A Girl in Every Port
The photographs had been on the front page of every newspaper in Europe – the green light shining down on the naked girl in a cage, her wrists pulled through the top and manacled together and tape over her mouth. It had been taken as the Berlin police raided what turned out to be the base of operations for a major kidnapping gang, and the daughter of the German Foreign Minister had been the first of six victims to have been liberated on that early morning.
The results, and the material found, were the stuff of sensational headlines and much debate on the current affairs programs, but at the non-descript glass and concrete building in Lyon one particular piece of evidence had been taken much more seriously than it at first had appeared to be. The gathering of quiet, well dressed men and women in one of the conference rooms in the building was testimony to that – each had a tale to tell, and it started when the tall, balding man came in and brought the meeting to order.
“Gentlemen – thank you all for coming today. It appears that, rather unexpectedly, we may have our first clue as to who the person we know as Lady Black started to operate across Europe.
“As you know, we collected a lot of evidence in Berlin – including computers which we have examined. Amongst the e-mails we found this particular one which was sent six months ago from London.”
The man took several papers from a file and passed them round, allowing the others time to read and digest the contents.
I begin to tire of this small country. When I came here three months ago from the US, I hoped I could carry on as I had done before, but recently I have started to feel a real sense of ennui.
Take last week – I was in my Versace trouser suit when I visited this black haired wonder in Knightsbridge, just back from her office and chatting to her husband when I rang the doorbell. He was a wimp – out in a second – but she fought like a wildcat before I had a chance to tell her to shut up. She almost knocked my wig off in her blows, but I managed somehow to remain calm and serene.
As a result, I took far longer than I intended in securing her – well, I had to be sure she would not get in the way, and this was no frightened little kitten. Maybe I didn’t need to pull the skirt of her suit up so that her stocking tops showed, or pull her legs back so far that her heels nearly spiked her pert little bottom – but I had to be certain.
She glared at me through her black hair as I finally opened the safe, and the language that came out was some of the ripest this belle has ever had to hear. It was a real pleasure to shut her up with that napkin, I can tell you, but her eyes still looked at me as if she wanted to stab me with them.
Anyway, as I closed the door and pocketed the small number of jewels she had I heard a loud bang on the door, so I legged it out of the rear entrance and through the back gate. There must have been a hidden alarm, and lord alone knows but she managed to activate it, as I watched the police break the door down from a safe distance.
At any rate, I’m moving in. I hope to drop in and see you soon. Love and kisses.
“This was presumed to be the work of the person known to us now as Lady Black, on account of her long black hair and glasses as well as her occasional sense of dress. She was thought to be responsible for a string of burglaries in the Greater London area, but we could never track her down. After this incident, the attacks stopped.”
“In London at least,” a flaxen haired woman said. “A week or two later, we noticed a similar pattern of things happening in Scotland. Here’s a witness statement from one incident in Edinburgh.”
“Jim and I had just come back from our S6 classes, intending to catch up on some revision. We still had on our school uniform – Jim in a dark blazer and trousers, white shirt and dark blue tie, while I had on a grey tartan skirt, brown jumper and black tights.
“Anyway, we had just settled down when there was a ring on the front door of the flat. I was about to go when Jim said he’d go and see who it was. From the room, I could hear him talking to someone, and then there was a dull thud. I stood up and walked out to the corridor, before putting my hands to my mouth in shock.
“Closing the door was a tall, thin woman, with long dark hair and dark glasses, who looked at me as she let some sort of cloth drop to the floor. Jim was on the ground, sprawled out and obviously unconscious, as she took a small pistol out of her handbag and pointed it at me. ‘He will be just fine,’ she said in a deep voice with a slight American accent, ‘but I want you to do exactly what I tell you to do. Do you understand?’
“I just nodded as she walked over, her corduroy culottes squeaking as she walked and the heels of her black leather boots tapping no our wooden floor. She forced me back into the main room and made me kneel in front of a chair. I looked over my shoulder as she knelt down and pulled several lengths of white rope out of her handbag.
