She grimaced as the leather gloved hands smoothed the length of sticking plaster over her mouth. The man smiled as he stroked her blonde hair, which was still in the beehive that she had put it up into that evening and never bothered to relax before going to bed on her return.
She had been woken by the light from the torch shining in her eyes, and as she blinked the gloved hand had been put over her mouth and a voice told her to be quiet. It also said that he had already been into her daughter’s room, and so long as she did as she was told neither of them would be hurt.
The intruder allowed her to put a dressing gown on over her silk nightdress, and escorted her into the main room of her apartment. The standard lamp was on, and she could see her daughter lying on her side on the chaise longue. She had been aroused from her bed some time before, and looked up at her mother with a mixture of fear and concern.
She was wearing a pale yellow short sleeved “baby doll” nightdress, and a matching ribbon was holding back her long blonde hair. The intruder had bound her wrists behind her back, using a ball of string, and then used the same string to bind her ankles together. A strip of brown sticking plaster had been firmly stuck over her mouth.
The intruder told the mother to sit down in a large wooden chair, and to put her hands together in front of her as if she was praying. She watched as he took the ball of string, quickly bound her wrists tightly together, then laid them down and passed the ball of string several times around her legs above her knees, gathering the dressing gown around her legs as he did so. From there, he rolled the string down and bound her ankles tightly together.
Telling her to sit still, the intruder quickly pulled the telephone set from the wall socket, before searching the room. Stopping in front of a picture of the San Fernando Valley, he lifted it off to reveal the wall safe. Walking over, his crepe shoes making no sound on the floor, he asked for the combination to the safe. When she refused at first, he merely frowned and walked towards her daughter.
Seeing her start to struggle and try to scream, she relented and gave him the sequence of numbers. Thanking her, he had covered her mouth with another strip of plaster and walked back to the safe.
The two women watched him, dressed in a black jumper and trousers, as he opened the safe and began to empty the contents into a small black bag. The mother only stirred and tried to get up when she saw him remove a small velvet case. Opening it, he took out a small diamond, about the size of a walnut, and held it as it glistened in the dim light. Smiling, he placed it in the sack and closed the safe door.
Turning to the women, he smiled as he placed a single red rose on a small table, then turned and left the two bound and gagged women to try and get free. As the daughter started to cry, the mother merely looked at the rose – the calling card of The Major.
The restaurant was humming with the noise of conversation, and the haze of smoke, as Dave entered with his girlfriend Betty on his arm.
“I can’t believe you got reservations here, Dave,” she said as she took the fur coat off and handed it to the cloakroom clerk. She pulled the edge of her blue satin gloves back over her elbows, and looked out over the room.
“Only the best for you, Betty,” he said as he folded his black greatcoat and turned to hand it over. As he did so, he accidentally bumped into a tall, well dressed gentleman who was waiting to hand his coat over. Both men dropped their outer garments, and as Dave stooped down to pick them up he said “Sorry”.
“Quite all right,” the other man said politely. Accepting the other coat, he waited while Dave handed his coat in, collected a ticket and escorted Betty to her table. Smiling, he turned to his companion and said “Shall we?” She was a tall, thin woman, dark haired and wearing a black sleeveless cocktail dress with a dark scarf tied as a band over her hair. She smiled in return and followed him to another table.
The evening passed pleasantly enough – the female singer was good, if not brilliant, and Dave and Betty enjoyed a good meal and conversation. As Dave left sufficient notes to cover the meal, one of the other diners watched the couple stand up and head for the cloakroom. Standing, he apologised to his companion and walked a short distance behind them, observing Dave as he picked up his greatcoat and helped Betty put on her fur. As the couple stepped outside, he followed them and had a word with one of the waiting taxi drivers. As the cab set off, he went back into the restaurant and re-joined his companion, failing to notice the other man and his friend come to the front and claim their coats back.
“Thank you, my love,” she said as the two stepped into the back of a waiting limousine.
“For you, my darling Natasha, everything is possible. Here, I have something for you,” he said as he reached into his coat pocket, but a frown crossed his face as he drew out a business card.
“Who by all that is holy is David Simpson, paper salesman,” he said as he read the card, before a look of anger crossed his face. “The man I bumped into – we must have accidentally switched coats!”
“You mean someone else has the diamond?”
“I am afraid so. Natasha, my dear, I have job for you in the morning.”
“Thank you, Dave for a beautiful evening.”
Betty smiled as she walked into her apartment, closing the door behind him. Leaving the apartment block, Dave walked slowly down the street, a goofy smile over his face as he buttoned up his coat. A slight frown crossed his face as he felt a case in the lining of the coat.
