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


Chapter 5

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The Countess flipped the page on her sketchbook and began a third drawing.  Sam remained exactly as she'd been placed, of course.  That was the point of the "modelling armature", after all—to hold her completely immobilized in the pose of the Countess' choosing.  The naked captive continued staring straight ahead, focusing on nothing, angry and humiliated.

Minutes passed, then Sam heard the sound of approaching footsteps.  Whoever it was, they were using an entrance out of her rather limited field of vision.  She noticed the Countess lift her gaze towards the sound, and the foreigner's lips curled into a truly evil smile.  Then, Zaza, Marie, and Marion stepped into view, centre-stage between herself and the Countess.

Zaza was dressed in a plain black dress, much more conservative than the rather scandalous maid's uniform she had been wearing earlier.  Marie, however, was un-dressed, wearing only bra, knickers, garter belt, hose, and high heels.

The Countess frowned.  "Marie?" she hissed, warning in her voice.

"I don't want to rip me new uniform," Marie explained, "in case things get... strenuous.  It's the only one we got."

The Countess resumed her sketching.  "The first sensible thing you've done in days," she muttered.  "Continue."

Poor Marion was dressed and restrained—one in the same, as her clothing were her restraints—as she had been before.  Black leather thigh-boots, corset, mitten-sleeves, collar, and a tight body-harness of straps embraced her petite form.  Her encased hands and arms were folded behind her back.  And in the stiff boots, with their precariously high heels and knee-hobbling straps, she could do little more than stamp her feet and stutter-step.  She was still gagged with a cloth stuffed in her mouth and held there by a tight, cleaving cloth, but that didn't prevent her from directing a continuous stream of well-muffled (and no doubt very rude) remarks towards her captors.

Sam sighed through her own gag, and pulled weakly on the straps pinning her to the armature.  She's certainly a fighter, she thought, I'll give her that.

Marie had a handful of Marion's hair, controlling her feeble struggles.  Zaza was encumbered by a double armload of bulky, neatly folded garments.  She set the stack down on a chair, then draped the top bundle across the chair back.  It appeared to be a black veil framed by stiff panels of white cloth.  She then lifted the remaining bundle, let it fall open, and held it up.  It was a robe-like, black dress.

Sam's eyes popped wide.  The entire costume was a Catholic nun's habit!  She watched as the maids dressed Marion in the voluminous frock.  The American captive squirmed and struggled, of course, but could do nothing to impede the process in any meaningful way.

"The irony is delicious," the Countess remarked.  "Our Miss Ravenwood as a chaste bride of Christ?"

Fire in her eyes, Marion lunged towards the gloating Countess and tried her best to deliver a vengeful kick with her right boot, but the strap hobbling her knees, and the maids, defeated her effort.  The toe of her boot missed by more than a foot.  Zaza knelt and tightened a leather strap around Marion's ankles, preventing further such rebellion.

Marie tightened her grip on Marion's head while Zaza reached into the pocket of her dress.  The French maid started doing something to Marion's right ear, but her hands and body blocked Sam's view.

"Beeswax plugs," the Countess explained, for Sam's benefit.

Marion's left ear was sealed as well, then Zaza tightened her gag, took a rolled bandage from her pocket, and began wrapping it around Marion's lower face.

The captive tried to toss her head and resist, but Marie tightened her grip even further and gave her head a warning shake.  "None of that, Yank," the English maid warned.  "Hold still, or I'll clobber yer good."

"She cannot hear you," Zaza reminded her confederate.  "Not to worry.  I know how to reason with mademoiselle."  The now familiar evil smile curling her lips, she reached out and pinched Marion's nostrils closed!

Marion began squirming and twisting in earnest, her boot soles scraping and sliding on the tiles as she fought her bonds.  Quiet, mewling moans accompanied her struggles.  Marie's free hand slid over Marion's gagged and bandaged mouth, tightened, and the moans ceased.

"Zaza, please step to the side," the Countess purred.  "You're blocking Driver Stewart's view.

"Oh, how thoughtless of me, Madame!" Zaza responded, and took the requested step.

Now Sam could see Marion's wide, desperate eyes, and the bright red flush of her cheeks above the gag, bandages, and Marie's hand.

Sam forced a moan of her own past her gag, and jerked on her bonds.

