A Meeting of The Minds
London – The West of the city.
Rachel had had one of those days that just seemed to drag on and on. It wasn’t that her work as a personal assistant to one of the new breed of publishers wasn’t interesting – it was just that this particular day had consisted of nothing but bringing cups of tea as her boss saw client after client to explain why their work was not selling, and her feet hurt after wearing heels all day.
As she sat on the Tube on the return journey to her flat, she started to plan out the course of her evening. There was a bottle of chardonnay in the fridge at home cooling, and a herbal bath salt set that she was dying to try out. As soon as she got in, she was going to run a very hot bath, and soak for at least an hour. By then her flatmate, Anna, may have returned from her job in the city, and Rachel was fairly sure that Anna had no plans for that night. The idea of a girly chat appealed to her – she just hoped Anna was in the same sort of mood.
Leaving the Tube at Knightsbridge, she walked the short distance to her flat. It was outside her price range both in terms of rent and utility costs, but Anna paid her fair share, and her parents helped out by paying a part of the rent as well. As a result, she could enjoy the London night life and still have somewhere nice to live.
She unlocked the door to the flat, picked up the letters from the floor, and put them and her keys on the small table in the hall. Taking off her slingback shoes, she went straight to the bathroom and began to run a hot bath, placing an amount of bath salts in that sent up an aroma of musk. Rachel then went to her bedroom, and took off the white silk blouse and straight black skirt she was wearing. Returning to the bathroom, she stripped off her underwear, turned the hot water off and turned on the radio. As the sounds of the radio filled the bathroom, she slipped into the bath and let her eyes close as the heavy scent invaded her senses.
As a result, she failed to hear the lock of the front door being slowly turned, and the door being carefully opened. A man, dressed in black and about 5 foot 6 inches tall, quietly slipped into the hallway and gently closed the door behind him. Pausing only to slip a set of screwdrivers into his jacket pocket, he listened to see if anyone had heard him. There was the sound of a radio somewhere, but no other sound, which suggested to him that if anyone was in they had not heard him. “Good,” he thought, “there’s a chance I can get in and out quickly without being heard.”
Very gently, the man crept along the corridor, past the bathroom and went into a bedroom. He could see on the bed a blouse and skirt, and heard then the sound of splashing coming from somewhere else. “She’s in the bath – I’d better make this as quick as possible.” With that, he began searching through the drawers of the bedroom furniture.
Rachel stopped moving for a moment. She thought she’d heard something – but there was no-one else in the flat with her. Shrugging her shoulders, she proceeded to rinse her hair off, and thought about the glass of wine that was waiting for her.
The man had managed to find a reasonable amount of jewellery in his search. It wasn’t a great deal, but he operated on a “small but often” principle of work. Pocketing the items, he moved to search the rest of the flat.
At the same time, Rachel stepped out of the bath and wrapped a large bath towel around herself. As the water ran out of the bath, she looked at herself in the mirror. Her wet auburn hair fell around the curves of her face and shoulders, and although she knew she could lose a few pounds she still felt she was something of a beauty. Rachel turned and opened the bathroom door – just as the intruder opened the bedroom door and both stepped out at the same moment into the corridor.
Rachel stared at the sight in front of her – a man of below average height, dressed in black, and wearing a black stocking over his head. Her first thought was to scream – but the sight of the pistol the man rapidly produced and pointed at her stopped that happening. Instead, Rachel stammered “whhh…weee….who are you?”
“Let’s not worry about names,” the man said, “let’s worry about you. Would you please go and put something on, so that I can tie you up and take your money?”
Rachel had an involuntary shiver. “Tie me up? Why would you want to…….. Oh no, you don’t mean you want to………”
The man stood still. “Lady, if I was thinking of something like that, would I have told you to put something on? Is this your bedroom?” He indicated with the pistol the room he had just left.
Rachel nodded. “Well then,” the man continued, “please go in there and put something on. I can then tie you up, and make my getaway.”
Standing to one side, the man motioned to Rachel to enter her bedroom. Going in, the man followed and closed the door behind him. “Can’t I at least have some privacy to get changed?” Rachel asked.
The man shook his head. “No – and the quicker you put something on, the quicker we can get finished and I can go, so please get a move on.”
Rachel quietly went over to her bed, and took a pair of silk pyjamas out from underneath a pillow. Turning her back to the man, she let the towel drop from around her and then slipped the pyjama top over her head. She then took the bottoms and pulled them up over her legs. “May I at least dry my hair?” she asked.
“No, but you can lie face down on the bed for me and place your hands behind your back.”
Rachel did as she was asked, laying her head down on the pillows. The man placed the gun on the bedside table where Rachel could see it, then took a length of cord from his jacket pocket and proceeded to tie her wrists together. He looped the cord around both wrists several times, then cinched the ropes and tied the knot above the cords where her fingers could not reach it. Taking a second length of cord, he then did the same thing to her ankles, first crossing them to prevent Rachel from standing at a later time.
