Earlier that day
“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.”
As the two girls walked down the street, a grey van set off and drove past the, turning the corner as they talked to each other.
“So how deep into the woods do you think we’ll be going,” Heidi said as they crossed the main road, walking towards the MacDonald restaurant that stood at the next intersection.
“Not that far – they’re only little kids after all,” Cindy said as they started to walk across the car park. “Hey – do you mind hanging on a minute? I want to nip in and get a drink to have on the way there.”
“Sure, no problem,” Heidi said as Cindy walked into the store. The outside area was deserted, so she sat at a bench, looking up and down the road, not noticing the other vehicles in the car park.
When Cindy came out a few minutes later, sucking on the Coke she had bought, she looked round to see where Heidi had gone.
“Huh – must have walked on,” she said as she started to cross the parking lot, the grey van parked in one corner. As she approached, the door opened and a tall man, his hair hidden under a baseball cap, stepped out. Cindy nodded to him as she went by – and then gasped as he grabbed her from behind, and slapped a sweet smelling damp cloth over her mouth and nose.
“WHTTTHHH NNNNNNNNNN!” Cindy tried to scream out, but as she opened her mouth she inhaled the sweet smelling vapours, and she started to suddenly feel very tired. She was powerless to stop herself from being lifted off the round, her vision blurring as she was carried over to the van. The last thing Cindy saw before she fell asleep was Heidi, lying unconscious on the floor of the van, and another man kneeling next to her, moving her arms behind her back.
Heidi slowly opened her eyes, wondering what had happened to her. The last thing she remembered was sitting outside the MacDonald’s waiting for Cindy, and then a man had come up and asked her if she had the correct time. She had looked at her watch, and then he had placed something over her mouth and nose. After that...
After that, she could remember nothing, but as she opened her eyes it was still dark. “Funny,” she thought to herself, “it can’t be night time already.” She lay still for a moment, wondering why her arms and legs felt so stiff, and what was making her mouth taste as if she had tried to suck on a damp dish cloth.
In fact, why did her mouth feel that bad? And why did it hurt so much on her skin? And why did her brain fell like day old porridge?
“Cindy? You there?” she tried to say, but as she did so all she heard was “Snnddruthr?”
“Oh shit,” was the next thought that crossed her mind, as she heard a low moaning sound behind her. Reaching with her fingers, Heidi could feel the familiar touch of rope around her wrist – but it felt rough, not smooth like the ropes she used, and it seemed to be around each wrist individually.
As she tugged, it only tightened, until she heard Cindy’s muffled voice saying “Whstgngnn”
“Remove the blindfolds.”
“Hssddtht” Heidi called out as the darkness suddenly turned into blinding light and she had to blink to give her eyes time to adjust. When she was able finally to see, however, her blood ran cold.
She could see Cindy in front of you, tied spread-eagled to an iron bedstead that had been stood on the end. Her arms were spread wide above her, and her legs below her waist, with rough ropes holding them to the four corners of the iron base. She also had rope tied round her elbows and knees, as well as her waist, holding her firmly to the mesh-like work.
What worried Heidi most, however, were the strips of black tape that criss-crossed over Cindy’s mouth, holding a rubber ball in place between her teeth. “So that’s why my mouth tastes like that,” she thought to herself as she tried to move her own body.
Cindy had a look of horror in her eyes as well, as she and Heidi looked round the room they were in. It was a cellar of some sort, and they could see that there were three more bedsteads like the ones they were tied to in the room.
“They look so cute like that – he was right when he told us about them.”
Both girls now looked over at the two men, Heidi recognising the one who had asked the time, and called out “Whtssgngnnn? Rlslssnw!”
“No – No, I don’t think so,” one of the men said as he came up and looked at them. “After all, you’re only the first – we’re going to collect the others now, so don’t you two little things go anywhere, all right?”
“Mrrr? Whlsls?” Cindy tried to call out, but the other man held her chin in his hand and said “If I was you, I’d stay still and quiet, little one. We need you, but if you’re dead, that doesn’t matter – we can still use you.”
“WHT!!!” Heidi called out, pulling on the ropes as she heard this, but the men just laughed, leaving the room and plunging it into darkness as they turned the lights off. The two girls started to try to call for help, but there seemed to be nobody to hear them...
Eventually, they calmed down and looked at each other, one thing on their minds.
What was going on?
“Sue? Where the hell are you?”
Anne Duncombe sat down as she heard her sister’s voice. “Washington? Fair enough – I need you to stay there – something’s happened and I want you where I know you are safe.
“No, I’m not going to....
“All right – they released him. Yes, HIM. I need you to stay where you are, just in case. I’m going to see a friend of mine, so I’ll call you later, understand?
“I mean it, Sue – for your own safety, STAY WHERE YOU ARE!” Anne ended the call and put the phone down, grabbing her jacket and her car keys as she left her apartment. She failed to hear the phone ring, or the message that was left for her.
“Hello, Agent Duncombe. I told you I would thank you for all you did one day, and that day has come. I have some young friends of yours, and by the time you get this I’ll have more. Wait for my call – if you want to see them alive again.”
Coral came down the stairs as she heard Jannifer say “Britney! Margo! Stop that now!”
“Girls will be girls,” she said to herself as she walked to see who was knocking on her front door. “Yes, can I...” she started to say, before she was silenced by the man before her.
“Not a word,” he whispered as he pushed Coral back against the wall. He was wearing a dark boiler suit, as was the man who now had his gloved hand over Coral’s mouth and a finger to his lips.
She watched as the second man put a small bag on the telephone table, and then took out a small bottle of clear liquid and two cloths. Pouring some of the liquid onto the cloths, he went and stood by the door to the front room, from which Coral could hear the girls laughing at something.
“Call the two young ones out – nice and normally,” the first man said to Coral as she looked at him. He looked perfectly normal – short grey hair under a baseball cap, no distinguishing marks. She nodded and as he removed his hand she swallowed, before saying “Britney, Margo – would you come into the hallway a minute please?”
“Coming,” she heard them say, and then they ran out, only to be caught by surprise as they were grabbed from behind and the cloths clamped over their mouths and noses. The second man held them tightly, so that all they could do was wriggle, and then slump as their eyes closed.
“What the...” Coral started to say as the twins were lowered to the ground, and they fell over, Britney actually snoring. “Shh – not a word,” the first man said as he was handed a cloth, and Coral inhaled the sweet smelling fumes as well, unable to stop herself as her eyes slowly closed.
“Hey, what’s going on out... OH crap,” Jannifer said as she came out into the hallway, and saw the two men standing over the unconscious woman and girls. “Grab her,” the one by the door said as she dashed back into the room, looking for a place, any place to hide as the two men came in, one of them holding a cloth in his hand.
“Don’t make this harder for yourself than it needs to be, kid,” the other man said as they started to approach Jannifer from two directions. She looked between the two of them, and then jumped over the couch, kicking it back with her foot as she tried to sprint to the door – only to be caught before she could get beyond the opening.
“LET GO OF ME!” she screamed out as she was held from behind by one of the men, the second one approaching her with the wet cloth in his hand. Jannifer tried to keep her head out of the way, but it was no use.
“Just breathe deeply and it will soon be all right,” the man behind her said as she felt the cloth press over her nose and mouth, the sweet fumes flooding her senses before she began to close her eyes, unable to stop herself from sleeping...
“Get her out to the van,” the man holding the cloth said as Jannifer was picked up by the man holding her, “I’ll help with the others in a minute. There’s something I need to do first...”
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?”
“I have no idea,” Dorothy said as she picked up the couch, “but it looks as if there has been a tornado in the room. I hope it’s not the twins causing problems Amy?
Dorothy turned to see her partner looking at a photograph she had picked up off the floor. “Amy, what is it,” she said as she walked over, and then stared at the family group in the picture, her hand to her mouth.
There were three women and two girls, all wearing swimsuits in different colours. The women were secured to recliners with tape, tape also covering their mouths, while the girls were tightly bound with ropes and taped mouths.
“It can’t be...” Amy said to herself, before pulling her cell phone out and dialling quickly.
“Veronica? Thank God – has anything happened to you today?
“Look, this is urgent – call Bobbi Hopwood, tell her to meet me at the house. Just tell her – oh crap – tell her it’s about John.”
“I thought he had been sent to prison for fifty years,” Dorothy said as she ended the call.
They turned to see Blossom standing the doorway, Andrea behind her. “What happened here,” Blossom said as she looked round, “and where is Coral with the girls?”
“You two had better come with us,” Amy said as she held Blossom’s arm – I’ll explain on the way.”
Heidi and Cindy looked over at the doorway as a key turned, and then the two men carried an unconscious Jannifer in between them.
“WHTHFUDNTHR!” Amy screamed out as they positioned the young girl against one of the empty bedsteads, and pulled her wrists up, tying them to the metal with rough ropes. Spreading her legs apart, they tied them next, before tying more ropes around her legs, arms and waist.
“Whhhhh what happened,” Jannifer said as she slowly started to open her eyes, raising her head as she tried to focus. Eventually, she saw Cindy and Heidi, and her eyes snapped open as she tried to move.
“What the hell have you done with my sisters and Mrs Blackwood? I want to see thmmsmmssmsss” she moaned as a rubber ball was pushed into her mouth, and then strips of tape placed diagonally across her mouth to seal it into place.
“You just stay there,” the man said as he checked the ropes on the other two girls, “we still have two of your friends to bring in.”
“Twwmmr,” Jannifer said as she struggled, the ropes rubbing against her skin as she tried to get free.
“Tssngd,” Heidi said as she shook her head. “Dnttlmmmtenshr?”
“Mrs Blackwood? Mrs Blackwood, wake up please.”
Coral slowly opened her eyes and shook her head, eventually seeing Britney and Margo sitting across from her. For some reason, they seemed to be wearing tiger onesies, and their ankles looked as if something was holding them together.
“Britney, Margo – are you both all right,” Coral eventually said as she tried to sit herself up – a task made difficult by the fact she had her wrists tied together behind her back, and her ankles were crossed and tied together as well. She also was not wearing her clothes, but instead had on a pair of black silk pyjamas. She could now see that both girls had their wrist tied together in front of them, and length of rope running from them to the ankles.
“What happened,” Britney said “I remember you calling us out, and then smelling something, and then...”
“... and then we both woke up, dressed like this in here,” Margo said to finish her sentence. “Mrs Blackwood...”
“You’d better call me Coral girls – your mother won’t mind.”
“Mrs Bla... Coral, have we been kidnapped?”
“I am very much afraid that is the case,” Coral said as the door to the room opened and the two men came in. “Here’s the deal,” one of them said, “if you three agree to stay here in and don’t try to escape, we won’t gag you. If you won’t we gag you tightly.”
“There’s no need for that,” Coral said quietly, “I’ll keep the girls occupied.”
“Good – do that,” the man said as they left, locking the door behind them. “All right girls,” Coral said as she started to shuffle over the floor, “Why don’t I join you, and then we can tell each other some stories...”
“What do you mean, you know who’s behind this,” Blossom said as she and Andrea came into the front room, Dorothy sitting with them while Amy went to the telephone and dialled a number.
“Jack? It’s Amy Strong. Is Katherine there?
“They’re still up at the farm? Listen, I need your help with something – and I need your help without calling in any of your colleagues. Can you come round please?
“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t urgent – please, Jack? Thanks.”
“I’m sorry Blossom,” Amy said as she sat down, “I just hope that I’m wrong about this.”
“Wrong about what,” Andrea said as she crossed her legs.
Before Amy could answer, the door opened and Veronica came in, wearing unusually for her a short pleated skirt and a vest top, with running shoes.
“Bobbi’s out of state, on her way back tonight. I’ve told her to come straight here,” Veronica said as she embraced her sister. “What’s this all about?”
Amy showed Veronica the picture she had taken from the floor at the Blackwood house, Blossom watching as Veronica’s face paled visibly.
“Shit – I thought he was locked up for good,” she finally said.
“When is someone going to...”
“Blossom, get your husband over here,” Veronica said as she took out her phone. Dialling a number, she tapped her foot impatiently.
“Come on Anne, where the hell are you...”
Chloe Badelaine stretched her arms up and yawned as she looked at the two girls, tightly hogtied, gagged, blindfolded and listening to music on the floor in front of her.
“Well,” she said as she looked at them, “I must remember this for a future Thursday, mes amies, but I think it is time I released you and allowed you to change for the evening. Now, which of you will I...”
Her eyes shot open as she was grabbed from behind and a cloth pressed over her nose and mouth, the sickly fumes filling her nostrils before she had a chance to pull the cloth away. She tried to struggle free, but it proved useless, as she slowly closed her eyes and slumped down, her head to one side.
The man let her lie against the couch, then handed a second cloth to his companion as they knelt next to Natalie and Alice. They has no chance to prepare as the cloths were held over their noses and mouths, their legs straightening a little before they fell again....
“Amy? What’s wrong?”
Jack Hopkins came into the room, Veronica following him in as he looked at Amy and Dorothy sitting on one couch, and Blossom with Andrea on the other.
“Jack – thanks for coming,” Amy said as she stood up. “I know this is going against all the rules you operate by, but we need your help with something.”
“Of course,” he said as he looked at Blossom, who was sobbing quietly. “But what’s happened to Blossom?”
“The same thing we fear has happened to our girls – and to Coral Blackwood.” Dorothy stood up and handed the photograph to Jack, who took it and stared at it for several minutes. “Who took this picture of you,” he finally said as he looked back at Amy.
“A guy called John Hopwood,” Amy said, “you may have heard of the case.”
Jack nodded. “I wasn’t involved, but I heard about it. That was you three with the girls?”
Veronica nodded, and said “Anne – Anne Duncombe really brought him to justice, but – well, Amy and Cindy were meant to be doing a hike with some younger girls today, but they never made it to the start. Then we tried to call Coral, and got no answer...”
“Coral? Andrea’s mother? Why did you call her?”
“She had history with Hopwood as well – but more to the point, Blossom’s girls were there as well. We called round, and there were signs of a struggle.”
Jack looked at the women, and then said “You’d better tell me exactly what has happened today.”
At a remote farmhouse, Anne Duncombe stared at Sara, who was sitting with Brian on the couch in her front room.
“Me? You’re saying I’m the one in trouble?” Anne sat down, and said “I don’t know – the things you do in your life and they come back to haunt you...”
“What do you mean?”
Anne shook her head, before saying “I suppose telling you to stay out of this would be futile?”
“What about Sue?”
“Out of the state, and I told her to stay out of the way.” Anne took her phone out of her bag, looked at it for a moment, and then listened to her messages. One in particular seemed to make her blanch.
“Sara,” Anne said quietly, “get your bag. I need you to come with me. Brian, if I give you an address, can you go and have a good look round, then call me?”
