It was late afternoon, almost dusk on a bleak wintry day. Maggie Altdorf was walking home to the small comfortable suburban cottage in the middle class area where she lived.
Maggie was thirty seven, tertiary educated and held a managerial position with a firm in a nearby regional centre. She was very slim, above average height, fit and healthy. A narrow face, pointed chin, framed by short black hair in a page boy cut completed the picture. She had a nice smile. And today she wore a matching jacket and skirt and carried a black leather handbag.
Because this morning had promised to be a drizzly, wet day, she had also worn a white trench coat style, belted raincoat. This item, made of heavy waterproofed fabric, was very old and had some sentimental value. The belt was done up firmly, emphasising her narrow waist and girlish figure.
Maggie was single and lived alone in her two bedroom home. She had been there for fourteen years. In the beginning she and her partner at the time had lived here together for three or four happy, tempestuous years. They had even gone on an extended overseas tour which ranged over three continents (his work at the time took him to distant places). But then, sadly, the relationship had come to an end.
And so they parted company. But she liked the home they had made and bought him out. And had lived there ever since. For ten solitary years.
She always enjoyed the company of men, and had affairs from time to time but the old fire of what had been her first love had never rekindled. Lately, even these had been fewer and further apart. She wondered if she was headed for a solitary maturity. She hoped not.
She was walking through the fading daylight along the main road which linked the place where she worked to the next big suburb. She reached the junction where her own quiet street branched off. Further down the main traffic artery was an affluent area containing some very fine houses indeed. She stopped and stared.
There seemed to be some incident taking place at a wide stretch several hundred yards further on. Police vehicles, with lights flashing, were parked there. Uniformed men rushed around. Sirens indicated more were on their way. What was going on?
Maggie shook her head. Nothing to do with her. She turned and walked into the gathering dusk along her own street.
She strode briskly, thinking only of getting home. And the solitary evening meal she would prepare and eat.
Her area had many trees growing on the nature strips and in the front yards of houses. Then, in the diminishing light she saw a man standing on the footpath reserve near her front gate. Who was he? He was thin, tall, about her own height and age and wore an open necked shirt and no coat.
She was not an easily frightened person. And after all this was a public street in respectable suburbia. Attacks and assaults never happened here. A disgruntled neighbour with some local grievance he wanted to air, perhaps? She approached within speaking distance. And then…
“Margaret Frances Altdorf?” He had spoken her name in full! No local knew that. The voice was familiar. Memory surged and then she knew.
Tom! Tom Bertrand. Her partner of long ago. The man with whom, fourteen years before, she had lived and helped purchase this cottage, in front of which they now stood. And with whom she had had no contact for nearly ten years.
“Tom,” she began, “Well, this is a surprise.” Very trite she knew, but she could think of nothing else. They had parted on good terms.
“I know Maggie. I know,” he sounded chastened, even somewhat worried, “Look, if you don’t mind, could we go inside and talk?” He glanced nervously around to where the police sirens could be heard back on the main road. Oh, she thought, he’s involved with that, is he? Memories came back of the strange job he had in the past. He took her by her rain coated upper arm and steered her through her gate and up the path.
She was curious, if only at this sudden reappearance; wanting to know the full story. She went ahead, up to the front steps, across the veranda to her front door. Opening it with her key she put on the hall light and led the way to her lounge room. She clicked on the fluorescent lighting.
She did not take her raincoat off, merely putting her handbag on the table, she turned and faced her visitor. “Well then Tom,” she began, thrusting her hands deep into the large pockets, “as already stated, this is very much a surprise.” She nodded toward the lounge, “Sit down if you wish.” Silently, he did so. Taking her hands out of her pockets she pushed her most comfortable chair in front of him and sat down in it herself, her waterproof rustling. “And now, please tell me what this is all about.”
“Well,” he began, “It’s like this. Up there,” a nod to where the sirens could still be heard, “Is a house occupied by Achem Ranani. International financier, dubious reputation. I had an appointment with him tonight. On his insistence I parked my car some distance away and walked to his home. I was doing this and only a hundred yards away when the police arrived in force, cordoned off his residence and raided the place. They’ll have arrested him by now and it’s my guess he’ll be deported by the end of the week.”
“On seeing this I quietly turned to go back to my car and get out of the area. As I approached I saw two plain clothes men beside it, looking at it. I didn’t dare go any closer, just walked away. And then I remembered you lived nearby and came here. It’s getting dark and nobody saw me.”
“Maggie,” he went on, “This is big, very big. It’s international, not national. Billions are involved. They’ll deport Ranani. That place up there’ll be declared a crime scene and searched from top to bottom. Which’ll take days. They’ll probably make house to house inquiries. I’ve got to get out of here. I’ll have to use your phone to arrange to be picked up. Meanwhile, I have to stay out of sight.”
She smiled, leaned forward in her chair and grasped her knees in folded hands. Her raincoat crackled. “You do get yourself involved, don’t you? And you’re asking me to be your accomplice, in what sounds like an international incident?”
He was serious. “I’ll tie you up, hand and foot. And if they ever find out I was here and start asking questions you can truthfully say you were taken captive then bound and gagged for the whole proceedings. That whatever happened, it was all done against your will.”
“Ooh, bondage, eh? Sounds exciting.” She reminisced, “I seem to recall we discussed that once or twice when we were together, but never actually did anything.” Impishly, she inquired, "And will you take sexual advantage of me while I’m helplessly bound?”
He was serious, “Look Maggie, this is very important.The sooner we do it the better. Have you got any rope here?”
“Well, no. I’ve entertained male visitors here at various times but none of them ever expressed a desire to tie me hand and foot.” She stood up, her raincoat rustling, “But there's something which I think will do just as well. Come this way.” She led him to the linen cupboard in the hall.
She took out a folded blue sheet. “This is an old one, about to be thrown out. You can tear it into wide strips.” She became businesslike, “You spoke of making a call. The telephone’s in the hall. Where’re you going to tie me up?” She looked at him, raising her eyes inquiringly.
“In the lounge,” he said quietly.
Here, he carefully tore the old sheet into four inch wide strips. She watched him, her hands in her raincoat pockets. When it was done she wordlessly turned away and crossed her wrists behind her back. He looped one of the lengths around them several times, gently, but firmly pulling it tight and secured it with a good knot. Next he lashed her arms to her sides, underneath her breasts and cinched this under the armpits with a shorter piece. Another section was tied above her bust and finally her forearms were bound to her waist. Throughout this he was careful not to twist any of the strips and if asked, would have said this made it more comfortable, and more effective. The only sound was the whisper and rustle of the waterproof fabric of her coat. Silently, Maggie reflected she must be looking like a blue wrapped mummy.
“You’re going to a lot of trouble," she commented, looking down at her now well wrapped upper body.
“It’s got to look realistic,” he said. He indicated the sofa. “Would you sit down please. I’ll tie your ankles and legs.” She sat carefully in the middle.
He knelt before her. Crossing her ankles, he wound one the strips around them, several times, and tied it securely. Then he undid the two bottom buttons of her trench coat, pulled back the flaps and lifted up her skirt. Lastly he bound her legs above the knees, using the same care as he had with her other bonds.
“That’s it,” he said, pulling her raincoat back in place and standing up. “Now you can truthfully say you were securely tied hand and foot. And describe how it was done.” He paused, “But there’s just one more thing left to do.”
He left the room, made his way to the bathroom and returned with a damp washcloth which he began to fold into a pad.
“You’re going to gag me, aren’t you? You don’t have to, you know. I haven’t the slightest intention of calling out.”
“Just while I make my phone call. Then you can in full honesty say you were deprived of speech with one of your own face cloths.” He forced it between her unwilling lips and made sure it stayed there by tying one of the last blue sashes over the lower part of her face.
“There,” he said, stepping back to admire his work. “Pretty as a picture. You look like a nicely wrapped gift parcel.” She looked at him searchingly over her gag.
“And now,” he said, turning, “I’ll make my phone call. Shouldn’t be long. Then I’ll come back and remove your gag and we can talk.” She mewed at him, the only sound she could make. He smiled, “Just don’t go anywhere while I’m away.” He waved and left the room. She glared after him.
She hoisted herself into a more comfortable position on the sofa, her raincoat creaking and listened to him making his call in the hall. His voice rose at one stage.
He came back, untied the sash and took the gag out of her mouth. She asked for a drink of water. He brought a glass tumbler from the bathroom which he held to her mouth while she drank, then wiped her lips with a small hand towel. “Thank you,” she said, settling back on the lounge, “And now, what’s going to happen? How’re these friends of yours going to help you?”
“They’re sending a lady in a car. Fortunately your house number’s large and well illuminated by the street light over the road. I’ve said for her to turn into your driveway and park in the shadow of those trees in your front yard.” He became serious, “The only problem is that she can’t get here before ten.”
Maggie threw back her head and laughed. “So we’re together, in each other’s company for several hours. Well then, there’s a little catching up we might do.” She wriggled along the cushions, her coat rustling, “Sit down here. Beside me.” He did this, brushing her sleeve as he did so. The two were now seated side by side on the sofa.
He looked at her. “I recognised this raincoat when you were thirty yards away. Even before I could see your face. I remembered it from when we were together. You wore it in those days. You don’t see them so much now.”
“I know,” she answered, “It’s all plastic and nylon these days. I keep it for sentimental reasons as much as anything. I’ve had it re-proofed a couple of times.” She lifted her head, “Meanwhile. Let’s talk about us. It’s been about ten years since we parted company. Have you ever thought about the time we were together?”
“I know, I know,” he looked down. “I’ve often thought about it. We should never have gone on that trip to the Americas the way we did. Mixing business with pleasure - never a good combination. At least not that sort of business anyway. It certainly divided us, didn’t it?” He looked at her, "Anyway, I’ve come up in the organisation. They don’t send me overseas any more.”
“Yes. Sadly, it did just that.” She agreed, paused a while and then asked, “And what about yourself? Is there a lady in your life at the moment?”
This caught him completely by surprise. Silence. And then, “No. There isn’t. There’ve been affairs over the years, but no, nothing serious. Nothing since you left.” This sounded as if it had been dragged out of him. He turned sideways and looked at her, “And yourself?”
Maggie stared straight ahead, “Pretty much the same,” she paused and added with a wry smile. “I seem to have got a local reputation as a wealthy widow. Consequently, there’re been a few impoverished male divorcees who’ve come off second best in the divorce court coming around. But over the years simply nothing, nothing, nothing.”
The two sat side by side on the sofa in silence. The man in his open necked long sleeved shirt and casual slacks, the lady bound hand and foot in her raincoat, looking like a blue wrapped package. It creaked and rustled with the slightest movement.
He spoke at last. “Look. I’ve got something to say - and if you don’t agree I’ll quite understand - but, for old times sake. Could we become lovers?”
A long silence, and then. “Yes. I think I’d like that. We always managed that well enough. But, on one condition. I call the shots.” She looked at him and smiled, “I suppose with me tied up like this you’re in a position to do what you like anyway.” He shook his head vigorously.
“Very well. First move. You untie my legs and ankles, lift me to my feet and we adjourn to my bedroom.” He did this.
In the bedroom she faced him, both of them standing on a lambskin rug. “First of all you untie me.” She laughed, “Oh, at first I had the idea of being taken fully clothed and with my arms bound like they are now. But then I thought - No. Let’s do it the way we always did. Try and recapture the old magic. And there’s a few things I want to do to you.” She smiled. Silently, he untied her, putting the blue lashings in a neat pile on the floor.
Wordlessly, she smiled at him again and began to take off her raincoat. First undoing the wide belt, then unbuttoning it from bottom to top. Slipping it off, she carefully draped it on a wooden coat hanger which she hung on a peg on the inside of her wardrobe door. The fabric rustled and whispered.
She stood before him in the matching brown jacket and skirt she wore to work. “And now we sit side by side on the bed and remove our footwear.” They did this, placing both items neatly together under the bed. They then stood facing each other on the rug. She smiled, “And from here, my love, we undress.”
They did this, slowly and deliberately, smiling at each other from time to time. Each item removed was neatly folded and placed on Maggie’s dressing table. It occurred to them that in the past neatness was something they had both had in common.
They faced each other, naked. She recalled with satisfaction they were about the same height, both slim and lean. They embraced, he kissed her, Maggie responded wholeheartedly. She reached down, located, enfolded and caressed his straining member which was rising to the occasion. “Oh, darling,” he moaned, “Easy, easy. You’ll make me go, way ahead of schedule.”
She laughed as she released him, “All in good time, dearest.” She stepped back, pulled open the lower drawer of her bedside cabinet, revealing a folded towel and a tube of lubricant. “Now remember. I’m calling the tune.” She moved to her side of the double bed. “The first move will be me entering from this side, I’ll adjust the towel as required and when I’m settled to my satisfaction, you will join me from the other side.”
Eventually they lay, facing each other under the sheet and coverlet. She whispered her final instructions and they joined in love.
In the hours that followed they coupled and re-coupled. Perhaps they did recapture the old magic. They also strove to make up for what they came to think of as the Ten Lost Years. It was pure bliss. Delightful.
Much, much later it was drawing near the hour of ten. Maggie and Tom were seated on the lounge in the main room with the heater on for warmth.
Both were barefoot but dressed. Tom in his open necked shirt and slacks, Maggie was simply wearing her raincoat, buttoned and belted but otherwise bare underneath. They were sipping cups of tea and nibbling biscuits she had found. They could hear the rain had set in.
For the most part they sat in silence. Earlier they had playfully talked about the myth of Penelope and Ulysses. How those two had spent ten years apart while Ulysses journeyed around the Aegean. Ten Lost Years for them too it seemed. Now they were back in the present.
The rain continued. “It’s not like her to be late,” said Tom. At that moment they heard the swishing tyres of a vehicle in the street outside. It paused outside Maggie’s home then tuned into her driveway. And stopped in what must have been a patch of shadow beside the cottage. A car door opened and closed, quietly.
“I've left the kitchen light on and the outside door unlocked,” said Maggie as they listened to footsteps along the side path.
Tom stood up. “We’d both better be there when she comes in.” The two went into the kitchen.
The courier was Beryl. A solid, well built woman in her early forties. A square, determined face framed by short dark hair. She wore a belted trench coat and a narrow brimmed rain hat both of which glistened with rain water. Tom greeted her as she came through the outer door.
“This’s Maggie,” he explained, “She’s been my kind hostess for the evening.” Maggie nodded. The two rain coated women looked at each other.
“Margaret Altdorf, aren't you?” smiled Beryl in friendly fashion, “I know something of you. An old acquaintance of Tom’s I believe? Perhaps you’ve been renewing the friendship? Well, best of luck if you have.” An understanding woman, this visitor.
She went on. “I came down the main road on my way here. Quite a police presence at the Ranani Residence, despite the rain. This's getting bigger by the minute. The national government's involved now. They may search the neighbourhood, which is one reason you’ve got to get out quickly." She smiled knowingly, “You can come back later to visit your lady friend, when things’ve calmed down. It’s Achem Ranani they’re after. Not you.”
Tom looked sorrowful but resigned. To be pulled in by the police was the last thing he needed now. Even if he wasn’t the one they wanted. Maggie understood this. “I suppose they’ve impounded my car by now.”
“They have,” Beryl was firm, “But don’t worry. You’ll get it back in a few days. I repeat. It’s Ranani they want, not yourself.” Briskly she turned to other business. “Meanwhile, it’s imperative we get you out of here A.S.A.P. Anything here you’ve got to gather up before you go?”
“Well, there’s those blue ties in the bedroom. Better not leave them here.” Maggie handed him a plastic bag from a kitchen tidy and he headed for the scene of their lovemaking.
Left alone with her, Beryl turned to Maggie. “You’ve got nothing to worry about. They haven't the slightest interest in him.” She reminisced thoughtfully, “In fact, a few weeks ago it was him who advised our organisation against getting involved with Ranani. Now he’s been revealed as an international crook.” She smiled ruefully, “We should’ve listened to him.”
Tom returned with a full plastic bag. He’d also put on his shoes. “Well then,” said Beryl, “Time we were on our way. They probably won’t come round tonight but you never know. If you stayed the night you might be picked up leaving the area in the morning.” She smiled at the pair, "You’ll just have to wait a few days, children. Patience. After ten years you ought to be good at it.”
Maggie slipped on a pair of rain boots. All three walked along the side path to the parked car. Because it was raining Beryl and Tom got in quickly. Protected by her raincoat, Maggie stood under the eaves as they backed out. She waved as they drove off.
She walked back to the kitchen. And wondered how long before she saw Tom again.
In the lounge room she saw something under the lounge they had been sitting on. It was the blue sash he had used to keep the gag in her mouth in what seemed so long ago now. Tom had not gathered it up with the others. She held it up and looked at it.
Maggie smiled, “At least I’ve got one souvenir of a milestone evening.”