From the large bay window to the rear of her house, Tamara Boulder looked out over her rear garden, and over the fence at the back onto Wimbledon Common. The sun was still high in the sky, despite it been late summer, and she could see people walking their dogs on the grassy area.
Turning, she walked past the dining table and into her front room, pausing for a moment to look at the pictures hanging on the wall. Some came from years ago, when she was a young woman first dating her husband, and then there were the ones with her two daughters, laughing as they played on the Spanish beach.
There were also the family pictures –Marianne with her two girls, smiling in their pastel pink jackets and skirts as they looked to the camera, and Rose with her twins, not smiling and looking ahead in their formal dresses. Shaking her head, she walked back to the kitchen to make a coffee, pausing to look at herself in the hall mirror.
She still looked good, even at sixty, with her long greying hair hanging to her shoulders. She had always, always been a bit of a Bohemian, and that showed in the baggy fawn coloured jumper and floor length skirt she was wearing, the green and yellow floral pattern contrasting with the white background. Her feet were nestling in a pair of well worn leather sandals, more comfortable than anything else for walking round the house in.
Hearing a car pull into the driveway, she walked back into the front room and waved through the window as a woman in her early forties stepped out of a grey Rover. She was wearing a tan corduroy skirt that reached to just below her knees, the lower part of her legs encased in a pair of brown leather boots, a white silk blouse with puffed sleeves and a black waistcoat. Locking the door, she turned and waved back before making her way to the front door, her large bag over her left shoulder.
“Marianne, darling,” Tamara said as she hugged the younger woman, “I’m so glad you came over. Come in, come in and sit down – I want to hear what has happened.”
“You’re lucky I made it,” her daughter said as she followed Tamara into the front room. “I passed at least three fire engines in the last five minutes – must be a big blaze around here somewhere...”
“Fire engines and police are attending a large blaze at the Firebridge tyre factory, where there were reports earlier today of an armed robbery. Police have confirmed that two men have been taken to hospital suffering from gunshot wounds, and are said to be looking for three men who fled the area in a grey Skoda Octavius.
“The fire appears to have started in a security hut, and is spreading to the main storage facility. Police are advising people to stay in their homes, as the fire brigade attempt to bring the blaze under control.”
As another fire engine whizzed past, the man in the front passenger seat looked at the crowds of people milling around outside, and the police trying to direct them. The tall, balding man turned and looked at the passenger in the back seat.
“Did you hear that, Sam?
“Yes, Dan I did”
“So what will we do, we cannot keep on going in this car, we are like sitting ducks” said Jack as he turned into the side street.
“Just let me think, guys,” Sam said as he looked at the houses they passed, “Just let me think...”
“I saw Rose the other day – she said she had some papers for you to sign?”
Tamara nodded as the two women sat on the long leather couch. “Yes – something to do with the trust funds for Susan and Sharon. She wants everything finalised now that they have turned eighteen.”
Marianne allowed herself a small smile. “Is there a clause in there about exactly how they have to dress when they attend college? After all, Rose wants them to be little copies of her.”
“Stop it, Mari – she’s trying to be a good mother to them, the same way you are to your daughters.” She put her glass down on the coffee table and turned to look at her daughter, marvelling again at just how alike they are. “How are Kylie and Flora anyway?”
She saw a troubled look pass over Marianne’s face for a moment, as she twisted the glass in her hand. “Kylie is fine,” she finally said, “but Flora – sorry, Nawrah, I have not seen for a few weeks.”
“Nawrah? She changed her name? I suppose it was to be expected, given how much she has embraced Sayed’s faith, but...” She stopped short as she saw a tear in her daughter’s eye.
“I don’t know what to do. Mum,” Marianne sobbed, “she’s completely changed and forsaken everything I believe...”
“Sounds like when Rose and you fought.”
“That was different – it was politics, but this, this is...”
“Love, so who are we to stand in their way, my dear Marianne…..she just loves him and….”
Their talk was interrupted by a knock on the door. “You go upstairs and clean yourself up,” Tamara said as the two women stood up, “I’ll go and get rid of whoever it is at the door.” They walked into the hallway, and as Marianne walked up the staircase Tamara made her way to the front door. Opening it, she saw a tall, well built man standing there, dressed in denim jeans and a blue shirt.
“I am sorry to trouble you ma'am,” he said with a smile, “but my car just broke down and I was wondering if I could use your telephone – my mobile battery has died.”
“Yes, of course,” Tamara said as she turned her back for a moment, “It’s just over hrrrmmmgmgmg.” She stopped still as the rough hand clamped itself over her mouth, and out of the corner of her eye she saw the glint of metal from a gun barrel as the man held it close to her head.
“Don’t move,” she heard him whisper in her ear as she was walked forward. “Don’t try anything or else“ he continued before he whistled, and Tamara saw two other men walk in, one tall and balding and the other shorter but no less menacing.
Still hand gagging Tamara, he whispered in her ear ”Is there anybody else in the house, just nod or shake your head.“ Her eyes were wide with fear as she looked at the toher two men, and had only one thought in her mind – “Protect your family.” She shook her head, hoping Marianne had heard what was happening.
She heard the man behind her say “Make sure,” and as the taller of the two men quietly climbed the staircase he said to the other “check the windows, then what’s happening outside.” He walked into the front room, and as Tamara heard the sound of the long curtains been closed over the front windows she wondered just what was going on here. He walked back out of the room as Tamara was frog marched in, the man closing the door behind him with his foot.
Marianne left the bathroom, the sound of flushing water drowning out the voices she could hear downstairs, and looked in the door that was next to the bathroom. It led to her own old bedroom, the bed still there and her furniture much as she had left it on her wedding day. Closing this door, she opened the next one into what had been Rose’s room, the books neatly stacked in the bookshelf, and then on to the master bedroom, which was still much as she had remembered it,.
There was the large four poster bed against the far wall, her mother’s dressing table with her perfumes and jewellery on top, and the large Persian rug next to the wardrobes. These were ones she and Rose had hidden in as they played hide and seek, and as she opened the large mirrored doors she caught a whiff of mothballs and potpourri – the smells of her youth.
