Missed Her By That Much...









8.30 am


The grey van did not look out of place as it pulled up beside the Victorian terraced house.  From inside, the two men looked at the front door.


“Which flat is it?”


“Ground floor - I suggest we go round the back and park, and then come in from the rear entrance.”


The driver nodded as he set off again, turning down the service road as a tall, dark haired girl came out of the front of the building and walked down the street.



“What time’s your first lecture?”


Katie looked up from the breakfast bar and replied “Ten o’clock - I’m going to head off in a few minutes.  You?”


Alex smiled as she said “Not until twelve, so I’m going to hit the shops first.”  She was a short, slightly rotund girl, with short cut black hair, and was wearing a white t-shirt over a dark blue long sleeved top, a pair of blue denim shorts, dark leggings and knee length tan leather boots.


Katie was taller and thinner, with long blonde hair that she held back from her face with a blue chiffon scarf tied as an Alice band.  She was wearing a grey tunic dress with a white blouse underneath, dark stockings and knee length black leather boots which were tightly fastened around her lower legs.


“Lucky devil,” she said as she stood up and took her bowl over to the sink.  “Want me to say anything to Dave if I see him at the room?”


“Yeah - tell him I’ll see him outside the Union at one fifteen,” Alex said as she turned and started to walk out of the room, her heels clicking on the tile covered floor as she did so.  As she stepped through the doorway, however, she was surprised by a black leather gloved hand which went over her mouth and pulled her into the next room.


“Thanks,” Katie said as she finished washing the cereal bowl and spoon, leaving it on the sink as she dried her hands.  Turning round, she picked up her handbag and headed for the door, only to be stopped by the man standing in her way.


He was at least six foot tall, and was wearing a blue boiler suit over a dark jumper.  What really caught her attention, however, was the handgun he was pointing at her in his gloved hand, and the black balaclava that only allowed his eyes and mouth to be seen.


“Very carefully,” he said in a quiet voice, “put your handbag on the worktop, and then kneel with your hands behind your back.”


Katie gulped as she reached her hand out, replacing the handbag where she had found it, and then knelt on the floor, her hands moving behind her head as she locked her fingers together.


“Where’s Alex,” she said quietly as she watched the man take her handbag, remove her mobile phone and put it in his pocket.


“She’s fine,” the man said as he walked behind the frightened girl and knelt behind her.  “Now, very slowly, I want you to move your hands behind your back.”


“All right, all right,” Katie said as she moved her hands back, and then felt something sticking at her wrist at the same time as a ripping sound filled her ears.  Looking over her shoulder, she could see him taping her wrists tightly together with silver duct tape, making her wince as the tape forced her limbs against each other.


“Look, we’re just students, we don’t have much money,” Katie whimpered as she heard the ripping sound again, and saw the masked man’s arms going round her as the tape forced her arms into her side around her stomach.


“Who said we’re after money,” the man said, but before Katie could reply there was a scream of “OWWWWW” and then Alex ran into the kitchen, her arms held tightly to her side by the same sort of band of tape that Katie could feel.  “Katie, get - oh shit,” was all she said as she saw the masked man calmly stand up and point the gun at her.


“Jack, you need to,” a second man called out, and Katie looked up to see him run in, dressed in the same way but without the balaclava mask.  He was a little shorter, with short cut brown hair.


“You stupid idiot,” the masked man said, “How did she get your mask off?”


“I don’t know - I was going to secure her legs, then I felt her pull it off and...”   He groaned slightly as he said this, while Alex said “What the hell is going on here?”


“Never you mind,” he said quietly, “Get on your knees and shut up.  Dave, get the cloths from the bag, and just hope the other girl hasn’t heard this.”


Alex and Katie looked at each other and started laughing.  “What’s so funny,” the man called Jack said, “we know your housemate does not have lectures today, and we know she likes to sleep in.  Once we’ve taken care of both of you, we’ll get her and be on our way.”


“You want Charlotte,” Alex said as she looked up at him.  “Why?”


“None of your business,” Jack said as Dave returned with two white cloths.  Balling one up, he held Alex’s nose until she opened her mouth, then pushed the cloth in and wound the silver tape around her head to keep it in.


