Jay’s American Trip
“Mark, Yvonne – how was the flight,” Brian said as he welcomed them to the booth in the Boston diner.
“Not too bad – Alicia has taken the kids to see the docks today, and Alex will meet them there” Mark said as they settled down and picked up a menu. “So, why are we meeting in such a public place?”
It was a warm summer’s day, and while both Brian and Mark were wearing polo shirts and trousers, Yvonne was wearing a sleeveless blouse and pale blue shorts. Sarah was in a pale cream sundress with a pink scarf round her neck.
“Where are the twins,” Yvonne said as the waitress brought over four iced teas.
“With Amy and Dorothy, our friends,” Brian said quietly, “she’s going to be one of their godparents, and wanted to have them for the day.”
“Convenient,” Mark said with a smile, “but why here?”
“Because nobody ever listens to these things here,” Sarah said. “So, would you like to know why we asked you out here?”
“Of course,” Mark said quietly.
“My superiors,” Brian said as he dropped his voice to a low whisper, “are concerned about the activities of one of the larger banks in this fair city.” He passed a photograph across the table, of a tall, bald headed man, with a dark haired woman next to him and two girls. It was obvious the girls were their children.
“Edwin van der Bild the third, his wife Connie, eleven year old Belle and nine year old Ariel,” Sarah said.
“van der Bild – he’s the CEO of Boston Investments. I’ve met him at conferences – saying he runs one of the larger banks is an understatement, Brian.”
“Agreed – he lives in a large mansion on the outskirts of the city, with a walled and gated entry, and it would be extremely difficult to get into and out of – but not impossible.”
He passed over a second picture, this one of two blonde haired women.
“Martha Riddle, their housekeeper, and her daughter Abby. We have a plan which would involve them giving us access to the estate, and then holding the family from that point while you and Mrs McPhee weave their magic.”
“But why us and why you?”
“There was a botched attempt to rob them some months ago,” Sarah whispered, “which left Martha and Abby traumatised. My job, as Ophelia, will be to help them recover through this. Your job, with my help, is going to be keeping the van der Bild family quiet and compliant while you get Daddy to transfer some funds.”
“I’ve been to their building,” Mark said, “no way we can get in there at any time unseen.”
“You won’t have to – he has a terminal at home, and we can introduce our little spyware through their firewalls at the same time. Ophelia will join us with the Riddles by that point.”
“I know a couple of people in the area – I can call on them for help as well if you think we need the extra manpower.”
“I thought you might,” Brian said with a nod. “On this occasion, I will supply firearms for use as decoration and implied threat only.”
Yvonne looked at the photos again. “I take it the kids have been to Summer Camp and are back again?”
“They have – but we have a window of opportunity tomorrow night. We managed to access their private diaries, and the house can be taken gradually – starting with the Riddles. It also gives Sarah here a chance to work with both of them first. So, are you in?”
Yvonne and Mark looked at each other, and said “How can we not be? Tell me where and when you need to collect my associates.”
“I’ll send you the details of where to meet us, and we will have all the supplies you need. In the meantime, take the file, and study it tonight.”
Mark walked back in from the bathroom as Yvonne looked at the pictures of the girls.
“Nice girls,” she said with a smile, “young Ariel in particular. I’m sure Mrs McPhee can help keep her calm.”
“What about the housekeeper and her daughter?”
“A bit older than usual – but if Ophelia and I take care of them, I’m sure it won’t be too traumatic.”
Mark nodded as he took out a cheap call phone and made a call.
“Hello – this is Jay Edwards.
“Yeah it’s good to hear from you as well – I have a job if you are free tomorrow.
“There’s a parking lot near the main park – behind Staples. Be there at two tomorrow. We will be joined by Mrs McPhee and three others.
“Good – and thanks mate.”
A second phone call produced the same conversation, as Yvonne smiled.
“We’ve only ever done this once before you know.”
“I know – so let’s follow Brian’s plan and timing.”
The two men walked towards the grey panel van as the rear doors opened, and they climbed in. “Good afternoon,” Jay said as he looked at them through the eyeholes of his balaclava, “my thanks for coming today.”
“Always a pleasure, Jay, if a rare one,” the man said. “Who have we here?”
“You know Mrs McPhee, but this is Ophelia. As we have a few youngsters at the target today, I called on extra help. The guy driving the van today will also help out.”
“Hello,” Mrs McPhee said in her Scottish accent, as Ophelia nodded. All were wearing blue boiler suits, and balaclava masks, as they slipped leather gloves on and the van drove off.
“We’re hitting a high class establishment today,” Jay said as they drove off, “with staged objectives. Once we get access to the house, our first target is the housekeeper and her daughter – we need them secured and out of the way. We will provide support, but Ophelia and Mrs McPhee will get them settled while you two go with my driver friend and disable all alarms.
“After that, we expect the mother back with two daughters. You know my methods, and we will apply them in this case. We then keep them company until Daddy gets home, and they can enjoy dinner before we get them ready for bed.
“I will then conduct business with Daddy, and we leave at around midnight. We are armed, but do not use unless absolutely essential.”
The other two men nodded as Jay smiled, then said in his soft Geordie accent “Right – let’s have some fun…”
“Abby, have you got the order list ready?”
“Yeah Mom,” Abby called out as she walked down the stairs. The empty mansion gave her mother a rare opportunity to find out what needed replacing, and as she was still on summer vacation Abby was more than willing to help out.
The young thirteen year old had her strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and was wearing a grey smock top with a low neckline and long sleeves, dark leggings and knee length black leather boots. She walked into the kitchen and glanced down the list as the intercom for the front gate sounded.
“Hello,” she said as she pressed the button.
“Delivery for van der Bild – three boxes.” The voice was Australian, and sounded sincere.
Abby thought for a moment – her mom had not said anything about a delivery – but then she said “drive on up” as she pressed the button to open the main gates.
“Who was that,” Martha Riddle said as she came in. The older woman had her hair cut short, and was wearing a grey woollen top with long flowing sleeves, black jeans and purple knee length suede boots.
“Some delivery for the family,” Abby said as she heard the van draw up outside, “I’ll go and sign for it.” She walked down the corridor and smiled as she opened the front door.
“You have a…”
Her eyes opened wide with shock as the masked men and women walked in, the men carrying bags and guns as one of the women smiled and looked directly at Abby. “Stay nice and quiet now,” she said in a soft Scottish accent as she took the young girl’s arm, “let’s go and say hello to your mummy.”
“Who was it,” Martha said as she looked up, and then her face went white as she saw the masked man smiling at her, the gun pointing at her.
“Please,” he said in a strange sing-song English accent, “stay calm and don’t scream, Mrs Riddle. This is a robbery, but I promise you we mean you and your daughter no harm, nor do we mean the family any harm. We merely need to keep you all secure and quiet while we go about our business.”
“Oh god, no, not again,” Martha whimpered as she saw her daughter being held by one of the two masked women.
“Martha, Abby,” the second woman said quietly, “We know you had a very traumatic experience a while ago, and we do regret that you are going to have what may be a difficult day again, but I promise you we will make it as painless and comfortable as possible.”
“You… You’re not going to hurt us?”
“No we’re not,” the man said, “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jay Edwards, and the two ladies are Mrs McPhee and Ophelia. As I say, we have business to conduct with Mister van der Bild, and regretfully that means that you, Mrs van der Bild and the girls, need to be kept out of the way. I promise you we will make you as comfortable as possible.”
“Mom I don’t want to be held like that again…”
“Abby,” Ophelia said as she looked at the two women, “why don’t you two come with me and Mrs McPhee into the front room and you can tell me about what happened the last time. Then we can explain how it will be different this time.”
