The Sins of The Past
“Thank you, Mrs Grey – I’ll see you again tomorrow morning.”
Edith James waved to her cleaner as she walked down the pathway, and then closed the door, breathing a sigh of relief now that she had the house to herself. She had not had a chance to get back to work on her novel, and the publisher was beginning to make the sort of noises she did not like.
She already had half a dozen successful novels under her belt, but this one was proving difficult. She walked up to the bathroom and looked at herself in the full length mirror.
“Not bad for sixty,” she said to herself as she studied her reflection. Her blonde hair was showing signs of grey, it was true, but the ethnic print dress fitted her slim body, the top of her black lace camisole peeking out at the top. Her legs were in a pair of sheer black hose, and a pair of knee length leather boots completed the outfit, with a two inch thin heel.
“Right,” she finally said to herself, “back to the keyboard.”
She walked back down to her office and switched on the laptop, wondering where the story would take her today. So intent was she on the screen, she did not hear the soft footsteps behind her, until she felt the thin metal disc on her back and heard the soft female voice saying “Not a word, Edith – this is a very real pistol at your back.”
Slowly, Edith raised her hands, the short sleeves of her dress slipping down her arms, and said “Is it you?”
“It is, Edith – I told you some day I would come to collect, and here I am.”
Edith slowly nodded. “I knew it – I always knew this day would come, but why now? Why so long?”
“Does it really matter, Edith? You know what I have come for – do you have it?”
Nodding again, Edith said “It’s in my safe – you can have it. I’ve tried to put that time behind me…”
“I know – and I promise you, you will not see me again. Open the safe for me – please?”
Edith slowly walked to the bookcase, and pulled aside a false panel, punching a sequence of numbers in as the door opened.
“Very good – I’ll make it look like a robbery.” Edith could hear a chair been moved and placed on the floor. “Sit down and put your hands behind the back of the chair.”
“Yeah – sure,” Edith said as she sat down, moving her arms round the chair back and feeling the rope as it compressed her wrists together. The intruder worked quickly, binding them and then securing them to the chair back, before she used a longer length to lash Edith’s back to the chair itself.
“Am I the first?”
“You are,” the intruder said as she pulled the rope tight, making Edith gasp as she felt the wood and rope holding her in place. She then saw the intruder walk round, and found herself smiling at the memory. She was thin, and wore a black balaclava, only showing her blue eyes and red lips. Her clothing was black, and fitted her trim body like a glove – even the leather gloves she was holding the rope in, as she crossed and bound Edith’s ankles tightly together, then to the chair leg.
“You haven’t lost your touch either,” Edith commented as she watched her legs been bound below her knees, and then the woman standing up and taking items from her safe. Turning, she smiled and said “thank you Edith – you have been most co-operative.”
“Well,” Edith said as she twisted round, “as I said, I want to forget it. What now?”
“Put your lips together.”
Edith watched as the woman took a roll of brown fabric plaster from her pocket. “That does being back memories,” she said before the gag was smoothed over her own mouth, leaving her only to say “Gddbb” as the masked woman left as silently as she came.
She then tried to find the knots on the rope holding her wrist together, but it was well out of the reach of her fingers. All she could do was shuffle the chair with her bottom, moving inch by painful inch to the telephone, hoping she had not cut the wires…
She looked at the photograph, the four women sitting in a row and smiling as they posed. The first on the left was a blonde, wearing a white frilled blouse and short brown suede skirt, with high heeled sandals.
“Edith,” she said as she took a marker pen and put a tick over the young woman, replacing both on the table as she looked into the mirror.
“One down,” she said, “and three to go.”
“Another pint here, Gwen!”
“Coming right up, Ted,” Gwen Cooper said as she grabbed a glass and pulled the pump, the amber liquid flowing freely into the glass as a white head formed. She had owned the Hill Top Inn for twenty years, and was almost as much a fixture on the local scene as the hills were.
Everyone knew she liked to dress in the style of her youth, and today was no different – she had on a sixties style paisley patterned minidress in purple, with a matching scarf covering her hair. Her slim legs were encased in a pair of over the knee purple suede boots, with a four inch stack heel, and a choker with a flower on the side was around her neck. Her brown hair came out from under the scarf in a carefully maintained unkempt manner, and she wore a pair of large glasses – a recent concession to her eyesight.
As she handed the pint over, she looked at the barmaid, chatting with another customer. “I’m taking a break, Jo – mind the fort will you?”
