A House Haunted by Cops
In her 76 years in this world, Cecelia Kolber had earned quite a reputation as a living lie-detector. Some even said that the lead character in ‘Lie to Me’ was based on her.
Fact is that NO ONE was able to lie to her or in her presence.
No matter how good a person was a liar, no matter how well trained he or she was and no matter the occasion, she could practically ‘see’ the sign of ‘I am lying’ turning on over the liar’s head! That was well known fact to all the inhabitants of that corner of the State (and some neighboring counties as well).
The first woman who went to work at the local police headquarters as a law enforcer agent (and not a cleaner or the likes), back in 1953, after being rejected by the Army due to her thinness, she had soon proved to be ‘very helpful for the guys’ if she was present at the interrogation of this or that suspect. Every time that ‘the boys’ followed what one of them thought that was the truth, but she had said that it wasn’t, they ended up wasting time and resources and even tarnishing innocent people’s reputation.
But only after she and Elmer Lorby (her brother-in-law) rescued a 9 years old boy whose mother had left him to die inside a well, and was managing to convince everybody that he had been kidnapped by a ‘masked man’ while she waited for the corpse to be discovered (she was insanely jealous of the attention he was receiving from her husband), the mayor told ‘the boys’ to stop fooling themselves.
They could be bamboozled by killers, robbers, troublemakers and nutjobs.
SHE could not… simple like that.
So from then on the respect for her abilities grew exponentially in the local and nearby police forces. Even after she retired and went to live alone with her four cats she was called ‘now and then’ to assist an interrogatory, although in recent years this had come to a halt. She only met the sheriff or his deputies in social events…
And that could explain the sudden weight inside his throat, the need for air and bad taste that was being formed inside his mouth and the sweat that started to pour from his flesh.
‘She knows’ was all that he could think of at the moment.
‘Care to explain to me what happened four nights ago, Randy?’
‘Only (…) only if you promise to never tell anything to anyone…’
‘Randy Forrester!!! You, YOU of all people!!!, and three of your deputies…’
‘…Bound and gagged eight innocent girls inside that spooky house and made up quite an interesting story, that they and the rest of the world bought hook line and sinker…’
‘One of those girls is my great-niece Paula, and all the others are her friends!’
‘Then why should I keep myself quiet abut this whole absurd situation?’
‘Hank did not commit suicide.’
‘And the only way to prove it and put his killers behind bars is by keeping our mouths shut as to why we where there, at least for a couple more of weeks!’
Those eyes, those eyes that were analyzing all the muscles of his face the whole skin and his moustache and sweat, and his own eyes as well.
Never ever she had put someone under such a scrutiny, and he passed.
She grabbed her scrapbook, in which the last remaining evidence that the official explanation for the whole incident at the Haunted House of the Blackbird St. was untrue was displayed for him to see, and closed it, and handed it to him.
If he wanted, he would destroy that evidence long before she could react…
‘In… one hour and ten minutes Paula and two of her friends, that were with her that night, are going to drop by. I invited them for some tea and biscuits after the game they are watching at the field right now. You have until then to convince me to lie to them.’
What could he tell to her? The deep black eyes, hawkish nose and stern expression of his friend were very obvious as to what was his only option…
And he told her the whole truth.
How, from the very moment he saw Hank’s body hanging in his cellar, he had never believed in the coroner’s verdict. His lifelong buddy would never commit suicide no matter how bad was his mental health. But only after an year and a half was that he, and Keith, found the first lead. Then Rico came with another evidence and finally Robinson showed what he had found, through uncertain ways, about the mayor’s shady businesses with the mysterious ‘Mr. Lee’. Somehow, in a way that was not yet very clear for him, Hank had stumbled on a meeting of Mr. Lee and his real business partners.
And had to be dealt with. The coroner and two of his deputies, plus the mayor and a few councilmen, were in Mr. Lee’s pocket, and who knew who else!!!
So they had no option but make it (their investigation) as secret as possible.
Then they got the big news, through illegal wiretapping in a lot of phones around town, there was going to be a meeting between Mr. Lee and his superiors in front of a gate in a deserted corner of the small town, the entrance to the Metro Clinic (and the only thing that had not be destroyed by the fire that consumed the place twenty three years before).
And he told her how he, and Rico and Robinson, managed to convince the crooked mayor and deputies that they were suspicious of Mr. Lee’s real intentions to the town and that they were going to ask for a legal wiretapping since they had found some inconsistencies in his background. They did it so carefully and well that the meeting between Mr. Lee and his superiors became an urgent necessity.
He made sure that the crooked deputies were on desk duty that night, when the mayor and a few others would be out of town, and pretended that he was out of town at a convention of lawmen in Nevada. Robinson, Keith and Rico had a few good excuses of their own and hey all gathered at was once the Gorwin House, vacant ever since the suicide of Duke Gorwin in ’32. This, plus a few other bloody/mysterious cases over the decades turned the Victorian building into the local ‘Haunted House’.
Since, like most stereotyped ‘Haunted Houses’, the Gorwin House was located atop a hill which granted a perfect view of the lot once occupied by the Metro Clinic (even with the over a mile of distance between), as well as of the whole town, it was the best (and almost only) place from which they could take pictures of the meeting.
‘But how could you do that? And at night!’
‘Rico’s cousin is one of those geeks who knows pretty much everything about gizmos of all kinds, and he happened to have a collection of camera lens that allows their users to take pictures at very long distances and in the dark (he said that he’s some sort of a biologist but I am not the only one thinking that the guy likes to take pictures of women without them knowing it…), and binoculars with the same ‘night-vision’. So Rico did go visit him, but unlike he told everybody he just went there, said ‘hello’ to his aunt and cousins and grabbed the camera and stuff and returned to town.’
‘And it worked?’
‘Perfectly. None of those pictures can be used in a court, obviously, but…’
They all gathered at Robinson’s cabin in the hills down south and made their way to the Gorwin House through the most deserted shortcuts they could find.
