Totally Bugged Out








    "Ok I like, totally get that this Rogerson guy wants us to, like, dress up for the occasion and everything. But don't you think this is a bit much?"

    "It's just a uniform Clover" Penelope laughed as she tied her white lace apron behind her back.

    Clover stared at herself in the staff room mirror, turning in circles as she inspected every inch of the maid outfit she had been supplied with. It was an all in one skirt outfit that buttoned at the back, black save for the white collar and white trim on the short, wavy skirt that reached just above her knees. Her legs were clad in opaque black stockings and on her feet she wore dark four inch heels. The outfit was completed by a white apron and a black headband pulled through her shoulder length blonde hair.

    "Ok, I know you Brits really like the uniform thing, but this is kinda ridiculous" Clover remarked as she continued to examine herself.

      Buckling up the straps around her shoes Penelope said "I have to say, it would be great if we could ditch these high heels. When you're serving food and drink for an entire evening it's murder on your feet. Come on, we'd best get going or we'll be late."

    Grabbing Clover by the arm she yanked her away from the mirror and pulled her out of the staff room. They began trotting down a stone corridor situated in the staff quarters of Benlington Manor, the sound of their heels clattering off the floor and echoing off the walls. They turned right down another corridor and then pushed through a large oak door into the kitchen. Instantly they were called over by one of the chefs and presented with a tray of canapés each. Clasping the tray with both hands Clover wandered over to the door leading out into the main hall.

    "This is just like some kind of Bride and Prejudice thing!" Clover blurted as Penelope walked over to join her.

    "It's Pride and Prejudice actually" Penelope corrected with a smile. "And trust me, it's about as far away from a Jane Austen story as you can get." With that they pushed through the doors and began pushing their way through the thriving mass of people.

     Lord Perry Rogerson was well known for many things. For his peerage, his passion for exploration and his contribution to the scientific research of near extinct species among many of them. But one thing he was particularly well known for was his ability to throw a good party. His main hall was filled with guests from corner to corner, well over three hundred in total, and they were all hungry for canapés and champagne.

     Clover pushed through the crowds holding onto her tray of food for dear life. Occasionally she stopped as people of all ages and backgrounds greedily snatched at the small, neatly prepared food arranged on the tray. She found herself becoming distracted by some of the fashionable dresses being worn by the lady guests, all of them relatively young and hanging onto the arms of much older men.

     She forced herself back into alertness. She wasn't here to have a good time, she was here on a mission and it was up to her to see it through. As she pressed on forwards she looked about for a glimpse of her two team mates, but she couldn't see them anywhere.

    "Excuse me miss, may we please have a canapé if you would be so kind" a familiar voice then said from behind her.

     Not knowing whether to be annoyed or relieved Clover turned to see Sam and Alex standing behind her with big grins on their faces. Thrusting the tray in their direction she said "go nuts why don't you, there are like a million more of these things back there for me to take out."

    "What's the matter, not enjoying your brief spell as a waitress in a stately English manor?" Alex teased.

    Only when Clover saw how her two best friends had dressed for their evening party did so realise just how badly she wanted to put on a dress and join them. Sam was wearing a long flowing green dress strapped over one shoulder. It reached all the way to her ankles so that her black strap-on heels were only just visible. Her outfit was completed by a pair of green ball gown gloves that reached well past her elbows, and her long red hair was tied up neatly into a bun with little strands falling either side of her face. Alex had dressed in a red cheongsam gown with golden flowers imprinted into the fabric. There were slits on either side of the dress putting her legs on show, and she wore red high heels on her nylon clad feet. For a final touch she had attached a white lily to a hair clip and had attached it to her hair just above her right ear.

     "Seriously, why do I have to be slaving away in the kitchen while you two are having fun out here?" Clover hissed.

     "If you want to find out what's really going on at a party, you have to work in the kitchen" said Alex.

     "Besides we're not here to party Clover" Sam said matter-of-factly. "Did you find out anything about Lord Rogerson?"

      "Well Penelope told me..."

       "Penelope?" Alex interrupted.

       Clover pointed over to the raven haired girl returning to the kitchen for more canapés. She had spent most of her time with Penelope since she had taken on this job a week ago, and she had come up with some good information. "Really nice girl, saving to go to college to study medicine and a great taste in shoes. Anyway she says that a lot of people who work here often don't come into work the next day and never come back."

     "What kind of people?" Sam asked.

      "Mostly grounds men and gardeners, she says the catering staff are pretty much left alone."

     "Hasn't someone told the authorities yet?" asked Alex.

   "Apparantly the estate are helping the police with their enquiries, basically meaning the police aren't interested. And we're not supposed to stay late on days when there isn't a party. Lord Rogerson doesn't like us staying on past 6:30. Oh and apparently there's a guy in here somewhere that's like 35th in line to the British throne. I should totally date him, I could become a princess..."

      "Kind of getting off point Clover" Alex remarked.

      "But looks like Jerry was right to have us investigate" said Sam. "All those large orders of dangerous chemicals coming to his manor, and now we hear of mysterious disappearances within the grounds. This guy is definitely up to something. Alex and I will go looking for evidence when we get an opportunity. Clover you get back to work so no-one gets suspicious of why you're really here."

      "Do I have to?" Clover moaned angrily. "This tray is like, really getting heavy right now."

      "Keep at it, you're doing a brilliant job" Alex teased as she picked up a canapé. "Could you tell me are these prawns roasted or boiled?" Sam gave a snort of laughter as Alex ate the tiny crustacean in one bite, looking thoroughly pleased with herself as she did so.

      Turning on her heel Clover muttered "I'll give you roasted when this is over." Then she walked away and rejoined the crowds, and quickly lost sight of her two friends. Within minutes her tray was empty, and so she jostled her way back to the kitchen. She pushed her way through the double doors to see Penelope taking a restocked tray back outside.

     "You were talking to those two girls for a long time" Penelope remarked as Clover approached.

      Beginning to panic Clover said "oh they were old friends of mine from school. Haven't seen them in years. Couldn't believe it when I saw them."

     "Wow small world eh?" Penelope grinned.

    "Clover can I ask a favour of you?" someone shouted from the far side of the kitchen. It was the Head Chef Barry, a tall muscular Scotsman with balding ginger hair. Clover hadn't spoken to him much since she had started working here but he seemed like a nice enough guy despite his imposing physique.

    "Yeah sure Barry, what can I get for you?" she yelled out over the noise of the kitchen.

    "I just need help bringing in some stuff from the cellar" he yelled back.

    "I'd better get going, this tray is making my arms ache" said Penelope, before she barged her way back into the hall.

      Clover, relieved to be rid of her own tray for a few minutes at least, moved to where Barry was waiting for her, and then they left the kitchen together heading in the direction of the cellar, where all the supplies for the catering department were kept. "You said that you were at Uni over here didn't you?" Barry asked her, breaking the silence between them.

     "Oh yeah, studying film and media at Leeds university. I'm only working here for the summer vacation" Clover told him as she rattled off her cover story.

     "Oh my cousin's daughter did that course. She said her favourite lecturer was a professor Jones or something. Do you have him for many lectures?"

     "Oh only a couple, I don't really know him that well though" Clover lied, trying to sound like she was actually doing the course she was pretending to be.

     They arrived at another heavy oak door on the right. Barry turned the iron handle and swung the door open with a loud creak. The cellar was down a small flight of stone steps, before levelling out into a thin underground room with long shelving units on either side. There were no windows and only one entrance, so the only light came from a low hanging light bulb which Barry turned on by pulling a string hanging from the ceiling.

    "Ok, could you go grab me a tub of horseradish sauce from other there? It's on the top shelf I think" said Barry, pointing to the far right corner of the cellar.

    "Sure, no problem" Clover replied brightly. She almost skipped over to where he was pointing and stood on her tiptoes as she tried to see what she was looking for. "I don't think it's here" she announced after looking for a few seconds.

    "It should be there, keep looking!" Barry told her as he closed the cellar door.

    "Is there anything else that we need while we're down here?" Clover asked with her back still turned to him.

    "Just one thing more" said Barry as he pulled out a cloth from his pocket. "A little splash of chloroform."

     "Chloroform?" Clover repeated in confusion. "Is that some sort of seasoning to go with the beef or wmmmmmggggg!"

    She had not registered Barry sneaking up behind her until it was too late. He wrapped one arm around her waist and covered her mouth and nose with the rag. It was doused in something
extremely sweet smelling and the more she breathed it in the more weak she found herself becoming. She struggled and kicked and tried to remember her training, but whatever the rag was soaked in meant that she couldn't think straight.

