“You all know the plan for tomorrow?”
He looked round the room at the five people assembled there, noting their nods of agreement and smiling.
“Excellent – I know it is a holiday day, but if we get this right the rewards will be more than adequate to compensate you all. Go home, rest, and we will see each other again tomorrow.”
“Good morning, Arbor City, and welcome to our annual Thanksgiving parade. Leading us off today is the band of East High – give them all a big sheer as they go by!”
The crowd cheered and waved as the bands, floats and vehicles passed by. For Mindy, this was not the first time she had experienced this, but as the lead trombonist in the George Washington High band this was the first time she had played a starring role in the parade. She marched with the others, keeping time and playing with all her heart as the onlookers applauded.
She was eighteen, and tall for her age with long dark hair. As she walked along, she smiled while not playing, waving to others as they laughed. This was a special day, and she intended to enjoy it before she went home to help her mother with the preparations for the private booking that night.
Placing the mouthpiece to her lips, she started into the first bars of Colonel Bogey. Her uniform was that worn by all the women in the band – a red and black jacket over a black roll neck sweater, a pleated skirt that matched the jacket, and knee length patent leather black boots. She marched with her friends, turning the corner in the main town square before the band came to a stop, allowing the girls with them to do their display as they played.
The parade continued for an hour, until they finally came to a stop at the school playing fields. They continued to play, the local news stations covering the display, until finally a halt was called.
“All right people,” the bandmaster said, “Good work everyone. Take yourselves home and enjoy the rest of your day.”
“Well done,” Mindy said to the brass players as they walked back to the gymnasium to collect their cases. As she chatted to her friends, she didn’t notice the other cars leaving the park, or the white van that was parked near to the entrance to the gymnasium.
Half an hour passed, as one by one the band members walked out, before Mindy finally appeared with her trombone case. As she walked towards the van, she looked round to see if her lift had arrived.
As a result, she failed to notice the side door to the van opening as she came closer, nor the shadowy figure crouched inside. In fact, the first inkling she had of what was going to happen was when she felt the damp cloth been clamped over her mouth and nose. She dropped the case, reaching up to try and claw the sweet smelling rag away, but it was no use. As her eyes closed, she saw a man with an extremely white face standing in front of her, picking up her case.
“All right, she’s out,” the man said as Mindy slumped into the arms of the person holding her. He quickly placed the trombone case into the van and then helped his companion to carry Mindy into the back of the van. As they drove off, he dialled a number into a cell phone and said “Go.”
“Hey, I just saw Mindy on the television!”
Helen looked out from the bedroom and shouted back “That’s good – at least she made it on time. Can you go downstairs and check everyone is getting ready?”
“No problem Mum,” Jane said as she stood up from the couch. Walking into the corridor, she left the flat and walked down the staircase that led to the kitchen of Helen’s Place, the restaurant that her mother owned and ran.
“Hey Suzy – how are the preparations going?” she said to the young Asian woman working in the kitchen.
“Turkey is prepared, vegetables are sorted, and I’m just going to make a start on the pumpkin pie. Want to help?” Suzy was wearing a white apron over her pale blue top and trousers.
“Sure,” Jane said as she pulled an apron on. The restaurant was a small place, dealing with exclusive parties of up to twelve, but it had a formidable reputation in Arbor City, and the booking for Thanksgiving had been made in January to make sure it was secured for them. Suzy was the main cook, while Jane and her twin sister Mindy helped out by serving the customers while their mother ran the bar. It was a cosy family arrangement, which worked well for them.
As she started to mix the pumpkin with spices, while Suzy made the crust, Helen walked into the front room of the upstairs flat and turned the television off. She looked in a mirror, making sure her earrings were in place, and adjusted the blue cravat she was wearing under her white blouse. Satisfied, she was about to go back to the kitchen when she heard the bell ring on the entrance door to the flat. Stepping over to the intercom, she pressed a button.
“Sorry to disturb you, but we have a special delivery for you. Some floral arrangements?”
“Can you bring them to the back door?”
“Sorry, no – they need to be kept in a cool place.”
“Oh all right, I’ll buzz you in,” Helen said as she pressed another button. Slipping on a pair of patent leather heels, she opened the door to the flat and allowed a man and woman in brown overalls in. Both were carrying floral baskets in their arms.
“Put them down on the table,” Helen said as she showed them into the front room. “Just give me the chit to sign - I’m sure you both want to...”
Her voice trailed off as she saw the pistol in the hand of the young woman, and noticed for the first time the pale white face masks that both of the new arrivals were wearing.
“Stay very quiet and sit down, Helen,” the woman said, “We have a lot to talk about.”
The phone rang in the kitchen, and Suzy moved from the cooker to answer it.
“Jane, your mum wants you upstairs. I’ll be fine here for now.”
