“I love you Dennis.” CHLOE wept. “I love you more than anything. I really do.”
“Sit down,” REGGIE PENN – the youngest of the Penn triplets – shoved her dismissively away. Her thin, little body was unable to hold up against his strength. She fell against the wall and slipped down onto her bottom, weeping. MARCUS – the eldest triplet by minutes – circled DENNIS like a hyena stalking its prey. Dennis should have known. Nowhere in the Shady City was safe from her. He had been so careful in hiding Chloe. One of the clients must have sung.
Chloe wasn’t a KNOCK KNOCK girl though. TABITHA shouldn’t have even known about her. Surely a stern warning for using the club as a venue for prostitution would be called for? A debt to pay for the money he had collected perhaps? Dennis wondered if they had found out he had spoken to me, a reporter. The Penns were only at two-thirds of their strength but the odds were still stacked in their favour.
“I’ll pay you half of anything I earned,” Dennis pleaded.
Reggie laughed. Marcus remained stoic. Reggie’s grin was sinister under a mop of blonde hair. Clearly he was high on something.
“Don’t hurt him. I liked doing it,” Chloe called out. “He wanted to make money and I wanted to make him happy.”
Marcus’ lips tightened. Reggie folded his arms. Dennis knew this wasn’t going to be a stern warning. Tabitha was sensitive on certain subjects. He should know that better than most.
“Pack him up for the AUCTION HOUSE,” was Marcus’ decision for Dennis. “The girl will come with us too.” Dennis’ chances of survival were becoming even more limited by the minute.
The room in the Auction House he had been taken to only offered one route of escape. The smell of the perfume Chloe had generously sprayed on (perfume Dennis had given her) masked the odour of damp rot from the old artifacts that would normally be kept there.
“C’mon guys. See sense in this. You’re businessmen. The girl told you she consented to it. She consented to all of it. I kept her safe. I’ll cut you in, all three of you.”
“You talk so much bullshit I can smell it on your breath you slithering cunt,” Reggie grinned. Marcus turned to him and with a gaze – no gesture or words – his brother fell silent.
“You are telling me that she consented to hundreds of men?” Marcus pressed.
“She was given her share,” Dennis replied.
Chloe pleaded, “I did it because I love him and I wanted him to be happy.”
Marcus ignored her. “You are telling me that she consented to being bound, beaten and left bloody?” He kept his steely stare focused on Dennis. Reggie loomed behind him.
“It was what the client wanted,” Dennis explained. Normally a man of silver-tongued words, they were falling flat for the former Knock Knock club manager.
“What about what she wanted? You took that choice away from her.”
Chloe leapt to her feet. “Please don’t hurt him!” She rushed at Reggie, her tiny fists pounded on his chest. He grabbed her narrow wrists.
“Would you look at this?!” he jested, shoving Chloe’s malnourished frame back into the chair again. She dropped her head into her hands and started to weep.
“You took that choice away from her,” Marcus repeated, “just like you took that choice away from all those other little girls.”
Dennis’ eyes widened. ‘Shit!’ he thought. They weren’t really there about prostituting Chloe after all. It was about his taste for young flesh. Underage flesh. Tabitha had been biding her time, torturing him. Finally, she was ready to deliver her punishment. It didn’t make any sense that she would leave it to the triplets though. She made Dennis her whipping boy years ago. Surely she would have wanted to be there for the finale. Without the bitch in the red dress pulling the strings of her triplet marionettes it seemed even more chilling, more uncertain.
“That hasn’t been an issue for a long time. I gave up everything. I gave up my family. Just ask the Boss Lady!”
Marcus flanked his right side. Dennis had a clear view of the doorway. He could take his chances and run for the door, but had he become so heartless and self-preserving that he would leave Chloe in the hands of the Penns? She was a victim as far as they were concerned. But if Dennis fled, who knows what they would do to deliver their own brand of justice.
“I’m giving you a choice. Life or death?” Marcus stated, his voice booming an echo against the old walls of the Auction House.
“Life, Dennis! Live with me,” Chloe screamed.
Reggie clasped her chin. His thick blonde hair concealed some of the spark behind his eyes. “If you don’t shut up and let us do our job, I’m going to cut him open from tit to toe.”
Reggie looked back at his brother. “She’s really grinding me. Her whining voice got on my last nerve about a half hour ago.”
