The Netterton Jewels - Part 3
“Oh, vicar, you are a tease...”
The assembled audience laughed out loud as the film continued on the screen, the young girl dancing around the drawing room in a red velvet mini skirt and a red checked blouse, the front of which was tied below her breasts to both show off her thin stomach and enhance her breasts. A young vicar was sat watching, his eyes widening as he followed the girl dancing round.
“You’ve got another hit on your hands, Debbie,” Jack said as he turned to the raven haired woman sitting next to him. She smiled in silent response, watching the action unfold on the big screen as the premiere audience laughed in all of the intended places.
“I know,” she finally said as the film came to an end, “but I’m getting a little fed up with doing these comedies. I’m not getting any younger, Jack.”
“Oh come on – you’re only twenty five.”
“And that’s old,” she said as the end credits rolled and the audience stood to applaud. “I want to start thinking about doing some serious stuff – maybe do one of those cop shows or a film where I can really show how well I can act.”
“We’ll talk about it at the party,” Jack replied as he escorted Debbie from the auditorium, holding her fur coat for her before they left to the flash of camera bulbs and the shouts from the crowd.
“And finally, the crowds turned out to congratulate Debbie Sweetlove, the darling of British cinema, at the première of her new film The Vicar Saw It All. As she left the Empire Leicester Square, she was accompanied by her manager Jack Delaney, but she found time to stop and talk to the fans before...”
He reached over and turned the television off, sitting in contemplation for a moment before standing up and walking out into the hallway. “Do you want a cup of tea, love,” he heard his wife call out, and he shouted back “Yeah, go on – I just want to make a call first.” Picking up the Bakelite handset, he dialled a number and stood waiting.
“It’s me – I have a job for the day after tomorrow. I’ll see you at eight tomorrow night down the park.” Putting the handset back into the cradle, he went and joined his wife in the kitchen.
“Hang on, hang on, I’m coming...”
Debbie pulled on her brown suede boots, pulling the legs of her culottes down as she did so, and walked over to answer the front door. Jack was standing there, a big grin on his face as he walked in and turned round to face the young actress. He looked at her as she stood there, the sleeves of her matching blouse flaring from her elbows to her wrists, and simply said “I’ve got a surprise for you.”
“The studio loved your last film so much, not only are they willing to talk to you about your wishes for a more serious role, they’ve got a very special present for you.”
He placed the attaché case he was carrying on the table, and opened it to show Debbie the contents. She let out a low whistle as she picked up a necklace that was inside, and held it to the light as the sun glistened off the rubies embedded into the central cross.
“Lew Grade wanted you to have them,” Jack said as he watched Debbie carry the necklace over to a mirror. “Apparently, they’re over eighty years old, and have a bit of a history to them.”
“Jack, they’re beautiful,” Debbie said as she returned the necklace and picked up the pearl earrings. “I can’t accept this, it’s too much.”
“You can and you will – so long as they stay in the bank,” Jack said as there was a knock on the door. Debbie opened it to reveal a workman standing there, a tool bag in his hand.
“Sorry to disturb you, Miss,” he said, “but apparently there’s a problem with the drains. Can I do a quick check?”
“Go on,” Debbie said as she waved him in. He glanced at the room before making his way to the bathroom, as Jack said “I’ll take these to the bank and get them deposited in your box. See you later.”
“Bye, Jack” Debbie said as she waved her companion off. Turning round, she saw the workman make his way into the kitchen, and returned to her couch to read the scripts that were scattered on the seat cushions. She had just sat down when the telephone rang.
“Hello, Debbie speaking?
“Jackie – how lovely to hear from you. What can I do for you?
“Of course you can stay overnight tonight, love – I’ll see you at about eight then.”
She replaced the receiver as the workman came back out. “Everything looks fine, love, but let Mrs Hall know if there is a problem.”
“Thanks.” Debbie said as she escorted him to the door. As he walked out, he doffed his cap at her and smiled, although why he smiled remained a mystery to her at that moment.
