Snow was lying thick on the ground outside as the last few customers completed their business at Clydeside Bank. It was Christmas Eve, and as the three bank tellers talked with the customers they could feel the excitement building in their own stomachs. The branch was due to close at four, and every year Barbara, the branch manager, held a small party before they went home for the holidays. Although most of the other shops in the town had closed at twelve, they had stayed open to allow them to bank their takings for the day.
Their uniform was drab – a plain white blouse, with a dark blue knee length skirt and matching jacket, and sensible shoes. Once the branch had closed, however, they could change into something more comfortable, more fashinable, and then they could relax a litrle more.
Eventually Elzabeth emerged from the external office, her strawberry blonde hair falling around her face in a bob. As the last customer left, she closed the door behind them, locking it as she turned and smiled. “That’s it,” she said as she walked back inot the building, “Cash up and let’s have some fun. Feel free to change into your other clothes.” She walked back into the office, closing the door behind her as the others locked their till trays in the safe, closed and locked the heavy door before picking up their bags and heading for the toilets.
Ruth was the first to emerge, brushing her dark brown hair as she walked back into the room. She was wearing a chocolate brown short sleeved jumper and velvet hot pants, with knee length brown suede boots that laced up the front, and her brown hair was cut back from her face in a tight bob.
“Very nice, Ruth,” she heard Barbara say, and as she turned she saw the manager walk back into the room, wearing a yellow wing collared blouse under a floor length sleeveless dress. It was made from brown woven cloth, with a large seamed round collar, and on the front was emobossed a large floral pattern, the stems on the lower panels of the dress and leading up to a number of blooms that hung from a central stem running up the front of the dress.
Ruth didn’t exactly like it, but she had more sense than to admit that, merely saying “Nice dress, Babs – where did you get it?”
“Grattons,” she said as she twirled round like Anthea Redfearn, “It just spoke to me.” As she stopped, Cherry came in, pulling down her dark red pinafore dress that she had on over a white blouse. Her dark tights were visible fromt the hem of the short dress ot the top of the matching dark red leather boots she was wearing,while her red hair fell in curls aroudn her face.
Last to emerge was Dee Dee, who had put on a long thirties style dark dress, with an open collar that was slightly layered, dark tights and red wedge sandals fastened with thongs around her lower legs. “I’m going to put the radio on,” she said as she put a small portable radio ont he top of a filing cabinet and turned it on. As the radio warmed up, the sound of Elton John filled the room as Barbara opened seevral small bottles of Babycham and poured some into paper cups.
Welcome to my Christmas song
I'd like to thank you for the year
So I'm sending you this Christmas card
To say it's nice to have you here
I'd like to sing about all the things
Your eyes and mind can see
So hop aboard the turntable
Oh step into Christmas with me
“So where are you going for Christmas,” Ruth said as she sat next to Cherry, crossing her legs as she sat on the counter shelf. “At home with my parents,” she said with a weak smile. “Jack may come over tomorrow night, but if not it’s Morecambe and Wise on the telly.”
“Sounds fun,” Ruth said as she looked at Barbara talking to Dee Dee. “I bet she’s going to the Watchnight Service tonight, then home for a good sleep before church tomorrow.”
“Don’t make fun of her,” Cherry said as she nudged her friend. “If your dad was the local minister, you’d...”
Her comment was interrupted by the door from the rear of the building banging open, and two tall, very broad shouldered men running in, pointing a pair of sawn off shotguns at the four women. They were dressed in camouflage jackets and trousers, with thick black sweaters under the jackets, and their hands were in leather gloves. “Don’t move,” one of them called out through the mouth hole in the balaclava that covered his head, the only other thing showing his clear grey eyes. “I mean it, don’t move a muscle.”
“Who the hell are you?” Barbara said as she looked at the two men, only for the second, silent one to point his gun directly at her chest. “You can shut up as well,” he said in a Scottish accent as she shrank back, grabbing Dee Dee as she did so.
“Now, all four of you, kneel down on the floor and put your hands behind your head,” the first man said as he grabbed Cherry and forced her onto her knees. Ruth followed suit, her eyes never leaving the artificially shortened barrel of the gun as she knelt down beside her friend and moved her arms, locking her fingers together as she did so. Dee Dee knelt next to her, while Barbara slowly knelt next to Cherry, the hem of her dress rising to show the baggy black leather boots on her legs.
“Right, ladies,” the first man said as he looked at them, ”everyone knows the lights stay on here until later, so nobody is going to come calling for a while. Once we’ve got all the lovely money in your safe, we’ll be on our way and you can raise the alarm any way you see fit to do so.”
