Hunting for the SNARK
“Please, I swear to God, we don’t know what you’re looking for. Just don’t do this to us...”
She looked up at the armed man standing over her and her friend, holding their uniforms in his hand as he watched the last length of rope being tied around their chests. Both women had walked in to find the two intruders waiting, dressed in black and carrying guns. They had forced the two women to strip before binding their wrists together behind their backs. They had then been forced to sit back to back while their ankles and legs were secured, before they were tied together at their elbows. She could hear her flatmate moaning behind her, the sounds made indistinct by the thick white cloth that was filling her mouth.
At least, she assumed that was what it was, based on the fact the second man was mow holding a similar cloth taut in his gloved hands in front of her. “Last chance,” the man standing over her said, “What do you know?”
“Please I swear, I don’t know anything. Just take what you want and go,” she pleaded as she felt the tears running down her cheeks. It was the last thing she said as he nodded to the other intruder, who pulled the cloth into her open mouth. She grunted as she looked down her legs to her crossed ankles, and felt her friend pressing in behind her as well. She knew what she was thinking – what of their other flatmate?
That particular question was answered as they heard the door open and a voice call out “Anybody home?” A nod was enough to make the second intruder get up and head out of the front room, carrying several coils of rope with him. Both women listened until they heard a man say “Shut up and strip,” and their flatmate replying “Oh god, oh god....”
“Maybe she knows more,” the man said as he walked out of the room, leaving the two trussed and gagged women struggling...
“So she was forced to strip down to her bras and panties, and then bound by the wrists and ankles?”
Detective Jack Daniels looked over at his partner as he read the file.
“That’s right – they made her lie face down on the floor before tying some rope around her waist and pulling it between her legs.”
“Yeah – they kept asking her about snacks, but she had no idea what they were talking about. They hogtied her, gagged her and left the house half an hour later. It took her about another hour to make her way to where her friends were and start to untie them.”
Jack sat back in his chair. “I don’t get it – they bind, gag and threaten three women, for a few dollars and some snacks? Bunch FO amateurs if you ask me. What else has been going on?”
Dave looked at the pile of files on his desk. “Not much – quiet weekend really.” Those words were going to haunt both men other the next few days...”
“What the fuck?”
Holly Jones let her keys drop to the floor before slowly raising her hands. She had just come back from her morning jog to find two men, dressed in smart suits, shirts and ties, waiting in her house. Both had guns, and both had white masks covering their faces.
“Please, stand perfectly still unless we tell you to move,” one of them said as the other walked up to her, several lengths of white rope in his hands. Holly allowed him to bind her wrists together behind her back, fearful of what might happen if she tried to resist, before he wrapped a longer length around her chest, above and below her breasts and stretching the purple cotton of her jogging vest over her ample bosom.
“Now,” the other man said as Holly grunted at the last tug of the rope, “we’re going to take a little walk around your house, Miss Jones, and I want you to tell me where you keep everything of value – and I mean everything.”
“All... All right,” Holly said quietly as she was taken by the arm. The three spent the next hour or so wondering around her house, as she told them where she kept her money, jewels and other items she thought they might want. These they took gladly, but Holly got the distinct feeling they were looking for something else as well. As they returned to the room, the intruder said “That’s it?”
“Yes,” Holly said, “What more do you want?”
“She doesn’t have it,” he said to his partner. “Still, not a total waste. Gag her.”
“Whmmmpph,” Holly said as a cloth was stuffed into her mouth and she heard the rip of duct tape. The tape was wound tightly around her head, her long dark hair lifted out of the way, before she was forced to sit down and her ankles, thighs, calves and knees taped together. She watched, helpless as the two masked men left her in the room, and sat still until she was sure that they had gone. Eventually, she forced herself to stand and began to hop towards the phone, her focus on calling for help...
“I’m telling you, Detective, I have no idea what else they were looking for. They already had everything I owned, but they seemed to think I knew about something else. What, I’ve no idea.”
“All right, Miss Jones,” Jack said as he put his pen back into his jacket pocket, “We’ll let the SOCO guys do their work, and we’ll let you know if we learn anything.” He stood up and walked out of the room, passing the officers gathering evidence.
“Two break-ins in three days? Is there something going on we need to know about?”
“I’ve no idea Dave – but it looks like we’re going to be a bit busy. Any plans for tonight?”
