BEST LEFT TO THE EXPERTS

 

 

 

 

Ray had never got involved with stolen antiquities or artworks before, or any other specialised goods. He preferred to deal only with cash, and thought everything else was best left to experts. For all that the article about the Celtic treasure hoard, in his local paper, had really caught his attention. The most important British archaeological find of 1992, it read. It certainly sounded as if the coins were worthy of his attention after all, if only for their resale value.

The find, consisting of nearly a hundred gold and silver coins dating from just before the Roman conquest, had been found in a ploughed field by a metal detector enthusiast. And for the month of September, they were going to be exhibited in the town's museum. Apparently some of the coins were unique and the newspaper suggested that the hoard might be worth a large five-figure sum. Ray had been in the museum some years ago, and satisfied himself that there was nothing of great value in there. But it was time he paid the place another visit even though he wasn't one hundred percent convinced that he should bother with them. What he really liked was cash, valuables could be hard to shift. But there they were going to be, on show in the museum, for him to examine their quality and plan how to remove them from the premises without getting arrested. He needed to check the place out.

So on the afternoon of the 1st, Ray was nonchalantly wandering round the museum, looking at a succession of local history specimens in glass cases. He was wearing a blue blazer with a bowling club badge, pressed grey slacks with a knife-sharp crease, a pale blue shirt and a maroon tie. The effect was completed by a pair of "Buddy Holly" spectacles with black frames and plain glass, which he kept for occasions like this, and his hair was greased back with Brylcreem. He looked like a smartly dressed man who was thirty years behind the times. Nothing like the real Ray. He bought all of his "working clothes" in charity shops, and gave them back when they had served their purpose.

The Celtic treasure hoard was the centrepiece of a display of boards explaining the historical background, maps and photographs. In pride of place stood a two-metre high display case with two shelves. One shelf held a wooden tray covered with a red fabric, and arranged on it were some thirty silver coins, with puzzling designs. Ray realised that to a specialist they were probably easy to identify. Each one had a printed label next to it giving details of its origins and the monarch whose reign it dated from. But the other shelf was empty. The shelf where the gold coins should presumably have been. He looked around to make sure they weren't in a different display case. No, they definitely weren't in the room. He was irritated. The newspaper article had made a big deal of the number of gold coins, and yet they weren't here. Ray was a great believer in omens, and he had sometimes called off a robbery at a late stage because he didn't like the way things were going. On one occasion he had fled from a building society empty-handed, leaving a lady cashier hogtied and gagged under the counter, because an alarm kept going off on a shop over the road. He realised it was probably a technical fault but once spooked, he didn't dare to hang around. And suddenly this job was getting more complicated. The best coins weren't here. Why not? Was it going to be worth his while?

He was suddenly aware of somebody standing close to him. He caught a whiff of perfume and glanced to his right. An attractive brunette, middle-aged, but younger than him, probably about forty, was looking at him. "Wonderful, aren't they. Are you a coin collector?" she asked.

Ray quickly looked her over, noticing the rectangular black name badge that was pinned on her jacket. "Pauline Ashcroft. Assistant Curator". Don't get yourself remembered, he told himself. Pretending to be a collector might lead to a conversation which exposed him as knowing nothing about coins really. "No, I'm just amazed that something as old as this was there all these years, under a farmer’s field"

"I know" she said. "It wasn't that far down. You'd think it would have been ploughed up years ago"

Seeing her had pressed a button somewhere inside him. He had been losing interest, but now it was returning. "The paper said there were gold coins, but these are all silver. Thought I'd ask, as I see you're the curator".

"Assistant Curator actually. There isn't a Curator, just three part time Assistants. Keeps the cost down. Sorry, I shouldn't be saying this sort of thing, but both of us Assistant Curators are capable of being full, proper Curators, but they would have to pay us more. So I do afternoons and Frank does mornings".  That's good to know, morning it will be then, thought Ray. "But about the gold coins" she continued. "They are the best part of the exhibit, but they haven't finished cataloguing them. Writing out the labels, in other words. They are going to be delivered tomorrow, so they should be on display in the afternoon".

"In this case? I'll see if I can make the time to come again and see them". Ray was thinking ahead, wondering what the best time to strike would be. He decided to keep an eye on the museum to see who left, and when. Pauline Ashcroft looked like the sort of person who could be easily subdued. He looked her over. Collar length dark brown hair, parted on the left and pushed behind her ears, brown eyes in a round face. She was probably a woman who never, never left home without make-up, he thought. She was wearing a royal blue suit, jacket and knee-length skirt, over a white polo-necked top, flesh coloured tights and black patent leather court shoes. Noting her two-inch heels, he thought she probably changed into them when she arrived here. She was a good ten inches shorter than him, not much over five foot, but nevertheless, he thought, pleasantly plump. He definitely liked what he saw.

Ray was starting to imagine a point in the not too distant future, when he robbed the museum and she was the only person on the premises. She would have to be tied up of course. There was no alternative. "Have you seen anything else that impresses you". Her voice brought him back down to earth. "I like to have a walk round once a day and see what a few people think. It sort of gives the museum a more human face, don't you think. Not just a lot of dusty old things behind glass."

"You're right there" he replied. "It's all interesting in its way. I think I've only seen about half of it so far"

She glanced round, then looked at her watch. "Anyway, I'll let you get on. I need to continue my tour". She walked away in the opposite direction to the way Ray was heading.

"Thanks", he said. "Nice talking to you". He waited until he was sure she wasn't coming back, when he could faintly hear her talking to somebody in the next gallery, then studied the cabinets. There was a lock at the back, where the door opened. No doubt the key was in her office. The glass felt thick, as if it was some special glass that probably couldn't be smashed. No matter, that wasn't the plan.

When the museum closed at five o'clock, Ray sat on the wall opposite the entrance to the car park, by a bus stop. He had stopped by a charity shop to purchase a raincoat and cap which he was now wearing, nobody would recognise him as the man in the museum, unless they got close. He watched as  the staff came out, going their separate ways. All four had gone by quarter past five, except for Pauline Ashcroft. At six o'clock she appeared from the side of the building, got into a metallic blue Peugeot 309 and drove away. So there was a side door. He had seen everything that he needed to see.

The following afternoon, Ray was back in the museum, wearing the same clothes as on the previous day. He had a plan in his mind, and in a duffel bag over his shoulder he had the equipment he needed to do the job. The plan was that, having confirmed that the gold coins were in the case, he would hide on the first floor until after the museum closed. The first floor had once been used for exhibitions, but now the connected rooms were empty. A watchful person could hide up there easily if nobody was even looking for them. Then, when the curator was alone, he would pay her a visit. She would give him the coins, then he would leave her bound and gagged and make his way home. Once he was safely out of the area, he would phone the Wheatsheaf pub, round the corner from the museum. He would tell them to alert the police and the robbery victim would be freed.

