||FROM THE CASE FILES OF KITTY WYNTER|
| by Van ©2016
| Chapter 5
Until now, Jessie didn't know it was possible to be this miserable.
Her journey down the dark corridor was more than an hour in the past. Naked, a rubber ball filling her mouth and her lips sealed with tape, her hands and wrists encased in mitten-cuffs, her ankles bound together in leather cuffs, and dangling from a chain suspended from a winch trundling down a motorized track of some sort... it had been horrible.
It wasn't that there was nothing to see, it was more like there was nothing much to see, nothing interesting or helpful to the cause of escape, anyway. The walls were poured concrete, probably, but had been painted a flat, light-absorbing black. Between the bright light dazzling from above and the dark, featureless walls, Jessie might as well have been in a vast, empty space. And once she reached her destination, another dark, seemingly featureless chamber of some sort, Jessie's disorientation only grew.
Angelique had first hosed her off with cold water, then carried out her threat and administered an enema, the first of Jessie's life, and she had not enjoyed the humiliating and disturbingly intimate ordeal. Jessie decided it was best not to dwell on the topic—or the electric shock from Angelique's mini shock-wand that had "encouraged" her to empty her bladder—or the second generalized external cleansing with the hose she'd received afterwards. Anyway, her captor had dealt with the resulting bucket of waste in a professional and hygienic manner, as far as Jessie could tell.
Next, the tape was peeled from Jessie's mouth and the ball plucked from her mouth; but before she could utter a single word, a metal something-or-other was forced into her mouth, there was a ratcheting sound, and the thing expanded, propping her mouth wide open and keeping it that way. "Mrrrrfh!" She'd complained, of course, but Angelique ignored her pathetic and totally inarticulate attempts at speech.
And then... breakfast was served. As promised, it was pureed dog food, and was delivered by squirts directly into the back of her mouth by means of an oversize syringe. The brown, semi-fluid gorp trickled down her throat, and she found she was able to swallow, after a fashion, despite the device propping open her mouth. The "meal" over, Angelique had used a comb to straighten her wet, tangled hair, then braided the long, brown tresses into a tight braid. During the process, Jessie knew better than to do anything other than hold her head perfectly still. Angelique's mini shock-wand was a good teacher. Jessie didn't want to give her handler any excuse whatsoever to zap any part of her helpless, supremely vulnerable anatomy.
Next, Angelique produced several coils of white rope from somewhere and proceeded to bind Jessie into a tight bundle. Jessie believed her present condition was referred to as a "hogtie." Her hands were behind her back and her legs bent back, but she had very little experience with such things. She was tied to a tree by her cousins during summer when she was... eleven? Jessie did the math. No, I was twelve, she decided. In any case, a sloppy but tight and inescapable tangle of rope had lashed her to a tree for the better part of a Summer afternoon, until the ultimate defeat of the Sheriff of Nottingham and the triumph of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, meaning until they were all called in by Aunt Kelly to wash up for supper. Anyway, the experience had been nothing like this.
To expedite her binding efforts, Angelique lowered Jessie to the floor and onto her stomach. She never really had a chance to resist. The finger and hand encasing mitt-cuffs remained in place, as did the ankle-cuffs. Angelique tightened rope around her body, released her wrists from the bar one-at a time, and lashed them behind her back. She then folded Jessie's legs back and added her ankle-cuffs to the mix.
All too soon, the four cuffs were in direct contact. That is, Jessie's leather-clad hands were sandwiched between her buttocks with her ankle-cuffs. More ropes were added, and it became a very stringent hogtie. A complex web of encircled her torso, her torso and her arms, and her folded legs, and all the ropes were interlaced and cinched tight. Jessie could barely squirm. Her mouth was plugged by a ball-gag, and her braid had been folded back on itself, tightly wrapped with some sort of thin cord, then tied to her big-toes, pulling her chin up, her head back, and enforcing a permanent point on her bare feet.
