Flash Gordon, “Fall of Ming,” Artist Alex Raymond, Classic Comic Bondage, Yahoo Group
This very long short story was begun in 2006 as a fragment that Cordelia helped me finish, for which I thank her as always with respect and love. It is based upon the following cliché: Lisette is kidnapped; Chèrie has forty-eight hours in which to meet the kidnappers’ demands.
The novel to which Chèrie and Sophie refer for a Mafia kidnap MO is The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri (Penguin, New York 2007), one of Camilleri’s highly entertaining Inspector Montalbano crime novels. The special tongue gripping rubber gag that Lisette wears during her transportation to the countryside inside a coffin is taken from a John Slater novel Prisoner of Torture Abbey (see the passage quoted in Grails: John Slater II).
Odds Against Lisette
With pursed lips Chèrie Chalmers closed her notebook, slipped it into the slim brief case, and fastened its catches with a decided snap. “I’m sorry, Mister Schnecke, but our agency is unable to assist you. It is a matter of non quieta movere, that is, there are precedents to which we must adhere. Or perhaps I should say non compos mentis. Ipso facto, what you ask is mad, preposterous. We will not be party to such a flagrant abuse of civil rights doctrine in civil law.”
“Do I take that as a refusal, Ms Chalmers?” The man crouched in his chair across the desk. The inoffensiveness of the sobriquet was belied by the dangerous look in his stalk-like eyes, a synecdoche for his name: snail.
“Yes. I advise you to seek other legal opinion, if you wish. But I warn you, there will certainly be consequences if you go ahead.”
Chèrie rose and prepared to leave the office.
“A moment, Miss Chalmers,” said “Mr Snail” coolly.
“What is it?” Chèrie turned angrily.
“I have resources. I can force you to accede to my request,” said the man glibly. “I suggest you think over my proposition very carefully before you make the irreversible decision not to take up my case.”
“In your dreams,” replied Chèrie curtly as she swept from the room.
Chèrie Chalmers was fuming as she stepped from the old building, crossed the thoroughfare past Whitehall, and headed for their office in Upper Barclay Street near Marble Arch.
The nerve of the man, expecting me to condone business practices that are almost if not actually illegal! To prepare a legal brief that would be, from the point of view of the party receiving the subpoena, a denial of natural justice. There’s a lot of money involved and it would be no wonder if it were embezzled from some other source our Mister Snail has not bothered to make known to us. Lisette will know what to do. I must write-up my case notes and brief her asap.
Meanwhile back at the office:
It was late Friday morning. The backlog was cleared except for one case. If they succeeded in tracing the documents Lisette could resolve it on her own the next week. Her database search involved missing cats. Lisette had to admit that, after two hours of reading the ridiculous pedigrees for some of the felines, she was bored out of her mind as well as tired and suffering eyestrain. She felt that if she read one more lineage such as: “Alphonse Purtipuss IV from Admiral Fleetfoot Dugati and Princess Periwinkle Purr III,” she would run screaming from the building. Instead she offered to get lattes for herself and Sophie Brush their Office Assistant. Chèrie, who was experiencing similar aversion therapy over lists of minor credit non-payments, was meeting a new client. But she was expected back soon.
Autumn was approaching and Lisette wore a trench coat appropriate for the sharp gusts of cold air that wound through Upper Barclay Street, a silk scarf tucked prettily at her throat. Beneath her trench coat her clothes were more appropriate for standard business wear: a silk blouse with a plunging scalloped neckline, dark stockings, and black shoes with three-inch heels. A dark beret protected her head from the cold.
Quai des Brumes (1938), Michelle Morgan, Marcel Carne Director
At first Chèrie was too engrossed in what she was doing to notice that the office was preternaturally quiet without its other occupant. Lisette worked quietly, was the perfect choice with whom to share an office, but Chèrie began to miss her friend’s delicate perfume and the silken rustle of her movements. Eventually she looked up at the wall clock and considered the passing of time. Chèrie Chalmers was not engaging in a new philosophical pursuit. She was beginning to wonder where on earth Lisa had gone? Chèrie was dying for a caffeine fix.
Lisette had been absent for almost an hour. Their favourite al fresco coffee shop was only a block away. Ergo, Lisette had been delayed. It was a prima facie case of café deprivation. The girl’s probably discussing the finer points of coffee (let it be said) blending with that yummy new waiter, thought Chèrie with a mild onset of jealousy. I’ll give her another fifteen minutes. After that, I’ll invoke habeas corpus procedures with said waiter. Chèrie sipped from her water bottle and returned to the monitor screen.
Twenty minutes later Chèrie stopped work and pushed her chair back. There had been no sign of her partner’s reappearance. That does it. I’ll issue a temporary restraining order on loitering with that lothario. Chèrie rose, took down her woollen overcoat from its peg behind the door and shrugged it on over her black woollen slacks, matching cashmere sweater, and black boots as she walked to the door.
“Won’t be long Sophie,” she muttered abstractedly to the pretty blonde secretary as she passed through the reception room.
“Uh, Ms Chalmers?” Sophie called after her.
Chèrie paused at the door. “Yes, dear?”
“I have a sudden craving for doughnuts,” said Sophie. “Could you get us all some? I’ll make it up from petty cash. After all, it is Friday.”
As the door closed behind Chèrie, Sophie picked up her copy of the latest Janet Evanovich crime novel and continued to read as she typed.
Five minutes later, with a bag of doughnuts in her hand, Chèrie was haranguing an apologetic Sébastian.
“Désolé, Mam’selle Chalmers. It is not I who am ze cause of your anger. Mam’selle Rivière left zis establishment in taxi not more than an hour ago.”
“Oh.” Chèrie felt deflated. Then, beginning to fear the worst, she asked: “Did you notice anything about the taxi? The driver? And cut that phony French accent.”
“Mais non, Mam’selle Chalmers. Ze, I mean the, chauffeur ‘e ‘ad ‘is ‘at pull down and the other ladee with Mam’selle ‘ad a veil. I ‘eard zat ladee say to the chauffeur: ‘To the Hotel Aprés-Midi, avanti.’ I ‘ope that is of ‘elp? Damn, I can’t kick it y’know.”
“Yes, I see. Yes it is. Hotel Aprés-Midi? And did the lady really use the word avanti?”
“Mais oui, Mam’selle … uh yeah. I wouldn’t be mistaken.”
An Italian connection, thought Chèrie. Strange. Maybe Lisa’s found a new client.”
Chèrie hailed another taxi. “Driver, the Hotel Aprés-Midi, please.”
It happened so suddenly that Lisette had no time to react. The moment she stepped into the taxi at the behest of the veiled woman a wide silk cloth in thick folds was looped over her head and bound across her face, covering her eyes and mouth like a hood. At the same time her arms were gathered at the elbows by two very strong hands and wrenched behind her by a man waiting on the back seat. Lisette had only time to glimpse the man’s hooded visage before the blindfold came over her eyes. The angle at which the man was sitting, in front of her, meant that his body pressed hard against Lisette’s chest as he reached his arms about her. There were three of them: the chauffeur, the veiled woman, and the hooded man. While the woman tied the combination of blindfold and muffling gag over Lisette’s face, the hooded man held her arms pinned back to impede her struggles.
Lisette’s mind raced as she fought to get free, but she only wasted precious seconds and energy straining against the cruel hands. When she stopped struggling and attempted to scream instead, the cloth across her face was reinforced by a narrow band that was forced between her jaws, another scarf of some sort. It was tied agonisingly tight, pushing the silken face covering deeper into her mouth and cutting off her cry almost before it began. Lisette’s scream ended in a choking cough. By then her arms were pinioned at the elbows with rope or cord – she could not tell which – and her wrists were being tied together. It felt like thin leather cord, braided, its texture catching on her soft skin. The man’s body remained pressed crushingly against her front as he bound her.
Now that she could not use her arms, the captor who had just tied her wrists held her head on either side with huge hands so that she could not turn her face away. The band between her jaws was untied and removed. The lower part of the silk bandage covering her face was rolled up to the bridge of her nose. With her mouth suddenly free, Lisette attempted again to scream. But as the sound started in her throat, a huge wad of cloth was thrust into her mouth. It was stuffed in, all of it, it seemed. The scream died as before. Another cloth was bound between her jaws to hold the packing in place. It felt like a scarf. It was silk anyway. A thick knot had been tied in it and this became wedged in between her teeth. It was jerked viciously tight at the back of her neck, a little to one side, and tied off in a double knot.
