As Time Goes By

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Kirk was not having a good day.  Not a good day at all - in fact, in the grand scheme of things it was an absolutely awful day.  In fact, on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being fantastic and 10 being awful, this was definitely turning into a 12.

 

It had started with her taking her beloved Mini to the garage for the annual MOT test, which meant she then had to sue public transport to get to the other side of town and her office.  As it was, she barely made it in time for the client meeting, and she had to scramble to get her materials together.  And for a larger woman, who Carol rather reluctantly admitted she was, that was no small matter.

 

She had dressed conservatively for the day, in a dark purple woollen jersey dress with a roll neck and a skirt that came to just above her knees, and a dark blue cardigan over her sleeves.  A pair of dark tights was on her legs, and a pair of comfortable black leather boots which laced up the front of her legs.

 

The meeting had not started well either - the client had been delayed in traffic, and Carol’s boss was not happy.  She was 10 years younger than Carol, a stick insect thin blonde who had some skills, but played the game of office politics that Carol refused to get involved in.  So what if it meant Carol was never picked of promotion - but this time she knew a mistake had been made, and so did her boss - which meant Carol got it if she was upset.

 

It took all of her considerable diplomatic skill to rescue the meeting, but by lunchtime the contract had been signed to the apparent satisfaction to all.  Except, of course, Carol’s boss - who took the opportunity of the lunch break to tell Carol exactly what she thought of her dress sense, her meeting style, her age, and her greying shoulder length brown hair.

 

Carol stood and took it all, then stepped out of her office and took several deep breaths.  That was the moment the garage decided to call her and inform her that her car would need about £800 of work to get it through the MOT - and had she considered selling and buying a new one recently?

 

She barely had time to grab a rather meagre sandwich before she was back at work, trying to clear her in-box before the end of the day.  She knew she would be without her car until the next evening, and as the clock struck five she headed out to enjoy the pleasures of the two buses she would have to catch in order to get home.

 

Finally, she walked up the street to her house, hoping that there was a chance for her to unwind that night.  As she reached her gate, she heard a beeping noise, and took out her mobile phone.

 

“MUM - NEED TO SEE YOU URGENTLY.  BE THERE AT EIGHT.  KATE.”

 

“Wonderful,” Carol said as she looked at her watch.  “Gives me enough time to get a cup of coffee.”  She unlocked her front door and came in, turning on the hallway light as her cat Tibbles wound itself round her legs.

 

“Hey there cutie pie,” she said as she picked the cat up, tickling the feline under her chin as she did so.  “Are you hungry?  Would you like some dinner?  So would I, but we’ll need to wait a while.”  She let the black cat drop to the floor as she opened the door to the front room and turned the light on.

 

She stood there for a moment, blinking as she took in the scene, and started to say “what the...”

 

Sitting on the couch, facing the doorway, was Carol’s daughter Kate.  She looked very much like her mother, if slightly slimmer, and her hair was a darker shade of brown.  She also wore a pair of metal framed glasses - which she was looking at her mother through, as she tried to speak.

 

Mssreemm,” was all she could say through the knotted brown and white spotted headscarf that had been pulled into her mouth, the ends sitting around her head and tied together at the base of her neck.  Kate was wearing a brown and pink tartan style blouse over a white round necked top, the sleeves of the blouse rolled slightly back to show the cuffs of the undergarment - and the white plastic zip tie that had been used to secure her wrists together.

 

A second tie was around her ankles, compressing the cuffs of her skin tight jeans around the white ankle socks she was wearing, and third strip was around her legs, just above her knees.  One more strip held her wrists down to her ankles, and her black shoes had been kicked off to the side of her on the floor.

 

“Kate,” Carol finally managed to say, “Who did this to you?”  She dropped her own handbag and ran into the room, ignoring the muffled protests and the head shaking from her daughter.  “Just stay there,” she eventually said, “I’ll get a pair of scissors.” 

 

“I would rather you did not do that, Mrs Kirk.”

 

Carol suddenly realised was Kate had been looking to her side and shaking her head, as she turned round to see the other person in the room.  Sitting in an armchair was a woman, a smile on her lips as she sipped from a glass.  The lips, and a pair of piercing blue eyes, were all Carol could see of her face - the rest was covered in a black balaclava.

 

She was wearing a leather blouson jacket over a roll necked sweater, leggings and over the knee leather boots, and a pair of black leather gloves covered her hands.  There was something else sitting on her lap - a very real and nasty looking revolver, while by her leg was a black holdall.

 

“Your daughter,” the woman said as she put her glass down, “arrived a few minutes ago - I am afraid I had to use one of your headscarves to silence her, and I apologise that I may have treated her a little roughly.  Provided the two of you agree to what I say and tell you to do, I can see my way to freeing her legs and removing the gag - for a little while at least.”

 

Carol looked from Kate to the intruder, and said very slowly “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t have any money other than what is in my purse.  If you let Kate go, I will give you whatever you want, and then you can leave us alone.”

 

The woman smiled, and said “I think you misunderstand me, Mrs Kirk - you will do what I say, or I will be sure that you and your daughter spend the rest of tonight, and most of tomorrow, unable to speak, move or even whimper.  I am not a cruel person, but I do need some co-operation from you for a while.

 

“Now, will you do as I say?”

 

She looked at Kate, who was starting to cry, and slowly nodded.

 

“Excellent,” the woman said as she stood up.  “Please, put your hands in front of you.”  As Carol did so, she watched as a plastic tie was used to secure her wrists tightly together, and then her captor picked up a pair of scissors and cut Kate’s legs free, before removing the scarf and placing it on the floor.

 

“I’m so sorry, mum,” Late said as Carol was sat down next to her, “I walked in and she was already here.  I could not warn you...”

