A sequel to "Best left to the experts". Ray gets cold feet and returns the stolen coins to the museum, but falls prey to his inclinations.
THE REPENTANT ROBBER
The more he thought about it, the more it seemed to Ray that the coins should go back to the museum. They had been unearthed locally, definitely part of the town's history, and they had been put on exhibition for the townspeople to see. Only nobody had seen them, because he had stolen them. He didn't like to admit to himself that he was slightly ashamed of that. He had done so many things that a less confident soul would have been ashamed of. As a career criminal he didn't worry much about the morality of what he did. But stealing them hadn't directly made him better off. The best thing you could say was that he had found another section of the public who carried big amount of cash, which were coin dealers. That had been an education to him. He had met two coin dealers, both of them women, and he had been surprised when they had tried to swindle him. For some reason he had always assumed that people like that would be more honest. He had relieved both of them of substantial amounts of cash and of course it had been necessary to bind and gag them in the course of the robberies. He might be taking more of an interest in them in the future. But he wouldn't dare show his face at a collector's fair again, not for a while.
And those coins were sitting in his lock-up garage. He had to get rid of them because they were becoming high profile. A prominent local businessman who had announced his intention to stand for parliament had offered two rewards, one for the return of the coins and one for evidence leading to the conviction of the thief. Ray had thought about the possibility of "finding" them and handing them in to collect the first reward, but quickly dismissed the idea. Pauline or Lauren might remember enough about him to get him charged, and even if they didn't, it would be drawing police attention towards him. And when you really are the real thief, you don't want that.
Eventually he formulated a plan. It was primarily because his conscience had been at work. He was worried about this because he had spent a lifetime ignoring it. Now, just like Pinocchio, he was unable to ignore it any more. The business man was sounding off to the press about how the coins were the county's heritage, and how the town's name had been besmirched, etcetera. He's right, said a voice inside Ray. A columnist in a national paper had remarked that nothing much had ever happened in the town in the past, and the first time anything uplifting happened, meaning the discovery of the hoard, the reaction of the townsfolk had been to steal it. So he decided they could go back to the museum, and the only way he could guarantee their safe delivery was to take them himself. He thought of leaving them nearby and phoning the museum or the police anonymously, but there was still a chance, if he did that, that somebody else might find them first, and steal them all over again.
Easy enough, it seemed. Take the case back inside, leave it somewhere, leave and phone the curator, whichever one was on duty, to tell them. Job done. And just supposing a third party found them first, he would be watching from a distance. If he saw somebody leaving with the package, he would snatch it from them and run. They wouldn't be expecting such a thing, and they wouldn't report it to the police. In the back of his mind he knew that all this trouble was because he had ventured into an unfamiliar field. It had got him into a situation where he might have to break the law to return the stolen goods. An armed unrobbery. How ridiculous was that.
He knew that Pauline Ashcroft, the assistant curator who he had recently had the pleasure of robbing and restraining, had the afternoon shift. So he would visit the place in the morning, just to be safe. He had dumped the clothes he wore on the first visit, so the using the same disguise was not an option. But then he realised it might be best if the man returning the coins was the same one who stole them. It just depended whether anybody saw him. It was all getting complicated; none of his ideas really filled him with confidence. If it went wrong he could finish up getting arrested, and he experienced a sinking feeling in his stomach whenever he thought of this. Eventually he planned to leave them inside, perhaps in the ladies toilet area, then leave and phone the curator. But just in case, he took the replica gun along as well. And a roll of silver duct tape, just in case the person on duty insisted on getting in the way. He had prepared the tape in advance the way he often did. He had pulled a two metre strip off and cut it to make two short strips, to cover a mouth, and two longer ones to bind hands. This had proved so useful on so many occasions, where speed was of the essence.
So on the day, at five past ten in the morning, he strolled into the museum, trying to behave like a typical museum visitor. He wore another charity shop blazer, grey trousers with a blue shirt and tie, with the Buddy Holly specs. Under his arm he held the coin case, wrapped inside a green plastic carrier bag. Nobody would have given him a second thought, but in his imagination it was glowing like a lump of plutonium and shouting "hey, look what he's doing. Here is a guilty man. He was well out of his comfort zone and couldn't wait to get it over with.
