“Darling, I’m home!!”
Wade Johnson walked into the front door of his detached house, with the smell of fresh flowers in the air. Closing the door behind him, he placed his briefcase on the table by the telephone, opened the closet and hung his jacket up, taking down a brown cardigan as he did so and putting it on.
“What’s for dinner, honey, I’m famished” he called out as he walked into the living room. Everything was as it should be – neat tidy and in its place – he knew Debbie prided herself on her housekeeping. Despite that, he had a growing feeling that’s something wasn’t quite right. Maybe it was the lack of chatting and general hubbub there usually was, or maybe it was the fact his wife had not called back in reply yet.
“Debbie?” Wade called as he walked into the kitchen. He would have said something at the sight that greeted him there, had the man in the room not told him to shut up and do as he was told….
The kitchen clock was showing four o’clock as Debbie Johnson tied the white apron around her waist. She had spent the day talking with her friends and cleaning the house, and now she had to get a start on the dinner – Wade always liked dinner to be ready when he came in at 6.30, and she knew it was her duty – no, her pleasure to look after her husband. Dressed in a short sleeved white dress, with blue stripes around the cuffs and skirt, and white kitten heeled shoes, she started to bring out pots and pans from her cupboard.
“Mum – I’m home.”
She turned round to see Julie coming in through the kitchen door. She was in her final year of high school, and a member of the cheer leading squad, so she had come home early to get ready for the game that night.
“Hello, Julie, have you had a good day at school,” Debbie asked as she poured some potatoes into the sink and picked up a vegetable knife. Julie sat down at the table, her green poodle skirt lying over her legs, and put her books on the table.
“Yeah – although that Karen can be such a pain. Do you know she wanted me to listen to some records by some guy called Lonnie Donnegan? As if he would be any better than Elvis?”
“Well, you know what I think of this music today,” Debbie replied as she concentrated on peeling the vegetables. “Listen, do you mind setting the table once you have done your assignments?”
“No problem, mum – is Cathy home yet?”
“Not yet – she’ll be in soon. You go and get on with your work.”
Julie stood up, collected her books and made her way towards her bedroom. Debbie continued to peel the vegetables, humming to herself a tune she had heard at the cinema when she went with Wade to the Roxy the previous week.
“Que sera sera, whatever will be will be,
The future’s not ours to see,
Que sera sera….”
She had peeled the potatoes and carrots, and put them into pots, by the time her older daughter Cathy returned from the local college. Now twenty, she had elected to stay locally for her further studies in order to be near her boyfriend. Although that relationship was now over, she liked the things she was learning, although Debbie wasn’t too sure of the style of clothing she was choosing to wear.
“And how was your day, dear?” Debbie asked as Cathy came into the kitchen and picked up an apple.
“A drag, mum,” she said taking a bite. Debbie looked at Cathy, standing there in her black polo neck sweater, dark blue Capri pants and shoes, with a black beret and dark blue scarf around her neck, and wondered where she had gone wrong.
“Well, at least you are home on time. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“I’ll make it,” she said as she found the coffee grounds and placed a kettle filled with water on the hob. Placing a light under it, she sat down and waited for the water to heat through and the whistle to sound. Debbie went into the refrigerator and took a quart bottle of milk out.
“I do wish you would dress more appropriately at times, Cathy,” she said as she poured some milk into two cups. “You look lovely in a dress.”
“Now, mum, you know I dress this way because my friends do,” Cathy retorted as she picked the kettle up and poured the hot water into the cups, followed by the coffee grounds. “How did you dress during the war, when you worked in the factories?”
“That was different, dear,” Debbie said as she took a cup. “Anyway, the country has changed since then.”
“Yeah – back several years,” Cathy replied with a smile on her face. “Where’s the genius anyway?”
“In her room, working on her assignments,” her mother said as she smiled back. She took a seat and was about to ask another question when the front doorbell rang. The two looked at each other in surprise.
