The young woman pushed her trolley around the store, picking up her shopping as she went around. She looked intently at the shelves as she walked round the small store, picking up tins and packets and examining them before placing her selections in the trolley. She was dressed in jumper and jeans, and did not look out of place amongst the other shoppers.
Paying for her purchases, she took her bags and went out to the SUV in the car park. Opening the side door, she placed the bags on the floor behind the passenger seat, and then climbed into the front passenger seat as her friend drove off.
“So, what do you think?”
“The store seems to do good enough business. The question is, can we do this safely?”
“I think so – this is not a 24 hour store, and it always closes early on a Thursday for stocktaking. It should be straightforward enough, if we follow the plan through.”
“Yeah, well – let’s see what else we have found out.”
The SUV continued on, until the driver pulled out opposite a school. As they watched the students leaving the campus, they noticed that all the girls seemed to be in a uniform of black jacket and skirt, white blouses and black and white ties.
“Hm-hm – and single sex as well. Only the brightest and best get sent here.”
The passenger door of the car opened, and a third woman joined them.
“Is that dinner in the bag?”
“Never mind that now – which one is she?”
“That’s her crossing the road now – the tall blonde haired one.”
The three women watched as the young lady walked past the van.
“Did you get the photos?”
“Yes – I told them I was a reporter for the local school. I got her and a few others”
“We know the security van comes on a Thursday, and leaves the wages with the manager to make up and give to staff on Friday. There would also be the takings from that day.”
“Fine – can we go and eat now?”
It was three in the afternoon, and Samantha was walking back down the suburban street to her house. She had spent a pleasant day in town, having coffee with friends and walking round the shops, but she needed to get home before Belinda returned from school – she’d forgotten her keys that day, so it was necessary for her to get back first.
It was a warm spring day, and Samantha was wearing a white short sleeved dress with a red floral print, and red court shoes. As she approached the front door of her house, she reached into the black handbag she was carrying and removed the door keys. As she opened the door, she heard the phone ringing, and hurried in to answer it.
Oh, hello darling. Yes, I have sorted out the dinner invitations for next week – they’re in the post today. I’ve also asked the caterer to arrive early so that we can get finished in time.
Don’t worry – it will be fine. I’m sure the Area Manager is going to be suitably impressed.
I’ll make sure your supper is waiting for you when you get back.
See you later tonight love –‘bye for now.”
Placing the phone back into the holder, Samantha put the door keys back into the bag and closed the clasp before placing it on the table the telephone was on. Heading towards the kitchen, she filled the kettle, plugged it in and switched it on. She then headed to the main room to put on the radio.
Her first reaction on entering the room was to wander if she had really left the window blind down before she left that morning. Her second was to scream, as she was grabbed from behind, but that was stopped by the grey gloved hand that was placed over her mouth.
As her eyes accustomed themselves to the gloom, Samantha realised that three other people were in the room with her. At first, all she could see were two faces floating in front of her, and she thought she was hallucinating. She then realised that what she was saying were two masks, plain white and featureless, worn by two other women. Both were dressed in grey bodysuits, with the hoods pulled over their heads, soft grey shoes and gloves on their hands. One of the two women placed a gloved hand to the mouth of the mask as the other pointed a pistol at her, and Samantha realised that she was being told to be quiet.
The gloved hand was taken from her mouth, and she heard the room door being closed behind her. A third woman dressed all in grey then moved in front of her, and motioned to Samantha to sit down. As she did so, the one who had indicated she should be quiet picked up a folder from the table in the room, opened it and handed a sheet of paper to Samantha to read.
“WE ARE THE CHINA DOLL GANG, AND WE INTEND TODAY TO AVAIL OURSELVES OF THE MONEY AT THE SUPERMARKET THAT YOUR HUSBAND IS THE MANAGER OF.
DO EXACTLY AS WE TELL YOU, WHEN WE TELL YOU, AND YOU WILL COME TO NO HARM.