She removed her leather gloves and offered Abby her hand, the young girl nodding as she took it and then sighed. “Mom,” she said quietly, “I think we can trust her.” Ophelia offered her other hand to Martha, who slowly took it before they and Mrs McPhee walked out.
“All right men,” Jay said to the other three, “find and disable the alarms and any CCTV.”
He watched as they left, and then went to the front room, watching as Martha and Abby held Ophelia and Mrs McPhee’s hands and they told of the last time. Once the tale was told, and the tears flowed, Ophelia said “I promise that will not happen this time – and to show I mean that promise, Mrs McPhee and I are going to be the ones to secure you.”
Jay fetched one of the canvas bags they had brought in, and opened it, taking out two lengths of white rope and handing them to Mrs McPhee.
“Feel these in your hands,” she said as she handed them to Abby and Martha, while Ophelia slipped her gloves on. “Do they feel scary to you?”
“No,” Abby said as she shook her head.
“Good – now you and your mum stand up and face each other, and then put your hands behind your back. It’s time we began.”
Abby nodded as she said “Mom, I’m ready if you are.”
“You won’t hurt us,” Martha said as she stood up.
“All we need to do is keep you out of the way for a few hours – you’ll join the family later,” Mrs McPhee said as she began to tie Abby’s wrists behind her back, Ophelia doing the same to Martha. They looked at each other as their upper bodies were further secured with rope around their waist, as well as above and below their chests, before they were sat on the couch, their ankles and their legs further secured with rope.
“How do you both feel,” Ophelia said as she looked at the mother and daughter.
“Secure, not afraid – but you are going to silence us, aren’t you?”
“We have to, yes,” Mrs McPhee said as she produced two cloths and a roll of white tape. “Ophelia will stay to look after you, while we deal with your employer and the family. Be assured, I will keep them safe as well. Now, open your mouths.”
“Talk to you later, dear,” Martha said as the folded cloth was pushed into her mouth, and the tape wound round her head, Abby nodding as she was gagged in the same way. “I will be back in a moment,” Ophelia said as she left the room with Jay and Mrs McPhee.
“So far so good,” Sarah whispered, “I will keep them safe until you call for me, and keep them calm.”
“Good – we need to go and take care of the others now. If there is an issue, call us.”
Sarah nodded as she went back in, and Jay went to the drawing room of the house with Mrs McPhee.
“Well,” he said to the masked men.
“All security alarms and systems disabled – your friend was exceptionally good at finding them,” one of the associates said as he looked at Brian.
“It’s a gift – ETA for phase 2?”
Jay looked at his watch. “Forty five minutes – search the house now for any valuables, and be discrete – no mess. You’d better move the van out of sight as well.”
The three men nodded as they walked out, allowing the others to make their preparations…
The large jeep drove up to the front of the house and parked, the engine stopping as Connie van der Bild stepped out. She was in her early forties, with long dark hair, and was wearing a black round necked top, with a matching wool cardigan, a pleated knee length blue and red skirt, dark tights and black leather ankle boots. She may be the wife of one of the richest men in the city, but she liked to dress to hide that notion. And besides, she found it comfortable.
“Right, out you come,” she said as she opened the rear door, and nine year old Ariel jumped out. The young girl was wearing a short sleeved grey dress over a top with long white sleeves, covered in multicoloured dots. The neck of the dress had a little ruffle on it, while on her legs she had, like her mother, dark tights with a pair of slightly longer black leather boots.
“Can I watch television for a little while,” she said as they came into the house.
“Yes you can – Belle will be home soon, and then Martha can prepare your tea,” Connie said as they walked in, closing the door behind themselves. As she walked up the stairs, Ariel walked into the front room, only to see a man wearing a balaclava over his head sitting there and smiling.
Before she could scream, she felt a leather gloved hand over her mouth, and a female with a Scottish accent say “Hello Ariel – keep calm, and don’t scream or cry out. You need to be a very brave girl for Mom now.”
“Hrruuu,” she mumbled under the leather, her eyes wide.
“We’ll tell you when your mum comes in,” the man said, “for now, do you promise to do what we ask you to do, and in return my friend here will take her hand away?”
As Ariel nodded, the hand was removed, and she whispered “Are you robbers?”
“Yes we are, Ariel,” the woman said, “but we’re not going to hurt you or your family. In fact, we’re going to make this a fun time for you and your sister, but we need to start by making sure you cannot surprise your mum, your sister or your father, so we need to make sure you cannot move or talk for a while. Sit on the couch for me, and hold your wrists out in front of you.”
“You mean you’re going to tie me up,” Ariel whispered.
“I’m afraid so, lass – my name is Mrs McPhee, and I’ll make sure it doesn’t hurt. Now sit down, and hold your hands out.”
Ariel sat on one end of the couch and watched as the masked woman took some cords, and tied her wrists gently together in front of her. She did it tightly as well, however, and took the rope between her arms.
“There now – does that hurt,” she said, a smile on her lips. Ariel shook her head and said “no – what now?”
“Now, I do the same to your ankles and your legs, and then I’ll tie your wrists to your legs. So sit back as far as you can, and get comfortable.”
Ariel wriggled back, her feet hanging off the end of the seat as she watched Mrs McPhee tie her ankles tightly together, and then her legs below her knees, pulling the hem of her dress down so it covered her legs before she tied a length of rope between her wrists and knees.
“Now, do you think you’re going to be able to move from there for the moment,” Mrs McPhee said. Ariel wriggled around for a moment, and then shook her head.
“Good,” the Scottish woman said as she tore a strip of white tape from a roll. “Now, your mum will be down in a minute, and we want her to be surprised, so I’m going to press this over your mouth. All right?”
Connie came down the large staircase, wondering what had happened to Martha and Abby. “Not like them to not be around,” she said to herself as she walked into the room, only to put her hands to her mouth when she saw her daughter sitting on the couch, bound and tape gagged, with a masked woman in a boiler suit sitting next to her.
“Good afternoon, Mrs van Bild,” a man with a strange English accent said as he appeared beside her, and she felt a cold metal disc against her back, “My name is Jay Edwards. Perhaps you have heard of me?”
“I have,” Connie said quietly, “but I thought you worked in the UK?”
“I travel occasionally – the woman is my associate Mrs McPhee, and as you can see we have already introduced ourselves to young Ariel. You have done what we asked you to do, and been a good girl, haven’t you Ariel?”
The young girl nodded and said “mlrtmm,” the tape crinkling over her mouth.
“What… What do you want with us,” Connie said as she saw three more masked men walk in.
“We have some business to discuss with your husband, Connie – may I call you Connie? We find keeping you and the rest of the family under our protection helps smooth things along. We also have your housekeeper and her daughter safely secured, and they will join you shortly. For now however, time is short – Belle will be home soon, so do exactly what we say, and everyone can relax. Understand?”
“I understand,” she said quietly, “so what are you going to do to me?”
“Very slowly, put your hands behind your back – I regret you must be secured as well,” Jay said, and as Connie moved her hands behind her she felt the rope around her wrists while they were crossed and tied together. Ariel watched as Jay then wrapped rope around her mother’s arms and chest.
“As your mum’s older, we do a bit more to make sure she can’t move,” Mrs McPhee said as she held the young girl’s hands. “If you want, you can be like her later, but for now this is enough, all right?”
Ariel nodded as Jay helped her mother to sit down, and then tied her ankles tightly together, as well as her legs below her knees. As he tied that knot off, they all looked at the door as they heard the front door open, and a young girl call out “Mom? Ariel? Where are you?”
“Invite Belle to join us,” Jay whispered as he stood up, Connie nodding as she called out “We’re in the main room – can you come in a minute, Belle?”