“Because, you dork,” Katie said as she looked at Alex, “she already left.  Ten minutes ago.  She got a call from her professor telling her to come in for a meeting.”


The two men looked at each other.  “What are we going to do,” Dave said, “the boss wants her, and she’s not here?”


“Don’t panic,” Jack said quietly, “we know where her professor’s office is.  We just go and get her there.”


“And what about these two?”


“Yes, what about us Twmmmmgg” Katie said as she too had a cloth stuffed in her mouth and taped wound round her head.


“We can’t leave them here,” Jack said as he looked at his partner.  “Go and see if the coast is clear - they’ll have to come with us.”


Whddumncmwefss,” Alex mumbled as the other man went and opened the door to the flat, before saying “All clear.”


“Get up,” Jack said as he took first Katie, then Alex by the arm and forced them to their feet.  As Dave came back, he took Alex by the arm and walked her towards the door, Jack following with Katie.


Dave looked out of the door, and then nodded as he dragged Alex out and forced her towards the rear entrance of the building.  Jack followed with Katie, kicking the door closed behind them before forcing the young girl to walk out of the entrance, and into the grey van that was parked across the driveway.


“Sit down,” he said as he forced Katie to sit on the metal floor next to her flatmate.  Picking up another roll of tape, he crossed her ankles and taped them tightly together, then her legs below her knees, the leather of her boots squeaking as they rubbed against each other.  Dave was doing the same to Alex, only he kept her ankles side by side, and taped her thighs as well as her lower legs.


“You stay in the back with them,” Jack said as Dave sat and watched the two captive women, “I’ll drive to the campus.”  He closed the side door behind him, the two girls looking at each other as the van moved off.


10 am


As he pulled into the yard at the back of the university building, Jack looked round before climbing out of the driver’s seat and walking round to the side door.  As he opened it, Katie and Alex looked round, their heads now covered in brown burlap bags.


“You going to be able to keep an eye on them,” he said to Dave, who was sitting with his arms on his knees watching the two girls wriggle round.


“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” he said with a big smile, “you go and get the Charlotte chick, and we’ll be on our way tout suite.”  Jack smiled as he picked up a toolbox and closed the van door, walking towards a rear entrance to the building.



“Thank you for dropping by - I’ll see you at the tutorial tomorrow.”


Professor Jane Lawton watched as the dark haired student walked out of her outer office and down the corridor, her coat hitting lightly on the back of her legs as she did so.  Professor Lawton was in her early fifties, with dark hair that was streaked with grey pulled back and around her head.  It was held in place by a wooden hair pin, the dark material clearly visible to all.


She was about five foot ten tall, with a slim figure, and was wearing a dark crimson jumper and long skirt.  The skirt reached almost to the floor at the front and back, but was cut in a half circle at the sides so that her black suede boots were visible.  A large black headscarf was tied around her neck, the point hanging down between her shoulder blades and the ends arranged on her front.


“She is going to do well,” she said as she turned back to her secretary, “providing she can keep up with her studies.  With so many demands on her time, I fear she may lose ground.”


“I’m sure she will do her best,” the woman sitting behind the desk in the outer office said as she picked up a file.  Olivia was a postgraduate student, who earned extra money by acting as Professor Lawton’s research assistant and secretary.  She had curly red hair that hung around her head, and was wearing a blue and white striped blouse that had the top two buttons open, with a white silk scarf folded into a band and tied around her neck.  The ends hung over the white collar of her blouse, while her cuffs were turned back.  The outfit was completed by a grey knee length pencil skirt, dark tights and a pair of black heeled shoes.


“I need to go and see Professor Jenkins,” Professor Lawton said as she took the file from Olivia.  “I should be back in fifteen minutes.”


“Very well Professor Lawton,” Olivia said as the older woman walked out of the office and closed the door, “I’ll take any messages.”  She waited a moment, then opened a drawer and took out a copy of a true crimes magazine, reading it with great interest.


“Excuse me?”


Olivia looked up to see a tall man standing there, dressed as a workman and carrying a toolbox.  “Can I help you,” she said as she sat up, her horn rimmed glasses perched on her nose.


