A few men turned and stared as she walked amongst the racks, before remembering their partners were with them and hurriedly averting their eyes. Tall, thin, with black hair that reached down her back, she was dressed casually in long smock top and black leggings, with a black leather jacket over her upper body.
Like every other shopper, she was looking at the clothes, selecting a few items, before heading to the changing room. The young Saturday girl looked at her as she stood there, handed her a card and said “Room 10 is available.”
“Thank you,” she replied as she made her way to the booth at the end of the row. Closing and locking the door behind her, she hung the clothes on the pegs before taking a seat on the long wooden bench that sat in front of the full length mirror. Reaching under the bench, she removed the thick brown envelope that had been taped there and opened it, removing a MP3 player and a set of photos. It only took a moment for her to fit the earphones and start the player. A voice like warm melted chocolate came over the headset.
“Good morning, Dominique. As you may be aware, I recently attended a meeting in Dublin, where it was determined that the force behind the recent attempt to compromise our organisation was one man - George Kavanagh.”
Dominique looked at the first photo, of a middle aged man with greying hair swept back in a ponytail.
“We have been charged with revealing the whereabouts of this man, so that he can receive our – proper thoughts on the matter. Sadly, he has gone into hiding, but we do know the whereabouts of his family.
“The other photos are of his wife and daughters. Although they are officially separated, we have determined he is in constant touch with his wife, and so knows what is happening with the rest of them.”
Dominique studied the three photos of the women, making note of the way they looked and dressed.
“In the file you will find details of their current whereabouts and background.
“Your mission is to visit each of these women, and leave a message for Mister Kavanagh. As always, we leave it entirely to your discretion how and what methods you use, but if you do fall foul of the authorities we will deny any knowledge of you and your activities.
“It is of vital importance that the message be delivered and soon. Any items you find are for your own personal use and payment.
“This player will self wipe in ten seconds – Good luck, Dominique.”
Removing the headphones, she placed the folder and player into her large shoulder bag, before retrieving the clothing and selecting two outfits. Unlocking the door, she returned to the entrance and handed the remaining outfits to the girl.
“I trust everything is to your satisfaction,” the girl said with a smile.
“Oh yes – most satisfactory,” Dominique said as she made her way to the checkout.
The dreaming spires – a feeling and phrase that to many means something elitist, but to those who study at the University it was more a description of the experience.
Elaine Kavanagh was in her first year of this experience, having won a place to study Law, and to her it was still a new thrill even after all these months. She made her way back to her college after an afternoon by the Thames, her long white skirt blowing in the slight breeze as she made her way through the narrow streets. The top she was wearing had a drawing of a certain popular cartoon character on it – a present from the last family holiday she had had with Caroline and her mother – and the blue denim jacket over the top was at least keeping the chill out.
As she walked through the arches, the Porter gave her a smile. She was a popular new student – quiet, but one who enjoyed the college life and respected those who were in charge. She had also been lucky enough to get a single room – a rarity in her first year, and there were rumours someone had given a large sum to the college to ensure that. Rumours that were strenuously denied by the authorities and Elaine.
Climbing the stone staircase, however, those were the last thing on her mind. She had an assignment to complete for the morning, and was hoping for a hot bath and an early night. Unlocking the heavy wooden door, she walked in and closed it behind her, but before she could turn round she heard a female voice saying “Tell me, Elaine, did you enjoy Disneyland?”
Turning slowly round, she saw a tall woman sat in one of her armchairs, dressed in black up to and including the balaclava that covered her head, leaving only her blue eyes and rouged lips visible. Elaine let the bag she had carried over her shoulder fall to the floor, as she quietly mouthed “Oh my god” on seeing the pistol the masked woman had in her hand and pointed at her.
“Please, Elaine, do not shout or scream – it would be most unpleasant for both of us, and I’m not sure anyone would hear you through these thick walls anyway.” Standing up as she said this, she walked over and stood in front of the young girl as she was rooted to the spot, her light brown hair falling over her shoulders.
