The Cat Shares...
Oh hello there – I was just sorting out some old photo albums that had been left in a bureau, and some of the photos had brought a few of my exploits in my younger days to mind.
Take this one for example – the mum and daughter in chunky wool outfits. It brings to mind for me a day in the early seventies when I had to do something I personally dislike – bind a minor to keep them out of the way.
This was a house in the Pinner are of north west London – then a real quiet country town, and I had gone out to see what I could find. It was a quiet Sunday morning, so I expected the detached house to be empty when I forced the kitchen window and made my way in.
Well, I still had a lot to learn in those days, and one of those things is that, even in those days, not everyone worshipped on a Sunday. My first clue should have been the candlesticks, but the real kicker was when I walked into the front room of the house to find the woman of the household sitting there, reading a book.
She had blonde hair, held up in a braid on her head, and was wearing a woollen dress with a cream coloured midriff. The rest of the dress was patterned with a sequence of brown zig-zag stripes, from her waist to the hem below her knee and across her shoulders, while a woollen bow tie was knotted to the right of the yoke, gathering it below her neck. She also had a pair of brown shoes, and a startled expression as she saw me.
“Ah,” I said politely, “I had rather hoped nobody would be home, but it appears I am wrong. Please, do not shout or raise the alarm – I promise you I will not hurt you.” I was dressed in a black jumper under a jacket, trousers and shoes, with gloves on my hands, but nothing covering my face.
She stared at me for a few more seconds, before saying “Are you a burglar?” Her accent was faintly German, but I could not be sure.
“I regret that I am, and I also regret that I must make sure you cannot raise the alarm,” I said quietly. “May I ask you name?”
“It is Ingrid – Ingrid Cohen.”
I nodded and said “Very well Ingrid – please, put your book on the coffee table, and then lie face down on that delightful couch where you are seated.” As I said this, I reached into my pocket and produced a length of thin cord.
Ingrid very carefully put her book down, and then lay with her head resting on the arm of the chair, crossing her wrists behind her back as she did so. It only took me a few minutes to bind her wrists tightly together, and then her ankles, before I picked up a cushion and said “You will be more comfortable if you roll onto your side and rest your head on this.”
“Thank you,” she replied as she rolled over, raising her head and allowing me to place the cushion underneath. I took a moment to adjust her skirt, and then said “Now, perhaps you can tell me where...”
“What have you done to Mama?”
I groaned inwardly as I turned to see the thirteen year old girl standing behind me, looking at both of us. She had a similar dress to her mother on, save that hers was light purple midriff with purple and blue zig-zag stripes, and she wore a pair of white tights. Her light brown hair fell down her back as she looked at us.
“It is all right, Helga,” Ingrid said quietly, “this man is a robber, and he has promised he will not hurt us if we do as he says. I need you to be a brave girl and let him make sure you cannot raise the alarm, all right?”
I personally would never have even entered if I had known a girl was there, but I had to make the best of it as Helga said “All right – may I sit in the chair?”
I nodded and allowed her to sit down, before I moved her arms behind her back, crossed her wrists and tied them tightly together with more rope, and then bound her ankles together. “Now, can I trust you both to keep quiet while I have a look round,” I said quietly, and as they both nodded I left them and searched the house.
Before I left, I used two strips of plaster to cover their mouths, but that was all I did – that time to Helga.
You see, that was not the last time we met. In the late nineties, when I was heading for retirement, I found myself in Pinner again – not the same street, or the same house, but nearby. I had been told of a particularly valuable set of etchings which I had been commissioned to obtain, and sadly the man holding them was not open to selling. Nor were the people who engaged me open to failure, so I had to use the old fashioned methods.
I brought a bag with ropes, tapes and scarves, just in case, and when I approached the house it was dark. Slipping round the back, I forced the back door open and let myself in, heading for the front room. I was wearing a blue boiler suit and a balaclava mask, both as a disguise and to distract police attention from a well known and retiring cat burglar.
