A Few Short Tales of Trapped Females

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No Substitute For Experience

What’s the best remedy for alleviating writer’s block?

Immerse yourself entirely in the activity that’s causing the problem, in order to get firsthand experience of the situation, and in that way better understand the emotions involved.

Just be careful who you recruit to help you achieve your goal!

Ann sat back in her chair and bit her lip. Looking at the screen of her laptop, she began to read the paragraph she’d just typed. After only a couple of sentences, however, she sighed heavily and frowned. It just wasn’t coming together as she’d hoped; the words not flowing in the way to which she was accustomed; the rhythm of the prose simply refusing to coalesce into a unified script which she would be happy to call her own work. Highlighting the section in question, Ann pressed the delete button, resigned to the fact that she would have to start all over again. For this wasn’t the first draft of the chapter that she’d had to consign to the scrapheap and begin from scratch. In fact this was the fourth aborted attempt at putting into words a concept she had very little, in fact no, experience of. And it showed.

There was, of course, one sure-fire way of getting past this particular block in her writing technique which she was certain would bear fruit; a procedure that would give her first hand knowledge of the subject in question and hopefully fire her imagination into breaking through this impasse and cause the words to spill unhindered from her typing fingers. Again Ann bit her lip pensively. Should she take this route even though it seemed a slightly dangerous path, fraught with risks and pitfalls? Or should she maybe forget this phase of the narrative, reappraise the plot in its entirety and begin afresh? But that would mean a major realignment of the storyline that she had created and which had so inspired her in the first instance, and would involve an extremely time-consuming and excruciatingly soul-destroying rewrite. It was an option for which she had absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever.

No, she’d come too far to turn back now, she told herself. With her publisher on her back to finish by a fast looming deadline, she had no alternative but to press on. And that would mean biting the bullet and immersing herself in an alien world. On the plus side, of course, it would give her ample experience of the subject, should she see the need to use a similar scenario in her future works.

For the twenty two year old Ann Brooks, becoming an author had been, if not a complete accident, then at least a whirlwind journey that she hadn’t been in the least bit prepared for, although it was something she’d always dreamed about. And when her first novel, the murder/mystery/thriller Around Every Corner had become a bestseller in twenty seven countries worldwide, and had subsequently been translated into fourteen different languages, she knew she’d made a big dent in the literary market.

Not that she was famous under her real name, though. For after being spotted by a publishing agency in the contest that she’d entered the original draft of Around Every Corner in, her newly acquired agent had decided that the name Ann Brooks was too commonplace , and just didn’t stand out in a crowded market place. She was, therefore, given an ultimatum: come up with her own nom de plume, or have one chosen for her. And having been horrified by some of the hideous monikers that her agent just casually dropped into the conversation, Ann had resolved to create her own pen name. Thus was Clarissa-Marie Davenport brought into being.

Pretentious? Maybe. But the firm of publishers seemed to like it. And so, within a few short weeks, the first novel by the “up and coming British author Clarissa-Marie Davenport” hit the shelves. There followed an extremely high profile, no expenses spared, publicity campaign designed to bring her work to the attention of the reading public. And even though the cover of her novel could be seen advertised in almost every newspaper and magazine you happened to open, Ann – or Clarissa-Marie as she was being asked to think of herself – could never have envisaged the way the book had taken off. With well over a million copies sold within the first three months of publication, there followed endless promotional tours, publicity events, book signings, television and radio interviews and bookstore appearances throughout the land. Then it was to America and Canada, where, if anything, the furore seemed even more manic, before stop-offs in New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Singapore, where her fame seemed to have spread like wildfire. It appeared there was, at that moment, no hotter literary property on the planet.

But then it was time for the reality check. Back at home, her publishers were eager to ride the crest of the wave that they’d generated, by bringing out the follow up novel as soon as possible. And that meant immediately...or at least as soon as Ann/Clarissa-Marie could get the words down on paper.

But that was just the problem. For such had been the swiftness of her meteoric rise to fame, and such the clamour for her to travel the world promoting her magnum opus, that Ann hadn’t given more than a fleeting moment’s thought to following up her success with what everybody hoped would be another tour de force. But this was exactly what she now found was being expected of her. And not only that, her publisher had decided, rather than being a completely separate body of work with new characters and an entirely different concept, that the second masterpiece from this new-kid-on-the-block should be a sequel, with the same lead character and a relatively similar ‘whodunnit’ style framework. And this was one of the main causes of Ann’s angst right now.

The central character – or heroine would maybe have been a better way to describe her – of Around Every Corner was the brilliantly analytical, although slightly accident prone, amateur private investigator Kayleigh Lyon, known to friend and foe alike as ‘The Lioness’. In the course of that first two hundred and thirty six page tome, she had defied all the odds, battled with danger, come through several near fatal incidents and survived many perils to finally break a serial murder case that had been baffling the police for months. It was a tried and tested formula, but one that seemed to appeal to the public at large, and her wordy and distinctly unique description of places, people and events seemed to have struck a chord with the book-buying fraternity, who had lapped it up, raved about it to their friends, and caused the novel to outsell anything else currently on the market.

But now the hunger for more was causing Ann a massive headache. Ok, so she’d managed to come up with a suitable title - Through Every Doorway – and had mapped out a plot which she was relatively content with. But finding new challenges, fresh situations and unique twists and turns to what was essentially the same old formula, had meant that the going was heavy, or indeed painfully slow at some points. But now, in what was to be chapter thirteen of her new masterpiece, she’d really become bogged down.

The story so far had been hard going, but with trial and error she’d got there in the end. Now however, Ann was approaching a totally alien concept, and one which she had never written about. In fact, she was in territory that she had never even really contemplated before.