“Whhh what do you want?” Elaine stammered as the intruder took her by the arm and led her into the centre of the room.
“Oh, just your valuables, your money and your nice things,” she said as she took her into the bedroom. “Oh – and I need you to pass a message on, but first things first. Take your jacket off.”
“Take your jacket off – I don’t want you to get too hot over the next few hours.”
Staring at the intruder, Elaine slowly removed eh racket, revealing her bare arms, as she said “Who are you?”
“No names,” the masked woman said as she took her jacket and laid it on a chair, “I prefer anonymity. Now, I want you to sit down on the edge of the bed and do exactly what I tell you to do.”
“And what would that be?”
As she sat down, Elaine watched as the intruder picked up a small rucksack that had been at the foot of the bed, opened it and drew out a roll of wide silver tape. “Take this,” she said as she tossed the roll to Elaine, “and tape your ankles together. That would be a good start.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then,” the woman said as she walked over and pointed the pistol at Elaine’s left temple, “I force you to strip and then I tape you up – tightly. I’m offering you the chance to make it a little easier on itself – but not too easy, I want to see you making sure you cannot move. So, what will it be?”
Elaine thought for a moment, before swinging her legs round so that she was sitting on her bed with her knees raised. She wound the tape around her bare ankles, keeping them tightly together, before tearing the end off and smoothing it down.
“Now your legs below your knees,” the intruder said, and Elaine folded the hem of her skirt back before doing as she was told. Putting the roll down, she folded the hem back and stretched her legs out.
“Put your legs back up and wrap the skirt round them,” the masked woman continued, “before you tape your upper legs together.”
“But it’ll ruin the skirt,” Elaine protested, but the woman just smiled and said “The skirt is replaceable – you are not. Just do it like a good little girl.”
“All right,” Elaine said with a slight sob as she wrapped her linen skirt around her legs, the patterned hem gathering around her knees, before she tightly wrapped the tape around her legs over the fabric. As she tore the end off and smoothed it down, the hem fell in over her knees leaving her lower legs exposed.
“Very good, dear girl,” the masked woman said as she picked up the roll of tape. “Now, lean forward and put your hands behind your back so that I can tape them together. Remember – don’t move or make any loud sounds.”
“I don’t understand,” Elaine said as she felt her wrists being crossed and then heard the ripping sound of the tape, “Why are you robbing me – I don’t have much.”
“You have much more, and more valuable, than you may realise Elaine. Once I have finished here, I will search your room – don’t worry, I won’t leave a mess – and then let you lie in peace. Now, sit still while I finish here.”
The woman wound the tape around Elaine’s waist, holding her taped wrists firmly in the small of her back as she turned the bottom of her purple top into something resembling a silver cummerbund. Repeating the process over her arms and upper body, Elaine caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror in her cupboard door – a young girl encircled in bands of silver.
“Why am I so important?” she sobbed as the woman helped her to lie down on the bed.
“You’ll see. Now, tell me, where do you keep your scarves.”
“My scarv... No, you don’t have to, I promise I’ll be quiet.”
“I’m sure you will, but I have my standards to maintain. Where are they?”
“Top drawer, left hand side. Before you do, though, answer me a question.”
“Go ahead,” the woman said as she walked over and opened the drawer Elaine had mentioned.
“I still don’t understand - why me? I’m not the richest girl here – there’s the daughter of a millionaire in the next room, and royal princess up one floor. Why me?”
“Ask your father when you give him the massage I will leave,” the woman said as she came back over, balling up a red bandana in her hand as she did so. “Now open wide and let me finish this off.”
“She taped over your mouth and left you there while she took everything?”
Caroline Kavanagh held the phone close to her ear as she listened to her sister’s tale of the previous night. She was sat in a cafe, having stepped out from her workplace for some lunch when the call came through. Elaine had been left until nearly midnight, when the porter had noticed her door ajar as part of his night patrol and went in to investigate.
“No, I can imagine exactly how you feel. Have you told mother yet?
