The Gentle Commission
As they sat in the small white van, Mister Tall looked at the details of the commission they had been asked to undertake.
“Just so that I am clear on this,” Mister Small said, “we have been asked to obtain a manuscript from the safe in the house, and deliver it to the client, and anything else we may find in there is for us to take as payment?”
“Those were the instructions,” the taller man said. “I do have some concerns however – the family in residence are Muslims, and therefore I question what else might be there of worth we could use.”
“It’s a fair point,” Mister Small said, “and I have similar concerns. As it is, I think we move carefully.”
“Agreed – well if you have everything we need?”
“I believe we do – shall we?”
The two men got out of the van, the smaller of the two locking it before they walked down the road and around the corner.
The house they intended to visit was a detached villa, standing in its own grounds, with a line of high bushes running around the rear garden. The only gap in the lien was where a fence had been placed with a gate – a gate that opened slowly in as the two men entered, the smaller closing the door quietly behind himself before they made their way across the lawn.
Both were dressed in their business attire – black jumpers and trousers, with black leather jackets, gloves and shoes. They also had leather gloves on their hands, as they waited at the back door, pulling the rims of their hats down so that the balaclava covered their heads, leaving only their eyes and mouths visible.
“What do you think,” Mister Tall said as Mister Small examined the door.
“Honestly? I think we do this,” he said as he pulled the door handle and opened it outwards.
“The door is unlocked?”
“Which means,” Mister Small said as he slipped a revolver from his pocket, “that someone is home. I suggest we proceed with caution.”
Mister Tall nodded as he picked up the bag, and the two of them walked in, Mister Small closing the door behind them. They walked quickly across the large kitchen, pausing to listen at the door that led to the hallway before they slipped out.
The sound of the television grew louder as they walked along the narrow corridor, Mister Tall standing one side of the door as Mister Small slowly opened it and looked inside. A young woman was sitting in a large armchair, watching a music channel and singing quietly along.
The incongruity of the situation was she was signing along to Dusty Springfield, while dressed in a grey long sleeved top and a blue cardigan over the top, blue jeans and grey over the knee leather boots. A blue scarf covered her head and shoulders, the black edge of another scarf just visible at her forehead.
The two men stood and watched for a few minutes as she closed her eyes and sang along.
have to say you love me just because you can,
You don’t have to stay forever, I will understand.
Believe me, believe me, I can’t help but love you,
But believe me I will never tie you down!”
“Left alone with just a memory...”
She suddenly turned as she heard the deep male voice sing, sitting bolt upright at the sight of the two masked men, one of them holding a gun which he was pointing at her.
“Who... Who are you?”
“Ah – forgive me,” the man who had been singing said, “allow me to introduce ourselves. My name is Mister Small, and my friend here is Mister Small. And you would be?”
“My name is Alison.”
“Alison? Not a very Islamic name,” Mister Small said.
“I converted to the faith – I’m just waiting for Nisha to return with our lunch...”
“Ah, I see – well, Alison,” Mister Tall said, “I think I need to make it clear why we are here.” He looked at the young woman, her mails painted crimson, her dark eyeshadow highlighting her eyes. “We are here to obtain a certain item, and as professionals, we need to make sure that work is uninterrupted.”
“I... I don’t understand?”
“What my friend means,” Mister Small said with a smile, “is that we will have to ensure you cannot raise the alarm while we go about our business So long as you do as we say, you will not be harmed – merely mildly inconvenienced.”
“You mean you’re going to tie me up,” Alison whispered.
“With the deepest of regret, yes. Now, I must ask you, very slowly, to walk over and draw the curtains across the front room. Then, please, sit down and turn to the side, with your hands behind your back.”
“Do I have a choice in this?”
“No. No, I’m afraid you don’t,” Mister Tall said with a smile. Alison nodded as she stood up and walked over to the large bay windows, closing the curtains over them before walking back. She watched Mister Small put a bag on the floor, then remove some rope from the inside before she sat down and moved her hands behind her back.
“So tell me, Alison,” Mister Tall said as he sat in the seat opposite, “how did you come to convert to Islam?”
“A friend got me to come to some discussions,” Alison said as she felt her wrists being crossed behind her back, and then the rope as Mister Small began to bind them tightly together. “We... We talked about the things we believed in, and I realised we believed many of the same things.”
“Often the way,” Mister Tall said as Alison felt the rope go between her arms. “So you found a basis for faith, and investigated further?”
“Indeed,” Alison said as Mister Small doubled over a long length of rope, and then started to wrap the rope around her arms and chest, pulling them into her sides as the sides of her cardigan were pulled back.
“I am curious however – what did your family think of your decision?”
“They didn’t understand,” Alison said as the rope was passed under one arm, pulled up and around the back of her neck, and then under the other arm, locking them against her body. “But with my decision, I found someone who shared the same doubts and fears I had, as well as the same strengths and thoughts.”
“A truly good way to be,” Mister Small said as he tied the ropes off. “I trust that is not uncomfortable?”
“No, not really,” Alison said as she wriggled round – and then all three stopped as they heard the front door opened. Mister Tall stood by the door, his fingers to his lips as Mister Small stood with his hand on the young woman’s shoulder.
“Ali? Why did you close the curtains?”
“Invite her in,” Mister Small whispered. Alison nodded as she said “Nisha, why don’t you come in – I have a surprise for you.”
“Oh that sounds interesting,” the new voice said as the door opened and a second woman, about the same size as Alison, walked in. She was wearing a long sleeved blue dress, with a black fern pattern, dark tights and over the knee black leather boots. She also had a scarf covering her head and shoulders, a black one in her case with a brown one tied over the back of her head.
