The China Doll Gang
Audrey had been taken completely by surprise when she made her way to the kitchen to fetch some more wine for her and her mother, and saw the apparition hanging in the air. A ghostly white face, seemingly just hovering there. It was only when she had felt the hand on her shoulder, and saw the grey outline of the woman stepping forward, that she realised not only was it not a ghost, it was someone who she had read about in the Daily Mail.
She stood, unable to move from a combination of fear and disbelief as the long rope was draped around her neck and down her shoulders, before her arms were pulled back by the motion of the rope spiralling down them, her wrist fixed together in the small of her back, the rope digging into her bare arms as the intruder then wound the rope around her body and chest, criss-crossing her black t-shirt as the person in front of her removed the long turquoise scarf from around her neck, and rolled it into a tight band...
“About time, Audrey what kept...” Cheryl looked up from her seat and saw her daughter being frogmarched into the room by three women, dressed identically in grey bodysuits that covered them from head to toe, grey gloves on their hands and soft boots on their feet. The one thing that was not grey was the white, featureless masks that covered their faces.
“OH no – you’re them, aren’t you, that China Doll Gang,” she said as she shrank back, looking at her daughter, now tightly bound around the arms and body with her scarf wrapped three times around her mouth, muffling her pleas.
One of the Dolls looked at Cheryl, in her blue short sleeved top over a black undertop, dark blue jeans and slippers. She reached down and fingered the long silk scarf that hung around her neck, looked at Cheryl and motioned she should take it off.
“What do you want,” Cheryl said, watching as the Doll then motioned with both hands as if she was pulling a gag over her mouth if one had been visible. Cheryl looked at Audrey, nodded and opened her mouth, winding the scarf three times around her head and between her lips before tying the ends together at the side of her head.
The Doll then motioned with her hand for Cheryl to stand up, and as she did so Audrey was made to sit on a couch, while one of the Dolls knelt in front of her and began to tie her legs together below her knees, followed by her ankles. As this was taking place, Cheryl was watching the Doll with her doing the same for her, securing her legs tightly together before she produced the longest length of rope she had ever seen, and then used to bind her arms and upper body.
“Whwwntthspk,” Audrey said as she looked over but Cheryl just shook her head – the news article had been very clear about the fact these three women never ever speak. Instead she felt her arms been fixed together and to her back, before one of the Dolls took guard silently, her head cocked to one side as she looked on.
They could hear the search of the house, objects falling on the floor and drawers being opened, but the gun the Doll held was enough to keep them rooted to their seats, wondering how it had happened so quickly...
From outside, they could hear singing approaching – carol singers, as the Doll moved her head to the window, and then turned the lights off. The women watched her white face hanging there as the singers topped for a moment, the sound of “Silent Night” coming through loud and clear, before they moved off.
As the sound faded, the other two Dolls came back into the room, looking at Audrey and Cheryl as they sat there. Two of the dolls then made Audrey lie face down, pulling he rankles back to tie them to her chest ropes, while the third made Cheryl sit on the floor and tied her ankles to her back as she sat there.
The trip stopped and looked at them, their white faces cocked to one side, before leaving them to sit in the dark, the snow starting to fall outside...
In the non-descript grey van, the three women shook their hair loose and looked at each other.
“Yeah - I still have to pick up the rest of the Christmas presents,” one of them said as she climbed into the driver’s seat, and drove off...
The Gentlemen Robbers
“I must say, it is most accommodating of you to offer us some hot coffee,” the tall man said as he sat in an armchair, sipping the black beverage from a cup. “It is a cold night, and this is very welcoming.”
“No matter the circumstance, we must show hospitality,” the woman sitting opposite him said. She was wearing a long gold coloured robe with a brown floral print on it, and a white scarf that covered her hair and head so that only her face showed. The scarf had a brocaded edge, and was held in place by a gold pin.
“Will you be taking this,” she said as she put her hand to it.
“No – I have no desire to make you disobey a requirement of your faith,” the man said as he sipped his coffee again, the cup held firmly in his black gloved hand. He was about six foot five, and wore a black leather jacket over a roll necked sweater, trousers and shoes. The outfit was completed by the black balaclava that covered his head, showing only his eyes and mouth.
“Are you uncomfortable,” he said as he looked at the woman. Her robe was constricted around her legs, below her knees, by the band of rope that held her legs together, while another band was visible over the black short boots she was wearing.