For her character - Kayleigh Lyon - whilst chasing down a lead on a vicious murder case that she was pursuing, had suddenly discovered that the tables had been turned on her, and that she was now the hunted rather than the hunter. Or in other words, she’d got too near to the truth, and was on the verge of uncovering the true identity of the villain she was tracking. Like a cornered animal, her prey had decided that to fight back was his best course of action. And the best way to stop her from unmasking him to the police was to make sure that she was unable to report anything to anyone. So, to this end, he’d lured his pursuer to a deserted warehouse on an abandoned industrial site and kidnapped her. And to keep her from escaping and opening her mouth, he’d tied her up, gagged her and was keeping her locked in a secure room in this unused building until such time as he could ‘dispose of the problem’ once and for all. Or put another way, Kayleigh was trapped and in fear for her life.

That was all well and good, and Ann had so far negotiated the section where she had to describe the enticement that had brought her heroine to this out-of-the-way location, and the part where her assailant had overpowered her and used rope and tape to keep her incapacitated. But now she’d hit the stumbling block. For Ann wanted her readers to get some idea of the panic, fear and terror that Kayleigh was going through, once her attacker had locked her away for the night, having hinted that he would be back to finish her off in the morning. What did that feel like? How could she describe realistically the sheer terror that her crime fighting diva would be going through as she lay in her helplessness, with no chance of escape and very little prospect of rescue? She’d tried several times to put into words the raw emotions that she was sure would be running through her fictional leading lady’s head given the nature of her predicament, but each time her description failed to meet the very high standards of quality control she’d set herself. It was no good, she simply couldn’t find the words and sentences to depict the images and feelings she was trying to convey in a manner that she was satisfied with. There was only one thing for it. She would have to fall back on an old tried and trusted method that she’d employed on several previous occasions during the writing of her previous novel. She would have to live the scene out, in order to get into character and – hopefully – find inspiration by getting as close to the actual circumstances of her fictional tale as the real world would allow.

Several times during the planning and execution of Around Every Corner, Ann had gone out of her way to subject herself to lonely locations and specific events, in order to give her some insight as to what the environment or activity in question was like when you were actually living it. For example, she’d taken a long walk through a pitch black forest in the middle of a moonless night, just to hear, see and experience how it felt to be alone and lost in the woods; the rustle of the trees, the fluttering of the bats (if indeed that was what they had been!), the scurrying of small mammals in the undergrowth, the smell of the trees and the earth, the strange shadows cast by the branches and leaves as they moved ghostlike in the breeze. This firsthand experience had been invaluable when creating a feel and a mood for the living organism that constituted a woodland at night. On another occasion, she’d braved the windy cliffs overlooking a storm-threatened sea, just to feel the unbridled gale and the lashing rain, in order to understand the desolate nature of someone fleeing for their life along a bleak craggy outcrop. This too had given her the necessary knowledge to put into words what her senses had experienced directly.

So if this modus operandi had worked for her in the past, then why not employ it again now? Well there were a few differences between her previous undertakings and the voyage she was thinking of embarking upon this time. For a start, all her previous expeditions had been solitary ventures, for which she’d neither needed nor invited outside intervention. By contrast, on this latest excursion she would need, if the whole thing was to in any way resemble a real life kidnapping situation, the help of an accomplice. For even though Ann had never been tied up in her life, she knew that trying to bind herself to a standard where she couldn’t escape just wasn’t a feasible solo undertaking. And that was the crux of the matter; that fact that, to describe her character’s state of mind whilst tied up and unable to escape, her own circumstances would need to as closely mirror this set of conditions as possible. No half measures, that was Ann’s rule in a situation like this. And she had to abide by this tenet now, no matter the level of discomfort that being tethered and unable to move all night might necessitate.

For that was what she needed; to be bound and gagged so securely that escape was never on the cards, before being left locked away in complete isolation for twelve hours or so. But who could she get to assist her in this endeavour? Ann racked her brains trying to come up with a friend or acquaintance that might be willing to help her out without asking too many questions. One by one, however, she considered then discarded her relatives and friends. Most of them were too sensible, and would warn her off such a venture, she decided, on the grounds that it was too dangerous, or reckless, or just plain ridiculous. Some would probably mock her scheme and think she was a bit weird. Many would, she feared, be unable to keep quiet about such a venture, and start rumours as to what was going to happen to Kayleigh Lyon in the next eagerly awaited instalment; a situation which she wanted to avoid at all costs, as her publishers and agent had forbidden her from discussing the upcoming storyline with anyone but themselves. As the possible candidates for the part of collaborator in this project gradually diminished, Ann was left with the realisation that there was only one person she could turn to. She came to this conclusion with more than a little reluctance, however.

Jennifer was one of her oldest friends. They had been at school together, shared similar interests and, most importantly, both had a passion for writing. In fact, in the past they’d spent days together concocting storylines, bouncing ideas off one another and coming up with plots for never-written or started-then-abandoned novels and short stories. It had all been great fun.

But then, once Ann’s - or Clarissa-Marie’s - novel had been accepted for publication, their relationship had soured somewhat, and Jennifer had seemingly distanced herself from her former comrade. Why this should be, Ann had never quite been able to get to the root of. Maybe it was jealousy, she wondered, with Jennifer also aspiring to have her work published, and subsequently finding herself envious of her fellow writer’s success. Or perhaps it was simply a feeling of being left behind and discarded, as Ann was whisked off her feet and flown around the world to promote her book, whilst Jennifer was abandoned, with no one seemingly interested in her own work, and without any support being offered by her erstwhile writing companion. Ann did feel slightly guilty of letting her friend down, but the situation had been largely out of her control, as the whirlwind trip to stardom had taken off and totally overwhelmed her. Maybe now was a good time to begin building bridges; to make Jennifer realise that she could still play an important part in her old friend’s success.