“Is this Professor Lawton’s office?  I have a work order to fix a radiator in here.”


Olivia looked at the man who was smiling down at her.  “I don’t recall a work order been filed,” she said as she reached for the phone, “Would you wait for a moment while I check?”


“Actually,” he said as he closed the door and placed the toolbox on Olivia’s desk, “I would.”




His answer was to open the toolbox and take out a revolver, then say “Because I want you to stand up and come into her office.”  Olivia looked at the gun in his hand and slowly stood up, the magazine falling to the floor...



Opening the door to her office, Professor Lawton was surprised to find Olivia’s desk unoccupied.  “Olivia,” she called out, but there was no reply.


“Probably gone to the rest room,” she said to herself as she put the files down on the desk, and walked into her own office.  She was surprised to see two people waiting for her - Olivia and a man dressed in a boiler suit, and pointing a revolver at her stomach in his gloved hand.


“Close the door, Jane,” the man said quietly as he pressed his other hand down on Olivia’s shoulder, “and put your hands on your head.”


“What is the meaning of this,” Jane said as she looked at Olivia, the young woman’s eyes wide with fear as the dark mascara stain ran over her white scarf, no longer round her neck but now pulled tightly into her mouth, the corners drawn back by the silk band.  Her wrists were secured together in front of her with a thin plastic band, as were her ankles.


Pllsshlpmm,” she mumbled as she looked up at her boss, who slowly raised her hands as she said “I don’t know who you are, but there is nothing to steal here.”


“Oh I agree,” Jack said as he looked round the room, “but I’m not here to steal anything.  I’m here to collect someone.  Now, walk slowly over here, turn round and put your hands behind your back.”


“You’re here to meet someone,” Jane said as she raised an eyebrow, but a wave of the handgun encouraged her to walk towards Jack and turn round, before putting her hands behind her back.  “And just who it is that you are expecting to collect from here?”


“One of your students,” Jack said as Jane heard a rasping sound while her wrist were drawn tightly together by a zip tie, “She is due here any minute, but she’ll be leaving with me.”


“Against her better wishes, I’m sure,” Jane said as she looked over her shoulder.  “And which unfortunate student is it you are planning to spirit away?”


“Charlotte - Charlotte...”  Jack stopped as Jane started to laugh.  “What’s so funny?”


“Tall, dark haired girl in her second year?”


“Yes - why?”


“You’re too late,” Jane said, and she winced as Jack pulled on her tie with an agonised groan.  “She just left - she had a call to go in for a shift at her job, and we have already had our meeting in the corridor.”


Jack swore under his breath as he removed the scarf from around Jane’s neck.  “You have got to be kidding me,” he said, “Where does she work?”


“At Manny's Deli on the High Street.  Why - going to get her there?”


“None of your business,” Jack said as he slapped the desk with his hand, making Olivia jump in the chair.  He ran his head through his hair, then rolled the large black scarf into a band and said to Jane “Open your mouth.”




“Because I need to stop you raising the alarm - now open wide.”


As she watched the professor being gagged, Olivia had to struggle to hide her excitement.  She had never dreamed in a million years something like this was going to happen to her - and now not only was she a hostage, but her boss, who she had dreams about, was in the same position.  As she shifted her legs, and she heard the soft squeak of her nylons, she had to stop herself from smiling.


Swhthhpnsnw,” Jane said as Jack secured the ends of the scarf at the base of her neck, “Rugnggtlfshr?”


“To raise the alarm the moment I go,” Jack said as he picked up a pair of scissors, “Nope - you’re both going to have to come with me.”  Reaching down, he cut the tie away from Olivia’s ankles and then helped her to stand up.  “Let’s go,” he said as he opened the outer office door and pushed both of them into it.


Opening the outer door, Jack looked up and down, then pulled the tow captives out and marched them to a side door, their moans muffled as they were pushed along.




“Did you get her,” Dave said as the side door opened, only to curse as Olivia and Jane were made to get in by Jack. 


“Oh God, don’t tell me we missed her again?”


