Knock Knock: Episode 41: Long live the King

The Knock Knock Club had been lost and found again. It was now sitting in limbo waiting to make its next move. Large empires like the Beckingridge Firm and Owen Inc were on lockdown. Article 22 tore through the city like a sharpened sword, gutting and ripping as it went. We lost many to it. I lost old associates who had sought to help the Mack cause. The Macks of Mack Distilleries received the worst dealings of all. The law set its sight on them and it ignited a long standing rivalry whilst they lay vulnerable. The west part of Greater Coldford was split in two. The Tullochs of Northside were baying for blood and sought opportunity after the Black Band terrorist-wrangling group seized the distillery in Bellfield held by the Macks for generations. One of the Macks’ own died. The funeral procession the rest had gathered for led them like lambs to the slaughter. I say the rest but there was one. Paddy Mack escaped the funeral purge and whilst he existed the whiskey dynasty continued.  

Everywhere I looked, I saw Article 22 – headlines, satirical comics, TV shows and radio broadcasts. It was on the mind of everyone. Whilst many found the smell of execution on their streets distasteful, they couldn’t deny the strides the change in law was making in dealing with the filth that had grown over the city, like a moss, for too long.  

The crime rates were dropping quickly with this zero tolerance policy. It was a little authoritarian in its action but it certainly quietened the people of Coldford. Coldford was now being held to an old book of legalities. It was barbaric and outdated but effective in holding terrorists, murderers, rapists and abusers to account. The High Court was held under the heavy hammer of Judge Karyn Doyle and I couldn’t see it any other way.  

With that in mind, my wanders through City Main became something of an uncomfortable experience. The days were becoming shorter, colder, darker. People were staying in their homes. Windows and doors were bolted. They were anticipating the death of a king. His kingdom, the Penn Auction House. Reginald Penn – a loyal friend, a dedicated father, a convicted terrorist – was next. I took a walk past City Face a lot in those days. While the newspapers regurgitated hearsay and speculation, I found that the ominous ‘Tick Boom’ of the large clock face on City Hall told the people of Coldford everything they needed to know.  

On the day I now bring you to there was a new notice on the Coldford City Board.  

EXECUTION OF REGINALD PENN SENIOR – 5pm.  

DEATH BY FIRING SQUAD – Notice issued by Judge Karyn Doyle.  

His triplet prince sons would be beside themselves. Two of them – Marcus and Simon – in servitude to The Boss for murder and assault respectively. The third – Reggie – still missing, in the hands of their Owen Inc enemies. But it was with his wife, Rita, whom my sympathies lay the most. She was a rare innocent in a world of villains.  

“You cannot be saved!” cried a monk of the Church of St Wigan, a cultish group who resided over on the bay. The more convicts that died at the hands of Doyle, the more they believed the city needed spiritual guidance. Now, most of the major buildings had a preacher placed outside.  

With Article 22 sweeping the death penalty across the city it was time for heroes to take their places. I am reporter Sam Crusow and the Shady City would run red with more blood before my story was over.  

*** 

Eugene Morris of Morris Funeral Care was well known in the city. He was a highly respected man and despite the state of affairs in Coldford, he had the attentive ear of everyone. He was held in high regard. They called him The Tailor because that essentially was what he was. What made him such a figure of note was that it was his job to fit people for their final suits. Rich or poor, good or evil, all roads lead to the same place in the end and Eugene Morris awaited all, no matter how they lived their lives.  

The eccentric-looking man had decided on a lunch engagement. As Reginald awaited his scheduled execution, The Tailor sat to a meal with the king.  

“The meat is unsurprisingly subpar,” Eugene commented as he cut a piece of ham.  

Across the small, wooden table from him Reginald had barely made a dent. As I’m sure you’ll understand, his mind was elsewhere. In testament to his absent mindedness he said, “It’s a little too salty for my taste.”  

Eugene was nodding in agreement.  

“It is, but your tastes will be extra bitter at the moment. That is to be expected.”  

Eugene was familiar to the sensations experienced at the end of life.  

Reginald gave a slight scowl to himself and dropped his cutlery.  

“What difference does it make?” he asked. “What difference does it make if I eat my fill? Tomorrow is already written.” 

Again, Eugene was agreeing but he was studying Reginald closely. He had made his name in violence as a young man and ran the Auction House with astute business sense, but it was his nobility and fierce protection of the people of Main that made him royalty in their eyes. It didn’t matter though. Reigns end, lives end, and as I said, all roads lead to the same place in the end. Eugene didn’t interrupt though. He allowed Reginald to speak.  

