Episode 40: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The people of Bellfield had crowded outside the Love Street Harvester store. They were banging on the windows and crying in words that Julia couldn’t quite hear or understand through the accents. They were using local dialects but given their tone it wasn’t difficult to decipher their sentiment.  

She was glad Glenn and Curtis had accompanied her as they prepared to set up and have the store opened.  

“It’s getting a little rowdy out there Jules,” Glenn warned. “I don’t like the look of them. They’ve got bloodshot eyes.” 

Julia was nervous but she didn’t show it. She knew the people of Bellfield would be sensitive to a new name and brand being opened when they had just lost their identifying feature in the distillery. They had lost their beloved Macks and the Black Band presence was still being held on their street. The store needed to be opened and if it hadn’t been for the Black Bands nearby, she would have waited. Time was of the essence though and in order to cover the losses from the purchase of the docks all stores needed to be operational as soon as possible. She had been welcomed with open arms by the rest of Coldford. Even then, even as they called at her, she was certain that Bellfield wouldn’t be any different. Given what they had just gone through they would most likely require extra sweet-talking. The Harvester brand was about bringing people together. If there was any part of Greater Coldford that needed their home comforts it was Bellfield. It was an area that prided itself on community and the Harvester brand could provide them that.  

“I should speak to them,” suggested Julia.  

Glenn was hesitant. “Maybe we should just wait a little. They just lost their distillery. It doesn’t seem like they are keen on welcoming new outsiders. They got the funeral for the little Mack too. Now’s not a good time.”  

“We can’t waste time staying closed. This store needs to open,” Julia had to admit.  

Curtis was busy pulling shelves together. “If we open now, they’re just going to come in and wreck the place. Those gypos have laws of their own.”  

“Then I really need to speak to them. I don’t want them thinking I’m the enemy. They will be welcomed as part of the Harvester family. Hiding in here and then staying closed is only going to confirm their fears. If I don’t speak to them then the purchasing of this store will be for nothing. We are their friends.”  

Curtis moved and took a look from the window. “I don’t think those cunts got that message.” 

Julia was becoming more sure. “They just need to know who we are.”  

She opened the door. Glenn nodded to Curtis to be by her side.  

“Thank you all for coming,” she said. “I am so glad to be here in Bellfield. We still have much to do but thank you for coming down.”  

“How about you take your store and shove it up yer arse!” called one of them.  

Julia could feel Glenn and Curtis close in on her.  

“With recent events I can understand why you are so upset but I look forward to joining you and working towards a promising future.”  

A brick was launched. It cracked the main store window. Curtis had drawn out his cattle prod.  

“Back off!” he warned. “You better back off.” 

Julia clutched his arm. She didn’t want to give up so easily. “We all want the same thing.”  

“The smoke from the distillery is still in the air and you step over the ashes thinking you’re one of us? Feck off!” called one.  

“We can rebuild,” Julia made one last suggestion.  

Another stone was launched. Glenn pulled her back.  

“Now’s not the time. We’ve got to pull back.”  

Her bold move in purchasing of the docks had left the Harvesters financially vulnerable and now Owen Inc and Beckingridge Firm were rebuilding at a rapid rate. She not only needed the Love Street store to open but she needed it to be a success. Bellfield was going to be a tough nut to crack.  

*** 

“We got a lot of shit to take care of little bro,” said Billy Owen as he and Buddy drove the south bypass. It’s hard enough I gotta work my own tasks at CPD but now I gotta have you along with me, hanging from my ass like a dangler that just won’t shake off. When The Cappy asked me to keep an eye on you I thought you could at least lie low at the Chapter House for a couple of days.” 

“I didn’t …” Buddy began. 

“Shut the fuck up!” Billy barked. “Did I say you could talk? I’m commissioner remember? I know what they found. Jerry gone and be sat at the retirement home like a drooling vegetable and you are still doing his dirty work. Why can’t you be more like your old man?” 

