Heidi in the Old Country
“Hey – long time no see?”
“DAVE!!!! When did you get back?”
Heidi jumped up and flung her arms round the young man’s neck, giving him a huge kiss.
“Hey – I’ve missed you as well,” he said quietly as he looked into her eyes.
“You could have told me you were on your way back,” she said as she stroked her finger down his cheek.
“What, and spoiled the surprise? Where’s Cindy anyway?”
“Out with Karl,” Heidi said before she kissed him again. “I really wish you’d been around a few months ago.”
“So do I – but hopping on a plane here from Brisbane wasn’t exactly an easy option. When I heard, I almost did, but…”
“Hey – you at least called and talked to me, and you’re here now, that’s what matters.”
She took Dave by the hand and led him over to the bed, patting on it for him to sit next to her.
“I like the new house, though – and the fact your mum and Cindy’s mum are happy.”
“You missed a real party there,” Heidi said before they embraced each other, losing themselves in their kisses for the next half hour.
Eventually, they broke apart as Dave looked down at the albums on the bed.
“So are these some of the things I missed?”
“Some of the things everyone missed,” Heidi said with a smile, “We took these when we went over to the UK for a few weeks, to celebrate Mum and Dorothy’s commitment.”
Dave looked at the first photo. It showed Cindy, Heidi and Natalie standing with Amy, Dorothy and Veronica at the airport.
“The start of a great trip…”
“I can’t believe I’m finally getting to go to England.”
“Not just England,” Dorothy said as she looked at Cindy, “the whole of the country.”
The three girls were sitting in the departure lounge at the airport, waiting for their plane to board. Heidi and Cindy were wearing grey chinos and t-shirts, with white sneakers, while Natalie had on a light blue vest top and a long tiered skirt, her feet bare as her sandals sat on top of her carry no bag.
“Hey,” she’d said as they had gone through the security checks, “if they insist on me taking them off, I’m taking them off.”
“And we’re not going to stop you,” Veronica said as she sipped her white wine. It was early evening, and she was relaxing in a pair of jeans and a blue v-necked sweater. Amy and Dorothy were wearing sun dresses, yellow for Amy and green for Dorothy, both of which buttoned up the front with a wide belt around their waists.
“You do know it might be better if you get some sleep on the plane,” Amy said as she looked at Heidi.
“I didn’t manage it last year – what makes you think I’m going to manage it now?”
“I don’t think you are,” Dorothy said quietly, “but it would be nice if you…”
“That’s our flight,” Veronica said as she listened to the announcement. “All right girls – passports and boarding passes at the ready. Let’s go to the old country.”
They walked out of the lounge and the short distance to their gate, smiling as they went onto the 747 and settled in their seats.
“Don’t worry,” Heidi said to Cindy as the plane pulled back from the gate and began to taxi to the runway, “the worst bit is the waiting.”
“I’m not nervous,” Cindy said as the plane moved into position at the end of the runway. “I just want this to be over wiiiiiiitttthhhhhhh ohhhhhh shhhhhhhhhh………….”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Heathrow Airport, where the time is 7 am. We hope you enjoyed your flight with…”
“You can open your eyes now,” Natalie said as she looked at Cindy, “we’re on the ground.”
“Are we?” Cindy looked at her friends and said “Well, that was an interesting journey…”
“How is she,” Dorothy asked as she looked over the seat.
“I think the colour is returning to her cheeks,” Heidi said with a smile. “Come on – some fresh air will do you good.”
“And when do we get that?”
“Sooner than you might think,” Amy said as she retrieved her bag. “Come on – stretch those legs. You can sleep later, seeing as none of you slept on the plane.”
“We might need some help with that,” Natalie said as she stretched and yawned.
“Don’t worry – we came prepared,” Veronica said as she hoisted her shoulder bag. “Let’s go…”
Once they had cleared customs and the arrivals lounge, they went into the front area, where a man stood with a sign that said “STRONG/ELSWORTH PARTY.”
“That’s us,” Veronica said as she pushed the luggage trolley over, “thanks for meeting us.”
“My pleasure, m’am,” the driver said, “I have the minivan outside. Where to?”
“Lancaster Park Hotel,” Veronica said, “as swiftly as possible.”
“This is London, M’am – I will do my best.”
The drive into the city took some time, so that it was nearly ten by the time they arrived at the hotel.
“Good morning ladies,” the receptionist said as they walked in, “Who is the reservation under the name of?”
“Strong, Elsworth and Cabot – they were made by Lord Holderness?”
The receptionist looked at her screen, and nodded. “Indeed – one of the suites is ready, but the other two rooms will not be available for another hour.”
“Would it be possible to get into the suite now, and deposit our luggage with the porter? The younger girls need to get some rest.”
“Of course,” the receptionist said as she handed a pair of card keys to Veronica. “Room 748 – we can sort the rest later.”
“Thank you,” Veronica said as the six of them went to the lift, and found their room.
Or rather, suite of rooms – a main lounge had two bedrooms and a bathroom leading off from it.
“This will be your room, girls,” Amy said as she looked at them, “and now you need to get a few hours sleep.”
“But look at that sunlight – how are you…” Natalie stopped as she saw Veronica hold up three of the sleep masks they had been given on the plane, and Amy a roll of white tape.
“Oh,” Natalie said quietly, “Well, you did say you came prepared…”
Ten minutes later, Natalie was stretched out on the couch, while Amy and Cindy were on one of the beds. Their arms were folded behind their backs and taped wrist to elbow, and then along their forearms, while their legs were secured at the ankles, below the knees and their thighs. Strips of white tape covered their mouths as they snored gently, the sleep masks covering their eyes.
“Right then,” Amy said to Dorothy, “Why don’t we go for a walk in Kensington Gardens? Veronica?”
“You go,” her sister said with a smile, “I have some calls to make.”
“Typical,” Dave said with a smile as he hugged Heidi, “even when abroad, you lot get to play your games.”
“You have no idea,” Heidi said with a smile. “but we did get a good sleep, and we went out for a meal that night.”
She watched as Dave picked a length of rope up from the floor, and smiled at her. “Yeah – why not,” she said as she turned and put her wrists behind her back, looking over her shoulder as Dave tied them tightly together.
“So what else happened that week?”
“Not much for the first couple of days – then on the Wednesday we had a surprise visitor.”
“Girls – what are you up to?”
Heidi and Cindy looked at each other as they heard Veronica come into the suite, and then at Natalie, who wriggled her toes and nodded.
“They’ll be out in a minute Veronica,” Cindy said as she walked out and closed the bedroom door, looking at Veronica. She was wearing her favourite denim bib shorts over a white t-shirt, socks and trainers.
“That’s all right – we’re going to go out for lunch in a few minutes with someone, so you all need to be ready.”
“It’s a treat – in the lobby in fifteen minutes?”
“We’ll be there,” Cindy said as Veronica walked out. “You two hear that?”
“We did,” Natalie said as she came in, rubbing her wrists. “I guess I have enough time to wash this tape stuff off my mouth.”
She headed for the bathroom as Heidi put the coiled ropes safely into the bag. “Any idea who we’re having lunch with?”
“Nope – you heard the same as me.” Heidi was wearing a white sleeveless blouse with yellow leggings, and a pair of sandals, while Nats was wearing a long skirt and off the shoulder top.
“All right,” she said as she came in, “How do I look?”
“You may need your rope bracelets on,” Cindy said as she looked at the red marks on her ankles and wrists.
“Got it,” Natalie said as she went to the room, coming back a few minutes later with her sandals in her hands. The three girls headed down to the lobby, where they saw Amy, Dorothy and Veronica in their dresses, sitting with an older woman, who wore a grey jumper and cardigan with a knee length tweed skirt and a pair of brown shoes.
Heidi recognised her at once, and said “Lady Holderness – thank you for allowing us to take this trip.”
“Well, it was our pleasure – especially when we heard of the commitment your mothers have made to each other,” she said as she nodded at Amy and Dorothy. They held hands and smiled as she said “You all seem to have grown so much since the last time I saw you.”
“Lucinda has invited us to come to Holderness Manor on Saturday – apparently they are having a Summer Ball.”
“Indeed,” Lady Holderness said with a smile, “and we would love for all of you to attend.”
“A summer ball? Did we bring our prom dresses,” Natalie said as she looked at Veronica.
“We anticipated the possibility – I bought them in my things,” Veronica said with a smile. “We’d be delighted to attend.”
