The Fellowship of the Bind
Brian Holderness-Carter smiled as he looked across the table at the couple who were sipping their cappuccinos. “Thanks for agreeing to meet up – it’s been a while.”
Mark Williamson nodded as he said “well, given we were both in the area on holiday, it made sense – but what brought you to this side of the country? It’s a bit different from your place in Maine.”
“True,” the tall Australian said with a smile, “but we go where the work takes us.”
“No Sarah this time?”
“No – the kids are starting kindergarten, and besides what I need to talk to you both about only needs – your personal attention Yvonne.”
Yvonne Williamson shook her head as Mark said “so why did you want to meet us?”
“Tell me,” Brian said with a smile, “are you familiar with Wolfram and Hart?”
“Big corporate firm of attorneys, which despite their name are not linked to demonic practices – although from what I hear, some of their actual practices veer to the grey?”
“So you have heard of them,” Brian said with a smile. “Well, one of the cases they are representing a client on is something called the Rivendell project – the details are on this.” He handed Mark a USB stick before he said “the main opposing counsel is Jessica McBain – good attorney, knows her stuff, tough opponent.”
“So what do you need our help for,” Mark asked as he pocketed the stick.
“The hearing is here, next week – Jessica has a brother Dudley, who lives in the suburbs with his wife and family. Again, initial details are on the stick – but we know Jessica’s daughter Mary is coming to visit her uncle and his family with her while she is in town.
“What we need Jay and Mrs McPhee to do is to pay them a visit, and retrieve some documents that Jessica will have with her. No young children, but I think you are the perfect pair for this job. Any questions?”
“It was good of you to pick me up in town,” Mary McBain said as she sat in the back of the car. “Given Mom is doing her thing in court until later, the last thing I really wanted to do is have to sit all day and get bored.”
“Somehow, I think you’re not going to be a lawyer,” Arwen McBain said with a smile. The teenager was wearing a short red floral print dress, the fabric the same shade of red as her hair as it sat a few inches down her neck, as well as her red ankle boots. Mary was 15, a few years younger, and was more casually dressed in a brown blouse over her blue top, grey jeans and trainers. While Arwen had short hair, Mary had hers long, falling over the back of her neck and her shoulders.
Mary laughed as Dudley looked at his wife Jennifer and shook his head. While Jennifer was wearing a grey and blue sports fleece over a blue top, jeans and sneakers, Dudley was wearing a grey fleece over a shirt and jeans. Unlike Arwen and her husband, Jennifer had long dark brown hair.
“No – I don’t know what I want to do yet, but it’s not what Mom does,” Mary said as Dudley pulled up in front of his house, and the group got out, not noticing the grey panel van as it drove past. Mary took the overnight bags out of the trunk of the car before they went into the house, the blue van stopping a way down the road.
“So what have you been up to anyway,” Mary said as Jennifer closed the door.
“Oh not much – what about you?”
“Like you said, not much – at least not since that guy turned up and robbed us.”
“Yeah – Jessica said you were the brave one there,” Dudley said as they sat down, Jennifer bringing in a tray of drinks.
“Why dae ye think?”
“We need to wait until Miss McBain arrives, Mrs McPhee – so a little patience is required. I’m sure it will be worth the wait…”
“So what chance of Eowyn calling, Aunt Jennifer,” Mary said as she put her glass down.
“I’m not sure,” Jennifer said with a smile, “you know what my oldest daughter is like – if she can come, she will come, but her motto is expect me when you see me.” Arwen shook her head and laughed as she said “that’s my sister for you.”
“Just like my brother, in fact.”
“Hello Aunt Portia,” Arwen said as she looked at the new arrival standing in the doorway. She was a slim red-haired woman, wearing a grey jacket over a light purple slip dress and grey heels, and she had a slim document case in her hand.
“Thanks for the Compliment,” the new arrival said, “Portia was one hell of a good lawyer. Saw a loophole in her client's contract, and won the case with it.”
“Jessica – managed to avoid losing your temper today?”
“So far, Bro” Jessica McBain said with a smile, “is there any chance of a coffee – I’ have had a long day?”
“Let me go and sort that out for you,” Jennifer said as she stood up and left the room, Jessica unfastening the button of her jacket as she sat down. “That’s better,” she said with a sigh, “this case is proving to be tougher than I thought.”
“But you’re going to win, right Mom?”
“Of course I am,” Jessica said with a smile, “I just need to forget about it for tonight and then return refreshed in the morning. Thing is, I won’t be able to – there’s one document I need to revise which is in here.”
“But you can wait a while, right,” Dudley said with a smile.
“Of course I can,” Jessica said, “so long as I get to read it before Naomi comes to pick me up in the morning.”
“One of my junior partners,” Jessica said with a smile. “You met her last March when you and Jennifer visited my office, Dudley – small girl, blonde hair, likes short skirts.”
“Oh – her,” Dudley said as Jennifer handed Jessica a mug of coffee. “You remember Jessica’s colleague Naomi love – she’s coming round early tomorrow.”
“One more for breakfast then,” Jennifer said as they heard the knock on the front door. “I’ll get it” she said as she walked through the door of the room.
