Honeysuckle Weeks as Samantha Stewart SAM's WAR
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery
 by Van ©2006


Chapter 3
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Sam tugged on her manacles for what was probably the hundredth time since her captors' departure.  The thick, wide, iron bands remained solidly locked.  They were rather tight, and had obviously been crafted to restrain female wrists, but at least the insides and edges were smooth and didn't abrade her skin.  The shackles imprisoning her ankles were similar.

All of the iron hardware; her own chains; Lady Jane's standing cage; the hinges, hasps, and locks of the stocks confining Marion's feet; all looked to be hand forged and very old, but Sam knew looks could be deceiving.  There had been a period during Victoria's reign when it had been all the rage for the landed gentry to outfit their country estates with "authentic" Medieval dungeons, fully stocked with "historically correct" chains and torture devices.  It was a darker fringe of the Romantic craze, of course, but in the case of the d'Arcy's, Sam suspected it was a long-standing family tradition that had come back into fashion.

Yes, this might have been some Victorian designer's idea of a "picturesque" Medieval torture chamber, but it was also fully functional.  By the light of the blazing torches set in wall brackets around the room, Sam could see...
There were other sinister devices and equipment in the chamber as well, all of whose purpose and operation Sam very much hoped to remain in ignorance.  Cheery place, Sam thought, mustering her courage.  She tugged on her manacles again.  Her feet were starting to ache a little, from the tip-toe pose enforced by the shortness of the overhead chain.   Why did Zaza have to be so unkind?  But then, in this place, unkindness fairly oozed from the very walls.  The gag was making her jaw ache as well.

Lady Jane was standing in her dreadful cage, unmoving, staring into space, a haunted look in her eyes.  Sam harboured no affection for the rude, aristocratic redhead, but she could and did feel pity.  She noted that the knickers Lady Jane had been wearing earlier were now missing, although her flimsy sleeping costume was otherwise intact.   Where could they have gone? Sam wondered, then noted a tiny fringe of silk protruding from under the iron band locked across Lady Jane's mouth.  They stuffed them in her mouth!  Sam shuddered in her bonds.  The perverted fiends!

Marion, unlike the occupant of the cage, was struggling furiously with her bonds.  She might be reclined on a bed of cushions, but with her feet locked in those stocks, her toes splayed and tied with string, her wrists tied behind her back, and an elaborate harness of rope pinning her arms to her sides, she was hardly comfortable.  Her blue eyes flashed in the torch light and her long, dark locks shook in a tousled mass as she bucked and writhed.  She met Sam's gaze, now and again, and forced a determined smile past her gag; but clearly, most of her attention was focused on finding a weakness in her bonds.

Sam sighed, then, spurred by Marion's example, tugged on her manacles yet again.  At least she's got rope to work against, she though, and not cold iron.

Just then, the captives heard the sound of the door being unlocked.  Simultaneously, the hatch in the door opened, and they beheld Marie's smiling face.  The hatch snapped closed, the main bolt was thrown, and the door opened.

The Countess strolled across the threshold.  She was wearing the same black dress, dark hose, black high heel shoes, and superior expression as before.

Zaza and Marie followed, still in their maid's uniforms.  Both were burdened with bundles of black leather... things.  They dropped their loads near Marion's prostrate form and the gleaming leather bounced in a jingle of rattling buckles and straps.

"Get her ready," the Countess ordered, and the Maids began releasing Marion from the stocks.  Marie produced a penknife, severed the cords stretching the prisoner's toes, then the cords binding the toes themselves.  Zaza produced a key, paused while Marie completed her work, then unlocked the padlock securing the stocks.

Meanwhile, the Countess had made a quick inspection of Lady Jane's cage, pausing to tweak the red-head's left nipple through the gossamer coverage of her silk nightie and robe.  Lady Jane made no reaction, other than to wince slightly when her fellow aristocrat perpetrated the outrage upon her person.

Next, the Countess strolled towards Sam, a gloating smile curling her lips.  Sam did her best not to betray her fear, but it was impossible not to flinch in her bonds when the Countess passed behind her, turned, and embraced her from behind, using her black-gloved hands to cup Sam's breasts!

