The Lunchtime Bandits
The music playing over the loudspeakers of the EeezeShop supermarket was quiet, but it served the purpose of keeping the mothers and other shoppers amused as they made their way round the aisles. And if the music suggested something they had seen on an advertisement, so much the better, as far as Jack Delaney was concerned. The general manager looked out from the large window on his office, onto the aisles below, and smiled to himself. This was going to be a good day.
As the telephone rang, he sat down and picked up the handset, nodding to the secretary as she brought his morning coffee in. “Hello?”
“Jack darling – how’s the coffee?”
“Not bad,” Jack said as he took a sip, “how are things at your end, darling?”
Ellie Delaney smiled as she looked round the neatly furnished room. “It’s good – Polly just came in, and we’re going to go the hairdressers in a little while.” The brunette had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and had just put a long red coat on over her white jumper and grey short skirt. Her outfit was completed by a pair of knee length camel coloured leather boots with a silver buckle on the side.
“So you and your twin sister are going to get your hair done?”
“We’re not twins, and you know it Jack,” Ellie said as she looked at Polly. The blonde was wearing a blue coat, fastened with two rows of silver buttons, and the same style of boots as Ellie, as well as a long tartan scarf wrapped loosely round her neck. Her friend smiled and shook her head as Ellie continued “anyway, what would you like for dinner tonight?”
“I don’t know – surprise me,” Jack said as there was a knock on the door, and his secretary looked in, two uniformed men behind her. “I have to go – I’ll call later.”
“Love you,” Ellie said as she put the handset down, and then fastened her coat up, making sure the belt was secured round her waist before she put on her white kid leather gloves, and picked up her handbag.
“To Gino’s?” Polly said as she put on her own matching gloves, and stood up.
“To Gino’s” Ellie said as she picked up the car keys and opened the front door – and then walked backwards, both she and Polly staring as they slowly raised their hands…
The clock on the wall showed 12.30 as Jack stretched his arms up, and stood up. He was about to put his jacket on when the telephone rang again, and he picked up the handset.
It was his wife, but the way she was speaking, the tone, made him feel something was wrong. “Ellie? Is everything all right?”
“Jack, please, listen carefully. There are two men here, and they have guns, and they say… They say…”
“Jack, they say if you don’t give the contents of the safe to someone who will come in ten minutes, they will hurt me and Polly.”
“Hurt you – in what…”
“Jack, please – we’re scared. Just do as they say, all right?”
“Let me talk to them.” Jack turned and looked out of the window as a man said “Mister Delaney, my colleague will call in fifteen minutes. Be ready.”
“Or your wife and her friend may have to visit the Emergency Department. You don’t want that, do you?”
He could hear Ellie say “JACK!” as he shook his head. “No – if I do as you say, then will be safe?”
“I promise you they will be safe. Fifteen minutes, Mister Delaney.” The line went dead, as Jack put the handset down, and then looked out of the window.
As he put the handset down, he looked at Ellie and smiled. “Very good Mrs Delaney – now, take a seat.”
“You promised you would not hurt us,” Ellie said as she looked at Polly.
“And we will not – but that does not mean we can allow you to raise the alarm. Sit down, please.”
She looked at Polly, her neighbour’s eyes wide open as she looked and tried to speak through the tartan scarf that sat between her lips, and nodded as she sat down, allowing the second man to take her hands behind her back and bind them together with the rope they had brought in…
Jack looked up to see a smartly dressed man behind his secretary.
“He says he has an appointment?”
“Oh – oh yes, he is from head office. See we are not disturbed,” Jack said as the man walked in, the secretary closing the door as he said “Mister Delaney – you were told what to do?”
As Jack nodded, he stood up and opened the safe door, while the man opened the pilot’s bag he was carrying. “In here, if you please, and your charming wife will be all right.”
“If you have…”
“Do as we say, Mister Delaney,” the man said, a quiet but menacing tone, as Jack put the money into the valise. When the last notes had gone in, the man closed his bag and nodded. “You will wait one hour – do not call the police. My associates will call you when the time is up.”
“How can I trust you?”
“you have no choice,” the man said quietly as he left the office, Jack sitting with his head in his hands as he looked at the picture of him and Ellie…
Ellie screamed out as she struggled in the chair, Polly joining in at the same time. Both women had their arms wrapped around the high back chairs, their wrists secured together and to the chair back, while their ankles were tied together and to the front legs of the chair they were sat in. The men had then turned them so they were back to back, before pulling a long brown wool scarf between Ellie’s lips, forcing her tongue down and her lips apart as they did so. The wool was soaking wet now, a heavy weight in her mouth as she shook her head in a desperate attempt to dislodge it.
