The sky was lit with a dazzling array of colours, as sparks flew across the darkness and exploded in streams of red, blue, green and yellow. Outside, the glow from bonfires could be seen in back gardens and parks as people celebrated the failure of six men to blow up the seat of government. From the bay window of their flat, both Tara and Lucinda had a view that could not be better for seeing these spectacular sights, but the beauty and panorama was lost on them. They had more important things on their mind.
Such as, trying to figure out a way to get out of their latest predicament….
“What do you mean, you don’t do anything on the 5th of November?”
Tara was looking incredulously over at her flatmate, sat in the armchair reading a newspaper. Now in their third year at college, they had moved out of halls into a flat that Lucinda’s father had found, which had a panoramic view over the open lands on the outskirts of town.
“I just don’t – it’s something our family never did.”
“And why not?”
“My father went to Rugby school – the same school as Guy Fawkes, and they have a thing about old boys not being burnt on large fires.”
Lucinda put down her newspaper and looked up at her friend.
“Besides, after what happened the weekend before last, I thought you would have had enough excitement for a few weeks. I need to give some thought as to what we’re going to do with our next session at the school, anyway.”
Tara shrugged her shoulders. “Fair enough then – I’m going down to the shops to pick up a few things. Do you need anything?”
“Just what we need for the kitchen. I’ll see you in a little while.”
Zipping up her leather jacket, Tara turned up the collar around the neck of her brown sweater and picked up her handbag.
“I won’t be long – then we can practice the techniques for next week.”
Lucinda watched her flatmate walking out of the door, then picked up her paper and started to read again. It wasn’t long before the telephone rang, and putting down the paper she went to answer the incessant buzzing.
“Hello, Lucinda Ponsonby-Benson speaking.
“Oh hello mother. How are you tonight?
“No, Tara and I are both fine. She just popped out to get some shopping. Why do you ask?
“Well, yes, we were a little worried, but more about Charlotte and her mother than ourselves. I’m sure they’ll get over it soon. The two of them were actually quite gentle, considering who they were.
“Yes, we’ll take care of ourselves, mother. I mean, what can happen to us that is any worse than some of the things we’ve experienced?”
“All right, I’ll talk to you soon. Goodbye, mother.”
Replacing the handset in the charger, Lucinda was about to head to the bathroom when there was a knock on the door.
“Probably forgot her keys again,” she mumbled to herself as she went to answer it. Opening the door, however, she got rather more of a surprise when she saw two men standing there, dressed as Guy Fawkes, complete with masks and pointed hats.
“Oh please,” she said as she looked at them, “Tell me this is someone’s idea of a joke.” She wasn’t laughing, however, as they pushed their way in and one of them held a knife up against her throat.
“All right, not a joke,” she said as she was turned round and pushed into the main room of the flat. “What do you want? Money? Jewellery? You can have it – I’m not going to fight you over it.”
“Oh, we’ll take it all right,” one of the men whispered in her ear, “but first we need to make sure you can’t get in the way.”
Pulling a chair away from the dining table, the other masked man set it down in the centre of the room and Lucinda was forced to sit down in it. The legs of her jeans rose up slightly as she sat down, exposing the tops of her white pop socks.
The one who had held the knife against her throat pulled Lucinda’s left wrists down to the side of the chair, while the other produced from somewhere within his costume a large roll of black tape. Lucinda was wearing a long sleeved white top with a black v-necked t-shirt over it, and offered no resistance as he began to tape her wrists to the side of the chair back.
“Where’s your money?” the other Fawkes asked as Lucinda felt her other wrist being taped to the chair.
“In the bedroom – second door along the corridor,” she said, while silently hoping they’d be gone before Tara got back. The last thing the tow of them needed right now was another long session of being tied up against their will.
The Fawkes that was attending to her tore a long strip away from the roll, and passing it in front of Lucinda he wrapped it around her waist and the chair back several times, before tearing it off and coming round to the front of her.
“Not a word from you,” he said as he pulled her left ankle over and started to tape it to the leg of the chair. As he did this, Lucinda began to gently move her left wrist up and around to see if she had any give in the tape binding.
It was as he finished binding her right ankle to the chair leg that they both heard the sound of a key turning in the door. The man quickly stood up, came round behind Lucinda and pressed his knife against her throat, while holding his other hand over her mouth.
“Luci, I’m back,” she heard Tara calling through as footsteps went into the kitchen. “Let me put this stuff in the fridge, and then we can get started.”
Lucinda listened as the sounds of the fridge door opening and closing came through, and then Tara said “Oh – are you a friend of Lucinda’s? Ah – I see not.”
