1997 – Bill Clinton was back in the White House, there was a wind of change running through the politics across in Great Britain, and for Jackie Brown there was a new start after twenty years of marriage. Not that the marriage had been a total failure, but after twenty years she had realised she just didn’t trust George any more, so they had split up.
The question in her mind was how to celebrate? As she sat pondering this. Watching a documentary on Hanna-Barbera on the television, an idea came to mind –one that she felt would work with the four close friends she wanted to spend time with toasting the changes.
Accordingly, the following invitation came through four letter boxes in the mid-Western town.
Recapture our youth!
Join me on Friday night at the Smithers place, and help me to celebrate regaining my youthful freedom.
Come dressed as a Hanna-Barbera character from your youth that you share your name with.
We start at eight – don’t be late!!
As eight o’clock approached on Friday night, Penny Danvers drove up to the Smithers place – now the local town museum, but for many years before that a place of local notoriety. Not that anything bad ever happened there – unless you count that unfortunate business a couple of years ago – but a good place for a small private party.
There was a light on in the downstairs room, so Penny parked her car, adjusted the scarf around her neck, and walked up to the door. Pulling on the bell, she heard a set of footsteps approaching, and waited for the door to open.
He was huge – about six foot six, broad shouldered, and dressed as a butler.
“I… I’m here for Miss Brown’s party?”
“Of course, Madam – if you will follow me?”
His voice was deep, cavernous, and as he turned Penny noticed the thud of his footfall. She followed him to a door at the far end of the hallway.
“If you will wait in here, Madam, Miss Brown will join you shortly.”
Penny walked past the butler into a spacious library, and noticed she was not the first to arrive.
“Brenda? Why, Sugah, I do declare you look fabulous!”
“Gee whiz, Penny – or is it Miss Pitstop tonight?”
“You can call me whatever you want to, dahling,” Penny said as she bowed. She had indeed come as Penelope Pitstop – wearing a dark pink belted jacket, red flying breeches with the legs tucked into white knee length boots, a purple twenties driving hat with goggles over her long blonde hair and matching scarf, and white gloves on her hands. “So, where are the rest of your group?”
“Dee-Dee and Taffy took off with the Captain, and left me here to hold the fort,” Brenda replied. She was wearing a red sweater, blue knee length denim skirt and knee length red leather boots.
“Care for a Mint Julep?”
“Actually, I’d prefer a Long Island Iced Tea – who are we waiting on?”
Brenda handed Penny a tall iced glass. “Well, I came with Judy, but she’s gone to find her little sister. I think it’s just Jez to come.”
“The old gang back together, eh?”
“For one night of recapturing our lost youth. Have you seen Jackie since the divorce?”
“Nope – I know she got a lot out of him, but not how she did it.”
The door opened, and the butler showed in a tall dark haired woman. She was wearing a white peasant blouse, with the collar pulled down to expose her smooth bare shoulders, dark pants and open toed sandals, and had a white scarf tied over her hair so that only the front fringe showed.
“Hello girls – long time no see.”
Jez, or as her driving licence said Jezebel Samson, was the tomboy of the group, so it was no surprise to Brenda and Penelope that she had come as the female character from Jonny Quest.
“And what have you done with Race tonight?” Penny asked as Jez poured herself a drink.
“Left him tied up with some business – ladies?”
The three of them raised their glasses in salute to each other as the door opened and Jackie’s older sister Judy walked in. The three women stared at her as she stood there, hand up against her orange wig.
“See what difference five years can make to your choice of characters, ladies?” Judy said as she wiggled her hips and walked in.
“Where the hell did you get that?” Brenda said as Judy strode to the drinks table, a squeak coming from the dress she was wearing. It was made from some sort of PVC, deep purple in colour with a large white collar that rose behind Judy’s neck and head. It was sleeveless, and flared from a nipped waist to a full skirt just above Judy’s knees. On her legs were over the knee purple boots, made from leather with a white stripe up each side and three inch heels.
“George allowed me to come out for the night,” Judy said as she popped a bottle of champagne, “But wait until you see what Jackie is wearing.”
