Cooper cars were the best engineered, best presented and beautifully polished cars you would find in the world. Luxury is an understatement. When you take a ride in a Cooper car you will find her welcoming, warm and ready to take you anywhere you want to go.
Marshall Cooper was the big dog, as they say. He and his fleet of Mad Dog racing cars were renowned. However, his reputation in the Shady City had become somewhat tarnished of late. Coldford hadn’t responded well to his imported Great States enthusiasm. It seemed the city didn’t quite love him as much as he loved himself. This couldn’t be tolerated.
Marshall Cooper was an elder of the Kappa So fraternity and that meant something. It meant he had a place in the city so they ought to show him some admiration, a little bit of fucking respect.
So, Kathleen was called upon. Kathleen was the mother hen of Kappa Si sorority and she was a PR guru. She was tasked with keeping the frat boys at heel. This was no easy task.
When she saw the Cooper brand being slated around Coldford she had no choice but leash up the big dog and haul him into her office for some house training.
“You need to stop pissing everywhere, Marsh,” she told him in no uncertain terms. “You’re making yourself untouchable and you’ll push your garages right out of Coldford. The people of this city are a tough crowd. You need to play the game.”
Marshall had been sour faced as expected sat before her desk. He smiled his bleached grin. He wasn’t liking being told what to do.
“It’s that fucking retarded crotch stain of mine that’s caused it,” Marshall said, referring to his son Dale. “Him and his bros have been shitting everywhere before I even got here. They’ve made the frat a laughing stock.”
Kathleen flipped open her notebook.
“Dale is just following example,” she said. “You’ve got to get him in line. He’s your son.”
Marshall rolled his eyes. “So Chastity says,” he scolded, referring to Dale’s mother.
“Either way,” Kathleen went on, “He’s got your name and he’s the up and comer for your brand. You need him to be ready for that.”
“There’s no way Dale will get my garages,” Marshall was adamant.
“Then who would?” Kathleen asked.
“Missy of course,” he said. “My Princess is smart, she’s got degrees coming out her ears. She’s been Miss Star State two years running, she’s a netball champion and she drives like a real Cooper.”
Missy Cooper, Marshall’s daughter, was one of Kathleen’s sorority chickadees so she was familiar. Missy was what the Cooper brand needed.
“Missy is good,” the maven agreed. “What she needs to do is help bring her brother to her level. I’m going to bring her in to work with Dale. Together they’ll make the Cooper brand something worth taking into the future. She’ll have a couple of weeks to try get him with some of the achievements she has.”
“Oh, come on,” Marshall scoffed. “It would take a miracle worker to have Dale seen as anything but a complete fuck up. What’s he going to achieve that even comes close to Missy?”
Kathleen was adamant. “I wasn’t putting it for opinions. I’m telling you what’s going to go down here.”
Marshall had no response. Dale, who had been sat there the whole time lifted his head.
“Huh?” he asked, sounding a little far off.
“Make it a couple of months,” Kathleen decided.
The Coldford Daily, for which Kathleen was the editor, was Owen owned. The Owen family and the Coopers were frat bros for life, so Kathleen, in her wisdom, decided that the exposure needed to come from an independent. That independent was me. I was in for a wild ride.
“The dogs got bite, man. It’s gonna be crazy,” was Marshall Coopers sentiment towards his beloved cars.
Owen Estate was playing host to an event rarely seen in Coldford. The mad dogs mostly kept to the big tracks in the Great States or the tours in Luen so getting to see the Cooper Mad Dogs in legitimate action was quite a boon. Dan, who had formed a friendship with The Cappy through their mutual love of Owen History had managed to arrange for an invite to me.
“Keep a wary eye, Sam,” was the warning from Seth Bergman.
“Slash their fucking tires,” had been Elizabeth’s thoughts.
