“It had to be
It had to be you...”
As the sound of Jamie Cullum played over the stereo, Melinda poured two coffees out and served them to her husband and her mother. “I do love this song,” she said as she poured herself a cup and sat down, crossing her legs as she sipped from her cup.
“I don’t know,” Irene said, “I prefer Frank myself.” Irene was in her early seventies, and was visiting her daughter and son in law for a short break while some repair work was carried out on her house. For a woman of her age, she was fit, and had light brown hair which she wore in a curled and piled style made possible by a lot of hairspray.
She was wearing a long blue velvet dress, the zip pulled down a little at the front to show the white top she had on under it, and a pair of black ankle boots, her blue eyes behind a large pair of clear framed glasses.
“So how is business, Donald,” she said as she sipped her coffee.
“Oh I can’t complain,” Melinda’s husband said, “the takings are holding steady, and I have a new selection of gems here to take in tomorrow.”
“You know I don’t like you bringing them home,” Melinda said as she looked at her husband, “this is not really a secure place.”
“Oh it’s only for one night – what could possibly happen?”
Melinda merely shook her head as she drank her coffee. In her early forties, she had blonde hair which she wore cut short and frizzed, and was wearing a brown dress with a wide round neckline, a little bow at the front. The sleeves came down to just over her elbows, while the skirt came to just above her knees. She was wearing a set of sheer pantyhose with a pattern of darker streaks, and three inch heeled pumps. Her husband was still in his suit, shirt and tie.
“That was a wonderful meal by the way, dear,” Irene said as she smiled at her daughter, Melinda blushing as she said “thank you – why don’t we go and sit in the lounge, and have a drink.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Donald said as she stood up, and they made their way into the lounge. He walked over to the large bay window, looking out and drawing the heavy curtains over as a grey transit van drove past.
“Here you are mum,” Melinda said as she handed Irene a glass of whiskey, sitting on the arm of the chair as she put her arm round her mother’s shoulders.
“thank you,” Irene said as she looked at Donald, and then at Melinda. “Is there something you both wish to tell me?”
“Well, it’s about Abby, mum, you see...”
Now who on earth could that be,” Donald said as the front doorbell rang. “I’ll be back in just a minute.”
What about Abby, dear,” Irene said as Melinda went and sat opposite her.
“Well, mum, you see... Oh my god.”
Irene looked to the door to see Donald walk back in, his hands on his head as he was followed by three women. They were dressed literally from head to foot in grey – a hooded bodysuit covering them except for their feet, hands and face. On their feet they wore grey boots. On their hands they wore grey gloves. And where their faces should have been visible, there was only a featureless white mask, like you would see on a doll.
The three women looked at Melinda and Irene, their heads cocked to one side, before the one behind Donald brought the gun she had been holding to his back round, and put a gloved finger to the lips of her mask. A second one then put a large canvas bag on the floor, while the third came round and stood between the two women, her head still.
“What is the meaning of this,” Irene said angrily, and then stopped as the woman shook her head slowly from side to side, and put her finger to the lips of her mask again.
“They just pushed their way in, showing me the gun,” Donald said quietly, “they haven’t said a word.”
“Haven’t...” Melinda’s face went white as she looked at them, and at their garb. She then gasped “oh god no – not you...”
The armed woman nodded and then turned to the second one, who opened the bag and took out a large coil of brown rope. Shaking it loose, the three of them watched as she doubled it, and made a small loop in the centre, and then nodded to the third woman.
She took Melinda’s arm, making her stand and turn to face her as the rope was draped over her shoulders, and she felt the small knot at the base of her neck.
“What are you going to do,” Donald said quietly, Irene watching as the masked women then spiralled the rope down her daughter’s arms, pulling them behind her back as she did so, and then securing her forearms parallel to each other before she fed the rope through the loop, and pulled her bound arms up her back.
“Who are these people,” Irene said quietly as the rope was wound tightly around her daughter’s upper body and arms, forming a rope harness as her dress was stretched over her chest, her breasts forced up and out as the ropes were tightened around them.
“I don’t know,” Donald said as he was pushed down onto his knees, his hands still on his head, “I just wish they’d say something.”
“they won’t” Melinda said as she was turned round, her husband gasping when he saw the way the ropes sat around her body, “I read about them in the Telegraph. They’re the China Doll Gang.”
The leader nodded as Melinda was made to sit on the couch, the masked woman taking a second length of rope and passing it around her legs below her knees, the pantyhose lightening and stretching a sit was pulled tightly and the ends taken between her legs.
“I see – and they are famous for...”
“Doing what they’re doing, mum,” Melinda said as her ankles were forced together, “coming into homes, tying up whoever they find there, and robbing them – all without saying a single word.”
Donald looked at the two women, shaking his head slightly from side to side as the woman behind him looked at Irene. Motioning to the woman who had tied her daughter, she handed the gun to him, and then took another hank of rope, shaking it loose and making a loop as well before she stood in front of Irene, and bowed slightly.
