The Rent.

Part 29, Rain.

The weather reflected Nina's mood.  On this Friday afternoon, a storm had come in from off shore and rain was coming down in sheets.  At times, the rain was completely horizontal due to the wind, and it thundered against the glass front of the office like an angry crowd.  It made a deafening sound as the glass rumbled under the onslaught, and looked just as frightening, for the wall shuddered under the impact of all that wind and water.  It made the building's occupants nervous.

Occasionally there would be a brief break in the rain, and the ocean beyond could be seen under clouds that almost turned day into night.  Dark and gray, huge rollers crashed upon the shore, closing the beach for the time being at least.  It was the season when such storms became common, but just because people were used to them didn't mean they liked them.  Storm warnings were in effect, and most of the business along the ocean highway had closed early.

Sarah Wickland was thinking of doing the same thing.  She paced nervously on the second floor balcony, listening to the latest weather report while below her Helen watched the ocean give the impression it was about to join them inside for a while.

Donny had already gone home; he lived further up the coast and preferred to be at home during these storms, just in case.  So he'd left the female members of the firm's "Specialized Affairs" office to weather the storm.

Nina was not in a position to see what was going on, although she couldn't miss the way the building shuddered.  She was in Sarah's office, kneeling on the floor, her hands cuffed behind her back, a blindfold across her eyes.  And of course, she was nude.  Sarah's anger over the events a few days before hadn't waned, and when Nina and Helen got to work that morning, Sarah told Nina that her punishment was starting right away.

"We were helpless in front of the judge," Sarah told her, "so I feel you need to be just as helpless for a while!"

Nina's day was therefore spent bound and blindfolded.  If she needed to use the bathroom, she had to ask in a loud clear voice to go.  Then Helen, presumably, would take her, still blind and bound, to the bathroom, where she would help Nina out with all she needed to do.

It was humiliating for both women, for Nina was as helpless as a baby, and now she had to allow Helen to take care of her most intimate needs.  Helen did so, for the most part reluctantly.  Yet a small part of her enjoyed the control she had over the nude woman.  Helen was torn between so many urges and emotions she didn't know what to think.  It was easier just to do what Sarah asked.

Another wind gust shook the building and Nina clenched her fists.  She didn't know if she was lucky or not, not being able to see the storm outside.  Would it be worse if she could look at it?

She heard Sarah come back into the office, her brisk walk clearly identifiable to the blinded woman.

"Helen, come up here please," Sarah said into the intercom, and moments later Helen appeared, fully dressed at last except for her shoes and stockings.  Helen looked over at Nina, kneeling with her legs wide open, her back straight.  Even like this Nina looked beautiful to Helen.

"Helen," Sarah said, "there's no point in us staying any longer, we aren't going to get any more work done today.  Why don't you close up and switch us over the answering service.  I'll meet you at the back door in ten minutes."

"Yes, Ma'am," Helen said, "are we still going out of town to your place?"

"Of course we are, don't be silly," Sarah said, sifting through some papers on her desk.

"The weather reports don't advise any traveling," Helen said with a glance out of Sarah's windows.

"We'll be heading inland," Sarah replied.  "I'm sure once we're away from the coast the weather will calm down.  Now don't argue and do as I told you."

"Yes, Ma'am," replied Helen without much enthusiasm, and with another quick glance at Nina she went back downstairs.

"Well, Nina," said the Legallady, walking over to her bound charge, "are you ready for your weekend?"

"Haven't I suffered enough, Sarah?"  Nina said.

"No, not quite," Sarah chuckled, "but I promise you that once we are done then this incident will be behind us, never to be mentioned again.  That is IF you learn something from it."

"Thanks," Nina said sarcastically.  Nina was tired and sore, not used to remaining so still, not used to kneeling for so long, not used to having her hands cuffed behind her for a full day.  She was angry, yet helpless to think of a way out of her predicament.  Ideas came and went, but the fact that she was bound and blind made all of them hopeless.

