B O N D A G E I S O U
T T H E R E
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LONDON, UK, EU
days of torment, she was almost too exhausted to care about what
being done to her—almost, but not quite.
Naked, her tired, sore body glistening with sweat and her hair
in a damp, tangled mass, she was standing upright, in the back
tiny, shallow alcove, in the basement of an old building,
somewhere in the city. Thick, heavy, and rather medieval
shackles, belt, and collar made sure she remained as she had
been positioned by her captors—arms raised, legs splayed, and
hard, rough wall. Heavy spikes had been hammered into the
gaps between the ancient bricks, securing the short lengths of
chain connected to the
cold iron bands imprisoning her wrists, ankles, waist, and
The arrangement offered
her very little slack. She tugged on her wrists, twisted
body, and tried to kick her legs, but her only reward was the
clinking and rattling of the iron links and the scrape of her
inescapable fetters as they slid against the wall.
She would have complained, and she certainly would have screamed for help, but
for the linen cloth stuffed
in her mouth. A tightly folded linen bandage held it in
cleaving her lips and pulled tight until her cheeks bulged, then
knotted under her hair at the nape of her neck.
She watched in terror as her captors completed the final task of
humiliation and torment. Brick by brick, carefully laying
bed of mortar and buttering the ends before tapping each brick
place, one of her three kidnappers was sealing the front of the
alcove. Row by row, a wall was rising—a wall that would
separate the prisoner from the world of light and life.
alcove was becoming her tomb.
The other two kidnappers were watching, one standing with hands
and the other using a TV camera to capture her fate. As
were dressed in skintight costumes of black leather, including
gloves, and hoods. Also, as always, their features were
black masks sculpted in the visages of beautiful women.
were the type seen at a Venetian carnevale,
usual feathers or other decorations.
A half-dozen small candles had been placed on the floor on the
captive's side of the wall, and her helpless body
glistened in their pale, yellow light as she tugged on her bonds
mewled through her gag.
Time passed... brick by brick and row by row... and eventually,
wall was nearly complete. The
entire front of the alcove, all the way up to the top of the
solid brick, except for a
small opening directly in front of her face... and now, even
disappearing as the final bricks
were tapped in place, one by one.
The kidnapper with the camera stepped closer, capturing the
face as her companion fitted the final bricks. The captive
watched as the gap closed—as the thick, sandy mortar oozed and
clumps fell to splatter the floor and her naked feet—as she was
off from the world.
Finally, space for only one brick remained. She stared
the lens of the cruel camera, struggling to control her rising
panic—and then the brick slid into the gap, and all she could
the rough face of the uncaring wall, inches from her face,
by the flickering candles below. She pulled on her chains,
her head back, and screamed into
a clear day, the windows of this Crystal City office tower
a "magnificent" view of the
runways and commercial aviation hangers of Ronald Reagan
Airport. A large percentage of this and the neighboring
were leased to various Departments of the Federal Government,
number of bureaucrats would have given their proverbial eye
nice set of digs... but not the current occupant.
Dana Scully, Special
Bureau of Investigation, was in
exile, and she knew it. Agent in Charge of a task force of
federal and state law enforcement, formed to capture a cunning
international master-criminal? It ought to be a
plum assignment, a stepping stone to bigger, better, and more
service, but Scully's allies in the Bureau had warned her of the
situation. She was being set up to fail, along with her
subordinates. The task force was a "Leper Colony", a
ground for "troublesome
females", and Scully was the Head Leper. All the members
team were gifted and experienced investigators (with the
exception of the rookie, who was only gifted). However, in
course of the honorable performance of their
duties, they had all made powerful (and vindictive)
enemies in their respective chains of command.
In Scully's case, it was retribution for her involvement in "The
X-Files". Together with her partner, Fox Mulder, they had
uncovered more than a few "inconvenient truths", things that
would just as soon had remained buried. Scully was no
part of the X-Files, and her association with Mulder was
the moment, but the damage was done. She knew she'd
never escape the fallout from
having been "Spooky Mulder's accomplice". From now on, her
Bureau would be "unconventional", at best, but she wasn't about
quit. The work was just too important.
