Quality Time 





“Listen Grace – I know this situation is hard on you, but at least I do get to spend time with you.”


Grace looked at her mother as they walked down the centre of the mall.  “I know mum – but you have to realise how I’m feeling as well.  I love Dad, and to discover that he was...”


“I feel the same way too, darling – let’s forget about it and have some fun,” Hattie said as she reached over and hugged her sixteen year old daughter.  It had been three weeks since she had rather unceremoniously kicked her husband out of their house, along with most of his clothe s- the ones she had not destroyed in a fit of rage when she found the photos of him with his secretary.  Her African ancestry had come out in one fell swoop on that occasion, and at six foot four he had felt every inch of her wrath.  Now, as she walked down the walkway with the heels of her over the knee brown leather boots clicking on the floor, she was calm, serene and in the mood for fun.


She was wearing a matching brown leather jacket and skirt, while underneath the jacket was a light blue silk blouse.  Her shoulder length black hair fell over her jacket, while a pair of tortoiseshell glasses was over her green eyes.  Grace was more casually dressed, in a black t-shirt with a Disney motif on the front and a white long sleeved top underneath, blue cut off denim shorts with charcoal grey leggings underneath, and a pair of black suede mid-length boots over her feet.  Her hair was also black, but braided into thin plaits across her head.  She had been away on the day, but heard about it afterwards from both sides.  Whose side she was on she wasn’t quite sure of yet, but she didn’t want to have to pick one or the other.


The mall was buys, as you would expect on a Saturday, so the two women were not paying much attention to the people around them unless they were getting in their way – understandably in such a busy place, but still annoying.  As a result, they didn’t notice as they passed the small jewellery store when the assistant stood in the door and pulled the bind down, a look of fear in her face as she did so.




An hour later, the two women passed the door to the jewellers again, noticing the blinds were down and deciding not to go in on this occasion.  As they walked off, the door opened and two men came out, both dressed in smart suits.  If one had chanced to look in as they closed the door behind them, they would have seen three women lying on the floor, struggling in the tape that encircled their bodies and trying to call for help.  Regretfully, nobody did so as they closed the door and made their way towards the car park.


As they approached the lift doors, talking quietly between themselves, they saw Hattie and Grace standing there waiting for the lift doors to open.  They stood a short way behind, saying nothing as the doors opened and walking quickly in as the two women did.


“I don’t care what you think, Mum, I want to continue to see Dad,” Grace said as the doors closed on the small group.


“All right, Grace, but just remember I want nothing more to do with the man,” Hattie said as the two men stood in front of them.  The doors opened and the group made their way out.  As Grace pressed on a button to unlock the doors of her people carrier, the two men made their way to a sports car that was parked behind them.


As Grace opened the back of the car and loaded her bags into the rear, her mother got into the driver seat of the car and checked her mirrors.  Behind them, the two men climbed into the front of their car, one of them placing a briefcase on his lap.  They sat there for a few minutes, with the driver gesticulating after a few minutes.  As Grace closed the rear door, the two men climbed out of their car and walked quickly towards the jeep.  The young woman walked round to open the passenger door as they approached, reaching into their jacket pockets as they did so.


“Right, Mum, let’s...” Grace started to say, but as one of the men grabbed her from behind and gagged her, the other pointed a pistol at Hattie’s head as she sat in the driver seat.


“Don’t move,” the gunman said as Hattie looked at him, then over at her daughter as she struggled in the arms of her captor.  “Do exactly what we tell you, understand?”


“Yes,” Hattie whispered, “What do you want?”


The gunman smiled, and started to say “You can...” when he noticed the doors from the lifts opening and a number of people coming through.  Keeping his eyes on Hattie, he opened the rear passenger door and climbed in behind her.  “Get her in the back seat,” he said to his partner a she held Grace.  Nodding, he opened the door and pushed Grace in, climbing into the front passenger seat and pointing a second gun at Hattie.


“Drive,” the man said as he lowered the pistol onto his lap.  Hattie looked over at Grace, whose face was a blank slate as she glanced at the gun pointing to her in the rear of the car.  “Just drive and get out of here,” the man demanded again, and Hattie put the car into reverse and moved away from the parking space.  As she headed for the ramp that led to the exits, the man in the front glanced over at Grace.


“Keep calm, and everything will be all right,” he said as Grace looked over at him.  “Steve, make sure you hold onto that briefcase.”


“Where do you want me to go,” Hattie said in a quavering voice as the car left the car park and turned into the main road.  As they moved along, two police cars came in the opposite direction, their lights flashing and sirens wailing.  Steve glanced at them and said “We got away just in time Frank.”


“Yeah – pity the car decided to pick that moment to break down,” Frank said as he turned and looked ahead.  Grace looked at him and said “Look, just tell me where you want to go and I’ll do it.  Just don’t hurt my daughter.”


