Mother and daughter hurried up the path and reached the front door just as the rain started. They were glad of this. They had been out together and neither had taken any wet weather gear. It was just before four.
The mother's name was Hilda. She was in her early forties, of firm build, average height and had short, very slightly greying brown hair. She had a square face which often carried a stern expression. Today she was wearing a beige skirt with matching jacket and a white blouse. Black shoes and a quality black leather handbag completed the picture. She wore no hat, another reason to be thankful they had beaten the rain home.
Her daughter Sally, aged fifteen, was wearing her school uniform. An expensive school, but one the family could afford. Sally was thin with a narrow face and generally known as a quiet, withdrawn girl who did not make friends easily. Her outfit consisted of a green tartan skirt, dark green blazer, light blue blouse with a neat straw hat adorned with with the school badge. In accordance with school requirements she wore white socks, flat black shoes and white gloves. She carried her school case which contained some shopping items the pair had just bought.
Pleased that they had escaped getting wet, the pair went in the front door and down the hall. They entered the lounge and then went towards the adjoining dining room.
And it was here they discovered something was very wrong.
There was an annex off to one side of the dining room which the father of the household used as an office. It contained a chair, a solid wooden desk with two very securely locked drawers and, hidden in a side wall behind a large family photograph, a safe which only the master of the house ever opened. But what really made them pause was the sight of a man standing in front of the desk. He was facing their way and in his hand he was holding a small pistol which was pointed straight at them.
"Good afternoon ladies," he began quite affably, "We had hoped to be gone before you came back. You've made things somewhat more complicated. Now we're going to have to do something about you both."
He was tall and thin and wearing a zipped leather jacket. There was a cloth cap pulled low down over his forehead and he was also wearing dark tinted glasses which tended to disguise his face, which was no doubt his intention. He had opened one of the locked drawers of the desk behind him and it was now pulled right out and many of its contents were on the desktop. He must have been going through them when they came in.
"I've just been going through your husband's papers Hilda. Very interesting, some of them. But more of that later." He waved the gun slightly. "Firstly, would both of you please put your bags on the table there."
The two heard a sound behind them and turned to see a woman standing there. Hilda guessed she must have been in one of the bedrooms when they came in. She was strongly built, about Hilda's height and looked tough and capable. She wore a grey knee length skirt and a loose fitting nylon rain jacket, the hood of which she had pulled over her head. Her hands were gloved and like her male companion she wore dark glasses. Also, she looked about the same age group as him, late thirties, possibly early forties.
"Well, ladies," she said, " We thought we'd be long gone before you got here. Now we'll have to take care of you." Unconsciously she expressed the same thoughts as her partner. "We won't hurt you, provided you're co-operative and sensible."
By now Hilda had found her voice. "Look," she said, "We don't have much in the way of valuables in the house. Why don't you take whatever you've got and leave us alone? We won't do anything."
"All in good time," said the man, "We haven't finished yet." He nodded to the woman. "I'll take care of them. You finish what you're doing."
The woman looked at the pair, then turned and walked out of the room, her nylon jacket swishing as she went.
"Well now Hilda, and you too Sally," he went on, "Put your things on the table, as you were asked. You, Sally, take off your hat. " They did so, both handbag, school case and hat. Hilda's heart sank. He knew their names. Obviously this had been planned.
"And now ladies, it's time to tie you both up," he turned to a small backpack on the desk, which they must have brought with them and took out a coiled length of soft white rope.
"Please," Hilda said, "There's absolutely no need to do that. We won't try to do anything. Just do what you want you do and go. I repeat, there's no need whatsoever to tie us up. Please."
"Ah, but there is," the man smiled, "Unfortunately, it's very necessary. "But perhaps you'd feel more comfortable if you were tied up, not by me, but by Sally here. How about that young lady?"
Startled, Sally looked at him, then at her mother and then at then at the length of rope he thrust into her hands. "Go ahead Sally, tie your mother's wrists behind her back."
"Mum?," said the schoolgirl, speaking for the first time, "Mum, I,I..." Words failed her. She looked at the rope, then at her mother.
Finally she spoke. "How will you feel about this?"
By now Hilda was resigned to the situation. This was a planned home invasion, a situation over which they had no control. The quicker it was over the better. "It's alright dear," she said to her daughter, she even managed a smile, "Do as he says. I won't mind. The sooner they finish here the sooner they'll go and leave us alone." She even turned around so her back was to the girl and obligingly crossed her wrists.