“Who is it, Jennifer?
Dudley looked to the doorway as Jennifer walked back in, but she was not alone – coming in with her were a man and a woman, both wearing blue boiler suits as well as leather gloves on their hands, Doc Marten boots – and black balaclavas so that only their eyes and mouths were visible.
“What the hell…” Dudley stood up, but then he saw the pistol in the gloved hand of the man, as he smiled and said in a soft North of England accent “Dudley – May I call you Dudley? Dudley, I understand what you are thinking of doing, but be sensible – it will be better for everyone in the long run.”
The masked woman looked at Arwen and Mary, as they looked at each other before Arwen said quietly “oh no – not again…”
“Aye Lassie,” the masked woman said in a broad Scottish accent, “ah’m afraid so, so dinnae do anything tae raise the alarm, ahl richt?”
“They forced me to let them in,” Jennifer said quietly to her husband and sister-in-law, “I have no idea what they want, but it’s like when those two men came.”
“The Gentlemen Robbers? I heard they had visited you before,” the masked man said, “so you as a family are in a rare and privileged position. Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Jay Edwards, and this is my friend and partner, Mrs McPhee.”
“Jay… Jay Edwards…”
“Indeed, Counsellor,” Jay said as he looked at Jessica, “so let us set a few ground rules. So long as you all do what I or Mrs McPhee says, then nobody comes to any harm. As a first step, however, kindly give to my friend here your cell phones.
Mary and Arwen handed their phones over to Mrs McPhee, who then collected them from their parents before she put them all to one side.
“I’ve heard of you,” Jessica said quietly, “you normally target families.”
“True, but not exclusively,” Jay said with a smile, “but I have business to discuss with you, Counsellor – so let us be about our business. You would be Arwen, correct?”
As she slowly nodded, Jay smiled as he said “excellent – Arwen, I want you to bring through from your dining room two high backed chairs – and do nothing to raise the alarm. Do you understand?”
“I… I understand,” Arwen said as she left the room, Jay smiling as Mrs McPhee put down the large bag she was carrying, and took out from it three lengths of white rope. She handed them to Jay, who gave her the gun before he said “Dudley, Jennifer, Jessica – kindly turn round and put your hands behind your back.”
“You don’t have to make it worse for yourself…”
“Counsellor,” Jay said as he looked at Jessica, “please do as I say. We will have time to debate the situation later.”
“Sis, let’s just make the best of it,” Dudley said, Jennifer nodding as they turned and put their hands behind their backs.
“Mom – best do what he says, at least we know it’s real this time,” Mary said as Jessica nodded, then stood next to her brother as Jay crossed Dudley’s wrists, and then secured them tightly together with the rope.
“You okay,” Jessica said as she looked at her brother.
“Yeah, just wondering if Jennifer and I are going to end up like they were when those men came?”
“I know of Mister Tall and Mister Small,” Jay said as Arwen brought a high-backed wooden chair in, watching as the masked man secured her mother’s wrists together, “I trust it was not that unpleasant an experience?”
“No comment,” Jennifer said as she felt the rope rubbing on her wrists, and then watched him securing Jessica’s wrists together behind her back. Arwen returned with a second chair, as Mrs McPhee said “Tha’s nice – noo Jessica, hae a wee seat, while Jay makes sure ye twa are nice and comfy. As fer you gahls, sit yerselfs doon ohn thae chairs.”
“Go on – it’ll be all right,” Jennifer said as Arwen and Mary sat down. “At least it’s on a seat this time,” Arwen said, “we both ended up hogtied on the floor last time.”
“Ahn how did ye feel?”
Arwen blushed as Mary looked at her, before she said “if it was like when the man left me and mom hogtied on the bed, it must have been – interesting.”
“Oh, ahn wha did that tea ye,” Mrs McPhee said as she stood behind Mary, guiding her arms round the chair back as the teenager felt the rope bringing her wrists together.
“A masked man – he made it more like a game,” Mary said as she felt the rope going around and between her limbs, and then tighten before Mrs McPhee secured the ends of the rope round the central spar of the chair back.
“What exactly do you know about us,” Jennifer said as she watched the masked woman do the same thing to her daughter.
“Well, let’s see,” Jay said as he walked behind Dudley, and then passed a longer length of rope round his body, forcing his arms against his sides as he tightened it and then took it round his upper arms. “Dudley McBain, senior manager for a security consultancy firm in the area. Married for – what, 22 years now – to the delightful Jennifer, and two daughters. Here we have Arwen, who is seventeen going on eighteen-, and twenty-year-old Eowyn who is at college.”
Dudley felt the bands as they tightened around his upper arms and his stomach, and then felt the rope going under one arm, up and around the back of his neck, and then under the other arm before it was secured behind him.
“And then we have your wife Jennifer – a senior fitness instructor, and if I may say, a very beautiful representative of that field,” Jay said as he collected a second long length of rope, and then passed it round her, pulling it tight under her chest before he took it round above there. “A couple of years younger, devoted wife and mother. You both are comfortably well off – otherwise, you may not have attracted the attention of my friends.”
