"Have you seen Clover recently" Alex asked, glancing about looking for her.
"She's probably busy. It's pretty easy to lose track of people in this place" Sam replied.
"Still, do you reckon we should go look for her?" Alex asked.
"She's doing her job, so we need to concentrate on doing ours" said Sam as she pulled out a hand mirror from the bag slung over her arm. She flipped it open and pretended to examine herself in it, but instead of a mirror she stared at the screen of a small personal computer, showing the layout of the entire mansion.
"Rogersons personal quarters are located in the east wing, and there are a number of offices on the ground floor to the right" said Sam. "We should split up and look for clues when we get an opportunity. I'll check out his personal quarters while you explore the offices."
"What if we get caught?" Alex asked.
Flipping her computer closed Sam said "just batter your eyelids, act a little drunk and claim you got lost looking for the restroom."
"Yeah and when are we going to get an opportunity to do this?" Alex asked next.
Before Sam could reply the lights in the hall dimmed right down. They looked about wondering what was happening, before a voice speaking through a microphone boomed over murmur of the crowd. "Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce our host for this evening. The world famous explorer, scientist, multimillionaire and 13th in this years Hot Magazine's weird crush award. Lord Perry Rogerson."
The crowd erupted into applause as suddenly Lord Rogerson appeared standing above them on some sort of podium. Alex and Sam stared intently at the man they had travelled almost halfway across the world to investigate. He was in his early 40's with a full head of thick grey hair. He retained his handsome, grizzled face from his youth and was dressed sharply in a black tie tuxedo.
"Please please, thankyou. I'm not worthy of the applause ladies and gentlemen. There are after all twelve other weirdly attractive men before me after all." The crowd rippled with laughter at his joke, causing Rogerson to give a little smile of his own before he continued his speech.
"I would like to thank you all very much for coming tonight for this 'save the rainforest' fundraiser. I have visited many countries in my life, and seen more remarkable things than I can even count. The northern and southern lights, the sun rising from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and the thunderstorms of the Amazon Basin. And it made me realise how humanity is slowly destroying everything that is good and beautiful in this world."
"Can you believe this guy?" Alex muttered before Sam sushed her.
"I want to introduce you to a friend of mine" Rogerson announced. He then unfurled his hands, which he had been clasping in front of him so far, and revealed a large green stick insect in the palm of his hand. "I would like you to meet Richmond. He is a specimen that I brought back with me from one of my expeditions. Yet species like his are under the threat of extinction, not from mother nature but by raw greed of humanity. But as I look out over your glowing faces tonight, I see that there is hope that we can turn this around. Hope that humanity is waking up to the plight of nature and hope that anyone who stands in our way will face the consequences."
Sam almost gave a double take as the crowd erupted into applause again. For only a split second she could have sworn that he was looking directly at her during his last sentence, but his eyes moved away from her and she put it down to her nerves.
"But tonight let's forget about all that and enjoy ourselves!" he cried. "Dinner will be served in the dining hall in thirty minutes, so if you want to gradually make your way to your seats..."
"Perfect" Sam hissed to Alex. "That's half an hour when everyone will be focusing on getting to the dining hall. It's the perfect opportunity to sneak about with no-one looking."
"You sure about this Sam? Maybe we should wait for a little bit longer" Alex reasoned.
But Sam shook her head. "We may not get another chance. Meet you at our seats in the dining hall in half an hour!"
The door to the office was open when Alex tried it, and she cautiously opened it and peered inside. The lights were off and she saw no sign of movement, so she summoned the courage to turn on the light. The office was fairly typical, with piles of paperwork strewn about on the floor, a desk with a computer and printer on its surface and several box files arranged on shelving units. Alex slowly walked around the desk and took a seat in the swivel chair behind it. The computer was on standby but was password protected. She gave a sigh of disappointment, she simply didn't have the time to try and break it.
She shifted her attention to the desk drawers, and pulled them out one at a time. At first all she found was a load of stationary and a couple of celebrity magazines. But when she came to the last drawer she found something a lot more interesting. It was order forms for massive deliveries of insecticides. There were at least six separate orders from six separate suppliers, and each order was worth well over £200,000. Alex stared at it in confusion. After his grand speech about saving the lives of animals, why was Rogerson spending all this money on substances that killed them?
"Are you lost my dear?" someone suddenly asked her, causing Alex to jump. She looked up and saw a tall muscular man dressed in a smart suit with a blue tie filling the doorway.