“You two will be just fine,” Frank said without turning his head.  “Take us to your house – nice and casually, without raising the alarm.”


“My house?  Why would you...”  Frank pressed the gun into Hattie’s side and made her gasp.  “I said drive,” he whispered as he turned and smiled at her.  “Do as you’re told, all right?”


“Mum, please,” Grace said with a cry as she looked at Steve sitting beside her, smiling as he looked at her.  Hattie swallowed and faced forward, driving without hurrying as she wondered what was going to happen next.






The house was a modest, detached building in a the outskirts of town – nothing special, just a two up, two down building that nobody would give a second glance.  Hattie drove up the driveway and parked the car, turning off the engine and looking at Frank as she did so.


“Now what,” she said as Frank looked outside.


“Stay there,” Frank said as he put the pistol into his inside jacket pocket.  He got out of the car and walked round, opening the driver door and taking her by the arm.  “Nice and naturally, you come with me and open the door.  Steve, wait with the youngster until I give the signal.”  Hattie looked over and said “Are you all right,” watching as Grace nodded before climbing out and walking to the door with Frank, clutching her handbag to her side as she did so.  Her boots crunched the gravel as they walked to the door, before reaching for her handbag.


“No,” Frank said, “Give me your handbag.  I’ll give you the keys.”  Hattie frowned as she handed the man the bag, especially when he opened it and took out a small aerosol.  “If you had used this,” he said as he looked at Hattie, “My friend would have killed your daughter without a second thought.  Do you understand?”  She gulped and nodded as he withdrew a set of keys and handed them to her.  “Open up and get in,” he said as he looked round, waiting as she unlocked the door and opened it.  Frank pushed her inside as Grace and Steve watched from the car.


As he closed the door behind them, Frank took Hattie by the arm.  “Make no mistake,” he snarled as he came close to her face, “You do exactly what we say, when we say it, and no questions.  That way, you get to tell others of what happened today.”  There was a beeping sound from a nearby cupboard.  “Get the fucking alarm off,” he ordered the frightened woman, who opened the door and punched the key code into the alarm control panel.  As the beeping stopped, Hattie watched as Frank pulled the stand her telephone sat in away from the wall, the wire coming away from the connector box.


Opening the door, he motioned outside, and stood back as Steve walked into the house with Grace.  “All right,” he said as Frank closed the door, “Go and close the curtains in the front room.”  As he took Grace in, Frank took Hattie by the arm and made her follow, watching as Grace slowly pulled the curtains across.  He pushed her towards a long couch, watching as Grace came and sat next to her.


“All right – now what do we do,” Steve said as he closed the door.


“We rest for a while,” Frank said as he sat down.  “I’m sure these ladies will prove to be gracious hosts, won’t you?”  He looked at grace as he said this, and she gulped.  “Listen,” Hattie said as she held her daughter, “I’ll do whatever you want, but don’t hurt her.”  Steve laughed as he looked at the two women.  “Oh, you’ll do what we want,” he said as he knelt in front of Grace, the gun hanging in his hand.  “What’s your name, young one?”




“Well, Grace, I want you to sit very still, with your hands on your head, while your mother makes us some coffee.  And, if she knows what is good for her and you, she will do it without raising the alarm.  Where are your mobile phones?”


Grace looked at the smiling man, before reaching into her shorts pocket and taking a phone out.  As Steve took it, Frank left the room for a moment.  “Where’s he going,” Hattie asked.  “Just checking you don’t have any other handsets or phones around,” Steve replied as he took her phone out of the handbag.  Removing the batteries from both, he threw the useless handsets on a seat as Frank came back in.  “Come with me,” he said as he took Hattie by the arm, “I like my coffee black.”


“Grace?” Steve said as he looked at the young woman.  Slowly, she raised her hands and placed them on her head, watching Steve as he sat opposite her.





The clock was showing seven as Hattie looked over at it – two hours since they had come back.  Her jacket lay where she had dropped it on the floor – the one thing she had managed to get the man called Frank to allow her to do of her own free will.  The empty coffee mugs were sitting on the coffee table, and Grace was lying with her head on her mother’s lap as they both watched Frank and Steve talking.


“We need to get moving,” she heard Steve say as he looked at his watch.  “There must have been enough time now.”


“I guess so,” Frank said as he stretched and yawned.  “We can take their car.”


“Please,” Hattie said, “Just take the car and leave us alone.  I promise we won’t tell anyone you were here.  I’ll say it was stolen from outside the house.”


“Well, that a nice offer,” Frank said as he stood up, “But we need to be sure you can’t raise the alarm.  Do we have any left?”


Grace sat herself up as the two women wondered what Frank was talking about.  “Not sure,” Steve said as he stood up, “Let me have a look round down here first.”  He left the room as Frank turned and looked at the two women.  “All right,” he said, “I want you to take your rings, your earrings and your jewellery off and put them on the table.”


