the Case of the Kidnapped Heiress
Imvisior Der Zeilfahnder, Ina Weis, HtF didcaps
Chapter Seven Persuasion
“The question,” muttered Lisette as she concentrated on picking the lock, “is whether it will be safer to return you to your doting father, or whether it will be a better plan for you to stay hidden until I can finish my investigations and turn this gang over to the police? … That is, if we manage to get out of this place.”
“Where are we?” asked Cosette Sonneur anxiously.
“I don’t know … I was tied in a bundle and blindfolded when they brought me here. Still somewhere in the city, I think … Ahh, that sounds promising!”
The lock gave a satisfying click that was so loud that Lisette held her breath in case there was someone in the corridor who would hear it. There was no handle. She pushed and, grudgingly, the heavy metal panel opened outwards.
Lisette took Cosette’s hand and together they stepped out into the featureless concrete corridor. Which way led to the outside and freedom and which to Madame’s lair and recapture? And who was Madame anyway? With freedom from her bonds and the cell shared with Cosette, Lisa was beginning to study the case more dispassionately. She took the left-hand turn, remembering – she thought – that she and the security guard had approached from the other end.
“I think we’re in the basement of another office complex like the hire company,” said Lisette in a stage whisper as they ran softly down the corridor.
“Oh … I traced the van we were kidnapped in to the company that hires them out,” Lisette explained. “But that security guard, Hilda, is a member of the gang and she caught me.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” said the girl. “I’d lost hope.”
“It’s just a lucky chance that they gave me back my handbag … Now, does this door open to the outside?”
They had reached a side door bearing the sign “Fire Escape.” The corridor stretched further ahead. Lisette turned the handle and they found themselves at the bottom of a stair well.
“The only way is up,” said Lisette encouragingly, “Come on!”
They mounted the steps and, at the second landing, were faced with two doors. One was secure, and Lisette’s small metal pick was not up to releasing the lock. She tried the other door. They entered another corridor, but this time a shallow flight of steps several paces onwards led to an underground car park. It was deserted, much to Lisette’s relief. The two young women walked down the aisles looking for the exit ramp. At a bend they saw daylight up ahead. Lisette also saw her Renault. The little car stood alone in a parking bay.
“They thought of everything,” she exclained to Cosette. “Taking my car so my disappearance wouldn’t come to the notice of the police.”
She tried the handle on the driver’s side. The door was locked. Unfazed, she knelt and searched below the door. Her fingertips soon found the heavy piece of tape that held a spare ignition key strapped to the chassis, and in less than a minute she and the formerly kidnapped heiress were driving sedately through the exit gates of a small factory belonging to Widgets Manufacturing & Distribution Pty. Ltd. Lisette committed the name to memory. Once out of the grounds, they sped down unfamiliar lanes and streets, putting distance between themselves and the gang. They were in a light industrial area and it took some minutes for Lisette to orient herself. Soon, however, they were on a major freeway heading back into the city.
Lisette looked at her companion’s grimy blouse and skirt. Her own cat suit was nothing to write home about and she felt sweaty and uncomfortable after wearing it for so long.
“First we’ll stop at my apartment. I think we both need a change of clothes.”
“I’ll phone a friend and arrange for you to stay a couple of days at his flat … I think you should,” she added. “That gang looked like very determined people. I think they’ll do their best to recapture you. But they can’t do anything if they don’t know where you are.”
“I’ll do what you say, but will you tell Daddy that I’m all right? He’ll be worried sick.”
“Of course I will … Ah, we’re almost there.”
Once they were in her apartment, Lisette lost no time. She rationed Cosette to five minutes in the shower and, when the girl emerged swathed in one of Lisette’s fluffy pink towels, Lisette followed on the same ration of time. When she stepped back into her bedroom, Cosette posed before her looking pink and fresh in one of Lisette’s crisp white cotton shirts and a blue velvet skirt.
