A Few Short Tales of Trapped Females

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Kate’s Catch-22 Conundrum

Kate’s innocent boast leads her into a situation that spirals out of control...and leaves her in a dilemma that’s impossible to get out of...

(Catch-22: a situation in which a person is frustrated by a paradoxical rule or set of circumstances that precludes any attempt to escape from them)

Although Kate was loath to admit it, there was no getting away from the facts; the blame for the predicament that she found herself in right now was entirely her own. Although her initial remark had been uttered in complete innocence, her subsequent bragging - once the subject had become a topic for debate - was not only now being shown to have been a bad move on her part, but also proved that her initial claim to be able to achieve something that she’d never even attempted before, was merely a case of wishful thinking. And now her friends were teaching her a lesson.

It had all started one Friday evening with four nineteen year old friends sitting around watching television. The group had congregated at Julie’s parents’ house, whilst the latter were away on an ‘Around the World’ cruise. The house would therefore be empty for several weeks and the girls had taken advantage of this by using the facilities on a regular basis. On the night in question, Julie and Kate, together with Ann and Susan, had decided to have a night in rather than venture out. Kate had recently split up from her long-time boyfriend and really had no desire to be going out and about tonight. Ann was also unattached at the moment. Julie and Susan both had boyfriends who were unavailable that weekend; Julie’s being in the army and stationed more than two hundred miles away, whilst Susan’s was away on a stag weekend with a load of his mates. Therefore, this warm spring evening saw them sitting in Julie’s parents’ living room with nothing much to do except eat, drink and chat. Although the TV was on, none of the girls had been paying much attention to the programme being shown, which happened to be one of the many psychological thriller style serials that broadcasters tend to bombard their audiences with on a regular basis. Midway through the show, however, a series of images appeared which would – although Kate didn’t realise it at the time – affect her adversely for not only the rest of the day, but for a considerable number of days to come.

The scene in question revolved around a young woman who had been kidnapped and was being held to ransom in an old deserted farmhouse. At one point, this damsel-in-distress, who had been tied to a chair and left locked in the basement, was shown struggling to free herself from her bonds, but without success. As this sequence continued, the camera angle momentarily allowed the viewer to glimpse the nature of the woman’s restraints. As her hands were revealed, it was immediately obvious to Kate that the ropes which were supposedly holding her wrists securely behind her back were, in reality, totally inadequate for the purpose.

“Look at that. Those ropes wouldn’t hold anyone! They’re so loose it wouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds for her to get out of that.”

“Yes Kate, but this is fiction. I don’t suppose they do really tie people up tightly when they’re filming programmes like this.”

“I realise that, but the least they could do is make it look realistic.”

There followed a pause of several seconds, before Kate heard herself blurt out her next criticism.

“And anyway, even if she was tied up properly, there’s still no reason why she hasn’t escaped by now. It can’t be that difficult to get yourself loose from a few pieces of rope. Yet she’s been struggling for half the programme and still can’t get free.”

“And you’re the expert on these things, are you Kate? If it’s so easy, then why do people bother tying each other up in the first place? Why not just lock them in a cupboard or something?”

Although she knew next to nothing about such matters, Kate wasn’t prepared to see her argument shot down so readily; especially as it seemed that all three of her friends had now sided against her.

“I bet you anything you like that I could get out of any bonds that anyone put me in. It’s just a matter of wriggling and twisting your hands until you work them loose.”

“Oh I see, you’re the great escapologist now, are you? Okay, put your money where your mouth is. I’ll bet you £50 that we could tie you up so tightly that you’d never get away.”

It was obvious that Susan’s taunt was designed to make Kate back down. However, stubbornness was Kate’s middle name, and having opened her mouth on the subject there was simply no way she was going to give in, even though a voice in her head seemed to be warning her that she was getting way out of her depth here, and that she might well live to regret such bold claims.

“But you’re always saying you’re penniless Sue. You don’t have £5 let alone 50. So how are you going to pay up when I prove you wrong?”

“That’ll be no problem. For one thing, I very much doubt that I’ll need to come up with a penny. And besides, I could always write you an IOU. Come on Kate, you’re not chickening out now, are you?”

“No of course I’m not. We’ll have to put this into practice sometime.”

In the few seconds of silence that immediately followed, Ann, Susan and Julie exchanged glances, before Ann picked up the gauntlet.

“Not sometime Kate. Now! And while we’re about it, I’ll bet you £50 that you can’t escape as well.”

“And me. This is going to be easy money...and so much fun.”

Kate studied each of her friends’ faces in turn, hoping that this was all a joke and that any second now they’d all break down laughing, have a few minutes fun at her expense, then forget the whole thing. However, their features betrayed no sign of this being any sort of a wind up, and the realisation dawned on Kate that they were all deadly serious about going ahead with this experiment. Although now rather unnerved by the prospect of being tied up, Kate knew that there was very little she could do or say now to make them change their minds, unless she wanted to be labelled a coward. And besides, the extra cash would come in very handy.

“So let me get this straight. You tie me up and if I escape you each owe me £50?”

“That’s right, but if you don’t - which you won’t - then you owe each of us fifty quid.”

There was no way Kate could afford to lose that sort of money, but by now she was in no mood to let her friends get the better of her. In fact, she was beginning to believe her own publicity, and that she really could get out of any bonds that they cared to entwine her in. And any self confidence that might be lacking was made up for by a determination to prove her doubters wrong.

