“How dare you... You have no right, no authority to do this! I insist, no I demand you release them and leave this room immediately.”
“Calm yourself, Monsieur,” the dark haired woman sat opposite him said, in a voice that sounded as if the local confectioner had created it, “You do not wish to injure yourself – or them. Sit down, and hear me out.”
Earlier that day
“I do not understand – why do they insist on these outfits?”
“Because the mistress wishes it so, and the master always bows to the wishes of the mistress. Besides, the pay is good enough, so can you bear it for this one day?”
Amy shrugged as she held up the outfit that Madame Dupres insisted her domestic staff, or at least the female ones, wore each Bastille Day. If truth be told, Jacques the chauffer may have preferred to wear it as well, but he was attending on the Ambassador that day, so he had no choice in the matter. Reflecting on that for a moment, Amy realised he probably had the legs to wear it as well.
“Come on,” Daphne said as she started to remove her usual outfit of a plain black dress, “Sooner we start this day, sooner it finishes.”
Half an hour passed before there was a knock on the door of the drawing room at the Ambassador’s residence. “Come,” Madame Dupres called out, and the door opened to admit both Amy and Daphne. The two grills were dressed in a short black dress, with puffed short sleeves, made from black silk with white lace cuffs and hems. A lace apron was affixed to the front of each of them, and a lace cap on their heads.
“Excellent,” Madame Dupres said as she looked them over. “Thank you for making this effort, ladies. It will be worth it when the Ambassador returns. For now, you may be about your duties.”
The two girls bowed slightly and hurriedly left the room, as Yvette Dupres came in. She looked at her mother, dressed in her Coco Chanel dress coat with a Hermes scarf around her neck and shoulders, and smiled.
“Bonjour, mère. I see that you asked the staff to dress for the occasion?”
“Of course, Yvette – I expect the staff to do what I tell them. What are your plans for today?”
“Today? I’m going to see Madeline, and you are the one who said we should not raise attention. Security – remember?”
Yvette was wearing a large lumberjack shirt that went down to just above her knees, with a wide black leather belt around her waist, and grey leggings. Her feet were in a pair of grey corduroy boots with buttons on the side. Madame Dupres shook her head, silently wondering what had happened to women today, and turned back to her desk.
“Très bien – I’ll wait for you both to come back and change before the reception tonight. It si important that we are seen as a family.”
“Oui mere – heaven forbid we should let you down,” Yvette said as she turned and quickly walked out, a scowl crossing her face as she closed the door. Grabbing a scarf, she marched out of the front door and down the street, passing the security guards and the parked cars without paying any attention to them.
This was a mistake, as a driver sitting in the front of one van picked up a phone and said “Target one on her way – we are good to go.”
The July sun was shining on the streets of Kensington as Yvette walked the short distance to where her sister Madeline had her flat. She was studying as a student at the Royal College fo Music, and had moved to London some six months before her father had been appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Enough time to find a flat of her own to live in, and ultimately a bolt hole of refuge for her younger sister if things got too heated at the residence. Given their mother, that happened at least three times a week, if not more often.
The street was busy, and she paid little attention to the passing people, including a red haired woman who turned and looked at her as she went past. Turning down a side street, she quickly ran up the stairs and rang the doorbell.
“Madeline, c'est Yvette. Ouvrez la porte, svp.”
The buzzer sounded, and as Yvette opened the front door of the apartment she failed to notice the red haired woman walk quickly up the stairs behind her, waiting as the door closed. The young girl climbed two sets of stairs, coming to a heavy wooden door which she opened before walking in.
“Je vous dis, Madeline, si la mère fait un davantage… Heavens above...!”
“Take a seat, Yvette,” the dark haired woman standing behind Madeline said as she pointed a pistol at the girl, “and put your hands on your head. We have some business to discuss.” Madeline looked over at her sister, tears running down her cheeks as the intruder patted her on the shoulder with a gloved hand. “Maintenant, if you will allow my friend to come in, we can begin.”
“I do not understand – what have I done to cause you offence? Of course, I know who you are, but I was not aware of...”
“Msr Ambassador, I will explain everything in good time. It is regrettable that you would not meet with me at your home, especially on this holiday, but – well, I see you had other things on your mind.”
