Evening at the Red Dragon Club
The Red Dragon Club was located down a dark alleyway, right in the centre of London’s Chinatown district. The entrance was designed so that you would not know it was there unless you were looking for it. It resembled a grotty old fire exit with green paint peeling off the woodwork. But if you were to walk inside you would be confronted with two burly security guards, who would only let you past if you presented them with your invitation, a black slip of paper on which a red dragon was inscribed. The bouncers would then stand aside and let you past into the interior.
The main area was dimly lit with red tinted light bulbs, barely reflecting off the jet black leather furniture. Dotted around the room were priceless Ming Vases on pedestals and valuable Chinese artwork hanging off the ruby red walls. The guests of this exclusive establishment were required to dress extravagantly, the men in tuxedos and the ladies in expensive cheongsam dresses.
It was the small hours of the morning, and the venue was now devoid of clientele. Only the staff remained. Mei-Zhen, a mid-twenties Chinese girl dressed in an emerald china dress with the hem cut off at the knees, with dark nylons and ankle strap, high heel pumps, had just been about to lock the takings in the safe and go home. Yet upon entering the head office she came face to face with a dark haired Caucasian girl in her own blue coloured cheongsam dress, rifling through the desk of the clubs proprietor. Yet Mei-Zhen didn’t call the police; instead she called for her two fellow bar girls, Huilang and Yuehai, and together they cornered the intruder.
This girl didn’t go down without a struggle, but the three Chinese bargirls knew how to handle rowdy troublemakers, and soon got the intruder under control. Huilang went to fetch the owner, Yuehai to access the database to find out the girls name, while Mei-Zhen sat on a bar stool applying anti-sceptic to the scratches inflicted on her cheek during the struggle. She muttered Chinese swear words under her breath as the cotton pad stung her skin, angrily eyeing the bound and gagged girl seated on the opposing sofa.
MI5 agent Penny Powell snarled over the red cloth pulled between her teeth, her shoulders alternating up and down as she tried writhing out of the ropes pulled about her upper body and keeping her hands tied behind her back. The bright blue of her cheongsam dress and her long opera gloves stood right out against the black leather of the sofa she’d been shoved into. The long flaps of her dress were swept to one side, revealing plenty of her tan nylons and blue ankle strap sandals, in addition to the ropes wound about her knees and ankles. Her long raven hair had spilt out of its bun, and now tumbled over her shoulders. She wanted to be out of here by the time the Red Dragon’s proprietor arrived.
She didn’t manage it. The main entrance opened and in walked a Chinese lady in her forties. She too wore a china dress, jet black with red trim and a red dragon embroidered into the front, it hugged her slim figure as she walked over on four inch high heel pumps. Her lips were coloured ruby red and her face had so much makeup her skin was coloured a powdery white. Her name was Xifeng, and she was as dangerous as she was glamorous.
She was carrying with her a vase, which Penny could tell was of vast expense. She snarled at her captor through her gag as the Chinese lady formed a malicious smile with her rouged lips and said, “This what you were looking for?”
“Gggvvv ttthhh tttt mmmggg!” Penny roared, stamping her high heeled sandals in a pool of spilt vodka and lime, wanting nothing more than to wrench this vase out of her grip.
Xifeng laughed loudly at her, before looking about her private club wistfully. “I will miss this venue. I’d forged an enjoyable life for myself here in London, not to mention profitable. But if MI5 are going to start interfering then I have no choice but to relocate.”
Penny’s hazel eyes widened. If Xifeng knew her true identity, then all bets were off.
Her immaculately varnished black nails caressing the antique china, Xifeng added, “But at least you won’t be getting your hands on my latest investment. I have many interested parties in the information this vase contains. A list of British agents working undercover should raise me enough funds to start afresh. Which is why I can’t allow you to run off with it.”
“What shall we do with her mistress?” asked Mei-Zhen over Penny’s muffled protests.
“Stick her in the kitchen freezer while we clear this building,” Xifeng informed her loyal servant. “Who knows, maybe the British Government will manage to find her before she succumbs to hypothermia!”
