Puppet On A String
“Can I help you, Miss?”
The desk sergeant looked at the blonde haired girl standing in front of him, shaking slightly as she clutched her handbag to her chest. She was in her early twenties, wearing an orange and brown mini dress that barely covered the top of her stockings and had a wide white collar on it, and a pair of brown 3” wide heeled sandals on her feet. Her long blonde hair fell down her back, but he could see the mascara stains where she had been crying.
“Is there something I can do for you?”
“Yes – you can send someone to my house at 2042 Evergreen Terrace and see if the rest of my family are all right. I’ve just stolen $10,000 from my employer, and they said they would kill them if I didn’t, and now I can’t get an answer, I can’t....”
She collapsed to the floor, burying her hands in her head and sobbing as a couple of officers came over. “Get her into a side room – I’ll call the chief,” the sergeant said as he picked up the phone.
“Here – drink this,” the detective said as he handed the girl a steaming cup. “What’s your name?”
“Laurie – Laurie Paige.”
“All right, Laurie – why don’t you start at the beginning? What happened to you last night?”
Laurie took a deep breath and said “It started at about 9 last night, when my mother and aunts decided to have a little fun...”
The Previous Evening
“Oh come, Robbin – what are you afraid of?”
The brown haired woman stood up at the urging of her sister, and smoothed down the front of her dress. She was the youngest of the three women in the room, and was wearing a yellow sleeveless knee length dress, which had a white lace trim around the top of her chest at the V of her neckline and matching detail on the pockets, and brown wedge heeled sandals. A string of pearls was around her neck.
“I’m not afraid of anything, Hillary,” she said as she walked over. Both women looked alike, although Hillary was a year older, with their hair drawn back in tight curls. Hillary was dressed in a cap sleeved dress of pale grey silk, decorated with a floral motif, and white heeled sandals. Like her sister, she had a string of pearls around her neck.
“What about you, Pris?”
“Go on, Mum,” Laurie said as she nudged her mother, “You know you want to.”
“All right, all right,” Priscilla Paige said as she stood up. She had shoulder length black hair, which fell over the shoulders of her black dress as she stood up and walked over. As with the other two, a set of pearls was around her neck, and matching earrings hung from her lobes. She stood next to the other two, her black Mary Janes shining as she reached down and grabbed the hem of her skirt.
“Ready? One, two... THREE!”
All three women raised their skirts, showing the tops of their stockings as Laurie took a Polaroid picture of the scene. “That’s one for the album,” she said as the three older women started laughing.
“Takes us back to the High School Days, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah – except we don’t have to wear layers of lace underskirts any more. Who wants another drink?”
Robbin picked up the empty cocktail shaker. “Looks like we need refills – I’ll go into the kitchen and get them sorted out.”
“So, Laurie, how’s the job at the firm going,” Hillary said as she and Priscilla sat down. Laurie crossed her legs as she sat on the table and smiled. She was wearing a white short sleeved blouse and a blue mini-skirt – been at home and younger, she felt she could be a bit more casual than the others. “It’s great – I’m left in charge of the office at lunch times, and I’m my own boss now in a lot of ways.”
“Good for you girl,” Hillary said as she leaned back, “It’s about time women got more power in the workplace. Maybe one day we’ll even have a woman president.”
“About as likely as us ever having a black one,” Priscilla said as she brushed some crumbs off the buttons on the front of her dress. What’s keeping that sister of yours, anyway?”
“Not sure – Robbin, where are those drinks?”
Hillary looked to the door, only to stand slowly up as Robbin walked back into the room. Instead of the cocktail shaker in her hands, they were behind her head as she looked on with frightened eyes.
“Robbin, what’s the... Who are you?”
Priscilla was looking past her sister-in-law, and as Laurie turned in that direction she let out a scream. Three men were behind Robbin, dressed in jackets over dark sweaters and slacks, but with dark glasses on despite the time of day and leather gloves on their hands. The one behind Robbin raised his hand to show the sawn off shotgun that he had been holding against her back.
“Ladies,” he said in a clear Brooklyn accent, “I need you all to sit down and keep your hands where I can see them at all times. Do as you are told, and you’ll get through this night alive. Don’t and it will be unpleasant. Do you understand?”
“Are you all right, Robbin,” Hillary said as she walked towards her sister. “I thought I told you to sit down,” the man repeated as he held the gun against the younger woman’s head. “Please,” she pleaded as the tears started to run down her face, “Do as they say. They mean business, whoever they are.”
