Heidi’s Surprise Trip
It was on the Friday morning, as Heidi was eating waffles at the breakfast bar, that her mother Amy opened the letter and started to read it.
“Something important, mum?”
“Hmmm - no, nothing to worry about,” Amy said as she folded the sheet of paper up and replaced it in the envelope. “Just another reminder for an upcoming meeting. What classes do you have today?”
“Maths, Science, History, Music and Dance,” Heidi said as she poured her orange juice down her throat. “I also need to sort out the timings for tomorrow with Cindy - we’re meeting up with the girls at the cinema to see The Hunger Games.”
“Well, just so long as you come straight home tonight,” Amy said with a smile. “This is our family night, remember?” She tried to have at least one night a month when it was just her and her daughter, giving them a chance to talk over things that may be bothering them. Having read the letter, Amy had something she needed to discuss with Heidi, but she needed time to prepare herself.
She looked at her daughter as she stood up, the strap from her denim dungaree shorts falling off her shoulder as she picked her bag and pulled it over her head. Heidi was wearing a white cap sleeved t-shirt underneath, with a pair of white ankle socks under her pale blue sneakers.
“All right, mum,” Heidi said as she smiled and waved her hand, running out of the kitchen. As she heard the door slam, Amy took out the letter and looked at it again - this was not good news, not good news at all.
The group of five girls were huddled round the table in the dining area, exchanging whispers as the other students walked past. Next to Heidi was Cindy, wearing a white short sleeved blouse and denim shorts, her bare feet in a pair of deck shoes.
Alice and Jannifer were sat opposite her, Jannifer running her fingers through her red hair as Alice played with the fringes of her dark locks. Both were wearing t-shirts and jeans, with their feet nestled in short suede boots.
To the side of the table was Natalie. In contrast to the other four, she was wearing a long sleeved thin jumper and floor length skirt, with a pair of sandals on her feet. The others were used to her dress by now, given what they knew of her out of school activities - activities they all shared in from time to time.
“So we’re agreed,” Heidi finally said, “We’ll meet up at my house at eleven, and go to the mall from there. The film is at 12.30, and we can grab a pizza afterwards.”
Cindy looked over the hall and waved to her cousin Joanne, who was walking across with her friends Andrea and Alexa. She returned the wave as the three older girls made their way to the door that led to the library.
“Sounds good,” Alice said with a smile. “Maybe afterwards we can play a few games together?”
“We’ve turned you in to a little monster, haven’t we,” Natalie said as she nudged Alice in the ribs, which somehow seemed to make Jannifer laugh as well. “We’ll see if we have time - and besides,” Cindy said when they had quietened down, “My mother wants me home early tomorrow. We have an important meeting at the church on Sunday, and we need to be there early.”
“Right,” Jannifer said as the bell went for the end of recess, “Back to the grindstone. Eleven tomorrow at Heidi’s house it is.”
Amy sat still, looking straight ahead as she watched the woman sitting opposite her. “I’m so glad you agreed to meet,” she said with a smile.
“I had a choice? Just don’t hurt us.”
“Then don’t do anything stupid.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Cindy.”
Heidi waved to her friend as she walked to the corner, before turning and walking up the pathway to her house. She could see the car still in the driveway, and called out “Mum - are you in,” as she opened the front door and let herself in.
There was no reply, but Heidi didn’t think much of it as she went to the kitchen and helped herself to a bottle of juice from the fridge. Opening the top, she walked into the front room, only to stop as she lowered the bottle from her mouth.
Amy was sitting in the armchair, but she could not respond to the sound of her daughter’s voice. The cotton wool plugs in her ears muffled any sound, and the thick white scarf that was tied over her eyes and ears cut the sound out still more. He lisp were closed, but as Heidi walked closer she could see a thin sheen on her jaw, and she realised that her mother’s mouth was covered with clear tape.
Amy’s hands were on her lap, her wrists crossed and tied together with white rope. There was also a length of rope around her arms and chest, clearly visible now over her grey v-necked sweater, as were the bands around her legs above and below her knees, the denim of her jeans crushed underneath. Her ankles were securely lashed together as well, as she turned her head and tried to speak.
“Your mother has been waiting for you,” a female voice that Heidi had never heard before said from behind her, as she felt a hand on her shoulder and a cold circle sticking into the back. Glancing to her side, she could see a leather gloved hand holding her firmly, as she said “Who are you, and what do you want?”
“Enough questions for now,” the voice said as Heidi felt the hand move from her shoulder, only to hold a wadded up piece of cotton in front of her mouth. “Open wide and let me put this in.”
“And if I don’t”
“Then I knock you out and put it in anyway. Your choice.”
Nodding, Heidi opened her mouth and allowed the stranger to push the cloth in. As she closed her lips, she heard a ripping sound and felt the length of clear tape pull at her skin as it was pressed over her lips.
As she felt her hands been drawn behind her back, Heidi mumbled “horu?” The tightness of the ropes that went around her bare arms frightened her, but as she tried to relax she heard the voice say “You and your mother are going for a little trip - just behave yourself and you’ll be just fine.”
Heidi stood there, staring straight ahead as she felt more rope been tied around her arms, her legs and her ankles, watching her mother the whole time as Amy kept moving her head from side to side. Eventually, she heard the woman say “Time to go,” before something was pushed into her ears and she was blindfolded, the folded patterned scarf covering her eyes and ears much as the white scarf had her mothers.
She felt herself been lifted up and carried, and then cool air on her face before she was sat on a cold metallic floor. After a few minutes, she heard more footsteps, and then somebody been placed next to her.
“Hde? Hgd, tsu.”
As they felt the floor shake, Heidi laid her head on Amy’s shoulder. Who was doing this, and why?
How long they travelled for, they did not know, but eventually they felt the floor shaking stop, before they were both lifted up and carried a short distance. As she was laid down, Heidi could feel she was on some sort of mattress, and she could feel somebody next to her.
“Sht,” she heard a familiar voice say, and as her blindfold was removed she saw her mother lying on a mattress a short distance away. As she turned her head, she groaned as she saw who was lying next to her.
“Ntvrka?” Heidi mumbled through the tape and cloth as she saw her aunt looking at her, her eyes wide over the thick brown scarf that filled her mouth. She was wearing a fawn coloured jumper and slacks, with short heeled shoes on her feet, and her arms and body were encircled with white rope, as were her legs and ankles.
As Amy blinked while the blindfold was removed from her eyes, she looked over and saw her daughter lying next to Veronica. “Uswl,” she called out, looking at her half-sister, who simply nodded as she looked over to the other mattress.
“How nice, a family together,” the voice Heidi had heard said, and as she looked to the door she saw a tall, thin woman standing there, smiling as she looked at them through dark sunglasses. She was wearing a black silk blouse and pants, with a plain black silk scarf tied around her neck like a cravat, leather gloves and short boots. “We will start with a simple shoot in a few minutes,” she said as she looked at her three captives, “and then dinner will be served before you are prepared for bed. Just stay calm, and do as you’re told.”
She turned and left the room, as two masked men came in and laid three clothes bag out on the table. As they closed the door, Heidi looked from her mother to her aunt.
Veronica nodded. “Ugta ltr?”
“Ysss - whtnw?”
Their talk was interrupted as the woman walked back in, accompanied by one of the men. “Release Amy and Veronica,” she said, “and then watch young Heidi.”
Heidi watched as the man removed the ropes from around Veronica, before walking over as her aunt rubbed her wrists and untying her mother. “Are you all right,” Veronica said as she leaned down and stroked her daughter’s cheek, the saliva stained scarf hanging round her neck.
“Uswrshdbsf,” Amy screamed out as she sat herself up and rubbed her wrists.
“And so she will be, so long as you both do as you’re told. In fact, she is part of this project as well. Now, get changed and I will come to collect you in fifteen minutes. Your first outfits are in the bags. Make sure the young one stays out of the way.”
