||FROM THE CASE FILES OF KITTY WYNTER|
| by Van ©2016
Bertie felt a little guilty accepting a dinner invitation from Jessie Maitland. She liked the gorgeous genius, but Jessie didn't know she'd been the focus of a Wynter & Finch investigation, that Bertie Finch didn't just happen to join her yoga class and they didn't just happen to strike up a friendship. Bertie had been doing her job, but she felt guilty.
I told Kitty that Miriam Holden had a few screws loose, Bertie thought as she followed Jessie down the hallway from the elevator to her apartment door, but she took the job anyway. Money is money, but it became obvious right away that either Jessie Maitland was the best clandestine mistress in the long history of clandestine mistresses, or she was not having an affair with Harcourt Holden, her billionaire boss. Seriously, either Jessie was innocent, or her talents were wasted studying mathematics and she should be working for the CIA.
Miriam Holden would have none of it. The snooty bitch "knew" her husband was boinking the esteemed Dr. Maitland, and no amount of surveillance of Jessie as she went about her life, including Kitty and Bertie's electronic monitoring of her workplace, apartment, and regular haunts, could shake Miriam's faith in her paranoid fantasies. Finally, Kitty and Bertie were fired, meaning Miriam had stopped writing checks. Wynter & Finch had been willing to diligently follow Jessie around forever, as long as they were paid.
Anyway, the Maitland case, if you could call it that, was closed. Bertie continued attending yoga class with their former target, but only because it was an excellent class with an excellent instructor. Her genuine friendship with Jessie was an added bonus.
Well... I'm not an actual rat, Bertie thought as Jessie pulled out her keys and unlocked her front door. I'll find a way to tell her how all this started, Bertie decided, eventually... probably... maybe.
They'd stopped in the lobby for Jessie to collect her mail, so Bertie's hostess was burdened with a modest handful of envelopes and catalogs, her rolled yoga mat, and her sling-purse. Bertie was similarly encumbered, except for the mail. Both were dressed in tights, leotards, and jackets. Bertie was wearing sneakers and baggy socks and Jessie was in ankle-boots.
"I just did my weekly shopping," Jessie said as she opened the door and motioned for Bertie to enter, "so there's plenty to choose from." Bertie preceded her into the apartment, then Jessie followed. She turned and hung her purse from a wall-mounted coat rack, then dropped her rolled mat in an umbrella stand.
Meanwhile, Bertie had taken a few steps forward and paused. A black plastic packing case about the size of a footlocker was in the middle of what was obviously the living room area. It was too far from Jessie's sofa and easy chair to act as a coffee table and didn't match the apartment's decor. "What's with the case?" Bertie asked. Her eyes were still on the case while she waited for Jessie to answer... but no answer was forthcoming. She turned back to the entryway—and froze in place.
A female figure had Jessie in a tight embrace from behind with one black-gloved hand clamped over the wide-eyed mathematician's mouth! Jessie's captor was dressed in gray work clothes and a black ski-mask with only her eyes and mouth showing. Also, in the hand not gagging Jessie, the intruder was holding an automatic pistol, and that pistol was pointed at Bertie Finch!
Bertie noticed something else, a syrette was discarded on the floor, and Jessie's eyes seemed to be losing focus. Bertie surmised the figure in gray had already used the spring-loaded syringe to give Jessie an injection. As Bertie watched, Jessie's body went limp... and her captor slowly eased the now unconscious mathematician to the floor. The pistol trained on Bertie never wavered.
"Drop the mat," the hooded figure ordered, "slowly ease your purse off your shoulder with one hand, then interlock you fingers atop your head."
A trained detective, Bertie noted that the woman's voice was a melodious alto, and her gray outfit was a costume. The work boots, cargo shorts, and jacket showed no signs of wear. The logo on her jacket read "ÆGIS SERVICES," and a photo ID on a lanyard hung around her neck. The distance was too great for Bertie to make out any details of the photo, other than race and hair color, which were White and brunette. The woman's legs, what Bertie could see of them, were slender, athletic, and well-tanned. The pistol was a Glock, possibly a 26. Bertie had no real choice but to follow the woman-in-gray's orders.
"Turn around, kneel, and cross your ankles," the woman instructed.
