The Cat Comes Back
It’s strange sometimes how going back to places you have not visited for years make memories come back, even if the buildings or the landscape has changed completely. I can’t go back to the West End of Newcastle, for example, without remembering the large tower blocks that used to be there. They were demolished years ago, but I can still see them.
Why am I thinking about this? Well, a few weeks ago I was in Great Yarmouth, and as I walked to an appointment I passed a house that had a cafe in the downstairs part. It was a nice enough cafe, but I remembered when I visited it nearly forty years ago – at that time what is now a cafe was actually a flat, and the reason I remember it was the two charming ladies I was surprised to find in residence when I visited.
I had seen through the open window they had great taste in furnishing and paintings – so I presumed they would have similar taste in smaller, more portable objects. So I nipped around the building, over the wall and into their back yard,
Forcing the back door was not an issue – in those days, all you needed was... Nah, trade secret. Anyway, I was soon inside and went into the first bedroom, looking through the drawers when I heard a voice say “Well, hello.”
The girl was wearing a long brown corduroy coat, over a matching jersey minidress, and black knee length boots with square heels.
“Hello,” I said quietly, “it would appear that you have caught me in the act of robbing you.”
“So it would appear,” she said quietly as she walked in. I noticed the way her hair fell in soft waves, before she said “the question is, what are you going to do about it?”
“Well,” I said as I walked forward, “I would ask you not to raise the alarm, and kindly lie down on your bed, crossing your wrists behind your back, so that I could tie you up and take your valuables.”
She looked at me, her head to one side, and said “Well, at least you’re polite about it, but you may have an issue with my flatmate.”
“Is she here at the moment?”
As she nodded, I said “lie down – first things first.” So I watched as she lay on the bed, before I took the belt from her bathrobe which was hanging on the back of the door, and used it to secure her wrists together. I then looked in her wardrobe, and found the cloth belt for a long coat, which I used to secure her ankles.
“Oh my... Are we being robbed?”
I turned to see the obvious flatmate, her blonde hair cut like an actress, wearing a light blue v-necked short sleeved sweater with a white trim, a blue and white checked short skirt, and Mary Jane shoes.
“You are,” I said quietly as I looked at both of them. “Please, lie next to your flatmate, and let me make you comfortable.”
I took two long scarves from the wardrobe and used them to secure the wrists and ankles of the new arrival, before I searched the other rooms as well as that one. I made sure all the knots were tight, and out of reach of their well manicured fingers, so that when I returned they were lying facing each other.
“My apologies,” I said as I used two neck scarves to gag them both, and made my way out as quickly as possible through the front door – the same one I was passing just then...
South London, particularly around the Brixton area, has always been a place with a highly vibrant and ethnically mixed community. I was asked recently as a favour to an old friend to call on a house down that way and advise them on some security issues – but it was only when I actually got to the house I realised it was a place I had visited in the early eighties, and met a very friendly family there...
I had broken into the house in the late evening, climbing through an upstairs window having spent enough time checking front and back that there were no lights on. Naturally, therefore, I fell foul of Murphy’s Law of housebreaking – the very moment you think you’re secure is the time someone is going to come back.
I walked out into the lobby, and as soon as I did so I heard someone say “Who’s there?” Staying as still as I could, I listened and didn’t say a word, before the door opened in the hallway downstairs and I heard the same voice call more clearly “who’s there?”
At this point, I was thinking of getting back out, but I could hear footsteps walking quickly up, so I decided the only thing to do was brazen it out. So I slipped into a doorway, and waited as this African American woman, wearing a white jacket and flared trousers, walked by me.
Coming behind her, I put my hand over her mouth and said “It was me – now, keep quiet, don’t struggle, and do exactly what I say, understand?”
“MMyydssss,” she mumbled as she nodded.
“Good – very slowly, very carefully, walk in front of me and back down the stairs. I won’t hurt you unless you do something stupid, all right?”
She nodded and walked in front of me, my hand clamped firmly over her mouth as we went down, and into the front room. I could now see the heavy drapes which blocked out the dim light from a standard lamp – and the two young women sitting in the chairs. Both had dark curly hair, one wearing a white waistcoat and trousers with a pale blue blouse, the other a brown jacket and flares over a white blouse, a pattered scarf folded into a band and tied around her neck.
“Your daughters,” I whispered, my captive nodding as I said “My apologies for the intrusion ladies – kindly remain calm and seated where you are unless I say you can move.”
