WPC DRUMMOND IS HOME ALONE, OR IS SHE?
The person in the attic had watched through the velux window with amused interest as the three police cars arrived, and later departed. The lady of the house went with them and the young woman followed, in her red Corsa.
She was aware that whereas six officers had arrived, only five had left. She had watched them come in, and she had watched them leave. One of the two WPCs, the short-haired brunette, was still here, protecting the crime scene, as they put it. Well, that young lady might need to be dealt with, in order for the search to continue.† It shouldn't be a problem. The advantage of surprise, a little intimidation, then some efficient restraint, and the WPC wouldn't be a problem anymore. But it would need a bit more caution, she wouldn't be quite such a pushover as Mrs Fox had been.
The intruder had it on good authority that there was some valuable jewellery on the premises. As a result of a well-publicised divorce it now belonged to Mrs Phyllis Fox, legally. In reality some of it was in the attic with its new owner now, and she was about to search the house for the rest of it.
The daughter had arrived at the house to find her mother's Rover 75 parked outside, and had rung the doorbell expecting to be let in. After ringing the bell for several minutes, and trying to call her mother on her mobile phone, she was getting worried. Her mother must be indisposed in some way. She rang the police and explained her worries, remembering to mention that her father was on golfing terms with some high-ranking officers. And sure enough, three police cars had arrived† in undue haste.† Once they had forced an entry, the six officers fanned out around the house carefully checking every room. It didn't take them long to find the unfortunate woman.
Mrs Phyllis Fox was an attractive if rather well-upholstered woman in her late fifties, though she wasn't at her best today. She was smartly dressed in a chunky chocolate brown polo-necked jumper and a tan-coloured calf-length corduroy skirt. She was still tearful and her eye make-up and lipstick was smeared all over her face, once her blindfold and gag had been removed. Her short blonde hair was a mess as well. She wasn't going to like what she saw when she looked in the mirror. Her clothing was undisturbed though, apart from the fact that she was wearing no shoes. WPC Harriet Drummond was uncomfortably aware of how the woman must feel, being discovered bound, gagged and blindfolded by complete strangers, having had personal experience of that predicament. She was quite relieved when Mrs Phyllis Fox showed that she was made of sterner stuff, when she began to mutter about what she was going to do to the burglar if they ever met again
When they had found the lady of this house, she was bound with a huge amount of white cord, face down in the middle of a double bed. Her wrists were securely bound behind her, each to the opposite elbow, with her forearms tied together parallel across her back. There were more ropes around the womanís waist and also around her upper arms and chest. And her legs were bound at the ankles and just below the knees, the ropes from her ankles being pulled up and tied to her bound arms. She was gagged with a yellow cloth stuffed into her mouth and held in place by another strip of cloth between her teeth. More of the same cloth had been used to blindfold her. Ordinary yellow dusters, Harriet noted. But the attacker had taken even more precautions than this. Yards of white cord had been passed round the womanís plump body, over and under the bed several times to prevent her moving about on the bed or rolling off it. She was struggling vainly when they walked in, and mumbling unintelligibly behind her gag. Might as well not bother, Harriet thought. Been there, done that.
Harriet realised that she was staring at the woman, and the way she was tied, as two of her colleagues were busy† releasing her . Quite a professional job, she thought. You didn't get free from that sort of binding very easily, or at least WPC Drummond hadn't when she had been captured by criminals.† She listened intently to the woman's story. She was sure somebody must have known what she was doing today and followed her. She had removed some jewellery from her safe deposit at her bank. When she entered the house she went up to her bedroom, and that was where she was attacked. She caught a glimpse of the robber momentarily before a gun was pressed into her back and she was ordered to get on the bed face down and shut her eyes. Then having blindfolded her, the robber had set about trussing her up with distressing efficiency. Strangely, she was sure her assailant was a short middle aged woman, with grey hair and glasses. She had assumed it was a gun. As she said, when a burglar presses something hard in your back and says itís a gun, you believe them.
She had been carrying her jewellery when she went upstairs, so the thief had no need to look for that. By the time the unseen attacker had finished tying her up, Phyllis Fox was well aware that she was going nowhere for quite some time. She had lay there listening in† helpless rage while the person rummaged in the other rooms, and realised that this was no chance burglary. The assailant must know what else was in her house. Then suddenly she heard the sound that was her daughter ringing the doorbell and trying to get in. She heard the intruder run down the stairs and then a door was slammed somewhere at the back of the house. Everything went quiet for a few minutes, then the phone started to ring, then after ten minutes of futile struggle, she heard the police sirens. The robber must have escaped by this time, as they found no sign of him or her, or the jewellery.