“Please, roll over onto your back now.” Rachel did as she was asked, and the man reached into another jacket pocket. At that point, however, he cocked his head and then placed his gloved hand over Rachel’s mouth. Rachel heard the front door open and close. The doorbell rang, the door opened and closed, and then one – no, two people walking down the hallway. Anna must have returned, but who else was with her?
The man reached again into the jacket pocket, and took out a roll of medical tape. Taking his hand off Rachel’s mouth, he ripped a length off and stuck it tightly over Rachel’s lips. He then tied her ankles to her wrists in a loose hogtie. “Be quiet now – or else whoever just came in will get the same as you!” the man snarled, and moved quickly to the door………..
Anna had had one of the best days of her life. The closing of the Harrison contract had been a cause for celebration, and she had done just that with her colleagues at lunchtime. Now, as she walked past Harrods, she felt that nothing could spoil her day. Her long black hair was blowing in the slight wind, and she had the beige jacket of her trouser suit set open to feel the cool air. The black silk blouse she was wearing offset the beige of the suit nicely.
In her feeling of joie de vivre, however, she failed to notice the tall man in the denim jacket and jeans who had followed her off the tube. He watched from a short distance as she walked down the road, and assessed his chances. She had obviously had a few drinks, and her relaxed state that naturally resulted from that meant she was a fairly easy target for a burglar like him. Keeping the distance between them, he followed her off the side street to her flat.
Anna almost skipped down the street, and went to open her door. She fumbled slightly as she searched for her keys, but eventually found them and opened the door. The man who was following her moved closer as she opened the door and entered the flat.
The first thing Anna noticed was that the mail had been placed on the table, which meant that Rachel must be home already. She was about to call out when the doorbell rang. There was nothing unusual about that – she and Rachel had an agreement with their neighbours that they would hold any parcels for each other when they were out, and she assumed this was another delivery missed.
As he heard the door open, the tall man quickly pulled a black balaclava mask over his head and withdrew a knife from his pocket. As a result, when Anna opened the door, all she caught was a quick glimpse of the masked face before he pushed his way into the flat, grabbing Anna’s mouth with one hand and pushing her against the wall, and waving the knife in her face. “This is a robbery,” he whispered, “Don’t make a sound or this knife gets used. Do you understand?”
Anna was in a state of shock, and all she could do was whimper “Yes.” The masked man gently pushed the door closed behind him, and turned Anna round with his hand around her throat. “Now, let’s go into the living room. I apologise if I seem a little rough, but say nothing and you’ll be just fine.”
The man marched Anna into the living area of the flat. “Now, put your hands behind your back – I have to make sure you can’t interrupt me while I’m at work.”
“Please, you don’t have to…..”
“Believe me, lady, they all say that and they’re all wrong. Now, hands behind your back”, and he produced a roll of surgical tape from his pocket.
Anna reluctantly did as he asked, and the man proceeded to tape her wrists tightly behind her back. “Sit down, please.” When Anna had sat in a chair, he proceeded to tape her ankles together, then removed her shoes and wrapped the tape around her feet as well.
Anna tried to move her wrists, but the binding was too tight. The man stood in front of her. “Now, where do you keep your jewellery – in your room?”
“Yes,” Anna said, “In the top drawer. First door on the left.”
The man pulled the telephone wire out of the wall. “Sit still and don’t move – I’ll be back in a minute.” With that, he went to the other bedroom. Anna listened until she heard him opening drawers, then began edging her way to the other end of the couch, where her handbag sat with her mobile phone in….
The door of Rachel’s room opened, and the small man silently crept out with the pistol in his hand. He knew time was of the essence, but he needed to make sure whoever had come in was not about to be a problem. He heard sounds in what appeared to be the other bedroom, but could also hear sounds in the living room, so he decided to check there first. To his surprise, he saw from behind a dark haired woman, with her wrists taped behind her back, trying to find something in a handbag.
Moving round, he watched as the woman, whose ankles had also been taped, pulled a mobile phone out of her handbag. With a slight smile on her face, she pressed the “on” button, and was about to start dialling what was probably an emergency number when he coughed slightly.
Anna looked up, and saw a smaller man standing in front of her, wearing a black jacket and trousers and a stocking over his head. Her gasp of surprise had barely escaped before he took the mobile phone from her hand, switched it off and placed it out of her reach. “Whhh – who are you?,” Anna asked.
“I’ve been talking to your flatmate – or at least, I believe she is. Ah,” he said as the tall man entered, “You should have checked her handbag for the mobile phone. Good thing I checked after you left the room”.