Bertie fought the urge to sigh and again, complied. The woman was a professional of some sort, but it was too soon for Bertie to form a more informed opinion. Can I get the drop on her? Bertie wondered. That was iffy, unless the woman made a serious mistake. "Ow!" Something had jabbed Bertie in the left side of her neck, and... Oh! Bertie's vision began to go blurry, and there was a buzzing in her ears. She had another one! Bertie realized. Another syrette! If I don't act now...
Bertie pitched forward, but the woman-in-gray grabbed the back of her jacket collar and eased the now unconscious blonde the last few inches to the carpet, preventing a kneeling face-plant.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 2
Athena Zevros was not in a panic. In fact, she was the very picture of the consummate professional. The presence of Philberta "Bertie" Finch of Wynter & Finch Investigative Services complicated matters, but only a little.
The plan had been for Jessie Maitland to disappear without a trace, and for said disappearance to be not even suspected until after the crazy-rich (and generally crazy) Miriam Holden had finished giving Jessie a good talking to, a spanking, and whatever other humiliating punishments she had in mind. Then, Athena would drug the now chastened and repentant "whore" (meaning Jessie, not Miriam), and dump her in a carefully selected alley to wake up naked and confused. And all that would happen before she was known to be missing.
After her ordeal, Jessie might try having Miriam prosecuted, but Miriam Holden had a rock-solid alibi already arranged and it would be Jessie's word against hers, and she was Miriam Holden, the wife of Billionaire Harcourt Holden.
As for Athena, Jessie would never see her face, and there would be no physical evidence she was involved. However...
The presence of Bertie complicated things. Now, there would be a hue and cry for Jessie from the get-go, meaning as soon as Bertie's disappearance was noticed. And given the well-known fact that Bertie and Kitty Wynter were lovers, that would be sooner, rather than later.
In any case, Athena was covered. She'd already taken every precaution.
Kitty would know all about Miriam's hatred of Jessie, of course, but even if the police hauled Miriam down to the precinct and grilled her mercilessly (for the minute or two that would elapse before Miriam's high-priced legal team appeared and sprung their client), there was no link to Athena Zevros. And even if Miriam broke down completely and named Athena as her co-conspirator, there was (and would be) no physical evidence. Nothing linked Athena to the current "situation," suspicion was not evidence, and the cops already considered Athena to be a "suspicious character."
Athena gazed down at the unconscious form of Bertie Finch. An abundance of caution might dictate that the blond Brit should never wake up, but that was out of the question. In the first place, Athena was not a murderer. Athena was dark, but she wasn't that dark. In the second place, the unexpected involvement of Wynter & Finch would be a challenge, Athena loved a good challenge, and she hadn't tested herself in a long time. And in the third place—Athena's lips curled in an evil smile—a cute blonde like Bertie Finch is a terrible thing to waste.
Oh-by-the-way, Athena felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store. She had an embarrassment of riches, in the form of the unconscious Jessie Maitland and the unconscious Bertie Finch. Binding and gagging beautiful female playmates was something of a hobby for Athena Zevros, something she had in common with Wynter & Finch; however, at the moment, she was on the job. Her lips curled in a sinister smile. That didn't mean she couldn't have some fun. The dose of the drug Athena had used to render her target and the blond interloper unconscious wouldn't even begin to wear off for more than an hour, so she had plenty of time to indulge herself.
She pulled Bertie's jacket off her shoulders, freeing her arms, and tossed the jacket away. She then pulled Bertie's sneakers from her feet, followed by her baggy cotton socks. She used the lace of one sneaker to bind Bertie's wrists together behind her back with her hands palm-to-palm, and the second lace to bind Bertie's ankles. Next, she stuffed one of the socks into Bertie's mouth. Only about half of the fluffy athletic sock fit, but it was more than enough to fill Bertie's mouth to capacity. She used the second sock to keep the wad in place with a tight cleave-gag. That takes care of you for now, Athena thought, smiling down at the tights and sleeveless leotard-clad blonde. Athena then turned to deal with her actual target.
