Opening for business today
New You – the boutique for the Now You
“it’s almost time,” Suzie said as she looked at the small crowd of young women who were waiting on the Kensington High Road outside the store front, “looks like we’re going to have a busy day.”
“Well we should do – after all, that preview article in the Times Magazine helped, and we have the best designers of 1979 selling us goods,” Carol said as she looked at her two friends. They had graduated from Fashion School in the last year, and each invested in the store. They had a prime location, next to a branch of Williams and Glyn bank, and with the help of Fiona MacKenzie, who had been in the school a couple of years above them, they had the publicity right.
Carol was wearing a short sleeved white blouse over tight trousers, a thin cream leather belt round her waist and cream thigh high leather boots up her legs. The boots had a three inch square heel, as did those that completed the outfits of Suzie and Madeline, but her personal touch was the white fedora she wore over her long dark hair.
Madeline, the third partner in the group, had blonde hair cut in a Farrah Fawcett cut, and wore a brown v-necked sweater, blue jeans and brown leather thigh high boots, while Suzie had curly chestnut brown hair. She had on a dark blue velvet blouse, grey corduroy pants with a cloth striped belt fastened round her waist, and over the knee black leather boots.
“Well – ready?”
“Let’s do this,” Madeline said as Carol unlocked and opened the door, smiling as she called our “Welcome all of you – come along in. We’re waiting to serve you.”
She smiled as she stood to one side, the woman walking in as Madeline and Suzie stood behind the counter...
The store was kept busy all day, so that the three girls lost count of how many people were going in and out, using the curtained off changing rooms as they did so. Their focus was on the customers, their purchases, and enjoying the day.
It was after six before the last customer was finally escorted out, Suzie closing and locking the door and moving the door sign to “closed” before she leaned back and let out a long sigh.
“that – was ridiculous,” she finally said, “how about I put the kettle on and make some tea while you cash up?”
“Go on – I could use that Oooh,” Madeline said with a sigh as Carol opened the till, and took the bank notes out. Suzie nodded as she went through the store room at the back, and into a small kitchen area. Picking up the kettle, she filled it with water from the tap, before putting it on the larger of the two rings on the Belling mini-stove and turning it on.
She then took a brown pottery teapot, and rinsed it out in the sink while the ring slowly turned red under the kettle. Putting the teapot to one side, she found three mugs and sniffed the milk in the bottle, before pouring a little into each of the mugs. As she did this, a low whistling sound started to come from the kettle as the water came to the boil.
As the whistling reached a high pitch, she opened a tin caddy, and then turned off the ring. Pouring some of the hot water into the teapot, she rinsed it out and poured the water into the sink, before scooping several teaspoons of tea leaves into the pot and filling it with more hot water.
Stirring the brew, she put the lid in the pot and said “want some digestives with this?”
“If they’re not too soft,” Carol called back. Nodding, Suzie put some biscuits onto a plate, and then put the teapot, mugs and plate onto a tray, as well as a tea strainer.
“There we go,” she said as she came back in, and placed the tray on the shop counter. “How did we do today?”
“Absolutely no complaints,” Madeline said as she picked up the teapot and poured the amber liquid through the fine mesh of the strainer, the tea leaves collecting as she filled all three mugs.
“That’s better,” Carol said as she sipped her mug, while Madeline put a large money bag into her large shoulder bag. “Just what we need at the end of a busy day – thanks Carol.”
“So what do you want to do tonight?”
“Well, we put this into the night safe,” Madeline said as she patted the side of her bag, “and then I heard of this great new club near...”
“I’m sorry,” a female voice said, “but you may need to rethink your plans for tonight.”
All three looked round to see two women coming out of the changing area, wearing sweaters and jeans – as well as scarves tied round the lower half of their faces, covering their mouths and noses. They also were wearing thick leather gloves, and one of them was pointing a sawn off shotgun at the trio.
“What the hell...”
“By all means, finish your tea,” the one holding the gun said as she looked at them, “but if any of you do anything to raise the alarm, you all die. I hope that is perfectly clear?”
“Perfectly clear,” Carol said quietly, “is this a robbery?”
“Well, yes – and no,” the first woman said as she put a canvas holdall on the floor. “Don’t worry – your takings are safe. We’re after bigger things – and unfortunately for you, the way to those bigger things lies through your store. So just do as we tell you, and everything will be fine.”
The three women looked at each other, and then nervously sipped their tea as the two masked women watched.
Eventually, the armed girl said “right – all three of you, over here, out of sight of the windows.”
“What are you going to do to us,” Suzie asked as they walked slowly over.
“We need to keep you out of the way for a little while, and make sure you can’t disturb us,” the other woman said, the girls watching as she opened the duffle bag and drew out several lengths of coarse brown rope. “so stand in a line, facing the wall, and put your hands behind your back.”
“Look, you don’t have to...”
