The Cat’s Eye View
Well, well, it has been a long time hasn’t it? I’m sorry I have not been around recently - a lot of business travel I’m afraid, which in many ways has its own rewards. It also meant I had a lot of time to think some things over, consider new experiences, and even commit some of my own stories down to paper. There was one trip with an old friend - but perhaps now is not the time to tell that tale.
As it was, one particular trip out provide an experience that took me back to the days when I pursued a very different path of acquiring valuables. I was visiting Glasgow for a fair, and one particular evening I walked into the hotel at the same time as a most striking young woman. She must have been in her early twenties, with auburn coloured hair that fell around her shoulders and deep blue eyes. She was wearing one of those dresses that seem to be so popular at the moment - short sleeved, with a small belt around the waist, a rounded collar and knee length skirt. This one was fawn with cream coloured polka dots, and she was wearing a pair of knee length fawn leather boots over dark tights. It suited her very well indeed - she had the legs to pull off such an outfit, and the grace and poise to make even an older gentleman such as myself feel good.
I watched her as she made her way into the lift, and then took myself to the bar - I had arranged to meet some old friends there. After a pleasant hour or so, I made my way up to my own room, in order to get changed and then go and see if there was anywhere on Buchanan Street that I fancied eating at.
As I stepped out of the lift, I could see a young man walking rather quickly down the corridor, his hands in his pockets. I didn’t give him more than a second thought at the time, but as I was walking towards my room I thought I could hear a very familiar sound - muted calls for help.
There was a room door standing slightly ajar, and as I got closer it was patently obvious to me that the sounds were coming from the other side of the door. Pushing it gently, I called out “Is there anybody in here?”
Well, my instincts were correct - there was a definite cry of “HLPMMMMM” from the inside of the room, so I walked in to see what had happened. As I turned the corner, I saw the young girl from earlier, staring at me with mascara stains running down her cheeks, staining the edges of the white tape that covered the lower half of her mouth.
She was lying on her side, looking up at me with pleading eyes as she tried to move her hands round from behind her back. I could see the rope around her ankles and knees, and hear the way her boots squeaked as they rubbed against each other.
Her clothes were also scattered around the floor, as were the contents of her bag, so it was obvious she had been the victim of a robbery. I, of course, did the gentlemanly thing, and peeled away the tape from her mouth, allowing her to spit out the washcloth that had been pushed in behind it. “Thanks,” she panted as I picked up the phone and called reception, “He jumped me when I came in.”
Well, when I looked at the handiwork, I knew this guy wasn’t really a professional - or if he was one he was incredibly sloppy. She could have got herself free within five minutes, if she had not been so petrified. I stayed until the security staff came up, gave my statement to the police, and when I saw her the next morning at the breakfast buffet she thanked me profusely.
What it made me think of, as I drove back to the house, was just how much standards seem to have slipped in my previous profession. After all, had I been in that situation I would have ensured the poor girl had calmed down, at the very least, before I did anything. It brought to mind a visit I paid to a flat in Soho, near the end of the seventies.
It was early evening when I forced the door to the rear of the ground floor flat, and made my way into the darkened domicile. Naturally, I was dressed in black, and naturally I had taken great care to ensure that nobody was home when I started to rifle through the jewellery boxes of the inhabitant.
Equally, I had of course considered the possibility of an early return - you always have to, but in this case I was fairly confident that the owner would not be around. She was a musician in a theatre group, and I had found out that they were all engaged that night in a theatre in Wimbledon, on the other side of the city.
Well, naturally if something is going to go wrong it will, and as I opened a drawer in the bedroom I heard the front door opening and footsteps no the wooden floor. Turning off my flashlight, I opened the door a crack and saw this woman walking to the main room. It was indeed the owner of the flat, standing with her back to me. She turned and started to sort through some mail, and I saw she was wearing a chunky knitted jacket over a white peasant blouse, with a wide brown leather belt round her waist, a long cream and brown patterned skirt that nearly reached the floor, and brown baggy felt boots.
I stood there, wondering what my next move was going to be, when she decided it for me by walking towards the room I was hiding in. She walked in, saw me, and - well, there are essentially three reactions in my experience. One - they try to run away. Two - they sit down or faint in fear. Three - they scream.
