The Treasure Tunnel

(a Trichological Thriller)

By Gabriella

What's the best way to start? Romans in ancient times said (in Latin) that the best novel starts "In Media Res" or, in the middle of the story. So, being in Italy, I'll do as Romans did.

When I recovered my consciousness, I was still stunned and confused, and cannot remember how everything started. When I opened my eyes they had been covered by some kind of golden, silky curtain that obscured my still blurring sight. My head was pressed down by gentle but strong fingers. I heard some kind of a "whoooosh" sound  whispering in my ears. A hot wind was caressing my scalp.

Finally I realized that somebody was brushing with energy and enthusiasm my long blond hair, drying it with the help of a powerful hair dryer. My head was inclined downward, with my chin resting on my breast, and my soft, thick and silky mane was combed in front of my face, preventing me to see anything but this. The sweet smell of high-quality shampoo and balsam filled my nostrils at every stroke of the brush, and for few minutes I relaxed myself, appreciating the skilled work of hairdressing offered to me by these mysterious hands.

Then, slowly, I realized that I was completely helpless: my wrists and elbows were tied with some kind of leather belt to an old-fashioned barber armchair, and the same bonds were used to secure my upper body and arms, my waist, my knees and my ankles as well. I could only guess what was binding me, because my body was completely covered by a black salon gown tied around my neck. The firm and strong grip of leather belts prevent any single movement, except for my fingers.

Suddenly I realized what was happening to me, and I screamed, but the only sounds heard were some quite inaudible and desperate:

"Mmmmmphhhh!!! MMMMMMMmmmmmphhh!! MMMMMMMMMMPPPHHH!!!"

My moaning was mostly covered by the hair dryer's humming sound, but I also tasted some kind of handkerchief stuffed in my mouth, secured in place by a long scarf, tied between my teeth. A second and larger scarf was tied over the first one, gagging me without any chance of being heard by anybody more than few feet away.

"Our pretty hostage awakes, finally." said a voice somewhere in front of me.

I was trying to see around my shiny and thick mane, combed to cover my eyesight, but the hand that pressed my head downward, running strong fingers through my hair as it was brushed,  was too strong for my efforts to shake it.

Some long minutes passed by, while my kidnapper continued to dry and brush my hair, ignoring my moans of protest and nearly inaudible laments. Then finally the hair dryer's humming sound stopped, and the hand that held my head was removed. I could finally raise my chin up and my long mane fell well over my shoulders, soft and shiny from the long brushing, like a cascade of gold.

My emerald green eyes could eventually see something: I was bound and gagged in front of a well-lighted large mirror, while the rest of the room was quite dark. I looked desperately in every direction, searching for some help, but the only things I could see were the dark silhouettes of my kidnappers, partially hiding in the shadows, reflected in the mirror. The toiletries table in front of me was covered by combs and brushes, their handles preciously manufactured and carved in silver, ivory and ebony, that gave them an old-fashion look; there were also old-fashioned glass bottles of shampoo and balsam, a razor and some pairs of sharp-looking scissors.

Overall, it seemed to me that I'd been abducted in an old barber shop; but shortly thereafter I started to remember how it all began. Was it just hours ago? Or had it been days?

Maybe it will be better to introduce myself, before continuing our story: my complete name is Gabriella Dorian Gray, 'cause my parents love Oscar Wilde, but my daddy Andrew and my mommy Clara use to call me "Honey Dorian", after the girlfriend of "Rip Kirby", a very old comic strip that my daddy loves, with the stunning art of Alex Raymond.

Like her, I have straight, thick, silky, golden-blond hair, that I've seldom cut (just an half dozen trims during my childhood) and that I've let grow past my waist. I'm eighteen years old, 5 feet 4 inches tall, and quite athletic: I like swimming, fencing, riding my bicycle and playing Midfield in the "Jemboree Football Club", a Female Soccer team, where my two best friends play as well.

The first is our star player and forward, Sara Barbieri, a dark-haired Italian beauty; the second is our goalkeeper, the always smiling, nice and smart Michelle "Mickey" O'Neil, who often hides her prettiness, and her beautiful chestnut-red hair, under big sunglasses and old, peaked caps. Our parents are all Soldiers and Officers, working in "Camp Darby", an American Military Base and Support Group sited in Tuscany, near Pisa, the city with the magnificent Leaning Tower. We are attending the American High School inside the camp, but we have often the chance to have "cross-overs" with Italian people and students. Two of them, Giovanni (called "Joe") and Roberto (called "Bob") the Facchini's brothers, are our very good friends: Joe is a strongly built and athletic, but intellectual, guy, wearing glasses that give him a Harry Potter look: he loves books and art, studying American History in Pisa's University. Bob is athletic and strong like his older brother, and he's an Italian Navy Officer from the local Academy, more stylish than his brother as only an Italian can be. They're so similar that could be twins, with nice, slightly insolent smiles.