“They should have at least let me see my wife and sons,” he barked. That bitter, salty taste on his lips again.  

That was a non issue as far as the Law Makers were concerned. With the death of the beloved Detective Hickes on Reginald’s hands, they would not risk his escape. Doing so would negate all of the lives lost so far to Article 22. Lewis Salinger of the Pettiwick School, Kappa So brother Brad Daley, and William Bass of Beckingridge Firm, to name a few.  

“They could have at least waited until they found Junior and I knew he was safe.”  

The agents of the Good Gang had been close to finding Reggie Penn but the enemies that held him had moved on. Efforts in the search continued.  

Eugene wiped his lips with a crisp, white napkin.  

“If you have lost your appetite we might as well move on.”  

Reginald frowned again to himself. His stomach rumbled. The chair scraped as he pushed it back to stand. He finished the red wine that lay at the bottom of his glass and wandered to the middle of the room where he stood with his arms outstretched.  

From his pocket, Eugene drew a measuring string. It was old and frayed but still served its function much like Eugene himself. He stretched the measure across Reginald’s chest. The Penn patriarch kept his focus straight ahead. Eugene measured his arms and legs. He then wrapped the string around his neck. Reginald could feel Eugene’s cool breath on his cheek as he leaned in closer to him. It caused the skin to prickle.  

“Do you have any preferences for your final suit?” asked The Tailor.  

The king shook his head. “Just make sure I have something of my family close. Rita will choose the tie.”  

Eugene Morris AKA The Tailor acquiesced to the request.  

*** 

“Five shooters. One live round,” explained CPD Officer Grant Miles. “This is going to be public so we need everyone to be on their A game. The Black Bands will be working crowd control so it’s up to us to make a clean shot to the heart.”  

The Black Bands were already generating fear. The fear was turning hostile so it would have been unwise to have the foreign group of terrorist-wranglers killing Coldford natives.  

Police Commissioner William ‘Billy’ Owen was disgruntled at the arrangement, to say the least. He had requested that he be one of the shooters. He certainly had the ability as a marksman but his motives didn’t sit well with Judge Doyle. It had been his Pops who had been bludgeoned to death by Reginald. It had been his cousin on his knees and made to watch while he begged for his life. It had been his Kappa So brothers that had been attacked.  

“You will submit your firing squad to my office for approval,” insisted the judge. There was no changing her mind.  

It was a cold night on the lawns of City Face when the time came around. Ice was beginning to form on the blades of grass. My breath was a thick fog before me. I could see Billy standing beside his assembled firing squad still looking a little peeved at not being able to join them. The Owen family were lovers of chaos and the efficiency of the occasion probably didn’t suit Billy’s agenda.  

“Fucking piece of shit,” Billy murmured under his breath as the man of the hour was brought before them.  

I had expected cries of protest or weeping, anything that would break the overall somber atmosphere but the quiet remained as cold as the chill that was beginning to set in. It was the clicking of horses’ hooves that brought a distraction. Reginald Penn was escorted by CPD to the spot on the lawns where executions of old had taken place. He was stood underneath the large clock that tick boomed as its hands danced around time. Elsa and Seth Bergman – brother and sister of the Bergman Diamond dynasty – had gone to sit with Rita at her home in the Faulds Building. Their father, Howard, had come to City Hall to be there for the loyalist king. He respected Reginald as a friend and supporter in City Main, where the Bergman Diamond Parade lay.  

The voice of the judicial minister reading the sentence rose above the others like a priest reading a funeral around a graveside. He spoke of the right to a fair trial and he spoke of the right to life. They weren’t Reginald’s rights he referred to but the rights of his victims, taken away without lawful reason. A lot of blood had been shed in Reginald’s pursuit and in judgement of that more would be shed still.  

From Reginald’s point of view those gathered to witness his final moments were faceless but as he raised his chin, he could see Eugene standing by ready to dress his body. Beside The Tailor, in long robes and with a heavy wooden cross around his neck, was the Holy Brother. He was muttering a prayer with thin lips. His head was raised to the heavens but his eyes were closed. The Holy Brother was of the Albans order. The order had taught the Penns through St Albans School for generations.  

The rights had been delivered. Legal ones and final ones. The shooters lined up. Judge Doyle hadn’t removed her focus from Reginald since the moment he had arrived on scene.  