"I don't think you quite understand your situation, dear," Sarah replied, walking over to the desk for a moment before walking back.  "And I don't need to hear that kind of attitude from you.  Open your mouth."

"What?" Nina said, which was all the opening Sarah needed.  She neatly pushed a rubber bit between Nina's teeth and buckled the strap behind her head.  A small lock made sure it was going nowhere.  The bit was T-shaped and filled her mouth, an extension going back and pinning down her tongue.  She could still breath around it, and also apparently drool, but any speech was impossible.

Fuming and half gagging on the awful rubber taste, Nina listened while Sarah busied herself at the desk for a minute or two, then she was ordered to stand.  Nina did so carefully, her joints protesting the change in position, her balance unsteady due to her blindness.

"Come on," she heard Sarah say, and a hand grasped one of her elbows and began to lead her along.  Coming out of the office, Nina could hear the rain against the windows and wondered just how bad it was out there.  She was glad they were going out the back way; at least they would be out of the wind.  They took the small elevator, which made Nina happy, although Sarah took the opportunity to run a finger down Nina's bare back, making her shiver.  Sarah chuckled.

Nina was led along a little further until they reached the back door.  Sarah handed her off to Helen.

"Take her out to the car, open the trunk, and then come back and help me with a couple of file crates," Sarah ordered.

"Sure," said Helen, her eyes wide at the sight of Nina now gagged in addition to her other problems.  "I'll put her in the back seat."

"No, just take her out to the car, she can stand outside and wait."

Nina swallowed nervously.

"You want me to leave her outside in that?" Helen said, talking about the storm.

"It's just rain, she'll survive," replied the Legallady.

Helen looked uncertain for a moment, but a glare from her boss got her moving.  She took Nina's arm and opened the back door.

The rain was cold, and Nina thought she was stepping directly into the ocean out front, so wet was the ground.  The rain was coming down hard and actually bounced upwards enough to make it seem it was raining the other way too.  Her naked body was instantly soaked, the rain hitting every square inch and making Nina aware of how nude she really was.  Helen tried to pull her along quickly, getting soaked to the skin herself, but being blindfolded, Nina couldn't move fast.  Every step was an uncertain one and she was quickly freezing to death, or at least felt that way.  Nina was angry and miserable and knew that she might have run had she not been bound.  The only saving grace, she thought, was that the rain cut down visibility so much that no one else could see her nudity.  She stood shivering when Helen left her, unable to tell where she was and what was around her.  It was awful.

The crash of waves on the shore and the drumming of the rain on the car next to her made it hard to hear, but Nina could tell when Helen came back and put something in the trunk.  She left again, and for a couple of minutes more Nina waited until Helen came back.

"I'm sorry, Nina, I have to drive the car over to the back door to pick up Sarah.  You have to wait here, and we'll come back for you!" Helen yelled.

Nina groaned and wanted to argue, but the foul tasting rubber wad in her mouth prevented her from forming any decent words.  She knew Sarah had done this deliberately, making her stay out naked in a storm when she could have easily waited inside with her.  She heard the car start and pull away, and for a little while at least she felt more alone than ever.  Unable to see, all she could do was feel the elements pounding her body and hear them pounding everything else.  It was like standing in the middle of a white noise machine, everything else was drowned out.

The car pulled up beside her and Nina heard someone get out.

"Come on, Nina," she heard Helen say and she was finally allowed to climb in out of the rain.  Plastic sheets had been laid across the upholstery so Nina's soaking wet body didn't ruin the expensive interior.  Nina's bare skin began sticking to it.

"Quite bracing, isn't it!"  Sarah said over the loud drumming of the rain on the car roof.  Hardly wet at all from her quick two-foot run to the car, she was in the driver's seat.

Nina glared in her direction, although she couldn't see her.  She would have made an unladylike comment as well if she hadn't been gagged.  She was surprised when Sarah told Helen to take off Nina's blindfold, and as dark as it was, Nina still blinked at the brightness after so long in the dark.

