MacKenzie and Marks

Undercover in Austria

by Gillian B

Part 8: Graz and Vienna - Messages

Friday 28 January 1938: A Theatre Dressing Room in Graz

9.20 pm Disappearance

Sarah and I had returned to our dressing room to discover that Diane had disappeared. Each of us had thought she was with the other. We scanned the room and spotted a note tucked into the edge of the make-up mirror:

Please return tights to me soonest, so I can put in tonight's laundry.

It was signed with the wardrobe mistress's name.

"Maybe Diane went upstairs to do that," suggested Sarah.

"I don't think Fräulein Helfer speaks English," I said as alarm bells rang in my head. "It looks like a trap."

Sarah dashed out of the dressing room and headed for the stairs. I paused long enough to pick up my revolver then followed. Fräulein Helfer's domain was right at the top of the theatre and we were both breathing hard by the time we reached her door.

9.30 pm Rescue

We did not stand on ceremony, but burst into the room together. Diane was lying face down on the floor. Her wrists were roped together behind her and a woman was kneeling beside her and tying her ankles as we entered. On the floor next to her was an automatic pistol.

I took charge of the situation by the simple expedient of pointing my gun at the woman's head and kicking the automatic out of the way. I recognised her. I had last seen her in Salzburg when she had been our prisoner. She was the woman we had first encountered in the guise of a housemaid. My impression that she was not a professional was reinforced by the ease with which we had turned the tables on her.

Diane rolled over and looked up at me. She had been gagged with a towel jammed between her teeth and knotted behind her head. Sarah untied her while I guarded the woman we had surprised. Once Diane was free, she explained that she had been trying to save us time by returning the tights to Fräulein Helfer and that the woman whom she took to be Fräulein Helfer had pulled a gun on her and started to tie her up. I asked Diane if it hadn't seemed odd that the note was in English not German. She shook her head and blushed slightly.

I turned to the woman next. I asked her what had happened to the real Fräulein Helfer. She said nothing but her eyes strayed to a large costume hamper. I motioned Sarah to investigate. The hamper proved to contain not only Fräulein Helfer, but also a young seamstress whom she employed. They were both bound and gagged and jammed in side by side rather uncomfortably with their knees almost in contact with their chins. Sarah untied their bonds and helped them out of the hamper. It took then both a while to straighten up and I noticed that Fräulein Helfer was sporting the beginnings of a black eye.

I asked Fräulein Helfer whether she would be prepared to keep a guard on the woman until help arrived, if we were to immobilise her. She replied grimly that it would be a pleasure.

9.40 pm Turning the Tables

Sarah and I set to work using the rope we had removed from Diane, Fräulein Helfer and her assistant. We wanted the woman to be easily transported by her eventual captor, so we decided not to tie her to a chair. Sarah kept guard with my revolver while I did the roping. I crossed her wrists behind her back and tied them. I bound her arms as close together as they would go, just above the elbows, then lashed her arms to her body with several turns of rope just below her bust. I tied her legs together at the ankles and just above and below the knees. I gagged her by re-using the gag we had taken from Fräulein Helfer - a rag stuffed into her mouth and secured by a strip of cloth between her teeth and knotted behind her head. Finally, I blindfolded the woman with another scrap of cloth. Diane, Fräulein Helfer and her assistant all watched with great interest and apparent satisfaction.

Sarah and I lifted the woman into the hamper from which we had freed Fräulein Helfer and her assistant and secured the lid.

Having done all that, Sarah, Diane and I returned to our dressing room to finish packing.

10.15 pm Planning at the Café

When we returned to Frau Goldmann's café, I made some telephone calls and arranged for a group from the Patriotic Movement to pick up our captive from the theatre.

Diane seemed tired but still exhilarated from being on stage and none the worse for her ordeal. She was even more pleased when, after a few moments' calculation, I gave her her first night's wages with MacKenzie and Marks - ten shillings' Sterling worth of Austrian Schillings. She was delighted but cannily chose to have future earnings credited to her in Sterling and only cash in hand when she actually needed some spending money.