    "I should probably mention that there is no professor Jones" Barry grunted as he fought to keep her under control. "I just made him up to catch you out. Amazing how many times that trick works on little snoops like you."

    Clover thrashed her arms and tried to kick him with her heels, but it was all in vain. She felt incredibly weak and sleepy, and gradually the fight drained out of her. Then her eyes rolled up to the ceiling before her eyelids closed, at which point she drifted off to sleep.

    Once sure she was out of it Barry lay her face down on the floor, before grabbing a roll of silver duct tape that he had hidden behind a tub of ketchup. He crossed her hands over behind her back and proceeded to wrap the tape all around her wrists. Once her hands were bound with more turns of tape than was probably necessary he pulled her into a sitting position, and began wrapping tape all about her upper body above and below her breasts. Her shoulders were pulled into her body and her arms firmly fixed behind her.

    He then moved onto her legs. He wrapped tape around her ankles before pulling the same strip over the tops of her feet and underneath her shoes, which would prevent her kicking them off and improving her hopping capabilities. He moved up to her nylon clad legs and proceeded to cover them with tape underneath her knees, before he pulled up her skirt a little in order to bind her upper legs with it as well.

    He had just finished this when the door to the cellar suddenly opened. Barry froze, knowing full well he was caught red handed. But his nerves were short lived as the figure in the doorway said "excellent work."

    "Not exactly the female equivalent of James Bond this one" Barry remarked, picking up her limp legs before letting them fall to earth with a soft thump, indicating that she was out cold.

    Lord Rogerson stepped down the staircase and moved over to inspect the intruder who had infiltrated his manor. "Pretty thing isn't she Richmond. No wonder Neville overlooked the inaccuracies in her background check" he remarked as he knelt down beside her. Barry at first thought he was the one being talked to, but then he saw the large green stick insect that was perched on Rogersons shoulder, which he was stroking affectionately as he gazed at the girl at his feet.

   "We should finish the job before someone comes sir" said Barry as he pulled another strip of tape with a loud rip.

    "Quite right" Rogerson remarked, grabbing a blue and white dishcloth from the stack on the shelves nearby. He opened Clovers mouth and stuffed it inside, before allowing Barry to place the tape over lips. Barry proceeded to wrap the tape all around her head underneath her short blonde hair, completely sealing her mouth and lower half of her face.

    Barry got to his feet and stared down at the bound, gagged and unconscious spy at his feet. "What will we do with her?" he asked.

     "Nothing for now" Rogerson replied. "I have to make sure she wasn't alone. Turn the light off and lock the door. We'll deal with our little spy later."

     Barry nodded and together they made for the exit. He pulled the string again switching the lights off, and then closed the door behind them locking it with a large iron key, leaving Clover trapped in near pitch black darkness.

      "You sure you aren't just overreacting a little sir?" Barry asked as he stepped into the CCTV room behind Rogerson. "I can understand you being cautious with your plan nearly complete but..."

    "But nothing. The girls identity might have been faked but not by fools. Somebody big is on to us and I have to make sure she doesn't have friends who will come looking for her."

    Rogerson stared up at the wall of television screens lining up the far wall of the CCTV room, and took a seat in the central swivel chair. Images from the party going on in the main hall were being beamed back to him on twelve separate cameras. He pressed the button for camera 14C, which brought up an image of the door leading from the hall to the kitchen. Pressing rewind he trawled back through the video until he came across footage of Clover walking through the door. He paused the video, zoomed in on her face and said into a microphone on the desk "computer, search for all known associates!"

    The computer underneath the desk whirred and beeped as it processed his request. A few seconds later the printer at the side whirred into life and began printing of all relevant documentation. The first thing to print off was the symbol of the WHOOP organisation, at which Rogerson gave a smile. "So Jerry finally started to take notice of me? How decent of him Richmond."

    More pages were printed off, outlining Clovers status as a WHOOP agent and all the known cases she had completed. Then it printed out similar pages for Sam and Alex, as her closest known associates.

     "Circulate these among security" Rogerson ordered, holding the papers behind his back without looking at Barry. "If these girls are here as well I want them found."

    "We won't have to look for long" Barry told him. Rogerson turned and saw that Barry had pressed play and was following Clover as she circled the hall. He had come to a segment where she had spent a long time talking with two other guests, both of whom matched the descriptions of Sam and Alex perfectly.

    Stroking Richmond Rogerson said "well well well, this is turning into quite an interesting night."

    "Shall I get security to apprehend them?" Barry asked, already reaching for his radio.

    "No" Rogerson instructed. "If they're really here to spy on us then we should let them make the first move. Then we can take them out of the equation without having to spoil the party for the remainder of our guests."

      "Bit risky don't you think?" Barry asked.

     Staring at the three girls on the screen Rogerson replied "probably, but I've always found the thrill is in the chase as much as the capture."


    "Have you seen Clover recently" Alex asked, glancing about looking for her.

    "She's probably busy. It's pretty easy to lose track of people in this place" Sam replied.

    "Still, do you reckon we should go look for her?" Alex asked.

    "She's doing her job, so we need to concentrate on doing ours" said Sam as she pulled out a hand mirror from the bag slung over her arm. She flipped it open and pretended to examine herself in it, but instead of a mirror she stared at the screen of a small personal computer, showing the layout of the entire mansion.

     "Rogersons personal quarters are located in the east wing, and there are a number of offices on the ground floor to the right" said Sam. "We should split up and look for clues when we get an opportunity. I'll check out his personal quarters while you explore the offices."

     "What if we get caught?" Alex asked.

     Flipping her computer closed Sam said "just batter your eyelids, act a little drunk and claim you got lost looking for the restroom."

    "Yeah and when are we going to get an opportunity to do this?" Alex asked next.

     Before Sam could reply the lights in the hall dimmed right down. They looked about wondering what was happening, before a voice speaking through a microphone boomed over murmur of the crowd. "Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce our host for this evening. The world famous explorer, scientist, multimillionaire and 13th in this years Hot Magazine's weird crush award. Lord Perry Rogerson."

     The crowd erupted into applause as suddenly Lord Rogerson appeared standing above them on some sort of podium. Alex and Sam stared intently at the man they had travelled almost halfway across the world to investigate. He was in his early 40's with a full head of thick grey hair. He retained his handsome, grizzled face from his youth and was dressed sharply in a black tie tuxedo.

     "Please please, thankyou. I'm not worthy of the applause ladies and gentlemen. There are after all twelve other weirdly attractive men before me after all." The crowd rippled with laughter at his joke, causing Rogerson to give a little smile of his own before he continued his speech.

    "I would like to thank you all very much for coming tonight for this 'save the rainforest' fundraiser. I have visited many countries in my life, and seen more remarkable things than I can even count. The northern and southern lights, the sun rising from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and the thunderstorms of the Amazon Basin. And it made me realise how humanity is slowly destroying everything that is good and beautiful in this world."

     "Can you believe this guy?" Alex muttered before Sam sushed her.

     "I want to introduce you to a friend of mine" Rogerson announced. He then unfurled his hands, which he had been clasping in front of him so far, and revealed a large green stick insect in the palm of his hand. "I would like you to meet Richmond. He is a specimen that I brought back with me from one of my expeditions. Yet species like his are under the threat of extinction, not from mother nature but by raw greed of humanity. But as I look out over your glowing faces tonight, I see that there is hope that we can turn this around. Hope that humanity is waking up to the plight of nature and hope that anyone who stands in our way will face the consequences."

    Sam almost gave a double take as the crowd erupted into applause again. For only a split second she could have sworn that he was looking directly at her during his last sentence, but his eyes moved away from her and she put it down to her nerves.

    "But tonight let's forget about all that and enjoy ourselves!" he cried. "Dinner will be served in the dining hall in thirty minutes, so if you want to gradually make your way to your seats..."

    "Perfect" Sam hissed to Alex. "That's half an hour when everyone will be focusing on getting to the dining hall. It's the perfect opportunity to sneak about with no-one looking."

     "You sure about this Sam? Maybe we should wait for a little bit longer" Alex reasoned.

    But Sam shook her head. "We may not get another chance. Meet you at our seats in the dining hall in half an hour!"