“What is this,” he thought as he reached in and pulled out a small velvet case. He was about to open it when he felt a tap on the shoulder, and a deep voice said “Please come with us, sir.”
Dave looked up to see two men in suits standing beside him. One flashed a badge at him as he was escorted to a waiting car…
“Oh come on – I’m a paper salesman. Why the hell do you think I’m a jewel thief?”
Dave looked at the two men sitting opposite him in the bare room. “There is no way on earth I could have done what you said I did.”
The older of the two men looked at Dave. “Then how do you explain the fact you had this in your coat pocket?” He opened the case that Dave had felt to reveal a diamond, glistening in the light from the bare bulb hanging in the ceiling. He stared at it, entranced by the coloured patterns that reflected.
“What… what is that?” he whispered. The two officers looked at each other.
“Are you playing games with us?” the younger man said as he slammed his fist on the table. He was tall, dark skinned and had a look of anger that made Dave quake. “You stole this three days ago!”
“Stole it? How could I – I was in Pasadena three days ago. Call my boss; he’ll tell you – for god’s sake, you have to believe me!”
The door opened and a third man looked in. “Stadler, Benson – a word.”
The two men looked at each other, stood up and walked out as a uniformed cop entered the room.
“He’s telling the truth,” the captain said as he closed the door behind them. “He was in Pasadena – he’s just some ordinary schmuck, not The Major?”
“Unless he’s a better actor than I think he is, no. Don’t cut him loose yet, though – the chief has an idea he wants to follow up on.”
“Good morning, can I help you?”
Betty looked up as the tall, dark haired man entered the boutique. She was wearing a sleeveless black and white mini dress, with white hoop earrings and knee length white leather boots that fitted tightly around her thighs. A black scarf was tied in a band over her hair.
“Good morning,” the man said as he looked at Betty. “I wonder if you can help me – I’m looking to buy a dress for my fiancée, but I’m not sure of what the most modern style is. Perhaps you can – advise me?”
“I’d be happy to sir,” Betty said as she came round from behind the counter. “Can you tell me something about her – her build, colour of hair, likes and dislikes?”
“Oh, I think I can help you with that, Miss….”
“Betty – Betty Cooper.”
“Well, Betty, is there any way I can buy you a cup of coffee? It would be much easier and more comfortable for both of us.”
Betty looked at the man, dressed in a bream rolled neck sweater, light clacks and a checked jacket. She also thought of Dave – but surely a cup of coffee would be all right?”
“All right – Janey, I’m taking a break. Watch the store will you?”
“Sure, Betty,” the other assistant said as Betty picked up her handbag. She smiled as the stranger held the door open for her, following her out with his hand in his jacket pocket.
Dave opened the door to his apartment, threw his coat onto a chair and followed that by throwing himself into another armchair, running his hands through his head. He barely noticed the ringing of his doorbell the first time, but by the fourth ring he stood up, shouted out “All Right, All right!!” and made his way to the door.
“What do you want?” he shouted, but the sight before him made him stop short.
She was tall, slim and graceful. Her legs were in tight white trousers, with short black leather boots coming above the ankle. A black and white striped jumper covered her ample chest, and a black and white striped hat was on her head.
“Are you Dave?” she said with a light, strong voice, smiling as she did so.
“Yyyyes – didn’t I see you last night?”
“I do not know – but I think you may have taken a coat last night belonging to a friend of mine. My name is Natasha – may I come in?”
“Of course,” Dave said as he held the door open, watching Natasha as she walked in, her hips swaying as she did so.
“So,” she said as she sat down, “Do you have my friend’s coat?” As she said this, she looked over and saw the dark overcoat thrown over the arm of a chair, and a faint smile crossed her face.
“I see you do have it. If you can let me take it, I will ensure that you have yours returned, cleaned and pressed. The wine stain that was on it was – rather old.”
Dave sat down and looked at the beauty. “Forgive me, but how did you find me?”
“Oh, I am sorry – we found one of your business cards, and when I visited your office they said that you had not come in yet. When I explained the situation, they were kind enough top give me your home address….”
This was true, after a fashion. At the office that Dave used as a base of operations, the two female co-workers were struggling on the floor, tightly hogtied and their shoes hanging off from their stocking soles. The older woman was trying to calm down her younger companion, who had started to thrash around causing the buttons on her blue ruffed blouse to start to burst open. The problem was, the thick cloth tied into her mouth was muffling any sounds she was trying to make. Papers were scattered across the floor, and she was silently cursing the woman who had held them at gunpoint and secured them.
“I see – I’ll have to thank Jackie when I see her. So, may I ask how long it will take my coat to come back?”
“A day or two – maybe more. So, may I take the coat?”
Dave pointed to the garment. Natasha stood up, walked over and picked up the coat, gently patting it as she did so. A slight frown crossed her face as she did so.