“I wouldn’t – she was in a strange mood when I spoke to her last night, and I’m not sure she can take the news you’ve been robbed as well. I’m going to go and see her tonight – I’ll tell her then.
“All right - I’ll pass your love onto Fred. Be brave, and I’ll talk to you soon. ‘Bye”
Putting the mobile phone back into her handbag, Caroline finished her coffee and stood up, brushing the crumbs off her silk skirt as she did so. As she walked down the street, the heels of her black fabric boots clicking on the paving slabs, she paid little attention to the people around her – not even the dark haired woman who watched her walking down the street, before leaving some money on the table and heading off in the opposite direction.
As the sun was setting, Caroline stepped out from the Tube station and made her way towards her studio flat in the docklands. It had been a long day, not helped by the talk she had with Elaine. Unlike her sister, Caroline had an inkling of where the family money had come from before her father had left them, and she knew some of his connections were a little bit dodgy. She hoped this was not someone who was trying to get to her father – even if she knew where he was, she wanted nothing to do with him if possible.
It only took a moment for the lift to take her from the lobby to her flat, and as she opened the door she called out “Fred – are you back yet?” The apartment was in darkness, and silent, so Caroline dropped her bag on the table by the telephone and hung her great cat up on the rack. She failed to notice the wire dangling from the wall socket, the plug to the handset disconnected, as she walked towards the main room.
Turning on a standard lamp by the simple expedient of stepping on a floor button, she sat down on the couch and put her feet up on a cushion, crossing her booted legs as she did so and unbuttoning the top button of her black silk blouse. Fred would be home soon, and then they would enjoy some quality time together. Caroline closed her eyes, leaned her head back on the couch, and relaxed – before tensing up again as she felt and tasted the black leather glove over the hand that clamped itself over her mouth.
“Not a sound, Caroline,” she heard a female voice whisper, “Stand up and come with me into the bedroom. There’s someone there who wants to say hello.”
Caroline slowly moved along the couch, the hand fixed to her mouth the whole time, and stood up as she was held. She walked towards the bed room, feeling as she did a cold circle of metal against her back, and slowly opened the door. A gasp escaped her mouth as she saw the sight that awaited her there.
Frederica – Fred to almost everyone, and her partner, was sat on the edge of their large bed, dressed in a pick baby doll nightie. She tried to scream at Caroline, but the knotted scarf that had been pulled between her teeth was making any attempt to communicate meaningfully impossible. Her arms were pulled behind her back, and Caroline guessed her wrist were held together with the same rope that held her ankles tightly side by side.
“I arrived a while ago,” the female voice said, “and your friend here was more than happy to do what I asked her to. I presume you will be the same?”
The hand was removed from Caroline’s mouth, and she turned to face a tall, thin woman in a black roll neck sweater and trousers, the legs of which were tucked into knee length leather boots. A black sticking was pulled over head, forcing her hair to be swept back and away from her face.
“What is this all about?” she shouted at the woman.
“Oh, burglary, larceny – and a message for your father,” she replied with a smile through the nylon.
“My father? I haven’t spoken to the bastard for years.”
“No – but your mother has, and you can pass the message on to her. Your sister already told you the first part.”
“My sister – you were there yesterday?”
The woman inclined her head. “My name is Dominique, and I work for a very special lady who wants to talk to your father. Right now, however, my concern is with you. Why don’t you help your friend to stand up and give her a hug?”
“I insist,” Dominique repeated as she pointed her pistol at Caroline. “Help your friend to stand up and give her a hug.”
“Are you all right, Fred,” Caroline said as she walked over and looked at her girlfriend. Fred nodded as she was helped to her feet, and Caroline wrapped her arms around her, holding her close.
“Very good – now, hold that pose,” Dominique said as she walked behind Fred. Caroline watched as her wrists were pulled together behind Fred’s back and rope wrapped around and between them, securing them together before the ropes were tied to those around Fred’s wrists.