The sun was just setting as Debbie closed the front door to her flat, accompanied by a young woman with long dark hair and wearing a black and white checked poncho. She walked down the stairs, the heels of her leather boots clicking as did those of Debbie’s white PVC ones, before they walked down the road, laughing and chatting as they did so. They didn’t notice the man sitting on the park bench with his young son beside him, even though they both watched them as they passed by.
“So that’s Debbie Sweetlove, is it? She doesn’t look as tall as she does on the screen.”
“So you’ve seen her films? I thought they had an X rating?”
“Oh come on – sneaking into the Balham Odeon is not exactly a hard thing to do. So, what do you want to do?”
“Sit here and take in the atmosphere – We’re going to pay a visit tomorrow night, when hopefully she will be out.”
“It’s Sunday morning, bright and clear,
Lovely flowers, decorate the market square...”
Debbie walked into the breakfast bar as her sister Jackie poured herself a cup of coffee, the radio tuned to Radio Caroline. As she buttoned up the sleeves on her yellow blouse, Jackie said “What are you going to be doing today?”
“Meeting with the producers at ten, then lunch with Jack, and then I need to go to the bank – there’s something I need to get out of my box for tomorrow, and it’s early closing today.”
“I’ll show you when I get in,” Debbie said as she adjusted the large floppy hat she was wearing on her head, looking in the mirror until she was satisfied. “You?”
“I’m going to the college; see if I can get this problem with my flat sorted out. What do you fancy doing tonight?”
“We’ll decide later – for now, I really need to get going.” Debbie blew a kiss to Jackie, who just looked back as her sister walked out of the door. “How on earth can we be related,” she said as she picked up her denim jacket and pulled it over her shoulders, retreating to her room to get her handbag.
As she walked out of the door, the same young man as last night watched her walking down the street, her hips moving in a rhythmic fashion that fascinated him. Eventually, he shook his head and made his way to a local telephone box, closing the door as he talked to someone.
“My god – how much are they worth?”
Jackie gasped at the sight of the jewellery, Debbie smiling beside her. “No idea yet – but I need them for an engagement tomorrow. Can you roll the rug back while I store them away?”
Jackie knelt down and pulled back the Persian rug, revealing a small panel that had been cut into the floor. As Debbie knelt beside her, she found a hidden finger hole and lifted the panel up, revealing an iron panel underneath with a dial on the front. Quickly turning the dial left and right until she heard a click, she opened the door, deposited the attaché case inside and closed both panels, pulling the rug back round so that it looked as if nothing had been moved.
“There,” she said as she stood up and pulled down the front of her white Mary Quant dress. It was a sleeveless dress, with wide panels over her shoulders but a hemline that barely went down her thighs. A pair of white strappy sandals was on her feet, and she picked a pair of white opera gloves that fitted over her lower arms and hands.
Jackie was wearing a light grey Edwardian style dress, with a long skirt that covered her legs but showed the black leather boots that she had on as well. The collar was high, while the waist was gathered like a girdle. She smiled as Debbie picked up her clutch bag.
“Come on,” she said with a laugh, “Ronnie Scott’s waits for nobody.” The two girls went out of the flat, turning off the lights and leaving the room to grow dimmer and darker as the sun set.
The night has fully settled in when there was a sound like a nut cracking, followed by a creaking sound as the sash window in Debbie’s bedroom was slowly raised. By the moonlight outside, it was just possible to make out the forms of two men, one older than the other, as they slipped through the open window and closed it behind them.
“Now, just do as I’ve told you in the past,” the older man said as he adjusted the cotton gloves on his hands. “Look carefully, but quickly, and make sure you look everywhere.” The young man nodded as he started to search through the drawers of Debbie’s dresser, while the older man quietly slipped out of the room and made his way down the darkened corridor to the front room of the apartment.
Slipping a small torch out of his pocket, he looked round the room and made his way towards a bookcase that stood against the wall. Smiling, he removed a number of books on a shelf at chest height and revealed the gleaming metal door of a safe. “Never fails,” he said to himself as he drew a stethoscope out of his pocket and put the earpieces in place, listening as he turned the tumblers. When he heard a soft click, he smiled as he opened the door and started to empty the contents into a small bag, stopping when he heard the sound of a key turning in the door.
