Living the Part
She was sat in a wooden chair, looking from side to side as the intruder methodically searched through the contents of her bedroom furniture. It had been a long, difficult day at the office, and she had come home hoping to have a long bath, a couple of glasses of wine and an early night.
Instead, she had been surprised almost as soon as she had closed the door by the masked woman. The intruder was dressed from head to toe in black, with only her eyes showing from the holes in the balaclava covering her head, and her voice was distorted, tinny, but her intention was very clear by the way she had pointed the gun and told the young woman to shut up.
The next twenty minutes had been spent securing her to the chair. She was wearing a grey fitted jacket and knee length skirt, with a white camisole top underneath, and knee length tight black leather boots with a two inch heel. The intruder had tied her wrists tightly behind her back, and then used a coil of rope to tie her to the chair at her waist and stomach. Her ankles were tied tightly together in front of her, and her legs above her knees, while a rolled up white scarf was sitting between her red lips.
She was struggling, the leather of her boots squeaking as her legs rubbed against each other, but all the time she was watching the intruder, wondering what was happening, who this person was, and why she was doing this to a secretary.
Eventually, the masked woman came back over to her and said “Where is it, Tanya?”
“Whrs wht,” she mumbled through the scarf filled mouth.
“Where’s the will - the one that leaves the business to you?”
“Well? Wht well?”
“You know what will,” the intruder said as she reached up and pulled the balaclava off her head. The face that was revealed was an older version of hers, the only difference been her closely cropped brown hair as opposed to Tanya’s long blonde hair.
Tanya’s eyes opened wide as she said “Crol?”
A bell rang out as the woman in black stood up and said “That was fantastic - you got the look of recognition just right there.”
“Fnks,” Tanya said as a stage hand ran over and untied the loose knot that had been hidden under her hair. “That was even better than in rehearsal!”
“Wonderful job, both of you,” the director said as he walked over, “This is going to be a great week of programs for Ivyelms! Bindy, you were great - but you and Cher here need to make sure you have your lines off pat for filming tomorrow.”
“You know we will,” Bindy, or as her character was called Tanya, said as she stood up and rubbed her wrists. “Can you come over about seven tonight?”
“I’ll be there,” Cher said as she watched her fellow actress walk off the set, then started to make her own way to her dressing room.
Ivyelms was one of the more popular early evening Continuing Dramas, as the BAFTAs and other award shows liked to call the soaps, on British television. Much of the plot centered around three families living in the Birmingham suburb, and this particular plotline was to re-introduce Cher Delaine to the series as Carol Kirk, the older sister of Tanya, played by Bindy Parker. Cher had left the series five years ago, to star in City Beat, a police drama, but was coming back now for a few weeks to become a thorn in the side of Tanya.
Closing the door of her changing room, Cher changed from the tight jumper and leggings she was wearing into a leopard print round necked top and a pair of black jeans. She glanced through the shooting script for the next day, a glass of water in her hand, before there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” she said, and Bindy stepped in, wearing a white slip dress and gold sandals.
“I forgot to ask, can you bring some Chinese with you as well? I need to go and see my agent, so I won’t have time to get anything before you come round.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Ta,” Bindy said as she walked out, Cher shaking her head as she returned to the script.
It was seven fifteen on her watch when Cher stepped out of the car, thanking the driver as she picked up the bag with the takeaway and opened the front gate of the modest terraced house. There was little traffic on the street, save for one or two parked cars and a grey transit van that was parked on the corner.
She rang the door bell, and waited a few minutes for Bindy to open the door. “Come in,” she said as Cher stepped in, the heels of her black over the knee suede boots sinking into the carpet. Bindy herself had changed into a pair of green leggings, with thick socks over her feet and lower legs, and a blue jumper.
“Sorry I’m late - Chungs was incredibly busy,” Cher said as she held up the bag, “but I have the Peking Banquet.”
“Great - Why don’t you take the food into the front room? I’ll go and get the wine and a couple of glasses.”
“Sounds good,” Tanya said as she walked in, deposited the bag on the coffee table and slipped off her black leather jacket, placing it over the back of a chaise longue. There were already some plates and cutlery out, so she began to open the starter boxes and place the various items onto the crockery.
“Can you bring some napkins through as well, Bindy,” Cher called out as she heard footsteps behind her.
Cher turned round to see her friend standing there, eyes wide open over the gloved hand that was pressed over her mouth. Behind her was a man, easily six foot five, with a black balaclava covering his head and only allowing his deep blue eyes and mouth to show.
He was dress in black - leather jacket, sweater underneath, trousers and shoes, and had a small rucksack over his back as well as a knife in his hand. “Good evening,” he said in a pleasant if authoritative voice, “Please, do not scream. Why don’t you sit down with your hands where I can see them, and relax.”
“Bindy, what’s going on,” Cher said quietly, but her fellow actress merely shook her head slightly from side to side, as a second masked intruder walked in. He was dressed identically to the first man, but was at least a foot smaller,
“Ah,” he said as he looked at the food laid out on the table, “It would appear our arrival is rather ill timed, Mister Tall.”