     The door to the office was open when Alex tried it, and she cautiously opened it and peered inside. The lights were off and she saw no sign of movement, so she summoned the courage to turn on the light. The office was fairly typical, with piles of paperwork strewn about on the floor, a desk with a computer and printer on its surface and several box files arranged on shelving units. Alex slowly walked around the desk and took a seat in the swivel chair behind it. The computer was on standby but was password protected. She gave a sigh of disappointment, she simply didn't have the time to try and break it.

   She shifted her attention to the desk drawers, and pulled them out one at a time. At first all she found was a load of stationary and a couple of celebrity magazines. But when she came to the last drawer she found something a lot more interesting. It was order forms for massive deliveries of insecticides. There were at least six separate orders from six separate suppliers, and each order was worth well over £200,000. Alex stared at it in confusion. After his grand speech about saving the lives of animals, why was Rogerson spending all this money on substances that killed them?

    "Are you lost my dear?" someone suddenly asked her, causing Alex to jump. She looked up and saw a tall muscular man dressed in a smart suit with a blue tie filling the doorway.

    "Oh sorry" she blurted. "Er, who are you?"

    "Who am I?" the man asked with a deadpan expression. "I'm Philip Marsh, Lord Rogersons head of security. But the real question here is who are you?"

   "Oh I'm just a guest" Alex replied, dropping the papers on the floor as indiscreetly as possible. Following Sam's advice she stood up, gave her best puppy dog eyes look and said "I got lost looking for the restroom, could you take me back to the dining hall please?"

    Giving a satisfied smug Marsh replied "I don't think so."

    "Oh ok" Alex replied, slowly walking towards both him and the exit. "Well in that case I'll, just, make my own way back then..."

    But as she tried to go past Marsh he grabbed her by the arm, and moving like lightning he twisted her around and pulled her arm tightly into the small of her back. Alex cried out in pain, her arm feeling like it was on the verge of being snapped off. "You aren't going anywhere my dear" Marsh hissed into her ear, as he slowly began to push her back towards the desk. Alex frantically kicked at him but the more she did so the more painful his hold on her became. She was powerless to prevent herself being led back around the desk and forced to sit on the swivel chair.

     Marsh pulled a roll of silver duct tape from his trouser pocket and using his free hand and his teeth he pried a strand loose, all the while maintaining his grip on Alex's arm. He wrapped tape around her pinned wrist, before grabbing her free arm and pulling both her wrists behind the chair back. Alex struggled to pull free from his vice like grip but was unable prevent him from binding her wrists with layers and layers of tape.

     "Let me go!" Alex demanded. "Let me go before someone finds out what you're doing!"

     "Pfft not likely my dear" Marsh retorted as he began wrapping tape around her upper body above and below her breasts, pulling it all the way around the back of the chair taping her to it tightly. "We've got everybody who could help you half drunk in a completely separate part of the mansion. You're in our world now my dear, and you're playing by our rules. Now open that pretty mouth of yours!"

   Seeing the rolled up rag in his hand Alex firmly kept her mouth shut. Marsh simply chuckled, before pulling on her hair causing her to yelp in pain. Quick as a flash he stuffed the rag into her mouth, before placing tape over her lips and wrapping it all the way around her head several times. Alex tried to cry out but could only manage a couple of muffled grunts as Marsh pulled then fixed the tape underneath her short black hair.

    Yet he was far from finished. He then began to wrap her waist in the tape, also twisting it around her hands further pulling her body into the chair back. Once finished he moved on to her legs, and lifting up her thighs he began to wrap tape around the tops of her legs. "Nice dress by the way" he remarked smugly as he wrapped tape around it, pinning the silk fabric against her legs.

    "Llllmmmm mmmmpppphhh gggmmmm!" Alex pleaded.

    "Sorry, didn't quite catch that" Marsh grinned as he began to wrap up her lower legs
underneath her knees. He then progressed to her nylon clad ankles and bound them together, also wrapping tape underneath her high heeled shoes binding them to her feet. Then using the same strand he pulled her legs back to the chair support and taped them to it, pulling her legs underneath the chair and fully immobilizing her feet.

    Marsh then pulled away and examined his handiwork. "Sitting comfortably?" he asked, smiling manically.

    "Mmmppphhh mmmggg hhhhmmm ffffmmm" Alex grunted, flexing her body against the tape and swivelling about in her chair as she tried to escape.

    "Well good luck getting free from all that my dear" Marsh said as he moved to the doorway. "But don't worry, I'm not abandoning you. I'll be coming back for you once we've finished with another couple of loose ends."

    As he left the room shutting the door behind him Alex struggled to understand what he was on about. But then she was hit by a horrifying thought. Another couple of loose ends. Surely he didn't mean Sam and Clover. Suddenly her fears about Clovers absence returned, and her imagination running riot she wondered what could have happened to her friend.

    She redoubled her efforts to free herself, straining with all her might and wriggling her arms, hands and feet trying to find a stray end of the tape. "HHHLLLMMM MMMMGGHHH!" She cried out into the rag in her mouth and tape sealing it in, but there was no-one nearby to hear her. Hanging her head she silently hoped that Sam would avoid falling into their clutches.    

     Sam rooted through the drawers of Rogersons bedside table, searching for any incriminating evidence that might shed some light on what was really going on. But all she found were books, some sleeping pills and several pairs of glasses. Giving a frustrated sigh she looked about the bedroom for any other place he could be hiding some hidden documents. Rogersons bedroom was extravagantly decorated with oil paintings hanging on the wall, long velvet curtains and old oak furniture. The centrepiece was a vast four poster bed with red curtains surrounding it. It was here that Sam decided to look next.

    Kneeling down as much as her long gown would allow she peered underneath the bed, and saw a number of briefcases lined in a neat row. She grabbed the centre one, pulled it out from under the bed and checked to see if it was locked. It wasn't and flicking up the clasps the case opened up revealing its contents. Her gaze fell upon some maps and schematics of the sewage system underneath London. He had circled several areas with a red pen, and had scribbled in almost illegible handwriting 'cleansing begins here' in the bottom right corner.

    Sam was so engrossed in reading these documents that she failed to notice someone creeping up behind her. In fact the first time she noticed was when the figure clamped his hand over her mouth.

    "Now what would a pretty young lady like you be looking for in my private quarters?" Rogerson asked over the sound of Sam's muffled cries. He used his free arm to grab her by the waist and slowly hoisted her back to her feet. "I think you owe me an explanation my dear. Or has good old Jerry instructed you to not give in under interrogation?"

    Sam's heart skipped a beat. Rogerson knew she was a spy, and presumably Alex and Clover too. The situation in that one instant changed dramatically, leaving her with only one objective; escape. Summoning all her strength she kicked him in the shin with the point of her high heel. She felt him exhale in pain and wince slightly, giving her the opportunity to elbow him in the stomach, winding him. Instantly his grip on her weakened enough for her to break free and she darted forward and barged through the bedroom door.

    But the instant she did she was grabbed on each side by two pairs of arms. One pair clamped their hand over her mouth and grabbed her right wrist, while the other grabbed her left wrist and pushed her back inside the room. Sam soon found herself facing two burly looking men dressed in tuxedos that she immediately recognised. They had been flanking the main entrance when she had first arrived at the mansion.

     She pushed and struggled with all her might against them but they were too strong. They forced her onto the bed before rolling her onto her front, forcing her head into the plush pillow. One of the men leant on her keeping her in this position, while the second pulled her wrists together and crossed them over. Sam then heard the sound of ripping tape before she felt it being wrapped around her gloved hands. She tried shouting but her cries were muffled by the pillow, and she kicked at her assailants with her legs but all she hit was thin air.

    Once her wrists were bound the two men shifted attention to her feet, which they grabbed and pushed together before encircling them in tape. Sam groaned as she felt them encase her nyloned ankles, the tops of her feet and the underside of her shoes. They then progressed down to binding her legs underneath her knees, and once that was done they lifted her dress a little in order to binbd her above the knees.

    A pair of hands then grabbed her shoulders and pulled her up out of the pillow, at which point she was greeted by the leering face of Rogerson. He licked his lips creepily as he watched his goons wrapping tape above and below her breasts. Sam grimaced as the tape rubbed uncomfortably against her bare shoulder. "It will make things a hell of a lot easier for you if you admit now who you are and what you're doing here" Rogerson remarked coldly.

    Struggling to catch her breath from having had her face covered by a pillow Sam panted "ok...I'll tell you everything!" Rogerson looked at her expectantly, but Sam shot him a defiant glare and said "I'm a hotel inspector and I'm knocking a star off for this."