"Just look at her in her cage," the Countess purred, her gloating lips less than an inch from Sam's left ear.  "I've read the family journals," she explained.  "Her father and mother had that thing built for her when she was younger that you are, Driver Stewart.  Apparently, she was quite the troublesome youth, at least as far as her elders were concerned."  The Countess gave each of Sam's breasts a gentle squeeze, then let her hands wander over her tummy, waist, and hips.  "They would keep her locked in that thing for hours and hours," the Countess whispered, "only letting her out at night so she could be chained in one of the dungeon cells.  I believe the record was something like five days.  Finally, they threatened to dangle her from a hook in one of the alcoves in the family crypt, cage and all, and wall her up, if she didn't start behaving herself."

Sam shivered and tugged on her bonds, her bosom heaving as she struggled to ignore the Countess' outrageous assault on her body.

"Obviously, she saw the error of her ways," the Countess continued, "as she's here, and not a desiccated corpse, there."  Her hands continued their gentle wandering, gliding towards Sam's most private parts.

This was too much!  Sam mewled an angry complaint, and butted her head against the Countess'.  Their skulls connected with a dull crack.

The Countess released her, and took a step back.  "Why, you little wildcat," she growled, then stepped to the front, an angry scowl on her face.  "I was going to have Zaza strap you to one of the beds in the servant's wing, so you could have a nice nap while you wait for your eventual rescue."  She grabbed a handful of Sam's hair and took a savage grip.  "But now, I think your disposition will be... less pleasant."

Sam winced at the pain in her scalp, but continued to glare her open defiance.

The Countess glared back, but then her grip and expression softened.  "Such spirit.  Hmm... Zaza."

"Oui, madame?"  

The stocks were open, and the maids were hauling Marion to her bare feet.

"Before we leave,' the Countess instructed.  "I'd like you to pose Driver Stewart for me, in the same manner as you did Marie, last week.  We'll have hours to wait before the first rendezvous, and I'm feeling... artistic."

Sam looked from the Countess to the maids, a puzzled expression on her gagged face.  Pose?  The Countess' gloating smile had returned.  Zaza's smile was disturbingly gleeful, and worst of all, Marie was gazing at her with unmistakable sympathy.  I have a bad feeling about this, Sam thought.

The Countess released Sam's hair, turned to face Marion and the maids, and nodded towards the leather items piled at their feet.  "Continue!"
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—3
Sam watched as Zaza held Marion by the hair and Marie untied the rope pinning the American's arms.  Marion continued to struggle with great energy, twisting and turning as the ropes came free.  She tried to kick, and Zaza seized the offending ankle.  Marion tottered on one leg, a pained expression on her gagged face as Zaza twisted her ankle with one hand and her hair with the other.

"Zhe mademoiselle is full of fight," Zaza said, "but she will stop, an' allow Zaza to dress her for zhe journey, or Zaza and Marie take turns with zhe whip until she zettle down, non?"

Marion rolled her eyes, then grunted through her gag.

Zaza loosened her grip on Marion's hair.  "Mademoiselle will be good?"

Marion nodded, as best she could, and Zaza released her ankle.

The Countess watched without comment.  Lady Jane continued staring into space, ignoring all present.  Sam tugged on her inescapable manacles, in frustration.

Marion's wrists remained bound behind her back, and, of course, she was still gagged.  Marie ripped her negligée and robe from her body with callous indifference, then reached for an item from the piled leather.  It was a corset, and Marie wrapped it around the naked prisoner's waist and began fumbling with the laces.  Her efforts were complicated by the presence of Marion's arms and bound wrists.

"Silly, girl," the Countess scolded, addressing Marie.  "Take her to the whipping post and do a proper job."

"Yes, ma'am," Marie answered.

Marion was dragged to the post, and her wrists untied.  Gripping her hair with her left hand and pinning her elbows together behind her back, Zaza gave her little chance to resist.  Coordinating with her fellow maid, Marie lifted Marion's wrists, one by one, and locked them in the waiting manacles.

Marion tugged on her new bonds, then sighed and stopped struggling.

Marie tightened the corset's laces with practised skill.  The sides met as the laces slithered through the rows of grommets.  As a consequence, Marion's waist was reduced by several inches.

Sam had never seen anything like the gleaming black corset.  It had half-moon shelves that cupped the undersides of Marion's breasts, causing them to bulge, obscenely.  Numerous stiff stays stitched in vertical pockets reinforced its shape, and there were rings and leather loops riveted at several locations.  How can she breath? Sam wondered, as Marie finished tying the laces.