Brian nodded as Sara stood up, fetching a small brown holdall as she said “ready – where are we going?”
“Amy and Dorothy’s house...”
“Shit,” Jack said once Amy had finished. “I need to go and see what I can find, then find out where this John Hopwood is currently. Have you called Katherine yet?”
“No we haven’t” Dorothy said, so she watched as Jack took his phone out and pressed a contact.
“Margaret? It’s Jack – how are Nats and Alice doing?
He looked round the room, then said “Margaret, get to Amy’s house as soon as possible – all of you. Bring the girls with you.”
He ended the call, before saying “Stay here – I’m going to the Blackwood house to see what I can find. Blossom, we’ll get this sorted, I promise.”
“Please, Jack,” Blossom said as she looked up, “Hurry.....”
Britney and Margo watched as Chloe was carried into their room, clad in a pair of red cotton pyjamas, her wrists tied behind her back and her ankles lashed together. Her head was to one side, but as she was sat on the floor she let out a small moan, her eyelids flickering.
“Someone to help you look after these two,” the man said, “bedtime in an hour.” The door was closed and locked again, as Chloe moaned and slowly opened her eyes.
“Merci, monsieur,” she mumbled under her breath, “mais je n'ai pas besoin de dormir maintenant...”
“Chloe, wake up,” Coral said as she twisted her arms round. Chloe slowly opened her eyes, blinking as she looked at the other three captives, and then said “Wha.... Mon Dieu – what has happened?”
“We’ve been kidnapped!” Britney and Margo called out in unison, as Chloe looked round the room.
“Have we,” she said finally, “so where is your sister?”
“No idea,” Coral said quietly, “who were you with?”
“I... I was...” Chloe suddenly sat up straight. “No! NATALIE! ALICE!!”
“Best to be quiet,” Coral said to Chloe, “for their sakes.” Chloe looked at the two young girls, then nodded and said “Forgive me girls – what were you doing when I was brought in?”
In another room, Natalie was slowly coming to. She did not feel as if she was as tightly restrained as before, and yet she was unable to move her arms and legs. She could hear soft moans and muffled talking, so the earplugs must have been removed at some time, but something was in her mouth that tasted of rubber, and her skin was being pulled at around her mouth.
“Whhthppnd,” she said as she raised her head, and saw Alice to her side, strapped with her arms and legs stretched out to what looked like an old bedstead.
“Gddwshn,” she heard Heidi say, and as she looked over she saw her, Cindy and Jannifer tied and gagged in the same way.
“Now then,” a male voice said, “you’re doubtless wondering why we have asked you here.”
“WHTTHLLLRU” Cindy said as she tried to pull herself off the bed as she looked at the new arrival.
“STFFTHT – WHRSMMSSTRS” Jannifer screamed at him at the same time.
“You all need to be quiet, or you’ll be made to sleep again,” the man said. He was six foot tall, thin, and dressed in a black jacket over a white shirt and light coloured trousers. He stood in the middle of the room, looking round the five girls, before he looked at Heidi and Cindy.
“Hopwood was right, you are both very pretty young women,” he said quietly. “Now, in a short while you will be released and allowed to do toilet, eat and drink. If any of you attempt to escape, it will be the younger girls that suffer, do you understand?”
“UBSTRD!” Jannifer called out, almost making her wrist bleed as she pulled at the ropes.
“Calm down, I don’t want you to hurt yourself,” he said as he held Jannifer’s chin up. “I suggest you all calm down – you will be here for a little while.”
The five girls looked at each other, as the door was locked on them, wondering what he meant by that.
Jack Hawkins unlocked the front door of the Blackwood house, using Andrea’s keys, and turned the light on in the front hallway. All was quiet and still, but as he walked into the front room he looked at the overturned couch, and wondered what had happened here.
With a fluidity of movement from years of training, Jack turned, drawing his firearm at the same time and aiming it directly at Brian Carter.
“Peace, Officer Hawkins,” Brian said as he raised his hands. “We’re on the same side on this?”
“Brian,” Jack said as he lowered his weapon, “What the hell are you doing here? I could have killed you.”
“Yeah – but you didn’t” Brian said as she stooped down and picked up a cloth. “What do you think this is?”
Jack took the cloth, sniffed it and then threw it down. “Chloroform – I didn’t think you get this stuff now,” he said as he looked at Brian.
“Not on a cloth like that, no – I think it was used on the girls.”
“How did you know about that?”
“Anne sent me to have a look – you?”
“Amy – she thinks this is linked to something in her past, and she asked me to see if I could find anything. Question is, how is Anne aware?”
“You can ask her later – what do you say we join forces?”
“Sounds good – up for a drive?”
“Where are we going?”
“To find a man called Hopwood,” Jack said as he put his gun away.
“All right – time to get your four ready for bed.”
Chloe and Coral looked up as the two men came back in, carrying more lengths of rope and rolls of tape between them. “Cool,” Britney said as she looked at them, “Mum and Dad won’t let us sleep tied up and gagged.”
“There is a good reason for that,” Coral said quietly before she turned and looked at the men. “Where’s their sister? You can at least tell me that – I am responsible for her.”
“I would ask the same question about Natalie and Alice,” Chloe said as she stared at the men. “You had no right to make us sleep and bring us here.”
“I don’t think either of you are in a position to argue,” one of the men said as he knelt next to Britney, untying the rope that held her wrists and ankles together, before he used it to bind her arms to her side around her stomach. He then used a second length to tie her legs together below her knees, before lifting her up and placing her in the middle of the large bed in the room.
As the second man secured Margo in the same way, Chloe looked closely at the two men. One was tall, thin, with slicked back brown hair, and wore a pair of wire rimmed glasses. The other was smaller, stockier, with bleached blonde hair.
“But I will tell you this – the other girls are nearby, and they are safe – for now,” Glasses said as he knelt behind Coral, and started to bind her arms tightly to her side, wrapping the rope tightly round her chest above and below her breasts.
“Good – but these are younger girls,” Chloe said as Blondie started to bind her arms in the same way, “You should not be frightening them so.”
“Who’s frightened,” Margo said as she wriggled round on the bed, “I’m excited. This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
“Yeah,” Britney said as she looked up, “I’ve never had an experience like this.”
“All right,” Coral said quietly as Glasses bent her legs and started to bind them together below her knees, “Try this one – why are we here? What sort of purpose does it serve?”
“Better question,” he said as more rope went round her thighs, Coral flinching slightly as he passed the rope between her legs. “There is a plan, but right now the job of both of you,” he said as he looked at Chloe “is to keep these two happy. Understood?”
“So what happens now?” Chloe looked at Coral as Glasses and Blondie knelt in front of them, their backs to the young girls as they held two compressed sponges in their hands.
“Now you open up, we put these in, and you don’t let them see them while we put you on the bed and tape your mouths over. Then you sleep.”
“Just don’t hurt them,” Coral said quietly as she looked at Chloe, then both women allowed their captors to push the sponges in, closing their lips over it as they were carried to the bed and laid on their sides, facing both girls.
“Lips together, girls,” Blondie said as one by one the four captives had their mouths covered with wide strips of white medical tape, before Britney and Margo had their ankles tied to the foot of the bed. Chloe and Coral felt their ankles been pulled back slightly as they were placed in a light hogtie, before Glasses and Blondie walked to the door.
“Good night, girls,” they said as the light was turned off, and the room plunged into darkness.
“Katherine! What kept you?”
Amy and Dorothy stood up as Katherine and Margaret came in, followed by Heather and Roberta – and a stranger to the other women in the room.
“I’ll tell you later,” Katherine said as she slipped her coat off. “Girls, this is Elena Dunbar, the Phys Ed teacher I told you about.”
“Errr... Hi,” Elena said as she looked round. “I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it’s a pleasure to meet you all.”
Veronica was still looking at the door, a genuine look of concern on her face. “Kathy,” she finally said, “Where’s Natalie?”
“We don’t know,” Heather said as she walked over to sit with Blossom. “We went out for lunch and asked Chloe to look after them, but when we came back...”
“They had all disappeared?”
“Yeah,” Katherine said as she looked at Dorothy. “All right, somebody had better tell me what’s going on, and do it now.”
“We think the girls have been kidnapped – all of them,” Amy said as Blossom started to sob again. “Heidi and Cindy did not make it to their hike, and Coral has disappeared with Jannifer and the twins. We asked Jack to go round and have a look at the Blackwood place – and we’re trying to find Anne Duncombe.”
“Because we think she can help – you know, being a federal agent and all.”
“But I still don’t understand,” Andrea said. She had been sitting quietly, looking at the women as they had talked. “How does this involve my mother?”
“Andrea,” Veronica said as she sat down, “Has your mother ever told you about some of the things she used to do with Amy and me, some years ago...”
Heidi grabbed a bottle of water and downed it in one go as she tried to wash the taste of the rubber ball out of her mouth. The five girls had finally been released from the bedsteads, and were sitting on the cold floor round a low table, on which cold meat, bread and water had been placed.
“How long have you been here anyway,” Alice said as she stretched her legs out.
“No idea – we were snatched earlier this morning, but I have no idea what time it is now,” Cindy said as she picked up some bread and started to eat it. “To be honest, I’m less worried about myself and more about the twins. Tell us again what happened, Jannifer?”
“What’s to tell – we were playing in Andrea’s front room, her mother called them outside, then I went out and two men were there – with the others unconscious on the floor. They chased me back into the room – and I’m going to have to apologise for the mess – and I tried to get away but...”
“At least you had a choice,” Natalie said as she sat cross legged, biting into a chicken leg, “Alice and I spent the morning hogtied, the afternoon knocked out, and then – well, we all know the rest.”
“I’m hoping Coral Blackwood is with the twins,” Jannifer said as she looked round the cellar, “and they’re more comfortable than this.”
“I’m sure they’re fine,” Heidi said, “the real question is, why us and why here?”
“Yeah – and who’s the other guy? The two who snatched me – one had glasses and the other blonde hair. The thin guy was new – and who’s this Hopwood he was talking about, anyway?”
Heidi and Cindy looked at Alice, before Heidi said “I think he’s talking about John Hopwood – the man who kidnapped us, our mothers and Aunt Veronica, made us dress up, take pictures, and then...”
“Oh crap,” Natalie said as she looked at her two friends. “The one you kept having the nightmare’s about? I thought he was in prison.”
Before Heidi could say anything, the door opened and their three captors came in. “Your other friends are asleep,” the thin man said as he threw a photograph on the table. The five friends looked at the picture of Britney and Margo in the centre of the bed, with Coral on one side and...
“Chloe? Where did you take her from,” Natalie said as she looked at the three men.
“Same place as you – she must have been babysitting,” Glasses said with a smile. “Right – put these on.”
Blondie put a pile of clothing on the floor. Cindy stood up, picked up the top item and unfolded it before saying “Why the hell does he want us to wear these?”
“Why do you think – you have five minutes and then we’re going to secure you – properly,” the thin man said as he looked round the room.
Margaret looked at the room and said “Jack? Where are you?”
“At the station – Maggie, I’m sorry, but it looks as if Coral and the girls have been kidnapped.”
“Jack – we think Natalie and Alice have also been taken. After we called you, we checked Heather’s place, but they had also disappeared with Chloe.”
Margaret heard the curse over the other end of the phone. “Right – this is personal now,” Jack then said, “Stay there with everyone else – I’ll call soon. And Maggie?”
Margaret nodded as she ended the call, and looked round the room. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly, “it looks like they’ve all been taken.”
Blossom looked at Margaret, and then fainted into Veronica’s arms. “Damn,” she said as she held the young woman, “the last thing we need to do is give her shocks like this. Can we put her upstairs, Amy?”
“I’ll carry her.”
The group looked over to the door, where Anne Duncombe was standing, Sarah just behind her.
“Anne,” Veronica said as she stood up, “Where the hell have you been? And why is Sarah with you?”
“Explanations later – let’s get her up to a bed,” Anne said as she walked over and lifted Blossom in her arms. “Come with me,” Dorothy said as she opened the door, following Anne out.
“Sarah,” Amy said as the sound of footsteps receded, “Why are you here?”
“Anne asked me to come,” she said quietly as she placed a brown holdall on the floor. “She’ll explain why when she comes down.” Her cell phone started ringing, and she said “forgive me” as she went into the hallway.
“Sara, it’s Brian. Where are you?”
“At Amy and Dorothy’s place, with Anne. Brian, something’s happened with the girls – all the mothers are here, and they look scared.”
“Yeah – I know. I met Jack Hawkins at the address Anne gave me – and we found evidence of struggles and chloroform soaked rags.”
“My dream,” Sarah said quietly as she looked in the room. “Where are you now?”
“With Jack – we’re trying to track down someone called Hopwood he thinks may be responsible.”
“All right – but keep in touch, my love. Something tells me I may need you sooner rather than later.” She looked down at the watch on her wrist, which was glowing a faint shade of green.
There was silence for a moment, before Brian said “I understand – for God’s sake, be careful.”
“I always am,” Sara said as she ended the call, turning as Anne and Dorothy came down the stairs. “How is Blossom?”
“Sleeping – was that Brian?”
Sarah nodded. “He confirmed the worst – he’s with Jack Hawkins at the moment.”
Anne nodded. “Good – we might get somewhere now.” She then heard a pinging sound, and looked at her phone.
“Anne – what’s wrong?”
Anne was shaking, putting her hand to the wall as she showed Sarah the picture. It showed five girls in a row, and Sarah recognised Heidi, Cindy, Alice, Jannifer and Natalie. All five girls were wearing long white nightdresses with sleeves that came down to their wrists. They had their heads raised, their hair in a ponytail which was attached to the ropes around their chest with a length of rope. She could also see the ropes around their wrists, and their ankles as their feet touched their hands.
“NOOOOO!” they heard Amy scream as they looked into the eyes of the five girls, the ball gags strapped firmly into their mouths. They then heard Katherine cursing, and as they walked in they could see all the mothers looking at their mobile phones.
“The bastard’s got them all,” Amy said as she showed Dorothy the photo, and the text message that followed.
“TELL AGENT DUNCOMBE TO WAIT FOR MY CALL.”
“Anne,” Margaret said as she looked at the agent, “Who the hell is doing this? Is it Hopwood?”
“That’s what I want to know.”
Anne and Sarah spun round to see a dark haired woman standing there, dressed in a black jumper and slacks, staring at both of them.
“Why the fuck did you tell me to stay out of this,” Sue Duncombe said as she stared at her sister, “you must have known I’d come anyway.”
“Sue, you bloody idiot,” Anne shouted back at her older sister, “I thought I told you to stay in Washington?”
“You did – and you must have known that I would obey that for precisely a nanosecond,” Sue replied as she tried to stare down her sister. “Now what the hell is going on?”
