Stamp Theft

by Uto

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© Copyright 2015 - Uto - Used by permission

Storycodes: FF/fff; burglary; capture; bond; rope; cloth; gag; force; chairtie; cons/nc; X

The two Marchand sisters, Elsie and Edith, lived in a large, old wooden house in a remote mountain suburb about fifty miles out of the City. Both were in their early forties, they were unmarried and seemed likely to remain so. They were a thin, spare pair, the family resemblance very obvious. They were neither attractive nor unattractive. They had been here for about seven years and were not much involved in the local social scene.

They had not always lived in this distant area. Their childhood and youth had been spent in very fine house in a exclusive upmarket city suburb. They had lacked for nothing in these early years. But their father had died when they were nineteen and twenty and it was then found that he had been mismanaging the family wealth for years. He owed money everywhere and most of the assets were mortgaged. His widow, little better as a businesswoman, had blundered on for more than a decade but when she passed on very little remained of the family's once great fortune.

The two daughters were in their early thirties by then. But they had managed to scrape together enough of what remained of the family money to provide for themselves. The fine residence they had grown up in, mortgaged to the hilt at that stage, had to be sold and they had bought this rambling old residence miles from the area where they had lived. And they had come down in the world socially as well. In about fourteen years they had gone from desirable catches on the marriage market to girls the privileged young men they had once known now didn't want to know.

But they had rallied and established a household in this far mountain area which was mainly occupied by retirees and local tradespeople. They had even been able to salvage enough of the family riches to provide themselves with modest incomes to to live on. Which was just as well, as there was little chance of them being able to earn their own living comfortably. Both were poorly educated, despite the expensive girls school their they had been sent to and they had been trained for nothing. Long ago it had been expected they would marry well within their own social class. Now they looked like becoming a couple of spinsterly old maids, not far above a state of genteel poverty.

One last vestige of the upper class life they had once enjoyed remained. Back then they had had two live-in servants. Here they had Dulcie, a local lady of forty five. Down on her luck some years back, Dulcie was now a housekeeper/companion to the sisters and lived in her own room in the big old house. Like her employers, she had never had an occupation and it had meant work like this or very likely homelessness. But she was comfortable here in an area where she had lived most of her life and Elsie and Edith were not slave drivers. Dulcie was content.

The fortunes of the sisters Marchand might have been different if they had been more fully informed about an event which had happened a few years back. An old uncle had died and they had inherited his stamp collection. It was thought to be of little value but it had been felt it should not go out of the family. Neither of them had any interest whatsoever in stamp collecting. The six loose leaf albums were kept in a locked wooden cabinet in the rear of the house. They had not been looked at for years.

But a less than scrupulous stamp dealer was better informed. He knew that the old collection contained several sets of rare first edition stamps. Worth many tens of thousands if offered for sale in the right places. And he knew the right places. It seemed a waste that such treasures should be in the hands of people who had no idea of their worth.

And so an organization that specialised in removing items from their owners, for a price, was consulted and a plan was formed. The three women were to be victims of a home invasion. They were to be tied up and under the guise of a general robbery the stamp albums were to be removed. By the time anyone worked out why an almost valueless collection had been taken, if they ever did, the rare stamps would have been long disposed of.

Two very accomplished ladies were to do this. Beryl, in her early forties, a fit, solid and determined woman. Liz, short thin and slight with a pointed chin she looked younger than her twenty eight years. The pair had often worked together and considered the subduing of three middle aged ladies something they could handle easily. Like all their projects it had been meticulously researched and prepared for.

They set out on a chill winter night. Their car was parked a short distance from the Marchand residence beside a reserve where trees grew to the edge of the roadway. The two approached the front door quietly and cautiously. Beryl wore an overcoat, buttoned to the neck, Liz, a grey raincoat and had a carry bag slung over one shoulder. Each wore black leather gloves. Before ringing the bell, both put on dark glasses.

