The non-descript grey van was parked to the rear of the retail park, but given it was only a few days to Christmas it was already busy. The three men got out of their cars and approached from different directions, the collars of their heavy coats up to keep out the chill. As they approached, the side of the van opened, and they climbed in one by one.
“Afternoon Mrs McPhee,” they said as the van door was closed by a woman wearing a dark blue boiler suit, and a black balaclava covering her face.
“Good afternoon boys,” she said in her soft Scottish accent, “thank you for joining us today. Jay will be with us in a moment.”
The knock on the door made them all fall silent as she opened the door, and a tall masked man dressed like them all in a blue boiler suit came in, smiling through the mouth hole of the balaclava.
“Thanks for joining us today,” he said in a Geordie accent, “we have three youngsters – twin eleven year olds and a nine year old, all girls, and a live in grandmother as well as the mother, so it should be straightforward enough. We’ll head there now – be prepared.”
“Got it Jay,” the three men said as they settled down for the journey.
“So how was the dance class party girls,” Mary Walker said as she looked at her granddaughters. The fifty five year old woman was wearing a black sweater over a white blouse, the sleeves of the jumper just coming below her elbow as the blouse extended to her wrists, and also under as well as the collar showing, a knee length black skirt and straight black leather boots. Her light brown hair was cut neatly around her face, curled slightly at her shoulders.
“It was wonderful Granny,” Bea Kent said as she beamed from ear to ear, her twin sister Lea nodding in agreement. The two girls were wearing sleeveless dresses, alternating bands of pink, lime green, pink and blue from top to bottom, and green scarves holding their long brown hair back as hair bands. They were also wearing knee length white leather boots with a square heel.
“I think it was a wonderful idea for all the classes to have a sixties and seventies themed party,” Mary said, “and you both look so nice in those outfits. Now, why don’t we...”
The knock on the door distracted Mary for a moment, as she said “you two go into the front room, and I’ll see who this is.”
“Okay granny,” the two girls said as they walked in, and Mary went to open the front door.
“Yes, how may I...”
“Good afternoon,” Jay said as the group walked in, brushing against the holly wreath hanging on the outside of the door as they did so, “our apologies for the intrusion, but we really need you to keep nice and quiet now, understand?”
Mary was too stunned to do more than nod as one of the group, obviously a woman, closed the door and looked round the hallway. “Nice decorations,” she said in a Scottish accent as she looked at the tinsel hanging on the wall.
“Now, where are the girls,” the man said, Mary looking to the door as she started shaking.
“Remain calm, Mrs Walker,” the man said, “we mean you and your family no harm, we just need to conduct some business with your son in law. Now, come into the front room with us.”
Bea and Lea looked up as their grandmother came in, accompanied by a man and a woman dress in blue boiler suits, but with a black mask covering their heads so that only their eyes and mouths could be seen.
“What’s happening Granny,” Bea said as she shuffled back in the chair.
“It’s all right girls,” the woman said in a soft Scottish accent, “my friends and I have come to see your father, but it means you and the rest of your family are going to have to spend some time staying in one place and keeping quiet, with our help. You won’t be hurt if you do what we ask you to do, all right?”
“Who are you,” Lea said as she stared at the masked woman.
“My name is Mrs McPhee, and my friend there is Jay Edwards. Now, what we need to do is keep you and your granny in here for a little while, until you mummy and sister come home, and we need to make sure you can’t tell them they have visitors. Do you think you can do that with my help?”
“Are you going to steal our presents?”
“Oh no,” Jay said as he looked round the room, the garlands hanging down, the cards in their holders, and the decorated pine tree in the corner. “But you need to do what Mrs McPhee asks you to do. As for you, Mary, please hold your hands out in front of you – the girls can see what is going to happen.”
“What are you doing to Granny,” Bea said as Jay took a length of cord from his pocket and started to bind Mary’s wrists together.
“He’s making sure your granny can’t move her hands apart,” Mrs McPhee said as she took two lengths of cord from a pocket. “This is what he’s using – feel it and tell me how it feels to you.”
“It feels soft,” Lea said as Jay cinched the rope by passing it between Mary’s wrists and tying it off.
“Good – and does it hurt, Granny?”
“No – no it doesn’t,” Mary said, feeling calmer somehow.
“So, I want both of you to put your hands together as if you are praying, and then I will do to you what Jay did to your granny, all right?”
The twins looked at each other and nodded as they put their hands together, palm to palm, Mary watching as the Scots woman tied their wrists together, while Jay knelt down and tied her ankles tightly together, the rope squeaking as it rubbed against her boots.