‘We managed to get there around 6 p.m., Rico went upstairs to set up the camera and we scattered around the place. At first we had laughed when Rico showed up with hoods, voice synthesizers and pre-paid cellphones, too overzealous of his part we all thought (and he’s been with a ‘What were you saying?’ face with us thee ever since!), but then we saw the car coming up the Wylcott Lane at 6:30. Brand new black car that parked right in front of the house, two girls wearing black jeans and T-shirts (ok, Kara was wearing a tank top)… and gloves and boots. All black too. Just like we were dressed.
‘At first we didn’t recognized them, they turned to the driver of the car and seemed to be pleading something with him (at first we thought, for some reason, that it was a guy). Rico’s camera’s allowed us to see one of the girls making the sign of ‘ten’ with her fingers two times, and the driver seemed to accept it and the girls rushed to inside the house while the car moved away. I told Rico to keep an eye on the car while with Keith and Robinson I left the room on the second floor and tried to move stealthily…’
‘That place is a burglar’s nightmare! The whole floor cracked and cringed with every step no matter what we did! We couldn’t move an inch without making a noise, but fortunately the girls were not interested in anything but each other…’
‘And how was your reaction, you and the others, when you learned about Kara and Lily’s relationship… Oh come on! Those two are in love with each and having sexual intercourses since, at least, the Fair two years ago!’
She nodded. Kara Carpp and Lily Dorrance, two of the most beautiful cheerleaders of the local college football’s team, a couple for that long? If the source of that info was any other person… but Cecilia did deserve her fame.
‘And why did you not told Marie Louise…?’
‘What do you think that that wacko would do with her daughter if I did tell her? Lily is 19 but she keeps on treating her as if she was 9 or even 6! No trust nor respect in any case plus all that stuff she keeps on saying about ‘sodomites this’ and ‘sodomites that’.’
‘Good point… (…) Well, we did not have to run at them, they ran onto us! We barely managed to make to the door of the room we were in… what a pathetic scene! Three guys hushing and shushing each other for all the noise they made with their steps!... and suddenly there’s this door being opened and laughter and two elephants running up the stairs and stopping right before OUR room. And they started to kiss each other, and I do mean kiss!, and Kara removed her top and… we introduced ourselves…’
‘I can imagine the scene…’
‘I never could imagine that Lily still had such a pair of lungs!’
‘The ‘air-raid warning’… that’s how the kids called her in kindergarten…’
‘And it’s still working!!! We had put on the masks and they saw three all black clad men rushing at them. Lily almost broke everybody’s eardrums with her scream (that miraculously nobody else in town heard!), and I grabbed her and covered her mouth with my left hand while I lifted her from the ground with my right arm, Kara was being held by Robinson ad Keith and there we were, three guys holding two girls that were partially undressed… (ok…) Kara had removed her top but was wearing a white bra and Lily had removed her T-shirt and was lowering her pants… and both were looking at us and at each other with the same thing in their eyes…’
‘What else? Then came the voice. Metallic, impersonal and commanding. ‘Gag them, allow them to redress and then bind them’. We all looked at the same direction and there was Rico standing and acting like he was the head of the operation! He did look like a soap-opera villain! But at that moment he was perfect! He looked at us and said ‘Do I have to repeat my orders… gentlemen?’ and instinctively we (the men) shook our heads! He threw something hat he was carrying in his hands, that he kept behind him all the time!, at Keith. It was a roll of duct tape. While Robinson held Kara in his arms Keith tore three strips of tape from the roll and placed them over Kara’s pursed lips. Kara quickly put the tank top back, re-buckled her trousers and was then quickly reduced to immobility by Keith. I wonder were he learned to do that… Anyway, wrists, wrists and waist about four or five turns of the roll around them and some over her covered legs. He repeated the process with Lily and then Rico ‘ordered’ us to put them in another room by the end of that corridor, under Keith’s guard.’
‘And the driver? The ‘20’ signal was for what I am thinking that it was?’
‘Exactly. Tiana is one of the few people that knows about Kara and Lily, and she was lured into giving them 20 minutes so they could… you know…, and realized too late that they had entered the house without carrying anything that they were supposed to! She was fuming mad when she appeared at the door minutes later, she was carrying two oversized bags, like military bags you know, and wasn’t happy because she had parked her car over a mile away, downhill, and had to get them up alone!’
‘Lily was always the prankster one… and so is Kara.’
‘She came huffing and puffing and shouting some foul words at the pair, promising to get even with them, then she stopped in front of the front door, kicked it open and threw the bags inside and started to yell ‘Listen up you...’, and was immediately grabbed by Keith as I closed the door behind them... and then she hit Keith in the stomach in a very painful way, and hammered his chin with her fist!’
‘So the KO was not an invention of her, as some people are saying?’
‘Jealousy, ‘C’, sheer jealousy... Keith is that big and she knocked him out cold, and before she could do anything else Rico, wearing the now mandatory voice synthesizer, harrumphed his presence and she turned her fist to him, never leaving me out of her sight. ‘Your two friends are fine, for the time being, and we don’t have any intention to cause them any harm..., for the time being’, and she understood and knelt on the floor. Me and Robinson had her roped up and taped up in no time, at some point, in order to tape her legs completely we had to stand her up (since she couldn’t do it herself)...’
‘Was this roughness really necessary Randy?’
‘We all knew about her black belt and her medals and such, and Rico gave us the excuse with the phrase ‘Seems like we have a Karate Kid here gentlemen, make sure she’s unable to do her tricks again’. So as he was tending to Keith’s limp form, we were busy mummifying Tiana. Don’t look at me like that! We knew how dangerous she was in a fair fight and... she knocked Keith out cold with ONE punch!!!’
She didn’t replied, but her eyes were clearly reproving him...
‘Do you want more coffee?’
‘Well I want more, excuse me for a moment...’
She stood up as he felt (and acted) as in the day she caught him smoking marijuana.