“You and me, Bud,” Jerry insisted. “The rest of them ain’t got nothing on us.”  

“You’re treating me like your own personal cleaning crew and you’re making The Cappy look a fool. I ought to slam you in The Boss for that. Every powder house in Coldford closed down and you still manage to score. I’d admire your resourcefulness, cuz, if it didn’t make you such a dick head,” Billy was going on. “I hear from some of the brothers that you were as high as a kite when you promised The Cappy you wouldn’t touch none. You’re going to push his loyalty to the limit one day, if you don’t push mine first.”  

“Are you finished?” Buddy snapped.  

Billy slammed his feet on the brakes. He turned to Buddy with a scowl.  

“You wanna ask that again?” he challenged. 

Buddy had nothing to say. He stared straight ahead and the car started up again.  

“I thought so,” Billy grumbled. “All this shit going down and I find you at Harvester Farm chasing that Julia chick around like a dog trying to hump her leg.” Billy gave a throaty laugh. “Didn’t take long in dropping your ass when a bigger cock was on offer though, huh?”  

Buddy leaned huffily on his car door. He could see his scowl in the side mirror but he kept his curses inward. It had been his collection from the farm that had rendered Buddy angry. Billy had made a complete show of it as he liked to do, ever since they were boys.  

“What’s wrong, Buddy?” Susie had asked him. 

Buddy smiled at his little mascot. “I got some unfinished business kid.”  

Susie nodded. She didn’t know what the unfinished business was but she sensed its importance.  

“I gotta speak to Julia,” he decided.  

He had come to the farm for that purpose. He had given himself three different whores to try and distract himself but it didn’t work and the itch he now had wasn’t worth it. The brief moment he had spent with Julia couldn’t be erased from his mind. He had been so distracted by it he even called home to star state.  

“I’m in love, Mama!” he announced.  

“Huh?” was Ida’s response. She had either been so surprised by her son’s statement that she was rendered dumb or she was already on her third cosmopolitan.  

“Did my baby just say he’s in love?” she finally cheered. “Oh, Buddy boy!”  

She started to ask all sorts of questions about Julia but her words started to slur. He could hear her the cork rattle on the stone floor of the ranch kitchen as she started to pour a fresh drink. Buddy became impatient.  

“I’m gonna go,” he said. She had already dropped the phone in the sink anyway.  

“I’m gonna do it,” Buddy decided. “I’m gonna tell her. I’m gonna…I don’t know…”  

Susie put in, “Tell her you fancy her?”  

Buddy laughed. He patted Susie’s shoulder. “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.” 

They had been leaning against the fence of the stud herd enclosure. Gordon was already on his way across the field to knock him off.  

‘That fucking bull hates me,’ Buddy mused.  

Gordon did seem to take personal issue with him. He didn’t seem to mind Susie leaning on his fence. Buddy’s backside, however, was aching for a horn as far as Gordon was concerned.  

Buddy wasn’t looking to impress Gordon though. His focus lay on Julia.

“Julia!” he cried when he saw her arrive. He rushed across the West Acre to her. “Julia!” He hated how his voice sounded in that moment. It was almost singing. It did catch her attention though. She stopped and looked back at him with a smile.  

“Have you been here all morning?” she asked.  

“Just got here,” he replied. “Where’s the car?”  

Realising he meant the green sports car he had gifted to her, she replied, “I parked it in the city. The pathways here aren’t really kind to low riders.”  

There was his chance. “Speaking of riding,” he said shuffling nervously. “Maybe we can finish what we started. You know, the other day…”  

Julia frowned at first. It was a statuesque frown. The forehead wrinkles were so delicately formed they still held a feminine beauty. When she realised what he meant she started to laugh.  

“Oh sweetie,” she said. “I just get a little distracted sometimes. Never mind that.”  

Buddy could see Susie watching eagerly, hoping it went well for him. She gave him a thumbs up. She was rooting for him. He wished he had brought Chad and Cooper with him though. Cooper was somewhat successful with women that didn’t require payment or powder. He took a deep breath.  

