We Interrupt Your Party…
Wednesday 11 am
Didsbury, near Manchester
Looking out of the windscreen of the small grey van, the two men did not say a word, taking careful note of everything that was happening in the street.
“Typical Saturday Afternoon,” the taller of the two men said, “just the way we like it.”
“Indeed,” the smaller man said as his mobile phone started to ring. “A few moments pause, perhaps?”
As the taller man nodded, he said “hello?
“Penny? What’s happened?
“I see. Have you talked to John?
“Fair enough – let me know where and when, I’ll be there.”
“Nope,” he said as he put the phone into the glove compartment of the van, “but I need to meet some friends tomorrow.”
“Penny? Madame calling you in again?”
“Honestly – I have no idea, but she’s talking to John as well. Shall we?”
“Oh yes,” the other man said as they both got out of the car, putting a small rucksack on their backs as they walked along the street.
“Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Karla, Happy Birthday to you!”
Karla Gilligan smiled as she took a deep breath, and blew out the two candles on her cake, the words “Happy Birthday Karla” in red icing as the candles in the shape of 1 and 8 smoked. She was wearing a t-shirt with blue and white thin stripes, the bottom knotted below her navel, and a blue denim mini skirt buttoned at the front.
“Thanks Mum,” Karla said as she looked at her mother, her brown hair falling over her shoulders and back. Rhoda Gilligan smiled back as she sat on the couch, wearing a shirt sleeved black blouse and blue jeans. “So are we having some coffee with this?”
“I’ll make some in a minute,” Rhoda said as she ran her hand through her light blonde hair. “Any ideas of what you want to do today?”
“Well I’m meeting the girls later,” Karla said, “but the rest of the day is free for is to do something – maybe get some lunch together?”
“What do you think Mum?” Rhoda looked at the grey haired woman sitting on the other couch. Sarah Rosenstein smiled as she said “sounds good - but this is Karla’s day, her most important since her Bat Mitzvah.”
“Exactly Gran,” Karla said as she put the cake down and hugged the older woman. Sarah was wearing a camel coloured long sleeved top and white trousers, both she and her daughter wearing blue shoes while Karla was barefoot.
“Let me go and make that coffee,” Rhoda said as she made her way into the kitchen, smiling as she heard the other two talk. It was only as she walked in that she realized they were not the only people in the house.
Standing in the middle of the kitchen was a man – a tall man, standing about six foot seven, wearing a black leather jacket over a sweater, jeans, black trainers – and a black balaclava over his head, showing only his eyes and his mouth as he smiled.
“Good morning,” he said politely as he pointed the gun towards Rhoda in his leather gloved hand, “my apologies for the unannounced arrival, but I and my friend need you to remain calm and quiet.”
“Your… Your friend,” Rhoda said as she heard the door behind her close, and turned round to see a second man, identically dressed and masked, but a foot shorter, standing in front of the door and smiling.
“Please allow us to introduce ourselves, Rhoda – may we call you Rhoda? We prefer first name terms where possible, but if you would prefer Mrs Gilligan…”
“Who are you?”
“Ah – forgive me,” the taller man said with a smile. “I am Mister Tall – my friend, Mister Small. As you may have already ascertained by our attire, I have regretfully to say that we are here to rob you.”
“Oh my god…” Rhoda looked at both of the men as Mister Tall said “I assure you, so long as you and the other people in the house do as we say, no actual physical harm will come to you, but you will I am afraid to say be rather inconvenienced.”
“May we ask who else is in the house,” Mister Small said with a smile.
“My… My mother and daughter r- it’s her eighteenth birthday today, please…”
“Be assured, she is safe in our hands – and she will have something to remember this special day by. First, however, before we join them and explain the situation, what did you come in here to do?”
“Coffee – she just blew out the candles on her cake…”
“then do not let us stop you – but remember, no loud noises, and no attempts to raise the alarm please. That could be most unpleasant for all concerned…”
Nodding, Rhoda went and started to make the coffee, placing some plates and mugs on a tray.
