Who Are You? (Do I Really Wanna Know?)
Why, oh why (!) had her father made Henry join the boy scouts against his will?
Those knots were ungiving!
For the second time in less than two months, two months (!), Anastasia ********** was a real prisoner in her own penthouse! Not for some ‘revenge’ role-playing scenario, not because she was paying a bet (or had lost another poker game with Sarah) and definitely not because she was in one of her (very rare) ‘switching’ moods…
She was a real deal bound (in a kneeling hogtie over her own bed) and gagged captive!
In addition, probably so was her big brother… What could have they done to him?
Who were they anyway? How deep went the conspiracy she had, now she realized (!), so foolishly tried to uncover with that pathetic ruse?
One of the two ‘bodyguards’ that had been ordered to guard her was called through his earpiece; he went to one of her guestrooms and returned saying something in Cantonese to the other guy while gesticulating. They had a short discussion, and then both heard something in their earpieces, the pair checked and tightened (even more!) her bonds and gag and left her alone for a moment, then a minute, then another…
The Gwendoline’s Locker’s door opened soundlessly, and three of the people she least expected to see at that moment dashed to her side, starting to free her right away…
Then a fourth (?) person (the ‘Locker’ definitely wasn’t that big…) came through that opening, and Anastasia’s eyes bulged noticeably! Especially due to the fact that she, and her rescuers, was completely ignored by the fourth newcomer, who was listening to her own cellphone as she turned on the TV in front of them and started typing a code…
One of her private codes?
What was going on?
THREE WEEKS AGO
Tanya Hughes was happy, very happy.
So excited she was with the upcoming week (and the others that would follow it) that she barely could stop daydreaming (which had caused some trouble at her job…).
She was just finishing getting ready to have one very great night at ‘Mobile’, with all her (now very jealous) friends, when there was a knock at the door.
‘Weird’ she thought as she opened the door, after checking the peephole, what was her mistress doing there? She had this policy about never going to her subs’ homes…
She took a look at herself… Oh well… She was her mistress, seeing her wearing skirts and a lacy bra was nothing new to Sarah! She opened the door.
‘Madam? Is there anything wrong?’ – She managed to ask before Sarah Neumann gagged her by covering all her lower face with her gloved left hand, next she pressed the younger and smaller woman against the wall behind the door, then she whispered to her to stay put and quiet, and from that black sports bag she was carrying she produced one of those gizmos Tanya had heard about. Top of the (cyber) art, it was designed to identify the presence and location of any camera or microphone in a room.
Many of the masters and mistresses in town only started a ‘session’ after checking and double-checking everything they could aim them at. It found nothing.
Then, and only then, Sarah relaxed (a little) and stopped pressing Tanya against the wall, but kept the gloved hand over her lips, and now the other hand was pressing the small of her back forward, pushing them together. She whispered in her right ear for her to stay put and peeked at the living room, the drapes were closed.
No one could see her inside the apartment.
‘I am so sorry I scared you… Oh my… Did you have any plans for tonight?’
‘Well… Madam, me and Heidi and the others… we were going to have a ‘Goodbye and Good Luck’ kind of night… for me…’
Now she was really scaring her. She made a look, the look that most of the interns and junior partners of the firm feared the most, ‘the calculus look’.
She had fired dozens of people after making that look, not to mention how she had found a row of winning strategies at the many trials she had seen this past semester after getting that weird ‘vacant’ expression in her face!
‘Tanya, I am in trouble, and so are a few friends of mine… I… developed a very crazy strategy to make sure that my friends and I manage to get back at those who are trying to make our lives… whatever they actually want to make them. I only know that they look at us as ‘undesirables & expendables’, and I hate it!!! But, in order to teach them a lesson in how to treat your lesbian neighbors (and their friends and sex partners)…’
‘Madam… All you have to do is tell me what I am supposed to do in that plan of yours.’
She grabbed her face with both hands, a look of pure ‘thank you’ shinning in her eyes!, then she let her face go and pulled her whole body close to her own and kissed the scarcely dressed young girl with a lot of desire…
‘Madam…!!!’ – Now it was Tanya’s turn to have a gleam in her eyes.
‘Help me mess this place a little… Don’t worry, I don’t intend to break anything. Oh, and I want a list of every girl who’s expecting you at…?’
‘Mobile. Is that new club at the ******* Street right in front of ‘Sullivan’s’. (…) Why?’
‘You are about to get burgled… By this devious and rather rough female criminal!’
Four hours later it was all settled.
Tanya and Heidi were sleeping peacefully in the guest room; the other girls knew that a ‘situation’ (an unexpected turn of events that they knew they would soon learn how they should lie about it) had happened with Tanya… and boy was she was tired!
Heidi & Mo’reen, always the resourceful girls, had decided to check on Tanya after she failed to answer three calls. Sarah was starting to ungag Tanya when they arrived, and the odd conversation (with Tanya still taped up in her sexy set of blue underwear) lasted less than ten minutes. Mo’reen had agreed to pass the word around the other girls (they would pretend that she had had some family emergency) and Heidi, seeing (like the others) that Tanya was feigning the courage she was now displaying (Sarah realized that she had been too realistic, again), had (sort of) coerced Sarah (right…) into accepting her as another ‘guest for the weekend’… The success of The Big Fat Lie, as she was calling it, would depend on those three girls’ silence…
She took the girls to her home, where she thanked a neighbor who had played ‘her’ part in the ruse, and only then the mid-seventies former judge did believe in her story.
They had had a few conversations about his heyday as a local master in the past, and now he knew that she wasn’t lying about her tales! She ordered a pizza and they talked about Tanya’s performance (and his, to make sure that there was a record of a thirty minutes conversation between Tanya’s home and Sarah’s) while enjoying it.
She thanked, again, her neighbor for the help, for his part he wished her luck against whoever she was playing the ruse with, and he left. Next she gave the girls some room for a couple of hours, that the younger women spent pretending to watch a romantic flick as they talked about Tanya’s future (while Sarah talked to Honoria and other mistresses), but demanded those ‘safety measures’ (that did not fooled them one bit) for them to spend the night in that guestroom when it was time to put them to sleep...
Well, Tanya was hers (per Tanya’s will). And Heidi was game whenever she wanted it, and she seldom didn’t want to play ‘games’… But, now, things were so different!
Tanya was really easy to deal with, she was going to disappear from the surface of the Earth for a month before Sarah had developed her strategy anyway… A few phone calls and her stay at ‘The Pink Barn’ would be prolonged for an extra month if necessary…
Heidi? Like Tanya she was a barely legal girl from another state and, like Tanya, she was dead to her family. But she had friends, many of them outside the ‘sub’ community. And she did not work for Sarah or any dominatrix she knew of… she worked at a mall!
If she was to disappear… if there was no other choice…
How would she do it this time?
For her part, Mo’reen was Cecile’s favorite ‘bound toy’, the leggy black girl would gladly vanish if her mistress told her to. And to achieve Cecile’s cooperation all she had to do was tell her what exactly… who exactly she was fighting against… Sort of.
He was obviously a mere pawn… Or was he?
So she had a cute blonde girl that she was going to make disappear Monday morning, an Amazon-like black girl that would vanish if she made a phone call and lied a lot and…
One thing was to keep them, as she was doing now, barely bound and lightly gagged over a comfortable king size bed, another was having them as her captives for real...
She sat back on her chair at her desk, sighed loudly and peeked at the broadcast. Yup, they were fine… The ‘patches’ that she had placed in between their shoulder blades were monitoring their heartbeats, temperature and breathing (and were both of the right skin color so they did not interfere too much in the whole ‘picture’).
The hogties were very light, they could even hop if they wanted to (although free each other was out of the question, the special knots, socks and glue would see to that), while the gags were pro forma (a single and thin ribbon, wrapped twice around their heads and with no packing)… Usually just a sight like that would make her imagine dozens of different ways to have the girls properly restrained.
Now she was just thinking about their safety. And her own…
Captiously, the phone rang at that moment. It was Honoria.
‘Let me guess… you are wondering about what you should do with Heidi, right?’
‘Please, it’s way too obvious. Tanya was going to be what she had been wanting to be for a month, maybe two if we need that, while Mo’reen is Cecile’s business…’
‘Heidi? Really? How…?’
‘I just have had a talk with Cecile. As it turns out, Heidi’s boss’ only daughter is going to get married in a couple of months. And who was hired to do the catering service?’
‘Who will wait for a proper hour tomor… today’s morning to get in touch with the guy. She swore to me that she will make him gladly give Heidi a month of paid vacation… she’s going to charge just one dollar for the whole service in exchange!’
‘She owes you big time since you made that brunette, Adele (?), disappear before that reporter could get in touch with her, remember? (…) Adele IS really enjoying some Alaskan hospitality, right? (…) And all I had to say the name of who will get his plans foiled if we manage to do your crazy plan right… you sure that it was… him?’
How could she not be sure?
After three days of insistence from her part, Anastasia had relented and had allowed her to analyze all the footage videos (from various sources including some illegal ones) they had collected about the Hogans, especially Wendy (and why oh why had she agreed to let her do the analysis alone in the first place?). ‘Fresh eyes/No pre-judgments’ and all that, and thus she spent an hour checking the footage of that night with Wendy.
Nothing stood out, she behaved like any cop would (except when she hid in the closet) and all other police officers acted inconspicuously. Next, she decided to check the rest of the footage… And, after twenty-three minutes, she saw it.
Ten seconds and two words.
Having been raised in fourteen different foster homes, and with three of them being really awful experiences, it was fair to expect that she kept the ‘pre-foster’ period of her childhood, when her parents were alive, in a special place in her memories.
The only daughter of a deaf couple… she knew how to read lips before she was five!
But could she be right about what she had just ‘read’?
Sure, lip-reading had been more than useful in her career and personal life, but when was again the last time she had used it? (…) Four years back, during a meeting with that Texan pen pal and her two real deal voluptuous ‘slaves’ (she really disliked the word!) in Arizona… Plus the creepy mother*****ng ex-husband of one of them!
For a long hour, she reviewed the short ten seconds portion of the footage over and over again, and managed to convince Jules to allow her to have a copy of the scene.
It was against Anastasia’s (and his) rules, but she had to show that particular moment to somebody ASAP! So he agreed to monitor her talk with the woman she called, one of Anastasia’s bodyguards escorted her to the hall as soon as she arrived, she showed her the footage and MiMi (Michelle Miclewicz, a famous born deaf stock broker who did lip reading for the cops, the press and her law firm, among others, on a regular basis), while pretending to give her some advices for a transaction she wanted to make but MiMi (apparently) was SO against it, confirmed that the sneer meant only one thing.
She thanked MiMi (as she pretended to be shamelessly flabbergasted at the woman’s ‘correct’ reasoning), was escorted back to Jules apartment (contrary to her expectations, the place looked like a regular midtown apartment, save for the locked ‘working corner’ room, filled with computers and gizmos) and handed him back the smartphone.
Next they spent the next four hours trying to understand what was going and if they should tell Anastasia the news. Since it did not made any sense they were against it.
Sarah went back home, where she spent the whole night properly thanking MiMi (and her girlfriend, who made the dinner), and by morning she was called back by Jules.
He had been trying to find out who had attempted to hack into the database of the building since the very first attempt, and had managed to get a name, but he couldn’t say it by phone no matter how secure he knew the line was.
So she untied MiMi’s girlfriend (what was the petite brunette’s name again?), gave her the keys and told her to wake up and free MiMi from the straightkacket while she got dressed, next all three women had a quick brunch and both former ‘helpless’ captives thanked her effusively for the enjoyable night they had had under the ‘evil’ clutches of their ‘very cruel sorority’s mother’ before entering their own car and leaving.
Somehow she managed to get back at Anastasia’s building in record time without getting any ticket or being arrested! And Jules’ news couldn’t be worst…
Thanks to some inexcusable (and potentially deadly) hackerism of his part (and the sneer) he now had the name of the man behind the whole story, probably. The why or whys were another matter… But at least they had a name now.
Sarah forbid, then begged to, Jules to (not) tell the news to Anastasia, and called Honoria. And, during a lunch in which the hacker showed his exquisite culinary skills to the two older women (he liked to try the recipes shown in ‘Hannibal’!), they discussed what they should do now… That’s how she came up with that crazy plan…
Well Honoria and Jules had given some suggestions, but the plan was 90% hers, at least, and it would depend on her ability to fool… Her friend?
Anastasia? They had nothing in common!
Except for the poker game that is…
‘Sarah? Are you there?’
‘Sorry, I must have dozed of… Honoria my dear… First of all, her name is Adeline and yes, she’s fine. It’s true that, technically speaking, I did kidnap her. The ‘deal’, from the forced removal of her from her own condo to an unwanted trip to Alaska in Danielle’s private jet? I did it. Why? Because from the beginning it was obvious to everybody, minus Cecile and Adeline, that their relationship was doomed to crash the way it did. And when it happened… Brandon Khol, that cheap pen for hire, was ready to create a mess of a scandal! So, yeah, I invaded her home and bound and gagged her… Well, not really. I mean a single strip of transparent tape without packing as a gag? And the ziptie wasn’t really tight. But she saw that I meant business, she really did not want to f**k Cecile’s reputation as bitter as she was feeling towards her at the time, and I was the one that had fulfilled one or two of her ‘upside down suspension fantasies’… So she knew that, deep down, she could trust me... Thus, when I barked my orders, she went along.
Even as I took those ‘precautions’ with her before I put her in the trunk of my car and drove us to Whitney’s private airport. We took off with her crying all along, having third and fourth thoughts about having allowed to be restrained and kidnapped, and she started to feebly protest while trashing in her seat, which made me at some point almost mummify her to it (she was noisy). And I literally delivered her, bridal style et all, to the awaiting arms of that college friend of our good ole rival… ‘Mistress J’, Kayla Vass or Vassler. I call her ‘Kayla V’… who carried her to her car, strapped that crying mummy in the back seat and left. And why did I just confessed a crime that big to who’s considered to be the most honest judge in the state?’
‘Because, like you always do (you wicked cupid), you knew that Adeline and Kayla (at the time a switcher in search of a role) were meant to each other and, even as unusual as their first meeting was… after the ‘two weeks guarding period’ were up and you and Dani showed up to bring her back to ‘civilization’… They literally whipped BOTH your asses back to the airport! I saw the marks, remember?’
Which was so true! After a short snicker they resumed their conversation.
‘It wasn’t a whip... Anyway, I could be making it up about the couple when I told you and the others about it, after you cornered Cecile over her disappearance, but sweet honest Dani? The dame that we love to play pranks with so big is her credulity?’
‘I know… I know… it’s just that… you always choose…’
‘You don’t want to lie to Annie, do you?’
‘No, maybe we should…’
‘Sure… ‘Guess what dear Annie? The state’s holiest-than-thou-of-the-holier-than-thou-bible-thumpers is onto you! And guess how we know it?’… Until we find the ‘why’ knowing the ‘who’ means nothing! She told me that she checked and double-checked what is in her safe! The real one, not the mocking ones! According to her, there is nothing there that could justify… ‘Saturday Night’, save for the money. Besides…’
‘Do you think that she really would like to know the truth after we tell it to her?’
‘No. (…) But she deserves it…’
‘Only after we can prove it, a sneer means nothing, with the extra bonus of the ‘why’!’
‘(…) Alright. (…) By the way… Mo’reen will receive a message tomorrow by 9 AM. By nightfall she’ll be being ‘properly unpacked’ at Cecile’s home-away-from-home…’
‘The one in Nebraska? (…) For how long?’
‘A semester, maybe more… Cecile had plans for Mo’reen’s future, big ‘for life!’ plans. That girl has potential, (…) I am talking about her career here… She has potential and Cecile recognized it and has been working on it for the past year or so, all those special and very boring private classes that she made Mo’reen undergo were for that, but she was still reluctant in making Mo’reen go live so far away from here… She’s her favorite one after all. And we… Okay, ‘I’ just made her finally put those plans in motion. And before you say it, let me remember you that, aside her incredible flexibility and stamina that are a fun challenge to us all, Mo’reen also has an Ivy League diploma in…’
They talked a little more and she closed the call still pondering if ‘it’, her plan and all the lies that came with it, was the best way to do what she should do…
And then she sighed, grabbed six pre-cuts coils of rope and a roll of microfoam tape and decided to do a better job with those two… They were almost demanding it, and she would put her mind at ease, out of the turmoil it was immersed in, while she cared for the proper restraining (and more) of such lovely submissives, who had no say in the matter until she got exhausted from her efforts, at around 3 AM!
She basically collapsed in between the now semi-mummified (their bellies were free) pair of friends, who then looked at each other’s and at their own tape bonds and sighed, as little as they could now, and Heidi tried to say something to her friend, to which Tanya (who somehow understood the feeble mumbling as a mocking question to their sanity) answered with a nod, they tried to giggle and next they went to find a more comfortable position to sleep as they sort of ‘sandwiched’ their ‘captoress’…
Morning came and she and her guests had a good breakfast, followed by some exercise at the gym room and a lot of talking, interrupted by the text message Heidi’s boss sent to her with the big news, which prompted a long discussion about Heidi (and Mo’reen and Tanya)’s immediate future. It’s not that Heidi did not trust her (or Cecile), but it was all so sudden that she had more than just reservations about leaving town.
Honoria arrived for lunch and, while they ate and had some coffee afterwards, through a long reasoning in which she did not gave any hint as to ‘why’ the girls should comply to their plan, but that they really should do it for themselves and all their friends’ safety, including Sarah, she convinced them both (and got to play with them alone for the whole evening as her reward). From them on, the weekend was kind of the ‘calm before the storm’ for Sarah… (For Heidi and Tanya it was pure bliss).
Cecile sent her (at around 9 PM) the pictures of Mo’reen’s arrival at her new home, and for a moment she thought about dispatching the pair of friends in the same fashion. But Cecile owned a jet and a ‘fancy’ delivery truck (the latter just for the purpose of making her girls ‘travel in style’ to any gathering she would attend), she did not.
Still, she made arrangements for the upcoming trip of her guests…
Monday morning came and she, with the surprisingly discreet and invisible assistance of two of Whitney’s gorilla-like bodyguards (the smaller one was 6’5”!); who would sit right behind the pair during the flight, take them to a safe spot and ‘prepare’ them, then drive both girls to their ‘fate’ at ‘The Pink Barn’. Lastly they ‘stay around’ for the entire duration of their stay there, not that the ‘Barn’ hadn’t a good security system, they did, but Cecile did overdo every once in a while; solved that part of her concerns.
One hour later, she met ‘Bugs’ Kremp right there at one of the airport’s restaurants’ private cabins… First he promised to check if a meeting as the one she was asking for was possible. Next he showed her the proofs he had collected until that moment. Lastly he confirmed the hour of the gathering at Honoria’s house and left.
