Knock Knock: Episode 37: The Good Gang

The visitor room of The Boss was bustling with people. It was a lot less subdued than the more secured wings where visitors were limited. Vincent Baines had frequent visits from David Finn offering updates on the search for Tawny.

The artist seemed dismayed at seeing his friend in prison so he would come, sit at the table and chat about current events. Sometimes he would forget himself and lift his feet up as though they were back in rehab again.

“What are you doing today?” he would ask.

Vincent would find himself smiling. “You know my routine. I’d much rather hear about what is happening outside.”

“They still haven’t found Tawn. Do you think she’s still living?”

David started to sob as he considered the worst. Vincent patted his back.

“David,” said Vincent. “David, lift your head,” he instructed.

With a struggle David listened to the former music teacher. He sat back up and wiped the tears on the sleeve of the shirt he wore.

“You know Tawny wouldn’t want you going to pieces. It’s not going to be easy but…” Vincent stopped himself. He was finding it difficult to finish his words smoothly. He took his spectacles off and started to clean. “I’m so sorry,” he said eventually putting the spectacles back on. “I wish there was more that could be done.”

“Tabitha is still in the Monte Fort,” David said.  

Vincent frowned. “Monte Fort? I thought she was…” he hesitated trying to find the best way to put it. “I thought she was gone,” he said delicately.

David was instantly cheered. “No man! Didn’t you see? She’s still alive. They faked her execution and now Judge Doyle is going ape shit. When Tabitha gets out she’s going to go nuclear on those Kappa So fuckers.”  

Vincent stopped David. He was familiar with the artist’s passion, his loyalty to his friends but he also knew of his habit of running his mouth. He was sure Agnes would have enough to deal with. The Boss Lady shouldn’t be getting that kind of encouragement.

David hunched at the table again but he kept his head up. “I know she didn’t believe in religion or anything like that but I just wish that wherever she is she could give us a sign, you know? That she’s okay.”

Vincent was nodding in agreement, still dealing with his own acceptance of what had happened. David looked past him. His eyes widened. A grin spread across his face.

“Holy fucking shit!” he exclaimed. “Thanks Tawn!”

Vincent frowned as David stood. He looked over his shoulder. David was already crossing the room to an inmate he recognised.

Winslow – former owner of Harbour House and now Coldford Correctional inmate – looked as though he was wishing upon wish that the ground would swallow him and chew the bones.

“David,” Winslow greeted, putting his head down.

David raised his eyebrows. “Oh, it’s David now is it?” he growled. “No more, Mr Finn you need help. Mr Finn, you shouldn’t be doped up. You’re a disgrace Mr Finn.”

“Water under the bridge,” Winslow tried.

“Is it fuck,” said David. “If I’m going to be thinking about everything you did for the rest of my life you are too.” He rolled up his sleeve and exposed his arm. There were no fresh track marks. “I’m sure you‘ll be pleased to know I’m clean. Months with you was enough to put me right off.”

“I can’t leave this table. If I do the guards will stop me,” Vincent was trying to signal a guard.

“Back to your seat,” a guard called.

David gave a parting shot. “Oh and by the way, Tabitha is still alive,” he said. “Just imagine what she’s going to do to you when she gets her hands on you.”

David returned to Vincent who was still watching from across the room. Tabitha was a huge concern for Winslow. If it was public knowledge that she was still alive it meant something had happened on the outside among the Law Makers.

Winslow spotted the teacher as they were being led back to their respective blocks. Winslow stopped him.

“Vincent,” he tried a familiar greeting. “I know we’ve had our differences but as men of intellect I’m sure we can stick together.”

Vincent stopped. “You let that psychopath, George Beckingridge, do whatever he liked with me. You knew I was trying to get my head straight and you let him hurt me and people that I loved. Those aren’t little differences, doctor.”

He observed Winslow more closely. He started to laugh. “Goodness,” he said. “They took your title too.”

The body language of the people he met told their story easily to Vincent. It was a keen insight he had had his whole life. The flinch Winslow made when he used the title coupled with the sweat that broke immediately after helped him deduce. Winslow couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

“We should stick together,” he said.