“Please,” Grace said quietly, “Why can’t you just leave us alone.”  Frank smiled as he stood up.  “Grace, you must have realised by now that we are robbers – of course we are going to take your valuables with us.  Just do what I have told you to do, without argument.”


Hattie reached behind her neck and unclasped the necklace she was wearing.  “They can be replaced,” she said to her daughter as she placed the necklace on the table, followed by her rings, “you cannot.”  As Grace followed suite with her earrings, she saw Steve coming back into the room, carrying a large roll of silver tape in his hand.


“We got lucky,” he said as he handed it to Frank, “I’m going to look upstairs.”  “All right, ladies,” Frank said as the door closed, “Let’s get started.  You never told us your name,” he said as he looked at Hattie, “So I’m just going to call you mum.  Mum, do exactly what I tell you, do you understand?”


“I do,” Hattie said, “If it gets you out of here quickly.”


“Excellent,” was Frank’s reply a she tossed the roll at Hattie, watching as she caught it in her hands.  “I want you to tape your daughter’s wrists together behind her back, nice and tightly.  Grace, stand up and turn round with your back to your mother.”


“You can’t be serious,” Hattie protested, “We won’t give you any trouble.”  This seemed to only anger Frank, who grabbed Hattie by the arm again.  “I thought I told you to do as I say,” he snarled at her, causing Grace to shout out “MUM!”


Hattie looked at her daughter as she turned round and brought her wrists together behind her back.  “It’s all right, mum,” she said as she looked over her shoulder, “Just do it.”  She stood there, trying not to cry as she heard her mother rip the end of the roll free and press it against her wrist.  Hattie wound the tape around, forcing them together as she started to cry as well, and taking the tape up and over the cuffs of Grace’s long sleeved top as she did so.  Frank came over and looked as she tore the tape off the roll and smoothed it down.


“Nice,” he said as he took Grace by the arm and sat her down in an armchair.  “Now tape her ankles.”


“Can I take my boots off,” Grace said as she looked at the man.  Frank looked at her legs and nodded as she kicked the boot off first her left foot, and then her right.  Hattie knelt at her side and started to tape her ankles together, the tap sticking to her bare skin as she covered the bottom of her leggings as well.  As she stood up, she watched Grace as she tried to twist her feet around, with no success.


“All right Grace,” Frank said as he looked at her, “Can I trust you to sit quietly and not say a word, whatever happens?  I don’t want to stop you talking yet, but if I have to...”


“No,” Grace said quietly, “I’ll do as you ask.”  Secretly, she was hoping that all he would do is tape her mother’s hands and feet and then leave them alone.  She quickly discovered she was half right.


“Right, mum," Frank said as he turned to Hattie, “Sit down and tape your ankles together.”  Hattie stared blankly at him, then slowly sat on the couch and said “May I take my boots off as well?”


“No,” Frank said quickly, “Tape sticks as well to leather as it does to skin.  Put your ankles together and tape them tightly – you can always buy another pair.”  He laughed as Hattie glared at him, before slowly bending over and sticking the free end of the roll against her booted ankle.  Grace watched as she wrapped the tap tightly around her legs, drawing them together before she tore the end off and smoothed it against the side of her leg.  The silver band contrasted to the brown leather as she straightened up.


“Now your lower legs,” Frank said, “and then above your knees.  Make sure it’s nice and tight.”  He watched as Hattie wrapped the tape round, the silver band digging into the leather as she did so, and then as it dug into her dark skin as she taped her legs together above her knees.  She looked down at the three silver bands holding her legs together, before looking at Frank and saying “Now what?”  She watched him as he smiled.  “Now,” he said as he reached into his pocket and drew out a handkerchief, “you put this in your mouth, and no complaining.”


“Oh god,” Hattie said quietly, “You can’t be serious.  We’re not going to call out, and I want to talk to my daughter.  Please, don’t do this to me.”  Frank knelt down by Hattie’s side.  “Who said Grace is going to be able to talk to you,” he said, “Now, take this, fold it into a pad and stick it in your mouth, without any more argument, or I swear Grace is going to be the one screaming.”



“Mum,” Grace whimpered as she looked at Hattie.  “All right,” the older woman said as she stuffed the cloth into her mouth and looked at Frank.  “Better,” he said, “Now, three strips, one after the other, over your mouth, then turn with your back to me and put your hands behind your back.”


Grace watched as her mother tore a strip off the roll and smoothed it over her lips, twice more hearing the ripping sound and the more and muffled noises Hattie was making.  She handed the roll to Frank and shuffled in the chair, the leather of her skirt and boots squeaking as she did so, before leaning forward and placing her hands behind her back.  Frank quickly placed her left wrist in the palm of her right hand and tightly taped her wrists together before tearing a wide strip off and passing it around her body under her breasts.  She could not suppress a gasp as the tape was pulled tightly around her arms and chest, the blue silk folding under the thick tape as her mother’s arms were drawn tightly against her ribs.