As he walked over the display, he was irritated to see that the cabinet still only held the silver coins. He had to rethink. There was still the option to quietly leave and abandon the job. He couldn't very well seek out the curator and ask her about them. That would definitely make her remember him. But suddenly, fate made the decision for him. The lady in question walked into the gallery and came over to him. Her perfume preceded her. Today she wore a mustard-yellow suit, a bolero jacket open at the front over a knee-length skirt. Under the jacket she wore a cream coloured high necked blouse, the collar fastened with an oval amber-coloured brooch. An abundance of ruffles decorated the front of the blouse on both sides of the buttons. Glancing at her hand as she pointed to the display case, he saw that she wore cufflinks that matched her brooch. Like yesterday, she wore high heels, this time in the same shade of mustard yellow as her suit. Businesslike, but not as dowdy as you would expect from a museum curator, he thought, but then remembered he hadn't been in a museum for years. Maybe they had changed.

"I saw you come in. I thought I'd better explain about the gold coins. The work got delayed and they won't be here till later, I'm afraid. A courier's bringing them but not till after we close. I'm sorry, you've had a wasted journey because of what I told you yesterday".

Ray returned her smile. "Not at all. I didn’t have time to look at everything yesterday. There's lots of interesting things to see here apart from coins".

"It's nice of you to say so" she said, with a self satisfied smile as if it was her own museum. Then to his surprise, she looked him in the eye again and said "if there's anything else you want to know about, don't hesitate to ask". Then she turned and walked back the way she came, presumably to her office. He hadn't been remotely flirtatious, far from it, he was trying to be forgettable. But his false persona, in  the kind of clothes he never usually wore, had obviously made a good impression on her. Oh well, these clothes would be back in some charity shop by this time tomorrow. So after nonchalantly wandering around the museum, he went up to the top floor and lurked in the empty room nearest the staircase, where he would hear anybody approaching.

By about 5.20 he had observed all  four staff members leaving, which meant that he could put his plan into operation. The fragrant Pauline would have to be captured and silenced, leaving him free to meet the courier and sign for the delivery. His clothes were passably like those a curator might wear, he thought.

Ray peered through the small window in the door , just above the plate that said "CURATOR, NO ADMITTANCE". She sat at her desk with her back to him apparently doing a crossword in a magazine while she waited for the courier, He had to move fast now, get her trussed up before the courier arrived. It could be some beefy bloke who would spoil everything. Ray slipped the plastic Ronald Reagan mask on and burst through the door.

 "Face down on the floor, quick!" he yelled. "Do it now and we won't hurt you. Get down I said". Pauline jumped out of her chair in a panic, glanced at him in horror and dropped to her knees on the floor, then lay face down. "Don't look at us" Ray yelled.  "Where are the others?"

"What others? I'm on my own, they've gone home." She turned her face his way. "Please don't hurt me, I'll do whatever you say".

"I said don't look, or I'll put a bag over your head" He didn't shout this time. He didn't need to. She looked away hastily. "You check upstairs, Benny" he shouted. Nothing like misleading the witness. He tipped the contents of the duffel bag on the floor next to her and selected one of the shorter lengths of gauze bandage. It was essential to get her tied and gagged in a basic way very quickly because the courier could arrive at any time and come to her rescue. She muttered "Oh no, please don't, you don't need to tie me up"  as he pulled her hands behind her back and crossed them in the small of her back.  

“What do you want?” she asked as he swiftly passed the fabric around her wrists and pulled it tightly, making her wince as they were forced together.  Ray said nothing as he passed the bandage around and between them, pulling tighter with each turn.  Giving one last tug , he knotted the ends together and picked up another length, this one having a knot in the middle. "What's your name?" he asked. This never fails, he thought. It didn't this time. She turned her head to the left and opened her mouth to answer, and as he had done on many similar occasions, he stuffed the knot into her mouth. Ignoring her squeals of protest, he pulled the ends together and knotted them tightly at the back of her head. She looked round at him, eyes wide. "Whnnd fnnk wrrngh ddmmpph" she spluttered behind the gag. She was trying to draw her knees up, as if to get up. Putting one hand in the small of her back, he pressed her down again and with the other hands gave her a hard slap on her bottom. "Shut up and keep still unless you want a lot more of that" he said in the most threatening voice he could summon up. Giving her a spanking could soon become part of the plan, but not before he had all the coins. She stared accusingly at him. "Don't look at me" he said "Bag over your head, remember". She quickly turned away again. "Good girl" he said. Remember who's got the upper hand here". He smacked her bottom again. "Now don't struggle while I fix you up properly".

Taking one of the longest pieces, he folded it in half and placing the middle at the back of her neck, then fed one end under her left arm from the front, then pulled the end through to the back. After repeating the process with the other end of the fabric, he passed each end round the opposite arm behind her back, continuing to wind it around her upper arms until it was nearly all used up. At this point he knotted it between her shoulder blades with two feet to spare at each end. Pulling her bound wrists upwards he passed the two ends round them twice and knotted them securely. "You needn't bother trying to get out of this" he said jovially,  forgetting to be threatening now that she was secured."Nearly finished". After using one end of another longish piece of bandage to bind her feet together, he pulled them up behind her at a right angle, then looped the end of it through the piece at the back of her neck and knotted it tightly. He looked at his handiwork. The hogtie wasn't painfully strict, but it was effective enough to stop her moving around much. Once she was blindfolded he could await the courier. "You can look round now" he said. She turned her face to look directly at him.

There was something appealing about her wide-eyed expression over the gag. He had a shorter bandage in his hand ready to blindfold her, but first he couldn't resist winding her up. "When I've got the stuff, before I go, I'm going to spank you. Properly, mind you, skirt up and knickers pulled down. Something for you to look forward to! I'm certainly going to enjoy it." Her expression changed to one of desperation, she looked about to burst into tears, then came indignation as the cloth was placed over her eyes and tied at the back of her neck.

Trying not to dwell on the idea of spanking her, Ray sat in Pauline's swivel chair and took off his mask. Then it occurred to him that he should collect up his equipment. If things went wrong and he had to flee, it wouldn't do to leave belongings behind with his prints on them. So the mask and the small amount of remaining bandage went back in the duffel bag, with the as yet unused replica gun. He thought about the imminent arrival of the gold coins. No doubt he would have to sign for them. He would sign as P. Ashcroft, Curator, and then be clean away.

Suddenly a bell rang somewhere outside the office. A red light was flashing on one of two telephones on Pauline's desk. Ray put it to his ear. "Hello" he said in an officious tone. 

"Hello. Three Counties Courier Service, I've got your delivery". It was a female voice, much to his relief.

"I'll be right there" he said. He didn't take the bag with the gun, because now there seemed less chance of things going wrong. He'd just sign for the delivery, the courier would leave and that would be that, job done.

