Saturday Morning Sparkle
The Saturday afternoon sun was setting, casting a warm red glow into the large front room of her house – but Daphne wasn’t paying much attention to the weather. She was more concerned with the predicament she found herself, and her family, in and how it had led to this.
The morning had dawned bright and clear as Daphne sat at the breakfast bar drinking her coffee and munching on her toast. At the sink, her mother was washing up her breakfast dishes. Agnes was dressed in a pair of black leggings, and an electric blue silk blouse which she had rolled the sleeves of up. A wide black leather belt was around her waist, and her greying hair held back by a hair band.
“I really wish I didn’t have to go to the shop today, Mum, but the tax inspector was insistent on visiting on Monday, and I needed to get the accounts in order this lunchtime. At least it gives me a chance to get on with a bit of stocktaking while I’m waiting.”
“Don’t worry about it, Daph. I can run the girls into town later, and then I’ll catch up with a bit of shopping myself. At least it gets the VAT man off your back for another year.”
“I suppose so – it’s so just inconvenient that the phones are out of order around here today. At least they gave us a couple of days notice this time.”
Outside the house, they could hear the sounds of the diggers that were working no laying new underground telephone cables. These had been taking place for two days now, and while a nuisance they had learned to deal with it by using their mobile phones more.
“I’d better get a move on, Mum – I’ll give you a call later today”
Daphne stood up, and smoothed her skirt down. She was dressed in a white frilled blouse, long white cardigan, and a scallop style bohemian skirt which went from just above knee length at the front to floor length at the back. A pair of brown leather boots completed the ensemble. She grabbed the keys to her car, and went out into the hallway. “Janet? Helen? Get a move on or you won’t have time for breakfast!!”
“Coming mum”, came the reply in stereo down the stairs, as Daphne put her coat on and closed the door. She crossed the cinder path to her Mercedes, climbed in and set off down the road.
As she did so, one of the workmen in the road watched her drive down the road. He then pulled out a phone and called someone…..
Daphne looked across the room at Agnes, who looked back at her. There was so much that they wanted to say to each other, but words just did not seem to come out. Instead, they stared silently at each other, trying to decide what they should do next….
“Come on girls – you need to finish off your breakfast so that we can get going.” Agnes was talking to the two girls sat at the table. Janet was the older by a year or so, and worked in a local clothes store. She was wearing a black cap sleeve t-shirt, a tartan spaghetti strapped pinafore mini dress, and knee length black boots. She threw the last of her cup of coffee down her throat, and then turned to Helen. Seventeen years old, she was dressed in a very short powder blue crop top and matching wrap around miniskirt, and knee length white PVC boots.
“It’s all right Gran – Janie has another hour before she needs to get to work, and I’m not meeting my friends until 10.”
“I know that, Helen, but I have friends to meet as well, and you know how bad the traffic can get.”
Outside the house, the man who had called earlier took a call on his phone, and then signalled to a white van that was parked a short way down the road. It moved slowly down the road, and pulled into the driveway in front of Daphne’s house.
Agnes sat on a chair in the lounge, and pulled on a pair of mid length black straight boots. “Come on girls – we really do need to get going.” She went into the hallway, and was about to get her car keys when the bell rang at the front door. Opening the inner door, she could see three people in overalls through the frosted glass.
“No, I’m her mother. How can I help you?”
“I’m sorry, but it looks like the diggers out here may have hit a water main, and the stop cock for the street is in your back garden. May we come through and turn the water off?”
Agnes sighed. When they had floods earlier in the year, they discovered the dream home they had bought after Daphne’s divorce had the main water valve for the street in their back patio – a fact the survey had failed to dig up.
“Hold on – I’ll let you in.”
Agnes opened the outer door – and held her hands up to her mouth in shock. There were indeed three people outside – two men and a woman – but she saw the balaclava masks all three were wearing, and the guns that two of them were holding in their hands.
“Please, my dear, come in with us and don’t say a word.”
Agnes backed away, and the three people entered quickly, carrying large workbags with them.
Janet and Helen held were keeping each other company. They were also trying to figure out how to get out of their predicament, but nothing they did seemed to be working. They looked pleadingly at their mother, who tried to reassure them as best she could.
