Like Father, Like Daughter
“It’s bad enough that my mother and grandmother like to dress the same way as me, but when you start?” Clare shook her head as she looked at her guest, before she sipped from her coffee cup.
“Well, what can I say, darling – you have such good taste,” her guest replied as Clare smiled. Her long dark hair was falling over the shoulders and back of her silk dress, the black animal print a contrast to the grey material. The cuffs of the sleeves came from her elbows half way down her arms, and the skirt hung just above her knees.
The outfit was completed by a pair of soft grey fabric boots that came up over her knees, ties at the back and a short heel. As she looked across, she said “well, at least it does suit you, Shona.”
“Why thank you,” her guest said with a smile. The blonde hair was dark at the roots, and the tightly fitting black dress had a floral and symmetric pattern printed in white on it, with a matching choker around their neck. The boots they were wearing were shorter, made from a black fabric but again with ties at the back.
“More coffee,” Clare said as she stood up.
“No thank you,” Shona said with a smile as she handed her cup to Clare, “I should be on my way soon anyway.” She stood up and looked at the picture of Clare with a six year old girl.
“Well, let me take these to the kitchen, and then I’ll come with you,” the younger woman said as she took the cups through to the kitchen – and then stopped as she saw that the door that led to the garden was open. “I’m sure I shut that,” she said as she went over and closed it.
“You did, my dear lady – forgive the intrusion, but we let ourselves in.”
Clare suddenly stiffened as she heard the polite, cultured male voice, and slowly turned round to see two men standing there, identically dressed with black leather jackets over their jumpers, dark jeans and shoes. They both also had black leather gloves on their hands, as well as balaclava masks that covered their heads, allowing only their eyes and mouths to be seen.
The other striking thing about them was the disparity in height – one stood a good foot taller than the other as he smiled, the pistol in his gloved hand pointed at Clare. The smaller of the two men had a canvas holdall in his hand, and as he looked at Clare he said “it would appear you have met us again – your name is Clare, correct?”
“Oh fuck,” she said under her breath, “you two? What have I got over my head, a sign that says polite home invaders welcome?”
“I do not see such an invitation,” the taller of the two men said, “but we have indeed met before – I believe it was your grandmother who was with you the last time?”
Clare slowly nodded as she said “well, I guess I have to cooperate with you, don’t… Oh lord…”
“I take it from her reaction she is not alone at home, Mister Tall?”
“So it would appear Mister Small – perhaps you would ensure that Clare has her wrists secured while I investigate?”
“Of course Mister Tall,” the second man said as he put the bag in the kitchen table, smiling as he opened it and removed a length of soft white rope. “If you would be so good as to put your hands behind your back, Clare?”
Shona was looking out of the front window as the footsteps came closer, but it was not Clare who came in. The tall masked man looked at Shona, a smile on his lips as he said “it would appear that Clare did indeed have a guest. May I know your name?”
“May I know who is asking,” Shona said as she looked at the masked man, and then saw the gun in his gloved hand.
“Of course – I am called Mister Tall, my friend Mister Small is currently ensuring that young Clare is comfortable before she joins us.”
“Mister Tall… Mister Small…” Shona looked at him before saying “the men who robbed my family, and then my daughter and my mother.”
“Your daughter? We have had the privilege of meeting Clare’s mother on a previous occasion, but you do not…” Mister Tall fell silent for a moment, and then said “ah – please, forgive me, I can be a little slow on the uptake at times. Her father?”
Shona nodded as he said “my name is Shaun – although, dressed like this, I do prefer Shona.”
“I understand perfectly,” Mister Tall said with a smile, “in which case, Shona, may I prevail on you to close the curtains across the windows, and then to sit on the couch, your hands where I can see them?”
Shona slowly nodded as she pulled the curtains across, and then sat down as Mister Tall said “it is a true pleasure to meet you, Shona – ah, Clare, join us please.”
“Dad,” Clare said as she came in, her wrists behind her back and accompanied by Mister Small, “I am so sorry…”
“It’s all right Clare, this is not your fault,” she said quietly as she smiled, “I presume I also will be tied up?”
“Indeed – but first, I must ask you to remove your rings and earrings, and place them in this small velvet sack. Mister Small, would you locate their mobile phones and ensure they cannot be used?”
“Of course – please, take a seat,” Mister Small said, Clare nodding as she turned and sat next to her father – but not before Shona saw the white rope that was wrapped in neat coils around and between her wrists.
“Does it hurt?”
“Surprisingly, no,” Clare said quietly, “they will not hurt us if we do as they say.”
“Well, I cannot fault their manners – I mean, the tall one seemed taken aback for a moment, but…”
“I assure you, Shona, both Mister Small and myself have seen much stranger things in our time,” Mister Tall said as he took a length of rope from the bag Mister Small had put down, and doubled it over. “Now, if you would kindly lean forward and put your hands behind your back?”
“I have a choice?”
“Not really, no,” Mister Tall said as he walked behind the couch they were sitting on and crossed Shona’s wrists behind her back, passing the rope round them and then pulling it back through the centre loop as her wrists were brought together. “Would it be impolite to ask…”
“How long? About five years,” Shona said as she felt the rope going around and between her arms. “At least in public – I have dressed like this for years in private, but I felt I had to come out to my family in the end.”
“Honesty is almost always the best policy, however hard and tough it may be,” Mister Tall said as he pulled the rope between Shona’s wrists and then tied the ends off as she wriggled her fingers. “I trust that is not too uncomfortable?”
“Surprisingly not,” Shona said as she nodded. “Now what?”
“Now, we secure your arms. Mister Small, perhaps you would do the honours for Shona as well, and then you and she could tour the premises while I take care of Shona?”
