From A Different View
Life is about choices, right? Choose to wear a red blouse instead of a blue one, and you get slapped down instead of asked out. Select a pair of sling backs instead of boots, and the unexpected rain shower soaks you. Decide to have that kebab instead of a salad, and ten pounds appear as if out of nowhere.
Yeah, choices. If I hadn’t been ten minutes late out of the office... If I hadn’t bumped into Jenny and asked her to come with me... If I hadn’t decided to call in on Sian on the way home from work... Maybe then I wouldn’t be where I am now, not knowing what is happening, unable to do anything and scared out of my bloody wits.
Hang on, hang on, collect yourself, and calm yourself down. You’re letting the darkness get to you – as if there weren’t enough bloody things to get you panicking. Remember where you are, and how you are. Calm, calm, calm...
How long has it been? I don’t really know – when you have no points of reference, time seems to flow so differently. Go with what I remember – leaving the office at 5.15, after I had taken that late phone call. It was cold this morning, so I’d pulled on a yellow tunic over my black jumper and leggings. It was something I’d picked up the day before – sleeveless, round collar, with a covered fastening at the front, so it made a good contrast. A pair of mid-length fabric boots, and I went out for the day.
So, when I pulled my jacket on and cursed the late sales query, I already knew I was running late. I called ahead to Sian to let her know I was coming straight round to her place, but it was her answering machine I got, so I left a brief recording. Looking back, should I have realised that Sian is always, always home at that time, and something was wrong?
No, don’t go there – that way lies panic, and panic is the last thing you want to do. It’s bad enough hearing the moans without knowing what is happening.
Anyway, I’d literally walked five yards when Jenny shouted at me. My daughter had been at her job at the bar, so she still wore that stupid outfit they make them wear. I mean, she’s in her twenties, but they make her dress like a schoolgirl with a white blouse, short grey pleated skirt, white socks and flat black shoes. They even insist on a school tie – black and red in her case. Her short blonde hair was cut into a bob, making my run my fingers through my own greying hair for a minute almost by reflex.
I told her I was popping round to Sian’s instead of going home, and after a moment’s thought she said she’d come round with me “seeing it was on the way home.” Christ, I should have told her not to bother, but now...
Stop that. Stop that!! Just keep yourself calm.
Anyway, five minutes later I knocked on Sian’s door. It opened by itself, so I thought she just had not shut it properly and walked in, Jenny behind me. Probably the stupidest thing I have ever, ever done in my life.
I called out “Sian?” and heard something in the front room. “Are you in there?” I remember saying as I pushed the door in – and that’s when things went to hell in a blur.
Somebody grabbed me and pulled me into the room, forcing me onto the floor and making me lie face down with something in the small of my back. I heard Jenny screaming “MUM!!!!” before she too was pushed down beside me. I looked to my side to see a large man with some sort of stocking over his face straddling her back, and screaming “Shut the Fuck Up, you little bitch!!”
“Get off me, you fucking bastard,” she screamed out at him. “HELP!!!! HELP!!!! HELPMSDADSMASD!”
I watched, horrified, as he took a dirty rag and stuffed it into her mouth. “NPLSDNT” I heard on the other side, and turning my head that way I finally saw Sian. She was in a chair, her arms pulled behind her as another masked man held a gun to her head. A rolled up cloth had been stuffed in her mouth, and her eyes were wide with shock and terror.
“MMHLPMM” Jenny said, and I looked to see the man on her had taken her tie off and pulled it between her teeth, forcing the rag deep into her throat. He pulled it tight and tied the ends together behind her head, before picking up a roll of silver tape.
I never knew how terrifying that sound could be – the ripping at speed as I watched him pin her wrist together behind her back, her trying to scream for help the whole time. She was kicking furiously with her feet, trying to hurt him and failing totally. In fact, the only thing she succeeded in doing was kicking her own shoes off, so that when he quickly turned round and grabbed her legs he used the tape around her ankles and her feet to hold them together.
