“And so it was that, when we came here from the old country to escape that little Austrian, We brought only those things that were important to us – things which we knew were of real value. Things such as this.”
Ruth looked at the small clay statue that her grandmother had placed on the table. It resembled a man, but looked like something that she would have made in her early days at school. It had no features on the square face, the arms were stocky and hung by the side of the torso, and the legs looked like they were one fixed bone, unable to bend in the middle.
“My mother brought that, gave it to me, and now I wish to pass it on to you, Naomi. I feel it is time for you to take good care of it.”
“Mother, I don’t know what to say,” Naomi Sugar said as she picked the foot high statue up and looked at it. She, her daughter and her mother were sitting in the front room of their house in Golders Green, waiting for the men folk to return from the evening service at the synagogue. While her mother was dressed in black, Naomi was wearing a plain black pinafore dress over a white blouse, and short black leather boots. Ruth was wearing a grey waistcoat over a white jumper, and grey trousers with flat shoes, while a grey band kept her long black hair away from her eyes.
“Say nothing, but remember the tales and keep good care of it,” the old woman said as she stood up and collected her shawl. “I think I will walk to the synagogue and meet the others there – Ruth, take good care of your mother as well.”
“I will,” Ruth said quietly as she bowed her head to allow her grandmother to kiss her on the head before she left, Naomi following her out. As the door closed, she looked again at the statue. “Why are you so important,” she said as she looked at it, but did no more than that as her mother came back in.
“I know it seems a silly thing to keep, dear,” she said as she sat back down, “but your grandmother and your great grandmother set great store by family traditions, and this is one of ours. Now, your father will be home soon, let us read until he returns.”
The sound of the door closing indicated the return of Jacob, her father, and Naomi stood up. “Hello, Jacob,” she said as the tall man came in and removed his black hat. “Sit and I will bring supper.”
As she sat in her bed, reading a book, Ruth was still wondering about the statue her grandmother had brought to their house. Like many of the girls in the Jewish school she attended, she had heard some of the legends of the times of persecution, and some of the strange tales that had slipped out of those days, but that was over sixty years ago, two lifetimes for her. As she closed the book and placed her glasses on the bedside table, she tried to put the clay figurine out of her mind, although the picture of it sitting in the centre of the coffee table in the main room was still in her mind as she closed her eyes.
It seemed to her as if she had only been asleep for a few minutes when she sensed rather than saw the light in her room, and opened her eyes. “Is something wrong,” she said as she tried to see past the blinding light that blinded her, but the reality of her situation was soon brought home when she felt the latex covered hand pressed hard over her mouth.
“Shut up,” a male voice hissed, and as she looked to her side she saw her father been forced past her door by two silhouettes. Turning her head back, she saw that the light was mounted on the forehead of a man in shadows, with something obscuring his face.
“Open up,” the voice hissed, and Ruth saw a pair of her dirty underwear in a gloved hand next to her. As the hand gag was taken away, she started to say “no, please,” before the cloth was shoved into her mouth, the frilly edges sticking out from between her lips.
“Roll over,” the voice said, and Ruth was unable to stop herself from been rolled over onto her stomach. As the bedcovers were pulled back, she felt her hands been pulled behind her back and her wrists crossed in the small of her back. She was wearing a pair of light blue cotton pyjamas, and she felt rather than saw the thin cord that was passed around her wrists and used to bind them tightly together, the cord digging through her sleeves into her wrists.
“You just do as you’re told. And we get to have fun night together,” the voice said as Ruth felt her elbows been pulled together, forcing the front foe hr pyjama top to stretch over her chest. She was only twenty years old, and unused to having men doing anything to her, let alone tie her up, so she lay quietly as the rope pulled her elbows until they were almost touching.
“Right, sit up,” the voice said, and Ruth was roughly rolled back over and pulled up so that she was sitting on the side of the bed. Her eyes had started to adjust to the light, and she could now see that the man was about five foot ten tall, with a stocking over his head and a pair of latex gloves on his hands. He was wearing a black leather jacket and dark trousers, and held in his hand a long coil of rope. “Sit still,” he said as he made a lasso at one end and passed it over Ruth’s head, pulling tightly below her breast so that her arms were pulled into her side. As the rope went round and round her body, above and below her breasts, she could hear crying and pleading from another part of the house.
“We’ll join your mother shortly,” the man said as he pulled the rope through and under Ruth’s armpit. Passing it behind and under the other arm so that she felt as if her upper arms were held in a vice of rope. Finally, satisfied with his work, the man forced Ruth to stand up and marched her down towards her parent’s bedroom.
“RFFF” she heard her mother say as she was pushed in. The bedside table lamp was on, and she could see a similarly attired second man binding her mother’s ankles together with rope just under the hem of her white nightdress. Naomi’s wrists were lashed together and secured to the iron bedstead at the top of the double bed, while there was a long strip of flesh coloured plaster stuck over her mouth. The second man looked up, and said “Good – bring the young cow over here and tie her up next to her mother. I’m going downstairs to see what I can find.”
Ruth was pushed forward, and could not stop herself from falling onto the bed. As Naomi turned and tried to comfort her daughter, the man took a length of rope and tightly lashed Ruth’s ankles together, before passing more rope around her legs above and below her knees and making sure she looked like a pale blue sausage. The final insult to her was when the man pulled her ankles back and used a length of rope to secure them to her wrists, leaving her on her side as she looked at her mother.