Sarah and I discussed the security implications of the evening's events. I was troubled about just how much seemed to be known by our enemies. We concluded that we actually had very little option but to continue our tour. We resolved, however, to make contact with the Admiralty as soon as possible to request immediate withdrawal on completion of our mission.

The next day's tasks would be straightforward - just go to the theatre and pack everything, then travel to Vienna. We would, however, have to be continuously vigilant. Frau Goldmann was able to advise on accommodation in Vienna with a family whom she knew and trusted.

Saturday 29 January 1938

9.00 am Final Packing

Back at the Theatre, Sarah and I showed Diane how we dealt with the packing of personal hand luggage and with the trunks and cases we sent props and costumes ahead in. I checked everything very carefully and could find no sign of any tampering.

We met Fräulein Helfer briefly and she confirmed that our prisoner of the previous night had been collected safely by some men who had given her the recognition phrase I had told her to expect.

With the packing complete, we gathered up our hand luggage and stepped out into an overcast and bone-chillingly cold day to walk to the railway station.

10.00 am Waiting - Graz Hauptbahnhof

As the three of us stood shivering on the station platform waiting for the train to Vienna, Sarah nudged me gently, but kept looking in front of her. "Boss!" she hissed.

"What?" I hissed back.

"That man over there," she replied. I followed her gaze across the two lines of rails in front of us to the opposite platform, where I spotted a young man lounging against a column and smoking a cigarette. From time to time he stared straight at us.

"It's him isn't it?" asked Sarah, still in a whisper. I looked carefully. The man had his collar turned up and was wearing a hat but I recognised him. It was the aristocratic young man who had come on stage in both Innsbruck and Salzburg and whom we had last seen as we shut him bound and gagged inside a laundry basket.

I glanced at Sarah and Diane. All three of us were muffled to the eyeballs and had our hats well pulled down, but the man appeared to have no trouble recognising us. "I think we just have to wait it out," I said after some thought.

10.15 am Travel - The Train to Vienna

As the train pulled in, we were grateful to climb into the relative warmth of our second class compartment. I gratefully shed a layer of clothing as did Sarah. Diane pulled her scarf down below her chin, but otherwise did not acknowledge the change in temperature.

I pulled my notebook out of my bag and we discussed the content of our act for each of the five nights we would be performing in Vienna. Sarah and I had previously discussed this, but had to review everything to include Diane and to make best use of her talents.

Once we had discussed our act, we turned to issues of our mission. I decided that as Diane's life had been at risk at least twice already, we should take her into our confidence to some extent, even if we fell foul of the Official Secrets Act doing so. I explained that we had to deliver some sensitive material to anti-Nazi groups within Austria that formed the loose Patriotic Movement and that Frau Goldmann was involved with one of those groups. I went on to explain that in Vienna, we expected to meet up with elements of the Movement who might be able to form the core of an effective resistance in the event that the worst happened and Austria fell to Nazi Germany.

I tried to reassure Diane by telling her that as British service personnel, Sarah and I considered it part of our duty to protect her as a civilian caught up in these events. She still looked rather worried at the prospects for the whole mission and what it might involve for her.

1.00 pm Arrival

When we arrived in Vienna, we found a cab and travelled immediately to the small Gasthof (guesthouse or pension) run by a Dr Schäler and his wife, who turned out to be a sprightly couple, whom I judged to be in their sixties. Both spoke excellent English and insisted on using nothing else so as to put Sarah and Diane completely at their ease.

Once we had installed ourselves and our luggage in the large family room that had been reserved for us, Dr Schäler drew me aside and asked me privately for my assessment of the situation in Austria. I was completely candid with him, so far as I understood the situation myself, and he listened in silence, alternately nodding in understanding and shaking his head in sadness.

3.00 pm Tying and Tuning

Although I had partly taken Diane on as a member of the MacKenzie and Marks team for her own protection, I wanted her to learn the magic and escapology business while she was with us, so she could contribute fully to the act. I decided that it was time to teach her a simple escape.