She spent the day working at some cases at her office, fortunately she wasn’t dealing with anything really big for the next month (nor anything spectacular arose that day in her cases), and by 7 PM she went home to get ready for that night.
She had a good dinner at a restaurant downtown before she went to Honoria’s house one hour before she was supposed to. They rehearsed their lines with Kara’s help (who at the moment was just wearing the maid dress), and when Anastasia (and ‘Bugs’) showed up, both Honoria and Kara excused themselves and left her alone to greet the two newcomers. A small talk, in which Anastasia showed to them both that she did knew whom he was (and how deep was her knowledge), and Kara (somehow managing to not trip or fall even overly restrained as she was) appeared.
Sometimes she wondered what kind of day-to-day activities happened between those walls, to make a woman become so expert at hopping with her legs almost melted together while wearing stilettos and opening doors with her hands trapped behind her back… And how could Honoria be so lucky to have such an… apt assistant?
But she also knew, and hoped that Anastasia did not, that showing Kara (or any other girl, alone or together) attired and bound in such a fetishistic way was Honoria’s decoy.
‘Look at her’, ‘look at the girl almost showing her big boobs and behind under all that… whatever I restrained her with’, ‘don’t look at me’…
She only used that ruse when she was so nervous that she, a natural horribly bad liar, had to somehow divert the attention of whoever she was supposed to be speaking with to the bound and gagged (dressed or nearly naked) girl(s) in the room…
It had worked twice with her before she got wise to it…
After the meeting, and with Honoria clearly distraught with the idea of taking part in an international kidnap plot (for starters!), Sarah and Anastasia excused themselves and Sarah (sort of) coerced Anastasia to walk with her a couple of blocks to her own home, where they would have a few drinks and discuss their criminal plans.
‘You saw it, didn’t you?’
‘I take that Kara wasn’t tied up as we just saw when you arrived there?’
‘Not even close! Sure, she was wearing that revealing costume, and the heels, but she had complete freedom of movements and speech. (…) So how many times did she…?’
‘She fooled me a couple of times, before I realized why she had to… put Kara in such displays of helplessness! She’s so honest with her feelings and emotions!’
‘And Kara is so devoted to her… You think that one day they will be a… couple…?’
‘Nah…, but Kara is most likely Honoria’s sole heiress…’
‘She knows something…’ – Anastasia said with a quizzical look in her face.
‘So do I… but from my part, it’s only a few tidbits of info…’
Anastasia stopped in her track abruptly and placed her left hand over Sarah’ chest while looking at her in a bad way. She merely looked her hand before answering.
‘Not in public you fool… I tell you what I know but not in public.’
Anastasia removed her hand and they switched their conversation to baseball, none of them was interested in the subject but at least they were talking to each other while they made the short walk. They got into her three stories home, she told Anastasia to make herself comfortable and then she prepared a strong drink to… to…
Oh dear, yeah, to her friend!
‘Anything wrong?’ – asked Anastasia with a concerned expression in her face.
‘Hmmm? No… Totally unrelated business that popped in my mind out of nowhere, just because… never mind. He’s not worth it… Ready? (…) Reverend Paul Ramsdale…’
‘The Hogan’s preacher? What about him?’
‘He’s… involved… I can’t tell you how much because, honestly, I don’t know much… But he is involved, that’s for sure! Perhaps not directly, perhaps not even consciously, he might be being manipulated (but I doubt that possibility more than any other!), but it all goes down, according to some of my sources… to the upcoming mayoral election and the support or condemnation of that church…’
‘Do I need to remind you how much that older brother of yours is quite the conservative dream of a candidate? Married with a couple of kids, a very successful businessman who is beloved by his employees, religious guy, good looking and quite unable to say something absurdly stupid no matter how much his detractors try to force him to? Not mention that he’s rich… and has connections all over town?’
‘But Henry would never accept the support of a ridiculous freak like Ramsdale!’
‘Nor would he ever become an easy target to his ‘Fight the devil’s work!’ sermons…’
Then it dawned on her guest…
‘You think that… the idea was to find something…’
‘…with me and a girl, or many girls… as my… (…) Pictures and perhaps movies …?’
‘And thus implode Henry’s bid for the Republicans’ ticket in town? They could use it for blackmail as well… hell, given the look of how much nastiness we can expect for this year’s election, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Democrats were the ones behind it all as they hoped to nuke Henry’s candidacy at the eve of the election!’
‘Hmmm, Carter… maybe, but Taggert and Lloyd would never sink that low. They are not saints, but they DO have limits… Carter… well maybe he could do it…’
Anastasia’s rebuttal led them to spend the next three hours discussing what little Sarah (who drank only iced tea) could tell about the evidences (all real and true, thanks to Jules and Bugs) she had of Ramsdale’s tangential involvement in the events of over a week before. By 4 AM Sarah carried Anastasia, who admittedly had more than a couple of glasses of wine, bridal style into one of the guestrooms and told her to enjoy some sleep after covering her and giving her former rival a light kiss in the front.
Next she went into her own room and had a long cold shower…
She felt so dirty! Manipulating somebody who trusted her the way that she had just did!
She needed a hundred showers more! But, who knows, maybe that way…
No… She wasn’t going to do that. She had just showed Anastasia a path to follow, and if by any chance it went wrong and Annie… Annie? Anastasia!... would still be ‘in the dark’… then she would be forced to be really honest with her!
For the next two weeks, Sarah was involved in a serious and unexpected development of an important case (which helped her settle satisfactorily the matters for her clients outside the court), and was prevented to meet Anastasia as regularly as she wanted to.
Meanwhile, Anastasia cashed in many favors all kind of people in town were owing her, and ended up owing a lot to some of her former debtors, but with that she got a better picture of the whole story. Indeed, it was all about politics!!!
Local and state political VIPs meeting people that they should not meet, or that they could but at odd hours in odd places. Gossips and more gossips about Ramsdale and his followers (and the police and the mayor’s own candidate)… she got a lot of info!
That did not made any sense…
Very few people knew that she was a lesbian, but once Henry had declared to his family that he was going to enter the race, last Thanksgiving at his estate, she knew all along that it could, and most likely it would, be exposed to the public in less favorable lights.
But would it be such a problem to Henry’s ambitions?
Everybody knew that Ramsdale would condemn to the fire pits of Hell anyone who dared to vote in a candidate who had a gay or lesbian third-cousin-of-the-neighbor-of-an-old-college-buddy’s-former-girlfriend’s-ex-coworker’s, he actually came (for real!) close to that in the last election, so only the fringiest fringe sucker of the religious fringe would actually care for her sexuality when it came down to vote next Fall!
Her mementos, pictures and movies and such of her experiences with all the girls she had have sex with, or just tied up and gagged, were kept under maximum lock and key in the ‘apartment’ (technically speaking, it had been turned into a bank-vault-like thing) right below her bedroom! Compromising documents of any sort? She had none.
All the letters and pictures she had with… Meriam… She had burned them all years ago, including the ones Hristo (she couldn’t believe how much she missed that creepy one-eyed former mercenary Bulgarian!) had recovered from the personal safe of her father’s former business partner… No, and there was nothing in the safe (on the wall, behind the mirror facing her bed) that could explain the whole conspiracy…
Could it be possible that she actually had something very important and & or hazardous, to Henry’s upcoming political career, inside her apartment that she didn’t knew about?
To check that possibility she reviewed, for the first time in a decade, all the letters and pictures she had kept with her, either at the penthouse or in the ‘apartment-vault’ below her feet. Aside for the fact that she spent three days camping down at Memory Lane with her late parents (and her ‘childself’), and she had no regrets for that, the whole thing had not produced any real clues... Except for the fact that she was now sure that she had missed something, a letter or maybe a picture that, at least, she should have been able to put her hands on in her search/’camping trip’…
But what was it?
All she knew was that: There had to be something in her home that someone linked, or not, to that pulpit weirdo wanted so desperately… someone who had lots of powers and connections. She knew that, but she did not know what or where it was!
She thought about getting in touch with Henry and explaining to him, through a very edited version that is, what had happened that night and why…
But decided against it, she would probably warn whoever else was in the campaign, and was in cohorts with her former boss, that she was in his/her/their trail…
They had managed to force her former secretary (and friend) to betray her!
Next, she tried to get in touch with her sisters and little brother. Timothy was in Naples, Emma and her latest beau (a Rugby player) were enjoying the Riviera and Elinor (of all the names of her favorite books’ heroines, how could their mother choose that one for her last daughter? Ellie was anything but the Jane Austen’s character she honored!) was somewhere in a sub-Saharan African country, taking pictures of (dangerous) animals in a reserve. And all were incommunicado as usual (she almost wished that they did their regular crashing at the older sister’s home unexpectedly routine!)…
And then Sarah solved all problems of one of her major clients, they had to write a few big checks but would avoid bad publicity and even jailtime for some of the members of their board. They celebrated at ‘Le Corbeau’ (A French cuisine restaurant inspired in Alan Poe’s works? Where did she found those things?) and Sarah invited her to it.
They had a few drinks afterwards in the penthouse, and it was then that Sarah revealed that ‘Bugs’ had, through an unsuspecting junior member of her firm whom he had visited under the guise of a nonexistent burglary, the girl confessed to her that they had have a very good time (that almost made the rope marks bearable, he shouldn’t have tied her so tightly!), managed to get in touch with her…
The O’Connells had been found!
But there was this slight twist in the plans…
ONE WEEK AGO
Of all the things that she had done in her career, to meet a criminal on the loose wasn’t a novelty. To meet a criminal on the loose in the middle of a criminal activity of which he or she is taking part of? It had happened a couple of times…
To meet a criminal on the loose, right in the middle of a series of criminal activities of which he or she is taking part of, following HER wishes/orders, and ending up taking part of the aforementioned criminal activities, with some witnesses/victims around?
That was a first…
They were somewhere upstate New York, inside a hangar, and it was still night.
She was massaging her right wrist; even padded those cuffs had been cutting the bloodstream; when she got out of the SUV and saw them… Four women, two in their early twenties, one in her mid-thirties and another one in her early forties.
The two younger women had been crying a lot, the mid-thirties woman was staring defiantly at everyone in the hangar and the early forties was half resigned/ half curious (?) (about her situation/future maybe?), and they were obviously the crew of the modern Learjet that was being cared for by a team of nonchalant mechanics…
That was what struck the oddest to Anastasia, the four captive women were still wearing their uniforms, the two stewardesses (the redhead with short hair and a lot of freckles and the tall Asian woman with dyed blonde hair) and the two pilots (both women had black hair, but the mid-thirties had the less curves of any captive while the early forties was chubby) and, while the (blue/black?) jackets/suits had been removed, the white shirts had not been unbuttoned nor their (black?) skirts lowered leaving them heavily taped up and gagged in their underwear, the only piece of clothes missing were their caps, piled besides rolls of tape over a desk behind the quartet. Still, here was a group of (at the very least) good looking women totally helpless… and all those masked guys were not even leering at them? Could it be possible that she was actually here?
Somebody, one of the masked gals, offered her a plastic cup with water.
‘What’s this? Who are they? What’s going on?’ – She asked after drinking all the water.
‘They are the crew of a friend’s jet who had an unfortunate attack of conscience…’
The voice came from her left, but she was sure that there was no one there when she got out of the car, and now there he was. Tall, imposing and very dangerous…
Deborah Christine Immoden.
She had read many files about her, visited a few websites devoted to her (or her arrest), and even had a talk with the directors of the documentary about her (‘Many Names to Call a Mystery’)… still, there was no way she could be ready to be next to her!
Who was handing her… a tablet?
There was a video (which lasted for over 4 hours) in its screen, paused a little above 1h20m, and it showed the pilots and the stewardesses inside the pilot’ cabin, apparently the camera was at the right of the pilots’ seats.
The mid-thirties woman seemed to be in the middle of a speech/talk. She looked at Deborah, then at the captives and pressed ‘play’.
‘…and I don’t care how much we are getting paid! They are kidnapping that girl!’
‘Look, Amber, I know that this is truth, but what can we do?’ – asked the redhead.
For a moment all women stopped talking and pondered their next move.
‘We could try to get in touch with the authorities…’ – said the early forties pilot.
‘Forget it! We are not even halfway our trip. Any attempt to contact anyone will trigger a signal and they will know it. Unless you girls are great fighters…’ – cut the tall Asian.
‘What would make the boss be involved in such a thing?’ – asked the other stewardess.
‘Who knows… Hey! I got it!’ – And ‘Amber’, the other pilot, remembered the others about the cabinet where their boss, whom she dubbed ‘such a hypochondriac’, stashed all kinds of medicine. She stood up and left for a moment with the company of the… Korean (?) girl, and they returned five (fast forwarded) minutes later with a glass of water and some medicine that the Korean made, under the supervision of somebody that Anastasia could not see, the oldest woman in the room drink after she put three drops in the glass. Whoever was behind them left and they relaxed.
‘What did I just drink?’
‘Vitamin C, Nadine, just that… Soo distracted them while I grabbed this…’ – And ‘Amber’ showed to the others a blister pack with a few caplets in it.
‘Is this what I think it is?’ – asked the redhead.
‘Yup, last May’s nighty night’s drug of that cheater! One caplet and even the ‘big one’ will be sleeping like that blonde they kidnapped…’ – answered ‘Soo’.
The stewardesses high-fived, the pilots complimented each other and they all developed a plan. In thirty minutes the stewardesses would make coffee and would offer it to their boss ‘friends’, and in thirty-five they would be contacting the Canadian authorities!
(After another flash-forward…)
The girls left saying that they would prepare the coffee, a few minutes later a woman (mid-twenties blonde and wearing tight fitting blue clothes, that T-shirt was two sizes too small!, appeared in the screen) showed up at the cabin, something was wrong with her friends and the stewardesses; maybe they would have to contact ‘Mrs. D’ and have a doctor ready when they arrived. She made a few questions about how fast the jet could be and how long it would take to arrive to their destination, and left in a hurry.
Puzzled, the pilots looked at each other.
‘What do you think that happened?’ – ‘Amber’ asked.
‘I don’t know… Can you handle the controls for a moment?’
‘Amber’ nodded and the slightly chubby pilot left the cabin.
Three minutes later, Deborah (wearing a brown wig and big shades) and the sultry blonde entered the cabin. ‘Amber’ tried to protest when the blonde sat in the vacant pilot seat, but then she raised her hands (a hand with a gun appeared behind Deborah), babbled something as Deborah gave her passage and left the cabin. Deborah asked the blonde girl if she really could land the jet at the coordinates and she nodded, they shared a kiss and the blonde, with a dreamy gaze, was left alone in the cabin.
Anastasia stopped watching the feed and looked at the four captives, she felt a light tap in her right shoulder and then she handed the tablet back to Deborah (without taking her eyes from the captives) and asked her what would happen to them.
‘Transportation for all four will arrive in a few minutes; they will be taken to a facility where they will spend the next ten days being cared for…’
‘You DO have storage compounds for the people you kidnap?’
‘It’s not a web myth, but a fact, as they will soon find out… And so will you if you fail to explain to me why I should this ‘dumb idea’ bear fruits…’
She looked at her left and the blonde girl was blocking her passage, next she looked at her right and saw two brunettes (also wearing T-shirts one or two numbers short… of the same model and color?) blocking that side (and one of them was toying with a roll of red tape in her hands), and she was with her back to the car…
‘It’s not a du… we didn’t mean to offend anyone… But in order to lure whoever was behind the facts… (…)? ‘Bugs’ didn’t tell you about it?’
‘I am more interested in what you have to say about all this. Thanks to those four over there my involvement, which was supposed to be incidental at best, became much more prominent. I am involved now, and I don’t like it…’
Anastasia’s answer was to look at all the other women surrounding them, and then back at Deborah. She looked at her for a moment and then raise her left hand.
‘Fine… Girls, give us some privacy, please.’
And the blonde, the two brunettes, and even the driver and the black ‘bodyguard’ who had ensured her blindness and deafness during the hours long trip from Buffalo, moved away from the black SUV. The blonde and the ‘bodyguard’ proceeded to escort/force at gunpoint the four captives back to the jet, while the two brunettes went to talk with some of the masked guys, wait a moment... where did the other men all went to?
There were less than half of them now! And where was the driver?
She heard an harrumphing, and then Anastasia spent nearly two hours explaining to the notorious criminal what had happened, from the very first ‘Saturday Poker Night’ to the moment ‘Bugs’ got in touch and gave Sarah the news about the O’Connells.
Deborah barely intervened, just to demand a few specific details here and there, until she was apparently satisfied with Anastasia’s answers.
She opened the door of the SUV and Anastasia took the clue, the two brunettes entered after her and flanked her, and one of them was holding the tablet. This time she wasn’t restrained in any way, they even offered refreshments (the early thirties one at her right, ‘M’, even offered to take a sip first). ‘B’, the younger one at her left, then asked her if she wanted to watch some stuff while they waited ‘the boss’ (whom they saw entering the jet before the doors of the SUV were closed) to decide on her fate…
First they showed her a mini-movie and a series of pictures detailing the arrival of Melissa O’Connell at the hangar, somewhere in Ireland, after she was captured by the men she had hired, probably as she was sleeping (she was wearing white pajamas).
Even bound as she was; ankles, above the knees, from her waist to above her bust in sort of a chaotic way (unlike her other bonds, the loops of rope weren’t exactly parallel), then her wrists and elbows; she was really feisty and furious (was one of the masked guys, all wearing cheap street clothes, massaging his chin in that picture?).
It was clear that she had put on a fight while being gagged as well (with tape wrapped around her head and part of the packing showing above her chin), which ended up messing her hair a lot. Next they showed her pictures of the flight.
Melissa had been drugged and stripped naked, and spent the whole flight strapped in a seat with a nurse (?). A nurse (a petite Japanese/Korean girl in her twenties who was wearing a white and pink nurse uniform, not a real one, but neither a too fetishistic one) whom, as she was told by ‘B’, was there only to care for Melissa’s needs after she was ‘put down’. Two pictures of the jet’s crew (taken after their plan had failed) were next.
One row of seats occupied by crying and desperate stewardesses followed by another row, with ‘Amber’ being scolded by the other pilot’s eyes.
‘Last but not least…’ – grinned ‘B’ as she selected another mini-movie.
‘Wait, I don’t want to hear the creep’s speech again… go straight to the fight!’
Having no say in the matter, Anastasia could only see the girls’ arguing until ‘B’ put on a pair of headphones and started the movie, fast-forwarding it at random intervals until she put the timer of the video at 09:38. It seemed to be a parking lot, she could see a car or two, but the focus of the lens was in a couple facing each other.
