Rainy Days and Sundays
“All right – why did we decide this would be a good day to come into London?”
It was February 10th, 1968, and the weather was typical for London at that time of year – wet and cold. The streets looked like a moving river of tightly stretched waterproofed nylon as the crowds moved up and down Knightsbridge.
“Goddammit,” Helen said as she looked round, “we need to get out of this rain. It actually seems to be getting heavier.”
“You’re not kidding,” Bobbi said as she looked round. Unlike Helen and Liz, she was wearing a black raincoat, tightly buttoned to keep the water out, as well as a pair of black leather boots, the bottom of her coat easily covering her bare legs above it.
Both Helen and Liz were wearing white raincoats. Helen had one with a wide belt around her waist, and a red scarf round her neck. The hem of her red jersey dress was visible through the opening at the front at the hem of the coat, while Liz had her coat tightly fastened over her mini skirt and top. A pair of brown leather belts protected her legs from the driving rain.
“Oh this is ridiculous,” she said as she looked round, “where can we go?”
“Hey – there’s a cafe down this street here. We could duck in there?”
The three girls looked down the street that ran beside the French embassy, and the small cafe with wet tables and chairs outside.
“Sounds like a plan,” Bobbi said as they walked quickly down the street, and then into the building, shaking their umbrellas as they placed them in the coat rack by the door.
“Anyone serving,” Liz called out as she shook her black hair. They looked to the back as a young girl, wearing a short sleeved blouse and a pair of green pedal pushers came out.
“Yes,” she said with a French accent.
“Three teas please,” Helen said as she looked at the cakes in the display, “and three of those scones as well.”
The girl glanced back, and then went behind the counter, slowly taking the scones out and putting them on plates as the water heated up.
“Are you all right,” Bobbi asked as she looked at the young girl. All three women had kept their raincoats on, as well as their black leather gloves.
“Yes, yes,” the girl said nervously, before she whispered “Please, just go. You do not want to be in here.”
“We are going to have tea and scones, so why would we want to go back out into the rain,” Helen said as she looked out of the window at the driving rain.
“Please,” the girl pleaded.
“What’s wrong,” Liz asked, and then she saw the curtain that led to the rear of the tearoom open – and the two men holding pistols walk out.
“I knew this was a mistake,” one of them said as he walked over and locked the door, turning the sign to closed.
“I am sorry,” the girl said, “but...”
“Don’t say anything,” the man said as he looked at the three women. “You three, through here and upstairs, now. Keep your hands where we can see them.”
“Who are you,” Bobbi said quietly as all three raised their hands, and they walked through the curtain before they were made to go up a staircase. At the top of the stairs, they waited as he looked in one room, and then took them into the next one.
“You,” he said to Bobbi, “sit in that chair there.” Helen and Liz watched as Bobbi sat down, and the second man came in.
“What have you done with the girl?”
“She’s with her mother – both secured,” the second man said as he looked at the three women, “what about them?”
“Same thing – start tying these two up while I take care of their friend.” He reached into a canvas sack that was sitting on the bed, drawing out some white rope before he knelt behind Bobbi and pulled her hands behind the chair back.
She could feel the rope on her wrists as he pulled them together and used the rope to secure them, while Helen felt her hands pulled behind her back, and then rope around her arms as they were pulled together at her elbows.
“What the hell is going on,” Liz said as she felt the rope around her own elbows, while Bobbi was further secured to the chair with bands of rope around her body and the chair back. The chair was an old one, with ornate armrests, but Bobbi was unable to stop the man securing her around her shoulders and her stomach.
“Have a look in that drawer," the man said as he used more rope around Bobbi’s waist, and secured the ends to the armrests, “see if there is anything we can use.”
“Use for what,” Helen said nervously as the first man stood up. Walking round, he knelt in front of Bobbi and wrapped more rope around her ankles, pulling them tightly together.
“These should do the trick.”
Helen looked up to see the second man hold up a selection of chiffon scarves, dropping them all down and then selecting a light yellow one which he rolled into a tight band.
“Open your mouth,” the man said as he pointed his gun at Bobbi, the woman slowly nodding as she allowed his partner to pull the rolled up band between her lips, tying it round her head and trapping her ash blonde hair as he secured the ends at the back of her neck.
“Whttrugnnngtd,” she mumbled as she watched the two men gag Helen and Liz with scarves, a yellow one on Helen and a white one on Liz. The two women tried speaking, but only slurred words came out as they were forced at gunpoint out of the room.
