“No – I am not happy with this idea, and they would be horrified if I suggested it to them.”
“So do not mention it to them – but it is vitally important we get them, and make sure they are well out of the way. If what may happen happens, they have to be seen to not be part of it.”
“Very well then – but if they come to any harm.”
“They won’t – just make sure they are at the designated place, at the designated time…”
“Someday my prince will come, someday my prince will come…”
Khadeeja shook her head as her mother and sister danced along the paved road in front of her. They had been given the gift of tickets to the theme park, and had come to spend the day, the twenty year old wearing a black coat over a black and white diamond jumper, white pants with a thin black stripe, and knee length black leather boots. A red scarf was wrapped round her head and neck, covering her black hijab, and she wore dark glasses.
Anjia was eighteen, and wore today a black hijab over her peach coat, the black quilted leather boots coming up over her knees. The scarf covered her neck and shoulders, like the orange and blue one their mother was wearing, tucked into the collar of the open brown great coat and over the orange jumper. The legs of her blue jeans were tucked into faded black leather boots with a short square heel, and zips up the outside.
The two of them sat on a bench in front of a floral clock, Mother putting her yellow handbag on her lap as Anjia let her large green bag hang from her hand. As Khadeeja sat down, she moved her own black handbag to the side, the two younger women looking round through their sunglasses.
“So when does the park close,” Mother eventually asked.
“Not for a few hours, why?”
“Just asking,” she said as she stood up, “I’m going to the toilets. Wait here for me?”
“Sure,” Anjia said as their mother stood up and walked towards the communal toilets, waiting until a booth was available before she walked in, and hung her coat and handbag on the hook at the back of the door. She sat for a moment, humming to herself as she relieved herself, and then adjusted her jeans, before she collected her coat and handbag, and opened the stall door.
The two masked men took her by surprise, before one held her and the other clamped a sweet smelling cloth over her nose and mouth, taking her by surprise as she inhaled and her eyelids fluttered…
“Mother is taking a long time,” Anjia said as she looked at Khadeeja.
“Yeah – I wonder what…”
“Would Khadeeja Khan please report to the information office, Khadeeja Khan to the information office?”
“What now… You go and see where Mother is, I’ll go to the office,” Khadeeja said as she walked off, Anjia nodding as she walked to the toilets. “Mother,” she called out as she looked in “are you all right?”
She removed her glasses as she walked in and looked round, but there was nobody inside. “Mum,” she said quietly as she looked round, and then walked to the door.
“Oh sorry,” she said as she met a cleaner, “have you seen an older woman in a brown and blue hijab and a brown coat?”
“Oh yes – she went that way,” he said as he pointed to a path between the toilets. Anija walked over – and then gasped as a leather gloved hand was placed over her mouth, and she was pulled to the side…
“I’m Khadeeja Khan,” she said as she got to the information desk, “is there a problem?”
“I’m sorry,” the woman on the other side of the desk said.
“Khadeeja Khan – there was an announcement for me to come here?”
“I’m sorry Miss Khan – we didn’t make that announcement…”
“It’s all right – we did,” a security officer said as he appeared in the door, “someone has tried to break into your car Miss Khan – come with me please.”
“What about my mother and sister…”
“My fellow officers are finding them now – come with me please.”
“OF course,” Khadeeja said as she wrapped her coat around herself following the uniformed officer to where a jeep was parked. “Please, get in,” he said as he opened the door, ad Khadeeja got in – then said “what the…” as she looked in the back.
Anjia stared back at her over the wide strip of white tape that covered her mouth, her wrists secured in front of her with a zip tie. Their mother was sat next to her, her eyes closed and a strip of tape covering her mouth as well.
“Don’t say a word,” Khadeeja heard the security officer say as she felt a disc at her side, “take the strip of tape from my hand, press it over your own mouth, and then sit down.”
Too afraid to do anything other than obey, Khadeeja took the strip of white tape and smoothed it over her mouth, before she took her seat, the guard taking a zip tie and quickly securing her wrists together before he walked round and sat behind the wheel. “Remain calm, do not struggle, do not try to call for help,” he said as he started the engine, and drove off.
As she slowly opened her eyes, Mother wondered what had happened. Her arms felt like lead, and her mouth felt as if she had swallowed a pillow case, dry and woolly. She slowly opened her eyes, trying to focus, as she heard a muffled voice saying “mfffrrrrullrrht?”
“Hessthrrr,” she heard someone reply – and then she realised it was her as she opened her eyes, and looked at both Khadeeja and Anjia. They were looking at her, eyes wide over mouths that were covered from ear to ear in white tape, and they were sat in old wooden armchairs, ropes holding their wrists down to the arm rests, and their ankles to the front legs of the chair.
As she looked down, she saw her own arms and legs were secured in the same way, and she realized she also had tape over her mouth, pulling on her skin as something sat behind it.
“Kheedshe? Mhe? Whtsgnnnn?”
The two daughters shook their heads as they looked at her, before a voice said “ah good – you are all awake. Release their arms and remove their gags.”