"Oh sorry" she blurted. "Er, who are you?"
"Who am I?" the man asked with a deadpan expression. "I'm Philip Marsh, Lord Rogersons head of security. But the real question here is who are you?"
"Oh I'm just a guest" Alex replied, dropping the papers on the floor as indiscreetly as possible. Following Sam's advice she stood up, gave her best puppy dog eyes look and said "I got lost looking for the restroom, could you take me back to the dining hall please?"
Giving a satisfied smug Marsh replied "I don't think so."
"Oh ok" Alex replied, slowly walking towards both him and the exit. "Well in that case I'll, just, make my own way back then..."
But as she tried to go past Marsh he grabbed her by the arm, and moving like lightning he twisted her around and pulled her arm tightly into the small of her back. Alex cried out in pain, her arm feeling like it was on the verge of being snapped off. "You aren't going anywhere my dear" Marsh hissed into her ear, as he slowly began to push her back towards the desk. Alex frantically kicked at him but the more she did so the more painful his hold on her became. She was powerless to prevent herself being led back around the desk and forced to sit on the swivel chair.
Marsh pulled a roll of silver duct tape from his trouser pocket and using his free hand and his teeth he pried a strand loose, all the while maintaining his grip on Alex's arm. He wrapped tape around her pinned wrist, before grabbing her free arm and pulling both her wrists behind the chair back. Alex struggled to pull free from his vice like grip but was unable prevent him from binding her wrists with layers and layers of tape.
"Let me go!" Alex demanded. "Let me go before someone finds out what you're doing!"
"Pfft not likely my dear" Marsh retorted as he began wrapping tape around her upper body above and below her breasts, pulling it all the way around the back of the chair taping her to it tightly. "We've got everybody who could help you half drunk in a completely separate part of the mansion. You're in our world now my dear, and you're playing by our rules. Now open that pretty mouth of yours!"
Seeing the rolled up rag in his hand Alex firmly kept her mouth shut. Marsh simply chuckled, before pulling on her hair causing her to yelp in pain. Quick as a flash he stuffed the rag into her mouth, before placing tape over her lips and wrapping it all the way around her head several times. Alex tried to cry out but could only manage a couple of muffled grunts as Marsh pulled then fixed the tape underneath her short black hair.
Yet he was far from finished. He then began to wrap her waist in the tape, also twisting it around her hands further pulling her body into the chair back. Once finished he moved on to her legs, and lifting up her thighs he began to wrap tape around the tops of her legs. "Nice dress by the way" he remarked smugly as he wrapped tape around it, pinning the silk fabric against her legs.
"Llllmmmm mmmmpppphhh gggmmmm!" Alex pleaded.
"Sorry, didn't quite catch that" Marsh grinned as he began to wrap up her lower legs
underneath her knees. He then progressed to her nylon clad ankles and bound them together, also wrapping tape underneath her high heeled shoes binding them to her feet. Then using the same strand he pulled her legs back to the chair support and taped them to it, pulling her legs underneath the chair and fully immobilizing her feet.
Marsh then pulled away and examined his handiwork. "Sitting comfortably?" he asked, smiling manically.
"Mmmppphhh mmmggg hhhhmmm ffffmmm" Alex grunted, flexing her body against the tape and swivelling about in her chair as she tried to escape.
"Well good luck getting free from all that my dear" Marsh said as he moved to the doorway. "But don't worry, I'm not abandoning you. I'll be coming back for you once we've finished with another couple of loose ends."
As he left the room shutting the door behind him Alex struggled to understand what he was on about. But then she was hit by a horrifying thought. Another couple of loose ends. Surely he didn't mean Sam and Clover. Suddenly her fears about Clovers absence returned, and her imagination running riot she wondered what could have happened to her friend.
She redoubled her efforts to free herself, straining with all her might and wriggling her arms, hands and feet trying to find a stray end of the tape. "HHHLLLMMM MMMMGGHHH!" She cried out into the rag in her mouth and tape sealing it in, but there was no-one nearby to hear her. Hanging her head she silently hoped that Sam would avoid falling into their clutches.
Sam rooted through the drawers of Rogersons bedside table, searching for any incriminating evidence that might shed some light on what was really going on. But all she found were books, some sleeping pills and several pairs of glasses. Giving a frustrated sigh she looked about the bedroom for any other place he could be hiding some hidden documents. Rogersons bedroom was extravagantly decorated with oil paintings hanging on the wall, long velvet curtains and old oak furniture. The centrepiece was a vast four poster bed with red curtains surrounding it. It was here that Sam decided to look next.
