Cat Caught Short
So, how have you been? I know – I’ve been away on business, taking care of one thing or another, but I have missed our little chats over a pot of tea.
I had a lovely older lady coming in the other day, looking at a few smaller antiques. She was in her mid-fifties, and it actually took me a little while to figure out where I had seen her before – it was over forty years ago, one of my first solo jobs, and I hit the hurdle all cat burglars hope they don’t have to hit.
It was a studio apartment off the Old Kent Road, and it would have been about eight pm when I broke in and started to search through the bedroom – but young as I was, I didn’t pay attention to what was going on around me, so I was taken by surprise by a little voice saying “who are you and why do you have my mummy’s pearls?”
I turned to see an eleven year old girl there, her brown hair combed back in a pony tail, and wearing a short sleeved black top, flared red check skirt, red socks and flat black shoes.
“Honestly,” I said quietly, “I’m a burglar and I’m stealing your mummy’s nice things. Now, the thing is, if you’ve found me, what do you think I should do?”
She thought for a moment, and then said “Stop me calling for help?”
“That’s right,” I said, “Do you know where mummy keeps her scarves?”
“In there,” she said pointing to a wardrobe, and then added “Will It hurt?”
“No,” I said quietly, “now, sit on the bed, and put your hands together in front of you.”
When her mum came in a few minutes later, the little girl was sitting there, one scarf holding her wrists together, another her ankles, a third round her knees, and the last folded and tied over her mouth.
She jumped as she felt my hand on her shoulder, and then I pulled her hands behind her back. She was wearing a black dress with short sleeves and a flared skirt, and black high heels, but the scarves I employed on her wrists soon had her doing what I said, especially when I took her to the other side of the bed, sat her down and secured her ankles and legs together.
I left them sitting side by side, scarves over their mouths, and got out as fast as I could. To this day, I’m never comfortable securing kids, and that first time was no exception.
A couple of years later, fashion had turned completely on the head, as I discovered one night when I broke into a flat in Wimbledon. It was early autumn, and the area I was in was a popular student area. It was a mixture of really old houses which had been converted into what used to be called “upstairs downstairs” flats. The one I had entered was of the “downstairs” variety – much easier to force the sash window in the kitchen area on.
As I came in, the house was silent, so I pocketed my tools and made my way into one of the bedrooms, searching through the drawers and finding some very nice pieces of jewellery. By now, however, I had become alert to the sounds around me, so I stopped when I heard two sets of footsteps coming in.
Opening the door a crack, I saw two young women walking past me. One was a redhead – a very long haired redhead, wearing a green velvet minidress with sleeves that flowed out from the elbows, purple leggings and symmetrically patterned sandals that went up to her knees. The other was a blonde, wearing a mustard coloured top and leggings under a red medieval style tabard with a black and white blocked trim and white suede boots with the cuffs turned down.
I smiled as I watched them, and then had to back down hurriedly as one of them turned round and came back to the room. I just had time to duck to the side before the girl in green and purple came in and turned the light on, going over to the bed and turning it back. So naturally, when she turned and saw me there, I had no choice but to wave and say “hi – please, don’t scream.”
“Shhh,” I said as I stepped forward, “just stay calm and we’ll get along just fine. Now, I hate to say this, but I need to keep you and your flatmate from raising the alarm for a while. Can you call her in here – and then tell me where you keep your tights?”
She pointed to a drawer and called out “Sue? Get in here quickly.”
As we waited, I used a pair of her tights to tie her wrist together behind her back. “Hi,” I said as the blonde came in, “do me a favour and lie face down on the bed while I finish binding and gagging your flatmate?”
It’s a plot that should not work, but you would be surprised how often it does, as Sue did just what I asked, watching as I used a second set to tie her flatmate’s legs together below her knees, and then walked her over, making her lie down before I secured her ankles tightly together – and then proceeded to bind young Sue in the same way.
“Thank you for not hurting us,” Sue said as she twisted round, the nylon rubbing on the soft leather of her boots.
“I never intended to,” I said with a smile. “A gentleman never intends to hurt a lady – merely make sure she cannot interfere in his business.”
