Sara Gets Dolled Up
“Remind me what we’re doing here again?”
Rachel gave me her trademarked ‘stop-being-so-damn-irritating’ glare, that she always used when we were having an argument. “Danielle’s dad is owner of an international publishing company. Making friends with his daughter could give us the opportunity to have our book published!”
“Your book, you mean,” I added, exasperated by my best friends obsession with telling the stories of our many adventures to the entire universe. My eyes flickered over to our host. It was her eighteenth birthday, and she had invited us to a pre-drinking session at her house, before venturing into Carrington for a night out. I watched Danielle, a petite auburn haired girl with freckles covering her face and shoulders; take a hearty swig of her rum and coke before returning to shrieking along to a pop song playing through her MP3 speakers.
Grimacing as her voice assaulted my ears, I said, “She might have rich parents, but that doesn’t stop her being an irritating little...”
“Oh lighten up Sara!” Rachel hissed. “You can ignore her once we get into town. Besides she’s not that bad...”
“Hey Nancy Drew. You won’t find anything worth snooping for over there,” said Danielle before giggling madly.
Resisting the urge to respond with something a little choicer, I replied, “Don’t worry, I was just admiring your tunnel that leads to smugglers cover. Maybe one day you, me and the Hardy Boys can investigate it?”
The two extremely alcoholic drinks she had already consumed meant she barely registered my intense sarcasm. “Oh you are a riot Sara. You must be real fun when out on the lash!”
To be honest I wasn’t that much of a party animal; neither was I a big drinker. Throughout school I’d always been a bit nerdy and was rarely invited to parties. In the months following the beginning of my detective career my number of invites had increased dramatically. Amazing what being repeatedly kidnapped by criminal masterminds will do for your social life.
My clothing reflected my apathy. I wore a pair of tight fitting jeans and a red camisole top. To give the impression I had bothered, I wore a pair of red pumps with cork wedge high heels. Rachel was the real party girl between us. My raven haired friend wore a trendy outfit consisting of a white top, dark jacket, jean mini-shorts over sheer black tights and black flat pumps. Birthday girl Danielle had suitably glammed up, wearing a red spaghetti strap dress with a rather short hem and black pumps with a very tall heel on her bare feet.
There were three other guests present. Danielle’s partner in crime Annabel was sat beside her. Her bleach blonde hair was cut very short save for her sweeping fringe, and she wore a blue party dress with matching heels. Sitting in the corner quietly was Kavita, a shy girl of Indian descent. Like me her outfit was very conservative, consisting of a loose grey top, blue jeans and brown, knee-high leather boots, and her long black hair was held in a wavy ponytail. Eleanor was the final guest. She was a tall, athletic and healthily tanned brunette wearing a short jean skirt, black long sleeved top, colourless tights and grey, high heeled ankle boots.
I’d also noticed that, throughout the evening, Eleanor had barely taken her eyes off of me.
Giving a sigh, I looked out the window as a van drove along the avenue on which Danielle’s three floored Victorian house was situated. It slowed to a halt, parking on the grass verge by her garden. As I listened to Danielle’s and Annabel’s piercing shrieks I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be one long night.’
Boy, how much of a premonition did that turn out to be.
“When are we going into town?” asked Kavita, the bored look on her face indicating she and I were having similar thoughts.
“In an hour,” replied Danielle. “Though as I’ve got the house to myself there’s no rush.”
“Where are your parents again?” Annabel asked.
“Mummy is staying with gran until tomorrow afternoon, and daddies in London trying to secure the publication of some bloke’s autobiography.”
“Isn’t that the autobiography of the ex-MI6 spy that’s been in the news recently?” Rachel enquired, trying to muscle in on the conversation.
“You mean the one the army, half the government and about a hundred leading business leaders have been trying to get a super-injunction for?” I asked. It was massive news. The press were reporting that, if published, it would end the careers of some of the most powerful men in the country.