"We won't bother with that again for a while," Sarah said, and she started to drive.

Nina glanced at Helen, who looked as wet as Nina felt.  Helen too sat on plastic, converted garbage bags, and she was soaked through to the skin.  Her usually well looked after hairdo was plastered against her scalp, and even her makeup was running.  She looked very uncomfortable.

Funnily enough, now that she was out of the rain, Nina didn't feel that bad.  Sure, she was wet, but she was drying off easily enough.  Not having clothes on meant that the water wasn't being held against her skin.  Only the cuffs cutting into her wrists and the horrible tasting gag made the situation less than bearable.

"Helen, you're dripping everywhere," Sarah said, slowly guiding her car onto the highway.

"Sorry, but you did make me run out here three times," Helen said testily.

Sarah gave her a look.  "Well I can't have you messing up my interior.  You'll just have to pull those wet clothes off."

"I don't need to take them off, Ma'am, I just need a little drying time," Helen said nervously.

Sarah pulled the car over to the side of the road.  Nina could just barely see the deserted beach and the closed stores across the highway.  No other traffic was in sight.

"Get out, Helen," Sarah ordered.

"Out there?  Aren't I wet enough already?"  Helen replied.

"You're too wet.  I want you to get out, strip down, and put those wet clothes in the trunk where they won't ruin anything!"

Helen's eyes opened wide and she looked about.  "I can't do that here!"

"Yes you can, Helen, there's no one about.  Now do it!"  An edge appeared to Sarah's voice, and Helen stared at her for a few seconds while Nina watched silently from the back seat.

"Fine," Helen eventually said.  "I'll pull something else to wear from my bag."  Helen was coming along for the weekend as well and had a packed bag in the trunk.

"Don't bother, Helen.  You're not that stupid not to expect that I wouldn't want you naked as well this weekend," Sarah said with an evil smile.

"But..." she said, glancing at Nina.  Helen had suspected that by the time the weekend was done, she would be nude too.  Still, she didn't think it would happen as soon as they left the office, although a part of her was surprised she'd been allowed to leave the office with clothes on at all!  Resigned, she opened her door and climbed back out into the rain.

Nina and Sarah watched as Helen pulled off her wet and heavy clothes.  The young woman began shivering as the cold rain found newly exposed skin, and she failed miserably to cover herself as she undressed.  Once naked, she stood with her bundled up clothes in her arms, looking meekly at Sarah.

Sarah smiled and pushed the button that unlocked the trunk.  Helen quickly splashed over, the standing water on the edge of the highway over her ankles, and thrust her wet clothes into the trunk.  She looked longingly at her bag of dry clothes and wondered if she would see any of them this trip, before shutting the trunk.  Then Helen got a shock.  The trunk lid had hidden from her sight the approach of another car driving the opposite way down the highway.  With the lid now closed, Helen was exposed to oncoming traffic and the car's headlights were shining fully on her.  She squealed and dove for cover, scrambling around the far side of Sarah's car in the water in an effort to get away.  She heard a horn as the car went by and she knew she had been seen.  In her private shame, she turned bright red.

"Get in the car now, Helen, or we'll leave you here!" Sarah yelled through the closed window, and Helen began to move again.  Anxious not to be left behind, she climbed back in while in full view of yet another passing car.

Sarah chuckled and put the car in gear.


The drive out of town and into the country was not what Sarah had promised it to be.  The rain didn't seem to slack off much at all despite the distance traveled from shore.  They were on their way to Sarah's home in the next county, and it seemed the storm was coming along too.

In the back seat, Nina sat bored and tired.  Sarah's only comment to her over the entire drive so far was an order to open her legs, so Nina had to sit with her knees wide apart again, exposed to her boss and her friend.

Helen stayed silent also and sat buckled up in the passenger seat.  Both nude women had dried quickly, and now just felt their nudity when they tried to move, for the plastic bags covering the seats kept sticking to their skin.  Not a great feeling for either of them.