“DDNNNNTTT YYYYY DDDRRRR. LLLLTTTT MMMMGGG TTTT FFFFF TTHHSS!” demanded Penny as loudly as her gag would permit. But no matter how hard she kicked her bound feet or twisted her tightly fixed arms she could not break free from the grasp of her captors, as Xifeng grabbed her by the feet and Mei-Zhen underneath her arms. They were stronger than they looked, and sharing her weight she was hauled into the kitchen. Penny’s eyes widened as she saw the freezer door getting closer and she writhed about like a girl possessed.
Yet her efforts were all in vain. Mei-Zhen pulled the freezer door handle and the three women were hit by a blast of frigid air, causing the flaps of their cheongsam dresses to flap in the breeze. The two Chinese ladies took a couple of steps into the freezer, then unceremoniously dumped the grunting Penny onto the cold, stainless steel floor amid a cluster of ice crystals.
“Hope you take the time to, as you westerners say, chill out!” Xifeng laughed at the bucking raven haired girl, just before she slammed the door shut and sealed Penny in the freezing darkness.
Ignoring the indignant screams from beyond the white coloured door, Xifeng told her servant in Chinese, “We must evacuate this building within the hour. Find Huilang and Yuehai and gather my most prized possessions. I will go to the office and erase the computer hard drives. Go!”
Mei-Zhen didn’t need telling twice. Spinning on her high heels she strode out of the kitchen in the direction of the store in which all of Xifeng’s valuables were stored; incredibly expensive ornaments traded on the black market, earning the woman a small fortune. The rest of her earnings were gained from the transfer of confidential information to her contacts back in China. They were all aware this would make them targets of governments and spy agencies across the globe, but the financial rewards were worth not being able to settle in the same country for much more than a year.
They all knew the drill, having enacted it countless times before both for practice and for real. Which was why Mei-Zhen knew something was wrong the moment she stepped into the antiquities vault. There was no sound of activity; of goods being safely loaded into carry cases. Instead there was only silence, and the occasional grunt.
Mei-Zhen walked around a metal shelving unit, and gave a gasp of astonishment at the sight of Huilang and Yuehai sitting back to back on the floor, dressed in their china dresses the same colour and style as her own. But now their nylon covered legs were bound with strong white rope at the ankles and knees. Their hands were bound behind their backs in a box shape, and attached to more ropes surrounding their upper bodies like a harness. Black rags had been pulled into their mouths, cleave gagging them, and another two had been pulled over their eyes as blindfolds. Yet despite not being able to see they had still heard the sound of Mei-Zhen’s high heels as she approached, and were facing her direction crying out though their gags, trying to warn her away.
Mei-Zhen only then noticed the shelving units on which all of Xifeng’s possessions were stored were now completely bare. But the goods were not stored in their silver carry cases, but a bundle of black rucksacks positioned beside the bound and gagged girls. Mei-Zhen knew what this meant. Penny was not the only intruder to their establishment that night.
Mei-Zhen realised this only too late, just before she felt the steel tip of a pistol being placed right in the small of her back. She instinctively put her hands up, at which a gloved hand grabbed her shoulder and spun her round. Mei-Zhen could only gasp when she saw the face of the intruders. Or rather, the masked faces of the intruders. Masks belonging to an infamous gang of thieves who had been at large in Britain for as long as she’d been living there. Mei-Zhen gulped, knowing what was coming next, and knowing full well there was to be no escape for her this time.
Xifeng was unaware of events transpiring in her vault. She was instead in her office sending one last encrypted email. She typed as fast as her long, immaculately varnished red fingernails would allow. She typed the words, ‘Been discovered and must leave immediately. Will leave the vase at the pre-arranged drop off but twenty four hours early. Will contact you for payment once I’m settled in a new location.’ She hit send with a thump of the keyboard, and activated the computers blue screen. Then without hesitation, she started the process of wiping the hard drive. Not even the most skilled computer expert would be able to find any evidence once it was finished.
Sighing, she got up, gathered what she could into her shoulder bag, and gave one last scour of her office to ensure there was nothing remaining which MI5 could use to track her. When satisfied that she had everything she needed, she grabbed the expensive Ming Vase to have caused her all this trouble and left the office, turning the lights out as she went.
She hadn’t taken two steps into the club when she found herself staring right into the barrel of a pistol.