“Gran, who was that at the do…” Janet came out of the kitchen, and was stopped in her tracks by the three people who were with her grandmother. Helen came down the stairs, and also stopped in shock.
“Good morning, Ladies. Will the two of you please join your grandmother in your main room, and we will explain what is going to happen today.” The man who said this was dressed in grey overalls, while the other man and the woman were wearing royal blue overalls. All three, however, were wearing black balaclava masks and gloves.
“Hands behind your head, please, and go in now!” the man in grey said, and Agnes and the girls did as they were asked. The gang followed them in, covering them with their guns, and closed the room door behind them.
“Now, you may call me Mister One, and this is Mister Two and Miss Three. That is what you are to call us today, is that clear?”
The three of them nodded, not wanting to cause any trouble.
“Now, we need to make sure that we have no disturbances this fine morning. Firstly, may we know your names, as we will be spending some time together today?”
The three women stared at each other, then Agnes said “the two young girls are Janet and Helen, and I am Agnes.”
“Agnes Dearing, whose daughter is Daphne Cotton, owner of the jewellery store in town?”
Agnes nodded in shock. She had a sudden inkling as to why this gang had called here today.
“We don’t have anything from the store here. In fact, there’s nothing here of value at all. You can……”
“Agnes, Agnes, we are not here to rob this house. This is just part of a larger plan, and you all have a part to play. Now, you need to let the people you are meant to be meeting know that you will not be there today – and you need to make it convincing. The last thing that you want is for any of your friends to be unwilling participants today.”
Daphne kept thinking back to how much had been a set up for that day. The inspector’s visit, the fact the phones were out – she shuddered when she realised just how perfectly it had been planned out, starting with that phone call she got at lunchtime, and ending up here….
“Hello, Mr Furness? It’s Janet Cotton here. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it into work today – I think I ate a dodgy curry last night, and I’ve been up all night.
Yes, I agree it would not be good for a shop girl to be going to the toilet all day.
I should be back on Monday afternoon with any luck.
I’ll see you then Mr Furness – and I’m sorry again.”
Janet shut down her mobile phone, and passed it to Miss Three, who removed the battery and placed the phone on the table.
“Penny? It’s Helen here. I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to come to the shopping centre today. Gran has asked if I can go with her to a show, and I can’t exactly turn her down.
No, don’t come round – I’ll be setting off in a few minutes, and I won’t be here.
OK – see you in school on Monday. ‘bye now.”
Helen gave Miss three her phone, and she removed the battery from that as well.
“Felicity? It’s Agnes. I’m sorry dear, but the girls seem to have caught a stomach bug, and Daphne had to go into work to meet with a tax inspector.
Yes, I agree – it’s a shame I’ll miss seeing the other girls, but I need to stay here to look after my granddaughters. You understand don’t you?
No, don’t come round – I don’t want you to catch this bug.
Fine Felicity – I’ll try and give you a call tomorrow. Bye.”
Agnes switched off her phone, and handed it to Miss Three. This time, she didn’t take the battery out, but simply switched it off and placed it on the table.
“Thank you for doing that,” Mister One said, “Now we can get on with what needs to be done today. As you may by now have gathered, this is a robbery, but we are not here to rob your house. It is important to our plan, however, that you need to do exactly what we tell you. Do you understand?”
The three girls nodded.
“Good – now, before we begin, do any of you need to use the toilet? It may be a little while before you can do so again.”
Agnes looked at Janet and Helen with a look of horror, as she realised exactly what they meant. Helen slowly raised her hand.
“You are Helen, right? Miss Three, why don’t you accompany Helen to the toilet, and make sure she does what is needed?”
Miss Three took Helen by the arm, and led her out of the door. Mister One turned to Mister Two.
“Agnes and I need to go and have a word in the back room. When Miss Three comes back, come and join us, but until then watch Janet here.”
Janet looked at her grandmother, and tried to make her way over to her. She grunted slightly when she realised than Helen had to come with her, and twisted around to indicate to her she wanted to move. A grunt told her that Helen understood, so she slowly made her way over to where Agnes was sitting, Helen following behind…..
Miss Three returned to the room, and Mister Two whispered in her ear before passing her the gun he was holding. He passed out of the room, taking one of the bags with him, and Miss Three sat down opposite the two girls.