Elsie went to answer the door. Dulcie was in the kitchen, finishing the washing up. Her sister Edith was out, but expected back later. She herself was a somewhat thin woman, of average height with an oval, pale face. Her short black hair was neatly pinned back. She wore a belted black dress and plain glasses. She wondered who this could be, they so rarely had callers.

"Good evening," smiled Beryl when the door was opened, "You're Elsie, aren't you? Well, my friend and I have come to pay you and your sister a visit." At the same time Liz pushed the door open and forced her way into the house.

"What," said the surprised Elsie, "Who're you? What do you think you're doing?" Liz moved behind her and pinioned both of her arms. Beryl clamped a black gloved hand over her mouth and forced her back into the hallway. With her other hand she flicked the front door closed behind her.

Beryl looked at the indignant householder. "Now Elsie," she said softly, "I hope you'll be sensible about this. We don't want to hurt you." She took a small black revolver from the pocket of her overcoat and held it a few inches from the hand gagged woman's nose. Elsie's eyes bulged. "Now we don't want to have to use this, do we? Just be quiet and calm and everything will be OK. Nod if you understand." It was difficult, but she managed to move her head up and down. "Good. I thought you'd be reasonable." The gloved hand was removed and the gun put away. "And it is unfortunately necessary to tie you up. My colleague and I will do that now." Liz was holding her captive's arms with one hand while she reached for prepared lengths of rope in her carry bag.

Elsie by now had regained the power of speech. "Look," she faltered, "There's not much money in the house and no valuables. Why don't you just go and leave us alone?" This, she felt, was quite true. Both sisters were totally unaware of the treasure in the stamp collection they never looked at.

"Let us worry about that darling," said Beryl cheerfully, "You just stand still with your arms at your sides." And with that they began to bind the by now, very unhappy Elsie with pieces of soft white rope from the carry bag. Liz crossed her wrists behind her back, tied them both sideways and up and down and finished them with two firm reef knots. Her companion lashed her upper arms tightly to her body cinched them under each armpit. She then took out a prepared gag out and held it up where the captive could see it.

"And now it's time to deprive you of speech. We don't want you making any unseemly noises. It won't be as bad as you might think. Just let your jaw relax and open your sweet mouth." Beryl smiled encouragingly. Meanwhile Liz was tying her around the waist, securing her already bound forearms. Elsie in her dark dress was beginning to look like a well wrapped black package, neatly tied with white string. But the thought of being gagged did not appeal to her at all.

"Please," she whispered, "Don't put anything in my mouth, I mightn't be able to breath properly. I won't ..."

Whatever she had to say was lost as Beryl took advantage of her already open mouth, thrust in the wadded pad in the middle of the gag and deftly tied the two ends under the black hair at the back of her neck. Elsie Marchand was now securely gagged and bound from the waist up. Throughout this entire operation her two captors had repeatedly glanced down the hall to see if the housekeeper, whom they knew was in the house, would come to see what was happening.

Back in the kitchen Dulcie completed the washing up. She was a lady in her mid forties, solid and somewhat shorter than the two sisters, she had a square, pleasant face with short hair, just starting to go grey. She usually dressed conservatively and the skirt, blouse and cardigan she now wore was typical. Normally, as housekeeper/employee she would have answered the doorbell, but as she was doing something, Elsie had obligingly gone to see who it was. Such was the free and easy relationship between the Marchand sisters and their household help.

Dulcie had heard voices at the front door, then finally silence. But when, after many minutes, Elsie still hadn't come back, she wondered what was happening. Probably some of those tiresome religious people, they were hard to get rid of. Stripping off her rubber kitchen gloves, she decided to go and see herself, and give moral support if necessary.

Walking along the dimly lit hall she saw two women standing close together inside the front door. They blocked her view of Elsie, whom it appeared was behind them. Dulcie could only see the top of her head. Both, she noted were dressed for inclement weather, wearing raincoat and overcoat. But she did wonder why they were wearing dark glasses if it was so wet outside.

Both were looking at her. Beryl smiled and spoke, "Hello, you must be Dulcie, we've already met your employer. Come and join us."

