Jay and the Challenge
“Are you sure about that Brian?”
Yvonne Williamson looked out from the kitchen where she was drying up the dinner plates, looking at her husband as he held the telephone to his head.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of them – who hasn’t? But are you sure they’re going to be visiting near here? Any idea where?”
“What’s going on,” Yvonne said as she looked on. Mark turned and raised an eyebrow, before saying “I’ll tell you in a minute – can you open a bottle of the Rioja?”
“Sure,” Yvonne said as Mark turned back to the phone.
“I know the name – I’ll admit they have been on my list for some time, and they have three young daughters as well. The last thing I’d want is for them to fall victim to that bunch.
“Okay – let me think about it, and I’ll let you know. I think we can help out, if what you say is confirmed.
“Talk to you soon Brian.”
“Okay,” Yvonne said as Mark put the phone down, “what was that all about?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute, when I know the kids are asleep,” Mark said as he headed up the stairs, Yvonne looking at him as he did so.
When he came back into the room, Yvonne handed him a glass of wine and said “Sorry about that – Brian has a job for us, and... Well, it’s more about preventing a tragedy than information gathering.”
“Oh? So we’re going to be firmly on the side of the angels?”
“Well, not quite,” Jay said as he put a manila folder on the table. Opening it, he took out a photo of a family – father, mother and three girls.
“Yeah,” Mark said quietly, “you know Dave of course, as the area manager for HBOS, and his wife Ruby. Then we have twelve year old April, ten year old May and eight year old August.”
“Didn’t they name their daughters after the months of their birthday?”
Mark nodded before he said “and Brian wants us to stop them being the latest victims of the Harbingers – and, if possible, get them arrested.”
Yvonne put her glass down, and then looked at the photo. “Oh my god,” she whispered, “they’ve targeted the Wintours?”
“According to Brian, yes. He says we can do whatever is necessary, but – well, you know what that lot do...”
Yvonne nodded. “None of them would be safe – and that’s assuming they don’t end up dead afterwards by all reports.”
“Exactly,” Mark said, Yvonne noting the disgust in his voice as he said it.
“So when are they supposed to be hitting the family?”
“According to Brian, Saturday night. Saturday night...”
“Mark, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“The kids are staying with their friends this weekend, aren’t they?”
“Yeah – Charlie’s at Freddie’s, and Lisa with Cassie. And now I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking.”
“I’ll make the calls,” Mark said as he stood up, “this is going to be different...”
It was a clear Saturday morning as the four men walked over to the grey transit van. Opening the rear doors, they got in to find the masked Mrs McPhee waiting for them.
“Hello boys,” she said in her soft Scots accent as Jay Edwards came from the front to join them.
“Awright boys,” he said, “today we visit the Wintour family. Mother, three girls, and Daddy will make a nice large withdrawal from his accounts to cover the costs. It will be a long day, and I think there will be some games to play, so I hope you’re ready for that.”
“With you, Jay, it’s always fun,” one of the men said.
“Good – get comfy boys, it won’t take us long to get there,” Jay said as he went round the front, and Mrs McPhee closed the sliding door. Only then did Mark remove his balaclava, as he drove off.
The Wintours lived in a detached house outside of the town, which Mark drove up the drive to and parked out of sight of the main road, at the side of the house. Pulling on his balaclava, he got out and opened the rear doors of the van, the other five getting out. All were wearing blue coveralls, black leather gloves and trainers, and black masks only showing their eyes and mouths.
They moved quickly round the front and entered the house, Mrs McPhee closing the door quietly as Jay listened, and the four associates held the leather bags with their equipment in. He motioned for them to put the bags down, and then follow him, as he walked down the hallway and looked in the front room.
The three Wintour girls were sitting on the floor, but in a way that brought a chill to Jay’s chest. They were sitting in order of age, August closest to the door as she leaned against a chair. The eight year old was wearing a pink top with a matching bolero style wool jacket, a pink and black tartan skirt that came to just above her knees, black wool tights and black leather ankle boots. A black scarf was tied over her eyes and head, trapping her long ginger hair.
Ten year old May was sitting in front of the chair next to August. She had short mousey brown hair, and was wearing a white sleeveless top with coloured dots, a pair of dark blue jodhpurs and knee length black rubber boots. She had a folded brown scarf tied over her eyes.
Finally there was twelve year old red haired April, lying on her side on the long couch. She was wearing a black cap sleeved top, black bands with white embroidery on the front of the legs, and taupe leather ankle boots. She also had a black scarf tied over her eyes.
But being blindfolded was not the only thing all three had in common. Their arms were behind their backs, and Jay could see the bands of rope around their waists, stomachs, legs and ankles. The legs bindings were tightly cinched, and he guessed the arm ones were as well. They also had strips of white tape covering their mouths, and it was clear to him, Mrs McPhee and the others that there was something in their mouths.
“Oh god,” Mrs McPhee whispered into Jay’s ear, “are we too late?”
“Let’s hope not,” he whispered back, and looked at his associates. “Guns out – search upstairs, make sure nobody else is there.”