Sergeant Eric Forsyth decided at this point that Mrs Fox should be taken back to the police station to receive any necessary medical attention, and to give her statement. And, as the criminal had left the crime scene, there was not much more to be done for the present. A Scene-of-crime officer would come and do his stuff, but until then an officer would have to stay and protect the crime scene. He hoped the robber wouldn't come back, indeed why would they. Anyway they hadn't got the manpower to leave more than one officer here.
Now that she was on her own, Harriet knew that she was in for a boring two hours. As her shift finished in a little over two hours, it wasn't surprising that she had drawn the short straw here. Guard the crime scene! The words that no police constable wanted to hear. Two hours of unutterable boredom, but at least she was indoors. She could have a look round, maybe even turn the television on. A constable standing outside a building always had to field inane questions from passers-by, curious to know what had happened. This wasn't quite like that, the house being at the end of a short drive, but she noticed that the gates were open. She hadn't thought to close them after the team had left. If they were closed, the SOC would have to park to open them, and she would hear them coming. Until then, she could take it easy. She would just close the gates, then go to the kitchen and find a kettle.
Unknown to Harriet, she wasn't alone in the house, and the other occupant was keeping a close watch on her. Up in the attic, the robber heard movement outside and moved over to the window. She watched as the policewoman walked over to the double gates. The sound must have been her opening and closing the front door. She studied the policewoman for a few moments. An attractive brunette, rather full-figured and not very tall by the standards of the police, she didn't look like a formidable adversary, but then she was police, so she would have been trained. She wore a one of those new stab vest things, over a white blouse with neatly rolled-up sleeves, a navy blue skirt and tie. Smartly polished black lace-up shoes completed her outfit. She wasn't wearing a hat, she must have left it indoors somewhere. A pair of handcuffs was fastened to her belt. That would be useful. The intruder had brought plenty of cord, more than she expected to use on Mrs Fox. But she had restrained lots of people in her criminal career, and she knew that the longer a victim was immobilised, the more likely she was to make a successful getaway. The WPC stood at the gates looking out, enjoying the spring sunshine, in no hurry to come back in.† An ideal opportunity to drop the loft ladder down and push it up again without being heard.
Harriet had closed the gates and dropped the metal bar into the hole in the middle of the drive. If she was asked why, she would say it was a precaution against the robber returning. Protecting the crime scene was what she was there for. And when her colleagues came, she would hear them and have time to look busy. Back in the kitchen she had filled the electric kettle and found the coffee. It was a big house, so she decided to have a look round upstairs while the kettle boiled. A late 19th century house with a landing all round at the top of the stairs, and six doors leading off it. She had only been in the one where the bound woman was found, so she headed for the last door on the left. That was when she noticed the small fragments of plaster and grit on the maroon patterned carpet. Right under the trapdoor that no doubt led to the attic. They hadn't looked up there because the ceiling was at least ten feet up, and there was no ladder. Just a metal ring screwed into the trapdoor, but nothing to pull it down with. No chance the burglar was up there, surely.
But Harriet was sure she would have noticed the grit when she came upstairs earlier, or one of her colleagues would. It was noticeable enough. She was beginning to feel uneasy about this. Was she on her own here or not. Looking at the dirt on the floor, she assessed what it could mean. Maybe the burglar had been hiding in the house and had gone to the attic while she was shutting the gates. She liked that idea, it meant that the burglar wanted to stay out of her way. All she needed to do was keep her ears open. But what if the burglar had been in the attic already, and come down while she was out at the gates. Where was he or she† now? Still in the house, no doubt, Harriet would have noticed anyone leaving. What would she do? She decided not to explore the house after all. The burglar could be watching her right now. A burglar with a gun, who was apparently very competent at tying people up. Harriet felt an uneasy jittery feeling in the pit of her stomach as she remembered some past experiences. She decided to retreat downstairs, and stay near the front door, ready to run. But first, she needed the bathroom. She knew that was the first door on the right.
As she stepped toward the bathroom door she remembered a precaution she had planned to take when danger threatened. She was going to lock her handcuffs and conceal the key somewhere, that way she wouldn't find herself locked in them. Ruefully she remembered that last time she got caught by criminals, she had done this, and she had been tied up with ropes instead. But that didn't make it a bad idea. As she opened the door, she reached back and unfastened the handcuffs from her belt.
The bathroom was big and old fashioned, with a bath on one side, and a newly added shower cabinet at the far end of it, opposite the toilet. After locking the door with the brass catch, she put the handcuffs and their key on the tiled window ledge, right next to the flower pot with the wilting plant. Then she lowered the toilet seat, pulled her skirt up, her panties and tights down and sat down on the seat. And that was when she had the fright of her life. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the yellow shower curtain move. As she looked that way she glimpsed a grey-clad figure, mainly hidden by the curtain, and most importantly, what looked like a gun, pointing straight at her. A female voice spoke sharply and firmly, an older voice. "Don't move and don't look. Keep looking straight forward. Do just as I tell you and you won't get hurt. Do you understand that?"