The tall man looked at the newcomer. Obviously, he was not the only person at work in this way tonight, but it was the first time he’d ever tried to raid the same flat as one of his colleagues. The question was, what was he doing here?
“I arrived a little while ago, and I’ve been having a conversation with the other woman who lives here. She’s in the other bedroom, why don’t you go and have a look?”
The tall man turned around, and entered the bedroom opposite the bathroom. There, on the bed, was a young lady in silk pyjamas, bound hand and foot and hogtied with medical tape over her mouth. She turned at the sound, and stared in surprise at the tall man now looking at her.
He turned around and left the room, and returned to the living area. “So I see,” he told the smaller man, “I take it this means you have already acquired things from her?”
“Indeed I have – and no, before you ask,” he said to Anna who now had a look of horror as she realised what had happened, “Apart from the fact that like you, she is tied up, she has not been harmed. I assure you, it is only the jewellery and cash you have that I am interested in. In other circumstances, well – but this is professional, so I don’t do that.”
“I feel the same way,” the tall man continued, “Beautiful as you and your flatmate may be, this is business. Anyway,” he continued, “We need to be on our way. If you will excuse me for a minute?”
“Of course,” the smaller man replied, and the tall man ripped a piece of tape off and stuck it firmly over Anna’s lips. “Good night then,” the tall man said, “and thanks for everything.”
Both men left the room and exited the flat. Removing their masks, they placed them in their respective jacket pockets and walked down the road. “Do you fancy a pint?”, the taller one said. “You saved my bacon back there, and I want to put a proposal to you.”
“What kind of proposal?” the smaller man asked.
“I think if we work together, we could do some good work while watching out for each other. Carefully planned jobs, with minimal fuss if possible. Interested?”
“Buy me that pint and we can talk about it.”
Anna heard the door to the flat closing, and waited to see if the two men had indeed left. After a few minutes, she started to try to call out, but all that emerged was a low moan. The medical tape was holding tight across her lips. She could, however, hear in reply a similar muffled sound from Rachel’s bedroom. After a few attempts, Anna managed to manoeuvre herself to a position where she was able to stand up. Slowly, she hopped across the living room to the flat’s main corridor, and edged her way along.
As she went along, she saw through the open door to her bedroom that the drawers had been opened and searched, and a number of jewellery boxes were strewn over her dressing table. Forcing herself not to cry, Anna edged closer along, and eventually reached Rachel’s room. Very gingerly, she managed to open the door and push it open.
Rachel had been trying desperately to free herself, but the cords the small man had used were holding fast, and the knots were well out of the reach of her fingers. The way she had been tied meant she was unable to move much more than around the bed, but as the door opened she rolled over to see Anna entering the room with little hops. The tape over her own mouth prevented her speaking clearly, but she encouraged her to keep coming until Anna was able to sit down on the bed. Both women moved closer together, in an attempt to seek solace and help from each other.
In a nearby pub, the two men were sitting talking.
“I have an idea that we could work well together,” the taller man said softly. “Not only did you cover my back there, and save my own skin, but you actually managed to convince that woman that we were working together. How did you enter the flat anyway – I saw no sign of a forced entry when I got in.”
“Picked the lock – I’m trained both as a locksmith and an electrician, but this line of work is even more lucrative. I take it you prefer the more direct approach?”
“Normally yes, but I think we complement each other. What I’m thinking of doing is moving up a division - bigger jobs, more return, but more risk. You interested?”
The small man drank some of his pint. “Risk can be managed – if we plan well in advance, move around and time the jobs so there is no apparent pattern, and take appropriate precautions we should be all right. I have a couple of concerns however. Firstly, we try to time jobs so the occupants are out, or at the very least there are no men around – the have a go person is the biggest risk we can face.”
“Agreed. Also, if we can avoid it, no jobs where kids are involved. They’re far more trouble to deal with in robberies than it’s worth – need to be watched all the time, won’t stay calm, and gagging them is a huge problem.”
“Only stuff that we can carry out ourselves, either on us or in rucksacks. Less risk in getting caught, and more mobile.”
“We take things we may need to restrain people – ropes, cords, tape, whatever. I don’t want to be wasting time if we have to tie someone up searching for materials. Anything else?”
“50-50 split on all takings, and we share any expenses. I have one other thing to ask.”
The tall man sipped his pint. “What’s that?”
“We’re polite and respectful at all times once we know they won’t cause any trouble. You go by the name of Mr Tall, I’ll be Mr Small, but we call them by first names. Politeness with menace disarms most of all – you saw that tonight. Do we have a deal?”
Mr Tall reached over and shook hands with Mr Small. “Deal. So, what do we do now?”
“I have some ideas, but let’s leave that for later. I want to enjoy the rest of tonight.” With that, Mr Small finished his pint. “Another?”
“Why not,” Mr Tall answered, “I think I can afford it now.”