That was then, This is now
It’s a nice flat in Kensington – one my grandma bought when she was posted to the American embassy here in the mid seventies. She worked in the Visa office, and so saw a lot of people then. Anyway, when she discovered I was going to come to college here, she said she would let me live here rent free – and then, one night a couple of weeks before I moved over, she told me this story when I was visiting.
I was in my mid twenties then, and had lived in London for about a year. Hadn’t met your dad then, so I was living alone in the apartment – and then one night, I had an unexpected visitor.
I had been out for a night in a club, and given this was the era of drab or bright, I went for the bright. I had my hair short then, and was wearing a short sleeved dress with a deep round neckline. It was tight, and made of – well, let me put it this way. It had a floral pattern on a pink base, and would not have looked out of place on a pair of drapes.
I was also wearing a pair of red suede high boots, laced up the front and with a little panel that went up over my knees. They were very much of the time – stiletto heel, stack sole with a black leather toe cap, and a red strap around each leg under my knee.
I was also wearing some very distinctive jewellery – my earrings. They were made from nine little gold rings, each one with a different coloured jewel in. How the heck they did not rip through my ear lobe I will ever know, and they were definitely gaudy – but that was the fashion at the time. I also had a couple of rings on.
Anyway – it was a good night, and I got home in a very very good mood. So when I unlocked the front door and walked in, I felt as if I was ready to face anything.
Which was just as well. Because as I closed the door, a hand clamped over my mouth and I was pulled back against someone. I still remember the taste of the wool the glove was made of, the slight smell of sweat and Old Spice aftershave, and the fear as I started screaming.
The voice I heard was deep, quiet, but you got the feeling he wasn’t someone to trifle with as he held me against his chest. Now, I’m about five ten, but my head was held firmly against his chest, so he must have been a good six inches taller.
“Stop struggling,” I heard him say, “I’m not going to hurt you, but if you don’t calm down and stop struggling you will get hurt.”
I had no reason not to believe him, so I stopped struggling and waited. Eventually, he said “if I take my hand away, are you going to scream?” I shook my head from side to side, and gasped as the gloved hand was taken away.
“Look,” he said, “I’m just robbing you, so if you keep calm and do as I tell you, all I’m going to do is tie you up, keep you quiet, and I’ll let someone know where you are. Deal?”
I nodded again as he led me into the front room – and I saw the telephone wires pulled out of the wall. Don’t snigger – that is what they were like in the bad old days. I then turned round and looked at him – six foot four, big, strong, and he had a nice smile. As well as a handgun.
“All right,” he said quietly, “kneel down on the floor, and put your head on the couch, hands behind your head.”
“What are you going to do,” I remember saying as I did as he asked – and then I saw a coiled up washing line which he dropped on the cushion next to me.
“I told you – tie you up and keep you quiet,” he said as he took a knife from his pocket, and cut some of the washing line away. He then crossed my wrists behind my back, and felt the rope forcing them together as he wound the cords around and between my arms.
As he tied it off, I tried to reach the knot or the ends, but with no success, as he put my ankles together and cut away another length of rope. I soon realised I was going nowhere as he tied my ankles tightly together, and I was grateful I had the boots on to protect my legs.
Once he had it tied off, he pulled me up and turned me round, before he lowered me down onto one end of the couch. I wriggled round as he cut another length of rope from the washing line, and tied my legs together below my knees.
“I guess I really am going nowhere,” I said as I looked at him.
“No – now, save yourself some cleaning up later, and tell me where you keep your valuables.”
“There are some jewellery boxes in my chest of drawers, and that’s all,” I said as I looked at him.
“I believe you,” he said quietly, “lie down.”
I allowed myself to fall on my seat and wriggled round so that I could put my head on the armrest, and then gasped as I saw him fold a handkerchief.
“What’s that for?”
“To keep you quiet – open wide, and breathe through your nose.”
I had no choice, right? I let him push the hankie in, and then watched as he tore the backing paper off a strip of sticking plaster, before he pressed it firmly down over my lips and jaw. I tried to speak – but even if the cloth wasn’t muffling me, the plaster stopped me from doing more than making funny shapes with my lips as I tried to move them.
I watched as he left the room, and then returned with my valuables, putting them into a bag before he leaned over, and gently kissed me on the forehead. “Don’t panic, help will come soon,” he said as he turned the radio on, and then he left, closing the door behind himself.