As she closed the door, she saw for the first time the stranger standing behind her, dressed in jeans and a shirt, his balding head looking at her as she stood there. Slowly, she turned round, her hands rising as she saw the pistol in his gloved hand.
“Not a good idea to lie, lady” Sam said as the door to the front room opened and Marianne was pushed into the room by Sam. As she almost fell in, she saw her mother sitting on the couch, her hands resting on her head as she in turn looked back at her with frightened eyes.
“MOM”, Marianne screamed as she was pushed towards the couch, “what the hell is going on?”
“Sit down next to your mother,” Sam said as he stood in front of them. “Listen ladies, we mean you no harm, but we also won’t let you two stand in our way,” he said as he looked at the two of them, the gun still in his hand.
Tamara raised her head, glaring at the two men as she said “Who are you and what are you doing here”
“Relax Lady”, Sam said as he sat on the chair and looked at both of them, “and nothing will happen to you as long as you do what you are told.“
Jack waked back into the room, staring for a moment at Marianne before saying “Man, the streets are full of cops and fire fighters. Who’s the other woman?”
“Her daughter – what are your names anyway?”
“Tamara and Marianne – why?”
A long thoughtful look appeared on Sam face and a period of silence fell over the room, the men looking at Sam and the women looking at the men. Eventually, Jack broke the silence by saying “We cannot just take their Rover and go….it is still too risky.”
“Is that what you want…”, Marianne said quietly, “The Rover…take it…it is ok but don’t hurt my mother or me…”
“Shut the fuck up” Sam interrupted her as he stood up and walked round. “We were intending to take your car but now it is no use to us……..so we just going to stay here for a while….or maybe stay in the whole night”
“What????” Tamara and her daughter screamed in one voice Sam walked back in front of them and pointed the gun in their faces. “Well, you don’t have a lot of saying in this, ladies. And just to be clear, my men and I just committed a big time crime and we will not hesitate in doing anything else to ensure our escape….is this clear?”
Marianne’s eyes widened again as she recalled the news bulletins on the radio as she drove to the house. “You... You are the criminals who started the fire and shot the guards”, she whispered.
“Yes, we are” Dan replied as they looked at the men with fresh fear in their eyes.
“Ok, ladies, enough chat”, Sam said as he sat down again. “We are going to set some ground rules…if you try to run we will shoot you….if you try to raise the alarm we will shoot you…if you try to even move unless we tell you, We... Will... Shoot... You. Do we have an understanding?” Tamara looked at Marianne before both women slowly nodded.
“Good – Dan, you get the stuff in from the car, and then have a good look upstairs for anything we can use. Scarves, belts, tape – anything.”
“What are you intending to do to us” Tamara said as she watched the other man leave the room. She sat there, watching Sam rub his chin before he said “Wait and see – have you got anything to drink in this place.”
“OK,” he said to Tamara, ”you get something for us to drink – once we make sure your daughter can’t raise the alarm. Tie her up.”
“What?” Marianne protested, but she was powerless to stop them as Jack pulled her to her feet, turning her round to face her mother as Sam pulled a plastic zip tie from his pocket and handed it to Jack. She felt her arms been pulled behind her back, and then heard the rasping sound as the thin plastic strip was tightened quickly over her wrists, her palms pressed together.
“Oh god,” she said to Tamara as she was pushed back down onto the couch, and a second strip passed around her ankles, the plastic squeaking against the leather as they were secured together, and then a third one just below her knees, the hem of her skirt covering it as she sat herself back.
“I’ll look after her,” Jack said as Sam took Tamara by the arm and walked her out of the room, sitting himself down in the armchair as Marianne stared at him. Neither heard the sound of another car coming onto the driveway.
Rose Walker stood by her car, looking at her childhood home as she locked the doors. The younger of Tamara’s daughters, she was 38 years old, with dark red hair cut into a tight bob and a pair of metal rimmed glasses on her face. She was still dressed for her job at the local bank, in a pinstripe dark jacket and knee length skirt with a peach coloured camisole top, stockings and two inch patent heels.
Walking to the front door, she tried the handle, but finding it locked took a key from her handbag. The sound of the lock turning took everyone in the house by surprise, as Jack walked quickly behind Marianne and hand gagged her, while Sam held a warning finger to his lips as he watched Tamara in the kitchen, saying “Not a single word or else…”
Walking into the front door, Rose called out “Are you home, mother?” There was no reply, but Rose just walked towards the front room, calling out again “Mother?” Her heels clicked on the wooden floor as she opened the door, saying “I have those trust papers for you to...” She stopped short as she saw Marianne sitting on the couch, white plastic straps holding her legs together as a man stood behind her, one hand over her mouth and another pointing a small gun at her.
Rose dropped her bag on the floor, putting her hands to her mouth as the armed strange looked at her. “Well, this is a nice surprise,” he eventually said. “We’re staying the night, so don’t say a word. Come over here and sit down next to Marianne.”
“What…who are you and where is my mother?”
“Just shut up and do what you are told, lady. Get over here and sit down – NOW!.”
Slowly, Rose walked over and sat next to her sister, as the man removed his hand from her mouth and walked round to stand in front of both of them. “I’m sorry,” Marianne said as she looked at her younger sister, “But they took us by surprise.”
“Ah, this is unfortunate,” Tamara said as she walked in with a tray of drinks, setting them down on the coffee table as Sam walked in behind her. “I had not expected to see both of you tonight. How are you, Rose dear?”
“How am I? HOW AM I? Mother, I walk in and find my sister trussed up, and you carrying drinks on a tray as if the minister is calling round, instead of armed intruders, and you ask me how I am? What’s going on?”
“Could you go and lock the front door please,” Sam said to Jack as he picked up Rose’s handbag and placed it on the coffee table. As the other man left, he sat himself next to Marianne and smiled as Tamara handed Rose a drink, before sitting herself in an old oak armchair. “Ladies, let’s sit and have a pleasant chat. I’ll even hold the glass for you, Marianne.”