Cecelia went straight to the kitchen. As soon as she entered she saw Paula already holding a new cup of coffee for her with both hands in front of her, Mary-Ann ‘B’ and Dorothy having a conversation with Dorothy’s ‘foreign’ sign language (did it really existed such a thing?) at her right and Tiana and Lily trashing violently in their chairs, with the others having a lot of efforts to keep them silent, behind her niece!
‘They tried to put his confession in the web?’
Even the furious girls were affected by the look of ‘complete disapproval’ aimed at them by the owner of the house. They stopped their trashing and, with their faces burning red, looked at each other and lowered their heads.
Cecelia was in front of them in no time, and with a gentle but firm grip on each girl’s chin, she forced their heads up and...
‘It is perfectly understandable that you feel betrayed and wants to yell at the whole world what he and the others did to you. But... WE-had-a-deal!’
They started to cry right away. And then Cecilia kissed each girl’s forehead gently and, before she returned to her niece’s side, she took a good look at each girl’s bonds.
While Lily had her ankles taped together and then to the chair’s left front foot, Tiana’s legs had been taped almost completely to their correspondent chair’s front feet; Lily’s torso was being bound to the back of the chair right now (and Kara was being as gentle as possible) while Tiana’s breasts seemed the only ones untouched by the two different tapes used on her body (black electrician tape and grey duct tape); from where she stood she obviously couldn’t see the work done on each girl’s arms, but she saw a glimpse of black tape below Tiana’s shoulders (an indication that her arms were as taped as her legs were?); finally Lily seemed to have been cleavegagged with something blue before microfoam tape was wrapped around her head while Tiana’s face below the nose (and up to an inch below the eyes) was entirely covered with it...
‘What happened here anyway?’
‘Tiana tried to grab the laptop in order to put the live feed on the web, Lily decided to help her and we all sort of... piled on them, Kara and Dorothy took care of Lily while the me and the others... well you’re seeing what we did...’
‘But the tape and the ropes?’
‘I brought them.’ – answered Kara from behind the chair, she was kneeling on the floor as she took care of a knot holding the rope harness below, above and in-between her lover’s breasts!, in place – ‘I overhear a conversation between Lily and Tiana, and it’s not like they planned to lie to you in advance Ms. Kolber, it’s just that...’
‘You felt like they might come in handy?’
‘Yes.’ – she said as she stood up and looked at Lily with tender eyes... and something wicked too. She stood by her side and put her right hand over Kara’s left shoulder.
‘Well, let’s go back to our sheriff’s presence...’
And, as she closed the door of the kitchen, she saw all six free girls gathering in front of the laptop’s screen, whose back was displayed to the two captive ones.
‘Sorry about my prolonged absence... I was talking to Paula...’ – and she exhibited to him her scarcely used cellphone – ‘...you got an additional half an hour to your time, she and Mary-Ann ‘C’ and Kara are going to wander around town after the game, or whatever they are doing... (I don’t think that she was at the field at all), and when I told her that you were here... she wanted to know the progress about your investigation.’
‘Why did you not tell her...?’
‘Besides two or three ‘weed’ cigarettes, a brawl and a few other things, I don’t think that you ever broke the law in a very serious way. I figured that you had a good reason for your behavior (and those of your subordinates) that night. And besides... you know you have only one option but tell me the truth, don’t you?’
‘Yes... (don’t I know that...), how are they handling their... ordeal?’
‘Very satisfactorily, given the circumstances.’ – And by the way she was looking at him, he was supposed to be resuming his ‘confession’ to her.
‘Well, where was I? (...) Oh, yes, so we had just roped and taped Tiana to a standing mummy, Keith was coming to and Rico decided to take a good look at the contents of the bags she had threw inside the house. Their whole plan was there...’
‘What ‘whole plan’ are you talking about, they only told me that it was some sort of pranky initiation inspired in those Hannah-Barbera cartoons...’
‘Exactly. What they told the girls was that they would hide four different objects, all painted in golden or silver paint, around the house and it was the job of the final four applicants of their sorority to find the clues around the campus, decipher them and then go to the house and find their specific ‘treasure’, one per girl. Paula was supposed to find a silver table fork, Dorothy’s target was a golden bocce (that Italian lawn game) ball, the Thai exchange student, what’s her name... Sukun?’
‘Sukhon Pi-sarn-butr, but her friends have already ‘christened’ her Sue...’
‘Sue (...), I mean Su-khon (right?), Sukhon’s target was a small silver plate and Mary-Ann Bartholomew’s was a golden dice. Among a lot of bondage paraphernalia (and where in heaven’s name did they found or bought that?), there were the four ‘treasures’, some snacks and this notebook where all the plan was written in its minimal details...’
‘Tell me more about it... ‘bondage paraphernalia’? Really?’
‘Let’s keep our minds clean, all four applicants had already passed and were members of the ‘Beta Thau Sorority’, but it seems that their last ‘test’ was in fact a pranked way to have them all ‘captured’, bound and gagged in and with the BDSM stuff and then taken to the sorority building, where they would be the captive guests of honor in a party to celebrate their admittance. Which is why we had to do things in a hurry a few hours later, there was a house full of girls waiting for those eight to appear and not only they did start to get very late for the party but they weren’t answering the calls or text messages we were receiving in their cellphones!’
‘But this ‘bondage paraphernalia’? What exactly were they planning to do with Paula?’
And to half the girls in the kitchen’s embarrassment (and in favor of the other half’s curiosity, and growing vindictiveness’ feelings), Randy told Cecelia about how and with what each girl was supposed to be restrained, how all the girls at the sorority had reached the consensus and which were the alternatives and everything else he could remember to have read in the notebook... but from some point on all that Cecelia could think of was what was going on in her kitchen at the moment...
‘So you found yourselves with three captives, and learned that you were going to find yourselves with five more in a few hours and...?’