As the dark haired woman walked out of the room, Amy tore off the gag from her mouth, spat out the cloth that had been in her mouth and ran over to Heidi, hugging her as the guard stood watching. “I’m sorry, baby, I’m so sorry,” she said as the guard looked at Veronica.
“Amy, we need to do what they say, or they will hurt her. Br brave - I know you never wanted this to happen again. Hell, I certainly didn’t.”
“Whtsgngnn,” Heidi mumbled as she looked at the two other members of her family.
“We’ll explain later - hopefully,” Veronica said as she unzipped the first bag. Looking in, she took out a white sleeveless minidress, with different coloured panels on the body, and a pair of white tights. A pair of knee length lace up white leather boots completed the outfit.
“So he wants to start with the sixties look again,” Amy said as she looked at her half-sister.
“He did love the retro stuff,” Veronica said as she pulled her jumper off over her head and started to unfasten her pants. “Heidi,” Amy said as she opened the second bag and pulled out a brown denim blouse and tasselled suede mini-skirt, “Whatever happens just do as they say. I promise your aunt and I will explain what is going on later - once we’re sure ourselves.”
Heidi watched as her aunt pulled on the minidress and tights, before sitting on the bed and pulling on the white boots. Her mother pulled her jumper off and then put the blouse on, fastening it up the front before dropping her pants and putting on the mini-skirt. She pulled a pair of suede mid0ength boots out of the bag and out them on, lacing up the front as she watched Veronica pull her hair back and put on a white hair band.
“We knew this could happen one day, didn’t we?” she said as she looked at Amy.
“Feared rather than knew,” Heidi’s mother said as she stood up. As the door opened and their dark haired captor came back in, she said “Who is the third bag for?”
“You’ll see,” she said as a second masked man came in. “Take them and prepare them for shooting, I’ll bring the daughter in a minute.”
Heidi watched, wide eyed as Amy and Veronica were escorted out of the room, the door closing and leaving her and the other woman alone. She watched her as she walked over to the third bag, opened it and took out a dress, made from a material that had been embossed with a floral pattern and with small pink bow on the neck, which had shoulder straps of the same material and a light lace trim. She also produced a pair of knee length white socks and a black flat Mary Jane shoes.
“Heidi,” she said as she came and sat next to the frightened girl, “I’m going to untie and ungag you, and then I want you to change into the clothes here. After that, I will take you to join your mother and aunt. I promise you that you will not be hurt if you do as I say, all right?”
Heidi nodded, and as the tape was peeled away from her mouth she opened her mouth to allow the cloth to be taken out. “Who are you,” she said as she looked over her shoulder and watched the woman quickly removing the ropes from her body.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” the woman said as Heidi sat up and rubbed her wrists. “Hurry up and get dressed - you don’t eat until this is done.”
Heidi slowly removed her dungarees and t-shirt, locking at the dress as she covered her bra. IT was a beautiful dress, but a real old one as she could tell from the pattern.
“Hurry up,” the woman said, as Heidi slipped the dress over her head and onto her shoulders, surprised it fitted so well. Sitting on the bed, she slipped off her sneakers and socks, before pulling on the new pair of socks and then the shoes. As she stood up, she saw the woman take a length of red ribbon from her pocket.
“What are you going to do with that - tier my hair back,” Heidi said as she looked at her.
“Not quite,” the woman said as she stepped behind Heidi, “Put your hands behind your back, dear.”
“I thought this was too good to be true,” Heidi said as she moved her hands behind her, feeling them been drawn together as her captor used the ribbon to tie her wrist together with a bow knot. Taking her by the arm, she walked Heidi down a wood lined corridor and into a large room. There were a set of glass doors at the far wall, and Heidi could see the sun setting over a pool surrounded by trees outside.
Amy and Veronica were sitting in two wooden armchairs, their arms tied down to the rests with ropes as they sat on the leather cushions. Their ankles were tied together in front of them, the rope running under the chairs, and their legs were tied together above their knees. A length of brown sticking plaster was over their mouths as they watched the woman making Heidi sit on the rug in front of them.
“Put your legs out, dear,” the woman said, and as Heidi stretched her legs out she used a second length of ribbon to tie her ankles together, side by side, before standing up and tearing a strip of brown plaster off the roll. “Put your lips together,” she said as she leaned down towards Heidi, pressing the plaster down as she held her head up.
“Right, dears,” the woman said as she walked to a table and picked up a very expensive looking camera, “Let’s get started on this project. Give me your best looks, ladies.”
Heidi looked over her shoulder at Amy, then at Veronica, who both nodded at her before putting a scared expression on their faces, twisting from side to side as they seemed to be trying to break free. Guessing they wanted her to play along, Heidi twisted her own arms round, looking in the direction of the camera as the woman walked round, taking photographs of the bound and gagged trio from various angles.
“That’s good, ladies, very good,” she said as she walked round, “You never lose the knack, do you?”
“Vrfnneeee,” Amy said as she glanced at Heidi, nodding at the way she was moving round. After what seemed like an age, the woman put the camera down and said, “Well done for the first part, ladies. Now you can eat - remove their gags and untie one of their hands. As for young Heidi here,” she said looking at Heidi as she sat on the floor, “You may remove the ribbon from her hands, but watch her and make sure she does not move.”
As the tape was peeled away from her mouth, Heidi looked at her mother and said "What’s going on?”
“An old debt,” Amy said sadly as she looked at her daughter, “and one I hoped would never have to be paid. What happened to you, Veronica?”
“She got me last night,” Veronica said as a plate of fruit and a bottle of water was placed on her lap, “and forced me to write that letter. I’m just sorry you got caught up in it.”
“We’ve been - brought here,” Amy said as she picked up a slice of mango, “to have a few photos taken, and hopefully to be released at the end of it.”
“Enough talking,” the woman said, “you have thirty minutes before the next stage.”
“And what’s that,” Heidi said as she opened the bottle of water.
The room was lit by a single lamp as Heidi pulled on the plain white cotton pyjamas she had been given. Her mother was standing next to her, in a pale blue silk baby doll nightie, while Veronica was wearing white silk short sleeved pyjamas.
“Do you have to take photos of us in these,” Amy said as she looked at the woman.
“I do,” she said as she looked at the trio. “Now, all three of you, lie on the bed - Amy on the right, Veronica on the left, Heidi in the middle with her head to the foot of the bed. Then put your hands up in front of you, palms together.”
“What’s she going to do,” Heidi said as she looked up at her mother, only for the question to be answered as the two men bound her mother’s and aunt’s wrists, taking their arms up and binding them to the ornate iron headboard.
The dark haired woman took care of Heidi, tying her wrists together and then pulling her wrists above her head and securing them to the foot of the bed. She watched as the two pairs of ankles next to her head were bound together, even as she felt her own ankles been pulled and lashed together.
“Now then,” the woman said as she pulled strips of white tape off a roll, “We’ll take some pictures and then we’ll let you sleep.”
“Great,” Veronica said as the masked man held the strip in front of her mouth, “Andafetrthmmmsmsdmdfmsd.”
“Then we have a full day ahead of us,” the woman said as she gagged Heidi, and them Amy, before starting to take photos of them as they lay there. Amy and Veronica looked at each other as the flash bulb went off, and then down at Heidi as she tried to turn her head away.
“That’s enough for now,” the woman said as she put the camera down. “Sleep well, ladies, all five of you have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow.”
“Fvfssss,” Veronica said as she watched their captors leave, the room going dark as the three women started to try and break loose.
Cindy blinked as she opened her eyes, the bright light shining in her eyes. She tried to speak, but as she opened her mouth a gloved hand was clamped over it.
“Shh, shh,” she heard a female voice say. “Just open your mouth, and then quietly sit up. Once we have you ready, we’ll visit your mother....”
As she felt her wrists been untied, Heidi looked up to see one of the two men that had been guarding them moving her arms down onto her lap, but keeping her wrists bound. She looked down the bed to see the second man untying her feet, her mother and aunt still sleeping with their heads to one side.
