Mirror of The Soul
To the locals of this more fashionable area of London, it had become a more and more common sight – the women walking round, covered in robes and the only thing visible their eyes as they looked round. Sometimes even that was covered – a muslin or chiffon veil covering their eyes so that they could see out through a thin mist, but no-one was able to see in to her expression. The old saying is that the eyes are the mirror to the soul, and there was a great irony in the fact that the origins of that saying were in the King James Version of the Bible, given that it was an interpretation of Islamic law that was leading to this.
To the locals, the sight was becoming so common they were inured to it – but to the two men drinking at the Turkish coffee bar, the sight of the veiled women walking past was of interest, almost as if they were looking for something. Finally, they saw one woman walking past, in seeming conversation with another young woman who was not wearing the full Burqa, but was still in a headscarf that covered her head and shoulders.
The veiled woman was dressed in grey, with pair of clear blue eyes showing that caught a glimpse of the two men as she looked round. The younger girl was dressed in more Western clothing – a pair of blue cotton trousers with a long sleeved white jerkin over the top, and a naqib made of bright purple cloth over her head and shoulders. A silver brooch was fastened at the side of her neck to hold the neck covering in place. The legs of her trousers were tucked into a pair of leather boots with a metallic finish that glistened with a purple sheen as she walked beside the other woman.
The smaller of the two men drained his cup and took his dark jacket off the back of his chair. “Shall we?” he said as the taller of the two men stood up.
“Yes, I think we shall,” he said as he left his cup on the table.
The grey van drove down the leafy avenues, marking the houses in their grounds until it turned down a side alley and parked next to a high wall. The two men stepped out, hoisting small rucksacks on their back as they closed the doors, and looked round the area. Satisfied, they walked quietly to a door set into the wall, made of heavy wood and with a lock set into the side.
“Give me a minute,” the smaller man said as he knelt down and produced a small canvas pack from the inside of his jacket. Taking out two small tools, he worked on the lock until a small click told him that the door was now open. Placing the tools back into his pack, he stood up and twisted the handle, pushing the door open as he did so.
“After you,” he said to the taller man as he held the door open, allowing his companion to pass in before he closed the door behind him, the lock clicking as he did so. The two men looked across the lawn, the trees casting shadows over the grass, towards the windows and doors at the rear of the detached house.
Moving swiftly, keeping to the shadows as much as possible, the two men in black made their way to the rear door. Examining the lock, the smaller man again worked to pick the locks on the door, eventually standing and opening the entrance to a large kitchen. As they stepped in, a soft beeping sound could be heard from the hallway.
“I’m on it,” the smaller man said as he opened the door to the hallway and walked through. The taller man pulled a pair of black leather gloves onto his hands and looked round the kitchen, noting possible hiding places as the beeping sound stopped.
“That was close, Mister Small,” he said as his companion walked back in.
“Yeah – I had to pick the lock on the door before I could fix the jamming device. The alarm’s still active, but we should be all right,” the smaller man said as he placed his rucksack on the wooden table. “So, where do you want to start?”
“Why don’t you look through the downstairs room,” Mister Tall said as he walked to an open cupboard, “There’s something I want to have a look at here.”
“As you wish,” Mister Small replied as he glanced at the contents of the cupboard. “It does look a little incongruous, doesn’t it?”
“It does indeed,” Mister Tall said as he took the can of pork meatballs from the cupboard and shook it against his ear. As Mister Small walked out of the kitchen, he unscrewed the top of the can and drew out a small velvet sack. Placing the tin on the surface, he opened the drawstrings and tipped out a number of glittering diamonds onto his gloved hand.
Mister Small cautiously opened the door to the main room and slipped in. Looking round, he moved to the main window and pulled gently on the cord that hung by the side, bringing the venetian blinds down so that the room was cast in shadow from the sun shining through. Satisfied that the view from the road outside was obscured, he looked round the room, taking in the rich tapestries that hung on the wall and the ornately embroidered cushions on the velvet couches.
“Definitely linked to some serious money,” he said to himself as he looked at the pictures on the wall, of men in flowing robes and women standing in the background, their faces veiled to various degrees. In a cabinet, he noticed a collection of gold plated boxes, and gently opened the door to examine them. Appraising their value, he placed them into his rucksack and continued his search of the room.
As he was looking around the room, Mister Tall had moved to a room at the back of the house, which seemed to be used as an office by the owner. He had little trouble locating the safe – hidden as it was behind a portrait of a grey haired man in a suit and tie. He turned his head as the door opened, his hand in his pocket, but relaxed when he saw Mister Small walk into the room.
“What do you make of this?” he said as his partner walked over to examine the heavy metal door.
“Hmmm – sturdy, old fashioned and difficult to open.”
“Ten minutes,” Mister Small said with a smile as he pulled a small wire from his pocket. On one end was a rubber cap, which he fixed next to the tumbler, while the earpiece on the other end went into his right ear. Mister Tall smiled as he walked away, saying “I’ll start looking upstairs” as he did so.
