Thursday, early morning.
‘See you later!’ said Judith to her daughter, Hannah, on the doorstep of the house. Hannah smiled, gave her Mum a peck on the cheek and headed for the gate of their home. She turned back once, waved, grinned, said ‘Bye!’ to her Mum, and was on her way to college, her bag slung over her shoulders.
Like her Mum, Hannah was blonde and pretty, with soft blue eyes. Like her Mum, she preferred loose white blouses and plain skirts in a green pattern with stockings and plain shoes.
Judith watched her daughter depart for college, until she was out of sight. Then she went back into the house, and shut the door behind her.
They weren't alone.
The man had been closely observing the family for some time, from an unobtrusive little white van parked across the street. But today, he wasn't in the van. He was around the back, using a duplicated back door key to break into the premises while mother and daughter were at the front.
The family had no dog, and the husband had been and gone long ago, leaving Hannah and Judith alone in the house. Hannah was 39; Judith, 18. Neither had a man currently in their lives.
The burglar was short, in his thirties, with close-cropped black hair. Dressed all in black, he wore a balaclava that covered all but his green eyes.
Over his shoulder was a black bag. In his hands, he carried a long, thin, black cylinder with a tap and a long, black rubber hose.
Confidently, he waited in the kitchen. He knew her routine so well by now, that he knew she would not disturb him. Her first stop after seeing off Hannah was to go straight into the living room, for the cup of tea she’d already made for herself - sitting on the coffee table - a smoke, and Trisha Goddard on the telly. Kitchen would come after Trisha. But by then, this morning it would be way too late.
And there it was. The sound of the front door slamming shut; then footsteps going into the living room, and the living room door closing behind her. A moment later, there was a roar of laughter and babble from the television in the corner, and the clink of cup on saucer. The burglar padded quietly forward to the living room, and gently inserted the end of the hose just under the door. He heard her reach for the cigarettes on the coffee table, and the snap of the table lighter as she lit one up. His hand tensed on the silver knob of the bottle, turned it slightly. A streamer of gas began to emerge.
The phone rang in the hall.
The burglar froze, startled; then he pulled out the hose and dragged the cylinder back into the kitchen, trailing invisible gas, just as the living room door opened and Judith emerged, trailing blue smoke from the cigarette in her mouth, to answer the phone. The burglar shut off the gas flow and stood in the kitchen, heart in mouth, as he heard Judith’s one-way conversation:
‘What? You say you can’t find it in your bag? ... Okay, I’ll go upstairs and check it just now. You want me to give you a ring on your mobile if I find it? ... Okay. I’m on my way.’
The man heard the sound of the phone handset being placed on the table. Footsteps pounded up the stairs. The burglar crept out of the kitchen, looking upstairs. He waited for Judith to emerge from Hannah’s room where she’d been searching, and make her way downstairs to the phone.
He heard her say “Hi, Hannah? Yes, it’s here. You want to come home and collect it now? No? Okay, well if you don’t need it today, you’ll know where it is when you get home. You left it on the dressing table ... Maybe next time, you won’t be so forgetful. Okay, bye.’
And then the phone was put down again, and Judith went back into the living room, humming something tuneless.
The burglar waited until, once again, he heard the sound of the living room door being closed. Then he crept into the hall and inserted the end of the nozzle under the door.
Then he took out a gas mask from his pack and slipped it on over his mouth and nose. Might as well, he thought to himself as he turned on the little silver tap. No going back now.
He put his ear to the cylinder.
His face hidden by the mask, he smiled, straightened up. She couldn’t hear the sound of the gas being released into the room over the sound of the telly. But she’d feel the effects in a minute.
“Nighty night,” he whispered to Judith.
Judith turned up the volume of the telly, sat down and finished her cigarette. Blowing a streamer of blue smoke, she reached for another as Trisha berated some man on the screen.
Across the room from her, under the door, the end of the little nozzle sprayed a thin streamer of gas into the air of the room unnoticed by her, the hissing drowned out by the TV.
Judith took a deep drag of her cigarette, coughed. Blue smoke wreathed her face. Whatever they’d put in the tobacco, it was strong stuff, she thought. She took another drag, stubbed out the cigarette in the ashtray, coughed again. She stifled a yawn.
It was getting hot. Judith loosened her blouse a little. She felt a wave of erotic pleasure. She kicked off her slippers; the arousal became stronger as she entertained the thought of stripping and wandering around naked in her house.
“Strong stuff,” she said, unable to stifle the next yawn. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the cigarette in the ashtray.