"Don't worry, Driver Stewart," the Countess said.  "Zaza has perfect timing, and this is one of her favourite games."

"Madame, you make me blush," Zaza cooed, then released her grip.  Marie released her hand-gag as well.

Marion panted through flaring nostrils and her bosom heaved, visible even under the habit.

Zaza, still smiling, shook a warning finger in Marion's flushed face.  The prisoner blinked, then nodded her head, as much as Marie's grip would allow.  "Mademoiselle and I have reached zhe understanding," she announced, and resumed wrapping the bandage.  Cotton pads were placed over Marion's eyes and cotton wool stuffed into her ears, reinforcing the beeswax plugs.  More bandages were used until the captive's head was completely covered, as thoroughly as the cranium of an Egyptian mummy.  All that broke the smooth surface of the linen wrappings was a tent-like area over her nostrils, and Marion's hair, gathered in a loose ponytail in the back.

The wimple was next.  The cowl was dropped over Marion's head and laced in the back, under the veil.  Sam had no idea how the elements of a regular nun's habit were worn, but she strongly suspected this particular wimple was a little more enthusiastic with the laces than most.  She was sure Marion would find it impossible to dislodge the head covering, especially with the added restriction of the leather collar she was already wearing.

Zaza straightened the drape of the veil, and Marion was now a fully costumed nun, her bonds completely hidden, her bandaged face obscured by the drooping veil.

"Driver Stewart," the Countess said, "allow me to introduce Sister Mary Corbeaubois.  In the event that we encounter a military roadblock, we have a most entertaining and tragic story for the soldiers on guard."  She closed her sketchbook, stood, and stepped forward.  "You see, Sister Mary is a resistance fighter, recently rescued by our gallant Commandos from occupied France.  I'm afraid she's been horribly injured.  In fact, a Nazi soldier broke her jaw with his rifle butt.  We're taking her to Swansea, to rendezvous with the captain of a certain fishing boat, and then on to Ireland, so she can convalesce in one of her order's convents."  Her eyes focused on Marie.  "Finish getting dressed, and be quick about it."

Marie curtsied and left the room.  Marion remained in place, squirming and twisting in her bonds, but without any great enthusiasm.  Zaza kept a steadying hand on the "nun's" shoulder.

The Countess lifted the edge of Marion's veil.  The only thing Sam could see was a mass of neat, white bandages.  "Poor Sister Mary," The Countess continued, in a mocking voice, then let the veil drop.  She returned to her chair, retrieved her sketchpad and pencil box, and handed them to Zaza.  "Place these in one of the secret vaults," she ordered, "then help Marie.  We're otherwise prepared to depart?"

"Oui, Madame," Zaza responded, "all ees in readiness."  She curtsied, gave Marion's deaf, dumb, blind, and helpless form a last, lingering look... then left the room.

The Countess carried over a chair, placed it behind Marion, then put her hands on her shoulders and forced her down.  Marion forced a patheticly well-muffled squawk past her gag as she plopped into the chair.  "Stay!" the Countess ordered, knowing, of course, that Marion could hear nothing.  She smiled and walked towards Sam.

Sam's heart was pounding.  She tried not to be frightened, but the Countess' smile was... disturbing.
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—5
Sam closed her eyes as the Countess' hands, once again, touched her helpless body.  One slid down her back and caressed her left butt cheek.  The other gave her right breast a gentle squeeze, then slid to the left and gave that breast a squeeze as well.

"Such smooth skin," the Countess purred, her lips an inch from Sam's left ear.

Sam shuddered and moaned through her gag.  Her traitorous nipples were becoming stiff, engorged, and sensitive, responding to her tormentor's lambent touch.

"I have never considered freckles to be especially attractive," the Countess continued, "and here I have three captives in my power, all with fair complexions prone to such... dappling."

Sam bucked and twisted in her bonds as one hand slid between her buttocks and began a gentle caress, and the other travelled down and pressed her tummy, between her navel and the upper margin of her pubic bush.  Sam's head was pounding, and she realized she was holding her breath.  She exhaled in a piteous moan, then quivered as her captor's hands continued to tease her body.