“Why don’t I bring you closer together,” Dominique said as she passed a long coil of rope over the heads of both women, pulling it tightly around their waist and wrapping it around their upper bodies so tightly that their noses were almost touching. The blonde haired Fred looked into the eyes of her lover, pleading for an end, but Caroline said “I’m sorry, Fred, I’m an innocent party in this as well.”
She grunted as the ropes were pulled tighter and tighter, until Dominique finally stopped and checked both women. “Excellent – now, lie down,” she said as she pushed them both onto the bed, leaving their legs dangling over the side. Taking hold of Caroline’s ankles, she moved them so that Fred’s legs were trapped in Caroline’s, crossed her ankles and started to wrap rope around the fabric of her boots. As her ankles were pulled together, Caroline felt the warmth of Fred’s crotch against her own, and fought the feelings it aroused in her.
“Oh come now, Caroline – enjoy the moment,” Dominique said as she wrapped more rope around the upper legs of both girls, pulling them closer together as they lay there. Caroline could not helping a low moan escape as she felt Fred pulled even more closely to her.
“As you can see,” Dominique whispered as she leaned over Caroline, “I am not averse to affording some pleasures. I also know your feelings towards your father – which is why I told you my name unlike when I visited your younger sister. If you promise not to pass on my name with the message, I can make this a more – pleasurable experience.”
Caroline looked into Fred’s face, to see her eyes closed and her face relaxing into – enjoyment? Seeing the look on her lover’s face was enough for Caroline to nod her agreement.
“Very well,” Dominique said as she held a pair of her panties in front of her. “Open wide and let me gag you, and then I will see what I can do.” Caroline opened her mouth to allow the silk material to be stuffed in, and then a knotted blue scarf to be pulled between her teeth to keep the packing in place.
“Wait there,” she said as she pulled the secured legs of both women round so that they were lying fully on the bed, then went back to a bag she had on the floor. Retrieving two egg shaped objects, she gently slipped them under the panties Fred was wearing under her nightie, and then into Caroline’s panties which were visible as her skirt fell open around her legs.
“Here’s the message I want you to pass on to your mother,” she whispered in Caroline’s ear. The captive woman listened as Dominique whispered, nodding to show her understanding.
“Enjoy,” Dominique said as she pressed a button on each object. Turning her attention to the room, she started a systematic search for valuables as both women started to moan and writhe in unison. Finding and depositing some jewellery into her bag, she left them on the bed, closing the door as they enjoyed some intimate time together.
Viv closed the door as her daughter left and made her way back into the main room, her mind deep in thought. Caroline had gently explained what had happened to her and Elaine over the previous two days – and the message that had been passed on to them. This troubled her – more than she had been prepared to admit while Caroline was still there. She knew her husband was involved in some dangerous deals, but to attack kids?
Her dark contemplation was interrupted by the phone ringing. She picked up the receiver, sat down and listened to the voice at the other end.
“Oh, it’s you. Where the hell have you been – I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for the last week!
“No, I don’t want to know what kind of sordid business you’ve been involved in – the girls have been caught up in it, however, so I don’t have a lot of choice now do I?
“You heard me – someone attacked and robbed Elaine on Sunday, and Caroline yesterday. Someone who knows who we are and who you are – George, just who have you been dealing with?
“On second thoughts, don’t answer that – I don’t want to know. This person gave Caroline a message, and said if you tried to contact us to tell you.
“Surrender, or suffer the consequences.
“No, I don’t bloody well know what it means – I’m not the one who seems to have upset some high flying criminal, am I! George, whatever it is you’re mixed up in, go to the police and make a clean breast of it, please.
“Before someone else gets hurt. George? GEORGE!!”
Viv looked in disbelief at the handset before standing up and replacing it in the holder. Heading for the drinks cabinet, she poured herself a large measure of gin and a small measure of tonic into a glass and turned round, raising the glass to her lips. The journey was halted by the woman she saw sitting on her couch, dressed in a long skirt and dark blouse. The hat on her head had a veil that covered her face, and a long silk scarf was wrapped around her neck.
“Life can be a bitch,” she said as she pointed a small pistol at Viv. “I take my whisky straight up – why don’t you pour me one before we have a little chat about your safe?”
