They look back at me, my little girls, hoping that I can do or say something, but I am as helpless as they are at this point - perhaps more so. Instead, they sit down on the floor, putting their hands on their head as they have been told to, and look round the storeroom as well.


Gail is sitting on the left - the runched material at the hem of her brown bomber jacket rising up as she raises her arms, showing the waistband of her jeans and the bottom of her dark blue top. Over her lower legs is a pair of brown studded suede boots.


On the other side is Gillian, her black leather skirt squeaking as she sits on the cold stone floor. Shes also wearing a red jumper, and knee length black leather boots, with a blue scarf with gold Fleur de Lis on it around her neck and shoulders.


They were meant to be joining me for lunch, after I shut the shop up, but instead they have been forced in here with me by one of the two men who surprised me a few minutes before. Now they look at me, fear and tears in their eyes, as they wonder what is going to happen next. I wish I could tell them, but I cant - I genuinely cant.


The men are dressed normally - casual clothes, shirts, trousers, trainers - but they both have scarves tied around their mouths and jaws, with baseball caps over their heads. One of them is standing behind me, while the other is looking through the girls purses, taking out their mobile phones and throwing them over to the far side of the room, over the racks of dresses.


Eventually, he throws the bags down and looks at my babies. What are we going to do with you, he says as he puts a gloved hand on Gillians head, stroking her short blonde hair. She tries to move out of the way, but he grabs her by the neck and pulls her back, looking at me as I complain.


Dont worry, mum, the guy behind me says, Were not going to hurt them. We just need to keep you two out of the way for a little while. I see the two girls look up as he throws each of them a long, thin plastic strip with a square box at the end.


Take these, he says from behind me, and secure each others ankles together, nice and tightly. I dont want my friend her to have to tighten them afterwards.


You want us to tie each other up, Gail says, and I can hear the defiance in her voice. Something cold is pressed against my temple, and I nod as I look at Gail, the colour draining from her face as she looks on.


All right, all right, Gillian says as she lowers her hands and picks up one of the strips, Just dont hurt our mum. I relax, a little, as the cold is removed and I watch Gillian turn to Gail. Just give me your ankles, she says quietly, and lets get this over with. Better I do it than them.


I watch Gail put her ankles towards Gillian, and hear the rasping sound as she pulls the strip around the suede, the material compressing quickly as she pulls it tightly around them. Now do the same to me, she says as I watch Gail pick up the second strip and secure her sisters ankles, the leather squeaking as the plastic rasps and locks in place.


As they stretch their legs out in front of them, they both look at me as Gail says Are you all right, Mum? I nod and try to say something, but before I can speak the man behind me throws each of them another plastic strip.


Your legs next, he says, above your knees, and this needs to be tight as well. As they pick the strips up, I look down at my own legs. I was wearing a very nice pair of boots I bought a few weeks ago, a real vintage design. The parts above the shoe, which goes over my knees, are made from faded denim, while the shoe is cream leather. There are two white bands encircling them, holding my legs together - one around my ankles, and one just below my knees. So I know what they are feeling as they each take care of their own legs, Gail over her jeans and Gillian lifting the hem of her skirt back for a minute, the plastic biting into her tan tights before she folds the hem back again.


Comfy, the other man says as he pulls Gails head back by her brown hair. What do you think, you bastard, she says in response, which makes the guy behind my laugh.


She got you there, I hear him say, but we cant have the two of you shouting out and raising the alarm when we leave. Find something to take care of that will you?


As the other man goes back into the store, the two girls look at me, Gillian saying this time Mum, what are we going to do? I want to reassure them, to tell them that if we co-operate, everything will be all right, but I cant. Im as scared as they are, and the fact two men forced me to close the shop up testifies to that. I always forget they both have a key - otherwise they would never have walked into this.


He comes back in, with two packs of pantyhose which he rips open. This will do for a start, he says as he throws a pair at each of them, Stuff those into your mouth, gusset first.


Youre joking, Gail says as she looks at me, but I just shake my head. Hes not joking, I know that. I shift my legs around, trying to ease the cramp Im feeling, and wishing I could scratch my nose, but I cant. They will understand why in a few minutes.


At least theyre clean and new, the guy says, We could have taken the knickers off your mum and your sis and used them. Now, Get... On... With... IT!


I watch them as they slowly, with a look of horror, stuff the gusset into their mouths, their cheeks filling out as they inched the legs in as well. I dont want to see anything outside your mouth, the man behind me says as I feel the cold against my temple once more. I look back at them, trying to make them know I understand as they push the last of the legs in and close their lips.


I see the other man pick up a roll of brown parcel tape and throw it to Gillian. Put this over your sisters mouth, he says with a smile, and make sure her lips are sealed nice and tightly. This part I was expecting - they may have used a blue silk headscarf to stuff my mouth, but the tape over my lisp has been pulling at my skin since just before they came in.


The ripping sound makes me groan, the moan audible as Gillian pulls a length of tape off, and mumbles Msrrgl as she smoothes it over her sisters lips. Three more, the man behind me says, over the whole mouth. Three more rips, three more strips, three more sticking over, and three slowly quieter mumbles as Gail starts crying.


Now give it to your sister - she can return the favour.


Tslrrgh, Gillian mumbles as she hands the roll to Gail, her hands trembling as she rips the tape free from the roll. I close my eyes as the ripping sound starts again, feeling with my fingers once more to see if I can find the knot in the rope that is holding my wrists together, but with little joy.


When they had surprised me, one of them had pushed me down over the shop counter while the other had tied my wrists together behind my back, the rope digging into my bare skin as he pulled it tightly. They had them marched me into the storeroom, and I caught a glimpse of myself in a changing mirror as they did so. I may be in my early fifties, but I look at least ten years younger, and I like to dress that way too. Im wearing a blue cap sleeve denim mini dress with dark tights and these boots, but thats not what worried me at the time.


What did was the way they sat me in a chair, putting my hands over the back, and then tied me to the chair with rope, winding it around my body and the woodwork until I was locked in place. I barely had time to give them the combination to the safe before the door opened, they gagged me, and - well, here we are now.


As I open my eyes, I see that the man has made Gail and Gillian sit back to back, and is securing their wrists with more of those cable ties. Gillians right wrist is next to Gails left, and after he tightens the first tie he puts another round their arms above their elbows, forcing them tightly together.


I hear them groan as their arms are secured, before he takes the tape and winds it round their chests, forcing them together as the light brown clashes with the tan leather of Gails jacket and the red of Gillians jumper. Eventually, he exhausts the roll, throwing the cardboard inner ring away as the two girls look at me.


Rulrght, I mumble through my own gag, and Im glad that they both nod, even if their mascara is running slightly from their tears. All I can do now is sit and watch as they open my safe, and start to empty the takings for the week into carrier bags.


Gillian and Gail are trying to move, their boots squeaking as they rub against each other, and so do mine as I make another feeble attempt outbreak the plastic holding them together. IT makes a strange sound, especially when backed up by the sound of our mumbling and groaning.


Hey listen - its the Spice Girls with another hit single, one of them says as they both stand up, carrying their bags with them. Gail and Gillian groan, and say Fcku in unison. Me, I need to stay calm - I know where theres a pair of scissors they havent seen, and I dont want to alert them to that as they walk out of the storeroom. The money I can replace - the girls I cannot.







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