Sarah's task for the afternoon was to build a radio transmitter so that we could communicate with the Admiralty and tell them that our cover was compromised and to request evacuation on completion of the mission. She had begged the household wireless receiver from Dr Schäler and was busily dismantling it on the hearth while her soldering iron heated on the fire.

I decided to teach Diane a very easy escape based on the Jacobi tie. She and I had already changed into our rehearsal outfits of thin wool sweaters worn over tights. I started by miming the "straitjacket" position which the arms are put into for a Jacobi tie - forearms horizontal across the front of the body just above waist level and upper arms nearly vertical. I continued to demonstrate how the lower arm is worked up so the rope securing it passes up over the elbow of the opposite arm and so up to shoulder level.

By this stage, Sarah had the chassis out of the wireless set's case and its three radio valves out of their holders. She was lying on her stomach on the floor alternately studying the components in front of her and sketching mysterious circuit diagrams on a piece of paper. She was completely absorbed in her work and had an expression of rapt concentration more often seen on the faces of children.

My next stage was to show Diane how the escape works with rope. I took a six-foot length of rope and tied the centre of it round my left wrist so that the ends were equal in length and hanging loose. I repeated the operation with the other wrist. Next, I put my arms in the Jacobi position and instructed Diane to tie the ends of the rope together behind my back. First, I turned round slowly, showing how impressively secure and inescapable a Jacobi tie looks. After that, I repeated the demonstration of the escape methodology, showing Diane how to manoeuvre the rope up over the elbow, up to the shoulder and finally over the head to get free.

Sarah re-assembled the wireless set, still without its case, and tuned it to radio stations she could identify, taking measurements of the position of the tuning coils and noting those down together with the wavelength she had identified. Diane and I heard odd snatches of music or speech as we rehearsed.

It was Diane's turn now. I tied the two lengths of rope to her wrists as I had to my own earlier. Diane crossed her arms and I drew the ends of the rope round behind her back and knotted it. I stood in front of Diane and held her wrists, showing how small movements of her arms could greatly increase the available slack in the rope. Once she was happy with that concept, I suggested she try the escape manoeuvre. She took a while to achieve the vital first step of getting the rope hooked over the point of her elbow, but after that had no trouble working the rope upwards. She gave a little grunt of satisfaction as the rope came up over her shoulder and went slack. Sarah looked up at her and grinned.

Sarah was now hard at work rebuilding parts of the radio and muttering to herself as she did so. Diane and I distanced ourselves from the acrid fumes rising from the soldering flux Sarah was using.

I moved on to the next part of Diane's training session. I re-tied her into the basic Jacobi tie position again. This time I gripped the knot linking the ropes with one hand, keeping it in place in the middle of her back. This makes the escape much harder, because there is less slack available, but the same technique still works if the escapologist is flexible enough. Diane proved to be well up to the mark and managed to get free, but with a little more difficulty and a lot more grunting. Once again, Sarah watched approvingly.

While Diane and I were reviewing the principles of the Jacobi tie again, It was Sarah's turn for a small cry of triumph. As she fiddled with the radio, we heard more bursts of music and speech and also the syncopated rhythm of Morse code and the chirping of radio teleprinter signals. "That's the receiver done," she said.

"What did you do to it?" I asked naïvely.

Sarah warmed to her subject, as I knew she would. "I've turned it into a regenerative receiver," she explained. "Tends to re-radiate on the wavelength it's tuned to. But that means when I use it as a transmitter, I can be sure I'm on exactly the same wavelength as I'm receiving." We nodded gravely as if we understood.

Diane and I proceeded to try a variation on the basic Jacobi tie. I re-tied her arms as I had before then helped her to lie down on her tummy on the floor. Next, I bound her ankles and pushed her feet down until her heels touched her bottom. I hitched a short length of rope round her ankle binding, and tied the other end the middle of the rope across her back which linked her wrists.

