Jay’s Christmas Cheer
“Deck the halls with boughs of Holly, tralalala,
‘tis the season to be jolly, tralalala, lalalala…”
Yvonne Williamson was singing to herself as she laid another length of tinsel onto the tree, smiling as Lisa and Charlie put some decorations up on the wall. It was two weeks until Christmas, but it was tradition in this household that the house was decorated well in advance.
“I love Christmas,” Lisa said, “and once we are done here, we can do our Christmas photo.”
“Are you sure you want us to do this,” Yvonne said, “I did hear of a family who got into a lot of trouble with something similar last year.”
“Oh come on Mum, it’ll be fun,” Charlie said as he looked at his mother.
“Well, all right,” Yvonne said, “make sure you have your Christmas jumpers on when your father gets back.”
“Well now, and what do we have here,” Mark said as he came in, taking off his great coat and putting it onto the coat stand. While he was wearing his suit, Yvonne had on a red jumper with a large Santa on the front, dark leggings and knee length black leather boots. Lisa had put on a green sweater with snowmen, a denim skirt and black Ugg boots, while Charlie had on a black sweater with a large Christmas pudding on the front, jeans and sneakers.
“We’re ready for the Christmas photo,” Charlie said “or rather, we will be ready when you have us all ready.”
“Okay then,” Mark said with a smile, “let’s go into the front room. Have you managed to sort the lights out?”
“Three lengths, straightened out and waiting for you,” Yvonne said as they walked into the front room. “So I see,” Mark said, “so who is going to be first?”
“I will,” Yvonne said as she sat down, and put her hands together in front of herself while Mark took the first set of lights, wrapped it round her arms and body and loosely secured them to her sides. Yvonne smiled as she watched Mark then wrap the lights around her wrists, and then down and around her ankles. She then looked on as Lisa sat next to her, and her father bound her with the second length of lights.
“Do you want me between them Dad,” Charlie said as he watched.
“Yeah I do – can you guys make some room?”
“I guess so,” Yvonne said as she and Lisa moved to the side, Charlie then sitting between them as Mark bound him in the same way.
“It’s weird this,” Charlie said as Mark tied the lights round his ankles.
“Been tied so loosely,” Lisa giggled.
“And for that, it’s time to be quiet,” Mark said as he picked up a roll of blue duct tape, tearing a strip off and smoothing it over their lips one by one. As they looked up, he picked up the camera and said “all right then – say Good King Wenceslas.”
“Gdddknwmsslsss” all three of them said as Mark took some photographs, and said “great – now, would you all like to stay that way while I order some pizzas?”
“Llrlrtt,” Lisa said, Mark smiling as he turned on the television, and then went out to use the telephone…
“Did it seriously take that long to have the pizzas delivered,” Yvonne said as she came back down the stairs.
“Yeah – sorry about that, but at least we got the extra photos with the lights turned on for each of you.”
“For private use only,” Yvonne said as Mark handed her a glass of wine. “Well, they’re out, and only two more weeks to Christmas.”
“Yeah – we have the firm Christmas meal on Wednesday as well, so let’s hope it’s a nice quiet few days before then.”
“Don’t say that,” Yvonne said as the phone started ringing and she went to answer it.
“Yeah – hang on, I’ll bring the phone through.”
“Who is it,” Mark said as Yvonne brought the telephone through, pressed the speaker button and placed it on the coffee table.
“Hey Mark, Yvonne,” a man with an Australian accent said, “sorry to disturb your Christmas preparations, but we need your help.”
“Brian,” Mark said as he leaned forward, “what’s the problem?”
“It’s time for Jay and Mrs McPhee to do a favour for us – and you’re going to need some special help, which should be knocking on your door right about – now.”
As they both heard the knock on the door, Yvonne went and opened the door, saying “well, this is an unexpected surprise- do they know you are here?”
“Nope – this is under the wire,” Sarah Holderness-Carter said as she came into the front room. “I’m in a local hotel – hey lover, I made it.”
“Good – Sarah has the details, and she’ll tell you why she is there. I’m bringing the twins over for Friday, so I’ll see you all then. Good luck.”
“I’ll get another glass,” Yvonne said as the call ended, and she took the phone away. “This must be serious if you are here,” Mark said, “and Ophelia needs to assist.”
“I’ll explain when Yvonne comes back,” Sarah said as Yvonne returned with a third glass, taking a folder from her large bag as the wine was poured. From it, she drew a photo showing a tall, bearded man, a woman with long brown hair streaked with grey, a ten year old boy and a nine year old girl.
“This,” she said as she put the photo on the coffee table, “is Greg Paulsen, the CEO of Paulsen Electronics. The women is his wife Nora – both are 45. The boy is Greg Jr, the girl Paulette.”
“The irony is not lost,” Sarah said with a smile. “Paulsen Electronics manufacture microchips for a number of contractors, but those we work for have suspected for some time some of their trade is to – less friendly clients. We do not believe Paulsen knows, but someone high up in his organization does.”
“So Jay Edwards and Mrs McPhee pay their usual visit,” Mark said, “but why are you here?”