With the corner of her eyes Anastasia saw tidbits of an obvious discussion between ‘Bugs’ Kremp and Melissa’s mother. And then…
‘…if she’s harmed in any way…’
‘Like I would like to wake up one day and see Liam O’Connell in my room and all my guns vanished! Our job was to deliver her to those who will take care of her for the next few days, and make sure that Liam is NOT among those who will travel back to the States after her. In ten days, wherever they end up hiding back in the East Coast, they will get a phone call. That room of that hotel in that city over there… they go there and there she is. Maybe, if I know who took her, she’ll be ‘wrapped up’ for delivery. But that’s it. She’ll be safe; she won’t have any scar including any inside her mind…’
‘But in order to make it happen me and my boys will have to make it look like we don’t know that, that we want to know her whereabouts as much as we will want to, and for that we will get back in touch with the millionaires who hired us in the first place?’
‘Exactly. Hey… You were the ones that put yourselves in that mess!’
‘You dare to lecture me…?’
‘Did you or did you not knew that those who paid you believe that they are both in a religious mission and a political quest? Did you or did you not?’
Eleanor O’Connell tried to answer, but couldn’t. And if Anastasia was right the word that she had mumbled (in a mute admonition to herself) was… POLITICS!!!!!
‘And Liam will not be allowed to travel to the US…?’ – she asked.
They both looked over the woman’s right shoulder.
‘You really fear him that much?’
He waited for her to be looking at his face before he answered.
‘As much as I fear the guys and gal I hired to make sure that he’s going to spend some time with plaster in his arms and legs’ – It was his turn to look over his shoulder and point at two people that whoever had recorded it did not bother to aim the lens at – ‘Those two are among the best sharpshooters I could have hired to put a bullet in his spine from 300 yards or meters or whatever, but those three over there forbid me to do that. I hired them and they gave me that order, ‘no bullets on Liam’s body’, any of your sons could be still shot if needed be, but not Liam. They are the best fighters my side of the Atlantic Ocean has to offer. Forget that ridiculous MMA’ stuff. Like your son, any of them can beat any ‘champion of the world’ with their hands bound behind their back! And they would like to have a fight with Liam. Simple like that.’
‘All three at once against my little boy?’
That’s when something happened, the camera shifted from the two to a spot in what she could see looked like a small stone wall of a rural property. And she saw two men (one Japanese and the other white) and a black woman playing… rock-paper-scissors?
The Japanese won, he handed his jacket and blue T-shirt to the other man, took off his tennis shoes and exchanged something funny with the black woman before he walked to the point where ‘Bugs’ and Eleanor had had their talk.
He was wearing only black trousers when he got there, and Liam was arriving too (dressed in a similar fashion, but with blue trousers). They barely bowed to each other and the most brutal fight Anastasia ever witnessed started.
No one could fake a fight like that. That was really blood! That too! That was a broken leg! And Liam still fought hindered as he was! He managed to break the Japanese’s right arm, but then his other leg was fractured and his mother showed up, ending the fight while he yelled at her that he could still beat ‘Norita’. She slapped him, twice, and only then he allowed his brothers to carry him out of the parking lot.
‘I agree. Fighting a guy that literally can’t feel pain and is a great barehanded fighter… Norita does deserve his fame, and so does Liam…’
Where… from where had she come from? And where were the two brunettes?
‘How did you…?’
‘Practice. Training and practice. But enough about me… I talked with my boss, who is (by the way) watching us as we speak. Your story seems to hold true. The crooked DA, the Hogans, the O’Connells… everything was confirmed. So please explain to us why we should you use our reputation in your plans against your unknown enemies…’
At first, Anastasia thought that Deborah meant that the camera in the tablet was ‘on’ and transmitting, but she was corrected when the taller woman pointed to the driver’s seat.
Right above it there was indeed (now no longer disguised) a camera.
‘Whoever was behind the organization of whatever was attempted that Saturday night, and I believe we are talking about a group of people, they are still out there. They are in hiding and, since they did not achieved whatever was their goal…’
‘It’s still not our problem…’
‘I… I can pay. Name your price and…’
The look of disapproval in Deborah’s eyes was very eloquent!
‘Do you want to try it again?’
She talked with Deborah for nearly an hour. The hardest sale she ever tried! In the end all she got was a ‘You will be informed when the boss reaches a decision…’, and then the two brunettes were back and prepared her for the trip back to Buffalo.
Padded and locked blindfold, earplugs, three strips of tape over her lips, padded cuffs on her wrists (in front) and rope above her knees, and another rope connecting the last two.
The trip was uneventful, and before she realized, she was back to the parking lot of the mall she had been picked by those henchwomen… five hours earlier. There was a car there, waiting for her? She approached it, and saw that Sarah was at the wheel.
They rode in silence, back to the hotel in Buffalo’s downtown area. Only when they were in Sarah’s room is that she told her everything and, to her surprise, when she started to talk about Deborah and her natural domineering presence…
To which Sarah answered with ‘Don’t I know that…’!
‘What do you mean?’
‘Remember that case in which we found ourselves, as usual, in opposite sides about two years ago? The Roothrop Will’s murder case? She, or the Duchess, had interests in the matter. I was with a girl whose name I will not give to you, we were… just starting and suddenly there are two pair of hands grabbing me, pulling me off my bed, binding and gagging me, and when I managed to look at… her… there was another woman just finishing to reinforce the job I had done with… the girl. I was sort of dragged/carried to my own kitchen and there she was, ‘Double Deal’ or ‘Demoted’ or…’
‘And…?’ – asked Anastasia a bit exasperated.
‘She wanted to know… stuff.’
‘Attorney-client privilege… I did not broke it even being a prisoner in my own house, ‘Daredevil’ Debs Immoden and five very mean looking women in charge of the whole situation and with a totally innocent girl under more than possible treat against her well-being, so forget it. (…) But as it turns out, she was testing me…’
‘(…) I am talking too much! She was testing me because she had something that she wanted that my client knew ASAP. And she wanted to know if I was trustworthy…’
The Roothrop Will Case… Dean Roothrop had killed his father’s attorney and two of his secretaries when he was surprised trying to peek at his grandfather’s will…
No one had ever been able to discover what the attorney or the secretaries were doing at his office at that hour (3:20 AM), especially given the fact that all three had left their homes and beloved ones unexpectedly, rushing to the office so fast that two of them got tickets for ignoring the traffic lights, and without any apparent reason…
‘And after that?’
‘They took the girl with them when they left, morning came and I, after finally finishing to free myself, it took four hours!... I rushed to ***** so I could meet Dean. As soon as I left the prison, I got this message: ‘Good job’, with a picture of…’
‘I know that you’re talking about Cammi.’
‘Camille Perkins, about that time there was the rumor that she had been taken by…’
‘Whoa! For your information…, that deliciously sweet Kentuckian was with Larry Balk when Deborah just had to make Larry ‘get in touch’ with one of his clients… It did happen just as she told everybody; she was a captive of the fantastic Debs Immoden for over a week (with or without all those… graphic details?), but she was with Larry… a MAN, when she was ‘wrapped up for a quick trip to Heaven’ and… Are you trying to make me say her name? So you can call or meet her and check for yourself if…’
‘Guilty as charged…’ – Anastasia said with a grin, and had to dodge a big pillow Sarah threw at her. She threw another at her, they armed themselves and a short and ridiculous pillow fight ensued before they sat side by side on the floor, both were too tired to ‘keep doing that dumb thing’, and shared a bottle of wine while they talked about their impression of the woman she had just met, and Sarah again refused to tell Anastasia the name of the girl Deborah kidnapped back then, next Sarah bid her ‘good day’, a quick kiss and both went to sleep in their separate rooms.
Somehow, actually thanks to a pill that Sarah slipped on the sly in her drink, Anastasia managed to sleep minutes later. Sarah did not, so she made a phone call to Honoria.
THREE HOURS LATER…
‘I am not sure about that…’ – said Debs.
‘I know… Political games and all… But we owe her…’ – answered the Duchess.
‘I already paid her!’
‘Do we have to have that conversation again?’
‘(…) Well… Yes?’
‘No we don’t. (…) Deborah, be honest with me… I know that whoever were the girls you sent to her home a couple of months later, that no matter how attractive and pleasurable they were, when you told them to fulfill her dreams, you were paying Sarah for her help on your own, right? I had nothing, NOTHING, to do with that payment…’
‘Well… yes… The girls liked her by the way… but we’re talking about politics here!’
‘Which, if true, would violate the one of the most important among the rules I have set for myself and this organization a long long time ago. ‘Never play political games, especially other people’s political games’… But that’s not the case is it? (…) Is it?’
Deborah took a full minute to answer. She contemplated every angle of the current ‘out-of-ordinary affair’ her boss had put her in (not against her will). It was a political game, a nasty one, but only on the surface. Deep down it was much more simple.
A f*****g crusader that was threatening the lives of people somebody they were in debt with, big time!, cared for and she had asked for their help. It was about paying a debt, against the favorite kind of loser she loved to meet…
But they had never done that in that scale…
‘As soon as I dealt with Melissa’s fate I put this jet back in air and I am flying to Italy as we speak. By midnight, I will talk to her. My arrival is due in two and a half hours.’
‘Remember, as much as you know about Melissa O’Connell…’
‘…she is not to be harmed. Seriously harmed.’
‘Deborah…’ – started a not-so-surprised Duchess.
‘Before the jet lifted off, I contacted two ladies that I dispatched to Canada a week ago. They already are where Tammy and Lina will take her, she owes them a lot of grief and self-despise, and I care about my girls’ feelings. But don’t worry, tickling and spanking, nothing else… She deserves it. (…) Another thing, any luck with the investigation?’
‘None. He was not exactly a saint, but all his mistakes and even crimes were exposed by the media a long time ago and the public in general doesn’t care much about them, ‘old story and he is already dead’... What we managed to uncover so far would be but tiny dots over his reputation… Which means that we are talking about something private.’
‘Don’t worry… Let’s see, I am going to call you by 01 AM local time…’
‘It’ll be 06 PM in Kansas City.’
‘Kansas City, Kansas? (…) Wait a minute! I thought that we had agreed that…’
‘No, YOU told me that it was a ‘bad idea’, I told you that I would think about your objections, and so I did… And I decided to follow the original plan…’
‘If you are going to do what you want anyway, then why ask my opinion about it?’
‘Because, in 95% of the time, you are correct about any objection you may come with. This is one of the other 5%, but don’t worry, I won’t take any risk…’
‘That’d be the day!!!!’
But the crazy redhead that she was no longer used to call ‘boss’ just laughed…
And closed the call!
The rest of the trip was spent in rechecking the plans carefully, and getting the security in and around her boss’ destination doubled and tightened.
All the while, Deb couldn’t help but wonder what would be her boss/friend(?)’s reaction the moment she realized that, for once, she had been fooled by her employee…
THAT SAME DAY, SOMEWHERE IN LIGURIA – 11:15 PM
She awoke with a start, after she realized that her hands were crossed and bound in front and there was something over her lips. She was in Francesco’s room, but where was…?
‘Are you alright?’
There was a woman in the room with her. A tall and dangerous one. Even if she wasn’t carrying one… no, two weapons with her, and they were in the middle of the street in broad daylight, she’d be very intimidating. And yet… she knew her?
‘I hope you don’t try to scream…’
And the strip was off (…Ouch? Should it not had stung a little?).
‘My name is…’
‘Deborah… ‘Dirty Deal’ Immo… Immo… Immo…?’
‘Immoden, Ms. Emma. Deborah Immoden, how do you do?’
Was she serious?
‘Er… not so fine now…’ – And she raised her crossed hands. Deborah’s own ones were over hers and forced them… Oh, s**t!!!! Where were her clothes?
She was… naked! And with a notorious criminal… that was also a les…
‘Stop that. Whatever you are thinking now… Stop it. I am not going to hurt you. I will tie you up a lot more and gag you the way I see fit when it is time to leave, but for now, you will stay as you are. The reason why I took your clothes was simple, a cheap but very effective psychologic trick. You are naked, alone and vulnerable, with a known dangerous criminal as your only company, and no matter how good is your self-control, that usually leaves a lot less of room for you…’
‘To do what?’
‘To be able to lie to me and get away with it. I want some answers and you will give me them. After that… well you won’t be able to free yourself, so you’ll have to…’
‘Where are they? What have you done to Francesco and Bettina?’
‘Nothing. Bettina simply fainted as I grabbed her and Francesco was no match for my girls when they jumped on him. The lovely couple is sharing a bed in the guestroom in the ground floor, so you’ll have to hop or worm your way to there, and they will have to free you first, before you can return the favor to them…’
‘You only want… answers?’
‘Are you sure you overpowered the right **********? My older sister…’
‘I’ve met her yesterday.’
The hand (?) over her lips was made of what? Steel? And the way she was holding her hands down. She was putting so much strength on her body to twist & shake her torso and legs, and raise her hands while at it, and this… woman (?) was pinning her down with just her hands? Oh well… she wasn’t going anywhere…
‘Will you behave?’ – and she nodded in return, as little as she could.
‘You have met my sister?’
‘Yes. And if you are interested in the whys, hows and wheres you’ll be able to ask her in a few hours. But for now, no more screaming, or I’ll have to go to plan B, and instead of relying on your commitment to your friend and his late brother’s widow, and in their ridiculous need of secrecy… Hey, love happens, right?’ – And she nodded right away!
Well she had been trying to convince those two bullheads that the love they had for each wasn’t anything that anyone had a say about it. She had loved Marcello, he had died thanks to a ******* cancer (like her dad had), both had mourned him and then…
It had happened. Simple like that.
‘…So instead of my presence here being not known, I’ll make sure that the newspapers and the police and everybody else will know that I was here tonight, even if I have to tied up and rob every single person in this villa!’
‘Ok… Ok… I got it. I won’t scream. I promise… But…, did you really…?’
‘She asked for a favor to a person who occasionally works for me, said favor was of my interest so I decided to help her and, then, I realized that I had to talk to her… That is all that you will hear from me about that. Now, girl, do you happen to know that something really odd happened to her a few weeks back?’
And so Emma heard a very abridged version of the facts of that Saturday night, and heard a ton of question to which she, honestly, had no other answer but ‘I don’t know’, until Deborah had no more questions about her father’s business in the West Coast.
Sure, her curiosity started to build a momentum right then and (as Deborah untied her wrists, spun her around and started to… lasso her hands to the sides of her ass?) she started to think in the fastest way to return to the U.S.
Twenty minutes later she was grunting (behind two neatly folded socks kept inside her mouth thanks to a very long red scarf that, even wrapped like ten times around her head, was still big enough to both ends reach below her butt!) and trying to get up from the bed. Her ankles hadn’t been crossed, so she knew she would be able to hop.
After finally managing to stand up, she inadvertently looked at herself at the big mirror on the wall facing her bed, and started to think on how she would disguise the rope marks. The marks of the six or seven tight (but bearable) turns of the white rope around her ankles, below and above her knees and thighs (right below the… behind) could and would be hid behind a pair of trousers (maybe that tight fitting white one?).
The wrists would not be a problem since she had put those padded cuffs over each one, and the only reason why she couldn’t raise her hands from the sides of her body was that each ‘cuff’ had a ring on them, and the rope around her thighs had been passed through them as well. However, why did that… kinky criminal had lassoed her elbows the way she had? She turned around and peeked over her shoulder (and regretted it instantly; the thong of the green string bikini bottom that she had put on her before leaving, ‘for your modesty’!... BITCH!… was revealing some flaccidity…).
She had wrapped more rope around the rope between both arms? Well, whatever was the technique, the result was that she had an ungiving mix of a bar and an elbowcuff keeping her arms slightly closer at the elbows, which enforced her helplessness, bent her body a little in an arch shape and was surprisingly bearable.
To make things even ‘better’, the rope squashing her breasts was tied (tightly!) to the ‘bar/cuff’ so with every attempt to move her arms…
Blushing, she realized that she had more urgent matters to attend.
Like, trying to reach the guest room on the ground floor unnoticed, especially due to her current situation, and free her former lover and the girl he actually loved…
Why was she thinking about that night? They had have three great weeks together… and then he ruined it all by whispering her name in his sleep.
After throwing half the room upon his head she calmed down enough to hear him, had he have a sweet talk!, and every once in a while she was his ‘ragazza americana’ when their agenda allowed them to visit her villa ‘together’…
She was very careful and silent as she hopped through the floor’s corridor, down the stairs (on her butt) and back to hopping in the direction of the guest room, and arriving there realized she had been the victim of a practical joke.
Both Francesco and Bettina were fine, naked but unrestrained as they slept peacefully on the large bed. She carefully closed the door behind her and approached the door.
Francesco woke up, felt someone else in the room, waited for the barely discernible shadow (it was really dark in the room) to come closer, what was talking him/her so long?, and nearly tackled her before he realized who was the intruder and in which situation she was trapped in at the moment…
And then Bettina woke up… And Francesco sprung into action.
FOUR DAYS AGO – MORNING
‘But are you sure you’re all…’
‘HENRY!!!! I am not made of china! And… she wasn’t mean or anything. Sure, I do want to slap, kick and punch her, and wipe that grin from her face with some ferocity from my part!, but I have to admit that she tied me up, quite artistically as she seems to like… and that’s it. No sexual assault of any kind. She didn’t grope nor fondled me…’
Henry looked at Anastasia, who looked back at him, and they both relaxed at the same time. Elinor was the crazy one of the bunch, and the source of constant worry of her older siblings (AKA all the others!), but Emma was the frailest offspring of their father.
OK, she had been that, up to twelve years ago. But in their minds it was like yesterday!
For her part, Emma looked fine.
She had interrupted her ‘vacations’ with that Italian Rugby star (or whatever), after he publically admitted his romantic relationship with his sister-in-law, and through a series of cryptic phone calls she had managed to force Henry to suspend his campaign for a few hours, so he and Anastasia could meet her at her apartment downtown.
‘You too, Annie?’
‘Excuse me for caring about the fact that a known killer, kidnapper, thief, smuggler and who knows what else just bound and gagged a sister of mine in the buff!’
‘Annie… Henry… I am all right. She wanted some answers that I couldn’t give to her, I am not that great as an actress and she saw it. She had some fun by making me believe that my friends were her captives as well, which made me focus on them as she made her escape… Sneaky ****!... but the way she tied me up barely left any visible mark…’
Neither Henry nor Anastasia were buying it, so Emma grabbed her older sister by the hand and forced her to follow her into her own bedroom. Twenty minutes later, during which Henry did a long call to his campaign HQ, they were back.
Anastasia barely shook her head at her brother’s mute question after he closed the call.
‘And your friends, were they all right?’ – asked Henry.
