And So To Bed...
How long? How long is it going to be before we’re left alone and have a chance to do something about this situation? That’s the main thought in my mind as I look up at the young man that is sitting opposite me, his eyes on me the whole time as he fingers the lead piping in his gloved hands.
I can see from the clock that it’s ten o’clock – two hours since that ring on the door bell, the ring I should never have gone to answer. We’d just finished our evening meal and were sitting round the living room, drinking coffee except for Olive who was sat at the dinner table, wrestling with an essay for her Economics exam in a few weeks time. Jack and Dave were watching the evening news on the television, while Gail was sitting next to me on the couch reading a book. It was a nice, peaceful, normal night – and then the doorbell rang.
I looked round the room to see if anyone was expecting a visitor. Olive didn’t even look up, her head bowed over the table and the capped sleeves of her paisley patterned smock covering the sleeves if her grey long sleeved top. Jack and Dave were so immersed in the news that they didn’t look up either. Jack had changed out of his business suit into an open necked shirt and slacks, while Dave had on an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Only Gail looked at me and shook her head to show she wasn’t expecting anyone as I looked at her. She had been late back from her office, so she was still wearing a white blouse and straight blue skirt, her jacket hanging over a chair at the table next to Olive.
“It’s probably just another delivery,” she said as I stood up and brushed a few crumbs off my dress. I run a small business from home, getting software for friends and installing it for them, but from time to time the delivery vans would turn up after dark or late in the evening. It was a lot easier when you only dealt with the Royal Mail, but I guess that’s progress for you.
Anyway, the ring – I stood up and made my way towards the front door, wondering if this was that accountancy suite of programs I had ordered for Jane, and sure enough through the mottled glass in the door I could see a van and someone in overalls standing there. I didn’t think anything was wrong – it was the same as so many other times – so I opened the door and said something like “Where do you want me to sign?”
That was the first, last and only mistake, but it was enough – and now here I am, two hours later, looking at a young man with a stocking over his head and a length of lead piping in his hand, while I can hear sounds elsewhere in the house.
I’m not sure who it was who moved first – I thought it was Jack, but looking back it was Dave who shot up when I was pushed back into the front room by the leader, with his four fellow members coming in behind us. He roared “NOOOOO!” as he made a lunge for the man who was holding my arm, only to fall to the floor as one of the two men behind him came out and hit him across the back with a baseball bat. That was when Jack stood up, only to stand there as a pistol was pushed against my temple and the man holding me said “Nobody moves, or the little lady here gets a new orifice in her head. Do you all understand?”
Olive screamed, which made one of the two women go over to the table and slap her across the cheek. “I said nobody moves, and that includes screaming, understood,” the man shouted, and Jack sat back down. “That’s better,” he said as Dave slowly pushed himself up. “Now, all of you, on these seats and hands on your head. Move it!!”
As the woman brought Olive round and pushed her onto the couch next to Gail, she reached out and held her younger sister in her arms as Jack helped Dave to a seat. I was pushed down onto the other seat, and slowly raised my hands to place them on my head while I looked at the five people who had come in.
All of them were wearing grey overalls, with stockings pulled over their heads. Two of them were women, their blonde hair clearly visible through the dark covering, while the man who had held a gun to my head was obviously the leader. He was tall, muscular, and bald, while the other younger men had short hair. As well as the baseball bat, the other one was carrying a foot long length of lead piping.
“All right,” the man said as the five of them stood watching us, “you just do as you’re told and nobody will get hurt. No heroics, no trying to call for help, only doing as you’re told by us. Just do as we tell you.”
“What the hell do you want?” Jack asked as Dave nursed the back of his head.
“All in good time – You,” he said as he turned to one of the younger men, “disable the phone line. You,” he then said to one of the women, “search their handbags, find any mobile phones and take the batteries out. We’ll take care of the men later.”
I watched as she took hold of the handbags Gail and I had left by the couch, tipping the contents out onto the table and searching through the items, locating phones and removing the batteries as she had been ordered. A few minutes later, the man came back in and threw all our telephone sets onto the floor, before taking the baseball bat off his ‘friend’ and smashing the handsets to pieces.
“That’s what wills happen to you if you don’t do as you’re told,” their leader said, but I didn’t need the additional impetus – I’d already got the idea of just how ruthless they were. “All of you – take off your shoes and socks.”
“Why?” I asked, but that only drew a shouted response of “Because I tell you to. Now, Do it!”
I reached down and unzipped the side of my brown boots, taking them off and placing them next to the mangled plastic, while Gail pulled off her black suede boots and did likewise. Olive, Jack and Dave all removed their shoes and socks, throwing them onto the pile before sitting back in their chairs.
