Marching to a Different Drum
"Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the arena floor our final competitors of tonight, the East Riding Majorettes Corps!"
As the brass band started to play, the group of 24 girls marched into the arena, keeping step with the beat of the military music and the batons twirling in their hands. Their uniforms were impeccable - white stiff linen Napoleonic jackets, with high collars tipped in gold braid and intertwined gold brocade on the fronts and cuffs of their jackets, knee length matching skirts with a slit on each side to allow freedom of movement, and knee length white leather boots with three inch stacked heels. On their heads were large hats, in the style of a Napoleonic Hussar, made of white material with a gold brocade decoration.
The unit moved as one, executing each movement with a fluency and grace that showed their practice and dedication. Nobody watching could see a thing wrong with the corps or their routine.
In a room buried deep in the recesses of the arena, four young women knew there was something very wrong with the corps, but they were in no position to do anything about it. All they could do was try to scream for help, but even that was made nearly impossible by the cloths that forced their cheeks to bulge out, and the thick tape that covered the lower jaws of each of them.
As they struggled on the dirty rugs they were lying on, all they could really do was think back to the events of a few hours ago - and hope that the plan they had heard could be stopped in time.
Four hours earlier
"Get a move on, Bess - we're running late as it is!"
Ruth waved at the tall blonde haired woman as she ran to the waiting coach. "Do you know how bloody difficult it is to run in these boots," she finally said as she stood in the door well, panting to catch her breath before making her way to the empty seat at the front.
"Well, if you got up half an hour earlier, it would not be a problem, would it," Ruth said as she sat beside her friend, but the smile on her face told her that she meant the comment in jest. Her copper red hair was done up in a tight bun on the top of her head, as the driver pulled away from the leisure centre and started to head to the motorway.
The Corps had made it to the finals for the first time ever - an achievement given they had only been resurrected in the last three years from the ashes of the original East Riding Majorette Corps, which had disbanded in the mid 1980's. This had been due to the dedication of Marsha, who sat with some of the other girls towards the rear of the coach.
"So, when do we perform," Bess said as she adjusted the front of her jacket.
"We're on last, but we need the time to get ourselves together," Ruth said as she looked out of the window. "Marsha is on the edge of a nervous breakdown, I think."
The coach proceeded to the motorway, a black van following close behind...
"All right Girls - into the changing room quickly."
Marsha motioned for the last of the Corps to head in, closing the door behind them as Bess sat on the bench.
"Right, Girls, I cannot stress enough how proud I am of all of you - and how important it is that we focus on the presentation this afternoon. Now, I want you all to..."
Ruth looked at her mother, standing there in her black short sleeved dress and knee length boots, and stifled a yawn. She had heard it all before - the success she had had in the seventies, her wish to restart the group, and how, how...
"Are you listening, Ruth?"
"Yeah, sorry Mum," Ruth said as she sat up with a start - just as the door to the room opened and some unexpected visitors came in.
There were six of them - all female, of various body shapes and heights. They were dressed head to toe in black, with balaclavas covering their heads, and four were carrying guns which they waved at the assembled girls.
"Not a sound, girls," one of them said as she grabbed Marsha and held a gun against her head. "You're going to help us all out today, so just do as you are told."
"Wh... What do you want?" Marsha said as she looked at the barrel of the gun, the scent of oil filling her nostrils.
"Four willing volunteers," the woman said, "starting with your lovely daughter Ruth." Ruth squealed as one of the five intruders grabbed her and forced her to stand, a gun pointing at her.
"Fan out and pick three others," the woman shouted, and three of the remaining intruders walked amongst the assembled girls. One of them, a tall and well built woman by the look of her, stopped in front of Bess and motioned to her to stand up.
A second walked round before she stood in front of Barbara, a dark haired girl who was slim and about five foot four in height. Motioning to her, she watched as Barbara stood up, her body shaking.
The tired looked at a quiet girl who was sitting at the back of the room. "What's your name," she said as she looked at the brunette.
"Jackie," she whispered in a high-pitched voice.
"Stand up, Jackie, and come with us," she said as she took the frightened girl by the arm.
"Right," the woman standing next to Marsha said, "Take the four of them, and be back in twenty minutes. The rest of you, sit down with your hands on your heads, and say nothing."