“We’re nearly the same size,” exclaimed the girl, “except that you’re a little taller than me. Thank you for these clothes. The skirt is lovely.” Cosette executed a pretty pirouette to prove her point. Lisette was already slipping a red silk dress over her head and shoulders.
“Find something from my fridge,” she suggested. “Cut yourself a quick sandwich. I have to make a couple of calls.”
While Cosette was intent on her pleasant task, Lisette took up the phone. Donald Caisson’s mobile was still deactivated. She tried Bryce la Plage’s number. The crime writer answered immediately.
“I’ll be delighted to look after the young lady,” he agreed affably when Lisette explained the purpose of her call. “She will be very safe here. I am a martial artist of sorts … a little Judo, Aikido, T’ai Chi … But I trust that I shall not have to use those skills. I don’t like hurting people.”
“I’ll bring Cosette straight over,” said Lisette with a straight face.
Half an hour later, Lisette brought the little Renault to a halt in her reserved parking space, disembarked, and walked with light steps towards the lift that would take her up to her apartment. Her plans were unfolding well. Cosette was hidden in Bryce la Plage’s “safe house.” It remained for her to contact the girl’s father, then alert Scotland Yard to the fact that the kidnapped girl was found and safe, then to phone Donald Caisson yet again and ask him what the hell he and Roger Le Rôdeur thought they were doing leaving her to wind up the dangerous case by herself. With an almost carefree heart Lisette pressed the “up” button for the lift.
As usual, the apartment lift was slow in descending. When the light came on indicating its arrival, and the double doors began to slide open, Lisette stepped back in a habitual move to allow anyone there to exit first. The lift was empty. Lisa moved forward again but, before she could take a second step, someone came quietly behind her and encircled her body with a huge arm, pinning her own arms helplessly to her sides. By this time it was too late for her to react.
A gag was thrust into her mouth. She was spun around as a dark car, its headlights off, cruised softly from the shadows and came to a stop in front of her, its motor purring softly. Lisette tried to struggle. In the process the man tore the front of her silk dress. Soon, however, her hands were drawn together in front of her and her wrists quickly bound.
Lisette was propelled into the car’s back seat, from where she bounced to the floor before she could struggle or attempt to scream. As the vehicle moved off with a jerk, she felt her captor, who had entered the car behind her, binding her ankles together. Her knees were bent with her feet raised while this was done. A huge hand rested firmly in the small of her back, pressing her face down into the vehicle’s carpeted floor, crushing her arms together against her breasts. She got the message. She lay still. She was also feeling weak, beginning to shiver with delayed shock.
It had all been done so quickly, so silently except for the faint “yip” that was all she could utter before the gag was tied between her jaws, so … professionally. She raised her head, but before she could turn fully and look upwards the giant hand cupped the back of her head and firmly pressed her face back down into the carpet. Okay, I’m not meant to see anything, she thought resignedly. I’m being taken in another neatly executed kidnapping … should have been more watchful! But she identified Big Bear as the captor tying the knots.
Lisette knew there was little hope of escape now that she was in the hands of Big Bear and Stringy, the professionals. She lay still on the car’s floor as the vehicle threaded its way through late afternoon London traffic. Her captors paid no further attention to her except once, when the ends of her cloth gag were jerked tight over her hair, pulling her mouth open wider and thus making impossible any attempt to scream for help whenever they stopped at traffic lights. The journey proceeded in this uncomfortable fashion for a lot longer than it had taken for her and Cosette to escape from the widget factory, so they must be taking her to a more distant place.
The vehicle turned and began to slow. Lisette attempted to raise her head, but the ever-watchful Big Bear pushed her face firmly back into the carpeting. She lay still, listening. The car stopped for perhaps half a minute, then moved off again, rolling slowly. It came to a halt once more, for another half minute. In that time, the quality of the light in the car’s interior changed. It became darker. She guessed that they were in a shed with roller doors that were now closing.
