Like Grandmother, Like Granddaughter
“Now admit it, Claire - for a sixty two year old, I make this outfit look good!”
Claire had to shake her head as she sat opposite her grandmother in the coffee shop, watching the other shoppers going by in the mall. “All right, I admit it - you do look good in that outfit, but you’re as bad as Mum.”
“What, for dressing well?”
“No,” Clare said as she shook her head, “for dressing the same way I do.” She was wearing a white woollen poncho over her roll necked sweater, the seam running up the back as it covered her top half. Her legs were inside a pair of snug light fawn leggings, while the lower half were in a pair of slightly baggy black leather boots, which had brown tops that came up over her knees. Her brown hair was held back by a white Alice band, as she held her cup of Mocha and sipped it.
“Hold that thought,” her grandmother said as she answered her mobile phone. “Hello, Gina here - oh hello Carol, I wanted to talk to you...” she sat back, crossing her leg so that Clare could see one of her knee length tight leather boots, and started talking as if nobody else was there.
The pair had arranged to meet at the mall to buy a birthday present for Grace, Clare’s mother and Gina’s daughter, and so far most of the time had been spent buying things for themselves. They had finally agreed to buy a kindle for her, and were enjoying a break before they went back to Gina’s house to sort out wrapping.
The point Clare had made about outfits was well meant - her grandmother had a brown wool poncho with buttons running diagonally up the left hand side to her neck, covering a black sweater. She was also wearing a pair of dark grey leggings, as well as the boots Clare was looking at, with the two inch stiletto heel. She also had fiery red hair, which was cut short in a jagged pattern.
“all right Carol - I’ll give you the money tomorrow,” she said as she finished the call and began to drink her Chi Latte. “What?”
“Nothing,” Clare said as she put her cup down. “Finish your tea, and I’ll drive us back to your house.”
As they headed down the main street of the village that Gina lived in, she turned to Clare and said “You’re not embarrassed by your old gran, are you?”
“No of course I’m not,” Clare said with a laugh as they turned into the gravel drive in front of her house, “It’s just a bit funny, having a grandmother that’s so trendy.”
“I will take that as a compliment,” Gina said as she got out of the stationary car, and fished in her pocket for her door keys. “You get the bags out of the car, and I’ll put the kettle on.” Clare shook her head as she opened the car boot, collecting the various bags as she heard her grandmother open the front door of her house and walk in.
“Where do you want me to put these bags, Gran,” Clare said as she came into the house, and closed the door behind her.
The lack of a reply was surprising, but not as great a surprise as Clare got when she walked into the front room of the house. Gina looked at her, her eyes wide over the large gloved hand that had been pressed over her mouth by the tall man holding her from behind. He was at least six foot seven, and dressed entirely in black, with a black balaclava covering his head.
“Oh dear God,” Clare uttered as she let the shopping bags drop to the floor, “Please, not again...”
“Have we met before,” the man holding Gina said as he looked at Clare.
“A few years ago - you broke into our house when me and my mother came home unexpectedly and found...”
The man slowly nodded as he said “Mister Small, would you join us for a moment please?” The front room of Gina’s house was connected to a second room by a pair of folding doors, and as Clare saw then open a second man came in, dressed identically to the first but a good foot shorter.
“Is there a problem, Mister Tall,” the new arrival said, and then he looked at Clare. “I believe we have met before,” he said as he smiled at her.
“We have - Gran, these are the Gentlemen Robbers, the two men that Mum and I disturbed that day.”
Gina looked at Clare, as Mister Small walked over and joined her. “I see the family resemblance now,” he said quietly, “as well as the habit of wearing similar clothes. Perhaps you would care to explain the situation to your grandmother... Clare, wasn’t it?”
“I see you remember as well,” Clare said with a sigh. “Gran, so long as we do as these two say, then they won’t hurt us. They will make sure we can’t raise the alarm, but they’ll make us as comfortable as possible while they do that. Have I forgotten anything?”
“I think not,” Mister Tall said, “Except to introduce us to your grandmother?”
Clare nodded and said “This is Gina, my grandmother on my mother’s side. Please, gran, just do as they say.”
