Bound on the Fourth of July
Wallahoo, Winsconsin, was a typical slice of small town America, and in 1958 it was really just starting to grow as a community. The kids would run around and play in the streets, with the boys playing either Cowboys and Indians or Spacemen, and the girls trying to twirl hula hoops or skip up and down the road. On July 4th, Independence Day, the kids were enjoying the summer sunshine as they had most of the days before while the parent started to prepare for the big home celebrations.
Behind the white and pale blue picket fences that surrounded the rear gardens in the town, barbecues were been lit and groups of families and friends were gathering to enjoy the afternoon sunshine around their pools. For Rita Harrison, it was a rare chance to catch up with her daughter-in-law Penny and to spend time with her own daughter Angie. Little did she know just how close together the three of them would be by the evening…
“It’s a pity you have to be on duty today, Bob” Rita said as she served her husband a late breakfast. Bob Harrison was an US Customs officer at the local airport, and by dint of bad luck he had drawn the afternoon shift at the terminal that day.
“Yeah, well, it had to fall to me some time. Don’t worry, though – I’ll be back in time for the fireworks.”
“Angie, come and get some brunch,” Rita called out, and their daughter came into the dinette. She was dressed in a cream round neck sweater with a lace collar over the neck and a green chiffon scarf tied around the collar, a dark blue poodle skirt with a white dog on the bottom, white booby sox and flat shoes.
“When will you be finished at the game?” Rita asked. Angie’s high school had a baseball game against the other local school each Independence Day, and Angie was going with her friends.
“I should be back by 3, mom,” Angie said through a mouthful of waffles. “It depends on whether or not we go to the soda shop with the boys afterwards.”
“Well, remember that Penny will be here by 3, so don’t be much later.”
“OK, Mom,” Angie said as she grabbed her purse, “I’ll see you later.”
As Angie headed out of the door, Bob stood up and grabbed his jacket.
“I need to go as well, darling. I’ll see you later.”
The two kissed, and Bob headed out of the door after his daughter. Rita gathered up the breakfast dishes and began to clear up.
Outside the house, a red Chevy was parked and two men inside were watching the front door.
“What time does the flight get in?”
“4.30 this afternoon.”
“So we need to call him at about 4?”
“Which means we need to be ready by then? Let’s just sit quietly for now and watch what happens.”
At 2 pm, an open topped Ford drove into the driveway of the house, and Penny Harrison stepped out. Her husband, Rita’s son Eddie, was stationed at an air force base in Germany while he served his draft, and Penny was glad of some company this afternoon. She was 21 years old, and today was wearing a sleeveless pale blue angora sweater, with a black fabric belt around her waist and a pale blue silk scarf tied around her neck, white Capri pants and white heels. She looked around the street through her sunglasses, and then walked up to the front door.
“Penny – glad you could come,” Rita cried as she opened the front door. She was now wearing a short sleeved white blouse and shorts, with sandals on her feet and a white scarf tied in her hair as a headband.
“Hi, Rita, thanks for asking me over. I didn’t want to be on my own today.”
“Have you spoken to Eddie?”
“Yeah he called me this morning. It’s hot over there as well, but it’s also night time now.”
“True, true. Come through the back – I’ve got some drinks by the pool.”
“So, do we move in now?”
“No – let’s wait and see if the daughter comes back first. That would be the best way to get started.”
“I wish Eddie was here, but it’s what the country wants of him and with the Russkies winning this space race at the moment I can’t deny him the chance to do something good.”
Penny and Rita were relaxing by the pool in the rear garden of the house, drinking glasses of Long Island Tea and enjoying the sunshine.
“Don’t get me wrong, Penny, I’m proud of Eddie but I will be relieved when he comes home. I don’t like the idea of another war like the Korean one starting at the moment.”
“No, I agree – so where’s Angie?”
“Hopefully no her way back from the game.”
In the main street, Angie was walking quickly back down the road towards her house. Opening the main garage door, she went in through the side. The two men in the car noticed that she had left the garage door open.
“Right – let’s go.”
Leaving the car, they walked across the road and slipped into the garage, taking a number of items from their trouser pockets as they went in.
“Mom, I’m home – Hi Penny. How’s my favourite sister in law?”
“All the better for seeing you, I brought the latest Everley Brothers platter for you to listen to – it’s on the coffee table in the lounge.”
“Thanks, Penny. Mom, I’m going to get changed and then I’ll come back out.”
“All right, Angie – don’t be long.”
Angie made her way towards the kitchen door and skipped back into the house. As she walked through, she had the shock of her life when a hand was clamped over her mouth, and a man in a white shirt, dark trousers and with a stocking over his head stood in front of her, pointing a small pistol directly at her stomach.
“Stay very quiet and you’ll be all right,” the man said as a rolled up handkerchief was stuffed into Angie’s mouth. A lasso of rope was then passed over her head, and as it was pulled tight by someone behind, her arms were pinned to her side. The rope was then wound around twice more before it was handed to the man in front of her.