The courier was an attractive brunette, almost as tall as he was, a full-figured lady who looked as if she might have some Spanish ancestry. She wore a company uniform consisting of a light blue shirt with a dark blue tie and a dark blue knee length skirt, with dark tights and black lace-up shoes. Over the shirt she wore a dark blue fleece, zipped up at the front with a badge pinned to the breast pocket, which identified her as Lauren Harper of Three Counties Courier Service. She was holding a small black case, like a miniature suitcase, in one hand and a clipboard in the other. "I'll need a signature" she said.

"No problem. Got a pen?" he asked, reaching for the clipboard. To his surprise she moved backwards.

 "No, I'll need the curator's signature". She pointed to the paper on the clipboard. "P.Ashcroft"

He considered pretending to be P.Ashcroft, but had second thoughts. She might have met Pauline before, and this would expose him as an impostor, and his gun and bag were back in the office. Sometimes Ray thought up excuses so quickly that he even surprised himself. "She's not feeling well at the moment. Having a lie down after taking a tablet. I'll see if she'll come through. Back in a moment". She looked impatient but he ignored this as he turned and went back into the museum.  Think, think, he told himself. She's not going to let me have them, there's only one thing for it. Back to the office, get the replica gun, but there's not much bandage left. But back in the office, as he picked up the bag, he caught sight of something in Pauline's desk. A bunch of keys lay in a blue plastic dish at the back of the desk. He had just passed a door marked "Staff Only" in the corridor. Pauline wriggled helplessly on the floor as he stepped past her. "Only me" he said cheerfully. "Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about your spanking." He smiled as she squirmed ineffectually and muttered unintelligibly. After removing the replica gun he slung the bag over his shoulder and went back to the "staff only" cupboard. He unlocked it and looked inside. In his line of work it was always useful to find the cleaners closet. Many times he had hidden in them waiting for a shop to close, and many times he had left a bound and gagged female employee in a closet like this. Ray never targeted premises where there was a man, there would be too much chance that he could not control the situation. The closet was home to a vacuum cleaner, some buckets, mops and stepladders, and the shelves held several bottles of cleaning products. And scissors, and a roll of silver adhesive tape, just what he needed, but there wasn't much tape left. A few feet if he was lucky. He found the end of the tape and pulled a few inches loose, then, gun behind his back, returned to the outer door.

Lauren Harper's face bore a querulous expression. "I should make a phone call. Can I use the one inside?" He could see she smelt a rat.

"Sure, come in". He said. Get her inside first. He stood aside to let her pass, then shut the door and barked "Against the wall, now. I've got a gun. You want to live, do as I say. Hands on your head".

He expected her to react like Pauline, but she was surprisingly calm. As she obeyed his commands she said slowly "I'm doing it, just stay calm. Don't panic. I suppose you want the case. You can have it. As she faced the wall she carefully stood the case on the floor. "The key's in my jacket pocket".

"Pass it back to me and remember the gun" he barked. Sounding angry  usually worked. But she didn't try anything, just gave him the key and put her hand on her head. "Now, put your hands up the sleeves of the fleece, behind you. Come on, do it". He wasn't sure how much tape was on the reel, so this would help. He watched as she felt behind her, pushing each hand inside the elasticised wristband of the opposite sleeve, then pushed them in as far as possible. Now as she stood with arms folded behind her back, he had time to immobilise her properly. He wound the loose end of tape round her upper left arm just above the elbow, pulled it across to her left arm and did the same again before cutting it. He felt her flexing her arms furtively against the tape, hoping for some freedom of movement. "Don't bother" he said. "We're not done yet" His hand on her shoulder he ushered her roughly into the closet. She looked round, her dark eyes widening.

"No!" she said loudly. Don't shut me up in the dark, please".   

"OK, no dark. I'll leave the light on. Now I'll finish the job. No trouble, remember the gun”. He looked round and took hold of a short, wide stepladder, opening it out. The top step was wide enough for Lauren's generous bottom. "Sit there". With a hand on her shoulder, he helped her to sit down, then taking hold of the shoulders of her fleece, he pulled it down over her arms so that the garment itself acted as a way of pinning her arms more firmly. Next he pulled a two-foot long strip of tape from the reel and stuck the end loosely to the wall. She looked at it and rolled her eyes, realising its purpose.

Now he wound the remaining tape as tight as possible round her body, pinning her arms to her sides, above and below her breasts five times before it ran out. As he took the strip of tape from the wall, she turned to him and said "Please leave the light on like you said you would, I couldn’t bear being left shut up in the dark".

"OK. I'm a man of my word" said Ray. He wasn't, but he was getting aroused by being close to her and saw no need to upset her. She was after all being very stoical about being tied up. She wasn't begging not to be bound. Perhaps it happened a lot to couriers. "Look, I'll be honest with you. I could gag you or I could tie your feet, but either way I'm going to lock you in here. I'm going to call the police an hour after I leave, and they'll let you out. So there's no point in shouting yourself hoarse. Nobody will hear anyway. You choose, feet or gag".

She quickly said "tie my feet then, as I've got a choice".  She suddenly looked up at him with a worried frown “Where’s Pauline then? Please tell me you haven't hurt her"

Ray laughed "No, but you could say she's a bit tied up at the moment. Tied up at the office, can't talk to you at the moment, you get the idea. My mate B--, my mate is looking after her". The fictitious Benny would probably cause some waste of police time, he thought.

His captive looked puzzled. "So why is she gagged but I'm not going to be?"

"She told me you were coming with the coins, so she had to be bound and gagged, or she would have warned you. But now I've caught you and got the coins, it's less important now. Like I said, nobody will hear you. But we'll just get you sat on the floor so I can do your feet". He took her by the shoulder and helped her to stand. "Now get yourself sat on the floor. I'll make sure you don't fall over". She was being very compliant, he thought, probably grateful that she wasn't going to have her mouth taped up. Soon she was seated on the wooden floor, her knees drawn up while Ray wrapped the tape round her legs at the ankles and knees. He looked her over. She was bound securely enough, but he hadn't hogtied her. On the one hand there was no need because she was going to be locked in, but on the other hand, he liked to see his women prisoners hogtied, and he had time to do it. That way they wouldn’t be squirming across the floor to the window. And of course they looked good that way. What the hell, he thought, let's do it.

"Nearly finished" he said, taking her by the shoulders and lowering her to the floor on her side.

As he turned her over onto her stomach she said "What are you doing now? I thought you had finished". She sounded worried.

As her passed the end of the tape around her forearms, folded behind her back each trapped inside the opposite sleeve, then pulled her taped feet up toward her bottom, he explained "It's what happens when you tie someone up in a robbery, when you do it properly. Don't suppose you've been tied up and robbed or you'd know".

"As it happens I have. They just tied our hands and feet, but we couldn't get loose. They didn't do that" as he wound the other end of the tape round her ankles.

"Did they do this?" Ray delivered a hard slap to her bottom.

