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The Secrets of Shackleton Grange
by Steve Spandex
stevespandex@planetsuffolk.com | Forum Feedback
© Copyright 2016 - Steve Spandex - Used by permission
Storycodes: F+/f+; F/f; classes; spandex; catsuits; bond; rope; chairtie; display; trunk; gag; collar; chain; hogtied; captive; dicovery; cell; tape; caught; cons/nc; X
jpn
The Secrets of Shackleton Grange 7: An Evening of Discovery Steve Spandex F+/f+; F/f; classes; spandex; catsuits; bond; rope; chairtie; display; trunk; gag; collar; chain; hogtied; captive; dicovery; cell; tape; caught; cons/nc; X
story continued from part six

Chapter 7: An Evening of Discovery

As Bethany entered the room, the soft hubbub of conversation died down, and all heads turned in the direction of the newcomer. She paused and stood nervously looking around at the assembled women; numbering twelve, if the calculation gleaned from her swift glance around the room was accurate. All wore tightly fitting cat-suits of various materials, which showed off their long legs and shapely figures perfectly. Eight of the women sat in two rows of chairs that had been laid out theatre-style in a semi circle. They sat giggling nervously and whispering to each other behind their hands, and shifted somewhat apprehensively in their seats. These, Bethany guessed, were her classmates. The two mute and hooded servants that Bethany had already encountered, stood to one side, as if waiting for orders. And they had been joined by a third, similarly dressed female, whose outfit, in contrast to the neutral tones of the other two, was a bright vivid pink. The final figure, who had been standing with her back to the door upon Bethany’s entrance, was Dolores. Sensing the new arrival’s presence, she turned and beckoned her to come forward.

“Ah Bethany, come in and join the others.”

She turned to her other pupils.

“Girls, this is Bethany. Like many of you, she’s new to this sort of thing and a bit nervous, so I hope you’ll all make her feel welcome.”

She waited for Bethany to sit down at the only chair in the semi-circle still unoccupied, next to a red-headed young woman in a leather outfit that was stretched so tightly about her, that it looked as if the seams would burst at any second. The woman smiled pleasantly at her new neighbour, then averted her gaze back towards their teacher as the lesson began.

“Right, now that we’re all here, let me first of all welcome you to the Bondage for Beginners class. For those of you who haven’t attended sessions here before, which is the majority of you, the aim is to teach you the basics of tying, and to give you a feel of what it’s like to be tied. For the one or two of you who are repeat visitors, this will act as a refresher course.”

Without being summonsed, the three hooded women moved forward and took their places in front of three sturdy upright chairs that had been set out before the audience.

“Firstly, I’m going to show you a few simple but effective methods of tying your intended target’s wrists behind her back. Then I’ll let you all have a go at tying each other.”

The three women submissively sat down and placed their hands around the backs of the chairs.

For the next hour or so, Dolores demonstrated on her three –seemingly willing – employees, various methods designed to tie someone up so that they were incapable of escape. Each of the trio had their wrists bound in different ways, which Dolores explained the intricacies of as she went along. On occasion, she would go back and reiterate a point if one or other of the eagerly watching classmates asked a question or sought clarification of a particular hitch or binding. Once the models’ arms had been accounted for, the binding action shifted to the rest of their anatomies, as their legs and bodies were strictly and securely rendered helpless. And whilst their freedom slowly but surely diminished, the triad sat impassively, as the ropes were coiled, tightened, cinched and knotted to ensure that they and their chair would remain inseparable partners for the foreseeable future.

And all this time, Bethany watched with a wealth of thoughts and conflicting emotions playing games with her mind and body. On the one hand, she was keen to learn as much as she could; to take everything in, so that she could use some of these techniques and ideas in her next self-bondage session. But on the other hand, she was getting impatient. Watching other people get tied up was all well and good from a learning perspective, but the reason she’d made a commitment to come here today was in order that she could be the one that succumbed to the tight and unforgiving ropes.

Finally, with her three assistants bound up tightly, Dolores decided that the time had come to allow her acolytes to get ‘hands on’.

