Trial day eight. They had covered the Free Fall massacre extensively. Ronnie argued that Tabitha had been there purely as a guest. He even presented an invitation as evidence. The time came to return to the issue of TABITHA’s parents and the video of the murder of MELANIE WALLACE that I had risked my life to obtain. The prosecutor took the lead. On a large screen at the front of the hall, a screen grab of the murder of Melanie was shown. She was on her knees, Tabitha holding her and MARCUS ready to deliver the killing blow. Dennis stood idly by, unable to do anything to stop it – lest he join her. Melanie Wallace was a clerk of the Court. She had been instructed to deliver a note of intent to the Knock Knock club and its supporters. Apparently Tabitha had taken it personally. ‘Send her back to Cyclops in a fucking box,’ she had said at the time. Tabitha declared herself to be fighting the good fight on behalf of the good side of the Shady City. I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as the good side.
JUDGE DOYLE: Presiding
Counsel for the Defendant: RONALD OWEN
Defendant: Tabitha MC Clerks and Bailiffs
City Prosecutor: “Please excuse the delay ma’am, but my next witness wasn’t present in court. I am to understand he has arrived now.”
Judge Doyle looked to the back of the room where the doors were being opened to allow a new arrival.
City Prosecutor: “The prosecution calls DENNIS PLATT to the stand.”
Dennis looked weary in morose clothing with blood shot eyes. Without his signature hat he seemed smaller, thinner. He gave a fleeting glance to Tabitha who scowled back at him. As the trial pressed on she was beginning to lose her composure more often. She was worried. Dennis took the witness bench.
City Prosecutor: “Can you state your position with the Knock Knock club for the court.”
Dennis Platt: “I was acting manager.”
City Prosecutor: “Did you try to stop the murder of Miss Wallace?”
Dennis was shaking his head.
Dennis Platt: “Not as much as I should have. I did warn her but she wouldn’t listen.”
The prosecutor stroked his chin. He turned and observed the expressions on his jury.
City Prosecutor: “How did you come to meet the defendant?”
Dennis Platt: “I was organising some importing/ exporting at the time through Chamberlain Docks. One night I was coming home from a late delivery and I saw her. She was young, alone and in a dangerous area. I took her to my ex wife, who is a social worker, for some help.”
I had heard testimonies like it so many times over the years as a reporter. Dennis’ response was fixed, detailed enough to avoid further question but limited to the point of not really telling anything. It was very rehearsed.
City Prosecutor: “What was she doing there at such a late hour?”
The prosecutor asked this as though that was the issue with the statement.
Dennis Platt: “She told me she was looking for her aunt. She was trying to get the ferry to Hathfield Bay.”
Dennis kept his focus ahead, without looking at anyone in particular.
City Prosecutor: “Just to be clear, her aunt being Tawny McInney? The Baroness of the Knock Knock club, correct?”
Dennis Platt: “Yes, that’s correct.” He nodded in agreement.
This time the prosecutor looked for the expressions of the gathering.
City Prosecutor: “Did she mention her parents?”
Dennis Platt: “Not at first. She wouldn’t tell Olivia why she had left home. All she would say was she wanted to find her aunt.”
The prosecutor interrupted him then, turning to the jury and addressing them directly.
City Prosecutor: “Would the jury please note that the aunt referred to is the elder sister of victim Rob McKinney and sister in law to victim Linda McInney,” Returning to Dennis and urged him to continue. “Please carry on.”
Dennis Platt: “She stayed with us for a while. Olivia tried to get her some help but she wouldn’t let her call Child Services.”
The prosecutor leaned on the witness bench and observed Dennis closely.
City Prosecutor: “She eventually admitted to you that she had murdered her parents and her nanny. Correct?”
Ronnie Owen: “Objection Ma’am, the prosecution is leading this witness.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled,” said she but she continued, “I do ask the prosecution choose their wording more carefully.”
The prosecutor stood straight, his spine like an iron rod.