All four nodded as they took pistols out from their pockets, and walked up the stairs, while Jay and Mrs McPhee walked slowly to the kitchen, Jay with his gun in his hand as well. As they got closer, they heard a woman singing, and Mrs McPhee slowly opened the door.
Ruby Wintour was sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through a magazine as she held a mug of coffee in her hand. Ruby was wearing a short sleeved blue dress with a round collar, that came to just above her knees, dark tights and a pair of knee length black leather boots She then looked up, and slowly put her mug down as she said “oh my god...”
“Not a sound please, Ruby,” Jay said as he came forward, “allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jay Edwards, and this is Mrs McPhee.”
The sound of his Geordie voice made Ruby stop for a second, before she said “oh my god, no – you’re going to rob my husband’s bank?”
“Yes we are,” Mrs McPhee said, “and we were afraid we weren’t the only yins to do so. Your children...”
“The girls? You’ve seen them?”
“Yes,” Jay said, “who did that to them?”
Ruby smiled as she said “I did – they like to play escape games, and I was just having a break before I got them to start. You’re going to tie us up as well, aren’t you?”
Jay was surprised to see her smile at that, as the men re-appeared.
“No one else around Jay.”
“Well then Ruby,” Jay said, “show us what your girls can do.”
“Come along then,” she said as they followed her, Jay and Mrs McPhee watching as the men stood behind them.
“All right girls,” Ruby said, “you may begin.”
As they watched, April began to twist her face, as the tape began to come away from over her lips thanks to the movement. As it came off, Mrs McPhee could see a large cloth coming out as well, so she realised April was using her tongue to push the cloth out and remove her gag.
She then managed to get to her feet, May calling out as best she could to direct her as she hopped over. May also started to move herself round, as August began to push herself across the floor towards her sister.
As April knelt down and turned round, she looked over her shoulder, using her fingers to rub on the edge of May’s tape gag and then starting to peel it off. As she was doing this, August had managed to get behind May, and Jay watched as she used her fingers to find the knot at her sister’s wrists and start to unravel it.
The whole group watched as April removed May’s gag, then waited as the middle sister used her teeth to untie her older sister’s wrists, while at the same time August was untying May’s. Once April had her hands free, she shook her arms free from the stomach rope, and then turned to the other two, her back to the group as she removed her blindfold and started to untie August.
Eventually, all three stood up and hugged each other. Jay then clapped his hands, as did the others, and said “very, very impressive, young ladies.”
“Who said that,” April said as she turned round, and the three girls saw the masked gang standing with her mother.
“Oh god – who are you?”
“Well, April – yes, I know your name, and yours May and yours August – my name is Jay Edwards, the lady here is Mrs McPhee, and these are my associates. I’m afraid you are going to have a very different, but hopefully very exciting day today.”
“Are you real robbers?”
“Well – yes, we are, and we want your daddy to do something for us today. For that to happen, we need to stay with you and your mummy for a few hours, but so long as you do as we say, it’ll be like a big game.
“Talking of which – how long have you been playing those games?”
“Two years,” August said, “and we’re really good.”
“So I can see,” Mrs McPhee said, “I was wondering – do you think we could play the game with all of you as well?”
The girls looked at each other, before May said “we have a game we like to play. If you can tie us all up, together, and we cannot escape, then you can keep us tied and gagged for the rest of the day.”
“May,” April said quietly, “that might not be a good idea...”
“Oh why not April? In fact, if you do it, we’ll stay tied and gagged all day and all night. But if we get free...”
“You can name the penalty,” Jay said quietly, “so long as your mum plays with you?”
“Will you Mum,” August said as she jumped up and down. “You’ve never managed to do it anyway, so it should be easy for you to break free.”
“All right,” Ruby said, “but I name the penalty. If they manage to get free, then you leave once we have all escaped, and you take nothing. And that applies if, after the first game, they or I manage to get free at any other time in the remaining day and night.”
Jay looked at Mrs McPhee and his associates, before he said “I think that’s fair. Now, if any of you need to go to the toilet, Mrs McPhee will take you.”
As August and May went with the masked woman, April came over to her mum and said “they are really robbers, aren’t they?”
“Yes we are April.”
“Then we’d better make sure we get free Mum,” she said, Ruby nodding as she looked at Jay and the others.
“This is not going to be your lucky day,” she said quietly as the younger girls came back.
“Well, we’ll see,” Jay said in his soft voice as he looked at them, and one of the associates brought in a bag. “Ready to begin?”
The three girls looked at each other and nodded as Jay looked at his associate. “Can you take eight of the half sponges out, and hand two to myself, Mrs McPhee, and him?”
“Sponges,” Ruby said, “what are they for?”
“Oh you’ll see,” Jay said with a smile as he, Mrs McPhee, and two of the associates stood in front of them. “While we’re doing this,” he said to the other two, “make sure the house is secured, and all communications cut off. Now, all four of you, hold your hands out, palms up.”
As they did so, August and May winked at each other – but then they saw the sponges in their hands, and the rolls of duct tape in front of them, as Jay said “make a fist with both hands, please.”
“Why,” April said as she did so.