“Let me go. I’ll go far away. You’ll never have to hear from me again. I’ll disappear,” Dennis put in.
Marcus needed confirmation. “So you are choosing life?”
Dennis hadn’t survived as long as he had without having his wits about him. He was shrewd enough to know that whatever the Penns had planned for him, death would be preferable. But he had his son, MILO, to think about. He hadn’t seen his boy in years. He would be so grown up by now. He wondered if the head of thick, dark hair he had been born with would have lightened or if it was still the same. OLIVIA, his ex wife, had wanted to change the world in her own little way, make it a better place. She thought she had been helping those little girls by bringing them into her home as a social worker. She didn’t know she had been bringing them into the clutches of a predator. Tabitha had been one of those girls. She had been the one to tame that predator, removing his sharp teeth and his appetite along with it.
“Life,” Dennis agreed.
Whatever horrors the triplets had to inflict would be nothing if it meant seeing Milo again. Marcus turned with raised eyebrows to Reggie. Reggie drew a phone from the back pocket of the black jeans he wore. He dialled. There were a few rings that seemed to echo the beat of Dennis’ heart. Ring ring, ring ring.
“We’re going to need Cathie down here. Dinner for two.”
“No!” Dennis cried out. “No, I changed my mind. I choose death. Please! I choose death!”
“Too late,” said Marcus simply.
With a whack Dennis was knocked out cold. When Dennis came to again they had stripped him naked. He tried to run towards Chloe who waited hysterically in the hall. They caught him and dragged him back.
“Reg?” Dennis tried the younger. “Please don’t do this.”
“One thing I’ve learned,” Reggie replied. “People suck. And you are dregs of them all.”
Abandoning reason due to the danger he was in, Dennis did try to run but like a rabbit caught in a trap there was no logic to his escape.
An excruciating hour later the security door buzzed. Reggie answered and allowed entry to a skeletally thin man who reached over six foot tall. He was the monster of a man they called Big Cathie. He was so called because of the catheter in his hand attached to a drip he pulled behind him.
He wasn’t long for the world. Cathie was an AIDS patient. He would be dead soon by some disease or other, but in the meantime the Knock Knock Club kept him in a life of luxury because they found him most useful. The HIV virus proved a useful tool in threatening enemies when they refused to cooperate, and when all else failed a way of inflicting a slow and painful death. There were treatments of course but the virus was still enough to elicit fear in the most stubborn.
Cathie was treated like a king on behalf of the HEADLINERS. In return he would oblige their wishes. Tabitha was a good woman as far as Cathie was concerned. Life had dealt him a harsh blow. He had two sons and a wife he would be leaving behind. His wife didn’t want to know him but he could at least provide something for the boys. Tabitha guaranteed that in exchange he would use his horrible virus to infect creeps like Dennis.
Cathie had only met the club manager once but his reputation preceded him.
“Little kids? That’s fucking disgusting,” Cathie had agreed. The Penns saw infection with HIV as something of poetic justice.
“Look guys. This is unnecessary. If the Boss Lady thought I was so dangerous she wouldn’t want me running around when I could infect young girls, would she?” Dennis played the only hand he had left.
“Are you saying that if we do this we won’t be teaching you a lesson?” Reggie put to him.
“It could make me dangerous,” stated Dennis.
Reggie brushed his hair back and grinned. “Who says we were going to let you go?”
Marcus gripped Dennis by the throat. “It’s a terrible thing, taking a young girl before her time. It can be painful for her but it is also damaging in ways that will never heal. Your filthy stench will gnaw at her for the rest of her life. So you are now going to sample at least some of the hurt you inflicted on those innocents. This virus will eat away at you. Just like those little girls now afraid of anyone touching them, you will feel what that is like as disease courses through your veins. When you stole the innocence of those little girls you gave them a life sentence. The virus is going to steal a little part of you away every minute of every day. What will kill you? Measles? Rubella? Common cold? Who knows? Maybe you will have some idea of the torture you have put your victims through. They will never get over what you did to them just as you will never recover and you will never come within sight of your little boy again.”
“C’mon Marcus. This is just a scare tactic. I submit okay. I submit!”
As Reggie spoke, Dennis heard Tabitha’s voice. “No scare tactic this time. So you can drop your pants and bend over or you can take that poisoned cock in your mouth. You see? Choices!”
“I know Tabitha is a spiteful bitch but please …”
Reggie pointed to Cathie’s flaccid penis. “You better get that thing fired up. This one is a wriggler.”