He looked at Rose for a moment. “I guess you are her second daughter – Rose, your mother said – you both definitely look like her.”
“Funny time for flattery.”
“Well, it helps to lighten the situation. You were not expected today from what I can see “
“Yes, I was supposed to be with my daughters but I had to ask mother to sign these papers. They will be expecting me home soon”
Jack looked at Sam as he walked back into the room. “What if her daughters were worried about her….?” Sam nodded as he looked in Rose ‘s handbag and took out her Blackberry.
“Ok lady…call them and tell them that you will be staying the night at their grandmothers…”
“I can’t - they know I never sleep away from them if I can help it. I’ll need to tell them something else – something work related.”
“Ok …” Sam started to say as he rubbed his chin again. It was at this point that the telephone rang, and the four sat quietly listening to the answering machine.
“Gran, it’s Susan – if you’re there, pick up the phone. We’ve tried calling mother, and she doesn’t seem to be answering. Is she there with you?
“Look – we’re going to come over. She said she may come to your house to get some papers signed – if she does come, tell her we’ll meet her there. See you.”
As the machine beeped, Sam looked at Jack. “Well?” he asked as he looked back at his partner.
“Ok….ok no problem” said Sam, but before he could say anything else Jack said “NO PROBLEM? This is getting way out of hand, Sam – we already have three hostages, and two more are on their way?”
“We have to stay in …. there is no other way …. Just be prepared when they came” said Sam. “Go back into the kitchen and look in the cupboards – see if you can find washing line or something.” He held the glass to Marianne’s lips as she took a sip, then set it down as he walked to one of the canvas bags Dan had brought in and opened it. “Forgive me, Tamara,” he said as he took a roll of grey tape out and tore the end free, “but there is something I need to do now...”
Rose and Marianne looked at their mother as she sat in the chair, calmly taking a drink from the glass she held in her free hand. The other hand was taped down to the armrest of the chair, while her ankles had been taped together in front of her. Bands of grey tape were also wrapped around her waist and the chair back, as well as her lap and the seat.
As she twisted her legs around, the leather squeaking as the plastic bit into her ankles and the boots rubbed against each other, Marianne kept looking at her mother, sitting there passively. Rose, on the other hand, was quietly looking at the two men in the room, the anger clear in her eyes.
“So this is what your ‘Crime is a social disease’ society has generated,” Rose said as she looked at Marianne, “The right for armed thugs to break into the houses of defenceless women and do what they like.”
“Well, if certain governments were less concerned about making people rich and more concerned about helping others, this situation may never have happened, sister dear.”
“Oh yes it would – but they would be facing far stricter sentencing when they were caught – and believe me, you will be caught.”
“Oh yes – lock them up, throw away the key and don’t try and make them better citizens. Very compassionate...”
Sam looked over at Tamara as she shook her head. “Your daughters disagree a lot?” he said calmly as he sipped his own drink.
“Different as chalk and cheese. I guess you could call Rose a child of Thatcher.”
“They grew up in the 70’ and 80’s – and saw the divides in the country at the time. I guess one wanted order, and the other the way my husband and I brought them up.”
Marianne looked over at her sister, twisting her arms round as she did so. “Well, mum, look at Susan and Sharon – she’s brought them up to be clones of her, to dress the same as her, speak the same as her. It’s almost as if she wants them to be her.”
“Now, Mari – just because Rose has embraced her world view does not mean she is right or wrong...”
Rose looked at her mother. “Because I work to look after my girls, and care for them, while Marianne let’s hers live life as they please? Is that so wrong – look at Flora, for God’s sake...”
“Don’t you dare criticise my daughters,” the older sister said as Dan walked back into the room. “I may not like the decisions she has made, but they are her decisions, and I will back her to the hilt on them. What would you do if Sharon rebelled – lock her in her room?”
Dan deposited a pile of scarves of varying sizes and styles on the seat, and looked over at Sam. “Trouble?” he said as the other man stood up.
“Nah – just biting social commentary,” he said as he took a green bandana with a printed black pattern, rolled it into a band and tied a knot in the middle, and handed it to Jack. “That’s enough out of both of you,” he said as Jack walked behind Marianne, “We need to make sure you can’t get in our way or warn the young ladies what is happening.”
“You don’t have to gaggmmmsamf,” Marianne said as the knot was pulled between her teeth, Jack pulling the ends tightly behind her head and knotting them together under her blonde hair. “Yes, we do," Sam said as he walked over, took Tamara’s glass from her free hand and set it on the table, then placed her arm on the rest, taping it firmly in place. “Use some of those scarves to bind the other daughter up,” he said to Dan, who took a long green cotton scarf from the pile and pulled it tight in his hands.
“Stand up and put your hands behind your back,” he said to Rose. She looked at her mother and sister, before standing up and saying “May I at least remove my jacket?”
“Of course,” Sam replied, as Rose took off her jacket and laid it neatly on the arm of the chair. She then turned and placed her hands behind her back, allowing Dan to bind them together, before sitting back down and watching as he used a thin silver scarf to bind her ankles together.
“Nwwhslfng,” Marianne said as she watched her sister been bound around the legs with a green headscarf. “Enough,” Sam said as he pushed a folded handkerchief into Rose’s mouth, holding it in place with a thin red lady’s tie tied around her head. “Now, Tamara, if you will be quiet we can...”
The front door could be heard opening, as Rose looked over at her mother, eyes wide with fright and concern. Sam just laid his hand on Tamara’s shoulder and said “Tell them to come in, nice and quiet – or my friends pick one of your daughters and fire a round off.” She looked over at them, before nodding and saying “Come in girls and join us in the living room.”
The door opened and two tall, thin eighteen year old girls walked in, saying “Is mum here,” before they stopped short and took in the scene before them. Marianne looked at the twins, and could not stop herself laughing, especially when she saw the look of anger in Rose’s eyes.
Both girls were wearing blue denim short shorts over dark stockings, with ballet style shoes on their feet. Both also had denim waistcoats on over cropped white t-shirts, and while one had her long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail the other had allowed her hair to fall over her face.