Scully glanced at her watch. She had a little time before
next all hands meeting, but not much. She gazed at the
folders on the left side of her
desk, summary copies of the personnel folders of her team.
them all in great detail, but she decided to give them one more
look. She opened the first folder and scanned
———————— 1 ———————
(1) Gracie Hart,
Special Agent, F.B.I. Scully's second
in command of the task force. A bit of a loose cannon, but
an outstanding individual in any situation that needed a little
room to get
things done. This was "unfortunate", because some
especially the risk-averse
politicos, were obsessed with doing things "by the book"; but
didn't catch the bad guys. Procedure was derived from the
accumulated work of
resourceful, talented Agents who pushed the envelope, focusing
goals of protecting the innocent and apprehending perps in a
manner that allowed for righteous convictions. Following
procedure was well and good, but all too often it was not a
means to those
ends. An agent
needed to be able to recognize when and how to diverge from the
while still preserving the
letter and spirit of the law. Gracie Hart was just such an
but she'd landed center stage in a pair of very
high profile cases, and while she'd handled both to successful
conclusions, she had done so in an unconventional (and highly
Since one case involved going undercover as a contestant at a
beauty pageant, and the other as a Vegas showgirl, this had been
unavoidable and should hardly have come as a surprise for the
powers-that-be in the Bureau and DoJ.
Scully frowned. It was bonehead, counterproductive sexism
worst kind. A
male agent could go undercover as a Mafia, drug cartel, or KKK
live the life for years, and come out the other end as a
Gracie Hart, on the other hand, had portrayed the Bureau in an
"unfavorable light" by prancing around in "unprofessional" and
"scandalous attire" before the public. Most damning of
had seemed to enjoy herself
while doing it! Morons. That was the
she'd solved both cases. That didn't prevent certain
good-ol'-boys from putting an invisible black spot on her
In any case, Gracie was an asset to any team, and Scully felt
lucky to have her. She opened a drawer of her desk and
dropped Gracie's file inside.
———————— 1 ———————
(2) Lindsay Boxer,
Inspector, San Francisco Police Department, recently transferred
Homicide desk to the S.F.P.D.'s Special Investigation
She had an outstanding record, marred by only a few complaints
"excessive force", all involving apprehended suspects who had
convicted felons. All the incidents had been investigated
dismissed. So, why was
Inspector Boxer in Scully's Leper Colony? The inside word
was too chummy with certain members of the press, the San
Attorney's office, and other municipal bureaus. And
the Mayor's staff didn't like it.
huffed. A man
and he's 'networking'. A woman does the same, and she's
'organizing a hen-party'.
But there had to be more to it than that. San Francisco's
a checkered past, a reputation for being far too
political and ideological, especially during the late 60's and
70's (about the same
the Bureau was having its own
of Rights and
other pesky impediments to implementing J. Edgar's personal
administrations had cleaned house, in San Francisco and D.C.,
were still too
skeletons in too many closets. Scully shook her
Problems always accumulated when
you gave a
politician (or a bureaucrat) what amounted to a private police
putting strong institutional safeguards in place to prevent
Lindsay Boxer had rubbed somebody in power the wrong way, or
stoked their paranoia to the point that they pulled strings and
"promoted" to a dead end
task force on the other side of the country.
In any case...
was very glad to have Lindsay on the team. It was San
loss—San Francisco's temporary
was concerned. Lindsay's file went in the drawer.
———————— 1 ———————
(3) Megan Wheeler,
Detective, NYPD, Major Crimes
Unit. She had just joined the task force, and while not as
experienced as Boxer,
her record was equally impressive. After a successful tour
a beat cop (despite her slight build and the fact that she
had girlish, freckled features that could let her pass as a High
School student), she'd distinguished herself during a mysterious
Investigation". It could have been anything from
counter-terrorism to customs enforcement, but, whatever it was,
so hush-hush Scully
lacked the clearance to unseal that part of her record, even
Next for Wheeler had come a transfer to the Major Crimes Unit,
the NYPD's most
brilliant investigators. Once there, she had been a part
investigation after another.
