A Tale of Grace
It had been a couple of weeks since the visit of the Gentlemen Bandits to the home of Grace and her daughter Clare. As soon as he had heard of the break-in, Grace’s husband had returned from his trip, and found his family shaken and a little bruised from the ropes, but otherwise unharmed. The police had very little to go on – the two men who had broken in had worn gloves, and fingerprints were almost non-existent. The fact that they had worn masks and were clothed identically made things even more difficult – all the two women could say was the one who called himself Mr Tall was about 6 feet tall, while Mr Small was maybe about 5 foot 6 inches. Grateful that they were safe despite the ordeal, they decided to try and put the incident behind them and let the insurance deal with the lost items.
There was, however, one thing that continued to bother Clare, and it was only after the weeks had passed that she summoned up the courage to ask the pertinent question. One morning, as she and her mother were sitting drinking coffee, she spoke up.
“Mum, when those men were tying you up you said we had been robbed before. Why didn’t you tell me about that? What happened?”
Grace put down her coffee cup. “I suppose you are old enough now to hear what happened. After all, you’ve been through a similar experience yourself now, so you may be able to appreciate what happened to me – and to Mrs Swanson as well.”
“Mrs Swanson? Wasn’t she the lady who used to come in and clean for us? I vaguely remember her, but it must have been – oh, 10 years since she left.”
“Eleven to be exact – and I’m sorry to say it was the robbery then that forced her to leave. I guess I’d better start at the beginning, however………..”
“Do you remember when I used to work for that cosmetic firm as the area manager? You were only young at the time, so I used to work at home when you were at school, meeting the area saleswomen here and collecting their takings for banking. Eleven years ago, home security didn’t seem to be something to worry about, so I felt perfectly secure locking the money in a cupboard here and taking it to the bank once a month to pay into the company. That was probably my first mistake…………..”
Eleven Years Earlier………….
“Come on, Clare, or you will be late for school and I’ll be late for my exercise class.” Grace was standing at the bottom of the stairs, dressed in a dark blue leotard over a lime green Lycra bodysuit. She wore a paisley shawl around her waist as a sort of skirt, and baggy grey suede boots on her legs. The leisure centre where her class took place was close to her daughter’s school, and she didn’t like changing in the communal changing rooms there.
Clare came running down the stairs in her school uniform and carrying a satchel of books. Pausing only to pull on her shoes, the six year old ran out to the car with her satchel in her hand, and climbed into the child seat at the back. Grace closed and locked the door behind her, and jumped into the driver’s seat of the Metro. Starting the engine up, she reversed the car out of the driveway and set off to drop her daughter at school. She barely noticed the non-descript grey van that was parked just up from the house.
It was two hours later when Grace returned to the house. Opening the garage doors, she drove in and parked the car. Turning the engine off, she stepped out and closed the garage doors behind her. It only took a moment for her to open the boot and retrieve the holdall containing the towels she had used in her class, and close the boot up again.
She opened the door from the garage to the house and went in. “Mrs Swanson? I’m back. Is there any chance of a cup of tea?”
There was no reply from Mrs Swanson, the cleaner who was meant to have started work earlier that day. Grace thought that strange – she had not received any message to say she would be late, and normally she was very good about that sort of thing. Placing the car keys on the table beside the phone, she called out again.
“Mrs Swanson? Are you there?”
“Mrs Swanson can’t answer you at the moment – and if you don’t shut up and do exactly what we tell you, then you’ll never be able to talk to each other again!”
Grace spun round at the sound of the deep male voice to be confronted by three people wearing blue boiler suits, gloves and nylon stockings as masks. The one who had spoken was brandishing a carving knife from Grace’s kitchen, and moving it from hand to hand in a way that suggested he meant business. The second person was another man, slightly younger than the first, who carried a wooden club. The third person, to Grace’s great surprise, was a young woman, but the glint in her eye showed Grace that she also meant business.
“Wh… What do you want?”
“We want you to shut your mouth and do exactly what we tell you. If you don’t, then I may have no option but to put this knife to a use you won’t like. Do I make myself absolutely clear?”
“Yyyy… Yes, just please don’t hurt me.”
The young woman stepped forward, and slapped Grace across the face. “I thought you were told to shut up,” he snarled.