“I’ll try and explain everything – as much as I can – later. Right now, our priority is making sure the other girls are all right. Dorothy, have you called Suzanne yet?”
“No,” Dorothy said as she went over to the phone, and dialled a number.
“Suzanne? It’s Dorothy – are the girls with you?
“Oh thank God – can you come over to my place as soon as possible please?
“All three of you, yes – and be quick please. We need you.”
Dorothy replaced the receiver, and said “Alexa and Joanne are with her – they’re on their way over.”
“Sara,” Anne said as she looked at her friend, “You need to call James, let him know what’s happening?”
“I’ll be in the kitchen,” Sara said as Anne took Sue by the arm, saying “In here – now” as she led her to another room. Sitting at the kitchen table, Sara dialled a number and waited.
“James? It’s Sara.”
“Sara – thank goodness you’ve called. Chloe was meant to come over tonight, and she’s not appeared. Do you know where she is?”
Sara sighed, before saying “I don’t James – not where she physically is, but I know what’s happened to her. We think she’s been kidnapped.”
There was silence on the other end of the line, before James said “Kidnapped? By who?”
“I’m not sure, but – look, James, I’m here with Anne, and I have my holdall with me.”
She heard him say “Oh f...” and then “Sara, I know what that means. You’re going to get her back, aren’t you?”
“It’s not just her, James – it’s the girls she knows from the school as well. I will move heaven and earth to get them back, safe and sound – you know I will.”
“I know – but be careful yourself.”
“I always am – don’t worry James, I’ll have her back soon.”
“I trust you, Sara – you and Anne,” James said before the line went dead. Sara sat at the table for a few minutes, her head in her hands, before the door opened and Anne came in with Sue.
“No I don’t like it,” Sue was saying as they sat down, “I don’t like it one tiny bit. You know it’s a fucking trap that’s been set up here.”
“Of course I do – but if he’s using the kids to get to me, then I have no choice.”
“She’s right,” Sara said quietly, “she has no choice. I’ll go and see if the others have arrived.”
Sue followed Sara with her eyes as she left the kitchen, and then said “I know she’s good with ropes and things, and she’s strong, but why is she here?”
“Because I trust her with my life – that’s why,” Anne said as she looked at the swinging door, and heard the sound of Joanne on the other side. “She’s helped me out several times.”
Anne looked at Sue, then said “I’ll tell everyone eventually, once I know exactly what he intends.”
“And when do you intend to tell them who’s done this?”
“As late as possible,” Anne said, “as late as possible.”
“Here’s his sheet,” Jack said as he and Brian looked at the computer screen.
“Nice guy,” Brian said as he looked at the record. “So where is he now?”
Jack looked at the screen, then said “Let’s go.”
“You seem to be awfully trusting of me, Jack,” Brian said as he got into the car with him.
“Well,” Jack said, “any friend of Anne’s is likely to be trustworthy. Besides, I did a little checking on you after we met at the party.”
“Oh – and what did you find?”
“Enough to tell me you can be trusted,” Jack said as they headed out of town.
“Right,” Anne said as she looked round the room, “I’m going to tell you as much as I can. Please, don’t ask me to say more than that at this stage.
“We know that over the last 12 or so hours, Heidi, Cindy, Blossom’s kids, Coral, Natalie, Alice and Chloe have been kidnapped – we believe by the same people. The fact you all received the same photo seems to confirm that.”
“Yes,” Katherine said impatiently, “but who is it?”
“The style of the photo does suggest it is John Hopwood, who some of you have history with,” Anne said as she looked at Amy, Veronica and Dorothy, “but we haven’t confirmed that yet. If Bobbi was here, we may have a chance, but Jack and Brian are looking into that now.”
“Brian? Sarah’s husband? What can he do?”
“A lot,” Sara replied, “and we both trust him.”
Anne’s cell phone started ringing, and she indicated the others should remain silent, as she switched it on and placed it on the coffee table.
“Agent Duncombe – it has been a long time,” a distorted male voice answered. The other women looked on, Joanne and Alexa sitting with Andrea at the far side of the room.
“Not going to use your real voice, then?”
“I do not see the need, not yet. Did you like my photography?”
“I see you’re still the same sick bastard. Does hiding behind innocent kids meet your need for revenge?”
“Of course not, Agent Duncombe – but they ensure you will listen, and you will do what I say, or you will have nine more lives on your conscience.”
“I am going to take great personal satisfaction in bringing you down.”
“You can try – I will call again in six hours. Be there.” The call ended, as the women looked at each other.
“Who the hell is that?”
“I’ll tell you later Amy – right now we need to just wait until Jack and Brian get back.”
“Nice place,” Brian said as he leaned against the wall of the grey room, Jack sitting at a table as they both looked at the metal door with the mesh reinforced glass window.
“It serves a purpose,” Jack said as the door opened and the guard brought in a tall, thin, bald headed man in a blue denim shirt and jeans. The new arrival looked at Jack and Brian, before saying “Visitors – I don’t get too many of them in here.”
“Leave him with us,” Jack said as the guard went out of the room, closing the door behind him. “You don’t know me,” he said as he looked at the prisoner, “I’m Detective Jack Hawkins, 13th precinct.”
“Detective,” the man said in a high pitched voice, “Who’s your friend?”
“Him? He’ll tell you later,” Jack said with a smile. “We have some mutual friends, you and I.”
“Really? I wonder who they are?”
“Amy Strong... Veronica Cabot... Dorothy Elsworth... Coral Blackwood... Ring any bells?”
The man smiled and said “I did know those lovely ladies at one time – they, after all, are the reason I am enjoying this all expenses paid holiday. They haven’t visited me – so why do you bring them up?”
“Funny thing – someone decided to invite their daughters, the friends of their daughters, and Coral herself for a little trip – with no option of refusal. You would not know anything about that, would you?”
“Now what makes you think that?”
Jack looked at Brian, who put the photograph in front of the prisoner. Jack then took out his cell phone and showed him the photo of the five girls.
“Because it’s exactly the sort of thing you would do, John. And yet, you’re in here – so who’s doing your dirty work for you?”
“One of these girls is my daughter,” Jack said, the anger rising in his voice, “so don’t play games with me, Hopwood.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Detective,” John Hopwood relied with an equal sense of anger, “but as you say, I’m in here – so how could I have done this?”
“Let me put this a different way,” Brian said as he stepped forward. “My name’s Brian Carter – probably does not mean a lot to you, does it?”
“You’re Australian, but beyond that no,” John Hopwood said with a smile.
“I’m not surprised,” Brian said as he walked behind John, “but you see, I’ve had some interesting jobs in my time.” As he said this, he put his hands on John’s shoulders.
“Oh – such as?”
“Well, I was a beach masseur for a while,” Brian said as he began to work his fingers on John’s shoulders.
“Very useful,” John replied as Jack looked on, “but I don’t see hoOOOOWWW!”
A pain shot down through John’s arm as Brian pressed on a nerve. “I also trained in acupuncture and nerve stimulation,” Brian said calmly as he pressed on the nerve again, and John looked at his arm. “So I know just where to press to ease a pain, clear tension – or bring excruciating pain. Do you understand?”
John Hopwood looked at Jack, who in turn was looking at Brian. “You can’t let him do this,” John shouted out “I HAAAAAAAAAAAAA” He felt the pain shooting down his arm again as Brian pressed on another nerve.
“He’s not police, John,” Jack said quietly, “and believe me, the guards won’t help you. Now, are you going to tell me who you told about the girls, or not?”
“I don’t know whAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” This time the pain shot down his back, as Brian pressed on the back of his neck.
“Sorry, didn’t quite catch that,” Jack said, “I was thinking of my daughter. Who have you been talking to?”
“MAKE HIM STOP!” John Hopwood screamed out. Jack looked at Brian, who let go of the prisoner, but did not move away.
“All right – there was another prisoner here who it turned out had dealings with Agent Duncombe – the one who arrested me. We got talking, and he found out about her current location and her friends from me.”
“Are you going to tell me his name,” Jack said quietly, “or does Brian have to give you another massage?”
John Hopwood looked over his shoulder, and then said “it was Andrews – Chris Andrews.”
As Jack looked up at Brian, he could see the shocked expression on the Australian man’s face. “Do you recognise the name,” he said as Brian put his hands on Hopwood’s shoulders.
“Bloody right I do,” he said as he flexed his fingers slightly. John Hopwood opened his eyes wide, his mouth making a silent “O” before he fell forward, his head hitting the table.
“What did you...”
“He’ll sleep for twenty four hours now,” Brian said as he went and opened the door. “Hopwood fainted – make sure he gets taken to the hospital wing.”
The two men watched as the guards came in, carrying John Hopwood out of the room between them. “Who the hell is Chris Andrews then,” Jack said as he looked at Brian.
“Hopefully just a coincidence – but there is no way we can discuss this over the phone. We need to get back to the house – find out what’s happening.”
“And if it’s not a coincidence?”
“The answer to that one is back at the house,” Brian said as he held the door open for Jack.
“How is she?”
Anne was standing in the doorway of the bedroom, looking at Heather as she sat by the side of the bed. Blossom was turning in her sleep, muttering quietly as she moved around.
“Agitated, but at least she’s getting some sleep. How are the others?”
“Veronica is making some coffee,” Anne said as she looked at her watch. “Five in the morning – we’ve got another hour before he calls again.”
“Who the hell is doing this Anne – you know, and yet you’re not telling us. And why is Sarah here?”
Anne rubbed her eyes before she said “Honestly, Heather, I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t. Our best bet now is to make sure the girls are safe and alive, and get them back by any means necessary.”
Sara herself was sleeping in another room – but her sleep was not peaceful, as she dreamed again...
Anne was lying on the floor, a thick bandage wrapped around her head, silencing her as she moaned, a trickle of blood seeping down from her forehead, onto her cheeks as it stained the gag. Her arms and legs were spread out, attached by chains to something, and her clothing was ripped open, her trousers and panties down and exposing her body as it glistened.
“Serves you right bitch,” the man said as he put his clothes back on, ignoring Anne’s soft moans as he looked in another room. From there, Sara could hear the muffled scream of the girls and two women, as he said “Not long now, and then – boom!”
The screams increased as the man left the barn, Sara walking beside him. Suddenly the dark sky was illuminated a brilliant orange, and as she turned round she saw the flames rising from the barn.
“You’re too late, Agent Duncombe” the man said as he watched the fire, “you’re too...”
“Hey, hey,” Veronica said as she looked in the open doorway, “It’s all right Sarah. You’ve just had a bad dream.”
“That,” Sara said as she sat up, “is an understatement.” She leaned forward, resting her head in her hands as Anne came into the room.
Sara nodded as there was a banging on the front door. Anne walked out to see Amy open the door, and admit a small, thin woman with short bleached blonde hair, wearing a leather jacket and jeans.
“Bobbi, thank god you’re here,” she said as the two embraced. Looking back in the room, Anne said “Join us when you’re ready,” and signalled for Veronica to go with her.
Heidi let out a gasp as she was finally released from the hogtie and the ropes removed, rubbing her wrist as she watched the other girls being released. She reached behind her head and unstrapped the ball gag, letting it drop to the floor as she worked her jaw.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore, are we,” Alice said as she stretched her arms and legs.
“I don’t even think we’re in Detroit,” Natalie said. “If you’ve done this to the younger kids...”
“Don’t worry – we didn’t” Glasses said as he put a number of brown bags on the floor. “Breakfast – eat up, you’re going to need your strength for today.”
“I want to see my sisters,” Jannifer said quietly as she opened one of the bags.
“Later,” Blondie said as he put five plastic bags on the floor. “Right now, eat, and then put these on.”
Cindy looked in one of the bags, then back at the two men, saying “No way, no freaking...”
“You want the kids to stay safe, you put these on,” Glasses said as the two men left them, locking the door as they did so.
In another room, Chloe and Coral were clearing away the breakfast rubbish, while Britney and Margo were sitting on the bed.
“So what do you think we’re going to do today,” Margo said as she looked at the two older women.
“I do not know, mon ami,” Chloe said with a smile, “but whatever it is, we shall make it fun, no?”
Coral nodded as the door opened, and Blondie brought in four clothes bags. “We want to take some photos of all four of you,” he said as he looked at Coral, “Mrs Blackwood will explain what they involve. Think of it as a dress up game.”
Chloe stood up and opened one of the bags, looking at Coral as she said “Party dresses?”
“It is John,” she said with a sigh, “Girls, we’ll get dressed, and then the two men will tie us up and take photos of us. Let’s pretend you’re two tweenie pop stars and we are your chaperones, and we’ve all been taken hostage. Sound good?”
Anne’s phone rang at 6 am precisely, as the mothers sat round. Joanne, Alexis and Andrea had been sent to the kitchen to prepare some coffee.
“Prompt as always Agent Duncombe – has your delightful sister turned up yet?”
Anne shot a warning look to Sue, who said nothing, folding her arms as she listened with an expression like a stone gargoyle.
“None of your business – your beef is with me and me alone. Where are the girls?”
“Safe – for now. You’ll get some new pictures of them soon. But I have a message for you and anyone listening. Try and find me, and they die – simple, yes?”
“What do you want? If it’s me, let’s meet and you can let the girls go. No reason for them to be hurt.”
“Oh I do want you, and we are going to meet – soon. Stay tuned, Agent – I’ll tell you where and when.”
The call ended as everyone looked at Bobbi.
“It can’t be John,” she said quietly, “I saw him last week, and I would have been told if he had been released.”
“It’s not John Hopwood.”
The women turned to see Jack Hawkins standing in the doorway. “Sorry I’m late,” she said as Margaret literally ran across the room, throwing her arms around her and burying her head in his shoulder. “Where have you been,” she whispered quietly, “I’ve been worried sick about you.”
Jack looked at the door to the dining room as Joanne came in, carrying a tray laden with mugs of coffee. “Is there any chance of two more of them,” Jack said as he looked at the young woman.
“Make that three,” Sara said as she walked in. “Where’s Brian?”
“He’s parking the car – it’s a little busy out there,” Jack said with a little smile. “Blossom?”
“Sleeping upstairs – we’ve taken her phone off her, but she’ll be awake soon. How do you know it’s not John?”
“Because,” Jack said as he looked at Bobbi, “Brian and I spoke to him at the upstate pen a few hours ago. It could not have been him – but he knew who it could be.”
“I can’t imagine he told you.”
“Brian,” Jack said as he looked at Anne and Sara, “can be very persuasive. Has he called again?”
“Just now – he said more photos would be coming.”
Jack nodded. “Look, someone needs to be here with Blossom, whatever else happens today.”
“That will be our job.”
