The Seventh Victim
“Miss du Bois? We have your car ready for you.”
Claire du Bois smiled as she stood up, putting her white hat on so that it perched on her long black hair and slipping on her white sheepskin coat. The coat covered her ethnic print blouse, a long thin red, scarf tied loosely round her neck, a black skirt that came halfway down her thighs, and skin tight white leather boots. She was due at the recording studios – and she was already running late.
“About time,” she said as she walked out, and climbed into the back of the car, the chauffer closing the door and walking smartly to the front of the car. As the Bentley moved off, she sat back and looked out of the window, hoping the traffic would not be too heavy.
“There is refreshment in the icebox, if you require some ma’am,” the chauffer said, Claire nodding as she opened the small refrigerator and took out the small bottle of champagne. She opened the bottle and then poured it into the glass, placing the bottle into the bucket as she took a sip.
“How much longer,” she said, and then she rubbed her forehead, suddenly feeling very woozy.
“I am sorry ma’am – what did you say?”
“I said how much.... How much...”
The chauffer smiled as the glass fell from her hand, and Claire fell back into the seat, her eyes closed and her head to one side. He turned off the main road, and headed for the docks...
Claire screamed again through the thick cloth that was tied into her mouth and round her head, forcing her lips apart as she struggled in the chair she was secured to. The ropes held her wrists together and to the central spar of the chair back, while further ropes were tied round her waist and her arms. Her ankles were secured together and to the left front leg of the chair, and her lap also had a band of rope tied round it.
“I told you, there is no sense in trying to call for help – nobody can hear you, and as soon as the ransom is paid you will be freed.”
She looked again at the chauffer, who was holding her hat in his gloved hands. She had woken up to find herself in this situation, and there was nothing she could do about it – except to scream again, sharing her frustrations that way.
“Well, it’s your funeral,” the man said as he walked away, Claire finally calming down and wondering how long it would last...
“Two days he kept me like that – only releasing me to go to the toilet, and ungagging me so I could eat – before he bundled me into the car and returned me to my manager’s office.”
Shirley nodded as she took down Claire’s words, using the shorthand she had learned to take an accurate description. “Still,” she said, “the ransom was paid.”
“Yeah – but I still had no idea who he was,” Claire said quietly, “and he could have hurt me even more.”
“Well, we are glad you were returned unhurt,” Shirley said with a smile, “and thank you for the interview.”
“Well, the fans will want to know – and hopefully know what to do if it happens again.”
“One thing – he didn’t try and hide his face, did he?”
“Oh no – six one, short dark hair, well built, spoke with a Devon accent.”
“Well, thank you again, Miss du Bois – you have been very helpful.”
“Anything for the press, darling,” Claire said as her housekeeper showed the young reporter out. Another celebrity interview – she was hoping for something bigger...
Amber Rudd was bored – the office as empty, but she had drawn the short straw today and had to man it while the rest of the staff took their weekly ‘long lunch’. She knew full well they would not be back until five minutes before closing time – but, as she said to herself, it was her turn, and at least she could have the radio on.
She picked up the files she had been working on and walked to the cabinets, the short heels of her patent black leather boots clicking on the wooden floor. The boots came to just below her knees, and were the perfect match to her black cotton mini dress, with short sleeves and a white Wendy collar.
Amber stood in front of the cabinets, looking at the files, opening the drawers, looking and placing the files in the right place, repeat, repeat...
The voice was male, with a West Country twang, but Amber had not heard anyone come in. More to the point, she could feel a hand on her shoulder, and could see the small gun in a gloved hand that was pointing at her.
“Not a word, my dear lady – I need to find something in this office, and I need to make sure you cannot stop me. So you are going to so what I say, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Amber whispered, as she felt her hands been moved behind her back, and then the cords as they were bound tightly together. Her hair was cut in the same style as that model – Twiggy – but she was too frightened to do anything as she felt the ropes around and between her arms.
“Good girl – there’s a cupboard over there, do you see it,” the man said as she felt him binding her arms to her sides with rope, sitting above and below her chest. She nodded slowly as the ropes pulled her arms against her body, and then she was walked over, turning round as she walked in.
He was tall – about six foot or more – and dressed in a grey jacket and pants with a black jumper. “Sit down,” he said with a smile, Amber doing as she was told before he took two more lengths of cord from his pocket, securing her ankles and then her legs as she sat there.
“Now, stay here and you’ll be fine,” he said quietly. “Oh – and purse your lips for me.”