“I like you Julia,” he said. It was brand new territory for him. Should he have bought flowers or something? “I don’t mean I just want to bone. I mean I do want to bone but like nice boning. I don’t know…”  

Before Julia could reply her attention was caught by flashing lights. A single CPD car came tearing up towards the farmhouse. Glenn and Curtis were immediately on alert with their cattle prods. Julia shielded her eyes to see who was joining them. A man climbed out of the driver seat clutching a megaphone in his hand. He put it to his lips.  

“Bernard Owen,” he cried. “You’re under arrest…for being a dickhead.”  

“Is there trouble Buddy?” Julia asked seeming genuinely concerned.  

Buddy couldn’t enjoy her concern. He was growling.  

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s my cousin.”  

“Just y’all cool your jets there boys,” Billy warned the farm hands.  

“Get off the damn farm,” Curtis raged.  

Before he could wave his cattle prod a gun was in Billy’s grip and he had shot it from Curtis’ hand.  

“I’m just here for my little cuz. Don’t make this something it ain’t.” 

Julia rushed to approach Billy. “Can I help you, officer?”  

Billy, who had keeping his attention and gun on the farm hands, grinned when his focus fell on Julia. He spun the sharp shooting pistol and slipped it into a holster on his belt.  

“Well, hi there ma’am. I’m sorry if I upset your boys there. I gotta pick up my little bro.”  

Julia gave an accommodating smile. “No harm done. You’re a fast shooter,” she noted.  

Billy’s grin intensified. “Fast, hard and always hit the right spot.”  

Julia giggled. “I’ll bet it takes a lot of practice.”  

“Every day and night, ma’am,” Billy returned.  

Buddy was aggrieved. His arms were clenched by his side like a school boy who had been sent to detention.  

Julia stroked Billy’s arm casually. “The thing is, I don’t want any trouble.”  

“No trouble ma’am, Billy assured. “I wouldn’t want to mess your pretty farm with all your nice animals here. I just want my cousin.” To Buddy he called, “You!” He brought the megaphone to his lips again. “Get in the car dickhead!”  

He lowered the megaphone and spoke to Susie who had come running and was now clinging to her father. 

“I apologise for my cussing, little lady. Now don’t you go repeating my words, ya hear? It’s just, when someone is acting like a dickhead, you gotta call them out as such.” Into the megaphone he spoke again. “Get in the damn car.”  

Buddy started walking towards Billy’s car. When he was close enough Billy slapped him over the back of his head.  

“I’m sorry if he’s been bothering you, Miss Harvester,” said Billy. 

Buddy had slipped himself into the passenger seat and was glaring through the window.  

“You got some experience with animals so you’ll understand that I gotta put this one back in his cage.” 

“Daddy? Is that man going to hurt Buddy?” Susie pleaded to Glenn.  

Even though Julia herself confirmed it had been Nathan who had given Susie the cocaine and even though Buddy’s affections for Susie seemed genuine, he hoped so.  

“You’re a disgrace, little bro,” Billy reminded Buddy as they took the east exit from the bypass towards Northside. 

*** 

Northside was a bitterly cold part of Greater Coldford. Wet, miserable and filled with industrial estates. Most of those were empty units waiting for the industry to return to them.  

“You could’ve dropped me at the Chapter House,” complained Buddy.  

Billy drew the car into what looked like an abandoned unit. The name Tulloch was on the sign.  

“I’ll drop you alright, boy. You’ll go to the house when I’m good and ready to take you back there. Until then you’ll be glad I don’t whoop your ass. Stick by my side.” 

The headlights of Billy’s car flashed in the window of one of the units.  

As though summoned, the door of the unit opened and into the yard stepped a man with a weasel like face and close set eyes. His scrawny arms reached out to the car.  

“Billy boy!” he cheered in a harsh Northside accent, the words of the people losing the musical intonation past Bellfield. “Is that you?” 