“So we can do this,” Jay said as each of them held up a roll of grey duct tape, and started to cover their hands in the material, making two silver balls of the fists of each member of the family. As they did this, Mrs McPhee looked at August, who was biting her lower lip nervously.
“Something wrong, lassie?”
“No – just thinking,” she said as she looked at her hands, before a pair of new white socks was pulled up over them, and the tops taped to her arms. As the others looked at them, the associate handed each of the masked intruders a length of white cord, before Jay said “We’ll start with your wrists I think. Put them behind your back, please.”
“Do as he says girls – this is what you wanted,” Ruby said as they all did so, and she felt Jay cross her covered wrists before the rope pulled them firmly together. She could feel the rope around and between her arms, but as he tied it off she realised that although it was firm and tight, it wasn’t uncomfortable.
She looked over as her daughters had their wrists tied in the same way, and then the ropes around their waists, tied between their arms and their back to hold them firmly there.
“Okay – that’s different,” May said as she then felt the rope tied around her stomach, the associate taking it in a double figure of eight round her lower arms and body so that they were locked in place there. As she looked over, she could see her mother and sisters having their arms secured in the same way – and then the rope that was taken around her upper arms and body, pulling them into their sides before it was passed several times around above and below her chest.
Ruby winced a little as Jay did this to her, but saw the other girls looking at each other and smiling, so she did the same as the ropes were pulled tighter. They were then cinched with two shorter ropes, between her arms and body on each side, the bands pressing on her chest. She bit her own lip at that, hoping the three girls were not feeling what she was feeling.
“There now – our upper bodies nice and secure,” Jay said with a smile as he looked at the three of them, “comfy so far?”
“Yeah – do your worst,” May said, August shaking her head and rolling her eyes at that.
“Well, I guess you all need to be quiet now – open your mouths please.”
“What if we need the toilet?”
“Grunt three times, and we can talk,” Mrs McPhee said to August, “now, open yer mouths.”
“Talk to you all later,” April said as one by one a folded cloth was placed into their mouths, Ruby tasting the clean cotton as it was pressed onto their tongues, and then the towelling on her lips as a knotted strip was pulled between her teeth and tied round her head.
“Hwhtsthssss,” April said as the strip was tied into her mouth.
“Your rules,” Jay said with a smile as each of his group took a roll of white tape.
“Wlllsnnpshthstt,” May said.
“Oh we’ll see,” Jay said as they all heard the tape peel from the roll, and then mumbled as the white tape was wrapped tightly round their heads, covering their mouths a sit held their hair against the back of their heads.
“Kkkssdfrrtnnt,” April said as the tape was smoothed down, and then the duct tape was picked up, a grey band wound tightly round their heads as well on top of the white one.
“Sththhtt,” Ruby said, and then her eyes widened as each of the masked intruders took a silk head scarf, folded it into a wide band and then tied it tightly over the double tape band, covering the whole gag as they tied the ends at the base of their neck.
“Mmsslll,” April said, and then she shook her head as they each took a large square of cloth, folding it on the diagonal and then tying it over their hair, covering it as they knotted the ends together under the chin of each of them.
“Och they look really cute like that,” Mrs McPhee said as she looked at the three girls.
“Right then – take a seat, each of you.”
Ruby walked over to a large armchair and sat herself down in it as the three girls took the positions they were in when they came in. As they settled in, they watched as their ankles were secured tightly together, side by side, the rope going around and between their legs, and then a final band around their legs below their knees.
“There we go,” Jay said as they stood back and watched, “try and escape now.”
Ruby tried to move her arms and wrists, and then stopped, not wanting to do anything else and confident in her daughter’s abilities.
August was wriggling and struggling on the floor, moving her legs back and forth as she tried to get the ropes loose, as May and April looked at each other. Mrs McPhee could see they were moving their arms a little, trying to find some sort of give in them, but with little success.
August them pushed herself onto her feet, and jumped over towards May, motioning with her head for her sister to move round. As she did so, the ropes squeaked on May’s boots, before August sat behind her and started to try and find the knots with her hands.
“Wcntddtht,” May said as she looked over her shoulder and shook her head, August suddenly realising with her hands balled into fists and covered, she had no way of using her fingers.
“Hsssurht,” August said as she twisted herself round and sat next to May, both of them looking at April as she was working her jaw, trying to push the gag out of her mouth. She spent several minutes trying to twist her head and use her tongue, and then she threw her head back and sighed, before she looked at the others and shook her head.
Ruby looked at Jay, who was just smiling as Mrs McPhee watched August. The youngest daughter was looking at her, panting as she realised she was getting nowhere, her sigh audible as she relaxed.
“Mtrrn,” May said as she pushed herself onto her feet, and looked to the door, before she started to jump to it.
“Watch them, will you,” Jay said to Mrs McPhee as he followed May out, watching as she jumped down the hallway, her boots squeaking even more as they rubbed against each other and the rope creaked with each jump.
They made their way into the kitchen, Jay standing in the doorway and smiling as May jumped over to the cupboards and drawers, before turning herself round and trying to open the drawers and cupboards.
