The Cat and the Hat
Well good morning – I see the weather has taken a turn for the worse, given the way you’ve buttoned your coat up against the wind. Sit yourself down by the heater, and I’ll get some tea sorted.
And yes, I had noticed – it seems the great coats have come out for the majority of women I’ve seen around. There is something classic about that look, especially in this weather – and it just goes to prove, as a lady I met at a party recently said, that all fashion goes in cycles.
What it does do, of course, is bring back memories of my not so misspent youth – one of which involves a model of the time called Grace Hart. She was what you would call a classic English Rose – blue eyes, long light brown hair, and moved with the poise and eloquence only the finest finishing schools would provide.
Now, this would have been about 1979, and at this time she lived in a nice little second floor flat in Kensington. I thought it was especially nice she had a New York style fire escape at the back – because it meant I could use it to get into her bedroom, and start to search through her personal items for – well, her personal items of value.
I was wearing what you might call the classic cat burglar outfit – black sweater, trousers, soft sole shoes and gloves. I never wore a mask, of course hoping that charm would somehow cloud the memory if I had to talk to someone. Which, to be fair, usually was the case.
I had just located her jewellery box, and was considering the best way to open it, when I heard a small gasp behind me and turned round. There was Grace, wearing a long black coat over a white roll neck sweater and a short grey skirt. She had black leather gloves on her hands, and a pair of knee length black patent leather boots with a four inch heel. Her outfit was completed by a large black felt hat.
“Well,” she said as she slipped her coat off, and laid it over the stool at her dressing table, her hat going on top of it, “it would appear I have an unexpected guest. Would I be right in thinking you were about to force open that box?”
“Well, I had considered it,” I said with a smile, “but now you are here, it may be better for all concerned if you opened it.”
“So that you can steal whatever is inside?”
“So that I can steal whatever is inside – on which note, may I ask you not to raise the alarm? I would hate it if I was forced to make sure you could not before I had to leave.”
“I get the feeling that you are going to make sure of that before you leave anyway,” she said as she walked over, her black gloves still on her hands and over the cuffs of her jumper. “If that is the case, then you must make sure now.”
“Well, if you insist. I regret to say I have no rope with me, so I must ask if you have any, or is there another preference?”
“Oh, a man who asks those he robs what they prefer to be secured with?” Walking to a set of drawers, she produced several pairs of stockings and placed them on the bed, before looking at me and saying “So, why don’t you begin?”
Well, how could a gentleman refuse such an offer? I picked up one stocking, and started by crossing and securing her wrists together behind her back. The thing about stockings is they stretch, and can be too tight if you are not careful, but the fact she had gloves on helped protect her skin, and once tied, they are next to impossible to untie.
Once her wrists were secured, I used another one to secure her ankles, the leather and silk rubbing against each other. From there, I tied two together and used them to secure her arms to her side below her chest, and again above, using another two to cinch them under her arms and next to her body.
“Snug,” Grace said as she tried to move around, and then looked at me. “What about my legs?”
“Not stockings,” I said as I walked to her wardrobe, and took out a long red silk scarf. “This will be less damaging.”
“You really do care, don’t you,” she said as I secured her legs together, and then rolled a large blue head square into a band and tied a knot in the middle. “Before I keep you quiet,” I said with a smile, “the box?”
“Press on the front on both sides.”
I did this, the lid lifting up, before I made sure she was quiet and comfortable, and then helped myself. Before going, I gave her a little kiss on her forehead, and then departed, leaving her to either free herself or raise the alarm...
As I have said before, there have been occasions when more than one person has found me at work in a visit. Talking of the seventies, and hats, reminds me of one visit in Brighton just before Christmas, a few months after I visited Grace.
I had come, I will freely admit, with the express purpose of breaking into a number of the then exclusive apartments that surround the Grand Pavilion – and the one I was in when this happened obviously was shared by two women. I know this because I managed to find quite a few choice items in both of the bedrooms, and was just finishing my search of the main room when the door opened and said two women came in.
Both were wearing coats, hats and white gloves, and were carrying things which were obviously, from their wrapping, Christmas presents. On the left was a woman wearing a tan coloured hat with the brim up on one side, and a matching short raincoat with fur trim on the collar and bottom. Under that was a lilac jersey, which I presumed was a mini skirt or had one under it, given between the fur trim and the top of her white boots were bare leg.
The other girl had on a cream hat and raincoat, over what was definitely a peach coloured mini dress, as well as a pair of black leather boots. Both women had long brown hair, and both were staring at me as I said “Hello – as you can see, I am robbing you, so kindly put your parcels down, and remove your coats and hats. I would ask you to keep your gloves on, however.”