Jack looked at the older woman who spoke. “Thanks, Roberta,” he said quietly, “but it will need more than you.”
“I’ll help as well – I’m Elena Dunbar, the Phys Ed teacher...”
Jack looked at her, and then said “We’ll talk later. Right now, Anne, I need a word with you in the kitchen.”
“Why not out here?”
Jack looked at Amy, before saying “I need to talk to her first – after that, I’ll talk to all of you.”
Sara made to follow her, only to be stopped as Brian held her shoulder.
“Not yet,” he said as he looked at her watch, which was starting to glow yellow. “You’ve had the dream again, haven’t you?”
Sara nodded quietly as Brian held her...
“That’s right – tie their ankles tightly together and then pull them back under the chair, before you tie the rope to the back spar.”
Britney and Margo shifted in the chairs as Chloe and Coral bound their ankles together, and then pulled them under the seat of the chair. Both girls were wearing silk party dresses with square collars, and a sash round their waist tied in a bow at the back. Britney was wearing a dark green one, while Margo had on a red one. Their arms had already been placed behind the chair back, their wrist crossed, bound together and to the chair itself, while ropes held them around their waists and shoulders to the chair as well.
They were both wearing matching shoes with kitten heels, held fast to their feet by the rope around them and their ankles as well. They watched Chloe and Coral as they stood up, and brushed down the dust from their tailored trousers – part of the suits they were both wearing, with camisole tops and heels.
“Very good,” the thin man said as he handed the two women two white scarves, already folded into bands with a knot tied in the middle. “Now gag them, before Coral starts to bind you, Chloe.”
“This is fun – Immsmsmss,” Margo said as Chloe pulled the knot into her mouth, her worried look to Coral not missed as the older woman gagged Britney. “Let’s just let him have his fun,” Coral said as she stood behind a third chair. Chloe nodded as she sat down, and moved her arms round the chair back, watching the thin man as he filmed Coral binding her.
“Please, you don’t have to do this,” Heidi said as she watched Glasses securing her wrist once again to the iron bedstead. “Just let us talk to them.”
“Orders is orders, lass,” Glasses said as he pulled the rope tight, and looked at the young woman. Her blonde hair was held back in a pigtail, but her clothes were not her usual casual wear. She had been forced to put on a red boob tube, which spangled with the silver threads running through it, and a red leather micro skirt with a slit at the side, allowing the captors to bind her legs apart.
All the girls were dressed in similar outfits – Cindy in white, Natalie in blue, Jannifer in pink and Alice in black. They all also had on matching ankle boots, and a choker around their necks of the same colour.
“No more questions,” Blondie said as he pressed a length of flesh coloured plaster over Heidi’s mouth, leaving her as securely gagged as the others as they looked round the room. “All right,” Glasses said as he picked up the camera, “Let’s do this...”
“He said it was Chris Andrews?”
Anne was sitting at the table with Jack, and she let out a huge sigh as he nodded to confirm it.
“That’s the name he gave – and Brian looked as if he recognised it.” He picked up his mug of coffee, and took a deep drink before saying “Is there something you want to tell me about Brian – and Sarah for that matter?”
Anne shook her head. “I can’t – believe me I wish I could, but I can’t.”
“Anne, please – what the hell is going on here? I saw Brian do things with John Hopwood no normal person should be able to do. As soon as that name was mentioned, he looked as if he was going to kill Hopwood.”
“I can understand why,” Anne said, and for the first time since they had met he saw a glimmer of fear pass over the agent’s face. “You’ve met him before, haven’t you,” Jack said quietly.
Anne nodded and then said “Jack, when you first rescued Margaret, all those years ago, how bad was it?”
“Bad enough that I never wanted to see something like that again.”
“Then your job today has to be to stand by Margaret – the pictures we have seen may be a little too close to home for her. You have to trust me on this, Jack - and follow my lead.”
“All right,” Jack said quietly, “but I’m worried about you – and that sister of yours.”
“You and me both,” Anne said as she heard Veronica shout “Anne – get in here!”
The two of them stood up and went back into the front room, where a tall, sandy haired man was standing.
“Where are my wife and kids,” he said quietly as Blossom came into the room, saying “Kurt” as she ran forward and buried her head into his chest, sobbing as she did so.
Natalie was twisting on the bedstead as Blondie ran the bristles of the electric toothbrush along the sides of her bare belly with one hand, the other one delivering the same torture to Jannifer. Heidi and Cindy had their heads down, panting through their noses while Glasses filmed Alice, looking on wide eyed as she awaited her turn.
“They really love this,” Blondie said as he turned to the camera, and then started to use the toothbrushes on Alice, her body jerking as she tried to avoid them. Natalie and Jannifer looked at each other, the sweat pouring down their brows, as they looked over at the others.
“Hey,” Glasses said as he looked round the camera, “Do you think he wants us to use those toothbrushes elsewhere?”
“Really? You have to ask?”
Cindy raised her head when she heard this, shaking it as she said “Plllsssnntththrr.”
“Not now,” Blondie said with a smile, “but when we take a trip later, who knows?”
Alice screamed out into her tape gag as the bristles found her more sensitive spots, before the torture stopped. “Nice,” Glasses said as he filmed the red faces of the five girls. “I hope their mummies realise what big girls they have raised.”
“Fku,” Alice said as she looked at the two men, before the door opened and the thin man came in. “Are we ready?” he said as he looked at the five captives.
“We got the pictures you asked for – what next?”
“We’re going to take a family picture – take young Jannifer down and follow me.”
As he turned and left the room, Blondie and Glasses took Jannifer down from her frame, holding her arms behind her back as she was marched out of the room.
“Whttrrp,” Heidi said as she looked at Cindy. The dark haired girl was working her jaw, finally gasping as she managed to get the tape away from her mouth.
“I don’t know,” she said quietly, “but I don’t like the idea of them doing anything else to us...”
“So glad you stayed,” the man said as he walked back into the other room, Coral saying “whtshhppng” through the scarf that filled her mouth.
“Your big sister is very anxious to see you,” he said as he knelt behind Britney’s chair, and untied the ropes that were holding her body to the chair. “So we’re going to take you to spend some time with her. I’ll be back with you in a few minutes.”
He carried Britney out of the room, returning a few minutes later and removing Margo as well. “Take care of the chaperones,” he said as he left the room, Glasses closing the door before he and Blondie turned and looked at the older women.
“Whrhrthfrs,” Chloe growled through her gag. Blondie laughed, and said “Don’t worry – they’re just hanging round in another room. Your question now should be – what are we going to do with both of you.”
Glasses walked up to Coral, and pulled open her jacket, his hands grabbing her breasts as her eyes opened wide. “The kids have gone now,” he said quietly, “which means we don’t have to play too nice anymore.”
“Dnttuuddrr,” Coral growled as Blondie walked behind Chloe, and started to grope her as well. “Relax,” he whispered into her ear as she tried to wriggle out of the way, “or we may have to go next door and treat the other girls in this way.”
Both Coral and Chloe looked at each other as he said this, and then shook their heads, allowing the men to continue...
“I don’t understand,” Kurt Dale said as he sat with Blossom, “All of them have been kidnapped? Why?”
“I’m afraid to say,” Anne said as she sat with the others, “that it is because of me.” A few minutes ago, he had asked Suzanne to go with Brian and Sarah to pick up some groceries, while Alexa and Joanne were with Andrea in the kitchen.
“You? What have you got to do with all this,” Bobbi Hopwood said as Anne looked to Jack.
“I talked to your brother last night,” Jack said quietly, “and he apparently had a recent conversation with another prisoner – he had been moved to the prison as the first stage of a release program. He seemed to ask a lot of questions about Anne and her friends.”
“What was this man’s name?”
“Andrews – Chris Andrews.”
Amy shot out of her seat, Dorothy looking on as her partner’s face turned white. “Anne, don’t tell me it’s the same man...”
“The same man as what?”
“Oh god oh god oh god,” Amy said as she collapsed in her seat, burying her face in her hands, “it can’t be him, it can’t be him....”
“Anne, who is this man?”
Anne Duncombe looked round the room. “Some years ago, Sue and I were involved in a murder case - it was straightforward enough, the perpetrator was caught, tried and executed. That was a cousin to a man called Chris Andrews, who was employed as a security guard at a branch of the Maine Municipal Bank. He found out we visited that branch every Friday and...”
“Oh shit,” Dorothy said quietly, drawing a glance from everyone else. “You don’t mean... Amy he wasn’t the man who killed that woman?”
“He was,” Sue said from the back of the room. “He was determined to kill both of us, but a very very brave woman sacrificed herself to save us, and everyone else in the branch that day.”
“Including me and Heidi,” Amy said as she looked up. “We visit her grave every year – that was where we first met Sarah and Brian. She was veiled at the time, and she said that woman was her aunt...”
“Sarah was related to her – to Sara Smite? Anne, why didn’t you tell me?”
“It never came up in conversation. Anyway, Chris Andrews was arrested, tried for murder, but was found guilty of murder in the second degree. His lawyer argued that, although his intent had been to kill us, the actions of Sara Smite led to her death, but he did not intend to kill her.”
“You are kidding me,” Kurt Dale said as he stood up. “Sir down,” Jack said, “It’s in the past, and there is nor point arguing about it until we solve the current situation.”
Kurt sat back down, holding Blossom as Anne continued. “He was sentenced to life, but – and there is no way I can say this without you or me getting angry – a week or so ago, I was told he had been released on parole.”
“How?” Dorothy’s voice was quiet, but there was a hint of steel in her voice.
“Clerical error – and believe me heads are going to roll – but I thought he would go after me, and I was ready. Then they took the kids, and...”
Anne’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a number of cell phones going off. The assembled mothers looked at their phones, gasping and crying as the pictures of their families appeared.
Anne’s phone also had a message – a text one that said “Six O’clock – I’ll tell you where. Be there or they die.”
“So what are we going to do?”
Anne looked at Katherine, who was standing with her fists clenched.
“I’m working out a plan – but until we know where they are, all we can do is the most difficult thing of all – wait.”
“Promise me,” Amy said as she looked up, “Promise me I will get the chance to tell him exactly how I feel.”
Amy looked to the door to the kitchen, where Sarah was standing, and said “The bastard who kidnapped our girls – Chris Andrews.”
Both Anne and Sue saw the colour drain from Sarah’s face, but only Anne saw the dial on her watch glow red as she said “Andrews? Chris Andrews? The man who took my mother from me is behind this?”
As she looked round the room, Sarah suddenly realised that every single woman was looking at her, while Jack and Kurt were coming towards her. Glancing down, she looked at her watch, and then...
“Sarah, you’d better come with me.”
She turned to see Brian standing there, spraying the counter-agent on her. “Thanks,” she said as the group started to shake their head, while Brian picked her up and carried her into the hallway through the kitchen.
“Wh.... What just happened,” Sue said as she looked at Anne. “More to the point, what did she mean about the man who took my mother?”
“I was going to ask the same thing,” Amy said as she held Dorothy’s hand. “For a moment, the only thing in my mind was...”
“The only thing on my mind as well,” Dorothy said as she looked at her partner. “I wanted to make strong, passionate love to her, and I would have done anything to do so. How did that happen?”
Anne sat down, and shook her head. “I guess I can tell you something, but not everything. Brian and Sarah are a special unit, attached to the FBI, who specialise in hostage situations. They have – unique skills that can be brought to bear to make sure no innocents get hurt – and we need them today more than ever. I really cannot tell you more than that, so don’t ask me.”
“So that’s why you trust them – you know what they can do?”
Anne nodded at Katherine, and said “Believe me – if anyone is going to get the girls back, it’s them.”
In the attic, Sara looked lovingly at Brian as he buckled the strap around her ankle, and pulled it to the side, leaving her spread eagled on the large bed.
“I’m glad you were there,” she sighed as he kissed her chest, “I hate to think what would have happened if...”
“Shhh,” Brian said quietly as he pressed tape over Sara’s mouth, “I need to get you back under control.” Sara gasped at the touch of his lips on her bare clitoris, and closed her eyes, sinking into the ecstasy of her partner’s touch...
Britney and Margo nodded to Jannifer as they lay on the large rug, facing each other in their swimsuits. All three girls had their wrist crossed and bound tightly with ropes, which had then been passed around their waists to hold their wrists in place.
They also had ropes tied around their arms and upper bodies, above and below their chests. The twins were giggling as they wriggled round, but for Jannifer it was a new experience, as the ropes rubbed above and below her chest. It was a strange feeling, and she could not decide if she liked it or hated it.
She looked over at her sisters, and at the ropes around their ankles, knees and thighs, holding them tightly together. She had the same ropes, but unlike the twins her ankles had been pulled back and tied to her chest ropes – which only made the rubbing more intense as she moved about.
The girls instead had a length of rope between their ankles, keeping them loosely secured to each other. To them, it was a great game, but Jannifer was more worried about what had happened to the girls – as well as Coral and Chloe.
“Hhhh... hhhh... h......”
Chloe slowly opened her eyes as she looked at Coral, who was tied spread eagled to the bed, naked and her mouth pulled open by the ring gag forced between her teeth. She raised her head to look at the young French woman, and mumbled “lllsrff” through her damp lips.
Blondie was standing by the bed, looking at Coral and saying “I hope you enjoyed your breakfast.” The older woman swallowed and looked at him with hate filled eyes, while Glasses looked at Chloe. She was kneeling naked on the floor, her wrists and ankles held in a four way manacle, as she watched the other man slowly drop his pants.
“Time to feed you now, little one...”
As she looked up from the kitchen table, Anne saw Sue and Amy standing at the doorway, Sue with her arms folded.
“Anne, I’ve never seen you this flustered. Are you sure you’re telling me everything?”
“Sit down,” Anne said as the other two walked over to her. “Amy, Sarah is indeed the daughter of the woman who saved your life. She lives under deep cover, which is why she said that she was visiting your aunt when we first met.”
She stood up and walked over to the sink, resting her hands on the metal as she looked out of the window.
“Fuck it,” she finally said, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to cope if anything goes wrong. I’ve faced down some evil bastards, but to take the girls and do this...”
“Come on Sis,” Sue said as, in a very uncharacteristic move for her, “You know you have all of us supporting you, and you’re a bloody good agent. With all of us, we’re going to get the girls back...”
“Of course we are,” Brian said as he came in. “Forgive me, Amy, but do you have any steak?”
“In the icebox – why?”
“It’s part of their routine – Sarah is all right?”
Brian nodded, and took a piece of meat out, heating a griddle as Veronica came in.
“We’ve been in touch with the schools – told them that the girls have all taken ill. Bobbi has gone to see Coral’s husband.” She looked at Anne and Sue before saying “What’s the plan?”
Before Anne could answer, her cell phone pinged, and she looked at the message on the phone.