Lisette had been gagged this way when working on other cases. She knew that it was impossible to get it out of her mouth without help and that it was very efficient at keeping her quiet. Moreover, a gag of this sort was a crude breath regulator. Any strong effort to call for help or to scream brought on a fit of coughing, started a gagging reflex, and choking began. Her nostrils flared as she struggled to breathe through her nose. The silk in and covering her mouth sealed off much of the air that would otherwise get through, forcing her to breathe through her nose, which was also covered tightly by the silken membrane of the scarf bound around her head.
The man holding her tightened the blindfold across the bridge of her nose and her brows. It was tied in place, the knot at the back so tight that her head began to pound. Lisette tried to kick at her attackers and she managed to connect with one shin. Her legs were the only limbs now free to her, but that did not last long. The man who had secured her arms now bound rope around her legs at the knees while the other person, the woman, took a turn at holding her upright.
Lisette mewed weakly through the cloth and tried to struggle, but she knew it was hopeless. She felt hot and her head was swimming. Her chest rose and fell agitatedly as her lungs strained for air. They have the advantage of surprise. They know what they’re doing. Every step in securing me is choreographed … They’re professionals. These thoughts pounded in her head as she felt the car move. Lisette ceased struggling and became quiet. She waited resignedly for what might come next, and that was sheer horror.
The left sleeve of her overcoat was pushed up. The cuff of her silk blouse was unbuttoned and rolled up to expose a forearm. She felt the cold touch of an alcohol pad followed by the sting of a hypodermic. She sank into a dark vortex.
“We can often learn useful knowledge from reading well-written crime novels,” said Chèrie. “That’s because an author, if he or she is forensic enough about it, will research small details. In that Italian crime novel you loaned me, Sophie, which I’ve nearly finished, thank you, there’s a kidnapping modus operandi that might very well apply. I was reading it last night when thinking about how we can best deal with Lisa’s disappearance. That is, if she really has been kidnapped. Let me see …” Chèrie began turning pages. “Here it is, on page sixty-seven.” Chèrie began to read aloud.
… what is the usual procedure for kidnapping? There are the manual laborers – let’s call them Group B – who are given the task of physically carrying out the kidnapping. After which group B hands the kidnapped person over to Group C, that is, those in charge of hiding her and taking care of her – more grunt work. At this point Group A comes on the scene. These are the ringleaders, the organizers who will demand the ransom. All these transitions take time, and therefore the ransom request is usually not made until a few days after the kidnapping.
Chèrie closed the book and placed it neatly on the desk in front of her. “It’s now Saturday morning, more than twelve hours since Lisa went missing, and we’ve had no ransom demand. That is, if she’s being held as a hostage to force us to do something, either pay money for her safe return or to do something else to get her back.”
“But that’s a Mafia style kidnapping,” said Sophie. “This is London. Surely it can’t happen here, in England!”
“There are always copycats,” said Chèrie. “If we could find the description as easily as reading a detective novel so too can any other person. Some popular novels and films are primers for budding kidnappers. What’s more, we have made enemies since starting this agency. Fortunately most of them are behind bars.”
“But not all. And we can’t know for certain!”
“No. This might all be conjecture. We’ll have to wait to hear from the kidnappers – if it’s being done in this way – and hope in the meantime that Lisa’s being treated well.”
“In the book the police thought that the girl’s kidnappers were only one group, the ringleaders, Group A, because the ransom demand came quickly.”
“But not in this case, Sophie. Following that book’s wisdom, and if Lisa’s really been kidnapped and is not delayed for some personal reason, there may indeed be more than one group involved. All we can do is to wait and see what develops over the next twelve hours. What worries me is if Lisa’s been kidnapped it may be by amateurs. We’re only alleging that the kidnappers read that book, or other crime novels like it. If they’re amateurs there could easily be a slip-up. It’s far more dangerous for a kidnap victim if her kidnappers don’t know what they’re doing. Argument for the contra however, and it’s equally serious. She’ll be kept bound, and probably blindfolded. If she’s being held within earshot of a public place, or in an apartment for instance that has neighbours, they will keep her gagged. They may gag her in any case to prevent her from disturbing them or trying to establish rapport with them. You know, advice that is frequently given says if you’re kidnapped or held hostage you should not only cooperate but also try to establish rapport between yourself and your kidnapper. Professional kidnappers would not allow those circumstances to arise. Lisette couldn’t establish rapport with them if she was kept gagged and blindfolded.”
“There was no trail to pick up at the hotel?”
“Nothing. When I got to the Hotel Aprés-Midi no one fitting the waiter’s description was registered there or could be remembered having entered or left on other business. It was a blind, Sophie, a trick to throw us off the scent, and very clever. They gave the misleading address in the waiter’s hearing. They knew there would be enquiries.”
“They’ll keep her bound and blindfolded, if they’re Group B,” said Sophie in a hushed voice, “so that she won’t be able to recognise them later in a police line-up, if they’re ever caught. Gagged too if they’re holding her near a public place, like you said.”
“Yes,” agreed Chèrie unhappily. “If our fears for the worst are justified, Lisa could be having a very rough time.”
When Lisette regained consciousness, it was like waking from normal sleep. But she soon recalled the moment of capture. Grabbed, pushed into the taxi, arms bound, gagged, drugged. But I can’t have been drugged for long otherwise I’d be groggy! There were no after-effects apart from sleepiness. They must have used some sort of sedating agent and not a full-blown anaesthetic. I’ve been abducted very professionally. Where am I?
It was not a frivolous question. Lisette was unable to see or hear. The blindfold was still bound very tightly over her eyes, and in addition plugs had been inserted into her ears, held in place by the folds of the silk band. She explored with her tongue. The packing had been removed from her mouth, no doubt to safeguard against choking while unconscious or panicking when waking up. But her lips were sealed very tightly together under what felt like several layers of medical tape that were wrapped around her head and face, sealing her mouth from the nasal septum to her chin. She could not move her jaws. The sound that she made through closed lips was negligible.
She shifted her attention to the rest of her body. She was lying on her face, her head turned to one side. She still wore her overcoat and she could feel the ropes biting into her arms through its sleeves. More ropes embraced her body snugly, pinning her arms into her back. She could not move them at all. There was a little movement in her hands, but her fingers failed to discover any knots to work on. Similarly, her legs were tied together at the usual points: at her ankles, above and below her knees and, for good measure, around her thighs. If she tried hard enough, she could roll onto one side. That was all the movement her bonds permitted.
Lisette was lying on what felt like a mattress. There was no external movement. If she was in a vehicle it was motionless. Carefully she shifted her legs, fearful that her feet would come up against the sides of a trunk or a coffin. Her feet, as far as they could be moved, encountered open space.
She had no idea how long she had been laying there drugged. In the silence and darkness time was meaningless. The aching of her limbs and body from the cords was not too severe, nor was the sticky dryness of her lips, suggesting that she had been trussed up like this for no more about half an hour before regaining consciousness.
Of all the situations in which she had found herself, those that combined physical helplessness with claustrophobia were the worst. She could resist the hysteria of claustrophobia for only so long before screaming into her gag for a release that would not come. She broke into a clammy sweat. The palms of her hands were hot and slippery and her heart pounded in her chest. Her screams began. To an outsider they were little more than the faint mewing of a kitten. To the young woman they sounded loud enough in her head, but she knew her cries scarcely penetrated through the tape.
These are first reactions, she thought. Get a grip on yourself and you’ll come through. You have done in the past.
Being unconscious then waking to find her body trussed up, gagged, ears plugged and blindfolded, was a terrifying experience. It was made worse by the suddenness of her waking, as though from a natural sleep.
Hands were laid upon her. The sleeve of her overcoat was pulled up. The sleeve of her silk blouse was rolled again to her elbow. There followed once more the coldness of an alcohol swab, the sting of the needle, and loss of consciousness.
“Aside from her veil, did you notice anything else unusual about the woman who was speaking with Miss Rivers?”
Chèrie had returned to the restaurant and was questioning Ruby the headwaiter, so named because he had astonishingly red licentious lips. The man pouted them in thought.
“Can’t say I did,” he replied in a posh accent that had a faint trace of cockney. “She was all in black, long black cape, thigh length - today’s fashion - and calf-length boots, also fashionable. They talked for several minutes, and left by the main doors. Miss Rivers led the way and the woman followed.”