“I presume you are the same woman who has visited my daughters?” Viv said as she turned back to the cabinet and picked up another glass. “I will give you this – you’re good. I didn’t even hear you come in. How long had you been listening?”
“I made my way in two hours ago, while you were talking to Caroline – thank you,” Dominique said as she accepted the proffered drink. “I thank you for passing the message on, but I really did not expect your husband to respond as we wished.”
“My estranged husband.”
“We both know that is not quite true, Vivian,” Dominique said as she raised her veil and took a sip. “This is a separation of convenience, an attempt to distance you from his work. I’m afraid the attempt failed, Vivian – he has upset some very powerful people.”
Viv took a sip from her glass. “All right – who has he upset this time, and how?”
Dominique looked at the woman opposite her. In her late forties, dressed in a dark jacket and skirt with straight black leather boots, she looked the tough business woman she was – and the sort of woman who might actually help her if she knew the facts. Trusting her instincts, she leaned forward.
“You won’t like it, but if you want the details, I will give them to you. How much do you want to know?”
“Everything – expect possibly the names of the people you work for. The way you entered the house suggests your skill level, and I do not doubt your credentials. So, what sort of idiotic thing had George gone and done this time?”
An hour later, Viv sat in stunned silence as Dominique finished the story. She stared ahead, taking in the full details.
“My God – I knew he had done something to get all the money, but kids? Women disappearing? How can he be capable of all this?”
“It is my professional experience that when someone thinks they are good at something, they try to reach for better and higher achievement.” Dominique finished her drink. “If you try and reach too high, however, you can fall off the ladder, and if you fail to have a rescue plan things will hurt.”
Viv nodded. “I’m sorry I asked – but I really want nothing more to do with that scum. Tell me – what happens now?”
“That, Vivian, is a very interesting question. My instructions are quite clear – but, if you are willing, I think I can find a way to satisfy your growing desire for revenge. Don’t deny it – I’ve seen that look in others before.”
Viv looked at her visitor. “What would I have to do?”
“Appeal to his better nature. Allow me to make one phone call – and then we will lay our plans on the table.”
London, Wednesday, one in the morning.
The telephone took a full two minutes to wake George up. Rubbing his eyes, he reached for the handset and put it to his ear.
George Kavanagh sat upright. “Viv? What’s wrong?”
“George you’ve got to help mmmm”
George listened to the female voice that replaced his wife’s on the handset.
“If you wish to see your wife and daughters again, Mister Kavanagh, come home. You have one hour.”
The line went dead, and George stared straight ahead. The feeling of chickens coming home to roost was filling his chest as he breathed slowly in and out. He had tried hard, so hard, to keep his family safe, but now...
He threw the covers off the bed and reached for his trousers. Nobody threatened his family – and he wanted to teach this female a lesson.
It took an hour to drive to the north west of the city, and as he turned off the M40 the anger in him was growing against whoever had his wife captive. Turning on the side streets, he stopped a short distance from his house and left the car behind. The only thing he took out was a sawn-off shotgun, which he pushed into an inner pocket in his coat pocket as he walked through the dark streets.
Looking round as he approached, he slipped into the gate and walked quickly up the driveway that led to the front door of his house. He stopped, listening for any sound at all, but hearing nothing, before approaching the door. The signs of a forced entry were clearly visible, as he examined the splinters at the side of the door. Pushing the door quietly open, he peered into the dim hallway and called out.
“Viv? Are you here?”
George could hear some muffled noises from the rear of the house, so cautiously he came in and closed the door to behind him. Moving slowly, he made his way down the corridor, his hand in the internal pocket, before he came to a door and pushed it open.
Viv stared back at him from her seat, her arms secured down to the heavy oak armrests with rope and a long loop passed around her waist to secure her to the chair back. Her legs had been pushed apart, and the squeak of her leather boots as she moved them under the ropes securing them to the chair legs was the only other sound. That, and the muffled cries from under the layers of white tape that covered her lips.