“Reginald Penn Snr, for acts of terrorism and murder you will be shot until you are dead. Do you have any final words before sentence is carried out?” 

Reginald took a deep breath.  

“To my wife Rita – I love you more than life and I don’t want you to be afraid. I’ll see you again some day. To my sons Marcus and Simon, you both have a tough road ahead of you but you have what it takes. To Junior, if you’re listening, your family will never give up on you and you will be brought home. Finally, to the people of City Main. You are what I fought for. For as long as the Penn name continues you will always have someone fighting for you.”  

“Long live the king!” a cry rang out.  

Van Holder’s second in command, a behemoth of a man named Monsta’, turned his attention to the crowd and it quickly sobered again.  

“Load!” called the execution officer.  

The firing squad prepared. Mostly populated by Kappa So brothers, they were practically salivating at the prospect of killing a king.  

However, on the top floor of an abandoned building that belonged to the Weir Hotel, someone was overlooking the event with different ideas. Bernard ‘Buddy’ Owen had arrived just in time to hear Reginald’s rights. A nest was already prepared. Buddy was surprisingly calm as he rested the rifle against his shoulder and took aim.  

“For as long as the Penn name continues you will always have someone fighting for you,” Reginald was saying as the scope of Buddy’s rifle landed on his forehead. 

“Aim!” the officer called.  

Buddy took a breath. As his finger gently squeezed the trigger he said, “For Pops. Suck my God balls, Your Majesty.”  

BANG. 

Five bullets were given to the firing squad, four of which were blank. One hit his heart as instructed, but not before another fired from the Owen shooter and an Owen never misses a target. With a bullet between his eyes, the King was dead.  

*** 

Brought back from the Great States by force, Buddy had decided he was a new man. He was going to live quietly like a shaman or some shit. He was going to leave his addiction to cocaine behind. Although the mandatory rehab treatment at Harbour House left little choice in that matter. He was going to settle down and bore himself to tears with his father’s lectures on their family history and consider taking over the family business some day. He had every reason to want to put a hole in Reginald Penn’s skull. That son a bitch had him and his bros on their knees and he watched his poor Pops’ brains being splattered on the Chapter House floor. That mother fucker…nope. Buddy stopped himself. He was a new man.  

Bernard Owen CEO. That sounded pretty good. One thing that his time in the Great States had taught him was that he needed the right woman behind him. He needed someone who was by his side, who could tame the beast within him, who could shoot a gun, who had a pretty face, who was fun, smart too he supposed, all packaged into a tight body. Even though she had brought him back to Coldford and thrown him into rehab, he had taken quite the shine to Agent Lydia Lowe.  

“Need to man up, brah,” Buddy sighed to his Kappa So brothers, Chad and Cooper. “If I’m going to bone a chick like Lydia I’m going to have to start acting like the Cappy.” 

“You’re right Bud,” Chad agreed.  

Cooper nodded too.  

So they carried out their Law Maker appointed community service at a care home. It wasn’t so bad really. Some of the old folks had stories to tell.  

Most nights on their community service the brothers gathered in Hanz Stoker’s room. He was a good time old boy and part of the Stoker Circus family. The three bros loved his stories. He had seen some shit. His family were old school circus people but when the tents were taken down they were tasked with the job that no one else wanted to do, especially in a place like Coldford. They cleaned crime scenes.  

“Gotta do something between seasons,” Hanz’s nephew, Irvine, had jested. Cleaning blood and guts had gotten them through some tough times. They became quite successful at slipping in under the noses of the good people of Coldford to wipe away the mess that others didn’t have the stomach to look upon. In light of this, Hanz had seen some real shit. He had a collection of photos he kept in an old metal biscuit tin under the bed. The advertisement on the tin was decades old and written in a foreign language. They were of images of old crime scenes. Morbid curiosity delighted the boys.  

“You’re a freak, brah!” Buddy laughed as they looked through them.  

“People are animals deep down,” said Hanz and he was correct. “Probably the most blood thirstiest animals on this planet,” he added. He would know. Buddy, Chad and Cooper discussed at length how they suspected Hanz had been responsible for some of the crime scenes he had photographed. One he seemed particularly proud of was a prostitute who had been filmed having her legs cut off. The snuff film was complete with a bullet to her head. Hanz only had photographs of the aftermath but he spoke about it with such passion and detail he had to have been there.  

“It must be quite a boon to you knowing that man is going to die after what he did to Pops,” Hanz remarked.  