“Sure, Mom,” the voice called back, as an eleven year old girl came in. She had reddish brown hair, pulled back like her younger sisters, and was wearing a red cardigan over a white t-shirt that had a child’s drawing on it, a knee length blue skirt with white polka dots, grey tights and knee length black suede boots.
“Hey Mom, what’s… Oh My God,” she said as she looked at her mother and sister. “Mom, what’s going on?”
“Hello Belle,” Mrs McPhee said as she stood up, “to answer your question, we’re robbing you, and my friend Jay here wants to talk to your dad about some things. Right now, we’re making sure all of you – including Martha and Abby - can keep it secret that we’re here, so I need to ask you to do what we tell you to do, and then we’ll all get on fine. All right?”
Belle stared at the masked woman, then at her bound mother as she wriggled in the chair. “Please, Belle,” Connie said, “do what they say. They haven’t hurt or threatened us.”
“All right – what do you want me to do?”
“Sit down next to your younger sister,” Mrs McPhee said as she produced some more rope from the canvas bag, “and put your hands out in front of you. Once all three of you are nice and comfortable and quiet, we’ll take out a monopoly set we found, and all three of you can play with our help.”
“Are you all right, Ariel,” Belle said as she sat down, the younger girl nodding and smiling as she watched her sister being bound in the same way as her.
“Put your lips together now,” Jay said as he looked at Connie. She watched him tear a long strip of white tape off a roll, and then felt it pull on her skin as he pressed it gently over her lips.
Once Belle had also had tape pressed over her mouth, Jay nodded to one of the other masked men, who set out the game on the coffee table, and set the bank up for himself.
“What would you like to be,” Mrs McPhee said as she looked at Ariel, who nodded as she held up the dog. Belle chose the car, and Connie the top hat.
“I will roll, and you answer any questions we have with a nod or a shake of the head,” Jay said, as two of the masked men sat with Belle and Connie, and the third walked out, down to where Martha and Abby were.
The two women looked to the door as he came in, and said in an Australian accent “How are they” to Ophelia.
“Good – now we wait for phase 3.”
It was seven in the evening by the time Edwin van der Bild drove through the gates of his house, and walked in the front door, expecting to smell dinner cooking. When he smelt nothing other than the flowers in the hallway, however, he shrugged and called out “So are we eating out tonight, darl…”
“Hldddde, fwnmnpleee,” Ariel said through her tape gag as Edwin looked at his bound and gagged family, and the masked intruders sitting with them.
“Good evening, Edwin,” he heard Jay say next to him, “My name is Jay Edwards, and so long as you do as I say, your family and your housekeeper as well as her daughter are perfectly safe. Understand?”
“I understand,” he said quietly, “and I know who you are. I’ll do whatever you say.”
“Excellent – be aware we have disabled the security systems in your house, as well as the alarms. Mrs McPhee, would you go and join Ophelia, and escort Martha and Abby to the kitchen to prepare a light supper?”
“Of course,” the woman sitting with Ariel said in a Scottish accent as she stood up and left the room.
“Now, this is the situation, Mr van der Bild,” Jay said, “we’re going to take you all through soon to have dinner, and then your children can get ready for bed, followed by Martha and her daughter, and then your wife. Once that is done, we’re going to take them all into your very nice rec room, and make sure they all stay there while a film plays, and you and I are going to conduct a little business in our home office. Then we’ll leave you all to enjoy the rest of your evening. I trust we understand each other?”
“Don’t you normally take your ‘willing victim’ to their place of work?”
“Ah yes, but in your case, we’ll make an exception. Now, hands behind your back please – it will be some time until dinner.”
Jay soon had Edwin secured as he sat with his wife and daughters, before Ophelia and Mrs McPhee came through and untied the two girls, taking them to wash and then to sit at the dinner table. As they went out, Jay removed the gags from the mouths of Edwin and Connie.
“Are you all right,” Edwin said as he looked at his wife.
“We’re fine – it hasn’t been too bad, and they haven’t hurt us,” Connie said as she looked at Jay and the other masked men.
“That will remain the case,” Jay said, “so long as you do as we tell you. Now, once the girls are settled, I’ll allow Connie to get ready, and then you Edwin. I’m sure you must all be hungry.”
“Martha, this was a marvellous meal,” Connie said with a small smile as the housekeeper cleared the plates away, helped by Mrs McPhee and Ophelia.
“Well, I tried my best under the circumstances,” Martha said as she looked round the table. The family, along with Abby, were sat in the chairs, their waists secured to the chair backs with lengths of rope, while the legs of Abby, Edwin and Connie were tied to the front legs of the chairs. In the case of Ariel and Belle, their ankles and legs had been tied together again.
“How are you, Martha,” Edwin said as his plate and cutlery were taken.
“Better than I thought I would be,” Martha said. “When they came in, I thought it would be a repeat of that last time, but Ophelia talked to us, and – well, we’re not afraid anymore.”
“Thank you,” Ophelia said with a smile as she collected the dishes and put them in the washer.
“Now then,” Jay said quietly, “we’re going to let you two girls get ready for bed, with the help of Mrs McPhee, and then I want you to join her and me in your recreation room. Your mother and Abby will join you soon after that, and then Martha and your father.”
“What are we going to do in there,” Ariel asked as she looked at them.
“Have fun,” Jay said with a smile as Mrs McPhee released both of them. “You go with Mrs McPhee now, and I will see you both soon.”
“Do as she tells you, girls,” Connie said as Mrs McPhee took them both by the hand and led them out of the room.
“Is she a mother?”
“Why do you ask,” Jay said as he looked at Connie.
“She acts like a loving mother, even if she is an armed bank robber and home invader. The girls aren’t scared at all, despite being tied and gagged – and something tells me they’re going to be again.”
“You all are,” Jay said, “but we’ll make you as comfortable as possible. I’d rather be 100% honest as to what will happen – I respect you as a family too much not too.”
“What are you going to take then,” Edwin said as he looked at Jay.
“A substantial donation from your company – but don’t worry. You were forced to do it, under threat of your family being harmed. At least, I am sure that is the story you will tell the police, correct?”
“And true – even if they have not been harmed,” Edwin said with a smile.
“If you will excuse me,” Jay said as he stood up, “I must take care of Ariel and Belle. Ophelia, in five minutes untie Mrs van der Bild and Abby, and take them to their rooms to change. Accompany them.”
“Yes, Jay,” one of the masked men said in an Australian accent, as Jay walked down the corridor and into a large room, the opposite wall taken up with a large television screen with large speakers on either side. A large grey canvas bag was already there, which he opened as Mrs McPhee brought Belle and Ariel in.
Both girls were wearing pyjamas, Ariel’s a dusky pink and Belle’s white with blue polka dots, and had a pair of bedsocks over their ankles. Mrs McPhee also had two pairs of bedsocks in her hands.
“Now girls, I need to tell you something,” Jay said as he looked at them. “We’re going to keep all of you in here while we talk to your daddy, and I am afraid we need to keep you all tightly tied and quiet. Now, I promise you it does not hurt, but you need to be very brave and allow Mrs McPhee and me to do this to you. Have we hurt you so far?”
“No,” Belle said as she held her sister’s hand, “will you stay with us?”
“Until I need to talk to your father, yes. Now, I want you to take a pair of socks each from Mrs McPhee, pull them up over your hands and wrists, and then stand facing each other.”
“All right,” Ariel said as they did that, and then allowed both Jay and Mrs McPhee to cross their wrists behind their back and tie them tightly together with rope, and then to their backs with rope around their waists. They then had a length tied around their arms and stomach, and another around their upper arms, so that no matter how much they twisted round they could not move their arms.
“All right,” Mrs McPhee said as she smiled at them, “Would you like to sit in a chair or on the floor?”
