The Long and The Short Of It
The town sat in the Cotswolds, a quiet little place where tourists might stop for a meal or a coffee, and the residents were all reasonably well off. The sort of place where something serious rarely happened.
Until two things happened on the same street on the same night…
Moira Cummings smiled as she stepped out of the butchers – she was int the mood for a rabbit stew, and she had all that she needed now. With her husband away on a business trip, it was just her and her daughter Angela – so she wanted to have a nice night in with her, find out how her first year at university had gone. They had not met since she left in the summer – restrictions and all that.
But she was home now, and in that there was some comfort. She smiled again as she felt the wind on her face – the warm weather meat she had chosen to wear a dark blue blouse with a white swan print over a white vest, the legs of her blue jeans tucked into a pair of knee high brown riding boots.
Getting into her car, she reversed out and drove off, not noticing the grey transit van that pulled out of the parking space and followed her…
“And there we go,” Moira said as she placed the rabbit and soaked prunes into the casserole, and then put the covered dish into the oven, smiling as she closed the door and wiped her hands. The vegetables were prepared, and now she had some time to herself.
The knock on the front door took her by surprise, as she walked along the wood panelled corridor and opened it.
“Yes, how may I…”
“Good afternoon, Moira,” the taller of the two men standing there said as they walked in, Moira slowly raising her hands as they did so. They were identically dressed – black sweaters and pants, shoes, leather gloves, and balaclavas pulled down over their heads, only their mouths and eyes visible. The most striking disparity was in their height – one was a good foot taller than the other. “Please, forgive the intrusion, but we must ask you not to raise the alarm, and to put your hands palm down on your head.”
“Who…Who are you,” Moira said quietly as she put her hands palm down on her blonde frizzed hair, “and what do you want?”
“My apologies – introductions are in order,” the man pointing the gun at her said as the smaller of the two closed the door, “my name is Mister Tall, my partner Mister Small.”
“You… You’re the Gentlemen Robbers?”
“Once again our reputation precedes us,” Mister Small said as he put a canvas bag down. “We must ask you not to do anything to raise the alarm while we are here, Moira, so would you first tell me where you mobile phone is?”
“My handbag – in the kitchen,” she whispered as he walked past – first removing the connection for the phone in the hallway from the wall. “So you are robbing me?”
“Indeed – specifically, your husband’s fine collection of stamps, but we are open to other finds. Ah – thank you, Moira,” he said as Mister Small waved the phone in his gloved hand. “Now, slowly, take your hands down and move them behind your back.”
“Regretfully, when we say we must prevent you raising the alarm, we mean it,” Mister Small said behind her. “Please, do what my friend asks you to do.”
“all right,” she said quietly as she lowered her hands and moved them behind her, gasping softly as Mister Small gently crossed her wrists behind her back, and then started to bind them with a length of white cord. She could feel the rope rubbing on her wrists as he proceeded – it seemed to take no time, but when he was done, she could not move her wrists apart.
“Excuse me for one moment,” he said as he made his way into the front room, Mister Tall inhaling as he said “do I smell Burgundy cooking?”
“Yes – a rabbit casserole,” Moira said, surprised that he recognised the scent.
“Reminds me of my time in Italy,” he said with a smile as Mister Small came back out, and picked up the canvas bag. “please – after you.”
Moira walked into the room, now darker with the curtains drawn over the windows, and stopped as Mister Small retrieved from the bag a longer length of rope, doubling it over and then walking behind her as he passed the rope round her body, fed the ends through the centre loop behind her, and gently pulled.
“Now,” Mister Tall said, “we have no desire to make more mess than is necessary, so please tell us where the main safe is.”
“My husband’s office,” Moira whispered as she felt the bands tightening on her, above and below her chest, forcing her arms against her sides. He was being gentle, but she knew when he was finished, she was going nowhere…
“Excellent,” Mister Tall said as his partner secured the ropes, Moira twisting round as she looked through her glasses. “Mister Small, if you would locate and take the necessary steps to open the safe, I will make sure Moira is comfortably secured in the room.”
“OF course,” Mister Small said as he walked off, Mister Tall indicating to Moira that she should take a seat on the couch behind a coffee table. As she did so, he drew more lengths of cord from the bag, and said “will you please rise your legs, cross your ankles, and rest them on the coffee table Moira?”
“Why – so you can tie my ankles and legs?”
“Precisely – but it will be more comfortable for you if you do it that way. If you would please do so?”
Moira nodded – this had to be the strangest home invasion she could imagine, but she did as she was asked, watching as the tall masked intruder doubled one length of rope and wrapped it round her ankles. She was fascinated by the way he was working, taking the rope round and between her legs before securing the lengths out of reach of her.
The second length went around her legs below her knees, as he made sure they were tightly secured, his gloved hands stroking her legs as the rope was taken between them – but she felt assured this was the most he was going to do, as he knotted the ends and stood back. Moira slowly lowered her legs, feeling the ropes tighten, and then said “now what?”