I was relieved when they looked at each other, and then did as I asked. I then directed them to take a seat on the floor of the room, back to back, explaining I would need to ensure I had time to get away, but that they would come to no harm. I noticed as they did so the first girl was actually wearing a matching lilac leather mini skirt with her jumper – very different for that time.
One of them asked me what I was going to do, so I replied by handing them each a length of cord – I told you I had come prepared – and making them bind their own ankles together, instructing them on how to do it correctly and to cinch the binding. A second length was then used by them to secure their legs together, below their knees, before I made them link arms, and put their hands together in front of their bodies in prayer.
Which is how I secured their wrists together, making sure it was neat and tight before I tied them down to their leg ropes. I then made sure they were quiet using a wide roll of sticking plaster I had with me, a strip over their mouths keeping them sufficiently silent to allow my escape.
I have, on several occasions, had the privilege to travel abroad for various reasons, most recently to America, but I have also been to Germany and other countries. One of the earliest trips I made was to a region in Bavaria, where of course they have a very particular style of dress.
And it was in this area that I decided, when I had a few spare moments, to try my hand at a little visit to a house. It was a detached villa, and by the look of the Mercedes I had seen outside when I had passed a few times, the occupants may have a few things I could make use of in another capacity.
This was one of the few occasions I did wear a balaclava, purely to make sure I would be able to get out of the country, so when I walked up to the house I pulled down the rim of the woollen cap to cover my face, leaving only my eyes and mouth visible as I picked the lock to the rear door and let myself in.
The house itself was very fashionable – for the seventies – and neat, so I had no problem finding the master bedroom, the safe, and the contents of said safe making their way into a bag I had brought for this purpose. So far so good – and then I walk down the stairs, and find the lady of the house sitting at the breakfast bar, reading a newspaper.
There is a style of dress sometimes associated with this part of Germany – formal, clean lined, neat – and this woman certainly had that sense of style about her. She was wearing a grey wool jacket and skirt, the jacket double breasted with two vertical rows of silver buttons, and a pair of straight black leather boots. Under her jacket was a white roll neck sweater, with a brown scarf folded into a thin band and tied round the neck, the ends to one side. Finally, her blonde hair was settled under a black Alpine hat, and she was turning the pages of the paper with her hands in a pair of black gloves.
Well, it was impossible to get out without passing her, but as I said I was masked, and I have a few words of German tucked way up in the head, so I decided to take a more direct approach than usual and walked behind her, placing my hand over her mouth and telling her to be quiet.
Well, I did hear muffled protests, but she eventually calmed down as I moved her hands behind her back, and tied her wrists together with one of several lengths of cord I had brought for just such a purpose. She said nothing, maintaining a pose of slightly superior manner as I pulled the ropes tighter, and then untied the scarf from round her neck, shaking it out and folding it into a square pad before I held it in front of her mouth.
Well, that provoked a response, as she shook her head and clamped her mouth shut. I always deplore violence, but on this occasion I resorted to holding her nose closed between two fingers, until she opened her mouth to breathe and I put the folded scarf in there.
I had already seen a white napkin by her on the breakfast bar, so I warned her not to spit her scarf out while I rolled that up, and used it as a cleave gag, her red lips closing over the white cotton as it kept her own scarf in her mouth.
I then took her arm and walked her over to a leather and chrome recliner, helping her to sit down as she watched me cross and bind her ankles, the cord and leather squeaking as it tightened round her legs, and then secured her legs below her knees.
And with that, I formally bowed while she struggled, and made my escape, taking her jewels with me, and catching a later flight out of the country with them rolled up in my dirty laundry. It was so much easier in those days...
All this talk of hats and outfits has also reminded me of a later episode – this would have been in the mid to late eighties, and I was in Nottingham on business, looking into options on a lace purchase.
As I had a spare day, I took myself to the suburb of Mapperley – lovely little place, more like a country town than the suburb of a fairly large city. It was late autumn, and the few people that were walking round were wrapped up well against the cold.
I wasn’t there to people watch, however – not on that occasion. I walked a little way from the main shopping street and found a detached house – one that had forgotten to close a kitchen window at the rear, which is how I got in, wearing my tweed jacket, black jumper, grey trousers, shoes and gloves.
Well, it was certainly more Habitat than Shabitat in the furnishings, but I made my way through the house, checking the rooms and finding not just some jewels, but at fine collection of coins that I knew a certain buyer would be very interested in.
It was while I was storing them away that I heard a deep female voice say “and what do you think you are doing?”
