Portrait of a Lady - Part 1
From the private journal of Madame X...
Twenty five years. Has it really been that long since that day – the day I first discovered exactly what my father did for a living, and my life began to take the path that has led me to where I am now? It seems like only yesterday when I closed the boot on the 2CV and went to hug my mother goodbye. If only I had known what was going to happen...
She slammed the boot down and turned to smile at her mother. In return, her parents looked on at their daughter, still seeing her in pigtails and short dresses, but now standing there in a “Relax” t-shirt, faded jeans and black felt pixie boots.
“Mum, I’m going to be fine,” she said in her deep, resonant voice. “It’s only university, after all.”
“Even so, Shirley” her father said as he came over and hugged her, “Be careful, and keep in touch. Don’t be afraid to come back any time either.” She kissed her mother, who held her for a few minutes, before she turned, went to the car and waved from the open window as she drove off.
“I can’t believe she’s gone,” her mother said as they walked back into the house. Her father nodded as a smartly dressed, large man came up to them.
“Forgive me, sir,” he said, “but I thought you should know that the Aldermann deal has been concluded. What are your instructions?”
“Prepare for departure,” he said as he looked at his wife. “I’ll be back in a minute dear, I just need to see to our guest,” he said as he walked to a door in the side of the hallway. Descending the staircase, he joined a man watching a set of panels.
“Put me through to room 6,” he said, and as he picked up the microphone an image appeared of a middle aged woman, tied to a chair and gagged with a patterned scarf in her mouth.
“Good news, Mrs Aldermann,” he said as the woman looked up. “You will be going home soon. My associates will be with you shortly to prepare you for the journey.” The woman nodded, the tear stains on her cheeks glistening as she started to cry once more.
“Freedom” was the uppermost thought in Shirley’s mind as she drove down the quiet country roads. It wasn’t that she hated her parents or her home – far from it. When his patients allowed him the time to do so, her father had been all too happy to spend time with her, and she had never wanted for anything. Still, boarding school had become increasingly boring for her, and the chance to study at Cambridge had been too good to pass up.
Turning on the radio, Shirley sang along to the tunes that were playing until a flashing light ahead caught her eye. Slowing down, she saw a police car blocking the road and a uniformed officer waving her down. She stopped just short of the car and waited for the man to walk forward. As he did so, she looked at him approvingly – tall, well dressed with neat hair and a smile as she wound the window down.
“Sorry, but I’m afraid there’s been an accident just up the road,” he said as he smiled at her.
“Oh dear – is anyone hurt?”
“I’m afraid it looks bad – the car caught fire.”
She looked up the road. “Strange – I don’t see any smoke or smell anything.”
“Ah – yes well, there’s a reason for that, Miss. By the way, has anyone ever told you have a wonderful, deep voice?”
“Many times, but why is there no smoke?”
“Probably, Shirley, because it’s your car that caught fire.”
Shirley looked blankly at him, wondering how he knew her name, but before she could ask she felt a sharp pain in her neck, and could not stop herself from falling forward onto the wheel as the anaesthetic took effect.
“Get her out of here,” the man shouted as an ambulance pulled out from a small lane to the side of the road. As two uniformed men dragged Shirley from the car, he opened the boot and started to take her luggage out.
“Ah, good, she’s coming to.”
Slowly opening her eyes, the images were blurred and indistinct. “Relax, Shirley,” the female voice continued, “It’s going to take a while for you to come to.”
As her eyes came into focus, Shirley found herself in what appeared to be a room back at her boarding school. There were four beds, and on one of them sat two women – one tall, thin with short blonde hair, the other smaller and with a fuller figure, whose dark hair fell over her shoulders and on the collar of her sleeveless crop top. Both were identically dressed – powder blue crop tops and short skirts, with knee length leather boots. As she finally came round, Shirley also noticed the black collars they both wore, with a metal ring set in the centre at their throats.
“Wh.... What happened,” she said as she sat up. “The last thing I remember is talking to this policeman, and then...” She looked down and saw that she was now dressed in the same way as the other two women were, complete with a leather collar that she could feel around her neck.
“Try not to think about it too much,” the blonde haired girl said. “Whatever your life was before, I suggest you try to forget it. You have a new life now, a new master...”
Shirley sat up suddenly. “No, I don’t,” she said, “I have a father and mother, and no man is my master.”
“Keep quiet,” the dark haired girl said as she came and sat next to Shirley. “It will take a while, but you will adjust, I promise you. It’s not so bad once you learn to obey. I’m Sandy, and this is Maddie. What’s your name?”
“Shirley – where are we?”
Before Sandy had a chance to answer, the door opened and tow armed guards came in. As one of them stood by the door, the other came over and grabbed Shirley by the arm.
“Where are you taking me?” she cried out, but the guard did not answer as he pulled her out of the room and down a bleak, white corridor. They stopped outside a door, which the guard opened and pushed Shirley through.
