I don’t know, my friend, I really don’t know why there seems to be this fascination for animal prints in fashion. Nowadays it seems to fall into two camps - the younger women who think it looks good on them, and the older ones - MILFs I heard one young man call them - who think it still looks good on them.
Oh don’t get me wrong - as with any design, if it suits the body of the person wearing it, then a print such as leopard or tiger skin on cloth can enhance their natural beauty. Of course, I have seen my fair share of them in my professional lives.
There was one particular dark skinned beauty - this would have been when I was starting to break out on my own, having served my apprenticeship, and I was in Westminster, searching through the drawers of a flat owner who had made the cardinal mistake of leaving their bathroom window open near a drainpipe.
I knew it was a woman - the jewellery that was jingling in the pillow case I had purloined for that purpose testified to that - but I was hopeful that she would not return before I had finished my searching.
Well, as always, you know what they said about hope - I turned round and there the owner was, standing in the doorway with a fur coat over her arm, staring at me. She had long black hair, and skin the colour of coffee, and I saw the sleeveless leopard skin dress she was wearing, light tan under the spots as it fitted the curves of her body.
“Who are you,” she said as she threw her coat on a chair, “and why is my jewellery in my pillow case?” She stood there, her height enhanced by the high heeled black sandals she was wearing, so I decided to call her bluff.
“I’m from your insurance company,” I said as I looked at her, “sent to test your home security - and I’m afraid you’ve failed.”
“Nice try,” she said as she sat on a black leather cushion and looked at me while she crossed her legs, “but you’re not from the insurance company, are you?”
“Well,” I said as I ran my hand through my hair, “no - but your security system is inadequate.”
“So if I started screaming for help now...”
“If you did,” I said as I looked at her, “then how could the queen of the jungle cats ever be able to face her pride? Calling for help would show she was weak - and I suspect you are a woman who does not like to show weakness.”
She smiled at what I said, before saying “Quite right - but on the other hand, I would not let you take my things without a fight.”
“Agreed - but they can always be replaced, while beauty such as yours is irreplaceable.”
“Oh, a flatterer,” she said as she stood up. “Very well then - I suspect you have to prevent me from raising the alarm, correct?”
“Regretfully, yes - but there is no reason why you should not be uncomfortable. Where would you like to be?” Smiling, she lay down on her side and said “There is a roll of white medical tape in the bathroom - be gentle with me.”
Of course I was gentle with her - I taped her wrist together behind her back, her ankles together, and then over her mouth, before I left her to enjoy the rest of her night.
On the other end of the scale however - it was 1974, and I was visiting Blackpool at the time of the illuminations. Partly for rest and respite, but also because at that time some of the areas of that fair town were a lot less rundown then they are now!
So I managed in the twilight hours to get access to a large house near the Bloomfield Road. There was a game on that night, and the crowds of football fans provided a little extra cover for me. I had on my hat and my torch in my hand, as I searched through the downstairs rooms, and went up to search the bedrooms.
It was when I came back down the stairs that I saw a light on in the front room. I tried to sneak past to the back door, but the light exploded out as a woman said “Who the hell are you?”
She must have been about sixty, with platinum blonde dyed hair with her grey roots showing, and was wearing a brown mumu kaftan thing - made of leather, would you believe. She had a large chain necklace on her neck, gold bangles on her wrists, and long gold earrings, and her lips were rouged to the point of distraction.
“Me?” I said as I looked at her, “I’m your cat burglar, here to rob you and tie you up.”
She looked at me in a strange way, and I had a sinking feeling in my gut. Was she going to scream? Was I in real trouble? Instead, she turned round and sat in an old wooden armchair, resting her arms on the rests and crossing her legs so that I could see the golden sandals on her feet.
“Well then,” she said - well, purred might be closer to the truth, “You’d better do what you came here to do, you bad boy.”
Nowadays I believe they call them cougars, and their appetite has changed, but I honoured her request, using some cords to bind her wrists down to the arms of the chair, and to tie her ankles to the front legs, before using a dressing gown belt I fetched from her bedroom to gag her with. I know - it was mainly for show, but in this case I felt this is what she wanted.
Or if not, it was what she was getting...
Now, when I think of animal prints or animal skins clothing, I actually don’t think it needs to be fur, or leather, or even a representation of the skin of the animal to look good. Sometimes an actual honest to goodness animal print looks just as good.
A couple of years after that Blackpool visit, I was attending an antiques fair on the South Bank when I saw the most radiant beauty. She stood about six foot tall, and had long chestnut brown hair, falling over her shoulders and the most exquisite dress. It was made of silk, with a zip fastening yup the front up to under her chin, and had a brown print of it of a cartoon jaguar on a tree motif. It came down to just above her ankles, and I could see the brown leather stack heeled shoes she was wearing. To complete the outfit, she had a wide belt around her waist, the buckle having a metal detail of a charging elephant.