 

“It’s all right, Kate,” Carol said as she put her arms over her daughter’s head and hugged her, “I know you had no choice.  Whoever she is, she means business, so we need to do whatever she says, all right?”

 

She watched as the woman removed her mobile phone from her handbag, and then took the back off, placing the battery in her jacket pocket as the phone went on the table.  Sitting back down, she looked at the two women before saying “Now then, Mrs Kirk - or do you mind if I call you Carol - you and your daughter are going to have to act as hosts for me tonight.  As I said, do as you’re told and you won’t be harmed.  You may even find the evening - interesting.”

 

“What do you want anyway,” Carol said as she tried to move her wrists, “and how do you know our names?”

 

“Very good questions, Carol, very good questions - and I will answer them eventually.  Right now, there is a question I need to ask both of you - and I want an honest answer from both of you.

 

The two women looked at each other, and then looked at the woman as she smiled, and said...

 

“So, is this the first time you have ever been in this situation?”

 

“What, held hostage in my own home by a crazy masked woman with a gun,” Carol said quietly.  “No, I don’t think I can say this has ever happened to me personally.  What about you, Kate?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Carol turned and looked at her daughter.  “What?  When did that happen?”

 

“Earlier today - that was what I was coming round to talk to you about Mum.  The jewellery store I work in was robbed this lunchtime.  Two men in motorcycle helmets came in, made Bobbi, Dave and me sit on the floor behind the counter, taped our wrists and ankles, and then covered our mouths before they took the contents of the display cabinets.”

 

“My god,” Carol said as she pulled her daughter closer to her again, “I’m sorry you went through that, darling.”

 

“It is a little unfortunate,” the masked woman said as she sat down, “as I am afraid you may have to go through something similar later.  Still, don’t worry too much - your mother has some experience in these matters as well, despite what she just said.”

 

Carol stared at the masked woman, as Kate said “Mum, what does she mean?”

 

“I have no idea,” Carol said in a clam, clear voice.  “Why don’t you tell us what you are going to do to us?”

 

“Now, Carol,” the woman said with a smile, before she took a phone from her own pocket.  “I thought you would want the answer to your other question.  One moment, please.

 

 

“Hello?  Yes, can I order the Oriental Banquet for three please?”  Carol watched as their captor picked up her purse, and removed her card.  “Yes, I’ll pay by card.”

 

The two watched as she calmly used Carol’s card, and gave the address, before hanging up.

 

“Now, where were we?”

 

“How did you know our names?”

 

“How did I know you were Carol Kirk, and this is your lovely daughter Kate?  I do my homework is how, and I do it very well.  I know you are unhappy in your job, Carol, and you feel you have been passed over for promotion too many times.  I know Kate enjoys her work, and I know she thinks a lot of - Dave, I think you said his name was?  Anyway, I know all about you - ALL about you.”

 

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

 

The woman put her phone away, and stared at the two women as they sat there.

 

“Come on Carol, Kate - they’re not your real names, are they?  Do you want to tell me your real names, or do you want me to tell you?”

 

Kate looked at her mother, and there was a hint of fear but more of anger in her eyes.  “How can she possibly know, Mum?”

 

Carol looked at her daughter, and nodded before turning to their captor.  “Something’s been bothering me - You’ve tried to disguise it, but I know that voice from somewhere.  Have we met before?”

 

“Could be,” the masked woman said with a smile, “but you did not answer my question.  Are you going to admit who you are, or do I have to tell you?”

 

“All right,” Carol said as she looked up, “So you know who we are, and if you know who we are, then you know why we don’t want others to know.  So were you sent by my former employers, or...”

 

Carol was interrupted by a knock on the door.  “Answer it,” the woman said as she stood by Kate, putting the gun to her head, “and no funny stuff.”  She used her knife to cut Carol’s wrists free, and watched as the older woman walked to the door, stopping to catch her breath before she opened it.

 

The blonde haired woman who was standing there was wearing a tan leather jacket and a pair of patterned leggings, the legs of which were tucked into brown leather boots that went over her knees.  “Good evening,” she said as she looked up, “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I am collecting for...  Carol?”

 

“Amanda,” Carol said as she recognised her boss, “What are you doing here?”

 

“I... I’m a volunteer for the local homeless shelter,” the blonde haired woman stammered out.  “We put a bag through your door the other day, and I’m going to each of the houses in the area to see if you have anything.”  She looked at the older woman, and then said “Of course, I’m not sure if you would have anything worth giving to charity - I suspect you still wish to wear those things.”

 

Carol had to stop herself from shouting, when a sudden thought occurred to her.  “Actually, Amanda,” she said as she opened the door, “I may just surprise you.  Why don’t you come in?”

 

Amanda looked at Carol, and then said quietly “All right,” as she stepped in.  Carol watched her walk into the living room, and then calmly walked out to the van that was waiting on the road.

 

“Amanda is going to stay for a while,” she said as she smiled at the driver, “I’ll make sure she gets taken good care of.”  The driver nodded as he drove off, and Carol walked slowly back to the house, closing and locking the door behind her.

 

“MUM!!  What the hell did you think you were doing,” Kate shouted as Carol walked back in.  The masked woman was kneeling on the floor, astride a very surprised and angry Amanda as she crossed the blonde’s wrist in the small of her back and secured them together with a zip tie.

 

“I could ask you the same question,” she said as she looked at Carol, anger in her eyes.  “If you’ve...”

 

“You’re holding my daughter hostage - what makes you think I’d call the police,” Carol said in a tearful voice.  “I told the van driver Amanda would be staying a while, to allay suspicions.  Do you really think I want the Police to come here when you had a gun to Kate?”

 

The woman looked at Carol, then nodded as she moved down Amanda, grabbing her ankles and crossing them before the zip tie went around her legs, the plastic squeaking over the leather as she did so.

 

“Carol, what the hell’s going on here?” Amanda squealed as she felt her legs been pulled back, and her ankles were secured to her wrists with a third tie.