Gina looked at Clare, then Mister Small, before slowly nodding. “Excellent,” Mister Tall said as he looked at Clare, and then released Gina. “Perhaps you two ladies would care to take a seat on the couch over there, and keep your hands where we can see them. Mister Small, kindly find their mobile phones and make them inoperable.”
“OF course, Mister Tall,” the shorter man said as he took Clare’s handbag, and picked up the one Gina had dropped when his companion had grabbed her. “Come with me, Gran,” Clare said as she took Gina’s hand and sat with her on the brown leather sofa, “everything’s going to be all right.”
“It’s really them,” Gina finally said, “the same men? I read about them in the Daily Mail, but to see them in real life - it’s quite an experience.”
“The press always seem to paint us in a most flattering light,” Miser Tall said as Clare watched the batteries been removed from their phones and placed in the jacket pocket of Mister Small. “As Clare has rightly remembered, Gina, so long as you do what we say everything will be just fine. Is there anything we can get you?”
“I could do with a stiff drink right now,” Gina said out loud, then clasped her hand to her mouth. “Perhaps a small restorative for both ladies,” Mister Small said as he walked to a drinks cabinet and poured two drinks. “But no more - it will be necessary for us to silence you, and it would be unwise to drink too much alcohol before doing that.”
“Your very good health,” Mister Tall said as their glasses were handed to them. Gina looked at them through her own glasses, before she said to Clare “They are rather cute, in a you don’t want to meet them in a dark alley kind of way.”
“GRAN!” Clare shouted out as Mister Small went back to the rear room. “Now then,” Mister Tall said as he fetched a rucksack from behind a chair, opening the top and taking out several lengths of white rope, “as Clare will tell you, we do have to ensure you are not in a position to prevent us from carrying out our work, or from raising the alarm, but I will make it as comfortable as possible. Tell me, Gina, do you suffer from any joint or back complaints?”
“I... I have a bit of rheumatism in my left shoulder, why?”
“That goes some way to explaining the poncho,” Mister Tall said as he straightened out, and then doubled over a length of rope. “Please, Gina, put your hands together in front of you as if you are praying.”
“Because, Gran,” Clare said as she rolled her eyes, “He’s going to tie your wrist together in front of you. Trust me, it will be the best thing for you.”
“And what will happen to you?”
“All in good time, Gina - if you please?” Clare watched as her grandmother raised her hands, the poncho slipping off the black sleeves, and then as Mister Tall tied her wrists tightly together, wrapping the rope around and between her arms before tying it off out of reach of her fingers.
“There now,” Mister Tall said as he stood up. “Now, pleas sit back and relax - I need to ensure that Clare is comfortable secured next. Clare, do you remember what we did last time?”
Nodding, Clare lifted her legs up and rested them on her grandmother’s coffee table, crossing her ankles as she did so. Gina watched carefully as Mister Tall wrapped the rope around her ankles, the cord squeaking against the leather as he tightly bound them together.
“I don’t get it,” Gina said quietly, “Why have you tied my wrists and her legs?”
“I wish you to accompany me while I search the upper rooms, Gina,” Mister Tall replied as he passed the rope between Clare’s legs, “and Clare will remain down here. Always better if you help - it avoids you clearing up afterwards.”
“My god, they really are that considerate,” Gina said as Mister Tall bound Clare’s legs together below her knees. As he tied the rope off, Clare looked at her legs, and said “Yeah, that’s how I remember it. Secure, and yet not uncomfortable.”
“Why does it sound like mice,” Gina said as she listened to her granddaughter trying to move her legs. “I think you’ll find out soon enough, Gran,” Clare said with a laugh as Mister Small returned to the room.
“That’s the safe taken care of - do you wish me to finish off here?”
“If you would, Mister Small,” Mister Tall said as he helped Gina to stand up. “We will return in due course. After you Gina.”
“I’ll be all right,” Clare said as Gina looked at her, and then went with Mister Tall. “It is extremely bad luck that you have net us again, Clare,” Mister Small said as he took some rope from the rucksack, “but as you can appreciate, we must meet our standards. Please, turn and cross your wrists behind your back.”
“Funny,” Clare said as she lowered her feet to the floor, then turned round and did as she was asked, “Last time it was me with my hands in front, now I’m mum and Gran’s me?”
