Alexa cannot help you now








As they heard the front door close, she turned her head and looked at her son and daughter, before she started to struggle and scream – but the tape covering her mouth was keeping the folded scarf in that filled her mouth, so that all the three of them managed to do was moan softly.


Not enough to make the device respond – even if it could, as her husband and her younger daughter watched, trying not to laugh at the situation and what had led to this…



“What is it Dad,” Fiona said as she and her father went to see who had rung the front door bell.  The ten year old girl had long curly red hair, which fell over the shoulders of her red cardigan.  That was over a blue top and skirt, with her legs in pink floral print leggings, while she had a pair of green sandals on her white sock covered feet.


“I’ll show you when I take it into the main room,” her father said with a smile as he carried the box in.  Alan was in his early forties, with short greying brown hair and a scruffy beard, wearing a grey polo shirt, fawn pants and black shoes.


As he closed the door, he didn’t notice the small grey van that pulled up on the pavement outside the house, two men in the front…



“So what is it Dad,” Fiona said as she sat next to Alan on the couch, watching as he opened the box and took out a black cylinder.


“It’s called an Amazon Echo,” Alan said as he put it on the low coffee table.


“What does it do?”


“Well, it’s like a home help for all of us,” Alan said as he looked at the device, and then pressed a button.


“Oh it arrived?”


“It did indeed,” Alan said as his wife Hazel walked in.  About the same age as him, she had long blonde hair, and was wearing a green sleeveless blouse, dark grey pants, and black shoes. 


“So how does it work,” Fiona said as her older sister looked over from the chair.  Debs was seventeen, and was reading a text book in an attempt at revision.  Her brown cardigan had an eye motif printed on it, and covered her white round necked top, with her black skirt coming down to her knees.  She also had white trainers on, her socks coming over her ankles and only her ankles.


“Well,” Alan said as Hazel sat on the back of the couch behind him, “you give the trigger word and ask a question, and it answers.  Okay Alexa – what can you do?”


Fiona smiled as a female voice came from the device, explaining the function.  “So it can do my homework for me?”


“No – but it can help you find the answers,” Hazel said as Colin came in.  The sixteen year old sat down, his blue hooded top opening to show his white t-shirt, and leaned forward with his elbows on the legs of his grey jogging pants.


“Cool – will it play music?”


Alan leaned back and said “why don’t you try?”  Colin nodded as he said “okay Alexa – play rock music,” smiling as the music started to come out.


“Okay Alexa – stop,” Alan laughed as the family grinned.  “Well, we know it works,” Hazel said with a smile, “so I had better…”


“Good afternoon – please, do not make any sudden noises or movements, and in particular I must ask you all not to say anything that may cause that fascinating device to respond.”


“Oh my god…”  The family turned and looked to the patio doors that led out to the garden, and in particular at the two men that had appeared through the doors.  They were identically dressed – black jumpers with leather jackets over them, dark trousers and shoes, black leather gloves on their hands – and black balaclavas over their heads, so that only their eyes and lips were visible.


The other striking thing about them was the disparity in height – the one holding the large canvas holdall was a good foot smaller than his companion, but the taller one had a very real gun in his hand, and was smiling as he looked at the family.


“Please, allow me to make the introductions,” he continued as he watched Hazel stand up, while Colin and Debs pushed themselves back in their seats, “I am Mister Tall, my friend Mister Small.  Please, remain where you are, and keep your hands where we can see them – I would hate for anyone to be in a position that was uncomfortable for them, and for us.”


“Are you robbers,” Fiona said as she looked at them.


“Yes we are,” Mister Small said with a smile, “but be assured, we have no desire to hurt you, so long as you do what we ask you to do.  Also be assured it is not our intention to do more than take your valuables, and take some steps to ensure none of you can raise the alarm.”


“Which brings us to this most fascinating device,” Mister Tall said as he looked at the cylinder on the coffee table.  “Very popular, but am I right in believing that it is almost impossible to disable the device, Mister Small?”


“Regretfully it is,” the smaller man said as he smiled at Debs, and then placed the canvas bag on the table next to it.  “It can, of course, be broken, but why destroy something that has only just arrived.”


“You’re kidding,” Colin said as he looked over “don’t robbers just smash everything?”


“Ah, but we are not your common or garden robber,” Mister Tall said as he looked over.  “Regardless, Mister Small, we need to ensure the risk of this device been an alarm is minimized before we continue.  Do you have any suggestions?”