“Daddy doesn’t bore me with the details,” Danielle replied in a tone of blissful ignorance that made me dislike her even more.
Finishing her glass of wine with an enthusiastic gulp, Annabel asked, “Got anymore of this stuff?”
“Loads, daddy said to help ourselves.” Danielle stood up, wobbled on her heels from the effects of the alcohol, before walking through the far door to grab another bottle from the kitchen.
I resumed staring out the window and saw the van was still there. It struck me as odd that such a vehicle would park in a rich neighbourhood at half ten on a Saturday night. As I peeped through the curtains I saw the back door opening. If I’d only looked for longer I might have been warned as to what would happen within the next five minutes. Instead I was distracted by Eleanor coming over for a chat.
“Nice work with that corrupt accountant,” she said.
“Er, yeah thanks,” I replied. It hadn’t been one of my most exciting cases so I won’t bore you with the details. I’ll just say that if you’re going to kidnap me, then don’t tie me up and then leave my phone in my pocket.
“It’s so amazing, everything you’ve done,” Eleanor continued. “How did you get into that sort of stuff?”
I shrugged. “To be honest, it’s all a lot of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I could never do what you and Rachel do,” said Kavita. “Dealing with all those criminals must be really scary.”
“Tell me about it,” huffed Rachel while glaring at me, still upset over our argument.
Eleanor took another sip of her drink, and then asked, “What’s it like, you know, being tied up?”
‘Oh boy. She’s one of those types,’ I thought, seeing the excited glint in her eye when she asked the question.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s boring, and sometimes it’s all of the above.”
“Yeah, but it must be quite exciting.”
I was about to dispute Eleanor’s statement until I began wondering if she had a point. In the heat of the moment I never gave it much thought, but I guess there had to be some reason I kept putting myself in situations where ropes and gags were inevitable.
“Come on Dan, I’m dying of thirst out here!” Annabel yelled; eyeing her glass as if hoping it would magically refill itself. Soon we heard the sound of her heels clicking off her tiled kitchen floor, before the door to the conjoined living and dining room swung open.
“Oh my God!” Eleanor yelled.
“What the hell?” exclaimed Annabel.
“Oh no,” gasped Rachel.
We watched as a second person accompanied Danielle out from the kitchen. Their gloved hand was clamped over her mouth, and they held a pistol in the other gloved hand, aiming it at us five.
This was nothing compared to the rest of the intruders attire. Judging by their figure it was clear it was a woman, but beyond that their identity was a mystery. Every inch of their body was covered by a grey catsuit, from the grey trainers on their feet to the grey hood pulled up tightly over her head and hair. We couldn’t see her face, as it was completely covered by an expressionless white mask. Her only other possession was a grey duffle bag slung over her right shoulder.
I recognised the outfit almost immediately, and realised pretty quickly after that how much trouble we were in.
Kavita lost her nerve, quickly running to the door leading into the entrance hall. It swung open violently before she got there, as in stepped two more women dressed identically to the first, carrying pistols and duffle bags of their own.
Kavita screamed and stepped back, rejoining the four of us as we huddled together by the fireplace. The intruders silently encircled us, as Danielle, “Mmph’d” frantically behind her gloved hand gag. The women were not physically imposing, but their appearance and perfectly choreographed movements were enough to shock us into submission. It still amazes me how theatrics can be a powerful tool in the villain’s arsenal.
“Who are you?” Eleanor breathed. “What do you want?”
The intruders tilted their heads to one side with frightening co-ordination, before the woman in the centre held her index finger to the lips of her mask, indicating we should stay silent.
“What’s going on?” Annabel asked quietly. “Why aren’t you saying anything?”
“Speaking isn’t really their style,” I explained. Seeing the confused looks on their faces I added, “You mean you don’t know who they are?”
They were the China Doll Gang, a band of three ladies who for years had conducted a campaign of home invasions across the country. They had never been caught and no-one had any idea of their true identities. This wasn’t only because of the extraordinary lengths they took to hide their appearance, but also because of their calling card. They had never been known to speak, ordering their victims about with gestures, implied movements and the threat of what would happen if they did not co-operate.
