The Bedsit Cat
Well hello there, and welcome to the brave new world. Take a seat, I’ll get some tea, and we can try and put the worries post-referendum behind us. Perhaps we can think of when life seemed a lot simpler.
Strangely, that’s been in my mind a lot recently as the local student population moves on. These days it’s all about flat shares and house shares, but when I was starting out in my business the equivalent would have been the bedsit – a house or flat share, but you only had the one room, no shared facilities beyond the toilet.
And, if you were really lucky, it was an inside toilet.
I actually remember the first time I had to break into a bedsit. It wasn’t my intention to do so – I’d actually intended to break into a house on the other side of the house at the back, but a large Doberman meant a change of plans on my part, and so I forced open the window of the house and climbed in.
One look told me all I needed to know – especially the shocked look on the face of the Afro-Caribbean girl who was looking at me. She was in her mid-twenties, with short black hair, and was wearing a black and white striped dress with elbow length sleeves. The dress came down past her knees, but I could see the light blue tights she was wearing with the black cowboy boots, and she had a large blue and black striped scarf tied like a lanyard round her neck.
Her eyes were wide behind her large glasses, and she would have screamed the place down if I hadn’t pushed her onto the single bed and kept my hand over her mouth. I really did not like the idea of doing this to anyone, but the last thing I needed was her raising the alarm.
I spoke quietly and calmly, and when she had calmed down I apologised for the fact I had broken in, and also for what I needed to do then. She had a ball of string on her table, so I asked her to put her hands together, palm to palm, and tied her wrist before securing them to her ankles. I then took the scarf off from around her neck and used it as a cleave gag, before letting myself out of her room and out of the house.
Bedsits in those days were really the province of the student or the secretary – somewhere cheap for them to live. Yeah, they were often no better than damp little hovels, but they were a place to find the most surprising of things.
Let me give you one example – the daughter of Lord Birlstone was an eighteen year old in 1976, living in a bedsit in Manchester. I had been asked if I would visit her, to provide a distraction for a plan from another party, and given I was still fairly young and inexperienced I agreed to do so as a favour.
Amelia had white blonde hair cut in a bob, and on the day I was watching her walk to her bedsit was wearing a long coat over a black sheer blouse with ruffed cuffs, a white mini skirt and knee length black boots. I followed her home, and as she walked in another of the tenants appeared as well. She had shoulder length brown hair, and was wearing a leopard style fur coat with her own knee length boots.
So I waited until she went in, and walked around to the back of the building. It was a three storey building, and I knew young Birlstone lived on the second floor, so I climbed up the drainpipe and looked in. The room was empty at that point, so I used a knife to open the latch and let myself in.
This particular bedsit was a luxurious one – two rooms, because I could see the door to the corridor with the Yale lock, and a second door. So I closed the window behind myself, and started to search through the drawers.
I should have known that would be the cue for that interior door to open and someone to come out – what I wasn’t expecting was young Birlstone and the other woman, both wearing rather fetching white see through nighties, and very surprised to see me. So I did what any gentleman would – smiled, apologised and said I’d have to make sure they didn’t raise the alarm.
I did promise I would keep their secret in return, as I used some handy tape to secure their wrist and ankles, and then cover their mouths. It was especially cute the way they gently kissed as I took her jewellery and left...
Now, over the next couple of years I expanded my focus to houses as well, but from time to time a visit to a bedsit was a good way to keep my skills sharp – because you really have to be in and out quickly if you could help it.
You’ve heard me talk of the Apartment Challenge as my American friends call it – hit all the flats in a block in one night. Well, that really started with the Bedsit challenge – and the tale that comes to mind now happened when I was doing one of them. This one was in Bermondsey – an old three level townhouse, each room inside its own little living space.
When I did this sort of thing, I started at the top and made my way down, so I’d already covered the top floor and all bar one room on the second floor.
When I let myself in, one look told me this was a woman’s room – and I don’t just mean the posters of Donny Osmond and the row of boots on the wardrobe floor. I also took into account the gem boxes left on the chest of drawers, as I started to empty them.
I was about to leave when I heard someone putting a key into the door, so I stood behind it, wondering what I was going to do next. All I could do was keep myself as calm as possible, as the young woman came in.
She was trying to get that Annie Hall look, with a brick red corduroy jacket and long skirt, with buttons up the front, a striped round necked sweater with a matching scarf, a pale blue cloche hat and baggy boots, the leather a dusky green.
As she closed the door, and then saw me, I saw the crucifix hanging round her neck, and also her copper red curly hair under the hat. She stared at me for a few minutes, and then asked in a quiet voice what I was going to do.
I could see she was genuinely worried about what I was going to do, so I spoke calmly, saying I was only after her jewels and would not hurt her. On the other hand, I did tell her that it would be necessary for me to make sure she could not raise the alarm for a while.
I could see her thinking things over, and then she nodded in agreement as she took her hat and jacket off. I had left the wardrobe door open, and I took from there some leather belts and scarves. She allowed me to take her arms behind her back and fold them so that her elbows rested in the cups of her hands, before I used two small scarves t tie her wrists to her elbows. I then used one of the stretch belts around her upper body to secure her arms to her sides, and asked her to sit down on the bed.
