T H E B O N D A G E I S O U T T H E R E
|by Van ©2009|
Veronica was worried... no, confused... no, peeved. It wasn't like Dana Scully to blow off her traditional chat with the task force at the beginning of the workday. As Agent-in-Charge, Dana was always the first in the office, and she always took a little time to chat with her team—those team members that hadn't been kidnapped and were probably undergoing some sort of horrific ordeal at this very moment, that is. Veronica swallowed, and tried to ignore the sour feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes settled on Megan's empty desk, and she swallowed, again. Anyway, she really liked the crack-of-dawn face-time sessions with her boss and the others. It boosted her spirits and she learned stuff and... she liked Dana Scully, and Lindsay Boxer... and Claudia Bosco, she hastened to add.
Veronica had arrived at the office to find a note on her desk, in Claudia's hand, explaining that Scully and Claudia would be attending a meeting at the DoJ, followed by a visit to the other task force, the one officially taking the lead investigating Megan and Gracie's abduction. Veronica willed herself not to glance at Megan's desk, again, but the sick feeling in her stomach remained.
Lindsay stuck her head through the doorway. "C'mon, Ronnie," she purred, in her hoarse (sexy) alto voice. "Let's get started."
"Uh... you don't want to wait for Dana and Claudia?"
Lindsay shook her head. "I've already left them a message, telling them the locations we'll be scouting and in which order."
Three properties recently leased by the Realtors on the NSA list were in the area covered by the cell-phone towers activated by the unknown throw-away phone, and the plan of the day was for Lindsay and Veronica to investigate. It was routine leg-work, not anything you could call a hot lead, but you never knew if something was important 'til you checked it out, and it was progress... maybe. They would be on their guard, of course, just in case.
Veronica donned her suit jacket. "We still starting with the gallery?" she inquired. The closest property on their list was a business space whose last tenant had been a minor art dealer, and, according to the Realtor, it had just been leased to an established chain of galleries based in LA.
Lindsay nodded as she drew her Glock, checked the load, and slid it back into her shoulder holster.
Veronica did the same with her SIG-Sauer. "Uh, if we meet someone who wants to tie one of us up," she said, smiling sweetly, "it's your turn, okay?"
"Wise-ass," Lindsay growled, smiling back. "When Claudia gets back, maybe we ought to do another rope demo, only this time I'll also insist she show us Bondarella's favorite gagging techniques."
"Whatever," Veronica purred, as they strolled out the door, "although, why you'd want to let her do that to you is beyond me."
"Wise-ass," Lindsay reiterated. She locked the outer door behind them, and they were off.
The gallery in question was a storefront with display windows on either side of an entrance alcove, but the glass was papered over on the inside. Lindsay and Veronica approached the entrance to find its glass double doors papered over as well, as were the small display windows on either side. The doors were also locked.
"Well," Veronica said, "you want to try the back?"
"I suppose," Lindsay drawled. She was focusing on the small, computer-printed paper sign taped on the inside glass of the right door. It read:
the BÆLLODRAN GALLERY of NEW MEDIA specializing in unique videography, performance art, & interactive installations
"Well, lah de frickin' dah," Veronica muttered.
"You're not a student of the arts, I take it?" Lindsay chuckled.
"'New media'," Veronica snorted in disgust. "Sounds like crappy viral videos of idiots doing really bad modern dance in really stupid costumes." She smiled at her partner. "Being from Frisco, I assume you love that sort of thing."
Lindsay smiled back. "No, I think you've got it just about right... crappy, bad, and stupid. Art in general is lost on me—but I suppose rich people have to do something with their money." She pointed to a security camera tucked into a corner of the alcove ceiling. Its tiny indicator light was glowing red. "Assuming that isn't hooked up to a recorder and someone is actually watching us, pray they don't have audio."
Suddenly, there was a loud click and the doors opened with a hydraulic hiss.
"Actually, I love the New Media," Veronica said, in an elevated voice. "I meant 'crappy', 'bad', and 'stupid' in the ironic, inverted-aesthetic sense."
Lindsay rolled her eyes in mock disgust. "Follow me," she muttered, "and be on the lookout for leather-clad bitches wearing masks."