“Are they going to hurt us?” Kavita squeaked fearfully.
“As long as we do as we’re told we’ll be fine,” I said.
“And what exactly do they want us to do?” Eleanor asked.
The doll on our left grabbed two of the wooden high backed chairs positioned underneath the dining table, and pulled them in front of us. “I think they want us to take a seat,” I deduced.
“Can I just go one week without this happening to me?” Rachel sighed, knowing full well where this was going, as the doll dragged two more chairs and placed them besides the others.
The middle doll examined us in turn, deciding who to pick first. Eventually she stepped forward and grabbed Kavita by her forearm. The poor girl yelped as she was turned around and made to sit in the chair. She clasped the seat with her hands, staring at me desperately as if hoping I would wave a magic wand and make the bad people disappear. The doll then picked Annabel, forcing her into the seat to Kavita’s right. Her last choice was Rachel, who gave a resigned sigh as she sat down on the left chair.
The doll on the left dropped her duffle bag to the floor. Her pistol remained locked on our position as she unzipped it one handed. She produced three rolls of silver duct tape, one of which she tossed to Eleanor and another to me. The right hand doll gave Danielle a rough shove towards us, before the left hand doll threw her the third roll of tape.
“No please, don’t make us do this,” said Danielle when she realised what they wanted her to do.
“We’ll be good. Honestly, we won’t get in your way or anything!” Annabel exclaimed when she realised what was about to happen.
“Everyone listen!” I shouted, trying to stem the rising panic among the girls. “In all the stuff I’ve read about the China Doll Gang they’ve never hurt anyone who has co-operated with them. I know this is scary, believe me, I’ve been there. But if we get this over with then we’ll get out of this unharmed!”
As I finished my speech I saw the eyes of all three dolls were fixed on me. ‘Great, now they know I’m the strong willed one,’ I thought.
The middle doll began to rub her right wrist with her left hand, indicating where we should start. Reluctantly we moved behind our designated victim; Eleanor behind Annabel, myself behind Kavita, and Danielle behind Rachel. Deciding there was no point wasting more time, I pulled Kavita’s wrists behind the chair, crossed them over, before pulling the strand of tape loose. Making sure I stuck the strand over her sleeves, I began wrapping tape liberally around her wrists. Despite doing my best to make sure I didn’t cause her too much discomfort, I could still hear Kavita’s panicked breathing from where I knelt. The room was filled with coarse ripping sounds as the same process was carried out on Annabel and Rachel, securing their wrists behind the chairs.
After encasing Kavita’s wrists with eight turns of tape, I watched the middle doll lift up her leg and tap the sole of her trainers. I shuffled round and then began to wrap up Kavita’s booted ankles. I tried to be as lenient as possible on her, without wanting to give the dolls any need to readjust her bonds.
“You alright?” I asked her.
“How do you put yourself through this all the time?” was her timid response.
I smoothed the tape over, as the binding of Rachel and Annabel’s legs were likewise completed. The three girls were tied simply, yet effectively. Deep down though I had a feeling this was just the beginning.
My fears were confirmed when the right doll pulled out three sponge balls from her duffle bag. As she threw one each to Eleanor, Danielle and myself, the middle doll pointed to where her mouth would be had the mask not been there.
“No I can’t!” Danielle gasped in horror. “You can’t expect us to gag them as well!”
“We don’t have much choice,” I told her. I didn’t mean to sound so callous. Truth was I hated the thought as much as she did.
Rachel looked between us as we hesitated, before deciding to take a silver bullet. “I’ll go first. Not like I haven’t been gagged before.” I stared into her eyes as I realised what she was doing. If she went first the others would be more likely to follow suit, thus not suffering the gang’s displeasure.
When Danielle failed to move I decided to take matters into my own hands. “Never thought I’d be the one doing this to you,” I muttered as I knelt down in front of her.