“Whhrruuuu,” Khadeeja said as she looked at the security guard, two more men releasing her arms, and then peeling away the white tape as their mother watched one of the men ease out a white cloth.
“I said,” she continued as they then ungagged Anjia, “who are you? Why have you done this?”
“Not really a question we’re going to answer,” he said as the tape was peeled away from their mother’s face, and a white cloth removed from her mouth. She accepted the bottle of water and drank it slowly, as the men left, returning with three trays of food. “Eat, drink – we will be back shortly.”
“We’ve been kidnapped,” she eventually said as he door was closed, “but who would do that? And why?”
“I have no idea,” Anija said, “I was snatched when I went to look for you, forced to sit in the jeep, secured and gagged next to you. You were already asleep inside.”
“I was… Someone drugged me when I left the toilet. They must have used a sleeping drug or something – I remember nothing until I woke up just now.”
“We need to eat,” Khadeeja said quietly, “there is no point in arguing for the moment, and we cannot know when we will be released. Best to eat, and be strong together.”
“That’s my big sister – the sensible one,” Anija said as she moved round, her boots squeaking as the rope rubbed on them. Her coat had been removed, revealing her short pink dress. As she bit into a piece of meat, she said “I wonder what time it is?”
“Look at your watch,” her mother said.
“They removed our watches,” Khadeeja said, “and there are no windows in the room. I have no idea for how long we have really been here.”
Nodding, their mother ate some fruit, and said “then we must do the best that we can with what we are offered, and pray they treat us well.”
A short while later, the men came back in, two of them removing the trays as the third – the one who had been the security guard – untied their mother from her chair. “Come with me,” he said quietly, “so that you may relieve yourself and wash.”
“Be brave,” she said as she looked at her daughters, before she was taken out of the room. Khadeeja and Anija looked at each other, as the younger sister stretched and yawned.
“What sort of ransom do you think they are looking for,” she said as she looked over.
“I do not know,” Khadeeja said quietly as she tried to move, her boots squeaking as well, “but I suspect we will be in this room.”
“Look behind you.”
Anija squirmed round and saw the three cot beds, nodding as she said “ah – and we are expected to sleep in our clothes?”
They both looked over to see their mother with their captor – but she was now wearing a simple long white night robe, her arms folded behind her back and bands of rope around her upper arms, framing her chest, and a white hajib covering her hair and head. As she walked past Khadeeja, she saw that her wrists were tied to her elbows behind her back, and a band of rope between all three bands.
“The man will take your somewhere to shower and change,” she said as she walked over and sat on one of the cot beds, watching as her ankles were secured side by side, and her legs over the nightdress, with further rope. He then untied Anija’s legs and escorted her out of the room.
“So we will be sleeping here?”
“SO it would appear,” her mother said to Khadeeja as she wriggled round.
“Is it uncomfortable?”
“Surprisingly no – but it is tight, and I am unable to move now. As I said earlier, we need to make the best we can of this,” she said as she smiled. “It could be worse, Khadeeja – we could be in the hands of true ruffians. At least they have taken good care of us, treated us well.”
Khadeeja nodded as the door opened again, and Anija came in, also wearing a long white night robe and a white scarf over her head. Her arms were tightly bound, as she walked over to another of the cot beds and allowed the man to bind her legs.
“Come,” he said as he untied Khadeeja, and escorted her to a bathroom. She saw the white robe and scarf – as well as the lack of windows, as he closed the door. Sighing, she sat down and unzipped her boots, removing them before she unwrapped the red scarf, and then the black hijab. She ran her fingers through her dark brown hair, then removed her jumper and trousers, and her underwear, before she stepped into the shower and turned the water on.
It was warm, and as she soaped up a sponge and rubbed it over her body she started to feel better, less afraid. Her mother was right – they had to make the best of their situation, and get through as quietly as they could.
As she turned the water off, and dried herself with the soft towel, she sighed before she put on clean underwear which had been left out, and then the robe. Somehow, they knew her size, and as she wrapped the white scarf around her head she prayed it would be a peaceful night.
She was securing the end as the man came in, several lengths of rope in his hand. “Please,” he said quietly, “put your hands behind your back and rest your elbows in the palm of your hands.”
She nodded and di as she was asked, looking in the mirror as he felt the ropes securing arm to arm. She then watched, fascinated as the rope was passed round her upper arms and pulled tight under her chest, then wrapped above, below, above, below, above.
She grunted slightly as it was secured behind her back, and then the door was opened. As she walked back into the room, both Anija and her mother nodded while she walked to the third bed, sat down and watched the man bind her ankles and legs.
“We now need you to be quiet,” he said as he produced a wide roll of the white tape.
“You are not putting those cloths in our mouths again surely,” Khadeeja said as she looked at him.
“No – merely using the tape,” he said as he tore the end loose, stuck it to her chin and wound it several times tightly round her head, covering her mouth and pressing her cheeks in as it sat on top of her hijab. As he moved on to Anjia, another of the men helped her to lie on her side, then pulled her ankles back and used a length of rope to secure them to her chest ropes.