    Rogerson gave a manic laugh before simply ordering his goons "gag her!" Before Sam could react one of them reached around and stuffed a handkerchief inside her mouth while the other started wrapping tape over her mouth and behind her head. Once they had completely covered her lower face with at least six turns of tape Rogerson moved closer and began fiddling with her hair bun. "You know, I've always preferred girls who wear their hair down" he smiled, before pulling out her hair band, causing her long red locks to spill out over her shoulders.

    "Mmmmphhh hhhhhmmmm mmmmpppphhh cccrrrrrrmmmm!" Sam growled from behind the many layers of tape, as she struggled wildly against her bindings desperate to
wipe that smug smile from his face.

     Rogerson simply laughed at her again, and gave her a rough shove back onto the bed. "Make sure she isn't going anywhere" he instructed his goons. "I have a party to attend." All Sam could do was watch as he waltzed back out the room, leaving her at the mercy of the goons as they rolled her back onto her front. More tape was wrapped over her wrists, before the same strand was pulled to her feet, wrapped around her ankles and then back to her wrists, forming a crude yet effective tape hogtie. For a finishing touch they wound more tape around the connecting strands, to ensure she wouldn't be able to break free from it.

    Their work completed the goons stood up and moved towards the exit. Sam 'mmmppphh'd' angrily at them as they left, but was powerless to prevent them from leaving and locking the door behind them. She immediately began straining and twisting in her bonds, trying to find a weak point in the mass of tape covering her body. She rocked from side to side and pulled her legs in an attempt to snap the tape connecting them to her hands. But all her efforts failed and she remained trapped in her tape cocoon. Slumping into the duvet she wondered if Alex or Clover were having any more luck.

    "MMMGG MMMMPPPPH HHHHMMM!" Clover cried out into the tape surrounding her mouth, calling out in the hope someone nearby would hear her. But even if her muffled voice could have travelled through the thick oak door nobody was around to hear her. The party was now in full swing and all the staff were otherwise preoccupied.

    Clover had woken from her chloroformed induced sleep fifteen minutes ago, and after shaking off the after effects of the drug she had realised that she had been bound, gagged and abandoned in the same cellar she had been knocked out in. She was in near pitch black darkness, the only light came from a small gap underneath the door, which was what she focused on as she desperately tried to wriggle her way to freedom.

    As she tugged and pulled at her bindings she heard the sound of the oak door being unlocked. She froze as it slowly opened, at which Barry walked down the flight of stairs towards her.

    "Ah you've woken up I see" Barry remarked as he went to check the tape was still intact.

    "YYYMMMM SSSSMMMM HHHHMM!" Clover cried out as he pressed his hands over her tape gag, ensuring it was still sealing her lips effectively.

    "All seems to be in order" Barry remarked as he walked back to the doorway. "Don't go anywhere, I'll be back for you once the party has finished." He ignored Clovers defiant squeals as he shut the door and relocked it. But as he turned to walk away he gave a start when he realised that Penelope was standing directly behind him. "Jesus Penny, don't do that to me again!" he gasped.

    "Sorry Barry. I was just wondering; have you seen Clover recently?"Penelope asked.

     Inside her dark cell Clover heard her friend's voice and her instinct was to call out for help. But then she realised that with Barry present chances are that Penelope would only end up getting captured as well. Clover lay still as she thought through her problem, trying to come up with a way of alerting Penelope to her plight without endangering them both.

      "Oh I've been meaning to come find you" Barry told Penelope. "There was an accident when Clover and I went to the storeroom. She slipped and fell on the stairs and badly sprained her ankle. We had to get a paramedic to take her to hospital and everything."

    "Oh my God seriously?" Penelope asked, sounding very shocked.

    'I'm not in hospital, I'm in here!' Clover thought desperately as she listened to their conversation. She needed to make Penelope suspicious of Barry's cover story, so maybe all she needed to do was plant the seeds of doubt in her mind. She began stamping her heels on the stone floor slowly and rhythmically, hoping the sound would travel through the wooden door. And it seemed to work.

     "Did you hear that?" Penelope asked.

     "Hear what?"

     "That banging noise. Sounded like it was coming from the storeroom..."

    "Oh the pipes in there are banging again. I'll let the caretaker know about it. Anyway we should probably get going back to the banquet."

     "Yeah I guess. I hope Clover wasn't badly hurt. Which hospital did they..."

     The sound of their voices drifted away further and further away, once again leaving Clover all alone. She grunted in discomfort and twisted against her bindings. She was beginning to realise the chances of her escaping on her own were minimal. She would have to rely on her two spy colleagues to escape, or failing that, a civilian waitress whom she had only known for a week and who currently believed she had been taken to hospital.

    'Yeah, not looking brilliant right now' she thought glumly.

     The party lasted well into the night. The guests were treated to a three course meal, and after the speeches were directed into a dancing hall where a famous DJ really kicked the party off. The pounding music and the free bar meant the guests stayed incredibly late, and it was well past three in the morning by the time Rogerson said goodbye to the last guests.

     Secretly he was glad it was out of the way. Now he could concentrate on more pressing matters. He was on the verge of completing something so momentous that it would change the world forever. And there was no way he was going to let those three spy girls mess his plans up now.

    He returned to his bedroom and as he unlocked the door he was surprised to see that Sam was no longer lying on his bed. He panicked for a moment, but he breathed easy again when he heard a disgruntled 'mmmfff.' He wandered over to see her lying on the floor, having struggled so hard that she had slid completely off of his bed. He smiled at her, which she returned with an angry glare.

     "I hope you enjoyed my party as much as I did" he said smugly. "I'm afraid it's going to get worse for you from now on. I've arranged for you and your two friends to take a little trip to my insect house."


     "Mmmmmgg hhhmmm" Sam grunted.

     "Phhhmmm tttrrrmmm" Alex groaned.

     "Mmmmmppphhhh ggggrrrrmmm" Clover growled.

      Yet with the red rubber ball gags wedged between their teeth and fastened behind their heads with leather straps that was about as far as their conversation got.

    Rogerson hadn't been lying when he said he was taking them to his insect house. One by one they had been escorted to the mansions basement, and taken to a room that resembled the bug house exhibits more commonly found at Zoos. The room was shaped into a large square, and embedded into the walls were a number of glass cases. Inside each of them was a habitat specially designed for each of the creatures that inhabited it. The girls had spotted a small swarm of locusts, a menacing black coloured scorpion, a pair of massive goliath beetles and to Alex's horror, suffering as she did from arachnophobia, a large hairy tarantula trying to crawl up the side of its glass case. The biggest exhibit however, a rainforest environment big enough to fit several people inside, appeared to be empty.

       Yet the first thing they had all seen upon entering was the row of five high backed chairs bolted to the ground in the centre. They quickly guessed this was where all the missing staff had been taken before their disappearance. But they were all powerless to prevent the tape being removed from around their bodies, before they were forced to sit in a chair each and were subsequently bound to it.

    Sam glanced over at Alex sitting on her left, still in her red cheongsam dress, and Clover just beyond her in her maid uniform. Then she looked down at the ropes wrapped around her green ball gown, pinning her to the seat. They had all been bound the same way, their wrists pulled behind the chair back, crossed over each other and tied together. Ropes encircled their upper bodies above and below their breasts and around their waists. These ropes had also been pulled around the chair back pinning their bodies and arms to the seat, and more was fixed over their laps and under the chairs. Their ankles had been tied together with rope running underneath their high heels, and their legs tied above and below their knees. As an added piece of security, a long piece of cord had been fixed to their wrists, pulled to the crosspiece under the chair and wrapped around it, before being tied to their ankles, securing both sets of limbs as one unit.   

     Once secured the tape over their mouths had been cut away, yet before they could barely utter a word they had ball gags jammed into their mouths. Then after checking their bindings would hold them the goons had left the girls alone in the room with only themselves and the creepy crawlies for company.

       Sam groaned and shifted a little, trying to make herself more comfortable. Her green opera gloves gave her arms and wrists some protection from the biting ropes, but not much. She had struggled with all her strength to free herself but she was unable to get loose on her own. With the chairs bolted to the ground it was impossible to move over to her friends to attempt to loosen each other's bonds. She stamped her feet in frustration, telling herself that they had got out of worse situations than this before, even though she was struggling to think of many.

    Alex moaned softly. The bugs all around her were creeping her out and she was unable to prevent the drool forming around her ball gag from dribbling down her chin and onto her dress. She couldn't help wondering what kind of psycho held people captive in a room filled with such horrible animals? But more to the point why was Rogerson buying tonnes of insecticide when it was now apparent that he was fascinated by these creatures?