 

“This woman has taken Kate and me hostage for some reason,” Carol said as Amanda was rolled onto her side.  “I’m really sorry, but she forced me to bring any visitors in.  I’m afraid you need to stay here with us now.”

 

“No freaking way - HELLPPPPPPPMMMGGGGG!” Amanda tried to scream out, before the masked woman stuffed a wad of cotton into her mouth.  She then took a roll of duct tape from her rucksack, and wound it tightly round her mouth, sealing the stuffing in as Amanda tried to wriggle round.

 

Carol looked on, a worried look on her face, but inwardly she had to suppress a feeling that could be summarised as “Serves you bloody right.”  Another ring, this time three short ones, on the door bell, interrupted her thoughts.

 

“Answer it,” the woman said as she drew a pillow case out from her rucksack and pulled it over Amanda’s head, “And no funny stuff this time.”  Carol nodded as she went to the door, wondering who it was this time.

 

The man standing there said nothing, but held up three plastic bags as he stepped in.  Carol closed the door and said “So where do you want to put them?”

 

“Kitchen,” the man said, so Carol walked him to the rear of the house, watching as he placed the bags on the table, and then said “Where is she?”

 

“In the front room with my daughter,” Carol said as he produced a roll of tape from his jacket pocket.  He smiled, the face obscured by the stocking pulled over his head, and called out “Bring her through.”

 

He then pulled out a chair from the table and indicated to Carol she should sit down.  She obliged, watching as he taped her ankles to the front legs of the chair, and then her waist to the back, while the masked woman brought Kate through, sitting her down and taping her legs and waist before she cut her wrists free.

 

“Who’s the other woman?”

 

“My boss,” Carol said as she watched the woman fetching plates from the cupboard, and setting them on the table as the man laid out the Chinese takeaway.  “Just promise me one thing - when whatever you want done is done, she’s mine.”

 

Heh,” the woman said as she sat down, “I knew you hadn’t forgotten the thrill.”

 

Kate stared at the man and woman, and then said “Oh my god - you’re...”

 

“Hello, darling - long time no see,” the man said as he pulled the stocking off, revealing a close cropped head of grey hair and a huge smile on his face.

 

“Uncle Dave?” Kate said, her jaw hanging down in astonishment, “and Aunt Gina?  What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

 

“Their job,” Carol said as she watched the masked woman finally remove her balaclava, revealing a slightly older version of her own face, the blonde hair streaked with grey.  “How’s the objets d’art procurement process, big sis?”

 

“Can’t complain, but then you would not know we’ve branched out into the internet sales business,” Gina said as she sat down and piled some fried rice onto a plate, “after all, you stopped fifteen years ago.”

 

“For very good reason - that hoodlum was going to have me killed.  I had to go into hiding - to protect Kate and myself.  What about my boss?”

 

“I tied a scarf round her ears - she won’t hear us.  Look, do you mind if I stop calling you two Carol and Kate - to me, you’ll always be Rowan and June.”

 

“Rowan Tree disappeared a long time ago,” Carol said as she picked up the noodles and put some on a plate.  “Why on earth are we still taped to these chairs anyway - and how did you find us?”

 

“Well,” Dave said as she sat down, “We still have some contacts in the Met, and we called in a couple of favours.  Truthfully, Rowan, we would not be here now if we did not need your skills.”

 

Kate had been looking at her mother as this conversation was going on.  When she and her mother had moved here fifteen years ago, she had not really understood why she had to change her name, or what was going on - all she had known was Mum wanted her to do that.

 

“Uncle Dave,” she finally said, “Please, why did you and Aunt Gina have to scare us?”

 

“To protect both of you,” Gina said, “And I’ll explain why later.  For now, all you need to know is that I and my partner are going to force your mother to do something for us, and you were the reason.”

 

“But did you have anything to do with what happened to me today?”

 

“No,” Gina said, “but we have an idea who did do it - and it might provide an added incentive to your mother.”  She turned to her sister and said “We think it was Benson.”

 

Carol was about to put a forkful of chow mein into her mouth, but stopped with the food in mid air and looked at Gina.  “I thought he got thirty minimum - why is he back out on the streets?”

 

“Good behaviour - or play acting, something like that,” Dave said as he opened four bottles of beer and put them on the table.  “The thing is, we were coming to ask for your help anyway, but we thought you might like a chance to get back at him as well.

 

“So what do you say Rowan - pull on the suit and gloves one more time and join us?”

 

Rowan, or Carol, looked at her sister and brother in law before saying “If I do this, we remain the victims, and nothing of this ever gets out.”

 

“We?  Why We?”

 

“Kate,” her mother said as she looked at her, “I know you’ve been practising skills as well - I’ve seen your internet search history.  You take after me - want to try it for real one time?”

 

“Mum,” Kate said, “I...”

 

“Well then, Rowan Tree and June Tree - mother and daughter act one time only.”

 

“Dave,” Rowan said quietly, “I also want a chance to get my revenge on her through there.”

 

“Of course,” he said as he stood up

 

“Kate, I guess you now know how I used to earn the money...”

 

“I’ve always known Mum - I read of your exploits, and I soon figured it out.  One thing always bothered me though - why did we have to go into hiding?”

 

Rowan took a deep breath and said “Well, the reason was actually you, dear.

 

“You were only a young girl when I did my last job - I was working alongside a woman known as The Vixen, before she too had to disappear under - well, you’ll see.  We both broke into a house on the outskirts of Manchester - a place we spent a long time researching, studying the layout and even visiting a couple of times in disguise to locate the safe.

 

“Anyway, it would have been at about one in the morning when we entered the house, and I disabled the alarm.  Vixen made her way upstairs, and my task was to find the safe and open it as quickly as possible.  Before I got a chance to do much to the door, however, I heard a shout from upstairs, and feet running down, so I stepped out and grabbed the young woman who was trying to get to the telephone.

