Chapter 13: And So to Sleep
Cathy looked across to the doorway and her heart sank. Time seemed to freeze. If fear had been a marketable commodity, she could have made a fortune in the interminable seconds that followed.
For blocking the only exit was the last person in the world that Cathy would have been hoping to see at that moment. Dolores was standing in a slightly more stooped posture than her usual upright stance, and her left hand was held against her stomach. As she moved further into the room, Cathy noticed her wince with pain, and realised that this had to be a consequence of Bethany’s delaying tactics. Her hair, previously immaculately styled, was now tangled and dishevelled, and her face was red; although whether the latter was due to rage or pain it was hard to gauge. Probably a mixture of both, Cathy decided.
However, despite her anger/anguish, when she again broke the silence, Dolores’ words were considered and calm, and spoke of a confidence that, even though she had momentarily been outsmarted, she was still in control of the situation and could bide her time before unleashing her wrath in as sadistic a manner as she saw fit. In other words, her plans for what she could - and would - do to punish her two errant prisoners were only just being formulated, and she knew that she could maximise the fear factor and build up the tension until she had decided exactly how they were to suffer for their crimes. Despite the obvious pain, she managed that mirthless smile which Cathy had come to detest.
“So Cathy, I can’t quite work out whether you and that other creature planned this little stunt in advance, or whether it was a spur of the moment, opportunist bid to escape. Full marks for effort, I’ll concede that much to you.”
She walked around the chair on which her silver-suited slave sat in oblivious bondage, her boot heels echoing on the hard floor. A quick glance at the drugged female showed that her eyes had once again glazed over, and her focus had returned to the struggling images on the screen and the subliminal messages saturating her currently dysfunctional brain, rather than the drama about to take place in real life only inches away from her.
“Either way, the pair of you will be paying a high price for your sins, as I’m sure you’ve already gathered.”
Cathy found herself backing away from the advancing Mistress, until she had reversed into a corner, with nowhere else to go. Dolores came to within a foot or so of her cowering captive and stopped.
“But first I think we’ll have to increase your sentence substantially. What do you think Cathy? Physical assault must be worth at least another year on your stay here, wouldn’t you agree?”
Cathy trembled as Dolores leant in close to her face to deliver this message, and she found herself shaking her head and trying to tell the looming presence before her that it wasn’t her that had delivered the blow that was clearly still causing such discomfort. And despite the muffling qualities that her gag engendered, Dolores seemed to catch the drift of her attempt at shifting the blame.
“Oh, I realise that it wasn’t you who actually kicked me darling, but you could have stayed and shown a bit more concern. After all, I’m the one who controls and regulates every aspect of your existence at the moment, so I would have thought that the very least you could do was display a bit of respect and sympathy. Running away like that was rude and discourteous, I feel. And then, to add insult to injury, you invade the Training Room and try to interfere with my girls’ weekly programming update. Now that definitely is way out of order.”
The flickering screens cast a strange, ever shifting shadow across Dolores’ face as she spoke, making her skin appear grey and ghost-like. This was offset, however, by her bright red lipstick and dark luminous eyes, which reflected and sparkled in the constantly changing illumination. She turned briefly and looked back at her three strapped and motionless servants.
“As I’m sure you’ve sussed out by now, Crystal, Sapphire and Electra aren’t exactly here of their own freewill. But over the course of time, they’ve learnt to accept that the life they now lead at Shackleton Grange is their true destiny, which can’t be altered. So long as they get their weekly reminder of how wonderful bondage is – both from a giving and receiving perspective - none of them would ever dream of trying to leave or disobey me.”
She pointed to the silver clothed figure, whose attention was directed solely at the screen in front of her, on which a female covered from head to toe in latex was doing battle against handcuffs, chains and leather straps that held her in a tight ball-tie.
“As a matter of fact, Sapphire here has been with me for almost four years now...and loves every minute of it.”
Dolores reached out with her right arm, her left still pressed against the place where Bethany’s well placed kick had done its damage. She grabbed Cathy’s leather sheathed elbow and began to pull her away from the wall.