City Prosecutor: “I do apologise ma’am.” He returned his focus to Dennis. “So what did she tell you about the night her parents died?”
Dennis Platt: “She gave me every detail.”
City Prosecutor: “She admitted to murdering them and the nanny?”
Dennis Platt: “In cold blood.”
Dennis went on to explain the event as he had told it to me. When he had finished the City Prosecutor gave a satisfied grin.
City Prosecutor: “No further questions.”
Tabitha whispered something to Ronnie. She was frowning severely. The lawyer remained focused. He stood and with a clear of his throat he took his turn to address Dennis.
Ronnie Owen: “Mr Platt, can you please tell the court how you came to be the manager of the Knock Knock Club, leaving a wife and young child behind?”
City Prosecutor: “Objection ma’am!” He barked. “Irrelevant to this case.”
Ronnie Owen: “It is very relevant ma’am. If the jury are to take Mr Platt at his word, they need to understand his connection to the defendant.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled. The witness will answer the question.”
Dennis Platt: “She was desperate to re-open the club. She threatened my wife and child if I didn’t help her.”
Ronnie Owen: “I find it difficult to believe that a young girl could hold you under duress and for so long, just by a threat.”
Dennis seemed to gather from a well of strength. He growled and snapped back at the lawyer.
Dennis Platt: “Then you ought to ask your brother what she’s capable of. Jerry, isn’t it?”
Ronnie ignored the statement. He had his angle for removing any legitimacy in Dennis’ statement and he wouldn’t be detracted from pulling on that thread.
Ronnie Owen: “Isn’t it true that you weren’t a noble rescuer but simply took a shine to a young girl you found on the docks? What way was she dressed that night? Looking promiscuous, was she? Did taking her home seem like the sensible thing to do?”
Dennis Platt: “I told you, Liv was a social worker. She had experience with little girls in trouble.”
Ronnie had his bite. It was time to start reeling in the rod.
Ronnie Owen: “Little girls, troubled girls, you had experience in that too, didn’t you?”
City Prosecutor: “Objection! Counsellor is badgering the witness. He is not the one on trial here ma’am.”
Judge Doyle: “Sustained. Do get to your point counsellor.”
Ronnie Owen: “Apologies ma’am.” Returning to the witness. “Is it true that the only reason the defendant was able to coerce you into staying at the Knock Knock Club was because you attempted to assault her and she threatened to tell your wife?”
Dennis was becoming irate.
Dennis Platt: “She needs to be locked away.”
Ronnie still stayed calm. Dennis didn’t have anything to lose at that point but Tabitha did. Her best chance rested on a statement from a man who hated her, pulled forward from a man who shared the name of those who had put her there in the first place.
Ronnie Owen: “Is it true that your business, the business at the docks, was bringing girls into prostitution?”
Dennis immediately denied. He may not have anything left to lose but it would take a long time for the virus coursing in his blood to destroy the survival instinct.
Ronnie Owen: “I could name some of your clients.”
Dennis’ eyes widened. He was deciding whether or not Ronnie would throw his own brother Jerry under a bus in order to win his case. He had had dealings with Jerry in the purchasing of girls, foreign girls looking for a new life in the city, young girls, under age girls for particular parties with particular tastes, boys too. Ronnie wouldn’t want that kind of dirty laundry aired in court surely? The Cappy had fought hard to make sure that that kind of knowledge of his brother didn’t become public. Now that he had Dennis pulling back in fear Ronnie ended his questioning before the City Prosecutor could raise any more objections.
Ronnie Owen: “No further questions.”
It seemed Ronnie wouldn’t bring it up. It was unlikely Judge Doyle would let it stand anyway but the expression on Dennis’ face was enough to plant doubt in the jurors. The women on the jury carefully selected by Ronnie were glaring at Dennis. Ronnie went on to detail Dennis’ attempted assault on Tabitha and how she overthrew him. It was now time to play another hand in the hopes of swaying more onto Tabitha’s side.
Ronnie Owen: “If the court will indulge me, I call CHLOE GROVER to the stand.”
