We Were Swans

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The forecast for early next week was fair. Cold but not much rain expected, certainly no hint of snow. Resting, recuperating, was interspersed with the promised knot tying lessons. Hitches, bends, sheets, bowlines, all studied and practised until they could be performed quickly and easily. Sacha’s favourite was the self-tightening half hitch. A simple knot that could easily occur accidentally around two moving objects. She practised while wearing gloves. Based on what Sacha had seen, James and Ollie recreated the roping set up. They weren’t identical. The one used by Eddie had a series of pulleys and carabiners not present on Verity’s set up. Further research showed that this meant Eddie was a ‘self-rigger.’ In other words, having set Verity up in her arrangement, he could self-tie and then raise himself into position and tie off. They were ignoring every safety rule in the book but it seemed that their mutual pleasure meant more to them than taking basic precautions. Tom was more interested in the arousal process, this so called ‘Rope Drunk’. An idea had formed that was beginning to take on shape.

They were back in Devon. The insertion had been trouble free and nothing had changed. Nothing except that the nearby fields, including one they had to circuit, had been treated with slurry. The stench clung to them instantly. Having opted not to revisit their first observation post, and confident that The Twins felt secure, their chosen location was south of the original but about 10 meters closer. Settling in, they waited. It was the on second night that the lights started. Making a note of the time, they nodded to each other, then silently left the hide and made their way over to the living room window. As before, the security light flicked on as they approached and again, they passed swiftly beneath it and reached the wall of the house. They gave it a minute or so before raising their eyes level with the window sill. The scene was pretty much as before. Tom’s peripheral vision told him there was a screen above the hearth, a detail he compartmentalised while taking in everything else. Verity was already in position, hog tied, naked, blind and waiting. Eddie had set himself up and using his pulley arrangement, was elevating himself to her level. They watched as he tied off, securing the free end of the pulley rope to a cleat. He let go and swung gently towards his sister, giving her a gentle push as he drifted past. Clearly practised, they began their dance. Neither Tom nor Sacha absorbed the erotic detail, instead they studied facial expression, how the ropes moved around on their moorings, twists that Eddie initiated to gain centrifugal force, spinning them out like sky divers as the ropes untwisted. He was adept and knew how to lose and gain momentum or direction, what to do when their bodies touched, knowing what his sister anticipated and was eager for. If it hadn’t been them, it might have been art, but this was repellent and sickening but Tom and Sacha stuck to the task, studying the detail only to bring an end to anything and everything they represented. The music and lights, muted at first, began to build as Eddie drew closer, spent more time entwined, hugging, caressing, breaking off, a gentle tug bringing them back into the clinch. During this phase, whatever they’d built up between them was clearly reaching its climax. Sweating, intent on his sister, Eddie’s urgent fingers found pressure points and erogenous zones. Stroking, always stroking until the moment when the music reached its loudest and the lights coalesced and homed in on the junction of their bodies. Eddie grabbed his sister and mirrored her bound pose, glistening limbs stretched, backs arched and heads were thrown back, mouths open, panting with ecstasy, the perfect image of a Rorschach test as the lights went out and the music ceased suddenly. For a minute or two, they remained suspended, stroking and nuzzling as their passion diminished then Eddie released his sister and reached for the cleated end of the rope. His damp skin highlighted the muscles beneath which rippled, illustrated the effort needed to stay in position whilst freeing himself. Undone, he slowly paid out the line and the pulleys did the rest. On the floor, he slid from his bonds and stood, free of any tie. Taking off her blindfold he then took a few minutes to carefully release his sister until she too was free. They stood in the centre of the room, beneath a single blue spotlight and held each other. Tired but not quite done, they moved to the sofa and sitting side by side, legs open and hands busy, they brought themselves to another climax. Caressing, stroking still, they lay down together and slid into a satiated doze.

Tom and Sacha, busy as they were writing notes, had ignored each other during this display but now it was over, turned silently and their eyes met. Some situations don’t need words, just an expression and this one was acknowledged with raised eyebrows and a release of air, as if they’d been holding their breath. They crept silently back to the hide and got ready for extraction.

Tom stood by the flip chart. Their notes now collated and writ large. “That’s it. From start to finish. Eddie’s the rigger, as we guessed and the whole thing, including the sofa business, takes them about half an hour.”

Ollie and James had sat silently until now. James raised the question. “And you’re sure this is the way it goes. Every time?”