“Two things – first, we have to do this on Tuesday night, for reasons I will explain later. Secondly – Nora’s maiden name is Nora Cholmsky.”
“Oh my…” Yvonne looked at Sarah as she said “THAT Nora Cholmsky?”
“The same – I am here to make sure she remains calm, and also deals with what happened to her.”
“What happened to her?”
“When she was a fourteen year old, she and her mother were kidnapped in Sardinia, and held hostage for five months. Whatever happened in that time has never been made public – but she carries some deep scars inside herself. I hope to help her face and deal with them – a Christmas gift if you will.”
“Okay then… What can you tell us,” Mark said as he looked at his friend.
“Let’s start at the beginning – residence plans…”
The Tuesday afternoon on the shopping estate was busy – as it was bound to be the week before Christmas – so nobody was taking notice of the grey transit van parked in the rear of the car park, or the two men who walked over, tugging down the rims of their woollen hats before one of them banged on the side. As the door opened, they slipped in and smiled at the two women inside.
“Afternoon Mrs McPhee,” one of them said as the other closed the door, “so what is the plan for today?”
“I’m so glad you asked,” Jay Edwards said as he sat with them. “This is Ophelia – we have worked with her before, and she brings a special skill set to the family we will be visiting today and tonight.”
“Pleased to meet y’all,” the taller masked woman said in a Louisiana accent.
“Okay – we are visiting the Paulsen family today. School finished this lunchtime, so we are expecting to meet first Nora Paulsen, and her children Greg and Paulette. Usual tactics – we go in, secure the family, and wait for Gregory Paulsen to come home from work. At some point that night, one of you will accompany him back to the office – but until then, we keep the family secure and quiet.”
“Fer various reasons,” Mrs McPhee said, “the early part o today will be slightly different – jes follow ma lead, awl reet?”
“Different? In what way?”
“Well, the kiddies and mummy will be secured,” Jay said, “just not in the way you might expect…”
“Paulette, do you want a snack?”
“Yes please Mummy,” Nora heard her daughter call down as she poured some soft drinks into glasses, and put some snack bowls on a tray. She was wearing a black jumper with an animal print scarf wrapped loosely round her neck, and red pants with the lower legs tucked into knee length brown leather boots. Picking up the tray, she carried it into the front room where Greg Jr was sitting on the couch. He had on a dark blue Abercrombie sweatshirt over a red shirt, khaki cargo pants and sneakers.
“Thanks Mum,” he said as he put his book down and shuffled forward, as Paulette came in. The blonde haired girl had a white Alice band holding her hair back, and was still in the clothes she had worn for the school Christmas party – a white jumper with gold polka dots, a grey tutu style lace skirt, white tights and sparkly gold Ugg boots.
“When is Daddy coming home Mummy,” she said as she picked up a glass of Coca Cola.
“At about seven tonight, so we’ll eat properly when he comes in,” Nora said with a smile. She liked spending as much time as she could with her children – it helped her to push down those memories which had a habit of coming back unbidden.
All three turned their heads as they heard the knock on the front door. “I’ll go and see who it is Mum,” Greg said as he stood up, Paulette and Nora listening as he opened the front door and said “hello – how can I…”
“Hello there - is yer mammy home?” Nora heard the female Scottish accent, and stood up to walk to the doorway, saying as she did so “is there something I can…” She stopped as she saw the woman standing there, a gloved finger to the lips that could be seen in the balaclava mask as a second woman held Greg with her hand over his mouth. She, and the three men that were coming in, wore blue boiler suits, leather gloves and boots – and black balaclavas covering their heads.
She suddenly felt like the fourteen year old girl again, as she and her mother were forced out of their car, and cloth hoods pulled over their heads…
“Hello Mrs Paulsen,” one of the men said in a soft Geordie accent, “my name is Jay Edwards, this is Mrs McPhee, and the lady with your son is Ophelia. Very quietly, call your daughter out here will you?”
Somehow, the way he talked made her calmer, as she said “Paulette, come out here a minute will you?”
“What is it Mummy,” the young girl said as she came out, then stared at the five visitors as Nora put her arms round her daughter to protect her.
“Hello Paulette,” the woman said, “Mah name is Mrs McPhee. Now I want you to be as quiet as a mouse, go into the front room, and then sit on ah chair while we come on in. Will ye dae that fer me?”
“Do as she says, Paulette,” Nora said quietly as Paulette went and closed the curtains, Mrs McPhee indicating she should go next as Ophelia took her hand from Greg’s mouth, and they all walked into the decorated room.
“Have a seat, all three of you,” Jay said as Greg and Paulette sat either side of Nora. “Like I said, my name is Jay Edwards, and we’re here because I need to ask your father to do something for me later. We need to make sure he does not know we are here, and also that you don’t let anyone else know…”
“Oh god no,” Nora whispered as she hugged them.
“Peace, lassie,” Mrs McPhee said, “if we awl treat it as a wee game, it makes it more exciting and mair fun.”