"Owww, no" she shouted. "Don't you dare" Then as she remembered who had the upper hand" Sorry, I didn't mean to shout. No they didn't smack me"

"They don't know what they're missing". He gave her upturned buttocks another slap and got to his feet. "I'm going to lock you in now but I'll be around. If you start shouting I'll come back, I'll tape your mouth up and I'll give you a good spanking. Got it?"

"Yes" she said sullenly as he closed the door. Business before pleasure, at least on this occasion, he thought. Once outside he removed the coins from the unlocked case, in their red trays. He didn't want to take the case or the trays but there was nothing out here in the corridor to wrap them in. He decided to distribute them around the pockets of the blazer he was wearing.

As he walked away along the deserted street he felt conscious of the way the jacket was weighted down, but there was nobody to notice. !00% successful so far, he congratulated himself.

 

********

 

By the following evening, Ray wasn't feeling so confident about the venture. He had purchased some newspapers to see if there was coverage of his exploits and found to his dismay that he had hit the headlines in a big way. All of the papers had detailed accounts of the robbery with, two of them carrying interviews with Pauline in which she described being threatened and tied up by two men, one of them named Benny. The police were sure that the theft had been commissioned by a wealthy collector. The estimated value of the haul varied from £20,000 to £100,000, depending which paper you read. It wouldn't be wise to try selling the coins just yet, that much was obvious. But the trouble was, his cash float was too small for his liking and needed to be topped up.

The next day he bought a monthly magazine  about coin and medal collecting, hoping to find a solution to his problem. He learned two useful things from the book. A collector’s fair was advertised in a large town twenty miles away, and many coin dealers would be present there. The trouble was that it was four weeks away, and his money would run out before then. The other useful fact was that gold sovereigns were in great demand, the magazine was full of wanted adverts from potential buyers. That reminded him that he had seen a notice offering cash for gold in the window of a local antique shop.

To buy gold, he reasoned that meant there would be large amounts of cash on the premises, at least while it was open. Something to think about. He wasn't thinking about his local shops though. Another town he knew of not too far away had three antique centres and the chances were that they were advertising for gold. Three days later Ray was there, standing at the counter of the one he thought was most suitable. It called itself an Antiques and Collectors Centre, but its stock was much more slanted towards collectors than antiques. Under the glass counter there were trays of coins and medals and around the shop there were old model trains, Victorian books, all manner of old things. On the wall there were old maps and photographs in frames, along with eye-catching notices offering cash for things. He guessed that whenever they bought in anything of real value, they immediately sold it on to a bigger dealer.

Country and Western music played continuously on a cassette deck. The owners or staff were a man in his fifties and a blonde woman in her mid twenties. The man wore a brown leather bomber jacket over a white t-shirt and black jeans. Looking at his hairstyle Ray suppressed a smile as he thought that the man must have been watching too much Lovejoy. The girl, a pleasantly plump blonde, he noticed with approval, reminded him of somebody as well. He couldn't think who. Her hair was pinned up at the back with a fringe at the front. She was obviously the country music fan, dressed in a red and white gingham shirt open at the neck with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, a blue denim skirt over brown knee length suede boots.

"How many sovs have you got?" the man asked. "What king's on them?"

"There's thirty seven, Victoria and Edward the seventh mostly"

"I say sixty quid each, but I'd have to see them" said the Lovejoy lookalike. He made a thumbs-up gesture to the woman which he erroneously thought Ray hadn't seen.

Obviously they were going to swindle him but it didn't much matter, Ray alone knew who was the spider and who was the fly here.  "Sounds good, when shall I bring them? Can't do it today I'm afraid".

"Tomorrow afternoon" said Lovejoy. The phone on the counter rang and the blonde woman picked it up "Hello" she said without giving a name. Ray heard a voice ask for Don. She handed to phone over. "Your  medal man" she said dismissively. The man stood , his back to Ray conducting a monosyllabic conversation. Then he said "OK, Star and Garter at one. See you there".

He turned to Ray. "Look, can you get here in the morning?"

"Not sure. Afternoon's best"

"Oh, afternoon then.  I'll be away early in the afternoon. My daughter can deal with it, can't you, Cherry" he smiled patronisingly at the girl. She scowled at him, at which he said "it'll be ok. You won't be on your own more than an hour. This gent won't rob you, will you? He'll be too happy with the money for his sovs, and we know what he looks like". He grinned at Ray conspiratorially, as if to say "women, eh".

"Make sure it's not all afternoon like last time then. It's not fair on me, is it, you know I don't like being on my own here" she said grudgingly. 

At this point Ray realised who it was that she reminded him of. It was that girl in East Enders, was her name Sharon? He thought the actress was named Letitia something. Yes, this girl was quite like her, a bit plumper perhaps. And tomorrow he would be doing a deal with her.               

The following afternoon at one o'clock Ray walked through the shop door, having observed the Lovejoy lookalike driving away ten minutes earlier. He was carrying the same duffel bag he had used at the museum, and he was well provisioned with the equipment needed for the task in hand. Sometimes in the past unforeseen circumstances meant he had found himself with not enough material to restrain his captives. That wouldn't happen today though. A freshly bought roll of 8mm cord, 30 metres of it, was inside the bag with a Stanley knife, some lengths of gauze bandage and the trusty replica gun. There should be about three grand in the shop with a bit of luck. It was more risky than taking it from an empty shop, but he could easily deal with Cherry. He was quite looking forward to that aspect of it, too.

She recognised him as soon as he opened the door and greeted him with a smile. "Mr Punctual" she said, and got to her feet. "I'll close up, so we don't get interrupted". She crossed to the door locked and turned the Open sign round to read Closed from the outside.

She was dressed in western style again. She wore a light blue chambray shirt with silver tips at the collar points, buttoned at the neck, with a black bootlace tie, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. Her tight pale blue jeans were fastened at the waist with a wide brown leather belt with a big silver buckle, and tucked into the same suede boots that she had worn yesterday. Today her hair wasn't pinned up, it was parted on one side in a style that reminded him of Marilyn Monroe. He couldn't help noticing that the shirt and the jeans were quite tight fitting, almost as if Cherry had gained a pound or two since buying them.

As she walked back to the end of the counter Ray pulled the replica gun from his bag and said sharply "Go through the door. I'm right behind you" She stopped in her tracks and turned as he knew she would, her mouth dropped open in dismay. "Don't speak, just obey and you won't get hurt. I don't want to hurt you and you don't want to get hurt, do you? I just want money, that’s all and you're going to give me it. Got all that?"  

She stood silently for a moment, then said "OK, you want the money I was going to give you for the sovereigns, I suppose. Well, you know it's here, and I'm not getting hurt protecting his money. No way Jose."

"Good girl" Ray said, "but go through there, and remember the gun". He caught her up and closed the door to the shop behind him.