Keeping her eye on the men the whole time, Hillary walked back to the couch and sat next to Priscilla, both women placing their hands on their laps. “Stay where you are, lass,” one of the other two men said as Laurie started to stand up, while Robbin was pushed towards a chair that sat to the side. As she sat down, the third man closed the door to the room and took a look out of the closed curtains.
“All clear, Jeff,” he said as he turned back round.
“Thanks Jack. John, take the gun and make sure none of these lovely ladies move for a few minutes while I go and fetch some things from the car.”
“Just keep nice and quiet,” John said as he held the gun in both hands and stood, watching the four women as Jeff left the room. After a few minutes, he returned with a pair of large duffel bags, which fell heavily on the floor as he dropped them.
“See if you can find some beers, Jack,” he said as he sat down and looked at the three women. “Now, ladies, we’re going to be staying here for a little while, so we might as well get comfortable. I know your men folk are away on business, so nobody is going to come to your help. Which reminds me – John, the phones if you please.”
As John left the room, Laurie could see him stop by the telephone table in the hallway and pull the connecting wire out of the socket in the wall. “As I was saying,” Jeff continued, “I need all four of you to do exactly what I tell you to do, and we’ll all get along just fine.”
“What do you want from us,” Hillary said quietly.
“All in good time,” Jeff said quietly as Jack returned and handed him a bottle of Budweiser. “The next thing we need to do is have a look round the place, see what we can find, but we can start right now. Take those pearls off, as well as your earrings, rings and other jewellery, and place them in the sack Jack is going to bring round.”
As he said this, all four could see the gun that was laid across Jeff’s lap. “So this is a robbery, then,” Robbin said.
“In part, yes, in part. Now, take off those wonderful pearls and place them in the sack, there’s a good girl.”
Robbin slowly reached behind her neck and unclasped the pearls, placing them in the sack that was held in front of her by the younger man. Slipping the bracelet off one wrist, and her Cartier watch off the other, she stared at the smiling intruder as they followed the pearls. As she did this, Hillary started to unfasten her own watch, before taking the rings off the fingers of her left hand.
“You may keep the wedding rings, ladies,” Jeff said as Jack moved to stand in front of the older sister. “Very generous,” Hillary replied sarcastically as she dropped the items into the sack, before removing her own pearls and placing them in. Priscilla soon followed suit, grimacing slightly as she removed her earrings to join the rest of the jewellery in the sack.
“I... I don’t have any jewellery,” Laurie said as Jack stood in front of her. “Not on you, no – but you will have upstairs. Jack, go and start looking and send John down here,” Jeff said as he stood up and walked over. “You take after your father, don’t you,” he said as he lifted her face up to look at her.
“So what if I do?”
“Well, it means I think we have to deal with you first.” As he said this, Jeff walked to one of the duffel bags, opened the top and took out a number of tightly wrapped skeins of white rope. “Ladies, please keep your hands where I can see them and don’t move. John,” he said to the third man as he walked back in, “pick up that gun and keep an eye on them. Now, young one, hands behind your back.”
“Look,” Priscilla said loudly, “We’ll do whatever you say.”
“I know you will – especially as I can quite easily hurt your daughter or any of you if you don’t. Now, as I said, hands behind your back, and put your palms together.”
“Please, don’t hurt me,” Laurie said tearfully as she felt the rope against her skin and her wrists coming together as Jeff wrapped the length around them. The cords bit into her pale skin, but she kept her thoughts to herself as she looked at her mother and aunts.
“Put your ankles against the table legs,” Jeff said as he knelt beside the table Laurie was sitting on. Priscilla watched as the intruder lashed her daughter’s ankles to the legs, spreading her legs apart and showing the pale blue knickers she was wearing under her skirt.
“Now, if you promise no tot call out, I won’t do anything else at the moment,” Jeff said as he stood up. “All right,” Laurie said quietly as he went back to the duffle bag and took out two more lengths of rope.
“You two,” he said pointing to Robbin and Hillary, “come over and stand in front of me.” The large clock in the room struck 10 as they slowly stood up and walked over, turning to look at their sister-in-law and niece.
“Which of you is the older?”
“I am,” Hillary said. “Good – set a good example for your younger sibling and cross your wrists behind your back.” As she did so, Robbin looked on and watched as Jeff quickly tied her wrists together, and then passed a second length of rope around her arms above her elbows. Hillary grunted as she felt her arms been pulled back, and the material of her dress stretching over her breasts as they were pushed out.
“Does it hurt, Hill,” Robbin said as she felt her own arms been drawn together behind her back. “Not really – it’s tight as anything, but not too painful,” her sister replied as she watched Robbin’s wrists been tied. “Listen – Priscilla, the woman sitting over there, has a bone problem. Please, don’t do this to her.”