Together, we share the same passion for Role Playing, investigation and adventures, but none of us could have imagined that this passion would lead us to have REAL adventures. Our curiosity took inconceivable consequences this spring, when in April the school was closed for Easter Holydays. We decided to have a picnic at the seaside nearby. The sun was shining and warm and, and bike-riding was a pleasure. We started early in the morning, and our trip took us in a large pine wood, that extended from the Military Camp to the beach. Bob told us that there are many abandoned bathing establishments, huge and creepy, where we could have some exciting adventures and do some live Role-Playing.

When we reached the place, we were stunned and amazed by the vision: we could see at least ten old, large, old and creepy buildings: Joe told us that they're abandoned from the end of the Second World War, and that nobody ever tried to recover or even demolish them. It was like entering a Scary Movie, or a Post-Nuclear, Mad Max Style Movie set. It was real fun, a huge playground where even a simple "Hide and seek" game could be exciting. Joe and Bob got a couple of torch-lights, and we explored the ruins as if we were real adventurers in a dungeon, or detectives from some Lovecraft novel.

At one point, we decided to separate ourselves, and explore different buildings. Bob went with Sara, and Joe came with me, as it was no mystery we're deeply attracted to one another; so Mickey went to explore all alone. While we were away, Joe gave me our first kiss. He was shy, tender and sweet, and too much of a gentleman to ask for more. But that's another story. After an hour, we started to get hungry, and we decide to return to the bicycles and have our picnic. Mickey, Bob and Sara were there already, and while we ate our sandwiches, we discussed on how much more exciting it would be to return to this place during the night, when the shadows and the dark places will seem far more scary and creepy.

"I've seen other people there, anyways." Mickey said while we're returning home in the afternoon. "There's at least one inhabited building, an old-looking mansion on a sandy hill. I've seen a woman taking care of a little garden, and at least four men working hard, taking out heavy bags and putting them on a pick-up."

"Maybe they are workers restoring the house." Bob answered without attention, having eyes only for his favourite, gorgeous Sara.

"Well, maybe.But Joe said  that nobody lived there for at least sixty years." I intervened to support Mickey's point of view. I proposed we return there the day after to investigate further, but Joe had to study for an exam, Bob had to stand guard, and Sara claimed to have "other priorities". The rest of the squad promised to be free for next Saturday night, but Mickey and I decided not to wait five days to explore the site and discover more of the mysterious mansion's inhabitants.

So, next morning, Mickey and I decided to go alone. I wore a red polo and a white, pleated mini-skirt, black collants on black, low heeled shoes, and a blue bandana tied around my neck. I used a blue foulard to tie my hair in a long, carefully combed ponytail, feeling very "patriotic" as I wore the colours of our star-and-stripes, and I decided to be Captain America. Mickey's choice was to be Wolverine, as she wore blue jeans, tennis shoes, a brown leather aviator jacket over a white t-shirt, large raybans to cover her green eyes and a large peaked cap in which she completely hide her long, wavy chestnut hair. So disguised, she seemed to a casual viewer more a very cute boy than a girl. While riding our bikes to the beach, we decided that I would present myself to the woman, possibly mansion's owner or guardian, trying to discover as much as I can, while Mickey would hide nearby, ready to help or to call help if needed.

Our plan started: we arrived quite early in the morning, and the men were already at work. The mansion was an old, wooden, reddish Victorian structure with two floors and bizarre oval windows, a mansard and a little habitable tower. My first impression, when I saw it, was that it was really similar to the typical "Scary Movies" house. Men were already working: I saw a slender African, a huge bulky Caucasian, and a bald muscular one with a grey moustache; a fourth one, elegantly dressed in white, was speaking with the woman, a thirty-something with long, well-dressed red hair and a white apron over a classic dress with flower design.

After the fourth man drove away with the pick-up, I presented myself to the mansion's entrance, smiling with all my charm, while Mickey was reaching her hiding place between the bushes and the dunes:

"Hi there, my name is Honey Dorian." I said using unconsciously the nickname my parents gave to me, to cover my real identity. I noticed how the men working looked at me with evident appreciation. "I used to live in the camp nearby, and when I saw that this old mansion was inhabited, I decided to give you and your friends a warm welcome as a good neighbour."

"Nice to meet you, Honey, my name is Natalya Kravchenko, but you can call me simply Talya." The woman answered with a heavy Eastern accent. She was very attractive; her long hair so beautifully red that was evidently dyed, probably to cover the grey. "It's a pleasure to see such a kind and well educated girl around here, and one gifted also with charm and beauty. Maybe this is the proof that I've chosen well the place for my bed and breakfast."

"It's a Bed and Breakfast you're restoring here?" I asked with innocence.

"Yes, it is: there are many students in the University nearby, and even soldiers, officers and other people that need a place to live that has to be clean, tidy and with good cooking."

Something about that sounded odd to me. "But there are plenty of places for guests and visitors to stay at the University or the military base. Will you get enough customers?"

For a moment, her smile faded away a bit,

Well," she looked at me intently, "I've also decided to open a little side business-- a Hairdresser Salon, in the basement." Her eyes were again running up and down me, but clearly paying much attention to the sun in my golden hair. "With your permission, you can be my first customer: it will be a pleasure for me to take good care of your beautiful mane, as I've rarely seen hair so long, thick and shiny."