“Did Lisa – Miss Rivers – order coffee and doughnuts?”
Ruby paused and licked his lips reflectively. “No. No, she didn’t. They left without ordering.”
“So they can’t have been more than a minute, probably less, otherwise one of your staff would have taken their order?”
“I suppose so, yes.”
“Is there anything else you can tell me about them, no matter how ordinary it seemed at the time?”
“No. No. Oh yes. Now I come to think of it, one boot looked to have thicker soles than the other, and the woman walked with a slight limp.”
“That observation is very important, not ordinary at all! Thank you.”
Chèrie closed her notebook and pushed it back into her handbag. She said goodbye to Ruby, waved to Sébastian who was cleaning glasses at the bar, and walked out into the street. She flipped open her mobile phone and pressed a button. Sophie replied at the first note.
“Sophie, I want you to get into the DORFIS database as quickly as you can and search for any woman known to the police who wears an orthopaedic boot and walks with a slight limp.”
DORFIS - the Department of Reconnaisance, Field Intelligence & Surveillance - was a clandestine branch of New Scotland Yard. Lisette and Chèrie occasionally worked for that organization or referred “special clients” to it on a quid pro quo basis. It meant that they could not only access the worldwide database kept by DORFIS, they could also call upon police assistance if the need arose. Chèrie guessed that before this case was closed she and Sophie would need more than what the organization’s electronic records could provide.
Chèrie’s mobile phone beeped as she re-entered the office. Sophie looked up and, with a wry smile, replaced her phone in its cradle.
“You’re back quickly,” said Sophie. “They’ve just returned my call.”
“And - ?”
“There is someone who appears to answer the description,” Sophie continued slowly. “But it’s a man, not a woman. And get this: he’s wanted in Italy for mob connections, drugs, murder and kidnapping. Kidnapping’s his specialty and he sometimes disguises himself as a woman in order to get close to his victims, who are usually young socialites with more money than sense, whose daddies have to cough up millions of euros if they want to get their darling daughters back in one piece.”
“Charming,” said Chèrie drily. “Does this, uh, person have a name?”
Sophie did not have to look at her notebook. “It’s someone we know, a recent enemy: Corsaro Rizzi alias the Balilla Boy.”
“Oh my god! How the hell did he get out? I thought he was in maximum security.”
“He was. Apparently there was some sort of prisoner exchange programme and he was expected to serve out the rest of his sentence, that is, to rot in an Italian prison. But two members of his old gang sprung him. It was a very messy affair. Three Carabinieri died when the transit van was ambushed. I tell you, the Italian police are looking for them with a vengeance!”
“And he’s likely enough to be back here in England. Maybe they’re the ones who abducted Lisette.”
“Is there any doubt?”
“There’s still some doubt, on our present evidence which is only circumstantial. It’s bad enough Lisa being in the hands of any kidnap gang. This makes it worse. He’ll have a grudge against her. She shot him in the foot remember? Who are his two accomplices, anyone we know?”
Sophie shook her head. “No one we know. They’re well known to the Italian authorities of course: Petra Sciacca and Leonardo Calabria. Those names appear to be aliases. Sciacca is a coastal city on the southwest of Sicily, and Calabria is on the Italian mainland.”
“Notorious for kidnappings.”
“Yes. The first names Petra and Leonardo may or may not be aliases.”
“They probably are, aliases that is … One is a woman?”
“That’s right. More ruthless and predatory than the two men if you believe half what’s in the reports.”
“You’ve found a lot.”
“It’s all here. Interpol dossiers.” Sophie indicated her computer monitor.
“Good.” Chèrie moved towards the inner office. “I’d better mug up on it … It’s Saturday afternoon Sophie. You can go home.”
“No way, Miss. I’ll stay on duty until we know something definite about Miss Rivers.”
As Saturday evening closed in upon the city, a sleek funeral hearse threaded its way through the arterial roads to the M1. Having reached that freeway, the vehicle increased acceleration into the slower left-hand lane, its sedate progress drawing no attention from police road patrols that overtook it in their bid to keep the highways safe.
Waking the second time from the drug was not as immediate as on the first occasion. This time Lisette puzzled over what had happened to her. Slowly the pieces of the kidnapping came back to her. Seized, bound, drugged. Then drugged a second time. Why? What’s the purpose of keeping me drugged so often? Surely bonds, gag and blindfold are enough? Evidently they were not.
Lisette tried to move her arms. They were trussed behind her into the small of her back as they had been before. But this time she was no longer wearing her overcoat. She was clad only in her skirt and silk shirt, stockings and shoes. The bindings felt different too. She moved her hands. Only her fingers worked. It was enough to tell that she was now trussed with wide leather straps. They were soft, some sort of suede. In fact, her whole torso felt as though it was strapped up above and below her breasts and around her waist. Because the straps were wide, the bonds felt more secure and escape-proof than the thin rope. Her legs felt as though they were strapped up as well at all the points where they had been bound with rope before.
She opened and closed her eyes. They were covered with a wide padded leather blindfold. The plugs were still in her ears cutting off external sound. She could hear the blood rushing in her ears, the throbbing of her heart, and her own laboured breathing, but nothing else.
Breathing … the gag! Something had been done to her mouth. There was scarcely any feeling in it. Slowly, anxiously, Lisette moved her jaws. She could not part them. They seemed to be taped up still. There was a strong and very unpleasant taste of rubber. She tried to explore the new gag with her tongue but her tongue did not work. For a long period she shook her head in bewilderment and attempted to open or close her mouth without success.
Some sort of moulded rubber shape had been packed into her mouth, filling it, pressing against her palate. Incredible as it seemed, and far worse, her tongue was somehow embedded inside the rubber, trapped within a deep slit as far as the membrane beneath allowed. Her teeth were gritted over a narrow tapered section of the gag and her lips were covered and sealed under a thin rubber layer that was held against her mouth by the adhesive plaster wrapped about her head.
She had experienced moulded rubber gags before, usually fitted into half masks that covered the lower part of her face. But in this instance it was as though she was holding a sort of ultra thick dummy between her teeth. She could not move it forward to release its grip on her tongue because it was held tightly against her teeth by the tape wrapped around her head. She tried to call for help and realised that for a long time, unconsciously, she had been attempting to scream. Nothing came out except for a faint hiccup. It was the most effective and horrible gag she had ever experienced.
They’re being absolutely sure I can’t make a sound worth anything. That must mean we’re in a public place or - Lisa became aware of a slight rocking movement - we’re passing through a public place.
A frightening thought came to her. Her heart thumping rapidly in anticipation, Lisette tested the area in which she lay as she had done some time before. She moved her feet from one side to the other. This time they came up immediately against padded surfaces. Oh my god, I think I’m in a funeral casket. Stay calm girl. Stay calm! It was one of the most efficient ways of spiriting a kidnap victim out of the city, Lisa considered. Or moving me from one part of the city to another.
Chèrie Chalmers looked up as her office door opened to an unannounced visitor. Sophie was out to lunch and Chèrie had heard no one enter.
“Busy working I see.“ The accent was Italian; the diction perfect English. Chèrie was uncertain whether the accent was fake or the speaker proficiently bilingual.
“Hmmm?“ Chèrie murmured guardedly as the woman came towards her and planted her feet firmly in front of her desk. She was tall, probably the same height as Chèrie. A hat with a veil hid her face. Here arms were invisible too. She wore a black cloak that reached high to her neck and ended a little below the tops of her thighs. In contrast to her arms, her legs were on full display. They were sheathed in sheer black nylon, her feet clad in shoes with ultra high, spiked heels.
The woman matched the head waiter Ruby’s decription perfectly as the one who had disappeared into the taxi with Lisette. It was hardly conveivable that there were two women in the Marble Arch area wearing hats with veils and dressed like dominatrices from the pages of an old Bizarre magazine. Chèrie felt a presentiment of dread travel up her spine. Her legal training enabled her to hide the fact.
“Too busy to take a break?“
“A little trip to the Hotel Aprés-Midi perhaps?“ Chèrie rejoined.
“You are very sharp, Miss Chalmers. But no, I do not wish to deliver you there. For obvious reasons, our destination should remain anonymous. You will be returned here safe and sound. There is no need for you to know where you have been.“
“I suppose that you are to force me to accompany you with the judicious use of a silenced firearm?“
“I am unarmed,“ the woman said. “I abhor violence, and while my colleague waiting in the car outside sports a fat bulge under his left armpit, he has been told only to use his weapon if I am in danger.“
Professional kidnappers with more on their mind that thoughtless violence. I must be doubly careful.