“Sure thing Gwen,” the young girl said as Gwen went out of the rear of the bar, and walked up the staircase. A coffee, a sandwich, a sit down, and she’d be ready for the afternoon crowd.
Any thought of coffee was driven from her mind, however, as she walked into the flat above the bar, and a soft leather gloved hand clamped itself over her mouth from behind.
“Whhsthhtmmm” Gwen screamed as she tried to pull the hand away,
“Stop screaming Gwen,” the soft female voice said “You know who this is, don’t you?”
Gwen’s eyes widened, and then she slowly nodded.
“Good, take that scarf off, give it a good shake, and then put it in your mouth – a reminder of the old days.”
As the hand was removed, Gwen reached behind her and untied the ends of the scarf, shaking it as she said “IT’s been a while.”
“Forty years,” the voice said, “but don’t worry – I already found it. Obvious hiding place, wasn’t it?”
Gwen could see the books scattered on the floor. “Yeah – to us,” she said before she pushed the re-folded scarf into her mouth, and took the long red chiffon scarf handed to her by a gloved hand.
“You know what to do,” the voice said, Gwen nodding as she pulled the material between her lips, passing it around her head and tying the ends tightly together at the base of her neck.
“I visited Hazel yesterday – you can read about it in the paper later, when that very nice looking barmaid of yours comes up to see what’s keeping you. Now, let’s go to your bedroom, hmm?”
Gwen nodded as they walked to the bedroom, standing still as her wrists were crossed and bound together behind her back, and then ropes tied around her upper body, holding her arms in place as t was wrapped above and below her chest.
“Lie down, on your stomach,” the female voice said quietly, and once Gwen was settled she felt her ankles been bound tightly, side by side, and then her legs below and above her knees, the rope passing between her legs each time.
“There – all done,” she said as Gwen rolled over, and looked at the balaclava masked woman.
“Thank you,” she said as she patted her trousers, and then left Gwen on the bed, her hope being Jo would come looking for her sooner rather than later.
Gwen smiled up from the photo as she sat next to Hazel, beaming as she wore the pinafore dress over a white blouse with a very large wing collar.
“You forget that was the fashion at the time,” she said as she ticked the photo with the marker pen. She had two of what she needed now – but she knew the third person was going to be the most difficult of all.
Melanie Carter looked up from her desk at the young woman standing in front of her. The redhead was wearing a black leather halter dress, the hem sitting half way down her thighs, and a pair of black knee length felt boots.
“Very well – I am pleased with your probation period. Welcome to the firm.”
“Thank you, Madame Carter” she said as she bowed, and left the room, Melanie smiling at her. She was wearing a gold satin blouse, with a ruffed collar that led all the way down to the side buttoning, leaving a very low cut. Her skirt was made of white leather and came to below her knee, with black fishnet stockings and black leather boots, and she wore a pair of tight black leather gloves on her hands.
Her black hair was pulled back and held in a black band, the locks flowing down her back as she stood up and looked out of the window. Business, as they say, was good.
“How’s business, Mel?”
Melanie stiffened, and then turned, leaning against a drawer unit as she looked at the masked and armed intruder.
“I’m impressed – you can still get in where people are not meant to enter. I spoke to Hazel yesterday – she said she had a visitor.”
“She did – I visited Gwen yesterday as well.”
“Really? How is the hippy?”
“Happy – she proved most cooperative. I really hope you are not going to give me any trouble Mel.”
“Why should I? It wasn’t my idea. Life has treated you well.”
“IT’s treated us all well – I saw the pictures of your sixtieth birthday party.”
Before Melanie could answer, the door opened and the redhead walked back in.
“Forgive me mistress, but…”
“Quiet, Leanne,” Melanie said as she looked at the young girl. “This woman and I have business to discuss, and I have the regrettable feeling you will need to stay.”
“Of course, mistress – will you do the honours?”
“If you don’t mind?” Melanie watched as the masked woman took some lengths of cord and a roll of white tape from her bag, and handed them to her. She then looked back and watched as Melanie secured the redhead’s wrists behind her back, sat her down and tied eh rankles to each other, and finally pressed a length of tape over her mouth.
“Naturally, you forced me to open the safe and then bound and gagged me as well as you emptied it,” Melanie then said as she opened the large safe in the room.
“Naturally,” the masked woman then said as she produced more rope. “Perhaps you will be more comfortable in the chair?”
“Most kind,” Melanie said as she sat down, and crossed her wrists behind the chair back, smiling at the redhead as she said “You understand what to say when the police arrive, don’t you?