‘Yes. Francesco was already undoing my bonds when Bettina woke up, and he had to jump on her so she couldn’t be able to awoke the whole city with another of her ‘CHE?!!!’ (in staccato!). And then both engaged in a discussion because that he/she was quicker than the other in the process of untying me, and the other ‘strongly disagreed with that’! I felt like a piece of meat as they unwrapped me, so I tried to protest… And she regagged me!!! They looked at each other and stopped their discussion, he bowed to her and gave her a long scarf, she said ‘Grazie’ and before I could really protest, she was wrapping it around my head while admonishing me to ‘not interfere’!!!! Around and around!! Five times!!! And they went back to their whispered discussion!!! He was a scout boy and she is the daughter of a sailor… He won.’
‘(,,,)? And Deborah’s questions were about…?’ – asked an amused Anastasia.
‘A lot of stuff that dad did or tried to do like ten years before… his death… with the Chinese and Japanese and some American folks from the West Coast, I think. I barely recognized a couple of names in the whole salad she gave me with her questions… Robert Loomis and a company called North Star Shipping Co.?’ – She asked Henry.
‘Wild Bob Loomis was a man that had a few deals with dad. Nothing serious or even relevant for both of them, a minor business partner in a couple of enterprises. He was also interested in stuff like skydiving and base-jumping, hence his nickname, and five years ago the parachute failed somewhere in Utah… As for the North Star… It was my first job for dad. They were trying to bamboozle him, and they managed to fool me…’
‘But not dad!’ – said both sisters at once.
‘No, nope…’ – Henry said after a loud sigh. He was the one that missed him the most…
‘One thing… which is the reason why I called you here, Henry, and especially you Annie. Before she started her questions, I told her… I mean, I asked her if she was sure that she had the right ********** sister under her power. I mean YOU Annie, you are the one that could have something that she could really be interested in hearing about, or learning or…. given your former job. But guess what, Henry?’
‘…?’ – Anastasia didn’t like the route the conversation had shifted to.
‘She told me that, a day before our… meeting; she had met… you…’
And, over the next hour and a half, Anastasia told her brother (and their sister) about the whole ‘Saturday Night’ Affair and its later development. A very edited and abridged version of it (for example, she omitted that Melissa’s kidnapping had been her idea).
‘But those poor women… Wait a moment, a whole women-only flight crew?’
‘I checked. Two pilots with the names ‘Amber’ and ‘Nadine’, plus two stewardesses like those… it took a while, I admit, but I found them. They are the crew of the private jet of a woman called Amara Mathieson McGill, a 63 years old CEO of an unknown (at least around here) chain of fashion retail stores, and on the board of a left-wing political organization which is more active in California, Nevada and Oregon. She’s currently at an hospital, undergoing a treatment that may or may not include a transplant. That part is true. Meanwhile, all the members of her jet’s crew flew to Ireland on some untold job for her and returned, that part is also true since I checked with Amara’ secretary, Milla something, she told me that they were helping Amara ‘to pay an old debt’, and now all are at a ‘spa’ were they will spend the next two weeks being ‘lavishly pampered’ while incommunicado. All women’s Facebook accounts have the same wording and the posts were done in a sequence that lasted less than five minutes for all four accounts… But also the four of them are alone in the world. No families, no relatives of any kind… Not even pets! They could, and did, disappear from the world relatively unnoticed!’
‘So, basically, outside the Duchess’ organization, you were the only one that knew that they were kidnapped after unwillingly helping them in the kidnap of this Melissa?’
‘That sums it up, Henry.’
Henry stood up and went to the window, he spent a few moments watching the streets below and then turned to his sisters. Anastasia was holding a pen drive for him…
‘Everything you managed to find out about these O’Donnells?’
‘O’Connells. Everything that ‘Bugs’ Kremp found about them, everything I know about whoever tried to hack into my building’ security system, the Reverend and his (very thin) connections to the case… everything. I was hoping that you wouldn’t find out about this little problem of mine, but in case you did…’
‘Be prepared, and I am the one who was a Scout… Emma, I hope you don’t mind…’
‘Get outta here and go find who’s after her and for what, now!!!’ – ordered Emma.
‘I’ll keep you both updated…’ – He said before he waived a quick ‘goodbye’ at them.
He was already in his third phone call as he took the elevator surrounded by his staff…
The sisters then enjoyed a meal while discussing the upcoming wedding that Emma had been invited to before leaving Italy, and the circumstances the couple apologized for their kinky behavior towards her (BOTH had quite the ‘sweet talk’! They had reasoned it all so well that Emma almost felt guilty for interrupting their sleep!). Next then they spent several hours trying to figure out what exactly could be so important, and so secret, that people would want it that much, which could be in Anastasia’s possession…
Emma spent hours tempted to tell her big sister the truth.
But she had made a promise not to…
And, quite frankly, if Anastasia wasn’t so… stubborn in her self-pity and despise (it was fairly obvious that she still held some ‘guilt’…) she could have already realized what it was, maybe even where it was! But she hadn’t
And she had made a promise, to their father…
And she was going to be true to her word.
FOUR DAYS AGO – SUNSET
‘Bad news?’ – asked Ramsdale to the DA.
‘The worst. The O’Connells are in town. They have been for a while but only resurfaced today. They got in touch with Paul Hogan while he was jogging at the Independence Park. And they are mad. The girl we used to replace the one she choose that night was one of them, and she was kidnapped by a bunch of well trained AMERICAN criminals, and their most dangerous member is at a hospital with both legs broken… Apparently, he tried to stop the kidnapping from happening but… The Hogans are checking it as we speak, but apparently this is true: The Duchess is interested in this affair of ours.’
The mood of the cadre of VIPs reunited at the preacher’s home got somber as he told them more and more details. The O’Connells, by themselves, were not that much of a problem. They could be dealt with through the police or even ICE, or… Boss’ ‘guys’.
The Duchess’ involvement in the issue on the other hand…
‘This Duchess’ dame… isn’t she the one that yesterday…?’ – asked Mallard, member of the board of one of the most important banks in the state.
‘In Kansas City? Herself… she has been doing this ever since she illegally returned to the country after being banned thanks to that affair with a witness against her. Once a month she manages to appear in public in a very televised way…’ – answered Newton, the only woman in the room, and the founder of one of the town’s biggest companies.
‘What can you tell us about this dame?’ – Payne, sole heir of one of the biggest fortunes of the state, asked the DA. For the next thirty minutes, he managed to tell the others a good resume of the known heists, criminal activities and ties of her organization.
‘We are so F****D!!!!’ – said Harris, owner of the town’s most important newspaper.
‘Mind your tongue!’ – Ramsdale admonished him – ‘And, no. We are not. This woman and her organization are of little, if any, importance to us. What matters to me, to you, to you and everybody else in this room is that we get possession of those documents! The sooner the better! With those documents we can control Henry **********!!!!’
‘So says you…’ – ‘Boss’ (Alfred Bozinsky), a businessman from the docks and the only Jewish man in the room (who had a mutual dislike with Ramsdale), said out loud.
‘Excuse me?’ – Ramsdale said between gritted teeth.
‘Here we are, meeting secretly in your home, because a year ago you told us that there was a way to control one of the most promising political players of the state. We all joined your plans because we all believe that, with Henry on our side, our plans and hopes can bear fruits more effectively. But how can Henry ********** be controlled? ‘With some documents’… And of what ‘documents’ are you talking about?’
‘The essence of the whole affair is that the fewer the people knows about them the better for us, for all of us. You… all of you already know about their existence, and that is already too much! I can (but probably I should not) tell you that a source, really close to the late **********, told me about those documents and how important they…’
He realized how much had he talked! He was going to tell them almost everything, but not now. After he had the documents in his power, not before!
The next question was so obvious!
‘But what source is that?’ – Asked Lionel, a former surgeon well known in the whole town, in order to cut ‘Boss’ before he (again) started an argument with Ramsdale.
‘Please, Paul, give us just that. Who is this ‘source’?’ – asked Newton.
Ramsdale looked at all the thirteen men (and one woman) around him and conceded.
They were gathered around the table in the back room in the basement of his church. No one else but a few bodyguards, outside the room, in the whole building.
But he was not taking any chance… He grabbed the remote control and turned the TV behind Harris and ‘Boss’ on. He put it in the ‘mute’ mode, flipped through some channels, it was time for the news programs and there had been a rally today…
He found what he was looking for. Then he paused the image in the screen.
And everybody else’s eyes just bulged!
‘You gotta be kidding me!’ – said Harris.
‘No. I am not.’ – Ramsdale couldn’t help but exult, as all the others congratulated him, since they were thinking that the other person in the screen was his source!
The conversation was more… productive for Ramsdale from then on, and all agreed that the O’Connell Gang had to be dealt with, smoothly and swiftly.
FOUR DAYS AGO – NEAR MIDNIGHT
Emma was restless. She had gotten in touch with both Elinor and Tim about ten minutes after Francesco had ‘escorted’ her back to her room (it wasn’t really necessary, both knew that Deborah wasn’t going to be waiting for her at her room, and even if she was there was little that Francesco could do about it…), and had managed to make them swear that they would not talk to nobody (especially Anastasia and Henry) about their ‘sudden return’ to town. There was something more than just odd in the fact that one of the most wanted women in both sides of the Atlantic Ocean had just visited and made a lot of questions about her late father’s business, and had hinted that (maybe) she was going to visit the youngest offsprings of her dad as well…
So they had to get back to the US, pronto! And do that as secretly as possible. And, after the meeting with Annie and Henry, she was sure that she had to talk with them about those ‘documents’. She was sure that Annie had never even read her share of them, why she had done that was mystery but it did not matter at the moment.
What mattered was that those stupid planes were taking too long to land!
She was at her apartment, with Lorna and Shannon (her bodyguards, who couldn’t help but feel ashamed for having slept all through her ordeal) and was waiting for Elinor to arrive in… she was supposed to have arrived in town twenty minutes ago!
The phone rang. She stopped pretending to watch whatever Lorna (a mid-forties former military white gal from New Hampshire) had chosen for them to watch and went to the balcony to talk to Elinor. Shannon (another former military white woman, the taller of the pair, and from Iowa) was making some coffee for them in the kitchen.
The conversation was brief; some problem at the airport was delaying her and she didn’t know why she had to be so secretive about her return, but after a while, Emma managed to convince the stubborn-prone girl to just grab a cab before anything else.
When she returned inside, she found that there was a short blonde haired head making company to Lorna’s long black haired one. Shannon’s.
She found odd that they didn’t answered to her question about the coffee, so she got closer to the large sofa in front of the 55” TV, without realizing that, behind her, the curtains of the apartment’s door leading to the balcony were being closed.
Only when she was less than five yards is that she noticed the black thing at the mouth level on Shannon’s head. She nearly jumped to behind the sofa and got a better look. Both women were out cold, handcuffed with their hands in front and gagged with a wide strip of black tape. She was about to scream, but then she was airborne!
And those steel claws were back! Covering her mouth and holding her off the ground!
‘Don’t struggle, girl, I do not mean any harm to you… again.’
THIRTY-TWO MINUTES LATER
When Min-Ji decided to emigrate to the US, fresh from her military service in her native South Korea, she feared that, if she did pursue a career in some top security agency (she had a few ‘hot’ phone numbers), she would end up taking care of some rich b***h’s pet or something like that. Then, after passing in all the tests (especially the physical ones) with flying colors, she had been assigned to protect Elinor **********…
Sometimes she honestly thought that if she had ended as the babysitter of a Chihuahua covered in diamonds would have been a lot better! The girl was a crazy thrill-seeker danger-prone maddening uncontrollable chaotic force of nature!
And also the little sister she had never had…
They were friends (which was extremely unprofessional from her part), and she had managed to stay on the job for over a year (the usual for Elinor’s bodyguards was two months!), which meant that she probably would be assigned to her for life! If even after that illegal base-jump in Russia she hadn’t gave up on her assignment…
The elevator stopped and off she went, after throwing her share of her luggage on Min-Ji’s arms. Grinning, she dashed to the apartment’s door and, before Min-Ji could react or protest, was admitted inside. It was very difficult for Min-Ji to carry it all in the short distance to the front door. She felt more like an abused mule than the highly trained fighter that she was. And then a face popped up behind the door.
The woman was a new one, but was she made for the job!
Tall, strong, imposing and even threatening… She gave Min-Ji a little help, more than it actually (she took over half of the luggage from her hands and arms), as they walked from the entrance to the living room. There Min-Ji deposited her share of Elinor’s luggage on the floor and offered some assistance to the older woman.
‘Where is the other bodyguard of Ms. Emma?’
‘Inside. Let’s put this on the floor and meet, something bad is happening...’
The last of the luggage was now on top of the small pile made by the others, and the older woman gave her passage. And Min-Ji’s ‘7th sense’ kicked in as she took a step forward, which allowed her to duck a well placed punch that would have rendered her unconscious. She jumped backwards and faced the unknown assailant.
‘Inside her sister’s room. Don’t worry. I have no intent of threatening anyone’s lives tonight, but me, the sisters, and the brother that came to the world in-between their arrivals… well, I hope you don’t mind but the conversation we’re about to have is quite the private one. Nothing personal, but I’ll have to make sure you don’t interfere…’
‘Sorry… But I am paid for that!’
And the furniture of that room paid the toll for it… Heavily!
Afterwards, nine to ten minutes later, as she was stripping the now unconscious Korean woman and trying to ignore the pain in her left leg and ribcage, Deborah was in doubt and trying to figure if the now naked gal was that good or it was her whom, finally, was getting old? As she mused, she applied lots and lots of tape over Min-Ji’s limbs, making sure her hands were now useless, before she went back to Emma’s own bedroom.
Elinor was still out, and Emma (trapped in a light but ungiving hogtie by her sister’s left side) was still really mad at her. And in need of a better gag…
THREE HOURS LATER
The woman at the door was a new one thought Timothy as he was about to enter his sister’s home. Hristo saw her, dropped the luggage on the floor, grabbed his ward by the shoulder and threw him behind his own body, while grabbing his gun.
‘Knock it off, Hristo.’ – said the woman with a very bored expression in her face.
‘Make me, Deborah.’ – said Hristo pushing him even farther behind with his free hand, which made him fall on his butt on the floor.
Neither Hristo nor the woman seemed to acknowledge it.
‘What is going on? Where are my sisters’ – Asked Timothy as he sat on the floor, while he pulled his cellphone without taking his eyes of the scene in front of him.
‘Stop him… Hristo… What could be the only possible reason for me to be here?’
The ‘911’ had already been dialed, all he had to do was push a button… and then Hristo grabbed his cellphone. He wasn’t carrying his gun anymore.
‘It’s alright, Mr. Timothy. Under any other circumstance, I would have fired a couple of shots already. But this woman has a code of honor that she follows as best as I would in her situation. In spite of anything that we will see inside the apartment, she’s… ‘good’.’
‘Okay, okay…’ – and then he looked at the camera behind him and Hristo.
‘The night watchman is sleeping thanks to a sedative I slipped into his coffee, and the footage that the security firm is receiving from that camera is from an hour ago. At worst, you came right in front of this door, there was a long glitch and when the image returned, you were no longer in front of it. Please, come in…’
Hristo carried the small luggage inside the apartment. Both Timothy and Deborah went straight to Emma’s bedroom, but he decided to check on the girls’ bodyguards first.
He found them in one of the guestrooms.
Three women; a mid-forties body buider, a tall Japa… no, Korean, a tall Korean and the taller of the trio, a blonde gal with three… four Army tattoos on her limbs. All tightly hogtied (what mess was that with the ropes tying their wrists? Was Deborah trying to emulate the Gordian Knot?), but lightly gagged, in the buff and unconscious…
Drugged. There was a trio of syringes in the wastebasket by the bed.
It was Timothy. He was on the floor, in front of Deborah who stood between him and the large bed where his sisters were writhing on their bonds. They were wearing their underwear, classy on both cases but a bit… slutty in Elinor’s case (in his opinion), and were kneeling… a kneeling hogtie, and a tight one at that.
‘Was that really necessary?’ – he asked as he put his gun back in the holster.
‘What? Prevent him from freeing his sisters or making sure they stopped trying to free each other? And don’t tell anything about the amount of rope! They are eels!’
‘She means that they are quite slippery and able to free themselves very easily from less amounts of rope and knots over their arms or legs.’ – He explained before Timothy took offense with the comment – ‘In her… lingo, it is actually quite a compliment...’
Still, ten turns of rope over the calves and thighs, pressing the legs in a fold? And how much she had used in their ankles alone? And the arms! And their torsos! And…
How much rope has she used in both girls?
‘Are you sure that just five miles of rope for each girl, ten in total, will be enough?’
‘Please, Hristo. Yes, they are very pretty and yes, they look tempting in their current… fashion? But I did tie them up in a very good and efficient way for vanillas, next I had to take a phone call… Don’t bother, Hristo, easily disposable pre-paid phone… And when I returned Elinor had freed her hands and was almost freeing Emma’s! So I had to retie Elinor in a more restrictive way while Emma’s bonds got an… upgrade? Thirty minutes later I had to make another call, in another pre-paid phone, and I was out for six or seven minutes. And when I returned I found out that it was Emma’s turn to have her efforts to free herself and her sister thwarted by me… Thus…’
‘Vanillas? Why did you call my sisters that?’
‘She means people who have non-fetishistic sex lives…’
‘So… she’s implying… that you gals… are like…’ – Timothy started, and his sister’s well gagged faces got furious, they shook their head and next he was prevented to hear very foul names aimed at him thanks to all that red tape!
Hristo harrumphed loudly and the captives turned their attention to him.
‘Miss Elinor… Miss Emma… Are you in pain?’
Emma was honest and shook her head, Elinor tried to lie… but it would not be this time that she would finally manage to fool the Bulgarian professional in front of her.
‘Why did you strip their bodyguards completely?’
‘Eight razors, a few pins and some other stuff, all hid in their clothes or taped to their bodies. And you know me, ONE pin is enough to make me be really sure that…’
‘…There isn’t another hidden somewhere. Yes, I know…’
‘Alright, what’s going on?’ – Timothy asked as he now stood once more, while he tried to resist the urge to massage his chin. What was her fist made of?
Before she answered, Deborah took a couple of steps in the direction of the window, so she could face them all at once. Timothy stayed put. He was getting smart.
‘One month before your father died, he had a separate meeting with each one of his sons and daughters. While I don’t know exactly what he said, I know for a fact that he gave to each and every one of you three things: A letter, to be opened after he was dead (there was no way back from that stage); a portrait of him with the offspring he was giving it to, of various sizes and enclosed in a very special and thick frame; and some special documents, that were hidden inside the thick frame of the pictures…’
‘How do you know that????!!!!’
‘I had business regarding a statue of a pair of lovers… with Ken Vanderbur.’