“But you said – ohhhh… You said your business was with Jessica,” Jennifer said as she felt the bands on her chest, before Jay took the rope over one shoulder and came over. “My apologies,” he said with a smile as he took the rope round the lower band between her breasts, and then took it back up and over her other shoulder. Dudley looked at her, as Jennifer said “not now…”
As this was happening, Mrs McPhee had tied the end of a long length of rope to the joint of the chair back and the seat of Arwen’s chair, and started to bind her upper body to the chair back, as well as her arms to her sides, bands of rope round her waist and stomach and the chairback, as well as round her upper arms to keep them against her sides.
“Well, here we are again,” Arwen said with a sigh, “all trussed up and nowhere to go. If this keeps up, we will be competition for Nancy Drew in the most tied up damsel competition”
“Tell me about it,” Mary replied as Mrs McPhee started to use a second long length of rope on her, “no chance of you showing me the sights tonight, right?”
“Oh – what did you have in mind?”
“Well, I’m sure you know the best places to be seen – where the Elvish wine flows and the talk is heroic.”
“We’ll just have to try to do it ourselves,” Arwen said as she tried to move, “if we can talk that is.”
“Oh – you think they might..”
“Hm-hm,” Arwen said as the ropes were pulled tighter round her.
“How can you joke at a time like this,” Jessica said, “we’re being held hostage.” She watched as Jay sat down and used more rope to secure her brother’s ankles together, as well as his legs below his knees.
“Yeah we are – but am I the only one who really is not scared,” Dudley said.
“No you’re not,” Jennifer said as she felt the rope forcing her own ankles together, “how is that possible?”
“It’s a gift,” Jay said with a smile as Mrs McPhee knelt in front of Mary, and started to bind her ankles together.
“Well I’m terrified,” Jessica said quietly.
“Well, don’t do a Jennifer Walters and hulk out Mom,” Mary said with a smile as her feet were taken to the side, her ankles secured to the front chair leg. “I’m not sure it would help.”
“Ah – so you are fan of legal Comedies, Counsellor,” Jay said with a smile as he secured Jennifer’s legs together, making sure the binding like all the others was properly cinched, “I am not surprised – to be a Senior Advocate at your age for Stewart and Head is a great achievement, and very much deserved. You must be very proud of your daughter as well.”
“You know what we need,” Mary said as she looked at Arwen, “Tom Bombadillo to walk in, whistling and make everything right again.”
“Ah, but ye hae a wee problem there lassie,” Mrs McPhee said as she bound Arwen’s legs together with rope.
“And that is?”
“Like the Peter Jackson pichers, he’s no gonnae show up,” the masked woman said as she stood up. “Jay?”
“I just need to make sure that Dudley and Jennifer here cannot raise the alarm verbally,” Jay said as he compressed a yellow sponge ball and looked at Dudley.
“Well, Dad’s going to be quiet – which is nice,” Arwen giggled as Dudley looked at her and Jennifer, and then opened his mouth, feeling the sponge expand in his mouth as Jay pushed it in. He pushed a second sponge into Jennifer’s mouth, before covering their lower jaws with a wide strip of white tape that seemed like a second skin.
“Dhffhrhnt,” Jennifer said as she put her head on her husband’s shoulder both of them watching as Jay helped Jessica to stand up.
“Perhaps we can have our discussion in private,” he said as he picked up the document folder, and then left the room as Mrs McPhee looked at Arwen and Mary.
“Ah must say, ye make a fine lookin Red Headed League.”
“Oh wonderful, the Holmes quotes,” Mary said as she rolled her eyes. “I thought you were the bank robbers?”
“Aye tha’s richt,” Mrs McPhee said with a smile, “but ah least ye hae a sense of humour about it.”
“Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and you might choke on the gag,” Arwen said quietly as Mary looked at her.
“Arwen, come on – this isn’t as bad as last time, is it?”
“No – but it feels different,” she said as she saw Dudley turn and press his taped lips on his wife’s head. “I don’t know why – maybe it’s because you are here.”
“What – don’t tell me you’re going all maternal on me,” Mary laughed as she twisted in the chair, “That would be too funny…”
“So wha was it fer ye,” Mrs McPhee said as she looked at Mary.
“They call him the Games Player – guess we just came into his sights. Thing is, I looked him – or her – up on the web, and they operate mainly in the UK.
“Just like you. So what brings you two here?”
“Och – we aye dae things fer offers – ahn this is one ae they times…” She looked from Arwen to Mary, and then to Dudley, before she said “Ahl jokin aside – are you a Scottish family?”
"Other side of the Irish Sea.” Arwen smiled as she said “but I am a mongrel, Irish and German on Dad's side, Welsh and Italian on my Mothers… though my older sister is where the Welsh Italian genes really show up".
“Your sister sounds a fascinating woman.”
“Be seated, Counsellor,” Jay said as he pulled a chair away from the table, Jessica sitting down as she said “you know you’re not going to get away with this?”
“Oh – and from what you know of me,” Jay said with a smile as he sat opposite her, “what makes you think that will be the case?”
