“Maria santa, madre del dios, me ayuda a liberarme de esta situación, yo ruega.”
Conchita was silently praying to herself as she sat on the floor, watching the women making their way around the room and taking items from the shelves, placing them into the large bag they had brought with them. Her prayer had to be silent, for the lengths of white tape that had been smoothed over her mouth to keep the sock in place were stopping any sound from leaving her. In fact, there was nothing she could do about her current situation but sit back and think about how the day had come to this.
Conchita looked like the unfortunate stereotype of a Latin American housekeeper. Not more than five feet tall, and with short dark hair, she had started the day at 6 am as usual, preparing breakfast for the Summers family before they went their various ways. Mr Summers was the manager at one of the local banks, and was sat at the breakfast bar eating a toasted muffin and drinking black coffee. Mrs Summers was in a white silk dressing gown, also drinking coffee, while their daughter Amy was pouring herself a glass of orange juice. Conchita was at the stove, cooking up bacon and eggs for the two women.
She was wearing the same clothes she wore everyday for house work – a pale blue work dress that buttoned up the front with white trim, and a white apron tied around her waist. Her legs were covered with a pale white set of nylons, and white sneakers were on her feet. If she had to work in the evenings, she would wear a more traditional black outfit, but for everyday things this was the most practical costume to wear.
“I’ll be late home from work, darling,” Mr Summers said to his wife, “the auditors are in today and I can’t get back until they finish their work.”
“All right, dear – I’m sure Conchita can leave something for you to eat when you get back.”
“Si, Mr Summers,” she said without taking her eyes off the stove, “I will have some supper ready for you.” She liked her employers, even if the hours were long - the pay was good, and they treated her well.
“Gotta go, Mum,” Amy shouted as she grabbed her satchel and headed for the door. “Are you still picking me up after the dance practice today?”
“Yes, Amy, I will,” Mrs Summers shouted after her as she ran out of the door.
“I need to get going as well,” Mr Summers said as he put his cup by the kitchen sink. “See you later, honey.”
Kissing his wife on the cheek, he headed out of the door.
“I’ll have Amy’s food as well, Conchita – seems a shame to let it go to waste, and I have a tennis lesson later.”
Conchita loaded the food onto one plate, and placed it in front of Mrs Summers. She marvelled at how much she kept her figure with all the food she ate, but kept those thoughts to herself and went back to clearing the breakfast dishes away,
“Ahh – that’s better,” she said as she pushed the cleared plate away. “I’m going to get cleaned up now, Conchita, please can you make a start on the living room?”
Conchita nodded as her employer headed out of the kitchen and up to her bedroom. She finished washing the dishes, then began the tidying and dusting of the main living room.
A ring at the doorbell distracted her from the mundane of the cleaning. Reasoning it was the mailman with a parcel, she opened the front door to greet him.
“Good morning, Ramos, and wha…..” she started to say, only to stop when she realised it was not Ramos the mailman. Four people were standing in the doorway, two men and two women, and all four had bandanas tied over the lower half of their faces.
“¿Qué usted le piensa está haciendo?” she called out before the men grabbed her by her arms and pulled her back into the house, followed by the two women.
“Cerrado para arriba si usted sabe cuál es bueno para usted” one of the men whispered in her ear with a thick Spanish accent, and Conchita decided that quiet was the best move at that time. The men pushed her down onto one of the long couches in the living area, while the women made their way up the main stairs.
Conchita listened as sounds of struggles came from upstairs, and then the two women brought Mrs Summers down the main staircase. She had changed into a white sports shirt and wrap around skirt, and wore tennis shoes on her feet,
“Conchita, what happened?” she asked as she was pushed onto the couch next to the maid, but the woman could only look blankly at her.
“Right, go and check if there’s anyone else in the house,” the other man said, and the two women went in separate directions. “As for you two,” he said turning to the two women on the couch, “I don’t want to hear a word out of you, capeesh?”
The two women looked at each other, than Mrs Summers stood up suddenly. “Just who are you to order us around? I’m a very important woman in this town, I’ll have you know, and if you don’t get out of here this instant I’ll…”
“You’ll do what?” the man with the Spanish accent said a she produced a hunting knife from his back pocket. “You’ll only do as you’re told, or you’ll do nothing else ever again, understand?”