She chose door three - and what a screamer. I sat on the bed, making her sit with me, and put my hand over her mouth while holding her at the same time. “Please,” I said calmly and quietly, “the only person you’re going to hurt doing that is yourself. Calm down, breath slowly, and get yourself together.”
I held her like this for what seemed like an eternity, before she finally brought herself back to her sense and looked at me. “That’s better,” I said as I took my hand away, looking into her hazel eyes as I did so. “Now, what’s your name?”
“Well, Cynthia, I’m afraid I need to stop you from raising the alarm before I leave here. I promise you that’s all I’m going to do, all right?”
She seemed to understand as I said “Please, take off that belt and sweater, as well as your boots, and then lie on your back on the bed.” As she did this, I went back to the wardrobe to retrieve some things I had found earlier, smiling as I walked back to the bed.
“What are you going to do to me,” she whimpered as I removed her horn rimmed glasses and left them on her bedside table. “Make you comfortable,” I said as I stretched the long chiffon scarf in my hand, “Please, put your hand up against the headboard.”
She was found a few hours later, her wrists and ankles still tied to the bed with the scarves and a final one pulled between her lips. I had let the police know as agreed with her - turned out the show had finished early due to ‘technical difficulties’ as it was put.
There were other occasions, of course when the fine art of tact and gentleness can prove invaluable. That was most true on those thankfully rare occasions when there were younger girls involved when I was discovered. As I believe I told you before, I personally tried to avoid that wherever possible, but this particular day in 1985 I found myself in a position where I had, unavoidably, to make sure both a mother and her daughter could not raise the alarm.
I had decided to visit that house on an afternoon, given that the parents would be at work and their daughter at school. I had carefully checked the circumstances, and when I managed to enter through the kitchen door the house was in perfect silence.
Making my way up the stairs, I started to search through the drawers of the main bedroom. She had tried to hide her jewellery boxes, but I knew where to look. As I pocketed some items, I failed to hear the front door open and close again. I was probably a little too self confident, as I slipped back down the staircase and went into the kitchen again, intending to slip out as I had slipped in.
So when I saw this fourteen year old girl standing there, by the sink, I stopped in my tracks. She had long brown hair, tie din two pigtails that hung wither side of her head with pick ribbons, a light brown school blazer, dark grey skirt, brown shoes and knee length black socks, and was filling a glass with water from the sink.
So what she thought when she turned and saw me standing there, was something I had to try and decipher very quickly. “Hello,” I finally said, “What’s your name?”
“Kerry - that’s a very nice name. Why don’t you sit down,” I said as I pulled a chair away from the table, “and finish your drink, Kerry.”
“Who are you talking to,” I heard a voice say as Kerry sat down and I put my hand on her shoulder. A woman in her early forties came in, wearing a tweed jacket with padded shoulders over a brown top, a long brown leather skirt and black high heeled boots. She stopped when she saw me there, and stared at both of us.
“You must be Kerry’s mother,” I said quietly. “I’m afraid you came back while I was still here, so I need to ask you not to scream or shout or do anything silly.” As I said this I pressed slightly down on Kerry’s shoulder. “I’m sure you understand.”
“Please,” she said as she ran her hair through her dark hair, “Don’t...”
“It’s all right, Mum,” Kerry said, “I know what’s happening. It’s like that thing we watched on Crimewatch, isn’t it?”
I know what she meant - a week or so previously, they had done a reconstruction of a raid on a family in London, where the daughters and grandmother had been held hostage while the mother had her jewellery store cleaned out. “It’s a bit like that, yes,” I said quietly, “so if you both behave, we can be out of here quickly.”
“Are you going to tie us up?”
I walked round and looked at Kerry and her mother. “I don’t want to, but I will do if I think you are going to raise the alarm.” Kerry looked at her mother, then at me, before saying “I can’t say I won’t.”
I looked at her mother, who was staring at Kerry with a strange expression. “Do you want to play this now,” she said, and Kerry nodded. “I’m going to fetch some things,” she said as she looked at me, “You have my word I will not call the police.”
