Portrait of A Lady - Part 5
I am not ashamed to say I was as frightened as I was when I first saw Master in the house all those years ago. Robert pushed me away, and as I started running I heard him fire off two shots.
I did not look back – my first thought was what had happened to the others. I had left Madeline with George at the office, while the others had taken the night off to be with their loved ones, so they were my first and only concern. It was as this thought crossed my mind that another did – I had dropped my clutch bag when I started running, and had no way of contacting them. Obviously, I needed to get away and get some form of disguise on as quickly as possible.
In the background, I could hear the celebrations all around that marked the millennium, but that was the last thing on my mind. I had already slipped my shoes off, but as I slipped down the residential streets I knew I had to find somewhere to hide, and fast...
The sash window lifted noiselessly as Madame X looked in and climbed through, closing the pane behind her. She allowed her coat to fall to the floor and looked round the small kitchen that she found herself in. The room was tidy and clean, but it appeared there was nobody home.
She gripped the side of the sink for a moment, both to catch her breath and also to control her anger and rage. How had HE managed to escape the French prison, never mind track her down?
“Time for that later,” she said to herself as she stood up and walked down the corridor into the main room. Seeing a bottle of scotch on the table, she picked it up and went back to the kitchen, grabbing a glass and pouring herself a large drink. As she drained the glass, she heard a key turning in the door and swiftly moved behind the kitchen door.
“Happy New Year!!” she heard a young woman shout as the door closed, and the door to the living room open. Slowly, Madame X moved down the corridor and opened the door to see who had come in.
There was a young woman, in her mid twenties, sat on the couch. She was wearing a black waistcoat over a grey roll neck sweater, grey trouser and black knee length leather boots. It was obvious she had been drinking, as she gazed at the well dressed woman in front of her and said “Are you my firsht foot?”
“In a way,” Madame replied, and as the woman continued to stare at her she said “You have a really deep vois...” before her eyes closed and she fell asleep. Madame looked at her for a moment, before going back to the kitchen and returning with a ball of kitchen twine.
1st January 2000
“What the fuck is going on here?”
Madame X came into the room, dressed in a towelling robe with a towel wrapped round her hair, and looked at the young woman staring back at her on the couch, struggling to raise her bound wrists which had been secured with twine that went down to her legs.
“Ah good,” she said, “You’re awake. I did wonder how long it would take you to come back round after I left you last night.”
“And who the hell are you,” she screamed back at her, only to fall silent as she saw the stranger pick up a carving knife.
“Me? I’m your first foot. Now, may I ask who it is who thinks shouting is going to help her?”
“Amy – my name is Amy,” she said as she started to shake. “Look, I don’t know what you want, but whatever it is you can have it...”
“Calm yourself, Amy,” Madame replied as she sat next to her. “All I wanted was a shower, a change of clothing and some money, all of which you can provide at minimal cost to yourself. I also need a couple of hour’s head start – there are some people who may come looking for me, and I would rather get a good way ahead of them.”
“Are you an escaped prisoner?”
“Much closer to the truth than you may realise, but not in the way you think,” Madame replied in her deep voice as she walked over and cut the cords around Amy’s wrists and ankles. “Now, I need you to come with me – I’m sure you want to get out of that outfit, and I would suggest something not too heavy.”
“You’ll see,” Madame replied as she took Amy’s arm and guided her to the door. “After you.”
Robert grunted as he was hit again across the jaw. “I don’t know where she is,” he said quietly as he spat a tooth out, “and even if I did, I would not tell you.”
“I can see she has inspired a great deal of loyalty, and perhaps a little more,” Master said as he stood up and walked round the desk, “but I want to make this clear to you Robert – either you tell me what has happened, or you die.”
Robert looked up at Jack, who was standing behind him smiling, his leather covered knuckles stained with blood. “She trusted you as well,” he spat out.
“That reminds me, Jack – get going. You have another job to do.”
As Jack turned and walked out of the room, two more men walked in with a defibrillator on a trolley. “Tell me, Robert,” Master said as he sat on the desk, “Do you know what can happen to a healthy heart when an electric shock passes through it?”
Amy sat on the bed and watched as Madame slipped a green and blue smock top over her head, pulling the ends down over the faded jeans that she had already pulled on. As she reached with her fingers, she could feel the band of silk that her intruder had used to bind her wrists together. It felt like a pair of handcuffs, nit harsh against her skin but firmly secured.
She had been allowed to have a shower, and put on a pair of pale green silk pyjamas. If truth be told, she had hated them as a gift, but they had been from a favourite aunt. Now they were going to at least stop her getting too hot, as she realised she was going to be spending some time alone, and secured on the bed.
“I thank you – both for your clothes and for your taste in them,” Madame said as she took a green bandana with a Fleur de Lis pattern and tied it over her hair. “It is indeed fortunate we are about the same size.”
“I don’t get it – why don’t you take everything I have?”