Either way I passed through the gates of Owen Estate and I found myself overwhelmed but the sheer, monumental ego the place held. A wall of the path leading to the main entrance was bricked in a slightly different shade from the rest. I learned later that this was because the section was younger, with fresher brick. It seemed Buddy, as a teen, had drove a car through it. No doubt he had been high at the time. His mother had it fixed before The Cappy returned from a trip to Tokashima where Marshall had been stationed at the time. There were monuments and plaques to the Owens of old. Special place had been given to Captain Henry ‘Hen’ Owen who founded the dynasty. There was a bronze replica of his ship and leading to the main house was the tread board that had been used. It was brilliantly restored. A crowd had already gathered. I could hear the red car – Cherry –bark in the distance. The excitement was palpable. I was mostly drawn to the green car – Emerald. She was twisting round the track when I arrived. As she rounded the corner her wheels tightened and her body started to swish side to side. The audience applauded in appreciation at her beauty, her technique and the skill of her driver.
Marshall’s voice could be heard above all the others. Austin Perry had been quite accommodating when I paid a visit to his zoo. Conversation with the prickliest member of the Kappa Elders was going to prove a challenge.
“Marshall?” I introduced myself. “Sam Crusow. I’d like to ask you a little bit about the Mad Dogs If I may?”
Marshall eyed me with suspicion at first. A life long playboy he had taken care of himself. He was flash, with a bleached smile and an overly familiar persona.
“Crusow,” he said. “I know that name?” he tried to figure my placement before he decided on how much he was going to help me. I chose to usher him along in his decision.
“You should. I’m the reporter that left the Daily behind. But you probably remember my father, Samuel Crusow? Crusow Autos? He beat you in the Luen Formula races when you were a driver. He also beat you in the Tokashima tracks, the Shady Circuit tracks and the Jole derby.”
Marshall laughed it off. He played it cool. I didn’t want to push it too hard. I was there on Dan’s recommendation after all and didn’t want to stir too much trouble for him. I learned that prodding someone’s ego causes them to step back. It is a far easier position to question from.
Marshall shook his head. “No he didn’t,” he maintained. His bright smile darkened.
He did. It was true. Crusow Autos was my lineage back in Jamestown. My father had produced his own racer from scratch using what parts he could find. The entire town came together to help him. When he was pit against an experienced and admittedly skilled driver – Marshall Cooper – with all the money in the world to back him. The idea of my father winning the Shady Circuits was laughable but with determination win them he did. A simple scroll through archives would remind him of this fact but I was there to prod egos and collect information not have myself thrown out. I wanted to keep him open to talking so I directed his attention to his greatest love.
“The cars are impressive. I heard Sunny can reach nought to sixty in two point four seconds.”
Marshall was swooning at this.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “She’s fast. She’s real fast. Nothing can beat her. She’s a sexy bitch too.”
Gleaming, sunshine yellow and with a sleek body, Sunny was a well formed, stream lined car. She didn’t need the rabbit to chase around the track. She wanted to run. A woman in yellow Cooper Cars gear was walking towards her. She was a Tokashima native. She was a pretty young woman and enjoying the adulation of her fans as Sunny’s driver. Her name – I came to learn – was Miko. She was a champion circuit racer recruited by Marshall and she was very much at home in Sunny’s driver seat. She didn’t speak much of the Coldford language but she engaged her adoring fans well enough.
The attraction of the day was Jewel, Marshall’s own car and Alpha of the pack of Mad Dogs. I watched as he sat in his driver seat, door open and his legs on the outside talking to a group of young teenagers who had gathered around to admire the vehicle.
“She’s got enough G whilst cornering she could drive upside down in a tunnel,” Marshall boasted.
“Wow!” The boys were rightfully impressed. “Have you ever done that?”
Marshall gave a wry smile. “Got a ticket in Luen for it.”
One of the boys jerked at the noise of Cherry’s bark.
Marshall teased. “Don’t mind her. She just gets a little rowdy.”
A rumble sounded. It was a guttural sound that lay beneath the noise of the mad dogs. Miko, who had been putting her helmet on, stopped. Cherry silenced her engine, the noise lowered to a growl. Emerald screeched to a stop.
Swaying smoothly, like the shoulder blades of a prowling tiger, Kitty cantered among the pack. Her engine hissed as it closed off.
“Kitty!” the boys cried excitedly, spotting the much publicized vehicle of Agent Lowe. The publicity – thanks to Elizabeth Beckingridge and the Filton Press publishing house – had spread like wildfire. With Lydia being an attractive, capable agent with a warm, bubbly personality it was easy work.
