Heidi and the Extra Credit
“And here we go again - another summer over, and another year of high school awaits!”
“Yeah, I know,” Cindy said as she looked out of the car, “but just imagine what we get to tell the others about our trip!”
“That’s true - they’ll be so jealous of us,” Heidi said as they looked out of the window. The new year was due to start on the Monday, and Natalie’s Aunt Heather had invited the girls to spend the last day of summer vacation at her farm “Doing whatever they wanted” as she put it. Nats had driven up with her mother and Veronica the day before, and now Heidi and Cindy were heading there with Amy and Dorothy for Sunday lunch and an afternoon doing anything except homework and assignments.
“Hey - did I hear a rumour that we’re getting some new teachers this year?”
“You get new teachers every year,” Dorothy said from the front of the car. It was still warm, so all four of them were wearing shorts, khaki and white for Dorothy and Amy, while the girls were wearing blue denim cut-offs.
While the older women had on short sleeved blouses, Heidi had a t-shirt on with a picture of Edinburgh Castle on it, while Cindy was wearing a vest top with “I♥UK” in silver detail on the light blue background.
“Have you spoken to the boys since you got back,” Amy said as she turned off the main road and onto a bumpier way.
“Nah - I guess we’ll see them tomorrow,” Cindy said as she looked out of the window. “It’ll be good to see them though - I missed them during our trip.”
Eventually, Amy pulled up outside the large farmhouse, the woods stretching off into the distance behind it. Stepping out of the car, she looked round and said “So this is where Heather hangs out - I can see why she might like it so much.”
“Very peaceful,” Dorothy said as she closed the car door. “Do you think we’re early? I don’t see anyone about.”
“If I know Nats’ aunt, she’s probably in one of the workshops round the back,” Heidi said as she started to walk round the house. “Come on, we know the way.”
As they walked round the side of the house, and onto the large lawn at the rear, they saw that the back door was open. “See,” Cindy said as she looked into the kitchen, and saw no-one there, “Heather’s probably working in the barn. Let’s go and surprise her.”
The group turned and made their way across the lawn, not seeing the person who came into the kitchen and watched them cross over the lawn. A small smile played on her lips as she went back to her charges...
“Wow - this really is some workshop,” Amy said as she ran her hand over the fake Sarcophagus that was leaning against the wall, “you have to look really closely to see it is not stone.”
“Come on Mum,” Amy said as she walked round the storage room, “That magazine rack she gave us tells you how skilled she is in metalwork. This is bread and butter stuff for her.”
“I suppose so,” Dorothy said as she sat in a wooden chair, and picked up the leather cuff that hung from the arm by a chain, “but do you know what I think?”
“No,” Cindy said as she came back in from another room in the barn, “she’s not in here.”
“Got it in one,” Dorothy said as she stood up. “She must be in the house - shall we go in and have a look?”
The quartet strolled out of the barn and towards the back door, which was still lying open. “Miss Reid? Heather,” Heidi called out as they walked in, “It’s Heidi and Cindy. We’ve arrived with our mothers.”
There was silence, as Amy called out “Veronica? Are you anywhere within earshot?”
Again, there was no answer, as the four of them looked at each other. “Maybe they’re all still in bed,” Cindy said as she looked at the clock, but it showed it was noon.
“I don’t think so,” Amy said as she put her hand over the range. It was warm, and she could see pots with vegetables prepared in them on the stove. “We’re expected, so I guess they’re somewhere out of ear shot. Didn’t you say Heather had a big attic?”
“That’s true - and Nats and Aunt Veronica are already here,” Heidi said as she looked round, “Do you want me and Cindy to...”
“Oh, so THIS is the famous Heidi and Cindy? I’ve heard a lot about you two from Natalie.”
The four turned quickly at the sound of the new voice. A tall woman was standing in the doorway, leaning against it with her arms folded. She had blonde hair with a hint of grey at the temples, and although she was thin there was a slight roundness about her body. She was wearing a long sleeved grey jumper and slacks, and had a warm smile on her face.
“She looks like an older version of Katherine and Heather,” Cindy whispered to Heidi, a little too loudly.
“Well, I hope I do,” she said as she stood up and walked forward, her hand extended. “I’m Roberta Reid - Heather and Katherine’s Mum. You must be Dorothy and Amy - it’s a real pleasure to meet both of you.”
“Natalie’s grandmother,” Heidi whispered as Amy and Cindy shook her hand. “I’m sorry,” Amy said as she sat down at the table with both of them, “I didn’t know you lived in the area.”
“I don’t - not really. I live in Washington state, but I’ve come over for an extended visit while I - sort a few things out,” she said with a smile. “I’m sorry Heather wasn’t here to greet you, but she’s... Well, she’s...”
“A little tied up at the moment?”
“You might say that,” Dorothy said with a laugh. “Forgive me, Roberta, but I can’t help feeling I know you from somewhere. For the life of me, however, I can’t place where.”
“It’ll come to you eventually,” she said with a smile. “Look, do you mind if I start to cook the vegetables while we talk? I’m sure Natalie’s other friends will be here soon, and I don’t want to delay lunch. Why don’t you two go and see them? They’re in the front room.”
Heidi and Cindy nodded and left their mothers talking to Roberta as they headed down the corridor. “Nats’ grandmother? I didn’t know she had come to stay,” Cindy said as they approached the door to the front room.
“Why would you? We’ve only been back a week and haven’t had a chance to really see her since then. Besides, if she lives the other side of the country, that would explain a lot.”
“True,” Cindy said as she opened the door and walked in, stopping and laughing as Veronica looked up and said “Utkkkurtm.”
“And good afternoon to all of you as well,” Heidi said as she looked down the row. First was her aunt Veronica, who was wearing a cream silk roll neck jumper, blue jeans and sneakers. Next was Natalie, wearing a sleeveless white blouse and a long gypsy skirt. Next to her was Katherine, who had on a knee length black leather skirt, a long sleeved white blouse with the top two buttons undone, and knee length black fabric boots.
Finally there was Heather, in her denim dungaree shorts and a white t-shirt. She and Katherine had their arms and legs raised behind them, and secured with two sets of double handcuffs so that they could only wriggle on their bellies. As for Veronica and Natalie, they had their arms folded behind their backs, their wrists securely tied to their elbows and a length of rope around their forearms, which ran to between their ankles as they lay on their bottoms. Heidi could see the rope around Veronica’s legs, while the skirt covered most of the secure rope around Natalie’s legs. Her big toes, however, had also been tied together with a length of string, as had Heather’s.
“Who did this to you anyway,” Cindy said as she stood behind Natalie, and stroked her fingers up her soles. “Tkwldgssseehhhhh,” Natalie said as she tried to move her sensitive feet out of the way, her voice muffled by the thick scarf that was tied between her lips, the knot visible behind her teeth. Veronica had been gagged in the same way, while Katherine and Heather had leather pads covering their lower faces.
Heidi looked out of the window at a car pulling up, then said “That’s Alice - we’d better get you untied. Where’s the keys to your cuffs, Heather.”