“that’s a funny noise,” Lea said as she grinned.
“It is, isn’t it,” Jay said, “would you like Mrs McPhee to make the noise on you as well?”
The two girls nodded as Mrs McPhee took more cords and tied their ankles tightly together as well, their giggles as the leather boots squeaked making Mary happier as well.
“Forgive me,” Jay said as he tied some rope around Mary’s legs above her knees, gathering her skirt around them, and then tied her wrists down to that band, Mrs McPhee using rope around the girl’s legs below their knees and then tying their wrists to that as well.
“What if we need to go to the toilet,” Bea said as she pulled her wrist up, lifting her legs as well.
“Well, I have to say now that we’re going to stop you talking, so if you need the toilet just grunt three times. Can you do that?” Bea nodded as he took a roll of brown sticking plaster from his bag, and tore a strip off, saying “put your lips together” as he looked at Mary.
“Santa’s coming, Santa’s coming!!”
“Yes he is Becky,” Mandy Kent said as she looked over her shoulder at the nine year old excitedly kicking her legs up and down on the back seat. She had on a brown duffle coat over her party dress. It had very short sleeves, and a mustard coloured collar and diagonal piece on the right, the remainder of the dress a dusky yellow, with a yellow pocket on the mustard and a mustard pocket on the yellow. Her mother had found it in a charity store, along with the short white go-go boots, and they had been just right for her party.
Mandy herself was dressed in the style of the sixties as well, but with a more modern twist. She was wearing a white minidress under her brown leather jacket, and knee length brown leather boots with a three inch heel.
“Home again,” she said as she pulled into the driveway, and climbed out, opening the door for Becky and taking her hand as they walked inside.
“Hey Mum, we’re back,” she said as she took their coats and placed them on the rack, “were the girls any trouble while we...”
“Mummy, Granny and the girls look funny,” Becky said as she saw all three of them looking at her, brown plaster over their mouths and ropes holding their wrists and ankles together.
“Mum, what’s going on,” Mandy said as she hugged Becky.
“Allow me to explain,” a male Geordie voice said as Mandy turned round, “My name is Jay Edwards, and the lady behind the couch is Mrs McPhee. We have business to conduct with your husband, Mrs Kent, and it means we need to keep you and your family company for a while. They haven’t been harmed, but we have had to make sure they cannot move and stay quiet – just as we need to do the same to you and Becky as well.”
“Jay... Edwards? Oh god, not now, not with Christmas so close...”
“Do not worry – our business is with your husband’s firm, and not with you or your belongings. Now, Mrs McPhee?”
“Hello Becky,” the woman said as she came over, “how would you like to be just like your big sisters?”
“Can I be with Mummy as well,” the little girl said as Mary tried to move, the rope squeaking as it rubbed against the leather.
“OF course – put your hands together in front of yourself for me, while Jay helps your mum to sit down.”
“Please take a seat,” Jay said as he indicated the armchair across the floor from Mary, “and put your hands on your head.”
“What are you going to do to us,” Mandy whispered as Jay knelt down, crossed her ankles and started to bind them tightly together with rope.
“As I say, our business is with your husband,” he said as he pulled the rope between her legs, “so you, your daughters and your mother will be looked after by us while he goes with one of my associates. We don’t wish to harm anyone, and I must ask you to remain calm on the understanding. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes – yes, I can,” Mandy was surprised to hear herself say as Jay tied her legs together below her knees, while Mrs McPhee tied Becky’s wrists together.
“Now, why don’t you sit on mummy’s lap,” Kay said as he picked the young girl up and laid her gently down, “and then she can give you a great big hug.”
Becky nodded and snuggled into her mother as Jay bound Mandy’s wrists together, and Mrs McPhee tied Becky’s ankles to each other.
“There we go,” Jay said as he stood up, and fished the roll of plaster from his pocket. “Now, you each need to have a strip of this over your mouths, to keep you nice and quiet, and then you can all watch a film together. How about a Disney Christmas DVD – I see you have a selection over there.”
“All right – and when my husband comes home?”
“We talk,” Jay said as he tore a length off, and smoothed it over Becky’s mouth. “So, lips together please, and then we can begin...”
“I’m home,” John Kent said as he closed the front door, and took his coat off. He could hear the television playing, and rubbed his hands together as he walked into the living room.
“Well, one more day and then it’s...”
His voice trailed off as he saw his family in the chairs, their wrists bound as his younger daughter cuddled into her mother, his mother in law staring at him over the brown plaster covering her mouth. Behind the couch his twins was sitting on stood two men and a woman, masked and carrying guns, while a third man stood behind Mary.