"Lady Jane, with her copper-red hair and peachy-pink, milky skin," the Countess whispered, "Marion with the delicious contrast of her black hair and ivory colouring….  And you, Driver Stewart, the very picture of the rosy-cheeked English lass, with your auburn hair and blushing cheeks..."

Sam continued shuddering and moving under the Countess' touch.  Not again!  Please, not again!

"Yes, I find myself with an embarrassment of freckled beauty.  I would dearly love to keep you all and... experiment.  Tie Lady Jane under the sun, day after day, until she is as freckled as an Irish farm wife... then lock her in a dark dungeon until she is as pale and unblemished as a statue of white marble.  And 'Sister Mary'..."  She nodded towards Marion's helpless form.  "...I'd do the same for her.  My brave, English Rose, on the other hand..."

Sam moaned through her gag.  The Countess' hands continued working their magic, and she was helpless to resist.

"I would dress you in medieval gowns and tunics, and chain you in the tower, only bringing you down to play with you in the torture chambers below, or for parties.  I have a few select friends who... appreciate such diversions, you see."  The Countess slowed the pace of her caressing massage.  "You would be my perfect,  Modern Pre-Raphaelite maiden—a Burne-Jones or Waterhouse canvas, sprung to life.  Such a pity."

The Countess' hands left Sam's flushed body, and she walked over to stand beside Marion's chair.

Nostrils flaring, Sam glared at the gloating Countess, grateful she hadn't been forced to a second climax; but she was also—dare she even think it—frustrated?

"Yes, I only get to take Marion," the Countess sighed, "and she will be mine only for a while."

Just then, the maids returned, and once again Sam's eyes popped wide in surprise.
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—5
Zaza had added an apron and veil-like scarf to her costume, both of grey linen.  She was a novice, a nun-in-training.  The leering, maniacal grin on her face somewhat spoiled the effect, but Sam knew the French hussy was enough of an actress to pull off the masquerade.

Marie, on the other hand, was wearing Sam's uniform!  An angry growl escaped Sam's gag, and all three of her captors laughed.  Marie's high heel shoes and stockings were hardly standard issue, but from skirt hem to cap she was the very picture of an MTC volunteer.

Zaza stepped to the Countess's side and slid something over her mistress' hand and left jacket sleeve, to her upper arm.  It was a white armband emblazoned with a red cross.  "Does everyone have their papers?" the Countess inquired, and the maids nodded.  The Countess focused on Marie.  "...the papers appropriate for their current role?"

Marie blushed, reached into the pocket of her—of Sam's uniform—and produced Sam's ration book, driving licence, etc.

"Excellent," the Countess said, then turned to face Sam.  "Novice Zaza will be caring for poor, injured 'Sister Mary'..."  Zaza grinned her now all-too-familiar evil grin, and curtsied.  "...'Driver Stewart' will be behind the wheel of the Police Wolseley you so thoughtfully provided..."  Marie touched her cap in a mocking, rather slovenly salute.  The Countess glanced at her armband, then reached into her jacket pocket and produced a slender, oxblood leather wallet embossed with a white cross.  "...and as a Swiss national and representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, I'm along to observe."

The Countess pocketed her papers, then waved towards the door.  Zaza and Marie hauled Marion to her feet, Zaza knelt to release the prisoner's ankle strap, then they shepherded her from the room.  "Well, this is goodbye, Driver Stewart," the Countess purred, "or Agent Stewart, or whoever and whatever you really are."  She walked forward and cupped Sam's breasts.

Sam glared at her tormentor and shuddered at the gentle, unwelcome touch.

"I instructed Marie to turn up the heat to this room, so you should be comfortable in case you aren't rescued until tomorrow, or even later, for as long as the coal in the hopper lasts."  Her fingers tightened on Sam's nipples, and she gave them a soft, teasing pinch.  "You may be a little too warm when the afternoon sun arrives, but it's better to sweat a little during the day than shiver through the night, don't you agree?"

She released Sam's nipples, spun on her heel, and walked to the door.  She paused in the doorway, a gloating smile on her beautiful face.  "I should have let Marie use the clips and weights," she sighed—then turned and was gone.
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—5
Sam listened for the Wolseley's engine, but she was on the wrong side of the house.  The helpless, pinioned prisoner never received any confirmation that her captors, taking their other captive with them, had indeed abandoned her to her fate.