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
Jackie was standing in the doorway, her hand against the door frame. Her tunic dress was made of a deep red colour, with a light purple body stocking underneath that covered her arms and legs. A thick black leather belt was fed through straps in the waist of the dress, and buckled in the front, while she had on her feet knee length black leather go-go boots.
“I hate to say it, but turn round,” Penny said. As Jackie did so, the other four could see on her back a disk, made from light purple card. The disk had a picture of a bunch of grapes and the words “Sour Grapes Bunch” written on the back.
“So, girls,” Judy said as she poured champagne into five glasses, “Shall we taste the independent woman?”
Outside the house, the rain had started to fall as the VW van drove up to the house. Stopping outside, four men stepped into the falling shadows and made their way to the rear of the house.
“So why the theme, Jackie?”
She took a sip of her wine before answering. “I guess it’s a last nod to my youthful freedom before I start again. Besides, don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy those old cartoons.”
The five women were sat round a table, the remains of the meal before them. Jez took a sip from her glass.
“Of course I loved them – the excitement, the silly scenes, the rubber masks.”
“Yeah,” Brenda said as she ran her hand through her permed hair, “and the perils the women always found themselves in.”
“Especially when the lights would go out in the room,” Penny laughed.
At which point the lights went out in the room.
“Judy – get the light switch will you?”
“Hang on a second – I can hardly see. Is everyone all right?”
“Yeah – just a bit scared.”
“Wait a minute – there, got it!”
Judy flipped the light switch to reveal Jackie, Brenda and Jez still sat at the table. Where Penny had been sitting, however, was an empty chair lying on its back.
“Penny? Penny, where are you?”
“Unhand me, you fiend!”
Penny was beating on the back of the masked man as he carried her over his shoulder down the hidden passageway. He had grabbed her in the darkness and pulled her out of the room, then flung her over one shoulder and walked off.
He eventually entered a large room, made out like an old sawmill. Standing in the room was a tall man in a purple suit and cape, with a fedora and a mask over his eyes. Penny looked at him, and said “I should have guessed – the Hooded Claw!”
“Welcome, Penelope – let me make you uncomfortable. Put her on the log!”
The silent man pulled Penny down from his shoulder and placed her on a large wooden log that was resting on a conveyor belt. “What are you going to do, you fiend?” she said, thinking this was part of the evening’s events.
“I’ll tell you, my dear,” the Claw said as he grabbed Penny’s wrists, crossed them in front of her and started to tie them together with rope. “Once we secure you, I will start to pour that jar of honey over the rope you see. When the mice smell the honey, they will come out and start to gnaw away at the rope until it snaps.”
“You bounder!” Penny cried with laughter as the hoodlum took some more rope and secured her ankles together.
“When the rope snaps, it will release the pendulum to swing, slowly, daintily, and it will descend until the razor sharp edge cuts you in half. Make sure she’s well tied down to that log – I’d hate for Ms Pitstop to make an unplanned exit.”
Penny watched as the hoodlum wrapped a long length of rope around her body, the log and the support it was resting on, until she was almost cocooned in rope.
“I swear, I shall scream and the Anthill Mob will rescue me!”
“We will have to see what we can do about that, my dear,” The Claw laughed as he took a rag and walked over to where Penny was lying. “Open wide my dear.”
“Never – nevmmmpph!” Penny could not stop him pushing the rag into her mouth, filling her cheeks, and then using her own scarf to keep the rag in by wrapping it around her mouth and neck.
“Goodbye, Penelope,” he sneered as he and the henchmen walked out, turning the light off in the room as they left. Still believing it to be part of the evening, Penny lay back and waited for her eventual release. She did not hear the conversation on the other side of the heavy door.
“One down, four to go – tell the others to get ready. If I know Jackie, she’ll be getting into Scooby Gang mode right about now….”
“We need to spilt up and find Penny.”
Jackie and the girls were standing in the dining room. They had established that Penny was nowhere nearby, and were starting to panic.