“Where’s Mrs Swanson? Please tell me you haven’t hurt her.”
The younger man spoke up “She’s fine – and she’ll stay that way if you do exactly what we tell you, starting with shutting up! Got it?”
The first man stepped forward. “Good – I’m glad we finally understand each other. Son – cut the telephone wires. Daughter – get the bag.”
A family? Grace was not quite sure what to make of this, but there was not much time to make sense of the situation she found herself in.
The woman came back with a duffle bag. “Right,” the one who appeared to be the father said, “Both of you take this lady upstairs and make sure she can’t raise the alarm. I’m going to get to work on the locked cupboard.”
Grace spoke up. “If it’s the money you want, then I’ll open the cupboard for you. Just please, don’t hurt us.”
“I have a better idea”, the one called Son said, “give Father the key, and then shut up!!”
Grace handed her set of keys to the older man. “Good – now get her out of here and shut her up.”
“Upstairs bitch”, Daughter said as she pushed Grace up the stairs to the master bedroom. As she passed her daughter’s bedroom, Grace thought she could some muffled sounds, but Son prevented her entering the room.
In the master bedroom, Grace was told to sit down on the bed. “Now, take those boots and the shawl off – you won’t be needing them for a while.” Grace did as Son had told her, all the time wondering what the noise was in the other room.
Daughter opened the small bag she had brought up with her, and took out a roll of silver duct tape. “Stand up, lady, and put your hands behind your back.”
Grace shivered as she sat on the bed. “You don’t have to tie me up – I’ll sit quietly, I won’t get in your way, just please don’t tie me up….”
This time, it was the hand of Son that she felt across her cheek. “My sister asked you to do something, and when she asks you to do something you do it. Now, apologise and do as she asks.”
“I’m sorry,” Grace said as she stood up and put her hands behind her back. Quickly, the Daughter grabbed her wrists and proceeded to tape them tightly together, criss-crossing the tape so that her wrists were firmly secured. “Ow - that hurts,” Grace cried out.
“You know, I’m getting tired of your talking,” Son said, and he moved over to a chest of drawers that Grace knew contained her panties and other intimate items. As she looked over with concern, Daughter used the tape to secure her arms to her upper body, so that it appeared as if a sliver band was covering both the blue and the green. Daughter then wrapped more tape around Grace’s waist, securing her bound wrists into the small of her back.
“Turn around,” Grace heard Son say. Doing so, she then gasped as he grabbed her nose between his thumb and forefinger. Opening her mouth to breath, the only thing that happened was the surprise when Son placed a pair of her panties in her mouth.
“Bite down and close your mouth.” Doing so, Grace was not surprised when Daughter proceeded to place three strips of the silver tape over her mouth. Son then pushed Grace face down onto the bed, and Daughter proceeded to tape her ankles and legs together.
Father entered the room, carrying a holdall that appeared to be full. “Thank you for the keys, mrs,” he said to Grace, “It saved me ripping the door off. Anything you want to say?”
What Grace wanted to say could be roughly translated as “Get the hell out of my house”, but all that came out was “mmm mmph hmmmh mmmmph!”
“We’re leaving now,” Father said, “now don’t try any funny business, because we know where your daughter goes to school, and you don’t want anything to happen to her, do you?”
Grace mmphed in panic. Did they really know where Clare went to school?
Father checked the tape bonds on Grace. “Right, you two – let’s get out of here!”
The three left the bedroom, and Grace could hear them going down the stairs and out of the front door, closing it behind them. A few minutes later Grace heard a van starting, and presumed that they had left. That left only two questions in my mind – how was she going to get free, and where was Mrs Swanson?
Grace began to twist and squirm, but the tape bindings were too tight and they made any sort of movement almost impossible. This went on for about half an hour, until exhaustion began to set in. She was just resting and contemplating what her next move should be when, to her horror, she saw the bedroom door open and heard something come thumping in.
At this point, Grace had her back to the door, but she quickly rolled herself round to be greeted by a somewhat confusing sight. Before her stood a middle aged woman, in her early 50s with light greying hair, wearing a floral print dress and a green tabard. That, however, was not the confusing sight. The confusing part was the she seemed to be immobilised in tape, with tape around her ankles, lower and upper legs, waist and chest. Her arms were clearly pinned behind her back, and her mouth covered in tape.
