The travel from City Main to Swantin had been a quiet one. Leona had expected it to be distressing for Reggie to leave his brothers behind, especially when they had just gotten back together after such an ordeal. They were grieving for their parents in their City Dweller way. Reggie had packed one his mother’s necklaces. On it was a pendant with three diamonds. Reginald had bought it for her when she gave birth to the triplets. He had said at the time there was no gift he could give that would ever match that which she had given him in his sons. Reggie planned to give it to his own child when they were old enough. He had also packed a hip flask. It originally belonged to his grandfather Renaud. Renaud Penn had carried it with him as a young man through the second Great War. With the letter R embossed on it it had been given to Reginald, naturally it fell then to Reggie. He had a picture of he and his brothers too. He stored many of them on his phone but it was likely the device would be taken from him when they reached the commune. Leona didn’t fret about any of that. He would be welcomed over on the island. He would find family there. In the days ahead such trinkets wouldn’t mean anything anymore.
“How are you feeling?” Leona asked him as they seated at the docks, waiting for the ferry.
“Marcus and Simon are going to be pissed.” He reflected on the brief note he had left them with a promise to call as soon as he had settled.
“If they want what’s best for ye they’ll accept it. If they don’t? You don’t need that in your life. We’re going to be so happy.”
Reggie nodded although he wasn’t sure he agreed. It was difficult to see a future without his triplets. He could come back and visit them he supposed and bring the child with him. They would be spoiled by their uncles. Marcus could seem cold but the niece or nephew would surely draw the warmth from him the way mother always did. Simon was good with kids. The Albans preschoolers always loved when he paid them a visit. They would laugh merrily as he leaped around with them, shadow boxing and carrying them around. He would dote on the baby.
When little Toby on the fourth floor of Faulds was born Rita made such a fuss over him. Marcus held him in his arms rocking him gently as Rita chatted to the new mother. Toby didn’t sleep. He did settle though. He kept staring at Marcus, then to Simon and then to Reggie confused by the identical faces. Maybe that was how Reggie’s own kid would react when they realised their dad was a triplet.
He was romanticising a lot in his head. The truth was when behind the walls Reggie would find it difficult to leave the commune. It would become his only refuge. In time he would forget he even was a triplet.
“All aboard the 6:15 to Hathfield Bay! All aboard!” Called the Ferry Master.
Reggie shuddered. Leona could see his resolve weaken. She clutched his hand. She just had to get him to the bay. Dominick would talk to him there. It would be much easier for him under His Eminence’s influence. As they stood Reggie started to feel a little dizzy.
“Are you okay?” Asked the wife.
Reggie tried to answer but he couldn’t speak. His chest had tightened. He had to sit back down again. He stumbled as he did so. He had been having these kind of episodes ever since mother had been killed. If he had seen a doctor the seizures brought about by panic attacks would have been treated. As it were the seizures were crashing over him in larger waves each time. Leona tried to pull him onto his feet again. She had to get him onto that ferry.
“All aboard the 6:15 to Hathfield bay!”
Reggie struggled to get onto his feet even with Leona pulling him. She became a little frantic. Luckily few noticed as the crowd poured towards the ferry entrance.
“Get up Reggie. Get up!” She was crying. “We’ll just get you on the boat and you’ll be fine. I’m taking you home.”
Reggie still couldn’t stand. His legs were weakened. The wave of the seizure had reached its peak.
“I’ll get some water,” Leona decided. “You rest. I’ll get some water and we can get get on the ferry.”
She departed. He watched her be swallowed up in the crowd of boarding passengers. He started to breathe a little easier. He regained some strength again but not enough to call her back. He tried to climb to his feet again but stumbled. Someone clutched his arm. He assumed one of the other passengers had taken pity on him.
“Take a breath, Reg,” he was instructed.
Through his blurring vision he could see he was being helped by himself. That didn’t make sense. He couldn’t help himself. When had they cut off his hair?
It was Simon who rested him on the bench.
“All aboard! Last call!”
“I have to go,” Reggie managed to mutter.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Simon told him.
Marcus was with him too.
“You can’t stop me,” Reggie responded testily.
“You can’t go,” Simon insisted. “We’ve lost mother. We’ve lost dad. Don’t have us lose you too.”