“Fairly sure. The first time we saw this they were about ten minutes in and that tallies with last night. Also, the music and lights were the same as before. It’s all timed. We reckon they’ve found their niche and it’s repetitive, rehearsed.”

“So we know what they do and how long it takes. When do you figure to interrupt?”

Tom turned to Ollie. “When they get to the vinegar stroke and have no control, but we need to be inside when that happens, ready to bounce them.”

The floorplan of the Devon house was fairly straightforward. Tom reckoned that the exterior kitchen door was the easiest lock to crack and once inside, it was only a few yards to the doorway out of the kitchen and into a small hallway which was the hub of the ground floor. Access to the living room was straight off it. The Jedi set up practice doors with an identical set up to the farmhouse. From their recce, Tom had established that it was fitted with a nightlatch that was operated by a lever inside and a key from the exterior. Tom could crack it in less than 30 seconds and in virtual silence.

“Now for the tricky bit.” James announced. They were in the kitchen studying the ropes suspended from the ceiling. “A volunteer is worth ten pressed men so Ollie, if you don’t mind?” James used both hands, like a magician presenting an illusion, to invite Ollie to step up.

“I knew it was going to be me.” Ollie said fatalistically, getting to his feet and ambling over.

Even with their notes it took a while to get it just right but eventually, Ollie was in suspension, neatly trussed but clearly unhappy.

“Now what?” He grunted.

“OK.” Said James. “We know that Verity has a similar set up back is basically unable to move her hands. We need to figure out a way of ensuring Eddie is similarly indisposed, so let’s get to it.”

With prompting from Ollie, using free hanging lines and some discussion, a method was established that did the trick without over complication.

“The only criteria is that this needs to look like an accident. Eddie, being the rigger, has to be in a situation where he’s in a tangle and can’t help his sister, between the two of them, because they’ve ignored basic safety rules, it doesn’t look too difficult but you two can’t leave a mark on them. No evidence. Are you happy you can achieve that?”

Sacha and Tom nodded. All the ropework they’d been doing had culminated here in the dress rehearsal had left them confident that they at least had the ability to immobilise The Twins. What came after that couldn’t be rehearsed, not the way they’d do it nor the way they might feel once it was done.

“Can I get down now?”

They were in. For the third and hopefully last time the insertion had gone quietly and efficiently. All they had to do now was hunker down and wait for the light show. The next four days and nights were cold one’s. The rain didn’t help constantly dripping from the leaves and stems that hid them. They were wet and uncomfortable but that didn’t matter. There was a tension and sense of anticipation that shut out everything but their observation. On the fourth night, at 8.45pm, the lights inside the house began to flicker against the curtains. It was showtime. Tom and Sacha knew what was going on inside the house but still, they had to be sure. Sacha crouched beneath the window while Tom, waiting for her signal, was at the kitchen door. They were connected by a length of twine. He felt three hard tugs. Working on the lock he felt it give at the sweet spot. He tugged back on the line and momentarily, Sacha joined him, bundling the twine as she came. Once she was at his back, he gently pushed against the door. It creaked slowly open. The music level, no longer contained by the house, was an acoustic thud that hit them at the same as the warmth inside. Tom took out his gun, it was already cocked, it had been for the last 96 hours. All it needed was a finger on the trigger, his hovered, ready. On their haunches, they went in, alert, looking for kitchen like obstacles, vegetable racks, rubbish bins any kind of trip hazard that might betray their presence. Quietly, still crouched low, Sacha closed the door behind her with a gentle click. The door to the hallway was open and seeing it as an invitation, they half stood and on tiptoe, made their way over to the frame. Nothing had changed. There was no sense of anything out of the ordinary, no shouts could be heard and the music and lights remained constant. So far so good. The hallway was carpeted. A pleasant surprise that dulled their approach to the living room. Tom reached behind him and found Sacha’s arm. He gave her a gentle squeeze of reassurance, something he didn’t quite feel himself. He heard the soft scrape of metal on canvas and knew Sacha now had her gun in her hand. They were ready. The waited until the music reached its crescendo, the signal for the Rorschach moment and as the last drumbeat echoed around the house, Tom pushed open the door, striding in with Sacha right behind him.