Mrs Summers nodded, and Conchita sat silently beside her as the two women returned, shaking their heads.
“All right, we need to make sure you can’t get in our way. You,” the man who seemed to be the leader said pointing at Conchita, “take your shoes and socks off, and give your socks to the girl beside you.”
Conchita looked at the man, then bent down and unlaced her shoes. Removing the white ankle socks she had on, she passed them to one of the masked women, who proceeded to turn them inside out and roll each one into a little ball.
“Abra a madre ancha, pequeña” the Spanish man said to Conchita, and as she opened her mother one of the balled up socks was pushed into her mouth. The other woman tore a strip of white tape off a roll she had produced, and quickly stuck it over Conchita’s lips before she had a chance to spit it back out again.
“You as well, lady,” the leader said to Mrs Summers, but she kept her mouth tightly shut and tried to stop the sock going on. The Spaniard took the knife he was holding and held it against her throat, and she reluctantly allowed the gag to be applied.
“And now, we will take you upstairs,” the leader said to Mrs Summers as the tape was smoothed over her mouth, “and you can give us all of your valuables. Take care of the housekeeper, then search down here.”
The two men took Mrs Summers by her arms and frog marched her up the main stair way. The two masked women took Conchita by the arms and led her into the kitchen. As she stood there, one of the women took the roll of white tape and began to wrap it around Conchita’s wrists behind her back. She then wrapped it around her arms and chest, so that she was unable to move them from her side.
Pushing her down to the floor, they wasted no time in binding Conchita’s ankle and feet in the tape, followed by her legs above her knees, and then more strips of tape were smoothed over her mouth to reinforce the gag. From upstairs, she could here noises that suggested to her that Mrs Summers was also been tied up, but there was nothing she could do now except sit silently and pray for the ordeal to end.
Satisfied that she was unable to move, the two female robbers left the housekeeper on the kitchen floor and proceeded to search the downstairs rooms for loot to take. Through the open doorway, Conchita could hear the sounds of items falling on the floor, and occasionally see them putting items such as gold and silver candlesticks into a large bag, but despite her best attempts the tape would not give way to allow her to free herself.
She leaned back against the units, silently watching and praying for the end to come.
After an hour or so, the two men returned to the front room, and placed a couple of sacks in the large bag as well.
“Adiós, pequeña madre,” one of the gang shouted through the open door as he looked in on Conchita, and the four robbers left the house carrying the large bag with them.
Silence descended on the house, and Conchita wondered what had happened to her employer. There were no sounds coming from the upper floors of the building, and she was beginning to fear that something bad had happened to her.
Looking around the room, she saw to her own regret that she had been as efficient as usual in clearing up after breakfast – all the plates, glasses and cutlery were where they were supposed to be, and there was nothing that she could see to help her get free. The silence was becoming more and more worrying, however, so she decided to see if she could find out what had happened elsewhere.
She shuffled along the polished kitchen floor on her bottom, pulling her legs up until they were under her chin, and then stretching them out again. Slowly, oh so slowly she made her way across the kitchen floor towards the open door, with the skirt of her work dress riding up around her waist as she did so, but finally she was able to see into the main room.
The floor looked like a disaster area – books and magazines were scattered over the floor, and cushions and chairs were upended. Doors had been ripped open, and Conchita could see that all the drawers and containers had been emptied out onto the floor. Through the arch that divided the seating area from the dining area, she could also see upturned chairs with the seats removed.
The housekeeper looked on in despair, until she realised that one of the cushions from the main seat was lying on her side next to her. She leaned over to gain a few moments rest, and to assess what she should do next. Moving her head a little, she discovered that the tape across her mouth seemed to be catching a little on the fabric of the cushion, and that gave her an idea.
Conchita pushed herself along the floor so that she was leaning against the cushion, and she began to rock against it, pushing it over a little more with each rock. Eventually, the cushion gave way and fell onto the floor, with Conchita following afterwards. With great good fortune, she landed on her cheek on the cushion, and avoided hurting herself in any way.
The noise made by the cushion falling carried around the house, and Conchita heard from upstairs the muffled sounds of somebody calling. With this, she realised with relief that Mrs Summers at least was still alive, and her worst fears subsided. She began to slowly rub her cheek against the cushion, little by little teasing at the tape over her mouth to try and dislodge it. Little by little, the edge of the tape began to come away from her skin, and after an hour or so of patiently rubbing she was able to peel the tape away enough to allow her to spit out the sock that was in her mouth.
