“Well, I’ll give you full credit, Ellie, that is one hell of a costume for the party.”
Eleanor blushed at the compliment from Harriet, as she looked at herself in the mirror of her bedroom. The two girls had been invited to a party at a club Eleanor’s father was a member of, and the theme, naturally enough for the time of year, was horror.
“Yeah,” Eleanor said as she looked over at the redhead, “but it’s not exactly me, is it?” She was wearing white nurse’s uniform, the top buttons undone and a thick blue canvas belt around her waist, but there was a stain at the front to represent blood. She had used tomato juice - and the uniform was an old one of her mother’s. Her long brunette hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she had sued a combination of flour and soot from an old coal fire to make herself look more ghoulish. The outfit was completed by a pair of black fishnet tights and a pair of Edwardian style black ankle boots.
“That’s the point, isn’t it - not to be ourselves,” Harriet said as she picked up the black cowl. She was also dressed in an unfamiliar style, in a black catsuit, knee length black leather boots and a pair of black opera gloves. “This chafes a bit though,” she said as she moved her legs, “I can’t believe you persuaded me to come as Batgirl.”
“Well, Batwoman would have been a bit too old, but it might have fitted us better,” Eleanor said as she looked at her lover. “Ready to go and show them what we can do?”
“I guess so - but I wish Sara could have come.”
“I know,” Eleanor said as she stroked her hand against Harriet’s cheek, “but she’s still incredibly cut up over what happened. Have you spoken to her?”
Harriet shook her head. “She’s not talking to me either, not since Rachel talked to her. Come on - let’s go and shock all the boys anyway.”
“And all the girls,” Eleanor said before giving Harriet a kiss, then opening the door. “Let’s go - Dad’s taxi firm is waiting.” Harriet nodded, putting the cowl over her hair and eyes so that she was masked, as she followed her out.
The party was being held at the Burlington Golf and Country Club - one of the more exclusive Carrington locations. As her father drove through the gates, Harriet looked at the line of cars, and gasped as she saw the two girls getting out of the car in front of them.
One was a tall girl with long chestnut coloured hair under the witch’s hat she was wearing. Her dress was made of a dark material, with elbow length sleeves and a jagged hem, while a pair of black leather boots covered her legs. Beside her was a blonde haired girl, dressed rather incongruously as a fox - a brown bodysuit, with a bushy tail, brown boots with white markings on the toes, and a pair of long brown gloves.
“Luci! It’s so good to see you,” Harriet said as she got out and walked up to the witch, giving her a big hug. “How’s my favourite not older sister.”
“Can’t complain,” the girl said as he friend turned and looked at the other new arrivals, her brown whiskers twitching. “Oh sorry - Tara, this is Harriet. Her family know my dad very well. And this is...”
“Oh, sorry, you don’t know,” Harriet said as she slipped her arm round Eleanor’s waist. “Tara, Luci, this is my partner Eleanor.”
“Pleased to meet you,” the fox said as she shook their hands. “Well, shall we go in?”
The party had been underway for some time as they went in, the dance floor full of young people moving to the music in their costumes, while tables around the side of the room were partially filled. “I’ll get a table,” Luci said as she saw one near the entrance to the kitchens. “What do you want to drink?”
“Soft drinks will be fine for me,” Harriet said, Eleanor nodding as Tara headed to the bar, her tail swishing as she walked across the dance floor. The other three sat down, as Eleanor said “So how long have you known Harriet?”
“Long enough to be glad she finally admitted something,” Luci said with a smile. “Well done you - and well done with all the other things as well.”
“What other things?”
“The Carrington Girls Detective Agency - you seem to have caused quite a stir.”
Harriet shrugged her shoulders as a young waitress walked up to them. She was wearing a long sleeved white blouse, knee length skirt and waistcoat, and the name tag on her lapel said “Lily.”
“Hi - can I get you ladies a drink,” she said as she looked round the table.
“No thanks - we’re good,” Luci said as Tara carried the tray back. “Well, if you do not anything else to drink or eat, don’t hesitate to ask,” Lily said as she walked off, her tray under her arm.
“I didn’t know there was a waitress service,” Tara said as she sat down, “that would have saved me a trip.”
“Don’t worry,” Luci said as she sipped her champagne, “I’m sure the night will provide other opportunities.” As she put her drink down, the DJ started to play the latest Katy Perry song.
“Come on,” Eleanor said as she grabbed Harriet’s hand, “Let’s dance.” Luci watched them both as they went onto the dance floor, and started to move alongside the others.
