A Helping Hand
Peggy was behind the counter when he came in. A small man, he went to the shelf and picked up a packet of mints, before heading over. He was casually dressed, in a dark sweater and pants and with a black leather jacket on.
““Do you need anything else, sir?””
“No, thank you, that will be all. How much is it?”
He counted out the money, handed it to Peggy, and smiled as he put the mints into his pocket and left the shop. She watched as eh climbed into a small grey transit van, and set off down the road at the same time as Maggie Deans walked in.
“Good morning, Maggie,” Peggy called over as the woman closed the door. “Going into town again?”
“Yes, Peggy, I just have to see my bank manager about a few things and then I’m heading home. Has my magazine come in yet?”
“Let me have a look for you…. Here it is. Will you take it with you now?”
“Yes, thank you Peggy. I can read it on the bus. See you tomorrow?”
Peggy nodded as Maggie left the shop and walked over to the nearby bus stop. She was a sprightly woman fro her age, with greying hair in a short bun. She stood there with her black coat closed against the wind, and her feet tapping in her light brown boots, until the bus came and she climbed on.
Peggy looked down and saw a spectacle case on the counter. Opening it, she saw a pair of silver rimmed spectacles and Maggie’s name on the cloth inside, as well as her address.
“That’s near where I live,” Peggy said to herself. “If she doesn’t come back, I’ll pop round this afternoon after my shift and return them.”
The day wore on, until at 2 o’clock Sally walked into the store.
“Time to swap over, Peggy. How has your day been?”
“Not bad – but I need to get home quickly. Do you mind if I slip off now?”
“Sure – no problem. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Peggy nodded as she went into the back of the store. Taking off the tabard she had to wear, she picked up her denim jacket and pulled it on over her brown woollen sweater.
“See you tomorrow, Sally,” she said as she left the store and made her way down the road.
Walking out of the shopping area, Peggy made her way down the main road and turned off into one of the tree-lined streets that made up the residential area. As she walked down, she looked for the road that Maggie lived on, paying no attention to the cars and vans that were parked nearby.
In fact, so intent was she on looking for the road she almost hit a grey van parked on the corner, but stopped herself in time as she realised this was the road on the cloth. Turning left, she found the house and walked up the path to the front door. She noticed that the blinds were drawn in the room, but given the winter sun was shining brightly she didn’t think too much of that.
Knocking on the door, Peggy waited patiently for an answer, but there wasn’t one coming. Trying again, she put her ear to the door to see if she could hear anything. There were sounds of people in the house, but no-one seemed to be coming to answer the door.
Stepping back, Peggy looked up and to the side of the house, and noticed a gate that seemed to lead to a path up the side. Trying the gate, she found it opened and she made her way in, closing the door behind her. If Maggie was in and had fallen or something, than the least she could do was check and see if she was all right.
The path led to the rear of the house, where there was a small garden with a fence at the back. There was a patio between the garden and the house, so Peggy stopped and had a look at the upper windows, before looking in through the large glass doors that led to the house.
Inside, she could see through the dining area to the front room, and could see Maggie sitting in a chair. She had taken her coat off, and was wearing a brown yoke necked dress with a sash tied around the middle. She seemed to be sitting quietly, but Peggy noticed that she could not see Maggie’s hands anywhere.
Looking more closely, she could see that Maggie was talking to someone in front of her, but with her head slightly down, and she was nodding and shaking her head in turn. Peggy stood there, wondering just what was going on, when a man stood up in front of Maggie.
He was dressed in black, but that was not the thing that caught Peggy’s eye. What had caught her eye was the fact that he had some sort of black hat over the top and back of his head, and he was talking to Maggie as she sat there. He knelt down in front of her, and Peggy wondered just who he was and what they were talking about.
After a few minutes, the man stood up and stepped back, and Peggy could see Maggie talking to him. She could also see, however, that there was something around Maggie’s legs, and she watched as the older woman started to wriggle around in the seat. To her growing horror, she watched as Maggie turned round, keeping her eyes on someone all the time, and Peggy saw that her wrists were pinned together behind her back with something around them.
Slowly, Peggy reached into her jacket pocket, and pulled out her phone. Switching it on, she was about to dial the emergency number when she heard a soft cough beside her.
“Excuse me,” a man’s voice said, “but I was wondering if you would not be warmer inside with us.”
Turning, Peggy saw standing by the kitchen doors a tall gentleman, around six feet tall, dressed in black and with a balaclava over his head and face. He was leaning against the doorway, a smile on his face and a rather large knife in his hand, looking at the young girl.
