Cat and Boots
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – I am a child of the sixties and seventies, so of course if I see a woman wearing boots I find it appealing. I know there were many other fashions in those days, but somehow, especially now that the autumn is setting in, it appeals to me, and I’m not going to deny it.
As a cat burglar, you do try to avoid meeting people of course – or if you have to, it tended at least at first to be in the middle of the night – but there have been a few occasions, most of them funnily enough with people n the spotlight at the time – where my professional and personal tastes did meet.
Case in point - in 1975 the top UK tennis player was Carol Buckland. Her face was on all the sports pages – tall, thin, her long blonde hair normally held back by a scarf tied like an Alice band over her forehead. You might remember her from some posters that were around at the time – they were very popular before that butt scratching one came out.
Anyway, she lived in Morden, in the south of London, and one night her house was the one I wanted to visit. It was dusk when I got there, went to the back alley and managed to get through the gate, making my way up to the back of the house. I shinned up a drainpipe, opened the bathroom window, and slipped in.
Now, in theory she was at a dinner, so I figured I would have plenty of time to get in and get out. But this was 1975 – a time when there were a lot of strikes, and unbeknown to me one of them had meant the dinner she was meant to be going to was cancelled.
So there I was, in her front room, searching for valuables when she walked in. I remember her well – her hair was falling down on the shoulders of her mustard coloured jumper, while she had over that a brown suede waistcoat with trim. Her matching skirt came down to just below her knees, her legs in a pair of skin tight brown leather boots.
“Well, can I do anything for you,” she said as she looked at me. “Tea, coffee – a call to the police?”
“Well, tea would be preferable,” I said as I took out an imitation gun I carried at the time and pointed it at her. “Perhaps, while you make a pot, you can tell me where your valuables are?”
She cocked her head to one side, obviously considering her options, and then said “Will Typhoo do?” We retired to the kitchen, her arm in my hand, and made a pot of tea, had a brew, had a chat – before I pulled her hands through the gaps in the back of the chair she was sitting in, and tied her wrist together with cord, then secured them to the chair back.
“I knew this might happen,” she said as she watched me tie her ankles to the chair legs at the front, her skirt covering her legs, “so I should be grateful it is down here, and not in my bedroom.”
“I don’t do that sort of thing,” I said as I tied her waist to the chair back, and then rolled up a napkin. “Forgive me...”
“Of course,” she said as she allowed me to cleave gag her, sitting quietly as I relieved her of her jewellery, and then left her to be found by a housekeeper.
I always prefer it when such a visit can be polite, although sometimes it can take a little persuasion. Take Lynsey, for example. This was a couple of years earlier, and I was in a house in the Cotswolds, which was meant to be empty, looking at a collection of fine silver when she walked in and surprised me.
Lynsey was a go-go dancer on a television pop show at the time, and that was reflected in what she was wearing. The psychedelic mini-dress was a swirl of orange, brown and purple, with sleeves that flared out from her elbows and a skirt that barely qualified as one, and she had on a pair of white boots that came to her knees, with stack heels. A scarf of the same material as her dress held her brown hair up and back.
She was all for running, until I grabbed her round the waist, put a gloved hand over her mouth, and quietened her down. “I just want your jewellery,” I whispered into her ear as I held her, “and I need you to be kept out of the way.”
“Uwnthrtm,” she mumbled under my gloved hand, and as I nodded she did so do, saying “Thank you” as I removed my hand.
“You may as well be comfortable,” I said with a smile, “Where would you like to be left.” To my surprise, she walked over to a coffee table and sat on it, bending her knees and putting her arms under them as I caught a glimpse of the top of her white stockings.
“Why not like this – that way I can’t go anywhere,” she said as she smiled at me, so I obliged her – binding her wrists together under her knees with twine, then using more to bind her ankles together, the squeak of the twine on the leather loud enough to attract a mouse as I tied it to her wrist as well. A final length went around her legs between the boot tops and her knees, before I said “I regret I need to keep you quiet.”
“I guessed as much – there’s a roll of Elastoplast in the kitchen,” Lynsey said as she looked at me. She actually smiled – I think she was looking forward to a challenge – as I found the sticking plaster and smoothed a strip over her mouth, before helping myself to her things.
A few years later, and styles had changed completely – mainly thanks to the influence of a certain Diana Spencer. My style had also changed, as I had started to do less opportunistic crimes and planned a little more – as well as equipped myself a little more.
In the summer of 1983, I attended an antiques fair in Dorset, but the real reason for my visit was I wished to – obtain a set of doubloons from a manor house in the area. I knew the Lord and Lady of the manor would be away – what I had not accounted for was the fact their two student daughters may have decided it was a good time for a weekend at home.
Getting entry was easy enough, but when I walked into the front room and saw them sitting on the fireplace, drinking bottles of coca cola and eating biscuits, that was unexpected. I knew their names – sitting on the floor was Diana, the younger daughter, in a long checked skirt and matching waistcoat over a full sleeved off white blouse, and brown baggy leather boots.