“Excellent – I’m afraid Mister Bridges is rather busy that day, but we’ll arrange for you to be picked up and brought back on the night. Shall we say six o’clock on Saturday?”
“Sounds great,” Heidi said, before Lady Holderness continued “Two things – none of the other family members know you are here, so if Alicia calls you, please say nothing.”
“I’m going to call her on Skype on Friday as usual, but we’ll keep it quiet. Anything else?”
“It’s Robert’s birthday – I leave that entirely at your discretion. For now, however, why don’t we take a little walk – I have a lunch table reserved for us at a place I know off Oxford Street.”
“Most of the rest of that week was a blur to me,” Heidi said as Dave finished tying her wrists together, and then gave her a little kiss on her lips. “We went to a show, visited a few famous places, things like that.”
“So what did you wear to the ball?”
“My mustard yellow gown,” she said as Dave tied her wrists against her back with rope around her waist…
Heidi looked at herself in the mirror, and twirled round, the skirt of her floor length gown rising as he did so.
“You look fantastic,” Cindy said as she came in, fixing a pair of earrings on as she looked in the mirror as well. Her gown was white, with a high collar and capped sleeves, her arms in a pair of white opera gloves. The skirt flowed out from the gathered waist and covered her feet.
“Well, so do you,” Heidi said.
“And Alicia doesn’t suspect a thing?”
“Nope – she told me some of the things that were planned, and wished I could be there. I think she’ll kill me when she sees me.”
“Right after Cassie kills me,” Cindy said with a smile. “Where’s Nats anyway?”
They both turned to see Natalie in her brown taffeta gown, the sleeves down to reveal her shoulders, and the skirt rustling as she moved.
“Think we’ll pass muster?”
“Of course we will,” Heidi said as Amy came in, wearing a grey sheath dress with a matching shrug.
“The car’s here,” she said as she looked at us, “let’s go.”
The party made their way down to the lobby, where Dorothy and Veronica were waiting. Dorothy, like Cindy, had on a white gown, but hers had a deep neckline and a skirt that spilt at the side. Veronica wore a royal blue dress, with a skirt that came below her knees, and a pair of black high heels.
“Shoes, Natalie,” she said as she looked at her.
“I’ve got them on, for now,” Natalie said as they made their way out to the waiting minivan, and set off for the manor house.
As they approached, they drove up the avenue that led to the front door, noticing the lit braziers as they did so. Stopping outside, the driver opened the door as Mister Bridges stepped out, dressed in a dinner jacket, white shirt, dark trousers and a black bow tie.
“Thank you for coming,” he said as he escorted the party to the front door, “Lord and Lady Holderness would have met you in person, but they and the family are otherwise engaged. If you would come with me, you are just in time to witness the first dance.”
He led them into the house, through the corridor and the dining room, and out along a carpet to a large marquee. As they came in, they saw the couples waltzing round the dance floor.
“Is that Alicia,” Cindy said as she passed by.
“It is – and who is that with her,” Heidi whispered back as she looked at the tall dark haired boy dancing with her.
“There’s Jenny and Cassie, with Colin and Bobby,” Natalie said, as photos were taken from the side.
Eventually, the music stopped as everyone applauded, and Mister Bridges said “The buffet table is over there, if you would care to make use of it.”
“I would, I’m starving,” Cindy said, and the three girls made their way over, helping themselves to a plate of food as others came over.
Eventually Bobby Holderness and Colin Hampton came to the buffet, as a couple of younger children ran from the table they were at. Heidi sneaked up behind them, as they talked about something Bobby’s grandparents had organized for later in the evening. She waited for the right moment, and then said “I can believe it - your English manners can be so disarming at times.”
turned round, Colin looking over his shoulder as they both looked at her,
standing there with her hands together in front of her.
“Heidi? I didn’t know you were coming?” He then looked again and said “Actually, I didn’t even know you were in the country!”
“That’s kind of the point,” she said with a smile, “Where’s Alicia?”
“Sitting over there, talking to the nervous looking guy in the dinner jacket,” Colin said as he looked at a table on the other side of the floor. “Are you the only one here?”
“Nope,” Cindy said as she appeared at Colin’s side, “and our mums are here as well. So are Veronica and Natalie.”
“And the others don’t know?”
“You didn’t know, did you?”
“She has a point,” Colin said with a smile, “Give us a minute and then come over.”
Heidi and Cindy watched as the two boys walked over and stood behind Cassie and Jenny. Bobby said to the tall boy beside Alicia ““Martin, can you help us with something?”
“Sure,” Martin said as he stood up, “What is it?”
“We need to cover the eyes of the girls for a moment - will you take care of Alicia for us?”
“Why,” Cassie said as she looked at Bobby.
“You’ll see,” he said as he placed his hands over Cassie’s eyes, and Colin did the same for Jenny. As Martin stopped Alicia from seeing, Bobby nodded towards the girls, Natalie having joined them.
They slowly walked over and quickly replaced the boys in covering the eyes of the three girls. “Hey, what’s happening,” Cassie said as she realised the hands covering her eyes were now gloved. “Bobby?”
“Nope,” Cindy said from behind her, “guess who?”
“You have got to be...” Alicia jumped out of her seat and turned round almost knocking Heidi over as she hugged her, while Natalie stood in her brown taffeta gown behind Jenny. “What are you doing here?”
“Long story,” Heidi said, “Want to come and hear it?”
Alicia looked at Martin, before saying “Don’t go anywhere” and going off with the Blonde American, Jenny and Cassie following with Cindy and Natalie.
“All right, girlfriend,” Alicia said as they stood outside the tent, “What exactly is going on here? When I spoke to you the other day, you didn’t tell me you were coming over!”
“Actually,” Heidi said as she rubbed the back of her neck, “it’s more than that. We’ve been here all week – surprised?”
“Shocked,” Cassie said “But what are you doing over here?”
“It was a gift to our mums,” Cindy said as she looked at Heidi, “They kind of made a commitment to each other recently, and one of their gifts was to come over for a few weeks.”
“Dammit – and we’re going on holiday Monday,” Jenny said as she looked at her three friends. “Still, we can have some fun tonight – what do you think of the place?”
“It scrubs up well,” Heidi said as she looked round, “and talking of a change – who’s tall, dark and bashful?”
“Hmmm – oh you mean Martin,” Alicia said, and Heidi was pleased to see her friend blush. “We know each other from school, and…”
“Matchmaker Bobby brought them together!”
“SUZIE!” Cindy picked up the younger girl and gave her a huge hug before setting her down again. “Surprise!”
“At least – come on you lot, let’s dance!”
The girls went back into the tent, where they saw Bobby dancing with a dark haired girl.
“That’s Mary, right,” Cindy said as she stood with Cassie.
“Yup – and over there is my cousin Patty. She just moved down to the area – she reminds me of me a bit.”
“That’s worrying,” Cindy said with a straight face, as Cassie burst out laughing. “Come on,” she said as she saw Natalie and Heidi dancing with some others, “let’s dance…”
An hour or so later, Lady Holderness came over to where the three girls were sitting with their mothers.
“Enjoying yourselves so far?”
“Yes, thank you Lucinda,” Amy said with a smile, “I was wondering where the others had gone though.”
“Ah – that was what I was coming over for. Would you care to come with me? There is a smaller private family function that I would like you all to attend.”
“A private function? Sounds intriguing?”
“It was in a way,” Heidi said as she rested her head on Dave’s chest. “We were shown into one of the bedrooms where their housekeeper, Mrs Bridges, was waiting. Mary and Cathy, Alicia’s friends, were also there, as were three friends of Cassie’s – Pippa, Hazel and Claire.
“The Holderness Family have their traditions and idiosyncrasies, like any other modern family, and one was that while this was a big public occasion, they had a private event for family and friends – another dance. Only this time, the female partners were bound and gagged.”
“I see – and the rest of you?”
“Mrs Bridges asked if we would help secure the three younger ones, while she took care of Mary and Cathy, so we crossed and tied their gloved wrists together behind their back, tied them then to their back with rope around their waist, and then tied their arms to their sides at their stomachs and around their shoulders. We then used a folded cloth, a knotted strip of towel, and medical tape to gag them, before we got the same treatment.
“We then went into a larger room, where all our mothers and all their mothers and fathers were sitting around a square wooden floor, and invited to stand at the back…”
The door opened, and Heidi watched as one by one the others were escorted in by their partners, Bobby holding Cassie, Colin Jenny, Martin Alicia, and so on. She looked particularly at the tall man with Angela, and glanced over to Mary.