“Well, let’s examine the evidence, shall we,” Jessica said quietly. “You normally work with a team of five or six, including yourself and Mrs McPhee. Your normal modus operandi is to hold the family of the person you wish to rob hostage, and take them to their place of work.”
“Not always the case, Counsellor – you are generalising,” Jay said with a smile.
“True – there have been occasions you made the robbery from a home office, but you tend to leave the family trussed and gagged in the night. It’s almost as if you and the others melt into the night.”
Jay nodded as he said “generalisation allowed Counsellor.”
“So this time,” Jessica said quietly, “there is only two of you. I don’t work for a bank or a business, neither does Dudley or Jennifer – and our daughters are older.”
“I admit that is all true,” Jay said, “but your point is, Counsellor?”
“You are taking a bigger risk here – perhaps too big a risk? I wonder if you have overstretched yourself this time.”
“Or” Jay said with a smile, “perhaps we have thoroughly assessed the situation. Take yourself, Counsellor – as I said, highly regarded, and yet you have brought up your daughter on your own to be a fine and brave young woman.”
Jessica looked at the masked man, before she said “I’ll take that for the compliment I think you meant it to be. So, what exactly is it you want from me?”
“Well, I am aware you are representing one of the parties currently in court debating the Rivendell project.” Jay chuckled as he said “rather a propos, given the love your family has for the works of Tolkien.”
Jessica shook her head as she said “but it’s a reclamation project, establishing a park – the case is about who is going to clean the soil up… Oh come on… Have you been hired by one of the other clients?”
“Now Counsellor – do you truly expect me to answer that?”
“Well, is it Wolfram and Hart?”
“Again, I must plead the fifth,” Jay said with a smile, “what I will say is I have been – employed to retrieve certain documents you have in your possession tonight.”
“And do what,” Jessica said with a smile, “destroy it?”
“Really not my concern what the client wants to do with it,” Jay said, “so I need you to give me the combination for your document case, if you would be so kind.”
“And after that?”
“They say variety is the spice of life, Counsellor – so after that, we secure you as well, make sure everybody is kept quiet, and then slip into the outside, leaving you all to try and get free.”
“I don’t believe you – you’ll hurt me or Mary… Or worse…”
Jay raised an eyebrow as he looked across at Jessica. Putting the document case down for a moment, he sat forward, his gloved hands together in front of himself as he said “You are an attractive woman, counsellor. If you will forgive the phrase, I think the crude expression would be MILF.” It was Jessica who raised an eyebrow this time as Jay continued “you are pretty helpless with your hands tied behind you, but have I made any advances of that nature toward you? Believe me when I say that I have no intentions that way, toward you or your daughter or any members of your family".
“How can I trust you?”
“Counsellor… Jessica… Have I or Mrs McPhee done anything to make you believe we intend harm to any of you?”
Jessica thought for a moment, and then shook her head as Jay said “then accept my word, Counsellor – because I only speak the truth – no harm comes to anyone if they do as we say. Now, the combination…”
Arwen was twisting in the chair as Mary tried to move as well, Mrs McPhee shaking her head as she looked at Dudley and Jennifer.
“A fine pair, aye?”
“Ghssshh,” Jennifer said, Dudley nodding as Arwen said “this is as tight as when Mister Small did it – still, at least Eowyn is not here this time…”
“FHnkhfhhns,” Jennifer said as she saw Jessica walk into the room, Jay following with another chair from the dining room which he set down on the floor next to Mary.
“Mary!” Jessica walked quickly over and looked at the way her daughter was boudn to the chair. “Are you all right? Has she hurt you?”
“Nae she… No she hasn’t,” Mary said quietly. “Mom, please, stop panicking – I’m fine.”
“Now that you have seen Mary is fine,” Jay said as he shook his head and looked at Mrs McPhee, “please, sit yourself down. It is important you ate secured as well.”
Jessica nodded as she slowly walked over and sat down, Jay saying “if you would lean forward for a moment?” She did so, Mary watching as he lifted her mother’s arms so they went over the back of the chair and then he secured her wrists to the chair back.
“Your sister insists she stays with Mary – I see she is very protective,” Jay said as Jessica looked over, and he tied one end of the long length of rope to the joint of the chair back with the seat.
“So you’re going to be like me again Mom,” Mary said as she watched Jay start to wind the rope round her mother’s arms and upper body, securing her arms to her sides and her body against the chair back while Mrs McPhee knelt down and started to bind Jessica’s ankles together with another length of the rope.
She then noticed her mother shaking as her ankles were pulled back under the seat, her toes pointing down as the rope was tied to the chair back, before she said “Seriously, Mom, are you all right?”
Jessica looked over and said “I’m sorry – it’s my job to protect you, and here we are…”
“Mom – we’re all in the same predicament here,” Mary said as she watched Mrs McPhee secure her mother’s legs together below her knees. “It’s fine to be scared – but somehow, none of us are. So please, don’t be afraid.”
“Okay,” Jessica said quietly as she looked at herself. “Well, you are efficient, I give you that…”
She tried to move, but her body was locked into place as Mrs McPhee stood up.
“Thair – nice ahn cozy.”
“Anyway, Mary,” Arwen said quietly, “we should count our blessings that..”