“I have to go. The ferry is boarding,” said Reggie.
“Reg,” Simon went on. “Don’t do this.”
“It’s alright,” said a man who accompanied them.
Reggie felt like he was going to be sick but his mind was clearing a little. He took in the man the triplets had brought with them. He was kind seeming with compassion natural in his expression.
“Life has been a real bummer lately,” he said. “Your brothers are here to tell you that it’s going to get better but you need to see a doctor.”
“My wife,” Reggie groaned, looking for Leona.
“You’re going to kill yourself, Reg,” Simon snapped. “You need to see a doctor. Come home!”
Reggie scowled. He tried to stand again and managed a few steps.
“You can’t stop me.”
It was the soft spoken, sympathetic man that held him back.
“Your brothers are just asking you to take a little step at a time. They just want you to see a doctor. Getting their A OK will make them feel better and then you can head off.”
“Who are you?” Reggie asked.
“John Reynolds,” he replied.
“He knows all about the Wigan Church,” said Marcus. “He has had dealings with these things.”
Taking cue from Marcus’ softer tone Simon added, “he knows his stuff. Just talk to him for a few minutes.”
Reynolds allowed the intervention words they discussed to flow.
Simon had been keen on jumping in heavy handed but cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds, had told him this would only push his brother away. Reynolds was familiar with Simon’s gun ho attitude when it came to those closest to him. It was after all an assault on Reynolds that granted him time within The Boss’s keep. Simon had been surprised to say the least when Reynolds came to visit him.
“Your brother is in trouble,” he had said. “I’ve worked with cults for years. The Church of Wigan is a big one. They are a real rad bunch of cats. They are around your brother and he will be pulled in. He needs someone by his side he can trust. I’ve spoken to the Office of Lawmakers about dropping the assault charges so you can get out of here and be with him.
“Why would you do that?” Simon wanted to know. “You could just sit back and say good riddance.”
“I have no hang ups. I do know Main needs you,” Reynolds told him.
Simon managed a smile too. He didn’t want to let himself get too caught up in the idea of getting out. Within the walls of The Boss, having hope was a fool’s game.
“I’m sorry,” Simon said. “It would be different if you were coming in here acting like a dickhead but you seem like a decent guy. We were all caught a little off guard when you came into the club. The last time people forced themselves in there it was shot up and burned out.”
“Have you ever had a pet go wild?” Asked the agent.
Simon indicated the negatory.
“Say you have a cat. This cat shows affection. It will lie on you, absorbing your warmth but it has claws. If it tears at you you have to cage it until it calms down. Can you dig it?”
“Are you saying I’m a pussy?” Simon asked in jest.
“I’m saying …”
“Yeah, I know,” Simon stopped him. “I just want what’s best for my family and for Main.”
“Then we’re on the same side,” Reynolds assured.
Simon reached his hand out.
“Thank you, Agent Reynolds,” said he.
Reynolds shook his hand.
He kept his word and Simon was freed shortly after this exchange. Still keeping to his word he had agreed to help separate Reggie from the Wigan Church.
“Just speak to a doctor,” Marcus requested at the dockside. “That’s all we ask.”
Rule number 16 of a cult deprogrammer: it takes many steps to open the eyes of a victim. First he would speak to a doctor. Then the treatment would begin. Just a little more help. Just a little more support. When the time was right the connection to the cult would be completely severed. That was when the greatest friction would occur. The victim would start to resist. The cult leader would have them believe their family and friends were working against them, especially if an emotional trigger was thrown in – like an unborn child for instance.
It would take time. Reynolds warned Simon of this but if he accepted his advice Reggie truly could be saved.
Meanwhile, Leona, had pushed her way through to a small snack stand on the docks. She snatched up the bottle of water she requested. She turned and bumped into a man.
“Sorry,” she said, naturally, but she was really still in a rush.
“Leona Riggs?” The man asked.
“Do I know you?” She returned.
“Franklin Rhodes,” he said. “I’m arresting you on suspicion of drug trafficking.”
Over on the bay, Dominick received an official annulment of the marriage between Leona and Reggie.
“What … in the seven circles … of Holy Hell … Is this?” Chick Owen had barked at his son.