“Oh, hello. What do you want?”

This was the less than enthusiastic greeting that Ann received when she identified herself as the caller that evening on the phone. The conversation was at first awkward, to say the least, and Ann found herself doing most of the talking. In fact, the whole thing ended up as an apologetic monologue, with Ann doing her best to articulate her sense of regret at the way she’d neglected her friend, and attempting to offer an olive branch by way of reconciliation. Initially, Jennifer offered very little to the dialogue and listened in silence, as if still aggrieved at some unspoken insult or offence that her former pal had unknowingly committed. But gradually, Ann perceived her friend’s attitude might be softening somewhat, as little by little the coolness in Jennifer’s voice seemed to evaporate to a certain extent and she became slightly less monosyllabic. This could have been merely wishful thinking on Ann’s part, of course. Or perhaps, she persuaded herself optimistically, there really was a chance that they could rekindle their friendship after all.

The real breakthrough, however, came once Ann plucked up the courage to mention the main reason for her call.

“Er, Jen? Do you remember that time we spent the evening in that house which was supposed to be haunted, so that we could write a story for Halloween? Well I need to ask a favour. Would you help me out with something along similar lines?”

There followed a short pause before Jennifer replied, a slight air of suspicion in her voice.

“What is it you want from me, exactly?”

If Jennifer seemed less than enthusiastic at this point, everything was about to change. Ann took a deep breath and self-consciously blurted out her request.

“I need you to tie me up and leave me locked in an old warehouse for the night.”

Another hiatus of several seconds ensued, before Jennifer, obviously thinking she’d misheard, hesitantly broke the uneasy silence.

“What did you just say?”

Ann reiterated her request and elaborated; letting her would-be sidekick in on the reasons that she needed this assistance. She stressed that the whole thing had to be as true to life as possible, in order to fire her imagination, which meant that she needed to be bound and gagged without hope of breaking free. Once finished, she waited with baited breath for a response, fearing that Jennifer would turn her down. In fact, the opposite transpired, with her new found collaborator - for the first time during their prolonged and at times difficult discussion - keen to cooperative with the task as outlined. With hindsight, maybe a bit too eager in fact.

“Ok, I’ll help you out. After all, what are friends for? When were you thinking of going ahead with this?”

Ann suddenly realised that she hadn’t thought this part of the operation through.

“Er, how about tomorrow night?”

She heard herself say, as if in a trance.

“Ok, tomorrow night it is then. Where do you want to meet?”

Ann gave the location of the industrial estate that had been closed down more than a year before.

“Meet me at seven o’clock. I’ll provide all the necessary equipment we need.”

And with the time and place of their assignment agreed upon, and following a few minutes of unrelated small-talk, Ann bade her now reunited friend goodnight.

The next morning, Ann paid a visit to the nearest hardware shop, where she purchased the binding materials she would require for the coming night’s little escapade. This basically consisted of two items – rope and duct tape. Not knowing how much of either would be required, she found herself walking from the store with two, fifty metre spools of the highest quality – and therefore most efficient – grey tape, plus a trio of strong, three-strand nylon ropes, each also fifty metres each in length and with a diameter of six millimetres, which the labelling informed her were highly durable and abrasion resistant. (Whether this was the best rope - both from a thickness and a textile perspective - for binding someone’s wrists and ankles, she had no idea, but could hardly ask the shop assistant for advice on the matter).

Taking her purchases home, Ann cut the ropes up into various lengths - the longest about ten metres, the shortest around a fifth of that - and ensured the ends wouldn’t fray by winding a couple of circuits of insulating tape around each extremity.

For the rest of the day, the, slim, attractive brunette did the best she could to keep herself occupied. She at first tried to work on another section of her book, but found that she couldn’t focus on the task in hand. She gave this up as a bad job and decided to instead concentrate on cleaning and tidying her apartment – a function she was often guilty of neglecting, even at the best of times. But today it proved impossible, such were her concentration levels on anything other than tonight’s business. Sitting down to watch a film, the images flickered before her on the screen, but Ann failed to take in the plot, or indeed any of the action taking place before her unseeing eyes. She checked the clock again for what seemed like the hundredth time; five past five. Only a couple of hours now until she was due to meet Jennifer. But those two hours would dragged interminably and turn out to be the longest of her young life.

Finally, it was time to depart for her rendezvous with a friend she hadn’t seen for – how long must it have been? – at least nine or ten months. Checking for the umpteenth time that she’d packed everything she was going to need in the holdall, Ann left her flat and began the thirty minutes or so walk to her appointment. The scenario she was writing involved Kayleigh being stalked by her adversary, and pounced upon unawares as she left her local gym after a work-out. So, to keep in character, Ann had dressed how she envisioned her heroine being attired at the time; in black Lycra leggings, t-shirt and trainers. It was a warm spring evening, so nobody paid much attention to the girl in her gym kit, her long hair tied back in a ponytail, as she made her away along the streets, holdall in hand, towards her destination.

Approaching the derelict buildings that made up the once busy industrial park, Ann noticed Jennifer’s car parked by the roadside; an old Ford Fiesta which had seen better days. Ann appreciated now that it was all her friend could afford, and it struck her just how much their two lives had diverged in completely opposite directions. For Ann could now afford almost any car her heart desired. As she watched, Jennifer emerged from her vehicle, the slamming shut of the door breaking the almost eerie silence, which seemed to highlight the fact that the two women were the only people around this otherwise forsaken area.