“I was going to see my sister, but she phoned up – said her flatmates had a surprise for her and she had to stay in.”
“I’m telling you, I don't know!!”
Casey had been told her two flatmates had a surprise for her, but this was not quite what she had expected. She had thought they had invited some of the boys round – instead she was lying face down on the floor, one of her flatmates holding her wrists together behind her back while the other was starting to wrap a long length of yellow rope around her bare ankles. As she felt them being drawn together, she looked over her shoulder and shouted “Look, I don;t mind playing these games, but I would like a little warning first. After all, I could have been on a date tonight.”
“Ah, shut up Casey,” the blonde said as she wrapped the rope around and between her legs, before passing it to the tall brunette to tie Casey’s wrists together. “We both think you need a time out, and this is the only way we can make sure you get it.” Casey grunted as she felt her wrist been tied together, before she was rolled over onto her side. “Now then,” the blonde said as she produced a feather duster, “what’s the name of your latest beau?”
“Fuck off,” Casey said before she exploded into laughter as the feathers were lightly stroked on the soles of her feet. The two continued to question her, about her love life, her recent nights out and the people she had talked to, every question been followed by a tickle somewhere.
Two hours later, they watched Casey as she walked off to the bathroom to shower and change. “She really doesn’t know,” the blonde said to her friend as the door closed on them.
“Nope – it must be someone else who was there that night. Pity – that money may have come in useful. Do you think we should tell her?”
“What, and find out she did know and she goes for the reward? No freaking way – we keep it as a normal girl’s night in – which reminds me,” she said as she held the rope up. “Your turn....”
Elsewhere in town, a more serious interrogation was taking place at the home of Dr Helen Daniels. She had been working late when the two men had broken in and surprised her and her secretary. One had stayed downstairs with Jenny while the other had forced Helen into her bedroom and made her reveal where her strongbox was. She had watched as he emptied it, before he had asked some questions about something called Shrek – at least, that was what she heard, but she had no idea what the man was talking about. Then she heard the words she had been dreading – “Strip.”
Slowly, she had taken off her jacket and skirt, revealing a matching pair of pink panties and bra as she stood there in her bare feet. The intruder had then made her lie face down on the bed, as he produced a roll of black electrical tape from his pocket.
Her wrists had been first, taped together behind her back, and then her ankles. Making her roll over and sit up, he had then taped her legs together above her knees, before forcing her arms into her side by wrapping the taper around her upper body, forcing her breasts out as he did so. The final ignominy had been when he used the tape to further tighten the bands, making her breasts begin to slip out of the cups of the bra
The tape stuck to her skin, dragging and pulling as he took something else from his pocket. It looked like a bridle, made of thick leather with a sponge roll wrapped round the central part. As it was, that was exactly what it was, as he forced Helen to open her mouth wide and placed the sponge and leather between her teeth, watching her bite down as he fastened the straps behind her head under her long flowing brown hair.
She watched as he tore apart the room, obviously searching for something but with no idea what it was he was looking for. Finally, in anger he stormed out of the room, as Helen listened to him descending the staircase.
“Any luck with her,” the man said as she walked in on his companion. He was kneeling in front of the secretary, who was sat in the chair she had been in when they had burst in. She was wearing a purple sweater and dark knee length skirt, but her wrists had been tightly secured behind her back with thick packing tape and her lower face wrapped in the same material, holding the plain scarf that had been in her hair in her mouth. The second man was taping her ankles together, looking at her as he did so while she struggled in the chair.
“Nah – I forced her to open the computer files, but there is nothing there. Looks like we struck out this time.”
“Dammit – ah well, let’s take what we can. It shouldn’t be a total loss, after all...”
Jack sat at his desk, reading the statements from Helen Daniels and her secretary. “This is not a coincidence,” he said as he looked at the various files. “Damned if I can see what’s going no though – so far, it looks like a random set of break-ins but I don’t believe in coincidence.”
The phone rang, and Jack picked up the receiver. “Daniels.
“Oh hi, love – how are things at work.
“All right – I know how important the project is. I’ll talk to you later.”
Dave looked in at the door. “Problem?”
“Nah – just the wife saying she is going to be working late. So am I at this rate.” Dave came into the office and looked at the file. “Any relation?”
