Oh God, of course I remember it. How on earth could I forget that afternoon? I know it was nearly six months ago now, but it leaves an impression on you, one that just will not go away.
We were sitting on the floor of the apartment, Shellie and I, looking through some old photographs. I was wearing a silver-grey sleeveless sun dress with spaghetti straps and a short skirt, while Shellie was wearing an olive green vest top and camouflage pants. I clearly remember her smiling at me as she described what was going on in the some of the photos, her light blonde hair shining from the sunlight as it came in through the window. We’d spent hours going over them, and it was getting near to lunchtime when she suggested we take a break and grab a sandwich.
She got up onto her knees, leaning back on her legs as her black shoes hit the floor, and stretched her arms up. Letting them drop by her side, she turned and looked at me, then said “Chicken or Beef?” That was when things got scary.
The door to the room opened and I saw Shellie’s eyes widen with fear. The next thing I knew, a black gloved hand was over my mouth and I could feel cold steel against my throat. A male voice said “Don’t move or she gets it” and I saw Shellie put her hands on top of her head. A young girl in a black hooded top with the hood pulled over her eyes walked round and pulled her arms behind her back, before starting to bind her wrists together with white rope.
I was forced to watch as Shellie was made to stand up and then sit down on one of the chairs from the kitchen area. A long length of rope was produced and used to bind her arms to her side, layer after layer wrapped above and below her breasts, and then the ends pulled behind her back so that her breasts were made to stick out in a slightly abnormal way. The rope was also passed behind her neck, as she looked at me with eyes that only said “Sorry”.
What her voice said was “What do you want?” Without answering, the girl knelt in front of Shellie and bound her ankles together, then her legs above and below her knees. As Shellie sat there, I felt my own hands being pulled behind my back and rough rope around them.
“Don’t you dare hurt her,” Shellie called out, but the girl pulled out from a bag a roll of green sticky tape, and proceeded to tear strips off before smoothing them over Shellie’s mouth and jaw until her lower face was covered in green material. She watched on, looks of concern in her eyes, as my arms were also bound to my side with the rope.
She twisted round in the chair, and looked at me as she said “r u ll rght?” I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t scared, to reassure Shellie that I would be all right, but that wasn’t possible for two reasons. One was that I was scared. The other was the fact that whoever had bound my wrists together had taken the grey scarf I had been wearing around my neck and stuffed my mouth with the material, so that only the edges of the scarf were poking out from between my lips.
The rope was pulled tightly around my own arms and chest, and I could see my breasts being raised below the coarse white strands as I sat there. That was when he walked round in front of me, and I was astounded to see that he wasn’t much older than I was. Yes, he had a swagger and a confidence that helped him to stay in command of the situation – that, and the dirty great Bowie knife that I could now see clearly for the first time.
He pulled my legs together in front of me, and wrapped a length of cord around my bare ankles. I winced again as the cord cut into my skin, but that did not stop him continuing to pull my ankles together with each pass. While he did this, his female accomplice came over with the roll of tape in hand, and I watched as she tore a long strip off before walking behind me.
Shellie could see how frightened I was, and kept making reassuring sounds as the tape was smoothed over my stuffed mouth, layer after layer while my legs were also bound together above and below my knees. All this time I sat petrified, yet also feeling calmer about what was happening. After all, we were in this together, Shellie and me.
Eventually, the tow of them stood up and walked out of the room, leaving the two of us alone. I guess they thought that neither of us was going to cause any trouble – and certainly that was true in my case. The whole previous hour had taken any fight out of me, and I could feel tears starting to roll down my cheek.
Shellie looked down at me from the chair, and started to try to say “Come over here.” That’s what she told me later she was trying to say, but all I could hear was “Cm vr hr.” As she did this, she twisted round in her chair again and held her wrists out to me. I guess she was trying to get me to come over and see if I could find any way of loosening the knot, but as I said I was too scared to even move.
That was the moment when Shellie did the bravest thing I think I had ever seen her do. Looking towards the door to see if our assailants were going to return, she forced herself to stand up on her bound ankles. Leaning over and looking at me, she nodded with her head towards the wall, where the telephone hung. I realised that she was going to try and call for help, and nodded my agreement.
I could see the knots where the ropes around her legs had been tied off, well out of reach of her fingers, and I tried to say “Do you want me to try?” All that came out from the tape and stuffing was a strange mewling sound, but I think Shellie understood what I was trying to say. She shook her head and straightened herself up, then started to take small bunny hops across the floor in the direction of the telephone.
As I said, it was a good plan, and she was only taking short hops in order that she did not make too much noise. I thought that was very smart of her – not wanting to attract the attention of the two intruders, who I could hear still rummaging around in the other rooms in the apartment, yet making slow steady progress towards getting help and our freedom.
A good plan, but one that was destined not to succeed.
As she got close to the table, the heel of her shoes snagged on the edge of a rug. I watched as Shellie fell over to her side, as if in slow motion, hitting her shoulder on the floor as she went down and causing a chair to fall over. I must have screamed at that point, because she looked at me and shook her head violently. I realised she wasn’t hurt, but also knew that I had done the one thing she didn’t want – caused the intruders to come back into the room.
The man said “Well now, trying to raise the alarm were we,” and the girl just laughed. They walked over to Shellie, rolled her onto her stomach and pulled her so that she was lying flat parallel to the wall. Taking yet another coil of rope, they then bound her wrists to the ropes around her arms with a coil that stopped her from being able to move them more than a few millimetres, if that.
Turning to me, he said “Do you wan the same?” I shook my head from side to side, but he still pulled my ankles round to the side and bound the ropes around them to those around my wrists. I think she called it a “sitting hogtie”, but all I knew was it was very, very uncomfortable. The two laughed again, picked up a bag they had dropped when they came running back in, and left us alone as they went out of the apartment.
That was the moment I really started to cry, but Shellie looked up at me from her prone position and started to wriggle towards me. I could see the concern and love in her eyes as she slowly made her way over to me, eventually rolling over and placing her head in my lap.
That turned out to be all I needed, the knowledge that she was right there with me, and I stopped crying. After all, who would you want with you when the worst things in life happen but your own mother?