“Hey – where is everyone?”
Mary and Arwen looked at each other as Jennifer mumbled “hghddd” while Mrs McPhee stood by the doorway.
“Mom, Dad, are you…” A tall light brown haired young woman walked into the room, her hair falling over the shoulders of the red checked blouse she was wearing over a grey t-shirt, jeans and grey ankle boots. In her hands were three large pizza boxes, steam rising from one of them. She looked at Dudley and Jennifer, and then turned slowly to see Arwen, Mary and Jessica with the two masked intruders next to her.
“Great timing, sis, just like last time"
“What is going on here?”
'You must be Eowyn,” the masked man said, “and you really are your mother's daughter. My name is Jay Edwards – Mrs McPhee, perhaps you could take those pizza boxes from our latest arrival and put them in the kitchen, before you return with another chair."
“Aye,” the masked woman said as she took the boxes from Eowyn, and left the room as she looked at Jessica.
“Aunt Jessica – what’s going on?”
“That is an – interesting question,” Jessica said with a smile and a shake of her head as Jay placed certain documents in a clear bag. “This – gentleman – is infallibly polite, and strangely able to put me at ease, but we are still at the mercy of armed intruders.”
“Not the first time, though – right?”
“Sadly, very true,” Jessica said quietly. “Honestly, I never thought something like this would happen again…”
“And yet, here we are,” Eowyn said with a shrug of her shoulders as Jay placed another chair next to Arwen. “Please, take a seat young lady.”
As she sat down, Eowyn felt the gloved hands on her wrists as they were taken behind the chair back, and then the rope on her bare wrists as they were secured together.
"It's deja vu all over again,” Eowyn said as she felt the rope forcing her arms against her sides, “I must be in a time loop like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day."
“At least we’re not hearing that song every hour,” Arwen said. “I got you to tie my hands…”
“I got you to stop me standing…”
“I got you to bind me tight...”
“I got you to mute my voice…”
Dudley and Jennifer looked at each other as Mary said “and I thought I was the humorous one…”
“We have our moments,” Eowyn said as she saw Mrs McPhee kneel down and secure her ankles together with rope. “Don’t worry – I think the gags are about to become truly silent.”
“Almost certainly – Hey.” Arwen looked at her sister and said “before we are gagged, what did you think of The RIngs of Power?”
"I didn’t like it,” Eowyn said as she shook her head. “I think making the younger Gladdy an early version of my namesake just did not work. I liked the way they showed Numenor, and the acting was good, but it was just another sword and sorcery cliche filled film set in Middle Earth.”
“Yeah – I don’t buy him as Sauron for a second either,” Arwen said as Jay gave the ropes round Eowyn a final tug and secured them.
“I agree with You".
Eowyn looked at Jay as he stood in front of her, and then said “oh my god – are all English thieves and robbers Tolkien fans as well?”
“Only the educated ones – but I must apologise. While this is, and could be, a most fascinating discussion, I need to bring it to an end.”
“Why didn’t I see that coming,” Mary said as she shook her head.
Jessica then looked at Dudley, before she said “why do I feel as if I’m ten years old again?”
He nodded as Jennifer shook her head, and then said “Whlllhtchldbhghm…”
“Ah – am I therefore right in assuming you played tie-up games as children?”
“We still do,” Eowyn said as she twisted round, “from time to time. Right Mom?”
Jessica raised an eyebrow as she looked at her brother and sister-in-law, both of them blushing as the tape kept them quiet. “Oh we are going to have a long talk later,” she said quietly.
“Hmm – well, I guess we can discuss that later,” Eowyn said with a smile before she opened her mouth, the sponge ball gently pushed in before she pursed her lips, and the white tape was pressed down over her mouth.
“Yeah, for later,” Arwen said before she was gagged in the same way, Mary the next to have her mouth filled with the sponge ball and a length of white tape pressed down over her mouth.
“So, we are going to leave you here,” Jay said with a smile as he pushed a sponge ball into Jessica’s mouth, “and I am sure the authorities will find you in due course.”
“Uhhlsthhhlnhtghthwhwwhfths,” Jessica mumbled as the tape was pressed down over her mouth.
“Oh I think we will, isn’t that right Mrs McPhee?”
“Aye,” the masked woman said as she stood up and walked over to where the drapes were closed over the windows. As she peeked outside, she turned back and said “Jay – wud ye cum here ah minute?”
The family watched Jay as he walked over, Mrs McPhee standing to one side as he glanced outside. “The smoke?”
“Interesting – hopefully, it is just a barbecue that needs attention or a pile of leaves,” he said as Jennifer nudged Dudley.
“Dhtnknh,” Dudley said as Mary looked at Arwen.
Arwen shrugged her shoulders as Jay said “ah.”
“Have a look,” Jay said as Mrs McPhee looked out.
“Flames? Aye, this is worse.”
“It would appear,” the masked man said as he looked at the others, “that we may have to delay our departure Mrs McPhee. The house a few doors down appears to have caught fire – I imagine it is about to get very busy outside, so a discrete exit is not going to be possible.”