“I’m not going to open the safe for you,” Barbara said as she looked up into his eyes.
“Yes you are,” he snapped back, “because my friend here is going to be watching your staff here, and if you make one wrong move they will all get it. Who do you want to start with?”
“Her,” he said as he grabbed Ruth by the arm and pulled her up, walking her round in front of the other three. “Sit down, shut up and put your hands up as if your were praying.”
“Don’t ask stupid questions,” the young Scot said as he pushed the barrel of his gun into her back, “Now sit the fuck down and put your hands out in front of you.”
Slowly, Ruth sat down and stretched her legs out in front of her, the cold wooden floor making the skin on her bare legs begin to form goosebumps. Holding her hands up in front of her, she put them together palm to palm and watched as the other man took an army rucksack off his back and open it.
“Here”, he said as he tossed the second man an unopened skein of green nylon washing line, “get started.” Putting the gun down where Ruth could see it, he tore the plastic cover off and pulled the end of the washing line free, made a small loop in the end and placed it over her hands, pulling it tightly and forcing her wrists together as she cried out.
“Sit still, you stupid girl,” the man said as he wound the rope around and between her wrists, keeping it taut as the nylon bit into her bare skin, before pulling them down as he fed more rope out. “Lift your knees up,” he said, and as Ruth fought back the tears she watched him pulling the rope around her bare legs, puling tightly as it bit into her flesh and her legs were drawn together.
“I thought you said we would be able to raise the alarm,” Barbara said as she watched the green rope been passed between Ruth’s legs, pulling the coils tighter before it was wound diagonally down her suede covered legs. “I said you could to the best of your ability,” the man snarled as they watched the rope going around her ankles, again been pulled tightly as it went around and between her legs, “I did not say how would leave you.”
“That bloody hurts,” Ruth said as the rope was wound back up her legs, leaving them criss-crossed with rope as the armed intruder tied the final end of the rope back around her wrists. “It’s meant to – so don’t try to move,” he said with an evil smile as he stood up and walked back over to Cherry, pulling her up and forcing her to sit next to Ruth at an angle to her.
“Put your arm through hers,” he said, and then watched as Cherry fed her left arm through Ruth’s right, moving closer as she placed her hands together palm to palm in front of her. Dee Dee and Barbara watched as he tore open a second skein of rope, and the radio started to play Wizzard.
Oh when the snowman brings the snow
Oh well he just might like to know
He's put a great big smile on somebody's face
If you jump into your bed
And you cover up your head
Don't you lock the doors
You know that sweet Santa Claus is on the way
Well I wish it could be Christmas everyday
When the kids start singing and the band begins to play
Oh I wish it could be Christmas everyday
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
When we're skating in the park
If the storm cloud paints it dark
Then your rosy cheeks are gonna light my merry way
Now the frosticals appeared
And they've frozen up my beard
And so we'll lie by the fire
Til the sleep simply melts them all away
Dee Dee watched as her skirt fell down her upper legs towards her waist, unable to move as the intruder ran the rope back up her tights and secured the end back to her wrists. The three tellers were now sat in a circle, Dee Dee having been forced to put her left arm through Cherry’s right and her right arm through Ruth’s left, with their hand tightly bound in front of them and their legs well secured.
“Make sure they don’t cause any trouble,” the other robber said as he grabbed Barbara by the arm and forced her to her feet. “As for you, boss lady – you’re coming with me and opening that safe, right now.”
“All right,” she said as she walked with him, “Just don’t hurt any of them.” As she was marched into her office, Dee Dee said quietly “I wish I could wake up from this nightmare. I can’t move my legs and the rope is hurting my wrists.”
“At least you two have something on your legs,” Ruth said as she tried twisting her bound legs round. “This is digging into my legs, and I don’t want to think of what sort of marks it’s going to leave.”
“I just want somebody to help us,” Cherry said as she watched the gunman sit in one of their chairs and look at them. “You don’t think they’re going to do anything else to us, do you?”
“Don’t talk like that,” Dee Dee said, “Not while they have Babs in there.”
In the office, Barbara stood back as the door to the safe swung open, revealing the takings of that afternoon.
“Very good,” the gunman said as he took the rucksack and placed it on her desk. “Now, you, turn round and put your hands behind your back.”
“So I’m going to be tied with rope as well,” she said as she turned her back to him.
