East Meets East
“Ayesha, will you please hurry? Our parents will be wondering what has kept us!”
“Just give me a few more minutes,” Hema heard her older sister call down as she sat in the front room of their Southall home, slipping on her golden sandals. It was the end of Ramadan, and the girls had returned from home just as the rest of the family were preparing to go to their uncle’s house for the family meal.
Only a promise they would change and get there as soon as they could had allowed them the time they needed to shower and change from their work clothes into more suitable raiment. Hema was wearing a short sleeved tunic, which was yellow and red. The main part of the body was yellow with red spots, but the sleeves and top were red with yellow spots, while the bottom had darker shades of brown with large circles. She was also wearing a pair of red pants, while a long red dupatta was placed over her right shoulder, her long dark brown hair platted as it fell over her other shoulder.
As she stood up and looked out of the window, she noticed a grey van parked in front of the house. “Wonder who’s having something delivered,” she said to herself as she made her way through to the kitchen, finding a bottle of water and opening it as she took a drink. A knock on the front door made her look round, as she said “now who could that be?”
She walked down the corridor, the bottle of water in her hand, as she opened the door and said “Yes, how can I...”
She stepped back, the expression on her face one of shock as the three visitors walked in, one of them holding a gun in her gloved hand as the final one quietly closed the door. They were identically dressed – grey bodysuits literally from head to foot, grey sneakers, grey soft leather gloves, their heads covered. The only part of their garb which was not grey was the white featureless mask each of them had in the face opening, hiding their features as they looked at Hema.
“Who... Who are you,” she whispered, expecting a reply. Instead, the three women tilted their heads to the side, while the one holding the gun put a finger to her porcelain lips, and then pointed to the door for the front room.
“You want me to go in there?”
She nodded as Hema slowly walked in backwards, the three women following as one of them placed a large brown holdall on the floor.
The armed woman started to twirl the finger of her gloved hand, Hema nodding as she turned round, and saw one of the others open the bag and took out a skein of coiled brown rope.
“What’s that for,” she said quietly, but the armed woman just watched, the gun held steady as it pointed towards Hema. She was aware of the sound of the rope dropping to the floor, and then saw it as it was placed round her neck, the two lengths falling either side as the third woman removed her dupatta.
“Please, tell me what you want,” Hema said quietly, but there was still no answer, as she felt the masked woman behind her start to wind the rope in a spiral down her arms, pulling them behind her as she did so as Hema felt her arms being secured together. It was a strange feeling, as they were folded behind her back, her forearms secured to each other at the wrists, and then pulled further up her back as the rope was fed through a small loop at the base of her neck.
“Oh god – are you going to rob us?”
There was still no answer, as she felt the rope being wrapped around her upper arms and legs. As his took place, the armed and masked woman took a second length of rope and nodded to her two companions, before she made her way up the stairs.
“Who was it at the door, Hema,” Ayesha said as she sat at the table in her room, putting on the last of her make-up. The older sister by a year, she was wearing a long sleeved black tunic, the sleeves made of chiffon, a gold design at the neck and on the lower part of the tunic as it hung to her knees. A loose fitting pair of black pants covered her legs, and a pair of golden sandals was on her feet.
“Hema? I said who was it at the door,” Ayesha said as she put her earrings in, and then turned round – only to gaps as she saw the grey clad woman standing in the doorway to her room, the white mask showing nothing as she looked at the dark haired young Muslim woman.
“You’re... You’re one of the China Doll Gang, aren’t you?”
The figure nodded slowly.
“My sister – is she downstairs with the others.”
There was another nod as the masked intruder pointed at Ayesha, and indicated she should stand up. As she did so, she adjusted the matching black dupatta on her left shoulder, and said “so, you are going to bind me, correct?”
The figure nodded as she held up the skein of rope, and then shook it loose, putting the gun down in sight of both of them, and reach of her, before she shook it loose, doubled it and made a little loop in the centre.
“Then I need to make an adjustment,” Ayesha said as she moved her dupatta, hanging it down her back as the middle hung loosely over her chest. She then turned round and took a deep breath as she watched the rope been placed over her shoulders, and then wrapped down her arms, remaining calm as they were secured at the wrists and the rope wrapped around her upper body. It only took ten minutes, and then she knew she wasn’t going to be able to get free, no matter how much she tried to move.
The masked woman tied off the last knot, and then removed her earrings, placing them in a velvet sack before she searched the rest of Ayesha’s bedroom. From there she made the young woman walk through the other rooms on the upper floor, taking every valuable item she could find and placing them in her sack before she indicated the stairs with her gun.
Ayesha watched as the Doll slowly shook her head, and then walked in front of her, entering the front room to find Hema sitting on a long leather couch. Her ankles were secured with one end of a length of brown rope, which had then been taken up and used to secure her legs together below her knees. She could see the brown band between her legs, as Hema said “Ayesha? Oh god, they won’t say anything...”
“I know – you must be brave my sister,” she said as she was made to sit next to her, watching as another of the masked women started to bind her legs together. “These women – the new reports on them say they will not speak, so you must not let that upset you.”
“But they are taking our valuables...”
“I know,” Ayesha said as she tried to move, her dupatta firmly secured to her body by the intricate rope work, “but your health and mien are far more important and valuable than that. Just try to relax, and we will face this together.”
Hema nodded as one of the Dolls – which one she did not know – stood in front of her, holding her red dupatta in her hands as she looked at the young woman.
“I think,” Ayesha said quietly, “they intend to use that to stop you calling for help. Do as they say, Hema – it may not be that bad.”
Her sister nodded as she opened her mouth, tasting the faint perfume on the thin material as the masked woman wrapped it around her head, taking it twice into her mouth before she secured the ends together behind her head.
“Tssntsbbddd,” Hema said as the Doll then took from the bag a roll of micropore tape, and tore off a strip, pressing it firmly down on Hema’s mouth and jaw with her grey gloved hands.
Ayesha had to suppress a giggle as the Doll then stood in front of her, and she realised she had one of her mother’s dupattas, this one green, in her hands. “I believe it is my turn now,” she said as she too was gagged with the scarf and tape, before they were made to lie face down on the floor, their ankles pulled back and secured to each other’s chest ropes.
They raised their heads as a cushion was placed on the floor under them, and then looked at each other as the three women left, wondering how long it would be before someone in the family realised they were missing...