“You’ve probably wanted to a couple times though, right?” Rachel joked grimly, before opening wide for me to stuff the sponge into her mouth. I made sure to not trigger her gag reflex, but the sponges were perfectly sized to prevent that from happening, while still filling her mouth.
Tearing off a strip of tape I said, “I’m really sorry Rach,” apologising as much for our earlier argument as for what I was doing to her.
“Sssss aallllrrrrmmm sssrrrrr,” she mumbled as I smoothed the tape over her lips. I applied another three strips, sealing the sponge inside.
Our little plan worked, and a somewhat reluctant Danielle and Eleanor performed the same practise on Annabel and Kavita, both of whom gave muffled squeaks as their mouths were stuffed, and moaned gently as their lips were taped over.
The left hand doll suddenly pulled Eleanor into the final chair, while the right hand doll grabbed Danielle’s arm, tugging her towards the door leading to the entrance hall and staircase. She barely resisted, instead she looked at us with a glazed look in her eyes, struggling to take it all in. As she was bustled through the door the middle doll pointed at Eleanor, indicating I now had to secure her.
“Still think this is exciting?” I asked, as I began to encase Eleanor’s wrists in tape.
“It’s certainly not as glamorous as I expected,” she replied, though not specifically answering my question. As I moved to tape her legs above her ankle boots she watched me work with a fascinated expression on her face. When it came to being gagged she opened a lot wider than Rachel had, and accepted the packing without so much as a whimper.
‘Blimey, Mr White would love you,’ I thought as I stuck multiple strips of tape over her lips.
Four down, one missing presumed bound, one to go. “My turn then? Or do you have enough common decency to tell me what this is all about first?” I asked the dolls, sounding as irritated as I felt.
The two remaining dolls looked at each other, then at me. Then the one who had been in the middle beckoned me over with her index finger. It was an order, not a request, and dropping the tape I moved over. She spun me around with her left hand on my left shoulder, before pushing me in the same direction Danielle had been taken.
“Bbbbb ccrrrrfffllll sssssrrr!” said Rachel as she watched me being led away. I looked back over my shoulder at her and the three other wriggling girls. I also caught sight of the remaining doll pulling multiple coils of grey rope from her duffle bag. I was then ushered out the room, and the door swung shut behind us.
My wedge heels echoed off the wooden staircase as I was escorted upstairs. The dolls grip on my bare shoulder was firm and I knew trying to break it would be very stupid. I hated having to comply with them, but there was no other realistic option I could take.
I was pushed into the master bedroom, and was greeted by the sight of a bound and gagged Danielle. Her hands had been tied together with grey rope, fixed over her head to the headboard of her parent’s double bed. She had lost her shoes, and she wriggled her toes as she strained against the ropes coiled around her ankles and fixed to beds underside. The packed tape gag she had been subjected to meant that her muffled statement came across as “nnnnnttt yyyynnnn ttttttmmm ssssrrrr.”
The doll gave me a rough shove forward, and I landed on the bed at Danielle’s feet. It was only after spinning around that I saw the other doll was also in the room. She had attached an external hard drive to a laptop placed on a dressing table, and was busy downloading file after file from the computer onto her device. As I watched thousands of file names flashing past on the screen, I realised this wasn’t some simple home invasion.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that I got a clear idea of what had transpired that night. A long way from Carrington the family of the MI6 operative trying to get his book published suffered a home invasion of their own, at the hands of a pair of very polite gentlemen by all accounts. The house was ransacked and family restrained, but in the aftermath it became clear that all the evidence he had accumulated had been taken. Not only that, the back-up files kept by his publicist, Danielle’s dad, were also taken in the invasion I was currently caught up in.
As a result the book was never published, and all the people that might have been implicated breathed a sigh of relief. How convenient for them all the evidence was stolen in two separate home invasions taking place on the same night? Though interestingly, the dolls next target was the daughter of a former foreign secretary and the occupants of her student house. It appeared someone had rather underestimated the gangs resolve.
