The Babysitter Bandit 2
The television was playing quietly, but Emma wasn’t paying much attention to it. Her entire mind was focused on dealing with the situation she was in, as the man took his gloved hands off her face.
“There now,” the masked intruder said with a strange tinny voice, “you just stay there and don’t struggle.”
Emma watched as the room door closed, then started to tug at the ropes that held not only her wrists together, but also to her ankles as she lay on her back. She could see her mobile phone on the table, but what was it when her mouth was covered in tape?
As she groaned in exasperation, a sound reached her ears –a bedroom door opened and a small voice called out “Emma? I want a drink…” Her eyes widened with fear – the last thing she needed was for little Amy to be caught up in this. She started to scream out, but then realised that wherever the intruder was, he had not climbed the stairs, and that Amy had somehow gone back to bed. She relaxed, realising she was stuck there until the parents got back, when the man came back in.
“Don’t worry about the girl – she’s asleep again,” he said, and Emma wondered how he knew if he did not go up the stairs. Her question was answered when she looked over his shoulder and saw what was in the doorway.
“Two of them? He had an accomplice this time?”
Detective Harriet Harmon was sitting in the squad room in Columbus – she had been called in after the report of the break-in at the Jennings house where the babysitter had been bound and gagged by someone who sounded very familiar to her.
“Yup – apparently young Amy Jennings woke up, and asked for a drink of water. It was dark, so she didn’t see clearly, but someone in a black outfit gave her a drink and helped her to settle back down. She never knew what was going on downstairs until the next morning.”
“And you’re sure it’s the same person – the Babysitter Bandit?”
“Well, the MO certainly fits. The first break in was a week ago – here’s the file.”
Harriet picked up the manila folder and looked through the records. On the front was a picture of a seventeen year old girl with long curly brown hair. The statement the photo was attached to gave her name as Jessie Benton.
It must have been about nine o’clock – Mister and Missus Baines had left at about six, and I had just got the boys off to sleep. I had taken off my jumper by this point, and was wearing a blue t-shirt with a gold pattern on the front and grey leggings with a black and white pattern.
Anyway, I had taken my shoes off, and was sitting down with a Coke when I heard a noise in the nursery. I put my glass down, and went in to check nothing had fallen down. That was when I was grabbed from behind, and this strange tinny voice told me to keep quiet.
I could barely see what was going on – the room was in complete darkness, and I later found that they had removed the bulb – that was the noise I heard. Whoever was holding me told me to open wide, and I felt some sort of scarf pulled between my lips. I was then turned round, my hands taken hold of and tape used to tie them together.
My eyes were now starting to adjust, and I could see one of the chairs the boys sat on in the centre of the room. It was small, and painted blue, but the intruder made me sit down on it and warned me not to move. I could make out the form – tall, thin, and despite the tinny quality I’m sure it was a man’s voice. At any rate, he quickly taped my ankles together, then my legs, before using more tape to secure my lap to the seat, my arms to my lap and my waist to the chair back.
He said to me “The children will be safe provided you keep quiet and don’t try to raise the alarm,” before taking a bandana and tying it over my mouth to reinforce the gag. He then tipped me onto my side, leaving me there in the darkness while I heard him search the house.
The last I saw was when he looked into the nursery, told me to keep quiet, and then left. It must have been about an hour that he was in, and another hour before the Baines returned and discovered me.
Harriet put the statement down. “It certainly sounds like him, but it’s been six months. I wonder who this accomplice is?”
“Who knows – but you’ve dealt with him before. We could use your help on this one, Detective Harmon.”
Harriet smiled grimly. She had a score to settle with the bandit anyway – and this time there would be no second chances.
“The children are fine, Missus Overton – you and your husband enjoy the night, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Zoe returned the handset to the cradle and stretched. She didn’t usually take on these overnight babysitting jobs, but she had a lot of work to do and the camp bed the Overton’s had set up for her was comfortable enough. She headed up the stairs, looked into the bedroom and watched the little girl sleeping peacefully in her bed.
Heading for the bathroom, she looked at herself in the mirror. She was eighteen, short dark hair, and was dressed in a blue short sleeved top and light pink pyjama bottoms with a red leaf motif. Yawning, she turned the bathroom light off and walked out of the room, only for a gloved hand to be clamped over her mouth.
“Stay quiet – we don’t want to wake the kid,” a male voice with a tinny tone whispered in her ear, and Zoe looked over her shoulder to see a balaclava covered head looking at her.
“I’m going to remove my hand, don’t scream,” he said, but as he did so Zoe said “Are you the Babysitter Bandit?”
“I am – so you know if you do as I ask, you’ll be fine and so will the children.”
“Please – the parents aren’t coming back until tomorrow; you can’t leave me all night….”