“Anyway, I haven’t got all day to stand here explaining things that you weren’t supposed to have stumbled on in the first place. In fact, I’ve probably told you too much already.”
It was at this point, from somewhere deep within her, that Cathy found the strength and courage to fight back against whatever Dolores’ devious mind had planned for her. She knew that the Mistress wasn’t at her best at present, as was attested to by the constant wincing every time she moved her body. She also knew, from the view she had of the room in which they now stood, that Dolores’ entire workforce were incapacitated and unable to come to their commander’s aid at the moment. As Dolores had her cornered and trapped in the straitjacket, Cathy guessed that her captor would be expecting complete compliance from her right now, and realised that she might never again have that element of surprise on her side.
As Dolores forcibly yanked on the leather sleeve, Cathy took a leaf out of Bethany’s book, and in an instant had raised her right leg as high as she could and smashed a karate style kick into the same area of Dolores’ anatomy as her fellow prisoner had done only a few minutes ago. Despite never having had any formal martial arts training, Cathy’s aim was true, and she watched in a state of disbelief as Dolores once more crumpled to the floor; a howl of distress and shock filling the air for the second or two that it seemed to take as the Mistress staggered briefly then slumped to the floor.
As Dolores collapsed in front of her, Cathy sprung forward and hurdled over the now crumpled woman whose frame blocked her passage to the exit. Her leap over the still groaning Mistress was accomplished with adrenalin fuelled vigour that she summoned from deep within her, and she landed on her shoeless feet without incident. The door beckoned invitingly only a few feet away, and her mind was already anticipating what she would do once she had made the corridor beyond. Should she try to shut the door after her, in order to hinder Dolores when she finally recovered sufficiently to follow? Or simply flee as fast as was humanly possible? This decision, however, soon became academic.
Cathy landed with her left foot, before thrusting her right out to take the next step towards her intended goal. So far so good, but it was the next movement of her left leg that proved to be her undoing. For although temporarily incapable of standing due to the kick to her lower torso, Dolores was still alert to Cathy’s plan to make for the only way out. Reaching out her hand, she grabbed Cathy’s left ankle just as it pushed off from the floor. Cathy felt the pressure around the narrowest part of her leg just as she achieved the necessary leverage to propel herself forward, and knew instantly that it was Dolores’ long nailed fingers that had once more entrapped her. However, having already left the ground, albeit only by a fraction of an inch, she found herself unable to steady herself in mid-air, and immediately felt her body tumbling headlong towards the ground. Under normal circumstances, she would have simply thrown her hands out to cushion her fall. But with the tight leather sleeves of the restraining bondage jacket keeping her arms tight to her body, she had no way to prevent herself from plummeting uncontrollably towards the concrete floor.
Time seemed to slow to the point where it almost stopped, with Cathy watching impotently as the ground appeared to rise up to meet her. The instinctive reaction of trying to prevent injury still took its course, but the straps that held her arms close to her chest refused to allow her this luxury, and she strained in vain at the uncompromising leather, as she sought to stretch out her encumbered hands to cover her face. As this slow motion event was evolving, the attempted raising of her constricted limbs jerked the straitjacket upwards as far as the securing straps would allow, which resulted in the broad band of leather between her legs being thrust suddenly up into her crotch. Even as she plunged earthwards, and although her brain was already trying to come to terms with imminent pain, the sensation of this particular restraint being pulled deeply into her, acted as a reminder of how strategically placed bonds in this area of her anatomy could cause such a feelgood factor, even under stressful circumstances such as those currently imposed upon her.
But that was almost the last thing she remembered, prior to her head coming into high velocity contact with the floor. A split second prior to this, however, her left shoulder clipped the small table that held the bottles of pills and sedatives. As a searing pain shot through her forehead, she heard the sound of glass shattering and tablets bouncing and scattering across the floor all around her. From somewhere close at hand, what sounded like a disembodied, muffled shriek reached her ears, although she knew that in reality this strange noise had emanated from her own gagged mouth.
Then vision, sound and pain all faded into a blissful nothingness.