“Well, we can’t do that, it’s true,” she said as she smiled at me with her red lips, “so are you going to silence us as well?”
“No, she’s quite right,” I said as I went to the wardrobe and took out two paisley patterned scarves, “I do intend to gag you, but I’ll let the police know in due course. Now, open wide.”
I used the two scarves to gag each of them, before heading to the rest of the flat. When I came back, they were lying on their sides, facing each other and twisting round.
“I’ll be on my way then,” I said as I leaned over and kissed each of them on the forehead, “Have fun.”
Of course, those two were not the only fashionable people I met in those days. A month or two after that, I was up near Kenwood House, and managed to gain entry that time to a top floor flat by the judicious use of a fire escape up the back. It was about one in the morning when I did this.
The lights had all been out, so as I slipped into the bedroom I had presumed the flat was empty. And so it was, as I used my penlight to find and empty the jewellery boxes. I didn’t look at the bed – if I had, that might have told me something, but I didn’t.
I then opened the bedroom door and started to make my way down the corridor. I saw a handbag on a small table there, and helped myself to the money inside it, before I entered the main area and started to look through the bookcase.
I turned round to see a young woman laid out on a recliner, squinting as she looked at me through rose coloured glasses like the ones John Lennon wore. She had on a psychedelic print minidress, a riot of orange, yellow and purple swirls, with a matching scarf holding back her dark hair, and a pair of white go-go boots on her legs.
I stepped forward and put my hand over her mouth, saying “Be quiet now, I don’t mean you any harm – I’m just robbing you.”
“Exactly what I say,” I said with a smile, “and now I’m afraid I need to stop you raising the alarm. If I take my hand away, will you shout and scream?”
She looked at me and then slowly shook her head from side to side. “Thank you,” I said as I removed my hand, “What’s your name?”
“Ashley. Are you really a robber?”
“I am Ashley – please, sit up and take that beautiful scarf off from your head.”
She reached up, the white inside of her dress showing as the sleeves fell back, and untied the scarf, saying “What do you want me to do with it,” as she held it in her hands.
“I want you to open your mouth and tie it between your lips.”
“You want me to gag myself?”
“That’s right, and then I want you to show me if you have any rope in here – a clothes line or something.”
She looked at me, and then said “Well, since you asked nicely,” before she pulled the scarf between her lips and tied it round her head, trapping her hair as she did so.
“Thank you,” I said quietly, “now, do you have any rope in the flat?”
She stood up and walked to the kitchen, returning with a length of cotton washing line. I made a lasso with one end, put it over her head and pulled it tightly round her arms and body, looping it round several times before I tied her wrists together in front of her, and then allowed her to lie down again, playing the rope out and tying her legs together, and then her ankles.
“Comfy,” I said, to which she nodded as I tied the end of the rope to the leg of the recliner, and continued to search the room.
Once I was finished, I checked the ropes, and then turned the radio on to Radio Luxembourg, before leaving her to enjoy the music.
Fast forward again to 1976, and fashion is changing again, as I became bolder and more well known for my visits. I had also spread my wings outside the city, and on this particular occasion I was actually in Liverpool.
Well, to be exact, I was in Port Sunlight on the Wirral, a lovely place with lovely housing on lovely quiet streets – just perfect for someone like me to sneak up the back garden of and get in through the kitchen door. This was a weekday afternoon, and in theory nobody should have been home. I’d even picked a house of a couple I had seen going to work each day, and was convinced they had no children.
I was right about that – the pictures in the room were of them alone, so I started looking for valuables. I even found a safe, and had opened it to find some Krugerrands inside. I was looking at them, when I heard a woman scream behind me, so I had no choice – I turned and grabbed her as she tried to get to the phone, hand gagging her and holding her against me as I pulled the cord from the wall.
“Hush, hush,” I whispered into her ear as she struggled under my hand, “I’m not going to hurt you, I just need to make sure you can’t interfere with me.” She was a tall woman, with light brown hair cut around her face and hanging over her shoulders and the top of her white roll neck sweater. Over the top of that was a long crocheted sleeveless coat, fastened to her waistline, and a pair of red trousers, the legs of which were tucked into white zipped boots.