They had used a longer length of rope to bind the two women together at their waists, both calling out into the empty house, the room darkened with the drapes drawn over the windows, desperate for help…
“He called the police department at two thirty, when he had heard nothing. Officers found his wife and her neighbour, tied to chairs and gagged with woollen scarves, at three – they said two smartly dressed man had forced them back into the house when they had tried to go out, tied the neighbour first, then made Mrs Delaney call her husband before she too was bound and gagged.”
“When did they leave the house,” the captain said as he looked at the officers.
“According to Mrs Delaney, at one precisely.”
“Right when the third man visited the supermarket – cool customers, obviously. How much did they take?”
“About five grand.”
“Okay – write it up, get APBs out – we might get lucky… By the way, the convoy?”
“Moved out of town safely…”
“Margaret, darling, what kept you?”
“I’m sorry, mother,” Margaret said as she rolled her eyes, “but I had to finish typing a latter for the Senator before I could get away.” The young intern was wearing a blue checked jacket and skirt, with a round necked white top under the jacket, and knee length white leather boots. Her long brown hair was in a ponytail that hung down her back.
Her mother shook her head as she sat at the table, her white gloves in front of her. She had red-brown hair in a beehive, her brown and cream hounds-tooth check coat fastened up, and a pair of white sandals on her feet.
“And what are you wearing under that coat,” Margaret said as she sat opposite.
“The latest from Mary Quant,” her mother said with a smile.
“At your age?”
“Darling, age is an illusion,” her mother said with a smile as the waiter brought drinks over. “At any rate, thank you for joining me for brunch.”
“I had a choice? So what is this about – Daddy planning to forego another mortgage today?”
“DARLING! You know your father worked hard to get you your internship!”
“More like let the senator win at golf, you mean?”
Her mother nodded as she said “I imagine so. Anyway…”
“Forgive me, Madame,” the waiter said as he came over, “there is a telephone call for you in the lobby.”
“Oh how tiresome – I will be back shortly,” she said as she stood up, Margaret watching as she walked slowly across the floor, and then drank some coffee.
And some more coffee…
And some more…
Twenty minutes later, Margaret stood up and walked in the direction of the lobby, looking out but seeing no one. “Excuse me,” she asked as she stopped the waiter who had brought the message, “You told my mother some time ago she had a telephone call.”
“Ah yes,” the waiter said with a now, “she had to take it in a private office. She has not come out?”
“No – can you show me?”
“Of course – this way please.” He indicated a corridor, walking beside Margaret as he looked in a door.
“Ah – she is still in here. Please, come in.”
“Mother, what is…” Margaret stopped suddenly as she saw her mother, sitting on the floor, her wrists behind her back and bands of white tape holding her ankles and legs together, as well as a band covering her mouth.
“Now, Miss,” she heard the waiter say as a small disc pressed on her back, “please, do not raise the alarm, but slowly, slowly, put your hands behind your back…” As Margaret did as she was told, her mother looked at her, both of them wondering the same thing.
What was going on…
The bank manager looked up as his secretary said “your twelve thirty is here?”
“Ah yes – the new customer. Show them in,” he said as his secretary opened the door, standing as two men in business dress walked in, one of them carrying a pilot’s bag. Shaking their hands, he indicated the seats in front of his desk, and said “I understand you wish to discuss the possibility of opening an account with our bank?”
“Well, that was the reason for the appointment,” one of them said as he opened his own briefcase, taking out a Walther pistol and holding it in his hand, “but in truth, we are here to make a withdrawal.”
“And, in case you were thinking of taking any steps to raise the alarm,” the second man said as he opened his bag, taking out a Polaroid photo and putting it on the desk, “perhaps you should look at this picture first.” The manager picked up the photo and looked at his wife and daughter, bound hand and foot and with the same white tape covering their mouths, a copy of today’s local paper on their laps.
“What… What have you… If you hurt them…”
“We have no intention of hurting them, Mister Forbes,” the first man said with a smile, “if you do exactly what we tell you to do. And, after all, it is lunchtime – not the best time to create a problem, correct?”
