Beauty and Best

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Barbara, are you home yet?”

 

Tom smiled as he heard a young female voice say “in the kitchen” as he closed the door.  The seventeen-year-old was wearing his uniform of a brown polo shirt, cargo shorts and trainers with white socks, and he hung the bomber jacket on the coat stand before he walked down the corridor.  He and Barbara had finally managed to secure this flat after they had left the children’s’ home that they had both grown up in, but under the council rules they had both had to leave.  He was a handsome young man, with short brown hair, and smiled as he walked in and saw Barbara at the table.

 

The blonde-haired girl was slim, and was wearing a white blouse over a blur roll neck sweater, tight black leggings and short black boots.  “How was your day,” she said as she looked at Tom.

 

“Long, busy – being the assistant means I got all the choice high rises to go into,” he said as he put the kettle on, “but I have been paid.  What about you – end of the first week of your placement?”

 

“Not too bad,” Barbara said with a smile, “they liked my designs, and gave me some good hints on how to improve – but I came back to find these.”  She held up some envelopes as Tom made a coffee, and then sat down.

 

“Bills?”

 

“Oh yes – and we don’t have the money to pay for them.  I mean, this much a month just for the heating?”

 

Tom nodded as he put the envelope down.  “There’s only one way we are going to raise that money in the time to pay it.”

 

“I know,” Barbara whispered, “but can we really do this?  Can we?”

 

Putting his hand on hers, Tom said “I don’t think we have a choice.  You’ve read the reports of some of the gangs – if we’re careful, if we follow our plan, we will get away with this.”

 

Barbara nodded as she said “I know – so what is the plan?”

 

Tom walked to a drawer and took out a pad, looking at his notes.  “We now Arnold Blake is a major supplier of cloth to the place you work at, and we know because you have seen the letters that he is at that show with the meeting with the directors of your current placement tomorrow until late.”

 

Barbara nodded as she said “so that means the family are at home.”

 

“Yeah – his wife Eleanor, who is thirty-five, and his mother Tonia, who is sixty.  There are also the girls – ten-year-old Paula, and seven-year-old Angel.”

 

“Did you get them?”

 

Tom nodded as he went to the hallway, and brought back a cardboard box.  “Billy get them for me – he said just be careful, and he can also arrange for anything we get to eb traded at a fair price.”  He opened the box, Barbara looking at the two guns inside and nodding.

 

“So – when do we go?”

 

“Tomorrow, at about eleven – he should be at the exhibition by then…”

 

“And how are we going to disguise ourselves?”

 

“I have some black eye masks, and we use some of your deep black eye shadow.”  Tom smiled as he said “We can do this, Barbara?”

 

“I hope so…”

 

 

 

 

As they sat in the borrowed panel van, Tom looked at the detached house.  He was wearing a black roll neck sweater and jeans, as he looked at Barbara.  She had her blonde hair pulled back, and was wearing a tight black sweater, leggings and knee length black suede boots over the leggings.

 

“Okay,” Tom said as he checked his reflection, the eye shadow around his eyes and the black wool cap over his head, “how do you feel?”

 

“Nervous,” Barbara said as she checked her own reflection, “but if we’re going to do it, then now is the time.”  She slipped the black eye mask on, and then put the large dark glasses on over it, her hands in soft black gloves.  Tom did the same, before they opened the doors of the van…

 

 

 

“So, where are the girls,” Tonia said as she watched Eleanor carry in the tray and set it down on the coffee table.  The older woman was wearing a white dress with a red and black rose pattern on it, and white high heels.  Her white hair was cut short, and she smiled as her daughter in law sat next to her, and poured the tea into a cup.

 

“Playing in their room upstairs,” Eleanor said as she handed over the cup and poured one for herself.  She had long light brown hair, and was wearing a sleeveless peach dress which had a green, white and orange floral pattern on it.  The skirt of her dress came down to her knees, and she was wearing a pair of taupe-coloured open toed shoes with a square heel.  “I’ll call them down when it is time for us to eat.”