I let go of Diane's feet and they sprang back up slightly, pulling all the ropes taut. Diane looked surprised at the sudden tightness. "You should be able to get out of that," I said encouragingly.

"I'll do my best," she replied, rather uncertainly.

"I think I've got a radio that works now, Boss," Sarah announced. "I just need a Morse key and an aerial and we're in business."

I went to my coat, which was hung on the back of the door, and rummaged in the pockets. Sure enough, the railway teaspoon was still there. "Morse key?" I asked as I tossed it to Sarah, who was now searching through one of our bags.

She nodded approvingly and carried on her exploration. After a moment, she triumphantly brought out a reel of thin enamelled copper wire. "Now we just need to find somewhere to string the aerial."

Diane continued to struggle enthusiastically with her ropes while Sarah and I busied ourselves with the radio.

Sarah and I looked out of the window. There was a large tree in the garden behind the house, perhaps 30 feet away. Sarah tied a small lead weight to one end of the copper wire then paid out about ten feet of wire. She swung the weight slowly like a pendulum, with the arc through which it swung steadily increasing until, at last, she released the weight and we watched it fly through the air, pulling wire off the reel as it went, then crash into the upper branches of the tree and hold fast. Sarah unwound a few more turns of wire to reach the radio. She snipped the wire, scraped the enamel off the final inch or so, and attached it to the aerial terminal.

Sarah returned to the window and lowered a length of wire straight down towards the ground. She snipped this piece of wire to length and stripped it as before. She attached the wire to the radio's earth terminal. "We call this a counterpoise," she explained to anyone who was prepared to listen.

Diane was still bouncing around on the floor making no progress at all with getting free, but apparently still enjoying the challenge.

6.00 pm Cryptography

"Now," said Sarah, "if you tell me what to send, I'll send it."

I settled down with my notepad and composed a short message. I needed to encrypt it. We had not anticipated making contact in this way, so no cipher keys had been agreed. I decided to take a risk and choose one that could be guessed by out colleagues at the Admiralty. I wrote my own name down...

MACKENZIE

...reversed it...

EIZNEKCAM

...and eliminated the one repeated letter, the second E.

EIZNKCAM

I had my encryption key. I wrote down the rest of the alphabet in order (excluding J)...

EIZNKCAM
BDFGHLOP
QRSTUVWX
Y

...then put the letters into a 5x5 grid of boxes. This is the diagram that is used to create a Playfair cipher.

E I Z N K
C A M B D
F G H L O
P Q R S T
U V W X Y

I wrote out my message next.

BEGINS NOW IN VIENNA STOP MISSION NEAR ACCOMPLISHED STOP COVER COMPROMISED STOP REQUIRE AIRLIFT FRIDAY STOP HAVE ONE EXTRA PERSON STOP ADVISE TIME AND LOCATION ENDS

I split the message into pairs of letters, adding an X every time I came across a pair of identical letters.

BE GI NS NO WI NV IE NX NA ST OP MI SX SI ON NE AR AC CO MP LI SH ED ST OP CO VE RC OM PR OM IS ED ST OP RE QU IR EA IR LI FT FR ID AY ST OP HA VE ON EX EX TR AP ER SO NS TO PA DV IS ET IM EA ND LO CA TI ON EN DS

Then I set to work enciphering each pair of letters.

BE forms the diagonal or a rectangle. The opposite diagonal gives CN. First pair done.

GI are in the same column, so take the letters below them to get QA. Second pair done.

NS are in the same column, giving BX. NO forms a diagonal, giving KL. And so on laboriously for each pair of letters until I had the enciphered pairs for each of them:

CN QA BX KL VZ IX ZI BN IB TP FT AZ XN QN LK KI MQ MA DF CR GN RL CK TP FT DF UI PM HD QS HD NQ KC TP FT PZ PV ZQ IC ZQ GN OP HP KA DV TP FT GM UI LK NU NU PS CQ ZP TL BX YT QC AY NQ KP ZA IC KB OF AM QK ES IK BT

While I was hard at work, Diane started complaining, "Let me see too. I always wanted to know how codes and things work."