“Mrs Swanson?” Grace tried to say, although all that came out was “mmr smeman?” The older woman nodded and hopped over to the bed where she half sat, half fell on the mattress. Motioning to Grace with her head, Mrs Swanson seemed to be telling her to come closer to her.
Grace half slid, half rolled over to where Mrs Swanson was sitting, and eventually managed to sit herself up next to her. Mrs Swanson placed her head on Grace’s shoulder, and then motioned to her with her hands. After a few minutes, Grace realised that she was trying to tell her to move over a little. As Grace did so, Mrs Swanson allowed herself to fall over so that her mouth was near Grace’s hands. Mpphing to her, she eventually got Grace to try and get ahold of a corner of the gag that was covering her mouth.
It took several attempts, but eventually Grace managed to grab a corner and begin to peel the tape from Mrs Swanson’s face. It was a painfully slow process, but eventually she managed to gently ease the tape away from her mouth. In doing so, she realised that Mrs Swanson also had something stuffed in her mouth, so she used her fingers to pull what appeared to be a pair of Clare’s sport socks from Mrs Swanson’s mouth.
Mrs Swanson took several deep breaths of air, and started crying. “I’m sorry, my dear, I’m so sorry for this. Just after I arrived this morning, there was a knock on the door and I saw this man in a boiler suit outside with a clipboard. I thought it was the gas man, but when I opened the door those three rushed in and pushed me up against the wall.”
“mmmm. MMMMM”, Grace tried to say.
“Oh I’m so sorry my dear. Here – you lie down now and I’ll see if I can take your gag off.”
It took a little more time to manoeuvre both Mrs Swanson and Grace so that Grace’s gag could be removed, but eventually she was able to spit the panties out and breath more easily again.
“What happened when they came in,” Grace asked, “did they threaten you?”
“Oh my dear, you would not believe the language they used. Threatened to kill me if I didn’t tell them where the money was. They found the cupboard where you store your accounts, but then they threatened to kill me if I didn’t unlock it. I’m sorry, my dear, but I had to tell them you had the key and would be back soon. With that, they bundled me into your young daughter’s room, wrapped tape all around me and stuffed her socks into my mouth before taping it over. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over this, my dear, I really don’t know………..”
Mrs Swanson started sobbing and crying, and it was all Grace could do to calm her down. “What we need to do now,” Grace said, “is try to get out of this tape. Does Clare still have those craft scissors in her room?”
“Yes – they’re on her table, but they’re awfully small. What do you want to do?”
“Well, unless you have a better idea, that’s the only thing I can think off that might cut us free. Come on….”
With that, Grace stood up and began hopping towards her daughter’s room, with Mrs Swanson hopping after her………………
“Eventually we managed to cut through the tape around my waist and wrists, and I was able to free myself and then Mrs Swanson.”, Grace told Clare. “Obviously, with the police and everything else here, neither I nor your father felt you should be here, so I called Joan and asked if you could sleep over at her place with Sue. By the time you came back the next morning, we had cleared up as much as possible and made everything as normal as we could. It still took some time to get over the shock, however.”
Clare thought for a moment. “So Mrs Swanson couldn’t come back to the house after that?”
“No – the experience really was too much for her, and she moved south to be near her family soon after that.”
“What about the gang – did they ever catch them?”
“Oh yes – a few weeks later, they tried to rob a jewellery store by taking the daughters of the owner hostage and forcing her to bring the jewels home. What they failed to notice were the hidden security cameras the owner had installed in her house. Sentenced to life for that and the other jobs they pulled – including the one here.”
”Were they really a family?”
“Oh yes – father and two young adult children. The main thing I learnt from that experience, however, was that if it was ever to happen again it’s better to do what people like that ask than argue.”
“So that’s why you didn’t panic when they started tying us up?”
Grace smiled. “In the end, you are more important than anything they could take. So no, I did not panic, and you’re safe.”
“Thanks mum,” Clare said as she hugged her mother. “Do you think they’ll catch the ones who robbed us then?”
“I hope so,” Grace said, “but if they do I hope they go lightly on them. I mean, yes they tied us up and gagged us, but at least they were gentlemen about it.”