‘Keith carried Tiana upstairs and put her in the same room where Kara and Lily were, we checked all their phones and decided that we were going to answer the calls (with text-messages) only when and if I found it necessary. Fortunately they had decided to use only text messages between them up until before the party and had agreed on a series of ‘penalties’ to anyone who broke the rule, but...’
‘It would be obvious that we were going to need an excuse to our presence there, and that we couldn’t took off our masks and tell them the truth...’
‘Please, Cecelia!!! The less people that know that there are crooked cops in this town, and that Mr. Lee is at least ten times worst that some of us were thinking that he was, and that he had connections with God knows who, the better! If they know that their lives will be in danger, not to mention their loved ones’!’
The sheriff thought for a moment, and then gave up any resistance he still had. He was going to show her ‘them’. Intimately he was wishing that she could help him with his troubles, and now the last objection he had in his mind was gone.
‘Worst... but I’ll get there. It was 07:12 when we managed to elaborate a plan, Keith had come with this idea that he had read in a story about a raid in a sorority house... Don’t ask!!! He did not told us anything more about it anyway... In the story some guys raid a sorority house after some jewels, but it turns out that the jewels are buried outside the house. Of course we could not go out there and start digging, but the Gorwin House did have a large basement, so if we dug a few holes and acted as if we were after something that somebody had hid there, he went out and returned half an hour later with a couple of shovels and started digging right away... I had remembered about the jewels you once showed me many years ago... and if, after we had all them captured and reunited in one single room, we managed to convince them that we had indeed been there in order to dig some treasure and just by sheer ‘bad luck’ we happened to do that in the same day/night in which a sorority intended to play a prank on four girl... by showing them part of the treasure we had found? It would reinforce the false story that would cover our little ‘black op’ and would allow us to prepare something against Mr. Lee...’
‘I see... and how did you manage to get the ‘jewels’?’
‘Well, we don’t have a big police force, and I had made sure that those who were supposed to be on desk duty were the ones I knew were crooked, but I knew that at least one of them was going to drop by the meeting at the Clinic, so I knew that while the meeting was happening there would be at most four people in the building. And the ‘Evidence Room’ is in the back of the station, not next to backdoor entrance but..., I have the keys and I was always the stealthy guy. So I gave a shot and it worked!’
‘Interesting, does this have anything to do with your current ideas to the building itself?’
‘(...) Yes. I saw how easy it would be for an evidence to disappear, and I intend to make sure (in a legal way) that all those involved in Hank’s murder pay in kind, so I decided to press the mayor for an extra money in order to improve the security in my office.’
‘The whole building?’
‘(...) But, you did not have any problem at all in grabbing the girls?’
‘None at all. We hid the ‘treasures’ were they were supposed to be found, answered a few text messages (in the code that was outlined in two pages of the notebook) sent by and telling Mary-Ann Calhoun that everything was ‘ready’ and we waited. The girls were supposed to show up at 9 p.m., the meeting at the Metro Clinic was supposed to happen at 10 and we were supposed to be out there at 10:15! But...’
‘Nothing happened as you planned...’
‘Nothing happened as ANYone had planned that night. We still don’t know why, but Mr. Lee’s boss showed up at 10:43! And when the girls showed up... The plan was that they would all go to a different point in the house, since Paula’s clue would led her to the kitchen, Dorothy’s to a room in the upstairs, Su...Sue’s to the basement and Mary-Ann ‘B’’s to the library. And you must have realized what they have in common...’
‘They are all mignons, scarcely around 5 feet tall...’
‘...While the other four are at least 6 inches taller than the tallest one, and all are stronger than their intended ‘victims’... The plan was that Tiana would hide in the basement, Kara in the master room’s closet (or what remains of it), Lily in the kitchen and Mary-Ann ‘C’ would find an excuse to ambush Mary-Ann ‘B’ in the library...’
‘You make it sound like they were going to...’
‘Nope, I’ve talked with the Beta Thau’s ‘mother’ and it seems that this is sort of a tradition that goes way back to the 70’s, the first party that the new members of the sorority attends at the house is: a) very exclusive to ONLY current members of the sorority; b) one that they are the guests of honor and; c) one that they are a bit too ‘bound’ to enjoy it... Yeah... it was a lame joke... Anyway! The party and the whole set-up might look a bit too wild, but it’s entirely harmless, and many women that I have talked to in the past days supports this affirmation! Turns out that, for some reason that none the mother or any of the ‘senior’ members of the sorority I spoke to declined to tell me what it was, when they realized that the four finalists applicants were ‘small’ girls they decided the four tallest girls of the sorority would ‘pick’ them for the party...’
‘Using a ruse taken from a ‘Scooby-Doo’ cartoon?’
‘Exactly. But... when the Pathfinder... (it’s the car’s name)... showed up at 8:48 we were very surprised, but not more than when four and not five girls got out of it. And those girls did not looked like they were going to search something! As you can see... Rico pointed his lens to the car and took these pictures...’
And he picked the brown envelope he had arrived with, opened it and showed her a series of six pictures showing (in black and white) a brand new car, four girls getting out of it wearing pants, jackets and boots, and holding backpacks and then they looked at one of the back seats and... Mary-Ann Calhoun gagged face appeared in the last picture. She couldn’t see how she had been tied up, but the seatbelts of that row of seats (more than one) were being used to restrain her.
Whatever was used to gag her it was very thick, and parted her lips wide apart, as if she was forced to keep her mouth open and yet be completely silent... her mouth was probably packed with something. She handed the pictures back to the sheriff.