“Half the work’s already done,” Elizabeth had claimed. “Look at her!”
Marshall’s expression became thunderous as he watched Kitty being swamped by admirers. He approached himself. Jewel locked with a bleep. “Agent Lowe,” he said. “Glad you could make it. It’s good to know there’s nothing better going on in the city for you to be involved in.”
Lydia ignored the self-righteous tone. He knew a big part of the Good Gang presence in the city was publicity. With the Black Bands pulling back they needed faces the people of Coldford could turn to in times of trouble. In that moment, Marshall only had eyes for Kitty.
“She’s a sweet ride, he said. “How fast can she go?”
“Fast enough to catch the bad guys,” Lydia returned in jest. She watched one of the teens reached out to touch the bike. She pulled the accelerator, giving Kitty her signature roar. The teen leapt back laughing.
Lydia patted the bike. “I think she likes you.”
“Can she beat Sunny?”
“C’mon,” Marshall scoffed as though it was a no brainer.
“I think she could,” I decided to put in.
Marshall would have none of it. His pack of Mad Dogs could outrun any cool cat – especially the speedy Sunny.
“Miko?” he called to Sunny’s driver. Fluently in the language of Tokashima he told her to get ready. If any of us could translate we would have heard him say, “this bitch is going down.”
“How fast can Kitty go?” I asked Lydia – not entirely sure of the full scale abilities my mechanical engineer father had given her.
“We’ll soon find out.” Lydia said with confidence as she put on her helmet and drove to the starting line.
First lap. Sunny darted off in front. Kitty chased behind her but as they rounded they approached the first corner the bike managed to gain. Inside the car Miko growled to herself. She tapped her steering wheel and jerked to the side. She almost knocked Lydia from Kitty but luckily she maneuvered herself out of danger.
“Fuck,” I could hear Marshall growl under his breath.
Lydia had fallen behind again but as they reached a long stretch of track both vehicles really opened up. Truthfully I had never seen a car drive so fast. Kitty’s hiss showed she was having none of it. With traction under her wheels, she sped on in front.
Second lap. The corners were being taken a little messily now. Sunny was pushing to be in front. She tried again to nudge Kitty off of the track. Kitty did skid into the mud a little and Sunny was offered the chance to speed on ahead.
Third lap. The unbeatable Sunny tore through the track but speed is no match for determination. Kitty opened up to the heaviest speeds she was capable off. She caught up with her. The two were neck in neck. They closed in on the finishing line. Sunny nudged ahead. One last time the Mad Dog snapped at the Cool Cat but in doing so her wheels corrected. The bike was easy to maneuver out of the way so the slight pull was enough distance required to speed on. The race was finished. The winner was Kitty.
Stopping the car Miko pulled her helmet off. She battered her fists against the steering wheel in frustration.
Whilst Sophie Bergman demonstrated the law to the circus family, Marshall Cooper wished for some laws in his own hands so he arranged a meeting by special request with Judge Doyle.
“You better not be stirring shit, Coops,” The Cappy pressed. “We only just about got things in order.”
Marshall shrugged it off.
“Shiiiit. I know what I’m doing.”
Chick wasn’t so sure. He knew he was an egotistical man but Marshall could be worse. He always set out to prove a point. Nothing displayed Marshall’s ego better than a pack of speedy, hungry, powerful classic cars. He had been ranting ever since Kitty had beaten Sunny. Miko, Sunny’s driver hadn’t been much better. If The Cappy could speak the language of Tokashima he would tell the bitch to shut up in her native tongue.
Marshall was a dangerous man when his cars were attacked. He responded more to their ridicule than Dale’s. Chick had seen him over the years go to extreme lengths when someone made him look a fool. Sure, he himself was one to talk but Marshall’s bitter streak could turn nasty and cause troubles with the Good Gang.
“I need licenses for weaponry on all my cars,” Marshall put to Judge Doyle.
There it was. Because he lost a race he was going to blow the whole damn city up.
Judge Doyle raised his chin. Even she saw the ridiculousness of the request. The Cappy had attended the meeting with him with the intention of pulling the leash whenever necessary was also taken aback.
“Weapons?” Judge Doyle had to be clear. “What kind of weapons?”