I knew nothing of this at that moment in time. I simply watched as the download was completed, at which the doll slammed the laptop shut before throwing it into her now empty duffle bag. Then without a moment’s hesitation, she began rifling through the drawers of the dressing table, throwing into her bag every piece of jewellery she could find. I realised that, with the primary objective now completed, the dolls were now treating themselves.
Danielle cried out desperately through her gag as she watched all of mummy’s necklaces being stolen. The poor girl looked horrified. Feeling a surge of sympathy for the girl who only minutes ago had irritated me senseless, I said before I could stop myself, “Way to wreck my friend’s eighteenth birthday party ladies.”
The doll that had dragged me upstairs tilted her head to one side, continuing to stare at me intently. She then grabbed Danielle’s mobile, lying beside the bound girl on the bed, and activated its wireless internet. She browsed for a few seconds before handing the phone over to me. It displayed the website of the local newspaper, and the article from last week outlining my latest adventure. “You want an autograph or something?” I snapped.
Silently the doll snatched the phone out from my hands, and began typing into it at a very fast pace. When the phone was handed back to me she had typed a message, in block capitals, for me to read on the SMS messenger.
YOU ARE A BRAVE AND RESOURCEFUL YOUNG WOMAN, SARA PHILIPS. BUT THE CHINA DOLL GANG FEEL IT NECESSARY TO ISSUE YOU A WARNING. YOU ARE FORTUNATE IT WAS US WHO CAME TONIGHT. THERE ARE MANY OTHERS WHO DO NOT SHARE OUR STRICT CODE OF CONDUCT. HEED OUR WORDS, BEFORE YOU FALL VICTIM TO ONE LESS HONOURABLE THAN US.
I read and reread the message, after which I gave an indignant snort. “You call this honourable?” I scoffed, motioning to the ransacked bedroom and the bound and gagged birthday girl lying beside me. “I don’t know why you do this, but it’s something you seem to take very seriously. Well I take my job seriously too. I’m not a detective because I enjoy the thrills, or because I get some jolly out of being a damsel in distress. I do it because I believe strongly that those who commit crimes should face justice. You don’t like it, you can go to hell!”
Silence fell inside the room, as both dolls looked at me without moving a muscle. I wondered if I had made a mistake in not controlling my outburst. It was actually quite disconcerting not knowing whether you had angered them or not.
Then the doll closest to me dropped her duffle bag to the floor, unzipped it and pulled out strands of grey rope. Although I knew this had been coming, I couldn’t prevent my stomach feeling like it had sunk ten feet underground. Complying with her demands, whilst retaining an air of defiance, I stood up, slowly turned around and placed my hands behind my back. “Ready when you are dollface,” I growled.
She surprised me by not starting with my wrists, but by wrapping rope around the back of my neck. Then the ropes were passed over my shoulders, beneath my arms and then around my upper body like a harness, trapping my arms tightly into my sides and pushing my hands behind my back. I tried not to gasp as she knotted it, tugging at my bindings in the process.
My arms were forced together so that they formed a box shape, with each hand clasped over the opposite elbow. More rope was then wound about my forearms, welding them together. The ends were tied off to the ropes encasing my upper body, tucking my arms right up into my back and seriously limiting my movement capabilities. Testing my bonds I found them very tight, but not painfully so. I wondered if she was exacting retribution for my outburst, or if this was another way of ‘warning’ me.
I was spun around, and before I could make another smart-mouth comment she stuffed a sponge ball into my open mouth. Then with incredible swiftness she ripped off a strip of tape and stuck it over my lips, following with four strips more which she smoothed over roughly with her gloved hands.