‘Ooooohhh…’ – said Timothy aloud. His sisters tried to follow him, but were too well gagged for that. Still, the way the three siblings rolled their eyes synchronically…
Ken, or ‘Uncle Ken’ as they knew him, had been the man who had saved their father’s lives three (perhaps four) times while they were in Vietnam.
Their father had ‘paid’ for it by helping the trouble-prone airhead (but almost as good as their father in the line of business he chose after the war) to get out of every mess he found himself in almost until the day Ken died. The comical (after a while) confusions he had put their father through were now private jokes for both families.
And, a little before Mrs. Vanderbur finally managed to make her husband stop getting himself (and his buddy Henry) in one mess after another, there had been that Italian job that had reached the news. Something about a rich American trying to buy Renaissance sculptures that had been stolen from a museum like thirty years before… from a certain redhead Italian criminal that also happened to be of a ruined noble house.
‘Your father prevented me from getting arrested about a couple of hours after I did the same for him (and Ken). It could have stopped there, but… for reasons that maybe one day I will tell you, or you will find out through different sources, maybe not… it didn’t. The point is, your father was dying and he still had my number, he called me and asked me a favor. A favor that, he hoped, I would never need… Well, he had hopes that my presence in your lives would only occur if my boss wanted something from you, or you or you, and ‘you’ said ‘no’ to her forcing me to step in… But here am I, and here you are… Because of what is hidden in the portrait he gave to your big sister, Anastasia.’
‘The big one with all of us she has put on the wall facing the dinner table?’
She nodded. Timothy seemed to be relaxing. He looked at his left as he put his hands inside the pockets of his pants. They were pleading with very angry eyes.
‘Can I, at least, ungag them?’
‘No. I will do the talking, you three will do the listening, and if I need to make a question to any of them two, they would be able to answer it with nods and shakes…’
Both sisters really tried hard to say unpublishable things to her after that remark…
Two hours later, after Elinor finally agreed to not interfere nor contact Anastasia and pretend that she was still in Africa to both her and Henry, Deborah left the apartment through the front door, and only then the sexagenarian Hristo allowed (and helped) Timothy to free his sisters. They immediately threw them out of the room, so they could put on some clothes, forbidding them to free the bodyguards.
All three drugged women were freed and dressed, by the sisters, who only then asked the men for a little help in moving them to their beds. They would sleep until noon of the following day. All the while they talked (while Hristo played deaf ears) about what should they do regarding the documents. It was a surprise to all three siblings that the two others had, too (?), a share of such delicate matters for their parents…, which gave them ideas about why their father had done that with them…
In the end, they decided to sit and wait, until Deborah called them for the ‘grand finale’.
TWO DAYS AGO
This time the meeting was only between Ramsdale and the DA, and both were puzzled.
The Hogans had set the perfect trap against the O’Connells, and then a third party had interfered, a public shootout (although the shooters had apparently fired only blanks), a brawl and who knows what else had happened.
Now they had the attention of the media (which they did not wanted, even if it was to portray Pat O’Connell and his family in such a bad light), the FBI had gotten in touch with the DA office, three members of the group led by Lt. Hogan were at the hospital and they knew that someone knew about them….
But they did not knew who the identity of this person or organization.
‘Let me see the picture again…’
The DA gave him the cellphone found with Wendy Hogan.
In the screen a street scene showed a woman, Wendy, with her back to the camera while holding a yellow bag with both arms and standing next to a tree. There were at least half a dozen people, some children included, around her but the camera was centered on her back. She was wearing an oversized blue T-shirt, and the three small red dots between her shoulder blades were clearly visible after Ramsdale augmented the zoom.
‘They sent this picture to her?’
‘Yes. Apparently, there’s a street jazz musician that has a license to play at that corner of the Union Park. He is really good and thus whenever he shows up, a small crowd gathers around him. Somebody in that crowd aimed his/her camera at Wendy and sent the picture to her. Of course, as soon as she saw it she turned around and looked at the crowd singing and cheering the jazz dude… There were like thirty people in that crowd, and very few were not holding their smartphones or tablets and aiming it at him…’
‘And the instructions that she received with the phone?’
‘She was not supposed to get in touch with anyone; she would have to walk towards the McDonald’s down the block and enter the red Toyota that was parked near it. She did so and was immediately drugged, the doctors couldn’t identify the drug, and probably won’t gonna be. But whatever it was, it erased her memory from more or less 8 AM this morning until the moment she realized she was bound and gagged in her undies inside a car’s trunk, the Toyota, again. She was only found like two hours later…’
‘And the hobo who gave her the cellphone?’
‘There’s this veteran from Iraq who leaves in the neighborhood, totally harmless and all. He was found by a patrol on the other side of town, drugged and naked, one hour before his ‘replacement’ gave her the phone as she was walking towards the gathering point.’
‘And why did she do that?’
‘Her phone was bugged and a couple of cameras were found inside her apartment. We believed that the O’Connells were behind it, so when the voice, that matches Patrick’s according to a sound technician in his pay, told her to walk to the park or else…’
‘And how could the others be fooled by the woman who pretended to be Wendy?’
‘At a distance she had the looks, the height… everything that fit Wendy’s appearance. And she was wearing Wendy’s clothes and they had heard Wendy’s voice giving a suitable excuse to her sudden change of position. When O’Connell’s kidnapping took place, they were caught by surprise…’
Ramsdale stood quiet for a minute.
Per their agreement, he had not been informed of all the details of the trap that would liquidate that loose end, he only knew that the O’Connells would be sent to a place by the docks and their demise would be as quiet as possible. Instead, the broad daylight kidnapping (gunshots ablaze included) of an ‘Irish tourist’, that soon was morphed into an ‘Irish ex-con being investigated by the FBI’ by the press, had been quite public…
‘Making their own investigation about the kidnapping, and sharing very little with me or the police. They know that he was here, in this city, under an alias less than three months ago. They know more, probably, but not enough for us to be alarmed or else… Any news… from him?’ – asked the DA.
‘He is furious with everything, this whole matter was supposed to have been solved that Saturday night! But he told me that he is preparing, on his own and without any help or interference of anyone (including me), what he called ‘a final move’…’
‘He is going to act? Himself? But…’
‘He found a flaw in the building’s security. What it is, he did not tell me. But to be workable he will need two things: Outside help, and to be present when they struck…’
They spent the next hour discussing what could be that flaw, and what were his plans to use it, as they also pondered about the whole ‘solo act’ (without their participation, consent or even knowledge) he was about to perform.
FOUR HOURS AGO
The moment everyone at the place was expecting happened without warning.
Timothy was checking local political blogs on his tablet as he sat at the dining table, he had received a weird email from a girl he had had a wonderful weekend with a couple of months earlier, basically the email was a link to a blog and her commentaries about it, and he was checking what she had told him about ‘that Ramsdale’ creep.
Emma and Shannon were in the kitchen preparing a brunch for everybody.
Hristo was (as it had been usual for him the past days) locked inside the library and on the (disposable) phone, this time he seemed to be speaking in some Chinese language.
Elinor was, with Min-Ji’s ‘help’ (she was unusually lost in her own thoughts), choosing what she would wear today (since a call Hristo had received the night before, from that dreadfully incredible dame that had managed the impossible, defeat Min-Ji in a one-on-one fight, had warned them that today was ‘the day’), and as usual she had managed to downsize her choices to less than twenty outfits (but more than ten)…
So it was Lorna’s job to answer the door’s ring.
Of course, she first checked the image on the screen right next to the door. It was Erin, their newest neighbor (who had moved to the other apartment of that floor about three weeks before). She was a young (30/32 years old) architect (from a reputable firm downtown), prone to always drop by to have long chats with Emma about pretty much anything and everything… every time she dropped by they would spent hours talking about butterflies, the nuts that thought that the Moon landing was an hoax or…
Emma (through the intercom) told her to, very politely of course, tell Erin that she was about to have a serious family reunion so, at least today, she would not be available…
So she opened the door…
And four very skilled pair of hand took her by assault!
A big folded hankie was shoved inside her mouth, she was surrounded by the owners of the hands and had her wrists tied in front of her even before she could react.
‘Is it really necessary?’ – asked Hristo before giving a short (but very audible) whistle.
He was standing right in front of the door that led to the dining room, holding his gun and a phone in his hands. Behind his well-built frame, Timothy’s head was soon visible. From the kitchen, Shannon (also holding a gun) and Emma emerged at his right. Min-Ji came from the back of the apartment with her hands bare, and Elinor’s banging on the (presumed) locked door of her room was heard by all before she started to scream her demands. Through it all the four young women (two twin blondes, a chubby black girl and a tall Latina) wearing… classy party dresses (?) proceeded to restrain more and more (with white rope) Lorna’s body. Were they trying to mummify her?
And then she entered the apartment, closing the door behind her.
‘Let me guess, you hacked into the building’ security system…?’ asked Hristo, as the image on the screen next to Deborah’s head still showed Erin waiting to be admitted inside the apartment – ‘Is the young neighbor of Miss Emma alright?’
‘She is fine, a bit ‘tied up’ (and gagged) at the moment, but that’s it. I am not a monster Hristo… She’ll have quite the story to share with Emma since, apparently, I had need of some data she kept on her computer inside her home, so I just had to ‘kidnap’ her last night as she was leaving a club and make her a prisoner on her own home…’
‘You and obviously those ladies that are, finally, finished restraining Miss Lorna… That explains their attire… But, still… Was this really necessary?’
‘Hristo… We have less than one hour to be there. This…’ – and from the chubby girl’s high priced blue purse, the blondes were holding Lorna in between them while the other two were flanking their boss, Deborah produced a plastic DVD case – ‘…lasts less than ten minutes. You know very well that only the siblings can leave this apartment and come with us, their bodyguards will have to stay behind and you will only come along because… well, you were there twelve years ago. You kept your word and thus you deserve to be present when your former boss’ most dreaded (by himself) prediction becomes true. In addition, since none of these ladies will do that on her own will… they simply can’t do that, these four friends of mine will make sure that they stay put, and will guard them while we all play our parts. So… could you please holster your gun while Major Min-Ji frees the youngest one from her captivity?’
Hristo holstered the gun while nodding at Min-Ji, who gave a very weird look at Deborah before turning around and returning to the guestroom. A quick discussion in a weird language was heard by all, and then Elinor was reunited with her brother and sister as they all stood in front of the TV, under guard of Hristo and Shannon while Deborah, her henchwomen and the captive Lorna stood a few feet at their right.
The first thing that they all saw was a row of captives.
Three women lay bound hand and foot (with a short strand of crisp rope connecting the ankles and the wrists) in their undies. It looked like they were in a basement, over a bare mattress, with only a lone bulb as the source of light.
The image was like when a camera recorded what was being shown in a TV screen. Now the original feed was zooming on the captives’ faces.
Three girls, none older than 25/30, frantically begging…
‘Wait a moment… Isn’t that one Jacqueline? The one in the middle?’ – asked Emma.
‘Who…?’ – asked Timothy.
‘Jackie! A member of dad’s ‘buxom nurses’ platoon’ in his last months of fight against the cancer? She was always sunbathing by the pool… Remember how this ticked Henry and Annie, having all those stacked dames in tight fitting uniforms, or string micro-bikinis, all around his estate? He used it to divert Annie and Henry’s attention, as well as of everybody else, from his medical condition until it was excessively evident. If not mistaken… YOUR favorite was…’ – started Elinor.
‘…Holly?’ – mockingly answered/asked Emma.
‘All right you two, I dated Courtney and Melody, and I had sex with Sara and Mary, and I tried to do that with Melisandre, and she slapped me!, but I never had…’
‘LAURA PRATT!’ – said both sisters at the same time…
‘Maybe I have had a more… serious… relationship with… Hey…(?) That’s Kim!!!’
Both sisters turned their attention to the screen, and he was right. Kimberly (currently the chief of the health & care department of their family foundation HQ) and Jackie (who was working at the Mercy Hospital, or was it the St. Andrews?), and the one at the right wasn’t an unknown either… but who was she?
Then the person holding the camera that was aimed at the TV screen turned it around, aiming it at his face. It was their late father, and man was he peeved!
By the looks of it, the record was from his last days…
‘And all I wanted was a reasonable and justifiable excuse for you to be here with us!’
‘A triple kidnapping, two of your pretty nurses and her personal secretary under my power in a place unknown to both of you, isn’t that exactly what I was asked to do?’
And his dad aimed the lens at Deborah, wearing a more practical set of clothes, Hristo (exactly the same man in the room with them) and a third person…
They knew her. What was her name again?
TEN MINUTES LATER
Shannon was almost as mummified as Lorna had been, but Min-Ji was another matter. She was adamant that, even with all they knew now, she was going to fulfill her obligations and be with Elinor for the next hours.
And she and Deborah were having a conversation in Korean, both speaking way too fast for anyone in the room that knew the language (Hristo, Timothy – although just a little – and Elinor) to understand what they were actually saying.
And then Deborah made a proposal to Min-Ji, who was flabbergasted with it. Seeing an opening, Elinor talked with her and they had a whispered conversation that ended with another look of stupefaction plastered in the Korean woman’s face.
‘You BOTH are definitely, POSITIVELY!, the craziest Americans that I will ever…!’
‘Hmmm… Maybe, but right now you are glad that I am what I am, right?’
Min-Ji didn’t answered, instead she walked the short distance between her and the four ‘party girls’ (and their two standing captives), bowed to them, took off her clothes (but kept her underwear) and spun around, offering her back and crossed wrists to them.
They wasted no time…
And used the double of rope on her! After five furious minutes of a surprisingly well-coordinated effort, Min-Ji had been morphed into a standing and gagged rope-mummy!
‘I know that you may have moral and ethical objections to what I am going to do…’ – started Deborah as she grabbed the purse of one of the blondes, the one in black, and showed the trio of standing captives… a wad of cash? – ‘…but I don’t care. There’s about half a million inside this purse. Split it in the way you see fit or burn it or donate it. I don’t care. But this purse and all that it is inside it is now yours ladies… Goodbye.’
All three women ‘thanked’ her with muffled obscenities…
Next the siblings (with Emma asking if Erin had received a ‘compensation’ too), Hristo and Deborah left the apartment in a hurry. The women were each carried to a separate bed, and one girl sat by the bed (on stools or chairs) as a private guardian (one of the blondes stayed with Shannon, the other was Min-Ji’s guard and the Latina was responsible for Lorna) with the black girl in charge of providing refreshments for the guardians (and occasionally the captives) while she checked her messages (and other more important matters) on her smartphone.
About three hours later Lorna was slowly walking on her tiptoes, about to jump on the black lady when, all of a sudden, the girl stood up while jumping to her right, getting away from Lorna’s range at the last possible moment!
And straight into the middle of Min-Ji’s one…
The now KOed girl fell on Lorna’s awaiting arms, and Shannon was right behind her with what was left of all the rope she (and her friends/accomplices) had used on the trio of bodyguards. While the older women proceeded to restrain the last of their (former) captors, Min-Ji approached the table to check the smartphone.
The screen was split in four windows. One showed Erin sleeping peacefully in (Min-Ji presumed) was her own bed. The naked Kentuckian redhead was restrained in a frontal hogtie (a very loose one) and gagged with a wide strip of red tape.
The other three showed their other former captors’ current predicament!
‘In English, please.’ – answered Shannon while she was busy tying the black girl’s legs.
‘Sorry… Look at this, she was monitoring us!’
As she decided to first finish the job on her captive, and then check the smartphone in Min-Ji’s hands, Lorna was the last to stand up and see the screen (but at least she knew that the black girl would not be able to grin like she had, at her!!!, until somebody cut that strip of the towel that was gagging her now), and she gasped.
The Latina was making company to Erin in the lower windows, she was still straining at the tight (and mean) hogtie she had put her through (her beautiful long hair was now held in a ponytail, which was then tied to the knot holding her crossed wrists together and linked to the ankles), and, even with her cheeks bulging as they were, she seemed to have no problem with her breathing. The ‘blonde in blue’ (as she had called her before she was stripped of course) was still out… hmm… no, she was just resting and giving every twenty seconds or so another thug at her bonds.
Like her sister she was tied diagonally to the bed; her arms above her head (and the wrists lost in the middle of a monster knot that tied them to one of the feet of the bed) and her legs were crossed (with her left foot tied to the other head feet of the bed). She was the one that was gagged the lightest, a single and thick strip of cloth without packing (but with one of Lorna’s mean knots holding it in place), and by the looks of it she presumed that the girl was throwing insults… at the camera?
She knew about the camera?
The former ‘blonde in black’ was, now, on her belly with her head facing the lower part of the bed. And she was pissed. She seemed to be arguing with herself as she kept trying to do an impossible bend or twist of her body (especially her arms), so she could make her black taped mouth get in touch with her fingers. Since that was impossible, she kept stopping her fruitless efforts every now and then and moved her head, and eyes (the image was that good), as if saying ‘you this’ and ‘you that’… at herself!
‘She saw you getting out of your bonds… and did nothing?’ – asked Shannon to Lorna.
‘It looks as such…’
‘By the way, how could you free yourself that easily? They jumped on you and took you down totally by surprise, there was no way you could…’ – Min-Ji asked.
‘I have been a fan of escapology since I was five and saw a clip of Harry Houdini on TV. There’s no cuff that I can’t pick the lock of and no knot that I can’t undo. I’ve been doing it for decades! Who do you think taught the sisters all they know about it? They are barely dilettantes in that matter, and their boss was marveled with their skills!’
‘?’ – Both women were so not buying it.
‘Plus I taped a couple of shaving blades to my thighs this morning, just in case…’
Which explained why she was wearing such a loose skirt!
‘Didn’t you risk the possibility of the… this possible and expected attacker to order you to lift your skirt before he or she started to tie you up?’
Before Lorna explained how she had disguised the blades, their heard a mixed version of ‘Mission Impossible’s Theme’. Elinor was calling Min-Ji in her ‘special’ cellphone, which was hidden… right under the sofa in front of the TV.
It was the sisters, their bosses, and they were watching them? They were, Elinor asked Min-Ji to ‘raise one hand’ and when Shannon raised her left one, she admonished them (after getting it right). They were adamant that their bodyguards were NOT supposed to interfere, they actually sounded hurt and almost hysterical, so the three promised to not interfere, and were told to deal with Erin (and how they were supposed to do that).
Lorna stayed with the four captoresses-turned-captives until she got (from Emma) the order to let them go, five hours later. In a bathroom break (of one of the twins) she got the answers she was secretly craving for. The four of them were ‘applicants’ for a very special (and apparently private) job Deborah was going to pull the next month; the pay was like a couple of year’s one for a single weekend of action. Part of the very tough selection process had been helping her in the ‘simple’ task of capturing willing (more or less) captives, and keeping them that way… and they had failed.