Once he passed through the double doors, he encountered the first unplanned event. A security camera, fixed to the ceiling, pointed into the doorway. No doubt every visitor was being filmed. I should have thought of this, he rebuked himself. These cameras were getting more common. It wasn't making his job any easier. Right now somebody, some security person, could be watching. But not in a museum, he reassured himself. Most likely it was recording everything on videotape, which would only be watched later if there was a crime.
There was a second change of circumstance that Ray hadn't planned for. He wandered around the museum, feigning interest in the exhibits and finding, to his annoyance, that those cameras had been installed everywhere. He didn't know it yet, but the cameras were transmitting live, and the staff rotas had changed. After the armed robbery the museum's management committee had decided that it was too dangerous, having a female curator alone in the building after hours. Pauline Ashcroft personally thought that lightning wouldn't strike twice. In her opinion, it would have been enough to have more staff on duty when there was an unusually valuable exhibit.
Pauline was wrong too; lightning was about to strike twice. She had wondered if her evidence would ever lead to a conviction, if the robber was caught. And if so, would she be eligible for some of the reward. It seemed only fair, she told herself, it was she who had been threatened, frightened, manhandled, bound and gagged. She had even been threatened with a spanking, but she hadn't told the police about that. But she had given a pretty good description of the man she had seen. Not the accomplice Benny, she had only heard him being spoken to. She had thought a lot about that day, and she was certain she would recognise the man again. She would have to share the reward with that courier, Lauren, of course, which was a pity. If only she could see him again somewhere.
So, when her eyes strayed to one of the screens of the newly-installed monitor that sat on the corner of her desk, she almost had to pinch herself. That was him, it definitely was. That man, who had frightened her, then trussed her up and unknown to him, brought a little excitement into her life. Saying he was going to spank her, as if tying her up wasn't distressing enough. She had thought about that on quite a few occasions since the robbery, imagining him administering the spanking, and her powerless to even protest. He hadn't really been that bad, hadn't hit her or anything like that. She must put those thoughts out of her mind now though. The man was a criminal and needed to be caught. And there was the reward of course. She peered close to the screen. What was he doing here, what was he carrying under his arm. Perhaps he was "casing the joint"; she knew that was a phrase robbers used. There wasn't anything here to rob though, nothing obvious anyway. A terrible thought struck her. He would know about the reward, and she was a witness. What if he had come back to silence her, to abduct her. The panic ebbed away when she remembered that it was morning, and the robber thought she worked afternoons. But she could do something now, something to ensure his capture and get her the reward. Having said that, she wasn't quite sure what to do. He was in a different room now, moving around. The first thing for her to do was to lock the main door, to stop him leaving, and then call the police. That made some sense. She hadn't considered what would happen once he was locked in the building with her.
Pauline rose from her desk hurriedly, key-ring in hand and headed straight along the corridor that led to the main entrance. The man was in one of the rooms, she didn't know which, and as she passed each doorway she gave a sigh of relief that he hadn't pounced on her as she walked by. Especially the cleaners cupboard, where the robber had left Lauren the courier tied up inside. She was tempted to open the door and look inside, but that would be silly. What if he was in there, she didn't want to find him while she was alone - the police could do that when they got here. Reaching the door, she bent over to pull the wooden door-stop to one side, then closed the door and turned the key in the lock. "Gotcha!" she said triumphantly, louder than she intended, pushing the key ring into the pocket of her pin-striped waistcoat. She turned, now back to the office to call the police
Ray had just placed the little coin case on the work top next to a wash-basin in the ladies toilet, when he heard the sound of footsteps in the corridor. Female footsteps, the sound of heels on wood. He flew to the doorway and gingerly peered out. She was in the doorway, her back to him. Hell, she seemed to be locking the door. She must have seen him on the camera. What other reason could there be? It was definitely her, Pauline Ashcroft, the curator who he had met before. Damn, he thought. He hadn't expected to find her here, which was the whole point of coming in the morning. But then again, this was the curvy curator who he had so easily overpowered last time. She'd have to be bound and gagged, of course.