“Now then,” he said as he stood over Jack and Dave, “You’re going to come with me and my friend with the baseball bat. If you do anything stupid, I say a word and the rest of my friends ensure your wife and daughters suffer. Do I make myself absolutely, completely crystal clear?”
An hour or so passed after they took the men away, and the three left had at least allowed us to lower our hands. Gail was holding Olive, providing support and comfort, while I was looking at the three intruders that were still with us. I noticed the small rucksacks each of them had on their backs – funny how you miss things like that at the time – and the fact they were tense, as if waiting for something.
One of the females was looking at Olive’s work, studying it and the pages. She came over to Olive and said “You’re doing good work kid, when’s your exam?”
“Two weeks time,” she said quietly. The girl actually smiled behind her nylon mask as she said “Good luck with that – but you’re going to need to take a break for a day or two.”
“What do you mean?” Olive asked, but before the masked girl could answer the door opened and the other young man came in. “It’s time,” he said as he held the door open, and the girl took Olive by the arm. “Mum,” she said as she was led out of the door, the man closing it behind the two of them. I looked at Gail who was staring back at me, a mixture of fear and concern on her face. Where had they taken my daughter, and what were they doing with her? I heard her saying “Daddy?” before the sound of footsteps on the staircase, and then nothing.
We sat there, trying to figure out what was happening now, when the sound of groans came through as the door was opened again. “Next,” the man said, and the other woman took Gail by the arm and led her out of the room. I heard her gasp, and then footsteps on the stairs.
That was a half hour ago, and ever since I’ve been looking at the young man with the lead piping, saying nothing and watching me as he swings the pipe into the open palm of his other hand, wondering what has happened to everyone else. As the door opens suddenly, I look up to see the leader of the gang standing there, the two masked women behind him.
“And so to bed,” the man says, and I start to shake as I contemplate what he is saying. The two women walk in and take me by the arms, and as they lead me past him one of them says “Don’t worry – he’s not going to touch you” as they lead me towards the staircase.
I see the open door to my office, and as I look in I can see Tony and Dave sitting on the floor, their backs to me and their arms pinned together behind their backs with rope. Their heads are bowed, and I can see papers and other things scattered around the floor, as well as the open safe door swinging slightly as the other young man touches it as he passes by.
“They’re alive – be content with that,” the girl says as they take me up the staircase. “My girls – I want to see them,” I say as we reach the top of the staircase. The two girls look at each other and nod as they lead me to the door to Olive’s room, and open the door.
The first thing that strikes me is how relatively tidy her room looks. Then I realise that it’s just that the usual mess of clothes and books has been pushed to one side, and instead there is a pile of boxes and the contents of her drawers on the floor. It was obvious that the girl had searched for anything valuable after ‘taking care’ as she put it of Olive.
She’s lying on her side on the bed, her eyes closed and snoring gently. Just as well, I think – the events of tonight have been shocking enough without seeing what else had happened.
A length of rope had been used to bind her wrists together, palm to palm, in front of her over the cuffs of her grey top, then taken down and used to bind her legs together above her knees, the rope visible over her black leggings. It had been passed between her legs to tighten the loops, before the rope was taken down and used to bind her ankles together. The cuffs of her leggings were sitting in top of the loops, as she lay there in an “S”-shape. One of her bandanas had been rolled into a band and used as a gag, the cloth pulled between her teeth and pulling the corners of her mouth back as it passed under her long blonde hair.
“Better she sleeps – she’ll be fine,” the girl says as they close the door and take me down to Gail’s room. As they open the door, the evidence of a thorough search is clearer – Gail kept her room in much better condition than her younger sister.
Unlike her sister Gail is wide awake and trying to scream through the knotted Hermes scarf in her mouth when she saw me standing there. She’s lying on her back, her arms reaching behind her back and coils of rope around her blouse, above and below her breasts, holding her upper arms tightly against her sides as she lay there. She has her father’s hair – or what would be the colour if he had much left – which is cut into a short bob, but now it was even darker with sweat as her head lies on a pair of pillows that had been placed underneath.
Her ankles have been crossed and tied together, and her legs bound above and below her legs with loops of rope that had lengths passed between them to tighten the binding. From the way the loops of rope were tightened around her breasts, and the way I can see the outline of her bra through the silk, I realised that the chest ropes had also been pulled together behind her back.
I say something like “It’s all right, baby, it’s all right,” as they lead me out and close the door behind us, taking me down to our bedroom and pushing me in. “Sit down,” they say as they close the door behind then, and I sit on the edge of our bed as one of them picks up their rucksack from the floor and lays it on the bed. As they open it, I see more coils of rope neatly folded inside, and I realise that I am going to be the last one they secured.
