Somehow, the thought of visiting the home of a minister of the cloth, and ‘inviting’ his wife and daughters to play a game of hostages while I robbed the place, was a thought that intrigued me. So when I proposed to Steve the visit I was about to make, he made a suggestion that I decided to put to full use.
It also gave me the opportunity to visit one of my favourite parts of the country – the Yorkshire Dales, in this case near the town of Aysgarth. Maria Cairns was married to the local Anglican minister, and they lived in a farmhouse with their three daughters – ten year old Sophie, nine year old Grace and seven year old Mary. What made her an interesting person was her sideline – she was better known in the book community as Maddie Pryor, best-selling writer of the Inspector White mysteries.
At any rate, I had been staying in the area for a few days, surveying and checking. And on this particular afternoon, I was watching as the family walked back to the farmhouse. Maria had long light brown hair, pulled back and held in place by a clasp, and a black coat with a pink scarf kept the wind off her body. I could see the kneed length black suede boots under the coat.
As they walked along, Mary was holding her hand, her padded jacket keeping her warm, as were the white tights she was wearing, and the grey ankle boots over her feet. Both Sophie and Grace also had on padded coats, Sophie looking round through the glasses she was wearing, just like her mother.
I watched as they went in the front door, and allowed them a few moments to remove their coats, before I got out of the car and walked up to the side of the farmhouse. I made sure the stocking was pulled down, and tucked under the neck of my sweater, as well as the leather gloves pulled over my hands, before I looked into the kitchen, and saw all four of them at the table.
Maria was wearing a black jersey dress that came down to her knees, the black patterned hose visible between the hem and the cuffs of her boots. Grace was wearing a blue short sleeved dress, with red and white bands at the hems, and black and white rugby style tights, her lower legs still in the black boots with a patterned top.
Sophie was sitting in the third chair, wearing a brown dress with a floral pattern, the short sleeves revealing a long sleeved white top underneath, black tights and dark grey mid-calf fabric boots. Finally, Mary was swinging her legs to and fro, the pink dress with black polka dots now visible.
They were all eating a meal, so when I opened the back door and walked in, they all turned and looked at me, Maria putting her knife and fork down and saying “oh my lord…”
“Hello, Mrs Cairns,” I said with a smile as I looked at the family, “I hope your publisher let you know I was coming today.”
“My… My publisher,” she stuttered as she looked at me.
“Yes – they reviewed your next proposal for the Inspector White stories, and liked the idea of him trying to find the kidnapped family, but they wanted you to have some help working through how the family would feel. Don’t tell me they didn’t tell you?”
Now this was a ploy that had worked for Steve once or twice, and I could see Maria quickly thinking things over, before she said “no they didn’t tell me – but it doesn’t surprise me they would suggest this. Let me guess – they want me and the girls to be the family?”
“That’s right – do you want me to explain to the girls?”
“No, I’ll do it,” she said quietly as she looked round the table. “Girls, Mummy has been discussing a new book with her editors, and in one a family is going to be kidnapped to force their daddy to rob a secret facility. They thought it would be a better story if I acted it through – but I never said yes or no. Or at least, I did not think I had, but it appears I may have.”
“What do you mean Mummy,” Mary said.
“I have been hired by your mummy’s publisher to pretend to be the person who kidnaps the family – they should have been in touch to explain this, but obviously… I have come some way, but if you are not prepared…”
This was a gamble, but as she looked at me, she said “no, it is all right. Girls, this young lady is going to pretend to kidnap us and hold us hostage, but she is going to allow us to finish our lunch first, aren’t you?”
“Of course I am,” I said with a smile.
“So what is she going to do,” Grace asked.
“Well, a kidnapper makes sure the family stay in one place,” I said with a smile, “so we’ll find a room to keep all three of you together in, while I make your mummy send a massage, and then she will join you. It means you won’t be able to move or talk for a little while, but it is just a game, all right?”
The three girls looked at each other, before they nodded in agreement. “Good,” I said with a smile, “so eat up, and we’ll start to play when you are finished.”
“Can we watch a film while we play Mummy,” Grace asked.
“I tell you what,” I said with a smile, “do you have access to Netflix?”
“We do – why?”
“We’ll set it up to run through a series of a show you can all watch – one your mother approves of – all right?”