Barbara and the others were taken from the room and pushed down the long, dimly lit corridor to a side door. One of the gang of four armed women opened it and led the captives down the staircase to a cellar room, where three old blankets had been laid on the floor. A large duffel bag was on a table next to them.
"What the hell's going on here," Ruth said as the four girls were forced to stand next to each other, the white of their uniforms and boots visible even in the dim light.
"We need you to help us rob this place," the woman who had escorted Bess said. She pulled off her balaclava, and Bess gasped at the resemblance she had to her.
"Now," the woman said as she pointed the gun at Bess, "Start taking your jacket off."
"Yes, young lady, your jacket - take it off and hang it on this." The masked woman handed Bess a hanger she had quickly formed from what Bess at first thought was a club. Keeping her eyes on the armed woman the whole time, she slowly unbuttoned her jacket, revealing a white scoop necked top with short sleeves as she placed the jacket on the hanger.
"Very good," the woman said as she looked at Bess's 42D chest. "Very good indeed - now the skirt."
As this was going on, the other three armed and masked woman were watching Ruth, Barbara and Jackie as they stood by the wall. The three at first had been made to stand facing the wall, but then were told to turn round and place their own hands on their heads, meaning they were forced to watch as Bess slowly slipped the skirt off and hung it under the coat.
"What is going on here?" she demanded as she stared into her doppelganger's eyes.
"You'll find out soon enough," she said as she placed a rucksack that had been on her back on the table. "Take your boots off as well - you won’t need them for a while."
The white top had now been revealed as a white bodysuit, and as Bess placed her leg on a chair and unzipped her boots the white tights she had on underneath were fully revealed. Placing both boots on the floor under the suit, she looked at the other woman and said "Now what?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Turn round and put your hands behind your back."
"Oh **** no," Ruth said as she watched the woman open the rucksack and take out a length of white nylon rope, which she shook out.
"Did anyone say you could talk?"
Ruth flinched as she felt the gloved hand strike her across the cheek, before gasping as the woman covering her with a gun pulled her balaclava mask off. She had mousey brown hair, cut into a short bob, and from a distance could have passed for Ruth herself. Barbara, who had been silent the whole time, said quietly "We've been picked because you look like us, right?"
The woman who had selected her simply nodded as they watched Bess having her wrists bound together behind her back, the rope pulling her arms back as it was passed up and around her elbows. Her chest was forced out by this, even more so when a long, long length of rope was produced, doubled over and passed around her arms and chest.
"Time for you to stop looking," the woman in front of Ruth said as she was handed her own hanger, "and take your uniform off. Jacket, skirts and boots - now."
"Oh God, Oh God, Oh God...."
Jackie stood, shaking even as she held onto Barbara and watched her friend slowly removing her uniform and handing it to the masked woman. Ruth was wearing a pink silk teddy top and matching panties underneath her pristine jacket and skirt - a fact she hoped her mother would never find out, as Marsha had rather strict views on what her "girls" should be wearing.
As for Bess, she was grimacing as she felt the ropes pulling into the bare skin of her arms, holding them into her side as her captor passed the loose needs around her neck and under her arms, tightening the loops and forcing her breasts out. In fact, as she looked down she could make out the outline of her nipples underneath the material.
"Get on your knees," the blonde woman said as she pointed to a dirty grey blanket that lay on the floor. Barb looked over at Ruth, who was having her own wrists tied behind her back by her captor, and slowly dropped down onto her knees.
"Girls, just do as they say, and you won't be hurt," she called over to Barbara and Jackie as she felt her ankles been crossed. Even through her hose, she could feel the rope biting in as it was passed tightly around her ankles, the loops tightening as it was tied off.
"What are you going to do with us," she said over her shoulder as she watched Jackie unbuttoning her own jacket, revealing a black short sleeved t-shirt as she did so.
"You'll find out soon enough," her assailant sneered as she pushed Bess onto her stomach and passed more rope around her legs just below her knees. As this was been tied round, Ruth was pushed over and forced to kneel next to her friend, the ropes forcing the pink silk across her chest as well.
"What the hell do they think they're doing," she whispered as she looked over her shoulder, watching as Bess had her legs pulled back and more rope used to secure her wrists to her ankles.
"I - nigh - I don't know, but I'm not sure we're going to like it," Bess whispered in return. Her conversation was cut short; however, as she saw the blonde kneeling next to her, with what looked a large yellow duster in her hand.