“I’m going to put my bag in my room,” he heard one woman say to the other “I’ll join you in a minute.” Turning off the torch, he slipped to the side of the door and stood quietly as the door opened. When Jackie opened the door and turned the light on, the gasp she let out when she saw the open safe door was stopped by a gloved hand that was clamped over her mouth.
For her part, Debbie was standing in her room, looking open mouthed at the young man in the grey jumper and pants, standing there with his jewellery in his gloved hand as he looked back at her. “You really are more beautiful in real life,” he said as he walked over and took Debbie’s bag from her hand, placing the jewellery on the bed beside it. “I’m afraid I need to ask you to be quiet, and do exactly what I tell you to do. I hope you will be able to do that – I have no wish to spoil meeting one of my favourite actresses with violence.”
“Well, you’re a real charmer,” Debbie finally said as she looked the man over. He was in his early twenties, if that, and well built, and there was no doubt he was handsome and polite, while at the same time making it clear he was in charge. “So, if I am being robbed, what happens now?”
“Well, I’m afraid I will need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm. I heard you come in with someone else – where is she?”
“Jackie? She went into the front room – where...”
“Where my mentor will have met her. Tell me, Debbie, where do you keep your stockings and scarves?”
Debbie pointed to a drawer. “In there, why?”
“Please, turn round and put your hands behind your back. Once I have secured them together, we will join them and discuss what happens next.”
“Well well – I see you have met the lovely Debbie. Please, come and sit next to your friend here.”
As Debbie was led into the front room, she was feeling the silk band that now held her wrists together behind her back. The young man had allowed her to keep her gloves on, but it still felt tight against her arms. She could see Jackie sitting on the couch, her arms also pinioned behind her back and her boots sitting next to her bare feet, while an older man was closing the door to her wall safe. She sat next to her friend, noticing that her wrists had also been bound with her stockings.
“I take it the entertainment at Ronnie’s was not up to the usual standard?”
“It’s only eleven o’clock.”
“Oh – no, I have a meeting tomorrow morning. So what happens now?”
The older man looked at the bundle that his young companion had brought in as he entered. “Why don’t you secure the ankles of these charming young ladies while I take a look around the rest of the flat? I’m sure they would appreciate the company just now.”
“Well, it turned into an exciting evening after all,” Jackie said as she watched the young man kneel down and stretch one of Debbie’s stockings out. As he placed her legs together and wrapped the band around her ankles, pulling them together, he said “Can I just say I thought you were wonderful in your new film. Have you any plans for future roles?”
“Great – a cat burglar who’s a fan,” Jackie said as she felt her own ankles been bound together. “Oh shut up – I think this is exciting,” Debbie said, “Actually, I’m looking to find a more serious role. I need to stretch myself, I feel.”
“In that case, I will look forward to seeing it when it is made. I think they will keep you secure for the time being – if you both promise to sit still, I won’t secure you any further.”
As he stood up and walked to join his partner, Debbie leaned over and whispered “At least they didn’t find the other safe.”
“Shh – they might hear you,” Jackie hissed. “They already have most of your day jewellery and money – don’t give them that as well.” As she stopped, the older man came and stood in front of the two women.
“Well, as much as it has been nice to meet you, my friend and I need to be moving along in a moment. We just need to – is there something wrong?”
He looked over at the younger man, who was bouncing up and down on the heels of his shoes. “Come and stand over here for a minute, will you,” he said, and Debbie watched nervously as they stood on the Persian rug.
“Debbie, is it possible you are a much cleverer woman than I thought?” the older man said as he pulled the rug to one side. Taking a pocket knife from his trousers, the young man felt around the floorboards, before smiling as he managed to pry loose the inset panel from the floor.
“Bugger,” was all Debbie said as the two men looked at the metal panel. “Hmmm – I think you and I need to talk Debbie. Why don’t you make sure her friend cannot interrupt us?”
“Of course,” the young man said as he picked up a silk scarf and folded it into a square. Walking over to Jackie, he said “Please open wide and allow me to gag you. I promise you it will not hurt.”
