Seventies Bound 6 - Maxi(mum) D(ist)ress
One of those things that come to you as you just live – especially with the re-appearance of this style of dress on the high street at the moment.
“Aunt Joan, do I really have to take this girl out with me?”
Joan Highbury sighed from her position in front of the vanity mirror in her bedroom. “Yes, Annie dear, you do – it’s a favour to your father and to me. Just take her out to the dance, show her we’re nice people, and then bring her home. Surely you can do that for us?”
“I suppose so, auntie, but I still don’t understand why Dad can’t be here today.”
As Joan turned to look at Annie, she remembered again just how short a time it had been since she was a little girl in gingham dresses and pigtails. Now that she had turned 21, she was a reasonably confident woman in her own right, standing there as she adjusted the knot that held the thin purple belt attached to her dress together at the front.
“As he said earlier, he has to take Lord Hesketh somewhere else to discuss their business deal, while we entertain Lady Hesketh and her granddaughter. We need to be formally dressed to keep appearances up – I know how much you hate these gowns.”
“I can live with this one,” Annie said as she walked further into the room and looked at herself in the mirror that was part of the wardrobe door. She was six foot tall, with blonde straight hair that fell about her face and shoulders, while her dress was made of a red cotton/nylon blend with a similar swirling floral pattern to that on the wallpaper at her home. The long sleeves flared out from the elbows to her wrists, while the belt gathered the waist in before the dress fell to the floor, covering her red satin shoes.
Earlier that evening, she had watched her father leaving for the other meeting, in his dinner jacket and velvet bow tie protruding from the collar, and wished she had been able to go with him. Instead she had to babysit this hoity toity woman’s granddaughter while her Aunt kept Lady Hesketh sweet. The family business needed the injection of cash Hesketh could give – this much she understood. As she looked back at her Aunt Joan, she knew she had to do her duty.
“Ready?” Joan asked as she stood up. Her greying hair was pushed into a tight bun on her hair, while the folds of her dress fell as she stood up. This was a silk dress, with a dark blue floor length skirt and matching cap sleeves, while the top half was composed of two silk panels, the one on the left white while the right hand side was red. These were gathered just above her chest, and then crossed so that two long silk scarf like lengths dropped down the front of her dress and reached to the floor. Her cream shoes were well covered by the flowing skirt as the two women made their way to the staircase.
“Now please, try to be nice at Adelaide,” Joan said as she looked at her niece, the purple eye shadow reflecting in the candle bulbs that were in the wall hanging. “She’s younger than you, and probably as fed up. Just keep her busy while I talk to Lady Hesketh, all right?”
“All right,” Annie said as the door bell rang. “Here we go,” Joan said with a deep breath as she opened the inner door and stepped into the porch.
“Mrs Highbury? I am Lady Hesketh, and this is my granddaughter Adelaide Hesketh. May we come in?”
“Of course – please do come in,” Joan said as she stepped aside and let the new arrivals enter the house. Lady Hesketh was a short, well built woman in her early sixties, with short hair and wearing a large brown mink coat. The other younger woman was slightly taller, about five foot six with chestnut brown hair set in to a beehive design, and a short cape buttoned over her dress.
“Annie, would you take their coats, please,” Joan said as Lady Hesketh removed her coat and handed it over. Underneath she was wearing a floor length dress, long sleeved and quite shapeless save for the round collar and mandarin style fastening, made from light purple velvet. The most striking thing about it was the design of large, pale red St George crosses that appeared all round the dress.
Adelaide was wearing a short sleeved Georgian style dress of cream cotton, gathered at the bodice and with a pattern of small flowers and swirls around it. Around the yoke collar was a contrasting dark patterned cloth, which also formed two bands at the bottom of her elbow length sleeves and her skirt. A pair of wedge cork sandals was visible just under the material.
“May I say what a pleasure it is to welcome you to our home, Lady Hesketh. Come this way, please. Annie, why don’t you take Adelaide into the drawing room and talk with her there?”