“Okay ladies, time to put the techniques I’ve just shown you into practice. So I’d like you to get into groups of two – one Sub and one Dom in each pair, if possible. There are plenty of ropes in the boxes situated at the side of the room.”

She pointed to her left, where five large storage containers sat on an oak table, next to several unused upright chairs.

“Each pair should take one of those boxes and find themselves a secluded corner of the room. Concentrate on getting your Sub’s wrists bound first, then you can go on to tying their legs and binding them to one of those chairs.”

Bethany turned to her fellow classmates, but it became obvious straightaway that they had already paired up and made their decisions as to who was tying whom prior to her arrival. And with an odd number of candidates, it didn’t take a genius to work out that someone was going to end up without a partner. Dolores had already realised that this problem was going to raise its head, however, and was quickly on hand to offer her services.

“It looks like you’re ‘Bethany-no-mates’ doesn’t it? Not to worry, as you’re a Sub, you’ll have the pleasure of being tied up by me this evening.”

****

As if in a dream, Bethany stood up and followed Dolores to the table. By this point, the other girls had scattered to the four corners of the room, leaving one box and one chair unallocated. Grabbing the latter and turning it around so that she was standing behind the solid wooden item of furniture, Dolores motioned for her pupil to sit down. Doing as she was told, Bethany gazed at the other girls, as they began to bind their partner’s arms in one or other of the methods that they’d just been shown. And it was at this point that she realised that she was visibly shaking. She was given only a few seconds to observe the activities of the others, however, before she felt the sensation of a hand grab each of her wrists and gently but firmly pull her arms behind her back. The feel of the rope being looped around her wrists was almost instantaneous, as was the tightening of this first circuit of what was soon to become a securely wrapped and cinched bond, which was tied off somewhere at the back of her wrists. Within thirty seconds, Bethany’s hands were, she knew instinctively, inescapably bound.

“There you go. That’s not too tight, is it?”

Bethany executed a quick twist of her wrists, and found the rope tight, but not uncomfortably so. As she tried to pull one wrist away from the other, the fact that this was impossible sent a thrill surging through her entire being, and she realised that this was one of the greatest moments of her life... so far. For the first time ever she was bound to the point of no escape, in a situation where she was completely at the mercy of someone else to set her free... or not, as the case may be!

“How does that feel?”

Bethany wanted to blurt out that it was wonderful, fantastic, brilliant, marvellous and a hundred more superlatives besides. But instead she found herself feeling embarrassed at her own enthusiasm, and merely looked away from Dolores – not daring to make eye contact, lest she blushed – and quietly answered,

“It’s fine.”

Even as she spoke, however, Dolores was already delving into the box of bonds.

“Good, now let’s take care of the rest of you, shall we?”

For the next few minutes, Bethany watched in awe as Dolores bound her ankles, her knees and her thighs, before using more rope than was strictly necessary in lashing her to the chair, from shoulder to foot. Being the expert, she accomplished her bondage masterpiece far quicker than the less experienced girls in the room, and now safe in the knowledge that Bethany was going nowhere, went off to check on the progress of the others.

“I’m going to leave you here for just a little while darling. I know you like being tied up, so make the most of your time now. I’m sure you’ll find my bondage modus operandi to your liking.”

****

To say that Bethany was happy with her situation was an understatement.

The fact that she could now explore her newly found captivity without being constantly under scrutiny was an utter joy to her. Wriggling and fidgeting within the strict confines of her unbreakable ligatures, was making Bethany feel hot; not just temperature-wise, but also sexually. So much so that when, after maybe fifteen minutes, Dolores once more turned her attention to her, the fact that she began immediately releasing the knots and uncoiling the cords that had become such welcome additions to her attire, was at first a cause of some dismay. She needn’t have worried too much, however, as this release process was merely an interim measure, before the binding process began again.

“Okay girls, let your Sub out of her bonds for a few minutes. Those of you who want to switch roles, please do so now. Then change partners and try one of the other techniques I showed you earlier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice if you need it.”

As the riggers began to liberate their prisoners, Dolores turned once more to Bethany.

“I remember you said on the phone that you were a Switch, but the vibe I’m picking up from you is that that isn’t strictly true. Am I correct?”

