Year of The Tiger
The firework display was lighting up the Kowloon sky as the New Year celebrations carried on. The Year of the Tiger had begun in traditional style, and the revelries filled the streets and houses in the busy residential area.
If the revellers had cared to look towards the walled complex at one particular house, they would not have noticed much different. After all, walls are designed to keep prying eyes out and preserve privacy. Sometimes, however, prying eyes are just what might be needed.....
“The domestic staff?”
“Secured in the cellar – what of these three?”
“Take the Westerner out of the room – we need to deal with these two personally.”
Both Ehuang and Nuying were kneeling on the floor, their hands behind their bowed heads as two of the armed gang led Bobbi out of the room. They raised their heads to see their governess being led out, and the door slammed as the rifles were pressed against their heads.
The gang of eight armed men had forced their way in as they had celebrated the New Year with the two maids that helped maintain their house and Bobbi ,while they awaited the return of their mother from her business. The men had made their intentions very clear as they dragged the two maids off in their uniforms, and then forced the other three women to kneel on the floor. Now, their leader motioned to one other gang member.
“Bring the bag – we must prepare them for transport.”
“Transport?” Ehuang whispered to herself. The older of the two daughters by a year, she was wearing a traditional Chinese tunic made of white silk with a square pattern, a straight black skirt and leather shoes with five inch heels. Her black hair was done in a ponytail that hangs down her back. Her sister Nuying was wearing a knee length sleeveless dress made of cotton, with alternating cream and grey stripes, and flat shoes.
Ehuang heard the thump as the heavy bag was dropped onto the floor, and as the two girls were forced to look up she watched as several lengths of brown hemp rope were pulled out.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion,” she called out in her native tongue. The outburst resulted in her starting to cry as she was slapped by the leader of the gang.
“You will speak only when we tell you to – and now we will ensure that is the case,” he snarled as he took a white napkin from the table. Nodding his head, he waited as one of the gang pulled on Ehuang's ponytail, causing her to cry out in surprise and allowing him to stuff the heavy cotton cloth into her mouth, filling it and leaving the edges of the napkin protruding from her lips.
“Do I need to do the same to you,” he said looking at Nuying. She simply shook her head, her long brown hair moving as she did so. “Very good – we start with this one,” he said as he threw a coil of rope to one of the gang. The man put his gun to one side as he shook the rope out and pulled Ehuang's arms behind her back. Placing her forearms parallel to each other, he wrapped the doubled over length of rope around her wrists and pulled tightly, repeating the process until her arms were encased in a band of rope around three inches wide. Passing the ends between her arms, the man pulled the loops together to ensure she was unable to separate them.
She grunted through the cloth mass as the armed man shook out a long length of rope, doubled it over and passed it around her arms and chest below her breasts. The silk of her blouse tightened as the rope was passed again and again over her upper body, forcing her arms into her side and making her fight for breath through her nose. She wondered if her situation could get any worse.
She quickly found out it could.
As this was happening, two more gang members had forced Nuying to stand up and face the wall, so that she was unable to see what was happening to her sister. As one of them pulled her arms together and held them behind her back so that her forearms were parallel to each other and straight down her back, the other took a length of rope and passed it round her elbows. As he pulled the rope so that her elbows touched, she gasped as her chest was forced out with her shoulders pulled back. Several more passes of rope held them together before he passed the rope between her arms, pulling the bands even more tightly together.
Looking over her shoulder, she watched as the man passed another length of rope around the middle of her forearms, securing them together and leaving her with her lower arms straight as a rod down her lower back.
Ehuang was now seated in front of the long couch, watching as the man bound her ankles together with more hemp rope and wrapped the rope around her shoes in the process. Holding her feet tightly together, the sliver ring buckles at the side of err shoes jangling as she tried to separate them, she was further held by a length of rope passed around her legs below her knees, the material of her dark tights looking darker as the rope tightened over it.
“All right,” the leader said as his man stood up after securing her legs above her knees, “You sit there and shut the f*** up while we finish in here. I’m going to take care of your sister, and then we’ll wait for your mother.”
Ehuang looked over at her sister as Nuying stood there, not moving as the two men wrapped the rope again and again around her arms and chest, forcing her upper arms hard against her back as the rope was passed around. One part was passed over her shoulders, and the loop that had been formed at the back of her neck was pulled down to form part of the length that was pulling the various sloops around her arms together behind her back. As a finishing flourish, the rope had been passed around that column, forming what looked like the end of a hangman’s noose as it lay there against her.
With her own fingers, Ehuang reached up and felt the end of the coil that now held the loops of rope together behind her own back. She now had some idea of what the men had done before they made her sit on the floor, but the tightness was getting more painful with each breath.
