A HEROINE IN LACE:
'A Heroine in Lace' became extant several years after I left the scene,
though I was unaware of that until now. This, then, is an unexpectedly
notable revision of the old story. I began the rewrite in early March this
year, working from an old carbon copy - remember them? In fact, the same
friend who sent the carbon, which he kept over the years, soon after mailed
an issue of Bondage Parade containing this story as one piece. It appeared
in Bondage Parade, No. 22, December 1986, pp. 6-9, 14-15, 30-31.
Not only that. 'A Heroine in Lace' was illustrated liberally with sketches that
in their execution had such an eye for detail as to reveal that the artist must have
become immersed in the tale and put their heart into it.
When stories are written, the author in a sense 'lives' them. The same can
be said for the best of illustrators.
Here I pay a special tribute to Sarah Foster Tate, who was not only the
illustrator of 'A Heroine in Lace;' she was also one of the many beautiful
models in early numbers of that magazine. Her name is a pseudonym, of
course. I have taken the liberty of scanning for this story what are in my
opinion the best of her sketches. Now, almost fifteen years later, I send
her my thanks and respect. I hope she is having a good life.
Crucial changes in style have been made to this version, and new paragraphs
added, so that for convenience it is presented in two parts. Incidentally,
I like playing with names. Readers may divert themselves by referring to
their pocket German and Spanish dictionaries as I did. See how many puns
you can find on the subject of bondage! And, as you read, consider how
sensitive and able illustrators can add new dimensions to fantasy tales
such as this.
A HEROINE IN LACE
Part One: Tied by a Friend
The view from the window of the railway carriage changed slowly as the
locomotive ground its way steadily across the land. On the left were fields
and granite ridges, to the right seascape and cliffs. Romana luxuriated in
her well cushioned compartment, alone, happy to rest her eyes on the
passing scenery between desultory glances at the book in her lap. She was
a fast reader. It was a skill she had learnt several years ago as a
magazine editor. But she did not care much for the romantic thriller she
had purchased without thinking before boarding her train. Consequently, she
divided her time more than evenly between the real world of nature and the
fantasy world of the novel.
Romana stretched lazily and glanced at her watch. In another half hour her
train would be making a whistle stop at the small coastal village which was
her destination. Once there, like the heroine in the novel, she would claim
her inheritance. She smiled. It was very like the commencement of a plot
for one of those dreadful stories. An old house that in the photographs
looked as though it had been transplanted direct from somewhere in Europe,
such as Transylvania, had been left to her by a rich and eccentric aunt
still living. Romana had thought at first that it was a joke. She had met
her aunt when she was very young, and had fond but vague memories of the
woman, elderly then in those years. But on becoming reacquainted with the
old lady a week ago their liking became mutual and the two women, one in
winter, the other a graceful spring naiad in floating chiffon and lace,
were inseparable companions until the old woman caught her liner back to
Only twenty minutes of the journey lay ahead. Two chapters of the novel
remained, and with a grimace Romana took it up. She hated leaving books
unfinished. She had to admit, though, that this one was not too bad for the
genre. It was a gothic thriller by a writer called Kate Cameron, titled
Music From The Past, in which a ghostly piano played to warn Melissa the
heroine that she was in deadly peril.
He marched me to the tenant house and shoved me inside where I blinked in
the unexpected darkness. When my eyes adjusted I saw Regine sitting on the
floor ... Her eyes were as big as half-dollars above the adhesive tape
across her mouth. Her hands and feet were taped cruelly ...
'Okay, ducky. You're next,' said Shell as he reached for a tin of tape.
'You're not going to get away with this, you know,' I said in a quavering
'Save your breath, Melissa. You'll need it,' muttered Shell as he tore off
a yard of tape ...
As I submitted meekly to the tape, I wondered what had snapped inside
Shell's mind to cause him to make such a statement. I didn't struggle
because I knew it was futile, but hope dies hard ...
When I was bound firmly, Shell tossed me carelessly on the floor where I
landed in a heap at Regina's side ...
Waiting for the smell of smoke was agonizing. Sweat trickled down my
forehead and stung my eyes as I fought against the yards and yards of
adhesive tape that bound me. Regina was doing the same thing. In our frenzy
we knocked against one another and banged heads. Seconds passed. Then
minutes ... Then I smelled smoke! ... And I couldn't scream because of the
adhesive tape around my mouth ...
Of course, the heroine was rescued in the nick of time, regaining
consciousness in her lover's arms, her mouth stinging from the removal of
the tape. Although it was fantasy, Romana could not hold back a shiver. She
was a sensitive young woman and always felt keenly the distress of others.
A few minutes later the train slowed in its approach to Romana's station
and she dropped the novel with finality into a trash basket as she
alighted, her traveling bags in her hand. She was not expecting to be met
and was prepared to take a taxi if one could be found. So Romana was
surprised and flattered when the station-master handed her a business card
from a chauffeuring company with the words that her limousine was waiting.
The honey-golden woman stepped through the turnstile, suitcase in hand and
bag over her shoulder, and found herself facing a man, slim like herself,
but a good four inches taller than her five foot seven. The two young
people appraised each other frankly. Romana liked what she saw, a man
well-built but not on the fleshy side, narrow waist and hips, deep chested.
He looked strong. His name was Bryce.
Bryce liked what he saw, a slender willow of a lady with firm lithe limbs,
all healthy woman, honey-blonde hair falling straight back between her
shoulders in a neat plait that held a filmy blue silk scarf intertwined
within it. A floating gown of white chiffon made a cloud around feet that
were shod in elegant blue high heels. The single garment formed a delicious
V below her throat, accentuated by the wide red waist sash which lifted
well shaped breasts so prettily that the sight took one's breath away.