“Jez, you come with me,” Judy said. “Brenda can go with Jackie. If anyone sees anything, shout!”
“Zowie,” Brenda said, “A real mystery!”
She and Jackie left the room and headed for the other downstairs rooms, while Jez and Judy climbed the staircase to the upper rooms.
“Is that part of the evening’s entertainment?” Jez asked as she and Judy opened a door.
“Jackie said she had something planned, so I would not put it past her. Nothing in here, come on.”
They walked along the corridor, Jez looking round as they walked.
“I swear, it really is as if the eyes are following you,” she said as Judy opened another door.
“It’s just an optical illusion,” Judy replied, not hearing a panel in the wall behind them open up. “Penny? Are you hiding in here?”
There was no answer. “Come on, Jez,” Judy said as she closed the door and turned round. There was just one thing missing – Jez.
“Wonder where the kitchen staff went?”
Brenda and Jackie were searching the kitchen. There were dirty pots, pans and dishes, but no sign of the butler or anyone else.
“This really is fun, Jackie – do you know where Penny is?”
“No idea – I had something planned, but not the fine details. I wonder how the other two are getting on.”
Jackie turned round, but she was alone in the kitchen – Brenda had disappeared.
Jez glared over her shoulder as the tape was torn off and smoothed over her wrists. In front of her was a man in Arab dress, with the cloth pulled over his face, and covering her with a gun. A similarly attired man was tearing the end off a large roll of silver duct tape, and started to wrap it around Jez’s waist, securing her wrists into the small of her back and then making her way up her body.
“Doctor Tzin sends his regards, Miss Jade,” the man said in a truly awful accent, “but he needs you to be out of the way for a while. Please to be standing still – we will be as quick and painless as possible.”
“You’ll never get away with this,” she shouted as the tape started to go over her breasts. The tape was tugging at the bare skin on her arms, but the gun covering her made resistance a very limited prospect.
“I think you will give us no harm,” the Arab sneered as his colleague reached Jez’s neck, and carried on to cover her mouth. She stood still, her lips closed, as she was effectively gagged. Staring with a new roll of tape, the man then started to make his way down her body, securing her legs together with each turn.
Eventually, Jez was laid flat on the floor, her entire body cocooned in duct tape and only her nose and eyes showing. The Arabs walked out of the room, leaving her to writhe and struggle in her bonds.
Jackie ran into the hallway, calling as she did so.
“Hold your horses, little sis – it’s difficult enough to walk in these boots, let alone run.”
Judy made her way down the stairs, very carefully.
“I presume in the same place as Penny and Brenda. I have to say, Jackie, this is a master stroke, getting someone to snatch the girls.”
Jackie looked puzzled. “I agree – but I thought you arranged this. I had nothing to do with it.”
“Unhand me, you brutes!”
Brenda looked into the masked face of one of the men as the other pulled her wrists behind the back of the chair she was sat on. They were both wearing hooded robes, with Scream masks over their faces, and said nothing as they forced her into the room. Now rope was being passed around her wrists, but Brenda thought it was part of the evening.
Her wrists were held firmly together as the ends of the rope were tied down to the back of the chair. “I’m going to scream for help” she said as more rope was passed around her waist and the chair back to secure her in place.
“They’re taking this seriously,” she thought to herself as one of the men knelt in front of her and passed a doubled over length of rope around her ankles, pulling tightly so that the red leather squeaked as she tried to move them apart. It only took a few minutes for him to fully secure them, cinching the ropes by passing the ends between her legs at the end.
“Time to play my part,” Brenda thought as she called out “Cavey!! Help Me!!”
“Shut her up,” a male voice Brenda recognised said, and one of the masked men held her nose as the other pushed a white handkerchief into her mouth, before tearing strips of red tape off a roll and covering her mouth and jaw. When he had finished, all Brenda could do was mumble “Yu?” as one of the Arabs walked round and looked into her eyes.
“Finish the job,” he said, and Brenda winced as her legs were pulled back under the chair and secured to the chair back. At the same time, rope was passed around her upper chest and arms and pulled tightly.