Vincent shook his head. “I don’t think so. I have enough trouble in here being an ex teacher accused of fondling his pupil. Lies, you sir, could have have stopped George spreading. I really don’t want to be associated with the likes of you. That being said I do have two friends in North Wing who will be absolutely delighted that you have joined us. You knew their mother, quite intimately. I learned that on the last day at Harbour House. You were so concerned with the bailiffs you seemed to have forgotten the journals you had on your desk. You burned them up afterwards of course but I’m an observant man and I like to read. Rita Penn trusted you. She trusted you when she thought she was pregnant and you aborted her baby without her consent. I am going to have to break that to Marcus and Simon gently. I want them to tear you apart for what you did to Tawny first because,” here Vincent gave a bitter laugh. “You sure as Hell are not going to survive what they do to you for hurting their mother.” Vincent was ushered on by an impatient guard. “Shower alone, Gregory,” he called. “It’s a principle I’ve come to live by.”

***

Tawny could hear the door open. She heard the voices. The one that rolled above the others was Buddy’s.

“Gave her the night of her life,” he was boasting to his bros. “Julia was like, ‘will you stay with me?’ and I was like sorry babe that’s just how I roll. Can get too much of good thing, right!?”

“That’s solid, brah,” Tawny could hear Chad Perry agree.

“I don’t think I could stay away. A chick like Julia Harvester throwing herself at you?” Cooper was saying. He must have thought about the farm girl a bit too much. “I’m jonesing, brah.”

The storage cupboard was opened. Tawny was seated with her legs crossed and arms folded.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she jested.

Tawny had managed to keep a brave face but in truth she was terrified. So far it had just been frat boy pranks but she didn’t know how far they would go to prove themselves. If Buddy was anything like his uncle things could turn real nasty, real quick. She was worried, without a doubt, but the more time that she did actually spend with them she began to realise they were nothing more than three juvenile minded boys whose families placed so much pressure on them that the only way they could escape was with drugs. They were messed up. They were looking for their place in the world and causing a lot of destruction trying to find it. They were…Tawny frowned. Was that a golden cock they were carrying?

They had another visitor with them this time. He was watching Tawny with a little bit of drool on his lips. His hair looked as though it had been chopped with a knife. He was carrying a stuffed mouse in his arms which, coincidentally, was wearing a matching Kappa So jacket.

“Hello, George, honey,” said Tawny. “Long time no see.”

The Beckingridge boy had been tormenting his former music teacher within Harbour House so they were already familiar. Vincent Baines had been a close friend of Tawny’s.

***

Jackson threw the newspaper down. The Filton Crier, owned by BeckingridgeFinancial Firm, had printed a story detailing the Owen family being suspected in the disappearance of Tawny, the Knock Knock Baroness.

“That hussy thinks she can walk all over us,” Jackson objected.

“The Cappy knows what he’s doing,” Billy put in.

Jackson scowled at his son. “I worry he no longer has the capacity. I was talking to the board and it is time he tendered his resignation.”

Ronnie raged. “You went behind his back?”

“That’s a low thing to do,” Billy assured his father.

Jackson maintained his stance.

“I had no choice. Since Pops’ death everything has been spiralling out of control.”

The Owen cousin spoke the truth.

“It’s not his fault,” Buddy spoke up. When they all looked at him he said nothing further.

“Who do you suppose would do a better job?” Ronnie asked. “You?”

“Naturally the board would look to me,” said Jackson. “I always worked closely with Pops.”

Ronnie shook his head. “You wouldn’t have achieved half of what Chick has and you know it. These are extenuating circumstances.”

Jackson had fallen cold at the insinuation that he couldn’t live up to The Cappy’sreputation. He spoke calmly.

“That’s what worries me,” he said. “With all that has happened Chick might be losing his nerve.”

At that the door to the den opened. Chick himself greeted them. His eyes looked a little strained as though he had been lost in thought for some time.

“Come in,” he said to his family. “I’ve made my decision.”

They joined him in his room and Chick took his seat behind his desk.

“Things here in Coldford are becoming more and more difficult by the day. It’s becoming more of a struggle for me to put things right,” The Cappy addressed them.

Jackson looked to Ronnie. To him it was confirmation that Chick was in fact losing his nerve.

“It doesn’t help that y’all keep fucking up at every turn and corner.” 

Jackson frowned.

“Ronnie,” he began. “You’re a good man but you let those pikey terrorists walk free. I cannot have that. Billy,” he addressed his nephew, “I brought you here on the understanding that you would bring that murdering nutcase with a chain in. He still walks a free man. Either you up your force or I find someone who will.”

Buddy’s eyebrows raised as The Cappy’s gaze fell on him. “You, boy. Don’t even get me started on you or we’ll be here all night.”

“All of this I could abide. Ya’ll are family. However, when the board turns to me and suggests I stand down because of your mistakes? Well, that about makes me so mad I could spit. Jackson? I know you’re behind it and if you eva’ question my leadership again I will knock your teeth so far down your neck you will shit them out in single file. Am I clear?”

