Beauty and the Geek Ch. 02bysteamoil©
As we drove into the supermarket car park, we glimpsed a stunning brunette being manhandled out of a side door and into the back of a white van by a couple of burly blokes. She was tall, slim, elegant, and in trouble. She was struggling, and by the state of one of them had inflicted some useful damage.
"Stop them!" Julie shouted at me.
101 things ran through my brain. "I won't be able to – they're too big." I drove fast down the car park and stopped across the front of the van. "I've broken down – electrical fault – I'm useless practically. Get them under the hood and distract them as much as you can. I'll see if I can get the girl." I said urgently.
We both jumped out of the car.
"You idiot. What did you do this time? Can't you even drive a car without breaking it?"
I was impressed. "Bloody thing. What the hell is wrong this time." I kicked the tyre for emphasis.
"Move out of the way – we're in a hurry." Not the politest of thugs, then, I thought.
"Wish I could mate. It's stopped. Too much electronics if you ask me. Wonderful when it works. Impenetrable when it goes wrong. Do you think you could fix it?"
"Show me what's wrong."
"It's stalled and it won't start. Done it before. Bloody load of scrap."
I climbed back into the driver's seat and turned the key, conveniently forgetting to put my foot on the pedal to clear the safety interlock. "You see. Nothing."
"S'all right. We'll push you over."
I looked pityingly at him. "Electric hand brake. Can't get it off unless the engine's going. Could you look and see if there's anything you can do?"
I hoped he didn't realise that just turning on the ignition allows the electric handbrake to work. I popped the hood to forestall any attempt on his part to try things.
"He's useless with practical things. More help if I do something." She turned to me. "Get the tool box out of the back, you useless cretin." Julie was really on form. "Come on, let's have a look." She guided them around the front and began to make a mess of getting the hood up. I was impressed again.
I walked to the back of the car muttering under my breath, as I thought an aggrieved man might, and opened the tailgate. As soon as their heads were under the hood, I scooted up the side of the van and opened the rear door on my side so they wouldn't see.
A pair of frightened and furious eyes looked at me. I was appalled. They had gagged her and bound her hands, but fortunately not her feet.
"Quick, out. Down the side of the van and into the back of my car. Keep low." I hissed at her. I was glad to see that the back was separated from the front with only a small window. Hopefully that would give us a few extra minutes.
Carefully I shut the van door and scooted back to mine. I got out the tool box and whispered to reassure her, "We'll get out and find a police car."
I slammed the tailgate and went round the front, where Julie was doing a superb job, but running out of plays to keep them occupied.
"I got the tools, but I found a loose wire in the back. Let's try it again."
"I'm not having you doing it without me there to see you don't muck it up. Anyway, they'll have to shut the hood or the interlock won't allow it to start."
The thugs banged the hood shut. I blessed her quick thinking, and we both got back into the car. I took the toolbox with me, and left the door open so as not to arouse suspicion. Of course the car started first time, and I thanked them profusely till they were practically screaming wanting me to leave. We drove off, not too quickly, trying not to attract their attention. I turned the wrong way out of the supermarket entrance, and once out of sight, turned up a side road and turned again round a back road. Now we needed to wait, an agonising process when two thugs might be after you.
I got out and opened the tailgate. "Are you OK ma'am?" I asked as I took off her gag and eventually managed to untie her wrists. The rope marks were vicious. She winced, and I swore at those thugs. Julie came round as well and we introduced ourselves.
She was obviously full of courage and intelligent as she gave a brief account of her ordeal. They had jumped her as she reached the back of the supermarket – right by the staff door, so she was in the van before anyone knew. I had time for a proper look - she was tall and slender with glossy chestnut hair – a real stunner. That was all we had time for.
"I'm sorry – I think you'll be safer in the back out of sight. Uncomfortable, but preferable to giving the game away immediately."
She agreed and climbed back in, while I shut the tailgate on her. We thought we had allowed enough time for them to pass if they were going this way, so we re-traced our steps and drove out the other way.
"Keep your eyes peeled for police cars. We can't do this on our own. It's too dangerous."