 

“She was a little younger than you - twenty one I later found out - long red hair, thin, and was not exactly what you would call modestly dressed.  In fact, she was wearing a bikini top, extremely tight satin shorts, and a pair of knee length black leather boots.  She also had a look on her face of pure terror - especially when I hand gagged her and dragged her back into the front room.  There was something familiar about her, but at the time I was focused on shutting her up, so I didn’t give it much thought.

 

“She fought like a wildcat, before I was forced to show her the fake gun I used to carry and tell her to shut up or I would shoot her.  I then took a roll of duct tape that I carried in my bag for such purposes, sat on her as she lay on the floor and taped her wrists and ankles, before turning her over and putting several strips over her mouth.  Only then was I free to get back to the safe - which I managed to open as Vixen came in and told me to follow her.

 

“She took me upstairs to what turned out to be the master bedroom, and lying on the bed was a small, grey haired woman who looked at us with eyes full of pure hatred.  She was tied up, her arms and legs stretched out and secured to the four posts of the bed, and several layers of tape were over her mouth, but it was her attire that was more striking.  The leather wader boots squeaked as she tried to pull her legs free, while the leather corset barely covered her chest - nor did the skimpy panties do much of a job covering up down below.  She was also wearing a black eye mask, and there was a whip lying on the floor.

 

“There were also several coils of rope, and a video camera.  Vixen looked at me, I looked at her, and then it hit me where I had seen the other girl before.”

 

Kate had listened to all of this, trying to process what her mother was saying, and then she asked the question - “Who was she?”

 

“Do you remember,” Gina said quietly, “A television program from when you were a kid called Star Search?”

 

Kate nodded.  “Yeah - that woman who does afternoon telly now won it - Stella...”  Her silence spoke more than her words did, as she realised and remembered the story of her disappearance.

 

“Correct,” Rowan continued, “It was Stella Harper.  Her disappearance had been reported, but it was thought at the time she had just gone somewhere very private.  The truth was she had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom, and what Vixen interrupted was her captor releasing her for - well, let’s not go into what was planned.

 

“Anyway, I told Vixen the safe was open, she grabbed what jewellery she could, and we went downstairs to empty the safe.  As I did so, Vixen took a phone from her pocket and placed an anonymous call to the police, before telling Stella in no uncertain terms that we had not been there.  We then left - and I thought that was the end of it.”

 

“So what happened?”

 

“Her captor’s husband happened - Benson, one of the more violent gang leaders in the country.  Somehow, he found out it was me and Vixen who had not only robbed him, but foiled the kidnapping.  By the time he did so, Vixen had disappeared - so he found me instead.”  Rowan looked at her daughter, and said “The things he said he was going to do to you, meant I had to disappear and go into hiding with you.  That was when I told you we were moving, and that your name was Kate, not June.  The only people who knew out location were a couple of police officers I trusted - and your Aunt Dave and Uncle Gina.

 

“Which reminds me - will you please cut this bloody tape away and tell me what’s going on?”

 

Dave knelt next to Rowan’s chair and cut her legs and body free, as Gina did the same to June.  “What’s going on,” Gina said, “is we heard about the raid at your place of work, June, and our contacts told us it was Benson.  He’s out, and he’s sending a warning to your mother - so we need to take him out where it hurts, and we need to do it tonight.

 

“Your mother and you had to go into hiding because she foiled a kidnapping - it’s time to return the favour.  This is going to be illegal, June, so you have to decide now - are you in or are you out.  If you’re in, this will be the only time we ask you to do something like this.  If you’re out, you stay here with Dave while your mother and I take care of things.”

 

“Why would Uncle Dave stay - oh, her,” June said as she slowly nodded her head.  “What are we going to do with her?”

 

“Oh I have an idea,” her mother said as she stood up...

 

 

Amanda had no real idea how long she had been lying on the floor, unable to move and the only sound the muffled talking from the kitchen, the squeak of the plastic ties on her leather coat and jacket, and her own feeble attempts to call for help.

 

So when she suddenly felt her wrist released from her ankles, and the thud of her toes on the carpet, she was surprised.  Her surprise only grew when she felt the band around her ankles released and then the pressure over her eyes disappear.

 

“Get up,” a male voice said, and as she was forced to her feet the pillow case was finally removed from her head.  Amanda blinked a few times before she saw a man, with a stocking pulled over her head, standing in front of him.  Turning her head, she saw her original captor smiling at her as she held her arm.

 

“Move,” the man said, and Amanda was frogmarched out of the front room and up the staircase to the first floor.  As she passed one door, she was stopped and the man put his hand on the door handle.

 

“As you can see,” he said as he opened the door, “Carol and her daughter are up here as well - so do as we tell you if you want them to remain safe.”

 

The door opened into a large bedroom, and as Amanda looked in she could see Carol and Kate sitting on the bed, their hands behind their back and a band of rope securing their ankles and legs together.  A band of silver tape was pressed down over their mouths, and it was obvious to Amanda that something was under that tape from the way their cheeks bulged out.

 

“Let’s go,” the man said again, and Amanda was walked to a second bedroom, this one with a single bed on it.  It looked normal, with an iron headstand and a short footboard.

 

“We’re going to cut you loose,” the woman said as he male companion closed the door, “and we want you to put on the pair of blue pyjamas that are on the bed.  Do not touch the tape around your head, do not scream, do not panic - you really do not want to know what will happen if you do that.  Understood?”

 

Amanda nodded slowly as the plastic strip around her wrists was finally cut away.  “I’ll go and check on the other two,” the man said as she brought her wrist round and rubbed them, her eyes fixed on the masked woman the whole time.

 

“Don’t,” she said as if she was reading Amanda’s mind, “Just get changed, and then lie on your back on the bed, hands on your head.”