Jack nodded as the two new arrivals stared at the two girls sat on the floor, their legs squeaking as they rubbed under the rope.  “Sit down,” he said as he pushed Olivia and Jane over, and made them sit against the wall of the van.  Taking four zip ties from the tool box, he crossed and secured Olivia’s ankles, the rasping sound making the hooded heads of the two girls turn, and then her legs below her knees.  Moving to Jane, he put her ankles side by side and secured them, then passed the other one round her legs above her knees, drawing the skirt around her legs as he did so.


“So where has she gone now,” Dave said as Jack pulled sacks over the heads of Olivia and Jane.  As the younger woman shuffled a little, Jack said “To work -You drive this time while I keep an eye on them.  With any luck, we can pick up a sandwich while we get the girl.”


“Fair enough - I’m getting hungry anyway,” Dave said as he got out and closed the side door, starting the engine as the van moved off and out of the yard...


11.30 am


“Right,” Dave said as he parked the van outside Manny’s Deli, “You keep an eye on the four back there.  I’ll go in, find Charlotte, and bring her out here.”


“Sounds good,” Jack said as he looked at the four captives, quietly mewling under the canvas hoods.  “Your four ladies just stay quiet now, and we’ll be able to let you go soon enough.”


Climbing out from the front of the van, Dave stood on the double yellow lines that lined the road by the pavement, and walked towards the wooden and glass door with a sign saying “Open” on the front.  Opening the door, he saw that the deli was empty, save for a young woman standing behind the counter.


She was about five foot four tall, with short blonde hair, and was wearing a short sleeved blue blouse and long trousers, with a pair of comfortable trainers on her feet.  “Hi,” she said as Dave walked towards her, “Can I help you?”


“Yeah,” he said as he looked under the glass display, “Can you give me pastrami on rye, grain mustard on the bread?”


“Sure thing,” she said as she turned to find some bread.  As she sliced through the loaf, Dave looked round and said “Business slow today?”


“Now it is - we were packed for a while there.”  She wrapped the sandwich in a piece of greaseproof paper, put it in a bag and said “Will there be anything else?”


“Yeah, Sam,” Dave said as he looked at the nametag on her blouse.  “I’m looking for a friend of mine who works here - Charlotte.  Is she still here?”


“Charlie?  Yeah - she’s in the back, hang on, I’ll go and get her.”


“Thank you so much,” Dave said as Sam walked to the beaded curtain at the back of the room.  As she went through, Dave walked to the front door and locked it, turning the sign to say “Closed.”




Jack grumbled as the mobile phone went off in his pocket.  Retrieving it, he nudged Alex and said “Be quiet,” while putting the device to his ear.




“Hi boss - I know we’re late, but we hit one or two difficulties.


“Don’t worry - we’ve tracked her down now, and we’ll have her there by the deadline.


“The noise?  Well, as I said boss, we had one or two problems.  We’ll let you know when we’re on our way.”  Ending the call, he walked over to Jane and said “Keep quiet or I’ll tape over this sack...”


Outside the van, Rita Cassidy was walking down the street, looking at the cars and vans and checking the parking tickets in the windscreens.  As she passed the deli, she looked in to see the worker standing at the counter.  “Must be the last customer,” she thought to herself as she looked at the grey van parked on the double yellow line.


“Oh - and what have we here,” she said as she walked over.  She was wearing the regulation uniform - a long sleeved white blouse with a black tie, knee length black skirt with matching jacket, and knee length black leather boots with low heels.  Looking in the window, she smiled and reached for her ticket machine.



Dave could hear the sound of footsteps returning, so he took the gun from the pocket of his boiler suit and held it in his hand, turning suddenly when he heard footsteps on the floor.


“I’m really sorry, but...”  Sam stopped when she saw the man was pointing a very real looking pistol at her, a smile on his face as he said “Where’s Charlotte?”


“She...” Sam stammered as she stared at the gun.  “She just left - when I found her, she was talking to someone on her phone, and she said she had to go.”


Dave stifled a curse before saying “Go?  Did she say where?”


“To meet her lawyer, I think - Mumford and Peabody.”


“Great - just great,” Dave said as he looked at Sam.  “In the back - now.”


He took the frightened waitress by the arm and frog marched her into the rear of the store, as outside the traffic warden slapped a ticket on the windscreen of the van.