Billy climbed out of the car. “Who else?” Billy asked.  

The man seemed delighted. He gave a wide grin. Buddy was feeling anxious so he joined them. The man from Northside tried a Kappa So salute but Billy slapped his hand.  

“Get yourself in order,” he said. To Buddy he made introductions, “This is Kez Tulloch. He’s a pathetic piece of shit but he’s the best we got to take The Distillery.” 

Tulloch laughed as though it were a jest. Buddy knew Billy was serious in his sentiments. Tulloch was clearly made uncomfortable by Billy’s presence.  

“This is my cousin, Buddy. He’s along for the ride but the less attention you pay to him, the less stupid you’ll be, so let’s get on with it.” 

“Billy boy,” Tulloch said again. “You’re going to be impressed.”  

From what Buddy could observe Tulloch was about one sweet word away from dropping to his knees and sucking Billy’s cock.  

They followed him into the unit where a group of Northsiders were building weapons. They were primitive, the kind used in inner city gang fights, but they would be effective in the right hands. A group like the Black Bands wouldn’t have much trouble quashing them but they weren’t for use against the Black Bands. That would be suicide. Having lost The Distillery, their plan had been to pursue the Macks and complete the takeover of Bellfield that Northside had been looking to do for years. Centuries before, Northside and Bellfield used to be the same area. Religious disputes split the area in half and even though time went on both areas still bore their grudges. Billy’s plans had been to take advantage of the weakened force in Bellfield to appoint control of The Distillery to someone of The Cappy’s choosing. 

“Preparing for something then?” asked Buddy, the sense of determination and nerves among the Northsiders started to cause a buzz to ring within him.  

Tulloch grinned a mouthful of blackened teeth.  “We’re going to hit them. Maybe hit them at the funeral.” He gave a callous laugh. “What you think Billy boy?”  

“Damn shameful,” was Billy’s return. “Attacking a funeral? Y’all should be ashamed. Let them have their time to mourn. They ain’t going nowhere. They’ll get what’s coming to them.”  

Tulloch’s shoulders hunched.  

“The only good Mack is a dead one,” he said. He looked to Buddy. “Your cousin agrees. I saw what they did to your pops.”  

“Quit running your mouth,” Billy warned. Both he and Buddy became a little testy at the mention of their grandfather. “That’s family business. You worry about The Distillery. We want it opened again and ready for business as soon as we can.” 

“Sure boss.” Tulloch leapt, excited. “Follow me.”  

He led them to benches where men were hard at work. Like the others they were fashioning make shift weapons. If they were taking over The Distillery the people of Bellfield weren’t going to be happy and the people of Northside were going in prepared. When the Black Bands removed their presence and left them to it, The Distillery needed to be held under the leadership of the Tullochs. Northside’s prominent family seemed the best option until a buyer for The Distillery could be found.  

Scattered around were piles of black clothing Northside heavies had become associated with in their attacks on the Macks and Bellfield. The masks were chilling. CPD under Hickes’ influence had helped curb the violence between the areas. Under Billy it still had some use. On the walls were photos of an old Northside football team playing on a muddy, uncared-for pitch with a rain lashing down heavily. The glass was churned and the kits they wore were old fashioned. It was a commemorative image of when Northside beat Bellfield in a city-wide cup final. It was the first victory since the areas split. A promotional poster hung beside it. On the poster was a hand clutching a Macks bottle so tightly it was cracking. The slogan read A BITTER TASTE; LANDS TO WASTE  

They were bitter, Buddy observed. Trust Billy to be not only using that to his advantage but to be organising them. He could beat what Mack support remained in Bellfield without Kappa So or CPD getting their hands dirty. If things didn’t work out all they had to do was have CPD scoop up the Tullochs and their Northsiders and be the city’s heroes.  

While Billy began inspecting the preparations they were making for taking and holding The Distillery, Tulloch decided he wanted to engage Buddy. He stepped into Buddy’s space. Buddy was close to shoving him away when he said, “Your cousin is some man.”  