“Very clever, trying to get hold of a knife or a pair of scissors,” he said as he watched, seeing the frustration on May’s face as she realised she wasn’t able to get a grip on the door and drawer handles. Because they were flush to the work surfaces as well, she had no way of using the edges. The look of frustration in her eyes almost made Jay laugh, as she started to jump back down the hallway towards the room.
She then saw a pair of safety scissors on the floor, and had an idea, sitting herself down on the floor as she tried to pick up the scissors. Her grunts of despair as she realised that wasn’t possible as well did make Jay laugh as she looked at him, and then slowly pushed herself up the wall, before she jumped back into the room and sat down again.
As he came back in, he looked at Ruby, who had her eyes wide in worry as she shook her head and looked at her daughters. Mrs McPhee looked at them as they panted through their noses, and look at the masked group with tired eyes.
“So,” Jay said as he looked at the other three, and then at the girls, “do you still think you can escape?”
The three girls looked at each other, and then at the group, before they slowly shook their heads from side to side. Jay then looked at Ruby, who had a look in her eyes of real worry.
“Don’t worry,” he said quietly, “I promise, so long as you and the girls do what we say, this is going to be a really fun day. On which subject – Mrs McPhee.”
“Are you having fun,” she said as she looked at the three girls, while Jay wondered if he should lighten the bindings a little. But then he looked at Ruby, and remembered she had said if they got free at any time – and besides, they were trying to talk to Mrs McPhee, and they weren’t in any distress.
“Lrrttuwnfrnw,” Ruby said as she turned slightly in the chair.
“Now then,” the masked woman said, “how about we all go for a wee jump around the house? Ye can show me yer rooms, and ah can see how well ye can move. Can ye push yourselves up?”
The girls looked at each other and nodded as they got themselves to their feet, one of the associates going with her as they jumped into the hallway. Jay walked over to the window and glanced out, before he said “when can we expect your husband to come home, Ruby?”
She looked at the clock and said “buuttwlfff.”
“Good – just relax and enjoy the down time,” Jay said, but as he glanced out he saw two men in leather jackets, sitting in a car just outside the front gate.
He watched them carefully for a few minutes, before he motioned to one of the associates and stepped into the hallway with him. He looked to the rear of the house, where Mrs McPhee and the girls were in the dining room, and then handed him the keys to their van.
“Do me a favour,” he said quietly, “go out to the van, take your mask off, and drive it around the streets nearby? I think someone’s watching the house, and I’d like to know if I’m right or not. Take what time you need, but let me know as soon as possible. When you get back, park the van round the back and walk in the back door – we’ll have it unlocked and guarded.”
“Got it Jay,” he said as he took the keys and walked out, pausing in the covered area outside the door before he pulled his balaclava off and walked away. Jay then stood to the side as the girls jumped past, Mrs McPhee saying “One at a time up the stairs please girls.”
He watched as they sat on the bottom seat one at a time and started to push themselves up, and to stop himself from shaking his head and laughing as he thought of the girls he had met in the past who did that.
Going back into the front room, he sat down and looked at Ruby, who was quietly moving in the chair.
“I hope you’re not too uncomfortable,” he said with a smile. Ruby looked at him, and then shook her head as she settled back to look at her captor. She knew somehow she was safe in his hands, and had nothing to fear...
As the clock reached twelve, Jay looked out of the window to see a red Daimler pull up.
“It would appear your husband is home,” Jay said quietly as he went and stood by the door, “let’s make him feel welcome, shall we?”
Ruby nodded as she heard a car door open and close, and the sound of the car locking, before the front door opened and closed.
“Hey everyone, I’m home,” a male voice called out, “where are you all?”
Jay listened for any reply from upstairs, as he said “Ruby? Are you in the front room?”
Ruby looked at Jay, who put a finger to his lips as Dave Wintour walked in, saying “Hey, where is... Oh my god. Ruby?”
“Msreedff,” she mumbled as Dave felt a hand on his shoulder, and heard a man say in a soft Geordie accent “Good afternoon, Dave. My name is Jay Edwards, and we have been here entertaining your family for a few hours now. So remain calm, and everyone gets to have a nice peaceful time, do you understand?”
“Jay Edwards? Where are my girls?”
“Coming down in a few minutes I would imagine,” Jay said as he looked at his wife, tightly bound and gagged in the chair.
“Wrllrtt,” she said as he heard the thump on the stairs, and then August jumped in, saying “hlllddee” as she jumped over to the couch, her skirt rising up and down before she jumped onto it.
He watched, open mouthed as May and April jumped past him as well, and then sat n the couch, the three of them swinging their legs as Mrs McPhee and the associate came in.
“Ah – and this will be their daddy,” she said, “nice to meet ye sir.”
“What... What do you want,” Dave said as he looked at his bound and gagged family. He was still wearing his golfing jumper, shirt and pants.
“Let’s go into the kitchen and we’ll explain,” Jay said as he and one of the men went with Dave into the kitchen. As he sat down, Jay said “In a little while, two of my friends are going to go to one of your offices with you – a nice distant one – and we want you to do a few withdrawals for us. Do as you’re told, and your family will be happy and enjoying the rest of the day. But try any tricks, and...”