“That piece of shit,” Buddy groaned. 

“I can tell the family to keep some photos of the aftermath to send to his boys,” 

Hanz offered. His lips tightened as though he was thinking about it.  

Buddy laughed a little nervously. “You’re a freak, brah, ” he said again. 

I learned that among the Stoker family was a Kappa So brother, sworn to the Chapter House and loyal to the Owens. It was the reason that for part of their community service the bros were sent to the gated community, just outside Kingsgate, populated by retired Stokers and their circus performers. Chamberlain Heights retirement community was its true name. Among the Stokers themselves it was termed The After Show.  

“Today’s your lucky day, mucker!” They were interrupted by Hanz’s nephew, Irvine. His limbs were spread to take up more room in the doorway. His voice was booming and he was grinning from ear to ear.  

That was when the plan to give Buddy a gun came to pass. The Stokers confirmed Buddy had been at the care home the entire time. CCTV footage showed him arriving with his bros and leaving again with them. His alibi was air tight. When it came time to clear the crime scene, Irvine’s son, Freddy, left no trace of the nest.  

When Billy was afforded the chance to meet up with Buddy and his father, Chick, at Owen Estate afterwards he was beside himself.  

“You sons a’ bitches!” he cried. “You didn’t tell me!” His raspy laugh caused his shoulders to shudder.  

“We required a genuine reaction,” The Cappy explained.  

Billy punched Buddy’s shoulder playfully.  

“Y’all knew and I’m standing like a handicap, slapping my wrist waiting on the moment to hit. I was out of my mind thinking that the son a’ bitch was gonna get away with murdering Pops without one of our own having sum’n to say about it. Fucking monks waving hands, Black Band bastards everywhere then blam! Bullet right between his eyes when e’body was aiming at his dang heart. We’re gonna get some shit for that boy,” Billy cheered, still giddy. 

“Yes, Buddy,” the Cappy put in. “You should have shot him in the heart.”  

Buddy frowned, turning to his father.  

“You told me to aim for the skull,” he protested.  

With a chuckle Chick shook his head.  

“Now, Buddy,” he said, unable to disguise his smile.  

“You did!” Buddy maintained. He continued, imitating his father’s strong Great States accent, heavier than his own, “Boy, you better put a bullet right between that son a’ bitch’s eyes because the thought of him dying and it not being at the hands of one of our own really dills my pickle.”  

Both Billy and The Cappy laughed.  

“Come now, Buddy,” Chick chortled. “Stop it now.” Joy still laced his tone.  

Buddy raised his eyebrows to his cousin. Billy wrapped his arm around him and pulled him closer. The Cappy collected three small glasses and a bottle of his favourite bourbon. He poured two glasses with the bourbon and one with Jolly Shopper fizzer. Buddy, after all, was still in rehab.  

After he had passed out the drinks, he too wrapped an arm around his son and tousled his feathery blonde hair.  

“You did good, Bud,” he said sincerely. “Pops would be proud. Thanks to you the king was was well and truly Owened.”  

“To Pops!” Billy cheered.  

“To Pops.”  

They clinked their glasses together. 

***

Simon Penn was just a young boy when he was told his anger and frustration was better aimed at a punch bag. He had lost his father and he had never felt such frustration. Reginald had been gunned down whilst the city looked on. His triplet brother, Marcus, wasn’t much comfort. He had decided to immerse himself in books instead, reading about Article 22. It had already claimed their father’s life. What difference did a fucking book make?!  

WHACK!  

Simon punched the bag. The gym facilities in The Boss weren’t exactly of great quality but he just had to hit something.  

WHACK!  

Adding insult to injury, the execution of his father had been deliberately botched. Marcus had tried to talk to Judge Doyle but again, what good did that fucking do?  

WHACK!  

“Time’s up,” announced the guard.  

It had only been thirty minutes but it was better than nothing. If he didn’t hit the punch bag he would have to hit something. Earlier that morning a fellow inmate had almost learned that the hard way.  

“I’m sorry,” Warden Remar had said to the Penns when he learned of Reginald’s fate. It had been a sincere condolence but it had not been what Simon wanted to hear. It would suit him much better to discuss what was to happen to those who deliberately botched it. He just had to hit something. As he had an inmate by the neck, he could hear Marcus bark at him.  

“Leave him,” he said.   

Simon managed to pull through his rage. He threw the inmate to the ground and stormed off to the gym.  