Kneeling down as much as her long gown would allow she peered underneath the bed, and saw a number of briefcases lined in a neat row. She grabbed the centre one, pulled it out from under the bed and checked to see if it was locked. It wasn't and flicking up the clasps the case opened up revealing its contents. Her gaze fell upon some maps and schematics of the sewage system underneath London. He had circled several areas with a red pen, and had scribbled in almost illegible handwriting 'cleansing begins here' in the bottom right corner.
Sam was so engrossed in reading these documents that she failed to notice someone creeping up behind her. In fact the first time she noticed was when the figure clamped his hand over her mouth.
"Now what would a pretty young lady like you be looking for in my private quarters?" Rogerson asked over the sound of Sam's muffled cries. He used his free arm to grab her by the waist and slowly hoisted her back to her feet. "I think you owe me an explanation my dear. Or has good old Jerry instructed you to not give in under interrogation?"
Sam's heart skipped a beat. Rogerson knew she was a spy, and presumably Alex and Clover too. The situation in that one instant changed dramatically, leaving her with only one objective; escape. Summoning all her strength she kicked him in the shin with the point of her high heel. She felt him exhale in pain and wince slightly, giving her the opportunity to elbow him in the stomach, winding him. Instantly his grip on her weakened enough for her to break free and she darted forward and barged through the bedroom door.
But the instant she did she was grabbed on each side by two pairs of arms. One pair clamped their hand over her mouth and grabbed her right wrist, while the other grabbed her left wrist and pushed her back inside the room. Sam soon found herself facing two burly looking men dressed in tuxedos that she immediately recognised. They had been flanking the main entrance when she had first arrived at the mansion.
She pushed and struggled with all her might against them but they were too strong. They forced her onto the bed before rolling her onto her front, forcing her head into the plush pillow. One of the men leant on her keeping her in this position, while the second pulled her wrists together and crossed them over. Sam then heard the sound of ripping tape before she felt it being wrapped around her gloved hands. She tried shouting but her cries were muffled by the pillow, and she kicked at her assailants with her legs but all she hit was thin air.
Once her wrists were bound the two men shifted attention to her feet, which they grabbed and pushed together before encircling them in tape. Sam groaned as she felt them encase her nyloned ankles, the tops of her feet and the underside of her shoes. They then progressed down to binding her legs underneath her knees, and once that was done they lifted her dress a little in order to binbd her above the knees.
A pair of hands then grabbed her shoulders and pulled her up out of the pillow, at which point she was greeted by the leering face of Rogerson. He licked his lips creepily as he watched his goons wrapping tape above and below her breasts. Sam grimaced as the tape rubbed uncomfortably against her bare shoulder. "It will make things a hell of a lot easier for you if you admit now who you are and what you're doing here" Rogerson remarked coldly.
Struggling to catch her breath from having had her face covered by a pillow Sam panted "ok...I'll tell you everything!" Rogerson looked at her expectantly, but Sam shot him a defiant glare and said "I'm a hotel inspector and I'm knocking a star off for this."
Rogerson gave a manic laugh before simply ordering his goons "gag her!" Before Sam could react one of them reached around and stuffed a handkerchief inside her mouth while the other started wrapping tape over her mouth and behind her head. Once they had completely covered her lower face with at least six turns of tape Rogerson moved closer and began fiddling with her hair bun. "You know, I've always preferred girls who wear their hair down" he smiled, before pulling out her hair band, causing her long red locks to spill out over her shoulders.
"Mmmmphhh hhhhhmmmm mmmmpppphhh cccrrrrrrmmmm!" Sam growled from behind the many layers of tape, as she struggled wildly against her bindings desperate to
wipe that smug smile from his face.
Rogerson simply laughed at her again, and gave her a rough shove back onto the bed. "Make sure she isn't going anywhere" he instructed his goons. "I have a party to attend." All Sam could do was watch as he waltzed back out the room, leaving her at the mercy of the goons as they rolled her back onto her front. More tape was wrapped over her wrists, before the same strand was pulled to her feet, wrapped around her ankles and then back to her wrists, forming a crude yet effective tape hogtie. For a finishing touch they wound more tape around the connecting strands, to ensure she wouldn't be able to break free from it.