She nodded as they looked at their friends. All of them were bound as they were, but they each had a matching silk scarf tied in a folded band over their mouths, the material the same colour as their dresses.
Lord Holderness stood up and welcomed everyone, before the music started, the partners took the girls, and they waltzed round the room, their skirts rising as they stepped as gracefully as they could around the square, the parents clapping and cheering.
After the first dance, Bobby, Colin and Martin came over and took Natalie, Cindy and Heidi by the arm, guiding them into the centre as the other partners came and brought the younger girls in. Mary’s brother escorted her, while Cathy was brought on by Jenny’s dad.
The music started again, and this time they were waltzed round. They had seen the others dancing, so they did as they had done, Natalie’s bare feet now clearly visible as Veronica just shook her head.
Then the mother’s were made to dance, as the others gathered at the side of the room and giggled. “Thank you all,” Lord Holderness said as he came over, “Now, if you wish, you may stay here or…”
“Fnkss – llst,” Heidi said quietly as they sat with the others, watching the party. Over the next few minutes, Patty and the other younger girls got restless and walked off, disappearing into the house before Martin and Colin came over.
“We’d like to ask you three to come up to the playroom with us,” Colin said quietly, “the others will join us shortly.”
“Whtssggnthpn,” Cindy said as they were escorted out of the room and up the stairs.
“You’ll see,” Colin said as he opened the door, and they walked in to find the others waiting. Suzie, Cassie, Alicia and Jenny soon came with Bobby.
"I need you all to take a seat,” Bobby said as he closed the door, “we’re going to secure your ankles, and then, well, you know what you can do.”
They all nodded as they sat down, the skirts of their dresses rising to reveal the selection of satin shoes and slippers they were wearing - all except Natalie, whose feet were bare.
“Smfngnvrchnj,” Alicia said as she looked at Natalie, who nodded while Bobby passed the boys several lengths of rope, before kneeling in front of Cassie.
They bound the ankles and legs of the girls rightly together, folding the skirts of their dresses back just enough to allow them to wrap the rope below their knees, before they were helped to stand up, the skirts falling and covering their feet again.
Once all the girls had their ankles and legs secured, Bobby opened the door to the playroom and said “Well, you’ve wanted to do it all night - on you go.”
Jenny and Alicia took the lead, hopping across the floor as Heidi, Cindy and Natalie followed suit, their skirts rising and falling as they did so and the sound of rustling silks and taffeta coming over clear and strong.
Mary and Cathy followed them out, as Suzie and Cassie started to hop around the room with Patty, Brian and Tommy trying to catch up with them. Colin and Bobby laughed as they stood to watch, while the other girls jumped up and down the corridor, laughing and giggling to each other as they did so.
“We stood and watched the party from upstairs, and then had to follow the kids down in case they hurt themselves. After that, we had to leave, so we were untied and driven back to the hotel. I think it was nearly ten the next day when we woke up – ooh that’s nice.”
“Thank you,” Dave said as he wrapped the rope around Heidi’s arms, pulling them firmly against her sides, “So when you woke up, did you spend that day in London?”
“In a way – we had tickets to a show that afternoon, and the next day after that we were due to drive up to Manchester. Before we did, however, we dropped in at Holderness Manor for lunch – and stayed a bit longer…”
“Welcome,” Lady Holderness said as Heidi and Amy walked into the front lobby. Both were wearing sweatshirts, jeans and sneakers. Behind them came Dorothy and Cindy – Cindy was wearing a blue pinafore dress over a white blouse, white socks and black shoes, while Dorothy was wearing a grey jumper and slacks.
Finally came Veronica and Natalie, Veronica in a knee length tweed skirt ad white jumper, while Natalie wore a long tiered skirt and sleeveless top. Her feet were bare, and it was possible to see the rope bracelets on her ankles.
“Thanks for inviting us,” Amy said, “so have things calmed down since the ball?”
“They have just about returned to normal,” Lady Holderness said with a smile, “Why don’t you come through?”
As they walked into the dining room, Heidi was delighted to see Alicia there with her mother, and Suzie with hers. “Hey,” Alicia said as they hugged, “I hope you don’t mind us dropping in and joining you for lunch.”
“Why on earth would I mind,” Heidi said as they sat down and Mrs Bridges served the meal.
“So where are you going today,” Alicia’s mother said as they ate their soup.
“Manchester – Veronica wants to have a look at the Lowry museum. Then we’re heading up to the Lake District from there, a few days in Scotland, then head back down and fly home.”
“Well, it sounds like a fun trip,” Suzie said with a smile. “The drive up to Manchester can be fun as well – just do yourself a favour around Birmingham. Pay for the toll road.”
“You have a toll road?”
“Only there,” Lady Holderness said, “but what Suzie is saying is that if you do not, you will almost certainly be caught in the second worst traffic jam in the United Kingdom.”
“Lucinda,” Amy said, “while we are here, we wondered if we may visit the island. I feel it is important that I do that today.”
“Of course,” Lady Holderness said, “Perhaps we can all go.”
“Can we do a quiet walk,” Suzie said as she looked at her mother.
“Quiet walk? Why do I get the feeling it involves not being able to talk or walk very quickly?”
“Experience,” Cindy said as she looked at Natalie, before Lady Holderness said “If all of them are willing to do so, then yes.”
“Why not,” Heidi said, “Can’t be any worse than the time at your aunt’s place Natalie.”
“Hey, nothing wrong with Aunt Heather’s farm,” Natalie retorted, but they all nodded in agreement.
“Good – when we have finished, if Suzie will fetch what we need, we can take it from there.”
“All right then,” Alicia said as she picked up a length of rope, “We’ll get you three ready, and then Mum will take care of us.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Natalie said, “let’s do this bare foot.”
“Can we do that?”
Suzie thought for a moment, and then said “Sure – there’s no stone parts on the path.” She sat down and removed her own shoes and socks, before starting to bind Cindy’s crossed wrists together behind her back, making sure they were tightly held together before securing them to her body with some rope around her waist.
“Just like the other night,” Heidi said as Alicia took care of her, then Natalie.
“Not quite – you need to be able to walk after all,” she said as she secured the arms of the two girls to their sides, and then sat them both down. She used a length of rope to secure Heidi’s legs together below her knees, leaving a length of a few inches between them, and then folded Cindy’s skirt back to do the same to her.
As Suzie took care of Natalie, Alicia then walked to a box and removed three scarves, three strips of towelling and a roll of white micropore tape.
“Open wide,” she said, and one by one she pushed the folded scarves into their mouths, before using a strip of towelling to keep it in place, their lips closing over it before Suzie wound the tape tightly round their heads.
“All done,” Alicia said as their mothers came in, and she and Suzie were similarly bound and gagged by their mothers.
“If you are ready,” Lady Holderness said, and as the girls nodded they walked down the rear lawn towards the path through the trees. The girls were trying to talk to each other, but as they went under the shade of the overhanging branches, and the feeling under their feet changed from smoothly mown to slightly longer grass, they fell into silence and concentrated on the sounds in the woods around them.
As Heidi looked round, she saw squirrels scuttling along the branches, and the scent of wild garlic and flowers permeated her nostrils. As she looked at Cindy, she saw she was enjoying the time as well, until Natalie stopped and looked in a clearing between some of the trees.
A female fox was walking along, followed by three cubs, and had not noticed them at all. The five girls stopped and watched as they slowly walked along, the three cubs playing with each other until the mother turned and looked directly at them. They stood still and quiet, hardly daring to breathe through their noses until the mother turned and led her cubs back into the trees.
Heidi almost jumped out of her skin as Amy touched her shoulder, and indicated they should re-join the party, passing the simple white cross and then coming out into the dell with the lake by the side.
Mister Bridges was waiting with a launch, which they all climbed into and moved across the lake in. It was remarkable still and quiet as they went to the island, Mister Bridges tying the launch to a mooring post before he helped them to get out.
Amy, Dorothy and Veronica followed Lady Holderness to the side of a white mausoleum, the girls following behind them. As they approached a simple white cross, Amy knelt down and touched the ground in front of it, saying a few quiet words.
“What did she say?”
“I asked her later, after we got to Manchester,” Heidi said. “She told me she was saying thank you for everything.”
“Now why would your mother say that?”
