Sara Abandons Ship
"Go over this with me one more time. You want to go investigate a creepy old house in a near deserted part of town that’s probably filled with criminals, in order to get even with a guy fresh from a 1950’s detective comic who taped you to a chair and nearly had you blown to pieces.”
Harriet blinked at me. “And you think it’s a good idea because...”
“Because it’s finally our chance to prove we have what it takes to be girl detectives. If we bring down someone like this Mr White then people might start taking us seriously.”
Rachel, Abigail and Harriet all looked between each other uneasily, before they all looked at me again. They all knew there would be no point trying to change my mind, but I could tell they wanted me to.
Before we continue, a quick recap for you new to my adventures. Last Saturday I was at my work experience placement, at a private investigation firm run by Abigail’s sister Felicity. It was just us in the office, so we were the only people an intruder calling himself Mr White needed to bind and gag when he waltzed in armed with a pistol. He was looking for evidence Felicity had accumulated on illegal activities he was conducting in a property on the outskirts of Carrington. He taped us to some chairs, set up an explosive device on a timer, and abandoned us to our fate. It was only thanks to Abigail’s timely arrival that I’m still here to tell you about my adventure firsthand.
All this was fresh in Abigail’s memory, as she leaned over the dining table situated in our college cafeteria, where were sat having our lunch. “Listen Sara, my sister has already passed on all the information she had about that creep to the police. Why not let them handle it for once?”
“Yeah, I mean your first encounter with Mr White is solid gold, probably make a great first chapter in my book, but I don’t want to risk you not being in the rest of the story,” Rachel chimed in.
I should probably mention Rachel has this dream of becoming a world famous novelist and was hoping to use our many adventures as inspiration for her first book. She’s a little miffed I sort of started writing my own stories first, but she’s fine with it now she has plenty of her own adventures to talk about. She says hi to all you reading by the way.
“Just think about all the extra sales you’ll get if we catch him,” I reasoned, trying to appeal directly to her purse, which worked on her more often than not.
Not this time though. “Going after some sort of crazy pantomime gang leader isn’t exactly the best way to ensure a safe financial future for myself.”
“Come on,” I said in a ‘rally the troops’ sort of way. “If we can’t deal with a criminal like that weirdo then what’s the point of us becoming girl detectives in the first place?”
“Exactly what I’ve been telling you for years Philips,” a drawling voice said from behind me.
I knew I’d come face to face with the smirking face of Vicky Masterson before I had even turned to face her. My detective rival’s blonde hair was swept off her face and held back with a black headband. She was dressed as dark as possible with a long sleeved black top, grey jeans and flat heeled, black suede boots.
“Sorry, wasn’t aware you were handing out critiques,” I snapped back.
“Aw still mad at me for what happened at Martins little hideout?” she smiled. “But how could that be? I was the one who had you all rescued wasn’t I?”
“After leaving us tied up for the police to rescue us, five hours after you found us in the first place.”
“How else were you supposed learn that it’s best to leave detective work to the professionals? Seems you didn’t get the message unfortunately.”
“Look we can’t be dealing with this right now,” Harriet retorted. “We have our own problems to be dealing with.”
“Like the mysterious Mr White?” Vicky enquired, her eyes shining with excitement. “Fascinating isn’t he? I’m going to investigate his rumoured hideout as soon as I finish here.”
“Not if I get there first,” I muttered a little too loudly.
Vicky gave a snort. “What, dressed like that?” she remarked, referring to my outfit that consisted of a grey hoodie, short jean skirt, jet black tights and bright blue, flat heeled pumps. Giving a swish of her hair she added, “You’re even more of an amateur than I realised. See you later Philips!” Then she turned on her heel and left us in peace.
“That does it,” I growled. “I’m going to that address.”
“But you can’t go there alone Sara...” Rachel began, but I ignored her. It was now a much more important issue than simply catching a deranged criminal. Even if I was on my own there was no way I was going to be beaten to the scoop by bloody Vicky Masterson.