Led by a surprisingly gentle Bailiff the nineteen-year-old girl, Chloe, took the stand. Her head was bowed and her shoulders hunched.
Ronnie Owen: “Good morning, ma’am. We’re going to discuss some things that may be a little difficult for you but we’ll keep it as brief as possible. Is that okay?”
Chloe Grover: “You can call me Chloe. That’s my name.” She smiled at Ronnie but bowed her head again when she noticed the jury were watching her.
Ronnie Owen: “What is your relationship with Dennis?”
Chloe looked up as though she didn’t understand the question so the lawyer rephrased.
Ronnie Owen: “How do you know Dennis?”
Chloe Grover: “I love him. I love him so much. Is he okay?”
Ronnie Owen: “He’s fine but I need you to tell the jury what he made you do.”
Ronnie spoke softly. Chloe responded well to him.
Chloe Grover: “You mean the friends he sent to my room?”
Ronnie Owen: “Exactly. What did those friends want from you?”
Chloe looked a little confused. She was a soft hearted, simple-minded girl.
Chloe Grover: “I had to give them special cuddles. Dennis needed money and I wanted him to be happy.”
Ronnie Owen: “Did you make money from the friends?”
Chloe Grover: “I didn’t need money. Dennis took care of me.”
Ronnie Owen: “How many of those friends came to your room?”
Chloe shrugged like a small child being chastised by a teacher.
Chloe Grover: “I don’t know. The man with the pony tail and glasses said it was five hundred but that’s a really big number.”
City Prosecutor: “Objection ma’am! Dennis Platt is not the one on trial here.”
Ronnie Owen: “It is relevant to the case here. I need the jury to fully understand the circumstances in which he met the defendant and his actions that brought them both to the Knock Knock Club.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled. I urge you to keep your questioning relevant though counsellor.”
A recess was called to allow the jury to catch their breath. The day was far from over.
With Tabitha’s words still ringing in my ears I went in search of Olivia. Word had it that she was at CPD working closely with them on some youth projects. I got a confused look from the receptionist when I asked for Olivia Platt. It seemed she no longer used her married name and I didn’t know what her maiden one was.
“Do you mean Liv Hickes? The social worker lady?” She asked.
I smiled. “That’s right.”
I didn’t want to seem like Olivia and I had never met. Visiting the social worker to check on Chloe gave me some cover should the Law Makers question why I was at CPD.
On instruction of HICKES I was directed to the second floor at the end of a long narrow corridor where Fullerton Construction were adding renovations. It was well lit and inviting. It left the feel of a police station behind.
I knocked on the door. Olivia’s soft voice invited me in. She sounded calm and composed. When I opened the door I found Hickes was there too. He greeted me with a smile.
“Sorry to interrupt,” I said. “I was hoping to have a quick word with Olivia.”
Olivia was the handsome, polite woman Dennis described.
“You’re alright Sam,” Hickes confirmed, easing Olivia’s suspicions of me. He turned to Olivia. “This is the reporter I was telling you about.”
Olivia still said nothing. Hickes laid a hand on her shoulder. “He’s been through a lot.”
“I heard some of what you’ve had to deal with Sam,” Olivia spoke up. “I’m so sorry about your wife.”
“I hear you haven’t had it easy either. Dennis told me.”
Olivia’s eyes widened at the mention of her ex husband so I changed my angle.
“How is your son, Milo? Is he doing okay?”
Olivia eased off. “He’s fine. Thank you.”
“Speaking of,” said Hickes. “I had better go get little mister. He’ll be getting out of school.”
Olivia smiled as she looked up at him. “Thanks sweetie,” she said.
“I’ll see you tonight,” he offered her a quick kiss.
Leaving the room he stopped beside me.
“Get straight to your point and don’t upset her,” he warned. “The only reason I’m letting you in here is because Lydia trusts you.”
“I just want a quick word,” I assured.
“Just be careful,” he finished before leaving Olivia and I alone in her office.