“You talk funny,” Paulette whispered, “you both talk funny.”
“Ah know Dahlin – my name’s Ophelia, what’s yours,” the other woman said as she knelt in front of Paulette and took her hand.
“Wahl Paulette – Ah wonder if you and your mama would like a special picture taken so that you can show your papa later. A lot of families do this – they call it Silent Night, and your brother can help as well, if he wants.”
“What do I have to do,” Greg said quietly.
“Normally, when we visit a family, we make sure they all stay on the couch and quiet watching a film, but it’s Christmas,” Jay said as he took out from a bag several strings of fairy lights. “Silent Night is when you take a family picture, but you’re wrapped up in the fairy lights. So, would you like to help me show your mum how we do it with Paulette?”
Greg nodded as Mrs McPhee said “Reet – Paulette mah dear, wuld ye come and kneel in front of yer lovely Christmas tree?”
The young girl looked at her mother, and then got off the couch, walking over and kneeling as Mrs McPhee knelt in front of her.
“Tha’s guid – yer a wee bit scared, aren’t ye?” As Paulette nodded, Mrs McPhee smiled as she said “ther’s onofin tae be afraid o, all reet? Now, can you put yer hands in prayer fer me?”
“Like this,” she said as he put her hands up, palms together.
“Ae, jes like that,” Mrs McPhee said as she took one of the lengths of fairy lights, and tied Paulette’s wrists together with them as she watched, Nora hugging her son as they watched as well. When she had finished, Mrs McPhee said “now put yer hands doon,” waiting as Paulette did that before she wrapped the lights around her arms and body, and then tied the ends round her ankles.
“Are you… Are you all right Paulette,” Nora whispered as her daughter looked round.
“I’m fine mummy – oh look,” she said as the lights were plugged in, “they’re like little fairies.”
“Tha’s right,” Mrs McPhee said as she looked over. “Now, dae ye think yer mammy would like to be in the photo as well? Maybe Greg can take care o her?”
“No… Please don’t make me do that…”
“Mrs Paulsen,” Ophelia said as she slipped off a leather glove, “will you take my hand please?” Nora looked at the second masked woman, and slowly took the offered hand in hers. As soon as she did, the fear seemed to start to melt away…
“Does it look as if Paulette is afraid,” Ophelia said, Nora shaking her head as she said “No…”
“We have not hurt her – do y’all think your son or any of us would hurt you?”
Nora shook her head from side to side as Greg said “I’m not going to hurt you Mum – and I’ll make sure they don’t.”
“So,” Ophelia said, “will you allow young Greg and me to look after you?”
Paulette started to smile as Nora said “all right – what do you want me to do?”
“Why don’t you sit next to Paulette, in the Lotus position?”
Nora wasn’t sure why she suddenly trusted a masked female intruder into her home, especially one of a group that had effectively said they were going to hold her and her children hostage – but she did, as she sat down and Jay handed Ophelia a fresh string of lights.
“Now young sah,” she said as she looked at Greg, “would you be so kind as to wrap these around your mama’s arms and body a couple of times?”
“Okay,” Greg said as he carefully wrapped the lights around his mother, Paulette watching the whole time.
“That’s nice,” Ophelia said, “now mah dear, kindly put your hands together in prayer to the almighty, and your son here will secure them together.” To her own surprise, Nora did this without complaining, watching as Greg wound more of the lights around her wrists, holding them together.
“Allow me to do the last part,” Ophelia said as she took the lights, and used them to secure Nora’s crossed ankles together. “There now – that looks right comfy. Is it?”
“It is,” Nora said to her own growing surprise, “how do you feel… Oh!” She blinked as the lights wrapped round her were switched on.
“Greg,” Jay said to the young boy, “one of these men is going to come with you and get your camera, so you can take the pictures, all right?” As he went off, Jay said “now, the next part of Silent Night is that first word – silent. So I’m going to put a piece of silver tape over your mouths while the photographs are taken.”
“Do you have to?”
“Mrs Paulsen,” Jay said quietly, “later we will have to make sure nobody in the house can talk. I want you to try this first, so you know a bit of how it will feel.”
“It’s ahl right,” Ophelia said, “will you go first Paulette dahlin, and let Mrs McPhee do it to you?”
“Yes,” Paulette said as Mrs McPhee tore a strip from a roll of duct tape, and then pressed it gently over the young girl’s mouth. She then passed the roll to Ophelia, who tore a longer strip off and said “put your lips together mah sweet.”
Nodding, Nora felt the tape pull on her skin as it was pressed into place, but she wasn’t panicking, she was calm as Paulette shuffled next to her, and Mrs McPhee used a third set of lights to bind them together.
“Oh wow,” Greg said as he returned with the camera, and then started to take photos.
“Thsssrlffnmm,” Paulette said, “ruhffnnfte?”
“Yssmmm,” Nora said, unsure as to how or why.
“There now,” Jay said as Greg stopped, “did you enjoy that? Now, I think it’s time you and your brother had a Silent Night photo of your own, don’t you Paulette?”