"Get yourself untied, and you can watch," I offered. Diane looked deflated, so I continued, "Roll over on your back and it will be quite easy to get free."

Diane obediently rolled over. Her weight now kept her feet firmly against her bottom and slackened the rope connecting her ankles to the rope between her wrists. She suddenly discovered that the standard Jacobi tie escape technique I had taught her now worked. It took only a few moments to get her arms free, then once she had untied her ankles, she joined me at the table where I was working.

Once I had the whole message encrypted, I copied out the ciphertext in blocks of five letters (and added a little padding at the end to make up the last group), the time honoured style for sending secure messages by radio:

CNQAB XLKVZ IXZIB NIBTP
FTAZX NQNLK KIMQM ADFCR
GNRLC KTPFT DFUIP MHDQS
HDNQK CTPFT PZPVZ QICZQ
GNOPH PKADV TPFTG MUILK
NUNUP SCQZP TLBXY TQCAY
NQKPZ AICKB OFAMQ KESIK
BTAQV

I passed the finished text to Sarah for checking. "What's the key, Boss?" she asked.

"MACKENZIE, backwards," I replied.

Sarah set to work to recreate the Playfair diagram and then to decipher each pair of letters to restore the original message. After about five minutes leaning over the page, she sat up straight and announce, "Only one error, Boss. LK in the second group should be KL."

7.00 pm Message Sent

Sarah settled down at the radio. "I should get a reference signal on the hour," she said. She adjusted the tuning across the part of the band she expected the Admiralty signal to appear on. She stopped on a radio teleprinter signal. "That's one of the Post Office transmitters at Rugby," she commented to herself, "should be just below that." She turned the dial slowly and we heard a stream of Morse code. "Don't know what that is, but it's in French, so back up a fraction." She edged the dial round carefully, using the fingertips of both hands. "There," she said, as we heard a continuous tone, much fainter than the other signals.

The signal disappeared after a minute or two. Sarah sat back from the radio. "We have to wait until quarter-past before we transmit," she explained. "I'll leave the set on and hope the tuning doesn't drift too much. They should be able to find our signal even if it does drift a bit."

While we waited, Diane and I changed back into our everyday clothes and I inspected the rope marks Diane had acquired during her escapology lesson. Sarah just sat and stared at the radio.

Finally 7.15 pm arrived. Sarah took the improvised Morse key, pressed the transmit switch and sent a single letter Q (--·-). As soon as she released the transmit switch, we heard a Morse K (-·-) in reply. "Yes!" cried Sarah in a mix of relief and elation. A quick identifier from us followed. The reply was an invitation from the Admiralty to proceed.

"It's Charlie," Sarah confided. "He will have recognised me too." I never fail to be amazed at the way wireless telegraphers can recognise each other by their 'fist', the unique rhythms and idiosyncrasies of their Morse code. Sarah had told me it was like recognising a voice or handwriting, but it still impressed me.

Sarah rattled out the rest of our encrypted message as I had handed it to her. I had heard her send Morse faster, but even so, it only took a minute to send the whole thing.

Sarah sent VA (···-·-) to indicate the end of her traffic. And received a single letter R (·-·), 'roger', in reply.

Sarah switched off the radio and immediately started reversing her modification work to turn it back into an ordinary domestic wireless receiver. Any communications to us would be transmitted by other means, so we no longer had need of it. As we were in a capital city, I anticipated a covert reply via staff at the British Embassy.

7.30 pm Message Received

While Sarah was still working on the radio, there was a gentle knock at our door. I opened the door a fraction. Dr Schäler was there with an envelope in his hand. "Message for you, Miss McKenzie," he said, handing it to me. I thanked him and closed the door again.

Sarah, Diane and I all looked at each other in disbelief. Surely we could not have received a reply to our message already. I opened the envelope. The contents was a hand-written note in German, not a reply from the Embassy - it was no more than the long arm of coincidence which had brought it to us at that moment.

