Chapter 23: Saskia's Plans Take Shape
Saskia walked out into the hallway directly outside Dolores’ apartments, her mind reeling from the discovery she’d just made and – more importantly – what she’d just done. For several seconds, as she made her way towards the nearest staircase, the sound of muffled screams and stifled banging assaulted her ears. But as she put more distance between herself and the hellish rumpus that the Mistress of Shackleton Grange was stirring up, the less pronounced the sound became, until, once on the landing of the next floor down, it faded away, to leave the old house in a state of ghostly silence.
So where were the three servants? Would she suddenly find herself surrounded and overpowered? Saskia took some comfort from the fact that Dolores had mentioned rendezvousing with them in the cellar. So hopefully that was where they still remained. Treading carefully would most definitely be the order of the day, however, just in case they weren’t preoccupied in the bottommost area of this rambling old house, which gave her the creeps as she made her way through the maze of tight passages and dimly lit walkways. But these thoughts of being apprehended by the gang of three had to be weighed against her mission now; namely to find and release Cathy and Bethany, if she possibly could. But then what?
Saskia’s tentative plans, prior to discovering the Mistress in all her bondage finery, had been to get away from the house as quickly as possible, either with or without her two fellow abductees in tow. If she failed to find them, then she could always raise the alarm once clear of this evil place, by calling the police from a payphone in the village; the whereabouts of her own mobile phone, as well as all the other contents of her bag, being a mystery to her since being drugged and captured on that first afternoon.
But that was before making the earth shattering and extremely fortuitous discovery that Dolores, too, liked to be tied up. And, more importantly, the Mistress had actually saved Saskia a great deal of trouble, by neatly packaging herself up in the room into which she had just happened to stumble.
Saskia had never been interested in bondage before coming here, and would have described herself as a caring person; sensitive to the needs of others, and one who wouldn’t have wished ill on anyone. Her discovery of the handcuffed and hog-tied Dolores languishing on her own bed, with the escape mechanism dangling only inches from her gagged and blindfolded head, had, however, brought out a side in her that she had never realised existed. The sight of her tormentor in a state which could easily be made inescapable by one simple action, had awoken a personality trait in Saskia that must have lain dormant for the whole of her young life... until now!
For now Saskia knew that she wanted to make Dolores suffer as much as possible for the anguish, discomfort and fear that she’d put, not only herself, but at least two other women through in the past few days. And what better way to do that than give the evil bitch a taste of her own medicine? As Saskia traversed the long, ill lit corridors of Shackleton Grange, the hatred that she’d initially felt for Dolores, far from decreasing as time wore on, actually seemed to be growing ever stronger, and she vowed there and then that it would be several hours at least before she even contemplated revisiting her now severely restrained former captor.
And as she reached the main staircase and began the journey down to the grand entrance hall below, the thought came to her that maybe she – and perhaps Cathy and Bethany when she found them – could use this whole turn of events to their advantage. She hadn’t yet worked out the fine details of her masterplan, but she had decided that handing Dolores over to the police to be dealt with by the British justice system was just too lenient a punishment for this despicable creature. Probably the worst she’d get was a couple of years in prison, or maybe less than that. If she got herself a good lawyer she could probably argue that the business setup she had here was all geared up for her target market, and that the women who turned up at Shackleton Grange knew what they were getting into and willingly accepted their fates.
Saskia didn’t know exactly how her two fellow detainees had come to languish here, but she had discovered that Cathy had form as a burglar, whose modus operandi was to break into large country mansions and take whatever valuables she could carry. So the chances were that she’d been apprehended illegally entering the building, and would almost certainly be reluctant to stand up in court and explain how she came to be here. Or even if she could be persuaded to take the stand, any solicitor worth their salt would assassinate her character in a few minutes and discredit her evidence; making her out as an unreliable witness, whose testimony no jury in the land would believe.
And besides, Saskia herself knew that she could easily be accused of being on the premises without due cause when she was apprehended too, albeit that she would claim she was on the track of suspicious goings-on at the time. Bethany’s story of how she came to be here was less clear.
