Chapter 7: Encasement

London, England - October 1906.

Twelve hours had passed since Clara’s night had become an nightmare; she didn’t know how many more hours it would be before someone came and freed her and her fellow maids from the ropes that kept them in place. She hurt all over from her predicament and she knew that she would never ask Emma to tie her like this for a long time. Now her body was soaked with sweat from the sun streaming through the glass onto her and her eyes were hurting from having sunlight in them all the time. For the third time during the day there came a knock on the front door and a ringing of the doorbell. She cried out all she could, but the effective gag prevented her from being heard. Clara got Emma’s attention; she nodded towards the vase on the table in the hallway. Emma tried to explain to Esmeralda through the gag what the plan was; hopefully she understood Emma’s 'mmpphs'. Emma started to rock, trying to roll over towards the hallway, so soon Esmeralda was rolling over on top of her. It was kind of comical to see them turn over and over, but it was the only way that they could move. Slowly they managed to roll into the hallway and towards the table with the vase on it. By the time they got there, the knocks and the doorbell had long since fallen silent. So they waited.

Finally, in the evening, after the clock had struck six and the light in the room was fading, there was another knock on the door. The dozing maids woke up, trying to work out where they were. “Knock the vase over!”, Clara cried into her gag. Emma swung her feet towards the table, and missed it by an inch. Clara sighed. They rolled closer to the table. Emma swung her legs again, and hit it. The vase toppled over onto its side, rolling slowly across the little round table, and stopped at it's edge. Clara couldn’t believe their bad luck. Emma kicked the table again. The vase wiggled on the edge - and plummeted onto the floor. The high pitched CRASH! was loud enough to wake anyone up, but was it loud enough for anyone to hear outside?

“Is anyone there?” A man’s voice yelled.

Clara tried to yell “Yes!”. She could see a shadowy figure press against the door, trying to look inside. And then she could see - that they went away. Clara couldn’t believe how unlucky they were. What could they do now to draw anyone’s attention? They had played their best card - and lost big time.

But then, not many minutes later, Clara heard footsteps coming up the stairwell from the kitchen. The steps were very quiet, would have been unheard had it not been for the dead silence inside the house. Clara looked at the door in the end of the hallway, she heard the footsteps stop just beyond it. The door opened up quietly and slowly; she could feel some eyes staring at her. There was a slight pause, then a boy's voice whispered: “Are you all right?”

Clara nodded her head.

“Are whoever did this to you still here?”

Clara Shook her head.

“Yes Dad, they are all right!” The boy yelled from behind the door.

Clara heard footsteps running up the stairs, then suddenly the door opened; a man and a small boy stood looking in from the hallway. The man ran over to Clara and removed her gag, drool was running down her chin, so he used it to wipe it away.

“What's all this then? Seems like you have been playing with some boy scouts to help them win their knot badge.” The man said dryly.

“We have been robbed.” Clara said.

“Yes, I can see that. Are you girls all right?” He asked.

“My body aches, I have been tied up like this for over twelve hours.“ Clara answered.

“Tommy, can you run and find a policeman? Use the kitchen entrance.” The man said to the boy.

“Yes Dad.” The boy said, and he ran down the stairs again.

“Blimey, these ropes are very tightly tied!” The man said as he tried to release Clara.

Finally free of the ropes that bound her to the staircase, Clara could feel the tingling of the blood in her body as it began to flow again. Her limbs had fallen asleep and some minutes passed before she could move properly again. She could see how pleased Emma and Esmeralda were to be untied and ungagged. The man peeked into the living room, where he could see the other girls, and asked: “Just how many of you are there?”

“Oh, just her Ladyship and us maids.” Clara answered quickly.

“I hope everyone is safe.” He said as he finishing untying the ropes binding Emma and Esmeralda together.

“I think we are.” Clara answered.

Clara assisted the man untying Emma and Esmeralda from the tight ropes, then helped Emma get her limbs working again. Just as they finished untying them, Tommy and a police constable entered the hallway from the kitchen.

“Looks like the work of the Black Veil Gang.” The policeman said when he saw the state of the bound women.

“The Black Veil Gang, Sir?” The man said while untying her ladyship.

“Yes, they are a gang from the East End of London. Robbing the houses of widows is their trade mark.” The policeman kindly explained.

This was the first time that Clara had heard of the gang; she didn't know it, but it wouldn't be the last. Nobody asked about the amount of rope that had been used. Nobody managed to recover the items that the gang had stolen from the house. Her ladyship was just glad that none of her girls, as she liked to call them, had been hurt by the day's events. Later, when everything had quietened down, she gave every one of them an hug and a kiss on the cheek.


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