Heather indicated the bookcase with her head, while Cindy started to untie Natalie. As she stretched out her arms, and then untied the gag from her mouth, Heidi unlocked the cuffs from Heather and helped her to sit up. Natalie’s aunt reached round and unbuckled the straps round her head, removing the bung from her mouth and wiping her chin.
“Tip for you girls as you get older,” she said as she took the keys and started to release Katherine, “Never assume that as your mothers get older, you’re going to win.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Cindy said with a smile as Veronica untied her gag. “How long have you guys been like that?”
“Couple of hours,” Veronica said as Katherine stood up. “Still, at least we got to start lunch before Bobbi secured us.”
“Grandma Roberta,” Natalie said as she hugged her friends. “She likes to be called Bobbi by people she...”
“That sounded like Alice,” Heidi said as she looked at the others.
“It was,” Nats said with a smile, “she’s probably just met my grandmother and recognised her.”
“Recognised her? From where? Mum said she looked familiar but I though she meant she looked like your mother and aunt.”
“Not quite,” Nats said as they walked back into the kitchen. Alice was standing there, in her short denim skirt and drop top, her hands together as she looked at Roberta, while her parents stood with Amy.
“Nats,” Alice said as she looked at her friend, “Why didn’t you tell me your grandma was Bobbi Beaton?”
“It never came up in conversation,” Nats said as she sat down. “Mind you, it would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?”
“Of course,” Dorothy said as she slapped her forehead, “Montreal 1976. How did I forget?”
“Because,” Roberta said as she sat down, “Everyone remembers Olga and Nadia. Still, I can’t complain - to get a bronze against those two was an achievement and a half.”
“First things first,” Heather said as she looked at Roberta, her arms folded, “you know I have a strict rule about wearing shoes in the house, mother.”
“Do you,” Roberta said as Margaret and Jack slipped their shoes off.
“You know I do - so why did you force Veronica and Katherine to wear them? I can’t think it was to make it more difficult for them to wriggle free.”
“Rules are made to be broken,” Roberta said as she walked back over to the stove, “but I’m sure they’ll take them off now as well.”
“You too, Mother.”
Roberta looked down at her own feet, and laughed as she said “all right” and slipped off her sandals. “Anyway,” Heather finally said, “Welcome to my home, Margaret and Jack. No problem finding it?”
“None at all,” Jack said as Jannifer appeared at the back door, wearing her favourite jeans and short sleeved blouse. “We’re not late, are we,” she said as they saw Blossom walking up behind her. “Sorry I can’t stop,” she said to Heather as she stood in the doorway, “but Danny has taken the girls to a party, and there’s something I need to do before they get back.”
“What’s that,” Margaret said as Jannifer sat at the table.
“Get a present for them - they’re going to get the shock of their lives when they get home,” Blossom said as she waved at them, and headed back round the house.
“Now what on earth does your mother mean by that,” Heidi said as she looked at Jannifer.
“Hmm - oh she’s talking about the new baby,” Jannifer replied as she looked at Roberta. “I’m sorry, but have I seen you somewhere before?”
“Only on half the posters in my room,” Alice said with a big beaming smile, “This is Bobbi Beaton - she won Bronze in the floor and vault at Montreal?”
“Hang on, hang on, back up two minutes,” Heidi said as she looked at Jannifer. “What did you just say?”
“I said - thank you,” Jannifer repeated as she accepted a drink from Heather, “that Mum’s pregnant - twelve weeks. She told me on the way up here, and now they have to tell the Gruesome Twosome.”
She sipped her drink, and looked round to see the others, mothers, grandmother, daughters and Alice’s father, staring at her.
“You great galumphing idiot,” Alice said as she hugged her friend, “you’re going to have a new baby brother or sister, what do you think we’re thinking?”
“Oh you are definitely going to have fun,” Cindy said with a laugh as the four girls left the kitchen, while Heather sat down with the other mothers.
“We’ll need to get something for Blossom,” Amy said as Roberta busied herself at the stove. “And the girls are right about one thing, you two.”
Heather and Katherine looked at each other, and said “What?”
“You never told us your mother was an Olympic gymnast!”
The two women looked at each other, and then Katherine said “I guess it never came up. When I was born, she was just Mum - I didn’t learn about the other things until I was much older.”
“Well, that’s out mother,” Heather said as she sat back, “supporting of us to a fault, and modest with it too.”
“But I thought you two were Forces kids,” Jack said as he sat down.
“I married their father when he was a rising NCO,” Roberta said as she sat down. “Then he rose through the ranks, became a Gunny, and - well, the rest is history.”
“So,” Cindy said “I’ll take a wild guess - Heather takes after you, and Katherine after her dad?”
“In some ways, yes,” Roberta said as she sipped her coffee. “In others, they take much more after him than me.”
“All right, now I know why you’re so good at gymnastics - it’s in the blood.”
“That’s not what Grandma says” Natalie said as she tied Jannifer’s ankles together. The girls had gone into the library, where lots had been drawn, and Alice and Jannifer had lost. Alice was already bound to the pole, kneeling in front of it while Heidi and Cindy bound her ankles and wrists, running rope between the bands around both parts of her limbs and holding them together.
She had rope around her thighs and waist, and was watching Natalie as she tied Jannifer’s legs together at the ankles and knees. Her arms were already wrapped round a pole, and her chest held to it with several bands.
“Still, it has something to do with it,” Alice said as she grunted. “Hey - they’re getting tighter.”
“We’re getting stronger,” Heidi said with a smile as she picked up a red bandana, rolled it into a band and tied a knot in it. “So, we gag you both, whoever gets free first gets the pick of the next victim, right?”
“Right - add the gags and let’s do it.”
“Open wide,” Cindy said as she pulled the knot into Alice’s mouth, Nats doing the same for Jannifer, and then tied the band around their heads before the three girls went and sat on the couch to watch them.
“Hey,” Heidi said as she looked at Natalie’s wrists, “you’re going to be in trouble tomorrow at gym class if Mrs Barks sees you like that.”
Nats looked down at her wrists, and rubbed at the red marks that were showing on her skin. “Ah, I’ll be all right - she never passes comment anyway.”
“She won’t tomorrow either,” Cindy said as she picked up a book, “Mum bumped into her this morning - she’s retired.”
“Yeah - there’s a new teacher starting tomorrow, so you may want to consider sweatbands or ankle socks.”
Nats stopped rubbing her wrists and looked at Cindy. “Ankle socks? ANKLE SOCKS? Would you like to volunteer now to go next? Nah - I’ll strap my ankles up and say I twisted them during the week.”
“Which will be not that far from the truth, the way you wriggled round earlier,” Heidi said as she looked at Nats. “So, what does your grandma think of Aunt Veronica?”
“Hmmm - oh she likes her. In fact, when she walked in with us yesterday, her exact words were ‘ah there you are - my baby with her two mums.’”
“Good,” Cindy said as she flicked through the book, “that makes things a bit easier.”
“All right, we know there was that incident in Edinburgh,” Natalie said quietly as the other two raised their heads and looked questioningly at Cindy. “But that was weeks and several thousand miles ago.”
“I know,” Cindy said with a sigh, “but...”
