As the early June sun shone down on the leafy suburbs of Wimbledon, all the talk was of the upcoming tournament, and especially what role the reclusive Walker sisters, Vanessa and Sharon, would play in the proceedings. They were the undisputed queens of the circuit – rising from the less salubrious areas of Chicago to dominate ladies tennis with their powerful play and unusual choice of game attire.
Vanessa was the oldest at twenty four, and had a flair for the dramatic, having just won the French Open in an outfit that looked as if she had just stepped off the set of the latest Roman television epic, while Sharon at twenty two was the current Australian champion. Her dress was more conventional, although the one piece bodysuit she had worn in Melbourne had raised a few eyebrows. Although the dress code of Wimbledon may curtail their more colourful efforts, people wanted to know what they would wear.
The other reason for their fame was the fact they refused to play too many tournaments on the circuit, saving their game play for the big prize money events. In one sense, nobody could blame them for that, as their talent ensured they had a sizable fortune. On the other hand, it caused certain resentment amongst the other players.
In fact, the real cause of the resentment was the fact that when they did both decide to allow their presence at a tournament, they usually were the finalists, and the rivalry between the two was a joy to behold for the spectators – if not for them. They were sisters, after all, and as such they wanted to beat each other – or stop the other winning by any means necessary
Not that that mattered as they lay back on the sun loungers in the back garden of the house they had both rented for the tournament. Sharon replaced her glass on the table between the two of them and looked over at her sister.
“So,” she said, “What are you planning to wear for the opening game tomorrow?”
Vanessa smiled, and said “I think I’ll go for the tiered skirt this time and the v-necked top. Retro, yet chic.”
“Nice choice,” Sharon said as she lay back and closed her eyes, “it’s just a pity the all white code stops you wearing the Xena number.”
“Oh, I have a version of that ready for the later rounds,” Vanessa replied. “What about you anyway – did you get permission for the leggings?”
“Athletic supports for my legs, if you please,” Sharon laughed. “At any rate, we have a couple more days before we start the games. Where do you fancy going for dinner tonight?”
“How about Bellanos?”
“Sounds good,” Sharon said as she stretched and sat up. “I’ll go and call for reservations. Eight o’clock sound good?”
“Hm-hm” Vanessa said as she let the sun shine down upon her. As Sharon reached the back door of the house, she turned and waved at her before she went into the kitchen, then closed her eyes and relaxed – everything in her preparations was going to plan.
Sharon made her way towards the telephone, pausing to look at the front room as she picked up the handset. Before she had a chance to dial a number, however, she let out a muffled scream as a damp cloth was firmly placed over her nose and mouth, her eyes widening before they slowly closed as she slumped to the floor.
Opening her eyes, Vanessa glanced at her watch. “An hour? That should be enough time – and I could do with a drink” she said to herself as she stood up and stretched her arms. “Then perhaps a bath” was her next thought as she noticed the empty lounger next to her. Shaking her head, she walked back into the kitchen and started to make her shake.
As she went to switch on the blender, it was the creak in the floorboards that caused her to pause and turn round. “Sharon?” she called out as she walked down the corridor, but the sight of her sister lying unconscious on the floor made her stop short. She walked over, noticing the ropes around her wrists and ankles, but before she had a chance to do anything the damp cloth was clamped over her own mouth and she started to breath in the sweet smelling fumes. She struggled to break free, but it was only a matter of time before she dropped to the floor unconscious.
“Did you get the outfits that were asked for,” the man said as his partner came down the staircase. “In this bag,” he said holding up a small valise. “Ready?”
“In a minute,” the first man said as he replaced the cloth in a clear plastic bag, knelt beside Vanessa and rolled her onto her stomach, crossing her wrists as he pulled a length of cord from his pocket.
Sharon slowly opened her eyes, shaking her head to try and dispel the woollen feeling that permeated her mind and her mouth. She felt stiff, and there was a damp patch where she was sitting, but for some reason she was unable to move her hands down to find out why she was so damp on her bottom. As she looked up, the reason became abundantly clear to her as she tried to call out for help.
Her arms had been pulled above her head and tied together at the wrists, before a length of rope had been used to secure them to a ring hanging from the wall she was sitting against. As she tried to separate her wrists, she felt with her tongue the cotton scarf that had been pulled between her lips and filled her mouth, and the realisation that she had been kidnapped made her try to call out all the more. The only reaction to that was a moaning from the other side of the dim room, and as Sharon tried to figure out what had happened she looked down her legs.
She was sat on a concrete floor, with pools of water beside her, which at least explained her wet patch. Her ankles were tied securely together, as were her legs above and below her knees, with thick white rope that contrasted with the dark blue tracksuit trousers that someone had put on her. The moaning she heard now became more distinct, as if someone was calling out.
“hlp m.... HLP M!!”