Turning round, I saw a tall blonde haired woman, wearing a tan greatcoat and hat, as well as a pair of white woollen gloves. She had a patterned scarf tied round her neck, the ends tucked into the front of the coat, and I could see the collar of a black jumper underneath. The coat was belted round her waist, and she had a checked Burberry style skirt on, as well as knee length baggy black leather boots with a two inch block heel.
“Robbing you,” I said with a smile, “I hope this is not too off putting for you.”
“Robbing me?” She unbelted her coat and took it off, as she looked at me before laughing. “What did I do, leave the kitchen window open?”
“Actually – yes.”
“Good – I’ve always wondered what it would be like if someone robbed me. I’m not going to stop you,” she said quietly, £provided you make sure I really cannot raise the alarm.”
Well, not the first time that had happened to me, so I said “To do so, I need to use rope. Do you have any in the house?”
“Wait there,” she said as she removed her gloves, and then walked into the hallway, returning with several lengths of tent rope and a pair of scissors.
“Very well, make yourself comfortable,” I said as she sat in a large armchair, and then turned, putting her arms behind her back and crossing her wrists.
I soon had them snugly secured, and then used a long length of rope to bind her arms to her sides, taking the rope above and below her chest as her black jumper was stretched over this.
“If I may ask,” I said as I pulled the bands together behind her back, and then took the rope under one arm, “why?”
“Why do I want this? A mild sense of curiosity,” she said as I pulled the ripe up, passed it around the back of her neck, and then under the other arm, “and also because my husband has never believed such a thing would happen. It is he who insists on leaving the window open – so forgive me if this sounds cavalier, but serves him right.”
Sometimes, the woman angered is a force you do not wish to cross, but as I tied the ropes off and she wriggled round, she smiled and said “I am not angry at you – you have a job to do, and you seem to be very good at it.”
“I take that as a compliment,” I said as I knelt in front of her, and crossed her ankles, the white rope rubbing on the leather as I took it around and between her ankles, the leather compressed on her legs as they were secured.
“If you will forgive me for a moment,” I said as I folded her skirt back, and tied her legs together below her knees, before I folded her skirt back down again. She tried to move, before saying “I could always hop round you know.”
“Not once I have done this,” I said as very carefully I lifted her legs up, the young lady moving as I put them on the seat, and then tied her ankles to her chest ropes with a final length of rope.
“Very nice – now I must be silenced, correct?”
“Correct,” I said as I untied her scarf, and held it in front of her mouth. She nodded and opened wide, waiting as I pushed the scarf in enough to fill her mouth, but not tickle the back of her throat, and then closed her lips over it. I left for a moment, returning with a roll of duct tape, and tore several strips off, smoothing them over her lips so that she was very effectively silenced.
“I hope your husband is more careful in future,” I said as I collected my bag, the woman nodding as I left her for what I hoped would be a relaxing afternoon.
There was a recent sequel to that visit, by the way. I was back in Mapperley a few weeks ago, following up a request to give a security consultation to someone, and you can imagine my surprise when I realised I was going to the same house.
For a few minutes, I wondered if I was going to meet the same woman, but as it turned out it was her daughter. She was in her late twenties, with long brown hair, and when she answered the door she was wearing a blue wrap dress, with long sleeves, and a pair of over the knee black suede boots.
We sat in the same front room, with her in the same armchair, as she explained her mother had moved abroad, and she had bought the house. Her mother had drummed the need for home security into her, and she wanted advice on what she could do.
Well, in itself that was easy enough, as I pointed out where I would place alarm sensors and cameras. As we were drinking coffee, however, I noticed she was looking at me closely, and I asked why.
“Well,” she said, “because if you were younger, you would exactly like the man who tied and gagged Mother before Father finally got the security upgraded all those years ago.”
Raising an eyebrow, I said “If I was, then I would hope it was a lesson he learnt well.”
“Well, I came nine months later, so I suppose it was,” she said with a smile, “but if you were, then you might be able to do an additional favour for me.”
“And that would be?”
“To tie me up and gag me like her – she used to talk to me about it, but I always wondered what it was like.”
“Well,” I said quietly, “I may be able to recreate it, if you gave permission, and had the material to hand as well as telling me how he did it.”
Which is why, thirty minutes later, she was looking at me over the silver band that covered her mouth, and she wriggled round in the ropes that held her arms fast to her body, her legs next to each other, and her ankles to the ropes around her chest. There was a folded scarf behind the silver tape gag, and she nodded before saying “Ntbbddtlll.”
“How long do you wish to be left this way?”
“Frrtymnnss,” she said as I sat down, sipping the coffee I had made for myself. It’s not often I stick around to untie someone I have bound, but that was the deal...
Ah – a damp shopper. If you will excuse me?