The woman removed her hat, revealing her face for the first time. She had dark hair pulled back severely and pinned up in a bun. He features were attractive if a little hard. She appeared to be in her mid to late thirties. She continued to remove items of clothing as she spoke.
“Miss Chalmers, it is my intention that you should come with me of your own volition.“
She now removed the cloak to reveal a fine figure sheathed in a short black dress.
“If I may choose for myself, I shall stay here,“ Chèrie said calmly.
“Very well. I see that you need a little more persuasion.“
The mysterious woman left the room and returned seconds later carrying a box some nine by nine inches square and two inches deep. It has been lusciously gift-wrapped and tied with pink ribbon fastened in a large bow. In her other hand she carried a flat brief case. She had evidently left both in the outer office normally occupied by Sophie. She held out the box to Chèrie.
“For me?“ Chèrie said, feigning surprise although she was already having misgivings.
“Indeed. You may open it, Miss Chalmers.“
The ribbon parted easily as soon as the bow was undone. The wrapping paper had been put on so expertly that no adhesive tape was needed to fasten it. Nor was the box beneath drab. Chèrie lifted the lid to see that it contained pink tissue paper. From within she drew a woman‘s skirt of red silk. The skirt was without doubt the one that Lisette had been wearing when Chèrie had last seen her.
“I see,“ Chèrie said calmly. But she felt anything but calm. It’s true. Lisette has been kidnapped.
“We have removed your friend‘s trench coat as well. But it was too big for the box. Still you can imagine that she is currently not very comfortable. So as soon as you have completed the little job that we have for you, she will be released.“
“And you want me to come with you?“
“Yes. I advise that you make haste so that we can leave while your delightfully attractive secretary is at lunch. Otherwise we will have to take certain precautions involving her.“
“Yes,“ Chèrie said decisively, rising from her chair. “I shall come. I don’t really have much option.“
She walked from behind her desk and made for the coat stand where her trench coat hung. But the woman motioned her to stop.
“I am afraid, Miss Chalmers that I must insist on certain, uh, measures being taken before we leave.“
The woman opened the brief case and removed a ball of twine and a pair of scissors.
“I think you can guess the precise nature of those measures, Miss Chalmers. But, as a prelude, tell me what you are wearing beneath that very nice wool dress.“
Chèrie was about to say: “Go to hell.“ But she thought of Lisette. Whoever this woman and her male accomplice were, they had obviously kidnapped her friend and colleague. She had to do anything she could to get her back.
“Just the usual underwear,“ she replied aloud.
“Oh, bra, panties, a full slip, stockings and a suspender belt,“ Chèrie said impatiently.
“A full slip? How very quaint, Miss Chalmers. You are required to remove the dress. The shoes too.“
Chèrie was hardly keen to do as she was asked. But, feeling that she had no choice, she reached up and fished for the zip fastener at the back of her neck. She unzipped it swiftly. The woman watched as the dress which had been taut where it stretched across her large breasts ballooned out. Chèrie took the top off like a man removing a jacket which he had inadvertently put on back to front. The slip that she wore beneath was made of sheer nylon with a pretty lace bust. It was slit along both sides from her mid thighs to a hem whose six inches of lace reflected the pattern of the bust. She kicked off her shoes.
“The slip too, Miss Chalmers. I‘m afraid that it‘s too long for our purposes.“
“And what purposes might they be?“ asked Chèrie caustically.
Chèrie did not like being seen in her bra and panties. But she disliked being seen in her bra, panties, stockings and suspender belt even more. So it was with considerable reluctance that she eased the narrow shoulder straps of her slip over her shoulders and let the garment trickle down to her ankles.
“You have a fine figure,“ Miss Chalmers.
“Is that all?“
“All the asnwer you’re going to get for now. But I am very satisfied. Now turn around and put your hands behind you, palms flat against one another.“
Chèrie did as she was told, her back now to the woman, her desk in front of her. The woman cut two lengths of twine from the ball with the scissors, placing the latter on the desk. Standing behind Chèrie, she wrapped the first length of cord around her wrists several times before tugging it tight and knotting it soundly. She used the second length to cinch the binding, looping it between Chèrie‘s wrists to make the tie snug. The young lawyer bore the discomfort stoically.
As the woman bound her, Chèrie asked: “Why is it necessary to tied me up? I’m coming with you voluntariy.“
“There are a number of reasons,“ said the woman. “One is to take precautions that you do not attempt any sudden moves in public that may draw attention to ourselves. Another is to give you a taste of what Miss Rivers is experiencing, and will contine to experience, while she is in our hands. Let us say that it’s a measure to ensure your continued cooperation. Now, turn.“
Chèrie turned to face the woman. As she did so she discovered that a long end of twine dangled at calf length. The way her wrists were tied forced her breasts out slightly, and Chèrie grimaced with embarrassment. The woman looked the lawyer up and down in a way that made Chèrie wish that she had worn more than a half-cup bra.
“Can we get on with it?“ Chèrie said coldly.
The woman laughed. She leaned forward into Chèrie to reach the ball of twine and scissors on the desk behind her, bumping gently into the lawyer‘s breasts as she did so. She cut two more lengths from the ball and then reached once more behind Chèrie to return ball and scissors to the desk, bumping into Chèrie‘s chest again in the process. She laughed as Chèrie tried to pull away.
Chèrie turned again, presenting her bound wrists to her kidnapper, pleased to have removed her chest from plain view. She felt the woman loop the third length of twine around her elbows.
“You are well-endowed, Miss Chalmers,“ the woman said. “That bra of yours must be working overtime. I‘m afraid that I have to add to its burden.“
She tugged on the twine moving Chèrie‘s elbows closer together. Chèrie‘s stoicism faltered. The twine was thin and hard and it cut mercilessly into her skin. She could not prevent a groan from excaping her lips.
“Do keep the noise down, Miss Chalmers. We don‘t want the neighbours to hear.“
Chèrie kept as quiet as she could as the woman coaxed her elbows to press together into the small of her back. She cinched the elbow tie in the same way she had tied Chèrie‘s wrists.
Chèrie turned back, aware that the elbow tie forced her bra-clad breasts out further than ever. She felt herself redden.
“I was going to wait until we were on the point of leaving before gagging you, Miss Chalmers. But after that whining I shan’t bother to wait.“
She reached into the brief case and removed a large rubber ball and a roll of flesh-coloured medical tape.
“You don‘t need to gag me,“ Chèrie said, keeping her voice as level as she could. “I won’t make any noise. You‘ve got my friend. I’ve agreed to come quietly.“
The woman ignored her. Instead she looked down at Chèrie‘s heaving breasts. “My, my, Miss Chalmers. You‘re on the verge of popping out of your bra.“ She hooked her little finger under the short piece of ribbon between the cups of Chèrie‘s bra. “I said open. It really won‘t bode well for our relationship if you‘re disobedient.“
Chèrie recognised the threat at once. Unless she opened her mouth she would lose her bra. A tug on the ribbon emphasised the point admirably. Chèrie responded to the threat immediately. The woman prodded and pushed the ball into Chèrie’s open mouth until it nestled behind her front teeth.
“Purse your lips over it.“
While Chèrie struggled to purse her lips around the large ball, the woman reached behind her for the scissors and used them to cut a strip of medical tape from the roll. She returned the scissors to the briefcase and then glued the tape across Chèrie‘s lips.
“That‘s much better, Miss Chalmers. But there is one more precaution we must take before we leave.“
Reaching behind Chèrie, she fished once again for the scissors and for more twine. The latter she cut off in a very long length. Chèrie bit into her gag as the twine was wrapped around her waist immediately above her suspender belt.
“Breathe in, Miss Chalmers.“
Chèrie sucked her stomach in. It was just as well, as the woman pulled the twine very tight.
“Now if you widen your stance, Miss Chalmers.“
What a nice way of ordering me to spread my legs, Chèrie thought as she complied.
The woman reached between Chèrie‘s thighs and pulled the dangling end of cord forward, drawing Chèrie‘s joined wrists into her buttocks. She tucked the long end under the waist cord and tugged hard.