“Yeah, he’s something alright,” Buddy replied.  

“Those Macks are scumbags,” he said assuredly. “Absolute tinkers.”  

Buddy had never heard the term ‘tinker’ used before but it amused him so he stored it in his vocabulary for a later date. 

“I mean, the things they were saying about a golden cock they found at the Chapter House…” Tulloch went on.  

Buddy really wished he would stop running his damn mouth. Billy stopped immediately what he was doing and frowned at his cousin. 

“What’s he talking about?” Billy asked.  

“Tinkers be crazy,” Buddy suggested.  

Luckily Billy started to laugh. “They do be crazy.” 

“I would have my cock fashioned in gold but no one would be able to lift it,” Buddy jested, hoping that if he prodded Billy’s humour, he wouldn’t think about it too much.  

Billy laughed even harder. Luckily the humour in phallus shaped statues ran in the family.  

“You are cock obsessed little bro. I oughtta knock that out of you.”  

Buddy looked back at the rebel poster. ‘A good Mack was a dead one.’ 

Attacking a funeral was a low move but, Hell, it was a tinker funeral after all and they were going to wish they had kept their mouths shut about the Chapter House.  

***

“Mum’s not here,” Cameron explained to Agent Lydia as she crossed the threshold into the Doyle home in Kingsgate.  

She was greeted by a large hallway with a cascading staircase leading to shadowy floors above.  

“It’s actually you I wanted to speak with,” she said, smiling to comfort the young man. “It’s about your friend, Reggie Penn.”  

Cameron became nervous. “I, uh. We know each other,” he admitted. 

“Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble,” Lydia assured. “I just need to know if you have spoken to him.”  

Cameron eased off but only a little. He still wasn’t willing to open up to her. “We play a game together. Lonesome Nights. Have you heard of it?”  

Lydia nodded. “I’m familiar with it.” It wasn’t the first time Coby Games had cropped up in her investigations.  

“Reggie and I have played for years,” said Cameron. He checked his words and closed off again. “Just online. Just the game.”  

“Do you have some of your chat logs?”  

“Some of them,” he admitted. “I’m not supposed to but if he shares upgrades or coins or anything like that.” Cameron started to ease off a little further. “I heard what happened to him at The Boss. Did you arrest the ones that did it?”  

“My priority is bringing Reggie home safely. We have a team together and we’re doing what we can to arrest the ones that hurt him but in order to stop Reggie getting hurt further or worse I need all the help I can get. Can you do that for me?”  

Cameron agreed. If It would help Reggie.  

“When did you last speak to him?” The agent asked. 

“He had just escaped CPD. He needed help.”  

“And you helped him?”  

“He logged into Lonesome Nights. It was the only way he could contact someone. He wanted to go to The Boss because that’s where his brothers are.”  

“And you heard nothing from him after?”  

“I helped him get the bus to Bournton. I lost touch with him after that. Please don’t tell my mum that I helped him. She will be furious. I only told you in case it can help Reggie.”  

Lydia nodded. “I’ll keep it between us. At this point your mum is only interested in what evidence we can bring her. I’ll keep you out of it as much as possible.”  

Lydia’s phone beeped. She answered a call from Reynolds.  

“Not much here,” she said to her fellow agent.  

Cameron could hear Reynolds’ voice faintly. “We’ve checked out the warehouse. It definitely looks like that’s where they have him.”  

“I’m on my way back,” Lydia said before closing the call. 

She patted Cameron’s shoulder.  

“Sit tight,” she advised. “We’ll bring him back.”  

Cameron closed the door after the agent. Uncle Micky was gone, Reggie was hurt, his mum was holding the roof of her office up with steel arms. The house in Kingsgate was becoming colder and there was little even a strong young man like Cameron could do to help.  