As the young girl nodded, Greg said “I don’t want fairy lights.”
“No I agree,” Jay said as the two women started to unwind the lights, “I think we’ll do something else for both of you, while your mother watches…”
“What are you going to do,” Greg said as his mother and sister peeled the silver tape away from their mouths.
“Well,” Mrs McPhee said, “why don’t ah take ye both for a drink, and then we’ll show ye. I promise ye, young man, no lights…”
“Who… Who are you? I mean, who are you really,” Nora said. “I should be terrified, and I’m only scared…”
“I’m Jay Edwards, this is Ophelia, and that is Mrs McPhee,” Jay said in his Geordie accent, “and that is all you really need to know. Would one of you kindly make sure the phones and internet are disconnected?”
One of the two masked men nodded as he walked off, while Ophelia said “what is it that is frightening y’all, Mrs Paulsen?”
“I’m scared you are going to hurt them as I was…”
“Once we have the kiddiywinks secured,” she said, “I would like to talk to you, woman to woman – is that awl right?”
Nora nodded as Paulette and Greg came back in. She noticed their hands were behind their backs, and as they turned round she saw that Mrs McPhee had crossed and secured their wrists together with red rope.
“We’re gonna dae a Silent Night photo wi both o them,” Mrs McPhee said, “and then we’ll watch a film togefer while Ophelia and Jay talk to ye. Now kids, I want you bof tae sit back to back in front of the tree, but so that ye can both see the telly.”
“What are you going to do,” Greg said as he sat down, and Paulette sat behind him, stretching her legs out.
“I’m gonna use some mair rope to tie yer legs, then tie the two o ye togefer around yer tummies and arms,” Mrs McPhee said, “and then we’ll keep ye both quiet wi some different tape. Then we’ll take the photos – but aftair that, I want tae see if you sit like that until yer daddie comes hame.”
“Can we do that as a surprise for Daddy, Mummy,” Paulette said, Nora nodding as she said “yes – I am sure he will be very surprised.”
The two children smiled as they watched Mrs McPhee use more of the red rope to secure their ankles together, and then their legs below their knees, Paulette giggling as Mrs McPhee took the rope between her legs to make the binding tighter, and her gloved fingers stroked the back of her legs.
“Are ye ticklish little one?”
“Yes I am,” Paulette giggled.
“Ah’ll remember that,” Mrs McPhee said with a smile as she made her way round and secured Greg’s legs in the same way.
“How does it feel,” Paulette said as she looked over her shoulder.
“Different – you were right, it doesn’t hurt,” Greg said as he squeezed his sister’s hand while the ropes were tied.
“You’re both enjoying this aren’t you,” Nora said, the children nodding as Mrs McPhee then used more of the red rope to tie them together around their stomachs, and then their upper arms.
“Now then,” she said quietly, “Ah’m gonna use this black tape this time, so put yer lips togefer fer me please?”
“We’ll talk to you later mummy,” Paulette said as the black tape was smoothed over her mouth. Greg nodded as the tape was then placed firmly over his chin, the two of them looking at Nora as Ophelia started to take some photos of them.
“Now, what would ye like tae watch,” Mrs McPhee said as the last photograph was taken.
“You can try and sing along if ye wan’” she said as she found the DVD and put it into the player, both of the children watching as Jay said “will you come with me and Ophelia please Nora – the kids are perfectly safe with Mrs McPhee and my friend.”
“Wrrfnmmm,” Greg said as he nodded, Nora saying “all right” as she was escorted into the kitchen. As Jay pulled a chair away from the table, Ophelia said “have a seat dahlin – and tell me what’s going through yer mind?”
“How calm the kids are – and how scared I’m getting?”
“You said earlier,” Ophelia said as she removed her gloves again, “you were scared mah friends would hurt the children as you were hurt. What did you mean by that?”
“I don’t want to…”
“Mrs Paulsen – Nora dahlin,” Ophelia said as she put her hand on the mother’s, “tell me about it. Take my hand, and tell me everything.”
As she felt Ophelia’s hand, a deep peace came over Nora, as she said “when I was fourteen, my family went on holiday to Sardinia. It was meant to be for a fortnight, but at the start of the second week…”
“Go on,” Ophelia said quietly as Jay watched.
“We were driving along a country road when we were stopped by a truck. Before my dad could do anything, armed men came out of the back of the truck, forced open the car doors and dragged me and my mother out. They used rope to secure our wrists behind our backs, pulled hoods over our heads, and then took us away.”
“I see,” Ophelia said, “were they wearing masks as we were?”
“No – they didn’t, but somehow that made them even scarier. We were taken to this cabin, and made to sit on cot beds while they tied our ankles and legs, and then we were left alone after they took the hoods off. At least we could talk to each other – and Mum kept talking to me, telling me everything would be all right…”
“So you were kidnapped – why did they do this to you?”
“My father – he worked at the American embassy in Rome at the time, and my mother was from Sardinia. Her family were very wealthy… I think they wanted to use us to raise a ransom.”
“Sardinian bandits,” Jay said quietly.