“Lydia!” Buddy screamed on Agent Lowe.
The Cappy hadn’t forgotten about the bros treatment of the family heirloom. Hen Owen’s telescope now a golden cock had caused him to see red deeper than he ever had before. After Seth Bergman had handed it back it was Kim who got there first. She had good instincts so she grabbed Buddy, knowing him to be the cause of any commotion.
“You, boy,” Chick pointed his fingers at him. “You’ve been served your discharge papers and I suggest you get out of my sight until I decide what is to be done with you.” To Agent Kim he said, “I apologise ma’am but my temper has been so provoked it might be best this boy is taken from my sight.”
“Move,” Kim barked and pushed Buddy away.
“The Bergmans are trying to stir trouble, mate,” said Ozzy.
The Cappy replied, “they trouble me none. It’s time I deal with problems closer to home.”
He lifted the asset.
“To cap it all off we need to walk out with this. That snot nosed little shit didn’t leave the bag he brought it in.”
The bros didn’t stay out of Harbour House long. The Cappy finally made his judgement on what to do. He had decided on Seven minutes in heaven. This was an old Kappa So code that called when a brother was judged to have stepped out of line. It came with a severe beating from a chosen brother with the intention of leaving the mark unconscious for seven minutes. The last time such an action was taken in the Chapter House it was Jerry Owen. The chosen brother had been Chick and he managed his seven minutes as the name suggested. In the case of the bros, Kim Adams had stepped up with Doyle’s permission.
“I can’t believe this,” Buddy was saying nervously to Lydia.
“You surely couldn’t have expected anything less.”
“Can it just be you?” Buddy plead. “Can you do it?”
Lydia shook her head. “Do you think I would be any different?”
“Right we’re set up.”
Kim was taping her hands and stretching her neck. Curiosity had drawn Chloe in too. She stood beside the Kappa elders.
“We’re going to get through this,” Buddy had encouraged his bros.
“That’s great bro, but do you think we could skip the part where she completely annihilates us?” Coops tried.
Chad had tried for the first hit but Kim punched his knuckle. He fell back.
Wham! Wham! Two quick successive punches had Cooper floored.
Chad was now skipping backwards. Kim snatched him up by the hair and launched him forward. Cooper was just starting to correct himself. Feeling a little dizzy he stumbled. His nose had been burst open.
“Dad!” he tried to call out to Marshall, feeling a little dazed.
“Fight back you little pussy,” Marshall hissed.
Wham! Kim punched him again. He fell against the wall.
Wham! Wham! Wham!
More quick successive punches caused the body to fall limp. Chloe squealed as she watched Coops try to clamber to his feet.
“Oh no!” she said. Her sympathy fell with him.
Buddy tried to pull Kim away from Coops but she upper cut his chin and followed it with a quick jab to the face.
Wham! Kim turned. Wham! She sent Chad to ground again. He lay still.
“Check up on Chad,” Lydia called
Kim stormed across and snatched Chad by the testicles and heaved him across the floor.
“Ahhhh!” she screamed.
“Check up on Buddy!” Lydia called.
Buddy found new life.
“I’m up! I’m up!” he yelled.
Every broken bone they sustained, every bruise they bore and every drop of blood that was shed was exactly what a past blowing up in your face looks like.
Steven Renfield had been active within the church ever since he was a boy. He served the altar, he sang in the sermons and when the time came he joined the clergy. When Dominick Cole was granted his place at head of the church his first course of action had been to burn the priests guilty of corruption within the fold. St Wigan’s embrace was open for all sinners, therefore it figures it was open for ambitious fiends like Renfield.
He was head of the Northside parish but he wanted more. He had a generous church fund but that wasn’t enough either. As a boy he would read from Noah Wigan’s writings. He especially enjoyed it when the infamous holy man would talk of the great men who joined him like St Michael the Punisher. There was always awe when St Michael was spoken of. That was what Renfield wanted. Only that kind of awe would satisfy. St Michael burned, beheaded and crushed those who would disobey the teachings of Wigan. Noah Wigan had been accepting of sinners. It was Michael’s job to put them to the slaughter. He was called upon to send them to God for their true punishment.