Jeff looked over at the dark haired woman, sitting watching with a look of fascinated horror. “all right,” he said as he tugged at Robbins’s arms to check the binding, “I’ll do something different for her. You,” he said pointing at Priscilla, “Stand up and come over here. You two, sit down on the floor, backs against the couch.”
“What are you going to do to me,” Priscilla asked as she cast an anxious look over at Laurie. “I guess we’re going to have to corral you, lady,” Jeff said with a wicked smile. “John, get me out the coil, will you?”
Laurie gasped as the other intruder drew out a large length of rope from the bag and tossed it over to Jeff. He shook the end loose, before making a lasso at one end and widening it as he looked at her mother.
“Just clasp your hands together in front of you, lady,” he said as checked the slip knot. Laurie could see her mother was shaking as she put her hands together in front of her, and the coil went over her arms below her beasts, before it was pulled in one motion and a gasp came out as her arms were pulled into her sides.
“I thought you were joking,” she said as the rope went around her upper body several times, pulling her arms more tightly in, before her passed the rope between the two bands in front of her and pulled it down. He then started to bind her wrists together, passing the rope around and between them as Priscilla balled her hands into two fists, and then took it around her waist so that they were held tightly against her body.
“Come over to the couch and lie down,” Jeff said as he tugged on the remaining rope. “You two fillies move forward and get onto your knees.”
“What are you going to do with us,” Robbin asked as she watched Priscilla lie on the long seat, her head on a cushion as Jeff wrapped the rope around her legs just below the hem of her dress.
“You’ll see”, he said as he looked round and watched as they somehow got onto their knees. “I want the two of you to get together, face to face, and then John will make sure you spend some quality time together.
Hillary looked at her sister as they shuffled over to face each other, while John retrieved another long length of rope from the duffel bag. While Jeff took the rope down and lashed Priscilla’s ankles together, John doubled the rope up and passed it around the upper bodies of the two sisters, drawing them together as he proceeded to tie them still further.
Jeff took the remaining length of rope between Priscilla’s ankles, before leading it back up to her wrists and securing the ends together just above them. “Comfy,” he said with a smile as he checked the knots.
“Not really, no, but I don’t have a choice, do I?” she said as she tried to move her arms round. “How are you doing, Laurie?”
“Hm? Oh, I’m more scared than sore,” Laurie said as she watched the way her two aunts were been tied together, the loops of rope around their chests been cinched by the rope been passed between their bodies. She noticed the zip on the back of Robbin’s dress come down slightly, but said nothing in case something worse happened. “Good work, John,” the leader said as he checked the ropes, while Jack came back into the room. “Jack, help John get these two ladies onto the floor, and then tie their ankles.”
Both Robbin and Hillary were unable to stop the two men making them lie on their sides, facing each other as their ankles were tied together, and then their legs together individually as well as to each other above their knees. The three men stood up and looked at their captives, as each of them was trying to see if there was nay give in their restraints while the clock struck eleven.
“Go and turn the lights off in the other rooms – we want everything to look as normal as possible,” Jeff said while he walked back to the bag. “Haven’t you got everything you want,” Priscilla said as she raised her head. “You’ve got our jewellery, you’ve stopped us from raising the alarm – what else is there?”
“Two things – well, three actually. But they can come later. For now, you need to relax, get some sleep and stop talking.”
“How do you expect us to do that?”
“Well, as far as stopping talking goes, I can help with that.” Jeff came back with a roll of brown sticking plaster, and tore off a strip. “Purse your lips,” he said as he bent over Priscilla, her daughter watching as the plaster was smoothed over her mother’s mouth, forming the shape of her lips as it held against her skin.
“Oh god, oh god, oh gdddd” she said as a strip was placed over her own mouth, followed by her aunts. “Right, boys, let’s find the safe and some more beer,” Jeff said as he turned the light off in the room, leaving the four women struggling and trying without success to speak.
“So that was about 11.15?”
Laurie nodded as she held the cup in her hands. “Look, have you sent anyone round to our house?”
“A couple of officers are on their way over. What happened next?”
“We all struggled and tried to talk to each other, but it was useless – the tape stuck too well. Anyway, I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew was that man Jeff shaking my shoulder.”
“Wake up, little one.”
Laurie raised her head and tried to say “What time is it?” All that came out as she opened her eyes and recognised Jeff was “ehtmtst?”
“Time for you to get ready to go to work, young lady,” Jeff said as Laurie slowly came round. She could see her mother on the couch, her head to one side and her eyes closed as the sound of her nasal breathing came over, while her aunts were still on the floor. As she remembered the events of the previous evening, her eyes opened wide as she looked at the three men standing there.