I sighed as I stood up from where I had been kneeling on the dusty floor. Not a trace of that creep. I gazed about the abandoned building I had arrived at twenty minutes ago. It was an old Victorian property situated by the river on the outskirts of town. The rooms were completely bare, with the wallpaper stained yellow and peeling off of the walls. The only indication that someone had been in here recently were a number of trails in the dusty floor created by multiple footsteps. Apart from that there was no way of telling if it really had been used for the headquarters of a criminal gang or not.
Brushing the dust off of my clothes I cursed myself for wasting my time. I should have realised that there would be nothing here, and that Mr White would have cleaned this place out just in case the police came knocking. I decided to go home and rethink my strategy. As I made my way to the unlocked back door, I consoled myself by knowing Vicky wouldn’t find anything useful here either. This reminded me of the fact that I had not seen Vicky once since I had arrived.
I stepped out into the overgrown garden, made my way to the six foot tall brick wall and hoisted myself over it. I once again regretted my decision to not get changed before coming here as my skirt hindered my climbing abilities. God I could be so unbelievably impatient sometimes. Soon I had scrambled over and landed on the dirt footpath between the property and the river, and began to make the long walk home.
This part of the river was very quiet, and the only people who used this footpath were the occasional dog walker or rambler. There were no roads connecting the property to anywhere so it was no wonder it was left abandoned. Yet as I walked along I became aware of a large motor boat moored against the riverbank. It was a pretty expensive looking one at that, painted a shining white and looking like it would need a decent sized crew to operate. I must have passed it on my way here, but in my haste I guess I had just ignored it.
I don’t know what it was. Call it female intuition, gut instinct or just being a nosy parker, but something about that boat just didn’t seem right. Without taking the time to think through my decision, I walked over the wooden gangplank connecting it to dry land.
I landed on the spotless deck with a soft thump, and I tiptoed around to the entrance of the cabin. The hatchway was closed but unlocked, and I easily pulled it open. I walked down a flight of stairs into a dimly lit kitchen area, with expensive bottles of wine on the work surfaces and maps of the area strewn over the table. The curtains were closed so I could only just make out the details of the place as I walked into a seating area just beyond the kitchen.
I was, however, able to distinguish the details of a tied up and gagged Vicky Masterson.
She was sitting on the floor with her back pressed against the wall. Her hands were tied palm to palm, hoisted above her head and attached to a long metal railing screwed into the wall. Her feet were bound at the ankles, and she was prevented from standing up by ropes connecting her ankle bonds to a metal ring embedded in the wooden floor. A long black cloth had been tied over her mouth and knotted behind her head underneath her hair, and I could see it was keeping something placed inside her mouth firmly in place.
She had already seen me, and began to tug at the ropes binding her as she mewled through her gag, “Ssssrrrrrrrr. Hllllmmmm mmmmppphh.”
Now if I were a better person I would have forgotten everything that had transpired between us and rescued her there and then. However, I am not a better person, and the sight of my unbearably smug detective rival all trussed up was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“What was that Vicky?” I teased. “You want me to help you get free? It’s a bit difficult to understand you with that rag over your mouth.”
“Pllllsssss ffffrrrrrrrrr mmmmppph,” Vicky grunted indignantly as I knelt down beside her and began to inspect her bindings.
“Wow they really did a good job on you didn’t they?” I remarked as I checked the knot that held her hands to the metal railing. “But I’m sure you’ll wriggle free eventually. You are the professional after all.”
Vicky’s eyes widened suddenly, and beginning to struggle with a newfound vigour she cried, “Ssssssrrrr llllllllkkkk mmmmtttttttt.”
Ignoring her I continued to crow, “What do you reckon? Should I let you go now or let you stew here until the police arrive? You know, like when you abandoned me and my friends in that warehouse.”
“Bbbbhhhnnnd yyyymmm ssssssrrrrrr!”
“See not so much fun when it’s you who needs to be rescued. You should consider this a lesson for not messing me about in there’s someone behind me isn’t there?”