She was looking at a magazine which was being held by her older sister, Joanne. She was wearing a cream dress with a brown floral pattern and a string bow at the neck, a cream waistcoat and fitted brown boots. Both girls had light brown hair cut in the style of the then Princess of Wales, and both were surprised to see me there, in my black cap, jumper and trousers.
“Please, don’t move,” I said as I opened my rucksack and took out the starter’s pistol I used for intimidation purposes then, “I promise you, I won’t hurt you.”
“Who are you,” Joanne said as she stood up, placing her bottle on the fireplace.
“Just a friendly cat burglar,” I said quietly, “Please, stand up slowly, and you,” I said to Diana, “put your hands on your head. I want you,” I said to Joanne, “to bring two chairs over from the dining table, and set them back to back.”
“Just do as he says,” Diana said as Joanne carried two chairs over, and set them down as instructed. “Very good,” I said quietly, “now both of you, sit down and keep your hands where I can see them.” Reaching into my bag, I took out two large silk squares and put the gun where they both could see it, before rolling the scarves into bands and tying knots in the middle of them.
“I regret,” I said as I handed them each a scarf, “that I must silence you and prevent you from robbing me. Please, put the knots in your mouths, and then tie the scarf tightly around your head.”
“Would you rather I made you gag each other?”
The two girls looked at each other, then pulled the knots behind their teeth, closing their lips over it as they tied them over their hair. I checked the knots, and then tied their wrists together in front of them, crossing them as the rope went around and between their arms.
“Don’t move,” I said as I tied Diana’s ankles tightly together with the rope, the leather sinking under the band, and then secured them to the left side front leg. Doing the same for Joanne, I then made them both raise their hands above their heads, and ran a length of rope between both pairs of wrists. A final length of rope around their waist and the chair backs, and they were secured enough for me to find the doubloons – and a few other things beside.
Five years later, I was in the North East, when I discovered that a business deal had, to use the vernacular, gone south in a big way. I knew the person who had tried to swindle me, but he had decided an all-expenses paid trip to Spain was a good idea at the time. As it was, however, he had a sister that he gave a very generous allowance to – so, much against my usual rules, I decided I would have to recover my money through her.
Her name was Hazel, and she was a lecturer in English Studies at the then Newcastle Polytechnic. I remember clearly the way she was dressed when I followed her to her house in the West End of Newcastle – a brown top with sported sleeves and panels over a black jumper, a denim skirt that buttoned up the front, dark tights and red leather cowboy-style boots. Her black hair was untidy, and fell around her head and shoulders, while she had on a pair of brown glasses, as well as some ethnic jewellery.
I watched as she went up past the cemetery, and let herself in the front door of her house. Allowing a few moments, I then walked up and used a skeleton key to open the door. I was wearing a grey suit, white shirt and black tie, but before I opened the door I pulled a stocking down over my head and leather gloves onto my hands.
With my luck, I knew she would see me soon, but as soon as I opened the door I saw her in the hallway. She would have screamed if I had not picked her up and taken her into the front room, making her lie face down on a couch as I hissed “Not a word – I’m just going to tie you up and take your jewellery.”
“Whhrruu,” she tried to say through the cushion I had her head on, as I guided her hands behind her back and started to tape them together with the roll of black electrical tape I had in my pocket. I then pulled her boots off her feet, putting them on the floor before I taped eh rankles together, then her legs below her knees.
Turning her over, I looked at her and said “Where do you keep your jewellery?”
“bbbbbb Bedroom – large room at the back, in the dresser,” she stammered as she looked at me.
“Thank you,” I said quietly as I took a clean handkerchief out of my jacket pocket, and pushed it gently into Hazel’s mouth, before I wrapped the electrical tape around her head to hold it in place. “Don’t move now.”
She just stared at me, too afraid to move as I went upstairs. I know, I know – this was not my usual modus operandi, but as you know from time to time I do act differently, especially when it comes to my fellow so-called professionals.
By the time I came back down, Hazel had managed to sit herself up, and was staring at me over the white cloth visible from her mouth. “Have a nice day,” I said as I removed her glasses, but left a pair of scissors nearby – she was an innocent in this one.
As I say, I enjoy a well turned leg in a boot, but the nineties in many ways was not the best time for that. For some reason, they were not that popular – although it was surprising what you found from time to time. Take the mother and daughter I visited in Chelmsford in about 1994.
It was about eight in the evening, and the house was in darkness when I broke into it. I was looking on this occasion not just for jewellery, but also for a rather fine antique snuff box I knew the man of the house had purchased. It didn’t take me too long to find it, and indeed other items, but just as I was about to leave the house I heard the front door open and close.
I was in the master bedroom at the time, and through a crack in the door I could see a girl of about eighteen coming up thr staircase. She was wearing a checked lumberjack style shirt with black checks, a long grey skirt that covered her knees, socks and brown laced boots, and a grey woollen cap covered her long brown hair.
