It was a cold night, and the wind off the Norfolk coast was blowing over the sea wall as Patty walked quickly through the quiet streets. The sun was slowly setting over the town as she made her way along, her great coat pulled up tightly against the cold and the wind. She wasn’t too concerned about it, however, as this was a most special night for her and her friends.
She turned, crossed the road and made her way along the rows of houses on the adjoining street. Stopping outside one, she opened the gate that filled the gap in the low wall and walked up to the front door, raising the brass knocker and bringing it down twice. She stood, waiting with anticipation as the door opened and a friendly voice said “Welcome, Sister Patricia. Come and join the circle.”
“Thank you, Sister Abigail,” Patty said as she walked in. The woman that had greeted her was wearing a white peasant style smock with a leather belt gathering the material around her waist, a floor length cotton skirt and sandals. Her hair was covered by a white bandana. “Have the others arrived yet?”
“They have been waiting you – come, let me take your coat and you may join them,” Abigail said. Patty unbuttoned her great coat, and handed it to her host. Checking her self in the mirror, she smoothed down the crumpled crinoline of her dress, adjusted the band that was over her straight black hair and entered the room that had been indicated.
“Welcome, sister,” was the greeting that she received from the older of the two women that were waiting in the room. She was in her early sixties, with short greying hair, and wore a brown suede waistcoat over her floral print blouse. Her trousers were tucked into knee length suede boots.
“Thank you, Sister Ruth,” Abigail said as she hugged the woman. “And you, sister – how have you been? I heard that you had been unwell.”
“I had,” the final woman said as she remained seated, “but my husband was kind enough to drive me here. It would have been wrong for me to miss the Samhain celebration.” She was in her early forties, thin and gaunt with close cropped fair hair.
“We are just glad you could make it, Sister Rebecca” Abigail said as she joined the three women. “This is a most special night for that of our faith, and it is right that we come together and feast on this most hallowed of occasions.”
Rebecca was wearing a dark blue velvet dress with black felt boots that came up to her thighs. The scarf tied tightly around her neck helped to keep her warm, as well as hide the scars from her operation.
“Sisters, let us drink a toast,” Abigail said as she handed round glasses of wine. “To those who have gone on, and to those who strengthen us on our journey.”
The four women raised their glasses and drank, before setting them to one side.
“Come – we will purify the circle and perform the rituals before we dine. All is in readiness in the rear room. Sister Patricia – if you will assist Sister Rebecca?”
“Of course,” Patty said as she took the arm of her friend. The four women left the room, following Abigail as she led the way to the chamber where they would perform their sacred rituals.
In the large kitchen of the house, the silence was disturbed only by the muted sounds of chanting and casting. The crack of the door from the rear garden opening was the only unexpected sound. The wooden door was slowly opened, and in the dim light it was just about possible to make out the three women as they entered the house. Placing two canvas bags on the large wooden table, they stood together in a huddle, looking over some plans one of them was holding.
The trio looked up as they heard the sound of women talking, and one saying “Make yourselves at home, Sisters, while I bring forth the food.” They slipped to the side of the room, and stood quietly as the door was opened, a shaft of light illuminating the body of Abigail as she entered the kitchen.
She reached up to put on the light, but stopped as she felt the chill of the night air as it came through the rear door. The trio watched her as she frowned, and walked towards the rear entrance. One quietly peeled away and walked silently up behind her as she examined the frame, and closed the door to. It was the moment she noticed the splintered wood around the door that the intruder chose to place a grey gloved hand over her mouth, and to grab hold of her left arm with the other one.
Abigail instinctively reached up to grab the arm, but when she made out the forms of the other two women in the room, and in particular saw the glint in the dim light of the pistol one was holding, she lowered her arm again. The thing that was bothering her more than anything was the fact that all she could see clearly was their faces – or at least, what she presumed were their faces.
As the grey gloved hand was removed, she said “Who are you,” but no answer was given. Instead, she felt rope being draped around her shoulders, and the restriction as her arms were encircled and pulled back behind her as the rope was wound round them.
The other three sat in the candle lit room, talking quietly. Patty had removed the shawl that she had been wearing, and she rubbed her arms. She was wearing a thin sheer blouse over her black crinoline dress, which offered a little protection against the chill.
“Tell me, Sister Ruth, how are the children in your class?”
“Oh, the little darlings are fine. They’re probably out there now, knocking on doors and collecting gifts from people. Much as I may not like what they have done with our festival, I don’t begrudge them their enjoyment.”
“Quite right too,” Rebecca said as she took a sip of her wine, “I enjoyed going out on Halloween when I was a child. It’s like Christmas – for some it is a celebration of their god, for others an excuse for a feast and too much to drink.”
Patty laughed at Rebecca’s comments. When she had told her own parents of her choices to become a Wiccan, her mother had very nearly disowned her. They were church going, God fearing and far too easily led by those who did not understand that some people could have a different faith to themselves.