I quickly scanned the note. It claimed to come from Viennese elements of the Patriotic Movement who had been in contact with the British Government and indirectly had initiated our mission to Austria. I was requested to meet with one of their number outside the Wiener Staatsoper (the Vienna State Opera House) at 9.00 pm.

I read out the key points to Sarah and Diane. "Either they are genuine or someone knows far too much about us," I commented. "Whichever way, I'll have to go and meet them to find out."

Sarah was uncharacteristically vocal, "Boss, you can't! You don't know who these people are and the last lot you had a mysterious assignation with nearly made away with you!"

I dismissed her concerns, "It's a public place and there will be people around. I'm quite sure I'll be safe. Besides, you won't be far away and you're my guardian angel."

Sarah said nothing but turned back to her electrical work, tight lipped.

8.00 pm Sarah Takes the Initiative

When Sarah had finished with the radio, she returned her tools to the small box she kept then in and generally busied herself tidying up the mess she had made. Diane and I were still discussing aspects of escapology as a performance art and not paying much attention to Sarah.

"I'm sorry, Boss," announced Sarah, "but I really can't let you take the risk. If we lose you, the mission fails. I'm going instead."

Diane and I swivelled round to look at Sarah. She was holding my Webley revolver in her left hand and I could see a brass knuckle-duster on the fingers of her right hand.

I protested, but Sarah was firm, "I'll use these if I have to, but you're not going to that meeting, and that's final." The revolver was for effect. I knew she would not pull the trigger, but I suspected she might be prepared to use it as a club. I was much more concerned with the knuckle-duster, which featured a large brass knob, allowing it to be used as a cosh. Sarah was much lighter and faster than me and I had seen her in action in a fight before. I knew that alone I was no match for her and suspected that Diane would be no material help to me if trouble broke out, so I spread my hands and shrugged my shoulders, conceding victory to Sarah.

"That's better," said Sarah. " I know I'm out of order here - if I get out of this alive, you can have me court-martialled if you want."

"I need to keep you two out of the action for a while," Sarah continued. "Boss, you start by tying Diane to that chair please." She gestured towards an upright wooden chair beside one of the beds. "And make it good - I'll be checking afterwards."

Diane opened her mouth to protest, but I gestured her to remain silent. She strutted over to the chair Sarah had indicated and sat down indignantly. I decided to do as Sarah had instructed and to look for a way to defuse the situation later.

I gathered up the rope we had been using for rehearsal and carried it over to Diane. I decided not to annoy Sarah by trying anything clever, which she would probably see through anyway, and set about tying Diane securely, but not uncomfortably, to the chair.

I started with a long length of rope and hitched the centre of it to the top of the chair back. I took the ends down over Diane's shoulders and crossed them between her breasts. I looped the ends of the rope round the vertical bars at the sides of the chair, pulled it tight, and knotted it in the middle of her tummy. Next, I wound another length of rope over her lap and under the chair seat three or four times to hold her down.

I gently drew Diane's arms round behind the chair back and crossed her wrists. I tied them firmly together, with rope running both across the way and up-and-down. I had left about two feet of rope loose from the wrist binding and I finished off by pulling those ends down and knotting them to a bar between the back legs of the chair.

I moved round in front of Diane's chair and knelt down. I pushed her feet together, then bound her ankles securely. I used another short length of rope to cinch the binding tight and to tie it back to the bar which linked the front legs of the chair.

Lastly, I bound Diane's legs just below her knees. I stood up and looked at Sarah, who nodded approval. "Looks good," she said. "Now gag her."

"Is that really necessary?" I asked.

"Do it, please."

I shrugged and looked around for a suitable gag. I settled on a clean pair of woollen winter stockings belonging to me. I rolled one stocking up and pushed it into Diane's mouth. I wound the other one round her head twice, passing it between her teeth each time and knotted it off at the back of her neck.

"That will do fine," said Sarah, "but I think we will need something a bit more secure for you, Boss. Start by taking your dress and petticoat off."