First things first, Athena thought as she gazed down at the unconscious form of Jessie Maitland. She stripped off Jessie's jacket, as she had with Bertie, but then proceeded to strip the unconscious brunette to the skin. She also took the time to remove the simple posts from Jessie's earlobes, the thin gold chain from around her neck, and the decorative band from her right ring-finger. The jewelry went into a small zipped pocket in Jessie's jacket. Athena was a professional. She didn't keep trophies, and retaining Jessie's baubles would be a totally unnecessary risk, a link between herself and the current operation. Nor was Athena interested in the trivial cash she'd get from hocking the jewelry.
Next, she opened the case, reached inside, and produced a pair of flex-cuffs, plastic handcuffs that were more-or-less a joined pair of nylon cable-ties. This particular pair were heavy-duty, with steel locking-tabs, and Athena had customized them by sliding a seven-inch length of rubber tubing over each tie, to cushion the wearer's skin. The wearer in question was about to be Jessie, of course, and Athena gathered her hands behind her back and zipped the cuffs around her wrists.
Next, Athena eased a "wiffle-ball-gag" into Jessie's mouth and buckled it tight under her hair at the nape of her neck. The gag's black rubber sphere was hollow and pierced by about a dozen round holes, making it easy for Jessie to breath through her mouth. It might not be a very effective damsel-silencer, but Athena had a remedy for that problem.
The smiling security expert buckled a wide, thick collar around Jessie's neck. It was narrower than a posture-collar, but much wider than the average dog-collar. Also, a pair of very blunt, short copper studs protruded from the collar's padded interior and nudged Jessie's skin on either side of her throat.
The next step in Athena's plan required a little physical effort, but she was more than up to the challenge. She lifted Jessie's limp, naked, bound, and gagged form and eased her into the open case. The cavity in the foam accepted the captive mathematician's body in a fetal tuck with her knees nearly touching her breasts.
Next, Athena placed the breathing mask over Jessie's nose and gagged mouth. The attached straps ensured she would be unable to dislodge the mask. This was unlikely, as what she liked to think of as the transport case's "life-support" system delivered compressed gas in a carefully regulated trickle that was not only rich in oxygen, but included a powerful anesthetic agent. Athena then plugged an electrical cable into the back of Jessie's collar and secured its screw-fitting with several turns, snugging it tight until its locking flange clicked. Jessie wouldn't be dislodging either the cable or the breathing mask.
Athena eased Jessie's head into the waiting cavity in the padding. In the highly unlikely chance that the unconscious mathematician did regain consciousness while in transit, not only would she find herself bound and gagged and very closely confined, but when she tried to scream for help, her reward would be a painful electric shock delivered across her vocal cords. Ever the professional, Athena had tried the device on herself and found it to be very painful, albeit harmless, and highly effective. During the test, Athena managed only a fraction of a second of noise before her larynx was paralyzed.
Next came the straps, and there were a lot of them. Truth be told, once the lid was closed, the close-fitting cavity in the padding, all by itself, would be enough to render Jessie immobile and helpless, but what would be the fun in that? Athena continued smiling as she tightened the nylon straps around her prisoner's form. They zipped tight across and around Jessie's arms and torso, her folded legs at the knees and thighs, and her ankles. Athena paused to gaze down at her helpless target. She would throw the switch and turn the lock to engage the gas delivery and noise-abatement systems before closing the lid and making her departure, but first...
Athena turned her smile to Bertie, then strolled to the apartment's kitchen and began rummaging through drawers and cabinets. "Eureka!" she chuckled, holding up a nearly full roll of silver duct-tape. Unfortunately, there were no coils of cotton clothesline or nylon rope, but she did find a ball of cotton twine, the kind used to truss a chicken, turkey, or roast before popping it in the oven. She smiled at Bertie's inert, bound, and gagged form, again. Then, her gaze traveled to the apartment's closed drapes and her smile broadened. From her earlier reconnaissance she knew that behind the closed drapes were mini-blinds. Where there are drapes and blinds, she mused, there are drape and blind cords, and there are more drapes and blinds in the bedroom and bathroom.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 2
Bertie opened her eyes. Slowly... a smooth, white, sloping wall came into focus. She tried to move... and found she couldn't.
Oh. Bother. Again?
Something was stuffed in Bertie's mouth, filling it completely—something else was pressing against her mouth, some sort of padding—and finally, a very tight, wide band of something, possibly tape, was wrapped completely around her head and lower face. In short, she was very effectively gagged.