Romana was a lady of fragility and strength.
Bryce spoke, 'Miss Romana Beyonne?'
Bryce introduced himself. 'I've come to drive you to your castle.'
'Thank you. I wasn't expecting so much attention.'
As they negotiated the narrow coastal highway, the two young people
chatted. But they were enjoying each other's company and remained silent
for most of the journey, feeling a little awkward at the frisson of
sexuality between them.
'Beyonne,' said Bryce. 'That's French?'
'Yes,' Romana replied. 'It's pronounced "bay-yon-nay." It was originally
something to do with dancing girls, but the name's been corrupted by
several language changes through my father's line of the family. And Bryce?'
'Oh, Celtic or French, you can take your pick. Name means "quick," or
sometimes "ambitious" I'm told,' Bryce laughed.
'What's it like, where you're taking me? I've only seen photographs.'
'Better wait till we get there. It's one of those buildings hard to describe.'
'I believe there's a married couple living-in as caretakers.'
'They're still there. And me too, though I live in a room back at the
village. They're a funny couple. Not really old like you'd expect the
retainers of those sorts of properties to be. There's some gossip in the
village about unusual comings and goings at night. They're probably a
little eccentric. That's not surprising. I'd go strange after living in
that isolated place too long. I came here two weeks ago, so I can't really
tell you more about them. They keep to themselves. And you probably won't
see much of them.'
Romana was intrigued by the mystery and was going to ask more questions
about the strange couple, when they came in sight of the old mansion and
her attention was diverted by its well-worn grandeur. She remembered
however that it had been built only fifty years earlier, which did not make
it really old. As the small limo pulled up the drive she gazed with
amazement at the facade. Her eyes followed the lines of the building from
its castellated roof to ground level, where with a distinct shock she saw
two people standing in the doorway observing her narrowly.
When Romana alighted gracefully from the car and approached the front
steps, the man and woman did not move forward to greet her as she expected.
Instead, she was ushered in silence to the central hallway. The man gave
her a curt nod. His wife remained impassive. Bryce deposited her suitcase
just inside he doorway and left with a cheery wave. She heard the vehicle
recede around the corner of the building, no doubt to be parked in another
part of the grounds. Bryce had mentioned that he had cycled from the
village, and she hoped she might see him again before he left. Bu he did
Without a word, the wife conducted Romana up two long flights of stairs.
The husband followed behind carrying Romana's suitcase. Her room was at the
end of a long gallery lined with tapestries and old watercolors. And there
she was left without ceremony, aside from being told curtly that the evening
meal was to be served in the dining room in an hour's time.
At meal time the atmosphere was scarcely improved. The husband attempted a
show of joviality but it did not go well with his wizened form. His scrawny
neck protruded from a collar that appeared too large for it, and his
rat-like face filled Romana with a sense of unease and foreboding. The
woman as usual said hardly a word. Romana excused herself as soon as she
had finished eating and returned to her room.
Why am I so unwelcome? The young woman asked herself. Surely they know I
can dismiss them if I choose to? It was not in her nature to behave in a
hard-hearted manner and she had no intention of depriving anyone of their
job. But the treatment she was receiving at the hands of this pair was
annoying and, what was more, it made her suspicious. Did they have
something to hide? Romana remembered the rumors in the village that Bryce
had spoken about. Perhaps there was some substance in them. She resolved
that there was only one way of finding the key to this puzzle, and that was
to eavesdrop on the couple whenever the opportunity presented itself.
She heard a door slam shut somewhere along the gallery outside her room,
and Romana guessed that one of the caretakers was on their way to check on
her. Quickly she shed her day clothes, slipped into a long blue nightdress
of shimmering satin, and sat in an armchair with a magazine in her hands.
Hr timing was just right, because the very next instant there was a knock
on the door. It sounded uncharacteristically polite.
'Come in,' Romana called cheerfully.
The door opened sufficiently wide for the rat-faced partner to peer in. The
man touched his forefinger to his brow in a sort of salute and in a thin
reedy voice asked, 'Do you need anything, Miss?'
'No thank you,' Romana replied with a smile that she made as pleasant as
she could. 'I'm going to turn in in a few minutes. It's been a long journey
and I want to wake up early tomorrow so that I can start exploring this
'May I bring you a cup of hot chocolate?' the man asked obsequiously. 'My
wife - the better half - and I always have a cup before we go to bed. It's
already made. And it will help you sleep.'
Romana assented willingly, but there was something about the way in which
the little man carried the steaming mug in on the tray and place it on the
bed-side table that increased the uneasiness she had felt earlier at
dinner. So when he had left the room, Romana smelled the liquid first.
There was definitely something funny about its aroma, and on an impulse she
poured it into a pot plant that stood by the window before replacing it on
the table. She wriggled herself under the crisp linen sheets and bed
covers - at least the caretakers had made use of fine linen - and waited
for what might happen next.
About ten minutes later, she heard soft footfalls on the carpet outside her
door, and again the moth-like rap sounded on one of its panels. This time
she did not answer but instead lay very still, breathing deeply and evenly
as though in sleep. She heard the door open. There was a pause followed by
the scuffing of feet on the carpet, then the soft clink of the cup and
saucer on the tray. She felt that the man was standing over her, observing
her carefully, and she stirred faintly, just enough to suggest that she was
slipping into a deep slumber.
'Miss,' he called softly. 'Miss, are you awake?'
