Ladies in Red
“Lady in Red, is dancing with me,
Cheek to cheek.
There’s nobody here, but anyone can see….”
She looked down from the shelf she had been placed on, as blow after blow rained down on her father. The two masked men had surprised her an hour before, bound her hand and foot and placed her here to wait for her father to come home, and then they had simply started hitting him. She wanted to scream at them to stop, but the red scarf tied over her cloth stuffed mouth meant only muffled groans like those the man on the floor was making escaped. Instead, the tears started to slow down her cheeks and dark stains appeared on her red blouse….
DI Trent was reviewing the files when his superior came in. He looked up, stood to attention and waited until the DCI took a seat.
“There’s something there, sir, but I’m not sure what yet. That it’s one person I’m sure off, but motive and reasons for her doing it, or even how her victims are selected – no idea.”
“All right,” the DCI said, “Let’s go from the top.”
DI Trent sat down, and picked a manila folder up.
In a small Italian restaurant, a few couples were sitting talking, laughing and holding hands as the tall dark haired woman walked in. She looked around for a few minutes, then smiled and walked towards a table near the back, where a man was sitting alone. Looking up, he smiled in return and stood to greet his guest.
“Amanda – how are you?”
“All the better for seeing you, Uncle John. It’s been too long.”
“Yes, well, you were busy the last time you were down here. Please, have a seat.”
She removed her brown greatcoat and handed it to the waiter, and took a seat opposite John.
“May I first say you look fantastic tonight?”
“How is your father?”
She frowned. “Same as usual, unfortunately. But that’s not why you invited me to dinner is it?”
John took a sip of Rioja from his glass. “Actually, I think it is connected. Why don’t you tell me about the last time you were down here – eight years ago wasn’t it?”
DI Trent read from the police file.
“On the fourteenth of February, 2001, a Miss Janet Scott returned to the house she shared with her friend, Miss Denise Livesey, at approximately 10 pm after going out for dinner with her boyfriend. She opened the front door to be confronted by the sight of her flatmate, Miss Livesey, facing her from the base of the iron staircase in their home.
“Miss Livesey was wearing a long red cocktail dress, and had been secured to the central pillar of the staircase with lengths of white rope. Her wrists had been secured together behind her back and around the pillar, and lengths had been bound around waist and upper chest so that she was secured firmly to the metal. Her ankles had also been bound together and that rope was further secured behind the pillar. Finally, her lower face was covered in sliver tape, and from the muffled sounds Miss Scott heard there was some form of stuffing under the tape.
“Miss Scott remembered saying ‘Denise’ and starting to move towards her when she was grabbed from behind and a gloved hand placed over her mouth. A female voice whispered to her to remain quite still, and place her hands behind her back. Miss Scoot, who was wearing a red halter neck dress with a short skirt, and red leather shoes, did as she was told and she felt rope being passed around and between her wrists. She stood there, as she said at the time out of fear, as further rope was passed around her upper arms and tightened, then around her lower and upper chest before finally being passed under her armpits. By the end, and I quote here, she felt ‘as if she was a sausage.’
“She was pushed into a chair, and she saw for the first time the assailant. She was dressed in dark brown sweater and pants, with the legs tucked into brown suede boots, and she had a balaclava over her head. The intruder placed Miss Scott’s ankles and legs together, and then wrapped rope around her ankles, below her knees and again above, so that they were firmly secured together. She then took a large white cloth, held Miss Scott’s nose until she had to open her mouth, and gagged her by placing the cloth in her open mouth before binding a length of white cloth around it.
“Both women were then forced to watch as the intruder systematically searched the downstairs rooms, placing various items of value into a black sack she had, and then watched each other as she searched the upstairs rooms. Before she left, she checked the ropes around both Miss Scott and Miss Livesey, and then exited from the rear of the building. Before leaving, she told both women that the authorities would be alerted to their predicament.
After a half hour had passed, Miss Scott became impatient. Standing up, she managed to hop to where the telephone was located on the table, and then somehow contrived to contact the emergency services”
The DCI nodded.
“At the time, was this considered a single incident?”
“It was,” DI Trent replies, “after all, it didn’t happen again. Not there, anyway….”