‘Dorothy is born deaf, but she’s also a very skilled lip-reader. A week before the four applicants started to seat together at the lunches and dinners and discuss the perspective of being the newest members of such a famous sorority, among other things of course and, for some reason they decided to see what was ‘the last test that the girls were talking about...’ in your niece’s own words. So they identified the two most talkative members of the sorority and ‘Sue’ and Paula went to them at a corner of the field were the boys were being screened to the college’s football team, and chatted and chatted and chatted and tried to press them to tell them what was that ‘last test’ anyway. ‘Sue’ told them that if it was something mean, hazing or worst, then it would most likely ruin her plans of becoming a doctor since her parents would drop by and take her back to Thailand! The girls assured them that it was not hazing just a test of skills and their ‘adaptability to unexpected problems’ (they sort of ‘confessed’ to the two that the last clues were NOT the ‘last’ ones... a lie of course), and right after Paula and ‘Sue’ left, the pair (as expected) started to discuss if what they would do with them could be defined as ‘hazing’, after all if an exchange student is frightened away from the US because of their ‘initiation’... well that wouldn’t go good for the whole college and could mean trouble for the sorority. And, as expected, they called the mother of the sorority...’
‘She was around?’
‘No, they called her on the phone. Wherever she was she must have told them to go to her, but they couldn’t, since both were there at the field for very good reasons. One of the ‘talkative girls’ is none other than Ludmilla Gerenski...’
‘Clever for the four to pick her... The first training period of the college’s ‘Track and Field’ national starlet... very clever target and place...’
‘The apple didn’t fell far from the tree...’
‘It was Paula’s plan?’’
‘Most of it... So, because Ludmilla couldn’t leave the field, and the other girl couldn’t either (a Arizonan History student called Jessie something), the mother of the sorority and Mary-Ann ‘C’ went to them, and they discussed the ‘international implications’ of their intended prank on the four applicants at a corner of the field...’
‘She was at the entrance of the field, under the bleachers so she was protected by the shadows from anyone else’s view and aiming a very potent binocular at the quartet... and thus she managed to ‘read’ everything she needed to know...’
‘And the four ‘easy targets’ decided to...?’
‘Capture those who were supposed to capture them! They went on with the search for the clues as if nothing had happened, deciphered them with some effort and discovered the location of the ‘Mythical Treasures’, Paula’s one for example was supposed to be Neptune’s Trident!, and told the mother of the house about their discoveries and, as they already knew, Mary-Ann ‘C’ was selected to be their supervisor in the retrieving of the ‘treasures’. But at some point between the college’s cafeteria and the Gorwin House they made Mary-Ann ‘C’ stop her car, they had told her that they had something to ask her and faked a discussion in which Dorothy apparently was ‘skeptical’ of the whole situation, the clues couldn’t have been ‘that simple’ and there has to be a catch (or worst) somewhere… but since it was too dark for her to read the other girls’ lips…
‘And she stopped the car…’
‘And when she returned she, in her own words, was remembering each and every synonym that she knew of ‘stupid’ and ‘naïve’, and tried a lot to free herself from the ropes all four had wrapped her body in until Paula told her that she was going to enjoy the ‘confiness’ of a sleeping bag, ‘stark naked of course’ (Paula’s words), if she didn’t stopped trashing and poking them with her elbows… and they all went to a common friend’s house were their backpacks were waiting for them.’
‘But how could the girls inside the house not realize that Mary-Ann was a captive of their would-be captives? Didn’t they considered the possibility...’
‘At the conversation at the corner of the field, Mary-Ann told the mother that all the places where the girls would be lead to were located in the back of the manor...’
‘And Dorothy read it?’
‘Yes, so the four knew that the trio of lurking girls were not going to see Mary-Ann’s captivity. Their plan was to go to the basement’s door and obstruct it with something, which would prevent whoever was hiding in there to be able to leave the place, then they would capture whoever was at the kitchen, go upstairs, bind and gag whoever they would find in there and turn their attention to the girl in the basement...’
‘But instead of it...’
‘All four walked straight into our parlor...’
Meanwhile back in the kitchen Dorothy was finally finished with Kara.
After ‘reading’ the sheriff saying that Kara was the one supposed to grab and bind her she turned to the tallest girl in the room with obvious rage in her eyes, Dorothy was the smallest one, and made the girl start to walk backwards until she reached the closed door of the kitchen and found herself cornered.
The contrast couldn’t be more obvious, Kara all lean and curvaceous (even with the three scars of a car accident, when she was 9, in her right leg) and Dorothy small and plump and sooooo furious with the girl she had called friend... Both were from the same corner of Maine and Kara’s enthusiastic ‘welcome speech’ to the college (made both with her voice and with the American deaf/mute sign language) had been another reason for the instantaneous would-be lifelong bond that had appeared between them...
What she was saying to Kara with her hands was not entirely visible to the other girls in the room, but Kara tried (three times) to apologize and had Dorothy’s left index finger immediately placed over her lips (each time with growing strength), until she complied and walked to the chair next to Lily’s left and sat with her arms over the backrest... and with her head down failed to see Dorothy winking at the other girls and their reaction...
That had happened over ten minutes before... And now Kara had long realized that she had been fooled by a bogus ‘righteous fury’ act. But with her arms expertly ‘cuffed’ with rope from two inches down the armpits to her wrists at random intervals (which negated her freedom of movements but did not put too much strain over arms, not exactly comfortable but...), her legs crossed at the knees and also tied at (six) random intervals to stay that way, her mouth filled with something hard (a rubber lemmon?) and her lips under six turns of elastoplast she wasn’t able to do much about it...
‘Girlfriend.. you’re okay?’
Dorothy’s curious Slavic accent (she hadn’t have any ancestry to justify it, it was a curious side effect of having learned how to speak at nine that, perhaps, she could have gotten rid of it if she really wanted to... but she liked it) showed sincerity in every word, so Kara nodded and was kissed on the right cheek by her captor, who broke the mood as she started to grin right away... and was joined by the others.
‘Llll ggtt uuuuu fffrr thhzzz!’
‘Turnabout is.... so much funny!!!’
And, to add ‘insult’ to her friend’s plight, Dorothy hugged the now captive girl with obvious satisfaction (and whispered something in her right ear)...
The other ‘free’ girls (save for Mary-Ann C) cheered her as the sheriff started to tell their host about how they had been captured that night...