“What did they – yawn – put in that cigarette, anyway?” she said. She reached for the remote to turn up the volume on Trisha on the TV.
The remote felt like a lead weight. Judith couldn’t pick it up.
She looked at the remote, then looked up at the TV screen through blurred, half – closed eyes. She found herself yawning, her leaden eyelids fluttering. The room spun and swam.
Silently, Judith sank back into the couch, her head lolling, her eyelids fluttering closed. Her hand slid off her blouse and flopped to the couch: she’d been unconsciously playing with her nipples. All the while, the end of the hose under the door continued pumping a thin streamer of the gas into the room, the cloud of gas getting steadily stronger and stronger …
The man shut off the cylinder. The flow of gas into the room stopped. He knocked on the door; then, boldly, he pushed the door open.
Judith sat immobile on the sofa, her eyes half – closed. Perfect.
The man moved up to look at her, checked her eyelids, the eyes underneath. They were pinpricks.
He smiled under the gas mask. “The first instruction is the strongest one,” he said to himself; then to her, he said “You can never harm me, whatever else happens. Neither by yourself, or through another, or by an act of omission – you can never harm me. And neither will I harm you.”
He then reached for another item in his bag. A video.
Calmly, he put the video into the video recorder, made sure the TV was set to the video channel. The video began to play itself automatically. The man reached once more into the bag, took out a small glass vial, filled with a golden yellow liquid. He shook the vial and snapped it under her nose. The liquid evaporated, and an invisible cloud of fumes rose up around Judith’s face.
The pinprick eyes became deep wells as the pupils dilated fully. Judith stared at the TV in rapt fascination, unable to tear herself away from the image appearing on the screen.
“You must obey,” said a voice, as an image of a rotating logo appeared on the screen on a field of blue. “You must obey.”
Judith stared blankly.
“Follow the instructions of the man standing before you,” said the voice from the TV. “You must do what he tells you. Obey.”
The man looked down at Judith. “Pick up a cigarette and the lighter,” he said. “Light up.”
Judith leaned forwards, picked up the lighter, reached for the cigarettes, lit one. She sat quietly, surrounded by a cloud of blue smoke.
“You will obey this man,” said the voice on the TV. “Look up at him.”
Judith did so. Her pupils were dark wells of fascination.
“Get up,” said the man. “Go to the window. Open it, let the air in to clear the room.”
Judith stood up on shaky legs, stumbled over to the window facing the street. The cigarette trailed smoke behind her. Judith reached up, unsteadily opened the window at the top, the big window on the side. She stood a while, partly concealed behind the net curtains which now swirled and billowed.
“Come back here,” said the man. “Sit on the sofa a while. Keep smoking.”
Judith did so, and quietly sat and smoked the cigarette to a butt.
“Okay, put it out,” the man said, taking off the mask now that the room was clear of gas. Judith leaned forwards, extinguished the dog end in the ashtray.
The man leaned underneath her, snapped open another vial under her nose. Judith shuddered as she breathed in more fumes. She froze, her hand hovering above the ashtray, the crushed butt of the cigarette smouldering its last.
“Now look up at me,” the man said. Judith looked up at the man. Her eyes were normal again. Her body quivered.
“You know who you are,” the man said.
“My name is Judith Jones,” Judith said.
“You feel that you are your own woman.”
“Yes. Who are you, and what did you do to me?”
“Stand up,” said the man.
“No,” said Judith, defiantly. She stood up.
“Face me,” the man said.
Judith turned to face him, her eyes wide open.
“Start taking off your clothes,” the man said. “Strip slowly for me, as you talk. And when you’re naked, start to masturbate in front of me.”
“How dare you –” Judith began, her hands already reaching for her blouse to undo the buttons. Judith looked down, saw herself opening her blouse, and frowned. “What’s going on?” She opened her blouse, stood in front of the man with her arms wide, her bra exposed to him, a look of horror on her face.
“How do you feel?” the man asked, as Judith removed the blouse and let it fall to the floor.
“How do you think I feel?” Judith said. “You have no right to – ” She raised her hand to strike him. Her hand refused to connect with his face.
“Stroke my cheek,” the man said. “Very gently, as if you were stroking the cheek of a lover.”
With a look of horror, Judith found herself stroking the man’s cheek, warmly and gently.
“Now look at me, as you undo your bra and play with yourself” the man said. Judith did so.
“Please don’t ...” said Judith, undoing the bra. It fell to the floor, and her breasts hung free before the man. Her hands cupped her breasts, started to tweak her nipples which started to go erect.