“Whtsgnnn,” she mumbled, as she was lifted carefully off the bed and taken out of the room. Even though the blinds were down over the windows that she could see through other open doors, it was clear that the sun was coming up outside. She looked up at the ceiling as she was carried down some stairs, and taken into a cellar.
Raising her head, she could see two chairs in the centre of the room. One was already occupied, by a young girl of about her height dressed in a sickeningly familiar long cotton white nightdress. Her wrists were tied down to one arm of the chair, and her ankles to the opposite front leg. A white pillowcase was over her head.
As she was sat in the other chair, Heidi watched her wrist been tied down to one of the wooden armrests, as her ankles were secured to the front leg. Her eyes were fixed on the girl sitting there, in the forlorn hope that she was wrong with her guess. As the pillowcase was pulled off her head, however, and she saw Cindy blinking in the dim sunlight, she knew she had been right.
“Hedeee?” Cindy said as she turned and looked at her friend, “Whhtsgngnn?” Her lips were closed over a strip of white towelling, and from the way her cheeks were puffed out Heidi knew something was been held in by the cloth.
“Ndeee,” Heidi said as she tried to bring her head down to her mouth. After a while, she succeeded in getting the tips of her fingers to the tape over her own mouth, and slowly started to peel the tape away, the sweat from her face loosening the adhesive. IT took a while, but eventually she managed to pull the tape away from her lips, allowing her to work her jaw before saying “We were kidnapped yesterday. When did they get you?”
“Wswknp - hrthee?”
“I don’t know - but mum and Aunt Veronica are here...” Heidi stopped and looked at her friend. “Cindy, where’s your mother?”
Cindy lifted her head up, as Heidi realised what she was trying to say.
Amy had her head to her side, staring at the dark haired woman who was lying on the floor staring back at her. She was dressed in a pale blue nightdress, her hair held back by a scarf tried in her hair, but her wrists were pinioned behind her back and her sock covered ankles were tied together. The strip of white towelling in her mouth had a dark stain between her lips.
“Drfee? Hr?” Veronica said as her arms were lowered to her waist by one of the two guards before they were untied. She reached up and peeled the tape away from her own mouth as her feet were untied, before sitting up and looking at Amy.
“Once you are freed,” the dark haired woman standing in the doorway said, “you can free your friend and explain what’s going to happen.”
“Where’s my daughter,” Amy said as she peeled her own gag away, a look of real fear in her eyes.
“With her friend - consider them both insurance. They will join you later for the first shoot of the day, after breakfast. Your costumes will be brought to you soon.”
She left the room, the two men following her as the door was locked. Amy got off the bed and walked over to Dorothy, pulling the cloth out from between her lips and then the small sponge ball from her mouth.
“Wha... What the hell’s going on,” she said as Veronica knelt behind her and started to untie her wrists. “I was woken up at four this morning by these clowns, one of them holding Cindy, and forced to allow myself to be bound and gagged before been brought here - and where is here anyway?”
“We’re out in the hills,” Amy said as she untied her friend’s feet and then helped her to sit up. “Why the hell she dragged you two into this I don’t know...”
“You heard her, sis - insurance, plus I don’t think she can pass up the opportunity.”
“Opportunity - what opportunity?”
“To upstage her brother.”
Dorothy looked at the two women, before saying “You’d better start at the beginning - just what the hell is going on here?”
“Who are you?”
Cindy looked at the woman who had just removed her gag, before turning to her friend in the other chair.
“I don’t know - she grabbed me yesterday. So who are you?”
“An old friend of your mother, Heidi,” she said as she untied Cindy’s wrists, “and you are here to make sure she does what I ask of her. I needed more subjects for my photo however, and when I saw Mrs Ellsworth’s picture in your home I knew she would be perfect. You are here to take part as well - and to make sure you all do as I ask.”
“But why kidnap us? If you want to take photos, why not ask us?”
“Your mother knows,” was all she said as she untied Cindy’s wrists, before signalling to the two men who brought in breakfast trays and laid them on the laps of the two girls. “Eat - I will bring your costumes soon.”
Dorothy sat on the bed, a slice of apple in her hand as she looked at Amy and Veronica.
“That... That’s just crazy. It’s like something out of a bad Lifetime channel movie.”
“Tell me about it,” Amy said as she drank from a paper cup, “and we’re the banner stars. I’m really sorry you got dragged into this, Dorothy, but now you’re here, all we can do is play along with her crazy games.”
“Is there anyone who can help us?”
Veronica sat next to Dorothy on the bed. “Fair point, sis - we weren’t the only ones. What about Anne?”
“She wasn’t one of the group - there were only four of us. We’re here, she’s there, and as for Coral, I haven’t seen her for years. All we can do is...”
The door opened and their captor came in, carrying three garments on her arm.
“I think you deserve some sun after last night,” she said as she laid them on the bed, “Put these on, and I’ll bring your daughters to you ready for the first shoot.” She turned and left the room, the door locking behind her. Amy picked up the first costume and held it up.
“I get the feeling she’s been watching us - all of us - for some time,” she said as she passed it to Dorothy. “It’s your size.”
“What the... So this has been planned all along?”
“Looks that way,” Veronica said as she picked another of the garments. “Come on - at least the girls will be back with us.”
In the cellar, both Heidi and Cindy were rubbing their wrists as they looked at the swimsuits on the bed.
“We’d better do as they say,” Heidi said as she pulled her pyjama bottoms off and stepped into the legs of the suit. “If we treat this like one of our games, it might be more bearable.”
“Or less terrifying,” Cindy said as he pulled the green and blue swimsuit over her body, fixing the shoulder straps in place. “How long are we going to be here?”
“Only for a little while.”
The two girls turned to see their captor standing there, two lengths of white silk cord in her hand. “Hands behind your backs, girls - and then we’ll go and see mommy.”
Heidi slowly turned round, looking over her shoulder as the woman bound her wrists tightly together. “I know you like these games,” she said as she cinched the binding, tying the knot off and then walking behind Cindy, “So this is going to be a fun experience for you.”
“It’s fun if we’re not been held captive, or woken at four in the morning by a kidnapper, “ Cindy said as she felt her wrists been drawn together as well. “This is just wrong.”
“Maybe - but your mother knows why,” she said as the door opened. “Let’s go girls - your mothers and aunt are waiting outside.”
The trip climbed the stairs and walked through the room Heidi had been in the previous night, and out of the glass doors into a garden, surrounded on all sides by a high wooden fence with tress visible over the top. Three sun loungers were in the garden, and Amy, Veronica and Dorothy were each sat on one. Dorothy was wearing a strapless black swimsuit, Amy a two-piece pale blue bikini, and Veronica a green swimsuit with yellow polka dots.
“Are you girls all right,” Dorothy said as she looked at Heidi and Cindy. Her wrists had been taped down to the white armrests of the recliner, while Cindy could see white tape around her ankles and legs as well. Amy and Veronica had been secured in the same way.
“We’re fine mum,” Cindy said as the two girls were made to sit down on two rugs that had been laid on the grass, “Do you know what’s going on yet?”
“We’ll explain later,” Amy said as she watched Heidi been made to lei on her stomach as her ankles were tied together, “For now, just do as she says, all right?”
“Good advice, Amy,” the woman said as she tugged at the rope, lifting Heidi’s legs up as she secured it to her wrists before rolling the young girl onto her side, “and you would be wise to follow it.” She repeated the process on Cindy, as she looked at her blonde haired friend lying there in a pink and black striped suit.
“Now ladies,” their captor said as she stood up, “This little family gathering has been interrupted by a home invasion, so you all need to act the part - once we have silenced you of course. I want to see real fear and emotion as you struggle. Boys?”
One by one, each of the bound women had a strip of white micropore tape slapped over their mouths, as the woman picked up her camera. “Roll those two onto their stomachs,” she said as the men rolled Heidi and Cindy over so that they looked up at the adults as they lay there.