“OK,” Jane said as she made her way out of the kitchen. Taking the stairs two at a time, she ran into the room and said “What is it, M...”
Helen was sitting in an armchair, looking at her daughter with pleading eyes as the masked man stood behind her, a gun placed at the back of her head. Jane put her hands to her mouth as the woman standing behind her said “Sit down, Jane, and out your hands on top of your head. So long as you and your mother do what we say, you won’t be hurt.”
“Mum, what’s happening,” Jane said as she sat down, but her mother remained silent. “Mum?” she repeated, but then realised that there was a thin slip of cloth sticking out from between her lips, and fell silent herself.
“We’re going to be spending a little time with you, and you need to do what we say,” the woman continued as she sat down on the long couch in the room. “Your mother understands that, don’t you Helen?” Helen nodded mutely and looked back over at her daughter,
“Is this a robbery?” Jane asked, but this time it was the man who replied. “It is – but it’s going to take a while before we leave. Who else is here?”
“Suzy – our cook, she’s downstairs getting ready for tonight.”
“Well, we don’t need to distract her from her work just yet. Sit back, Jane – make yourself comfortable. Helen, if you promise not to scream, we will take the cloth out of your mouth. All right?”
Helen nodded, and as he drew the handkerchief out she coughed slightly. “Please,” she said, “Just take what you want and go.”
“We can’t – not yet anyway,” the girl said in response. “Just relax both of you – your sister will be home soon, and then you can enjoy the rest of today.”
“Mindy – what have you done with her?”
“Just relax, I said,” the man continued as he sat down. “Jane, why don’t you go with my friend here and get some drinks from your kitchen – we might as well enjoy the rest of the parade on the television.”
An hour passed, in relative silence, before the sound of a cell phone ringing broke the contemplation. Helen looked at the masked woman as she answered, nodding before placing the phone in her pocket and picking up a nag that was sitting behind the couch.
“It’s time,” she said to the man, “Helen, do you need to go to the toilet?”
Helen looked at her daughter and nodded. “Take her,” the woman said, “I’ll make a start here.” As Helen left the room, Jane watched her captor as she took a length of rope out of the bag. She made a loop at one end and then looked at the young girl.
“Were you going to change later?” she asked as she looked at Jane. The blonde haired girl was wearing a brown long sleeved top under a white sleeveless jacket, white jeans and brown mid-calf felt boots. Jane nodded and said “What are you going to with that?”
“Give me your wrist,” the woman replied, and Jane held up her left wrist. Passing the loop over, the captor pulled tightly on the rope, constricting the rope around the cuff of her top. She then placed Jane’s wrists together and passed the rope around and between them in a figure of eight, binding them together before passing it a couple of times between them and tying the ends around the bands of cord. Jane found that, although she had some movement, it was impossible for her to separate her wrists, and sat back with a resigned look on her face.
“Now what,” she said as he mother came back in, gasping as she saw Jane sitting there. IN response, the woman took a second length of rope, made a loop and passed it over Jane’s right leg, pulling it around her ankle so that the felt was tightened against her trouser leg. Again she passed the rope around in a figure of eight, pulling her ankles tightly together as well as the material of her boots against the bone. Tying the ends off, she stood up and looked at the young girl sitting there.
“Don’t move,” she said as she walked over to Helen. “Your turn – hands in front of you, and cross your wrists.” This time she doubled the rope up and passed it around Helen’s arms, taking care to keep the coils over the cuffs of her silk blouse as she quickly tied her wrists together, cinching the loops by passing the rope between her arms before tying the ends together. Kneeling down, she did the same to Helen’s ankles, the rope going around her stockings and bringing her legs together,
“Who was that on the phone,” Jane asked as she watched the woman standing up. “Oh, you will find out soon enough,” she said as she passed a length of rope to the man. “You take the daughter, I’ll take the mother.”
Both of them watched as their legs were bound together above their knees. In the case of Helen, the rope went around and between her legs, before the knot was tied and the loose ends used to secure her wrists down against her legs. For Jane, her legs were simply tied together and then the rope attached to her wrists, allowing her a little more room to move her wrists up and down.
The masked woman looked at her watch. “It’s time,” she said, “go and open the door to let them in.” Jane and Helen watched as the man nodded and made his way towards the intercom for the front door.
“Mum, what the hell is going on? Suzy is going to call up here sooner or later, and find out what’s going on.”
“No, she’s not,” the woman said, and Jane could have sworn she saw a smile playing on her face.
In the kitchen, Suzy was checking the food, looking nervously over her shoulder every so often. Standing there were two women in black overalls, with balaclava masks over their heads as they covered Suzy with their guns.