“Don’t argue,” the armed woman said in a menacing voice to Suzie.
“Just do as they say,” Clare whispered, the other two nodding as they faced the wall. Suzie bit her lower lip as she felt the masked woman crossing her wrist, and then the rough cords as her wrists were pulled tightly together.
“Hey – that hurts.”
“Deal with it,” was the only reply as the cords were pulled even more tightly around and between her arms, and then the ends tied off out of reach of her fingers. She looked over her shoulder as the woman moved on to Clare, and the cords rubbed against her bare flesh while she secured her wrists together.
“It’s all right Madeline,” Claire said as the third girl had her wrists secured, “we’re all in this together, so remain calm.” The blonde nodded as they were all turned round, the armed woman saying “sit down, feet flat on the floor.”
As they managed to sit on the floor, the three of them watched as their ankles were secured by more lengths of brown rope, each of them trying not to laugh at the sound the rope made as it rubbed on their leather boots. Once their ankles were secured, they watched as yet more rope was used to secure their legs together above their knees, Suzie hearing not only the sound of leather rubbing on leather, but the squeak of her corduroy pants as she tried to move her legs.
Finally, the woman took two lengths of brown rope, and used them to secure Clare to the two other girls at their arms.
“Good – time we kept them quiet.”
“Look, we’ll be quiet, you don’t have to do anything to stop us talking,” Clare said as she wriggled round.
“You speak as if you have a choice – you don’t.”
All three girls watched as she produced from the bag a roll of brown sticking plaster, and tore off a long strip. Squatting down, she brushed the hair away from Suzie’s face, before she said “pucker those lips – time to keep you quiet.”
Suzie scowled at the masked woman, but she knew she had no choice, as she felt her press the brown fabric firmly over her mouth, the adhesive tugging at her skin as it formed to the shape of her jaw.
“Hmggddtrllwrks” she mumbled as she looked over, watching as first Clare, and then Madeline were gagged in the same way. She tried moving her mouth, but the fabric almost seemed to act like the skin it was meant to be covering, moving with her and preventing almost all noise coming out.
All they could do was watch as the two men drew the blinds down, and the darkening as the light outside was replaced with the street lamps.
“Whtdufnkktherdnn,” Madeline whispered as she tried to move.
“nddeee,” Clare whispered back, watching as the hands of the wall clock slowly ticked away...
“All right – it’s time.”
“Tmfrwwht,” Clare said as the masked woman took from a shelf three long woollen scarves.
“Time for this,” she said before her world was plunged into darkness, and she heard the other two gasp.
As the scarves were tied over the eyes of the three captives, the woman who had been carrying the shotgun put it down, and pulled the scarf down to hang loosely around her neck. She then made her way to the back of the store, opening the rear door and looking round the yard before she looked to the wall that separated the store from the back next door.
Coming back in, she nodded as the first woman opened the front door of the stall. Clare could hear all this, as well as several sets of heavy footsteps as they passed by – and then silence.
Well, not complete silence. She could hear in the distance heavy thuds and quiet talking, as well as what sounded like knives hitting stone tables. After a while, however, even that sound tied down, and they were left in a world of darkness and silence.
So when she finally managed to shake the scarf down around her head, she looked to one side and saw Suzie staring straight ahead.
“Hee – ullrht?”
Suzie turned her head and nodded as Clare said “sheekeurhhdd – scrrfwllflldn.”
She then turned and looked at Madeline – but the third girl’s head was down, and she could hear the gentle sound of her breathing in and out through her nose.
“Shssslp – thffgn.”
Suzie nodded as she looked round, and saw their bags by the side, the contents of Madeline’s bag obviously still inside. There was a cool breeze from the rear of the building, as Suzie started to try and twist her mouth round.
“Tssnggdd – wntbj.”
Suzie eventually nodded her head, before she heard footsteps coming from the back of the store.
The two women watched as a figure dressed in black appeared, and said “oh my god!” He then went to the front of the store, opening it and saying “Two seven to control – I’ve discovered a break-in at Williams and Glyn – and three women held hostage in the store next door.”
“Hfnnmkkggd,” Clare said as she realised it was a policeman, Suzie crying as he came over and peeled the plaster away from her mouth.
“Are you all right,” he said as Madeline raised her head, and mumbled “whstshhspndd.”
“What has happened,” Carol said as her own gag was removed.
“Someone broke through the back wall of the bank. Did they get in through here?”
“I think so – two women took us captive, and then let some others walk through...”
“All right – I’ll find some scissors and get you three released, then you can tell us what happened...”
“Well, if nothing else, we got extra publicity for the store,” Suzie said a few weeks later, as they closed after another busy day. As she held the door open, the last customer to leave smiled and said “thank you.”
It was only as she closed and locked the door she realised she had heard that voice before – and looking at the other two, she knew they had recognised it as well.
“I think so – but she’s gone. We just need to let it go...”