The sound of the front door opening and closing made Mister Tall look quickly over, and then a young female voice said “Mum?”
“Your daughter – please, invite her to join us, and no warnings please.”
Moira swallowed as she said “I’m in the front room Angela – will you come in please?”
“Sure – but why are the curtains drawn,” the voice said as they both looked to the doorway, and her nineteen year old daughter walked in. She had a black and white hairband holding her blonde hair back, a white deep necked top over a peach vest, pink shorts with a wide brown leather belt, and a pair of knee length brown leather boots with a fake lace detail on the front. She stared at her mother, and the masked man next to her, before she said “shit…”
“Language, Alison,” Moira said quietly. “As you can see, we have some unexpected guests. This is my daughter Angela – Angela, meet Mister Tall.”
“Mister Tall, as in…” Angela looked at the masked man, and then turned as she heard a second male voice say “a problem, Mister Tall?”
“I don’t think so, Mister Small. The safe?”
“Working on it,” the smaller masked man said as he turned and walked back down the corridor.
“So, Angela,” Mister Tall said, “will you please place your bag and you phone carefully on the seat, and then stand perfectly still? I have no desire to harm you, and your mother is safe if secured – I merely need to make sure you are the same.”
“Just do as he says, Angela,” Moira said as she twisted round, her boots squeaking as her legs rubbed together. “I promise you, I haven’t been hurt.”
“Okay Mum,” Angela said as she inhaled. “Rabbit?”
“Yes – although w may have to eat later.”
“I will ensure the timer is set on the oven before we leave,” Mister Tall said as he collected some rope and stood behind Angela. Moira watched as the masked man guided her daughter’s hands behind her back, and started to bind her in the same way as she had been.
It was a strange feeling, seeing an armed intruder skilfully bind her daughter. The ropes certainly forced her arms into her sides as they were taken round her, Angela biting her lower lip as the bands stretched her top over her chest.
“What do they want, Mum – Dad’s stamp collection?”
“I think that is the main thing they want, but I also suspect they may take out jewellery as well,” Moira said as Mister Tall pulled the bands tighter round her daughter, and then secured the ends. Placing his gloved hands on her shoulders, she said “thank you – now please, Angela, sit on the far end of the couch from your other, and put your feet on the coffee table, ankles crossed.”
“He’s going to tie our legs in the same way as mine,” Moira said, Angela walking over and looking down before she sat and placed hr crossed ankles on the table, watching as Mister Tall started to bind her ankles together as well.
“We’re not going anywhere, are we?”
“I fear not for some time,” Moira said as she watched Mister Tall bind her daughter’s legs as well, before Angela lowered them and she twisted round, nodding as she said “I guess not. So what happens now?”
“Well, fi you promise not to scream for help, I will leave you – be aware Mister Small is a short run away, and if he hears anything he will come in. It would be a great pity if we had to take any further actions.”
“We won’t raise the alarm,” Moira said, Angela nodding as she continued “so long as you turn the television on, and allow us to watch Pointless.”
“Of course,” Mister Tall said as he turned the television on, Alexander Armstrong appearing as he turned the volume up and then left them in the room.
“The Gentlemen Robbers? Should we be honoured?”
“I guess so, Angela,” Moira said as she heard their boots squeaking as they rubbed against each other, “and I suspect they will make sure we are quiet eventually, but for now…”
“Ah – one of my favourite shows,” Mister Small said as he came in and sat down. “I hope you do not mind the company?”
“We have a choice?”
Mister Small smiled as he said “not at the moment, no…”
“Ah – did you find success on the upper floor, Mister Tall?”
“I did Mister Small,” the taller of the two intruders said as he placed a pillowcase in the canvas bag, and then held up two black scarves. “And now, with regret, we must ensure both of you ladies remain silent for a while.”
He handed one to Mister Small, Moira and Angela watching as they rolled the scarves not a band and tied a double knot in the middle, both men then walking behind the couch as Mister Small said “please, open your mouth as wide as you can – it will be a little uncomfortable to begin with, but you will soon adjust.”
“We can talk later… The casserole?”
“I will deal with the oven presently,” Mister Tall said as both women felt the silk knot go between their lips and behind their teeth, biting down as the band was secured round their heads, the ends hanging at the base of their neck. As Mister Tall left the room, Mister Small collected other things and put them into the bag, closing and picking it up as his partner returned.
“The Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu,” Mister Tall said as he came in and bowed, “may we…”
The sound of the crash outside made both men look at each other, Mister Small putting the bag down and quickly walking up the stairs as Mister Tall said “A moment, ladies.”
Angela and Moira looked at each other, wondering what had happened as Mister Small came back down, shaking his head.
“Is there a problem Mister Small?”
“You may say that – it appears there has been a road collision on the road outside your door, a fairly serious one. With egret, my dear ladies, I fear we may have to stay a little longer than planned – our apologies for that?”
“Whhttt?” Moira looked at them, the scarf dampening at the corners of er mouth, as she tried to process what they were saying.
