No, I can’t say I was expecting what happened to happen - you never do, do you? Honestly? Anyway, you want me to tell you what happened, so I’ll try.
I had dropped Emma and her friend off at the bottom of the drive to my mother’s house about half an hour before, while I drove into town and went to the bank. They waved to me before they ran up the driveway, so I left them do it - Mum always leaves her door open, so I knew they would be all right once they were inside.
All right - yeah.
Anyway, half an hour later I drove up to the front door and got out of the car, locking it as I did so. I saw the grey van then, but I figured Mum was just having something done in the house, so I let myself in and called out to say it was just me.
I remember I was fairly casually dressed for me - I had on my green padded gillet over a blue denim blouse, and a pair of blue cotton pants. It was a fairly cold day, so I also had on my favourite soft tan leather boots - they have flat soles, and come up over my knees, but I’ve had them for years so the fact they weren’t fashionable was neither here nor there...
Sorry - yeas I’m rambling. Anyway, Mum didn’t call back in reply, but once again I didn’t think anything was wrong - she was out the back probably, or upstairs, so I went into the front room.
And there she was, staring back at me from the chair she was sitting in. I had to stand there for a few moments to take in what I was seeing - it just seemed so unreal.
The skirt of her red jersey dress was stretched, because her legs were tied to the front legs of the chair. I could see the bands of white rope around her ankles and knees, clear as daylight on top of her black knee length leather boots. The dress had a black diamond pattern on the front, and that was distorted by the bands of rope that were wrapped around her waist and chest, holding her firmly to it. As for her arms, they were tied tightly to the chair back at her wrists and elbows, the white making a strangely symmetric pattern with the red and black highlights.
And then there was her mouth - her red lips over the knot that had been tied in a gold, red and black large head square, which someone had folded into a band. That band went around her head, and trapped her greying hair against her templates as it did so.
She looked at me with frightened eyes, as I started to reach for my hand bag and my mobile phone. This, of course, was when he grabbed me. I felt his arm round my waist, and his leather gloved hand over my mouth, as he said in a calm, polite voice “I would not do that if I was you. Stay calm, and everything will be all right.”
I saw Mum nod her head slightly and heard her mumble something, but there was another thought that suddenly forced itself into my mind, as I looked round the room.
Where were the girls?
“I want you,” the voice behind me said, “to slowly take your hand bag off and hold it to the side. I will take it, and then I want you to place your hands on your head and stand very still. Nod if you understand.” I looked again at Mum, and then nodded slowly as I slipped the handbag off my shoulder and held it to the side. I saw an arm reach over and take it, and then the hand was taken off my mouth.
“Where’s my daughter and her friend,” I said quietly.
“First things first, my dear lady - what’s your name?”
“All right Joan - I asked you to put your hands on your head, so please do so.”
I thought for a moment about running, but the fear of not knowing where the girls were, and how Mum was tied - I slowly put my hands on my head as I heard the man rummaging in my bag.
“All right Joan,” he said again in the calm voice, “slowly put your hands behind your back and relax.”
“Where is my daughter,” I said again as I felt him taking my arms and crossing my wrist behind my back, and then some sort of rope pulling then tightly together. It only took a few minutes, but before I knew it my wrists were tied tightly, yet strangely comfortably together. I flexed my fingers for a few minutes as I saw the gloved hands passing some rope around my arms and body, and then pulled tightly under my chest, forcing the gillet into me as my arms were secured in place.
“We’ll need to leave you alone for a few minutes, but we will return shortly. I trust you will not try to escape?”
I looked at Mum, who nodded her head as I was turned round, his gloved hand on my arm as he walked me up the staircase and into Mum’s bedroom. As I went in, I saw three things that made me gasp.
The first was the open drawers and cupboards. The second was the man standing there, dressed in black with a balaclava over his head, who turned and looked at me as he placed a pair of her earrings in a velvet bag.
The third was Emma and her friend lying on the bed, looking up at me. Emma still had on her brown velvet hooded jacket, black leggings with white polka dots and mid-calf black leather boots with the buckles at the back, while her friend’s blue cardigan had come undone.
That was not what made me gasp however. What did was that Emma had her arms behind her back, like mine, and I could see the band of white rope around her waist, pulling her top in. She also had bands of cord around her ankles and her legs below her knees, while strips of black tape were over her mouth.
As for her friend, she had black bands over her ankles, knees and stomach, while she also had tape over her mouth.
“Are you both all right,” I whispered to them, smiling a little in relief as they nodded and wriggled round. I completely failed to notice the second man handing whoever was holding me a couple of things, until I saw the folded handkerchief in front of my mouth and the calm voice said “Open wide now.”