As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Sharon could see with a growing sense of horror an old iron bed with a dirty mattress, on the top of which lay Vanessa. She was bound spread-eagled to the bed, a cotton scarf pulled into her mouth as well, as she tried to call out for someone to rescue her.
“Vns?” Sharon called out, and her sister stopped struggling, turning her head in the direction of the sound. “Shrn? O gd, whts hppnd?” “I dnt kn, bt clm dwn – wr alv,” Sharon mumbled as they both heard a key turning and a rectangle of light appeared in the wall.
“They’re awake,” a male voice said as his silhouette appeared in the doorway. “Go and fetch some water while I talk to them.” He walked into the room, and Sharon saw her captor for the first time – what she could see anyway, as his dark clothing made it difficult. He must have been about six foot tall, with blue eyes and a thin, dangerous looking mouth visible in the balaclava that covered his face. Looking down at Sharon, he checked the ropes around her wrists before walking over and examining Vanessa.
“My colleague is going to bring you some water,” he said as he walked back into the centre of the room. “When he does, I will release you for a little while and remove your gags. When I do, say and do nothing unless I ask you first. You are our hostages, and you must remember that if you are going to get through this ordeal.”
As a second man brought in a tray with water bottles on it, the first one said “Nod if you agree, otherwise the gags stay in.” Sharon slowly nodded her head, looking over at Vanessa who also agreed. As he placed the tray on the floor, the second man drew a pistol from his pocket and stood in the doorway as Sharon’s wrists were released from the ring.
“The ropes stay around your legs,” the man said as he removed the rope from Sharon’s wrists, allowing it to drop to the floor as he reached behind her and removed the gag. As the sodden cloth hit the floor with a splat, Sharon croaked “Thank you,” as she rubbed her wrists and arms to get some feeling back in them. She watched as the man walked over to Vanessa, leaning over and whispering in her ear as he freed her wrists from the headboard and helped her to sit up before he removed her gag.
“You may call me A,” the man said as he nodded to this partner, “and the man giving you the water is B. Behave yourselves, and this will not be too unpleasant an experience. Fight us, and you will regret it. You may speak when you have had a drink – I am sure you must have questions.”
Sharon accepted the bottle of clear water, and took a drink before asking “Why?”
“Why here or why you? In any case, the answer is the same – a large ransom and the personal pleasure we derive from having you as our guests.”
Vanessa took a large gulp of water before rubbing her mouth and saying “You know you won’t get away with this – there is no way our family will pay a ransom.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” A said as she walked over and sat by Vanessa, stroking her hair with his gloved hand. “I think they will if it means you get to play at the All England, and not end up at your own private funeral. Take your time with that water – it will be a while before we come in again.”
The two sisters looked at each other, wondering what he meant by that. “Why don’t you help Sharon over here,” A said, as B helped the younger sister to stand up and hop over to the bedstead, sitting her down next to Vanessa.
“Now, I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about, but first we need to make you a little more secure. B?”
Sharon watched as the other man took a length of rope and started to tie her wrist together in front of her, wrapping the rope around and between them so that it was as if she had a pair of handcuffs on. He then took the rope and passed it around Vanessa’s wrists, allowing about a foot between the wrists of the two girls. Finally, he took a second length and passed it between Sharon’s ankles, before securing it to the head board.
“So, ladies, feel free to talk – nobody will hear you where you are, and to be honest we don’t want you hurting yourselves. We’ll talk later once we hear from your family.”
The two men walked out of the room, slamming the door behind them and locking it. Vanessa looked at Sharon and said “Another fine mess you’ve got me into, sis.”
“Me? They knocked me out the moment I walked back into the house. There was no way I could warn you, was there?”
“Guess not – so, we’ve been kidnapped.
“Again – is this an occupational hazard, do you think?”
“Guess it comes with the fame – but maybe if we get through this you’ll listen to me about some security protection? Hmm?”
“All right, all right. How are your wrists?”
“Sore – at least the pins and needles have stopped. At least this time they put some clothes on us as well. Remember last time?”
“I’ll never forget – kidnapped on the hottest day of the summer, and wearing nothing but a short nightie! At least these tracksuits keep us warm – they’re not ours, are they?”
Sharon looked at the clothes she and her sister were wearing. “Nope – and we can’t move too far, not the way we’ve been tied together, so no chance of us freeing each other. What are we going to do?”
“Hey, at least we can talk to each other this time – the way that medical tape made us silent last time was the worst of all. If we’re going to be here for a while, let’s talk strategy for the competition.”
“Do you think we’ll make the start?”
“I don’t know – let’s hope whatever they ask for can be found quickly...”
How much time passed, neither girl was sure – when there is very little light, you cannot tell. However long it was, the first thing Vanessa knew was when she heard the door open and woke up, noting that Sharon had her head on her stomach where they both had dropped off. She blinked as she sat herself up and saw A and B standing there, a tray in B’s hands.
“You might like to know that your family is arranging your ransom,” A said as Sharon groggily sat up. “In the meantime, here’s some fruit. You need to keep your strength up.” B placed the tray on the bed as both girls reached for the sliced apple and orange.
