A Quiet Evening At Home
It wasn't until a couple of weeks later that I got a clear idea of what had transpired that night. A long way from Carrington the family of the MI6 operative trying to get his book published suffered a home invasion of their own, at the hands of a pair of very polite gentlemen by all accounts. The house was ransacked and family restrained, but in the aftermath it became clear that all the evidence he had accumulated had been taken. Not only that, the back-up files kept by his publicist, Danielle's dad, were also taken in the invasion I was currently caught up in.
From “Sara Gets Dolled Up” by Golavus
The leafy suburbs of Jesmond affored a sense of propriety, of peace and of luxury, especially on this particular autumn evening. In one of the large terraced Georgian houses that ran along the side of Jesmond Dean, Mandy Davies was working in the kitchen, quietly putting together an evening meal for her and her two daughters.
Jessie, the younger of the two, was sitting at the large oak table, working on her laptop as she prepared the latest part of her History A2 coursework. Jesmond High School for Girls had a strict uniform policy, even for their sixth form students, so she was dressed in a red and black tartan knee length skirt, light blue blouse with a dark blue tie around the collar, white knee length socks and black Mary Jane shoes. Mandy was wearing a brown dogstooth check skirt and a red jumper, with her legs in a pair of knee length tan leather boots.
“How much casserole are you making mum,” Jessie said as she looked up and watched Mandy place the large casserole in the oven.
“Enough for us and your father when he gets home tomorrow,” Mandy said as she placed the oven gloves on the table and sat next to her daughter. “Anyway, once Karen gets back we have the evening to ourselves.”
“I thought Dad had promised not to take any more of these business trips?”
“This should be the last one,” Mandy said as she looked at her daughter and ran her hand through the shoulder length copper red hair. “He needed to meet a publisher over some sort of book deal, and then that would be that.”
Karen Davies walked down from the Metro station, her black greatcoat buttoned up against the cold wind. As she approached her house, she passed a small grey transit van that was parked on the side of the road, not giving it a second glance as she turned into the path and walked up to the front door.
“I’m home,” she called out as she closed the door behind her and removed her coat, hanging it on the stand as she made her way into the kitchen. She was dressed in her work uniform – a light blue blouse with a red silk scarf tied as a cravat around her neck, tight blue trousers and a pair of mid-length black suede boots on her feet.
“Sit yourself down then,” Mandy said as she set the casserole on the centre of the large wooden table, “and clear your books away Jessie. Let’s eat this while it’s hot, and then we can sit down and watch that DVD.”
The doors to the transit van opened and two men stepped out. One was about six foot four, while the other was five seven, and both were wearing dark trousers and leather jackets. They collected a bag from the back of the van before walking down the street, the collars of their jackets pulled up around their necks. As they approached the Davies house, they looked quickly round before silently opening the gate and walking up the driveway. The smaller man took what looked like a pocket knife out of his jacket as they approached the door, and knelt down in front of the lock. After a few moments, the door swung slightly open, and as he stood up they both reached up to the woollen hats that were on their heads.
“... So anyway, I told the boss that I definitely needed tomorrow off, so he eventually gave in.”
Karen stood up, collected the plates and took them over to the kitchen sink, setting them to the side before going to the fridge and taking out three yoghurt pots. Handing one to her sister and one to her mother, she sat back down and peeled the lid off.
“Have you heard from dad?”
“Yeah – he’s got that meeting tonight, and he’ll stay over, but he hopes to be back tomorrow lunchtime. Will you be in?”
“I should be back by then – was that the door?”
Mandy looked towards the partially closed kitchen door. “I don’t think so,” she said after a moment. “Anyway, who would like a cup of tea?”
She stood up and walked back to the sink, picking up the kettle and filling it. As she plugged it into the base and pushed the switch up, she heard a male voice saying “Thank you – my friend and I would love to have a cup of tea with you.”
She heard Jessie shriek, and turning round saw two men in the room, both dressed in black with balaclavas covering their heads. The smaller of the two had his hand on Jessie’s shoulder, and was pointing a small pistol towards Mandy, while the taller had a large knife against Karen’s throat.
“Please,” the taller one said, “do not scream and do not panic. So long as you and your daughters do exactly what we tell you to do, then we can all have a pleasant, if slightly different evening. Do you understand?”
“Mum,” Karen said very quietly as Mandy put her hands on the work surface, “What’s going on?”