“I had no real idea at the time – but after the kidnapping, and what we saw of Sarah there, I think I understand a little better now. She’s actually a relation of the Holderness family, and – well, let’s just say they have some very unusual legends.”
She fell silent for a few minutes, Dave saying nothing before she shook her head. “Anyway, we went back over and spent the afternoon on the grass on the other side, either just sitting and enjoying the sunshine or else running around seeing who could move the fastest.
“We had to leave eventually, but as we did…”
“mmm,” Natalie said as she looked at Veronica when they gathered in the hall, “Cnswwstlkths?”
“You want to drive from here to Manchester bound and gagged?”
Natalie looked at Heidi and Cindy, before the three of them nodded.
“What if you need a toilet break?”
“Wwwnt,” Heidi said quietly.
“All right – we need to get going, Lucinda. Thanks once again for having us. Will you be going on holiday?”
“Not as such – we go to a county show tomorrow, where we have some farms. After that, there is much to do here over the summer. Until the next time?”
Lucinda hugged each of the three older women, and watched as they helped Heidi, Cindy and Natalie to sit in the car, strapping them in before they boarded and Veronica drove off.
“Thank god they have an underground car park,” Dorothy said as she pulled into the empty space. “We need to release you two before we head to the reception.”
“They were right about the toll road though,” Amy said as she opened the side door and climbed in, “it did save a lot of time. Sit still while I untie your arms, Heidi.”
It took a few minutes to free all three of them, before they went to the reception and checked in. As the three girls went into their room, Amy said “We’ll have dinner here today – and then bed. Busy day tomorrow.”
The next day found the girls and their mothers walking down the Salford Quays, coats open as they enjoyed the cool summer air.
“I like this place,” Natalie said as she looked round, “it reminds me a lot of home.”
“Except its greyer,” Cindy said as she looked at the river. “So where is this art gallery, Mum?”
“Right there,” she said as she pointed to a redbrick building at the side of the park. “Lowry was a true genius, and I think you will enjoy seeing his works in the town he grew up and worked in.”
The six of them walked in, emerging two hours later as Amy looked at Dorothy.
“Did you know that about him?”
“Nope,” Dorothy said as she shook her head, “bit of a randy old devil, wasn’t he?”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Veronica said as she shook her head.
“By the way, mum,” Heidi said, “do you mind if the three of us go out to the cinema tonight – on our own?”
“Oh – to see what?”
“Just a film…”
“And what are us poor oldies going to be doing while you three go out on the town?”
“Funny you should ask that,” Natalie said, “we have an idea…”
“Well, that was good,” Amy said as they returned to their hotel room, “So when are you girls going out?”
“In a little while, why don’t you three get changed before we go?”
Amy and Dorothy looked at each other, guessing what was coming as Veronica slipped into the adjoining room to change. She returned a few minutes later, wearing a pair of light blue silk pyjamas, while Amy had put on a long nightdress with thin shoulder straps, and Dorothy a pair of shorts with a short sleeved top made of cream silk.
“Want to pick something to watch,” Natalie said as Heidi and Cindy started to bind the adult’s wrists behind their back with rope.
As Veronica had hers secured, Amy looked down at the television guide, and said “Hmmm – they’re showing Chicago on one of the film channels. What do you girls say to that?”
“Jazz hands might be a little difficult,” Dorothy said as she looked over her shoulder, waving her palms as Cindy tied them to her back with rope around her waist.
“Still, that sounds good,” Dorothy said as Natalie wound rope around her arms and chest, before tying it off behind her and securing her wrists to that band as well.
“Sit down then,” Amy said, “and we’ll get it set up for you.”
“And I presume we will be unable to speak while this film is going on,” Dorothy said as she watched Cindy tie her ankles and legs.
“You presume correctly – we’ll drop in before we head to bed, and we’ll leave a pair of scissors where one of you can use them.”
“I guess that’s thoughtful – oh boy, have you rinsed them out,” Veronica said as Natalie brought out three damp flannels.
“Yes I have,” she said with a wide grin, “open wide now.”
The three others accepted the flannels in their mouths, and then the pillowcases which were folded and tied over their mouths, before they settled down to watch the film start.
It was nearly midnight when Heidi and Cindy quietly opened the door to their mother’s suite and looked in. Amy and Dorothy were lying on the bed, while Veronica was stretched out on the couch. All three were snoring gently.
“It was an interesting place,” Heidi said as she watched Dave bind her crossed ankles together, “but the next stop was when things really got interesting.
“Before we left Manchester, we got a call from John Craig – Jenny’s dad – to say he had heard from Lady Holderness we were planning to stay in the Lake District for a few days, in a town called Bowness. After the ball, Jenny and her family had set off on a two week road trip round the country, and Lady Holderness knew we were staying in Bowness for a few days, so she had suggested to him that the girls get together while their paths crossed.
“Well, I for one was all for it, and so were the others, so we arrived in Bowness later that night, settled in, and the next morning we made our way down to the marina opposite the hotel…”
“My goodness, that is a big lake,” Veronica said as she looked out of the bedroom window over Lake Windermere.
“Well, we’re going to spend the day on it,” Natalie said as she looked out, “at least it’s staying dry.” She tugged on the sleeves of her top under the sleeveless blouse, and then stood up, her gypsy skirt falling to her bare ankles.
Veronica had on a pair of jeans and deck shoes with a striped jumper, a sleeveless jerkin over the top. “Come on,” she said, “we need to get going or we’ll spoil the surprise.”
The two of them walked down the stairs to the lobby, where the others were waiting. Cindy had on a white sweatshirt and jeans, while Heidi wore a white blouse, jeans and baseball boots. Amy and Dorothy had on jumpers and leggings, with short boots.
“Put something on your feet until we get on the boot, Nats,” Heidi said, Natalie groaning as she slipped her sandals on and Veronica picked up the basket the hotel had delivered for her earlier.
“Let’s go,” she said as the group left the hotel, crossed the road and then spoke to a man by a locked gate, who opened it and allowed all six to walk along until they found a barge named Spirit of Windermere. A tall, grey haired man was checking the ropes that held it fast to the wooden pier.
The man stood up and turned round, smiling as he said “You’ll be the American guests I was told to expect. The Craigs have not arrived yet, but come on board – I’m expecting them any minute now.”
“Thank you,” Dorothy said as he helped them one by one to climb onto the boat, and they made their way inside the long cabin, looking out of the other side onto the lake.
“Oh my, this is breathtaking,” Amy said as she looked out over the water.
“That it is,” Mister Pickering said as he came and stood with them. “Your first time in this part of the country?”
They all nodded as he said “Well, just past that island over there is where we are heading today, and then…”
“Ahoy on Board!”
“Excuse me,” he said as he turned and left the cabin, the others looking over as they heard some talking outside. A few minutes later, there was the sound of more people climbing on board, and Cindy turned to see a young girl, slightly smaller than her, wearing a blue t-shirt and shorts.
“Ahoy Cassie – Surprise,” she said as she ran up and embraced Cassie Craig. Jenny came after her, wearing a green short sleeved blouse and knee length pants, and she hugged Heidi and Natalie as they came over. A smaller girl, in a white frilled top and denim shorts, stood with her mother as Jenny’s Mum and Dad brought the twins in.
“Glad you could join us,” Mrs Craig said as she hugged Amy, Dorothy and Veronica, “When Lucinda said you would be here, it gave us the chance to catch up more than we could at the ball.”
“Our pleasure,” Amy said, “You look well - you all do. It’s a pity we’ve only got today and tomorrow, but let’s make the most of it.”
“Yeah, let’s” Jenny said as she looked at Cassie, while Patty was looking at the man in charge.
“My name’s Pickering too - are we related?”
He smiled and said “No, I don’t think so - so you’re the only other man on this trip, Mister Craig?”
“Looks that way - you need to introduce Patty properly Poppet.”
Cassie blushed as she said “Sorry - Heidi, Natalie, Cindy, this is my cousin Patricia Pickering. Patty, this is Heidi Craig, Cindy Elsworth and Natalie Jenkins, my very special friends from America.”
“Oh yeah - I saw you at the big dance, tied up when we were waltzed round. Why didn’t you dance?”
“We didn’t have a partner to dance with,” Cindy said with a smile. “So you’re Cassie and Jenny’s cousin? I can see the resemblance.”
“Yeah, but I’m the cute one,” Patty said as she looked at them.
“I hear your families are living together now,” Jenny said to Heidi, “So I guess a way you’re all related now.”