 

“Good, and they have done their homework?”

 

“They have,” Eleanor said as she sipped her tea.  “I thought we could all go for a walk in the park later this afternoon.”

 

“Sounds like an idea – and perhaps we can take them to see that film they want to see this afternoon?”

 

“Why not,” Tonia said as she sipped her tea, “we could…  Are you expecting anyone?”

 

“No,” Eleanor replied as they heard the doorbell again, putting her cup and saucer down as she stood up and brushed some lint from her skirt, “let me go and see who it is.”  Tonia nodded as she left the room and walked to the front door, hearing the girls laughing upstairs.

 

She could see two figures through the frosted glass, and opened the door as she said “yes, can I help you?”  She saw a young couple standing there, both dressed in black with woollen hats on their heads and gloves on their hands.  The young woman was carrying a bag as she looked at them, the masks over their eyes as the man said “Mrs Eleanor Blake?”

 

“Yes,” Eleanor said quietly, “can I help you?”

 

“You can indeed,” the woman said, “you can walk back in and raise your hands in the air.  This is a robbery.”

 

She looked at the two young people standing there, masked, and laughed as she said “if this is a charity stunt, it’s a good one.”

 

“We’re not kidding,” Tom said as he pointed the gun at Eleanor, “this is a robbery, so walk backwards and allow us to come in.”  As Eleanor backed up, unsure of what was going on, they walked in, Barbara closing the door as Tom grabbed Eleanor’s arm in his gloved hand.

 

“Like I said, this is a robbery – but so long as you do what we say, then nobody needs to get hurt.”  Tom was remaining calm as he spoke, continuing “so don’t scream or raise the alarm, understood?”

 

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

 

“Yes we are,” Barbara said, “we don’t wan to hurt anyone, but if we have to, we will.”  Eleanor slowly nodded as Tom said “good – turn round, hands on our head, and let’s go into the front room.”

 

“So who was it,” Tonia said as she heard the footsteps, and then saw Eleanor walk in with her hands on her head, followed by two masked - well, teenagers.

 

“You must be Tonia,” the young girl said, “don’t move, this is a robbery.”

 

“A what?”

 

“A robbery Tonia – they have a gun,” Eleanor said quietly as her mother-in-law saw the gun in the man’s gloved hand.  He smiled a she said “that’s right – this is a robbery, so no sudden movements, no calls for help – just sit nice and quietly.  You sit next to her Eleanor.”

 

Tonia watched as Eleanor sat down, taking her hand as she said “I opened the door, and there they were.  They said it was a robbery, I didn’t believe them – but then I saw the gun…”

 

“Are you all right?”

 

“I’m scared, and I’m worried,” Eleanor said as she looked at the couple, “they’re young, and I don’t think they know what we are doing.”

 

“Oh, but we do,” Tom said as he and Eleanor sat in the armchairs, covering them with the gun.  “As I said, so long as everyone cooperates and does what we say, then nobody needs to get hurt.”

 

“So what are you going to do?”

 

Tom smiled as he said “well, let’s start by making sure nobody can call for help or interrupt us.  Kindly give my friend here your mobile phones.”  Barbara waited as both of them removed their phones from their handbags and hand them over, before Tom stood up and handed her the gun.

 

“I’ll take care of the main phone and the internet,” he said as he left the room, and Eleanor said “you know this is wrong?”

 

“What is really wrong is we are forced to do this,” Barbara said quietly, “in order to be able to live in this country.”

 

“But you are young,” Tonia said quietly, “do you know you could be jailed for this?”

 

“If we are caught,” Barbara said with a smile as Tom came back in, and took the gun back.  “There – now, where were we?”

 

“What are you going to do to us,” Eleanor asked as she held Tonia’s hand again.  Barbara smiled as she said “well, we are robbing you.  We will secure everyone, make sure you cannot raise the alarm or stop us, but we promise we will not hurt you.”

 

“You mean you’re going to tie us up – even the girls?”

 

“We are,” Tom said quietly as Eleanor and Tonia looked at each other. 