“All will be explained in good time,” the man said as he lifted the knife away. “Be assured we mean you no harm, but we are going to relieve you of some of your possession tonight. If you co-operate, I promise you neither my friend nor I will cause you ill. Will you do as we ask?”
“Jus please, don’t hurt my girls,” Mandy said quietly. “Excellent,” the taller man said as he pulled a chair out and sat next to Karen, while the smaller man sat next to Jessie. “You may call me Mister Tall, while my friend her is Mister Small. Am I right in thinking you are Mandy Davies?”
“How... How did you know?”
“By the letters at your front door. Perhaps you can introduce your charming daughters?”
“We find it so much easier if we are on first name terms with those we visit. It makes it a lot more comfortable for all of us, Mandy.”
“Karen is next to you, and this is Jessie. What do you want with us?”
“Well, not to cause undue distress. Why don’t you pour that tea, Mandy – we are going to be here for a little while...”
“So, Mandy, repeat it to me one more time.”
Mandy looked at the tall masked intruder, before saying “If it is my husband, just say everything is fine and the girls are well. If they ask for one of the men in the house, give it to you. Otherwise, say I am busy and hang up.”
Jessie cradled the mug of tea in her hand as she glanced over to the man sitting next to her, her eyes wide with fear. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, Jessie,” he said in a quiet voice, “Your mum and sister are going to do as we ask, and I’m sure you are too.”
“Quite right, Mister Small,” Mister Tall said as he stood up. “I’m sure Jessie her would appreciate the opportunity to get changed into something more comfortable – why don’t you take her to her room and allow her to do that. You can have a look round there while she does so.”
“Very good idea,” Mister Small said as he stood up. “Come with me, Jessie,” he said as he took the girl by the arm, “I’ll bring you down to the bosom of the family when we have finished.”
“He won’t...” Mandy said as she watched her younger daughter been led out of the room.
“No, he will not,” Mister Tall said as she stood up and took Mandy by the arm, his knife in the other hand. “Now, why don’t you and Karen come with me – we can relax in the front room while I explain what is going to happen tonight.”
As Jessie and Mister Small climbed the stairs, he said “Which room is yours, Jessie?”
“Second door on the left,” she said. As they passed the first door, Mister Small stopped and looked in, before they moved into Jessie’s room. It was a typical teenage girl’s room, with poster son the wall and a work table piled high with books.
“Have a seat on your bed,” Mister Small said as he let go of Jessie, “and take your shoes and socks off.”
“You’re not going to leave me alone?”
“No – but you are safe with me.” Jessie sat down and unbuckled her shoes, leaving them by the side of her bed. As she peeled the socks from her feet, she looked up at Mister Small and said “Why are you here exactly?”
“Well, Jessie,” he said as he watched her stand up and walk to the wardrobe, “We’re going to rob you, as simple as that. We are efficient, but we find if we can all stay on good, quiet terms the time passes much more quickly. No, don’t take your skirt off yet,” he said as he watched Jessie reach to the side of her skirt, “Slip your leggings on and make sure you are modest before you remove your skirt.”
Looking at him, Jessie went back to the bed and sat down, pulling the pair of grey leggings she had selected over her feet and legs before standing up to pull them to her waist. Once she was satisfied, she unbuttoned her skirt and allowed it to slip to the floor, before removing her tie and blouse. “Do you want me to take this off as well,” she said with her head bowed as she stood there in her plain white bra.
“Of course not Jessie,” Mister Small replied with a smile. “Please, put your top on and then sit on your bed.” Jessie went back to the wardrobe and took out a silver grey peasant top, with mid-length sleeves and a white panel at the top of the front, which she pulled over her head. As she sat back down, she watched Mister Small reach into his pocket and take out a length of thin white cord.
“Please hold your hands out in front of you, Jessie,” he said, and as the young girl watched he quickly tied her wrist together, passing the rope around and between her arms before tying the ends off in front of her and leaving a length of about a foot on each side dangling.
“Now, Jessie, I need to search your room,” Mister Small said. “Would you like to sit in your chair or on your bed while I do so?”
“In the chair, please,” Jessie said as she stood up and walked over to the black chair in front of her desk. As she sat down, Mister Small took the lengths of rope and passed them around one of the arms of the chair, allowing a little slack but fixing Jessie in place.
“Now just sit quietly and this won’t take long,” Mister Small said as he started to open the drawers in Jessie’s bureau and search through the contents. “Would you like to listen to some music to pass the time?”
“What do you suggest,” Jessie said as she looked down to her arms. Mister Small walked to the stereo unit that was sitting on a small table, selected a CD and put it in.