So the more she thought about it, the less certain it seemed that Dolores would get her just desserts for her vile actions. More than likely, she’d just get a slap on the wrist and be told not to be a bad girl in future; at worst, probably a suspended sentence. And a scenario of this kind made Saskia angry, as this simply wasn’t good enough. She decided, there and then, that it would be her mission to ensure that Dolores truly suffered for the pain and mental torture that she had been meting out to Cathy, Bethany, herself... and who knows how many others in the past? And if that meant handing out her own form of justice, then so be it.
What Saskia was actually suppressing, although she wouldn’t actually admit it even to herself until much later, was that the thought of forcing Dolores to experience an extended period of time in bondage, without hope of release, was something that she was most definitely getting excited about. In fact, the more she contemplated this course of action, the greater the thrill became, as she found herself dreaming up ever more stringent and strict tie-ups and incarceration techniques for a woman who – Saskia had convinced herself – deserved everything that was coming to her.
But she was getting ahead of herself, and she knew it. Shaking herself out of this totally out-of-character frame of mind, Saskia tried to focus on the task in hand; namely to find and liberate her two fellow sufferers. But where to start looking in a house of this magnitude and rambling nature? The cellars, she figured, seemed as good a place as any. For not only had the three servants been asked to meet their leader down there, but the equating of cellars with secure underground places, which in turn became associated in her mind with dungeons, made this a logical place to begin her quest.
Fortuitously, locating the door down to this netherworld proved not to be as difficult as Saskia had suspected, as it stood slightly ajar. No light shone up from the narrow stairwell that disappeared into a sheet of blackness after only a few steps, but even so, Saskia knew that she needed to be on her guard now, lest the servants suddenly materialised before her. The first few steps were easy enough, as the light from the corridor she’d taken to get here gave ample illumination to check where she was placing her feet. After maybe ten steps, however, the passageway spiralled around to hide the doorway, and the way ahead became pitch black and impossible to negotiate. Retracing her steps to the top, Saskia noticed a light switch on the wall close to the door. She hesitated. Should she flick the switch and risk possibly alerting Dolores’ feared threesome to her presence here? There was no way she could venture forth without some form of illumination, and she figured that if there was anyone down there, they too must be in total darkness. And what possible reason would they have for willingly waiting down there without being able to see?
Logic dictated that, if the trio were somewhere below, then they were not there of their own free will, and therefore unlikely to be too much of a threat to her. A rationalist could probably have picked holes in this argument, but with the stakes so high, Saskia didn’t have time to try to persuade herself that there could be a counter argument to her reasoning. As she flicked the switch, she found herself flinching and momentarily closing her eyes, as if the actual act of the light shattering the gloom might bring down untold misery upon her. When nothing untoward happened, however, her spirits rose sharply, and without further internal debate, she started her downward journey.
The ancient crumbling stonework was precarious, to say the least, and the fact that condensation incessantly dripped from the ceiling of this little ventilated tomb, conspired to slow her progress down to a snail’s pace. Finally, and to her great relief, level ground was once again reached, and Saskia gazed along a corridor with solid wooden doors on either side stretching away into the gloom. None of the doors gave any clue as to whether they had been recently opened, and no light shone from under any of the ancient wooden slabs, nor, when Saskia investigated each in turn, from the small barred window area that each seemed to possess at a height of approximately five feet from the floor.
There was a slight sound evident however, although this was so faint that it would have been easy to miss or ignore it. Which is exactly what Saskia did for several minutes, as she made her way along the line of doors; crossing from left to right then back again to peer into each tiny glass-free peephole for signs of life. But after a while, the noise seemed to get slightly louder and impinged on her consciousness to a degree that it could no longer be disregarded. This disturbance of the otherwise silent cellar took the form of a distinct but monotonous droning sound, which hinted that it had owed its origins to a mechanical or electrical device of some description. But where exactly did it emanate from?
Saskia continued along the passageway until she was able to pinpoint its source with some precision. And once the correct doorway had been deduced, there could be no doubt as to it being the genesis of the dull yet incessant aural intrusion. The door, however, differed in one way from all the others she’d passed, insofar as it lacked the small viewpoint that the others all boasted. A key, however, protruded from the lock.
