It was early on a wet wintry evening on a quiet residential street in a middle class suburb. A solitary house owner was walking home to the two bedroom cottage in which she lived alone.
This was Agnes Allen, a divorcee who had passed her fiftieth birthday just three months before. She was slightly above average height, fit, trim, healthy and had an athletic carriage. She was passably attractive with an oval face, framed with short straight brown hair. People who knew her thought of her as quiet, not greatly assertive and good at her job. She was a librarian who worked at a local Council branch library. Of late the likelihood of a transfer to a distant branch was causing her some concern. It would involve a difficult and lengthy commute.
Her adult life had not been happy. From her mid twenties until her thirties there had been ten years of marriage to a man who had ultimately become a violent brute. After that she had lived the next decade with her mother who had become a dependant invalid requiring almost total care. In her late forties she had been able to scrape together enough from her hard fought divorce settlement and her mother’s estate to buy the cottage she now lived in. She had been there for three years now. Like many cheaply built timber houses it required constant maintenance and she was concerned about two large bills likely in the near future.
Agnes was a friendly, pleasant person and would have liked the company of a caring male partner but felt there was less chance of it with the passing years. She regarded the just gone, half century as a milestone.
Tonight, as the weather worsened she pulled her light raincoat more tightly around her and hoped to get inside before the rain got any heavier. Reaching her front gate, she hurried up the path, onto the veranda and unlocked her front door. She reached inside to put on the hall light. In the gathering darkness she looked neither left or right.
Consequently, she did not see a woman sitting on a bench in an area of deep shadow at the far end of the veranda.
This was Beryl. She had been sitting concealed in the darkness, waiting for Agnes for some time.
Beryl was in her early forties. Very fit, solidly built, strong with a square, forthright face, she looked both determined and capable. She wore an expensive trench coat, fully buttoned and firmly belted. A filled carry bag was slung over one shoulder and she wore soft black leather gloves. She instantly gave the impression of a woman who could be entrusted with a difficult mission. Which was why she was here tonight.
Quietly, she stood up. Agnes, busy putting her keys away, did not notice her. Silently she moved toward the householder.
Beryl spoke, softly in a friendly tone, “Good evening Agnes. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Agnes, who had already entered her hall, spun round. She was startled but not afraid, as she might have been, had this unexpected stranger been a man. “What! Who’re you?” She took in Beryl’s neat and expensive appearance. This reassured her. “Do you want to speak to me about something?”
“Indeed I do,” Beryl now stood in the front doorway, “In fact you and I have some very important business to transact. But I feel we can best do that in the privacy of the lounge room of this lovely home of yours.” And with that she stepped inside, turned, closed and locked the front door.
“Now just a minute!” expostulated Agnes, “I haven’t invited you in. Who do you think you are?”
Beryl approached so that their faces were inches apart. She smiled. “This business we have is very important indeed. And I might point out I’m far stronger than you. And I’m used to subduing difficult people.” She raised both her hands and clamped them on the householder’s upper arms. Agnes could feel the strength in them through the fabric of her raincoat. This woman she decided was a professional criminal. She'd get nowhere fighting her. Best to go with the flow of things and find out why she’d come here.
Beryl turned the now quietened Agnes around and still keeping a grip on her upper arms, marched her down to the lounge.
Here the two raincoated women faced each other. Beryl spoke,“What we have to do tonight is very important for you. A change. And perhaps it might even result in betterment for you in the long run.” In spite of the way things had gone so far, this particular statement intrigued Agnes.
She had for some time felt her personal circumstances had been worsening. The impending work move, which could only result in difficulty and long hours spent travelling. The inevitable maintenance costs for her home, which for the life of her she could not see how she could meet. And of late, the increasing loneliness of a single woman in her situation in an isolated and culturally deficient suburb like this one. A change indeed? It could only be for the better.
Agnes spoke, “All right then Madam. Important business? A change you say? What is this great change that may result in betterment?”
Beryl for once was taken aback. She had been briefed that this woman was quiet and reticent. Nor did she expect truculence. She said the first thing she could think of, “Er well, the first move is to tie you up.”
“Oh, robbery is it? That’s not a great change that I can see. Nor do I see any betterment in it. But if you’re going to do that then kindly do it with some consideration, if you please.”
Beryl was nonplussed. She unslung her carry bag in which it seemed she carried her restraints and pointed to a circular rug in the centre of the room, “Stand there please.”
