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Held for Ransom
an Intriging Tale of Bondage
By Brian Sands
It was late evening. I left work early because a long weekend was coming up, and at leisure I relaxed in my apartment after eating a light supper. Then Clive rang. He sounded strangely tense on the phone, which was not like him. But then, he had been working very hard on some mysterious project for the last two weeks. I was wondering when he might get in touch with me, for I was his favorite confidante at the office. We had a standing joke about my readiness to work hard on the pay we all earned, because I had a large private income promised as a lump sum from a very wealthy uncle living overseas, who in the meantime gave me a smaller steady salary as part of an agreement with my late father, with whom he had had a business relationship. I was Clive's "little rich girl." Under other circumstances and from a different person, I might have taken that as an insult except that I knew Clive himself was well off.
"Jennifer, are you free tonight?" he asked; then without waiting to hear my reply he continued: "Look, I'm awfully sorry to maybe disrupt your evening, but I've found out something I think you ought to know. You're the one in charge of our books and I thought that before we called a board meeting you should know what's been going on the last two weeks. You've been very good about not asking me before this..."
"Clive, get to the point please," I exclaimed in alarm, "What's wrong with the books?"
He took a deep breath at the other end of the phone: "I have proof of embezzlement on the part of one of our major sleeping partners. It's in a safe in a private home, and I've managed to get an invitation for late cocktails tonight at ten. I thought that if you came with me and engaged the hostess in conversation, perhaps caused a distraction like spilling your drink, I would have opportunity to slip away and check the safe's contents. What do you say?"
The idea of the adventure intrigued me, and what was more, I felt angry that one of our trusted partners was being light-fingered. I did not know all the people who may have been involved and I wanted to get to the bottom of the matter now as badly as Clive. So I agreed.
"Right," he said excitedly, "I'11 pick you up in twenty minutes. Could you put on something that's both smart and, you know, sexy? They're that kind of people."
When Clive had rung off, 1 checked on the weather bureau's forecast -- a fine night, cool, and it would be a good idea to wear a scarf or something. I had already showered and freshened up, so after slipping on sheer black pants, bra, suspender belt and seamed stockings, I chose a simple dress in pure silk, blue with a deep V-neck and narrow waist. Around my throat I knotted a pink and black patterned silk scarf. In my bag I placed a blue chiffon stole to match my dress, in case I needed it later to keep my shoulders warm. When Clive arrived, I was ready and we left at once.
On the way, Clive filled me in on the details he did not mention over the phone. There were not many. He had been carrying out a routine inspection of our monthly books when several entries did not appear to tally. His detective work led him on to suspect the people in the house to which we were going. Something did not seem right with their documents when he saw them at the bank, but since then they had been removed from the safety deposit box. We needed them as evidence.
The house that we drove up to was located in a good-class suburb near a marina. We could see the masts of the boats through the trees of a park opposite the house, lit up by the lights of the harbor walk. A tall woman wearing a long white dress answered at the door when we rang the bell. She held a glass of wine in her hand and the sound of party music came from behind the closed door of the room at her back.
"Oh Clive, do come in," she said, "I'm glad you could come. And you must be Jennifer. Clive's told us how he works for you, and of course we're one of your newer clients and we've been looking forward to meeting you."
She took my hand briefly, then led us through into the inner room. It was empty of people although there were glasses and drinks set out on a long bar. The decor was a restful green and potted palms lined the walls. Our hostess turned to us and, apologizing for the other guests who had not yet arrived, she offered me a glass of white wine.
"Jennifer, would you mind terribly if I took Clive away from you for awhile?" the woman asked. "I have something I want to talk over with him, to get his approval before presenting the scheme to you."
"Certainly," I replied, "You go ahead. I'll stay and explore this room."
This might be the opportunity we needed to steal a look at their books, and I resolved to check on the other adjoining rooms if possible while they were out. For appearances I sipped two small mouthfuls of the drink, but when they stepped out of the room I carefully poured all but a longer mouthful from my glass into one of the pot plants. A quick and cautious inspection of two rooms drew a blank. However, the third I entered was an office. Was it the office that contained the wall safe and the figures we needed?