Harriet nodded frantically. Her heart was pounding. The woman said again "I didn't hear you. You understand?"
"I understand. I'll do what you say" Harriet blurted out in a panicky little voice.
"This is a gun and it will make a mess of you. But I don't want to hurt you. I just need to keep you out of my way while I finish my business here"
Harriet realised that as a WPC she should ask what that business was, but she didn't dare. Instead she begged for leniency. "Look, I saw what you did to the lady who lives here. Please don't leave me tied up sitting on the toilet, I really don't want my mates finding me like that. It's bad enough being caught out like this".
"I'm not that cruel" the woman behind the curtain sounded as if she was laughing."Finish what you are doing, put your phone on the floor then stand against that wall, face away from me. Good of you to bring those handcuffs along, by the way".†
Having pulled up her panties and tights and made herself comfortable, her cheeks burning with embarrassment, dropped her phone to the floor, Harriet turned to face the wall. Her heart was still beating fast, but the panic was diminishing. She tried to breathe more calmly. Those damn handcuffs again. She had used them on criminals five times and they had been used on her three times. This would make four.
"First I need you to do something for me. I'm not taking any risks with you, you probably have been trained to defend yourself. You can help me by gagging yourself. I want you to fold this one up and put it in your mouth". Harriet felt a piece of fabric being placed in her hand, one of the same dusters that Mrs Fox had been silenced with. She thought about her options, and decided there were none. Maybe if she complied, her captor wouldn't be too diligent about tying her up, and she would get free before long. And the woman had that gun.
So two minutes later, Harriet had gagged herself effectively, her cheeks bulging with one duster inside her mouth and the other between her teeth, pulled tight and knotted behind her head. "Now take this one" said the woman."Blindfold yourself with it"
This one was a thin woollen scarf, a bit longer than the dusters. Harriet resentfully tied the scarf round her head and knotted it at the back, knowing that if she didn't, more unpleasantness would happen. She heard the woman moving. The voice was nearer. "It will do for now. Now let me make sure you don't get up to anything. Oh, Hiatt handcuffs, very effective. Quite unforgiving though. I think we'll have your arms vertical, that way the ropes won't be so painful"
"Hmmphhh" Harriet grunted in the nearest thing she could manage to a protesting tone.
"Yes, of course there will be ropes, I don't do things by half. Hands behind your back please".
Ropes, though Harriet. Not ropes as well. What was it with these people. She had known robberies where people had hands tied behind their backs and their feet tied together, and nothing more, and that had kept them helpless. Yet the criminals who captured her all seemed to want to make it a work of art. There was a lot of rope in the bedroom, left by the police after they had freed Mrs Fox. Now it was probably going to be used on her. As the handcuffs were closed tightly on her wrists she felt a shiver of dismay, remembering the other times that she had worn them. For a moment nothing happened,† then she felt a length of rope passed round her body and upper arms and pulled tight, just below her breasts, then again above them. As she expected, this process was repeated several times with the effect that her arms were fastened tightly to her sides, making any movement of her hands impossible. At least the stab vest protected her body from the worst effect of the ropes digging into her body. She knew there would be marks on her arms though.
"Now I'm going to throw this handcuff key in one of the flower beds when I leave, but I don't want to make it too easy". Harriet didn't understand what she meant at first, but it wasn't the only key. Whichever of her colleagues arrived first, they would have another one. She could hear her captor rummaging about, and then running the tap, then doing something in the sink. Then the woman was doing things behind her, Harriet felt the handcuffs pulling against her, she was sure she felt cold water on her skin. The woman stepped back.
"You're wondering what I've done, I bet. Just made the handcuffs a bit harder to undo. Some earth from the flowerpot, some soap and toothpaste ought to stop the key going in easily. Just a bit of fun! Nothing personal".
Harriet felt like bursting into tears. A few months previously she had been captured by a criminal pair who had superglued her handcuffs after putting them on her. It had taken hours to get them off. She remembered that evening, back at the station, being stared at by everyone. Now she had been put in that situation again. She felt like kicking out at her unseen tormentor. She wasnít going to of course, that might bring some worse punishment, but it was an enjoyable thought.
"Now let's just make you comfortable, and I'll be getting back to work. Come with me" Harriet felt herself led by the arm. "You're going to sit in the bath. Quite safe, out of the draught, no risk of rolling down the stairs". Harriet pulled away, in vain of course, but was rewarded with a slap on her bottom. "don't be a silly girl. I've got a gun and you're tied up. Think how much worse it could get for you".
