The Cat and the Cream
Hello again – I’m sorry I haven’t been around for a while, but I have spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of months in the US, both for business and for pleasure, and my assistants have been on charge here.
The thing about long flights is they give you time to think and reflect, and in my case it brought to mind some of the most satisfying visits I made in my previous career – and not necessarily in terms of material gain either.
For example, in the early 70’s I got into a house up in Pinner, with the intention of helping myself to some fine pieces. I got in through the back door, and was pleased to see there was nobody downstairs, but as I walked up I could hear someone talking in one of the bedrooms.
Looking through a crack in the door, I could see a woman in her early fifties sitting on a bed, wearing a purple sleeveless top and white Capri pants, with a pair of white sandals on her feet. Sitting either side of her were two young children, wearing yellow one piece sleep suits and smiling as she read them a bedtime story.
I watched and listened for a few minutes, as she read the Dr Seuss tale, and then walked quietly past and into the master bedroom – where I spent a very productive and pleasant few minutes finding her jewellery boxes and placing the contents in my pockets.
I stepped out of the room again, and then made my way along and down the stairs. The woman had stopped talking, and I resumed she was in the bedroom still, waiting until the children had fallen asleep.
Well, I was half right – the children had fallen asleep. The wrong part was assuming she was in the bedroom – she was, in fact, sitting on a metal and leather seat in the living room, which the staircase went down into, watching television.
So naturally, she turned and saw me as I got to the bottom of the stairs, and looked at me. “Good evening,” I remember saying quietly, “I’m very sorry to say that I just robbed you, and now I need to make sure I can get away.”
“Oh,” she said as she looked at me, “and you did this while I was putting my grandchildren to bed?”
“You don’t look old enough to have grandchildren,” I said with a smile.
“Flatterer,” she replied, also smiling, before she said “and how do you propose to stop me raising the alarm?”
“With this,” I said as I took a roll of white tape from my pocket, “please, place your arms on the chair arms.”
As I said, it was a metal chair with leather seat and back, so as she put her arms on the metal armrests I taped them into place at the wrists and elbows, and then knelt down before taping her ankles tightly together, as well as her legs below and above her knees.
“Now,” I said as I looked at her, “put your lips together for me.”
As she did that, I tore off a strip of tape and pressed it down gently over her mouth, with two more strips on top, one slightly below and one slightly above. Smiling, I wished her a good night, and left her watching the Play for Today.
In fact, I can tell you the exact date – November 1977. How do I know? The television play was Abigail’s Party...
A couple of years before that, I was walking in Hendon when I saw a young woman almost hit by a car as it sped along the main road. As it was, she was forced to fall onto the pavement, and as I ran over to help her I realised she had twisted her ankle.
“Ow,” was exactly what she said when she tried to stand on it, so I asked her where she lived. She indicated a nearby flat, so being a gentleman I escorted her to her home. She was wearing a black leather jacket over a blue jumper, a black and white tartan short skirt, white tights and black and white Daneskin shoes.
Anyway, I helped her up the stairs, and into her flat, helping her to sit on a couch and putting her leg up while I went to see if she had some ice in her refrigerator. When I came back, she had removed her shoes and tights, and sighed as I put the tea towel wrapped around the ice cubes on her ankle.
“I don’t think it’s a sprain even, just a bad bruise,” I said as I looked at it, and then put the cloth back.
“Yeah – feels that way,” she said as she looked at me. “Why don’t you fix us both some tea?”
As I went to the kitchen and put the kettle on, I noticed on a shelf in the front room a very nice bronze, which even at that time I knew was worth a fair amount. As I brought the cups through a few minutes later, I said “nice statuette” as I handed her a cup.
“That monstrosity? I hate it – but it’s a gift from my grandmother, and she expects to see it there.”
“Oh it’s not that bad,” I said as I looked at it, “Early Georgian, a little garish perhaps, but still.”
“You know something of art?”
“A little – why?”
“Do you want it?”
I looked at her, and sat down, sipping my tea before I said “Your grandmother would be upset with you if you sold it.”
“So steal it – I could say someone broke in, made sure I could not stop him taking my purse, and he took that as well.”
“Oh,” I said quietly, “and how would he do that?”
“He’d have to tie me up,” she said as she looked at me, “like on the telly. You know, wrists and ankles and something over my mouth.”
“Even with a sore ankle?”
She laughed at that, and moved it a little. “I think you’re right – it’s bruised, not sprained or broken. If you want to, you can be the robber – think of it as a reward for your chivalry.”
“Well, if you want to play that game – do you have any rope or something?”
“There’s a ball of string in that drawer over there – use that.”