“’Hands behind you, dear,” she said as she grabbed my arms and pulled my sleeves down before tying my wrists together, the rope going over the cotton but still firmly applied. ‘Now, why don’t you tell me where your family keep their little valuables while I work, and this will be over very quickly?’
“She made me turn round and sit down, and as I watched her tie my ankles and legs together I told her where we kept our stuff. I was too scared to do otherwise. Eventually, she made me lie face down and pulled my ankles up, securing them to my wrists. ‘You are a cute young thing,’ she said as she pulled my skirt down a little, and then stood up. ‘Can I trust you to keep quiet?’ she said to herself, then shook her head. ‘Does your daddy have any tape?’ she said, and I told her to look in the kitchen.
“Ten minutes later, I watched her, unable to call out with several layers of tape over my mouth, as she robbed us blind. She left, closing the door behind her, and I started to scream for help. It was only when Jim came round that I was able to get free and call the police.
“Honestly, apart from her height and voice, I can’t remember much more. She had on a brown bomber jacket, but apart from that – I’m sorry, can we stop now...”
The woman looked around the table. “We contacted other forces in the UK, and discovered this person had been operating for months in the area. All small crimes, some with violence, but no real pattern emerged until we actually talked to each other. Then, they stopped. Inspector Javert?”
The tall man nodded. “You should not feel ashamed, DCI Hunt. This woman appears to be a very slippery customer. What we did not realise is that she did not only operate in London. Detective Van der Bilt?”
A red haired man in a grey suit spoke next. “We too had noticed a small series of burglaries in Amsterdam. In one unfortunate case, the victim had only just moved into her house and had not even started unpacking yet when she and her husband were attacked...”
“No, no, no....”
The blonde haired beauty stared at her husband, prostrated on the floor, as the dark haired woman closed the kitchen door behind her. She was wearing a dark brown sweater, faded blue jeans and knee length brown suede boots, and in her gloved hand was a small pistol. All Anna saw, however, was her dark glasses and long hair as she spoke in a deep Southern accent.
“He’ll be just fine, sugar – why don’t you just raise your hands and go back into the front room there?”
Anna and her husband had literally just spent their first night in their new canal side home, and she had decided to have a shower while he fixed breakfast. She’d heard the door bell, but the first inkling of something been wrong was when she came into the kitchen to see the intruder holding him as his eyes closed, a cloth firmly grasped over his nose and mouth.
“Don’t worry,” the woman said as Anna led her into the room, “I don’t want your paintings and drawings. I could not carry them anyway. I just want your money and jewellery – and your cooperation. That’s a lovely robe.”
Anna was wearing short kimono print robe, and as she stopped she said “Thank you.”
“Take it off.”
“I beg your pardon.”
The woman smiled as she brought her shoulder bag round and took several lengths of brown rope out. “Take it off – I need you to do exactly what I tell you now.”
Some hours later, the man slowly got to his feet as he shook his head. “Anna?” he called out, and the muffled response led him to the front room where Anna was sitting on the floor, naked except for the ropes that encircled her arms and legs, making her sizable chest much more prominent. She screamed at him through the white cloth that covered her mouth, and as he pulled it down he saw the sash from the robe stuffed into her mouth.
“Call the police,” Anna said as he removed the silk wad from her mouth, “We’ve been robbed.”
“The attacks were several weeks apart, but they all followed a similar pattern – the man was knocked out, and the woman forced to hand over valuables before been tied up and gagged.”
“Whoever this woman is, she’s brave and thorough – these women stood no chance.” Inspector Javert picked up another file. “The Gendarmerie in Paris had some similar attacks as well – including one on a junior minister.”
Pierre looked round the hallway as he closed the door to his house, wondering why everything was so silent. He had been spending the day in committee meetings, and very much wanted to discuss one or two things with his wife. There seemed to be nobody home, however, not even the security detail.
“Jacques?” he called out again, but this time there was a response – a low groan from behind the door of the coat cabinet. Cautiously, he opened it to reveal a very well built man in an expensive suit slumped on the floor, opening his eyes as he rubbed his head and looking up.