WE WILL NOT SPEAK, BUT WE WILL SHOW YOU WHAT YOU MUST DO.
IF YOU FAIL TO DO AS WE SAY, THEN THIS PICTURE WILL BE THE LAST YOU SEE OF YOUR DAUGHTER”
The masked woman handed Samantha a photograph, which was a head shot of their daughter Rebecca with a white tape gag over her mouth.
“Oh my god,” Samantha breathed. “What have you done to her?”
The first woman merely put her finger to her lips again, and handed Samantha a second sheet of paper.
“YOUR DAUGHTER WILL BE QUITE SAFE IF YOU DO AS WE SAY. FIRSTLY, YOU SAY NOTHING UNLESS WE TELL YOU TO. NOD NOW IF YOU UNDERSTAND.”
Samantha looked up at the three women, nodded and continued reading
“AT FOUR O’CLOCK PRECISELY, YOU WILL CALL YOUR HUSBAND AT WORK. YOU WILL READ OUT THE STATEMENT WE GIVE YOU, AND NOTHING ELSE. IFANYONE ELSE CALLS BEFORE THEN, WE WILL GIVE YOU THE TELEPHONE AND YOU WILL SAY YOU CANNOT TALK RIGHT NOW. NOD IF YOU UNDERSTAND.”
Again, Samantha inclined her head.
“NOW, CALM YOURSELF AND YOU WILL BE FINE. I SUGGEST THAT YOU HAVE A DRINK OF WATER. IF YOU WANT ONE, THEN SAY ‘I WOULD LIKE A GLASS OF WATER’, THEN HAND BACK TO ME THE NOTES AND PHOTOGRAPH YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.”
Samantha swallowed hard, then said “I would like a glass of water” as she handed the items back to the first woman. At a nod from her, the woman who had held Samantha left to go to the kitchen, while the one with the gun sat down and continued to cover Samantha. Wondering what was going to happen next, but afraid to say anything, Samantha sat as the woman brought her a glass of water, which she drank. Placing the glass on the table, she saw the Doll who had given her the notes place her hands on top of her hand, and nod at Samantha to indicate she should do the same. Pushing herself back into the seat, Samantha did as she asked.
The clock on the mantelpiece struck four o’clock, and Samantha watched as the Doll went back to the folder and take two more pieces of paper out. She handed the first over.
“YOU WILL NOW CALL YOUR HUSBAND AT HIS OFFICE. I WILL GIVE YOU A SHEET WITH WHAT TO SAY TO HIM, AND YOU MUST SAY NOTHING ELSE EXCEPT TO SAY HELLO AND TO LISTEN TO YOU. YOU MUST SOUND AS CONVINCING AS POSSIBLE OR IT WILL NOT GO WELL FOR YOUR DAUGHTER. NOD IF YOU UNDERSTAND.”
Samantha nodded, and whispered “I understand”. The Doll that had brought her the water then went into the hallway, and brought the telephone in. Handing it to Samantha, she dialled the number for her husband’s office, as the lead Doll handed her another note.
“Hello, Denise? Is Charles there?
Could you put me through to him, please – it’s important that I talk to him now.
Charles? Please, darling, listen very carefully to what I have to say.
I have been taken hostage by a group that call themselves the China Doll Gang, and they have told me that they also have Rebecca hostage somewhere. They want you to listen to what I am saying, and not to contact the police or tell anyone else what is happening. They have placed a tap on your office phone, and they have people in the supermarket watching what you are doing.
We are safe, and will be released unharmed when you have done what they ask.
When the supermarket closes tonight, you are to send the staff home early, and then put all the contents of the safe in some of the carrier bags that you use. You must then take the bags to the rear of the store, and open the rear access door. There will be someone waiting there to take the bags from you. When you have done this, go back to your office and wait for a call to come to you. You will then be told where we are.