“Do you have to gag me,” I whimpered - yes whimpered, but when he said “Do you want your daughter to stay brave,” I realised I had no choice. So I opened my mouth, let him push the cloth in, and then watched as a folded blue silk scarf was pulled into my mouth, my lips closing over it as it was tied over my shoulder length black hair.
“Your mother is going t back to join your grandmother now,” the voice said again. “You are both very brave girls - please keep that up.”
They nodded and watched as I was turned round and escorted back down the stairs, where I heard mum say “Rtthlrtjn” through her scarf gag. I nodded as I was led to the long couch and helped to lie face down, and then I looked over my shoulder as my ankles were tied tightly together with white rope. I could hear the leather squeak as the rope rubbed against it, but I was powerless to stop him.
He then tied my legs together, below my knees, before he pulled my ankles back and tied them to the rope around my arms. I tried to move my arms and legs, but it was useless - the flaps of my boots were stopping my knees rubbing against the cushions, and he was just too damn good at what he did.
I looked to the door as the smaller man came in and said “I think we are done now - shall we?”
I watched as the other man joined him - it was my first proper look at him, and I was astounded both at how much taller he was, and the fact they were identically dressed. They said something, then left us alone, unable to talk, unable to move, unable to raise the alarm at all...
It was about an hour later when I heard a thumping sound on the stairs, and through the open doorway I saw Emma bumping down the stairs, looking at me as she did so. A few minutes later she slowly jumped into the room, and made her way over to Mum, looking at her and saying “Rullrt” through the gag.
Mum nodded, and then Emma hopped over to me, sitting herself on the floor and looking up at me. “Whrssdbe,” I mumbled through my cloth filled mouth.
“Shsfn,” Emma said and then she started to pull my handbag towards her, and the phone I could see sticking out....
I was really looking forward to seeing Emma that morning - she had called the night before and asked if Katie could come round as well, and of course I agreed. I love having my granddaughter over and her friends as well.
It must have been - oh, about ten o’clock when I got back from the bank. I had been in to see my account manager, and I like to be more formal for these things, so I had on a red jersey dress, which had a black diamond pattern at the front and black sides. It had long sleeves, and I complemented that with a pair of black tights and my knee length black leather boots.
Anyway, yes - I had come home, hung my coat up and was going to go and put the kettle on when I heard a ring on the doorbell. I thought it was the postman or a delivery, so I went to answer it - and that was when it began.
Two men were standing there, dressed in black with masks over their heads that only showed their eyes and mouths. They walked in, taking me with them, and as the taller of the two closed the door the smaller one put a gloved finger to his lips and showed me a very small, very real gun.
“Good morning, Denise,” he said to me in a very polite way, “Forgive the intrusion, but we are here today to relieve you of your valuables.”
Brazen, right? Still, they had the advantage, so when the other man said “Shall we go into the front room and make you comfortable,” I realised I could not refuse. We walked into the room, and as one of them closed my curtains the other held my arm, watching with me as a chair was brought into the centre of the room.
“Please be seated Denise,” the man said, “And put your hands on your head. We need to make sure you cannot interrupt our work, but I promise you it will not be uncomfortable.”
I saw the second man take off a rucksack and remove several coils of white rope, and with a heavy sinking feeling I did as he asked, putting my hands on my head as I did so.
“Thank you,” he said as his friend - well, the other man - took a long length of rope and started to tie my upper body to the back of the chair. It was one of my dining chairs, with a high back that was made from an intricate lattice of wood, and he used it to full advantage, pulling my chest and waist back as he fed the rope through the wood and around me.
“Look, just take whatever you want,” I said quietly, “I’m not going to stop you.”
“We will,” the young man replied, “but there is also a matter of professional standards to maintain. I am sure you understand.”
As if I was in a position to argue? I could not move at all as he knelt by the side of me, took my left ankle and held it against the front leg of the chair, and then tied it securely to the wood, as well as my leg just below my knee.
“My apologies,” he said as I noticed the way the skirt of my dress had ridden up slightly, “but I assure you, nothing untoward is visible.”
“Thank heavens for small mercies,” I said, and he actually laughed as he secured my other leg to the chair. At the same time, the other man had removed my phone from the wall socket, and was looking through my cabinet.
“How do you know my name?”
He looked at me, his blue eyes shining as he smiled and said “I read the papers.” I had been featured in a recent article about my good fortune in my shop, and I realised than that was why they had visited me.
“Now, Denise, we need to secure...”
“Granny, where are you?”
I looked up as he moved quickly across to stand beside the door, the other man doing the same on the other side. I cursed the fact that Emma was used to just walking on, as the door to the room opened and she bounced inside.
She had on her favourite brown plush hooded jacket, black leggings with white spots and black short boots, while her friend was wearing a blue cardigan, buttoned at her neck, over a cornflower blue sundress, white pants and white flat shoes.
