it's easier". So saying, he took Lucy by the shoulders and pushed her closer to the wall. Having made a space, he scooped Annie up, one arm behind her knees, lifted her and dumped her down, sitting with her legs over the edge of the bunk. Extracting a yard-long piece of cord from the bundle, he quickly bound her ankles together, looping the cord round till it was almost used up before knotting it. As a final touch, he lifted Annie's bound feet onto the bed, pushed her upwards towards the head of the bunk and turned her over, face down. A slap on her bottom, her feet pulled up toward her bound hands then another length of cord used to fasten them in that position." Keep still, then you won't fall off" he said, in a voice of mock concern.
Penny and Sophie had watched this, but at the same time they were being dealt with. Sophie was bound first, her treatment began with the taping of her mouth. She guessed this was probably because she had spoken out of turn. Three strips of tape were used, she could feel that they were in an X-shape with a horizontal strip to follow. One this was done, the masked man stepped in front of Penny and set about silencing her. Sophie watched this, while the other man was binding her wrists, then her arms, behind her back in the same thorough way that Annie's had been. So much for all being treated the same, she thought. That probably meant that she and Penny would be hogtied on the floor. There wasn't room on the bed. She could imagine how dirty this floor was, even if in the poor light, she couldn't see it very well.
And now she was going to be sitting down there. Sophie felt a tap on her shoulder. Her captor had finished binding her arms.
"I'm going to sit you down" he said. "Don't do anything stupid or you'll be sorry. Your friend here thought it was smart to kick. Now she's had her butt spanked, she's sorry". Lucy, who had raised her head to watch, turned a deep red and averted her face, as the other three turned her way, Annie looking frightened, the two sisters looking sympathetic.
The kidnapper didn't realise the effect of his remark, and carried on dealing with Annie. Hands on her shoulders, he pressed her downwards, then with a hand behind her knees, forced her down into a sitting position. He pulled her feet out in front of her, almost tipping her backward as he did so. Dropping to his knees in front of her, he began to bind her feet together at the ankles, crossing them over so she wouldn't be able to stand up. He stood up for a moment and reached for something, she couldn't see what. For a brief instant she thought he had finished with her. Not for long though, he was soon down at her level again. Taking her by the shoulders, he lowered her ont o her side on the dusty floor, turned her over onto her face and gave her bottom a swat. Ignoring her squeal of protest he pulled her bound feet upwards, looped more cord round them and fastened the other end to her bound wrists. She couldn't see the two bound women on the bed, but she knew she was tied in the same way as them. Glancing to her right, she could see Penny being bound, the final touch, hogtying her ankles to her wrists, was just being completed.
The masked man got to his feet. "Out, time to go" said one of them. Without a further word, they all suddenly left, their four captives in the gloomy little room still mystified as to why they had been kidnapped.
Lucy had momentarily thought she was going to be rescued when the door burst open, but when the masked men came in with the three bandswomen, she realised that things were actually getting worse. Lying here bound, she had hoped her passengers would report her missing, and she would soon be rescued. Now they were joining her in captivity, so what was going to happen now? And then the bombshell was dropped. She definitely wasn't going to tell a soul about being spanked by her captor, but now the three women with her knew about it. She had seen the looks on their faces. But, she decided, rather than feeling crushed, she should be positive. Now there were four of them, they might be able to free each other. She hoped the others were tied a bit less strictly than she was. Her hands and feet were pulled painfully close together, so that every movement was painful. It had been done out of spite, just like the spanking. She knew she was going to have serious ropemarks on her wrists and ankles.