“Mrs Summers? Can you hear me, Mrs Summers?” she called out, and a loud moan and knocking sound came from the upper levels of the house. Righting herself, Conchita made her way across the floor to the bottom of the staircase, and with some effort managed to move her bottom up the first two stairs.
By placing her bound ankles and feet on the first step, Conchita was able to push enough to move her bottom up another level. Repeating this movement, she was able to make her way to the top level, where she rested for a moment.
The moaning and knocking increased in volume the closer she got to the top, and once there she realised that the sound was coming from the master bedroom. Taking a moment to catch her breath, she started to slide herself along towards the second door on the hallway, pausing only to notice that Amy’s room had been searched just as thoroughly as the main rooms downstairs had been.
“I’m coming, Mrs Summers,” Conchita called out as she made her way backwards into the master bedroom, and then moved around to see what had happened.
The floor, as was the case downstairs, was littered with clothes and items from drawers, and jewellery boxes were scattered over the bed. Of most immediate attention for Conchita, however, was the fact that Mrs Summers was sat in the centre of the room on the chair from her dressing table. Her arms were taped down to the armrests, and there was tape all around her waist and lower chest holding her to the chair. Her ankles were taped to the legs of the chair, and more tape wrapped around the seat to hold her lap in place. Finally, as well as tape over her mouth to hold the gag in place she had been blindfolded with further strips of white tape. She appeared unharmed, but was trying desperately to call out.
“Mrs Summers, pleas be quiet – I am here now, even if you cannot see me,” the housekeeper shouted, and the blindfolded woman sat quite still.
“I am going to try to take the tape off one of your wrists. It will take a little time, so please be patient with me.”
With some effort, Conchita managed to get herself up on her knees, and she shuffled forward until her face was against the arm of the chair. Turning to face Mrs Summers side on, she leaned over and began to pick at the tape around her wrist with her teeth. After some time, she succeeded in loosening the tape enough to get a loose edge, and she slowly began to peel the tape back off the arm of the chair, bending over and grabbing the tape again when it was impossible to continue in one go.
Eventually, Mrs Summers was able to pull her wrists free of the arm, and she reached up and pulled away the tape over her eyes. The afternoon sun by now was shining through the window directly at her, and she blinked for a few minutes as her eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness.
She saw her housekeeper kneeling beside her, still bound but with the tape hanging off her cheek, and Mrs Summers reached over to pull away the gag before removing the tape from her own mouth and spitting out the sodden sock.
“Conchita, I am so sorry this has happened. When they took me up here, I thought they were going to kill us both, but when they left and I heard the noise downstairs….”
“Please, Mrs Summers, we must get ourselves free and alert the police. Can you free your other wrist? Then perhaps you can untie my wrists and arms, and then I can free you from the chair….”
Amy was wondering why her mother had failed to show up at school to collect her, and when she was unable to get an answer on her cell phone she got worried enough to ask John, a friend of hers, to drive her home.
The two entered the house to be greeted by the sight of items strewn all over the downstairs room, and both realised that there must have been a robbery there.
“Mum!!” Amy called out “Are you here? Mum, are you all right?”
“Amy? Is there anyone with you?”
“John’s here – what happened?”
“Ask John to call the police – Conchita and I are in the bedroom, getting free. We’ll be with you in a minute.”
Amy looked at John, who had already produced his cell phone and was dialling 911. She ran up the stairs and into the master bedroom, where she found her mother removing the last of the tape from her legs while Conchita was trying to stand up after removing the last of her bindings.
“Mum!” Amy shouted as she rushed over to hug her mother.
“I’m fine dear – Conchita managed to get me mostly free before you arrived. I’m sorry I couldn’t pick you up, but – well, I was a little tied up at the time.”
Conchita stood up, and brushed the dust off her outfit. “Shall I prepare some drinks, Mrs Summers?”
“No, Conchita – you’ve done more than enough today,” Mrs Summers said as the sound of police sirens came nearer. “Thank you for what you did for me.”
The housekeeper stood and watched the two women embracing, and offered up a silent prayer of thanks to Mary for giving her the strength to deal with the terror of that day.