“Good evening Mister Kent.”
He whirled round to see a fifth man standing in the doorway, smiling through the balaclava covering his head.
“My name is Jay Edwards – perhaps you have heard of me?”
John slowly nodded as Jay said “good – then additional explanations are unnecessary. All I need to say is so far your family are unharmed, and they will remain that way – provided you do as we say, and co-operate fully. I’m sure you are more than willing to do that, aren’t you?”
“Please,” John said, “don’t hurt them...”
“Have we hurt you girls,” Mrs McPhee said, all of them shaking their heads as they looked at him.
“Why don’t we go into the kitchen and talk things over. Mrs McPhee, I think toilet breaks may be in order for the girls – one at a time, please, and secure them again when they come back. We can discuss arrangements for dinner when they have all had a chance.”
As she looked round the dining table, Mary had to admit that her granddaughters, and their parents, were taking the situation very well indeed. Once they had all gone to the toilet, they had all had their wrists secured together behind their backs, and their legs re-tied, before the television was turned on and they had all watched Curse of the WereRabbit.
After that, Mandy had been allowed to order pizzas, the rest remaining secured until they had taken delivery, and then they had been brought through here, their waists tied to the chairs before their arms were untied, and then it had been a help yourself frenzy.
“So what’s going to happen next,” she said as she looked at Mrs McPhee.
“Your son in law will go with one of my friends to his offices,” the woman replied, “and there he will do some business for us. The rest of you will remain here, and we’re going to make sure you’re all comfortable and safe before we go.
“In fact,” she said as she looked at the three girls, “the three of you are going to be wrapped up like Christmas presents, to keep you all warm. I’ll show you what I mean later, all right?”
Lea, Bea and Becky looked at each other and nodded as they swallowed some of their pizza, and took a drink from their glasses.
“I have your word they will not be hurt?”
“Beyond the fact they will not be able to move or talk, they will not be hurt, John,” Jay said quietly, “but do you understand your part in this?”
John nodded as he sipped his coffee. “One of your – associates – will take me to the office, and there I need to do exactly what he says. If I do, all will be well.”
“That is indeed the case, and this close to Christmas, what parent would not want their family to enjoy the experience,” Jay said with a smile. “Now, finish your drink – Becky is looking tired, and I think she should be the first to get ready for the wrap up sleepover.”
“That sounds exciting,” Becky said as she looked at her parents.
“IT will be,” Mrs McPhee said, “but first, Daddy needs to get ready to go with my friend.”
“Please, get yourself ready,” Jay said as John stood up, one of the masked men following him as the others looked at each other.
“We will give him the chance to talk to you all before we begin,” Jay said quietly. “Mrs McPhee, perhaps you could go and run a bath for young Becky?”
“Of course,” she said as she stood up and walked out, John coming back in with his coat on.
“You’re all very brave,” he said with a smile, “and I’ll see you all later. Just do what they say, and be as brave as you can possibly be.”
“We will dad,” Bea said as he hugged and kissed each of them, before leaving, Jay handing the masked man a stick before they went out.
“Now then,” he said as he untied Mandy from the chair, and then Becky, “You can go and help your daughter to have her bath, and get her ready for bed, before she comes back down.”
“Can I wear Moo to bed mum,” Becky said as she stood up.
“Yes you can,” Mandy said quietly, “come on, let’s help Mrs McPhee by checking the bath water.”
“If you untie me, I can do the dishes,” Mary said quietly, “so long as you girls don’t mind?”
“That’s all right Gran,” Lea said, “we can wait.”
Jay nodded as another masked man untied Mary, and she started to collect the boxes and plates up, looking at Jay as she did so.
“Go on,” he said quietly, “you want to say it, so say it.”
“Do you get pleasure out of threatening kids?”
“No – but we try to make it as untraumatic as possible. Are the girls upset?”
Mary looked at the twins, talking to each other, and shook her head.
“Then I suggest we keep it that way – I understand your anger, but it is useless to voice it now.”
Twenty minutes later, the twins turned to see their younger sister come into the kitchen, wearing a onesie in the pattern of a cow, the hood with the nose and eyes of a cow printed on it.
Becky nodded and grinned as Jay untied the twins. “All right girls – you go upstairs with Mrs McPhee and get ready for bed. Becky, you come into the front room with your mother and grandmother, and I’ll tell you how the present gets wrapped.”
The trio walked in with Jay and the other two men, all three of them sitting on the couch as Jay looked at Becky.
“Now Becky, you know we’ve had to make sure you could not move or speak for a little while. Were you frightened by that?”