“Of course,” the smaller man said as he took two coils of rope from the bag and handed one to his partner, both of them doubling them over as they stood behind the couch, and then passed them round Clare and Shona, pulling the band tight under their chests as they felt their arms being forced to their sides.
“This is – different,” Shona said quietly as Mister Tall wrapped the rope round her body, forming two bands with the top one rubbing on her bare flesh over the V-neck of her dress. “Is this what happened the other two times?”
“Oh yes,” Clare said quietly as the bands pressed on her own chest, “but it actually doesn’t feel too bad once they have down it – especially after they have tightened it.”
“After they have – oh,” Shona said quietly as Mister Tall fed the rope under one arm and pulled it up, the bands tightening as he took it round the back of her neck and then fed it under the other arm before securing the ends behind her back. She twisted round feeling how snug the binding was as she looked at Clare.
“Now then,” Mister Tall said as he put his gloved hands on Shona’s shoulders, “Mister Small, kindly take Clare on a tour of the premises, and bring her back here to keep Shona company.”
“Of course – allow me,” Moister Small said as he helped Clare to stand, Shona seeing her smile as she said “see you later – although we won’t be able to talk” as she was led out of the room and up the staircase. Mister Tall walked over and looked at the photograph. “Your granddaughter?”
“Yeah – the father did a runner, so we help look after her. She’s at school at the moment.” Shona thought for a moment, and then said “if she had been here…”
“Then with deep regret, we would have made sure she stayed in the room with you,” Mister Tall said as he took from the bag another length of rope. “I know that thought may not be that comforting, but I can assure you if she did as we asked, she would not have been harmed. Would it be impertinent to ask a – personal question of you?”
“No – and no I am straight. I just like to dress and be a woman.”
“Of course – forgive my impertinence.”
“Actually, it was a very reasonable question to ask – so what now?”
“Now, please, put your feet up on the coffee table for a moment, and cross your ankles.”
“Well, as you asked,” Shona said quietly as she complied, watching as Mister Tall wrapped the rope round her ankles and then pulled it back through the loop, feeling the pressure on them as the rope sank into the soft material with each pass.
“I guess I should thank you?”
“For what, Shona,” Mister Tall said as he separated the ends of the rope and pulled them between Shona’s ankles to cinch the binding.
“For not judging me.”
“Shona – Mister Small and I are professional robbers. I assure you, we are in absolutely no position to judge anyone for their personal choices. In fact, I admire your courage.”
“To be at peace with yourself, and to accept yourself, is a rare gift,” Mister Tall said as he tied the rope off, and then walked to the bag, taking another length of rope out and kneeling down as he started to bind Shona’s legs together below her knees.
“I remember my wife telling me of when you visited them – your partner kept Clare calm as you robbed our home then.”
“We find that calm, polite persuasion helps our case,” Mister Tall said as he took the rope between Shona’s legs to secure them, then tied the ends off. “There – now, may I assist you to lie on your side?”
Shona nodded as she lowered her legs, and then put them up on the couch as Mister Tall helped her to move onto her side, her head resting on the armrest. “Well, all things considered, I could be more uncomfortable,” she said as she wriggled round.
“There is the distinct possibility your granddaughter may be the one to find you – it behoves us to leave you and your daughter in a position that will not scare her too much,” the masked man said quietly as he took a clean white cloth from a plastic bag, and folded it into a pad. “And talking of leaving you, Shona, it is time to ensure you stay quiet. Kindly open your mouth while I put this in – it will feel strange at first, but you will get used to it.”
“May I say one last thing?”
“Thank you again, for treating me with respect.”
“It was my no hour and pleasure,” Mister Tall said with a smile, “now, please, open your mouth.”
As Clare came back into the room with Mister Small, she saw Mister Tall smooth the white tape over Shona’s mouth, the shape of her lips visible underneath as he turned and smiled.
“Ah – excellent timing,” he said as he stood up, “please, Clare, take a seat and we will make you securely comfortable.”
“Are you all right dad,” Clare said as Shona wriggled on her side on the couch. She smiled as she saw the smile under the tape while she sat in an armchair, raising her legs and crossing her ankles as Mister Small selected more rope from the bag.
“Hmmfhnn,” Shona mumbled as she watched the smaller of the two masked men securing Clare’s ankles together, the rope sinking into the soft grey fabric as they were held together. After he had cinched and secured the binding, he took another length of rope and bound her legs together below her knees, while Clare said “I presume I will be gagged again as well?”
“But of course – why do you ask?”
“I need a favour – I’ll have to get a friend to collect my daughter from school and bring her back. May I use my phone to call them?”
“An excellent suggestion,” Mister Tall said as he found her mobile phone and switched it on, holding it to her head as Mister Small finished binding her legs.
“Helen? It’s Clare, I need a slightly huge favour.
“No – my dad and I have got tied up in sorting some things out, and I won’t be able to pick Cathy up. Would you bring her back with Annie please?
“That’s great – I’ll return the favour some time. See you later.”
She nodded as Mister Tall took the phone away and switched it off, Shona nodding as Mister Small walked to the bag and took a second white cloth out in a plastic bag.
“Talk to you later, Dad,” Clare said with a smile, Shona nodding as she watched the cloth been pushed into her open mouth, then the white tape over her lips as she closed them over the stuffing.
“Have we completed the work,” Mister Tall said as Mister Small picked up the holdall.
“We have indeed,” the smaller man said as he turned the radio on.
“In which case, the Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu,” Mister Tall said as he looked at Clare and Shona. “May we never meet again – and in your case, Clare, I truly hope that is the case.”
Clare rolled her eyes as Shona watched the two men walk out of the room, then looked at Clare.
Shona struggled for a moment, and then shook her head.
“A surprise on two counts,” Mister Tall said as he removed the balaclava in the grey transit van.
“Indeed – but he handled it very well. Shall we go?”