“Are you expecting anyone?” Debbie asked, and her elder daughter shook her head. “I’ll go and see who it is,” she said as she stood up and walked out of the kitchen.
Debbie stood up and started to prepare the meat for the dinner, only stepping when she heard footsteps coming back into the kitchen. “Who was it, dear,” she said as she turned round, but what she saw made her drop the steak she was holding to the floor.
Cathy was standing between two men, dressed in dark suits, white shirts and dark ties. To the entire world, they could have looked like salesmen at the door, but what no-one else would have seen were the black eye masks that were over the faces of both men, or the knife that one of them was holding against Cathy’s chest.
“Sit down, Mrs Johnson,” one of the men said, “and don’t make a sound. This is a robbery, and you will do exactly what we say.”
“Wh… What do you want?” Debbie said as she sat down, her hands up to her mouth.
“Our business is with your husband, Mrs Johnson, but you’ll find out soon enough. Where is you other daughter?”
“She….. She’s out at the moment – we’re the only ones here.”
“Sit her down, and search the place,” the man said to his partner. He pushed Cathy into a seat at the kitchen table, then turned round and went back into the house.
“Both of you, place your hands on the table where I can see them,” the intruder said as he picked up the carving knife from the block on the table and stood by the sink. “So long as you do as we say, we will all have a nice pleasant time and no-one will get hurt. You have a beautiful home, Mrs Johnson – I’d hate to see it get damaged or stained in any way.” As he said this, he turned the blade over in his hand and looked straight at the two women.
“I don’t understand – what has my husband got that you….”
“Hey – what do you think you’re doing?”
Debbie looked up as Julie was pushed into the room by the intruder.
“I found her in her room,” the other man said as Julie stared at the scene in the kitchen.
“Mum…. What’s going on?” she asked as a chair was pulled out from the table.
“Sit down, Julie,” the man at the sink said, “Your mother was trying to protect you. A nice attempt, Mrs Johnson, but try anything like that again and it will be your daughter that suffers the consequences.”
“So what happens now? How do you know our names, anyway?” Cathy asked as she looked at the two men.
“As I say, our business is with your father, and we have been watching al of you for some time. You, Julie,” he said as he walked over to the younger daughter, “have improved dramatically at the cheerleading classes, but you need to work on your cartwheels.”
Julie blushed, then realised exactly what he was saying, and hugged herself to keep out the chill. “And you, Cathy” he said as he walked round the table, “are doing so well at the English class that you failed to notice the extra attendees at the last poetry recital. For the record, Jack Kerouac is a good poet, but not that good.”
Debbie looked at her two daughters, realising that they had been watched for some time. “So you’ve been watching all of us.”
“All of you – I hope you liked your salted popcorn at the cinema last week.”
While he had been talking, the other intruder had left the room, but now came back with a small valise. Opening it, he took out several lengths of white rope, neatly coiled and tied, and laid them on the table.
“Now, Cathy, I believe you were a Guide until very recently. Is that right?”
Cathy nodded, as she dimly realised what might be about to happen.
“Good – then you are going to help us. Take one of those lengths of rope, then unravel it and double it over. Do it now, or else I may have to do it instead, and that would be much rougher.”
Standing up, Cathy picked up a length of rope, unravelled it and doubled it over.
“Very good – now, I want you to tie your sister’s hands together in front of her. Make sure you cinch the ropes between her wrists as well, and tie it off out of reach of her fingers. We will both be watching.”
“No please,” Debbie called out, “Don’t tie us up; we won’t be any trouble to you.”
“Sit down, Mrs Johnson, or you will be first instead. Do as I tell you, Cathy.”
“I’m sorry, Julie – I’ll try not to hurt you too much,” Cathy sobbed as she wrapped the rope around her sister’s wrists and started to tie them together. Passing the ends between her wrists, she tied the ends together on top of the ropes and straightened up.
“Check them,” the man said to his partner, and he twisted Julie’s wrists round to make sure they were tightly bound. Satisfied, he nodded and stood back.
