Aisha stood in the centre of the room, watching as the masked men took the wrists of her friend Ibtisam behind her back. They had come into the room a scant ten minutes before, surprising both of them as they sat drinking their coffee – dressed in dark jumpers and trousers, with stocking masks pulled down over their heads, obscuring their faces.
Aisha was wearing an olive coloured cowl necked dress, with a scallop style skirt that came down to her knees at the front and back, and higher at the sides, a brown leather belt with a tiger print on the front fastened round her waist. A lighter brown headscarf covered her head and neck, meaning no skin save her face was visible, a black scarf over her hair under that.
As was the tradition in her home, she and Ibtisam were not wearing any shoes or boots, so that she was standing in her hose covered legs. “What is it you want,” she asked as one of the men started to bind her friend’s wrists together with thin cord behind her back as she sat on the chair.
“Your valuables,” the one who was pointing a gun at Aisha said quietly, “and you cooperation.”
“That hurts,” Ibtisam cried out as she looked over her shoulder at the masked man. The white band of rope was sitting over the cuffs of the sleeves of her long orange top, a pair of black pants covering her legs while her feet were in a pair of nylon socks. Her own head was covered by a large floral print scarf, her eyes twinkling behind her brown rimmed glasses.
“Be quiet or we make sure you are quiet,” the man said as he tied the ropes off, and then produced from somewhere a much linger length of rope, which he proceeded to use to bind Ibtisam’s arms to her sides, forming two bands above and below her chest.
“All right, I will tell you where my valuables are,” Aisha said quietly as she watched her friend being secured more and more tightly, “just don’t…”
“Good choice,” the other man said as he put the gun down, and then walked behind Aisha, pulling her arms behind her before she felt the rope rubbing on her own wrists. “We’re going to make her comfortable first, and then you and I are going to take a little walk round.”
“Why are you doing this,” Ibtisam moaned as the man tied the ropes behind her back, and then walked round, kneeling in front of her as she watched him wind more rope around her ankles and force them tightly together.
He passed the rope round her legs in neat bands, and then separated the ends, taking them between her ankles as she looked up and saw the first man binding Aisha’s arms to her sides in the same way as hers. She then grunted as the ropes tightened even more as he tied the ends off, then repeated the process around her legs below her knees.
“You come with me,” the first man said as he took Aisha by the arm and frog marched her out of the room, while the man with Ibtisam stood up and walked behind her again. She twisted round, feeling the rope rub on her legs and body – then stared at the knotted scarf he was now holding in front of her face, as he said quietly “open wide.”
She was powerless to stop him pulling the scarf between her teeth, forcing her tongue down as he tied the band round her head, and then stripped the rings from her fingers before he started to search the room…
It was an hour later, the silk knot in her mouth heavy with the saliva it had soaked up, then Ibtisam saw Aisha been walked back in, a rolled and knotted black scarf now tied round her head with the knot in her mouth. She was sat next to her friend and the masked man secured her ankles and legs in the same way as her, taking the band of rope below her knees under the skirt of Aisha’s dress but not lifting it up.
The two men then looked at the captives, before they left them, Ibtisam looking at Aisha and saying “chnnughtfhrrr?”
“Nhh – nhtbhshlf,” she mumbled as she twisted round, and then they turned round, Aisha looking over her shoulder as she started to try and unravel the knot holding the rope round her friend’s wrists.
It seemed to take an age before Ibtisam was able to shake her wrists free of the rope, and gingerly move her arms round under the two bands before she started to untie Aisha, thinking one thing as she did so.
She really needed some water….
“Oh no – but you are both all right Aunt Aisha?
“Very well then – we will see you at the family meal at the weekend. Stay safe until then.”
“What’s happened,” Maysara said as she looked at her flatmate walking back into the room. Mahasin’s long blue top had a wing tipped collar edged with gold, a widely spaced gold netting on each shoulder, while her white pants covered her legs, only her bare feet exposed. A taupe coloured scarf covered her head and neck, the edge of the blue scarf that covered her hair underneath.
The two thirty year old women had shared a flat since their student days – Maysara was a teacher, and had just returned from work. Her long red skirt almost came to the floor, her black slippers just visible, while her long sleeved black blouse was fastened to the collar. A long matching red scarf was wrapped round her head and neck, a black one visible under that.
“My aunt was robbed yesterday – she and a friend were left bound and gagged with scarves,” Mahasin said as she sat down. “Much of her jewellery was taken, but fortunately it was insured.”
“That’s dreadful – is she all right?”
“A bit shaken up, but yes,” Mahasin said as she put her arm round her friend’s shoulder, “but that was…”
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted as the door was thrown open, and two men walked in, one armed with a gun and the other carrying a bag. Both were dressed in black – and both had stocking masks pulled down over their heads.
“Don’t move a muscle unless we tell you to ladies,” the one with the gun said as he stood in front of the two women, smiling as his partner went behind them. “Just do as we say, everybody will be fine.”
“But we have no money or valuables,” Mahasin said quietly.