Amber looked at him, and then felt the Elastoplast as it was pressed firmly over her mouth, before she watched him close the door, and heard him opening and looking through the filing cabinets, too scared to try and escape...
“I was finally free when they got back,” Amber said as she sat holding a cup of coffee, Shirley sitting opposite her. “Well, I quit on the spot – before they put the blame on me.”
“What did they take,” Shirley asked as she tapped the end of her pencil against her mouth.
“A file concerning the disposition of a will – a Mrs du Bois.”
“du Bois – any relation to the singer Claire du Bois?”
“A distant aunt or something, I think – anyway, as I said, I quit. So why did you want to talk to me?”
“Curiosity – I saw the police report, and the description matches someone in another case. Well, thanks for talking to me, Amber.”
As she walked onto the street, buttoning her coat up, Shirley was curious – the same man commits two crimes, both connected to the du Bois family? Why? She made her way to the bus stop, mulling over these things and vowing to keep her eyes open for any other unusual tales...
“I can assure you, I do not keep my jewellery in that room, young man.”
The Contessa di Napoli was not a happy woman. She had been out for lunch with some acquaintances, and was dressed in the highest of fashion – a dusky pink long sleeved blouse, open at the collar, and leather mini skirt, with tight over the knee leather boots in the same shade, and a matching floppy hat covering her coiffure light brown hair.
Well, it would be covering her hair if she was still wearing it, but at this moment in time it was sitting on the cushioned seat opposite her, while she was lying on an Ottoman recliner, her wrists secured firmly together behind her back with soft rope, and two bands of rope holding her arms firmly to her sides above and below her chest. She had returned home to find the man inside, and the gun he had shown her had been most persuasive in making his point.
He had assured her he meant her no harm, but was looking for something in her apartment, and needed to make sure she could not interfere. Well, manners went a long way with her, so she had consented to the binding of her wrists and arms – and she had to say, he did a good job. It was not uncomfortable, but she could not move her arms – or reach the knots with her fingers.
She had then been helped to lie on her side, and now she was watching as he took more rope between her booted legs, ensuring her ankles were well and truly held together. As he tied the ends off, he took another length of rope from the small satchel he had, and started to bind her legs below her knees.
“I already said that my jewellery is in my room,” she said as she felt the pressure below her knees, “so why my utility room?”
“I have my reasons, Contessa,” the intruder said quietly as he took the rope around and between her legs, “and I ask you to respect them. Look on it this way – you will suffer no real material harm today, and may even have a story for those upcoming dinner parties.”
His accent had a Devon burr, as he pulled the rope firmly between her legs and then tied it off. “Now then,” he said as he looked at her, “do I need to provide something else to take your mind off what I am doing?”
“No,” the Contessa said quietly, “unless you mean turning the radio on? There is a transmission of La Boehme on Radio 3 this afternoon.”
“How can I refuse such a request,” the man said as he turned the radio on, and then walked back, rolling a pink chiffon scarf in his hands.
“I should have seen this coming,” the Contessa said before the cloth was pulled between her lips, and tied round her head, before she watched him walk towards the door. He turned, smiled and blew a kiss, and then went out, leaving her to the music and the squeak as she tried to move...
“Did you ever discover what it was he was looking for,” Shirley said as she sat in the bar, looking at the Contessa. She was wearing a pale blue trouser suit with a candy striped blouse, while Shirley had on a blue blouse over a black jumper and black pants.
“No – he called the police and let them know of my predicament, but he timed it so that they arrived just as the concert was ending. I guess that shows some taste, and courtesy, if nothing else.”
“May I ask what may seem a strange question, Contessa?”
The young noblewoman looked at Shirley, and then nodded as she continued “How long have you lived in your apartment, and who owned it before you?”
The Contessa thought for a moment, and then said “well, I am not sure who owned it before me – you would have to ask my solicitor. But I have lived there for five years – why?”
“Not important – thank you for your time,” Shirley said as she collected her things, and stood up. As they shook hands, Shirley knew she could not tell her she already knew the answer to that question – it was a du Bois, and the solicitor who had handled the sale from that side was the one Amber worked for.
Whoever this man was, he wanted something to do with the du Bois family – but what...
“Sing for your supper and you’ll get breakfast...”