In some ways, Ann was expecting a cool reception from her former best buddy, just as she’d encountered on the phone yesterday. To her surprise, however, she found Jennifer’s manner warm and friendly. They hugged and exchanged a few pleasantries, but such was her nervousness at their planned purpose here tonight, Ann found herself itching to get on with the matter in hand. And it seemed, from her wholehearted agreement when it was suggested that they make their way inside, that Jennifer was keen to get the ball rolling too.

Ann led the way towards a gaunt, concrete and steel warehouse that she knew about from her reconnaissance expeditions. Initially, she’d merely been seeking inspiration as a setting for Kayleigh Lyon’s fictional place of confinement. But in the last day or two, when the idea of living out this venture had first come to her, Ann had found herself drawn back here, and had purposefully ensured that entering the premises was feasible. Luckily, with a pair of wire cutters, she’d managed to create a gap in the fencing that surrounded the compound; small enough not to be too obvious to any casual passerby, yet just the right size for a slim female to crawl through.

The new padlock barring entry to a very old looking door evidenced the fact that Ann had been here recently, in order to ensure no one else could enter in the meantime. With the lock removed, Ann strode into the vast room that had once been a storage area for the kitchen appliances firm that had owned the premises. Now, save for a few empty boxes and other debris, the only fittings and fixtures were the massive shelves which rose from their cemented anchorage in the floor and disappeared into the gloomy cavernous space above. Ann turned to Jennifer.

“So what do you think? A suitable place to keep someone tied up where no one would find them?”

Jennifer seemed to agree.

“I very much doubt you’ll be disturbed here. So yes, I think you’ve found the ideal spot. Very isolated and atmospheric, I must say.”

This was all Ann needed as confirmation that she was doing the right thing. For she knew her friend also had an eye for the dramatic, scary and generally inspiring places that could propel the imagination into overdrive. Without further ado, Ann beckoned Jennifer to follow her towards one darkened corner of the vast floor-space. Taking a torch from the holdall, she pointed the beam towards a metal stanchion that stood close to the concrete wall.

“This is where I need to be tied up.”

Without waiting for a response, Ann put the bag on the floor and opened it. The torchlight revealed the ropes and tape that she’d lovingly assembled for her mission.

“Ok, I need you to bind my wrists behind my back, tie my legs in two or three places and gag me with tape. You can use some of the other ropes and tape as well, if you see fit. The only condition that I must insist upon, is that you don’t hold back and leave me any leeway to wriggle free. In other words, it has to be tight and inescapable. Then you can leave me here overnight, making sure you padlock the door and lock me in as you leave.”

Jennifer picked a piece of rope at random from the holdall and began uncoiling it.

“Ok, if that’s what you really want. Who am I to stand in your way?”

She smiled, and the way that the torch beam focused on her face cast her features in a strange, eerie light, and made this supposedly friendly gesture seem ghostly, or even slightly sinister. Ann felt a shiver of unease rush through her, and for a split second the thought of abandoning this whole project crossed her mind. But she quickly managed to shrug these misgivings away. It was just a trick of the light, she told herself, and simply down to apprehension about facing a situation which she’d never experienced before that had caused this momentary qualm. In actual fact, when she thought about it, this involuntary shudder was probably a good sign. For it was surely a forerunner of exactly the type of emotions she was hoping to get to grips with here tonight, namely terror, isolation, helplessness etc.

Taking both ends of the selected rope, Jennifer found the midpoint. Motioning for her soon-to-be-prisoner to turn around, Ann quickly obliged, placing her hands together, palm to palm, at the base of her spine. It took her accomplice no more than a few seconds to wrap the doubled-up cord around her wrists, loop the ends through the bight, then pull the circle tight to such an extent that Ann winced as the ligature dug into her flesh. But this was nothing compared to the severity of tightness that was to come, as Jennifer deftly wound the rope twice more around her now debilitated captive’s lower arms, before cinching and tying the whole thing off with a tautly fastened knot, which was not only unlikely to loosen no matter how much it was worked at, but also placed at the rear of Ann’s wrists, where it was impossible for her stretching fingers to tamper with or her clawing nails to pick at. How did Ann know of these newly acquired restrictions to her capabilities? Simply because, once Jennifer had secured the bond to her satisfaction, she’d allowed her now fettered friend a few seconds grace to test the efficiency of her work.

“Is that the sort of thing you want? Or would you like me to tighten it still further.”

Ann grimaced as she gave one final tug on the unyielding ligature. She confirmed that there would be no need for any adjustment. But even as she spoke, Jennifer was preparing the next planned affront to her liberty.

“Ok then, let’s get those legs of yours all trussed up, shall we? I’ll need you to sit on the floor for this bit, otherwise you’ll end up falling over.”

A hand on Ann’s shoulder was the only encouragement needed to get the already helpless woman to lower herself to the dirty concrete surface. Immediately, Jennifer pulled her legs together and began creating a similar style of binding around Ann’s ankles as she had already applied to her upper limbs. The tightness and inescapability were also on a par with her earlier effort.

But the woes being inflicted on her legs didn’t stop with this solitary bond. For as soon as the first rope had been secured, Ann found a further length of cord being employed just below her knees. And this was followed up with a third on the other side of the joint. Again Jennifer seemed prepared to allow Ann to test the competence of her skills, and once more the recipient of these bonds could find no fault. But there was still one element missing.

“Don’t forget you need to gag me with tape too, Jen.”

Jennifer looked down on her now less than mobile victim.

“I hadn’t forgotten. But I’m thinking that tape alone isn’t going to keep you quiet. What I need is some stuffing to pack into your mouth to muffle your speech before I seal your lips with tape.”

For a second or two Jennifer became silent, as if contemplating where she might find something to use as wadding. Then she seemed to have a brainwave.