Nervously I touched my long tresses, blushing at the compliments: I've always been very proud of my hair, and quite suspicious about new hairdressers, as I've always been afraid of having unknown people touching or caressing my hair, and I've always been terrified of receiving an undesirable haircut. Noticing my embarrassment, she invited me first to have some tea and biscuits in her new sitting room.

As nervous as I was, I was also definitely curious about Miss Talya and her unlikely business. Seeing the opportunity to have a look inside, I accepted without any delay. The house was probably owned by some very rich family in the past, and still held some of its ancient elegance. Most of the floor was covered by precious oriental carpets, the reddish wall-paper was still well preserved, and walls were embellished by replicas of pre-Raphaelite paintings. The sitting room looked as old as the rest of the house, with sofas and armchairs covered in velvet and laceworks, and a low, elegant tea-table.

Talya invited me to sit on a small but comfortable armchair while she went in the kitchen to prepare the tea. After few minutes she returned with an old looking tea-pot: the dark brown beverage seemed too sweet for my taste, but trying not to disappoint her I accepted it anyway. Feeling relieved, I thought that, if Talya was being so friendly, there must not be anything strange or mysterious in the mansion, after all.

At that point, Talya started to "entertain" herself with insignificant tales of her far country, Croatia, while the men continued their hard work downstairs in the basement. Talya's stories turned out to be so boring that in few minutes I started to feel sleepy. My eyelids grew heavier every second as did my limbs, and a sense of panic opened a breach in my mind. Eventually I realized that it was not the boring stories that stunned me, but some kind of drug mixed in my tea and covered by its sweetness.

So, there's something strange about the house and its inhabitants, after all! But I realized that some moments too late. My only hope now was to call for help. Mickey was hidden just outside the house! I could get her intervention with a simple scream… but I couldn't find the strength to scream.

"You look very tired, my dear." Said Talya, with an enigmatic smile. She reached down and stroked her hand across my hair-was she just trying to be reassuring?

I wasn't sure if she was really concerned or just joking with me.

"If you want, you can rest for a while in one of my new rooms, upstairs." Talya said as she continued to caress my long tresses, but maybe less reassuring now: more like taking control of me by my hair.

I wasn't in any condition to provide resistance, or even to speak. Talya helped me to stand up, showing an unusual strength when I fell practically helpless in her arms after the first steps: she just lifted me to her shoulder and draped me over it like a sack, so that my long ponytail bounced along behind her. She took me upstairs without apparent strain, as if I was just a little child.

Despite my feebleness, I was still conscious, and even if stunned, I could realize with panic and terror what was happening to me!

Talya took me into one of the rooms: it was quite dark, as the window was still closed. She deposited me gently in an armchair. Then she took a clean white handkerchief from one of her apron's pockets, rolled it into a ball and stuffed it carefully in my mouth. Before I could find any strength to resist, she got some long silk scarves from a nearby drawer and with the first one she tied the gag into my mouth. She secured it between my teeth and lips and eventually knotting it at the nape of my neck.

She repeated the gagging with a second, longer scarf, folded and tied three times over my mouth, completely silencing my already muffled moaning. Then she used two longer scarves to tie up my wrists and elbows together behind my back, in a very uncomfortable position: now, even if I could recover control of my body, I was completely helpless in her hands.

She went outside in the corridor for few seconds, shouting orders in her incomprehensible eastern language to the men downstairs. She then returned with a long coil of rope, and started to tie me up firmly and solidly to the armchair. Talya tied five coils of rope around my chest and waist, pinning my arms against the back of the armchair. Then she bound my thighs and knees against the seat, and finally my ankles to one of the wooden legs. She tied the knots away from my fingers in a clever way, so it was impossible for me to free myself from my bonds.

When I started to recover more of my senses I began to struggle against the gags and the bindings. But Talya had done her work in a very secure and professional way so that, despite my best efforts, I could not move anything except my head and fingers. My frustration quickly turned to panic! I tried to scream, to protest, but my laments were just muffled and feeble moans of terror.

Now that I was completely helpless in her hands, Talya lit up some lamps in the room.

I was tied up in front of a little, old fashioned toilet table, dominated by an oval mirror, so I could see my bound and gagged image, and my green eyes wide-opened by fear.

My captor looked at my desperate efforts to free myself for a while then, smiling, she started to free my long golden hair from my carefully combed ponytail, running her fingers through it slowly, sensually, letting it flow on my back and down; I had washed and dried my hair just a couple of hours ago, after my usual morning shower, so it was soft and silky and shiny, with a little wavy from being tied in a loose tress. Talya got an old, thick haired brush, with a silver embroidered handle and ignoring my muffled protests begun to brush my mane with energy and skill.

"As I told you before, your hair is really gorgeous." I could feel her long fingernails across my scalp as she played with my lush tresses. "You've the best looking head of hair that I've ever seen; I couldn't wait to get my hands into it, or to comb and brush this shiny golden mane."

I gave a yelp into my gag as her fingers tightened in my hair and she pulled on it, forcing my face up to look into her eyes, a smile on her pretty face. "Now that you're my prisoner, you really will be my first customer. I'll get you downstairs, in the basement, and I'll give you some good hairdressing."

To Be Continued...

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