The Netterton Jewels - Part 5
Agnes lay still, her eyes flitting from the woman in the black balaclava who had spoken to her to the one with the unreadable stocking-covered face. The early morning light was just beginning to filter through the curtains, but it was still too dim for her to make out anything beyond their dark clothes and the menacing masks.
“I’m going to remove my hand,” the masked woman said as Agnes looked back at her. “I want you to promise not to scream or shout – will you do that for me?”
The stocking-masked woman stepped forward and silently drew a small metal box from her pocket. She held it up and waited until she was sure she had Agnes’s attention then pressed a button. There was a faint crackling noise and a stream of small bright blue sparks flew across the end of the device. Realising what the device was, Agnes simply nodded that she understood the threat.
“Good,” Coco said as she removed her hand and looked at the woman lying there. Although she was a little older, and her hair was more curled, Coco felt she did look enough like Agnes for the plan to work with a little help.
“Please,” Agnes said very quietly, “What do you want? I don’t have that much money, but you’re welcome to it...”
“For the moment, Agnes, we want you to just do exactly what we tell you – nothing more, nothing less,” Coco said as she looked at Soo. At a nod, she took hold of the covers under which Agnes was lying and gently pulled them back. Coco looked at the long blue cotton nightdress Agnes was wearing, her feet snugly covered by a pair of thick bedsocks, and nodded.
“Please,” Agnes said as she looked at the two women, “Tell me what you want.”
“All in good time,” Coco said as she sat on the bed, “You need to stay calm and collected. After all, we do not wish to harm you, merely – to relieve you of a few things. We can do this in a way that makes little mess, or we can tear the place apart – your choice. So, I want you to roll over on your front.”
“Why?” As she said this, Agnes saw Soo silently hold up several coils of rope with her other hand.
“Agnes, we need to make sure you cannot interfere with us, or do anything that might get you hurt. We need, for your own safety, to make sure you stay exactly where you are. Now, roll over and place your hands behind your back, or my daughter here may have to give you a little shock.”
Soo demonstrated her electric stun gun again for effect.
“But I don’t understand – why are you doing this to me? I don’t have anything you’d want...”
“You are more valuable than you can possibly imagine, Agnes. Now, please, do as I say or my daughter may get very upset.”
Slowly, Agnes rolled onto her stomach and moved her hands so that they lay against the small of her back. Soo shook a length of rope loose, doubled it over and quickly wrapped it around them pulling them together palm to palm as she did so, and keeping the rope over the cuffs of her sleeves. She worked quickly but firmly, and within a few minutes Agnes realised that this woman knew what she was doing. She looked down over her shoulder as the younger masked woman put her ankles together and started to tie them as well.
As Soo passed the ends of the rope through the loop she had made in the centre, there was the sound of footsteps outside. Coco leaned over and whispered “Not a sound” to Agnes as they listened to the footsteps retreating into the distance, and then somebody in the toilet.
“Oh God,” Agnes said with a real sense of fear, “Please, don’t harm my darling, she does not need to be part of this.”
Coco listened to the sound of the toilet flushing, and then the footsteps coming back down the corridor. She knew who this person was, and knew there was a good chance she would have to be dealt with, but had hoped to avoid it until later. She looked at Soo, who was waiting as well to see what would happen.
The footsteps stopped for a minute, then the three women heard a young voice saying “Gran, are you all right? I thought I heard voices.”
The two masked women exchanged glances, before Coco whispered “Call your wee lass in, Agnes – I think we need to see who she is.”
Agnes swallowed hard before saying, “Carol, darling, can you come in a minute?”
Coco took up a position behind the door while Soo moved to the head of the bed, waiting as the door opened and a fourteen year old girl, dressed in a short sleeved pink top and knee length matching pants, came in. She looked like a younger version of Agnes, although her hair was long and brown in contrast to Agnes’s short grey hair.
“What is it, Gran,” she said as she walked in yawning, before stopping still at the sight of her grandmother lying face down on the bed, her wrists and ankles bound, and a masked woman standing next to her. She opened her mouth to scream, but was stopped by somebody grabbing her from behind, covering her mouth with a gloved hand and gripping her tightly.
“All right lass,” Coco said in a calm voice, “I need you to calm down and not struggle so much. My little girl over there has no wish to harm your granny, and I have no wish to harm you, but you need to be calm, all right?”
Carol’s eyes shot to Agnes, who looked up and said “Please, darling, just do as they say. I’m all right, but I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Her grandmother’s words seemed to have little effect, however, as Carol continued to struggle and scream.
Coco looked at Soo before saying, “I think I need to take Carol here back to her room and calm her down. Can you deal with things here?”
Soo nodded as she pulled another length of rope tightly in her hands, watching as Coco backed out of the room, taking Carol with her.
“Please, don’t hurt my little darling...” Agnes pleaded, her voice tremulous with fear.