“I know that now,” Nora said with a smile, “but then, all I knew as bad men had taken me and my mum from my dad. We sat in the cabin for what seemed like hours, until a woman came in and dropped bread and two bottles of water on the bed.”
“Yes – a very old and cruel woman. She would hit me if I cried, hit me if I did not do what she said, hit me all the time…”
“What did your mother do when that happened?”
“She was hit as well – as the days went by, she seemed to sink more and more into herself unless we were alone – and then we would hold each other, cry, pray my father would come and free us.”
“How long were you in the cabin?”
“Only a couple of days – but we were with them for months. Every so often they would come in, bind our wrists and ankles, hood us, pull something round her heads to keep us quiet, and move us. Sometimes it was a house, sometimes a cabin, sometimes caves…”
“I can understand how that must have made you feel,” Ophelia said quietly as she kept hold of Nora’s hands. “What happened in the end?”
“We were in a cabin by the sea when the army raided the place. I saw them shoot the bandits – but they took me and my mum home to Dad. Those memories…”
“Those memories have haunted you for over thirty years, Nora,” Ophelia said quietly. “I can only imagine the hurt, the pain, but I think it’s time you let go of it, time to allow yourself to be free, time to allow yourself to be happy.”
Nora looked at Ophelia, and then started crying, the masked woman reaching round and holding her as the tears came freely. Eventually, she looked up and said “how did you…”
“It’s a gift,” Ophelia said, “but I think you now need to go and be with your son and daughter. You must, however, for a while be like them, so trust me.
“Put your hands behind your back.”
“All right,” Nora said quietly as she moved her hands behind her, Ophelia smiling as Jay wrapped the rope around her wrists and tied them together.
“The rope is not something to be afraid of,” Ophelia said quietly, “and I know we have invaded your home, but are you afraid now?”
“No,” Nora said quietly as she stood up.
“Good – put your lips together.”
Nora nodded as the black tape was smoothed over her lips, and she was walked into the front room.
“Hllmmehwru,” Greg said as they came into the front room.
“Mffnnsn,” Nora said as Jay helped her to sit in the centre of the couch, and then knelt down as he took some more red rope and started to bind her ankles together. She noticed Ophelia had put her gloves back on, as she knelt next to Greg and Paulette and started to untie the red rope that was holding them together.
She then felt her legs as they were pulled together, looking down as Jay tied her legs together below her knees, taking the rope around and between her legs as it sat above her boots.
Mrs McPhee lifted Paulette up and sat her to one side of Nora, while Greg was placed on the other side by Ophelia. Nora leaned over and pressed her taped mouth on the top of their heads, before they snuggled in next to her and watched the television.
“Keep an eye on them,” Jay said to the two masked men as he, Ophelia and Mrs McPhee went into the kitchen, sitting round the table.
“Okay,” Mark said quietly in his usual voice, “stage 1 complete. Sarah?”
“She has started the healing process,” Sarah said, “and I think, once her husband has left, we can do some things with her to show how she can confront the rest of her fears. She is at least free of the burden she has had to carry around.”
“Well, in itself that is something,” Yvonne whispered, “and the kids are enjoying the time as well. How long before Mister Paulsen gets home?”
Mark looked at the clock, which said four in the afternoon. “Your intel says about three hours, so we have time to for them to relax, then to let Nora cook some tea for the kids. We’ll time it so they are all in the kitchen when he gets back. He’ll be tired after his long meeting with that particular client.”
“The one Brian’s contacts are going to make a move on at dawn EST tomorrow,” Sarah said. “Which is why we need to put that back door into his computer systems tonight. At least we can make sure the three of them are comfortable and sleep the sleep of the unafraid tonight.”
“That’s what we hope,” Jay said with a smile. “Right – back to work. I’m going to have a look around upstairs, you two go and keep the family company.”
It was dark as Greg Paulsen pulled into the driveway of his house, sighing as he stopped and turned the engine off. Stepping out of the car, he smiled as he saw the lights twinkling outside the house. A nice quiet night was what he needed after the day he had experienced.
Walking into the hallway, he took off his coat and hung it up. He was wearing an expensive three piece suit, blue shirt and tie, and smiled as he said “something smells good.”
“Can you come into the kitchen Greg,” he heard Nora call out, “there is something we want to show you.”
“Oh – and what would that be,” he said as he walked in – and saw his family sitting at the table, Paulette looking over as she said “surprise Daddy – we’re hostages!” He saw the rope holding her ankles together, a second band around her legs below her knees, and a third holding her against the chair back – and the same ropes around his son and his wife. He also saw the two masked women who were standing behind Nora, smiling as one of them said “Guid evenin Mister Paulsen – there is someone here who wishes tae hae ae word wi ye.”
“Hello Mister Paulsen,” a male said from behind with a Geordie accent, “my name is Jay Edwards, the ladies are Mrs McPhee and Ophelia, and these are two of my associates.”
Greg turned slowly round to look at the masked man, and the two other standing either side of him, before he said “What… What do you want?”