Once again, do not call the police or tell anyone else of what is happening, or Rebecca and I will be hurt. Do not call home, or they will hurt us again.
I love you.”
As Samantha finished reading the note, the Doll pressed the disconnect button on the telephone, and Samantha was handed another note.
“THANK YOU FOR DOING THAT. HAND THE TWO PIECES OF PAPER BACK TO ME, THEN STAND UP AND PLACE YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK. WHEN WE HAVE FINISHED, WE WILL ARRANGE FOR REBECCA TO BE BROUGHT BACK HERE TO JOIN YOU.”
Doing as she was asked, Samantha noticed the Doll who had been sitting down hand the pistol to the leader, then reach down behind the chair and retrieve a holdall. As she placed her hands behind her back, she saw the Doll pull a length of white cord from the rucksack, then make her way behind Samantha. Crossing her wrists, the Doll bound Samantha’s wrists together, with several turns around her wrists then cinching the ropes and leaving the note on the top of the binding, out of the reach of her fingers. The Doll then took a longer length of rope, and passed it several times around Samantha’s arms and chest above and below her breasts and pulled tight after each pass. The rope was then passed under Samantha’s left arm, passed around her neck and passed under her right arm, cinching the upper body bindings further.
Satisfied with her work, the Doll turned Samantha round and helped her to sit back down. Taking more rope from the rucksack, it was a work of a few minutes to secure Samantha’s ankles, calves and thighs with ropes. Finally, she produced a red bandana from the sack, rolled it into a tight band and tied a knot in the middle of the band. Approaching Samantha, the Doll placed the knot next to her lips, and Samantha realised that this was to be her gag. Opening her mouth, she grunted as the Doll pushed the knot into her mouth and tied the bandana at the nape of Samantha’s neck.
The other two Dolls came over, and manoeuvred Samantha so that she was lying on the couch, with a pillow supporting her head against the arm rest. Samantha wriggled a little to make herself as comfortable as she could, and wondered how long it would be before someone brought Rebecca to her.
She started when she heard a key opening the front door, and her daughter’s voice calling out “Mum – are you home?” Samantha started to try and cry out to warn her daughter, she realised that she had been tricked, but no intelligible sound came out from her gagged mouth. The room door opened, and her blonde haired daughter walked in.
“Mum, I hate A-level History. I know it’s only a couple of weeks to the exam, but if I see another – MUM!!” Rebecca stared at the bound and gagged form of her mother on the couch, and at the two grey clad masked women. She turned to run out of the room, but ran instead into the third Doll as she closed the door.
“Mum – what’s going on? Who are these people?” She struggled as the Doll held her by the arms, but as if to answer the question the lead Doll took yet another note out and held it in front of Rebecca to read.
“WE ARE THE CHINA DOLL GANG, AND YOU AND YOUR MOTHER ARE OUR HOSTAGES FOR A SHORT WHILE. YOUR MOTHER THOUGHT WE ALREADY HAD YOU, BUT WE USED A LITTLE FAKE PHOTOGTAPHY TO CONVINCE HER OF THAT. DO AS YOU ARE TOLD, AND KEEP QUIET, AND NEITHER OF YOU WILL COME TO ANY HARM. SAY ‘I UNDERSTAND’ IF YOU WILL DO AS WE ASK.”
“I understand,” Rebecca said quietly, at which point the Doll that had tied Samantha up approached Rebecca with some lengths of rope.
Some time later, Rebecca was being helped to the floor, her hands tied tightly behind her back, a length of rope used to secure them to her back and a third length holding her arms to her side. As the Doll proceeded to tie Rebecca’s ankles together over the white socks she was wearing, Samantha watched as one of the Dolls quietly slipped out of the room.
