THE EMBEZZLED ENDOWMENT – PART 1
In a dingy office on the first floor of a Victorian factory building in the North of England, a plan was being hatched.
"What are you smirking about?" Cyril Arkwright eventually had to ask. His younger brother Cedric had worn a self-satisfied expression ever since arriving at the office half an hour ago.
"I've got the solution to our little problem. You're gonna like this"
"Our little problem that you helped to cause, with your investments. Can't fail, I remember that" Cyril was inclined to be dismissive before he had even heard his brother's idea. For over eighty years now the family brickworks had sponsored the local Annual Brass Band competition, providing a prize of £25,000. This year, although the recession was taking its toll, it should have been possible for the firm to donate the prize. The trouble was that Cedric had a friend who was in some way connected to the Stock Exchange. The brothers had listened to his advice and invested the prize money some six months ago. As is the way with the best laid plans of mice and men, the expected gain had not materialised. It was going to happen, it would just take longer to liquidise the asset, the stockbroker assured them. But now the brothers had no money available for the prize. The family firm had a reputation to lose. Some creative thinking was required.
"Tell me something that I'm going to like. I'm trying to remember how that feels" Cyril remarked bitterly.
"Well listen to this. What sort of thing would justify the trustees in withholding payment of the prize money" Cedric looked at his brother triumphantly.
Cyril rolled his eyes. "I knew this would be something barmy. We can't just not pay out. There would have to be some definite skulduggery. Somebody cheating. Even then, we'd just disqualify the cheats, and pay the winner."
"Ah, but what if everybody knows somebody's cheating, but nobody knows who. Here's how it works. One of the bands is sabotaged. One of the others obviously did it, they must have. Nobody knows who, though. All of them have a vested interest in one of their rivals having some misfortune".
"Well how will that happen? None of those bands are at all dodgy. They're all too bloody honest for their own good". Cyril wasn’t convinced.
"I'll make it quick" said his brother impatiently."The day of the finals, some band players get kidnapped and don't turn up. They get loose and show up of course, and make a fuss. They have to know it was sabotage, or at least, have a convincing reason for saying so. So it looks like one of the other bands must have organised it. All that would be a legitimate reason to suspend payment of the prize money. We couldn't pay out in those circumstances, could we?"
"No, I suppose not. Well, no actually, we definitely couldn't. It would be like rewarding dishonesty. What would we do, roll the prize money over until next year's contest?" Cyril looked happier now, but he was still trying to be one step ahead of his brother. He thought of an immediate disadvantage. "The Mordenstall Band and the Scaleworth Band always win, one or the other of them. We're going to have them kidnapped and kept out of the way for a while, right?"
"Right. Sort of anyway" Cedric grinned."He's got it at last".
"Who'd want to try kidnapping that lot? They’re all miners and rugby players, hard men. I wouldn't want to try it on with them".
"Well, that's where you are wrong. The Severdale Women's Brass Band. Some of the established bands are seriously worried about them, think they might win. Did you know the Riverdale Band chairman tried to have them barred because they weren't men, but found they couldn't pull it off. There's a lot of resentment. It wouldn't surprise anyone if there was an attempt to stop them competing. If somebody tried to sabotage them, we’d have to call it off. Couldn't be seen rewarding skullduggery, could we? If some of them were abducted, just temporarily, kept out of the way. Doesn't have to be all of them."
"This is beginning to make sense. It has to be foolproof, though, don't want the finger pointed at us afterwards" said Cyril. "Tell me more".
"Well, the women's band always uses that Talbot Transport minibus. Lucy Talbot, that's Dave Talbot's wife, drives them usually. She starts by picking up a couple of the women who live out at Forthwick, then goes to Fainby for another one, then comes into town to collect the rest. Think about the route she takes, over the hills on lonely roads at first. And then, before coming back into town, past the Deepdale Industrial Estate, of blessed memory, all the units vacant, are you with me so far. I have acquaintance with some lads who do this sort of thing for a living. Discretion is assured when the price is right, with these guys".
"So I should hope. So can I assume this isn’t one of my little brother's hare brained schemes, but is actually an idea that's been thought through, might save our bacon even?"
"Definitely!" said the little brother, ignoring the reference to his past failures."We play no part in it, except that, when we hear about the dirty deeds, we'll have no option but to postpone the presentation of the prize money, most probably till next year. I mean, we owe it to Lucy Talbot and the women in the band not to reward the criminals who have subjected them to such an ordeal. It would be tantamount to rewarding dishonesty".