Msr Dupres looked over to the bed, where the young brown haired woman was lying, looking at him with fear filled eyes over the wide tape gag that covered her mouth. “It would be a pity if your wife was to find out about this, after all – especially given her position in La ligue française de la décence” The woman smiled, as she continued “Besides, I think she may have other things on her mind at the moment, so why should we not sit and converse like civilised people?”
Earlier that day
Madeline cried out as her wrist were pulled together and lashed with rope, the fibres cutting into the bare skin of her wrists. She was wearing a cap sleeved peasant’s smock over a blue floral printed gingham skirt, so there was no protection from the material, unlike for Yvette who was also having her wrists bound by the red haired woman who had entered the flat. The younger girl looked over at her sister.
“Madeline, what is going on here – who are these people ?”
“I’m sorry, Yvette – I opened the door thinking it was you, and instead they walked in and held me at gunpoint. I’ve no idea what they are after – they don’t seem to want my money or jewellery.”
“Then... it must be something to with oru father. Why I persuaded him we didn’t need security, I don’t know…”
“My French is a little rusty, Dominique,” the red haired woman said as she passed a long length of rope over Yvette’s arms and pulled them tightly against her chest. “What are they talking about?”
“The usual things, Penelope” the dark haired woman responded as she passed her own rope over Madeline’s shoulder, bringing it round under the chest coils and behind her as she repeated the process on the other side, “Wondering what the hell is going on here and how it happened.” She pulled back, causing Madeline to gasp as her breasts were pulled down on, before passing the ends around her wrists and pulling them further up her back. “No matter the language, some things never change.”
“Perhaps you need to say something to them,” Penelope said as she tugged on the ropes around Yvette. “We don’t want them to hurt themselves.”
Dominique smiled as she stood in front of the two girls. “Tout bien, les petites soeurs, écoutent soigneusement. I need you to do exactly what we tell you to do, without arguing or fighting back. Do you understand ?”
“Savez-vous qui nous sommes? Quand notre père et mère entendent parler de ceci…”
Dominique knelt in front of Madeline, the leather of her boots creaking as she did so, and cupped her chin in her gloved hand as she smiled at her.
“Naturellement ils entendront parler de ceci – you rmother in particular, actually. What I need you to do now is to open wide and say ah.”
“Pourquoi, what are you going to dmmmm” Madeline gasped as a small red sponge ball was pushed into her mouth, and a strip of medical tape stuck over it. Taking some more rope, she placed her ankles together and started to wrap it round, the soft grey fabric of her sandals enclosed in the light brown. Seeing what was happening, Yvette offered no resistance as Penelope did the same to her mouth, before watching as her ankles were also tied together.
“You go,” Penelope said as Dominique stood up, “I can wait here and watch them while you take care of phase II.”
“You never explained why Madame authorised this action,” Dominique said as she headed for the door.
“I’m not sure either – something happened last week at the reception in Paris and she started work on this after that. Go – get to work.”
Dominique nodded as she left the flat, running down the staircase and out of the front door to where the grey van was waiting. “Phase II?” the driver asked as she climbed in.
“Phase II – let’s make a delivery.”
The large grandfather clock struck noon as the doorbell rang. Amy brushed down the front of her outfit as she made her way to the rear entrance to the residence. “Probably another delivery for the kitchen,” she said to herself as she reached out for the handle, as Daphne walked down the corridor towards her.
“Hang on a minute,” Amy said as she turned the handle, “I need to talk to you about...”
Her words were silenced as a group of women, dressed in grey overalls and with grey masks over their heads, ran in and pinned both Amy and Daphne to the wall, rifles pointed at their heads as they stood there. A woman dressed in black came in and looked directly at them.
“Security cameras?” she said, and Daphne silently nodded at a room at the end of the corridor. Two of the women quickly ran down and entered the room, with two little sounds that sounded like thuds followed by a much louder thud telling the two maids that that line of rescue was cut.
“Who else is in the residence at the moment,” the woman ni black said to Amy, who stammered in reply, “Jjjjj – just the wife of the ambassador.”
“Good – let’s get you two secured before we head for her. In here,” the woman said as she opened the door to the kitchen, the two maids pushed in as they closed the door behind them.
“I don’t understand this – you kidnap my daughters, invade my home – and you say you do not want any ransom or payment? Then why do this to me?”