With no visual clues to aid her, Saskia briefly hesitated. Was she brave enough to enter this room, the contents and/or inhabitants of which were unknown and unknowable? Or should she leave well alone? Despite her reservations, Saskia found an inner courage that she hadn’t previously realised she possessed, and her reporter’s inquisitive nature found her turning the ancient rusted key. It took all her strength, but after a few seconds - during which she began to think it wasn’t going to budge - she heard a slight clicking sound and the metal started to move. Once a turn of ninety degrees from its starting point had been attained, the stubborn key would turn no more, but a slight push on the aged wood brought about an inward swing of the obstructing panel, which was accompanied by a slow creaking noise that made Saskia momentarily pause and listen. The only other sound, however, was the persistent droning of the unidentified machinery, and after a few seconds, Saskia resumed her onward journey.
The room, once revealed, seemed to be at least three or four times the size of the other cell-like chambers that she’d peered into since her arrival on the below ground stratum of Shackleton Grange’s many levels. Almost entirely in darkness, a set of small lights - of varying colours and brightness, some flashing, others static in their output - projected their pin pricks of illumination into the semi-gloom. The droning sound was now much louder, and was accompanied by what could only be described as the sound of bubbling liquid. Struggling to see what was responsible for the sights and sounds that now enticed her enquiring mind with their mystery, Saskia searched the section of wall closest to the entrance and soon encountered what she sought, namely the switch that turned on the overhead strip light.
The first impression that Saskia gained of this strange chamber, was of a laboratory or research facility, with machines of differing sizes and shapes carrying out their various, and as yet unidentified functions; the source of the light display she’d just witnessed. There were various other pieces of equipment strewn about the place, but the centrepiece of the display, and what immediately caught Saskia’s eye, was what appeared to be a glass-sided water tank, which was connected to the flashing, humming machinery by a multitude of wires, cables and pipes which stretched across the floor. At around eight feet tall, each side of this vertically rectangular construction was around four feet in width, and it was clear immediately that this was the source of the simmering water that murmured away in the background.
But what caused her mouth to drop and her mind to spin, were the contents of this strange watertight box. For there, clearly visible inside the gurgling maelstrom, could be made out the shapes of three human bodies. With some dread, Saskia edged towards this odd reservoir, fearing that she had come across a morbid scene of violent death. But no, didn’t one of the figures just move? Or was it the constantly agitated water causing an optical illusion? Standing next to one side of the reinforced glass, Saskia could now get a good look at what was inside this translucent cistern, and she breathed a sigh that spoke of both relief and astonishment. For the people within this makeshift fish bowl were clearly all female, and wearing what looked like tight, figure hugging wetsuits... and they were alive!
Packed like sardines into the narrow space, Saskia could see the wrists of one of the victims of this bubbling reservoir, and it was evident that these were tied securely behind her back with gleaming white rope that contrasted starkly with her black underwater attire. Her legs too, seemed to have cords wound harshly around them in several places. Walking slowly around the cylinder, Saskia found that the other two women were identically bound, but what confused her was the fact that none of their feet made contact with the floor of their liquid filled prison, and that each seemed to be treading water in a perpetual bid to stay afloat. What was causing them to remain buoyant?
Surely they couldn’t simply keep their heads above water for hour after hour, however tightly packed in their place of confinement they might be. With their toes around three feet above the base of the tank, Saskia had to gaze upwards to view their heads, and although she could make out that each was wearing some kind of rubber hood, she could garner no clue as to how their nostrils and mouths remained above the surface. But conveniently, at one side of the tank stood a small, lightweight aluminium stepladder and, with curiosity and her fear for the women’s safety running in tandem, Saskia had no hesitation in mounting the four steps so that her head was now above the lip of the leak-proof storage chest. The black, blonde and red ponytails that sprung from the crowns of each hood and swum lifelessly in the frothing swell, left her in no doubt that the submerged trio were one and the same with Dolores’ three slave girls.