He was aware that as before, Ellen might feature on the screen. He had accepted that as a reality and was as ready as he could be to face it. Nevertheless, the tug was irresistible. One quick glance confirmed her presence. This time though, she was as the Police had found her, face down in the mud. She was being circled, the camera moving around her body. The skin over his cheekbones tightened and momentarily, he was unable to breathe. Remembering where he was and what he was here to do, he pulled his eyes away and scanned to where he knew Eddie and Verity would be. There they were, as seen before but this time there was an aroma, the scent of sex and exertion that lent reality to the canvas. It took a moment for Eddie to realise they weren’t alone anymore. A moment where Tom and Sacha got into position, taking a twin each, but out of arms reach. Guns levelled, the temptation was to shoot them there and then. Neither Tom Nor Sacha had any intention of engaging with The Twins. This was a job. Theirs to do with no fucking about. No conversation.

The Twins awareness occurred simultaneously. Shock and surprise mixed with the rapturous high they’d just achieved. Their faces reflected the moment when their dream turned into a nightmare, from flushed pink by exertion and ecstasy, to pale as blood drained away and endorphins were replaced by fear inspired adrenalin.

Eddie shouted. “What the fuck!”

Unable to see, Verity’s head jerked left and right, trying to sense what was happening. Eddie reacted by instinctively pulling himself over to the cleat.

Tom got there first, striding across the room and stamping his foot hard on the free end of the rope coil, preventing its release. For the hell of it, he thrust his gun in Eddie’s face. It loomed large, too large for Eddie to focus on but some kind of awareness must have kicked in and he immediately released his hold on the tethering rope, swinging gently back towards his sister. Bumping into her, he adjusted and then for the first time centred on what Tom was holding. There was the immediate and strong stench of shit in the room.

“Eddie! What is it! What’s going on?” Verity’s voice was shrill, piercing the air.

Silence reigned momentarily as The Twins tried to acclimatise to their new environment. Tom knew that this was the moment when he was supposed to just bag Eddie but the image of Ellen took over.

“Shit yourself, have you Eddie? Thinking about fight or flight? Seems to me you only have the one option and you’re exercising it.”

“Who’s that! Eddie!” Blinded and confused, Verity was panicking.

Eddie reddened and twisted against the now soiled ropes that held him aloft. It was futile and he knew it, the only way out of his rig was the cleat behind the man in black. The man with a gun. Beside him his sister set up a whimpering background noise. Her head had drooped, denying reality. Beside her, Tom saw Sacha who like him, had yet to do what had been agreed.

“What do you want.” His voice was an octave higher than he intended and made a concentrated effort to lower it. “Who are you? Take what you want and fuck off. We haven’t got any cash.”

“This isn’t about money.” Eddie turned his head, confused at the sound of a woman’s voice.

Sacha tugged her balaclava off. Shaking her hair out, she raised her head and looked the tethered youth smack in the eye. It took a while to see beyond the threat of the gun and images of people dressed in black then confusion was replaced by comprehension and it shattered what was left of his grasp of events.

Verity was struggling against her bonds, still ignoring what was going on around her, she was intent only on getting free, wriggling from side to side and trying to loosen the ropes that bound her hands. Sacha steadied the top rope and once the struggle had subsided stooped to eye level and lifting Verity’s blindfold said, “Remember me?”

Recoiling at the sudden, unexpected touch, Verity blinked against the light, then recognising the stranger, it clicked. “We didn’t mean it!” She shrieked. “It was an accident! That’s what everyone said!”

Sacha looked towards Tom and having caught his gaze, flicked her eyes towards the screen over the hearth. Tom nodded. Together, they manoeuvred The Twins to a position where they had no choice other than to view the screen.

“Does that look like an accident to you?” Sacha’s voice had taken on a timbre Tom hadn’t heard before.

“She’s the only reason we’re here. If you’d left our family alone, none of this would be happening.”

“What are you going to do?” Eddie’s voice had cracked.

Tom held the gun level with the side of Eddie’s head, just out of arm’s reach. Sacha released her hold on Verity, who spun slowly clockwise back to centre. Stepping towards Eddie, she took one of the many spare lines hanging from the rig.

“Hands behind your back. There’s a good boy.” Said Tom, flicking the gun for emphasis.

“What are you going to do!” Eddie’s voice was back up there, shrill in alarm. He resisted, but once Sacha had secured one hand, the other soon followed. Eddie squirmed his head sideways, trying to see what Sacha was doing. Trying to stop this from happening. But she’d practised. Rehearsed. In less than a minute Eddie was trussed and going nowhere. Moving over to a small table, Sacha took out a mobile phone.

“You know what this is, don’t you?”

