She stared up at the two masked intruders as they stood in front of her. The ropes that were holding her to the chair back were tight, digging into her chest through her thin blouse and making it difficult to breath. It was difficult enough anyway with the thick silk scarf they had rolled into a band, knotted and then stuffed the knot into her mouth before securing it over her blonde hair.
Her legs also ached – they had pulled her ankles back and secured them to the legs at the back of the chair. This has made her skirt ride up, so that her pale blue knickers were showing, but that didn’t seem to bother them. Instead, they almost seemed to be laughing as they stood there.
One of them leaned over, and said in a deep voice “Remember D” before they both run out, leaving her to try and scream for help.
Mary Simmons walked into the office of the Berktown Police Force, where the sheriff was standing looking at a file he was holding.
“Good morning, Mary. Looks like it might be a quiet day so far.”
This was the moment the telephone picked to ring. Mary picked it up and said “Sheriff’s office.
“I understand – we’ll have a car round as soon as possible. Just stay calm.”
“We need to get someone round to Joe Davies’ place – someone broke in and tied up his wife.”
The sheriff put the file down on the table, and headed for the door. “I’ll go myself – Joe’s an old friend from school. Let me know when the others get back in.”
Mary watched as the door swung shut, and wondered what had happened. She knew Sally Davies – like her, she had spent her whole life in the town, but was ten years older. Her kids attended the same high school that she had, and she was on the PTA. More to the point, the Davies had no money or valuables – Joe barely made enough in his mechanic job as it was – so who would want to break in there?
She sat down and picked up the file that the sheriff had been reading. It was a report from Hope, a town about twenty miles away from Riverdale, detailing an incident that had occurred there a few days previously.
Mrs Rebecca Sudlow had returned from a trip to the local Wal-Mart, and parked her car in the garage as usual. Opening the door to the kitchen, she had started to bring the grocery bags in when she heard a noise in the front room.
Making her way cautiously into the room, she barely had time to whisper “Who’s there” before she was grabbed from behind and a cloth tied over her eyes. Mrs Sudlow was pushed to the floor and she felt someone grab her wrists and pull them behind her back. She was wearing a blue checked blouse over a white t-shirt, jeans, white socks and sneakers when she was attacked.
She could tell there were two assailants, for as she felt some sort of cord pulling her wrists together a second person was grabbing her ankles and crossing them. She lay still, afraid to say anything as the intruders bound her. She felt someone removing the bandana that she was wearing over her hair, and then the taste of cloth as it was used as a gag.
It was her teenage daughter who found Mrs Sudlow when she returned home from high school to find the front door open and her mother lying on the floor, her body criss-crossed with ropes and screaming for help. A search of the premises by officers seemed to indicate that nothing was actually taken, and it is felt that this may just have been a teenage prank that went too far.
Regretfully, Mrs Sudlow was unable to identify her attackers, beyond the fact that they seemed to be young, strong and remorseless.
Mary put the file down and sat back in thought. After the incident a year or two back at their high school reunion, she had taken more of an interest in the crime sin the local area, even once or twice looking unofficially into the situations. This, however – this looks like some sort of initiation stunt or high school prank. Probably a couple of her daughter’s friends.
“Well, that was a funny one.”
“What was, sheriff?”
“The break in at the Davies place. Sally Davies is cleaning her house when she’s jumped from behind by two intruders, who tie her to the chair and then take absolutely nothing. All they do is say two words to her.”
Mary looked over as one of the deputies led Sally Davies into the back office to take her statement. She was still wearing the chiffon blouse and powder blue shorts that she had been attacked in, and rope burns were still visible on her wrists. As the office door closed, Mary turned back to the sheriff.
“Distraught – he doesn’t understand who would do this, and frankly neither do I. It may just be kids, but I can’t be sure.”
Mary stood up and dusted the crumbs off her summer dress.
“If there’s nothing else today, I could use some personal time. I’ll see you in the morning?”
“All right, Mary – see you tomorrow.”
Mary drove back to her small house on the outskirts of town, thinking over what she had heard. It was a strange attack for certain, but two similar attacks where nothing was taken? It sounded too much like a coincidence to her. Pulling into her driveway, she made her way to her small office and switched on her computer.
Coming back into her office with a mug of coffee, she sat down and searched for the local newspaper in Hope. As she read the report of the attack on Rebecca Sudlow, she began to wonder how the Mystery Minxes would have approached such a case. With a shudder, she realised that was not going to be possible – after Polly’s efforts at the school reunion, she had not talked to Sarah or Kathy, never mind Polly.
