Thoughts on a Wet Afternoon
There’s something about the Midlands on a wet September afternoon that seems to be designed to sap the soul out of people. As it was, the weather wasn’t the first thing bothering me as I walked down the street – it was what was going to happen in a few minutes when I walked into the interview I had arranged earlier in the week. Adjusting the strap on my shoulder bag, I made my way through the crowds, making sure I didn’t step in any of the steadily growing puddles as I held the umbrella over my hair.
I had selected a suitable outfit for the meeting – a dark blue jacket and skirt, with a pale cream silk blouse underneath the jacket, black stockings and sensible kitten heeled shoes. After all, I was out to make a good impression with the manager, and first impressions are so important these days.
Finally, I arrived at the old building that was the office of Bracket and Spoke, the merchants that I was looking for a job with. Standing underneath the porch, I shook the moisture off the umbrella and rolled it up, before stepping into the reception area. There was a young woman sitting behind the desk, with a grey blouse on, who looked up and me and said “Good Morning, can I help you?”
Well, I explained that I was there for an interview with Mr Spoke, and as she checked the appointment book she indicated an umbrella stand where I could leave my portable shelter. Placing the umbrella inside, having first given it an extra shake, I went back and stood in front of the desk.
“Miss Hawkins? You are expected – if you would go with Natasha here?”
I looked over to where another blonde haired woman was standing. She too was wearing a grey blouse, and I noticed her knee length black skirt and fabric boots as I went over to join her. She led me down a corridor, with one or two offices to each side, and knocked on a large oak door at the end of the corridor.
A male voice called out “Come in”, and Natasha showed me into a well furnished office, where a gentleman I took to be Mr Spoke was sitting behind a large oak desk. He stood up as we walked in, shook my hand and asked if I would like some coffee. I declined, and we sat down to start the interview.
Well, all went well for the first few minutes, but the initial discussion of my qualifications was interrupted by the sound of running feet approaching the office. Mr Spoke stood up, said “Excuse me for just a minute”, and went towards the door. Before he could reach it, it was violently opened inwards and two men dressed in overalls and with balaclavas over their heads ran in, shouting “Nobody fucking move – this is a robbery!”
I watched as one of the men pushed Mr Spoke against the wall, and the other walked over and grabbed me by the arm. “Do as you’re told or this little bit of skirt gets it,” the first man shouted into Mr Spoke’s ear, and I stood there shivering as he slowly nodded.
“Get her out of here,” the man ordered, and I was dragged out of the office and down a staircase into the cellar. I could hear screams from elsewhere, but had no idea what was going on beyond my own position. The masked man turned on a switch, making a lone light bulb in the ceiling glow, as he pushed me face down on the cold floor.
“Hands behind your back,” he shouted, and as I did what he asked he pulled a length of coarse rope from his pocket. I lay still as he pulled my arms behind my back and placed the elbow of each arm in the palm of the other, before proceeding to lash my arms together. The coarse rope cut through my jacket and made my arms ache, but I realised there was no way I could fight this. Eventually, he made me get up and sit against the wall, where he tied the loose ends of the rope to an iron ring that was set into the concrete about two foot from the floor. This made me lean forward slightly as I tried to keep my balance – which wasn’t easy as he crossed my ankles and lashed them together with more rope.
As he continued to tie me up, I took a look around the room. It was damp, and the rain outside was finding its way into the room through an ill-fitting window. Although it was dirty and grime-encrusted, I could just about make out some iron railings and people’s legs as they walked by. I stare out of the window, wondering what’s going to happen next, until a yank on my legs tells me the guy’s finished.
Listening to the sounds through the door he pushed me through, I could some screaming and sobbing. I wondered what was going on, not noticing the scarf he was twirling in his hands until he pulled the knot he had tied between my teeth. As he pulled the ends tightly behind my head, I could hear footsteps coming down the stairs. Turning my head, I saw the receptionist and Natasha been led down by another masked man. They both had their hands tied behind their back and their scarves tied into their mouths, the ends pulling at the corner of their mouths as they were forced to sit down.