‘Since it was a moonless and cloudy night, and that part of the town is (as we both know) very deserted and abandoned, there were no other lights for the girls to use but the car’s headlights’ and their flashlight’s ones... They picked them from the backpacks. Sukhon’s one was very big, she had to carry it with both hands, and powerful... As soon as she turned it on the others jumped on her and turned it off...’
‘As a lighthouse one... It seems that she misunderstood when the others told her to ‘bring your own flashlight’, anyway, Mary-Ann ‘B’ handed her a spare one she had brought along and they went inside the house. By this time Keith (who went downstairs only three minutes before they showed up) was waiting for them in the basement, they got inside and went straight to the basement’s door and obstructed it with a lock of sorts Paula had bought that evening, then they went to the kitchen and of course did not found anyone and heard the sound of the basement’s outer door being opened...’
‘They heard a rumbling sound and quickly and correctly deduced what it was...’
‘None of them, the would-be-captors and the would-be-captives, thought about check if there was another entrance to the basement?’
‘No... and that got the four anxious, they realized that their trap was going to fail since it was most likely that ‘Tiana’ (they knew where each of the other girls that wanted to capture them were supposed to be) was going to check on the car first, free Mary-Ann ‘C’ and if they had not captured Lily and Kara by then...’
‘They would have to face them four with matching numbers... and with the height and muscular mass disadvantages on their side and they did not wanted it...’
Even the girls had to nod at that one at the kitchen...
‘Not one bit. Anyway, they ran upstairs at top speed. Meanwhile, Keith found Mary-Ann ‘C’, she freaked out seeing a ‘big masked man’ opening the car’s doors (the others hadn’t locked her in) and extending his ‘big big hand’ towards her, and she fainted before he could start to unbuckle the belts. He checked her vital signs and carried her bridal style to the interior of the house...’
‘That’s not what I heard from the girls...’
‘Because when he was halfway up in the stairway he realized that a ‘thug’ like him should not care that much about the ‘captive’ he was carrying, and thus he switched to a ‘over-the-shoulder’ carry, which is why they saw him carrying her that way when he met us all in that room moments later. But not for a moment we stopped caring...’
‘I believe in you... but still... (...) More coffee?’
‘Hmm... what? Oh, yes please...’
As quiet as possible the girls discussed among themselves what was the cause of the sudden ‘pause’ in the sheriff’s confession, what did Cecelia wanted to talk to them so much to interrupt him once more. None had an answer to that question.
The image was perfect, and in colors!, and the sheriff couldn’t be aware that in front of him, in the bookshelves behind the chair in which Cecilia was sitting (more or less at his head’s level), was a state of the art micro-camera disguised as an eye of a cat statue.
Cecelia had inherited her father’s comic and pulps magazines collection and more than once some unscrupulous collector had tried to ‘complete’ his or her collection, so she had invested quite a pretty penny in the security of her house...
‘Auntie, what was th...’
The look in Cecilia’s face was very somber.
Seven minutes later, worried about Cecelia’s delay, sheriff Randall entered the kitchen and found her alone and trying to find where she had put the last pack of Colombian coffee. They had to settle with decaffeinated since it wasn’t anywhere.
In the meantime, hiding behind the garage of the house, Paula and Tiana were waiting for the unexpected development of the situation. Cecilia had (partially) broke her word with them, and had practically expelled them from her house. She said that the sheriff was (eventually) going to show her the pictures of the meeting at the Metro Clinic’s lot.
And (according to her ‘reading’ so far) it was really something bigger than any of them could’ve thought. She was almost cryptic when she told them that, depending on what she saw in the pictures, she would (or not) give them a copy of the footage that was being recorded right now. The imprisoned girls were quickly released (but still wore their multi-composed gags as they were leaving through the back door), and Paula stayed behind to talk to her grand-aunt. One minute later she met the others a block away from the house and told them that she and Tiana, and only them, were going to wait the sheriff leave and meet Cecelia. The others went to Mary-Ann ‘C’’s apartment and waited for their call while discussing what was going on at Cecelia’s place.
As he waited for the coffee to be ready Randall, still holding her scrapbook and the envelope with the other pictures, explained to Cecelia how Robinson had answered all the text messages sent to the girl’s phones until it became clear, to the senders, that they were being fooled. But by that time the meeting was happening and only two (honest) officers were available to check on the 911 calls, and they were busy trying to prevent ‘Mick’ Tawnee to beat his neighbor with a brass knuckles...
Randall had barely been able to sit back in the chair in front of Cecelia’s rocking one (that, and everybody in the city knew it, was only used when Cecelia invited someone to her house to privately interrogate her for some reason...) when Cecelia looked at him with a weird expression, sighed and sort of asked him to continue.
‘By the way Randy, you still didn’t told me how the four no-longer-would-be-captives were captured. I already know Paula and the others’ version... What’s yours?’
‘Nothing to be more, even more ashamed than I already am I assure you. You know how that place is the perfect scenario for a spooky haunted house movie at night, right? So, no lights in the house, no lights outside and all that dark and shadowy ambience... the four entered the place clutching on each other’s body, and when they decided to run upstairs to capture Kara and run to the once master bedroom of the house... and found Kara not only already captured but in the company of Tiana and Lily and two hooded men (Rico and yours truly), and Robinson (who had hid in another room) and Keith (with Mary-Ann’s limp body hanging from his right shoulder) were blocking their escape through the stairs... the only one they had.
‘So Rico had another try as the ‘head’ of the ‘operation’ and told them that we were not really bad guys, just greedy ones. That just by ‘creepy bad luck’ their ‘sorority initiation or whatever’ was happening in the same night we were ‘treasure hunting’ in the same spot they were supposed to be. So as long as they behaved there would be nothing to fear from us. At that point Paula asked to repeat what he had just said and we pretended to not know about Dorothy’s condition. Then all four were told to go to the opposite wall of the one the four captives were now resting on.