“Monsieur Deschamps? What... What happened? I remember opening the door to a visitor, then something wet hitting my face, but now...”
“Mon Dieu – where is Madeline?” Pierre shouted as the guard slowly stood up and walked out of the closet. “Madeline!!!” Pierre stopped a she heard something from the front room, and gasped as he walked in.
Madeline Deschamps was lying face down on the floor, the front of her striped blouse open and revealing the blue bra he had watched her put on that morning. Rope encircled her arms above and below her breasts, as well as securing her bound wrist both to her waist and her secured ankles which had been pulled back. Her skirt had ridden up slightly, and the leather of her shoes squeaked as she tried to shake her feet free. A white bandage covered her mouth, which when it was removed was found to be holding a brightly coloured Hermes scarf behind her lips.
“Madeline, are you all right?” Pierre said as the guard called for the police.
“No I am not all right,” she screamed as the gag was removed. “This... this woman came in, forced me to hand over my jewellery and then tied me up like a chicken.”
“What did she look like?”
“I don’t know – tall, thin, dark hair with a dark blue Armani trouser suit and Jimmy Choo heels. Just get me out of here!!!”
“Naturally, this brought the woman to our attention, especially when we heard of similar attacks elsewhere. We wondered if we were dealing with someone who travelled a lot – an air hostess, perhaps, so we started to look at staff schedules and so on. None of them seemed to make any sense, however. And in the meantime more and more attacks were being associated with Lady Black. Raul?”
A dark haired Spaniard spoke next. “In Madrid and Barcelona, we had also seen similar attacks, but with one slight difference. Here, there seemed to be more than one woman who was captured at the same time. It may be this was just an unlucky time for this Lady – at any rate, one history goes as follows...
“There now – isn’t that nice?”
Maria glared at the dark haired woman as she was turned round. On the floor was her brother, knocked out after he had played the gallant hero and said she could use their phone to call for a pick-up truck for her car. She had walked in as the cloth was clamped over his mouth and nose, the woman smiling as he fell down.
She was wearing a floor length brown skirt of thick cotton, and Maria could see short boots on her feet underneath. A thick roll necked sweater complemented the skirt, as did the leather gloves she was wearing as she had tied Maria’s bare wrists together. She had been planning to go out, but had only put on a black vest top and shorts at the point. So her wrist had no protection from the thick white rope as it was tightened around them.
“Why are you doing this,” she said as the woman led her to the bedroom, her dark hair falling around her face as she struggled.
“Calm down, darling,” the intruder said in a deep voice, “I just want your money and other knick knacks. Your brother will have a bad headache – nothing more. Ah, a lovely room.”
The bedroom was simply furnished; the most striking feature a bed with an ornate wooden head board. “Let’s make you comfortable here while I...”
She stopped as both women heard the front doro open, adn Maria gasped as she slapped her gloved hand over her mouth and held a pistol to ehr head.
“Not a word,” she whispered as Maria whimpered on recognising the voice of her friend Alicia.
“Maria – where are you?” the voice said as footsteps came closer to the bedroom. The doro opened, and a young woman with long ginger hair came in.
“Maria I....” Alicia started to say before she stopped in her tracks. A buxom young girl, the tight white vest top she was wearing barely covered her chest, while the shorts stopped just below her crotch.
“Looks like you two girls have something to talk about,” the tall dark haired woman said as she pointed the pistol at Alicia. “Not just yet though – you, lie face down on the bed while I take care of this young lady here. Hands behind your back, and not a word.”
As Alicia slowly walked over and lay down, the woman removed her hand from Maria’s mouth. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she said as the intruder made her sit on the bed and place her legs in the Lotus position before taking more rope and tying her crossed ankles together. She then walked round to Alicia, her dress swishing as she walked, and crossed her wrists in the small of her back before tying them together.
“Well now,” the dark haired robber said as she made Alicia sit up. “What are we going to do with you two lovely, young ladies?”