Betty sang along to the record as she pulled the brown and white candy striped slip dress over her head, letting it fall so that it covered her body and hugged her curves. The young Jamaican woman was wearing a pair of dusky white tights, and as she sat down she pulled a pair of white leather go-go boots over her feet and legs, pulling the zip up so that the leather hugged her legs.
“Looking good, Betty,” she said as she put a brown hat on her black hair, and then walked to the door – only to be stopped by the tall man, wearing an open necked paisley shirt and bell bottom jeans, who stood and said “Sorry Betty – I am afraid you are going nowhere tonight. But don’t worry – I’ll make sure you stay nice and happy.”
“Who the hell are you,” Betty said – and then she saw the pistol in his hand, and backed slowly away...
“Hey Betty – you ready to party yet,” the dark haired woman said as she sat at her dressing table, not looking round as the door to her bedroom opened and closed. She finished using the hairspray to fix her long black hair into the beehive she had carefully constructed, and then stood up, brushing some lint from her brown suede hot pants.
“I said are you ready Betty,” she said as she turned round – and then saw Betty, the white tape contrasting with her dark skin as it covered her mouth, her wrists secured behind her back, and the hand of the man with her holding her arm as he pointed the gun at her friend.
“Not a word dear lady,” he said in a Devon accent, “I’m afraid you and Betty are going to be spending the night here Ellie.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Oh I know a lot about you – and you’re going to help me, even if you don’t know it. For now, however, sit at the foot of the bed, hands on your head.”
Slowly, Ellie walked over and sat down. As well as the shorts, she was wearing a tight blue cashmere sweater, and laced up knee length black leather boots – but that was immaterial as the man made Betty sit next to her, her friend’s eyes wide open as he walked behind Ellie, and took her hands behind her back, crossing and securing them together with the thin cord he took out of his pocket.
“What is this all about? What have we got you’d want? We’re just students...”
“I know,” the man said as he pulled the rope firmly between Ellie’s arms, “and I don’t want anything you have as such. So relax, and enjoy what’s coming.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ewssherknnww,” Betty said, her lips moving under the tape as she watched the man kneel in front of them, taking more cords from his back pocket and starting to bind their ankles and legs, the ropes going around and between their limbs.
“Oh it will become clear in due course,” he said with a smile as he looked at them, and then completed the rope work, standing up as both Betty and Ellie tried to move their legs.
“Now, he said as he lifted Betty’s legs, and moved her so that she was sitting side on to the bed, “first things first.” From his shirt, he peeled away a length of white tape, and then smoothed it over Ellie’s mouth before she had a chance to protest, staring at him as he moved her to sit back to back with her flatmate.
They took hold of each other’s hands as they watched him walk over to the windows, collecting a pair of scissors as he did so, and then cut away the cord that Ellie sued to pull the curtains to and fro. Coming back to the bed, he used it to bind the two girls together around their waists, before he left them alone in the room.
“Cnnurssshknt,” Ellie said as she looked over her shoulder.
“nnnsstththt,” Betty said as they heard the man searching in another room. They sat still, unsure of what they could do, before the man returned, a coil of washing line in one hand and a bag in the other.
“Well, I found what I was looking for,” he said as he cut a long length from the rope, and then tied the two women together even more tightly around their chests, “but I need to make sure I can get away now. Sorry about this.”
Both women grunted as he pushed them over, and then lashed their legs together at their thighs, calves and ankles, leaving them to squirm on the bed as he departed...
“I still don’t understand what happened,” Ellie said as she was talking to Shirley. The darker haired woman was wearing a blue Quant dress, white tights and black boots, while Shirley was wearing a grey skirt and striped blouse.
“He did not steal your personal belongings?”
“No – well, apart from an old dairy my mother had left when she died. I had no idea what was in it, though.”
“You never opened it?”
“No – I imagine it was about the things she did when she worked for that old lady in her apartment as a secretary.”
“Yeah – du Bois, that was the name...”
As Shirley left, she was piecing the facts together in her mind. Everything suggested this man, whoever he was, had something on the du Bois family, or some beef with them, that went beyond a mere kidnapping – but what?
And then it hit her – there was a connection, and it was clear in her mind. If she was right, however, she would have to go to the East End, and check something out...
The door was opened by a young woman, her light brown hair falling over her shoulders as she looked at the caller. A brown crocheted poncho covered her white blouse and the top of her pleated brown skirt, while on her legs she was wearing a pair of white lace-up leather boots.
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” the caller said, “but I was wondering if Jack Bosworth lived here?”
“And you are?”