I gulped down what remained of my drink - that much would be enough for me to keep a clear head - and placing the glass on a table near the door I stepped across the threshold, softly closing the door behind me. My eyes swept around the walls, taking in the details eagerly. A large desk stood in the center of the room, a large bookcase filled one wall, the wall to my left was plain and paneled in some kind of dark wood, and there behind the chair matching the desk directly in front of me was a wall safe. I switched on the light now that the door behind me was closed. Heavy curtains covered the window. I listened, holding my breath, and began to walk as lightly as possible across the room.
Then something inexplicable happened. The room seemed to turn slowly around. I couldn't deep my feet atop a floor that tilted and ran away from under me, and I sank to my knees. My head dropped to the carpet and everything went black.
Regaining consciousness was like coming out of a deep vertiginous pit. My head ached; my body felt as heavy as lead, and my mouth felt... funny. I was lying on my side on a carpet. When I managed to open and focus my eyes, which took several minutes, I found myself looking at the bottom of a section of the paneled wall. So I was still in the room I had attempted to burgle. What had happened? Slowly strength seeped back into my limbs; sufficient enough for me to move them, but my head reeled when I tried to lift it even slightly. A strange tightness around my face and mouth made the blood pound in my temples. With an effort I lifted my left hand to my face and my searching fingers discovered that a thick piece of cloth was bandaged very tightly between my teeth. I was gagged. When I moved my tongue it pressed against a pear-shaped ball of cloth wedged in my mouth. Later I found that I had been gagged with my own silk neck scarf, its center rolled around a large handkerchief that neatly filled my mouth.
My fingers were too weak to do anything about the silk muffling me, and my hand fell back to the floor. Slowly the minutes dragged by as I sorted my head out. The nausea from the drug, which I guessed must have been placed in my drink, began to wear off and I could see more clearly. The room in which I lay was now in darkness, although a splash of light fell across the carpet and my ankles from an adjoining room, not the room from which I had come. As my head cleared, I could hear voices. At first they were muffled, then they became clearer with the return of my wits. I could make out the voice of the woman, and another man, and was it Clive's voice that I could hear also? Snatches of conversation filtered through my groggy mind.
"...the girl will be...; .... ...but are you...?"..."yes, she won't come to harm..." "...How can I be sure? .... We're not brutal, just taking an opportunity that's hard to miss, like you." "She mustn't know that I had anything to do with it." "Don't worry. From the amount she drank from that one glass she'll be out for a good hour yet." "That's not dangerous for her? ... No, the drug's harmless, though she'll have a bad headache when she awakes." "I'd better go all the same. You'll make the proper arrangements, secure her well, send the ransom note...? ... Yes, yes, now you'd better go." "All right, but are you...?" "...she'll be kept helpless but... not hurt..."
The voices trailed away, whether out of earshot or because I blacked out a little I was not sure. It seemed a long time before I was able to think clearly. Even then, I did not understand at first what had happened. How had Clive become involved with people like this? Why was I drugged? Then the truth hit me. The search for falsified documents was a ruse to get me here, in this house. It was not fiddled books that Clive wanted; it was me. Or rather, it was my money. Their whole plan had been to set up a kidnap trap with me as the victim, and I had fallen easily into it. My chances of getting away were slim, for I was still very groggy from the drugged wine I had taken, to the extent that I was still unable to take the gag from my mouth although my hands were free. Why hadn't they bound my arms as well? But then, they thought I was heavily drugged. Probably I was gagged first, in preparation for being bound, and then something diverted their attention. Perhaps the conversation I had just overheard was the culmination of a "council of war" over my fate. The voices returned, of two people this time, and I was able to make out more clearly what they were saying.
"Go and prepare the boat's cabin for our guest. I'll pack my bags and make the car ready." It was the woman who spoke. All I heard of the other's response was a grunt.
Now the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Their plan must have been to render me unconscious and to bind me, followed by transporting me to a place where I could be held prisoner without much chance of detection. This it seemed was to be a boat in the marina. I heard the doors close as the two people left, one to the boat and the other to another part of the house, and I realized that when the woman returned she would finish the job she had started on me. I would be trussed up. There had to be something I could do to help myself instead of waiting like a lamb to the slaughter (although there was some relief to think that my life was not in danger).