Buddy’s lips tightened. His eyes widened. Then The Cappy stood.

Jackson nodded but The Cappy wasn’t satisfied he had made his point.

“I’m going to need to hear y’all sign off!”

“Yes, sir,” the all replied in synchrony.

Chick took his seat again.

“If I were to step down it would be through my own choice and Jackie, you would never succeed me. Now onto business. We are being pushed into a corner. The distillery has been removed from the playing board but whilst our pretty boy booze hustler is still at large it means nothing. Billy, I want so much CPD presence on the streets that that boy is unable to so much as breathe without having a badge waved in his face. The thieving from our outposts is affecting business. It stops now. It has also become more and more important that Reginald Penn is apprehended. That little bitch, Tabitha, crying curses across the city really got my back up. I want that son a bitch Reginald behind bars before the Law Makers decide what to do with her. If he ends up dead?” Here Chick spread his arms and shrugged. “Well that would be swell.” He took a large intake of breath. “I’m going to give y’all one more last chance to end this. I’m calling Kick Off.”

Buddy’s eyes widened. His grin spread.

“No way!” he gasped but buzzing with excitement.

“I’ve never been more serious about anything in my entire life.

Ronnie was shaking his head. He lowered his gaze.

“It’s kick off time boy!” Billy cheered. “A’body knows when you hear that whistle bitches better start running.”

He clapped his father’s shoulder.

They filed out of the den but Chick stopped Billy.

“Bill,” he said. “I want you to take Betsy.”

Billy beamed with pride. First Kick Off then having the honour of carrying The Cappy’s favourite rifle. It was a good day.

***

The agents and I received an invitation to Harbour House. We weren’t sure as to why but since Elizabeth Beckingridge seemed to have similar motives as ours we accepted.

David described life in Harbour House to me in great detail. When I visited Vincent he did too. It was like the home of a childhood friend. It was comforting and warm but you just couldn’t shake the feeling that something sinister went on between the parents behind closed doors. That was how the musician put it. His description was accurate, I observed, as I stepped inside. It was decorated in the style of a home but the winding corridors were cool and unwelcoming in places.

Elizabeth had been waiting for us in the reception. Her assistant, Mark, was by her side. She had tried everything she could with her money and influence to find Tawny. It had been her own private investigators that led CPD to the body washed up on the Filton Ford, at the foot of the Fullerton Bridge. The remains had been stripped and cleaned of any evidence. They were looking for car crashes reported in the area but it was a wide net to cast and very unlikely to produce anything solid. It was frustrating when the culprit was known but no Law Maker would help until evidence gave them reason to.

“Ta da!” Elizabeth sang.

Mark applauded. The rest of us all looked confused so he stopped.

“Perhaps I should explain to these people what we’re doing here,” she decided. Mark agreed.

“Well, I’ve been following Sam here for a while and I’m quite impressed with your progress. It can’t be easy for you cramped in your little apartment. So I gift you this…” She turned to demonstrate the entire facility.

It was Agent Kim who spoke first.

“You’re gifting us Harbour House resources?

Elizabeth nodded, pleased with her offer. “It’s everything you could possibly want. It has research facilities, secure rooms, space for whatever fight training it is you people do. It also has some lovely gardens. They were beautiful, weren’t they Mark?”

Mark again agreed. “They were. A little overgrown but I’ve got the gardeners coming in tomorrow.”

Elizabeth beamed. “Then it’s settled.”

The agents looked among themselves. It would make a difference.

“You,” Elizabeth pointed to Lydia. “The pretty one.” Kim turned with an exasperated frown. “Don’t you ride a motorcycle? There’s even space to store it.”

Lydia laughed. “My bike is out of commission at the moment. It had a bit of a face off with a bull. Kitty is going to be in repair for some time.”

Elizabeth smiled, girlishly. “Mark, note that she calls the bike Kitty.”

Mark took note.

“Fear not, Kitten,” she said to Lydia. “We’ll have it back together in no time. Anything you need just let me know.  I’ll supply whatever equipment you need, computers, weapons, licences. Oh that reminds me. Mark the agents will need licence from the Law Makers to act as private investigators. Memo to Judge Doyle’s office.”

Mark was busy noting whilst the rest of us were busy trying to comprehend what was happening.

“We‘ll need a name.” Elizabeth’s novelist spirit was taking over as she created the scene in her head. “What about the revengers? No that sounds too aggressive. The force for Justice?” She shook her head. “That’s even worse.”