Ann watched in amazement as Jennifer lifted her short skirt up to her waist with one hand and began to ease the opaque black tights from her shapely legs. Kicking her shoes off, she completed the liberation of her legs from their silky, soft encasement, before scrunching the leg-wear into a ball. The tights didn’t remain redundant for long, however, for almost immediately Jennifer knelt down beside Ann’s head and began pushing the still warm hosiery into her mouth. Too astonished to resist, Ann meekly let the nylon and Lycra bundle fill the cavity behind her teeth, then watched as her accomplice pulled the end of the tape from its spool and began to plaster the first of several circuits of the instantly skin-bonding strips onto the flesh of her face. Round and round the tape orbited Ann’s upper neck, cheeks, chin and - most importantly - lips, until her whole lower head was smothered in an unbroken vista of elephant-grey masking. Tearing off the end from the reel, Jennifer smoothed the whole multi-layered padding down to ensure it remained in place.

“Let’s hear how loud you can scream now Ann. Not very loud would be my bet.”

Ann tried to shift the tights to one side of her mouth with her tongue, in order to offer her best attempt at creating a commotion. But there was no room for manoeuvre, and with the tape prohibiting removal of the obstruction, it therefore seemed that Jennifer’s assumption had been correct, and the decibel count of her proposed shriek registered as no more than a stifled ‘mmph’ sound, which could probably have been heard from a distance of a few yards, but would never have had the capacity to penetrate through the walls of the building and out into the world beyond.

“So how does that feel? Does my rope-work meet your requirements?”

Ann nodded her head. This was definitely something she couldn’t get out of; which, of course, was the whole purpose of the exercise in the first place. So why did she have an uneasy feeling? She was sure that it was Jennifer’s demeanour that was making her nervous, although the exact nature of this disquiet was something she couldn’t quite put her finger on at present.

But she was left with little time to dwell on such matters now. For although Ann’s stipulations as to the number of mandatory bonds had been met, it transpired that her consent to more rope being utilised if Jennifer deemed it necessary was now to be acted upon with what could only be described as unconcealed fervour.

Firstly, Ann found her shoulders being grabbed by her collaborator, and her body dragged a few feet across the floor, until her back was pressed against one of the thick metal posts that made up the shelving where once fridges, microwaves, dishwashers and ovens had been stacked and stored. Needless to say, the weight which these stanchions and racks had to bear meant that they were of a strength that one woman – and a bound one at that – could never bend, break or snap in two. But it was to one such sturdy pole that Ann soon found herself attached, as Jennifer quickly wound one of the longer lengths of rope around both this mooring post and Ann’s waist, before tightening the noose and fashioning a secure knot on her captive’s stomach, so that moving away was no longer an option. A further fetter, looped under her armpits and again incorporating the post at her back, ensured that leaning forward was also out of the question.

Jennifer picked up the torch and shone it directly into Ann’s eyes. The beam seemed to move up and down her body, as if her co-conspirator was examining her created art-form, to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. She seemed satisfied.

“Good. That should hold you for the night.”

The intense light moved away from the bound and gagged woman, and when Ann’s vision cleared, she saw that Jennifer held the padlock in her hands.

“Right, I’ll leave you to do...whatever it is you need to do. I’ll padlock the door on the way out so nobody can get in...and more importantly, you can’t get out! I’ll come back tomorrow to check up on you. I do hope you get what you wanted from this whole venture...as well as what you deserve.”

And with a sly smile, Jennifer turned and walked away; the snaking torch beam getting ever fainter as she crossed the warehouse floor towards the exit. The slamming of the heavy door and the clinking of the padlock as it sealed Ann’s fate, being followed by a deathly silence.

“...as well as what you deserve.” What did Jennifer mean by that exactly? Ann had no clue, and soon shunned this rather cryptic remark from her mind. For now, alone in her solitary tomb, there were two things she needed to concentrate on in order to make this a worthwhile mission; struggle to attain her freedom...but ultimately fail to succeed in this endeavour. And she soon found that, on both counts, she was clearly going to be triumphant.

Whether Jennifer had ever tied anyone up before, Ann had no idea. But she certainly seemed to be a natural when it came to knots and hitches, as no matter how much she wriggled and tugged at her bonds, every one of them held firm and refused to yield to her efforts. The only natural source of light in the vast room in which Ann languished was provided by a row of grime-covered windows, high up along one wall away to her right. And as the sun set and the light faded, the entire area became awash with elongated shadows that gradually dissolved into a blackness that was both atmospheric and rather scary. But this all added to the ambience that Ann had been searching for, and a few screams into her gag, plus her continued writhing and stretching, all added to the accumulating effect of helping her emulate and enhance the feelings and emotions of a true damsel-in-distress.

There was, of course, that final mental hurdle that she could never quite jump; that one final barrier to total immersion into the mind of a real kidnap victim. For even now, with her helplessness assured and escape unattainable, she knew that this wasn’t completely genuine, and that she would be set free in the morning...

...or so she assumed.

The time between Jennifer leaving that night and her return visit the next morning, seemed to the trapped and helpless Ann much longer than the specified twelve hours. By the time the clanking of the padlock echoed around the vast theatre in which this drama was being enacted, the sun was high in the sky from what Ann could deduce from her place of anchorage, which would suggest it was getting close to midday. Although the warehouse remained under-illuminated in a world of what seemed like perpetual twilight, there was no need for Jennifer to carry a torch now. In fact, even as she strolled nonchalantly towards where Ann sat, it was clear without artificial light that Jennifer’s demeanour had changed somewhat significantly since their last encounter. The smile was still there, but now it betrayed a dark mood that had previously been hidden beneath its deceitful surface. For it soon became apparent, that Jennifer’s objective when tying her former best friend up had not been the altruistic act of one doing their best to support a friend, but had instead concealed a far more underhand motive. Even so, Jennifer’s opening enquiries were still affable enough.