Coco half dragged, half walked the young girl back down the corridor to the door they had looked in earlier, when she had been fast asleep, and pulled Carol in. It was a typical teenage girl’s room, with posters of pop stars on the wall and a single bed, as well as a work desk and chair and a well-stacked bookshelf.
Coco held on to Carol, saying “Believe me, lass, it will be better for you if you calm down. I don’t want to knock you out, but if you don’t stop struggling I will have no choice.”
Eventually Carol stopped struggling, as Coco held on to her, and looked straight ahead. From the other room they could hear the sounds of Agnes complaining.
Coco simply said, “We have some business to take care of with your grandmother. Now, we had hoped that you would not wake up for a while, but I’m afraid you forced our hand. Are you going to co-operate with me?”
Carol slowly nodded her head, as she listened to her grandmother’s voice becoming muffled.
“All right, Carol, I’m going to take my hand away from your mouth. Do I have your word that you will not scream?”
Again Coco felt the young girl nod.
She slowly withdrew her hand, saying “All right, I’m trusting you now. Please, go and sit down on your bed.”
Coco was not exactly looking forward to what was coming; as a rule, she did not like binding and gagging children, but from time to time it had been a necessity. She watched as Carol sat down on the duvet, looking at Coco as she stood there.
“How do you know my name,” she asked in a quiet voice.
“Oh, I know a lot about you and your grandmother,” Coco said as she sat down next to her. “I know you are living with her while your parents are abroad, and I know you like to shop at the Westfield mall on a Saturday with your friends. You go to a local school, where you like maths but hate PE. How am I doing so far?”
Carol stared wide eyed at the masked woman, sitting there calmly and matter of factly describing her life to her. “Who are you?” she said as she wondered what was going on.
“Just someone who likes to know everything about the people she visits,” Coco said. She looked at Carol and decided that she needed to be calmed a little more before she began. “As I said, Carol, we have some business to discuss with your grandmother. I had hoped you would sleep for a little while longer, and then get dressed before you met us, but I’m afraid that is not going to happen now.”
Carol thought about how she had seen Agnes on the bed, before saying with a trembling voice “Please, don’t tie me up, I promise I won’t say anything or get in your way, but please...”
“I really wish there was another way Carol,” Coco said as she stroked the girl’s hair with her gloved hand, “but I am afraid there is not. I need you to calm yourself down – I promise you that while it may be a little uncomfortable, it will not be too bad. The worst thing you can do is try to fight or struggle. Do you understand?” She looked at Carol as she sat, quietly starting to sob. “Here,” Coco said as she took a paper tissue from a box on the table, “Dry your eyes and be a brave girl for your grandmother.”
The door to the room was ajar, so Carol did not hear Soo walk in until Coco turned and said “Is Agnes comfortable?”
Soo nodded as she handed Coco a bag, leaving and closing the door behind her after she had done so.
“Now, Carol,” Coco said as she looked in the bag, “I know you have been to the toilet, so I need you to do exactly what I tell you. If you do, I promise that we will take you to be with your granny eventually, and you can be next to each other. All right?”
Carol nodded and watched as Coco stood up and looked through some drawers. She took out two pairs of balled up long white socks and handed them to Carol, saying “I want you to put one pair on your feet and one pair on your hands, all right?”
Carol slowly nodded, her eyes red from the tears, and pulled the socks over her feet. As she pulled one over her hand, she watched Coco taking out a length of white cotton rope and shaking it loose.
“You really are going to tie me up, aren’t you?” she said as she started crying again.
“I’m afraid so, but the socks will help protect your skin,” Coco said calmly as she watched the girl wipe her tears away. “All right Carol – stand up with your back to me and put your hands behind you.”
The young girl stood up in front of Coco, who gently guided her hands behind her back so that her wrists were crossed and started to wrap the rope around them. She made several passes around and between her wrists, bringing them tightly together as Carol flexed her fingers. It was not as uncomfortable as she had feared, and the socks were indeed providing some protection, but she still felt she was been tied by an expert.
“Do you have to do this all the time,” she asked as she watched Coco selecting another length of rope from the bag.
“To be honest, I’d rather we didn’t meet anyone at all,” Coco said as she shook out the longest length of rope Carol had ever seen, “but sometimes it is unavoidable. Now, don’t move.”
She passed the end of the rope around Carol’s left arm, securing it above her elbow before passing it around her chest several times, and then tying it around her right arm. Taking the ropes back round to her back, Coco wound it around the bands several times before tying the ends off. This had the effect of holding Carol’s arms quite still against her body, while also not restricting her breathing too much. It wasn’t her usual style, but it was imperative that there be nothing to suggest La Cioccolata had been here. Her plan was for it to appear the master thief had employed someone else to prevent Agnes going to work.