Marshall went off on one of his usual rants.
“My cars got all the power you’re ever going to want. They sync better than any fleet and they can be across the city in no time. They are the fastest.
Judge Doyle interrupted him. “They’re obviously not the fastest if Agent Lowe’s bike managed to best them.”
“Shit…” Marshall groaned. “A bike is always gonna have one up on a car. There’s less traction, more maneuverability. It’s not a fair comparison.”
“Your request is denied,” Doyle said.
This riled Marshall. He couldn’t comprehend someone not admiring his dogs as much they did. The Cappy prepared to tug the leash.
“You’re doing the city a disservice,” Marshall protested. “Think about what my cars could give CPD.”
‘Should have brought a fucking muzzle,’ thought Chick.
“Whilst you are in my office you will address me by my proper title.”
Marshall actually managed to find some civility brought on by Doyle’s battle scarred warning stare.
“They could do some good is all I’m saying, Your Honour,” he said. “If I had the mechanics of that Kitty bike I could mass produce.”
“CPD and Kappa So are already under scrutiny. CPD budget has been slashed. I will not be allowing you to be armed with any further destructive capabilities. The agents are trained, trusted and have already done much good. Your request is denied.”
“You’re making a huge mistake,” Marshall glared.
“Marshall,” Chick warned. The leash had been tugged.
“What would be a mistake is not heeding my judgement,” Doyle declared.
And so Marshall Cooper, the Alpha Mad Dog had been set away without the opportunity of shiny new toys. It was a welcomed relief for most of us in the city. For Marshall Cooper. It was a slap in the face.
Marshall had been pacing Harbour House for twenty minutes. He had said he had been there to check on Dale’s welfare as he continued in his rehab program. He had been on the phone the whole time and he didn’t have a word to share with his son. He had been on the call when he arrived and he had been contacted with the next before Cooper could speak.
As Marshall turned Cooper caught the sight of the blue screen against his ear. It was a call from within Sky.
Cooper craned his neck and looked out of the window where Lydia was looming near by.
“I can see the bitch now,” he said. “Call in and she’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.”
He finally closed the call. He turned to Cooper with a snarling grin.
He slapped his arm where a blood sample had only just been taken. Cooper grimaced in pain.
“Getting all your feeling out?” he teased. “What about the rest of you? Your pathetic pussy asses in rehab over some damn lines.”
“Fuck you,” Buddy replied with a sneer.
Marshall stood. He reached his arms out. “I’m just messing with you boys. You need to learn what happens when you don’t bite back. I’ll see you all later.”
He departed the room. Through the window Cooper could see his father disappear down the corridor.
“Bud?” Coops put to his bro. “I think Lydia might be in trouble. I think their going to pack up on Lydia.”
Buddy pushed his button.
“Beverly!” He called on the nurse.
The Harbour House matron appeared at the door looking a little flustered. “What is it Buddy? I swear to God this had better not be anything stupid.”
Buddy had a choice. He had a difficult choice to make with his history of terrible decision making. Resist the bro’ness.
When she reached the warehouse the tip off had suggested, Good Gang agent Lydia hadn’t found anything odd. It was all quiet. She was at the point of leaving when a heavy boom held her.
The mad dogs entered with all the flare they would offer in their shows. Pit crew alighted. Lydia was grossly outnumbered. In Tokashima, the underworld that Marshall frequented, when someone was found to be stepping out of line they were taken care of.
The cars began to circle Lydia. She prepared herself from the inevitable attack. Miko was the first. Hitting her, Lydia threw her out of the way to defend herself from blue. Jewel had followed in close at her pack’s back as Lydia kicked green out of the way. Marshall climbed out of his car. He walked round the front of jewel, leaning on her nose as he watched.
A wash of colours swooped around her as she pushed her body to its limit fending off Miko and once again throwing her out of the way. The colours swooshed round faster, making her feel a little dizzy. She hit blue again, then green, then Miko was thrown to floor once more, making her frustrated. Lydia was pushed further. As she fought back she became conscious of being hit by one of the cars. Cherry boomed her angry bark and Lydia did her best to dodge more attacks. Her adaptability had shown her where the weakest spots were in the Kevlar suits. She was going to win. She was going to make her escape but there is no reasoning with a mad dog. Emerald swept out of the line and knocked Lydia to the ground.