So it was going to be Plan B. No easy in and out operation. Good thing he brought the gun and the tape. Thinking fast, he realised she must be intentionally locking him in, having seen him on the security camera and recognised him. He didn't think she had called the police, he was sure he would have heard her, and anyway she wouldn't be locking the door. He knew the phone was in the curators office, at the end of the corridor, but he wouldn't let her get that far. The cleaners walk-in cupboard was much closer and that was where Ms. Ashcroft was going, whether she agreed or not.
As she turned away from the door and came his way, he stepped out in front of her. No mask this time, but he could tell that she recognised him. His left hand closed over the replica gun in his jacket pocket. She stood open-mouthed, eyes wide, frozen. He noticed her perfume again, as she stood staring at him. She had changed her hairstyle, her dark brown hair was drawn back from her face and pinned up at the back, and he was sure her eye make-up and lipstick were different. Today she was dressed in an attractive but businesslike style. She wore a black and grey striped waistcoat, a black knee-length skirt, with a mauve long sleeved shirt, buttoned at the collar, and a floppy bow tie in a darker, shiny purple. Honey coloured tights and black leather court shoes completed the picture. Pleasantly plump, too. Yes, he thought, he definitely would, if the circumstances were different. He hadn't expected to find her on duty, but now that she was here, he was starting to relish what must come next. She had been quite easy to subdue last time. Any armed robber who didn't bind and gag her would be failing in his duty. He was daydreaming. But back to the matter in hand."You've locked me in" he said.
Now she was face to face with him, Pauline was tempted to make some excuse, say the museum was being closed because there was a gas leak and offer to let him out. He would be gone then and she would be safe. But no reward then. She had thought this plan through and it wasn't finished yet. The phone was in the office and all she had to do was get to it. "Yes, come with me" she said, and tried to step past him. There must be a panic button, newly installed after the robbery, and she wants to get to it, he thought. Or else she was going to slam the door on him. He wasn't having that. He stepped in front of her.
"The coins are in the ladies. You're getting them back. Doing my civic duty you might say, and now I'm going, so give me the keys. I'm not letting you phone the police" He knew he couldn't trust her, she'd have to be kept quiet, but she hadn't twigged that yet. He had managed to avoid ever being convicted of anything serious, and he wasn't about to get nicked while giving something back.
"I want that reward" she said angrily."I deserve it, don't I? I am the one who was threatened, shouted at, scared stiff, trussed up, my name all over the papers. You might as well stay here because I've locked the door and I've phoned the police. They'll be here in a minute". She clenched her fists. Ray could see what was coming and seized her wrist as she lashed out at him. "You're mad" he said. "You can't fight me. Calm down".
She was still wriggling and as she tried to kick at his leg, he twisted her wrist, not hard enough to cause damage, but enough to cause her to squeal. "I got a gun, remember, like last time. Don't want to get hurt do you?"
"Owww, stop hurting my arm then. What do you want then?" she sounded pleading now; her plan was going right off the rails. He hustled her toward the door of the cleaners closet, the most useful room in the building as far as he was concerned. He opened the door and forced her inside. Fumbling for the light switch, he answered her question.
"The police arent coming, you never called them. I was listening outside the office". Her face dropped, his hunch had obviously been right. "But you'll do anything to get your hands on that reward, won't you? I mean, you will go straight to the phone if I let you, won't you?"
"Well' yes, of course. Nothing personal but I only get the reward if somebody gets convicted" She had an impatient tone, as if she was explaining something obvious to a moron.
If I wasn't going to tie you up anyway, he thought, you've pretty much persuaded me that I should.