 

Reaching for the zip, Amanda slowly unfastened her jacket and let it drop to the floor, revealing a pale green top underneath.  She then stripped that off, before putting on the blue silk pyjama jacket.  As she did this, she kept her eyes fixed on the masked woman, her smile broadening as she waited.

 

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Amanda then pulled off her boots and removed her leggings, before putting on the matching pants.  She tried to make herself as comfortable as possible on the bed, before placing her hands on her head and watching as her captor took a length of what looked like curtain cord and made a small loop in the end.

 

“You’re going to be staying the night,” she said as she pushed the loop over Amanda’s left wrist and tightened it, before pulling her arm up and securing the other end to the iron headstand.  Walking round, she quickly did the same thing to her right wrist, so that Amanda’s arms were spread apart above her head.

 

She raised her head and watched as the woman crossed her ankles and tied them tightly together, making sure the rope went between her legs as well, before tying the ends to the footboard, and then securing her legs together below her knees.  As much as she tried to wriggle round, Amanda knew she was going nowhere.

 

She then watched as the woman went to the dressing table and picked up two cotton cleansing pads, which she stuck to the underside of a length of the duct tape.  “I’ll be staying here while my friend takes care of things,” she said as she walked back, “so close your eyes, and don’t do anything silly.”

 

Amanda nodded as the woman pressed the pads over her eyes, smoothing the tape down on either side to keep it in place.  All she could then hear was the sound of a chair been sat on, and the occasional turn of a page as well as the breathing of her guard.

 

Gina smiled as she stood in the doorway, Dave behind her.  “Let’s go,” he whispered in her ear as they closed the door, the iPod in the speaker dock continuing the sounds that Amanda could hear.

 

“Brilliant idea, Rowan,” Gina said as they rejoined Rowan and June in the main bedroom.  The coils of cord were on the floor, and the strips of tape in the bin.  Rowan had changed from her other clothes into a pair of brown leggings and a roll necked sweater, and was busy tying a pair of boots onto her feet.

 

As for June, she had changed into the set of clothes she had retrieved from her room before Amanda was bound in it - an old black flying suit, with a long sleeved top underneath, the legs tucked into a pair of knee length black leather boots.

 

“Not bad, we’ll make a professional of you yet,” Dave said as he looked at her niece.  “Now, here’s the plan...”

 

 

“Are you sure this is the place, Dave?”

 

Rowan looked at her brother in law, who nodded as he turned off the engine of the van.

 

“This is it - the current domicile of Katherine Benson, the wife of the man who wanted to hurt June.  She got out two years ago, and has lived a quiet life ever since - trying to hide from her husband as well probably.  Look - over there.”

 

The front door of the small cottage opened and they both watched as a small, grey haired woman in a bright housecoat put out an empty milk bottle, and then closed the door again.

 

“Does she know where he is - or does he know where she is?”

 

“No idea - but in about an hour, he’s going to find out where she is the hard way.  Suit up - we move in a few minutes.”

 

********

“Are you sure Mum’s boss is not going to get free?”

 

“June, your mum was one of the best ropers in the business - a skill I believe you may have picked up as well, from what she told me.”

 

June blushed as the two women walked down the busy street, the collars of their coats up as they approached the block of flats.

 

“Why on earth would the gang who stole the jewels be living here,” June said quietly as they stood outside the front door, smiling as a young couple left and they slipped in.

 

“Who knows - but the favours we called in at least told us they were here.  You know what to do?”

 

June nodded as she took the balaclava from her aunt and slipped it over her head.  “Secure them, silence them, say nothing - let you do all the talking.”

 

“That’s right - if they know it is you, the plan falls down on this front.”  The two women stepped out of the lift, folded their coats and put them in the bag June was carrying, while Gina checked the small handgun she had.

 

“Ready?”

 

June nodded as Gina knocked sharply on the front door.

 

********

 

Katherine Benson went out of her way to avoid being noticed - there were things in her past she no longer wanted to think about, and this seemed the easiest way of ensuring that.

 

“Ready for dindins, Tiddles,” she said as she stroked the underside of her cat’s chin, before making her way to the kitchen.  “I can see that you are, let me get some nice tuna for you.”

 

She walked over to the cupboard, opening it to take out a can of fish, before she opened it and broke it up with a fork onto a small plate.  Placing it on the floor, she smiled as she watched the cat eating away, contented, happy with her life.

 

“You’ve got a cat as well?  Somehow, I always saw you as a tigress.”

 

Katherine turned slowly to see two people - a man and a woman - standing there looking at her.  The man was in a black leather jacket and trousers, while the woman was dressed all in brown, but both were wearing balaclavas that only showed their eyes and mouths.  She stared in silence at them for a few minutes, and then said quietly “I know you - Rowan Tree, is that you?”

 

“It’s me,” Rowan said with a smile, “I had hoped we’d never meet again, but circumstances have forced the issue.  How’s the husband?”

 

“No idea - I haven’t seen him since I was released.  I put that part of my life behind me - as had you, I thought.”

 

“Well, I had - until he decided to let me know he was out and back.”  Rowan held up several coils of rope in her gloved hand.  “Turn round, hands behind your back - you’re coming with us.”

 

********

 

Gina looked on, an admiring smile on her face as she watched June at work.  The door had been answered by a woman in her early twenties, dressed in a pair of blue and white Capri pants and a white t-shirt, who was taken completely by surprise as she had been pushed backwards.  June had pushed a small sponge ball into her mouth and taped over her lips before she had a chance to say anything, and then forced her into the front room.

 

There was a second woman in the room, this one wearing a denim mini-skirt and blouse with dark hose.  Gina had held her while June secured the first girl, taping her wrists tightly behind her back and then wrapping the roll around her waist, then making her lie down as she secured her ankles and legs.  She had then gagged and secured the second girl, so that within ten minutes of opening the door both women were lying face down on the floor, unable to move and muffled complaints coming from their mouths.