We thought we'd never see one. How time drags when you are desperate. Suddenly there was one coming the other way. I started weaving across the road from side to side, and Julie waved with both hands. I went so close to the side of their car I could see the look of fear on the police officer's face. But the ploy worked, their blue light came on and they turned to follow us. I stopped and they stopped ahead of me.
I was careful to keep my hands visible on the wheel until asked to lower the window.
"Right, Sir, you've got some explaining to do."
"I'm sorry. I need help."
The officer grinned, obviously agreeing. "You're not joking!"
"We saved a girl from kidnap. She's in the back."
The officer laughed. "If you think that's going to get you off a dangerous driving charge, you're wrong!"
I knew he wouldn't believe me or leave me alone if he thought I was trying to get away. "Ask your colleague to look. It's not locked."
He stared me in the eye. "Ruth. Look in the back. Open it carefully in case it's a trick."
There was a gasp of surprise from the back of the car. "Evan, you'd better come quick. He's telling the truth."
We all gathered round the back of the car. Our beautiful passenger had moved stiffly to a sitting position. She was dressed in fitting jeans, glossy brown boots and a white blouse. She looked a bit rumpled with red rope marks on her wrists and slight marks where the gag had cut into her cheeks.
"Are you all right, Ma'am?"
"Just a bit battered, but fine, thanks to these people." She smiled at Julie and me.
Suddenly I realised where I had seen that signature smile. She rose in my estimation even more. She gave a succinct account of her ordeal, and asked them to find out what had happened to Bryn. She was concerned about him, whoever he was. Evan, obviously the senior officer, went off and started jabbering away into his radio. Ruth said to her:
"We need to get you out of sight. Come and sit in the back of the police car."
As she got up, she staggered slightly from being scrunched up on the hard floor, first in the van and then in our car. Julie held out a hand and helped her across to the police car, sitting down in the back with her.
"I'm concerned. My car is known to the kidnappers. I don't think it's safe to keep using it."
"Where do you live?" Ruth asked.
"We're not local, just on holiday. We've got a house in an isolated position in Cemaes Bay. I think it would be a good idea if the girl came with us to get out of sight for a bit. My cousin is coming up later today. She runs a clothes boutique, and could bring some clothes out of her normal style as a disguise. We can also change her hair without cutting it."
Ruth looked suspiciously at me.
"If you could provide us with another car and a protection officer, and get her husband down here with some of his mates to help protect us all in the event of any problems, I don't think they would find us or cause us any issues."
Ruth was still not convinced, and I couldn't blame her.
"Julie is part of a chamber group with concerts here and in Bangor at the end of the week. The rest of the group were going to stay in the house, but couldn't come at the last minute. That's why we have a big house with just four of us in it. You'll have seen the posters. In fact, I think there was one on display in the supermarket car park."
Ruth was warming, but still wary when Evan came back. "Two cars on the way. Bryn's groggy but OK. They pricked him and pushed him into a store room. It was picked up on the security cameras, but no one saw anything at the time."
"What do we do now?" I asked.
"Stay put until the cars come. You need another car, as this one is known. If you don't mind, sir, we'd like to use it as bait. All three of you need to drop out of sight until we've sorted this one out."
Ruth chimed in, "They're not local and have a holiday house at Cemaes Bay with lots of room."
Evan's eyes lit up. "I'll radio that in."
I phoned Angela and asked her to bring several outfits suitable for a holiday for someone with style and poise. Obviously she wanted to know sizes and colouring. I told her to imagine she was like someone we both knew by reputation. She laughed, and asked:
"Another of your lame ducks?"
"You could say that. I think you'll like her."
It seemed only moments before we heard the sirens, then two police cars and an ordinary car screamed up in quick succession. A senior officer, a police marksman and four other officers disgorged from the cars, and I knew my hunch was right.
The senior officer came up to me and thanked me. He requested permission to use our car in return for the plain one they had brought. He also asked if we would be willing to house a group of people.
"If Liz is prepared to come with us, we would be delighted to help. I assume you mean a protection officer, Louis, Liz's husband, and a couple of his mates. If they are willing, we'd do whatever we can."
I noted a look of respect in the officer's eyes as he realised my indirect acknowledgement of what we were dealing with. "Thank you, sir. The sooner you get away the better. Let's get the three of you into your temporary transport."