Sally looked again at the rope in her hands, again at their captor and then turned to her mother. She undid the coil and began to tie Hilda's wrists. She did this carefully,neatly putting one loop above the other, pulling them firmly but not, she hoped, too tightly
"Am I hurting you Mum?" she asked at one point.
"No darling, you're not," reassured her mother. At this point the man reached over and felt the lashings. Evidently he was satisfied as he said nothing. Sally finished off the binding with a cinch from top to bottom and secured it with a double reef knot. She had learned rope work and knots as a Girl Guide.
"Quite good," said their captor. He pulled out a chair from the dining room table and put it in front of the bound mother. "Now Hilda, you sit down on this. And you, Sally, kneel down in front of her and tie her ankles." He handed the girl another length of rope to do this.
Hilda sat down and even put her legs close together. Sally knelt and repeated the careful binding on her mother's ankles as she had on her wrists.
"You are getting the hang of it, aren't you?" he said approvingly. "Well now you can lift her skirt and tie her legs above the knees. You'll need a longer piece of rope for that." And he handed her such a length.
The schoolgirl seem reluctant to interfere with her mother's clothing. She remained crouched, holding the rope and looking at Hilda who spoke, "Go on dear. Get it over and they'll be gone all the sooner. I can bear it." She even smiled a little. "You've been very gentle, so far."
And so Sally lifted her mother's skirt and bound her above the knees, using the same careful ties as she had elsewhere. In reality she was a tidy girl who always tried to do everything neatly and instinctively did this even in tying up her mother. When she had finished she carefully rearranged the skirt.
"Well then," said the man,looking approvingly at the now securely bound Hilda. "That's a very good job." Quite professional really, he was thinking. He was beginning to wonder about this girl. "And now Sally, it's your turn." Both mother and daughter looked at him.
At that moment there was an interruption.
They heard the front door slam. A pause, then purposeful footsteps down the hall. And then Tanya, the elder daughter of the house walked into the lounge room. She stopped and looked in astonishment at the group in the dining room and office annex.
Tanya was nineteen and a university student. She had a trim, girlish figure and short brown hair done up in a stylish ponytail. Unlike her quiet, withdrawn sister she was an outspoken, outgoing character, given to speaking her mind. She wore a thick winter skirt and a warm woolen sweater. Unlike the other two lady members of the household she had dressed sensibly for today's weather and was also wearing a long blue plastic raincoat, buttoned to the throat and tightly belted. The hood was pulled over her head and the whole garment glistened with raindrops. She also wore black rainboots and carried a bulging leather briefcase.
"Hello Tanya," said the man, "We certainly didn't expect you home from the university so soon. As you can see we've already met your mother and sister." He was holding the pistol in his hand once more.
"Mum," cried the girl looking at her seated mother and sensing something was wrong with her, though she could not see the actual bonds, "Are you alright?"
"I'm quite alright dear," replied Hilda, "I've been tied up but otherwise I'm unharmed. These people are here now and I suppose are going to take something but then they'll go and leave us alone. Just do as they say and I'm sure you won't be harmed either."
"Very sensible Hilda." This, from the woman who had appeared in the hall doorway, evidently attracted by the new arrival. "You, Tanya, just do as you're told and you'll be OK."
Tanya spun around. "Who're you?" she snapped, "And what've you been doing?"
"Just going through your bedroom actually," smiled the woman. "Don't worry, I didn't make a mess and there wasn't anything I wanted to take. And I must say you're not as tidy as your sister." Tanya glared at this and seemed on the point of another outburst when the man spoke.
"Ladies, that's enough of that," said the man. "It's time to get on with things. Tanya, since you're here it becomes necessary to tie you up, as your mother has been. Don't worry, as she says, she hasn't been harmed and is no doubt comfortable enough. Due mainly to your sister's rope work skills." Tanya turned and stared in astonishment at Sally.
He took another coil of rope and, still holding the gun, walked over to Tanya, took her by the arm and forcibly led her to the table. "And now Sally, since you've done so well on your mother, you can tie up your sister."
Tanya glared, first at Sally, then at the intruder. Who seemed to think this lady was going to be difficult. He stepped behind her and crossed her blue, raincoated arms and then turned to Sally. "Quickly now, we haven't got all day."
And the schoolgirl bound her sister's wrists as carefully and as effectively as she had done her mother's. The plastic material rustled and crackled as she tightened the rope. Tanya looked far from happy but said nothing. She too was made to sit on a chair, only this time their captor ordered her rainboots be removed. Sally pulled off the heavy rubber overshoes and placed them neatly under the table. She then bound her sibling's ankles and thighs as she had done Hilda's.