“Well, right now,” Jay said with a smile, “I want you to go with one of my associates and change into something more comfortable, while Ophelia makes sure your supper is ready for you when you come back. I will explain everything after that.”
“Are you three all right,” Greg said as he looked at his family.
“We’re fine Dad,” his son said, “we had some funny photos taken with us, and watched Horrible Histories with Mum while we had our mouths covered. She even sang along with us when she joined us.”
“Silent Night photos – I’ll show you later,” Nora said, “but go and get changed. We’ll be fine if you do as they say.”
Greg nodded as he went up the stairs, followed by one of the masked men. A few minutes later, he came into the kitchen, now wearing a red jumper and jeans, sitting at the table as Ophelia placed food in front of him.
“Are you going to tie me to the chair as well,” he said as he looked at Jay.
“Only if you plan to do something to raise the alarm – and I don’t think you want to do that, do you?”
Greg looked at the masked men and women behind his family, and said “no – no I’ll eat instead.” He started to eat his meal as Mrs McPhee collected the plates from the other three, and then put some ice cream and fruit in front of Paulette and Greg.
“So they have been here all afternoon,” he said as he looked at Nora.
“Yes they have – and we were scared at first, but they haven’t hurt us, and…”
Greg looked at his wife as she said “I talked to this one – Ophelia – about Sardinia. Somehow, she got me to say things that should have been said a long time ago, and I’m grateful for that, despite everything.”
“They… They did that,” Greg said as he looked at Jay.
“Mister Paulsen, we have no wish or intention to do anything to harm you or your family – despite appearances. We do need you to do something for us tonight, and one of my associates will take you to your office to do that. To ensure your cooperation, we remain here with your family, and we will make sure they are kept safe – if unable to do little else.
“So, eat your meal, you and your wife may have some coffee while the children finish their dessert and drinks, and then we can all go into the front room and watch some television until it is time for you to go.”
“It doesn’t look as if we have a choice – but no television. We’ll play a game instead, all right?”
The clock showed nine thirty as Paulette rolled the dice, watching as they landed and then moving her counter before she said “I WIN!”
“Excellent,” Jay said as he stood up, “but it is time for you to go with my associate, Mister Paulsen. Remember – do as he says, and he will check in with me regularly.”
“I understand,” Greg said as they stood up, and he hugged each of them in turn. “I’ll see you all later,” he said as Jay held his coat for him to put on, and said to his associate “make sure he does everything I have asked him to do.”
“Got it Jay,” the masked man said as Greg and he headed out of the door.
“IT’s getting late,” Jay said as the door closed, “Mrs McPhee, would you take young Greg to prepare for bed? Ophelia will stay with young Paulette while their mother comes with me to arrange some supper.”
“What are you going to do to us,” Nora asked as they walked into the kitchen.
“We will bind all three of you in your beds, and make sure you cannot raise the alarm,” Jay said quietly as Nora poured milk into two glasses. “In fact, I want you to help – that way, all three of you will know you are together in this, and I think it will help you face some of your fears as well.
“I think it might – thanks,” Nora said as she put some biscuits on a plate, then picked it up as Jay picked up the glasses of milk. They went back into the front room, Paulette saying “thank you” as she accepted one glass and took a biscuit from the plate, before the other glass and plate went on the coffee table.
A few minutes later, Greg came back in, wearing a pair of light blue cotton pyjamas and a pair of white socks on his feet. “Have you washed,” Nora said, Greg nodding as he sat down and took the glass.
As Paulette put her empty glass down, Ophelia said “Some with me dahlin – you can show me your room while you get changed.”
“On you go,” Nora said as Paulette took the masked woman’s gloved hand, and walked to the staircase.
“Now then,” Mrs McPhee said as Greg finished his drink, “we need tae start tae get ye ready fer yer bed. When ye go there, none of you are going to be able to move or talk, but it’s just doing mair than we did earlier. Are ye ready?”
“I’m ready,” Greg said.
“Guid – will ye hold yer hands out fer me?”
As he did so, Mrs McPhee handed him two halves of a sponge, as Jay handed Nora a large roll of duct tape. “What is this for,” she asked.
“Ah want ye to make twa fists,” Mrs McPhee said, and as Greg did so Jay said “Now, I want you to wrap the tape round his fists so that they stay covered. The sponges top his nails digging into the palm of his hands.”
“It’s all right Mum – it looks like it might be fun,” Greg said as Nora peeled the end of the roll free, and then covered his fists so that it looked as if he was wearing boxing gloves made of silver. Jay then handed her a pair of white socks, and said “pull these up over his hands now.”
“So I really will not be able to use my hands,” Greg said with a smile as his mother pulled the socks up, and then used a roll of white tape Jay handed her to tape the tops of the socks to the sleeves of his pyjamas.
“Oh wow – will I get that as well?”
Nora looked at Paulette as she came in, wearing a lone white sleeveless dress, as Ophelia said “oh yes you are mah little princess – and your mama will do it for you.”
“Come here darling,” Nora said as Jay handed her two sponges, “and make fist with these in your hands please.” Paulette took the sponges and held then as her mother picked up the silver tape, and started to wrap it around her fists.