So, what had gotten Wheeler assigned to Scully's task
Apparently, she was caught in the middle of a pair of
investigations, one involving her boyfriend, who might or might
guilty of international financial skulduggery, and the other,
pursuit of a
possibly corrupt Manhattan Assistant District Attorney.
A.D.A. was very well connected,
and had a reputation for utter ruthlessness, and it was she who
implicated Wheeler's boyfriend in wrongdoing.
One team of F.B.I. Agents was
pressuring Wheeler's boyfriend
to turn on his fat cat business associates, while a totally
investigating the A.D.A. Both
groups were convinced the cases were linked, but they also
Wheeler was an innocent bystander.
NYPD's Chief of Detectives was also of the opinion that Wheeler
and the assignment to
Washington was a way to get her out of Manhattan and above the
infighting. Conveniently, it also filled an open
Staffing" slot and qualified the NYPD for a nice chunk of
Security funds, so... Wheeler was on the next Amtrak south
knew what was happening.
Scully was impressed with Wheeler from the moment she arrived,
had been only yesterday, and considered her an asset to the
———————— 1 ———————
Mars, Special Agent, F.B.I.—brand
Special Agent, F.B.I. The task force was her first
posting, straight out of Quantico. Scully
had done a stint as a lecturer at the Academy, and she knew how
between the lines of a student record, which was just about the
thing in Agent Mars' file. She had "High-Average" grades,
scattering of "Outstandings". Good marksmanship.
physical skills, despite her slight build. Scully smiled,
fun she'd had making that particular grade at Quantico, getting
five-foot-two self tossed around the mat by a six-foot ex-Army
Ranger combat instructor, running that hellish obstacle course and those
endless, muddy running trails... and she had a good inch (and a
of pounds) on
Mars. Anyway, despite her high objective marks, "The
Rookie's" class ranking was just barely in the top third.
Scully had made a few phone calls to learn the truth, and it
was something of a smart-ass. She didn't suffer fools
a sharp, devastating wit, and seemed to take an absolute delight
egos. Nothing a little seasoning wouldn't cure, but
Instructors hadn't seen it that way, and had undermined her
using faint praise and "code words" that translated to the
not be one of us" tag.
Mars had chosen Scully's task force over the only other
she'd been offered—manning a desk in the basement of the J.
Hoover Building and grinding through the endless backlog of
checks of Federal employees who needed security
clearances. Scully had served a brief tour in the
Gulag", next to Mulder. Certain senior F.B.I. officials
trying to break their spirits and get them to resign. They
hadn't, and eventually, the political winds blowing through the
and they were "forgiven" and reassigned to tasks more
So far, Special Agent Mars had impressed Scully as bright,
and eager to get into the field... and she was a smart-ass.
smiled. She'd worked with Fox Mulder. "Smart-ass"
off her back like wet off a duck. Mars would do just
She dropped the Rookie's file in
the drawer and reached for the last remaining folder.
———————— 1 ———————
Operativo Speciale, the division of the Carabinieri that was
Scully's international contacts hadn't been able to tell her
about the sultry brunette than what
was in the file in her hands... which wasn't much. Claudia
had been on the trail of their main target for years, going so
far as to request a posting to INTERPOL when it became clear the
was willing to let the Italian part of the complex case go
Bosco had had some sort of encounter with
their quarry, the mysterious "Bondarella", early in her career,
seemed willing to follow the
investigation to the ends of the earth... including Washington
membership in Scully's Leper Colony.
She seemed dedicated, intelligent, and worked well with the
although her pursuit of Bondarella did seem to be something of a
And who exactly was this "Bondarella", the raison
d'êntre for the task force and the object of
Nobody knew, and that
was most of the problem. She seemed to be able to snatch
profile targets at will, then cover her tracks with such
that the authorities were left with nothing to follow up.
even her victims could provide a physical description of
her accomplices, other than that they were all definitely female.