“Time’s up Penn,” the guard announced.  

Simon turned round to face the guards. When they saw the expression on his face, they both reached for their tasers. Simon cracked his neck but he decided to return to his brother without fuss.  

Marcus wasn’t in the library anymore. The guards informed him he had moved out to the yard. It seemed the eldest triplet had decided he wanted to see the expression on the faces of his enemies in their final moment too.  

*** 

It had been a tough road in prison for Gregory Winslow, former Doctor Winslow. Of all the despicable human beings I have had the misfortune to meet during my time in Coldford, he ranked one of the worst. Organ trafficking, rape and unauthorised abortions. He was a foul man who was now at the mercy of The Boss. So far, he had managed to keep himself safe. As one of his patients in Harbour House, Vincent Baines had learned that the triplets had lost an elder sibling. Seeing him as a friend, Rita Penn had come to Winslow with news that she thought she was pregnant. He raped her as she lay unconscious and he aborted Reginald’s baby. Now Winslow jumped every time he heard a gate close. He didn’t know when the triplets would confront him about it. He didn’t know if Vincent had been bold enough to tell them. Thanks to the prison now holding a population of Kappa So brothers he sought them for protection, a barricade to hide behind. As time went on, he began to consider Vincent didn’t have the moxy to tell the Penns. Perhaps he wasn’t in as much of their favour as he had believed. 

A few weeks prior to the events of Reginald’s execution Winslow had found some confidence. Dressed in white shorts and T-shirt with ‘Property of The Boss’ across his back he stepped into the yard. It was icy cold but he was able to find himself some peace.  

“Good evening, Gregory,” Vincent had greeted from the entrance.  

“What do you want Baines?” Winslow scoffed. He had been waiting for the axe to fall with Vincent’s threat for too long. When he saw the remorseful expression in Vincent’s eyes, he couldn’t help but smile. When he noticed the bruising around the former music teacher’s neck, he became a little giddy.  

“They are animals,” he commented. “I did try to warn you. If that foetus had been allowed to grow it would have been much the same.”  

“You mean Rita Penn’s baby?” Vincent asked.  

Winslow sniggered. He knew better than to make a full admittance out loud but he was emboldened by Vincent’s apparent desperation. He had tried to offer him friendship but Vincent had been so disgusted by him after his treatment in Harbour House he refused, then threatened him with the Penns. As he observed the former music teacher, Winslow noted he wasn’t looking quite so confident in his friendship with the thugs of City Main.  

“They are going to carry out Reginald Penn’s sentence soon,” Vincent had said.  

He saw the flicker of Winslow’s lips as he processed the information. Was he trying to smile? 

“Reginald Penn…” Winslow sighed. “Now there is a character. I can’t say I’m sorry to hear that.”  

“I bet you’re not,” Vincent replied.  

There was a long-standing rivalry between the king and the disgraced doctor. There was a rivalry for respect, a rivalry for power and a rivalry for Rita’s affections. There wasn’t really much rivalry involved. It was all built in Winslow’s head because the reality was, he could never compete with Reginald on any of those counts.  

“So, you have decided that it is best we stick together then? I think it may be to both our benefit. Safety in numbers and all that,” Winslow stated.  

“Oh no,” was Vincent’s retort. “I still think you are the foulest thing in this city and given what you’re up against that speaks volumes. I have been thinking a lot lately about the expression on the faces of people when they know they’re going to die.”  

Vincent reached out and clasped Winslow’s face with his long fingers. He looked deep into his eyes and he smiled. “That seems about right. I’ve also been thinking about what you did to Rita. You know how my head can get so noisy sometimes. In the clinic you advised me to write my thoughts down. I couldn’t stop thinking about Rita and what you did to her so I wrote it all down. I still couldn’t settle, pianist fingers you see, so I clutched all those pages I had written, folding them with care. I would have stopped there but still, so noisy. I thought it might help to pack what I had written away into a little envelope. It did help but I just can’t bear the sight of a blank envelope. I had to put some address on it.” Vincent started to laugh. “I don’t know why but I thought the warden, Remar, would find it interesting. It was still a little noisy so I wrote it all out again.” 

Winslow scoffed, “I’m already in prison. Remar can’t do much.” 