The other doll continued to ransack the room. When she pulled open a nearby wardrobe I caught sight of myself in a mirror attached to the door. I quickly realised this was the first time I had seen myself tied up and gagged. My straight, shoulder length brown hair brushed the ropes wound across my bare shoulders. My hands peeped out from either side of my waist, underneath a tight web of rope that made my cleavage stand out more than I liked. My green eyes peered over the tape covering my lower face. I watched the layer of silver wriggle about as I used my jaw and tongue to try and dislodge it, without success.
I hated to admit it, but she’d done a damn good job of turning me into a damsel in distress.
Before I knew it I was being steered out the room. I heard Danielle emit a series of muffled cries as I was whisked away. But we were both powerless to prevent me being escorted down the staircase and back into the living room.
I noticed immediately that the third doll had been busy in our absence. I also realised that the whole song and dance we had gone through taping each other up had just been to prevent the girls kicking up a fuss while the real binding took place. The chairs on which Annabel, Kavita, Eleanor and Rachel were seated at had been moved into a square, so they now faced each other. Their tape bonds had been removed, only to be replaced with grey ropes around their wrists, ankles and legs above their knees. Moreover, ropes were wound about their upper bodies, their waists and across their laps, rooting them to their seats. As a final precaution their ankles were tied to the crosspiece underneath the chair, preventing them from using their bound legs from scooting about.
“Ssssssrrrrr! Ddddddnnn ttttttyyyyy hhhhhtttt yyyymmm?” Rachel mumbled as the doll finished fastening the ropes around her tight clad knees.
“Dnnnn wwrrrrrmmm. Mmmmmm ffffffnn....hhhhhhyyyy wwwwwttt hhhhee hhhllll?” I began, before giving an indignant, yet incomprehensible cry as I was pushed to my knees. I saw a cushion from the sofa being thrown to the floor, before I was made to lie down with my face pressed into it. My ankles were crossed and tied together swiftly, though mercifully over the cuffs of my jeans.
It was not much consolation for what happened next. My legs were bound above my knees. Then, a final piece of rope was fixed to my ankle bonds and attached to my wrist bindings, before the doll yanked on it tightly so my legs were pulled up. The doll cinched the knot, and left me in a tight, constricting, yet thankfully not to painful, hogtie.
The dolls checked the knots on all of us, making sure we weren’t going anywhere. Then they began to steal anything of value from the house. DVD’s, paintings, crockery, silverware, electronics; it all went into their duffle bags. And all me and my fellow hostages could do was squirm helplessly while watching them.
Soon they were joined by the last member of their gang, and satisfied everything of worth was now in their possession they reaffixed their duffle bags over their shoulders. They gazed over us triumphantly for a while, or as triumphantly as they could look with the masks over their faces. Then one by one they turned into the entrance hall.
“Yyynnnn ccccnnnttt lllllvvvv ssss lllkkkk ttttsssss!” I bellowed through my sponge filled mouth as they left. The four ladies beside me also pleaded for mercy, but our cries fell on deaf (or hooded) ears. We heard the opening and closing of the front door followed by the sound of a vans ignition from outside, as the China Doll Gang sped out of our lives as fast as they had arrived.
Bound, gagged and abandoned we all began to struggle like fury, none of us wanting to stay like this a moment longer. Apart from Eleanor, who sat quietly as if she had all the time in the world. Kavita stamped her feet up and down in frustration; while Annabel struggled so hard her shoes fell off. Rachel bounced up and down in her seat so violently that it rocked from side to side, and she was forced to calm down to prevent herself from tilting her chair over.
As for me, well I tried to escape for a bit, but quickly realised I wouldn’t be getting out of this hogtie on my own. The way my hands were tied meant searching for loose knots was nigh on impossible, and my hogtied ankles meant rolling about searching for help was out of the question too. Sighing into my tape gag, I realised this situation required us all to play the waiting game.
‘When did Danielle say her mum was getting back?’ I wondered. ‘Didn’t she say tomorrow afternoon?’ I looked up at the clock on the wall. The time was 11:42.
Yeah my earlier premonition was very accurate readers. It ended up being a very, very long night.