Looking at the article, she noticed that her search engine had picked up a story in another paper based in Collegeville. Intrigued, she clicked on the link and read the text that appeared…
MYSTERY ATTACK ON WIFE OF COLLEGE DEAN – POLICE BAFFLED
Police were called to the home of Dean George Wermer, the head of faculty at Fabian University, yesterday afternoon after a silent alarm was found to have been activated. On arrival, they found Alice Wermer, the wife of the dean, leaning against wall of their main room. She had been bound and gagged, and was obviously in some distress.
Although few details have been released, police did confirm that Mrs Wermer was attacked as she returned home from a shopping trip, by at least two assailants. Although they had wasted no time in securing her and preventing her from raising the alarm, it is understood that nothing was actually taken from the house. Police are said to be working on the theory that this was a student prank that went wrong.
Mrs Wermer was released from hospital after an overnight stay, and is said to be resting at home.
Mary looked at the date on the article – seven days previously, and all three within a reasonable travelling distance. “History be hanged,” she said to herself as she grabbed her coat and headed out of the door.
“I was sorry to hear about the attack, Susan – how are you feeling?”
Mary was sat in the living room of the Davies house, drinking a cup of coffee with Sally. She was still looking pale, but had been happy to talk to Mary when she had driven up.
“Still scared – I have no idea who they were or what they were after.”
“As I understand it, you were cleaning upstairs.”
Sally nodded. “That’s right – I heard a noise, and thinking it was Gill coming home I came down only to be jumped by these two masked intruders. They were dressed in black, with ski masks over their heads.”
“You didn’t scream for help?”
“No time – one of them held while the other tied one of my headscarves into my mouth, then they tied me to the chair. I’m telling you, Mary, I was scared out of my wits.”
“You say they took nothing – so what did they do?”
“All they did was say to me ‘Remember D” before they ran out.”
“And you’ve no idea who or what D is?”
Sally shook her head. “Why are you interested in this? I thought the whole Mystery Minx thing was history.”
“Well, I love a mystery,” Mary said with a nervous laugh. “One more thing – do you know a Rebecca Sudlow or an Alice Wermer.”
“No – no, I can’t say I do. Why?”
“Probably nothing – thanks for the coffee, Sally.”
Mary stood up, hugged Sally and made her way back to her car. Punching an address into her sat nav, she drove in the direction of Hope.
“You’ve got that look in your face, Mary – what are you thinking about?”
Mary looked up at the sheriff as he stood over her desk, a wry smile on his lips.
“Oh, nothing boss – I went to see Sally last night, and she told me about the attack. She also told me what the attackers had said.”
“’Remember D’? Yeah, that’s something to puzzle over. So why are you so interested?”
“Signs of a misspent youth, I guess. Boss, do you mind if I do a little research of my own – I’ll let you know if I dig up anything.”
“All right – but don’t get into any trouble.”
Mary smiled – if only he knew that she had talked to Rebecca Sudlow in Hope the previous night, and she had told her something the reports had not mentioned – a message her unknown attackers had said before they left.
Later that evening, Mary drove onto the campus of Fabian University, and after checking in with the college security she walked up to the house of the dean. The door was opened by a young woman, who led her to a room where Alice Wermer was sitting.
She was about forty, with brown hair put up in a strict bun. She was a large woman, dressed in a brown jumper and long leather skirt. She rose to greet Mary and indicated a seat next to her.
“I understand you are interested in that prank some of the students played on me, Miss
“Yes – I’m writing an article about the way students get they own back on faculty, and I found the newspaper article on your situation during my research. I hope it’s not too painful a subject to discuss.”
“It is more embarrassing than painful. I was returning from a function, and had just closed the door behind me when I was grabbed and made to face the wall. I knew there were two of them, as one held me there while the other started to bind my wrists together with rope.
“I asked them what they were doing, but all they did was continue to wrap the rope around my arms and body. I was wearing a brown jacket and cress, with leather boots, and I could feel the ropes even through the material. When they had finished there, they made me kneel down before they started to tie my ankles together.”
Mary wrote down some notes while asking “Did you get a look at them?”
“As they were securing my wrists to my ankles, yes – two young people, I’d guess late teens or early twenties, dressed in black with ski masks over their heads.
“At any rate, when they had finished tying me up they took the brown scarf I had been wearing as a cravat, rolled it up and used it to gag me. Before they left me there, however, they did something very strange.”
Mary sat forward. “What did they do?”