Bethany had known as soon as she had committed her crime that she was in for a torrid time of things in the near future. She just had to hope that Cathy had managed to achieve what seemed like an almost impossible task and either escaped or successfully raised the alarm as to their shared plight. She felt a sense of elation at the way she’d helped Cathy evade Dolores, but apprehension as to how she would pay for this altruistic act.
This period of triumph and trepidation lasted for what seemed like minutes, but was in reality no more than thirty seconds, whilst Dolores sat doubled up on the floor only a yard or two away from her own prostrate form. Her faced was screwed up with pain, and Bethany took a strange delight from the notion that finally Dolores was the one on the receiving end, and that she had been the one able to inflict this retribution.
Dolores slowly and gingerly pulled herself to her feet, grimacing and holding her stomach as she did so. Picking up a reel of duct tape from the array of bondage equipment that seemed to be readily available in almost every room of the mansion house, she quickly tore off a length of around six inches, using her teeth to make the necessary incision through the tough material. Bending down, her facial features once again betraying the fact that any movement of her torso was causing her a fair amount of grief, she unceremoniously slapped the strip of adhesive over her captive’s eyes and began smoothing it down with her fingers. Caught unawares by this, Bethany didn’t have a chance to close her eyes, and shrieked in surprise as her vision was blocked out. Through the dark barrier, she could feel Dolores’ hands pressing the makeshift blindfold down onto her forehead, the bridge of her nose and onto her eyelids. Once the pressure of this smoothing action had subsided, and Bethany attempted to close her eyes, she found this impossible, as the tacky inner surface of the tape had welded to her skin, and she realised that she would have no option but to remain wide-eyed but paradoxically sightlessly until someone came along and peeled the strongly bonding fabric away from her flesh.
“I’ll deal with you later.”
This was Dolores’ only comment - spat out in fury - as she left the room; slamming the door behind her as she went, and leaving Bethany to ponder and brood on what form of torture she would face later on.
Having never worn a straitjacket before in her life – although she had always entertained a yearning to do so, at least until her captivity at Shackleton Grange had begun – Bethany’s expectations of being able to twist and wriggle out of the tightly strapped and buckled restraining outfit were soon shown to be unrealistic. The tightly restricting collar prevented her contorting her shoulders into a position from which they could be slipped free, and the strap across her chest ensured that lifting her arms away from her body was never on the cards. And the strap between her legs thwarted her attempts to force the whole jacket to ride up so that it could be discarded over the top of her head.
And it wasn’t just the leather contrivance lashed around her torso that frustrated her attempts at fleeing the scene of her crime. With the ropes at her ankles and knees refusing to budge, no matter how much she pulled and strained to part her legs, plus the loss of her vision behind the efficient and immovable sight excluder, Bethany knew that she had not a chance in hell of escaping. Even in her blindness, she had a fairly good idea in which direction the exit lay, but how would she reach the handle, open the door, then make her way along the corridor and find a viable escape route without her sight? Her one hope was that Cathy would evade Dolores long enough to find a way out and alert someone in the world beyond to the fact that Shackleton Grange was being used as a detention centre for a pair of unwillingly held young females.
After hearing Dolores shriek her threatening message to the fleeing Cathy from the corridor, and listening as the staccato clicks of the Mistress’ boot heels gradually faded away, silence finally descended over the ancient house. For several minutes Bethany battled on valiantly against the sleeves, straps and buckles that enshrouded her within their leather folds. But to no avail. Finally, exhausted from her endeavours, she reluctantly gave up and listened; waiting in her helplessness as the stark emptiness of the house seemed to close in and clamp its musty embrace upon her, causing a mood of deep despondency to set in.
The creak of a floorboard, the drip of water, – presumably from the gutter beyond the blacked out window – the distant haunting cry of a seagull; these were just some of the occasional sounds that reached Bethany’s keenly alert ears and broke the otherwise still and sullen atmosphere for a brief second or two. At one point, a jet plane could be heard many thousands of feet overhead; proof, if she needed it, that everyday life was still going on without her. Had Cathy been successful in her bid for freedom? As the minutes turned to hours and no sirens or sounds of doors being smashed down by invading police officers – real ones this time! –were forthcoming, Bethany’s hopes began to fade. How long would it take to reach the village once Cathy had somehow escaped from the grounds? The walk had been about a mile, and if Cathy had been running for her life, then it surely wouldn’t take too long. After all, a straitjacketed, spandex clad young lady with grey tape obscuring her lower face would surely be fairly conspicuous, and anyone encountering such a person would surely be willing to offer their help, wouldn’t they? So the fact that no one had yet arrived to liberate her, suggested that Cathy must have failed. Or did it?