I had successfully located the safe and the etchings – when the light went on and I turned my head to see two women standing there. One was in her early forties, and was wearing a v-necked red sweater, a black denim skirt that went below her knees, dark tights and baggy black leather boots. Her light brown hair fell down her head with soft curls on her shoulders, and she wore a pair of black glasses.
Beside her was a young woman, about nineteen years old, who was wearing a red vest top with a wide leather belt around her waist like a girdle, black leggings and short black leather boots. She had brown hair, and had her hand over her mouth.
I recognised the older woman instantly, as she hadn’t changed that much. “You must be Helga,” I said as I stood up and removed the starter’s pistol from the pocket of my overalls, “And I presume this is your daughter. Please, no sudden movements.”
“How do you know my name,” Helga said as she looked at me. “Logical guess, from the mail by the telephone,” I lied as I looked at her. “Your daughter’s name?”
“It’s Jenny,” the younger girl said as she looked at me, “What are you doing?”
“Your father was most reluctant to sell these to my employer,” I said as I held up a leather pouch. “And now, regretfully, I must make sure you cannot raise the alarm.”
Helga looked at me, before saying “Not again. Just promise me you won’t hurt us.”
“Do as I say, and you’ll be fine,” I said quietly, “Now – make your selves comfortable. You may be here for some time.”
“We... We’d better do as he says, Mum,” Jenny said as they walked over to an antique red couch and sat down. I opened the bag I had with me up, and said “now, Helga, I want you to sit with your hands on your head. Jenny, please turn with your back to me and put your hands behind your back.”
I made sure Jenny’s wrists were snugly tied together before I walked round, guided her arms behind her back and secured her wrists together. Kneeling down, I tied the ankles of both women side by side, and then secured their legs below their knees, folding Helga’s skirt back to take care of her and then replacing it.
“This is tighter then last time – but I suppose I was a girl then,” she said as she looked at Jenny.
“This is a nice big couch,” I said as I looked at them, “Scoot round and sit back to back.”
“Why – what are you going to do?”
“Tie you together,” I said as I took a large skein of rope from my bag, “so please, do as I ask.”
As the two women moved round as I had asked, I shook the rope loose, then tied them together at their waists and shoulders, before I took two cloths and two folded and knotted scarves from my bag.
“If you will both open wide,” I said as I pushed the folded cloths into their mouths, and then cleave gagged them both, the black knot sitting between Helga’s lips and the red between Jenny’s. I then took my leave of them – hoping they would not think too ill of me.
Mind you, while it may have been one of the last times, it was by no means the first time I had been surprised by a couple of women walking in unexpectedly. One particular time was – interesting. This was in 1975, and I was in a Chelsea top floor flat, looking at a very fine collection of silver jewellery when I heard the apartment door opening, and two female voices as they walked into the front room, chatting nervously.
“Do you think they noticed us slipping out from the party?”
“Who cares – we have each other now...”
I opened the door to the bedroom a crack, and saw a dark haired woman walking into the front room. She was wearing a peach coloured minidress with a purple neck and shoulders, as well as a similar coloured hem, and skin tight knee length brown leather boots that sported a short heel.
As I listened, she said “You wait in there – I’m going to go get a drink, and then we can begin.” I closed the door to and watched as she walked to the kitchen, then slipped out of the bedroom, thinking I would get to the door and out.
So of course, as I passed the door to the front room, the other woman said “Who’s there?” Sighing, I reached into my jacket pocket for something, and went into the front room.
Ten minutes later, the dark haired girl came in, a bottle of champagne in one hand and two glasses in the other, saying “All right lover, what say we...”
“Good evening,” I said as I stood behind her friend, my hand on her shoulder. She was a tall, thin woman, and was dressed in a white minidress with flowing long sleeves, a square open yoke neck and a metal drop waist belt, while a pair of tight white PVC boots enclosed her lower legs. The black band of tape holding her ankles together contrasted nicely with that, as did the lengths covering her ruby red lips, while her wrist were held together behind her back with the same tape.
