Lisette Rivers & the Crumbling Mansion Affair
Sam and Sally,Mulhusa, Yahoo Group
Chapter Fourteen- On the Moors No One Can Hear You Scream
The man in the balaclava listened without interruption to the tinny voice on the other end of the line. It appeared to drone on and on. Whatever he or she was telling Balaclava to do with Lisette, the person giving the instructions seemed to be going into it in very great detail. At last the one-sided conversation ended with Balaclava grunting: “Will do,” before replacing the receiver in its cradle with an audible sigh.
The black clad figure, automatically dubbed “Slim” by Lisette, stood uncertainly by the door: “What? What is it?” she asked.
Balaclava shrugged and replied in a bored tone: “We have to secure the girl and leave her here until tonight.”
“Is that all? Nothing about what they’re going to do with her?”
“Nothing. Oh yeah, there was some mention of interrogating her. I think my brain shut off by then.”
“I think we’d better start, and get out of here,” said Slim. “I don’t like it here. These moors give me the creeps.”
“Think yourself lucky you’re not in this girl’s place,” replied Balaclava drily. “You’d like it even less!”
“How shall we start?” asked Slim awkwardly.
“Tighten her gag. Make sure she can’t get it off.”
As Slim moved towards Lisette, Balaclava bent and retrieved a pile of ropes from the floor near his feet. With great deliberation, he began untangling them.
Lisette hated the gag and she shook her head defiantly as the woman approached. But she sat still when Slim began to work with it. Lisette could do nothing to stop the unpleasant procedure, and she knew that it could be worse if she struggled.
The woman first untied the scarf and refolded it to a thicker and neater shape. She then spread the silk across Lisette’s face and drew both ends behind her head so that it slid off her lips and trapped the cotton wad deep in her mouth. Slim made a knot and slowly and carefully pulled it very tight under Lisette’s hair, not directly behind her neck where it would press into delicate vertebrae but a little to one side behind an ear. The scarf cut into the corners of Lisette’s mouth and bit into her cheeks, forcing her jaws wide apart. A double overhand knot was tied and pulled tight, followed by a third knot to make sure that the gag was non-slip.
The gag kept Lisette quiet in two ways. By holding her mouth open, it made sure that she could not form words. By plugging her mouth with cloth, it made sure that she was muffled such that very little sound got through. Lisette did not try to fight it, though her arms strained involuntarily, wanting to pull the gag off with her hands. But her hands were useless, and she found that if she attempted to flex or twist them in any way the cord binding her wrists cut off circulation. For any blood to flow into her fingers, she had to resist the impulse to struggle, but instead to allow her hands to hang limp and relaxed.
The gagging now completed, Balaclava and Slim worked together to truss Lisette up more neatly. Her arms were already bound firmly against her back, but Balaclava welded them immovably to her body, first by tying her elbows together with a short piece of rope, then using a lot more rope around her torso and arms. When they had finished, and it took only a couple of minutes of quick tying, it was as though Lisette had no arms at all. Another piece of rope tied her knees together at her thighs. She was rolled onto her side and lashed down to the bed at her waist and her legs below the knees. There was a lot of rope and the two kidnappers used it extravagantly, passing it under the bed and over their captive, under and over until all of it was used. They did not forget her shoulders as they made the final knots tight.
During the whole procedure, Lisette lay still and relaxed her body. She knew that she would not be getting out of these bonds and that her best option was to stay quiet and compliant.
Cooperate with your captors if you’re ever held hostage, she thought sardonically. Yeah, right. That’s the advice they give in those community service ads. Your kidnappers are just as frightened as you, right? Humour them. Don’t antagonise them … How the hell can I antagonise these two when I can’t move and can hardly utter a sound? As for them being as frightened as me, it’s not them who are trussed up like a Christmas roast and scarcely able to breathe … All right, the woman is apprehensive. She looks pretty young to me, though you can’t always tell when someone’s in a black jump-suit and their face is covered, but I lay odds that she’s not as scared as I am right now! The man, he’s uneasy too. They’ve tied me up well, that is, very tightly, but they’re not professionals – not like the person (the Big Man?) who bound me the night Fforbes was shot. No, they’re amateurs doing the bidding of someone else and not particularly liking it … Who are they? Their voices are muffled under those masks so I have no way of telling whether they’re from this district where I might have seen them.
Lisette’s eyes followed the two kidnappers as they moved to the door.
Amateurs they might be, but they’ve done a very good job of trussing me up. I’m not getting out of this on my own. As usual, I forgot to wear my special belt (the one with the blade in its lining). Maybe I should wear that belt at all times, but it’s not always a comfortable or fashionable thing to do.
With these thoughts, Lisette watched as the two kidnappers left. A padlock rattled. They were taking no chances.
