8 pm BST
This was not the way Bobbi had imagined her birthday was going to go. She had envisaged going for a bite to eat with Erica and Jan, and then a nightclub.
Instead, shew as watching as a woman draped an incredibly long length of rope over Erica’s shoulders as she looked at her, the fear and worry clear in her eyes. The woman – and her two friends – were identically dressed in head to toe grey catsuits, with grey gloves on their hands and grey ankle boots – all grey.
Save for the masks over their faces – white, featureless, with only tiny slits for eyeholes. She had opened the door to them – and they had made their way in, saying nothing as one of them pointed a gun at her, and then forced her back into the main room, and making her close the curtains.
The words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” were spelt out with letters connected by a length of rope – and as Bobbi watched, the masked woman began to wind the grey rope down Erica’s arms, making two spirals as she pulled her arms behind her back, and secured them together. Her friend was wearing a black lace mini dress with long sleeves, long black socks that came over her knees, and gold heels.
But at that moment in time, the masked intruder was wrapping the ropes around her arms and body, stretching the black lace as her black bra was more visible under the stretched fabric.
“Who the hell are they,” Jan whispered to Bobbi as she stood next to her, the third of the women draping the rope over her shoulders. As Bobbi looked over, she saw the small loop of rope in the center of the rope, situated carefully at the base of her friend’s neck as with frightening speed the masked woman wound the rope down her arms, pulling them behind her back and securing them firmly together before they fed the rope through the loop and pulled her bound forearms up her back.
“They’re called the China Doll Gang,” Bobbi whispered, “and they never speak.”
“Spooks the hell out of me,” Jan said as the Doll started to bind her arms to her sides, and Bobbi felt the rope as it was draped over her arms as well. Jan was wearing a black scoop necked top with elbow length sleeves, a two tiered skirt with black lace over white, and black tights with suede heels. At the time, however, she could only watch as Erica was ordered to sit on the floor by the third Doll, her head to the side as she motioned with her hand.
She gasped as her arms were secured, as she felt them pulled up behind her back, and then the ropes pressing on her arms and chest as they were secured with the remaining lengths of rope. The bands pressed on her grey striped dress, but ten minutes after starting, her upper body was so tightly secured, she could only walk over and sit between her two friends, her legs stretched out as the long black fabric boots came up over her knees.
The Dolls looked at them, before all three took a further length of rough brown rope, and knelt by each of the girls, doubling the rope over and feeding it under their legs before they pulled them together below each girls’ knees. The women worked silently, and then pulled the rope down, separating the lengths and using them to secure the ankles of each girl in what was effectively rope cuffs.
“What do you want anyway,” Bobbi said, but the women remained silent, motioning with their hands instead for the three girls to move down and lie on their backs. They looked at each other before they were rolled onto their stomachs, their ankles pulled back and then secured to their chest ropes with short ropes.
“Oh fuck,” Erica said as she twisted round – and then mumbled as a knotted bandana was pulled into her mouth and tied tightly round her head. She watched as the other two were also gagged with rolled up and knotted bandanas, before one of the dolls stood and watched them, her head to one side as the other two left.
Bobbi could hear them moving round upstairs, searching for what she assumed were valuables, before they appeared again, and then stepped slowly backwards out of the house. As they heard the door close, Bobbi started to struggle, trying to get herself free…
“Well, that went well,” the lead Doll said as they sat in the non-descript grey panel van, removing her mask and pull her hood down before she drove off.
“Yeah – so, why does Penny want to see you tomorrow?”
“No idea – I’ll find out when I get there…
West Ealing Police Station
Jennifer Wayne turned and looked at the blonde haired woman standing by the reception desk. She was smartly dressed, in a grey pinstripe jacket and knee length skirt, a lilac blouse under the jacket, dark hose and grey Italian leather shoes.
“I’m DCI Wayne – Miss Harmond?”
“That’s right,” Lily said with a smile. “I had a message that you wished to talk to me?”
“Indeed – let’s go into my office,” Jennifer said as she indicated to Lily to follow her. Her team watched as she opened the door, Lily going in and waiting as Jennifer closed the door and sat down.
“So,” she said as she looked at Lily, “thank you for dropping in. I was sorry I missed you at Xavier International earlier this week.”
“I was on holiday,” Lily said, “as you may have read in the papers, one of my colleagues is getting married, and I had to have some time off before we start on the arrangements.”
“I did read something about it,” Jennifer said, “and I am glad you are a success. However, I wanted to talk to you about your uncle.”
“Uncle George? I haven’t heard from him in years. Why – has he been seen in this country?”
“No – but there was an incident at a store in Ealing this week, which was a known haunt of your uncle. We wanted to know if you have had any contact with him?”
“Nope – last I heard was when he escaped to the continent,” Lily said, “but if I did hear from him, I would be sure to let the authorities know.”
Nodding, Jennifer said “well…”
The door opened as Jack Grayson came in. “Sorry to interrupt, Jennifer, but… It’s Lilian Harmond, right? I saw you in the social pages a few weeks ago.”
“Indeed – I was at the film premiere recently. Miss Wayne, I wish I could be of more help, but…”
“I understand – thank you Miss Harmond,” Jennifer said as they shook hands, and she walked out. “She’s done well,” Grayson said as he closed the door.
“Yeah – what can I do for you Sir?”
“Let me look at the records – something came to mind last night…”
“Hello – I have an appointment with Penelope Harker?”
The receptionist looked at the blonde, wearing a black suede pinafore dress over a white jumper, and said “Name please?”
“Kay Winters,” she said as she looked round, and handed over her driving license. The receptionist looked at it, and then picked up the telephone.
“Angela? Miss Winters is here for the meeting.” Handing back the license, she said “please, take a seat. Someone will come to collect you.”
“Thank you,” she said as she sat down, and then saw a smartly dressed brunette walk from the lifts.
“Miss Winters? Will you follow me please?”
“Of course,” she said as she was taken to the lift, going to the sixth floor before she was escorted to a meeting room. As she walked in, she smiled at the two men sitting there.
“John, David – another meeting of the minds?”
“Oh yes,” John Jacobs said with a smile as he poured a coffee, and handed it to her. “I heard you were busy in Reading yesterday?”
“I heard David was in Manchester,” Kay said as she sat down, “so why are we here? Especially here? I thought Miss Xavier did not mix business with business.”
“As a rule, she doesn’t,” John said, “but this is different. We’re going to talk to an old friend.”
“Oh – who?”
“Hello,” Penny said as she came in. “Grab a seat – and thanks to all three of you for coming in. We have a problem that needs to be dealt with.”
“Okay,” David said as he sat down, “but why us?”
“I’ll let George explain,” Penny said as she logged into her laptop, and then activated the screen.
“George – nice to see you.”
“You too John,” the bearded face of George Simpson said as he appeared. “Mister Small – and a Doll. Good – have you told them anything yet Penny?”
“Not yet – Dom?”
“Chasing something at this end – folks, you may have heard of a robbery in Ealing this week?”
“In passing,” David said, “what about it?”
“They discovered something that needed to be kept hidden – John, remember the
Bond Street Safety Deposit raid?”
“The di Costa family were held hostage – by you, if I remember correctly,” John said, “what about it? That was jewellery and bonds…”
“And one file,” George said, “a very private file, that we agreed to keep hidden once we relied what was in it. But the location of the file was recorded in a notebook – and that notebook was stolen in the raid this week.”
“What on earth was in that file,” Kay said.
“The true location of Lord Lucan.”
The three people looked at each other, as David said “You’re kidding?”
“On that yes – but it’s at that level. So listen carefully – we’re going to need your help…”