The Doll House
“Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday to me...”
“Happy Birthday to me as well...”
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!!!”
Anne and Amy van Holden grinned as they hugged each other. The twenty year old girls had spent the day at their greetings cards store, and were looking forward to a family night out with their mother and grandmother in celebration of the event.
The only way to tell the twins apart, as a rule, was their hair – Anne wore her blonde hair short, while Amy had hers longer, falling down the back of her neck and on her shoulders. But both girls liked to dress identically – and today, that involved a knee length gray dress, with thin spaghetti shoulder straps, and a red and blur floral print. Under the dress they both wore light grey tops, while over their arms and shoulders were grey woollen bolero style jackets.
They both were wearing grey tights, and leather strapped boots – in the case of Anne they were grey, and Amy brown.
“So, ready to eat at Mario’s?”
“Yeah – when’s Gran likely to get here?”
“In a few minutes,” Anne said as she looked out of the window. The street was quiet, with a grey transit van parked a short way down the road. “Why?”
“I just want this to be a good night, that’s all,” Amy said as she smiled. “I’ll go down and join Mum – see you in a few minutes?”
“No problem,” Anne said as she heard the doorbell. She sat down at the dressing table and started to apply her lipstick, humming quietly to herself as she did so. Hearing the quiet footfall behind her, she said “I’m on my way,” and stood up, turning round expecting to see her sister.
What she saw instead was a woman, dressed from head to foot in a form fitting grey bodysuit, the hood covering her head save for her face. Or at least where her face should have been – instead, there was a white featureless mask, with only slits for the eyes showing.
As well as the bodysuit, the woman was wearing grey gloves on her hands, and short grey boots – but it was the small pistol she was holding and pointing towards Anne that really took her attention.
“Oh god,” she whispered quietly, “what do you want?” She looked at the woman, who said nothing, simply shaking her head slowly from side to side and putting a gloved finger to where her lips would have been.
“You... You want me to be quiet?”
The figure nodded and then held her other hand up. Anne started to shake when she saw the long length of rough brown rope, neatly coiled up and with a small loop tied in the middle.
“Please, you can lock me in the room, you don’t need to...”
The woman shook her head slowly from side to side, and then indicated with her finger that Anne should turn round. She did so slowly, wondering what was going to happen until she felt the gloved hands place her arms by her side, and then the rope fall in front of her over her shoulders. There was some pressure on the back of the neck, as if the masked intruder was placing something carefully, and then she saw the grey arms come round, and start to wind the rope down both arms in a spiral. As she did this, she felt the masked woman pull her arms behind her, so she tried to control her breathing, control her fear as her arms were brought together behind her back and secured together.
“Where is my sister? My mother?”
There was no reply, as Anne felt her captor feed the ropes through what she presumed was the little loop she had seen, and then her arms as they were pulled up her back, and the rope wrapped round them again. She then saw the rope as it was passed round her upper arms and body, almost welding them to her sides as they framed her chest, pulling her jacket to the sides.
“Please, will you tell me what is going on,” Anne said as she tried to move, but found her arms were tightly secured. The masked woman in grey said nothing, instead taking her arm and walking her out of her room, and down the stairs.
As they walked into the front room, Anne saw Amy standing there, her arms secured to her arms in the same way – and another woman dressed in grey, save for the white mask.
“Oh god – are you all right Anne,” Amy said quietly as she was helped to sit down on a long couch.
“I am – apart from having my arms tied,” Anne said quietly, “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know – I came down the stairs when Mum opened the door – and these three women just walked in.”
“Three of them?”
“Three of them – just stay calm girls, and we’ll get through this together.”
As Anne sat next to her sister, she saw a third woman come in with her mother. Sarah van Holden was on her early forties, and was wearing a black jersey dress, with grey sheer tights and a pair of mid-calf grey suede boots. The grey woman was holding her arm, as she nodded to one of the other two women. They reached into a large duffle bag, and brought out a hank of brown rope, which she shook loose, doubled over and tied a small loop in the middle of.
“Mum,” Amy said as she looked at Anne, “what’s going on?”
“We’re been robbed,” Sarah said quietly as the woman draped the rope over her shoulders, and then started to swiftly bind her arms, “these are the China Doll Gang – you read about them in the papers?”
Anne and Amy looked at each other as the Doll bound their mother’s arms and body, the ropes framing her chest as well. Sarah gasped as the ropes were pulled tighter – and then all six stopped as they heard the front door opening.
The Dolls moved like lightning – two of them coming behind Anne and Amy, their pistols drawn, while the third stood beside Sarah, her hand on her shoulder.
“So where are the birthday girls,” a voice said, and then the door opened as a grey haired woman walked in, carrying two bags. She was wearing a grey cardigan over a white top, a long fawn skirt, and black knee length boots, with the glimpse of grey tights between the boot tops and the skirts.
“Happy... Oh dear Lord!”
“Mamma I’m sorry,” Sarah said quietly, “they arrived a little while ago, and I fear you are going to be like us soon.”
