“Three of them – they’re getting out of the 4x4 now and heading for the changing rooms. Advice?”
He looked over at the young woman sitting on the couch. “Friends of yours?” he said, and she confirmed that.
“Let them get changed, then take them as swiftly as possible. Inform me when you are finished.”
“I wonder where everyone is.” Heather asked as she and her friends walked into the changing rooms and deposited their bags on the benches.
“Staff meeting, I shouldn’t wonder,” Cynthia grinned as she started to unbutton her blouse. “So, ten miles across country today?”
“Yeah, and then a drink in the house afterwards. Carina should be along by the time we get changed,” Yvonne laughed. “Now, last one out is handicapped.”
The Abercrombie Stables were famous for the strength of their horses, thanks to the skills of the owner, Annabelle Abercrombie, and her daughter Carina. They offered stabling facilities for all the local gentry, of whom Heather, Cynthia and Yvonne were the cream of the younger set. They came here every weekend to ride their horses, and meet up with Carina – the four of them had been friends since they met at St Blazius a few years back.
“Mind you, it is very quiet around here,” Heather muttered as she fastened the last button on her riding top. She picked up a pair of black gloves, slipped them onto her hands and headed for the door. “I’ll go and see if I can rouse one of the stable boys – meet you outside.”
“Don’t be too long,” Yvonne shouted as she pulled on her brown riding boots. “We don’t want to set off late.”
“The first one has just left – moving in to take care of her now.”
“Hello? Is anyone here?”
Heather walked into the manager’s office, but the place was deserted. There were signs someone had been there earlier – paperwork on the desk, the chair moved back – but apart from Heather there was no-one there. She ran her fingers through her brown hair.
“Now where the devil is everyone?” She said, as a sound came from behind her. She turned to see who it was, but a wet cloth was slapped over her nose and mouth. Breathing in the fumes, she began to feel dizzy and light headed.
“Whts hapning,” she mumbled as she fell to the ground, the last sight in her dimming eyes a man in a pair of grey overalls looking at her.
“Well, she was easy to subdue,” he said to his partner as he put the damp cloth on the table. “Pass me that rope, will you?”
The other man, dressed as he was in grey overalls, handed him a length of thick white rope and kept one for him. The first man laid Heather flat on her back, placed her wrist together on her lap and started to wrap the rope around them, pulling it tightly and humming to himself as he secured them together. His companion placed her booted ankles together, and began to do the same thing to secure her ankles together. Heather was wearing white jodhpurs with the black leather boots up to her knees, which the second man also bound together and then tied rope between her ankles and knees for additional security.
“Help me sit her up, then hold her back for me.”
The second man pulled Heather into a sitting position, while the first wrapped some rope around her upper body, securing her arms to her side. He repeated the process below her breasts, so that she was bound like a sausage.
“That ought to keep her in place,” he said as Heather’s eyes started to open.
“Wha hapnned – oh my god, help me, somebody help mmppe”
As Heather realised her predicament, the man pulled a white scarf into her mouth and secured it under her hair with a double knot. The two men laid her gently on the floor, and watched as she stared up at them.
“Heather? Where are you?”
“Time for us to make sure your friends are secured,” they said as they left the room, closing the door on Heather as she struggled to try and get free.
“What’s that? Oh don’t worry – they’ll be safe, and your mother will be home soon anyway.”
Cynthia walked down the stable block as she called out. “Heather? Where are you, girl?” She slapped her black and white scarf against her grey jodhpurs as she walked down, the black leather of her riding boots squeaking as she walked.
“Heather, where are…. Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Have you seen my friend by any chance?”
The two men in front of Cynthia looked at her, then at each other and smiled. “Yes, we know where she is – but the question now is, where are we going to put you?”
“I don’t understand,” Cynthia replied, but then she saw the small pistol in the hand of one of the men. “Oh shit – what have we walked into?”
“A robbery – and we need to keep you out of the way. That’s a beautiful scarf, by the way – Hermes?”
Cynthia nodded. “Well then, it is prefect for our needs. Roll it into a band, and tie a knot in the middle – now.”
“You’ll see – now do as we say.”
Cynthia watched the second man walk behind her, then took the scarf by opposite corners, rolled it into a band and tied a thick knot in the middle of the band. “All right, now what,” she asked.
“Simple,” the man replied, “Put the knot in your mouth, pull the ends behind your head, and tie them tightly together.”
“You expect me to gag myself? I won’t do it!”
“You will, or my friend here,” he said as the second man kept walking round Cynthia, “will and then – well, you won’t enjoy what happens after that.”
Staring at the two men, Cynthia asked “Where’s Heather and Carina?”
“Both safe – and so will your other friend be. Now, will you please do as I ask?”
With one last look of defiance, Cynthia gagged herself with the scarf, tying the ends together under her auburn hair. The second man took hold of her gloved wrists, pulled them behind her back and quickly tied them together with rope, making sure the rope was cinched between her wrists. He then tied the end of a long length to the wrists, passed it through a hook in the door wall that was used for hanging tack, and secured the loose end back to her wrists so that Cynthia was secured to the wall.