*** 

“Ain’t no woman alive gonna fuck you lil bro. Dead ones, maybe you stand a chance,” Billy teased as he cleaned Betsy. “That’s why you gotta pay them all the time. It’s like compensation for what they’re about to endure.” 

Buddy was sat on Reggie’s cage. “I did bone her,” he insisted. “I boned Julia.”  

Billy gave a guttural laugh. “Sure you did.” 

“I’m telling you we boned and it was beautiful,” Buddy protested.  

Billy zapped the cage but Buddy had been watching his hands so he leapt onto his feet just in time. 

Reggie gave a groan that caught both their attention. Billy pushed Buddy out of the way to address his prisoner.  

“Daddy going to be coming to get you any minute, boy, don’t you worry,” he teased.  

Reggie Penn had been moved around the cage. He was no longer in the stress position and he was no longer reacting to the shocks from the electrified bars. It didn’t matter. The end game would be upon them soon enough. Bored of waiting for Reginald’s valiant rescue of his son, Billy leaked information to the loyalists through a brother who had slipped among their ranks of where they had Reggie.  

‘Come and fucking get him, King Dick,’ was Billy’s thoughts on the matter.  

Surveillance had been set up around the warehouse.  

“Buddy,” Billy called to his cousin. “Buddy?” Buddy had been too busy watching Reggie. He hadn’t heard at first. “Buddy get your ass over here!” Buddy followed the instruction. “Watch him. I just saw a signal on the west mark. If you see anyone approach you holla’.”  

Buddy nodded. “Sure.”  

“You can do that right can’t ya?” Billy gripped his cheek.  

Buddy shook him off. “Yeah I can.”  

Some time passed. Another signal on the west mark was given again but this time a little closer to the warehouse. Through the window Buddy caught sight of Billy’s discrete signal back. It fell quite. Buddy cocked his gun.  

Buddy looked to Reggie. Reggie looked up. Their eyes met. With unease Buddy headed to the entrance to assist his cousin.  

Two more signals were given on the west mark. Even closer still they were to the warehouse now. Buddy spotted a figure dressed in black. Buddy tapped the butt of his gun on the floor twice. Loud enough for Billy to hear but not so loud it would startle the intruder. The two taps alerted Billy that he had a visual on one intruder.  

Looking outside Billy processed through the cascade of signals that were being passed his way. One possible intruder. Not much of a rescue party for a so called Prince of Main. It was likely one of the agents wishing to slip in quietly. He could hear their footsteps. They were loud, crunching the debris of the forest floor. They crept towards the warehouse. He pulled a gun. They didn’t appear to be agency trained but trained none the less. They knew how to handle a gun but just didn’t appear to have done it too often.  

Billy cocked Betsy. It appeared they were trying to pull the wool over their eyes with a discrete extraction. Not today. Billy watched as the noble rescuer edged towards the warehouse. They were trying to be quiet but the twigs kept cracking under their heavy feet.  

They closed in on the warehouse, a gun in hand. They slid themselves along the building. They tried the first door but it was locked.  

Billy tapped on the window closest to him with his finger tips. Loud enough to alert Buddy who had prepared his gun and aimed towards the door.  

Billy confronted them. “Boy have you come on the wrong day.” The intruder was startled. Billy had the scope of Betsy on him. “Don’t move an inch or I’m gonna be forced to blow your god damn head off. Now drop your gun.”  

The intruder clutched their gun tighter. With a shaking hand they raised it. They pointed it at Billy Owen.  

BANG.  

There were few gunmen alive who could beat an Owen to the shot. When Buddy heard the gun fire he lowered his own weapon.    

The shot had been fired just as he arrived at his cousin’s side. He crouched down to removed the mask off of the attempted rescuer. Billy frowned. He knew the agents. This wasn’t one of them.  

“Oh you are so fucked, cuz!” Buddy exclaimed, unable to disguise his delight that he wasn’t the only screw up.  

“Who the fuck is this?” Asked Billy.  

“That’s Cameron Doyle, The Judge’s son and you just shot him with Betsy!”  