“Right - action,” the woman said as she started to take her photographs, all five genuinely scared by her actions and the two men standing there, watching them with their arms folded in front of them. Cindy and Heidi tried to free themselves, but with little progress as they rolled around on the mats.
Amy looked at the other two and started mmmphing into her gag for all she was worth, the others following suit as their captor took shot after shot. After an hour, she finally stopped and said “Excellent - enjoy the sun ladies, I will be back later with the next assignment. Perhaps you younger ones would like to try to free yourselves?”
As she walked back into the house, Heidi looked at Amy who nodded as she rolled onto her side and said “Gtvehr” to Cindy.
Cindy looked over her shoulder and nodded as she scooted across the rug, making her way to Heidi until the two girls were lying back to back. “Dtttsndee,” Dorothy called out as they started to reach for the knots at each other’s wrists, prodding and poking as they slowly fed the lengths of cord back through the loops that were holding them in place.
The three women watched as the girls freed their legs, allowing them to stretch out before Cindy went to work on Heidi’s wrists, playing with the ropes and slowly loosening the knots as she did so. After a short while, Heidi was able to free her hands, sitting herself up as she got to work on her friend. After another fifteen minutes, both girls were on their feet, walking over to their respective mothers and peeling the tape away from their mouths.
“I never thought I’d be so grateful for the games we play,” Amy said as Heidi hugged her. “Can you free us as well?”
“Of course I can, mum,” Heidi said as she removed the tape from the arm of the recliner, “But what the hell is going on here? And why are Cindy and her mother here as well? Aunt Veronica, what do you know about this?”
“I want to tell you, darling,” Veronica said as she sat up and rubbed her wrists, “but...”
“There will be time for talk later.”
All five looked over at the entrance to the house, where their captor was standing, her camera in hand as her two goons stood either side of her.
“Thank you for the escape shots, Heidi,” she said with a smile, her sunglasses covering her eyes as she looked at the young girl. “Now, you all deserve a toilet break and a change of clothing, and then we can gather for lunch. You will find outfits in your rooms - you take the girls, and we’ll take the ladies.”
“I want to be with my daughter,” Dorothy called out as the man grabbed Cindy by the arm.
“And so you will be - in due course,” the woman said with a smile. “Take them away.”
“Where the hell are they?”
Alice looked at the tow other girls as they stood outside the multiplex, looking up and down for their friends.
“No idea - it’s not like them to be late,” Jannifer said as she looked at her watch.
“Have you tried their phone?”
“Yeah,” Natalie said as she switched off her cell phone. “No reply - what do you want to do?”
“Cindy only lives about ten minutes car ride from here - how much money have you got?”
The three girls looked at their note purses, before Natalie said “come on - we can afford a cab. Let’s go round and see what we can find.”
Ten minutes later, as the cab stopped outside the Elsworth house, the three girls got out and walked up the pathway, their sneakers slapping against the stone slabs. Natalie knocked on the screen door, but there was no reply.
“Looking for Cindy?”
The three turned round to see a thin, tall woman with long blonde hair standing on the pathway, looking at them in turn. She was dressed in a grey jumper and slacks, and had a shoulder bag slung around her neck.
“Yeah,” Alice said as she looked at the other two, “We were meant to meet her and Heidi for a day out, but they never turned up, so...”
“So you came here because Cindy’s house is closest to the cinema,” the woman said as she walked up to the door. “Smart move, girls.”
“Who are you,” Jannifer asked as she looked at the stranger.
“My name’s Anne,” she replied with a smile, “I’m an old friend of Cindy and Heidi’s mothers. Have you tried Heidi at all?”
“We rang, but there was no answer.”
“Strange,” Anne said as she looked at the door, “I was meant to meet Dorothy - Mrs Elsworth today. But you say there is no answer.”
“Hang on,” Natalie said as she took out her cell phone, “I’ll try Joanne.”
“Yeah,” Natalie said as she dialled a number. “Oh hello, is Joanne there please?”
The others watched as Natalie listened.
“Oh - no, we were wondering if she had seen Cindy, her cousin?
“I see - do you know where she is now?
“Really - that’s close to here. What is she doing there?
“No, no - I can walk from here. Thanks.” She closed the cell phone and looked at her friends.
“Joanne’s at the Blackwood place - it’s just round the corner. Do you want to come with me and see if she is there?”
“I have a better idea,” Anne said, “Why don’t you go round, and I’ll take you two - it’s Alice and Jannifer, right - to Heidi’s house.”
“How can we trust you?”
Anne looked at the three younger women. “I know Heidi and Cindy, as well as their mothers and Heidi’s aunt, very well. I help them sometimes with their games.” She saw the three exchange looks. “I can see you know what I mean. I promise, if they are not there, I will come back and meet you there. All right?”
“Do you know the Blackwoods?”
“I’ve heard of Mrs Blackwood, put it that way. Trust me, girls - I’m no danger to you.”
Natalie looked at the toher two, as they pulled the collars of their windcheaters up. “What do you two say?”
“We’ll go with her - you know Joanne a bit better than us anyway,” Alice said. “Where’s your car, Anne - if we can call you that?”
“You can,” Anne said, “and it’s over here - come on.” She led Alice and Jannifer in one direction, as Natalie turned and walked in the other, her collar up against the wind.
Heidi ran into the dining room and embraced Amy, as she sat on the wooden chair. She was wearing a pale blue blouse and tan coloured slacks, with a pair of patent heels on her feet. Although her arms were free, and she could embrace Amy, her waist and upper body was lashed to the back of the chair, the rope running around her body and through the fretwork. Her ankles were also bound to the front legs of the chair, and a length of rope was around her lap.
“Sit her next to her mother,” the woman said as Heidi was taken by the arm and sat next to Amy, with Veronica beside her at the head of the wooden table. She was wearing a cap sleeved cotton summer dress with a blue cornflower pattern printed on it, a wide white leather belt around her waist and matching shoes on her feet, but she was also secured to the chair in the same way as her sister. On the other side sat Dorothy, in a frilled Victorian blouse similar to the ones she used to wear, and a layered long brown skirt, with sandals on her feet, but also bound to the chair.
Heidi winced as she felt the rope going around her own body, clearly visible over the chocolate brown short sleeved sweater she had been given to wear as well as the jeans that covered her legs. As the rope was laced round her, the other man brought Cindy in, dressed in a pale blue cotton t-shirt and shorts with matching socks and sneakers on her feet. She barely had time to hug her mother before she was forced into a chair next to her and the ropes were wound round her body as well.
As Heidi felt her ankles been bound to the front leg of the chair, she looked at the table, which was covered in platters of meat, bread and fruit, as well as plastic glasses filled with water. As the last knot was tied off, she felt her chair been pushed forward, placing her by the table as Amy was pushed into place beside her. The men went round the table, pushing each woman in turn into place as their captor said “Enjoy your lunch - I’m sure you will have a lot to talk about.”
As the three left the room, Heidi looked out of the window onto the stockade round the lawn. “Mum,” she eventually said “Will you please tell us what is going on here?”
Amy looked at her daughter then at Veronica before saying “Do you remember the photographs you found in the attics, all those months ago?”
Heidi nodded. “The ones that first showed me Aunt Veronica and that you were in? What about them?”
“Did I ever tell you why I stopped suddenly having those photos taken?”
Heidi looked thoughtful for a moment. “No,” she eventually said, “Aunt Veronica just said you grew bored of it. Why?”
“That,” Veronica said slowly, “was a little white lie, I’m afraid. She stopped because of something that happened with that photographer.
“Your mum and I went a few more times, along with another old friend of ours called Coral. There was another girl - the sister of the photographer, whose name was Bobbi. Anyway, we would pose in group shots for him, often bound and gagged - nothing too racy.”
“At first,” Amy said slowly. “Anyway, one day he asked if he could do something different with the four of us.”