“Now, girls, I’m afraid it will be necessary for us to restrain you”
“You mean tie us up” Helen interrupted
“Yes, tie you up. I promise you it will not be too uncomfortable, but it is needed. Helen, will you please put your hands behind your head?”
Helen put her hands behind her head, the crop top she was wearing riding slightly up.
“Now, Janet, please put your hands out in front of you, palms together and fingers interlocked?”
Janet did as she was asked, and Miss Three placed the gun on the side table before opening one of the large bags. Pulling a length of cotton cord from the bag, she proceeded to wrap the rope around Janet’s wrists, pulling the rope taut and cinching it between her wrists before tying the note out of reach of her fingers.
“Now, Helen, will you do the same please?”
Helen brought her wrists round, and Miss Three proceeded to tie her wrists together in the same way. Kneeling on the floor, she then crossed Janet’s ankles and tied them together, placing the knot behind her legs and out of reach. Helen received the same treatment, and both girls realised that they were not going anywhere for a while.
“Now, girls, I’m afraid I need to make sure you can’t say anything for a while. Please try not to panic or cough, or you won’t like what happens after that.” Miss Three stood up, reached into the bag, and pulled out a roll of wide surgical tape. Tearing a wide strip off, she approached Janet.
“Where’s my grandmother – what have you done with her?”
“She’s perfectly safe with my colleagues – and none of you will come to any harm if you do as you are told. Now, close your mouth.”
Janet glared at Miss Three, but kept her lips closed as she spread a length of tape over her mouth. Doing the same to Helen, Miss Three then picked the gun up from the table and sat back down.
“Just relax, girls, and this will go just fine.”
Mister Two entered the room, and through the open doorway to the back room they could see their grandmother sitting in a chair, with rope around her body. He picked up Agnes’ mobile phone, and took a picture of the two bound and gagged girls sitting on the couch. Turning round, he left the room and closed the door behind them, leaving Miss Three to watch the two young girls.
Agnes shifted a little in her chair. She desperately wanted to say how sorry she was to Daphne and the girls, but the tape over her mouth was preventing that from happening. She watched as Janet and Helen slowly crossed the floor coming towards her, while Daphne looked on unable to help….
“Please, sit down Agnes, and I will explain what is happening.”
Agnes sat down at a seat at the dining table, and Mister One sat down at the other side of the table, placing his gun on the top.
“Agnes, the person we really need to talk to is your daughter, but before we do that there are some preparations we need to make involving you and her daughters. We’re going to set a few things up, and I’m afraid as part of that we will need to make sure you three ladies cannot interrupt us, but we will try to make it as comfortable as possible for the three of you.”
“Don’t tell me the phone works were all part of this plan?”
“No – my employer just took advantage of the extra lack of security that brings. She has a lot of influence, believe me.”
Mister Two entered the room, carrying the bag from the front room.
“Ah – we may as well get started. Agnes, please put your hands behind your back.”
“I’m not going to cause any trouble – you don’t have to tie me or the girls up. Please don’t do this….”
“Too late, my dear. Miss Three even now is taking care of your granddaughters. Now, please put your hands behind your back.”
Reluctantly, Agnes did so, and as Mister Two proceeded to tie her to the chair Mister One explained the plan……
“She’ll never fall for it!!” Agnes replied as at the same time she winced as Mister Two tied her ankles to the legs of the chair.
“She won’t have a choice – as you will see. Have you finished yet, Mister Two?”
The male assistant stood up and nodded.
“Good – go and see if Miss Three has finished, and then we can proceed with the next part of our plan.”
Mister Two went into the front room, and Agnes heard a slight whimper. HE returned to the room, closing the door behind him, and handed Agnes’ phone to Mister One.
“I do think your granddaughters are very photogenic – would you like to have a look?”
Mister One showed Agnes a photo taken on her phone – her two granddaughters were sat side by side, with their wrists and ankles bound, and white tape over their mouth.
“I think you can send that to Daphne now, Mister Two – and then we will wait for her phone call.”