Sébastian looked up from the table top he was wiping as the two women approached down Upper Barclay Street. When he saw them, his hand dove into his pocket for his mobile phone. He needed to tell Chèrie that the woman was there again, but with every second he was becoming more and more distracted.
The woman was wearing the cloak she had worn that morning. Although short, it fully covered whatever skirt or dress she wore beneath. But Sébastian was very happy once again to feast his eyes on what he could see: her long slender legs, especially as she wore sheer black nylons.
As she came towards him he found it particularly hard to draw his eyes from her legs, which seemed even shapelier and sexier than they had that morning. In fact he could see clearly to the tops of her thighs. He began to wonder whether she was wearing a skirt at all.
Dragging his eyes from her legs, he fished in his pocket for the business card that Chèrie had given him. He glanced downwards to read the phone number from it. But then, guiltily, he looked back up to catch another glance at the woman‘s legs. Only then did he noticed that Chèrie was accompanying her. He had been so busy looking at the other woman‘s legs that he had not noticed Chèrie at all.
Not that he could actually see that it was Chèrie. The second woman was clearly wearing Chèrie‘s hat and trench coat. But the collar of the coat was turned up and the brim of the hat pulled down so that he could not see her face. Sébastian panicked. An hour earlier he had been led to understand that the woman had stolen Lisette away. Then he saw the car parked outside his café. The same chauffeur of the morning was at the steering wheel and had just started the engine. Were they now kidnapping Chèrie?
Sébastian waited until they were only ten feet away when he looked up and studied them more closely, an expectant smile on his lips reserved for new customers. The veil over the woman‘s face was nearly opaque but through it he could see a pair of red lips and sunglasses. The sunglasses were a giveaway. The woman did not wish to be recognised. Sébastian looked again at the woman in the trench coat. He wanted to dash out and rescue her. But the man in the car was big. What if he had a gun?
Then Sébastian relaxed. As Chèrie reached to open the rear car door, it was suddenly apparent to him that it was she who was in charge and not the other woman. He watched while Chèrie helped the veiled woman into the back seat and fastened the seat belt over her body and lap. As she sat, Sébastian could swear that he heard the woman grunt. Chèrie shut the door and then walked around the far side of the car and got in herself. The car swung out and disappeared towards Edgware Road.
Sébastian‘s vigilance had not gone without its rewards. As the woman sat, the cloak had risen high enough to reveal lace stocking tops and milky white thighs, a vision that was burned into Sèbastian‘s retinas.
At first Lisette lay for hours upon a thin mattress in a dark soundless sea, her head encased within a soft black leather hood. Then the continuing nightmare of darkness punctuated by the sting of the hypodermic was over. They came to her, two persons masked and completely dressed in black. When they had finished with her, she could see, though only three bare grey-painted concrete walls and another grey wall on the other side of a corridor separated by thick bars of iron.
Her wrists had been secured behind with handcuffs sheathed in suede to protect her skin. The cuffs were separated by a single link so that there was very little freedom of movement for her arms, which in any case were firmly shackled by a second set of padded cuffs above the elbows. There were two links in those cuffs so that her elbows were held about four inches apart. Her ankles were cuffed together in the same way. A broad leather strap secured her legs above her knees and another wider strap passed around her body under her breasts and around her elbows, locking her arms against her back. This appeared to be her kidnappers’ preferred method of restraining her. Like everything they had done so far, it was proficient and escape-proof.
Something was different. Lisette moved, tried to rock her body in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the difference. The cot on which she lay had a thin foam mattress covered by a folded blanket on which she lay. She could feel the blanket against her legs through her hose. Then she knew. Her silky red skirt had been removed, but for what purpose? She thought a moment. Oh yes! If she were a hostage being held for ransom, her kidnappers would need to convince … who? Why, Chèrie of course. Would need to convince Chèrie that they really were holding me. But what was the purpose behind that? To warn us off a case? Or was it simple revenge? Perhaps Lisette was not the only victim on their list. Perhaps they planned to take Chèrie as well. Lisette gazed hopelessly at the blank grey walls trying not to imagine all the possibilities.
At long intervals someone appeared in the passage outside and come to her cell. They were always dressed completely in black and masked. Lisette had no idea whether it was the same person each time or whether a number were on roster duty to tend to the prisoner. Sometimes she would be sat up and held above a bucket. She had learned to use it, was too exhausted in mind and body to care about her dignity. At other times she was propped up with her back to the wall, her gag removed, and she was allowed to sip water through a straw from a bottle. Sometimes she was fed a plain sandwich, patiently, morsel by morsel. Another mouthful of water was administered when she had eaten. Her lips were wiped with a soft towel, the gag replaced, and she was re-arranged on her side upon the mattress. Occasionally a tattered blanket was thrown across her body. She lay there for hours.
The bonds were never removed. The gag stayed in her mouth except on the food or water breaks. At those times Lisette drank the water gratefully and ate what was offered obediently. Heroines in fiction might refuse stubbornly to eat but Lisa knew that in this dangerous real life situation she had to keep her strength up, as well as to cooperate with her kidnappers. She thanked the man or woman who was ministering to her and offered no resistance when the gag was replaced.
The gag was a thick satin cloth that filled her mouth. It was held in place by a wide silk scarf tied so tightly that its edges were imprinted into her cheeks. Her lips were crushed, swollen and numb. It was a simple arrangement and under ordinary circumstances Lisette could have slipped if off over her chin in a twinkling. But twenty-four hours of lying trussed up in tight bonds with her tongue sealed inside the moulded rubber shape and held by a tightly buckled leather half mask had caused her jaws to seize up. When that gag had been taken off, she could scarcely open or close her mouth. The new cloth gag made sure that her mouth and jaws remained frozen. Lisette was too dazed and demoralised to care. She did not struggle. She could not struggle. Sometimes she cried. Mostly she lay perfectly still in complete despair.
In the Company of Baal
They had spoken to her through earphones, their voices electronically distorted so that she would not recognise her captors individually. They told her that if her friend did not do their bidding she would be tortured and the disc sent to Chèrie. But first, if Chèrie refused to cooperate, items of Lisette’s clothing would be delivered by courier to the office, beginning with the outer garments of skirt and blouse. They had already taken her skirt. If Chèrie needed additional persuasion, items of a more intimate nature would follow: Lisette’s half-slip, bra or panties. Finally, photographs and a DVD showing the various stages of Lisette’s capture and transportation would be sent to Chèrie.
Lisette had never in her career been in the hands of such implacable enemies. I’m useless, she thought, so completely helpless. It’s up to Chèrie.
The high heels clattered as Chèrie struggled to her destination. The shoes belonged to her captor and were perhaps half a size too small. What was more, they must have four-inch heels higher than Chèrie ever wore. It made progress more difficult.
The car journey had lasted no more than an hour. At that time of day it seemed likely that the vehicle was still well within the outskirts of London. They might even be closer to the centre if the car had not taken a direct route. Chèrie could see nothing behind the dark glasses. But the woman had steered her expertly to the waiting vehicle, just as she was doing now.
Five minutes later, she was brought to a halt. “I‘ll need my cloak and hat back,“ the woman said.
Chèrie stood motionless while the hat was pulled from her face. She felt fingers at her neck and then the cloak was gone, leaving her in her underwear. Chèrie shivered, both form the cold of the room and the fact that with her eyes covered she had no idea who besides the woman might be looking at her in her less-than-decent state.
“You may sit, Miss Chalmers.“
A gentle shove pushed Chèrie back into an unseen chair. She heard herself groan as the crotch cord snapped hard into the gusset of her panties and the soft flesh beneath.
“I think a little decorum is necessary for our bra-and-panties-clad guest,“ the woman said. “So you‘d better tie her ankles together and to one leg of the chair.“
Chèrie groaned again. So she wasn‘t alone with the woman. She hoped whoever was given that command was also female. But her hopes were dashed as hands grabbed her ankles and pulled them to the left. Chèrie felt that they belonged to a man. The tightness of the ankle bonds confirmed her suspicion. As soon as they had applied another loop of rope to her bare midriff and the back of the chair, and fastened it tightly, they took off the dark glasses that had been carefully padded with enough cotton wool to rob her of sight, so she found herself blinking energetically in the neon light of the room. A soon as her vision had cleared, she found herself looking at a grinning goon who was in turn ogling her out-thrust chest.
Chèrie did not lose all presence of mind. She asked herself: Which henchman might this be, Petra Sciacca or Leonardo Calabria? She knew their boss Corsaro Rizzi by sight.
