Captive at Cheltenham
“Paging Colonel Ponsonby-Benson, will Colonel Ponsonby-Benson please report to the Stewards office?”
The announcement over the tannoy system at Cheltenham race course caught the attention of the tall, willowy woman whose chestnut hat was pulled back under her designer hat.
“Daddy – they want to see you in the chief’s office!”
“All right, Lucinda – I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
The Colonel, dressed in a smart three piece suit, strode in the direction of the main stand as a blonde haired woman walked up to Lucinda.
“What’s up,” Tara asked as she handed her friend a drink.
“Nothing – jest trainer business I suspect. Did you get your winnings?”
Tara Smith patted the little clutch bag she had in her hand.
“Twenty pound at twenty-five to one against – that’ll pay some bills. So, who do you fancy for the next race?”
Luci laughed as she put her hand up to prevent her hat being blown off by a gust of wind. The sleeve of her white jacket rolled down her arm as she did so, and the matching skirt blew around her stocking covered legs.
“Well, you could do worse than bet on Daddy’s horse, but that would be insider tipping, so I can’t possible say that to you.”
“Naturally,” Tara replied. She and Luci had been friends and flatmates since meeting at college, as well as partners in a number of experiences that they had learnt from in the past few years. Now assistant trainers at the Colonel’s stables, they were enjoying the sights and sounds of the Cheltenham festival.
Although not as grand or as formal as the Ascot festival, Cheltenham still required a modicum of smart dress, so on this particular day Tara was wearing a light blue patterned dress that came to just below her knees, a dark blue bolero jacket and hat, dark stockings and short heeled shoes. In addition to her jacket and skirt, Lucinda was wearing a cream coloured sheer top with matching vest underneath, and cream shoes. They stood talking as the Colonel returned.
“Lucinda, my dear, could you go and check that the boxes have been cleared out? I want to make a quick escape from here tonight.”
“All right, Daddy,” Luci smiled as she walked off. “Coming, Tara?”
“I’ll catch you up,” Tara shouted back, “I want to watch the parade before the next race.” The blonde haired woman turned and started talking to Luci’s father as she walked in the direction of the assembled transports.
Lucinda made her way through the assembled vehicles towards the brown-painted horse carrier that her father used. Walking round to the back, she climbed up the ramp and opened the door to the walkway between the internal boxes – which quickly slammed shut behind her.
“Luci’s been gone a while,” Tara remarked as the horses were led out of the enclosure for the next race.
“Yes, she has – can you go and see what’s keeping her? I need to be in the enclosure for this one?”
“Of course, Colonel,” Tara said with a smile as she walked towards the transports. As she made her way towards the brown carrier, she started to wonder why Luci had taken so long to get back – it should only have taken five minutes to make sure everything was all right.
“Luci? Are you still in here?”
A knocking sound was coming from one of the stalls, and Tara slowly made her way down towards the end of the walkway.
“Luci?” she called as she pushed the stall door open. Lucinda was sat against the side of the stall, the sleeves of her jacket crumpled as they fell down her raised arms. Her wrists had been lashed together with leather straps and secured to a ring that was used to secure the horse bridle to during transport, and her ankles were crossed and tied together with similar straps. A roll of bandage was wrapped around her mouth, and she was shaking her head at Tara as if to warn her of something.
“Oh Lord, Lucinda, how do you get yourself into these scrapes,” Tara said with a note of exasperation as she walked into the stall, only to realise her mistake as the door swung shut and she felt cold metal against her back.
“You’re not the only one in the stall, are you?” Tara said, and Luci slowly shook her head.
“Turn round,” a male voice said, and as Tara did as she was asked she saw a man standing there in a dark tracksuit, wearing Ray ban glasses and a hat over his head.
“Came looking for your friend, did you?” He said with a sneer. Tara nodded, and said “What is this time – horse stealing again?”
“Nothing so prosaic, I’m afraid – I saw your friend walking towards the horse box, and decided to rob her. She fought back, so I tied her up. Are you going to do the same?”
“Why, would that make you feel more of a man?”
“Very funny, seeing I am the one with a gun – kneel down.”