"You talk too much," she said as she folded the cloth into a thick pad. "Open wide..."
“I demand to know where you have taken my girls – somebody is going to come soon to call us to the arena, and when they find you...”
“They won’t” the masked woman said as she held Marsha’s face up and looked into her eyes. “We have another thirty minutes before you are going to be given your first call, and you have ten minutes after that. More than enough time for my girls to come back and re-join us, and for you to do your routine.”
“But we’ll be four girls short – has one of the other teams put you up to this? They know we will be disqualified if...”
“You are not going to be disqualified,” the masked woman said quietly. “It is vitally important to us that you do your routine – and you will, have no fear.” Marsha wondered what she meant by this as the woman turned round and said “All of you - calm yourselves down and get ready. I promise you, none of you are going to be hurt.”
Ruth grunted as the strip of silver duct tape was fixed over her mouth – the fourth one that had been applied. Looking over, she could see Jackie in her t-shirt and cycling shorts, and Barbara in her blue frilly bra and thong, as they had been forced to face the wall while their hands were tied behind their backs.
Turning, she watched the blonde woman, who seemed to be the leader, as she stripped off her jumper, trousers and shoes and picked up Bess’s skirt, pulling it up and around her waist as Bess herself tried to get free...
"All right you two - get on the floor next to your friends."
Barbara and Jackie walked slowly over and got on their knees on another dirty blanket, which had been laid out next to Ruth. Both she and Bess were sweating, despite the cold in the cellar, a mixture of fear and the efforts they had been making to work themselves free.
Their captors were zipping the white knee length boots they had taken from the two women, having already donned their jackets and skirts. As Barbara had guessed earlier, they had been picked for their closeness in size and build, although in Ruth's case there was the added bonus of making sure her mother kept the other girls under control.
As she lay on her stomach, Barbara felt the cold ground against her waist and legs, and grunted in frustration. She and Jackie had already been gagged; the cloths filling their mouths even as the tape pulled on their skin, so they could only stare forward as their ankles were quickly bound and pulled back by their captors. As they felt their heels reach their fingers, they looked over at the other two.
"Stclm nd dnthngfrn."
"Srw, jcke, bt tr t stclm. dnt strglu r..."
Ten minutes later, the door to the dressing room opened, and Marsha watched as four girls in the troop uniform came in. She didn't know their faces, but they filled out the jackets well, and picked up the four hats that had been left behind by her girls, placing them on their heads and securing the straps under their chins.
"They know your routine," the masked leader of the gang said as she looked at Marsha, "We have been studying it for months, so you should have no problem winning."
"Win... You expect us to go out and do our routine?"
"For your daughter's sake, and for her friends, yes - you will go out and win that competition. You deserve some reward for your discomfort today. We will be watching, so no false moves or I call my colleague and..."
"No, no, I understand." Marsha stood up and straightened her skirt. "You all understand, don't you girls - we do this for Ruth, Bess, Barbara and Jackie."
The corps stood up, straightening their uniforms and nodding as the second bell rang. "All right - let's go get them," Marsha said loudly. "Big smiles, and..."
Bess could hear the dim music even as she turned over onto her side and looked at Ruth. The straps of her friend's slip had fallen down over her shoulders, and she could see the flesh of her left breast starting to peek over the top. Her eyes were red from crying, as she stared back in return.
Jackie and Barbara were lying back to back, trying desperately to find some way to untie the knots around their wrists. Bess could see the sweat stains around Jackie's breasts and waist as her t-shirt rode up from her struggling.
"Have we finished counting the gate receipts, Karen?"
The young redhead looked up and nodded to her supervisor. The four office staff were dressed in the corporate outfit of the arena - blue silk blouses with red cravats, a red jacket and skirt and black patent leather heels.
"Here," Karen said as she handed a piece of paper to her boss, "I think that should please you, I..."
The door to the office opened and four majorettes, in their white uniforms and knee length boots, walked in. "I'm sorry, this is a restricted..." Karen started to say, but then she noticed the black eye masks over their eyes, and the guns in their hands.
"This is a robbery," the tall blonde one said, "All of you, stand up and start stripping."
"Well done, ladies," the masked leader said as Marsha and the remainder of the troop walked in, "Please, take a seat, all of you."
"Where have the four gone?" Marsha said as she sat down.