The door to the room opened and Heather came in. “Lunch time girls,” she said quietly “you’d better get those two loose. And Nats?”
“Yes, Aunt Heather?”
“I’m going to need your help later - there are punishments to be handed out.” She left the girls alone as Heidi said “Punishments?”
“You know my aunt’s rule - no shoes in the house,” Natalie said as she untied Alice, “I think these poles are going to be used for something else later?”
“OH yeah,” Alice said as she pulled the scarf from her mouth and rubbed her wrist, looking at the red marks she had as well, “What?”
“Tickle torture,” was all Natalie said as the five girls made their way to the dining table...
“That was exquisite,” Jack said as he pushed the pudding plate back, “You’re a really good cook, Heather.”
“Not as good as me,” Margaret said as she poked her husband in the ribs, the others laughing as they watched.
“Well, let me make it up to you by doing the dishes,” he said as he pushed the chair back.
“Not until we have all had coffee,” Heather said as she stood up, and went to the coffee machine. “You girls - you have about three hours of freedom left, so get out there and get some fresh air.”
“That wasn’t a request,” Natalie said as she stood up. “Come on - we’ll go down to the watering hole and spend some time there.”
The five girls excused themselves from the table and walked across the lawn, and onto the path that led through the forest to the swimming hole.
“So did your mum and aunt play tie-up games with you grandma as well,” Jannifer said as she picked a leaf from one of the tress and twirled it round, the brown reflecting the sunlight.
“I guess so - I know Grandpa used to punish them if they overstepped the mark by tying them up, so they must have done. She did a good job on them with the cuffs - it was Aunt Heather who tied me and Veronica up.”
“She looks as if she keeps in shape,” Alice said as she turned and walked backwards, "do you think she’d come and give a talk to the gymnastics class?”
“I don’t know - I don’t even know how long she is planning to stay here,” Nats said as she walked on the cool dirt, “but we can ask her, once we know when the training sessions are.” They soon arrived at the watering hole, the clear water still as they lay down on the bank and stared up into the sky.
“Back to school tomorrow,” Cindy said with a sigh, “sometimes I wish I was the same age as Joanne?”
“Oh yeah - she goes to the community college this year, doesn’t she?”
Cindy nodded and closed her eyes. “Still, only a few more years to go,” she said as they listened to the gently sound of the lapping water.
All too soon, Nats said “We’d better head back, it starts to get dark early out here, and Aunt Heather did say she needed my help.”
“Fair enough,” Heidi said as she stretched out, and joined the others as they walked back to the farmhouse. As they emerged onto the lawn, they saw Aunt Heather standing by the door.
“Ah there you are,” she said quietly, “Come on - there’s punishment to be handed out...”
trooped into the large front room, they saw Roberta, Veronica and Katherine
kneeling on the floor, their hands on their heads as they looked at the others
who were sitting round the room. “Now, Nats,” Heather said as she closed the
door, “What is the number one golden rule in my house.”
“No shoes to be worn, at any time,” Natalie recited like an oath for the Girl Guides.
“Correct - and we have here three women who flagrantly ignored the rule earlier today.”
“At someone’s insistence,” Veronica said as she and Katherine looked at Roberta, kneeling between them.
“True, but you could have said no.”
“You gagged us first!”
“Enough,” Heather said as she handed Natalie and Heidi a length of rope. “Hands behind your backs, ladies - I only have one punishment for such a rule breaking.”
“Fine, fine, get on with it,” Roberta said with a smile as Heather knelt behind her had crossed her wrists, tying them tightly together as Heidi and Natalie did the same for Veronica and Katherine respectively.
“My apologies to the rest of you that you needed to see this,” Heather said as they then bound the arms of the three women to their sides, the ropes going below and above their chests and cinched under their arms, before they moved back and tied their ankles tightly together.
“Hey, don’t worry,” Margaret said as she cuddled Alice and Jack, “it’s not like it something we haven’t seen before.”
“I see you have a lot more to tell me,” Roberta said in an accusatory tone to Heather, ad she helped her mother to lie on the floor and tied her legs together below her knees, then pulled her ankles back and tied them to her chest ropes so that her feet were parallel to the floor.
“Not as tight as you usually do it,” Nats said as she tied Katherine in the same position.
“True, but we have to give some allowance for age,” Heather said with a smile.
“Oh really - think I can’t take it,” Roberta said as she looked at the two women either side of her. “I could still give you a run for your money, Heather.”
“I’m sure you could, Mum, but I’m not the one about to be gagged.”
“Whaddmmmgmgg,” Roberta mumbled as Heather pulled a knotted silk headscarf into her mother’s mouth, Heidi and Natalie providing the same silencing for the other two women. As they looked at each other, Heather stood up and looked at Alice and Jannifer.
“Now then, you two - the next stage of the punishment is?”
Cindy cuddled in with her mother as they said “Tickle time?”
“Precisely,” Heather said as the three of them started to tickle the upturned soles of their three captives, making them squirm and laugh out loud as they found it impossible to get out of the way.
“Drinks, anyone,” Amy said as she came into the room, ignoring the hysterical muffled screams from the floor. “Hey - can we have a go at that at some point?”
“Why not,” Heather said with a smile, “You can all have a go if you want - just go easy on mother. She is getting on in years.”
“VrrffneEEEEEE” Roberta screamed out as Alice started to tickle her bare feet.
“By the way,” Heather said as she sat down, “this might be a good time to tell you what she told me earlier.”
“Hssthshtht,” Katherine said as she and Natalie looked at her.
“She’s moving out here permanently - she wants to be closer to her loving family now, don’t you mother dearest?”
Roberta looked up and nodded to the other two, as they looked at each other. “That’s interesting,” Alice said as well, “Does that mean she can come to the gymnastics club then?”
“Whhknnsssss,” Katherine called out as her tickle torture continued at the hands of Cindy, while Jannifer took over with Veronica. The laughter continued as the others relaxed, and talked amongst themselves, taking turns to tickle the three prone women until Heather said “All right - I think that’s enough for now. You won’t forget my rule next time, will you?”
“PRmmss,” Roberta said as she winked at the other two.
“Good - then, much as I enjoy the company of all of you, time you were out of here. It’s a school day tomorrow - so get going!”
“Awwww,” Jannifer said to Alice, “Do we have to go now?”
“I guess we do,” Margaret said as she stood up. “Come on - let’s help clear up.”
“I’m glad yesterday went well,” Natalie said to the other girls in the locker room, as they started to change for their PE class. She put her foot up on the bench and wrapped athletic tape round her ankles, covering up the red lines that were still visible.
“Want some,” she said to Alice, who shook her head as she pulled a pair of sports socks up. “These should do the trick with a pair of sweatbands,” she said as she checked her shorts, and then looked at the other three.
“So, how have classes been so far?”
“I’ve survived,” Cindy said as she pulled her top over her head. “Still, I want to see what this new teacher is like.”
As if in answer to her question, there was a thump on the door and a female voice called out, “Let’s go ladies - into the gym.”