“Different - in what way?”
“He wanted us to pose naked, bound and gagged,” Veronica continued. “Well, we agreed, but we didn’t like it, and Coral in particular was very upset. After that shoot, we left and agreed we would not go there again.”
“We lost touch with Coral and Bobbi,” Amy said, “but three months later I got a set of photos in the mail - from that shoot, with a letter saying if we didn’t come back for a shoot, he would publish them in a magazine.”
Amy looked at her mother and aunt, before saying “What did you do?”
“I talked to Anne,” Amy said quietly, “and the next thing I heard was that he had been arrested and charged with child endangerment.”
“Turned out we weren’t the only kids he was photographing,” Veronica said quietly. “At any rate, he was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison.”
“So this woman in the sunglasses....”
“Is his sister, apparently,” Dorothy said in response to Cindy’s question. “He died, honey, three months ago in prison. And this little affair...”
“... Is her revenge,” Veronica said. “She surprised me at home on Thursday, brought me here and made me write a letter to Amy. You both came here Friday, and then she grabbed Cindy and Dorothy this morning.”
“What... What is she going to do with us?”
“I’m hoping just take more photographs,” Amy said as she picked up a hunk of bread.
“So what happened to Coral,” Dorothy asked.
“I think she married a born again Christian bloke - do you remember his name, Amy.”
“Give me a minute - yeah, it was Frank. Frank Blackwood.”
Heidi and Cindy looked at each other, thinking the same thing.
The group ate their meal, quietly talking between themselves, before they were interrupted by the door opening and their three captors coming in. The woman was carrying a digital video camera, while the two men were dressed in black clothing, with stockings pulled over their heads, and carrying rucksacks which Heidi could see soils of rope peeking out of the top of.
“Don’t move,” one of the men said, as Heidi glanced over and saw Cindy trying to stop herself laughing. “So long as you do as we say, nobody gets hurt.”
“What’s the idea this time,” Amy said as she looked angrily at the woman, “Home invasion again?”
“Escaped prisoners,” the woman said as she continued to film, “So just play along likely the nice little game this is.”
“Get those two on the floor,” the man said to his companion, who walked over and released Heidi from her chair. “Lie on the floor, face down, hands behind your head,” he said, watching Heidi as she lay herself down before releasing Cindy and telling her to lie next to her friend.
“Right,” the first man said as he looked at the three others, “I want mummy to tie up their daughter. We need to stay for a little while, and we need to be sure none of you are going to get in the way. You,” he said as he looked at Veronica, “Stay sitting there with your hands on your head.”
“We’ll do what you ask,” Dorothy said as the three women were released from their bindings, “Just please don’t hurt our babies.”
The masked man said nothing, but cleared some room on the table, scattering the platters across the floor as he opened the rucksack and took out two coils of rope. “Tie their hands together,” he said with a snarl as he handed Amy and Dorothy a length of rope each, his eyes fixed on Veronica the whole time.
As Dorothy knelt next to Cindy, she whispered “Just keep treating this as a game, dear, and we’ll do the same.”
“It’s not a game, though, is it mum?”
“It doesn’t look like it, so remember what Anne has taught us - treat it as if it is.” Saying this, she crossed Cindy’s wrists behind her back and started to lash them together, the young girl watching her friend as Amy tied Heidi’s wrists together, her hands palm to palm.
As they felt the rope biting into their barer skin, both girls looked up at Veronica, whose eyes were fixed on the woman filming their binding. “Just what are you going to get out of this, Bobbi,” she said as she walked round, filming both Amy and Dorothy as they bound their daughter’s ankles, Heidi over the bottoms of her jeans and Cindy over her socks. “Your brother’s dead - but that isn’t our fault.”
“Shut up, lady,” the masked man said as he looked at Veronica, “or I shut you up good and proper now. Right, ladies, move your daughters so that they are sitting back to back. They can keep each other company.”
“Roll over onto your back, Heidi, there’s a good girl,” Amy said as she watched Heidi roll over and sit herself up, and then shuffle round so that she and Cindy were sitting back to back. The man handed her a long coil of rope, saying “make sure these two little angels are nice and close together,” before handing Dorothy some smaller lengths and saying “You take care of their legs, there’s a good mummy.”
“Don’t let them see you’re afraid,” Amy said as she passed the rope around the two girls and pulled their upper bodies together. “I won’t Mum,” Heidi whispered as she heard Cindy grunt at the way her mother tied her legs together, wondering what was going to come next.
After a few minutes, Amy and Dorothy stood up and looked down at the girls as they tried to wriggle loose. The rope went around their upper bodies, holding them around their waists and arms, with the rope tightened between their bodies so that they were secured together, while there was rope around their legs above and below their knees.
“Good job,” the man said as he held up two stockings, each of which had a small rubber ball pushed half way down the leg. “What the hell is that for,” Dorothy asked as she took one from him.
“Push the ball into your daughter’s mouth, and then tie it round her neck.”
“But she’ll choke on this!!”
“It’s that or we shut her up - permanently,” the man said as his colleague walked round and pointed a pistol at Cindy’s head.
She looked at her mother, before Heidi said “It’s all right mum - do me first.” She opened her mouth wide to allow Amy to push the ball in, before feeling the taut nylon band digging into her cheeks as she pulled it round her face. Dorothy said “I’m sorry,” as she did the same to Cindy.
“Sllrtmmm,” Cindy mumbled as she looked at the two men. “Now what,” Amy said as she looked over at the man.
“Now,” he said as he took more rope out of his bag, “You make sure the other mummy here stays out of our way, then your sister takes care of you, then we take care of your sister.”
“No-one home,” Anne said as she stood at the doorway, with Jannifer and Alice beside her. Looking in her handbag, she took out a key and opened the front door. “Stay behind me, girls,” she said as she opened the door inwards, “but stay with me - if there are any surprises, ‘I want you where you will be safer.”
The house was quiet, and cold, but as they stepped in Alice saw a rucksack sitting on the floor. “That’s Heidi’s,” she said quietly as Anne looked in the front room, noting the half-drunk bottle of fruit juice that had been left on the coffee table.
“Something is most definitely not right here,” Anne said as she looked round the room. Noticing an envelope on the table beside the bottle, she picked it upon and took out a sheet of paper, looking at the message. She looked at the two girls, before taking out a cell phone and dialling a number.
“Control, this is six-five. I need a PIP on a Bobbi Hopwood, stat.”
Amy lifted her head and screamed at the two men as they started to tickle Heidi and Cindy, but was unable to stop them from her position on her stomach on the floor. She was lying between Dorothy and Veronica, both women groaning as their skirts fell down around their knees. All were tightly bound, with ropes around their wrists and elbows behind their backs, and then their ankles lashed together and secured to their elbow ropes. They were all gagged the same way as the two younger girls, the rubber balls making their jaws ache as they tried to close their mouths.
As for Amy, she was desperately trying not to start laughing as their captor’s hands moved over their bodies, brushing their ribs and the backs of their legs. As they moved their hands over the fronts of their bodies, however, all three of the other women screamed at the two men.
“Come on,” one of them eventually said, “it’s safe to go now. Let’s get out of here and leave them to it.” The two men stood up and left the room, leaving the five captives alone with just the woman filming them.
“Rulrrrtt,” Dorothy said to her daughter, and as Cindy nodded in reply she turned and looked at Amy.
“Mmmmm,” Amy said as the two women rolled over onto their sides and slid across to be back to back to each other, as Veronica started to move like a snake across the floor to the two younger girls, to offer what little moral support she could.
They watched as Amy slowly managed to unravel the ropes holding Dorothy’s legs back, allowing her to stretch them out before she looked over her own shoulder and started to untie Amy. “Pshnssgrls,” Veronica moaned as they three of them watched the slow, careful process of the unravelling, their struggles been filmed the whole time.