“Because, Amy, I do not need to.” As she said this, Madame took a long sky blue chiffon scarf and rolled it into a band, before kneeling in front of Amy and pulling it over her legs above her knees, securing them together tightly. Satisfied with the binding, she picked Amy’s legs up and swung them onto the bed, before selecting a large white headscarf and swiftly folding that into a band. Amy watched as her ankles were tied together, the material going around her ankles, before Madame used a smaller white handkerchief to tighten the bands between her legs.
“Lie down and make yourself comfortable,” Madame said as she picked up a pair of black felt boots and pulled them on. “I will be on my way shortly.”
“Who are you,” Amy asked as she settled on the bed. “You don’t strike me as just another escaped prisoner – you’re too much in control for that.”
“Better you do not know,” Madame said as she tied a knot in the centre of a black headscarf she had rolled into a band. “Again, I thank you for the clothes and money – now open wide.”
After I gagged her, my first thought was to find out if they had found Madeline or Sandra. I knew Robert, if he was not already dead, would be with Master, and we were the four he knew would be responsible for his incarceration. Looking back, I could have called John, despite my vow not to involve him in my life again, or the members of the BA who had helped me, but I have to confess I was not thinking too clearly at the time. Fatigue, concern, fear – all can conspire to do that.
Fortunately, although I did not know it at the time, I had no reason to fear...
“Maddie? What are you doing here?”
Sandy stepped back to allow her friend to come into her apartment, following her into the large open space living area. Maddie took off her great coat, turned and said quickly “We’ve got a problem – a big one. I think someone has grabbed Shirley.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I got a call from George this morning – early. He had got to the warehouse to find that the car had not been returned. There’s a standard protocol for these things, so he got out and called me – and now I’m coming to you.”
“What have you done?”
“I went to the restaurant and confirmed that Robert had left with her just after midnight. I then talked to our contact in the police, who got me a copy of the surveillance camera footage for that street – something I never thought I’d be grateful to Thatcher for. Anyway, I got the file an hour ago, looked at the film for midnight to 1 and – well, see for yourself.”
She walked over to the computer Sandy had been working on, and plugged in a small memory stick. Both women watched as they saw the couple walking to the car, Jack stepping out and opening the rear door, and then the man getting out.
“It can’t be,” Sandy gasped, “He’s in France – in high security prison.”
“No he’s not – I checked. He was released six months ago – good behaviour. I guess he’s been a busy boy since then.”
Sandy watched her friend running away, and then Robert been pistol whipped and dragged into the car. “We’re going to need some help with this,” she finally said as she turned to Maddie. “What have you done?”
“I called her Uncle John – he’s retired now, but knows the right people to talk to in the higher levels. He’s going to see if he can track this bastard down – in the meantime, I need your help to find Shirley.”
Sandy nodded as she picked up her telephone. “Hello?
“This is number 17 – I’m calling an emergency meeting of the Council for 6 tonight. We have an emergency on our hands.”
I, of course, was oblivious to all of this. Instead, I took a number of public buses and made my way to the warehouse, to see if anything had been disturbed.
From the outside everything looked normal, but there were several signs that things had been locked down. We had an emergency protocol in place, and the fact all shutters were closed was a clear sign of a security breach.
Two cars were parked outside – my own limousine and a second car I did not recognise. As I watched, I saw a woman climb out of the second car – tall, thin, dressed in a black jacket and skirt. For a moment she turned to me, and I saw to my shock that her skin was almost pure white, as was her hair. She removed the dark glasses that covered her eyes, and I could see the pink in her eyes. An albino – and one I would get to know well soon.
For now, however, my attention was focused on Master, the thin son of a whore who had tried to take me the previous evening. As they stood, talking, I wondered what the two of them were planning and how I could start to regain the advantage.
As a result, I heard nothing and sensed nothing until I felt the blade sliding into my side, and Jack whispering “He wants you dead – I’m saving the time and trouble.” I turned and watched him walk away, my hand at my side. When I lifted it, I could see the blood beginning to seep out, and I knew I had to get away.
I had no idea how far I walked, stumbled, whatever – all I knew was eventually I managed to open a back gate somewhere, and go into a garden that had a shed. Somehow, I managed to get myself into the shed and sat on the floor, wondering how long it would take...
“All right, girls – don’t stay outside too long, it’s cold out there.”
She watched from the kitchen doorway as her two daughters ran into the garden, their coats buttoned up against the cold. Turning back to the kitchen sink, she started to wash the lunch dishes up, listening to the sound of her daughters playing happily in the garden.
She didn’t notice the silence until her eldest daughter came back and stood looking at her mother.
“What is it, Suzie?”
“Mum, can you come outside – Jenny and I found something that you need to look at.”
She dried her hands and followed the eight year old to the garden shed, where her younger sister was standing in the doorway. “What is it, Jenny,” she said as she came closer.
“Mummy, there’s a strange lady in there.”
She looked in the open door way and saw a woman on the floor, her pale face looking up as she clutched her hand against a red stain in her top.
“Help me,” the woman said in a deep, warm voice as her head slumped to her side...
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