Raul groaned as he slowly came to and pushed himself off the ground. Something was not quite right, but as the woolly feeling left his head he struggled to think of what that was. The growing noise from his sister’s bedroom told him that might be the place to look for answers.
As he opened the door, he was confronted by the sight of Maria and Alicia sitting on the bed, back to back, with Alicia facing him. She had a black scarf pulled between her lips, as Maria looked round and screamed through the white scarf that had been used to gag her. Their legs were crossed in front of them and bound, their arms pulled behind their backs, and ropes tied around their arms above their elbows to hold them together.
“Oh... Hold on, I’ll call the police,” he said as he ran back out of the room, the screams of the two girls following him.
“It does appear to be the same woman – and they were doubly unfortunate?” Inspector Javert said with a nod. “What intrigues me is she knows exactly how much ether or whatever it is to knock out the male partner – and it always seems to be a male partner.”
The table turned and looked at the young Italian officer who had spoken.
“This Lady Black has also struck in Rome – and in the most recent attack, it was not a man who was chloroformed. Indeed, I think this person took some particular care with the case I have to tell...”
“Please, come this way. You may use the telephone in our office.”
Paula looked up as Eve showed the stranger into their office. Her large dark glasses hid her eyes, while the long black hair hung over the black raincoat she was wearing. Had Eve not been there, Paula may have been tempted to talk more, but as it was she turned back to the book and continued to read, her large glasses and long red hair making her look like a schoolteacher even if her sleeveless purple top, short black skirt and wide leather belt told a different story.
“My apologies – I need to call for mechanic to come and look at my car, and me cell phone is dead,” the new arrival said in a deep Southern US accent, but Paula merely nodded as Eve showed her to the telephone. Eve was dressed for her work – a white linen jacket with an embroidered pattern on the front, a mid-length linen skirt and black heels. “You may call from here,” she said as the woman thanked her and placed her handbag on the table, looking for something inside.
“Really, Paula, you should show more respect for....”
The sudden silence made Paula look up for the first time, as she watched Eve slowly crumple to the ground, her eyes closing as she did so. Behind her was the visitor, a hypodermic syringe in her hand and a smile on her face as she pointed a gun at Paula.
“Real life can be more exciting than books, sugar,” she said as Paula slowly stood up. “Ah, ah – sit back down and put your hands on top of your head, this is a robbery, and you will do exactly what I say. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” Paula said as she sat back down, “but what did you do to Eve?”
“A simple anaesthetic – she will come round eventually, but I need you to tell me where you keep your valuables.”
To the woman’s surprise, Paula smiled. “When and if I do, what happens to me?”
“I’ll make sure you can’t raise the alarm, and leave.”
“That sounds like fun,” Paula said, and the woman looked at her, the glasses making it impossible to see her eyes but a smile was starting to form on her lips. “I take it you are not the dominant partner.”
“No – but I would like to be for once. Did you plan to do anything to her?”
“No – normally it is a man I put to sleep, and I have an aversion to binding them unless I have to.”
“Well then, let me help you make sure Eve cannot raise the alarm as well, and I will do whatever you ask.”
The woman smiled, and then said “All right – help me turn her over,” as she put her bag on the floor and knelt down, the plastic of her coat squeaking as she did so.
“What is your name?” Paula asked as she crossed her partner’s wrists in front of her.
“Neon of your business – now get started,” the woman replied as she handed Paula a length of rope.
It was an hour or so later as Eve slowly opened her eyes and groaned, a strange cotton taste filing her mouth. As she opened her eyes, she realised that she was on her side on the wooden floor, and that she was unable to move her arms or legs. The reason for that became clear as she opened her eyes and saw that her wrists and forearms had been tied together. They had then been secured to her legs, with her wrists against her lower legs so that she was in some form of front hog tie. There was a small mirror on the floor, and she could see that a red scarf was in her mouth, a knot tied in the middle and pushed between her teeth while the ends lay on the floor.