“Whts gn gn? Whyr u stlhr?”
“All in good time little one,” Jeff said as he knelt beside Laurie, brushing her blonde hair away from her eyes. “This was never just about robbing your house – we have something much bigger in mind. Now, I’m going to remove the tape, and I want you to promise you will not wake the others, all right?”
Laurie nodded and let out a slight gasp as Jeff peeled away the plaster from her lips. “What’s this all about,” she whispered, not wanting to wake the older women.
“The payroll at your office – you’re going to take it and pass it to us, or you will never see your aunts and mother again. Now, I’m going to untie you, and Jack here is going to take you upstairs so that you can shower and change. Remember, this has to look like another normal day, all right?”
Laurie nodded as Jeff released her ankles and wrists, and helped her to stand up. “A hot shower will get the circulation going again,” he said as took her to the doorway, Jack following afterwards. As she walked out of the room, she heard him say to the other man “Help me to untie these two and lie them on their backs.”
As she stripped off her clothes in the bathroom, Jack standing just outside the half open door, she realised just how much she had sweated in trying to get free – that, or the fear of the situation. She could hear some mumbled voices from downstairs as she stepped under the warm running water, and tried to relax herself. Eventually stepping out and wrapping a towel around her hair, she pulled on a towelling gown and walked into the hallway.
“You can’t be serious,” she could hear Hillary saying as Jack took her arm and frogmarched her to her room. Opening the door, she could see the contents of her chest of drawers scattered on the floor, and various jewellery boxes on her bed.
“Get dressed for work and make yourself pretty,” Jack said as he closed the door and stood against the wall.
“No, I won’t – but I will watch you,” he said as he crossed his arms. Laurie silently thanked heaven – she hadn’t been harmed other than by the ropes and the fear, so she trusted nothing else would as she slowly dried her hair.
“Laurie, are you all right?”
Priscilla looked at her daughter as she walked back into the main room. She was rubbing her wrists, having been freed from the ropes by John. Robbin was sitting next to her, her arms still bound behind her back. Laurie tugged at the white collar of her dress as she sat on the table and looked at her aunt Hillary.
“I’m sorry, auntie,” she said as she looked at the older sister. “They want me... They want me to...”
“It’s all right, Laurie – they told us what they want you to do. Just do it – we’ll be fine.” Hillary was standing in her black corset, the stocking tops attached to the legs and her dress lying on the floor behind her. She had her arms behind her back, and Laurie could hear a ripping sound as Jeff stood behind her.
“All right, take her away,” Jeff said as he turned Hillary round and pushed her towards John. Laurie could now see that her aunt’s wrists had been taped together with the brown sticking plaster behind her back. “just do whatever they tell you,” she called back over her shoulder as John took her out of the room.
“Where are you taking them?”
Jeff looked at Laurie as she placed her shoes on the floor. “We’re going to take them somewhere nice and quiet while you are at work. So long as you say nothing and do what we tell you to do, they will be fine. So, mummy dearest, you’re next – stand up and take off your dress.”
“Mum, why are you doing this?”
“Because they said they would kill us if we didn’t” Priscilla said quietly as she stood up and started to unbutton her dress. As she went down her front with each one, the white lace bra she was wearing underneath could be seen by Laurie, until eventually she pulled her arms out and let the black garment fall to the floor, revealing the white petticoat underneath.
“Very nice,” Jeff said with a laugh. “Right – come over here.” Priscilla stepped over her dress and walked over to the two men, turning her back to them when she got there. Laurie could see the marks of the plaster around her mother’s mouth as she watched her wrists been taped. “Better get your shoes on – Jack is going to drive you into work and keep an eye on you for us, from a distance of course,” he said as Priscilla gasped at the way she was been bound.
Jeff turned her around, and Laurie could see that her mother’s arms had been taped together, with her forearms resting in her palms. “Take her away,” she said to John as he walked back in, “and put her with the other one in the van. You – stand up and come over here.”
Laurie fastened her shoes around her ankles as she watched Robbin walk over, crying softly as she turned round and allowed Jeff to remove the ropes around her arms. Bringing her wrists round to rub them, she offered no resistance as he pulled the zip down her back, then waited as she pulled the arms down and allowed the garment to fall to the floor. She was wearing a light blue bra and panties set underneath, with a black garter belt which her stockings were attached to.
“I’m sorry, love, I’m so sorry,” Robbin sobbed as her arms were drawn behind her and she felt the tape going round her wrists. As Laurie stood up, Jack came in and handed her a pale orange handbag. She opened it and saw that everything she thought would be in there was – including her purse.