Romana ignored the voice, convinced more than ever that this was a test.
About half a minute later she heard a faint sigh of satisfaction from the
fellow, who all this time she knew was observing her with his sharp little
eyes. There followed the soft click of the door closing and Romana was
alone in her room. She was more puzzled than ever.
The young woman waited for ten minutes before rising cautiously and going
to her suitcase. Quickly she slipped into a pair of white silk panties and
a burgundy silk blouse - she did not worry about a bra - and an ankle
length skirt of black velvet. She knotted a black silk scarf at her throat
like a choker and slipped on a pair of soft-soled russet colored shoes.
They were flat-heeled and would make very little sound on any surface. She
re-arranged the bedclothes so that at a casual glance it would appear that
she was still there, fast asleep. Romana paused a moment at the door,
listening before stepping out into the gallery.
Like a shadow Romana glided down the corridor, across the stair landings,
descending to ground level. She stopped at the kitchen door and listened. A
slit of light glowing beneath the door suggested that someone must be in
there, and the next moment she heard the soft murmur of voices. It was too
dangerous to stand there with her ear to the keyhole, for she could be
discovered easily if the door was opened suddenly. And there was no place
in the passageway that would offer a hiding place. She thought at first
about stepping outside the house and following the wall to the kitchen
window, but decided that she would probably be unable to hear anything.
Is there an adjoining room? she thought, and her eyes searched the passage
more carefully. A few paces back she found a door that she had missed in
the shadows, and when she turned the handle it opened silently. She stepped
into the darkened room and softly pressed the door shut behind her. The
window of the room was half open and she could see the luminescence of
moonlight outside. A chink of light showed beneath another door that
clearly led to the kitchen.
Romana edged watchfully across the dimly lit room. Flickering shadows
played across walls and ceiling. She crept with her eyes focussed on the
gap of light at the foot of the kitchen door, her ears straining to pick up
anything being said on the other side. She trod carefully so as not to bump
into any item of furniture and so betray her presence.
But, before she had taken three steps, a hand with a thick linen
handkerchief folded within its palm clamped firmly over her mouth. Strong
arms held her in a tight embrace from behind, pinning her own arms
helplessly to her sides. The sudden attack stunned her, and in that moment
the handkerchief was stuffed into her mouth, stifling her. She had leisure
to think later that she was glad it was not chloroform-soaked. The faint
yip that she made was absorbed by the crisp linen wad.
Romana was next lifted effortlessly and carried to the other side of the
room, where she was laid firmly on her face against the thick carpeting.
Her arms, unresisting, were drawn behind her and a long soft cloth that
felt strangely damp was twisted a couple of times about her wrists,
knotted, and twisted around them again before being tied in what felt like
a very final double knot.
The next thing her unseen captor did was to bind her ankles together with
what felt like another strip of cloth. He then leaned over her, his face
brushing against the long hair tousled at her shoulders where the braid was
coming loose, and she felt his fingers plucking at the knot of the silk
scarf somewhere at the back of her neck. The scarf came away. There was a
pause while he seemed to be folding it. Romana lifted her head
questioningly and at that moment a band of thick silk - it was a large
square scarf folded to a narrow two inch bandage - was bound over her mouth
pressing against her teeth. The ends were then drawn around her cheeks and
bound very tightly at the back of her neck over her fine hair. The thick
band kept the wadded handkerchief in place. Already the linen was becoming
stale against her tongue.
Romana's captor picked her up in his arms and laid her in a narrow cot that
stood against the far wall in the deepest shadow at the corner of the room.
She was on her face, and she automatically turned her head to one side,
looking up with puzzled apprehension at the dark figure crouched above her.
A heavy blanket was thrown over her and tucked in tightly beneath the
mattress so that she felt cocooned. It had all been done so quietly, so
efficiently, that she was only now collecting her thoughts.
The man's dark silhouette filled the window space a moment before he was
gone, drawing the window softly closed behind him. Romana stirred on the
bed beneath the blanket. Her fingers flexed and searched for the knots that
held the cloth so tightly around her wrists, but they were out of reach.
She lifted her head and a corner of the blanket slipped from her face to
her shoulder. She was just about to call out through her gag when she
stopped herself just in time. How could she explain to the man and woman on
the other side of the door how she had become bound and gagged in the
adjoining room? And why didn't her captor betray her presence to them? He
must have been spying on them too, she decided. And now he was gone. And
she had a panicky feeling that she would not be able to free herself from
the bonds on her own.
It took less than half a minute for these thoughts to flash through
Romana's mind. She was about to rise up on the small bed to test whether
she could work her wrists free while sitting at another angle, when the
door of the kitchen opened and a slash of light blazed a path across the
carpet almost to the corner where she lay.
'I thought I heard a sound!' It was the quiet husband. 'Damn,' he
exclaimed, and Romana heard a light switch clicking uselessly. 'The bulb's
Romana cringed back into the mattress and held her breath, thankful that
there was no light for the room.
'I didn't hear anything,' said the woman from the kitchen. 'It wouldn't be
the girl that you're worrying about, would it? You've been jumpy ever since
you came back from her room. There's enough in that chocolate drink to
knock her out till late morning. And another thing, that Romana Beyonne's a
pretty little lady. You wouldn't be getting any ideas about her would you?
The quicker she sees what she came here for, the better. We don't want to
encourage her to stay more than a day or two.'
'No dear,' replied the man listlessly.
'Then come back here and look at this map. We've got to be down at the boat
house in half an hour.'