“It takes a little getting used to,” Cindy said as Mister Craig was talking to the man, “but the new house is great. We had a huge housewarming party just before we came over - invited everyone over, and got Anne and Sue to help set things up.”
“Let me guess - invitation in ropes and gags.”
“Yeah,” Natalie said as she rubbed her neck. “Funny thing was, it was someone who was a complete stranger who collected me and Mum - a friend of Anne’s called Sarah and her husband. Nice couple.”
Jenny looked at Natalie for a moment, before Mister Pickering said “All right ladies - and Mister Craig - a little talk before we get going.”
The girls sat and listened to the safety talk, putting on their life jackets while Jenny’s mum put the twins into a portable play pen. As the boat pulled away from the jetty, Cindy walked up to Cassie and said “So, what’s this I read in a magazine - are you and young Holderness an item?”
As she and Heidi talked to the young girl, Natalie went over and sat next to Jenny, who was looking out of the window.
“Hey,” she said as she sat down, “everything all right?”
“Hmmm – well, kinda,” Jenny said quietly. “Let’s just say I’m growing up.”
“OH,” Natalie said as she looked at her friend. “First time?”
“Only to some of us,” Natalie said as she looked over at the others. “Welcome to adulthood – don’t worry, it will get better.”
“You sure about that?”
“Hey – it’s the curse we bear. But look at it this way – we’re stronger for it. Colin would probably run a mile if he knew what we really went through.”
Jenny looked at Natalie, before she burst out laughing, making the others look round.
“How old are they now,” Amy said as she picked David up and sat her on her knee, Dorothy doing the same to June.
“About three months,” their father said as Jenny and Natalie went over to join the others.
“What are they laughing about,” Veronica said as she looked over.
“Probably this bet they have on,” Patty’s mother said. “They have this bet going on, that when they go out in public they have to be tied and gagged.”
“Intruging – but not today?”
“Not while they are on this boat,” their father said. “When we get to the lunch spot, we’ll see.”
“Your dad’s a sensible man,” Natalie said when she heard the news from Jenny, “Mum told me a story once.
“She and my Aunt Heather were taken out by a school friend on a boat at Portland Maine. They took a small yacht out a few miles, and anchored while their dad and their friend’s dad had a couple of beers.
“Well, while they were up on deck, the three of them were below deck. This would have been in the late eighties, because Mum told me their friend was wearing a pair of white denim short jeans, a sweatshirt and a blue bandana over her hair. Both of them had on shorts and t-shirts.
“So, this friend challenged them to a tie-up game, not knowing they were both very well practised - most forces families are, if truth be told. So they used some lengths of boat rope, tied her wrists tightly together behind her back, her ankles, and her legs below her knees, and then used her bandana to gag her.”
“That doesn’t sound like much,” Patty said as she came over, “I could get out of that easily.”
“Could she,” Cindy said as she looked at Cassie with her eyebrows raised.
“Possibly - we need to test that some time,” she said with a smile. “So what happened?”
“Well, they were playing in the room, their captive hopping behind them, when a sudden swell hit the boat.”
“A nice guy swam into it?”
Patty then said “What?” as the three of them burst out laughing. “A swell is a bigger wave than usual,” Heidi said, “which would have made the boat rock, right?”
“Right - Mum and Aunt Heather managed to steady themselves, but their friend fell forwards and hit her head on the side of a wooden bed. Gave them quite a fright - but not as much of a fright as when their father came down to see what the noise was.”
“Your granddad did not like them playing those games?”
“He had no problem with them - but he also said not to play them outside the house, and when he saw the bruise on their friend’s head he said he would deal with them later. They untied her, made sure she was all right, and then they went on deck, telling her father she had slipped and hit her head.”
The girls sat there in silence, until Cindy said “How did he punish them?”
“Grounded them for a week, took away their television privileges, and made them spend the next Saturday morning hogtied and tightly gagged in the back of his car as he drove round.”
“That sounds fun,” Patty said.
“You would not say that - he was a former Gunnery Sergeant, and knew what he was doing,” Natalie said as Mister Craig came over.
“Why don’t you go outside for a minute - it’s quite a view.”
“We all went out and sat on a bench that ran outside, a strip of wooden floor between us and the boat side. The sun was beating down on us as the boat moved slowly over the water, and we saw the other boats passing as well as the hills rising up the other side.”
“That must have been some sight,” David said as he tied Heidi’s legs together, and then cuddled her again, looking at the photos on her laptop.
“We talked about what we had done, and where we were going, until we arrived at a small island in the middle of the lake. Jenny’s dad had said we would have lunch on there, and after that there was the possibility of doing something.
“Cindy had a long chat with Cassie as well, explaining what had happened with our mothers.”
“She’s a smart kid.”
“Yeah – I know. Anyway, I said I would stay with Jenny if the others wanted to explore the island…”
Leaving the boat behind, the girls carried the picnic baskets with them while the mothers brought the twins and some blankets. Finding a sheltered spot from the slight wind, the blankets were laid out, the baskets opened, and everyone sat down to eat and talk.
“So when do you go back to school,” Heidi said to Jenny as they sat together.
“Couple of weeks,” Jenny said as she swallowed a piece of pie. “I wonder who my teachers are going to be this term - hopefully most of them will be the same.”
“Well, I know one new teacher you’ll be getting - your chemistry teacher,” her mum said with a smile. “Jo Frost is coming back to teach at your school.”
Cassie looked up as she said this, before saying “I thought...”
“Don’t worry,” her father said quietly, “She really is coming back as a teacher this time.”
“She’s been spending a lot of time at Aunt Cassie’s house recently - has she been spilling some of Jenny’s secrets?”
“Oooo,” Patty said as she took a drink, “has she been telling her all about Jenny and Colin?”
“Patty...” Jenny said in a low growl, but Heidi watched as Jenny’s parents looked at each other. Her father then took her off to one side.
“What’s going on,” Heidi said to Jenny.
“They haven’t told her about Aunt Cassie and Jo yet,” she whispered.
“Oh – I heard Mom and Dorothy talk about that. How come?”
“She is still a kid,” Jenny said as they walked back.
Eventually, Mrs Craig said “I think it’s time to feed the twins. John, can you take the girls off somewhere?”
“If it’s all the same to you, Mum,” Jenny said “Heidi and I are going to stay here. Dad, can you fix our wrist and ankles before you go?”
Mister Craig taped their wrists together in front of them, and then their ankles, before the rest of the girls went off with Veronica, Dorothy and Amy.
“That’s better,” Patty’s mum said as she lay back, while Mrs Craig put David close to her chest. “How are you feeling, Jenny?”
“Better now,” Jenny said quietly, “thanks for being so understanding.”
“It happens to all of us,” Heidi said as she nudged her friend. “All part of the wonderful world of growing up.”
The two girls lay back and watched the clouds go by, listening to the laughter from the other side of the hill while Mrs Craig fed the twins, and talked to Mrs Pickering.
After a while, Amy and Mrs Pickering started to pack up the picnic while Jenny’s mum played with the wins. Jenny and Heidi looked over as the others returned.
“Well now,” Mister Craig said as he cut Jenny and Heidi free, “Ready to head back to shore?”
“Are we going back the same way,” Heidi said as she stood up and brushed her legs down.
“Nope - the captain is going to take us back the long way,” Dad said with a smile, as we helped to carry the baskets back towards the boat.
“Enjoy your picnic?” the captain said as we came back on board, and we all nodded as we put back on the life jackets and he steered the boat back onto the water.
As the girls and parents sat in small groups, Heidi nudged Jenny again and said “the others say we’re coming over with you tomorrow to play some sort of dress up game. Sounds intriguing.”
“Should be fun,” Jenny said as they sailed back over the water to the marina…
As Veronica pulled into the campsite, Cindy could see the caravan with the tent pitched beside it, and Patty’s mother walking to the shop.
“Why do people find camping so interesting,” Cindy said as Veronica parked the car. The three girls had put on shorts and t-shirts, Heidi and Cindy wearing flip flops while Natalie had a rope bracelet round her ankle – and nothing on her feet. Heidi and Cindy’s mums were wearing blouses and slacks, while Veronica had on a light blue summer dress.
As they got out of the car, Mrs Pickering said “Good morning – why don’t you three go to the caravan? I could use some help picking up supplies if you don’t mind?”
The three girls ran to the caravan, while their mothers headed towards the shop…
“Good morning,” Heidi said as she looked in at the door, “We saw your aunt at the shop, and she said to come right up. She also said she’s going to pick up some fresh pastries. Our mums are coming with her.”