Scully frowned at Claudia's photo. The case summary said
was captured during the rescue of an opera singer from the
Gang", and was released three days later, unharmed. There
vague references to "humiliation and discomfort" while in her
hands, but no details. At some point, Scully knew she was
to have to get the full story of everything that had
You never knew what tiny detail would make some connection and
case wide open. She wasn't looking forward to making
relive her ordeal, but she was the only person this side of the
Atlantic who had been in Bondarella's actual presence... as far
Scully dropped Bosco's file in the drawer
with the others, then turned the lock and slid the key into her
pocket. She wished she had the travel budget to send her
interview Bondarella's other known victims, but it wasn't going
happen. They'd have to make do with the files provided by
INTERPOL and the national police agencies involved, such as they
Scully glanced at her watch, again. It was time for the
main purpose of which was to brief Wheeler, the new arrival,
everything they knew
about their quarry.
to find her team
already assembled, with the exception of The Rookie. She
seat at the head of the table.
Gracie leaned close to whisper in Scully's ear. "The
finally came through with something. It's not much, but
"Time sensitive?" Scully inquired.
Gracie shrugged. "Not especially."
"Wait 'til the appropriate moment," Scully responded, then
Wheeler, and smiled. "All moved in?"
Megan smiled. "I'm in the same 'Per Diem Palace' as
Boxer." The Beltway area was lousy with studio-type
that catered to people with temporary business in Washington,
all of them had some sort of leasing agreement with the
"It's clean, comfortable, and convenient to I-395."
"I've stayed in worse," Lindsay drawled.
"Let me know if either of you need anything," Scully said, then
The sultry brunette (and there was no other way to describe the
purpose of this meeting is to have, how you say, the 'clearing
"Close enough," Gracie muttered. Claudia spoke English
a trace of an accent, but she was still mastering American
continued. "The clearing house." She
smiled at Megan. "I know you have started reading the
I give the summary and also some new information." She
key on her laptop and a large flat-screen monitor across
the room came to life. The inevitable PowerPoint
began. The first slide was a summary table of all that was
about the case.
"The Bondarella Gang consists of at least three members, all
Claudia lectured. "There may be more, but three is the
have been seen together at one time. They always appear
and in a variety of costumes, all bizzarro."
"Meaning kinky," Lindsay clarified. "Leather and latex,
skintight, often showing lots of skin, but no tattoos or other
distinguishing features have ever been noted."
confirmed. "They have made more than a dozen known
over the last eight years, all in Europe, but there have
more. Actresses, singers, TV presenters, all diva. They never ask
ransom, and the victim is always released unharmed, but only
been subjected to... ordeals... which are documented and
the internet to paying customers."
"I still don't get this part," Megan interrupted.
"Pay-per-view bondage porn," Gracie responded. "What's not
"For starters," Megan continued, "why aren't the sites shut down
quickly as they appear? Why aren't their so called
jail? At the very least, why haven't the ISP's involved
subpoenaed and their records used to trace the kidnappers?"
"Not for lack of effort," Claudia said. "They are very sofisticato. Computer
units across the E.U. have tried to trace the technological and
financial arrangements, without success. They still
is like the hydra. As quick as you cut off the head,
grows." She changed the slide.
"One complication is that there are two tiers of
lower tier subscribe to sites that show image and video files of
but only well after
happened. Many of these customers have been
interviewed, and all believe, or claim to believe, that they are
watching actresses portraying the victim. They think it is
"The upper tier is poorly understood, and largely speculative,"
"Someone or some group is, how you say, 'bankrolling' the
abductions. From the victims' accounts, they provide
instructions, via computer, during the
ordeals, and even remotely trigger the events."
"And by 'ordeals'," Megan asked, "you mean whipping, tickling,
is called... 'predicament bondage'?"
Lindsay nodded. "To bind someone in a
situation of stress and discomfort. Devising creative
is considered something of an art form among the bondage
noticed the others'
curious stares and smiled. "Uh, ya hear about stuff like
San Francisco," she drawled.
"New York, on the other hand," Megan chuckled, "has no kinky community."
Scully suppressed a smile, and cleared her throat. "I
you're prepared to brief the latest abduction in more detail?"
Claudia nodded. "Yes, I have new material, just arrived
my contact in New Scotland Yard... more material about a case
have ever had, before." She tapped a key and the slide
changed to a
photograph of a quite attractive young woman.
"Who is that?" Gracie
"Lady Andromeda Cargill, of course," a new voice announced.