As he spoke, the sound of sirens could be heard, and they all saw the blue flashes through the curtains and the sounds of vehicles drawing up.
“Swhhhphnsnh,” Jennifer said as she twisted round.
“That, Jennifer, is an exceedingly good question,” Jay said as he walked over. “I regret to say we are not going to be able to leave for a while with our usual discretion, so I think it may be that you are going to have – if you will forgive the phrase – the full Jay Edwards experience. Although given where the girls are, perhaps party games are not going to be possible.”
“Vhrhhfhnnhh,” Eowyn said.
“So, if I have your assurances that any talking will be kept at the conversational level, we will remove the gags. Do you all agree?”
The families looked at each other and nodded as Jay walked over to Dudley and Jennifer, peeling the tape away from their mouths before eh eased the soaking wet sponges out of their mouths.
“That’s better,” Dudley said as he worked his jaw.
“Bringing back memories?”
“Just a few,” Dudley said as he kissed Jennifer.
As the tape was peeled away from her mouth, Mary said “is it possible for me to get a drink of water?”
“Aye ah fihnk sae,” Mrs McPhee said as she ungagged the others.
“Hold that thought,” Jay said with a smile. “Perhaps you can release Arwen and Mary, and take them to the kitchen to prepare some food for everyone.”
The two teenagers looked at each other as Jessica said “and in the meantime?”
“I see you love the musical,” Jay said as he looked at a selection of Blu-rays on the shelf. “While I prefer the original, perhaps this will pass the time.”
“Why not,” Jennifer said as Arwen and Mary stood up, rubbing their wrists while Kay put the television on, and started the film.
“Cum wi me,” Mrs McPhee said as the whistling started, the others watching the Spielberg remake of West Side Story as they went into the kitchen.
“I don’t get one thing,” Mary said as she looked at the masked woman, “why am I not scared about what is happening? I mean, I know this is not the first time, but – what did you do to us?”
“Nuffihn,” Mrs McPhee said with a smile as Arwen looked in the pizza boxes.
“Pepperoni… Veggie… Okay, let’s put the oven on, prepare some more snacks, and then we can warm these up as well. But first – two drinks of water…”
“Oh god that’s better,” Dudley said as he put his glass down. “How is everyone?”
“What do you think, Dad,” Arwen said, “after Eowyn mentioned that show, I wanted to be sick.”
“I think we all did,” Jennifer said as she looked round the dining table. They had all been made to jump through to the room, before they were secured round the waist to the chair, and then their upper bodies released to allow them to eat. On the table were pizzas and other snacks, as Mrs McPhee said “Eat up.”
“So what is going to happen now,” Mary said as they heard the noise dimly from outside.
“Well, with these two,” Jessica said, “they tend to make the family change into bed clothes, and then make sure they cannot move or raise the alarm.”
“You mean we’re tied up again?”
“Regretfully yes,” Jay said with a smile.
“Great,” Eowyn said quietly, “but we’re not kids – so you’re not going to make us do that.
“Only if you want us to,” Jay said as he looked at the three girls.
“Oh no,” Jessica said, “no way, no…”
“Mum,” Mary said as she looked across the table, “they are in charge. They haven’t hurt us so far – just like that Games Player. I know you’re scared, but…”
“I’m scared for you – what they might do to you if you cannot stop them…”
“Jessica,” Mrs McPhee said as she stood by her side, “I cahn see yer natural concern fer yer dauchter. Ye want tae protect her wi all yer heart and strength, aye?”
“Of course I do,” Jessica said, “as does Jennifer and her girls.”
“Oh,” Jessica said quietly,” do you have children as well?”
“Maybe I dae, maybe I dinnae, but I do hae a talent fer putting people at their ease. So mah question to yeh is – do ye believe me when I say yer ahl pefeckly safe wi us?”
“I should not,” Jessica said quietly, “but yeah, I do.”
“Guid – sae dinnae be afraid when ah say we are going tae bind ahnd gag all o ye,” Mrs McPhee said as she looked across at Mary.
Arwen looked at Mary before she said “This is Aunt Jessica in lawyer mode right – ye cannae break the laws of physics, yer honour – not unless I see it myself!”
“Ye trying tae be Scotty,” Mrs McPhee said as she looked at Arwen. “Nae bad…”
“And are you putting on an accent yerself – sorry, yourself Mrs McPhee,” Jessica said, “and is Jay?”
“We both plead the fifth on that,” Jay said quietly. “So, here is the thing – after dinner, you may – if you wish – change into some bedclothes, but then we are going to secure and silence all of you in the bedrooms.”
“Well, I want to be where Mary is – and I want to be tied to a chair if I have to get tied up.”
“Are you sure, Counsellor,” Jay said as he looked at Jessica, “it could be uncomfortable.”
“I look after my daughter; she is still only a teenager…”
“Dinnae worry, lass,” Mrs McPhee said with a smile, “It’ll ahl be fihn…”
“I guess we could wear our pyjamas,” Jennifer said as she looked at Dudley, “girls?”
“Shorts sets,” Arwen said. “Aunt Jessica?”
