As she left the cinema, Mary Clarke fetched her mobile phone out of the pocket of her red leather jacket and looked through her contact list, smiling as she found her home number and started a call.
“Mum? It’s me - I’ve left the cinema, and I should be home in about an hour. Want me to pick up some takeaway on the way home?”
In the detached house, Marianne Clarke sat herself down in the large armchair and smiled. “Well, that does sound nice. What did you have in mind?”
“I thought a set meal B from the Blue Orchid?”
“Sounds wonderful - I’ll stick a bottle of wine in.” Marianne was in her late fifties, and her daughter Mary had moved back in after a rather messy divorce. She was relaxing in white smock top and pale blue Capri pants, with a pair of pink fluffy slippers on her feet.
“Fair enough, I’ll see you in an hour,” Mary said before she ended the call, and walked to the car park, the heels of her red leather ankle boots clicking on the hard floor.
In the house, Marianne stood up and walked to the kitchen, taking a bottle of Chardonnay from the rack as she did so and opening the fridge door. She placed it on the shelf, and then closed the door again, only to be stopped by the man standing next to her...
As she stepped out of the car, Mary saw that the light in the front room was on, visible behind the closed curtains. Smiling, she retrieved the bag from the seat beside her and walked up to the front door, calling out “I’ll put the starters on the plates” as she passed the closed to door to the room and made her way to the kitchen.
“How many of the little spring rolls do you want,” she called back out as she opened the box and laid one on a small plate.
“I’ll take two,” a male voice said, “and you can split the rest between yourself and your mother.”
Mary slowly turned round to see a man standing behind her, his grey hair slightly dishevelled and dressed in a sweater and pants. He was smiling, but there was something in his eyes that told Mary he was not to be crossed. That, and the carving knife he held in his hand.
“Who... Who are you and where is my mother?” She stammered out. The man just looked at her - a tall, dark haired girl, early twenties, white blouse over dark jumper, tight blue jeans, and the ankle boots and jacket in red leather.
“You look very much like her, my dear,” he eventually said. “Plate up the food, and then come and join us in the front room.” He watched as Mary slowly divided the starters up, and then took one of the plates as she picked up the other two.
“After you,” the man said as he pointed to the door. Mary looked straight ahead, hearing his footfall behind her, as she walked into the front room and saw her mother sitting there, saying “mreeemssreee” through the cloth that was stuffed into her mouth.
Marianne was on the couch, her wrists taped together in front of her as she sat there, looking at the man behind her daughter. “Sit down,” he said, “and take the cloth out of your mother’s mouth. Then you can both eat.”
“Can I untie her wrists?”
“Only if she promises to behave,” the man said a she smiled at Marianne. The older woman slowly nodded as she held her wrists up, watching as Mary unwrapped the tape from around them.
“I’m sorry, Mary,” her mother finally said as she pulled the cloth from her mouth, “He just surprised me. I don’t think he means us any harm, but we need to do as he says.”
“Quite right,” the man said as he sat down and picked up one of the spring rolls, “and right now I want you to eat - I have no desire to see you go hungry, although I regret to say you will need to share the meal between all three of us.”
“Who are you,” Mary said as the television showed the evening news bulletin, and a picture of the man appeared on the screen. “Do you mind,” he said as he turned up the sound.
Police are still looking for George Simpson, who escaped from Police custody three days ago. He is known to have held two women hostage the day after absconding, and the public have been warned not to approach him...
“I really wish they would find a new photo,” George said as he ate the spring roll, “It does nothing for me.”
“You...” Mary stammered. “You’re George Simpson?”
“And you have kindly agreed to host me for a few hours - don’t worry, I’ll be gone before the night is over, even if I have to leave you both unable to raise the alarm.” He put his plate down. “Eat, eat - you will need your strength.”
Marianne and Mary looked at each other, and then slowly ate their food as they watched him, wondering what his plans were.
“Marianne,” he finally said, “Why don’t you go and plate up the meal - and no tricks, unless you want Mary here to be the one who suffers. I have the back door key, and the phone is disconnected.”
“Don’t hurt her,” the older woman said as she stood up, and walked to the kitchen, hearing George say “Now, Mary, about the arrangements for tonight...”
“My compliments to the chef,” George said as he put the plate down. “I trust you are both well fed and watered?”
Mary slowly nodded - she had taken her jacket off. And her mobile phone was on the coffee table in front of them, as she held her mother in her arms. Marianne was shaking and sobbing quietly.
“Please,” George said as he sat forward, “Don’t cry. I will be on my way in a little while, but first I have to make you comfortable.”