    Clover had only just woken up from a very uncomfortable nap, and had resumed her struggling upon waking to find herself in the same predicament. She wondered how long they had been down here. They had lost all track of time but it must have been hours since they had been trussed to these seats. She thought of Penelope and hoped that somehow her disappearance would prompt her to get help, but it was a long shot. Chances were by the time any meaningful help arrived there would be nothing left of them to be saved.

    All the three spies could do was squirm a little and wait for someone to visit them. They didn't have long to wait.

     A large wooden door with iron hinges opened and into the room stepped Rogerson. He was now dressed in a pair of beige trousers, a white shirt with a silk scarf tucked into the collar and a blue coloured gillet. Once again his pet stick insect Richmond was perched on his left shoulder, and he continued to stroke it affectionately as he paced in front of the three spies like a lion inspecting its prey. The girls stared back as defiantly as they could. They wanted him to know that they were not quite broken yet.

    "I hope you three are continuing to enjoy my hospitality" he smiled.

    "YYYYMMMM CCRRRRMMM LLLMMMM MMMMPPPHH GGMM" Clover tried to shout at him.

     "Wha-what was that Clover my dear? No defiant retort or humorous quip? Maybe you can give me one if I get that gag out of your mouth..."

     With that he walked behind Clovers chair and unfastened the strap behind her head. The instant she felt the ball being released from her mouth she shouted "I said let us go you creep!"

    Laughing Rogerson remarked "pretty tame insult when compared to some directed at me from others in your position my dear." Alex was next to have her gag removed, and was followed quickly by Sam.

     "Whatever it is you're planning it won't work" Sam told him firmly. "When we don't check in our boss is going to..."

     "Hold up a second. You mean you don't know what I'm planning yet?" Rogerson asked. When his question was confirmed by the three girls silence he clapped his hands and said "well this is a surprise isn't it Richmond? I knew I was one step ahead of secret services but I never imagined by how much."

    "We know you've been ordering large quantities of insecticide" said Alex.

     "...And then what?" asked Rogerson, outstretching his hand as he invited them to put the pieces together.

      "Why would you order so much? I thought you liked bugs" Clover asked.

     "Insecticides are not just harmful to bugs. In the right quantities it can be harmful to much, much bigger animals as well" explained Rogerson.

     Suddenly Sam gave a gasp as she realised what his plan was, remembering the plans of the London sewage network that she had found in his bedroom shortly before being captured. "You can't" she breathed in disbelief. "Rogerson you simply can't put those chemicals into the London water supply! Think of all the people who could become ill drinking contaminated water!"

    "Oh not just drinking water" said Rogerson, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be explaining. "People will be showering and bathing in it, watering their plants with it, washing their clothes and dishes with it, even making cups of tea with it. There are over eight million people who live in the Greater London area, and all of them will be exposed to my chemical cocktail."

     "That...that's horrific!" breathed Alex. "How could you even think of placing the lives of millions of people in danger?"

      "Because humanity is a cancer that is slowly infecting everything that is beautiful about this world. We all deserve to pay for the damage we have caused in our ignorant attempts to make ourselves more comfortable. Nature cannot deal with the strain being placed upon it by large cities such as London, so I intend to release nature from some of its burden!"

      The three girls looked at each other in horror. They had had to deal with some real whack jobs in their time but what Rogerson was planning was truly evil. It also filled them with a fresh pang of fear, because if their captor had no qualms about poisoning the inhabitants of a major city, he certainly wouldn't have any problems in dealing them a similar fate.  

    "You won't get away with this Rogerson!" Clover shouted at him.

    "Oho and blondie wins the 'you won't get away with this' competition" Rogerson hooted as he walked behind her. "And her prize is to be the first one to be re gagged!"

    "No don't you even think of dddgggggmmmmm!" Clover began, but was cut off as Rogerson once again forced the rubber ball back into her mouth.

    "Personally I think a ball gag really suits you my dear" Rogerson smirked as he buckled it behind her head. "I think your two friends look smashing with them as well, wouldn't you agree?"

     "No" Alex murmured fearfully. "You already have us prisoner where no-one can find us, why do you have to gag us?"

    "For no reason other than my own amusement" Rogerson said as he advanced on her. "Now open wide!" Alex moaned as her gag was reapplied, and barely struggled as the straps were tied around her neck. Then Rogerson arrived at Sam, who stared at him with defiant eyes and kept her mouth firmly shut. "If you won't open up it will be your friends who suffer, not you!" Rogerson told her. Sam responded with an angry tut, before opening her mouth as wide as she could. Soon she too had been re gagged.

    Beginning to pace in front of them again Rogerson said "you must realise now there is nothing you can do to stop my plans now, so I suggest you sit back and continue to enjoy my hospitality. Take care you three; I'll see you again once I've changed the world. Come along Richmond!"

    The three spies 'mmppphhhdd' as much as possible but could only watch as Rogerson left the room and closed the door behind him. They then struggled and twisted against their bonds with a renewed vigour, desperate to stop this madman from completing his plan. Yet the ropes remained snugly tied around them, and one by one they gave up. They didn't want to admit it, but the situation for them looked utterly hopeless.

     "Blimey Penny you look shattered. Did you get any sleep last night?"

    "Only about five hours. Doesn't help when you're due to be serving tea and crumpets eight hours after serving at a banquet."

     Barry gave Penelope another quick glance over the steak sandwich he had placed on the heated counter. The raven haired girl was fixing her apron around her waist having just started her shift as a waitress at the estate cafe. She was dressed in exactly the same maid outfit as last night, black with a white lace trim, black nylons and dark ankle strap high heels. As she fixed her dark headband in her hair she gave a yawn, as if trying to confirm how tired she was.

    "Yeah well don't worry, we shouldn't be too busy today" Barry remarked, taking a quick look outside as the rain continued to fall.

    "What hospital did Clover get taken to last night again?" Penelope asked suddenly.

     Alarm bells ringing in his mind Barry replied "oh er, St Georges I think."

     "Weird, when I couldn't get hold of Clover I called them up to ask how she was doing, and they said they had no record of her ever arriving at their hospital last night."

    Barry nearly dropped the saucepan he had picked up. This hadn't been part of the plan. "It's probably a mistake. You know how big St Georges is."

    "But she hasn't replied to any of my texts."

    "Is that really that much of a surprise?"

     "I've only known Clover a week, but each night she's bombarded me with about twenty texts. It's really strange her just going silent like this."

    Barry felt his stomach begin to do cartwheels inside him. He had always liked Penelope, not in a physical way but she was a nice, sweet natured and intelligent young woman. The last thing he wanted was for her to get involved in all this. "Listen just leave it Penelope. Clover wasn't badly hurt and I'm sure she'll get back in contact with you when she's ready. Would you mind taking these out to table six please?"

    Penelope paused briefly, before she replied "yeah I'm sure she's alright." She then picked up the two steak sandwiches and walked through the double doors taking them out into the restaurant.

    The rest of lunchtime passed by without incident. Barry was right in the sense that they weren't busy, and by three in the afternoon the restaurant was almost deserted. At quarter past Penelope came into the kitchen to announce she was going on her break. As he watched her step outside via the back entrance Barry began to feel nervous once again. He knew it had been a risk taking those three spies prisoners so quickly, and it was natural some people were going to get suspicious. He needed to make sure however, so after wiping his hands with a tea towel he announced he was going for a cigarette, and made his way through the same exit Penelope had just gone through.

    She wasn't by the back door as he passed through it. Quietly as he could Barry made his way along the edge of the building. When he heard a female voice talking just beyond the corner he stopped dead, in order to listen to every word she said.

    "Hello this is Penelope Smith...yes I'd like to report a missing person. Her name is Clover...she disappeared from a night function at Rogerson manor that we were working at last night and I haven't heard from her since... yes I think it might be linked to those other'll be half an hour...yes I'll see you then."

     Barry then heard the sound of high heels clicking off of the pavement, before Penelope came round the corner and almost ran straight into him. "Sorry Barry!" she said nervously "I didn't see you there."

    "Yes Penelope, I'm sorry too" Barry replied grimly. And as she tried to walk past him he grabbed her by the arm.

    "Barry, what the hell are you doing?" she cried, trying to wrench free from his grip.

    "Something that I wish I didn't have to resort to" Barry told her as he reached for the radio tucked into his belt. He turned it on and said into it "Lord Rogerson, I'm afraid we may have a problem."


