Tell Me A Story
Back in the early Fifties – before the grandparents of most of you were born – there was a week when my grandfather had to deal with a series of incidents in this town. Individually, they were small scale – it was only a few months later that they discovered the significance of everything that happened. But, as they say, hindsight is a great teacher – which is why I am here to tell you about it, and see if you can spot what failed everyone then.
It started on the Monday, when my grandfather was called out to a robbery at a bar downtown. It was the sort of place adult men liked to unwind over beer, nuts and good looking barmaids, so they wore a very particular outfit – a black silk halter neck top that was more of a bra than a top, a matching short skirt with a split at the side, and black three inch heels.
So when the manager got into the bar that morning, he was surprised to find one of his barmaids – Rhoda – still in the office. Admittedly, she was having a little difficulty leaving, given she was sitting on a filing cabinet, and someone had tied a length of rope around one ankle, round the cabinet, and then on her other ankle.
To make matters worse, said person had tied her legs together above her knees, her wrists together behind her back, rope around her stomach and her chest, which held her arms in place.
She was also in no position to call for help – well, she tried, the damp stain in the centre of the white scarf that was pulled between her lips a testament to the efficacy of a thick cloth cleave gag.
He called the police, and when my grandfather got there he had untied her and removed the gag. She told him she had been about to leave when two men, with scarves covering the lower part of their faces, rushed in and tied her to the cabinet. Once they gagged her, they searched the place, and then left without taking anything.
To my grandfather, it looked like a prank gone wrong, but they made sure she was taken to hospital, while the bar owner confirmed nothing had been taken. So he made the report out and told the officers to be on the alert for college rush pranks.
And in his mind, that should have been that. So when he got the call on the Tuesday, he started by phoning the local college and giving the Dean a piece of his mind.
Which was when he was told the college did not have a rush week on – so he drove to the farmhouse.
Lottie had been doing the chores around the house when it happened. She had fed the chickens, and was going to start preparing the evening meal when she was grabbed from behind, a heavy cotton gloved hand pressed over her mouth. She was dragged in and made to sit on a chair by the table, as she saw a second man in front of her, wearing a scarf over the lower part of his face as he pointed a gun at her, and told her to keep quiet.
She was wearing a simple blue dress, but as she struggled the tops of the sleeves slipped down to reveal her shoulders. That didn’t stop the man who was hand gagging her from pushing a hanky in her mouth, and then pulling a white scarf tightly round her head to keep it in place.
He then took a length of rough rope and pulled her hands behind the chair back, tying her wrists tightly together as the second man knelt down and did the same to her ankles. He then pulled them under the chair and secured them to the crossbeam, before they each took a longer length of rope. One stood behind her and pulled her back against the chair, binding her arms and chest to the chair, while the other man tied her lap to the chair seat.
And he really tied her down – the rope was secured to every joint on the chair as well as her. She could only move her head as she watched them raid the kitchen, and then hear them as they searched the rest of the house.
When my Grandfather talked to her, she was shaken up, but her description matched that of the two men at the bar – and the college denied there were any stunts going on. He still dispatched a couple of officers to talk to the students, but something was beginning to nag at the back of his mind about these two raids. Nothing taken, but she was scared and badly shaken up.
The problem for him was – who were they, why were they doing this, and what the heck was going on? It gave him a sleepless night – and then it got even stranger.
Donna worked at the local convenience store, and always wore clothes that were practical and casual, if not exactly flattering. On the Tuesday, that was an old checked blouse, the sleeves rolled up past her elbows, and a long pleated skirt.
So when the bell at the door opened at eleven, and she was sweeping up in the back, she didn’t think too much of it. We’re a small town, we trust each other, and it wasn’t unknown for folks to leave money and take goods.
What was unknown – up until then – was for someone to come in, lock the door, and then come through the back and point a gun at Donna, telling her to be quiet and do exactly what she was told. She was, to put it mildly, a little perturbed – especially when the gun was the one she kept under the counter out front.
They made her stand against one of the supports in the back store – and that was when they grabbed the washing line, and got to work. One of them started by wrapping the rope around the post, her arms and shoulders, and her waist so that she was secured in place, while the second one knelt down and tied her legs together over her skirt, and then to the post. As they did this, Donna kept asking them what they wanted, and they said – nothing.
Instead, she found herself lashed to the support, unable to do more than move an inch or two – and then unable to speak as a thick rag was tied tightly round her head, stopping anything more than a faint grunt escaping as she tried to call out.
She clenched her fists, more in rage and frustration then fear, as she stared at the two men – but yes, their faces were obscured by the scarves tied round their heads, as they went into the main store and threw stuff off the shelves, and onto the floor.
She was scared, sure – after all, they had a gun, and they were trashing her place, but then they left – and she could see her purse on the counter, the till unopened. So who they were, and what they wanted, was a complete mystery to her.
The biggest surprise, however, was the look on he faces of the two High School students who came in an hour later, found the place in a mess – and then found her trying to call for help, dripping in sweat. When my grandfather spoke to Donna later, she said they stared at her for two full minutes, before they ran screaming out of the store. One of them ran straight into the deputy – and he freed her.
That night, after supper, my grandfather apparently sat down and looked over the notes of the three cases. They all had the same MO – two men, their faces covered by masks, grabbing, binding and gagging a woman and then trashing the place they were in. Nothing was stolen – but they were left upset, scared and unable to free themselves.