I cast around in my mind for something, and my eyes fell on my bag, which lay on the floor near my feet where my captors must have dropped it. I hefted myself onto one elbow with an effort, reached down and pulled it to me, and unfastening the catch I scrabbled about in it. My fingers found my lipstick. I was searching for something to write with, and in the emergency this would have to do. With a hand that shook unsteadily I scrawled on the wall near the floor the words: "Please help me. I have been kidnapped. They are holding me on a boat." The lipstick slipped from my fingers several times. When that was done, I returned the lipstick to my handbag and moved away from that part of the wall so as to lessen the chance of the woman seeing the message when she came into the room. The movements were enough to show me that I had little hope of walking out of there. My limbs felt like jelly. It was not many minutes after that I heard my captor return.
The door from the party room opened so that I was bathed now in a criss-cross of light from the two adjoining rooms. For some reason the woman did not switch on the light of the office in which I lay. She came over to me and I stirred and looked up at her awkwardly from over my shoulder.
"You're coming round, I see," she said pleasantly. "It must be a little frightening for you so I'll set your mind at ease. You are being kidnapped. We are abducting you from this place and storing you where no one will find you, even if they knew where to look in general. But you have nothing to fear because we're not going to hurt you. It's true you've seen my face, but I will be leaving the country well ahead of the police who may try to follow after you've been found. You are in for a couple of days of discomfort, that's all. Obviously we have to make sure that you can't get away from us, and so you will be kept bound and gagged almost all the time. I'm sorry, but there's nothing else for it." She smiled and stroked my shoulder-length hair gently. "We've sent your friend Clive off thinking that you've left on a sudden impulse to walk along the beach," she lied, "and by the time he returns we'll be gone. Now, let's have your arms up behind you. That's right. This will hurt a little but if you keep still and relax your hands it won't be so bad."
With those last words, she turned me face down again and with gentle but strong hands she brought my arms back together, crossed my wrists and began winding a long piece of thin cord about them. After three winds she made a tight double knot, working the cord firmly into the soft flesh of my wrists before doing so. Next she wound the ends of the cord three more times around my wrists vertically so that they were secured in a very tight criss-cross. My fingers tingled and I soon leaned to relax my hands in order to experience still some feeling in them. I did not struggle, for I knew that it would be useless.
My ankles were tied together next, the second length of cord being wound about four times around them, knotted with a doubled knot, and then cinched between. I was rolled over and propped up in a sitting position with my back against one of the thick legs of the desk.
Again the woman spoke, in a kind of preoccupied, conversational manner while she rummaged through my bag. "That's a beautiful dress you're wearing my dear. Pure silk isn't it? And it suits you. It's a pity it will get so creased and rumpled over the next few hours. Bad for your pride I suppose; I mean, being bound and gagged like this. Undignified." And she nodded her head with a slight hint of sarcasm.
I did not feel insulted by the gag in my mouth and the bonds at wrists and ankles, and in response to her chiding I attempted to speak. But all that came out were indistinguishable sounds.
"I see you can still be vehement about your predicament," the woman added, "and it's my business to keep any noise bottled up as far as possible. So I'm going to add insult to injury by muffling up your pretty mouth even more."
With that, she drew my blue chiffon stole from the handbag, spread it out on the floor and folded it over until it made a long narrow bandage about two to three inches wide. I was going to be gagged even tighter! Indignantly I protested through the cloth already pressing on my tongue but it was no use. Quickly and expertly she drew the center part of the long scarf between my teeth and tied it in one knot behind my neck. It pressed the wad already in my mouth farther back against my tongue. The ends were then wound around, across and over my mouth and lips and a double knot tied once more at the back. The soft chiffon clung tenaciously around my face and jaw. It proved impossible to shift. All I could do was shake my head in a futile gesture. I found that the only sounds I could now make were faint, stifled grunts that would not be heard at any reasonable distance from me. I could perhaps be locked in a closet, and I was unable to make sufficient sound to be heard beyond that enclosed space. I hoped to goodness that nothing like that would happen because I had a fear of narrow places. Being tied was bad enough, but to be locked in a closet or, worse still, a trunk would terrify me. In spite of my efforts, tears came to my eyes and I bowed my head ashamedly, not wanting my captor to take pleasure from my weakness.
