A Helping Hand
“Come in,” Mark Williamson said as Brian and Sarah stood in the entrance to their home. Lisa and Charlie had gone across the road to visit the Craig family, while his wife Yvonne was making some coffee in the kitchen.
“Hey there,” she said as they sat at the table, “how are the babies?”
“Fine – Lady Holderness is keeping an eye on them,” Sarah said as she accepted the coffee, and Yvonne sat down. “How are you as a family?”
“Better than we have a right to be,” Mark said quietly. He looked at Sarah, in her pink v-necked sweater and black leggings, before saying “So, how can we be of help to you?”
“Tell me,” Brian said as he held his mug in both hands, “are you familiar with Colin MacKenzie?”
“Yeah – he handles personal accounts for quite a few businesses in the city. What about him?”
“Has he ever been on your list?”
Mark and Yvonne looked at each other, before he said “Yes – but after what happened to Jess, we dropped him. We did not want that to happen again and cause them further pain.”
“So you know?”
Sarah picked up a flat leather case and opened it, taking out a file and placing a picture on the table. It showed a woman in her early forties, with short brown hair, kneeling between a thirteen year old and a nine year old girl. Both girls had long ash blonde hair, and were wearing brown t-shirts and jeans, while their mother wore a black dress.
“This was taken a year or so back,” Sarah said, “Catherine MacKenzie, Jess and Violet. Shortly after, Jess was kidnapped, in an attempt to extort money from the family.”
“That’s right,” Yvonne said, “and she’s never been the same since. It’s really affected Colin and Catherine as well. What have you been told about it?”
“Barry Hammond filled us in on some of the hidden details – Jess was kidnapped by a psychiatrist who misused his training and skills to humiliate her and keep her under control. She wasn’t physically harmed, but she was treated really badly – and as a result, she’s become completely withdrawn. She also has a fear of anyone in that sort of position.”
“Psychiatrists and counsellors can’t help, because of what happened to her,” Sarah said quietly, “but if something isn’t done soon, she may end up somewhere else.”
“I can understand that – but why tell us?”
“Some associates of mine have become aware Colin’s company is being used as a front for some unsavoury characters,” Brian said. “Colin himself knows nothing, but if they are going to be dealt with we need proof – so I want Jay Edwards and Mrs McPhee to visit them. We’ll give you the stick to allow the money transfer – and it will also load some software discretely onto their systems for us.”
“And the money we take?”
“Consider it your fee,” Brian said, “Will you do it?”
“We can do it,” Mark said, “but Jess – I’m not sure even Mrs McPhee and Jay together will calm her down.”
“They won’t have to,” Sarah said quietly, “that’s my job.”
The car park for the wood was nearly deserted as the two men stepped out of their cars and walked over to the waiting grey van. It was a quiet Sunday, and those who were arriving paid no attention to them as they walked into the side and knocked on the door, slipping in as they pulled their balaclavas down.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” Jay Edwards said to them in his clear Geordie accent, “thank you for assisting us today.”
“No problem Jay – morning Mrs McPhee,” one of them said to masked woman in the grey overalls, who was sitting watching them.
“Is this a new recruit,” the other man said as he looked at the second masked woman.
“This is Miss Ophelia,” Jay said, “and yes, she is a new recruit, so show her every courtesy, gentlemen. Now, allow me to explain our plan for today. We follow the usual procedure – enter the home, subdue the family, and in this case wait for daddy to come home from the golf course.
“One word of caution – the older daughter requires very delicate handling, which is why Miss Ophelia is here. Only produce guns if you feel it is absolutely necessary – by all means let them know we have them, but do not actually show them save as a last resort, understood?”
“Got it,” the first man said, “so when do we move out?”
“Now,” Jay said as he headed to the front of the van. “Good luck everyone.”
The converted farmhouse stood at the end of a tree lined lane, one Jay drove carefully up. There was no security at the front entrance – he knew from his research that MacKenzie wanted his home life as normal as possible, despite what had happened before.
Stopping the van, he slipped the balaclava back down over his head and then went into the back.
“Right – the older daughter usually spends the day with a family friend, so it is only Violet and Catherine to deal with. We go in, and we make them secure, understood?”
The four others nodded as Jay opened the side of the van and they got out, the two men carrying canvas bags in their gloved hands. Jay walked up to the front door, gently pushed the handle down, and smiled as it opened for them.
Motioning with his hand, he allowed the others to enter first before closing the door quietly behind him. The door opened onto a large corridor, and at the other end he could see an open door leading to a back yard or garden.