They were forced to sit on some old rugs that lay on the floor, and I watched as their ankles were crossed and lashed with coarse rope. It wasn’t long before the two men left the three of us alone as they left the cellar, locking the door behind them. We were left to our own devices, sitting there as the water continued to seep through the window to the outside world.
I looked over at the other two girls who had been brought here with me. They were dressed in the regulation outfit of a grey blouse, black skirt and knee length boots, as they had been when the interview had started earlier that day. Now they were sat together, looking at me as if I knew what was going on.
Squirming round, I could see the rope leading from my wrists to the iron ring against the wall. The other two were lucky – at least they could move around on the rugs they were on – I was stuck here. Unable to move, and unable to talk, I sat there in silence wondering what else could go wrong today.
The time passed slowly, with only the sobs from Natasha to punctuate the silence. I was getting stiff, sore, and the growing cramp in my own legs was beginning to become less of a distraction and more of an annoyance that was proving difficult to bear. I managed to gather my legs under my bottom and push up, taking the pressure off my behind and allowing me to push myself slightly up the wall.
That gave me a little relief, but my legs ached with sitting in the same position for so long, and the rope around my legs was causing my stockings to rip and tear. The two women watched as I tried to stretch up and down, wondering what I was trying to do, but as I did so I realised something was happening.
No, not that – for some reason I could feel the rope that was holding my wrists to that iron ring loosen, and in the process the tightness I could feel around my wrists was lessening, almost as if… as if I was managing to untie myself.
I tried leaning forward, and found to my excitement and horror that I had indeed somehow managed to loosen the ropes. Excitement because it was giving me the opportunity to get free – horror because there was nothing to stop me falling forward and landing flat on my face!
Twisting slightly as I fell, I managed to land on my side, jarring my shoulder but at least not hurting myself. As I twisted my arms round, the rope became loose enough to pull one free, and as I brought it round to my front I saw the other two egging me on, encouraging me to free myself.
I shook my wrist, while at the same time bringing my other wrist round – freeing the first one had naturally allowed me to free the other one from my elbow as well. I sat myself up, catching my breath as I did so, then leaned over and started to untie the ropes around my legs. Eventually I managed to sit myself up, and remove the saliva-sodden scarf from my mouth. Slowly, aching in every bone, I made my way over and removed the gag from Natasha’s mouth.
“If I untie your hands, can you free yourself and your friend? I’ll make my way upstairs and try to call fro help.” Natasha nodded, and I quickly untied the rope around her crossed wrists before heading up the stairs and trying the door. For some reason, the intruders had not bothered to lock it, so I gingerly opened it and peeked out.
The place was silent, apart from a few soft moans, but more importantly there was no sign of the intruders. I slowly walked back down to Mr Spoke’s office, looking as I did into open doorways. In one or two of the offices I could see other staff members, bound and gagged, but I knew getting the police to come had to be the major priority, so I left them undisturbed in the hope that Natasha would not be too long.
Opening the door to the office, I saw Mr Spoke lying on the floor, unconscious and with blood coming from a wound to his head. I checked to see if he was still breathing, then searched through the files and other papers littered on the floor until I found my handbag. Opening it, I gave thanks that it was intact, and in particular that in their haste the intruders had not found the mobile phone in there.
It was several hours later before I was able to start making my way home – the police wanted to take statements, I went to hospital for a check up and to treat the bruising and abrasions I had picked up, and then there was the small matter of talking to Mr Spoke afterwards. He actually offered me the job after he heard what had happened in the cellar, but I declined – there was now ay I was willing to go through anything like that in that office again.
Finally, I arrived home and ran myself a hot bath. As I immersed myself in the scented bubbles, I let out a sigh of relief and closed my eyes, only opening them again when I heard the bathroom door open. I accepted the glass of wine and smiled up at my boyfriend as he sat on the toilet seat.
“Next time,” I said as he leaned over to kiss me, “use tape – it does not leave marks the way that rope did.”
“As you wish, darling,” he said before kissing me on my lips.