“I’ll tell you what, let’s make it a nice round £100 each.”

As soon as she heard herself issue this rash challenge, she realised that she’d probably made a grave error. Okay, so her confidence was steadily rising, and £300 would be better than £150 if – or more correctly, when – she won. But she also realised that this upping of the stakes could also prove to be counter-productive, insofar as her would-be kidnappers would now be spurred on to make doubly sure that she was bound good and tight. The fact that they had all instantly agreed to this increased wager only added fuel to this assumption. But there was no time now to dwell on whether her bravado had been a serious blunder or not. All she could do was wait until they had tied her up in whatever manner they chose, before doing her utmost to escape as quickly as she was able. Julie was speaking now, and it was clear that she had come up with a plan as to how this whole escapade was going to be brought to fruition.

“Okay, this is how it’s going to work. It’s half past nine now, so by the time we get you all trussed up it will probably be nearly ten. As you’re a novice at this sort of thing, we’re prepared to give you twelve hours to try to fight your way out your bonds. So once we’ve got you tied, we’ll take you upstairs and leave you until ten o’clock tomorrow morning. If you’re still tied up then, we win.”

A twinge of panic momentarily caused Kate to shudder, as she contemplated the thought of being tied up and unable to move all night. But she quickly banished this negativity from her thoughts. If she faced this challenge with a positive frame of mind, she told herself, her chances of success were far greater. It was all a question of mind over matter. And one way of increasing her self-confidence, was to put on a show of defiance to the outside world. The trouble was, however, that she overdid it somewhat and her display of confidence came across as one of boastful arrogance.

“That’s fine. There’s no rope yet been invented that can hold me. You say you’ll give me until ten o’clock to escape? Well I can guarantee you that I’ll be out by ten o’clock....ten o’clock tonight!”

There was a slight lull in the conversation, as Julie, Ann and Susan exchanged conspiratorial glances. Although noticed by Kate at the time, she failed to comprehend their significance then, although later, with the benefit of hindsight, she realised that she should have taken this as a warning that something devious was afoot.

“Okay Kate, if you’re so keen to get into this whole bondage thing, then I suppose we’d better find something to restrain you with. Don’t go away, we’ll be right back.”

And with this remark, Julie, accompanied by Ann and Susan, got up and left the room; their footsteps overhead seconds later informing Kate of their whereabouts. Was it her imagination, or could she hear whispered voices plotting against her? Stop being paranoid, she told herself. But her suspicions remained.

The trio returned within no more than five minutes, with Julie clutching a length of thin white rope in her hand.

“Stand up and turn around.”

Nervously, Kate did as she was told.

“Put your hands behind your back.”

She must have been slightly hesitant in obeying this command, as almost immediately her wrists were grasped and pulled forcefully into position. A split second later, Kate felt the cord begin to wrap around her lower arms; loosely at first, but gradually tightening and biting into her flesh as the coils multiplied until - when the hands that had applied the rope released their grip - she found that hers were completely trapped. She tugged on her bonds, but was quickly reprimanded.

“No trying to get out yet. We’re nowhere near finished with you.”

Then Julie, who had so far been coordinating events, turned and addressed her co-conspirators.

“Come on girls, let’s get her upstairs.”

With Kate showing no sign of disobedience, the single file convoy made its way into the hallway. With Julie leading the way, Kate found herself being shepherded towards the stairs, with Susan and Ann bringing up the rear; presumably as a deterrent should their captive try to make a run for it. They began to ascend, and Kate assumed that their destination must be one of the bedrooms. When they reached the landing, however, Julie led the way to a further flight of stairs; a flight which, although she had never been up them, Kate knew to lead to the attic.

“Where are you taking me?”

The question was a rhetorical one, and was asked as nonchalantly as possible in order not to give her friends any inkling that she was getting slightly nervous by this latest turn of events. As they began to ascend this second stairway, Kate felt a shiver of fear run through her. What were they going to do with her up here? She managed to control her urge to resist, though. There was no way she was going to back out now, she decided, especially with all that money at stake.

Once the light was turned on in the dusty, windowless space, Kate gazed upon a storeroom full to the brim of boxes, crates, cases and items of discarded furniture.

“Sit her down over there.”

Julia was pointing at a sturdy trunk, approximately five feet in length, two in height and roughly the same in depth, with two large padlocks holding the lid shut. From a cardboard box close at hand, Julie produced several coils of rope similar to the one Kate already wore around her wrists. Whether this box had been here all along and just happened to be conveniently to hand, or whether it had been planted it up here when they went to get the first rope, Kate wasn’t certain; although it did seem a bit of a coincidence.

Without further words being spoken, the other two girls each took a length of rope from Julie and put them to good use; Ann binding Kate’s ankles, whilst Susan fashioned a rope harness that encompassed her torso and upper arms. Meanwhile, Julie applied two bonds to Kate’s legs; one just below and the other just above her knees. When all three had completed their allotted tasks, they stepped back to view the end product of their labours.

“So Kate, you still think you can get out of that?”

Kate twisted her arms enquiringly, but found herself immobilised to a far greater degree than she had at first realised. She tried to pull her legs apart, but these bonds too had been tightened more securely than she had previously thought possible.

“Of course I can. I’ll be out of this before you know it.”

“Oh, before you start though, there are a couple of other things we need to do.”