They walked silently down the hallway, looking in the front rooms at either side and finding nothing. As they looked in the dining room, Jay smiled as he saw ten year old Violet sitting at the table, working on something. Her ash blonde hair was snow cut at shoulder length, and she wore a white top with black polka tops, a black collar and elbow length sleeves, a pair of black leggings and short black felt boots.
Walking in, he paused for a moment, before he stood behind the young girl and gently placed his gloved hand over her mouth. She immediately sat up and mumbled something as she put her hands on his arm and tried to pull it away.
“Hush, hush,” he whispered into her ear, “don’t panic, I’m not going to hurt you, and neither are any of my friends, but I need you to do what I tell you just now, all right?”
The young girl slowly nodded as he said “Good – my name’s Jay, and my friend here is Mrs McPhee.”
The masked woman came in as Jay helped Violet to stand up and turned her round.
“Hello Violet,” Mrs McPhee said quietly, “Now, will you put your hands together in front of yourself for me?” As she did so, the masked woman took a roll of white tape from her pocket, and used it to secure her wrists together.
“Does that hurt,” she said as she put the tape away, smiling as Violet shook her head and Jay removed his hand. “What are you doing,” she said to the woman.
“We’re going to have a great adventure today,” Mrs McPhee said as she put her arm round the young girl’s shoulders, “why don’t you come with me and Ophelia here, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
As the two women led Violet into the front room, Jay signalled for one of the other two men to check upstairs, while he and the second man went into the kitchen. Looking through the kitchen window, they saw Catherine MacKenzie hanging washing out, her back to the window. She was wearing a white sleeveless padded jerkin over an olive green long sleeved top that had white horizontal stripes, and a pair of blue jeans, the legs of which were tucked into a pair of knee length tan leather boots.
Jay motioned to his associate to stand to one side of the door to the yard, and he stood on the other, as Catherine picked up a basket and carried it in, not noticing either of the men as she placed it on the table. So it came as a complete shock to her when Jay clamped a gloved hand over her mouth, and wrapped his arm round her waist.
“Just stay calm,” he said quietly as the associate closed and locked the kitchen door, “nice and calm, Catherine, and no harm will come to you.”
“Whrruuu,” she mumbled under his hand.
“My name is Jay Edwards, and we’re going to be staying for a little while – I have some business to discuss with your husband. We already have your younger daughter in the front room – and I want you to very quietly come through and join her, all right?”
As she slowly nodded, he relaxed his grip and removed his hand, allowing her to turn round and look at both of them.
“You promise we will not be hurt?”
“You have my word – shall we?”
We walked through to the front room, where Ophelia was closing the main curtains, while Mrs McPhee was kneeling in front of Violet. She had removed her boots, and taped her ankles tightly together, and was now wrapping a length of rope around her legs below her knees.”
“Are you… Are you all right, Violet?”
“I’m a little scared, Mum, but they haven’t hurt me. Are they like the bad people who took Jess?”
“No, we’re not like them Violet,” Jay said as Mrs McPhee stood up. “We do have to stop you, your mother and your family from moving around, and later on we may have to stop you from talking for a while, but that is as far as it will go if you behave, all right?”
“OK,” Violet said with a smile as she waved her arms up and down. “See Mum – it really doesn’t hurt.”
“That’s good,” Catherine said as she knelt down and hugged Violet. “I suppose I’m going to be secured as well,” she said as she stood up.
“Regretfully yes – but because Mummy is older and stronger, Violet, we will secure her in a slightly different way. Later on, we can do you the same way, all right?”
Violet nodded as Jay said “Take your jerkin off, please, and then move your hands behind your back.” As she did this, he took a length of cord form his pocket and crossed her wrists, securing them tightly together behind her back before she sat next to her daughter.
“When Jess comes back,” she said as she watched Jay tightly bind her ankles together, the cords squeaking on her leather clad ankles, “I want to let her in. She’s had some bad experiences, and when she sees you…”
“I understand – we know of her experiences,” Jay said quietly, “and we want your help to keep her calm.” He then tied her legs tightly together below her knees, the rope going between her legs, and stood up. “Do we have your word you’re not going to scream or shout?”
Catherine looked at Violet, before she nodded.
“Good – now then, let’s see what we can watch on the television. Mrs McPhee and Ophelia will keep you company, while my friends and I make sure the house is secure.”
Catherine heard the sound of the car arriving in the driveway, and a glance at the clock showed it was three in the afternoon – two hours since the masked gang had arrived.