“What the hell was that,” Jack said as he heard something hitting against the windscreen of the van.  As he opened the side of the van slightly, he saw a grey haired traffic warden standing by the front cab door.


“Hey,” he said as he looked at her, “What the hell do you think you are doing?”


“Giving you a parking ticket,” Rita said as she looked at the tall man with his head out of the side of the van.  “You’re parked in a no parking zone.”


“I know - we’re just collecting something from a shop nearby.  My colleague has gone to fetch it, and we’ll be gone in just a few minutes.”


“I don’t care,” Rita said as she walked forward, “You move the van now or...”  Her speech was interrupted by the sound of something hammering on the side of the van from inside.  Jack glanced inside and said “Sorry about that - the dog must have hot the side of the van.”


Hwddfrucllmadg.,” Rita heard a female sounding voice call out.  “That doesn’t sound like a dog,” she said quietly, “What have you got in there?”  She pushed Jack to one side and looked in to see Jane banging her bound ankles on the side of the van, and three other women trying to call out.


“What the...  was all she managed to say before she was pulled into the van by Jack, the door slamming shut behind them.




“Please, don’t do this to me...”


Sam was looking over her shoulder, pleading with Dave as he pulled her ankles back and secured them to her arms with more of the twine that he had found.  He had bound her forearms together like a box behind Sam’s back, then tied her legs together at the ankles and knees before placing her in this hogtie.

“I’m sorry, Sam,” Dave said as he picked up a tea towel, “but I can’t risk you trying to warn charlotte I’m coming, and I don’t have any more room in the van for you with the others.  You’ll just have to stay here - I’m sure someone will get curious as to why the deli is shut sooner rather than later.”


“But what do you want her for anyway?”


“Not so much her as her father, but you don’t need to know that,” Dave said as he pushed a cloth into Sam’s mouth, then forced her lips apart as he pulled the tea towel between them and tied it off round her head.   “You’re a cute kid - enjoy yourself,” he eventually said as he patted her on the bottom, and left her, her muted calls silenced as he closed the door on her and left the deli.


“You’re not going to believe this,” Dave said as he climbed into the back of the van, “but...  Who is she?”


“She,” Jack said as Rita looked between the two men, “is the stupid traffic warden who tried to give us a ticket, and then Jane here let her know that there were four hostages in the van.”  Jane and Olivia were now lying on their stomachs on the floor, their ankles secured to their wrists with a zip tie linking them together.  Alex and Katie were now sitting back to back, a band of silver wrapped around their arms and waists to hold them together.


“So you decided we had room for another hostage,” Dave said as he put his hand to his forehead.


Lkihdchssnmtr,” Rita mumbled through the tape that was wound round her mouth and head.  Her jacket had been pulled down her arms, with her wrists taped tightly together behind her back and a wide silver band around her arms and stomach.  Her legs were pulled up to her stomach, the silver band only showing the feet of her boots and the top of the leg part.


“Great - so where’s the target?”


“Left while I was in the front - she went to see her lawyer at Mumford and Peabody.”


“You have got to be....  No, never mind,” Jack said as he took out his phone.


“Boss?  We hit another delay - apparently she’s now gone to see her lawyer.  Want us still to bring her in?”


He listened to the phone, then said to Dave “I guess we have five passengers now.  I’ll drive - I know the way.  Make sure these five stay quiet.”


“No problem,” Dave said as he pulled another bag over the struggling traffic warden’s head, blocking her sight as Jack went to the front of the van.


1 pm


The offices of Mumford and Peabody were in a tree-lined avenue in one of the more wealthy suburbs of the city, meaning that the grey van stood out a little as it stopped on the road.


“Can’t you keep that lot quiet in the back,” Jack called over his shoulder as he heard a muffled group of yells and wails.


“If you don’t shut up,” he heard Dave say, “Then...”  The calls suddenly stopped, making Jack smile as he looked at the door to the building.


“Right,” he said as he picked up a balaclava and his handgun, “Keep your phone on.  I’m going to go inside, and if she’s not there I’ll call you, all right?”