“Delighted to see you again, Miss Chalmers.“ It was her would-be client, Mister Schnecke, who had just entered the room. He too looked unabashedly at Chèrie‘s chest then, turning to the two others in the room, he said: “Remove her gag, and leave us.“
“Certainly, Signore Schnecke,“ the woman said obsequiously. She stripped the tape from Chèrie‘s mouth and helped her to expel the rubber ball.
“It should take us no more than thirty minutes to complete our business transaction,“ Schnecke continued. “Remain on hand to take her back.“
Chèrie could not know it, but Lisette was bound to a chair thoroughly helpless in a cellar below her. She also could not know that they were somewhere in the London area. Lisette’s transportation had followed a wide arc from the M1 before the funeral hearse doubled back to the city.
They had changed her position. Lisette was now tied into a heavy wooden chair with thick coils of hemp. Her wrists remained trapped within the tight suede handcuffs. Blacked-in goggles covered her eyes. A headset over her ears and strapped across her head too tightly for her to dislodge played the rushing susurration of seaside waves so loudly that no external sound could be heard. A moulded rubber shape filled her mouth, held in place beneath a heavy cloth tied so tightly that she could not move her jaws. Her fine silk blouse had been taken and she was now wearing a flannel shirt that protected her from the cold in the barred cellar. She could not speak, hear or see, and she could scarcely move, but she was able to gauge the shifts in temperature around her: a draught of warm air whenever someone entered, a creeping chill when they left.
Zip Comics, courtesy C3C Yahoo Group
“I want to see Miss Rivers,“ Chèrie demanded as soon as she was alone with “Mister Snail.“
“That is not possible, Miss Chalmers, for the simple reason that she is not here,“ Schnecke lied. “She is being held in another part of the CBD, very securely I might add. We know a fair deal about the antics you two get up to, too much not to know that bringing you together under one roof is tantamount to professional suicide. You have seen her skirt. If you need additional proof that we are holding her it is here.“
He held up a fine silk shirt with a lacy scalloped collar which Chèrie recognised at once as the blouse Lisette had worn that morning.
“I see that you recognise it.“
“Perhaps,“ said Chèrie reluctantly.
“Oh, you do. But, if you desire further evidence, you can remain bound and gagged in our cellar while I send for that rather dainty half-cup bra she was wearing.“
“N-no,“ Chèrie stammered. “That won‘t be necessary.“
“I thought not, Miss Chalmers. But you never know. Perhaps I will have it sent to you later, as further evidence.“
Chèrie remained silent. I’m defeated for the moment. The best is to go along with him. If I don’t, and become what he calls “uncooperative,“ I could find myself a long term prisoner as well, and that wouldn’t help Lisa or me.
“Have you thought over helping me with my proposal?“
Chèrie gave her very tight bonds a symbolic tug. “Yes,“ she said.
Schnecke glanced at his watch and pressed a silent buzzer from somewhere beneath the desk. “Thirty minutes on the dot,“ he observed as his male and female accomplice re-entered. “Miss Chalmers has agreed to help us. You may take her back to her apartment. But she cannot go in her bra and panties. Find her something else to wear.“
“I have just the thing,“ the woman said.
She went out, returning with her brief case. She opened it. To her surprise, Chèrie saw that it contained her dress and her slip both neatly folded. The woman lifted them out.
“The dress is confiscated,“ said Mister Schnecke with a barely concealed smirk.
“But- ,“ exclaimed Chèrie.
“No buts, dear girl.“
“I have a coat,“ Chèrie said hopefully.
The woman looked over her captive’s shoulder. “I thought it rather suited me,“ she said with an aggrieved air.
Schnecke smiled and continued to address Chèrie: “The coat and hat are confiscated as well. Your bra and panties too. You will obviously not need stockings. Consequently you have no use for a suspender belt. Returning to your apartment barefoot and in just your slip will be an admirable reminder of your need to do as you are told. We will be in touch again within twelve hours. In the meantime, do not go to the police, and be prepared to meet once more under similar circumstances for a thorough briefing. When you have set wheels in motion, then and only then will your friend be restored to you.“
With that he turned and waddled from the room.
Lisette lay face down upon the cot in the cell where she guessed she had been incarcerated before, although it was not inconceivable that they had moved her to a different place whose air temperature and sense of enclosure felt the same. She was still gagged and blindfolded. They had taken the earphones off and replaced them with small earplugs. The cloth of the blindfold that covered the sides of her head made doubly sure that she was unable to work them off. Her arms were bound behind her and her legs tied together as they had been. In fact, they had not bothered to untie her legs when taking her from the chair. Lisette was undergoing the procedure established from the first moments of her capture, deprived of sight, sound, speech and movement. But she was no longer drugged periodically. That was different.
Something else was different as well. They were paying her certain attentions. Her skirt had been removed so that when she first sat in the chair her bottom felt cold through the panty hose: almost bare skin against wooden seat. Later her silk blouse was taken. It had been of the flimsiest material, virtually see-through, but it had provided some warmth, not to mention dignity.
The Rocketeer , (1991) detail, by the late Dave Stevens (1955-2008), London: HarperCollins, p. 33 (Ch. 3), blindfold added by Brian Sands
Now her bra had been cut from her body and the panty hose stripped off as well. Wearing only her panties Lisette shivered in the cool air of the cell.
It was unsettling but Lisette had to admit that these visits and the progressive removal of her clothing had been almost welcome diversions between the unremitting hours of loneliness, silence, and enclosure. Losing her clothes gave her mixed feelings. On the one hand she felt more helpless and vulnerable than ever. On the other hand Lisette guessed that it was being done with a purpose beyond that of simply tormenting her. She guessed astutely that the clothes were being sent to Chèrie as a means of persuading her that the kidnappers were indeed holding her. If Chèrie has that knowledge she’s probably negotiating with them for my release. The thought gave Lisette hope. But what will be the price of my freedom? She snuggled down against the thin blanket and steeled herself to wait out the hours of helplessness and despair.
Chèrie recognised the distinctive Bond Street box as soon as Sophie placed it on her desk. She removed the expensive ribbon and raised the embossed lid. The box contained three things: a pair of laddered nylon tights, an expensive and delicately lace trimmed waist slip, and a note. Chèrie shivered. There was no doubt that the garments belonged to Lisette. Unless the fiends had given her friend some new clothes, which somehow she doubted, Lisette would by now be left in just her bra and panties.
The note stated a place and time for her next meeting with Mr Snail’s minions: an expensive café just south of the British Museum at eleven that morning, in less than half an hour’s time. “BE THERE,” the note warned.
Chèrie retrieved her own delicate box from the top drawer of her desk. Its contents came courtesy of DORFIS: a pair of tiny decorated beads each mounted on inch long pieces of wire. Chèrie squeezed both beads gently to activate them and disappeared into the loo. Five minutes later she left the building and hailed a taxi. As the taxi sped to her destination, the two transmitters sent out a signal to DORFIS HQ. Chèrie was “wired.” She had secreted one along the front of her bra, the wire alongside the bra’s underwire, pushed inside the material. The bead appeared no more than decoration between the bra’s cups. Chèrie had toyed with putting the second one in her hair, but had instead placed the wire alongside the elastic of her white panties, so that the bead appeared to decorate the front. Chèrie’s expensive white bra and black panties had seemingly not matched when she put them on that morning. Now they matched, each adorned with a bright red bead.
They seemed to be waiting for her at the café. A large latte appeared together with another Bond Street box. Chèrie drank the coffee before undoing the ribbon and lifting the lid of the box with trembling fingers. Once again it contained three things.
Lisette and Chèrie shared similar tastes in lingerie. Both were conservative in their choice of underwear, neither would ever choose a thong or basque or wear red. But both liked modern styles: string-sided panties, half-cup and underwired bras. Most of all, both women liked expensive and stylish undergarments.
The bra now confronting Chèrie was most definitely Lisette’s, expensive and stylish. The lawyer noted that the shoulder straps had been cut and it had been severed between the cups.
The second object in the box was a small mobile phone. Chèrie jumped when it suddenly emitted a chiming sound. It took her a moment to work out how it operated and when she pressed the right button she heard a familiar voice.
“I’m sure you recognise the bra, Miss Chalmers.”
“I imagine it belongs to Miss Rivers,” Chèrie replied as calmly as possible. “It will have to remain a guess,” she added, dissembling. ”I am not intimate with her choice of underwear.”