“So long as you can forgive us being in a state of slight disarray,” Mister Craig said as he stood up. “There’s cereal on the table, and I’ll get some more spoons.”
“Do you mind if we sit on the couches to eat, Mum,” Cassie said as Mrs Craig finished releasing Patty, and she ran to the toilet. “It will give you more room at the table.”
“Good idea, Cassie,” Mrs Craig said, so the girls grabbed some cereal in a bowl, put some milk in and sat on the brown couches.
“So,” Cindy said as she swallowed a mouthful of Rice Crispies, “What’s the game plan for today?”
“Well,” Jenny said, “I think we can play a game of Girl Detectives. Like we said yesterday, we have a lot of Granny’s old clothes, so we could dress up - you lot could pretend to be Nancy Drew and her friends, and we can be the prim and proper English schoolgirls.”
“Aw, that’s no fun,” Patty said quietly, “I’m not prim and proper.”
“True,” Cindy said, “but Nancy and her friends had a very real habit of being held hostage by the bad guys. I’m sure if we snoop enough, we can find some bad guys.”
Mrs Pickering came in with Amy, Dorothy and Veronica, putting some freshly baked croissants on the table as Mr Craig started to make some coffee.
“Hang on,” Natalie said as she looked at Cassie, “Does this mean I have to wear - heels?”
“We’ll let you go barefoot for once,” Cindy said as she poked her friend, “but just this once. So where are these clothes?”
“Mum,” I called over, “can we go and get changed?”
David laughed and shook his head. “I’m trying to imaging you three looking like classic Nancy drew,” he eventually said. He then realised his mistake as he saw Heidi staring at him.
“Sorry – I’m sure you looked wonderful.”
“Of course we did – here,” she said as she indicated a photograph. Cindy was wearing a short sleeved yellow dress, with a small Peter Pan collar and a rounded front in white, and a thin green belt around her waist. Next to her was a smaller girl, wearing a white pinafore dress with a blue cornflower print and a flared skirt.
Heidi nodded as he looked at her in the photograph, her blonde hair shining as she wore a blue cap sleeved dress with a diamond patterned jacket over it. Natalie wore a yellow jumper with elbow length sleeves, under a grey pinafore style dress with a darker grey collar and pockets.
Finally there was Jenny and Cassie. The older girl was wearing a red cap and coat dress, with two rows of buttons on the front and a black bow and belt. Finally, Cassie wore a light blue dress with puffed sleeves and a knee length skirt. A thin black belt around her waist matched the bow under her round collar.
Four of the girls also wore white ankles socks and shoes, while Jenny wore a red pair to match her dress. And Natalie – she was bare foot. All also had white gloves on their hands.
“Very fifties,” George said with a smile. “So, what happened?”
As the six girls walked back in, Amy was sitting at the table, reading a paper. “Oh my goodness,” she said as she looked at Heidi, with her blue skirt swirling, “your grandmother would certainly approve, Nancy.”
“Thanks, Mum,” Heidi said with a smile. “Bess and George are going to go for a walk with me and my English friends.”
“How do you do,” Jenny said as she stepped forward, “My name is Jane Marple, and this is my friend Tuppence and her little sister Agatha. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Amy said with a small bow, as Patty said “Little sister? I’m gonna....”
“Hush, Agatha,” Cassie said in a clear voice, “Behave.” Patty folded her arms and let a grump, but there was a smile on her lips as she did so.
“Well, enjoy your walk,” Amy said, “but be careful, the radio says that there have been some very strange looking men seen in the area.”
“We’ll be careful, mother,” Heidi said as they walked out of the caravan. It was a clear, bright morning, and the grass was dry underfoot as they walked towards the car.
“So what sort of men do you think have been hanging round, Nancy,” Nats said as she walked on the grass.
“No idea, George,” Heidi said, “but they can’t be any worse than those diamond smugglers we brought to book.”
“Diamond Smugglers? How exciting,” Jenny said. “We have to deal with bad men who kidnap our friends, or try to rob our houses, but to meet a real diamond smuggler...”
“You wouldn’t think so if you were tied up and gagged in a sinking boat,” Cindy said with a laugh, but as they passed the back of the car Cassie stopped and looked at the open trunk. “That’s funny,” she said as she walked over and looked inside. “Hey, girls - come over here!”
The other five ran over, and saw a large canvas bag inside. As she slowly opened it, Cassie saw gold covered bars of chocolate, and a note in an envelope. Cindy looked inside, whispering “Oh my,” as Cassie opened the note.
Here’s your ransom - now release my sister!
“Oh my goodness! A kidnapping! We need to find a policeman and...”
“Hush Agatha,” Cassie said as she looked at Patty. “We don’t know whose car this is, or what has happened. Don’t you want to find out first?”
“I suppose so,” Patty said, a cute smile on her face as she clasped her hands behind her back. “But I don’t want to be held by bad men again.”
“Then don’t do anything stupid like going off on your own,” Jenny said as we put the note back and closed the door. “I wonder whose car this is.”
“I don’t know,” Cindy said, “but there’s a tent over there. Perhaps someone there knows?”
“Let’s go and ask them,” Cassie said, so we all walked over and she called out “Is anyone home?”
There was no answer, so she lifted the flap up and looked in. There was someone in a sleeping bag, her dark brown hair covering her face.
“Hello?” Cassie said, but she did not move or reply. “Let me have a look,” Heidi said as she walked in, and shook the shoulder of the quiet woman. She then stepped back as the sleeping woman rolled over, and revealed herself to be Dorothy, a strip of sticking plaster over her mouth as she looked at us.
Cassie turned and walked out of the tent, before returning and saying “Jane, Agatha’s disappeared.” Jenny looked round as well, then said “she may have gone back to the car - George, you free this woman and find out what’s going on, we’ll go and look there.”
“All right,” Cindy said as she knelt down by her mother and started to peel the tape away from her mouth while the others walked out of the tent. “What happened to you,” she said quietly as she started to unzip the sleeping bag.
“I was waiting for you, George,” Dorothy whispered as she jumped up and grabbed Cindy, handgagging her as she held her daughter round her waist. “Let’s go…”
She walked Cindy out of the tent, the other girls looking in the car with their backs to them, and frog marched her quickly across the campsite…
At the car, Natalie was looking round the trunk, trying to see if she could find both the bag and the envelope, which seemed to have disappeared. “Where have they gone,” she finally said as she looked back at the others, seeing they were as confused as she was before Jenny said “We’d better go back and see what that woman has to say.”
The girls walked back to the tent, to find the front flaps closed. “George,” Heidi said as she pulled the flap back, “How is...”
There was nobody in the tent - no Cindy, no Dorothy, nothing. All there was to show she had been in the tent was a pair of white gloves left on the sleeping bag. Heidi picked up the pair in her own white gloved hands, before saying “All right - something funny is going on here, and I’m not amused.”
She and Natalie looked round the tent carefully, looking for clues, while Jenny looked at Cassie, clasping her black purse to her side in her own gloved hands. They talked to each other for a few moments, before Jenny looked in the tent and said “Tuppence and I are going to have a further look round. I suggest we meet again at the caravan in thirty minutes.”
“Agreed,” Heidi said as they walked away. She then turned to Natalie and said “I don’t get it – both of them disappear into thin air? You ever get the feeling someone is playing us?”
“Ya think,” Natalie said with a smile as they both stepped out of the tent. They walked back to the car, and as Heidi looked inside Natalie walked a short distance away.”
“Nancy – you’d better come and look at this.”
Heidi walked over to where Nats was crouching on the ground, looking at the grass. “Two sets of footprints, one small in front of one large.” Looking into the distance, she then said “They’re heading towards that shed over there. Listen – you go and check the tent one last time, and I’ll have a look at that office, see if they have seen anyone. Meet you at the caravan in fifteen minutes?”
“Just be careful,” Heidi said as she walked back to the tent, and Natalie followed the footprints, keeping to one side of the path they followed. As she got closer to the shed, she realised she could hear noises coming from inside, and peeked into the dirty window.
Cindy and Patty were sitting on a bench inside, their hands behind their back and their mouths covered with white tape. Natalie could see Dorothy and Patty’s Mum in there as well, looking at the two girls as they stared back.
“Oh my,” Natalie said, “I need to get the othffrssmmmmmm.”