“Please,” he said, “I insist that you come in and warm yourself. I promise you it will be quite an experience. But first, please give me your mobile phone.”
Holding his hand out, he watched as Peggy tried to decide what to do. From the look on her face, he knew he was trying to decide whether to run, or scream or both rather than come into the house.
“Let me make it easy for you, my dear girl. If you scream, I will be forced to stop you, and I do not want to do that. If you run, be assured I will catch you before you get more than ten yards. In any case, you will be better off joining us inside.”
Peggy looked at the man, and then placed her phone into his gloved hand.
“Very good – please, come inside.”
He stood aside as Peggy walked into the kitchen. As he closed the door behind them, she could see a cup standing by a kettle, and some items of cutlery on the table.
“What is your name, my dear girl?”
“Peggy – Peggy Clark.”
“Well, Peggy, my name is Mister Tall. Would you mind telling me why you came to the back of Maggie’s house? I saw you from an upstairs window as you walked round.”
“I…. I was returning Maggie’s glasses. She left them in the shop I work in this morning.”
“Is it your normal practice to go uninvited to the back of people’s houses?”
“Well, I was worried about her when she didn’t answer the door.”
“An admirable sentiment, Peggy, but I am afraid it means that you will have to be inconvenienced for a little while. Mister Small?”
Another man, about six inches smaller, came into the room. Like the one who called himself Mister Tall, this man was dressed all in black and had a balaclava over his head and face.
“I see we have an unexpected guest, Mister Tall.”
“Indeed, Mister Small. How is Maggie?”
“She is resting securely at the moment.”
“Good. I will take Peggy here through to join her. Would you please finish off upstairs and collect everything together?”
The smaller man nodded and left the room. Peggy watched as he made his way up the stairway. There was something familiar about him, but….
“Peggy, before we join Maggie I have to ask you to place your hands behind your back. Would you do that for me please?”
Peggy turned and looked at Mister Tall, who was standing with a length of white cord in his hand. Realising what was about to happen, she turned and let him cross her wrists behind her back. He then wrapped the doubled over cord around her wrists, feeding the loose ends through the loop and pulling tightly. This was repeated several times, before he passed the ends between her wrists and pulled tightly, knotting the ends together and then tying them to a loop in the waistband of her jeans.
“There now,” Mister Tall said. “Shall we go through and join Maggie?”
Maggie looked up as Mister Tall entered the front room, but her greater surprise was at seeing Peggy come in before him.
“Peggy,” she said, “what are you doing here?”
“It appears you left your glasses at the shop where Peggy works,” Mister Tall said as he placed the case on a coffee table, “and she decided to bring them back to you.”
“That’s very kind, Peggy, but it means you’re in a lot of trouble now.”
Peggy looked at the older woman. She could see now that white cord was tied around her crossed ankles, biting into the soft brown leather of her boots, as well as around her legs above her knees. Her arms were pinioned behind her back, and Peggy realised that her wrists must be tied together as well.
“Are you all right, Maggie?”
“As well as you can expect,” she said as Mister Tall helped Peggy to sit on the floor in front of Maggie. “These two men were in the house when I got home. They have been very polite, but very firm with me, so I decided it was better just to let them have their way and live another day.”
Peggy nodded as she watched Mister Tall take another length of cord from a rucksack on the floor, and kneel down at her feet. She was wearing a pair of light beige leather boots that reached up her calves, and he took her ankles and crossed them before starting to tie them together with the rope.
“Does it hurt?” She asked Maggie a she continued to secure them together.
“Not really, but I am getting a terrible cramp,” Maggie replied as she tried to move her arms around. Mister Tall looked over, and Peggy could have sworn there was a note of concern in his eyes.
“I hope you are not too uncomfortable, Maggie?”
“I can cope with it – I suspect there is not a lot you are willing to do about it anyway, is there?”
He shook his head as he turned his attention back to Peggy, and started to tie her legs together, below her knees and above the tops of her boots. Peggy could now see that the other woman’s legs were also bound together below her knees, and that there was a length of rope around her waist as well.
As the taller man started to tie Peggy’s legs together above her knees, Mister Small reappeared in the room, carrying a rucksack which jangled slightly as he placed it on the table. He also had in his hand a roll of what looked like sticking plaster, and two silk scarves.
“I found these upstairs, and I do believe we will be able to make use of them,” he said to his partner as he stood up.