Bethany rubbed her wrists and blushed, as she admitted that this was indeed the case. Dolores smiled.

“I thought so. Don’t worry though, I’m sure one of the other ladies would be willing to try out her skills on you now.”

She called across the room to a tall, latex- clad brunette who had just finished untying her partner.

“Jessica, would you mind swapping with me and helping Bethany satiate her rampant desire for being trussed up?”

Jessica sashayed across the room, her outfit creating a swishing sound as her legs brushed against each other, and her bright red glistening lips breaking into a smile as she approached.

“Of course Mistress, I’d be delighted to be of assistance.”

****

For the next hour and a half, Bethany experienced the sheer joy of being tied repeatedly, as several of the Doms in the class took it in turns to outdo each other in their unofficial battle to show Mistress Dolores that they were her star pupil tonight. And to Bethany’s delight, the more practice they got, the better – i.e. tighter – each subsequent tie became.

So it was with some regret, that at around ten o’clock she heard Dolores call a halt to proceedings.

“Okay ladies, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for today. If you’d like to untie your victim now and put all the ropes back in the boxes, we’ll call it a night.”

As the session wound down, each of the bound beauties was released from her restraints, including the reluctant Bethany. As this was going on, Dolores was releasing her three servants – who had been left tied for the past three hours without ever uttering a word or showing any sign of discontent with the way they were being treated. Once they were free, Dolores gave some whispered order that Bethany failed to catch, and all three quickly left the room. They weren’t gone long, however.

“Just before you go girls, I expect you’re wondering about the ultimate goal of these lessons. In other words, if this is just a beginners’ class, then what do you learn about on the more advanced courses? Well just to whet your appetite, here’s a taster of the sort of thing you’ll either be achieving or enduring if you work your way through the whole curriculum.”

As Dolores’ final words echoed around the high ceiling, the three servant girls reappeared, collectively carrying a sturdy wooden trunk that, by the way they strained and staggered under its weight, seemed to be heavy. Placing this in the centre of the floor, Dolores handed the red-headed, black cat-suited member of the trio a set of keys. Needing no further instruction, the obedient woman began unlocking the four padlocks that held this ancient sea-chest shut. Once all four had been removed, the other two assistants stepped forward and pulled back the lid.

Intrigued by what might be revealed, tonight’s pupils collectively moved closer, and Bethany was no exception. As the top of the container slid upwards, and the light from the chandelier above illuminated the cramped space within, a collective gasp of astonishment rippled around the room. For there, languishing face down, her legs forced upwards and her arms pulled up behind her back, was a woman who had so far not taken any part in the evening’s proceedings.

Immediately obvious was the fact that this young female had been encumbered with chains, duct tape and what looked like a thousand feet of rope. Bethany had seen pictures of women in hog-ties in magazines, but she had never before seen anyone so completely and utterly contorted into such a strict, rigorously unforgiving elbow bound creation as this. With her feet and hands touching, her fingers wrapped up securely in grey tape, her shoulders forced back due to the severity of the elbow tie, and the chains that held her whole body rigidly in check, this, Bethany thought, must be the ultimate in ruthless enslavement. And she found herself feeling envious, and wishing that she was the girl in the trunk.

However, this female, didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm. Craning her neck around to look up from her prone position at the faces peering down with curiosity at her, she let out a stifled moan through a thick layer of grey tape that encircled her head from just below her nose down to her neck. Blinking in the light, after the blackness of the chest, her eyes pleaded for help from the bewildered and speechless group that now gazed in upon her. After several seconds, she began to struggle, augmenting this with a series of grunts and groans that seemed to be imploring the watchers to help her out of this predicament. As her struggles became almost violent in their intensity, and her muffled calls took an increasingly urgent tone, the women gathered around the trunk began to shift uneasily, and murmured voices of concern could faintly be heard from the group. Dolores, however, was already anticipating this reaction.

“Don’t be alarmed girls. Cathy here loves being tied and gagged for hours on end. In fact, she can’t get enough of it. This ‘damsel-in-distress’ act that she’s putting on now is all for show. She says that it enhances her pleasure by playing the helpless heroine. The more she struggles, the more she gets out of it... so she tells me.”