Babs Carter hated her lunch hour.  As Mister Peabody left with his last client, she smiled and said she would be fine, lying through her teeth as she said it.  She hated having to do the office cover for the phones, but everyone had to do their turn, and she had to make the best of it.


As the door closed, she stood up and brushed some imaginary crumbs off her black leather skirt and walked to the kitchen.  Once there, she filled the electric kettle and plugged it in, hoping that a hot cup of coffee would make the time pass more quickly.


As she was occupied, Jack entered the office, locking the door behind himself as he pulled the balaclava over his head.  He could see Babs in the kitchen - long legs from the hem of her skirt to the top of her high heeled shoes, a sleeveless white top and long blonde hair.


“I’m sorry, we’re closed,” Babs said as she walked back in, only to nearly faint at the sight of the masked man standing there holding a gun at her.


“Charlotte Danson - where is she?”


“She... She just left with Mr Peabody,” Babs stammered as she watched the masked man take out a cell phone and call.


“She just left - grab her as she walks past.”  Ending the call, Jack picked up a roll of brown packing tape and said “Sit down, hands on the armrests, and shut up.”



Dave looked out of the window and saw a tall, thin dark haired woman walk out of the office door.  She was wearing some sort of brown fur jacket, tight blue jeans and over the knee brown leather boots and she had her head down as she started to walk by.


Jumping out of the driver’s seat, he grabbed the girl by the arm and opened the side door, saying “Get in there,” and pushing her in before she had a chance to respond.  She barely had time to register the presence of the other five women before she was pushed face down onto the floor, and felt her hands being pulled behind her back.


He did not even see the two people coming out behind him, the man escorting the dark haired woman to his car...


The tearing sound was all abs could hear as the tape pulled at the bare skin if her arm, while Jack taped them tightly down to the wooden armrests of her seat.


“Where was she going,” he asked the frightened secretary as he finished binding her arms.  Kneeling, he span her round and grabbed her legs, crossing her ankles as he wrapped the brown tape around them.


“I think they....  OW!” Babs called out as the tape bit into her bare skin.  “They were going back to her flat to collect some documents.”


“Her flat?  Holy Christ, just how much more can this day through at me!”  Jack swore under his breath as he taped the young woman’s legs together, and then looked at her.  “I guess someone will come to free you soon - how do you open your safe?”


“It’s open - Mr Mumford never has it locked during the day.”


“Stupid man,” Jack said as he opened the safe and started to stuff piles of bank notes into his pockets, “This might teach him a lesson.”


“Serves him right too, the skinflint,” Babs said, then she looked at Jack, her lips in a pout before she said “so are you going to gag me now?”


“Yup,” Jack said as he picked up the roll of tape, “Why?”


“Can’t you use a scarf or something?  I don’t want my hair damaged by that stuff.”


Looking round, Jack saw a large headscarf, brown silk with large white dots, hanging on the coat rack.  Picking it up, he rolled it into a thick band and held it in front of Babs’ mouth.


“Open wide and say ah.”


Ahhffnnu,” she mumbled as he pulled the scarf between her lips and secure it tightly around her head, before kissing her on the forehead.


“Have fun,” Jack said as he left the office, walking quickly out and into the van.


“Did you get her,” he said to Dave as he closed the door, only to see the new arrival in his arms, her head in the sack as he wrapped some rope tightly around her arms and chest.  Her hands were tied together in front of her and to her legs, while her ankles were crossed and bound, the leather squeaking like mad as she tried to move them, and the sound amplified by the five other women trying to move.


“Finally!” Jack said as Dave tied off the final knot, “Let’s have a look at the famous Miss Charlotte Danson.”  He pulled the hood off to reveal the deep green eyes staring at him over the wide strip of silver tape that covered her mouth.


Hhthlldufnkur,” she screamed out as Jack looked at her, then at Dave.


“Dave,” he said quietly, “Did you happen to see another dark haired girl and a man walk past?”


“No - you said to grab her as she came out, so I did.  Why?”


“Because,” Jack said with an exasperated gasp, “Charlotte Danson has blue eyes, not green.  This is not her.”


Dave grimaced as Jack picked up the abandoned handbag by Dave’s side and looked through it.