“It’s not my intention to upset you,” I began. “I realise that I am putting us both at a lot of risk by being here but I wouldn’t if I didn’t think it was important.”
“Would you like some coffee?” Olivia asked pointing to a coffee maker in the corner.
“No thank you,” I replied. I had been drinking so much coffee from the hotel that I was starting to feel a little jittery.
“So you spoke to Tabitha?” It was the social worker that opened the dialogue.
“Yes,” I admitted. “She only has warm regards for you. It was she who urged me to speak to you.”
Olivia shook her head. “What happened to that girl was …”
I wasn’t sure if she meant the forced induction into a paedophile ring by her parents or the attempted rape by her ex husband so I tread carefully.
“When Dennis left with her did you know where she had gone and why?” Olivia’s brow tightened. Her swimming eyes clouded.
“I went to the Knock Knock Club when it reopened. A dancer girl threatened me with a knife. She told me if I ever came back looking for Dennis or Tabitha, she would open my throat.”
“Believe it or not I think that was Tabitha’s way of protecting you,” I said.
Olivia seemed to agree.
“She was a very troubled little girl. One of my biggest regrets in life was failing to help her.”
It was time. I had to ask.
“Do you know what Dennis tried to do to her?”
Olivia sighed. She was close to weeping but she held back.
“I had my suspicions that something had happened between them. I guess that was confirmed when they left.”
“Dennis was a prolific paedophile,” I confirmed. I was conscious of my limited time and as painful as it was for her I had to break through barriers quicker. “He tried to rape her and she enslaved him as a result. She took him away from you and Milo to protect you.”
Here Olivia did become emotional.
“Those girls!” She cried. “I wanted to help them and instead I delivered them into the hands of a predator.”
I spoke softer. “You weren’t to know.”
Olivia would hear none of it.
“It was my job to protect those girls and I failed them. I failed Tabitha and I failed others. There was a girl in my care. Alana her name was. She was a sweet girl from the Shanties trying to improve her life. She was trying to leave drugs behind. She had been an addict since age twelve. At first she got along with Dennis really well. I remember being so proud of how good he was with her. They became so close. They had their own inside jokes and little skits they’d play out. Alana was such a loving girl. Her circumstances hadn’t broken her spirit but one day it all changed. She was fifteen. She had been clean for a while. She even began a course at City College. She was doing so well but something between her and Dennis changed. They were no longer close. When I asked Dennis about it he told me that she had come on to him strongly, mistaking his affection for lust. I tried to talk to Alana but she became angry with me and violent. She had to be moved on. She had a history of that kind of behaviour. When I think of what could have happened to the girls in my care, girls even younger and more vulnerable…”
“You mustn’t blame yourself,” I put in.
Olivia disagreed. “Why shouldn’t I? I was supposed to be their protector. Where does the blame stop if not with me?”
“We can’t change the past but we can learn from it and better equip ourselves to stop things like that happening again. The city needs people like you, people with compassion. It’s not for the cold hearted like Doyle or even lunatics like Tabitha to make changes, it is for people like us.”
Olivia gave it some thought.
“What is it you want to know?”
“I would like to know any details you have of Owen victims that came to you. Tabitha is likely going down for a long time but we can still find justice for the others. Will you support me?”
Olivia smiled. “Of course.”
I wanted to end on a more positive note. The discussion would have given Olivia a lot to think about, leaving a sour taste in her mouth. “As despicable a human being as Dennis was, there is something in his words that ring true. He loves his son.”
Olivia took a deep breath. Her eyes glanced towards the window, which gave view of the wider city. “In the interest of telling the whole truth I would like to hear anything Tabitha told you about her parents.”
“You can’t write anything just now,” Olivia reminded me.
“No,” I agreed. “But when the trial is over there is nothing that will stop me.”
Olivia smiled warmly. “Maybe you’ll take that coffee now then.”