However, she merely stood a few moments looking down at me, then she turned and left the room. I had a few minutes more on my own. But what could I do in that time? My wrists were imprisoned tightly. There was no give at all in the cords. And my ankles likewise were immovable. I was still very weak and dizzy from the knockout drops they had given me -- their effect seemed to be taking ages to wear off -- and I was almost swooning from the muffling constriction of the gags cunningly tied in and over my mouth. With a whimper of hopelessness and near panic, I sank to the floor onto my side and closed my eyes. "Oh please let this be a bad dream." But reality denied me that comfort. Scarcely knowing what I was doing, I rolled and tossed from side to side, trying involuntarily to free my mouth. It did not take long for exhaustion to overtake me.
I must have lost consciousness. Dimly I became aware of being carried over someone's shoulder, wrapped in a heavy blanket and laid on my side across what turned out to be the back seat of a car. The vehicle started up, and for the first couple of minutes I swayed listlessly with each movement it made, to right or left, slowing, accelerating. I may have been gagged and bound but I could still use my eyes, if I could work my head out from under the blanket. It was not as difficult as I expected it to be, and when the corner of the blanket fell away from my face I lifted my head painfully in an attempt to see from the back window where we were going. I could glimpse only trees and an occasional two-storied house or block of apartments. Then a line of streetlights came to view and I saw masts in the hazy air beyond. They were taking me to a boat, so there was a slim chance that I might be found if a maid or someone happened to see the message I had scrawled on the foot of the office wall.
The car drew to a halt and the driver opened his door, slid out soundlessly and opened one of the doors on my side. I had a fleeting sight of his face, distorted by a sheer stocking drawn over his head, and then the blanket was pulled smotheringly over my face and I was lifted out. He seemed to walk a long way, carrying me in his arms as one might lift a child, before we descended a steep ramp and what seemed an even steeper ladder. The blanket was allowed to fall away from my head and shoulders and I saw that we were in what was really quite a large cabin. I was carried across to a wide bunk that stood in a corner against one of the cabin walls, and as we approached my eyes went wide. Attached to the bunk at several points were wide cloth straps, like hospital restraining tapes.
I was laid on the bunk face up and strapped down so securely that 1 felt cocooned. It seemed as though I could scarcely twitch a muscle. One wide tape passed around my ankles. It was looped around them before being buckled to the other side of the bunk. Another strap passed across my thighs without being looped around them, but the one for my waist was wrapped around as for my ankles. Two more straps over my upper body, below my breasts and above them across my shoulders, completed my helplessness. I was only able to move my head a little from side to side and had scarcely the strength to lift my head at all. My arms tied behind me were crushed beneath my body and pins and needles were beginning to shoot up them already. In a short time they were aching so badly that tears welled in my eyes.
As the finishing touches of the strapping-up were done, the woman climbed into the cabin. Her male companion left without a word and she walked over to me and inspected my bonds critically. "Yes," she said when she had finished and straightened up, "That'll hold you quite well my dear. It's not very comfortable I know. In fact, by the morning it'll be real torture for you, and I do promise to loosen your bonds then and restore circulation. But you see, you have to stay here for the present. Later we'll put you into a nice quiet basement in a comfortable armchair, but boats don't sail till morning and we don't want to draw attention to ourselves. We all have to wait until then." She bent down again and inspected by gag closely, "Mum," she murmured, "That gag looks pretty tight too. It's very hard to keep someone really quiet you know. One has to use plenty of cloth to absorb the sound, and to immobilize your mouth and jaw as much as possible. Girls are often easier to gag because they have softer voices. I noticed you were quietly spoken at our 'party'- which was all a trick. You have probably gathered by now no other guests were coming. And so this gagging arrangement is working beautifully on you. Silk and chiffon, you know my dear, are materials that make excellent non-slip knots. It was very thoughtful of you to provide us with the materials that would make such a neat gag. I'll take it off you for awhile in the morning but for the present you'll have to bear it."