Irene looked at her, taking a moment to realise what was happening, and then bowed her head as well. “You must do this,” she said quietly, “and I accept your apology.”
“No – please, don’t do it to her,” Melinda whispered as Irene shuffled forward slightly, turning so that her back was to the masked woman, but remaining seated as the rope was draped over her shoulders, and then wound gently, but firmly, down her arms.
“Mum, what are you doing,” Melinda said, her eyes wide as she watched her own mother having her arms secured in the same way as her.
“They are showing respect – and if what you say is correct, I have no choice in the matter,” Irene said as the ropes were pulled tightly round her upper body, stretching her robe so that the zip came down a little more, “better to allow them to do this.”
“Please,” Donald said, “I’ll do anything you want, but leave them alone.”
The masked woman looked down at him, her head to the side as she put her finger to the mask’s mouth, while the third woman left the room for a moment.
“it’s all right,” Irene said as the leader took another length of rope, bowed and knelt down, passing it around her legs above her knees and gathering the skirt around them as she pulled it tight, “it’s not uncomfortable, and at least we will all be in the same situation.”
She looked down as her skirt was lifted by the band of rope, allowing the Doll to take the rope down and bind her ankles tightly together, before she stood and bowed again. “Thank you for being so considerate,” Irene said, the masked woman nodding before she stood and walked over to Donald, pulling him up onto his feet.
She motioned to the other Doll, who nodded and stood watching both women as Donald was led out of the room.
“Well, this is not how I expected to spend tonight,” Irene said as she sat back as much as she could.
“How can you stay so calm,” Melinda said loudly, “three armed and masked women have broken in, tied us up, God alone knows what they’re planning to do to Donald...”
“I would imagine empty the safe and take anything they can find,” Irene said quietly, “but as you so rightly said, dear, they are armed. There is no point in trying to resist them, and after all anything they take can be replaced.”
“But it’s the principle of the thing – they just can’t barge in here and do this!”
“Melinda,” Irene said quietly, “isn’t that exactly what they have done?”
That made her daughter stop and think, twisting her arms and legs round as she tried to get free.
“It won’t work – not unless you can reach the knots,” her mother said, “and I don’t think you will be able to, if you are tied like me.”
Irene shook her head as she looked at the masked guard, Melinda realising what she was trying to say as she fell quiet.
“I suppose they’re going to stop us from calling for help as well?”
“I would imagine so,” Irene said with a sigh, “so let us enjoy this time while we can. What were you going to tell me about Abby?”
“Oh – seems a bit strange to say this at the moment,” Melinda said as she looked at her mother, “but you’re going to be a great grandmother in the autumn.”
Irene smiled, a wide, proud smile as she said “that is truly fantastic news. I must call her and talk to her – when it is possible to do so.”
Melinda laughed at that, as they heard her husband say “oh no – please...” and then only muffled sounds.
The Doll turned her head at that, and then opened the bag, taking out a large grey silk head square. The two women watched as she rolled it along the diagonal into a band, and then tied a large knot in the middle of it.
“I have the distinct feeling we will be unable to talk clearly soon,” Irene said as the Doll walked behind her daughter, “remain calm – if we do so, I’m sure we can get through this.”
“all right mum – and thanks.”
“For being such a brfffwmn,” Melinda said as the silk knot was pulled into her mouth, the band tied tightly round her neck before she was made to lie down on her stomach, her ankles pulled back and secured to her chest with a further length of rope.
As she rolled onto her side, she watched as the Doll returned to the bag, and took out a large blue square, rolling it into a band and tying a knot in that as well. Irene nodded, and said “thank you for not hurting us” before she allowed the knot to be placed in her own mouth, the band tied around her head and secured at the base foe her neck before the Doll looked at her, and motioned with her hands to mime removing glasses.
“Nfnnkuu,” Irene mumbled, the Doll nodding as she went back to the large bag and stood guard again. The two women watched, getting as comfortable as they could while the other two masked Dolls came in, carrying several velvet bags which they placed in the large holdall.
“Tlddhmmtwsamsstkk,” Melinda said, shaking her head as the bag was picked up, and the lead Doll bowed towards Irene. She bowed her head in return, as the three women in grey left, the house in silence save for muffled calls from another room.
Melinda looked over at her mother, who was shaking her head, the silk knot in her mouth growing darker as it began to soak up the saliva. She had never seen her so brave, and she had a new respect for her, as they settled in for however long it would take for them to get free or be rescued.
It was nearly midnight before the police arrived – alerted by their daughter, who had called several times but never received a reply. Donald had been left, bound and hogtied like his wife, in the study, the open safe door facing him as he tried to call out through the white knotted scarf that had been tied into his mouth.
The jewels, his wife’s jewels, money – all had been taken, but as they were freed, all three realised the most important thing was they were safe – and still together.