Vincent nodded in agreement. “Maybe. Maybe not.” Vincent went on, “After I wrote it down, I tried to lose myself in books so I clumsily left a note tucked away in a volume in the library. Then I thought to myself, ‘Hang on? Did that happen to be the book Marcus was reading?’ It did feel a little quieter still, but then I thought of Simon. As the middle child he may feel a little left out, so I wrote some music for him and would you believe it? Every note told him what you did.” 

That was a few weeks ago. Reginald Penn was now dead and Vincent had been taken to Harbour House for psych evaluation. Maybe he had been bluffing. 

Winslow had been so focused on Vincent’s threat, he hadn’t paid attention to Marcus and Simon stepping into the yard.  

“Help!” Winslow squealed. “Help me!”  

As expansive a structure as The Boss could be, Winslow’s pleas were heard by a group of Kappa So brothers. The Penns were outnumbered four to one. Simon’s shoulders tightened. Marcus stared at them keenly.  

“Thank you, brothers,” Winslow cried. “These men were going to hurt me.”  

The Kappa So brothers didn’t care much about Winslow but the opportunity to throw down with the Penns was tempting.   

“What’s this all about?”  

A man with salt and pepper hair, long features and cool dark eyes pushed through to check on the brothers. When he noticed two of the triplets, he took note of Winslow again.   

“Twenty minutes,” the warden offered. “You, frat boys, clear out of here.”  

“No, wait!” Winslow plead. “They’re going to hurt me. Brothers for life!” he cried desperately. 

One of the eldest Kappa So bros chuckled. “You ain’t Kappa So, brah.” 

“Kappa So!” the others cheered.  

“Alright, you’ve made your point,” said Remar. “Move out.” 

“Kappa So!” the bros began to chant as they departed the yard. 

Winslow squealed at the warden, “They’re going to hurt me.” 

“Boo fucking hoo,” Remar laughed. “I heard what you did to their mother. I’m pro-life by the way.”  

“You can’t do this!” Winslow cried desperately.  

“You’re in servitude,” was Remar’s response. “You no longer have a say. Welcome to the fucking Boss.” 

Winslow’s breath caught in his throat as the door to the yard clicked closed. Twenty minutes of just him and two very pissed off Penns.  

*** 

“Boys,” whimpered Winslow. “I know you’ve been through a lot. It’s news just reaching me that your father is dead. I suppose I can tell you that I loved your mother.” 

Marcus growled.  

Simon warned, “Don’t you dare speak of our mother.”  

“Whatever Vincent told you it was a lie. He’s a sick man and he hates me.” 

WHACK!  

A punch from Simon sent Winslow to the ground. He shuffled along the tarmac floor and tried to dash between Simon’s legs but Marcus kicked him to the floor. Simon gripped him around his neck and pulled him to his feet.  

“Help!”  

No one was going to answer.  

Marcus glared at him so closely Winslow could see his petrified expression reflected in the eldest triplet’s spectacles. 

“You are going to learn a lesson today, Gregory,” warned Marcus. “You are not going to die but you will learn a lesson. You will come to realise that women are not your property. Death is not a game for you to play or to decide for others. Most importantly, you will learn what that ugliness within you looks like when brought to the surface so that every time you look in the mirror it will be all you’ll see.” 

Winslow started to cry.  

Simon’s nose wrinkled. “You’re also going to learn you do not fuck our mother.”  

Winslow had been distracted so he hadn’t seen it coming. Marcus had a blade and swiped it at his face. The facial nerve was lacerated. Winslow felt a wave of paralysis sweep down his face.  

“First one’s for Reggie. You will spill no more lies.”  

Winslow grabbed at the rat’s claw mark but he could feel no sensation.  

*** 

The Kappa So bros could hear the screaming. One of them shuddered and pleaded to the elder.  

“We should do something, brah,” he protested. 

The elder had his back turned. The screams of pain were making him feel uneasy too but he wouldn’t interfere.  

“Those loyalist cunts man,” said another.  

“Keep out of it,” Remar had warned. “It’s not your fight.” 

The Kappa So bros knew The Cappy hated the man just as much as anyone, and for that they were willing to quite literally turn their backs.  

The elder pulled a cigarette from his sleeve. He lit it with his last match and passed it to his frat bro who clutched it between shaking fingers, almost dropping it when Winslow emitted another shrill shriek. It was going to be a long twenty minutes. 

*** 

“Stop! Stop!” Winslow tried to cry. The facial paralysis caused him to gargle his words. “Plllleeeeeesh,” was the best he could beg.  

Simon lifted him back onto his feet. He wiped blood from his face to give himself a blank canvas when he cut into Winslow’s face. He then moved the blade to his eyelid.  