 

“But that is just wrong – and they’re just babies.  Lock us in a room, but…”

 

“Eleanor,” Tom said quietly, “I told you to do what we tell you to do.  Are you going to start arguing now?”

 

“No, but I don’t like the idea of my daughters bound and gagged – any of us bound and gagged!”

 

“I know it sounds bad,” Tom said with a smile, “but better you are all the same.”

 

“We don’t have a choice, do we,” Tonia said as she looked at Eleanor, “they have a gun, Eleanor, we just have to do what they say…”

 

“Mummy, what’s going on?  Who are these people?”

 

All four looked to the door to see the two girls standing there, dressed identically in cap sleeved dresses.  The dress had blue and grey stripes, horizontal above the waist and vertical on the skirt which came down to their knees.  On the front of the skirts were tow large strawberries, one on each side.  They also had white sandals on their feet.

 

“Mummy?”

 

Tom smiled as Barbara stood up and walked over, kneeling in front of the girls.  “You must be Paula,” she said as she looked at the younger girl, who had long blonde hair.  As she nodded, Barbara smiled and looked at the younger redhead. “So you are Angel?”

 

“Yes,” Angel whispered, “who are you, and why do you have a mask on?”

 

“Well, let me explain.  My friend and I are here because we are going to rob you.  Now, that means we have to take care of both of you, your mother and your grandmother, and that means we are going to have to tie all of you up, and make sure you cannot call for help.”

 

“Tie us up,” Paula said as she looked at her mother and grandmother.

 

“That’s right,” Barbara said, “but you have my word, we’re not going to hurt you so long as all of you do what we say.”  She could not believe how calmly she was talking as she looked at the girls.  “All if you will eb the same, and we’ll make sure you can go to the toilet if you need to before we go.”

 

Angel looked at her sister, and said “we have to do what they say don’t we?”  Paula nodded as Barbara touched their cheeks with her gloved hand, and said “you are both very brave girls – go and sit with your mother and grandmother.”

 

The girls held hands as they walked over, Eleanor and Tonia moving over so that they sat between them.  “Are you girls all right,” she said as she stroked Paula’s hair.

 

“I think so Mummy,” Paula said, “they sound nice, and we’ll all be together, won’t we?”

 

“Yes you will,” Tom said, “so here’s what is going to happen.  In a few minutes, your mother is going to come with me as we look around the house.  While we go round, my friend here is going to make sure that the rest of you are tied and gagged – and when your mother comes back, she will join you.”

 

“How long for?”

 

Barbara looked at Tonia, and smiled as she said “until we go – but as we said, just remain calm and do what we say, everyone will be just fine.”

 

Tonia nodded as Tom stood up and said “so, shall we go round Eleanor?”  He waited as she stood up and said “I’ll see you all soon” and stepped round, Tom taking her hand as she walked out of the room.

 

“So,” Barbara said as she opened the bag, “why don’t we start with you girls?  Come and stand here, facing your grandmother.”

 

“Okay,” Paula said as she and Angel walked round, Tonia watching as Barbara took a length of white rope out, and knelt behind Paula as she took her hands behind her back.

 

“I don’t understand,” she said as Barbara wrapped the rope round the young girl’s wrists.  She and Tom had practised this one each other, so she knew how to make it tight and comfortable.

 

“You don’t understand what Tonia?”

 

“Why you think it is all right to scare children, and tie them up to get what you want?”

 

“Are you scared Paula?”  The young girl looked over her shoulder as Barbara tightened the wrist binding, then looked back as she said “I’m not scared Granny.  She’s beautiful, she won’t hurt us.”

 

Barbara smiled as she said “thank you Paula” and secured the ends tucking them into the bands so the young girl could not reach them.  “Are you ready Angel?”

 

“Yes I am, Miss Beauty,” the seven-year-old said as she put her hands behind her back, and felt the soft rope as it was used to hold her wrists together.  Tonia shook her head as she said “I don’t know how you managed it, but they don’t seem to eb afraid.”