Agnes stood. Her wrists were crossed behind her back, looped several times with a soft blue sash and firmly knotted. Next her arms were lashed to her sides with several lengths of neatly torn strips of sheeting. And cinched under each armpit. Lastly, her forearms were tied to her waist with a further strip of sheet. Her upper body was beginning to look like a carefully wrapped package. She tried to flex her arms and decided she was as comfortable as one could be in a situation like this. Beryl pointed to the nearby lounge suite, “Sit there, please.” She was nothing if not polite.
Taking her bag of restraints, she knelt before the captive, undid the three bottom buttons of her raincoat and pushed aside the flaps. And then securely tied her legs above the knees. Lastly, she crossed and bound Agnes’ ankles, using a long strip of soft webbing.
Beryl leaned back, rose to her feet and surveyed her work. “Very neatly done if I do say so myself. Just one thing remains. A gag for that pretty mouth.
Agnes protested that this was not necessary but Beryl was adamant. She took a face washer from her bag, dampened it in the kitchen, folded it carefully and forced it between the captive’s unwilling lips. And finally a short blue sash was taken and wrapped around the lower part of the prisoner’s face to keep it in place. The lady homeowner was now securely bound and gagged, on the lounge in her own home.
Beryl stood, her hands thrust into her trench coat pockets, looking first at the captive then around the room. “Really, there’s nothing much more to do now but wait.” Wait? wondered Agnes. Wait for what? “If you don’t mind, I’ll have a look around this nice home of yours to make sure everything’s in order.” She left the room. Again the captive wondered, just what is going on here? Later she could hear a telephone call being made on the phone in the hall. Outside the rain was beginning to fall more heavily.
Beryl returned after about ten minutes. "They should be here any minute now.” Agnes wondered, who’re ’they.’
As if in answer a vehicle stopped on the street. Silence. Then they heard it turn and come up Agnes’ driveway. It stopped near the kitchen door. Next the sound of two doors opening and closing quietly. Beryl went to let the callers in.
They were two women in their thirties. Both wearing grey unmarked boiler suits and visored caps. They carried what looked like a light tubular steel stretcher. They went straight to the bound and gagged Agnes.
“So this is the shipment,” said one of them, “Well dear, we’ve brought a little present for you.” She took a red ball gag out of her pocket and began to remove the face washer gag Beryl had put in. “We thought this might be more comfortable for the journey.” Journey? What journey? Agnes wondered. She still thought this was a robbery.
Before the ball gag went in she spoke,”What on earth do you expect to find to rob here?"
Both laughed. “The only thing we’re stealing from here is you, my dear.” And with that, the gag was pushed between her lips and the strap and buckle secured. They picked her up from the lounge, placed her on the stretcher and fastened her to it by straps along the sides. One at each end, they picked it up and looked around at Beryl. “Let’s go. Got everything you came with?” She nodded. She’d already picked up her carry bag and put the removed wad gag in it.
They carried her out to an unmarked van parked in a shadowy part of the rain wet drive. Agnes was taken off the stretcher and placed in the back of it. She was seated on a padded seat along one side and attached by straps to the wall. Beryl helped with this and then said, “I’ll travel in here with her and keep her company. You two drive. And,” she added, “Don’t do anything that’ll get us stopped.”
Meanwhile Agnes was thinking, ‘So it’s kidnapping, is it? Do they expect a ransom?'
The van was backed out of the drive, into the street then moved off. It travelled carefully westward and finally got onto a main traffic artery.
Beryl spoke to her travelling companion. “We’re on the freeway now. No one would hear you if you made any noise so I think we could take this off,” She removed the ball gag. Next she reached inside her bag and produced a flask of drinking water which she held to the captive’s lips. Agnes was grateful.
After a silence Agnes finally spoke. “My family isn’t large and none of them are wealthy. If you’re expecting a large ransom you’re making a big mistake."
Beryl paused thoughtfully before she replied. “Of course we know about your family. And the financial situation. There’s no question of a ransom demand. There never was. That'd be ridiculous.”
“Then why am I being abducted? Why have you gone to all this trouble? It must all be very costly. In time, effort and money. Why?”
Again, a long considered pause and then Beryl finally spoke. “It’s something my organisation has done from time to time. Not often, and not as much as in the past.” Another silence. “Somewhere, someone will have announced his readiness to pay whatever is necessary to have a person, in this case yourself, removed from their present situation. Without any fuss or fanfare, they just quietly disappear. And equally quietly, they are transported, sometimes from one country to another, to the instigator's private situation. In short, you have been purchased, body and soul and are in the process of being transhipped to your purchaser.”
“And, I might add this is a costly process indeed. The final amount will no doubt run into between five and six figures.” She smiled, “You know, in a backhanded way, it’s somewhat flattering to be considered worth so much to somebody.”