They both nodded as I looked over, and then said “you – take off your scarf and come over here.”
The taller of the two women stood up, removing the scarf from round her neck as she walked over. “When I remove my hand,” I said quietly, “I want you to use that scarf as a gag between this woman’s lips, understand?”
She nodded and said “I’m sorry, mum,” as she used it as a cleave gag, me holding her as the other woman just watched.
“All right – you,” I said as I looked at her, “do you have any rope in the house?”
“I think so – why?”
“Go and get it – meanwhile, you two, lie face down on the floor. I have a gun, and while I have no wish to use it, I will if need be.”
Yes, I was lying – but they didn’t know that, as the two women lay face down, their hands by their heads.
“This... This is all I could find,” she said as she came back with several long lengths of cord.
“Good – kneel down, and tie their wrists together behind their backs, nice and tightly,” I said, looking at her as she knelt down and used one of them on what was apparently her mother. She knew what she was doing, as she tied them securely, and then looked at me.
“Ankles as well,” I said quietly, watching as she tied their ankles together, before standing up.
“Nice job,” I said quietly, “now, lie down on the couch, and put your own hands behind your back.”
She said nothing as I secured her hands and wrists, and then went out to the hallway, returning with two more scarves which I used to cleave gag the two younger girls. I then robbed the place, checked they were unharmed as the girl who helped me watched on her side, and got out of there as quickly as I could.
So naturally, I suggested good security for the upper floors...
I read in the paper of a fire at a cottage in Derbyshire – the occupants were out, which is just as well given the place was burned to the ground, but I remembered it from the year 1988...
I had visited an antique fair in Buxton, and while there had seen a woman, in her late fifties with permed brown hair and large glasses, purchase a pair of antique snuff boxes. She was wearing a grey jacket over a white and pale blue woollen jumper, white slacks and a pair of black shoes.
Anyway, I was driving home when I saw a car pull out in front of this cottage, and I saw the woman come out, carrying her bags as she went into the cottage. In the doorway, I could see a younger woman with two children, and thought no more about it until I saw a car parked a short way down the road.
A car I recognised as belonging to a couple of not so gentlemanly thieves, and I could see one of them was sitting in the car, looking at the cottage. I realised he was casing the house, and I knew from their rep they would likely break in during the early hours of the morning. If there were kids there, that was not good news.
I had to stop them, but at the same time not raise their suspicions – which meant I had to lay a small trap for them. With some help. I drove round and came back, parking my car a distance away in the opposite direction before I walked back across the fields to the rear of the building.
As I came closer, I heard the front door open and close, and a car drive away, so I let myself into the back door and waited, the television playing in the front room. Eventually, the woman came into the kitchen, and saw me sitting there.
“Don’t raise your voice,” I said quietly, “and don’t ask me how I know, but your house has been targeted for a robbery, and with children on the premises that may not be a nice thing for them to experience. Your grandchildren?”
She nodded and whispered “two girls. Why can’t we call the police?”
“I want this particular pair dealt with,” I said quietly, “but to do so, I need your help. First, I do not want the kids to know I am here, so please, keep them out of here.”
“I need you to do something very brave, and which will inconvenience you a little. Now, take care of your girls – I will wait in here.”
Sometime later, she came down and said “They’re asleep – now what?”
Looking at my watch, I said “I’m going to make it look as if you have already been robbed, and then call a friend I have in the local force, let him know what’s planned. I’m not going to rob you, but I am going to tape you to this chair.”
Standing up, I moved it into the centre of the room and said “please sit down.” Once she had done so, I taped her wrists to the chair back with some duct tape I had found, and then taped her legs to the front legs of the chair around the ankle and thigh.
“Purse your lips for me,” I said, and as she did so I taped over them, several strips pressed firmly down, before I picked up her phone.
“DCI Drummond please.
“Bulldog? Yes, it’s me. Want the Mancini boys?
“Good – listen carefully...”
It was after midnight when I saw the two men walk to the back door and go in, followed by several police officers, from the comfort of my car. Hearing the tap on the window, I wound it down to see “Bulldog” Drummond smiling at me.
“We’ll keep you out of this – thanks again,” he said with a smile before I drove off...
Walking down the King’s Road, I passed a fair number of shops that have either closed or been converted for other uses. As a cat burglar, I rarely if ever robbed a business, but passing one door reminded me of a rare exception to that rule.
