Detective Inspector Barnes sipped at his coffee as he sat at a table in the now closed estate cafe, staring at the young waitress sitting across from him. He leaned in a little closer and asked "so you mean to say that this is all a big misunderstanding?"
"Yes I'm sorry to have bothered you" Penelope said nervously. "I got worried when Clover didn't return my calls last night, but she just got in contact with me to let me know that she's ok."
Barnes raised an eyebrow. "You do realise that wasting police time is quite a serious offence?"
"Oh surely you can let it slide Detective Inspector" Lord Rogerson interrupted from where he was standing just behind Penelope's seat. His left hand resting on the chair back and his right hand stroking Richmond he continued "She was just worried for her friend's safety. I'm sure you can understand."
"Yes well, given the ongoing investigations into the disappearances of your staff members her reaction is understandable. Are you quite sure this Clover is safe and well?"
"Yep perfectly sure" Penelope replied. "Everything is just fine and dandy!"
At her statement Barnes once again raised his eyebrow, but he didn't say anything more on the subject. Instead he finished his coffee, stood up and said "well thank you for your time Lord Rogerson. I hope you understand that we need to follow up any possible links to these disappearances."
"But of course, the sooner the perpetrators are caught the better!" said Rogerson.
"So you believe there is someone responsible then?" Barnes remarked.
Clearing his throat sheepishly Rogerson replied "well er, it is a theory to be explored after all."
Barnes said nothing more, and after once again thanking them for their time he exited the cafe. Silence fell among those who remained inside, and did not lift until after Rogerson had seen Barnes's car leave the parking area through a window. He then turned to face Penelope, and his face full of frustration and anger he said "you caused me quite a scare my dear."
"What do you want, an apology?" Penelope retorted, trying to sound strong but only just masking her rising fear. Hearing the sound of the kitchen doors swinging open she looked and saw Barry entering with several strands of brown rope in his hand. Shivering when she saw it she asked "how can you be part of something like this Barry?"
"I had no choice" Barry told her, sounding genuinely apologetic. "You know how much I've struggled to care for Benjamin since my wife died. I can't afford to care for a heavily disabled son on a chefs salary."
As she watched him approach Penelope asked nervously "what happens now?"
"You put your hands behind your back. I'm sure you can have an educated guess as to what will happen after that" said Rogerson.
Not seeing any alternative she did as instructed. Barry moved behind her and within seconds she felt rope being coiled tightly around her wrists. "Is this what you did to Clover then?" she asked next.
"More or less" said Rogerson. "Though if you're lucky we won't leave you quite as stringently bound as her or her two friends."
Penelope gasped as Barry cinched the ropes, the rough cord already cutting into her bare skin. "I'm not a loner you know. I have a family and a boyfriend and they'll all come looking for me when I don't come back!"
"Water under the bridge that will be crossed in due time" Rogerson replied smugly. "The antics of you, your spy friend and her colleagues have forced me to accelerate my plans. By the time your family raise the alarm it will be too late."
'Come on, come on, please something shift!" thought Sam desperately as she strained as hard as she could against the ropes. She tugged against the ropes encircling her upper body and twisted her legs and feet trying to pull something loose. But again nothing shifted. Whoever had tied them had done a truly professional job.
She moaned into her gag and stared at her friends. Alex looked beaten, barely moving and her head hanging down into her chest. Clover was exhausted, and was once again dozing lightly. Sam could feel their shared helplessness beginning to overwhelm her, but again she managed to find a reserve of mental strength from somewhere. There had to be a way out, there simply had to be. But without any of their gadgets to hand how could they es...
Hang on. Of course how could she have been so stupid! The answer had been around her wrist the entire time.
She began tugging against her wrist bonds and wriggling her fingers, not trying to break free but trying to reach the watch attached to her left wrist. It was a gadget from an old mission that she had worn to the party by accident, putting her opera gloves over it in her rush to get to the mansion on time. Now it offered a chance of escape, but only if she could reach it. She was glad her hands had been tied the way they were otherwise it would have been impossible. As it was she was able to twist her hand around enough, clasp the watch through the silk of her glove, push the button on the side and...
A thin red laser beam shot out of the watch, burning a hole not only through her glove, but also through the ropes surrounding her wrists. After a couple of seconds Sam felt her hands pull free.
"MMMMMGGGGG DDDMMM SSSSSMMMM" Alex and Clover chorused in relief as they watched her pull the ropes around her body up over her head, having fallen away easily now her hands were free. Not wasting any time Sam reached behind her head, unbuckled the ball gag and spat it out in relief.
"Hang on girls, give me a minute here" she announced as she took hold of her wrist laser and directed its beam at the ropes around her legs. After several minutes had passed Sam had successfully used the gadget to not only cut herself free, but her two friends as well.
"Remind me to buy a drink for whoever came up with that gadget" Alex said as she rubbed her aching wrists.
"What do we do now?" asked Clover.
Sam sat back down on her chair and unfastened the straps on her shoes. "We go after Rogerson and stop his plan before it's too late. We should also try and find some way of communicating with Jerry and calling for back up." As she kicked off her heels and began to peel off her now ruined gloves she added "I'm going make that psycho pay for doing that to us."
"What was that guy thinking, gagging us with those things?" Clover exclaimed, throwing the ball gag that had been in her mouth to the side. "I mean, he could have at least used a black coloured one to go with my outfit." When she saw Sam and Alex pause and look at her in surprise she added "well I have to co-ordinate don't I?"
"Sam's right, we don't have time to waste" said Alex, kicking off her own heels and getting up out of her seat. "The lives of millions of people are at stake. Rogerson has to be stopped."