In the less than perfect light of the attic, Kate could see that Julie was holding something in her hand, but couldn’t make out what it might be until it was almost in her face. The handkerchief - or whatever it was - being shoved forcefully and unceremoniously into her unsuspecting mouth, caused a scream that owed as much to surprise as anything else, to seep through the newly inserted vocally inhibiting fabric.

“Quick Ann, run downstairs and get that reel of tape from the cupboard under the sink in the kitchen.”

While Ann hurried away, Kate attempted to spit the gag out, but Julie kept her hand clasped tightly over her victim’s mouth.

“Sorry about this Kate, but we figured that when you find how helplessly trapped you are you might start screaming the house down. I don’t want to be woken in the night by you causing a commotion, so we decided that a gag would prevent you disturbing the peace. And anyway, the woman in the programme was gagged, so we thought it would be appropriate for you to have one too. We didn’t want you to feel left out!”

The sound of approaching footsteps, followed by the reappearance of Ann, cut short Kate’s muffled protests. The sight of the tape being brought towards her face, before being stuck down over her mouth and wound around her head, however, caused a fresh bout of ultimately futile screaming to emanate from behind her now sealed lips. Kate lost count of the number of times the tape circumnavigated her head, until at last the spool was bare.

“That should keep you quiet. Now how can we stop you moving around the attic?”

The answer to this question had, Kate was sure, already been worked out in advance, although Julie obviously enjoyed adding to the suspense of the moment.

“I know,” Julie triumphantly announced, answering her own question as if the idea had suddenly come to her out of the blue “we can shut her in the trunk.”

The trunk in question was, Kate soon discovered, the very same one on which she was seated. With Ann and Susan lifting their helpless friend up, Julia produced a set of keys from the pocket of her jeans and quickly began unlocking the padlocks. Kate writhed, wrenched and struggled now, against both her bonds and the firm grip that the two girls had on her arms. But all to no avail. With the padlocks removed, Julie opened the lid and peered into the dark interior.

“This should do nicely. Quick, put her inside.”

Kate had only a moment or two to view her proposed place of confinement, before she was tipped forward and found herself plummeting head first into the abyss. Luckily, the trunk was about a quarter full with old clothes, so her landing was less painful than it might have been. For several seconds after her cushioned fall, she fought to roll over onto her back; an action which proved far more difficult to accomplish than she had imagined. Finally, she managed to manoeuvre herself into a position that enabled her to gaze upwards into the light. She had been expecting the lid to be slammed shut over her, but this didn’t happen immediately. Instead she gazed up at Ann and Susan, who were clearly positioned to discourage any attempt she might make to get out of the trunk; the smug grins on their faces in stark contrast to the wide-eyed fear etched on Kate’s. Of Julie, there was no sign. Kate squirmed and begged for mercy from her friends, but her words were lost in the gag and her struggles merely confirmed the futility of trying to release her hands.

“Julie’s gone to get something else for you. She’ll be back in just a minute.”

Right on cue, Julie reappeared carrying something in her hands which, when she saw that Kate had rolled over and was now able to watch everything that was happening, she hid behind her back.

“Get her over onto her stomach again. I can’t fix this on her like that.”

Susan and Ann collectively turned their reluctant victim over once more, so that she was face down in the musty smelling old clothes that, it seemed, were to act as her makeshift bedding for tonight.

“Now there’s just one more restraint that we need to add before we leave you to get on with your escape act.”

As Julie crouched down beside the trunk, Kate lifted her head and tried to protest that this whole thing had gone too far, and that she didn’t want any part of this game any longer. Her attention, however, was soon diverted towards Julie’s latest plot to ensure that she remained bound and helpless. As the new reel of industrial strength adhesive tape began to be slowly and precisely wrapped around her already bound wrists, Kate realised with dismay that she had now almost definitely lost the bet. Round and round the constricting tape circled, including her fingers within its all encompassing adhesive grip, until her hands were completely cocooned within a single makeshift mitten. Then the remainder of the tape was gradually wrapped around her arms up to her elbows. So many times did the tape encircle her hands that, once her tormentors had finished, Kate found that all attempts to poke her fingers through the sealed mass were doomed to failure.

Kate bucked and twisted her body in an effort to lift herself up, but within seconds the inevitable occurred. As the lid of the trunk slammed down and the sound of the padlocks being secured reached her ears, Kate knew that Julie and her accomplices had no intention of releasing her until tomorrow. And this was almost immediately confirmed verbally.

“Goodnight Kate... Or should that be ‘Miss Houdini’? Don’t worry, there’s a small hole at one end of the trunk to let air in, so you won’t suffocate in there. It doesn’t look like you’ll be getting out any time soon, so we’ll see you in the morning.”

Kate kicked out at the walls of the trunk with as much force as she could muster. But the size of the interior meant that she couldn’t really get a good swing with her bound up legs, and it was apparent within seconds that breaking out was not an option. Projecting her legs upwards and pummelling the lid with her feet also proved futile, as the padlocks refused to yield. Although the trunk was old, it had been made from solid wood and was held together with sturdy metal struts, which resisted all attempts by the incarcerated young woman to smash her way to freedom. There was very little room to manoeuvre in the confined space; not enough height to fully sit up, nor length to completely stretch out. Turning over was also a problem, as every time she tried to move she seemed to collide with one side of the trunk or the other. The one piece of good news, for which she was most grateful, was the fact that there was indeed a small hole – no more than an inch in diameter – at the end of the trunk closest to her face. If she raised her head slightly she could align her eye with this, her only contact with the outside world. But the view through this spy hole offered her no solace, as it was clear that the attic was now in darkness and that her jailers had retired downstairs.