“This,” he said as he held up a driving licence, “is Miss Alicia Mumford - the daughter of whoever owns this fine establishment, I presume?”


Alicia nodded and grunted as the sack was pulled back over her head.  “So where has she gone this time,” Dave said as he took the keys from Jack.


“Where this all started,” Jack said as he sat Alicia next to the others, his own knees pulled up to his chest, “Her flat.”


Dave turned his head as he heard Alex and Katie laughing under their hoods, but said nothing as he got behind the wheel and set off....



2.30 pm


“Thank you, Charlotte, I think that will take care of things for the moment - I’ll bid you a good day.”


Charlotte Danson smiled at her lawyer as he put on his coat and collected his briefcase.  The twenty two year old was wearing a Springsteen concert t-shirt, with the cover of Born in the USA on the front, grey leggings with baggy white socks pulled over the bottom, and a pair of slippers on her feet.  Her long dark hair fell over her shoulders, while her blue eyes sparkled almost as much as her smile.


“I’ll be in touch,” Mr Peabody said as he walked with her to the front door of the flat, doffing his hat before he left.  As she closed the door, Charlotte stood with her back to it and sighed - it had been one hell of a morning, running from pillar to post, but finally she was in a position to relax.


She walked to the kitchen, filling the kettle and switching it on, then turning to find a mug.  As she did so, she saw Alex’s handbag on the work surface, and picked it up, looking into it and finding her purse and university pass, but no phone.


“Not like her to go without her bag,” Charlotte said to herself as she put a spoonful of coffee into the mug, and opened the fridge door to retrieve some milk.  Before she had a chance to pick it up, however, a gloved hand clamped itself over her mouth and she was pulled backwards, surprised to be turned and find herself staring at a tall, stocky man in a blue boiler suit.  A balaclava was over his head, and a gun in his hand which was pointed at her.


“Hands behind your back,” the man said in a slightly exasperated tone, “and don’t move or speak.  We’re on a schedule here, and we are running late.”


Charlotte nodded as she was released and her hands pulled behind her back.  It was not the first time something like this had happened to her - the problem with been the daughter of a director of one of the major banks was an occupational hazard was been taken hostage.  In fact, this was the fourth time it had happened to her - once in a kidnapping, and twice when she and her family had been held hostage in their own home.


“Here we go again,” she said quietly as she felt her wrists been held together firmly behind her back, the rope digging into her wrists.  “Let me guess, you want Daddy to do something for you, and I’m the incentive?  Or is this just a common or garden kidnapping, bound, gagged, held hostage in a damp cellar somewhere for a few days?”


“None of your business,” the masked man said as Charlotte saw a lasso of rope been passed over her body and felt her arms been pulled into her sides, “and I told you to shut up.  Do you want to be silenced?”


“You’re going to anyway,” Charlotte said as she looked own to see her top been stretched over her body by the constricting band of rope, “so you might as well get it over with.  You seem to be in a hurry anyway.”


“Lady,” the man who was binding her said from behind, “you have no idea.”  Charlotte watched as a knotted bandana was held in front of her mouth, before mumbling “At least it’s not tape,” and allowing herself to be gagged.


“Move,” the masked man in front of her said, walking forward and taking Charlotte by the arm.  She walked with him to the front room, and allowed herself to be pushed onto the long couch, looking over her shoulder as her ankles were crossed and lashed together with rope, then her legs bound below her knees.


It gave her the chance to look at the second man - smaller than the first one, but dressed in the same way.  He smiled at Charlotte as he tied the last rope off, and then patted her on the bottom as he stood up.


“Now what - carry her out between us,” the second man said as Charlotte wriggled onto her side and tried to find the knot above her wrists.


“I’m going to call the boss first,” the taller man said as he took out a mobile phone and left the room.  “You go and make sure the others aren’t causing any trouble.”


“Why would they - you gave them all a whiff of the chloroform.”


“Yeah, but the way today has gone...”  The smaller man nodded as he walked off, leaving Charlotte to wonder who they meant by ‘the others’ as the first man put the phone to his ear.


“Boss?  I know it’s a bit late, but we finally managed to...


“Now Boss, if you knew what sort of a day we have had, you would...