“Now, Cathy, take another length of rope and tie your sister’s ankles together. Again, make sure you cinch the rope, and tie them to the leg of the chair she is sitting in as well.”
“Are you all right?” Cathy asked as she took another length of rope and knelt at her sister’s feet.
“Yes – I know you don’t have a choice in this,” Julie said as she watched Cathy wrapping the rope around her white ankle socks, and pulling her ankles tightly together side by side. After several passes round, she took the loose ends between her ankles, pulled the ropes tightly together and then knotted it off, before securing the ends around the leg of the chair. As Julie sat there with her ankles to one side, the intruder again checked to make sure the ropes were secure, and nodded.
Julie tried to twist her wrists around, but the rope dug into her bare skin, and she realised that it might be better to sit still and do nothing then try to get free. Cathy stood up and gave her sister a hug of reassurance.
“Very good Cathy – now sit down,” the man said as he picked up a longer length of rope. Unravelling it and doubling it over, he passed it around Julie’s legs above her knees and tied them together over her skirt. Helping her to shuffle back so that her back was against the chair back, he took one long length and passed it around her arms, chest and the chair back, securing them together, then around the rope over her skirt and back again.
“Now,” the man said as he walked back to the table, “it’s your turn Cathy. Please, stand up and put your hands behind your back.”
“I guess I don’t have a choice in the matter,” she said as the other man took a length of rope, held Cathy’s wrists together behind her back and began to tie them together as she had Julie’s.
“Why are you doing this?” Debbie called out in tears as she watched her older daughter being helped to sit in a chair, with her bound hands behind the wooden back rest.
“We need your husband’s complete co-operation, Mrs Johnson, and this is the easiest way to achieve it.” As he said this, his partner was tying Cathy’s legs together above her knees, and then started to bind her ankles together side by side with a long length of rope. He then passed the long ends under the chair, stood up and went behind Cathy. Collecting the ends, he pulled her ankles under the seat of the chair and secured the other ends to the wrists.
“Are you two all right?” Debbie said as she looked at her two daughters, both sat in the chair and bound.
“We’ll be fine, mum,” Cathy said, “just let them do what they’re going to do.”
“Wise words, Cathy,” the man said as he walked behind Debbie. “Now, Mrs Johnson, you put your hands behind the back of the chair. My friend here is going to take a look around your lovely house while I make sure you are nice and secure.”
Debbie winced as the rope was tightened around her crossed wrists and dug into her skin, but tried not to give the intruders the satisfaction of knowing it had hurt. Having secured them together, the man then tied the loose ends around a spar of the chair back, so that Debbie could not move them away. She then saw a lasso of rope pass over her head and around her midriff and sat still as her back and chest were secured to the chair to prevent her from moving off.
“I think dinner may be a little late, girls,” she said as the man pulled her back from the table, knelt in front of her and crossed her ankles before wrapping yet more rope around them.
“That’s all right mum – I’m not hungry at the moment anyway,” Julie said with a smile on her face, and Cathy had to stop herself from laughing out loud. “I guess we’re a bit too tied up to bother for now,” she laughed.
“Humour – a good way of dealing with your present situation,” the man said as he bound Debbie’s legs together below and above her knees with rope, and then secured her ankles to the leg of the chair on the opposite side from where Julie had her ankles tied.
“Well, I guess you ladies will not be going anywhere for a while. Why don’t you talk amongst yourselves until my friend returns?”
“Mum, what am I going to do about the cheerleading practice,” Julie asked as she tried to twist her wrists round.”
“Don’t worry, dear – I’ll right you a note saying you were grounded,” Debbie replied. Cathy was twisting her body round as well, seeing if she could get nay give, but there was none to be found. The intruder, in the meantime, gathered up the various knives and other cutting implements around, and placed them on a shelf on the Welsh dresser.
“Just in case you were thinking of using them,” he said as his companion came back. “Ah – what did you find?”
He same round carrying a pillow case, and showed the contents to the man. He looked in and chuckled. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it showed six o’clock.