She propped it up against a table lamp and sighting it, selected video and switched it on.

Verity started to scream. “You bitch! You fucking bitch!” Tears came, then hysterics. Eddie was shouting, spitting and foaming at the mouth, desperate to break free.

“We didn’t mean it!” Tom didn’t register which one had screamed that last denial, just that it was we, always, we.

Sacha stepped back to Verity and taking a clear, plastic bag from her pocket, she saw Tom do the same. Inside them were identical bags. Identical but sterile, no clothing fibres, no DNA. Tom and Sacha looked at one another. It was almost as if a sigh passed between them then, as practised, they simply slid the bags over The Twin’s heads.

Tom had read all about erotic asphyxiation. How accidents happen. The basic premise was that by reducing the flow of oxygen through the carotid artery during sex, the ultimate high could be achieved. The trick was to get the bag off before suffocation occurred. Or to leave it on until it did.

The Twins squirmed. Eddie’s muscles bunched as he struggled to break free, sweat streaming from his pores, making him slippery beneath Tom’s gloves. The ropes creaked, tightening and loosening with every movement, movements that grew weaker as the seconds slipped away. The average, untrained human being can hold their breath for about 30 or 40 seconds. Tom could see Sacha having a slightly easier time with Verity. Her face was grim. Unforgiving. Tom had an idea his was set the same. Abstractedly, Tom noted that his heart beat wasn’t raised, if anything it had slowed to about 60 beats a minute. His muscles dealt with Eddie, his mind was somewhere else. He heard a dull rap, but couldn’t quite figure out where it was coming from. He heard it again, polite but quite insistent. Concentrating hard, he focussed on a corner of his mind that had been kept shut tight. The Toybox. There was someone inside trying to get out. Not trapped though, just ready to leave. He felt ok gently releasing the latch and allowing the lid to open. A small hand appeared on the rim and quietly, softly, Ellen clambered out. She was in her nightclothes, Teddy hanging from her right hand. Her face was pink and scrubbed, her hair brushed, shiny and knot free. She looked nothing like the torn and battered image being played out over the hearth. She smiled.

‘Hello, Daddy.’

‘Hello Sweetheart.’

‘I think I should go to sleep now.’

He nodded. ‘Ok, sweetheart. Whatever you say.’

‘Goodnight, Daddy.’

‘Goodnight, baby girl.’

She, Teddy and the Toybox faded. Not quite disappearing but receding to another, quiet place where there was less rage and misery. He felt a sense of release and a calmness he’d forgotten existed. He knew his cheeks were wet with tears but they were washing his face and mind, not staining them. He became aware of where he was, that the struggling beneath his hand had weakened. The muffled shouting receded but the wriggling continued until it too, ceased. At the end, they were simply flopping as things stopped working. Verity went limp first. Eddie shortly after. Tom and Sacha stood immobile, silent. Sacha saw something in his expression, something she hadn’t seen for a very long time. It looked like peace but couldn’t be. He was crying. Not sobbing, just letting tears flow. Part of her noticed the subtle difference between the two and looking beyond the physical process she was witnessing, hoped she saw a man coming to terms with his life. They stood that way for a while. Each working on different thought processes. looking each other in the eye for a further minute before releasing their grasp on the bags. Sacha moved over to Tom and checked that none of his tears had fallen astray and onto the floor. It was dry, his clothing had absorbed any evidence. They had discussed what to do next and got on with it. The bags they turned so that the twist was at the throat, where it could be applied by the user. Eddie’s still damp hands were fisted where the bags had bunched, his sweat proof that he had applied them. The rope Sacha had used to immobilise Eddie was removed and allowed to fall back into its place on the rig. They spent some time arranging Eddie’s hands in a carefully thought out tangle. Anyone finding this would have no difficulty imagining what had happened. Eddie, the rigger, had bagged his sister and then himself. But something had gone wrong, his hands had gotten snagged. Perhaps he’d panicked, or passed out. It didn’t matter, the end was result was the same. They’d suffocated during a sex game gone wrong. A tragic accident. All that aside, who’d really care.

Tom moved over to the laptop and studied it. The Twins had used the DVD to watch their trophy. Going through the files on the hard drive he could find no evidence of a backup copy so made one himself and left it as an icon on the desktop entitled ‘Fun’. He burned another DVD using a sterile one they’d brought for that purpose. Staining it with The Twins fingerprints, he put the original back in the drive and the hard copy in a sideboard drawer. Mummy had supplied it and if she was first on the scene, was sure to look for it. The chances of her finding the second copy were small and when the Police visited the crime scene, the disc, or evidence of it, needed to be found. Sacha picked up the phone. Tom turned up the central heating. Extraction was at 1am.