They were in a dingy back room which was about the same size as the shop area, with a sink and drainer at one end, a frosted glass window above it. There were two cheap kitchen chairs and a matching table that looked as if they had been there since the fifties, and a three-seater sofa with threadbare arms. And on the floor, against the wall next to the sink, sat the most interesting item in the room, a safe. It was about thirty inches tall by eighteen wide, and he could see it had a keyhole. Ray knew this kind of safe, its strength was its weight. You needed several men, planks and crowbars to move one of these. But if you had the key, you were all right.

"Got the key to it?" he asked Cherry.

"On the window ledge. The money's inside. It's not locked" she glanced that way hesitantly. Sensing his surprise at the lack of security, she said "No point locking it and hiding the key while we're here, is there?"

"None at all" said Ray. "You are being so helpful, but I can't take the chance on you not raising the alarm once I've gone, can I?"

He pulled some of the green cord form the bag and dropped it on the table

Cherry looked at it, took a deep breath, looked disappointed, but not as frightened as he had feared she might. "Why not just take the money and run away. You could lock me in here, take the key with you, the phone is out there where I couldn't get at it "

"I could, but that's not the way I work" said Ray patiently

Cherry shook her head and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "No, I can see how you work, I'm going to be tied up, aren't I?"

"She understands at last. But you can help me. Start by sitting on the sofa" He cut two lengths of the cord and handed one to her.

"You can do the first bit of tying up, while I keep an eye on you. That way I won't get taken by surprise. Tie your feet first".

Under his watchful eye, Cherry wound the cord four times around her booted ankles before knotting it, then did the same to her legs just above her knees. She hadn't pulled it very tight, but he had expected that. Once he was sure she couldn't jump up and run, he knelt by her and used the loose ends to tie a cinch between her legs in both places. She winced and screwed her face up as he did this. "Can't have you coming undone, can we". He was suddenly aware of her perfume, and once he had noticed it, it seemed to follow him wherever he went. He stepped over to the safe and turned the handle, pulling it open. Leaning, he could see that inside there was a bundle of twenty pound notes. He took it out and held it between his thumb and fingers. "How much?” he said.

"Twenty-seven hundred. Enough for you, and who knows, someone else could bring some gold in". Then playing one more card, she said hopefully "It'll take me ages to pick that loose. If you lock me in you'll have half an hour before I get out. It'll serve him right, leaving me on my own here. He's done it once too often".

"Too true he has" Ray grinned."I can tell you aren't pleased with him. Going to give him a piece of your mind when you see him".

"That's a fact" she said.  As she spoke she noticed him taking more cord from the bag and placing it on the table. Her expression changed to one of dismay she realised she was going to be tied up a bit more before he was finished. He moved towards her. "Oh no, not more tying up! D'you have to?"

"Sure do. Put your hands behind your back please" She glanced up at him as he stood beside her. She hesitated. There was no point in pleading or resisting. He took her hands and forced them together behind her back, her wrists crossed. She winced as the cord was passed round them twice, knotted, passed round some more and knotted again. He stepped back and examined his work. Nice, he thought, but not finished yet. He tipped the rest of the bag's content's on the table. Her face was a picture, he thought as she saw the bandages and the remaining cord, and realised that it was all for her.

He cut the cord, then taking one long piece, draped it around her neck from behind and passed it under each arm at the front, round the back, then round Cherry’s arms and chest below her breasts, pulling her arms to her sides  Pulling the ends of the cord through the loops behind her back, he wrapped it around several more times, both above and below her breasts, before knotting it  between her shoulder blades and passing the ends round her bound wrists. A final pull, a final piece of knotting and her bound wrists had been pulled up so that they were attached close to the ropes round her arms. "How's that? he asked.

Cherry tried tentatively to move her hands and arms. She could flutter her fingers but not much more."You're overdoing it, aren't you. Do I really have to be trussed up like this, I mean, I'll never get free on my own, will I?" She glanced downwards. Yes, her breasts were being pushed forward. Their eyes met, Ray was noticing it too. She started blushing."This might be fun for you but it's not nice for me. I don't know what you're thinking about doing" she said. She was starting to sound tearful, just for a moment.

"I'm thinking it, but I'm not going to do it, so you needn't worry. You can take it all out on Don, can't you. I'm only here because I knew you'd be on your own with the money". She glared at him, but she had regained her composure.  Noticing that her handbag was open on the floor by the corner of the table, he peered in and saw a handkerchief inside. He pulled it out and folded it, taking one of his lengths of bandage at the same time.

A look of desperation crossed her face."I don't want to be gagged. You don't need to gag me. Please!" she pleaded, but she didn't sound hopeful.

"Look, get used to it. It won't be so bad, it's what happens in robberies. Bound and gagged, you read it all the time in the papers, don't you. You'll be dining out on this story next week. Now open up!"

She gave him a contemptuous look then opened her mouth. Ray pushed the handkerchief into her mouth then wound the bandage several times round her lower face before knotting it at the back of her neck. She had a look of resignation on her face which changed to concern and anger as she saw him taking another length of bandage, and pulled her head away as he moved to tie it over her eyes.

As he passed it round her head twice and knotted it, he said "Don't fight me. What's the point, it's too late for that" He hadn't finished binding her yet, but she didn't know that. There was plenty of cord left, and from what he had heard about Don, he wouldn't hurry back. Lots of time for Cherry to be packaged even more thoroughly than she was. With the rest of the cord he sat on the sofa beside her. First he passed the end of one long piece through the buckle of her belt, then taking the two ends, forced them between her thighs. Before she could move, he took her by the shoulders and pulled her sideways so that she was face down, over his knee.

He drew the cords through, pulled them up tight to her bound wrists and wound them round before knotting them. Cherry wriggled and squealed as he did this, making the cords pull even tighter.

 

The temptation was too much for Ray. It wasn't every day that he had a pleasantly plump, bound, gagged and blindfolded woman over his knee. "Bad girl" he said sternly. He gave her a smack across her buttocks, while holding her down with a hand in the middle of her back. She struggled briefly but stopped when he said "I could give you a good spanking, you know. You wouldn't like that, would you?" Cherry squeaked and grunted desperately but unintelligibly. Definitely in the negative, he thought. But no matter.

"Was that a yes? Oh, all right then, if you insist, just a little one, I haven't got all day. Six of the best it will be". So saying he gave a moderately hard smack on her left buttock then another on the right. "I did mean six on each cheek" he said. She was lying quite stiff and tense across his lap, and the smell of her perfume now contained a hint of perspiration as well. Was she enjoying it, he wondered. Was Cherry one of those ladies who considered a spanking to be a treat rather than a punishment?

Having spanked her bottom to his satisfaction, or rather to the point where there was a real risk he would want to take things to a logical conclusion, he lifted her back into a sitting position on the sofa. May as well use up all of the green cord, he didn't want to be caught with it. He had another idea about how to use it up. He passed an end through her belt buckle again and pushed the two lengths between her thighs. Just one little treat, he grasped her breasts from behind simultaneously and held them gently, squeezing and relaxing a few times. To his surprise, though her body tensed, she didn't flinch or shrink away from him, he wished he could see her expression behind her gag and blindfold. But he couldn't stay all afternoon.