Madame X looked over at the ambassador, a smile playing on her lips. “Do you remember twenty years ago today, at the Place De La Concorde? You were there with your wife and oldest daughter – she would have been in a buggy then – and had just gone to collect something from the office. Remember?”
“Yes – how could I forget, that was when – Mon Dieu.”
He looked at the woman sitting there. “It was you – you have changed, not a lot but a little. You are dressed in finery now, but then...”
“As I say, that was twenty years ago, and I had not seen you again until last week.”
“At the reception? But I did not recognise... It was not me was it?”
Amy and Daphne stared at the stranger as she stood in front of them, marvelling at her composure. Both were sitting in high backed wooden chairs, secured to the wood in several intriguing ways. To begin with, their arms had been pulled behind the chair back and secured together with soils of thin white rope, the cords going around and between their wrists before being secured to the back rest. Their arms had then been tied to the rest just above the elbows, before one of the longest ropes Amy had ever seen was passed around the chest of each of them, weaving around their arms and bosom as well as through the lattice work of the back rest until they were firmly secured to the wood.
As for their ankles, they were secured to the front legs of the chairs, while their knees were tied together as well as to the tops of the legs. Finally, ropes were used to secure their lap and waist to the chair itself.
“Sit still, stay quiet, and you will be all right,” the lady in black said before two of the grey clad group used white napkins to gag the two maids, staying with them as the rest left the room and headed towards the office of Madame Dupres.
The noise of the door opening quickly made Madame Dupres raise her head, but the three strangers who walked in, two in grey pointing rifles at her while the one in black followed, made her realise this was going to be no ordinary holiday.
“Bonjour, Madame Dupres. Veuillez être si bon quant pas au contact cette alarme cachée sous votre bureau - non ce cela fera bon de toute façon. Comprenez-vous?”
“Quelle est la signification de ceci ? Je vous exige pars immédiatement.”
“Would you be more comfortable with English, Madame Dupres?”
“If you insist – although your accent is impressive. I ask again, what is the meaning of this?”
“Before you say or do anything, I would ask you to look at this.”
Marvelling at the unaccented French been spoken by teh woman in black as much as her audacity, Madame Dupres took the cell phone she was offered and looked at the picture that was displayed. She stared at the small screen for a few moments, before handing the phone back and sitting down.
“You’ve made your point – I will do as you ask, just don’t hurt my babies...” She said this with a sigh as she looked up at the intruders. Dominique smiled as she sat down opposite her.
“They will be well cared for if you do as I say. My employer has asked em to deliver a message to you.”
“Your... employer? This is not a ransom demand, a kidnapping?”
“Not as such – we have bound and gagged your staff, and you yourself will face a similar fate soon, but for now I need you to just listen.”
Madame Dupres sat back, wondering what this young woman meant, but unwilling to do anything that may jeopardise the safety of her daughters.
In the Kensington flat, Yvette and Madeline watched as Penelope flicked through a magazine, a gun nestled on her lap as she sat there. Their jaws were aching from the sponge and tape gags, but their legs were bound too tightly for them to be able to attempt any form of escape. Instead, they wondered exactly what the plans were for the two of them.
The drapes had been drawn over the large windows as Dominique sat in conversation with Madame Dupres. To her amazement, she had been told they were not interested in money, jewellery or any other finery, nor were they after a ransom for either her or her daughters. She was at her wit’s end as to what this was about – but that changed as Dominique continued.
“I believe you attended a reception in the Palace of Versailles last week?.”
“The reception? The only things that happened was me getting increasingly bored, and then... Oh.”
“Ah, I see you are beginning to realise what this may be about. There was a woman theer that you may have recognised?”
“How could I forget? It may have been twenty years, but she stole my handbag, and it was only the intervention of my husband that stopped her from being caught. I, however – I never forget a face, and when I saw her last ngiht I was ready to call for help and the police...”
“She realised that, which is why she slipped away. The woman is now my employer, and a person of wealth, taste and standing who values her privacy. She does nto wish to be in the public eye, which is why she sent me to talk to you and ensure that would not happen.”
“How does she intend to do that? If anything, this has made me more determined to expose her.”
“Madame Dupres, I wonder what the reaction of the league would be if certain photographs were to appear on the internet?”
“What photographs ?”