The door to the room opened, and Ruth turned to face the opening. In the dim candle light, Patty could see the smile slowly drain from her friend’s face. “What is it?” she said as she stood up and walked over to where Ruth was standing, but as she looked over the cause of her discomfort was clear.
There were three faces floating the dark light, white, featureless and silent. They seemed to be hovering there, with no obvious body attached to them, and for a moment Patty started to believe that the spirits of the dearly departed had returned. As she looked on, however, it became clear that this was not the case. Firstly, as her eyes adjusted she could see the forms of three women, dressed from head to toe in grey with only the faces showing. Secondly, the two in the front were holding some sort of metal objects in their hands, which Patty eventually realised were guns. Thirdly, the final face seemed to gesture and Abigail came into view.
“Sisters, please do as they say,” she said with a hint of fear in her voice as the ghostly trio walked in. Both Ruth and Patty could now see the coarse brown rope around Abigail’s arms and shoulders, as well as the fact her arms were pinioned in some way behind her back. Rebecca sat in the chair, her arms on the wooden rests and slowly shaking in her seat.
“Sister Abigail, what is happening,” Ruth asked as one of the white faced intruders placed a holdall on the coffee table. Abigail was brought into the room, and as she was made to sit down Patty could see that the rope was wrapped around her arms, with her wrist tied together in a box fashion behind her back before the ends had been passed around her arms.
“I believe they intend to rob me – offer no resistance, for I do not believe they truly wish to harm us.”
“I know who you are,” Rebecca said quietly, and the woman who had been holding Abigail turned to look at her. Patty could see all three were wearing dark grey cat suits, with gloves and soft shoes. The suits covered their entire bodies, with what she now saw to be white masks covering their faces. “You’re the China Doll Gang, aren’t you?”
The woman cocked her head to one side as she looked at Rebecca, and nodded silently. Ruth put her hands to her mouth. “I’ve heard of you as well – oh Mother, Abigail, you are indeed being robbed.”
“I feared as much. Please,” she said as she looked at the three intruders, “Do not harm any of us, especially Sister Rebecca. She is ill and cannot take stress.”
The Dolls looked at their captives, before one opened the bag and drew out two large skeins on coarse brown rope. The leader pointed at both Ruth and Patty, and indicated that they should come into the room.
“What are you going to do to us,” Patty asked as the other two Dolls made them stand facing each other. Their silence was making her uneasy. Ruth could see this, and said “Take courage, sister, for we are together and there is strength in unity.”
The leader handed her partners a skein of rope each, which they quickly unravelled before doubling them other and tying a small loop at the centre. Abigail watched as the rope was draped over the shoulders of her two friends, the ends trailing down their backs.
“It is not as uncomfortable as it looks,” she said as the two Dolls stood behind the women. Patty kept her face fixed on Ruth as the doll behind her took the ends and quickly wrapped them around her arms, pulling them behind her as part of the process and eventually forcing her wrists to be together in the small of her back. She watched Ruth as the same was done to her, the rope difficult to see against her brown clothing in the candle light but the effect clear as she felt her own wrists being tied together. The way the rope was wound round was such that Patty knew it was not going to be possible to move them, even as her wrists were bound parallel to each other and pulled up by passing the rope through the little loop that had been made.
She knew the same thing was happening to Ruth, as she could see her breasts strain against her waistcoat and heard the grunt as they were pulled up. She could not help the fascination that grew as the ends were then passed around her older friend’s arms and chest, securing her upper body and still looking very simple.
As this was going on, the lead Doll had knelt beside Rebecca, and was looking at her. Eventually, she had taken another long length of rope and passed it around her arms and chest, pulling tightly and passing it under and over her arms and neck as well to tighten the bindings, before then placing her hands together in her lap as if she was praying and binding them tightly together. As she passed the rope between her wrists, Abigail said “Thank you – you have been kind to her in your own way.”
The lead Doll turned and inclined her head to Abigail as she sat there. While her sisters had been bound, she had been looking at the ropes around her self, and come to the obvious conclusion that it would not be possible for her to get loose. The coarse fibres were rubbing against her skin a little, even through the thick cotton of her blouse, but at the same time she was comfortable, almost enjoying the sensation.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Patty saying “What do they want?” She looked up to see that both she and Ruth had been helped to sit on the floor, and the two other dolls were now passing more rope around the booted ankles of both women.
“I think they intend to empty my safe and cupboards at some point. Do not worry,” she said as the lead Doll looked up from wrapping the rope around Rebecca’s legs, “I will cooperate. I have no desire to have my sisters harmed by my refusal.”
The Doll looked at her, although Abigail could discern nothing in the smooth white porcelain that was her face, then turned and knotted off the rope around Rebecca’s legs, before passing it between her legs, the material of her skirt allowing this as it had been gathered by the earlier binding. She then started to wind the final lengths around her ankles, as Ruth watched her own legs been bound above her knees.
“They really never say anything,” Patty asked as she looked at Rebecca, ignoring the rope tightening around her own thighs.