Maybe, Cathy was still in hiding somewhere in the building, biding her time until she worked out the best way to make her exit. Although as the minutes slowly turned to hours, Bethany knew deep down that this was a long shot. It was, however, all she had to keep her from slipping further into a downward spiral of depression, and she therefore clung on to this last slender hope like a drowning woman grasping at the flimsiest of straws.
The long seconds turned to everlasting minutes, which in turn multiplied into interminable hours. Or at least it seemed that way. But finally, the familiar yet dreaded sound of Dolores’ booted feet striding purposefully along the passageway gradually became louder, before coming to a halt directly outside the room in which Bethany languished. A second later, the sound of the door opening was accompanied by a waft of cool air seeping through the spandex of Bethany’s bodysuit. For a few seconds there was silence, before the clicking of the high heels made a leisurely circuit of the bound woman’s prone form; as if Dolores was checking that her captive hadn’t moved or managed to release any of her restraints in the time that had elapsed since her departure. Only after what seemed an eternity did the Mistress finally break her silence, and Bethany’s heart sank as it became obvious that Cathy had failed in her mission to transmit her Mayday message to the wider world.
“Well now Bethany, I hope you’ve thought long and hard about the way you treated me earlier today, and that you’re full of contrition for having lashed out as you did. That kick was really painful, you know? You obviously don’t know your own strength darling.”
The sound of the pacing heels was very close now, as Dolores made several more circumnavigations of her fear-filled victim.
“So what sort of punishment do you suppose that you’re deserving of now? What penalty fits the crime do you think?”
Bethany tried to respond that she was indeed extremely sorry for kicking Dolores, and that she felt being kept bound and gagged 24/7 was probably punishment enough. But of course the wad in her mouth and the tape that held it firmly in place meant that her answer came out as an unintelligible series of grunts and mumbles. She would also have liked to argue that it was, in actual fact, Dolores who should be apologising to her for holding her here against her wishes, but decided that now was not the time to get into a disagreement with someone who was both clearly angry with her, and held all the aces when it came to negotiation. But of course, Dolores’ questions had really been of a rhetorical nature, and she was never going to listen to Bethany’s point of view anyway.
“As you’ve probably guessed, Cathy’s foolish stunt was never going to succeed. Yet for some reason, she too seemed to think that physical violence was the way to achieve her aim of escaping from here, and she kicked out at me, just like you did. So now you’re both guilty of assault. She’s taking a little nap just now, and won’t be waking up for a few hours yet. So now seems a good time to sort out exactly how I’m going to deal with my pair of unruly convicts.”
As the final word left Dolores’ mouth, Bethany suddenly - without warning -had the tape ripped swiftly and harshly from her eyes, which caused a searing, burning sensation on the raw flesh of her tender eyelids. When her eyesight adjusted to the brighter conditions, she saw the initially blurred figure before her sharpen into the smug face of Dolores, now changed from her usual leather outfit into an equally figure hugging latex cat-suit that had been polished to perfection. However, it wasn’t the near mirror quality of her jailer’s clothing that caught her attention, but the glass of water that she held in her right hand. By her side, Bethany also noticed a black bag of the kind normally carried by doctors. It appeared that Dolores was waiting for Bethany’s sight to return to normality before continuing with her projected course of action, for as soon as it was obvious that her captive was capable of comprehending her surroundings, she dipped her hand into the open bag and brought forth a small packet, in size no more than two inches square. As Bethany looked on, Dolores ripped the top from the tiny white envelope and tipped the contents into the clear liquid. And those contents were soon seen to be a white powder which fizzed slightly as it entered the water, and bubbled up even more when, having emptied the entire potion, the Mistress took a teaspoon and began to stir. Seconds later, the initially cloudy substance dissolved, leaving the water seemingly back in its pristine state of translucency.