“Who said we were here for your valuables,” the man said with a smile under the mask, as Mahasin felt her arms been pulled behind her, and then the rub of rope on her wrists as they were bound tightly together. Maysara then had her own arms pulled behind her, as her wrists were also tightly secured, the bands going round and between her wrists.
“If it is not money you desire,” she said as the ropes were pulled tighter, “then what is it?”
“Something I very much doubt you know you have.”
“But what would – do not do this,” she continued as she saw the rope going round her body, and then pulled tight under her chest so that her arms were secured to her sides.
“If I was you, my dear lady, I’d keep quiet,” the man behind her said, Mahasin watching as her chest was framed by two bands of rope, above and below, while her arms were forced into her body. He then moved over to Maysara and did the same, Mahasin watching as her blue top was stretched tightly over her chest by the tightening bands.
“Are you all right,” Maysara said quietly as she looked at her old friend.
“I… I think so, I am not user,” Mahasin said as she twisted round, the ends of her red headscarf now trapped under the upper band of rope. It was a most unusual feeling – and was she wrong to think it was not as unpleasant as it could have been?
Her attention was broken as she heard Maysara grunt, and saw the way she was bound, while the man who had been behind them walked round and knelt down, four lengths of rope in his hands. Looking up and smiling, he doubled the first length over and wrapped it round her ankles, pulling them tightly together as the armed man said “you good here?”
“Yeah – go find what we came for.”
As he left the room, Mahasin watched as he wound the rope around and between her ankles, locking them together before he took a second length and passed it round her legs above her knees. She saw the way her skirt was gathered round her legs as he secured them, and gave thanks he had not done anything else as he tied the rope off.
She turned and said to Maysara “it’s all right, it won’t hurt” as her friend’s legs were secured in the same way, the rope going round her legs below her knees before he stood up and looked at them.
Eventually, the other masked man returned, and said “got it – silence them.”
The two women watched as he produced from his pocket two clothes, and then at his command opened their mouths, too scared to argue as he pushed the clothes in behind their teeth. Strips of black tape were then pressed down over their lips, before the two men left the room.
“Hwddwhghtfhrrr,” Maysara mumbled as she twisted round.
“Hchhntt – chnnhrrphlslsmhshrrr.”
“Whhh,” Maysara said as she looked at her flatmate, her eyes shining over the tape that covered her mouth and jaw, and then shuffled over, understanding as she rested her head on her friend’s chest, and felt the gentle pressure of her taped lips on her head.
She had wondered the same thing, but their situation, their captivity, had seemed to liberate them to share how they felt…
“My sister was robbed?”
“Indeed,” Huda said as she sat with her younger daughter Hanan, “but she and Maysara are unhurt. When they were eventually free, they found the men had only taken a photo album from the house – some old family shots, but that was all.”
Hanan nodded as she sipped her tea. The young woman was twenty, and was wearing a long sleeved shirt dress in light blue with white leggings and slippers. As with all the women in her family, her head was wrapped in a large scarf to cover her hair and neck, this one with a crimson and blue floral pattern on cream silk.
Her mother was also wearing a large scarf tied over her head – in Huda’s case, a crimson and brown one, to match her long crimson top. She also wore dark trousers, although her feet were bare.
“It seems strange to terrorise two women, just to get some photos,” Hanan said as she put her glass cup down.
“Indeed – but we live in a strange world,” Huda said as she stood up and collected the cups. “You should return to your studies.”
“Of course, Mother,” Hanan said as she picked up the book by her side and started to read, Huda smiling as she carried the dirty cups to the kitchen and placed them in the dishwasher.
It was when she turned that she gasped, as the man standing there said “not a word – put your hands behind your back.” As Huda did so, she heard a ripping sound, and then felt the adhesive on her wrists as they were taped tightly together. Whoever was doing this was strong, as she was soon unable to move them apart - and then she saw the silver tape as it was pulled tight around her arms and upper body, forcing them into her sides as tow bands were formed to frame her chest.
“Who are you,” she whispered, not wanting to alert them to the fact she was not alone in the house.
“Not important – open your mouth.”
“why shoudehhhmmhhh,” Huda said, her voice cut off as half a yellow sponge was pushed into her mouth, and then the tape wound tightly round her head, covering her lips as the band was taken round her scarf. She could tell they meant business now, as she wondered what their next move was going to be.
Her worst fears were realized, however, when the two men marched her into the front room, Hanan screaming as she saw her tape bound and gagged mother between the two masked men. She pushed herself back in the chair, but when one of the men walked quickly over and put a gloved hand over her mouth, she was surprised to feel him forcing a compressed sponge in behind her teeth. She was unable to stop him pushing it in, and then she heard the ripping sound and felt the pressure on her cheeks as the silver tape was wrapped tightly round her head – grateful she was wearing something over her hair.
“Get her secured and then bring her up,” the second man said as he took Huda out of the room, Hanan watching them walk up the staircase as the masked intruder took her wrists behind her back, and began to tape them tightly together.