Well, I wasn’t sure, but I had taken the liberty of pulling the phone away from the wall earlier. “Leave me your handbag,” I said, and as she handed me her handbag I opened it and removed the grey brick that was a mobile phone in those days. She left, coming back a few minutes later with a box which she placed on the table. “Kerry likes to read girl detective books,” she said as she looked at me, and I had an inkling of what was about to happen.
“Well, if I’m going to do this, I’ll do your mother first to show you what is going to happen, all right?” As I said this, I took a length of rope and stretched it out, watching Kerry as she nodded. “Put your hands behind your back,” I said and then used the rope to tie her mother’s arms together, around her lower forearms as I watched her clench her fists.
“That’s tight,” she said as I did the same thing to Kerry, been as gentle but as firm as I could be. Once I had done this, I used more of the rope to hold her mother’s arms to her side, and then did the same for Kerry. Helping them to sit on the floor, I tied Kerry’s ankles together, side by side, and then pulled her mother’s legs together, the rope squeaking against her boots. I also tied her mother’s legs together below her knees, trapping her skirt underneath as she bent her knees.
“Would you like a drink, Kerry,” I said, and as the girl nodded I found a carton of fruit juice and allowed her to drink it. I then gagged her with a strip of cloth over her mouth, before gagging her mother in the same way.
“I’ll let the police know,” I said as I left them both, twisting their arms round as they bowed their heads.
Not a thing I enjoyed doing, but at least they were co-operative. Something else that tends to take me by surprise is when I meet someone I have vested before during a visit. It happened a few times, but recently after I met with my former apprentice I was reminded of one occasion in 1987.
I was in the midlands, in Nottingham actually, and paying a visit to an apartment in a new block that had just been opened down by the Marina. It was a bright, well furnished place, and I was looking at some very nice pieces when the bedroom door opened and a woman in her late twenties walked in.
She had short blonde hair, and was a slightly larger than the norm young woman. She wore a black waistcoat over a white sleeveless top and light brown trousers, the legs of which were tucked into black knee length suede boots.
As she looked at me, there was something familiar about her, but it was only when she said “Oh no - not again,” that I placed her - Christyne Widdicombe.
Ten years previously, on the day of the Silver Jubilee, I had broken into Widdicombe Manor and stolen some jewellery, but in the process had had to bind and gag the daughter of the lord of the manor. Now here she was, ten years later, a young woman who was staring back at me and wondering what to do next.
“It is Christyne, isn’t it,” I eventually said with a smile. “I never thought our paths would cross again.”
“So did I,” she finally said as she closed the door. “Does this mean I have to replace my jewellery again?”
“Very possibly - it also means I need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm again.” I looked at her as she smiled. “Something funny?”
“No - I’m just remembering that day. I never did get to meet the boy of my dreams, and he met the woman of his.”
I remembered how upset she was at been delayed, so I said “I’m sorry. But for today, where would you like to lie?” She actually smiled in reply, before saying “If I must be, I’d like to lie on the couch in the main room.”
She walked into the main room, me following, and sat down on a long settee, crossing her legs as she did so. “Do you remember that day,” she said as she looked at me, putting a rucksack down on the ground.
“I do indeed – with great affection. Now, Christyne, turn round and put your hands behind your back.” As she guided her hands round, I sat behind her and used a length of washing lien, which I had pre-cut, to secure her crossed wrists together.
“Hmmm – you haven’t lost your touch,” she said as she looked over her shoulders, while I bound her elbows together, pulling them as close together as I could.
“So you didn’t get the boy of your dreams? Did you ever find Mr Right?”
“No,” she said before gasping as I secured her arms to her side, “but I live in hope. He has to be out there somewhere.” As I wound the rope round her, she sighed and looked at me. “Maybe you were meant to be my Mister Right – what do you think?”
“I would be a very bad choice – and a real risk for long term security,” I said with a smile as I helped her to lie on her back, and began to wind the off-white rope around her crossed and booted ankles. As the suede sank in, she closed her eyes and smiled as I cinched and tied the rope off, then wound a second length around her legs.
“Do you remember what you gagged me with that day?”
I looked at her as she stared back at me, recalling her ten years previously, in a white sundress that had yellow pleats, lying on her mother’s bed as he smoothed tape over her panties stuffed mouth.
“Well, you did catch me by surprise and screamed. You don’t want that today, do you?”