   Detective Inspector Barnes sipped at his coffee as he sat at a table in the now closed estate cafe, staring at the young waitress sitting across from him. He leaned in a little closer and asked "so you mean to say that this is all a big misunderstanding?"

    "Yes I'm sorry to have bothered you" Penelope said nervously. "I got worried when Clover didn't return my calls last night, but she just got in contact with me to let me know that she's ok."

    Barnes raised an eyebrow. "You do realise that wasting police time is quite a serious offence?"

    "Oh surely you can let it slide Detective Inspector" Lord Rogerson interrupted from where he was standing just behind Penelope's seat. His left hand resting on the chair back and his right hand stroking Richmond he continued "She was just worried for her friend's safety. I'm sure you can understand."

    "Yes well, given the ongoing investigations into the disappearances of your staff members her reaction is understandable. Are you quite sure this Clover is safe and well?"

    "Yep perfectly sure" Penelope replied. "Everything is just fine and dandy!"

     At her statement Barnes once again raised his eyebrow, but he didn't say anything more on the subject. Instead he finished his coffee, stood up and said "well thank you for your time Lord Rogerson. I hope you understand that we need to follow up any possible links to these disappearances."

    "But of course, the sooner the perpetrators are caught the better!" said Rogerson.

     "So you believe there is someone responsible then?" Barnes remarked.

     Clearing his throat sheepishly Rogerson replied "well er, it is a theory to be explored after all."

    Barnes said nothing more, and after once again thanking them for their time he exited the cafe. Silence fell among those who remained inside, and did not lift until after Rogerson had seen Barnes's car leave the parking area through a window. He then turned to face Penelope, and his face full of frustration and anger he said "you caused me quite a scare my dear."

     "What do you want, an apology?" Penelope retorted, trying to sound strong but only just masking her rising fear. Hearing the sound of the kitchen doors swinging open she looked and saw Barry entering with several strands of brown rope in his hand. Shivering when she saw it she asked "how can you be part of something like this Barry?"

    "I had no choice" Barry told her, sounding genuinely apologetic. "You know how much I've struggled to care for Benjamin since my wife died. I can't afford to care for a heavily disabled son on a chefs salary."

    As she watched him approach Penelope asked nervously "what happens now?"

    "You put your hands behind your back. I'm sure you can have an educated guess as to what will happen after that" said Rogerson.

   Not seeing any alternative she did as instructed. Barry moved behind her and within seconds she felt rope being coiled tightly around her wrists. "Is this what you did to Clover then?" she asked next.

    "More or less" said Rogerson. "Though if you're lucky we won't leave you quite as stringently bound as her or her two friends."

    Penelope gasped as Barry cinched the ropes, the rough cord already cutting into her bare skin. "I'm not a loner you know. I have a family and a boyfriend and they'll all come looking for me when I don't come back!"

    "Water under the bridge that will be crossed in due time" Rogerson replied smugly. "The antics of you, your spy friend and her colleagues have forced me to accelerate my plans. By the time your family raise the alarm it will be too late."

      'Come on, come on, please something shift!" thought Sam desperately as she strained as hard as she could against the ropes. She tugged against the ropes encircling her upper body and twisted her legs and feet trying to pull something loose. But again nothing shifted. Whoever had tied them had done a truly professional job.

    She moaned into her gag and stared at her friends. Alex looked beaten, barely moving and her head hanging down into her chest. Clover was exhausted, and was once again dozing lightly. Sam could feel their shared helplessness beginning to overwhelm her, but again she managed to find a reserve of mental strength from somewhere. There had to be a way out, there simply had to be. But without any of their gadgets to hand how could they es...

    Hang on. Of course how could she have been so stupid! The answer had been around her wrist the entire time.

    She began tugging against her wrist bonds and wriggling her fingers, not trying to break free but trying to reach the watch attached to her left wrist. It was a gadget from an old mission that she had worn to the party by accident, putting her opera gloves over it in her rush to get to the mansion on time. Now it offered a chance of escape, but only if she could reach it. She was glad her hands had been tied the way they were otherwise it would have been impossible. As it was she was able to twist her hand around enough, clasp the watch through the silk of her glove, push the button on the side and...

    A thin red laser beam shot out of the watch, burning a hole not only through her glove, but also through the ropes surrounding her wrists. After a couple of seconds Sam felt her hands pull free.

     "MMMMMGGGGG DDDMMM SSSSSMMMM" Alex and Clover chorused in relief as they watched her pull the ropes around her body up over her head, having fallen away easily now her hands were free. Not wasting any time Sam reached behind her head, unbuckled the ball gag and spat it out in relief.

     "Hang on girls, give me a minute here" she announced as she took hold of her wrist laser and directed its beam at the ropes around her legs. After several minutes had passed Sam had successfully used the gadget to not only cut herself free, but her two friends as well.

     "Remind me to buy a drink for whoever came up with that gadget" Alex said as she rubbed her aching wrists.

     "What do we do now?" asked Clover.

     Sam sat back down on her chair and unfastened the straps on her shoes. "We go after Rogerson and stop his plan before it's too late. We should also try and find some way of communicating with Jerry and calling for back up." As she kicked off her heels and began to peel off her now ruined gloves she added "I'm going make that psycho pay for doing that to us."

    "What was that guy thinking, gagging us with those things?" Clover exclaimed, throwing the ball gag that had been in her mouth to the side. "I mean, he could have at least used a black coloured one to go with my outfit." When she saw Sam and Alex pause and look at her in surprise she added "well I have to co-ordinate don't I?"

    "Sam's right, we don't have time to waste" said Alex, kicking off her own heels and getting up out of her seat. "The lives of millions of people are at stake. Rogerson has to be stopped."

    The three spies, now all wearing no shoes with only their stockings on their feet, moved to the doorway as quietly as possible. The door was heavy but remained unlocked. Obviously they hadn't anticipated them getting free, so the girls had no trouble in lifting the latch and pushing the door open.

    They walked out into a dimly lit stone corridor in the basement underneath the manor. It was deserted and the only sound came from the rustle of Sam and Alex's dresses as they cautiously pressed forward. Soon they arrived at a flight of stairs leading back up to the ground floor, which brought them out onto a corridor that Clover instantly recognised.

   "I know where we are" she exclaimed a little too loudly. "The kitchen is down that way and the staff room is up this corridor!"

    Remembering the layout of the mansion in her head Sam whispered "that means if we follow this hallway to the next flight of stairs we'll end up in Rogerson's private quarters."

    "Shouldn't we be trying to get away from the mad man who had us all tied up in his creepy insect farm?" Alex pointed out.

    "He has a phone in his bedroom we can use to call for help."

    "And you know that because..."

    "Because I spent about two hours trying to reach it with my hands tied to my ankles. Plus we need to grab that evidence I saw so we can prove what he was up to." Checking the coast was clear Sam moved off with Alex and Clover following closely behind. She was surprised that they had not encountered any staff since their escape. She guessed that it was the following night so all the day staff had gone home, and all the remaining staff were making preparations for Rogersons grand scheme.

     Yet as they rounded the corner having just climbed the stairs leading to the private wing they were confronted by two very surprised looking security guards. The men blinked at them in astonishment for a couple of seconds, before one of them reached for their radio. The three spies however were not going to be caught off guard again, and quickly leapt into action. Clover dived for the man with the radio, grabbing him by the wrist and twisting it behind his back. His friend tried to help him out but left himself open for Alex to pull her arm around his neck, placing him into a sleeper hold, while the other was helpless to prevent Sam doing the same thing to him. Soon both guards lay unconscious on the floor, leaving the three spies wondering what to do with them.

    "We can't just leave them here, someone will find them and know we've escaped" fretted Alex.

    "We don't have time to waste, let's just get to Rogerson's room so we can get out of here!" Sam replied.

        So they set off again, running as silently as possible down the lavishly decorated corridors that connected the private wing of the mansion. The walls were oak panelled and the floor was covered with colourful Persian rugs. Soon they arrived at the entrance to Rogersons bedroom, the same room Sam had been kept prisoner in only hours before. Not wanting to waste any more time Sam pushed open the unlocked door and the three girls ran inside. Yet when they saw who was waiting for them inside they wished they had proceeded with more caution.

     "Evening ladies" Rogerson beamed at them, sitting on his bed with a red silk dressing gown over his clothes. In his hand he was holding a tv remote, and on the television screen resting on his drawers was CCTV footage from across the estate. "I've been watching your escape all the time. A hidden laser in your wristwatch eh Sam? You are full of surprises."