Her dark brown hair was held in a perfectly formed hair do with Lord alone knows how many cans of Silvikrin, but her eyes were wide as she looked at the other girl.
“Sorry to interrupt your night,” I said with a smile, “I would have left without disturbing you, but your friend here insisted on calling out. Now, put that bottle and those glasses down, and then lie face down on the Ottoman there – I’m going to give you both a little challenge.”
She was nice and obedient, as I crossed and taped her wrists together, then her ankles, listening to the leather rubbing before I rolled her over and taped over her mouth.
“Now then,” I said as I smiled at them, “You can have some fun freeing each other – should give me enough time to get away. Think of that bubbly for when you are done.”
Well, it did give me enough time – and who am I to interrupt a good love story?
A couple of years later, fashions and styles had changed a lot. As had the way I worked – I had got bolder, so that on this particular occasion I was visiting a country manor when a grand ball was being held downstairs.
The house was buzzing on the lower floor – which is why I climbed the vines and let myself in through the bedroom window. I picked a good room as well – one look told me this was the master bedroom, so I soon located the safe and started to look round.
So, naturally, I was interrupted. I saw the crack of light first, and hid in the wardrobe as I heard a woman say “Don’t worry, Desmond – I’ll find your mother’s shawl and bring it down to her.”
I saw the light come on, and then heard the footsteps as they approached the door to the wardrobe. I swallowed as the door opened, and a blonde haired woman looked at me, dressed in an orange and white maxi dress with a front that showed just a little of her cleavage. She had light brown hair, and the sleeves of her dress came to just over her elbows.
“Looking for this,” I said as I handed her a large brown shawl.
“Actually, yes,” she said as she looked at me, “but this is unexpected. May I ask who you are?”
“The newspapers call me The Cat,” I said quietly, “May I ask your name?”
“Lucinda,” she said as she continued to look at me. “My husband is Despond Holderness, the son of Lord Holderness.”
“You are remaining remarkable cool, my dear Lucinda.”
“Given some of the things I have seen in my line of work, this is a minor inconvenience. You know, of course, I must prevent you from raising the alarm?”
“I would expect no less from a professional,” she said as she walked over to the bed and sat down, the hem of her dress rising to reveal a pair of brown suede boots. “So, may I make myself comfortable? You will find a ball of string on the shelf of the wardrobe you were hiding in.”
She was right, so I placed her hands together in front of her as she lay on her back, in prayer, and tied her wrists together, and then ran the string down to bind her ankles together.
And naturally, as I tied and cut the string, the door opened and another woman walked in. She had black hair, held back with a clasp, and wore a red, blue and white minidress patterned as flowers, with natural hose and a pair of black shoes.
“Lucinda, what is – oh,” she said as she looked at us, “I see we have an uninvited guest. Are you all right?”
“So far, yes, Miranda,” she said as the new arrival closed the door. “I think we may be staying here a while, however. Do you mind if she joins me?”
“Of course not,” I said as Lucinda shuffled over, and Miranda lay next to her. I bound her wrists and ankles in the same way, and then went back to the wardrobe, returning with two large scarves that worked as very effective stuff gags. I did not want to totally silence them – just keep them quiet enough to allow me to climb out of the window with my ill gotten gains.
Of course, I sometimes had to improvise when interrupted by groups of people. In 1986, I was visiting Manchester and decided to use my skills to do a little larceny in the Dalston area. It was a nice semi-detached house, and a quiet Saturday when I slipped through the bathroom window, and started to search upstairs.
I found some nice pearls, rings and pendants, and was starting to search downstairs when I heard a car pull up. I had only enough time to grab a black woollen scarf to tie over the lower half of my face, and grab a large roll of duct tape from the shelf, before the door opened and three women walked in.
One was obviously older, not to mention slightly shorter, in a red jacket and skirt over a patterned blouse, the wing collar over her jacket. She was also wearing a pair of light black tights and Mary Jane shoes, and a pair of glasses. She had black hair, cut into a tight perm.