“For me,” he said. “You have trouble sleeping. You should have trouble sleeping, you’re a deplorable cunt. You should have to think about what you did every hour of every fucking day.” 

The shriek that Winslow emitted was clear despite the paralysis, despite the blood beginning to choke him. Simon threw him to the ground. He wiped the blood and flesh away from his blade. The boxer had left Winslow on the canvas. 

Marcus was next. Winslow was kicked onto his front. He barely had the energy to struggle anymore. He could feel Marcus’ foot stamp down on his lower back.  

“You are a broken man with a broken back. That will show on your broken body.”  

WHACK! First spinal damage to the motor nerves. 

WHACK! Next spinal damage to the sensory nerves.  

*** 

The Kappa So elder couldn’t help but look back over his shoulder when he heard the clang of a metal bar drop.  

He shuddered. He had never heard cries like it.  

He could hear one of his bros taking a sharp intake of breath as the final lesson of the day began. 

*** 

The beast that was formerly Winslow cried and scuffled across the ground again. He could feel himself being dragged back to the fence.  

WHACK!  

Nothing more than a rag doll he was sat against this, most of his body hung loose. The parts that still had sensation ached unbearably.  

“This last one is for our brother or sister who would have been. You took their life before they had even taken a breath.” 

Vision was blurred and red but the beast could see the frame of Simon. He appeared to be carrying a barrel of some sort.  

SPLASH!  

A waterfall of hydrochloric acid was dropped on the beast. He screamed as best he could, before choking on the blood. He was unable to tell if he could feel pain anymore or not but he writhed anyway.  

*** 

Blam! Rewind. Blam! Rewind. Blam!  

Reggie Penn had been made to watch his father’s death over and over again. Video footage from someone in the crowd had found its way into Kappa So hands. Now it was playing on loop on the large screen beside the small cage Reggie was being held in. The cage had been one he normally kept some of his pet rats in. The rats were all dead now. Billy Owen saw to that. Cooked, gutted, shot for fun. He still said nothing. He couldn’t bring himself to speak so they left him in his cage to watch the fall of the king.  

He must have dozed off. When he stirred again his father was still being shot but he could hear voices. More brothers had come to the compound just outside the airport. The voices were excitable and they had women with them. It seemed they were planning a proper send off for the Penn triplet. Bon Voyage Reggie Penn, next stop, Star State. Thank you for flying Owen Air.  

He was left alone in his father’s purgatory and this time when he dozed off a longer spell must have passed because he could sense it was night time again. The party was heating up. Girls were cheering, furniture was being smashed and a repetitive beat thudded against the walls in the pretence it was music.  
Eventually the door was opened and a brother Reggie didn’t recognise entered with a Kappa Si sister on his arm.  

“You wanna see the rat boy?” he said. He was high on cocaine, his arm swung limply by his side holding a bottle of Macks whiskey. The girl giggled.  

“I heard he thinks he’s a rat himself,” said the girl. She had heard so many rumours through the grapevine and that wasn’t the worst.  

The brother laughed. “He squeaks when you stab him.” 

The girl wandered over to the cage. She clutched the bars and leaned over. Reggie caught her in a cool stare but it wasn’t vacant. The bars of the cage cast him in shadows, like a rat caught in the corner of the basement. The cat toying with its prey.  

“Hello Reggie Penn. How are you doing?”  

Reggie didn’t answer. They both kept their gazes locked on one another. The girl sighed as she felt her skirt lift and the brother stroked her buttocks with a gentle but clumsy hand. He ran his hands round to her breasts and pushed her tighter against the cage. Still, she kept her focus on Reggie and he on her.  

The Kappa So brother grunted as he started to pull the Si sister’s underwear down. She turned to him and playfully pushed him away.  

“It’s not really doing it for me,” the girl complained.  

The brother growled at Reggie.  

“You’re a fucking boner killer!” he yelled. In frustration he kicked at the cage. Reggie still staring, still saying nothing. He made the brother uncomfortable. The brother clearly didn’t want to seem intimidated in front of his girlfriend. He gripped the bars, spat on Reggie and cried, “They’re going to throw you out of the plane half way across the pond.” 

Zap!  

The brother fell back. The electrified bars of the cage had been switched on. A small smile traced Reggie’s lips.  

“What ya’ll tryna do in here?” Billy Owen demanded to know. “I ain’t running no zoo.”  