Her hands were thrust deep into the pockets at the front of her skirt, but there was no way I was going to get past – so I had no other option. As she passed the door, I opened it, tapped her on the shoulder and said “Good evening – what’s your name?”
She turned and stared at me, before saying “I’m Pearl – who are you?”
“A burglar,” I said as I took her arm and led her into the bedroom, “who has had the unfortunate need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm for a while. Forgive me, but I need you to lie face down on the bed.”
Such a simple question, but as I produced some rope from the holdall I was using she said “Oh – that’s why” and did as I asked.
“Please put your hands behind your back,” I said, and within a few minutes her wrists were secured together, and I had bound her ankles as well, taking off the frankly clunky boots she was wearing.
So, of course, it was this moment when we both heard the front door open and close again. I rolled Pearl over and put one hand on her mouth, and a finger to my lips, as we listened to the sound of someone else coming up the stairs.
“Pearl, are you up here,” I hear an older woman say as I look at the young girl. “Call her in here,” I whispered as I took my hand off her mouth, and stood by the door.
“I’m in here, Mum,” Pearl called out, watching me as the door opened and the older woman came in. Although her hair was a lighter brown, the facial resemblance was enough to tell me this was her mother. She was wearing a short sleeved shirt, white with a brown pinstripe, and a very voluminous black skirt that had a round pattern on the material with coloured flowers. A pair of long baggy black leather boots completed the ensemble.
“What are you... Oh my Godnsssmmmmmmmm” she said as I hand gagged her from behind. “Please, do not panic,” I whispered quietly, “I am afraid I needed to make sure Pearl could not raise the alarm, and now I regret to say I must do the same to you.”
“It’s all right Mum,” Pearl said as she looked up, “he hasn’t hurt me. Just do as he says.”
I felt her nod, and took my hand away. “What’s your name,” I asked quietly.
“All right, Elaine – please, lie face down next to your delightful daughter, and cross your wrists behind your back.”
“At least he’s polite,” I heard Elaine say as I bound her wrists, the two women talking as if it was the most natural thing in the world to be bound by a stranger in the same room. I wrapped rope around her ankles, the rope squeaking on the leather, and then tied their ankles bond to each other after rolling her over.
“Now then,” I said quietly, “I also regret t say I must silence you both. Do you have any scarves in this room?”
“Try the dresser,” Elaine said, and I soon found two large headsaquares, one a horse print and the other red and black stripes. I folded them both into bands, and soon both women were tightly cleave gagged – allowing me enough time to make my egress easier.
It’s – what ten years now – since I semi-retired from the burglary field, but occasionally I still get the chance to practice my skills. One time was when I was asked to help out the daughter of a cousin, who – well, let me start at the beginning.
Her name was Fiona, and she was studying art at St Martin’s College. No, seriously – that song came out a good six or seven years earlier. At any rate, I met her in the centre of London one day, and she explained to me she had to prepare a piece of art on the theme of “Damsel in Distress.” She wondered if I could help her to actor something out – and then explained her idea.
Well, she was family – so I agreed to do just that two days later. As I approached her ground floor flat, I could hear music playing, and as I let myself in through the kitchen window I heard her laughing and singing along.
Peeking past the door, I saw her dancing, her red hair in a beehive like arrangement as she twirled her grey knee length skirt round. She was also wearing a white sleeveless top, a black leather belt around her waist, and a pair of knee length brown suede boots that zipped up the side.
“Oh,” she said suddenly as she saw me standing there, “Who are you?” She had asked me to return to my roots, as it were, so I stepped out and said “Hello there – my apologies for the intrusion, but your kitchen window was open.”
“And surrounded by a six foot wall – what are you doing in here?”
“Well, to be perfectly honest,” I say as I step over and take her arm in my hand, “I’m here to steal your valuables. Please, no screaming, no fuss – I would hate for this apartment to be damaged in any way, or indeed yourself.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Fiona said with a smile, and she led me to her bedroom. “You will find my jewellery in there,” she said as she pointed to a chest of drawers, "but what are you going to do with me?”
“I’ll have to tie you up, I’m afraid – do you have any rope or tape?”
“You don’t bring any?”
“I’m a cat burglar, we travel light.”
Fiona pointed to the wardrobe, and said “There are belts and scarves in there.”
“Thank you – please, lie face down on the bed and place your hands behind your head.”
Fifteen minutes later, I had bound her wrists to her elbows with two stockings, secured her legs together with a tan belt from a greatcoat, and her legs above and below her knees with two long purple and green scarves.
I had also gagged her, pushing a folded handkerchief into her mouth and then securing it in place with a dressing gown belt pulled between her lips. I smiled at her as I took her jewellery, and then bade her a good night...
I met Fiona a week later, and returned her jewellery. She got a high mark for her installation of “When a Stranger Calls,” based on our game.
Well, duty and customers call – come back soon...