A car went by going the other way, and both Helen and Nina flinched.  Nina couldn't move much more due to her cuffs, but Helen managed to cross her arms quite easily over her naked breasts.

"Don't cover up," Sarah ordered her.

Helen stared at her boss for a moment, and Nina could see her debating whether to obey.  Nina silently hoped that Helen would, not wanting her friend to get into any more trouble, and after a few seconds, Helen put her arms down.

A few painfully slow minutes later, another car went by, and again Helen crossed her arms.

"I said don't cover up!" snapped Sarah, who was trying to concentrate on the road through the driving rain.

"I'm sorry, but it's hard," Helen replied.

Sarah snorted and they rode in relative silence for a few more miles before yet another vehicle made Helen flinch once more.

"Right," Sarah said, and again she pulled over.

"I won't do it again!" Helen said quickly, "Don't put me out!"

"Oh I'm not going to put you out," Sarah said as she reached over to the glove box.  She opened it and pulled out a set of handcuffs, twin to the set Nina was wearing.

"No!" Helen said, looking at them with horror.

"Since you can't control your hands, I'm going to have to," the Legallady replied.

"No fucking way!" Helen said forcefully.

"Do you want me to gag you as well?"

"Sarah, I will NOT put those things on.  I'll sit here quietly as naked as you want me to be, but no way will you get those things on me!"  Helen looked scared, her eyes wide.

Sarah didn't look affected by Helen's statement.  Instead, she raised an eyebrow.  "No way, huh?"  With a smile that promised no good, Sarah dug in her purse and pulled out an envelope.  "Here, these are your copies," she said, tossing the envelope in Helen's nude lap.  "I have more...many more."

Helen didn't move for a moment, then she gingerly picked up the envelope and looked inside.  Photographs.  Helen took out the bundle and began to look through them.  They were all of Helen in the new office, during her Cronenberg style punishment.  In none of the pictures was she fully dressed, and most of them showed her in her bra and panties going about her duties in the office, although a few of them showed her kneeling in Donny's office for some reason.

Helen knew that she knelt there because that was how Donny wanted her to be when they went over business, but the casual observer would obviously think something different.  The worst though were the group that didn't show her in bra and panties.  For an hour one day, she had been forced to work without the bra as well, while Donny waited for some paperwork she was late getting ready.  The pictures clearly showed her naked breasts as she sat at her desk, and one photo, the worst of the lot, caught her staring directly at Nina's chest as Nina bent over Helen's desk to grab something off it.  Helen's cheeks burned hot.

"How did you get these?"

Sarah ignored the question.  "I talked to your mother the other day, a lovely woman," Sarah said, looking out at the rain still coming down hard.  "I wonder what she would do if she saw those pictures."

Helen looked up and stared at Sarah for a moment, before looking back at Nina, who sat silent and scared herself.

"You wouldn't," Helen said, barely audible above the drumming rain.

All Sarah Wickland did was look at her.

Helen stifled a sob and held out her wrists.

"Good girl," Sarah said with a friendly smile.  "Isn't it much easier if you just cooperate?  Now put your hands behind your seat."

Helen froze for a second, then did as she was ordered, pulling her hands behind her seat back in a very awkward position.  Sarah undid her seat belt and leaned over, clicking the cuffs on Helen's wrists and making both nude girls jump.

"Now, not another word until we get home.  Then you can take care of Nina for me," said Sarah who settled back into her seat and started driving again.

Neither Helen nor Nina talked, and neither woman could do anything when the occasional car went by.  In the back seat, Nina glared angrily at Sarah Wickland.

They turned off the main highway and began the long drive up a minor road that led to Sarah's housing division.  The road here twisted and turned as it followed the path of a small river, now filled to capacity with rainwater.  It was hard driving with all the water on the road, but Sarah seemed to be in control and quite content.  Every so often Nina would see her smile.