There was a muffled call from behind her, and she turned her head to see Paula sat in a wooden chair, a blue scarf pulled into her mouth and tied behind her head so that her hair was trapped underneath. As she slowly rolled over, she saw that Paula’s ankles were tied to the leg of the chair, and her wrists tied behind her back as ropes held her arms to her side above and below her breasts, forcing her top to stretch over her breasts.
Most surprising of all, however, was the rope tied around her waist and between her legs. As she watched Paula, two things crossed her mind. The first was how to get free so that they could call the police and warn them of that woman.
The second was to try and memorise that arrangement, as the mixed look of fear and pleasure on Paula’s face was something she found – appealing.
“Most unusual,” DCI Hunt said with a smirk. “This was Lady Black, however?”
“It was – when Inspector Javert contacted us, we realised there had been six other attacks with a similar style. This is a very cool and calculating woman, with a distinctive style, and yet...”
“And yet we cannot find any travel patterns. There is a set of flights that would explain the sequence of attacks, but no dark haired woman fitting that description at any of the passport controls.
“At any rate, it allowed us to start to fit other attacks – especially when our colleagues in Vienna reported a similar attack. They were unable to be here today, but...”
Inspector Javert looked through the notes in front of him.
“Here we are – a month ago Karl and Frieda Muller were preparing to leave for a night at the opera when there was a knock on the door of their apartment. Fraulein Muller is in her early thirties, long blonde hair and well built, and for the evening had decided to be provocative.”
“Who knows – but she was wearing a short sleeved white top and a long red skirt with a wide black belt. Her husband was more conservative, but she was about to put on a mink top when he went to answer the door.
“According to her, the next thing she saw was a tall, dark haired woman in a floor length velvet evening gown and long opera gloves, pointing a gun at her and telling her to keep quiet and show her where the valuables were.
“Naturally, Frieda screamed, and equally naturally I suppose the stranger walked up and slapped her. Through the open doorway behind, she could see Karl unconscious on the floor, and realised he was not going to come to her aid. At that point she decided to cooperate and remember what she could.
“As the intruder took her by the arm, she noticed that her grip was unusually strong,. And wondered if she worked out. At any rate, she offered no resistance as her wrists were tied together behind her back, and she was made to lie down on a mattress before her ankles were bound, the matching red shoes she had put on staying on her feet. The binding was completed by the simple expedient of attaching her wrist to her ankles with a short length of rope, before Frieda told her where to look for what little jewellery and money the two of them had.
“Before the woman left, she took a roll of silver duct tape and tore several strips off, covering Frieda’s mouth to present her raising the alarm, and then she left. It took several hours for her husband to come round and raise the alarm.”
Van der Bilt looked up from the scribbles he had been making on his pad. “Individually, these attacks did not seem to have much involved, but collectively they must have been very profitable. Whoever this woman is, it seems to work for her.”
Inspector Javert looked over at DCI Hunt. “You have a question?”
“Not as such – more a feeling. The description of this woman focused on what – her hair, the dark glasses, and the deep voice. Also she was strong and commanding. There’s something at the back of my mind – something I read about in the US. Would you excuse me a minute?”
She stood up and hurried out of the office, the assembled men watching. “She comes highly commended by her CO – let’s see what she finds. In the meantime, we were fortunate enough to find that she had attacked in Geneva as well – and left a memento behind.”
He handed round copies of a Polaroid photo, that showed a young woman sitting in a chair, a newspaper stuck behind her arms which had been tied together in front of her at the wrists. There was rope around her arms and chest, holding the paper in place and her wrists in front foe hr, as well as around her legs, and there was silver tape over her mouth.
“For some reason, she took photos of this young girl in her flat after subduing her father, and leaving them behind when she left. Why, who can tell – and this was just a week ago.”
The assembled group talked amongst themselves, wondering what to make of this latest development, when the telephone in the centre of the table rang.
“Yes?” Javert said as he pushed the speaker button.
“My apologies, Inspector, but we have the local police from Copenhagen on the line. It appears Lady Black has struck again.”