“Can we sit next to each other on the floor,” Belle said, Ariel nodding in agreement. So Jay took two bean bags and set them either side of a long couch, watching as the two girls sat themselves down before Mrs McPhee crossed and tied the ankles of each of the girls together, and then their legs below their knees, making sure it went between their legs to tighten the coils.
“It is kinda snug, isn’t it,” Ariel said as she looked at her older sister, Belle nodding in agreement.
“Now then,” Mrs McPhee said, “we need to keep you really quiet, so we’re going to put a folded cloth in your mouths. Take a minute to get used to it, and then nod when you are ready for the next thing, all right?”
“Can we still talk?”
“You can try,” Jay said, “and see if you can understand each other. Now, open wide.”
Ariel felt the soft cloth press down on her tongue, and as she closed her lips she looked at Belle, who was nodding slowly. She then allowed Mrs McPhee to pull a strip of towel, which had a knot tied in it, between her lips, the knot sitting on the cloth as it was tied round her head.
“Tfllssfnnee,” Belle said, Ariel nodding and grinning as she heard a funny sound, and then felt Jay press the end of some white tape on her cheek, which he wound tightly round her head, trapping her hair as it covered her lower face. She looked at Belle as the same was done to her, the two girls trying to talk as the tape held firm.
“Girls? Are you all right?”
“Ysmmm,” they both said as they looked at their mother, who was wearing a knee length white nightgown. Ophelia was with her, while the Australian was with Abby, who was wearing a pair of blue silk pyjamas. They could see that both of them already had their wrists tied behind their back, while they both had some rope around their waists.
“All right, girls,” Jay said quietly, “Mrs McPhee and my friend here are going to stay with you and make sure both your mum and Abby are just as well secured and silenced as you two, while Ophelia and I go and find Martha. Feel free to try and talk to each other.”
“Wwllll” Belle said as she watched Ophelia tie rope around Abby, above and below her chest, holding her arms tightly to her side while the masked man did the same thing to her mother.
Half an hour later, Edwin came into the recreation room, his wrists bound behind his back and his arms to his sides, as he saw the others already there. Abby was sat between the two girls, while Connie lay on her side on the couch behind them, ropes around her ankles and legs and the band of white tape around her head.
Martha was lying on the second long couch, wearing a floor length grey nightdress and bound in the same way as the others, save for the band of rope around her legs just below her knees, gathering the skirt of her nightdress around her legs.
“Are you all fine,” Edwin said, the five of them nodding as he was sat in a comfortable chair and his ankles and legs bound.
“Good,” Jay said as he turned the television on and selected a DVD. “I always wanted to watch the Hobbit – so let’s make a start.” He put the disc into the player, and stood behind the couch as the film started.
It was about ten when Mrs McPhee said “Ach, the two wee dears are asleep.”
Jay looked at Belle and Ariel, before he said “Two of you, take them up to their beds with Mrs McPhee and Ophelia. They’ll make sure they stay in their beds.”
“Whrtthtkgnthmm” Connie said as she twisted on the couch.
“To their beds,” Jay said as the girls were carried out. “We’ll tie their ankles to the bottom of the bed, but they should sleep until the morning, and by then this will all be over. I promise you.”
Connie nodded and calmed down as she was sat up, and Edwin hopped over to join her. “It’s going to be all right,” Edwin said as he nuzzled her cheek, Connie resting her head on his shoulder.
“Now, we need to make sure Martha and Abby are properly secured,” Jay said as he walked over to Martha, and rolled her onto her stomach, before he pulled her legs back and tied her ankles to her chest ropes. Rolling back onto her side, he moved her hair out of her eyes, and then knelt next to Abby, helping her to lie on her stomach and hogtying her before he turned her over and placed a pillow under her head.
Looking at his watch, Jay said “We can watch the end of the film, and then I regret to say we must be about our business Edwin.”
“All right, I’ll do what you say,” he said as he kissed Connie, who slowly allowed her eyes to close.
Edwin rubbed his wrists as he watched Jay bind Connie’s ankles to her chest ropes, and then turned her onto her side, the breathing audible through her nose as she settled down.
Martha and Abby were also asleep, as Jay turned on the radio and said “Keep an eye on all three.”
Two of the men nodded as Jay and the third escorted Edwin out and up the staircase. They looked in on Ariel, who was on her side, sleeping as Mrs McPhee watched her, and then at Belle as Ophelia sat with her.
“Shall we go into your office,” Jay said quietly, as the three men walked into a larger room. A desk was set up with a number of monitors, showing stock prices around the world.
“Tokyo is open,” Edwin said as he sat down in a chair.
“Indeed, raise your hands please,” Jay said, and as Edwin did so the other masked man tied his chest tightly to the back of the chair, before he knelt down and tied his ankles together, securing them to the chair back and then tying his knees together.
“Now then, Edwin,” Jay said with a smile, “switch on your computer and access the main computer at you r offices. Remember, we have the others guarded.”
“What exactly are you going to do,” Edwin said as he typed on the keyboard.
“Just a transfer – oh, and no tricks. If an alarm is set off, I stop being mister nice.”
“Besides,” the Australian masked man said, “I had a little play with your computer earlier, made sure the automatic alarms were turned off.”
Edwin turned and looked at him, before saying “so I just noticed. Very very good, Mr Edwards.”
“You’re welcome – so, access your system, please, and then I want you to plug in this stick.”
“What will that do?”
“Transfer ten million dollars from your reserves. A drop in the ocean to you, but very nice for me.”
“So generous with it,” Edwin said as he took the stick, and plugged it in. “Now what?”
“Sleep,” the Australian said as he touched Edwin lightly on the back of the neck, and he slumped forward, his eyes closed.
“I’ll never get used to that,” Jay said as the other man took Edwin’s arms behind her back, crossed and tied his wrists together, and then secured them to the chair, before he started to gag the captive. “So what is going in there this time?”
“Well,” the masked man said, “once the money transfer is complete, we’re sending in some tracking software.”
“Surely Edwin has done nothing wrong,” Jay said.
“Nope – but a number of rather well known crime groups, such as the Italians and the Russians, have been using his bank to launder funds. He knows nothing of this, but the software will help my friends track down the staff who have, and then they will deal with them – discretely, quietly.”
“So why exactly did you ask us over?”
“Well, it had to look like a professional job, and you have that reputation, and also it had to be deniable – but we had another reason.”
“So that you could be the godparents of the twins as well.”
Jay stared at the man, who smiled and said “Oh the look on your face – and admit it, you enjoyed the challenge.”
“Yeah – yeah we did,” Jay said as he smiled. “We’d be honoured – but perhaps we can finish here first?”
“Yeah,” the man said as they watched the monitors.
Connie slowly opened her eyes and looked round, seeing Martha and Abby asleep on their sides. She could also hear footsteps, and called out “hwsthrrr” through her gag.
The door to the rec room opened and she saw a police officer run in. “We got three in here,” she called out as she walked over and cut the tape away from Connie’s mouth, and then the towel strip before she spat the cloth out.
“Where are they?”
“They… they took them to their bedrooms. Please, hurry…”
Charlie opened the door to the room he and Lisa were sharing and said “Hi Mum” as he saw Yvonne standing there.
“Breakfast, both of you,” she said before she left them to get ready, and then walked down, joining Mark at the breakfast table.
“They’ll be down in a minute,” she said as she saw Alicia Bowden walk in.
“Ah there you are,” she said, “I hear my children gave you a little trouble last night.”
“Not really, just fun and games,” Alicia said with a smile as she sat down. “How was your day?”
“Very interesting,” she said with a smile as the kids came over, saying “Hi Ali” as they sat down with their breakfasts.