Kate fought her bonds for maybe half an hour, but failed to make any headway whatsoever. The tape that completely restricted the movement of her hands proved impossible to rip or tear, which in turn meant that her fingers were incapable of tampering with any of her rope bonds. Her so-called friends had done an extremely good job of ensuring she remained completely immobile, she had to grant them that, although the deceit used to hoodwink her into this mess had her cursing them. Okay so she’d agreed to being tied up with rope, but no mention had been made of gags, mummified arms or incarceration in this makeshift coffin. But there was nothing she could do now to reverse the process; no amount of calling for help or begging for leniency was going to make her captors any more likely to let her out of this before the allotted time. After a while she gave up and lay in motionless silence in the blackness of her claustrophobic tomb. How she wished now that she hadn’t been so arrogant regarding a subject about which she knew nothing and had never attempted before. In future, she vowed to herself, she would be more cautious and selective in the subjects that she bragged about.

The hours dragged by with very little to break the monotony. At some point, Kate heard voices shouting up to her from the floor below, bidding her goodnight. This must have been Susan and Ann as they were about to leave for home. About fifteen minutes later, the sound of running water and a toilet flushing led Kate to believe that Julie was getting ready to retire for the night. This was the signal for Kate to attempt to communicate her displeasure at the prospect of being kept bound and gagged all night, although she held out no real hope of being heeded. But she was wrong on this point, although she was soon to discover that the sound of approaching footsteps up the stairs, the unlocking of the attic door and the light being switched on, would turn out to be a false dawn. The sound of the padlocks being removed initially gave Kate hope that Julie had finally come to her senses, but this notion was dispelled in a split second when her captor began to speak.

“I just thought I’d look in on you before I went to bed, to see how you were progressing in your efforts to get yourself free. It doesn’t look as if you’ve made much headway yet, though. I thought you said that escapology was easy.”

Kate began pleading into her gag for this whole sorry affair to be brought to a swift end, but this cut no ice with the stern faced Julie.

“You know, Ann was under the impression that, secretly, you like being tied up. And I’m beginning to think that she might be right, as you haven’t even loosened one single piece of rope yet.”

Kate’s retort to this was that the reason she was still here was that they’d tied her up so tightly that she couldn’t get out, but whether her jailer could comprehend the garbled message that seeped through the gag was uncertain. Whatever the case, a smile lit up Julie’s face, but it wasn’t a smile of compassion or sympathy; more a devious self-congratulatory smirk that said ‘you talked your way into this, girlie, but you sure as hell won’t talk you’re way out of it so easily’.

Kate whimpered pathetically and attempted to sit up, but found this simple task immensely difficult given the nature of her restraints. And by the time she’d managed to hoist herself up onto her elbows, the lid of the trunk had come crashing down again and the sound of the padlocks being reapplied signalled the end of any hope of liberation tonight. From outside the sealed casket, Julie continued to mock her victim.

“You’re either enjoying yourself so much that you don’t want to get free, or you’re so inept that you can’t. Either way, it looks like you’ll be spending the night up here.”

The sound of retreating footsteps caused Kate to scream louder and longer than at any time since her incarceration.

“Oh, and by the way, if I get woken up by your pathetic attempts at attention seeking during the night, you’ll be left here even longer. Now try to get some sleep and I’ll see you in the morning, when we can arrange payment of the money you owe us. Goodnight Kate.”

What little sleep Kate managed that night was fitful and in short, infrequent bouts. As there was no natural light in the attic, she had no way of keeping track of the coming of daylight, and this made her wait even more agonising. At regular intervals she pulled and strained at her arm bonds, hoping that, with the passage of time, the tape would gradually loosen its grip on her flesh. But this didn’t appear to be the case, and all attempts to make any progress along the road to freedom failed miserably.

After what seemed like days, Kate finally heard movement from the floor below, although for a long time there were no footsteps on the stairs leading to the attic. Ten o’clock; that was the time that Julie and the others had specified for her release, so she guessed that it must still be earlier than that... unless she’d been forgotten about, of course! To test the waters, she kicked out at the walls of the trunk and let out the loudest “mmmph” that she could muster, which she hoped would be audible in the house below. If Julie heard, however, she failed to respond.

After what must have been another hour at least, the sound of the doorbell ringing made Kate prick up her ears. Seconds later, the sound of familiar female voices filtered through the attic floor. Ann and Susan had returned and it was quite clear, from their frequent bursts of laughter, that something was causing them great amusement, which Kate guessed probably had something to do with her current predicament.

A minute or two later, the voices increased in volume and were accompanied by approaching footsteps. As the attic door opened, Kate awkwardly adjusted her position to gaze through the tiny spy-hole. For a few seconds there was only a shaft of dim light from the open door, but then brightness filled the room as the light was switched on. Kate let out a low groan that was intended to convey her displeasure at being kept bound and gagged for so long, and which she hoped would cause the trio to take pity on her and bring her ordeal to a speedy conclusion.

