Seventies Bound – On The Couch
I remember the day so clearly, even though it was – what, more than forty years ago? The sounds, the smell, the fear, they are all still as clear as if it was only yesterday…
We lived in Northampton at the time – my husband was the manager of a branch of the local Williams and Glym bank, and I worked mornings in the local library. Our daughters were also living at home at the time – Jessie was fourteen, and Carol seventeen, and both attended the local grammar school.
I also remember it clearly because it was a charity day at their school, and they were not wearing school uniform when they left the house that day. I was dressed for work – a long sleeved cream dress, with a gathered waist and a brown ethnic pattern on the hem of the skirt, and high cream leather boots.
I’d been to the hairdresser the previous afternoon – my hair was cut to frame my face, and in a bob at the back. Little details, but as I say, so clear…
It was a normal afternoon at the library, and I met some friends at a local café for lunch. It was about two thirty in the afternoon when I finally got home – Jessie was due back at four, and Carol at four thirty.
I fished my keys out of my handbag, unlocked the front door and walked in – and the first thing I remember noticing was the fact there was a breeze coming from the kitchen. I walked in, putting my handbag down on the table, and then looked closely at the back door, staring at the splinters of wood round the lock.
I swear, I wasn’t processing what had happened – but when I was pulled back and a leather glove clamped over my mouth, I had a very real idea of what was happening. Especially when I saw the masked man as I was turned round.
He was tall – really tall, and broad shouldered, wearing a blue boiler suit, heavy boots, gloves – and a black balaclava mask covering his head, only his thin lips and blue eyes showing. The thing that really took my attention, however, was the gun in his hands – a shotgun, the barrels sawn down.
“Let’s keep this simple,” he said in a deep voice, “do what we say, nobody needs to get hurt. Nod if you understand.”
As the wife of a bank manager, you learn the risks of this sort of thing happening, and I had no desire to be hurt, so I slowly nodded as the gloved hand stayed over my mouth.
“Good – we’re going to make you and your girls comfortable,” he said as he looked behind me. I wondered what he meant by that – and then realised he was threatening the girls as well.
“NNhhdhnthtthtm,” I mumbled as he looked at me.
“Then shut up,” he growled, “and do what I tell you to do- starting with keeping that pretty mouth shut.”
I understood that, as I nodded and the gloved hand was taken away – before my arms were pulled behind my back, and I felt rough rope on my wrists as they were bound tightly together. It was obvious to me now what was going on – the girls and I were going to be hostages, and my husband forced to do something at the bank.
I bit my lip as I felt the rope between my arms, and then it was tied off. I tried moving my hands – without success, as I glanced down and saw the brown rope he was passing round my body, before he pulled it tight, forcing my arms against my sides.
I noticed the armed man was smiling as the rope went round me again and again, forming two bands that stretched the top of my dress over my chest – but it was tight, very tight, as I realized they were most certainly in charge. There was one more tug, and then I felt the hands on my arms as I was pushed towards the front room of our house.
I need to explain the layout, so you appreciate what happened – it was a large room, and there was a television set at one corner, a large music centre at the opposite one. Against the wall and facing the television was a L-shaped brown leather couch, with a matching stool at the corner flush with the seats. Next to that was a table, with one of the two telephones in the house sitting on it.
As we went in, I was pushed onto the couch, as the armed man walked over and drew the curtains over the windows. I got a good look at the second man – dressed and masked in the same way, but slimmer.
He was also carrying a large canvas bag, which he set on the floor and opened before he removed two more lengths of thin brown rope. He looked at me, and said “put your feet up on the stool, and cross your ankles.”
“What makes you think you will get away with this,” I said as I complied, watching as he doubled the rope over and started to bind my ankles. I could see the soft cream leather being compressed by the thin rope, as they were tightly bound, the rope going around and between my legs.
He tied that length off, and then folded the skirt of my dress back before he started to bind my legs together below my knees. That bit into my flesh, but by now there was nothing I could do except watch, as he tied the rope off and then let my legs drop to the floor.
“Now what,” I said as I looked to the clock.
“Now, we wait. If the phone rings, tell them you will call back.”
“And how am I meant to answer it?”
The man just smiled as I looked at the clock on the wall…
“Mum, I’m home.”
It was four o’clock as I heard the front door open and close, and then Jessie call out as there was a thump on the floor in the hallway. I wanted to say something – but there was a sawn-off shotgun pointed at my head, and the taller man had his finger to his lips telling me to be quiet.
“Mum – are you OH NO…”
“Not a word, kid,” the man said as I looked at Jessie. She was wearing a grey long sleeved top that zipped up the front, her long dark hair falling over her shoulders, and a long grey and blue tartan skirt. She was also wearing a pair of knee length black Frye leather boots, and an expression of pure fear on her face.
“Jessie,” I said quietly, “just do what they say. I don’t want you to be hurt.”
“Mum, what’s happening?”
“I think they want your father to do something,” I said quietly, “and we’re the incentive for him to do that.”
