Black and White
“Are these your daughters?”
The man held up a framed picture that was sitting on the mantelpiece. Two twin girls were sat on a stone wall, dressed identically in gingham dresses, white socks and black shoes. The picture was in black and white, but the smiles seemed to radiate out from behind the glass.
“My nieces – I never married.”
“Good looking girls. I presume this was taken some years ago?”
“Oh yes – Gina and Wendy are all grown up now.”
“Do they still look alike?”
“No, not really – ouch.”
“I’m sorry – is it cramp?”
“Yes – but what do you expect when you have me like this?”
The man went over to where Edna was sat in a high backed chair, and adjusted the ropes that were holding her left ankle to the leg of the chair.
“There – is that more comfortable?”
“As much as it can be.”
It had been a long hour since Edna had returned home from the shopping trip, and found the transit van parked on the road outside her house. As she opened the door, the side of the van had opened up and the man now checking the rope around her other ankle had run up the path, pushed Edna into the hallway and clamped his hand over her mouth.
Two other men had then made their way casually from the van into the house, closing the door behind them. All three were dressed in denim shirts and jeans, with baseball caps on their heads and dark glasses over their eyes.
The man who had his hand over Edna’s mouth had spoken first.
“I’m going to take my hand away in a minute. Do you promise not to scream if I do so?”
Edna has looked at the three men that surrounded her, and slowly nodded her head. As the man took his hand from her mouth, she quietly asked “What do you want?”
“Well, we first want you to take your coat off, and then we’ll have a little chat in your front room. Number three – perhaps you could go in and close any blinds or curtains while this young lady takes her coat off?”
So Edna had taken off her brown overcoat, and hung it in the cupboard, watched all the time by the first man while the remaining intruder disconnected her phone from the wall. The three of them had then walked into the front room, and Edna sat down while the one that had been called Number Three went back to the van, returning with a number of holdalls.
“My name, for today, is Number One, and this other gentleman is Number two. May I ask your name?”
“Edna,” she had replied, “Edna Hartson.”
“Well, Edna, we are a group of men who make our living by – well, there is no easy way to say this, robbing people like you. We will systematically search your house and remove anything that is valuable, but I promise we will leave no mess. In the meantime, I must ask you to do everything that we tell you to do, and in particular not to try and stop us doing our work.”
“And if I do try to stop you?”
Number One had taken from his pocket a small case, and opened it to show Edna a vial and syringe.
“A harmless anaesthetic, but I would rather you see that we do keep our word. So, are you going to try to stop us?”
She had sat in thought for a moment, then said “No – but what are you going to do with me?”
“I suggest you go to the toilet, Edna – Number Two will accompany you – and then we will make you…. Comfortable.”
Edna shifted in her chair. The men had let her remove her heavy fur boots, and her sock clad ankles were tied to the front legs of the chair. She was still wearing the grey blouse and skirt that she had worn all day, but her wrists were bound together in front of her, and lashed to her lap with ropes that went around the seat of the chair. More rope was wound around her chest and between the slats of the chair back, keeping her securely in place.
“How much longer are you going to be?” she asked as she watched Number Two neatly packing some silver cutlery into one of the holdalls.
“I’m not sure,” Number One replied, “You have a lot of nice…..”
The sound of footsteps on the pathway caught his ear, and at the same time Edna sat up straight. Swiftly, Number Two placed his bag on the table and moved behind Edna, clamping a gloved hand over her mouth, while Number One stood behind the door to the room.
The front door opened and closed, and a voice called out “Aunt Edna, are you there? I tried to call earlier but your phone must have got disconnected.”
Heavy footfalls could be heard on the hallway, and Edna held her breath as the door opened and a young woman walked in.
She was in her early twenties, about five foot ten, with shoulder length hair that had been dyed a deep black. Over a black sweater she was wearing a black leather pinafore dress, and knee length Doc Marten boots laced up the front. She stared at her aunt with eyes that had black mascara around them, and deep red lipstick was on her lips as she said.
“Aunt Edna? What’s happening?”
Edna looked at her niece with eyes that said “Sorry” as Number One came up behind the unsuspecting girl and grabbed her by the arm.