Agnes was flabbergasted. After a long wait she finally asked, in a small voice, “Who has paid so much for me?”
Beryl smiled, and answered briskly, “As a rule the abductors don’t know. It’s considered best that way.” But she paused and then said, “Though perhaps it’s possible to find something out.”
The van sped on through the rain and wind.
Between one and two hours passed. They left the motorway, got onto what felt like a country road and then finally slowed and stopped. Agnes sensed they were in a building. The rear door of the van was opened by the two boiler suited drivers.
They were in a long, concrete floored garage-like building with a high roof. Parked vehicles were along one side and the far end seemed to be a workshop and maintenance area. A smiling woman, perhaps in her forties, wearing a neatly fitting, belted, white uniform was there to meet them. She held a clipboard in one hand.
In the van Beryl had already untied the bonds on Agnes’ legs and ankles and unstrapped her from the wall. The two boiler suits helped lift her down onto the concrete floor. “Good evening Agnes,” she was greeted by the white uniformed woman,”This’ll be your home for the next few days.” To the others she said, “She’s to go in room twenty-two. You can get her there in that," and pointed to a tubular steel wheelchair against the garage wall. This was brought over.
The captive was seated in it. Attached straps were done up to secure her upper body to the back frame, another across her lap and lastly shorter lengths to anchor her ankles and knees. Finally the woman produced a thick enveloping hood which covered her head and shoulders. Beryl spoke, “I’ll take her there myself,” And pushed the bound and seated Agnes out of the garage area.
Agnes, though blindfolded, was conscious of being pushed along a lengthy corridor, up a ramp and down a passageway. Eventually she heard a door open, she was pushed through and the hood was removed.
She was in a concrete floored room about four metres by five. A narrow horizontal barred window was high up on one side wall. At one end was a built-in washbasin, mirror and drawers, flanked by a curtained shower recess and on the other side by a door, obviously a toilet. At the other, a small neat table and two chairs. Two steel cots with made up bedding were in the centre. Woollen rugs on the floor. Everything was neat, tidy and scrupulously clean.
“Your quarters for the next few days,” explained Beryl. She unstrapped Agnes from the steel wheelchair and placed her on one of the cots, then untied her, placing the restraints in the carry bag. She got up, walked slowly around the room and found herself staring more and more at this woman who had been brought here.
Finally, she sat beside Agnes on the cot. They were almost touching. “You must be very bewildered and I’ll help where I can. For a start most of tomorrow will be given over to a medical examination and a few other requirements. It’ll all be done very professionally and there should be no problems, provided you’re sensible. As to where you’re going, and to whom, well, I’ve done some computer examinations myself and I know people here in Research and Investigation. I’ll be able to learn quite a lot about that. I’ll come back here with what I find out late tomorrow. Meanwhile,” she stood and glanced smilingly around the room,” You’ll find toiletries, towels, all you need, in the cabinet drawers, the water hot and the bed comfortable. Light switch by the door. Sleep tight.” Then she left.
Agnes stood up. She took off her raincoat and hung it on a coat hanger on a mobile frame near the wall. She found a folded nightdress under one of the cot pillows. She decided to take them up on the hot water and the soft bed. One thing, there did seem to be perfect peace and quiet.
Seven unbroken hours of sleep passed. Agnes woke up amazed at this. She dressed and performed her toilette. As she finished the door opened, an African girl wearing a belted blue uniform brought in a covered tray and put it on the small table at the end. “Brek-fuss,” she announced, smiling. It consisted of cereal and ham and egg, was well cooked and tasty. And eaten by one who found she was hungry, having missed her evening meal.
She finished the food and was brushing her teeth with a toothbrush she found on the washbasin when the door opened again. This time it was two young women, one of whom she recognised as one of the boiler suit wearers of the night before. Both looked to be in their thirties, fit, strong and muscular. And both wearing the well fitting, well made, belted uniforms that seemed to be mandatory here. Both smiled, "Good morning Agnes. You’ve got some appointments this morning and we’re going to take you to them.”
The steel wheelchair was brought and Agnes was seated in it. All of the straps were firmly done up. This time her forearms were firmly secured to the chair's armrests. The thick black hood was again produced and draped over her head and shoulders.
And once again the bound and sightless Agnes was transported through this mysterious building. Another long corridor, up to another level in a lift and along more passageways. Finally a door was heard to open and she was pushed through. The blindfold was removed.
This was a large room. About twelve metres by five. Along one side there was medical equipment and locked shelves, the other, steel filing cabinets. At one end contained a medical examination table behind a partly drawn curtain. The other, a large picture window almost the width of the room. Through this Agnes could see a large timber covered mountain range about a mile away. She wondered what it was, it looked big enough to have a name. The whole place looked like a cross between a doctor’s surgery and a secure business repository.