The walls of the tank felt slightly warm to the touch, as did the gently swirling liquid when Saskia dipped one hand in tentatively to test the temperature; the droning equipment’s function as heating apparatus now becoming apparent. And the secret of the three engulfed women’s survival was also about to be revealed, as it was clear that each of the bound water babies wore an inflated rubber float around her neck, which had been tethered to the container’s rim with a short length of rope, ensuring that their heads remained afloat. But although only a few inches from where Saskia stood in shocked amazement, each of the three would-be mermaids seemed to be oblivious to her presence, as each gazed out through the tiny apertures in their otherwise facially obscuring hoods with glazed over, unseeing eyes; their faraway expressions telling of some sort of tranquilising drug having been administered.
Saskia watched the gently swaying mass of tightly bound submarine females for several minutes, her mind swirling and foaming as much, if not more than, the constantly fizzing water before her. If this was the ‘special treat’ that Dolores had promised her servants, then she hated to imagine what form a punishment might take!
But what was she to do? Should she try to liberate these clearly unhappy souls from the saturated and subdued hell that they’d been placed in? But if she did, would they, in their brainwashed, zombie-like state, turn on her and hand her back to their Mistress, as they were no doubt programmed to do?
After weighing up her options, Saskia decided that it was probably best to continue her search for Cathy and Bethany alone. After all, she now knew that the mind-numbed trio would be causing her no grief in their present state. They seemed to be remaining afloat without too much effort or discomfort, and the stable temperature of the water precluded the fear that they might die of hypothermia or exposure. And if she managed to ascertain the whereabouts of her two genuine fellow prisoners, the three of them could decide their best plan of action together; three heads being better than one when it came to decisions of this magnitude, she figured.
And so, Saskia turned her back on the three water-bound women and made her way back into the subterranean corridor, turning off the light and locking the door as she went, even though there was no real reason to think that these actions would in any way affect the captive trio’s abilities to come after her.
The remainder of the cells in this underground network all seemed quiet and undisturbed, so Saskia reckoned that further investigation down here was futile, and that she needed to get back upstairs in order to resume her search. In truth, the dark, dank conditions in the cellar were depressing and not a little spooky, so it was with great relief that she emerged back to a level where windows let the bright sunshine pour onto the floors and walls of Shackleton Grange. Fleeing the cellar at speed, it wasn’t until she reached the main entrance hall that she stopped to catch her breath and take stock of the situation. Trying to open the main, double doors that would have given her a panoramic view of the mansion’s main driveway with its disused fountain and crumbling statues, proved unsuccessful, as it had been locked by unknown means; whether to keep people out or in was open to debate, although she suspected the latter.
So where should she recommence her search for the illusive duo? As she was on the ground floor, it seemed logical to begin at this level and work her way upwards. On either side of the foyer, long corridors snaked away into the distance from where she stood, appearing almost identical to each other. For no obvious reason, Saskia chose to take the one to her right. Her plan now was to try every door that she came to, in the hope that eventually she’d find the pair of presumably still bound women that she sought.
The quest didn’t get off to a particularly auspicious beginning however, as each of the first dozen doors that she tried proved to be immovable. But the thirteenth just happened to be lucky on this occasion, for even before she had reached out to grab the handle, Saskia had spied the thin sliver of metal that stuck out from the keyhole, and immediately knew that she was onto something.
Cautiously, pushing only an inch at a time before stopping to peep through the gap, Saskia found herself with a sneak preview of a room in semi-darkness; the only light seemingly provided by two soundless television screens, which flashed and flickered from their positions along the wall directly in front of her. A third screen, on the right, remained grey and lifeless in contrast to its animated counterparts. What it was exactly that was being transmitted at the moment, Saskia couldn’t clearly see from her position at the door, as three high-backed chairs partially obscured the screens and made the action fragmented, although from the little that was visible, she could see that it wasn’t a programme that the BBC would broadcast before the 9 o’clock watershed...or indeed at any time. With some trepidation, she moved forward.