“Get the little bitch in the bedroom,” somebody behind me said, and I watched as the masked man literally threw Jenny over his shoulder and carried her out of the room. “Please, for god’s sake don’t hurt her,” I called out, only to get whatever was in my back pushed down and make me call out in pain.
“You, cow, shut your fucking trap or you get hurt bad,” the voice said. “Keep your head down and don’t bloody move.”
I heard the tape again, and felt someone grab my ankles, so I looked at Sian the whole time. We had meant to be going out, and she was wearing a white long sleeved top underneath a smock with a brown floral pattern no cream cotton. The grey leggings had a pair of brown leather boots over the lower half, with straps around the sides. She stared back at me, mumbling “hgd hgd hgd” as I felt my ankles, and then my legs been secured together.
The pressure on my back was lifted, and I felt my coat been pulled off, then my hands been pulled behind me. The tension as the tape stuck down on my wrists – well, it was almost like having a waxing, except I had the horrible, horrible feeling this as going to stay on for some time. I heard Sian say “chrst”, and rough laughing, and looked at her. Her head was bowed, and there was an unmistakable damp patch appearing between her legs.
Someone pulled me up onto my knees, and whispered in my ear “How do you like this bitch – think you’re going to get wet as well?” “Not if I can help it you bastard – where’s my daughter,” I said quietly, calmly, but that just got me a blow in my back and the voice saying “Speak out of turn again and I cut every scrap of clothing off you with this.” The largest knife I’ve ever seen was flashed in front of me, and I shut up then.
Shut up as my arms were pinned to my side with the tape. Shut up as my hair was yanked back and the most foul smelling piece of rag I have ever seen was roughly pushed into my mouth. Shut up as the tape was wound round my mouth and jaw again and again and again until I could barely whimper. Shut up as I watched the masked man drag Sian off before I was told “Close your eyes”.
After that was blackness, more ripping and then I was hoed onto the floor. “Don’t move a fucking inch,” the voice said, and so I stayed still, even when I felt the piss flowing between my legs and down to my feet.
How long ago was that now? I’ve no bloody idea. I heard Sian saying something, then screaming, then footsteps. Since then, nothing. Whimpers, moans, but not much else. I’ve no bloody idea where I am, where my daughter is, where my friend is, even if....
Oh shit, that had never occurred to me before. What if they’ve hurt her, what if they’ve... Screw this, I need to get out of this somehow, but what to do?
I try moving my legs, not apart but together, and even though there’s the cold patch against my thighs I think I can push myself a little bit. With some effort, I manage to roll myself onto my back and move my legs until I can feel the soles of my boots against the floor – and push.
It hurts like hell, the tape or whatever it is around my legs making my skin pull and my muscles scream, but I feel myself sliding along a little bit. As I do so, I can feel things moving beside me, so there’s something else on the floor. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I hit something sharp – but I can’t let that stop me.
So I do it again.
And again. Christ, whatever it is they stuffed in here tastes of – stale food and oil, if I’m been honest. No, don’t let yourself get distracted, keep calm. You’ve heard the stories – people left bound and gagged who choke on their own vomit because there’s no way to get it out.
Oh shit, not I’m wondering if Jenny... No, keep calm and keep going. Just keep going...
Bugger it, that hurt. I must have hit my head against some wood, and I hope to God – thank the maker, there’s fabric as well. I can feel it on my scalp, so I must have got to a chair. Now for the tricky bit.
Hgg. NNNFGGGG. Somehow I force myself up so that my back is leaning against – whatever it is. There’s nothing behind my head, so I’m almost 100% certain it’s a chair. Taking a moment to breath, I hear – nothing but the moans. Guess I’m alone here.
The tape is pulling like mad on the nape of my neck, but not the top, so whatever is covering my eyes is probably only over my eyes. Slowly, carefully, I get myself onto my knees and rest my head against the fabric, rubbing the side of my head up and down. After a while, I can feel whatever is pulling at the skin over my eyes start to give, and I keep going – for how long I have no fucking idea. The thought of what has happened to Sian, to Jenny – that keeps me going until I twist my head and feel the pressure go over my closed eyes.
