Lisette Rivers & the Crumbling Mansion Affair
Police Comics,No. 1, courtesy Comic Book Bondage Cover of the Day
Chapter Seventeen Woodgreen Cottage
The journey to Agapanthus Woodgreen’s cottage took place in comparative silence. The gags that Lisette and Sunny wore, though light by comparison with what the woman might have done to them, made intelligible speech almost impossible, and anyway there was nothing to say. Woodgreen herself muttered abstractedly at the Pomeranian Fluggy Baskerville, who persisted in his whimpering. The little dog was shivering and casting his eyes apprehensively towards the roof of the car. The journey was also slower than it would normally have taken, as the vehicle was rocked from side to side by the growing gale. Heavy drops of rain splashed across the windscreen.
Unseen by the car’s occupants, Rasputin Thermodux the First hunkered down tightly against the stable bars of the roof rack. The big Persian muttered to himself. He did not like the drops that occasionally struck him on the nose and sprayed his whiskers. He had a simple way of dealing with physical discomfort: someone was going to pay!
Woodgreen grunted in satisfaction as they approached the cottage and saw a car drawn up off the roadside in front of the wicket gate. Lisette recognised the parked vehicle as the one in which she had been kidnapped by Brick Simenov and the Big Man. Agapanthus Woodgreen turned the Morris Minor up the driveway that ran alongside the cottage and stalled it within feet of the front porch.
“You’ll have to explain to your bosses about kidnapping us,” said Lisette, speaking carefully and not very distinctly through the silk that was bound tightly across her lips. “The police made it hot for them the last time they tried it.”
“This time it will be different, very different,” the woman replied.
“We’re coming quietly,” said Lisette, “You could at least loosen these ropes. They’re cutting circulation.”
“I almost understood that bit too,” said Woodgreen with a faint chortle as she opened the car door and slid out. (Fluggy streaked past her and disappeared beneath the porch). Woodgreen opened the door on Lisette’s side and bent to untie her ankles. “You can save your breath,” she continued. “I’m wise to your little tricks.”
When Sunny’s legs had been untied as well, Agapanthus Woodgreen took each of the young women by an arm and hustled them on either side of her up the wooden steps of the porch. The door opened before they reached it and Regina Ecuestre appeared framed in the light from the hallway. She wore resplendently jodhpurs and riding boots, a white silk blouse, its front smothered in lace, and a bolero jacket. Without a word, she took Lisette from Woodgreen’s grip and stood aside to allow Agapanthus to enter first with Sunny, then followed. As they crossed the threshold, Regina looked sharply into Lisette’s eyes and squeezed her arm. This woman rescued me before, thought Lisette. Is she going to help us again?
The living room as they entered seemed overcrowded. When Lisette had performed a mental shift to take in the scene, she saw a tableau of four. The first person her gaze rested upon was Mrs Batts. The crone was sitting in a padded armchair, knitting furiously a garment that could not easily be identified: a long woollen scarf, one of a pair of socks, long gloves? It was anybody’s guess. Behind her stood the housekeeper Mrs Schlüssel who appeared to be acting as some sort of nurse to the demented Batts. Lisette’s attention shifted from the drooling Madame Lafarge figure to that of a woman sitting bound and gagged in a wooden kitchen chair. It was the French maid Lolly Tablier. She wore a red dress instead of the red and burgundy skirt and top Lisette had seen her in earlier. She was tied to the chair with thick ropes, and a white cloth had been twisted twice around her mouth. The third person in the small room was the ersatz science fiction writer Brick Simenov. He was standing slumped against a wall, one arm crossed over his chest, the elbow of the other arm resting upon it, his fingers nervously stroking his chin. He did not look at all happy at the arrival of two new captives.
“What the hell are you up to, Lily?” Simenov grated. “We have enough of a problem how to deal with this nosy Frenchwoman while we make a break for it without you bringing two more women!”
“But Brick dear, look who they are, the Rivers girl and the heiress to that crumbling mansion, both. The detective we can leave tied up here with Lolly. They shan’t get free if we truss them up well, and by the time they’re found we’ll be out of the country. And, the Big Boss will love to have Miss Virtue.”
“How the hell are we supposed to get the girl out of the country with us? It’s going to be hard enough getting ourselves away after this fiasco. The ‘Big Boss’ as you call him is conveniently out of the country. He doesn’t care what happens to us. We’re expendable underlings. Anyway, it’s not our business what he wants with the Virtue girl. I say leave her with the others, securely bound of course.”
“But Brick, all the trouble I’ve gone to!” wailed Agapanthus Woodgreen.
“You’re out of touch, Lily,” said Simenov after taking a deep breath. “The police are patrolling the area.”
“Not on a night like this!”
“Not perhaps tonight, but that gives us a better chance to get away. We should have left days before instead of hiding out here. Oh yes, right under the noses of the police as they say, but that was a mistake. We’ve burnt our bridges and painted ourselves into a corner …” Brick Simenov paused. There was silence in the room as the listeners absorbed the mixed metaphors.