"I'm impressed by your upright moral stance" said Cyril. "We'll go with it".
The family firm of Talbot Transport were pleased to acquire new regular customer, and the Severdale Women's band was proving to be a lucrative contract. On this sunny June morning, the white ten-seater with the distinctive red and black livery was setting off on this assignment. At the wheel was Lucy Talbot, wife of the owner, who was as particular about her own appearance as she was about the cleanliness of her vehicle. Today she looked as smart as usual in her uniform of a crisp white blouse with a neatly knotted necktie with red and black stripes (matching the livery of her vehicle). Her black knee length skirt was part of a suit, but she had left the jacket at home today. She wore low-heeled black shoes for comfort, but, as a treat for her husband later in the day, she was wearing dark stockings instead of tights. Lucy, a well-nourished brunette in her late forties, always drove the minibus on these occasions, and was fond of saying that she knew the route backwards. She was popular with the passengers because of her hearty laugh and her broad-minded sense of humour.
The vehicle was five miles into the journey, on a minor road heading for the hamlet of Forthwick, when Lucy came across something she didn't expect to see. Two vehicles were almost blocking the road, one of them looking at first glance like a Police van. The second one, a dark blue Cavalier, seemed to have gone into the hedge, though not very far. What was more worrying, a man was lying at the edge of the road, next to a bicycle. A policeman was crouching next to him, so Lucy braked sharply as she approached. She was glad she had, a second uniformed policeman stepped out from the other side of the van and gestured to her to stop, directing her to pull into the side of the road behind the van.
She put the bus in neutral and sat there, expecting one of the policemen to come over to her, but neither of them did so. They both stood facing away from her, apparently looking at the injured cyclist. What had happened, she wondered. She didn't care to get out and look, she was a bit squeamish where accidents were concerned. She peered at the prone cyclist and was relieved to see that there wasn't any blood. The policemen had their backs to her and seemed to be fumbling with something at the level of their faces. They still hadn't come over to explain. Why not, it just wasn't good enough, she thought. She knew all the local policemen, two of them quite well in fact, and she wasn't used to being treated in such an offhand way. Irritated, she stepped down from the bus and without closing the door, strode purposefully over to them. She wasn't quite sure what to say, she was annoyed but it was an accident after all. Before she had a chance to speak, though, the cyclist jumped to his feet. That was when she noticed his face. Ronald Reagan, one of those masks. Her heart jumped as she realised the implication of this, as the two uniformed men turned to reveal two more Ronnie Reagan masks. Lucy froze. All three of them suddenly surrounded her, one of the uniformed men brandishing a long club. Was it a baseball bat? She had heard of criminals threatening victims with them, but she hadn't ever seen one.
"Holy shit!" she exclaimed. The first thing that came into her head, not the sort of thing she usually said. Something she had heard in a film.
One of them laughed, but the other one barked "Shut up and do exactly what we say. Where's the keys to the bus?"
"They're in the ignition. What do you want with me, I haven't got anything" She noticed the "cyclist" pulling a bulky bundle of white cord from his pocket. "What for?"She wondered momentarily. Then the penny dropped, causing her to catch her breath in, was it fear, was it excitement? Surely they weren't going to tie her up, but why else was he unravelling it. She raised her hands to fend them off as they closed in on her.
"Let’s get her tied up and silenced. Get her hands" said the cyclist, miraculously up on his feet. He had a mask on the back of his head, and now he was dragging it round to the front. She had seen him before somewhere, but where?
"You and the bus, that's what we want. Don't give us any trouble, you won't get hurt then" one of the others said, quieter.
One of the men grabbed her by the left hand but she pulled herself free and aimed a kick at the shin of another kidnapper. "You must be bloody joking. You think you're having my bus, do you?".
The man who she had kicked recoiled for a moment. "Aaah, she can kick" he howled. Numbers prevailed, though. As Lucy turned to hurl an insult at him, the man with the club swung it backwards as if he was going to hit her. The other one grabbed her by her right hand as the club man said "Enough now". She saw the club swinging toward her and froze."This will hurt you" the club man barked, meaning his club."You won't look so good after this". The kicked man moved toward her threateningly, but the club man gestured him away.