“Whtthhlruwrng,” Rose called out as Jack closed the door and pointed his pistol at the two new arrivals. “Which of you fine young ladies called earlier,” Sam said as he walked round and stood in front of them.
“Gran?” the girl with the pigtail said as she looked at the older woman sitting taped to the chair. “I’m sorry, girls,” she said with a weak smile, “but we couldn’t warn you. It seems we are been held hostage – just do what these men tell you and we’ll all be just fine.”
“Your gran's right,” Sam said, “Just do as we tell you. Now, who called the house?”
“I did,” the girl replied as she looked at him.
“So you’re Susan, which makes you Sharon, right? Dan, what do we have to help these fine young ladies to feel more comfortable.”
“I found a load of cotton strips – look like old sheets to me. I also picked something up from the bathroom.”
“Good, good – Jack, help me to move this coffee table.” The twins watched as the two men moved the coffee table to one side of the room. “Right, girls – sit yourselves down, back to back, and do exactly what we tell you...”
The television was showing a comedy show as the sound of women mewling filled the air. Tamara was now gagged, a number of lengths of duct tape plastered over her mouth and jaw, as she watched Rose and Marianne trying to free their arms on the leather couch. Both women were trying to speak, but all that was coming out of their filled mouths were low whimpers of frustration and impotent rage.
Sharon and Susan were sitting on the large rug in front of the couch, looking at their mother as they struggled to get free. Their arms had been passed round each other, so that Susan’s wrists were tied together with one of the strips of cotton cloth in front of Sharon’s waist, and vice versa. Their arms were also tied securely together above the elbows, while their ankles and legs were secured as they stretched out in front of each girl.
“Hwrudng, shrn,” Susan said as she turned her head towards her sister. The small bathroom sponge that was filling her mouth was proving to be a very effective gag, with a thin strip tied around her head to force the material in place. Sharon grunted to show she was coping, as she looked at the tears going down her mother’s cheek.
“Dntcrmm,” she mumbled as she looked over at her. Jack was looking through the curtains, the red glow illuminating the sky.
“The fires still going,” he said as he turned and looked at Dan and Sam, “I guess we are going to have to spend the night here.”
“Well, just so long as we don’t get any more surprises,” Sam said as he looked at the photos hanging on the wall. “You have a loving family, Tamara – where is your husband anyway?”
“Bsnstrp,” Tamara said through her gag as she stared at the three men. She was getting tired, and just wanted them to go and leave the five of them alone to try and get free. That was looking increasingly unlikely, however, and she was beginning to wonder if they would spend the entire night in this front room.
“Grandma? What’s going on?”
Sam wheeled round at the new voice, and saw a twenty one year old girl, wearing a dark grey t-shirt, sleeveless cardigan and leggings, and over the knee brown suede boots, standing in the doorway. Dan grabbed her by the arm and pulled her in, holding a gun next to her head.
“Kle?” Marianne screamed through her gag as her older daughter stood there, looking at the bound and gagged captives as well as the three armed intruders..
“Who are you?” Sam said as he stood in front of the frightened girl and stared at her. “I’m Kylie,” she stammered as she looked at the other trussed and gagged women, “What’s going on?”
“I’ll ask the questions if you don’t mind,” he said as he looked at Kylie. “What are you doing here?”
“I couldn’t get home because of the fire – I came in to use the phone and....” She saw Sam staring at the door behind her, and swallowed hard. As Marianne looked over, she saw a small woman standing there, with a long black robe covering her head and body and a thick veil over her lower face, so that only her eyes were showing.
“Nawrah, run” Kylie screamed out, but before the other woman could react she was pulled into the room by Dan, who closed the door behind her as he pushed her towards the other new arrival.
“Hgd, ghd, ntut,” Marianne called out as tears started to flow down her face, her daughters looking at her. “What is this place becoming, Piccadilly Circus,” Dan said he held Nawrah by the arms, her eyes showing her fear.
“And what do they call you, young lady,” Sam said as he looked at the younger woman. “My name is Nawrah,” she said in a quiet voice, “Why have you treated my mother and sisters in this way?”
“Why do you think? Take off that burka so that I can see who you are.”
“No – my husband and my faith require me to wear it in the presence of strangers, and you are a stranger to me. I cannot do as you ask.”
She stared defiantly back at the armed man, as Kylie said “Please, do what you want to me, but don’t hurt her. She is my sister, and I love her.”
Sam stared at the two women for a minute, before turning to the other two men. “Get these two off the couch and into other chairs,” he said looking at Rose and Marianne, “and hand me that roll of washing line you found in the kitchen.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Well, if you will not take that garment off,, then I must tie you up in it.”
“If it is the will of Allah, then you must do that, but I cannot and will not take this off when you are here.”
“Fair enough,” Sam said as he unravelled the long white cord, and made a lasso at one end. Kylie watched as her mother and aunt were made to stand and hop over to the other two armchairs, while the rope was passed over Nawrah’s head and shoulders and pulled tightly over her arms, the white contrasting with the black garment as it gathered underneath the coils.
Sam passed it round twice, before pulling it in front of her and saying “Hold your hands out in front of you.” Nawrah stared at him as she held her hands out, as if in prayer, and watched him quickly tying them together over the sleeves of the garment, then pass it round her waist to hold them against her body.
“Sit on the couch, and then lie on your back,” Sam said as he led Nawrah over to the long leather couch, Dan standing and holding Kylie as he did so. She sat herself down before turning and lying down, her head resting on the arm as he lifted her legs up slightly and gathered the skirt of her garment under more coils of rope, the hem rising slightly to reveal a pair of short leather boots. As he lashed them together, she turned and said to Marianne “Are you all right, ummi?” Her mother looked at her, and then at Kylie, who said “It’s their word for mother, mum. She’s asking if you’re all right.”
“Nntrle,” Marianne said as Sam stood up and walked to the pile of scarves, picking up a large brown and cream patterned scarf as he did so. “I need to silence you now,” he said as he walked back over to Nawrah, but as he reached down to remove her veil Marianne screamed out “NNNNNNN”.
“What’s her problem?”