“Oh to be a few years younger, eh?”
“Yeah - do you know I babysat for her from time to time? Now look how much she has grown up.” Sipping her drink, Luci looked round the room, smiling at the crowds that were gathering.
Luci looked up to see a smartly dressed young man standing next to her. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Miss, but there is a phone call for you. If you will accompany me, I will take you to the manager’s office.”
“Great - now what’s happened,” Luci said as she stood up, the taffeta of her dress rustling as she did so. “Tell the other’s I’ll be back in a little while, all right?”
“Got it,” Tara shouted over the increasing volume as she watched Luci walk off. She turned back to watching the dance floor, as the songs continued.
“Can I replenish your drinks, miss?”
Tara turned suddenly to see Lily standing there, looking at her.
“Err - you can fetch another two rum and cokes,” she said, “oh - and have you seen my friend around?”
“The young lady in the witch costume?” Lily looked round, and for a moment Tara thought she saw a look of fear in the eyes of the waitress. When she looked back, however, she was calm and composed.
“I am sorry, miss, but I have not.” She looked up as Harriet and Eleanor came back, sitting down and sipping their drinks. “If I see her, I shall tell her you were looking for her.”
“Thanks,” Tara said as she looked at the young couple. “Having fun?”
“Oh yes,” Harriet said as she let out a whoop, “I can’t tell you how good this costume feels now.”
“That’s not what you said earlier,” Eleanor said with a smile, “but you do make it look good.”
“Why thank you, Nurse,” Harriet said in reply, “but I think you need a touch of sunlight. Or at least some tender loving care.”
“Now now - this is a public party,” Tara said as she looked round. By the door she noticed the man who had spoken to Luci earlier. “Hold my drink for me, will you,” she said as she stood up, and walked towards him.
“Wonder what’s got her worried,” Harriet said as she saw Tara talking to the man, and then walking through the double doors. She noticed the way he was gripping her arm, and a dread started to colour her eyes.
“Oh no,” Eleanor said as she looked at Harriet. “I’ve seen that look in your eyes before, lover. You’re not going to...”
“Oh,” Lily said as she came back., and placed the two drinks on the table, “Has your other friend gone as well?” She looked round the dance floor, and it seemed to Harriet as if she was looking for something.
“They’ll probably be back in a minute,” Eleanor said as she drained her glass. “Can I have another St Clements please?”
“Me too,” Harriet said as she put her glass down. Lily cleared away the glasses and headed for the bar, as Harriet looked at her partner. “Something’s wrong,” she said quietly.
“Then call the police, or security, let them handle it - Sara’s not here to do anything.”
“Maybe not,” Harriet said as she stood up, “but I am. Luci is an old friend, and I think she’s in trouble.”
“Well, we’ll look together,” Eleanor said. “Any idea where they went?”
“Let’s try through there first,” Harriet said as she walked to the double doors, Eleanor following her as they slipped inside. Compared to the dance floor, the corridor they found themselves in was dark, and quiet - so quiet they could hear the click of their boot heels on the concrete floor as they walked along.
“It’s quiet,” Eleanor said as they made their way slowly down the corridor. The only light came from round lamps that were high up on the wall, casting a dim light on the grey walls and floor.
“Too quiet,” Harriet said as she walked down the corridor. “If this was an episode of Batman, this would be where the villain jumps out and grabs Robin or the damsel of the week.”
“Yeah, but this is real life, so that won’t happen, right?”
“Of course it won’t Ella.”
Harriet slowly turned round to see Eleanor looking at her over the large hand that was clamped over her mouth. Behind her was the man that she had seen talking to Tara earlier, but the look on his face told her all she needed to know.
“A couple of heroes come looking for their friends, eh? Well, we have room for a couple more in the van - now, be a nice superheroine, and come in here with me.”
He indicated a door to his right, and the look in Eleanor’s eyes was enough to convince Harriet not to try anything stupid. “Of all the times for Sara not to be here,” she said to herself, before she raised her hands and walked in front of Eleanor, her captor keeping a tight grip on her.
“Hgddd - nutwswll,” Luci said, her eyes wide as she saw the two younger girls come in. She was sat next to Tara on a pair of wooden boxes, her arms pinned behind her back by the layers of rope that encircled her waist, stomach and shoulders. A thick white cloth was pulled between her lips, and from the way her cheeks were puffed out it was obvious something was being held in her mouth.