“How does that feel,” Coco said as she turned Carol round.
The girl had stopped crying again, and was starting to look on her situation as a challenge to get through. “Tight, but not uncomfortable,” she said as Coco took her by the arm and helped her to sit down again.
In the other bedroom, Soo was watching Agnes as she lay on her side on the bed. She had wrapped rope around the older woman’s chest and arms, securing them tightly to her sides as well as passing the rope around her neck. Her legs were tightly secured together over her nightdress, above and below her knees, while her ankles had been pulled slightly back so that Agnes was lying in a loose hogtie – not too tight, but enough to prevent her moving her legs far. A large headscarf, brown with a paisley pattern, was pulled between her lips, her bulging cheeks evidence that something else had been pushed in first. Finally, another pale cream cotton headscarf had been folded into a band and used to blindfold her as she lay there.
Agnes lay quite still, fearing for her granddaughter more than herself, and trying not to lose control of her breathing. She knew the masked woman was still there, watching, and did not want to cause any more trouble.
Coco got up from her kneeling position and checked all her knots one more time. Carol looked down at her legs, which were secured together around her ankles, calves and thighs with bands of white rope, and tried to twist them round with little success.
“I really am going nowhere, am I?” she said as she looked up at Coco standing there.
“I’m afraid not, lass,” she said in the Scots accent she had adopted, “and there are a few more things I need to do. Before I do them, are you going to be all right,” she sat by the young girl as she said this and stroked her hair away from her eyes.
“Do you promise I can be with my gran?”
“We have a few things to sort out first, but I promise you that before we go we will put you next to your granny.” She stood up and walked back over to a wardrobe, which she opened and started to look through. After a few minutes, she came back with two scarves. One was a blue bandana with a white Fleur de Lis pattern on it, while the other was a long woollen scarf, pink with brown stripes.
Carol stared, wide eyed as Coco rolled the bandana into a band.
“I’m afraid I need to make sure you can’t call out now,” Coco said as she stood in front of the young girl. “It’s important that you stay calm and don’t struggle – this will allow you to breath, but if you struggle too much you can start coughing, and there will be nowhere for any phlegm to go. Do you understand?”
Carol nodded and opened her mouth, allowing Coco to pull the cloth between her teeth and tie it off at the base of her neck. Using the other scarf to blindfold her, she helped Carol to lie on her side, before using a last length of rope to secure her ankles to her wrists. As Coco tied the last knot off, Soo came through the door and motioned silently to her.
“Just lie still Carol – my daughter is going to watch you while I talk to your granny,” Coco said as the two women silently slipped outside.
Going back into Agnes’ room, Coco silently opened her wardrobe and selected a blue floral print dress from the outfits hanging up, as well as a large cotton scarf. Laying them on the bed, she sat next to Agnes and pulled the scarf out of her mouth, removing a large handkerchief as she did so.
“Where’s Carol?” Agnes said with a dry voice.
“Your granddaughter is fine,” Coco said, “and I’ll make sure she comes in to join you before we leave. However, I need to ask you a few questions first.”
“Please, I’ll tell you anything, just leave us alone...”
“Now now, Agnes – I need you to tell me about what would happen if you do not turn up for work today.”
“If I don’t... If I’m not there by nine, and knocking on the door, they will send someone to look for me.” As she said this, Agnes could see a glimmer of hope, but tried to hide it in her voice.
“Well, now, that’s interesting,” Coco said with a smile. “Let’s hope they remember to call for you. Open wide now.” She pushed the cloth back into Agnes’ mouth and re-tied the scarf into place, as before
“Watch them both,” she whispered to Soo as she walked down the stairs to the front room. Turning on a small light, she laid the dress and scarf onto the couch, went back into the corridor to retrieve the holdall, and placed it on the couch as well. Opening it, she removed a black latex catsuit and laid it next to the dress, followed by a pair of flat soled boots. Looking at the clothes for a moment, she removed the woollen mask from her head and ruffled her grey hair, before folding it neatly and placing it in a plastic bag. Her gloves and shoes followed, as did the jumper and leggings, before they were stowed carefully back in the bag.
It took Coco a few minutes to pull on the catsuit, squeezing her body in as the material hugged her plump form. She then pulled the dress over her body, covering the catsuit to her knees, and put on the boots which covered the rest of the legs. She folded the scarf into a large triangle then draped it across her shoulders and crossed it at her throat, making sure the black latex was hidden. She examined herself critically in the mirror. She could indeed pass for Agnes, if she was careful to wear a coat and hat before she set off.
Going back to the bag, she drew out a leather rucksack and checked the contents. Going into the hallway, she retrieved a large striped bag and emptied the contents out, placing her own rucksack and a small plain carrier bag inside as well. Walking back out, she took a pair of leather gloves from the side and pulled them onto her own hands, before using some furniture wipes to clean anything she might have touched with her bare hands. The soiled wipes went into a clear bag, which also went into the rucksack.