Her ankles tied, Rebecca watched as her legs were tied above her knees. The third Doll then took a scarf from the rucksack, and approaching Rebecca she rolled it into a ball. “No, please, don’t gag me,” Rebecca said, but as she did so the scarf was forced into her mouth. Before she could spit it out, her school tie was taken off from around her neck and used to keep the gag in place. Rebecca was then helped down to lie on her side, and her wrists and ankles were tied together in a hogtie.
Samantha tried to reassure her daughter, but the muffled grunts that came out were all that Rebecca could hear. In return, her mother could only hear her grunts as she tried to make herself as comfortable. By now, Samantha had realised that the Doll that had left had gone to collect the supermarket takings, and all they could do was wait.
The sudden ringing of the phone caused all of them to start. One of the dolls brought the telephone over to Samantha, who listened to her husband asking if she was there. She tried to shout down the phone, but the Doll removed it from her ear and placed a small tape recorder next to it. A metallic voice came from it.
“You WERE told NOT to CALL here? WHY have YOU called? LISTEN to THIS” As the Doll held the phone up, both Samantha and Rebecca screamed and shouted, leading to a pair of muffled voices. “NOW do AS you WERE told.” The Doll then cut the call off, and replaced the handset.
The hours slowly ticked by, and the two women lay still wondering what would happen next. As the clock stuck six thirty, Samantha was beginning to panic when she heard the ring of a mobile phone. The Doll who seemed to be the leader answered, and listened to the caller. She then nodded to the other Doll, and collected everything into the rucksack, folder with notes and all. Checking the bindings on both Samantha and Rebecca were still holding, the two Dolls then left the room, closing the door behind them.
Rebecca listened to see if they were alone for some time. She then began to struggle to try and get herself free, but could not do so. Samantha started to try and talk to her daughter.
“mmbecaaa? Mbeccaaa? Cn yu cum ovr hrer?”
“Mmm, mm? Whmm sss tttt?”
“Cum ovr hrrrrr!”
Rebecca slowly turned over onto her stomach, and managed to get herself onto her knees. She then inched her way across the floor to where her mother was lying on the couch. When she arrived, Samantha turned herself over so that her hands were towards Rebecca.
“Pt yur muff nr my fingrs”
Indicating with her head and fingers, Rebecca eventually realised what her mother was saying, and placed her head near to Samantha’s hands. Using her fingers, Samantha eventually managed to get the tie out of Rebecca’s mouth, who then proceeded to spit the balled up scarf out.
“Mum – oh god, what happened here? Let me see if I can get that scarf out of your mouth as well.”
Inching over and pushing herself as far up on her knees as she could, Rebecca watched her mother roll over and place her mouth near to Rebecca’s bound hands. Again, it took time, but eventually she slowly pulled the knot out of her mother’s mouth. Samantha took several gulps of air, then spoke.
“Rebecca – they showed me a photo with you gagged, and I thought they had already got you. What must you think of me?”
“Never mind Mum – we’re safe. Do you think you can try and untie me?”
“I don’t think so – I’m too tightly tied. What about you?”
“I’ve tried – but I can’t reach any of the knots. What happens now?”
“We wait, and hope they do contact your father.”
And so they did. For the next hour, they wriggled around in a joint attempt to get comfortable and to loosen the ropes, but the sudden and dramatic arrival of their father and husband with the police meant they were eventually freed. They could give the police very few details of the gang, beyond their costumes and the white faces, and Charles was not much more help. When he took the bags to the rear entrance, a woman wearing a long hooded coat grabbed the bags off him and ran in the direction of the car park.
So the police tried their best, but nothing was recovered.
As for the China Doll Gang………
Some miles away, in a semi-detached house in a quiet cul-de-sac, the three women were finishing counting the money.
“That was a close one.”
“Too close – he nearly saw my face when I grabbed the bags off him.”
“I think that’s the last time we pull a job like that – the risks are just too great.”
“I agree – contained, simple house robberies in the future. At least we can handle that as a full team. Agreed?”
“Agreed. One other thing.”
“Can we order some take-away – I’m starving!”