“So Ann, how was your night? Did my bondage techniques fulfil your expectations? Did the ropes meet the criteria you that you were after? And more importantly, did you manage to get into character and attune yourself to the vibes of a true kidnap victim?”

The questions came thick and fast, and without thinking Ann began trying to explain that, yes, she had been able to learn a lot about the fears and emotions associated with being well and truly trussed up. Now, however, she would like to be released please.

How much of Ann’s attempt at conveying her emotions actually came through as lucid speech, it was difficult to say, although the fact that Jennifer made no attempt to begin releasing her prisoner seemed to suggest that, at the very least, her plea for freedom had not been comprehensible. But it soon became glaringly obvious that this wasn’t in fact the reason for inaction on this score. As Ann watched wide-eyed, her supposed companion knelt down by the holdall that held the unused bonds, and retrieved a reel of tape. When she next spoke, her words were mocking, with a touch of controlled menace thrown in for good measure.

“So, the great novelist Ann Brooks has been brought to her knees it would appear. Or is it Clarissa-Marie Davenport that sits all tied up before me? I’m not sure I can tell the two of you apart anymore. Or maybe it’s neither of you. Perhaps it’s the fictional Kayleigh Lyon that I’ve kidnapped...”

She looked long and hard into Ann’s slightly bemused eyes.

“... Or could it be all three of you? Yes, maybe that’s it. Perhaps I’ve got three for the price of one here!”

Jennifer laughed harshly for several seconds, while Ann attempted to reiterate her case for being set free as soon as possible. The experiment had been a success, thanks, but now it was time to call a halt and bring this whole operation to its conclusion. But even if she understood, her former friend was in no mood to sympathise. Suddenly, her manner became more serious.

“So you think I’m just going to let you out, do you? After the underhand way you deceived and cheated me in the past.”

Ann was stunned by this sudden change in her so-called friend’s attitude, and the muffled sound that filtered through her gag was meant to express a sense of confusion. Jennifer, however, seemed to take this as a further indication of dishonesty.

“Oh, don’t come the innocent bitch with me Ann, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Remember all those times before you became famous, when we’d sit and discuss the outlines and themes for stories that we were going to write? You took all those ideas of mine, all those scenes that I carefully nurtured and thought up without your help, and what did you do? You went and wrote them up and claimed them as your own work, and published them in that ridiculously overrated novel of yours. And what hurts the most, is that I don’t even get a mention in the acknowledgements. “Thanks to Jennifer Ashman for inspiration”, or something of that nature. That’s all I would have asked. But no, now you’re the ‘World Famous Author’, all of a sudden your former friends get totally ignored and swept aside.”

With mounting concern, Ann tried to inform Jennifer that she had no idea what the latter was talking about, and as far as she could recall, she’d never stolen any of her fellow budding author’s ideas...or anyone else’s for that matter. But Jennifer was having none of it. In fact, she even had examples of this perceived treachery to relate.

“Oh dear Ann, you do seem to have a rather selective memory these days. What about the scene in your book where the great Kayleigh Lyon thinks she’s cornered the murderer in the museum, or that bit where she’s frantically looking for her missing friend on the cliff tops? Or can you remember the dialogue between her and the barrister concerning certain legal issues affecting the upcoming trial? Yes, that’s right, I came up with those ideas, not you.”

With her sense of unease growing more acute by the second, Ann began struggling to free herself, at the same time trying to remonstrate that she really hadn’t deliberately stolen any of Jennifer’s storylines, and if she had unintentionally done so, that she would make amends by including her in the credits of future editions of her bestseller. She even tried to suggest that a financial agreement might be reached. Jennifer was now too wound up and incensed to listen, however, and the fact that Ann’s words were not exactly easy to understand, ensured that this attempted compromise was not grasped by her adversary. Instead, Ann was subjected to an angry tirade that seemed to be getting more intense and animated by the minute.

“Plagiarism, that’s the only word for it. But do you know what the worst thing is? The fact that I’ve got no proof of any of this. I never wrote any of it down, so it’s my word against yours. And who do you think the public will believe, eh? A famous author who’s now the darling of the literary world, or some sad former acquaintance who everyone will think is just trying to jump on the bandwagon and secure some cheap publicity? And it’s all very well saying you’ll let me have a cut of your profits while you’re all tied up like this. But as soon as I let you go, you’ll forget all about me again. I haven’t a hope in hell of getting any justice...at least not legally”

She paused and gave her most devilish grin.

“So it looks like I have no alternative but to take the law into my own hands; unleash my own brand of justice, so to speak.”

Jennifer allowed Ann a few seconds to take on board the rather ambiguous nature of this remark; a period of time that the latter utilised by squealing into her gag and thrashing around madly in her bonds. Not because she expected to suddenly find the ropes miraculously falling away, of course; she had already ascertained that this was never an option. Her unease was instead due to the path along which events seemed to be heading; a direction which didn’t appear to bode at all well for her. And the idea of portraying herself as both the innocent party and the helplessly pathetic damsel-in-distress might, she hoped, help soften her accuser’s attitude towards her. It turned out, however, that Jennifer was never going to be fooled by this pitiful display of play-acting.

“You can protest your innocence all you like Ann. I know what I’ve read in your book, and I know that some of it was my invention. So now it’s payback time, my despicable thieving friend.”