Mister Forbes nodded slowly as he said “what do you want me to do?”
“We want you, nice and calmly, to take us to the vault,” the second man said as the pistol was picked up, “and we will make a withdrawal. Do that, do not call the police, and your wife and daughter remain safe. Do we have an agreement?”
Margaret looked at her mother, the two of them sat in the back of a large sedan, the darkened windows drawn up, while the waiter and a second man sat in the front, the younger man watching them with a pistol in his hand.
“I’m sure your husband is going to do exactly what we tell him to do,” he said with a smile as both women whimpered through their tape gags, “so relax, this will soon be over.”
Margaret could feel the sweat on her face – with the windows closed, it was warm, but the fear was chilling her as she and her mother looked at each other.
“Thank you for seeing us, Mister Forbes,” the man said as his friend closed the now full pilot’s case, “do not call the police, we are watching you. We will call when you can collect your family again.”
As they walked calmly out of the bank, he watched them, wondering if he should dare call the police…
The two women heard the telephone ring in the kiosk outside, as the second man got out and answered it. A few minutes later, the waiter got out as well, the two women looking at each other before they started to struggle to try and get free. It was too difficult, however – until Margaret realised the sweat was making the tape at her mouth loose, and she turned her head, her mother watching as she rubbed it on the car seat until it peeled away.
She looked over, and then started screaming “HELP!!!! SOMEBODY HELP US – WE’RE TIED UP IN THE CAR…”
“In money and jewels, chief,” the officer said as he stood in the office. “A passer-by heard the calls for help, and then called us. Forbes was in his office, waiting for the call when we told him.”
Shaking his head the police chief said “there was a case back in April across the state – supermarket manager was forced to hand over the takings when his wife and her friend were held hostage at home. Wonder if it’s the same gang.”
“We’ve got an alert out for the car and the men,” the officer said, “we’ll keep you informed. Say – how was the show last night?”
“Good – you taking your kids?”
“It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
Rebecca smiled as she watched her daughters laughing at the television screen, while the housekeeper came over.
“I shall be having lunch with Mrs Robson,” she said as she put on her coat, made of light sand coloured suede with chocolate brown collar and pockets, ensuring it was buttoned and covered her light brown mini dress before she fastened the dark brown belt around her waist. Her shoes were made of brown buckskin with a square silver buckle.
“Very good Mrs DeVille,” the housekeeper said with a smile, “when shall you be returning home?”
“About four – if you could make sure the girls have completed their assignments by then?”
The housekeeper nodded as she collected her purse and walked out, the cool air hitting her as she climbed into her convertible and drove off…
Flora Robson was having an interesting later afternoon. Her husband had arranged to take the morning off so that they could both attend their daughter’s school assembly, and then had returned home with the intention of her doing her engagements, while he returned to the store to relieve the assistant manager.
Their plans had changed somewhat however. Her husband was still returning to the jewellery store, and had just left with another man, but two had stayed with her, and were watching her as she lay on the recliner.
Not that she could say a lot – they had taken the light blue and white scarf she had worn as a cravat to the assembly, rolled it into a band, tied a knot in the middle – and then made sure the knot was sitting behind her teeth, her red lips closed over the band which was now tied tightly round her head, pressing her cheeks in as she stared at them.
That was not all they had done – she was still wearing her blue and white geometric print coat with a wide brown belt, and knee length white leather boots, but bands of brown rope held her legs together at her ankles and below her knees, her wrists behind her back, and her arms to her sides as they framed her chest. All she could do was struggle a little, mewl slightly, and pray whatever they were forcing her husband to do, he would be quick…
“Hey – who’s this?”
Flora looked over as one of the men walked to the window, shaking her head as her styled light brown hair held its shape.
“Whoever it is she’s a looker – and she’s coming this way.”
“OH god – Rebecca!” As the thought flashed through her mind, Flora started to struggle more – but then stopped as the door opened and closed, and Rebecca walked in.
“Hey Flora, are you – oh my god…”
“Let’s keep it nice and quiet lady,” the man pointing a Walther at her said with a smile as she saw the bound and gagged Flora on the recliner, “slowly, drop your purse to the floor, and then put your hands behind your back.”
“Flora, are you all right,” Rebecca said quietly, the other woman nodding as she felt her wrists been crossed, and then the rope as they were tightly secured together.