Her ankles were freed and she was pulled up onto the seat. As Big Bear helped her out of the car, Lisette saw that they were in what appeared to be a suburban garage large enough to hold two vehicles. Without a word, Stringy joined them and together the two kidnappers and their prisoner walked to a side door that led deeper into the building.
Pushing her fear to the back of her mind, Lisette considered the situation. Even with professional kidnappers, it might be possible to escape. Her hands were tied together in front of her, which meant that, if she were left alone, it would be easy to remove her gag and then loosen the knots with her teeth. It was a much more helpless feeling to have her arms tied behind her back, where she could not see how she was bound and where movement was a lot more difficult. Lisette began to feel a trifle more cheerful. Unfortunately, this mental state did not last.
Another door was opened and they stepped into a bare cellar more dismal that others she had experienced lately. It was filthy. Dust lay thick on the floor. The bare tiled walls were streaked with what looked like dried mud or sewage that had seeped down from the ceiling. She hated to think what else it might be. But what worried her instantly was the sight of two iron rings set about seven feet high in the wall, widely spaced apart. Leather straps hung from them.
Her misgivings were soon realised. Stringy cut her wrist bonds free with a small pocket-knife, then he grasped Lisette’s right arm. Big Bear took her other wrist and, acting together, the two men raised her arms at an angle above her head and tied each wrist securely to the separate iron rings. Lisette now stood with her back against the wall and with her arms bound high and wide. Her body was stretched as though on a rack, her feet just off the floor. Stringy knelt and tied her ankles together with the piece of cord that had been used on her earlier, anchoring it to another iron ring that Lisette had not noticed at the base of the wall. With the pull on her arms and the stretching of her body, there was no room to move. The knots behind each wrist were impossible to reach with her fingers.
She looked back fearfully at her captors who were now retreating towards the door. They stopped and conferred together. Stringy was angry about something. Lisette could only catch a few words: “ … not part … contract … violating …” Then they were gone and the heavy door closed with a crump of entrapped air. Lisette was alone in the cellar with her thoughts.
She strained uselessly at her bonds. The leather thongs cut into her wrists and already her fingers were tingling as a prelude to growing numb altogether. Her arms were already beginning to ache through being raised in the unnatural position. She looked down at herself. Her lovely new silk dress was ruined. It was not only torn at the front, revealing a glimpse of lacy black bra, it was also becoming begrimed with whatever the stuff was that streaked and ran down the wall. She could feel its cold dampness. Her gag made calling for help out of the question. Not that anyone will hear me down here, she thought miserably. Once I’m the prisoner of those two men, I stay that way!
After another ten minutes, Lisette was feeling decidedly unhappy. Hanging with her feet anchored firmly together inches above the floor and with her arms raised above her became less bearable by the minute. She wondered how long it would take for her arms to grow completely numb. Already there was no feeling in her hands. She answered herself: probably the same time it took when I was trussed up with ropes in the car boot.
Lisette looked around frantically but all she saw were the four walls of the cellar. There was also an unsettling shadow of herself cast upon the edge of the opposite wall by the dull light globe from its fitting just above the door. Although the cellar belonged to those television dramas in which the heroine is kidnapped, the cliché was regrettably frightening in real life.
After another ten minutes, Lisette was in numbing pain. Her shoulders were on fire, her legs felt weak, and breathing was becoming more difficult with her weight dragging on her body. This is how people die when crucified, she thought dully, they suffocate from their own weight.
The sound of a key rattling in the lock jerked Lisette’s head up to attention. She gazed at the door, wondering whether it was Stringy and Big Bear again, or a member of the gang, or rescue. The last was a faint hope.
It was the security person, Hilda. The woman walked across to Lisette and used a short carving knife, evidently taken from a kitchen, to cut the ropes that bound her ankles. She then cut the wrist bonds and caught the exhausted young woman in one arm as she fell from the wall. Lisette was hefted over the guard’s shoulder and carried out of the cellar.