The man turned away and Romana breathed a muffled sigh of relief. Her heart
was beating rapidly and she was trembling all over. For some reason they
were going to the beach that night. What were they up to? Was it drug
smuggling? Was it illegal immigrants? Or was it more sinister even than
that, such as the white slave trade? Romana suddenly realized what
potential danger she was in, alone in the large old house with those two
A minute later the kitchen light was switched off and Romana heard the two
persons leaving by the back door. She was now alone, and helpless, but she
waited for another five minutes before she renewed her attempts to get
free. She managed to sit up on the edge of the bed, but that change of
position made it no easier to budge the cloth that held her wrists
together. Neither was she able to free her mouth of the objectionable gag,
no matter how much she turned and worked her jaws.
I can't stay here all night like this, she thought, panic-stricken. They'll
find me in the morning, served up to them like a trussed chicken on a
platter! Perhaps the intruder who tied me up will return, but I might be in
just as much danger from him.
No sooner had the last thought crossed her mind than a shadow reappeared
against the moonlight at the window. Romana had a fleeting impulse to bury
herself into the bed clothes again but, if it was the same person who had
tied her up, he knew she was there anyway. Instead, Romana sat straight
and proud, looking daggers over her gag at the figure now climbing across
the window-sill. But her heart was pounding and the sweat of fear stood out
on her forehead and neck. She mumbled faintly through the thick material
packing her mouth.
He knew her name?
'Romana, Sweetheart, I'm sorry I had to do this to you.'
It was Bryce! Romana made an angry sound and shook her head violently,
ordering peremptorily that the hateful double gag be removed from her lips
and tongue. But Bryce's hand gripped firmly over her still gagged mouth in
warning, and he spoke sternly to her.
'Don't cry out or even speak normally when I take this thing off! Sounds
travel easily at night, and especially here where they bounce off the
cliffs. I promise I'll explain everything, but you've got to do what I tell
you. Do you understand?'
Romana's anger was deflated. She had become frightened again by his
seriousness, and the strong grip smothering her mouth. She nodded gravely.
With difficulty Bryce untied the gag - the knot at the back of Romana's
neck was very tight - and delicately with thumb and forefinger he removed
the handkerchief from beneath her tongue and cheeks where it had clung. It
was sodden with saliva. Romana gasped with relief, realizing how helpless
the gag had made her feel. When she began to speak, Bryce's hand cupped
warningly over her lips again.
'If you're being stubborn, or becoming hysterical, I'll put this back on!'
Subdued, Romana shook her head and looked pleadingly into Bryce's eyes.
They glinted back at her in the half-light.
'That's better. Now listen. I'm a private detective working on an
embezzlement case, and I've traced one of the miscreants to this place, the
woman. You might think she has the man in tow, but he's just as dangerous.
They're up to something that's far worse than the misappropriation of
company funds. I want to find out more about their movements. And I want to
catch them red-handed.'
It was only now that Bryce removed his hand from Romana's mouth. Stunned,
the young woman said nothing. She licked her lips and worked her tired jaw.
'When you came into this room, I didn't know what to do,' Bryce continued.
'If I had tried to speak you would probably have squeaked and given the
Romana could only nod in subdued agreement. She knew how much she had
wanted to scream when Bryce's hand was first clamped over her mouth.
'All I could think of was to bind you and gag you and hide you away for
your own safety, where it was not likely you'd be found. You're a sensible
woman, and I hoped you would understand and keep still, till I had a chance
to come back and free you and explain my actions. And you were cooperative.
Please forgive me for committing this violence upon your person, your
lovely mouth and wonderful limbs.'
Before Romana could utter a word, either in anger or forgiveness, Bryce
took her in his arms and kissed her mouth and lips tenderly and for a very
long time. At first Romana tried to pull back, but her wrists were still
bound tightly behind her and her ankles were still tied. She felt
vulnerable and very feminine, and melted into Bryce's arms, almost swooning
with the feeling of helplessness and trust that washed over her.
Bryce gently disengaged himself from Romana, and began to leave by the way
that he had come.
'Hey,' Romana called in a stage whisper, 'What about me? My hands and feet
are still tied!'
Bryce chuckled as he bent to untie her. 'Just teasing.' Tenderly he
massaged and caressed the marks left in Romana's wrists by the cloth. Then
he knelt at her feet, freed her ankles, and massaged them as well.
'That's a lot better,' said Romana, annoyed at being teased. ' Whatever did
you tie me with? It was so tight! And there was no give in it at all.'
'Just this. A good chauffeur should never be without one. That's what my
cover is by the way, a chauffeur,' he said unnecessarily. Bryce held up the
cloth, and when Romana examined it she found that it was a long strip of
chamois leather, still damp. 'I would not have left it long enough to dry
out. That would have been indescribable torture.' Romana' ankles had been
bound by his tie.
The two young people, fast becoming lovers, parted on an understanding the
over the next day Romana would attempt to uncover as much incriminating
evidence against the housekeepers as possible. She would work on the inside
while Bryce surveyed the outside. That was on condition, Bryce warned
sternly and lovingly, that Romana did not take any risks. 'As soon as you
think they're on to you, get out of there as fast as you can. You're a
darling woman. Look at the fix you got yourself in tonight!'
Romana vowed that she would be careful. But in this world the best of plans
can go wrong.
Part Two: Bound by the Smugglers
During the next day, Romana behaved in an exemplary manner as the new owner
of the property. She inspected the grounds and the rooms in the house,
wandered through the gardens, prodded the vegetables, expressing
satisfaction all the while and giving every indication that she would not
be staying much longer at the old place. The sinister couple became a
little more open with her, though she did not believe for one moment in
their honesty. She knew they were watching her like hawks. They even told
her their names. They were Mr and Mrs Kurt and Mordaza Knebel. Kurt was of
course German, Mordaza Spanish. But they could scarcely hide the
disappointment in their faces when Romana mentioned that she might stay a
few days longer.