She watched as Anija and their mother were gagged and secured in the same way, and then watched as the men left the room, the lights turned off and the room plunged into darkness. The adrenaline that had kept her going all this time started to fade, as her eyes slowly closed…
She had been dreaming that she was walking by the side of a lake, waiting for her father to come and fetch her – fetch all of them. She could see him coming, but something as preventing hr from going to him – and from calling out as she kept trying to speak…
As she opened her eyes, she saw her mother standing by the bed. One of the men was removing the gag from Anija, while another was starting to untie her.
“We have some breakfast here,” her mother said quietly as she sat up, and her arms were released, “and then they have clothes for us to wear. Do not be angry or upset – we are at least all well.”
She nodded as she rubbed her wrists, and then waited as the tape was removed. “How long did I sleep for,” she said as she stood up.
“Long enough – I think they want us to change in here once we have eaten.” She looked at the three bags and boxes at the side of the room, and nodded as they went to the trolley, pouring glasses of orange juice and drinking them slowly.
“So,” Anija eventually said, “what have they given me?” She opened the bag with her name on, and took out a black jumper and pants, as well as clean underwear and a yellow hijab.
“Classy,” she said as she opened the box, and took out a pair of knee length black leather boots. “Hey – these are my size,” she said quietly, “how did they know?”
“Probably ordered them overnight from Very,” Khadeeja said with a smile as she opened the second bag. As well as the underwear, this one contained a white jumper, a pair of bright pink pants and matching hijab, a long green coat and long half-and-half black boots in the box.
“I wonder where our other clothes are,” she said quietly.
“Waiting to be returned with us, I suspect,” their mother said as she opened the third bag, finding underwear, a brown woollen jumper, corduroy pants, knee length brown leather boots, and a black hijab. There was also her long brown great coat.
“This has bene cleaned,” she said quietly, “well, we may as well get dressed.” She unwound the white scarf, revealing her short grey hair before she stripped off, and put on the new outfits.
“Well, they fit well,” she said as she wrapped the black scarf round her head and neck, Anija nodding as she wrapped the pink hijab round herself. Khadeeja sat down and pulled on the boots, zipping them up as the legs of the pants sat in them.
Standing up, she said “so what happens now?”
“Ladies – I need you to cross your wrists behind your backs.”
“Why,” the older woman said as she looked at them.
“Please, just do as we ask,” he said, the three women looking at each other before they moved their hands behind themselves, standing proudly as their wrists were secured tightly together with ropes.
More rope was then wrapped around their upper bodies, above and below their chests, their coats and cardigan forced to the sides as the ropes were tightened. “Are you taking us somewhere,” Anija asked as the ropes were pulled tighter around her.
“Wait and see,” the man said as he looked at them, and held three sponge balls in his hands. “Open wide please.”
Khadeeja and Anija looked at their mother, before they all opened their mouths, the sponges pushed in and behind their teeth before they closed their lips, and fresh strips of the white tape were smoothed carefully over them.
They then grunted as pairs of sunglasses were placed over their eyes – the lenses pained over with black paint. “Come with us,” they heard as they were taken by the arm, and then walked somewhere. They had no idea where, only that they were heled to sit somewhere and then strapped in.
“We’re been driven somewhere,” Khadeeja thought to herself as she felt the seat move, and heard an engine running. How long they drove for she was not sure, but eventually they stopped and the straps released. She was helped out of whatever she was in, and walked a short distance, before she was helped to sit on what felt like a rug.
As she wondered where the others were, Khadeeja felt her ankles as they were crossed and secured together, and then her legs tied together below her knees, before the footsteps walked away.
“Stthenbddthr,” she called out, and then she felt a nudge as she heard her mother say “Mhhhrr. Njeeh?”
“Mhhreswwlmfr” she heard her sister say, as she wondered if she could get the glasses off. She started to shake her head from side to side, but they stayed in place, not moving an inch as she relaxed…
“Oh god – you’re here!”
“Ffffr?” Khadeeja blinked as the glasses were removed, and she saw her father kneeling in front of her, holding her head as two of the men who worked with him removed the glasses from Anija and their mother. As he peeled the tape away, and she pushed the sponge into his hand, she recognised their front room.
“Papa? What happened?”
“Not important – you are safe, and that is all that matters…”
“So – they survived?”
“They did – a little sore and bruised,” their father said as he sat in his work office. “I still think it was a little over the top in terms of prevention.”
“I understand,” the well-dressed man said from the other side of the desk, “but we were able to prevent the more serious robbery which would have taken place, and you would not have liked what could have happened then. I know it scared them, but it kept them out of the way until that threat was neutralised.”
As he nodded, their father said “thank you – they said you treated them with honour and respect.”
“I am glad,” the man said as he stood up, “and all part of our service. Should you have need of our family protection unit again, do not fail to contact us.”
“I pray that will not be necessary,” was the response as they shook hands, and the visitor left his office, smiling as he took out his phone.
“So, do we have another client? Good – send me the details…”