Finally, the motor overhead hummed, chain rolled onto the drum, and Jessie was lifted back into the air. At some point Angelique had replaced the suspension bar with a large metal ring, and Jessie was now fully suspended, once again, stomach down and dangling in midair, supported by several vertical and diagonal strands of rope converging on the ring. She was about five feet off the floor.
Angelique walked a slow circuit of Jessie's naked, hogtied, ball-gagged, and suspended body. "Well," she said finally. "I like it. It's just how I imagined it would be. I do believe I got everything exactly right. Even tension on all the ropes... no apparent loss of circulation... We'll see if that holds true in a few hours. Enjoy your day, Dr. Maitland."
"Mrrrrpfh!" It was a pathetic whine on Jessie's part, rather than an angry complaint. If she'd been able, Jessie would have begged. In fact, she would have groveled. "Nrrrrr!" But it was not only impossible to do either, but it was too late. Angelique was gone. She'd turned and disappeared into the shadows, strolling away on her silent sneakers.
Jessie was alone, utterly helpless, and miserable.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 5
The address had arrived. That is, the promised anonymous text Kitty assumed was from Athena Zevros had arrived on her phone.
Dressed in typical manner—black knee-boots, black leather pants, a dark gray tank-top over a black sports bra, a black leather jacket with a pebbled finish, and with a long, thin, dark burgundy scarf wrapped around her neck—Kitty was striding down a Manhattan street, headed for the address in question. She was turning a few heads, but that was because she was Kitty Wynter, not because she looked out of place. Her ensemble nailed the sweet spot between bad-ass and fashionable girl-about-town. Again, this was because she was Kitty Wynter. It certainly wasn't from spending hours trying on outfits before the mirror until she's achieved just the right look. Kitty was Kitty. It came naturally.
Kitty's favorite Glock was in its accustomed holster at the small of her back, under her jacket, her backup piece was tucked down her right boot top, and two extra magazines were squirreled away in her jacket pockets. She wasn't planning on any gun battles, but she was on her way to an unknown situation. It paid to be... prudent. Finally, In addition to her lock pick set, a small pry-bar was tucked down her left boot top. It was just the thing for jimmying locks when one was in a bit of a rush.
Back at the office, Bertie had urged her to wait, at least until she could finish her cyber legwork on the new address, but Kitty wanted to strike while the proverbial iron was hot.
Was she being reckless? In a word, yes, but who knew what was happening to Jessie Maitland at this very moment? Might it already be too late to help the hot nerd? Might she have already met a horrible and unwarranted fate at the hands of Mrs. Miriam Crazy-Bitch Holden? Yes, but Kitty's gut told her Miriam was the sort that liked to play with their food, so to speak. The odds were Jessie desperately needed their help, and there wasn't time to be methodical and cautious.
Bertie agreed with the first part, that Jessie needed rescuing; but the second part? Not so much.
"Okay, see if I care if you walk into a nest of vipers!" were Bertie's last words as Kitty closed the office/condo door, leaving the scowling blond pixie stamping a foot in frustration. Kitty smiled at the memory. Bertie had been adorable. But then, Muffin was always adorable. Anyway, Kitty knew her partner very much cared, despite her words, and at this very moment her fingers would be flying across the keyboard and/or swiping various touch-screens, feverishly doing research on Kitty's destination. Bertie did some of her best work when she was worried about her partner. In any case, Kitty Wynter was always careful... usually... most of the time. Anyway, Kitty would let Bertie continue her cyber-legwork while she did the physical stuff.
Just then, Kitty's phone warbled in a stirring rendition of the opening bars of London Calling. She pulled it out, tapped to accept the call, and placed the phone to her ear. "What have you learned?" she purred.
"Hello to you, too," Bertie's voice responded. "Your destination is supposedly unoccupied, and has been for several years."
Kitty frowned. A chronically unoccupied Manhattan townhouse? That was almost unheard of. The pavement under Kitty's feet was some of the most valuable on the planet, and the same went for the ground under her destination. "That's odd."
"Indeed," Bertie agreed. "The utility bills are being paid, but the usage suggests it's just enough to keep the pipes from freezing. There are also bills for quarterly visits by a cleaning service, but nothing else to suggest anyone is in actual residence. There's no mail delivery, phone, or cable service. I'm tracing the ownership, but it's complicated."