For the life of himself, however, he could not see what connected a bargirl, a farmer’s wife and a shop worker. He made a few more notes, and then went to bed that night…
Now, very small town has one or more now, and it was no different back then – a house of ill repute, a bordello, a whorehouse, depending on your taste in language and honesty. And this place was no different – back then, it was under the auspices of Mrs Laverne Dietrich. My grandfather used to describe her as the most honest woman in town – she made no secret of what she did, and she felt she had no need to.
She also kept a strict policy on the ladies who worked for her – good health and dental plans, good pay, she treated them right. So come the Thursday, the call to the house came as something of a surprise to him – he knew she tolerated no trouble.
When he got there, however, it was Mrs Dietrich who was in trouble – the girls said they could not get into her office, but they could hear her in there, so he told his deputy to take them downstairs, and then – well, he kicked the door open himself.
“Hfffnkkgdgtsuu.” He told me that was what Laverne said when she saw him – someone had stuck one stocking inside the other, and then pushed the lump into her mouth, before tying the stocking round her head. She had a strict dress code – white blouse, always ironed, long silk skirt, silk stockings and heels, as well as gloves on her hands.
Those hands were behind her, her arms tied at her crossed wrists, and then rope around her upper arms and chest to lock them into place. As he described it, her skirt was open at the side split, so he could see her garter belt holding her stockings up – and the band of rope holding her legs together above her knees.
Another band held her ankles tightly together, as she looked at him and pleaded for help. Well, my grandfather was a gentleman, so he helped her to sit up and removed the gag from her mouth, untying her as she told her story.
A story he had heard before - two men, scarves covering their faces, came in and overpowered her, tied her up, gagged her, and then ransacked the office. But they didn’t touch the money bags on her table, or her own purse – they just made a mess.
Now by now my grandfather was wondering just what the hell was going on, so he put out an APB on the two suspects. But Laverne only knew Donna because she shopped there on occasion, and didn’t know Lottie or Rhoda at all. So why these four women?
That night, he did what he did every Thursday night – went to Jerry’s house for beer and poker. He talked to his friends about it, while Jerry’s wife Shirley served the snacks and drinks. He always remembers her saying something like that wasn’t just a coincidence – something else had to be going on.
He just could not see what that could be – and he wondered if he was going to get called out the next day to another raid like it. Well, he was – only on that Friday, it was back to Jerry’s house.
He worked down the local sawmill, and had left the house that morning after kissing Shirley goodbye. When he got back about six that night, he saw his wife waiting – and called me, so that I became the second and only other person to see her.
She was, to put it mildly, upset – and so would any of you had been. She was wearing a black slip and a knee length grey skirt, as well as dark hose and black shoes, and was seated in an old wooden chair, her arms on the rests – and tied to them with lengths of rope. Her wrists were firmly secured down, while there was rope around her elbows, the joints of the chair arms at the back, and the chair back itself. She had her legs crossed, her ankles secured with more ropes to the front legs of the chairs. Most disturbing of all was the large red ball that was in her mouth, the leather straps on either side pressing on her cheeks as they went round her head.
She was looking daggers at Jerry, so grandfather told him to go and make some coffee while he unstrapped and eased the ball from her mouth. She then had a few choice words to say as he untied her, and handed her the robe that was over the back of the easy chair.
She had showered after Jerry left, and was almost dressed when they jumped her. From her description, it was the same two guys – they tied her to the chair, used that ball thing to keep her quiet, the went upstairs. When his deputies arrived, they found the bedroom trashed – but again, nothing taken.
Nothing at all… It was proving a perplexing little problem, so he took her statement, went back to his office, and tried to figure it out. Whoever these two guys were, they were more than pranksters now – they were a serious nuisance, and had to be stopped.
Now, Saturday would normally be his day off, but he’d been up all night trying to figure out what was going on, so he decided to head for home and grab some food with my grandmother. When he drove up to the porch, everything looked real nice and normal – it was only when he got in, and could not smell the coffee, he decided to get a mite worried.
A worry that increased when he saw the mess in the main room, and ran up the stairs. My Pappy was away at camp at the time, so he never saw what my grandfather saw – my grandmother sitting the wrong way round on her vanity chair, staring at my grandfather, a wide bit of sticking plaster covering her mouth.
What was worse, she was in her personals – a black bra and panties, stockings and heels. Her ankles were tied to the back legs of the chair, and her wrists crossed, tied and resting on the back support – but more rope was wrapped round her and the chair, holding her legs to the chair back, and even round her neck. Not tight enough to give cause for concern, but tight enough.
He peeled that plaster away, and she told him she had been getting ready when two men, with scarves over their faces, jumped her and tied her to the chair. They said nothing, just left her there as they went downstairs. To grandfather, this was like a red rag to a bull – they had done this to taunt him, and now they were his, if he ever caught them.
But he never did – the attacks ended that day. It bothered him of course – why would two men do that to a barmaid, a farmer’s wife, a shop worker, a brothel owner, a housewife and the wife of the sheriff?
Well, he kept looking, and they never appeared again in the town. Three months later, however, a gang targeted the local mine, and robbed the office on payday. Two men, wearing scarves, held the staff at gunpoint and made off with five thousand dollars.
At the same time, however, four other women were attacked in their homes by identically dressed pairs of men – with scarves over their faces – and left tied up and gagged while they ransacked the homes. Nothing was taken, but the police were called to all four houses at the same time – leaving no one to go to the mine when they reported the robbery…
Then my grandfather knew what had happened – and how lucky they had all been…