For a few seconds this ploy seemed to be working, as the sound of the heavy padlocks being removed was instantly followed by the opening of the trunk. A rush of cool air invaded the confined space, which made Kate realise how warm and stuffy the interior of her night-time accommodation had become. She had learnt by now that attempting to in any way move or change her position was extremely difficult given the strictness of her bonds, but on this occasion there were three pairs of hands to help her to sit up. With her head now above the rim of the trunk, she gazed at her three friends-turned-jailers, pulling on her bound arms as she did so, in the hope that this would motivate them to begin the release process. And to a certain extent this seemed to bear fruit, as Julie knelt down beside her and began to peel the tape away from her face. The adhesive had bonded well, however, both to itself and to Kate’s skin, and it took two or three minutes for the whole length to be unwound and removed. During this operation, Kate wondered why Ann and Susan weren’t helping in any way. Her legs and arms still needed to be untied, after all. It soon became clear, however, that releasing anything other than her gag was not on the agenda.

The final layer of tape being prised away from her cheeks caused Kate to squeal with pain, as it felt as if much of her skin was being ripped away with it. A joint effort by Kate’s tongue and Julie’s fingers soon had the foul tasting cloth removed from her mouth, and the next thing she knew, a bottle of mineral water was being offered to her lips. Kate gulped down the cool, refreshing liquid gratefully, not having realised until now just how dry her throat and mouth had become. As she drank, the three females hovering over her remained silent, although, when Kate looked up into their faces, she noticed that they were all smiling; as if sharing some private joke at her expense. She had been so engrossed in soothing her parched throat that she had failed to recognise the telltale signs that something sinister was being planned. But the fact that only her gag had been removed started to set alarm bells ringing in her head.

“Come on girls, you’ve had your fun, now let me out of this.”

Julie, who was still crouching down beside the trunk, was once again the spokesperson for the triumvirate.

“Well Kate, all that boasting about how you’re the world’s greatest escapologist turned out to be a lot of hot air, didn’t it?”

It was a rhetorical question, but by now Kate just wanted to be set free and found herself admitting that, yes, Julie was right and that she’d been a fool to even suggest that she might be capable of breaking free from such well thought out bondage.

“So, you lost the bet Kate and now you owe us each £100. So cough up the money and we’ll let you go.”

For a few seconds Kate didn’t quite grasp the connotations of Julie’s demand.

“Okay, untie me and I’ll go and get you the money.”

Ann, Julie and Susan exchanged glances.

“I don’t think you quite understand Kate. You have to pay us the £300 before we set you free. If we simply let you go now, there’d be no guarantee that you would honour the agreement. We probably wouldn’t ever see you again. And besides, whoever heard of a kidnap victim being released before their ransom had been paid?”

Kate tried to explain that she didn’t carry that kind of money in her handbag, and that the only way she could pay her debt was if she was allowed the freedom to go to the bank and withdraw the funds from her account. “How can I get you the money” she finished her plea “if you refuse to let me out of here?”

“That” she was informed “is your problem, not ours.”

Julie now stood up and addressed her fellow conspirators.

“Looks like Kate’s trying to renege on the deal. I guess we need to teach her another lesson.”

Kate tried to remonstrate that there was a big difference between being taught a lesson and being kept tied up and locked in a trunk indefinitely. The girls on the other hand, didn’t seem to make this distinction, and seconds later the cloth that had filled the interior of Kate’s mouth for the past twelve hours suddenly made its way towards the protesting woman’s lips again and was stuffed forcefully back in place, before fresh tape began to wind its way around her face once more. Kate tried everything within her limited powers to avoid the gag being reapplied, but with Susan and Ann to hold her down, Julie’s job was made relatively straightforward.

With Kate now back in the same state of bondage that she had spent the previous night, Julie took hold of the lid to the trunk and was about to send it crashing down, when Kate blurted out the first thing that came into her head.

“I need the toilet!!”

Although the words were severely muffled by the gag, it was obvious that her abductors had understood the gist of her outburst. It was also apparent straightaway that none of them had factored these needs into their plan.

Ann looked at Julie.

“We really should let her use the loo Jules. Otherwise she’s going to make an awful mess up here.”

Julie contemplated this for a few seconds and quickly came to a decision.

“Okay, we can’t be too inhumane to her, I suppose. Get her out of there and untie her legs.”

Susan and Ann immediately reacted to Julie’s command and hoisted Kate out of the trunk; Ann holding her legs, while Susan lifted her by her armpits. Laying her on the bare floor, the three of them made swift work of loosening and removing the ropes that had held Kate’s legs in check since yesterday evening. Immediately the ropes had been discarded, they were lifting her to her feet and beginning to guide her towards the attic door. After being tightly bound for so long, Kate’s legs felt weak and numb, and she found standing, let alone walking, a major challenge. As the blood started to circulate again and the stiffness in her joints began to ease somewhat, she managed, with Susan holding her left arm and Ann supporting her from the right, to keep her balance and make it across the attic floor and down the steps to the landing below. It was much lighter down here, with sunlight streaming in the windows, and Kate’s thoughts immediately began to turn to escape. However, with three pairs of eyes to watch her every move, the chances of slipping free and making it to a window to shout for help, or in any way attracting attention to the fact that she was being held against her will – had been kidnapped, in fact, – were virtually nil.

Once in the bathroom, Kate was unceremoniously relieved of her mini-skirt, her tights and her panties, before being sat down on the toilet.

“You’ve got five minutes.”