Then suddenly the front of the car seemed to drop into the road, and all three women screamed.  There was a horrible grating sound from under the car, and Nina was thrown against the back of the front seats.  The car tipped, twisted, and almost seemed to flip onto one side before settling upright again.  Water poured in through the broken windshield and Nina's world was suddenly wet and loud and very confusing.

She struggled in her bonds to get back up on the back seat, but had trouble, as the car didn't feel level.  It wasn't.  It was nose down and off the road, half in the river that had burst its banks at this point.  Helen was still screaming as she tried to pull herself from her seat, but her seat belt and the way her arms were bound prevented her from escaping.

Sarah was silent and lay slumped over the steering wheel, a spreading red stain showing where she had impacted the windshield with her head, for she hadn't put her seat belt back on.

"OHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT!" Helen was yelling as she struggled.

Nina was thinking that as well but her gag prevented her from saying it.  She was half panicking herself, but calmed down when the water only came up to dash level.  At least there was no immediate risk of drowning.  Unable to calm her friend with words, Nina fought to try something else.  Her skin slick with cold river water, Nina was able to pass her cuffed wrists over her slim buttocks and then over her feet.  Now she had her hands in front of her.  She reached up to see if she could get her gag off, but it really was locked.

Swearing silently, Nina reached for her trapped friend and got her attention.

"Let me OUT, Nina!  Let me OUT!" begged Helen.

Nina nodded, but first made a quick check of Sarah.  The Legallady was out cold, but that wasn't her only problem.  Whatever they hit, they hit hard, and it had pushed the steering column back far enough to trap her too.  Again Nina swore, and she moved to free Helen.  She undid the girl's seat belt and tried lifting her arms up behind her in an effort to get them over the seat, but there simply wasn't enough room.

Frustrated, Nina tried her own doors, and was surprised to find that one of them opened easily.

"Where are you going?" Helen said, still in a panic but calmer than before.

Nina tried to show with her hands that she had to get out and get help.  Nina knew she couldn't do anything on her own the way she was, but she didn't relish going out naked and bound into the rain to look for help either.

She got the message across though, and Helen nodded.  "Hurry, hurry!  The water is coming up!"

Nina didn't know if it was or not, but she knew she had to hurry.  She braced herself and slipped through the door into a fast moving stream.  Water from the road above was pouring down and Nina could see through the rain that it had undercut the road surface, which had then collapsed.  Sarah had driven them into a four-foot-deep ditch where the road used to be, and the rushing water had carried the car down to the river.

Nina looked the other way and saw that a big old tree had stopped the car from plunging all the way.  The area was heavily forested, so it wasn't a surprise.  Still the river was very high and the car was still mostly submerged.

Nina took a step and immediately lost her footing.  With her hands cuffed, she was unable to make a decent grab at anything, and was washed down into the river itself, unseen branches whipping her nude body.

Frantic, Nina did the only thing she could, which was swim.  She struck out for midstream for just a moment to clear the trees, and then swam back to shore, for she didn't want to be swept down river away from the car.  It was odd swimming in handcuffs, but she managed quite easily and soon found a place she could climb out.  It was muddy though, and her nude body was thickly coated in mud by the time she struggled to the road.  She got up and walked quickly back to where the accident had taken place, hoping the car hadn't moved.  It was still there.

Nina looked about for any sign of civilization, but the rain and the trees cut down visibility rather drastically.  So naked and alone, Nina began walking along the road.

As she walked, she couldn't help feeling two things at the same time.  She knew she had to get some help for her friends, yet at the same time she was well aware of how vulnerable she was and hoped not to be seen.  It was a duality that struck her as very odd.  Still, she used the hard rain to wash herself of the mud, and by the time she found the driveway, she was relatively clean.