“All right, all right, I’ll turn it on.”  The tall man looked at Charlotte, and for a moment she thought that she could see a real sense of despair in his eyes, as the television set showed the news channel.


“.... and to repeat the breaking news story.  Police have arrested a gang of four men today who attempted to kidnap the wife of Derek Danson, the chief executive officer of Harkers Commercial Bank.  Mrs Danson was leaving a hairdresser salon when two masked men attempted to drag her into a car, only for two passing police officers to intervene and prevent her abduction.  The car sped off, but was later stopped and the two occupants arrested.  Two more men were later arrested at a house in...”


The tall man turned off the television, and then looked at Charlotte.  “On the balance of things,” he eventually said as he sat down, “I think that despite everything, we have come out on the better side of things.”


Whthllutlkngbt,” Charlotte said as the smaller man came back in.  “You’re not going to believe what I just heard,” he started to say, before he saw his partner shaking his head and pointing to the phone.


“Yeah, Boss, I saw - what do you want to do now?


“I know, but surely we can...


“Boss, I’m sure we...”


“All right - we’ll be back once we take care of things.”  He switched the phone off and looked at her.  “Charlotte, you really do not want to know what I’m thinking right now,” he finally said, “Blindfold her.”


Nnnn,” Charlotte called out as the smaller man tied a woollen scarf over her eyes, and then removed his balaclava.  “What the hell are we going to do now,” he said as he ran his fingers through her hair.


“Dave, my friend,” Jack said as he pulled his mask off as well, “Help me bring her to the van - and then we’re going to leave a few things for others to find.”


Charlotte felt herself being lifted from the couch and carried in the air for a few minutes, before she heard several sets of muffled groans as she was placed on a cold metal floor.  Those grunts increased as she felt her captors brushing against her legs, and then it seemed as if she was gaining more room to move around.


There were still some other people in the van as she felt it start off, her body hitting against the wall as she did so...




Katie finally grunted out as she managed to shake the sack off her head, before she blinked and looked round herself.  To her delight, she found herself back in the front room of her flat, and that she was not alone - three other women were in the room with her.


One was Alex, her legs squirming round as she moved them up and down in a desperate bid to free them.  The second was a woman, who looked to be about the same age as Katie, with zip ties around her legs and her arms pinned together behind her back.  She looked familiar, but with the sack over her head Katie could not be sure.


The fourth woman was dressed in some sort of uniform, with silver bands around her stomach and legs, and a jacket pulled down over her arms.  As Katie watched, she also managed to shake the sack off her head, revealing a middle aged and very angry woman.


Whtsgnngn,” the older woman said, but Katie shrugged her shoulders.  She honestly had no idea - and was especially worried as to what had happened to the other two.





Jack opened the side of the van to reveal the three women in the back, lying no their stomachs with their ankles secured to their upper bodies.


“So what do we have here,” the red haired woman said as she looked into the back.


“From left to right,” Jack said with a smile, “we have Professor Jane Lawton, Miss Alicia Mumford and Miss Charlotte Danson.”


Danson - I seem to have heard there was an attempt to snatch her mother earlier today.  I presume this was linked to that?”


Charlotte raised her head at the voice and tried to scream out through her gag and hood.


“Perhaps, but plans change, and we were given carte blanche.  Look, Penny, we can’t deal with situations like this - can you help us out?”


There was silence for a few minutes, before the female voice said, “All right - we’ll take care of the arrangements, and you’ll get the finder’s fee.  Take them to the holding suites.”


Jane grunted as her ankles were cut free and she was lifted off the van floor.  She was too tired to offer much resistance, unlike Alicia and Charlotte, who both struggled like mad as they were lifted up.  As Charlotte was carried, the scarf slipped down her head and she saw a thin, red haired woman standing next to the two men.


“When you are given lemons, make lemonade,” the woman said as Charlotte was carried off.  “What about you two?”


“Let’s see - six kidnappings, two burglaries, and a failed plot to rob a bank - I think we’ll take the money and run, agreed Dave?”


“Oh yes Jack - somewhere with sun and no deadlines,” Dave said to Jack as they watched the doors to Madame X’s complex close.







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