“You can keep the lady of the house company while her husband does something for us,” the armed man said as Rebecca tried not to yelp when the ropes were pulled tighter, and then tied off, before she saw a band of rope come over her head and round her body, forcing her arms into her sides as it was made to sit below her chest. She could only watch as the rope went round again and again, framing her chest as it was forced out.
“Mshhshherreee,” Flora mumbled as Rebecca stared at the darkening silk in her friend’s mouth, barely registering the fact her own chest was been secured even more tightly as the rope went under one arm, around the back of her head, and then the other arm. It was only when she felt the last tug, and the knot behind her, that she realised she was secured.
“It’s not your fault, Flora,” Rebecca said quietly as she was made to sit down, looking at her friend as her ankles were crossed and tied tightly together. She could see now how they had done it – the rope doubled over and around her ankles, the ends through the centre and pulled back, the neatly arranged bands before the ends were taken between her legs, and then the knot at the back of her leg, out of reach…
She watched the second man – like the first, wearing a dark boiler suit and shoes – as he secured her legs together in the same way, and then stood up before he walked into the hallway. When he returned, she could see he had a black headscarf, rolled into a band, and a knot tied in the middle…
The silk felt strange as it pressed Rebecca’s tongue down, while the silk band was tied tightly round her head, as she said “whthhrugghnndh?”
“Wait for a telephone call – I advise you both to remain still and calm. You don’t want to hurt yourselves…”
The two women looked at each other, unsure as to whether they should laugh or cry, as the clock ticked softly in the background.
Officer McCormick was driving down the main street of the town when he noticed something a little unusual. The other stores were open, but Robson Jewels was closed, the shutters down. He pulled into the kerb and got out, checking the poster for the circus in the drug store window before he walked up to the front door of Robson’s, and turned the handle.
Walking in, he called out “Bobby? You there?”
“Alec? Oh god, go – what if they see you here?”
“What if who sees me here,” Alec McCormick said as he came in, and saw the empty shelves. Bobby Robson came out, his face ashen as he said “Alec… they have Flora hostage… They forced me to…”
“Calm down – when did they leave?”
“Half an hour ago – they said they would call, but…”
“All right – let me call this in, we’ll check your place out…”
“Hello? Mrs Robson?”
The officer drew his gun and looked in the room, to see Flora and Rebecca struggling in their ropes, beads of sweat on their faces, the dark knots in their mouths soaking wet as they stared at him.
“Is there anyone else in the house?”
They both shook their heads as the officer walked in, and eased the soaking knotted gag from Flora’s mouth.
“My husband…” she croaked, the officer nodding as he said “he’s safe – I’ll untie you and then call this in…”
“How are the women,” Alec asked his colleague as he came into the precinct.
“The doctor has cleared them to go home – not how they planned to spend a lunch meeting.”
“Yeah – I wonder where they got to?”
“Well, I guess we can only look…”
Lesley walked out of the cake store, a white box in her hands with pink ribbon wrapped round it, and walked back to her car, the heels of her long black boots making a hard sound as they sank into the snow piled on the pavements. She was wearing a brown coat with leather trim, the high collar of her mustard sweater visible underneath, and a matching woollen hat on her head. The short coat allowed those passing to see her knee length camel coloured woollen skirt.
Opening her car door, she got in, and then drove down the street, not noticing the black car that pulled out and followed her.
“Edgar, darling, I have finished the shopping for Christmas, and I have the tickets for the special show at the Circus on Christmas Eve. You make sure the store closes on time,” Zoe said as she put her bag down. She had just returned home, and was unbuttoning her camel coloured coat, taking it off to reveal her beige jersey dress, the skirt just above her knees and her lower legs in the long black boots.
Putting the coat down, she smiled as she saw Lesley pull up outside. “Little sis is here – see you later darling,” she said as she put the handset into the holder, patting her sandy hair before she opened the door.
“I have cakes, and you have coffee,” Lesley said as she came in, “Let’s plan Christmas Day!”
Zoe nodded as she closed the door, the black car pulling up outside and two men in black suits getting out, looking up and down the street before they walked round the side of the house.
“So, I was thinking,” Zoe said as she sat with Lesley at the kitchen table, steaming mugs of coffee in front of them, “we could…” She was cut short as the door to the back yard opened, and two men walked in, dark stockings pulled down over their heads and one of them carrying a Walther which she pointed at the two women.