Dennis was laid across the table. Cathie hovered in the corner like the threat of a biblical play. Marcus set about securing Dennis to the spot. Reggie climbed up on the table and sat down.
“You see the game last week Cath?” He asked Cathie.
He was referring to a football match between Coldford City and the western town of Bellfield. The father of the triplets, Reginald, was proud owner of City and the Penn Auction House sponsored them.
“I didn’t watch the second half,” Cathie admitted. “Those Bellfield bastards should never have gotten a penalty.”
Reggie nodded in agreement. “You are right there. Should have put four past them, if it weren’t for their fucking keeper.”
Cathie nodded consolingly. Meanwhile Marcus continued securing Dennis to the table.
When he finished, Reggie cheered. Dennis could feel the dirt and crumbs of the table against his bare stomach. Marcus was seated at the table’s end, watching with an expressionless, cold stare. Reggie was standing beside him. Chloe was still crying hysterically out in the hallway. She couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. All she could say was, “Special cuddles for Dennis because I love him.”
Big Cathie had his hands clamped around Dennis’ waist.
“I know he’s an ugly cunt,” Reggie commented to Cathie. “Just close your eyes and think of City.”
Reggie stepped outside the Auction House where the air was cooler. The interior always seemed so claustrophobic to him despite its high ceilings and open rooms. It was why he preferred the warehouse just on the outskirts of City Main. It was in this warehouse he kept thirty-three cages of rats. Ever since his father gave him a black rat on his thirteenth birthday he’d had a fascination with rodents – rats especially. Next to humans rats were the most successful species on earth, but unlike humans they still operated on an instinctual level. That spoke volumes for them as far as Reggie Penn was concerned. He liked to watch them, observe their behaviour patterns and apply that to human interactions. He guessed he was a scientist at heart. If his mother hadn’t wanted him to take his share of their namesake Auction House he could have been in a lab somewhere, but there he was helping his brothers keep things running smoothly.
Observing the rats he noted there was nothing they wouldn’t do for a little gratification. If you pierced them with electrodes that stimulated an orgasm every time they pushed a button they would keep pressing on that button, forgetting all else until they died of thirst or starvation. Their young followed soon after. In that sense the rats weren’t unlike humans, Reggie decided. We too are always chasing gratification, whether it’s from a partner, alcohol, drugs or sugar. We always chase that feel-good.
Reggie also observed that no matter what he did to the rats they would always see him as master. He could burn their tails, make them watch as he cut off the heads of their young, it didn’t matter because the minute he brought them a food pellet he was a God to them. Humans could be trained in the same way. It just took a bit more time. He even tried it with his brother. Rumour has it he had tried to masturbate Simon to see what would happen. Simon beat him bloody for his troubles, resulting in a hospital trip and their mother being very upset. Not every experiment was a success.
Reggie did love his rats though. Initially he didn’t intend on naming them. It was more scientific that way. He fell in love with them though and they deserved names. Jacket was one of his favourites, named because of the brown pattern on their back looking like a jacket. His other favourite was Smash who derived his name from the Lonesome Nights game.
He put a cigarette between his lips and drew his phone from his pocket. It seemed like an appropriate time to update his social media pages. He couldn’t tell his followers about Cathie – although in Reggie’s mind it was probably the thing they would love to hear about, something hilarious that they would all get a kick out of. But he would play nice. He had already had to set up several new profiles because his previous ones had been shut down due to ‘violation of the rules.’
He was scrolling through pictures of scantily clad young women pressing LIKE (a lot like an orgasm button he supposed) when the phone started to ring. The caller I.D was one of their agents, Jeremy.
Reggie answered. “Yeah?” he enquired.
The agent sounded a little flustered. It wasn’t unlike Jeremy to be uptight but he seemed more so than usual.
“The Boss Lady has been taken in,” he said. “A friend at CPD just told me. They’ve got Simon too”
At first Reggie was unsure he had heard correctly. “What did you say?” The noise of the City Main traffic seemed to drown out the agent’s voice.
“They’ll be coming for you and Marcus. The Boss Lady has been taken in. I’m at CPD now. Simon was taken too.”
“The Boss Lady has been taken in. Let Marcus know. He isn’t answering his phone.” At that the agent rang off.