She was scarcely aware of the journey, her body shivering with the pain of returning circulation, and by the time Lisette regained a little more awareness of her surroundings she was sitting in a chair with a straight narrow back. She looked up expectantly at her captors, Madame and the security guard. The latter roughly pulled the gag out of her mouth, letting it fall loosely around her neck.
Madame came straight to the point.
“We need to know where you have hidden the girl … She must be handed over to us.”
“What makes you think I’d betray her?” said Lisette, bridling at the very idea. “She’s in a safe place where you and your nasty gang can’t get your hands on her.”
“So …” said the woman with a sinister undertone in her voice, “You’re quite sure you won’t hand her over?”
“Positive, you bitch!”
Anger was beginning to replace Lisette’s fear. She had been kidnapped several times over, trussed up, gagged, strung up on a filthy wall and, what was worse, one of her best silk dresses was ruined.
“Well, well, expletives from such a pretty young woman! That leaves me no alternative. The cords, Hilda.”
Hilda the security guard removed several lengths of thin cord from a pocket and handed them to the woman.”
“Good … Take my gun and keep Miss Rivers covered … Now, Miss Rivers, I’m not at all sorry to inconvenience you like this …”
The woman proceeded to tie her up. The thin cords bit painfully into Lisette’s wrists. With the silencer of the gun staring her in the face, Lisette chose discomfort rather than death and sat quietly while she was made helpless. The woman continued securing her victim to the chair at several points – ankles to each chair leg, upper arms to the frame at each side, elbows to the central slat in the chair’s back, a couple of turns each around waist, and lower and upper chest. Lisette had been bound in this way on many occasions in her short career as a private investigator. It was one of the more reasonable means of restraint. She wriggled in order to make herself more comfortable in the seat, causing some of the ropes around her waist and thighs to loosen slightly.
All the while, Madame chatted as though it was a perfectly normal situation, except that the topic of conversation was Lisette’s recalcitrance.
“It’s a pity that you won’t tell us the girl’s whereabouts without the inconvenience of a little persuasion. We have all night in which to force you to break your silence. However, silence, by the way, is required in all other matters. You are advised not to call for help. No one is likely to hear you. It is late. The staff have left this chalet for the night and those American guests are in another wing of the building.”
“You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you, you bitch!” exclaimed Lisette, thinking, so that’s where I am, in some sort of lakeside hotel.
“Tut tut,” the horrible woman really said tut tut. “That word again, surprising in one so elegant. It obliges me to gag you … a small lesson that I hope will not go unheeded.”
The woman opened Lisette’s handbag and took from it the large gaily-coloured silk square that had been left there. She quickly rolled it into a long thick band, tied a knot in the centre, and began to press the knot against Lisette’s lips. The young woman resisted stubbornly and, when the older woman’s thumb came within reach, she bit down hard upon it.
“Arggh, damn you!”
In retaliation, Lisette received a stinging slap across the face. It did not harm her, was only a glancing blow, but it left her cheek smarting and her head ringing.
“So you continue resisting?” said the woman in a dangerously quiet hiss. “Very well then!”
Madame tossed the scarf onto the table and from a sinister looking black kit bag produced a small bottle and a gauze pad. A few drops from the bottle were sprinkled onto the pad, the bottle re-stoppered, and the woman turned again to her prisoner. Lisette arched back in the chair, but she was helpless.
“No, please … I’ll be quiet.”
“Too late. This will soften you up. I did not intend to use this method but it may be more efficacious in the case of a feisty young woman like you. When you come-to, you will be groggy and feeling sick. Then I expect there will be no silly histrionics when the gag is put on you.”
“No … mmmmph!”
The ether soaked pad was tamped tightly over Lisette’s mouth and nose and her cry trailed off as the chemical did its work.
To be Continued …
© Brian Sands 2005.