“I understand – you will not hurt them?”
“Apart from stopping them moving around or calling for help, they’ll be just fine.”
“All right,” Dave said, “I’ll do it.”
“Good – how about a coffee before you set off. Mrs McPhee?”
“Untie Ruby and escort her to the kitchen please – the children must be getting hungry, and Dave wants a coffee.”
“All right, August, ye get on here,” Mrs McPhee said as she helped the youngest girl to sit on a chair at the table.
“Now then,” Jay said as Ruby stood at the side, “do mealtimes count as playtime?”
All three shook their heads as Mrs McPhee and two associates tied their waists to the chair back, and then untied their upper bodies and uncovered their hands. As they did this, Jay looked at the other two associates, and said “make sure Mr Wintour does what you tell him to do – no more, no less.”
“Girls, Ruby, behave for them, and do as they tell you, all right?”
“Lrhttdddee,” they said as their hands were untapped, and they put the sponges on the table.
“Good luck,” Jay said as the three men walked out, and he looked at the three girls.
“You may remove the gags for now,” he said, watching as they untied the headscarves, and then Mrs McPhee removed the gags from each of them.
“Oh wow,” August said as soon as she could speak.
“Have a drink, while yer mam puts yer food out,” Mrs McPhee said, the three girls taking a drink before May said “Nobody has ever managed to do that before – it was amazing. You deserve all the credit for that.”
“Yeah,” April said, “covering our hands like that was genius. It meant we could not use our hands at all.”
“And the gag,” May said, “I could not get it to move at all, with what little movement I had.”
“Thank you,” August said as she looked at Mrs McPhee.
“Wha for, love?”
“For showing us how to tie someone so they can’t escape. We’ve never managed it, but now we know what to do.”
“All right,” Ruby said as plates of sandwiches, crisps and fruit were laid out. “Time to eat – the game’s only paused, right Mister Edwards?”
“That’s right – so have your lunch girls, because after that Mrs McPhee is going to make sure you have even more fun like that.”
The three girls beamed as Ruby sat with them, looking with eyes full of concern at the masked intruders.
“When are you going to eat,” she said as she looked at Mrs McPhee.
“I may have something now,” she said as she went to the side, where bread and salad things were still out, “but the boys will eat later, right boys?”
“Go right ahead,” Jay said as he sat down, “why don’t you girls tell me about some of the other times you’ve played the game...”
“Have you all had enough to eat and drink?”
The three girls nodded as Ruby felt the rope Jay was using to secure her waist, pulling her against the chair back, and the ropes around her ankles that secured them to the front legs of her chair. Her arms had been taken around the chair back and then her wrists secured together as well, before they were tied to the chair back.
“All right,” Mrs McPhee said as she untied August from the chair, and untied her legs, “you come to the toilet with me first, little one, and then you can start to get ready for this afternoon.”
“All right,” August said as he took the gloved hand, and they walked out.
“Once the girls are ready,” Jay said, “I’ll untie you and help you with the dishes.”
“You must be the strangest kidnapper ever,” Ruby said with a smile.
“Possibly,” Jay said as the other girls giggled. A few minutes later, Mrs McPhee returned with August, her arms secured behind her back and bands of rope around her waist, stomach and chest.
“You’re next May,” she said before she opened her mouth, Jay replacing the gag as Mrs McPhee untied the ten year old and took her to the toilet. Ruby watched as a fresh strip of knotted towel was pulled into August’s mouth, then the two layers of tape, the folded scarf around her head and finally the scarf tied over her hair and secured under her chin.
“Take her into the front room and secure her legs,” Jay said to the associate, who nodded as August followed him.
“Are you all right Mum,” April said as she looked across the table.
“Yeah – funnily enough, I am,” Ruby said with a smile. “You girls aren’t afraid, so I’m less afraid as well – and they are keeping their word as well.”
“Yeah – yeah they are,” April said as May came back in.
“Yer turn lassie,” Mrs McPhee said as she started to untie April from the chair, and Jay began the process of silencing May.
“There now,” Jay said as he tied the triangle scarf over April’s head, and secured the ends under her chin, “ready to join your sisters?”
“Yssmsmcceeumm,” April said as she was taken into the front room by the associate, Jay looking at Ruby as she sat at the table, looking at him.
Jay glanced at the door to the garden as there was a knock on it, and put his finger to his lips as he said “come in.” Ruby looked as one of the masked associates came in, closing the door behind him as he motioned to Jay to follow him.
“One moment please,” Jay said as he went outside.
“You’re right Jay,” the man said, “someone else is watching the house. Nasty looking pair as well.”
“Okay – that’s fine, no need to panic,” Jay said as he nodded. Opening the door to the front room, he saw the three girls kneeling on the floor round a low table, with a Monopoly set laid out.
“Help Mrs McPhee to let the girls play the game,” he said, the man nodding before he went back to the kitchen, and untied Ruby.
“What was that about?”
“Oh nothing you need to worry about at this stage,” Jay said with a smile as he picked up a dish towel. “If you wash, I will dry, and you can then tell me where to put everything.”