“Comfortable? What do you mean?”
“Well, I am sure you wish to change for bed, for one thing. Before you do so, however, do you have any washing line?”
Marianne looked at him and said “I have some - why?”
“Let’s all take the dishes through,” George said as he stood up, “and then we can all go upstairs. Don’t worry - I’m just going to make sure you cannot raise the alarm while I take your car and get far away from here.”
“Oh,” Mary said with a small voice as they put the plates on the table. “So what now?” As she said this, Marianne opened a cupboard and took out two skeins of cotton rope, handing them to George as he smiled at her.
“Upstairs,” George said as he waved with the knife. The three people climbed the stairs, as George followed the two women into the bedroom Mary used.
“Find something to put on,” George said as he looked at Mary, “Then go and change, do what you need to do, and come back here. I’ll wait with your mother.”
“IT will be fine, Mary,” Marianne said as the girl took a pair of blue silk pyjamas from a drawer, “Go - let’s get this over with.” Mary nodded as she left the room, returning a few minutes later wearing the night clothes. She saw her mother sitting on the bed, watching as George cut the cotton rope into several lengths.
“Lie face down on your bed, Mary,” he said as her mother stood up, “and put your hands behind your back.”
“Please don’t hurt her,” Marianne said as George watched Mary lie down, then crossed her wrist behind her back and tied them tightly together, taking the rope around and between her arms. Satisfied, he crossed and bound her ankles in the same way, before rolling her over and binding her legs together below her knees.
“Now, Marianne,” George said a she looked at the older woman, “Go and change. Mary will stay here with me.”
“Where are you going to leave my car,” Mary said as she squirmed on the bed, watching her mother as she walked out of the room and went to the bathroom.
“Oh, we’ll see - but consider it a loan rather than a stealing,” George said with a smile as he looked through her drawers. “After all, you will get it back.”
“Yeah - but we get to spend the night tied up - and gagged, I presume?”
“Regretfully, yes - but it will not be unpleasant,” George said as Marianne returned, wearing a long sleeveless blue silk nightdress. She also, rather incongruously, had a pair of elbow length opera gloves on her arms. “If I am to be tied as well,” she said looking at George, “I want some protection.”
“A very sensible move,” George said with a smile. “Why don’t you talk to your daughter while I make your arms immobile?”
Marianne stood in front of Mary, her daughter looking up as the older woman felt her wrists and palms been pulled together behind her back. “Well, at least you have treated us with respect,” she said as she looked over her shoulder and saw the white rope around her wrists.
“Don’t believe everything you hear in the news,” George said with a smile as he passed a length of rope around her arms and belly, pulling them into her body as he secured them into place.
“So what happens now?”
“Now,” George said, his eyes actually looking sad, “You say good night to your mother, Mary. Open wide like a good girl and let me push this cloth into your mouth.”
“It’s all right, dear, I’ll be fine,” Marianne said as George pushed a folded scarf into Mary’s mouth, then picked up a bathrobe belt and tied it between her lisp to keep the gag in. “After you, Marianne,” he said a she held the door open, and Mary watched as her mother was led from the room, the light turned off for her.
As she lay there, she could hear George talking to her mother, and then no voices, just the sound of footsteps walking down the corridor and down the stairs. A door opening and closing. The sound of what she knew was the engine of her car as it set off down the road. And then silence.
Mary lay for what seemed like an eternity, listening and listening again to be sure they were alone, before she managed to sit herself up and shuffle to the edge of the bed. Pausing to catch her breath, she slowly stood on her feet and started to hop towards her door.
Although it was closed, she was able with some effort to pull the door handle down and open it, sliding past and into the dark corridor. She paused, allowing her breath to return and her eyes to adjust to the light again, before she hopped down the corridor, and into her mother’s room.
Marianne was lying on her side on the bed, her ankles crossed and tied with rope and her legs tied together above her knees, over the skirt of her nightdress. She looked at her sister over the side folded scarf that covered her mouth, mumbling quietly as Mary saw the way her cheeks were puffed out.
“Hldnmm,” she mumbled as she hopped over to the bed, and sat herself down, looking over her shoulder as she used her fingers to pull the silk band down her mother’s face. As she did so, a white hand cloth emerged from between her mother’s lips, which she gently eased out.
“Are you all right, Mary,” she eventually said, relaxing as her daughter nodded. “There should be some scissors on the dressing table - hurry. We need to get free and tell the police about this.”
Several miles outside town, George Simpson was heading north, towards his sister...