Climbing the staircase, he looked at the row of doors facing him at the top of the staircase, before picking one and quickly opening the door. It opened onto a large bedroom, with a king size bed in the centre of the opposite wall and an ornate bedspread on the top of it. Making his way to a large chest of drawers that sat against the wall, he carefully opened the first drawer and smiled at the casket that sat inside.
In the office, Mister Small smiled as the safe door swung open. The smile faded, however, as he heard a soft click of a key turning somewhere else. Unsure if it was Mister Tall, he decided to be cautious and pulled a black balaclava out of his jacket pocket. Pulling it over his head, he turned his attention back to the contents of the safe, placing various piles of cash and other items into his rucksack. As he closed the safe door, the sound of the door to the room opening confirmed his suspicions, and as he took hold of a small pistol in his jacket pocket the door opened wider.
For his part, Mister Tall had also heard the sound of the key turning, and had donned a balaclava that covered his head, allowing only his eyes and mouth to be seen, before returning his attention to the jewellery that he had been sorting into his bag. Satisfied he had identified everything he wanted, he made his way to a smaller bedroom, and started to search through the cupboards and drawers. He was struck by the fact that, while in the main bedroom all the female clothing was ultra conservative the girl who used this room had more modern and even slightly westernised tastes. Despite this, it was clear she followed her chosen faith in a full way, as the large collection of headscarves showed him.
Finding a few items of interest, he left the room and walked down the staircase. Heading to the office, he opened the door and found Mister Small sat on the desk, looking at the grey clad woman they had seen in the street earlier. He looked up at the sound of the door opening.
“It would appear the mistress of the house decided to return earlier than expected – I was just explaining the situation when you came in. May I introduce my partner, Mister Tall?”
The veiled woman turned and looked at the masked man standing in the doorway, dressed in black with a balaclava over his head. The eyes were flashing anger, an unmistakeable look even without a view of the rest of her face, but she said nothing.
“As I was saying,” Mister Small continued, “We mean you no harm, all we desire are your valuables. Provided you do as we ask, you will come to no harm. Can we count on your cooperation?”
The woman looked from him to Mister Tall and back again, then lowered her head and nodded to show she agreed.
“Excellent – now, it is necessary for us to ensure you cannot interfere any further in our work. Please, place your arms on the rests of your chair, and we will proceed from there. Mister Tall, would you pass me two lengths of cord, please?”
The smaller man watched as the woman placed her arms on the chair, the cuffs of a white top showing from under the grey sleeves of her rope. Taking a length of thin cord from Mister Tall, he quickly bound one wrist down to the wooden slat, passing it between her wrist and the wood to tighten the binding, and then repeated the process on the other side. All the time he was doing this, she continued to watch him with her clear blue eyes, only shifting her focus when Mister Tall came round and continued to empty the contents of the safe.
Mister Small took a further length of cord from his own pocket, and kneeling down he gently placed the bound woman’s ankles together, passing the cord round and pulling them together. As he lifted up the hem of her skirt to move her legs, he noticed the brown lace up leather boots she was wearing, and glancing up he saw the look of anger in her face. “Forgive my insolence,” he said as he passed the cord around the leather clad ankles, “but it is necessary. I assure you I will make no further moves to uncover your modesty.” This seemed to mollify her, for when she looked back to Mister Tall he saw a look not of anger in her eyes, but of resignation, of acceptance.
“Thank you,” he said as he closed the safe door and walked back over. “Now, I am afraid it will be necessary for us to prevent you from raising the alarm for a while. Be assured, we will do nothing to remove your modesty, but we do need to make some necessary precautions.”
The woman looked back at Mister Tall, wondering what he meant, when she felt the material of her robe tighten around her legs. Looking down, she saw Mister Small pass a long length of cord around her legs, just below her knees, and pulling it so that her legs were drawn together and the material gathered underneath the white line. As she felt her legs been tied, she saw Mister Tall shake out a large shawl that he had taken from her bedroom.
“Forgive me,” he said as he rolled the shawl into a band. “Mister Small, would you hold her chin for me please?” She moved her eyes to the smaller man as he stood by her side, feeling under her veil and gently taking hold of her chin. Mister Tall walked behind her, and she watched as the band was passed over her eyes, held in front of her mouth and then pulled back. She gasped slightly as the material of her veil was drawn into her mouth with the band, and then pulled back so that it was filled with material. Mister Tall quickly pulled the ends round each other at the base of her neck, brought them round and tied them in front of her throat, keeping her neck covered as required by the dress code.
“As we said, “Mister Small answered as he saw the expression in her eyes, “We do not wish to cause you offence or harm – merely incapacitate you. Now, we’ll just…”
The sound of the front door opening again caught his attention, and he put a finger to his lips as Mister Tall went and stood behind the door. They listened to the sound of heels clicking on the wooden floor outside as a young voice called out “Ummu, are you in the office? I have something wonderful to tell you….” The door swung open and the younger woman they had seen earlier came in, stopping short as she saw her mother sat bound and gagged in a chair. She raised her hands to her mouth and started to scream, only for the sound to be muffled by Mister Tall grabbing her and pressing his gloved hand over her lips.