“Not exactly,” she heard the man say, and then there was a sound like thick paper had been ripped. Ruth felt her arm been grabbed, and then something been stuck over her blouse, forcing the material of her blouse around it as her arm was pulled behind her back. Looking over her shoulder, she saw the grey band around her wrist, and said “Shit,” as her other arm was pulled back.
“I want it to be more difficult for you to raise the alarm,” the man said as her wrists were taped together behind her back, and then she saw the large roll been passed around her waist, forcing her lower arms into the small of her back as they were taped in place.
“You’re going to ruin this dress,” she said as she heard the ripping sound again, and felt her arms been forced into her side as the robber passed the tape around her upper body, going below her chest and then above.
“No great loss,” the man laughed as he stuck more tape around her upper body, covering the front of her blouse and the dress. “It looks repulsive anyway.”
“How dare you,” Barbara shouted as he forced to sit down, and then lie on her back on the floor.
“I do dare,” was his only reply as he pulled her boots off, leaving them to one side as he started to tape her ankles and feet together. “Now shut up and let me get on with my work.”
Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?
It's the time that every Santa has a ball
Does he ride a red nosed reindeer?
Does he turn up on his sleigh
Do the fairies keep him sober for a day?
So here it is merry Christmas
Everybody's having fun
Look to the future now
It's only just begun
Are you waiting for the family to arrive?
Are you sure you got the room to spare inside?
Does your granny always tell ya that the old songs are the best?
Then she's up and rock 'n' rollin' with the rest
“And that’s your Christmas Number One for 1973 – Slade with Merry Christmas Everyone. We’ll be right back after the news at 6.30.”
The man looked up as his partner came back in, his rucksack bulging with money. “Done it,” he said as his partner stood up, “We need to get out of here.”
“What about these three?”
“Oh yeah,” he said as he reached into his jacket pocket and tossed a white plastic roll over to him. “Take care of them, won’t you?”
“God, please don’t” Cherry said as she saw him take the cover off and reveal a brown roll of plaster. “I’m an asthmatic – you can’t cover my mouth.”
“Is she,” the man said to Ruth, who nodded and said “Yes – don’t make her sick.”
Walking over to the coat rack, the other gunman pushed aside the brown fur bomber jacket of Ruth and the long overcoat of Dee Dee, before taking a long, thin rainbow coloured woollen scarf off the rack. He walked back and knelt in front of Cherry, the scarf taut in his mouth as he said “Open wide – you’ll still be able to breathe safely with this in there.”
“Thanks,” Cherry said as he pulled the scarf between her lips, dropping her head to allow him to bring the ends around and tie them together at the base of her neck. He raised her head and, much to her surprise, kissed her on the forehead before standing up. “Gag the other two,” he said to his companion, who simple smiled as he pulled a length of brown sticking plaster free from the roll and tore it off.
“Purse them,” he said to Dee Dee as he pressed the material over her mouth, the cloth forming to the shape of her lips as it effectively welded them together. Applying a second strip to Ruth’s mouth, he pocketed the roll in his own pocket as he picked up the shotgun.
“Merry Christmas,” they heard him say as the two men ran out of the back of the building, leaving the three young woman struggling to free themselves from their bonds.
“Cnumvtl,” Ruth said to Cherry, who merely shook her head, the tears flowing down and her black mascara staining her cheek as it did so. Dee Dee was trying to force the sticking plaster away from her mouth, but it stuck too well, refusing to come away as she desperately celled out “SMBDHLPS!”
“STCLM, GRLS” they heard somebody say from the inner office, and as Ruth looked over she saw Barbara’s head emerge from the doorway, her lower jaw covered in grey tape as she looked up at her staff.
As she slowly wriggled into the room, Dee Dee had to stifle a laugh – she looked as if she was a grey and brown banded snake, but as she came in she knew what the truth was. There were wide bands of silver tape encircling her body from her shoulders to her feet, with the occasional glimpses of yellow and brown contrasting. She even had her feet taped together, making it impossible for her to stand up.
The girls watched as she slowly, carefully, made her way across the floor, the sweat and tears staining her face as she moved inexorably towards the counter. As she finally approached, they watched as she rolled over onto her back and raised her lower body up, striking on the underside until they heard the sound of bells ringing outside.
“Lrm,” Cherry said as Barbara collapsed back onto the floor, rolling onto her side and nodding as a blue light started to flash on the wall outside, visible through the frosted windows. From the radio, they heard Elton John again, as his song came to an end.
Take care in all you do next year
And keep smiling through the days
If we can help to entertain you
Oh we will find the ways
So merry Christmas one and all
There's no place I'd rather be
Than asking you if you'd oblige
Stepping into Christmas with me