He led the way over to the plain car that had arrived and introduced me to Carys.
"We are proceeding with the plan as agreed on the way." He told her and turned to me. "Carys will drive on the way there, sir, if you don't mind. In case of trouble." He added.
As he spoke, a second plain car drew up and the marksman got into it. Liz, Julie, Carys and I all got into the first car. Carys drove, I sat in front with her, and the second plain car followed. They obviously weren't taking any chances.
I could hear Julie chatting to Liz in the back. She was calling her Liz, so she'd obviously drawn the same conclusions as me. I knew I'd married a smart girl. We made it to the house without any further incidents.
Once the two uniformed officers from the second car had done a quick check, they drove off. Carys told us they would be stationed out of sight near the main road, and would be doing regular sweeps round the house and in the area.
When we got into the house, I asked if Carys would like to go round and choose where she wanted us all to sleep. I told her to ignore signs of occupation and organise as best for her. She smiled.
"Oh, and you know my cousin Angela will be arriving much later with clothes for Liz. Her husband James will be with her. He's Julie's twin."
"So nice to be working with a civilian who has some understanding of what we're trying to do." Carys commented. She went off to organise the sleeping arrangements. I turned to Liz.
"Ma'am, I think Julie is about the same size as you. You're welcome to borrow some clothes, and I expect you'd like a hot bath to ease those bruises. As soon as Carys has fixed which is to be your bedroom, why don't you go up with Julie and get comfortable?"
"You obviously realise who I am. I am so grateful for your help." Her eyes sparkled with tears. "I'd be really glad if you would drop the formality and call me Liz. First it will make me feel more at home. Second it will avoid slips if we see anyone." She smiled that stunning smile again and allowed Julie to lead her upstairs.
I was making tea when Carys came down. "I've taken the room on this side looking up the valley. Louis' friends will have the one on the opposite side overlooking the beach. You and Julie are at the front, and Liz and Louis on the next floor up at the back."
"Great. Can you take a cup of this up for Liz, please. I reckon she'll be quite shocked by her experience, so I've put sugar in it. I expect she normally has it without, but it will help. If I'm any judge Julie will persuade her to have a sleep, or at least rest, if she can."
When Carys and Julie came back down, they confirmed that I was right. Liz was resting after her hot soak. As we drank our tea, we talked about what we were going to do. Carys confirmed that it was fine to be around the house and on the beach, but that we should all avoid going further afield, at least initially. We then moved on to discussing meals.
The others looked at me in alarm.
"It's OK. It's just that we don't have any food. That's what we were doing going to the supermarket!"
"I wonder if the 'gate' guards could go for us?" Carys mused.
Julie chimed in, "I've got a better idea. Ask Angela and James to go on their way here. That way there's no connection."
"Brilliant." I phoned Angela again. They were making good progress, and said they would call in for food before coming to the house. I think they were a bit bemused at the amount of food I discussed with them. "We need to have food for the whole of the first week, and there's a few extras staying." As always she was accepting.
Liz re-appeared an hour or so later wearing some of Julie's clothes and carrying her empty tea mug. She looked less strained, though the red marks from the ropes were still prominent and she was moving a bit stiffly from the bruising.
"How are you feeling?" Julie asked.
"Much better thanks. I'm feeling a bit peckish though. Is there any food?"
"Sorry – no. Our supermarket trip got interrupted by this annoying girl, and in the ensuing melee we rather forgot about food." I said. We all laughed.
"Actually, there is a packet of biscuits. Let's have another cup of tea with them." Julie suggested.
"Angela and James are getting food on the way here. They should be here in time for supper. We hope!"
We rehearsed the conversations we had had about what we could do, and Liz came up with a few wonderful suggestions, like a raft building competition. We explored all the cupboards, and found that the house was well equipped with books and games. The same exploration outside revealed an outhouse with barbeque, table and chairs, and a few outdoor games, including the pieces for garden chess and draughts. We concluded there must be a "board" in the gardens somewhere.
Suddenly, Carys started talking urgently into her radio.