The pit crew descended upon her. She was finding it hard to breath. She tried to get up. She was knocked to the ground.
Sky received a bullet to her tire. Upon entry of Theodore ‘Teddy’ Owen and his six shooters, the other cars too had their tires blown. The rest of the Good Gang had come to the aid of Lydia. They fought off the pit crew and they were regretting their decision to pack up on Agent Lowe. Marshall was still barking like a mad dog.
“We were just messing around,” he tried to say. “If she’s as good as you guys think I’m sure she can take it.”
Franklin was aiding Lydia into a car at this point.
“You know, I had a dog when I was a girl, a big fucker, ” Kim started. “He was always barking at me and it terrified the life out of me. Then my dad told me that it doesn’t matter the size of the dog, they all back off with the same thing.”
“Oh yeah? Marshall asked. “and what’s that?”
“A bat to the fucking nose,” Kim answered.
“Is that what you think this is? Marshall went on, still barking away.
“Ye done?” Kim asked.
“I ain’t taking your shit,” Marshall tried.
As they passed the gathered pit crew, Miko glared at her.
“Are you done?” Kim put to her.
Miko shook her head and looked away.
WELCOME TO ROSE.
The rose gold Cooper insect was a sight to behold as it pulled up outside Coldford Airport. It stationed itself across two parking spaces at the entrance of arrivals.
Airport lounges are a curious thing in their atmosphere. Much like the train stations they are filled with an excitement unlike anywhere else. The anticipation of long parted family and friends being reunited again can be quite intoxicating. The tension was particularly high on this day as the arrivals board noted flight 293 from the Great States had landed.
A cheerleading squad of Kappa Si filled the area, chanting, dancing and making quite a display. Two burly Kappa So brothers held up a sign for their collect. The sign read Missy Cooper.
Two well dressed Owen Inc. flight attendants were the first to emerge pulling with them the matching luggage.
Back at Cooper garages where we were waiting I took note that Marshall was smiling. He really was quite proud of his daughter. Kathleen was already on the phone.
“I need a reservation for two tonight at the Delphine. I need the best seat you got with plenty of space for photographers. Send along one of the Brad Shroeder boys to accompany. Whichever one is most popular right now.”
“Here she comes,” Marshall announced. “Send Rose’s pit crew out there. I want to make sure she’s looking sharp.”
There was a lot of fuss. I was admiring of how well it was all coming together and how important the Cooper image truly was for Marshall. Among all the chaos Dale was stood speechless.
Through the windows I could see a pit crew in rose gold cooper gear readying to welcome their charge. They weren’t kept waiting long. The purr of Rose rounded the corner and crawled smoothly into the garages. From the car emerged a young woman wearing designer glasses. She had removed the sunglasses as she threw open the doors of the garage.
“Daddy!” she cried, rushing to Marshall first. Then she observed him.
“Look at the state of your face,” she commented, paying particular attention to the bandage across his nose.
“Just a little bit of a mishap, princess. That’s why I called you here. I need to look after things for a little while.
“There she is!” Marshall said, lifting her into his arms. “How was your flight, princess?”
“It was smooth but such a drag.”
She kissed Kathleen on both cheeks.
“This is Sam,” Kathleen explained introducing myself.
Missy turned her radiant smile on me.
“Sam Crusow! It’s an honour. I’m actually a huge fan of your blog. I read it all the time. In fact on my way over here I was reading that article you wrote about the Knock Knock club. It must have been quite frightening for you.”
“It was an experience,” I assured.
“Well, I’m super psyched to be talking to you. Just give me a chance to wash the airplane off my hands we’ll have a chat. Daddy? Can we use your office?”
“Of course you can, princess.”
“Cute shirt,” Missy pointed to my outfit and she dashed off to freshen up.
I turned to Dale.
“Won’t you be joining us?” I asked him.
Dale’s first instinct was to look to his father. Marshall had no say in the matter. He would much rather Dale blended into the background.