“Well, this is faintly ridiculous.”
Natalie looked over Alice’s shoulder at Cindy, who was kneeling in front of Heidi. All four girls had eventually been released from the bedsteads, and allowed to freshen up, before they were made to dress in identical black cocktail dresses, held up by thin strap over their shoulders, and with a skirt that came three inches above their knees.
“Which part – the costume, the fact we’re being tied to each other, or the heels he’s making you wear,” Heidi said as she turned her head and looked at her cousin.
“All of it,” Natalie said as she looked back at the three inch heels on her patent leather shoes. All four had also been made to don sheer pantyhose, so that the white rope was more clearly visible as it went round her ankles as well as her feet, stopping her from kicking the hated objects off.
The top of her dress was stretched by the ropes that had been pulled tightly around her arms and upper body, above and below her chest, and then used to make a type of rope bra around her chest. All four had the same arrangement, their wrists crossed and bound behind their backs, before the thin man had paired them up and secured them together with ropes around their waists and legs above their knees.
“Now then,” he said as he brushed Natalie’s blonde hair back, and put an Alice band in place, “We need to keep you four quiet. Close your eyes and open your mouths.”
“Here we go again,” Alice said as she complied, then felt something hard and tasting of rubber pushed into her mouth. The straps around her mouth were expected, but then she heard Natalie very close to her, mumbling as she too was gagged.
It was only when she opened her mouth that she saw how close Natalie was, a short chain the only thing between them. The chain was connected to each of the leather panels in their mouths, and Natalie could see over her shoulders that Heidi and Cindy had the same connected gags.
“Now,” the thin man said as he picked up a video camera, “Look really scared.”
“Ntprblm,” Alice mumbled as he started to film them...
“Something smells good,” Joanne said as the others came back in. “Well,” Jack said as he looked up from the seat he was next to Margaret on.
There was a look of steel in the eyes of Anne and Sue as the group turned and looked at her. “I know what we’re going to do now,” Anne said as Brian and Sarah came back in.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” Sarah said as she looked round the room.
“Explanations later – I need us to split into four groups, each of which will have a particular task. Sarah, Brian – suit up.”
The couple looked at each other and left the room as Anne looked at Blossom. “Blossom, Danny, we are going to get your girls back by the end of today. Roberta, Elena, you have already agreed to stay with them, but I need you to stay here as well Suzanne – we will keep you updated on what is happening.”
“Of course,” Suzanne said as she sat with the others.
“Joanne, Alexa, Andrea, Heather – I need to see you and Sue in the kitchen. Everyone else stay here.”
Anne held the door open as the five others came in, Sue saying “So what are we going to do Sis” as the door swung closed.
“I’m sorry, Sue,” Anne said as she fired a tranquiliser dart into Sue’s arm, the dark haired woman’s eyes opening for a second before she slumped to the floor.
“What the...” Heather said as she looked at Anne. “Why did you do that?”
Anne looked at them, before saying “because there is a very real chance I may need her to take revenge. Either way, your job is simple – keep her here, by any means necessary.”
The four women looked at Anne, before Heather said “Where?”
“The attic – I think you will find all you need there, and when she finally does come to...”
Joanne looked at the agent, seeing a tear in the corner of her eye, and said “Yes?”
“Tell her I love her, and I’m sorry.”
Heather nodded as Alexa and Andrea hoisted Sue between them. “Just bring my mum home safely,” Andrea said as Joanne held the door open, the four of them leaving her alone.
Anne sat down again, staring into space in front of her, before she was interrupted by Veronica coming in.
“Where did the others go,” she said quietly.
“To do what I asked of them,” Anne said as she stood up. “Where’s everyone else?”
“In the front room, waiting for you to tell us what to do.”
Anne nodded and stood up, following Veronica into the front room.
“Amy and Dorothy, Veronica and Katherine, Jack and Margaret, I need you to come with me, Sarah and Brian in your cars. I will tell you what we are going to do when we get there. Suzanne, someone will call every hour to let you and the others know what is happening.”
“What are the girls, Heather and Sue going to be doing?”
“They’ll tell you themselves when they come down. Katherine, we’re going to need the keys to Heather’s farm. Tell her it’s for the right purpose. You’ll find them in the attic.”
“I’m on it,” Katherine said as she left the room, stopping for a moment as Sarah and Brian came back in. Brian was dressed in black, and had a rucksack in his hand, but it was Sarah who caught everybody’s eye. She was dressed entirely in pink - a tight fitting leather jacket, zipped up the front with a hint of cleavage visible at the top, a leather miniskirt, tights and over the knee leather boots with a two inch heel. She was pulling a pair of leather gloves over her hands, looking at the others.
Amy and Veronica in particular were looking at her, Amy mouthing “Oh My God...” as she did so. Anne looked at both of them, and simply nodded as she said “Let’s move out - we don’t have a lot of time.”
From the attic, Joanne looked out of the window and saw the group getting into their cars, and driving away. “Looks like a hunting party,” she said as she looked back at the other three, “Why did they need your keys, Heather?”
“You need a base of operations – I guess the farm got volunteered,” she said as she fastened the padlock over the hasp, and laid it against Sue’s neck. “There – between us, I think we have her held in place.”
They had stripped Sue Duncombe, and used a pair of linked hand and leg cuffs to place her in a tight hogtie as she lay on the bed. Her hands were enclosed in leather gloves, like boxing ones, and a black leather hood covered her head, held in place by the padlock. Underneath, a black sleep mask covered her eyes, cotton wool filled her ears, and a black leather panel covered her mouth, the rubber bung filling her mouth.
“We take turns to watch her – an hour each – and if I’m not in the room when she comes to, find me.”
“I don’t get it though,” Andrea said as she looked at their captive, “Why did Anne leave her behind? Surely she needs her.”
“If she left her sister behind,” Heather said quietly, “It’s because she thinks she needs her alive. Joanne, you take first watch – the rest of you come with me.”
“Where have you been, sis,” Britney said as she and Margo finally hugged their sister. They had been untied and their gags removed, and then allowed to change out of their swimsuits into t-shirts and shorts.
“I’ve...I’ve been with some of the other girls,” Jannifer said as the three of them sat at the table. Blondie had brought in three Big Macs, fries and cups of Coke, and was now sitting watching them. “We’re all playing the same sort of game, but in different parts of the house here.”
“Have you seen Mrs Blackwood and Mademoiselle Badelaine? They were with us earlier today, but we haven’t seen them for a while.”
“Not yet, no,” Jannifer said truthfully, “but I am sure we will see them all very soon.”
“So when is the game going to finish,” Margo said as she opened the box, picked up the burger and took a bite out of it.
“Soon – tonight we will all be home cuddled up in our beds,” Jannifer said as she looked at Blondie. He simply nodded, but said nothing.
“Good – it’s been fun, but I want to see Mum and Dad.”
“Well, eat up and drink up – it’s not often you get to have these.” Jannifer watched as the twins took a big bite out of their burgers, washing it down with a large drink of Coke, before she began to do the same.
“So what do you think they’re...” Margo put the cup down, and started to shake her head. “That’s funny, suddenly I....”
Jannifer watched, her eyes widening in horror as the young twins suddenly fell to the side, their eyes staring into nothing. “What have you...” she started to scream before she too dropped her burger, the meat falling to the floor as she slumped to one side.
Blondie stood up, checking the pulses of all three girls, and gently touching Jannifer’s breasts, before leaving the room.
Alice looked into Natalie’s eyes, hoping for an answer as a thin line of drool appeared from the bottom of the leather panel covering her mouth. Natalie shook her head slightly from side to side, knowing any more would hurt Alice as well.
Looking over her friend’s shoulder, she could see Heidi and Cindy trying to move as well, and then she realised her eyes were starting to mist over. She blinked several times, and then suddenly she felt tired – so very, very tired....
As all four girls dropped their heads onto their partner’s shoulders, Glasses watched through a glass panel. The gas would clear soon enough, and then he had his orders – but perhaps he could have a little fun as well...
“Well, I see my two friends have had plenty of fun with both of you.”
Chloe and Coral both stared back at the thin man, shaking as they sat side by side on the bed. The ring gags had been removed, but they now had ropes tightly holding their arms to their sides, biting into their chests as it wound above, below and between their breasts.
Their wrists were firmly tied behind their backs, and a length of rope ran between their legs, from the front of their chests to their wrists. Their ankles and knees were also tightly secured.
Chloe looked up at the thin man, and said “If the children...”
“They have not been harmed – despite what you may think, I do not allow that.”
“No,” Coral said quietly, “but Hopwood never did either. Does he hate me so much he would arrange this?”
“Hopwood? That little prick – no, all he told me was your connection to the woman I really need to speak to. I expect her here in a few hours – and then you will all be freed.”
He looked at Chloe and said “I beg your pardon?”
“We will not be free, will we? We have seen your faces – all of your faces. You will not allow us to go free.”
She watched as he smiled – a small, sad smile – and then fell backwards as the tranquilizer dart hit her arm. Coral did not have time to react before she too was unconscious, Blondie and Glasses walking in as she fell back.
“Are the little ladies ready to be moved?”
“Well then – let us prepare for the final act.”
Katherine walked in, saying “I think for once we’ll forget Heather’s rule” as she turned on the kitchen lights and went to the coffee machine.
“That is a very daring outfit,” Margaret said as she and Jack looked at Sarah. “You might almost think she wants to stand out.”
“That’s the idea,” she said as Anne, Amy, Dorothy and Veronica came in. “You’d better all sit down,” Anne said quietly, “and I’ll tell you why I asked you in particular to come.”
“I can guess why Veronica and I are here,” Amy said quietly, “because we know the special skills Sarah has.”
“You do,” Dorothy said as she looked at them.
“I think we do,” Veronica said quietly, “because we’ve talked to and helped some people that have seen you at work. You’re the woman who walked in on the Craig’s, aren’t you?”
Sarah looked at Anne, who nodded quietly. “I am,” she said, “and yes, I have special talents, but pray you never need to see them.”
“Which is why I asked you both to come with us,” Anne said quietly. “Sara was instrumental in resolving the invasion at Holderness Manor, and she has a rather more personal link to you and Heidi as well. I just pray the girls have not gone through a similar experience – the other reason for leaving Blossom with Kurt at your house.”
Margaret looked at Anne, before saying “If he has harmed one hair on her head...”
“Maggie,” Jack said as he up this hand on his wife’s shoulder, “We will get him. So what do you want me and Brian to do?”
“Mister Andrews has sent me a grid reference, to meet him at in two hours,” Anne said as she showed the message to Brian and Jack. “I reckon it’s a mile from here – I need recon.”
“You’ve got it,” Brian said as he kissed Sarah, then left with Jack. “Dorothy, Margaret – you’re here because we need all the mothers we can to be here. And I have a special need of Katherine – do you think Annapolis and Langley can work together on this one?”
“It will be an honour,” Katherine said as she sat down. Anne mouthed “Thank you” before saying “Right – someone call back and tell them what’s happening. Here’s what we are going to do...”
“So what do you think?”
Brian was looking through a pair of binoculars as Jack crouched with him in the bushes. In the distance was an old farmhouse, with a barn to one side.
“Only one way in and out – and I’ll bet he has that monitored to make sure nobody comes unexpectedly. Having said that, it might be possible for somebody to make their way round the back of the house and get in that way, if they are careful.”
“Careful is my middle name,” Brian said as he gave Jack the binoculars. “Look to the side of the house, what do you see?”
Jack adjusted the set, and then said “Two men, carrying something from the house to the barn. Any idea what?”
“A bad one,” Brian said as he took out his cell phone. “Anne? Go secure.
“We’re there – it’s a farm with an outbuilding. I’ve seen at least two men, but no sign of Andrews yet. I suspect he is going not show his face until you arrive – that is your plan right?”
At Heather’s farm, Anne stood up and walked from the table. “How did you guess?”
“I know you too well. How’s Sara?”
Anne glanced over at the pink clad woman, whose watch face was switching between pink and green. “She’s as ready as we can be – have you got a plan for your end?”
“Yeah – we’ll wait for you to come up, and then one of us will watch as the other works to the rear of the building. You?”
“I’m bringing back up – I’ll text when we’re ready to go.”
Hanging up, Anne turned and said “So you know what we’re going to do?”
Amy nodded. “Veronica, Dorothy, Margaret and I follow you in one car. We stop where you tell us to, and wait for your signal.”
“I’m coming a little further with you,” Katherine said as she checked the gun Anne had given her, “and make my way to where Jack is. And Sara?”
Sara cracked her fingers and said “I’m going with Anne – just not visibly. Let’s do this.”
“All right ladies,” Anne said as she put her gun into her holster. “Let’s go get the girls and our friends back.”
Alexa was sitting in the attic, looking at Sue as she squirmed round in the cuffs, her muffled screams barely audible but the meaning and the feeling behind them very very clear.
“I’m sorry, Sue,” Alexa said quietly, “but our instructions were very clear.”
“She’s woken up then.”
Alexa turned to see Heather standing there, a mug of coffee in her hand. As she took it, she said “Yeah – and she’s pissed.”
“So would I be,” Heather said quietly, “even if Anne did it for the right reasons?”
“What – in case this Andrews cunt gets past her?”
“No,” Heather said quietly, “in case she needs avenging.”
The two cars turned off the main road, stopping at the bottom of the dirt track. Amy got out of the second of the cars, and walked up to the window of the first.
“This is as far as you come,” Anne said to her from the driver’s seat. “Wait here for my signal.”
“And if we don’t get it?”
Anne looked at Katherine, then at Amy. “If I’m not back by midnight, call the local police and pray for us. Katherine – go.”
Katherine nodded as she got out of the car and headed into the woods. “Well, here we go,” Anne said to herself as she started to drive up the dirt track, the headlights picking out the road in the rapidly gathering dusk.
As she drove along, she began to get increasingly nervous, before she saw the farm appear in the twilight. Drawing up outside, she stopped the car and got out, looking into the dim light.
“That’s quite far enough Agent Duncombe – raise your hands so that I can see them.”
Anne slowly raised her hands, as she heard a pair of footsteps behind her. From in front, a blonde haired man in a boiler suit walked towards her, holding a pistol to her as a pair of hands started to search her.
“Got it,” a voice behind her called out as she felt her gun being removed from the holster.
“Excellent – secure her.”
Before she could stop whoever was behind her, Anne felt her arms being pulled behind her back, and the cold steel as a pair of handcuffs was fastened around her wrists. Only then did she say the tall, thin man walk out of the farmhouse.
“You’ve lost weight, Andrews,” she said with a smile, “Prison life must have agreed with you.”
“It had its moments,” Chris Andrews said as he walked up to her, “But do you know what really kept me motivated? The thought that one day I would stand here, and have you helpless before me.”