As Tara knelt on the stall floor, she asked Lucinda “Are you all right?” Luci nodded and watched as the armed robber took a length of rope from a hook on the wall and began to wrap it around Tara’s arms and chest. Pulling it tightly so that her arms were pinned to her side, he passed the rope around the loops behind her back, and then continued to lash her wrist together.
Satisfied that Tara’s crossed wrists were secured, he ran the remaining length of rope down and bound her ankles together, tying the final ends between her legs to further secure them.
“That ought to hold you – now let’s have a look at your purse,” he said as he picked it up from where Tara had dropped it when she felt the gun against her back. Opening the clasp, he pulled out wad of twenty pound notes and felt the weight.
“You had a good day by the looks of it - I’ll enjoy spending this,” he said as he picked up another roll of bandage from a shelf. Lucinda groaned as she looked over to where her hat was placed on the floor, while the man started to wrap the bandage in and over Tara’s mouth, gradually and slowly gagging her to ensure she could not raise the alarm.
The two woman watched as the man picked up his gun, as well as Lucinda’s purse which he had left on the floor, and left the stall, closing the door behind him. The rope had pulled Tara’s jacket back so that the edges were caught under her arms, and she looked over her shoulder to see if there was any give in the ropes holding her. She then turned and looked at her friend.
“Cn u mv ur wrst?”
Lucinda looked up at where the leather straps were hold her wrist to the ring in the stall side. She pulled down on the binding, but to no avail, so she turned and shook her head in response.
Tara looked round the stall. There was the usual paraphernalia – horse brushes, blankets, water bottles and shampoo bottles……
“Lusse – st stll. M gng t tr smtng.”
Sitting back on her legs, Tara probed the ropes around her ankles with her fingers. Eventually, she found the knot that was holding her ankles together, and she tested to see if there was any way to get some give. Failing to find that, she looked around the floor until she saw a small tool, which was used to take stones out of hooves, lying where it had been accidentally dropped.
Shuffling across the floor, Tara eventually managed to grab hold of the heft of the tool in one hand, and gingerly moved it around until she could grip it more firmly. Allowing herself to fall back onto her legs, she looked over her shoulder and started to use the rounded end of the tool to ease the knot between her ankles slightly more open.
Time passed slowly as Tara grunted in her efforts to prise the knot apart, and Lucinda continued to try and get her wrists out from her straps. Eventually, Tara let out a muffled yelp of triumph as she felt her ankles begin to come slight apart. Tossing the tool to one side, she began to pick at the knot and managed eventually to get the rope off from around her ankles.
Gingerly, Tara managed to get onto her feet and walk carefully over to where one of the bottles of shampoo was sitting. She managed to grab hold of the thin bottle with her bound hands, and then walked over to where Lucinda was still sitting. Taking careful aim, Tara let a jet of thick soapy water shoot out over Lucinda’s wrists and especially over the leather straps as they held them to the ring.
“tr t gt fr nw” Tara muffled as she emptied the bottle onto Lucinda’s wrists. The soapy water ran down her bare arms and under her jacket, but at that point Lucinda didn’t care – the soapy water was allowing the leather to move more supply, giving her a chance to wriggle her wrists round and try to free them from the binding.
“fnly!” she grunted as she pulled her left wrist out from under the leather and let her arm drop to the floor. Shaking her arm to get some feeling back, as well as to try and get some water out from her jacket, Lucinda pushed herself onto her feet and untied her other wrist, before starting to unwrap the bandage that was preventing her from talking.
The sodden mass of cloth fell onto the floor with a thud as Lucinda moved her jaw around. “That never gets any easier to take,” she said as Tara turned round and nodded over her shoulder to get her friend to untie the rest of the ropes.
“Phwoarr,” Tara finally exclaimed as she threw the bandage that had been over her mouth on the floor. “We have got to stop getting into these situations – especially around horses!”
“Yeah,” Lucinda said as she picked her hat up, “the stink is terrible to get out of these clothes. You go and find the police – I need to let daddy know what’s happened!”
“Who was he anyway?”
“I have absolutely no idea – but he only got my cards – you’re down five hundred pounds!”
“Money, shmoney – we’re safe and that’s all that matters. Come on – your dad’s probably sent out search parties by now!”