It was Veronica Mars, entering the conference room with a
drink carrier holding six Starbucks cups.
"Forget to set your watch?" Gracie Hart inquired, in a dry
The Rookie was not in the least bit flustered by Gracie's
disapproval. "The place was a zoo. I suppose
I could have flashed my ID and bumped the line, but that would
been an unconscionable
abuse of authority, don't you agree?"
For some reason, this brought a blush to Special Agent's Hart's
cheeks (and shut her
Carefully noting the scribbling and check-marks on each of the
distributed the drinks. "What have I missed?"
"Nothing you don't already know," Scully answered, and nodded to
Claudia paused to sip her drink, then frowned and mumbled
under her breath.
"Did I get it wrong?" Veronica asked with a frown.
Claudia shook her head. "Americans do not know how to make
coffee," she muttered, then cleared her throat and focused on
screen. "Lady Andromeda Cargill," she confirmed, "here
being interviewed on a, how you say, 'chat show'?"
"That's what the Brits call them," Lindsay confirmed. "We
'talk show'. I take it she's famous?"
"Don't you read magazines or watch the E! network?" Veronica
"Enlighten me," Lindsay drawled.
"Childhood actress," Veronica responded, nodding at the
"'Lady Andra', as they call her, hosted a popular kiddie show
back. Supposedly, she's about to start working on a
The tabloids and the paparazzi
have tried following her around, but they've more or less given
her up as a hopeless case."
"A hopeless case?" Scully inquired.
"She's useless for their purposes," Veronica explained.
headed, not a party girl, doesn't get wasted with her friends
cars... a role model for
hotties everywhere. Useless."
"And she was kidnapped by Bondarella?" Megan asked. "She
young, compared to the other victims. How old
"I believe the Signorina
is about to turn
twenty," Claudia answered. "At the time of her abduction,
eighteen, and that does make her Bondarella's youngest vittima." She tapped
and the slide changed, to show the Signorina in question
seated at some public event. "Lady
Cargill at London Fashion Week," she explained.
"So why haven't we heard about this?" Veronica asked. "A
celeb like Lady Andra gets herself kidnapped? It'd be all
the news, worldwide."
"The authorities do their best to keep the Bondarella abductions
the press," Claudia answered, "to protect the victims. As
see from the case files, press participation in the
would be of little value. All potential witnesses are
interviewed, of course, but no announcements are made to the
"Still," Lindsay drawled, "with multiple, high-profile victims
multiple police agencies involved, you'd think something would
leaked out by now."
"The victims all have powerful, well-connected friends," Scully
reminded the group.
nodded. "Also, in point of fact, much of the 'lower tier'
material has leaked
they are thought to be, how you say... the manipulations?"
"Everything I've seen in the files does look like it could have been
PhotoShopped," Lindsay added.
"Kinda clever," Veronica said. "Implausible
The victims and their friends get to keep things quiet, and the
gets an added revenue stream from their crimes, on top of what
getting through their 'upper tier' arrangements.
Not me! Never
happened! This stuff is fake!' Clever."
"In any case," Claudia said, grimly, "what I show you later is
real. I believe it is the first 'upper tier' material ever
tapped a key and changed the
time, 'Lady Andra' was walking in the midst of a city crowd, and
talking on her cell phone. "Even when the paparazzi are present and
surveillance cameras are covering the area,"
Claudia lectured, "the
abductions always seem to happen as if by the magic, and such
case with the Lady Cargill. She was near her flat in
hailed the cab, and was not seen again for three days."
"Wait," Gracie objected. "Surveillance. Why
didn't they use London's famous street cameras to trace the
At the very least, that should have narrowed the search area."
Claudia shook her head. "Sadly, Signorina Cargill was not missed for many
hours, and by that time, her
kidnappers had too great of a lead."
"What did they do to her?" Veronica asked, quietly.
There was an uneasy pause while Claudia opened her briefcase and
out a thick folder. "This is the new material I spoke of,"
began distributing glossy color photographs. All showed a
very naked and helplessly bound Andromeda Cargill in various
The investigators gazed at the photos with grim expressions, and
them around the table.