“Hmm – oh, my aunt. I’m staying out of that one, but I can’t shake the feeling something is going on in town....”
“E dnt kn nyfng” she mumbled as she lay on the work surface. She had come home and been grabbed from behind, a hood placed over her head before she had been frogmarched into the kitchen. She had not seen her assailant, but she heard him say she would not be harmed if she did as he said. Out of fear more than anything, she had stripped down to her panties and allowed the mystery man to bind her tightly by the wrists with yellow rope. The hood had then been removed, but quickly replaced by a blindfold before something hard and tasting of plastic had been forced into her mouth.
Now she could feel the cold marble beneath her as she lay on her stomach, her breasts compressed already by the tight ropes around her arms and chest before they were forced still further by the pressure of her body. She could feel her legs pulled back and secured by ropes to her arms, but she was too scared to move as she felt the intruder tightening her knots still further. Instead, she kept trying to say she had no idea what he was talking about with smerk, whatever that was.
Finally, she heard the door open and close as she lay there, unsure whether to try to move or not. Outside the kitchen, her husband stood against the wall, his hands over his face as he tried to figure out how he was going to make it look like someone else had attacked his wife....
“All right, Mrs Hammond, why don’t you just take it from the start?”
Jack and Dave were in the front room of a house in the suburbs, sitting opposite Karen Hammond as she sat with her hands clasped in front of her. Outside, officers were trying to gather what evidence they could.
“Well,” she said quietly,” I came back from a shopping trip with Bobbie and Judy, and we walked into the house. I couldn’t see anything wrong at all, so I went to the bedroom to drop some bags off while the two girls went to get a drink. I came down, walked into the front room, and – here they were.”
“Can you describe them?”
“There were four of them – all female, with stockings pulled over their heads, wearing roll neck sweaters, leggings and gloves on their hands. I thought I had walked on to a film set at first, before I saw that two of them were behind the girls, pointing pistols at them. I guess shock can do that sort of thing to you...”
“What did they do then?”
“One of them – I guess she was the leader – walked over and grabbed me, before telling the others to ‘take care of the brats’. She forced me back up to the bedroom, made me sit on the bed and then asked me where the snark was.”
“That’s what she said, the snark. Well, I asked her if she had read Lewis Carroll recently, but that only got me a slap on the cheek and the question again. I swear, if I knew what she was talking about, I would have said something, but I had to say I had no idea what she was talking about. ‘You’ll regret this’, was all she said as she pulled this rope out and forced me to lie on my stomach.”
“So that was when she tied you up?”
“Yeah – wrist and ankles, crossing them before she did so.” Karen held her wrists out, the sleeves of her brown dress pulling up to show the red marks. “Then she rolled me over, stuffed a pair of panties in my mouth and covered my lips and face with duct tape before walking out.”
“What did you do then?”
“I lay there, listening to the noises downstairs and wondering what they were doing to my girls, before I heard the door closing and then silence. It took me a while, but eventually I managed to free my wrists and untie my legs. I took the gag off, called out ‘girls?” and heard a muffled call from the bottom of the stairs.”
“So you went out of the room...”
“And saw Bobbie standing there. They had forced her to strip to her panties and then trussed her up with rope, securing her to the foot of the stairs with just enough room to move about a foot. Her mouth was covered in white tape as she looked up at me, her blue eyes pleading through the fringe of blonde hair she has.”
“So you removed her gag?”
“Yeah – she then told me they had taken Judy, and would only return her if we told her where the snark was. Well, I had no idea, so I untied her and then called you lot.”
Dave looked up to see a policeman signalling, so he left Jack talking to Mrs Hammond. “Don’t worry,” he said as he stood up, “we’ll get Judy back as soon as we can. The officer will stay here for a while.”
As he left the room, he signalled to Dave. “Listen – I think I know what this snark thing is. Finish up here, then come back to the office – there’s something I want to check.”
Judy looked up as she felt the knotted cloth been pulled into her mouth and secured in place. She was in a darkened room, sat in an old wooden chair with her wrists secured behind her. Her white blouse had come out from where it had been tucked into her jeans, but that was not her primary concern at the moment. What Judy was most worried about was why she had been taken.
“Do you think her mother knows anything?” she heard one of the gang say as the four women gathered at the far side of the room.
“No idea – but the SNARK reward is worth it.”