A leather body-harness was next.  It dropped over Marion's head and settled on her shoulders, its many narrow straps draped around the captive's torso in a messy tangle. The maids quickly sorted things out.  Several of the horizontal straps passed through loops in the corset before they were buckled tight, and it became clear the corset and harness were part of a system of restraint.  This was confirmed as the maids added a stiff collar, then freed the captive's wrists, one at a time, and fitted her with leather sleeves that covered her hands in mittens and encased her arms nearly to the the armpits.  Finally, they added thigh-length boots.

The collar had stays, like the corset, and more or less immobilized Marion's neck and head.  It buckled to the upper harness by means of several thin, lateral straps.

The sleeves incorporated stiff cuffs that buckled around Marion's wrists, forearms, and upper arms.  They kept her arms folded behind her back, and more straps secured her forearms together, her upper arms to the harness, and the mittens to the sides of the corset.

The boots were equally restrictive.  From the way Marion stood, Sam could tell they were stiff and uncomfortable, and their heels were ridiculously high.  The American could barely bend her knees, and straps around her upper thighs and knees, passing from boot to boot, hobbled her steps.  Laces ran up each boot's entire length, from ankle to thigh.  Finally, like absurd garters, thin straps were buckled from the boot tops to the bottom of the corset and the thigh straps of the harness.

Marion struggled valiantly throughout her change of costume, but, again, the maids demonstrated their skill and experience as jailers.  Captive and captors were breathing heavily and glowing profusely by the end of the process, but the outcome had never been in question.

Sam stared in amazement!  It was something she'd never even dreamed existed—an elaborate and expensive leather costume explicitly made for no other purpose than to restrain and humiliate a human being!

"That will do for now," the Countess said.  "Now, you may deal with our English Rose."

The maids smiled, and walked towards Sam.
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—3
Zaza made a side trip to select a length of thin rope from the stand of whips, then stepped behind Sam.  Marie reached up and released her left manacle, then wrenched her hand down and held it against the small of her back.  Zaza released the right manacle and pulled the right hand down as well, then rope tightened around her crossed wrists.

Sam didn't bother to resist.  What was the point?  More bands of rope were tightened and cinched.  Zaza was doing the work, with Marie holding her forearms in case she changed her mind and started struggling.  Several knots were tied, and Zaza returned to the rack for more rope.

Meanwhile, Marie knelt and released Sam's ankles from their shackles.

The Countess had been admiring Marion's leather costume, running her hands over the corset and checking the tightness of the multitude of buckles.  She turned at the sound of the clattering chains.  "No, you stupid girl!" she scolded Marie.  "Have I taught you nothing?  Not both ankles."

Sam's gaze locked with Marion's—time seemed to stand still—then things happened very quickly.

Despite her hobbles, Marion managed to plant a booted ankle between the Countess' feet and give her a shove.  The Countess fell with a shriek, and landed on top of Marie.  Sam padded to the nearly closed door, awkwardly grabbed the edge with her bound hands, and pulled it far enough open for her to slip through.  Zaza lunged forward and grabbed a handful of Sam's robe and negligée; but Marion managed to trip her as well, then threw herself on top of the Countess and both maids.

There was a loud rip—and Sam found herself in the dark corridor, her hands tightly bound behind her back, a gag stuffed in her mouth and tied between her teeth—and stark naked!
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—3
No time for embarrassment!  No time to struggle against her bonds!  Sam pattered down the dark hallway, the way she'd originally come.  The sound of much cursing and scrambling from the torture chamber faded quickly, as did the feeble light, once she passed the candle still flickering in its alcove.

She came to the stairs that led up to the secret door into the library, paused for a second, then ran into the dark corridor to its left.  After several blind paces, she slowed to a cautious walk, not wanting to blunder into a wall in the total darkness.  Her prudence was rewarded when her naked body encountered cold stone.  She turned to the left, a random choice, and continued forward.

Sam could hear the sounds of pursuit, heels clicking on the stone floor, and cursing in French and English.  She froze in place, hoping the maids might pass her by in the dark.  They came closer and closer, then their sound suddenly faded.