The leader turned and looked at her, the redness growing in her cheeks, and knelt next to her. “If you promise to keep your mouth in check, I will remove the gag – for now. Will you behave?”
Ehuang nodded, and as he pulled the saliva soaked cloth out of her mouth she whispered “Thank you.” She looked at her sister, who was standing facing the wall as she turned slightly, her upper body moving in one motion as if it was a straight rod, and started to cry.
“Are you afraid?” the gang leader asked, and she nodded to show her answer. He leaned closer and whispered in her ear “You should be,” as he forced her to fall over onto her side and then her side. Taking a long length, he wrapped it around the coils above her knees, before pulling her legs back and wrapping it between her ankles and around her shoes. Ehuang gasped as the rope was tightened, and then gasped more as he pulled her hair back by the pigtail and placed it next to the knot in the centre of her back, wrapping the length around both hair and knot so that she was placed in a strict hogtie.
As the rope was knotted back along the length, the men watching Nuying stood there as she refused to turn round. Eventually, they walked forward and turned her round, the tear stains clear on her pale face, and she was forced to see how her sister was bound.
“We will be less severe with you, but we must secure you further,” the leader said as he stroked her cheek. “Take her to a bedroom and make sure she is comfortable.”
The large limousine pulled up outside the large gates, as crowds of people passed.
“Are you sure you want to be dropped off here?” the driver asked as he turned to look through the glass partition.
“Of course it is – these are my people after all,” Mei Xiu said as she picked up her briefcase. “I will see you the day after tomorrow?”
“As always, Madame,” the driver said as he stepped out to open the door for her. Mei Xiu stepped out, the heels of her brown shoes clicking on the pavement as she made her way to the secure door. Punching a code into the panel, she waited as the metal door swung inwards, stepping through into her yard area and walking forward as the door clanged shut behind her.
That was the point when she was grabbed from behind and the masked man in fatigues stood in front of her, his automatic weapon across his chest.
“Good evening Madame,” he said as she looked over her shoulder at the two men holding her. “We have business to discuss, and I think you should listen.”
“Who the hell are you,” she spat back at him.
“Manners, Madame,” he said as he stepped closer to her. “We know who you are, we know what you trade in, and we know how much you want your daughters to have no part in that. Now, we have your daughters, and we have your staff. If you want them to survive, don’t talk unless I say so and do exactly what I tell you when I say so. My men and I are in charge here – not you. Are we clear?”
Mei Xiu looked the man back in the eyes that were visible through the mask, and then said “Roberta.”
“Roberta – Bobbi, my daughter’s tutor. What have you done with her?”
“Show her,” the man said, and she was dragged towards the open garage door. Instead of the garage, however, she was surprised to be dragged around to the side of the garage block, where there was a black SUV parked. The side doors were open, and as she looked in she saw who was inside.
Bobbi was lying on her side, raising her head as she heard the gasp and grunting an unintelligible message to Mei Xiu as she stood there in her dark coat. The hem of her black mini skirt had ridden up, exposing the top of her black stockings and the straps attaching them to her garter belt, and the front of her sheer black blouse had one or tow popped buttons from her struggles. Coils of white rope were wrapped around her ankles, calves and thighs, and her breasts were encircled in the ropes that held her arms to her side as her wrists were pinned behind her back. A white scarf was pulled between her lips, cutting into the corners of her mouth as the ends passed under her strawberry blonde hair.
Mei Xiu turned, shaking her arms free from the two men behind her, and said “What are your intentions?”
“That, Madame, is an exceedingly good question – take her inside so that we can discuss it.”
The two men pushed her in front of them as they marched back into the garage, through the kitchen and into the front room. Through an open door, she caught a glimpse of Nuying on a bed in a guest bedroom, ropes crisscrossing her legs and a pale blue scarf tied into her mouth as she lay with her head on a pillow.
As she was marched into the room, she saw her older daughter lying on the floor, securely bound. Euhang looked up and whispered “I’m sorry, mother” as she looked at her standing there.
“You have done nothing wrong, child,” Mei Xiu said in return as she turned to face the leader. “If we are to talk, may I have the courtesy of removing my coat?”
He nodded as she slowly unbuttoned the dark mink and let it fall over her arms, revealing a black silk dress with short sleeves and a dark red scarf over her shoulders. One of the gang took her coat and laid it on gently on the couch as she sat down.
“Was it necessary to treat my family this way?”
“It was, Madame – for if not, you would not have entertained our visit.”
“Safe in your cellar – I assure you they have not been harmed, merely restrained and silenced.”
Mei Xiu leant forward. “Let’s cut through the civilities – who sent you?”