Judy’s eyes widened as she heard this. She thought they had been talking about something else, but now she remembered where she had heard the phrase before – and knew why they were so desperate to get their hands on any information.....
“SNARK – the Strategic National Advice for Ransomed Kidnaps.” Jack pointed at the article on the computer screen. “I knew I had heard something about it before, but all this talk of snacks, smacks and shreks threw me off the track.
“It’s a secret program, instituted state wide to assist in major kidnappings. Much of it is hush-hush, but a few weeks back there was a report in one of the newspapers revealing the name of the program. Not a lot else, but enough to make some of the higher ups very uncomfortable indeed.”
Dave nodded. “I can see why that might happen – so who blew the story?”
“A local reporter, fortunately – Ellie Crammond. What say we go and pay Miss Crammond a little visit and see what she knows about all this?”
Dave parked the car outside the quiet wooden house and the two men stepped out. Life was going on as normal, with children playing and lawns been mowed as the two men walked up to the front screen door and opened it.
Jack knocked on the front door, only to be surprised as it swung inward at his first touch. Looking at the lock, he could see splinters of wood, which was enough for him to look at Dave as the two men drew their weapons and walked in.
“Miss Crammond?” Dave called out, and at first there was no answer. “Miss Crammond – police,” Jack called out louder, and this time there was a muffled sound from up the staircase. Motioning to Dave to check downstairs, Jack slowly climbed the wooden steps and called out again.
“N HR” he heard a woman shout. Jack paused by an open door, and looked cautiously in. There was a young dark haired woman lying on her stomach on the bed, with straps encircling her naked body around her legs, arms and chest. A red ball was visible in her mouth, with straps around her head to hold it in place. Jack came in, the woman watching as he looked round the room, before he holstered his gun and called out “Dave – up here.” He sat on the bed and unfastened the straps under her hair, gently easing the ball out as a length of dribble fell from the young woman’s mouth,
“Oh god – thank you,” Ellie said as she gasped for air. “I’ve been like this for hours,” she said as she watched Dave walk in. “Free her and make sure she’s all right,” Jack said as she stood up, “I’m calling for back up. We’ll talk when you’ve been checked out, Miss Crammond.”
“I’m sorry, Detective Daniels, I’m not sure how much I can tell you.”
Ellie was sitting in a hospital bed, with Jack and Dave sat at either side. A few hours had passed while she had undergone an examination, but the doctors had said she was fit enough to talk to the detectives.
“Let’s start at the beginning, Ellie – how did you end up in that situation.”
“Well, I got back from the paper about eight last night, and found these two men waiting for me. They were big, bald headed and casually dressed, but I honestly can’t remember that much more about them.
“They held me at gunpoint, forced me to strip and then lashed my wrist together and my arms to my sides with those straps. They kept asking me about SNARK – what I knew about it, who was responsible for it, and how it worked.”
“We need to ask – how did you find out about it?”
“Sorry, Detectives – I promised to protect my source. Let’s just say it was not unauthorised.”
“A planted leak? That would be something those guys in Virginia would do.” Dave smiled as he said this – he had contacts in the FBI, and knew some of their tricks.
“So, what did you tell them?”
“Nothing – they then dragged me to my bedroom, tied my legs and gagged me, then took whatever they could find and left. I think I know why they targeted me, however.”
“Before I left work, I checked a few bulletin boards out, and I spotted something. At first, I thought it was a joke, but now I’m not quite sure.”
“What was it?”
“There was an announcement of a Lewis Carroll event – the re-enactment of one of his nonsense poems, and someone was offering a prize for the best visualisation of...”
“Yeah – like I said, I thought nothing of it at the time, but now...”
Jack sat forward. “Listen, Ellie, did you tell anyone else about this article before it was published.”
The young woman sat in thought for a moment, and then went “Oh shit...”
“I was at a dinner party the night before the article went out, and I may have discussed it with a few people there.”
“I want you to give a list of names to Dave here,” Jack said as he heard his phone ringing. “Forgive me – yes?”
“All right – I’m on my way.” Jack put his phone away and stood up. “Dave, finish here please – something’s come up.”
“Please, I’ve told you everything I can, don’t do this to me...”