Maria nodded as she said “you all should go to the toilet as well – now, eat up…”
A short while later, I said “if you have all finished, then stand up, and you girls go to the toilet. You can join me and your mother in the room the television is in.” As they went up the stairs, I whispered “your mobile phone, please.”
“You’re one of the Games Players, aren’t you,” Maria said quietly as she handed me her handbag, and I removed her phone.
“That’s right – so you’ve done the right thing,” I said as I removed the battery, and put both parts in a high cupboard. “Where are we going?”
Maria led me into a room with a bean bag on the floor, two comfortable armchairs and a couch. Nodding, I took my rucksack off and put it on a chair, removing a length of cord as I said “good – now, put your hands behind your back please.”
As she looked to the door, I crossed and secured her wrists together behind her back, making sure the rope went around and between her arms, before I heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. “Play along,” I whispered as I put a gloved hand over her mouth, smiling as the three girls came in.
“Oh no,” Grace said as she giggled with Sophie and Mary, “Mummy, who is this?”
“Hello girls,” I said with a smile, “I want you to do what I tell you, isn’t that right Mummy?”
I took my hand away, as Maria said “do what the lady says girls – we’re all going to be going on a little trip.”
“What has she done to your arms Mummy,” Mary said as she looked at us.
“I’ll show you,” I said with a smile as I let Maria sit in an armchair. “Please turn round for me, and put your hands behind your back.”
As the girls watched Maria, I walked behind them and secured their wrists together, keeping their hands together palm to palm, but making sure the final knot was out of reach on top of the binding. “Now then,” I said as I helped Maria to stand up, “I want you all to close your eyes, and pretend I have blindfolded you, and I’m going to take you somewhere out of the way.”
The three girls nodded and closed their eyes as Maria and I led them out of the room, around the ground floor and out into the secluded back garden, then back into the house and to the room we started in. As they walked in, I closed the door and the curtains, before I said “We’re here – the blindfolds are off.”
“Where are we mummy,” Sophie said as she looked round.
“I don’t know,” Maria said as I took more ropes out, and wrapped them around the arms and stomachs of the girls, before I said “now then – youngest one on the bean bag, middle one on the couch, oldest one in the armchair. Mummy can sit in the other armchair – when I say.”
As the three girls walked to their seats, I took another long length of rope and tied Maria’s arms to her sides, taking the rope above and below her chest, and then allowed her to sit in the other chair as I took several lengths of cord.
“Why are you holding us hostage, you bad lady,” Grace said as I put her ankles together, and used some cord to secure them.
“I want your father to get something for me,” I said in a mock Russian accent as I took the rope around and between her legs, tying the ends off before I used a second length to secure her legs below her knees, “so you all stay here, and then when he has done it, I’ll let you free.”
Once I had her legs secured, I moved over to where Mary was sitting, ad tied her ankles and legs together as well as she giggled. Finally, I tied Sophie’s legs together, Maria all the time talking and joking with them.
“Now I need to take your mother and record a message to your father,” I said with a smile, “can I trust the three of you to keep quiet until she comes back?”
“We’ll be quiet,” Grace said, Maria nodding as she said “I will be back soon girls.” Before I went, I put the television on, found Netflix and saw they had a series of Veggietales available, so I started that off.
As we left the room, Maria said “thank you for making it a game.”
“My pleasure – now, your valuables…”
When we came back in, the girls looked at Maria as Grace said “have you sent a message to Daddy?”
“Ysseddd,” Maria said – her voice somewhat muffled by the fact I had rolled a black scarf into a band, and tied a knot in it, and used it as a cleave gag, her lips and teeth closed over the knot. I helped her to sit down, the girls watching as Larry the Cucumber started a new story, and I secured her ankles and legs together.
“Now, while I deliver the message, I need to make sure you girls stay quiet as well,” I say as I rolled up a black scarf, ad tied a knot in the middle, “so you all get one of these as well. Oldest first.”
Grace nodded as she opened her mouth, and I eased the knot past her teeth before tying the band tightly round her head. “Ssllrrhhtt,” she mumbled as I rolled up the next scarf, and used it to gag Sophie, before I helped her to lie on her side with her head resting on cushions.
Once I had Mary silenced as well, I said “now you keep quiet here while I go and let your father know what’s happening. I’ll be back soon.” I left them starting to sing along to the next song, as I took the valuables Maria had shown me, and beat a retreat.
Two follow up things – I made sure their father got a message to go home a couple of hours later. And that was the plot of the next Inspector White story…