He repositioned Cherry so that she lay face down on the sofa, then set about applying the final touches to her restraints. He took the last piece of cord, bound it round her ankles and pulled them back as close as possible towards her bound arms, then tied the ends to the mass of knots between her shoulder blades. For the final touch he took the loose ends of what was going to be her second crotch rope, that he had passed through between her thighs, pulled them tight and wound them round and round her bound feet, knotting them when the cord was all used up.

"However you move, you'll get a nice feeling" he said."So have a nice afternoon, it was nice meeting you". A final smack on her bottom and he rose to his feet. He checked the safe and the shop for more cash and found there was none, although there were some sovereigns. A warning note sounded in his head. He didn't need more coins, cash was what he needed. He took what cash there was from the draw in the counter. Taking a last look back, he noticed Cherry tentatively moving her hands and jerking her bound feet backwards. Was she starting to make the most of her enforced idleness?  He would like to be a fly on the wall when Don got back. Leaving the shop he felt a double sense of satisfaction; he was all right for a few days now though, at least he was covered beyond the date of that collectors fair, and he had had an enjoyable meeting with Cherry. Maybe he would pay her another visit after a few months, and see if the shop security had improved at all.

Ray expected to find an account of the robbery in the local press, but nothing appeared. His exploits usually got a write-up, and he kept the cuttings from the newspaper, along with those about other robberies. Now and again the crime wasn't mentioned, and that meant that it had not been reported to the police. He could always guess why not. It was always little businesses like Don's shop. Not very well stocked, but always ready for a cash deal. A deal that the taxman would never know about. The cash he had stolen was cash that didn't exist on paper. The police couldn't know, that would involve the risk of exposure to the vatman and the taxman, so Cherry's afternoon in bondage would go unavenged. Of course he didn't feel any pangs of conscience, they had been happy enough to swindle him if he had been a genuine seller

********

 

The Antique and Collectors Fair was held over a weekend in a "Chain" hotel, and was advertised as having over 150 dealers present. About right, Ray thought after having walked round it, talking to dealers and deciding which one he should try to sell the coins to. He had one of the gold coins with him and showed it to those he thought might be buyers. They all had signs saying "Coins Purchased" or words to that effect. But two had said they didn't deal in ancient coins, one didn't want anything that expensive, and he was standing at a neat-looking stall which belonged to an attractive middle-aged blonde woman. She wore a thick-knit crimson turtle-neck jumper that she filled out very nicely, he couldn't help noticing, over a chocolate brown midi-length skirt, and brown leather boots. Her highlighted hair was back brushed in a short beehive style, and her hazel eyes looked at him over crimson-framed glasses, not quite Edna Everage, but probably the most flamboyant pair in the room. He was pleased to see that she too was pleasantly plump. Like all the dealers in the room, she wore a laminated name badge pinned to her jumper. "Peggy Reed Collectables" it read. Peggy was thinking fast after having examined the Celtic specimen.

"Do you have any others like this? I mean, is it from a hoard, like a detector find?" then adding "and you want to sell?"

She seemed keen at least, he thought. "It is. I've got more, some gold, some silver. I don't have a bank account, so it must be cash. Are you seriously interested?"

"Yes, I want to buy this sort of item. I have customers waiting". She spoke in a mixture of Estuary English and more middle-class tones, she obviously adjusted her speech to her audience. "Look" she said. "Don't mention this to anyone in here, 'cause I'm a serious buyer. How many have you got?"

"Ninety or thereabouts. Not with me now of course"

"Of course" she said. "It's a two-day fair, can you bring them here at nine tomorrow morning. The fair opens at ten so we can do the deal without these folks seeing. I'll have the cash, could be talking about twenty grand, cash. Come to reception and ask for me". She gestured to her badge."What's your name, by the way?"

"Terry Raymond" he lied. Just the way I hoped it would be, he thought. "Fine. I'll be here at nine then. It's a deal". He reached out and shook her hand, in the manner of someone not used to this sort of thing.

 

Twenty miles away, three hours later, Ray was formulating a plan. He was pretty certain that Peggy had guessed the coins were stolen, maybe even where from, but she obviously didn't care. She thought she could make money out of them. She thought she was very clever, probably had something up her sleeve. It would be On arriving home, he had used a phone box to call the hotel. "Can I speak to Peggy Reed, please" he asked. The receptionist put him on hold, then returned two minutes later.

"She's not in her room at the moment. No reply. Can I tell her who called?"

"No, I'll catch her later. Thanks for trying though". So she was staying at the hotel. Good. That probably meant she would want to buy the coins in her hotel room, which meant she could be captured, silenced and relieved of her cash without fear of interruption. But she would probably be missed if she wasn't at her stall when the fair opened, so he wouldn't have more than an hour to do it and get clear away. So, an early start the next morning then.

The following morning at 8.30, Ray was drinking coffee in a cafe not far from the hotel, all the equipment he needed in his sports bag. That was the replica gun, a roll of silver duct tape and a craft knife. And two six-inch strips of tape were pressed loosely against the inside of the bag, for fast action if necessary. He only had one of the coins in his pocket, the others were still in their case in a lock-up garage that Ray rented. He had decided overnight that as Peggy Reed was probably going to be carrying  a few thousand pounds, she and her money would be the prime target. Those coins were starting to weigh on his mind, he didn't care to think about what would happen if he was caught with them. Having just one of them was ok, if caught he'd say he found it in the road.

Half an hour later he stood at the reception desk, enjoying a few moments in the company of the receptionist, who was standing in front of her desk. She was a plump friendly woman in her late twenties with spiky black hair, large brown eyes and a button nose, looking crisply efficient in the uniform of the hotel chain. A plastic badge, pinned to the breast pocket of her white shirt, identified her as Sophie Brooks, Reception. A crimson pussycat bow at the buttoned collar of her shirt and a gored crimson skirt that stopped three inches above the knee, with black patent leather high heeled shoes completed her uniform. He had to make a real effort not to stare at her bust as he spoke to her. She was probably eligible for the next size up in shirts, he thought. She was exactly the kind of woman he liked to tie up in the course of his crimes, but it wasn't going to happen today as far as he could see. "I've been asked to meet Peggy Reed here at nine" he said. She smiled as if she had been expecting him.

"Mr Raymond. She said you'd be here. I'll give her a call".