“When did you figure it out?” Amanda asked as she took a sip from her glass and started to eat her starter.
“Oh, it took some time,” John replied. “Apart from your mistake with the telephone, it was a good first job. You didn’t do anything for a year, did you?”
“No need until the next February…”
“Please, why are you doing this to me?”
“It’s nothing personal – I just want your money, your jewels and your valuables. Now shut up while I tie this knot.”
The red haired woman was lying face down on the floor. It had only been ten minutes since she had returned from a wonderful date with her boyfriend, and now here she was being bound by this woman who had held a gun against her when she came in. What really hurt for her was she was still wearing her best dress – a red mid-length creation with spaghetti straps, completed by dark stockings and the black shoes which were now lying beside her. She winced as the knot holding the rope around her wrists was pulled tighter.
Looking over her shoulder, she studied this person. About five ten, brown hair and dark eyes, wearing a white blouse, black skirt and grey jacket. The intruder was now crossing her ankles, and she could see the rope passing around them as it was also pulled tightly.
“Look, I’ll give you anything, just please leave me alone.”
“Your boyfriend didn’t want to come in, did he – your loss,” the woman answered as she tied the rope between her legs. She must have watched as he drove off – damn the fact he had an early start the next morning!
“Look, my purse is there, my jewels are upstairs, mmmmm”
“You need to be quiet,” the intruder whispered as she shoved a ball of white cloth into the woman’s mouth, and then wrapped a length of white cloth several times around her mouth and chin. Satisfied the gag was working, she pulled the bound ankles back and placed her victim into a hogtie. As the young woman looked round, the straps of her dress started to slip down her shoulder.
“Now you just lie there,” the intruder whispered, and for the next half hour she thoroughly searched the house. Eventually, she returned, tested the ropes and said “I’ll let the police know about you in two hours,” before leaving the residence.
“Naturally,” Amanda said. “I thought if I alternated my clothing, as well as the location, it might throw people off the scent.
“Very clever – ah thank you.”
The waiter brought the main course. “So,” John continued as he cut into his steak, “another town and another style the following year?”
“As the previous cases had been in different forces, no-one put the dots together until last month, but she struck again if February 2003.”
DI Trent picked up another file.
“Miss Veronica Kale had just returned home from the Valentine’s Ball at the college where she worked. It was 11 pm, and her boyfriend and she talked on the doorstep for several minutes before she left. She had just placed her handbag on a table and removed her coat when the doorbell rang again. Thinking it was her boyfriend, Miss Kale opened the door to be confronted by a woman in black trousers, a leather jacket and dark glasses, holding a pistol in front of her.
“At the time, Miss Kale was wearing a short red dress, knee length red leather boots and a red scarf around her neck…”
“Hang on,” the DCI interrupted, “Is the colour red a continuing motif?”
DI Trent nodded and continued.
“The intruder forced Miss Kale to lie face down on the floor, whereupon she placed a small black bag she was carrying to one side of the woman and her pistol on the other. Opening the bag, she retrieved a small rubber ball, which she then placed in Miss Kale’s mouth. Removing her scarf, the intruder tied it into and around Miss Kale’s mouth to keep the ball in place.
“She then whispered in Miss Kale’s ear to place her hands behind her back and cross her wrists, and that she would be all right if she did as she was told. As Miss Kale complied, the intruder used some rope to bind her wrists together, crossed and palms outwards, and then bound her ankles together with a further length.
“Sitting Miss Kale up, she then bound her legs together below her knees, and lashed her arms to her sides with rope above and below her breasts. The rope was then passed around her neck and under the lower chest binding to further secure her. Finally, she lay Miss Kale back down and secured her wrists and ankles with a final length.
“Miss Kale watched as her house was searched. Before the intruder left, at approximately 12.30 am, she informed Miss Kale that the police would be informed of her predicament.
“At 2.30 am, a local police station received a tip off that a woman was in trouble at Miss Kale’s address. An officer was dispatched, and she was released from her bonds at approximately 3 am.”
“An anonymous tip-off.”
“Naturally. As with the other two, nothing recovered and no further action taken, but we now know a pattern was emerging.”
The DCI nodded. “So, the following year…”
“Your father had got worse by 2004 – I remember visiting him at the time”
Amanda nodded. “So, I needed to move up a gear.”