The woman was walking from the main entrance of her bank across the staff car park, the soft autumn wind blowing her long brown skirt as she did so. It was a cool afternoon, and she wore a matching jacket over a v-necked sweater, as well as brown ankle boots.
The car park was deserted save for a panel van which was parked next to her car, but she paid little attention to it as she opened her driver’s door. So the shock of the arm around her waist, and the damp sweet smelling cloth placed firmly over her nose and mouth, made her open her mouth wide to scream. This only made the fumes of the chloroform work faster, as she closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
The man carefully lifted her into the van, and crossed her wrist in front of her, binding them tightly together with rope before he played it out and tied her ankles together with the other end of the rope. Stroking her long brown hair away from her eyes, he leaned over and kissed her lips, before pressing a length of white tape over them, and then a second length over her eyes.
“Nobody is taking you from me,” he said quietly before he got behind the wheel of the van and drove off, leaving the car behind them…
“I must say, this is a beautiful place,” Yvonne said as she and Mark sat in the roadside café, watching the world go by as they drank their coffee.
“Indeed – very different from Holderness, but I think it has its own unique charm,” Mark said as he sipped his coffee. Charlie and Lisa were spending the day with Natalie at the farm owned by her aunt, with Heidi and Cindy going for company, and were not expected back until the following afternoon.
The christening and the weekend had gone without a hitch, and on this Tuesday the Williamsons did not have a care in the world. A view that changed as they saw Brian Holderness-Carter walking quickly towards them.
“Brian,” Mark said as he looked at him, “what news?”
“Of last week? You’ve read the papers?”
“A number of members of staff indicted, and van Bild cleared immediately of all blame – nice touch. As for the trust funds for Bart and Sarah?”
“All above board – and I still say you should not have done that, but that’s not why I’m here. Can you come with me?”
“Where to,” Yvonne asked.
“My place – Sarah and I need your help.”
The couple looked at each other, before Mark said “Brian, we don’t like hitting twice so soon together…”
“No – we need YOUR help – come with me please.”
As they got out of the jeep, Mark looked round the remote farmhouse.
“Heather’s place is just down the road, right?”
“Right,” Brian said as he walked to the door, “but we have our own security. Come away in.”
They walked into the house, and the front room, where Sarah was sitting with the twins.
“Thank god you found them,” Sarah said as she stood up and hugged both of them, “we had no idea where to turn.”
“Hey,” Yvonne said as she looked at Sarah, “What’s wrong?”
“We’d better start at the beginning – sit down,” Brian said as he sat with Sarah, Mark and Yvonne looking at them.
“I have a friend – a woman who works at the local bank,” Sarah said quietly. “She’s actually from England originally, but she’s lived over here for the last twelve years, and she has a ten year old son. The thing is, she disappeared yesterday, and nobody’s heard from her.”
“Call the police,” Mark said, but Brian shook his head. “I called Jack Hawkins last night – he said they allow three days, and not to worry. The thing is, I do worry – and Sarah…”
“Sarah’s had a dream, hasn’t she,” Yvonne said.
“No – but I know something’s wrong – we both do,” Sarah said quietly.
Yvonne looked at Mark, and said “Well, we more than anyone know how true your instincts can be. What do you think has happened?”
“We think she’s been kidnapped – by this man.”
Sarah handed them a picture of a brown haired woman standing next to a taller man, his grey hair receding, a look in his eyes that made Yvonne shudder.
“Who is he,” Mark asked.
“His name’s Vince Grey,” Brian said. “Sarah’s friend dated him for a little while, and then broke it off when she discovered a little more of what he is really like.”
“And what is he really like?”
“A very shady character – he has connections with some of the Boston families, and other organizations,” Sarah said, “including some believed to be connected with white slavery.”
“Sounds like she had a lucky escape – and then didn’t, if you’re right,” Yvonne said. “What makes you think he’s responsible?”
“He didn’t give up – she told me recently he’d been pestering her, but the police would do nothing to stop it. Then she told me last week she had been proposed to, and she was getting married again.”
“Who to,” Mark asked.
“Someone in England – and the word had got to him. Then – she vanished. Mark, Yvonne, we know he has her, we know he doesn’t want to let go of her, and we fear – we fear if she rejects him again, she may disappear for good.”
“Let me guess – no proof, and he is very well connected,” Mark said quietly.
“Exactly – and only he knows where she is. We don’t know who he employed to do the snatch – her car is still at the bank – or where she may be. Even worse, if Sarah had a word, we think he would die rather than reveal where she is.”
“Where’s the kid?”
“His uncle is watching him – he had the sense to call him when his mum didn’t come home. As far as he knows, she’s had to go away for a couple of days, and we’re keeping it that way.”
“So why do you need our help?”
“Because we have one possible way in,” Brian said as he passed over a second photo, of the grey haired man with an eighteen year old girl.
“His daughter Serena. He loves her, and would do anything for her or to protect her – so we need to kidnap her, and we need your help to do it.”
“WHAT!!!” Mark looked at the couple, before saying “Brian, Jay Edwards has a reputation and a way of working - and this isn’t it.”
“Surely there must be another way,” Yvonne said.
“Mark, Yvonne,” Sarah said quietly, “if there was, we’d do it. Please – she does not deserve this, and think of her son…”
The two of them looked at each other, and said “All right – but not as Jay and Mrs McPhee. I guess we need to move fast.”
“We need to move now,” Brian said as he stood up. “We know Serena is at a drama class which finishes in thirty minutes – and we can be there in twenty. Come with me – and thank you.”
The street outside the community centre was no busier than usual, with cars going up and down, and some service vehicles parked along the road. As the grey panel van drew up, two men dressed in overalls got out, and set up a screen around a manhole. Both wore baseball caps and dark glasses, and looked as if they were preparing to raise the manhole cover.
As they did so, Serena Grey walked out of the community centre, her long blonde hair held back by a grey bandana tied as an Alice band. She wore a denim waistcoat over a blue and white striped t-shirt, and a pair of faded grey jeans, with hi-top sneakers on her feet.
As she looked down at her purse, she walked towards the van, oblivious to the two men nodding at each other or the side door of the van opening. In fact, she barely noticed anything until the two men moved quickly behind her, lifted her by the arms and hustled her into the back of the van, the door closing behind them.
“What the hell,” she said as she tried to look around the dim interior. She could see a third person, a woman, dressed like the others before she was forced to lie face down on the floor, and a male voice with a California accent hissed “Close your eyes and don’t move.”
She then saw the faint glint of light on a handgun, and closed her eyes, feeling pressure on them as the women pressed a length of white tape with two cotton wool pads over them.
“Hold her hands,” the voice said, as Selena felt her arms been pulled behind her and something placed in the palms, before they were compressed into fists and she felt tape being wrapped around them.
“What do you want from me,” she said as he felt her arms being pulled behind her back, and then rope pulling her wrists and ankles together.
“Shut up,” California man hissed as the ropes were pulled tight, and then she felt the man move off, while her nose was pinched. As she opened her mouth to breath, she felt a cloth been pushed in and then a band tied between her lips, forcing the cloth down onto her tongue.
As her legs were tied together, she heard a ripping sound, and then Selena was forced onto her knees, the feeling of the tape pulling on her skin as it was wrapped around her head and mouth compounded by the rope that was forcing her arms into her sides, her top stretching over her chest as it went above and below.
She was forced to lie on the floor again, and stayed still, whimpering as Mark and Yvonne looked at each other.
Mark and Brian carried Serena between them into the cellar of Brian’s house, and laid her on a camp bed, before Brian secured her ankles to the foot of the bed, and Mark picked up a video camera, filming Serena as she struggled on the bed.
“Keep still,” Mark said in his Californian accent, “we’re going to call Daddy. If you behave, you can have something after we talk to him.” The two men left the young woman struggling on the bed as they walked upstairs, and Brian started his laptop up.