“Is that Jessie J I can hear?” Mandy said as she and Nancy sat on the couch in the front room, Mister Tall opposite them in an armchair.
“Probably,” he said as he picked up the bag he had left on the floor. “Don’t worry, Mandy – Jessie is perfectly safe with him, on that you have my word.”
“I don’t understand – we don’t have anything here that is of any great value. Why don’t you just leave?”
“With all due respect, Mandy,” Mister Tall said as he opened the bag, “My friend and I will be the judge of that. Now,” he said as he took something out, “Why don’t you just sit nice and quietly? When Jessie comes down, then one of you will be able to go and change into something more comfortable.”
Mandy and Nancy looked at each other, with their hands on their heads, wondering what he was talking about...
“Do you really have to search through my knickers?”
Mister Small turned and looked at Jessie, who was staring at the piles he had made of her books on the floor as he had cleared her shelves. He had searched every corner of her room, and was now looking through the last of the drawers.
“Well, if I had not,” he said as he drew a small white wooden box out, “I would not have found this.” Setting the box on the table, he opened and took out a gold cross, which he looked out before placing it in a small velvet sack. A pair of gold and diamond earrings followed, as did a ring that glistened in the light.
“One more thing,” he said as he knelt by the bed and lifted the mattress. Reaching under, he retrieved a small plastic wallet, which he looked into.
“What the hell is that?” Jessie asked as he removed some discs and placed them in a second sack. “I’ve never seen that before.”
“Never said you had, Jessie,” was his reply as eh untied her arms from the chair and helped her to her feet. “Why don’t we go and joint the others, hmm?”
“Jessie, are you all right,” Mandy said as she saw her daughter been escorted back into the front room. Mister Small helped her to walk over to an armchair and sit down, before he turned to his partner.
“Under the bed – we need to be through,” he said as he picked up a glass of water and took a drink. “Do you want to take Karen here to get ready?”
“Get ready for what?”
“You’ll see,” Mister Tall said as he took Karen by the arm. “While we are upstairs, Mister Small, perhaps you can start work on that computer over there?”
“I can get it started,” Mister Small said as he looked at it, “But it may be better to wait until all three are ready?”
“Ready for what?”
“Patience, Mandy,” Mister Tall said as he walked Karen to the door. “You are right as always, Mister Small. We can afford to wait a little while longer. After you, Karen.”
“I don’t understand,” Mandy said as she watched Mister Tall escort Karen up the staircase. “If all you want to do is rob us, just get on with it. I know you’re going to stop us raising the alarm, but why are you taking your time?”
“It would be impolite to rush,” Mister Small said as he drew a length of cord from the bag, “and besides, who said all we were going to do was rob you?”
Mandy sat back, a look of fear crossing her voice as she tried to figure out what the smaller man had meant by that, as Mister Small knelt in front of Jessie. “Forgive me,” he said as he looked at the young girl, “but I must begin to make you secure. Please, lift your feet onto my knee.”
As Karen removed her blouse, and placed it alongside her scarf on the dressing table in her bedroom, she watched Mister Tall as he opened a jewellery box that sat on her chest of drawers.
“I’ve read about you in the papers,” she said as she stood there in a cream silk bra. “You and your friend downstairs have quite a reputation.”
“Really? How do you feel about that,” Mister Tall asked with a smile.
“I’m not sure – if they’re right, then we have nothing to fear, but you’re going to an awful lot of trouble to find just a few pieces of jewellery.”
“Appearances can be deceptive,” Mister Tall replied as Karen pulled a pale blue short sleeved top on before sitting on the bed to remove her boots. “In this aspect, however, they are quite right. We regret you must be inconvenienced, but we have no wish to cause any of you any avoidable distress.”
“As opposed to unavoidable distress,” she sneered back as she stood up and removed her trousers, pulling on a pair of knee length pale blue shorts instead.
“Well, some is unavoidable,” Mister Tall replied as he walked over to her. “For example, I need to search your room now, so you need to be kept slightly immobile. Please, lie face down on your bed and put your hands behind your back.”
“I suppose arguing with you on this is out of the question?”
“Totally,” he said as he took a length of cord from his jacket pocket and shook it out. Shrugging, Karen lay down and placed her hands in the small of her back, offering no resistance as Mister Tall quickly and firmly bound them together. As she felt him lifting and crossing he rankles, she looked down to see more cord been looped round them, pullign her ankles together until the bands held them firmly in place.