“This should work,” he said as he opened the bag and took out a large roll of grey duct tape.  Tearing the end free, he picked up the device, and wrapped the tape tightly round the device, taking it up towards the top and then looking at Mister Tall as he set it back down.


“Okay Alexa,” he said quietly, “play Billy Joel.”


“I am sorry, I do not understand…”


“What have you done to it,” Fiona whispered.


“Covered the microphones – in effect, made it difficult for it to hear,” Mister Tall said as he looked over.  “Now, perhaps your mother will come and sit next to you, while Mister Small ensures that the other methods of communication to the house are neutralized?”


“To begin with,” Mister Small said as Hazel sat next to Fiona, “Slowly, take out your mobile phones and hand them to me.”


“Do as he says,” Alan said quietly as he took his phone from his pocket and handed it over, Debs and Colin doing the same.


“And as for you, little one?”


“My name’s Fiona.”


“Well, do you have a phone Fiona?”


“No – Mummy and Daddy say I’m too young.”


Mister Small nodded as he put the phones into the bag, and then left the room as Mister Tall stood in front of them.  “Now, we do find it is easier if we use first names.  We have already met Fiona – and the rest of you?”


“I’m Alan, my wife Hazel, and this is Debs and Colin – what are you going to do to us?”


“Take your valuables – and you will assist us with that Alan – but we also have to ensure that nobody can alert the authorities, or anyone else to our presence here.”


“Oh no – you’re going to tie us up?”


“Regretfully, it is necessary,” Mister Tall said with a smile, “but while we would normally use rope, time is of the essence today.  So to begin – will you all please remove your shoes?”


“Our shoes?”


“Yes Debs – you may as well be as comfortable as possible, so please, remove your shoes.”


I must ask you all to put your hands together in front of you – except for you Alan.  I want you to put your hands palm down on your head for the moment.”


The family looked at each other and then did as he asked, their white socks all visible as they did so.  Mister Small then took the roll of silver tape in his hands, and said “youngest first I think.  Ready Fiona?”


“Will it hurt,” the young girl asked as she looked at him.  She could see his smile and the light in his eyes as he said “no – it will feel funny, but it will not hurt.”  He then tore the end of the tape from the roll, and as the others watched he secured Fiona’s wrists tightly together in front of her.  As he tore the end free and patted it down, Fiona twisted her hands round, hearing the tape crinkle as she said “you’re right, Mister Small – it doesn’t hurt.”


“Good – then we take care of your brother next,” he said as he walked to the other chair, Colin staring angrily at him as he taped his wrists together as well.


“While my friend takes care of the rest of your family,” Mister Tall said to Alan, “I want you and Fiona to come with me.  We’re going to take a tour of the house, and I want you to tell me where everything is.  Do that, and there will be no arguments, no mess to clean up after – a better outcome for all, I’m sure you’ll agree.”


“Dad,” Debs said as Mister Small taped her wrists together, “I’m scared.”


“I think we all are,” Alan said quietly, “but I genuinely think they are not going to hurt us, so just do as he says.  Fiona and I will be back as soon as we can.”


“Wise words to take heed of,” Mister Small said with a smile as he walked over and taped Hazel’s wrists tightly together.  Alan slowly stood up as Mister Tall helped Fiona to stand, the others watching as he walked with them out of the room.


“And what are you going to do to us,” Hazel asked quietly as the other three walked up the stairs.


“Well, I think this is a situation that calls for some family bonding time.  I want you all to stand up, and sit on the floor in front of the coffee table.  Hazel, if you will sit in the middle, Colin to your right and debs to your left?”


“Why?  And what do you mean family bonding time?”


Mister Small smiled as he looked at Babs, before he said “If you move, you will find out.  I strongly suggest it would be the best thing for you all to do.”


“Come on, let’s do this,” Hazel said as she rose from the couch, the tape crinkling as she twisted her wrists round, and then sat down, Colin leaving his seat as he stared at the masked man and sat to her right, and Debs slowly sitting to her left.


“Excellent – now, Hazel, if you will raise your arms?”


“Why not us,” Colin said quietly – and then he understood why not as Mister Small employed the rest of the roll by wrapping it round all three of them, holding the son and daughter’s arms to their sides as their bodies were forced together.  Debs could see her jacket opening up, but as Mister Small smoothed the end down, and held up the empty roll, she laughed and said “well, that scuppered your plans, didn’t it?”