“Given the circumstances, I will cope,” she said as the door to the room opened and a second man came in, his hand on her sister’s arm. He was dressed identically to the first man, but stood a good foot smaller. As for the other woman, she was wearing a long robe, with red and orange circle prints on a light background, and a lace trim to the cuffs of her sleeves and her skirt. She also had a white scarf covering her hair, but a second black scarf had been folded into a band, a knot tied in the middle now sitting between her lips while her wrist were crossed and tied together in front of her.
Two more bands of rope encircled her arms and held them close to her body, above and below her chest, while shorter lengths held them firm under her arms.
“Ah,” the taller of the two men said, “You have completed the search?”
“We have, and your sister has been most accommodating,” the new arrival said as she helped the bound woman to sit in an armchair, before kneeling and starting to tie her ankles together with rope.
“I must thank you as well – since her operation, my sister has been unable to move her hands far behind her back,” was the reply before she looked at the seated man. “I presume it is now my turn?”
“With regret, yes,” the smaller man said as he then wrapped more rope around his captive’s legs, the hem of her robe rising slightly as he did so. “Mister Tall, if you would do the honours?”
“It would be a pleasure, Mister Small,” the other man said as he placed his coffee cup back on the table, and stood up, taking a length of rope from the bag that was sitting on the floor. “If you would be so kind as to turn and cross your wrists behind your back?”
“As you asked so politely,” the women said as she turned and crossed her wrists, saying to her sister as Mister Tall started to tie them together “Are you managing to cope?” The other woman nodded as she looked at Mister Small, who had poured himself a cup of coffee and was drinking it while watching them.
“Very good coffee,” he said as he watched his partner secure the woman’s arms to her sides as he had her sister, and then handed him a folded and knotted electric blue silk scarf.
“IF you would,” Mister Tall said, waiting for her to open her mouth before he gagged her, tying the band over her white head covering and securing the ends at the base of her neck. As he did this, Mister Small collected the coffee cups and pot and took them to the kitchen, the sounds of running water coming through to them before her returned.
“Well, it has been a pleasure to visit you both,” Mister Tall said as they both picked up a rucksack, “But we must be on our way. We wish you the compliments of the season, if not exactly a Merry Christmas. The Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu – may we never meet again.”
The two women bowed in response to them as they left the room, and returned to their transport.
“What time is your flight,” Mister Small said as they set off.
“Ten tomorrow morning – Christmas in Florence.”
“You lucky sod,” was all Mister Small said as they drove off into the snow...
Sometimes it’s the little things you spot that lead to the most interesting situations. A week or so back, I was walking back from a valuation visit. The house was only a couple of miles from the store, and although it was cold it was a dry day, so the walk would do me some good.
As I walked down the road, I saw this girl, about six years old, standing in the street. She was wearing a light purple pinafore dress over a long sleeved white top, and she was looking as if she was searching for someone. So I stopped, looked at her and said “Hello- have you lost someone?”
“I’m looking for my daddy,” she said as she looked at me. She had black hair, with a white bow in it, and she looked as if she had at least one parent from the Middle East.
“Why are you looking for your daddy?”
“Because Mummy won’t talk to me – she told me to stay in my room and play, but when I got bored and found her, she would not talk to me.”
Now this worried me a little, so I said “Why couldn’t she talk to you?”
“She had some funny white stuff covering her mouth, and she could not get out of her chair.”
Now I was definitely worried, so I said “I tell you what – why don’t you take me to your mummy, and I’ll see if I can talk to her. Maybe she can tell us where your daddy is?”
“But Mummy and Daddy told me not to talk to strange men.”
“Well, they’re right to do that, but I think we can make an exception in this case.” Taking her hand, I said “Why don’t we go to your home, and you can tell me why Mummy told you to stay in your room to play.”
“I think it was because the man with her wanted to talk to her,” she said as we walked towards a semi-detached house, with a car parked in the driveway. “He’s gone now as well.”
“I see,” I said as we got to the door. “Why don’t you show me where your mummy is?”
We walked into the house, before she pointed to a door and said “She’s in there.”
I walked to the door, looked in and then turned to the little girl. “I think I see what’s wrong with your mummy now. Why don’t you go and get your favourite bear or dolly, and wait in your room for me? I promise Mummy will be with you n a few minutes.”
“All right,” the little girl said as she walked off, while I took my phone out and walked into the room.
“Hello? Police – I need to report a break in.”
Her mother was sat on a dining room chair, wearing a pink blouse, long white skirt, pale blue trousers and black shoes. A large brown and cream scarf was tied over her hair in a traditional manner, as she looked at me. She watched as I gave the address to the police, and then looked at her.