"There's a car coming towards us. One male, one female. Likely to be Angela and James, but we can't take chances. Liz goes up to her bedroom and shuts the door."
Liz gave her a disgusted look. "I understand – but I wish I could do something."
"You two in the sitting room. I'll be outside so I can surprise them if I need to. Try to greet them normally if it's not your cousin, but speak loud so we know if it's safe." Carys disappeared off.
When we heard the car on the gravel outside, Julie went to the door, and immediately shouted back to me,
"It's Angela and James."
Liz came downstairs and Carys appeared round the side of the house. As Julie ushered them through the door, she said,
"We'll empty the car in a minute. Come and meet our two friends. She turned to Carys and Liz. This is James, my twin, and his wife Angela."
Angela gasped, and executed a perfect curtsy. Although the effect was marred by her jeans, it was sincere, none the less.
"Your Royal Highness. It is a privilege to meet you." She threw me an accusing look. "You told me she was LIKE her. You didn't say it WAS her."
"I couldn't. We're hiding. Come in and have a cup of tea, and we'll tell the story. This is Liz and Carys, by the way."
"What do you mean Liz?" Angela asked.
"I'm sorry, but I'd be glad if you'd call me that. You'll see why Catherine, or Kate, or Ma'am, or any of my formal titles could be dangerous when you've heard the story." Liz took Angela's arm and led her into the sitting room while Carys went off to make tea.
James was just staring. I couldn't fault him, though. I think she's even more impressive in real life than in pictures. Suddenly he recollected himself.
"What happened to your wrists?" He asked in a horrified tone.
We started from the beginning, with Liz explaining how she'd been manhandled out of the supermarket and tied up. Carys came in in the middle with the tea. There weren't any biscuits left, unfortunately. During the story they gasped a few times, and obviously gained a new respect for Liz.
After we'd emptied the car, Liz took Angela off to her bedroom to explore the clothes she'd brought with her, while James, Julie and I started on some supper. Carys went off to check in and find out what else was happening. When she came back, she had news.
"Louis is on his way with two mates to help protect us all, and Rhiannon is coming first thing tomorrow to join me – I'll need some time off to sleep by then." She commented wryly. "There's three of us assigned to Liz, Bryn being the third. They must have given him a big shot. He's well, but still a bit groggy. Bastards." She said with feeling.
We'd already anticipated the three extras in the amount of food cooking in the oven, so we were able to sit down for a while. Angela and Liz reappeared, and we were all amazed. Angela had done a fantastic job. Liz' hair was plaited and cunningly wound round her head to change the shape. Her makeup also changed the shape of her face, and the wire rimmed glasses were a master stroke. The clothes were smart, but so unlike her normal style that you wouldn't immediately associate with her.
We noticed that her eyes were brimful of laughter, and she was obviously trying not to laugh or say anything as we commented on the superb transformation. Finally she couldn't contain herself, and she broke into one of her sunshine smiles. We all gasped. She had two front teeth missing.
I thought James was going to explode. "Just let me find those bastards, and I'll kill them with my bare hands."
Angela laughed delightedly. "They're blacked out." She explained. "I thought her smile was too easy to recognise, so we needed something to distract people."
It was a master touch. The combination with the subtle changes in hair, makeup and clothes hid her in plain sight. We all complimented Angela, and Carys said she could have a job with the protection service any time. I went off to check the food, and came back rather precipitately.
"There's a boat approaching the beach fast. What do we do Carys?"
"How many people in it?" Carys demanded.
"Three male, I think."
"That's fine. It's Louis." She confirmed. "The Super thought it would avoid any chance of being followed if they came by boat."
We all trooped outside the front door and watched as the three men pulled the boat up the beach and secured it, then started up the hillside to the house at a cracking pace. Louis was obviously concerned about his wife. He was well disguised, as I found it difficult to tell which of the three he was from a distance. As he approached, I recognised the hair colour, and at the same time realised the other two were armed, though the guns were concealed.
As they approached, two people spoke at once:
"I'm William. Where's Kate?" The extreme concern was evident in his voice.
"Rosie! Well I'm blowed!" James laughed delightedly.
"Allow me to introduce ourselves." I went round just saying the first names, finishing with Liz.