“Allow us to take that for you,” Mister Small said as he took the knife from the older woman, smiling as she nodded, and then put the coffee pot on the tray as well. As Mister Small opened the door, she picked up the tray and followed Mister Tall out.
“Now that does…” Sarah looked at the doorway, Karla staring at the masked man who came in, and then at Rhoda as she put the tray on the coffee table. “Mum, Karla,” she said quietly, “I am afraid we are being robbed.”
“Rhoda is quite correct – I am Mister Tall, and my friend is Mister Small. We must respectfully ask you to remain calm, and do what we tell you to do.” Looking at Karla, he then said “first, I wish you a very happy birthday, and offer both my congratulations, and my regrets that we have to make sure no-one can raise the alarm in due course. For now, may I impose on you to draw the curtains over the windows?”
“Do as he says Karla,” Sarah said as the younger girl stood up, walked over and drew the curtains over the large windows.
“Excellent – and what may we call you?”
“Sarah,” the oldest woman answered.
“Well, far be it from us to prevent you having coffee and cake,” Mister Tall said. “while they do that, Mister Small, kindly make sure all communication methods are disabled?”
“We need to do as they say – he has a gun,” Rhoda said quietly as she poured the coffee, then took the knife from Mister Tall and cut slices of cake, putting them on plates and handing them round before he retrieved the knife.
“What… What are you going to do to us?” Karla said as she sat on the couch with her mother and grandmother.
“Well, for the moment, we are allowing you to have your coffee and cake,” Mister Tall said with a smile. “After that – ah, we are secure?”
“In a moment – forgive me ladies,” Mister Small said as he looked in their handbags, removed their mobile phones and took the battery pack from each one. “Now, provided you are not expecting anyone for the next hour or so, we are secured.”
“Good – well, enjoy your cake and coffee, and then we can begin.”
The three women looked at each other, and then sipped their coffee, watching as the smaller of the two masked men opened a rucksack, and took out several neatly coiled lengths of rope, laying them carefully out as he smiled.
“You’re going to tie us up?”
“Regretfully, yes,” Mister Tall said, “but I promise you it will not be too uncomfortable, and that we will ensure you are not left in that position for too long. In fact, I believe we should make a start now.” Looking at Karla and Sarah, he said “would you please both put your feet on the coffee table, ankles crossed?”
The two generations looked at each other, and then did as they had been asked, watching as Mister Small took a length of rope, shook it out and doubled it over, and then quickly secured Karla’s bare ankles together, taking the rope around and between her legs. He then repeated the process on Sarah, the rope gathering the material of her trousers round her legs as the other two watched.
“Are you going to do that to me as well,” Rhoda asked.
“Not at this stage no,” Mister Small said as he took a further length of rope, shook it out and doubled it over, and then secured Sarah’s legs together below her knees, taking the rope around in neatly layered bands, and then between her legs to tighten the bands still further.
“Are you all right Gran,” Karla said as she felt Mister Small doing the same thing to her, the rope pressing her bare legs together.
“Yes – yes I am,” Sarah said quietly, “I was just thinking of something…”
“The last time someone did this to me and your mother,” Rhoda said. “It was just after you were born – your late father was working at a bank, and your grandmother had come to watch you while we went to a party. Only a group of bank robbers came in, and while you slept they tied her up – then tied me up when I got back, and forced your father to open the bank vault.”
“Oh god,” Karla said quietly as Mister Small tied the rope off under her legs, and then said “please, finish your coffee and cake.” She and Sarah lowered their legs, feeling the rope tighten even more as they picked their cups up again.
“Did they ever catch them Mum?”
“Not then – they caught the gang leader a few years later, but he escaped and left the country.”
Mister Tall and Mister Small exchanged a glance, before Mister Tall said “if you have finished your repast, Rhoda, I am afraid I need to begin to secure you. As we will be taking a walk round the house, I need you to lean forward, and put your hands behind your back.”
As the others watched, Mister Tall guided Rhoda’s arms behind her back, crossing her wrists before he used a length of rope to secure them together. She felt the soft rope as it rubbed on her bare wrists, but held them firmly together as the masked man took it around and between her arms.