“Yeah, well – it takes a real man to use defenceless girls as bait. What’s the matter – scared of strong women?”
The blow across her cheek stung, as Anne winced and then looked again at Chris Andrews. “I did what you asked – now show me they are safe.”
“Of course,” he said with a smile, “Bring her to the barn boys.”
From his vantage point, Jack swore under his breath as he watched the three of them walk from the car to the barn.
“Language, Detective Hawkins.”
Jack spun round, his pistol raised as he saw Katherine standing behind her.
“I wish you people would stop doing that,” he said, “I’ll have a heart attack.”
“Sorry – where’s Brian?”
“Making his way to the rear of the house – why are you here?”
“Back up – did Anne get taken?”
“As she expected to be – and I’m guessing that means the others are all in that barn.”
Katherine nodded, and said “Anne’s instructions are to wait until she comes back out, or thirty minutes – then send a text she had put on this phone. And pray...”
“Nice place – who did you steal it from?”
“Humour,” Andrews said as the bespectacled man pushed Anne into the barn, “I like that, even in the face of your death. Let me show you the others.”
There were three stalls facing them, with the gates closed. Andrews stopped and opened one stall, Anne gasping as she saw Jannifer, Britney and Margo staring back at her. They were sitting in a row, in their underwear, their legs crossed in front of them as they stared back. All three had their ankles tied together with rope, and then one length of rope going up and around their stomachs, holding what she presumed were their bound wrists behind their back.
A second length of rope ran from their ankles to a black box directly in front of Jannifer, which had a red blinking light on the top. Finally, grey tape was wrapped around their heads, cutting off their mumbled cries.
“It’s very simple really – if any of these three lovely ladies move at all, the trap door in the box will open, and a very venomous spider will soon be having a little drink of their blood.”
Anne looked at them, and said “Are you girls all right?” Jannifer very slightly nodded, as Anne said “be brave – it won’t be long.”
Closing the stall door, Andrews then opened the second one, where she saw Heidi, Cindy, Alice and Natalie lying in a star, facing each other. All four girls were also in their underwear, and tightly hogtied, their heels touching their panties as they started at each other. As well as the ropes around their bodies, a rope ran from each of their backs to a second black box in the centre of the star.
“This one is not a spider,” Andrews said quietly, “This one is a bomb – and if you do not do exactly what I say, it will explode, killing them and probably everyone else in here.”
“Be brave,” Anne said to the quartet, who mumbled through the leather pads strapped to their faces as they looked up.
“And then,” Andrews said as he closed the stall door, and walked to the third one, “There are the adults.” Opening the stall, Anne gasped as she looked in, shaking her head as the pink ribbon that held her hair in a pigtail was thrown in front of her.
Chloe and Coral were staring at her, their mouths linked by the twin ball gags that were pulled into their mouths and strapped tightly round their heads. Their naked bodies were held tightly together with bands after band of tightly tied white ropes, their arms perpendicular to each other behind their backs and lashed into place, while rope went from their wrist to their ankles.
There was one other length of rope, which ran from Coral’s wrists, between the legs of both women and then to Chloe’s wrists, pulled up as tightly as possible. The two women could barely move as their eyes turned to the thin man and Anne, but Chloe nodded slightly as she saw the ribbon in her hair
“Don’t worry, when you’ve done what I ask they will be released,” Andrews said as he closed the stall door. Looking at the blonde haired man, he said “Stay here,” and took one of Anne’s arms, frogmarching her back to the farmhouse with the other man.
From the vantage point, Jack watched Anne as she was taken into the farmhouse. “It’s time,” he said as Katherine sent the pre-programmed text.
At the rear of the two buildings, Brian looked at the text and nodded, making his way towards the barn.
And in front of the house, the trunk of Anne’s car opened, as Sara got out, stopping to brush herself down before she made her way to the front door...
“All right, “ Anne said as she was pushed into a room in the house, “I’m here, so what are you going to do to me?”
“And where is that delightful sister of yours?”
“You asked for me, not her – she’s trying to comfort the mothers of those poor girls.”
“OF course she is,” Andrews said with a smile, standing in front of Anne as he stroked his hand down her cheek, “and in time, I will talk with her as well.” Anne could sense the man in glasses behind her, as Andrews started to unbutton her blouse, and then pulled her jacket and blouse down her arms.
“So what are you going to do, grope me to death,” Anne said as she felt her elbows being pulled together behind her back, the rope biting into her skin.
“Well, I am glad to see you have accepted your fate,” Andrews said with a smile as he looked at Anne’s chest, heaving under the white bra, “but I am not going to grope you to death. I think you deserve a little pleasure before you go to whatever lies next for you.”
“And the kids?”
“They won’t be your problem,” Andrews said as Anne felt the cuffs leaving her wrists, and then her jacket and blouse being pulled off before they were roped together. She closed her eyes at the touch of his lips on her neck, determined not to show how she was feeling at his touch...
Katherine and Jack watched as Sara walked slowly up to the front door of the house, and let herself in.
“I wonder what she thinks she can do in there,” Jack said quietly.
“All Anne told me was she and Brian had special talents – what can Brian do?”
“Put it this way – John Hopwood is probably only coming to now,” Jack said with a smile. “Listen – what do we do now?”
“Well, Sarah is inside – we need to make our way down to the front of the house and wait. Anne said the other people will be pre-occupied very soon....”
“Well, let’s go – it will take us about ten minutes to get down there,” Jack said as the two of them started to make their way down.
“How much longer do you think it is going to be?”
“I’m sure they will call us when they have anything to tell us,” Roberta said to Kurt and Blossom as she handed them each a cup of coffee. “From what Heather has told me, Anne is very capable, and my other daughter has a lot of her late father in....”
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a door upstairs being flung open with considerable violence, and the sound of running feet. “OH shit,” Heather said as she came back into the room, “where are the three girls?”
Elena’s words were interrupted as the door was thrown open and a very angry Sue Duncombe stood in the doorway, sweat dripping from her body. “All right,” she snarled, “I don’t know why the hell Anne did this to me, or why she...”
“She did it because she thought she might not come back.”
Sue stopped and looked at Roberta and Heather. “What do you mean,” she eventually said.
“She made sure you stayed here because she was afraid you would get killed – and that she is going to be killed. She made sure you stayed here because she needs you to be here in case anything goes wrong, and to finish the job. Is that clear enough for you?”
Sue looked at Blossom, clutching Kurt’s arm, then at the other women. Suzanne had come in from the kitchen as well, and was looking at the naked woman standing there.
“Oh,” she eventually said. “I may need to apologise to the other three, once they wake up. I think they may need some icepacks as well. Where did they go?”
“It’s too late,” Heather said quietly as Suzanne handed a bathrobe to Sue, “They started work half an hour ago.”
The stall door opened as Coral and Chloe looked at Blondie, standing there as quiet whimpers came from the other two areas.
“Well now ladies,” he said as he looked at them, “given Andrews and my friend have that nice Agent Duncombe to themselves, I think I deserve a little treat as well.”
The two women whimpered as he knelt next to them, and started to pull on the rope between their legs, smiling as they groaned and twitched. “Oh yes,” he said as he reached between their legs, running his finger under the ropes and then licking it, “You taste wonderful. I am so looking forward t....”
The sudden silence took both women by surprise, as Chloe opened her eyes and looked to her side. Blondie was kneeling there, his eyes open and staring blankly, before he fell slowly to his side as a figure in black rose from behind him.
“Good evening ladies,” Brian whispered as he unbuckled and eased the ball gags from their mouths, “you can now officially say that the cavalry has arrived. Are there any more besides this particular specimen?”
“Brian,” Chloe said quietly as Coral worked her jaw, “What are you...”
“First things first – any others?”
“Only a thin man and a man with glasses,” Coral finally said, “but what are you doing here?”
“Exactly what he says, Coral – he is the cavalry, and he is not alone. Where is she?”
“Dealing with the other two,” Brian said quietly, “Where are the girls?”
Before they could answer, he heard muffled calls from the two stalls next to the one they were in. “Can you cope for a little while until I get them free?”
The two women nodded as Brian walked down to the far stall, and slowly opened the door. “Hello kids,” he said to Jannifer and the twins, “Sorry it took me so long to get here. What seems to be the problem?”
“Spdrrrnbx,” Jannifer mumbled as she very gently motioned to the box, the twins watching with fear filled eyes.
“Is there now? I have a little knowledge of spiders,” Brian said with a smile a she looked at the box. “Now sit very, very still, all right?”
The three girls watched as he carefully untied the ropes running from them to the top of the box, wondering how he was managing to do it without disturbing the trap door. “All right,” he said as he untied Britney’s ankles, “I need you all to stay still for just a little longer, while I remove the box.”
“Llrltt,” Margo whispered as very carefully, very slowly, Brian lifted the box up and carried it out of the stall, laying it on a bale of hay. Only as he did so did the light on the top stop blinking, and a trap door open. Brian looked on as a large spider crawled out, it’s black legs probing the hay, and a large red streak running down the back.
“Well hello there my old friend,” he whispered as he looked around, and saw an old glass jar to the side. Walking over, he fetched the jar, unscrewed the top, and then slipped a pair of gloves on from his rucksack. Picking the spider up, he looked at it, and then dropped it into the jar, fastening the lid in place before it could get out.
“All right,” he said quietly as he went back to the stall, and took a pair of scissors from his pocket. “This is going to hurt like the dickens, but try to keep quiet.”
Jannifer nodded as he cut the tape from around her head and peeled it away, before removing a large rag from her mouth. “How are you,” he said as he held Jannifer’s head in his hands.
“I’m scared,” she said quietly, “can you free the twins?”
“I need you to stay here for a few minutes more,” Brian said as he ungagged the two younger girls, “can you do that for me? Chloe and Mrs Blackwood are fine, but I need to take care of the other girls first.”
“All right,” Jannifer said quietly as the twins started crying, resting their heads on her arms.
“Not long now,” Brian said as he smiled, and then looked at the centre stall. Opening it carefully, he saw the other four girls looking at him.
“Hey,” he said, “I hear you’ve had a rough time, but I’m here now. What have we got here?”
As he reached for the black box, Heidi shook her head and said “Bmmbbbbb.”
“A bomb,” Brian whispered, all four girls very slightly nodding in reply. “Well then, this is going to require a little extra help.” They watched as he took out a small portable fan, set it on the floor, and started it up, watching as the blades sent a current of air over the box and their feet.
“Try not to move,” he said as he looked at the girls, “I need to concentrate...”
From the doorway, Sara looked cautiously into the room. She could see two men, one tall and thin, the other wearing glasses, and she could also see Anne.
The agent was lying on the floor, her arms pulled behind her back and bound at her elbows and wrist, her palms pressed tightly together. Ropes were also tied round her waist, stomach, chest and shoulders, as she lay naked on the floor.
Her legs had been pulled back, and her ankles tied to her thighs with several turns of rope. There were also bands of rope around her legs at her knees, and as she was made to kneel Sara could also see the rope that was tied between her breasts, and running down and between her legs, almost lost in her clit.
“Is.... Is this all you got,” Anne gasped as the thin man picked up a ring, with two straps running from each side. “I’ve faced worse.”
“I’m sure you have,” the thin man said as the other one pulled hard on Anne’s hair, making her yelp as the ring was inserted behind her teeth, and the straps fastened around her neck. “But first you will satisfy me. Then I will satisfy you, and then I will kill you.
“And once I have done that, then the other two women, and those nice young ladies – they will be next.”
She watched as the two men stood in front of her, and Glasses said “Can I feed her first?”
“Of course you can,” the thin man said as Sara took a deep breath. “This is for you Mum,” she said as she stepped in.
“Excuse me – my car broke down and I was wondering – oh, have I interrupted something?”
The two men turned and stared at the smaller woman standing in front of them, dressed in dusky pink leather with the top of her jacket open just a little revealing her chest. Anne stared as well, thankful she was unable to move as she watched the dial of her watch slowly turn red.
“Erm,” Sara said as she looked at them, “Look, I’m obviously interrupting a private party, so why don’t I...”
“Oh no,” the man wearing glasses said, “We insist you stay, don’t we boss?”
“Of course we do,” the thinner man said as he walked quickly over, grabbing her arm and pulling Sara into the room. “You’re going nowhere. Tie her up.”
“No, look, just let me... That hurts!” Sara felt her arms being pulled together behind her back, the rope rubbing against her leather jacket as her chest was forced out, the zip opening a little more. “Please, I don’t want you to...”
“But we do,” the thin man said as the second captor pulled her wrist tightly together, the rope digging into her skin as Sara felt the familiar feelings stirring within you. “Look, just tie me up, I won’t tell anyone...”
“That’s right,” the thin man said, “you won’t.” Taking hold of the zip of her jacket, he pulled it down, letting her chest fall out as he whistled.
“Well now, it looks like I’m getting a little appetizer,” he said as he knelt in front of Sara, pawing at her chest as the other man wrapped rope around her arms and body, forcing her breasts still further out as he did so. As his fingers sank into her flesh, Sara let out a small moan, wondering when...
Anne closed her eyes, fighting the feelings she was starting to experience as well. She was so glad she was bound, gagged, but still a moan came out as she felt dampness between her legs. “My god,” she thought, “What is Sara doing?”
The thin man looked at his partner and said “You can have Agent Duncombe for now – I’m taking this tasty treat first.”
He looked over Sara’s shoulder, stood up and said “What do you mean, No?”
“I mean No – you can have the agent, I want this one.”
“You’re forgetting who’s in charge here.”
Sara looked up and said “Please – let me go...” as the other man walked round and stood in front of the thin man.
“No, Andrews – I want her.”
“Right,” Sara thought to herself, “Thanks for that.” She concentrated for a moment, and then whimpered “You don’t have to fight over me...”
“No we don’t” Andrews said, “Take what you’re given.”
“Why you...” The toher man launched himself at Andrews, the two bound women watching...
“Whtswnggg,” Heidi whispered as she watched Brian studying the box, looking at it as the fan blew the soft current of air over it.
“Shhhh,” he said as he started to gently pass his hands over it, as if he was feeling the sides for any openings. Finally, he took a penknife from his pocket, opened it and very carefully slid it under the lid of the box, moving slowly and then stopping halfway along one edge.
“Right,” he said as he looked at the four girls, “I’m going to remove your ropes from the top. When I have done that, I need you to remain perfectly still for another minute, all right?”
Very slowly, very carefully, he stepped between Heidi and Cindy and untied the rope that was holding Heidi to the box. He did not touch the box once, instead carefully coiling the rope before he lifted her up and carried her out of the stall. Once she was laid on the ground, he repeated the process for all three of the other girls, before he released Heidi from her ropes.