“It would appear your older daughter is home,” Jay said as he untied her legs and arms. “Mrs McPhee?”
“Violet,” the masked woman said as she looked at the young girl, “we want Jess to be really surprised, so I need to make sure you can’t shout out for a little while. Can you put your lips together for me?”
“I’m going to put some of the same tape that is round your wrists over your mouth. It’ll stop you shouting out and ruining the surprise – and we have a real surprise for her. So, lips together…”
As Violet did that, Mrs McPhee tore a length of the tape off and pushed it gently down over her mouth and jaw. She then nodded to Ophelia, who went and stood next to Jay as Catherine went to the front door.
She took a deep breath and opened it to see Jess standing there. The fourteen year old girl was wearing a long sleeved dress, with alternating black and chocolate brown stripes and a wide tan leather belt, and knee length black leather boots.
“How has she been today, Agnes,” they heard Catherine say to the driver of the car.
“Very quiet – but she didn’t have any panic attacks, which is something. Same time next week?”
“Sounds good – we’ll see you then,” Catherine said as she closed the door. As they heard the van drive off, they heard Catherine say “Jess, I need you to be really really brave for me.”
“Why mum – what’s happened?”
“Hello Jess,” Jay said as he and Ophelia stepped into the hallway, “I’m sorry, but we’re in charge of the house for the moment.”
Jess looked at the two masked figures, and then stepped back, the palms of her hands pressed against the wall as she whispered “No – please, not again…”
“Jess,” Ophelia said in a soft American accent as she stepped forward, removing the gloves from her hands, “we’re not going to hurt you, I promise you. I know you’ve been hurt by people that look like us in the past, but see – I don’t have anything in my hands that can cause you pain.”
Jess stared at the masked woman, noticing the watch on her wrist as it glowed pink, and heard her say “I want you to take my hands and hold them for a moment, will you do that for me?”
Slowly, filled with a fear she could not express, Jess held her hands out, but as soon as the masked woman took hold of them she felt as if a great weight was suddenly disappearing from her.
“Who are you,” she said as she looked into the eyes of the masked woman.
“Call me Ophelia,” she said as she helped Jess to step away from the wall. “Why don’t you come and sit in the kitchen with me, and tell me all about your fears…”
As they walked into the kitchen, Catherine stared at them and said “What’s going on?”
“Ophelia is a very good listener,” Jay said quietly, “but we now have to get both of you ready for your husband coming home.”
“You mean you have to tie me up again?”
“You and, I regret to say, Violet as well,” Jay said as he walked her back into the front room. “Please, put your hands behind your back.”
As she did so, Mrs McPhee said to Violet “Would you like to be just like Mummy now?” She watched as the young girl nodded, and said “All right – I’ll take the tape off your wrists, and then I want you to put your hands behind your back as well.”
Violet nodded as the tape was cut from her wrists, and then she copied her mother, watching her as Mrs McPhee crossed and tied her wrists together behind her back, and then felt them being forced against her back as some rope was tied around them and her waist. Her mother was being tied in the same way, as both of them then had rope tied around their arms and body, holding them firmly to their sides.
As Violet wriggled her body round, she said “fsllssfrm.”
“Yeah, I guess we really are both going to be unable to move our arms for a while,” her mum said as she sat next to her, Mrs McPhee cutting the tape from Violet’s legs before she and Jay bound and the ankles and legs of both of them with more rope. As they did so, they could hear crying coming from the kitchen.
“Stththjs,” Violet said as she looked at her mother.
“It is,” Catherine said quietly, “but it’s not her crying from fear or pain – it almost sounds as if she’s crying from relief.”
“Perhaps Ophelia has got her talking,” Jay said in a quiet voice, “but I regret to say we must stop you now. Put your lips together please.”
Catherine nodded and said “Thank you.”
“For what,” Jay asked.
“For keeping your word,” she said, before he taped over her mouth, Violet resting her head on her mother’s side as they both sat there and watched the television.
An hour later, they looked up as Jess came in – and Catherine said “Rullrtt?”
“I am mum, probably the most all right I’ve been for months,” she said quietly. Her upper body had already been tied, her wrists behind her back and bands of rope around her waist and chest, but she was smiling, and didn’t seem bothered by it.
“Ophelia,” she said as she looked at the masked woman behind her, “just let me talk about everything, tell her everything that happened, and it just felt so good to finally say it all. She then told me what was happening here, and said I would have to be like you, but she let it be my choice.”