“Mmmm hhhmmm,” Vicky nodded, seconds before a sweet smelling cloth was clamped over my mouth and nose.
Sometimes you can tell pretty much instantly, after waking up from a drug induced sleep, that you’ve been bound and gagged. As my eyelids fluttered open I realised this was one of those moments. My arms and hands were hoisted over my head and fixed to the metal railing in an identical manner to Vicky. My ankles likewise, tied together and anchored to the ring in the floor. There was a foul tasting rag stuffed in my mouth, and my efforts to pry it out blocked by a cloth pulled over my lips and knotted behind my head.
Groaning as I once again realised how much trouble I was in I began to struggle and strain for freedom. But this brought a feeling of constriction in my diaphragm and a muffled yelp to my right hand side. Looking down I saw more ropes wound tightly about my waist, which had also been looped around Vicky’s waist and cinched between us. I realised the reason for this was to not only cause discomfort for the person who struggled, but also for the other at the same time. As I inspected further I also saw a length of cord tying my right knee against Vicky’s left. We were both bound as a single unit, like a pair of trussed conjoined twins.
I stared at my blue pumps as I wriggled my feet aimlessly. Now I really began to regret not getting changed as the ropes rubbed my skin through my tights. I gave a couple of experimental tugs at my wrist bonds and found, unsurprisingly, they wouldn’t give an inch. But these little annoyances were nothing compared to the irritation of being tied up next to Vicky Masterson.
“Tthhhsss ssss allllmmm yyyyyrrrrr fffllltttt,” Vicky grunted as she leant her head forward so she could see me without her arm getting in the way.
“MMMMMM FFFFLLLTTTT?” I grunted indignantly in reply, leaning forward myself to stare back at her.
“Yyymmm sssssllldd hhhhpppphhh nnntttmmmddddd mmmppphh.”
“Yyyymmm slllldddmmmttt hhhhppphhh ggggttttt cccccccmmmmttt.”
“Yyyy ddddnnnntt yyymmm lllllkkkk bbbbhhhnnndd yyymmm?”
“Yyyy ddddmmm yyymmm sssttlllllll mmmpphhh ccsssmmm?”
Vicky let her head flop against the wall and growled, “Ggggddd yyyrrrmmm ussssllmmm.”
“Shhhttt pppp bbbtttcchh” I snarled in reply.
That was as far as our muted argument got, as at that moment the dingy cabin was flooded with light as the hatchway opened. We both stared as a pair of legs began to slowly descend the staircase. My heart briefly soared as I recognised the navy blue tights and black, ankle strap flat pumps. But my relief was short lived when the rest of Rachel’s body emerged, her hands bound palm to palm in front of her and a black cloth pulled over her mouth. And when I saw who was directing her down the stairs my morale quickly hit rock bottom.
“Ah so you are awake my dear?” Mr White remarked to me casually as he pushed the stunned looking Rachel towards us. He was dressed exactly as he had been when I had encountered him for the first time in Felicity’s office: a jet black suit with a cape over his shoulders, white Masonic gloves, a black bowler hat and a plain white mask over his face.
“LLLLLTTT SSSSS GGGGMMM!” I shouted at him through my gag as he forced a squealing Rachel to the floor and made her sit on my left hand side.
Mr White ignored me, and instead fetched several more lengths of brown rope from a kitchen cupboard. He quickly looped a strand around Rachel’s already bound hands before he yanked them above her head and, just like Vicky and I, tied them to the metal railing. “Is this a friend of yours?” he asked me as he worked. “I found her snooping around a couple of minutes after I had finished binding you. Silly girls: you should all have stuck together. Arriving separately made my job so much easier.”
As I watched Mr White begin to bind Rachel’s ankles I realised what an idiot I’d been. I’d rushed off snooping without really thinking about how my friends would react. Rachel had only come after me because she was worried I’d get in trouble. Well she was damn right about that, and it was my fault that she now shared my plight.
“Rrrrr yyyyymmm nnnnkkkkkk?” I asked.