‘He pointed at ‘Sue’ and Dorothy and threw them a roll of red tape each, and they told to bind and gag the others. Dorothy of course didn’t understood what were the orders and looked back at Paula and read her lips as she repeated the order. And Paula, who was the leader of the four, nodded at both Dorothy and Sue’s mute question.
‘Dorothy started with Paula’s legs while Mary-Ann ‘B’’s wrists were Sue’s first target. They sort of did the same stuff; ankles, above the knees, wrists and below the breats to trap the arms... but one he opposite order of the other...’
‘They only realized it when it was time to gag the girls... Dorothy looked at Sue and then at Rico and asked ‘Can we simply tore strips of tape and smoother them over their lips?’, she was concerned about wrapping that sticky stuff around their heads and over their hair... I mean... of all the things to think about in such a situation...’
‘Alright... anyway, Rico allowed them to do that and then it was Dorothy’s turn. Sue did the same job on her and, shaking and crying like a condemned girl, was quickly taped up by Rico, then all four were helped by him and me to sit on the floor (after he checked the ‘quality’ of their bindings) and he stood guard...’
‘But wasn’t he supposed to take the pictures?’
‘The meeting hadn’t started yet, and when it did Robinson would drop in the room and hand him a cellphone and tell him that ‘Jeff’ had ‘interesting news about the location of the box’. He would, of course, scold Robbie for saying ‘Jeff’’s name and would leave the room to answer the call... allowing him to take the pictures.’
‘I went straight to the alley behind the precinct and spent most of the time on the phone trying to calm the others, Keith was particularly scared of the unexpected turn of the event s and even more about the tardiness of Mr. Lee’s boss, as I waited for the message from Rico telling me to invade my own place of work!’
‘Seconds before Rico started shooting the pictures...’ – He made a movement as if to give her the envelope but she mouthed no, and he resumed – ‘...precisely at 10:44 PM. I gotta tell you... I never thought it would be so easy for anyone to break in at the police! I was in and out in less than three minutes! I just have to improve the sec...’ – but her eyes were now telling him to stop with that line of talk – ‘...no one noticed me coming in, going to the farthest (from the door of the deposit) and dustiest rack of the room, grabbing the whole box of ‘jewels’ and getting out...’
‘Cecelia, are you all right?’
Was it just his imagination or she was... hesitating? She looking at her hands, fingers intertwined and the thumbs rolling over one another... Whatever it was, it was coming really fast, and soon, and it was something really really big.
She stood up and in the next moment she was standing front of him, after (with a movement with her right hand) telling him to stay sit and being sure that she was blocking the camera behind them, she took a deep breath and...
‘Before you continue I’d like to see the pictures of Mr. Lee’s boss, please.’
Her eyebrows were raised to the maximum possible as she recognized the woman in the picture, and her mind was in turmoil. They had warned her! They had warned all current and former agents, collaborators and a long list of etc... to be on the lookout, to be ready to ‘see’ the signs (and what they might be) and yet...
It had happened in her less-than-5K-inhabitants backwater town, under HER nose!
‘Cecelia? CECELIA?!!! You recognized her?’
‘Cecelia, are you alright...?’
Without taking her eyes from the pictures of the blonde woman she answered him.
‘Behind me, the Disney’s Cheshire Cat statue? It’s the disguise for a micro-camera...’
And she told him everything, from how the girls recognized Rico due to a peculiar nervous tic that he showed when he tried to relax (and that he had never acknowledged to have), and that he had displayed to them over and over while he guarded them as he waited for the ‘boss’ arrivals. He was somewhat relieved that they had not managed to recognize him, but after some deductions they had identified Keith and Robinson with almost 100% sureness. But then they had decided to draw the jewels that, they believed, were the reason behind their ordeal as best as they could remember (and three of them were great amateur artisans with pencils and crayons) in order to show them to him when they told him about what they had discovered...
And she had seen the pictures, Sukhon had drawn them exactly as she had seen them (hanging from their hands as they congratulated each other for their well done ‘job’) while Tiana and Lily had done their best to show how they would be like ‘displayed’ for exhibit), and had recognized the (well made) phony jewels that that unknown man had been found with after dying of a heart attack in the room 43 of the Lancaster’s in 1923. She had ‘borrowed’ some of them (strictly to use and return) when her ‘help’ to the FBI had been rewarded with a visit to the White House in ’62, ‘Camelot’ as it was called back then, and pictures of her and ‘Jackie’ had been taken and her little lone crime had been made public... but as everything related to the jewels it had faded into oblivion...
Until the sheriff (to whom she had showed the jewels over a decade before when he had became intrigued with what was stored in the ‘Lost Corner’ of the deposit of evidences) had needed them for the little ruse he had played on the whole world.
A ruse that, she immediately realized, had to be kept alive no matter what!
Five heated minutes later, as Cecelia scanned and printed copies of the pictures, sheriff Randall Forrester startled Paula and Tiana and was immediately almost KOed by the girls’ combo reaction (Tiana stroke him in the chin while Paula elbowed his stomach).
They helped him to get back in the house as he tried to stay awake and get his breath back, and the girls were very displeased when he told them that Cecelia had told him about the whole plan of recording his confession about the events of that night, and even more angrier when they were told that she had activated a gizmo from her ultra-pricey security-system that jammed all wireless communications in and around the house, which explained how their cellphones had stopped working at the same time.
Like the Sheriff they had been set-up by Cecelia, and it was better that she had a very good explanation for actions!!!
Thirty minutes later all the girls were back to Cecelia’s house, and in their presence Cecilia deleted all the records of the sheriff’s confession after the three hours that it took for her and Randy to make them all realize that the truth should never be made public.
She even had to admit that she, indeed!, had worked for the FBI and CIA more than a dozen of times each, in order to make them realize that she had ways to know and thus recognize who was the ‘mysterious boss’ of the equally mysterious ‘Lee Watanabe’.