“There now,” Mister Tall said as he tied the ends out of reach of her fingers. “Mister Small, may I impose on you to ensure the coffee and cake items are removed and cleaned.”
“Of course,” the smaller of the two men said as he gathered the plates and mugs on the tray, and then carried it out of the room. “Seriously,” Karla said as she looked at Mister Tall, “you’re going to wash them up?”
“Well, put them in the washing machine – but I cannot leave plates, mugs and other items where you could potentially use them to free yourself, can I?” With that, he shook loose and doubled over a much longer length of rope, and began to bind her mother’s arms to her sides, taking the rope above and below her chest as they were forced in.
They could hear the sounds from the kitchen as Mister Tall tied the rope off, then used two shorter lengths to further secure her arms, tying them around the bands and between her arms and body.
“There now,” he said as he stood back, “I trust that is not uncomfortable?”
“No… Tight, but not uncomfortable,” Rhoda said as Mister Small returned.
“Your mother and I are going to do a tour of your home now,” Mister Tall said, “in the meantime, Mister Small will ensure you are comfortably secured, and kept quiet. Mister Small?”
“Of course Mister Tall,” the smaller masked man said as he took two more lengths of rope. “Please, will you both lean forward, and put your hands behind your backs?”
“Will you… Will you allow us all to be together before you go?”
“Of course,” Mister Small said to Sarah as he crossed Karla’s wrists behind her back, and then started to secure them together.
“You are certainly not how I expected a robber to be,” Rhoda said as she walked up the staircase in front of Mister Tall.
“Oh? And how did you expect us to be?”
“I don’t know… Scarier?”
“Well, I do accept for some people fear is a potent weapon,” Mister Tall said as they reached the top of the stairs, “but we are not some people. For us, we have no desire to truly frighten you – although a little fear is acceptable. We find if we treat those we visit with manners and dignity, they are happier and less likely to experience any trauma. Now, let us go into the first room.”
As they went in, he looked round and said “a work office?”
“I work from home a lot,” Rhoda said.
“Very well then – do you have a safe in this room?” As Rhoda nodded to a cupboard, Mister Tall opened it and said “combination, please.”
Sarah let out a soft sigh as the ropes pulled on her, Mister Small weaving them under one arm, around the back of her neck and under the other arm to secure them even more tightly. She turned and looked at Karla, who was biting her lower lip as she tried to move her arms. The ropes above and below her chest were holding them firmly, however, rubbing on her chest as she stopped and looked at her grandmother.
“Now then,” Mister Small said as he walked round to the front of the couch, and moved the table slightly forwards, “to make sure you stay on the seat.” He took hold of Karla’s legs, and then moved them so that her ankles were to the side, using a length of rope to secure them to her chest ropes.
He then helped Sarah to shuffle to the far side of the couch, before raising her legs onto the chair and securing her ankles in the same way. “I guess we really are stuck here now,” she said as she looked at the masked man, seeing him nod as he smiled and said “that is the intention, but in a way that is not too stressful.”
The two women then watched as he took from the rucksack two blue cloths, and folded them neatly into two pads. “Now, however, it is time to be silent. Who shall be first?”
“The time you and your mother were secured,” Mister Tall said as he emptied the contents of Rhoda’s jewellery box into a velvet sack, “what happened in the end?”
“We were found in the early hours by a policeman – fortunately, Karla has slept through the night,” Rhoda said as she sat on the bed.
“And your husband?”
“He died a year ago – nothing to do with the raid,” she said as she looked over.
“My condolences,” Mister Tall said as he replaced the box. “Well, I think we can take you to rejoin the rest of your family – once we make sure you cannot raise the alarm.”
“and how are you going to do that,” Rhoda asked as she watched Mister Tall walk to her wardrobe, returning with a blue scarf which he was folding into a pad.
“By stopping you from being able to talk coherently, but still allowing you to breathe,” he said with a smile. “Open wide please.”
Rhoda nodded as she opened her mouth as wide as she could, tasting the faint scent of perfume as the silk pad was eased into her mouth and pressed down on her tongue. As it filled the space behind her teeth, she closed her lips over it, watching as the masked intruder took from the bag a wide roll of white medical tape.