While the man turned and started to empty the drawers of the furniture, Naomi motioned for Ruth to try and move closer. Eventually, she managed to slide over and place her head on her mother’s breast, letting tears flow down her cheek as the man continued to turn her mother’s clothing out onto the floor.
Time passed, and as the man took a number of items of jewellery and left the two women alone Ruth looked at her mother. She could now see that her legs were also tied together over the skirt of her nightdress, while her cheeks were bulging in a way that suggested there was something else in her mouth underneath what she now recognised as a strip of sticking plaster. Her thoughts were interrupted as the two men came into the room.
“So, did you find much downstairs?”
“The safe, but not a lot else – there was this silly little statue on a table, but I dropped that on the floor. You?”
“Jewellery –good stuff from both of them. So, what do you say we do to pass the time before the others get back?”
Ruth raised her head and looked at the two men standing there. As one of them went over and checked a pistol that she had failed to see before, the other came over and rolled her away so that she was facing the edge of the bed,
“I like the look of this younger one,” he said as she turned and looked round at his companion. “What about you – the mother?”
“Nah – no appetite tonight. Knock yourself out, however.”
There was a thump from downstairs, and the two men looked at each other. “Probably just a lamp falling over, but I’ll check anyway,” the older man said as he put the gun down and made his way out of the door. The other man turned and looked at Ruth.
“Well, young lady, I guess tonight is your lucky night,” he said as he reached down and started to unbutton her pyjama jacket. “I know you’re going to like this.” Ruth tried to twist round, but was unable to stop him as he reached his hand in and massaged her breast. “Oh yes,” he moaned as he reached down and unzipped the front of his trousers, before reaching towards the panties in Ruth’s; mouth. “Time for you to...” he started to say, but he was interrupted by a shout and the sounds of a struggle downstairs.
Naomi had been straggling to free herself, but as the man closed the front of his trousers and went to pick up the gun she let a sigh of relief out of her nostrils. Ruth lay there, shivering as the man called out “What’s going on down there?”
There was no reply, but a heavy footfall could be heard coming up the stairs. As Ruth rolled back over and rested her head against her mother, the young man ran over and turned off the light, positioning himself beside the door. The women lay still as the footfall stopped at the top of the staircase, before becoming louder as whoever it was approached the doorway.
“Stop right there,” the man shouted as he turned on the lamp on his head and sprang out of the open doorway. Ruth turned her head to see him standing there, looking down the corridor as his face seemed to grow paler. “No – it can’t be,” she heard him gasp, before he took some steps back and there were flashes of light as he fired his pistol. Both women could hear the shots ricocheting off something, and Ruth could have sworn in one of the flashes of light she saw a large grey hand as the bullet glanced off it, but she thought she must have imagined that.
What she did not imagine was the sound of the intruder whispering “No,” and then his scream as whoever it was walked towards him, and then the silence. Both Ruth and Naomi lay still, unsure of what was happening as the footsteps came back towards the door and entered the room. Naomi’s eyes widened before her head fell to the side, her eyes closed, but as Ruth closed her own eyes she expected something terrible to happen.
To her surprise, what happened was someone or something grabbing hold of the rope and literally pulling it apart, allowing her to stretch out her legs. She felt a cold hand touching her, and then some sort of blade sliding under the rope at her back and slowly cutting them away. As she felt them part, she looked over her shoulder to see a kitchen knife lying there, and the footsteps heading towards the bedroom door.
She glanced up and saw a massive man standing there; wearing what looked like a pair of boxer shorts but with a strangely proportioned body. Ruth spat out the panties, and shouted who are you?” The man stopped, but started again after a moment to walk out of the room and down the stairs. Reaching over with her hands, she managed to take the knife and turn it so that it lay under the ropes around her wrists, at which point she began to saw carefully away at the ropes.
“One I got my hands free, I found Mum’s mobile phone and called the police. They came round, and sent a car to Dad’s workplace.”
Ruth was sitting with her grandmother, after spending the night explaining events to the police and making sure her parents were comfortable in the hospital. Her father had been hoot on the head, and Naomi was suffering from shock after her ordeal.
“What happened to the robbers?”
“The two that were here were taken into custody. I’ve no idea who our angel was, but they beat them up pretty badly. Is it sinful of me to say I’m glad?”
“Given what he planned to do to you, no it is not sinful. Tell me, did you see the man?”
“Not really – I know he was fired at, and I could swear one bullet hit him, but I never saw his face.”
Her grandmother smiled as she picked up the clay statue from the floor. “Tell me, Ruth, did you ever hear the tale of why your great grandmother brought this statue back?
“It was in Warsaw – the last clearances before they started the pogrom. A group of Hitler’s boys broke the door own into the house, and tried to attack both her and me – I was only fifteen at the time. Anyway, before they could have their way, we were saved by a strangely shaped man, who said nothing but merely – dealt with them. This was after a local rabbi gave is the statue, saying it would protect us in times of need – like the tales of the Golem in the seventeenth century.”
Ruth watched as her grandmother picked up the statue and looked at it. “Well, that's funny,” she said, “look at his hand. It looks as if someone has chipped a little bit off.”
She handed the statue to Ruth, who examined it closely, her eyes widening as she saw the little chip in the arm, almost as if something had hit it hard.
“Ruth, my dear, you should listen more to me,” her grandmother said as she stood up. “Leave the statue, and come – we will visit your mother.” Ruth put the statue down, staring at it as she stood up. “Worry not, my daughter – it will keep you safe, I promise you.”
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