“Hi Granny - Mum just...” Emma stopped and stared at me for a moment, before she said “What’s happened to umummmm.”
The muffled sound was due to the fact the taller of the two men had put his hand over her, while the other one was holding Emma’s friend. “My apologies to both of you,” the one holding Emma’s friend said, “May we know their names?”
“This is Emma,” I said nodding to my granddaughter, “but I don’t know her friend’s name. If you take her hand away, she’ll tell you quietly, all right Emma?”
She nodded, and as the hand was removed she said “This is Debbie. Are you robbers?”
“We are,” the man holding her said, “so I need both of you to be very brave, and go with my friend here. If you behave yourselves, then your grandmother and you will be just fine, all right?”
Emma looked at Debbie, whose eyes were wide open as she nodded. “Come with me,” the smaller man said as Emma followed him and Dottie out of the room, and up the stairs.
“They’ll be fine,” the one who stayed with me said, “Now, please let your arms drop to your sides.”
As I did so, he picked up some more rope and bound my wrists and elbows to the chair back, then he left me alone for a few minutes, coming back with one of my headscarves. IT had a gold background with an inner red border and then a black square.
As he folded it into a band, and then tied a knot in the middle, I said “You don’t have to gag me - my granddaughter is upstairs, I’m not going to put her in danger.”
“Sorry - professional ethics,” he said as he walked behind me and held the band in his hands, the knot in front of my mouth. Well, I did as she implied, tasting the scented silk as the knot sat between my teeth, and he took the ends round my head, trapping my greying - probably pure white now - hair under it.
“Just stay calm,” he said as he put his hand on my shoulder, and as I nodded he went back to searching the cabinet. He had just finished when I heard Joan come in.
She walked into the room and I looked at her, in her country clothes, staring at me as the masked man came up behind her and hand gagged her. He spoke to her calmly, and she allowed him to take her bag before he pulled her arms behind her back and I saw him passing some of the rope around her wrists, then around her arms below her chest.
She asked about Emma, but it was only when he had bound her arms tightly to her side that he looked at me.
“We’ll need to leave you alone for a few minutes, but we will return shortly. I trust you will not try to escape?”
As if I could - I nodded and watched as he took Joan by the arm and up the stairs. I was alone, but so tightly bound that there was no way I was going to be able to do anything, so I concentrated on trying to damp the rapidly soaking silk knot in my mouth down.
It was a little while later when Joan was brought back down, and I could see the blue scarf between her lips as she looked at me. I tried to ask if they were all right, but only mumbled sounds came out of my mouth. She seemed to understand, however, as the man led her over to my long couch and helped her to lie face down, before tying her legs together over her tan boots. The rope went round her ankles and just below her knees, before he pulled her ankles back and tied them to her chest.
She tried to wriggle round, with little luck, as the other man came in and said to our binder it was time to go. I remember they both said something about never seeing us again, and then they left us.
In the silence, I was worried about Joan and Emma, Emma’s friend Debbie, and how we were going to get free. I had no answers - the ropes were holding me firm, as they were Joan. IT was only when I heard the thumps, and then saw Emma hop in and come over to me, the ropes around her waist, legs and ankles and the tape over her mouth, that I began to hope she could do something.
She mumbled something to me, I replied, and then she hopped over to the long couch, sitting on the floor and pulling her mother’s handbag towards her....
Mum picked Debbie up from outside her house as I sat in the car. We were going to meet my granny, and then go shopping later after Mum had come back - we had a party next week, and both wanted a new outfit.
I had on my favourite hoodie, made from brown velvet, a pair of black leggings with white polka dots and my short black leather boots with buckles at the back. Debbie was in a blue sun dress with a cardigan over the top, the top button down under her chin, white pants and flat white shoes.
Anyway, Mum dropped us off at Granny’s house and we waved to her before we ran up to the front door and I let us in. I remember calling out “Granny, where are you,” and then going into the front room, Debbie right beside me.
I was gobsmacked - Granny was sitting in a chair, but as I said “Hi Granny, Mum just...” my voice trailed off, as I realised someone had tied her body and legs to the chair. The skirt of her red jersey dress was stretched at the edge of the seat, and she had a worried look on her face - not that she would admit it.
“What’s happened to mmmmm,” I started to say, but then someone clamped their large gloved hand over my mouth, and as I looked at Debbie I saw she was been held by a man in a balaclava mask, his gloved hand over her mouth. He then apologised - he actually apologised - and asked Granny our names.
Well, s he had never net Debbie, but she said I was Emma and I would say who my friend was. The hand was taken from my mouth, and I said this was Debbie, and... Well, I asked if they were robbers. I’d never been in a robbery, but I thought it might be exciting.