“My mother may not like what my sister has done, but she defends her choice, and her face cannot be seen by another man.” Kylie looked at Nawrah, who nodded and said “My face is for the pleasure of my husband and children if Allah is willing – no other man may see it.”
“Bloody strange if you ask me.”
She turned her head to look at Dan. “Does not our western society have similar conventions on what it is right and proper for people to wear? Is it not the case that one of the Christian denominations in Scotland require women to always wear hats in church? Or that in other groups women are required to be silent and not speak or take forms of leadership? This is one of our cultural rules – you must not remove my veil.”
“Well,” Sam said as he stood in front of her, “I can’t have her ungagged so what do you suggest?”
Nawrah said in a very low voice ”I won’t speak“ but Sam shook his head. “I can’t take that chance, and I don’t care if you are veiled or not. Either I remove the niqab or I put the gag over it and this will make you suffocate….so which do you prefer….”
Kylie looked at her mother, grandmother and sister, before saying “Ok, ok - A man cannot remove her veil, but a woman can if no man is looking. Let me gag her – I will not try and raise the alarm. Just turn your back for a few minutes and let me do this, and then there will be no further conversation on the matter. Are you agreeable to that, Nawrah – I do not want you to be hurt.”
“Very well,” Nawrah said quietly, “If that has to be the way, then so be it.” Sam looked at the black clad woman lying on the couch, before handing Kylie the roll of duct tape. “Be quick,” he said as he nodded to both Dan and Jack, the three men turning their backs on the assembled group as Kylie knelt next to her sister.
Gently, Kylie reached up and removed the veil, wiping the tears away from her sister’s cheeks as she did so. “Make sure you press it down hard,” she heard Sam say as she tore a long strip off the roll.
“All right,” Kylie said as she held the tape in both hands. “I am so so sorry sis but there is no other way,” she said as she pressed the strip of grey tape firmly over her lips, and then replaced the veil so that only her blue eyes were showing.
“You can turn back now,” she said as she stood up. “I suppose I am going to be tied up next?”
“You are,” Sam said as he held up another coil of washing line, “turn round and put your hands behind your back.”
“And that is all from the newsroom tonight. Have a good night.”
Kylie grunted through her gag as the television set was turned off. She was lying on her stomach on the floor, ropes around her arms and then used to bind her wrists together behind her back, before running down to her ankles as they were crossed and raised about six inches off the floor. The twins were looking at her as the older women sat on the chairs, and Nawrah seemed to be staring straight ahead.
Tamara was uncomfortable, struggling in her chair as Sam walked over and checked the tape binding. “Indtgttlt,” she mumbled as she looked at him with pleading eyes.
“What did you say?” Joe asks as he reached up and peeled away the tape gag. Tamara worked her jaw for a moment, before saying “I need to go to the toilet, and I suspect they all do as well. Besides, do you intend to keep us down here all night?”
“She has a point,” Jack said, “If we leave the lights on, people may wonder, and the last thing we need is the cops knocking on this door.”
“What’s the biggest room upstairs?”
“Master bedroom, why?”
“Take the ropes and tape upstairs.” As Jack picked up a large canvas bag and left the room, Sam turned and addressed the trussed septet. “ I’m going to untie you, one at a time, take you upstairs to clean yourselves up, and then you can change into nightclothes.”
“Whtbts?” Marianne said as she looked at her mother. Tamara made a weak smile and said “I have plenty of spare clothes upstairs, and some of your old nightdresses and pyjamas. You can use them – and at least we will be lying down and a bit more comfortable, even if we will not be able to move. Will we?”
“No you won’t,” Sam said as he cut the tape around Tamara’s wrists. “We’ll make you all as comfortable as possible.”
“Iwnttbwfthm,.” Rose said as she looked at her daughters. “Indttlktm.”
“And what about her,” Dan said as he pointed to Nawrah, the woman simply staring back at them.
“Lhlphr,” Kylie mumbled as she looked up. Marianne nodded and said “Iwnttgwfmm”
“Very well then,” Sam said as he watched Tamara slowly stand up, then walked round and used the scissors to cut Marianne’s wrists free. As she reached up and untied the scarf from her mouth, the saliva stained cloth dropping on the floor, he cut her legs free and helped her to stand up.
“Watch all of them,” he said as he escorted Tamara and Marianne to the door, “I’ll be back for them later.”
The trio walked up the staircase, stopping outside the door to the bathroom as Sam opened the door. “Inside,” she said as Tamara walked in, “and remember I have your daughter here, so no funny business.”
The older woman nodded as she walked in, and after a few moments walked back out, drying her hands before handing the towel to Marianne. After a few more moments, she too walked out as the three made their way to the master bedroom.
“Sit there,” Sam said to Marianne, and as she sat on the couch she saw Jack opening the duffel bag and taking out various lengths of grey rope. “You’d better find some nightwear for each of them.”
“All right,” Tamara said as she walked into the large cupboard, as Marianne slowly unzipped her leather boots and took them off, massaging her feet after she did so. She looked up to see her mother returning, handing her a pair of white silk pyjamas as she placed a long light blue nightdress on the bed.
“The others can use these,” she said as she handed Sam a pile of folded night clothes, before walking over and sitting herself on the bed. As she pulled her jumper off, she watched Marianne stand up and unzip her skirt, allowing it to fall to the floor before she pulled down her stockings and picked up the pyjama bottoms.
“We’re not going to be allowed any privacy,” Tamara said as she pulled her jumper off her upper body, and then pulled the nightgown on over her head. “What are you going to do about Kylie and her sister.”
“That small bedroom at the back, it has a lock on the door?”
“Yes – why?”
Sam turned to Jack. “Make sure that small room is secure, and take these in there – the two of them can be locked in and get changed before they come here.” As he turned back, he saw both Marianne and Tamara standing there, in their night attire.
“All right, ladies,” he said with a smile. “Lie on the bed – Tamara in the middle, you to one side – and raise your hands in prayer.”
“Phwagh – Jesus Christ that tasted awful.”
Sharon grimaced as she was slowly released from her sister, the strip of wet cloth hanging around her neck as she watched Dan untying her arms. Bringing her hands back round, she looked at Rose, who was sitting staring at her two daughters.