“Of course, Aunt Joan. Please, Adelaide, come with me.” As Joan led the older woman into the front room, Annie took the younger into what her aunt had called the drawing room, but was actually just a room to the rear of the house where there were comfortable seats and, more importantly for Annie, a drinks cabinet.
“So, you are the heir presumptive to the Hesketh fortune,” Annie said as she closed the door behind her. “What should I call you – Lady Hesketh, your ladyship, boss...”
“Adi would do just fine – and so would a gin and tonic if you have one. Now that Gran’s talking to your aunt, I feel like I can relax again.” Adelaide sat down in a large armchair, her dress rising slightly to show the straps of her sandals as Annie fixed two drinks.
“Why do I get the feeling you don’t want to be here either,” Annie said with a smile as she handed Adelaide a drink and sat opposite her. “Family duty comes over all, right?”
“Right,” Adelaide said as she took a large drink from her glass. “I’d rather be with granddad and your dad than stuck here with Madame Boss. I know I have to, but...”
“Don’t panic about it,” Annie said. “Let’s talk and not worry about our elders. What sort of music do you like?”
“Oh, Rod, Marc Bolan, the usual. Can’t stand the Osmonds, though.”
Annie laughed and relaxed, talking as if they had been friends for a long time rather than two people who had just met. They were so engrossed in their conversation they did not hear the slight click as the patio doors that led from the room to outside were quietly opened, nor did they notice the slight breeze as it moved the curtains that covered the doors.
“Can I get you another drink?” Annie eventually said as she stood up. “Same again?” Adelaide nodded, but as Annie reached the cabinet she was surprised by a gruff male voice saying “I’ll have a whisky while you’re there. Apart from that, neither of you move a muscle – do you understand?”
She slowly turned to see five men, dressed in denim jackets and jeans, come into the room. All were wearing black balaclava masks over their heads and had gloves on their hands, with four of them pointing shotguns at both Annie and Adelaide. “I said,” the fifth man said as he walked over to where Annie stood trembling, “I’ll have a whisky. Why don’t you sit down next to your friend – and don’t make a sound or a move unless we tell you.”
“You have a very – nice house, Mrs Highbury. I presume you live here on your own?”
Joan and Lady Hesketh were sat in the front room, sipping on sherry glasses as they talked. It had been obvious to Joan as soon as they were seated that she had no real interest in been here – the evening was promising to be a long one for all of them in her eyes.
“No – my husband is away on business at the moment, so my niece Annie is keeping me company for a few days. It was fortunate that she was here to keep your granddaughter company.”
“Hmm – she is too young to know exactly how important this evening is. As for my husband, he was looking forward to meeting your brother on a more personal level. I believe they are attending a boxing dinner?”
“Indeed – which reminds me, I need to call for a taxi to collect us and take us to the restaurant. If you will excuse me for a moment?”
“Of course,” Lady Hesketh said as Joan stood up and walked to the door to the room. Leaving and closing it behind her, she let out a sigh of relief before starting to walk tot eh telephone table. Before she had taken two steps, however, a rough cotton gloved hand was slapped over her mouth as she was pulled backwards. She looked on, wide eyed as a masked man dressed in denim walked over and pulled the telephone wire free from the socket in the wall, before returning to look at her, his blue eyes clearly visible through the holes in the mask over his head. Eventually he looked up and nodded at whoever was holding Joan, before a male voice said “Put your hands in front of you and don’t move.”
Slowly, Joan raised her hands in front of her, as the masked man picked up the red and white silk bands that hung down from her breasts. She watched, horrified, as he quickly wound them between and around her wrists, pinning them tightly together, before passing the ends around her waist and tying them together. The end result was that her wrists were held against her waist, secured both to each other and to her body, as two small ends of material dangled in front of her.
“Move,” the voice said, and as Joan was turned around she saw a second masked man standing there with two shotguns in his hands. He passed one other to the first man and then opened the door as Joan was pushed inside, Lady Hesketh rising as the party came in.