The bathroom door slammed shut, leaving Kate desperately trying to work out how this break from her confinement in the attic – which was undoubtedly where she was due to be consigned back to again in a few minutes – could be used to her advantage. But no escape plan came to mind. The frosted glass of the window meant that nobody would be able to see in, and its location over the bath made it impossible to get close enough to allow her to open it with her hands bound as they were. She briefly entertained the idea that it might be an idea to try to lock herself in the bathroom, so that Julie and company couldn’t get in to escort her back to the claustrophobic trunk in the windowless attic. But what would this achieve? She would still be trapped and it probably wasn’t in her best interests to antagonise people who had it within their powers to make life very difficult for her. Regretfully, she resigned herself to the fact that she had no real alternative but to cooperate and hope that, eventually, they’d see sense and let her go.

Her train of thought was interrupted, however, by the door opening and the entry of her three adversaries, who unceremoniously pulled her to her feet and wiped her clean.

“We were thinking that you’d probably like a change of clothes Kate, as it must get a bit hot and sweaty being in that box all the time. Unfortunately, the nature of your arm bonds means that a change of blouse and bra would be rather impractical at the moment... unless we cut those old ones off you, of course!”

All three of her captors laughed, seemingly finding the whole thing rather amusing.

“But the least we can do is give you a fresh pair of tights, to cover your modesty.”

Sitting her down on the toilet seat again, Susan began pulling a clean pair of sheer black tights over first Kate’s right foot, then her left, before expertly rolling them up her calves. The upward progress of the clinging mesh was rapid now, and within seconds Kate’s legs were once more sheathed in soft fabric that shimmered in the sunlight which blazed in through the window.

“Your allotted time is up, Kate. It’s time we got you back to your cell.”

Passively at first, Kate allowed them to lead her out onto the landing again. When they reached the bottom of the stairs that led back to the attic, however, she baulked at their attempt to make her ascend by digging her heels into the carpet and kicking out at whichever one of her jailers happened to be within range at that precise moment. One woman with bound hands, however, was no match for three encumbered by no such restrictions, and seconds later Kate found her feet leaving the floor and her whole being seemingly floating up towards the attic door. Once inside, she was dropped onto the floorboards and the rebinding of her legs commenced without delay. This took no more than a minute or two, before she found herself once more airborne, only this time the journey was one of only a few feet before she found herself hurtling back, face down, into the now familiar surroundings of the trunk. Immediately, even as her scream for mercy forced its way through the gag, the lid slamming shut and the attendant darkness informed her that she was once again entombed; the click of the padlocks only serving to confirm the completion of her captivity.

Even now, however, just when Kate thought things couldn’t get any worse, Julie had one more twist of the knife to add.

“Oh by the way Kate, the price for your freedom doubles each day you’re here. So tomorrow you’ll owe us £600, the day after £1,200 and so on. That should give you some incentive to really hone your escapology skills.”

Kate screamed hysterically at this latest announcement and kicked out with conviction at the side of the trunk. This only seemed to produce more mirth from outside.

“Sorry, but I’m afraid it’s not open to negotiation. We’re in control and we set your release fee. It’s a simple equation: no money, no freedom.”

And with that, Julie led her cohorts out of the attic; turning the light out and locking the door as they went.

For the rest of the day, Kate languished in her now familiar habitat. At first Julie, Ann and Susan could be heard talking and laughing somewhere below, but soon this ceased and Kate surmised that they had gone out and that she was alone in the house. By now Kate knew that her bonds were unbreakable and that she was physically incapable of escaping. But what worried her even more was the catch-22 situation she found herself in. If she couldn’t get to the bank, then she couldn’t pay what was, effectively, her own ransom. But until she could somehow come up with the amount required, she wasn’t going to be released. It was a vicious circle from which there seemed no hope of deliverance. And then there was this latest bombshell about the debt doubling every day. Kate had only been working a few months since leaving college and therefore had virtually no savings to speak of, so how was she going to be able to pay up if – the thought filled her with dread – they kept her here for a few more days? These questions ran through her mind hour after hour, but she could come up with no answers that gave her any reason to be hopeful of a speedy or satisfactory outcome.

Finally, after what seemed like a geological age, voices could be heard approaching and the lid of her tomb rose to reveal the same three faces staring in at her. The next few minutes followed a similar pattern to this morning’s visit, with the removal of her gag and liquid refreshment being proffered. This time, however, a slice of bread and butter was also held to her lips.

“Bread and water, the staple diet of all prisoners.” she was informed.

Kate had no great appetite for food, but ate it nonetheless; fearing that not to eat or drink when it was offered might see her go without on future occasions. It was obviously now getting towards evening time, as all three girls were dressed up and ready for their customary Saturday night out.

“Sorry you won’t be able to join us tonight Kate. Still, in your own way, I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun trying to fathom out how you’re going to pay the money you owe us. Don’t forget, if you haven’t escaped by tomorrow morning, the debt doubles to £600.”

Kate once more tried to convince them that they were being unreasonable, but Julie was having none of it. Without another word, Kate was gagged again and the trunk sealed.

With their departure, Kate resigned herself to a second night of captivity. However, it was only a few minutes after they’d left the attic that she suddenly had a brainwave. Of course, why hadn’t she thought of this before? All she had to do was give them her bank card and they could, if she informed them of her PIN, take the money out themselves. Divulging her secret number was not something that the bank encouraged, nor something that she relished doing. But her situation was now desperate. And anyway, once they’d taken the desired amount, she could always change her PIN or, if the worst came to the worst and they failed to return the card, she could ring the bank and cancel it. Suddenly, the future seemed much brighter. Okay, so she would undoubtedly still have to wait here bound, gagged and entombed until Sunday morning before being in a position to put this proposition to her so-called friends, but at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel; a point in time that she could now look forward to with renewed hope.