The second night was uneventful. On the following day the husband Kurt
excused himself, saying that he had a half-day off coming to him. He had to
go to the village to make some purchases. The woman, Mordaza, complained of
a headache and locked herself away in her room. Romana was pleased with
this turn of events. It gave her an opportunity to look more closely about
the grounds. But first she relaxed in the library, which was three rooms
away from the kitchen and its adjoining rooms. When Mordaza peered
surreptitiously at her from around the library door, Romana pretended that
she was drowsing in the armchair. Not long after, she heard an outside
door click shut, and when she looked into Mordaza's room it was empty.
Romana ran upstairs to her own room just in time to see the figure of the
woman disappearing into a belt of trees that lined a creek which disgorged
itself into the sea. Romana determined to follow her.
She was wearing the ankle-length white gown with its accessories that she
had worn on her arrival at the railway station, and as protection from the
sun and the wind she threw a long shawl of pink chiffon about her
There was no-one in sight when Romana came to the edge of the trees close
to an old boat shed. She guessed that the two Knebels were inside. She
approached the side of the shed that had no window, carefully negotiating
the clumps of tall grass that dotted the space between the building and the
line of trees, in case the rustling sound made by her skirt or the snap of
a twig should alert the couple. When she put her ear to the wall however
there was no sound. Step by step she walked to a corner of the shed,
rounded it, and edged slowly towards a single window set in the wall. It
was high and narrow. On tip-toe she could just see above the sill. The
woman Mordaza was alone, sitting on an overturned dinghy reading a
magazine. She was evidently waiting for her husband because her foot was
With a jolt Romana realised that if Kurt had not yet arrived she herself
might be in danger of being discovered, for she was at the side of the
building that was in clear view of anyone approaching from the path. As she
began to turn, a slight sound caught her ears. She whirled and stood
transfixed. Kurt was there! He had walked up silently behind her while she
was investigating the window. With an ironic grin he showed an ugly
automatic pistol though he did not point it at her. There was no need,
Romana was frozen to the spot.
'Well, what have we here?' Kurt exclaimed nastily. He looked back over his
shoulder, making sure that no-one else was in the area. Then with an
impatient nod towards the boat house he added, 'Inside, and don't try to
Romana was hustled around another corner of the shed and through the main
'We have a visitor,' said Kurt to his wife. 'You're precautions weren't
good enough. A pretty little bird has interfered where she has no business.'
Mordaza stood dumbfounded. 'I thought she was asleep ...'
'Never mind about that. The girl's here now so she must suspect something.
Isn't that right, dearie?' Kurt rasped.
'I .. I don't know what you mean.' Romana tried to bluff but the gun at her
back told her that excuses would be more than useless. Instead she tried to
take the initiative. 'What are you doing here?'
'That's nothing for your pretty head to worry about,' replied Kurt roughly.
Then to his wife he said, 'We can't let this girl disrupt our plans, and
there's no time to dispose of her quietly.' That phrase made Romana go cold
all over. 'Get that coil of rope in the corner.'
While Mordaza fetched the spare mooring line that hung on a peg in a corner
of the boat house, Kurt walked Romana to one of the vertical posts that
supported the roof and made her stand with her back to it. The pistol was
now stuck in his belt, but Romana knew that it would be pointless to
struggle. Scraps of cord lay about the floor, and with one of these Kurt
bound Romana's wrists together after drawing her arms behind her around the
post. The thin cord was twisted expertly around her wrists in a cross-tie.
It was encrusted with dirt and a resin-like substance that cut painfully
into her unprotected skin. The pieces of cord that remained, and the longer
mooring rope, were used to lash Romana tightly about her waist and to
secure her ankles and legs. She was left to stand there uncomfortably while
the couple prepared the small dinghy at the far end of the shed for a
voyage of some kind.
Standing with her back straight against the post, Romana strained at the
bonds that held her wrists and waist and found that she was securely tied.
If she was left alone for half an hour, she might be able to slip the stiff
turns of the nylon rope encircling her from her legs to her waist and up
above her breasts, and do the same for the cords that bound her wrists and
ankles separately. But she could not attempt such an escape while her
captors were still present. They would only tie her up again, and tighter
than before! And they showed no sign of leaving.
Her best bet was to play for time. Bryce must be somewhere close at hand.
She had not seen him since the night he had bound her and they had formed
their plan to thwart the machinations of the mysterious couple. And there
was the question she kept asking herself: what were Kurt and Mordaza up to?
Their work on the boat was done, and as the two people straightened up
Romana called to them. 'These cords are awfully tight. If I'm going to
stand here much longer I demand that you loosen them and let me have some
circulation. And what are you doing? This is part of my property and I have
a right to know.'
'You're getting a little uppity, young woman,' grated Kurt. He walked to
her and leered into her face. 'And you talk too much. There's an easy way
to fix that. Do you want me to show you?' The young woman shook her head,
but Kurt continued. 'It's really easy.'
He took the long chiffon scarf from Romana's shoulders, rolled it into a
single narrow band, and tied a knot in the middle of it. With his eyes
fixed sharply on her, he tied a second knot over the first then held it
against her throat. Romana turned her head away and closed her eyes.
'Not so chirpy now are we?' the man taunted. 'But you don't have to worry,
yet. We're not ready to do anything to you.'