“Coffee,” Sarah said as she and Yvonne carried the mugs in.
“Thanks,” Mark said as Brian connected the camera to the laptop and downloaded the film, “I presume you’re going to send that to Grey?”
“Yup – just done it,” Brian said as he pressed on the mouse. “I said we’ll be in touch in fifteen minutes – and then we need you to talk to him, Surf Dude.”
“I didn’t know your talent with accents was that good,” Sarah said as she sat down.
“It’s one of the few American ones I can do,” Mark said, “but that was easily the scariest thing I have ever done. Listen – once we’ve made this call, can one of you go down, calm her down, give her something to drink.”
“Ah’ll do it,” Yvonne said in a Southern accent, “it’ll be mah pleasure…”
“Besides – you two need to keep out of this one, just in case you meet her again,” Mark said with a sigh. “Are you sure this is going to work?”
“If our intel is right, it should – she is the most important thing in his life,” Brian said quietly, “but we need to arrange this to take place as fast as possible. Sooner or later, her son is going to ask questions.”
Mark nodded as he looked at his watch. “Think he will have got the message yet?”
“Oh yeah – he’s already got someone trying to trace the host of the sender,” Brian said with a smile. “Feel like talking to him?”
“Oh yes,” Mark said as he took the cell phone Brian was holding and coughed, listening for the answer.
“This is Vince Grey,” a mid-western voice answered.
“Well hello Mister Grey,” Mark said in his Californian accent, “I hope you received the little e-mail I sent a few minutes ago?”
“YOU!!! If you have harmed one hair on my daughter’s head…”
“Mister Grey, chill out. Your daughter is safe, and will continue to be safe, so long as you do exactly what we tell you to do. After all, you want Selena returned safe and sound, as any loving father would, don’t you?”
There was silence at the other end of the line, before Grey said “how do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“You’ll have to trust me, but I am a man of my word – do as we say, and she will be back with you unharmed.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is not important – listen very carefully Mister Grey. You have something – no, someone we want.”
“What do you mean?”
“My associates and I have been planning a raid on a bank on this area for some time, but imagine our surprise when we come to execute our plan, and find a key part of our plan has gone missing. One of the managers – a young woman with a child who we need to provide information.
“Imagine further our surprise when we talk to our contacts, and they say the word is the woman has been kidnapped by another person – you, Mister Grey. Do you wish me to continue?”
Again there was a silence, before Grey said “Go on.”
“Our proposal is simple – an exchange. The woman for your daughter. She is not to be harmed, in any way, shape or form, because if she is – well, your daughter may not like the trip.”
“I… I hear you,” the voice said, “I just want Selena back safe.”
“And she will be – I will call tonight with the time and location. Also, we have gone to additional expense – and we expect you to compensate us. One million dollars, used notes of various denominations, in a bag. Do we have an understanding, Mister Grey?”
“Yes, but if you hurt her…”
“Then treat your guest as you would her, and we will do likewise. We know you will not call the police – if you do, we tell them of your situation as well. We’ll be in touch.”
“Do you think he’ll do it,” Yvonne said as the call ended.
“I do,” Brian said, “so now we wait.”
“Sarah, can you come with me – we’ll take a drink down to her and remove her gag.”
“You sure about that? All right – leave it with me.”
“What’s up,” Mark said as he looked at Brian.
“A friend has been watching the house – he said a stranger called yesterday afternoon, and stayed until late, and has re-appeared again. He obviously knows the son – Freddie let him in no questions asked.”
Mark and Yvonne looked at each other. “Freddie? Her son’s name is Freddie?”
“Sure – oh dear lord, I haven’t told you her name,” Sarah said as she slapped her forehead, “in all the angst and confusion I clean forgot. Her name is Gail – Gail Cork, and Freddie is her son.”
“The same Freddie Cork who played with Lisa and Charlie the other day?”
Brian and Sarah looked at each other. “I have no idea – perhaps we should pay them a visit, see who this man is?”
“What about our guest?”
“We’ll go and secure her,” Sarah said as she and Yvonne stood up, “make sure she can’t get free and keep her quiet.”
“I’ll stay and keep guard as well – the three of you can handle this,” Yvonne said as they walked out of the room.
The house was a typical suburban one, with nothing especially noteworthy about it, as they looked at it from Brian’s car.
“Well,” he said as he opened the door, “let’s go – he’s still in there.”
Brian and Sarah walked up the path, Mark following them and looking round, before they rang the front door bell.
A young brown haired boy opened the door and smiled as he saw them. “Hi Brian, Hi Sarah,” he said as he looked at them. “Mum’s not back yet, I’m afraid.”
“That’s all right,” Brian said with a smile, “I was wondering if we could come in for a minute.”
“Sure – but the place is a mess. Uncle Dave’s in the kitchen,” he said as he opened the door, letting the three of them in. As they walked down the corridor, Mark could see the taped boxes and bags.
“We’re moving to England,” Freddie said as they went into the kitchen. “Uncle Dave, these are friends of Mum’s.”
“Hey,” the tall blonde American said, “I’m Dave Cork. You’re…”
“Brian and Sarah – and this is our friend Mark,” Brian said. “We came round to see how the garage sale went.”
“Very well,” Dave said. “Coffee?”
“Thanks,” Mark said. “So there’s only the stuff coming to England left?”
“Yeah – Gail let the rest of the family take what they wanted to keep, and poor Freddie and Gail are sleeping on camp beds. Listen, Freddie, can you go and see if Jack’s finished upstairs, tell him we have visitors?”
“Sure,” Freddie said, and as he went up Dave closed the door. “Where the hell is she, Brian,” he said quietly.
“I’m not sure, but I’m sure she’ll turn up soon. What have you told him?”
“That the bank sent her to Boston for a three day debrief – but that runs out tomorrow. What are we going to tell him then?”
“Worry about that then – with any luck, she’ll be back by tomorrow night,” Brian said as the door opened again and Freddie came in, accompanied by another man.
“Ah – Jack, this is Brian and Sarah, friends of Gail. I’m sorry , but they didn’t say…”
“Hello Jack,” Mark said as he shook the hand of Jack Hobson, “don’t tell me you’re the mysterious proposer?”
“Mark – what the hell are you doing here,” the man said as he looked round the room.
“We’re here on holiday, and know Sarah and Brian – we’re godparents to their kids.”
“Hang on,” Sarah said, “you two know each other?”
“I’m afraid so,” Jack said, “my daughter and Mark’s daughter got caught up in a robbery at a farm near where I live.”
“Does someone want to tell me what’s going on here,” Dave Cork said.
“Why don’t we sit round and have our coffee,” Sarah said, “Freddie, are you all right watching a DVD for a while?”
“Sure,” Freddie said, “I’ll be in the other room.”
“Right,” Mark said as the door closed, “you go first Jack.”
“Well, as you know Mark I travel a bit on business. A few years back I was over in this part of the country, and I met Gail when I went to cash a cheque. One thing led to another, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. We went out when I was here, talked a lot on the phone, and – well, one thing led to another, and I proposed. It’s been six years since Dawn passed away, and…”
“It’s all right Jack,” Brian said, “I understand. You get on well with Freddie?”
“Yeah – and I guess Louise really needs a mum. But this is love – and she accepted without a question. I flew over a few days ago to help her pack, and then the three of us were returning to Holderness.”
Mark rubbed the back of his head as he listened. “So does she come from Holderness as well?”
“No – but I understand she has relatives in the near vicinity.”
“Yeah, she does,” Sarah said, “and you know them as well Mark.”
“I do? Who are they?”
“Well, I hope you’re ready for another coincidence – her maiden name is Boyle. Abraham Boyle is her older brother.”