“You and your friends – do you do this every time you rob someone?”
“Oh yes,” Jay said as Ruby washed a glass, and he began to dry it, “It may surprise you to hear me say this, but beyond the fact we want your husband to do this for us, we have no wish to cause you or the girls any actual harm. After all, the ropes were not that uncomfortable, were they?”
“No – not really. I mean, they were tight, and I really could not move, even with that trick with the hands, but no it was... Well, it was actually relaxing and nice, once I accepted the situation.”
“So do you let the girls tie you up as well?”
“Sometimes,” Ruby said as she gathered the plates, “I know they enjoy it, but – well, I guess it’s different for me.”
“Oh – and why is that?”
Ruby looked at Jay as she put another plate in the rack, and said “I’m not sure you would understand...”
“Ruby, I am holding you and your girls hostage – trust me, I may be more understanding than you think.”
“Point,” Ruby said with a smile as she washed the cutlery. “When I was sixteen, before I met Dave or thought of marriage, I was staying with a friend and her family when a group of masked men broke in. They had shotguns and clubs, and I remember still the fear when they told us to do whatever they said if we wanted to survive.
“We were made to sit at gunpoint, our hands on our heads, while they ransacked the place. My friend’s father and brother were bound and gagged in the front room, and my friend, her mother and me were forced to go upstairs. We were forced to strip to our underwear, and then tied tightly – not the way you did. This was worse, rougher, hurt more. We were then taken to separate rooms, our legs tied, and duct tape wrapped round our mouths.”
“I can understand how that can be frightening and upsetting,” Jay said quietly as he put the last things away.
“No – it got worse. I could hear what was happening in the other rooms – first my friend’s mother, then my friend. They were...”
“Ah – Ruby, you don’t have to say anything else. Did they...”
“I think they were going to, but they suddenly left. A few minutes later, a police officer came in and freed me, let me put my clothes back on. I later learned they had been given a tip-off that the gang had struck, and someone had warned them.” She looked at Jay, before she said “I’ve never told anyone this, not even Dave. How did you get me thinking about it?”
“Look, whoever that group were...”
“They were called the Harbingers,” Ruby said quietly as she sat down. Jay stood still, for a moment, before he sat down and said “Ruby, I need you to listen to me for a moment, and I need you to remain calm. There are two reasons we came to visit you today.”
Jay nodded as he said “The first is to get your husband to withdraw some money from his business for us. The other reason...”
“Please, tell me?”
“We know the Harbingers are planning to rob you tonight – we’ve seen their scouts outside, and I fear they may strike as soon as we leave.”
Ruby went deathly pale, and started to shake as she whispered “oh no, the girls...”
“Ruby,” Jay said as he took her hands, “do you trust me?”
She looked at him, and to her surprise nodded as Jay said “I, Mrs McPhee and the others are not going to let them hurt you or the girls. I guarantee they will not harm you – in fact...”
She looked at the masked man as he said “how would you like to play a part in making sure they never hurt anyone, ever again?”
“For what they did to my friend and family...”
Ruby nodded as she said “You bet.”
“Good – here’s my plan...”
“Are you girls all right?”
April, May and August all looked at Ruby and nodded as she said “Mum’s going to be upstairs for a little while, so you do whatever Mrs McPhee or Mr Edwards say. Understand?”
“Yssmmm,” they said as Jay escorted her upstairs.
“Would you mind if I changed out of this dress,” she said as they reached the top.
“Of course not,” Jay said as she went to the toilet, and then to her room. Once inside, she went behind a screen, taking off the dress and coming back out in a grey cardigan over a white top, and blue jeans.
“Please, put your boots back on over the jean legs,” Jay said with a smile, “and then we can begin.” Ruby nodded as she sat down and put her black boots back on, then held the two sponges in her hands as Jay covered them in tape and then the socks.
“So what will you do with the girls,” she said as she stood up and turned round, feeling the ropes as Jay bound her wrists together.
“Well, Monopoly can take a while,” Jay said with a smile, “then we may put some music on and have a little dancing competition, or some karaoke. After that, I’m sure Mrs McPhee will think of other ways to amuse them.”
“At least they’re enjoying themselves,” Ruby said as she felt the rope going above and below her chest, before she gasped as Jay took the rope under one arm, up and around the back of her neck, and then under the other arm to tighten it further.
“Please sit down,” Jay said, “and open your mouth.”
“Before I do,” Ruby said, “your plan is going to work?”
“Yes it will – so have no fear. Time to be quiet.”
Ruby nodded as she opened her mouth, and felt the cloth on her tongue before the knotted towelling went between her teeth. She sat still as the tape was wound tightly round her mouth, both white and silver, and then the folded scarf tied round her head, followed by the triangle over her hair.
“Please sit on the bed,” Jay said, waiting until the mother was seated before he crossed and tied her ankles together, and then her legs below her knees. She then helped Ruby to lie on her side, before he pulled her ankles back and secured them to her chest ropes with a length of rope.
“Now enjoy the downtime,” Jay said as he looked at her, Ruby nodding as he turned the radio on, and closed the door behind her. She soon felt her eyes grow heavy, as she started to sleep...