 

“We’re not afraid, Grandma,” Angel said as Barbara cinched her wrist binding, “because you’re with us, and she is a nice lady.”  Tonia nodded - somehow this female robber had made sure they stayed calm, and were not upset.

 

“Now,” Barbara said with a smile, “I want Tonia to come over and see what I have done, and then you girls can sit back down while I make sure your gran’s wrists stay behind her back.”

 

Tonia slowly stood up and walked over, looking at her granddaughters and their crossed wrists, before the girls walked back over and sat back down.  Barbara selected another length of rope, and crossed the older woman’s wrists behind her back.

 

“Will you answer a question for me,” she said as she felt the rope rubbing on her wrists.

 

“Of course.”

 

“Why are you doing this?  Why are you living this life?”

 

Barbara pulled the ropes tighter, and said “honestly?  Purely for the money?”

 

“So tying us up is really just to make sure we cannot stop you?”

 

“Of course – without saying too much, my friend and I only have each other in this world, and we need the money to live.  That’s the only reason – so that we have the money we need to pay the bills, and survive.”  She pulled the rope between Tonia’s wrists as Tonia nodded.  “Well – I can understand that, but I still don’t like that you are doing this.”

 

“Thank you,” Barbara said as she secured the ends.  “Now, go and sit with your granddaughters, and I will tie your ankles together.”

 

“Nothing else?”

 

“Not yet,” Barbara said as Tonia walked back and sat down.  Barbara selected three more lengths of rope as she said “I will ask you to be a little impolite for a moment, Tonia, and put your feet on the coffee table.”

 

“Mummy never lets us do that,” Paula said as her grandmother did what Barbara asked.

 

“Well, you don’t need to,” Barbara laughed as she saw their feet hanging over the edge of the seat, and doubled over the first length of rope before she used it to secure Angel’s ankles together.  The young girl watched as she said “is that what you did to my wrists?”

 

“Yes it is – does it hurt?”  Angel shook her head as she took the rope between her legs, and then tied the ends off at the back of her legs, before she did the same thing to her big sister.

 

“Look at us, Granny,” Angel said as she secured Paula’s ankles, and then did the same thing to Tonia before she put her feet back on the ground.

 

“So are you going to keep us quiet now?”

 

“Yes I am,” Barbara said as she took from the bag a white silk scarf, and rolled it into a band, “so which of you is going to be first.”

 

“Me,” Tonia said as Barbara walked behind her, the girls watching as their grandmother opened their mouth and the band was pulled between her lips.  Barbara secured the ends at the base of her neck, saying “if you need the toilet, grunt three times and nod your head – same for you girls after I have done this to you.”

 

“Okay Miss Beauty,” Paula laughed as Barbara fetched another scarf and cleave gagged the young girl, Tonia watching as she closed her lips over the white band, and then as the same thing was done to Angel.  How were they so calm…?

 

 

 

“I can’t hear anything,” Eleanor said as she sat one her bed, her hands on her lap while she watched Tom empty the contents of her jewellery boxes into a bag.

 

“Why would you, Eleanor?  We promised if everyone remained calm, and did what we said, nobody would get hurt.  We can’t hear anything, so I presume nobody has been hurt.”

 

“Why?”

 

Tom put the jewellery box back and said “why what?”

 

“Why do this?  Why threaten me, my family, tie us up, gag us, whatever – I don’t like that you are forcing me to do this.”

 

“I can understand that.”

 

“So why do it?”

 

“Because my friend and I have nothing,” Tom said a she put the bag on top of a chest of drawers and looked at Eleanor.  “We grew up with nothing, we have no sources of money ourselves – and we have to survive in this world.  So we do this to get the money to survive – it’s a simple as that.”

 

Eleanor looked at him, and said “you’re telling the truth aren’t you?”

 

“Why, do you think we have lied to you at any time today?”

 

Shaking her head, Eleanor said “no, you haven’t.  What sort of world do we have when young people like you are forced to do this?”

 

“An unfair one, on all sides,” Tom said with a sad smile. 