“Roll over,” Mister Black said, and Karen watched as he tied her legs together just below her knees, cinching the rope between her legs as he did so. “Now,” he said as he stood up, “I would prefer not to silence you at this point. Do I have your word you won’t try anything?”
“Given my mum and sis are downstairs, do I have a choice?”
“You always have a choice, Karen – but the consequences should always be borne in mind. If you will forgive me?” The young woman lay with her head on the pillow and watched as the masked man started to search through her jewellery, selecting some items and placing them in a velvet sack as he did so.
“Why are you attacking us at home though – if this is about the bank I work at...?”
“No, that is a little out of our league. We have our reasons, however. You have some beautiful pieces here,” he said as he turned his attention to the wardrobe, and carefully searched through the hanging clothes as well as the shelves. Karen watched as he searched every inch of her room, including behind the furniture and desks.
“Looking for hidden safes,” she finally said as he pushed the dressing table back against the wall.
“Actually, yes,” Mister Tall replied as he walked back over to the bed and untied her ankles. “I think, however, we are done here now. Forgive the restricted movement, but it is time for you to rejoin your sister.” He helped Karen to stand up and then frog marched her out of the door and back down the staircase.
“I’m all right mum, honestly,” Karen said as she shuffled into the room and sat next to Jessie. As she looked over, she saw that her sister had her legs tied together at the ankles and below the knees, the white rope visible against her grey leggings. As Mister Tall sat and re-tied her ankles together, Mister Small was looking in a cupboard that stood against the wall.
“I appear to have found the safe,” he said as he looked round the door. “If you would allow Mandy to relieve herself and change, Mister Tall, I will take care of the two girls and then get this opened.”
“Please,” Mandy suddenly called out, “I don’t want you to take care of them, and I just want you to leave them alone. I don’t want them hurt...”
“Mandy...” Mister Tall said as the telephone began to ring. Swiftly, Mister Small moved behind the two girls and produced his pistol as Mister Tall looked at Mandy. She slowly stood up and walked over to the telephone.
“Yes, I understand.” She handed the telephone to Mister Tall. “It’s for you,” she said as she sat down. The masked man stood for a few minutes, listening before he turned the telephone off.
“Our friends have begun work at the other target,” he said to Mister Small as he put the telephone back, “so we need to proceed. I assure you, Mandy; we are not going to harm you beyond preventing you raising the alarm. Come with me while Mister Small gets some water for your daughters – they must be parched.”
The two girls watched as their mother was led out of the room, followed by Mister Small who returned with two glasses of water and two straws. “here,” he said as he put a straw in one glass and held it to Karen’s lips, “Sip it slowly. I’ll give your sister a drink next, and then we can get started.”
“Started on what?”
“Making you both securely comfortable,” Mister Small said as he gave Jessie a drink. “Now then – both of you, shuffle off the couch and sit on the floor, back to back.”
Mandy sat on her double bed, watching as Mister Tall pulled out each drawer in turn and searching through the contents. As he removed a white box and placed it on the bed, she let out an involuntary gasp as on opening it he drew out a string of pearls.
“Very nice,” he said a she smiled at Mandy and placed the string in the velvet sack. “I complement you and your husband on your taste.”
“What’s happening to my girls?”
“Mister Small is treating them very well is what is happening – why, don’t you believe me?”
“Well, you said earlier that you never said all you were going to do was rob you. I...”
Mister Tall looked at Mandy, before walking over and sitting next to her. “I promise you, Mandy,” he said as he touched her cheek with his gloved hand, “We are not going to hurt you. We are however, looking for other things than jewellery and such niceties.”
“What else are you looking for?”
“Well,” Mister Tall said as he stood back up, “It has a lot to do with your husband, I’m afraid.”
“My husband? What has he done – he’s just a businessman.”
To her surprise, Mister Tall looked at her with what looked very like pity in his eyes. “I really do believe there should be no secrets in marriage, but sometimes they are unavoidable.”
“What are you talking about?”
Mister Tall just smiled as he looked round the room. Taking a small screwdriver from his pocket, he knelt down and pushed the blade into the side of a socket, levering it out to reveal a small metal box. As he forced it open, Mandy saw a set of memory sticks inside.
“When this is over,” Mister Tall said as he put the sticks into a clear bag, “You can ask him. For now, however, perhaps you can tell me where you keep the rest of your jewellery – it would make things so much easier.”
“In the drawer under the bed – why?”
“Like I say it makes things easier. On which subject, I think it is time you got changed – you may want to put on something you want to lie down in.”