“They leaned over and said ‘Remember D’, and then they left me there. After a while, I managed to make my way to where the silent alarm button is and alert the authorities.”
“Do you have any idea what they meant by that?”
Alice frowned. “No – my husband has had a few problems with the Delta house on campus, so when I told him he just assumed it was two of their students. They have denied it, of course.”
“Naturally,” Mary said as she stood up. “Well, thank you for your time, Mrs Wermer. May I ask one more question?”
“Do you know a Sally Davies or a Rebecca Sudlow – they’re both women who live locally.”
Alice thought for a moment. “No – I cannot say I recognise the names. You must forgive me, Miss Simmons, but I need to finalise arrangements for a small dinner party I am giving.”
Mary nodded and shook Alice’s hand before leaving the room. As the door closed, Alice Wermer made her way to the telephone and dialled a number.
“Jacqui? Jacqui, if you’re there pick up the phone – I need to talk to you!”
Jacqui could hear the message, but she was in no position to answer. She was lying on the floor, struggling as the two intruders were tying the final knots in the ropes that encircled her leotard-clad body. She stared up at them, the white cloth in her mouth starting to stain with saliva, as one of them leaned over and said “Remember D”.
She stared back at them as the two black clad people ran out of the room, leaving her to try and escape from the encircling ropes.
As she sat in her home office, comparing notes, Mary was puzzled. Three apparently unconnected women, attacked in their homes yet nothing taken, and all told the same message.
Who or what was D? As she pondered this, her phone rang and she went to answer it.
“Mary? It’s Kathy – Kathy Jester.”
“Kathy? My god – we haven’t talked since the reunion. How are you?”
“I’m fine – I just don’t like remembering. Are you still interested in unusual crime stories?”
“Sure – why?”
“Well, the station I work for up here have been reporting a couple of unusual break ins in the last twenty four hours. I thought you might be interested in them.”
Mary felt a cold sweat break out on her skin. “Let me guess – nothing was taken, two assailants, and a message left with both victims.”
The line was silent for a minute, before Kathy said “How did you know?”
“Never mind – tell me about them.”
“The first was a Jacqui Black – her daughter came home from school and found her on a rug in their living room, trussed up and gagged in her exercise outfit. Nothing was taken, and the police were going to dismiss it as a prank until the second call this morning.
“Bob DeWitt, a local shop owner, woke up to find the other side of his bed empty. He got up, washed and dressed, and walked downstairs expecting to see his wife in the kitchen. Instead, Hailey was laid out on the couch in their front room, with her ankles and wrist bound and her dressing gown half open. Her belt had been used to keep a napkin in her mouth as a gag. Again, there were two assailants, and nothing was taken.
“On a hunch, I called both women up and asked if the attackers had said anything. Both said they had, and it was the same thing.”
“Mary, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know, Kathy – but these have to be connected somehow with a few incidents down here. Look, call me if you hear anything – or just call anyway, all right?”
“All right – and thanks Mary.”
“For not calling me out over Polly.”
The line went dead, and Mary replaced the receiver before adding the names of Jacqui Black and Hailey DeWitt to her list. Stretching and yawning, she turned the light off and headed to her bed.
She was awoken at one am by something – what she didn’t know, but something had done so. Reaching up, she turned on the bedside lamp and stifled a gasp as she saw a woman sitting by the bed. She was small, with mousey blonde hair, and smiled as she looked at her old friend.
“Polly? What the hell are you doing here? I though you said we were never to meet again.”
“Oh, I did – but we have a mutual problem that I need your help with.”
Mary stared at Polly, who she had not seen since the reunion. The brains of the Mystery Minxes, she had turned her hand to more profitable, if illegal activities over the years.
“You’re not responsible for these attacks – for one thing, you would rob them. So why are you here?”
“These particular nuisances have cost me some – profitable visits recently, so I want them stopped. I get the feeling you want to know what’s going on too.”
“Do you know who they are?”
“No – but I do have one thought for you. Why would five separate women be attacked in the same way?”
“I don’t know – they must be connected, but when I talked to Alice Wermer she said she didn’t recognise the names I mentioned.”
Polly nodded. “Why should she – they were their married names after all.”
Mary sat up. “My god – I never thought….”
“You’re slipping, Mary – I’m sure you’ll find the links now. Good luck.”
Polly stood up and walked over to Mary, a small canister in her hand which she sprayed the contents of into Mary’s face…..
The alarm woke Mary up, and as she rubbed her eyes she wondered if she had dreamt Polly’s visit. The dry feeling in her mouth, however, suggested a different tale, so she showered, dressed and made her way to the public library.