Eventually the two women managed to free each other, pulling the balls from their mouths as the drool lines shone in the lights from the ceiling. “I hope you’re bloody satisfied,” Amy said to their filmer as she started to untie the girls, while Dorothy took care of Veronica.
“For now,” the woman said as she put the camera down and smiled at them, “but the fun is only just beginning. We have the masterpiece to fulfil.”
“No,” Amy said as she glared angrily at the woman, “I won’t allow it.”
“Who says you have any choice in the matter,” was the reply as the two men came back in. “Hobble them and take them back to the room - and keep an eye on them while I prepare for the next shoot.”
Anne nodded before she switched the phone off. “Come on,” she said as she headed for the door, “I’m taking you two girls home.”
“No you’re not,” Alice said angrily, “If Heidi is in trouble, we want to help.”
“What she said,” Jannifer said as she stared defiantly at Anne.
“All right,” she said eventually, “Get in the car. Maybe the others can persuade you.”
Anne said nothing more as she ushered the two young girls into the car, and drove to the other side of town. Alice recognised Cindy’s house as Anne turned the corner, drove for several more blocks, and then stopped outside a house. The trio marched to the door and waited as Anne knocked on the door.
A tall, thin, dark haired woman came to the door. “Yes,” she said as she looked at Anne, “Can I help you?”
“Agent Duncombe,” Anne said as she flashed a badge. “Are you Coral Blackwood?”
“I am - but this is rather an inconvenient time, perhaps you could come back later?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs Blackwood, but it is vital I speak with you now. IT concerns John Hopwood.”
Alice saw the woman blanch. “Hopwood? What about him?”
“It may be better if we discuss this inside.”
“That might be - embarrassing.”
“Mrs Blackwood, the lives of three friends of mine and their daughters are at stake - and you know two of them.”
“Amy and Veronica Cabot.”
Mrs Blackwood nodded, before saying “Very well - but please do not judge what you see.” She held the door open and allowed the three women to come in.
As Anne walked into the room, she was surprised to see Natalie on the floor, in her white jumper and skirt, securely bound and gagged and blissfully unaware of what was going on. She then looked at the two girls sitting on the couch.
“Hello, Joanne,” she said, “I seem to have called at a particularly quiet moment.”
“Anne,” Joanne said as she slowly stood up, “What are you doing here?”
“You know this woman,” Coral said as she closed the door behind her, two young girls slipping in as well
“Yeah - Anne is a friend of my aunt Dorothy. Anne, this is Alexa, a good friend of mine. Jannifer, Alice.”
“At least this explains where Natalie got to,” Jannifer said with a smile as she saw their friend on the floor for the first time. Anne stepped forward and shook Alexa’s hand, before the group sat down. “What is the problem with John Hopwood,” Coral eventually said.
“Were you aware that he died a few months ago in prison?”
“No - no I wasn’t but I can’t say I’m sorry.” Coral turned and looked at Joanne and Alexa. “The experience I told you about - it was at the hands of this man, but why are you here to tell me this? And what does it have to do with Amy and Veronica?”
“Amy? Heidi’s mother? What’s happened to them?”
“They’ve disappeared - and so have Cindy and her mother. Anne here met us just after we left you, and we’ve been to Heidi’s house.”
“Amy is missing? I’m sorry, Agent Duncombe, but what has this to do with me?”
“Please call me Anne,” Anne said as she handed Coral a sheet of paper. “I found this at Amy’s house.”
Coral read through the letter, her eyes widening as she whispered “no,” then handed it back to Anne before standing up and walking to the window. “It can’t be, it just can’t...”
“Mrs Blackwood, we need your help. Do you have any idea where they could be?”
“Hmmm - sorry. The Hopwoods used to have a house up in the woods - well secluded. It’s where John used to do the shoots, so they could have been taken there, only...”
“I need to make a phone call,” Coral said as she walked to the door, “and then I’m coming with you.” She walked out of the room, closing the door as Anne turned to the younger girls.
“This is where we part company,” she said with a grim expression on her face. “You both need to stay here now, I can’t place you in any further danger.”
“Like heck you will,” Jannifer said as she glared at Anne. “Heidi and Cindy are our friends, and if they’re in danger then we want to help.”
“The best way you can help is to stay here.”
“We’re coming,” Alice said as she stood with her friend. Anne looked at both of them, before sighing and saying “I guess I have no choice, then. Joanne, if you would?”
Joanne and Alexa looked at each other and nodded as they stood up and grabbed Alice and Jannifer, wrestling them to the ground and sitting across them.
“I don’t care,” Jannifer said as she looked angrily at Anne, “the only way I’m staying here is if I can’t move.”
“I know,” Anne said as she reached into her handbag, “and I’m sorry it has to be like this.” She took out two rolls of black tape and tossed one to each of the girls, saying “Make sure they can’t move” as she did so.
“It’s for your own good,” Joanne said as she pulled Alice’s hands behind her back and crossed her wrists, holding them together with one hand as she tore the end of the roll of tape loose with her teeth.
Natalie could feel the vibrations on the floor and spoke up, saying “whtsgngn” as Alexa tightly taped Jannifer’s wrists and hands together, palm to palm.
“Get to you in a minute, Nats,” Joanne said as she moved her position, turning round and grabbing Alice’s ankles as she tried to kick out, then taping them tightly together and running the tape up her jeans to her knees. Alexa was doing something similar to Jannifer, before the two girls got off and made Alice and Jannifer sit back to back, Joanne taping their waist together as Alexa took care of their upper bodies.
“Girls,” Anne said as she saw Coral walk back into the room, “I’m truly sorry this has to be done to you, but I need to be sure you are safe, before I head off. I promise Heidi and Cindy, and their family, will be home safe as soon as humanly possible.”
“Gag them,” Alexa said as she looked at Joanne. The other girl nodded as they each tore a strip of tape off the roll, and before Alice or Jannifer could say anything stuck it over their lips.
“Jstgttm,” Jannifer mumbled as Joanne reached over and removed the sleep mask from Natalie’s eyes. She blinked for a moment, before looking at the others and saying “H - gtutt?”
Alice nodded slowly as Anne stood up. “Joanne, keep them here long enough for us to get going. After that - well, I trust you both,” she said as she walked towards Coral, who was standing there with her coat over her arm.
“We’ll take care of them,” Joanne said as the two women walked out, to meet Chloe and Andrea coming down the staircase.
“A pleasure to meet you, Mrs Blackwood,” Chloe said as she shook Coral’s hand. Andrea looked at her mother and said “What’s up, mum?”
“I need to go with this woman,” Coral said as she pulled her jacket on. “Please, wait for me to call.”
As they walked out of the door, Anne said “Where are we going?”
“We need to pick somebody up on the way - someone who knows the way to the house, and the layout.”
“A woman I saw for the first time in twenty years this week - Bobbi Hopwood.”
The five women sat on the beds, looking at each other as the two men stood guard by the doorway. Each had their ankles tied with rope, but rather than together the rope was wrapped round each ankle with a length of about a foot between them.
“I suppose we should be grateful they didn’t think of Misery when they said we were to be hobbled, “Veronica said.
“Ha, ha, very funny,” Amy said as she cuddled Heidi.
“Amy, what did you mean no you won’t,” Dorothy said as she stroked Cindy’s hair. “What do you think that - that woman is going to do next?”
Amy shot a nervous look at Veronica, who simply said “Recreate the last shoot before her brother was arrested, is what we think she means. If that’s the case - no, let’s not even think about it.”
“What,” Heidi said as she looked up into her mother’s eyes, seeing how red they had become. “Tell us, what is she going to do?”
Heidi looked to the door to see the woman smiling, her eyes still covered by the dark glasses. Over her arm were five dress bags, which she dropped onto the bed beside Dorothy.
“Release their legs,” she said to the two guards, “and then leave them to change - they have a party to attend.”
The two men walked over and removed the ropes from their legs, leaving the room as Cindy opened one of the two smaller bags. “My god,” she said quietly as she looked inside, “this is silk. What does she have in mind?”
