Saturday 8th November
Above O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg
The red headed woman looked out over the land as the flight started the descent, smiling to herself. It had been some time since she was last here, and so much had changed in her life over these last few months. She had left to join what to her was a way of getting back at those who caused her so much pain – and now, she returned to find a way to help others hurt as she had been.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the captain said as the plane touched down and started to brake, “welcome to Johannesburg. As always, we ask you to remain seated until...”
Charlotte looked out of the small window, smiling to herself. She was home, if only for a few days, and from here she would fly to New York to work with Heather on Madame’s new apartment and the offices. Life was good now – and full of challenges.
As the plane approached the stand, and stopped, she stood and stretched, running her hands through her red hair before she opened the overhead locker and took out her ankle boots. Slipping them on, she accepted her cream cotton jacket from the steward and collected her laptop bag, before joining the queue to leave the plane and collect her things.
“Welcome back Miss Gordon,” the border official said as she handed over her passport, “Is your visit business or pleasure?”
“A little bit of both,” she said with a smile as he stamped her passport, and then she walked through, putting on her sunglasses despite the early hour as she collected her case and then passed through customs, smiling as she stepped out and waited for the courtesy bus to the car hire depot.
Half an hour later, Charlotte slipped behind the wheel of the Porsche she had chosen, smiling as she started the engine and slipped onto the exit road. It really had been far too long since she had been home, as she set off, enjoying the open road as she put down the window beside her.
As she approached a set of lights, she was listening to a music station, not paying much attention at all – until she heard a car door open and close, and then felt a cold metal disk at the base of her neck.
Glancing in the rear view mirror, she saw a young African man looking at her, smiling as he said “Keep driving, and go where I tell you, or you die, understand?”
Charlotte nodded slowly, cursing the fact she had been stupid and left the doors unlocked, before she moved off, doing nothing to attract attention to herself as they moved down the highway.
“Take that turn on the left,” he said quietly, Charlotte nodding as she turned off and went down the dirt track. She came to a stop where two others were waiting, a second man in a vest and knee length shorts, and a young woman in a black t-shirt and leggings.
“Out,” she said as she opened the door, Charlotte slowly climbing out as she raised her hands. The second man came over and pulled her hands behind her back, Charlotte tensing her wrists as she felt them being secured together with a length of rope.
“So what do we do with the redhead chick,” the woman said as she looked Charlotte up and down.
“She looks a bit larney,” the man behind Charlotte said, “let’s take her back to the shop, see if she has anything we can use to raise some money.”
“How much room in that trunk?”
“Plenty, now,” the man who had held her at gunpoint said as he took her cases out and put them in the back of the car.
“Time to be quiet, chick,” the woman said as she pressed silver tape over Charlotte’s mouth, and she was lifted into the trunk, the three captors smiling as they slammed the lid down.
Charlotte felt the car start again, and could hear their muffled voices as they hit the road again, so she calmed herself, controlling her breathing as she allowed her eyes to adjust to what little light there was for her. She tried moving her legs slowly round, grateful for the fact they hadn’t bound her ankles, as she pulled her small bag towards her wrists.
Given she was doing so much travelling, Charlotte had got into the habit of keeping some essentials in that bag, and as she managed to open the side pocket her long fingers found what she was looking for. She just had time to secrete the item in question into the waistband of her trousers and kick the bag back, the pocket closed, before the car same to a sudden halt.
She squinted as the trunk lid flew open, and saw her three kidnappers standing there, looking at her.
“Hey, chick,” the taller of the two men said, as his shirt fluttered in the breeze, “let’s get you out of there and make sure you’re nice and comfy.”
Charlotte grunted as she was lifted out of the trunk and carried across what she now realized was a garage, with car parts scattered round the place, She looked carefully round, as she was dropped onto a dirty mattress in a side office, watching as the second man bound her ankles tightly together with rope.
“Keep an eye on her,” he said to the woman, handing her a handgun as he left the room. Charlotte watched carefully, the tall woman sitting down and looking over at her.
“Whatcha looking at , chickie? Trying to figure out if I’ll cut you any slack.”
Charlotte slowly shook her head from side to side as the girl looked over towards the open door. As she did so, Charlotte finally untensed her arms, smiling under the tape as she felt the ropes slacken around her wrists slightly. It was an old, old trick which many people thought was a myth, given it seemed to happen all the time in books and films.
It was, however, one of those tricks which actually worked. The ropes were still tight enough to keep her wrists together, but she now had some movement – and some movement was all she needed to reach under her waist band, while silently thanking her god they hadn’t thought to secure her arms or body any more.
From her skirt she drew out the emery board she had managed to secrete. On its own, it was never going to cut the rough cords, but she didn’t want it for that. She wanted it to tease the knot above her wrists, as she lay still, quiet, compliant…
“Hey, this is one rich chick – lamey clothes, and real bling.”
“Let me have a look,” the girl said as she stood up and walked over, looking out of the door as Charlotte managed to slip one wrist free from the bonds. She reached round and removed the tape from her mouth, and then rolled onto her stomach, pulling herself over the floor as she approached the girl.
There was a screwdriver lying on the floor, which she picked up and held in her teeth, moving as quietly as possible until she knelt behind the girl.
“Hey – nice jacket. Think it will fit me?”
“Bit small for you,” the man in the vest said as he held up Charlotte’s brown leather jacket.
“Nah -look like crop for me,” the girl said, and then she stiffened slightly as she felt the point in the small of her back.