“Does this happen a lot, this sort of coincidence,” Dave said as he looked at Jack.
“More often than you might think – my daughter has a soft spot for the younger brother of the lad who has a soft spot for their daughter.”
“About thirteen years ago,” Sarah said, “Gail met Freddie’s dad, Frederick Cork, when he was stationed in the UK. They married, and she moved over here, where they settled in the town. Gail worked at the bank, they bought this house, and then she fell pregnant.”
“So what happened?”
“Afghanistan,” Dave said. “He was posted there, and died in the line of duty. When the lad was born, she named him after her late husband, Frederick Cork Junior – Freddie for short.”
Mark nodded as Brian said “so she’s lived here since then.”
“Yup – we’ve supported her all the way, but when she told us she had been asked to marry again, she accepted with our blessing. She’s really looking forward to coming over.”
“So when I got here, and she wasn’t at the airport, I checked into the hotel and came round. Dave let me in, and told me what had happened, so I’m helping with the last bits of packing.”
“Well, when she gets back tomorrow night, tell her we called to see her will you,” Sarah said as she stood up. “We need to get going, but tell her we’d love an invitation to the wedding – we have some relations in the area.”
“I’ll let her know – and thanks,” Jack said as the three left the house, and got into the car.
“So his daughter was at the Cottrell farm?”
“Oh yes – and this just gets stranger and stranger,” Mark said as he shook his head. “Hand me the phone will you?”
He dialled a number and then coughed. “Mister Grey? Listen very carefully. Bring the woman and the money to the shore of the lake three miles outside town – there is a parking lot there – at midnight. Wait for headlights to flash three times, and the exchange will take place.”
“I understand – is she safe?”
“For now. Not a word will be said, just the exchange. If there are any unexpected surprises, she dies. Understand?”
“She will be there,” Mister Grey said, “unharmed as promised.”
“Good – pleasure doing business with you Mister Grey,” Mark said before he ended the call.
“Who’s there?” Selena said as she turned her head. She had been tied to a chair, her arms free and an empty plate and cup on the table in front of her.
Jay smiled and said in his California accent. “Our apologies for the way we treated you when we first took you.”
“Well, at least you haven’t hurt me,” Selena said as she lowered her head. “I guess I need to be gagged and tied again?”
“I regret that we must, dahlin,” Yvonne said, “but we’ll make you comfortable.” She walked round and untied her from the chair, allowing her to stand up as she said “Come with me, and ah’ll help you in the toilet.”
As they walked up the stairs, Mark followed, waiting outside the room before they came out. The white tape over Selena’s eyes kept her blinded, as she said “What now?”
“Stand still,” Mark said as Yvonne guided her arms behind her back, crossed her wrists and tied them tightly together, before she bound her arms to her side with rope above and below her chest.
“Open your mouth,” was the next thing she heard, but she did as she was asked, Mark pushing a folded scarf into her mouth before he sealed her lips with another strip of the micropore tape.
“You will not be able to hear for a while – relax, you will come to no harm,” he said, before he pushed earplugs into her ears and then wound the tape round her head, covering her ears and eyes again.
They walked her into the front room, and laid her on Sarah’s couch, Yvonne starting to bind her legs as Mark went to join Sarah and Brian.
“So far, so good,” he said as he sat down. Now we wait. Brian, any luck with a location for the next part?”
“Yeah – there’s an empty house on the outskirts of town which I have managed to procure the keys to. I’ll bring a secure laptop with us when we set off.”
“Why,” Sarah said.
“We need to convince her that this was for a robbery – so, we need to rob her bank. I’ll arrange for it to go to charitable causes, but this is the only way this will work.”
“All right – at least she finishes next week,” Sarah said as she shook her head. “When do you move out?”
“Two hours,” Brian said as he looked at his watch, “and hopefully this will be over by the morning.”
Brian and Mark looked out across the dim parking lot as the moon shone down. Glancing at his watch, Mark said “Two minutes.”
Looking over his shoulder, he saw Selena sitting perfectly still, unable to hear or speak.
“Never again like this,” he said to Brian, who nodded as a van pulled up a short distance from them. As it stopped, facing them, he turned on the headlights and flashed three times.
“Let’s do this,” he said as they both pulled balaclavas down over their heads, stepping out of the van as two men got out from the van opposite.
They walked slowly towards each other, looking into each other’s eyes as Mark said “We do this at the same time – you bring the woman and the case, I bring the daughter. You hand the case to my friend, he checks it, and then we exchange. Anything funny happens, the deal is off.”
“Those are our instructions,” one of the other men said. “Ready?”
The four men nodded as they went in opposite directions, Brian opening the side of the van as they carried Selena out between them. As they did so, they watched as one of the men carried a woman over his shoulder, bound tightly with ropes and with a stocking pulled over her head, tape wrapped over the upper half. The other man carried a canvas bag with him.
As they met in the middle, the man handed the bag to Brian, who checked it while Mark held Selena upright. Nodding, Mark and the second man changed places, the two carrying Selena back to the other van while Brian handed Mark the bag, and then lifted the woman in his arms.
Walking back to the van, he sat her gently on the floor, and looked at her. The rope around her legs had gathered the skirt, so that her ankle boots were visible with the rope holding them together. Her arms were pinned to her side, and she kept her head straight ahead.
Nodding, he sat in the back with her while Mark drove off, the car parking lot reverting to the quiet state it had been in before.
As Mark opened the door, Brian carried the woman into the house, and sat her down on a long couch, which was covered in a dust cloth.
“Can you bring the laptop in and set it up, as well as the bag of supplies,” Mark whispered, Brian nodding as he went back to the van and brought in the large canvas bag.
“thanks – you’d better use the kitchen,” Mark said as he took a pair of scissors from the bag, and slowly cut through the tape around her head.
As he removed it, he saw that the stocking covered a sleep mask over her eyes, tape over her mouth, and a pair of earplugs. She squirmed slightly as he eased the stocking over her head, and then removed the earplugs.
“Listen very carefully,” he said in his California accent, “you are no longer with the man who took you, but in my care and protection. If you promise not to scream or shout, I will remove the gag and blindfold, and you can have something to eat and drink. Nod if you agree.”
She sat still for a moment, and then nodded as Mark removed the tape, and then eased a large cloth from her mouth, and then took off the sleep mask. She blinked slightly as she looked round, and then at him with the balaclava over his head.
“Water,” she whispered, Mark nodding as he removed the top from a bottle and put a straw in.
“Drink slowly – you don’t want to make yourself sick,” Mark said as she sipped the water, and then moved her mouth. “Who are you,” she finally said.
“Not that important – are you Gail Cork?”
“Yes,” she nodded as she looked at him. “Please, I need to get back to my son…”
“And you will – once we have finished our business. I’m going to untie your arms, but your legs must stay bound for now, understand?”
As she nodded, Jay moved her round and untied her arms and wrists, waiting until she had rubbed them before he removed a sandwich from the bag.
“I imagine you are hungry – here, eat,” he said as he handed her the package. He watched as Gail tore open the wrapper and bit into the sandwich.
“Thanks – whoever took me didn’t give me any food,” she said as she ate.
“Very inconsiderate of them Gail,” Mark said, “but I am afraid you will need to help me with something. Once you have done that, you will be able to return to your family.”
“What… What do you want me to do?”
“I will be honest with you, Gail – I’m a bank robber, and my intention had been to detain you at your home and force you to transact some business with your bank for me. Someone else, however, decided to detain you first – they have been dealt with.”
“Oh my god,” Gail said, “who were they?”
“Not important – what is important is I still wish to withdraw some money from your bank.” He stroked the hair away from her eyes as he said “I’m not going to hurt or threaten you, but if you do this for me, I guarantee you will be back with your son by lunchtime tomorrow.”