Veronica grinned and nodded. They stepped across the threshold with Lindsay in the lead.
The space beyond was a dark corridor, several yards in length. The walls and ceiling were painted flat-black, and the only light was from the open door behind them. At the end of the corridor, long, ceiling-to-floor drapes of black velvet stretched from wall to wall, and a one-line electronic light-board, the kind used for advertising, was on the floor. As they watched, glowing red letters began scrolling across its black surface, from right to left.
Welcome Detective Boxer & Agent Mars...... our installation is entitled...... 1●CRAWL●3●VIBROSHOCK......
Lindsay and Veronica exchanged a quick glance as they drew their weapons. Lindsay took a step to the left, and Veronica took a step forward and to the right.
"I'll lead and you cover," Lindsay whispered, but before they could move—the curtain parted and opened to either side on a motorized track.
The space beyond was very large. The periphery was as dark as the entry corridor, but in the center, under bright lights—
"Oh my god!" Veronica gasped and rushed forward. Scully, Gracie, Megan, and a hooded stranger were bound and gagged and naked and—
"Ronnie!" Lindsay barked. "We clear the room, first."
Veronica skidded to a halt. "Oh!" What am I thinking! she chided herself. Talk about your rookie mistakes!
They separated and made their way around the periphery of the space, moving one at a time and providing mutual cover.
"There's a clothing rack over here," Veronica called out.
"I've got a closed door," Lindsay said, a few seconds later, "and that's it. Go help Dana," she ordered. "I'll cover this door and keep an eye on the entry."
Gracie was straddling a steel post, Megan was tied to a support stanchion, the naked and hooded stranger was spreadeagled against a vertical orb-web of chains, and Scully was lying on her side on the carpet. Veronica holstered her weapon and rushed to her boss' side. Dana was a mess, her hair damp and tousled and her pale skin shining with sweat. Veronica fumbled with the buckle of her ball-gag, then, as gently as she could, pulled the ball from her mouth.
The green, translucent sphere came free with an audible pop, and Scully worked her jaw and licked her lips. "The dildos," she gasped. "Get them out, now!"
Veronica blinked in surprise. "The what? Oh!" She found the buckle of the strap cleaving Scully's crotch and started to unbuckle it.
"Not me!" Scully gasped, still working her jaw. "Gracie! Hurry!"
"Oh!" Veronica stood and rushed to Gracie's aid. The track lights over her fellow Agent were brighter than those over the others, and she was squirming and writhing in her white silk bonds. Veronica frowned. Gracie seemed to be straddling a tiny steel saddle, and she could hear a modulated buzzing sound. If Gracie was sitting on a vibrating dildo (and it was pretty obvious that she was), how was Veronica going to lift her off the damn thing, all by herself? "What should I—"
"Pull the plug!" Scully shouted. "Disconnect the cables!"
"Oh, right!" There was a control box of some sort bolted to the floor. Veronica unscrewed the connections and pulled all the electrical cables. The buzzing stopped and Gracie immediately collapsed in her bonds, then heaved a tired sigh.
"Pull the cables for the others," Scully ordered, "then come back and free me and I'll take care of the rest."
"While you and I clear the rest of the building," Lindsay added.
"Got it!" Veronica acknowledged. She went first to Megan, and then to the hooded, spreadeagled stranger, pulling all the electrical connections she could find. She noted the other captives' glistening skins and their exhausted relief at being rescued. Been there, done that, Veronica thought, remembering her stint as an involuntary "audio-animatronic mannequin", thanks to the evil Betty-bitch. She hurried to release Scully from her brown leather bonds.
Veronica frowned as she unbuckled the straps that bound Scully's ankles and legs and pinned her sleeve-encased arms to her upper body. Her boss's skin was pink and flushed, especially her breasts, shoulders, and outer thighs. It was as if she had a mild sunburn. Rug burn? Veronica wondered. She pulled a small multi-tool from a sheath attached to her shoulder holster, unfolded its blade, and attacked the single-sleeve's laces. "What the hell did they do to you?" she demanded.
"I'll explain later," Scully muttered, sighing in relief as Veronica cut the tape binding her elbows, wrists, and hands. "It's a bit... involved."