Saskia’s primary motive had been to focus on whether Bethany and Cathy were the audience for these images that flared across the screens in silence. But by the time she’d almost reached the back of one of the chairs, and now had a much clearer view of the fare on offer, she momentarily forgot her mission, and instead stared open mouthed and paralysed by what she encountered. For there, simultaneously being transmitted on both screens, was a film that concentrated on two young women whose hands were bound high above their heads; so high, in fact, that their rope-bound feet were barely able to touch the floor, and they were forced to remain on tiptoes the whole time, with their arm muscles stretched to the limits of their endurance. Wearing shiny black latex leggings from the waist downwards, which hugged every curve of their hips and long, slim legs, they were topless from the waist up to the neck, where polished rubber once more took over in the form of tightly fitting hoods that clung to the contours of their faces. The only outlets visible in the otherwise all-covering headwear were two tiny slits for the eyes, plus a couple of even smaller apertures in the region of the nostrils.
As Saskia watched incredulously, the duo wriggled around, attempting to pull their hands free. But it was all to no avail, as a close up shot of one of the girl’s wrists revealed that the binding was ultra-tight, with the knot placed strategically where her fingers couldn’t reach. For thirty seconds or more, the camera concentrated on the escape antics of the bound duo, but soon it became clear that there was a third player in this game, and that this person was also female and dressed in black latex. But whereas the pair were clearly not in control of their own destiny, this third female most definitely was, and it was obvious that she had every intention of asserting her authority over her co-stars.
Although she was also wearing a facial mask to conceal her features, it was clear straightaway to Saskia that this third member of the cast was none other than Dolores, with her distinctive long wavy hair flowing down onto the one piece cat-suit that she habitually seemed to favour. Circling her prey twice, the camera briefly zoomed in on the long black appliance in her hand, which was soon shown to be a leather whip of the cat o' nine tails variety.
But for the time being, this was going to be used to tease not torture, as the Mistress went up to each of her captives in turn and gently ran the soft thongs across their naked breasts. It was clear from the way each threw her head back that, far from shying away from this interaction, both embraced its caress on their tender lilywhite skin. If the video had been accompanied by sound, Saskia would have expected to hear sighs of pleasure – albeit muffled ones – emanating from beneath those tight hoods, but the movie continued to play in silence for a minute or two more, as each woman wiggled and squirmed in ecstasy as the whip glided over their now erect nipples. When the camera briefly swung around to Dolores again, it was obvious that she was enjoying the performance almost as much as her two prisoners, as she stood there with that all too familiar smile of dominance playing on her lips; her tongue peeping out from her mouth and flicking upwards to gently lick her bright red lipstick.
For what seemed like minutes, Saskia stood mesmerised yet shocked by the drama being enacted out before her. And she could, if left undisturbed, have probably stood there, trancelike, for several more, if it hadn’t been for something diverting her attention away from the action that so captivated and yet disturbed her. But suddenly, however, the mood of the televised proceedings changed dramatically. As Saskia watched in morbid fascination, the whip, used so lovingly only a second or two ago, now took on a very different character, as it slashed with lightning speed across the breasts of one of the tied females, causing her to writhe in anguish and leaving dark red welts clearly visible on her delicate skin. Even though there was no sound accompaniment to this shock transformation in the plot, Saskia found herself flinching. And she was not the only one moved by this unexpected change in the drama, for at this precise second, she sensed movement out of the corner of her eye.
Whether this was the hand flexing on the armrest, or the slight stretching of a foot as it sought a more comfortable position against the leg of the chair, Saskia wasn’t certain. But on closer inspection, once her attention had been redirected away from the fictional sequence and back to the reality at hand, she quickly realised that there was - as she’d originally guessed before being sidetracked – someone else viewing the spectacle on screen, and that it was for this person that the televisual delights were actually intended.
Sitting placidly on her upright throne, her head blinkered and strapped to the back of the seat to prohibit her from averting her gaze from the giant screen directly before her, and with a set of headphones bridging the top of her skull, sat Cathy. With her eyes somewhat glazed over, it appeared that she had been drugged, although the movement of her hands and the slight frown that furrowed her brow suggested that maybe the sedative was beginning to wear off. Looking across to the next seat, she noticed Bethany, similarly strapped.