Dolores placed the glass on the floor a few inches away from Bethany’s head, not taking her eyes off her prisoner’s frightened face for a second. Taking a pair of surgical scissors from the bag, she held the closed overlapping blades on Bethany’s left cheek, just above the duct tape gag, with the tips pushing gently into her flesh. Instinctively, Bethany tried to back away from the cold metal, but Dolores placed her other hand behind the recoiling girl’s head and held it steady.
“Moving around is probably not in your best interests at the moment. One small slip of my fingers and you could lose an eye, my dear. The sensible thing to do would be to hold still for a second and hope that my hands are steady.”
Without warning, Dolores’ finger nail prised a tiny opening between tape and skin on Bethany’s cheek, before she dexterously poked one of the blades into the created aperture. Bethany closed her eyes and prepared for the pain that she assumed was going to erupt as the flesh of her face was slashed into. She underestimated Dolores’ expertise in this matter, however, as the Mistress skilfully eased the cutting edge downwards, and within no more than a second had sheared through the multi-layered tape. Extracting the shears, she grabbed one end of the now severed tape and ripped it violently away from Bethany’s mouth. The operation didn’t end there however, as the unravelling process continued around the back of her head and didn’t halt until the tape had been removed in its entirety.
This whole tape removal procedure couldn’t have taken more than three or four seconds, but those seconds were excruciatingly painful ones for Bethany, as her skin seemed to have become so attached to the strongly bonding material, that the two parted company only with great reluctance. It felt as if at least one layer of skin must have been culled from her face, such was the stinging rawness that caused her to shriek in agony. Nor did the rear of her head get off lightly, as the hair on the nape of her neck was torn harshly from her skin as the tape was wrenched away. Dolores appeared not to comprehend the suffering she was causing, or more likely, she didn’t care, for as soon as the tape had been detached from flesh and tresses, it was unceremoniously discarded on the floor. Glancing across at the now abandoned facial mask, Bethany could see several clumps of her long blonde locks still glued to the obsolete crumbled mass.
With the sealant removed from her face, Bethany’s first reaction was to attempt to propel the soggy mass of material from her mouth. But this haste was frowned upon by Dolores, who soon rebuked her for this perceived insolence. Leaning forward, so that her face was only inches from Bethany’s, she bared her brilliant white teeth and snarled.
“Listen you little bitch, the gag comes out when I say so, not before, is that understood?”
Bethany reluctantly nodded. It was obvious that she was in big trouble here anyway, so annoying her tormentor still further was not something to be encouraged.
Even so, after only a few seconds, Dolores’ tone mellowed, and she completed the job that Bethany had begun, by easing the bundled up tights from her mouth and throwing these aside. Picking up the already prepared potion, she held the glass to Bethany’s lips.
Despite numerous warnings that Dolores was not to be disobeyed or angered in any way – and most definitely not at this precise moment - Bethany baulked at the notion of drinking this unknown concoction. What foul ingredients might there be mixed up in that now dissolved powder? Was she about to be poisoned? Or simply drugged and put to sleep? And if the latter, then for what purpose? Dolores was hardly likely to be giving her something to aid a lengthy, relaxing sleep, was she? Whatever toxins the mixture contained, it soon became apparent that, one way or another, Dolores was going to make certain that they would soon be in her bloodstream.
“You know something Bethany? We can either do this the easy way or the hard way. I decided on this method because I thought that it would be easier for both of us than messing around with syringes and needles. But if you choose not to take this by mouth, you leave me with no option than to give you the same medicine intravenously. Do you really want me to have to give you this as a shot in the butt? Especially as I’m still a bit shaky from those kicks that you and your cohort gave me earlier. Wouldn’t want my hand to slip and end up injecting into an artery or something, would we?”
Bethany felt her eyes welling up with tears, as she realised that she was left with very little choice in the matter. So when Dolores moved the glass towards her lips for a second time, she leant forward, closed her eyes and took a sip of the liquid.