Her ankles were crossed and tied together with more rope, which had also been tied around the feet of her boots, while there was a band of rope around her skirt above her knees. As for Tara, she was just as tightly bound, with the addition of a collar that had been fastened around her neck, the leash going behind Luci’s back.
“They make a lovely couple, don't they?” the man said as another one stepped forward, with two lengths of rope in his hand. “Now, we were going to move them out of here, but I think we need to keep you two quiet and out of the way as well.”
“Here we go again,” Eleanor said as the hand was taken away from her mouth. “I take it these are not the polite type of bandits?”
“You think,” Harriet said as they were made to stand facing each other, and wrap their arms round each other. The two men then set to work crossing and binding their wrists together behind each other’s back.
“Well, I guess we get to spend the night together after all,” Eleanor said as she felt the rope tugging on her wrists.
“Not exactly how I expected the evening to end however,” Harriet said as she felt more rope being wound round their arms were they crossed, while their waists were drawn together. “It seems crime reaches everywhere these days.”
“Think we can get them monologuing?”
Harriet threw her head back and laughed, as Tara twisted her arms round. “Whtssffnneee,” she said through the brown tape that covered her mouth.
“I’ll tell you later,” Harriet said. “So, is this a kidnapping or is there something more obnoxious going on?”
“None of your business,” the man said as he passed some rope between their bodies, tightening the waist band so that if they moved, their bodies rubbed together. “On your knees.”
“Why - is this a Mafia shooting?”
“No - I don’t want you two raising the alarm. Get on your knees - NOW!”
“dntrguhrt,” Luci said as she looked at the pair. “She’s right,” Eleanor said, “On three?”
Harriet nodded, then said “one... two... three.” Both girls moved down, and straightened their legs out behind them, Eleanor watching over her partner’s shoulder as the man crossed Harriet’s ankles and tied them tightly together. He then ran a length of rope from them to Eleanor’s wrists, locking them together. She could feel her own ankles had been secured in the same way.
“We really are not going anywhere,” Harriet said with a smile as their legs were bound together above their knees. “This is going to be murder on your knees though.”
“Might be worth it, if it means I get to look into your eyes,” Eleanor said as they looked at each other, then pressed their lips together. Tara and Lucinda looked at each other, and shook their heads as they watched the two men stand up.
“Right - you should be nice and secure like that,” the man said as he took two handkerchiefs out of his pocket, “but I’m afraid we need to stop you crying for help. Can’t have the alarm raised until we have a chance to finish our business with Ms Ponsonby-Benson.”
“Yeah, yeah, we know what’s coming - just gag us and go about your diabolical scheme,” Harriet said as she winked at Eleanor. “After all, you’re not exactly the toughest villains we’ve ever faced.”
“Oh - I think we may be tougher than you think!”
“Well, we’re not in a sinking boat, or in a barn with a bomb next to us, or indeed - well...”
“You’re not three women in grey and white. So no, you don’t go very high up the list of mmmbbbb.” Harriet’s sarcasm was cut short by the cloth the man stuffed into her mouth, before a length of white tape was pressed down over her lips.
“She’s right you know, but we can talk about it later,” Eleanor said before she too had her mouth stuffed and taped over. “Right,” the man finally said, “let’s go and get the van round - otherwise he’ll have our guts for garters.”
“Yeah - that white look scares the hell out of me,” the other man said as he walked off, “as well as the damned dinner suit and that cape he wears.” Harriet and Eleanor looked at each other, as they realised at the same time who they were talking about. They turned their heads and watched as the men left them, pulling the door to and locking it behind them.
Harriet nodded and looked over her shoulder, trying to see if she could reach the knots that held her wrist together, but they had been placed out of reach of her gloved fingers. She looked at Eleanor, and then began to rub the side of the tape over her mouth against her white covered shoulder.
“Real couple of mooks, aren’t they?”
Harriet stopped trying to rub the tape away from her mouth, and turned to see Lucinda looking at her, the cloth that had been sitting between her lips hanging down over the front of her dress and a wet wad of cloth on the floor in front of her. “I’m sorry you both got dragged into this - seems to happen to me and Tara all the time.”
“Nkdddng,” Eleanor said as she looked at the two older women, “bthwddu...”
“We have something of a skill in this area,” Lucinda said as she looked down her body, “although they have certainly done a good job on us. How are you doing Tara?”