Jessica looked at them, and then said “I will so regret this – all right…”
“I guess we’ll be stuck until Naomi calls round?”
“Naomi – your assistant Aunt Jessica?” Eowyn said as she looked round.
“Yes – she’s meant to meet me here for breakfast tomorrow – I wonder what she is going to make of finding us like that?”
“Well, it saves us the bother of arranging to inform the authorities of your predicament,” Jay said with a smile. “So, eat up…”
The flashing lights were still visible through the curtains as Mrs McPhee brought Arwen, Eowyn and Mary back into the front room. All three were wearing vest tops and shorts – red for Arwen, blue for Mary and green for Eowyn – and all three had white socks pulled up over their hands, taped to their forearms with white tape.
“What on earth have they done to you,” Jessica said as she slowly stood up. She was wearing a pair of purple silk pyjamas, while Dudley was wearing a blue t-shirt and checked bottoms, and Jennifer a pink vest top and leggings.
“What I think they’re going to do to you, Mum,” Arwen said, “they mean it when they say we won’t be able to move.”
“Indeed,” Jay said with a smile as he looked at the adults. “All three of you, please hold your hands up, palms up.” As they did so, he placed half a yellow sponge into each of their hands, before he said “now make fists and hold them out.”
“You know I can still box your ears,” Jessica said as she looked at Dudley.
“Get in the queue,” Jennifer said as she watched Mrs McPhee tear loose the end of a roll of silver tape, and then wrap it round her fists so they were completely covered. Dudley smiled as he said “beats just covering the hands with socks – oh.”
“Now that does bring back some memories,” Jessica said, the girls shaking their heads as one by one their parents had their hands covered in silver tape, then socks pulled up their arms and taped to them with white tape.
“Something you want to tell me, Mom?”
“Well, it may hae tae wait,” Mrs McPhee said as she took Mary’s hands behind her back, and she felt the rope as they were bound tightly together. Arwen was next, and then Eowyn as Jay moved Dudley’s hands behind his back and started to bind them together. Jennifer looked back before she said “so, Jessica, want some green paint?”
“Only if Matt Murdock is going to drop by.”
“Oh yes – he can call on me any time he wants…”
“Really?” Dudley looked at Jennifer as Jay took her hands behind her back.
“Hey - So says the guy how practically drools whenever he sees Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman!”
“She’s got you there Dad,” Arwen said as she laughed.
“Relax – you’re the only hero I need in my life, Aragorn,” Jennifer said with a smile as Jessica shook her head and Jay secured her wrists together behind her back.
She looked over as Mrs McPhee passed a long length of rope round Mary’s body and pulled it tight under her chest, winding it round to form two bands that both framed her chest and also her arms against her sides.
“Mary – do you have to do that to her?”
“Ah’ll dae it tae all three o them,” Mrs McPhee said as she pulled the ropes tighter, and then took the rope under one arm, binging it up and around the back of Mary’s neck and under the other side before she secured the ends at her back.
“that’s – tight,” she said as she twisted round, Jessica looking at her before she realised Jay was doing the same thing to her. The ropes pulled her pyjama top tight over her own chest, but she could tell Jay was taking care not to do anything he could avoid doing to her.
The two masked intruders moved down the line until all six of them had their upper bodies tightly secured, all of them feeling strange as the ropes held them tight.
“Mom,” Eowyn said, “you know something?”
“You do look – different like that.”
“So do you two,” Jennifer said quietly, “like last time. Mary -are you okay?”
“I’ll cope – I have to,” the teenager said quietly as Jay took from a large bag six yellow sponge balls.
“If you have any last words, now is the time?”
“I still say you are not going to get away with this,” Jessica said as she looked at Jay.
“I will be the judge of that – open wide.”
The others watched as Jessica opened her mouth, and Jay pushed the compressed sponge ball into her mouth. She felt it expand inside, pressing her tongue down, before Mrs McPhee pulled a knotted strip of towelling between her lips and tied it tightly round her head.
She watched as one by one the others had a sponge pushed into their mouths, and then the towelling strip used as a cleave gag, each of them feeling their cheeks as they were pushed out, the material pushing in on their cheeks.
“Oh no, observe,” Jay said as he peeled the end of a roll of white tape free, and then wrapped it tightly round Jessica’s head. As he patted the tape down and moved on, Mrs McPhee wrapped silver tape round her head as well, further muffling her as she looked on.
As she patted the silver tape down on Eowyn’s mouth, Jay said “so – shall we head upstairs?” The six of them nodded as they followed Mrs McPhee up the stairs, Jay carrying a chair from the dining room up with him as they entered the main bedroom.
“Girls,” Jay said as he set the chair down, “sit on the end of the bed.” As they did so, Mrs McPhee knelt down and used the ropes she had brought with them, crossing Mary’s ankles and binding them tightly together as Jessica was helped to sit on the chair. Jay took another longer length of rope and wound it round her and the chair back, forcing her into an upright seated position as she watched the masked woman binding the ankles and legs of each of the girls.
She then glanced down as Jay knelt down and took her left foot to the side, using some rope to secure her ankles to the front leg of the chair. As he bound her legs to the wood on each side, Mrs McPhee helped each of the girls to lie on their stomachs on the bed, facing Jessica as she then hogtied each of them, their ankles bound to their chest ropes.