Their work completed the goons stood up and moved towards the exit. Sam 'mmmppphh'd' angrily at them as they left, but was powerless to prevent them from leaving and locking the door behind them. She immediately began straining and twisting in her bonds, trying to find a weak point in the mass of tape covering her body. She rocked from side to side and pulled her legs in an attempt to snap the tape connecting them to her hands. But all her efforts failed and she remained trapped in her tape cocoon. Slumping into the duvet she wondered if Alex or Clover were having any more luck.
"MMMGG MMMMPPPPH HHHHMMM!" Clover cried out into the tape surrounding her mouth, calling out in the hope someone nearby would hear her. But even if her muffled voice could have travelled through the thick oak door nobody was around to hear her. The party was now in full swing and all the staff were otherwise preoccupied.
Clover had woken from her chloroformed induced sleep fifteen minutes ago, and after shaking off the after effects of the drug she had realised that she had been bound, gagged and abandoned in the same cellar she had been knocked out in. She was in near pitch black darkness, the only light came from a small gap underneath the door, which was what she focused on as she desperately tried to wriggle her way to freedom.
As she tugged and pulled at her bindings she heard the sound of the oak door being unlocked. She froze as it slowly opened, at which Barry walked down the flight of stairs towards her.
"Ah you've woken up I see" Barry remarked as he went to check the tape was still intact.
"YYYMMMM SSSSMMMM HHHHMM!" Clover cried out as he pressed his hands over her tape gag, ensuring it was still sealing her lips effectively.
"All seems to be in order" Barry remarked as he walked back to the doorway. "Don't go anywhere, I'll be back for you once the party has finished." He ignored Clovers defiant squeals as he shut the door and relocked it. But as he turned to walk away he gave a start when he realised that Penelope was standing directly behind him. "Jesus Penny, don't do that to me again!" he gasped.
"Sorry Barry. I was just wondering; have you seen Clover recently?"Penelope asked.
Inside her dark cell Clover heard her friend's voice and her instinct was to call out for help. But then she realised that with Barry present chances are that Penelope would only end up getting captured as well. Clover lay still as she thought through her problem, trying to come up with a way of alerting Penelope to her plight without endangering them both.
"Oh I've been meaning to come find you" Barry told Penelope. "There was an accident when Clover and I went to the storeroom. She slipped and fell on the stairs and badly sprained her ankle. We had to get a paramedic to take her to hospital and everything."
"Oh my God seriously?" Penelope asked, sounding very shocked.
'I'm not in hospital, I'm in here!' Clover thought desperately as she listened to their conversation. She needed to make Penelope suspicious of Barry's cover story, so maybe all she needed to do was plant the seeds of doubt in her mind. She began stamping her heels on the stone floor slowly and rhythmically, hoping the sound would travel through the wooden door. And it seemed to work.
"Did you hear that?" Penelope asked.
"That banging noise. Sounded like it was coming from the storeroom..."
"Oh the pipes in there are banging again. I'll let the caretaker know about it. Anyway we should probably get going back to the banquet."
"Yeah I guess. I hope Clover wasn't badly hurt. Which hospital did they..."
The sound of their voices drifted away further and further away, once again leaving Clover all alone. She grunted in discomfort and twisted against her bindings. She was beginning to realise the chances of her escaping on her own were minimal. She would have to rely on her two spy colleagues to escape, or failing that, a civilian waitress whom she had only known for a week and who currently believed she had been taken to hospital.
'Yeah, not looking brilliant right now' she thought glumly.
The party lasted well into the night. The guests were treated to a three course meal, and after the speeches were directed into a dancing hall where a famous DJ really kicked the party off. The pounding music and the free bar meant the guests stayed incredibly late, and it was well past three in the morning by the time Rogerson said goodbye to the last guests.
Secretly he was glad it was out of the way. Now he could concentrate on more pressing matters. He was on the verge of completing something so momentous that it would change the world forever. And there was no way he was going to let those three spy girls mess his plans up now.
He returned to his bedroom and as he unlocked the door he was surprised to see that Sam was no longer lying on his bed. He panicked for a moment, but he breathed easy again when he heard a disgruntled 'mmmfff.' He wandered over to see her lying on the floor, having struggled so hard that she had slid completely off of his bed. He smiled at her, which she returned with an angry glare.
"I hope you enjoyed my party as much as I did" he said smugly. "I'm afraid it's going to get worse for you from now on. I've arranged for you and your two friends to take a little trip to my insect house."