“Hush now,” the voice said as a black bandana was waved in front of Zoe’s face, before two gloved hands pulled it taut and placed it over her mouth. She tried to call out, but the cloth muffled any sound as the ends were tied together at the base of her neck.
“Take her downstairs while I look up here,” the man said, and Zoe was surprised to see a second person dressed in black appear and take her arm. This new person, who seemed younger somehow led Zoe back to where the camp bed was set up, and made her lie face down on it. She then produced a coil of green washing line rope, which she untied one end of and spun out. Taking Zoe’s wrists, she quickly bound them together and then passed the end down to her ankles, which she pulled up behind her knees.
“And that was where /I was when Mister and Missus Overton came into the room. After the young woman had bound my ankles together, and secured the rope to a table leg, she left me there. I heard them searching the bedrooms, but was too scared to move even after they had left.”
Harriet nodded – the story fitted that given by the Overtons, who had a phone call at 2 am to say an intruder had been spotted near their house. Anonymous tip off, from a pre-pay cell phone, so untraceable.
“All right, Zoe – that will be all – you can go now.”
The girl nodded as she left the room, while Harriet jotted down a few more notes. He had, somewhere along the line, picked up an accomplice, and this person was definitely female. Also, there was that voice that continued to nag at her – a strange, tinny voice almost as if they were trying to disguise it…
She picked up the phone.
“Chief – it’s Harmon. I need you to send me a file on one of the Babysitter Bandit raids some months ago.
“Yeah – it’s the Cassel one. Something is nagging at me about that one…”
As Harriet replaced the receiver, the sheriff walked in.
“We’ve got another one, Detective Harmon – only this one wasn’t called in at the time as a Bandit raid. I need you to come with me and talk to this girl.”
In a rented car, Cassie and her sister were looking up at a large house set some way back from the sidewalk. A couple walked out of the front door, waving at a young girl with long wavy brown hair who stood in the doorway. She had her arms round two young girls, who were also waving as the car drove off. She took the girls back in, and closed the door behind her.
“Rich pickings there, I should think,” Cassie said as she looked at the house.
“Yeah – let’s give her time to get the babies to bed. You sure they’re away for the night?”
“Oh yes – unless Heather has branched out, she specialises in sleepover babysitting with – ah, there she is.”
A blonde haired girl was walking towards the house, swinging a holdall as she stepped along. Turning into the drive, she was greeted with a hug at the door.
“Yup – now we wait.”
“I don’t frigging believe it – she didn’t think to come forward because she was afraid her parents would not let her babysit again?”
Harriet threw her handbag down on the desk as she and the sheriff returned from their interview. There was a brown manila envelope on the desk, addressed to Detective Harmon, which Harriet opened and read.
“That the file you were waiting for?”
“Yeah – a raid when this guy struck in Denton some months back. Tied up the babysitter, robbed the place, and left her.”
The sheriff picked up a photograph of a young girl with brown hair.
“Is this the babysitter?”
“That’s her – Cassie Sherwood. Why?”
“Because I know her – but her name is Cassie Forest, not Cassie Sherwood.”
Harriet stared at the sheriff. “Tell me more,” she said.
“Give me a hand with the bed, will you?”
Heather was holding onto the edge of the seat part of the sofa bed as Polly came over and helped her to pull the bed base out. Through the monitor sitting on the shelf, they could hear their two young charges sleeping peacefully. Polly had changed into a set of patterned pyjamas in a light lilac colour, with a repeating pattern on her pants and a picture of a cat with writing underneath on the front. Heather was more simply dressed, in a dark red long sleeved top and pyjama bottoms with an old f fashioned print pattern.
Setting the base down, Polly placed a light pink woollen blanket on the mattress while Heather adjusted the orange throw over the back of the settee. “I’ll get the popcorn,” Polly said as she left the room, while Heather threw a few cushions on the mattress and went to put a DVD into the player. It was as she stood up that the gloved hand went over her mouth and a tinny voice said “Don’t scream or you will wake the children.”
“That’s what happened – their parents were killed in a car crash, and when Child Welfare threatened to take Cassie away she and Ellie disappeared. It’s the first time I’ve seen a picture of her in five years.”
Harriet sat back, taking in what the sheriff had said. Five years – that was how long there had been reports of someone like the Babysitter Bandit around. An idea was starting to form in her mind.
“Can you get your officers to check if someone matching this description is staying in a motel round here – and get a list of names of Cassie’s friends. I think the Bandit is both far cleverer than we realised – and has made their first mistake.”
“Please, don’t hurt the girls.”
Heather was looking up at the black clad intruder as eh wound a length of white rope around her wrists, then pulled them above her head and secured them to the back of the metal bed base. The tinny voice sounded high pitched but male, so she presumed it was a man standing there in black overalls with a balaclava and dark goggles over his head and eyes. He turned, took a fresh length of white rope and crossed her ankles, passing the doubled over length around the cuffs of her pants and pulling her legs together.