“Allow me,” I said as I peeled the white tape away from her lips, easing the cloth from her mouth before she gasped “Thank you – my daughter...”
“I sent her upstairs,” I said as I found a pair of scissors, and started to cut her free of the tape holding her to the chair. “I presume you sent her there for her safety?”
She nodded as she stood up. “I have been robbed, but she is safe. Will you stay?”
“I have to, to tell the police what I found – go to her.”
You see, my only concern there was her daughter and then her welfare – some people just have no class...
Lily and Penelope
The streets of Southall were crowded with shoppers looking for bargains – nothing unusual about that on a Saturday, but on this occasion it was the Saturday before Christmas, and on this particular Saturday two women were walking down the main street, wearing long black coats over their outfits. The bottoms of black suede boots could be seen underneath.
They were both about five seven or eight in height, one with long blonde hair and the other shorter, copper brown, cut in a bob. As they turned up a side street, the hubbub died down to a peaceful calm, which seemed to make them more anxious as they walked up to a door and knocked.
The door was opened by a young Pakistani girl, who was wearing a green tunic with white trim, green pants and golden sandals on her feet. A large white scarf with a floral print was wrapped around her head and shoulders, covering her brown hair.
“Yes,” she said as she looked at the two women.
“Hello,” the blonde haired one said “IS your mother or father home?”
“My mother is, my father is away.”
The other woman smiled and said “May we speak to her please?”
As the girl turned round and walked into the house, the blonde haired woman said “I don’t like ti when kids get involved, Penny?”
“I know Lily,” the other one said as they slipped in, Lily slipping some leather gloves over her hands as she closed the door, “but Madame is most insistent we retrieve the information from here. We shall just have to make the best of it.”
The girl walked back into the corridor, bringing with her a woman in her early forties. She was wearing a brown tunic decorated with a white floral theme, matching pants and silver slippers, while a chocolate brown scarf covered her head and shoulders.
“May I help you,” she said as she looked at Lily and Penny.
“I believe so,” Penny said with a smile. “Madame X sends her compliments, and asks for the package.”
“I see,” the woman said, “he has left it, but what does it mean for us?”
“Some inconvenience, I regret to say,” Penny replied as she opened her coat, and drew several hanks of rope from the inside, “and for your charming daughter. In return, however – Lilian?”
Lily opened her coat, and drew out a brown envelope which she handed to the woman. “Payment in full, tickets and passports for your trip to Lahore in the New Year – so that you can visit your father. That would be exciting, wouldn’t it?”
The little girl looked at her mother, and said “We’re going to see Daddy?”
“We are,” her mother said, “but we need to spend some time playing a game of still and quiet, with the help of these ladies. Go to the toilet, and then we can begin. They will be with me in the front room.”
As she ran up the stairs, the older woman escorted Lily and Penny into the front room, before opening a drawer and taking out a brown package. Placing it on the table, she said “You will make ti look like a robbery?”
“We will,” Penny said as she unravelled a length of rope, “Lily will take care of that while I secure you and your daughter. Madame thanks you for your co-operation.”
She nodded and then sat in an old armchair, resting her arms on the open armrests. “Would you object if I was comfortable? My daughter will use the recliner.”
“Of course,” Penny said as she passed the rope around her waist and secured her to the chair back. As she tied the rope off, her daughter came back in and said “Where shall I go?”
“Sit over there,” Lily said as she took another length of rope, “and put your hands behind your back. I promise you, it will not hurt...”
Half an hour later, Penny gave the young girl a gentle kiss on her forehead, smiling as she said “Fnkstthssfn” through the silver tape that covered her mouth. She lay on her side, her arms pinned behind her back and ropes around her ankles, legs and stomach, as she looked at her mother.
The older woman was secured to the chair, her ankles and knees tied to the front legs on the chair, her wrists and elbows to the armrests, and silver tape covering her mouth as well. She nodded as Penny said “We will inform the authorities of your predicament in one hour. Again, our apology for the inconvenience, but ti is for your own security as well as ours.”
The woman nodded as Lily and Penny took their leave of the house, coats buttoned up against the cold.
“What is the package anyway,” Lily asked as they walked down the street, and back into the busy shopping area.
“She would not say, save it’s a present for someone,” was Penny’s answer as they melded into the crowd...
Coco and Soo
“The boys of the NYPD Choir were singing Galway Bay,
“And the bells were ringing out, for Christmas Day...”