“Never – they’ve never been known to speak. I think they prefer it that way – at least they’ve made me comfortable. I’m not sure what they intend to do with you two.”
As she had spoken, the two dolls had made Ruth and Patty shuffle round so that they were sitting facing each other, with their legs parallel to each other. The reason why became clear as one of the Dolls took a further length of rope, doubled it other and passed it round the legs of both women, above and below their knees, while another tied a length to the rope in front of Ruth and fed it down to secure it to the rope around Patty’s legs. She then repeated it the other way round, so that the two women were attached to each other.
As they stood up, the lead Doll took Abigail by the arm and started to lead her out of the room. “May Gaea protect you, my friends,” she called over her shoulder as she was led out. The two remaining Dolls returned to the bag on the coffee table, and in the dimming light from the rapidly burning candles the three captives watched them remove a number of scarves from the interior. They took two each, a small cotton scarf and a large patterned one, and came back to where Ruth and Patty were sitting.
“I think they mean to keep us quiet,” Ruth said before the Doll pushed the smaller scarf into her mouth. As the larger one was rolled into a band and a knot tied in the middle, Patty turned and spoke to the Doll next to her. “Please,” she said, “do not be so harsh to Rebecca, she is still sore from an operation. I promise you, she will not try to call for help – she respects us too much.”
The Doll turned and looked at Rebecca, who was starting to sweat slightly. “I will not call out or scream,” she said, “but I know you must silence me somehow.” The Doll continued to look at Rebecca, before turning to her companion and nodding. As she stuffed the smaller scarf into Patty’s mouth, the young girl was relieved to see the other Doll merely roll the larger scarf into a thick band and then pull it into Rebecca’s open mouth.
As the candles began to flutter and the flames go out, the three mute women watched as the Dolls, now only visible as floating white faces, started to search through the room.
In an upstairs bedroom, Abigail grunted as her legs were pulled up behind her knees. The lead Doll had already bound her ankles and legs with the rope, folding her skirt back as she did so and passing the coarse rope around the bare skin above her knees, but now she was placing her captive in a tight hog tie, the material of her skirt falling on the bed as she was eventually allowed to roll onto her side.
“Do I have your word my sisters will be unharmed,” she said quietly as the Doll stood in front of her, a small silk square rolled into a wad in one hand and a large Hermes scarf in the other. The Doll nodded, and Abigail said “Thank you” as the small wad was pushed into her mouth. As the knotted band the Doll had made with larger scarf was pulled between her lips, Abigail looked round at the boxes and papers that were scattered over the bedroom floor, and the open safe door in her wardrobe. The ends of the scarf were pulled round and tied over her blonde hair, while she silently thanked the God and Goddess for protecting her that night, and for the safety of her friends.
The lead Doll collected the jewellery and other items she had removed, placed them in the small canvas bag and closed it, before turning off the bedside lamp and leaving Abigail on the large bed, lying still as she contemplated the next move. She could hear movement downstairs, and then silence as the intruders departed.
The three women sat in silence as they heard the Dolls depart. Eventually, in the darkness Patty nudged Ruth’s legs and mumbled “R u llrght?”
“Ys,” she heard her friend reply, “By m stf. Hws rbca?”
As the two clock struck twelve, Patty looked over and saw the third woman sitting there, her eyes shut. As she continued to loo, she became aware of a slight glow that seemed to be appearing on her lap, and wondered what was happening. Looking to her other side, she then saw something that made her gasp through the material that filled her mouth.
Abigail could hear the clock nearby strike the hour, and then again, before she became aware of a white light in the room with her. As she looked up, her gagged mouth started to move and what appeared to be a smile crossed her lips.
In the room downstairs, Ruth was starting to cry as she saw a form that resembled her late husband standing besides her, nodding and waiting. To the side of Patty, she saw her own grandmother sitting with her, smiling and looking into the bound woman’s eyes.
There was a third shape in the room, which appeared to be sitting on the lap of Rebecca. It resembled a young girl, no more than about twelve, but Rebecca was trying to talk to her through the saliva-sodden cloth that was tied into her mouth, as if she recognised her. This continued for some time, before the sound of footsteps on the wooden floor came through and a man’s voice was heard to shout “Rebecca? The door was open – are you here?”
The ghostly forms vanished as the main light in the room was switched on. A man stood there, looking at the three bound and gagged women with his mouth hanging open. He ran over to Rebecca, pulled the scarf from her mouth and said “What happened, love?”
“A robbery, Jack, Abigail has been robbed and we were captured. You’re here now, so it will all be all right.”
“Are you hurt?” he said as he looked at the ropes and knots holding them in place.
“No – we had people here to help us, even if they could not free us. Please, Jack, go and find Abigail – I believe she was taken upstairs. We can wait.”
The man nodded and ran off, as Rebecca turned to her friends. “He is a good man, but he would not understand how the dead come back this night to help us in our hour of need.”
The other two nodded as they heard him say “Police – I need to report a robbery, and we need ambulances.” The nodded and grunted in agreement, as her husband came back and started to remove their gags.