Alison screamed through her gag as she heard her sister pleading to the two women who had burst into their apartment, but was unable to do anything about the situation. They had handcuffed her hands behind her back, covered her eyes with a black scarf and then stuck some sort of tape over her mouth. She had not seen the last thing, but the way whatever it was was puling at her skin was making her think it was tape.
Now she was trying to figure out what they were after. They kept asking Polly about something, but they were keeping their voices low, and she had no way of hearing clearly whatever it was. What she could hear were her sister’s pleading that she had no idea what they were talking about, and to try and get them to stop.
Finally, Alison heard her sister’s calls turn into muffled sighs, and the sound of two sets of footsteps descending the staircase from their main room. She knelt, listening for any other sounds, before moving on her knees towards where she figured the banister to be. A wooden thud told her she was on the right lines, and slowly she started to rub her cheek against the edge. Gradually, carefully, the scarf was moved off her eyes until she was able to blink and see Polly.
Her sister was sat against a wall, stripped to her red panties, with her arms pinioned behind her back and rope over her arms and shoulders. Her knees were drawn up, but Alison could see the ropes around her ankles and big toes, as well as the large red ball in her mouth. Polly looked over, her blonde hair pulled back, as she mumbled “r u ll rght alsn.”
“Mm,” her sister replied, “wht dd fe wnt?”
“N id – whts anrk newy?”
In his office, Jack was looking over a file sent from the local FBI office. It told of a recent kidnapping, involving the daughter of a local politician’s daughter – a right wing group trying to force him to endorse their stand on some issue.
The eighteen year old had been snatched from college, and taken deep into some nearby woods where they had set up camp. At the time she had been wearing a cheesecloth blouse, cut off denim shorts and sneakers, but they first thing they had apparently done was force her to remove everything except her panties, before using handcuffs to secure her wrists and ankles together.
Jack glanced at a picture taken by the FBI when they had recovered her – she had been hogtied with chains between her wrists and ankles, lying on her stomach on a blanket on the forest floor, with a large yellow ball forced between her teeth to silence her.
The file said that her father had been an early adopter of SNARK, having heard about it, and this had proved instrumental in tracking down and releasing the young girl before any ransom or demands were delivered. As he read on, Jack’s eyes widened as he learnt exactly what SNARK was. “Son of a bitch,” he said as Dave walked in.
“SNARK – I thought it was a special task force, but it’s not – it’s a homing beacon. A transmitter in someone’s clothing that can be activated at extreme long range to act as a signal for those looking to home in on. Bloody clever, if you ask me.”
“Yeah, right – Jack, we have a problem.”
Jack looked up from his files. “What?”
“The list of names Ellie gave us – they’re all the women that have been attacked in their homes over the last few days.”
“The first attack – they were waitresses at the meal. The others were all with Ellie Crammond at the meal, and only one of them has not been attacked yet.”
“Jack – it’s your wife.”
Jack Daniels sat still for a moment, then looked at the date of the FBI file. “Shit – this was the night she was working late – Dave, she works for the company that manufacture the bloody devices.” He reached over and picked up the phone.
Kerry looked at the phone ringing on the bedside table as her mother looked at her in turn, but was in no position to try and answer – even if she could talk clearly at this point. She lay still, the tears starting to flow down her cheeks as the phone stopped ringing.
She rolled over to look at her mother, lying there on her back. Her white basque had been pulled down to reveal her breasts, while her top had been pulled up around her neck. The gang had forced them both into Kerry’s bedroom before using an old white sheet, torn into long strips to bind her wrists and ankles, and force her into a hogtie. More strips were used to bind her arms to her chest under her breasts, while her mouth was stuffed before one last knotted strip was used to keep the wad in place. The heels of her blue sandals were digging into the coverlet as she lay there, twisting round as she looked over at her daughter.
As for Kerry, the cloth keeping her gag in was secured under her long curly hair. They had used a blue sheet on her, as she lay with her legs raised in the air and the thin straps of her body stocking falling off her shoulders. They had forced her, by threatening her mother, to reveal the radio frequency used on those new devices she had developed, and now she knew her bosses would have a few things to say about that.
For now, however, she had other things on her mind, such as how long it would take for Jack to get home. She started to thrash around, groaning at her mother to try and help, but all the older woman wanted to do was stay still and try to get as comfortable as she could. Only when the sirens started to come closer did she start to scream out...
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