Daphne squirmed around, trying to find some way to loosen the ropes that held her or at least to find a knot, but it was no good. As she looked on, she could see Helen following Janet over to her mother, and she tried to call out encouragement. All that cam out, however, was a muffled whimper……
Daphne was sitting in the back office of her store, sorting out the accounts ready for the VAT inspector to call on Monday. She hated this aspect of running a shop, but it had to be done, and at least she had managed to make headway on the stock take of her store. She was just contemplating a cup of coffee when her mobile phone rang, and looking at the screen she saw she had a new text message from her mother.
“Wondering if I want anything bought for me, I shouldn’t wonder,” Daphne mumbled to herself as she opened the message.
“PLS LOOK AT ATTACHMENT, THN CALL BACK. MUM.”
Daphne shrugged, then opened the photo attachment that was with the message. She stared at the screen for a few moments, then with trembling fingers she dialled the number of her mother’s phone.
“Mum? Is that you?”
“Daphne – I’m sorry, there was nothing I could do love. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…..”
“Daphne?” It was a male voice.
“Yes, this is Daphne Cotton. What have you done to my family?”
“Shut up and listen. I want you to go and open the rear entrance to your store. Stay on the telephone while you do that, and then tell me what you see.”
Daphne stood up, left her office and went to the rear door of her store. She had kept the front shutters closed, and the rear door locked, but she unlocked the door and opened it slowly. Standing behind the door were two women, wearing blue boiler suits, black gloves and black balaclavas over their heads.
“Are there two women standing there?” the man asked on the phone.
“Yyyy – yes there are”, Daphne replied.
“Please let them in and hand the taller of the two the telephone you are using.”
Daphne stood to one side as the two masked women entered and closed the door behind them, then handed the phone to the taller woman as ordered.
“Mister One? We’re in – we’ll call you when we’re ready for the next phase.” She turned the phone off, then placed it in her pocket and turned to Daphne. “Here’s the deal – you are going to come with us into your store, and we will watch while you place all the stock into the bags we have with us. If you don’t cooperate, one call from us and your family are the ones that suffer. Do you understand?”
Daphne nodded. “Good” the tall woman said “Sooner we get started, sooner we are done. After you” and she pointed to the door to the store.
Agnes watched as Janet finally managed to wriggle to the chair she was sat in, with Helen behind her. Janet moved sideways so that both girls could look up at their grandmother, who tried to smile back at them. They knew she was smiling by the twinkle in her eye – albeit mixed with fear. At the same time, they turned their heads at the sound of a thump to see that their mother had rolled off the couch, and was trying to make her way over to them as well.
Daphne emptied the last tray out of her safe into the bag, and closed the door. She looked around at the empty cabinets and shelves scattered on the floor.
The smaller girl zipped the bag closed, while the tall one turned towards Daphne and called on her phone.
“Mister One? We are finished here, and will be with you in a few minutes. Please make the next set of arrangements.”
The taller woman turned off the phone, and approached Daphne. “Right – we are going to take a trip to your house, with these bags. My friend and I will be in the back seat of your car, so no funny business. Get your coat, and let’s go.”
Daphne was taken to the office by the younger girl, and retrieved her leather coat. Putting it on, she left by the rear entrance with the two girls, locking the door behind her. Daphne climbed into the driver’s seat, while the two female robbers climbed into the back of the car and crouched down in the foot area.
“Right – get going, and no funny stuff or we will make sure your family suffer.”
Half an hour later, Daphne pulled into the driveway of her house and saw a plain white van parked in front of her main door. “Open your garage door, and drive in” the taller woman ordered Daphne, so using the automatic door opener she drove into the garage, closing the door behind her.
As the garage door closed behind her, Daphne saw the door from the house to the garage open, and a masked man in a blue boiler suit stood in the doorway.
“Get out – slowly”, the taller woman said. Daphne opened the door and climbed out, while the two women emerged from the rear of the car carrying holdalls stuffed with jewels.
“Did she cause you any trouble?” the masked man asked.
“No I did not – and I want to see my daughters now!!”
“Let her see them, then bring her in here.” Daphne recognised the voice of the man she had spoken to on the phone. The younger man took her by the arm, and guiding her through the house they went to the front room.