The large doors to the main room were opened as the party were escorted in. Heidi had been given a dark blue velvet dress to wear, with puffed short sleeves and a light blue silk sash tied around her waist, as well as a pair of white ankle socks and black Mary Jane shoes. By way of contrast, Cindy was wearing a white dress of similar design, with a dark blue sash and ankle socks.
Veronica was wearing a sleeveless green silk dress, with a slit in the dress from her waist to the floor length hem, and matching opera gloves. Amy’s dress was a black cocktail dress, the long sleeves hooked over the middle finger of each hand and the skirt coming to just below her crotch, sheer black stockings and three inch patent leather heels. Dorothy was wearing a red velvet dress, the sleeves coming halfway down her forearms and the skirt to just below her knees, white stockings and red leather shoes.
“Excellent,” the woman said as she looked at the five of them, “Let’s get started with the family portraits. Please stand over here, girls in front of the older women please.”
“This doesn’t seem so bad,” Cindy whispered as they formed themselves into a group. Smiling, they watched as the woman took several shots, before saying “Excellent. Now, the older women in those chairs please, and the girls sitting on the floor in front of them, cross legged.”
“Yeah - but what’s after this,” Heidi whispered as she watched her mother sit with her aunt and Cindy’s mum, each of them exchanging nervous glances as the two girls sat in front of them, arranging the skirt of their dresses as the crossed their legs.
“Very good - now, big smiles please,” the woman said as she continued to take photographs. Amy seemed to visibly relax as she said “You always knew how to take a good group photo, Bobbi - is this the last session. Will you let us go after this?”
“It is the last session - but we’re not done yet. Boys?”
The two men came forward, each holding a number of thin plastic strips in their hands. “Hands behind the chair,” one of them barked, and as Amy moved her hands round she felt the strip tightening around her wrists, the rasping sound as it was tightened making her wince.
“Please, you’ve done enough,” Dorothy said as she felt her own wrists been secured together, “Just let us go.”
“I haven’t completed my masterpiece yet,” the woman said with a laugh as the other man knelt behind Heidi, guided her arms behind her back and secured them together, then repeated the process for Cindy. “Right - let’s see those worried looks now,” their captor said as she started to take photographs again, Cindy looking over her shoulder and saying ”Let’s just get through this, mum,” as the camera continued to work.
“Excellent,” she eventually said, “Gag them.”
“Whmmgmfdmgdmg,” Veronica said as once again a strip of flesh toned plaster was pressed over her lips, sealing them together as she watched the other four been similarly silenced unable to do anything to help. More photos were taken, as they struggled and tried to speak to each other.
“That’s wonderful,” she eventually said as she put the camera down, “Fetch the frames in, boys.”
Heidi watched the two men as they left the room for a minute, returning with each of them wheeling in a metal bedstead on a trolley. They placed them at an angle against the wall, and then removed the trolleys from the room, before standing next to Heidi.
“Take the first one,” their captor said, and Heidi felt herself been lifted to her feet and frog marched over to the first of the bedsteads. “Dntudrubsch,” Amy said as she tried to stand up, only to stop as the woman calmly pointed a pistol in her direction.
“Shut up, Amy,” she said as Heidi felt her wrists parting, only for the men to spin her round, pushing her against the metal base as her arms were lifted to the two top corners of the bedstead. Each man took a length of cord from his pocket and bound her wrists to the metal, feeding the lengths through the gaps to secure them in place.
They then repeated the process with her feet, the skirt moving with them as her ankles were bound to the bottom of the metal support. She looked over at Cindy, knowing this was going to be happening to her next, and nodded in encouragement as the two men walked over and brought her to the side.
“Whtthfckerusng,” Dorothy said as she watched her daughter been bound to the second bedstead. “You’ll see, ladies,” their captor said quietly as she watched Cindy been secured in place.
“Whdduthnkshsplng,” Cindy mumbled as she looked over at her friend.
Heidi simply shrugged as she watched the woman come over, a length of plaster in her hand. “Close your eyes,” she said quietly, and as Heidi complied she felt the material been placed over her eyelids, pulling on them as it was smoothed in place. She could hear Cindy grunt as well as she too was blindfolded, and then the woman say “Now, if you love these two girls, you will all do exactly what I say, quietly, calmly, and with no argument. Stand up, all of you.”
She could hear the scraping of chairs, and of heels on the wooden floor, and then low mumbled talking. “Nfrngwaaa,” she heard Veronica say at one point, and then what sounded like a slap, before there was silence again. There was then a sound like scissors, and something like she had heard every time her mother closed the curtains at home, only softer and, if anything, lovelier.
The tape was pulling at the skin at her eyes and mouth, and her arms were starting to ache from been held in position above her head for so long, but as Heidi continued to listen she could hear grunts and moans from her mother, aunt and Dorothy. She tried to work out what was happening, listening to the sound of rope rubbing against rope, and gasps and grunts, so she knew they were been tied again, but what else was happening?
“Ulrrgsnde,” she mumbled as she turned her head towards her friend. “Ntrlle, mscrd,” was the reply.
“Brbrvmlv,” they both heard Dorothy call out in a muffled tone, before Amy screamed “NNNNNNNNNN”
“Yes,” she heard her captor say, and then there was a painful moment as the tape was ripped away from her eyes. Heidi blinked and looked to the floor, where she could see her mother, aunt and Cindy’s mother in their underwear, hogtied and looking desperately up at the two girls.
“If you don’t do as I say,” the woman cooed as she flashed a knife in front of Heidi’s eyes, “Then I start with her, understand?” She pressed the knife against Heidi’s cheek, as the girl felt herself shake in fear.
“Llrrt, llrt,” Amy mumbled, “Jstlvmbbeln.”
“Maybe I should just let her watch anyway,” the woman said as she looked at Heidi with an evil smile.
“Or maybe you should just stop right now.”
Heidi looked in the direction of the doorway, her eyes wide as she saw Anne standing there, a gun raised and pointed into the room. Her tormentor looked at Anne, and then behind her as she whispered “You? How?”
As Heidi looked at her mother, she saw a look of confusion, then of recognition, and then of shock pass over her eyes in rapid succession, and a glance at her aunt told her that Veronica was experiencing the same emotions. She looked at Cindy’s mother, who returned her glance with the same questioning, confused look.
Behind Anne were two women, of roughly the same age as Amy and Dorothy. One was about five foot ten, dark haired and of slim build, with a dark trouser suit and cream camisole top on. She looked at both Amy and Veronica, with a look of real concern on her face as she said “I see we got here in the nick of time.”
“Krl? Mgd,” Veronica said as she looked over at Amy. Heidi’s mother’s eyes, however, were fixed on the other woman standing behind Anne. She was smaller, with bleached blonde hair, the dark roots of which was showing, and wore a simple sun dress under a denim jacket, the blue floral pattern clearly visible on the light yellow background. She looked at the three women on the floor, then over at Heidi and Cindy, before she quietly said “Oh my god - what the hell have you done this time, Paul?”
“Pul?” Veronica looked from the second woman to their dark haired captor, then back to Amy, before she screamed out “Urfckngkddngm - PUL!!!!!!”
“Ah,” their captor said as she looked at the three women standing there, “this was unexpected. How are you, Bobbi?”
“How am I? HOW AM I? Bad enough you fake your own death, but you go and threaten a couple of innocents to get your own sick, twisted revenge on us? What the hell did prison do to you?”
Heidi was listening to all this, all too acutely aware of the fact that a knife was still been pressed against her cheek. The dark haired woman could see that too, as she said “Paul, for god’s sake stop holding that knife next to her cheek. You’re in enough trouble as it is without adding that to your sheet.”
Heidi looked at her captor, as they reached up and pulled the dark wig away from their head, revealing a bald head as she pressed the knife closer to the young girl’s cheek. “I must say, Bobbi, I never thought I would see you again. You made your feelings about me very clear that day the police came.”