Simenov was about to continue when with a jerk of her head Lolly Tablier slipped her gag down over her chin. “I agree with Monsieur Simenov,” said Lolly quickly. “C’est trés dangereuse to take us with you, one personne or three. An’ ‘ow you take one, hein? Even short ride in ze jet, in suitcase or trunk, is ver’ dangereuse pour votre captif. You are in ze drugs n’est ce pas? Mais not I think murder. Aussi, my boyfrien’ ‘ugo ‘e is ver’ big an’ ver’ strong, d’accord? If I am ‘arm, ‘ugo will come after you. You will be ver’ sorry. ‘E will your guts ‘ave for ze garters. Aussi, zer is ze Kidnapper’s Code. If zat Code you break, zen ze organization zey will give beeg fine.”
Counterfeit Cop, Bindher.com
Lolly paused, having run out of breath. Mrs Schlüssel replaced the gag over her mouth, tying it very tightly so that the Frenchwoman would not be able to slip it off again. Lolly accepted the gag with dignity, her head and body erect, looking daggers at her tormentor.
“Well that’s that,” said Brick Simenov with finality after an awkward pause. “We’ll leave all three women here, in spite of what you say, Lily. I’m sorry, but we have to save our own skins. I hope you see that.”
“All right,” Agapanthus Woodgreen said reluctantly. “Where will we put them?”
“Not in one room together,” interposed Mrs Schlüssel. ”They’re young and agile. They’ll untie each other’s bonds no matter how tightly we truss them.”
“Yes,” agreed Regina Ecuestre from over Lisette’s shoulder. “In separate rooms. Let’s do this as quickly as possible and leave.”
“What are we waiting for, Sir?” asked Detective Sergeant Poppy Chipps. “They’ve been in there for more than ten minutes. Anything could happen.”
Detctive Inspector Hereward Fysshe settled more comfortably into the seat of the police car. “There are road blocks at either end of the lane and our people are standing by,” he replied. “It was easy to follow them and we have them dead to rights. That’s enough for the present. We don’t want the Rivers girl and her friend Miss Virtue to come to harm. If we rush the place, the gang might panic and do something regretful. A hostage situation is to be avoided at all costs. No, we’ll wait. My guess is that the gang members will soon leave, and without their hostages. If they have any sense they’ll realise it’s too dangerous to drive to the nearest port, sea or air, hampered by two captive women who will probably be bound and gagged and reluctant to cooperate … Um, you didn’t bring coffee did you?”
“I guessed you’d like some, Sir, so I did!”
DS Chipps produced a small thermos flask from a bag and unscrewed the top. At once the interior of the police car was filled with the aroma of fresh coffee beans.
“Thank you, Poppy. That’s very thoughtful.”
Poppy Chipps carefully poured two fingers of coffee into the thermos lid that doubled as a cup. He called me “Poppy!”
Under the porch of the cottage Fluggy Baskerville crouched close against a wooden foundation pile. He had been there before during short explorations when he had managed to slip out of the cottage. But this was different. A strange smell of Other was penetrating his sensitive snout. It was the same odour he had encountered in the car. He shivered and gave a faint “Yip.”
The answering sound froze Fluggy and his bones seemed to melt. He looked around. Crouching close to his side was a large white-furred animal. Up until now, Fluggy had led a sheltered life circumscribed by the ample bosom of his human mistress. He had never met a cat. But he responded to the potential danger with a genetically inherited canine reaction. Fluggy Baskerville rolled onto his back and presented his paws to the air.
Regina Ecuestre pushed Lisette down upon the kitchen floor against a wall with a variegated pattern that did not do much for the room’s décor. Lisette’s ankles were tied together with a length of rope, one end of which was secured to her wrists to form a hogtie. She lay on her side with her back to the wall beneath the jumble of painter’s experiments and looked up silently at the equestrienne.
“We have a little time while they’re securing the other two,” said Regina. “Fortunately I did not come under suspicion when I allowed you to escape from my farm. You tied me up too well for them not to believe it was a genuine escape. My gag was really tight and uncomfortable, good work!”
Regina looked over her shoulder towards the door then turned back to Lisette. “I’ll come back and free you, but first I have to help my friend Lolly. Oh yes,” she added in response to Lisette’s puzzled frown, “Lolly Tablier, her boyfriend Hugo, and I have a long association. We’re transporters, as I think you know. Just bad luck that my riding school was invaded, you might say, by that drug-running gang because they had their own HQ in this district. It rather cramped our style, and we’ve been thinking about ways of neutralising those persons. They’re a menace. Lolly almost told them that we were going to invoke the relevant clauses of the Kidnapper’s Code. It’s a good thing that Schlüssel woman put the gag back on her. You know about the Code I suppose?”
“Good. Well, events have overtaken our plans. What I’m going to do now,” Regina added as she got to her feet, “is to wait until the odious three have left and then return and set you all free. So just sit tight and be patient. Your ropes are strong, so lie still or you could hurt yourself. The gag doesn’t look too uncomfortable. You should be able to slip it off once we’ve gone, but let it stay in place for the moment. They might check on you before they go, and if they have to readjust your gag it will be a lot tighter and more uncomfortable.”
Lisette nodded and watched as the woman left the room.