“Were you expecting visitors?” he said to Edna, who shook her head.
“You called her Aunt Edna – are you Gina or Wendy?”
“Gina,” she replied looking over her shoulder at the man who held her.
“Well, Gina, you picked a most unfortunate time to visit. So, are you going to do as we say?”
“Have you hurt my aunt?” she asked angrily, and Number Two removed his hand from Edna’s mouth.
“No, Gina, I’m fine – just do as they say and let them get out of here.”
“Your niece turned into a Goth? Well, it’s different, I’ll grant you that. Gina, I need you to put your hands behind your back and look straight ahead. All right?”
With an angry glance over her shoulder, Gina stood there as Number One took a length of rope from another holdall, crossed Gina’s wrists behind her back and began to tie them together.
“Are you sure you’re all right, Auntie?”
“I’m fine Gina – they haven’t hurt me as much as inconvienced me, and at my age you learn sometimes you just have to go with the flow of things. I’m just sorry you’re caught up in this now.”
Gina watched as a long length of rope was passed over her head and chest, and then pulled tight under her breasts, forcing her arms into her side. The rope was then wrapped several times above and below her breasts, pulled tighter each time, until she was unable to move her arms from her side.
“I’m not going anywhere, am I?” She said sarcastically as Number One sat her down on the couch near where Edna was secured.
“I don’t think so,” he said as he knelt down in front of her and lashed her ankles together, side by side, pulling so tightly that the leather of her boots creaked with each tug. Number one then folded back the hem of her dress, revealing the black fishnet stockings Gina was wearing, and taking a final length of rope he started to lash her legs together above her knees.
“So now what – we sit and watch while you continue to strip my aunt’s house bare?”
“Well, you can lie down if you want, but essentially yes, you do. Any problems with that?”
“Plenty,” Gina snarled back, “but I’m not in a position to do anything about that am I?”
“No, you’re not,” the mans aid as Number Two left the room and Number Three came in. “I do think, however, that I cannot trust you to keep quiet.”
Taking a piece of cloth from his pocket, he went over and pinched Gina on the nose until she opened her mouth, then stuffed the cloth into her mouth.
“Keep that shut for a minute,” he said as he went back to the bag, took out a black silk scarf, and folding it into a band he tied it into Gina’s mouth the keep the cloth in place.
“Is that what you’ll do to me before you go?” Edna asked as Gina struggled on the couch.
“Something similar, yes – I can’t have you or anyone else raising the alarm.”
This was the moment that another visitor chose to walk into the room, unheard by anyone previously. Unlike Gina, she was dressed entirely in white – a peasant style blouse that was pulled down off the shoulders, a long linen skirt with a wide belt around her waist, and white cowboy boots.
“Aunt Edna, I was just passing and……”
Number Three grabbed the new arrival from behind and wrapped one arm around her, with his other hand over her mouth. She tried to scream out, but Edna called “Wendy, just be quiet. There’s nothing you can do to stop these men, so just stay calm.”
Wendy stopped trying to call out, and nodded as Number Three took his hand away.
“You are obviously a lucky woman, Edna, to have two nieces who care about you so much. I would not believe, to look at them, that they were twins however.”
Wendy’s blonde hair was short cut, but Edna could see the resemblance in their faces, even with the thin band of black cloth across Gina’s cheeks and mouth.
“Wendy, I’m afraid that, as you can see, you picked a bad time to visit. Number Three, why don’t you go and help Number Two to finish off upstairs, and I’ll take care of things down here?”
As the other man left the room, Number One went over and pushed gently on Gina’s shoulders, making her lie down on the couch with a pillow under her head.
“Now, Wendy, as you can see this is a robbery, so I want you to do exactly what I tell you. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Wendy sobbed.
“Please, dry your tears and stop crying. Also, please take off your boots – you will be much more comfortable in a minute without them on.”
Startled, Wendy slipped out of her boots and placed them on one side.
“Now, please, sit on the floor and put your hands in front of you as if you were praying.”
Looking all the time at the denim clad man, Wendy sat herself on the floor in front of Gina, and as her twin sister continued to struggle on the couch she watched as the man wrapped a doubled over length of rope around her bare wrists and lashed them together, passing the ends between her wrists to cinch them off.