Bertie was also tied up. Her wrists were bound behind her back and her hands, fingers and thumbs tightly wrapped with—she craned her neck and looked back over her left shoulder, twisting her body as best she could—duct-tape! My fingers and hands are mummified with duct-tape! Also, an abundance of some sort of thin, braided cord pinned her upper-arms to her sides, passing above and below her breasts and yoking her shoulders. More duct-tape bound her elbows together, with them nearly touching. Her knees were also bound with tape, and they were definitely touching. More of the braided cord encircled her waist and forearms, a strand of which also dove through her crotch, cleaving her labia and butt-cheeks, and was tied to her wrist bonds. Also, her legs were bent back and her bound ankles linked to her bound wrists with her heels touching her tape-wrapped fingers in a stringent hogtie. Finally, her big-toes were tied together with an abundance of cotton cord. The toe bondage didn't really add to her helplessness, much, but was a bitchy detail suggesting to Bertie that her captor was an experienced "hobbyist."
Oh-by-the-way, and not counting her bonds, Bertie was naked. Totally. She was also lying in an otherwise empty bathtub in a white-tiled bathroom. The sloping white wall she'd noticed upon awaking was the tub's smooth interior.
Jessie! She took Jessie! Bertie started struggling in earnest. Whoever had rigged her bondage had done a highly effective job. It was probably the woman-in-gray, of course, but Bertie-the-detective had to keep an open mind. She didn't know for a fact that her captor had been working alone. Anyway, all Bertie could do was squirm and roll around inside the smooth, hard tub. Wiggling her way out of the tub seemed highly unlikely... unless she suddenly discovered she could think weightless thoughts and levitate into the air.
Bertie continued struggling. She also continued making no headway whatsoever. She realized that even if she did manage to escape the tub, the bathroom door was closed. Also, even if Jessie's bathroom was well-stocked with scissors, razors, and other sharp objects, none of them would be waiting for her on the tiled floor. And even if a sharp knife was waiting for her the other side of the tub wall, with her tape-wrapped hands, it would be useless. Bertie was bound, gagged, naked, and stuck—stuck in the tub, stuck in the bathroom, and unable to help Jessie.
She paused in her escape efforts to listen. Nothing... not a sound. Were Jessie and her captor still in the apartment? Or had they already departed? Bertie remembered the black footlocker she'd seen in the living room, and decided the later was probably the case... pun intended. Jessie had been abducted and the trail was getting colder with every passing second, and the only one who knew anything was wrong was Bertie Finch, and she was naked, bound, gagged, and stuck in Jessie's tub.
Oh. Bother. Kitty will never let me hear the end of this.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 2
Kitty Wynter was striding down the busy metropolitan street, one of the throng of pedestrians hurrying home from a hard day's work or hurrying to meet friends to catch a bite before hitting the clubs, taking in a movie, or whatever. An awful lot of "whatever" went on in the city after dark. In Kitty's case, she was wrestling with a difficult decision: Thai or pizza? She wouldn't say no to a nice helping of Phad Thai, but a slice or two of pepperoni and sausage also sounded good.
Kitty was in what Bertie called her Urban Ingenue Disguise: knee boots, leather pants, a baggy sweater over a tank-top, a stylish leather jacket, and a wool scarf. And speaking of Bertie, Muffin had called to say she'd be having dinner at Jessie Maitland's apartment. Kitty frowned, or pouted, or whatever. It wasn't that she was upset that Bertie wouldn't be her dinner companion, and it wasn't like Bertie was doing her dance with Nikki "Heat" Braslow. Truth be told, Kitty got a charge out of watching Bertie and Nikki's dalliances—or more correctly, getting one of Bertie's detailed and highly intimate debriefings after the fact. The problem was, Bertie "fraternizing" with Jessie blurred the line between work and play. Jessie had been a surveillance target. Granted, she wasn't a target any longer, but that didn't mean Kitty couldn't fret.
Kitty's smile returned. Maybe when Bertie returned to the loft she'd share her feelings—meaning strip Muffin naked, tie her up, and spank her bottom. Pizza, Kitty decided. Now, her dilemma was whose pizza? Which pizza joint? Kitty had several "favorites."