He repeated the process above her breasts, leaving her with an alternating blue and silver bands on her upper body, before he made her lie on her side on the couch and walked over to Grace.  “Your turn, Grace,” he said with a thin smile as he tore the end of the roll of tape free.




Steve came back into the room to see his partner smoothing a length of tape over Grace’s mouth.  The young girl had a silver band holding her legs together above her knees, as well around her arms and lower chest, while her mother was watching from her prone position on the couch.


“I think we’ve got everything we need,” he said as he picked up the car keys from the table.  “Let’s get out of here.”  Frank picked up the briefcase as the two men headed for the door.  “So long, ladies,” he said as he turned off the light and closed the door on them.  They listened as they heard the car starting outside, and then the crunch of wheels on gravel fading into the distance before the only sounds were the birdsong from outside and the squeak of leather from inside.


Grace twisted herself slightly in her seat, the tape holding firm over her leggings.  She was grateful she had not been taped as tightly to as harshly as her mother, but that seemed somewhat of a hollow point when she saw the tears starting to come down her mother’s cheek.


“mm?  Ds t hrt,” she mumbled through the layers of tape covering her mouth.  Unlike Hattie, she had not had anything out into her mouth, but the tape was still not allowing a lot of give and was acting as a reasonably effective muffler.  Hattie looked over at her daughter before turning onto her side and facing the back of the couch.


“mm?” Grace said again, and this time as Hattie turned round Grace could see the redness in her eyes as she looked back over, as the leather squeaked under her own bonds.  “m sry, grs,” Hattie mumbled, “ms sree..”  The tears started to flow more as she lay there, struggling to keep herself calm.   Grace leaned over and said “pls mm – brth thru r ns, nd clm dwn.”  She watched as her mother lay still, gathering herself together before she looked up and nodded at her daughter.  “m ll rgt nw, grs,” she said as she lay there.


“Gd,” Grace said as she shuffled herself forward, “bdcs m gng t trn gt fr.”  Hattie watched as her daughter slowly pushed herself up onto her feet, standing for a few minutes before she bent her knees and took a short hop forward.  Stopping to get her balance again, she slowly hopped towards the door, her mother watching silently as inch by inch she covered the distance before stopping and turning herself round.  The door handle was a long thin metal strip as opposed to a knob, so Grace found it relatively easy to push the handle down and allow the door to open slightly.


Slowly, carefully, she pulled the door forward by holding the handle and shuffling with her feet.  It was agonising watching as she took tiny little shuffling steps, keeping hold of the handle so that the door did not swing shut, before there was enough room to allow her to grab the edge of the door from behind and push herself round.  “Wl u b ll rgh, mm” Grace mumbled, and Hattie nodded as she watched her daughter go over to the other side of the doorway.


The hallway was dark, as the gloom of the setting sun grew from the door and rear windows.  Feeling her way along the wall, she slowly made her way sideways down the corridor, inch by agonising inch as she made her way to the kitchen, thanking her god that the door was still open.  Slowly, slowly, she approached the doorway, stopping at times to catch her breath.


From her position on the couch, Hattie could hear the sound of her daughter’s shuffling feet grow quieter as she made her way to wherever she was going.  Once again she looked over her shoulder to see if she could wriggle her bonds a little looser, but to no avail – the tape was holding as firmly as before.  She lay still, listening to the sounds of her nasal breathing and wondering what was going to happen next.


The last thing she expected to hear was a loud crashing sound from the kitchen.  “GRS!!!” she screamed through her gag, but there was no reply.  She started struggling, the sweat building on her back as the leather squeaked when her legs rubbed together.  She started trying to breathe through her mouth, forgetting about the gag until she heard Grace calling “MMM – CLM DWN.  M FN”  She stopped and lay still as the sound of her daughter shuffling on the wooden floor came through louder and louder, until she watched Grace shuffle through the door on her bottom, a pair of kitchen scissors being dragged behind her as she held on to them.


“d u thnk u cn gt ff t csh,” Grace mumbled as she looked up at her mother.  Nodding, Hattie rolled herself onto her stomach and shuffled over so that her legs fell onto the floor.  Getting herself into a kneeling position, she then allowed herself to fall onto her bottom and bring her legs round so that they were stretched out in front of her.  Grace bumped towards her, motioning to her mother to turn round so that when they met they were back to back.  Grace looked over her shoulder as she gingerly opened the blades of the scissors up.


“Rde?” she said to her mother, and Hattie nodded as she brought her wrists up against the blade of the scissors, her daughter holding them as steadily as she could as she slowly started to rub the tape on her wrists up and down against the cutting edge...







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