“It’s as if I’m wearing mittens,” she said as the tape covered her hands, and then Nora pulled a pair of white socks up and over her arms.
“And this is as if you are wearing a pair of long gloves,” she said as Jay handed her the white tape, and she used it to stick the top of the socks to her bare arms. “How does it feel?”
“Different,” Paulette said as she looked at them.
“Good,” Ophelia said, “now then, will you come with me mah dear, and you can get ready for bed?”
“All right – do what they tell you to do,” Nora said as she went from the room with Ophelia, as Mrs McPhee said “raht mah wee bairns – hands behind yer backs please.”
“Where will we be,” Greg said as she stood by his sister.
“We’ll put you in your own beds, but make sure you cannot get up or talk to anyone for a while,” Jay said. “Your mother will be with you until you are secured and quiet, and either Mrs McPhee or Ophelia will sit with you for a while. I know it’s a little bit scary, but it’s really just the same as earlier – with a bit more coloured rope.”
“Coloured rope?” Paulette looked behind her brother’s back to see Jay using a length of the red rope to tie his covered wrists tightly together. “Oh I see now – am I getting red?”
“Nah,” Mrs McPhee said, “ye’re getting green mah wee princess.” She picked up the green rope and started to tie Paulette’s wrists together, as Jay took some rope around Greg’s waist and used it to secure his wrists against his back.
As Mrs McPhee took care of Paulette, Jay took a longer length of red rope and started to tie Greg’s arms to his sides, taking it around his stomach and his upper arms in two bands. “Think of it as if you’re getting a big Christmas hug,” he said as he pulled the ropes tighter, Greg nodding as he watched Mrs McPhee do the same to his sister.
“Does it feel like you’re been hugged,” he said as Jay used two shorter lengths to tighten the bands between his chest and arms. Paulette nodded as Mrs McPhee did the same to her, a green harness round her body and arms to match her brother’s red one.
“Well, I see you are both nearly ready?”
“We are Mum.” Greg looked at his mother in her white nightdress, in the same style as Paulette, and the white socks that were taped over her arms as well.
“Would you like me to bind our arms sugah,” Ophelia said as she held Nora’s body, the two children smiling as she nodded and said “yes please – we all need to be the same.”
They watched as the masked woman took their mother’s hands behind her back, then walked round and watched as the rope was sued to secure them together. Ophelia used black rope, as she secured her wrists with a band round her waist, and then took more rope around her body, her chest framed by the bands above, below and at either side.
“Well, I guess we’re going to stay where we are tonight,” she said as she smiled at the other two, “You’re not afraid are you?”
“No mummy – I’m actually excited,” Paulette said as Jay smiled. “All right then – let’s go to your bedrooms. Youngest first I think.”
“Thank you,” Paulette said as they walked to the stairs.
“Wait here, make sure everything stays normal,” Jay whispered to the masked man, who nodded as he sat down. Following the groups into Paulette’s room, he smiled as he saw the cuddly toys along the edge of her bed.
“Y'all have a lovely collection,” Ophelia said, “which is your favourite?”
“Nora,” Paulette said as she sat on her bed, and nodded to a Raggedy Ann doll wearing a checked dress.
“Would you like her to be next to you?”
“Yes please,” Paulette beamed.
“Awl right dahlin – cross your ankles for me.”
As Greg and Nora watched, Ophelia took more of the green rope and secured her ankles together, before she lifted the hem of her nightdress up, and tied her legs together below her knees.
“That tickles,” Paulette said as Ophelia took the rope between her legs.”
“Oh Ah am so sorry,” Ophelia said as she tied the ropes off, and folded her skirt back. “Now, before y’all lie down, we need to make sure you are quiet. Can you open your mouth as wide as you can sugah?”
Paulette nodded as Ophelia folded a silk square, and then put it into the young girl’s mouth, before she tied a knot in a strip of soft cotton towel and pushed the knot between her teeth as well. Tying the band around her head, she then took a roll of white tape and wrapped it around her head, covering the band as she said “llrllrrtmmmee?”
“I know you will sweetheart,” Nora said as Ophelia tore the tape free and smoothed it down, then took a roll of green material and wrapped it round her head as well.
“What is that,” Greg asked.
“It is called vet wrap,” Jay said, “it gets used for bandages on horses, but for us, it adds a colour matched extra layer to that gag.”
“There we go,” Ophelia said, “you can lie down now sugah.”
“Fnnkku,” Paulette mumbled as she was helped to lie on her side, and Ophelia used one more length of rope to tie her ankles to the foot of the bed. She then put the Raggedy Ann doll next to her as she sat down, and started to read a story.
“Sleep well Paulette,” Nora said, her daughter nodding as they walked to Greg’s room.
“You like soccer,” Jay said as they walked in, “what team?”
“Arsenal – you?”
“Newcastle United of course,” Jay said with a smile, “sit down – Mrs McPhee will take care of you now.”