"All right, all right" she said. Being captured was preferable to being injured. The club-wielding man relaxed. The other man seized her left wrist and pulled both of her hands behind her. Addressing her again he said "You can't stop us, you'll only make things worse for yourself". As the man behind her forced her wrists together, Lucy realised the truth of this. Now it was too late to resist. In spite of herself she felt a tingle of excitement, knowing she was about to be tied up. The helpless prisoner of four masked men, anything could happen to her. His next remark didn’t please her though. "You two get the fat bird trussed up and put her up the back, I'll clear this lot up".
Lucy gritted her teeth. She was one of those ladies who went through life thinking she was overweight, but her friends and acquaintances never mentioned it. And though she was married, she had her share of admirers. Where does this guy get off calling me a fat bird, she thought. But now she was captured, about to be trussed up. She wondered glumly what that would involve, what level of discomfort and embarrassment would she have to put up with? It sounded like being tied up, only worse, more thorough. Behind her back, out of her sight, her crossed wrists were soon securely fastened and the man had moved on. Now he was passing the cord round her upper arms, drawing them backwards, then it was going round in front of her, below her bust, then round again above her breasts. She expected him to stop, but he hadn't finished. Round and round her the cord went, pinning her arms to her sides, then he was doing something behind her, the ropes all got tighter and her hands seemed to be drawn upwards, fastened to the ones round her body. This is how it feels being trussed up, she thought. She had sometimes wondered, when she read in the paper about robberies, how it would feel. Scary, but with a strange feeling of being the centre of attention. What are my chances of ever getting loose on my own, she wondered. She had planned to meet up with Dave at lunch time, after delivering the bandswomen to their engagement. That wasn't going to happen, she realised with a sinking heart.
Lucy suddenly felt sorry for herself. She had taken some trouble over her appearance, planning a nice afternoon with her husband, which was what the stockings and suspenders, and the make-up were for. Now these horrible men had forced their way into her life. They just wanted the bus. To them she was just a fat bird, who had to be trussed up and shoved out of the way somewhere. But there was worse to come. Once the task of trussing her up was finished, she noticed that one of the men had produced a roll of adhesive bandage. Flesh-coloured, the sort that came with a first aid kit. Using a penknife, he cut a strip off, a few inches long. "No" pleaded Lucy, realising its purpose. Bound and gagged, she remembered the phrase from detective stories. She had been bound, so being gagged would complete the process. "Please, there's no need. I'll be quiet". She really didn't want her mouth taped up. She had never been so helpless.
"S' got to be done. Don't make it difficult". He looked her in the eye, his stare intimidating through the mask. "You'll be out of here soon enough". Lucy knew he was right, and anyway, with her arms bound behind her back it was too late to resist. Reluctantly, she stood still while he stretched the bandage across her mouth from cheek to cheek and smoothed it down.
"Get her in the bus" said one of the others "somebody will be along here soon and if they spot her tied up like that, then we're in the crap. Remember we've got more to do than just grabbing her". She heard this remark and wondered what the rest of the operation consisted of.
"Right" agreed the man who had been tying Lucy."You going to walk in, or you going over my shoulder" Lucy looked at him, startled. She didn't want to be slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, if somebody helped her up the step of the bus, she'd gladly walk in. She guessed they wanted her to sit at the back, but she didn't know why. As it happened, the decision wasn't hers. Bending unexpectedly and grabbing her round the knees, he lifted her up off her feet, and she was suddenly face down over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift. She tried in vain to wriggle, and kicked her legs backwards, stopping abruptly when he landed a hard smack on her bottom, followed by another."Don't think I won't spank your arse" he said cheerfully." I'd love to put you over my knee, so better behave yourself" As he moved toward the doorway of the bus, it occurred to Lucy that if she struggled too much, he might unintentionally drop her, and she could, no, would, get hurt.
Once inside the bus. Lucy's captor hurried to the back and lowered her unceremoniously onto the bench seat. "Enjoy the ride" he said."There's some lovely scenery where we're going" as he turned to join the others. At least I'm sitting upright, she thought. She could have just been dumped on the floor, or worse, stuffed under the seat. She remembered with a shiver the last time she had been caught up in a robbery.