Near the window was a large, expensive wooden desk, covered with papers, computer equipment and three chairs around it. A woman was seated here, busily writing. She looked in her fifties, was slim and appeared spritely and energetic. She wore thick glasses and her straight, iron grey hair was drawn in a tight bun. And she wore a tailored two piece grey suit. The trio approached her.
She looked up as they drew near and spoke. “Ms Agnes Allen, I believe.” To the others, “Take her out of that chair and stand her there.” Pointing to a spot beside the table. She resumed writing.
They did this, placed the wheelchair against the wall and then stood, side by side about three metres away with their hands clasped in front of them, smiling slightly. Two blue uniformed ladies-in-waiting. The grey haired woman kept writing.
Finally she stopped and looked at her visitor. “Well Agnes, there’s a lot to do and the sooner we start, the better.” She turned and picked up some papers. Not looking at her, she said, “Take off your clothes please.”
“I’ll do no such thing.” Agnes was indignant.
The woman didn’t answer. She merely looked past Agnes, caught the attention of the two behind and nodded. They stepped forward.
One stood behind her. The other beside her. The one beside, she was the boiler suited lady from the night before, spoke quietly. “Look, love. This’s just a medical examination. There’s only three of us here and we couldn’t care less. OK, we could strip you forcibly, but that’d be difficult for us and undignified and unpleasant for you. Why don’t you quietly take everything off, we’ll fold each item neatly and put them away carefully. After all, that’s a nice suit and nobody wants it to be damaged.”
Silence. Finally Agnes nodded. A box was produced. She took her clothing off, item by item, handed each over where they were folded as promised and stored away. Even her sensible shoes went into a plastic bag. Finally she stood naked before the desk. The filled box was placed under the seat of the parked wheelchair.
The writing woman stopped, stood up, faced Agnes and said, “Let’s proceed with the examination.”
And proceed she did. Agnes height and weight was calculated by precision equipment at the walls. Parts of her anatomy were measured by tape measure. Blood pressure checked, blood sample taken. Heart and lungs examined. Even eyesight and hearing tests.
It went on and on. Finally the woman said, “That’s enough for now. I’ve got to get this on record. She sat down at the desk, leaving her subject standing naked beside it. And spoke to her two assistants.
"Take her down to Julia and get her shaved.” Agnes, who had just covered her breasts with her folded arms, flinched.
The wheelchair was produced, the naked Agnes was seated and strapped in. One of the two got a cover sheet from the examination table area and this was draped over her. They smiled, “Don’t worry, we wouldn’t have pushed you through the corridors in a state of complete nudity.” The black hood was put in place and they set off.
Another blindfolded journey through the corridors. Entry into another room and the hood removed.
This was a hairdresser’s premises. A long high mirror along the length of one wall, a bench with hair care equipment along it and two barber’s chairs, all chrome steel and black leather, facing it. And the hairdresser, a young woman with a darkish, foreign looking face and thick jet black hair came forward inquiringly. She was wearing an immaculate white work smock.
The pair pointed to Agnes and explained. “Madame has ordered her shaved. She’s under restraint.” The woman nodded and spread a thin rubber sheet over one of the black leather chairs. The two removed the cover sheet and unstrapped her.
The hairdresser spoke with an accent. “Just release her and let her zit there. I take it zere’s no need to tie her?” By now, Agnes was past caring. She simply walked to the rubber covered chair, got onto it and spread her legs. The woman smiled at such cooperation. She assured her subject she was greatly experienced, having shaved most of the women in this building. Agnes wondered at this remark.
Swiftly, efficiently the work was done. The hairdresser carefully massaged moisturiser around the shaven vaginal orifice and then applied a hint of perfume. “To make you attractive, Dollinck,” she explained with a smile.
Agnes was put back in the chair. This time they did not bother to strap her, simply covered her with the sheet and hooded her. Within minutes she was back in the examination room.
This time she was seated on one of the chairs beside the grey haired woman’s table. To round off the woman’s notes she was asked a few questions about her personal affairs. There came the question, “What’s your social life like where you live?” And the answer was it was limited indeed. To the question,”When did you last have a good satisfying love-making?” The tragic answer was ‘I don’t remember. Years ago.'
“I thought it’d be like that,” the woman said, “Well we want to be able to send a report on your sexual capabilities with you when you leave us. To that end we’ve arranged for you to have a love experience with one of the men here. He’s been chosen because he’s kind, gentle, very highly skilled and he’s under strict orders to please you.”