“A little,” Becky said, “but it wasn’t too bad.”
“Well, we need to do it again, but we’re going to do it in a very special way. Are you ready to begin?”
The little girl nodded as Jay said “I see your onesie has paw mittens. Can you put them on your hands for me, and then cross your wrists in front of you, like this?” He crossed his own wrists in front of his belly, smiling as Mandy helped her to put the mittens over her hands, and then stood in the same way.
“Thank you,” Jay said as he took some rope and tied Becky’s wrists together, before he passed another length around her waist to keep them in place. He then used another, longer length to tie her arms to her sides, taking it round her tummy and arms below her elbows to make sure they were held firmly together.
“Sit down for a minute please, Becky,” Jay said, and as she sat on the couch she watched him cross and tie her ankles tightly together, and then her legs below her knees, the rope going between her legs in both places.
“There – no different from before, really – just a little extra rope to keep your arms in place. Does it feel scary?”
“No – tight, but not scary,” Becky said as Bea and Lea came back in, accompanied by Mrs McPhee, who was carrying three tartan blankets with her. The twins were wearing matching red pyjamas with white polka dots.
“Now, while I do to Bea and Lea what I did to you, Mrs McPhee is going to do the parcel bit, all right?”
Becky nodded, not noticing as the two masked men tied her mother’s and grandmother’s wrists together behind their backs, her focus solely on Mrs McPhee as she laid one of the blankets out on the floor, and then picked her up, laying her on one with her head at one corner and her feet at the other one.
“Watch closely,” she said as she tucked the corner of the blanket at Becky’s feet in between her legs, and then wrapped the blanket round her, so that only her head could be seen at the far corner. She then went to the bag, and took out a roll of silver duct tape, which she wrapped round her feet, trapping the blanket and her bound ankles together.
She then wrapped the tape round her legs below and above her knees, and around her waist, and then her arms and chest, rolling Becky to and fro with the help of one of the masked men so that she was wrapped in silver and tartan. She was then lifted onto the couch, as Bea was laid on a second blanket, her body already tied
“Now,” Jay said as he picked up a small cloth, and folded it, “we need you to be really quiet, so I want you to let me put this in your mouth, and then we’ll put some tape round your head. The blanket will keep your hair covered, and your sisters will sit with you – three special Christmas presents for daddy to unwrap.”
“All right,” Becky said as she let the masked man put the cloth into her mouth, and he then wrapped red tape round her head, the blanket point covering her hair as he completed the gag. She watched as Bea and Lea were similarly wrapped up and gagged, before Mrs McPhee turned the television back on.
“Mamma Mia,” she said as the film started, and she turned on the subtitles, “you can sing along if you want, and I will stay with you.”
“Now then, Mary,” Jay said as he helped their grandmother to stand up, “time for you to change into something more – comfortable.”
The clock was showing ten thirty as Lea’s eyes slowly closed, and she fell asleep, her sisters already out.
“Good,” Jay said as he put three pillows on the floor in front of the couch, and lifted them down so that their heads lay on one each, “they should be fine there.”
Mary and Mandy both nodded in agreement. Mary was wearing a long white nightdress, with a pair of bedsocks on her feet, while her daughter had on a pair of dark blue silk pyjamas. Both women had their arms behind their backs, their wrists crossed and tied together, with bands of rope around their waists, and above and below their chests, keeping their upper bodies secured. When the girls had seen their grandmother come down like that, Mrs McPhee had said it was a different way of wrapping the present for their father, but she would not be able to move either, and such had been the case.
They had also both come down gagged, seemingly with the same red tape wrapped round their heads. In both their cases, however, there was a folded headscarf in their mouths, and a folded scarf used a cleave gag to keep that stuffing in place, as well as the band of tape covering the whole ensemble.
“Mandy,” Jay said as he looked at the girls’ mother, “come and lie down on the couch – you can keep an eye on them from up there.”
She nodded as she stood up and walked over, taking care not to step on them as she lay on her side, watching as Jay bound her ankles, and then her legs, with more of the soft white rope which was tied round her body.
Mary was trying to get comfortable as she twisted her own bound legs round – the chair she was sitting in was a recliner, and they had allowed it to unfold slightly, but it was still a little while before she got herself into a position where she felt she could stay and watch her family at the same time.
Mandy nodded as she settled on the couch, and the adrenaline rush that had fuelled her since her arrival subsided, her eyes closing as she fell into a deep sleep. Her mother followed suit soon after, leaving Jay, Mrs McPhee and the two masked men to watch over them...