We were told to go with the man holding Debbie, and he took us both up to Granny’s bedroom. “Now,” he said as he closed the door, “I am afraid we need to make sure you cannot do anything to stop us. Do as I say, and you’ll be just fine.”
I looked at Debbie, she looked at me, and we both nodded, as he told us to sit on the bed and put our hands on our heads. “Now then,” he said as he took what looked like thin white cord from his pocket, “Emma, stand up and face your friend, then out your hands behind your back.”
Debbie had said nothing, so as I stood up I looked at her and said “I’m sacred too - let’s try and get through this together, all right?”
She looked at me and nodded, her brown pigtails bobbing as she did so, while I felt my wrists as they were drawn tightly together. Looking over my shoulder, I could see the white rope compressing the plush of my hoodie, a dark brown band forming around it as they were bound tightly.
“Does it hurt,” she whispered to me, but honestly it didn’t hurt at all - he kept it over the sleeves of my jacket, so that although they were firmly together I couldn’t feel any pain. I watched as he passed another length of rope around my waist, pulling my wrist against my back, and then he told me to sit on the bed.
As I did so, he took my ankles and tied them together with more rope, side by side, the squeak as the rope rubbed against the leather making me laugh. Well, I needed to get rid of my fear somehow! Anyway, he then tied my legs tightly together, below my knees, taking the rope between them to make it like a pair of handcuffs.
“Please,” Debbie whispered as she looked at me, “I don’t want to be tied up with rope - can’t you use something else?”
The man looked at her, brushing the fringe away from her eyes, before he went into his pocket and took out a roll of black tape. “I can use this instead,” he said as he looked at her, “If you want.”
“I’m sorry, Emma,” Debbie said as she looked at me, “I was once tied up with Mum by a robber, and it really scares me. I know he’s going to tie us up, but I can’t face that again...”
“I’m sorry you were scared like that,” the man said to Debbie, “but I promise I won’t hurt you. Have I hurt you, Emma?”
Well, apart from tying me up, I had to say no, so I watched as Debbie put her hands behind her back and he taped them together, then her arms to her body around her stomach. Kneeling in front of us, he taped her ankles and knees, the black showing up over her white pants, before he walked over to Granny’s drawer and took out two of her hankies.
“I’m afraid I need to keep you quiet as well,” he said as he walked back to us and folded the hankies, “Open wide, and breath through your nose.”
We both nodded as he pushed the cloths into our mouths, and then put several strips of the tape over our lips, before he helped us to lie on the bed and try to get as comfortable as we could. Having done that, he started to look for Granny’s jewellery. We could hear someone downstairs, as we tried to move our hands, but it was only when Mum was brought in by the second man that I realised who it was we heard talking.
She still had her gillet on, even though her arms were tied tightly to her side. “Are you both all right,” she said to us, and we wriggled round a little bit and nodded back. There was real fear in her voice, and I wanted to try and reassure her we were fine. Immobile, unable to speak, but fine.
Mind you, Mum wasn’t able to say much after that wither, as the little man took another hankie and one of granny’s long blue scarves and handed it to his friend. My short hair wasn’t trapped by the tape, and nor was Debbie’s pigtails, but as the cloth went into Mum’s mouth and then the scarf between her lips I knew she was going to be as quiet as us.
Then the tall one said “Your mother is going t back to join your grandmother now. You are both very brave girls - please keep that up.” I have to admit, I felt proud when he said that, so I watched as Mum was taken away again, and hoped she would be as brave.
The other man looked in Granny’s drawers for a few more minutes, pocketing some things, before he said “I think we’ll be going soon - stay here, and someone will come to free you soon.” He checked the ropes and tape, and then left us in the room. Debbie and I looked at each other and started to wriggle round, trying to get free as I heard the two men say goodbye and then leave.
It was useless, though - we were too tightly tied, and eventually I watched Debbie as she closed her eyes and went to sleep. I wanted to get free, however, so when I saw she was snoring through her nose I wriggled to the side of the bed and slid onto the floor, then bumped myself towards and down the stairs.
As I went down, I could see Mum lying on the long couch, her tan leather covered legs pulled back as she tried to wriggle free. She saw me and nodded as I reached the bottom of the stairs, somehow managed to stand up and then jumped to the doorway.
As I came in, I saw Granny again - this time I saw her arms were tied to the side of the chair, and a big scarf was tied in her mouth. The knot was darker, and it looked damp to me, as did the scarf at the edge of Mum's lips. So I jumped over to her first, my boots squeaking as I did so, and asked if she was all right.
She nodded and mumbled something, as I turned and hopped over to Mum. There was such a look of pride in her face, as I slid onto the floor and started to pull her handbag towards me. I knew I had to phone the police, and I knew I had to tell them the last thing I heard the man say before they left.
“The Gentlemen Robbers bid you farewell - may we never meet again.”