PADDY MACK – head of the Mack clan since his father Brendan slipped into retirement – had heard from the CPD officer who brought him cigarettes that the LAW MAKERS were campaigning for the death penalty for Tabitha. The officer watched for Paddy’s reaction but he said nothing. His expression remained vacant. The CPD officer assumed he was worried about his own dynasty. If the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB fell, the DISTILLERY wouldn’t be far behind it. The closed sign across the Auction House was already sending chills resonating to the Shanties. The Mack leader was in the perfect position for negotiations to begin.
It was four pm, Paddy guessed. His room in CPD holding was windowless so it was hard to tell for certain. When the CPD officer stopped by he began to make arrangements to call home.
“It’s just for ma ma,” he told the officer. “She’ll be worried. I just want to let her know I’m still alive.”
The officer groaned. “Fine,” he agreed. “As long as it’s just your mum.”
The officer escorted him to the phones. He stood beside him the entire time.
“What’s he doing Frank?” asked another officer passing.
Frank grinned, leaning on the wall beside Paddy. “He’s phonin’ his ma,” he said, imitating the harsh BELLFIELD accent Paddy had. They both chuckled.
Paddy rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I really need you two feckers right now,” he mumbled sarcastically.
The phone only rang a couple of times before Annie Mack answered.
“It’s Paddy, Ma,” he said.
“Oh sweet baby Jesus! Are you okay?”
“I’m grand. I just wanted to let you know I’m fine.”
Annie was close to tears. He could hear it in her voice.
“I’ll be out soon enough,” the son replied.
“Yer father is just about going spare. He’s been calling CPD but they won’t entertain him. He gave Kieran a right hiding for letting you get lifted.”
“It’s all going to be sorted Ma. I’ll just have to behave meself,” Paddy injected some humour and confidence to help raise Annie Mack’s spirits.
CPD officer Frank pointed to his wrist.
“Listen, Ma, I have to go but I’ll be home soon.”
Paddy took note of Officer Frank’s raised eyebrows, which suggested ‘not in this lifetime boyo’
Annie sobbed. “Are ye sure yer alright?”
Paddy smiled. “I told ya I’m grand. Tell Da to stop phonin’ or the filth are gonna have him too.”
Frank glared at him. Paddy smiled and raised a finger.
Annie giggled. “He won’t be happy until they wheel him in beside ya.”
Paddy was warmed at the image of his outspoken yet wheelchair bound father being brought in to CPD still shouting the odds.
“Ya bunch of wankers!” he would be yelling. “I’ll take the lot of ya!”
After hanging up and being taken back to his holding cell Frank made a phone call of his own.
“He wants back to his family,” he said. “The time is now.”
At five Paddy‘s eyes rested on the doorway where a shadowed figure in a Law Makers blazer loomed.
“Good afternoon, Mr Mack,” a cold, emotionless voice said.
“I’ve already told your lot I’ve nothin’ to say,” Paddy returned.
The figure was unmoved. “Then allow me to do the talking,” they suggested. “The Mack Distillery is a big concern in Coldford. We would hate to see it shut down.”
“You can’t do that,” Paddy retorted.
The figure continued to observe him.
“I’m afraid we can. With criminal activity flowing through the Knock Knock Club and your brand being one of its biggest suppliers we would have no choice but to shut the distillery down pending further investigation.”
“You would put hundreds of people out of work,” pleaded the Mack owner.
The shadowed frame loomed a little closer. A cold breeze charged in from the corridor outside.
“The unemployment situation in the city isn’t Judge Doyle’s priority at the moment. As head of the Mack Clan it is really up to you to protect those people and you can’t do that in here.”
Paddy scoffed. “This is were ya put me.”
Long arms spread from the figure, across its chest. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” they said. “You don’t have to sacrifice your own future and that of your own people. You do realise the club wouldn’t offer you the same courtesy if it meant saving themselves.”
“I’m in a bit of a hurry. I got places to go. Could you get to your point?” Paddy said with minimal amount of jest.
A citation was laid on the floor at Paddy’s feet.
“You are called to provide evidence against Tabitha and the Knock Knock Club.”
“You want me to take the stand against her?”