“Forgive me, Dave, but I believe there was something else here in the pocket. May I ask if you found it?”
“No – no I don’t think I did. Why?”
“Oh – not important. I wonder, may I make a call? I assure you it is local.”
“Be my guest.” Dave pointed to a set mounted on the wall.
The tall man walked over and picked up the bakelite handset.
“I see – that is indeed most unfortunate. Tell me, is he there with you now?
“Very well,” he said as he picked up the telephone, “Let me talk to him.”
He smiled at Betty as he stood there, waiting. “I do apologise for the inconvenience, my dear, but you have to understand that this is necessary, however distasteful I find it.”
Betty stared silently up at him as he turned away.
“Ah, how nice to speak to you finally, my dear David. I have been hearing a lot about you, particularly from Natasha. She assures me your colleagues will not be harmed, and apologises for what she had to do to them.”
David frowned as he listened to this. “What are you talking about?”
“David, David – I want what was in my coat as well as my coat. Where is the case?”
“Case? What case?”
“Now that was a very silly thing to say. David, I have someone here who would like a word. Why don’t you talk to him?”
Pulling the scarf out of her mouth, he held the handset next to Betty’s face.
“Dave? What the hell have you done – he’s got me and I mmmm…”
“As you can hear, David, I have invited your charming girlfriend to join me. Now, do exactly what Natasha tells you, and she will be unharmed. Put her back on the telephone now.”
Dave passed the handset back to Natasha, who nodded.
“Of course, darling – I will see you there.”
She replaced the handset and turned to look at Dave, who had slumped back into the chair and had his head in his hands.
“Where is she?” he demanded as he looked up.
“Safe – for now. So, where is the box?”
“I gave it to a friend for safe keeping. Let me call him – I’ll arrange a meeting and get it back for you.”
“That’s a good boy,” Natasha said as she stood up. “Don’t do anything silly like going to the police – someone is watching you, and your telephone “she said as she tugged at the wire connected to the wall “has developed a fault. I will return in two hours – I suggest you get cleaned up, and go and visit this friend of yours, or your Betty will meet a most untimely fate.”
“Here – take a sip.”
The Major held the glass as Betty took a sip of water. The fact her wrists were roped down to the arms of a white rocking chair made it difficult for her to hold the glass herself. She stretched out her legs to get some relief from the cramp caused by her ankles and legs been tied together.
“Thank you,” she whispered as he took the glass away. “Please, what is this all about?”
“You and your boyfriend regretfully took something from me last night, and I want it back. Simple, I am afraid, but he does need to return it to me, and I need to be sure you cannot get in my way again.”
“So, when he returns this thing, you’ll let me go?”
The Major smiled. “Well, there is a slight problem – you have seen me, you have seen where one of my lairs is. I’ll need to consider what to do about that very, very carefully. Forgive me.”
He pushed the rolled up cloth back into her mouth, and retightened the knot at the back of her neck. “I must leave you now, but only for a short while. Please, enjoy the music.”
He turned on the radio, increasing the volume so that the sound of Dusty Springfield filled the room, drowning out any calls Betty tried to make.
Dave sat in a booth at the local diner, looking round nervously as people came and went. He took a sip of his coffee as a tall, dark skinned man sat down opposite him.
“Sorry it took so long,” he said as he slipped a small velvet case over to him. “It took some time to get this out of hock.”
“And you guarantee you have done nothing to it?” Dave said as he handed the case back.
“You have my word – we trust you here, Dave, so no funny stuff. What do you want to do?”
Dave took a piece of paper and wrote some details down.
“I presume you will be watching.”
“Oh yes – we trust you, but we’re not idiots.”
Dave nodded as the man stood up and walked out of the diner. A few minutes later he was startled as three masked and armed people walked in.
“Everyone down!!” a man screamed as they fired into the ceiling. Dave, the other two customers and the waitress threw themselves onto the floor and placed their hands behind their heads. One of the armed intruders went behind the counter into the kitchen, and Dave could hear the sound of pans falling as the chef was dealt with.
“Take care of them,” the man said as the third person went quickly from person to person, taping their hands together behind their back with a roll of white tape. After each person had their ankles taped, they were rolled over and gagged. When the person came to Dave however, they merely taped his wrists before making him stand up.
“Have you got the money?” the masked man asked as the other intruder came back, holding up a bag, “Let’s get out of here – he’s our insurance. Nobody move for fifteen minutes!”
The three armed intruders ran out, dragging Dave with them as he was bundled into the back of a waiting van. He looked up as they pulled off their masks, and recognised Natasha as the person who had bound his wrists.
“Do you have it?”