The intercom sounded, and the man pressed the button to open the front door. The two women watched as he opened the door to the room, only to gasp as two more men, dressed in overalls and clear masks, carried Mindy into the room. She was still unconscious, her eyes closed as they laid her on the couch, but they had removed her band jacket. Her wrists were bound together in front of her, while her booted ankles were crossed and bound. As they laid her on her back, a length of rope was used to secure her wrists to her ankles.
“Oh God,” Helen said as they placed a pillow under Mindy’s head, “What the hell is going on here?”
“I’ll tell you, Helen,” the woman said as she walked over and knelt next to her. “In a few minutes, I’m going to untie you and take you downstairs to join your cook. You have guests coming for Thanksgiving dinner, and we don’t want to disappoint them. Two of my colleagues will be with you, watching and serving – if they see one thing said or done out of place, then your daughters will be the ones that suffer.”
“Mindy, darling, are you all right?”
The dark haired girl slowly opened her eyes and blinked, trying to focus.
“Wha... What happened? I was walking across the car park, and then... Oh shit.”
She saw Jane sitting there, her hands in front of her and something over her boots, and then her mother in the opposite chair. As her eyes came into focus, she realised what was happening and tried to sit up, only for a gloved hand to push her firmly back down.
“Just stay still, Mindy,” the woman said, “It will take a few minutes for you to come to, and you may feel a little groggy. We are holding you, your sister and your mother hostage, so just do as we tell you and everything will be just fine.”
“Mum – oh dear God, what is going on?”
Helen watched her daughter starting to struggle, and spoke softly. “Mindy, please, calm down. I don’t know what’s happening, but so far all they have done is tie us up. Just lie still and we’ll get through this.”
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Mindy said quietly to herself as the man knelt down and started to untie Helen. As she rubbed her wrists, the woman walked over to her bag and drew two large scarves out.
“Open your mouth,” she said to Jane as she stood behind her. “You don’t have to do this, I’ll be quiet,” she protested, but the woman just shook her head. “This is business,” she said as she rolled the scarf into a thick band, “open wide.” Realising she was in no position to argue, she allowed the woman to pull the scarf into her mouth, the corners of her mouth pulling back as she tied the ends together at the base of her neck.
“Try and say something,” she said as she went over to Mindy. Jane said “Leave her alone,” but all that came out was “Lv r ln”. “Are you going to give me any trouble,” the woman said as she looked down at Mindy, the scarf rolled into a band and knotted in the middle. As she opened her mouth wide, the masked woman pushed the knot between her teeth and took the ends of the scarf around her neck, tying them together under her hair.
“Let’s go,” she said as she took Helen by the arm. Taking one last look over her shoulder, she went down to the kitchen where Suzy was waiting. “Helen – what the hell is going on,” she shouted as the two women walked in.
“Suzy, they have the girls bound and gagged upstairs – please, we have got to do what they say or they may get hurt.”
Suzy looked at the masked woman, and at the two who had stayed with her, before nodding. “I swear, if you harm a hair on their heads...”
“Let’s save the melodramatics for later, Suzy. Now, your help needs to get ready. Ladies?”
The two balaclava masked women nodded as they put their guns down and unbuttoned their overalls, stepping out to reveal white blouses and dark trousers underneath. As they removed their socks and pulled heels onto their feet, the masked woman looked at Helen.
“Your guests will be arriving soon,” she said as she opened the door to the restaurant. “Remember – everything has to be as always. If they ask, tell them your daughters wanted to be with friends, so you brought a couple of temps in. They will be watching you; I will stay with Suzy here.”
“Will you be all right?” Helen said as she looked at her friend. Suzy quietly nodded as she walked into the restaurant, followed by her two new waitresses.
“Dear Lord, as we gather together around this table laden with your plentiful gifts to us, we thank you for always providing what we really need and for sometimes granting wishes for things we don’t really need. Today, let us be especially thankful for each other--for family and friends who enrich our lives in wonderful ways, even when they present us with challenges. Let us join together now in peaceful, loving fellowship to celebrate your love for us and our love for each other. Amen.”
The assembled group said “Amen” as they raised their heads and picked up the napkins. As well as the minister and his wife, there were gathered the great and good of Arbor City. On one side of the table sat the mayor and his wife, next to them was the chief of police and his sister, and then the Schools superintendent. Opposite sat the judge with his partner, the local member of the House of Representatives, and finally James Nesbitt and his wife, owner of the large department store in the centre of town.
“This looks wonderful, Helen,” James said as the two waitresses passed clean plates around. “It’s just a pity your girls can’t be here today.”
“Well, they wanted to be with their friends, and I don’t mind that.” Helen replied with a slight blush. “Can I refill your glass?”
Through the crack in the serving doors, the woman watched as the assembled party tucked into their meal. She was patient – the time would come soon enough. Turning, she looked over at Suzy as she sat in the corner.