Yes, she thought, co-operate, endure it, she'll soon be gone and the guys and gals will be back soon enough. The burglar was a fast worker and Harriet was soon sat in the bath, her legs bound with four loops of cord round her ankles and the same just above her knees. A further length of cord was passed round her knees, round her body and wound into the ropes round her upper arms before being knotted, so that her knees were drawn up to her chest. She knew she had been dealt with by a very experienced criminal.
"Don't go away" said the woman cheerily.
"MMPH GNNNH" replied Harriet as loudly as the gag permitted. "Up yours" was how it would have sounded. She listened as the woman moved around the house, for what felt like an hour at least, but was probably about fifteen minutes. She decided to sit perfectly still and not try anything until the woman had gone. She had an uncomfortable feeling that escape was out of the question anyway, but it would be awful if she did get partly untied and the woman came back and tied her even more securely, or even shot her.
Eventually the woman poked her head round the door and said. "I'm going now, nice meeting you, don't expect we'll meet again. But just to show I've got some compassion, I'm going to take that gag out of your mouth." Harriet was amazed, but the woman continued. "This is a great big place, shout all you like and nobody outside will hear you. And the way I've trussed you up, you won't get loose any sooner by virtue of not being gagged". Harriet felt the woman loosening the knot at the back of her head, then she said "I'm going to take this one out of your mouth, don't try biting me or anything like that, will you. If you do it goes back in, then I turn the taps on" Harriet shook her head furiously. The fingers pulled the sodden duster from her mouth, enabling her to lick her lips and breathe deeply inwards. The woman didn't say anything more, closing the bathroom door behind her as she went.
Harriet heard a key turn in the lock, but kept silent, she didn't want to delay the burglar's departure. After an outer door slammed somewhere she considered her predicament. She thought, I'm facing the taps so there was no way I could use them to pull the cords loose. Thereís hardly a part of me that hasn't been tied in some way. And I've been sat in the bath. Tied almost into a ball, can't see, can yell for help but nobody will hear. Being in this bath I can't get on my knees or turn round or anything. And I'm locked in. The bath's bloody cold on my bum, I just wish I could change my position. The handcuffs are the thing, if I could get my hands loose I'd soon be out of here, but I can't. If I wasn't in this bath I might be able to reach my feet and untie them. But then my legs are tied too.
How long will it be before they come back for me? If I roll back I might just be able to reach those knots at my ankles, but if I tip over on my back, will I be able to sit up again? Don't want to be on my back with my legs in the air when they find me. I think Iíll just sit here and try not to freeze to death. That lot at the station, drinking tea, chatting and I'm here, trussed up like a proper damsel in distress.
Might as well at least try calling for help, she thought after sitting quietly for a few minutes. Taking in as much air as she could , she yelled. "Help" then again "Help". It certainly sounded loud in the locked bathroom. It reminded her of Penelope Pitstop, shouting "Haylp". Just as she expected nothing happened, nobody came. She tried an ear-splitting scream, once, then twice. No response.
It was hard not to feel any despair. She mustnít cry, policewomen didn't do that. She was going to be found bound and blindfolded, that was embarrassing enough, but in tears as well, she would never live it down.
And then after another age, she could hear people in the building, coming up the stairs, voices. The voices of Sgt Forsyth, PC Kerr, WPC Stevens. "Help. In the bathroom" she screamed. They heard her. She heard a hand try the door.
"Unlock the door, will you. Why have you locked it" Sgt Forsyth shouted.
"I can't, I'm tied up in here. Oh, just hurry up and please get me out"
She heard Sgt Forsyth say "She says she's tied up in there. Again! Might have guessed something like this would happen".†
But then she heard the sound of the door being barged into battered repeatedly and eventually flying open. They rushed over to her.
"Oh my God, she's in the bath. Oh ,there's no water in it" It was Sally Stevensís voice. Hands fumbled at the blindfold, and she blinked at the light that she hadn't seen of nearly two hours.
"Soon have you out of this" said Sgt Eric Forsyth, producing a craft knife and sawing through the cord that fastened her knees to her body. He wasn't making eye contact, Harriet noted with some surprise. "What's the best way to do this?" he said, then, this time looking her in the eye, said "best get you out of the bath first, see what we're doing". He put one arm under her knees and one round her shoulder, then lifted her bodily out to the bath.
Harriet felt her face turning red as he stood holding her in his arms for a moment, then still looking her in the eye, said "We can't go on meeting like this".†
"She's glued up the handcuffs" said Harriet feebly.
"So it looks like I'm stuck with you for a while, till I resolve that issue" said Sgt. Forsyth, turning slightly so that his erection wouldn't be seen by his colleagues