She addressed her assistants.

“Okay, that’s enough for now. Wouldn’t want Cathy getting too excited with all this attention we’re showing her, would we?”

She bent down and spoke to the woman in the trunk.

“Goodnight Cathy. Sleep well and I’ll see you in the morning.”

The lid slammed shut over the hog-tied female, and immediately the trusted trio set to work resealing the locks, picking up their cargo and carrying it back out of the room. Even so, as they made their exit, thudding sounds emanated from within the box, accompanied by muffled calls for help. Dolores glanced around at her class, smiled and rolled her eyes.

“That’s Cathy for you. She just loves an audience to play to.”

****

With the ending of the lesson, the group of novices began to disperse. Whilst some left almost immediately, some stayed and chatted for a while; laughing and giggling and discussing the things they’d learnt during this evening’s class. Most seemed to leave still attired in their cat-suits, whilst a few went off to change back into their ‘everyday’ wear before departing. After a few minutes, when the sound of tyres crunching over the gravel in the driveway had faded to nothing, Bethany found herself all alone in the great hall, still mesmerised and slightly shell-shocked by the whole event. Dolores, who had left the room briefly to see her clients to their cars, now returned.

“So Bethany, how did you enjoy your first visit to Shackleton Grange? I do hope that you found the lesson tonight of interest to you.”

Bethany wanted desperately to request that Dolores bind her up again and keep her that way all night, but she was too shy to ask. Instead she meekly confirmed that she had indeed had a great time.

“Good. Well I hope you find the accommodation to your liking. I’ll get one of my servants to rustle up some breakfast for you before you leave in the morning.”

And with this offer, Dolores began turning the chandelier lights off in the oak-panelled room, as if hastening her one remaining pupil out. As Bethany exited into the grand foyer and made her way towards the stairs, she noticed the wooden box in which the bound woman was presumably still encased, lying on the floor to one side. The servant in the pink cat-suit stood over the now silent trunk, as if guarding it. She glared at Bethany as she noticed the latter looking in her direction. Bethany shivered, but bid the figure a “goodnight” as she passed. As expected, this parting expression of farewell was neither acknowledged nor returned.

****

Bethany floated on air up the spiralling marble staircase, her mind reliving the wonderful sensations of how it felt to be bound up so tightly that she simply couldn’t get free, even if she’d wanted to. In fact, the journey back to her room became a blur in her memory, with her head focused on much more important matters. She must, she thought to herself, remember to book for the next lesson before she left for home in the morning. So preoccupied was she with the memory of the events of the past few hours, that it wasn’t until she was back in the bedroom that she realised that she’d climbed those stairs and walked the long corridor in bare feet; apart from the stirrup straps beneath her instep. She recalled now that Dolores had removed her shoes just prior to binding her ankles, and from that moment onwards, the whereabouts of her footwear had been of little importance to her.

For a few seconds, Bethany contemplated whether to leave the missing shoes where they were until morning. But instead she decided to venture back downstairs to look for them now. Subconsciously at any rate, retrieving her shoes was not the only reason for wanting to leave the bedroom at this late hour, as Bethany was intrigued to explore this vast and seemingly almost deserted mansion, and the hunt for the shoes gave her an excuse for this jaunt. If she happened to stray into uncharted territory and was challenged as to her purpose in being there, she could always claim that she had gone looking for the missing footwear, but had become disorientated in the labyrinth of passages and stairways.

The floorboards seemed to creak louder, the harder she tried to tiptoe stealthily along the corridor back towards the main staircase. Aside from the grumbling timbers, however, the house seemed to be in silence, and Bethany began to wonder whether Dolores and her cronies had already retired for the night. But as she approached the grandiose stairway, she saw that lights still shone from the entrance hall below, and voices could be made out. Or, more correctly, Dolores’ voice could be heard, and from her tone she was clearly not happy with something. But as well as Dolores’ harsh words, another, seemingly subservient voice responded to the Mistress’s outburst, and it was clear to any bondage enthusiast that this second person was speaking through some form of gag. Was it one of her three servants that Dolores was berating?