“Oh come on Mum,” she said as she heard Susan sigh, “Surely you knew you could not keep us in gymslips and pigtails all our lives. We’re growing up you know.”
“Save the discussion for upstairs,” Sam said as he walked in. “Release their mother, and then the three of you come with me.” Rose sat silently as Dan removed the scarves from her wrists and legs, and then pulled the red scarf out of her mouth, allowing her to spit the handkerchief out. Kylie watched from her position on the floor as she stood up, rubbing her wrists without saying a word, before the family were escorted out of the room. Looking at her sister, Kylie nodded as she lay still, waiting for her turn.
At the top of the stairs, Sam opened the door to the small bedroom and indicated Rose and her daughters should go in. “The door stays open,” he said as Susan and Sharon stood in the centre of the room, watching their mother as she took her glasses off, folded them neatly and placed them on a dressing table, turning to look at them.
“Mum?” Sharon said as their mother stared at them , before without saying a word she walked forward and hugged both of them, hot tears rolling down her cheeks as she embraced and kissed them.
“Thank God, Thank God we’re all right,” she said through her sobs as the girls hugged her back, “I was so afraid they were going to hurt you or do something worse.”
“It’s all right, mum,” Susan said as Rose finally let them go, “it’s all right. We’re all in this – but we thought you were mad at us.”
“Well, I was at first,” Rose nodded, “but when I saw you been so brave, something occurred to me. Maybe your aunt Mari was right - I have been making you into little copies of me. Can you forgive me?”
“For what – been a typical mum?” Sharon laughed – a real, deep laugh that the others joined in, until they heard Sam say “Get a move on!” Going to the bed, Rose picked up two pairs of polka dot pyjamas, black on white and white on blue, and handed them to the girls.
“You’d better change into these,” Rose said as she lifted up a baby doll nightdress. “Thanks, mum,” she said with a sigh as she started to unbutton her blouse, watching the two girls as they pulled off their shoes and shorts before removing their stockings.
“Wow, mum, you know that actually suits you,” Sharon said as she watched her mother pull the short night dress over her head and down her body.
“Long time since I’ve worn something like this,” she mumbled as the trio folded their clothes into neat piles. Sam walked in as they looked towards the doorway, saying “Right – this way” as he pointed towards the master bedroom.
Walking into the room, Rose gasped as she saw her mother and sister lying on the bed, staring back at them. “Mum on the bed,” Sam said as Jack looked at the three new arrivals,” and you two lie on the floor – put your heads on one of the pillows there.”
As Kylie stretched her legs out, and rubbed her wrists, she watched Nawrah sit up and rub her own wrists, the veil still in place over her face.
“We’re going to take you two upstairs,” Sam said as the two girls stood up, Kylie removing the tape over her mouth, “and lock you in the back bedroom. You both get changed, in whatever way she deems fit, and then you knock on the door. One other thing.”
“What,” Kylie said as she saw a small clean handkerchief in his hand.
“Your sister here still needs to be gagged, so do it before you knock. Understand, both of you?”
Nawrah looked at her sister and nodded, so that as Sam said “Good” he escorted them both up the stairs, Dan staying behind to clear away the ropes, scarves and lengths of tape.
“Inside,” he said as the two girls were led into the small room, the door closing as Kylie heard the lock been turned. She turned to Nawrah and said “Are you all right?”, as she removed the veil and peeled the tape away from her lips.
“Thank you,” Nawrah said as she embraced her sister. “If you had not offered to do what you did, I really do believe he would have pulled my veil into my mouth with that scarf.”
“Flora, I swore I would protect you, didn’t I?”
“It is Nawrah, Kylie – I left my old life behind when I married Sayed, and that includes my old name. Please, I know this is a difficult time, but remember that.”
“I know and I’m sorry – forgive me. Look, they’re not here – let me help you get out of that naqib. You must be boiling in there.”
Kylie helped her sister to remove her headscarf and outer garment, revealing a sweat stained white blouse and knee length skirt underneath. Nawrah sat down, running her fingers through her short brown hair, and said “It was a little hot in there. We are after all human under the garb, but I will not allow them to see my face. Kylie, what are we going to do?”
“What they say – they have mum, gran, aunt Rose and the girls in there. I don’t think we have a choice in the matter. The thing is, how are we going to make sure you – what are you doing?”
“Praying – it is sunset,” Nawrah said as she knelt on the floor and faced the window, closing her eyes as she did so. Kylie sighed as she sat down, pulling her knee length boots off as she started to remove her own clothing.
As Nawrah stood up, she saw Kylie standing there, wearing a pink camisole top and matching shorts. “You’ll never really change, will you Kylie,” she said as she sat on the bed and unfastened her boots.
“I am my mother’s daughter” Kylie said as she watched Nawrah strip out of her blouse and skirt, “as are you – and I am always going to be your big sister. I don’t care what you wear over yourself outside the house – you will always be little Flora to me. I’m just glad your husband doesn’t insist you wear that when I call.”
“The rules allow me to be uncovered when my family is present,” Nawrah said with a smile, “and you are also always my sister.” She stood up and pulled a floor length white nightgown over her head, pulling the sleeves onto her arms before she walked over and hugged Kylie.
“What was that for?” Kylie said as Nawrah let her go.
“For being you,” her sister said with a weak smile. “So, are we going to be gagged?”
“I’m afraid so,” Kylie said, “but I have a plan.” She held the cloth in one hand, and a long white scarf in her other hand. “I’m going to put the cloth in, and then tie this over you so that the lower half of your face is covered.”
“And then you get to show me how to make a naqib out of this,” she said holding up a large white shawl.
Hearing the knock on the door, Sam unlocked and walked in to see Kylie and Nawrah standing there. Nawrah had a white scarf covering the lower half of her face, pulled tightly over her mouth, and the shawl covering her head and neck so that only her eyes are showing.
“I did as you asked,” Kylie said as she stood there, “so let’s get this over with. Where are the others?”