 

“I’ll look after these two,” Gina said to her niece.  “Search the house.”

 

June nodded and quickly left, first checking the other rooms downstairs to ensure nobody was hiding.  She then climbed the staircase, and entered a large bedroom.  A search of the closet soon uncovered a large duffle bag, and as she opened it she allowed herself a smile, recognising some of the items that had been taken that day.

 

Picking up the bag, June carried it out to the hallway and set it down, before checking the other doors.  Most were uninteresting, but at the back of the hallway was one door with a key in the lock.  Her curiosity getting the better of her, June turned the key and opened the door.

 

Her eyes widened as she looked into the room.  Lying on the bed was a woman, not much older than her, dressed in a powder pink crop top and shorts.  Where her skin was bare, around her midriff, wrists, and legs, were bands of silver tape holding her in place, and a similar band of tape was wrapped around her mouth.  The woman was staring back at June, her eyes wide as she tried to talk to her.

 

What was worse was that she recognised the girl - she was the younger sister of her colleague Dave.  They had met at a party at his place a few weeks previously, and June - well, Kate, had got on well with her.  She realised that this was how they managed to stop Dave from doing anything stupid that day as well.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, trying to disguise her voice as she did so, “but I can’t help you - not now.  The women who held you captive are captives themselves now - so here’s what I’m going to do.”

 

She walked to the window and opened the curtains, looking out onto the street below, before she took a mobile phone from her pocket - one Uncle Dave had given her, telling her it was a pre-pay and therefore untraceable, and showed it to the frightened girl.

 

“When I go in a minute, I will call the police and tell them to come here.  They will release you, so be brave a little longer - you have my word that I will do that, and the ones who took you will have to pay for their crimes.  Understand?”

 

The young woman looked at June and then nodded slowly.  “Good - it won’t be long,” June said with a smile, before she left the room and picked up the bag.

 

“Find what we were looking for?”

 

June nodded as she walked back into the room, and looked at the two women squirming around on the floor.  “That - and more.  I found your house guest.”

 

Gina looked on as June dialled 999 on her phone.  “Police please.

 

“Yeah, I just saw a woman with tape over her mouth screaming from behind an upstairs window.  You might want to send someone.”  She gave the address, ignoring the muffled screams from the floor, and then hung up.  “Time we weren’t here,” she said as she and her Aunt Gina left the house, and made their way back to their car, June tightly grasping the duffel bag in her hand.

 

Breath deeply, girl - the adrenalin will soon start to fade, and we don’t want you fading.  Want to tell me what that was all about?”

 

“The - those two had a captive upstairs, the sister of one of my colleagues.  I thought it was funny that he did not raise the alarm or fight back at lunchtime - now I know why.”

 

“So you called the police - nice.  Kidnapping is a far more serious crime than robbery.”

 

“Talking of which, how do you think Mum and Uncle Dave are doing...”

 

 

 

 

Katherine grunted as the rope was wrapped around her arms and upper body, pulling her housecoat against her as she looked at Dave’s covered head.  “I can see you’ve lost none of your skill,” she said as she turned her head and looked over her shoulder at Rowan.  “So what really brought you out of retirement?”

 

“Your ex,” Rowan said as she tied the last knot off, “staged a raid on a jewellers today - one my daughter works at.  Coincidence?”

 

Katherine shook her head.  “Unlikely, I grant you, but as I say I have not seen him since I got out.    These days I keep my head down, and live a quiet life.  So how is kidnapping me going to get you to him?”

 

“You’ll find out,” Rowan said as she turned Katherine round, and held a small kitchen sponge up.  “Open wide - we’re going to go for a little car ride, and then we’re going to get your husband out of both our lives for good - if you’re interested?”

 

Katherine nodded, and then opened her mouth, allowing Rowan to push the sponge into her mouth and then cover her lisp with brown sticking plaster.  Taking her by the arm, she walked her out of the house, Dave locking the door behind them, and then down to the waiting car.  The street was dark and quiet, so nobody noticed as they made Katherine lie across the back seat, and then secured her ankles together with rope.

 

“Right then,” Rowan said as she covered Katherine with a car blanket, “We’re taking you somewhere nice, and then we’ll call your husband.  Dave, where are we going?”

 

Dave smiled and said “Oh, I think we’re going to give Mr Benson the shock of his life.  We’re going back to your place - Gina and June should be there by now, with things set up.”

 

As they pulled up outside, Dave got out of the car first, checking the coast was clear before Rowan helped to move their captive out of the back seat of the car, and her carried her across the threshold.  He then carried her up the stairs and into June’s bedroom, while Rowan went into the front room.

 

“Right then,” he said as he laid Katherine down on the bed, “wait there for a few minutes - I’ll be right back.”  Katherine nodded as she twisted her legs round, getting herself comfortable as she looked round.  It was a typical bedroom for a young woman, with scarves hanging off a mirror and a wardrobe with clothes she knew she could never wear.

 

“Right,” Dave said as he came back, “Just let me take a few shots here.”  She looked into the lens of a professional camera as he took various shots of her lying there, using her eyes to communicate a sense of fear as he did so.

 

Whtsthhssfr,” she mumbled as he put the camera down and sat next to her.

 

“My business,” Dave said as he looked at her.  “We’re going to send you husband a message - want to hear more?”

 

Katherine nodded as Dave peeled the plaster away from her mouth, and she spat the sponge ball out.  “Will it get him off my back for good?”

 

“Hopefully - here’s what we are going to do...”

 

 

 

“Who’s this,” June said as Dave escorted Katherine into the front room.

 

“June, this is Katherine.  Katherine, my daughter,” Rowan said as Dave sat at the table and plugged his camera into the laptop. 