I looked incredulously at Sarah, but did as I was told and dumped my dress on one of the beds. I was feeling quite angry with her now and stood glaring at her with my arms folded.

"Put a sweater on, Boss, you'll freeze like that," she said, quite gently. "I'm really sorry I have to do this."

I had a spencer and knee-length bloomers on, but I was very cold, so I put on a thick roll-neck sweater on top. "Now what?" I asked bleakly.

"Gag yourself first."

I raised my eyes to the ceiling, but did as I was told and gagged myself with another pair of stockings in the same way I had gagged Diane. When I had finished, I stood with my hands on my hips staring at Sarah.

"That chair please," Sarah pointed with the revolver. "And take the rope with you." The chair she indicated was an immensely heavy-looking ornately carved wooden dining chair with arms. "Now, Boss, we're going to use that tie-up we worked out just before Christmas, but you're going to do most of the tying."

I debated refusing to co-operate, but there was a determined glint in Sarah's eye and I suspected she would be quite prepared to knock me out and then tie me up while I was stunned. At least this way I had some shred of dignity left.

I selected two long lengths of rope. I fastened the centre of one to the middle of the top rail of the chair back and left the ends dangling down behind the chair. I looped the other one round the back of the chair immediately above the chair seat and tied the ends, so the knot was in the centre of the chair and right at the back of the seat. I led the ends of the rope forwards across the seat and left them hanging down in front of the chair.

"Very good," said Sarah, "now sit down and tie your legs."

I sat down as instructed and bound my ankles to the chair legs. I also tied my legs back to the chair legs just below my knees.

"Keep going," Sarah instructed, when I paused after tying my legs.

I shrugged and took the two ends of the lower of the two ropes which I had attached to the chair. The ends hung down the front of the chair between my legs. I separated them and took them to the sides of the chair at waist level. I looped them round the side verticals of the chair back and brought the ends together in the middle of my tummy, where I pulled them tight and knotted them. The rope now held the tops of my thighs down onto the chair and held me back at the waist.

I reached behind my shoulders and found the other length of rope I had tied to the chair. I brought the ends forward over my shoulders, crossed them between my breasts, exactly as I had done with Diane when I was tying her up. I looped the ends of the rope round the verticals at the sides of the chair, tightened it, and knotted it just below my breastbone.

"Right arm next," said Sarah, tossing me another piece of rope.

I Placed my right forearm along the arm of the chair and wound the rope round my wrist and the chair arm until there was just enough left to knot. I tied a rather clumsy one-handed knot using my left hand.

At last, Sarah put down the revolver. She still wore the knuckle-duster as she came over to me. For the first time in the whole proceedings, Sarah was within reach of me, but I only had one hand free and she was still armed. I decided not to attempt any last-minute resistance.

Without saying anything, Sarah tied my left wrist down to the chair arm. She checked and re-knotted the rope on my right wrist then inspected the rest of my bonds carefully, making occasional adjustment where she found slack. She straightened up and removed the knuckle-duster I thought that meant she was finished, but she fetched yet more rope from our stock. She tied several turns round my body and the chair back, just below my bust, so I was pulled back firmly against the woodwork. She used two more short lengths to tied my arms down at the elbows. Finally, she tied my legs down to the front corners of the chair seat, with ropes just above my knees.

Sarah moved over to Diane and methodically checked and adjusted her bonds too. She looked us both over critically and pronounced herself satisfied, "I think that will probably hold you for long enough. If the worst happens and I don't come back, I'm sure Dr Schäler will find you before too long."

Without another word, Sarah helped herself to my coat and hat. She inspected herself critically in the mirror and tucked her hair carefully up under the hat until it was almost all hidden. Next, she put my scarf on and pulled it up so it covered her chin and mouth. From a distance, she would pass as me.

Sarah smiled an apologetic little smile at Diane and me and left the room, locking the door behind here.

Diane and I looked at each other helplessly as we heard the main door downstairs slam.

Copyright © 1999 Gillian B

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