'I should think not!' Romana rejoined. 'Whatever it is, money laundering,
counterfeiting, illegal immigrants.' The expressions on the faces of the
husband and wife remained blank. 'Drug-running ...' Romana caught a guilty
flicker of eye contact between the pair.
'How does she know that?' Mordaza whispered to her husband. Romana had keen
hearing and this only confirmed her suspicions. But she pretended that she
had not heard the exchange.
'You won't get away with this,' she continued, knowing as she spoke that it
was one of the greatest clichés in pulp literature. 'The police will be on
your tracks.' Another cliché.
'She's only bluffing,' muttered Kurt dismissively. 'However, I think we'll
discourage any further outbursts.' He walked to Romana with the long scarf
at the ready. 'Tilt your head back!'
'There's no need to gag me. This place is so isolated that no-one would
hear if I did yell for help.' It was another cliché.
Kurt shrugged. 'That's not the point. There's more than one reason for
gagging a troublesome young woman. You annoy us. That's reason enough. Now
do as I say!'
Romana tilted her head. Kurt raised the long scarf again, but this time the
knot came against her lips and not her throat. 'Open wide.' For a moment
Romana pursed her lips stubbornly.
'What she needs is a good slap,' called Mordaza from where she stood by the
Before Kurt could act on his wife's advise, Romana opened her mouth with a
faint sigh. The soft chiffon, now made into a hard knot, was pushed between
her teeth. Next the cloth was knotted behind her neck under her long hair
and twisted once more between her teeth. The shawl was long enough for the
ends to be bound once more behind her head. It was a very simple but
surprisingly effective gag.
Mr and Mrs Knebel ignored the faint sounds of protest coming from behind
the wrappings and continued with more preparations in another corner of the
shed, this time opening packets and pouring the contents into small
barrels. Romana stood helpless, silent, fuming with indignation, hating the
restraints on her arms and body. Most of all she loathed the cloth tied so
tightly around her face. The mouth-filling knot wedged tightly behind her
teeth was hard and threatened to choke her. It made her jaw ache.
Romana almost became reconciled to the fact that she might just as well
wait patiently for Bryce to turn up and rescue her in the nick of time.
Another more preferable alternative was to watch hard and take the
opportunity to escape if it presented itself, also to observe the packing
of the drug that was clearly going on. From the white looking packets she
suspected it was heroine. She had seen those sorts of packets on television
news reports. So Romana stood quietly and did not tire herself with
When the time came to return to the house, Romana was unbound from the post
and her arms retied behind her back at wrists and elbows. The elbow ties
were especially uncomfortable, dragging against her shoulders while her
elbows were constricted together between her shoulder blades. Her gag was
not removed. The proud woman found that walking along the narrow path
through the trees was a difficult business and several times she almost
lost her footing. With her arms fixed immovably at the small of her back
she sometimes had to fight for balance where the path narrowed. She almost
fell at a steep incline where the creek cut through. It became easier when
they left the trees and approached the house across one of the fields.
As they crossed the field, Romana noticed that Kurt was walking several
paces behind her, and Mordaza had lagged further back. In a split second's
decision, Romana broke from them and run desperately at an angle for the
entrance gate that led to a lane. Her golden honeyed hair flew around her
shoulders, held in place by the gag. But running with a gag in one's mouth,
she found, was unwise. She was quickly out of breath, and with her arms
pinned behind her she had covered very little ground before Kurt came
sprinting after her. She tripped and fell brutally to the ground, and lay
there winded, her head ringing from the concussion. She was at first
scarcely aware that the end of the cord was tied snug around her throat.
When she realized what had happened she moaned with the indignity through
her gag. But she could do nothing about it.
Kurt led her by the cord the rest of the way to the house where she was
tethered to one of the stair railings in the main hall. But her arms and
wrists were freed and the gag removed. 'Don't touch this,' Kurt warned,
fingering the thick nylon loop imprisoning Romana's neck, 'or you'll wear
it the rest of the night.' Romana was too exhausted to make any further
attempts to escape. Her mouth hurt and her throat was dry, and she was only
able to nod her submission.
She suffered the indignity of receiving a slap across one of her buttocks
as Kurt passed, with a cruel jibe about horses.
Kurt and Mordaza disappeared into the kitchen. Romana sat on the floor at
the foot of the stairs and nursed her chafed wrists and arms. She licked
her lips and wished that she might be given something to drink. When
Mordaza and Kurt reappeared, a soft belch from Kurt betrayed the
refreshment they had just taken. It made Romana feel thirstier than ever.
The line was untied from the girl's neck and she was propelled upstairs to
her own room. She turned to face her captors and for the first time saw
that Mordaza carried in her hands several coils of thin pliable cord.
'Are you going to tie me up again so soon?' she croaked through parched lips.
'Of course,' replied Kurt easily. 'You don't imagine we're going to leave
you in a condition where you can scream the house down.'
'We're just changing the ropes,' volunteered Mordaza. 'You're to be kept
here till tomorrow. Then you'll be taken back to the boat house where
you'll be wrapped tightly in a few yards of heavy chain and dropped off
when we reach deep water.'
Romana's blood ran cold but she fought back her fear, 'There's no need for
that,' she pleaded. 'Can't you just bind me and gag me and leave me here? I
wouldn't be found for a long time. Long enough for you to get clear away.'
'Now she WANTS to be bound and gagged,' Kurt observed. 'You forget about
your boyfriend. We know he's investigating us, and your disappearance will
make him think twice before he interferes. You'll make a good hostage.'