“So what is the... oh no...”
She stared at Alison as she wriggled round, before she heard a male voice say “Hello Nisha – I see you brought some food. I regret to say it may have to wait until later. Very slowly, put the bags down on the coffee table, as well as your handbag.”
“Have they hurt you,” Nisha said quietly as she looked at Alison.
“No –Nisha they’re here to rob you I’m afraid.”
“I had figured as much,” Nisha said quietly.
“Alison and I were discussing her decision to accept the Islamic faith,” Mister Tall said as she felt him guide her wrists behind her back, and then the rope as he crossed and began to tie them together. “So would you be the friend she had discussions with?”
“Yes,” Nisha said as Alison smiled, “we were at school and college together, and we used to talk long into the night about – all sorts of things. Eventually, Alison embraced my faith.”
“Well, it must be good to have such strong friendships,” Mister Tall said as she started to use the long length of rope to bind her arms to her sides. “A very strong friendship, given you allowed her to stay here with nobody else in.”
“Well, my parents are away until late tonight,” Nisha said as he tightened the ropes, and tied them off.
“How convenient – now, why don’t you tell me where the safe is?”
“My father’s study – why?”
“Mister Small, would you please take Nisha with you, so that she may watch as you open the safe? In the meantime, I will ensure Alison here is fully secured and otherwise prepared.”
“Will you be all right,” Alison said as she looked at Nisha. The young Asian girl nodded as Mister Small took her arm, and said “show me your father’s study please.”
“I am afraid so,” Mister Tall said as he knelt down, crossed her ankles and used a fresh doubled over length of rope to bind her ankles tightly together.
“Should have seen this one coming,” Alison said with a sigh as she felt the rope pulled around her ankles, the rope rubbing as it went between her legs as well.
“As I said, we are professionals,” Mister Tall said as he took another length of rope, and tied her legs together below her knees. Standing up and looking at her, he said “you made an interesting comment earlier.”
“I did? What?”
“You said you had found someone who shared the same doubts and fears, the same strengths and thoughts. Then Nisha said she was the one who helped you come to a decision.”
“Well, she is.”
“Oh I can see that, from the way you talked to each other. And the way she looked at you.”
Alison looked at Mister Tall as he smiled. “It is cruel, the way the Koran speaks of this particular area, and the more fundamentalist of the teachers interpret that. In many ways, they make the likes of Jerry Falwell look progressive.”
Alison stared at him, and then slowly nodded as Mister Tall said “I thought as much. Hence the waiting in an empty house, while the parents are away, and the meal. I do really need to apologise.”
“A thief apologises?”
“Not all of us are ill mannered,” Mister Tall said with a smile. “But we will leave when Mister Small returns and we secure Nisha. After that – who can say?”
Alison looked at the masked man, as he folded a cloth and said “now, open wide.”
“Interesting,” Nisha said as she watched Mister Small remove the small silver case, and then punch in a number, the safe door opening.
“Not difficult, if you know how,” he said as he opened the door, looking through documents before he pulled out a brown folder, and looked in. “Ah – this is what we were looking for.”
Putting it carefully into his bag, he then took out a velvet sack and started to tip trays of gems and jewellery into it. “I trust your insurance is up to date?”
“Why would my father have such gems in his safe?”
“Interesting question,” Mister Small said, “perhaps you should ask him upon his return. But for now, it is time we rejoined your friend Alison. Before we go through, however, I do need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm.”
Nisha watched as he took a white cloth from his pocket, and folded it into a neat pad.
“Yes Mister Tall?”
“Would you wait until you being Nisha in and secure her before you ensure her silence please.”
“Of course,” Mister Small said as he indicated the door, “shall we?”
As Nisha walked into the front room, she saw Alison looking at her, her eyes wide over the wide strip of white tape that stretched from cheek to cheek, and nose to chin. “Are you all right,” she asked with real concern.
“Mffnnn, jsttltmmsths,” Alison mumbled, Nisha watching the shape of her lips as they moved under the tape.
“Please,” Mister Tall said, “sit down and cross your ankles.”
Alison watched as he knelt down and bound her ankles tightly together, and then her legs below her knees. “If you will allow me,” he then said, Nisha nodding as she watched the masked intruder help Nisha to lie on her side, Mister Small placing an ornately embroidered cushion under her head.
“Now,” he said with a smile, “open your mouth.”
The young woman nodded as Mister Small pushed the folded cloth gently into her mouth, the cotton on her tongue as she closed her lips, and Mister Tall pressed the strip of wide medical tape over her mouth.
She felt his fingers as he smoothed it into place, fitting to every contour on her jaw and face, covering her lips as they were sealed, and then she looked at Alison, the smile evident under the tape.
“Well, I want to hank both of you for your cooperation,” Mister Tall said as Mister Small picked up the bag, their gains inside. “The Gentlemen Robbers bid you both adieu – may we never meet again.”
Both woman watched as the masked men left the room, their footsteps receding as they made their way back out of the kitchen. As he closed the door, Mister Small looked at his partner, seeing the smile on his face.
“Did I miss something,” he said as she removed his balaclava, and ran his hand through his hair.
“Oh, just helping the course of forbidden love to run smoothly,” the taller of the two men said. “Come on – we’ll deliver the item and then I’ll buy you a drink, explain everything...”
In the front room, Nisha tried to move her arms and legs, but the only sound was the squeak as her boots rubbed against each other, and the rope rubbed on them. She then looked over as Alison slipped off the chair, falling onto her knees as she made eye contact with Nisha.
The two watched each other as Alison moved closer on her knees, and then leaned over, gently pressing her taped mouth against Nisha’s as her lover responded in kind...