I would love to have spoken to her more, but as I glanced at my watch I realised I was late for an appointment, so I slipped out without speaking to her.
That appointment was in Wimbledon, at the home of a very wealthy young lady, one I had been informed had recently purchased some very fine items of jewellery. It took me an hour or so to get there, collect my kit from my car, sneak into the rear garden of the house and then jemmy my way into the kitchen.
My search of the upper floor was most productive - I found the jewellery, hidden in a plain shoe box at the bottom of her wardrobe. One of the more sophisticated hiding places - in plain sight, as it were.
Satisfied I had found everything, I walked quietly downstairs, and into the front room - to find the woman from earlier sitting in a wicker basket chair, sipping a drink and reading by the light of a standard lamp.
“Good evening,” I said as she looked up at me, in my black jumper, trousers and gloves, “Please, do not shout or scream - I mean you no harm.”
She looked at me in an appreciative way, before putting her glass down and saying “I believe you - but I presume you did not come to deliver a box of chocolates to me. May I offer you a drink?”
I never refuse an offer from a lady, so I said “A scotch and soda - heavy on the soda I am afraid. I need to drive later.”
“Of course,” she said as she stood up. I noticed she had opened the top of her dress at the neck as she walked over to a drinks cabinet and fixed my drink, before handing it to me. “Gloved hands - no fingerprints that way then,” she said with a smile as she sat down. “So, I presume you came to steal my jewellery?”
I nodded and sipped my drink, before saying “Does that bother you?”
“I’m insured - and besides, if you meant me any real harm we would not be sitting talking like civilised people, would we? May I know your name - I’m Joanna.”
“Of course you are - and forgive me if I do not tell you my name. You may call me The Cat, if that is easier.”
She raised her glass to me, and I returned the gesture, before she said “So you are The Cat - you’ve visited some of my friends in the past. I should be flattered.”
“You only visit the homes of those who you value - you’re not the common or garden cat burglar. Besides - you have a nice face.”
“Thank you,” I said as I sipped my drink. “You do realise, of course, I cannot allow you to raise the alarm.”
“I expected as much - this is not the first time this has happened to me. But iris the first time the intruder has been so polite and sociable.” She took a longer look at me, and said “I saw you earlier tonight - at the antiques fair. Are you a collector?”
“Merely gaining knowledge - in my lien of work, I find it useful.” We both drained our glasses before I said “Well, we should get started. Do you have any rope in the house?”
“I have some nylon washing line - will that do?”
“Excellent - show me where it is, and then we can head to your bedroom.”
She led me to the kitchen, and gave me the skein of rope, then we went to her room. I invited her to sit on the bed, and then made a lasso with the rope, and passed it over her head and shoulder, pulling her arms tightly into her side below her chest. As she lay down, and I crossed her wrists before tying them together, I said “I do like your dress - do you support animal charities.”
“A lot, yes - I think we need to stop the needless killing and slaughter before it is too late.”
“Then,” I said as I pulled the rope between her arms, then took it down and tied her legs together over the skirt, “I will be sure to make a sizable donation in your honour from the proceeds of the sale of your jewellery.”
“A Cat with a conscience - I like it,” she said again as I tied her ankles together, then took from her drawer a long black scarf, which I rolled into a band.
“Forgive me,” I said as I held it taut in my hands, “but...”
“Of course,” she said as I gagged her, wrapping the scarf twice round her head and then tying the ends off at the side of her head. I left her there, and made my way out - but I did make that donation. Ten percent of the profits - just over a thousand pounds...
As you know, I’ve always said that like mother, like daughter seems to be a real rule in family life and in other areas. Back in the mid-80’s, I was driving through Shropshire when I passed through a little town, and saw that an autumn fair was in progress.
Now, I had not intended to stop, but it seemed as if the whole town was there, so I parked in the public car park, and took my bag from the boot. I was wearing a blue linen shirt and light coloured slacks, with a checked jacket, so I looked like one of the townsfolk as I saw an older woman walk out of a thatched cottage and make her way to the fair.
She had greying brown hair under a hat which had a leopard print on it, a fur jacket which I hoped was fake, a knee length light brown suede skirt and knee length brown fabric boots. I watched her as she walked away, and then went to her front door, using my skeleton keys to let myself in so that I could see what I could find.
It was a quaint cottage - all oaken furniture and cloths draped over them - but the front room did reveal a safe, and as I opened it I saw a number of cases inside. I was about to look at them when - well, I have an instinct sometimes, and I turned and stopped the arm that was swinging down an umbrella towards my head.