Turning to his wife, Kurt added, 'She might be more use to us as a hostage
after all, than as fish bait.'
Mordaza pursed her lips. It was gesture that did not make Romana feel at
A large, well-cushioned rocking chair with heavy arm rests stood over by
one side of the room near the window. Romana was told to make herself
comfortable. But she had no sooner arranged herself in the seat of the
chair than the tying-up began. Mordaza stood at Kurt's side and passed him
the lengths of cord one by one as he needed them. Romana shivered at the
cold clinical way in which she was being immobilized this time.
First her wrists were fastened to each of the arm rests. Next her waist was
circled several times by the nylon mooring rope, wrapping her tightly into
the back of the chair. Her trim ankles were tied individually to each chair
leg, each foot resting on the top parts of the rocker respectively. With
her legs tied apart in this way, she felt frighteningly vulnerable. The
cords that remained were used to bind the beautiful prisoner to the
chair-back above and below her breasts.
Husband and wife surveyed their joint handiwork with satisfaction. 'I don't
think you'll budge from there,' taunted Kurt. To his wife he added, 'She
needs to be gagged.'
Romana was about to object, but before she could speak the woman said, 'Not
for now. There's no point in making Miss Romana more uncomfortable for the
present. We'll put a gag on her if we have to go out, or if a visitor
comes. The driveway is so long that you'll have plenty of time to run up
here and silence her.'
Romana was glad she had not spoken. Any complaint might have changed
Kurt, however, was clearly disappointed. 'What about at night?' he argued.
'A gag will be a safeguard against any visitor coming suddenly to the door
before one of us can get to her.'
'That's true.' Mordaza turned towards Romana and shrugged ironically, 'I
know it will be an inconvenience for you, dearie, but you do understand
don't you?' She chuckled unsympathetically. Romana bit her lip and shook
her head wearily.
Although the threat had been made, no gag was applied. Romana found herself
alone in her bedroom for the rest of the afternoon, her mouth so dry and
parched that she could not have called for help even if the opportunity had
It was seven in the evening when Mordaza returned to inspect Romana's
bonds. Over the preceding hours the captive girl had found it impossible to
make any headway against them. Mordaza carried a dinner tray. Its sight
reminded Romana that she had not eaten since breakfast. Her wrists were
freed and she was allowed to eat with the tray on her bound lap. The large
glass of water was the first thing she took. Sipping the cool refreshing
liquid was wonderful. Later Mordaza took the empty tray and left the room,
but not before binding Romana's wrists once again to the arm rests.
An hour later, Romana was allowed to use the bathroom. She washed under the
watchful eyes of the woman, laving her arms, hands and neck with a damp
towel. When she was tied once again into the chair, this time by Mordaza,
her ankles were anchored to the framework holding the rockers just as
before. Romana's legs and thighs were bound, and her waist and shoulders.
But this time her arms were drawn behind her around the back of the chair.
Here Mordaza struck a difficulty. Romana's wrists could not quite be
brought together, so they were tethered instead by separate switches of
cotton rope tied as though in handcuffs. The link between her wrists was
itself tied also to one of the central rungs in the back of the chair.
Left to herself, Romana strained and wriggled until common sense told her
that she would make no progress. All she succeeded in doing was to rock the
chair slightly backwards and forwards. I guess I'll have to wait until
Bryce shows up, she thought ruefully. The idea of depending on someone else
to come to her rescue mortified her, especially when it was that man! For,
although she was beginning to fall in love with him, Romana remained
fiercely independent in spirit.
Romana could just manage to read the luminous hands of the bedside clock at
the other end of the room. It was after nine. At half past ten the door
opened and she blinked as the light came on. This time it was Kurt. The
couple were obviously taking it in turns to guard her. Kurt walked across
the room and stood looking down at Romana, his hands thrust deep into the
pockets of his jacket. The young woman looked back at him, a crease of
puzzlement in her brow. Kurt's gloating silence made her uneasy.
At length he spoke. 'I've been making some inquiries in the village.
Apparently your boyfriend was going to depart on the last train - and
there's not another one for three days. I watched at the station. He got on
all right. Now no-one knows you're here, 'cept us, and you of course. He
chuckled nastily as Romana lowered her head, her heart sinking in despair.
Kurt spoke again, jerking her back to the reality of her situation. 'I
suppose there's less need for this now, but we have to stick to
precautions.' At first Romana did not understand what he meant, until he
drew a three-inch roll of white adhesive medical tape from his pocket.
Walking to a writing desk that stood against one of the walls, Kurt opened
a drawer and fumbled out a pair of scissors. With his back half turned from
Romana, he pulled off about eight inches of tape from the roll and cut it
off. He repeated this three more times. When he turned and walked back
towards her with one of the strips of tape in his hand, Romana shrank back
in her chair, her eyes bright with mixed anger and apprehension. She lifted
her chin defiantly and turned her head away. 'Give me a break. You don't
need to do this.'
'You're not going to be any trouble? There's nothing you can do about it,
and any resistance will only end in me being rough with you.' For a moment
Romana contemplated biting one of Kurt's hands, or a finger, when they came
close enough, but the fresh memory of his rough treatment made her change
She was ordered to tilt her head back and to keep her lips closed together.
With widening eyes she watched as the strip of adhesive plaster, blurred by
its proximity, was pasted across her lips, then to her mouth and down over
her chin and along her jaw-line. With further deliberation the tape was
strapped skin-tight across her cheeks. Now the lower half of her face was
concealed almost from ear to ear, partially wrapping over her chin, and
extending to just below her flaring nostrils. By the time Kurt had walked
back to the desk and returned with two more pieces of tape, the adhesive
already sealing Romana's mouth had 'taken.' When the three additional
strips were applied it felt as though her mouth was embedded rigidly in
wax. The tapes were very sticky and Romana could scarcely move her jaws.