Clouds passed over the sun—the sunlight returned—and time passed.

One hour became two.

Sam hung in her bonds, helpless to make more than the occasional squirming attempt to find some comfort for her aching muscles.  The butter-soft leather straps securing her to the poles of the modelling armature remained tight and exactly as they had been placed by the maids.  They flexed a little when she fought their implacable grip, but retained their firm hold.

Sam supposed such support was better than having to use her strength to maintain her posture, but not being able to move more than a fraction of an inch in any direction was becoming an ordeal.

And what of poor Marion?  Cruelly bound in tight leather, gagged, deaf and blind, helpless and on her way to the Germans?  What was the Countess' plan—to rendezvous with a U-boat at the coast, or would they be meeting a fishing boat, as the Countess said?  And why did the Nazis want Marion so badly?  What secret had the Countess been trying to force her to divulge?

Tears welled in Sam's eyes.  I'm sorry I couldn't save you, Marion, she thought.  I'm sorry.

Suddenly, Sam heard a shouting male voice.  It was coming from the outside, and was muffled by the glass of the conservatory wall.  "Blimey!  Here!  She's in here!"
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—5
Rescue was at hand!  Sam's heart fluttered and she erupted into tears.  Her emotions were a roiling cauldron of conflict—blessed relief that her ordeal was about to be over—crushing humiliation at being found naked and helpless—righteous anger at the treatment she had received from the Countess and her maids—anxious guilt on Marion's behalf.

Seconds passed, possibly a minute, then DCS Foyle, Sgt. Milner, and two uniformed constables were through the studio door and rushing to her aid.  Sam squeezed her weeping eyes closed and struggled to control the sobs racking her helpless body.  Fingers fumbled with the straps pinning her to the armature and a blade severed the cords tied to her gag-harness.  In a short time Sam was completely free of her bonds, a blanket was draped over her quaking shoulders, and her head was against Foyle's chest.

One of the constables held a crystal glass under Sam's nose, and she smelled brandy.  She sipped the liquor, then took the glass, downed its remaining contents, and coughed.

Foyle held her in a fatherly embrace.  "Are you all right, Sam?" he asked in a quiet voice.

"Yes," Sam answered.  "Yes, sir."  She looked at the faces crowding around her.  Milner, four constables—more seemed to be arriving all the time—all staring at her with open concern.

Sam blinked in surprise.  She'd been at enough crime scenes to know that professional detachment was the norm.  This was required, for a policeman saw too much of the ugly side of humanity, and must learn to maintain an emotional distance for his own protection.  But the faces around her were anything but detached.

"Enough," Foyle said, directing his remark to the officer who had supplied the brandy.  "Go find some water."

Sam was no longer crying, but her cheeks were still flushed and wet.  She looked up into Foyle's concerned face.  "I-I'm sorry, sir.  I've made a mess of things, and—"

"Hush," he whispered, and gave her a reassuring hug.  "We'll find you some clothes, and—"

Sam pushed away, holding the blanket close.  "No sir, we have to raise the alarm!"

"The Army will take care of the fugitives," Foyle advised.

"We have to rescue Lady Jane!" Sam announced.

Foyle frowned.  "She's not with the others?"

Sam turned and pattered towards the door.  "I know exactly where she is!"

Foyle shook his head.  "Get things sorted out," he told Milner, then motioned to two of the constables.  "Come with me."

Sam was in the doorway, the blanket clutched around her, stamping one bare foot on the threshold.  "Hurry, sir!" she shouted, and was gone.

"I'm coming," Foyle called after her, and left the room with his escort.

"If I get my hands on whoever did that to our Sam..." one of the remaining officers muttered.  The others nodded in agreement, their faces grim.

"You can join the queue," Milner growled.
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—5
Foyle and the constables followed Sam into the library, through the secret door in the bookcase, and down into the dungeons.  "Be careful, sir," Sam warned as they blundered into the darkness.  One of the officers produced a small electric torch and passed it forward.  They passed the alcove with its still flickering candle, then came to the door of the cell that should be incarcerating Lady Jane and her cage.