“She wanted to see Rat Boy,” the brother explained. “I heard he likes to watch people fuck so I was giving him a treat.”  

Billy’s nose wrinkled. “E’body knows he only watches when it’s one of his brothers, sick fucks. Now you’ve just gone and made me disappointed. If I had known you were going to give her a bit of the old doggy action against that there cage, I would have waited to throw on the sparks. Slap, slap, slap oh my! Buzzz! You’d be writhing around, still fucking her, currents coursing!” Billy laughed at the image he had created in his head. He looked at the brother who was now regarding him with some nervousness. Billy slapped him across the back. “C’mon. I’m only pulling your pisser. What kind of sick mind would do a thing like that?”  

The brother wasn’t so sure. He did notice Billy taking one last look at the cage. The room became swarmed with brothers.  

“Billy,” cooed the girl. “Can you let me see the cock pit?”  

“Girl, you’re a freak,” Billy laughed but she took his arm. Billy shoved the brother from the room.  

When he was left alone Reggie noticed that the cage had been opened. A bottle of water and protein bars had been left behind. If he managed to step outside there was no telling what he would be walking into. Fight or flight. Survival of the fittest. Self-preservation. Whether it was rats or humans, given the opportunity to run, they were always going to take it.  

*** 

Run child, as fast as your feet will carry you.  

Don’t pause for a breath or stop to tie your shoe.  

You can look around, cry for help if you like,  

But this is one time the monster will strike.  

You can run deep into the forest, you can hide in the dark,  

But we will always find you, for you have the mark.  

You will never survive; you’ve already begun to rot,  

You can gather wood, set camp just like daddy taught.  

It all seems so fruitless now, so close to the end,  

When a monster lurks behind every bend.  

Our paths are made from the bones of the others,  

Somewhere waiting for them are weeping mothers. 

You will discover as they did, there is no way out,  

Burst your little lungs trying to scream and shout.  

Just listen please, to the noise of the trees.  

They will warn you of what lurks in every inch of this place.  

Creatures waiting to snatch you, all eager for a taste.  

They won’t wait long, for they are hungry indeed. 

Only the blood of a child will fulfil their greed.  

All roads lead to the same place in the end.  

We all go without a coin, a care or a friend,  

So look up child and see what lies in wait.  

Thank you, little child, for taking the bait. 

I have always admired just how much of a survivor Reginald Penn Junior was. In his way he was the strongest of the three triplets. He had been through so much and still he survived. His survival nature served him well that night because a rescue operation was underway.  

I had said that heroes were to take their place and thankfully they did that night, just in time. Before Reggie met an unfortunate fate more gun fire rang out in protest. The agents of the Good Gang contained the scene and rescued Reggie.  

Agent Lydia Lowe, who had been the Kappa Si girl infiltrating the scene earlier, checked on him.  

Reggie had drawn into himself so he wasn’t very responsive, but I can imagine the relief he felt at the sight of Lydia’s smile.  

The members of the Hickes Agency, named after Detective Joel Hickes who is sadly no longer with us, brought a much-needed injection of honour, kindness, bravery and leadership to the shades of Coldford. In testament to that, they carried Reggie to safety, even as the son of the man who murdered their inspiration.  

Now, Billy Owen was in a predicament. His brother Theodore ‘Teddy’ Owen had just been inducted as a member of the Good Gang. After all the trouble the agents had gone through to return Buddy home, The Cappy would also be keen on smoothing this over. There was only one thing for it. They had to put an Owen spin on the entire scenario.  

“It was confirmed last night Reginald Penn Junior was found by CPD officers and some Good Gang agents. A heroic extraction conducted by Commissioner Billy Owen helped the son to return home after the family had faced tragedy with the execution of Reginald Penn Senior on terrorism charges. 

Commissioner Owen was offered commendations for his undercover work in his attempts to weed out corruption within Kappa So. The commissioner said, “I don’t mind the danger. It is important to me and my family that our fraternity is the best it can be. I would personally like to thank the Good Gang agents for their support.”  

On behalf of Owen Inc and of the city we wish Reggie Junior a speedy recovery, and perhaps city main herself can now begin to heal. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily News.” 

Dr Winslow was a well respected doctor. Harbour House was his vision of rehabilitation. Sometimes even the best vision can become clouded with greed.

Join reporter Sam on the story of his life as he investigates the disappearance of the city mayor.

Complete Season 1 now available for kindle.

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