“I made my feelings,” the blonde said as she walked towards the man, “very clear that day you strapped me semi-naked to that bedstead - and the others made them perfectly clear afterwards as well. It took me years to get over that - and not just me. I only met Coral by accident this week - and what would have happened if she had not been contacted by this other woman.”
“Mister Hopwood,” Anne said as she inched slowly forward, the gun levelled at the man the whole time, “I have a team of agents on their way here now - and your two ‘assistants’ are already secured outside. I’m giving you one chance - drop the knife before I drop you.”
“Are you a good enough shot, officer? Can you get me before I cut her?” Amy screamed as she saw the blade been pressed against Heidi’s cheek again.
“I don’t know,” Anne said as she stood deathly still, “would you like to find out?”
“John,” Coral said as she stepped forward, “What happened to us was a long time ago, and you paid the price. Why one earth did you do this? Didn’t you realise you had no chance of getting away with it?”
“I had... I had to finish my masterpiece,” the man said as Heidi felt the knife move away from her cheek, “I had to do it, and I needed all of you to do it. When I found out you had disowned me, and Coral had disappeared, I had to improvise - so...”
“So you kidnapped Veronica, then Amy and her daughter - but why the other two? I don’t even know them - why?”
“To make the set complete,” he said quietly. “I watched them for months - saw their friends, saw where they lived - and they were the closest, the closest - the closest match to Coral. It had to be perfect, or at least as close to perfect a sit could be possible to imagine. And it was - I have taken such wonderful pictures...”
“But at what cost, John?” Bobbi walked slowly forward towards her brother. “At what cost? You terrified these young girls, not to mention her mother,” as she looked over at Dorothy. “It’s time to stop now, John - please, give me the knife and let me help you. You made a mistake and paid for it - don’t let it happen again.”
Heidi looked up at the man, who looked back down at her, the mascara around his eyes running as he smiled. “I guess it’s not a game for you at the moment, is it,” he said with a sad face, and Heidi simply nodded. “All right,” he said as he removed the blade and allowed the knife to drop to the floor, the metal blade clanging as he did so, “All right. Let’s end this.”
Anne walked forward and pushed down on his shoulder, forcing him to his knees as she said “hands on your head, and don’t move a millimetre.” The blonde haired woman walked up to Heidi, reaching up to untie her hands as she said “Are you all right, kid?”
“Mllrrttt,” Heidi mumbled as her left hand dropped to her side, “btwhtsgngnnn?”
“We’ll explain everything later,” she said as she released Heidi’s other hand, then slowly peeled the tape away from her mouth. “Right now, you need a blanket and a lot of TLC.”
As she walked over to Cindy and removed the tape blindfold, Heidi watched the dark haired stranger as she knelt next to her mother and released her from the hogtie. “I never thought I’d see you again like this,” she heard her say as her mother stretched her legs out, and waited for her wrists to be untied. “It’s been a long time, Amy.”
“Ikn,” Amy mumbled as she rolled herself other and sat up, rubbing her wrists as she watched Heidi untie her feet. The young girl stumbled over, kneeling next to her mother and peeling the tape away as she said “I don’t understand, mum - I thought you said he had died.”
“I sometimes wish he had,” the blonde said as she helped Cindy to walk over to Dorothy as she lay on the floor, “but I truly thought he had as well.”
The sound of sirens filled the air as Amy hugged Heidi, while the woman called Bobbi walked over and untied Veronica, the two women embracing as Heidi’s aunt was released while Anne untied Veronica. As Heidi looked over she saw their captor kneeling, his hands secured behind his back with a zip tie as he looked back at the others.
“There will be time for explanations later,” Anne said as a team of paramedics came in, “bit we need to get you all checked over first. Mrs Blackwood, Miss Hopwood - I cannot thank you enough for your help in this. You have shown incredible bravery today.”
“Bravery? More like wanting to avoid history repeating itself,” Coral said as she stood up. “There’s so much I don’t understand about all this, though.”
“Explanations later,” Anne said in a commanding voice, “We have five people to get to hospital first and checked over.” She walked over and pulled John Hopwood to his feet. “And I’m sure the local law agencies would like a word with Mister Hopwood here.”
“Oh thank god, thank god,” Dorothy said as she hugged Cindy, while Veronica hugged Coral. “I’m so glad it did not go the way I feared.....”
“Just thank your friends, Heidi,” Anne said as she looked at her. “They were concerned about you, and when I met them I followed their concerns. It was pure happenstance that my office knew of the connection to Coral here.”
“More to the point,” Coral said as she helped Veronica to her feet, “When Miss Dunscombe here called on me and showed me the letter Veronica had written, I knew it could not have been Bobbi?”
Amy looked at her and said simply “Why?”
“Coral lost touch with both of you, but we were at a conference together until this morning. It was the first time we’d seen each other in years as well. When they called round, I offered to come here with them - but I hoped and prayed the whole time they were wrong.”
“Come on,” Anne said as she pulled John to the door, meeting the paramedics as they came in “Let’s get you somewhere where you cannot hurt them again.” As she marched him towards the door, he turned and looked at Heidi.
“You look so like your mother,” he said as he was pulled out, Amy hugging her daughter as she started to quietly cry.
One week later
Heidi looked up from her bed and saw her mum standing there, the door open to her bedroom.
“Cindy’s here - are you up to seeing her?”
She nodded as Amy opened the door to let her friend in, saying “I’ll be downstairs” as she closed the door behind them. Sitting herself up, she looked at Cindy, standing there in a pair of blue denim jeans and a white sweatshirt.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wearing jeans,” she said eventually.
“Yeah, well - the bruises still haven’t quite gone away. How are you?”
“Tired - I spent most of yesterday been interviewed by the police. You?”
“Mum’s been there with me most of the time.” Cindy walked over and sat next to Heidi on the bed. “Have you talked to your mum about what happened?”
Heidi nodded slowly. “She told me everything - what happened before with her and the others, why she didn’t tell me the truth. I can understand all that - she wanted to protect me, after all. She also took me to Aunt Veronica’s place, to meet Coral and Bobbi - sorry, Mrs Blackwood and Miss Hopgood. The four of them are going to get together regularly now.”
“Can I ask a question?”
Heidi looked up at Cindy. “How did he fake the death? The police are still looking into that - apparently the facility he was in had a few “security issues” as they put it. I think some money exchanged hands, if truth be told.
“Have you seen the others?”
Cindy nodded slowly. “Yeah - they came to see me. They were told to give you some time and space - that’s one of the reasons I’m here now, to see if you’re ready to see them.”
Heidi stood up and looked out of the window. “Yeah,” she eventually said, “I’m ready. I’d rather they knew the truth from me, then whatever rumours are going round school.”
“That’s another thing - when are you going back.”
“Monday - you?”
Cindy nodded in response. “I hope they leave us alone - the last thing I want to do is re-live those experiences again with a bunch of - well, you know what I mean. Joanne and her friends have said they will look out for us.”
“That’s good,” Heidi said as she turned to look at Cindy. “Have you - you know, has what happened put you off?”
“Our games? I haven’t really thought about it. I mean, we’ve been through similar things together. But not like that. Have you talked to your mum and aunt?”
“Yeah - they taught me a good lesson. You need to trust the people you play with, or have a back-up plan just in case.”
She sat back on the bed, picking up a long blue scarf in her hands and idly toying with it.
“I guess it’s a bit like riding a bike, isn’t it?”
Cindy looked at her. “In what way?”
“When Mum taught me, I fell off the first few times, but she said to trust her and I got back on - and eventually I could ride the bike perfectly well.”
Cindy looked at Heidi as she said this, seeing the way she was wrapping the scarf around her wrists. “So....”
“So I just fell off again, and I need to get back on the bike.” Heidi smiled as she looked at Cindy. “Want to help me back on?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” she said as she took the scarf and watched Heidi put her hands in front of her, palm to palm, a smile on her face.