“No – but you will find a headscarf at the door, and a roll of medical tape in the bathroom.”
Well, I found the red and blue headscarf, and a roll of brown sticking plaster in the bathroom. IT was thin, but I had a plan. Walking back in, I put the roll down and rolled the scarf into a band, then tied a knot in the middle.
“Oh – that looks nice,” Christyne said before opening her mouth, allowing me to push the knot between her teeth and tie the scarf round, trapping her hair underneath. I then took the tape, tore off two strips and made an X shape over her lips to keep the knot in place.
“I’m sorry I was so rude before,” I said as I brushed Christyne’s hair out of the way, and kissed her on the forehead. “I hope you find your man.”
She looked at me and said 2fnku” as I picked up my rucksack, and went to collect my gains.
My apprentice met her, with her niece and her niece’s daughter, last June. Funny how the world turns.
Mind you, it is also true at times that appearances can be deceptive, and what we think we can see is not necessarily the truth. Case in point came for me in about 1983. I was in the Wirral, and had broken into a house near the beach when I heard voices from what I had thought was an empty place. I looked through a crack in the door, and saw two women standing there.
One had tightly permed black hair, and was wearing a black – I believe the term is ‘boob tube’ – with a leather miniskirt that barely covered her derriere, fishnet stockings and black leather ankle boots. The other woman had straight black hair that was flowing down the light blue jacket she was wearing, with a matching pair of trousers and black sensible shoes.
I knew a mother and daughter lived there, so I presumed this was them. They seemed to be discussing money matters, and that was no real concern of mine, so I tried to sneak away and get out of the house. Tried, once again, been the operative word, as I stepped on a loose floorboard and a loud squeak broke the silence.
“I don’t know – I’ll go and have a look Mum.”
From the sound, I knew it was not the women in spiked heeled ankle boots, so I prepared myself to grab what I presumed was the mother as she came out of the door. I was right about one thing – it was the woman in the trouser suit that came out. When I grabbed her and hand gagged her, however, I realised this was not who I thought would be the older woman. As she stared into my eyes as I held her head back, I realised this was the daughter, not the mother, and as I walked her into the room I saw her mother staring back, her lined eyes wide as she saw us.
“Oh my god,” she said as I let her daughter go, “Who are you?”
“Me? Just a man who likes jewellery,” I said as I looked at them. “Now, I do not want any trouble, so please do not scream – I won’t hurt you.”
I could see the older woman start to shake, as her daughter held her. “You promise you won’t hurt us?” she eventually said as she looked at me.
“Why should I wish to hurt you? I may need to ensure you cannot raise the alarm, but that is all.” I smiled to try and reassure both of them, as the mother stuck her fist into her mouth.
“Plssdnthrmm,” she mumbled as I took her hand and laid her arms by her side. “Don’t be afraid,” I said quietly, “I won’t hurt you. Why don’t you both sit down and let me fix you both a drink?”
As her daughter helped her to sit in an armchair, I went to what turned to be the drinks cabinet and poured two large whiskeys. Handing them to the pair, I saw a ball of packing twine on the floor and picked it up.
“Wh… What are you going to do with that?" the mother said as her hands shook, the whiskey slopping from side to side.
“Oh, you’ll see,” I said quietly, “but first, take off your watches and jewellery, and hand them to me. I’m sure your insurance will cover it.”
They handed me their watches and necklaces, and I smiled as I said “Why don’t you sit on the floor, back to back?” They looked at each other, and then moved down as I smiled again.
Fifteen minutes later, I pulled the rolled up scarf into the daughter’s mouth and took the ends round her head, with her lowering it to allow me tie them together. Her wrists were tied together pam to palm, in front of her with the twine, which had then been wrapped around her legs above her knees, then down to her ankles. From there, I had taken it round their bodies, pulling them, together before going in reverse with her mother, tying her ankle, then her legs then her wrists to her legs. From the older woman’s wrists, I took the twine up and round their arms, then back down to her daughter’s wrists.
Well, I hate to cut and run, but I have a date for tonight. Do you see the woman out there – mature, slightly greying hair, in the evening dress with the slits up to her chest? That’s my date.
Oh come on, I’m still a cat in some ways…