Missy spoke pleasantly about the Crusow Cooper history. She teased a little but with charm. She had her father’s confidence, talking to me as though we were long acquainted but she managed to not seem overly familiar. She carried herself with flash and style. She was self assured. She had some of Marshall’s arrogance but she managed to carry it in a more amiable way. With Kathleen at her back, after Marshall’s disastrous attempts to get the Lawmakers on his side and bully the Good Gang agents, Missy would be the perfect one to rescue the Cooper reputation. She had a lot of work to do.
The Office of Lawmakers had advised me to stay away. All my better judgement warned me to stay away too but I couldn’t. I set out to uncover the story of Mayor Feltz. The Knock Knock Club was where the answers lay. Tabitha was tagged and surrounded by a host of bailiffs. There were also Black Band militants around too but given the sensitivity of the situation Doyle had reduced their numbers. With some protesting I was granted an opportunity of an interview back at the Knock Knock Club.
The main hall was empty. The chairs that had been filled upon my first visit sat unoccupied. Despite my obvious distaste for the place I should note the liveliness and hope that it brought to many people. It was shelter. It was refuge. It wouldn’t be the same without Agnes Wilde. She was a decent woman by all accounts. She was another kind, loving soul driven to desperate acts within a cruel city.
CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.
I looked to the stage. Tabitha had made her entrance. The ordeal she had been through hadn’t lost her any of her flair. She watched me at first. Then she started to smile looking down upon me from her platform.
“Did you miss me?” She asked.
“Not even a little bit,” I returned with a scowl.
“Then why are you here? She asked.
“I’m here because this story is unfinished,” I told her. “Where is Mayor Feltz?”
“How should I know?” Tabitha replied.
“You know full well how you should know. They will execute you. They’ll get the job done one way or another. The least you could do now is give over what you know,” I pressed.
CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.
Tabitha crossed to the font of the stage. She sat herself on the edge allowing her legs to dangle over. She rested her hands on her lap. She pouted at me.
“I never liked Feltz,” she told me.
“I gathered that.”
“He was self serving. He didn’t give a fuck about the people he represented. He was a typical politician in that sense I suppose. He worked by bribes. He didn’t at first. At first he talked a good game and It looked like he was going to make a real difference. City Hall got to him and he was giving favours to the highest bidder. Look about yourself. Who down here can afford to compete with that? He had promised shelters, free clinics and it almost made me feel sorry I didn’t vote for the cunt. Fullerton were contracted for the work and it was going to change lives. Then word was sent that those contracts were torn up. They weren’t going to build anymore. We tried our best but the recession hit hardest here. People lost their homes. Kids were out on the streets. We begged them to reconsider. They still refused. A letter of appeal was even sent to that old troll Lynette Fullerton. She ignored it. We did our best but there were too many needing help. Kids started to die of exposure. Drugs and prostitution spread rapidly as people became desperate. Illness spread fast too. The bodies piled up. It was like a fever had been dropped deliberately to wipe The Shanties out. I invited Feltz down to see it for himself. His daughter – Amber – turned up instead. She had some Beckingridge Banker with her. I just wanted to ask her a few questions like, where was her daddy and why the fuck was she in my club with his invitation. She told me he was busy. He had a meeting at Beckingridge Tower. I was a little less friendly towards her then. I pierced some holes in her so the truth would ooze out. She told me a new account had been opened in the name of Owen Inc. That’s where the Fullerton had put their money instead. There were plenty others too. Why should they care? The fever was spreading and we’d all be dead starting with the really young, the old and the vulnerable. The fat, greedy fucks were going to be celebrating. Little kids were dying in my arms and those despicable cunts were having a party! The recession was costing lives here and the mayor who was elected to lead Coldford didn’t care. He was too busy making his own money in an Owen investment account.
I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks of me. That money had to be given to where it was promised. That was how me and the triplets happened to find ourselves at their little shindig when they got all boozed and drugged up and fell from the penthouse window.”
“Fell from the penthouse did they?”
“It’s not my fault they built the thing so fucking high.” She went on. “Feltz hadn’t been there. He was skipping out on all kinds of invitations. We managed to catch up with him. He was in Main so I had Marcus with me. He had one way flight tickets on him. Well! I was just so devastated he would run away from me I kind of blacked out and don’t remember much else,” she said with a sardonic tone. “I do remember warning him to never return though.”
