Dropping in

The nondescript black sedan dropped the Martins off alongside a country road. Janet's hands were untied but before she could remove her blindfold to see any identifying marks on it, the car was long gone. Janet quickly untied her husband and removed his blindfold. He staggered against her; the machine had left him with a bad case of vertigo. Janet looked up and down the darkened road. It was late and there didn't seem to be any traffic. The car ride had been quite long and uncomfortable, and it seemed they had been dumped off in the middle of nowhere.

"Greg, we have to find a pub or a house or some place where there is a phone," she urged. "We have to notify the police, tell them what happened to us!"

Gregory groggily nodded his head in agreement, but then wished he hadn't. The world spun dangerously around him. Janet put his arm around her shoulder and one of her arms around his waist. She saw the lights of a large house about a half-kilometer away.

"There's a house over there, Greg," she pointed out. "We'll go there and see if they have a phone we can use." Together they followed the road toward the lighted windows.

Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward was just finishing a final evening libation, when the doorbell rang. Her butler and major domo, Parker, moved to open the large front door.

"Ken I 'elp you?" he asked the rumpled couple on the front porch.

"Please! We need a phone. We need to call the police and report a kidnapping," the obviously pregnant woman pleaded. Penelope got up from her comfortable chair in the drawing room and came out to the foyer to see what was happening.

"Parker! Please bring the lady and the gentleman in here. They look like they could use some warming up and a spot of tea." Parker helped the unsteady gentleman into the well-appointed room, taking his weight from the lady. He would have thought the gentleman to be drunk, but he didn't have the smell of liquor on him.

Penelope led the woman to a comfortable chair by the fire and bade her put her swollen feet up on a hassock. The man was placed in a chair across the fireplace from her. Parker pulled a chair up facing the fire for Lady Penelope, who sat gracefully.

"First, some introductions. I am Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward. What are your names?"

"I am Janet Martin, and this is my husband, Gregory. Please! We need to use your phone!"

"Calm down, my dear. Parker, please ring up the police for Mrs. Martin."

"Yes, milady." Parker went to the phone in the library to call the local constabulary. He returned to the drawing room.

"The police will be 'ere momentarily, milady."

"Very good, Parker. Now bring the tea." Parker went off in the direction of the kitchen.

Penelope turned to Janet. "Now, suppose you tell me what this is all about? You mentioned a kidnapping?" she asked.

"Yes," Gregory answered. His vertigo was passing. He sat up straighter. "It all started this afternoon....."

Gregory Martin arrived home at his flat in High Street, Kensington, after a grueling day trying to convince British Space and Technology's latest client the folly of the changes they were trying to make in a satellite design that had been approved by the client the previous week. He sighed as he hung up his coat and hat; Sir James Masters had been so much better at this type of ego stroking. But with Sir James and Elise Rudd both facing lengthy prison terms in Ivory Coast for kidnapping and industrial espionage, Gregory had to pick up the slack.

"Dearest! I'm home!" His call rang through the apartment. Usually, he could smell whatever Janet was preparing for supper and find her puttering around in the kitchen. Instead, the kitchen was dark and Janet didn't seem to be there.

'Well, she'll probably be home soon. Perhaps she forgot an ingredient for dinner,' he thought. He heard the beeping of the answering machine and went to see what messages had come in since Janet left. What he heard caused his face to drain of color.

"Gregory? Oh, Greg! I've been taken captive by someone! I don't know who, but they told me to tell you that you need to go downstairs right now and take the second cab that comes by. The cab driver will bring you to me. And please, darling, hurry! The baby and I are okay, but I'm very frightened. I lo......." Janet's obvious 'I love you' was cut off mid-sentence.

He had no doubts about whose voice it was. It was Janet's "I'm trying to be brave" voice. What had happened? Where was she?

Calling the police didn't even enter his mind. He just grabbed his coat and sailed out the door, calling for a cab as soon as he hit the street. He waved the first cab on and hopped in the back of the second one.

"Mr. Martin?" the cabbie asked. He nodded. The cabbie drove on. Three stoplights up from his block, two men got in the cab, one on either side of Gregory.

"Now, Mr. Martin. We're taking you to see your little wifey, but we can't let you know where you are going." said one. And with that they blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. He tried to listen to the sounds outside the cab, tried to get an idea of where they were taking him, but the cabbie put on some bland elevator-type muzak and it distracted him.

The drive seemed to take forever. Finally, the cab rolled to a gentle stop and the two men who sat in back removed Gregory from the cab and frog-marched him inside a building. It smelled of antiseptic and ozone. He was forced through several winding corridors (it seemed to him) until they came at last to a big room. That's when they took the blindfold off.

By the time the whole story was told, both Janet and Gregory were feeling much better. They had been fortified by cups of sweet, strong tea and little cakes baked by Lil that afternoon. But Janet was beginning to fidget.

"Where is the constable? We need to let the police know about this!" she fretted.

Lady Penelope patted her hand. "You know, I have some friends who would be very interested in your story. Not reporters, and not the police per se, but investigators in their own right. Would you mind if I told them about your misadventure? I think they would be far more effective than the police in dealing with this matter." She looked at Janet keenly. "I'm sure you wouldn't want this in the newspapers, and have it get back to Gregory's work what happened to him. My friends are very, very discreet."

"Well, I don't know," Gregory began.

But Janet interrupted. "I didn't even think of Gregory's work! He would be ruined!" she exclaimed, horrified. Then she turned to Penelope, misery in her voice. "Are you sure your friends are discreet? That they wouldn't tell anyone?"

"Here, now, Janet......," Gregory tried to intervene, but the ladies ignored him.

"Yes. They specialize in....secrets," Penelope assured her.

Janet looked down at her swollen belly, then at the wide gold band on her finger, then at Gregory. "Please, Greg. Let Lady Penelope's friends help us. I would be devastated if you were to lose your position because of me," she pleaded.

Gregory looked decidedly uncomfortable. He knew that if he didn't give in, his wife would fret and worry about it forever. And is that good for a pregnant woman? he thought. Probably not. With a sigh, Gregory nodded.

"Then that's settled," Penelope said. "You can leave the whole matter with me. Now, you both look all in. For safety's sake you should spend the night here. Parker can drive you both home in the morning."

Both of the Martins protested, but Penelope was firm. "I have plenty of nightwear from my many guests; you may take your pick." Besides, she thought, I want to go town this evening and make sure there are no nasty surprises awaiting you in your flat.

The Martins eventually agreed. This Lady Penelope looks like she is not one to be trifled with, and besides, Janet is exhausted, Gregory thought. They were led up to a spacious bedroom by Parker and a selection of nightwear was shown to them. Greg selected a pair of pajamas that had once belonged Scott Tracy, and Janet's flannel nightgown had once been worn by the Duchess of Royston. They fell into bed, and slept in each other's arms, keeping the inevitable nightmare at bay by proximity to each other.

"Parker, prepare the Rolls. We will visit the Martin's flat tonight to make sure it is clear of any... impediments to their return."

"Very good, milady."

"And when we return, some phone calls."