“Well, time to find out,” Alice said as they joined the queue and filed into the gymnasium. The woman waiting for them was in her late twenties, with long red hair that was pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing a pale blue tracksuit, as well as a round necked t-shirt underneath, and training shoes, while a whistle was around her neck. A clipboard was in her left hand as she looked at the class.
“Right,” she said as she looked down the line of girls, “My name is Miss Dunbar, and I’m your new Phys Ed teacher. Your previous teacher had left very good notes on all of you,” she said as she looked down the line. “You - you must be Natalie Jenkins,” she said as she consulted her clipboard.
“Yes Miss Dunbar.”
“I see here you have a habit of doing this class in your bare feet - that will be allowed for certain activities, such as today, but not others, so come prepared, understood?”
Nats looked at the others, before nodding and saying “Yes, Miss Dunbar.”
“Good,” Miss Dunbar said as she looked at Natalie’s strapped ankles. “Right then girls - this is your first lesson with me, so I want to test your basic fitness, especially after the long summer vacation.” Looking down the hall, the girls saw an obstacle course had been laid out - hurdles, hoops, a low horse, a climbing wall, and other items. “I think you can see what’s required of you - form a line at the top of the hall, come forward when I call your name.” She watched as the girls formed a line, and then looked at her clipboard.
“Heidi Strong - you’re first up!”
Heidi stepped forward, looked at the others and then set off, completing the course with little difficulty. “Well done, Miss Strong,” Miss Dunbar said as she noted the time down. “Alice Hawkins - front and centre.”
One by one the girls completed the course, with Natalie the last to do so. As she crossed the finishing line, Miss Dunbar looked at her watch, wrote the time down and said “Very good - you all managed the course in at least an - acceptable time. Now, sit down.”
As the girls sat on the mats, Alice’s socks slipped a little, Miss Dunbar seeing the red marks before she pulled them back up again. “Right,” she said as she leaned against the horse, “this year the school is promoting good health across the years, and we look to you seniors to set a good example. Consequently, if any of you volunteer to assist in some of the after school physical activities that are planned for more junior years, extra credit will be given to your end of year assessment.”
The girls started talking amongst themselves, as Natalie raised a hand.
“Miss Dunbar what if we are on a team?”
“Similar credit will be given if you take on a coaching role for the younger girls, Miss Jenkins. All right, girls, hit the showers.” As they all stood up to leave, she then said “Miss Jenkins, Miss Hawkins, a word please.”
Alice and Natalie looked at each other, then at the other girls before they walked over and stood in front of Miss Dunbar. She waited until the others had left, before saying “I don’t care what you get up to in private, girls, but you do not break the dress rules of this class to cover up the aftermath.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Dunbar,” Natalie said, “I don’t understand.”
“I’m very observant - I saw the marks on the wrists of both of you when the sweatbands slipped, and on your ankles, Miss Hawkins.” Alice began rubbing at her wrists as Miss Dunbar looked at her board.
“One other thing - Gymnastics practice is now two nights a week, Tuesday and Friday. Attendance in mandatory if you wish to stay in the team.”
“But Miss Dunbar...”
“Yes Miss Jenkins,” the new teacher said as she looked at Natalie.
“It’s just - Natalie and I attend an after school club on Fridays, with Mademoiselle Badelaine. We would have to let her know, and she does help us a great deal with our French.”
“Then that will have to change - I will speak to Miss Badelaine later. Right - off you go and get showered.” Alice started to try to talk, but Natalie took her arm and led her out of the room.
“What was that all about,” Heidi said as she towelled her hair off, when the other two came back in.
“We’ll explain later - can you two drop by the library after school? We’re due to see Chloe then to discuss plans for the year, and we may need your help.”
The others nodded as Natalie and Alice started to prepare for the showers, looking at each other.
As the bell for the last class rang, Heidi and Cindy gathered their books up, said goodbye to the rest of their classmates in Maths, and made their way towards the library. As they entered, they saw Chloe sitting on a desk, dressed in her usual red jumper, denim skirt and leggings with striped socks and Dr Marten boots, but she was not alone.
“I completely understand, Miss Dunbar,” she said to the new teacher. “I will, of course, reschedule the after school activities I... Ah good evening ladies. I will be with you shortly.”
“Miss Strong, Miss Elsworth,” Miss Dunbar said as she looked at them. “The library is closed after school hours.”
“We know, Miss Dunbar,” Cindy said, “but Chl... Mademoiselle Badelaine asked if we would collect some text books for a friend.”
Miss Dunbar looked at both of them, and then stood up. “Very well - good evening Miss Badelaine.”
“Good evening,” Chloe said as she watched Miss Dunbar leave, and then sighed, shaking her head as she mumbled under her breath “Ces’t impossible...”
“Chloe, are you all right?”
“Oh - my apologies, mes amies,” she said as she looked at Heidi and Cindy. “Come through - I will explain to all of you at once.”
She escorted them to her inner office, where Cindy looked and said “I see you’re picking up where you left off.”
“Gddtsut,” Natalie said from her position standing against one of the tall supports in the office. She was squirming under the ropes that held her tightly to the wood, wrapped around her shoulders, arms and waist, pressing the white silk blouse she was wearing close to her chest. The tight bluer skirt that came to just above her knees did not hide the ropes around her legs and ankles, holding them together as well as to the post, while the three inch heels of the red leather shoes she had on were also tied together – as were the uppers.
The muffled sound was caused by the large knotted scarf, printed on gold material in reds and blues, which was sitting between her lips and tied round the pole, holding her head to the post as well. As immobilised as she was, and as uncomfortable as she felt in the shoes and clothes, Nats was still feeling better than Alice.
She was sat in the floor in her leotard, the dark blue contrasting with the white of her body stocking, as she looked up at Heidi and Cindy, her eyes wide open over the strip of white plaster that covered her obviously stuffed mouth. She was sat in the lotus position, fixed in position by the ropes around her ankles that ran up and around her body, and around her legs above and below her knees. Her wrists were crossed and tied above her head, fixed to the bracket under a shelf above her head.
“I am sorry I had to abandon you momentarily,” Chloe said as she sat down and threw her head back, “but it is only my first day back, and already I feel I may have inadvertently made an enemy.”
“Miss Dunbar? What makes you think that Chloe?”
The young French woman looked at Natalie before saying “You mentioned our proposed after school club to Miss Dunbar, no?”
Natalie nodded and said “Btnlyurnt.”
“Yes, that is what she said, but the questions she asked! What sort of activity was it? Was it likely to have any adverse effects on her athletes? Was I aware of the fact the two girls who told her about it had rope marks on their wrist and ankles?”
“She could tell from looking at them,” Cindy said as she looked at Alice’s ankles.
“Mais oui – I had the distinct feeling she knew exactly what it was she was looking at. At any rate, I have told her I will move the new club to a Thursday, and have told her it is a club to learn magic tricks.”
“What sort of magic tricks,” Heidi said, knowing the answer before she even asked the question.
“Rope tricks, of course,” Chloe said with a smile.
“Hhhvrfnne – hwmshlngr?”
Chloe looked at her watch. “Another thirty minutes, my dear Natalie – and do not forget, every infringement of the dress code will add another ten minutes to the next planned session.”