“Mmmmm fffffmmm” she murmured, though she still looked a little shaken.
Quick as a flash Mr White had secured Rachel’s feet to the metal ring. I once again found myself morbidly fascinated by this nutjob. He worked at such a pace and with such precision, and I found myself grimly wondering just how many more people had had the misfortune to have been tied up by him. I guessed it was entering the realms of a cricket score.
He wasn’t done with us yet. He lifted up the hem of Rachel’s wavy brown skirt and proceeded to wrap rope around her right knee, before the same strand was pulled around my left knee and cinched tightly. Then he took one final piece of cord and wound it about Rachel’s waist, over her white top and grey pullover. I wasn’t surprised when he then began to tie it around my waist just above the rope connecting me to Vicky. I grunted in discomfort as he cinched it, making it even more difficult for me to breathe normally. All three of us were now pressed tightly against each other, bound as one. I felt like I was at the centre of some sort of damsel sandwich.
His work finished Mr White stood up and leered triumphantly over his line of conjoined captives. Then he opened his briefcase lying on a nearby sofa, and from it pulled out a copy of the local newspaper. He then knelt down and tapped his finger on the front page, which outlined the ordeal Felicity and I had gone through at his hand.
“So your name is Sara Philips?” he asked me rhetorically. “Sara’s a great name. I’ve found women who go by that name tend to have a lot more tenacity and determination then most others. You certainly don’t buck that trend my dear. You manage to escape from me, something barely anyone has done before, and then come back for seconds. Admirable, I admit, but not very clever.”
“Sccrrrmmm yyymmm,” I growled, my patience at an all time low.
Mr White laughed at me. “Well I’m afraid you won’t be quite so lucky this time Sara my dear. I have to dispose of all the evidence from our operations here, and that includes this boat. Fantastic method of transportation you know. The police are so obsessed with cars, trucks and planes that they often overlook these vehicles. Though they can be a little dangerous to operate, particularly when one ends up with a great big hole in it.”
Right on cue there was a loud bang that caused the boat to rock violently. We three captives screamed as we were thrown from side to side, causing us huge discomfort as we were forcibly strained against out bindings. Mr White however remained steady as a rock, standing with his arms folded as he waited for the rocking to subside.
“That would be the explosive charges I rigged to the hull,” he explained coolly. “Not enough to destroy the boat, but enough to create a gap big enough to start its slow descent to Davey Jones locker.”
I think at that point my heart stopped for a couple of seconds. Mr White was sinking the boat with us trapped onboard. And at this point the river was more than deep enough for the boat to be fully submerged under the surface. If we didn’t get out in time we would drown.
Both Vicky and Rachel realised what was happening at the same time as I did. “NNNNNNMMMM. NNNNNMMMM PPPLLLLSSSSS!” Rachel begged as Vicky began straining against her bindings with all her strength, causing intense discomfort for me around my waist. I simply glared up at Mr White as he began to laugh manically.
"Pity you didn’t learn you lesson the first time around Sara. I hope that’s all you can think about when you take your last gasp of air. How if you had just stayed away then none of this would have happened to you. Now ladies I must bid you adieu. If I ever see you three again then it will be too soon.” Then he gave a swish of his cape and left through the cabin door, slamming it shut behind him.
Immediately we all began to struggle like fury, tugging on the ropes holding our hands above our heads in a frantic effort to wriggle free. Within seconds I found my stomach being wrenched from side to side as the struggles of my fellow prisoners pulled it in separate directions. I could feel my legs being jerked about as we all tried to loosen the ropes anchoring our feet to the ring in the floor. But for all our struggles all we achieved were aching limbs and an increasing sense of despair.
“HHHHHLLLMMMM SSSSS. WWWWRRRRR SSSSSKKKKHHHMMMPPP. HHHHLLLLMM!” Rachel screamed into the fabric over her mouth. But I knew that wouldn’t do anything. There would be nobody around this stretch of river at this time and even if someone did come, it was highly unlikely they’d get onboard in time to rescue us. We were on our own.