Jessie and Karen watched as Mandy returned to the room, dressed in a pair of cream silk pyjamas with a pair of bedsocks over her feet. Her hands were pulled behind her back, and the two girls could see bands of rope around her arms and chest, forcing her breasts out as they held her limbs firmly in place.
“I’m all right girls,” she said as Mister Tall helped her to sit on the couch opposite her daughters. They were sat on the floor, back to back, with rope around their waists and arms as well. The loops were tightened by further bands that went under their arms, holding the two of them firmly in place. Jessie also had her wrists tied down to her legs above her knees, while Karen had a coil of rope wrapped around her thighs to hold them together.
Mister Small was buy emptying banded sets of bank notes from the safe, placing them in the rucksack on the table as he did so. Closing the safe, he turned his attention to the computer and switched it on, walking back over to the three women as it warmed up.
“How did you get on, Mister Small,” he said as he removed a few items from the bag. A smile crossed his face as he saw the bag of memory sticks that Mister Tall raised up.
“Where did they come from, mum,” Jessie asked as Mandy looked at the two masked men.
“They were in a hiding place I knew nothing about,” she said as she watched Mister Small opening a clear plastic bag and taking out two large sponge balls. “Apparently it’s something to do with your dad, but what I don’t know.”
“Much as we wish we could tell you,” Mister Tall said as he took the sponges from his colleague, “we cannot. You need to ask him about that. Jessie, Karen, I am afraid we need to make sure you cannot interrupt us now. Please, open your mouths.”
“It’ll be all right, Jessie, I promise,” Mandy said with a tear in her eye as she watched Mister Tall gently push the ball into her younger daughter’s mouth, making sure it all went in as she closed her mouth around it. Pushing the other one into Karen’s mouth, he took a roll of silver tape and tore off several strips, smoothing them over the mouths of the two girls to seal the stuffing into place.
As he did this, Mister Small managed to log into the computer and started to search trough the contents, eventually placing a small box he had also taken from the bag next to the machine and plugging it in via a USB port.
“Whtshdg,” Karen mumbled as Mister Tall helped Mandy to lie down on the couch.
“My friend? He’s downloading the contents of your hard drive, and then he will re-format it for you,” Mister Tall said as he crossed Mandy’s ankles and passed white cord around them.
“Mister Small, kindly ensure you leave a copy of young Jessie’s course work before you start the reformatting.”
“Of course, Mister Tall,” the smaller masked man said as he took a memory stick from his pocket, plugged it in and started to copy files onto it. Jessie relaxed a little, saying “fnku” as she did so.
Mandy watched as Mister Tall quickly yet firmly tied her legs together above and below her knees, before rolling her onto her stomach and securing her wrists to her ankles with a length of rope. “Just what is my husband involved in,” she finally said as she rolled over onto her side, looking at her daughters as she laid her head on the arm of the couch.
“You really need to ask him,” Mister Tall said as he looked over at his colleague. “All done?”
“I think so, yes,” Mister Small said as he disconnected the box and picked it up. Mandy could see the screen flashing as a program started to rewrite the contents of her machine. “Give me a moment to check the other rooms downstairs.”
“I guess it’s my turn next, then,” Mandy said as she watched Mister Tall take another sponge ball from a bag. “Thank you.”
“For not hurting usfgdg,” she mumbled as the sponge was pushed between her teeth, before she felt the pulling on her skin as strip after strip of duct tape was smoothed over her mouth. As the last strip was applied, she saw Mister Small return with a laptop under his arm.
“Found this in the back room,” he said as he placed the machine in the bag, collecting the rest of the items they had selected and closing the bag top over them.
“As I said, Mandy, ask your husband,” Mister Tall said as he and his colleague walked to the door. “Ladies, we bid you a fond adieu – may we never meet again.” With that, he turned off the light and left the trio in darkness, trying to talk to each other in the gloom.
A few moments later, the two men were sitting in the van as Mister Tall dialled a number on his mobile phone.
“Madame? We have the information you requested. I trust the other operation is going well?”
A voice like warm treacle on hot toast spoke. “I believe so – although they encountered some unusual resistance. It appears the target had some guests, but nothing they could not handle.”
“Excellent,” Mister Tall said as he looked at his colleague. “We will deliver tomorrow as requested. Until then. Madame?”
“Until then,” the voice said as he disconnected the call. “Another successful night,” was all he said as Mister Small drove away, the street falling into darkness as the headlights disappeared into the distance.