Tanya, who had scowled silently throughout these proceedings, now decided to be vocal. "I don't know what you think you're doing but there's nothing of great value here so why don't you both get out."
She spoke loudly and clearly and at the same time flexed her arms, putting pressure on her wrist lashings. The bonds, well tied, held firmly. This gesture did not go unnoticed by the man.
"This young lady likes to struggle. We'd better restrict that." He lifted the bound, raincoated girl out of the chair so that she stood upright and nodded to his companion. "Tape her arms so that she can't use them." The woman, already looking in the backpack on the desk, took out a roll of duct tape and began to wrap it around Tanya's upper arms and below her breasts. The plastic waterproof crackled as she wound it five or six times pulling it tightly as she did so. For good measure she also she also put three lengths of tape around the girl's firmly belted waist pulling her bound wrists firmly against her back.
This would restrict her efforts to wriggle her hands free.
Tanya scowled her disapproval throughout. "Anything more you'd like to do?" she asked sarcastically. Hilda's already worried face darkened.
She didn't want this already bad situation getting any worse. She wished her outspoken elder daughter would keep quiet.
"Yes there is," replied the woman. Reaching inside the daypack she pulled out a prepared wad of cloth tied with another strip. "Time to gag you madam. You've far to much to say."
"There's no need for that," retorted Tanya, "I'm not going to scream. I'm not the hysterical type."
Hilda spoke up. "We'll all keep quiet," she promised, "You don't have to gag any of us."
The woman responded by clamping her fingers over Tanya's nose. When she opened her mouth to breathe the gag was dexterously forced inside and the two ties then deftly knotted at the back of her neck, underneath her ponytail. The girl strained and mewed vigorously, found she could not utter a word and finally subsided. She glared furiously at her captor. Who smiled and playfully patted her cheek. "That'll keep you quiet dear," she was informed. "Don't try to talk because you can't. Just let your jaws relax. You'll be be a whole lot more comfortable." She eased the standing girl, now completely bound and gagged, back into the chair behind her.
"And now Sally, it's your turn," the woman turned to the schoolgirl who had been standing patiently while her sister had been more securely tied. "Unfortunately we've used up all the rope we brought with us. We didn't expect to have to deal with so many people. But I can see a filled washing basket through that doorway into the kitchen. Let's go and have a look at that and see if there's something we can tear into strips." And with that she took Sally firmly by the forearm and marched her out of the room.
They returned moments later, the woman holding two pillow cases which she waved in front of Hilda. "As you can see, I've picked the oldest two. The ones you can more easily afford to lose." Thus she reassured the bound and fuming householder. A few snips with a pair of nail scissors from the daypack and she began to tear one into pieces, ultimately producing eight strips. With these she began to tie up the silent schoolgirl. First her wrists behind her back, then her upper arms, finally around her forearms and waist. The woman took some care not to twist the cloth strips and Sally's upper body soon had a carefully wrapped, mummified look. Finally the girl was seated in her father's office chair. This had a leather seat and back and was more comfortable than the dining setting chairs her mother and sister still sat on as they watched the youngest family member being rendered helpless. Next the girl's ankles and thighs were bound, neatly, as Sally herself might have done it. She remained quiet and passive throughout.
"And now, sadly it's time to gag you dear," murmured her captor. With snipping and tearing she fashioned a gag from the second pillow case.
She even hurried into the kitchen and moistened it. "Just to make it a little easier in your mouth, honey," she whispered as she forced it between her lips. She tied it very considerately at the back of her head under the schoolgirl haircut. "There," she said finally, stepping back, "Snug as a bug in a rug."
Meanwhile the man had been busy. He had unpicked the second desk drawer lock and taken out and looked at the papers inside. Some he put aside, with some he had taken from the first drawer. Then he found what he had been looking for - the combination to the wall safe. Swiftly he removed the framed family photograph on the side wall and exposed the safe behind, watched by all three of the female family members. Within seconds he had it open. Hilda reflected silently that he seemed to know where everything was. How carefully this had all been planned!
The safe contained many bundles of neatly stacked banknotes, secured with rubber bands. Which the man quickly began to remove and stow carefully in their daypack.
Hilda felt it was time to speak. "You won't get away with this. My husband has some influence."
The man smiled. "All this is the the result of tax evasion, and perhaps something else. It might be hard to explain how it was here in the first place." Hilda scowled but was silent for the moment.
The woman held the pack open as the last of the notes went in. "Time we were on our way," she said softly.