She walked up it carefully, looking out for anyone or anything, and saw that it led into a cul-de-sac with three large houses spread out around it.  Lights were on in two of them, so Nina picked one and headed for it.  She heard laughter coming from the garage, young male voices, and cringed.  She was naked, cuffed, and gagged.  A horrible position for a young woman to be in when approaching strangers, yet she had no choice but to go on.  She splashed through the rain to a side door and opened it.

Conversation stopped as she stepped through, and Nina wondered if she should have picked the other house.

Six guys who looked to be in their late teens were standing around the dissected remains of an old Ford.  A haze of blue smoke filled the air, and Budweiser must have done the decorating with all the beer bottles scattered about.

The guys had all turned to look at the woman who had come though the door, and to a boy, each one of them stood with their mouths wide open in surprise.

"I'll be damned!" said one of them, and the rest chuckled.

Nina didn't like what she saw; she recognized the gleam in their eyes.  She knew she had just jumped into the fire.  She edged back toward the open door.

"Don't go!" one of them said, moving quickly to close it.

Nina wasn't going to let him.  She reached out with a foot and connected solidly with his balls.

"HEY!" cried the others who reached for her, but Nina was on the run, too frightened to look behind her.  She ran though the pouring rain, panting around her gag.

She got lucky.  Instead of following her into the storm, the guys just watched her run away before looking to their fallen comrade.

"Don't you think we should go after her?" one of them said.

"Fuck no," said another, "I'm not getting soaking wet for any pussy!  Give me a beer!"

Too plastered to know what they had missed, the guys turned back to the car.

Nina ran until she couldn't anymore, going down the driveway and back out onto the road.  She followed it some more, half wading rather than walking, and soon found another driveway.  Nina was shivering violently by now, the cold water sapping her strength.  She knew she had to try again, if only to get dry.  She went up the driveway to find another cul-de-sac, but this time only one house had lights on in the gloom of the storm.  Out front was a large black pick up truck.

Nina went to the front door and rang the doorbell; she stood shivering while she waited.  Moments later, the door was opened and Nina saw a tall man who looked to be his sixties.  The man's face showed a frown for a moment before he looked past Nina out at the rain.

"What the hell?" he said, staring at her again.  "Get in here!"

He stepped aside and Nina screwed in her courage and went in.  She stood in the entryway of the house, her cuffed hands up and hiding her breasts, shivering and dripping water everywhere.  She was so very cold and tired.

The man closed the door and looked at her.  "Jeez, what the hell is going on?" he said.  "Who did this to you?  Was it those Lancaster boys down the way?  If you're involved with them, I swear I'm just going to send you right back out there!"

Nina shook her head, her long hair spraying water, and she tried to pull at her gag.  She wanted to show him it was locked on.

"You in trouble?" he asked.

Nina nodded.

"Shit!  Look, don't move!"  He disappeared for a moment, then came back with some towels, which he handed to her.  "You look like you can dry yourself," he said, before leaving again.

Nina gratefully took the towels and did the best she could with her limited mobility.  Just getting her skin dry helped, but she was still cold, and she tried to tie a few of the towels around herself for warmth.

The man came back with a blanket and a set of bolt cutters.  "Come here, girl!" he said.  He unfolded the blanket and quickly wrapped Nina in its warmth, for which she was very grateful.  At least now she wasn't standing there naked.

The old man took a look at the lock on her gag and told her to hold her head still.  Nina did so and was rewarded with a snap as the lock was cut free.  In seconds, she had the hateful rubber bit out of her mouth.

"Thanks," she said, dropping the gag and holding out her wrists.

"Wait a second now," said the man, stepping back and looking at her with some suspicion.  "I had to take the gag off to find out who you are, but those cuffs are staying on until I know you aren't dangerous.  How do I know if you aren't supposed to be in custody or something!"

"Do cops usually keep people naked and cuffed like this?" Nina asked angrily.

The old man grunted.  "Well then, YOU tell me why you're running around like that in this weather."

Nina really didn't know what to tell him about her condition.  She didn't have time anyway.  "It's not important," she said.

"Damn if it ain't!" said the man.