    "Give it up Rogerson. You aren't going to catch us out this time!" Alex cried as they took up defence stances and prepared to attack.

    "Are you going to kung fu me like you did my two security guards?" Rogerson asked as he stood up. After he spoke the girls thought they heard a muffled thump from somewhere nearby, but decided to ignore it as they focused their attention on him.

     "We're not going to let you carry out your plan. It's like, totally evil!" said Clover.

    Rogerson gave a sigh, and from his belt he suddenly produced an antique Victorian pistol. "I was hoping it wouldn't have to come to this. It's so uncivilised."

    "You can't stop us with that thing, it's only got one shot in it" said Sam, as she heard another thump from somewhere inside the room.

    "Well observed" Rogerson smiled as he made his way to wooden wardrobe at the side. "But I wasn't intending on using it on you three." Before the spies could say or do anything else he unlocked the wardrobe door, and they cried out in shock as somebody fell out of it and landed on the floor with a thump.

     "Oh my God, Penelope!" Clover screamed.

     "CCLLLLMMMM HHHHHMMMMM" Penelope cried out through the layers of tape plastered over her mouth. Upon seeing Clover she squirmed against the ropes binding her hands behind her back, encircling her upper body and knotted around her ankles, thighs and knees. Strands of her black hair fell over her face as she stared up at them with her eyes filled with fear and desperation.

     Clover stepped towards Penelope but Rogerson got to her first, kneeling beside her and pressing the pistol against her head. She screamed into her tape gag and closed her eyes, as if hoping it would wake her from this nightmare. "So do you girls want to be responsible for poor old Penelope's untimely demise, or do you want to stand down?" Rogerson asked.

    "Damn you Rogerson let her go now!" Sam bellowed at him.

    "Only if you girls surrender!" Rogerson bellowed back. "Penelope's life is in your hands, don't think I won't do it."

     A horrible silence fell inside the room, punctuated by Penelope's frightened sobs. The three spies looked at each other, knowing there was only one answer. They would become captives again, but there was no way they could let an innocent civilian come to any harm.

    "We'll do what you say" Clover murmured in a broken voice. "Just...just don't hurt her, please."

     "Good choice ladies" Rogerson replied, before reaching for his radio with his free hand and speaking into it "security, you can come in now."

     "Bet you think you're really clever, threatening tied up girls like this" Alex snorted in disgust.

    Rogerson gave a shrug. "Just a little bit, though it'll be nice to see you three tightly trussed up again."

     "Yeah well enjoy it while you can" Sam snarled. "You won't be tying up many women once you're caught and sent to jail."

    As the sound of security guards running up the stairs drifted in from outside Rogerson replied "I don't think so. After what I've got planned for you three, you won't be telling anyone about my plans any time soon."


    "Ants are quite remarkable creatures you know" Rogerson remarked idly as he finished tying the ropes around Clovers ankles. "Some experts believe that if the average ant was a centimetre larger they would be the dominant species on this planet, not humans."

    Clover, Sam and Alex weren't in the mood to appreciate his random piece of trivia. The three spies had been stripped to their underwear before having had their arms tied behind their backs, their forearms pinned against each other and their hands touching the opposite elbow. Ropes were also wound over their upper bodies above and below their breasts. They had then been placed back to back in a Y shape and seated on top of a loading trolley. Then they were tied together with ropes linking their forearms to each other and wound around their waists. Finally their legs were tied together above their knees and around their ankles. While this was happening they couldn't complain due to the red ball gags once again pulled into their mouths.

    "Mmmmmgggg" Sam grunted indignantly, trying to sound as defiant as she could despite feeling incredibly exposed wearing only a white strapless bra and matching panties. Tied to her left sat Alex, dressed only in a lacy red pair of undies, and tied to her right Clover in a practical black bra and panty combination.  She cast her eyes to the side and focused on Penelope, still fully dressed but her upper body secured with rope and tape still plastered over her lips. Her legs were free but she was being held by one of Rogersons muscled goons, and could only watch on powerlessly.

    "And have you heard about termites in Africa who can construct mounds that, in relation to their size, are like humans constructing a skyscraper five times the size of the empire state building?" Rogerson asked as he stood up. Leering over the three trussed girls he stroked his pet stick insect affectionately and added "but I don't think our guests really care for these facts Richmond. No I think they're more interested in what this has got to do with them."

    He was distracted by the sound of the oak door to the insect house opening. Barry stepped in with the head of security Marsh, carrying a big paint pot and three large brushes in the other hand. He walked over and handed one brush to Rogerson and the other to Marsh. Sam, Alex and Clover watched intently, wondering just what was going to happen next.

     "Would you like to know what my favourite habitat in this room is?" Rogerson asked smugly. Motioning to the largest exhibit containing a rainforest environment he continued "you can't see anything in there right now, but it contains my prize exhibit: A nest of green ants from the rainforests of northern Australia. They're currently tucked away underneath the earth, but they'll quickly come out when they're presented with a quick snack."

    The spies watched as the paint pot was placed beside them, and saw that it contained a thick, golden coloured liquid. It didn't look like paint, in fact it looked like...

     Sam suddenly recognised what it was, and as a result realised what was going to happen next. "NNNNMMMMM PPPLLLLLMMM. YYYYYYMMMMM CCCCCCMMMMM RRRRGGGGGGHHHHMMMM!" she cried, resuming her struggles with a renewed energy.

    Laughing as he dipped his paintbrush into the liquid Rogerson said "oh redhead has figured it all out has she. What about the other two?" Seeing only blank looks on Alex and Clovers faces he said "fair enough then. Get to work gentlemen!" With that he took his brush and began to plaster Sam's bare legs with the liquid, whilst Barry did the same to Clover and Marsh to Alex.

     "Mmmmmppphhh hhhmmm" Clover moaned as she felt the brush being stroked over her legs. The substance being applied was sticky and smelled very sweet. It didn't take her and Alex long to realise they were being coated in honey. Sam bucked and strained against Rogerson, but remained powerless to prevent him progressing up from her lower legs to her thighs.

     "It's an old cliché I know, the picnickers at war with the ants coming after their food" Rogerson remarked as he worked. "I just wondered what it would be like if the ants were able to get their revenge, by making humans I don't like very much the actual picnic."

     Alex and Clovers' eyes widened as they too realised what was going to happen. They were being coated in honey as preparation to be a snack for Rogersons ant farm. Stripped to their underwear the thought of having thousands of tiny insects crawling over their bare skin was almost unthinkable.

     "I should also mention that green ants have quite a nasty bite" Rogerson continued as he started slapping honey onto Sam's waist. "Not quite as nasty as fire ants you'll be glad to hear, but enough to cause you some discomfort: Particularly when you're being bitten by thousands of the little blighters."

      "NNNNNMMMMM" Alex pleaded as Marsh coated her upper body, the honey seeping into her underwear and making her legs stick together.

     "Oh don't worry Alex their bites aren't lethal" Rogerson grinned, but couldn't help but adding "unless you have an allergic reaction to them. That can happen. Chances are though that you'll be alive once I decide to bring you out. Question is whether you'll want to be after the ants are done with you."

     "What about Penny?" Barry asked, his gaze flickering up to the trussed waitress being held to the side.

     "We'll take her with us in case we need a hostage. The government should be more willing to talk if we have a civilian prisoner as opposed to three international super spies" said Rogerson.

     "Mmmmm" Penelope murmured fearfully. Clover looked up and made eye contact with her. The young girl's eyes were filled with fear and were almost tearful. Clover could remember how she felt the first time she had been captured and tied up, and could relate to how Penelope was feeling right now. She tried to focus her gaze, using her eyes to reassure her, but was interrupted by Barry sweeping his honey sodden brush over her face.

     "NNNNMMM GGGGMMM MMMPPPHH" Clover cried, the honey congealing over her eyes and nose. She could taste it around the edges of her ball gag. Pleading cries from either side of her told her that both Sam and Alex were receiving the exact same treatment.

    Rogerson took one last, deliberate sweep with his brush down Sam's face, before standing back to admire his handiwork. "What do you think Richmond? Do you think maybe these three little spies are beginning to regret that they ever came snooping around my establishment?"

     "SCCCRRRRMMM YYYYMMMM" Sam snarled, as she found another surge of defiance following the look on his smug face.