"Sit down on the floor, quick, and just shut up talking" He looked round the little room and saw that nothing had changed except this time there was no roll of tape on the shelf. Whoever made the rules was taking no chances after last time, he supposed. Good thing I brought my own, he thought. He took the tape from his pocket and waved it under her nose. "Just going to make sure you don't get me arrested. I'm sure you do deserve a reward if anyone does, but I'm not going to jail for you, lovely as you are". The first strips of tape off the roll were the two mouth sized pieces. He squatted by her, ready to apply the first one.
She was sitting hugging her knees. "Oh, for heavens sake. You're not serious. Tying me up again. Why, you aren't even stealing anything"
"You made it very clear that you'll get me arrested unless I stop you, haven't you. I'm not going to hurt you, you know that"
"I s'pose I know that, but I can't believe this is happening to me again" she said. "It's going to be so embarrassing when it's in the papers. The first time was bad enough, my friends and my sisters all knowing I got tied up, and making jokes about it".
"Don't tell the papers then" he said.
"I didn't. I suppose it was the Police. When the reporter spoke to me he seemed to know all about the robbery already ".
She looked up at him with a pleading expression."I know I went on about the reward and the police, but you could just run away. I won't phone, I mean you could pull the phone lead out. I could say I found the coins and didn't see you".
"It's all been filmed, hasn't it. They'll know you locked me in. I wouldn't bother trying to think of anything else".
"Shit" she exclaimed. Her cheeks turned red. "You've got no idea how nervous it's making me, knowing I'm going to be tied up in a minute. Look, I'd rather not be tied up but I know its going to happen. But you don't have to tie me up like you did before, do you? My feet pulled up behind me. I was stiff as a board when they untied me. Can't you just tie me up like they do on television. That works, doesnt it?".
Ray thought for an instant."Don't suppose it matters. I'll go along with your request. You owe me one. I'd love to stay and chat" said Ray, aware of the passing of time, and aware that the longer Pauline remained unbound, the more the chance of something going wrong. "But you talk too much, just be grateful the coins are back". She shut her mouth, a sulky expression on her face and sat still while he smoothed the first strip in place, then followed it with the second piece to make an X shape. "Now your hands, behind your back please". Pauline hugged her knees more determinedly for a moment, then released her grip and held her hands out together in front of her, hopefully. But she didn't resist when he said "As if" and grabbed her hands, prising them apart and pulling them behind her. After crossing her wrists he wrapped them tightly with tape and then said "clench your fists. It's instead of having your feet pulled back. To his surprise she did as he asked, probably reminded of the discomfort that she would avoid. He taped her fists securely, thoroughly enough to stop her using her fingers for any escape attempt.
Moving round in front of her, he lifted her knees off the ground and after pushing her skirt back from her knees, passed the tape round her upper legs. Stockings and suspenders, he noticed. The day was getting better all the time. He looked her in the eye as he smoothed the tape down, making the most of the job and letting his hands linger on her thighs. Her expression was one of mild rebuke rather than fear, which relieved him. He saw himself as something of a gentleman thief, someone like the Saint. A dashing criminal who left his lady victims bound but thrilled and excited. Under her disapproving stare, he continued wrapping the tape round her legs down to her ankles, before cutting it and moving back behind her.
"Soon be finished" he said. He wrapped the end of the tape round her upper right arm, just above the elbow, passed it behind her back and round her other arm, pulling her arms back and making her breasts push against the buttoned waistcoat. He continued winding the tape round her body below her bust tightly, three times, and then suddenly, he came to the end of it. He could have used more if there had been more, but it didn't really matter. Pauline wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. He suddenly remembered the front door keys and reached into her waistcoat pocket for them. She flinched and looked round at him as she unexpectedly felt his hand inside her pocket, but to his slight surprise, she didn't look very shocked.
Still squatting, he moved round to face her. "All done. Is madam satisfied with the service she had today? I could lock you in this room, but there's really no need. I'll just lock the front door, and at one o'clock I'll phone the police and tell them you're here". He was faintly amused and slightly turned on by the way Pauline sat looking attentively at him as he spoke, like a child having a story read to her. Not a bit like a woman who had been bound and gagged by an armed robber, for the second time in a few weeks. But her brow furrowed as he said "one o'clock", and she realised the implication of it. "It'll just fly by. They'll probably give you a few days off because of this" he said jovially. And now I'm going to wipe the smile off your face, madam, he thought.