“How much longer?” Vanessa asked as she placed a slice in her mouth.
“Soon, soon,” A said with a smile, “It takes a while to get two million dollars together after all.”
“Two million?” Sharon said as she looked at her sister. “I’m impressed.”
“Well, we’re not greedy, are we? Anyway, enjoy the fruit, and we will be back when it is time to let you go home.”
The two sisters looked at each other as the men left, closing the door behind them.
When the door was opened again, the two girls could see both men carrying a table in, before leaving and coming back with two steaming bowls and towels.
“Good news ladies,” A said as he put the bowl on the table. “It will soon be time for you to go home, so take a moment to clean up. B?”
The young man left the room as A released both girls from their bonds. As they rubbed their wrist and ankles, B came back in with a bag which he placed on the bed.
“We took the liberty of bringing some clothes from home for you,” A said as the girls stood up. “Clean yourselves up and get changed, and we’ll take it from there.”
“What do you think he meant by that?” Sharon said as Vanessa stood up and opened the bag, laughing as she pulled an outfit out.
“Who knows,” she said as she held it up for Sharon to see. “Maybe they like our dress sense. Let’s get cleaned up.”
An hour passed before A and B came back into the room, B holding two bottles of water while A had a shotgun in his hands. They stopped and looked at Vanessa and Sharon standing there, in the outfits they had been given.
Vanessa looked like a warrior princess, in a brown tennis dress with faux studding that made it look like a leather tunic, and a belt around the middle. Over her lower arms were supports made to look like wrist guards, and her tennis shoes had buckled shin pads at the front of her legs.
As for Sharon, she was wearing a white sleeveless v-neck top with a tiered tennis skirt and white leggings that came to just below her knees, and tennis shoes on her feet. She had a white band in her long brown hair, while Vanessa had a tiara holding back her permed locks.
“I must admit, the style for tennis outfits these days has changed,” A said as he looked at the two girls holding each other, “I think the All England Tennis Club need to rethink their rules. So, I think you two need a drink. B, give them the bottles.”
“I don’t want a drink,” Vanessa said as B handed her and Sharon a bottle each.
“I do not recall giving you a choice,” A said as he pointed the gun at them. “Drink.”
Looking at each other, Vanessa said “Cheers” as she opened the bottle and took a drink of the sweet water. As she watched Sharon lift the bottle to her lips, her eyes quickly closed as she fell to the floor, B catching her as the bottle fell to the floor.
“You bastards,” Sharon said as she looked at the two men. “You were only meant to take her and leave me with the ransom note. Why the hell did you take both of us?”
A smiled as he pointed the gun at Sharon. “If you want the honest truth, Sharon,” B replied, “We got a better offer. Now be a good girl and drink your water – after all, you don’t want your sister to know you tried to nobble her chances, do you?”
Looking at the two men, grins fixed to their faces, Sharon realised that she too had been tricked, and slowly raised the bottle to her lips. As she drank, she glared at the two captors before slumping into A’s arms.
Vanessa slowly opened her eyes, groggily wondering what had happened this time as she focused and realised that she was in a changing room somewhere. Her arms were stiff by her side, but when she tried to move them she realised that they had been tied to something – and by what she could feel with her fingers, that something was another arm.
She tried to lower her head, but something was holding it firmly in place, but she could see that there were ropes around her ankles and legs in front of her, holding her down to a bench. The white bands were clearly visible over the brown leather that covered the front of her lower legs. She also knew, by the way her tongue was held against the floor of her mouth, that something had been stuffed in there and then her mouth covered with something. Whatever that something was held her head firmly in place against something that was both hard and yet felt soft.
Curious, she tried to look around with her eyes for a clue as to what it was, and eventually she saw a mirror some distance in front of her. Vanessa took several moments to allow her head to clear, blinking as her eyes came back into sharp focus, but when she saw her reflection her eyes widened.
She was tied around her waist and chest to someone else, and whoever it was her arms were tied to her with rope at the wrist and ankles. Slowly, it dawned on Vanessa who that someone was as she looked at the bandage that was wrapped around her mouth and jaw, pinning her head against the other person with her long brown hair and the glimpse of white leggings as she moved slightly.
“Shrn?” Vanessa mumbled, and as the other person groaned the door to the changing room opened, with two mature ladies making their way in with their tennis bags slung over their shoulders.
“Ready for our game,” one said as she rounded the corner and stopped dead in her tracks. “What the fuck...” was the expression that escaped her lips as she saw Vanessa and Sharon tied to the bench, frantically calling for help. As the two women ran screaming out f the room, Vanessa let out a low groan. She had been had good and proper – they were only meant to take Sharon, but when A had first released her he had told her of what really happened, and what would happen if she ever let the truth get out. As two security guards came in, she vowed to herself never to let her sister know what she had planned to ruin her tournament,