Bethany knew that, whatever was going on, it was none of her business, but she found herself unable to resist the urge to begin gingerly making her way down the stairs, in order to obtain a better vantage point. Taking three or four silent steps downwards, the curving nature of the stairs gave an excellent view of the brightly lit hallway. There, standing in a line to one side, their legs slightly apart and their hands placed behind their backs, stood the three servants in their skin-tight apparel. Dolores stood a few feet away with her back towards Bethany, and it was clear that her verbal tirade was still in full flow. But it wasn’t the motionless trio that were the brunt of this tidal wave of anger, but someone else, identity as yet unknown due to the fact that they were blocked from view by Dolores’ leather clad form. The latter’s outburst continued apace.

“...more than three days you’ve been here now... three days!... and still you haven’t learnt a thing, have you? You still think that you can disobey my orders without being punished.”

She paused for a moment, during which a muffled moan of despair filled the cavernous hallway.

“I told you that if you behaved well tonight and acted as if you were quite content in your bondage, then I’d think about reducing your sentence by a day or two. But what do you go and do instead? You struggle and scream and try to find someone who’ll believe that you’re not here of your own volition; someone who’ll help you escape. Well bad luck, because I’ve got news for you Missy. Nobody believed you. Everyone thinks it was just an act! If you’re expecting the police to arrive at any moment now, you can forget it.”

Dolores’ anger was getting more intense by the second, and she was virtually screaming at her unseen victim by this stage, who in turn whimpered and groaned pitifully. After taking a deep breath, however, Dolores seemed to calm down somewhat, and when she resumed, her voice had a more considered tone to it.

“So let’s see then, shall we? How much do I add to your sentence for this latest in a long line of misdemeanours?”

She paused again, waiting for her words to the cowering creature still hidden from Bethany’s line of vision to sink in.

“As the addition of a day or two doesn’t seem to work as a deterrent, it looks like I’m going to have to stop going easy on you from now on. For tonight’s outburst, let’s say an extra four weeks shall we? Maybe that will put a stop to any future rebellious instincts you might be harbouring.”

Then she added, seemingly with great relish.

“Actually, I’ve lost track of the length of your sentence, seeing as how I have to add to it nearly every five minutes. Let’s just call it a nice round six months, shall we? From now on any disobedient behaviour, no matter how trivial, gets an extra month added. Is that okay with you?”

The long drawn out howl that filled the cavernous hallway in response to this, suggested that the recipient of this harsh ruling was most certainly not agreeable to the terms being offered to her. This was ignored by Dolores, however.

“At the rate you’re going darling, you’ll be an old woman by the time you leave here.”

Dolores laughed unsympathetically at this forecast, before turning towards her henchwomen.

“Take her down to the cellar and make sure she’s as uncomfortable as possible.”

The three women stepped forward as one and hauled the figure to her feet. Bethany gasped inwardly as her eyes fell upon the woman she’d earlier seen strictly bound in the trunk. Although no longer hog-tied, it was obvious that she was still as inescapably bound as before; her arms pulled so far behind her back that her shoulders almost looked as if they were about to dislocate from their sockets. Her face was still swathed in circuit after circuit of clinging duct tape, and her body was bound in a lattice of ropes that dug deeply into the black spandex of her outfit. Her long black hair, previously tied in a ponytail, now hung loose and unkempt around her shoulders. Her legs were now shorn of the tight ropes that had adorned them when Bethany had last viewed her, but in their place, a set of ankle cuffs had been fitted; the connecting chain being of no more than three or four inches in length. This latter circumstance meant that her stride, as she was forcibly marched across the floor, was of an unnaturally short span, and that she was having difficulty keeping up with the pace expected by her escorts, who guided her towards a corridor that led off to the right.

Bethany sat motionless as she watched the procession cross the floor; frightened to move unless she inadvertently attracted the attention of one of Dolores’ retinue. After a few seconds, however, they had steered their prisoner into the passageway and disappeared from sight. As silently as she could, Bethany crept up the stairs again and made her way back to her room. She half expected to hear Dolores bounding up the stairs behind her, and turned several times to check that she wasn’t being followed. But on each occasion, the passageway behind her was empty.