To her surprise, the leader of the gang laughed softly. “He said you would be like that – direct, polite and annoyed.”
For an instant, the colour blanched from her face, but Mei Xiu quickly regained her composure. “Be brave, daughter,” she said as she looked down at Euhang, “these men need to discuss a matter of importance with me. We will discuss this in the office – come.”
“Guard the prisoners – switch posts every ten minutes,” the leader ordered his men as he and Mei Xiu left her daughter in the room, wondering what was going on.
In the office, Mei Xiu poured two glasses of whisky and handed one to the man. “It has been a long time since he wished to speak to me – did he approve this action?”
“He did – and he regretted the necessity, but felt it was the only way suspicion could be taken from you.”
She nodded as the young man took a sip from his glass. “Well, it’s not the first time I had to play the patsy for him – what caused the action this time?”
“I will tell you later – but first, he said to say something to you.”
“And that was?”
“To tell me what happened last time.”
Mei Xiu took a sip from her own glass. “It was just before the return of Hong Kong to Chinese hands – certain business arrangements were in a state of flux, and I was sent here to provide cover for a little operation....
The offices of the HKOOB Trading Company were quiet as she sat behind the desk, typing the reports that her boss had asked for. With the impending change in government, it had been necessary to re-establish certain business relationships to ensure that their business ran smoothly, and there had been some protracted negotiations.
Finally, she pressed the key and sent the last document to the printer. As she watched the document appear, the door opened and the tall dark haired manager came in.
“Is this the last one?”
“It is, Master – but is this absolutely necessary? May I not come with you?”
“You know you cannot my sweet,” he said as he held her chin up and looked into her eyes, “It is absolutely essential that you stay here and convince the authorities of what has happened. It is the only way we will be able to continue to trade.”
“Will I see you again?”
“I hope so – and I carry you and our daughters with me wherever I go.”
She looked over to her desk, and the picture of her with her two young daughters in the front yard of their home. Sighing, she handed the last document to the man, who looked it over and tucked it into a manila folder he was carrying.
“Prepare yourself – it will not be long,” he said as he turned and went back into the office. She sat down, staring at the screen and waiting for the knock on the door. She tugged absently mindedly at the sleeve of her mini dress – a swirling pattern of bright colours and shapes on a purple background – as she contemplated what the future might hold.
As it was, the immediate answer came quickly, as two men burst into the room and pointed small pistols at her. Her manager came in, offering some resistance, but as one held the gun to the woman’s head the other forced the man back into the office.
She was forced to the floor, face down, and lay still as her wrists were quickly tied behind her back and her ankles tied together with rope. By the time the manager was forced at gunpoint to come back out, the rope was gathering the material of her dress around her chest as her arms were roped to it, and her legs were tied together just below her knees. She was lying on her side as several strips of white tape were placed over her lips to hold the white handkerchief that had been pushed into her mouth in place.
“Move,” the men said as the manager was forced out of the office, leaving the woman lying there, crying for what had happened and what was lost.
“Do you know, to this day he spends time looking at your photograph?”
“I draw some comfort from my husband’s loyalty,” Mei Xiu said as she looked at the man, “but that does not explain the events of this evening. As far as my girls are concerned, their father is dead...”
“And though it pains him it must be so, he knows it is to remain this way. As it was that night, this action is to protect them and to protect you.”
“To protect us?”
The young man placed his glass on the desk. “The young Western woman – Bobbi – is a federal agent, sent to investigate the disappearance of several young American women in the area over the last few years.”
Wei Xiu nodded as she heard this. “How did the General find out?”
“We have other sources – he watches over all that is his concern – and we had to move without warning. We will take her with us – and for you, I regret to say you have been the victim of a well armed gang, who took your staff and family hostage and forced you to open the safe.”
“I see,” Wei Xiu said as she picked up the crystal glass and held one in each hand. “Most regrettable, in that case.”
In reply, the man was stunned ot see her throw both glasses against the wall, the glass shattering and amber stains running down the white paint.
“The fact that those glasses were broken when I was swearing at you and trying to stop you forcing me to open the safe.” Wei Xiu walked over and removed a painting from the wall, placing it to one side as the heavy metal door faced her.
“Please, convey my love to the General when you see him,” she said as she unlocked the safe. “And the young woman?”
“We will ensure she is placed in a new environment. The business of the Hong Kong branch of Objects of Beauty must continue, were his parting words.”
“Just so,” Wei Xiu said as the door swung open. The leader stood up as she walked round and stood with her back to him.
“Now, complete your orders and do what you must do.”
“As you wish, Madame,” he whispered, and then called out “Two men – in here now – this wild cat needs to be restrained!”