A large skeleton key was in the lock, as well as a smaller key tied to the first by a salmon-pink ribbon.  Sam recognized the borrowed hair ribbon she had lost earlier, some place between her current location and the tower cell.  She released the bow and handed the smaller key to Foyle.  "We're probably going to need this, sir."  She turned the larger key and shoved her weight against the door.  Foyle and the constables helped, and the heavy portal swung inward.

"Blimey!" one of the officers gasped.  Lady Jane and her cage were exactly as Sam had seen them last; however, the helpless aristocrat was in a sorry state.  Before leaving, the Countess, or, more probably, the maids, had heaped an armload of dry wood in an iron brazier and set it alight.  In the hours since, it had burned down to a bed of glowing coals, but the air in the chamber was still stifling hot.  Lady Janes's silk robe and negligée were plastered to her glistening body, and her hair was hanging in a damp, auburn tangle.

Foyle handed the small key to one of the constables.  "See if this fits those padlocks," he ordered, then turned to the other.  "Go find another blanket."  The officer touched the brim of his helmet and left.

The padlock securing the cage's gag-panel surrendered to the key.  The constable swung the panel aside and Lady Jane spat the knickers stuffed in her mouth to the floor.  "Get me out of this thing!" she demanded.

"Please try to remain calm, Your Ladyship," Foyle said.  The constable stepped behind the cage and began opening the remaining locks.

Lady Jane's eyes focused on Sam, and flashed with anger.  "You—you call yourself an Intelligence Agent?  Just wait until I make a report to Sir David!  You'll be lucky if they let you hand out doughnuts and tea to the troops at the docks!"

"Lady Jane—" Foyle began.

Lady Jane shifted her attention to Foyle.  "And as for you—"

"Enough!" Foyle barked.

"How dare you!" Lady Jane gasped.

"I dare," Foyle responded quietly, "because I've had enough of being played the fool by Military Intelligence, and hope to prevent you from continuing to play the fool, yourself."

Sam quickly hid her involuntary smile.  Foyle was well-known for his self-control, but he was famous in the force as a master of the understated dressing-down.  His ability to puncture the ballooning pride of a self-important twit was legendary.

Lady Jane's green eyes were wide with shock.

"I was requested to provide you and your guest, Miss Ravenwood, transportation to this manor, and was not informed that we were part of a counter-espionage operation encompassing half of Southern England.  Samantha Stewart is a volunteer and a valued member of my team."

Her mouth still hidden behind the edge of her blanket, Sam blushed.

"If I had been informed of any element of this grand scheme," Foyle continued, "her place would have been taken by an armed detective.  If you have anything helpful to say about her conduct during this debacle, you may make a report to an interviewing officer, at the appropriate time."

By this time the last of the locks had been opened and Lady Jane was being helped from the cage.  The second constable had returned, and he draped a blanket over her shoulders.  "I-I never!" she stammered, and stomped from the chamber.

"You're welcome," the constable still holding the key muttered.

"None of that," Foyle said, a smile softening the rebuke.  He turned to Sam.  "You're out of uniform," he observed, still smiling.

"Sorry, sir," Sam whispered.  "What scheme were you referring to, sir, if I might ask."

"If anyone has earned the right," Foyle responded, "it's you."

Sam blushed again.

"It would seem Military Intelligence is folding up a network of German spies," Foyle explained, "using a team of double agents to capture several of what they call sleeper cells, from here to the Irish coast.  I knew nothing of this beforehand, Sam, I assure you."

"Double agents?" Sam asked, then her eyes popped wide.  "The Countess?  And her maids?  They're not German agents?"

Foyle smiled.  "I've already told you all that I know, and more than I should.  None of this is to leave this room."

"Yes, sir," Sam responded.

Foyle lifted his eyes to the pair of constables.

Both touched their helmets in salute.  "Mum's the word," the eldest muttered.

Foyle nodded, then glanced around the chamber, frowning at the cage, rack, and other instruments of torture.  "And speaking of leaving this room..."  He put a protective arm over Sam's shoulders and ushered her towards the door.  "...let's find you a bath, some clothes, food, and when you're up to it, you can make your report."

"Yes, sir," Sam whispered, then skidded to a halt.  "Oh sir, the Wolseley!  They've taken the Wolseley!"

"We'll get it back," Foyle reassured her with a smile, "or something better."
The d'Arcy Manor Mystery—5

Chapter 4