“Indeed, Mister Small - so, I must ask you ladies to do exactly what my colleague and I tell you to do, and in return you can have a pleasant evening - starting with your dinner. Does that sound agreeable?”
At the mention of their names, Cher had put her hands to her mouth. As part of her work on City Beat, she had shadowed some detectives, and their names had come up in that time. The Gentlemen Robbers, they had been called, and the detectives had expressed a sneaking admiration for them while at the same time trying to track them down.
“I’ve heard of you two,” Cher eventually said.
“Oh? May I ask where?” Mister Small said as he disconnected the phone, and began to search their handbags for their mobile phones.
“I used to appear in a TV series - the policemen I talked to said you were amongst the more pleasant of their targets.”
“How nice to be appreciated,” Mister Tall said with a smile. “So I take it you are an actress?”
“We both are - please, let Bindy go. I promise you she won’t cause any trouble.”
Bindy nodded under the strong hand covering her mouth, then sighed as Mister Tall released her. “Why don’t you both take a seat,” he said as he himself sat in a chair opposite them, “and have some dinner. We can spend some time talking until we go about our business, and it would be a shame to let such delicious food go to waste.”
“What do you want,” Bindy said as she sat with Cher, shaking slightly.
“Well, if I may be direct for a moment, we want your valuables, and we want your co-operation. In return - well, let us say you will gain real life experience for your work.
“Please - I meant it, eat.”
Bindy watched as Cher picked up a spring roll and bit into it. “Look,” she said after she swallowed it, “I know the reputation of these guys. They won’t hurt us if we cooperate, so we may as well eat and go over our lines.”
“Oh,” Mister Tall said, “You are in a current production together?”
“Yeah,” Bindy said with a surprised look on her face, “Don’t you watch television?”
“My working hours preclude much goggle box watching,” Mister Tall replied with a smile as Mister Small started to carefully search through the bureau and drawers in Bindy’s front room, “but I do like the occasional drama. What are you both appearing in.”
“Ivyelms,” Cher said.
Mister Small looked over, and said “I haven’t watched that for quite a few years. Does it still have that family of crooks in it - the MacKenzies?”
“You’re five years out of date,” Bindy said as she started to nibble on a spare rib. “What about you, tall, dark and armed?”
“My apologies ladies, but I don’t watch soap operas,” Mister Tall replied with a smile. “My tastes are more towards BBC 2 and 4 than those channels.”
“Oh, a bit of a snob,” Bindy said as she watched Mister Small retrieve a money wallet from one drawer.
“Hardly - I would remind you that Blackadder started on BBC 2, as did many fine drama series” Mister Tall said as he opened the main courses. “Shall I play Father? You may as well have a glass of wine each as well - it may be a little while before you get a second.”
The two women looked at each other, and slowly poured themselves a glass of Chardonnay as Mister Small continued his search. Mister Tall debated with them the merits of soaps versus more limited series, and as they talked Cher in particular found herself gaining a grudging admiration for this man.
“All finished,” Mister Tall eventually said as his partner returned from his search of the rooms downstairs.
“All done,” the smaller man said, “Perhaps you will take the young lady of the house with you to search her bedrooms, while I make sure her friend Cher is secure and comfortable down here?”
“Of course,” Mister Tall said as he helped Bindy to stand up, and took her by the arm. “After you, my dear.” As they left the room, and Cher watched them climb the stairs, she turned to Mister Small and said “Secure and comfortable?”
“Quite so,” he replied as he opened the rucksack Mister Tall had left, and drew out a length of soft white rope. “If you would be so good as to stand up, and cross your wrists in the small of your back?”
“Well, when you ask so nicely,” Cher said as she put her glass down, stood up and turned round. She felt the soft white rope encircling her wrists and then pulling them together, as she said “It’s funny - the scene we shot today had me holding Bindy hostage, and she was tied to a chair and gagged.”
“Let me guess,” Mister Small said as he tugged on the ropes, making Cher yelp a little as her wrists were forced together, “Sitting in a chair, loosely tied ropes, and a scarf between the lips?”
“How did you guess?”
“Well,” Mister Small said as he tied the rope between her arms and tucked the ends into the bands, out of reach of her fingers,” Television and film always like to create the illusion, as opposed to the reality.”
Cher tried moving her wrists, before saying “For reality, it’s not as uncomfortable as I would have thought.”
“Well, why should it be more uncomfortable than necessary,” Mister Small said with a smile as he produced a second, much longer length of rope, and passed it round Cher’s arms and body below her chest. She felt her arms being pulled into her sides, and watched as the rope was passed above and below her chest, further immobilising her arms.
“Point taken,” she said as she felt the rope pulled even tighter, looking over her shoulder as Mister Small secured the rope. “I don’t think I will be getting out of this that easily.”
“That is rather the point,” he replied with a smile as he turned Cher round and helped her to sit down. She watched as he cleared some plates from one end of the coffee table, and then said “I would like you to put your feet on the table please, and cross your ankles.”
“Comfort?” Cher asked as she did as she was requested, then watched as the masked robber took more rope and started to tie her legs together, above the cuffs of her boots, and passing the rope between her legs to tighten the binding.