Veronica helped Scully strip the last of the tape from her skin, then handed her the multi-tool and drew her weapon. "Back in a flash," she said.
"Here!" Lindsay called, as she reached under her jacket to the small of her back. She produced a compact automatic pistol, verified that its safety was on, then tossed it to Scully. "My backup piece."
Scully nodded as she caught the pistol. "Go!" she ordered, then dragged herself to her feet, stretched, and started towards Megan.
Lindsay opened the closed door, being careful to shield herself against the wall, as best she could. "I'm still in the lead," she told Veronica, and they headed through the door.
The rest of the building was clear, and Lindsay and Veronica found nothing of immediate interest other than a closet with a rack of electronic components.
Veronica pointed to a fiber-optic cable plugged into a junction box mounted on the wall. "That's the—"
Lindsay jerked the cable from the box.
"—broadband connection." Veronica continued. "Uh, was the broadband connection."
"I've had enough of their god-damned peep shows," Lindsay growled. "Let's go."
They hurried back to the main space to find that Scully had succeeded in freeing Megan and Gracie, and the three were engaged in the awkward process of freeing the hooded, spreadeagled stranger from "Bondarella's Web". Scully and Megan were supporting her body while Gracie, the tallest, was using Veronica's multi-tool to sever the multitude of cable-ties binding the fair-skinned captive.
"I'll help them," Lindsay said, speaking to Veronica. "You keep an eye on the street entrance and the other door."
"Okay," Veronica acknowledged, and watched Lindsay walk towards their naked teammates. "Naked!" Veronica whispered under her breath. Weapon in hand and her attention on both the corridor to the street and the door leading to the rest of the gallery, she walked to the clothing rack she'd noticed earlier. It was a hotel-style, wheeled rack, and held two suitcases and a matching garment bag, and three outfits on hangers shrouded in plastic. There was also a cardboard box full of feminine shoes.
Her attention still on the entrances and her weapon in hand, Veronica wheeled the rack towards the web of chains. By this time, the others had the stranger off the web and were helping her sit on the carpet. Gracie was using the multi-tool to attack a tiny padlock securing the zipper running down the back of the hood. "Here's something to wear," she announced. As she halted the rolling rack, the smaller of the suitcases fell onto its side and several loose papers and an Italian magazine spilled from a side-pocket and onto the floor.
Gracie had succeeded in springing the padlock, and the hood was unzipped and slowly, gently pulled from the stranger's head.
The stranger was an attractive woman, despite the sweat shining on her flushed and flustered face. She retracted a ball of foam from her mouth, then stared at the others with gorgeous, amber eyes as she licked her lips and worked her jaw.
"Are you okay?" Scully asked, and the stranger nodded. "Who are you?"
"She's Claudia Bosco!" Veronica announced, holding up a photograph she'd retrieved from the loose papers.
The glossy photograph matched the stranger's visage, and was printed on heavy paper embossed with holographic seals in the upper left and lower right corners that read "ARMA DE CARABINIERI, FOTOGRAPHIA UFFICIALE". Printed in the lower left corner was "BOSCO, CLAUDIA", and a reference number.
"I am Claudia Bosco," the stranger gasped, "Investigatrice Speciale, Arma de Carabinieri, Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale."
"Dana Scully, FBI," Scully sighed. "I thought I met Claudia Bosco at the airport."
"And I thought I had met Special Agent Dana Scully at the airport," Claudia said, "until I was subdued with the chloroform and found myself a prisoner of Bondarella... again."
Veronica blinked in surprise. "But, Claudia... the other Claudia, was at the Interpol office all the time. Nobody realized she was bogus?" Veronica blinked, again. "Oh..." She gave the others a sheepish grin. "I don't suppose any of us ever actually went with her to the Central Bureau at Justice?"
"My guess," Gracie growled, "is we'll find 'Claudia Bosco' hasn't been in contact with Interpol at all, since she arrived."
"We'll sort this out," Scully muttered, then picked up some of the loose papers still cluttering the floor. "These look like they're from your personnel file," she told Claudia.
"Sì," Claudia confirmed, "from the files I was bringing from Lyon."
Scully nodded. "They took out anything that might have made me suspicious, but left in just enough for your impersonator to hand me what looked like a 'complete' file. I chalked up the lack of detail to differences in procedure."