 

“Yes, I guess it is,” Eleanor said quietly.  “This is the last room, what happens now?”

 

“Now we join the others – but before we go down, I need you to stand up and put your hands behind your back.”

 

“Should have seen this coming,” Eleanor said as she watched Tom draw a length of white cord from his trouser pocket.  But she stood up and turned round, feeling the rope a she used it to secure her wrists together behind her back. He then picked up the gun and the bag, before he said after you.

 

As they walked back into the main room, she saw her mother-in-law and her girls on the couch, their hands behind their backs and white scarves pulled between their lips.

 

“Whrhllhhnhsph,” Paula said as she saw her mother, and Eleanor saw how the cloth was damp at the corners of her mouth.  “Hsppwhfmhlhhtlhhshmfhnbhghhnhewhf… t.”

 

“Thrths.”  Angel smiled as Eleanor looked at Tonia.  The older woman nodded as the girls kept trying to talk to each other, before Tom guided her to the side of the couch and sat her down.  Barbara then knelt down and bound her ankles together, as he fetched a fourth scarf from the bag and rolled it into a band.

 

“Are you all right, Tonia?”

 

She watched as her mother-in-law nodded and smiled over her gag.

 

“And you girls, you’re all right as well?”

 

They both nodded as Tom said “if you need to go to the toilet or anything, grunt three times and nod.”

 

“Just how long are you going to be here?”

 

“Until the sun sets.  Then we should eb able to leave without raising the alarm – and all of you will not be able to either.”

 

The other three nodded as Eleanor felt the silk band on her tongue, Tom tying it around her head and letting the ends drop down her back.

 

“Television.”

 

“Thssrhttmhshbehthe,” Paula said as Barbara stood up, and turned it on.  “Let’s see what is on.”  She then saw Angel nod her head and grunt three times, so she untied her ankles and wrists, and said “come with me then.”

 

“Thllht?”

 

“Thllht,” Tonia said in agreement as they returned a few minutes later, Angel’s hands secured together again behind her back as she jumped onto the seat next to her mother, and Barbara re-tied the ropes round her ankles.

 

 

When they looked back on it, the whole family admitted it was one of the strangest afternoons they had ever spent together – and one of the best.  They were not able to talk to each other very clearly, or move very easily, but all four were totally relaxed despite being held hostage by the teenage couple.  They let them watch television, if they needed to go to the toilet they were untied and led to the toilet then their wrist were secured again before they walked back and their ankles tied together.  The scarves were getting very wet in their mouths, but somehow it seemed so natural to be like that.  No fear they were going to eb hurt or worse, just laughing and trying to talk to each other.

 

Eventually, Eleanor had her legs untied by Barbara and she walked her to the kitchen.  “Everyone will be getting hungry,” she said as she untied her wrists, “so you should cook some food.  The gag stays in until we say it can come out.”  She sat down at the table and placed her gun on the top, Eleanor nodding as she rubbed her wrists.

 

“Fhrrhlshxhfhs?”

 

“Please,” Barbara said with a smile as she looked at the mother.

 

“Chnwhhtshnn?”

 

“Yes you will,” Tom said as he looked at Paula, “when the time comes, I’ll untie your ankles and you can walk to the table and sit down – but I am going to use the rope to tie your ankles again.”

 

“Whhhh?”

 

“Well, we can’t have you trying to run off, can we?”

 

“Ghssnht,” Tonia said as she winked at the girls, both of them giggling as they turned to watch the television again.  Tom shook his head, even he had not dreamed this would go so well…

 

 

 

 

“All right,” Tom said as Eleanor set her own plate on the table and sat down, waiting as Barbara secured her ankles together and to the front leg of the chair, while he untie the wrists of the rest of the family.  “You may give me the gags, and start eating.  Drinks are in the glasses, and your mother has pudding laid out for after.”

 

“Fhnkuuhh you’re the best,” Angel said as she pulled the wet cloth from her mouth, Barbara untying it and handing it to Tom as the others reached behind their heads before removing their own scarves.