“The meal looks delicious – well done,” she said, and Suzy replied with a glare. Vocal response was impossible – the towel that had been tied into her mouth was preventing that. Her arms had been pulled under her legs and her wrists bound together with butcher’s twine, which had then been played out and used to bind her ankles together. She grunted as she watched the waitresses coming in with empty plates, and out again with replacements and plates of food for the assembled guests.
The early evening passed pleasantly enough, the good food and wine helping to ease the conversation. As the last of the dinner plates were cleared away, the mayor stood up and started to speak.
“My friends, we have gathered today to give thanks for another wonderful year for our city, and I think we owe a vote of thanks to both Helen and her staff for making this a special evening. Helen, will you ask them to join us?”
Helen shot a nervous glance at the doors, before saying “I think they’re a little tied up with clearing things away, your honour.”
“Oh, what a pity. Well, I hope they hear our vote of thanks anyway.” As the party applauded loudly, Helen looked nervously again towards the door. The police chief saw the look on her face and said “Helen, is something wrong?”
“I’m sorry,” was all that Helen was able to say before the doors were flung open and the two waitresses returned, not with coffee as they had expected but with rifles that they pointed at the crowd, while the third woman who came in pointed a pistol directly at Helen.
“Please, all of you, stay in your seats and keep your hands on your heads,” she said in a commanding voice. “We have Helen’s staff and family hostage, and she would rather they were not hurt because of your false attempts at bravery. Isn’t that right, Helen?”
Helen quietly nodded. “Don’t blame her – she had no choice in this. And if you touch that silent alarm, Mister Police Chief, I will shoot you and your wife right here and now. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“Admirably so,” the grey aired man said as he removed his hand from his watch and raised both of them, placing them on his head as the others had done. The woman smiled as the two waitresses produced small canvas bags from their pockets.
“Excellent – my associates will now pass amongst you. I invite you to give generously – your money, cards, jewellery; everything is to go into the sacks. We will be checking, so no funny stuff.” One of the masked men came into the room. “Take Helen upstairs to join her daughters,” the woman said as the sacks were filled. She took one last look at the assembled room before the man took her through the double doors.
“All right,” the woman said as the last items were dropped into the sacks. “My associates are going to give the men something to place on their wives.” As the two waitresses walked round the table, they handed each of the men a pair of pale blue cable ties. “I want the women to stand up and walk over to the wall, then stand facing it with your hands behind your backs. Gentlemen, you will secure the wrists of your partners together, tightly – and no mistakes. You will then help them to sit down and secure their ankles together. After that, we will see what happens.”
“Are you two all right?”
Helen looked at her daughters as she was taken back into the front room of the flat. Mindy and Jane looked at her and nodded as she felt her own arms been pulled behind her back and rope been tied around her wrists.
“We’ll be out of here soon, Helen, and then you can have the place to yourselves,” the man said as he tied the knot. She could see a holdall on the table, with a number of items of her jewellery visible through the opening. “Kneel down.”
He helped Helen to kneel on the floor, and then to lie on her stomach. As he tied her ankles together, she turned and said to the other two “I am so proud of what you have done today. You didn’t panic, or put yourselves into danger. When this is all over, I want you to remember that, and that I love you.”
The girls nodded as Helen was rolled over, and her legs pulled up so that they could be bound together above her knees. Satisfied, the man then helped Helen to sit up as he pulled a bandana out of his pocket. Using it to gag her, he helped her to lie on her side facing her daughters.
In the Restaurant, the mayor grunted as a length of silver duct tape was smoothed over his mouth. The six men were sat on the opposite side of the room, looking at their wives and partners as they sat on the floor in their gowns and smart outfits. They glared mutely back, both suffering the indignation of their position and the fear of what might happen next.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen,” the masked woman said as the two waitresses collected the bags they had filled, “It has been a real honour to rob you tonight. I understand the firework display will be starting soon in the park – a pity that you will all have to miss it. Good night and good luck.”
The three women left, turning off the lights in the restaurant and joining the three men who had come down from the flat to the kitchen. “Let’s go,” the woman said as Suzy watched the six of them leave, turning the lights in the kitchen off as they closed the door.
In the flat, the bursts of colour from the firework display started to appear through the darkened sky outside the main window. The only sounds inside came from the squeak of leather on rope as Mindy tried to loosen the ropes around her, or the muffled sobs of Jane as she sat back in the chair, thumping her booted feet on the floor. Helen lay silently, trying to feel with her fingers to see if she could undo the knots that held her wrists together, but with little success.
Ironically, after half an hour passed it was Suzy who made the first moves towards freedom. She had been sitting quietly; listening to the muffled screams and calls from the main room, before scooting over on her bottom to the table, where the turkey carcass lay on the carving board. She started to bump into the table with her side, watching as the carving knife slowly, slowly began to move along the wooden rest...
Return to the Holiday Hostages index
Return to the main index