‘Why are you doing this to me?’ Judith asked the man, as she felt a wave of pleasure fill her body from touching her breasts.
“Don’t ask me that question again,” the man replied. “Now the rest of your clothes. Slowly, as if you were pleasing a lover. And don’t say a word. It’s part of the game to be silent.”
Judith fell silent, wordlessly and slowly removing the rest of her clothes, until she stood in front of the man in her panties. Teasingly, she slid them down her legs, stepped out of them naked.
“Come to me,” the man said. Judith took a step towards him. Her free hand was already dipping into her wet spot; her face was glowing red, her nipples solidly erect. Her breath was growing shallow, rapid, as her arousal grew.
“Take this,” he said, handing her a vial, “and break it open under your nose. Breathe deeply as you do so.”
Judith took the vial, breathed deeply, snapped the vial, inhaled the fumes.
“All the way into your lungs,” the man said. “That’s it.”
Within moments, Judith’s pupils were dilated fully again.
“How do you feel?”
“I …” Judith said, then froze, unable to take her eyes off the man.
“Tell me,” the man said. “What will you do for me?”
The man smiled. “Good,” he said. He saw how she was nearing orgasm. Suddenly, Judith’s hand shot out, grabbed the man’s, guided it down to her snatch. Her hand was slick with her juices.
“Please,” Judith said, “put it here.”
The man slid his hand into her slit, found the clitoris and toyed with it, dipping two fingers into her cavity as she offered him a nipple to suck on. He dipped down to lick and nibble her nipple, as she stroked the back of his head. Suddenly, Judith shuddered for several seconds, then slowly relaxed. Her orgasm rolled about her body, slowly subsiding, as did her arousal. She unclenched her hand, let go the man’s hair, let him stand and face her again. Her hair was matted with sweat: her red face shimmered with perspiration, and she wore a huge grin.
“That was wild, what you just did. I haven’t come since my husband left me.”
The man nodded, silently.
“Are you going to kill me now?” Judith asked.
The man shook his head. “No,” he replied. “I told you I would never harm you. Now, I want you to do something for me. Something big.”
“What can I do?” Judith asked.
The man smiled. “Well, for a start you can help me to use this gas on your daughter.” *
Later that afternoon, the door opened. Hannah wandered in, hanged up her coat, dropped her satchel on the floor, looked around the hallway.
“Mum!” she yelled. “You in?”
“Yeah!” came Judith’s voice from upstairs.
“Are you in the bathroom?” Hannah asked.
“No, my room,” Judith replied. “I’m spring cleaning.”
“Okay,” Hannah said, running up the stairs. “Just a quick stop in the bog. I’m desperate.”
“Okay, love,” Judith said, from behind the closed door to her room. “Don’t be too long there. I want to go after you.”
“All right,” Hannah said, closing the toilet door.
Judith’s bedroom door opened. Judith entered the corridor, closed her bedroom door. She was stark naked. She stood in front of the toilet door a moment, then made her way to the spare bedroom. Inside the spare bedroom was the man, also naked, sitting on the single bed.
“Any time now,” Judith murmured to the man, who nodded.
A few minutes later, the toilet door opened to the sound of flushing water and Hannah emerged into the corridor. Immediately, she made her way straight to her room, slamming the door shut behind her. Presently, she opened the door again, peered into the corridor.
“Mum, is it okay if I invite Gemma and Michelle over?” she asked.
“When?” Judith asked. “Tonight?”
“Well, yeah,” Hannah replied. “Six o’clock do?”
“What time is it now?” Judith asked, her hand hovering over the controls of a small remote control handset in the palm of her hand.
“It’s only four now,” Hannah replied.
Judith looked at the man, who shrugged.
“Six thirty,” Judith replied. “I’m still spring cleaning in here.”
“All right, then,” Hannah said. “I’ll call them now.”
“Okay,” Judith said, turning to face the man. Her hand edged closer to the controls.
“Leave her for now,” he whispered. “Wait till she gets her mates here. Then we’ll have them all.”
Six thirty arrived. The gate opened, and the sound of two teenage girls chatting happily came from outside, approaching the front door.
Judith, clothed, answered the doorbell, greeting the young girls with a big smile.
“Hiya,” she said to Gemma and Michelle. Gemma was a black girl; Michelle was red haired, with freckles.
“Hi,” Gemma said. “Where’s Hannah? She in her room?”
“Yeah,” Judith said. “Go on up. I’ll put on a kettle and make you all some butties.”
“Great!” Michelle said, pushing past Judith and bolting upstairs.