As he opened the door, the first thing Daphne saw was a woman in a boiler suit and balaclava mask sitting with a gun in the chair. She then looked at the couch, and saw her two daughters sitting side by side and trying to call out to her. Running over, she grabbed them both and hugged them, but when she tried to remove their gags the young woman simply said “No.”
“Girls, I’m sorry about this, but I’ll make it all right – I promise you.” As Daphne said this, the young man took her by the arm again, and led her into the dining room.
In there, Daphne was shocked to see her mother tied to one of the dining chairs. Agnes had her hands lashed together and to the back of the chair, and her arms and chest were also secured with white rope to the back. Her ankles were tied to the front legs of the chair, and further ropes held her securely to the seat. She had a large strip of white tape over her mouth, with something clearly stuffed into her mouth beforehand.
“My god – let me talk to my mother, please!” Daphne cried. At nod, the young man removed the tape and pulled out a cloth from Agnes mouth. Daphne poured her a drink of water, and Agnes took several grateful gulps.
“I’m sorry Daphne – they surprised me this morning………….” Agnes proceeded to tell Daphne all that had happened, while Mister One and Mister Two transferred the jewels from the holdalls to their work bags. The two other women went into the front room to join Miss Three.
Eventually, all four women managed to meet up as Daphne wriggled along the floor to join her mother and daughters. Outside, the diggers stopped for the day, and the four women realised that if anyone was going to come to their aid, they would have to do something themselves…..
“Are the girls all right? I haven’t seen them since they brought me in here.”
“Well, they have been tied up and gagged, but they seem to be all right. Who’s responsible for all this – are you the one in charge?” Daphne asked the older man she had heard referred to as Mister One.
“No, you have met my boss already today. Now, we really need to make preparations for our departure. Daphne, I am afraid we need to silence your mother again. While we do that, please remove your coat and place it one the chair there.”
As Daphne removed her coat, Mister Two took a clean cloth and placed it again in Agnes mouth, followed by several wide strips of white tape. Daphne now stood by the table, as Mister One removed the batteries from her and Agnes’ phone.
“Please, put your hands behind you back Daphne, and we will get this done quickly.”
Daphne placed her hands behind her back, and winced as Mister Two took a length of rope, placed it over her wrists and pulled tightly. He wound the rope several times around her wrists, cinched the binding and tied the knot out of reach of her hands. He then took a longer length, and wrapped it round her waist several times before using it to secure her wrists in the small of her back. He then took a long length, and used it to secure her arms to her upper and lower chest so that she was unable to move.
The connecting door to the front room opened, and the taller women from the store nodded to Mister One. “Time to join your daughters, Daphne” he said, and the two of them moved into the front room.
Janet and Helen were now sat back to back in the middle of the floor. Their legs had been tied above their knees, and the ropes around their wrists tied down to the new bindings. New lengths of tape were tightly smoothed over their mouths, and their upper bodies were lashed together with rope.
“Please, sit down on the couch there” Mister One indicated, and Daphne made her way over before slowly lowering herself into the seat. Mister Two then took a length of rope, crossed Daphne’s ankles, and tied them tightly together. This was then followed by a length of rope tied around her legs, below her knees and over her boots and the rear train of the skirt.
“Madame – would you care to complete the task?”
“Thank you, Mister One” the taller woman from the store said, and she approached the bound Daphne.
“Madame – so you are the one in charge?”
“Yes I am, Daphne – and thank you for being so cooperative a victim today. I know we had to use a little persuasion, but it was so much easier with your help. Now, let me help you lie down.” With that, Madame pushed Daphne gently by the shoulders, so that she lay along the couch. Taking another length of rope, she then tied Daphne’s upper legs together over her skirt.
“Who are you?”
“They call me Madame X. Now, open wide.”
Daphne opened her mouth, and Madame X stuffed a balled up scarf in before plastering her lips with several layers of white tape. A scuffling sound at the room caused all three women to look round, as Mister One and Mister Two carried Agnes, still bound to the chair, into the room and place her at the far side.
“Now, I am afraid we must depart with our takings. Thank you all for being such hospitable hosts, and hopefully someone will discover you before too long. Au revoir!”
With that, the five members of the gang made their way out of the house, and Daphne heard the van doors closing and the vehicle pulling away. She lay on the couch as the read sun began to set, wondering how they were going to get free…..