And that they would all be in danger if they learn that secret before everybody else...
To prove how big was the situation that the sheriff and his deputies had uncovered, and how powerful were the connections she was about to activate, she promised to Sukhon that, in less than a month, her father would stop demanding her immediate return to Thailand. The girls agreed to give her and the sheriff a month and left the house in a hurry. They had a lot to talk among themselves and to cope with...
One hour after she said goodbye to Randy, Cecelia turned off the computer. She had just put 10 magazines of her 2000+ pulp magazines collection for sell in E-bay. She couldn’t care less who would buy the other 9, but the exemplar of ‘Daredevils of the Unknown Lands’ was going to be bought by Counselor 3 (as always), and with the magazine she would ship the pictures of that hideous person...
They would contact her, one way or another, in less than two days...
Twelve days later a well respected Buddhist monk visited Sukhon’s hometown near Udon Thani, supposedly to visit a wat (Buddhist monastery temple).
There he talked with many people who had relatives living outside Thailand and about their hopes and dreams, and the dangers and privations they were facing while fighting for those, and was ‘informed’ of Sukhon’s ordeal in the far away US.
And when he finished talking Sukhon’s father (among many others that attended that speech) had been convinced to give Sukhon another try (the village was in dire need of a doctor anyway and those men of the Ministry of Education had said wonders about the college which had given her a sport’s scholarship)...
FIVE MONTHS LATER
For the second time in less than a year he was starting to doubt Cecelia’s friendship, and wondering what exactly she took him for!!!
About two months after the ‘incident’ the whole town was talking about the plans of a millionaire for the city. Wallace Frenderson was going to build a factory in the county attracted by the mayor’s fiscal policy, and his plans were very big! Too big for the tastes of Malcolm Donnovan Frenderson (Wallace’s cousin and bitter rival in the board of one of the biggest US food-business corporations) who arrived in town one month later as demanding, brash and arrogant as possible, or even more than that.
He had a small commando of private investigators with him and those stormed the whole county trying to find any justifiable excuse for him to be able to shut down Wallace’s projects for good! Needless to say, he and his men and women were the most despised people on Earth for/by the townsfolk while they stayed around...
Wallace came back to town one day after Malcolm left and had all the help from the town’s who’s who to counterattack his cousin’s strategy. The news they got from Savannah (where the corporation was based) were the talk of the town as soon as they arrived either by phone, web or whatever else. And then someone in the town’s council spread the idea that the cousins might have been hoodwinking the whole county...
And, of course, as soon as she was contacted by the mayor, Cecelia agreed to have a meeting with Wallace (and Randall) in her house next time he dropped by. Plans and strategies were made and... they were just smoke and mirrors... again!
Wallace knew Cecelia very well, they were chatting as old Army pals right behind him while he pondered about the proposition he had just heard, and Wallace and Malcolm didn’t hated each other’s guts (there was no big family love between them though) and while Wallace did have plans for the county, plans that would bring back most of the county’s financial health, his real purpose when he announced said plans was to create a big decoy for ‘Mr. Lee’ and everyone in his pocket and above him.
While the whole ‘New Factory Soap Opera’ was being happening live in front of everyone, someone (NOT the official team of investigators who arrived with Malcolm, of that he was sure) had managed to create a complete organization chart of those Russian dudes interest in town. Who was accepting bribe or being blackmailed, who did what in and outside the law in the county under their orders, and who (among the many newcomers attracted by the factory’s project) was a ‘hired hand’ or the likes of their shady organization... there were over forty names in that chart! Some from ******* which was five hours away in another state? Back-up men apparently...
And then he looked at those disgusting pictures again. Six girls, bound and gagged all alone in different places... a basement, a cellar, inside a van, aboard some ship... in the first pictures they were dressed, but little by little they were undressed and retied over and over again and ended up naked, crudely tied in very contorting and/or exposing ways and with tear filled eyes... And it looked so real!!!
‘Are you sure that they are all models?’
Cecelia re-entered the room with Wallace in tow, same sardonic smile in both faces...
‘They’re really authentic aren’t they?’
‘Look at the files, again, please...’ – she asked him with little plead from her part...
And he did it. Every single one of the captives was a remarkable lookalike of one of the women in the six files he grabbed from his seat. A housewife, two junior executives of the cousin’s corporation, one co-ed and her (twenty years older) teacher and lover (according to their files) and, last but not least, Ben ‘Benny’ Taylor’s wife... what would they want from the nearest southern city’s sheriff?
‘They are not... them?’ – he asked holding the files in one hand and the sets of pictures in the other. Of course not, at least in Benny’s case, he pondered. Ben was a nice guy and honest sheriff and everything else he could think fine from another man, except for his strong submissive portion of his persona. And his wife was the dominant in their marriage. And to believe that all the other women were submissive sado-maso chicks whose mementos of their pastimes had been stolen under Wallace’s orders was a big of a stretch! No, the women in his right hand were not the same on the files on his left one.
‘It was quite difficult to find models, or at least submissive women, who bore a striking resemblance to the ones that are about to become... my friend’s unwilling ‘guests’...’
‘It’s for their own good Randall, please believe in me...!’
He stood up in front of the two elders. It was crazy, it was absurd and it was kidnapping for crying out loud! Although Wallace had promised that no real harm would be placed upon the soon-to-be-kidnapped women, obviously their relatives and loved ones would end up believing otherwise!!! Then why wasn’t he going to tell and repeat to the world everything they had told him less than thirty minutes ago?
Because it was either that crazy plan of theirs(!!!) or having to deal with ‘Dead Eyes’ Illyanna and her organization (and those crooked worm of his backyard!) practically alone!!! He couldn’t let his town fall in their clutches!!!
And he had to avenge his lifelong neighbor and buddy!!!
‘Okay, I’m in. When this is supposed to happen?’
‘One month and three days from now...’
‘I will help, but I have some conditions...’
To be Continued (eventually) in ‘Who’s Trapping Who?’