The other two women looked alike, almost as if they were twins, with permed reddish brown hair. One had on a light brown jacket over a red v-necked sweater and a plaid blouse, with dark jeans, while the other wore a taupe jacket over a white blouse, and light purple pants.
Needless to say, they were surprised to see a masked man in their hallway, and even more surprised when I grabbed one of them, stuck a plastic tube against her back, and said “Nobody do anything stupid, or she gets hurt.”
No, I wasn’t going to hurt her, but I needed to make sure they did as I asked. “All right,” the older woman said “Don’t hurt Bea.”
“Very sensible,” I said quietly, “what’s your name?”
“Donna – and this is Clea.”
“Right, Donna, Clea,” I said as I looked to the doorway to the dining room, “In there.” I followed them in, my hand firmly on Bea’s arm, before I said “Pull three chairs away from the table and set them in the centre of the room.”
Clea did as I asked, before I said “Donna, sit in the centre chair.” As she sat I put the tube in one pocket, took out the duct tape and tossed it to Clea. As she caught it, I said “Tape your mother’s wrists and ankles to the chair – arms to the back, ankles against the front legs.”
“All right,” Clea whispered as she tore the end of the roll free, and placed her mother’s left arm against the chair back. Bea and I watched as she tore the end of the tape free, and bound her mother to the chair as I had directed.
“Good,” I said as she stood up, “Now sit next to your mother. Bea, do to your sister what she did to your mother.”
I pushed Bra gently forward, and watched as Clea was taped to a chair to the left of Donna. Once she was secured, I taped Bea to the third chair, and then wrapped tape around their waists to hold them firmly to the chair back.
“Forgive me,” I said then as one by one I smoothed tape over their mouths to silence them, and then finished searching their house before I left them – and made sure I called the police half an hour later to inform them of the women’s plight.
And sometimes, even today, I get taken by surprise – even when I pay a visit at the request of someone to discuss security. A well known Asian businessman asked me to call on him to discuss security arrangements for his new mansion, so last summer I came into the City to talk with him in Ealing.
As we sat talking, his older daughter came in. She was wearing a black jacket over a collarless white blouse, jeans and brown Derry boots, and a pair of blue framed glasses sat on her nose as her long black fair fell around her face.
“Ah Yasmin,” my client said as she stood there, “This is Mr Jacobs, who has come to discuss security with me. Tell me, Mr Jacobs, if you were a burglar and Yasmin disturbed you, what would you do to keep her quiet?”
“If I was a burglar?” I looked at him and Yasmin, and then said “Well, obviously I would have to make sure she could not raise the alarm. Why do you ask?”
“Perhaps you will indulge me...”
Half an hour later, I walked into one of the other rooms of the mansion, and saw Yasmin sitting there. I walked behind her, hand gagged her, and said “Not a word – hands behind your back and stand still.”
She nodded and moved her hands behind her back, as I used a plastic zip tie to force her wrists together, and then made her kneel on the floor, securing her ankles in the same way. I reached into my pocket, and took out a roll of micropore tape, but before I could use it, the door opened and another daughter came in.
“Yasmin, have you got....” she said as she stopped and looked at me. She was taller and thinner, and wore a blue and white striped stretched jersey dress, black leggings and grey cuffed suede boots.
Now, I was in character, so I hand gagged Yasmin and said “Not a word – close the door, come over here, and kneel next to this girl.”
“Are you all right Yasmin,” the new arrival said, Yasmin nodding under my hand as she walked over and knelt next to her. Taking out two more zip ties, I secured the wrists and ankles of the new arrival, before I pressed two long strips of wide micropore tape smoothly over their lips.
It was at this point my client came in, and saw the two girls kneeling there. “Ah, I see you have met Shayla,” he said quietly. “You have both learned what it would be like to be caught by a burglar – so I want to hear no more talk about there been no need for such measures, understood?”
They both nodded, a lesson learned. And on that note – forgive me, but customers await. Until next time.