 

“Why am I the best Angel?”

 

“Because this has bene fun,” Angel said with a smile, “hasn’t it Mummy?”

 

“In a funny way, yes, it has been,” Eleanor said as she looked round the table.  “Is everyone all right?”

 

“We’re fine – thanks to our captors,” Tonia said, “so let’s eat up – and they can tell us what is going to happen afterwards.”

 

“Well, it’s going to get dark soon,” Tom said ash swallowed what he was eating, “so after you have all eaten, we’re going to…”

 

“TIE US UP AGAIN?”

 

“Yes – but more tightly, because we will be going, and we have to make sure none of you can try to raise the alarm after that,” Tom said with a smile.  “You’ve all been very patient so far – trust me, we are really not going to hurt you.”

 

“I believe you,” Tonia said before she took a sip of water, “we all do.”  Tom and Barbara watched as the others nodded, before he said “good – so let’s enjoy the meal.”

 

 

 

 

“Thank you,” Tonia said as she joined Eleanor, Paula and Angel outside the bathroom.

 

“Okay then,” Tom said as Barbara held some ropes, “let’s make you all secure and comfortable.  Hands behind your backs again please.”

 

“What do you think we should do once they have us tied up,” Angel said as she looked at her sister.

 

“See who can move the most?”

 

“Deal,” she said as she watched Tom and Barbara secure the wrists of their mother and grandmother behind their backs, before they did the same to them.

 

“Now, remember I said we were really going to make sure you cannot move easily?”  Tom saw the girls nod as Barbara unwound and doubled over a longer length of rope.  “So which of you wants to find out how we do that first?”

 

“I will,” Paula said, Eleanor and Tonia watching, their eyebrows raised as Barbara passed the rope round her stomach and pulled it tight, then took it around again on her upper arms.  She continued to do that, the bands neatly placed, until she secured the ends behind the young girl’s back.

 

“That’s different,” Paula said as she twisted round, “but it’s like you giving me a hug, Gran.”

 

“So there’s nothing to be scared of, is there,” Tom said with a smile as Barbara did the same thing to Angel, the twin bands of rope rubbing on her bare arms as they were secured to her sides.  “Look at me Mummy and Granny,” she said after the ropes had been secured and she started to twist round.

 

“You know that is going t be different for us,” Tonia said as she watched Tom pass the rope round Eleanor’s body below her chest, and pull the ropes tight.

 

“Yeah – we just have to try and keep still,” the younger woman said as she felt her arms being forced against her side, the bands of rope holding firm before they were secured behind her.  She then watched as Tonia was bound in the same way, before Barbara said “let’s all go back to the main room.”

 

They walked down the stairs in single file and went into the room, Eleanor noticing that the coffee table had been moved out of the way, and there were four cushions on the floor. 

 

“Sit down,” Tom said, the four family members sitting on the couch before he took some rope, and crossed Tonia’s ankles before he started to bind them together.

 

“We won’t be able to do much with our feet like that,” Paula said Eleanor surprised to hear herself laughing as she said “I guess not – oh my.”  They all watched as Tom then bound Tonia’s legs together below her knees, while Barbara crossed Angel’s ankles and started to bind them together with white rope as well.  She then secured the young girl’s legs below her knees, cinching the binding as well, before they moved on to Eleanor and Paula.

 

“Okay,” Paula said as she twisted her bound legs round, “we can’t move our arms, we can’t jump about – what else?”

 

“Now to make you really quiet,” Tom said as he folded the four damp scarves.  “We’re going to put these all the way into your mouths, and then cover them with this special tape.  It’s a type of medical tape, and won’t hurt you, but it will make sure you all stay quiet.”

 

“After that,” Barbara said with a smile, “you’re all going to lie on the floor, and we’ll make sure you really can’t move for a while.”

 

The four of them looked at each other before they nodded and opened their mouths, Tom pushing the scarf back into each of them as their cheeks puffed out, and they closed their lisp over them.  Barbara then peeled a length of the wide white tape form the roll and pressed it down over their chins, as they looked at each other.