 

“Pleasure,” Katherine said as she accepted a glass of wine from Gina.  “I know you - you used to work for George, didn’t you?”

 

“Freelance now,” Gina said as she sat down.  Has George explained what is going to happen?”

 

Katherine nodded.  “Who’s this fourth woman anyway?”

 

“My boss,” Rowan said, “actually, my soon to be ex-boss.  I think there may be a career change coming up for her, one way or another.”

 

“Same for me,” June said, “I want to taste that excitement again - it was fantastic.”

 

“Well, I can arrange training,” Gina said, “and your mother could probably do with some help in the short term.”  June looked over to her mother, who was sitting thoughtfully.

 

“Not full time,” Rowan said, “but perhaps some evening work.  Anyway, will you excuse me for a moment?”  She put her glass down and left the room, going to the bedroom where Amanda was still bound on her back on the bed.

 

For her part, Amanda had fallen asleep, so when she felt the soft touch of a finger on the sole of her foot, she shuffled a little.  When that stroke continued, she began to squirm and protest at the way it felt, but there was no stopping, as she felt her soles, her legs and her sides been tickled mercilessly...

 

 

“There,” Dave said as he turned the laptop, “What do you think?”

 

The women gathered round and looked at the webpage, showing four photos, one of each of them as they struggled at some point in their bonds.  “Where did you get the ones of me and mum,” June said as she looked on.

 

“Photoshop - good, isn’t it?” Dave said as they read the text.

 

SPECIAL AUCTION

eSlave is proud to announce a onetime only special sale - two mother and daughter pairs that would grace any stately home or workplace.  Well trained, and ready for immediate delivery.  Bidding is open, and will close at 6 am tomorrow morning!

 

At the bottom of the page was a clock, ticking slowly down, and a bid box next to a reading of “Current Bid: £10,000”

 

“Will this actually go on the site,” Katherine said with a frown.

 

“Yes - and no.  It will be a closed page, and only one person is getting the link...”

 

 

Benson stretched and yawned as he looked over his e-mails.  He was about to drain a glass when one arrived from a service he used on occasion, under a pseudonym,   The subject line intrigued him, but as he opened it and pressed on the link he put the glass slowly down on the table and stared at the page...

 

“Uncle Dave?  Am I just being stupid, or isn’t there a big flaw to your plan?”

 

Dave looked at June, the smile still fixed on his face, and said “go on?”

 

“Well, if Benson is as well connected as you think he is, isn’t he going to track down you by finding out where the web page is hosted, and then your home address?”

“Do you know, Gina,” Dave said as he looked over to his wife, “our smart niece may have a point.  Should we be worried about Mister Benson tracking us down and paying us a visit rather than the ransom?”

 

“Well, I guess that would be a concern, Dave,” Gina said with a smile, “if we had not taken certain sensible precautions.”

 

June looked at both of them, before saying “Just where is your web server based anyway?”

 

“For most purposes, my dear, the server is based way out of this country.  For the purposes of Mr Benson, however, the route will take him, if that is what he chooses to do, somewhere altogether more convenient for our purposes.”

 

June looked at both of them as Rowan walked back into the room.  “Is it really three in the morning,” she said as she looked at the others.  “Who wants some coffee?”

 

Katherine looked at Dave, before saying “Where exactly are you going to send him?”

 

Gina merely smiled, a broad grin as she said “Wait and see...”

 

 

 

The two cars drew up outside the quiet office block, and Benson looked out at the plain door.

 

“Are you sure this is the address,” he said to the man sitting behind him.

 

“This is the registered address I got from the server,” the man said as he checked the gun in his hand.  “Ready to roll, boss?”

 

“Let’s do it,” Benson said as he stepped out of the car, the six men following him.  He had handpicked them, and trusted them implicitly.  He had to - there were words to be said to his wife, who he had not seen since leaving prison, and scores to settle with two of the others.  The fourth one - well, that was an added bonus.

 

“Kick it in,” he said as the men lined up outside the entrance.  One of them stepped forward and brought his foot down hard on the lock, the door giving away with a loud crack as the wood splintered.

 

“Nobody move!” Benson called out as the men ran into the hallway, expecting to see the kidnappers and find the four women.  Instead, they found the darkened hallways.

 

“Spread out and search,” he ordered as the six men went further into the building.  Ten minutes later they returned.

 

“We’ve been sold a dummy, boss - there’s no-one...”

 

The lights suddenly went on, and as Benson looked round he found his group surrounded by armed police officers.

 

“Looks like the tip off was right,” one of them said as he looked at Benson.  “We were told someone may try to break in and steal the diamonds - but this is quite a surprise.  I thought you’d have learnt your lesson by now, Benson.”

 

“Diamonds?  What...”  Benson fell silent as he finally noticed the plaque on the wall - the one that announced where they were.  The supplier for the store his men had hit earlier that day.  He took one look round, sighed and held his hands up.

 

 

 

 

“Now that,” Katherine said as she drained her cup, “is a touch of class.  It should keep him out of the picture for some considerable time.  I guess all that is left now is loose ends.”

 

Rowan nodded.  “Of which the chief one is my boss upstairs.  We need to convince her that we are still being held hostage - and I think I know how to do that.  I think it is time Amanda realised what a real boss can do - right after we have some fun.”

 

 

Amanda blinked as the tape was pulled from her eyes, and she saw the masked man standing there with Carol.  The older woman was wearing a blue sleeveless nightdress, and she could see the tape over her mouth as well as around her waist, as well as the fact her hands were pinned behind her back.   Her daughter was next to her, similarly gagged and taped, but in a pair of blue shorts and a matching vest.

 

“Right,” the masked man said as he held a gun to Carol’s neck, “Here’s what’s going to happen.  Carol here is going to go to your office, and make a substantial withdrawal from your company account.  To do that, she will need your password and access information - and I am sure you will give it to us, because if not it will get very, very messy.  Understand?”