“Have you been like that long?” Wendy asked Edna as Number One tied her ankles together over her white socks.
“A couple of hours now – I think they may have gone already if poor Gina hadn’t come in, and now you. We just need to stay calm and we’ll get through this.”
The creak of Gina’s leather clothes against her ropes was continuing as she wriggled around on the couch. Number One, in the meantime, has taken more rope and, after placing her bound ankles up so that her feet were flat on the wooden floor, folded the hem of Wendy’s skirt up to allow him to tie her legs together above her knees. He then took a final length of rope, made a lasso and passed it over Wendy’s head and chest, before pulling it tightly and passing the ends around her wrists, then her ankles before tying it off.
“There now,” he said as he stood up, “I think that will keep you secure for a while. Have we finished?”
The other two men had appeared in the doorway, and nodded in reply to Number One’s question.
“Excellent. Well, Edna, we will be leaving in a minute, but I’m afraid we need to make sure you can’t call for help for a while. I’m sure you understand.”
“No, I don’t, but you’re going to do it anyway,” Edna replied as he produced two more scarves and pieces of cloth from a bag.
Quickly, he placed the balled up piece of cloth in Edna’s mouth, and tied the rolled up scarf over it, before doing the same to Wendy. He then took a roll of clear packing tape, and tearing strips off he smoothed them over the lips of all three women.
“A little extra protection,” he said as he closed the top of the bag, picked it up and followed his two companions out of the room, closing the door behind him.
The three women listened as the sound of the van starting and heading down the road grew fainter and fainter. Gina looked at her aunt, who was sat quietly in the chair, and then at Wendy, who was starting to twist her wrists around in an attempt to try and loosen them.
Wendy raised her head and looked at her aunt.
“Wndy – sld vr hr.”
“Sld vr hr,” Edna said as she indicated with her head to Wendy to come over to her chair.
Gina watched, silent for once, as Wendy shuffled on her bottom over to where her aunt was bound to the chair, and placed herself side on so that her hands were next to one of Edna’s ankles. She spent a few minutes looking at the knot, then with her fingers began to slowly unravel the knot.
It took half an hour, but eventually Edna was able to place her foot flat on the floor for the first time that afternoon.
“N, tr m rst, Wndy.”
Shuffling further back, and raising her knees to gain some mroe purchase, Wendy realised she was able to reach the knot thaqt was holding her aunt;s wrist to the chair back. Again, slowly and carefully, she used her fingers to unravel the knot.
Eventually, as the sun was setting and an orange glow was coming through the closed blinds, Edna freed her wrist from the chair. Beckoning to Wendy, she reached over and gentyl peeled away the tape from her mouth, then pulled the scarf out as Wendy spat put the piece of cloth.
Edna motioned with her head towards Gina.
“Gina,” Wendy said as she recovered her voice, “slide off the couch and come over here, then Aunt Edna can take that stuff off your mouth as well while I try and free your wrists.”
Gina sat herself up, and allowed herself to slide onto the floor. The squeak of the leather as she shuffled over to her sister and aunt was barely audible, but she eventually managed to get herself nito a position where Edna could work on her gag and Wendy on the ropes around her wrists.
“Phwwor” Gina exclaimed as she spat the cloth out of her mouth. “Hurry up, Wendy.”
“I’m trying my best,” her sister replied as she slowly picked at the knot.
“Grls, jst b qut nd gt fr” was what they both heard their aunt saying, as Gina brough her free hands round and started to push the ropes around her chest up and over her head, before releasing Wendy from her bonds.
“Thank you, girls,” Edna exclaimed as Wendy finally removed the gag from her mouth. “Quite an afternoon, don’t you agree?”
“Aren’t you mad at them for taking your stuff, Aunt?” Wendy asked as she undid the rope around her ankles, then started to untie Edna from the chair.
“Oh, I am, but they can be replaced – you two cannot. Besides, it was a bit like old times, wasn’t it?”
“I suppose so,” Gina said as she came back from calling the police. “I still think tie-up games are a bit strange, mind you?”
Wendy and Edna looked at each other, then all three burst out in fits of nervous laughter as the sound of a police siren came up the street.