Just as Reggie prepared to head back inside and warn his brother a fleet of CPD cars pulled up. Led by Kim Adams. Before Reggie could move Kim was on him.
“I’m already having one Hell of a day so are you going to test me?”
Reggie grinned and reached his arms up.
“You’re making a mistake,” he warned.
“Yeah, your brother said the same thing.” The CPD officers closed in.
Reggie Penn was taken into custody.
Marcus growled at the noise of the commotion. He sensed what had happened but it was too late to retreat. He hated the idea of being forced into retreat anyway. If they had managed to bring Tabitha in, the Penn dynasty was in immediate danger. Like a house of cards, the pillars of The Shady City were beginning to fall. Kim appeared at the door.
“It’s over,” she said.
“For now,” was Marcus’ cold reply. He came surprisingly quietly.
It could have been his imagination but Dennis could already feel himself becoming sick. Was that really the case or was his mind playing tricks on him? He couldn’t know for certain but he certainly felt weaker than he was before. Sure, the Penns hadn’t gone easy on him and Cathie had left him bloody but the disease, the virus was already raging around his body. If it was a placebo effect it was damn good one. Before Dennis had met Tabitha he had always been the man in charge, the go-to guy. She had stripped him of every bit of effervescence he had until he was a shadow of his former self. Was it a fitting punishment for the harm he had caused to little girls or the result of a mad woman’s psychopathic tendencies? It wasn’t my job to judge or to weigh up justice. Tabitha was behind bars and likely would be for a long time. Nothing was going to delete what Dennis had done to those little girls or his turning simpleminded, desperate girls like Chloe to prostitution. What mattered then was how he was going to use what time was left for him.
Trapped in the Auction House he had limited options but a guy like Dennis was never held back completely. He could at least make strides to protect himself.
“Chloe?” he called.
She had never left his side. The Penns weren’t exactly stopping her leaving but it wouldn’t be likely she could walk out of the Auction House so easily. She chose to wait with him. Wait for inevitable death? In the end maybe she would climb into the coffin beside him. It may be difficult to understand but she truly believed she couldn’t live without him.
“You have to go,” he said.
“No!” she squealed. She had been waiting on him asking this of her but it was the one thing she wouldn’t give. “I’m not leaving you.”
“You have to. I need you to find me a doctor. If you ask Marcus, he will allow it. Please. I need you to fetch me a man named DR WINSLOW.” Chloe blinked the tears away that were forming in her eyes. “Marcus will let him come here. He’s the only one who can help me. He’s the only one who stands a chance of helping me live long enough to see an end to all of this.”
“I’ll find the doctor,” cheered Chloe. “I’ll find him and he will make you feel better. I promise. I’ll give Marcus whatever he wants and Reggie too if you like.”
Dennis managed a smile. He shifted on the wooden panelled floor and winced in pain.
“Good. I need you to ask Marcus very nicely to bring me Dr Winslow. Can you do that?” Chloe nodded simply. She looked a little confused and upset still so he needed more confirmation. “Repeat it back to me, kid.”
“I ask for Dr Winslow. I ask Marcus really, really nicely.”
Dennis managed a smile again. She was so glad she could cheer him up.
Speaking more to himself he said, “She thinks she’s got the last laugh. I’m going to fuck her up. If I’m going down, I’m going to make her sorry she ever crossed my path.”
Chloe blinked, perplexed. The bitterness in his voice wasn’t like him. He was normally so calm even under dire circumstances.
The point was moot anyway because CPD had already landed on the Auction House. Marcus was under arrest and as the officers burst into the room where Dennis was being held he and Chloe were separated. It seemed Dennis’ day of beating and questioning was far from over. As manager of the Knock Knock club and willing to talk against his Headliner masters, Dennis was an incredible asset for the Law Makers as the trial was set. Chloe looked up to Kim’s strong and protective face. It reminded her of a lioness she had seen at City Zoo when Dennis took her once to meet a client. The lioness had put herself in front of the cubs and watched the alpha male closely. The alpha male was intimidated. It wouldn’t approach the cubs whilst the lioness was around.
“Are you hurt pet?” she asked softly.
Chloe managed a smile despite herself. “I’m fine.”
Kim reached her hand out and clasped Chloe’s. “I’m going to need you to come with me. It’s going to be okay.” She spoke into her comm device. “I need some women officers in here.”
Thanks to Lydia’s international agency team, Chloe was taken to the safety of CPD.
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidowTweet
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