“It’s been a long time coming. Consider what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot.”
“She’d never let the distillery fall,” said Paddy, but he wasn’t sounding as confident.
“Are you sure about that? She’s already pointed fingers at your brother Kieran for violating licences in the hope of some leniency.”
Paddy refused to believe that. “You talk shite,” he said.
“It seems you don’t know your Boss Lady as well as you think you do. The south is in enough upheaval. The distillery is bigger than the Knock Knock Club. If you cooperate it can continue to produce the finest whiskey in the Shady City. Testify against Tabitha and you can return home to your family. You can continue to run the distillery and we all raise a glass of Macks in your honour.”
“You would let me go?” The hook was set. There was a bite.
“For your sake and for the sake of your workers it would be best. Call it letting one fish go to make a bigger catch. You’re not the one Judge Doyle wants at this point. Don’t put yourself on the rack.”
Paddy read over the citation.
“Fine,” he agreed.
As the trial drew on Judge Doyle sought to put the final nail in Tabitha’s coffin. She opened her courtroom with the promise that the Boss Lady would be broken before her bench. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Tabitha and the strong likelihood that she would be behind bars for a long time, the Judge was still not satisfied. She wanted to break Tabitha of the bonds she had in the Shanties. She wanted to show the people their queen was nothing more than a murdering sociopath who was leading them to lawlessness. She would start from the strongest top branches of Tabitha’s alliances and work her way down. The Auction House snapped. Next up was the long spanning bond between the Mack Distillery and the Knock Knock Club. A photo of Agnes, Tawny, Brendan and Annie hung in the balcony area of the club. That was a different generation though. That was a long time ago. A lot had changed since those photos had been taken. A lot had transpired since the four smiled and the lens flashed. Tawny and Agnes were not their niece. Brendan and Annie were not their son. As Paddy was led to the stand, he offered Tabitha no eye contact.
Judge Doyle: Presiding
Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen
Defendant: Tabitha MC
Patrick Mack: Witness
Clerks and Bailiffs
City Prosecutor: Your family brand has been suppliers to the Knock Knock Club for a generation now.
Patrick Mack: That’s right. Agnes Wilde struck the deal with the distillery when the club first opened. My da was good friends with the Baroness. Tawny, I mean.
City Prosecutor: That arrangement continued when the defendant took over.
Patrick Mack: No reason that it wouldn’t.
City Prosecutor: Having such a close relationship with the club and the defendant I assume you saw a lot of the comings and goings.
Patrick Mack: I saw everything.
The City Prosecutor couldn’t help but grin. Never before had he had such a dish served up on a case. He could taste the verdict and it was sweet on his tongue.
City Prosecutor: Could you detail for the jury exactly what you saw?
Paddy did look over to Tabitha. She maintained his gaze but her expression was difficult to read.
Patrick Mack: I saw your lot ruin good people and Tabitha was the only one to pick up the pieces.
The City Prosecutor turned. He was frowning severely. This was not the statement they had prepared.
City Prosecutor: Mr Mack you are making a mockery of this court.
Patrick Mack: No. What is fecking funny is you think I will sit here and tell you thatTabitha had no reasoning behind what she did. She’s a feckin animal yes, but you need an animal to fight against cunts like you.
City Prosecutor: Enough!
Judge Doyle slammed her gavel.
Judge Doyle: If you do not take this seriously I will hold you in contempt.
Patrick Mack: Then hold me in fecking contempt. I swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and that truth is you are all cunts. Especially you.
Paddy leaned forward and dared to address the Judge directly.
Patrick Mack: I saw Tabitha open up the club to the homeless, stop a deal that would see countless others on the street and protect those who needed it, which is more than you feckers ever did.
The gavel was slammed again.
Judge Doyle: Hold him in contempt.
The Bailiffs escorted Paddy from the stand. He tipped Tabitha a wink as he passed. Her lips formed a smile. Breaking the Mack bond with the Knock Knock Club was going to be harder than Judge Karyn Doyle thought.
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidowTweet
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