"I'm a man of my word" he said. "And last time we met I promised you a spanking, but I got distracted by that courier woman. But now I'll make amends". He looked her in the eye again. The eyebrows raised, the brown eyes opened wide, her cheeks turning red. Her expression wasn't one of fear. More a mixture of indignation and excitement. The expression of a woman who just might enjoy having her bottom spanked. He looked around and saw what he wanted. It wouldn't be very comfortable but it would do. One of those raised steps that cleaners and shelf-fillers use, like an inverted bucket with a solid bottom, with a gap between the first step and the flat rubber-coated top.
He took hold of Pauline's shoulders and raised her onto her knees, then pulled the step nearer. He took a folded towel from the shelf and spread it on the step, then pushed it in front of his kneeling prisoner. She looked puzzled for a moment, then her eyes widened again as she realised what came next. Taking her by the shoulders again he lowered her forward so that she was face down with her stomach on the seat. She squirmed and struggled, so he grabbed her by her taped wrists and pressed her down against the stool.
"Stop wriggling. You'll hurt yourself if you fall." She stopped moving, as she realised that could really happen. "Listen to me" he said. She had been staring at the floor awaiting the first smack, but turned to face him. "I could say you've been a naughty girl, but you haven't, have you. I'm going to give you a good spanking just because I like it. I hope you like it too". He could see that she was blushing again as she lowered her gaze again.
With his left hand he pulled her skirt up over her bottom, and noticed with approval her frilled panties in mauve satin. He might have guessed that she would have nice underwear. They went with her blouse. It crossed his mind that he should have made her take off her waistcoat and skirt. How good she would look, tied up in her blouse, bow tie, her satin panties and her stockings. Too late though, she was too well taped up. Enough daydreaming, on with the spanking. As he opened his right hand he felt Pauline tense her body as he brought it down across her buttocks. He made each slap a little harder than the last, and he definitely imagined that she was tensing herself in anticipation of every smack. Perhaps it was as well she was gagged, he thought. He was certain that she was enjoying the experience. It probably wasn't the first adult spanking in her life. Stop thinking about it, he told himself. He had lost count of the smacks, but it was well into double figures. He stopped and drew her skirt down over her bottom, breathing heavily, as if drawing a curtain over Pauline's pretty underwear and reddening buttocks. And stop thinking about pulling her knickers down, unzipping his fly, getting down behind her, definitely stop thinking about that. A minor crime would become a major one. The guy who tied up a museum curator would soon be forgotten as the police had more recent crimes to solve, but a rapist would be hunted much more enthusiastically. Nothing like the thought of years in jail to calm him down.
He stood up, looked around. "I'll leave this door open and the main door locked" he said. "Mmmmmph, mmmppphh" squealed Pauline, still face down over the step. She rocked backwards, he realised she was trying to move back to a kneeling position, but she was too far forward. He couldn't leave her like that.
"OK, I'll make you more comfortable" He couldn't resist giving her bottom a final smack. Then, taking her by the hips, he lifted her back into a kneeling position, before lowering her backwards to sit on the floor. "I said I wouldnt hogtie you, so I suppose you're just about done" he said. He looked her in the eye with a smile, but she quickly turned her face away. She was blushing again. Oh well, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, he thought. "If I get caught, I'll ask for the spanking to be taken into consideration, so I wouldn't be too accurate with your description of me. Don't forget, the coins are in the ladies. You know you brought this on yourself, going on about the reward" he remarked as he walked to the door. He didn't turn to look at her as he left, but headed for the main door.
Ten minutes later he was walking past a pub and made a mental note of its name. They were close enough, he would phone them at midday, and tell them about the tied-up lady curator waiting to be rescued. Then they would phone the police. He had a fear that the police might be able to trace calls very quickly to a specific call-box, so he always rang a third party at times like this.