| Under 18 Minutes |

Safe and Sound

A single moment can make all the difference between chometz and matzah, between success and failure. They raced the clock — and beat it!

"Did I ever tell you about the robbery?” Buba asks.

I open my eyes wide, trying to look both curious and stunned. Truth is, I’ve heard Buba tell this story before. And not just once. But it’s still one of my favorites. Robbers, guns, a safe full of jewels, and my very own Buba as the daring heroine!

I lean into the couch, wrapping my hands around the hot cup of tea. Buba’s emerald eyes are pensive. We’re sitting in her cozy apartment on Golders Green Road, but her mind is elsewhere, crossing the bridge over London’s winding North Circular. It’s a trip to around 50 years earlier, to one of her previous homes at 4 Green Lane, Hendon.

“It was a quiet Yom Tov morning. The men were in shul. I was busy downstairs when the doorbell rang. I opened the door, and the next thing I knew I was surrounded by men, some masked, one brandishing a gun. One of them seemed strangely familiar.

“‘I know you!’ I confronted him. Angrily, he propelled me toward the safe, which, surprisingly, he knew the exact location of, and ordered me to quickly open it.”

Buba’s face is set, her mouth a determined line. “Most of the valuables in the safe weren’t ours,” she explains. “People trusted your zeida and had given them to him for safekeeping. I knew that a robbery like this would break Zeida. I couldn’t do it to him.”

“When we had the safe built, your zeida had installed an alarm that was connected directly to Scotland Yard, but the alarm button was at the top of the stairs. I had to get to it. Fast! I turned to the robbers, and told them that I had to go upstairs to get the key to the safe.”

A small smile escapes, and her eyes twinkle. “Actually, the safe had a combination lock. There was no key… But the robbers hadn’t realized that yet. They escorted me to the stairs, the gun still trained on me. I quickly made my way up the carpeted stairs to the bedroom, and managed to press the small button on the wall without them noticing. The police would be here in a matter of minutes. I just had had to delay the robbers and prevent them from emptying the safe before then.

“I made a show of rummaging through the drawers in the bedroom, but soon the robbers became impatient and took me back downstairs, roughly pushing me toward the room with the safe. As soon as they realized the lock was a combination lock, and I’d been fooling them, they became incensed.

“One of the heavier ones thrust me against the metal door of the safe, shouting at me to enter the combination. I felt the barrel of the gun pressed hard between my shoulder blades, and then blinding pain as he rammed it into me repeatedly. I couldn’t slow them down much longer. The police should have been here already. I just had to delay them a little longer and the police would be at my door. Only a minute…

“I slowly fumbled with the buttons, playing for time, pretending to be entering the code. The tension was rising, and the robbers began to threaten me. I turned around, ignoring the pain shooting through my shoulder, and looked them in the eye. ‘I’m trying to remember the combination and to open the safe. But it’s very hard to with a gun against my back.’

“The gun was removed, but their eagle eyes were watching my every move. They were dangerously angry, and I knew that there could be no more dilly dallying. Slowly I began to enter the code, the seconds ticking stridently by… I pressed the one and the seven and… tick, tick, tick…

“Along with the ticking, the most glorious sound filled the room. My doorbell! Triumphantly, I smiled. ‘That’s the police. Coming to arrest you. I’ve rung the alarm, and they’ve come down to check what’s happening.’

“Quick as a flash, the robbers made for the nearest exit — the glass doors leading to the garden. There was a deafening sound of splintering glass, and shards cascaded over the floor. The ruffians clambered through the hole and were instantly gone, disappearing between the bushes. I turned towards the door to let the police force in.”

Buba looks at me, her green eyes twinkling. “I opened the door wide, and there was a single policeman sitting on a bicycle!” Her facial expression reflects the frustration she must have felt then. Her lips are pursed. Tightly.

“By the time the police got their act together and brought in more manpower, the robbers were long gone. As we found out later, they simply climbed up the trees, and had a wonderful aerial view of a single bobby on a bike coming to arrest them. By the time the men came home from shul, after a long Yom Tov davening, the action was all over.

“Despite Scotland Yard abandoning the case due to insufficient leads, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I knew one of the robbers. There had been something familiar about him. Where did I know him from?

“One day, it suddenly came to me.”

Buba leans in confidentially. “I knew his face, because he’d been in my house before. He was one of the men who’d come to put in the safe. That’s how he’d known the exact location; he’d installed it there!”

“I contacted the company that we’d ordered the safe from and got the details of the employees who’d come to my house. I handed over the leads to the police, and they tracked down the worker. He’d fallen in with a gang of thieves, and was eagerly passing on information regarding the location of safes he’d helped install.”

Until Buba saved the day.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 736)

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