“All right girls,” Bob said as the last transport was closed up and locked, “that’s all the horses ready to head to Cheltenham. Good job – complete the mucking out, and enjoy your night off.”
“Thanks boss,” Rosie said as the four stable girls broke out in smiles. Although they would have loved to go the festival, they knew as juniors they had to stay behind and watch the stables – but at least they were being given time off to go out for a meal together.
They were a close knit team - Rosie was the de facto head, having been there longest, while Sue, Kim and Lucy had all started at the same time.
“All right,” Rosie said as she picked up the pitchfork, “let’s get this done, then showered, and we meet up in the common room.”
The other three nodded as they got to work, the horse transports rumbling off into the distance...
Lucy came into the common room, smiling as she sat herself down in one of the armchairs. She had her hair pulled back in a small bun, and was wearing a grey flecked jumper with a gold chain hanging over it, black jeans and a pair of black Ugg boots on her feet.
“I have been looking forward to this all week,” Kim said as she joined her friend. Hailing from Hong Kong, where her father owned a stable, she was working here to learn the trade from the bottom up. She wore a grey sweatshirt with black leggings, the bottom half of which were tucked into dark grey socks and then baggy black leather boots.
“Tell me about it,” Lucy said as Kim sat down, her long brown hair falling over her shoulders.
“Know what’s funny – we wear jodhpurs and riding boots all day, and how are we dressed now?”
“Force of habit I guess – look at Sue.”
“What about me,” Sue said as she came into the room, her chestnut brown hair falling freely over her black roll neck sweater. She also had on black leggings, but in her case the legs were tucked into a pair of black Hunter style boots, coming up to her knees.
“Nothing,” Kim said as she tried not to laugh, while Rosie came in, pulling the sleeves of her brown Fair Isle sweater over her checked blouse. Like the others, she was wearing dark jeans, the legs tucked into a pair of knee length black leather boots, hers with straps around the ankles and the top.
“Oh good grief – we really do think alike,” she said as she sat down. “Well, which of us is going to be the...”
She stopped talking as she noticed a pair of headlights shining through the window, stopping in the yard as the bright light shone on all of them.
“Who the hell’s this idiot,” Kim said as she stood up and walked to the door – only to walk slowly backwards as three men appeared, wearing scarves over their heads and dark glasses over their eyes. One of them was carrying a large canvas bag, while the other two were carrying handguns – one of which was pointing at Kim.
“Damn,” the mad with the bag said “looks like we have to keep these fillies out of the way while we get on with our work. Now, you’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?”
“Who the hell are you,” Rosie said as she stood up.
“Neon of your business, little girl,” one of the men with a gun said as he started to walk over, before the man with the bag said “no – don’t. So long as your four do as you’re told, we’ll all get along just fine.”
“And what do you want us to do?”
“Right now,” the man said as he looked at Sue, “Sit down, shut up and put your hands on your heads. Understand?”
All four girls nodded as they sat down, putting their hands on their heads while the masked man put the gag down.
“Right – you,” he said as he pointed to Rosie, “pair up with her,” he continued as he pointed at Kim, “and the other two pair up as well.”
Opening the bag and taking out several lengths of rope, the man said “because we need to make sure you four stay in here, that’s why – so, you two take a length of rope, and the other two put your hands slowly behind your back.”
“And if we refuse?”
“Please,” the masked man said, “for your own safety and health – don’t.”
“All right,” Rosie said as she took the rope, and started to bind Kim’s wrists together behind her back, while Sue crossed and tied Lucy’s wrists together.
“Make sure you make it really tight – you don’t want us to re-do it, do you?”
“It’s all right,” Kim whispered as she looked over her shoulder, “do it properly. I’d rather we were inconvenienced than physically harmed.”
Rosie nodded as she knotted the ropes off, and then looked at the masked man.
“Good – you two girls sit on the floor back to back, and then your friends will make sure your ankles and legs are secured.”
Kim and Lucy slowly stood up and walked to an open area on the floor, then slowly sat themselves down so that their backs were against each other. Kim reached with her fingers and took Lucy’s hand, saying “it’s all right” as she heard her friend starting to cry.
Rosie and Sue knelt at their feet and took the rope handed to them, before they moved their legs together and started to bind their ankles. The white rope sank into the black fabric of Lucy’s boots as Sue wrapped it around and between her legs, while Kim’s boots squeaked as the rope rubbed against them.
As she tied the rope off, Rosie looked up and said “All right so far?”
“I have known worse,” Kim said as she tried to move her legs, “someone once robbed our home in Kowloon, and all of us were tied and gagged in our nightwear – very tightly. At least this time I am not wearing a pair of shorts and a vest top...”
“Enough talking,” the masked man said as Sue and Rosie were handed two more lengths of rope, “secure their legs together below their knees.”
“Ow,” Lucy said softly as Sue tied her legs together, “does it have to be so tight?”
“Do you want them to do this to you?”
Lucy looked up at the three men and shook her head as the man said “Very well done – your turn now,” he said as he looked at Sue. “Kneel down and put your hands behind your back.”
Rosie watched as one of the other two men put his gun down, and took a coil of rope from the bag, wrapping it around the stomachs of Kim and Lucy and pulling them together as he yanked the rope tight, then continued to wrap it round both of them, going above and below their chests.