As she searched through the records, and traced back all five women to their maiden names, a glimmer of a thought came to her mind. Typing all the names into a search engine, she watched the screen as a scan of a report from twenty years ago came up.
The accompanying photo showed a smiling, young woman with dark permed hair, wearing a high collared blouse with a light blue bolero jacket and matching skirt. As Mary read the story, she wrote some notes down before sitting back and thought over the story. Opening a new window, she searched on a number of local databases before finding an address, which she wrote down before shutting down the computer.
It was a bungalow that Mary parked outside, with a stone path that led up to the front door. She locked the car, walked up and rang the doorbell, standing waiting until the inner door was opened by a tall man in his early forties, with greying hair.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Mary Simmons – I called earlier to arrange to speak to Deborah Wallace?”
“It’s Deborah Young now” a female voice called from inside the house. “Let her in, Dave.”
The man stood aside and allowed Mary to come into the simply furnished house. “This way,” he said, and he led Mary into the main room, where Deborah was sitting.
“Forgive me if I don’t get up,” she said as she wheeled herself over and shook Mary’s hand. “It’s a little difficult for me to stand up – well, I guess you know that for yourself.”
Mary nodded, and accepted the seat which Deborah pointed to. “Thank you for seeing me – I know from past experience how difficult it can be to relive bad times from the past.”
“Not at all,” Deborah said as she locked the brakes on her wheelchair. “I was resentful for a long time, but now I realise how many blessings I really have.”
“Have you seen the newspaper reports of the attack on Sally Davies?”
Deborah nodded. “Yes, I did – why would anyone want to pull a stunt like that?”
“Why indeed? Deborah, why don’t you tell me what happened at the prom twenty years ago.”
“What’s to tell……”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
Alice looked up at Deborah as she tied the last rope around her ankle, securing it to the chair leg. As she stood up, the other girls gathered round and looked at the young woman as she sat there, underneath the stage.
“I’m sure – when Dave sees me coming up through the stage, bound and gagged like this, he’s going to think it’s a great way to introduce the Prom Queen – and he gets to play the gallant rescuer as well.”
“All right then,” Jacqui said as she held up the roll of tape, “any last words?”
“I think she’s said too much already,” Rebecca said as she tied a patterned scarf over Deborah’s eyes. “Hailey, Sally, get the door open.”
“See you later,” Alice said as she watched Jacqui tape over Deborah’s mouth. She was dressed in a pale blue silk ball gown, but the ropes around her body and the chair made her look more like the classic damsel in distress she loved to play.
The five girls left her in darkness as they turned the lights off. Deborah sat there, listening, as the principal began his speech.
“So, this year you have elected as your prom king – Dave Young!”
She could hear the applause as footsteps resounded above her. The principle spoke again.
“And your prom queen is….. Deborah Wallace. Deborah, can you come up please?”
Deborah relaxed as she heard the trap door in the stage above her open, and the engine start to raise the platform she was sat on. She could hear the gasps of her fellow students, and Dave say “Deborah?” The next thing she heard was the bang as the lifting mechanism broke, and the screams before the impact.
“You have been in the chair ever since?”
“Yes – but I still had Dave. He stuck by me in the following months, and – well, you can guess the rest.”
Mary nodded. Looking round, she saw a picture on the mantelpiece. It showed Dave and Deborah with two young girls, smiling and waving.
“May I ask who the girls are?”
Deborah smiled. “That’s Deni and Deliah – my twin daughters. They just turned eighteen – they’re visiting some colleges at the moment with a view to attending one.”
Mary frowned. “Did they visit Fabian College recently.”
“Yeah, they did,” Dave said as he cleared up the coffee cups. “Why do you ask?”
“A hunch – a lot of the girls from around here visit there. Well, thank you for your time and your patience, Deborah. You have a remarkable story to tell. Just one other thing.”
“Did you ever tell your daughters that story?”
“Why yes, we did. Why?”
Mary nodded as the telephone rang. “I guessed you would. Well, I won’t take up any more of your time.”
As she picked up her handbag, Dave came back into the room. “Deborah, that was the girls – they asked if I would pick them up.”
“all right, dear,” Deborah said as her husband reached over and kissed her. Mary smiled and walked out of the room. As she went back into her car, she watched as Dave drove off in the SUV.
There was no need to tell what she now suspected to be the case – after all, what was to be gained from telling their mother that they had exacted what they perceived as a revenge for a wrong that was not really done?