Natalie visibly groaned at that, her head dropping at the sound of that, and the laughter from the other two – followed by the tickling...
Tuesday afternoon found Alice and Natalie changing for their gymnastics club, only to be greeted by a cry of “O look – we got a couple of friendly faces to teach us now!”
“I didn’t just hear that, did I?” Alice looked at Natalie, who was looking beyond her and slowly nodding. “I had completely forgotten about them starting high school this year,” she said as Alice turned and saw Margo and Britney standing there, in their blue and pink leotards.
“And I had completely forgotten you two did Gymnastics at your old school,” Alice said with a smile. “Look, when it comes to this class we’re the seniors and you’re the juniors, all right?”
“Gotcha,” Britney said as she pulled her hair back and fastened a rubber band around it.
“And no loose talk about our games either,” Natalie said as she looked at Margo. “Miss Dunbar is already a bit suspicious of us, and I don’t want to give her any more reasons to keep a close eye on us. Understood?”
“All right, all right – sheez you’re worse than Jannifer,” Margo said as she slipped on a pair of plimsolls.
“Good – where is Jannifer anyway?”
“She does reading classes in the kindergarten on a Tuesday now – that’s her extra credit activity – right, let’s go and turn cartwheels.”
Natalie and Alice looked at each other, as they followed the younger girls out into the gymnasium. Miss Dunbar was already there, standing by the benches as they filed out.
“Good – you’re all here,” she said as she looked down the line. “To the new students, I say welcome – to the returning members, take a good look at the new recruits.” As the older girls looked down the line, the twins shuffled uneasily on the balls of their feet.
“They one day will be you – so show them the good sportsmanship and support you wanted at that age. Now – divide into four teams, and begin your warm ups. Older girls, divide yourselves amongst the younger ones, and make sure they stretch properly.”
Alice and Natalie looked at each other, and went to the same group as the twins, helping them to stretch out properly before they began to do vault practice. From time to time Miss Dunbar walked up and down the line, making notes and nodding.
Before they realised just how much time had passed, Miss Dunbar blew on her whistle and said “Well done girls – I will see you again on Friday.” The girls picked up their towels and filed out, but as Alice and Natalie passed she said “May I have a word with both of you?”
“Yes, Miss Dunbar,” Natalie said as Alice wiped her head and arms.
“I am very impressed with the way you worked with the younger girls today – would you be interested in the possibility of doing some junior coaching badges? I can make enquiries on your behalf if you want.”
Natalie looked at the teacher, before saying “So long as my mother says yes, I think that will be all right.” Alice nodded in agreement as Miss Dunbar put her pen into a clip on her board.
“Excellent – come with me to the office, and I will get you some information,” she said as she headed for a glass fronted room at the far side of the gymnasium. As they walked in, Alice saw the pictures of a younger Miss Dunbar, performing with a ribbon at an event.
“So you were into rhythmic gymnastics, Miss Dunbar,” she said as the teacher looked in a filing cabinet.
“When I was at college, yes – I preferred it to the more mainstream events,” she said as she handed each of them a leaflet. “Give these to your parents and let me know what they say. Now, get going – I have some work to do.”
The two girls turned to leave, but as they walked out of the door Natalie saw a pair of steel cuffs hanging behind the door. “What do you think they were for,” she whispered to Alice as they walked to the changing rooms.
Natalie shrugged her shoulders as they passed into the changing area, Miss Dunbar looking at them as they went in.
“Ah excellent – welcome all of you to the magic club.”
Chloe was sitting in the library, with Alice, Jannifer, Natalie, Cindy and Heidi sitting around a table in front of her. “As I have said, here we will learn about ropes, and other materials that may be used in escapology and escape techniques,” she said, “with the assistance of my two friends.”
The girls watched as Joanne and Alexa came into view, carrying a box of ropes and other materials between them. They looked at the girls, dressed in their t-shirts and shorts, and said “Right then – it is our understanding, courtesy of Chloe, that you lot wish to learn some more advanced techniques of rope work, is that correct?”
“News travels fast,” Natalie said as she lifted her bare feet up and put them on the table.
“Excellent – we have our first volunteer,” Alexa said as she picked up a length of rope, doubled it over and passed it around Natalie’s legs, pulling them together below her knees and tying them together. The girls watched as she then wrapped the rope down Nat’s legs, crossing it over and forming a mesh that held her legs, before binding her legs together tightly.
“What the – how did you do that so quickly,” Natalie said as she tried to move her legs, the diamonds moving as she continued her attempt.
“Practice,” Chloe said quietly. “Now, note the way the single length of rope has secured our volunteer’s legs together, so that she cannot move them apart. For our first lesson, we will show you how to effectively bind someone with just two lengths of rope – you have seen how the first is applied.
“Impressive,” Jannifer said as she stroked her finger up the sole of Nat’s foot, making her giggle. “What do you do with the other length?”
“So glad you asked,” Joanne said as she shook loose a long length of rope, doubled it over and tied a small loop in the centre. Placing that at the nape of Natalie’s neck, she then draped the ends of the rope over her shoulders, and said “Ready?”
“Ready for whattheheckareyuodoing,” Nats cried out as Joanne wrapped the rope down her arms in a spiral, drawing them back at the same time until she bound her forearms together behind her back, fed the lengths through the loop and pulled her arms up her back. It had only taken ten minutes, and already she felt she would not be able to move.
“Of course, it will not be possible for you to do this sort of work this quickly, nor do we expect you to,” Joanne said as she rolled a red bandana into a band and tied a knot in it, while Alexa used the remaining lengths of rope to bind Natalie’s arms to her side, “but we will show you the basic technique, and you can eland and practice from there. Comfy, Nats?”
“Surpisnggyyss,” she mumbled as Joanne pulled the knot into her open mouth and tied the scarf around her head. “The Chinese, who developed this tie, traditionally use a cloth stuffed in the mouth, but we can let this do for now. So, pick a partner, and Joanne and I will help one to bind the other.”
It was at this moment that Natalie’s cell phone began to ring. Taking it, Cindy answered it and said “Hello?”
“Oh good evening Mrs Jenkins,” she said as she looked at the trussed and silenced Nats, “I’m afraid Natalie is indisposed right now. Can I give her a message?”
She nodded, then said “I’ll tell her,” and ended the call. “That was your mum, saying not to be late as your grandmother is coming to dinner tonight.”
“Hgrt,” Nats said as she watched Alice pair with Cindy, and Jannifer with Heidi – none of them noticing the silhouette at the door to the library...
“Very good, class – I am pleased to see that you have all been paying attention.”
The gymnastics class were gathered around Miss Dunbar as she looked over her notes.
“That is all for tonight – you may go and get changed now.” The girls ran off, as she called out “All except Miss Jenkins and Miss Hawkins – you will wait a moment, please.”
Alice and Natalie looked at each other, before saying “Yes, Miss Dunbar” and walking over to join her. “I believe I had a word with both of you about the correct attire for these classes, did I not,” the older woman said as she leaned against a vaulting horse.
“You did, Miss Dunbar,” Natalie said, “and I am even wearing the correct footwear for today.”