“What is the meaning of this,” she shouted as Joan was pushed in by the masked man holding her by the body, accompanied by two other armed men. “Lady Hesketh, shut up, sit down and put your hands on your head,” the man said as Joan was pushed into the centre of the room. “As for you lady, keep your trap shut and say nothing. The other two are being looked after, and we’ll be leaving soon with what we came here for.”
“And what would that be,” Joan said as she looked at the three men. The leader said nothing, but merely pointed his finger towards their prize. “Make her - comfortable,” he then said as Joan was taken by the arm and led over to an Ottoman by the two armed men. Lady Hesketh watched, appalled at the way Joan had been restrained so far, as she was helped to lie down with her head resting on the arm of the recliner. “What have you done with Annie and Adelaide?” Joan asked quietly as one of the men lifted the ham of her skirt back to reveal her ankles.
“Those two? They’re getting to know each other,” the gang leader said as a length of rope was passed around Joan’s ankles and pulled tight.
“I know they wanted us to get to know each other, but this is ridiculous!”
“I’d laugh if I wasn’t so scared. What the hell do they want?”
“I – hnnnh – I wish I knew.” Annie grunted as she felt her wrists been pulled together as the rough rope was passed around them. She and Adelaide had been forced by the two remaining armed men to stand in front of each other, and then to hug each other so that they held themselves together. Adelaide’s wrist had already been bound, the rough hemp cutting into her bare skin and the long ends dangling on the floor, and now Annie was having the same thing done to her. The only real difference was that the sleeves of her gown were long enough to provide some protection as the ropes were pulled tighter.
“What are you going to do with us,” Adelaide asked as she watched the man tie the rope around Annie’s wrists. “Why, make you comfortable,” was the reply as the long ends were passed around the waists of the two women, pulling them together as the ropes were used to secure their bodies together and the ends finally bound around the wrists of the other girl. “After all, I don’t think you’re going anywhere.”
“What about my aunt and Lady Hesketh,” Annie asked as she watched one of the men unravel a long length of rope. “What are the others doing with them?”
“None of your business,” the man said as he made a lasso and walked back over to his two captives. “Let’s talk about the two of you instead...”
“There is nothing for me to forgive you for, my dear Mrs Highbury – none of this is your fault.”
Joan looked over from her position on the recliner as the masked man pulled Lady Hesketh’s arms in front of her and held them as rope was passed around them, the cuffs of her dress flaring out as the cords were tightened around her wrists. Looking down along her own body, she could see the rope that gathered the skirt of her dress around her legs, as well as her bound ankles peeking out from under the hem of the skirt. Her wrists were still held firmly in front of her, the silk bands more effective than any rope as they fitted around her bare skin but more comfortable than her ankles felt at the moment.
“Please, let me see the younger girls,” Joan pleaded with the gang leader as he stood there watching the two others bind Lady Hesketh. This provoked a laugh from him, as he turned his head and said “The youngsters will be fine and will come to no harm, and neither will you. Just keep quiet – sit her down and bind her legs.”
“Just take what you want and leave them alone,” was all Her Ladyship said as she was sat down on a chair, the hem of her skirt rising to reveal a pair of flat red slippers. “Surely you can do that?”
“We will – but we need some time before the alarm is raised,” the gang leader said as her ankles were pulled together and lashed with rope. “With that in mind...” He walked over to a bag that was sitting on the small coffee table, and drew something from within. Joan and Lady Hesketh’s eyes widened as he walked back over, removing the covering as he did so from the object with a popping sound.
Half an hour passed before the two men laid Lady Hesketh on a blanket that had been laid on the floor, quickly and expertly wrapping her in it as she lay immobile. Two more men, strangers to both of the women, came in carrying a canvas stretcher which they laid on the floor, waiting as Lady Hesketh was gently placed on before they lifted the two ends.