 

Amanda slowly nodded as he leaned down and cut away the tape from her mouth, gasping as the cloth was removed before saying “All right - I don’t want them to be hurt.  Are you all right, Carol?”

 

Carol nodded and kept silent, as Amanda told the intruder how to access the company accounts, and the necessary information.  As she finished, she saw Kate shaking by the woman’s side, .tears running down her cheeks as she tried to stay calm.

 

“Take her to get ready,” the man said as he pushed Carol towards his companion and grabbed Kate, “I’ll make them both secure here.  And Carol?”

 

Carol looked back at the man.

 

“Remember - one word out of turn or if the police arrive - they die.”

 

Amanda gulped as Carol was taken away, and she heard the shower starting to run, while the man made Kate lie face down on the floor and started to wrap a length of rope around her bare ankles.

 

“We’ll let you get changed later,” the man said, “once your mother is safely on her way.”  Kate nodded as her legs were pulled back, and then whimpered as she was securely hogtied.

 

“Please,” Amanda said as she watched the man tear a fresh length of tape off the roll, “Don’t do this to me.  I’ll be quiet I prommmm....”

 

“Can’t take the chance,” he said as he re-gagged her, and then left both women in the room...

 

 

 

The clock struck one in the front room of the house, as Kate rolled back over and looked at Amanda.  She had eventually been allowed to shower and change into a pair of jogging bottoms and a hooded top, with a white t-shirt under the top, and a pair of sports socks over her feet.  The masked man had then bound her arms tightly behind her back, at the wrists and elbows, as well as binding her ankles, her legs above and below her knees, and her thighs.   One last length of rope connected her elbows to her knees, while a length of brown plaster covered her lips.

 

Amanda had changed back into her clothes of the previous night, and then made to sit on the floor, her legs bent up to her chest and her wrist bound tightly under her knees.  A further length of rope went around her chest, arms and legs, while her ankles and knees were tightly secured with more of the white cords.  She too had a strip of plaster over her mouth, and her eyes were red as she stared back at her fellow captive.

 

They both turned their heads as the front door opened and closed, and then Carol came in, followed by the masked woman.  “Are you two all right,” she said as she looked at Kate and Amanda, both of whom nodded as Carol was helped to remove her coat, and then helped to sit next to Amanda.

 

“Did she do what we wanted her to do,” the man said as he knelt in front of Carol and pushed her legs together and up, wrapping the rope around her short black felt boots and pulling her ankles tightly against each other.

 

“Like a dream,” the woman said as she made Carol put her arms under her legs, and then used a zip tie to secure them together.  “We took more than enough from the accounts before we left - I was standing over her as she did it.”

 

Amanda shot a look at carol, who nodded but said nothing as her body and legs were lashed together with rope, instead looking at Kate as her lips were covered with a strip of the brown sticking plaster.

 

“Right,” the masked man then said as he checked the binding on all three women, “Time we weren’t here.  I’m sure the police will be along at some point, if only to find out where you three are - have fun until then.”  He blew them a kiss as he and his partner left the house, locking the door behind them.

 

Kate wriggled around on the couch, unable to move as she watched her mother slowly trying to breath in and out, and Amanda - Amanda started to sob uncontrollably, her body shaking as she collapsed into a twitching ball on her side.

 

Clmdnmnd,” Carol said as she looked round the room, and then started to inch herself across the floor.  She had seen the pair of scissors that had carelessly been left on the coffee table, and inch by inch she made her way forward, Kate offering encouragement as she saw their chance for escape...

 

 

Benson was arrested and charged with breaking and entering, but when the news came through of his accomplice’s kidnapping, and his involvement in the robbery at the jewellery store, he was further charged with those crimes.  At trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to a further 15 years in prison.

 

Katherine Benson disappeared that night - her house was sold, and she was not seen in the neighbourhood.  At the same time, at a manor house in the North of England, a new owner had taken over - a well spoken and very nice woman who had inherited a small fortune, and used it to the benefit of the village. Her only companion was a cat, although she did entertain visitors from time to time - such as a middle aged couple who visited regularly, as well as a mother and daughter.

 

 Kate returned to work at the jewellery store, but left two weeks later, officially because of the stress of the robbery.  Instead, she went to work as an assistant for a procurement firm called Objects of Beauty, and was seconded to their e-commerce division.

 

Amanda also returned to work, but was so traumatised by the events of that night that she resigned as the area manager - to be replaced by Carol, who brought in new working practices, and proved to be a most capable leader.  Amanda herself remained at the office, as Carol’s assistant, but she also underwent therapy to recover from her ordeal.  Carol also provided moral and other forms of support

 

Over the next few months, there were also reports of a number of break-ins, carried out by a pair of women, one older and one younger...

 

 

Amanda opened her eyes, and felt the soft breeze as it came in from the open window.  Looking at the clock on her bedside table, she saw it was one in the morning, and with a sigh she turned over to lie on her back - in time to see the two women standing over her, both dressed in dark clothing and with balaclavas over their heads.

 

“Hello Amanda,” the smaller of the two said, “It is time for your next session.  Are you ready?”

 

“Yes, Miss Rowan,” she said as she raised her hands above her head, watching as the two women bound the ends of long chiffon scarves to her wrists and secured them to the headboard.  She smiled as they did this - she had never thought she would like being this way, but her therapist had suggested acting it out, and when the same woman who had bound her before appeared in her flat a month after the incident, they had come to an agreement. 

 

Once a month they would break in, and ‘steal’ a payment from her, and in return they would bind and gag her, and let her relax in that way.  For Amanda, it provided a way of dealing with her emotions.

 

For Rowan, it provided a chance for continued revenge - and to help teach and sharpen the skills of June, as she worked alongside her...

 

 

 

 

 

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