"As you can see," Claudia lectured, "she was bound in various
and whipped with the multi-tail floggers, tormented with what is
the Wartenburg Wheel..." She pointed at a photograph of a
spur-like wheel with needle-sharp points and mounted on a
It was being
rolled across one of Lady Andra's naked breasts by a gloved
"They also used the feathers
and the artist's brushes to tickle the feet, and several
uh... further torment the young lady. At night, she was
a straitjacket and confined in a small cage."
"Bastards!" Lindsay whispered under her breath.
Scully pointed to the photo in her hand. It was a closeup
Andromeda's face. She was gagged with a wad of white linen
in place by a narrowly folded scarf, and was peering through a
small gap in a wall of bricks. "And this?"
Claudia sighed. "After two days,
they chained her in the back of a small alcove in a dark
say... walled her up?"
Horrified silence hung in the air.
"She was terrified, of course," Claudia continued, after several
"She thought she was being entombed... alive," Veronica gasped.
"Yes," Claudia confirmed. "But Bondarella made sure she
found, posting instructions to multiple interested parties, so
Cargill was rescued after only a few hours in her... tomb."
"It's part of her profile," Scully muttered. "She delights
tormenting and frightening her victims, but she's always very
to make sure they are not physically harmed and takes elaborate
"Lady Cargill is unharmed,"
confirmed, "and seems to have completely recovered from her
"One tough cookie," Veronica nodded, gazing at a photo of the
question having her feet tickled by a camel hair brush.
strapped down on some sort of padded table, with her ankles
locked in a
pair of heavy stocks. She was struggling with all her
and straining against the straps, and her body was flushed and
with sweat. Her eyes were wide, tears were streaming down
face, and she was screaming into the leather gag covering her
mouth. Veronica shuddered and tossed the photo across the
returning it to Claudia.
"All of these are obviously real," Lindsay note, indicating the
in her hand, "and not manipulations."
"'Upper tier' material, like I say," Claudia confirmed.
this is from a rented office in London. It would appear
reached the location just as the occupants fled, and these
laptop they left behind."
"The Metropolitan Police Computer Crime Unit examined the
Scully added. "They found nothing directly actionable
on the Lady Cargill case, but they did find links suggesting
arrangements for travel to the U.S."
"Hence the formation of this task force," Lindsay said.
Scully nodded, then turned to Gracie. "Your nuggets from
Gracie cleared her throat. "I suppose you could call them
that." She lifted her notepad and tapped a folder.
on international phone intercepts, we have a list of local
locations that may, and I stress may,
information recovered from the London laptop."
"I don't suppose they'd be willing to share the full details of
everything they've discovered," Lindsay drawled.
Gracie snorted in disgust. "Need to know, nondisclosure of
means and methods, don't ask and don't tell the Senate oversight
committee... that sort of thing. Remember how they work,
data about things they probably don't fully understand, and
doing it in
they don't want us to understand."
"Also," Scully added, "the Bondarella case is very low on the
Homeland Security's priorities, like all non-political law
matters. Between the special handling being afforded
victims and the lack of cooperation between the different
involved—" She paused to smile at Claudia. "No
"None taken" Claudia smiled back. "I also am frustrated by
way the case is treated by INTERPOL and the others."
"Anyway," Scully continued, "we're lucky to get any sort of a
"It's all C.Y.A.," Veronica huffed. "If a celeb does get snatched, and
it leaks, and the
learns the higher-ups knew it might happen and
did nothing? That's why we're here, to cover their
asses... and to take
fall if we fail."
"It's sad to see such cynicism in one so young," Lindsay
"So," Megan said, "there's reason to believe Bondarella is
stalking a target on this side of the pond... and all we have to
discover who that is, prevent the kidnapping, and apprehend a
criminal mastermind who has eluded the best investigative minds
Europe for nearly a decade."
Scully nodded. "That about sums it up."
"Piece of cake!" Veronica said, brightly.
"Are you volunteering to make a run to the bakery, Rookie?"
a dry manner.
"No," Veronica smiled, "I was volunteering to help with the
"Duly noted," Scully purred, then nodded to Claudia.
"Thank you, Signorina.
addressed her team, as a whole.
"Let's get to work. We have a kidnapper to catch."