“You can scream all you want, but it won’t do you any good.”
The auburn haired woman threw her head back and screamed as loudly as shoe could, but the masked intruder was right – it was no use. The large foam sponge in her mouth was not only absorbing the moisture in her mouth, but stifling any noise, and the red scarf tied over her lower jaw was making it even more difficult to be heard.
She had just come back from a Valentine’s meal when the woman grabbed her and forced her into her own home. Her wrists and elbows had been quickly bound together behind her back, and then long lengths of rope tied around her arms and upper body, which made her breasts strain so much against the thin fabric of the red mini dress she was wearing that the buttons had finally popped, and her left breast had been fully exposed.
The stocking masked woman stood up and checked the binding around her lower legs. “Good,” she said, “now you just sit still while I take all your lovely valuables.
The woman looked around – the living room had already been trashed, and she was both regretful and glad she’d given her maid the night off to be with her boyfriend. She did not want this to happen to anyone else.
An hour passed, with the sounds of drawers opening filtering down the stairs, before the woman finally returned.
“I’ve got everything I need,” she said quietly, “Sit patiently, and in two hours I’ll let the police know about you.”
She watched the masked woman leaving, screaming muffled obscenities after her as the door closed….
“That must have been when the bills started to go up sharply?”
As John took a sip of his wine, Amanda dabbed a tear from her eye.
“Bu that time, it had almost become a tradition with me. You understand tradition, Uncle John – you used to have one after all.”
John smiled. “Yeah, I know – this has always been a special day for me.
“So, tell me about what happened four years ago….”
DI Trent picked up yet another folder.
“Harriett Deane was a student at Northumberland University. Daughter of a wealthy banker, she lived in one of the nicer areas of the city, but on 14th February 2005 she was preparing to go out when there was a knock on her door.
“Dressed in a red pinafore dress and black sandals, she naturally assumed it was her boyfriend, but when she opened the door something was sprayed in her face. That was the last thing she remembered for an hour.
“When she finally came to, she found herself secured to a brown chair, that she used to sit on when she was working on her computer. Her wrist were crossed and secured together behind the back of the chair, and further secured to the back support. A longer length of rope was passed over her arms and upper body, below her breasts, and tightened by passing around them behind her back. Her ankles were also secured with rope, as were her legs above her knees.
“In front of her was a woman she did not recognise – short bleached hair, a pink vest top, black skirt and knee length boots. Before she could say anything, a length of white adhesive tape was tightly smoothed over her mouth, and further lengths applied over her mouth and lower jaw.
“The mystery woman told her to sit quietly, and proceeded to ransack the house taking whatever she could find – including a large amount of cash that had been given to Miss Deane by her father. Before she left, the intruder actually thanked Miss Deane for being so cooperative, and said she would inform the police of her situation.”
“Which happened two hours later?”
“Which happened two hours later.”
The DCI shifted in his chair. “So, for some reason, since 2001 on February 14th a woman dressed in red has been attacked somewhere in the country, robbed and left for the police to find? Why?”
“Exactly – why?” DI Trent leaned back. “There has to be some connection, but I can’t see it. For some reason, there was no attack three years ago.”
“Well then, let’s carry on….”
Dessert was placed in front of John and Amanda.
“This is a lovely restaurant by the way,” Amanda said as she took a spoonful.
“Yeah – I know the owner from past days. So, you managed every year to raise enough money.”
Amanda nodded. “Mind you, three years ago was a real toughie.”
“I was in America at the time….”
Mary Lou Beale walked down the hotel corridor towards her room. Las Vegas was a great time to visit, but it was Valentine’s Day, and with her husband stuck in New York there was nothing to get excited about.
Entering her room, she threw her keys and bag on the bed, when there was a knock on the door.
“Room Service – Can I turn down your bedspread?”
Mary Lou shrugged as she opened the door, but the scream that was about to escape her lips was stifled as the woman placed a gloved hand over her mouth.
“Not a sound,” she whispered as she held a knife to Mary Lou’s throat, “Inside, and lie down on the couch.”