“That may be so, Miss Jenkins,” the gym teacher said, “but you still have ankle and wrist sweatbands on. Please, move them and let me see your ankles and wrists.”
The two girls looked nervously at each other, and then pulled the wrist bands off to reveal the red marks around their arms. “I thought so,” Miss Dunbar said quietly, “so, are your parents aware of what goes on in the Library at this ‘magic club’?”
“They know we are part of the after school club, Miss Dunbar,” Alice said, and there was a hint of anger in her voice, “but they have given their permission, and signed off on it. I do not see why that and this should interfere with each other – in fact, it helps with flexibility and...”
“Alice,” Natalie said as she looked at her friend, “I am sure Miss Dunbar is only thinking of any adverse effect our participation in Chloe’s circle may have. I assure you, Miss Dunbar, it has no possible...”
“That is quite enough out of you, Miss Jenkins,” the teacher said as she picked up a roll of white tape, tore a strip off and, before Natalie or Alice had a chance to react, stuck it firmly over Natalie’s mouth. “And I do not want to hear another word out of you,” she continued as the tape was also torn off and pressed over Alice’s mouth, leaving the two young girls looking at each other.
“Do not remove the tape,” Miss Dunbar said as she looked at both girls. “I wish to see just how flexible you both are – turn and place your hands by your sides.” Natalie shrugged her shoulders and turned round, but Alice stood defiantly, looking at the gym teacher with almost literal daggers.
“Now,” Miss Dunbar said as she returned, with a length of rope, “bring your hands together behind your back, Miss Jenkins.” Natalie crossed her wrists, only to be taken by surprise as Miss Dunbar put her hands together, side by side, and bound her arms together at her elbows instead of her wrists.
“Hwthrudng,” she said as she looked over her shoulder, only to see her teacher run the rope down and bind her wrists tightly together, then pass the final lengths around her waist and tie them under her belly. “Good – excellent flexibility there,” she said as she turned to Alice. “Now, your turn Miss Hawkins – hands behind your back please.”
In a remote farmhouse, Sarah was tossing and turning in her sleep. In her dreams, she was standing outside a barn that seemed familiar somehow, as if she had been in it before. It was getting dark, but she knew there were people inside, and she had to get to them.
Before she could reach the door, however, there was a loud explosion, and the barn burst into flames. She could hear the screaming now – and it was young voices she heard. Young girls, for whom there was no escape.
To the side she could see a woman standing in the shadows, and she could swear she heard her say “Goodbye, Miss Duncombe” before she turned and ran off. With a sinking feeling, Sara could see the car, the all too familiar car, and she screamed, she screamed...
“Sara? Sara, wake up!”
She opened her eyes to see Brian standing over her. Looking round, she saw she was in the front room of her house, but she could feel the cold sweat on her forehead and her hands.
“You were screaming,” Brian said as he looked at her. “Was it a dream?”
Sara nodded mutely. After a few minutes, she said “Please, don’t tell anyone, not yet – not until I know for certain what it means...”
Alice’s screams were muffled by the tape, but her feelings of helplessness were quite real as Miss Dunbar pulled her legs back, her heels touching her bottom as the teacher tied a length of rope from her ankles to the band around her chest. She was lying on a crash mat, Natalie beside her and shaking her head as she tried to force the tape away from her mouth.
“Now,” Miss Dunbar said as she looked at her two captives, “I am indeed impressed by your flexibility, but I am concerned that your focus is not 100% on the gymnastics. With that in mind, I have called your parents to come down, so that we may discuss this with them.” She walked back to her office, leaving the two girls to try and struggle free.
After a few minutes, the door opened, and the two girls tried to call out for help. There was no response, until a tall woman, with blonde hair tinged with grey, walked across the gym floor. The heels of her short brown leather boots clicked on the wood, as she came closer, and Natalie could see her blue jeans, her light grey sweater, and finally her face.
“Well now girls,” her grandmother said as she looked at them, “I was under the impression that magic club was Thursday night.”
She bent down and released the girls from the hogtie, Nats saying “Fnkgrn” as she stretched her legs out.
“Excuse me,” they heard Miss Dunbar say as she came in, “but by what right do you...” She stopped talking as Roberta turned and looked at her, before stammering “Mrs... Mrs Reid. Wh... Wha... What r...”
“What am I doing here,” Roberta said with a smile. “My daughter had a call from the school, saying my granddaughter’s physical education teacher wanted a word. I volunteered to come on behalf of both her and Mrs Hawkins to see what the problem was – and I believe I was correct to do so. My daughter would not have taken kindly to discovering this.”
Natalie and Alice were looking at each other now, before Natalie said “Uknnhr?”
“Indeed I do, dear,” Roberta said without batting an eyelid. “Elena was one of my students as a young girl – she also was very good at climbing and rhythmic gymnastics. But she did have a few discipline problems – I see that might still be the case.”
“I... I’m sorry, Mrs Reid, had I know that Natalie was your granddaughter, then...”
“Release them, Elena – now.”
The girls watched, dumbfounded as Miss Dunbar quickly untied them, and removed the tape from their mouths.
“Better,” Roberta said as she helped them to stand up. “Go and get changed, Girls – I will meet you at the car in a few minutes.”
“Sure thing, gran,” Natalie said as she walked to the changing rooms with Alice.
“What was that all about,” Alice said as they went to the shower. Natalie shook her head and said “Don’t ask me – yet.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were walking to the car when they saw Roberta standing waiting for them. “My apologies for that girls,” she said as they walked over, “I never taught her that as a coaching technique.”
“What is her problem,” Natalie said as she got into the car, “I have a good mind to speak to the principal about her.”
“All that would do,” Roberta said as she got in, “is get Chloe into trouble. I know we have given permission, but it would still be frowned upon in certain quarters.”
“But she attacked us,” Alice said bitterly, “and we need to show her that it is wrong!”
“Oh I agree,” Roberta said as they left the car park, “so I have decided that she should have a discussion with your mothers, on neutral territory, to discuss her concerns with Chloe present as well.”
“Oh yeah,” Natalie said with a grin, “and where is this neutral territory going to be?”
“Heather’s farm, of course,” Roberta said with a grin. “Now, I will drop you off Alice, and then take Natalie home. The meeting will be on Sunday.”
“Good,” Alice said as she folded her hands, “Just give me first chance on her...”
“No, I’m sorry Katherine – the girls are going to Coral’s place on Sunday, to give me a chance to sort some things out here. Thanks for the invitation, though.”
“Was that Nat’s mum,” Jannifer said as she looked up from the table.
“Yeah – she was inviting us to heather’s place on Sunday, but you can’t go. Coral is looking after you anyway, and she won’t have the car that day.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jannifer said as she went back to her homework, “Pity – I like it up there.”
Blossom smiled as she looked at her daughter, before she shivered.
“Are you all right, Mum?”
“Yeah – just a chill, I’m sure,” she said as she went back to the kitchen.
Anne Duncombe was reading a book in her apartment when the telephone rang.
“Duncombe.” She listened to the call, her face paling a little as she said “When? And they didn’t stop it?