Slowly but surely the boat began to slope to one side as the bow began to sink. The wine bottles toppled over and shattered on the ground with a loud crash. I realised that things looked hopeless, but I wasn’t going to give up just yet. There had to be some way out of this mess.
A particularly angry tug on the metal railing on my part was what gave me hope. As I did so there was a creaking sound as it was partially pulled loose. We all looked up at the end now hanging off the wall, and instinctively we all knew what to do.
“Nnnn thrrggmm,” I exclaimed as Vicky and Rachel readied themselves. “Nnnnn, ttwwwmmmm, TTHHRRRRGGMMMM!”
After completing the countdown we all tugged on the railing with all the strength we could muster. On our own there was no way we could have loosened it. But with our combined efforts, and a lot of gagged swearing, we eventually pulled it loose. It landed on our laps with the ropes still attached, but now there was enough slack for us to bring our hands together and pry a knot loose. It was Vicky who made the breakthrough, to her credit I guess, loosening the bonds around my wrists enough for me to mercifully pull my hands free.
I didn’t waste any time, returning the favour for Vicky before turning my attention to Rachel. As she pulled away the cloth over her mouth a spat out the sodden packing Vicky said, “Hurry, we don’t have a lot of time here!”
“You think I don’t know that?” I retorted after I wrenched away my own gag, having just freed Rachel’s hands.
“Could we please save the world’s best detective competition for after we escape from the sinking boat?” an un-gagged Rachel snapped at the pair of us. She had a point. The boat was now sloping even more sharply than before. We only had minutes to escape.
Our legs were freed easily enough. The ropes around our waists were what took the most time to shift, the knots placed in difficult to reach positions. After what seemed like an age however we were free, and not wasting another second we made for the cabin door.
We opened it up to find the deck already half submerged with the stern sticking up in the air. We were forced to stand in the water in order to make our way to the dry end. We shivered as our lower legs were soaked right through with ice cold water. Quickly as we could we scrambled to the safety of the stern, but then found that Mr White had left the boat adrift, and was now positioned in the centre of the river.
I looked about for someone nearby to help us but there was no-one. The riverbank seemed a long way away but I knew there was only one option left for us. “We’re going to have to abandon ship” I shouted. “We have to swim for it.”
“You can’t be serious?” a flabbergasted Vicky gasped. “That water is filled with pollution and diseases and God knows what else.”
The boat rocked suddenly and we struggled to keep our footing. Glancing at the ever encroaching water I told her, “We’re going in one way or the other!”
“Not in a million years,” Vicky replied firmly.
I looked at Rachel in exasperation, unsure of what to do next. Thankfully she quickly came up with a solution to our problem.
“You didn’t have to push me in you know!” Vicky bellowed at the top of her lungs as she staggered up the river bank, her clothes and hair sopping wet.
“Yes I did,” Rachel shouted back as she and I followed closely behind her, the pair of us similarly drenched from head to toe in river water following our swim away from the sinking boat. “Consider it payback for leaving us in that warehouse.”
Vicky gave a groan of disgust as she ran her fingers through her wet hair. “Eeww this is disgusting,” she wailed. “God I knew you were all amateurs but I didn’t know you were bonkers as well.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that without us you’d still be trapped on that boat right now” I snapped, pointing in the direction of the bubbling patch in the river where the boat used to be.
Suddenly Vicky seemed to lose her composure, and fiddling with her earring she muttered, “Yeah well...thank you for that Sara...” Then quickly returning to normal she barked, “But don’t think this changes anything. In future, stay out of my way!” With that she turned on her heel and stormed off angrily, leaving wet footsteps on the path behind her.
“Same goes to you,” I muttered under my breath. I then turned to Rachel and asked, “You ok?”
“Bloody freezing,” she replied through chattering teeth. “Can we go home now?”
I couldn’t have agreed more. Getting even with Mr White could wait. Right now what I really wanted was a long, hot bath.