A quick phone call and Peggy Reed appeared, coming down the staircase to his right. She looked him up and down with a querulous expression, almost as if she had never seen him before. Then she smiled in recognition and said "Good morning, Mr Raymond" in an effusive tone. "Got your collection with you I see", glancing at his bag. If only you knew, he thought. She nodded at the receptionist then looking at Ray, said "Come with me. We'll do the valuation in private" She sounded as if she was trying to impress him or the receptionist with her professionalism. She turned and headed back to the stairs, looking over her shoulder to summon him along. He noticed that today her glasses had royal blue frames. She was wearing a pale blue and white striped shirt, the  crisp white collar buttoned and the doubled white cuffs fastened with silver links. At her waist a blue leather belt fastened a blue-grey corduroy midi-length skirt that came below the top of her black leather boots. That was obviously a look that she liked. As he ascended the stairs behind her he couldn't help noticing and admiring her well-upholstered bottom. At the landing  she turned suddenly and said "Just in here. My room". She turned a key in the door of a the first room. "Come in and shut the door. Have a seat".

Ray sat down in a chair by the window, one of two in the room. Peggy positioned herself on the end of the bed. "My husband's at another fair, but I spoke to him on the phone about your coins". She had dropped the pretence of friendliness and her tone seemed almost bullying now. "I'll tell you what we're going to do. We don't want to know where you got the coins so don't bother explaining. We know they're dodgy, but here's the offer. I give you three thousand and we never met before if we're ever asked. You're no more Terry Raymond than I am. Nobody else will buy them, couldn't sell them yesterday, could you. I could have you arrested. So that's it. That's the deal and it's the only choice you've got. " She looked him in the eye truculently.

He suppressed a smile. She had seriously misjudged him. I may be a third division thief, but I'm one step ahead of you, he thought. She and her husband were sleazy fast-buck merchants who had no more scruples than he had. Perfectly happy to buy stolen goods, even something historically important, so long as they made money. "So let's have a look at what’s in the bag" she said impatiently. Ray unzipped the bag and placed his hand around the replica gun.

Pulling the gun out with a flourish, he said in a soft menacing tone that he had practiced" Don't do anything, don't say anything or your brains will be all over that wall" Ray had recently seen the film "Goodfellas" and Joe Pesci's screen persona had made an impression on him. "This is what happens. I take the money, you do what I say. I only got one coin, found it outside a museum".

She recoiled and raised her hands to her mouth, looked flustered but quickly regained her confidence. "You better clear off quick. If I don't call the receptionist at half past, she's going to come up and see why not"

He thought quickly. If it was true he would have two choices: leave quickly without attracting attention after dealing with Peggy, or wait and deal with the receptionist as well. That curvaceous receptionist. She could come back at any time. He'd better keep an eye on the time. "Thanks for that bit of information" he said. Her look said it all, she wished she'd said nothing too. But he could see she was about to do something; she suddenly lunged toward the head of the bed, where a telephone sat on a bedside table. Ray was faster though, he jumped forward and grabbed her outstretched hand, and as his momentum forced her down on her side on the bed, he twisted her arm backwards.

At first she squirmed against his grip and shouted "Oww! What the hell are you doing" but froze as he held the gun barrel under her nose. Back in the gangster voice he barked "got a good mind to blow your face right off, right now. Face down, spread your arms, quick if you wanna live".

Peggy's will to resist had vanished. She flattened herself across the bed and stretched her arms out. "OK, calm down, I'm doing what you say. I'm not moving, look. No need for you to turn violent!".

"Keep it that way" Ray growled as he fished in the bag and fished out the two strips of tape and the craft knife, which he waved in her direction. "Turn your face this way, I'm gonna tape you up. It's the knife for you if you try to fight me". Kneeling on the bed beside her he pressed the first strip diagonally over her mouth. She had opened her mouth as if to speak but then gave in, closing her mouth. There was no mistaking the anger in her eyes as he smoothed the second piece down, creating a large X over her lips. Then two more strips just to be certain "Now I'm going to do your hands and then your feet, and you'll keep still while I do it. Right? A lot worse can happen to you than being tied up, got it?"

Peggy grunted her affirmatives enthusiastically. She hated to lose the money but she really didn't want to get hurt, and seeing the blade right under her nose had been the turning point. She lay there fuming but compliant as he held her wrists in a crossed position behind her back and wrapped them tightly with a generous helping of tape, then going from her wrists up to her elbows. Then having cut the tape, he moved from the bed and set about taping her booted ankles with the same thoroughness. He glanced at the electric clock on the wall. He was all right for time from the point of view of the robbery schedule, but there wasn't really any spare time for extra-curricular amusements. Not much of it, anyway. Like Cherry the other day, she had been quite lavish with her perfume, and having once noticed it, he couldn't get it out of his mind.

He gave her a hearty slap on the bottom as he moved her further onto the bed. "I'll just get you fixed up properly before I acquire some assets". Rolling her over onto her back, he lifted her into a sitting position and used the tape to strap her arms tightly to her sides, passing it round her above and below her bust. Her panicky expression told him she expected to have her breasts fondled, and Ray, knowing that she probably wouldn't tell the police the whole truth about the crime, cupped one in each hand briefly before placing her face down again. Did she return his smile slightly or not, it was hard to tell with the tape over her face. He fed some tape through the V made by her bound arms and pulled it down to her taped feet, pulling them up toward her bottom before wrapping the tape round them and taking it back up to her hands. After giving her buttocks another smack, he leaned close to her face. She blushed as she turned her face toward him.  "Can't have you getting eye strain" he said, taking her glasses off and placing them carefully on the bedside table. "Comfortable now? You know you're a lucky woman today. You try to swindle me, you try to buy stolen coins, and you deserve to be punished. If I had the time I'd put you over my knee and pull your knickers down, give you a real good spanking on your bare bum". He watched her expression change as he explained this to her. Her face was a picture, he thought, a picture that he wouldn't forget. Telling her this and seeing her reaction was almost as much of a turn-on for Ray as carrying out the deed would have been. "But I don't have time, because that receptionist is going to be here soon, I'll have to deal with her. Anyway, let's see what you've got".

Turning his attention to Peggy's possessions, he began with a dark green holdall that he saw on the floor by the bed. After peering inside he lifted it onto the bed. Inside it there was a clear plastic bag, and inside that he could see bundles of twenty pound notes, held in rubber bands. Jackpot! he thought! He followed by tipping the contents of her handbag out onto the bed in front of her, and was pleased to find a purse with a further £300 inside. He couldn't help laughing as he watched her frowning in helpless indignation as her possessions were rifled through. Then he spotted a black sleep mask with an elastic strap, and dangled it in front of her face. "Oh, just the thing" he said. "We can't have you being kept awake by these bright lights, can we? Be a good girl and keep still while I put it on. If looks could kill I'd be dead now, wouldn’t I" . She lay there, tense but still, as he fitted the sleep mask over her eyes. "Sweet dreams. You might not see me again".