They took the stairs to the library! Sam reasoned, and started forward again, as quickly as she dared.  She became aware of a glimmer, far ahead.  As her eyes continued to adapt to the dark, she began to make sense of her surroundings.  Another candle was flickering in another alcove, and doorways loomed on both sides.

Sam passed an open door and looked inside.  The room beyond was small, no more than ten feet square, with heavy chains attached to an iron ring solidly embedded in the far wall.  A dungeon cell!  Sam shuddered and hurried along.

She passed another set of stairs leading upwards, then another.  She paused, turned, and looked back the way she had come.  There was no sign of immediate pursuit, but that could change at any second.  This avenue of dungeons and torture chambers had to end somewhere, and if it was a dead end, she would have walked into a trap.  Better to explore one of the stairways, in hope of finding a way back into the manor, something sharp with which to free herself, and some clothes!

Sam glanced at the floor.  There were numerous sets of tracks in the dust, but most were from women's shoes, and her own bare-foot tracks were clearly visible.  It wouldn't take a Red Indian to follow them to their maker.  She carefully backed in her tracks to the last set of stairs she'd passed, then leaped to the side, landing on the first step.  It might not confuse her pursuers for long, but it was all she could think of to slow them down.

Once again in the dark, Sam pattered up several steps, then slowed her pace.  She wrenched her bound hands to the side, and let her fingers brush against the cold stones as she climbed what had turned out to be a spiral staircase.  The treads were steep and the way narrow.  She climbed, and climbed, carefully feeling for each new step with her toes, never letting her fingers leave the stones of the outside wall.  It wouldn't do to miss a doorway or landing by keeping too close to the inside pillar.

The air was somewhat frigid, and despite the exercise of the climb, Sam could feel goose flesh on her arms and flanks, and her nipples were embarrassingly rigid.  If not trapped by her gag, she was convinced her breath would be visible... but for the total darkness, of course.

Sam continued to climb.  By her reckoning, she was well past the manor's first floor, and yet the stairs continued.  Was she climbing into a tower?

Finally, she put her foot forward and encountered no higher step.  She felt around cautiously with her right foot, and discovered she had finally reached a landing.  It's about time!  She took a moment to rest, shivering in the cold, then began a cautious exploration of her surroundings.

The landing was little more than the extended threshold of a wooden door.  She groped for the handle, and discovered an antique lock with the key inserted.  It took three complete turns to draw the bolt.  She had to slide a second, larger bolt by hand, and the door opened.

The room beyond was circular and large, perhaps thirty feet in diameter.  It had a single tall, narrow, and deep window, like an archer's slit, and it was heavily barred.  It was also glazed, and through the thick, ancient glass, the rays of dawn were entering the chamber.  The storm appeared to have passed.

The room was utterly empty and featureless, other than the door—nothing Sam could use to cut her wrist bonds—nothing whatsoever.  The ceiling was far overhead, the lowest rafters twelve or fifteen feet over her head.  She stepped to the centre of the room, and found an iron ring set in the floor.  This is also a cell, she reasoned.

Sam shook the hair from her face.  The pink hair ribbon had finally surrendered its task at some point, and her auburn curls were a tousled mass.   Well, she mused, nothing for it but to grope my way back down to the dungeons and try again.  Surly there's a headsman's axe or something similar in one of those chambers, something I can use to attack these ropes.  She turned to begin retracing her steps—and her blood froze.

The Countess was standing in the doorway, her high heeled shoes in her right hand, and several neat coils of rope in her left.

"Driver Stewart," she purred, an evil smile on her face.  "I'll teach you to put me to such trouble."
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—3
The Countess wasted no time.  She stepped into her shoes, walked into the room, and dropped all of the rope in the centre but one coil.  Sam lunged for the door, but the Countess grabbed her by the hair.  Soon, Sam found herself on her knees and staring at the floor, with her head trapped between the Countess' thighs.  She grunted through her gag as rope tightened around her elbows.  They were pulled together until they nearly met.  Several more loops followed, then the rope was cinched and tied off.

Next, Sam was bound at the ankles and knees.  More rope pinned her arms to her sides, yoked her shoulders, and criss-crossed between her breasts.  The Countess rolled her increasingly more helpless body as she worked.  Sam's struggles became more and more feeble, and were eventually reduced to fluttering fingers and weak, pathetic squirms.  Her knees were squashed against her breasts and her heels against her derrière, held there by tight ropes looped and cinched around her legs, arms, and torso.  The Countess added additional and totally unnecessary rope to link her various bonds, making them even tighter.