Megan had taken one of the plastic-shrouded hangers from the rack. "This is my suit and blouse," she noted, "the suit I was wearing, uh, before."
"Bondarella said she was gonna burn our clothes," Gracie noted.
"You mean she was lying?" Megan purred.
Gracie favored Megan with a wry stare, then shrugged. "Well, mine got cut to ribbons," she sighed. "I know, 'cause I was wearing it at the time."
Veronica smiled, proud of her friends for recovering so quickly from whatever Bondarella and her gang had done to them. She pointed to one of the other hangers. "Isn't that what you were wearing yesterday, boss?" she asked, directing the question to Scully.
"I think so," Scully answered. "Your luggage?" she asked Claudia.
"Sì," Claudia responded.
"Well... let's get dressed," Scully sighed.
Apparently, Bondarella's gang had steam-pressed Megan and Scully's suits and blouses. They had also provided a new outfit for Gracie. It was a one-piece jumpsuit in a digital urban camouflage pattern, mostly dark shades of gray. "FBI" was embroidered on the back in twelve-inch, light-gray, block letters. It wasn't exactly skintight, but its style had more in common with a Star Trek uniform than anything approved for tactical use by the Bureau.
There was also underwear, in the form of very expensive and rather skimpy thong panties and demi-bras. The set provided for Megan were a deep, shining burgundy. Scully's was a satiny sage-green, with lace embroidered in a Celtic knot pattern. Gracie's skivvies were pearl-white, with tiny rhinestones studding the waistband of the thong and set between the cups of the bra. "Visit Beautiful New Jersey" was embroidered in small, white script across the thong's minimal crotch panel.
"I am not wearing this," Gracie huffed, holding the thong at arm's length.
"Why not?" Lindsay purred.
"I'll go commando before I wear this," Gracie growled.
Claudia tossed Gracie a pair of panties from her open suitcase.
"Grazie," Gracie said, and began dressing.
"I don't think she can loan you a bra," Veronica noted, perfectly deadpan, "unless she throws in a couple of pair of gym socks."
"Remind me to beat you senseless after I file my report," Gracie muttered. It was true, of course. The genuine Claudia's breasts were nearly as magnifico as the false Claudia's.
Scully winced as she closed the bra over the pink, mildly inflamed skin of her nipples and breasts, then winced again as she settled her blouse over her shoulders. She had managed to mitigate the effects of being dragging across the carpet by Bondarella's insidious chain by rolling onto her back or side and letting the leather arm-binder cushion her ride; but there had been no way around punishing her breasts, shoulders, and thighs as she repeatedly inch-wormed her way out to plant her tits in those damned metal bowls to save her friends from being tortured. It wasn't too bad, nothing time and a little cortisone ointment wouldn't fix... when she had time to find some cortisone ointment.
Megan and Scully had stockings, in shades that complemented their outerwear, as well as garter-belts that matched the supplied lingerie. The cardboard box had contained their shoes, and, in addition, a pair of black sneaker-boots in Gracie's size that went with her new outfit.
Finally, their weapons, holsters, spare clips, ID and badge cases, and cell phones were on the hangers or in their jacket pockets; or, in Claudia's case, were in one of her suitcases.
"More misdirection," Gracie muttered to Scully. She ejected the clip from her SIG-Sauer, pulled back the slide, and inspected the mechanism, as best she could without doing a complete field-stripping. "They said they were leaving our loose stuff for you to find."
"Misdirection, like you said," Scully sighed. "Your car was the only evidence you'd ever been at 'BDL Inc.'—the place they were abducted," she added, for Claudia's benefit.
"Bondarella is careful in matters of what she considers to be the personal honor," Claudia said, "but she delights in sowing the confusion and, as you say, misdirection."
"We can't trust these things until we do test firings," Megan noted, patting her holstered weapon. "And we ought to discard the rounds."
"That is true," Claudia said. She had made no move to don her holster or weapon. She focused on Scully. "I do not wear this," she said, nodding at the weapon in question, "until my identity is, how you say, confirm?"
Scully smiled and nodded. Claudia, the real Claudia, was a professional.