“Gotcha,” Veronica whispered into her ear as she walked Natalie into the shed, her hand over her daughter’s mouth. Patty and Cindy groaned as they saw her, and Dorothy smiled.
“Third down,” she said as Veronica removed her hand and pulled Natalie’s hands behind her back, taping them together before she was made to sit down next to the other two.
“What’s going on here,” she said as her ankles had a band of white tape wrapped round them.
“Oh you’ll find out once we have the others here,” Dorothy said with a smile. “Now, lips together and shut up.”
Natalie stuck her tongue out before Veronica smoothed the tape over her lips and mouth, providing a simple gag. “I need to go take care of the next phase,” she said as she stood up, “You two be all right here?”
“Go,” Patty’s mum said, and as Veronica left the three girls looked at each other.
Heidi came into the caravan to find Jenny and Cassie sitting there. “Any joy?”
“Nothing,” Jenny said with a frown, “Did you and Bess find anything?”
“No - she went off to look at the office and see if they had seen anything, and she said she would meet me back here.”
“When was that?”
Heidi suddenly went to the back of the caravan, then came back and said “fifteen minutes ago - I thought she would be back here already. I wonder where she has got to?”
“Nancy,” Jenny said quietly, “This is beginning to look more and more like somebody is trying to get us all. What are we going to do about it?”
“We need to stick together and not go off on our own - and we need to find the other three as soon as possible. I don’t like what’s happening here.”
The girls all looked at each other, before there was a knock on the caravan door. Jenny looked at Heidi and Cassie, then went to open it, only to find Veronica standing there.
“I am so sorry to disturb you,” she said as she stood outside, “but I am looking for a Miss Nancy Drew. Is she here?”
“I’m Nancy,” Heidi said as she stood up, “What’s happened?”
“I’ve just come from the office,” Veronica said, “your friend Elisabeth has been taken ill. I need you to come with me right now - she’s asking for you.”
We looked at each other, and the same thought could be seen in all our eyes.
“IT’S A TRAP!!!”
“Tuppence,” Jenny said as she picked up her black bag, “I need you to stay here, and open the door for nobody. Nancy, I’ll come with you.”
As Heidi and Jenny followed Veronica, Cassie stayed in the caravan. “This way,” Veronica said as they walked over to the park shop, before Veronica said “In here – if your friend could wait outside?”
“Go on,” Jenny said as Veronica and Heidi turned the corner – only for the young sleuth to be hand gagged as her aunt said “Quiet Miss Drew – or the others get hurt.”
Heidi groaned as the tape was pushed over her mouth, and she was walked to the shed, to see the other three as well as Cassie sitting on the bench. Jenny was brought in by her father a minute or two later, saying “Well, we got all the snoops at last. Took longer than I wanted it to, but we can take care of them sooner rather than later.”
“Whtrigntdwfs,” Jenny mumbled as she was sat next to Heidi, and her ankles secured. “Oh don’t worry, Miss Marple,” Dorothy said as she looked at her, “we’ll explain everything in good time. In fact, you are the most important of this little collection - honestly, these are meant to be the best girl detectives on both sides of the pond?”
“Now, now my dear,” Mr Craig said quietly, “if we are going to obtain the McGuffin Files from this fine young lady, then we need to treat them with every due courtesy. In fact, if we are going to get them to tell us anything, we need to work with kid gloves - so make sure you put them on.”
Cassie stifled a groan as the four mothers put on a pair of kid leather gloves each, and then stood in front of them. “So, are you going to tell us,” Mr Craig said in a menacing voice.
“Ntachns” Jenny mumbled through her gag.
“I thought you would say that,” he said as he looked at Jenny and Heidi, “but what if we torture your friends?”
“Trchr?” Patty said, but before they could do anything the mothers started to tickle Patty, Natalie, Cassie and Cindy, making them squeal as they wriggled round.
“LLLRRTTT,” Natalie finally called out. “Tlllthmnnnse?”
“Tlthmwht,” Heidi said - and I could see she was trying to keep up with what was happening, but it was Jenny who eventually said “Tkmmggfff.”
Mrs Craig went over to her and peeled the tape away from her mouth, saying “Yes?”
“I’m confused,” Jenny said, “What exactly are the McGuffin files, and why do you believe I would have them?”
“Oh I think you know of what we speak, Miss Marple,” Mister Craig said as he knelt down and looked into her eyes, “after all, you were given them by young Hercule when you saw him in Ypres last month.”
“But I have never been to Ypres,” Jenny said in a defiant voice, “so I have no idea what you are talking about. Now, if you let me and my friends go, then we will allow you enough time to make your escape and nothing more need be said about it.”
“You have never been to Ypres? But we have the pictures of you entering the train to the continent!”
“May I see the evidence?”
Mister Craig went to a bag, took out a copy of the magazine he had bought yesterday and showed Jenny the picture of her and Colin at the ball. She looked at it for a moment, laughed and then said “Oh you foolish man - this is my twin sister, Joan Marple. You have the wrong sister!”
Mr Craig stood up, and said “I think not. I need to go and search her domicile - tend to our guests, my dear, and make sure they are fed and watered.”
“Fed and watered? You mean you had lunch like that?”
“Well, the tape gags came off, but yeah our mums fed us,” Heidi said as she wriggled round, looking at her legs after Dave had tied them together. “Sandwiches and soft drinks. Anyway, Jenny and Cassie’s dad came back and said they needed to dispose of all six of us – which was when the real fun began.”
Looking down at the way Dave had bound her arms, Heidi said “One by one, we had our wrists and arms tied like this – with one difference. We were wearing gloves, and given sponge balls to grip in a fist – after which, our hands were covered in white tape.”
“NO way to use your fingers on each other then?”
Shaking her head, Heidi said “Nope – and then we were gagged, and I mean GAGGED! A sponge in our mouths, a knotted strip of towel, and then tape over our lips.”
“That wasn’t all – they then tied a folded scarf to match our dresses round our heads, covering our mouths, and finally a headscarf tied under our chins.”
“So not much said then?”
“Not much said, as we were walked back to the caravan…”
The party walked single file to the caravan, as Mister Craig made them get in and sit on the floor. “Secure their legs,” he said, and one by one their legs were tied by Mrs Craig, before she made them lie on their stomachs and hogtied them, making sure their skirts covered their bottoms.
“All right,” Mister Craig said as he placed something on the floor by the caravan door, “We need to get out of here and destroy the evidence. I guess you kids are going to go out with a bang.” As they looked over, they saw a fake bomb sitting on a stool, with the alarm set for thirty minutes. He and Mrs Craig argued for a moment, before they left the girls alone.
“Ugrlslwssgtnttrble,” Natalie said as she twisted round, then looked over her shoulder and said “Fnlle” before looking at them.
Natalie just shook her head as Amy and Cindy both gave muffled laughs. Heidi then started to wriggle over to Jenny, while Cindy rolled over to see if she could help Natalie. The way their hands were covered, however, made it next to impossible to help each other.
The clock had ticked down to twenty minutes as Cassie started to move across the floor, making her way to where the bomb sat on a stool in the open doorway. The others watched as she did so, and the clock ticked down. Twelve minutes... Ten minutes... Eight minutes...
As it showed two minutes, Cassie reached the stool, and the others encouraged her to do something, anything! Finally, Jenny screamed out “KKKTUTTTT”, and Cassie rolled onto her side and span her body round, managing to connect with the stool and sending it out of the caravan the alarm going off as it hit the grass.
“WLDDNNNTPNS,” Heidi said as Cassie lay there, panting heavily.
“Oh thank god - it didn’t go off.”
The girls looked up to see Mrs Craig standing there, looking at us. “I knew he was evil, but to try to kill kids,” she said as she slid Cassie back across the floor, and then ungagged Patty.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, “I was having real trouble for a minute. You’re nice, not like the man.”
“I’m sorry,” Mrs Craig said as she stroked her hair out of the way, “but we do have to get away. Your older sister - Tuppence, isn’t it - was very brave.”
“She is,” Patty said as she smiled, “and she really looks after me. Can’t you let us go?”
“I’m afraid not, but you are younger - I don’t think we need to gag you as tightly. If you promise to be a good girl, I’ll do that for you.”
Patty nodded as she said “I am a very good girl.”
“All right,” Mrs Craig said as she picked up the white and blue scarf, and rolled it into a band. “Open wide now.”