“I’m sorry you have to go through something like this again,” Jay said as the masked invaders looked at Jess.
“It’s all right – I can face this now,” she said as she sat down. “I guess you need to secure my legs and put tape over my mouth now?”
“That’s right,” Ophelia said as she crossed and tied her ankles together, and then secured her legs below her knees. “Once your father gets home, you can all be released to eat your dinner, and sit for a while.”
“Thanks,” Jess said as she looked at her mother and sister. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it later,” was all she said before she put her lips together and allowed Ophelia to cover them with the white tape.
Looking at the clock, Jay said “It should not be too much longer.”
Colin MacKenzie pulled up outside his home at six o’clock, noticing the grey van parked in the driveway. “Wonder what broke down this time,” he said as he walked in – only to be confronted by two masked men looking straight at him when he entered the hallway.
“Hello Colin,” Jay said as he closed the front door, “My name is Jay Edwards. We have your family as hostages, but so long as you do exactly what we say, no harm will come to them, all right?”
As he stood there, he heard the muffled calls from the front room, and then felt the strong gloved hand on his shoulder. “Shall we see how they are,” he said as he marched Colin into the room, and he saw Catherine and Violet sitting on a couch, as well as Jess in another chair.
“OH GOD,” he called out, “Jess, are you all right?”
“Mffndd,” Jess mumbled as she tried to smile, “rlllymfn.”
“Shsvrrffn,” Catherine mumbled through her tape gag, while Violet just nodded.
“All right,” Jay said with a smile, “Mrs McPhee, will you release Catherine please so that she may prepare their supper, and Colin here can take her place. Hands behind your back Colin – and no swearing, shouting or screaming, do you understand?”
Colin nodded slowly as he felt the cord around his own wrists, and watched Catherine as she was untied by one of the masked women. Once she was free, the second one said “Allow me to accompany Catherine, Mrs McPhee.”
“Of course, Ophelia darling,” Mrs McPhee said in her light Scottish voice, as Ophelia extended her hand. Catherine slowly took hold of it, and gasped as the masked woman said “It’s all right – we’ll talk in the kitchen…”
As they went through, Colin was allowed to sit next to Violet, the young girl saying “tssfncshlyddee” as his legs were tied together.
“I don’t know whether to be terrified of you or grateful to you,” Colin eventually said as he pushed his plate away. “I don’t know how, but you seem to have made Jess the young girl she was before…”
He stopped and looked at his oldest daughter, who smiled shyly and said "before I was kidnapped, Dad. I don’t know how either – but just talking to Ophelia seemed to take all that hurt and pain away.”
“Me as well,” Catherine said as she stood at the sink, “I feel like the greatest of burdens have been lifted.”
“I’m just glad you’re back,” Violet said from the other side of the table, “I’ve missed your smile.”
“Well, all that aside,” Jay said with a smile, “your father will have to go with one of my associates in a moment to take care of some business. So say good night to him now, because I think you will be asleep before he gets back.”
The two girls got out of their chairs and hugged their father, before they went into the front room with Mrs McPhee and Ophelia.
“Now,” Jay said as the other male associate helped Catherine by drying up, “you will go with my friend here to your offices, and log into your financial control systems. Once you have done that, he will arrange transfer of some funds to a different account – and then make sure you cannot raise the alarm. Do all he says, and your family will be perfectly safe, all right?”
He smiled as Colin nodded, and said “Good – get your shoes and coat on, and then come back in here.”
As he went out, Catherine turned and said “You really are different.”
“thank you,” Jay said with a smile as Colin came back in, and the associate bound his wrists together behind his back.
“Here,” Jay said as he handed him an orange USB stick, “use this, and call me when the job is completed.” The man nodded as he put the stick in his pocket, and then headed off with Colin.
Half an hour later, Catherine came through with the other masked man to find Mrs McPhee and Ophelia playing a game of scrabble, while Jay watched. “We will need to get the girls ready for bed soon,” he said as he looked up at her, “but for now, sit, watch – Ophelia is having a little trouble with British spelling.”
“You spell Colour with a U,” Violet said with a giggle as she told Ophelia off again.
“All right, all right,” Mrs McPhee said with a smile. “Do you need the toilet Violet?”
“Yes – why?”
“I’ll take you up, and then you can change for bed, all right?”
“Vi,” Catherine said as she looked over, “we’ll all wear red and pink tonight, all right?”
“In a way – do that for me, will you?”