I grunted and shook my face but she ignored me, turned and climbed back up the ladder. Soon after the cabin door was closed and bolted -- I heard a padlock snapped into place -- the room I was in was plunged into darkness. There must have been a light switch under the steering cowling on the deck that controlled the interior lights too. Uselessly I strained against the broad straps holding me down, but I could make virtually no movement at all. My ankles and waist were held so rigidly that I could do nothing with the rest of my body, which was in any case only slightly less well trussed. After more than an hour of stirring, fluttering under the tapes and making faint squeals in my mouth or croakings in my throat, I turned my head to one side and tried to sleep. My arms were almost completely insensible by now, and if I did not move too often (how could I!) I could forget my discomfort for a time. I slept fitfully for the rest of the night, waking occasionally in a sweat of fear and crying aloud through my gag against the constriction of my bonds. It was like waking to a nightmare each time, so that when the first light of dawn turned the porthole above my head gray I had no sleep to speak of. My eyes felt heavy and itchy and there was a continual throbbing in my temples from the gags. It seemed paradoxical that the cloths of silk and chiffon which I loved to wear as dresses and scarves, so soft, flimsy and feminine to the touch, were like bands of smooth clinging iron when they were tied as tightly as they were in and over my mouth and lips.
The woman and man returned early. I could hear them walking about on the deck above me, and when the woman climbed down the ladder into the cabin the boat was already moving. She came across to where I lay and began to untie the knots of the cloth imprisoning my mouth. "As I promised, I'm giving you some relief from your bonds," she said. "It must have been an ordeal for you to lie here bound and gagged like this all night." The chiffon and silk cloths came away from my face, the straps holding my body to the bunk were unfastened, and I was rolled onto my face and my wrists were freed. There was no feeling at first in my arms, but after half a minute they began to prickle and sting painfully as circulation returned to them. The woman massaged and kneaded my arms, wrists and hands using baby oil and after ten minutes my limbs felt like my own again. My mouth was dry from holding the silk wadding for so many hours and my attempt to speak a "thank you" ended in a fit of coughing. A glass of water was held to my lips and I drank gratefully.
By now the boat seemed to have picked up speed and was heaving in a swell which showed that we were outside the shelter of the bay. I was allowed to sit up and I could see the cliffs of the shore at some distance away. My ankles were bound still, but it was such a relief to be able to move my arms and to have feeling restored to them that I did not worry about that. I had done plenty of thinking in the night and was more or less resigned to being their prisoner. At the same time I would remain alert for any opportunity to get away from them. "My legs are very stiff and cramped," I said. "Can't they be freed too?"
The woman shook her head. "There's not much chance that you'd be able to make a break for it after lying trussed like a chicken all night, but I don't want to take any chances. You're a valuable prize. Even now the ransom telegram is on its way to your uncle so you may not have to endure these indignities for very much longer, two days at the most. In the meantime..." and she took up the piece of thin sash cord which had been used to tie my wrists before, and gathered my hands together in front of me, "I'11 keep you tied down for the next hour till we reach port, but not as uncomfortably as before."
With that, she bound my wrists together in front of me and lay me back. My arms were drawn up above my head and the ends of the cord were lashed to a ring set in the bulkhead behind me. There was no slack allowed, so I would be unable to reach the knot in the ring, and this was made even more certain when the straps were refastened around my body so that my arms were stretched taut. It was only slightly less uncomfortable than when my arms were pinned beneath me, for the cords bit keenly into my wrists and I could feel my fingers tingling straight away.
The woman walked over to a medical cabinet on the far wall and from it took a two-inch wide adhesive tape and a pair of scissors. With her back turned partially to me, she pulled out a strip of about six inches of tape and cut it from the dispenser. Holding the strip at each end, she advanced towards me. Knowing what was in store and hating the idea, I turned my head aside.