“Your husband will be home soon, Mrs Johnson, so we had better get ready to greet him. I’m afraid we have to keep your daughters quiet for a while, but you’ll be able to talk to them for the time being.”
“What does he mean, mummmmph….”
Julie almost finished her sentence before a pair of white ankle sock was pushed into her mouth, and a white chiffon scarf that had been rolled into a tight band secured between her lips and knotted at the back of her hair. Cathy scowled at the other intruder as he untied her scarf from around her neck, rolled it into a small ball and stuffed it into her mouth, then tied a brown scarf over it in the same way as her sister.
When Wade walked into the kitchen at six thirty, he first saw his two daughters bound and gagged in the chair, and then his wife sat in another chair, tied tightly to it and with a masked man standing behind her, his hand over her mouth.
“What is the meaning of this,” he called out, but then he felt a hand around his arm and the point of a knife pressing into his own back.
“Forgive our intrusion, Wade Johnson, but we need to discuss some business with you about one of your clients.”
“Wade, darling, I’m so sorry but they surprised us earlier. I haven’t even started to cook dinner yet either….”
“Don’t worry about dinner, Debbie,” Wade said as she came further into the kitchen. “It looks as if your unexpected guests have kept you busy. So, what is it you want to discuss with me?”
“I think we’d best discuss that at your office, Wade. Don’t worry – we’ll give you a lift there. We just need to have a word with your wife first – why don’t you say goodbye to your family for the time being?”
Wade walked behind Julie, and as she leant back to look at her father he gave her a hug. Doing the same to Cathy, he said “Don’t worry girls – I’ll make sure everything is all right.”
“Who are these men, Wade, and what do they want with you?”
“Debbie, I have no idea. I represent a lot of people at the firm, so it could be about anything. Are you all right?”
“I’m stiff, sore and I have a horrible feeling I’m about to be silenced, but I know you’ll make things all right in the end,” she said as she looked up at her husband.
“Wise words, Mrs Johnson,” the man said as he walked behind her. “Open wide, please.”
“I’ll see you later, Darling,” Debbie said with a slight smile, then she opened her mouth and allowed the intruder to push a rolled up chiffon square inside, before tying a green silk scarf over and in her mouth. As it was knotted behind her, she squealed at the tightness of the gag against the corner of her mouth.
“Let’s go, Mister Johnson,” the man said as they led Wade out of the kitchen door, closing it behind them. “We’ve pulled the phone out of the wall, so don’t think you can call the police,” was the last thing they said as they left.
The three women looked at each other, as the sun began to slowly set through the kitchen window. Debbie tried to reassure her daughters.
“Dnt wrry – dd l b h msn,” she mumble through the cloth in her mouth. Julie nodded, but Cathy started to wriggle violently round in the chair, trying to loosen the ropes that held her ankles and wrists together,
“Cthy, yl hrt urslf” Julie said as she watched the sweat starting to build on her sister’s forehead. “I dnt cr – I wnt t gt frr” she called out as she continued to struggle, then with horror she realised that she was tipping over to one side. Her mother and sister watched helplessly as she fell onto her side with a sickening thud.
“CTHY!!! R U LL RGHT”, Debbie called out, but her older daughter had been stunned when her head hit the floor.
“’ts ll rght, mm – shs brthng,” Julie mumbled as she watched her sister’s chest rise and fall. The two women sat watching the older sibling as the sun set, wondering what or who would come to their rescue….
“Mrs Johnson?” A young male voice called in the kitchen door, and Billy, the son of their next door neighbours came in, dressed in his Boy Scout outfit.
“Mrs Johnson, do you have any odd jobs that – oh boy!”
He looked at the three women bound and gagged in their chairs, screaming at him, then went over and untied the scarf around Debbie’s mouth.
“Billy,” she said as she spat the scarf out from her mouth, “Go and tell your father that some bad men have been next door. Tell him to call the police, then come here and help us. Can you do that please?”
Billy nodded and ran out of the door, while Debbie finally allowed herself to start crying.