She watched as I used another belt to secure her ankles together, the leather squeaking as she secured them together, and then her legs above her knees, this time the corduroy squeaking as I did so. As the final touch, I used her wool scarf as a gag, watching as she opened her mouth and allowed me to use it as a cleave gag to keep her quiet.
I helped her to lie down, and then made my way out, leaving her door partially open as I left by the front door. The challenge was over, and I needed to make my egress...
As I was saying earlier, although the bedsit was really a one person creation, there were a few occasions when I had to make sure two people did not raise the alarm – and this tale has a later sequel which I want to tell you about as well. But first, we go back again to those times in the mid-seventies, and the south of London – Collier’s Wood, which at the time was a bedsit heaven.
This time I let myself into a ground floor room, through the back yard, but it was only as I closed the window to that I could see I was not alone. I was glad that on this occasion I had brought a satchel with some ropes and other items, because it was fairly clear I was going to need them.
The blonde was asleep on the bed – in her early twenties, with long honey blonde hair, and wearing a lime green long sleeved mini dress with a brown ruffed front, fishnet stockings and white leather knee length boots. I moved as silently as I could, opening the wardrobe and looking carefully through, and finding in there a locked metal box.
It was as I took this out and laid it on the table that I heard her say “what the...” So I turned and quickly and put my hand over her mouth, telling her to be quiet and I would not hurt her. She slowly nodded, and then lay still as I tore a strip of brown sticking plaster over her mouth and pressed it over her mouth.
Telling her to turn over, I took a length of cord from my satchel and quickly bound her wrists together behind her back, before I used a second length to tie her ankles together. As she rolled onto her side and watched me, I took some tools from my pocket and started to open the metal box.
I didn’t get far, however, before there was a knock on the door and a female voice asked if the young lady was in. Well, she was unable to answer, as she looked at me and I looked at her.
I hadn’t checked to see of the door was locked. Bad mistake – but I was young, and I had to think fast as the door opened and another woman came in. Not just any other woman however – it was the twin of the young lady who was looking up at her on the bed. She was wearing a red minidress, white tights and knee length white PVC boots. As she came in, she stopped and stared at her sister, not hearing me close the door or even realising I was in the room.
That is, until I put my hand over her mouth, reassured her that her sister was unharmed, but that I would need to make sure she was just as incapable of raising the alarm. I looked at her silenced twin, who nodded as the girl I was holding nodded as well.
So I crossed her wrists behind her back, and secured them together tightly but comfortably, and then made her sit on the bed as her sister shuffled back. I then made eh rile on her back, and tied her ankles together, before I taped over her mouth and left them watching as I opened the box.
I was glad I did as well – Krugerrands meant so much in those days as well. As I kept looking round, I could hear the twins trying to talk to each other, but not getting very far, before I smiled and made my way out.
Now, the reason that was interesting is because of what happened about five years ago. I was at an antiques fair in the south of London, and was surprised to hear a voice I did not recognise say hello to me.
I turned round to see a woman in her mid sixties looking at me, her blue eyes sparkling. She had copper red hair tinged with grey, and was wearing a white blouse with a tartan print skirt, and a pair of red leather stretch boots. As she smiled at me, I bade her a good morning, and asked if we had met before.
She said she had, and that I was responsible for possibly the most exciting she and her sister had ever spent. Well, she still had me at a disadvantage, but then her identically dressed twin sister came over, and I remembered.
She quickly reassured me she was not going to raise a fuss, but instead enquired if I was free later that afternoon. Well, I had no firm plans, so I asked if she wished to do a valuation or something.
Her reply was or something, as she gave me their home address and asked me to call at four. They now lived in a little cottage, and as I was welcomed in we sat and drank tea.
And then they asked if I would give them the same excitement as they had felt that afternoon all those years ago. I asked if they were sure, but they both nodded, so I asked if they had anything I could use.
Which is why, a few minutes later, I was tying her wrists together behind her back while her sister watched, her wrist already bound together. They were sitting side by side on a couch, and tried to move their arms as I knelt in front of them, and used two lengths of cord to bind their ankles.
They both raised their legs and tried to move their ankles, giggling at the squeak of leather, before I asked if that was sufficient for them. When they asked if I was staying a while, I agreed to for their own safety, at which point they asked me to do a full professional job.
Now, bearing mind they were in their sixties, they still seemed to relax as I used rope to bind their arms to their sides, taking the rope above and below their chests, and then folded their skirts back to secure their legs below their knees.
They complimented me on my work, and then smiled as I used some white medical tape to cover their mouths, the shape of their lips visible underneath. I sat back and watched as they turned and tried to talk to each other again, and then try to untie each other.
This went on for an hour or two, before they both nodded and one of them tried to talk to me. As I removed the tape, she thanked me, and asked if I would leave them with their wrists tied in front of them, but still tape gagged and with their legs tied.
Well, how could I refuse? I released their arms and then helped them to put their hands together I their laps, before re-securing them. They nodded and tried to thank me as I left them alone to enjoy their veining.
So sometimes our past will teach us nice lessons – more tea?