Mister Tall smiled as he tore off a length, and then pressed it firmly down over her mouth, covering her lips and jaw as the tape adhered to her skin. He made sure it was firmly in place, smoothing out any creases, before he took her by the arm and helped her to stand up.
“Shall we,” he said politely, Rhoda nodding as she led the way back down the staircase, Mister Tall following with his rucksack.
Rhoda nodded as she looked at her mother and daughter, seated on opposite ends of the couch, their legs tucked in and white tape covering their mouths.
“I trust they provided no problems Mister Small?”
“Not at all Mister Tall,” the smaller of the two intruders said as Rhoda was helped to sit in an armchair, and then knelt down, using rope to secure her ankles together, and then her legs below her knees, before Mister Tall bent and tucked them under her on the seat. Taking a final length of rope, he secured them to her chest ropes, and then watched as Mister Small gathered up the remaining ropes and placed them in his rucksack.
“Some music perhaps,” he then said as he turned the radio on, and increased the volume.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” Mister Tall said as he looked at the trio, “The Gentlemen Robbers bid you all adieu – may we never meet again!” With that, they turned and walked to the kitchen, the three women looking at each other as the music continued to play…
“This should be a most profitable visit,” the taller of the two men said as they got into the front of the van.
“Yeah – I’m just wondering…”
“The previous robbery – that smacks so much of George Simpson, and that was what Penny was calling to ask me to a meeting about. Coincidence?”
“There is no such thing as coincidence, only the illusion of such.”
“Yeah – well, we’ll see what tomorrow brings,” he said as he drove off.
Xavier International, Aldwych
The grey haired man looked up and smiled as the blonde walked to the reception desk.
“Good morning Madame – can I help you?”
“Detective Chief Inspector Jennifer Wayne,” she said as she showed him the ID, “I need to see a Miss Lilian Harmond – I believe she works here?”
“If you will allow me a moment,” he said as he picked up a telephone. “Angela – I have a DCI Wayne here to see Lilian. IS she in today?
“I see – I’ll let her know.” Replacing the phone, he said “I am afraid Miss Harmond is on annual leave today – her supervisor is just coming down.”
Nodding, Jennifer looked round, then looked to the lifts as a brunette walked out, wearing a blue jacket and skirt with a red jumper.
“DCI Wayne? I’m Penelope Harker, Lilian’s boss. Can I be of some assistance?”
“Sadly no – it is a personal matter I need to discuss,” Jennifer said as they looked at each other. “When do you expect her back?”
“Tomorrow – is there some way she can contact you?”
“If you could give her my card,” Jennifer said as she handed it over, “and ask her to call me at her earliest convenience?”
“Of course, may I ask what it is about?”
“Just a routine enquiry – nothing serious. Thank you.” With that, Jennifer looked round and then turned, Penny watching as she did so.
“Is Lily in trouble?”
“No George – not that I know of,” Penny said.
10 am EST
The Village, New York
“Hey boss,” George Simpson said as he looked at Caroline Jameson, “ready to get to work? I need to know what you want me to do while you’re back in the UK.”
“In a minute – come up George, we need to talk.”
“Okay,” he said as he went up the staircase, the model and security consultant closing the door before she followed him, “where’s Sharon today?”
“Chasing something down – George, we have a problem. I got a call from Madame yesterday, while you were away overseeing that exhibition.”
“I haven’t done anything, honestly…”
“I know,” Caroline said as she removed her blonde wig and put it on a stand, and then sat down.
“So what is the problem Dom?”
“There was a robbery at a store on Ealing Broadway on Monday,” Dominique said as she looked across, “and your name came up in the police report.”
“My name? Why would…” George sat back and said “where on Ealing Broadway?”
“Near the cinema – apparently they broke into a false wall, and removed a tin box.”
“Oh lord,” George said as he rubbed his greying hair, “someone found out about the tapes.”
“The tapes? Tell me more George – and is it a security risk?”
“To me and Lily, or Madame and the organization? No. But there are others…”