She had gone to the bank to deposit the week’s takings (they dealt in cash more in those days) and was queuing at the counter, behind a woman she had never seen before, when three masked men burst in, waving pickaxe handles. They ordered the two customers to kneel on the floor with hands on their heads, and shouted instructions at the pretty blonde cashier who was in sloe charge of the branch that day. The girl coped well with the situation, calming the men down by looking tearful and behaving in a flirtatious way. They seemed less threatening, but the chivalry was confined to the young girl. Lucy and the other woman were treated most unceremoniously. "Get the two old bags taped up" said one of them. Silently fuming, Lucy was dealt with first, her hands taped behind her and a strip pressed over her mouth. She watched as the other woman, a dumpy redheaded managerial type in a smart grey suit and crisp white blouse, was dealt with, then they were led to an unlit cleaners cupboard and shoved inside, both receiving a hearty slap on the bottom as they were pushed inside. Her anger was slightly mollified when, fifteen minutes later, the door flew open and the pretty blonde, similarly taped up, was shoved inside. Serves the snooty cow right, Lucy had thought at the time. She had seen the girl grinning when the robber referred to them as old bags. Well, she was being treated just the same in the end.
But now, Lucy was being treated with just as little respect.
"Her feet" snapped the former cyclist. "She needs her feet tied". Lucy had been hoping they just didn't think it was necessary. "She kicks, remember, tie her feet" he went on .I hope it hurts, she thought, but didn't speak the thought out loud. The talk of spanking had made her realise just how helpless she was. The other man turned and came back to her, dropping into a squatting position in front of her. The bundle of cord in his hand, he laughed again. "It's going to be a long day for you, but you won't get hurt if you do what you're told".
Lucy drew her feet back instinctively. She wasn't intending to kick, she guessed it would have consequences for her. Consequences that she wouldn't enjoy. The man didn't know that, though, and wasn't taking any chances. He grabbed her feet and pulled them out in front of her, forcing them together roughly before looping the cord round them three times and cinching it between her ankles, pulling it tight and knotting it. Their eyes met as he fastened the knots, but she quickly turned away. He had a glint in his eye that didn't bode well. She dreaded what might happen if she was left in his care for any length of time. She could handle being around men who found her attractive even though she didn't fancy them,, but this was the first time she had been the bound and gagged prisoner of such a man. She just hoped he wasn't the leader of the gang.
What on earth did they want, she wondered. Her and the bus, they had said. But they didn't need her now. Three of them were sitting at the front, while one of them drove. He wasn't driving very well, Lucy thought indignantly. He would ruin the gearbox if he drove like that for long, she thought. When this is over, it's us who are going to have to pay for the repairs. The fourth man must be driving the van.
Some tentative struggling had confirmed Lucy's fear that she had been tied by experts, and she wasn't going to get free on her own. There was nothing for it but to watch the scenery fly by. She was familiar with the roads, but she was alarmed when the bus turned into the entrance of the old Forthwick Industrial Estate. She had no idea why she was being kidnapped, but it couldn't be for ransom. They had no money to speak of. It had to be part of some bigger criminal enterprise. But there weren't any businesses on the trading estate now, everybody knew that. With increasing apprehension she realised that they must be going to hold her prisoner on the estate, but why? And how long? Her lurid imagination was fuelled by watching TV thrillers. What if they were going to force Dave to commit some crime, with the threat of harming her if he didn't co-operate. One thing was certain, criminals wouldn't hijack a bus and kidnap the driver just for something trivial. There would be a long prison sentence awaiting them if they got caught.
The bus pulled into a space between a high wooden fence and a two-storey building that had been a factory, in the recent past. She realised that it wouldn't be seen by anybody unless they came close to the space. The two men at the front of the bus got out, the one who had tied her feet looking back at her to call" Don't go away!". They both went through a door at the end of the passage, into the building. Lucy had noticed the main entrance, at the front, but they had ignored that. Why? She realised that she was probably going to be taken inside, and the front door was too visible. And then what? Left on her own, she didn't dare to change position. They would be back soon, and she didn't like the way that man had joked about spanking her.
Things like that didn't really happen, she told herself. But an unwelcome little voice in her head reminded her that out here in the middle of nowhere, with her bound and gagged, he could do whatever he wanted with her.
They soon reappeared, coming to the rear of the bus in single file. "Been sorting out your accommodation for the next few hours" said the talkative one. "I think we carry her out. Can't be bothered with untying her feet and tying them up again when we're inside".
"No, it'll take too long. We got passengers to collect, remember" replied the other one, not realising the attention that Lucy was paying.
Now her mind was racing. Passengers to collect? That must mean the band members, they were her next passengers. Were these guys going to kidnap the band? What would be the point of that? That couldn't be the reason they had stolen the bus and abducted her, it made no sense. But they must be going to use the bus to transport some unwilling passengers, or why go to these lengths. She would have loved to ask, if her mouth hadn't been taped up. Her train of thought was interrupted by her captors.