“Mister Small, I do believe you are right. I wonder if you would watch the two ladies for a moment, while I take care of something.”
Mister Small nodded as Mister Tall left the room for a moment, and the sound of footsteps could be heard going into the kitchen. Both Peggy and Maggie listened as the sound of running water could be heard, and then footsteps returning before Mister Tall re-entered the room with a glass of water in his gloved hand.
“Would you care for a drink of water, Maggie? It may be some little while before you are able to again, as I fear we must take steps to prevent you from raising the alarm verbally when we leave.”
Maggie nodded, and as Mister Tall placed the glass to her lips she took several long slips. Saying “Thank you”, she watched as he did the same for Peggy, allowing her to take a long drink as well.
“Now ladies, I must ask you both to please open your mouths as wide as you can, and when we have finished it is important that you do not attempt to struggle, as you do not want to start coughing. Do you both understand?”
Maggie nodded as Mister Tall passed a brown silk scarf to Mister Small, and balled up the blue one that he had brought in. He knelt down beside Peggy, and started to gently push the scarf into her mouth as Mister Small did the same for Maggie.
“Please keep your mouths closed,” Mister Small said as he took the roll of plaster, and tearing a strip off he smoothed it over Maggie’s mouth, holding the scarf firmly in. This was repeated twice more, and then the same was done to Peggy. While he was smoothing the gag over Peggy’s mouth, Mister tall helped Maggie to lie down on her side on the couch, placing a pillow under her head as he did so.
“Would you please help me with Peggy, Mister Small?”
Peggy wondered what was about to happen as the two men picked Peggy up and moved her into the centre of the floor, before they gently pushed her over so that she was lying on her side, facing Maggie who was also watching what the two masked men were doing. Taking another length of rope, Mister Tall looped it around Peggy’s ankles, before pulling on it to take her legs slightly back and fixing it around her wrists as well.
“Well, Maggie, Peggy, it has been a pleasure for us both to meet you, but I am afraid we must take our leave now. The Gentlemen Robbers bid you a good evening, and hope that we never meet again.”
Saying this, Mister Tall and Mister Small picked up their rucksacks and closed the door behind them. The two women listened as footsteps could be heard heading to the kitchen, and then the sound of running water before the kitchen door was opened and closed.
The two women lay there, listening to the sound of traffic in the street outside and birds in the trees in the gardens. Peggy tried to feel around the ropes around her wrists, to see if she could find the knot anywhere, but was unable to find or even feel it.
Maggie, meanwhile, was looking around the room as if searching for something, Peggy turned her attention to the older woman when she heard her give a number of grunts, and realised that she had turned onto her back on the couch. Slowly, carefully, she managed to get herself into a seated position before turning herself around and sliding off the couch so that she was sitting on the floor.
Peggy watched as the older woman slid herself across on her bottom, heading towards the open door that led to the outer corridor. Rolling over, Peggy could see Maggie’s crossed and bound wrists in the small of her back against the brown material as she continued to slide out.
A few minutes later, she slid back in, this time pulling a large cream handbag with her as she did so. Stopping for a moment, she caught her breath before feeling for and opening the zip at the top of the bag, then tipping the contents out onto the floor.
Peggy continued to watch as Maggie searched through the contents of the bag, looking over her shoulder as she did so, before with a grunt of satisfaction she pulled out of the pile a small mobile phone. Looking at the table, Peggy could see her own phone with the battery removed, and she began to wonder why they had not done the same to Maggie.
Maggie, in the meantime, has managed to switch the phone on and dial 999. She was grunting into the phone, obviously trying to communicate with whoever had answered on the other side, before nodding and moving over to where Peggy was lying. Peggy rolled back over as Maggie took hold of her hand in hers, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. A few minutes later, the sound of police sirens could be heard approaching the house.
In the small transit van, Mister Tall and Mister Small were heading down the main road.
“I thought that girl must have recognised me when she walked in,” Mister Small said as he popped a mint into his mouth.
“Why should she – it’s not as if she was expecting to walk into a robbery today, was she?”
“Maybe, but I think we should steer clear of here for a little while. Do you think the police will have arrived yet?”
Mister Tall nodded. “You left that mobile phone in the bag, didn’t you?”
“Of course – she was such a lovely old woman; I did not want her to be incapacitated for too long. She looked lively – I’m sure she will make her way to it soon enough.”
The two men sat in silence as the sun set on them joining the main motorway out of town.