“No, of course not. Not as intimate as I am with yours. But I assure you the bra is hers and that she is missing it. She still has her panties. But if you do not do as you are told, she will lose those. Then it will be her hair.”
Chèrie gulped. “Very well, we’ve had this conversation before. What do you wish me to do?”
“Leave your jacket on the back of the chair and your bag on the table. Your coffee is paid for. All you have to do is bring the phone and the ticket there in the box.”
Chèrie picked up the third item. It was a swimming bath ticket for the Oasis Baths just around the corner.
“Can you swim?” the voice asked as Chèrie walked briskly to the pool.
“Yes.” Both Lisette and Chèrie were excellent swimmers.
“Can you dive?”
“Good. When you arrive at the Oasis Pool, go straight to the women’s changing room and strip off.”
“What do I wear? I trust you have thought of something waiting for me.” Chèrie had no swimsuit or towel.
“I trust that you are wearing a bra, Miss Chalmers. After all, the way that your braless breasts nearly spilled out of that slip we sent you home in suggests that you need one.”
“Yes,” Chèrie said coldly.
“Of course you are wearing panties. A woman as fine-bred as you is bound to be. So that is your answer, Miss Chalmers. You will strip down to your bra and panties, and go to the swimming pool dressed like that. You will get plenty of looks, especially from the men present and you will hope that your bra and panties shall pass for a bikini. Of course you might hire a bathing suit, but this is one of the conditions that you need to adhere to, to please me.”
“Thanks,” replied Chèrie with an irony that was lost to the electronic gadget in her hand.
Chèrie had no illusions what this was about. They had fallen for her bait and were going to take her to Lisette. But they were being careful. They might easily have double-guessed that she would arrive wired. The short swim would drown the two transmitters she had on her person. So one she needed to hide and recover later. It was a matter of double-guessing the double-guessers. But Chèrie was a lawyer. This was her métier.
“Oh, and Miss Chalmers,” the woman continued. “You will strip in the open area, not in one of the cubicles. Leave your clothes folded on the bench too, not in a cubicle. You will dive into the pool and swim six lengths. When you have done that you will go to locker 36D. According to the garment in front of me as we speak, thirty-six D is your bra size. So you won’t forget it, will you? I think of everything, you know. In locker 36D you will find something else to wear and another mobile phone. It has an earpiece. Use it. Take everything into a cubicle and wait. Do you understand?”
Chèrie more than understood. She was finding her adversary’s weaknesses. The woman was over-confident, vain. She talked too much. She was dangerous but she was also not as clever as she imagined herself to be. Her next words brought a disdainful smile to Chèrie’s lips.
“Good, and no sneaking off to the loo. We will be watching.”
They had changed her position and her bonds once again. This time Lisette stood in the cellar with her back against one of the posts set in the floor to add support to the ceiling. The post was narrow enough to allow her arms to be brought round behind it and her hands tied firmly in a criss-cross. Additional cords circled her body and her legs making it impossible to move. They had taken out her earplugs and changed her gag as well. The wadding had been removed, giving relief to her stiff jaws. What felt like a silk scarf had been tied over her mouth.
The most radical change to Lisette’s plight, however, was the fact that she was completely naked. They had even removed her panties. From the feel of the hands about her body, Lisette was relieved that it seemed to have been done by the woman, although her blindfold prevented her from knowing this for sure. She had not been groped and that was a good sign. She was alone again, helpless and in silence, her skin goose-pimpled in the chill air.
No one could have mistaken Chèrie’s bra and panties for a bikini. The sheer material, lace trimmed and with decorative adornments, saw to that. Not to mention the visible gusset at the base of the panties and the underwired half-cups of the bra. As Chèrie left the neatly folded clothes on the bench and walked as briskly as she could towards the pool, she felt that all eyes were on her, male and female.
There had been no opportunity to hide the transmitters anywhere else than upon her person, nor had she found it a safe bet to put them with her discarded clothing. They were still attached to her bra and panties. Her only hope was that they functioned under water. They do all sorts of amazing things with electronic gadgets, she told herself as she padded towards the deep end of the pool.
The young man on pool duty gawped at her, unsure what to do. But as Chèrie reached the water’s edge and dived in she became hidden from public display and ceased to be his problem. Chèrie wanted nothing more than to get the whole thing over and done with. Her lingerie would soon become somewhat less than opaque and most people around the pool were still watching.
Stroking an elegant Australian crawl, Chèrie finished a length, tumble-turned and began the return lap. Because she took her head out of the water only to breath to the left, she had been unable to see little more than the wall as she swam one way. On the return lap, however, she could see the rest of the pool every time she took a breath. There were fewer watchers on her second return but not by many. There were still spectators by the time she was on the sixth lap.
Things could only get worse. As she hauled herself out of the pool, she realised not only that her bra and panties had become transparent but that they also clung embarrassingly to her shapely form, displaying the rounded flesh of her breasts, her nipples and a dark triangle of pubic hair. Chèrie had intended to make a dignified progress to the changing rooms. But pride quickly evaporated and she ran.
“What on earth?”
Sophie Brush froze at the computer monitor as the pulsing light that marked the swimming baths winked out.
We’ve lost the signal. Sophie tapped out the message on the keyboard almost as fast as the thought. There followed a pause of about twenty seconds – a long time before the DORFIS agent at the other end responded.
<<The equipment did not like the aquatic environment. Shall we move in?>>
Sophie typed a quick reply: <<Negative. Have the operative follow Miss Chalmers. If we lose her we have no way of finding Miss Rivers.>>
Sophie sat back with a sigh and rubbed the bridge of her nose. What would Lisette or Chèrie do in a situation like this? She thought a moment. Of course! They’d try to find another way of dong things, look for another clue. Sophie swung in her swivel chair and gazed out of the window for inspiration. Muted sounds of traffic came to her through the double-glazing. She rotated slowly back to face the computer when she saw the bond street boxes lying upon the work table, the items of Lisette’s clothing that they had contained folded neatly on one side: skirt, blouse, pieces of bra, remnants of panty hose. Perhaps the boxes would tell her something. She rose, walked to the table, and began to examine them closely.
As she expected, the pile of clothing had vanished. Chèrie wondered which of the watching throng had been responsible, perhaps one of the Italian crowd who had taken Lisette.
In the end, the decision to keep the transmitters with her had been the best. She went first to the shower. Her underwear had dried slightly and part of her was reluctant to have it soaked again. But she was eager to wash away the chlorine from the pool water. She emerged wetter but free of the residue from the pool.
Dripping, she went to locker 36D. It was not locked. Chèrie prised open the stiff door and removed a large bag. She slipped into an empty cubicle nearby, closed and locked the door, and opened the zip.
It would have been nice had the bag contained a towel.
The items it did hold were familiar. The first two, a cloak and a veiled hat, Chèrie recognised as belonging to the woman who had effected Lisette’s abduction, as well as using it on Chèrie herself for the appointment with Mr Snail. The two other items, a roll of flesh coloured tape and a rubber ball, had specialised uses that Chèrie knew only too well. In addition there was a pair of shoes with ultra-high stiletto heels, a mobile phone complete with earpiece and a strap for it to go around the neck, and a pair of hinged handcuffs in shiny steel.
The mobile phone suddenly came alive with the theme tune from the movie Jaws. With shaking hands Chèrie hung it around her neck where it dangled in her damp cleavage, placed the receiver in her ear and clicked it on.
“Ah, Miss Chalmers,” the familiar voice said. “I hope you enjoyed your swim.”
“Was it really necessary?”
“Of course, Miss Chalmers. Why pretend not? For now that we have neutralised the transmitters on your person, tell me where they were hidden: in your hair?”
Chèrie made no reply
“Oh, come now, Chalmers. I think we both know you were wired. We found nothing in your clothes, but I really think you should tell us, unless you want your friend to suffer.”
“In, my bra.”
The woman sighed theatrically. “How predictable, Miss Chalmers. I’m almost sorry I didn’t go for the option of searching you. I would have enjoyed your bra.”
“I bet you would.”
“Cut the insolence, Chalmers,” the woman snapped. Then her tone changed. “And the other one?”
“What other one?
“The other transmitter. You’re too clever not to have had a backup.”
“In, my panties.”
“Very cute. All right, I think you can guess the drill. Gag yourself with the ball and tape. Put on the cloak and hat. Cuff your wrists behind your back. Walk straight out of the building. At the entrance you will find a white van. Its door will be open. Get straight into the back.