The three pillars of the Wigan church reflected the true nature and fullness of the human experience. On Wigan’s left hand stood Bartholemew the carrier. With shoulders broad and a determination made of steel, he helped carry the fallen to the salvation Wigan held in his hand. Any father had to discipline their children. The fatherly figure of Wigan sometimes had to show his people the way with fire and fury. With sword in hand Michael the punisher delivered. Renfield was no St Michael. Renfield wasn’t put off though. He would deliver that fiery justice and the church would be in awe.
The so called Whiskey Wars between Northside and Bellfield was a blood thirsty affair. In his great wisdom Renfield was providing guidance to his parish. The Bellfield blood that was spilled was well received he assured his flock. He was speaking on behalf of St Michael.
They cheered. The crowd was in awe. He wanted more and more.
Agnes Wilde had been assisting in the area. With the loss of the Mack family – or at least most of them – the people of Bellfield were ripe for the taking. As the fighting continued schools became too dangerous and the children had to be taught in basements and behind false walls. Agnes had been bringing supplies to such a set up. Her brother – Professor Henry Wilde – had given her text books. He had implored her to leave the supplies and return to The Shanties. He had wanted her to come to Filton but she wouldn’t abandon the Knock Knock club, not with Tawny and Tabitha there. Returning to The Shanties was the compromise they had reached.
One of the Northside sweeps – an infamous practice of breaking and entering Bellfield homes in the name of the Northside constabulary policing the area. The captain leading the raid had recognised Agnes. What a fine spoil of war she had been. She was taken into custody and delivered to Father Renfield.
St Michael burned his sinners. Renfield did the same to Agnes. She was murdered as many looked on. They were screaming for her end and it had been a painful one, entirely undeserving.
Making a name in the Shady City was the intention. It certainly did that. There was talk of it everywhere. What Renfield hadn’t read in his religious texts was the people of Coldford City would respond to such actions and it wouldn’t be in fear. He turned to Dominick for the support of the church. His Eminence refused him. The response to the fiery fury that engulfed Agnes would be with more fire. When the Whiskey Wars were brought to an end Renfield was abandoned. Even his faith had escaped him. He found himself captured, held inside coarse brick walls.
There was a girl there. She was watching him closely.
“Hello, cunt,” she said.
Tabitha glared at him. She was smiling but she was obviously furious. The tie wraps that held him to the chair ripped into his skin as he tried to struggle.
“Did it hurt?” she asked him.
He had been beaten already. Maybe that was what she referred to.
“Did what hurt?” he found himself wanting to clarify.
The Boss Lady laughed, finding his predicament quite amusing.
“When you cook someone alive it’s bound to hurt,” said she with a snarl.
Renfield was taken aback by the anger although given the circumstances he shouldn’t have expected anything less. It was striking though because she appeared so youthful. She struck him as a little girl with a real nasty appetite. His assumptions wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
“The woman you burned was my aunt. She was a good woman. I want to know, did it hurt?”
“A temporary pain. She was cleansed. Wigan embraces sinners but to be welcomed into the kingdom of God she had to be cleansed of her sins.”
“And what were her sins?”
“She was aiding heathen gypsies.”
“By doing what?” Tabitha pressed. She was stood watching him with her hands on her hips. “Helping little kids stay safe whilst they learn their ABCs and 123s? That seems like a Holy thing to do. My grandma was a Wigan. Maybe you remember her, Delores McInney.”
Renfield’s pupils dilated. He did recognise the name. This made Tabitha smile.
“That’s right,” Tabitha went on, a little giddy at the reaction. “She did all that praying bull. She told me people couldn’t be saved. She read from Wigan’s books a lot. She was a real cunt about it. One thing she did do though was she gave whatever money she could to help others. That was something my Aunt Agnes had in common with her. Which makes me wonder why your church funds in Northside were all gathered up as you tried to slip away. I’m sure that’s something your head cunt Dominick Cole would like to know. One time I asked my grandma, ‘do you really believe Wigan gets to decide who is punished?’ She looked me straight in the eye and she said, ‘Wigan was put on this earth to embrace us. We cannot be saved but we can be redeemed.’”