“You let him go?”
“Of course I did. What do you take me for? I was sure I had made my point to him anyway. I can be quite persuasive. He was a lost cause. My focus was on which cunt was going to sit in City Hall next.
“You really have no idea where he went?”
“His ticket was to Kuberstan. Who the fuck wants to go to Kuberstan? I took it off of him so maybe he hopped a flight elsewhere. If I still had him I would be shouting it from the rooftops.”
She grinned and started to kick her legs back and forth like a fidgeting child.
“Do you want to hear the best part?” She asked.
What I really wanted was to leave that dreadful cabaret club but I needed to know what Tabitha did.
“When I spoke to Chick Owen, he had no real knowledge of this investment account. He had been told the triplets and I had gone to the party to watch those people eat heethers and tumble from the window out of spite like we were some kind of maniacs. He assumed I was being nasty because of Jerry Owen. Mayor Feltz had managed to close the account with the help of Mickey Doyle before he had had the chance to look into it. Amber told me though. She told me who signed on Chick’s behalf.”
“Did you tell The Cappy who signed for him?”
“Of course I didn’t. I think all this snooping around is rotting your brain. You don’t give Chick Owen all your information. That would be fucking stupid. Then he has all he wants and you get a bullet in your skull.”
She put a finger to her head as though holding a gun and then she pulled the trigger.
“I told him as soon as all three triplets were safe back at Faulds, then I would tell him who the co signatory was. Reggie was in love again. Wigans were everywhere in Main. The last thing they needed were those nuts everywhere. Do you know they still stone people to death? Fucking barbarians they are. My grandma attended a stoning once. It was one of Jerry Owen’s pervy pals in the Wigan order. She threw the first rock.”
“What about Melanie Wallace? She died in Clifton Alley. I saw the whole thing.”
“The Lawmaker Tabitha!”
“You were grieving a wife or something weren’t you?” Was Tabitha’s response. “How do you know what you saw?”
“I know what I saw,” I insisted.
Tabitha was unmoved.
“Let’s just say that a Lawmaker did come here. Just for the sake of keeping this conversation going let’s assume it was Mel Wallace. She came here with warrants, threatening to shut us down. At least she would have if she was actually here. Main was threatened too – perhaps. There had been a lot of talk about Chamberlain Palace in Kingsgate wanting to restore it to the real crown, whatever the fuck that means. The Penns have ruled up in Main for a long time. They had real aristocratic titles at one point but the Chamberlains stripped them of that when the people starting calling them kings. The difference between the Auction House and Chamerblain House was the Penn family earned their crown by being among the people, fighting with them and supporting them. Anyhoo, the Penns will guard their place with everything they have. If that Lawmaker happened to be threatening that, Marcus was most likely to just slit her throat and be done with it.”
“I’ll bet he would.”
Tabitha leaned forward. She looked a little frustrated but she laughed.
“You still think we’re the villains in this, don’t you?”
“You’re not exactly a hero,” I told her.
Her upper lip curled.
“Then who is?”
Her comment stirred another question I was keen to gain Tabitha’s perspective on.”
“Joel Hickes was murdered by Reginald Penn.”
Tabitha became solemn.
“Reg Penn was a king,” she said. “Joel Hickes was a real star. They got on well. It’s kind of a custom for the Auction House and CPD to work together. I honestly don’t know what went down between them. Reginald would have been furious the triplets were in The Boss. He could have a temper. He was a real nasty one when he needed to be but killing Hickes makes no sense.”
“What about his sons?” I asked, mostly referring to Marcus. “Does killing Mel Wallace make sense?”
Tabitha scowled. Her instant anger at this challenge took me a little by surprise.
“Get over yourself,” she told me. “You don’t know the triplets. You think you may have, perhaps, possibly witnessed a back alley murder and you’re getting all pissy about it? Welcome to fucking Coldford, Sam. It’ll get much worse before it gets better. One thing I’ll say is none of the Penns would take that kind of action unless it was necessary.”
“Who opened the account in Chick’s name?” I asked her.
She smiled at me. She slipped off of the stage edge. She brought herself close to me.
CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.
She raised herself so our heights were more comparable.
“You still don’t have an invitation,” she said.
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