"It isn't.  Look, I'm not alone.  The rain has washed out a part of the road not far from here and our car ran straight into it.  It was washed partway into the river and my two friends are still trapped in it.  I was the only one who could get out, and I need your help to rescue them.  Can you help me?"

The old man's eyes narrowed.  "That's a hell of a story."

"It's more than a story, it's the truth."

"Uh-huh?  And you just happen to be driving around all naked with your hands cuffed.  Are your friends like that too?"

Nina hesitated.  "Just one, and she can't get free.  The other is knocked out.  Please, you have to help me!"

"I think maybe you ARE from the Lancaster boys.  Either that or you escaped from an asylum some place.  I think I had better call the police!"

"NO!" Nina yelled.  "There isn't time to wait for them.  My friends could drown.  PLEASE!"  Nina actually dropped to her knees, her entire body language pleading her case.

The man looked down at her, a worried look on his face.  "Okay, you show me where your car is and I'll help.  But so help you if this is a scam!"

"Thank you," Nina said, getting up.  She held out her wrists again.

"Oh no, those stay on until I know you're for real.  What's your name anyway?"

"Nina, Nina West."

"Harry Wickland," replied the old man.  "Let's get out to the truck."

"Wickland?" Nina asked.  "Do you know a woman named Sarah Wickland?"

"My daughter's name is Sarah," he said with a frown.

"My God!  She's one of my friends; she was the driver, the one knocked out!"

The old man just stood there a moment without reacting, before he said something.  "She put you in those cuffs?"

"Yes," Nina replied before wondering if she should have.

"Doesn't surprise me in the least.  Come on, let's go get my daughter."

They drove back to the accident site in the big black truck, and Harry finally dropped his suspicious nature when he saw the car in the water.  The river had indeed risen, and little of it was still visible.

"Shit!" he said with feeling.  "I'm sorry, Nina, for doubting you.  Let's get to them!"  He pulled the bolt cutters from where he had stashed them and snapped the links between Nina's wrists.  For the first time since she got to work that day, Nina's hands were now free.

"I need to go see if they are still okay!" Nina said, climbing out of the cab.

"Wait," said Harry, climbing out of the other side.

The rain was still coming down fairly hard, so Nina simply took the blanket off and left it on the seat.  She knew she was going to get drenched again, and there was no need to ruin the blanket.  Harry was therefore surprised to see Nina standing nude in the middle of the road again.  He had a long coil of rope in one hand.  "Let's tie one end around you before you go down, that way you won't get swept away."

"Good idea," agreed Nina.  She raised her arms and Harry wrapped rope around her waist, tying it off with a good solid knot, his face only inches from her bare breasts.

Both of them were aware of her nudity, neither of them thought it an issue at that moment.

The rain was cold, but the runoff was colder to Nina's naked skin, as she plunged back in.  She half swam, half crawled back to the car and ducked back in the open door she had left a lifetime before.  In her hands she carried the bolt cutters.

"Nina!" Helen said, turning to see her friend, "thank God!  I KNEW you were coming back!"

Nina was shocked to see that the water had risen to neck height inside the car and that Sarah's face was only just clearing it.

"Hey, Helen," Nina said, forcing a confidence she didn't feel.  "We'll have you free real soon!"

"You're still naked!" Helen said.

"Yeah well, there wasn't time to go shopping.  Hang on."  Nina ducked her head under the water and looked for Helen's cuffed hands.  Holding her breath, she eased the unfamiliar bolt cutter's head over the metal links and cut them free.  She came up shivering.

Helen pulled her arms around herself, evidently very cold herself, before moving over to Sarah.  Nina was surprised, expecting Helen to get out of the car as fast as she could.

Helen began examining Sarah's head.

"What are you doing?" Nina asked her.

"Dad was an E.R. doctor, and taught me a lot of stuff growing up about what to do in emergencies.  What to look for so I don't accidentally hurt someone.  Look here; if you can reach that lever, I think we can move the steering wheel out of the way.  Then I think we can make her more comfortable; she only appears to have hit her head, but I don't want to move her too much in case she has a neck injury."