The water had a bitter taste to it that made her scowl and cough as it slid down her unenthusiastic throat. Dolores kept the glass pressed to Bethany’s lips however, gradually tilting it back until she was sure that the contents had all been swallowed. She smiled at her still shell-shocked captive as she put the glass down and once more picked up the ball of tights.
“I know you’re not going to be in a position to vocalise for several hours now, and that these are a bit unnecessary at the moment, but I think you look much better when you’re gagged, so they’re going back in anyway.”
She brought the scrunched up ball to within an inch of Bethany’s mouth, but then stopped, as if waiting to see if she would encounter any form of resistance. When none was offered, she casually pushed the still damp mass into her mouth.
“Now, doesn’t that feel better?”
It was as this sarcastic question was being put to her, that Bethany noticed the first signs that something strange was happening. Dolores’ words started to sound muffled, as if being broadcast from far away, with the volume and pitch seeming to vary from second to second; one instant a whisper, the next a cacophonous roar. In tandem with this aural malfunction, she sensed her eyelids beginning to experience an unnatural heaviness and her sight becoming progressively blurred and unfocussed. A light headedness came suddenly upon her and the need to sleep took on an urgency that she tried to fight for a few seconds. But she soon discovered that resistance to this urge towards unconsciousness was too great a force to do battle against. The wrapping of fresh duct tape around her lower face was almost lost on the now severely sleepy young woman, and the last thing she remembered, before everything went black, was that sneering grin, floating in front of her now extremely confused vision, whilst the opening and closing mouth transmitted a message informing her of how, upon awakening, she and Cathy would once more be reunited.
Cathy’s passage from dreamless slumber to waking consciousness was a slow, disorientated process. She tried to open her eyes, but a deep, impenetrable darkness prevailed. Her head was pounding and throbbing, and the epicentre of the pain seemed to be just above her right eye. Cathy groaned, but the noise that issued forth from her mouth was but a fraction of the volume she would have expected, and the fact that there was something wedged into her mouth quickly became apparent. As her senses emerged from hibernation, she began to recall where she was and what had occurred earlier, and the memory of her tumble brought a sharpening of the senses and with it a sudden urge to explore her immediate surroundings.
Re-evaluation of her circumstances soon revealed that she was unable to move. No surprise there, of course. No longer, however, were her arms tightly lashed across her body in the restrictive straitjacket. Nor did her legs seem to have been bound together at the ankles and knees, as she would have expected. Instead, all four limbs seemed to be extended outwards away from her body in diagonally opposing directions, with the tendons and muscles in her arms and legs being stretched to the limits of their endurance. She seemed to be in an upright position, with her back pressed against something solid and immovable, although her feet didn’t appear to be touching the ground; as if she was somehow suspended in mid air.
Trying to move her hands revealed the sensation of straps at her wrists, and exercising her elbows also confirmed that there were other restraining ligatures of some description at various points along each arm. Her legs, too, refused to budge from their allotted positions, and any attempted movement made it apparent that her lower limbs had also been lashed down from thighs to ankles to whatever it was that she was leaning against. And the bindings weren’t confined just to her limbs, either. Striving to push her torso away from the obstruction at her back, revealed that strapping had also been administered just below and just above her breasts, as well as around her waist.
The smell of leather pervaded her nostrils, informing her that the tightly fitting hood which covered her entire head down as far as the neck, was probably one that she was already familiar with, and more than likely had a padlock fastened at the collar to discourage its removal; not that she was in any position to execute such a manoeuvre at present. Cathy also noted that although she was still experiencing the not unpleasant sensation of smooth, soft spandex caressing her skin, the material felt fresh and new, and she realised that during her period of blissful oblivion, she must have been undressed and re-attired in a clean cat-suit.
But what was it exactly that she had been fettered in spread-eagle style to? She tried to flex her fingers, in order to try to deduce by touch, the nature of the surface to which she was secured. And despite the fact that she found her fingers had been hampered by the application of some sort of tightly fitting leather mittens, she discovered that when she accidently knocked her knuckles against this immovable object, the dull sound of solid timber reached her ears through the padding of her hood.
