The sun shone down on the pristine white slopes of the Alpine resort, as Tara slid gracefully down the run, twisting from side to side as the edges of her skis cut into the crisp white snow. Her multicoloured ski suit was doing the job of keeping her slim body warm, while her long blonde hair was bundled up under a white woollen cap.
Behind her, Lucinda was following as fast as she could. Although she had far more experience on a pair of skis, it hadn’t surprised her that Tara would take to the sport like the proverbial duck to water. The thing that had surprised her, however, was how much she was enjoying the challenge of keeping up with her on this holiday.
They had been here for four days now, enjoying the slopes during the day and the looks from the local boys in the bars in the evening. Lucinda’s father had booked one of the better chalets for their use, along with the services of a live-in chalet girl from Sweden called Anna who cooked and cleaned for them.
Tara gracefully came to a halt at the bottom of the slope and turned round to watch her friend come up behind her. “Ten to one to me, I think,” she smiled as she pushed back her sunglasses and held her gloved hand over eyes to cut some of the glare from the snow.
“All right, all right, don’t rub it in – you’re the better skier, I concede it,” Lucinda said as she stopped, taking of her woollen cap and allowing her chestnut hair to fall about her face. “Had enough for today?”
“I think so,” Tara said as she looked up the slope. “Back to the chalet for some dinner?”
Lucinda unclipped her boots from the skis and picked them up in her gloved hands, balancing them over her shoulder. “Sounds good to me – I wonder what Anna will have ready for us?”
“Let’s get a drink first, and then we’ll find out,” Tara replied with a laugh as she headed in the direction of the nearby café.
Back at the chalet, Anna was sitting at the kitchen table, watching her visitor as he made some preparations for the hours ahead.
“Are you sure that’s all necessary?” she said as she looked up, a hint of fear in her eyes.
“Oh, yes, absolutely necessary,” was the reply she received.
The bright sun was starting to set over the white capped mountains as the two girls made their way back to their chalet, laughing and talking as they did so. Their fur boots stomped on the short wooden staircase as they climbed onto the patio and opened the chalet door.
“Anna, we’re home,” Lucinda called out as she pulled the door closed behind her and removed her heavy jacket. She was wearing a pair of light blue dungarees with a white roll neck sweater underneath, and as she kicked off her boots a pair of white socks could be seen under the stirrup bands of the leggings she had on underneath.
“Funny – I thought she would have called back by now,” Tara said quietly as she started to undo her own jacket and kicked off her boots. “Go and have a look in the kitchen and I’ll stoke up the fire.”
She walked over to the open fireplace, and used a poker to push around the burning coals as Lucinda made her way through to the cooking area. “Anna, are you…” she stared to say, but stopped short when she saw Anna sat at the table, and the young man with a scarf around is lower face standing behind her with a large kitchen knife against her throat.
“Ah – I see why you could not answer,” Lucinda quietly said as she looked at the white tape gag that covered the young Swede’s lips. “Are you all right?”
Anna nodded as the young man let go of her head.
“All I want is your money – do as I say and no-one else gets hurt. Where’s the other girl?”
“Through there,” Lucinda said as she inclined her head back. “Don’t worry – we won’t stop you. What do you intend to do with us?”
“Make sure you can’t get in the way,” he said as he held up two large coils of white rope in his gloved hand. Lucinda had been looking at Anna as he was talking, noting the way she had been bound to the chair with her hands tied together on the kitchen table.
“Well, it appears we have no choice,” she finally said as the man walked over to her. “Shall we go into the living area?”
“So what’s Anna cooking?” Tara said as she looked up and saw Lucinda walk in, followed by a young man with a scarf over the lower half of his face.
“Ah – I see we have other company, and unexpected too. Is this what I think it is, Luc?”
“I’m afraid so, Tara,” Lucinda said as the man pushed her into the chair and the man walked over to Tara. She had on a thick woollen sweater and black ski pants, with the bottoms of the legs tucked into thick grey socks.
“Are you going to give me any trouble?” the young man said as he waved the knife in Tara’s face, the light from the fire glistening as it reflected in the cold steel.
“Perish the thought – so long as you don’t harm us,” Tara replied coolly as she looked over at her friend. “I presume Anna is indisposed?”
“I’m afraid so, and I think we may be next.”
“You will be indeed, ladies,” the man said as he tossed one of the coils of rope he was holding over to Lucinda. “I take it you know how to make a lasso?”
“It may have come up when I was a Girl Guide.”
“Good – make one and you can make sure your friend here doesn’t get in my way. You – stand up and come into the centre of the room, with your hands behind your back.”
“Well, I guess we have been a little out of practice,” Tara said with a sigh as she stood up and walked into the centre of the room, standing on a sheepskin rug as she placed her hands together, the back of one hand in the palm of the other, and looked over her shoulder at Lucinda as she quickly made a noose with one end of the rope.
The young man looked quizzically at Lucinda, who just shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t know” as she held up the loop of rope. He nodded before saying “Pass it over her shoulders and pull it tight around her arms and chest.”
“Ready,” Lucinda whispered as she came up behind Tara. “As I’ll ever be,” she whispered back as Lucinda passed the rope over her head and shoulders and pulled it tight, before passing the rope around again and pulling her arms even more tightly into her sides.
“Now her wrists,” the man said as Lucinda quickly wrapped the rope around and between Tara’s wrists, keeping the cords over the cuffs of her jumper to allow her some protection. As she cinched the ropes, the man took Tara by the arm and led her over to a chaise longue that sat nearby.