Inside the room was a table with two chairs either side, and on the table was a newspaper. Shirley picked it up and started to read, stopping at a page that described how an eighteen year old girl had been killed in a car crash on a remote country road. It took a few moments for it to register with her that the girl who had been killed was...
“It was a nice funeral, I’m told, but then I wasn’t invited. Your father and I do not see exactly eye to eye.”
She had not heard the door open and close, but standing there next to the guard was a tall, thin man with greying hair and a smile on his face that made Shirley feel unsure of her own safety.
“What – What is the meaning of this,” she cried out. “Why do they think I’m dead?”
“Have you seen the date on the newspaper, Shirley?” As he said this, the man sat down at the other side of the table, watching the young girl as she read with a growing sense if incredulity the date on the report.
“But,” she said as she ran her fingers through her short brown hair, “but that’s tomorrow’s date.”
“Actually, the newspaper is two weeks old. As far as your parents are concerned, Shirley, you are dead, cut off in your prime. A fitting revenge, I think, for the way your father treated me.”
Shirley sat down in the chair, her face a picture of incomprehension. “Do you know what your father did for a living, Shirley?” the man said as he leant on the table.
“He – he runs a private clinic for people with addictions.” She was surprised to hear the man laugh as he sat there. “Forgive me, my child, but that is only half the truth.
“Your father, Shirley, is one of the most renowned kidnappers in the country today. Oh, don’t look so shocked – why do you think the ambulance tended to come to your house only at night, or your father never allowed you to see the patients.”
Shirley looked over at him, a flare of anger rising in her eyes as she spoke. “Discretion and privacy – my father only dealt with the elite, the landed gentry, stars of stage and screen...”
“I know – and he made a handsome profit on their ransoms. I should know – I’m in the same line of business. Well, one of my interests is, but your father and I never saw eye to eye on some of my dealings. In fact, some years back I believe he talked with some of the authorities about his suspicions on certain imports I was bringing into the country.”
The collars that both Maddie and Sandy were wearing came uppermost in Shirley’s mind. “Oh God,” she whispered, “You’re not a ...”
“I believe the more salacious of our press publications call it ‘White Slaver’”, the man said with another smile, “But yes, I do bring female servants into – and out of the country. At the time, I told your father I would have my revenge – and the time for that has come now.”
“I don’t believe you,” Shirley cried out, “I don’t believe you at all.”
“Tell me, Shirley, do you remember this woman?”
He took a photograph out of a wallet and placed it on the table. Shirley picked it up and looked at it. “Yes, I remember her – I watched her arrive at my father’s clinic when I was a young girl. Why?”
“Read this,” the man said as he passed Shirley a yellowed cutting from a newspaper. The young girl reads the story, telling of the kidnap ordeal of the wife of the leading industrialist, and the colour slightly blanched from her face. With an effort, she composed herself and looked at the man opposite.
“Whatever you say to me, whatever I may have found out, he is still my father and I love him,” she said in a calm, measured and deep voice. “I demand you return me to my parents now.”
“Shirley,” the man said as he stood up and walked round before sitting on the desk and placing his hand on her chin, “Your parents think you are dead. Now, unless you want that to become a reality,” he said as he gripped her throat with his hand, “You will do exactly what I say, when I say it, and you will do it without question. Do you understand?”
The young woman looked up at her captor, a light beginning to burn in her eyes, before she whispered “yes...”
“Yes, Master,” she said as he released her throat.
“Excellent,” he said as he stood up and walked to the door. “Take her back to the others, ensure she is properly clad – her training starts tomorrow.”
She watched him walk away, before the guard stepped up and took her by the arm. She stared at him, and he looked back for a moment before taking his hand off and pointing the gun at her. “If I must stay here,” she said in a deeper tone, “I will be treated with a modicum of respect outside of his presence. In return, I will not tell him if you are disobeying his orders. Do we have a deal?”
“What’s in it for me,” the man said as he looked at Shirley. She assessed him – six foot tall, strong but courteous even in his retort, physically handsome but also intelligent.
“When the time comes,” she said in a measured tone, “When I escape from here and have my revenge, I will remember you and not kill you.”
“I don’t think you’re going anywhere,” he said, but he did not touch her again, contenting himself with escorting her back to where Maddie and Sandy were waiting.
“So, what do you think of the Master?” Sandy said as the door was closed on them. “Scary, isn’t he?”
“I’ve met scarier men in a school disco,” Shirley said as she sat down. “Tell me, how did you two find yourselves in this predicament?”
Maddie looked at her friend, before saying “We were – well, prostitutes. Our pimp sold us to him as payment for a debt. That was – what, six months ago?”
“Seven,” Sandy replied with a sigh. “We stay here, and when he calls us we perform some acts for him.”
“Acts? What sort of acts does he ask you to...?”