Xifeng gave a start before stopping, completely caught off guard by the intruder brandishing this weapon at her. It wasn’t Penny; nor was it a policeman or operative of MI5. Instead it was a figure dressed completely in grey, from their all in one catsuit to the gloves on their hands. Hoods had been pulled over their heads and hair, and their face was concealed behind a plain white mask that closely resembled those dolls from her home country. The only physical detail Xifeng could discern was that the intruder had the physique of a woman.
Xifeng also recognised them from the news reports, and hiding her surprise with a callous laugh she said, “Well this night is really getting interesting. Not only have the secret service seen fit to pay me a visit, but the famous China Doll Gang too!”
The China Doll brandishing the gun said nothing. She merely tilted her head to one side.
Xifeng licked her red lips. “Of course, you’re not really the talkative type are you? That’s good, because I don’t have the time for idle conversation.” She then tried to walk past the doll, but she responded by tracking Xifeng’s movements with her pistol, not letting the Chinese lady out of its sights.
“So that’s how it’s going to be is it?” Xifeng remarked, her already fraught patience being tested to its limit. “Listen to me you masked deviant. I know powerful people straight out of your nightmares. You’re out of your league.” Yet the doll did not move, her posture rigid and her feet fixed in position. She wasn’t going anywhere. Obviously she had powerful friends of her own. Xifeng was now getting incredibly irritated, and with real venom in her voice she snapped, “This is your last warning. If you and your gang don’t leave my premises then I’ll…”
Xifeng trailed off. In her anger and surprise she’d missed a very important fact. This doll was just one of three. So where were her friends?
One of them quickly revealed herself as she burst into the main club, bringing her prisoner with her. Mei-Zhen was squeaking furiously behind her cleave gag, her shoulders alternating against the ropes encircling her upper body and keeping her hands behind her back. Xifeng stared at her bound servant and began to realise the odds were now really not in her favour.
“If you make me miss my flight, I will ensure that you regret it,” Xifeng remarked with a resigned, yet bitter tone. The two dolls simply shook their heads at her in unison.
While all this was taking place, Penny was doing her utmost to stop herself shivering into submission, as she rolled over the icy freezer floor trying to wriggle out of her bonds. Her legs darted in and out from in between the flaps of her Cheongsam dress as she tried kicking off the ropes securing her ankles and knees. She wasn’t having much luck there, so instead she focused on her hands. She was glad she’d chosen to wear her long blue opera gloves reaching over her elbows, protecting her not just from the biting ropes but the biting cold. They also gave her extra slack, and with a couple of experimental tugs she realised that with her training it wouldn’t take long until freedom was achieved. Just as well, because in temperatures of minus 15 degrees centigrade and below she knew she wouldn’t have much time to stave off hypothermia.
She hauled herself up into a sitting position, and twisted her hands around and around while picking at the knot with her gloved fingertips. She gave a shake of her long raven hair, flicking out the ice crystals that had got tangled in her tresses. The constant hum of the fan drowned out her gagged mumbles as she worked. The icy air attacked areas of her exposed skin and seemed to seep right into her very soul. Yet Penny was famed among MI5 recruits her age for her resilience, and eventually her patience was rewarded. The knot binding her hands slipped loose and her hands jerked free. Immediately she pulled off the ropes encircling her torso, yanked away her cleave gag and swiftly untied her legs.
Picking herself up off the floor she teetered gingerly to the freezer door on her high heels, rubbing her torso to warm herself up. Mercifully the door wasn’t locked or blocked, and with a press of the release button the door was flung open, and she stumbled out into the wonderfully warm kitchen. Penny stood by the grill for a few seconds warming herself, while unbuckling her high heel sandals. She needed a swift and silent exit, and she concealed her shoes under the salad counter knowing they’d just hinder her. She knew she could pick them up later when she returned with reinforcements.
Walking in just her nylon-clad feet she made for the large swing door with a round porthole window which led from the kitchen into the main club. She hesitated before walking through, cautiously peeping through the window to check the coast was clear. It was just as well she did, otherwise she’d have walked right into a similar predicament to Mei-Zhen and Xifeng.
The two Chinese women were bound back to back, arms pulled around each other’s body and fixed against the opposing lady’s waist. They were both gagged with thin black cloths pulled between their bright red lips, and looked like they were protesting vehemently as the hooded and masked women bound their legs at the ankles and knees. Penny recognised the dolls immediately from MI5 intel, so she was fully aware of what she was dealing with.