“Lie face down,” he ordered Tara, and as she positioned herself on the cushions Lucinda took hold of her sock covered ankles and wrapped the rope around and between them as well. As she pulled them together, the masked man took hold of the loose end and said “Sit down on the floor, legs out and hands on your head.” Lucinda did as he asked while the man pulled Tara’s ankles up behind her legs and secured the loose end of the rope to the coils around her arms.
“Just stay there,” he said to Tara as he picked up the other coil of rope and walked over to Lucinda, making a lasso with it as he did so. “I want you to put your hands in front of you and pray to the Holy Mother,” he said as he knelt down in front of her.
“I’m not Catholic,” she replied as she watched Tara manoeuvre herself onto her side.
“I don’t care, put your hands together and pray,” he said with a growl as he held the coil of rope up in front of her. Lucinda shrugged and held her hand sup in front of her, palm pressed to palm, while he passed the rope over her own head and pulled her arms tightly to her side.
“I’m sorry about this, but a man must do what a man must do,” he said as he wrapped the rope around Lucinda’s wrists and pulled them down onto her lap, passing the rope around her thighs as he did so to hold them in place.
“Yes, but a real gentleman would not rob defenceless ladies,” Tara said as she watched her friend having her ankles tied together with the remaining length of rope.
“Not true – but a chevalier will always do so with good manners,” the man replied as he checked Lucinda’s bindings before standing up. “If you will forgive me ladies, I must go and search through your belongings now. Please, talk amongst yourselves for a few moments.”
“Practice?” Lucinda said as she looked at Tara after they had been left alone.
“Well, I guess we are a little rusty,” she replied as she looked over her shoulder while moving her legs up and down. “Any thoughts?”
“A few, but I’ll keep them to myself for now,” Lucinda said as she looked towards the staircase he had climbed. “What about Anna?”
“We need to think of getting ourselves out of this before we can help her,” Tara said as the sound of boots descending from the upper level was heard. The two girls watched as the man returned, placing a small bag in his pocket as he headed for the kitchen.
“One moment, ladies, I need to check on the third part of this tale,” he said as she went in. Both Tara and Lucinda listened to the noises coming from the kitchen, before he returned with a roll of white tape in his hands.
“Forgive me, ladies, but even with the space between the chalets here I need to take some necessary precautions,” he said as he tore a strip off the roll and walked over to Tara. She could almost a smile in his eyes as he smoothed the strip over her lips, then turned and did the same to Lucinda.
“Good evening, my dear ladies,” he said as he turned the lights off and left the two bound and gagged women in the light that came from the fire. “I’ll just make sure you are warm,” he said as he stoked the coals before heading for the kitchen, the sound of the door closing coming a few minutes later.
The flames from the firelight reflected on Lucinda’s dungarees as she allowed her eyes to adjust to the dimmer light. When she was able to see, she watched Tara rolling around on the cushions, trying to see if there was any give in the ropes that held her in place. She also looked over to the fire, where the poker had been left at the edge of the glowing embers, and an idea started to form in her head.
Her friend turned over onto her side and looked over at Lucinda.
“cn u mk ur wav r hr? Iv n ida?”
“Ur nt ida?”
“NNNN – v n ida. Gt n ur kns n cm vr hr.”
Tara nodded as she rolled onto her stomach, and turned herself around so that she could drop down onto her knees on the floor. As she did this, Lucinda started to shuffle herself forward, closer to the fire. Tara wondered if her friend was getting cold, until she saw the end of the poker sticking out from the edge of the pit.
“O, I gt t” she said through the tape as she started to shuffle towards her friend on her knees, the rope that secured her ankles to her back loosely flapping as she did so. When she approached Lucinda, she shuffled round and straightened up so that the rope tightened, forming a firm link between her ankles and arms as Lucinda took hold of the end of the poker with her hands, her own knees bent slightly up to give her a bit more flexibility.
Lucinda gingerly lifted the poker out of the fire, the other end glowing red from heat, and placed it against the taut length of rope behind Tara’s back. She looked over her shoulder as the rope started to smoulder, her friend watching all the time to ensure she did not drop the red hot metal against Tara’s legs, as the rope slowly began to char and part where the poker lay against it.
After some time, the rope finally parted and Lucinda carefully replaced the poker against the stone fire pit. As she did this, Tara shook loose the rope that held her wrists together behind her back and brought her arms round so that she could peel the tape away from her lips.
“That’s better,” she gasped as she shuffled over and started to undo the knots that held the rope around her friend’s ankles. “I’m just glad you didn’t drop that poker.”
“O pls,” Lucinda mumbled, and Tara couldn’t stop herself from giggling. “Sorry,” she said as she pulled the tape away from the other girl’s lips.
“Have a little faith,” Lucinda said in a mock tone of anger as she started to shake her own wrists free. “Get your ankles loose and check on Anna while I get myself sorted out and call the police.”
As Lucinda stood up, pulling the rope over her head, she heard Tara call through “I think you need to come here.” She walked through to join Tara in the kitchen, where she stood behind a chair with a coil of rope on it and a screwed up piece of tape on the table.
“Hmm – think they were both in on it?” Lucinda said as she looked at the tape.
“Not willingly as such,” Tara replied as she looked at a note that had been left by the sink.
Please, forgive me – my brother forced me to assume the role of a hostage so that he could rob you. I could do nothing to stop him, even though I deplore what he does to feed his habit. If you wish to stop him doing this again, I have left his address in an envelope in the knife drawer – he does not know I have done this.
“Genuine?” Lucinda said with a quizzical look in her eye.
“Let the police decide – you call them while I fix us a drink.” Tara said as she took a bottle of vodka from the freezer.