“Thanks,” she finally said as the leather pad was removed from her mouth, the tears running down her face, “but how did you...”
“Never mind that for now – I need you to untie the others, then release Jannifer and her sisters.” Brian nodded to the left hand stall, where the three girls were calling out to them. Heidi nodded and started to untie Cindy, while Brian returned to Chloe and Coral and started to untie them.
“The danger is not over yet,” he said quietly as he separated the two women, and then started to untie Coral. “If things are going according to plan. Sara is keeping the other two men occupied.”
“How,” Coral said,”what the hell is going on?”
“Honestly, this is not the time for explanations,” Brian said as Coral stood up. “I need you to go outside – you will see Jack Hawkins and Katherine Jenkins out there.”
“Mum’s here,” he heard Natalie say shakily.
“She is but take care of your friends first,” Brian said over his shoulder. “Tell them to call the others and tell them to drive up. Chloe – stay with me for a moment.”
Chloe nodded as Brian took an old blanket that was lying on the floor and gave it to Coral. “Go,” he whispered as he and Chloe walked out of the stall.
“Chloe – oh my god, what happened to you,” Alice said as she saw the young naked French woman in front of her.
“Not for now,” Chloe said as she hugged the four girls, “We must release Jannifer and the twins.”
“You do that,” Brian said quietly, “I have another matter to deal with.” Returning to the centre stall, he gingerly lifted the lid off the box, keeping the blade pressed down on the contact as he revealed the block of Semtex.
Anne and Sara watched as the two men struggled, their hands around each other’s neck. “Go on,” Anne said to herself as Andrews thrust his knee into the other man’s groin, moving behind him as he dropped to the floor, “go on.....”
The crack was a sickening sound, Anne and Sara now looking on in horror as the spectacle wearing man fell forward, his head at an impossible angle to his body. Andrews stood there, panting before he walked back to Sara, thrusting his hand between her legs as he started to kiss her chest.
She felt the now familiar warmth flowing through her as he did so. “Yes, go on you bastard,” she thought to herself as she quietly said “Please.... Oh God please don’t do this...”
“Shut the fuck up,” Andrews growled as he pushed a folded hankie into Sara’s mouth, taking off his own tie and using it as a cleave gag. Before he pushed her onto her back, his lips on her chest, sucking and biting on her nipple as he stroked between her legs.
“Hgddddd” she called out as he bent her leg, and tied her leather booted ankle to her thigh, moving and repeating the process on the other side. He then pulled her skirt up, revealing her most and glistening clit to him as he dove in and used his lips and tongue.
Anne watched, feeling a stirring of desire within herself as well as Sara started to move in response to his teasing. “I’m going to fuck your bimbo brain out,” Andrews said as he pulled his pants down.
Katherine ran and embraced Coral as she came out of the bran, holding the blanket around herself. “What...”
“No time,” Coral shivered, “I have a message from Brian. Tell the others to come.”
“Where is he? Where are the girls?”
“There,” Jack said as he ran towards the barn, embracing Alice as she staggered out, followed by the others. “Are you all right,” he whispered as he looked into her tear stained face.
“They’ll be all the better for seeing their mothers,” Brian said as he came out with Chloe, carrying the blonde haired man over his shoulder. Jack took off his jacket and threw it over Chloe, as they made their way over to the car.
“Oh my god,” Katherine said as she saw Natalie, and embraced her in her arms, kissing her head as a car drove silently up. As soon as it stopped, Margaret and Dorothy ran out and embraced their daughters, while Veronica knelt in front of Jannifer and the twins.
“Your mum and dad are waiting for you at Amy’s house,” she said as Jannifer held Britney and Margo, “I’ll call them and...”
“Holy shit,” Margaret said as she saw a lick of flame appear in the window of the barn, “what...”
Sara groaned out through her gag as she felt Andrews thrust deep into her. His erect cock filled her passage, the throbbing from it running through her as she closed her eyes and moaned in ecstasy. The fire in her loins was stronger than ever, all consuming, enveloping her in lust as she gripped him and thrust in time to his movement.
“Oh this is such a perfect night,” Andrews said as he looked over his shoulder at Anne, “and you’re next...”
Anne looked at the dead body in front of her, and started to pray the others were safe, as Sara screamed out in desire.
“Come on you mother fucker,” Sara thought to herself, “Enjoy your last moments on this planet...”
Andrews then screamed out loud as he reached his climax, Sara arching her back in response as she came, more powerfully than ever before. “MY GOD,” she thought to herself as she felt the waves flowing over her, “This is more powerful than ever. What is happening to me!!!”
Anne’s eyes were wide open as well, as Andrews came out of her friend, and stood up, turning to look at her. “Your turn, Agent Duncombe,” he said before there was the sound of ropes snapping.
“What the,” Andrews said as he turned back round to see Sara slowly standing up, her eyes glowing, and Anne noticed the dial of her watch was not red.
It was pitch black.
The girls watched with Brian and Jack as the fire started to spread up the sides of the barn.
“If we had still been in there....”
“Don’t think about that,” Brian said as he turned and looked at Cindy, who was watching in Dorothy’s arms, her mother’s coat over her body. “You’re not, and you will be...”
“Jack,” Amy said quietly, “we need to get the girls out of here, and to a hospital as quickly as possible. Time to call in the local authorities.”
Jack Hawkins nodded as he looked at Alice. “It’s all over now, I promise,” he said as he reached for his cell phone, but before he could start to dial there was a scream from inside the main house.
A man’s scream.
“Mon dieu,” Chloe said as she stood with Brian, “what has happened?”
“So you are Chris Andrews.”
Anne was staring wide eyed at the two people in front of her. Sara was standing, her head to one side as she looked at the thin man standing in front of her. She had seen Sara at work before, but there was something else going on this time. Her eyes were glowing red, and she was standing with her legs bent slightly at the knees.
As for Andrews, he seemed to be staring mutely ahead, but Anne could see a wet streak appearing down the inside of his trouser legs as he whispered “What... What are you?”
“What am I?” Sara started to move forward, her gait strange, as if she was scuttling with her legs. “I am your worst nightmare come to live Chris Andrews. You have forced yourself upon me, but that is not all you have done.”
As Anne looked at Sara, she watched her crouch forward. “You have threatened a friend, Chris Andrews, but you have also threatened to harm and hurt the young girls I consider my friends. I do not like it when the young are threatened – I protect my brood, and I feed them. Perhaps I will leave some of them for you.”
“Oh my god,” Andrews whimpered. To his eyes, Sara had started to change, four long limbs appearing from her sides, hitting the floor and raising her body from the ground as she scuttled forward.
“No... No you cannot be doing this...”
“Doing what, Chris Andrews? Protecting my young? Thanking you for giving me such an appetite? Or taking revenge for all those you have hurt...”
There was a gun nearby, but Andrews did not go for it. Instead, he sprinted for the door, but Sara moved like lightning, blocking the exit and lifting him up with one hand, her other hand between his legs.
“Not such a big man, are you, Chris Andrews,” she said as she squeezed, Andrews looking at her as his eyes widened in fear and pain. “Not such a tasty morsel either, but you will fill a gap for now, and I will savour every sweet little sip of you.”
“No...” he gasped as in his eyes her head changed, flattening, becoming more like a giant spider, “What are you?”
“I told you, Chris Andrews,” Sara said as Anne saw her smile, “I am your worst nightmare. But I am more than that – I am the daughter of the innocent woman you killed, who gave her life to save not only this woman.”
She glanced at Anne as she said this, then continued as he felt a warm stream running down his leg, “but one of the girls you so cruelly planned to use and kill. I told you, I protect and feed my brood.”
“Srrrrr,” Anne said as she saw her friend, “dnttt....”
“Oh but he deserves this,” Sara said as she glanced at the window, and then threw Andrews towards it.
“Everyone down,” Jack Hawkins shouted as the glass window exploded outwards, the mothers ducking and covering the girls as the body of a man flew through the air, a dark stain on the inside of both his legs. He landed on the other side of the front area, as Brian saw Sara jump out of the window, landing ten feet clear of the house as she literally scuttled towards him.
In the light of the burning barn, he saw the dial of her watch, and mouthed “No..” before saying “All of you stay behind the cars and don’t look. Chloe, come with me.”
He reached into his belt and took out an aerosol spray as he and Chloe slowly walked forward, stopping as Sara looked at them and hissed “NO!!! THIS ONE IS MINE!!!”
“Watch them,” Jack said to Margaret as he ran to the house, climbing through what remained of the window as he looked round. He saw the man on the floor, his head at the wrong angle, and then at Anne.
“Oh fuck,” he said as he ran forward and removed the ring gag, holding the shaking agent, “Did they...”
“No,” Anne gasped, “Sara...”
“Hush,” Jack said as he started to untie her, “Sara is outside with Brian and Chloe – I presume they know what to do?”
“I... I don’t know if they can,” Anne said, “You’d better make a call for me...”
Brian and Chloe continued to move forward as Sara grabbed Andrews and lifted him off the ground. To him, a giant spider had grabbed him in her front legs, and had started to wind silk around his body....
“You killed my mother, you threatened to kill and hurt my friends and their daughters, and worst of all, you were going to enjoy it,” she hissed as she punched him in the chest, several ribs breaking as she did so. “So I am going to enjoy eating you, and you can die, knowing that in the end you have died well.”
Brian was trying to spray the controlling agent over his partner, but the watch dial stayed black. “It’s not working,” Chloe said quietly, “What do we...”
Sara’s head snapped to the side as an older woman appeared, as if in a grey shadow. Behind her stood two others, one a man dressed in regency clothes, the other a woman with long dark hair, dressed in a simple robe. The older woman was dressed in a bow tied blouse and a skirt, and was smiling.
“Do you see them,” Brian whispered to Chloe, who nodded and said “Oui – who are they?”
Sara looked at the three people, and then said “Mother?”
The first woman nodded, and said “Sara, my dear sweet child, don’t do this. You have saved them – saved them all – and now it is time to rest.”
“Remember what I said in that last letter? Sara, my child, it is not for you to judge him – let the authorities do that.”
“She is right,” the woman behind her said, “we all gave to save others – let him face the price for his crimes.”
As Brian and Chloe looked on, the dial on her watch slowly turned from black to crimson, and then to green, as she dropped Edwards to the ground and staggered back. He lay there, bleeding, whimpering as he said “Get away... Get her away from me...”
“Sara,” Brian said as he came forward and embraced her, “it’s all right, you did what you need to do, come back to me now....”
Chloe looked at the broken man on the ground, then at the three others, who started to fade into the night – but not before the man looked closely at her, and then nodded, as if he had seen something.
Veronica ran forward and put her coat around Anne Duncombe’s shoulders as they stepped out of the house, the sound of sirens coming from the far distance. She nodded and then looked at the trio as they walked back towards her.
“Is it over then,” she whispered to Sara as she came to her.
“It’s over,” Chloe said, but then they heard Andrews saying “DIE!!!” They turned suddenly to see him holding a gun, and somehow fired a shot at them.
“NO!” Sara shouted as she jumped in front of Anne, and then fell to the ground, blood seeping from her shoulder. Brian turned and snarled, but before he could take another step a second shot rang out, and Andrews fell lifeless to the ground.
“Jack?” Brian said as he turned to look at the police officer, but he shook his head as he looked to the cars.
Katherine Jenkins was standing, Natalie looking at her with her legs apart, and a service revolver in both her hands. As a white ambulance drove up, Jack walked over and took the gun from her hands. “It’s all right,” he said quietly, “I know why you did it.”
The door to the ambulance opened and a woman in a white coat jumped out. “Miss Smith,” Chloe said as she ran over, “Sara has been shot.” She escorted her over as Brian knelt and held Sara, more ambulances and police cars arriving...
The phone ringing made Heather almost jump out of her seat. Blossom and Kurt watched as she moved to the telephone table.
“Oh thank the lord,” she said as she looked at the group of women, and then at Blossom and Kurt.
“And they are unharmed? What about Anne?”
Suzanne and Roberta both stood up as they saw Heather clutch at the back of a chair, and say “Yeah, I understand. We’re heading there now.” Replacing the telephone, she said “Get the others – we need to get to Saint Elegius as soon as possible.”
“The girls – are they...”
“They’re safe, but badly shaken,” Heather said as Blossom literally threw her head into her husband’s chest, while her mother looked at her.
“I’ll explain on the way,” Heather said as Sue came in. “Sue, Mum, you’d better come with me. The others can follow...”
“CLEAR THE AREA!!!”
The command to the ER was precise and clear, as the police officers helped the staff to clear the reception area. As the first ambulance came in, Miss Smith jumped out with Chloe and Brian.
“Gunshot wound to the shoulder – the patient has lost a lot of blood.”
Two nurses and a doctor grabbed the trolley and wheeled Sara into a treatment room, Brian holding her hand as Miss Smith talked to the staff.
“Sorry, Chloe,” she said as the doors swung open, “You need treatment yourself.” As the doors closed, Veronica walked over and gently took the young French woman by the shoulders.
“Chloe – you’d better come with me and Coral,” she said as Coral walked in with Jack Hawkins.
“Take these two to a treatment room,” he said as Coral and Chloe started to shiver, “Both have been held captive and assaulted.” The female attending nodded and said “come with me please,” signalling to a female nurse to follow her.
Jack turned round to see Margaret walking in, her arms tightly around Alice, and the other mothers following. “Bring the girls this way – you can stay with them,” a nurse said as they were led off to another room. “I’ll be with you in a minute – I need to talk to the officers,” Jack said as Anne walked in with two paramedics.
“I’m fine,” she shouted at them, “I need to know how Sara is, I have to...”
“What you have to do,” Jack said as he looked at her, “is get checked out and treated. The others will be here soon – and you’ll have your sister to deal with. Let me talk to the officers for now.”
“I’ll make something up for now – you go and get treated.”
“Go,” Jack said quietly as Anne was led away, and he turned to the Deputy who was waiting in the doorway.
“What happened up there? We have two dead bodies, one unconscious, a fire – and what we found in the house...”
“Look at it this way, Deputy – it’s a mass kidnapping, which makes it a federal crime, which means your job is to gather and contain the evidence – the FBI will be here shortly. Especially as this involves one of their own.”
The deputy nodded, and said “Good point” before leaving. For the first time that night, Jack Hawkins sat down, looked around and then buried his face in his hands, whispering “Thank You” as he did so...
“WHERE IS SHE!!!”
Jack looked up to see Sue Duncombe burst through the doors, followed by Heather and Roberta. She was now wearing a black sweater, pants and boots, but the look of concern was genuine as she said to Jack “Where is Anne?”