It was a combination of events that led to the discovery of the bodies 8 days later. Mummy was in the habit of communicating with The Twins at least once a week, usually by phone. When they hadn’t picked up or called back and knowing the sort of things they were fond of, she had no other option other than to hot foot it down to Devon herself. This was unplanned and an annoyance, she had far too much to do and driving to Devon was not her favourite thing. She’d have to be careful though, to set her face straight when she got there. The Twins resented interference and could be unnerving if challenged.

Someone at the monitoring company eventually noticed that their tags, while switched on and apparently fully operational, were static and had been for some time. That report was shuffled a cross a desk or two and eventually escalated to Probation. The Twins case officer wasn’t a huge fan, she found them creepy and always felt as if she were under some kind of microscope. Having the option of sending the Police to have a nose around was infinitely preferable to attending herself. Meantime, their bodies were degrading, the scene deteriorating. Tom had read up on the decay rate of the human body and was surprised and gratified to learn that things can get disgusting quite quickly, particularly in a warm environment. Rigor Mortis is the tidy part and depending on ambient temperature and other factors, begins shortly after death and can last anything from 24 to 48 hours. The blood settles in the lower part of the body which in the case of The Twins is constricted by rope under pressure from the weight of their corpses, after a few hours, the pooled blood becomes fixed and will never flow again. At this point, things are still fairly civilised. Loved one’s can be recognised and wept over but once rigor mortis passes, the skin, no longer under muscle control, succumbs to gravity, relaxing into its surroundings, forming new shapes and accentuating prominent bones. The next stage, putrefaction, is where things start getting nasty and follows a predetermined timetable, again, dependent upon the environment. After 36 hours or so, the neck, abdomen, shoulders and head begin to turn green. Bacteria gets busy and that activity produces an accumulation of gas that bloats the body but is most visible around the face where the eyes and tongue protrude as the trapped gas pushes them forward out of the head. As the putrefaction continues, large amounts of fluid gather, forming blisters, hair falls out and fingernails begin to sink back into the fingers. As the process remorselessly continues, gathering pace, after 8 to 10 days, The Twins will be almost black-green and the fluids will start looking for a way out. As a rule, this is from the mouth and nose but other orifices are available. Their skin will then start to break open, splitting, releasing gas and fluids into their surroundings, in this case, their living room.

This was the scene the Police strolled into. At the request of the Probation Officer, a car had been sent round to the farmhouse. It was the smell that assailed them first but reluctant, further investigation revealed the bizarre scene in the living room. Reinforcements and specialists were slow to arrive. The crime scene had barely been ringed by tape when Mummy reached the end of her journey from London. She had little time for the Police nor them for her, each party regarding the other with a barely concealed contempt. The senior officer on site was made aware of Mummy’s presence by increased noise levels and activity at the head of the gravel driveway. She was demanding access and levelling all manner of legal threats at the young copper who barred her way.

“It alright Constable. You can let her through.”

“And who are you?” She demanded. She had to get into that house, talk to the children before they incriminated themselves.

“Detective Inspector Johnson. Devon Police.”

“I take it you know who I am?” Her voice was annoying him with its presumption and arrogance. Also, he knew lots of things that he presumed she didn’t but nevertheless, decided that caution should be his watchword.

“I do.”

“I want to see my children. You know what will happen if you obstruct me in any way?”

Johnson did. She had a record of forcing sackings, resignations and early retirements, not only amongst the Police but in the Judiciary and Government. The woman was a walking fucking nightmare and Johnson had no intention of preventing her from seeing her children, in fact, would be happy to expedite it. These human rights parasites had no idea of the after effects of their crusades. Once their part was over, they’d march off into the sunset to find another righteous cause to pursue while behind them, some low life who should have been put away for a very long time wasn’t just out on the street, he had compensation in his pocket. Oh no. Johnson had no intention of obstructing Mrs. Christian. He stood aside, waving his officers away and following in her wake. He stopped short of the front door. He’d seen all he needed to and much he wished he hadn’t. Those two were a mess, hanging there bloated and stinking, dripping onto the rug. He’d wait until she came out before asking about the DVD they’d found.

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