I asked her what she thought should happen to anyone who presumed to do Wigan’s work for him. She said, ‘Tabitha, if someone uses Wigan’s name for their own gains they will be punished. They should be cut and bathed in the salt waters. Every inch of their flesh will burn for an eternity.’ I did think at the time, ‘that’s a bit much but she was one of you Wigan lunatics so she always said shit like that. It got me thinking though, would St Wigan have condemned a decent woman like my Aunt Agnes for protecting children? The Northside constabulary had burned the schools and nurseries. Where else were they supposed to go? I think my aunt and my grandma would agree that’s bullshit.”
Reflecting on Delores McInney, Renfield couldn’t argue with that. She was dedicated to her faith. She respected His Eminence because of his dedication. To her Dominick was an enlightened, faithful man – albeit overzealous at times.
Delores was a true faithful. She believed they all could be redeemed, even her unstable granddaughter. The burning of Agnes would not have gone down well with her.
“Don’t hurt me,” he cried. “Please! I beg you.”
Tabitha gave a snorting laugh at first but she composed herself.
“Pray to Wigan for his embrace, cunt. You’re going to be shackled so tightly it will severe your limbs eventually. You will burn for ever and you will live the rest of your days under the whip of monsters much worse than you. You will drown in a sea of misery and you will never catch your breath.”
Renfield started to cry out. His pleading bounced against the walls of the Knock Knock club. Tabitha savoured the sound until he was eventually picked up. Murder in the first degree. Inciting violence. Stephen Renfield, you are now in servitude to The Boss.
“They’re burning my paintings. Especially the ones that feature Julia,” David Finn was explaining to Harper Lane.
“I’ve seen that. CPD are everywhere. We’ve had to close the gallery until they get the streets cleared.”
“How’s my little besto?” David asked of Elliot.
“He’s fine,” Harper replied. “He has no idea what’s going on.”
“We are the children of Wigan and we know we can’t relent …”
The chanting outside the gallery had been so loud David could hear it over the phone.
“Harper, just take Elliot home,” David advised. His voice sounded a little shaky.
Harper refused. “CPD are moving them on. It’s fine. I have too much to do. I still have to get the paperwork in for the auction.”
“No,” David objected. “You can’t go ahead with that. Not with the way things are right now.”
“They are just religious nuts,” Harper assured. “CPD are on it and Jean Luc at the Auction House is still willing.”
“Just be careful.”
“I will,” Harper assured. “Do you want to say hello to the little one.”
David smiled, briefly forgetting his trepidation. “Sure.”
The Au Pair was signalled. She carried Elliot across to the phone at Harper’s request.
“Hey little man,” David said.
“Duh!” Elliot sounded pleased.
“You be good. I’ll see you soon.”
When Harper returned, she said, “I got to go, Davey. I’ll see you tomorrow at the auction.”
The day of the auction of the Finn painting arrived. Elizabeth Beckingridge had decided she wanted in on the action, especially when she learned The Cappy had shown an interest. She would be bidding from afar being back under house arrest. Presley Cage would bid on her behalf.
Around me were the most mismatched collection of people ever to be found in the Shady City. There was Chick Owen, as I’ve already noted. He was accompanied by his brother Ronnie. Howard Bergman had brought Seth. They both acknowledged me with a smile and a nod. Tawny was there too, accompanied by David Finn. By special Law Maker arrangement Tabitha had made her presence felt. She claimed as one of the artists she had to be there. CPD had surrounded the area and were watching the situation very carefully.
Given the location, the triplets were also there. Tabitha had been hugging Reggie when CPD officers moved her back, still wishing to keep a distance between the two. Tawny intervened before Tabitha began to behave very much like herself again towards the officers. I was glad to see this. Hopefully it meant she would maintain her distance from me.
This evening – one which still remains quite cemented in my memory – Jean Luc Penn would be the acting auctioneer. It was the first time I had actually laid eyes on the Finn painting. It was beautiful in a shocking, car wreck kind of way. I could see Tabitha admire it.
“We made a great picture,” she was saying with an arm around David. “I wonder how much we’ll get.”
“I like the colours,” said Tawny. “Really eye catching.”
“I chose those colours,” said Tabitha proudly.
“Yes Liz,” Presley was saying on the phone as Elizabeth kept ranting about being confined to her manor. “Maybe if you …” he tried to say. “You know if you just …”
I approached Howard. He shook my hand.