Twenty four hours ago, Agnes would have been outraged at this proposal. Now she just shrugged, even smiled faintly. Why not? Indeed, why not?
The still naked Agnes, now wrapped in the cover sheet the wheelchair pushers had provided her with, and the grey haired lady walked down to the curtained area at the end of the room. They entered and looked at the examination table behind. “I think this’ll do very nicely,” the older woman said. The cover sheeted one merely felt it, smiled faintly and nodded.
At that moment they heard voices at the door of the room. They pushed aside the curtain to see. A man had entered and was talking to the two women who had come with Agnes. “That’s Colin,” the grey haired lady said, “He’s the man I was telling you about.”
Colin was between thirty five and forty. He was slim, looked very fit, had a healthy head of hair and was reasonably good looking. On catching sight of the two ladies in the curtained enclave, he excused himself and hurried up to them. “Hello, Colin,” said the older woman, “Colin, this is Agnes. She is the lady I was telling you about.”
Colin smiled and bowed his head. “Agnes, How do you do?” Her right hand was clasped in front of her, holding the sheet in place. He took it in his.
She was at first silent, then the faintest of smiles touched her lips. “Very well thank you. I’ve been told of you and I’m pleased to meet you.” The smile deepened slightly.
The grey haired lady smiled at herself, then turned to the other two who had come up behind them. “I think ladies, we might leave these two together. Perhaps we might go to the Coffee room downstairs for an hour or so." The two stared, first at her, then at the couple. She shepherded them down the room and out the door, into the corridor. Then turned and firmly locked the door. “Possibly, he’s got a key,” she mused, “If not, then they’re together until we let them out.” And set off down the corridor.
Inside, Colin turned to Agnes. “Look,” he said, "I’ve seen your profile. If you are not happy about this I’ll tell them it’s all off. Just say so.”
Her smile was still there. “No. I want to go through with it. After years of rotten bloody deprivation, I want nothing more than a good satisfying fuck.” She turned to the examination table. “Hadn’t you better take your clothes off. You could put them on that shelf there.”
The pair stood naked in front of what was to be their love couch. Wordlessly they embraced. “You will be gentle, won’t you?’ she whispered. He replied that went absolutely without saying.
Seventy minutes later the grey haired lady unlocked the door of the medical room. Colin and Agnes were seated on the chairs at her desk. She had found her clothes in the box under the wheelchair and dressed herself. She spoke, “I think Agnes, it’s time you went back to your room.”
It was mid to late afternoon. Agnes was back in her original room.
A knock at the door, a key turned in the lock, Beryl came in and closed it behind her. She was wearing one of the well made, belted uniforms that seemed so popular here. “I’ve found out quite a lot about him.” She didn’t waste any time but launched straight into it.
"He’s one of your countrymen. Roughly the same age. Comes from the same locality as you. You’re from the Western Plains, aren’t you? So’s he. He’s said he knew you nearly forty years ago. Could this be some schoolboy crush and he’s held a torch for you all these years? His given name always was Edward but now he’s become Edward Le Capp, he’s a billionaire and lives on an estate in Latin America. He’s got a token wife who dresses well and is always photographed at his side when important people come around. Otherwise, she’s just window dressing for these occasions. There are two other involuntary women members of his household. One's an expert on the Arts, the other on Literature. Both sit at his table every night and provide stimulating intellectual conversation. Sometimes his long suffering wife is there too, though I gather she doesn’t say much. Your function would also be a sort of involuntary, intellectual companion too. A conscripted Hetaera, to use a classic term. And there’d be a vivacious cultural foursome every evening. That would be de rigueur. You're a librarian I believe? Well he’s got a very good private library. Perhaps you’d be in charge of that? And of course you’re all expected to be available sexually, whenever he feels like it. But I understand he’s good about that. If any of his captive ladies finds a little dalliance on the side he doesn’t object, provided he's catered for first.
As to where he lives, well his estate is large, is isolated (difficult to escape from) and in a remote part of Latin America. But it’s good land. Grazing, agriculture, and is a viable entity on its own. It makes a profit every year. It’s an almost self contained community of twenty or thirty people. He runs his own business empire from an office in his very well appointed hacienda. You'll be in a comfortable location.”
“And that,” said Beryl, “Is as much as I can tell you.”
Agnes thanked her. They talked a while. She spoke, “So I’m going to a household where the evening meals will be in intellectual company with cultured conversation. Instead of single solitary suburban suppers, which are no fun I can assure you. So, I suppose it’s got to be a change for the better. Long ago, you spoke of ‘betterment.’ Maybe you’re right.”
“I hope so. Anyway, best of luck.” This from Beryl.