"You do that," Kitty said, then broke the connection and pocketed the phone.
Half a block later, the phone rang, again. "What?" Kitty answered.
"The townhouse is owned by the Porter family," Bertie's voice said.
"And who are—"
"The Hampton Beach, Nantucket, and Park Avenue Porters," Bertie interrupted.
"Oh, them," Kitty purred. "Loaded?"
"Like the Queen," Bertie confirmed. "Well, not really, but—"
"I get it," Kitty chuckled. "I'll let you know what I find." Kitty hung up and pocketed the phone, again.
She only made a dozen more steps before the phone rang, yet again.
"Care to take a guess as to what Miriam Holden's maiden name might be?" Bertie asked.
Kitty grinned. "Crazy-bitch?"
"Porter," Bertie answered.
"Interesting," Kitty purred.
"I can tell there's going to be more," Bertie stated.
Kitty could hear the keys clattering in the background as Bertie typed. "Okay then, call me."
Too late. Kitty smiled as she pocketed her phone. Rattling Bertie's cage was always fun. A cage, she thought. I wonder if I can find a cage that would fit in one of the closets. She noticed a small cafe just ahead. It appeared to specialize in pastries. Her gut was still telling her Jessie needed help—like, yesterday—but it was also of the opinion that Bertie was onto something and she should wait a while and see what developed. It also reminded her that she hadn't eaten lunch... and breakfast had been a slice of cold, leftover pizza.
Might as well let Bertie do her thing, Kitty decided, before venturing into the wilds of Porter-infested Manhattan. Kitty entered the cafe, found a free table, and ordered coffee and baklava. She was about to take her first bite of flaky, honey-dripping, and nutty goodness when London Calling called again.
"Can you guess who lives in a neighboring townhouse, the one directly behind your destination?" Bertie asked.
"Kareem Abdul-Jabbar," Kitty answered, then took her delayed bite of baklava.
"How very humorous," Bertie drawled. "Angelique Porter, sister of Miriam Holden née Porter."
Kitty chewed and swallowed, then took a sip of coffee. "Now that is interesting," she purred.
"Are you eating?" Bertie demanded.
Kitty's answer was a mumbled version of the word "Baklava," a bite of the pastry in question currently undergoing the process of mastication.
"You can so very crude at times," Bertie admonished her partner. "I'll keep digging."
Kitty swallowed. "You do that," Kitty chuckled, then hung up. She'd decided stopping for a snack had been a good idea, and was seriously considering ordering something else, possibly a cronut.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 5
Naked. Bound and gagged. Suspended. Miserable. Jessie's mind began to drift. She wasn't in actual pain, not yet, but she was not happy.
Fibonacci sequence, she thought. More precisely, the topic occupied what was left of her consciousness. A cloud of symbols and concepts swirled in her head, seeming to dance and spin before her eyes in the oppressive darkness. Pascal's triangle... Binet's formula... The Golden Ratio...
( Fk+2 )=( 1 1 )( Fk+1 ) ...which meant... →
→ ...obviously... Fk+1 1 0 Fk Fk+1 =
...and the same goes for the eigenvalues, eigenvectors, eigendecomposition that leads to... yadda-yadda-yadda. Cassini's identity... Recursion with memiozation... Etc., etc. Everybody knows all that. But... What if...? Or maybe...? Or...?
Jessie's body continued hanging in her tight, inescapable bonds in the dark chamber, the victim of Angelique's cruelty. Her mind, however, had escaped... at least for the moment.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 5
Kitty arrived at her destination... and kept walking. That is, she continued strolling down the sidewalk, any one of several pedestrians making their way... somewhere. However, while Kitty gave no indication she was interested in the supposedly empty townhouse, she actually "cased the joint," as the saying goes. Through furtive glances, she satisfied herself there were no security cameras focused on the sidewalk or the porch leading to the front door of this particular townhouse. Others on the block had discrete (but not too discrete) cameras and alarm company signs warning would be burglars that the premises were protected, but not Kitty's destination. Also, the empty townhouse showed no sign of being empty. The windows weren't boarded up and there were no signs of neglect.