I put my cup down, walked over to the drawer and found the string, and then put the young lady’s hands together in front of her as if she was praying, before I tied the string around and between her wrists. I then took it down and tied her ankles together, before bringing it back up, cutting the string with some scissors, and tying it off.
Going to the kitchen, I found a clean dish towel and said “Open your mouth please.”
“Fnkuuuelltt,” she said as I pulled the towel between her lips, and tied it off, before taking some money from her purse and the statue, and leaving her to try and get free.
That’s the statue over there, in fact – I never got rid of it.
I also got great satisfaction at times from the discussions I had with those unfortunate enough to be at home when I called. About a year before that first story, I was in Golders’ Green, having been told by a colleague about a jeweller who was storing a collection of gems in his home.
Now, this was one of those places where I knew I may have to break in while someone was around, but I chose during the day to minimise the chances of the man about the house been home. I also used this as one of those rare occasions I wore a balaclava mask, again just in case.
Getting in was simple – I climbed onto a low roof outside an upstairs window, opened it with a penknife, and got in. It turned out to be a young girl’s bedroom, judging by the books on the bookshelf, the stack of Jackie magazines on the floor – and the clothes hanging in the open wardrobe.
There was one other clue that gave it away – the eighteen year old, dark haired girl, wearing a blue sleeveless tank top over a roll neck yellow jumper, red and black striped skirt, and blue tights who walked into the door ten seconds after I had got in. Now, I deplore physical violence and threats as a rule, but the last thing I needed was a house in uproar, so I walked quickly over, put my hand over her mouth as I closed the door, and said “Not a word, all right?”
She nodded as I looked round, and said “Who else is in the house?”
“Rebecca? Where are you?”
I pulled Rebecca back with me as what looked like her twin came in, wearing a dress with light brown flecks on white, a white wing collar and thin belt, and a white jumper underneath with white socks on her legs, came in. She looked at me, and gasped as I said “Close the door, then I need you both to kneel in front of this bed for a few minutes.”
“Is he robbing the house,” she said as Rebecca knelt next to her.
“I think he is, Miriam,” the other girl replied as I took two lengths of cord from my pocket, and used them to secure the wrists of both girls behind their backs.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you,” I said as I helped them to stand up, “I just need to know who else is at home?”
“Mother is downstairs,” Miriam said, “we were about to start planning Isaac’s Bar Mitzvah.”
“Your younger brother?”
“Yes – he and father are with the Rabbi now.”
“Then let us go and invite your mother to start the conversation, while I find what I came here for,” I said as I walked behind both the girls, out of the room, down the stairs and into the front room. As they sat side by side, I took more lengths of cord and secured their ankles together, and then went into the kitchen.
Their mother was wearing a yellow and black tartan jacket over a yellow checked blouse and dark blue pants – and a look of surprise when she saw me, and I told her that her daughters were already tied hand and foot, and she was going to join them.
Which is what she did – I bound her wrists, took her through to join them, and bound her ankles, before I located and started to open the safe, while they did indeed discuss the requirements for the Bar Mitzvah. It was a fascinating discussion, and I learned a lot, even as I earned a lot.
Sorry – really bad pun. Anyway, before I left I pressed length of brown sticking plaster over their mouths, wished them well, and got out as quickly as I could.
Then there are the times when I help save someone from doing something incredibly stupid. I was already semi-retired by then, but still paid occasional visits, and this night I was walking as quietly as possible along a fire escape in Hampstead, before opening the window of one particular flat.
All seemed quiet, and as I looked round I soon found the jewels of the flat owner, and was about to leave when I heard a noise from the front room.
Going into the lit corridor, I walked slowly along, and saw a young dark haired woman lying on the ground. She had some rope holding her wrists together behind her back, and was wearing a shift dress with different colours of cloth in a diamond pattern, dark tights and grey knee length boots.
I could also see white rope around her ankles and her knees, but her breathing was a bit ragged – and as I walked over and turned her over, I could see why. Her eyes were wide open and fearful, but not because of me.
I got her on her knees and took what was in her mouth out, waiting as she took several deep breaths and then said “thank you – I accidentally...”
“Look, not my business,” I said, “but never, EVER try something like that without someone else around. Understood?”
She then looked at me again, and I recognised her – a young model who had appeared at the London Fashion Week a few days before.
“I don’t know – trying to feel a thrill,” she said quietly.
“Well, like I say, don’t do that again – and yes, I’m stealing your jewels. I’ll call the police when I have a chance to get away.”
She nodded and then said “can you stop me talking?”
“Not like that I won’t – got a scarf?”
So I used a pink wool scarf as a cleave gag, got out, and called the police half an hour later.
And then you get the just plain funny – for which we go back to the mid-seventies, and the Angel Twins.