“that’s right, kid,” the man said as he took some rope from the bag, “so turn round, and put your hands behind your back.”
“Jessie, just do as they say,” I whispered as she turned round, looking over her shoulder as the man took her hands behind her back, and she bit her lower lip. I knew what he was doing as she looked back at me – and then gasped as the rope was taken round her upper body as well.
“Please, she’s only fourteen…”
“I don’t care,” the man said as he looked over her shoulder, and pulled the rope tighter, Jessie squealing as her arms were forced against her side.
“Mum, this hurts…”
“I know,” I said with a sigh as I watched my baby being tied up, “but I’m the same, Jess.”
“So we’ll be the same,” she said as she was pushed over to the side of the couch and sat down away from the side, her legs stretched out on the stool as more rope was used to bind her crossed ankles together.
“I’m afraid so,” I said as I watched him bind her ankles, and then fold her skirt back before he tied her legs together below her knees. Jessie tried to move her legs apart, the leather squeaking as her boots rubbed together, and I moved my legs to show her I had the same problem.
That made her smile – but then the smile was covered by a long strip of brown fabric sticking plaster, stopping her from talking as she looked at me, twisting round. Then we both heard the front door open and close again, as I looked at the clock on the wall.
It was four thirty…
We both looked to the door as Carol walked in, staring at both of us. Her brown hair was cut in a short perm, and she was wearing a checked blouse under a black cardigan with the sleeves pulled back up to her elbows. Her jeans were rolled back to just below her knees, and she still had on the high laced Dr Marten boots she had walked out in that morning.
“We’re being held hostage, Carol,” I said as I looked at her. “Please, do what they say – they have promised not to hurt us.”
“Hmschrd,” Jessie mumbled as she looked at her older sister.
“Yeah – me too. Look, keep calm – I don’t want any of us hurt.” As Jessie nodded, Carol had her own arms taken behind her back. I knew she could feel the rope on her bare wrists as she winced and looked back.
“You don’t have to take so much enjoyment in this,” she whispered as he tied the rope off, and then took the longer length around her body. Carol then looked at me, before she said “are you all right Mum?”
“I’m scared as well,” I said as I tried to wriggle into a more comfortable position, “but we need to be strong for each other.”
“Yeah, yeah we do,” Carol said as the ropes tightened round her, and she looked at Jessie. She nodded as well, before Carol was made to sit next to her at the end of the couch, and put her feet up on the stool.
“When this is over,” she said as she nudged Jessie, “we have a girls night in and talk about this, all right?”
“Shnddfhn,” Jessie mumbled through the fabric covering her mouth, as Carol watched the masked man bind her ankles tightly together, and then her legs below her knees, above the turnups on her jeans.
“So what, you tape my mouth over as well?”
“Gotit in one, girlie,” the taller man said as he tore the sticking plaster off the roll, and pressed it down over her mouth, the two girls looking at me as I said “okay, so what happens now.”
He looked at the clock, and then we heard the phone ring as he picked it up and put the handset to my ear.
“Darling – is everything all right at home?”
I could hear the concern in his voice as I said “we have some unexpected visitors – they have made sure all three of us are comfortable.”
“Cannot talk to you at the moment,” I said as I looked at the intruders.
“Let me talk to the visitors.”
“He wants to talk to you,” I said as he took the handset away from me.
“Your family are safe – so long as you do what my friends in the office tell you to do. Do anything different, and…” He looked at Jessie and Carol before I said “do what they say” loud enough for him to hear.
“You understand then? Good – do not call again,” he said as he put the handset down, and looked at me. “Very good,” he said as he picked up the roll of Elastoplast, and tore a strip off. “Time for you to be quiet.”
I nodded as he pressed the plaster down over my mouth, feeling it tugging on my skin before the two men helped me to lie on my side, my head at the far end of the couch from the girls as they looked at me. There we were – bound, gagged, and only able to look at each other.
“Look round upstairs – see if there is anything we can find,” the taller man said as his partner walked out of the room, and he turned the television on, Lesley Judd appearing on the screen with John Noakes. I admit it – I liked the peasant style dress and headscarf she was wearing, as well as the chocolate brown boots. But as we twisted our legs round, the situation was very clear to all of us…
The early evening news was just finishing, and Nationwide starting when the telephone rang twice. We all looked over as the taller man went to the table, and then waited as it rang three more times before he picked up the handset.
“And he knows not to call the police for an hour?
“Good – see you later.”
He put the receiver back into the cradle, and then pulled on the wire to tear it from the wall in the hallway, before he checked all three of us.
“Stray there,” he said as the two men left, Carol saying “Vhrrefhnnee” as we heard them walk to the back of the house. I tried to move, to get the tape from my mouth, as the leather squeaked under my body, the girls moving as well as their boots squeaked, the couch squeaked, and we mumbled.
It was about eight by the time the police arrived and released us - they had forced my husband to empty the bank safe of all the money under threat of hurting us, and then he had called the police. I was just grateful the girls and I had come through it with nothing except bruises, stiffness, and a residue of adhesive round our mouths…