"It's not really necessary to keep you gagged while we're not on dry land," she said, "But subjecting you to this is a sure way of making you more compliant and less willing, yes willing, to escape. You will fight against the bonds, the gag will make breathing difficult, and you will exhaust yourself quicker. Having your face muffled will make you a little feverish and less able to think clearly. The alternative way to do this would be to keep you drugged, but that would be dangerous for your health. In this instance, because we have only a short period on the water it would be impractical to use the scarves again, because 1 have some words I want you to put down on tape before we ensconce you in that comfortable chair I mentioned. Now." and her voice became hard; "turn your head back like a good girl, with your lips together."
Reluctantly I obeyed. The tape was strapped neatly across my closed lips and smoothed down assiduously so that it stuck to every part of my skin, the skin of my cheeks, my mouth and my lips themselves. With satisfaction now, the woman spoke again: "That will discourage noise. Tape like that is fairly easy to work off, but if you do I promise you that I will make you very uncomfortable -- by using all the tape in that dispenser. And I'm sure you won't want that, would you?" I shook my head. She left me, helpless and suitably frightened.
I worked my lips a little against the sticky material covering them. It stuck well and I did not try to force my jaws apart. I strained uselessly at my bonds. My arms were hurting again. There was nothing for it but to wait.
A change in the roll of the boat roused me from a kind of half drugged state, induced by the constrictions on my body as the woman had said. The boat was moving now through quieter waters. A few minutes later the woman re-entered the cabin. She was carrying a small portable tape recorder, which she set at the foot of the bunk. In answer to my questioning look she spoke: "Yes, we've arrived. Now listen. I'm freeing your lips and if you do what I say" they can remain free for the next hour or two. First, you are to speak into this tape recorder to your uncle. Tell him that you have been kidnapped, that it is not a hoax of any kind, and beg him to send the money as quickly as possible. Tell him that until the money is received you will be kept gagged and bound. Do you understand?" I nodded. "Secondly, we will be landing at an isolated part of the coast and you will be allowed to walk to the house where you will be held. The gag can remain off if I have your word not to scream. Do I have your word?" I nodded again.
The straps were removed once again; my wrists freed and I was able to sit up. With quick, stinging movement the tape was peeled from my mouth. I put my hands to my face in reaction to the sharp but brief pain. Then with a shaky voice I spoke into the small hand-held microphone: "Uncle. This is Jennifer. They... they've told me you have the ransom note already. It's true, I've been kidnapped and I've spent the whole of last night tied up and gagged. They're going to keep me tied up that way until they get the money they've asked for. Please send it to them. I hate being tied up..." And the microphone was snapped off.
"That'll do," said the woman. She untied my ankles and stood back. "Try to walk." I did and it was several minutes before I was able to stumble on unsteady legs about the cabin. The boat in the meantime had moored at a small jetty, which I could see through the porthole. However, before we climbed the ladder to the deck a thick black silk scarf was tied over my eyes. I mounted the ladder at the woman's bidding. When we stood on the deck, my arms were drawn behind me and my wrists were tied together tightly as they had been before at the start of my abduction. I was guided down a platform, onto the wooden boards of the jetty, along and onto a narrow path of sand which sloped upward. The walk uphill, eventually over soft turf took about ten minutes. I was hustled up the steps to a house of some kind, there was the sound of a key turning in a lock, and my high-heeled black shoes trod soft carpet.
Once we were inside, my eyes were freed and the bonds at my wrists were removed. The woman and I sat at a small table while the man of the team, still masked, served us with food and wine. It came in Continental style, a croissant loaf, cheese, fruit, wine and coffee. "This will be your last meal for a day at least," said the woman, "so eat well, Jennifer." I did.
After the meal, I was allowed to wash and tidy myself up, but I was watched lynx-like by the woman as I completed my toilette. In spite of my confinement for twelve hours, my clothing was not too disarrayed. The blue silk dress I wore was of the best quality and still looked presentable when I inspected myself in the bathroom mirror. And being able to clean my face, hands and arms made me feel refreshed and more relaxed. I sat quietly in one of the lounge room chairs while the woman relaxed similarly opposite me. The one sign of my imprisonment was the figure of the man who stood on guard in front of the main door. I wondered what they were waiting for but it was not long before I knew. A telephone in the adjoining room jangled suddenly, making me start. The woman rose and left the room to answer it. I guessed this was Clive telling them of the progress of their scheme.