They had appeared in a number of commercials in the UK – in the US, you had the Doublemint Twins, here we had the Angel Twins. Both in their early twenties, big hair, cute looking – you know, faces that could sell just about anything.
So this was a Friday night, and I had got into their home in Esher – nice, quiet, commuterville Esher. The house was in darkness, and I soon had managed to open their safe, collect their valuables, and was in the process of searching the upstairs rooms when I heard their front door open and close.
I was dressed well – grey zipped jacket and slacks, black jumper underneath, Chelsea boots, and a winning smile. So I walked onto the hallway, and could hear the two women downstairs – and I was never so glad of the fact I had closed the safe door and replaced the picture over it.
On the other hand, I needed to be able to get away – and that would mean securing them. I had a bag with me containing some ropes and things, so I picked it up and slowly walked downstairs, and then into the front room, saying “good evening ladies – please, don’t make a noise, but I’m robbing you?”
“Are you,” one of them said as she looked at me. She was wearing a long sleeved red blouse, the ends of which were tied under her chest, and – I kid you not – a pair of crocheted shorts, black on her left and white on her right. Fortunately, her modesty was preserved by the black dancer’s tights she had on underneath, with a pair of stack heeled red suede over the knee boots on top of them.
“Why yes, I am, so please do as I say and we’ll all get along just fine,” I replied as I looked at her twin sister. She was wearing an ethnic print blouse under a long sleeveless knitted jacket, pale blue in colour, and a matching pair of culottes. She had an ethnic belt around the waist of the pants, dark tights and black suede over the knee boots.
“A robbery? Well, this is different,” the other sister said as she stood up, “so are you going to tie us up mister robber?”
“Yes I am – would the two of you like to be together?”
“Any not – makes it easier to escape,” the one in the ridiculous shorts said.
“Not the way I’m going to do it – sit on the floor, back to back, and link arms with each other.”
Which is what they did – after which I tied their wrists together in front of their waists, and then for each of the twins I crossed and tied their ankles tightly together, then tied their legs together below their knees and on top of their boots, before taking a length of rope from their wrists to their knees.
“Okay – maybe we can’t free each other,” they both said as I used a longer length of rope to bind their upper arms to their sides, and then took two silk scarves from my bag, and used them as cleave gags.
“Have fun trying to,” I said quietly as I left them to struggle, and got away...
One last memory from that time – I was in this shop, under different ownership at the time, when a young woman walked in, wearing a long sleeved white dress, with a short skirt and black trim, a large black hat, black suede boots and a matching handbag.
“Good morning,” the owner said as I looked round, “how may I help you today?”
“I have something which I need an evaluation on,” the blonde haired woman said as she put a black box on the counter, and the man opened it, taking out a gold necklace with an emerald pendant attached to it. He looked at it, asked a few questions, and then wrote down a quote while asking for the young woman’s address.
She was local – a mile or so further out of town – so as she finished her business, I went ahead of her and started mine. After all, the early worm and all that...
Getting into her house was simplicity it self – she had left a small window open at the front, and the house was shielded from the road by trees and a wall, so I put my arm through, opened the other larger window and got in. It was a very nice house, and very well furnished, so I started to search for any other valuables.
I had a clear half hour start, and was about to leave by the front door when it opened and she appeared in front of me, looking at me as I stood there.
“Ah – unfortunate,” I said as I took her by the arm, pulled her gently into the house and closed the door, “now I have to stop you from raising the alarm while I make my getaway.”
Not, I have to confess, the response I was expecting, as I looked at her. “I beg your pardon?”
“I said Goody – I want to be held captive by a cat burglar, and you are most definitely a very handsome one. Didn’t I see you in Arkwright’s?”
“I won’t tell if you won’t,” I said, intrigued by this. “So how would you like to be stopped?”
“Look in that cupboard on your left – you can use the belts from the coats hanging up in there.”
Looking in, there was indeed a selection of Gabardines and other raincoats, so I took a few of the belts from them, escorted the young lady into the front room and allowed her to place her hat on a table, and then used one belt to tie her wrists together, another around her stomach and arms, a third around her ankles and a fourth around her thighs, below the hem of the skirt as she lay on the Ottoman.
“Very nice,” she said with a smile, “now keep me quiet.”
I went back to the coat cupboard, and took a large green scarf with white checks. Rolling that into a band, she smiled as I pulled it between her lips, and tied it round her head.
“One more thing,” I said as I picked up the black box, which she had placed next to her hat, and put it in with the rest of the things I had found, before kissing her on the forehead and getting out of the house.
Ah such memories of the best of times – and the times I was of help to others. On which note, let me help you to some more tea...