The sleeves of my Laura Ashley dress ride up slightly as one of them pulls my arms behind my back, while the other takes a length of rope, shakes it out and doubles it over. I can feel the rough cords against my wrists as she passes the rope around and pulls the ends through the loop, bringing them together as the first girl lets go. She then picks up another coil, doubles it over and starts to bind my ankles together as the first one pulls more and more loops around my wrists. I watch her as she quickly lashes then together; passing the rope between my legs and making sure they are held together as tightly as if a pair of handcuffs had been snapped round them.
I have the strangest feeling that my chest is being pulled out, and it takes me a minute to realise that it isn’t my chest puffing out, but my elbows been pulled together behind me as they are been bound with rope. It isn’t unpleasant, but it isn’t the nicest feeling in the world either. The brown floral material is stretching over my chest, and although I don’t have the figure I had before Gail was born it still shows them off, I’m afraid to say, to their best advantage.
As I was looking over my shoulder, wondering what was next as she looped the ends of the rope between my elbows, I felt my legs been pulled together, and I realised the other masked woman was tying more rope around my thighs. I turn to see her pulling the rope between my legs below my knees, tying the ends together behind my legs so that they were out of reach, and then folding the hem of my dress back. I resign myself to staying where I am when I see the longest length of rope I have come across since the boys went camping being shaken out.
“What on earth is that for,” I ask as the two masked girls stand in front of me, smiling as they played with the rope. “I honestly don’t think I’m going anywhere.”
“We need to be sure,” one of them say as they pass the rope around my arms and chest, pulling it tight so that they are held against my sides, and repeat the process with several more loops round above and below my breasts. As my arms are pulled more and more into my side, I realise just how scared Olive and Gail must have been when they were tied up – and there was probably only one of these girls with them. I have the full attention of both, and believe me it’s obvious that they knew exactly what it was they were doing. It had taken a long time for me to realise it, as we had all been separated, but I now knew we had been robbed by a very professional, very well trained and very determined gang.
Through the open door, I can hear things been moved around downstairs as the rope is passed around my neck and shoulders before my wrists are pulled up behind my back. As one of the girls goes to close the door, the other stands in front of me and says “We’re going to search this room for your valuables. We can make a mess and be thorough, or you can get this over with quickly and tell us where you keep your jewellery and any keys. Your choice.”
I think about the way they had left Gail and Olive’s room, and decide for once to take the better part of discretion in my response. “Start with the cupboard – there’s a strongbox on the top shelf and a set of keys in the top left hand drawer of the bureau,” I say, and she actually smiles as she opens the door and finds the metal container. She places it on the bed next to me, finds the keys and opens it, taking shelves out and working with her partner to select a number of pieces and place them in a sack.
Well, this is interesting above interesting. They finished searching the room a few minutes ago, and now they’ve made damn sure I can’t go anywhere or say anything. I can’t even see how the girls are doing, never mind Jack or Dave – I have to take the word of the guy in the room now that they’re all right.
“I brought the girls to prevent you or your daughters getting – hurt in any way,” he’s saying as he checked the ropes that they had use to fix my ankles to the ropes around my chest. After laying me on my side, they had pulled my legs back and used a length to secure them to my back, in a position I think they called a “hog tie”. I can barely move over or rollover, never mind try and get off the bed and go to the girls.
As for speaking – they first took a small scarf I used to hold my hair back when I’m doing housework, and pushed it into my mouth. They then took a patterned head scarf, folded it into a band and pulled it between my teeth, knotting the ends together behind my head before raising my head and placing a large pillow underneath. The whole gang’s in here now, talking amongst themselves as they cast a glance over at me from time to time.
I just lie still, trying not so much to think of myself as to what the others must be thinking, and how we can pull together over this. Eventually their leader comes over and says “We’ll be going now – thanks for everything,” before he turns the light off and leaves me in the dark. Their footsteps echo as the lights slowly go out – I can see that under the door frame after I roll over to look – and then the front door closes.
The darkness closes in as I lie there, wondering just what has happened and how I’m going to get out of this. The ropes are pressing against my skin, but not so much that I’m uncomfortable from them. Lying in this position – well, that’s giving me a pain, but I can’t do anything about that, can I?
I can feel my eyes slowly starting to close as the adrenaline rush of the last few hours wears off. I can’t fall asleep yet – not when I don’t know if the rest of the family is safe or not. But the weariness is growing too great, and I can’t, I just can’t….