“Now listen carefully,” Jeff said as Laurie closed the clasp. “Jack is going to drive you to your office, and will be watching from a distance. If you call the police, or tell your boss what is happening, he will know.”
“He will – and so will your family soon after. If you want to see them alive again, then wait until lunchtime, take the money from the safe and put it in an envelope, then go to the diner across the road from the office and meet Jack there at 1 PM sharp. If you are early, or late, they suffer, understand?”
“I understand – just please, don’t hurt them.”
“Then don’t let us down. Ready?”
Jack nodded as he took Laurie by the arm and marched her out of the door. As she left, she heard Jeff saying “let’s take you to the others,” before Jack closed the door on them.
The town clock struck 8.30 as Jack pulled up outside the offices of Laurie’s firm. “Remember, we’re watching,” he said as he opened the door to let the young woman out.
“Hey, Laurie,” one of her colleagues said as she closed the car door, “Who’s the guy in the glasses – he looks kind of cute.”
“He – he’s our neighbour’s son. Mum’s car broke down and he offered me a lift.” Laurie glanced at Jack, who smiled as he pulled away. Laurie took a mental note of the registration plate.
“Are you all right,” her friend asked, “You look a bit pale.”
“Nothing – just a very rough night,” she said with a faint smile as she walked towards the main entrance.
“Well done, Laurie,” Jack said as she slipped him the large brown envelope. “Now, wait half an hour, and Jeff will come to tell you where your relatives are.” Laurie nodded weakly as Jack stood up and walked out of the diner, leaving Laurie holding a cup of coffee as she watched him walking down the street.
She glanced at the clock every few minutes, knowing her boss would be back in the office soon and hoping the news would be sooner rather than later. As the hands passed 2, however, she suddenly stood up and walked out of the diner, not sure of what she was going to do. Eventually, she found herself outside a precinct house, and walked in as if in a daze, standing in front of the desk.
“Can I help you, Miss?”
Laurie looked up at the uniformed officer and opened her mouth, but no sound came out...
“All right, Laurie, a pair of officers should be at your home soon. Your boss is on his way here now.” Laurie looked up at the detective, eyes wide with fright. “It’s all right – we explained what you said, and he does not blame you at all. In fact, he’s more worried about you than about the money at the moment.”
“I just want to know they’re all right,” Laurie sobbed as she started crying again.
“10-4, control – we’re at 2042 Evergreen Terrace now. Will proceed with caution.”
The two officers stepped out from the patrol car and walked slowly up the path, drawing some curious glances from the neighbours as they did so. As they stopped at the door, one of them knocked loudly, saying “Police – let us in, Mrs Paige.” When they got no response, he nodded to his colleague, who walked round to the back of the house. Placing his hand on the door handle, he turned it slowly and stood back as the door swung open.
“Mrs Paige,” he called out again as he stepped in, shutting the door quietly and drawing his gun. Looking in the open door for the front room, he saw the ropes and clothes lying on the floor, and stepped back to see his colleague coming from the kitchen.
“They broke in through the kitchen door – the wood’s splintered,” he said quietly as he looked at the phone wire hanging towards the ground from the table. “Looks like she was telling the truth – you check upstairs and I’ll look round, “ the other officer said as he looked to the rear of the house. As one climbed the staircase, the other slowly walked to the door between the kitchen and the front room and opened it, his gun raised.
The room was empty, but he could hear a muffled sound like thumping from somewhere. As he stepped out, he heard the noise grow louder, and stopped by a door that led to the cellar. As his colleague came down the staircase, he motioned to him to stay silent as he opened the door.
Slowly, carefully, they went down the staircase, not daring to turn on the light in case the intruders were still there. The banging noise was growing louder as they reached the floor, in the centre of which was a large crate.
“Mrs Paige,” the officer said, and both men were surprised to see the box move slightly. Picking up a crowbar, he slowly went over and pulled the side of the crate away.
“HLPSSSSS” Priscilla screamed at the two officers through the large headscarf that had been used to silence her. The three women were sitting side by side in the crate, their knees bent up as sticking plaster went round their ankles and knees. Robbin and Hillary also had tape stuck over their mouths as they looked at the two officers, sweat glistening on their faces.
“Go back and get an ambulance,” he shouted to his colleague, “and let the station know.” Reaching up, he pulled the scarf out of Priscilla’s mouth, who coughed before saying in a hoarse voice “My daughter...”
“She’s safe,” he said as he helped her out of the crate. “Let’s get you to a hospital, and then you can tell us what happened...”