“Please, do not struggle or scream. If I remove my hand, will you stay quiet?” he said as she struggled in her arms. The girl looked over at her mother, who stared back with concerned eyes and slowly nodded. She in turn nodded, and as he removed his gloved hand Mister Small asked “What is your name, Bin’nt?”
The girl looked again at her mother, who nodded as a small tear began to run from her eye. “My name is Ghayda,” she said and Mister Small smiled. “Ghayda – young and delicate. A beautiful name for a beautiful young lady,” he said. “You may call me Mister Small, and my friend here is Mister Tall. I am afraid you have returned home as we were concluding our business in your home – a most regrettable fact, as it means we must secure you as well and prevent you from raising the alarm.”
Ghayda looked over at her mother who nodded and bowed her head to show she had no choice. “Very well,” she said as she turned and looked at Mister Tall, “I see you have treated my mother with respect. May I expect the same respect to be shown to me?”
“Naturally,” Mister Tall said as he drew a length of white cord from his jacket pocket. “Would you care to stay here with your mother or would she object of we took you into the front room and made you comfortable there?”
“Ummu?” Ghayda said as she looked at her mother. The older woman looked up, her eyes glistening as she looked at her daughter and then indicated the door with her head.
“She would prefer I see her no longer than necessary as she is, and she has no wish to see me the same way as she is. We will go into the other room,” Ghayda said as she opened the door. Mister Small looked at the mother and said “Be assured your daughter will be treated with all due respect,” as Mister Tall took her by the arm and led her back down the corridor.
“Please, place your hands behind your back and stay still,” was the first thing Mister Tall said as the door was closed by his companion. Ghayda stood there as he took gently hold of her wrists and crossed them in the small of her back, before using the cord to tightly bind them together, passing the ropes between her wrists to cinch the loops that he passed round. As she looked round at the way her wrists were bound, Mister Tall took her by the arm and helped her to sit down.
“I am going to secure your legs while Mister Small here takes care of your upper body,” he said as he knelt in front of her and took hold of her ankles, crossing them as the leather of her boots squeaked when they were pressed together. “Please, remain calm and you will not be hurt.”
“What do you hope to accomplish by taking what we value?” Ghayda said as Mister Small unravelled a long length of rope and doubled it over. “What do we hope to accomplish?” he said s he passed the rope around her arms and pulled them tightly against her chest below her breasts. “Wealth, a good living, and the satisfaction of knowing that whatever we do, we still are polite and mannered towards those we visit. Barring the necessary restraint, have we offended you in any way?”
Ghayda sat for a moment, thinking over the event sin the brief time she had been home as well as the look her mother had given her. Despite her inability to speak, the eyes had spoken volumes, and she knew that even with the fear she saw there her mother was happy that she had not been harmed.
“As far as I can see, you have been honourable in your actions, if not in your intention,” she finally said as she realised her arms were even more tightly secured to her sides, as the rope had been passed above and below her breasts and then under her arms. As this had been done, Mister Tall had tightly bound her ankles together, and was now tying her legs together above and below her knees so that she could not separate them.
“Thank you for noticing that,” Mister Tall said as he stood up and checked the work that Mister Small had carried out. “Now, may we help you to lie down? I suspect you would be more comfortable when we leave if you are resting that way.”
“Very well,” Ghayda said as she allowed Mister Tall to hold her by the shoulders as she fell to one side, Mister Small taking hold of her legs as she leaned over and shuffled so that her head was resting on the arm of the long couch. She moved round, examining the ropes around her as her boots squeaked when she tried to move her legs.
“Are you uncomfortable?” Mister Small asked, and Ghayda looked up to see him looking at her, his eyes shining through the holes in the mask over his head. “No – strangely not. It is tight, and I cannot move easily, but it is not uncomfortable. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome – but I am afraid it is now necessary for us to silence you. Mister Small?”
“Please, open your mouth,” Ghayda heard the other man say as he held a small handkerchief in front of her mouth, a roll of clear tape in the other. She nodded, opening her mouth so that he could gently place the cotton pad in her mouth, before closing her lips and allowing him to place a strip of the tape over them, the adhesive pulling at her skin as it sealed her mouth shut.
“Breathe through your nose and you will be just fine,” Mister Small said as he picked up his rucksack, and Ghayda nodded as the two men headed for the door. Before he left, Mister Tall switched on the CD player and stared a disk playing. As the sound of music filled the room, he called out “The Gentlemen Robbers bid both of you ladies adieu – may we never meet again.” Ghayda watched as the door was closed, and then listened to the song that started on the player.
“Where on earth did you learn to do that?” Mister Tall asked as the two men climbed into the van. The smaller man smiled as he started up the engine.
“After that last encounter, I felt I needed to gen up a little on my cultural awareness,” he said as the van drove towards the setting sun. “Besides – I can’t let you have all the fun. Maybe I can teach you some electronics in return?”