Lindsay was separating the remaining loose material on the floor, using the toe of her right shoe. There was a copy of Il Mondo magazine, and a pair of clear plastic page-protectors were tucked between its pages. Lindsay used her shoe to fan them out.
The first protector contained a page cut from an English language magazine, a public service ad from the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. It showed Senator Shannon McMurphy, wearing skintight tights and striking a yoga pose. McMurphy was an influential, senior Senator, and held several important committee assignments, including the chair of the appropriations subcommittee that controlled the FBI budget. She was a moderate progressive, and there was speculation that she would be a likely candidate in the next presidential campaign. There had been a conservative outcry when the "shocking" and "inappropriate" ad first appeared, but McMurphy and her allies had artfully turned the issue back on her attackers, successfully painting them as straitlaced and "anti-health" prigs who were distorting the issue for political ends.
The second protector contained a publicity photo of Jenny Lerner, one of MSNBC's most prominent reporters. Her tan, blue-eyed, and brunette visage was recognized in most American households. She'd recently finished a stint with the White House press corps and had moved over to the Capitol Hill beat. Word was she had turned down an anchor desk to remain a field reporter.
The group looked at Claudia, who shook her head. "They are not mine."
"Targets!" Megan gasped. "They're targets! Senator McMurphy and Jenny Lerner are next on their list!"
"It could be more misdirection," Lindsay suggested.
"Or, they left this for us to find," Scully said, "knowing that by the time we found it, we'd be too late to stop them."
"That would be just the sort of thing Bondarella would find to be the amusement," Claudia added.
"However," Scully continued, "I'm betting she didn't expect us to be rescued this soon." She reached into her pocket for her cell phone. "Maybe we have a shot. Gracie," she ordered as she dialed, "call MSNBC and find out where Lerner is, right now."
Gracie nodded. She'd just finished extracting her hair from its former beehive coif and Bondarella's tiara, and was pulling it back in a ponytail and tying it with a length of the lace that had secured Scully's single-sleeve. She pulled out her phone and started dialing.
Scully called the FBI switchboard and asked to be redirected to Senator McMurphy's office. "This is Special Agent Dana Scully," she said when the receptionist answered. "I need to speak with either Senator McMurphy or her chief of staff, immediately."
"The Senator is out," the receptionist said, "but please hold for Ms. Gardner."
Scully put her hand over the phone and focused on Lindsay. "Call the other task force."
"And tell them Gracie and Megan are safe," Lindsay nodded, then reached for her phone. "I should have thought of that earlier," she muttered under her breath as she punched in a number.
A female voice spoke from Scully's phone. "This is Amy Gardner."
"Special Agent Dana Scully, FBI," Dana responded. "I need to know the whereabouts of the Senator."
"Uh, what is this about?"
"I have reason to believe there may be a security concern," Dana answered.
"Security concern?" Gardner asked. "What kind of security concern? Who is this again?"
Scully sighed. "Special Agent Scully. Time is short. Have you attended a Homeland Security quick-reaction briefing?"
"Yes," Gardner responded, "but—"
"The bi-annual code word is 'Pangloss'," Scully said.
"Oh... oh, uh, Senator McMurphy is at the St. Regis, meeting with a reporter."
"Jenny Lerner?" Scully asked.
"Yes!" Gardner gasped. "How did you know—"
"Call the Senator and tell her—tell them—to remain in a public area," Scully interrupted, "preferably with hotel security, then call the Capitol Police watch officer and ask for a detail to secure your office," Scully instructed. "I'm going to the hotel."
"Yes, I will, but—"
"No time," Scully interrupted. "This may be nothing, in which case I'll apologize to the Senator and explain in full detail, but I believe the Senator may be the target of kidnappers. Do you understand?"
"Kidnappers?" Gardner squealed. "Oh, yes, I understand—and I'll make the calls."
"Thank you." Scully broke the connection and began dialing another number.
"MSNBC is giving me the runaround," Gracie muttered, snapping her cell phone closed.
"No matter," Scully said. "The St. Regis Hotel. Both targets." She started towards the entry. "That's only a block and a half from here. It'll be faster on foot. Hart, Boxer, Wheeler, with me. Mars, Investigatrice Bosco, secure the crime scene. Wait," she said, skidding to a halt and focusing on Megan and Gracie. "Are you two up to this?"