Billy groaned. “Well that’s-” 

“A dick down your throat?” Buddy suggested.  

Billy punched his arm. “Help me get this little prick out the way. We’ve got some real trouble coming now.” 

*** 

A Mack funeral was attended by every Mack regardless of circumstances. Because of the sensitive nature of the event, Brendan had been tagged and allowed to return to Bellfield. The Black Bands would give him the space to grieve. Alfie Mack was no concern of theirs. Afterwards he would be returned to their custody. With the distance given from the Black Bands, Paddy managed a call to his father.  

“I’m coming in,” he said. “I’m coming home.”  

“Don’t you fecking dare,” Brendan warned. “They’ll swipe you and that will be the end of it. It’ll all be for nothing. You stay put.”  

Paddy scowled. “I’m coming to the funeral. I’m coming to say goodbye to the wee man.”  

“Then you’re an eejit,” Brendan said. His attitude dissolved. “Don’t make me bury another son. I don’t think I could take it.”  

Paddy drew back the tears. “It can’t not come, da. It’s Wee Alfie.”  

Brendan had to hold it together. “Alfie would understand. Do you know what he said to me when I told him about you slipping The Distillery?”  

Paddy managed a smile. “What?”  

“They ain’t ever going to catch Paddy. He runs like lightening and punches like a boxer.”  

Paddy laughed. He always had Alfie’s adulation. He just hoped he made him proud and gave him good reason for it.  

“He’ll know you’re thinking about him. Just please stay away,” suggested Brendan. “It’s bad enough we’re trying to find Siobhan. You know what your sister is like. She’s gone off on some party tour of some kind. She still doesn’t know.”  

“I’ll be there,” Paddy said. “One way or another.”  

“For Christ’s sake be careful,” Brendan returned. “But tell your brother to get his arse home.”  

Kieran frowned and slipped into the shot of the video call. “Thanks, da,” he said.  

Brendan smiled. Seeing his two sons helped sooth the ache. “They won’t mind you. Come and be with us. Paddy, I’m afraid you’re going to have to sit this one out.”  

Paddy closed his eyes. It was a difficult dish to swallow that he wouldn’t be able to walk in Alfie’s funeral with the rest of the family. It was one that was still difficult to digest.  

*** 

Annie Mack wrapped her arms around Mary Wilson – mother to Melissa.  

“Oh Mary,” she cried. “It’s just terrible.” 

“Pray to Jesus they find the ones that did it,” was Mary’s resounding reply.  

Both women, dressed for a funeral, preparing to bid farewell to their children, allowed themselves to weep in each other’s arms. Melissa and Alfie had been friends since they were toddlers. Both mothers had all kinds of plans of what they would become. When they reached their teenaged years and their relationship developed the families were thrilled.  

“I hear wedding bells!” Annie had cheered.  

“Feck off, ma,” Alfie objected. “I’m only thirteen.”  

“Don’t curse at yer ma!” Brendan chastised.  

“Tell her to stop planning a wedding,” Alfie requested.  

“Let the woman plan. You stop being a wee dick.”  

Both Alfie and Brendan had laughed at this.  

There would be no wedding. Instead, there was a funeral bidding farewell to a life that could have been. The procession began from the tip of Love Street.

 

*** 

“The area of Bellfield was shaken today when the funeral of Mack and Son’s youngest, Alfie Mack, was attacked by masked anarchists. A rain of petrol bombs, gun fire and knife blades left 34 dead and a further 30 severely injured. Reports from first responders confirmed that none of the Mack family were among the survivors. It is believed that the attack arose from an inflammatory rivalry between the areas of Bellfield and Northside. As Bellfield enter yet another period of mourning the rest of the city prepares for retaliation. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily News.”  

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Coming Next:

Career conman, Dennis, is forced to change for the good when an attack leaves his days limited. Some people turn to religion. In the case of the Church of St Wigan, that’s the last thing he needs. 

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