"Not your concern," the masked woman said as the remaining members of her gang handed round bottles of water. "You all look thirsty - take a drink."
"But we're not..."
"I said," the leader said in a sterner voice, as she pointed the gun at Marsha, "Take a drink..."
Ruth turned and looked at her friend, the tear stains on her cheeks where the mascara had run down. Her slip had fallen down around her waist, exposing her breasts to the cold floor - Ruth could see her nipples hardened by the contact.
"Lstn - shflhr, nd trnwy."
Slowly, Ruth slid over on her side, dragging the thin blanket underneath her, and turned so that Bess could reach with her fingers. Although her hands were numb with the cold, Bess was able to see that the rope holding Ruth’s ankles to her wrists had loosened - not much, but enough for her to do something about it.
Gently, slowly, she started to push the loose end back through the loops, listening to the breathing of both Baraga and Jackie as she did so. They had fallen asleep, through a combination of exhaustion and fear, which was probably the best thing they could have done.
"Look, just take the money and go!"
Karen and her colleagues were standing by the wall of the office, watching as three of the masked majorettes divided their work outfits up between them and changed into the clothes. The fourth one, the big blonde, was covering them with a gun and looking at Karen’s white bra and panties.
"I thought I told you to shut up," she finally said, "Guess I'm going to have to make sure of that." She tossed a roll of white medical tape over to the girl standing next to Karen. "You - tear some strips off and gag your talkative friend there, then pass it down the line. Each of you gets to be kept quiet now."
“I’m sorry, Karen,” her boss said as she tore the strip of tape off, smoothing it over Karen’s mouth as she felt it mould to the shape of her lips. Two more strips followed, before she passed the roll down the line as Karen was turned to face the wall.
Marsha could feel her eyes getting heavier as she watched the captors. Looking round, she could see the rest of her girls slowly falling as they sat on the seats.
"Drugged...." was the last thing that escaped her lips as she fell to her side, her head resting on the bench as she slid off.
"Sweet dreams, ladies," the woman said quietly as she looked round the room. "all right girls - masks off," she said as she pulled her own balaclava off, shaking her red hair as she did so.
Karen grunted as she felt the thin nylon strip biting into the skin around her ankles. She was sat on the floor, her wrists pinioned behind her back with a zip tie as she watched her ankles been secured together in the same way.
Looking along the row, she could see her colleagues all secured the same way, with a further strip closed around their legs below the knees. As this was done to her, she watched one of the gang secure the arms of her colleagues together just above the elbows. All three had now changed into their uniforms, with only the eye masks remaining of their original outfits.
"Don't move," the majorette said as she finished stuffing the notes into one of a number of large duffel bags. "Just sit still and enjoy each other's company."
She smiled as the gang picked up the duffel bags and walked out of the office, closing and locking the doors behind them. Karen looked round, noticing the phone wires dangling from the handsets, and screamed at the realisation that the panic button was on the far end of the room - and she could only get there if all four of them moved together...
Bess watched Ruth visibly relax as her legs dropped to the ground. The other two woke up at the sound and looked over as they lay on their stomachs.
Ruth looked over at Bess. "Stfnscrd. Y?"
Following her eyes, she saw a small wooden plank on the floor, and followed Bess's eyes to a window in the cellar.
"Gvmmnt," Bess said as she closed her eyes and relaxed. After a few moments, she started to slide herself towards the wooden stave, encouraged by the others. slowly, slowly, she moved until she was eventually able to try and grab the object between her legs. She lay on her back, looking up and practicing swinging the wood as the others watched.....
"Why didn't they come out to receive the trophy?"
The two security men reached the dressing room door and knocked.
"Hello? Is anyone in there?" Receiving no reply, they opened the door and walked in.
"What the hell..." one of them said as they saw the troupe of girls, slumped on the benches and floors with the water bottles still in the hands of many of them. As they looked, their radios crackled into life.
"Control, this is Baines. We can’t get into the main office and it sounds like somebody is in there. Permission to force entry...
"Control, this is Jenkins - someone has just thrown a wooden plank through the window of Storage Room 3. I'm looking in and - ****, call the police and some ambulances. I need back-up down here stat!
"Control - call the police. I've found the office staff bound and gagged - there's been a robbery..."