Suspicious, Dulcie stopped dead. "Who are you? I want to see Miss Marchand. What's your business here anyway?" Clearly she had doubts about them.

Beryl walked walked towards her and for the first time the housekeeper could see the bound and gagged Elsie. "What! What've you done? Who are you?" she gasped.

But by now Beryl was beside her and had her pistol in her hand. "As you can see we've tied her up and who we are doesn't matter," she explained pleasantly, "And now it's your turn Dulcie. Don't be alarmed." And took her by the forearm and marched her firmly to where Liz was already getting the necessary ropes out of the carry bag.

The two professionals swiftly tied up the housekeeper as they had bound her mistress, now standing mute and fuming in the corner of the hallway. They used the same cut lengths of white rope. And they used the same techniques, Liz secured her wrists, Beryl her upper arms. Only Dulcie was a little more apprehensive. She started to sob quietly.

"Don't be upset," said Liz, "Just relax and you'll be OK."

"She's right, you know," Beryl commented cheerfully, "This won't take long. We'll be on our way before you know it." To give the pair their due they did not believe in terrifying their victims if it was not necessary. This must have consoled the housekeeper as she became silent. "Time for your gag," she was told. This was produced, inserted and tied without a murmur. Mistress and employee were now securely bound and tightly gagged in the hallway of their own household.

"Well ladies," said Beryl, brightly surveying their handiwork, "Comfortable as can be expected I hope? Now let's adjourn to the lounge room." And each taking a captive by the forearm, marched them down the hallway.

In the lounge they saw a wide lounge seat with solid wooden armrests at the ends. "That, I think will do very nicely," said Beryl, "Sit down ladies, if you please. One at each end." Both women had to be manoeuvred into the desired sitting position. Perhaps, though helpless, they resented being ordered around in their own home. Liz dropped the carry bag on the cushion between them and both assailants knelt and tied the ankles of each captive. Next they bound both above the knees, lifting their skirts to do this and then thoughtfully straightening them after. Finally rope was looped around their waists and securely tied to the armrests at each end. "Just so you don't wriggle into the centre and try to untie each other," they were told, "We don't want that happening, do we?" Elsie glared at them.

"Well then," said Beryl,stepping back when this was done, "That's got you girls taken care of. Now let's get on with things."

The pair went through the motions of searching the house. Drawers were pulled out and sometimes upended, cupboards were opened and contents scattered. But care was taken that nothing was broken and small items were carefully laid sideways and not knocked over. In short it looked like a thorough ransacking but was nothing that careful tidying could not restore entirely. It was all part of the fiction that this was a simple burglary. As they quite expected it yielded very little.
Finally they ended in the back room that held the wooden cupboard that contained what they had really come for.

The cupboard was of solid timber but Beryl picked the lock within seconds. Inside the six albums were neatly stacked on the bottom shelf. "I'll take them out to the car," said Liz, "You can finish off here. If you re-lock this carefully it mightn't be noticed that they're gone at all. And it doesn't look as if we're going to meet the other sister. She must be having a good time of it." After this last cryptic remark she gathered the loose leaf books up and carried them off.

Fifteen minutes later the intruders stood in the lounge with the bound and gagged occupants of the house. "Well ladies," said Beryl to the pair, "Time we were on our way. Sorry we didn't meet the other lady of the house. She can untie you when she gets in. You may give her our regards."

At that moment there was rattle of a key being inserted and the front door was heard opening and closing. "That's her now," murmured Liz. Firm footsteps were heard coming down the hall. Beryl and Liz moved to meet the new arrival.

And they met her outside the door into the lounge. Edith Marchand had her sister's thinness, dark hair and oval face but she also had a look of determined purpose about her. Clearly she was the one of the pair who accomplished things. She wore a damp belted trench coat which indicated the worsening weather outside. She stopped and looked sharply at the pair, also dressed for cold weather, who had stepped into the hallway. Liz had slung the carry bag over her shoulder.

"Who are you?" she demanded, "What are you doing here? Does my sister know who you are?" Clearly, she was not a woman of patience.