The door to the front room opened, and Heather was horrified to see Polly been led in by a young girl dressed in a similar manner to the man. She said nothing, but pushed Polly over to the sofa bed and made her lie down, placing one of the cushions under her head. Polly’s wrists were pulled behind her back and tightly tied together with black rope, and she looked at Heather as the girl crossed and started to tie her ankles together.
“What the hell is going on, Heather?”
“It’s a robbery – I think this is that Babysitter Bandit that was in the news. We have to keep quiet – if they wake the kids there’s no knowing what they’ll do.”
Heather winced as the rope was tightened around her ankles, before the girl rolled her onto her side to face Polly to allow her to pull Heather’s ankles back and secure them to her wrists. At the same time, the man pulled the rope that was attached to Polly’s ankles down and secured that to the bed frame.
The man stood up, reached into his pocket and tossed a roll of black tape to his companion before leaving the room.
“Oh no – we won’t scream, you don’t have to gag us,” Heather said as the girl started to peel a length of tape off the roll. She stopped, looked at Heather and placed a finger to her lips, before taking hold again of the tape and tearing a long strip off.
“Don’t panic, Heather, I’m here with you. Close your mouth and let them get on with it,” Polly said as she looked into the fear filled eyes of her friend. “All…All right,” Heather said as she swallowed and put her lips together for the masked girl to smooth over with the tape. A second strip followed, and then she turned to Polly.
“Please, promise us you’ll leave the girls alone,” Polly said before she closed her lips. The masked intruder nodded as she smoothed two strips over Polly’s lips, and then stood back as the two captives looked up at her.
“Thanks, Cathy,” the sheriff said as he put the phone down. “You’ve cracked it, Detective – all the girls in the local robberies were friends with Cassie at school. The only two left are Heather Saunders and Polly James – and they’re both doing a sleepover to babysit at a house across town.”
Harriet stood up and grabbed her gun. “Move out – we’ve got them now.”
The squad cars screeched to a halt outside the house, and Detective Harmon led the race up to the front door. The door was open, and as Harriet went in she heard moaning from the front room. There on the sofa bed were Heather and Polly trying to call out through their tape gags.
As Harriet pulled the tape off Heather’s lips she swallowed and said “You’re too late – they left ten minutes ago. I think they took everything from upstairs.”
“Call an ambulance,” Harriet said to the officer next to her, and as she untied the girls she could see the two young charges been carried down the stairs. “Also, get in touch with the parents and get them back.”
Harriet looked at the young officer standing in the doorway.
“The sheriff just radioed in – you need to get to the Sunrise Motel fast. They think Cassie is there.”
“Cassie?” Polly said as she rubbed her wrists, but Harriet was already sprinting out of the doorway.
“I’m telling you, Sheriff, whatever my staff say I don’t have a girl of that description staying here.”
The manager of the Sunrise motel looked up at Harriet and the sheriff as he was speaking. Harriet could swear he was hiding something, but what she could not tell.
“John,” the sheriff said, “This girl is wanted in six states for aggravated burglary and endangerment of life, and we need to find her and her sister. Jessie is no liar – if she says she saw her here, she did.”
“She must be mistaken then.”
The sheriff looked round. “John – where’s Tess?”
“My daughter? She’s with her mother in Pasadena.”
“I checked – she isn’t. Tell me which room and I promise she’ll be safe.”
John swallowed hard, and then said “Room 231 – and please, get her back safely.”
The sheriff nodded, and left the manager as he and Harriet climbed back into the car.
“How did you know they might be holding his daughter hostage?”
“I didn’t – but it seemed the next logical step when he was so adamant they weren’t there. Come on – we’ll drive round the back and get into the room up the fire escape.”
He pulled in at the back of a row of rooms, and drew his gun as he and Harriet quietly climbed up the stairs. Outside room 231, they listened to the sound of the television inside. He reached over, tried the door handle and was surprised to find it was unlocked.
Entering the room, they saw Tess lying on the double bed, wearing a pink sweatshirt, grey trousers and white socks. A long length of hemp rope had been used to secure her wrists and ankles, both together and to each other, and she looked up at them as if she was unable to talk. Harriet walked over, placing her gun back into her holster, and pulled Tess’ lips apart to pull out the sponge ball which was in her mouth.
“Have they gone?” she whispered as she swallowed and the sheriff started to untie the ropes. “They said to stay here and not to try and spit the ball out – they’ve covered my mouth with tape every time they left until now.”
“It’s all right, Tess, I think they’ve gone now,” Harriet said as she cradled the girl in her arms. She looked up at the sheriff. “This just became kidnapping – I think we need to call in the Feds.”