It was a retro clothes store, in about 1992, and specialised in outfits from the sixties and seventies. It was owned by the daughter of an old acquaintance, who had fallen in with a rather unsavoury young man. The sort of young man no father would feel his daughter should date.
So over a quiet pint, he told me about his worries, and especially the fact he thought said young man was stealing from his daughter’s hard earned takings. Such dishonesty needed to be dealt with, so we devised a plan to show her the error of her ways.
It was a late Saturday afternoon when I walked up to the boutique, wearing a black jacket with the collar turned up, jeans and work boots. When I walked in, she was talking to a customer, before that young woman walked out. The daughter was wearing a bell sleeved chiffon dress with a short skirt and a floral print, under a leather waistcoat with a fringed hem that come to the edge of the dress. She had a red band holding back her grey-blonde hair, knee length mustard coloured go-go boots, and a Peace sign pendant round her neck.
“How can I help you,” she said as the door closed.
“Actually, I’m here to help myself,” I said as I turned and locked the door, moved the sign to closed, and then turned back to show her the starting pistol I had taken from my pocket. “I want you to come into the back shop, and don’t say a word.”
“Oh god,” she said quietly, “please don’t...”
“Shh,” I said as I took her arm and walked her into the stockroom. There was a wooden beam running from floor to ceiling, and as I looked round I could see she had a clear view of the till from there. So I made her stand in front of it, took her arms around the wood and bound her wrists tightly together, before using more rope which I had brought with me to secure her upper body to the wooden support.
Kneeling down, I tied her ankles together, and then her legs below her knees, as she said “Just take what’s in the till, please, but don’t hurt me.”
“Hush,” I said as I stood up, and peeled the backing paper off a strip of brown sticking plaster before I pressed it firmly down over her mouth. “Watch, and say nothing.”
She looked at me, and then watched as she heard the shop door open and close again. I stood behind her, saying nothing as the young man came in, looked quickly round, and then opened the till before helping himself to some of the notes.
She watched, eyes wide open at fist in disbelief, then narrowing in anger as he walked back out of the shop again. I took out a nail file, and pressed it into her hand as I said “You needed to see that, and note I have taken nothing. Free yourself, and then do what you must.”
I met my friend again a few days later, and he told me the two of them had split, after she accused him of stealing money – and then brought the police in. Very satisfactory.
I’ll tell you what really brought a few memories back, though – I went to a pub I had not been to in years, and they were having a Country and Western night. One of the singers was a dead looker for a star in 1977 called Cindy McCall, who I visited one night...
Country music was rife in the charts then, and very profitable – and I knew this from the range and choice of jewellery I was helping myself to in her West End flat, as well as some bags of coins and other items.
I was about to leave when the light went on, and there she was – five foot four tall, with strawberry blonde hair cut in a bob, wearing a blue bib dress with a plaid trim on the bib and the hem, a red t-shirt underneath, and long golden tan leather boots with a short heel.
She looked at me, I looked at her – and then she smiled as she said “Are you the man the papers call The Cat?”
I nodded, and she smiled even more as she said “then I guess I’ve really made it – if you think me worthy of visiting.”
I never quite got over the idea of me robbing someone as a status symbol, but the papers had made a great deal of my exploits, so I said “Well, in that case, you will not mind if I have to stop you raising the alarm.”
“I don’t have a choice, little old cowgirl me,” she said quietly, “there’s a coil of washing line in the kitchen you can use. Come with me and I’ll show you.”
She walked to the kitchen with me, and took out from under the sink the sealed cotton washing line, handing it to me and saying “I guess you have to tie me up like a cowgirl as well?”
“IF that is what you want,” I said as I shook the rope out, made a lasso with one end, and passed it over her body, pulling her arms into her sides under her chest. She giggled and nodded as I wound the rope round several times, above and below her chest, and then tied the rope round the lower band before saying “Come – lie down and cross your wrists on your lap.”
“yes, mister robber,” she said as we went into her front room, and she lay on a long recliner, watching as I used the rope to secure her wrists together, then wrapped it down round her legs before tying her ankles together, using the last end between her legs to cinch it and then tying it off to her wrists again.
I then went outside, and found a red bandana, rolling that into a band and tying a knot in it before using that as a gag, and then turning the radio on. The dulcet sounds of the radio station kept her mumbles to a minimum, as I left her with my finds.
Memories – always nice to look back on. Do you agree?