Reaching the sanctuary of her allotted room, Bethany quickly locked the door. In a daze, she sat on the bed, not knowing what to make of the scene she’d just witnessed. Okay, she had taken Dolores at her word earlier, when she’d informed the class that this woman – what was her name now? Cathy wasn’t it? – was a willing actress in this demonstration of just how tight and inescapable bondage could be. But why continue the charade now, when there was no audience? Surely, the scene she’d just unwittingly been a spectator to was no game playing. And if this was true, then the events she’d just observed must be for real. Or put another way, Dolores really did keep people incarcerated against their will. And the gist of the overheard monologue suggested that these periods of captivity went on for months on end!!

So what was she to do about it? Retrieving her mobile phone from her bag, Bethany vowed to call the police straightaway and inform them of what she’d just seen. But then she hesitated. What if she’d got it wrong? Maybe this woman really did like to live the lifestyle of the helpless kidnap victim 24/7. And if that was the case, then calling the police could have far-reaching repercussions that would be detrimental to all concerned. For a start, it would mean that her first lesson here would also be her last, as she was sure Dolores wouldn’t take too kindly to having to explain the strange goings-on here to the cops, and she would find herself expelled. No, she had to be more certain that something of an illegal nature was going on here before she blew the whistle.

But how was she to go about obtaining incontrovertible evidence of wrong-doing? She could hardly come out and ask Dolores directly, could she? And the three servants would hardly be of much help, seeing as how they seemed to be eternally mute. No, there was only one thing for it. She would have to find the poor helpless creature herself, and hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

This, of course, was easier said than done. For a start, she didn’t know where the woman was being held. And even if she found out, the chances were that she was locked in some dark prison cell to which there would be no easy access. And what if she was caught in the act? What exactly would Dolores and her accomplices do to her? Would she also find herself held captive and kept here indefinitely? Although she lived and breathed tight bondage every second of the day, the prospect of being kept that way for months, or possibly years, was just a step too far... even for her.

However, after much self-deliberation, she realised that there was no other alternative. She would, she resolved, have to seek out this captive female and find out exactly what was going on here. Looking at the screen of her mobile, she noticed that she was getting no signal here anyway. And this was the deciding factor that persuaded her to turn off the phone and place it back in her bag.

Bethany paced the floor of her room and gazed out through the bars that criss-crossed the window. The grounds were now in total darkness, and the only source of faint illumination, on this cloudy, starless night, originated from a few house lights in the village a mile or so away, viewed over the high perimeter wall of Shackleton Grange. Still in her borrowed costume, she sat down on the bed once again. Although it was getting late, she doubted whether, even if she were to lie down on the soft bed, she would be able to sleep, as her mind was working overtime trying to take in all that had happened to her in the past few hours. Her watch showed that it was just gone eleven o’clock. She was eager to set out on her mission now, but reined herself in with the knowledge that Dolores and her cohorts could still be around at the moment. She would need to wait an hour or two, she decided, in the hope that everyone else in the house would be asleep by then.

****

Bethany spent most of her self imposed waiting period pacing the floor of the bedroom. She already knew in which direction the captive woman had been taken, but where she now resided was impossible to guess at. Nor did she have any real plan as to what to do when - or if – she happened to find her. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to locate her at all. Or perhaps she’d find a door from behind which muffled screams emanated, yet be unable to break in and discover exactly what was going on. These considerations, and many more besides, played on her mind as she waited impatiently until she thought the time was right.

At just gone one o’clock, Bethany slowly opened the door to her room. She had been itching to get this whole thing over and done with for what seemed like ages now, and she could wait no longer. The corridor outside her room was in complete darkness, but luckily Bethany always carried a small torch in her handbag, and this would now prove invaluable in her quest to locate the missing woman.

****

It is a strange phenomenon, but sounds at night always seem much louder than those made during daylight hours. And this journey proved no exception to the rule. Added to this was the fact that, as Bethany so desperately desired her passage through the house to be as silent as was humanly possible, the exact opposite transpired – at least to her mind - and every movement reverberated around the ancient timbers and plaster that much louder than it would have done under less stressful circumstances. The constant creak of ancient floorboards, plus a myriad of other noises that old houses seem to emit for no apparent reason, accompanied her careful, flash-lit journey along the corridor, until she reached the top of the stairs.