Penny couldn’t help but smirk at the reversal of her captor’s fortunes. But it didn’t do much to change her situation. If these intruders caught her she had no doubt she’d end up bound and gagged once again. She didn’t fancy that happening twice in one evening. But those two dolls were blocking her one exit. Then she saw it, the emerald coloured Ming Vase that she’d been sent here to retrieve, resting on a tabletop a good twenty feet away from the dolls and their captives. The information it contained was of utmost importance. Maybe it didn’t matter if she got out of here, as long as that vase did.
Penny hatched her plan, and unfastened her left earring. Clasping the small blue gem in her fingertips, she braced herself against the door, pictured the nearest escape route in her head, took a deep breath, and then barged through.
She ignored the muffled gasps of surprise from Xifeng and Mei-Zhen, nor did she stop when the dolls stood up in alarm. She simply ran over to the vase, dropped her earring into it, before she turned around to make for the exit. Only to find herself staring straight at the third member of the China Doll Gang in the doorway, blocking her escape. Penny froze, knowing there was no way out now, and holding her hands above her head she admitted defeat.
Soon the hands of the two other dolls were on her shoulders, and Penny was pushed onto her knees. The dolls worked swiftly, one gagging her with another strip of black cloth while the other pulled her arms behind her back in a box shape and bound them together. Within minutes more ropes were being pulled about her torso and fixed to her bound wrists in a harness, while the third doll grabbed her ankles and tied them together snugly. Then for a final flourish she was pushed onto her front, and a long length of rope was applied first to her arm bonds, and then to her feet. When it was pulled taught Penny was left in a tight, immovable hogtie.
The dolls stood up and examined their latest victims in silence. When sure they weren’t going anywhere, they walked over to their stash of loot concealed in their dark backpacks and slung it over their shoulders. “Dddddnnnttt tttkkk ttthhhh vvvsss!” Penny growled at them, rocking from side to side in her hogtie with her feet jiggling about in mid-air. The three dolls looked first at her and saw her staring wide eyed at the Ming Vase. Then the central doll grabbed the antique in her gloved hands and picked it up.
“NNMMMM NNNTTT TTTHHHTTTT!” chorused Xifeng and Mei-Zhen in horror. Yet no amount of conjoined wriggling and rocking could stop the intruders from walking to the doorway with their payday in their hands. The three China Dolls stopped in the doorway, looked back at the three bound and gagged women, gave one last unified tilt of their heads to one side, before they disappeared into the night.
Xifeng and Mei-Zhen struggled in their desperation to escape, arching their backs and stamping their heels on the floor without success. Yet Penny only shifted herself on the spot, trying to make herself as comfortable as her hogtie would allow. She knew full well that back-up would arrive in an hour or so when she failed to report in. And when they did she would be able to track the signal being emitted by the secret transmitter concealed within her earring to wherever the China Dolls had taken it. As Penny glanced over at her fellow bound and gagged prisoners, she realised that there was a strong chance it wouldn’t just be Xifeng and her accomplices who she’d be putting behind bars tonight.
Two hours later Penny, now untied and changed into a dark tracksuit, was tying her hair into a ponytail as her fellow agent, the blonde haired Simon Grant, pulled their car up outside an old warehouse in the London docklands. “The signal is coming from in there!” he remarked as he turned off the ignition, while Penny withdrew a standard issue pistol from the glove compartment.
“Perfect!” she remarked as she clipped in the magazine. “I’ve a score to settle with those dolls!”
Simon gave a sigh as he readied his own weapon. “You sure about this Penny? I mean, you were tied up for over an hour.” Penny let him know her answer when she flung open the car door and ran out into the night. Simon swore under his breath as he leapt out to join her.
Together they entered the old warehouse, littered with empty beer bottles and strewn with graffiti. It was hardly the most obvious location for the hideout of one of the country’s most infamous gangs, but Penny surmised that was how they’d kept it secret for so long. At last, the location and identities of the China Doll Gang was about to be uncovered.
Both Simon and Penny progressed slowly, taking their time to check every shadow and pillar for signs of their quarry. But the warehouse was silent with no sign of life. In fact, the only thing they saw which indicated that someone had been there recently rested on a rusted chair, an open brown parcel. Simon covered Penny while she emptied its contents into her open palm. Her blue gemstone earring, a USB stick, and a sealed letter.