“Well, the holiday season will soon be over, “ Sadja said as she looked at her mother. Nadia was standing behind the counter, nodding as her daughter locked away the last case of gold jewellery. It had been a busy day, but they would soon be home.
The door to the shop opening and closing made Nadia look up. Two women came in, one with tightly curled black hair and clear brown eyes, and the younger one with straight blonde hair and blue eyes. They were dressed in black overcoats, their boots visible underneath, and had their hands in their pockets. The other thing Nadia noted was they were, to put it bluntly, fat.
It was a little unusual for westerners to come into their store, but business was business, so Sadja said “Good evening – can we help you?”
“Yes, I believe you can,” the smaller of the two women said as she produced a gun and pointed it at her, “You can stay there while your daughter locks the front door and puts the sign to closed.”
“Oh my god,” Sadja said as she raised her hands to her mouth, revealing her bare belly. She was wearing a green and red sari over a burnt ochre top and a long red skirt, while her mother had a green and red sari over a gold and red top and skirt.
“Please,” the younger girl said as she produced a similar gun and pointed it at Sadja, “do as my mother says. It’s getting late, and she gets cranky at times.”
Nadia nodded as her daughter walked to the front of the store, locking and turning the sign to closed before she pulled the internal shutters down. “Now then,” the older woman said with a smile, “my daughter here s going to take care of your daughter, while you empty all of that lovely jewellery into my bag here. Oh – and don’t think of touching that hidden alarm. It might be the last thing you do.”
Nadia blanched as she moved her hand away from under the counter, watching as the young woman took Sadja and pulled her arms behind her back, holding her wrist together as she produced a length of cord. “All right,” she eventually said as she unlocked the first cabinet and drew a tray of gold chains out “Just don’t hurt her please.”
“You do your job, and we’ll do ours,” she said as Sadja felt her wrists being bound tightly together, the rope going around them three times and between them twice, before the ends were tied out of reach of her fingers. The young woman then reached into her coat again, drew out a longer length of cord and used it to bind her arms to her side, below her chest, and then above, passing each side three times before the bands were pulled together behind her back.
Nadia watched her daughter being bound as she emptied tray after tray into the bag, the older woman smiling as she watched. The younger woman was now kneeling at Sadja’s feet, pushing her legs up before she secured her ankles together with cords, and then her legs below her knees, gathering her skirt around her legs as she did so.
“Why are you doing this,” Sadja said as the woman unwound the matching scarf from her neck, pulling it taut as she looked at her.
“Why else? For profit,” she said as she pulled eat scarf into the young Asian woman’s mouth, winding it round her head several times before she bound the ends tightly together at the side of her neck. The band held her tongue down and held her lips apart, muffling any sound she tried to make.
“Now,” the older woman said as her daughter went behind the counter and pulled Nadia’s arms behind her back, “Please tell me the combination to your safe. It would be such a shame if I had to blow the door off, but that can be arranged as well...”
“No – I will tell you,” Nadia said as he wrists and arms were bound as tightly as her daughter, before she was made to sit on the opposite side of the floor and her legs bound as well. The older woman smiled and sent into the back of the store, while Nadia was gagged with her own scarf as well.
The two women watched as the younger intruder continued to empty the jewellery into the bag, keeping an eye on them the whole time, until her older accomplice came back in. “Let’s go,” she said as she opened the front door, turning off the lights before they closed it again, leaving the other two to struggle on the floor.
An hour later, Soo Angarack walked up to the front door of her employer’s house, using her key to let herself in and closing the door behind her.
“Coco,” she called out, smiling as she saw Colette Aldington, Coco to her friends, look out of the office at the rear of the house.
“Good journey,” she said as she looked at her, her periwinkle blue eyes glistening through her glasses as she smiled. She was wearing a grey cardigan over a matching jumper, slacks and black shoes – unlike Soo’s garb of a denim blouse over a multicoloured roll neck sweater, a knee length skirt and bright red leggings.
“Comfortable,” was Soo’s reply as she placed her bag on the table in the office, revealing the jewellery from their raid. “I’ll go and put the kettle on.”
“Before I forget,” Coco said as she turned to leave the room, “Are you still staying local for the Christmas break?”
“Well, given my folks are in Barbados, yes. Why?”
“You have an invite to Christmas dinner – Maggie and Hettie are cooking.”
“What about Chloe?”
“She’ll be there too – why?”
“Just wondering what the after dinner games are going to be...”