At this point, Bethany was pleased to note that, unlike her previous abandoned excursion to reclaim her shoes, the vast space below was in complete darkness. Tiptoeing cautiously down, she made a beeline for the entrance to the passageway through which Dolores’ servants had last been seen coaxing their prisoner. The floor of the corridor in which she now found herself consisted of bare flagstones, with plain grey walls rising on either side and disappearing into the pitch blackness ahead of her, which the torch’s feeble beam did very little to alleviate. For the first fifty yards or so of her tentative journey, Bethany encountered no break in the monotony of the walls, floor, and what seemed to be an increasingly low ceiling. But then, to her left, she suddenly spied a solid wooden door. She hesitated. Should she carry on along the passageway, or see what secrets lurked behind the door? For some reason, the thought of going ever further into the black tunnel didn’t hold much appeal, and she found herself, with very little anticipation of success, grasping the door handle and pulling it towards her. Miraculously, it began to open.

If Bethany had been loath to continue down the seemingly endless passageway, then the sight that greeted her on shining the torch into the now gaping doorway, was even less appetising. From where she stood on the threshold, a narrow spiral staircase fell steeply away into a black chasm before her; disappearing, it seemed, into the bowels of the earth. But what swayed her into venturing down this worn and treacherous stairwell, was a very faint sound, only just on the edge of her hearing. It could have been the wind murmuring through some unknown crevice in the building’s ancient structure somewhere. Maybe it was the sound of a mouse squeaking and scurrying in the black depths below. Or it could have been simply her imagination. But no, there it was again, and it sounded like none of these things. In fact, what it most closely resembled was the sound of someone crying mournfully into an extremely efficient gag; someone whose mouth was packed with fabric that couldn’t be removed without assistance.

Taking a deep breath, her heart pounding loudly in her chest, Bethany proceeded downwards with extreme caution. The torch beam highlighted damp, mildew-patched walls and a low cambered ceiling with water dripping intermittently onto the crumbling stone steps on which she trod. The feel of the cold, wet stone chilled her bare feet, and she wished now that she’d gone in search of her shoes prior to undertaking this trek into the netherworld hidden beneath Shackleton Grange.

But there was no going back now. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Bethany nervously shone the ever dimming beam out in front of her. All but the first few yards remained in impenetrable gloom, but she could make out that she was now in another passageway, with wooden doors on either side. So from where exactly had those strange muffled sounds emanated? For around thirty seconds or so, Bethany stood and listened for any clue as to the whereabouts of the originator of those pitiful cries. But there was only silence. Thinking she had made a mistake in coming this way, she was about to retreat up to ground level once more, when she heard it. Barely audible, yet distinct enough to be able to make out that this was the sound of a female in need of help. Yet still she was unable to pinpoint the direction from which the low sound emanated.

“Hello, is anyone there? Where are you?”

Terrified of being heard by any of the other residents of the house, Bethany kept her voice as low as possible, although her whispered enquiries still echoed eerily around the stone-clad underground chamber. And seconds later, she realised that her words had reached their intended recipient, as a slightly stifled, single, drawn out note of despair rang out around the subterranean cavern. And it was coming from one of the rooms away to Bethany’s right. Hurrying across to the door from behind which the outburst arose, Bethany could see now that the wooden obstruction had a small barred window – no more than four inches square – at around eye level.

Shining her torch into the interior brought no enlightenment as to the source of the noises, as by now the batteries were fading fast. There was, Bethany therefore decided, no time to lose. She had to get the women out of here... and quickly. But how was she to enter a room that was surely locked? A quick tug on the handle proved that she had been correct in this assumption, but as her hand fumbled in the darkness, something cold and metallic just below, brushed the underside of her wrist. Shining the now severely diminished beam in the direction of this protruding object, Bethany’s vision fell on a rusted key poking from the lock. Clearly Dolores or her partners-in-crime hadn’t seen the need to remove it, as they‘d had no reason to think that anyone else would be snooping around in the cellar at the dead of night.