“Dammit,” George said as he walked in, taking his hand out of the pocket and reaching up to pull the tape away from his wife’s mouth with his gloved fingers. As the tape came away, he saw the edges of a cloth sticking out from between his lips, and reaching up he pulled a large Hermes scarf out of her mouth.
“Who the hell did this?” George said as he dropped the sodden silk mass on the floor and watched his wife swallow.
“She came in and forced me to call you, then tied me up. I’ve no idea what the hell she wanted, but she forced the girls upstairs and I haven’t seen them since.”
“They were visiting. George, for God’s sake, find them – I’m worried sick about them.”
George nodded as he turned and headed out of the door, while Viv watched him walk out, mouthing silently as he walked away “Goodbye, you bastard.”
George climbed the staircase, drawing out the gun as he walked up and making sure it was loaded. He could hear muffled cries from the master bedroom, and making his way along the dark corridor he raised the gun in preparation. Coming to the door, he slowly opened it and saw something under the duvet, wriggling round. Slowly, slowly, George approached the mass and reached out with the gun to move the duvet back, wondering if it was Elaine or Caroline underneath. Finally making a decision, he used the gun to pull the duvet back and reveal a doll with a note pinned to it, a few vibrators tied to the plastic.
The note said simply “Gotcha.”
George stood there, dumbfounded, as the lights suddenly went up and he heard a number of guns being cocked and pointed at him.
“Good evening, Mister Kavanagh – I am so glad we finally get a chance to meet,” a voice that sounded like warm cocoa said, and George slowly turned to see Madame X standing there, Dominique standing slightly behind her.
“You have proven to be a most difficult gentleman to find,” Madame said as the four armed men took the gun from George’s hand and handcuffed his hands behind his back. “You have also caused a lot of embarrassment to me and several associates of mine. I could have forgiven that – competition is good and healthy – but when I heard you involved children in your plans, you upset me. Had you not done that, I would have considered an admonishment, but that – that made this a far more serious affair.”
George stared at the two women as he was pushed towards the open doorway.
“My friends in the Burglars Association wish to speak with you, Mister Kavanagh, so I will leave them to your tender mercies. Be assured that your wife and daughters will not be left unprotected – I always ensure the innocent are treated with respect.
“Unlike you – take him away, Gentlemen.”
The insults and vocal abuse from George Kavanagh continued as he was forced to the rear of the house, only dying away as the kitchen door was closed and the grey transit van drove away. Madame X waited a moment, and then descended the staircase, Dominique following behind.
“My thanks for your help, Dominique,” she said as they reached the bottom of the staircase. “I will talk to Mrs Kavanagh now – you may come and see me in the morning.”
“Of course, Madame,” Dominique said as she walked towards the door. Madame smiled as she made her way to the office, where Viv was still sitting.
“Mrs Kavanagh, my thanks for your help and your patience,” Madame X said as she came into the room. “I assure you that you will not be bothered by either myself or my associates again, and my friends will honour similar pledges.”
“Thank you – so what happens now?” Viv squirmed round in her chair as she sat there. In response, Madame X brought a handset over and set it on the table next to Viv, before loosening the ropes around the arm next to her.
“I believe you managed to wriggle free and call the authorities after a long struggle, but not before the assailant managed to escape with your valuables. I apologise for your loss, but I’m sure your insurance will prove more than adequate.”
“You’re welcome to them – I want nothing in here that man gave me.”
“An admirable settlement. Good evening, Mrs Kavanagh – next time, may we meet under different circumstances.”
“I’d like that,” Viv said as she wriggled her wrist round, “and the other woman as well.”
“I will pass the message on,” Madame X said as she turned the light off and closed the door. Viv waited, watching as fifteen minutes passed on the clock, before pulling her wrists free and reaching for the telephone. Pressing the handsfree button, she dialled three digits.
“Emergency – which service please?”
“Police – and hurry, I’ve been tied up,” Viv shouted out with a frightened tone in her voice, as she imagined what would happen to her now departed husband.