As she closed the bag up, Soo walked silently into the room. “Ready?” she said in a low voice.
“As I will ever be,” Coco said as she went into the hallway and picked up Agnes’ coat and hat. Pulling them on, she checked herself in the mirror before picking up the bag. “I think Edgar Allen Poe was a very bright man,” Coco said as she unlocked the front door. “Give me an hour, then take the young lass in to be with her gran and get out as quickly as you can. We’ll meet up later at the house.”
“Good luck,” Soo whispered as Coco slipped out of the house, and headed down the street.
Soo closed the door behind Coco then returned to the front room. She started a systematic search through the cupboards and drawers for anything of value.
The sky was clear as Coco walked towards Kensington High Street, passing the shops before she turned into the street where the Wolverton house was. As she walked down, she noted with interest the red car parked a few doors down from her target. She also noted the official car waiting outside the house and the tall figure of Sir Desmond Wolverton as he walked down the steps.
“I’ll see you later,” he said as he waved to the tall, elegant woman standing in the doorway. Coco recognised her instantly, saying to herself, “You did turn out as beautiful as your mother,” as she approached the house.
Mary Wolverton turned and looked at the grey haired woman walking towards her, saying, “I’m glad you’re here, Agnes – I need you to do an inventory of the pantry for tonight. Can you do that for me?”
Coco nodded as she passed Mary Wolverton and walked into the house. Thanks to the information Soo had gathered, she knew to walk to the rear of the entrance hall and through the door at the back that led to the kitchen.
“Agnes? Could you bring some coffee for me and Caroline in an hour please? We will be in the drawing room.”
Coco nodded without turning as she walked to the door.
Mary watched after her for a moment, wondering if everything was all right, before turning and calling out, “Caroline? Would you join me please?”
As she entered the kitchen, Coco removed her hat and coat and hung them on a coat-stand in the corner of the room. Taking the striped bag, she went into the pantry, closing the door and turning the light on as she did so. From the bag, she removed the rucksack and the plastic bag, placing them on a work surface. Removing the scarf and dress, she neatly folded them and placed them to one side as she removed a black corset from the bag and unfastened it.
The pantry was not that large, and it took Coco a few moments to squeeze her body into the corset, eventually managing to fasten it as it flattened her stomach and lent her a figure and posture quite unlike her own. She took off the short leather gloves she had been wearing and while her hands were bare she removed the contact lenses she had been wearing and replaced them with a green pair. As soon as the lenses were in place, Coco ensured that her hands were covered again, smoothing a pair of elbow-length black latex gloves over her hands and up over the sleeves of her catsuit.
Finally, she removed a curly brown wig from the bag, which she put on, checking that none of her own grey hair was visible. A black leather domino mask covered the upper part of her face and helped to keep the wig securely in place. Coco checked her appearance in a small hand mirror and nodded in satisfaction; La Cioccolata was ready for action.
Coco packed the dress into the plastic bag and placed it in the larger striped one before removing the small leather rucksack and hoisting it onto her back. Opening the pantry door, she looked cautiously out and slipped into the kitchen, slowly making her way to the door to the rest of the house.
Carol sensed rather than saw Soo enter the room, and offered no resistance as she was lifted up and carried a short distance. As she was laid back down,. She heard a grunt from behind her, and reaching back with her arms she felt another body next to her. “Grne?” she mumbled, and received a grunt that told her she was now with Agnes. She pushed herself back until she felt her grandmother behind her, while Soo watched from the doorway, silently closing it as she made her way downstairs.
“So, is there anything else you need for the party tomorrow?”
Caroline Wolverton shook her head as she sat in the leather chair, her legs crossed as the legs of her grey culottes rose up to show her knee length black leather boots. She had a grey silk blouse on with a tie neck, and was watching her mother sorting through some papers.
“Well,” Mary said as she looked up, “I hope it all goes according to plan.” She was wearing a grey round-necked collarless jacket and knee-length straight skirt, with a string of pearls around her neck and a large brooch on the front of her jacket. As she walked round to sit down, the heels of her leather shoes clicked on the wooden floor.
There was a knock on the door. “Ah, coffee,” Mary said, “come in Agnes,” but the woman who came in was not their housekeeper, not unless she had taken to wearing black shiny clothing. This woman was small, with an hourglass figure, dressed from head to toe in black and with a mask over her green eyes. The two women stared at her speechless until Caroline turned to her mother and said, "Mum, is this a joke?"
As she looked at Lady Wolverton, she saw that her mother had the strangest expression on her face: open-mouthed, wide-eyed and strangely childlike. Was she excited or frightened?
"Mum?" Caroline said quietly.
The only reply that her mother made was, "No... No... Non è possibile, non dopo tutti questi anni..."
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