“Now, you stay there and stay quiet while we look after your third friend, all right?”
The two men walked away as Cynthia twisted her body round in a vain attempt to get herself free.
“Carina, are you in the living room?”
“Good afternoon, Mrs Abercrombie.”
“What the – what are you doing here, and what have you done with my daughter?”
“Calm yourself, Mrs Abercrombie – she is unharmed, and so will you be, provided you do exactly what we tell you to do. Have a seat, and we’ll explain.”
Annabelle sat next to her daughter, and gave her a reassuring hug…..
“Where have those tow gone to,” Yvonne said as she pulled on her tan boots and looked in the mirror in the changing room. Unlike the others, she was wearing a tan reddish brown polo neck sweater with her jodhpurs, and no gloves. She didn’t even hear the two men walk in until she saw them in the mirror.
“Don’t say a word – we are both armed. I want you to stand still, and open your mouth very wide. Do so now, please.”
Yvonne looked at the two men, turned round and opened her mouth. A large wad of cloth was pushed in, and strip after strip of white medical tape torn off and slapped over her stuffed mouth. One of the men walked behind her while this was being done, pulled her wrists together and began to methodically tie them together.
“Your two friends are safe,” the other man said as he flattened the last layer of tape, “We just needed to keep you out of the way for a while. Now, let’s make sure you’re comfortable.”
A length of rope was used to secure her elbows to her side and around her waist, so that Yvonne found it next to impossible to move her arms, then more and more rope was criss-crossed around her arms, chest and waist so tat it looked like she was wearing a harness over her jumper. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror when they were done, with the last touch being the rope around her neck that pulled the highest length of rope up even more.
“Sit down on the floor,” the man said to Yvonne, and as she sat down her legs were placed in a yoga position, her knees on the ankle of the opposite leg. Shorter lengths of rope were used to secure the knee to the ankle, with the length scinched between the two, and her lower legs tied together over the leather boots so that they squeaked as Yvonne tried to move. As they finished, one of the men talked into a cell phone.
“All secured boss – you can carry on now.”
“All of them?”
“All fo them, Mrs Abercrombie – and your valuables as well, of course.”
“N mm – dnt d t!”
Carina was staring at her mother. She wanted very much to talk to her, but the cloth tied into her mouth was making speech difficult. They had surprised her earlier in the morning, before she had left to meet her friends, and made it very clear what would happen if she did nto co-operate. The other stable hands were locked in the cellar of the house, while she had had to wait for her mother to return.
So that she did not get in her way, they had bound her by the wrists, ankles and legs. The white rope was clearly visible over her dark trousers and black riding boots, while the top few buttons on her blouse had come undone as she had struggled to try and free her hands from behind her back. A thick white scarf had been tied inot her mouth as her friends had driven up, and now she was wondering what had happened to them, as well as what was going to happen to her mother and herself.
Annabelle was sat at a table, as two men in grey overalls and masks looked over her. On the table were contracts of sale for four of her finest horses, and they had made it very clear that they wanted them. When she had protested they were not ehrs to sell, one of them ha dpointed to Carina and made it very clear that if she did nto sell, Carina would ‘disappear’. Reluctantly, she picked up a pen and signed the forms, and while one of them left th eroomt he other held a length of rope in front of Annabelle’s face.
“Time to make our getaway – and for you to join your daughter, Mrs Abercrombie. Stand up and turn round.”
Annabelle stood up – she was in her early fifties, but looked younger in her white blouse, light beige jodhpurs and black boots. She truned round and crossed her wrists behind her back, standing impassively as they were lashed together.
“It’s all right, Carina – you’re more important than them,” she said as she was pushed over to the couch, and sat down next to her daughter. She watched as her ankles and legs were also bound together with rope, offering no resistance as they were pulled tightly together.
“All right – load up the four horses and meet us outside the house. We’re nearly done here anyway. What happened to the other three?”
“Scattered and secured – we’ll be done in a few minutes.”
“Who are you talking to,” Annabelle asked as the man replaced the cell phone in a pocket.
“My other crew – some of yoru dayghter’s friends arrive dunexpectedly, so we had to secure them first. Now, open wide, and I’ll stop you from talking any more.”
“Do I have any choice in the matter?”
“Not really, no.”
Annabelle opened as a thick white scarf was rolled into a band, pulled into her mouth and tightly secured at the bas eof her neck, under her blonde hair. She stared at the man, as well as his companion who returned carrying a small bag that jangled as it was swung.
The two woman watched as the intruders left the room, and walked out fo the front door. Annabelle began to frantically twists around, so much so that the top buttons opened on her blouse as well, but Carina just lay back and looked at her mother, her head to one side, echausted through fear and trying to get free earlier. The sunlight faded through the drawn blinds as the two fo them sat there.
It took several hours before one of the stable boys was able to escape from the cellar and alert the authorities to the events of the day. The Abercrombie Stables recovered, but the four horses were never found. The friends still meet there each week and go riding, but these days their husbands and boyfriends come as well – just to add that little extra protection.