What is this place anyway? A gamekeeper’s hut most likely. It must be used often enough, the phone’s connected and there’s that single light bulb in the roof. They switched it off. It will get dark later. Anyway, no one’s coming here, or they wouldn’t have left me tied up in this place. At least they didn’t blindfold me thank goodness. But these ropes are so tight, and the gag’s unbearable! I wonder what’s the time?
The last was a very practical question. Lisette was uncomfortable enough at that moment and she did not relish lying bound and gagged for many hours. She had left Swallowtail Cottage early, at around one o’clock, and it would be after two by now. There were at least five hours of bound torment ahead if her kidnappers returned after dark at seven. In response to this disagreeable thought she strained sharply against her ropes, but the pain this caused in her arms and shoulders made her stop immediately. In any case, she simply could not move. Resigning herself, Lisette lay still and watched a thin strip of sunlight move across the packed earth floor, a natural sundial that measured the passage of the intolerable hours.
Lisette could not move in the strict ropes but she had a little more success with her gag. By working her jaw painfully and pushing against the cotton packing with her tongue, she managed after what must have been surely half an hour of effort, perhaps longer, to shift the gag over the scarf so that half of it was sticking out. It remained for a long time half in and half out of her mouth until with a final choking effort she managed to push the whole wad out, whereupon it fell to the mattress in front of her face. She could not get the silk scarf out over her chin, however, and had to remain content with the cloth sitting there, heavy with saliva and itching like crazy. Now I can call for help, but no one will hear me way out here.
But she was a little more comfortable. She lay still, listening to the afternoon wind whistle and buffet about the hut, dozing fitfully and trying to ignore the cramping in her limbs. Eventually the strip of sunlight moved from the earthen floor to the far wall then faded as dusk approached.
Balaclava and Slim returned before it became fully dark. Lisette heard the car’s approach followed minutes later by the rattle of the padlock. When they entered, the man and woman were dressed the same way, with balaclavas over their heads and faces. The girl went to Lisette. “She’s got the gag off, but the scarf’s still in her mouth.”
“Plucky lady,” said Balaclava laconically.
“I’ll take this off for a bit and give you some water,” said Slim in a kindly voice as her fingers picked at the silk knot behind Lisette’s ear.
Lisette did not object as the gag was eased gently out of her mouth. The man removed the network of ropes that held her to the bed and propped her up. Slim held a plastic water bottle to her lips and Lisette drank gratefully. She whispered a scarcely audible “thank you,” her mouth parched from hours of wearing the gag.
Her two captors performed the next functions with an equal minimum of fuss. No one spoke. The ropes around her arms were loosened and retied, as were those that bound her wrists. Lisette sighed in relief as her fingers prickled with the return of full circulation. The man began searching a small shoulder pack he had placed by the door. Slim turned towards the head of the bed. While their attention was momentarily directed elsewhere, Lisette tested the new wrist bonds. They were tight and did not allow her to twist her hands about. She was as securely bound as before and she knew that the knots would resist searching fingers.
Slim had been looking for the creased silk scarf and now stood ready, bending her eyes upon Lisette. The captive nodded wearily. They were taking her somewhere and she had to be gagged again. But why wasn’t Slim doing the job? Lisette discovered why the next moment, for the man brought something from his backpack that looked like a neatly folded swatch of black cloth. As he approached he shook out the cloth and Lisette saw that it was a hood complete, that is, without eyeholes or a slit for the mouth. “Sorry about this,” said Balaclava.
Lisette took a deep breath as the hood was pulled down over her head and face. It was padded across the eyes and over the ears so that sound was reduced and sight completely cut off. An additional padded area covered her lips. Fingers carefully adjusted the hood across her face - it felt like some sort of heavy silk – then what Lisette guessed was her own scarf was tied between her jaws, pushing the silken pad of the hood into her mouth as well. The scarf was drawn around the back of her head and a single knot made that was gradually tightened until there could be no slippage. The knot was doubled and Lisette’s jaws were held fast, her mouth open.
Bondage Parade,1992, No. 42, p. 22
The over-gag drew the hood tightly against her face, and at first Lisette fought for breath until she realised that the permeable cloth allowed air to filter through. But mostly she could breathe only through her nose. The thick pad of silk in her mouth became almost airtight as she drooled into it.
They did not untie her legs to walk her to the car. She was carried as before, but this time in the man’s arms like a child instead of being slung over his shoulder. There was something comforting in the way her kidnappers were managing the whole business. Lisette decided that they were not enjoying their work. She definitely was not!
Lisette was placed gently on her side upon the floor of the car. It was cold in the evening air and she was thankful when the blanket was again thrown over her. As the vehicle moved off, she concentrated on breathing carefully through the combined gag and hood, and snuggled beneath the blanket. Her light top and flimsy skirt gave little protection from the night chill of an early spring.