Kim stepped in before Elizabeth got too carried away. “Thank you for giving us this opportunity. We just want to do some good in the city.”

“We’re the Good Gang,” Lydia chuckled.

It was a tongue in cheek reference but it seemed to have ignited Elizabeth’s excitement again.

“That you are Kitten. You’re the good gang and you should be named after a good person.”

There was only one person I could think of whose name and sacrifice was worthy of such an accolade.

“Hickes,” I said. “Hickes was the one who brought us all together.”

We all agreed. None of us had been expecting to form the Hickes Agency but given the state of affairs in the city it seemed that it was just what was needed. As the saying goes – evil prevails when good people do nothing.

As the agents began to scan the area Elizabeth took me aside. “Hickes is a fine suggestion,” she said. “I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a fellow writer. I read Marble Mantle by the way, we’ll discuss that later.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked her.

She stopped. With Mark aside and the agents inspecting it was just us.

“I put everything I had into finding Tawny. In doing that I learned so much about what was really going on. I spent my whole life in Filton. I had no idea what was happening beyond the manor walls. That was my mistake. Everyone told Ernest that he was naïve. I did too but I realise that I am no different. I don’t want to be naïve. I want to know everything that is going on so I can be prepared for it. Because experience has taught me that all the money in the world doesn’t give you wings when a pissed off bastard from the Shanties wants to throw you out of a hundred story window.”

She was feeling guilt for not having found Tawny. She was experiencing survivor guilt for outliving her brother when she could have pulled the Tower into order any time she chose. Most of all she was feeling guilt for never having given a second thought to the plight of the rest of the city until its troubles came hammering on the manor gates.

She beamed when Lydia returned. “That bike of yours,” she said. “Let’s get it repaired and functioning again.

“It may take a while,” Lydia admitted. “I am waiting for the upgrades.”

“What kind of upgrades?”

“Preparing her for combat situations. Increased torque, armoured body, weapons perhaps?”

Elizabeth clapped her hands with glee. “Yes!” She cried. “I’ll give you what you need because that is happening!”

“I know someone who could help,” I suggested.

She drew a bottle of champagne from behind the reception desk. “Let’s celebrate.”

“This lady is nuts,” Kim commented to me.

“I tried to warn you,” was my reply.

An author’s zeal with billions to back her whims made for a very interesting combination.

“Pretty one?” Kim teased. “Cheeky cow.”

“Well babe, some eyeliner and a touch of lippy wouldn’t be a complete loss on you,” Franklin jested.

When he saw Mark struggle to open the bottle, he offered his help. Their eyes met. Mark gave a wide smile. Franklin pulled the cork. Pop.

“Thanks,” said Mark.

“You’re welcome,” replied Franklin.

Elizabeth took the bottle and glugged from it.  

“Here’s to a promising future,” she cheered.

In a city upturned by the bad, Coldford needed the Good Gang.

***

Excitement was in the air with the formation of the Good Gang. Amidst the struggles, the fears and the upset it offered hope that things could get better. The next stage of the journey brought us to the suburban town of Jameston, known by the locals as Jamestown on occasion. I was one such local and on this particular day I had brought the agents to a garage owned by my father, Samuel (or Sam Senior).

He was always pleased to see me return. When I first left for Coldford it had been he who had warned me against it. The idea of living in the city didn’t well with him. Considering what I had been faced with in that time I can’t really blame him.

My father was a cheery soul who loved good company and what better company on this day than the agents of the Good Gang. As pleasant as it was they had come for a purpose. The attention to that purpose was brought by Elizabeth Beckingridge.

“You must be Mr Crusow,” she said a little flirtatiously when she saw my father.

My father smiled at her. He seemed quite beguiled by her too. It was all quite horrifying for me.

Before my thoughts could wander onto the idea of having Elizabeth as some kind of twisted step mother figure Lydia was captivated by all the bikes and cars the garage had on offer.

When my father noticed he said cheerily, “I have something real special for you. It’s not been easy to get together and It’s not been tested yet but it’s really something.”

“When I was a little kid, I dreamed of a day I’d get to work on something like this,” he said with excitement. Lydia was excited too. We all were.

“I want to thank you for the opportunity,” he told Agent Lowe.

There she was. She was to be Lydia’s own personal transport. In tribute to this the formidable bike was named Kitty. We all gave an audible gasp.

“Terrific job!” Elizabeth cheered.

“That is far out!” gasped Agent Reynolds.

There was no more time to lose. It hadn’t been tested so all that was left to do was for Lydia to demonstrate what it was capable off.