“Come with me and do exactly as I tell you,” the man said, and as he pulled on the rope Angie was forced to follow him into the front of the house.
“Sit down,” the man said, and Angie was pushed into an armchair. She could see that there was a long length of rope still in the man’s hand as he placed the pistol no the coffee table.
“Put your hands in front of you,” he said, and Angie did as he asked. The rope was wrapped around her wrists several times, and then passed between them and pulled tight. Her bound wrists were than placed on her lap as the rope was wrapped around her legs over her skirt, and then passed between her legs and used to tie her ankles together over the bobby sox. Finally, he took a stocking from his pocket and used it to secure the handkerchief in place in Angie’s mouth, knotting the silk behind her neck.
“Good girl, now you sit there,” the man said, and picking up the pistol he went and stood beside the entrance from the kitchen, watching Angie all the time.
“Angie’s taking a long time to get changed,” Penny commented after a quarter hour had passed.
“She’s probably listening to the record you brought. Go in and see what’s keeping her if you’re worried.” Rita replied.
“I’ll bring some more drinks out when I come back,” Penny said as she stood up and tottered into the house.
“Angie, are you ready yet,” she called out as she entered the kitchen. “Strange, I can’t hear any music” she thought to herself as she made her way into the front room.
“Angie, are you mmpphh!” As she came in, the first thing she saw was Angie on the seat, bound and gagged and shaking her head furiously at Penny. The second thing she saw was the hand pushing a handkerchief into her mouth, and the pistol against her head.
“You just keep that in there, young lady, and do as I tell you,” a voice said from behind as Penny was pushed onto the rug on the floor of the room. “Hands behind your back, as quick as you can.”
As Penny looked up, she saw a second man with a stocking pulled over his head standing behind Angie, with a gun pointed at her temple, and decided that for her sake she would do as she was told. Normally, she would have fought back using some of the karate lessons that Eddie had taught her, but she didn’t want Angie to be hurt as a result. She winced as rope was wrapped quickly around her crossed wrists and pulled tight, before been wrapped between her wrists and tied off out of reach of her fingers.
The man then crossed Penny’s ankles and tied them together in the same way, the rough cord cutting a little into her skin as it was pulled tight. Her ankles were then brought up behind her back and tied to her wrists with a further length of rope, before a stocking was pulled between her teeth and used to secure the gag in place.
“Two down, one to go,” she heard the man say, and he walked round to join his partner. Both were dressed identically, with the stacking masks obliterating any recognisable features. Penny looked at Angie, who was squirming slightly but unable to get free, and as she tried to extend her own legs she realised that she was also securely bound and gagged.
“Penny, what’s keeping the two of you?” she heard Rita call into the kitchen, and both she and Angie started trying to call out a warning to her, but it was no use. Rita walked into the living room and was caught by the two intruders.
“Happy Independence Day, Mrs Harrison. If you want to see the end of it with your young friends here, you will do exactly as we say – understand?”
Rita looked at her daughter and daughter-in-law, both bound and gagged and looking at her with fear, and simply nodded her head.
“Wh… what do you want? Please, I’ll do anything, just don’t hurt us…” she stammered.
“I know you’ll do whatever we want. When the time is right, you’ll do something for us, but for now sit down there and put your hands in front of you.”
The intruder pointed at a long couch made of wood that was next to the chair Angie was sat in. Making her way round while watching the other members of her family, Rita sat down and put her hands out in front of her. She noticed as she sat that the blinds to the window facing the road were drawn, but the sound of kids playing in the street was still coming through.
The silent intruder took a length of rope, and doubling it up he wrapped it around Rita’s wrists, pulling it tight with each wrap and then passing it between her wrists to cinch the ropes tightly. Knotting it off behind her wrists, he took the two long ends that were left and tied them to the arm of the couch, so that Rita was held in place.
“Can’t you take the cloth out of their mouths?” she asked as she looked at Penny and Angie.
“No, I think they stay where they are for the time being,” the intruder replied. “Now, unless you want one of your own, keep quiet for the next few minutes.”
Penny rolled over onto her side to look at Rita, while Angie just bowed her head in sorrow and to hide the tears that had started to flow.
“Don’t cry, Angie,” Rita said, “Be brave for me and we’ll get through this together.”
The minutes ticked slowly by with only the sound of the kids outside breaking the silence. The three women sat quietly, while the two intruders paced the floor.
Finally, the clock on the mantel struck four o’clock. The silent intruder went over to Rita, untied the rope from the couch arm, and pulled her up to her feet.
“Bring her over here,” the other man said as he walked towards the telephone in the hallway. With a last look at the other two, Rita was pulled out to the table.
“What is the work number for your husband?” he asked, and as Rita recited the number he dialled out. He placed the receiver to his ear and listened.
“Good Afternoon. May I speak to Mr Harrison please?
Mr Harrison? You don’t know me, but I want you to listen to what I’m going to say and show no reaction to anyone who may be listening. No, I am perfectly serious about this.