“I want to see Lisette,” Chèrie stammered as soon as she had expelled the rubber ball from her mouth.
“And you shall, my dear.“
Mister Schnecke looked her up and down. Her underwear had lost some of its transparency but it was still damp and clung to her body in an embarrassing way.
Chèrie pulled at her arm bonds. With her elbows joined behind her back, her large breasts were pushed out, and she could do nothing to conceal her body. Trussing her in this way had been done immediately upon her arrival in the back of the van. One of Mister Schnecke’s minions, masked, probably a member of the Italian mob he was employing, had plugged her ears, blindfolded her and laced her very tightly into a narrow camp stretcher. Her delivery to Schnecke had been effected with dismaying efficiency.
Schnecke enjoyed watching Chèrie’s breasts rise and fall for several seconds. Then he spoke: “Miss Sciacca, we are forgetting our manners. We cannot allow Miss Chalmers to sit in wet clothes.“
“Of course, Signore Schnecke,” said Sciacca.
“I am sorry that I do not have a towel,” said Schnecke in feigned apology as Sciacca cut through the ropes around Chèrie’s elbows and unlocked the hinged handcuffs.
Chèrie rubbed her chafed wrists. “A robe will be fine.”
Schnecke and Sciacca chuckled simultaneously.
“I am afraid not,” said Petra Sciacca. “But Signore Schnecke is right. I have my manners forgot. You catch – how is it said? Ah yes, a death, in that wet underwear. Cosi, be a good girl, take off bra. Panties too.”
“I am not a girl, and I will not undress further,” Chèrie snarled. “Now take me to Lisette.”
Petra Sciacca snarled back. Then she dipped into her pocket and produced something which once shaken out proved to be a pair of cotton, string-sided panties.
“I thought that you might need a reminder that we still have your friend,” she said, shaking the tiny garment out and holding it up in front of Chèrie’s eyes. “Now I do suggest that you do as Signore Schnecke says, and hurry!”
Resigned to her fate, Chèrie reached behind her back and fished for the hooks of her bra. She took it off slowly, covering her substantial breasts as best she could. Then she hooked her thumbs into the narrow elastic sides of her panties and began to lower them.
Mister Schnecke grinned and licked his lips. As she stooped to ease the panties over her knees and ankles, Chèrie’s breasts hung low, framed by her arms.
Chèrie, now naked, straightened and received a full physical appraisal from both her captors. She folded her arms tightly across her large breasts, using one trailing hand in an attempt to conceal her pubic mound.
Schnecke pointed to a sturdy chair. “Tie Miss Chalmers, Signora Sciacca. She and I have our last business to attend to. While we do so, you may fetch Miss Rivers from the basement.”
Sciacca turned to Chèrie: “You see, Miss Chalmers, your pretty friend has been here all the time, a small deception on our part.” The woman then spoke soothingly as though she were a mother urging a loved child to good behaviour. “Put your arms behind you. There is no need to hide your breasts, Miss Chalmers. You have nothing that Signore Schnecke and I have not seen before, amply.”
Chèrie did nothing. If anything, she squeezed her breasts with her arms even more tightly than before. Sciacca responded by taking Chèrie’s upper arms and dragging them back. It was done gently, but the hint of violence in her actions belied the conceit of a rather irritated mother.
“So much trouble!” Schnecke commented as Sciacca turned Chèrie’s hands so that her palms faced each other before tying them together very tightly. “If you had co-operated in the first place, such unpleasantness would have been unnecessary.”
Sciacca looped rope around Chèrie’s elbows and tugged until they met. She bore down two or three times until they were positively crushed against each other. Then she tied them.
Dazed by the pain and the rapid descent once again into helplessness, Chèrie scarcely felt herself being pushed back into the chair.
“I will tie her legs with her knees apart,” Sciacca said. “You will appreciate the sight during your interview.”
Twenty years earlier, the Bond Street shop door would have had a bell which rang each time it opened. Now the plate glass door with its silent electronic system probably cost as much as the shop originally.
Sophie drew eyes as she entered. To relise her plan, she wanted them to think her a lady’s maid, but she had no idea what a lady’s maid wore. She had chosen a simple black dress, borrowed from her flat mate, which revealed a distressing amount of bare thigh. She would never normally show that much leg.
Sophie had worked out which Bond Street shop the boxes came from. All she had to do was persuade the sales assistant that she worked for Lady Millicent Arbuthnot and needed an address to return a present bought by Miss Sciacca.
“Her Ladyship has lost the address,” Sophie confided. “You know what she’s like.”
The young man behind the counter did not know Lady Millicent Arbuthnot’s habits, but felt that he should give the appearance that he did. He also wanted to prolong the encounter so as to enjoy surreptitious glances at Sophie’s rather splendid thighs. While they were not quite in the category of “thunder thighs,” they were verging on the lush.
Sophie explained that Lady Arbuthnot would never contemplate losing an address, so it was Sophie’s job to find it without letting the cat out of the bag.
Her plan worked, but not because the young man willingly revealed the address. He insisted instead that he could not give it out, but would willingly contact Miss Sciacca and ask her to contact Sophie.
Sophie pouted. Sophie sighed. Sophie’s chest heaved in dismay.
At that point, the young man’s attention shifted to take in the obvious other attributes of Sophie’s body, noticing not just that the dress she wore was ultra short, but that it was also very tight and undone to the third buttonhole. As his eyes were dragged, not unwillingly, towards the teasing path of Sophie’s cleavage, he failed to notice Sophie carefully memorising five addresses from the large leather-bound volume upon the counter that had somehow failed to replace the high-tech arrangements that otherwise dominated the emporium.
Ten minutes later, Sophie left the shop triumphant. She quickly wrote the addresses before they deserted her memory. She knew that rescue would not be instantaneous because DORFIS would not act until the following day, as Chèrie had specified. Even then it would take a while to inspect all five places. But she knew that Chèrie and Lisette would be safe. All that remained was for her to get out of the terrible dress and into some denims.
“I have done as you asked,” said Chèrie.
“You have indeed,” Schnecke replied.
He had quizzed the young lawyer for ten minutes and was sure that the legal papers and other arrangements he had demanded, for the compilation of which Lisette had played hostage, had indeed been done.
Chèrie for her part sat on the hard women chair, fuming that she had been tied in such a way. Sciacca had pulled each of her legs over the side of the seat and then tied her ankles to the sidebars between the chair legs. The result was that the hard wooden edges cut into the backs of Chèrie’s tender thighs. What was worse, the seat held her legs so far apart that all was revealed. Mister – or shall we say “Signore” -Schnecke had very happily spent the last ten minutes shifting his gaze alternately between Chèrie’s thrust-out breasts and her exposed crotch.
Lisette sat on the other side of the small room, naked and bound similarly into a matching chair. The silk scarf tied over her mouth had been replaced by a wide strip of flesh coloured sticking plaster. But the blindfold had been removed so that her view of Chèrie was the same as that of Schnecke’s though at a slightly greater distance. She had never seen Chèrie so helpless and vulnerable. What was most galling to the young investigator, however, was the knowledge that the kidnap plan had been successful. Chèrie had bent to the kidnappers’ will and made available highly confidential documents, something Lisette knew must be galling to Chèrie as a reflection on her professional probity, although under he circumstances that was undeserved.
Now they’ll leave us here, bound, gagged and freezing (Lisette’s nipples were stiff and raised in agreement) and skip the country. How on earth are we going to get out of this bind?
It all happened fast. In the best tradition of DORFIS know-how they went into action immediately upon receiving Sophie’s email.
DORFIS operatives moved in. True to form, they did not take long to harass and secure the villains. Chèrie and Lisette were freed from their compromising situation, Chèrie blushing and Lisette, unusually for her, blushing as well.
Later, in the safety and comfort of her bed, Lisette explained the case to Rasputin Thermodux the First who, seated on his satin cushion at the foot, appeared to be all ears.
“You see, Mr Tough Top Cat, the swimming pool destroyed the wires Chèrie was wearing and the DORFIS people lost contact. But Sophie, bless her, traced the purchaser of the Bond Street boxes, which were delivered with my skirt and top and lingerie, and she found an address.”
Rasputin gave a wide yawn, stood, circled on the spot thrice, curled himself into a tight ball, and fell asleep.
© Brian Sands September 2008.