There was something in his voice, in the way he acted towards her, that seemed to melt any last fears Gail may have had.
“If I do this, I go home?”
“That’s right – we need a little while to make sure things have cleared and completed, but by lunchtime you’ll be back with your family.”
“All right,” she said quietly, “what do you need me to do?”
“My associate will bring in a laptop in a few minutes – we will access the internal systems of your bank on it, and all you need to do is enter the system password to grant us access. That’s all – and you can say you were forced to do it under pain of hurt if you desire. The choice is yours.”
Gail sat for a moment, and then said “I want to go home, so I will do what you asked me to do. What happens after that?”
“I allow you to do whatever ablutions you need to do, and then, with deep regret, we must secure and gag you while we vacate the premises – with a promise you will be found soon. Shall we begin?”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Gail said with a smile, “I will do as you forced me to do. Is it possible for me to move?”
Mark walked to the door, and called out “May I have the laptop please?”
Brian brought it to the door, Mark nodding to show all was well, before he carried it to where Gail was sitting.
“Now,” he said as he sat down, “we have hacked already into the intranet for your bank. If you would do the honours?”
Gail nodded and logged herself in, before Jay looked at the screen and took the laptop. “Now,” he said, “we select a number of clients with large accounts – like so – and filter a certain amount of cash from each of these into a holding account.”
She watched, fascinated as Mark filtered a million dollars into one account, and then sent the full amount through an external link to – well, she wasn’t quite sure where as he turned the screen away from her at that point.
“there,” he finally said, “all done, and the transfer route wiped from the audit trail. Of course, you were forced to give up the login details under duress, correct?”
Gail nodded as Mark untied her. “Now, if you will come with me, I think you would like the chance to clean yourself up. I took the liberty of bringing a change of clothing for you – I think you have had enough of that outfit for the moment?”
“How do you know my size?”
Mark merely smiled as he escorted Gail to the bathroom, and allowed her to clean herself up.
“Here,” he said as he gave her a bag, “put your other clothes in there, and we will make sure you are found with them as well.”
He stood outside as he heard the shower running, while Brian came over.
“She less scared now?”
“I think so,” Mark said, “but now we need to get her safely home. Thoughts?”
“Yeah – I’m meeting Jack Hawkins tomorrow for a jog. I think there’s a place where we can leave her so she can be found by accident.”
“And after that?”
“We attend a tearful reunion,” Brian said with a smile, as the water went off. “I’ll leave you to it until you’re ready to go.”
He walked off again as the door opened and Gail came out, wearing the sweatshirt, jeans, socks and trainers that Mark had given her.
“Here,” she said as she handed him the bag, “and you were right, I needed that.”
“Well, now comes the tricky part,” Mark said in his Californian accent, “Please, put these socks over your hands and then cross your wrists in front of you.”
As Gail did what he had asked, Mark doubled over a length of rope, and then tied her wrists tightly together, keeping the rope over the socks and taking it around and between her arms, before he passed it around her waist.
“Why in front,” Gail said as he started to wrap more rope around her upper body.
“You’ll be lying on your back for a while – this is more comfortable,” Mark said as the rope forced her arms into her sides, and then he tied it off in front of her. “Now, I need you to open your mouth as wide as you can for me.”
“Can I say one thing first?”
“Of course – what is it?”
“Thank you – I don’t know who took me before, but if I am to be forced to take part in a robbery, at least you talked to me.”
“You’re welcome – now, please, open your mouth.”
Gail allowed Mark to push a folded bandana into her mouth, closing her lips over it as she felt the cotton on her tongue, then kept her lips still as he pressed a wide strip of white micropore tape down over her mouth. He then pushed a fresh pair of earplugs into her ears, before he wrapped the tape around her head to blindfold her.
Nodding to the door, he waited until Brian opened it before he walked Gail out of the house, the sun starting to come up over the houses as he sat her in the back seat of the car, and then tied her ankles tightly together, followed by her legs above and below her knees, and then her wrists down to the upper band of rope.
Strapping her in with the seat belt, he got into the back beside her as Brian put the clothes in the back of the car, along with a second bag containing the binding material and the laptop. Getting in behind the wheel, he drove off, Gail staring straight ahead.
“Come on Brian – I know you’re fitter and stronger than me, so cut a guy a break!”
Jack Hawkins was running along the paths through the local park, trying valiantly to keep up with Brian as they breathed in the morning air.
“All right, all right, you want to take a break,” Brian said as he stopped by a water fountain, stooping over to take a drink.
“You’re ten years younger than me, fitter, stronger - of course I want to take a break,” Jack said as he drank the cool water, and then looked up.
“Funny place to leave a car,” he said as he wiped his mouth, and then walked over to have a look, Brian following him.
“Think someone abandoned it,” he said as they approached.
“Could be – joyriders, that sort of thing,” Jack said as he got closer, and then stopped.
“There’s someone in the back,” Jack said, “can you watch over me?”
“Rather than cover you?”
Jack looked at his friend and said “Are you carrying a weapon?”
“Not in the way you think,” Brian said as he came closer, and put his hand on the bonnet. “I’d say it’s been here for about three hours, judging by the heat.”
“Some day you’ll tell me how you do that,” Jack said as he slowly opened the rear door. “Aw hell – Brian, get over here,” he said as he reached in and unbuckled the safety belt around Gail.
“hssthr,” she mumbled as Jack slowly unwound the tape from over her eyes, and then her mouth, easing the cloth out from behind it.
“Easy lady, I’m a cop, and he’s a friend,” he said as Brian looked in.
“Gail? What the hell happened – we were worried sick!”
“You know her?”
“Yeah, she’s a friend of Sarah’s,” Brian said as Gail blinked and moved her jaw.
“Brian? Oh thank god – is Freddie all right?”
“Yeah – Dave’s been looking after him, but he and Jack Hobson have been worried sick about you.”
“Can you get me free,” Gail said as she looked down at the ropes, “I need to report a robbery…”
Freddie threw himself into Gail’s arms as she walked into the house. “How was your trip Mom?”
“Eventful – and my bank have apologised for putting me through it,” she said as she kissed her son, and then Dave Cork.
“Well, you’re home now,” Dave said as Freddie took his mother into the kitchen, then he looked at Brian. “What happened?”
“We’re not quite sure – she was snatched from work two days ago, but last night she found herself in the hands of a second set of criminals, who forced her to let them rob her bank electronically. She’s unharmed, if a bit sore and bruised, and she doesn’t want Freddie to know what really happened.”
“The second lot were planning to kidnap both of them, apparently,” Brian said as Sarah came in, accompanied by Jack Hobson.
“Where is she,” Jack said, Dave pointing to the kitchen as he walked quickly off.
“Well, at least she’s back now,” Dave said. “The delivery van is coming this afternoon, and their bags are packed upstairs.”
“You’re going to miss them, aren’t you?”
“We all are – but it’s the right thing for her to do,” Dave said as they listened to the noises from the kitchen.
“All’s well that ends well then,” Yvonne said as the four of them sat around the outside table of the café.
“Not quite – what about grey?”
“I’ll be keeping an eye on him – see if he turns over a new leaf,” Brian said quietly as he sipped his coffee. “If not, my friends will have a word with him.”
“Be gentle – Selena adores him, and would hate to see him hurt,” Yvonne said as she looked at Sarah.
“Oh don’t worry, I don’t think he’ll get a visit from me,” Sarah said with a smile. “He’s under Brian’s watch now.
“So, when do you head back?”
“Day after tomorrow – when will we next see you?”
“Sooner than you think,” Sarah said to Mark, “we’re coming over for the wedding.”
“And hopefully, only the wedding,” Brian said with a smile.