“I hope you keep your promises,” Jackie said, but she opened her mouth and allowed him to place the silk square in her mouth, using a thin chiffon band to hold it in place as he passed it around her head and tied the ends together at the base of her neck. “So, Debbie,” the older man said as he knelt in front of Debbie, “Why don’t you save me some time, and you some time without your mouth gagged, and tell me the combination to this unexpected discovery.”
“I have a choice?”
“Yes – tell me and we can talk, or don’t and watch in silence.”
Debbie looked at the younger man, standing there with one of her new Hermes scarves, and nodded. “All right - here it is.”
As she spoke, the man knelt and turned the dial, opening the iron panel and lifting out the cases. As he opened them, the younger man gasped at the sight of the collection they found inside.
“Truly, a priceless find,” the older man said as he placed the cases in a duffel bag alongside the other items he had found. “Thank you, Miss Sweetlove – you have been most helpful. Why don’t you finish off here while I collect the stuff from the bedroom?”
As he stood up and walked out of the room, the young man looked at the two women sitting there. Jackie was twisting her wrists, trying to get herself free, but Debbie looked directly at him as she sat there, the thin brown band around her ankles. “I have a favour to ask – research, if you like.”
“Oh – what?”
“Tie me up more tightly – I want to know what it feels like to be helpless. Jackie is all right - it’s just for me.”
As the older man walked back into the room, his companion looked at him in a quizzical manner. “Young Debbie here has just made rather an unusual request of me – and I’m not sure what I should do about it.”
“Really?” the man looked at the young actress. “If you’ve got my friend perplexed, it must be an issue. What did you ask?”
Debbie repeated her request, looking at the two men as they exchanged glances. “Tell you what,” the older man finally said, “I think I need to make this other young lady a little more secure as well. Why don’t you knock yourself out – but remember, always dignity.”
The young man nodded as he picked Debbie up in his arms and carried her back to her bedroom. As he set her down on the bed, Debbie looked directly into his eyes. “I’m trusting you,” she said quietly, “not to do anything other than tie me up.”
“Believe me, it is enough of an honour to have met one of my favourite actresses, even if it was in this way. I have to say your – talents have given me a lot of entertainment”
“You don’t look old enough to have seen my films!”
The young man blushed at her retort. “I’m eighteen – old enough. Now then,” he continued as he returned to the open drawer, “What is this part you are going for?”
“The part I’m going for,” Debbie said in answer to the mute question, “is of a young heiress who is kidnapped. I need to know how it feels to be helpless and unable to call for help.”
“As you wish,” he said as he took a pair of stockings from the drawer. “Shuffle round with your back to me, and sit up straight.”
“Yes, sir,” Debbie said as he pulled the stocking tight and passed it around her arms, taking care to keep the material over her gloves as he pulled her arms together. This had the effect of pulling Debbie’s shoulders back, making her squeal as her chest pressed against the front of her dress. It only took a few minutes for him to bind her arms together, before returning to the drawer and bringing out a selection of long scarves. As he walked back, he stopped for a moment to look at Debbie as she faced him.
“What? You look as if you’ve seen something for the first time.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just – well, you really do have a lovely chest. You really don’t have to lose your clothes for someone to appreciate it.”
Debbie glanced down and saw the way her chest was sticking out. “Good lord – I look like Barbara Windsor in a tight jumper. Can you make it tighter – really stop me moving my arms?”
“I think that can be arranged,” the young man said as he took a belt from her dressing gown and used it to pin her bound wrists into the small of her back. Taking hold of a pile of stockings, he tied two pairs together and passed them around her arms and chest, one below her breasts and one above, pulling her arms tightly into her side. Two single stockings were then used to pull the loops together under her arms, so that when Debbie looked in the mirror on her dressing table she saw the bands of brown forcing her chest up and out.
“Oh Matron,” she whispered in a passable impression of Kenneth Williams, “I can see you know what you are doing.”
“I had a good teacher,” he said with pride. “So, how does it feel to be a captive?”
“Just how often have you done this?” Debbie said as she tried to twist round. “Were you a Boy Scout?”
“For a while – but they threw me out after I tied up and gagged the Akela of the Cub Troop.”
“At a meeting?”