“Yssmstrs” she said as she nodded, watching the intruder secure and gag her boss before she emptied the safe.
“Who would have thought dear sweet innocent Mel would have become that woman,” she said as she ticked the third woman on the couch, smiling as she wore a sleeveless checked dress with a round collar.
She only had one more person to visit now – and she would be the easiest of the four, given she had truly put her past behind her.
“Are you sure it’s not too much trouble, Irene?”
“Of course it’s not,” Irene Clark said as she fished her keys out of her handbag. “I’ll put the kettle on, we’ll have some coffee, and then I’ll drive you home. Come on in, Brenda.”
Brenda smiled as her friend opened the door. They had met in town, and got the bus back as far as the town. Irene was wearing a black puffer coat over her black patterned dress, and a pair of knee length black leather boots, a scarf wrapped round her neck as she closed the door, and then run her hand through her red hair.
Brenda unbuttoned her white coat, revealing the black cardigan and white jumper she was wearing underneath. A pair of black leggings were tucked into her black short boots, as she put the coat and her black scarf on a coat stand.
“I’ll put the kettle on,” Irene said as she headed for the kitchen, “you go in and sit down.”
“Thanks,” Brenda said as she went into the front room, and Irene walked into her small kitchen, switching on the kettle and humming to herself as she prepared two mugs.
“Right then,” she said as she backed into the front room, “Here we…”
Brenda looked at her from her position on the couch, her wrist taped behind her back and her arms taped to her side. More tape held her legs together at her ankles, thighs and calves, her boots neatly sitting on the floor, while strips of silver tape covered her mouth.
“Thank you, Irene,” a female voice said as she took one of the mugs, “I’ll have one of those.”
Irene looked at the masked woman, sipping the coffee as she pointed a gun at the red haired woman, and said “shit – am I the first?”
“No – you’re the last.”
“Whstggngg,” Breda said as she wriggled on her side, lying on the couch.
“Sorry Brenda – sins of my youth catching up with me,” Irene said as she gave a little smile.
“Where is it?”
“Go to the main bedroom – chest of drawers, bottom one on the right. You’ll see a locked metal box – take it. What you want is inside.”
“Thank you,” the masked intruder said as she put the coffee mug down, and picked up instead a roll of silver duct tape. “You may be more comfortable if you removed your boots.”
“No, it’s all right,” Irene said, “I never allowed anyone else to back then. All I ask is you tape my wrists in front of me – the years have not been kind to my rheumatism.”
Twenty minutes later, the masked woman returned to check on Irene and Brenda. The two women were trying to talk to each other through the strips of tape that covered their mouths. Irene was sat in a comfy armchair, her wrists crossed and taped together in front of her and her arms taped to her sides, while her ankles and below her knees had tape wrapped round them as well.
The masked woman nodded to both of them, placing a telephone on Irene’s lap and saying “Give me ten minutes” before she left them.
“Tgttmwe,” Irene said as she looked at Brenda, wishing she could explain.
Irene – she had always been the most beautiful of the four, as she sat with her legs to the side, ankles crossed as her high boots rubbed against each other, wearing a brown blouse under her checked waistcoat and skirt.
She ticked the last face, remembering what she had heard of when the photo was taken. It had been 1973, and the four of them were sitting in the front room of the house they shared, smiling as Fiona pressed the button.
“There we go,” she had said, “one for the record books. The last time the Ladies of Rope will ever be together.”
Their degrees were over, and they had decided to go their separate ways, ending three years in which they had committed a very successful series of cat burglaries in the area. Their gains had been well hidden, and tonight was the night they would say where.
“We’ve each taken what we need,” Fiona said, “and the rest is in a secret location. We take one line of the location each, and guard it with our lives.”
“Then,” Melanie said, “if the day comes when one of us needs t the most, we give the clues to them – if they come the way we came, right?”
“Right,” Irene said as they each took a slip of paper, and then took a glass of champagne each. “If one of us dies, they leave instructions in the will to pass it to another. The last one standing gets everything.”
“Agreed,” Edith said as they toasted one another, and then went to pack.
That was the way she had heard it, as she assembled the clues and read the location. Smiling, she stood up, and walked to the room next door.
“How is she?”
“She’s sleeping,” the nurse said as she walked over and stroked her mother’s thin grey hair.
“I have it, Mum,” she said before she kissed Fiona, “now you can live your last days in comfort…”