Cathy stretched with all her might for several seconds, straining at the multiple straps that held her in check. But she received no glimmer of hope that this latest state of bondage was any more likely to grant her the opportunity to break free than anything she’d been put in up to now. Allowing her muscles to go limp, she sighed despondently. It seemed that Dolores’ planning in this matter was as thorough and escape proof as ever, and that all she could do was wait for the Mistress or one of her brainwashed minions to show up. How long had she been out cold for? It was impossible to tell for certain, but her guess was that it had been several hours at the very least... maybe even all night. And she speculated that she might well have to wait another similarly lengthy time-span before discovering exactly where she was and what was to become of her.
And in this regard, Cathy was in a dilemma as to which option was preferable; long term solitude or a swift return of human interaction? Part of her was desperate for the sound of human presence, or any kind of indication that she hadn’t been abandoned forever in some soundproof tomb. But on the other hand, she knew that when Dolores and her henchwomen did return, that whatever they had in store for her was unlikely to be to anything of a pleasant nature as far as she was concerned. And this thought of being disciplined for trying to run away brought her around to the question of what had happened to Bethany. Was she, too, being tortured or humiliated for her part in their little off-the-cuff escapade? The answer to this question was soon to be revealed.
The first sound that Cathy had heard since awakening - other than her own breathing and self-pitying whimpers - was that of high heels clacking noisily down some distant, echoing corridor. After a minute or two, however, she detected that this monotonous disturbance of the otherwise still air was getting closer. Suddenly, a door close at hand somewhere away to her right creaked open, and with it came an increase in the clarity of the sound. This could only be Dolores; a prognosis that was shown to be correct seconds later, as the skin-clinging leather hood was loosened and removed from her head.
Staring straight ahead, Cathy’s initially blurred vision detected specks of orange luminance flickering all around her, in what seemed to be an otherwise darkened space. As her eyes adjusted to the conditions, however, she could see that these pin-points of light emanated from what seemed to be hundreds of candles which had been placed in fixtures that jutted at irregular intervals from the stone walls. Above her, where the dim flames’ dancing glow could scarcely penetrate, was a high ceiling, barely visible in the gloom. Cathy immediately surmised that she was in an underground chamber, although this must be a different part of Shackleton Grange’s cellar complex from that in which she’d previously been incarcerated.
Directly in front of her, in the centre of this cavernous chamber, she could view a short section of ancient looking stone wall, which rose approximately three feet from the ground. Each end of this low wall appeared to curve away, and it took Cathy a few seconds to work out that this was actually a circular parapet surrounding a well. From directly above - presumably hanging from some unseen fitting in the ceiling - a leather harness attached to a length of thick rope swung ominously over the abyss. And it was this contraption that Dolores was currently working on, adjusting the many straps and buckles that hung lifelessly in the still, damp atmosphere of this subterranean vault. In readiness for...what exactly?
At that precise moment, Dolores looked across at Cathy, and must have noticed her uncomprehending yet fear-filled expression.
“Ah Cathy, glad you’re back in the land of the living again. I bet you’ve got a bit of a headache after that crack on the skull though, haven’t you? Well I’ve got just the thing to help take your mind off trivial considerations like that.”
She finished adjusting the harness and sauntered back over to her immobilised detainee. Placing her hand under the wooden structure on which her prisoner was bound, there was a dull thud and immediately what had been a stable, immovable object began to sway slightly - as if a brake had been released - so that Cathy’s whole body began to slowly cartwheel around to the left, whilst her feet started to move upwards and to the right.
Cathy gazed along the length of her outstretched arm, to try to determine exactly what was happening, and immediately realised that the wooden apparatus to which she had been bound was actually a large wheel – her limbs and torso being strapped to the many sturdy spokes that radiated from the hub outwards to the rim - which Dolores could tilt and spin at will. And seconds later, the option to do just that was taken up, and the circling motion sped up dramatically, as Dolores gave a quick push with her hand on the edge of the ancient wooden structure. Immediately, the squeaking and groaning sound of some ancient mechanism reluctantly stirring into action reached Cathy’s ears, and she began to spin at an ever increasing speed, as Dolores increased the momentum on this giant circular disc. Floor and ceiling swapped poles on more than one occasion, as Cathy found herself being spun end over end for what seemed like minutes, but was probably in fact no more than thirty seconds or so. Just as her eyesight began to blur and a nauseous feeling threatened to overcome her, however, Dolores applied the brake and the spinning stopped with an abrupt jolt. Before Cathy’s head had stopped spinning and she’d had a chance to gather her thoughts, Dolores’ voice was once again echoing around the stone chamber.