“Have they hurt any of you,” the new arrival said as she looked round the room, the Dolls looking at the twins.”
“No grandmamma,” Amy said, “they are the China Doll Gang, according to Mum.”
“And is their birthday,” the new arrival said. “This is going to be a most unusual evening, I see – unfortunately. I am Esther Bloome – I presume if I do as you say, I will come to no harm?”
She looked at the Doll standing behind Sarah, who slowly nodded as she stood to one side, and then nodded to one of the others. Esther watched as she fetched a fresh length of rope, and walked behind Esther, the older woman calming herself as they started to bind her.
The Doll pointed to an armchair by the couch, Sarah nodding as she went to sit down. As she did this, the third doll took a shorter length of rope from the bag, and knelt in front of Anne, folding her skirt back before she wrapped the rope around her legs below her knees and between them, before she took the rope down and bound her ankles tightly together. Anne tried to move her legs, but only swing them up and down as the Doll replaced her skirt, stood up and went to the bag to retrieve another length of rope.
“She,” Sarah said as she nodded to the Doll watching them, “she made me open the safe already, and then she brought me to join the girls.”
“At least they seem to be intending to keep us together,” Esther said, gasping as the chest ropes were pulled tighter, and the ropes tied off. She was then directed to the other armchair, walking over and sitting down as the Doll bound Amy’s legs.
“So what’s going to happen now,” Esther said as she wriggled round. The Doll simply cocked her head to one side, and then watched as the other two took ropes, and bound the legs of Sarah and Esther as they sat in the chairs.
“Well, as I said, this is going to be a very different evening,” Esther said quietly as she tried to get comfortable. “It is just a pity we will not be able to cancel the table at Mario’s – something tells me we will not be able to make it?”
The Doll turned as she said that, her head to one side, and then she nodded to the other two. As they left the room, she reached into the duffle bag herself, and then pulled out a red bandana, the women watching as she rolled it into a band and then tied a knot in the middle.
“Oh no – we won’t raise the alarm I promise,” Sarah said as she pushed herself back into the chair, but there was no reply, only the Doll standing in front of her, the bandana taut in her hands, the knot in front of her mouth.
“Sarah – allow her to do it. It is better we are silent than worried because one of us is hurt.”
“Please Mum – we’ll manage,” Anne said quietly, Amy nodding in agreement.
“All right, Mamma,” Sarah said before she opened her mouth, tasting the clean cotton on her tongue as the Doll eased the knot between her teeth, and then tied the bandana tightly round her head, the knot sitting at the base of her neck.
who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy nammmm,”
Anne felt the band pressing on her cheeks as the Doll gagged her with a brown bandana.
come, Thy Will be done
On Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Amy tried not to gag as a knotted black bandana was used to keep her quiet.
us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
For Thine is the Kingdom,
The Power and the Glory, Frrffrrndfrrrr.”
Esther looked up as the two Dolls returned, carrying velvet sacks which they placed into the duffle bag, while a green bandana was used to keep her quiet. She looked at her daughter and granddaughters, as they all said together “Emmnnn.”
The three Dolls looked at the family, before they closed the duffle bag, one of them picking it up as another placed a folded letter on the coffee table. They then stood at the doorway, looking at the trussed and gagged women, before they faded into the twilight of the darkening hallway.
The four of them looked at each other as they heard the door opening and close, before the twins started struggling, trying to free themselves. The ropes were too tight, however, and after a while they realised the way the ropes were rubbing on them were making them feel – strange. And not in a way they liked.
So they sat still, the four of them quietly trying to talk to each other as the light lessened through the curtains...
Amy opened her eyes as a policeman came in, two more following as they ungagged the four women.
“Thank god – how did you know?”
“Anonymous tipoff,” the officer said to Sarah as he looked at the ropes, and then started to untie her. “What’s that on the table?”
“They left it.”
“The China Doll Gang.”
One of the policeman opened it with gloved hands. “It’s a note, thanking you for your cooperation,” he said as the others were released. “We’ll get someone to check you over.”
“I don’t understand – why did they let you know?”
“Who can tell – those ladies say nothing. Besides – it has been a very trying day for us.”
“Why,” Esther asked.
The policemen looked at each other, before one said “we’ll get you checked over – can you tell us what has been taken?”
“All our jewellery, and the money from the safe,” Esther said as she sat at the table with Anne and Amy. It was nearly eleven, and the police had gone.
“Well, at least we were released,” Anne said as she rubbed her wrists, “and what did they mean it’s been a trying day?”
“Ho knows,” Amy said, “at least we’re all right, but our birthday meal...”
The three women look at Sarah as she came in.
“I just called Mario’s – someone called, said the family were tied up in an emergency, and could they move the booking to tomorrow?”
“Who called them?”
“They said it was me – a female at least...”
“So it was the China Doll Gang?”
“Looks that way,” the DC said as he looked at DCI Jardine. “What the hell happened here today chief?”
“I have no idea – but that just adds to the list..."