“Whrsmsmm,” August said as Jay came in.
“Your mum’s having a rest before she starts dinner,” Jay said before he said to an associate “check her every fifteen minutes.”
As he nodded and left, Jay said “how’s the game going?”
“Soon be over – what shall we do after that?”
“Well,” Jay said, “how would you girls feel about dancing for a little while?”
“Oh yes,” Mrs McPhee said, “you can dance to music, just it’s more like jumping than twirling round the floor.”
“Shwwsss,” April said.
“Well, if ye don’t want tae play anymore...”
The three girls nodded as Mrs McPhee cleared the game away, and moved the table, before helping the three girls to stand up while Jay went to the music centre.
“Just think of it like a disco,” Mrs McPhee said as Jay put on a One Direction CD, the three girls nodding as the started to jump around to the songs...
“Mrs Wintour? Ruby?”
Ruby slowly opened her eyes as she saw Mrs McPhee smiling in front of her.
“You did,” Mrs McPhee said as she released her from the hogtie, and helped her to sit up. “It’s nearly six o’clock – yer husband’s doing wha we want him tae do, so have no fear in that angle. I’m going to untie you, and then I’m going to help you prepare supper fer you an’ the gerls.”
Ruby nodded as her legs and arms were released, and then the gag removed layer by layer. “I need to go to the toilet first,” she said as she stood up, and flexed her hands.
“Of course – come along,” Mrs McPhee said as she walked with Ruby, waiting as she did what was necessary, and then walked downstairs. As she passed the front room, she saw the girls watching something on the television, before they made their way to where an associate was waiting.
“Given the circumstances,” Ruby said, “perhaps some fish fingers and chips might be a good idea.”
“Fair enough,” Mrs McPhee said as the associate watched, “let’s get started.”
“Good – let me know when you’re done,” Jay said into his mobile phone as Mrs McPhee tied April’s waist to the chair, and then released her arms. August and May were already in their chairs, as the other masked intruders kept an eye on her and Ruby.
Ending the call, Jay and Mrs McPhee removed their gags, all of them saying “thank you” as their supper was put in front of them by their mother. As she sat down, she said “eat up girls”, the three of them nodding as they started to eat.
“We’ve been tied up all day now,” May said as she looked at Mrs McPhee, “is the night coming next?”
“When ye’ve finished your tea, and we’ve washed all the dishes,” she said, “Ah’ll take you one by one tae wash and get ready for bed – but we’ll keep playing fer a while efter that.”
“But because your mother will need to help us with that,” Jay said, “she won’t get tied and gagged until all three of you are nice and safe, all right?”
“Also, we need you gals to tell a little wee white lie for us – we’ll tell you about it later.”
The three girls nodded as Ruby mouthed “thank you” to Jay, Mrs McPhee smiling as she did so. The girls then started talking about their day, and looking forward to the next day, as Jay slipped into the front room, looking out onto the darkening street as the car sat there...
“Right then,” Jay said as the last dish was cleared, “May and April – a question. Do you have any homework you still need to finish?”
The two older girls looked at each other and nodded as Jay said “where are your books?”
“In our schoolbags – upstairs. Why?”
“We have some time here as we make sure all three of you are ready,” Jay said as one of the associates went out, “so while we get August ready, I want you to finish your homework in here. Then it’s done, and you get to relax tomorrow.”
Ruby looked at her two daughters, knowing how much they hated doing their homework, so when they both said “all right” she stared at the masked man.
“It’s a gift,” he said with a smile as they were handed their schoolbags, and Mrs McPhee untied August. “Come with me, Ruby,” she said as they held August’s hands, and walked up the stairs.
“Will you please get the nightclothes for all three of them, and bring them to the bathroom,” she said, Ruby nodding as she collected a set from each room, and put them on the linen box in the bathroom.
“Time for you to get cleaned up and changed,” Mrs McPhee said, “and then we start to get you ready. Mummy’s going to go back downstairs with my friend and I’ll bring you down with me.”
After a few minutes, August came out, handing her boots to Mrs McPhee as she stood there in a pair of light blue cotton pyjamas.
“Let’s go downstairs,” she said as they walked into the front room, and August saw the ropes and other material laid out.
“Are we going to sleep like this as well,” she said as she held the sponges, and Mrs McPhee taped and covered her hands.
“That’s right – you’ll be more comfortable on your side, and don’t move around too much. Have you ever done this before?”
“No,” August said as she allowed Mrs McPhee to cross and secure her wrists together behind her back, “I’m excited at the idea though.”
“Good – because it can be fun,” Mrs McPhee said as she bound August’s arms tightly to her side, and then helped her to sit on the couch before she bound her ankles and legs. She then gagged her as before – up to the point where she tied the folded scarf round her head.
“We’re not going to add the extra scarf, in case it slips during the night and ye get hurt,” she said as she looked at August, the girl nodding as May came in, wearing a knee length pink nightdress with short sleeves.
“Yer turn – hold yer hands out lassie...”
As April felt the folded scarf as it was tied round her head, she looked at the other two girls. She was wearing a red onesie, but all three of them were relaxed as they wriggled round on the bed.