He then wrapped the tape round her body, the silver contrasting with the pale blue, as her arms were forced into her sides, the bands holding them firmly in place. She was struggling to keep herself calm, but everything has happened so fast…
When she felt him pat the tape down behind her, he looked at her and said “get up.” Hanan slowly managed to stand, before she was forced to walk up the stairs, and into her parent’s bedroom. Her eyes opened wide as she saw Huda lying on her side on the bed, bands of tape round her legs above and below her knees as well as around her ankles, twisting round and trying to get free.
It was no surprise to her that she was made to sit on the edge, and watch as the man taped her ankles together, then her legs above and below her knees, before she was pushed onto her side to face her mother.
They both looked to the door as the two men left, and they lay still until they heard the front door open and close – and then they started to struggle, the black scarf under the main ones showing as they slipped down while they tried to call for help…
“I understand, Tuhran that it was upsetting for both of them – but they are unharmed?
“And that was all they took?
“How strange – I will see you all this weekend, stay safe until then,” Tanweer said as she put the telephone down. Three home invasions in which people in her extended family had been left unable to call for help – but fortunately, no more than that.
And what had been taken? Some money, the photographs, and a diary from her brother’s home. What could it mean?
She stood up and went to look out of the window of her office, which allowed a view of the park outside. She was that rarity – a successful businesswoman in her field, and she lived the lifestyle that allowed.
She also dressed as an important person – her floor length robe was made from a deep red crimson cotton, the scarf of the same colour. The black slippers over her dark hose covered feet were only just visible under the hem of the robe.
She stood there for a moment, trying to figure out why these things had happened, before there was a knock on the door to her office. She glanced at the wall clock, seeing the time as she said “come in, put the coffee down on the desk.”
She heard the door open and close, but then nothing until she slowly turned round – and saw the two men in dark clothing standing there, wearing stocking masks over their heads, one with a gun in his gloved hand and the other holding a gun.
“Ah – my housekeeper?”
“Secured – please, do as we say,” the man holding the gun said with a smile.
“And what is it you want me to do?”
He smiled as he indicated a picture of Istanbul on the wall. “Open the safe, then give me exactly what I tell you to give me.”
“I do not have a choice, do I,” Tanweer said quietly as she walked slowly over and pressed on the edge of the frame, swinging the painting out and then punching a series of numbers into the keypad on the metal door behind it. As she opened it, the armed man took a large canvas bag from the holdall his partner was holding, and opened it out as he said “all bank notes and jewellery inside – and one other thing.”
“And that thing is?”
The masked man smiled as he said “the brown envelope at the back.”
Tanweer looked at him, and then sighed as she said “now I understand. I have your word nobody else will know?”
“You have my word,” the man said as she placed several rolls of bank notes and some jewellery cases inside, and then the brown envelope. “Thank you – now please, take a seat,” he continued as he indicated the chair behind her desk, where the second man had brought it into the centre of the room. As she sat down, he knelt behind her and pulled her arms around the chair back, Tanweer not showing anything as she felt the rope he was using to force her wrists together.
As he further secured them to the chair back, the first man put the gun down and collected more lengths of rope from the bag, kneeling in front of the woman as he started to bind her legs together above her knees, gathering the skirt of her robe around them as he did so.
“Will you pass on a message from me,” Tanweer said as she watched him tie the rope off, then felt more rope as her back was pulled against the chair back and lashed into place.
“You think I am in a position to pass on a message?”
Tanweer looked at him, and simply said “tell them I am sorry.”
The masked man looked up, and nodded before he started to bind her ankles tightly together, the rope going around and between her ankles as she realised she was not going to get out of the chair.
She then saw the red scarf in front of her, the large knot tied in the middle, and knew she had to open her mouth. The knot slid in between her teeth, the band pressing on her cheeks as it was tied round her head, and the two men left.
Tanweer looked at the open safe, conserving her energy, hoping that this would be an end to it all….
“It has really been a year?”
Qamar nodded as she sat with her friend. The young women were both wearing black scarves over their heads and round their necks, Rasima in a long black top and pants, Qamar in a purple top with a tiered skirt and black leggings. She had just come in, and still had black sandals on her feet while Rasima was in her stocking covered feet.
“A year since those men captured us – do you remember, we were actually wearing these outfits?”
“How could I forget…?”
They had been at home when the balaclava masked men stormed in, and took them captive. Both women were made to sit back to back on the floor, and link their arms before each of them had their wrists tied together in front of them. The men then made them bend their legs before they bound their ankles and their legs below the knees with thin white ropes, and then their wrists tied down to the rope round their legs.
White tape was pressed over their mouths, and then their upper bodies were secured together, before they watched the men ransack the room, then heard them search the rest of the house.
When their husbands had returned, nothing had been taken – but they said a message had been sent. A message that needed to be answered - in time…
“Well, as they say, the past is the past,” Rasima said as the door opened, and two men dressed in black came in.
“Husband – we were remembering last year,” Rasima said as one of them sat with her.
“Indeed – and you remember we said a message had been sent?”
“About your business?”
“Indeed - well, this last week, we have returned the message.”
“You invoked vendetta? But…”
“He died a month ago – we spoke to the matriarch, and she has apologised. We are at peace now – and we have returned the things taken to confuse them.”
“And the deeds?”
Qamar’s husband held up a manila envelope. “We have them, so we can open again – all is well…”