The doorbell rang as the woman walked into the antiques shop. She heard a male voice call “I’ll be just a minute,” and stood there, nervously looking round at the furniture and other items.
A man in his early sixties came out from the back of the shop, wearing a smart double breasted blue jacket, light trousers, and a white shirt with a military tie. He came forward, smiling broadly, and said “How do you do? My name is John Jacobs – can I help you?”
“Yes,” the woman said with a slight stammer as she fished around in her large bag. “I have something that I would like you to value.” She retrieved a small case, and handed it to John.
“Why don’t we take a seat while I have a look,” John said with a smile as he indicated a desk with two chairs. Looking over her shoulder, the woman sat down as john took a pair of glasses out of a case.
“Let’s see now – hmm. How very interesting.” A slight frown crossed his face as he took his glasses off. “I neglected to ask you your name. May I do so now?”
“It’s Janette – Janette Towers.”
“Well, Janette, just say yes or no. Is this your watch?”
“Is the person whose watch this is watching you now?”
“Let me make you a cup of tea, Janette – that person can wait a few minutes while I do that, and I think you may need it. Rough night?”
Janette nodded as her thoughts went back to the previous evening…
You’re everywhere and nowhere baby,
That’s where you’re at
Driving around the country,
In your hippie hat.
Sky Towers was dancing around the room, her eyes closed as she listened to another of her mother’s old records. Both she and her sister Dawn lived at home with her, both for economic and personal reasons – their father had passed away recently, and their mother both needed the company and appreciated the support.
Sky was in her late thirties, and loved to dress in a bohemian style as she remembered her mother dressing as she had grown up.. She kept herself well, so that anyone seeing her would think she was ten years younger than she really was, and on this particular day she was wearing a brown chiffon dress that was covered in a floral pattern. The scarf reached down to just above her ankles, and the long sleeves covered her thin arms. Around one wrist she had tied a small brown chiffon scarf, and in her hair she had tied a rolled up paisley scarf as an improvised Alice band that kept her blonde hair out of her eyes.
She needed to wear glasses as a matter of course, but in keeping with her look she wore a pair like those worn by John Lennon – round and thin wire rims. She had come home a little earlier to find the house empty, and decided to “rock out” as she put it to relieve some of the tensions of that day.
As a result, the loud music had drowned out the sound of the front door being opened, or the soft footsteps as the man walked down the corridor and silently opened the door. The first time that Sky realised there was someone watching her was when she heard the man say “Very nice – and I see what they say about fashion coming round in circles.”
Sky stopped suddenly and looked at the man who had spoken. He was slightly portly, with greying hair, and wearing a light jumper and trousers. There was a playful smile on his face as he stood there, leaning against the door frame.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Sky asked.
“Not personally, no – I knew your mother some years ago. Is she in?”
“No – and how did you get into the house anyway? I locked the front door when I came in.”
“Yes you did – but I opened it again.” As he said this, Sky watched him take a knife out of his pocket and show it to her. “Now, what is your name?”
“Sky,” she said as she stood there, watching the sunlight gleam against the blade of the knife.
“Well, Sky, if you do as I say you will have a tale to tell your friends. If you don’t – well, it would be better if you did. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she said quietly.
“Good – why don’t you pick up that ball of wool that is in the knitting basket there and hand it to me? Then we can get comfortable and wait for your mother to get home.”
Sky kept looking at the man as he stood there while she reached down and picked up the wool that her mother had been using to crochet a new poncho for her.
Half an hour later, the front door to the house opened and Dawn, Sky’s younger sister came in. The younger by two years, she dropped her handbag on the table and walked into the front room.
“Is anyone home,” she called out, only to be greeted by the sound of “DN!!! RN NW!!”
Sky was sitting on the couch, her wrists tied together in front of her with the wool, which had then been passed down and used to secure her bare ankles together. The short scarf that had been tied around her wrist was stuffed into her mouth, the edges of the material sticking out from between her lips. Dawn looked at her sister, then turned and ran straight into the grey haired man who was standing behind her.
“You must be Dawn,” he said as he took a gentle, yet firm grip of her arm. “I’m glad you came home before your mother – it will make things so mush easier later.”