“Hannah!” chortled Judith. “Michelle and Gemma are here!”
“Okay, Mum!” Hannah yelled from the bedroom. A few seconds later, there was a chorus of “Hiya!” from the girls upstairs, followed by a loud gaggle of chatter from behind the bedroom door.
Judith followed the girls upstairs, and headed into the spare bedroom. The man had sneaked out an hour or so ago, but he’d left Judith instructions on what to do.
First of all, Judith stripped down completely naked. She looked at herself in a full length mirror in the spare room. Then she turned to the single bed.
On the bed was a remote control unit; a small, flat grey box with a switch and a knob for turning. Judith picked it up, extended the aerial, flicked the switch. A little red light came on.
Judith then picked up the gas mask beside the bed, and put it on.
In the corridor, Judith could hear the girls chatting loudly about the usual stuff – boy bands, Pop Idol, gossip about schoolmates and the lads they fancied.
Judith listened as Hannah told the girls to look at what she had in the satchel she’d brought up into the bedroom. There was a pause. Then all three girls giggled.
Judith judged the moment was ripe. She slowly turned the knob.
Inside the bedroom, a cylinder of gas lay undiscovered underneath Hannah’s bed, planted there by Judith. It had been fitted with a specially constructed collar over the tap, tuned to receive signals from the remote handheld unit. The knob on the handheld unit was for controlling the flow of the gas; the unit also served to muffle the noise from the bottle.
As Judith turned the knob, a gentle, silent stream of gas slowly began to emerge from the bottle; at first a slow leak, barely noticeable, but then billowing out into a spreading, colourless cloud.
The gas began to fill the space under the bed, and leak slowly out into the room from under the edges of the duvet.
“Is it getting hot in here?” Michelle asked. “I’m feeling a little tired.”
“What else have you got in your bag, then, Hannah?” asked Gemma, sitting in the wicker chair beside the bed. “Did you get the latest Smash Hits? Who was on the cover?”
“If it’s Westlife, take it back to the newsagents’,” Michelle replied, rubbing her eyes.
“No shit,” said Hannah, pulling up the chair in front of the dressing table. She sat in the chair, began looking at herself in the makeup mirror as Gemma, yawning, got up from the wicker chair. Gemma looked at the satchel on the bed, picked it up to open it.
“Don’t!” Hannah cried, too late. One of the pockets of the satchel was open. Something fell out of it, bounced on the bed.
It was an opened packet of Lambert & Butler cigarettes and a lighter.
Gemma and Michelle stared at it for a moment, then at Hannah.
“When?” Gemma asked, stifling a yawn.
“A few months ago,” Hannah replied, also yawning. “John started me smoking.”
“John?” asked Gemma. “Your ex?”
“Yep, him,” Hannah said, her voice starting to slur. She chuckled slightly. Thoughts of being caught smoking by her Mum made her feel dirty, and more than a little horny.
Gemma coughed, sat back in the wicker chair. Michelle stifled another yawn, looked at Hannah with a look of mounting excitement.
“Can I?” she asked, reaching for the packet. “I’ve never had one.”
Hannah looked at Michelle. “Go on,” she said, quietly around a yawn.
Michelle reached for the packet of cigarettes, hesitated, her heart in her mouth. She staggered slightly, as gas leaked around the edges of the bed and filtered into the room.
“Gemma?” asked Hannah, stifling a yawn of her own. “How about you?”
Gemma looked up from her wicker chair. Her eyes were already half closed.
“Do you want a smoke?” Michelle asked, yawning.
In reply, Gemma’s eyes rolled up into her head. Her head lolled to the side.
“Ooh, I feel so tired,” Michelle said, slumping onto the bed. Her weight on the bed compressed the air underneath it. A great billow of concentrated gas flooded the room.
Hannah yawned, swayed as the gas hit her. She watched as Michelle slowly sank onto the bed, her eyes closing as the gas affected her. Hannah stood on shaky feet, staggered over to Gemma.
“Gemma?” Hannah cried. “Hey, wake up! What’s – yawn – what’s the matter with you?” She reached for Michelle, shook her shoulder. “Michelle!”
Michelle looked at Hannah through half – closed eyes. “I can’t … keep my … eyes open …” she said. “Feel so – so sleepy …” She yawned.
Hannah’s head swam; the gas was taking her under, too. Weakly, her eyes half closed, she staggered towards the door, yawning, her eyelids flickering, her limbs like lead. “Mum …” she cried out. She fell to her hands and knees before she could reach the door.