     Rogerson simply smiled as he picked up the bucket by its handle. "Just need one last finishing touch I think" he announced, before he tipped up the bucket and emptied the remaining contents over their heads. The three spies groaned as honey seeped into their hair and dripped down over their already soaked faces and shoulders.

     "That ought to do the trick" Rogerson cackled as he threw the bucket aside, before taking a cardkey out of his jacket pocket. He moved over to the exhibit window and slid it through the slot at the side, causing the glass to slide upwards. Barry and Marsh then grasped the handle bars of the loading trolley the spies were sat on, and began to wheel it towards the gaping entrance to the habitat. Sam, Alex and Clover wriggled against the ropes wound about them but there was nothing they could do. The loading trolley reached the edge of the habitat, at which Barry and Marsh tipped it up so the girls slide off.

    They landed with a thump and a number of muffled squeals. The soft earth and dry leaves stuck to the honey coating their bodies and the temperature was almost unbearably hot and humid. All they could only do was wriggle and moan as Rogerson swiped the cardkey again. As the glass slide back down into place he waved cheerily at them and said "have a nice picnic my dears. I'll release you once I've changed the world." Then the glass reached the bottom and sealed the spies inside their tropical prison. They watched through the glass as Rogerson handed the cardkey to Barry, before he made his way to the exit. Penelope was bustled out with him by the guard holding her with Marsh bringing up the rear. As the door shut behind them Barry was the only one left in the room, and he stood with his arms crossed as he watched them squirm helplessly through the glass.

    Sam, Alex and Clover strained and pulled with all their might. The ropes rubbed painfully against their bare skin, and every pull from one of them caused pain for the other two. They desperately tried to grasp for a knot or stray end but they had been tied too well. All they could do was wriggle, dripping with honey mixed with sweat and await their fate.

    Clover was bitten first. She squealed as she felt a sharp twinge of pain on the underside of her leg. It only lasted a second, but was as if someone had jabbed her with a needle for a split second. Then a large ant with a green coloured abdomen scurried up onto her knees. Clover gazed at it in horror, knowing it was only the first of thousands of to be drawn to the sweet smell of the honey that they were coated in.

    Alex and Sam squealed into their ballgags as all of a sudden the exhibit seemed to spring into life. Branches and leaves moved and shook as if from nowhere ants began to stream towards them. The girls wriggled and stamped their feet in a vain attempt to keep them away. Soon ants were streaming all over their legs, the itch of their scurrying mixed in with the sharp jabs of pain as they were bitten. These jabs gradually increased in number and intensity, until it was like their legs were experiencing intense and painful pins and needles. But the ants didn't stop there. Soon they had reached their torsos, and the biting began to slowly progress up their bodies.

     As this was going on Sam desperately continued to struggle. If she could just get her arms free maybe there was a way out. But even if they could get free of their bindings they had to escape the exhibit, getting past Barry in the process. She did her best to block out the stinging jabs from her lower body, but soon it became almost impossible to ignore.

      Alex stared into the distance, trying everything to forget where she was and what was happening to her. She thought of home, of life in LA and the times spent with her friends. But as the ants reached her shoulders she could barely concentrate on anything else but the discomfort they were causing her. And yet more ants kept on appearing in a never ending stream. Alex squealed as she felt one scurry across her face before biting her on the cheek.

    Soon the girls could barely see their legs and feet through the swarm of green and orange insects, and could feel a number of them crawling over their faces and even in their hair. Their bodies were now almost completely numb from the stinging bites. The three spies slunk into their bonds in defeat, closing their eyes and waiting desperately to be woken from this living nightmare. Yet they knew escape was now impossible, and what they really needed was a miracle.

    When the door to the insect room suddenly reopened, they got one.

    Barry whirled around before exclaiming in astonishment "Penelope, what the hell...?"

    Penelope stood in the doorway, free from the ropes that had been binding her and looking like she was out for blood. As he gazed at her in disbelief Barry's eyes were drawn to something she was holding in her right hand. He only realised it was the fire hose from the outside corridor she aimed it at him and turned the nozzle.

    Barry was suddenly hit by a stream of high powered water that knocked him of balance and pushing him against the exhibit glass. Penelope continued to aim the water jet at him as she moved closer towards him, before once satisfied he had had enough she turned the nozzle off. And exhausted and soaking Barry slumped against the glass trying to catch his breath, but quick as a flash Penelope had grabbed him by the arms and thrown him to the floor. He tried to scurry backwards but he was stopped by her placing the point of her high heel on his windpipe, applying enough pressure to allow him to breathe, but only just.

     "I'll only say this once. Give me the bloody cardkey!" She ordered. Barry could instantly tell she meant it. Gone was the sweet natured waitress fearing for her life, in her place was a young woman with a look of raw determination on her face that said nothing was going to stop her.

    "'s in left pocket!" he spluttered. Penelope responded by withdrawing her foot from his neck, before stamping down on his diaphragm. As a winded Barry gasped for breath she knelt down and took his cardkey. After swiping it she picked up the hosepipe as the glass slid back up into the ceiling.

    "MMMMMPPPHHH PPPPMMMM" Sam, Alex and Clover chorused desperately, the discomfort caused by the biting ants now almost unbearable.

     "Brace yourself girls, this may sting a little" Penelope told them, before she turned the nozzle on the hosepipe.

     The spies cried out as they were hit by the high powered water jet that buffeted their bodies and stung their already raw skin. But the ants were unable to withstand the torrents of water and were quickly washed away. Penelope circled the girls as she cleansed them of their insect attackers, and when satisfied most of them were now gone she turned the hosepipe back off.

    Staring at the dripping wet spies she then gave a wry smile, before saying "I think that's what they call 'in the nick of time'."

     "Aren't you a little young to be working for MI5?" Sam asked.

     "Aren't you three a little young to be international super agents?" Penelope asked back with a grin.

    Responding with another smile Sam simply replied "touché."

    "Alex I must insist that you don't keep on scratching those bites" scolded Jerry, the well dressed boss of the three spies who had flown to England when he had lost contact with them.

    "I can't help it" said Alex. "When I think about those ants I just...eeeuuuurrrgghhh." She began to scratch her shoulders and body intensely underneath the blanket that covered her. Jerry had provided them a specially designed cream that would help calm the irritations and help the skin heal. The girls had been plastered from head to toe in the light green paste and given blankets to keep them warm. Now sitting on chairs up in the estate cafe they had been given a medical check up, but with no signs of any allergic reactions Jerry was convinced they would make a full recovery.

    "I like can't believe you're a spy too" Clover exclaimed, already sounding much happier. "It's like, so totally awesome."

   "Yeah, and if you weren't we'd be still in that ant farm right now, so thank you" Sam added.

    "No I and the whole of Britain should be thanking you" Penelope insisted. "Four months of undercover work and I barely turned up anything. Then you three arrive and gave us everything we need to prosecute Rogerson in one night. You went through quite an ordeal to get us that evidence, and because of it he will now be spending a lot of time in captivity himself."

     "But how did you escape?" Clover asked.

     "Because she told me she was in trouble" spoke a new voice. They all turned to see a man dressed in a suit and tie standing in the doorway, the same man who only a few hours ago had been posing as Detective Inspector Barnes. "Agent Jeremy Bates at your service" he announced with a cheery wave.

    "I contacted Jeremy to let him know you had gone missing, so he came to the estate pretending to be a detective" explained Penelope. "By that time Barry and Rogerson had cornered me but I was able to give him a coded phrase we use when we're under duress."

    "Was it 'everything is fine and dandy'?" Jerry asked with a knowing look.

    "I won't ask you how you know that" Jeremy replied. "But she gave us enough time to arrange a sweep on Belington Manor. We caught Rogerson as he was loading Penelope here onto his helicopter. Once he was in our custody and we had freed Penelope she tore off to come rescue you three."

     "Yeah and not a moment too soon" Alex remarked, itching her legs furiously.

     "I'm so sorry you had to go through all that" Penelope told them, sounding genuinely apologetic. "If I'd known what was going to happen I would have made sure to kick his sorry backside back to the other side of the House of Lords before he tied me up. I knew back up was on the way so I thought I could get away with playing the damsel in distress card. But you suffered because of it, and I'm sorry."

     "Don't be" Sam told her with a smile. "It all worked out for the best, London is now safe, and that psycho will now get what he deserves."

      Before anyone else could speak Jeremy's phone rang. He put it into his ear and said "yeah...yeah I'm with them now...what...what do you mean Rogerson escaped?"






Return to the Contributions index


Return to the main index