Simon’s eyes lit up when he saw the USB stick. “Is that the data you were sent in to retrieve?”
Penny nodded in confirmation. “But where is the vase it was hidden inside?” she pondered.
“Well at least those agents identities are now safely back in MI5 hands,” Simon remarked. “I’ll contact base and let them know!”
As Simon went to radio their superiors Penny stared at the letter in her hands. Tutting in frustration she ripped open the envelope and pulled out its contents. It was a single sheet of paper, on which was written with immaculate handwriting:-
'To the girl we encountered at the Red Dragon Club, we apologise for any inconvenience we may have caused you. We do not normally rob a location under surveillance by MI5, but Xifeng’s antiques proved too tempting a target. We have left you the data you were after, but we’re sure the good people of MI5 won’t begrudge us making off with the rest of her possessions. Don’t waste tax payer’s money trying to find us, and may we never meet again. The China Doll Gang.'
Blanche's Latest Victim
Offices of Fulham Finance – April 2nd – 3:36pm
Blanche swept a loose strand of her slicked back, bright white hair behind her ear, engrossed in the music reverberating from her headphones as Nabucco desperately sung out in despair at the thought of his daughter Fenena being taken away in chains. She breathed in deeply at the same time he hit the high note, revelling in his luscious Baritone voice. And then, just as the climax was being reached, a muffled grunt sounded from right behind her, completely spoiling the moment.
Irritated, Blanche spun around to glare at the red headed woman she’d bound to a support pillar, and remarked with her strong northern accent, “If you spoil one more note of Verdi’s exquisite composition then I’ll bind you up so tight you won’t feel your fingers for months.”
The very beautiful Penelope would have loved to retort that she was more into West End shows than high opera, but the white coloured ballgag wedged between her teeth and buckled behind her neck prevented her. As did the intertwining ropes fixed and knotted about her torso, keeping her in an immovable standing position against the pillar, her hands pulled about the support and fixed together tightly. Penelope wriggled the ropes stretched against her black turtleneck jumper, black leather skirt, sheer dark tights and black leather boots. The leather of her footwear squeaked against the cord as she twisted her ankles vainly, her red fingernails prying for a loose knot to pick at. She grunted and groaned in frustration but Blanche had her exactly where she wanted her.
Blanche, dressed herself in a white sweater, cream coloured trousers and bright white loafers, couldn’t help staring at her latest victim with great smugness. The last time she’d captured a debutante to the Kidnap Club (also by the name of Penelope) she’d got cocky, and before she knew it the tables were turned on her. She wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. After nabbing this mysterious lady she’d taken her to this office block, which she knew would be deserted over the weekend. Now it was only a question of waiting for the tracker held within her recently issued mobile phone to go off; then she’d abandon this interfering wench to be found by Vera’s boys and the prize money would be as good as hers.
That was, until she heard the sound of a door slamming on the floor below.
Both her and the bound Penelope reacted with surprise. Blanche immediately silenced the warbling opera singer on her MP3 player, then cautiously she crept through the empty office cubicles. Had she been followed? Had Vera’s boys found her already? If so then she needed to get out of here as fast and as silently as possible.
Then she heard the sound of footsteps within a nearby cubicle, accompanied by the noise of rustling paper. Blanche’s interest was piqued, and kneeling to the floor she silently crept to the source of the noise, and poked her head around the cubicle wall. She had to restrain a gasp of surprise when she saw a figure dressed head to toe in black, their face covered by a black balaclava with dark gloves over their hands. They were searching for something in the office paperwork, and judging from their attire Blanche could tell this was more than an out of hours office visit.
Her suspicions were confirmed when a gloved hand clamped over her mouth and another wrenched her hand into the small of her back.
“Over here! I found a snoop!” yelled a female voice from directly behind her.
“GGGGTTTT TTTHHH HHHLLL FFF MMMGGG!” Blanche roared through the leather clad palm gagging her, putting up a tremendous struggle and making life very difficult for her attacker. But the balaclava wearing intruder she’d been spying on rushed to her accomplice’s aid, grabbing Blanche’s flailing feet. Then another masked figure appeared and helped pin her hands behind her back. Blanche was no match for the combined strength of these three people, and she could do nothing to stop herself being pinned to the floor face down.