Shannon awoke Erin while in the process of changing her bonds. She told her that she had fallen in a ruse and that the ‘real target’ of Deborah was her boss, Emma, and not her. With her hands bound in front, and under the supervision of Shannon (to avoid any chance of using the web connection to call for help in any way possible), Erin checked her laptop and three smartphones. She got visibly relieved when she realized that her files (both the professional and private ones) had not been copied or compromised. And even more relieved when she saw that Shannon was telling her the truth, and all the documents filled with technical/legal terms that she had opened in front of Shannon’s eyes were (to the older woman) as if written in the Chinese or Arabic alphabet.
For the next six hours, she was a captive in her own apartment, under the care and control of a vanilla woman who was a good cook, very strong and had a kinky taste for knots that, surprisingly, was interesting for the Irish/Canadian girl.
One and a half week later Shannon was back, with a couple of big brown envelopes with 50K in each of them as payment for her silence. This time Shannon had no orders to tie her up, but after a little persuasion… she agreed to ‘drop by’ every other week.
Min-Ji convinced the other two to allow her to, at least, go to the café right across the street of Anastasia’s building, so she could ‘be available’ if needed…
She spent nearly an hour talking with Deborah (who was wearing a ridiculous disguise that included a very phony blonde wig), who had welcomed her sitting in a sidewalk table about their plans for a rematch. Deborah kept saying that she wasn’t even 80%, thanks to Min-Ji’s ‘quick and devastating blows’, and would take a while to recover… Min-Ji wanted it for yesterday… They settled for a meeting in Seattle in six months.
And then they saw the limo entering the subterranean garage, the one where they knew Anastasia was being held captive, paid their tab and went to a nearby flower shop…
TWO HOURS AGO
Benny ‘the Ear’ got his nickname due to his ‘ability’ of (apparently) always know what this or that person had said (to the letter) in a private conversation.
One of the best informants in town, he was also one of the most enigmatic. No one, save for Anastasia, had ever seen him, which allowed the whole city to be fooled.
To start with, ‘Benny’ was in fact a 68 years old black woman called Marge who had worked for Anastasia’s father… and since she thought that she could trust the daughter as much as she had the father, she only ‘worked’ for Anastasia.
Therefore, when she got a message from Marge the night before, asking her to go to her house the next morning, Anastasia did just that. She woke up, had a few phone calls (with her other informants) that were useless for her needs, tried to get in touch with Sarah and Honoria but failed, and went to the other side of the town.
Later she would learn that two days earlier Marge had gotten an email, from her account (actually a phony one) telling her to leave town for a whole week. So the email that she had received had been sent from Marge’s computer at Marge’s address, but the sender was not her. Straight to the spider’s parlor went the little fly…
The woman that was at the door, answering her knock, was Chinese and very polite.
‘Do not bother to try to attract anyone’s attention if you want the old lady to stay safe as she is now’, and thus Anastasia (after regaining her composure) entered the house.
And found her older brother Henry and his campaign manager sitting in the old sofa in the living room, surrounded by five Chinese men in black suits and shades that had ‘Triad’ tattooed in their fronts! Surprisingly, Oswald did the talking…
‘You have caused a lot of trouble to a lot of very powerful people…’
‘YOU are the one that is behind…’
‘Please… Have a little self-respect. THEY…’ – and he pointed at the Chinese – ‘…are paying me ten millions to help them to get access to your apartment…’
Henry’s look at the worm by his side said it all, he was being coerced.
And Henry stood up and gave her his cellphone. In the screen there was a picture of his wife, Annemarie, tied to a post in what looked like a basement. She was bound with white rope and gagged and blindfolded with white cloth while wearing only a light blue conservative (= big) set of lingerie. She and Annemarie didn’t went along very well, but of course that it did not matter at the moment! She returned the phone to her brother.
‘It’s simple, actually. We will go to the garage where his limousine is waiting for us; you both will be bound and gagged and blindfolded for the duration of our trip to your little imposing home. Arriving there you will disable all cameras and microphones and everything else at your apartment before we leave the garage, we will go straight to your apartment and there to your bedroom, you will open all the safes you have there and then he will tie you up and gag you. THEY will get whatever they want from you and I will leave, with him, the place. I hope you find a way to free yourself on your own, but for his and especially her sake, I would like that you start to count to a thousand before you start your efforts. If everything goes right, in four hours I am airborne and heading to parts unknown to you two, they will be set free and you will still have a mystery to solve, since I was told that you don’t know yet what THEY are looking for…’
Barely holding himself, Henry said through gritted teeth that he was sorry, that he had really thought that he could trust in Oswald but instead…
They went to the garage. She was handcuffed and gagged and blindfolded with black tape, next she was helped by the only other woman around to enter the limo. A Chinese man (presumably) sat at her left, the Chinese woman was at her right, and she heard Henry being helped inside. The ride was uneventful, but there was a traffic jam around the Palisades (about a third left to the distance) that made them waste twenty minutes.
Arriving at the garage her hands were freed and she could see… Henry, gagged and blindfolded and under the threat of a gun against his head!
They gave her the ‘special’ smartphone back and she went all business right away.
It took nearly five minutes to completely disable the security system in her apartment and convince them that she had done that. Next they left the limo, after Henry was freed (he stood by her side all along), and went to the elevator.
Arriving at her apartment she did as she had been told to, and opened every safe she had in the apartment, plus the panic room, before they went to her bedroom. There Oswald gave her brother some pre-cut coils of rope and ‘instructed’ him as to how he would tie her up. But from whom was Oswald taking his instructions? He was clearly listening to an earpiece in his left ear, and merely repeating what he heard.
After she couldn’t but wriggle and moan, and Henry apologized for the hundredth time, she was left alone under the guard of the skinniest man among the Chinese.
Timothy, Emma and Elinor were hiding in the Gwendoline’s Locker?
What were they doing there? When did Elinor and Tim arrived in town? And what was… HONORIA (??!!!) doing with her cellphone in her own hands?
Wait a moment, had Ellie cried? Tim’s face was of pure concern and Emma was in the verge of tears. And all three were undoing her bonds with surprising velocity!
‘Annie… we’re safe. Everything is fine, but you must be brave…’
The TV had been turned on and, thanks to the code Honoria had typed in the control, it was showing what was happening at the dining room.
Henry, free of any restraint, was unscrewing the back of the big portrait (which was lying face down over the diner table) their father had given to her.
He seemed anxious, but neither scared nor coerced (to act the way he was). Oswald was nowhere in sight, neither was that smirking woman, and the Chinese men were giving him some space. The last screw came out, why did dad have to commission such a thick frame for all those portraits?, and he carefully lifted the back of the portrait.
There was a 10” square opening right in the middle of the thick frame, and inside it there was a bulging envelope. The look in Henry’s face as he grabbed it…
It could not be possible!!!
‘Alas, my dear… It was him; it was him all along…’ – said Honoria.
She looked at Elinor (who was crying again), Emma (whose tears were visible now) and Timothy (who had gritted his teeth), and her legs could not hold her anymore.
She fell on her knees on the floor, and her sisters flanked her one moment later. On the screen, Henry was looking at the white envelope with a curious expression.
It was supposed to appear a lot more aged, yet it was brand new… He opened it.
Sheet after sheet of paper had only one word (was that Irish? Gaelish?) in them.
‘It means ‘Idiot’, or ‘Stupid’, in my language.’
Henry turned towards the voice he had just heard, and got a shock.
Padraig (‘Pat’) O’Connell and his sister Melissa were standing by the living room’s entrance. The Chinese were gone, and in their place were all the O’Connells! They all wore street clothes, very casual ones, and quickly were covering all his escape routes.
‘What is going on?’
‘You got suckered, that’s what happened. Three years ago Mr. Blue (as you know him) was in need of some help in a job in Glasgow. He hired me and Liam, and Liam saved his life. If we ever needed his help, all we had to do was give him a call… so when we asked him to look the other way when we crashed at this ‘act’ of yours…’
‘But… but… I paid him!’
‘The money was wired back to your account.’
‘But… you were kidnapped! And your brother Liam…’
‘Liam has wanted to fight Rick Norita, Karl Farmer or that Brazilian chick…’
‘Severina, her name is ‘Se-ve-riiii-nah!’, like in that song…’ – said Melissa.
‘Well, Liam has been craving to fight any of them three, and they had been wanting to fight him as well (or among themselves), for the last decade and a half. Their agendas never allowed them to, so when the orders came, and they were quite specific about Liam not being allowed to take part in the ruse… Both him and Norita were glad that they finally could scratch that itch! As for Melissa…’
‘I was kidnapped, for like half a day. Since them I have been a guest of our boss, and your rival, you know… that Italian noblewoman with whom your dad had business…’
‘Only because of that stupid a**hole! (…) Whatever she’s paying you…’
‘Forget it. And, by the way, interesting pictures…’
‘You saw… them?’
‘Of course you dolt! How could we be able to put those sheet of papers in their place?’
Realizing that he was still holding their sheets in his hands, Henry threw a curse and let them fall on the floor. He was starting to sweat now, profusely…
‘Look here. Whatever you want, whatever!, I will pay it. Hand them over and I…’
‘You will what… you *********?’
It was Sarah, wearing a navy blue business suit, with her hands behind her back and a cocky attitude, as if she was going to defend a client in a court against her, Anastasia, in one of those days. And by the looks of it, her clients were the O’Connells!
‘What are you doing here?’
‘Come to the living room… And I’ll show you…’ – and she brought forth a bulging black envelope. Henry nearly jumped to his right, the quickest way to reach Sarah, but found his ways blocked by the members of the O’Connel family.
He was sort of escorted/sort of conducted, by two pairs of the male members of the family (one in front of him and the other behind), to the living room.
Sarah had turned on the TV and it was showing the footage of that Saturday night in that very same room, with a zoom in him, Anastasia and the DA, as they waited for the search made by all those cops to finish. She turned the sound ‘on’.
‘Exactly. Your secret is…’
‘Like I care! (…) Henry…’
‘If there are millions of idiots out there that won’t vote on a guy because his sister is a Don Juan in skirts, and BTW… a BIG one, **** them! And **** them good!!!’
In her bedroom, flanked by her sisters, Anastasia was seeing the very same footage, save for a tiny window at the bottom left that showed what was actually happening at the living room. In the screen she, who had her back to the camera, was giving her brother a real bear hug. Then his face changed into a… a sneer!
Next he mouthed something, and the sneer got worst!
And, if she read his lips right, what he had said was…
‘As if!’ – Said Sarah aloud – ‘As if… and don’t even bother to pretend that’s not what you mouthed as the sister you hate the most was thanking you for your fake loyalty… and by the way, why do you hate them?’
‘I do NOT…!!!!’
But Sarah gave her back to him and typed something in the control.
And all blood left Henry’s face!
What appeared in the screen was his private chapel at his estate. The numbers at the upper right of the screen indicated that the footage was recorded over a month ago.
Sunday morning, a service with his wife and their most trusted employees and friends.
And Reverend Paul Ramsdale.
The next fifteen minutes were a typical sermon of the preacher. He wept for the country and his faith, decried the moral and ethical decay of this era, and laid blame in everyone outside the service. From the gays to ‘The Walking Dead’, from Marvel and DC comic books to chocolate chips with nuts and, of course (since he did that every single Sunday since 1982), somewhere in the middle of the sermon, there was a testimony…
Whatever morsel of respect his siblings had for him was gone after they saw it.
And as he was seeing himself bashing his late father (for not having properly educated ‘all the others’, ‘those pathetic sinners’, as if he could have if he had heard Ramsdale), it did occur to Henry that there could be only one reason for Sarah to show him that footage. Therefore, he straightened his tie, took a deep breath and turned around.
Anastasia, Emma, Timothy and Elinor were right were Melissa and Pat O’Connell were standing the last time he had seen them, at the entrance of the corridor that led to the private rooms. And they had just seen the sermon as well…
‘Well… It solves a problem that sooner or later we would have to deal…’ – he started.
And Elinor, Elinor…! (He was ready for any kind of reaction from Anastasia or Emma, or even Timmy, but from his baby sister? Not a chance!) Elinor kneed him, atrociously hard, then she landed her elbow in his stomach as if it was a battering ram!, before anyone could realize she was now somehow so close to him for that.
‘If you EVER, EVER!!!, try to talk to me again… THIS would look like a caress!’
After a few minutes, in which Henry had no help in his useless efforts to get himself back on his feet or to have his breath back, he was helped to stand up by Pat and the most frightening looking member of the O’Connells.
And another stood behind him with a blackjack in his hand.
‘What is in the envelope? For what did he do all that for?’ – asked Anastasia to Sarah.
Sarah’s answer was to place a portable HD under the TV and connect it to the screen, a few technicalities (it was obvious that Sarah wasn’t made for electronics) and…
Three young women, in their underwear, tightly bound and…
‘Jackie? Kara? Kimberley? What…?’
But Sarah made the ‘silence’ signal and she obeyed.
‘And all I wanted was a reasonable and justifiable excuse for you to be here with us!’
‘A triple kidnapping, two of your pretty nurses and her personal secretary under my power in a place unknown to both of you, isn’t that exactly what I was asked to do?’
‘Da-dad? Dad knew Debs Immoden?’ – Anastasia asked the others.
‘Just watch it…’ – Emma answered to her.
In the screen Debs was giving their father a cellphone, after a quick struggle (he ended up placing the camera atop something, a vase?, that allowed it to record the rest of the conversation without any problem), they saw their father having a conversation with his two ‘kidnapped’ nurses, and next he passed the phone to Honoria, who talked to her secretary. And after the call was finished she slapped the younger woman.
‘One more act like this and God help me…!’
‘They’re fine, aren’t they? Just twenty minutes of raw terror before they realized that they hit jackpot…’ – BOTH their father and Honoria made quite the face after that comment! – ‘…Oh come on! They told you about the masseuses?’ – Nod – ‘And the exotic lunch that is being prepared? – Another nod – ‘The bikinis and all the luxuries available for them while they get a good tan?’ – Very reluctant nods – ‘The dinner that will be served tonight… what will happen to all three after it?’ – Even more reluctant nods! – ‘So… all that you have to do, if the FBI ever comes knocking to your door and tells you about this meeting of ours, is that you were fooled into believing that the video was a live feed! How could you NOT meet me after I showed it to you?’
‘But what about them: Will they lie as well? They just have had…’ – asked Honoria.
‘The confirmation that BOTH OF YOU, whom they respect and admire (a lot!), are not exactly ‘willing partners’ of mine… They told me that they will swear that THAT is a live feed, and that my girls were ‘Nutrixly sadistic bitches’ with them if the feds ever ask them! They are not stupid! Especially your Kara! They know that, if they just think about trying to escape… it’s back to the ropes and gags! So, between a royal treatment for a full day, I’ll have them delivered at Honoria’s home by morning (Ok?), and tight ropes and tape and tighter gags… Well guess which one they chose?’
Both Honoria and their father rolled their eyes and mutely swore very bad ones at Debs.
‘Anyway… Ana, if you are seeing this video is because, unfortunately, I have a total and utter idiot as my firstborn! Your mother and me… we did our best to raise all of you the way we believed was the right one. Right now, or in the right ‘now’ when you will be seeing this message, you may disagree with each other in any kind of way. Politics, religion, social values and even sports, but I trust that all of you will have a mind of your own. You will have made mistakes and you will have had your own personal or public failures, but all of you will be what you really wanted to be, and will be following that famous advice: ‘This above all; to thine own self be true’…’
Dad and his Shakespearian quotes…
‘Alas… If you are seeing this, it means that Henry chose to be a dick. For the past five years, from a few months before the wedding with Annemarie, he has been attending the services offered by that looney leech. I hope that, by the time you are seen this, Paul Ramsdale is nothing but a footnote in our state’s history. That he is most remembered as the lunatic that invaded a business meeting in my office to demand that I fired Hobbard because he is gay (and got kicked in the butt for that… how I do like that footage!). But I don’t think that this will be the case…’
On the screen, her dad was now alone, right at the left of that beautiful life sized portrait of her mother (so the video was recorded at the manor that now belonged to Henry).
‘Yesterday I met you, and both your brothers and both your sisters, in a private meeting. I gave you all a few counsels and a portrait of each one of you in a special frame. The frames are actually hiding some pictures and personal documents, of Valerie, that under no circumstance should ever be made public. What pictures and documents am I talking about? Poems, essays and a few letters… and the kind of picture she loved to take and leave in the middle of my contracts and files. She was a prankster in the case you have forgotten… Not a single one of those pictures can be honestly classified as ‘porn’, but they are definitely not suitable for minors! On purpose, I let the portrait (of that cruise in the Mediterranean Sea when you were six) I was giving to Henry fall on the floor. The frame cracked open, as I expected it to, and he saw the pics and documents I wanted him to keep with him. (…) I have to admit that… Val tied to the tracks of a train rail with me (wearing a fake moustache, a black coat and a top hat) was definitely not the kind of thing he was expecting to see. But his reaction was what I feared to witness… He left the meeting knowing full well what was in the other portraits, or so he thought.’
Henry finally showed some emotion when he realized what came next.
‘I told Timmy and the girls that, one day, their big brother would show up trying to find out what was hiding in the portraits. And I told them how to proceed when it happened. Of course, they all thought that I was pranking him, from my grave, and of course, they all agreed to take part in the prank, which they believed, thanks to a bold lie of myself, involved only each one of them. By now they must be thinking about Valerie and the little part of her personality that she couldn’t talk about with them before she… died, thanks to their short age at the time, and providing whatever ‘excuse’ for Henry when he shows up and convince them to take a look at the portrait’s frame. Although I do believe that he will use a ruse of some sort to do it alone, maybe offerin to have the frame changed to something less imposing…’ – Anastasia looked at the other and they had all the same knowing smirk in their faces – ‘…While in your case… Well I hope you excuse me… But I left an envelope with Ken, with instructions to deliver it to Henry only after he (Ken) dies, in which I make him believe that the pictures in your, still unknown as it seems, possession are… definitely NOT those puppies’ pictures…’
Ken? Ken Vanderbur… Daddy’s (hilariously) trouble prone Army friend. He had died last year. Had Henry have been planning it all for the past… fifteen and a half months?
Elinor asked Sarah to pause the video, and then turned to her.
‘That part is something that I don’t get at all. Puppies’ pictures?’
‘He gave me like a dozen’s dozens pictures of baby tigers, lions, bears and such. Wild ‘puppies’. And told me that the reason why the frames were that thick was that he was going to pull a prank on Henry. He would made him believe that something… Oh my… he… He tried to make me be interested in what could be hidden in the frame!’
‘We are going to have a talk about it, later. Right now…’ – And Timothy looked at the O’Connells, at Sarah and Honoria, and lastly at Henry.