We have your family with us, Mr Harrison, and if you don’t do exactly what we tell you then you won’t see your wife, your daughter or your son’s wife alive again. They are our hostages, and their continued well being is entirely in your own hands.
I thought you might say that, so I have someone here who would like a word with you.”
The intruder passed the receiver over and placed it against Rita’s ear.
“Bob, it’s me. Please, Bob, they have us tied up and the girls can’t talk. Please do what they say – I really think they will kill us if you don….”
The silent intruder placed his hand over Rita’s mouth as the other one took the receiver back.
“I hope you realise we mean business, Mr Harrison. Now listen carefully.
There is a flight due in from Havana in the next hour – in fact, it is due to land at 4.30. Aboard that flight is a gentleman wearing a dark grey suit with a white fedora and a red buttonhole. He will be carrying a briefcase with him. You are to ensure that he is given swift and safe passage through customs, and that he is not searched. If he gets to the other side, then our contacts will call us and your family will be safe. If he is delayed or stopped in any way, your family will not see the end of this holiday. Do I make myself perfectly clear?
That is very good of you, Mr Harrison. Do not contact the police, do not tell your colleagues what is happening, do not call your home because no-one will answer. Just make sure he gets through.
Goodbye, Mr Harrison.”
He replaced the receiver on the telephone.
“Thank you, Mrs Harrison. Please, take her back to her seat.”
The silent man pulled at the rope, and led Rita back into the front room before pushing her back onto the couch. The other two women looked at her, and Rita actually started to feel water running down her cheek. Bracing herself, she sat up straight and wiped the tears from her eyes with her hands, then realised that she had not been tied to the couch this time.
“Don’t even think about it, Mrs Harrison,” the intruder said pointing the pistol at Angie again. “You would only watch them die first. Go and check the house for what you can take.”
The silent partner left the room, and Rita watched the lead intruder as he looked at all three women. The clock struck the quarter hour, then the half hour as they looked at each other silently.
The clock struck another quarter hour as the other intruder returned with a small pillow case that rattled as he carried it.
“Well, I think it’s time now. Mrs Harrison, I want you to lie on your back.”
Rita stared at the intruder, then at the other members of her family. “Oh no, you don’t, you can’t mean you’re going to…..” she cried out.
“Mrs Harrison, if we were going to rape you don’t you think we’d have done so by now? We just need to make sure you can’t raise the alarm. Now lie down, put your head on that cushion and put your hands up in the air.”
Rita silently said a prayer of thanks, and turning round she lay on her back with her head on the cushion at one end. Raising her hands up, she watched as the silent intruder took the loose ends and pulled her hands over her head. She felt rather than saw the loose ends being tied to the leg of the couch, holding her hands firmly in place.
The main intruder grabbed another length of rope, and pulling her ankles together he tied them in the same way as her wrists were tied, before pulling the loose ends over the other seat arm and tying them to a leg on the far side of the couch. He then wrapped some rope around her legs above her knees, and tied it tightly so that a red line began to appear in her skin.
“Open your mouth, Mrs Harrison,” the intruder said, and a balled up handkerchief was stuffed into her mouth before a stocking was pulled in to hold it in place, and tied in Rita’s case at the side of her head.
The telephone rang, and the silent intruder left the room. A mumbled conversation was held, and then he came back and gave a thumbs up sign.
The three women looked at each other. Angie was still sitting quietly, although she occasionally pulled at the ropes around her wrists and legs. Penny was rolling around trying to free her legs, without much success. Rita tried to see if there was any give in the ropes that held her in place, but to no avail. Silence filled the room, with even the sound of the children now absent. Rita reckoned they must have gone in for the holiday meal, and wondered what was going to happen to them now.
The two men looked around the room, and then the silent one picked up the bag.
“Just stay still ladies, and someone will be along to free you eventually. No heroics now – the phone has been disconnected, and you won’t get help that way.”
The men backed out of the room, and left the house by the side door as they had come in. The three women looked at each other, but didn’t have time to react before they heard shouting from the street outside, and armed men burst into the room closely followed by Bob Harrison.
“Are you all right, Rita?” he called out as he rushed over and pulled the stocking band out of his wife’s mouth, followed by the handkerchief.
“I’m fine, but the others have been tied up longer than me. How did you get here so quickly?”
She watched as the police cut the bonds around Angie and Penny, who hugged each other with relief as soon as they could.
“I’m sorry we took so long to come in, darling, but we had to be sure of how many there were. What they didn’t know is that all incoming calls are monitored, so my boss knew what was going on before I had a chance to do anything. We let the man through, but he was picked up with his friends before they could drive out of the airport.”
As the ropes were cut around Rita’s wrists, she sat up and hugged her husband as well.
“So it was quiet outside because….”
“Because we had the street cleared. I did keep my promise however.”
“In what way, Dad?” Angie asked.
“I got back in time for the fireworks. Come on – let’s get the thereof you checked over at the hospital, and then we can have our celebration.”