“Come with me,” Sam said, and they walked the short distance to the main bedroom. Walking in, they saw the three older women lying on their bed, their wrists tied together above their heads and secured to the headboard. Each of the women had their ankles crossed and tied together, and their legs above their knees.
Susan and Sharon were lying on the floor, their heads resting on two of four pillows that had been placed there. Their wrists were crossed and tied together in front of them, the rope running down to their legs and then their ankles.
All five were also gagged, strips of grey duct tape fixed over their mouths as they looked at the last two to arrive. “Lie down,” Sam said to Kylie and Nawrah, and after helping her sister to lie on her back Kylie took up her position on the floor.
“Cross your wrists in front of you,” Jack said as he knelt beside the two girls, reaching over as he quickly bound Nawrah’s wrists together, then her legs over the nightgown, and finally her ankles. The rope was brown and coarse, but she showed no emotion as it bit into the bare flesh of her ankles.
“What happens now,” Kylie said as she watched Jack repeat the process on her, the others mewling as they wriggled round and tried to free their own arms.
“Now we shut you up,” Sam said as he held a small sponge ball in front of Kylie’s mouth. “Figured as much,” she said before allowing him to push the ball between her teeth, closing her lips as he covered her mouth with strips of duct tape. The seven women lay there, mumbling and trying to call out as Sam said “Take the first two hours – I’ll send Dan up after that. Good night, ladies – pleasant dreams.”
“Fckfubstrd” Marianne said as Sam turned the lights off and closed the door, leaving a smiling guard to watch over the seven women lying there.
In the dim light of the night, Sam watched the seven women as Dan stretched and yawned. The three older women were lying still on the bed, with both Rose and Marianne resting their heads on Tamara’s shoulders as best they could. Their mother was breathing heavily through her nose as she muttered “Plsbl, dsthseee.”
On the floor, Susan was lying at one end, twisting in her sleep as she muttered “Plsdnthrtmmm” under her gag. Sam walked over, checking the ropes and her breathing, before walking back to the door.
“What do you think she’s dreaming about,” Dan said as they stood in the doorway.
“No idea – they’re a strange bunch, aren’t they?”
“No stranger than my family – Sam, do you think we are going to get away with this? It’s seven charges of holding against their will now...”
“We’ll be fine,” he said as he looked back into the room. “We get out of here in the morning, we can be halfway to France before the alarm is raised.
“Go downstairs and get some sleep – we have a bit of work to do in the morning.”
Rose blinked as she woke up, and saw Sam standing beside her.
“Six thirty – we’re going to wake each of you up in turn, let you do what you have to and wash, and then you put on the clothes you had on yesterday before going downstairs. No funny tricks, no attempts to raise the alarm, understand?”
She nodded as Sam continued “Then we take you downstairs and make sure you’re secured in a chair at the dining table. Once you’re all there, then we’ll sort out some breakfast for you.” He reached up and released her wrists from the headboard, laying them on her lap as he untied her legs. “Come with me,” he said as he helped her to stand up, “and I’ll untie your wrists at the bathroom. Your clothes are inside.”
They slipped quietly out of the room, leaving Dan to watch over the others as they started to stir.
The clock in the kitchen was showing seven thirty as both Kylie and Nawrah were escorted into the room, the other five already seated around the large wooden table. “How are you both,” Tamara said as two chairs were pulled out and they were sat down, waiting as duct tape was used to secure their waists to the back of the chair.
“As well as can be expected,” Nawrah said as she looked at the other six over her veil. “Listen, love, can’t you take that off just to eat,” Rose said as she looked at her niece.
“Not even for that, if they are present,” she said as he looked at the three men making cups of coffee at the sink, “but do not worry, I have got used to drinking and eating with this on.
“Here,” Dan said as he handed out steaming mugs, “this will help you. You’ve all been good in doing what we say – we should be on our way soon.”
“And what happens before that,” Marianne said as she looked at Sam. “I presume you cannot just leave us in these chairs.”
“Oh, we might,” Sam said, “only with your wrists and legs taped and your mouths covered. Or we may take you all back up to the bedrooms and leave you there, tied together in some way. I haven’t really given it a lot of thought – but be assured I will over the next few minutes.” He smiled at the reaction he got from the seven women, before taking a sip of his own drink.
“Please,” Susan said, “whatever you decide, we want to be with our mother. Just leave us all...”
The telephone started to ring again, and all ten sat quietly as the answering machine kicked in. This time it was a male voice that spoke.
“Tammy, are you there? It’s Bill – Robbie and Jacob are trying to call the girls as well, but I wanted to tell you the news myself.”
Sam looked at Tamara, who was listening intently, as were both Rose and Marianne.
“Listen – the deal has been completed. Boulder Associates has been sold for the price of – get this – fifty million pounds, and we get 40% of that amount between the three of us.
“I can’t tell you everything just yet, and for God’s sake don’t mention this to anyone else. There’s going to be a press conference at eleven o’clock, and then the whole world will know, but until then say nothing.
“By the way, I saw the news of the fire last night. I hope it didn’t cause you any problems. You can tell me about it when I get home tomorrow.
“Call me back when you get this – love you.”
The beep that showed the message was over sounded, as Tamara looked at her daughters, then her granddaughters, and finally at the three men standing by the kitchen sink.
Jack and Dan looked at Sam, who was in turn looking at the seven women. “Twenty million,” he slowly said, “and to think we were going to walk away. We need to do...”
“No,” Dan said as he looked at Sam, “We’re in enough trouble as it is, just make sure they can’t raise the alarm and let’s go.”
“No – we take them all.”
“No – just take me.”
Sam looked at Tamara as she stared at him from the head of the table, eyes set in determination. “I can see what you’re thinking, and we’re not in a position to physically stop you, but I will not have my family put in any more danger. Take me – leave them.”
“No way,” Marianne said as she looked at her mother, “No way are you putting yourself in any more danger. Take me and leave my mother alone – I’m not afraid of you.”
“You should be,” Rose said in a quiet voice, looking at her daughters. “You’ve never been held hostage - but we have, a long time ago.”