The three spies, now all wearing no shoes with only their stockings on their feet, moved to the doorway as quietly as possible. The door was heavy but remained unlocked. Obviously they hadn't anticipated them getting free, so the girls had no trouble in lifting the latch and pushing the door open.
They walked out into a dimly lit stone corridor in the basement underneath the manor. It was deserted and the only sound came from the rustle of Sam and Alex's dresses as they cautiously pressed forward. Soon they arrived at a flight of stairs leading back up to the ground floor, which brought them out onto a corridor that Clover instantly recognised.
"I know where we are" she exclaimed a little too loudly. "The kitchen is down that way and the staff room is up this corridor!"
Remembering the layout of the mansion in her head Sam whispered "that means if we follow this hallway to the next flight of stairs we'll end up in Rogerson's private quarters."
"Shouldn't we be trying to get away from the mad man who had us all tied up in his creepy insect farm?" Alex pointed out.
"He has a phone in his bedroom we can use to call for help."
"And you know that because..."
"Because I spent about two hours trying to reach it with my hands tied to my ankles. Plus we need to grab that evidence I saw so we can prove what he was up to." Checking the coast was clear Sam moved off with Alex and Clover following closely behind. She was surprised that they had not encountered any staff since their escape. She guessed that it was the following night so all the day staff had gone home, and all the remaining staff were making preparations for Rogersons grand scheme.
Yet as they rounded the corner having just climbed the stairs leading to the private wing they were confronted by two very surprised looking security guards. The men blinked at them in astonishment for a couple of seconds, before one of them reached for their radio. The three spies however were not going to be caught off guard again, and quickly leapt into action. Clover dived for the man with the radio, grabbing him by the wrist and twisting it behind his back. His friend tried to help him out but left himself open for Alex to pull her arm around his neck, placing him into a sleeper hold, while the other was helpless to prevent Sam doing the same thing to him. Soon both guards lay unconscious on the floor, leaving the three spies wondering what to do with them.
"We can't just leave them here, someone will find them and know we've escaped" fretted Alex.
"We don't have time to waste, let's just get to Rogerson's room so we can get out of here!" Sam replied.
So they set off again, running as silently as possible down the lavishly decorated corridors that connected the private wing of the mansion. The walls were oak panelled and the floor was covered with colourful Persian rugs. Soon they arrived at the entrance to Rogersons bedroom, the same room Sam had been kept prisoner in only hours before. Not wanting to waste any more time Sam pushed open the unlocked door and the three girls ran inside. Yet when they saw who was waiting for them inside they wished they had proceeded with more caution.
"Evening ladies" Rogerson beamed at them, sitting on his bed with a red silk dressing gown over his clothes. In his hand he was holding a tv remote, and on the television screen resting on his drawers was CCTV footage from across the estate. "I've been watching your escape all the time. A hidden laser in your wristwatch eh Sam? You are full of surprises."
"Give it up Rogerson. You aren't going to catch us out this time!" Alex cried as they took up defence stances and prepared to attack.
"Are you going to kung fu me like you did my two security guards?" Rogerson asked as he stood up. After he spoke the girls thought they heard a muffled thump from somewhere nearby, but decided to ignore it as they focused their attention on him.
"We're not going to let you carry out your plan. It's like, totally evil!" said Clover.
Rogerson gave a sigh, and from his belt he suddenly produced an antique Victorian pistol. "I was hoping it wouldn't have to come to this. It's so uncivilised."
"You can't stop us with that thing, it's only got one shot in it" said Sam, as she heard another thump from somewhere inside the room.
"Well observed" Rogerson smiled as he made his way to wooden wardrobe at the side. "But I wasn't intending on using it on you three." Before the spies could say or do anything else he unlocked the wardrobe door, and they cried out in shock as somebody fell out of it and landed on the floor with a thump.
"Oh my God, Penelope!" Clover screamed.
"CCLLLLMMMM HHHHHMMMMM" Penelope cried out through the layers of tape plastered over her mouth. Upon seeing Clover she squirmed against the ropes binding her hands behind her back, encircling her upper body and knotted around her ankles, thighs and knees. Strands of her black hair fell over her face as she stared up at them with her eyes filled with fear and desperation.
Clover stepped towards Penelope but Rogerson got to her first, kneeling beside her and pressing the pistol against her head. She screamed into her tape gag and closed her eyes, as if hoping it would wake her from this nightmare. "So do you girls want to be responsible for poor old Penelope's untimely demise, or do you want to stand down?" Rogerson asked.
"Damn you Rogerson let her go now!" Sam bellowed at him.
"Only if you girls surrender!" Rogerson bellowed back. "Penelope's life is in your hands, don't think I won't do it."
A horrible silence fell inside the room, punctuated by Penelope's frightened sobs. The three spies looked at each other, knowing there was only one answer. They would become captives again, but there was no way they could let an innocent civilian come to any harm.
"We'll do what you say" Clover murmured in a broken voice. "Just...just don't hurt her, please."
"Good choice ladies" Rogerson replied, before reaching for his radio with his free hand and speaking into it "security, you can come in now."
"Bet you think you're really clever, threatening tied up girls like this" Alex snorted in disgust.
Rogerson gave a shrug. "Just a little bit, though it'll be nice to see you three tightly trussed up again."
"Yeah well enjoy it while you can" Sam snarled. "You won't be tying up many women once you're caught and sent to jail."
As the sound of security guards running up the stairs drifted in from outside Rogerson replied "I don't think so. After what I've got planned for you three, you won't be telling anyone about my plans any time soon."