It takes a few minutes for me to open my eyes and adjust to the light, but I can tell the room is an absolute mess. Everything, and I mean everything, has been thrown out of the shelves and bookcases onto the floor, and papers are scattered over the floor. There’s nobody else here, however – so I need to take a break and decide what to do next.
Sian’s glass coffee table has been tipped on the side, and I catch a glimpse of myself in the surface. Duct tape – silver duct tape, holding my arms to my side in three different places, my legs in three more, and my ankles. Not to mention the fact it’s wrapped tightly around my mouth. Guess the next thing I need to do is get this crap off, or find the others.
Or both. I can’t see any scissors, blades or anything, but the door that leads from the room to the kitchen is open. I push down with my feet and force my body up so that I am sitting on the chair, and start to plan out a route from where I am to the door.
Looking down my legs now, I can see where they are secured, but I can also see I have some movement if I shuffle, as if I was in the hobble skirt I had to wear for the Victorian pageant. Slowly, carefully, I push myself up onto my feet and start to shuffle forwards, keeping my balance as much as possible, until I manage to get into the doorway to the kitchen. As I push the door inwards, I get the biggest shock of my life.
So does Sian – she’s sitting on the floor in front of the washing machine. It looks as if she’s a silver ball – her knees have been pulled right up to her chest and tape wound round her body so that I can only see her head. She’s also been blindfolded with tape, and around her mouth. There’s this strange sound coming from her, something like a cat mewling combined with a pump on the last hour of it operating, and she’s shaking like crazy.
“Sn?” I mumble, and she turns her head in my direction. I hear something like “thnkgd,” and I say nothing more as I shuffle to where I can see a large knife lying on the top surface. As I get closer, however, I realise something – how the hell am I going to be able to use it when I can’t reach it?
Now I can feel the tears flowing – this is hopeless, totally hopeless, and I just want to scream the place down. But it won’t do any good; will it – who can hear us? Who can...
Hang on – there’s something else on the surface, and it may just be the answer to our prayers. To make use of it, however, one of us needs to get loose in some way – and Sian can’t help me.
I realise there is one other person who may be able to help – Jenny. Looking over my shoulder, I manage to grab it in my fingers and relax a little. “Stclm,” I mumble as I start to shuffle back out of the kitchen, and towards a bedroom. It’s fortunate Sian lives in a cottage, otherwise...
Eventually, after what seems like an age, I bump into a door and listen. Yeah – there’s someone inside, so I push the door open and look in. For a moment, I have to steady myself as I look at my daughter on the bed, stripped down to her panties and socks with her blouse hanging down her arms behind her. At least she hasn’t been blindfolded, but there’s tape over her lips now as well.
“MMM” she screams as I shuffle in. I just want to hold her, hug her, tell her everything is all right - but I can’t. Not yet anyway. I shuffle over to the bed and turn myself round, looking over my shoulder at Jenny as I show her my hands. Her eyes widen for a moment, and then she nods as I let myself sit on the edge of the bed, my legs aching as I do so.
“Trnrnd,” I mumble as I finally manage to sit down. She gets the idea, as I watch her roll over and shuffle over so that she can get to my fingers. She’s hasn’t been as tightly bound as me or poor Sian – just her wrists, ankles and legs, so she manages to place her face near my fingers as I present my back to her.
I can see the clock by the bed as she rubs her face against my hand. It says seven now, so how long....
Eight thirty – ninety minutes, but eventually she manages to peel away the tape against my hand. Looking over my shoulder, I use my other fingers to hook her tie out of her mouth, allowing her to spit what I now see is a very, very wet and very, very dirty handkerchief out of her mouth. She spits out the cloth, gasps and says “Thank god – are you all right?” My raised eyebrows make her laugh a little, which makes me relax as well. “What the fuck happened, Mum?” is her next crack, but I shrug my shoulders and nod towards what I brought from the kitchen.
“Oh, I get it,” she says as she wriggles down and presses on the buttons with her nose. After a minute, we hear a voice saying “Emergency – which service please?”
“Please,” Jenny screams out, “help us – we’ve been attacked and we can’t get free...”