'Pleasant dreams,' Kurt murmured, and with a mocking bow he left the room,
plunging it once again in darkness. Half an hour later moonlight began to
filter into the room through the partly curtained window. Romana had a
long, uncomfortable night ahead of her. It seemed that she could make no
progress against the bonds that held her limbs, or against the ultra-sticky
tape sealing her lips.
In the first hour of that sleepless night, Romana sat listlessly in the
rocking chair, her head thrown back against the headrest, a small
decorative pillow held to the back of the chair by cloth tapes. Although
they were drawn tight, the bonds around her body did not cause her as much
discomfort as she expected. She was beginning to grow used to them. Having
to sit in one position without being able to change position was worse, and
her arms and back began to ache wearily. So did her buttocks which, forced
tightly against the seat of the chair, were gradually numbing out in spite
of the soft cushion. She had also grown used to the tape sealing all her
lower face, and was able to breathe well enough through her nose. It was
only when she unthinkingly moved her jaw that the unyielding sticky cloth
pulled painfully at her lips.
The gag and body ties were not the only things that distressed her. The
back of the arm-chair had been wide enough to make it difficult to force
Romana's wrists together, and now the counter pressure at her shoulders
jammed firmly against the edge of the chair frame cut off circulation under
her arm pits and stretched the thin cord tightly into the soft flesh of
her wrists. Her fingers and the palms of her hands tingled and prickled
painfully and she pushed her back harder against the chair and tried to
slide herself upwards so as to relieve the tension in her arms.
Romana managed to gain a couple of inches in this way, but she could hold
the position only for a few minutes at a time before the muscles of her
abdomen and lower back tired of the strain. However, what started out as an
unpromising manoeuvre to allow better circulation to her arms suggested to
Romana's agile mind a possible way out of her bondage. Would she be strong
enough to manage it? I've got to try, she thought. I'm on my own and
there's no escape if I can't help myself.
Romana had discovered that, whenever she succeeded in stretching her arms
towards each other, the cords imprisoning her wrists slackened a little.
She found that she could turn her wrists in their individual ties, one
against the other. It just might be possible to find a key knot to work on.
But whenever muscle fatigue forced her to relax down into the chair her
wrists became ensnared once again.
Another hour passed, and another, both unheeded. Romana continued working
one wrist against the other, turning her fingers painfully against the
knots binding each opposite wrist. Although it was soft, the thin cotton
cord chafed her tender flesh until her wrists felt moist with a thin sticky
film of sweat and blood. Sweat poured down her face and ran into her eyes.
The fine cotton of her white dress was saturated, making the imprints of
her pert nipples stand out even more than usual. The effort to breathe
against the sticky gag made the blood pound in her temples and sent flashes
of pain across her brow.
But the moisture in the cord thinned it, and it seemed to Romana that
gradually the loops holding each of her wrists were beginning to loosen.
Maybe she did not need to search out the knots. Maybe she could slip her
hands out of the loops one at a time. But her greatest enemy was her slowly
waning energy. If she rested, and allowed her shoulders to take the strain,
there was a danger that she would slip into an exhausted sleep.
Slowly, fighting back the growing pain in her wrists as the damp ropes
caught against them, Romana found that she was slowly succeeding in working
one hand through its imprisoning loop. It was a good thing that her hands
and wrists were slender. With a shock of unbelief, Romana felt the thumb of
her right hand slip at last under the cord. With renewed energy, she pushed
herself up as far as she could. Incredibly, she managed to slip her hand
all the way through. Her right arm was now free, aside from the body ties.
The exhausted reaction that followed almost ensured that Romana remained a
prisoner. It took all her willpower to work with the stiffened and numb
fingers of one hand on the knots in the ropes that bound her to the chair.
But in another hour she was free, nursing her aching arms.
Standing in the center of the room, swaying with exhaustion, Romana fought
to peel the heavy layers of adhesive tape from her face. The pain as the
tape pulled her fine skin brought tears to her eyes, and when at last it
came away, distorting her mouth, her lips felt roughened and torn. There
was a taste of blood, but at least she was free of the revolting stuff. She
grimaced with disgust as her fingers felt the stickiness left on her face.
Although it took less than half a minute, Romana's escape seemed to take
forever. She walked unsteadily out of the room, down the stairs through the
front door and onto the garden path, scarcely daring to hope that she had
not been heard. Indeed it did not take long before a light came on in the
room where she had been a prisoner.
She began to run. The thought of being seized and once again gagged and
bound, gave her wings. Behind her she thought she heard footfalls crunching
on stray patches of gravel. Kurt must be after her again. The breath
wheezed in her throat, her heart pounded, and as the gateway loomed up out
of the moonlit shadows she slipped and almost fell. Her pursuer must be
close behind, but she dared not lose time by turning to look.
And then as she drew level to the open gateway the whole area burst into
light. Revealed to Romana's eyes by the car headlamps and spotlights, two
uniformed police burst past her. There followed the sound of a short
struggle and Kurt's expletive somewhere very close behind her.
Another figure, in plain clothes, ran from the wall of light and Bryce
scooped Romana into his arms and held her tightly. After some seconds,
Romana Beyonne straightened up, set her feet firmly on the ground, dusted
herself down, and looked seriously into the face of the man she loved.
'Where were you all this time? I had to do everything by myself. Men!'
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