Kitty continued to the far corner, took a left turn, proceeded down the block, then took another left turn. She proceeded past her second target, the townhouse directly behind her first target and supposedly the residence of Angelique Porter, Miriam Holden's little sister. In terms of security, this time the picture was different. Not only did Angelique Porter's townhouse have an overt surveillance camera, but a small, boutique grocery across the street had cameras focused on the entire street. Kitty's image was already being recorded, assuming the cameras in question weren't dummies, and in this neighborhood, she considered that to be highly unlikely.
Keeping her cool, Kitty continued to the corner and made yet another left turn, intending to circle the block to return to the first address. As she walked she pulled out her phone and called her partner. Bertie answered immediately and Kitty filled her in.
"Hmm..." The ensuing dead air brought a smile to Kitty's face. The mental image of Bertie's tan, lightly freckled face scrunched in a dimpled frown as she pondered the situation was... adorable. "You wait there 'til I arrive," she said finally. "Then we'll go in together."
"I don't need backup to check out an empty house," Kitty growled. "It is empty, right?"
"As far as I can tell, yes," Bertie confirmed. "But I have to do something other than sitting here checking and rechecking property titles and utility bills."
"I'm worried about her too, Muffin."
"I know," Bertie sighed. They were talking about Jessie, of course. "Tell you what," Bertie continued, "I'll ring Angelique Porter's front door and see what she's about while you check out the empty townhouse."
"Now who's being reckless?" Kitty chuckled. "You sure you can handle it?"
"Oh, please," Bertie responded. "Of course I can handle it. Don't be insulting. There's nothing to suggest that Angelique Porter is even involved. Miriam may have just used the empty townhouse as a convenient place for Zavros to deliver Jessie and her sister knows nothing about it. I'll find out. Anyway... the clock is ticking."
"Okay," Kitty chuckled, "but if you wind up naked, bound and gagged, and rolling around in Angelique Porter's bathtub, don't expect me to rescue you."
"Ha!" Bertie huffed. "And if you fall through a trap door and find yourself trapped in a deep, dark, inescapable oubliette, I won't rescue you, either."
"Well, when you put it that way," Kitty chuckled, "I still won't rescue you, but I will send Nikki to save your bacon."
"And I'll send Shyster to throw you a rope," Bertie countered. "Give me half an hour and I'll be in position. We might as well mount simultaneous attacks."
"Call me," Kitty purred, then pocketed her phone. Rattling Bertie's cage really was a lot of fun, and to mix metaphors, the way the cute little blond pixie gave as good as she got was icing on the cake. Hmm... a cage... I wonder where I can get a good deal on a nice, inescapable, Muffin-size, deliciously wicked puppy-cage? Kitty's smiled broadened. Lady Arabelle. She'll know. If Manhattan's premiere B&D madam couldn't point Kitty in the direction of a reputable cage dealer, nobody could.
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 5
Bertie climbed the steps to Angelique Porter's townhouse. Before leaving Wynter & Finch headquarters she'd changed into one of her business suit disguises—black raincoat, sensible heels, skirt and jacket, both in heather gray, and a salmon-pink blouse. Her Glock was holstered at the small of her back, under her jacket, her backup piece was in a holster strapped to the inside of her right thigh, under her skirt, and her lock-pick set was in her inside jacket pocket. She rang the doorbell... and waited.
At this very moment, Kitty would be one block away, directly behind Bertie's current location, and beginning her covert entry to the empty townhouse. Kitty had every confidence her partner would be able to carry out her half of the operation without triggering any alarms and/or getting herself caught. Kitty was good... in many ways.
The door opened revealing the unsmiling face of Angelique Porter. Bertie recognized her from the handful of photos she'd been able to find online. The blue-eyed brunette was surprisingly short, Bertie's height, possibly an inch shorter, and was dressed in, of all things, surgical scrubs. Bertie beamed her best professional/disarming smile.