“Stay seated, hands on your heads, and don’t say a word,” he said as the second man closed the door, putting a cloth bag on the kitchen table as Zoe and Lesley obeyed the armed stranger.
“You first,” the second man said as he guided Lesley’s arms down and behind the chair back, using the rope to secure them tightly together and then to the central spar of the chair back.
“Who are you? Why are you doing this,” Zoe asked as she watched the intruder take a longer length of rope and start to force her sister’s back against the chair, the rope forming two bands as her jumper was stretched over her chest. She stared at the first man, and said “my sister asked what you wanted?”
“I want her to call her husband, and tell him exactly what I tell her to tell him,” the man said with a smile as the other intruder knelt by Lesley’s side, crossing her ankles and using more rope to bind them tightly together before he pulled them under the chair seat and secured the ends to the chair back. Finally, he used one more length to secure her legs together below her knees, taking the rope between her legs to make the binding even tighter.
As she squirmed, Lesley looked at the two men – tall, lean, but strong and muscular. She grunted as the last knot was tied off, and then looked at the intruder as he reached into an inside pocket, took out a length of brown sticking plaster, and handed it to his partner.
“No – please, you don’t have to…” Lesley’s words were cut off as the second man quickly removed the backing paper, and pressed the brown fabric firmly over her mouth, stopping her from talking as Zoe was taken by the arm. “Just say what I tell you to say, nothing more, nothing less,” he said as Lesley struggled to listen.
“Edgar? Edgar darling, I want you to listen to me.
“I’m at home with Lesley, and there are two masked and armed men here with us. They have not harmed us, and they’ve told me to tell you that so long as you do as they say, they will not harm us.
“No, you can’t talk to Lesley, they’ve tied her to a kitchen chair and covered her mouth with sticking plaster. They only want me to talk to you.
“Edgar, in fifteen minutes a man is going to come in and ask you to open the office safe. Do as he says, and then wait for a call. We will be unharmed if you do as they say.
“I know you had a lunch, but they are serious Edgar – just send the rest of the staff off, and wait for the man to come in.
“Thank you – I love you too.”
Lesley heard the phone go dead, and then a muffled gasp before the man brought Zoe back in, brown fabric now covering her mouth as she was made to sit in another kitchen chair, and her hands taken behind her back.
“Whllhuudhhht,” Lesley asked, her sister nodding as her wrists were bound and secured to the chair back, and then the rope holding her to the chair itself, framing her chest as her own dress was stretched tight.
“Cut the telephone line,” he said as he knelt down, the other man nodding as he took a pair of scissors and walked out.
“Bhtthwwhlluhchll,” Zoe mumbled, the plaster moving with her lips as she watched the masked man bind and secure her ankles, and then her own legs below her knees.
“Who said we would call him from here,” the man said as he stood up, smiling at both of them. The two sisters looked at each other, wondering what was going to happen as they heard footsteps in the upstairs room…
“A pleasure doing business with you,” the smartly dressed man said as he left the office, Edgar looking at the empty safe. He had been told not to call, that he would be called, but as soon as the coast was clear he dialled his hoe phone number.
Only to hear the low buzz that indicated the line was not working. He looked at the handset for a moment, and then sat down, his head in his hands.
A few minutes later, he said “NO” and stood up, grabbing his coat as he headed out of the office, the door still open of the empty safe.
Zoe and Lesley were struggling in the chairs, trying to find some way of getting free and not having any success, before the front door opened, and then Edgar ran into the kitchen.
“OH thank god” he said as he ran over and peeled the plaster away from Zoe’s mouth, leaving a wide white rectangle round her mouth.
“Edgar – did they?” He nodded as he held his wife’s head and kissed her forehead, and then removed the plaster from Lesley’s mouth before he picked up a pair of scissors and cut them both free.
“They cut the telephone line,” Zoe whispered as she rubbed her wrists, Edgar nodding as he said “I’ll call from next door…”
“Have the police said anything,” Zoe said as she and Lesley walked with their husbands, accompanying the group of children as they walked into the circus tent.
“Not a sign – the insurance will pay up, but I don’t want to think about it. Let’s just enjoy the show…”
From behind the curtain, the two men looked at the audience as they sat down, recognising the two women as they sat with the kids.
“They seem to be all right – the money?”
“We’ve covered the fees for another three months – showtime.”
The audience cheered as the clowns ran out, Zoe and Lesley unable to recognise the two men who held them hostage under the greasepaint and clothes…