“No, I don’t think so,” Mister Small said as he returned to the bag, and removed a second large roll of grey tape, smiling as he walked back over.




“I like you – you’re nice,” Fiona said as she sat on her parent’s bed, watching as Alan stood with Mister Tall, telling him where to look as one by one the jewellery boxes were brought out and emptied into his velvet sack.


“Well, compliments are always welcome,” Mister Tall said as he turned and smiled at her, before putting some watches into the sack as well.


“In a strange way, I should thank you,” Alan said quietly, “I mean, you’re robbing us, but you’re not scaring us.  How do you do that?”


“Practice – and we do generally find that been considerate and mannerly pays the dividends,” Mister Tall said as he looked at Alan.  “One last thing – your safe?”


“Our safe?”


“The one I can see in the walk-in wardrobe.  Would you be so good as to open it please?”


Alan nodded as he opened the door and knelt down, while Mister Tall turned to Fiona.  “In a few minutes, I will take you and your father back to be with the rest of the family.  As you have been such a good girl, I offer you the choice – would you like to be left next to your father or sitting on his lap?”


“Sitting on his lap,” Fiona said without hesitation as the safe door opened, Mister Tall nodding as she heard some muffled sounds.  “What has your friend done with the others?”


“We will find out in a few minutes,” Mister Tall said with a smile as he walked to her father, watching as he put some bundles of notes into the bag.  “Excellent – shall we go and join the others?”


“Yes please,” Fiona said as she got off the bed, walking down with Mister Tall and her father and back into the front room.  As they walked in, she looked at her mother, brother and sister and said “Oh my – will you do that to us?”


“Not quite,” Mister Tall said as he looked at Mister Small.  Hazel, Debs and Colin were all sitting with the legs bent, their sock covered feet flat on the floor and tape securing their ankles together – Fiona could see the cuffs of her brother’s pants peeking out from under the silver band.


They also had strips of the silver tape pressed down over their mouths, as Hazel looked at her younger daughter and husband.  Hsshsfhfhnghllrht,” she mumbled, the tape crinkling slightly over her mouth as she tried to talk.


“We’re fine – are you all okay?”  The three of them nodded as Mister Tall said “I want you to stand with my friend for a minute, Fiona.  Alan, will you please sit down on the couch, and put your hands on your head?”


As Alan did so, Mister Small handed his partner the roll of tape, Mister Tall kneeling down as he taped the man of the house’s ankles tightly together as well, Fiona seeing that like Colin the cuffs of his pant legs peeked out from under the tight silver band.


“Excellent,” the masked man said as he looked over, “Mister Small, Fiona has asked if she could be sat on her father’s lap.  If you could do the honours?”


“Of course,” Mister Small replied, Fiona giggling as he lifted her up in his arms.  The others watched as she was sat on Alan’s lap, her father putting her arms round her and kissing her head as Mister Tall used the tape to secure his wrists together in front of both of them.


“there – you’ll both be bonding together like the others,” he said with a smile before he taped Fiona’s ankles together as well, handing the roll to Mister Small before he wound it tightly round both of them, making Fiona stay in position as her arms and her father’s arms were locked into place.


“Well, we’re stuck with each other now,” Alan said as Mister Small looked in the canvas bag, taking out a pair of clean white sports socks as Mister Tall put his velvet sack into the canvas one.


“Now comes the time for you both to be quiet – open wide and these go into your mouths, and then I put the tape over them.  It can be a bit strange at first, but you get used to it – don’t you?”  As he looked at the other three, Hazel looked concerned for a moment, but then she nodded as the older children followed suit.


“Okay then – but thank you for being the nicest robbers I ever met,” Fiona said before she tasted the clean cotton on her tongue, and then felt the slight tug on the skin round her mouth as the tape was smoothed into place. She looked up as her father was silenced in the same way, before the two masked men cleared everything back into the bag.


As Mister Tall set the new device on the floor in front of Hazel, Debs and Colin, he looked at all of them and said “Thank you for allowing us to visit today.  The Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu – may we never meet again.”


Hazel watched them both walk out, and then heard the front door close before she started to struggle.




Hmsshrreehdhnhhthndrsthnd” came out of the device as Alan shook his head, and Fiona giggled…








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