“Ths snt a gm?” she mumbled as she looked up, and masked man slowly nodded. Brenda started to scream, even more so when the door opened and a mummified Jez was carried in, struggling as she was left on the floor.
“But if you didn’t arrange this, then what’s going on?”
Judy looked at her sister, sweat forming on her brow as Jackie went over to the phone.
“Hello? HELLO!!!” She replaced the receiver.
“The line’s dead – Is there another phone anywhere.”
“In the room, upstairs. You wait here and I’ll go and try it.”
Despite the problems with her footwear, Judy ran up the stairs to the room she had changed in earlier. Seeing the receiver, she went to use it when she was grabbed from behind and a gloved hand clamped over her mouth.
“I don’t need you raising the alarm just yet, Judy,” a man said from behind her, and Judy recognised it as she was dragged over to the large four poster bed that was there.
“Where the hell is she? Judy – I’m coming up.”
Jackie could feel the cold sweat on her back as she climbed the staircase, wondering what had happened to the others. As she reached the top of the staircase, she heard muffled sounds coming from one of the rooms, and made her way to the door.
Taking a big gulp of air, she turned the handle of the door and looked in. She saw Brenda and Jez, securely bound and gagged, and as Jez rolled over the two of them screamed warnings through their gags. She then saw the two masked and cowled men, who started running towards her.
Turning, Jackie started to run towards the staircase, only to see the two Arabs come up as well. She ran in the other direction, screaming “JUDY!!” as she did so, only to run into the cloaked body of the Hooded Claw as he stood there.
“Hello, Jackie,” he said, and as he grabbed her she answered in shock “George?”
“You were right not to trust me, Jackie, but that won’t do you much good now,” he said as he dragged Jackie into the room next to them, the other four men following.
Judy was lying on the bed, her wig cast to one side and her natural brown hair falling bedraggled around her head. She was tied spread eagled to the bed, each limb secured to one of the four posts at each corner, and a thick white towel was tied into her mouth preventing her from making any noise.
“What have you done with Penny?”
“Oh, she’s quite happy in her make believe world, but she’ll get the point eventually. Now, let’s make sure you’re as comfortable as everyone else. Boys?”
Jackie winced as her arms were pulled behind her back and her wrists tied together. Even with the rope going over her sleeves, it still hurt as they pulled tightly, passing the rope around and between her wrists several times. It hurt even more when they passed more rope around her elbows, pulling them together so that they nearly touched, with the effect that her breasts started to strain against the tunic she was wearing.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, anyway?”
“Getting my revenge, my dear – I trust that isn’t too tight? Not that ti matters anyway – lie her down.”
The masked men pushed Jackie down so that she sat on the floor, and started to bind her ankles and legs together.
“So what happens now?”
“Well, when we’re finished here we’ll go back to your… sorry, ORU house and clear out some things I want, then the shop and do the same. By the time you all get free, we’ll be long gone, and you won’t be able to stop us. Think about that when you throw twenty years out of the window.
“Where’s the butler?”
“Right here, Madame” one of the robed Arabs said as he removed his face mask. Judy screamed at the same time as Jackie said “Shit”.
“Enough bad language from you, young lady,” George said as he held up a roll of black tape. “Now, are you going to open wide, or do I have to be rough.”
“Damn you to hell,” Jackie said, but she opened her mouth and allowed the cloth to be pushed in, before George wrapped the black tape around her mouth and neck, holding her light hair out of the way as he did so.
“No Sour Grapes, I hope,” George said as the five men walked out, leaving both Judy and Jackie struggling to get free.
“Back to the van, boys” George said as they walked down the stairs “I need to take care of something first.”
Pressing a hidden switch in the wall panelling, he walked down a passageway to a hidden room, where Penny was still lying bound to the log. Walking up to her, he untied the scarf and removed the rag from her mouth.
“Is the game over,” she whispered.
“It is, my darling – time for us to enjoy life somewhere else,” George said as he leaned over and kissed Penny passionately, “time to start again.”