A few moments later, Tara was pushed into the main room, the second Fawkes behind her. Seeing Lucinda tied to the chair, Tara said “I don’t believe it – not again?”
“Afraid so, Tara,” she replied as another chair was brought over and Tara pushed into it. The Fawkes reached down and pulled off her trainers and grey socks, leaving her leggings and bare feet.
“It’s getting a bit noisy out there,” Tara said as she too was taped to the chair, “but I see you had your own excitement here as well.”
“Yeah – wonder if we’re the only ones these two are visiting tonight,” Lucinda replied as she watched the other intruder rummaging through the drawers.
“None of your beeswax,” the first intruder replied as he stood up. “Help me carry these two over to the window, will you?”
“Great – now I don’t have a choice of what to watch,” Lucinda said as the two men took her and Tara over to the large bay window and opened the curtains. Their flat was on an upper floor of a Georgian house, and the way they were positioned they knew there was no way their predicament would be seen from the street below.
“Well, on the other hand, at least you’ll get to see the fireworks,” Tara replied in a jovial way.
“You two chatterboxes need to shut up – go and see if you can find something.”
The Fawkes came back a few minutes later with two silk squares, which he balled up and handed to his partner.
“You first,” he said to Lucinda as he stood in front of her.
“Talk to you later,” Tara said as the scarf was pushed into Lucinda’s mouth, and strips of black tape put over her lower jaw to keep it in place. The same was then done to Tara, so that the two looked at each other bound and muted.
“Come on, we’ve got a few more places to visit,” the first intruder said as they left the two girls sitting looking out of the window.
That had been thirty minutes earlier, and both Tara and Lucinda had been quietly trying to figure out a way to free themselves since they had heard the door closing behind them. Lucinda had been slowly expanding and contracting her fists, in an attempt to try and loosen the tape around them, but had only succeeded in obtaining a little give in the binding.
Tara, on the other hand, had apparently been sitting quietly, her eyes closed, lost in thought.
“mm? srry lucnd – wt s t?”
“r u l rght?”
“hm-hm – jst dng smthng.”
“cn u mv t ll?”
“a ltl – bt gv m a mnt”
Lucinda watched as her flatmate began to slowly work her jaw, up and down and from side to side, and saw that the edges of the tape over her lips were beginning to come away a little. As the bangs and flashing lights continued outside, she watched fascinated as the edges slowly came more and more away from her skin, until finally the whole black pad began to push away from Tara’s mouth with the scarf attached to the underside. Eventually, the tape and scarf landed in one sodden lump on the floor as Tara gasped to catch her breath.
“Phew – I wasn’t sure that would work to begin with. Lucinda, how wet is the scarf in your mouth.”
“sdn – y?”
“Try to get your tongue out a little bit under the scarf – I managed to moisten the tape around my lips, and then work the tape off from that start. While you do that, I’m going to see if I can’t get one of my hands free.”
Lucinda slowly worked her tongue under the scarf in her mouth, and managed to part her lips enough to start to moisten the tape, while Tara began to flex her left hand into and out of a fist. The tape holding her arm to the back of the chair was over her jacket, and she had unzipped it when she came in to show the grey jumper underneath, so she had a little more give than Lucinda to work with in trying to free her hand.
As Lucinda managed to loosen the tape over her mouth further by working her jaw, Tara finally managed to pull her left wrist free from under her jacket, and slowly worked her arm out of the sleeve so that she had one hand free. Reaching round, she started to peel the tape away from her other wrists while Lucinda finally managed to push the gag out of her own mouth.
“Do you hear that thumping?” She gasped as Tara brought her other arm round.
“Yeah – I think they must have the flat next door as well. Let me get my legs free, and then at least I can come over and release you from that chair.”
It took a further half hour, including Tara having to walk in a crouched manner with the chair still taped to her waist over to Lucinda, but eventually the two girls freed themselves from their bindings.
“You go and check the flat next door,” Lucinda said, “and I’ll call the police.”
“Well,” Lucinda asked as Tara came back some time later, “what happened?”
“We were right – those bastards had tied up the woman next door and her young daughter in the kitchen. They’ll be all right, but I need to get back and stay with them – the young girl’s in a right state. Can you mind the fort here and let the police know where I am?”
Lucinda nodded as Tara went back to the other flat. Bad enough they seemed to attract these characters, but that was a bit beyond the pale. As the fireworks continued to explode outside, she looked out of the window and wondered if the people out there knew what was happening while they were enjoying themselves.