Yeah, a lot of women wore white boots at that time. It was the fashionable thing to wear, but as she tried to drive her heel onto my foot I was glad she wasn’t wearing platform heels or stilettos.
Anyway, I pulled her back into the front room and said “Please, you’re only going to hurt yourself. Calm down, and when I remove my hand stay quiet, all right?”
She eventually calmed down and nodded as I removed my hand, and took one of several lengths of thin cord from the pocket of my jacket. “All right,” I said quietly, “tell me your name while you put your hands behind your back.”
“It’s Lily,” she said as she slowly did what I asked, “Are you really not going to hurt me?”
“Of course not,” I said as I arranged her hands back to back and started to tie her wrists together, “I just need to make sure you cannot get in my way or raise the alarm while I have a look round this house. I thought the couple who lived here didn’t have any children?”
“They don’t,” Lily said, “I’m their niece – I had a job interview today, and was going out to celebrate.”
“Well, my congratulations,” I said as I pulled the rope between her arms and tied it off, “and my apologies that the celebration will be slightly delayed.”
“Actually,” she said as I helped her to sit down, “This is quite exciting. It’s like one of those photo stories in my magazines – He Made Me Miss My Wedding, things like that.”
“I’m glad you think that,” I said as I crossed and tied her ankles together, and then her legs below her knees, taking the thin rope between her legs both times, “because you may be here for a little while. When will your aunt or uncle get home?”
She looked at the clock on the mantelpiece, and said “In about an hour – why?”
“Enough time for me to finish my work and leave,” I said as I helped her to lie down, and made sure her coat was properly arranged. “Now, purse your lips for me please.”
I produced a roll of Elastoplast from my other pocket and said “Can’t you guess?”
“Oh,” she said, and then she smiled as I tore a strip of the brown cloth plaster off and smoothed it over her lips. She closed her eyes and hummed to herself as I finished searching the house, and then nodded as I left her to be found.
Funny – I did meet from time to time those who enjoyed being restrained, but the look of contentment on her face as she lived her dream always comes back to me…
I mentioned there the crotched top – and high up among the many fashion disasters invoked during that decade has to be clothes that were crocheted. The most extreme example came when I decided to raid a cottage on the Norfolk Broads, one summer eve.
IT was a nice, quiet, thatched cottage with nothing around – no cars, nothing except the occasional bird. So I walked right up to the front door and let myself in. All was quiet, all was still, as I headed to the left and raided the bedroom therein.
There were quite a few nice pieces lying around, which I placed into my pocket, and then I went through to the main room. It was furnished with a certain rustic style, but I found a handbag sitting on a wooden seat, so I opened it and removed the contents of the purse.
Then I saw a second handbag in the seat opposite, and then I heard the footsteps coming from the kitchen. I had a small imitation handgun with me, and I knew I would not have time to hide, so I pulled the top of my jumper up over my mouth and grabbed it, cursing the fact I didn’t have any rope with me.
Two eighteen year old girls walked in, and stared at me as I pointed the gun at them. One had short dark hair hidden under a peach coloured hat, and was wearing a peach crocheted combined top and hot pants. I could see the outline of her bra underneath, as well as the gold link chain belt around her waist and her white laced up leather boots.
Mind you, her friend was even worse. Her top was sleeveless and crocheted in blue, with a square flower pattern in silver and peach on the front, and a pair of matching hot pants, both with a peach coloured hem on the edges. She had a green hat with a blue trim on her silver hair, and a pair of black wellington boots on.
“Oh my,” she said as she looked at me, “Are you here to rob us?”
“That’s right, I am,” I said quietly, “so are you going to give me any trouble?”
“Well, that’s our quiet break ruined, Mindy,” the other girl said.
“Oh I don’t know – perhaps mister robber can fix things so we still have some fun, Mandy,” the first girl said. I looked at both of them, and asked “Where are your boyfriends?”