"Come on, love, time to go". It was the one who had pretended to be the injured cyclist. Standing behind her, he took her by the shoulders and raised her from the seat, while the other one leaned forward, putting his shoulder against her stomach. The fireman’s lift again! Lucy remembered what happened not long ago. She didn't kick her legs this time, not that it would have been easy with bound ankles. She took the threat of spanking seriously, and there was the risk of being accidentally dropped. She decided to behave herself, and attract as little attention as she could.
The damage had been done, though. Hanging down over his shoulder, she was mortified when, as well as holding her with his left arm across the back of her knees, he steadied her by dipping his right hand up her skirt and pressing it against her bottom. Once they had descended from the bus, things got worse. Now there was no risk of dropping her, the right hand relaxed its hold and began to explore. Lucy couldn't suppress a high-pitched and startled squeal as two fingers ventured between her buttocks towards her vagina. The fingers remained determinedly in place as the man carried her into the building, through two doorways. She guessed that the man at the front, opening the doors, didn't know about the little treat that his mate was enjoying.
In a corridor lit only by reflected sunlight, they stopped. "Madam's accommodation " the leading man joked. The old first aid room from when it was a factory". There was no electricity in the unused building, but the room had a yard-wide frosted glass window on one side, opposite a very basic bed. Lucy had seen first-aid room beds before, just comfortable enough for people to lie on until they felt better, or were collected by an ambulance. And how long have I got to stay here, she wondered.
"We're leaving you here while we get the others" explained the door-opener. "It's rather basic, just call room service if you need anything"
The last remark made Lucy hopeful, just for a moment. She knew it was a joke, but maybe they were going to untie her, and just lock her in. Surely she didn't need to be trussed up as well? But fate had decided otherwise. As she was deposited on the bed, small clouds of dust being forced out, the second man, the one with the wandering hands, pulled another bundle of twine from his pocket, the same twine that she was already bound with. "Just got to make sure you won't fall off" he said sarcastically. She had been placed on her side on the bed, but he rolled her over onto her front, before pushing the end of the twine down between the bed and the wall. She watched as he reached under the bed and found the end, then pulled it back out. She felt him threading it through the ropes behind her back, the ones holding her upper arms, then knotting it. Now she was fastened face down, she realised, there was nothing she could do except lay there and wait to be rescued. He leaned over, his face close to hers, grinning. "Nearly done" he said. Looking past him, she saw the other man going out of the room. He looked round as well, then stood upright.
"Time to go, come on" the voice from the corridor sounded impatient.
"Just finishing off. I'm right behind you". But he still had things to do. Lucy guessed something unwelcome was going to happen, and she was right. "I bet you love it really" he said as he pulled the hem of her skirt back to expose her bottom. "Wow! Stockings!". Lucy gritted her teeth. What was he going to do? She soon found out. A heavy smack landed across her bottom, which was still stinging as the next smack came. Lucy counted up to six slaps, all delivered enthusiastically. "Six of the best" he announced proudly. Then, without bothering to pull her skirt back down, he got to work with the twine again. She felt him passing it round her already- bound ankles and knotting it tightly. She assumed that he was going to anchor her feet to the bed-frame, but instead he pulled her feet upwards and over towards her bottom. Then, having given her bum another smack, he passed the end of the twine round her arm-ropes, somewhere between her shoulder blades. Now she really wasn't going anywhere.
"Don't get up to anything now" he called as he closed the door. "We won't be long"
Lucy lay there on her own, fuming with anger. What a liberty! A mature woman, a partner in a successful business being spanked. Tied up, her skirt lifted up and spanked on her bottom, like a naughty schoolgirl. That is indecent assault, she thought. But the more she thought about it, the more she decided she wasn’t going to tell anyone. Maybe Dave, at an appropriate moment, but nobody else. It was going to be bad enough. Whatever was going on here, it would get in the papers, all about her being kidnapped and tied up. If she mentioned the fine details to the police, they would blab to the press, and the local rag would love that. She could imagine the headlines. "Local businesswoman bound and spanked by kidnappers". Well, it wasn't going to happen, she would keep her mouth shut and nobody would know.
Her thoughts soon returned to the question of why she had been kidnapped, and who was going to join her. How long would she have to wait to find out?