Kate woke with a start to find light shining in her face. It took several seconds for her eyes to focus, but gradually the blurred human image above her sharpened into Julie’s smiling face. She seemed, on this occasion, to be alone.

“Sorry to have woken you. Hope you’ve had a good night’s rest.”

Julie lent in and grabbed Kate by the shoulders and pulled her into a sitting position, before beginning the painful exercise of unravelling the tape from her face. With her gag removed, Kate exercised her stiff jaw whilst Julie unscrewed the top of the water bottle and held it to her detainee’s lips.

Kate remained silent until she had quenched her thirst and the burning sensation in her throat had subsided somewhat. But then, as a piece of bread was thrust towards her mouth, she decided that it was time to end this thing once and for all. She informed Julie that her debit card was in her purse and that she could take this to the bank and draw out the money owed from her account. Against her better judgment, she found herself giving out her PIN. Julie mulled this over for a few seconds, but seemed happy with this solution.

“Glad you’ve seen sense at last. Let me get a pen and a piece of paper to write that number down.”

Kate watched Julie’s departing figure as she briefly left the attic. Her hopes soared; it appeared that she would be getting out of her bonds very shortly.

“Okay Kate, what was that number again?”

Julie wrote the number down as dictated by Kate, before slipping it into the pocket of her jeans. To Kate’s dismay, she found the gag being brought back towards her face.

“I’m sorry Kate, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to stay tied up until we actually have the money in our hands. Ann and Susan will be here in an hour or two, so when they arrive one of us will go to the cash-point and get the £600 you owe us.”

Although not happy with the fact that she was being gagged again, Kate didn’t offer too much resistance. After all, she’d been tied up for around thirty six hours now, so another couple wouldn’t hurt. Julie finished wrapping fresh tape around her victim’s head and smoothed it down to ensure it bonded with her skin.

“Now, Kate, I would imagine that you could do with another toilet break.”

The trip to the bathroom followed the same routine as the day before, with the freeing of her legs, followed by the short walk down the stairs. Again, she was attired in a fresh pair of tights, before being marched back up to the attic. Then, with legs once more bound in three places, and despite half hearted protests that this was no longer necessary, she was again sealed within the walls of the confining wooden casket.

The next two hours seemed like an eternity, as Kate listened impatiently for Susan and Ann to show up. Finally, the silence was broken with their arrival and, although she couldn’t make out the actual words, Kate could hear a serious discussion going on, as Julie presumably filled her co-conspirators in on this morning’s turn of events. Then the front door slammed shut, which Kate took as a sign that at least one of them had gone out to pick up their ill-gotten gains.

Kate lay still in her place of confinement, eagerly waiting on the moment when Julie and the others would burst into the attic, unlock the trunk and relieve her of her bonds for good. It can’t be long now until I’m out of here, she kept telling herself, although for some reason there remained a nagging doubt at the back of her mind that this wasn’t going to be as straightforward as she’d hoped. Sooner than expected, however, she heard the front door open again and waited with baited breath for the arrival of Julie and the others. Two, or maybe three minutes later, as anticipated, the attic door opened, at which point Kate aligned her left eye with the air hole and peered out into the gloom. She could clearly see three female forms silhouetted in the doorway, although why they weren’t approaching the trunk or switching the light on, she was unable to comprehend. From the doorway, Julie’s voice echoed around the cluttered storage room.

“I’ve got some bad news for you Kate. The daily limit for withdrawals from your account is only £300. As you owe us double that amount, your ransom remains partially unpaid and consequently we won’t be letting you out of your bonds today.”

Kate listened in stunned silence as the details of this latest setback sunk in. Ann now took up the story.

“You’ll have to figure out another way of coming up with the rest of the cash. Don’t forget though, that the amount doubles each day, so tomorrow you’ll owe us £1,200, less the £300 we’ve collected. We’ll leave you ’til this evening to come up with a plan as to how you’re going to pay us. Good luck on that one!”

And with that the door closed and plunged the room back into darkness.

Kate was now in a state of deep despair. This just couldn’t be happening to her, could it? But she realised now that they were right; £300 per day was the maximum she could draw out. She frantically racked her brain for another viable solution to the dire situation she was now faced with, but without success. Her finances could just about stretch to £600 at a push, but not £1,200. She just didn’t have that sort of money, and in her current predicament she had no way of begging, stealing or borrowing it. All she could do was wait until her captors returned and try to reason once more with them; tell them that she’d pay them in instalments over the next couple of months.... if only they’d just let her go!

The evening trip to the attic, by Julie alone, followed the same pattern as before, with a drink and slice of bread being followed by the short journey to the bathroom and a change of leg-wear. As Kate had feared, Julie showed no willingness to consider her plan to pay up over the next few months. Nor would she entertain an idea Kate had come up with about phoning her parents to arrange to pay the money on her behalf.

“You were the one bragging about how you could escape from anything. Don’t expect someone else to bail you out now that you’re in a tight spot. You made the brash claim and we’re holding you to it. You won’t be leaving here until the full amount of your ransom is paid up by you and you alone.” was all Julie would say on the matter.