Kylie looked at Susan and Sharon, who hung their heads. “We were five years old, and there was this gang that wanted to rob the bank mum was working at,” Susan said. “We didn’t tell anyone, and it was hushed up a bit. I still have nightmares sometimes about it...”
“Which was why you were screaming out something in the middle of the night. Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Because,” Rose said, “I wanted them to forget. At any rate, we’ve been through this before, and I think we can do it again. Take me and my daughters – leave the others.”
“When did this turn into Pick The Hostage,” Jack said to Dan, seeing him laugh for the first time since the previous morning in response.
“I appreciate what you are saying, girls, but this is not your choice –it is mine. I will go with them.”
“No, I will...”
“No, WE wil...”
“All of you can just shut up,” Sam said as he banged the table. “They’re all coming – all seven of them. We’ll leave a message saying we have them, and demanding half a million for each of them to be released unharmed.”
“I see,” Dan said as the women looked at Sam, “and just how do you propose we take them all to wherever we are going? I don’t think we can fit everyone into our van.”
“We don’t have to – Jack, go and check what the road is like. Dan, go and fetch the zip ties and the micro foam tape. Ladies – finish your coffee, and then do exactly what we tell you.”
“I tried,” Tamara said as she watched the two other men leave the room, “but you would not let me do the noble thing.”
“I think it’s better we’re all together,” Nawrah said quietly, “We can support each other then. I am scared, but less scared if you are all there with me.”
“Well said, Fl.. Nawrah,” Tamara said as she watched Dan lay a number of long plastic strips and a roll of white wide tape on the dining table. “I agree,” Sam said, “so she is coming with you. I’ll cut you free, and then you stick a strip of this tape over her mouth before we cut her free. Don’t worry – we won’t look.”
Using a large kitchen knife, he cut Tamara free of the chair and allowed her to stand up, handing her the tape as he walked over and cut Nawrah free. He and Dan then left the room, allowing the young girl to stand with her back to them as her grandmother unhooked the veil.
“You look so much like me at that age,” Tamara said as she saw the smile on Nawrah’s face. “Thank you,” the young girl said, “but we do not want to cause any more trouble. Do it, and do it quickly.”
“I love you,” Tamara said as she pressed a strip of tape over her mouth, seeing the smile on her lips as the material moulded to her skin and in her eyes as she fixed the veil back in place. “I love all of you,” she then said again as Sam walked in and used a zip tie to fix Nawrah’s wrists together behind her back, and then Tamara’s behind hers.
“Pucker up,” Dan said as he tore a strip of tape off, and smoothed it over the older woman’s mouth as well. Taking both women by the arm, he escorted them through to the front door as Dan picked up the knife and started to cut Marianne free.
As they left the house, the light blinking in their eyes, they saw a grey Octavius parked with the boot door open. “Inside,” he said to Nawrah, but to his surprise Tamara stepped forward instead and sat on the edge , manoeuvring herself in so that she was lying on her side in the boot.
“As you wish,” Sam said as he took a second zip tie and secured her ankles together, watching as Jack came back up the path. “all clear,” he said as he approached the car, “now what?”
“Give me the bottle from the glove compartment, and then go and help Dan with the next two,” he said as he opened the rear passenger door and helped Nawrah to sit in, making her lie on her side on the rear seat before he secured her ankles together, before pulling the skirt down to cover her legs. Closing the door, he took a cotton pad and bottle from Jack, pouring some liquid from the pad onto the bottle as he walked round and opened the door next to Nawrah’s head.
“We won’t remove the veil,” he said, “but it’s time for you to take a little nap.” Pressing the pad over where he believed her nose was, he waited as her eyes slowly closed, before closing the door and walking to the boot.
“Plsdntdts,” Tamara said as he moistened the cloth again. “Don’t worry, he said as he pressed the cloth over her nose and mouth, watching her eyes flutter as the fumes took effect, “It’s only for a little while.” As her eyes slowly closed h held the cloth in place, only removing it and closing the boot door as Dan came out.
“Open up the Rover,” he said as he put the cloth into his pocket, “and bring mummy and other daughter out. Then help Jack with the last three.”
Fifteen minutes later, Sam was closing the boot on a comatose Kylie, while Marianne was fast asleep in the back seat of the Rover, as Jack and Dan were helping the twins to lie down in the boot of their mother’s Bentley as she stood watching. Walking behind, he clamped the damp cloth over Rose’s nose and mouth, hearing the muted screams from the girls as their mother slowly slipped into unconsciousness. Lifting her up and placing her on the back seat, he handed the cloth to Dan while he secured the older woman’s ankles, listening to the screams of protest slowly die down until he closed the car door and watched the boot been lowered.
“I’ll take this one,” he said as he swung the keys. “Dan, the Rover and Jack the car. We leave, go separate ways and rendezvous at the lockup at 1 pm this afternoon.”
“What about the ransom note?”
“Already sent,” Sam said as he held Rose’s Blackberry in his hand, switching it off before putting it in his pocket. “Now then, let’s get going – nice and quiet like.”
“We are delighted to have Boulder Associates joining our family of dedicated financial advisors, and hope that they feel...”
William Boulder was sat on the dais as his son in law walked slowly up, his Blackberry in his hand. He motioned to the other man to come down, and as he showed him the message he could see the colour bleed from the older man’s face. The two walked off together, talking in low tones as the press heard the chairman say “It appears William Boulder has had to leave to deal with a family matter, but if you have any questions...”
Tamara slowly opened her eyes, fighting the nausea that swept quickly over her as she looked round. she was in some sort of garage, sitting as far as she could tell on an old cushion, and still bound and gagged.
Around her were her family, all sitting on the floor in various stages of wakefulness. Nawrah was the most awake, looking at her grandmother with pleading eyes as she tried to twist free from the ropes holding her arms to her side.
“Msr, lv, msre” was all the older women could say as she watched her family coming to, wondering what was going to happen next...
Police have refused to comment on reports of a kidnapping in the Wimbledon area last week, involving three generations of the same family, following the robbery and fire at the Firebridge factory. They have asked if anyone has any information about the three men suspected of this crime to contact them at....