“No – in her house with her daughter when I robbed them.”
Debbie could not stop herself laughing as she heard that. “Oh that is priceless – so, what now? I really want to be helpless.”
“You do realise what is happening here? I am robbing you, you know.”
“Oh shut up and keep going. What’s next?”
“This,” he said as he helped Debbie to place her legs on the bed. Taking a long green scarf. He passed it around her legs above her knees and bound them tightly together, before adjusting the skirt of her dress so that her knickers were no longer showing. A second, shorter scarf was then used to tie her legs together just below her knees, leaving Debbie looking down as she twisted her ankles around.
“I trust that is not too uncomfortable,” he said as he looked at his captive. “No,” Debbie purred, “In fact, I find it quite exciting. Maybe I should be captured like this more often.”
He smiled as he sat by her side on the bed. “I have to say, you look even more beautiful in real life than on the big screen. If I wasn’t – well, who I am, I would love to have met you in different circumstances.”
“The feeling is mutual,” she said as there was a knock on the door. “We need to get going” the older man said, and Debbie smiled again as her captor stood up and walked to the dressing table.
“I guess this is goodbye then,” Debbie said as he walked back over. “I’m afraid so, but may I ask a favour of you first?”
“For such a gentleman thief, anything.”
“May I kiss you?”
Debbie nodded and smiled as he leaned over and gently pressed his lips to hers. Tearing a strip from the roll of Elastoplast that he had picked up, he then pressed it over Debbie’s mouth, smoothing it down as she looked on. Bowing, he turned the light off and walked out of the room.
“All finished?” the older man said as his friend walked back into the front room. Jackie was lying on her side on the couch, the skirt of her dress pulled around her legs by a stocking and the hem lifted slightly to show her bound ankles. She looked at the two men through her dark fringe as they picked up their bags. “Your friend is quite safe,” the younger man said as they walked towards the door. “Thank you and good night.” He turned the light off and closed the door, leaving Jackie in darkness with only her grunts breaking the silence.
Some days later, the two men were sitting in a café, reading the report of the attack on the young actress and the items taken.
“What happened to the stuff we found in the floor space?”
“Not mentioned – and I’m not surprised. When I showed them to Dave, he took one look and said I had to see a specialist. Turns out they were a set known as The Netterton Jewels – well known, and needing careful handling.”
The young man whistled. “My god – I’ve heard you talk about them. What about the rest?”
“All taken care of. Get two mugs of tea, John – we need to talk about your future.”
“John? John Jacobs? He really does get around.”
Madame X smiled as Penelope sat down. “He is indeed a man with many contacts. When I found out what I am about to tell you, he only smiled and said ‘Good Luck’”
Coco drained her glass. “So, I presume that this task you would like me to undertake involves the Netterton jewels?” She watched as Madame nodded. “Forgive me for asking, but why me? You command the resources and manpower to retrieve them if they were in Fort Knox.”
“I agree,” Madame said as she offered to refill her glass, “but there are two reasons why this needs a more subtle approach. Firstly, the new owner of the collection is Sir Desmond Wolverton.”
“The Cabinet Secretary? I can see why a subtle approach may be best, but you are capable of doing that.”
“Again, I agree, but Sir Desmond and I have an – understanding over certain issues. I desire to own the collection, but at the same time I do not wish to disturb our agreement.”
Coco nodded as she sat there. “So you would like me to obtain the set on your behalf.”
“Indeed – you may retain whatever else you find there, and I will provide all the information you require, but otherwise I must not be seen to be part of this.”
Coco thought for a moment, and then nodded. “Very well – I accept the challenge. I trust you have no objections if I use my assistant on this particular task.”
“I trust to your discretion.”
“You said there was a second reason I may wish to do this.”
This time, Madame X smiled. “I did indeed. Have you ever met Sir Desmond?”
“No, I do not believe I have had the pleasure. Why?”
“My dear Coco, I believe you have met his wife in the past, Lady Mary.”
“I have? When?”
“When she was a young girl. Her maiden name is Foscari – Maria Foscari.” Both Madame X and Penelope watched Coco as she sat there, a smile slowly growing as she thought about what she had just heard.
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