"You sure?" Nina asked, amazed.

The shivering girl nodded.  "Yeah, come on, give it a try!"

Nina and Helen both leaned across their unconscious boss and worked to get her free.  It occurred to Nina that a short time ago she had wanted something bad to happen to Sarah Wickland, yet here they were trying to save her life!  One of life's little ironies.

The little lever Helen had pointed out adjusted the angle of the steering wheel, and Nina was able to reach it and trip it.  Helen, supporting Sarah's head, pulled her slightly back into her seat.  "Do you know if an ambulance is coming?"

"No idea!" Nina said.

"Well, who freed you?  Are they still around?"

"You won't believe this, but I bumped into Sarah's father!"

"What?" Helen looked as surprised as Nina had been.

"Honest truth.  He's up on the road right now at the opposite end of this rope."  Helen looked over the seat and noticed the rope around Nina's waist for the first time.

"Well, go up and ask him.  I don't want to move her anymore, just in case.  But we'll have to soon if the water keeps rising."

Nina nodded and swam out of the car.  She was amazed at how collected Helen was now that she was free, and followed her instructions without a qualm.  She made her way back up to the road, Harry pulling her up with the rope, until they stood face to face.

"They're both okay, but Sarah is still out!" Nina said.  "My friend Helen doesn't want to move her unless we have to.  Can we call for an ambulance?"

Harry pulled out a cell phone.  "Already did, young lady, and the police as well.  You had better get in the truck and dry off!"

"I can't, I have to get down there to tell Helen.  When they get here, send them down.  We'll only pull Sarah out if the water gets too high!"

Harry nodded, and the naked girl made her way back into the freezing water.  She swam back inside the car and passed on the news.

"Good," was Helen's only reply.

The three women were still in the car when the police showed up, followed by an emergency services vehicle.  Paramedics scrambled through the water toward the car, while the county deputy radioed in a request that the road be closed because of the washout.

The paramedics were both startled to see two nude young women holding onto a third woman in the car, but maintained their professionalism and ordered both of them out.  Nina and Helen didn't argue.  They helped each other out of the car and began the laborious trip back up to the road.  Helen was so cold she could hardly walk, and Nina had to half carry her up the embankment.  If it hadn't been for Harry hauling on the rope, they never would have made it.

Another ambulance showed up with more police cars, and all were surprised to see the nude young women.  Nina and Helen were too cold and tired to care, though.  More paramedics took charge of each of them and hurried them out of the rain.  Blankets were issued, and Nina and Helen began to feel human again while the paramedics checked them over.  There was some concern over the cut handcuffs on their wrists, but the two young women were able to convince the deputies that they weren't in custody for any reason.  They declined to say why they WERE in cuffs, but the deputy guessed anyway and kept his mouth shut.  He had a key and took them off the women.

Fifteen minutes later, Sarah was brought up on a stretcher, a cervical collar about her neck.  It was only for safety's sake, there wasn't any problem with her.

As she was lifted to the road, Harry stepped up for a look at his daughter.  He was surprised to see her awake.

"Hey, Dad," she said weakly.

Harry said nothing.  Instead, he turned away and went back to his truck.

The three women rode together to the County Hospital.

"I guess this screws up the weekend, huh?" Sarah said, strapped down to her stretcher.

The two blanket-wrapped women didn't know what to say.

Sarah did.  "It wasn't going to be that bad, really," she said.  "I was just playing with you, getting your expectations up!"

Neither Nina nor Helen believed her.

"We're still friends, aren't we?" Sarah asked.

No response.

Sarah turned away.  "Fine, suit yourselves."

Brian Cook came and picked up both Nina and Helen later that evening, bringing clothes for them to wear.  Sarah didn't leave the hospital until the next day.  No one picked her up.

End of Part 29.