"We are if you are," Megan responded, and Gracie nodded.
Scully grinned, and started out, again.
"Uh, Gracie, you might want to lose the earrings," Lindsay drawled, as they hurried after Scully.
Cursing under her breath, Gracie fumbled with the pendants still dangling from her ears.
"Pity there's no time to remove all that gorgeous makeup," Megan added.
"Shuddup!" Gracie growled.
Scully's voice echoed back down the corridor, fading as the distance increased. "Watch officer," she was saying, "this is Special Agent Dana Scully. I have a Pangloss situation—"
"Secure the crime scene," Veronica muttered. "Half the damn crime scene just ran out the door."
Claudia smiled, then sat on the floor.
"You okay?" Veronica asked.
"I am... very tired," Claudia answered.
Veronica nodded, then made sure her ID was on display, open and clipped over her breast pocket. She repositioned herself so she would be in plain view of anyone looking down the entrance corridor from the open front door. "Keep your hands in plain sight," she advised Claudia. "We're about to have a lot of company, and we don't want to make the first-responders nervous."
"Ben cotto," Claudia said, and made sure her own ID was prominent.
As Scully and the others approached the hotel, the first MPDC squad cars were beginning to arrive, lights flashing and sirens warbling.
Suddenly, Gracie skidded to a halt and pointed down a side alley. "Scully!" she shouted. "White laundry truck!"
The others stopped.
"They transported us in a white panel truck," Megan said.
"And one of them said it was a 'laundry truck'," Gracie added.
Scully looked from the hotel—to the white panel truck—and back. A black armored truck had just pulled up and a squad of the specially trained tactical unit of the Metro Police was deploying from the back. "They've got all they need at the hotel. If McMurphy and Lerner are there, they're safe. Lindsay," she said, and pointed towards the street, "stop a squad car and get both ends of this alley blocked."
Lindsay nodded, carefully stepped into the street, and waved her ID at an approaching police cruiser.
"C'mon," Scully said, and they started for the truck.
There was no one in the front of the truck. In fact, but for the usual dumpsters and loose trash, the entire alley was deserted.
"This thing can't have been here for very long," Scully noted, "or it would have been towed." They moved to the back, weapons drawn, and pulled open the doors.
"Damn!" Gracie gasped. Two women, bound and gagged, were strapped in a canvas bag and suspended from a web of nylon straps.
"That looks familiar," Megan sighed. Her attention was divided between the truck and the rear of the alley, making sure no one was sneaking up behind them.
"Familiar?" Scully asked, as she climbed into the truck.
"Variations on a theme," Megan muttered.
The women were, indeed, Shannon McMurphy and Jenny Lerner, and they were in the same predicament Megan and Gracie had endured in what was almost certainly the very same truck; however, there were differences.
For one thing, the captives appeared to be naked—naked inside the bag, that is—and their heads had been liberally coated with some sort of clear, glistening oil, including their faces and hair. Their rescuers couldn't be sure until they got them out of their close-fitting prison, but the shape of their canvas-encased forms suggested they were bound in Bondarella's favorite position, the reverse-prayer with wrists crossed. The canvas was tight enough to press the upright victims together, face-to-face—and getting them out of the bag was going to be problematic. The buckles of the many tight, horizontal leather straps securing the bag were secured with padlocks, and a hefty steel chain had been threaded through leather loops sewn into the bag and wound around and around the captives, from shoulders to ankles, then secured with a high-security padlock. And for once, Bondarella had not left, in plain sight, the keys that would allow their rescuers to easily release her captives.
McMurphy and Lerner were tape-gagged and muzzled. Bands of silver duct-tape encircled their lower heads, and thick leather muzzles of institutional-tan leather covered their mouths and caged their heads and were buckled and padlocked. The prisoners were alert and squirming in their tight, slippery, mutual captivity. Even over the din of sirens and screeching tires as more police arrived, Scully and the others could hear the pulsing, modulated buzz of vibrators emanating from inside the bag.
Scully sighed. Lindsay had returned with a pair of Metro Police uniforms in tow. "Tell the on-scene commander we've found them," Scully ordered, "and somebody find a pair of bolt-cutters—and keep the press back and make sure anyone with a camera is way the hell back."