“Those that we are about to take. Please remove the scarf from around your shoulders and roll it into a band. Do as I say, or one phone call and your daughters will regret your disobedience.”
The two grey clad women raised their guns and pointed them at Madame Dupres, who slowly stood up and removed her patterned scarf. Rolling it into a thick band, she looked directly at Dominique as she pulled the cloth between her lips and gagged herself, pulling tightly to ensure it was held firmly in place.
“Merci, Madame. Be assured that you will not be harmed, but you will not these photographs to appear.” Dominique looked to one of the ladies in grey, who lowered her gun. “You fetch the equipment while we get things ready here,” she said before turning back to Madame Dupres. “Si vous plait, enlever votre robe, et alors nous peut commencer.” Slowly, Madame Dupres unbuttoned her dress, allowing the garment to drop on the floor as the intruder returned with a camera and a duffel bag. She stood there, in a black corset and tights, as Dominique took a length of rope from a bag and walked towards her.
The ambassador looked at the prints that Madame X had handed over to him. They showed his wife in her undergarments, firstly with her wrists crossed and tied behind her back, then as her elbows were lashed together, then on her knees with her ankles tied together. Her blue eyes were staring out from under her greying hair, and a patterned scarf was tied into her mouth, a saliva stain slowly forming as each print was passed over.
The final shot showed her lying on her side on the floor, ropes criss-crossing her breasts and chest as she lay there, and her legs pulled back so that her wrists and ankles were secured with only a few inches of rope between them.
“I see she likes to keep supple,” Madame X said as he threw the prints down on the coffee table. From the bed, the young blonde was still mewling at him, as she pulled on the ropes that held her spread-eagled on the four poster bed.
“How did you find me anyway,” he said as he looked over at Madame X. She smiled before standing up and allowing the skirt of her dress to fall to the floor. “You are a creature of habit – and besides, Jacques proved to be most accommodating, especially when we mentioned what would happen to his partner if he refused to assist us. I am sure you will ensure your young guest here is properly compensated – and in return, for your cooperation I will ensure these photographs remain in my own private collection.”
As she walked to the door, she turned and looked at the ambassador. “I was a young woman, just starting out, and you were kind enough to let me go on that occasion. That is why I am showing you some courtesy today, and merely inconveniencing your family and staff. If your wife continues her desire to reveal my identity to the world, however, be assured those photographs will appear first, and your daughters will have a career change.
“Goodbye, Ambassador – pray that our paths never cross again.”
Madame X walked out of the door, closing it behind her as the woman on the bed started to scream through her gag. The ambassador looked over, wondering how his wife was going to explain the events of the day to him – and he to her.
In the Kensington flat, Yvette was sitting with her back to Madeline, picking at the knot that held the rope around her wrists in place. The red haired woman had left an hour earlier, and it had taken this long to persuade her younger sister to allow her attempt to free both of them. As the rope started to give way, she silently thanked her mother for allowing her at least one year in rhe Guides.
As for Madame Dupres, she was lying silently on the Persian rug in her office, wondering how long it would take the guards outside to realise nobody had come to acknowledge the band playing La Marseille. “Some holiday this has turned out to be,” she thought to herself as she tried once again to free her wrists. “And where are those maids anyway?”
Amy and Daphne had heard the band as well, much to their amusement. “That’s better,” Amy said as she finally pushed the cloth out of her mouth. “Are you all right, Daphne?”
“Hmmm” Daphne said as she nodded her head. “Give me a few moments, I’ll see what I can do for you.”
As the sun set over the skyline, Madame X was looking out over the city as Penelope walked into the office. “A beautiful sight, Penelope,” she said without turning round, “and I will do all to ensure we can continue to enjoy it.”
“Naturally, Madame, but I do have one question about our activities today.”
“You are wondering why?”
“Actually, yes. I have rarely known you to work and not seek some form of recompense. What have we gained from this?”
Madame X turned and looked at Penelope. “Security, in a way. I have spent a long time carefully building our business, and if I believe my security is at risk I will do all to prevent it. Last week, at the reception, I saw a threat to that security in the form of Madame Dupuis, so steps had to be taken.”
“I understand, in a way, but I must still ask why you were so concerned.”
Madame X turned, sat down and indicated to Penelope to do likewise. “Have I ever told you about my father, Penelope? You see, this story really starts with him...”