Dawn looked at the man, her brown hair falling across her face. “Take off your jacket and sit next to your sister,” he said as he forced her back into the room. Dawn waited until he let go of her arm, before taking off her denim jacket and sitting next to Sky.
“Are you all right?” she said as the man took hold of her bare wrists, crossed them in front of her and started to bind them together with the wool. Sky nodded as he passed the cords around and between her wrists, before taking it down between her legs and starting to tie her ankles together, taking the wool around the bottom of her bellbottom jeans so that the ankle hems were flared out underneath.
“Who are you and why the hell are you doing this,” Dawn demanded as the man stood up.
“As I said to your sister, I’m an old friend of your mother, and I need her to do something for me.”
“So why not just ask her?”
“Well,” the man said as he took a clean handkerchief from his pocket and scrunched it into a ball, “friend might not be the right word. Now, open wide.”
Janette Towers drove into the driveway of her house and stopped the car in front of the garage door. She stepped out, slamming the door shut behind her and locking the white Daimler before going up to the house and letting herself in.
“Sky? Dawn? Are you home?” she called out as she placed her handbag on the phone table. She could see her younger daughter’s bag there as well, but when she got no reply she just assumed she was listening to some music, and made her way to the kitchen.
As she filled the kettle, Janette could hear some loud calling from elsewhere on the ground floor, but the walls of the house made it difficult to hear what was been said. “I’ll come in once I’ve made my coffee,” she called out as she placed a spoonful into a mug. Screwing the lid back on, she was startled to hear a male voice say “Any chance of making me some?” Putting the spoon down, she turned round and the colour blanched out of her face as she saw the man standing there.
“You?” she stammered. “The news said you had been seen heading to Canterbury.”
“True – but I finished my business there, and now I’ve some to see you. It’s been a long time, my dear Janette.”
“Not long enough,” she said with a hint of anger as the memory of their last meeting came back. “Where are the girls?”
“Come with me and I’ll show you,” the man said as he took Janette by the arm and led her to the front room. She could see both Dawn and Sky sat there, trying to call out to her through the cloths that were stuffed into their mouths. She could also see the wool around Dawn’s bare wrists as it held them together as well as to her ankles. Her short sleeved tunic had risen slightly around the wide suede belt she was wearing around it as a result of her struggles.
“All right, girls, calm down. He won’t hurt you, I’m sure of that. Will you, George?”
Sky’s eyes widened when she heard the mention of the name of George. Her mother had told about what happened one night twenty years before, when she and Dawn had been at a Guide camp. Looking into her mother’s eyes, she realised that that event had returned….
“As I said, just do as you’re told and your wife won’t be hurt.”
Janette looked up at the three men standing there with her husband. They were smartly dressed, in dark suits, white shirts and ties, but the stockings over their heads identified them as something other than the usual visitors. She was just glad her daughters were away that night.
They had barged in when her husband had answered the door a half hour previously, and made it very clear that if he did not do as they asked it would be Janette who paid the price. Having done that, they had forced him to sit and watch as they lashed her to a dining room chair with length after length of rope.
She was wearing a white blouse over a black roll necked sweater – a fact she had been grateful for when the youngest of the men had crossed her wrists behind the chair and started to tie them together over the wrists of the jumper, having rolled the blouse sleeve back first. As he had criss-crossed her chest and arms with more rope, the white silk had been tightened over her breasts, but the black wool had preserved some measure of her modesty.
They had then pulled her ankles to the legs of the chair and bound them to the crosspiece on each side, and again she was grateful she was wearing a long white skirt, so that her modesty in that area was preserved as well. The ropes had cut into the black leather of her short baggy boots, but that also offered some protection from the ropes as they tightened around the wood and her legs.
As this was happening, the other two men were explaining their plans to her husband. It was obvious they wanted to use his shop as a way to gain access to the bank next door, and there was little choice for him in the matter. He looked over at his wife and mouthed the word “Sorry” as he was taken away by the other two, leaving her alone with the third intruder to keep her company.
As the sound of a car leaving grew fainter and fainter, she looked over at the young man and said “You can take that stocking off now – I’ve done what you asked me to do.”