"She knows all about us," smiled Beryl, "And it's unfortunate, but she's somewhat tied up at the moment and can't join us."

"What," snapped Edith, "Where is she?"

Beryl obligingly stood aside from the lounge room door and pointed inside. Inside, not twelve feet away, Elsie sat helpless and mute on the lounge. Edith's eyes widened. She raised her rain coated arms and glanced wildly back down the hall to the front door. Obviously she was prepared to either fight or make a run for it.

The intruders knew what to do. Beryl seized one arm and put a black gloved hand over her lips which were just opening to scream. Liz grabbed the other and turned it round behind her back and pulled a short rope out of the carry bag. Edith struggled furiously for a time but could do nothing against these two professionals. Finally, when it was whispered in her ear that they would render her unconscious if necessary, she desisted.

The pair set to work to tie her up and for a time she submitted quietly, the only sound being the rustle of the white ropes against the waterproof fabric of her raincoat. She looked carefully at both of them while this was being done. Finally she spoke.

"I'm getting a good look at both of you," said the far from frightened Edith, "So that I can give a good description later."

Beryl turned and shut the door into the lounge behind her. Obviously the bound and gagged pair inside were not going to hear this. "Well Edith," she smiled, "You might be looking at us, but we've also been looking into you too. We know for instance where you've been tonight."

"I've been to a church council meeting at the parish hall," snapped Edith, defensively.

"Oh, we know that. We also know it ended nearly two hours ago. We saw the other three ladies come out of the church hall when it did." Beryl spoke softly and knowledgeably. Edith was stiffly silent. "We also saw you and the Reverend Darnell unobtrusively enter the rectory by a side door and then a subdued light came on in the bedroom. And we know the rector's wife is away right now. Pity those two don't get on. But you seem to providing some consolation. The reality is that you and the Rev Charles Darnell have been having a discreet affair for quite a while now, haven't you? We trust you both had a good time this evening?"

"So perhaps," Beryl continued, "It wouldn't be a good idea to give an accurate description of us at all. If we were caught, all this would come out. Imagine the furore in this quiet conservative little backwater. The Reverend Charles' career might well be over. His wife, as you no doubt know, is a vindictive woman and comes from a very influential family. It wouldn't do your reputation any good either. Or your sister's. I'd suggest you say you didn't get a very good look at any of us. In fact you weren't sure if there were two or three of us. And get the other two to say the same thing. You can do that."

Edith scowled at both her captors. By now her arms had been bound securely with several lengths of rope. "All right." she muttered, "All right then. And I still can't understand why you came anyway. There's nothing worth your while here." Clearly she was the practical one of the household.

"Let us worry about that," smiled Beryl. "And now, unfortunately we must gag you. Then we'll seat you comfortably in the lounge with your sister and Dulcie. Since you are a person who knows what to do in an unexpected situation, we'll loosen some of your knots. That way you'll be able to free yourself after we've gone and untie the others. And remember Edith, only a vague, inconclusive description of us afterwards."

Edith glared but stood unmoving while she was gagged. At the same time Liz deftly adjusted the bindings around her wrists. "You'll be able to get out of that in an hour or so," she was told. She was then pushed into the lounge room, seated in a soft leather armchair and her ankles and legs above knees were firmly tied.

"Well girls," said Beryl cheerfully, "You'll be pleased to see we're going. Thank you for your co-operation. In two hours we'll make a telephone call to the authorities, just in case you haven't been able to get loose yourselves." A meaningful look at Edith and both left the room.

They left the house silently by a side door and walked quietly and unobtrusively to their car.

As they drove off Beryl spoke. "Some years ago I knew Edith's boyfriend, the Reverend Charles Darnell, slightly. He was a student at university in those days."

Liz nodded. She understood there was a middle class upbringing in Beryl's background but knew better than to ask questions.

"He was Charlie Darnell then and quite a ladies man even at that time. Strange, he's ended up in a situation like this. I'll bet he's not happy here. That's probably why he and Edie are lovers."

The car drove on into the night.

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