The action on screen still had both women enthralled, and Saskia knew instantly that the way to put a stop to this brainwashing operation was to remove the stimuli. Turning around, she looked for some indication of how she could turn the televisions off, but no means of so doing were immediately evident, and she assumed that this function could only be achieved remotely, or from a control panel elsewhere in the house. So if the screens couldn’t be switched off, then the only way to end this attempt at mind control was to get Bethany and Cathy away from the source of the problem.
Stepping forward, Saskia stood directly in front of Cathy, blocking her view of the broadcast that she’d been unblinkingly watching for... how long? Briefly, a look of incomprehension came over Cathy’s face, as she failed to grasp the cause of this interruption to her line of vision. Moving quickly now, Saskia first pulled away and discarded the headphones that covered Cathy’s ears, then began unbuckling the strap that held her head in check. As she did so, she watched Cathy’s eyes, at first still set straight ahead, suddenly turn upwards to gaze at the woman in front of her. A look that said ‘who are you and what are you doing to me’ briefly crossed her face, before a realisation of semi-recognition broke through – as if she was trying to recall where she’d seen Saskia before. For her part, Saskia began talking softly to the still fettered woman, reassuring her that everything would be alright and that she’d have her free in just a minute.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe now... I’ll have you out of this in no time... Everything’s going to be alright...Nobody’s going to hurt you.”
Undoing the straps that held Cathy in such unforgiving restraint proved a longer process than Saskia had at first imagined, due to the severe stringency of the leather fetters, which made the fastened buckles tricky to unleash. This was exacerbated by a degree of clumsiness on Saskia’s part, as in her eagerness she tried to work as swiftly as possible - too quickly, in fact – and ended up butter-fingered and ineffectual. Finally, however, Cathy’s body and limbs found themselves released from their bonds, although in her still semi-dazed state, even once free she made no attempt to rise, but simply flopped lifelessly back onto the chair.
Saskia was keen to begin Bethany’s release programme now, but it was clear that, if left in this position, Cathy would still be in full view of the ongoing transmissions directly ahead of her. To alleviate her continued indoctrination, therefore, Saskia pulled Cathy upright and dragged her limply drooping body around to the back of the chair and gently deposited her on the floor. Satisfied that the televised offering was now beyond her range of vision, she moved towards the second seat, where the equally stupefied Bethany still sat in ignorance of what had just taken place only a few feet from her.
How many hours Cathy had been forced to sit watching and listening to this bondage propaganda, she had no idea; all conception of the passing of time having been distorted by the potion that had caused her thinking processes to malfunction on a major level. There had been, in the past few minutes, a slight feeling that the powerful drugs were beginning to lose their potency, however, as a certain amount of feeling returned to her extremities, and the ability to control the movement of her fingers became apparent. She was still far from compos mentis, but the subtle physical change had also brought about a shift in her mental functioning, and other thoughts had begun to creep into her mind alongside the interminably subliminal messages and images that had been her only point of reference for what seemed like an eternity.
The sudden dark shape that obscured the screen she’d been watching, soon turned out to be the form of a woman, and although slightly familiar, Cathy struggled for several minutes to recall where she’d seen that face before. Was she part of Dolores’ team? She didn’t think so. It was only once the headphones had been stripped from her head, and her bonds were slowly but surely releasing their vice-like grip on her, that she began to understand that these moments of freedom were not merely some fleeting interim step between one bondage situation and the next, but in fact a liberation that could be – she hardly dared to dream – something of a more permanent arrangement.
And then it suddenly hit her where she’d seen this woman before. In the cage at the party! A fellow prisoner who, it now appeared, had done something that neither she nor Bethany had managed in over a week, namely escape from her bonds! As her still weakened body was lifted and removed from the stream of constant kinky video footage that she’d been subjected to, a kind of joy swept through her, as the end of her ordeal - until now no more than a pipe dream - suddenly took on a more solid reality. Was she really about to rejoin the rest of the human race in the outside world? Or was this a false dawn; an evil trick being played on her by Dolores, who would at any moment appear, to banish her all too short-lived delight and plunge her back into the world of never ending bondage? Too weak to even contemplate seeking answers to these questions on her own, Cathy simply slumped against the rear legs of the immovable chair and waited for her physical strength and mental capabilities to return to something approaching normality.