“I’ve left instructions for where my friend is to leave it. What guarantees do I have Betty will be safe?”
“We will talk about it at your apartment,” Natasha said as she cut the tape around his wrists. “Drop us off nearby – I’ll be safe with him.”
“Can I offer you a drink?”
Dave was pouring himself a glass of whiskey, and offered one to Natasha. She had brought a small bag with her, and had changed out of her outfit into an electric blue mini dress with a white blouse underneath. She took the glass and sat down, crossing her legs as she did so.
“So,” Dave said as he sat opposite her. “I called into the office before I met my friend. Did you have to be so rough with them?”
“Regrettable, but it had to look like a robbery. Now, we sit and we wait.”
“Indeed,” Dave said as he raised his glass, “We sit and we wait. Tell me, who is this man you work with.”
“It is more than that – he is my lover, my paramour, my life partner. I will do anything for him, anything.”
“I am glad to hear that – I made a couple of calls while I was waiting for my friend.”
Natasha looked on with interest as Dave stood up and walked over to a door. “Did you have something in mind, Dave?”
“Yes, I do – but we need to wait a minute.”
“For the Sodium Pentothal tablet I put in your drink to take effect. I hope you enjoy your sleep.”
Natasha tried to stand up, but her knees buckled as she fell back into the chair, her eyes closed. Opening the door, Dave said “You can come in now” and watched as his two co-workers came into the room.
“I never told you I was a chemistry graduate, did I Natasha?” Dave said as he stood back and allowed the two girls to pick up the unconscious visitor. “These two will make you - comfortable – while I take care of things.”
The train station was crowded as Dave walked in. He looked up and around the crowded room, taking in the noise and the crowds. Pulling down on the lapels of his jacket, he moved forward and made his way towards a set of luggage lockers that stood to the rear of the lobby.
From a high balcony, the two policemen looked down and watched the top of Dave’s hat as he walked down across the lobby. “Get ready,” the older man said to a uniformed cop who walked quickly away.
They watched as he walked up to a locker, and started to dial the lock. As he did so, a tall dark haired man walked up to the set of lockers and stood next to Dave. The police watched as Dave withdrew a package and handed it to him.
“That’s the trade – move!”
Dave and the man looked round as wave after wave of police surrounded them, pointing their firearms at them and ordering them to stand still. The two officers joined them, pulled the other man to one side and removed the velvet case from his pocket.
“Take him away,” the senior officer said as they turned to Dave. “Good work – we’ll take it from there,” they said as they walked away, leaving Dave standing there. He watched them clear the lobby, the bystanders looking on in shock, before going to a second locker, opening it and removing a small holdall.
The sun was setting as The Major entered the coffee shop, and took a seat at a window table. He ordered a cappuccino and sat there, reading a paper, until he heard the door open and looked up.
“And where is Natasha?” he said as Dave took a seat next to him.
“Some friends of mine are taking her to the place we agreed,” he said as two women left the ladies room and sat at a table. “Betty?”
“As we agreed when we talked. Despite what you think, David, I am not a capricious man – I regret what I had to do, but you had something of mine. May I have it now?”
Dave reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small velvet case, which he laid on the table and pushed over. The Major lifted the lid, closed it quickly and placed the case in his jacket pocket.
“So, David, what now?”
“I think we had a deal.”
The Major nodded. “Here,” he said passing over his coat. “May I suggest you take it, find Betty and go – quickly. If either Natasha or I see either of you again, I fear for you.”
David nodded, stood up and took his coat. As he passed the two women, he nodded to them and made his way to the men’s room. Ensuring no-one else was present, he opened the second cubicle door and removed the blindfold that covered Betty’s eyes.
“Dave? Oh my god – is it over?”
“It is, my darling, it is – but we have to hurry.”
“We have a plane to catch – I’ll explain on the way. We’ll go out of the back door…..”
He helped his fiancée to her feet, steadying her as she wobbled slightly, and escorted her out through the kitchen. As he did so, The Major stood up and smiled at the two ladies sitting there. Looking round, he slipped into the powder room.
A thump from the centre cubicle was the only answer. Entering the one next door, he stood on the cistern and looked down.
“I always said you would get into trouble one day for your methods, my dear,” he said with a smile as Natasha screamed at her through the scarf covering her mouth. The Major carefully climbed over, pulled the scarf down and extracted a pair of electric blue silk panties from her mouth.
“Well, it was fun anyway,” she said before he kissed her on the lips. “Did you get it?”
“I did,” he said as he showed her the diamond. “Here – let me get you out of those ropes. The two women did quite a job on you.”
It was some minutes before the two of them left the room. As they passed the table, Natasha leaned over and whispered “Until next time,” before the two left and walked down the street.