All three nodded as Dudley and Jennifer looked at them, and then at each other while Jay stood up.
“Mrs McPhee will stay with you for a moment,” he said as he looked at Dudley and Jennifer. “You two will come to another bedroom.”
“Suuhlthr,” Arwen said as they were walked out, and into her bedroom.
“Now, both of you, lie face down on the floor.”
As Dudley knelt and then lay down, he looked at Jennifer and said “Thrsshphldhssfhrhs.”
“Shmwrrhphlsfhrhs,” Jennifer replied as Jay crossed her ankles and bound them tightly together. He then secured her legs together below her knees and hogtied her, before moving over to do the same to Dudley.
“Now,” he said as they rolled onto their sides and faced each other, while he placed a pillow under each of their heads, “don’t go anywhere.”
“Vhrrhfhnnhee,” Jennifer said as she watched him turn the light off and leave the room – and then felt the taped lips of Dudley kissing her cheek.
As Jay looked out of the window, Mrs McPhee came back in.
“They’re ahl asleep,” Mrs McPhee said, before Yvonne said in her normal voice “what’s happening outside?”
“They’ve almost finished clearing up,” Mark said as he removed his balaclava mask.
“One thing I don’t understand,” Yvonne said as she removed her own mask, “why are we taking legal documents? Surely they have been logged as evidence at the court already?”
“Remember what Brian said – there’s something else going on, and he wants a chance to review before it is presented. I suspect if there is anything about the site of the Rivendell project that causes issues, they either have time to deal with it…”
“…or get it thrown out as evidence, knowing him,” Yvonne said. “Well, we can wait a little while, and then slip out once it is fully dark…”
Jessica slowly opened her eyes and raised her head. She was stiff, and her arms ached, but as she saw the sunlight streaming through the window she realised she must have slept for hours.
The three girls were still asleep, their chests rising and falling under the bands of rope. She was so proud of all three of them, but especially her daughter…
The sound of someone coming up the stairs caught her attention, as she tried to call for help – but no sound was coming out from her mouth. As she watched, the door slowly opened – and her associate looked in, gasping as she said “oh my god – Miss McBain.”
The young woman walked slowly into the room, and said “who did this to you? And that's Mary tied up on the bed with who I guess are your two nieces?”
As she spoke, Mary slowly opened her eyes, and said “hhthrnhmhmh.”
Naomi stared at the silver band round Jessica’s mouth, before she said “I'll get that gag off you.” She slowly unwound the silver band, her eyes widening as she saw the band of white tape under that, and then she slowly peeled that away as well.
“Khhppghhnhhn,” Jessica said as Naomi let the white tape drop to the floor, and then untied the towelling strip, letting the wet material drop down as Arwen and Eowyn started to wake up as well.
“Fuhhnkuh,” Jessica said as she opened her mouth, Naomi slowly pulling the soaking wet sponge out and then letting that drop to the floor before she walked behind the chair.
“Was it a sailor who did this? I need ot get you free…”
As she looked over to the bed, Jessica said “Untie my daughter and nieces first. But make sure you keep the ropes and the gag material safe.”
“Right – of course, CSI will want them,” Naomi said quietly as she walked to the bed, while Mary mumbled “Hllwwhhsshtrlhjer…”
Naomi released the girls from their hogtie, and then helped them all to sit on the edge of the bed before she started to untie their upper bodies. All three let out a muted sigh as their arms were freed, and then started to unwind the tape from their mouths as Naomi started to untie Mary’s legs.
Once she had the sponge out of her mouth, Mary looked at it, before she said “Hi Naomi – bit of a surprise for you, right?”
“Yeah, kinda – are you all right though?”
“A bit stiff – but that’s not important right now,” the young teenager said as she slowly walked over and knelt next to Jessica. “Are you all right Mom?”
“I am now – some day, right?”
“Yeah – but I’m just glad you’re all right,” Mary said as she hugged Jessica, and then went behind her to start to release her body. As she did this, Naomi looked up at Arwen as she removed the sponge ball from her mouth.
"You must be Naomi. I’m Arwen. Weird way to meet, though.”
“It is at that – are you all right?”
“Yeah – this is Eowyn by the way.”
“Phlsshshr to meet you,” Eowyn said as she removed the sponge from her mouth, watching Naomi as she untied her legs.
“Aunt Jessica – where did they put Mom and Dad do you think?”
“In their bedroom, I imagine, given the way they work,” Jessica said as she brought her arms round and rubbed her wrists.
“I’d better go and free them,” Arwen said as she stood up and slowly walked out of the room. As Eowyn’s legs were free, she stood up and said “thank you Naomi – better do that 911 call now.”
“You knew who did this, Miss McBain?”
"Yes...and I think I know who hired them. But I am going find out for sure. And I know just the people who can help me find out...before today is done, Angel Investigations over in LA is going to get a call from me… Hey Eowyn,” Jessica said as Mary stood up, “where are you going?”
"I am going downstairs to get some coffee started, we could all use it...”
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