Then she felt the rough touch of plastic against her wrists, followed by a harsh zip as a plastic tie was applied, binding them palm to palm. Blanche snarled in frustration, but no amount of fury on her part could prevent additional ties being applied around her ankles and knees. Then the hand gag was removed, but only so that a wash cloth could be stuffed inside her mouth, which was sealed inside by strips of clear tape.
“Llllttt mmmmm gggmmmm!” Blanche roared at her balaclava wearing captors as they stood over her writhing, bucking form. At first she thought she’d been caught by Vera’s goons, but she scrapped that theory when she saw that every member of this gang was a woman.
Suddenly a fourth female voice shouted from beyond the cubicles. “Hey there’s another woman bound and gagged over here!”
Blanche redoubled her efforts to free herself as the intruders stared down at her. “Been having some fun eh?” one of them asked. “Free that other woman and bring her over!”
“NNNNMMM DDDNNTTT!” Blanche roared in frustration. But there was nothing she could do, and within minutes the unbound Penelope staggered into view.
“Oh God thank you so much!” the red headed woman gasped. “I was just walking home from work on Friday and this woman kidnapped me! She’s holding me until my husband pays the ransom.”
“Not anymore she isn’t,” said one of the intruders. “Get out of here, and give us an hour to get what we’ve come for before calling the police. We’ll be sure to leave your abductor here for them.”
“NNNNNMMM!” roared Blanche in wide eyed outrage. She knew full well Vera’s boys would find her long before the police arrived. If she didn’t get out of these bonds by then it would be another thousand pound stake down the drain. She wriggled and writhed as Penelope made for the emergency exit, and could have sworn she saw her previous captive wink at her before she left.
The Kidnap Club – April 3rd – 11:30pm
“Another debutante victory,” Vera mused as she handed over the suitcase of winnings to Penelope. “You wait ages for one and then two come along at once. Congratulations my dear. Your reputation is deserving indeed. The way you took out Elektra was remarkable.”
“Thank you Vera,” smiled Penelope. “But I did get a huge slice of luck when the Fulham Finance building was targeted by those robbers.”
“Hmmm yes indeed,” Vera replied with a raised eyebrow. “Though I strongly believe luck and skill often go hand in hand. Well done either way. What will you spend your £35,000 on?”
“Oh I’ve got a couple of new dresses in mind,” smiled Penelope. “Pleasure as always Vera.”
“The feeling is mutual Penelope dear. Send my regards to Madame,” Vera replied as she embraced Penelope gently. Then, with a shake of her red hair, Penelope turned on her heel and strode out of the Kidnap Club. She passed by the gang of twenty four bound and gagged contestants kneeling to her right, all of whom she had beaten to prize fund. She couldn’t restrain her smile at the sight of Blanche bound and ball gagged on front row, her eyes narrow and full of fury.
Yet there was nothing to stop Penelope walk out into the night. She waited by the front entrance until she saw the headlights of a jet black sedan flash at her. She practically skipped over, money laden briefcase swinging at her side, then clasped the door handle and sat down on the back seats.
A darkly dressed young woman with blonde hair was waiting for her on the opposing seat. She smiled knowingly at Penelope as she applied her seatbelt. “A productive week then Penny?” she asked.
“I’ve certainly had less productive weeks Lily,” Penelope replied brightly as she opened the case and saw the bundles of twenty pound notes lined up inside.
“Have any trouble handling the other contestants?” Lily asked with her eyebrow raised.
Thumbing the corner of a big bundle of notes with her fingers Penelope replied, “Let’s say I owe those robbers in the Fulham Finance building a decent cut of my profits.” Then, she looked right at into her colleagues eyes, returned her smile, and then threw over a bundle of notes worth £5,000 into her lap. “You and the girls did a marvellous job dealing with Blanche,” Penelope told her as Lily eagerly checked her cut.
“You know I like to keep an eye on you,” Lily laughed. “It was my pleasure.”
“Fancy going into Central London tomorrow and blowing our winnings on dresses?” asked Penelope.
Suddenly looking serious, Lily pulled out a sealed envelope from the side pocket and handed it over. “I’m afraid business must come before pleasure. Madame has summoned us. She has an important job lined up.”