The Senator and the reporter were panting through flared nostrils and staring at her with wide, desperate eyes. "We'll get you out of there as quickly as we can," Scully said, and looked at the floor. There was no cable emerging from the bag. Whatever technology was inside the bag and whatever it was doing to the captives, it was self-contained.
"I'm really beginning to dislike that Bondarella woman," Scully muttered, and her companions nodded.
Getting the Senator and the reporter out of the web of nylon straps and the canvas bag itself took less than five minutes, thanks to the equipment and expertise of the Metro Police, FBI, Park Police, Homeland Security, and whoever else had shown up to crowd around the laundry truck. When the last of the locks finally surrendered and they were unwinding the chain from around the prisoners, Scully leaped from the back of the truck and had a quick, whispered conference with the Metro Police on-scene commander. He nodded and started shouting orders.
A canvas screen was erected across the back of the truck and all the male officers and technical personnel were relieved by female counterparts. Also, the police line was moved back even further, away from the entrance to the alley, and no reporters were allowed to duck under the tape.
Scully had returned to the truck just in time to watch the canvas bag drop to the floor.
The assembled policewomen and technicians gasped, but Scully and her teams' response was more grim sympathy than surprise.
Shannon McMurphy and Jenny Lerner were indeed nude, dripping with clear oil, and bound in a crossed-wrist, reverse-prayer manner; however, Bondarella had not used hemp rope. The captive's wrists were captured in thick-walled, wide, metal cuffs, molded as single units and attached to metal bands that yoked their shoulders and encircled their chests. In addition, dozens of plastic cable-ties bound their upper arms, torsos, and legs together or to their fellow-prisoner's corresponding limb, and more ties encircled them completely, pinning their bodies together. The buzzing sound was now louder, and the prisoners continued to writhe and mewl through their gags.
"Get them out of those cable-ties and gags," Scully ordered, removed her jacket, and tossed it to Megan. The female technicians continued their work.
As Scully had suspected, a pair of vibrators were making the noise. When enough of the ties had been cut, Scully reached in and withdrew the buzzing monsters from the captives and tossed them in a corner. The glistening, rubber phalluses continued to buzz and bounce on the floor.
"What's with the heavy metal," Megan whispered to Gracie.
"Bonda-bitch wants to draw things out this time," Gracie whispered back.
Meanwhile, the technicians had finished removing the padlocked muzzles and were carefully cutting through the bands of silver sealing the prisoners' lips. They found the duct-tape had been applied over layers of vet-wrap, so only a few strands of the victims' hair had to be sacrificed in the process. Scully and the technicians helped them expel large balls of foam from their mouths.
Other technicians had discovered that the cuffs and bands were secured with recessed bolts that secured each assembly. Power-drivers, carefully wielded, dealt with the remaining restraints in short order.
"They... they... I thought they were going to kill us," the Senator gasped.
"I'll accompany you to the hospital, Senator," Scully said, "and take your statement. Gracie, go with Ms. Lerner. Megan, Lindsay... sort this scene out with the on-scene commander, and then we'll deal with the other scene, and... then we'll all collapse somewhere."
"What the hell does all this mean?" Lindsay drawled, shaking her head. "Bondarella handing us the identity of her next targets? Wasting time with all this elaborate bondage in such an exposed place? What's her game?"
"Make your interviews, establish your time lines, and we'll compare notes," Scully sighed. "We'll try and sort this out when we have more information." She focused on Megan. "On second thought, Detective," she said quietly, "you come with me. Once the Senator and Ms. Lerner are in good hands, we need to get looked at." She shifted her gaze to Gracie. "All three of us."
"Thank you," Senator McMurphy said as a female EMT draped a blanket over her shoulders and helped her to an ambulance. "Thank you all." She clutched Scully's hand. "Thank you."
Jenny Lerner also received a sheltering blanket. "What a day," she muttered, as Gracie and another EMT helped her towards a second ambulance.
"Tell me about it," Gracie muttered back.
||In case your browser does not display image file alternate text, the real Claudia Bosco is Carla Gugino, Senator Shannon McMurphy is Dana Delany, and Jenny Lerner is Téa Leoni.|