Meanwhile, Saskia had been working at releasing Bethany from - what she assumed must be - her own private hell. After all, being forced to sit in such tightly inescapable restraints for hour after hour, with nothing to take your mind off the depraved images that you were being force-fed, was not something that any sane woman would willingly submit to, right?
Bethany’s befuddled brain registered a hint of annoyance, as the scene she’d been engrossed in suddenly, without warning, disappeared from in front of her. The footage she’d been watching had struck a chord in her from the beginning, and each vignette that flashed across the screen had made her hungry for more. There was something at the back of her mind still warning her that she shouldn’t allow herself to become too absorbed in the dramas being enacted before her, and that her real-life situation was dire and not to be trivialised or ignored. But she simply couldn’t seem to help herself. There was something just so gorgeously attractive to watching bound women getting off any way they could, and she desired, more than anything else in the world right now, to be allowed to try out each and every position that her dulled senses encountered.
But for some reason her viewing pleasure was now being rudely disturbed. Flexing her eyes to left and right, all she could see were equally dark areas that were the result of the tunnel vision inducing blinkers on either side of her head. But that didn’t account for the loss of her forward vision. Even in her drugged up state, Bethany knew that something or someone must be blocking the screen now, and within seconds it became a question of who, rather than what, as a pair of hands ripped away the headphones, and with it their soothing, seductive messages that had kept her spellbound. Seconds later, the pressure around her head lessened to a significant degree, allowing her view of the room to broaden, as the strap with its vision restricting flaps of leather fell away.
Expecting to see Dolores or one of her mute handmaidens standing before her, Bethany gasped audibly through her gag as the face of the woman before her sharpened. Although only beginning to come out of her trancelike state, Bethany quickly recognised her would-be saviour as the journalist who Dolores had mockingly introduced to the assembled multitude at the party...what was her name now? She couldn’t remember, and at that moment she didn’t really care; her number one priority being to get back to the spectacle being broadcast for her eyes only on the wall ahead of her. And as the woman worked away at unbuckling the straps that held her fast, she found herself glancing over the woman’s shoulder whenever the situation allowed, to keep abreast of what was happening on the giant screen.
Bethany put up a modicum of resistance as Saskia finally freed her from the chair and attempted to lead her away from the enticing images that continued to play on the monitor. Unfortunately for her, but luckily for Saskia, Bethany’s thoughts were sluggish at present and her actions seemed to require levels of energy not available to her for the time being, and in no more than a few seconds she found herself being escorted through the door and into the corridor beyond, where she was allowed to slump to the floor with the wall at her back. For a few seconds she found herself alone, as the woman disappeared back the way they had just come. But after this brief period of solitude, her still bamboozled brain took in the image of Cathy also being helped through the doorway, before she too was allowed to flop like a rag doll to the floor. As Bethany looked on, the woman who had released them closed the door to the room, cutting out the last vestiges of the flickering lights that had, only minutes ago, so engrossed and enthralled her.
And now the woman was talking, addressing both members of her lifeless audience.
What were the three of them to do now? Saskia had been asking herself this question ever since leaving Dolores tied up in the wardrobe. Okay, a lot had happened to distract her in the meantime, but the question had always been at the back of her mind. And the discovery of the three servants in the cellar, followed by her breakthrough in locating the whereabouts of her two fellow captives, had allowed Saskia time enough to formulate a plan of campaign in her mind. And it wasn’t necessarily the course of action that most people would have taken in her position. But the more she thought it through, the more the idea that she’d come up with appealed to her.
The only problem now was selling this radical solution to her two hoped-for conspirators.
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story continues in The Secrets of Shackleton Grange 24: A Shift in the Balance of Power