“Treatment Room 2,” he said as Sue walked towards it, saying “I am going to ki... Oh dear God. What the hell happened to you Anne?” As the doors swung closed, Blossom and Kurt came in with Suzanne.
“Nurse,” Jack said as he motioned to one of the nurses. “This is Mister and Mrs Dale, the parents of three of the girls.”
“Come with me,” she said, and Jack heard the twins call out “MUMMY!! DADDY!!” as they were led to a cubicle.
Elena, Andrea, Alexa and Joanne were the last to come in. “Where’s my mother,” Andrea said as Jack guided her to the chairs.
“I’ll explain in a minute,” Jack said as they took a seat, “I need to go and see Anne first. Please, be patient with me.”
He went first to the room where Brian and Sara had been taken. “May I come in,” he said as he looked in the door.
“He’s cleared,” Brian said to Miss Smith as he held Sara’s hand. Jack came in and looked at the woman lying on the table, as a doctor treated her shoulder.
“How’s the patient?”
“Exhausted and hurting like hell,” Sara whispered. “Anne?”
“I’ll find out in a few minutes. What happened there tonight?”
“I don’t know – that’s why Miss Smith is here to do some tests.”
“And now you both need to leave,” the other woman said as Saar winced, the doctor removing the bullet. “Go – I’ll brief you later.”
“Come on,” Jack said as he took Brian by the arm. “Let the doctors do their work...”
As they walked out, a group of FBI agents came in. “Detective Hawkins? ADD Skinner – where is Agent Duncombe?”
“They’re both in treatment room 2 – the doctor can tell you where the other victims are.”
“Mister Carter – where is your partner?”
Brian jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Miss Smith is in with her.”
ADD Skinner nodded as he turned to his men. “Keep everyone out for now – give them a chance to recover, and then we can take statements.” Turning back to Jack, he quietly said “Tell me who killed Andrews and the other man.”
“I’ll make my statement in time – right now, I need to be with my family.”
“Of course – go,” he said as a nurse led Andrea to a booth, and Roberta came back out of a separate booth.
“How are they,” Suzanne asked.
“Exhausted after their ordeal,” Roberta said as she sat down. “Anyone want any more coffee?”
“If you ever pull a stunt like that again...”
“You’d have done exactly the same to me – sooner rather than later. We saved the girls, Sue – that’s the important thing.”
Anne Duncombe was sitting on the edge of the bed, having changed into a grey jogging outfit and a t-shirt supplied by the FBI team. “We saved them, yeah,” Sue continued, “but what you went through – and why was Sara there anyway?”
Anne looked at her sister, sighed and said “What do you know about Project Pink Widow?”
“Only the rumours, but...” Sue suddenly looked at her sister, and then sat down in the chair. “Holy shit – you mean she...”
Anne slowly nodded as Sue whispered “Well that explains a hell of a lot – do the others know?”
“Only one of them – well, two if you count Brian. I think Jack Hawkins has his suspicions now as well, but for the others – we’ll cross that bridge later.”
“Holy crap,” Sue said as she stood up. “I mean, I’d heard the rumours – the Delaware incident, the family of the Governor, but... What are you going to say to her now?”
“Thank you would be a good start,” Anne groaned as she stood up, “Come with me.”
The two women left the hospital room, and walked a short way to the next door, which had a uniformed officer outside. He stood up and nodded as he opened the door, letting them enter as Brian stood up from his seat.
“Have you slept yet?”
“Not yet – I wanted to make sure she was all right,” Brian said as Miss Smith came in. Anne walked over to the sleeping Sara, and put her hand on that of the other woman, seeing her green wrist dial as she said “Thank you.”
Anne looked at Sara as she opened her eyes. “Some night, eh?”
“How do you feel?”
“Drained – and it hurts like hell, but the others are safe?”
“Like that woman said, you saved them all, and it’s time to rest,” Brian said as Miss Smith and Chloe came in.
“One other, eh,” Sue said as she went to the door. “I’ll be with the others.” The group watched as Sue left, then turned back to the bed.
“So, what’s the verdict,” Sara said as she looked at Miss Smith, “what happened?”
“Well, as far as I can tell, the stress of the situation overwhelmed her biochemistry – it almost made her into a human spider, if you like. The dial on your watch turning black was the sign of the pheromones overriding everything.”
“So I lost control?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Miss Smith said, “Rather, your maternal instinct kicked in to the nth degree. From what Anne has told me, there was also a very personal side to this Andrews guy.”
Sara nodded weakly, and said “He killed my mother. And now he’s dead at my hands.”
“No,” Anne said quietly, “not at your hands, but what happened? When I came out with Jack, you were standing over him, with Brian and Chloe watching, and then...”
“I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.”
“I saw some old friends, and heard what I needed to hear – that brought me back to something approaching my senses.” Sara smiled weakly and said “She was right though – I did save everyone.”
Sara just smiled and said weakly “that’s not important – what is is that it’s over now. So how long before I’m back on my feet.”
“Oh no,” Miss Smith said as she pushed Sara gently down again. “I’m ordering a complete rest for you, until you are fully recovered. You need to get away from here for a while – you and Brian. I think you need some me time, rather than others time.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Sara said quietly as the others looked on. “So, how does Barbados sound?”
“I’ve got a better idea,” Brian said. “I talked to Desmond and Lucinda earlier – they’ve invited us to stay for a week or two. They say the house may be a little noisy, but...”
“Sounds wonderful,” Sara said with a groan. “And the others?”
“Yeah,” Anne said quietly, “I was going to come to that. Do you think she can come in a wheelchair?”
Brian gently lifted Sara out of the bed and into a chair, tucking a blanket into her as they left the room, the officer watching as they went towards a communal area.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
Sara nodded and smiled as Brian opened the doors. Amy and Veronica stood up as they came in, while Heather was sat with Roberta and Katherine.
“Hey,” Anne said as the door closed behind them, “How are the girls?”
“They’ll be along shortly,” Veronica said quietly, “How are you?”
“I’ll live,” she said as Amy knelt by Sara’s side and took her hand.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, “for everything. I only wish I had known sooner...”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you,” Sara said as she started crying, “can you forgive me?”
“What’s to forgive? Just promise me you’re not going to disappear.”
It was Amy’s turn to start crying as Anne walked over to where the Jenkins family was sitting.
“Hey – how are you?”
Katherine looked up at Anne, and said quietly “I’ll survive, eventually – he was going to kill you, and...”
“It’s all right, Katherine – I just want to say thank you for now.”
Anne looked over at Sara, who was talking to Amy and Veronica. “A tale for later – we all need to talk about what happened at some point, and soon. For now, let’s...”
“Hey – it’s our hero.”
Anne turned to see the twins rushing at Brian, hugging him around the waist as the other girls came slowly in, followed by their mothers.
“Hey hey – don’t all rush at once. You’ll make Sarah jealous,” Brian said as he hugged each of them, Sara smiling as he did so.
“Think they’ll ever know the full truth?”
Anne looked at Katherine. “That’s up to you lot, once you know the whole truth. Right now, I have one thing to say.” She extended her hand and said “Thanks, Annapolis.”
“You’re welcome Langley.”
“Hey,” Heidi said as Amy embraced her, and she looked at the others. “What are we going to tell the others at school?”
“Worry about that later,” Amy said quietly, “You all deserve a few days off – and then we can talk...”
Anne drove up to the front of the house, and parked, looking at the open door. She had just taken Sara and Brian to the airport, and seen them off on a private jet for the flight to England.
As they had stood at the side of the plane, she had hugged Sara, simply saying”Thank you – for everything.”
“No, thank you,” Sara had replied, “I think I have closure on so many things now – but what are you going to tell the others?”
“Leave that to me and Chloe,” Anne had said, and then watched as Brian helped her to walk slowly up the stairs into the plane, only leaving once she had seen the jet take off from the runway.
Now she was outside Amy and Dorothy’s house, and as she stepped out she could hear the sounds of the kids playing in the back garden. Taking a deep breath, she walked up to the door and knocked, walking in and saying “Anyone home?”
She turned to see Amy and Heidi standing behind her, Amy in a white jumper and slacks while Heidi was wearing a black t-shirt under a pair of denim dungarees.
“Hey,” she said in reply, “How are you feeling Heidi?”
“I’m not sure,” the young girl replied, “Physically, I guess I’m fine, but...”
“But you feel like you did when John Hopwood kidnapped you?”
Heidi shook her head. “Worse, if anything. I mean, Hopwood was bad enough, but those two men...”
“At least they didn’t do anything worse than they did,” Anne said quietly, “and we need to be grateful for that.”
“Amen to that,” Amy said quietly, as Heidi held her mother’s arms. “Did Brian and Sarah get away safely?”
“They did,” Anne said as Dorothy and Cindy came out to join them. Dorothy was wearing a pale blue top over black leggings, while Cindy was wearing her bib shorts over a white t-shirt. “Look, before we go to join the others, can I have a private word?”
The five went into the smaller front room, and sat down as Anne held her hands in front of her.
“I wanted to apologise to all of you – the problem with a job like mine is you have to keep secrets, and Sarah and Brian are right up there in terms of the most secret of secrets. I’m just sorry you had to find out about them the way you did – I never ever...”
“It’s all right, Anne,” Dorothy said as she put her hand on the agent’s, “I know you have to keep secrets – lord knows we have enough of them in our lives. I just hope they feel they can be part of our lives from now on.”
“So do they, so do they...”
“Did I hear you say they were going to stay at Holderness Manor? Do they know Alicia?”
Anne looked at Heidi and smiled. “Oh yes – but that’s a story for another day. Come on – the others will be wondering what happened to us.”
As they walked into the front room, they saw Blossom and Kurt sitting with Coral and Bobbi, while Margaret and Jack were with Katherine and Heather. Chloe was sitting with the older girls on the far side of the room.
“The others are outside with mum,” Joanne said to Heidi and Cindy, “why don’t you go out and join them?”
“Tell them I will be along in a few minutes,” Chloe said as the girls made their way into the kitchen, “I need to talk to all of you together.”
As the door swung to, Veronica came through with a tray laden with mugs of coffee. “Sue rang – she’ll see you later, and she said to tell you Skinner will talk to you on Monday.”
Anne nodded as she sat down. “Well, I guess you have questions – ask them, but I can’t promise answers.”
“What happened to the man with glasses?”
Anne looked at Coral, and said “He was killed by Andrews – they fought over who was going to – was going to....” She swallowed hard for a moment, and then said “who was going to attack who between myself and Sarah.”
“Are you telling me Sarah walked in to offer herself instead of you? Why?”
Anne and Chloe exchanged a glance, before Anne said “I really cannot tell you more than I did before. Brian and Sarah have special gifts that they bring to bear in this sort of situation, and they did that night. Having said which, something happened that has never happened before – the stress of facing the man who killed her mother made her – snap, I guess.”
“Enough for her to throw him out of a window?”
“Stress does strange things to people, but what happened that night – I’m afraid I need to ask those of you who saw it to keep it a secret.”
“I’ll do anything for those two,” Blossom said quietly, “They brought my babies safely back to me. They deserve medals and parades.”
“Trust me, that’s the last thing they want. What they need when they return is friendship – I hope you will give them that.”
“What about me,” Katherine said as she looked at Jack and Anne.
“Nothing,” Jack said quietly, “my testimony, combined with Anne’s, will show you acted to prevent him killing her. The gun was licensed to you, and you were protecting your friend and your family.”
“We’re going to arrange some counselling for all of you,” Anne said as she stood up, “and you really do need to talk about it amongst yourselves. Coral, Chloe, I am afraid to say you will need to give testimony at the trial of the other man when the time comes – just tell the truth about what they did to you and what happened to the girls.”
“I hope he rots in hell,” Coral said as she looked at Andrea. “I’m sorry, but...”
“Don’t apologise – anger is the right thing to express just now.”
Coral looked at Heather and smiled weakly. “Yeah, but...”
“Come on Coral – we’ve all been there, we can help each other out.”
“Yeah – you’re right. Perhaps we need another ladies night?”
“Hold that thought,” Veronica said with a smile. Chloe stood up and made her way out to the back garden, where the girls were sitting around the pool. Britney and Margo were doing lengths of the pool, wearing swimming costumes, while Natalie, Alice and Jannifer were sitting by the side, barefoot in shorts and t-shirts.
“Hello, mes amis,” Chloe said as she came closer, “May I have a word with all of you?”
“Sure,” Britney said as she and Margo came to the side of the pool.
“I wanted to ask how you were all coping – especially you, Jannifer. I know this was an ordeal for you more than most of the others.”
Jannifer hugged herself and said “When I think of what those two men could have done to us...”
“I know,” Alice said as she hugged her friend, “the same thoughts have occurred to me. Haven’t really had a good sleep all week – every time I do, I see their faces...”
“Well, they cannot hurt you now,” Chloe said quietly, “and I know what you mean about the nightmares. But I wanted to talk to you about Brian and Sarah.”
“Oh yeah – our hero,” Margo said, “The way he just picked up that spider and put it in a jar...”
“Never mind that,” Natalie said as she pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them,” he managed to make that bomb safe just by looking at it. How did he do that?”
“And what about the Spider Woman impression that Sarah did? I saw her in the flames – she jumped so far, and walked in such a funny way...”
“Yes, she did,” Chloe said quietly, “Can I tell you both a secret?”
Britney and Margo leaned on the side of the pool and watched as Chloe sat next to them.
“Brain and Sarah have some very special gifts, which they use to help people. Only a few people know this, and you are now in that group, but we need to help them by no telling anyone else what they can do?”
“Coo,” Britney said, “you mean they’re like super heroes?”
“Precisement, young Britney – and like every super hero, they like to keep their identity secret. So I must ask you, Margo, and all of you not to tell anyone else about what happened when Brian freed us, or what you saw Sarah do. When they are here with us, that is another matter, but to no-one else.”
“Cool – we know two superheroes,” Margo said as she Britney high-fived each other.
“Oui – but keep it to yourselves.”
As they started to swim again, Chloe looked at the other girls.
“Like our Escapology club, right?”
Chloe nodded and walked back into the kitchen. She found Anne standing there waiting for her.
“I believe they will say nothing,” she said as she closed the door. “Is there something you wish to ask me, Anne?”
“One thing – it’s bothered me since that night. When Sara was holding Andrews, she looked to the side and saw something. You and Brian saw it as well, didn’t you?”
Chloe nodded and said “It was most strange – the shades of two women and a man. I thought one looked like an older Sara, but the man – he looked at me before he disappeared and nodded. Do you know who he was?”
“I have my suspicions – I saw a similar thing that night at Holderness Manor. Maybe he was saying thank you as well?”
“Perhaps – so what therapy are we going to offer?”
“Counselling at first – but then something more specialised. Let us see what happens first. What did that old film end with – Tomorrow is another day?”