“Listen very carefully,” Charlotte whispered, “I can push this in and end your miserable little life right now, or you can nod your head and keep smiling. Make your choice now.”
From the garage, the two men looked over at the girl, as one of them said “Everything all right?”
“Yeah everything a-ok,” she said with a smile as she nodded her head, and then looked over her shoulder.
“Tell them you’re going to have some fun with her,” Charlotte whispered.
“Hey – you guys gonna do the car?”
“Yeah – why?”
“Me and chickie gonna have some fun.”
“Not too rough – she not need any bruises.”
“No,” she said as she closed the door.
“Very good,” Charlotte said, “now, face down on the floor, arms and legs spread.”
“How the hell did you get free?”
“I’ll tell you when you decide to get down and stop wasting my time.”
The girl nodded as she dropped to her knees, and then her stomach, spreading her arms and legs. Charlotte took the gun from her hand, and then pulled her wrists behind her back, securing them with the rope from her arms.
“Hey, that hurts,” she said as the cords dug into her bare wrists, “where did you learn to do that so tightly.”
“I’m a professional,” Charlotte said as she sat and untied her ankles, then crossed and tied the young woman’s ankles tightly together, “as you are about to discover. Want to know what it really feels like to be held hostage?”
“Tough luck, chickie,” Charlotte whispered into her ear, “Time you learned how it really worked.” There was a dirty rag and a roll of duct tape on the floor, which Charlotte grabbed, wadding the cloth up and saying “open wide” as she put the gun to the girl’s head.
“You wouldn’t dare…”
“Try me,” Charlotte whispered as she pulled the safety back, the girl whimpering as she slowly opened her mouth.
“Good girl,” Charlotte said as she pushed the cloth in, and then wrapped the tape tightly round her head. “Now, sit up – and get comfy.”
She rolled the girl over and sat her up, tearing the tape free and winding it tightly round her arms and chest, then around her legs, before she bent them and taped her thighs to her chest.
“Now, sit quietly,” Charlotte said as she picked up the gun and walked slowly to the door, opening it slightly as she looked at the two men.
“Hey – we need to get the car sorted. Anything in her purse?”
“Just a passport, money, cards – no address or anything.”
“Well, she must know something – go talk to her.”
“What and interrupt the fun?”
Charlotte closed the door and looked at the ball taped girl, putting a finger to her lips as she stood behind it. She held the pistol up as the man came in, took one look at the silenced girl, and said “What th…”
“This is a Glock 24, with a full clip,” Charlotte whispered, “and I have it aimed at your back. At this close range, it’s going to shatter your spine and rip out your spleen as the bullets rip your stomach open. That will be the last thing your girlfriend there sees before I out one between her eyes. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you believe I am pissed off enough to do that is you don’t do what I say, right now, no questions?
The man slowly raised his hand as Charlotte kicked the door closed and took the gun from his belt.
“Smart move – now get down on your knees, put your hands behind your back, and don’t move a fucking muscle. Clear?”
“Who the fuck are you,” the man said as he moved his hands behind him, and heard the tape rip.
“Your worst fucking nightmare,” Charlotte whispered in response.
The man in the vest whirled round as Charlotte came out, pushing his taped fellow robber in front of him, the tape pressing his cheeks into his skull.
“Your girl is in there,” Charlotte said as she pushed him in, “and I am late for a meeting, so you are going to pack my bag again, put it back in my bag, and put all my things back in my purse.”
“Now why should I do that Chickie,” he said with a smile he thought would intimidate her.
He felt the bullet pass by his cheek and embed in the wall behind him as Charlotte fired off a round.
“Let’s try that again Asshole – pack my stuff away now, or I kill you, him and her, and then pack it away myself. Your choice.”
The other man shook his head as he heard the girl whimpering in the office, and went over to the table, putting Charlotte’s passport and money back into her purse, before he put the clothes back in the case and closed it.
“ALL my money.”
He reached into his back pocket and put the fold of bank notes back into her purse.
“Good – there’s a roll of gaffer tape there. Sit down in the chair and tape your legs to the front legs.”
He walked slowly over to a chair and taped his legs to the wooden chair legs.
“Now, take that cloth and stuff it in your mouth.”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“If you don’t shut the fuck up and do what I say, yes – now stuff that cloth in your mouth, and wrap the tape round your head.”
She smiled as he whimpered while doing that, and then pushed the man she was with to the ground, taping his ankles and legs as he lay on the floor, before she walked over and taped the first man’s arms and chest to the chair back.
“Now,” she said as she popped the trunk and put her case back in, as well as her bag, “Give me one good reason why I should not shoot all three of you now.”
She looked at them, and in her own mind she wasn’t sure either. Instead, she threw the gun to one side of the room, and said “This time you got lucky. Next time, stay out of my way.”
“Hruuu,” he called out from the chair as she collected the car keys.
“An operative for Madame X,” Charlotte said as she opened the garage doors, and drove off, setting her sat nav for the Hyatt.
“Miss Gordon – we were expecting you this morning,” the receptionist said as Charlotte checked in.
“I was delayed somewhat,” Charlotte said with a smile, “is my room ready?”
“OF course – and I had a message from Piet van der Byl. He says he will meet you in reception at two.”
Charlotte glanced at the wall clock, which showed 12.30. “Good,” she said, “just time to unpack, shower and change.” She smiled as she collected her pass key and walked off, the porter following with her case.