“Very nicely as well, cousin,” George Simpson said as he pulled the stocking off his head and sat down on the leather couch. “I’m sorry you had to be secured, but I tried to be as gentle as I could.”
“Why the hell did it have to be Geoff?”
“Not my choice – my partners wanted to hit the bank. When I was told their plan, I only had a moment to call you, but you didn’t answer the phone.”
Janette looked over to the telephone set, the wire disconnected from the wall plug. “Yeah, well, we were eating. What are you going to do now?”
“What we had planned – I’ll stay here until they come back. Geoff will be fine, I’m sure – and I volunteered to look after you to make sure he did not get a chance to look closely at me.”
Janette looked down at the bonds securing her to the chair, the leather of her boots squeaking as she tried to move her ankles round. “Any chance you can let me go?”
“None, I’m afraid – would you like some of your wine?” He picked up the glass from where she had left it when the robbery had started and brought it over to her, allowing her to have a sip.
“So what now?”
“Now – you tell me if there is anything good on television. I won’t gag you if you promise not to scream – at least not until they come back.”
“And after that?”
“I’ll leave you for the police to find – and with luck, you won’t see me again. Just remember the earlier days if you see me in the news, and that I’m not as bad as they may paint me.”
“I guess my luck ran out then. Can you take the cloth out of their mouths – they won’t scream, will you girls?”
Both Sky and Dawn nodded their agreement as Janette sat down in an armchair. George walked over and pulled the sodden cloths out of each of their mouths, Sky coughing as he did so.
“So you’re mum’s cousin, George Simpson?” she said as George sat down in the other armchair.
“The bank robber? Mum, you never said….”
“I didn’t want to admit it,” Janette said as she looked at Dawn with a weary expression. “After that time he visited here with the gang he was with at that time, I thought our paths would never cross again. It would appear our luck has run out.”
“I’m truly sorry, Janette, but I need your help with something, and I have a reputation to maintain. Your daughters are lovely, by the way – they take after you in so many ways.”
Janette smiled weakly as she sat there, still dressed in her pale cream trouser suit. She had at least undone the buttons on her jacket, to allow her dark blue slip top to be seen, and reached down to take off her leather ankle boots.
“Yes, they do – although I had hoped they would never have the same experiences as I had. What the hell do you need my help with anyway?”
“I’ll explain later. In the meantime, how about I order some takeaway? I’ll cut the two girls loose when it is delivered – is Chinese all right?”
The four people sat round the dinner table, eating the last of the meal. As he had promised, George had cut both Sky and Dawn loose when the delivery had arrived, and they were rubbing their wrists as they looked at the man sat with them. As they sat there, George had told them some tales from his life, including some more details of the events that had been reported on the news.
“Why?” was Dawn’s question when he finally finished.
“Why? It’s all I’ve ever known, my dear girl. However, the time had come for me to retire, and the first stage of that was to make sure your cousin was gainfully employed elsewhere.”
Sky looked at him. “That policeman – DCI Grayson – I saw him on the news the other night with his assistant. He really wants to get hold of you.”
“He’ll have to find me first. Now, I think it’s time we made preparations for the night ahead. I’ll be out of your hair in the morning, but I’ll have to impose on you a while longer.”
As eh said this, George stood up and walked over to a dresser that was next to the table. Opening a drawer, he took out a large roll of silver tape. “Do any of you ladies need to use the toilet?”
All three nodded.
“Let’s go back into the living room. Janette, I need you to take your daughters one at a time – use the downstairs loo, there’s no window in that one – while I stay with the other one. I need to be sure that none of you will attempt to raise the alarm during the night.”
The three women looked at each other, then Sky stood up and went with her mother while George escorted Dawn back to the front room.
“You want me to drive with you to Norwich and visit a shop?”
Janette and George were talking in the dimly lit room as the clock struck midnight. Sky was sat in one of the armchairs, her wrists taped together behind her back and her ankles bound, while Dawn was lying on the couch having been bound in the same way. The moccasins that had been on her feet were on the floor as both girls slept, twitching in their sleep.
“That’s right – I want you to go in and show the owner this watch – he will know what to do.” As he said this, George held up an old pocket watch, the gold glistening in the candle light, before placing it in a case and handing it to Janette.