Violet nodded as she went with Mrs McPhee, Jess smiling as she said “I’d like that – all of us dressed the same.” She then looked at Jay, and said “Does that mean all of us tied the same?”
“No – Violet will be tied silently differently from you and your mother. Do not be afraid – it will not hurt.”
“I’m not afraid – not anymore, and not if we all have to be,” Jess said with a smile.
Twenty minutes later, Violet came back, wearing a long sleeved dusky pink pyjama top with a heart on the front and red and pink checked pyjama bottoms. Jess then went upstairs with Ophelia, returning a short while later in the same outfit, before Catherine went to wash and change.
When she came down with Jay, she went into the kitchen and made some hot chocolate, bringing it through and sitting with her daughters while they drank it.
“Now,” Jay said as Catherine put her mug down, “We need to make you secure for the night. If you all will all come upstairs with me, we’ll start with Violet.”
“No,” Jess said quietly, “I want you to start with me. I need to show you that I can cope with this now.”
“Very well then, shall we?”
Picking up one of the canvas bags, the group went upstairs, going into Jess’ room as the other male masked intruder stood outside.
“I need you to put your hands behind your back, Jess,” Ophelia said, and as Jess did so she took some rope and tied her wrists tightly together, before securing them to her waist. She then started to wrap rope around her arms and chest, fixing them to her side.
“I want to be tied the same way,” Violet said as she watched the ropes pulling her older sister’s arms into her sides.
“It can be very uncomfortable, Violet,” Mrs McPhee said, “you need to stay on your side or your stomach.”
“Let her stay here with me,” Jess said as she looked at her double bed, “I’ll keep an eye on her.”
Mrs McPhee looked at Jay, who nodded before she said “all right Violet – put your hands behind your back please.”
Catherine watched as her younger daughter had her wrists and arms tightly bound, while her older daughter sat on the edge of the bed while the woman called Ophelia tied her ankles and her legs below her knees. Somehow, she had been able to share all her fears with the masked woman earlier, and she had understood every single one…
“Sit next to your sister,” Mrs McPhee said, and as Violet sat down she watched the woman tie her legs in the same way as Jess.
“Now,” Jay said, “we need to keep you both very quiet, so open your mouths as wide as you can, and then close them once we put the cloth in there.”
Both girls nodded and allowed the masked women to put the cloths in, and then use a strip of towelling between their lips to keep it in place. Once they had closed their mouths, they then had white medical tape wrapped around their mouths and heads, before they were helped to lie on their sides, facing each other.
“Keep them company,” Jay said, “while I make their mother comfortable.” He escorted Catherine out and into the master bedroom, where eh bound her wrists behind her and her arms to her body at the waist as well as above and below her chest.
“Will they be all right,” Catherine said as Jay tied the ropes off behind her back, and she wriggled round.
“They will be – Mrs McPhee and Olivia will keep them safe and watch them until they fall asleep, and then make sure they can breathe before they leave.”
“You really are different, aren’t you?”
“We are – lie down please.”
Catherine lay on her side, stretching her now secured legs out as Jay found a scarf and folded it into a pad. Opening her mouth wide, she allowed herself to be gagged, the scarf in her mouth, the towelling strip to hold it in, and the tape wound tightly around her head.
“Fnkku,” she said as she lay with her head on the pillows, Jay covering her with her duvet.
“Relax, sleep – all will be alright,” he said as he turned the light off, and watched from the doorway. Catherine closed her eyes, and soon fell asleep, allowing Jay to go downstairs where he was soon joined by Mrs McPhee and the other man.
“Ophelia will stay there until we go,” Mrs McPhee said, Jay nodding as they waited for the call.
“Hey,” Brian said as Mark came back in with Yvonne and Sarah, “How did it go?”
“At our end, very well,” Sarah said as she shook her head. “I think Jess and Catherine will make a full recovery now.”
“How about with you,” Mark said as he looked at Brian.
“It worked like a dream. My contacts have asked me to thank you for your help in getting the monitoring package into place on their systems – you have done a great service today.”
“Were the kids any trouble,” Yvonne said as she poured some wine into four glasses.
“Nah – we watched a film and then they went off to bed,” Brian said with a smile. “they’re good kids.”
“Thanks,” Mark said as he raised his glass. “When do you head home then?”
“Next week – the doctor has cleared the children for flights, and the passports arrived this morning. Listen – if we were to call you, could you come over if we needed you?”
“Depends on school holidays,” Mark said as he looked at Yvonne, “but if we can, we will.”