“What boyfriends,” Mindy said as she put her arms round Mandy’s waist, and I realised my mistake. “I see,” I said with a smile. “Well, with deep regret, I need to tie both of you up. Do you have any rope in the house?”
“No,” Mandy said, “but we do have silver duct tape.”
“Go and get it,” I said as I walked over and put my hand on Mandy’s arm, holding her as her blue clothed girlfriend went out of the room, and came back with a large roll of silver tape. “If we’re going to be taped up,” she said quietly, “can we be taped together?”
“As you wish – where would you be most comfortable?”
“How about on the rug,” Mindy said, Mandy nodding in agreement.
“Very well – please, both of you, sit down and take your boots off.” I watched as they sat back to back, Mandy unlacing and removing her boots as Mindy pulled hers off, wriggling her bare toes as she did so.
“Put your hands on your heads,” I then said, and tore the end of the tape roll free, winding it around their waists several times to hold them together before I tore it loose and smoothed it down to the side.
“Thank you – now, lower them slowly, and hold each other’s hands at the side.”
I then taped their wrists together, one against the other, before winding the tape round their upper arms and bodies to hold them together. Their ankles were next, as they stretched their legs out in front of them, and then their legs below and above their knees.
“Cosy,” Mandy said as I removed their hats, and placed them with their boots to the side of the room. “Now I need to keep you quiet,” I said with a smile, “open your mouths wide.”
As they both did so, I took two clean hankies and placed one in each of their mouths, before smoothing three strips of the duct tape over each of their mouths. I then searched the rest of the cottage, listening to their muffled conversation as I did so, and then came back.
“Do you want me to call the police after a while?”
“Yssppllss – thrss?”
I nodded and left them to enjoy a couple of hours peace and quiet together…
Those were good days, and in many ways simpler days, but it’s amazing how those fashions still seem to come around. Last month, I was at an antiques fair in the town of Stow on the Wold, and I happened to be walking down the street when this blonde haired woman approached me.
“Excuse me,” she said as I stopped in front of her, “but are you John Jacobs?”
“That’s right,” I said as I looked at her, “have we met?”
“No – but you knew my father, Des Craig.”
Des was one of the policemen who had taken, shall we say, an interest in my activities over the years, and I had a good working relationship with him by the time I retired.
“You’re Des Craig’s girl – Rita?”
“That’s right – Dad used to talk a lot about you. I was just walking down the street when I saw you there.” She was wearing a grey sweater with padded shoulders, tweed knee length britches and a pair of tan leather boots.
“So what can I do for you,” I said as I looked at her.
“Well,” she said quietly, “Dad used to talk about how good you were at your work, and seeing you there made me think you’d be perfect to help spring a surprise on my husband.”
“Oh – what sort of surprise?”
“Can you spare half an hour at six tonight?”
I said I could, so she gave me her address and we parted company. At six o’clock, I knocked on her front door and she let me in.
“We’re going to a fancy dress party tonight,” Rita said as she looked at me. She was wearing a brightly coloured and patterned minidress, with long sleeves that covered her arms and flowed wide from her elbows, a matching scarf tied as a band over her blonde hair, and knee length yellow leather boots that had a daisy decal cut from the side and thin high heels.
“So how can I help,” I said as I looked at her.
“Well,” she said with her finger to her lips, “Dad used to say you were very good at restraining people and still making them comfortable.”
“Your dad was a bit of a flatterer.”
“True,” she said with a smile, “but I was wondering if you could tie me to a chair, so that when my husband gets home he gets to play the hero and rescue me?”
Well, how could I refuse such a request? Fifteen minutes later, she was sitting in one of the chairs from the dining table, her wrists tied together over the cuffs of her dress and then tied down to the chair back, her ankles secured together and to a chair leg, her legs tied below her knees, and some rope around her waist to hold her to the chair back.
A strip of white micropore tape was over her mouth, holding in the folded blue bandana she wanted to be put in there, as she nodded and thanked me for my help.
Well she said “Fnsksmsmm” so I took it as thank you, while I felt her for her husband to find.
As I say, interesting times…