Kate was dismayed by this response, but she knew, deep down, that this plan probably wouldn’t have borne fruit anyway, even if she’d been allowed to make the call. The fact was that she’d fallen out with her parents nearly two years ago and hadn’t spoken to them in eighteen months or more, and then only to tell them that she never wanted anything to do with them again. So the chances of them being amenable to the idea of sending money were slim. And what would she have said to them, anyway? “Hi mum and dad, I’ve been kidnapped by my friends. Please send a thousand pounds or they’re going to keep me tied up forevermore.” They’d think it was all a prank or a hoax; a devious scheme to get money out of them.

For a while, Kate fought her bonds for seemingly the thousandth time. But the outcome was an inevitable failure. The rope around her wrists, together with the tape that sealed her arms together, had been in place for more than forty eight hours and seemed now like a permanent fixture. Would she ever see her hands again? She had to believe that the answer was ‘yes’, but it looked as if it wasn’t going to be any time in the near future.

The sun must have risen as usual that Monday morning. But for Kate, sealed in her box and locked in a windowless attic, there could be no perception of the breaking of day. Instead she was roused from a troubled semi-slumber by the sound of voices, as their owners removed the padlocks and opened the lid of the trunk. Julie and her two cronies were present as usual, but today, instead of their casual clothes, all were dressed in their smart business suits.

“Well Kate, it doesn’t look like you’re ever going to be able to pay us the money you owe us, does it? I mean, the debt doubled again to £1,200 and there’s no way now that paying £300 off every twenty four hours will cover the ever rising total. And anyway, we checked the balance of you account, and there was only about £740 there in the first place... and we’ve withdrawn £300 of that already, so what are we going to do?”

Kate’s answer to this question was to mumble into her gag something to the effect that the best possible solution would be if they untied her and let her go. But it soon became obvious that the question – like so many others put to her - was rhetorical, and that Kate’s fate had already been decided upon.

“So we had a little discussion last night and we’ve come up with a way to punish you for reneging on our wager. You remember the programme we were watching on Friday night - the one that got you into all this bother in the first place? Well I’ve been reading up about it in the Radio Times. It seems that it’s called The Kidnapped Heiress, and the episode we were watching was the first of six. Apparently, the whole series revolves around this woman being held hostage and the attempts by her family and the police to get her back.”

Julie must have noticed the bemused expression on Kate’s face.

“So what’s this got to do with you, I expect you’re wondering? Well the answer is very simple. As you and this damsel-in-distress got tied up at around the same time, it seems only fair that your fate and hers should remain linked. In other words you should both be released at the same time. So here’s the way it’s going to work. When the next episode is shown on Friday night, we’ll all watch it together – yes we’ll allow you out of the box just for the duration of the programme. If the screen heroine is free by the end of the episode, then we’ll let you go. If not, then you remain our prisoner until the following week, and so on.”

Kate couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“But I could be here for weeks!” was her muffled riposte.

She felt the tears well up in her eyes and begin to roll down her cheeks, before flowing on over the waterproof tape that covered her mouth.

“Exactly, but that’s the deal. It’s the only one on the table and there’s no room for negotiation I’m afraid. And yes you’re absolutely correct; it could be up to five weeks before you get out of here. As I said, the whole series is about this woman who gets kidnapped – there’s a clue in the title – so I doubt very much whether she’s going to escape or be rescued by the end of part two.”

“But you can’t! Someone will realise I’m missing and start looking for me!” was Kate’s stifled retort.

“Ah yes Kate, but here’s the clever bit. This morning we hacked into your email account– you really should pick a more secure password, you know. We then emailed your boss at the office and told him that you’d had to go off to look after your aunt who’s broken her leg, and that it might be a few weeks before you can come back to work. Then we sent a similar email to the landlord of your apartment, so that he won’t suspect anything if you’re not seen around for a while. We all know you don’t speak to your family, so they’re not going to notice that you’ve gone missing. And my parents aren’t due back from their cruise for more than two months. Anyone else - friends or acquaintances etc - we’ll deal with as and when they start enquiring as to your whereabouts.”

Kate listened in a state of shock, unable to fully take on board what she’d just heard. Surely they wouldn’t really keep her bound, gagged and shut away up here for weeks on end, would they? But after the way they’d treated her this weekend, nothing they did would surprise her any longer. Her brain was working overtime as she desperately trawled her memory banks in an effort to think of someone – anyone - that would be likely to realise that there was something amiss when she failed to show up, but they seemed to have covered all the bases on that score. Work, landlord, family, who else was there? What about her friends? The only problem was that her closest friends - or those she had once considered her closest friends – were the ones now holding her hostage.

Julie stopped talking and looked at her watch.

“Good grief, is that the time? Come on girls, we’ll be late for work. Sorry Kate, no time to feed you this morning. We’ll pop by to say hello this evening. Enjoy your day!”

Kate tried desperately to raise herself out of the trunk, but it was too late and a split second later the crashing down of the lid plunged her into a now familiar world of claustrophobic darkness. As the footsteps retreated, she resigned herself to the fact that her destiny now depended on how long it would be before a fictional kidnap victim from a TV programme was released from her bonds. And as the episodes were being broadcast at weekly intervals, it meant that her custodial sentence was going to go on at least until Friday evening...and probably much longer than that.

Just as the trio reached the door that led downstairs, Susan stopped and shouted back into the now dark attic.

“Oh, and by the way Kate. We’re going to take the rest of the money out of your account, just to cover things like the cost of your ‘room and board’ whilst you’re a guest here.”

But it was the ringleader of the gang, Julie, who was to have the final word.

“Still, look on the bright side Kate. At least you’ll have plenty of time to perfect your escape technique now!”

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