They all watched as she cleave gagged Patty, then said “I’ll get the police to come - be patient,” before she left, closing the door behind her. As they lay there, they watched Patty as she started to push the band of cloth out of her mouth, finally gasping as it fell around her neck.
“We need to get free,” she said quietly, “but I can’t do it myself. Tuppence, can you lie still for a minute?”
Cassie nodded as Patty wriggled over, and then with her teeth started to pull the scarf down that was over her hair, until it hung around her neck. She then lifted my head as Patty used her teeth to pull the band of silk down from her mouth, before saying “Now, rub your mouth and cheek on my hands.”
The others watched silently as Cassie managed to remove the tape with Patty’s help, and then push the rest of her gag out. “Give... Give me a minute,” she said before looking at Patty. “Roll over with your back to me, Aggie - I’ll use my teeth to untie you as much as I can.”
“Got it,” Patty said as she rolled over, watching over her shoulder as very slowly Cassie managed to release her hogtie, and then free her arms and wrists.
“Great job, Tuppence,” she said as Cassie smiled at her, “Leave the rest to me.” She raised her hands to her mouth and started to pick away at the tape with her lips and teeth, while Cassie wriggled over and started to remove the gags from Cindy.
Once Patty has untied herself, she went to help Jenny, only for Amy to come in and say “Oh Thank God - you girls are all right!”
She ran in and started to untie Heidi and Natalie, who had been watching patiently, while Cindy started to untie my knots with her teeth. “The police had an anonymous phone call - someone said you had all been taken hostage and were in peril. Your dad has gone to try to stop the gang getting away.”
“It’s all right, Mum,” Heidi said when she was finally able to speak, “Jane and her friends managed to save the day. I’m sure daddy will catch them all.”
“One thing I don’t understand,” Jenny said as she shook the last of her ropes off, and then came over to help Cassie. “What are the McGuffin files anyway?”
“Not important,” Amy said as she hugged the girls, “what is important is that you are safe, despite everything.”
“And that,” Mister Craig said as we suddenly realised he had been filming us, “is a great end to the play.”
“You’ve been filming us,” Natalie said as the others came in, Mrs Craig and Mrs Pickering carrying the twins.
“For private viewing only,” Mr Pickering said with a smile. “Still, I did promise a copy to Lady Holderness. Apparently, she’s putting something together to send to you, Amy.”
“Really? That sounds interesting,” Heidi said as she stood up and brushed her dress down. “So what time is it anyway?”
“Five o’clock - and I need to buy a new alarm clock,” Mister Craig said with a smile. “Look, why don’t you girls go and get changed - I’ll go and get some fish and chips. You need to have a traditional meal before you head north.”
“You’ll eat well up there,” Patty said as he went off, and we went back to the changing area, “Just wait until you try haggis...”
As they sat round the picnic table, eating the food from the paper Mister Craig had brought it back in, Jenny said “So where are you going to in Scotland?”
“Fort William first,” Heidi said, “then down to Edinburgh for a couple of days. Thanks to your cousin, we’re going to visit her home town one day.”
“Well, don’t be a stranger – keep in touch and we’ll see you again some time,” Cindy said to Cassie as they sat together.
“Of course we will – best friends meet every so often, don’t they?”
“We sure do,” Cindy said with a laugh, as the evening drew in…
“Wow – that was some day. So what happened to that film?”
“Ask Mum if you can borrow a spare copy – we ended up with two somehow. So, the next day we headed up to Fort William, and looked to see if we could find the Loch Ness Monster.”
“And could you?”
“Nah – but we did see some of the highlands, and my god the drive was beautiful. Made going to Heather’s place look like a Sunday afternoon drive.
“From there, we went over to Edinburgh, and after an overnight stop we went to the place Patty grew up…”
“The Royal and Ancient Burgh of Linlithgow,” Amy said as she looked at the old street sign in the Annet House Museum. “Well, it’s a quaint little town, I’ll give them that.”
The girls were wearing jeans and jumpers, with the legs of their jeans tucked into boots, given the chill in the air, while the mothers wore blouses and trousers under their jackets. They looked over the exhibits, before exiting onto the High Street and looking at the funny white structure up the hill.
“That must be the church spire they talked about on the display in there,” Veronica said, “come on – we can go and have a look.”
They walked down the road and crossed just before the old fountain, taking the steep side road that led to Linlithgow Palace and St Michael’s Church – the building the structure stood on.
“According to Patty, it’s meant to represent a crown of thorns,” Natalie said as she looked across at the old royal building. “Want to go in and have a look?”
“I’ll come with you,” Cindy said.
“I’ll take them – what are you three going to do?”
“We’ll go and sit over there,” Amy said as they looked at the park that lay to one side.
“It’s called the Peel, according to Patty,” Heidi said, “but all right – we’ll see you guys in a few minutes.”
They walked along and then at on a bench by the path, looking down the hill at the families sitting round, then over the Loch and at the sailing boats.
“Peaceful, isn’t it,” Veronica said as she sat back, “hard to believe you can find somewhere like this so close to a big city like Edinburgh.”
“Don’t knock it,” Amy said with a smile, “I like it here. I can see why Patty liked it.”
“When we get back to the city,” Amy said, “would you girls be up for a Ghost Walk? I saw an advert for it in the hotel, and it might be fun.”
“Yeah, we could be – but we’d have to make sure we didn’t scream at the stories.”
They watched as the others came down the path, and walked over to join them.
“Fascinating stuff,” Dorothy said quietly, “but I think I’m ready to head back and then go and get some dinner. Did you mention the ghost walk?”
“I did – and they’re up for it if we can make sure they don’t scream.”
“OH – and how do you propose we do that,” Cindy said, but she had a big grin on her face.
“Can we stop in that clothes shop we saw on the way up here?”
“I think so,” Amy said to her daughter, “why?”
“We’re going to need something from there…”
“Welcome to the Edinburgh Ghost Walk!”
The man speaking wore a Victorian costume, complete with top hat, as the small group gathered round him. Amy and Dorothy were wearing long coats over their blouses and trousers, while Veronica had a brown sheepskin coat on. Heidi, Cindy and Dorothy were each wearing tartan capes over the top halves of their bodies, and skirts that came just over their knees. While Heidi and Cindy had a pair of trainers on, Natalie wore a pair of sandals, and looked as if she would rather have gone barefoot – had it not been for the cobbles and the cold night air.
They were outside the Witchery restaurant on the Royal Mile, as the host said “I am Adam Lyal – come with me now as we explore the dark history of this ancient capital…”
The set off down the Street, Amy, Veronica and Dorothy keeping a close eye on their girls as they walked along the cobbled road. They were unusually silent, and occasionally stumbled, but they paid rapt attention to the stories the guide told, even jumping as some surprise tricks were played on them.
“Your girls are unusually quiet,” one of the women in the party said as they passed the Old Kirk.
“Stunned into silence – not such a bad thing really,” Amy said with a smile as they turned and walked back to the imposing St Giles Cathedral, now in shadow in the dim light.
“And here – we leave you, but don’t be afraid as you walk home tonight – after all Ghosts are not real, are we….”
The girls nodded as everyone else clapped, and then they walked as a group down the steep road to Waverley, and then down to their hotel. Crossing through the lobby, they made their way back up to their suite.
“I presume you would like the cloaks off,” Veronica said, the girls nodding as their bound arms and upper bodies were uncovered. The cloaks had hidden the way their wrists were tied behind their backs, and then ropes around their chest to keep them in place.
As they sat in a row, their skirts rose slightly to reveal the ropes around their legs above their knees, while Dorothy peeled the clear tape away from their mouths and took the cloths out.
“Told you we’d need to be kept quiet,” Heidi said, “that was scary,”
“Well, we’ve got six copies of the book now,” Amy said, “but we can share them round. Come on – untied, and then bed.”
“Not a lot to top that,” Dave said as he folded a cloth.
“Nope – the next day we visited the zoo, and went out for dinner before we saw a show. That’s when we tried haggis. After that, we flew back to London, and then home.”
“Patty was right – it was nice and spicy, but it went very well with the chicken it was stuffed into.”
“Talking of which…”
Heidi grinned before opening her mouth, allowing Dave to push in the folded cloth before closing her lips over it. He gave then a gentle kiss with his own, followed by the micropore tape smoothed down over her mouth and jaw.
“Now then” Dave said as he cuddled his girlfriend, “Why don’t you let me tell you about my travels, hmmm?”
Heidi nodded and snuggled into him, glad to hear his heartbeat again as he started talking…