“Believe me, the irony is not lost on me,” Mister Small said with a smile as he lashed her wrists tightly together, and then said “Do you wish me to remove the Poncho?”
“Would it make any difference?”
“Not really, no.”
Clare nodded and then said “Leave it on - I could do with the extra warmth.” Mister Small nodded and started to wrap the rope around Clare’s body, pulling her arms into her side as he trapped the woollen cover against her chest, passing it above and below so that she could not do more than wriggle round her upper body.
“There,” Mister Small finally said as he secured her wrists to the bands of rope, pulling them together behind her back, “I think that will keep you secure. Now, would you be more comfortable lying on your side?”
“Do you know,” Clare said as she looked over her shoulder, “I think I might. What about my grandmother?”
“Oh don’t worry - we’ll keep her comfortable as well,” Mister Small said as he helped Clare to lie down, placing a pillow under her head as she laid her head on the armrest. “Now, if you will excuse me for a moment, I need to wash these glasses. I trust you will not scream or call for help?”
“No - I know you won’t do anything,” Clare said, Mister Small smiling in acknowledgement as he carried the two drinks glasses out of the room. She could hear the sound of running water as she wriggled round, but as with last time she could find no give in the ropes. The fact her hands were behind her back this time, secured to the chest ropes, made it even more difficult, so eventually she stopped and watched the door, waiting for the return of the other Gentleman and her grandmother.
After what seemed an eternity, they both came back in, Mister Tall looking at Clare and saying “comfortable?”
“As much as I can be - are you all right Gran?”
“Lllcp,” Gina said through the knot of patterned silk that was sitting between her teeth. The scarf was a large one, with concentric black, white and red squares, which Mister Tall had rolled into a band before tying a knot in the middle of it. From under the knot, Clare could see the white silk square that was in Gina’s mouth.
“That is how they kept Mum and me quiet - give it time, it will get less uncomfortable as it dampens.”
“Wise words, Clare,” Mister Tall said as he sat her grandmother in a matching brown leather chair, and then knelt in front of her, crossing and tying her ankles together with rope. The squeaking sound somehow seemed louder in the silence, as Clare watched the masked intruder bind her grandmother’s legs below her knees, then stand up.
“Please, move forward a little,” he said, and as Gina shuffled forward in the chair he started to bind her arms to her body, the white rope showing clearly over the brown wool as it wound round her chest and shoulders.
“Thank you,” Mister Tall eventually said as he tied the rope off behind her, “You may sit back now.” Gina smiled over her gag at Clare as she did so, watching as Mister Tall tied her wrists to the rope around her legs, the single white strand running down her poncho and between her knees.
“There now,” he finally said as Gina looked at Clare, then at him. “I trust that is not too uncomfortable?”
“Frrrfrmt,” Gina said as she smiled again. “Excellent,” Mister Tall said as he took two more scarves from his pocket, one a blue silk square, the other a cream and gold headscarf with an abstract pattern in white on it. “Then all that remains, Clare, is fro you to be silenced, and we can be on our way.”
“I guess I should say thank you,” Clare said as she watched him fold the large scarf into a band, and tie a knot in the middle, before wadding up the smaller scarf and kneeling in front of her.
“Thank me? For what?”
“For still being Gentlemen,” Clare said, and she actually allowed herself a smile.
“Our pleasure - now please, open wide,” Mister Tall said, and Clare allowed him to push the silk square in and then push the knot between her teeth, taking the gold, black and white band around her head and securing the ends together at the base of her neck.
“Do we have all that we need, Mister Small?”
“I believe so Mister Tall,” his partner said as he came in, while Mister Tall packed the remaining rope away and closed the rucksack.
“Very well then - the Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu. We will inform the authorities in due course of your predicament.” He looked at Clare, and she actually saw him wink before he said “Seriously, may we never meet again.” The two masked men turned and walked out of the room, Clare and Gina watching and listening until they could not hear them.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, before Gina looked at Clare and said “thheesmnsmn.”
“Ysss, frrbrs,” Clare said as she started to try and twist her wrists free.
Clare looked at her grandmother before nodding. “Gdd,” she said as she sat back, “bcssmntgtngfr. U?”
Clare shook her head and watched her grandmother as she calmly sat back. There was one other thought in her mind as they awaited the arrival of the police.
How was she going to explain this to her mother?