 

“Say something.”

 

“Shmffhnn,” all four of them said and then they laughed as Tom and Barbara helped Tonia to lie face down on the floor.  Barbara then pulled her ankles back and secured them to the ropes holding her arms in place, Tom helping Paula to lie next to her before Barbara bent her legs as well.

 

Once all four were secured, Tom turned the television back on and switched it to a music channel.  He then looked at Barbara, who nodded as she peeked around the curtains.

 

“Well, time for us to leave – thank you for being such good hostages.”

 

“Fhnksmhsbheehte,” Angel said as she looked at Barbara.

 

“Uhrrthbhst,” Paula mumbled, Eleanor and Tonia nodding in agreement as the two masked teenagers left them on the floor.  They heard the front door open and close, as Eleanor looked at Tonia.

 

“Chuhrsshhsnefhn?”

 

She watched as her mother-in-law tried to reach a knot on her, and then she shook her head as the girls watched.

 

“Whrshthck.”

 

“Whchnshnngth,” Paula said as she started to sing to Avril Lavigne.

 

 

 

“We did it,” Barbara said as they sat in the van, and pulled the eye mask off.

 

“Yeah,” Tom said quietly, “let’s get home, shower and change, and I’ll get all the jewellery to Billy.  The money we can keep…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hello – anyone at home?”

 

Arnold Blake closed the door behind him and took his coat off.  There was the sound of someone in the main room, but no reply, so he walked in and said “is there OHMYGOD…”

 

“Hssshh,” Eleanor said as she nodded to where Paula and Angle were fast asleep, lying on their sides with their heads on the pillows.  He could see all four of them, tightly hogtied, tape over their mouths as he knelt next to Eleanor and gently peeled the tape away.

 

“What happened,” he asked after he had eased the soaking wet silk square from her mouth.  “Are you all right Mother?”

 

“Hmfhnnn,” Tonia said as Eleanor worked her jaw.  “We’ve been robbed,” she eventually said, “a masked and armed couple forced their way in this afternoon, took the contents of the safe, my jewellery, Tonia’s jewellery – anything they could sell on.  I had to go with one of them while they were kept hostage in here.”

 

Arnold nodded a she slowly untied the ropes around his wife, then freed and ungagged his mother as they both slowly stood up.

 

“We’ll free the girls later,” Tonia said as she rubbed her wrists, “right now, you need to call the police.”

 

“Dhddheee?  Urhhm.”

 

“Yes I am,” Arnold said as he stroked Paula’s cheek, Angel opening her eyes, the shape of her lips and her smile visible under the tape as she did so.  “I’ll come and free both of you in a minute, once I have called the police…”

 

 

 

 

“Oh lord,” the police officer said as he closed his notebook, “and this is the list of what they took.”

 

“He walked me round the house with him, so yes,” Eleanor said as she sat with a mug in her hands.  The girls had been freed, and Tonia was putting them to bed while she and Arnold talked to the police.

 

“Why did you say Oh Lord,” Arnold asked quietly.

 

“The Gentlemen Robbers…  The Games Players… Jay Edwards and his gang.  All of them disarm their victims with manners and politeness – looks like we have another team on our hands.”  The officer stood up and said “we’ll come and talk to the girls in the morning – try and get some rest.”

 

 

 

Barbara looked up as Tom came into the kitchen, and put the local paper on the table.

 

“Well?”

 

“We took stuff worth over ten thousand last night,” Tom said as he put a thick envelope on the table, Barbara opening it and looking at the bills inside.  “Billy’s contacts say we are welcome any time.  Think we can survive for a little while on that?”

 

“I think so,” Barbara said with a smile.  “Anything in the paper?”

 

“You might say that” Tom said as he showed her the front page.  She read it and said “Miss Beauty and Mister the Best?  We seem to have made an impression on them.”

 

“So it seems Miss Beauty – so, think we could do this again?”

 

“When the time is right, Mister Best,” Barbara said with a smile, “when the time is right.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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