"There," she said finally, leaving Sam in a tight, kneeling tuck, "that should hold you.  You might have escaped Lady Jane's ropes and you are fast on your pretty little feet, but I don't think you'll be going on any more unguided tours of the manor."  She then untied Sam's gag and stepped away.

Sam flexed her aching jaw and forced the stuffing from her mouth with her tongue.  She shook the hair from her eyes, lifted her chin, and found the Countess leaning against the far wall.  The gloating aristocrat pulled a silver case from the pocket of her jacket and extracted a long, thin, dark brown cigarette.  She then produced a silver lighter, lit the cigarette, pocketed the case and lighter, and took a deep puff.

Sam's nose wrinkled.  Whatever the Countess was smoking, it smelled dreadful, more like burning spices than tobacco.  Sam didn't smoke much, herself.  Her father would be very disappointed if she did, and given the addictive nature of tobacco and the way it clung to one's clothing and hair, it would be a difficult "evil habit" to hide during trips home.

"I'd offer you one," the Countess said, between puffs, "but Turkish cigarillos are increasingly difficult to obtain, even from the black market."

"You'll never get away with this," Sam growled, squirming in her bonds.

The Countess smiled.  "So... no small talk?  Very well.  Tell me who you work for and I'll ease your situation.  Continue to be obstinate, and I'll restore your gag... lock this door... and not return to this tower for a month."

Sam swallowed nervously.  Seconds passed, in which the Countess continued smoking.  "Do you want me to lie?" Sam said, finally.  "I'm an MTC volunteer driver, seconded to the Hastings police."

This time the Countess let the silence hang in the dreary chamber.  Outside, a cloud broke or the sun finally peeked above the horizon, and direct yellow light entered the tower, shining on the Countess like a spotlight with a narrow, vertical filter.  The smoke of her cigarillo made the shaft clearly visible.  "All right, I believe you... or more precisely... I don't care enough to pursue the matter further."  She snubbed out her cigarillo on the wall and let it drop to the floor.  "Don't worry, I've decided to leave you where you will be found.  You might die of embarrassment, but not of thirst or exposure."

The Countess stepped forward, retrieved her final coil of rope, and threaded it through the ring set in the floor.  She then lifted Sam's helpless body over the ring, and began threading the rope through her other bonds and pulling out the slack.

"How can you be so cruel?" Sam muttered.

The Countess was tying knots and tightening Sam's bonds even further, even looping and binding her big toes.  "Many long years of practice," she answered, then tied a final knot.  She walked around her bundled victim, grabbed a handful of Sam's hair and lifted her head, then stuffed the wadded cloth back in her mouth.  The cleaving cloth was next.  It was pulled between Sam's teeth, forcing the wad further back into her mouth, and was savagely knotted at the nape of her neck.

Sam lifted her gagged head and watched the Countess' high heeled shoes click to the open door.

"The roads are still too wet for us to depart... so I think I'll take a catnap," the Countess announced.  "Zaza and Marie will be up to move you down to the studio in a while.  I suggest you cooperate.  Marie has already earned substantial punishment for her incompetence and is no doubt in a very foul mood.  And I doubt if Zaza will do much to protect you if Marie decides to be vindictive."

The door closed, the main bolt slid home with a snick, the lock was secured with three ratcheting turns of the key, and Sam was alone—bound in a tight foetal tuck, her knees, shins, and ankles resting on the cold floor.  The Countess' final rope, the one threaded through the floor ring and cinched to her bonds at several points, wouldn't even let her roll onto her side.  Her fingers fluttered, but they encountered nothing but air.

The shaft of sunlight was getting narrower and narrower... then was gone all together.  The chamber was still lit by indirect light, and was actually quite bright, especially in comparison to the permanent night of the dungeons below.

Sam squirmed weakly in her bonds, refusing to surrender to despair.  I hope someone in Hastings has begun wondering when good ol' Sam will be returning from her little driving errand, she thought.

Poor Sam!

 An artist's interpretation of Sam's tower predicament by   3may5sq1

The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—3

Chapter 2
Chapter 4