“You could have called me – you didn’t need to involve the girls.”
“Janette, I have a reputation to maintain – and they will be watching Jacobs Antiques for certain. I’m sorry it had to be done this way, but it was important you were shown to have been forced into this situation – and that John Jacobs was forced to do what he will do.”
Janette looked over as Sky mumbled something. “All right – but what will you do to stop them raising the alarm?”
“I’ll make them as comfortable as possible, but they will have to be silenced. If we do this right, it won’t be for too long.”
George stretched and yawned. “I need to get some sleep. I’m sorry you won’t be able to relax too much – I’ll make it up to you.”
“Just make sure they get through this in one piece,” she said as she looked at the tape around her own wrists that held them to the arms of the desk chair, and her ankles to the legs. George nodded as he blew the candle out, and sat himself in the other armchair.
“I’m sorry about this girls – this is the only way I can bring our nightmare to an end.”
Sky nodded as her mother finished tying her ankles together with the rope George had handed to her. He had woken all of them at five in the morning, and after cutting the tape that bound them, allowed them to do their toilet before taking the three of them upstairs. Sky had been made to lie on her bed, and the other two watched as George bound her wrists to the headboard in a spread eagled fashion, the sleeves of her dress rolling down her arms as she did so. He had then made Dawn tie some rope around her legs, pulling the skirt of her dress in as he did so, while at the same time her mother was tying her ankles together.
“Don’t worry, mum, we’ll be fine,” was all Sky had a chance to say before George smoothed a length of sticking plaster over her mouth, the adhesive making it impossible for her to move her lips.
“Just stay calm,” he said as the three of them left Sky to contemplate her situation.
Dawn had then been made it lie face down on her bed, and as Janette watched George quickly and firmly hogtied her with rope, ensuring her arms were held firmly to her side and her legs tied together in the process. She had then rolled over onto her side before her lips were covered in sticking plaster.
“I’ll see you later,” was the last thing Janette said before she and George left the two girls in the house and drove off towards Norwich. The rising sun could be dimly seen through the drawn blinds as both girls lay there, unable to help each other and worrying about what might happen to their mother.
“Here – drink it down, and tell me where he is.”
Janette took the mug from John Jacobs and said “Thank you” as she took a sip. “How do you know George?”
“Professional contacts – but I honestly thought he was out of the country. This watch – he promised me it a long time ago, but only said he would let me have it when he was ready to quit.”
As he was talking, John was putting a bundle of bank notes into an envelope.
“What did he tell you to say?”
“That his gang were holding my daughters hostage, and unless he did exactly as I said they would be killed.”
“Where are they now?”
“Alone, at home. They won’t say anything but that the two masked men watched over them until the phone rang, and message was left telling them to get out.”
John nodded. “He always tried to plan for everything. I truly hope this never happens to you again. Now, where is he?”
“Do you see a white Daimler outside? The back passenger seat.”
“Good – stay here and finish your tea. I promise you this will be over within fifteen minutes.”
John stood up, straightened his jacket and left Janette sitting as eh walked out of the shop, the envelope in his hand. He looked round as he did so, then opened the rear door of the Daimler and climbed in.
“John – how’s business?”
“I can’t complain. So, it is time is it?”
“It is – do you have the money?”
“Make the call first.”
George nodded as he dialled a number on his mobile phone. “It’s me – get out of the house,” was all he said before hanging up.
“Here,” John said as he handed him the envelope. “What are your plans now?”
“One or two last bits of business to take care of, and then I’ll quietly slip away. Can I trust you when the time comes?”
“I’ll have a word with some friends of mine. How long do you need?”
“Give me fifteen minutes before you call.” George turned round and offered his hand. “Goodbye, John.”
“Keep safe and free, George,” John said as he shook the other man’s hand, then climbed out of the car. He watched as George climbed out of the other side and walked quickly down the street, then turned and re-entered the shop.
“Family,” he said to Janette as she sat there, “the things we have to do for them sometimes. Let me get you something stronger, and then we’ll make the phone call.”
“What will he do?” Janette asked as she accepted the brandy.
“I think retirement is in his mind – unless Grayson gets to him first,” John said as he took a sip.