Of the four, she was the one least able to do anything about their situation, as she was fastened face-down to the bed. The others could at least wriggle about, she thought self-pityingly. She wondered how likely it was that they would escape before she could. Annie, lying next to her but facing the opposite way, hadn't moved since being dumped down on the bed and having her feet tied. Lucy couldn't see her face. Looking down at the two sisters, bound face down on what must be a filthy and dusty floor, she was more reassured. Penny and Sophie were squirming round trying to get closer to each other, trying to find each others hands. As Lucy watched intently, she could see that the knots on Penny's hogtie cords hadn't been pulled very tight, certainly not as tight as her own felt. The men hadn't been quite as conscientious about tying up their last two captives. Sophie's fingers, fumbling and uncertain at first, were finding the knots and pulling at the right part, in the correct direction. It was amazing, Lucy thought. She couldn't imagine herself being able to do that. But she could see what neither of ths sisters could see. The knots that Sophie was working on weren't the ones that bound Penny's wrists, they were the ones that fastened the hogtie. It was going to take them a bit longer than they thought it would. Still, it was progress, she thought. Once Penny's hands were free, well, it couldn't be long after that and they would all be free.
It seemed like an eternity, but an hour later, Lucy was watching with a growing feeling of urgency as Penny, having eventually been painstakingly untied by her sister, set about freeing Sophie. The urgency was not surprising, Lucy had set off at the wheel of her bus, quite a while ago. She couldn't see a clock, but it must be nearly four hours since she had a pee. Maybe she shouldn't have had that second coffee before leaving. Don't think about it, she told herself.
Now both sisters were untied and on their feet. "Who d'you think organised this?" Penny asked, addressing nobody in particular. "Why would someone want to kidnap us? Not likely to be for ransom, is it?"
"Can't imagine," Sophie said by way of an answer. "Must be something to do with the competition, mustn't it?”
A high-pitched and impatient "Nnnngggggk" from the bunk bed reminded them that they weren't alone. When she saw the sisters standing up, unbound and ungagged, she assumed they'd be freeing her and Annie as a matter of urgency, preferably her first. Now they were standing around chatting. "Mmmmmph!" she grunted again, frantically.
The message was understood, suddenly. "Lets get these two untied first, then I've got to find the loo" said Sophie. "I bet that you two are dying to go, aren't you?"
Lucy repeated herself loudly and emphatically "mmmmppph!” Almost immediately, Sophie was standing over her, pulling at the cords around her arms.
"This is going to take all day" she commented. "Have a look round, Penny, it's a first aid room, there's got to be scissors somewhere ". After an age, she managed to unpick one of the knots holding Lucy's feet. Not the one that bound her feet together, but the one that held them in a hogtie. At least she was able to straighten her legs out.
"Over here" She heard Penny's voice excitedly announcing a find. "Here's all the stuff. Scissors and scalpels and stuff". At last, thought Lucy.
Andy Turner, a self-styled "man with a van", was in a hurry to get to his next job. He'd sat in his van, eating his sandwiches and listening to the radio for longer that he should have. He'd been listening to a local radio station, the news on the hour, when the last item caught his attention. He stopped to listen, instead of starting his engine, it seemed such a strange thing to happen out here. The annual brass band competition, which he knew about but wasn't interested it, had been due to take place this afternoon. It seemed that three members of a women's brass band had gone missing. They had failed to arrive at the competition venue. The small bus that was collecting them was also missing, as was its lady driver. The police spokesman seemed to suggest that there was an attempt to interfere with the outcome of the competition. Why would anybody bother, Andy thought, but then the spokesman mentioned the prize money.
He had forgotten about the news broadcast when, rounding a bend in the road, he noticed four women walking. There was never anybody on foot around here, he thought. They were heading in the same direction as him, but they turned to look, they must have heard him coming. Now they were waving frantically. Four middle-aged women, all looking a bit dishevelled, in uniforms that were crisp and smart not many hours ago. He was running late as it was, ordinarily he'd have driven past, pretending he hadn't seen them. They weren't going to let that happen, two of them stepped out into the road. Andy, realising he could be the hero of the hour, pulled over to the side of the road just before he reached them.
As he stopped his vehicle, one of them, a brunette whose uniform wasn't quite the same as the others, opened the passenger door of the van. He was about to get out of the van himself, and ask what they wanted, though he had guessed.
"Can you get us all in?" she asked, and without waiting for an answer, “You need to call the police, quick".
One of the others joined in "We've all been kidnapped".
"Ok, ok, you better all get in the back. I'll open the back doors". He unfastened his seat belt. "Where d'you want to go? Hospital? Police station?