Eleanor watched as Tara twisted her mouth around, the tape slowly peeling away from her mouth as she pushed the wad in her own mouth, and then managed to force the tape away from her own mouth, the gag hanging from her cheek by the edge.
“Thank god I had that makeup on - they made a mistake there. Should have gagged us the other way round,” Tara said as she looked at the other two. “So, I guess we should...”
“Shut up and let us re-gag you,” the man said as they two captors came back in. “How did you get those gags out anyway?”
“Ever heard of St Blazius School?”
The two men shook their heads, as Tara said “Your loss - look, let the girls go, and we’ll go with you.”
“Oh no - they’re coming as well,” the men said as they walked to Tara and Lucinda. As they did so, Harriet looked at Eleanor, and said “Cnurcchmpkt?”
Eleanor looked over Harriet’s shoulder, then moved her arms round, Harriet twisting the other way so that she could reach into the pocket on her bottom with her fingers. She smiled, the tape moving to show that as she drew out a nail file.
“Lwssscmprprd,” Harriet mumbled as Eleanor twisted the file round, and started to rub it against the side of the rope between her wrists and Harriet’s ankles. The progress was slow, as Tara and Lucinda found themselves re-gagged, and then the leash that Lucinda had been holding pulled from her hands.
“You take her legs, I’ll take her shoulders,” the man said, but before they could lift the bound and gagged woman the door was opened. The four women looked round and saw Lily standing there, staring at the assembled group.
“Oh my...” she said, before she turned and ran off. “Get her,” the man said to his accomplice, the two girls screaming at Lily “RNNNNN” as she was followed out. After a few seconds, the footsteps ended abruptly, and there was silence.
“Have you got her,” the first man called out, but there was no response. He looked at the four women, then drew out a gun from his jacket and walked to the doorway. He looked out, then stepped into the corridor, turning and raising the gun before he dropped suddenly to the ground.
“Whtssgngngg,” Harriet called out, before Lily reappeared in the doorway. “Get him out of here,” she said quietly, as two people in black clothing dragged the man away. Walking into the room, she removed the gag from Lucinda’s mouth, and said “Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” Lucinda said, “but how did you know something was wrong?”
“You never came back to finish your drinks,” Lily said as Lucinda turned and showed the waitress her back, “so I contacted the security team., The two men will be dealt with.”
“Btthwrkformstwht,” Harriet called out through her gag.
“I know,” Lily said as she looked at the couple kneeling on the floor, “we’ll talk about that later. Right now, I need to get you four free, back to the dance, and to your drinks - I will be serving you for the rest of the night.”
“Please, Miss Ponsonby-Benson,” Lily said quietly, “would you wish to spoil everyone’s enjoyment tonight? Be assured these two men will be suitable punished - but we do not need to involve the police. I need your co-operation on this.”
Lily reached over and gently peeled away the tape from Harriet’s mouth, then removed the cloth. “It’s not the first time I’ve had to keep things quiet,” she said as she looked at Lucinda, “just let this happen. I’ll explain everything later.”
Lucinda looked at Tara, then nodded as Lily returned to freeing them.
The dance floor was starting to clear before Lily sat with the four women, and said “Thank you - be assured the matter has been fully dealt with. Miss Ponsonby-Benson - please tell your father that Veritas Security wish him good luck at the meeting next week.”
“I’ve never heard of that firm,” Harriet said quietly, “do you work closely with the police?”
“In a way,” Lily said with a smile. “I wonder if I may have a word with these two young ladies before they go?”
“It’s all right - we’ll catch you up,” Harriet said as Lucinda and Tara headed for the cloakroom. Once they were out of earshot, Harriet lowered her voice and said “Mister White was behind this - how do you know about him?”
“He is a matter of concern to the head of my firm, Harriet,” Lily said quietly, “and she asked me to be part of the security team tonight.”
“Why - because he might try something to hurt Lucinda?”
“No,” Lily said as she stood up, “to hurt you. I need you to take a message to Sara Philips for me.”
Eleanor and Harriet looked at each other, and then said in unison “What?”
“Tell her that she has friends, tell her it is always darkest before the dawn, and tell her one more thing. Tell her not to give up hope - all will work out in the end. Especially in her personal life.”
Lily walked to the door, then turned and said “We’re keeping an eye on you - all of you. Do not be afraid.”
“What does she mean by that,” Eleanor said as she stood up, and put her hands round Harriet’s neck.
“I have no idea,” Harriet said quietly, “but I have the feeling Sara is going to need us - now more than ever.”