“Not that – well, not yet anyway. No, he likes to see women restrained and unable to answer.”
Shirley looked at the two of them blankly. “Show her,” Maddie said, and Sandy placed a number of Polaroid photos on the bed. As Shirley looked at them, she again started to shake.
“So, who was your boss?” Maddie said. “I don’t have a boss,” was Shirley’s angry reply. “I’ve been kidnapped to satisfy some form of vendetta he has against my father. How long have I been here?”
“Don’t ask us,” Sandy said as she came over and held Shirley. “They brought you into the room an hour before you woke up. What does your father do?”
“I thought he was a doctor, but apparently I was mistaken. Do you know his name?”
“We just call him Master – I know this is his house, and he is wealthy, but beyond that we know nothing. If you’ve been kidnapped, though, does that mean he’s asking a ransom for you?”
“I don’t know,” Shirley said with a grim look on her face, “but I do not intend to give him the satisfaction of breaking down. I will be patient, I will bide my time, and one day, I will escape and have my revenge.”
The other two looked at each other, before Sandy said “Well, you’re going to be fun and no mistake. Come on – we’ll teach you what our duties are...” Their talk was interrupted by two guards walking in and placing three bags on the bed. “Get dressed,” one said as they walked out, “He wants you in ten minutes.”
”Unless you want to spend an uncomfortable night, you’d better do as he says,” Sandy said as she opened one bag and took out a nurse’s uniform. Shirley saw her name on another bag, and opening it she removed the same outfit. A white dress, with short sleeves and buttoned up the front, flat shoes and a nurse’s cap. She stripped off the clothes she was wearing and donned the dress, noting with some distaste that it barely fastened over her chest.
“The Master likes it that way,” Maddie said with a sigh as the door opened and the guards came back in. “Turn round and hands behind you,” they said as they held up lengths of white rope. Shirley stared ahead as her wrists were crossed and bound together behind her back, before the three were marched at gunpoint to another room, laid out and equipped like a doctor’s surgery. A door in an opposite wall opened, and the man Shirley had met earlier walked in, dressed in a doctor’s coat.
“Secure her to the chair,” he said, and the two guards grabbed Shirley, forcing her into an old wooden chair and passing lengths of rope around her arms and chest to keep her sat there. A wad of cotton wool was stuffed into her mouth, and medical tape smoothed over. “Watch, my dear,” the man said as he took Sandy by the arm, “and see how I amuse myself.
At first, I thought this was a sick game, and that it would quickly end. Sadly, it did not, and I resolved to lay my own plans if I was to be forced to provide this man’s – entertainment. Madeline and Sandra became good friends, and although we were forced every few days to act out some new scenario we forged a bond of friendship that survives to this day. I also formed friendships with some of the guards, especially Robert, the one I met on the first day.
AS months passed, the three of us seemed to be promoted in some way, to help look after the “guests” this man entertained. They would always be bound and blindfolded, but we cared for them, helping them to eat and ensuring their time in captivity was not too unpleasant. As the months passed, however, his captives changed from obviously middle aged wives and partners to younger women, occasionally teenagers and even young girls.
This repulsed me – I often had a difficult time coping, but hearing them crying and been unable to help t hem was more than I could deal with. I resolved, there and then, that whatever I ended up doing when I finally left this place, it would not involve harming younger children if possible.
The beginning of the end of this phase, however, came over a year after I arrived, when Madeline and I were told to go the “Master’s” office.
The door opened and Maddie and Shirley walked in, standing in front of the large Mahogany desk behind which the man sat. They were wearing the same clothes – blue pilot suits with black leather belts and short boots, and the collar around their necks.
“Ah girls,” the man said as he looked up. “I have a new business venture that I wish you to help with. I have decided to move into the home entertainment theatre.”
“And how can we help you, Master?” Maddie said as she stood with her eyes downcast.
“On the table are details of three young women. I want you to bring them in, and then we will spend a couple of days filming them playing the parts you play so well.”
“Are they volunteering,” Shirley said as she kept her head down.
“No – you are to abduct them, bring them here, shoot the scenes and then let them go in the manner I will describe. Is there a problem with that?”
“No, Master,” both women said.
“Excellent – prepare your disguise as men, and move to take them tomorrow. This is for my own private use – after that, we shall see.”
“What of the two young girls that arrived yesterday?”
“Sandy will take care of them. Take the information and get ready.”
Maddie picked up the folder from the table and turned as the two women left the room. Returning to their own quarters, they opened the file and looked inside.
“An innocent girl, a Goth punk and a Sloane Ranger,” Shirley said. “Nothing in common, except he wants them. I can cope with his forced guests for ransom, but this...”
“What can we do, Shirl,” Maddie said with a sigh, “He owns us and we must do his bidding.”
“Not for much longer,” Shirley said in her deep, measured voice, “Not for much longer...”
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