Lisette gazed towards the half open door to the main hall apprehensively. She could hear Woodgreen’s voice murmuring from another part of the house as she secured one of the other captives. Regina’s guess had been correct. A few minutes later, Agapanthus Woodgreen’s face appeared for a moment at the kitchen door to gloat triumphantly over Lisette’s discomfort, then that door was closed and Lisette heard no other sound in the house.
“There’s been no movement for ten minutes,” said DS Chipps worriedly.
“It shouldn’t be long now,” replied DI Fysshe reassuringly. He drank the last of the coffee and replaced the thermos top with a contented sigh. “There, Popp- DS Chipps, what did I tell you?”
The front door of the cottage had opened, spilling a dull yellow light onto the porch. In the next moment two figures emerged from the doorway. They walked down the path, opened and passed through the wooden gate, and diverged. One went straight to the car parked on the roadside. The other turned to one side and walked up the road to a dark belt of trees. It appeared to be a woman. She disappeared into the trees.
A moment later three more figures exited the cottage. They too appeared to be women. Two walking together headed straight for the car at the roadside by the gate. Its motor had started and the headlights came on as they reached the car. The third person turned to the driveway and climbed into the car parked there. The cottage was now in darkness.
The headlights of three vehicles lit the areas around them, the lane in one direction, the driveway along one side of the cottage, and the lane in the opposite direction. The car near the gate pulled onto the road and began to accelerate away. The car in the trees turned, then for an inexplicable reason its headlights went out and it did not move to the road.
In the driveway, the woman seemed to be having difficulty starting the motor. Finally they heard a distant pop as the Morris Minor’s flooded engine sprang into life. The small vehicle shot backwards, bouncing along the uneven surface of the driveway so that its headlamps splashed light up and down and from side to side. It turned and followed the road in the direction of the first vehicle.
When the two vehicles had disappeared around a bend, the car hidden in darkness among the trees moved onto the road. Its headlights came on. It moved slowly towards the cottage, like a cautious animal, and came to a stop just before entering the driveway. The lights went out again. The figure of a woman emerged fro the car and disappeared down the side of the cottage, evidently headed towards the back entrance.
A bemused DS Poppy Chipps alerted the police cordon stationed some distance up the lane to expect two vehicles. She turned enquiringly to DI Hereward Fysshe who shrugged and settled himself more comfortably into his seat. They continued to wait.
About three minutes later, the police stationed at the lane end that had not been taken by the two vehicles earlier reported that a battered Volkswagon van had just entered. As they received the message, DS Chipps and DI Fysshe saw two figures emerge from the rear of the cottage and run to the car parked near the driveway entrance. They were the woman who had been driving the car and another woman. They leapt into the vehicle which seconds later made a u-turn and raced back up the lane where it would soon pass the Volkswagon coming the other way.
“Close the cordon, Sir?” asked Poppy Chipps.
Hereward Fysshe grunted assent. The roadblocks at either end of the laneway to the cottage would be set up and the vehicles heading away in both directions stopped. The van approaching the cottage, its lights already visible through the trees, would also be caught in the police trap.
At the time that DS Chipps was expressing her concern for the prisoners in the cottage, Lisette was working as quickly as safety permitted with the razor sharp blade from her leather belt. She could hear again Agapanthus Woodgreen’s voice coming from the living room and was determined to escape as soon as possible. She could not risk waiting docilely for Regina to return and rescue her, for anything might happen to upset that plan. It was difficult enough with her arms tied behind her at the elbows and wrists and her feet hogtied to her hands. But it would be a lot harder to get out of her bonds if the Woodgreen woman decided to truss her up more tightly, such as wrapping her body in rope as well. As she worked she pushed against the gag with her tongue and succeeded in slipping it off her mouth to her chin, where the silk stuck obstinately.
It proved an easy matter to sever the single cord that held her feet connected to her wrists. Twisting her hands and sawing at the wrist bonds with fingers that, while supple, were numbing out from the tension took longer and, although she was careful, she nicked a wrist. It did not take much blood for her fingers to become slippery. But the blade was sharp and a strand of cord was at last cut through, scraping a little more skin. Lisette worked herself to her knees and, leaning back, made quick work of the ankle bonds. She climbed to her feet and, by pulling her shoulders back and wriggling them, she managed to slip the rope from her upper arms. She replaced the blade in the seam of her belt as she listened for any sound from the house, and pulled the scarf down from her chin. It was Sunny’s scarf and she would keep it for her. Lisette had been inhaling the girl’s apple blossom perfume whenever she breathed through it. It had made the tight gag a little more bearable.
If she could, she would seek out the place where Sunny was being held – they had mentioned the attic as Regina led her from the living room – but the best alternative seemed to be escape. The decision was made for her when she heard a low babble of voices as gang members left the living room. She could run and hide, and maybe return, or tell the police. In any event, Sunny and the Frenchwoman would not be harmed, only uncomfortable in ropes and gags. Lisette did not know what the gang members in the hallway would do but she decided not to stay to find out in case one of them thought to check on her in the kitchen. She opened the back door and slipped out into the darkness of the yard.
© To be Continued …