“Dammit – put them on,” Javert said in an exasperated voice. “Put them on.”
“Inspector – I thought you should hear this now, given you are in conference with others about Lady Black. We had this report literally half an hour ago.
She was standing in the doorway to the main room, smiling as she let my husband fall tot eh floor. We had just started lunch when there was the ring on the doorbell, and I literally had a ham on rye bread poised to bite into when I saw her standing there.
She was wearing a black leather jacket and trousers, and smiled as she let Michel fall to the floor and pointed her gun at me. We had slept late, so I had a dressing gown on over my bra and knickers, intending to dress later.
“I’m in a hurry, so don’t give me any trouble,” she said as she grabbed me by the arm with her gloved hand. “Money, jewels, anything I can carry – show me where it is.”
Well, I offered no resistance as we went round the flat, her hassling me all the time and speaking in that strange deep accent, until we got to the bedroom. She seemed agitated, as if she wasn’t sure what she was doing. Anyway, in the room were several packages I had intended to send out from my home business, as well as several rolls of the wrap we use before they get put into boxes and packages. She saw them, and smiled as she told me to stand quite still with my hands by my side. Removing my dressing gown, she started to wrap the clear plastic around my body at my neck, pinning my arms to my side as she slowly made her way down my body until she finished at my feet. I was completely covered in plastic, mummified as she looked at me and made me ho over to the bed.
A length of wide white tape went over my mouth, and I looked at her as she pocketed my jewellery and ran out of the door, mumbling something about being late for a light.”
“The call came in from her husband half an hour ago – we’re monitoring transport in and out of the city for a tall, dark haired woman with dark glasses fitting that description.”
“You won’t find her.”
The room turned and looked at DCI Hunt as she came back into the conference room, a sheaf of paper in her hand.
“I knew this sounded familiar – last year there were a string of robberies across the states, with a similar MO. They never caught the woman responsible, but her description matches Lady Black. These are the FBI reports and the arrest warrant for the chief suspect.”
She handed the papers to Javert, who quickly glanced at them and looked at the young woman. “My god,” he said, “Lady Black...”
“Is a man. A reporter tracked him down to Chicago before he fled the states for the UK. From there he apparently moved to Sweden, where police lost track of him. His name is Samuel Jansen – same height, but with short light brown hair.”
“Officer – check flight schedules out of Copenhagen today, see if that name appears.”
“One moment Inspector,” the voice on the telephone said. “Good work, Ms Hunt,” Javert said with a smile as the group looked at the young female officer. “Have you considered a transfer to work for us?”
“We have a Samuel Jansen leaving for Oslo three hours ago – the timing would match.”
“Got him,” Inspector Javert said. “Get onto the Oslo police and tell them to track this man down – before it’s too late.”
“I told you not to look in that room.”
Agnetha looked over her shoulder at her boyfriend as he looped the coarse rope around her wrists and tied them together. She had lived with James for a year, knowing he travelled a lot on business, but had grown to love him. It was the first time she had actually looked where he kept her papers, but discovering instead of a filing cabinet and a computer a stack of well designed women’s clothing and a set of black wigs had been a shock.
Not a great a shock, however, as turning and seeing him standing there in a loose grey t-shirt and jeans. He had said nothing, but grabbed her and ripped off her white blouse to reveal her bra, before tying her wrists together.
“Pity – you really are a beautiful girl,” he said as he held her arm with one hand and picked up a roll of white medical bandage with the other. “Now I need to clear out and start again.
She had no time to scream as he wrapped the bandage tightly over her mouth, passing it between her lisp with the first few turns before covering her lips and lower face with each extra pass. Pressing the end down at the back of her neck, her blonde hair trapped by the wraps, he pressed on her mouth and pulled her head back.
“Let’s hope I have time to pack,” he whispered as she pulled Agnetha towards the bed in the room, her struggling against his tight grip. “At least that reporter in the states had the taste to ask my story, but I don’t think you want to hear that.” He pushed her down as sirens could be heard through the open window. “Let’s get you comfortable first, hmm?”