Before Ann had any time to react, she found that Jennifer had begun winding the instantly bonding tape around both her torso and the mooring post at her back. Working from the shoulders downwards, the industrial strength adhesive strips soon encased Ann in a cocooning wrap that covered her from neck to waist. But Jennifer didn’t cease at this point, instead continuing to coil the seemingly endless ribbon of grey stickiness around her increasingly terror-filled captive’s thighs, knees and calves, supplementing the already unbreakable ropes in the process and making movement of any kind extremely difficult. As the bindings grew ever more restrictive, so did the efficiency of Ann’s attempts to halt the process diminish, and her shouts for help rang out with increasing desperation around the echoing storehouse. But all to no avail. Finally, with only Ann’s head and feet now visible from the extremities of the grey wormlike tube, Jennifer decided that her work here was done.

“There you go Ann. That should hold you for the foreseeable future.”

With tears beginning to well up in the corners of her eyes, Ann found herself meekly asking how long Jennifer planned to keep her here.

“It’s funny you should ask that question, because I was just about to let you in on that part of my plan. Actually, I think you’ll quite enjoy this bit; it might just appeal to your sense of the dramatic.”

She stood directly over her severely immobilised captive now, admiring her deftly crafted handiwork.

“Who’s your great literary hero, Ann? Which writer is it that you admire the work of more than any other, and indeed, the person you’re basically trying to emulate, both in style and content?”

Ann was in no doubt that these were rhetorical questions, for Jennifer knew the answer only too well. But even so, Ann chose to dignify these with a response. Trying to pronounce the words “Agatha Christie” through a pair of vocally impeding tights and a facial tape sealant, however, mutated the words almost beyond recognition. But why was this relevant to the situation in hand? Luckily, Jennifer was happy to enlighten her.

“That’s right, Agatha Christie. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you what happened to her in December 1926, do I?”

Indeed, she didn’t. For Ann was well aware of the great author’s biography and what had transpired during this period of time.

On the evening of 3rd December 1926, Christie is known to have driven away from her home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, after arguing with her husband. Although her car was found abandoned near Guildford in Surrey, there was no sign of her and she was not seen again for the next eleven days, prompting one of the largest missing person searches in history. Some said it was a publicity stunt to promote her latest work, while others speculated that she’d committed suicide or even been murdered; her philandering husband being a prime suspect for the latter. Such was her fame that the news of her vanishing spread around the world.

It was not until 14th December that she was found, safe and well, in a hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire. She seemed to retain no memory of the missing period. It appeared that she’d crashed her car before boarding a train to Harrogate, where she’d checked into the hotel under the name of her husband’s mistress.

Christie never spoke of the incident and it was assumed she’d suffered total memory loss due to the car crash. However, it is now believed that she may have been in what is known as a psychogenic trance, a rare condition brought on by trauma or depression, and may indeed have been suicidal.

Those were the facts of the matter. But what, Ann wanted to know, had this got to do with the current state of affairs; a situation which, given the fact that she was in no position to influence the outcome, she was getting more nervous about by the second? Again Jennifer seemed to be in tune with Ann’s concerns, and once more managed to decipher the garbled enquiry that somehow squeezed its way past tights and tape.

“What does that have to do with you? Well as you’re such a fan of hers, I thought perhaps you’d like to follow in the footsteps of your idol...”

As if to make certain that there was no ambiguity inherent in this statement, she spelled it out for the now distressed and writhing Ann.

“...So I’ve arranged for you to ‘disappear’, so to speak, for the next eleven days. Or in other words, you’re going to spend that period of time bound, gagged and locked away in this nice secluded spot, where no one will ever think to look for you.”

Ann tried to protest that this wasn’t what had happened to Christie, that she hadn’t been held against her will, and that she certainly hadn’t been tied up perpetually for all those days and nights. But it was clear that Jennifer wasn’t about to make this distinction. Or if it had occurred to her, then she was going to choose to ignore it. She did make it clear that she wasn’t totally without compassion, however.

“Don’t worry though, I will come back to feed you and attend to your needs on a daily basis.”

Despite this assurance, Ann strained against her bonds for all she was worth. But this only made Jennifer laugh once more.

“So you think you’re being treated unfairly, do you? That the punishment doesn’t fit the crime? Well in my book, eleven days of hardship in solitary confinement is a small price to pay for stealing my stories and claiming them as you own. Just be grateful that I’m not thinking of simply abandoning you here to rot; for the maggots to consume your carcass and the rats to gnaw on your bones.”

Jennifer stepped back and looked around the vast room in which she stood and Ann was forced to sit. Then another idea seemed to come to her.

“You know what Ann? I’m going to do you a favour.”

From the spool of tape that she was still idly playing with, she pulled off a length of around six inches and used her long fingernails to rip it away from the reel. Strolling casually back to where Ann cowered in her cocooned indignity, she knelt down and slowly brought the strip towards the pair of wide eyes that stared back at her in disbelief. Ann tried to back away, but of course keeping her distance was never on the cards, and a second or two later the adhesive tape slapped down onto her eyelids, plunging her into a world of complete darkness. Briefly, a hand could be felt smoothing down this latest addition to her misery, to ensure it couldn’t be peeled away without the assistance of a fully functioning pair of hands; a facility Ann didn’t have at her disposal at present...and wouldn’t have for quite some time to come.

Ann squealed as loudly as she was able and begged for this sight impediment to be removed. But it was clear that Jennifer had no plans to grant her request. In fact, she didn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was in aid of.

“What are you complaining about? I’ve just made life a lot easier for you.”

She waited a second or two, before beginning to explain the reasoning behind this rather enigmatic remark.

“The way I see it, if I allow you to keep your sight, you’ll know what time of night or day it is, and you’ll be forever wishing the time away until my next scheduled visit. You’d watch the light increase and recede minute by minute, and every second would seem like an eternity. Being totally blind, on the other hand, you’ll have no way of gauging what time of day it is, and therefore no need to keep speculating on the passing of the minutes and hours. That way, time should just fly past, and your sentence will be over before you know it.”