It was nine-thirty five by the wall clock and Ray had found all of Peggy's cash and had stuffed it inside his own bag. The bundles in the holdall seemed to be the three thousand that she had mentioned, and he had found what could be another thousand in a handbag. There was a black case , the same as the one the Celtic coins had been in, and like that one it was filled with coin trays. No thanks, he said to himself. It's strictly cash in future. He still didn't know what he was going to do with those coins. But for now, he was four thousand quid to the good. And that receptionist had not come knocking at the door. Was she ever going to? Maybe she just wasn't very conscientious, or maybe things had got busy out there. Glancing at Peggy, he thought, she's not going anywhere in a hurry. Time to go, one way or another.

He decided to bluff it out. If he could walk straight out of here without being accosted by her, well, that would be the easiest option. He took the room key from the bedside table and with fingers mentally crossed, sports bag over his shoulder, his hand clutching the gun in his pocket just in case, he walked casually past the reception desk. Sophie Brooks, Reception, was looking flustered, putting some sheets of paper into a rack. He thought she might ignore him, but it was not to be. "S'cuse me Sir, I'll have to see Mrs Reed before you go. Could you wait for just a minute".

"Oh, yes, she said to tell you it's all OK, she's a bit behind time and doesn’t want to be disturbed". Even as he spoke he could tell it wouldn't work. He tightened his grip on the gun.

"No, sorry, she specifically said to go up and speak to her in person"

She would, wouldn't she, thought Ray. Oh well. He didn't like not knowing what was round the corner, but he had to rely on the replica gun fooling her. He desperately hoped nobody else would appear before he got her into the room. He pointed his gun-hand, inside his jacket at her middle. "Got a gun pointing at you, so keep it shut and do as I say. You won't get hurt. If anyone passes us say nothing or I'll shoot them, then you" A bit of a contradiction, he realised, but so what. "We're going to her room, you first".

The woman hurried up the staircase in front of him. He allowed himself to dwell on her well-padded bottom in the crimson skirt, and her legs clad in dark nylon, as they ascended "Tell me she's all right, please say you haven't shot her or anything" she pleaded as they reached the top step.

"She's fine, just that she's a bit tied up at the moment, you could say. Now go in the room, I'm right behind you".

The brunette pushed the door open and stepped inside. As she spotted Peggy trussed, gagged and blindfolded squirming on the bed she realised the implications for her. Her jaw dropped and she lifted her hands to her face as she turned back to him "Oh hell. Oh no. Is that what you're going to do to me?  Is she all right? Are you all right, Mrs Reed?" she asked.

Peggy exploded in a stream of muffled abuse which they roughly translated as "Do I look as if I'm all right".

"Never mind her. But since you ask I'm not going to tie you quite the same. I'm not putting you both on the bed. Turn around and put your hands behind your back,” ordered Ray.

Sophie Brooks looked round the room quickly. There was nothing she could do. She didn't fancy being tied up like the woman on the bed though. how long would they be left here? She looked pleadingly at Ray for a moment, as if she was going to beg him not to tie her up. “Look, you don’t have to tie me up. You could take the phone and lock us in"

"Just shut up and do as I said. It's not up for discussion. Maybe I would be better shooting you!"

That seemed to work. Sophie sighed and turned around, crossing her wrists behind her back. As he began to wrap her wrists with tape, he noticed that there was sufficient tape left, enough to truss Sophie up as thoroughly as Peggy had been. But she wasn't going on the bed, so they could free each other. He didn't dwell on the fact that, bound like they would be, it would actually take them hours to get free. The chair in front of the dressing table would do for her.  He took her  by the arm and made her sit in the narrow-backed wooden chairs. with her arms around the chair back. He passed the tape  passed round her body, just below her sizable breasts and wound it several times round fastening her firmly to the chair back covering her hands so that she wouldn't be able to use her fingers. She sat watching intently as her moved on to her legs, taping them tightly at ankles, then pushing her skirt back to bind her legs above the knee. As a final touch he pulled her ankles over to the left and taped them to the left leg of the chair.

The buxom brown-eyed girl seemed to be accepting of her predicament now as she looked down at the yards of tape around her. He noticed her flexing her muscles against the tape. "Well, I'm not going anywhere in a hurry, am I?" She wasn't exactly smiling but she didn't look too distressed. "Between you and me, I'll probably get given a week's leave because of this, and I could do with it. The work I should have done today, someone else will have to do it". 

"Good, I'm pleased for you" Ray wasn't really, but compliant prisoners were so much easier. Then she said something that caught his interest.

"Have you ever been bound and gagged in a robbery? I bet you haven't. You don't know what it's like. It's happened to me before, here".

"Really. You don't seem too bothered. Calm even. Go on then, what happened?" Might as well hear about how to rob the hotel, he thought.

"Well, I live in a 1 bedroom apartment at the top. Two years ago I was sleeping when at around 3 o'clock in the morning I was woken by a bright light shining in my eyes. A man and a woman were standing over my bed, holding flashlights. I knew them they were booked in as guests. They told me to keep quiet and do as I was told, that they were just here to rob the hotel safe, and that I would not be hurt. I decided to co-operate, but I was terrified. Especially when they pulled out lots of nylon rope, and told me to turn over on my stomach and put my hands behind my back. They then started tying my wrists and ankles together, then bend my knees, tying my wrists to my ankles, so that my fingers actually touched the soles of my feet. Like what you've done to her, only worse. My knees were also bound together. Then they told me I was going to have to be gagged and I almost died of embarrassment right there. They stuffed some cloth in my mouth till it was full, and wrapped duct tape around and around my head to secure it. I was basically unable to move or speak. I honestly was more humiliated than scared. They ended up taking my bank cards as well as robbing the safe. Then they went leaving  me bound and gagged, for five hours, until I finally managed to roll off the bed, and dial 999 with my toes. It was really a frightening, embarrassing thing to happen, and you people just don't care, do you".

"One, it has happened to me. and two, I do care, I haven't hurt either of you, or anyone else in the past for that matter. I'm the gentleman crook, like the Saint".

"What about the gun and the knife?" Sophie replied indignantly

"You haven't actually seen a gun have you? You just believed what I told you. Now you're tied up and it's too late. Now I'm going to have to gag you and be on my way. Nothing stuffed in your mouth though, just some tape to keep you quiet" Her eyes opened wide in alarm at this prospect. "Shh. You don't have a choice. If you make it difficult I'll find something to stuff in your mouth, and I'll tape over your eyes".

She caved in, almost looking tearful for a moment as she glanced in the dressing table mirror at Peggy, who was already blindfolded. "OK, whatever" she said. She sat staring ahead as he smoothed two strips of tape over her mouth in the large X shape, then two more to cover them. "There. You look lovely. You can sit here and look at yourself in the mirror"

"Bye, ladies" he said quietly as he closed the door behind him and locked the door with the key. The key could go in a waste bin in the street once he was outside.

Clear and away, he thought that evening as he enjoyed a drink at home. By now those ladies would be telling their tale at the police station, and he didn't need to think about money for a few weeks. There was just one nagging problem, those Celtic coins in his lock-up. He didn't want to get caught with them. But he would deal with them another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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