“In a way,” he said with a smile, “but more simple physics. You will understand in a moment.” He then took a second length of rope and tied her legs together below her knees, the white cords sinking into the black suede as he bound them tightly together. A third length then was wrapped around her crossed ankles, before he said “Now, rest your heels on the ground.”
As Cher did so, she felt the rope around her thighs and below her knees tighten, and she looked at her crossed heels.
“Simple physics,” she repeated as she looked at Mister Small. He smiled and nodded as he started to clear away the food.
“What are you doing?”
“Tidying up - after all, you don’t want a mess in your friend’s front room, do you?”
“And that’s what the cops said about you two - your consideration for the people you visited was something they admired.”
“Fame is such a fickle master,” Mister Small said as he took the bag with the leftover food and the plates into the kitchen. Cher started to try and twist herself free, but the ropes were too tight, and she eventually sat back to see what would happen next.
She looked up to see Mister Tall standing there with Bindy, smiling at her. Her friend had her hands behind her back, and there were coils of white rope around her arms at her stomach and shoulders.
“Are you all right, Bindy,” Cher said as Mister Tall brought her friend over and helped her to sit down.
“My insurance company is going to love me,” Bindy said with an exasperated gasp as Mister Tall lifted her feet onto the coffee table, and started to bind her crossed ankles, “but he knows a lot about serious drama. He even suggested I should try out for something, like you did.”
“He’s right - did me no harm,” Cher said as she watched the robber binding her friend’s ankles and legs. “Very different from earlier, isn’t it?”
“You’re telling me,” Bindy said as Mister Tall pulled the ends of one coil of rope between her legs below her knees, “It’s comfortable, but I know neither of us are going anywhere for a while.”
“He,” Cher said as she looked at Mister Small,” was telling me how much our profession makes things up. I think we got a lesson in that today.”
Bindy nodded as Mister Tall stood up and lifted her feet off, a soft gasp escaping her lips as she felt the ropes tighten around her legs. “So, I guess it’s time for the cleave gag,” she said as she looked at the two masked man.
“Well,” Mister Small said, “Actually, we need to teach you another important lesson - that a cleave gag is not an effective way of silencing someone and preventing them raising the alarm.”
“You mean a scarf cannot stop you talking?”
“The only way to one hundred percent stop you making any noise is to stop you breathing,” Mister Small said quietly, “and we do not wish to do that.”
The two women looked at each other, as Mister Tall picked up two bandanas he had found in Bindy’s bedroom and folded them into pads. “Neither of you are asthmatic, are you,” he asked as he looked at the two women.
“I need you both to open your mouths as wide as possible,” Mister Tall said quietly, “and then breath normally through your nose. This will muffle the noise, and then we will use some tape to stop your lips from moving.”
“I see,” Cher said quietly, “so we can’t really speak, but we can still breath.”
“Precisely,” Mister Small said as he pushed one of the bandanas into Cher’s mouth, Mister Tall doing the same for Bindy, and then waited for them to close their mouths. As she did so, Cher felt the cotton brushing over her tongue as it pressed it down to the floor of her mouth.
“The scarf will get smaller as it dampens,” Mister Tall said as he tore a strip of white tape off a roll, “and then it will be more comfortable. Now, you need to purse your lips.”
“Funssst,” Bindy said as she felt the tape sticking firmly over her mouth, the material shaping to the contours of her chin and lips. She looked over at Cher, who nodded as she was tape gagged in the same way, the material stretching with her as she tried to move her jaw.
“Well,” Mister Tall said as Mister Small left the room, and the two women heard running water, “We must leave you both now. I’m sure someone will come and find you both in due course, but we will also inform the appropriate authorities of your predicament - eventually.
“The Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu - may we never meet again!”
Cher and Bindy watched as the tall masked man left the room, and then after a few minutes the sound of the rear door opening and closing, before they started to try and free themselves...
“Oh my God - are you two both all right?”
“We’re fine,” Cher said as she and Bindy sat with the director. The police had eventually arrived at around Midnight and freed both of them, but they had not slept, with the insurance firms to deal with and statements to take. “Obviously, we didn’t get a chance to learn our lines, but I hope you understand that.”
“Of course, of course - we can take the day off and pick it up tomorrow.”
“Well,” Bindy said as she looked at Cher, “We were wondering if it would be possible to do a re-shoot of the scene yesterday, given we have the studio free.”
“Why - wasn’t it good enough?”
“It was - but we want to try something. Inject a little more realism into it...”
Tanya looked at the masked intruder as she ransacked the front room of her house. She had had no chance to resist when she walked into the room, before the masked woman made her lie face down on the couch, crossed her wrists and tied them tightly together, then tied her arms to her side, her jacket opening up as the ropes constricted to reveal her top. Her ankles had been crossed and tightly lashed together, and her legs were tied below her knees, the squeaking leather the only other sound apart from drawers opening and things falling to the floor.
She wanted to scream out, but the thick white scarf was pulled tightly between her lips, holding in the cloth the intruder had pushed in first. Eventually, she came over and knelt next to the couch, hissing into Tanya’s ear “Where is it....”
“They were right,” the director whispered to his assistant, “this is much more realistic.”