Jennifer seemed quite pleased with this rationale, although Ann wasn’t quite so sure that the logic stood up to scrutiny. After all, eleven days was still eleven interminably long drawn out days, whether you could view your surroundings or not. But this was not something that Jennifer had any desire to debate or quarrel about. As Ann continued her useless search for a way out of her steadfastly uncompromising bonds, she heard her adversary’s heels lowly clicking across the echoing stone floor.

“Anyway, I can’t stand around here chatting with you all day. I’ve got far more important things to be getting on with. As I said earlier, I will come and visit you each day, although exactly when that might be will depend on when I can fit you in to my busy schedule.”

The footsteps became fainter as she neared the exit.

“One of my first tasks, of course, will be to hack into your laptop and see if I can steal a few of the themes that you’re currently working on for the new book. You can’t really blame me, can you? After all, it would be a bit hypocritical when you pilfered my ideas and decided to claim them as your own, if you then tried to sue me for plagiarism. Perhaps after that we can wipe the slate clean and call it quits.”

As she reached the door, the clanking of metal was met with one final taunt.

“Have fun Ann...Clarissa-Marie...Kayleigh...or whatever you’re calling yourself today. I do hope that your incarceration brings you the inspiration and stimulation you desire so much.”

Ann knew Jennifer well enough to comprehend that she wasn’t joking; that she was unlikely to suddenly relent in her conviction to keep her erstwhile friend trapped here for the period of time stated. And therefore she knew that she was in deep trouble. Her attempts to rid herself of the excessively inhibiting ropes and tape bondage that now besieged her, however, came to naught, as she was already acutely aware would be the case. Her screams rent the still air in long bursts, echoing around the empty chamber and causing the steel racks and shelving all around to vibrate and rattle. But aside from this metallic accompaniment, there was no sign that these forlorn calls to be liberated from her despair would ever be answered. She was, it was only too clear, now in a situation of hopeless captivity and isolation.

But as time wore on, and Ann reluctantly accepted her fate, the perception came to her - sceptically at first, but gradually building up to something approaching full-blown conviction - that maybe this whole thing wasn’t such a disastrous occurrence after all. For wasn’t she now in exactly the situation which she had been trying to conjure up in the first instance; namely the mindset of someone who had been left tied up without hope of escape or rescue? And as such, couldn’t she now bask in the full gamut of emotions that being so utterly beyond salvation, with no hope of release in the coming days, would surely generate? So when she was eventually set free and allowed to return to her writing, would she not have benefitted like virtually no other author before her in regard to being able to describe firsthand the fear, the desperation, the intense hopelessness and the uncertainty of how it felt to be kidnapped and held against your will? It might be a long, painful journey, but surely there were plus points like this that she could clearly use to her advantage.

And maybe there was an added bonus too. For surely, as one of the hottest properties in the literary world at the moment, the fact that Clarissa-Marie Davenport had suddenly mysteriously disappeared from sight was a newsworthy event which would see her picture being splashed across the front pages of both tabloids and broadsheets alike, not to mention being one of the lead items on the BBC and ITV news broadcasts. And when, after a few day’s absence, she still failed to resurface, would daily updates on the search for the missing star novelist be transmitted to the nation every evening, and the speculation surrounding what might have caused her to seemingly evaporate into thin air be contemplated, reflected upon, analysed and hypothesized over endlessly, as the police investigated but failed to come up with any valid clues as to how she had so completely and utterly faded from view? And then, of course, after eleven days, probably with the news beginning to become a bit ‘old hat’, when Jennifer did see fit to let her out, and she could once more bask in the public gaze, the media attention would once again turn into a frenzy, with every newspaper and network vying for an exclusive on exactly what had happened to her and where she’d been hiding. Surely this exposure could only be good for her image - and therefore her future book sales. The old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” never seemed more accurate than it did now.

But this brought another dilemma to the fore, namely whether she was going to grass Jennifer up as the source of her kidnapping or not. She had asked to be tied up in the first place, so technically a charge of false imprisonment probably wouldn’t stick anyway. And as it now seemed that her captor was doing her a massive favour, maybe she shouldn’t be too hasty in pointing the finger of blame at someone who had just pushed her status as a household name up to the next level. The accusations of plagiarism weren’t, of course, entirely without foundation, so maybe she should show some leniency in this respect. Especially as the benefits now seemed to greatly outweigh the negatives.

Ann sat back against the metal post that was to be her constant companion for the next week and a half, resigned to her fate. Perhaps the application of the blindfold was a good thing too, she pondered. For with the loss of her sight, her other senses would be forced to fully focus on different aspects of her predicament; the sound of her own screams echoing forlornly around the cavernous roof-space above her; the taste and texture of Jennifer’s worn tights stuffed deeply into her mouth; the smell of her dank and disused prison; and – most importantly – the rubbing and chafing of the tight ropes and compressing tape around her limbs and body. All would play their part in building up an overall vision of what it must be like to experience incarceration without hope of ever seeing the light of day again.

She would get bored along the way, she was sure of that. But if she could dream up a number of fictional scenarios as to the nature of her captivity, and use Jennifer’s daily visits as dramatic vignettes, during which time she got into character and pleaded, argued, acted up and generally bounced ideas off her unsuspectingly accommodating jailer in order to generally manipulate the situation to her own ends, then she was sure that she could delve deeply into the psychological profile of a long-term detainee. And that alone would be worth all the heartache and hardship of being the world’s most famous kidnapped author.

A true case of suffering for your art, if ever there was one!

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