The woman was wearing a dark jumper and skirt, and knew length fabric boots, but all Mary Lou knew was the knife at her throat and the heave in her breast. She was half pushed into the room, and lay face down as she was told. The woman put her handbag on the bed, removed a length of rope from it and quickly bound Mary Lou’s wrists together behind her back.
“Nice dress,” she said as she stood up. Mary Lou was wearing a read dress with white polka dots – the dress was sleeveless, and had a short skirt with a slightly gathered waist. Mary Lou turned over, and tried to say “What th…” but a sponge ball was pushed into her mouth, and a white bandage quickly and tightly wrapped over her lips and jaw.
The intruder removed Mary Lou’s red shoes and let them drop to the floor as she bound her ankles together. Ten minutes later, the frightened girl was lying on her stomach, her arms tied to her sides with rope above and below her breasts and her ankles and wrists connected together. She watched helplessly as the woman took her handbag, and emptied the contents of her jewellery box into her own bag.
“Have a nice day,” she said as she walked out of the room. Two hours later, security broke into the room to find Mary Lou lying there crying.
“So that’s you raised the money that year?”
“Yup – my first and only international trip so far. When the next year came round, well – we knew what had happened twenty years ago was the cause, and it was irreversible. I needed to raise some more capital…”
“So, the next case was in 2007?”
DI Trent nodded, and picked up the folder he had been reading when the DCI had entered the room.
“Miss Jennifer Harper was a fashion photographer, and on 14th February 2007 she was clearing her studio when she was grabbed from behind. She was intending to meet her boyfriend for a meal, and had change from her usual work outfit into a short red halter dress. She was barefoot when the attack began.
“The intruder was wearing a red biker suit, with a crash helmet, but from the body shape Miss Harper knew it was a woman. A belt which had been left from one of the outfits used in the shoot was employed to bind her wrists together, and a handkerchief stuffed into her mouth before she was gagged with black electrician’s tape. Various straps from her equipment bags were removed, and used to bind her ankles together, her arms to her side and her legs above her knees, before her legs were bent back and secured around the thighs and calves with a final length.
“Miss Harper watched as the intruder picked up her handbag, and walked back out again. This was at 6 pm. At 8.30 pm, her boyfriend entered the studio, concerned that Miss Harper had not kept her appointment. Releasing her, they called the police who made their way to Miss Harper’s apartment, only to find it had been ransacked and a number of valuable items taken.”
The DCI shook his head. “It doesn’t fit the same MO as the other cases in terms of what happened.”
“No, but it was Valentine ’s Day, and it was a girl dressed in red. The most recent case was last year at this time.”
John sipped his brandy. “So, every year up to last year.”
Amanda nodded. “Yup – last year was a close call, mind you.”
“Why red, though?”
“Why do you think?”
John sat in thought for a moment. “Because of what you were wearing that night?”
“Yes.” Amanda lowered her head.
“Dee Dee, where are you?”
Samantha let herself into the apartment, and closed the door behind her. She took off her red coat, and walked into the bedroom.
“Dee, are you – oh shit!”
Her blonde haired girlfriend was lying face down in the large bed, her wrists bound behind her back with white rope and more rope around her ankles. She was naked, apart from the hose on her legs and the brown panties she was wearing, and she looked round with panic in her eyes.
“Sam, get out, get out and call….”
Samantha turned round and saw a woman standing there, pointing a gun at her.
“Nice dress,” she commented as she looked at Samantha’s red and black Lycra dress, which emphasised her breasts to a large degree. “Now, be a good girl and sit on the bed, with your hand on your head – we’ll get to you later.”
“She surprised me a half hour ago, when I got out of my work outfit,” Dee Dee said as Samantha sat where she was told to. By the bed, she could see the red dress coat and black boots that her partner wore at the local dress shop. The intruder, who was wearing a black coat and trousers and had dark glasses over her eyes, helped Dee Dee to sit up and started to pass rope around her chest and upper arms, securing them to her side, and then tied her elbows together to secure her further.
“Just get out of here, please,” she called as her legs were further bound above her knees, but the intruder said nothing. Instead, she took a pair of white panties, and pinching Dee Dee’s nose she stuffed them into her open mouth before wrapping a white bandage around it to keep it in place.
“Now, what are we going to do with you?” The intruder said as she looked at Samantha. “You know, I’ve done this for a few years now, but tonight is a double first.”