I think I was like that for an hour or so – I have to confess, I fell asleep, but was woken up by someone shaking me, and then seeing a policeman looking at me.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to be careful over there dear. Make sure you lock the doors, and if anyone does get in, just do what they tell you to do. So long as it doesn’t go too far...
Like I said, I came over here and started my course while living in my grandma’s apartment. I made friends, I got into the student life, and I followed her advice, making sure the doors were locked when I was out, and when I went to bed.
Six months into my first year, I went to a meal out with some friends. I was dressed smart casual – a black leather jacket over a sheer beige blouse, with a black bra underneath, pink jeans and over the knee sand coloured suede boots. The boots had straps round the back of the legs, a stacked sole and three inch heel. For the occasion, I had my hair up in a bun, pulled back from my head.
Anyway – as I said, we went out for a meal, had a couple of drinks, and I got home at about ten, ready to get to my bed. I unlocked the front door, turned off the alarm and closed the door – and then gasped as a leather gloved hand was clamped over my mouth, and I was pulled back against someone who had to be least six foot six – I’m six foot after all.
The glove was leather, and smelt of tanning and perfume. “Thank you,” a deep voice said, “I was going to turn the alarm off myself, but you beat me to it. Now, I need you to calm down and stop struggling. I’m not going to hurt you, just make sure you stay in the same place for a while.”
The words of my grandma came back to mind, as I nodded and waited to see what he would do next.
“If I take my hand away, are you going to scream?”
I shook my head from side to side, and as he took his hand away I heard him say “very slowly, take your phone out of your handbag and hold it to the side.”
Well, I did as he asked, watching as the gloved hand took my phone, and then whoever the intruder was pulled my hands behind my back. I felt him cross my wrists, and then heard a rasping sound as I realized he was using a zip tie to hold my wrists together.
“Into the front room,” he said as he took my arm, and I was frog marched in. I could see my modem had been put on standby, and the wire connecting my phone to the network had been cut.
“All I want to do is rob you,” he said as he made me sit down, “so I’m going to make sure you cannot raise the alarm for a while. Keep calm, and I will let someone know of your predicament when I am far enough away.”
“A real gentlemen,” I said sarcastically as he wrapped a second zip tie round my ankles, and pulled them tightly together, the rasping sound as he made sure they were not getting separated the only response. He then used a second long zip tie to secure my legs together below my knees, before he looked me in the eye.
“Now then,” he said as he looked at me, “I promise you, the most I’m going to do is tie you up and gag you, so keep calm, all right?”
I nodded as he walked behind me, and I felt him use another zip tie to pull my arms together at my elbows, forcing my chest out and making my jacket open up. I hoped he was telling the truth, as he made me lie down on my stomach, pulled my ankles back and used one more tie to secure them to my wrists.
I rolled onto my side and looked at him, as he said “save yourself some cleaning up – tell me where your valuables are.”
“I said, save yourself...”
“I know what you said – that’s what the man said to my grandma when he robbed her forty years ago.”
“Really? What a coincidence – now, your valuables?”
“Well – there’s a safe in the wardrobe.”
I gave him the six digits, and watched as he looked at me.
“I need you to be quiet now.”
“Of course I’ll be quiet, I promise...”
“No,” he said as he took out of his jacket pocket a sponge ball and compressed it in his hand, “I really need you to be quiet. Open your mouth.”
“I don’t believe this,” I whispered to myself before I opened my mouth as wide as possible, and he pushed the sponge behind my teeth. I could feel it expanding in my mouth, filling it, pressing my tongue down as he took out of his other pocket a roll of white medical tape.
He tore off a strip and pressed it down over my mouth, following it up with several more until I found myself able to do more than just mumble.
“Now then,” he said as he turned my television on, and found a film on Netflix based on some old music, “you just lie there.”
I watched as he walked back out of the room, and I tried to get as comfortable as possible. After a short while, he came back in, carrying a small cloth bag which I knew had my valuables in it.
He leaned over and gently kissed my forehead as he said “I’ll alert the police to your predicament once I’m far enough away. Just relax and don’t struggle.”
I nodded as he walked out, and I watched the film, hoping I could relax and wait patiently...
I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew was someone shaking me, and I opened my eyes to see a policewoman looking at me.
“Are you all right Miss?”
I nodded as she peeled the tape away and helped me to push the sponge out, the saliva dripping from it, as she used a pair of scissors to cut me free.
“You as well?”
“Yeah Grandma – and the strange thing was, he used some of the same words as you did. Is that coincidence?”
“Possibly – I mean, does crime run in families?”
I chuckled and said “who knows Grandma, who knows?”