‘He… said that he didn’t want that the ‘best picture of the best birthday party’ mom ever had… was damaged by his prank. So I was told to hide the picture for a couple of weeks and pretend that I had damaged the frame with whatever ‘clumsy act’ from my part I could lie about, and if Henry asked if I had found anything in the frames…’
‘You would give him the puppies’ pictures. He did the same with us. In my case… classic B&W train pictures, very beautiful ones! I retrieved what actually was inside the frame and put them in their place about a few minutes before Henry…’ – said Emma.
‘Mountains, some quite… majestic, in my case.’ – said Timothy.
‘Jay alai games’ pictures… (?)… I swear!’ – said Elinor.
She really wasn’t fooling them.
‘But in truth? What was in it?’ – Anastasia asked her sisters and Timothy.
‘Later, Annie. Sarah? If you please…’ – said Honoria. And Sarah pressed ‘play’…
‘So… what is this all about? What kind of picture has Henry been thinking that he will find in the portrait I gave to you? (…) The kind of picture that his supporters, for I honestly believe that his dreams of pursuing a political are a reality by the time you are watching this, the kind of pictures that not a single one of his supporters, especially Ramsdale, would ever forgive him (not me or Val) if they ever laid their eyes upon them… Nothing abhorrent, just plain old ‘mom and dad’ sex… LIKE VAL WOULD EVER ALLOW ME TO TAKE SUCH… (Cough…) liberties with her…’
‘What?’ – Henry asked to the screen, and then to the others.
‘That’s right… Whatever he did, and I pray that he did not went too far trying to get his hands in photographs that simply do not exist!..., whatever he did… He did it because I lied to him’ – On the screen, their father seemed to have aged considerably as somebody grabbed the camera and the lens followed him while he looked for a seat – ‘His reaction yesterday, the terms he used against his own mother… Unless somebody, somehow, has made him see what he is doing, or did, to himself… Then it’s better for you, Ana, and for Emma, Timothy and Elinor to know what your, once, just strict older brother is capable of doing now. And act as you see fit, but please, I beg you, do not let him use my name for whatever plans, political or otherwise, that he will try to use to justify his actions! (…) I honestly hope that, if you ever watch this video, Ana, it will be more like a… curiosity concerning the last days of your dad than anything else…’
And the screen went black.
For about a minute no one spoke in the room, and then Anastasia turned to Sarah.
‘It was all…?’
‘His political career. He has plans and spent the past decade establishing a good deal of political connections. Everything could have blow up if ‘the sister he blames for the debacle of his dumb father’s political career’…’
‘There are other videos… Basically he can’t understand why your father forgave you for ‘ruining’ his mayor’s run, which is a lie…’
‘IT’S NOT!!!’ – Yelled both Anastasia and Henry, agreeing on something probably for the last time. Sarah aimed the control at her HD, and in the screen a series of… medical exams… their father’s medical exams???... were put on display.
‘Your father fought the cancer for a decade a half before he finally lost that war. He only came up with the idea to, finally, run for mayor because he thought and hoped that he was cured… for good. The doctors told him to wait a little more… and on the day he announced that he was going to run, the exams returned positive…’ – said Honoria.
‘Yeah, he lost a lot of money with the blackmail he got with your pictures and whatever as the reason behind it, and got it almost all back before he died. But the speech in which he gave up the bid for mayor? It was already written two weeks before the first note from Claudius appeared in his desk! I know, I was there!’ – said Emma.
Unsure of what to say or do, Anastasia looked lost for a moment. Then she straightened herself, she walked toward Elinor and the others, she hugged each one of them and then turned to Sarah and Honoria. After some hesitation…
‘How many proofs do you have of the whole… charade he pulled on me?’
‘Deborah Immoden did quite the job, she managed to get videos of the meetings of your former boss and Ramsdale… meetings between him and any of them, meetings of the Hogans and how they were planning to kill Mr. O’Connell and his family, under his and Ramsdale’s orders… There’s more than enough to destroy his reputation and send him and the others behind bars for life. Even with the dubious origin of the material…’
‘Sarah… Honoria… could you both, please, do me a favor?’ – Both women nodded – ‘I need to have a talk with my sisters and brother; in the meantime could you make sure that he writes a full confession? In addition, I want his resignation as the chairman of my family’s foundation. Effective immediately. Could you do it?’
‘If he tries to do anything but that…’ – And Sarah looked at Pat O’Connell, who just nodded as his brothers got a little closer to Henry.
‘Do not worry about the foundation; I have the document already printed…’
‘Thank you Honoria… Sarah. Ellie?’ – And holding her youngest sister by the hand, with Emma and Timothy right behind them, returned to her room.
All eyes in the room converged on Henry. He looked at his options, and then Sarah harrumphed and played another video that was stored in the HD.
Ramsdale and himself, discussing the disposal of the O’Connells?
But that meeting had taken place inside his own office! Of course, the O’Connells either started cracking their knuckles or grabbed their guns and checked them…
‘Are perfectly legit, also the only things that prevents them to… express their opinion about you right now. The only things that will make you stay a free man, at least for a while. WE (all of us present) will not use any of the stuff stored in the HD, or the original (or any other copies) that Deborah Immoden has stored only she knows where, against you, and you will walk on your own as you leave this place…’ – started Sarah.
‘…As long as you don’t hide a thing in your writing.’ – finished Honoria.
Henry realized that he had no other option but to comply.
It took him nearly two hours to write everything, in over thirty pages, but it was a full confession, as Anastasia had demanded. In addition, they recorded him writing it down at the dinner’s table in Anastasia’s apartment, right in front of a large and charming portrait of his family, which proved that he was not being (physically) threatened when he wrote the confession and signed the document handed to him by Sarah.
THREE HOURS AFTER HENRY WAS EXPELLED FROM THE BUILDING
She was finally managing to convince Elinor that she was fine, as both Emma and Timothy were having trouble into making her go to the elevator. Then Ming-Ji showed up and, with only a stern look from her bodyguard (and obviously friend), all Elinor’s arguments crumbled to dust and Emma managed to put her inside the elevator.
Now she was alone in her apartment, or so she thought.
She had just sighed aloud when she heard the TV being turned on. She armed herself with a small metallic statue of a… some African deity apparently, and went to check.
It was Melissa O’Connell, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a cup of popcorn in her hands. What was she… she was watching the news?
‘Oh, hi… finally managed to make your younger sister leave?’
‘That is none of your concern and…’
Sarah’s face was in the screen, next to all Melissa’s brothers? She grabbed the control from the blonde girl’s hands, raised the volume and sat on the sofa behind her.
‘…So I told her that no one back home gave a… cared about she being ‘bi’, ‘lesbian’ or whatever. And that if she ever went back to our hometown, and any of the… busybodies that made her leave just tried to say something about her; then me and the boys…’ – and he looked at his brothers and cousins that were flanking him and nodded back at him – ‘…we would show them how much displeased we were with them. And she thanked me but said that she was… liking the United States and would try to make a living here.’
‘So your sister Melissa is fine?’ – asked a reporter.
‘Yeah, she’s kind of a wanderer about now, not stopping anywhere. She’s fine with it, for now... So, there was I, seeing that all my fears about what had happened a few weeks before were bul… stupid stuff. Melissa had NOT been kidnapped and Liam, that idiot, just tried to pull a lame prank on a former Japan’s national karate champion (or whatever), and got a well learned lesson because of it. These guys were ready to make jokes about it, when Pembroke…’ – And the man right next to his left raised his hand – ‘…just shoved me out of the room and told me to… ‘chill out’. I walked around, drank something and decided to return to the hotel. And next thing I know I have a sack over my head, cuffs in my wrists and two guys are punching me every time I dare to twitch. They drove to this place next to the docks, I could hear the ships, and put me in a room for the past days. And a few hours ago… they let me go.’
Next, and for five or six minutes, Sarah explained to the reporters how he had gotten in touch with her, how she had convinced him to go to her office so he could surrender to the police, who was wanting him for ‘outrageously phony charges’, and how she had already proved his innocence; the hooded man that the police had identified as ‘Pat O’Connell’ was two inches taller (and twenty to thirty pounds thinner) than the real one.
When the anchors started debating Sarah’s newest victory against the local P.D., she switched the sound to ‘off’ and looked at Melissa with unfriendly eyes.
‘This is our punishment for having taken part of your…’
‘Henry, please just call… him… ‘Henry’…’
‘Well, we took part on Henry’s plans and for that… we will lose, at least for a while, the anonymity we so enjoy and like. Now everybody that knew about Pat’s dark past knows about the whole gang, and Liam’s face and mine are in the news as well. Sure, they always wore masks when doing their jobs and all my victims knew me by aliases… But in exchange of a substantial payment… our faces and our real names are now public.’
‘What are you doing here?’
‘There are certain issues that Deborah would like to talk to you about, through this cellphone here…’ – And she pointed at a cellphone on the floor a few feet at her right – ‘…in about four hours. It’s either that or she’ll have to visit, and tie up and gag, again and for the third or fourth time this week alone, your sister Emma and use her as a bait or insurance (depends on how you look at it) for a private meeting between you two.’
‘All right... Third time?... But as soon as the calls end you’re out! Anything else?’
Melissa smiled and stretched her right arm, grabbing something that was under the sofa, probably right under the spot she was sitting on, and retrieved…
An old white envelope. Addressed to her with her father’s handwriting.
‘Before you ask, Honoria was the one that took it from the frame, and I was only told where she had hid it a few moments ago. No one saw what’s in…’ – She had been a bit sudden and forceful, understandably so, and now she had the envelope in her hands.
‘There’s food from a dozen different cuisines in the fridges, or you can order a pizza if you want. You do not try anything funny, you do not disturb me for the next hours and you will be fine. I know that I can take you down in a fight, and so do you apparently. This room, the bathroom and the kitchen are the ONLY places you can be while inside my home, is that clear?’ – She said as she typed something in the control before handing it back to Melissa. The cameras would now follow both of them wherever they went, and if Melissa dared to go somewhere else, she would be alerted.
Melissa nodded, and switched the TV to an old comedy movie that was just starting.
She rushed to her bedroom as soon as she was out of sight, and sat cross-legged on her bed; next, she took a deep breath and opened the bulging envelope.
Throughout the years, she had heard rumors about her mother, and the pictures she liked to take with herself as the model, and had a few harsh discussions with some very unpleasant ************… She had talked about it with the others.
Emma told that her pictures were of their mother posing naked for photographers like Bunny Yeager (who appeared with her in one or two of the lot), undeniably sexy (‘And what an odd thing to think about a picture with mom!’). Timmy declared that his pictures were more prosaic, she was doing common stuff like reading books or writing letters (while she was in the buff) in them (‘As if she was in a nudist community’). By the way Elinor had described (after a little pressure) her pictures, it looked like a dozen of the most famous 70’s and 80’s pin-up models had posed with her mother (wearing the same kind of ‘clothes/uniforms’) for ‘funny’ photographic essays more common in men’s mags of the early 50’s (‘A bit demeaning if you took them seriously, but I found them very silly actually’). In all three cases, with the pictures were letters and pages of their mother’s diary (but none of them three told her or the others what was in them).
‘You want a little help?’
What?! But… the alarm! She had forgotten to turn the alarm ‘on’!
The screen of her TV was flashing the warning: ‘Unauthorized snooping’ (She had to change the wording!) and the lamps by her bed were now showing a bright red light… and she had not realized any of it? She turned to the smiling (not grinning) girl who was still by the door of her bedroom, and was walking in!
‘Do anything that you would have done to me months ago, in a more brute way, in less time than I can think that it is possible for it to happen? I know. But I’ve been standing there for like five minutes, and you were like a statue with this envelope in your hands all along! You want me to open it for you?’
‘Do you have any idea of how close you are to spend very unpleasant hours right now?’
‘I spent very a weird month, sometimes very awful, other times… more than paradisiac, under the thumb of people way more frightening than you; so I think I can handle it. Come on, I’ll just…’ – and now she was right in front of her.
Anastasia’s first impulse was to expel the girl from her apartment. The second was to lock her in the small compartment under her bed after ‘packaging’ her quite crudely. The third, and winning one, was to ask her about what Deborah wanted with her.
For the next two and a half hours they talked about Henry’s plans for that Saturday night, Melissa’s kidnapping and what little she was ready to reveal about it, who were the Chinese men (and how Henry had met them in the first place)… Everything that Melissa knew about the whole conspiracy she told to Anastasia, and it was a lot!
Then they had dinner, which Anastasia prepared, and afterward the lady of the building decided to be absolutely sure that she would not be interrupted by her… guest?... while she saw whatever was in that white envelope…
Thirty one minutes later a naked, tightly belt leather ball tied and tape gagged Melissa was sighing heavily in a bored fashion as the door of the Gwendoline’s Locker was closed… And it was Anastasia’s turn to sigh. You can do it, you can do it, youcandoit...
And she grabbed the envelope.
And learned how big of a prankster her mother was…
Ransom notes! Fake ransom notes that is, all with four or five ransom pictures that would be of more interest to her father if, like her, he had been into bondage & BDSM.
Then who had tied her mother and took the pictures?
Honoria… there were the two of them, in a ‘before & after’ series of pictures…
And there was the pictures of her tied to a railroad track with her father emulating his Snidely Whiplash persona! He looked so ridiculous with that moustache!
And there were the pages of her diary… about her oldest daughter…
ONE HOUR LATER
‘My dear, harm her in any way SHE doesn’t allows you and you’ll have to deal with her brothers and cousins, especially Liam O’Connell! I might have ‘burned’ the whole family for months or years, and forced them into a semi-retirement until their names drop out of the radar, but that doesn’t means that they’ll be ‘back in business’ in full if you are the responsible for any demise that falls on Melissa’s head.’
‘But if I… help… her…’
‘Then whenever, whenever, you find yourself needing the help of persons that works outside the law’s boundaries… they will be around and ready. And in the meantime you’ll be enjoying her talents to read people (You will be heading the Graham Lake Foundation from now on, right?), which she can use in a good and clean way with your supervision (instead of using them to know which… buttons she should push to have her previous victims eat in the palm of her hand). She’s good, isn’t she?’
‘Yes. I have a copy of the Europol file on her… impressive even if only half of it…’
‘It’s all true…’
‘Alright, I’ll do it… Anything else?’
‘Nothing that I would say over the phone. Good night, Annie…’
Deborah nodded at Lynn and Meriem. The 33 years old brunette (Lynn) closed the call, grabbed the phone that was over the table and left the office while the 25 years blonde (Meriem) went to check on the owners of the house.
Time to face the devil…
She looked at the woman on the screen of the laptop in front of her.
‘Whenever I need to fool you, always with good reasons, you end up beating me… So tell me, Deborah, how should I proceed now that you turned the tables on me?’
‘I made a promise to her father.’
‘I know; no discussion about it. You know how much I respect this kind of behavior. But you lied to me, made me believe that you were in the dark about this whole deal…’
‘Just like you actually were.’
‘Exactly. I’ll think on something to have you disciplined. We both agree that I simply can’t afford you go ‘unpunished’ after you used so much resources of my organization in a cover up for something you were involved with, and that brought no profit at all.’
And she closed the call.
She was in so much trouble!
‘Madam, is everything alright?’ – asked Lynn.
‘Nope. I am going to be demoted, suspended or something else…’
‘Is there anything that we can…’ – started Meriem, but Debs raised her left hand.
‘My problem, my punishment… for now, everything is ready?’
‘Yes, madam. If anyone traced the call… we left enough evidences that this place was burgled. If they are pressured, by anyone, Robert and Pamela will admit that you were here. They are fine, even with your orders to make the bonds ‘tight and unprofessional as possible’, and within a minute of our departure he will be able to reach his cellphone that we failed to see that was under the bed…’ – said Meriem.
‘Did you thanked them for their help?’
‘Yes madam and they said that they would do it for free anyway…’
‘Maybe so, but in a week I want you to return here and leave the envelope I will give you tomorrow wherever they told you to. Is that clear?’
The girls nodded.
‘Well, now it’s better for us to leave. Any news from Grace?’
‘She sent a message. Everything is ready and she is waiting for us…’
‘Girls, I will be punished by my boss for having fooled her the way I did. However, I will punish you both, sternly, if you ever say a word about what happened tonight and why. On the other hand… I fulfilled a promise I made to a friend… albeit a reluctant one… before he died. So I feel like celebrating…’
‘Madam, for all I know I am not even here tonight!’ – said Lynn.
‘Neither am I, so how can I… how can we hear or see anything that might be happening in this house? Right now? I am at my friend/toy Grace’s home! Watching TV!’
Grinning, Debs grabbed both women’s faces and kissed them, and then they left.
FOUR DAYS LATER
The whole town was surprised with the spots that started to air one day earlier.
Henry Phillip ********** III was the frontrunner to get the Republican nomination, he was over ten percent ahead of the second place in any poll, and the primary was going to be held in nine days. And then his brother Timothy and his sisters Emma and Elinor made six TV spots in which they disavowed, bashed and attacked him?
And declared their support for the man who was last in all the polls?
Max Perlman’s campaign HQ was a room in the back of his bookstore, and now it was crowded with reporters. The police was having trouble with some protesters outside, four would end up arrested, and their number was just increasing by the minutes.
Max, a retired teacher at the local college who had been a lifelong friend of their father, and the trio of ‘traitorous siblings’ (as many were calling them) were sitting at a table in front of the mass of reporters, there was a TV screen on the table with them.
Max read a signed document in which he declared that he had only been alerted about the spots less than one hour before the first airing, that the siblings had not formed a PAC or any organization somehow linked, legally or not, to his campaign, and that, though he was not responsible for the spots in any way, he had learned the reason behind them and understood Tim’s, Emma’s and Elinor’s acts.
Emma was next, like Elinor and Timothy she was wearing a somber business suit and (in her case alone) a pair of glasses. She took a deep breath and started:
‘Among our family and friends, we are described as ‘apolitical ones’. It’s not something that we deal with. And, if I had not received this DVD seven days ago, we would not have changed our ways. Since the spots started airing yesterday, many of you have reported that we are no longer in speaking terms with… Henry since Tuesday. In addition, that we, and our sister Anastasia, have forced him to resign to his position at (and any ties with) the Graham Lake Foundation. All because of this DVD. Before we show you what’s in it, it is necessary that I explain that the address on the envelope that carried it was a fake one, and the name on it belongs to a fictional pulp character that I never heard of before, ‘Richard Curtis Van Loan’, and there was only a short message with it inside the envelope that I will read to you…’ – And she grabbed a sealed plastic bag with a white sheet of paper inside it – ‘…‘What the hell? You deserve to know.’...’