“In what way,” Samantha asked nervously.
“Well, the first time I’ve visited a lesbian, and the first time I’ve had to use my back up supply.”
“Bully for…. Back up supply?”
Dee Dee let out a muffled scream as the intruder reached into her bag, and drew out a large roll of red adhesive tape.
Ten minutes later, Samantha was gagging at the taste as the red tape was wrapped into her mouth, holding a pair of Dee Dee’s panties in place. Her wrists were taped together behind her back, and her ankles and legs taped in front of her. Dee Dee watched as the intruder tore off the tape and smoothed the end down over the layers covering Samantha’s dark hair.
The two women watched as the intruder ransacked the room, and elsewhere in the house, before they heard a sudden bang as the door was slammed. Ten minutes later, the door was opened and two uniformed policemen looked in.
“Release them,” one said as he called in. “Oscar Charlie Twelve to control – we have a second break-in at the same address. Downstairs flat – send assistance.”
“So, you think there may be another attack tonight?”
“Yeah.” DI Trent threw the folder down. “But, apart from this thing for women dressed in red and the date, I can’t see how they could be connected!”
The DCI stood up. “Keep working at it, Trent – I’ll let you know if anything comes through.”
John signalled to the waiter. “So, are you planning to do anything this year?”
“That’s why I wanted to meet you – I can’t. My employer stopped me going to the conference – budget cuts – and I’m reluctant to do anything this close to home.”
John nodded a she passed his card to the waiter. “SO, when does the medical bill come in?”
“End of the month – and I need to raise the money somehow. Do you have any ideas?”
“I think I can help – care for Alzheimer’s sufferers is not cheap.” He signed the receipt and took his card back, before drawing an envelope out of his jacket pocket. “First, take this – it will help you.”
Amanda opened the envelope, looked at the cheque inside and gasped. “Uncle John, I can’t….”
“Yes you can – Bert was a good friend to me many years ago, and I’m in a position to help after I did another friend a favour. Take it – it should cover you for some time.”
“What about the Red Raider?”
“There’s a new team coordinating cases like this one – god, the papers come up with strange names – and that article in the Mail the other day ahs got them interested in you. We need to divert suspicion away.”
John stood up and held Amanda’s coat for her to put on. “Like I said, that is a stunning dress, and like you said I have some traditions of my own. Let me drive you home, and I’ll tell you what we will do.”
An hour later, Amanda looked round as John walked back into the room.
“What’s that?” she asked as John placed a small vase on the table next to her, with a single red rose in it.
“Tradition,” John said as he looked at Amanda sitting in the chair. “Are you quite comfortable?”
“I think so,” she said as she looked at herself. The white rope went around her arms and chest, than around her neck and across the other ropes to further secure them. She could feel the ropes around her crossed wrists with her fingers, while her ankles and legs also had been bound together. Her own red halter neck dress had been pulled back slightly by the ropes, so that her bra strap was showing.
“I’ve left your rooms in a state, I’m afraid,” John said as he fastened the bag that contained Amanda’s valuables. “Now, as usual, the police will be told in two hours that you have been robbed. Just relax until then. Are you ready?”
“Yeah – and thanks, Uncle John.”
“The Cat is always willing to leave a damsel in distress,” John answered as eh gently placed a rolled up scarf in Amanda’s mouth, and then tied a white scarf tightly into place to keep her gag in. She watched him as he picked up the gag, kissed her lightly on the forehead and closed the door behind him.
Two days later, John was by Bert’s bedside when Amanda came in.
“Amanda,” he said as he hugged her, “I heard what happened. How are you?”
“The marks are fading – someone called Trent came to see me. Apparently, I was the victim of some lunatic who picks women at random to rob at this time of year.”
“It takes all sorts to make a world,” John said as he looked at Bert, lying there with his eyes open and yet not looking. “What did the doctor say?”
“Not long now, and he’ll be at peace.”
John nodded. “Who would have thought that attack twenty years ago would lead to this?”
“It’s funny what it did lead to.”
John smiled and kissed his niece. “I have to go – you’ll call soon.”
“Very soon,” Amanda said as she sat by her father. John put on his coat, looked at his bother and niece, and walked quietly out.