At that moment the rain, which had been falling steadily since Hilda and Sally had come in began to intensify, drumming heavily on the roof. A rumble of thunder was heard.
The lady partner looked serious, clearly not liking the idea of going out in such weather. Then she said, "Just give me a moment." She quickly pulled off her rain jacket, exposing a thick grey woolen jumper underneath, dropped it on the desk and hurried from the room.
The man watched her go, then picked the jacket and folded it compactly.
The woman returned in a few minutes. She was pulling on a thick, heavy, dark blue raincoat. It was long and fully lined, down to her mid calves and looked very waterproof, just right for what was developing outside. And very expensive.
Hilda's calm vanished. "That's my trenchcoat," she shrilled. "I've only had it a few days. It's almost new."
"I can see that darling," said the woman softly, buttoning it from top to bottom, "Just the thing for what's happening outside. It should keep me nice and dry. Don't you agree?"
"It cost a lot of money," the coat's former owner raged.
"Then I shall treasure it all the more. You can claim for it on the insurance. Perhaps try a change of colour with your new one?" The woman did up the belt carefully, "You are insured, I trust?"
Hilda glared furiously. Finally she said," I've been looking at you two carefully. I'll be able to give very good descriptions of both of you. You'll both do time for this."
"Well now, I don't know about that," said the man slowly as he did up the top of the daypack. "In addition to his ill gotten gains, we're also taking some of your husband's very interesting private papers. The Tax Man would be very interested in them. Particularly with what he's been getting away with for years. And some others the police might like to look at. With the names of a couple of well known Underworld figures. Money laundering perhaps? If we get caught, they'll be found with us. And if we end up doing time, as you put it, he'll most certainly be doing it with us."
The man turned, closed the door of the safe and locked it. "In fact, it might be better for all concerned if you were to say we tried to open the safe and couldn't. That way you won't have to explain what was in it in the first place." Hilda glared, scowled furiously but said nothing.
Now the woman spoke, "Well Hilda, you're the only one ungagged. Of course we can't leave you like that." She reached inside the daypack, now packed and ready and took out another prepared gag. "Open wide darling," she murmured as she held the thick wad of cloth in front of its intended recipient's mouth.
"I'm not your darling," muttered Hilda. She did not like the way events had gone in the latest stages at all. The woman forced the gag into her mouth and tied it in place. It was much larger and more uncomfortable than the one she had made for Sally. It was perhaps unfortunate that her newly acquired raincoat rubbed against its previous owner's shoulder as she did this. Outside there was another rumble of thunder and the rain continued.
The woman was obviously thinking of what lay ahead. She slipped off the sensible flat heeled shoes she was wearing, put them next to the daypack and picked up Tanya's black rainboots, thoughtfully placed under the table by Sally when she had tied up her sister. "These are just what I need by the sound of things outside," she said as she pulled them on. She also took a folded rainhat out of one of the deep pockets of the raincoat and carefully arranged it on her head.
"Really," she said to the bound Hilda and Tanya who were watching her, "I should thank you two ladies for providing me with such splendid wet weather gear." She smiled and did a pirouette in front of them, which caused the heavy skirts of the waterproof to flare up slightly. Both women glared at her over their gags.
Meanwhile the man had produced three long strips of soft black cloth. "Time to blindfold you ladies," he said. "You can say this was done early in the peace, that way you will be excused for not giving accurate descriptions of us. Remember, it's in your interest as well as ours that we don't get caught." He laughed, "We don't want a sharp decline in the family fortunes, do we? Sally may not be able to continue at that pricey school she's wearing the uniform of." The woman, who was carefully tying the blindfold over Sally's eyes, smiled at this.
The invading pair gathered up their daypack and other gear then turned and looked at the three bound, gagged and blindfolded members of the household. The woman quickly checked the ropes on Hilda and Tanya and found them secure. "Goodbye ladies," said the man, "I don't think we'll meet again. Thank you for your co-operation." His partner patted Sally on the shoulder, then tweaked Tanya's nose which brought a muffled mewing from the student.
Both turned and walked out of the house.
Outside in the darkening drizzle they turned onto the footpath and headed towards their car, discreetly parked some distance away. The man had picked up Tanya's large umbrella which had been left to drain on the front porch. His companion turned up the collar of her newly acquired raincoat.
"That girl was a surprise," the man said, "She's either tied people up many times before, or else she's a bondage natural."
The woman replied, "I tied her so that she'll be free in about half an hour. Then she can undo the work she did earlier." She laughed, "But you're right. With skills like hers she's going to make her mark in some circles."
They walked on into the rain.
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