Bethany found that she could turn the key only with great difficulty, as if the room was reluctant to give up its secret hidden within. Nor was opening the heavy door an easy task, and it took the slim young woman both hands and all her strength to drag it inch by inch, until a gap big enough for her to slip through had been gained. The first sweep of the faltering beam of light around the small windowless chamber revealed very little, and Bethany’s initial conclusion was that she had been mistaken, and that the room was empty. But as the dim light circled around the grim stone walls, she glimpsed something in one corner that made her go back and concentrate the beam on this particular nook of the room. And then she saw something that at first she assumed was a large inanimate ball of indeterminate origin and substance. But then she saw it move!

Only very slightly – almost imperceptibly, in fact - but still enough to convince her that this was not some trick of the light or optical illusion brought about by her extreme nervousness. And the noise that accompanied this movement - a deep, low groan of anguish – told her that this was not some inert item, but in fact a living creature. Closer inspection soon revealed that the figure was human, and of the female persuasion. Was this Cathy?

The reason that there was still some doubt in Bethany’s mind as to the identity of the curled up woman before her, was that she was completely hidden from view, save for a fountain of black hair that sprayed out from the top of this human sphere. Most of the rest of her was enveloped within a cocoon of unbroken duct tape, which had been applied whilst her feet had been bent under her to meet her buttocks, and her head brought down to within a fraction of an inch of her knees. Now wrapped and trapped in this foetal posture, only her head had escaped the tightly circling tape, and this was encased in what appeared to be a black leather hood with no eye or mouth apertures.

Bethany knelt down besides the softly moaning woman and placed the waning torch on the floor so that it illuminated her strange discovery. Clearly the woman knew that someone was in the room, although she probably thought that one of her captors had returned to inflict more suffering on her – if that were even possible. Bethany therefore tried to assure her that she was here to help not harm.

“It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you.”

A quick scan of the hood showed Bethany that it was of the type that laced up at the back. Gently, so as not to alarm the wearer, she began to loosen the restrictive headwear. It took only a minute or two before there was enough slack in the soft leather for her to pull the hood up and away, to reveal the fear filled eyes of Cathy, the woman she had briefly encountered earlier that evening. Below her nose, however, her face was swathed in grey tape identical to that which kept her limbs and body confined to a tight ball. Bethany wasted no time in starting to unpeel the multilayered facial wrap.

It took several minutes, as the tape was of good quality and excellent in its adhesive attributes, but at last the final, skin-bonded layer was reached; the removal of which seemed to cause - based on her grimaced expression – much agony, notwithstanding the fact that Bethany used as little force as possible. With the tape gone, Bethany pulled a soggy ball of material – rolled up tights by the feel of them – from the woman’s mouth. Cathy gasped and took in several deep breaths, before looking up at her potential saviour and blurting out her tale of woe in a quick-fire stream of semi-coherence; as if she needed to get her side of events out as soon as possible, before anyone could gag her again.

“Please, you’ve got to help me get away from here... Dolores is threatening to keep me here for months, and keeps on adding extra time on... I’ll never get out of here unless you help me... she keeps me tied up all the time... for hours on end... I know she’s told you I’m here willingly, but that’s a lie... you’ve got to believe me... I can’t take much more of this... I’ve been kept prisoner here for over three days now...”

Bethany tried to calm the clearly distressed woman down.

“Okay, I believe you. I’m not sure how I’ll get you out of the house, but we’ll find a way. Firstly though, I’m going to get you out of all that tape. My names Bethany by the way and...”

It was at this point that Bethany noticed that Cathy’s gaze had strayed to look over her shoulder, in the direction of the open door to the cell. She watched as the bound woman’s eyes widened with fear. At the precise second that she turned to see what had caught Cathy’s attention, there was a clicking sound and the darkness exploded into light. Momentarily blinded, Bethany shielded her eyes from the light bulb’s glare. But the initial realisation of exactly who it was that had entered the room, wasn’t attained through visual recognition, but was instead aurally received.

“So, I let you stay the night in my house and this is how you repay me, is it?”

Both the voice, and the silhouette now framed in the doorway, belonged undeniably to Dolores.

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11.08.17

Story continued in Part 8

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