“Dammit – find Sue and let her know. It’s urgent.” She put the phone down and sat for a moment, wondering what to do next...
“Heidi, are you ready to go yet?”
Cindy was standing at the bottom of the stairs, tapping her foot as she waited for her friend to come down from her bedroom. She was wearing a pair of comfortable trousers, her feet sitting in a pair of brown hiking boots with thick socks, and a woolly jumper over her upper body.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Heidi said as she ran down the stairs, pulling up the zip on her brown fleece as she did so. She had a pair of khaki shorts on, as well as hiking boots, and she smiled as she took the rucksack Amy was holding.
“It’s good of you two to volunteer to help with the junior hike today,” Dorothy said as she came in from the kitchen, and handed Cindy a second rucksack, “but make sure you’re back by dinner time tonight.”
“Oh come on Mum,” Cindy said quietly, “they’re a bunch of freshmen, and our Geography teacher is with us. How much trouble do you think we can get into?”
“You two? Where do you want me to start?”
“We’re out of here,” Heidi said as they opened the front door. “We’ll be back by six tonight, all right?”
Amy and Dorothy stood at the door and waved them off, before Dorothy suddenly shook.
“Hey – are you all right,” Amy said as she held her.
“Yeah – just a cold gust, I think,” Dorothy said. “Come on – let’s have breakfast, and then get ready for church.”
The path the girls took meant they passed the local McDonalds – and as they did so, they did not see the grey van that pulled out and followed them down the street...
Natalie came into the kitchen, dressed in the shorts and vest top she had slept in the night before, and sat next to her mother at the large wooden table. Her Aunt Heather was working at the range, while her grandmother was making some coffee.
Heather was dressed in her usual denim bib dungarees over a stained white t-shirt, while Katherine was wearing a white short sleeved blouse and a pair of jeans. As for Roberta, she was wearing a wrap round skirt over a lime green leotard, with her bare feet padding along the floor.
“Well, good morning sleepy head,” Roberta said as she turned round. “You slept like a log last night.”
“Must have been all the exercise we did last night,” Natalie said as she rubbed on her wrists. “So what is the game plan for today?”
“Well,” Heather said as she laid out four breakfast plates, “Margaret is going to drive Alice up here in an hour or so, and this phys ed teacher of yours will be here a half hour after that. Your mum,” she said as she looked at Katherine, “and Margaret will have a little chat with her while I get you two ready, and then we’ll see what happens after that.”
“I see – and what are we going to be doing while they’re talking?”
“You’ll see,” Roberta said as she cut into her bacon and put a piece into her mouth, “all you need to know for now is you and Alice need to show your finest gymnastic ability later this morning – so make sure you have a good breakfast.”
“Coral, I cannot thank you enough for agreeing to look after the girls today.”
Coral smiled as Jannifer and the twins made themselves comfortable on the seats in her front room.
“No problem, Blossom – I know you have a lot to sort out today. You go and have fun – the girls will be fine with me.”
Blossom looked at them, Jannifer in her white sweatshirt and jeans, the twins wearing matching denim skirts and blue t-shirts, and smiled. “All right then – I’ll leave them in your tender care. Just don’t let them get on top of you.”
“Don’t worry – I know what to do if that happens,” Coral said with a smile as she waved and then left the house. Coral looked at the three girls, and said “All right – who wants a drink.”
“Well this is a fine gathering,” Margaret said as she came into the kitchen, slipping off her shoes as she did so. Katherine and Heather were still sitting at the table, drinking coffee as she joined them.
“Nats is with her grandmother in the front room,” Katherine said to Alice. The young girl had slipped off her sneakers as she came in, and smiled as she ran through to the other room. Katherine accepted the coffee, and then said “So, what is this Elena Dunbar like?”
“According to Mum, she is a bit of a taskmaster,” Heather said as she sat down, “but she is a very good teacher. She also has a bit of an aversion to ropes – apparently she was one of a party of gymnasts that were kidnapped and held hostage by some madman.”
“Oh dear,” Katherine said as she put her cup down. “And we’ve invited her here – with Mum taking care of the girls...”
“Ah good Alice, I see you came prepared,” Roberta said as Alice came in. The young girl was wearing a black and yellow striped leotard over a blue body stocking, while Roberta had taken off her skirt and was stretching on the floor.
“Ready for a good workout,” Natalie said as she came in, dressed in her black leotard and red body stocking. “Gran has promised we’re going to stretch every muscle today.”
“That’s right,” Roberta said as she selected certain lengths of rope. “But gymnastics is as much about meditation as about technique, so for part of this morning you two are going to be given the chance to think in silence and peace.”
“Sounds fun – so what do we do first?”
“Hands behind your back girls, palm to palm.” As they did so, Roberta wrapped rope not around their wrists, but around their arms again, but this time she pulled gently as she brought their elbows together and tied the ropes off.
“Not so bad this time,” Nats said as she felt more rope around her wrists, and then heard the sound of a roll of medical tape been used as her hands were pressed together.
“Because you were ready,” Roberta said as she bound Alice’s wrists in the same way, and then secured her hands together. She then started to wrap rope around Alice’s arms and body, securing them tightly into her side as she wound it above and below her chest.
“Nats,” she said as Roberta tied the ropes off, and then started to bind her granddaughter in the same way, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“How do you feel when the ropes are tied like this? I mean, it feels – different to me now.”
“That’s because you’re growing up,” Roberta said as she tied the ropes off to secure Natalie’s arms. “It’s all right – but if you ever get to the point where you allow a boy to do that, you need to be very careful. Now, both of you, lie down on the exercise mats on the floor.”
As the girls lay on their backs, Roberta crossed and tied their ankles tightly together, wrapping the rope around and between their legs, before performing the same binding below their knees. She then rolled them over, before pulling their ankles back so that the back of their heels touched the bottoms, and then bound their ankles to the ropes around their chests.
“Now, do you think you two can hold that position for a few hours,” she said as she stood up.
“No problem,” Nats said as she wriggled her feet round. “So how are we going to be able to concentrate?”
“By not talking, for starters,” Roberta said as she took two sponges and compressed them in her hands. “Now then, open wide.”
“Talk to you later, Nats,” Alice said as she opened her mouth, allowing Roberta to push the sponge in. As she closed her lips, she felt the sponge expanding in her mouth, filling it as white tape was wrapped round her head to seal it in place. After Natalie had been given the same gag, Roberta took a pair of ear plugs, and placed them in her ears, before tying a folded black scarf over her eyes and ears.
“Your turn,” she said to Alice as she plugged her ears and then blindfolded her, before leaving the two girls to struggle on the floor as she returned to the kitchen.
“Ah, good morning Margaret,” she said as she joined the other three women at the table. “Natalie and Alice are going to be spending the morning relaxing together. So, what are you talking about?”
“We were telling Margaret about the incident with this new teacher.”
Roberta sat down and nodded. “Oh yes – the kidnapping. Bad business that – I had left the coaching staff by that point, or I would have been involved as well. They were held captive in some sort of mock dungeon for three days, before they were rescued by the authorities.”
“But who was behind it?”