Suddenly, Kitty's phone buzzed. It wasn't one of her listed contacts and she didn't recognize the number, but that was no big deal. Many of her shadier street connections went through cheap burner phones like packs of chewing gum. Kitty accepted the call and a text popped open. She read the message... and her frown returned. She then stepped to the side and out of the pedestrian flow, her eyes still on the text bubble glowing on the tiny screen.
That was it. That was the message. Kitty placed a call to Bertie. Her partner's phone rang... and went to voicemail. Kitty's frown hardened as she stepped to the curb and hailed a cab.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 2
Bertie decided that Jessie Maitland had very good taste in bathroom decor. The bath and hand towels hanging on the rack between the combination tub and shower and the washbasin and mirror were a very pretty shade of eggplant that complemented the mulberry shower curtain and matching drapes. The daylight from the small window with its half-closed mini-blinds was fading rapidly, but even in the diminishing light Bertie was impressed. She assumed the bathmat or rug that was probably waiting on the other side of the white enameled iron wall of the tub also matched, or was possibly a third complementary shade of purplish-red.
The prisoner-of-the-tub had given up struggling. Her captor had done her work too well. Bertie was totally helpless. She'd performed her due diligence, of course, squirming, wiggling, and writhing inside the smooth, hard, sloping confines of the tub for more than an hour, then decided any further efforts were not only wasted effort but a waste of strength.
Bertie would have to wait to be rescued, and counting her initial hour of struggling, she'd already been waiting at least two hours, plus the unknown period before she'd regained consciousness. Bertie had every confidence that she would be rescued. It was just a matter of time. Worst case scenario: Kitty would show up sometime tomorrow, possibly late tomorrow. So... all Bertie could do was lie in her tape and cord hogtie... and think.
Assuming Jessie Maitland had been abducted, there was one obvious line of investigation: Miriam Holden. The rich bitch wouldn't stoop to doing the dirty work herself, of course—not that Bertie could imagine the patrician princess physically handling the kidnapping of Jessie Maitland. The bitch was in good shape, but she was glamorously fit, probably thanks to the efforts of a staff of long-suffering personal trainers. Miriam wasn't athletically fit. She'd hire a professional. And speaking of professionals...
Bertie rolled onto her right side, seeking a more comfortable position, or more precisely, deciding her boobs and thighs had been squashed against the bottom of the tub long enough and it was time for her right hip and shoulder to take a turn.
Bertie had been able to watch the woman-in-gray move for only a few seconds before she'd been rendered unconscious, but there was something about her that was somehow familiar... maybe. Her—their—captor was in good shape, that had been obvious. She was slender and fit, truly fit. The distance had been too great for Bertie to process the woman's eyes and lips, the only things not covered by her ski-mask, so she could mentally put them together with sets of known features, but... Her eyes were dark, Bertie decided, and her lips full... maybe... fuller than Kitty's, anyway. They were also fuller than Nikki's, but thinner than Kirsten's. Nikki's big sister had full lips. 'Full' isn't right, Bertie decided, meaning their captor, not the Shyster, but what is right? Twisted? Quirky?
Suddenly, the bathroom door flew open and a female figure with a drawn handgun appeared, half in silhouette—and that figure was...
Kitty! "Mrrrpfh!" Bertie heaved a gagged, supremely relieved sigh.
A stranger might have characterized the expression on Kitty Wynter's angelic face as grim determination, but even in the dim light Bertie recognized alarm, which rapidly became relief. Kitty holstered her Glock, approached the tub, then crossed her arms under her breasts and slowly shook her head, causing her dark brown ponytail to sway from side to side behind her back.
"Oh, Muffin," Kitty sighed. "Again? You're hopeless." She then pulled a knife from a pocket, flicked open the blade, and set to work.
As soon as Kitty severed the duct-tape securing Bertie's gag, stripped it away, then untied the underlying sock cleave-gag and removed the matching sock that had been half-stuffing and half-padding from Bertie's mouth, the naked captive licked her lips and managed to speak. "Jessie. Abducted."
Kitty paused in the act of severing the first of Bertie's chest-harness cords and locked eyes with the naked blonde.
"Miriam Holden," the partners said in unison.
|The End of...|
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 2