“Oh sorry,” the blonde haired woman said, “my name is Shirley Jones, I’m a reporter for the Standard. I’ve been following up on some of the news in the area, and I was told Jack may be able to help me with some local knowledge.”
“Oh – well, I’m sorry, but he moved out a few months ago. Moved up to Sheffield.”
“Oh – do you have telephone number for him?”
“I’m afraid not – but I can get him to call if you can leave your details when he next calls me?”
“Sure,” Shirley said as she scribbled some details on her notepad, tore off the sheet and handed it to her, “there you go.”
“Thanks,” she said as she took the sheet and then closed the door. Looking at it for a moment, she then walked back into the front room of her house, looking at the tall dark haired man sitting there.
“Who was it,” he said in a West Country accent.
“A reporter – Jesus Christ Jack, this vendetta has to stop.”
“It’s going to – I have all I need now Kate,” he said as he stood up. “Believe me, it is all over now – save for two things.”
“What two things?”
“This,” he said as he took the sheet of paper, “and the fact you and I need to play our childhood game one last time.”
“Are you sure this is necessary?”
“To cover you, yes – chair or bed?”
“Chair,” she said as she went out of the room, returning with a dining chair and setting it in the centre of the room. “At least I get to watch the Open University while you disappear again.”
“What are you studying?”
“English – they’re showing an adaptation of Macbeth. All right – let’s get this over with.”
She sat down and put her arms at the side of the chair, watching as he took a roll of clear tape and secure her wrists to the chair back. He then knelt down, unlacing and removing her boots before her ankles were taped to the front legs of the chair.
“I’ll drop you a line when I get to my destination, let you know I’m safe – and I’m sorry I needed to do this Kate.”
“Yeah well – I’m glad you know the truth now. Stay safe Jack.”
“I intend to – lips together.”
She watched him tear a length of the clear tape off, and then press it firmly down over her mouth, the red lipstick preserved as he kissed her forehead, turned on the television to BBC2, and then left her alone...
Shirley sat at the desk, looking over the information and nodding. She knew it now – how the du Bois family had had to cover up the fact one of them had become pregnant to someone who – shall we say, did not fit with their social standing. How the birth had been kept quiet, and the baby quietly adopted by another family. And how, when the du Bois in question had died, there had been provision in the will for the child, and it had been covered up.
Shirley knew this was a good story, but should she publish? Gathering the evidence and placing it in her bag, she went to the hallway closet and took out a woollen bomber jacket, putting it on over her light beige jumper. She was also wearing a wraparound skirt, brown with an ethnic print, the hem down below her knees and covering the tops of her burgundy leather boots.
Slipping on a pair of sunglasses, she left the house and walked down the external steps, passing the number 7 on the wall as she unlocked her Hillman Imp and got in, putting the key into the ignition and...
“Hello Miss Jones – I hear you are looking for me.”
“Well,” Shirley said as she heard the Devon accented male voice, “I am – I know you were hard done by, but why go about finding the truth this way?”
“Oh I’ll tell you – while you drive me to the airport.”
“But treating five innocent women that way...”
“I regret that – and it’s not five.”
“I’m sorry,” Shirley said.
“It’s not five innocent women – it’s seven. My sister – well, half-sister was the sixth, and I regret to say that...”
“I’m the seventh victim.”
“Precisely – now, please, drive – you can ask your questions on the way...”
“So it is over?”
“It is, Miss Jones – and you know the truth now. My apologies that you may be a while in filing your story.”
“I’m not sure I will,” Shirley said as she watched Jack pull the rope tightly round her ankles, forcing them together as he passed it around and between her legs. They were in the multi-storey car park at the airport, on an upper floor – but he had already bound her wrists tightly together behind her back, and rope held her arms to her sides as it sat above and below her chest.”
“Who does it serve,” she said as he tied the rope off, and she wriggled round. “So what now?”
“In two hours, I fly to the States – and someone will come across you. Eventually.”
“I could just scream for help when you leave.”
“Yes, I suppose you could,” Jack said as he took a strip of brown sticking plaster from his pocket, and peeled the backing paper off, “if it was possible.”
“Smchnnss,” Shirley mumbled as the plaster was pressed firmly over her mouth, Jack smiling as he stroked her hair from her head.
“Goodbye Miss Jones,” he said as he gently kissed her forehead, “pity – you’re kinda cute.”
“Fnnksegss,” Shirley said as he closed the door and walked off, leaving her alone in the back of her car...