Through an open door, Helen and Liz saw an older woman, dressed in black and sitting beside the young girl from downstairs. Both had their wrists behind their backs, and bands of rope held their arms to their sides and their legs together. They also had scarves pulled between their lips, the girl looking at them with a mixture of fear and apology as they were forced into a back bedroom.
“Sit down,” the man who had bound Bobbi said to Helen as she was made to sit on a low stool, and the man produced more rope, before he pulled it round her arms above and below her chest. The rubber of her raincoat squeaked as the rough hemp rubbed on it, the bands constricting her chest as she whimpered into the gag.
As this was going on, the second man was wrapping more rope around Liz’s crossed wrists, pulling them together as he bound them tightly. She looked at Helen, as another length of rope was passed around her waist, holding her wrists firmly against her back before it was pulled tight.
Helen tried to squirm in the chair, the only sound apart from her muted calls the rope as it rubbed on her coat and her rain boots. IT was a strange sound, like mice squeaking, but the ropes held firm, as the chiffon in her mouth got heavier and heavier with the saliva it soaked up.
“Thssttghtt” Liz moaned as the man wrapped the rope rightly around her ankles. She was sitting in the corner of the room, the man using the same rope he had tied round her wrist to hold her ankles together, and then ankles to wrists.
Helen was watching the first man as he tied her legs together below her knees, her ankles already secured with the rope around and between her legs.
Finally, the men stood up as the one with Helen said “keep an eye on them – check every fifteen minutes on all of them. I’m going to finish setting things up in the main room.”
Nodding, the second man went out with him, Helen and Liz looking at each other before they tried to squirm round. The ropes were tied too tightly however, so all they could do was look at each other, feeling their clothes under their raincoats get damp from sweat and fear as opposed to rain.
Like clockwork, every fifteen minutes the second man came in and checked their ropes, re-tightening them if by some miracle they had managed to work them loose, as the time passed, and the dark and threatening sky both Liz and Helen could see through the window turned pitch black.
Liz had almost given up hope, her chin resting on her chest when two loud cracks woke her up, Helen looking at her as footsteps were heard running out.
“Whtffkjsthpnd,” Liz mumbled as she looked at Helen. Her friend shook her head and then pushed herself up onto her feet, Liz watching as she jumped over and then dropped to her knees next to Liz.
“Cmhhrrr,” she said as she motioned with her head, Liz getting onto her knees as Helen tried to reach her mouth.
“Nnn – ltmmm,” Liz said as Helen lowered her head, and Liz managed to slip a gloved finger under the band tied round her head. It took time, but eventually she managed to ease the scarf out of Helen’s mouth.
“HELP!!! SOMEONE HELP US!!!”
Helen screamed for a few minutes, before she said “Nobody can hear us, can they?”
Liz shook her head as Helen started to pick at the knot holding the rope around her friend’s wrists. Time seemed to pass like an eternity before Liz mumbled “Yssss” and finally shook her hands free. She waited as Helen picked loose the rope around her arms, before she reached up and pulled the scarf from her own mouth.
“Give... Give me a minute,” she said as she caught her breath, and then smiled. “Thanks – let me return the favour.”
Helen got onto her knees and waited as Liz untied her arms, and then they untied their own legs before leaving the room. They first looked in the room where the other two women had been – but it was now empty.
Making their way to the first room, they saw Bobbi sitting there, her eyes closed as she slept.
She slowly raised her head as she looked at them, and said “Hfnkkkgd...”
“POLICE! NOBODY MOVE!”
Liz and Helen turned to see two policemen standing there, looking at them.
“What happened,” one of them said as they looked at the three women.
“We were taken captive – there’s an older and younger woman around here somewhere,” Liz said.
“Found them – they’re unharmed,” another voice called out.
“All right,” the policeman said as he came in, “let’s untie your friend and get you to hospital.”
“An attempted assassination?”
“That’s right,” the Special Branch officer said as he looked at the three women. “They took the building over the previous night – the young girl had to accept a pre-arranged order, and they had not had a chance to lock up again before you walked in. They moved her and her mother to the cellar before they left.”
“We could have been...”
“My advice,” he said as he stood up, “put it behind you and thank the lord they only needed to keep you out of the way.”
Helen nodded as the officer left, before looking at Liz and Bobbi. “You think we should have told him?”
“Nope – we’re in enough trouble with Control as it is. She’s not going to be happy we failed to stop the assassination.”
“We didn’t – we managed to delay them enough to make the swap. Come on – let’s get back to base and get changed. I need a drink...”