"Ms. Porter?" Bertie inquired. "Mrs. Holden sent me over to make sure everything is proceeding according to plan."
Bertie thought she detected a flash of alarm cross Angelique's angelic face, but it may have been confusion. In any case, the flash was immediately replaced by a welcoming smile.
"How thoughtful of my sister," Angelique said as she opened the door wide and made a welcoming gesture.
What Bertie didn't know—what she couldn't have known—was that Angelique had been fully briefed by Miriam about everything, in great detail. She'd not only known about Harcourt's supposed affair with Jessie Maitland from the very beginning, but had listened patiently while Miriam bemoaned the incompetence of the detectives she'd hired to bring her proof. And big sister had shown her photos of the detectives in question. Angelique knew the precise identity of the perky blonde she was welcoming into her home. She also knew her claim that she'd been sent by Miriam was almost certainly a lie.
Bertie crossed the threshold and Angelique closed the door.
"Here, let me help you with your coat," Angelique offered.
"Thank you," Bertie said with a dimpled smile. With Angelique standing behind her, Bertie began loosening the coat's belt—but suddenly, her hostess jerked the coat down and off her shoulders, trapping her arms! "Hey!—Ow!" Something had stung the side of her neck! "What are you...?" Bertie felt her muscles growing weak, and her attempts to free herself were becoming increasingly clumsy. She gave me an injection! Bertie realized. She knew she had to free her arms, spin around, drop into fighting stance, and deal with... with... Oh. Bother. Again?
Angelique smiled as her visitor lost consciousness and collapsed in her arms. She eased Bertie's limp form to the floor, stripping the coat from her body in the process. She reflected that keeping a dose of a powerful sedative in a capped syringe in her scrub pocket at all times had been a very good idea. It had been intended as an emergency method of controlling Jessie Maitland, her plaything, but had just proved itself to be just the thing for dealing with snoopy detectives.
"So... now I have two playthings," she said quietly. There was always a chance, however remote, that for some reason Miriam had sent Bertie to the townhouse, in which case she'd apologize when the cute little thing woke up, but she'd have to check with Miriam first. The dose was only intended to incapacitate her "patient" for something like twenty minutes to half an hour, so she'd have to take a few precautions before placing the call.
Just then, the phone in Angelique's pocket buzzed. She pulled it out and discovered her alarm app had been activated. She tapped the screen and the image of the entry hall of the back townhouse, as Angelique called it, filled the tiny screen. The back townhouse had no street camera, but the doors were alarmed. However, that was not the reason the app had demanded her attention. There was a second alarm on a separate circuit with a motion sensor and pinhole camera, both concealed in the entryway's decorative trim.
The female burglar on the phone's tiny screen had successfully deactivated the main alarm, but was unaware of the second. The intruder turned her head—and Angelique recognized Kitty Wynter, the partner of the unconscious blond visitor sprawled at her feet. "An amazing coincidence," Angelique purred. There was a countdown in progress on the bottom of the phone's screen. If Angelique didn't enter an override code before the numbers reached zero, a signal would be sent to her security company. She entered the code and the countdown abruptly vanished.
And Miriam called me paranoid, Angelique thought, remembering the chiding she'd gotten for insisting on the second layer of protection. She couldn't wait to rub her big sister's button nose in little sister being proved right. She watched as Kitty pulled a small flashlight from a jacket pocket and began a search. Only the entryway was covered by a hidden camera, and soon Kitty's image departed the screen. Angelique's smile broadened. The part about only the entryway being covered wasn't quite true. There was another room of the back townhouse with a concealed motion sensor and camera. It will be interesting to see if Kitty Wynter is good enough to find it, Angelique mused, or rather, for it to find her.
She turned off the app and pocketed the phone, then smiled down at Bertie's limp, unconscious form. First things first, she thought. She had to deal with her first visitor. With Kitty prowling around the back townhouse, Angelique didn't have time to play, but she had to secure her new toy before the sedative wore off. Playtime would come later.
|The End of...|
|The Damsel Vanishes|| Chapter 5