***

“The city descended into anarchy last night as a wave of protests turned violent. The violence was sparked when Elizabeth Beckingridge of Beckingridge Financial firm deliberately destroyed a priceless heirloom of Kappa So,”

“Captain Charles Owen had called for a simple apology from Miss Beckingridge – who has a history of mental illness within her family. Miss Beckingridge refused and was believed to have taunted the destruction that she caused. Captain Owen had called for understanding after Miss Beckingridge’s childish behaviour but anger spilled over last night. Perhaps Miss Beckingridge will make that apology now. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily News.”

***

The service elevator of the Faulds Park building opened. The space was filled by a formidable figure. He was sleep deprived but still spurred on by anger and adrenaline.

“Reginald!” Rita shrieked. She ran from Franklin’s side to her husband who collected her in his embrace. Agent Kim was on her feet, Lydia followed her lead.

“Not one step further,” Agent Kim warned.

She was expecting confrontation, judging by the fury that was laced into his expression. Her estimations weren’t completely wrong. However, the King of Main had come alone. Belta’ slid from his sleeve. Franklin too was now armed.

“Rita, pet,” warned Kim. “I’m going to need you to step back.”

“Please,” Rita plead. “We don’t have to do this.”

Reginald kissed his wife, disregarding the guns aimed at him. “It’s okay, my love,” he said. “I would like to talk peace with the agents.”

At that Rita did let him go. Reginald slowly laid Belta’ on the table. Stepping back he raised his arms.

“I’m here because of my son, Junior. They have taken him and I have learned they are holding him at one of our warehouses. They are looking for me to go fetch him and if I do there will be more blood shed. That is what they have come to expect. Junior could be killed. I hear you agents are good at extraction and infiltration.” Here his lip curled. “My other two boys and Tabitha are testament to that.”

Agent Kim narrowed her gaze. “You want us to do your dirty work for you?”

“I’m asking you to save my boy. I trust you saw the video? You know what they did to him. Tawny was a good friend of mine too and she’s still missing. Will you help them?”

With a nod of her head Kim gestured to Lydia who eased off. Franklin followed suit.

“We’re still on appointment of the Office of Law Makers,” Kim reminded him.

Reginald gave a regal nod.

“I’m aware. That’s why if you agree to bring Reggie home I’ll hand myself into your custody.”

Rita sobbed. She tried to plead with her husband. With tensions eased he was able to take her into his arms.

“I promised I would do whatever it took to bring your baby back,” he told his wife. To Agent Kim he said, “I hand myself to you and your agents alone. I don’t trust CPD.”

“Good,” Kim agreed. “That’s something we can agree on.”

“Find Junior,” Reginald pushed. “Bring him home.”

***

“We’ll do what we can for you,” said Agent Kim to Reginald Penn. “But we have to go now.”

Reginald nodded. “Do what you can for Reggie. No matter what happens to me I need you to bring him home.”

The kick off riots had calmed a little but there was still a lot of tension on the streets. The Good Gang were hoping that whilst that distraction was there Reginald Penn could be brought in without incident.

The King of City Main said a fond farewell to his wife. He told her to give the boys his best. He promised her once again that her baby would be brought home.

A note I have made before on Reginald and one I wish to reiterate at this time was his noble nature. He was a noble man, that much has been noted too but as he departed the tower he gave his thanks and well wishes to his staff. He knew them by name. He commanded their respect.

“Long live the king!” they cried as he made his exit.

Through the bustle and noise of Main, even about the burning and crying of the rioters could be heard the sound of horse hooves.

The agents who had taken Reginald into their custody were closed in by none other than General Van Holder of the Subala Black Bands.

“I’ll take it from here, Agents,” Van Holder warned.

“He’s in our custody,” Agent Kim warned.

“Then I relieve you of your duty,” Van Holder insisted. “He’s under terror charges and that is my duty to the High Court.”

“It’s fine,” Reginald said to Kim. “I’ll go with him.”

If we are all honest with ourselves we would agree there was no other choice.

Through the streets of Main, the King was dragged behind Van Holder’s horse. The Kappa So present taunted and spat on him. The loyalists in support were pushed back as more Black Bands began to flood the area.

On the steps of the High Court, Judge Doyle waited. The law was the law and it was not above kings.

Van Holder brought the King to his knees.

“On King wrangled, Your Honour,” he said.


Enjoy this?

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Reggie Penn was always an odd duck. He liked go off on little adventures. His family knew he would return eventually. If he stayed away too long his father would come looking for him and no one wanted that.

Hathfield Bay island feels a world away from the city and Reggie keeps missing that damn ferry.

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