The 4x4 rocked over rough ground, coasted smoothly over sealed road, rocked again over an uneven surface, bounced upon rougher ground. Lisette tried to form a picture in her mind of their possible route, but the only sense she made out of it was: country lane, main road, another country lane, and an even worse rutted track that might be open country. The transition from rough surface to smooth macadam was familiar enough, but after that Lisette’s senses failed her. She had no idea where they might be taking her: Except we’re still somewhere not far from the moors, perhaps even on them.
The car stopped after what felt like an interminable time but was probably no more than twenty or thirty minutes. Lisette was lifted out and carried somewhere, still wrapped in the blanket. She sensed that they were in a building again. There was a humid coldness in the air that suggested concrete walls. She was laid upon her side on a thin mattress. There was a faint “crump” as a heavy door closed. Nothing more happened. She was alone: trussed, hooded, gagged and locked away in a concrete cell of some kind.
Lisette Rivers’ ordeal continued. For the rest of the night she lay bound and helpless on the insubstantial mattress. The darkness and silence pressed upon her. At first she tried to compare the experience with the night of the murder at Weatherstone Hall. There she had sat hogtied in a position from which she could not move. She had been gagged but she could see, not that there was much light in that room, she remembered. In this new place she was at least lying down. She was not hogtied and could roll from one side to the other if she wished. She was also relatively warm under the blanket, although the cold of the stone or concrete floor came through the thin mattress. She was fit and her body heat helped to counter that source of discomfort. On the other hand, she was hooded and unable to see or hear.
As in the Weatherstone Hall experience, the gag was very tight and her mouth slowly became numb. But she could rest and sleep even, if she fought off the hysteria of claustrophobia. Not as bad as last time? She wondered. But what’s “good” about being bound and gagged? Lisette soon decided that she was playing a silly psychological game with herself. She was a helpless captive. All she could do was to lie still and wait for what might unfold. She could even sleep, if her mind allowed.
She tried to think who the people were that had kidnapped her this time, and whether they had any relationship to the drug-runners. But nothing in the sequence of events gave a clue. It was planned, that’s for sure. Lisette tried to think which of her enemies from past cases might be seeking revenge and, more uncertainly, who would have known that she was holidaying on this coast? But the only people who know that I’m here are Chèrie and Sophie at the office. But could she discount others in the village, or that group of artists and writers?
This thought brought her back to the drug couriers, and Lisette with chagrin knew that her mind was running in circles. Hadn’t she already asked herself these questions when Balaclava and Slim first took her? Lisette almost sobbed with frustration. It was bad enough being kidnapped, gagged and tied up in the first place, but it was a lot worse when she had no idea about the identities of her kidnappers. If she knew who they were, she would have some idea about their psychology, and that would provide a rough gauge of her survival chances. She drifted into sleep.
When she woke in what she thought must be the early morning, Lisette was cramped and sore from the ropes that had been chafing her all night. She moved her legs from side to side in an attempt to get the circulation going, fighting back the pain of protesting muscles and joints. There was nothing she could do about her arms, which were locked behind her and wedged into her back, and the faint movement that she could summon to her jaws could not ease the numbness in her lips and cheeks. Her perseverance succeeded in reducing the stiffness in her legs, however, and helped to make her feel warmer.
Time passed and Lisette was beginning to wonder whether she had been left to languish all day in the unknown place when she heard, muffled by the hood, the sound of an iron door opening. She would not have heard it at all, but the hinges were in serious need of oiling and emitted a long drawn out shriek that set the teeth on edge and would have done credit to a Hammer horror movie. What followed was straight out of such a movie.
Steely fingers gripped her by the shoulders and turned her roughly over onto her opposite side so that, she realised, the person could reach the knot at the back of her neck. The scarf was untied and jerked from her mouth and she was rolled onto her back. The silken mask was clawed from her face. It came off with difficulty at first because it was stuck to her face with sweat.
Lisette blinked and closed her eyes for a moment against the illumination, faint as it proved to be, that came from a circular barred lamp fitted into the ceiling. Her guess had been correct. She was in a small room no larger than a closet with grey unpainted concrete walls, no window, and one door.
A head and face intruded into her field of vision. Lisette would have screamed if her mouth and jaws had not been numb. Instead she could only gaze up horrified into a pair of dilated pupils that belonged to a face whose owner should by all appearances be dead. The face was that of an old woman, a very old woman. The visage and the head were skull-like, the skin drawn so thinly over brow, temples, cheeks and jawbones that it gave the person a mummified appearance. The creature’s face twisted into a ghastly smile that revealed brown smoke-stained teeth. A thin thread of spittle hung from a corner of the woman’s mouth. When the woman spoke, it was with a rasping cackle.
“Hullo Dearie. My, what a pretty little thing you are! I’m sure we’ll get along well together. I’m Mrs Batts. Welcome to my lighthouse.”
© To be Continued …