“A man called Desmond O’Malley,” a voice said from the doorway. The four women turned to see Elena Dunbar standing there, wearing a red leather jacket over a grey sweater, jeans and trainers. She had a slightly pensive look on her face as she stared at the four women.
“Ah, there you are Elena,” Roberta said as she stood up, “Please come in, and for the sake of my daughter’s sanity, leave your shoes at the doorway. House rule.”
“Sure,” Elena said as she slipped her shoes off, and then her jacket.
“Allow me,” Heather said as she took the jacket. “I’m Heather, Nat’s aunt – this is Katherine, her mother, and Margaret, Alice’s mother. I think the two of you have a lot to talk about.”
“A pleasure,” Elena said as she sat down. “Look, before we talk, the business with the kidnapping – O’Malley was an obsessed fan of one of our competitors, and he thought holding us hostage would help them win.”
“No – they were disqualified when the kidnapping was made public. But – well, it’s not something I like to think about.”
“I can imagine,” Margaret said with a shudder, “I’ve been through a similar experience myself.”
“You have,” Elena said as she looked at Alice’s mother, “How?”
“I think that’s our cue to leave them to talk,” Heather said as she took her mother by the arm. “Come on – we’ll let them talk and then let them see the girls.”
As they walked out of the kitchen, and into the garden, Heather was surprised to see Chloe walk round the house, the soles of her boots crunching the grass underneath.
“Ah – good afternoon, Heather,” she said with a smile, “I understand you wished to see me this morning? Is there some more modelling work you wish me to perform?”
“Errr,” Heather said as she looked at the young French woman, “I didn’t ask you here today, Chloe?”
“No, I did,” Roberta said as she extended a hand to Chloe. “How do you do, Miss Badelaine? My name is Roberta Reid – I’m Heather’s mother?”
“Ah,” Chloe said as she shook her hand, “so you must be Natalie’s grandmother, no? It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Likewise,” Roberta said “Why don’t we sit here, in the garden, and I will explain why I asked you to come and visit us today...”
“So you see,” Katherine said as she looked across the table at the young teacher, “So long as they are with people we trust, and have given permission to, we have no problem with them playing these games.”
Elena looked at Katherine and Margaret, before saying “I guess I can understand why – but how many other friends are there?”
“You will have to ask them that for yourselves,” Margaret said with a smile, “but please, believe us when we say Chloe’s Thursday group is a way to make sure they do not get into trouble.”
“Did I hear my name,” Chloe said as she came in. “Bonjour, Mademoiselle Dunbar – I trust you are well this morning?”
“Good morning, Chloe,” Elena said with a smile, “I also need to apologise to you for my attitude the other day.”
“Think nothing of it,” Chloe said with a smile as she removed her boots. “Madame Roberta asked if I would take you to see the girls – she says they will not be in a position to respond, but you will see they are safe and well.”
“OF course,” Elena said as she accompanied Chloe out of the kitchen, while Roberta and Heather came in the door. “So, things talked out,” Heather said as she sat down.
“I think so, yes,” Margaret said with a smile. “What do you think she will...”
“OH....MY....GOD!” they heard Elena shout out, and the four women started laughing.
“I think that answers your question,” Katherine said as she stood up. “What do you say to all of us going out for lunch?”
“What, the girls as well?” Heather looked at her sister as she shook her head. “No – the older ones – I’m sure Chloe can stick around for a while.”
“Well, I can’t – I have something to finish off – but if Elena agrees, why don’t all four of you go.”
“Can you get that, Dorothy?”
Amy was washing the lunch plates up as Dorothy said “Hello? Yes, this is Cindy’s mother – how can I help you?
“Are you sure? She and Heidi left here in plenty of time – they should have arrived safely.”
Taking a dish towel and drying her hands, Amy walked into the hallway and looked at Dorothy. Her partner looked at her with worried eyes, before she said “No – I’ll call her and see what has happened. I’m sorry if there has been a problem.”
“What’s up?” Amy said as Dorothy replaced the receiver, then picked it up again and dialled a number.
“I’m not sure,” she said as she listened for a minute, then said “Cindy, it’s your mother. Call me when you get this message and tell me where you are. Miss Kirk wants to know why you didn’t turn up to the hike today.”
Replacing the phone, Dorothy looked at Amy and said “Do you think something’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” Amy said quietly, “try calling Coral’s place and see if she or Jannifer have heard anything.”
Dorothy nodded and picked up the phone again, dialling a number as they both waited.
“Well, their flexibility is not in question,” Elena said as she came back into the room, “Perhaps I need to join your class as well, Chloe?”
“You would be most welcome,” Chloe said with a smile.
“Listen, Chloe, do you mind sticking around for a while. I have some work to do in the barn, and the others are heading into town for a meal. There’s food there for you and the girls when you release them.”
“And how long should I give them,” Chloe said with a smile.
“Another couple of hours ought to be enough,” Katherine said as she put her coat and shoes on.
“Bien – enjoy your meal,” Chloe said as Elena, Margaret, Roberta and Katherine headed out of the door. “Are you sure you’re going to be all right,” Heather said as she pulled an old woollen cardigan over her top half.
“Of course I am – you must complete your work,” Chloe said, watching as Heather smiled and then headed for the barn. She then walked back to the room, and said “Well now, how shall we pass the time,” as she slowly started to tickle Natalie’s feet.
Sara sat up with a start from her sleep, and looked around the room. “The dream again,” Brian said as he came running in.
“Yes,” Sara said as she looked at her partner, “and this time, I know who I have to protect.”
“Who,” Brian said as he sat with her, only to look up as Anne Duncombe came into the room.
“Sara, I... Are you all right?”
“No,” Sara said quietly, “I am not all right. He’s out, isn’t he?”
“How did you... Oh no, who did you dream about?”
“You,” Sara said quietly, “and...”
“Come on – who else?”
Sara looked up at her, and said quietly “The girls.”
As soon as Dorothy stopped the car, Amy jumped out and ran up to the front door of the Blackwood house.
“Coral,” she said as she banged the door, “Are you in there?” To her growing horror, the door swung inwards, and she and Dorothy went in.
“What happened here,” Dorothy said quietly as they looked at the mess over Coral’s front room.
“More to the point,” Amy said quietly, “Where are Coral and the girls?”
“Now that was a lunch,” Elena said as Katherine drove back to the farmhouse. They passed a grey van going in the opposite direction, and then turned up the road that led to Heather’s place.
Stopping outside, they went in through the kitchen and called out “Chloe? Are you there?”
There was no answer, so as Katherine went to the front room Roberta made her way to the barn.
“That’s funny,” Katherine said when she came back in, “Nobody’s here.”
“Hey,” Heather said as she came back with her mother, “how was lunch?”
“Lunch was fine,” Katherine said, “But where are the girls?”
“Still in the front room as far as I know – why?”
“They’re not – and they’re not in the barn?”
As they looked at each other, Margaret’s cell phone went off.
“Hello? Jack, what’s wrong?”
She looked at the others, a growing look of horror on her face, before she said “I’ll be right back.” Ending the call, she looked at the others and said “There’s a problem – a big one. We need to go to Amy and Dorothy’s place – now.”
To be continued...