“You will deliver the message,” the gang leader said to Joan, who nodded mutely in reply as the party left her alone in the room. They carried their burden through the rear room, where Annie and Adelaide watched, the younger girl’s eyes widening as her grandmother was carried beside them. Lady Hesketh looked at Adelaide and nodded as she was carried past, looking back as her granddaughter laid her head on Annie’s shoulder, tears coming down her cheeks as the patio doors were closed.
Silence fell in the house as Joan lay there, looking at the flock wallpaper on the wall in the flickering from the wall lamps. On the table lay a letter, sealed in a large brown envelope, which she knew to contain a message from the gang to be delivered to Lord Hesketh. A ransom note, no doubt, at least for Lady Hesketh if not for her granddaughter as well. She had heard no other noise, no indication of where Annie was never mind young Adelaide. She could not even call out to see if they could hear her – the form fitting material that covered her lips saw to that, sealing them and offering little movement for speech or screams.
Time passed, the slow ticking of the large clock on the mantelpiece marking the passage of time as the birdsong from outside changed from chirping to the hooting of owls in the woods nearby. A sense of frustration was creeping over her – they had left her bound and gagged, probably ruined one of her favourite gowns in the process, and she had – well, she had never felt so helpless in her whole life.
Her silent fuming was interrupted by a thud, and a muted call. Joan decided that the time for action was long past, so she tried to bend her legs. Although the rope tightened around her legs, she was pleased to see she was not incapable of some movement, so slowly she started to move herself up the Ottoman, her back replacing her head as she managed to manoeuvre herself into a seated position before moving her legs over the edge and placing her feet on the floor. Silently thanking the fact that she had chosen a pair of flatter shoes, she pushed herself up so that she was in a standing position, her arms slightly bent and her legs straight.
The door to the room had been left open, a fact Joan was thankful for as she started to make short, tiny hops towards the opening. She took her time, fearful of over balancing and the only other sound the swish that her dress made as she hopped, until she managed to reach the doorway and rested against it for the moment. From there she changed her tack, leaning against the wall as she shuffled herself along with her feet until she reached the door of the drawing room and was able to look in.
“nny?” she mumbled as she looked at her niece and Adelaide lying on the floor, their arms entwined and facing each other. She could see Annie’s wrists tied together behind Adelaide’s back, the red swirls of her arms contrasting with the white and delicate pattern on Adelaide’s dress, while coils of rope encircled the two girls at the chest, waist and legs. Adelaide’s ankles were pulled back and tied together as well as to Annie’s wrists, while Joan could see Annie looking at her over the chestnut haired head of the granddaughter.
“NTE!!!” Annie called out through the brown plaster that covered her lips, which made Adelaide turn her head and look at the new arrival as well. Her mouth was also covered with a brown strip, holding her lisp together, but the dark mascara stains down ehr cheeks showed how much she had been crying. Joan hopped quickly into the room, and allowed herself to fall down onto her knees so that she was next to the two girls. “Ts lrght, grls, ts lrght,” she mumbled through the tight gag as sought to comfort her fellow captives in the dim light.
The private ambulance drew up outside the house, the driver jumping out and opening the doors at the rear to allow the four men inside to get out. The main doors opened as a tall, thin man walked down the stairs, waiting as the stretcher carrying Lady Hesketh was gently carried out.
“Welcome to your rest home, Lady Hesketh,” he said as she was carried in front of him, “I trust you will have a pleasant, and hopefully short visit. Show her every courtesy during her stay.” She stared at him as she was carried past, as well as at a young girl who came out of the house, carrying a doll as she skipped down the stairs.
“Can we play now father,” she said in a quiet voice as the man smiled down at her. “Of course my dear – I just had to welcome our guest,” he said as he took her hand and walked her in.
The three women raised their heads when they heard the door open, and screamed to raise the alarm as Annie’s uncle walked in, turning the light on and staring in disbelief at the sight that greeted him. He rushed forward, peeling the tape away from their lips and holding each of them before going to raise the alarm. As he did so, he failed to notice the envelope that fell fromt he coffee table as he rushed past – at least for the moment.