She then knelt behind Sue as she crossed her friend’s wrists behind her back, and started to tie them together. As she did so, she finally noticed the light had gone off, and asked “who else was in the car?”
“My friends – they’re probably talking to the owner’s wife now,” the masked man said as Rosie tied the rope off, and took the second length she was offered. “Now tie her arms together at her elbows.”
“Do it,” the third man growled as he aimed his gun at Rosie, while Kim and Lucy tried to calm themselves, the ropes rubbing on them as their binder passed more between their backs to further tighten the bonds.
“Just do it,” Sue whispered, breathing slowly as she felt her elbows coming together, and her chest forced out.
“Good,” the man said as Rosie tied the ropes off, “now lay her on the floor, and bind her ankles and legs.”
“Are you going to be all right,” Rosie whispered as she helped Sue lie down, and then tied her ankles tightly together, the boots making more squeaking noises as they were forced together.
“I’ll have to be,” Sue said quietly as she felt her ankles and legs forced together, and looked to her side.
“Now you put your hands behind your back,” the masked man said, and Rosie felt the cords pulling and rubbing on her own wrists as they were forced together, and she heard one of the men say “open wide.”
Turning her head, she watched as cloths were pushed into the mouths of both Kim and Lucy, before rolled up headscarves made of white silk were pulled between their lips, holding the cloths in as they were tied round their heads and forcing their hair to be stuck under them.
“Lie down, your head at her feet,” the man said, and as Rosie lay down she felt her ankles been secured together, and then her legs below her knees, before her legs were bent and her ankles pulled back.
“What are you doing,” she said as she felt more rope tied between her ankles, and then gasped as she saw the rope being tied between Sue’s arms. She then felt Sue’s ankles been tied to her elbows, before her head was pulled back and she saw a folded cloth in the gloved hand in front of her.
“Open up,” the man said, Rosie nodding as she felt the cloth on her tongue, and then the silk in her mouth as a rolled up headscarf was pulled between her lips, her teeth biting down on it as she felt the band press against her head, and the knot at the base of her neck.
“All right,” he said as she heard Sue grunt, “You two search the building. I’ll keep an eye on them.”
Rosie turned her head and looked at Kim and Lucy, the two sitting with their heads down as the ropes held them together.
Kim opened her eyes and looked over as Rosie said “Ruttwwllrrtrt?”
“Fnkss,” she said as she squeezed her friend’s hand, feeling Lucy squeeze her hand back and then nodding to Rosie.
She then looked round the room, trying to keep herself calm as she took stock of what was happening. They had come to rob the stables, that much was obvious – and just as obviously, they thought the four of them would not be there. They had been held up because Kim had a phone call from home, and Lucy had to call her parents – if they had left when they intended to do, then the place would have been empty, except for the owner’s family...
She wondered what was happening at the big house – she liked his wife, and hoped she was all right, although she suspected she too was bound and gagged by now as well.
“They’re finished – let’s get out of here.”
The three men walked out as quickly as they had arrived, leaving the four girls struggling on the floor, the only sound their grunts and then the squeak of tyres as the vehicle left – followed by the squeak of leather as the boots of three of them rubbed against each other.
After a while, Rosie let her head fall to the floor and then looked at Kim.
She looked up and out of the window and into the darkened yard, before looking back at Kim and nodding her head.
“Gddd,” she said as she brought her arms round, reaching up and pulling the scarf from her mouth before she spat the cloth out, “because I was really getting fed up with that stopping me talking.”
“Hmm – oh that,” Kim said as Lucy brought her own hands out from behind her back and removed the gag from her mouth, “I was taught how to do that at boarding school. Like I said, I’ve been in this situation before.”
“Nudddntdnfngntllnw,” Sue said as she looked over.
“We couldn’t – not as long as those guys were here,” Lucy said, “now don’t move.”
Rosie and Sue watched as the other two girls started to push themselves over, moving sideways and using their feet to propel themselves in that direction until they were alongside Rosie, then moving along until Kim could reach the knots at Rosie’s elbows.
“Now, I’m going to release Sue’s legs, and then untie your arms,” Rosie said as she started to get to work on the ropes. “Once I’ve done that, you’ll need to try and move so that you can untie your ankles from Sue, got it?”
Rosie nodded as Kim unfastened the first knot, Sue sighing as her legs fell down and Lucy started to untie her friend’s ankles, while Kim released Rosie’s arms. After a while, Rosie sighed as her arms were released, and she carefully rolled over, sitting herself up and bending her legs so that she could release her ankles from the rope holding them to Sue’s arms.
Sue nodded as she watched Rosie untying her own legs, then kneeling and untying Sue as the other two watched. Hugging each other, they then untied and removed the scarves from their own mouths, Rosie noticing the dark stain where the scarf had sat in her mouth, and pulled out the now soaking cloths.
“Any chance we can get free now,” Kim said as they hugged again.
“Sorry – sheer relief,” Sue said as she worked on the ropes holding the two girls together, while Rosie untied their legs.
Eventually, all four stood up and hugged each other.
“Kim, can you call the police please? Lucy, any sign of life at the main house?”
“There’s a light in an upstairs bedroom, but nothing else.”
“Okay – I’m going over to see what’s happened over there. If I don’t call here in ten minutes, lock the doors and wait for the police to come.”
“Got it,” Sue said as Kim found her mobile phone, and dialled 999, saying “Police please – we need to report a robbery...”