Bess screamed through the sodden mass that was pressing her tongue down as the door was forced open. The two guards stared for a moment, before switching a light on and seeing the full scene.
Ruth was lying on her back, her head turned towards the doorway and her eyes red with tears, while Bess was lying face down on the rag. A short distance away, Jackie was lying with her head on Barbara’s side, both women still asleep. Their bodies were covered in sweat, and Barbara’s thong has slipped down to where the rope held her knees together.
One of the guards went over to Ruth, while the other knelt by Bess and peeled the tape away from her mouth. There was a red weal around her jaw and lips, but he was more concerned with gently easing out the mass of wet cloth from her jaw.
“Thank you,” she croaked as he started to untie her, “Where...”
“Let’s get you free first,” he said as Jackie and Barbara started to open their eyes. “An ambulance is on the way – you would not believe what has happened...”
Karen grunted as the ties were cut away from her arms, leg and wrists, reaching up and peeling away the tape from her mouth as soon as she could.
“Four of them – all female, from one of the majorette troops. They took our clothes, tied us up, and then walked off with the money. What the hell were they playing at?”
“Whoever they were,” the officer said as he helped her up, “they were professionals – and they weren’t members of the troop. We found four of them in a cellar, and they had been there for some time.”
“That’s impossible, we saw them all perform on the CCTV.”
“They were replaced – the entire troop seem to have been drugged. The doctor’s down with them now, as well as our sergeant.”
“What about the security cams – did they catch anything?”
“We’re looking at the tapes now – you need to be checked out.” The officer waved the paramedics over as he said this, while Karen started crying.
“Marsha? Marsha, can you hear me?”
As Marsha slowly opened her eyes, she saw a bright light shining down on her. Blinking, she looked to her side to see some of her troop sitting on trolleys, shaking as they talked to police officers.
“Ruth,” she said quietly, “Where’s my daughter?”
“She’s safe – we’ve admitted her for observation, and she’s a bit sore, but otherwise unharmed.”
Marsha looked up to see a doctor standing next to her. “It looks like you’ve been part of a very elaborate plan – the police will want to speak to you as well. For now, however, rest – that drug still needs to clear out of your system.”
“No,” she said as she sat up, “I need to see my daughter. Take me to her now.”
The doctor looked at her for a moment, before nodding to a nurse who brought a wheelchair over. Moving herself slowly into the seat, she was wheeled down some corridors, and eventually stopped at a private room with a police guard outside.
Nodding, the officer opened the door, and Marsha saw Ruth lying on the bed, with Bess on the opposite side of the room.
“Mum?” she called out as Marsha was wheeled over, reaching out to hug her daughter. “It’s all right,” she whispered as they embraced, “It’s all right, it’s all over...”
“I don’t understand it – they just walked out?”
The security officer looked up from the console. “Yeah – here’s the loading bay camera.” It showed three women in the uniform of the office staff, escorted by three female armed guards in blue blouses, trousers and caps to the exit.
“Are they your usual security guards?”
“Well, they came from the usual firm, and had the right credentials.”
“Give me their address.”
The officer stepped out of the patrol car and looked at the building.
“Everything looks normal,” one of them said as they walked into the garage. A number of liveried blue vans were parked along the side, their rear doors facing out.
“hey,” his partner said quietly, “Did you hear that?”
He looked over to one of the vans, and saw that it was rocking slightly from side to side. Drawing their weapons, one stood to the side as the other opened the door.
“What the f...” he said as he saw the three women lying face down on the floor, and the other three sitting against the van sides. All were stripped to their underwear, with ropes holding their arms behind their backs and their legs together. Five of them had hoods over their heads, while the sixth had managed to shake hers off, revealing a wide band of sticking plaster over her mouth.
“I think,” the other officer said as he reached for his radio, “We know how they got in and out now – but who were they?”
“My congratulations, ladies – a job well executed.”
It was a normal conference room, with six well dressed ladies sat around it. At the head was a tall, thin woman with long dark hair, who spoke with a voice that would have melted the hardest of hearts – if they had not known how hard her own heart could be at times.
“Thank you, Madame,” they said as they stood up and walked out. Madame turned to the red haired woman sat next to her.
“Did they win?”
“They did, actually – I hope it does provide some compensation for their ordeal.”
Madame X smiled. “Penelope, you continually amaze me,” she said as the two stood and walked out of the room.