As he sat down, Mrs McPhee took some of the red rope and tied his crossed ankles and legs, taking the rope between his legs in each place, before she gagged him in the same way as his sister – only using red vet wrap as the final layer.
As she lay down, and Mrs McPhee tied his ankles to the foot of the bed, Nora walked over and kissed him on the forehead. “You have been very brave today Greg – your father and I are very proud of you.”
“Elffumm,” he said as Mrs McPhee nodded and sat with him, Jay taking Nora by the arm and leading her to her bedroom.
“Please, sit on the bed,” he said, “and cross your legs.”
“Are you leaving me unable to move as well,” Nora said as he crossed her ankles, and stated to tie them together with the black rope.
“In a different way,” Jay said as he pulled the rope between her legs, and then tied it off, before he folded the skirt of her nightdress back and bound her legs tightly together. Once he had that done, he folded a silk square and said “open wide.”
“May I say something?”
“OF course,” Jay said with a smile.
“Thank you – all of you – for doing what you did.”
“Our pleasure – now open wide.” He eased the cloth into her mouth, then added the towelling and the white tape. Finally, he took a roll of black vet wrap and wound it tightly round her head, before helping her to lie on her side, and pulling her ankles back, securing them to her chest ropes.
“We will be taking care of you,” he said as he turned off the light, Nora watching in the darkness as the adrenaline wore off…
“How are the kids,” Jay said as Mrs McPhee and Ophelia came into the front room.
“Fast asleep, Jay dahlin,” Ophelia said, “and their mother is also sleeping peacefully.”
“Good,” Jay said as he looked at his watch, “then all we can do now is wait. Check every fifteen minutes,” he said to the masked man, who nodded as he left the room.
“How long dae ye fink,” Mrs McPhee said.
“Another couple of hours,” Jay said quietly, “all been well…”
The vibrations alerted Jay as he took the cell phone out and said “this is Jay Edwards.
“Excellent – and everything went according to plan?
“Good – leave him secured, and get out. I’ll be in touch in the usual way – and many thanks for your help.”
“Job done dahlin,” Ophelia said as she looked over.
“Job done – let’s move out. Everything cleared away?”
The others nodded as Jay said “okay then – good work everyone. Let’s go.”
“Coffee,” Yvonne said as the three of them walked into the front room.
“Please,” Sarah said as she sat down and looked at the clock. “Four am – no point in going to sleep now, and Brian will be with his partners.”
“Let’s hope they get what they need,” Mark said as he sat down. “We netted two million tonight – want your share to go to the usual charity?”
“No – give it to a Christmas charity this time. I think it’s appropriate.”
As Nora slowly opened her eyes, she wondered why it was still dark – and then remembered it was the middle of December. She had slept a dreamless sleep, and felt strangely refreshed – even as the memory of the previous day came back, and she wriggled as she tried to move.
“Sssnbdelslswk,” she called out, and relaxed as she heard Greg and Paulette call back in muffled voices. There was then the sound of the door opening, and a voice calling out “Mrs Paulsen? We’re police officers – where are you?”
“PPSSTRSSS” she called out, listening to the footsteps and then Paulette say “hlllmstrpllsmn.” A female officer then came in, walking round and untying her ankles from her chest before she helped Nora to sit up.
“Are you all right,” she said, Nora nodding as she began to unwind the black wrap, and then the tape. “Whrrsmhsbnd,” she mumbled as the cleave gag was revealed.
“The cleaners found him at his workplace,” the policewoman said as she removed the rest of the gag, “We’ll take all three of you to him once you have dressed.”
Nora nodded as Paulette ran in, jumping onto the bed and hugging her as Greg followed, both of them with their hands still covered. “We had a great sleep Mummy – did you?”
“Yes I did – but I want you both to get your hands free and dressed while I get untied and dressed as well. Daddy is waiting for us – the nice policemen will help you.”
“See you in a few minutes,” Greg said as the children went off.
“Jay Edwards – we have no idea how he does it, but the families he visits always seem to be fine the next morning,” the police woman said as she started to unite Nora’s arms.
“Yeah – I have to say, I do feel good,” Nora said with a smile.
“Someone is at the door Dad,” Lisa called out as Mark came out of the kitchen. As he went to open the door, he saw a tall blonde haired man there, with a boy and girl holding his hands.
“Well now, if it isn’t our godchildren,” Mark said as they came in, Yvonne smiling as she came out. “Come in, come in.”
“We saw your card, Unca Mark,” Bart said as Brian helped him take off his coat, “it was funny, and Daddy did one with us as well.”
“Well, you can show me later,” Yvonne said, “want a drink?”
“Yes please,” Sarah said as the twins went off, and Brian looked at Mark.
“Did it work?”
“It did – we got our man, and Paulsen is in the clear. How about his wife?”
“Started on the road,” Sarah said as she came down and kissed Brian. “So, I guess I need to come to the Manor House today?”
“We’ll all drive up,” Brian said. “Right now, I’ll take some coffee if it is available.”
As they walked in, the radio was playing…
They said there'll
be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'Till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise
I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve