My 25th story. Make what you will of it. Possibly it’s a milestone. We’ll see.
Ellen Carstairs was driving from her home to the local news agency in the mountain suburb in which she lived. This small business was one of a dozen which comprised the shopping centre of this remote community which was considered a backwater by the inhabitants of the large urban metropolis to the east. But its locals liked their quiet, tranquil locality and would not have changed it.
The distance from her modest cottage was less than a mile and normally Ellen would have walked it but today she had other business as well and so was using her car. She planned to leave it in the small, unpaved, car park alongside the news agency. Which would very likely be empty on this late afternoon Autumn day.
She herself was in her early forties, with a trim, firm, almost athletic figure. Somewhat tall, she had a narrow face, framed by a straight, brown haircut and smiled easily. Because she thought her other business might keep her out until dusk and as late showers had been forecast she was wearing a rustling nylon raincoat, buttoned to the throat. She had brought a large black, shiny handbag.
Ellen herself had been an accountant in a small business until a modest inheritance had enabled her to retire and buy a comfortable cottage in this area. She liked the mountains and appreciated the relaxed lifestyle of this community. She had never married, and always said this was because she had never found a man she wanted. This was not to say she did not appreciate the comfort of a male partner. She had had several discreet but satisfactory affairs and was even now on the lookout for a companion.
She drove into the car park and and parked her grey sedan next to the news agency itself. As she expected the parking area was empty. The business itself was in old weatherboard building, the rear part of which was a private residence in which lived the two proprietors. These were two spinster sisters in their early fifties named Beatrice and Bessie Benson who had run the agency for years and were something of a local institution.
Ellen walked in the open front door. The business/display section was empty, the counter unattended. Not unusual for this part of the world. “You hoo,” she called in the easy manner of the locality, “Anyone home?” No answer. She went on through the open doorway at the rear which led to a room which was variously an office, storage repository and morning and afternoon tea venue. Customers did this sort of thing in this remote semi rural place. And then she stopped in surprise.
Beatrice and Bessie were here alright. They were both seated in two large, heavy, straight-backed wooden chairs, normally used for visitors for tea which had been pulled out and placed side by side in the centre of the room. And that was not all.
Three other people were there too. One was a man, about the same age as Ellen herself. Lean, athletic, thin faced under a tight cap and wearing a close fitting rain jacket. He was kneeling beside the agency safe in the corner, which he appeared to be opening with a set of tools spread on a flannel square beside him. The other two were women. One was somewhat younger than the male and the other a slim, very youthful teenager who could not have been more than fifteen. The older lady was of very active, healthy appearance with a square, determined face and short dark hair. The girl, with her page boy fair hair cut and innocent face could have passed for a schoolgirl anywhere. Both were wearing belted winter overcoats and woollen caps. They looked like a mother and daughter pair, suitably dressed for a cold, bleak day such as this.
It was what these two ladies were doing that stopped Ellen dead in her tracks. They were tying Beatrice and Bessie to the wooden chairs in which they were sitting. Using lengths of soft white rope from a satchel on the floor they had crossed the two sisters' wrists behind the chair backs and bound them firmly. They had lashed their upper arms to the wooden uprights and had also tied them securely around the waist to the backs of the chairs. The young girl was kneeling in front of them, had crossed and bound their ankles and was attaching these to the lower cross bars. The two lady owners were being very tightly secured to their own furniture.
Both looked worried, but not greatly discomforted. It appeared they were being tied securely but with some regard to their comfort. Perhaps it helped that they were both wearing woollen cardigans and thick winter skirts. And that they both had somewhat matronly figures.
The woman was the first to respond to Ellen’s intrusion. “Hello,” she said with a hint of a smile, “A visitor I see.” She gestured toward Beatrice and Bessie, “Well, as you can see the two lady proprietresses are a little tied up at the moment and not able to welcome you as they might otherwise have done. And now unfortunately it becomes necessary to tie you up too.”
With this the woman crossed the floor, seized Ellen by her upper arm and made to move her to where Beatrice and Bessie were being bound to their chairs. “If you’ll just step this way we’ll attend to it.” The nylon fabric of her raincoat crackled where she held her.
Ellen did not move. She realised she had walked into a robbery and did not like the idea of being tied up. And probably gagged. The woman turned and looked at her. “I’d advise you to co-operate. My colleagues and I are very skilled at this and you’d get nowhere trying to resist us.” In the corner of the room the man at the safe was now standing up and had one hand in the pocket of his rain jacket. The young girl continued to expertly tie Bessie’s ankles to the chair. The woman even smiled, “Sadly, it’s just a case of you being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
This convinced Ellen. She did not want to fight professional criminals. She allowed herself to be led over to where her captor got a length of white rope from the satchel, turned her around, crossed her wrists behind her back and began to tie them securely. Her nylon raincoat rustled. Her handbag was placed on a nearby table, untouched.
Meanwhile, the man returned to the antique safe in the corner. He managed to open the door and moved several bundles of banknotes into another satchel near his tools. He also took some legal documents and a large brown envelope and stowed them away as well. Finally, put away the equipment he had used and closed the safe door. He stood up, picked up his satchel and walked over to where his two partners were securing their captives.
“I’ve got what we came for,” he said in a soft voice, “And it’s time we were moving.”
“Alright then,” answered the woman, “ I’ll go and get the car. Now if you’ll just gag our two friends here.” She nodded towards Beatrice and Bessie who glared back at her, “We don’t want them getting too noisy after we’ve gone and disturbing the neighbourhood, do we?” She looked down and saw their young accomplice had finished tying the lady shop owners’ feet and said to her. “And if you could finish tying up our new arrival here,” she indicated Ellen, “We'll all be on our way very quickly.”
The man nodded. He got two prepared gags out of the satchel. Damp, tightly folded pieces of Terry towelling tied in the middle of short lengths of cord and moved towards the two bound news agency proprietors, both of whom eyed him with distaste. The girl stood up, picked up some more pieces of white rope and went over to Ellen and said, “Time to tie you up properly Granny, and then it’s gaggies time for you too.”
Irritated at such impudence, particularly from one so young and not at all pleased with the prospect of being bound by her, Ellen responded, “I’m not your grandmother. And there’s no need to use baby talk.”
The man paused in front of Beatrice and Bessie, turned slightly and said quietly to the young woman, “She’s right you know. We don’t need that. A little respect please.” Despite herself and the fact that this trio were going to deprive her of liberty and would no doubt leave her bound and gagged, Ellen warmed to him. Their older female accomplice smiled briefly at this exchange then walked out the back door of the premises.
The man turned back to the property owners. “I’m sorry ladies but It’s necessary to gag you both. It shouldn’t be for too long and you’ll be quite comfortable if you let your jaws relax.” They both frowned at him as he forced the wadded towelling into their mouths and then tied cords at the backs of their necks.
Meanwhile his young assistant had secured Ellen’s upper arms to her body with two more pieces of rope. Her raincoat fabric crackled and whispered as she did so. This done she indicated her captive should sit on a leather covered lounge along the wall. “So that I can tie your legs and ankles. Unfortunately, it’s necessary.” At least she no longer spoke flippantly. Ellen had already noticed her captor had very gentle hands. She reflected that under different circumstances she might have made a good nurse.
Meanwhile the man had finished gagging the two agency owners who now glared at him over their well filled and completely silenced mouths. Ignoring them, he turned to the small table, picked up Ellen’s handbag and opened it. The owner scowled and was on the point of saying something but all he did was take out her purse and car keys, look briefly at both and then put them back. He looked closely at some papers he found in a side pocket, then at her, but in the end carefully replaced everything, did up the clasp and put the handbag back on the table.
At this moment the back door opened and the woman hurried back in with a worried look on her face.
“The car won’t start,” she said tersely, “It’s dead. The battery’s gone.”
“Well then,” said the man quietly and completely unruffled, “So we need new transportation.”
All three turned and looked out the window into the car park in which Ellen’s grey sedan was still the only vehicle.
“That’s the car this lady drove up in,” said the girl, “I saw her get out of it.”
“And we already have the keys,” said the man, reaching for Ellen’s handbag. “But before we get under way, there are a few things we have to do.” Both the woman and the girl looked at him. They both deferred to him. Clearly he was in charge.
“You gag her,” he said too the young girl indicating their latest captive, “And you,” this to the woman, "Find something to blindfold her with. There’s something else I want to do for her too.” He looked around in the satchel and produced a set of plastic ear-plugs which he himself fitted into Ellen’s ears.
In a short while, as a result of these ministrations, Ellen was effectively bound hand and foot, gagged, blindfolded and could hear nothing. She wondered why it had been necessary to do this to her. Beatrice and Bessie had been simply tied to chairs and deprived of speech. “And now,” said the man, shepherding the other two into a corner of the room, “We can talk about where we’re going from here.”
The woman spoke first. “They’ll find my broken down car and trace it back to me. It’s registered in my name. We can’t go back to my place. It’s the first place they’ll look.”
“Some of my things are there too,” the girl smiled ruefully, “Though I doubt if they’d work out whose they are. Still, I can’t go back there either.”
“So we can’t go back to where we set out from. I thought that place was a mistake anyway,” the man sounded brisk, professional. “Very well then. Where do we to go?” He looked at them both and, getting no reply, said finally. “I can make a suggestion.”
Both looked at him inquiringly.
"About an hour’s drive further west into the mountains, there’s a safe place we can stay for days if necessary in perfect safety.” The pair nodded. “Good,” he smiled. “But there’s some final matters before our departure.” He gestured toward Beatrice and Bessie. “Blindfold those two. No need for them to see us go. And as for our friend here,” he indicated Ellen, “She’s coming with us.”
They gaped at him but he did not explain.
“Untie her ankles and legs,” this to the girl, “And stand her up.” He looked around, saw a rubberised rain cape hanging on a peg on the wall, evidently used for delivering papers in the rain and brought it over. He slipped it over the upper part of Ellen’s body, completely covering the ropes binding her arms and then pulled its attached hood over her head, hiding the fact she was gagged and blindfolded.
“All ready for shipment,” he smiled. By now the woman had blindfolded Beatrice and Bessie. “Well then. Let’s go.” The quartet moved to the back door, the two women carrying the satchels with the items from the safe and what they had brought with them, the man carefully guiding the sightless Ellen from behind. He also took her handbag. The two proprietresses were left bound and helpless in their own premises.
Outside it was only a few metres to the car park and Ellen’s car. She had not even locked it. Such was the way people did things in this remote area. By now the sky was clouding over and darkening.
They carefully helped Ellen into the back seat and secured her tightly with a seatbelt. The woman got in on the other side. “I’ll keep her company,” she smiled. The satchels were placed in the boot and the young girl got in the passenger side. Lastly the man got into the drivers seat and started the car with the keys from the handbag. He drove slowly out of the car park and on to a side road. It began to rain softly. No one saw them go.
They got onto the main highway and headed westward. By now the clouds were thickening, the sky getting darker and the rain increasing.
The man stopped the car at a small, unattended railway station and made two brief calls at a pay phone. One to their place of destination advising go their coming and an anonymous message to the police. This last told of a robbery back at the news agency in which two women had been left bound and gagged.
They drove on the highway for about than an hour, finally leaving it for a side road and then turning off it to enter a drive bounded by two massive masonry gate columns which loomed against the dark forest behind. The whole area was heavily timbered with tall trees. The drive itself was short and flanked by huge trees which must have been planted a long time ago. It curved up to to the front of a large two floored building on a sweeping rise, surrounded by mown lawns.
The man stopped the car in front of the main entrance. This was a large double glass fronted doorway, protected by a stone porch which gave on to a paved terrace. Wide steps led up to this. The whole was dimly lit. The building behind had many windows on both floors and though simple and unadorned, was obviously very solidly constructed.
“The front door,” he explained. “Quite impressive as you can see. We’ll be going in round the back but I can assure you that some very important personages have been here both in present times and in the past.” His two lady passengers who could see, peered at it intently.
‘Looks posh,” said the young girl, “What do they do here?”
“Many things. Nationally, internationally. And amongst many other things it’s a place of transit for ladies moving to another station in life. And certainly a safe stopover place for people like yourselves who need refuge for a time.”
And with that the man drove on, across the front, down a wide paved side driveway to the rear of the structure. Here two large rectangular wings, obviously of later construction, jutted off the main structure. They entered one, evidently a garage complex, through a wide, well lit entranceway.
This building contained housing for many vehicles, was brightly lit and floored with smooth concrete. Inside two women waited for them.
One of them, obviously in charge, was a trim, active looking woman in her early forties, solidly built and had a broad face which was framed by short, fair, almost white hair. She carried a clipboard. Her companion, perhaps ten years younger and of Pacific Islander appearance had a round smiling face and curly dark hair. Both were wearing white, good quality uniforms, long sleeved, wide belted and of calf length. They fitted them both very well, almost as if they had been tailored for them. The man stopped the car in front of them and got out.
“Good evening Alma,” he greeted the older lady, “Sorry to trouble you like this. But I’ve got two friends here needing a place to stay for a few days. An operation we were working on, though successful in the main, has left them without a place to hang their heads and this seemed the logical place for them to come.” As he spoke his two companions got out of the car.
The woman smiled at the two, “I think we can accommodate you ladies. We have many women pass through here. Some for only a few hours, days perhaps. Others like it so much they stay as part of our house organisation for quite a long time. Years sometimes.” Neither of the two new arrivals were sure what she meant by this. But they were certain of one thing, this was likely to be a better prospect than the questions they would face back where they had come from.
The white uniformed woman turned to her companion. “Take them to the dining room and get the cooks to give them something. They must be hungry by now. Then bed them down in a double room in the west block. The top one’s empty.” She turned to the two, “I think you’ll be comfortable enough here ladies. Just go with my friend here.” The dark girl smiled and indicated they should follow her. They were happy to do so, glad they were not on the run.
Alma now turned back to the man who had brought these people here. “And now, where’s this third party? The lady you spoke about.”
The man opened the rear door of the car and indicated Ellen, bound, wrapped in her rain cape and secured by her seat belt. The two of them unclipped her and helped her out of the vehicle. Finally she stood before them. “Well, we don’t need this now,” Alma said and undid the press studs of the cape and lifted it off of her. “And what a neatly wrapped package,” she added. She acted as if she was quite used to meeting ladies bound, gagged and blindfolded.
“A tribute to the young lady passenger's skills,” the man murmured, “I noticed she’s very deft with her hands. And,” he added, “Our friend's also ear-plugged.” Swiftly, smoothly, he removed this obstruction.
“And we don’t need this any more either,” Alma untied the blindfold, flicked it off and placed it over the folded cape over her arm. Ellen, still gagged but with her sight restored after over an hour of sightlessness gazed around at her surroundings. She wondered where she was, and who this strange, uniformed lady was.
Alma spoke. “You said you wanted her questioned, and processed? And as soon as possible?” Ellen looked at her. What did she mean by this?
“If you could, please,” said the man, “As soon as possible. I think she may have something for us.” He looked carefully at Ellen.
“Then we’ll start at once.” Shifting her clipboard to the arm holding the cape, Alma took the bound woman tightly by the upper arm. She smiled, “Come, my dear. We’ll take you to another part of the complex where we’ll have a little talk. You’ll be quite comfortable and later on we’ll bed you down for the night somewhere.” With that she firmly steered Ellen toward a doorway out of the garage complex. The man followed.
* * *
Fully twelve hours later Ellen woke after a very long night.
She was naked and in a bed. But at least the bed was soft, warm and comfortable. She had only the haziest recollection of the night before.
She recalled being led along a corridor to a room that looked like a medical dispensary. Here, still tied up, she had been seated in a chair, her gag removed and once again she had been blindfolded. There had been some questions, then vaguely, a series of pricks by which she must have been drugged and finally a period of massive drowsiness during which there had been more questions. Dimly she tried to recall what she had said but could not remember. Lastly, there had been totally enveloping sound sleep from which she had only just emerged. She felt relaxed and rested.
Raising her head, she looked looked around her.
She was in a large room about three and a half metres by four with a smooth concrete floor and painted plaster walls. Sunlight was streaming in through a barred rectangular window high on one wall. At least the rain and cold of yesterday was gone. At one end was a recessed washbasin with a mirror above and a cabinet below. There was a plastic curtained shower recess on one side and a wooden door, presumably a toilet, on the other. At the other end of the room was a small table with two chairs. Noticeably, her black handbag was here. There was a solid looking door on the side opposite the window and two thick mats on the floor. Everything was neat, tidy and clean.
Ellen sat up. There was warm looking dressing gown on the bed and in a corner of the room was a portable clothes rack on which was hanging the clothing she had worn yesterday. Even her raincoat was on a hanger.
She got up. Carefully, she picked up and examined the dressing gown and finally slipped it on. There were even a pair of slippers beside the bed which she also put on. Then she used the toilet.
Relieved, she stood by the bed wondering if she should get dressed or get back between the sheets. At that moment there was a knock on the door, then a pause after which it opened.
In came a woman in her early twenties. She was of foreign appearance, thick set with a wide face and short, straight, black hair. She wore a grey uniform and was carrying a tray. “Gut morning,” she smiled. And then, “Brekk-fust.” She put the tray on the end table, pushing the handbag to one side. She then turned and walked away. Still smiling, she pointed to the wooden door beside the washbasin. “Toi-lett,” she said, presumably to be helpful, and then left.
Ellen had resolved to demand of the next person she met in this place where she was and why had she been brought here. She had not asked this latest arrival because of the obvious language problem. She did not know that this lady was an illegal immigrant and was only staying here until a fabricated identity could be made up for her.
The breakfast tray consisted of a bowl of cereal, a hot plate of bacon and egg under a metal cover, a small pot of coffee with cup, cutlery and a paper napkin. All spotless. Since she had nothing since lunch yesterday Ellen decided to eat. She sat at the end table in front of the tray.
She found the cereal adequate, the hot meal excellent and the brewed coffee very good indeed. And everything hygienically clean. She decided this establishment, whatever it was, must have a good kitchen.
Still wearing the dressing gown, Ellen sat back in the chair. Comfortably filled with a good meal, she thought what she should do and had just decided she should get back into her own clothes when their was a knock and the door opened.
It was the foreign-born maid, if that’s what she was, again. Come to pick up the tray, She smiled at Ellen when she saw the empty plate. “Hong-gry?” Was her comment.
Picking it up, she moved away and as she reached the door, it opened and the man from the day before came in. He obligingly held it open for her, locked it and then turned to face Ellen.
“Good morning,” he said pleasantly, “I trust you slept well? You seem to have eaten well. They do have a fine kitchen here.”
Ellen resolved to waste no time on pleasantries. “What is this place?” she demanded. “Last night those ear-plugs of yours weren’t very successful. One of them came loose. I heard you tell that young girl that it was a large place where a lot of important things happened. So what is it? A country administrative centre?”
He sighed. Then eased himself into the chair opposite her. He appeared ready to tell her.
“You might call it that,” he began, “The main building is over a hundred years old. Long ago, a wealthy titled gentleman had great visions of having a grand country estate here and he built the main house. Difficult and costly though it was, he poured a fortune into it. This area had hardly been explored in those days. But the surrounding cultivated land that was to be occupied by renting tenant farmers who were ultimately to support the place never eventuated. Despite the big timber on it, it's no good for agriculture. And so he went away.
In the 1920’s two very expensive attempts were made to turn it into a resort but it proved too isolated for holiday makers. During the War the military were here for a time and operated some very sophisticated equipment. Some of which is still here and in use today. This was the first time something useful was done with the place.
During the mid-latter years of the last century it fell on hard times, becoming vacant and almost derelict. Even its existence was forgotten. Then the present ownership saw it and decided it was just what they were looking for. Its very remoteness made it ideal for their purposes.
They poured millions into it over several years.” He laughed at this, “That’s something the place has never lacked. Costly attempts to develop it for some particular purpose. And our people, I am proud to say were the first to do it successfully.
Today, it’s a smoothly running, viable enterprise. People live and work here. Others come and go from time to time. I would venture to say everyone who works here voluntarily is happy. And the rest of the world has never heard of our little community.”
Ellen heard this in silence. She wondered what she had fallen into. “That woman back in the garage last night. I think you called her Alma. Your ear-plugs were not working too well at all by then. She spoke of many women passing through here. You kidnap them, tie and gag them and then ship them out of the country, do you?”
He smiled at this. “Amongst many other things, we do something like that. We’re in the business of supply,” he explained, ”Ladies with some specialised skill, talent or training are in demand in some parts of the world. Men of wealth and influence are prepared to pay for them. As a rule they go to better situations than they were in here.”
She looked as if she did not entirely believe this but let it go. And she decided to change the subject. “The two women who were with you? What’ll happen to them?”
He shook his head and explained, “A mistake. They shouldn’t have been involved at all. They were assigned to work with me on a scheduled removal job. Documents from the news agency safe. Which thanks to a dead car battery was not entirely successful. Anyway they can’t go back to where they were.”
“And so? What will happen to them now?”
“Who knows? The girl, she’s up in the computer section right now. That’s on the top floor of the main building. I understand she’s showing a talent for them. Perhaps that’s an opening for her. International computers are very important in this organisation. The other lady, no telling what might happen. She’ll stay here for a few days. She wasn’t happy where she was. Short of money. An unhappy, ruinous divorce. No prospects whatsoever. Perhaps there’s something for her here too. She could be provided with a new identity if need be.”
“That young girl,” he went on, “We’re doing her a favour. She was going downhill fast. Good family, had an expensive education, until she became a dropout. And from there got in with the wrong crowd. I only met her a couple of days ago. I wasn’t happy to have her along at all. Yet she’s intelligent, learns quickly and, as mentioned, has had a good education. With her talents she could get into something specialised, some growing field where there’s a big demand. Like computer research on a national or international level.” He smiled, “Such as they do here with some very specialised equipment indeed.”
Ellen nodded. “Well then. What about me? Why was I brought here? Am I to be bound and gagged and shipped out of the country?”
He looked at her with a smile. “You have an unfortunate tendency to think the worst of things.” But then became serious, “You have already helped us. And I think, we'll be able to help you.”
Her eyes widened. “How so?” She asked.
“In the last few months you’ve had a personal acquaintanceship with a man named Roger Ebert, haven’t you?” She said nothing to this.
He went on. “He is a vile, unpleasant man and his attitude toward women is despicable. You'd be well advised to sever all connection with him.” Still she said nothing. "He may have told you he is an investor but in reality he is a money launderer, tax evader and a thoroughly dishonest man. The organisation here hopes to relieve him of some of his ill-gotten gains and has already taken some steps to do so.”
He went on. As if to answer her demand to know why she had been brought here. “Yesterday, looking at those papers in your handbag, I learned of your association with him. In this capacity you can help us in our project. In return we can give you some info about the sort of a man he is. Your relationship it seems is social, an affair of the heart and it is my personal opinion that in all decency, you should be fully informed about him.”
She was still silent at all of this. “As I have said, his attitude to women is despicable. There have been sordid episodes in his past which you most certainly know nothing about.”
She spoke for the first time, “Well, he has had a recent unhappy divorce.”
“He’s been divorced three times. The second was an unbelievably vile business for which he should have done time for what he did to a very unfortunate woman. But, being Roger, he could afford top legal counsel and got off.”
“And that,” he concluded, “Is why you were abducted, brought here and why we used truth drugs on you last night. A reversal of civil liberties, I know, but at least they were administered painlessly and by experts. The information you gave us about Ebert will help us. And in return we can give you a full account of Roger’s crimes, and his depravities.”
She was silent for some time. Finally she said. “I’m not entirely dense you know. For some weeks I’ve had suspicions about him. In fact yesterday, I planned to tell him we should put the relationship on hold for a while. Perhaps, preparatory to my ending it.”
“Perhaps nothing. Don’t put it on hold. Just end it. At once.”
“Alright then. That’s what I'll do.”
She pulled the loose fitting dressing gown more tightly around her shoulders. “And what happens to me now?” she asked, “This seems a very big enterprise. If I were to leave here and give a report on the place it could be very awkward, I’d say.”
He smiled at this. “Very awkward indeed. Awkward for you anyway. You’d be offending big money and some very powerful people. You’d disappear from the face of the earth as if you’d never existed. You keep talking of women being bound and gagged and shipped out of the country. Something like that'd happen to you. You’d probably end up in Latin America on some magnate’s distant estate. As his own personal property.”
She laughed at this. “You flatter me. I’m too old and not attractive enough. And I’ve no particular skill. I’m not a computer whiz.”
“And you sell yourself short Ellen, old girl,” he countered, “You’re definitely not too old. Your certainly attractive enough and your accountancy skills are good enough.” He continued, “But you’d be very much surprised to find out how many of those haciendeiros or oil sheiks like the idea of a mature cultivated English speaking matron as part of the household on their more remote estates. They can polish their children’s English, teach them acceptable Western manners and generally round them off for the role of ultimately managing their father’s wealth. A sort of supervising English speaking governess. And of course be the lord and master’s bed companion, when required.”
Ellen was silent at this. Possibly overwhelmed at what could lie ahead of her.
“But,” her informant laughed, “That’s perhaps possible, but unlikely. Meanwhile, we learned something else about you last night. You met the infamous Roger through the personal columns of the local paper I understand?”
Ellen bristled at this. “What of it? It's hard to make suitable social contacts in that remote place I live in. They’re very conservative and provincial.”
He laughed, “I can quite believe it. But you clearly need the presence and comfort of a man. At least from time to time. I can fully understand your feelings. I have exactly the same yearning for a woman myself. Something I haven’t enjoyed for some time. Only,” he smiled, “I draw the line at the personals in the local press.”
She looked at him in silence. Finally. “Do you? And you know how I feel, indeed? And that we have something in common, it would seem?” She continued to stare at him.
“Ellen,” he said softly, “You impressed me right from the beginning as a nice decent person. That’s why I determined you should know what a bastard Roger really is. That’s why I’m here. But it seems you're perceptive enough to have worked it out yourself. And yes, I too have also noticed what we have in common.”
Ellen recalled yesterday afternoon when he had stopped the girl calling her ‘Granny.’ She had thought favourably of him then. She felt drawn to him now. Perhaps they should communicate. By mutual consent the two sat down on either side of the little end table.
They talked for some time. Ellen felt that ever since her abduction she had been in unusual circumstances. And unconventional behaviour might be expected. And she was finding him gentle and considerate. In the end she consented to them becoming lovers. It would be her first fuck in years.
They stopped talking. Silently they stood up. She loosened the tie of the dressing gown around her waist. He undid the buttons of his shirt. Wordlessly they clasped hands and walked to the bed she had risen from an hour ago.
An hour later they both lay motionless, side by side in the bed. Both silently, both satiated, both content. It had been extraordinarily satisfactory for both of them.
They were still there when the lock clicked, the door opened suddenly and Alma swept in, trim and smart in her white, belted uniform and holding her clipboard under her arm. She looked with some surprise at the occupants of the bed and then spoke briskly, “Nice to see you people getting along so well.” And to Ellen, “Management wishes to speak to you Madam, about your immediate future. You’d better be dressed and ready. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.” And with that she turned left the room.
Her partner whispered in her ear, “You’d better get dressed. Management doesn’t like to be kept waiting.” Ellen nodded. She was still in a state of bliss.
Two days later Ellen was driven in her own car to a quiet place close to her home. Here she was given a mild sedative from which she recovered in less than an hour in the front seat of her parked vehicle. Later, on being questioned, she told a story of being held captive in what looked like a weatherboard shack in a nearby suburb. Most of the time, she said, she'd been bound and gagged and occasionally blindfolded. Her captors had talked of a ransom but she had finally managed to convince them that her family was not wealthy and unlikely to be able to pay anything. In the end this was accepted. The official questioners were puzzled why such sophisticated professionals had bothered with a small country news agency in the first place. But they noted her story. An investigation was begun but thought unlikely to get anywhere.
Life gradually returned to normal in the mountain suburb. Ellen personally hoped for better things.