The woman returned, nodded briefly to the man, and taking me firmly by the arm she brought me to my feet. "It's time for the next phase of our plan now, Jennifer sweet." "What are you going to do with me?" I asked apprehensively. "As I promised you before," she continued, "we're going to make you comfortable in an easy chair." The man had been standing a couple of paces behind me with a length of sash cord in his hands. Once more my arms were pulled back behind me and my wrists tied tightly together, only this time after being wound around by about three turns and double knotted, they were cinched between by the ends of the cord. Tied this way my hands were almost palm to palm. The tension at my wrists tended to draw my elbows towards the small of my back. A second piece of cord, probably the length that was used on my ankles, was used now to secure my arms above the elbows. I was forced to stand straight to attention, like dark-eyed Bess in the poem "The Highwayman" who was bound and gagged to the foot of her narrow bed. What a strange turn of mind to think that, I said to myself. But I knew why. Like the heroine in those kinds of adventure stories, I too was a prisoner. I was bound, and soon I would taste the clinging silk of a gag in my mouth again.
"That's very pretty, Jennifer." said the woman in honest admiration. I looked down at myself as additional bonds of cord were wound about my body, first two or three turns below my breasts then a couple of turns above, forcing them to lift against the silk of my dress and highlighting the décolletage revealed by the V neckline. The cords were tight but not to the extent of being torture. However, I could not move my arms at all.
"Come along, my pretty prisoner," and I was led to another part of the house and down narrow stone steps to a cellar. It was different from what I had expected. For one thing, it was carpeted. Along one wall stood a well-stocked bar. Against another wall was a color television set. But set in the center of the floor, in fact bolted there, was a padded leather armchair. It had a tall straight narrow back and armrests. "This," said the woman with a theatrical sweep of her hands, "is your prison from now on. You will be strapped into this chair and there you will have to wait until our return. If the ransom money comes through quickly enough, that won't be for much longer than a day." "That's long enough to spend tied up," I replied.
I turned defiantly to the woman and the masked man and added: "You'd better finish tying me up as quickly as possible and go. The sooner we get this done the quicker I'll be free again, and I hate being tied up." With that, I sat down carefully in the chair. It was comfortable as promised, but at the same time it was a little awkward because my arms were between my body and the back of the chair. I remained sitting proudly and quietly while the same straps that had been used on the boat to fasten me to the bunk were employed again. One was passed twice around my waist and the chair and buckled firmly. Another circled me below my breasts. A third was secured across my thighs and the seat of the chair. However, they tied my ankles together with another piece of thin cord, cinched in the middle in what had proved to be an expert knot, and did the same for my legs just above my knees. Here, the silk material of my dress (and to a lesser extent my sheer black stockings) served to cushion the pressure of the thin cords a little. Finally, a short strap was used to fasten my bound ankles to one of the chair legs. I looked down at myself again--it was hard to believe that this was really happening to me and that the young woman's body I saw so thoroughly trussed was my own. I strained in the bonds, but to no avail.
"There are one or two final touches yet, my dear, before we go," said the woman. From her bag she produced a handful of silks, my black and pink neck scarf, my chiffon stole in blue, and the black scarf which had been used to blindfold me. My neck scarf was still as it had been when used as a gag, folded around a wadded handkerchief. "This comes first Jennifer, open your mouth and relax your jaw." Hating every moment of it, I obeyed, and in a short time the folded silk filled my mouth. The black scarf that had been my blindfold was folded into a pad and packed into the front of my mouth between my teeth as far as it would go before it was stopped by the wadding already fixed deeper in my mouth. Then the chiffon scarf was bound very tightly between my teeth to hold the wad in place, and the two ends wound around face and jaw as before. I could breathe with great difficulty through my mouth and with a mental effort I switched to breathing through my nose. Shaking my head from side to side had no effect at all in dislodging the gagging arrangement. I was well and truly held and silenced.