The person swinging the umbrella was a young woman, not much over twenty, and wore a lilac and white print short sleeved blouse with a round scoop neck, a black leather knee length skirt and purple heels.”What on earth do you think you’re doing,” I said as I stood up and removed the umbrella from her hand, looking at her the whole time.
“I could ask you the same question,” she said as I turned her round and held her wrists behind her back, while I took a roll of silver duct tape from my pocket and taped her wrists tightly together. “My apologies,” I said as I tore the tape free and walked her over to one of the armchairs, sitting her down and then taping her wrist to the wooden armrest, “But I really cannot have you interrupting me.”
“LET ME GO!” she shouted out, which could have raised the alarm - had I not pulled a clean hankie from my pocket, pushed it into her mouth and then clamped my gloved hand over her mouth, as I quietly said “Now, keep quiet, or I’m going to have to tape that in - understand?”
She looked at me with her eyes wide in fear - not something I particularly like, but I had to finish my work, so I said “now, don’t spit that out,” as I taped her ankles together, side by side, then to the front leg of the chair, before I taped her legs together. She stared at me, her lisp closed over the cloth as I stood up, and said “Now, be a good girl and stay there, or...”
I turned to see the older woman standing in the doorway. Her fur coat was open, and I could see the brown fleck jumper she was wearing over her skirt, as well as the purple and green scarf she was wearing around her neck.
“I said,” she repeated as she came in, placing her coat and bag on the chair, “or what will you do?”
“Well,” I said as I look at her, “or else I may have to take steps to make sure she cannot get in the way. My apologies - is she related to you?”
“My granddaughter,” she said as she looked at the young lady, “one who has seen too many programs where it shows robbery as a violent affair. I blame The Sweeney, personally. However, you are of an entirely different cut - you are known as The Cat, are you not?”
“My reputation precedes me,” I said as the younger girl looked between both of us, “So how shall we proceed?”
“These boots are killing me,” she said as she sat down and unzipped them pulling them off her feet, “Well, I suggest you secure me with the tape as well, so that we were both helpless to stop you. I must make one request however.”
“And that is?”
“Not the contents of the safe - they are medals and other family heirlooms. My jewellery is in a white box at the back of my wardrobe - second door from the left at the top of the stairs.”
“GRNDMM - NNN,” the girl mumbled from the chair as her grandmother looked at her.
“Oh stop complaining, girl,” she said as she turned her back to me and crossed her wrists behind her back, “Consider it a life experience. You may proceed, young man.”
So I did - I taped her wrists behind her back, helped her to lie down and taped her ankles and legs, then took the scarf off her neck and used it to stuff her mouth, before I taped over both their mouths. I left them to have a pleasant, if muted conversation, while I found the jewellery case she mentioned, and then bade them both a good day as I left, the sound of the fair filling the air as I returned to my car.
I will say this, however - the recent return to suede as a clothing item does please me. IT may sound strange, but I found the sound of rope sliding over the soft fabric much more pleasurable than that of rope on leather.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to call on a client in my capacity as a security consultant. She lived in Hertfordshire, at an old farmhouse, and when I arrived she came out to greet me. She was in her forties, with wavy light brown hair, and wore a blue blouse which was tied at her midriff as well as a pair of tan suede trousers.
“Thanks for coming out, Mister Jacobs,” she said as she took my hand, “I hear you are just the person to advise me.”
“Always pleased to help where I can,” I said as she walked me round the buildings, and I made some notes on how best to beef up her security. After about an hour had passed, we went into the house and I explained my thoughts, showing her my notes before saying “If you are in agreement, then I can arrange for some quotes, and be back in touch with you within the week.”
“That’s fantastic,” she said as she stood up and shook my hand. “I’ll look forward to your call.” We parted on good company, and I drove off - but about forty minutes later, I realised I had left something behind, so I turned the car round and returned to the farmhouse.
When I parked and got out, I saw the front door was open, so I opened it and said “Hello? It’s John Jacobs - I’m afraid I left something here earlier, and I had to...”
I ran into the front room to find my client struggling on the floor, her ankles tied to her wrists in a hogtie. There were ropes around her arms and legs, and a large knotted silk scarf with a green border on black was pulled between her teeth.
“OH dear,” I said as I knelt next to her, ignoring the soft rasping of the nylon rope on her suede trousers, “It appears my advice may have come a little too late.”
She coughed as I eased the gag from her mouth, and said “They... They jumped me just after you left. They must have come in the back door while we were talking. Please - call the police.”
I did so, and we eventually found she was lucky - they were opportunistic thieves, and only took her purse and cards after they tied her up. They didn’t even search the bedrooms - but she ordered the full security system after that.
I tell you - kids today. No style, no finesse - but they will learn.
Perhaps - more tea?