“May I ask,” Mister Tall said quietly, “if either of you had plans to meet with anyone tonight?” As Moira and Angela both shook their heads, he nodded before saying “well, we can assist in any way we can. Mister Small, continue to keep them company – I can at least finish preparing their evening meal for them.”
He smiled at Angela before he said “you may be the judge of that…”
“Mum, you have to admit – he can cook.”
Moira slowly nodded as she put another forkful of the casserole in her mouth. She and Angela were sat at the dining table – secured in place with ropes round their waist, and their ankles and legs still secured together. Mister Tall had caried them through one by one and released their arms, then Mister Small removed their gags as the food was placed in front of them – along with the casserole, there were honey roasted carrots, cabbage with sesame seeds, and pomme puree.
“As I said, I spent some time in Italy,” Mister Tall said with a smile as Mister Small poured more wine into their glasses, and then left the room.
“So where is your friend going?”
“Monitoring the situation outside – the police have finished interviewing the drivers concerned, but until the vehicles are actually cleared I regret to say we continue our sojourn here.”
“Well, at least you have treated us well,” Moira said, unable to stop herself smiling as she ate. “So what is going to happen next?”
“Well, it would be my recommendation you change into something suitable for sleeping in, and at that point I regret to say we would need to silene you – with something else this time,” Mister Tall said. “I am aware, however, that you have a Sky subscription, and there is a particularly fine concert on later tonight – so I see no reason why you should not enjoy that.
“Albeit securely, and quietly.”
“I guess there is no reason why not,” Angela giggled as she sipped her wine, Moira shaking her head. Eventually, Mister Small returned and said “we have finished.”
“indeed – if you would release Angela, and take her to wash and change, Moira may remain here while I clear the plates, and then load the dishwasher.”
“I’ll be all right Mum,” Angela said as the masked man pulled her chair back, and untied her waist and leg, carefully coiling the ropes and laying them on the table as he did so. Moir watched as they walked off, before she said “will you be using rope again?”
“No – as there is a very real possibility you will be asleep before we leave, we will use something else. What that is, you will see when Angela returns…”
A short while later, Mister Small returned with Angela, her blonde hair now hanging loose, wearing a red short sleeved top and matching shorts. “So – what are you going to do to me,” she said to Mister Tall, and then she watched as the smaller of the two me returned with a large roll of white tape.
“Kindly put your hands together in prayer in front of yourself,” he said, Angela watching as he tore the end of the roll loose, and wrapped it tightly round her wrists, then took it down until both hands were covered, as if they were fitting inside a single white glove.
Moira watched, dimly aware that Mister Tall was releasing her while Mister Small wrapped the tape round Angela’s waist, then her stomach, and finally her upper arms, fixing her arms to her body in front of her as well.
“IF you will come with me,” Mister Tall said as Mister Small took Angela by the arm. They all left the room, Mister Tall taking Moira up the stairs as Mister Small led Angela into the front room again.
“You have to be the most unusual robbers in history,” Moira said as she stood outside her bedroom.
“Well, even if sadly that is the case, w take the recognition with honour,” Mister Tall said with a smile, “now, go and change – but leave the door open please.”
“Afraid I may call for help?”
“In a way – but more to ensure you remember we have your daughter downstairs, waiting for you.”
Moira nodded as she went in, coming out again wearing a pair of white pyjamas with a blue and red cornflower pattern on them. “So, now you tape me up as well?”
“In a slightly different way – shall we?”
They walked back down and into the living room, to see Angela lying on her side on the couch, her head resting on the arm with a cushion under it. Her ankles, as well as her legs above and below her knees, were held together with a band of white tape in each place, as Mister Small allowed her to drink through a straw.
“Could be worse,” she said with a smile as Mister Tall folded Moira’s arms behind her back, resting her elbows in the palms of her hands and then taped them together, elbow to wrist and around her forearms. He then wound the tape round her upper arms, holding them firmly against her body, before she took a seat in the chair next to Angela’s head.
“So when does this concert start,” Moira asked as Mister Small lifted her feet onto his knee, and started to tape her ankles together.
“In a few moments – some water?”
“thank you,” she said as Mister Tall held the glass to let her sip through the straw, Mister Small lowering her taped ankles and then securing her legs above and below her knees.
“now, sadly, we must ensure you stay quiet.”
With that, Mister Small took a folded cloth and held it in front of Moira’s mouth, the older woman nodding as she allowed him to push it in and then closing her lips over it before he covered them with the white tape. Angela was soon gagged in the same way, as they both started to watch the concert.
It was a celebration of Broadway, as to the surprise of both Moira and Angela Mister Tall and Mister Small joined in – both possessing fine voices. Eventually, however, Mister Small looked from the curtains into the dark street, and said “we are clear.”
“then we must leave you,” Mister Tall said to both women as he picked up the bag. “the Gentlemen Robbers once again, and definitively, bid you adieu – may we truly never meet again.”
They both nodded as the two men left the room, and then turned the attention to the concert as they twisted round, trying to get free from the tight white bands…