“As you’ve probably gathered, we’re in the lowest part of the cellar here. And this...”
She turned her head and gestured towards the well.
“...used to be Shackleton Grange’s only source of fresh water in days gone by.”
She gave another little spin on the wheel, and Cathy found her entire being in motion once more, with her head slowly making its way closer to the ground, until she was upside down with her feet now high above her in the twelve o’clock position. She gazed upwards at Dolores, her tormentor’s face a picture of gloating satisfaction at the seeds of mayhem that she was planting in her victim’s mind.
“And as I’m sure you’ve sussed out, the wheel that you’re currently attached to was used to lower and raise the water.”
Another slight spin of the wheel brought Cathy’s head back to its original upright position, again to the accompaniment of the same straining sound of wooden cogs grinding against each other. Once the movement had ceased, Dolores gesticulated in the direction of the well, as if to emphasise her latest utterance. Glancing over, Cathy gasped into her gag as she noticed that the harness had disappeared beyond the low parapet, and all that was visible from her position was the limply hanging rope vanishing into the dark chasm beneath. And it didn’t take a genius to work out that this was all a consequence of the turning of the wheel.
Dolores moved towards the low wall and gazed downwards.
“Of course, we don’t use the well to draw water on a daily basis any longer, but as you’ve just seen, the mechanism is still in good working order. The drop isn’t very deep – about twenty feet or so to the water level – but the sides are steep and smooth, and anyone falling in would have great difficulty getting out again...”
As if to stress this, she tossed a small pebble over the edge and waited until it hit the surface with an almost inaudible splash. She looked back at Cathy, the corners of her mouth creasing upwards into a cruel smile.
“...especially if they were all tied up and helpless at the time.”
Cathy felt a chill rush through her as Dolores’ veiled threat sunk in, but almost immediately her attention was drawn away from this sinister turn of events, as another commotion reached her ears from the direction of the door to this underground chamber. Part of this disturbance was easily recognisable as the now familiar sound of high heels on stone flooring, but as well as this, there came a metallic rattling sound that almost drowned out the click-clack of approaching feet. She didn’t have long to wait before discovering the source of this discordant clamour, however.
With the opening of the door, Cathy watched in terrified wonder as the pink latex-suited figure – earlier identified as Electra - came into view. A second or two later, her black-clad colleague - who, by process of elimination, had to be Crystal - also appeared. This much Cathy had expected. But what caught her attention and made her shiver with horror, was the strange mode of transport that these two silent women were between them navigating into the centre of the cellar, which was now clearly seen to be the source of the rattling sound; a metal trolley on casters, around six feet in length, of the type used in hospitals to transport patients from ward to operating theatre. But what took her breath away was the shape of a human body lying motionlessly on this wheeled table, covered entirely with a grey blanket.
Was this Bethany? What had Dolores done to her? Was she even alive anymore? As the trolley came to a halt, a low moaning sound seemed to issue from under the blanket, which at least told Cathy that her fellow captive hadn’t met some gory end. But there was still no movement from the lifeless form – not even a flinch or twitch that Cathy would have expected from someone trussed and tethered to the mobile bed. So what exactly had Dolores done to Bethany? Seconds later, the black suited figure whipped the blanket away to reveal what lay beneath.
After all these days of constant bondage and captivity, Cathy had thought that nothing could surprise her anymore. But as her fellow prisoner’s prone form came into view, Cathy’s horrified eyes simply couldn’t believe what they were witnessing...
You can also leave feedback & comments for this story on the Plaza Forum
story continues in The Secrets of Shackleton Grange 14: The Wheel and the Well