An instant photograph was taken of me in this state, to convince my uncle and his agents that the tape recording was not faked, the woman remarked cheerily. A light was left glowing softly in one of the corners, and as a parting gesture the television set was switched on. The door was locked. I was alone but with entertainment. For some minutes I sat quietly thinking about the irony of this. Next, I turned my attention to my plight and wriggled and strained in the cords and straps, testing them but with little hope that they would afford a chance of escape. It did not take me long to realize how well my gags had been applied, and after some futile murmurings and an attempt to rub my face against my shoulder I came to accept my fate. In weary surrender I rested my head back and watched the TV, every so often shifting my position slightly in the chair. There was no escape from the ties that held me.
The hours dragged by. I had always hated daylight shows on TV, had hardly ever watched them. On this day, ironically, two "cliffhanger" movies were shown whose heroines shared my plight. At one o'clock in the afternoon, I watched Linda Stirling in an old 1940's movie, "Cyclotrode X" which I remembered was the feature version of the serial "The Crimson Ghost." Linda, as a scientist's daughter, sat bound to a chair next to a box of TNT, a white handkerchief tied over her mouth. She succeeded in slipping it over her chin in time to call a warning to the hero, who duly freed her. In the evening, following a very uncomfortable day during which I struggled twice to exhaustion, I saw with great surprise the film I had thought about whimsically that morning, "The Highwayman." In it, Wanda Hendrix played the part of black-haired Bess. Captured by the soldiers, she was tied standing to a bedpost and gloated over, a shiny scarf in chiffon or nylon tied over her mouth. In the next long scene, Bess was tied still to the post but the gag was changed. Now it was an even more flimsy scarf in pure silk neatly covering her mouth. "That wouldn't gag her properly," I thought. I wished that I had only that thin slip of material over my mouth instead of the very thorough gags I now wore. My head was splitting and I was beginning to feel weak and sick after sitting helpless my mouth filled and smothered with silk for more than twelve hours.
There was no means by which I could escape. I could not bounce the chair to any point in the room where glass or something could be broken because it was fixed to that part of the floor. My wrists were expertly secured and struggling only tightened and cunningly cinched knots that held them. Scarcely any sound escaped from my cruelly bound mouth, even if there had been anyone near to hear my cries. My kidnappers knew their business. All I could do was to wait in increasing panic as the cloth between my jaws slowly dried and threatened with each straining breath to choke me. I passed out several times, and dropped off to an exhausted nap once. By the time daylight filtered through a ventilator high in the wall near the ceiling, my body was either numb (or the arms and hands) or aching unbearably (in my back and along my sides which were cramped from sitting in the one spot for so long).
I lost all track of time. It may have been mid-morning, or was it mid-afternoon, when I heard a sound at the door to my prison? There was the snap of the key turning in the large lock and the heavy paneled door swung open on its wide hinges. The woman stood on the threshold, silhouetted by the light behind her. She walked over to me, inspected my gags and quickly set about untying them. I lost consciousness.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself lying on the couch of the lounge room in the main part of the house. An attempt to move revealed that my ankles were still tied together. My hands had been secured in front of me however, and I was not gagged. I turned my head. The room was empty of people. On a table nearby lay a pile of cord and the silk scarves. 1 struggled to sitting and found that my limbs and body responded better than I expected. They felt somehow rested and I could smell the faint perfume of soothing oil on my arms. While unconscious, I had been massaged back to life, or that was how the exquisite feeling of relaxation felt.
The woman appeared suddenly in the doorway leading from the kitchen, dressed as for traveling. "We're taking you home," she said cheerily, "Everything went off like clockwork. You frightened me when I came to free you because you looked so sick. But I've taken steps to make you feel better. I'll untie your ankles so you can freshen up some more, then we'll take you back to the docks."
It did not take me long to get myself ready. I allowed them to bind my wrists behind my back again and I was blindfolded with the black scarf and gagged by the combination of wadded silk and bandaged chiffon that I had almost grown used to. On the boat my ankles were tied but I was not strapped down. I dozed exhaustedly. Bound hand and foot and still gagged and blindfolded, I was left in some sort of warehouse on the wharves. About six hours later the police and concerned friends found me and my ordeal was over. No one had found that plea in lipstick I had left on the wall of the townhouse. Strangely, I felt charitable towards that woman and I hoped she would get away safely. "Someday we'll meet again," I promised myself, "and then things will be a lot different."
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