“Now – who wants to watch a film?”
“Ysplss,” the three girls said as Jay looked at their DVD collection, and then held one up, smiling as they all nodded. Putting it into the player, they looked to the door as Ruby looked in with Mrs McPhee.
“I’m going to get changed as well now girls, and then I’ll join you, all right?”
“Llrrtmmm,” April said as they walked up the stairs, and then started to watch the film.
Thirty minutes later, their mother came back in, now wearing a pair of grey leggings and a long sleeved top, but her arms and upper body just as tightly secured as theirs were. She also had a scarf tied round her head, and as they looked at her and heard her say “fnkkuu” they realised she was as well gagged as them.
As the film went on, August’s eyes started to slowly close and then open again, but it was obvious to everyone she was starting to fall asleep.
“Come on lassie,” Mrs McPhee said as she picked her up, “ye need yer bed.”
“Gnhhtugsst,” Ruby said, her youngest daughter nodding as she was carried up the stairs. Mrs McPhee returned after a while, and then picked the sleeping May up and carried her up the stairs as well.
April looked at her mother, who nodded as she said “thllslppwll.”
“Yssthwll – sllee,” she said as she tried to yawn, and then giggled as the film went on.
“All right then,” Jay said as the film ended, “we need to get both of you upstairs.”
Ruby nodded as they both managed to stand up, and jumped out of the room, Jay leading the way and waiting at the top of the stairs as they made their way up, and then Mrs McPhee following and helping them to stand again.
As they jumped down the corridor, they saw August and May in their beds, their eyes closed as they lay on their sides, the duvets over their bodies slowly rising and falling.
“Your room first, dearie,” Mrs McPhee said to April, who nodded as they made their way in, and she lay on her side on the bed. She watched as Mrs McPhee used a final length of rope to tie her ankles to the foot of the bed, and then covered her over, finding a book and sitting with her as Jay motioned to Ruby.
“Now, you remember what we discussed earlier?”
“Ysss,” she said as she lay on her bed, looking over her shoulder as Jay hogtied her again.
“Good – As I said, everything is going to be all right,” Jay said quietly as he brushed her hair away from her head. “Try to rest for now.”
As Ruby nodded, he closed the door, leaving the light on as he went down the stairs.
“They still there,” he said as one of his associates sat at the darkened window.
“Yeah – there’s more of them now.”
“Okay – well, we need the trigger next,” Jay said as Mrs McPhee came in. “Asleep already?”
“We must hae tired them oot,” she said as she went to the kitchen, and came back with a bottle of water. Taking a drink, she looked at Jay as his mobile phone went off.
“This is Jay Edwards.
“Excellent – and you have secured him properly?
“Good – my thanks to both of you. I’ll be in touch with your share in due course.”
“Work done, boss?”
“Work done – I need you two to head out of the back door, and get the van ready. Mrs McPhee and I will join you shortly.”
The two associates nodded as they headed out, and Jay headed upstairs, returning with Ruby in his arms and laying her down on the couch.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said as he looked at her, “what you do now is the bravest thing you could do.”
She nodded as he took a second, much cheaper mobile phone from his pocket and dialled a number.
“Hello – I’ve seen a group of men hanging suspiciously round a house near mine, and they look as if they are armed. I think they’re planning to rob the family who live there.
“I see six men – hurry please!”
As he ended the call, he stood by the window, Ruby and Mrs McPhee watching before he said “Ruby, good luck – and tell the girls they were incredibly brave.”
Ruby nodded as he turned the light off, and heard both the intruders leave by the back door. She lay still for a moment, trying to control her fear, and relishing what she knew was going to happen, before she heard the front door being thrown open, and heavy footsteps.
The light went on and she looked at the six men, dressed in black including the ski masks, and armed to the teeth as they stared at her.
“What the fuck...”
“POLICE – GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR, HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD.”
The men turned as they saw the four armed officers standing behind them, and dropped to their knees, looking at each other as they tried to process what had happened.
Another officer came in and ungagged Ruby, as she said “thank god – officer, they say they are the Harbingers. They were going to...”
“Is there anyone else in the house?”
“My girls – they took them upstairs.”
From the van, Jay watched as the gang were led out, and a smile passed over his lips.
“Right – let’s get going,” he said as he started the van, and they drove into the night...
“Hey,” Mark said as Yvonne came down, having showered and changed, “how are you feeling?”
“Better for a good night’s sleep,” she said as she poured herself a coffee, “anything interesting in the paper?”
“Have a look,” he said as he passed over the paper, and read about the attempted robbery the previous night, and how two of the gang snatched the husband from work, and the rest broke into the home of his family, binding and gagging the wife and daughters before the police arrived and stopped them.
“So you got Dave to play along as well?”
“I spoke to him when they did a status call, and explained the situation. He was more than willing to blame the Harbingers rather than us – and the fact the two men escaped.”
“Nice of him to do that,” Yvonne said as she looked over the table. “So – do you and Charlie fancy playing the bad guys later?”
“If you insist,” Mark said with a smile, “if you insist...”