She nodded to Timothy who turned the TV on…
And the whole world watched the illegally recorded footage of the gathering at Henry’s estate, led by Ramsdale and with his confession (and actual opinion about his family)…
The police investigated the package, but the analysis of the envelope, the disc and the message revealed nothing. It attracted national attention when the woman that posted it (while being caught by a security camera) was identified as the notorious Deborah Immoden, but why was she (or her even more infamous boss) interested in Henry in the first place (and why she had put a camera in his estate) was a mystery.
Henry finished fourth in the primary, and then he stopped to pretend (in public) that he was a moderate, becoming the state’s top name among the fringe right. Eventually, he would be elected to the state’s House... but that was the limit of his political base.
Although his supporters kept trying to portray him as the victim of a betrayal of his family, including that former ADA that had made a ‘coup d’état’ in his foundation, the video that proved otherwise never left the web no matter how hard he tried to have it removed for good. Eventually, she would become his opposite, or nemesis…
ONE MONTH LATER
They had barely been on speaking terms ever since that day.
Well, not really, it was more as if they were avoiding each other.
But then Tanya and Heidi were back in town, and Mo’reen decided to ‘drop by’ as well. Honoria organized a party at an estate of a friend and, in the end, everybody invited everybody. And Satya Ross (the best expert in nawa-shibari in the whole state) invited Sarah as sort of a payment for helping her to convince three friends of the girls to be the ‘subjects’ of a workshop she decided to have in the party; while Rena Wylye (a former bondage model) sort of dragged Anastasia along... They met, talked, and, somehow, decided to have that not even interrupted poker game…
So now there she was, after trying to find a reasonable, or acceptable or even justifiable excuse to not come for almost a week, and failing miserably, she had just arrived on the floor. The elevator’s door opened and…
She was mad. No, Anastasia looked… pissed (?) as she stood by the door… wearing casual clothes (?), not even make-up? Had she forgotten about the game?
She was really fuming and even pouting!
‘We’ve been had.’
‘Excuse me?’ – asked Sarah as they exchanged a light kiss on the cheek.
Anastasia’s anger was gone for a moment and she blushed before answering.
‘I… I was having third thoughts about tonight. I was still feeling mad about how you played me, and fooled me and everything else. I do understand, I do!, that if you have acted any other, much more honest, way with me, then my love for Henry would have probably clouded my judgment... Still, I decided to call you and give you an excuse to forfeit this night. I grabbed the phone…’ – All the while they were walking towards her bedroom – ‘…and started to think in a good excuse. And then I thought: ‘Why oh why did I agree with this poker night?’, and when I got the answer…’
They had arrived. Over the bed, in one of the strictest, cruelest, meanest and weirdest hogties (how much… rope, scarf, tape, leather, tape, another kind of tape… twine?... had she used?) she had ever seen, lay Melissa O’Connell (in the buff).
‘She got in touch with Satya, who had already booked three gorgeous black girls from Lorna Gray’s agency, and convinced her to convince you that she needed help…’
‘…to convince Xiara, Destiny and Imani to help her at the workshop?’
Anastasia nodded, and she turned to the tape/scarf blindfolded and ballgagged captive with… a joyous expression in her face (that she hid from Anastasia). When she turned back to her hostess, a very convincing outrage had replaced it.
‘Rena is usually the dominant in her relationships, but somebody just knew which way she could be… indirectly coerced to try one night of total submission. The next morning Rena would do anything she told her to do if she wanted ‘seconds’, ‘thirds’…’
‘Okay, that explain how we ended up at the party… but that doesn’t explain…’
‘She has been pushing my buttons ever since I allowed her to move to this building! She… she’s really REALLY good at that! It started in a day when, somehow (right…), I was foolish enough to ask her how she had spent a month as Deborah’s captive (and/or guest), next thing I know I am talking to her about that night and all the other poker nights! And how did I end up over my kitchen’s balcony, hogtied by my hair and big toes and in the buff! And, yes, I told her about some of your predicaments too…’
‘Are you trying to make me mad at her or is me hiring this naked blonde your goal?’
‘Do you realize what she has done?’ – said an exasperated Anastasia.
‘Yes, perfectly…’ – and to Anastasia’s surprise, Sarah turned around suddenly and kissed her full in the lips in the classic pose of that picture with a nun and a sailor at the end of World War II! – ‘…and if you think that I am mad at her for bringing the fire back in your eyes, oh girl you are so mistaken! I could kiss her too, right now!’
‘But…’ – Tried Anastasia still having to look up to see Sarah’s face.
‘You love that asshole and you will love him till the day you die, even if he dies a hundred years earlier. Do NOT deny that! He is an idiot, a busybody among busybodies and many things that I do not want to think about it. Whatever was in that envelope… You saw what was in it, didn’t you? (…) Thought so… As I was saying, whatever was in it, it was NOT what he feared to find when he came up with his plans to grab that envelope before anyone else, especially you, did that. Yet, you love him, and his betrayal hurt you more than you would ever admit! You were the incarnation of apathy when we met three weeks ago at that soiree. And then I learned that she had moved to this place… the 3rd floor?... And that you were helping her to legally change her name and all… I wanted to invade this apartment myself! To have her packaged, crated and shipped back to whichever Irish spot under a rock she calls ‘home’! On the double!’
‘She can be… persuasive when she really wants to. So I agreed to give a month, if there was any indication that she was ensnaring you like she did with that Lamar dame…’
‘A Pittsburgh area’s dame that was a local bastion of the born again and anti LGBTQ movements. She totally fell for… Marion (?)… Anyway, I agree to wait a month before I invaded this place with Danielle Frost (because of her jet) and a dozen hired hands. And ten days later we met at a party, and you were no longer ‘Miss Apathy’, but you still were not… you. So I had some hope for tonight, and now here you are…!’
And, again, Anastasia got quite the kiss!
And this time… had she just kissed her back?
‘Welcome back! (…) Now look, about this horrible stuff you did to her…’
‘I did to her? I was the one fooled and done!’
‘Well, yeah, but…’ – And then Sarah spotted something on Melissa’s legs – ‘Oh, my… You idiot! You tied her too tight!’ – And she let Anastasia go, the owner of the place fell on her butt on the floor, and proceeded to untie/untape the captive girl without even looking at the her poker rival. Massaging more her pride than anything else, Anastasia approached her bed and tried to get Sarah’s attention.
‘Hey nothing! Give me a help here, now!’ – Sarah commanded, and Anastasia followed the order. She had really overdone it! And had glued some knots! Sarah barked an order and a meek Anastasia grabbed the nearest pair of scissors she could remember of, and as Melissa’s legs were finally resting free on the bed once more, she looked at her hostess with really determined eyes – ‘Do you actually want to punish this girl for bamboozling you? (…) Fine. WE are going to set her free. Then YOU will give her a massage and a bath. Meanwhile I will be at the phone, talking to both Satya and Rena. I can have them both here tomorrow morning… 09:30 AM?... And, believe me girl, both will willingly submit to any sort of ‘punishment’ for their part in the offense against you for the full Sunday! But if, IF (!), you want to punish this girl tonight…’
‘Draw poker. And, since I also played you…’
‘Hold on just a minute!’
‘I win, you spend the rest of the night pole tied in the Damsel Stasher room while I will be thanking this girl any way I see fit, by morning you can vent your anger on those two if you’re still at it. You win, you can punish us both, and tomorrow morning you will be disciplining FOUR bad girls! Deal? (…) Hello-o, deal?’
Anastasia was, understandably, stunned. So it was up to Sarah to actually work on the process of freeing Melissa. Only after the blonde girl was without any bonds (save for the ballgag that had a padlock), and Sarah grabbed her cellphone is that she started to show some reaction. Then Sarah left the room, dashing to the kitchen where she would secretly beg, implore, cajole and do whatever she needed to have those two wonderful women accepting that weird proposal that she had just made to Anastasia.
‘The name is Gwendoline’s Locker!’ – Anastasia managed to yell at the fleeing woman, and then she turned to her former ‘captive’, knelt in front of the bed (so they could speak at eye level) and kissed the front of Melissa – ‘That’s… frightening! She… actually put herself as part of the deal! Just like you… Oh right…’ – Melissa was pointing at the padlock, and Anastasia grabbed the key that she had hid in her sock after she had done that well planned mess of a hogtie on Melissa – ‘Need some water?’ – She asked while holding a bottle (that was hidden on the floor on the other side of the bed, outside the range of Sarah’s eyes) with a straw on it. Melissa drank it all.
‘Thank you… can I have that massage?’ – One moment later Anastasia was kneeling on the bed at her left, and her hands were (as usual) magnificent! – ‘Hmm… I told you that I could handle the revenge hogtie, but you actually made some of the knots too tight!’
‘Sorry, I had to look convincing… Still, I overdid it…’
‘What an understatement! Anyway… You were saying?’
And, as Anastasia gave Melissa a massage and a bath, both women remembered the plan that the… crazy (divinely so) Irish girl had come up with while dodging the ‘fury’ of her hostess when she found out about the reasons of Rena’s weird behavior (she had practically been kidnapped by her longtime friend that day)!
The sweetest talk she had ever been submitted to! And the most effective one…
Instead of throwing the Irish girl on the street, she had spent a whole evening trying to find a flaw in Melissa’s reasoning, while Melissa enjoyed some suspension in the ‘game room’, and then they had rehearsed their ‘parts’ throughout the whole night.
Twenty-five minutes later, Melissa’s restraints were two black padded thigh-to-wrist and one black ankle cuffs, and tape without packing over her lips as a gag.
Sarah kissed her front and promised that she was going to reward her generously, leaving the room as she ‘dragged’ Anastasia along by the right hand. Anastasia peeked over her shoulder, and mouthed ‘Thank you’ to the captive…
TWO MONTHS LATER
‘You are SO not going to do that!’ – Emma whispered a bit too loud.
‘Shut up, Emma, I am not a kid anymore!’ – Whispered back Elinor.
‘And what about you? You are supposed to protect her!’
‘I know! And I DO earn my paycheck!’ – Whispered Ming-Ji who was standing behind the row of six maids of honor. Aside the sisters the line was completed with Honoria, Tanya, Cecile and Melissa (who now went by as Charlotte ‘Charlie’ O’Keen).
‘Ladies… Could you please just shut up?’ – Asked/whispered (for real) Honoria to the infighting sisters, who realized that all the guests were looking at them.
‘We will talk about it later!’ – Whispered Emma to Elinor.
‘No we will not!’ – Answered Elinor.
Ming-Ji was about to interfere when she felt the vibration of her cellphone. She looked at Shannon, Lorna and the other bodyguards, whom all nodded at her, and went to a nearby room to answer that call. Only Elinor’s family had that number, and it had been changed after Henry had been exposed months before, which could only meant that…
‘Greetings Miss Deborah…’
‘Drop the ‘Miss’ next time, ok? How’s it going?’
‘If you’re asking about Miss Anastasia and Miss Sarah’s wedding, it is about to start. But if you are asking about our plans, Miss Emma somehow learned about them, and as expected she is making very clear her opposition to them. Especially in regard to Miss Elinor’s part in them, as your ‘guest of honor’.’
‘Too bad… I was really looking forward for a rematch…’
‘We will fight! Do NOT have any doubt about it!!! Even if I have to… to bind and gag Miss Emma and Misses Lorna and Shannon and lock them three inside some closet…!’
‘With or without Elinor’s help?’
‘With! (…)?!!!! Very funny… (…) What do I owe the pleasure of this call?’
‘Well, the Duchess suspended me; I had nothing to do but give time to my body to heal and help it do that… and I had a lot of help while doing it… and when I was fine enough to travel, I made a around-the-world trip to some people who help me ‘unrust’ in the right way… Now I am at the last day of my suspension, and if I know my boss, she will keep punishing me for a while, piling job over job over job. Therefore, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it for Seattle any time before 2020. But, tonight…’
‘Do… do you mean…?’
‘Enjoy the wedding, enjoy the party, take Elinor back home and truss her up in a way that she can’t interfere (with or without Emma’s help) and wait for my call. Not in this phone, in the one that one of the waitresses will give to you in a few minutes…’
‘One of the waitresses?’ – She asked as she started looking around at the catering service, which she now perceived as a treat. They seemed legit…
And were all employees of a friend of both Misses Anastasia and Sarah.
Had the agma yeoja had them all replaced by her…? No, she recognized half of them from previous social gatherings that Elinor had attended.
‘Let’s just say that she is replacing a girl that doesn’t mind to spend a few hours tied to a chair, just in case you or somebody else call the police, as long as she gets the money I promised to her. And right next to her, in a location far away from your reach and under the proper care and surveillance, is a gal whose mother, who owns the catering service, had not trouble in accepting the ‘replacement’ I picked for her…’
‘If any of those girls are… Wait a moment… You kidnapped Mrs. Cecile’s daughter?’
‘Lucy, her name is Lucy… I call you in two hours.’
Neither Anastasia nor Sarah learned about the reason why Ming-Ji did disappear for twenty or so minutes, and thus lost the beginning of the ceremony, until they returned from their honeymoon. They had believed in the story that she had found a paparazzi disguised as one of the waitresses from the catering service, and that the expulsion of the intruder had been ‘quick & quiet’ after a demonstration of Ming-Ji’ skills.
When they returned, Sarah was in the process of unpacking when she heard Anastasia (who had promised to check on the story thay had heard only when they returned) yelling her name. She ran to the living room and found her wife staring at the screen, where Ming-Ji was holding a teary Cecile in her arms. With Sarah’s skills both learned that, whatever it was, it had to do with Cecile’s daughter, Lucy.
They both agreed to watch the whole footage of that day before doing anything, and broke that agreement as soon as they saw Ming-Ji calling a pretty brunette, dressed as a waitress, and luring her to one of the guestroom, were she KO’ed the girl, stripped her completely and taped her into a ball, locking her inside the built-in closet after smothering four strips of tape over her lips when she finally came to, five minutes after Ming-Ji was done with the rest of her restraints.
As they kept watching, both women started a long list of phone calls.
Next Ming-Ji returned to the main room, were the ceremony was being held, and waited for the right moment (when the newlywed couple were exchanging their first kiss with their new legal status) to pass a note to Honoria.
As they received the compliments of their guests, Honoria and Ming-Ji had what looked like a serious talk, but the number of people that kept passing in front of them made any attempt of ‘reading’ their lips a waste of time in Sarah’s opinion.
Exactly two hours after she finished a phone call, Ming-Ji received another (which she was obviously expecting) as she and Honoria were locking themselves inside the guestroom were the first had imprisoned a waitress.
They talked with someone in… playful terms? No, but they obviously relaxed after a while… Cecile (whom Honoria welcomed to the room at one point and seemed a bit lost) had a conversation with the caller, and used and abused of swear words!
The party went on. Three hours later they left for the airport in company of their loved ones, but Ming-Ji and Kara stayed behind ‘to close the shop’ as Honoria had said at the time. They immediately removed the balltaped captive from the closet, undid the ball (but kept her restrained), gave her a much needed bathroom break (which Ming-Ji supervised), next they took her to the bed (where Kara provided a massage for the girl while Min-Ji fetched some fruits and yogurt for her) and had her trapped in a mummy fashion inside a big catering trolley (whose shelves had been removed) as soon as they realized that they and Cecile were the only ones left in the apartment.
All three women took the trolley to the garage, where its ‘live cargo’ was placed inside Kara’s car’s trunk, and they left.
‘I can’t reach either Emma or Elinor… and Timothy had more holes in his stories than he would have liked to admit. It seems that Deborah and Ming-Ji fought in and trashed Emma’s living room, and Ming-Ji got KO’ed while Deborah sustained some injuries, and both women made some kind of deal that involved Elinor…’ – said Anastasia.
‘I got the whole thing from Cecile, Lucy and Honoria… There was a fight that night, somewhere by the river, between Deborah and Ming-Ji. And for that to happen Lucy found herself with two kinky friends, and after a bet that she suspiciously lost she found herself taped, gagged and blindfolded to a pole (they wrapped the tape around her head and the pole as well) in the basement of the house of said friends, in her undies, for like twenty minutes, next they untied her and took her to a club she had been craving to go to… Of course, this happened in our wedding night. And of course, she found herself without her cellphone as soon as she returned to her apartment, like seven hours later… Cecile got a picture of Lucy’s ordeal to be forced to have that girl at our ceremony. Apparently, the girl the imposter was replacing was kidnapped for real.’
‘The fake kidnapping Tim was talking about was hers? And what of her friends?’
‘Gone with the wind… the rented house was bare (save for Lucy’s phone) by the time she drove her mom and a couple of friends that are cops to there the next day...’
‘The waitress that was kidnapped?’
‘Got some money from Cecile and more money from Deborah and left town. She looked fine according to Cecile, and is doing well in Newark or some place near there.’
‘So all this was because Deborah wanted to have a rematch with Ming-Ji?’
‘Exactly… I got a call from one of my… sources… Ming-Ji won the second fight, and there are rumors that in six months or less there will be a ‘best-two-out-of-three’ fight… in a still unknown location. Oh, and one more thing…’
‘Honoria said something about a… bonus scene…?’
Both women looked at each other and tried to figure out what did she meant with that. Anastasia had the idea to forward the footage a few minutes and there it was…
About forty minutes after leaving, Kara returned alone to the building, right on time to welcome Honoria and Elinor (who had agreed to be their housesitter for the first week).
And Elinor seemed to be having an argument with Honoria?
She was talking (and yelling) a lot! So was Honoria! And Sarah was reading it all…
‘I know that she is your sister and all, but… would you mind to make some popcorn?’
‘Why?’ – asked Anastasia as she saw the hint of a smile in Sarah’s face.
‘Well, according to Honoria, and what I am reading, the original plan seemed to involve Elinor becoming per her own will Deborah’s guest somewhere in Seattle…’
‘WHAT????!!!! Is she mad or… or…’ – The way Sarah was grinning was weird…
‘I know, and if you knew half what I know about that woman… But that was the plan so Ming-Ji wouldn’t have any sort of conflict of interests while she fought Deborah. That night, while Ming-Ji was having the fight, Elinor was at the airport. And by the way I am reading it, she was really adamant in her wish and will to be present ‘when the fight happens’… And did you saw the way Honoria and Kara…’
‘…Exchanged glances?’ – Sarah nodded and she looked at the screen, and smiled a very wicked one – ‘We are going to erase the footage as soon as we finish to watch it…!’
‘Of course…’ – Sarah said and both exchanged even more wicked smiles and looks.
‘I mean it!’
And that sent them to a fit of giggles and snorts after looking at each other’s faces!
‘So popcorn…, and some orange juice?’ – Anastasia asked after catching her breath.
‘Why not? After we finish unpacking.’
‘Oh come on! (…) Fine, after we finish unpacking…’ – and both women went to their bedroom to unpack, as fast as humanly possible, their entire luggage…