“Good to see you again, Sam,” he said cordially.
“Interested in the painting then?” I asked.
“Elsa insists. She wants it for her lounge,” he laughed.
Seth rolled his eyes.
“For our next piece I think we should have me on a horse or something, ” Tabitha was offering her artistic vision.
David was counting the CPD officers. He couldn’t shake the nerves. Harper and Gabrielle were moving around, keeping busy. Tabitha’s voice began to break into his thoughts.
“Huh?” he asked. “Oh yeah, yeah, a horse,” he agreed
Tabitha pouted. “Pay attention David,” she warned.
“Oh no,” said Tawny. “Here comes trouble.”
Arriving at the auction were two Wigans. One, the Wigan girl we know as River. The other, was His Eminence himself. The CPD officers had stopped them.
“This painting is important to my church,” Dominick explained. “I’m just wanting to take a gander at what all the fuss is about and maybe buy it up for myself.”
CPD couldn’t argue with that. It was after all a public auction. David started to count the CPD officers all over again, just incase there were a few he had missed.
Tawny, being Tawny, decided to address the elephant in the room and greet her fellow baysider.
“Dom Cole,” she said. “It’s been a long time. How are ye?”
The Baroness was familiar with Dominick. They went a long way back as it happened. There were times when she had even babysat the little church leader. It didn’t last long though. Dominick’s father had decided her lifestyle wasn’t much of a good influence for the upcoming leader of the commune.
“Tawny,” he returned. “You’re looking … well.”
“What brings you over here?” she asked, pleasantly enough but genuinely wanting to know.
Dominick’s eyes lifted to the painting. “Bab’s Tulloch’s Holy tits apparently,” he replied. “I heard ye suffered a loss of late. I know what that’s like. My condolences. You should know what happened to Agnes was not my will or Wigan’s.”
River had reached out and clasp Tawny’s hand in a consoling sort of way but Tabitha slapped it away.
“Don’t fucking touch her,” she snarled.
Tawny put her arm around her niece and pulled her closer to her before CPD interest was caught.
“No trouble here from me,” Dominick assured. “I’d just like to give my compliments to the artist. It’s striking work. It really is.”
Dominick looked across to David. His bleached hair and unkempt appearance offered no mystery as to who the artist was.
“I’m the artist,” Tabitha said. “I’ll take your compliments.”
With a tentative air, the auction commenced. Marcus gave a nod to Jean Luc.
“I’ll open the bid at £100,000.”
“Fucking Hell!” David could be heard exclaiming.
“100,000,” was the bid from Liz Beckingridge.
150,000 from Howard Bergman.
“Seriously, dad?” Seth put to him. “We’re going to hang that up?”
“It’s art Seth,” Howard reasoned.
200,000 from Chick Owen.
“It’s a piece of history there Ron,” Chick was gaily in his explanation to his brother.
I couldn’t help but notice Dominick didn’t raise any bid or even make an attempt to. It hadn’t seemed to escape Marcus’ notice either.
225,000 from Howard Bergman.
“I promise I’ll not ask for anything for the next five birthdays, Elsa had insisted.
“That painting is mine,” said Chick.
Ronnie had never known his brother to lose when he was so determined.
Dominick was scanning the room and gauging the interest. CPD were watching him closely. He didn’t give them any fuss.
350,000 had been Elizabeth’s call. “Presley, make sure my bid is registered.”
I had been too busy watching the church’s vacant reaction after having kicked up such a fuss over the art piece.
400,000 from Chick Owen.
For a moment it looked like Dominick was going to make a bid but he shook his head and appeared to have changed his mind. He said something to the girl that accompanied him. She giggled.
500,000. Now Elizabeth was becoming excited.
550,000 came from Chick Owen.
Chick Owen had won the day. Dominick didn‘t seem disappointed.
“I don’t want anything transpiring here,” Franklin put the call in. “The auction is over. If you do not return to St Michael’s or to the bay you will be in breach of your sanctions Mr Cole.”
Dominick turned. He was face to face with a broad chest of a man at first. He looked up and Golem was giving him his stoney stare of warning. Sophie Bergman was stood beside him.
Dominick raised his hands. “I’ve seen all I need to,” he said.
As he was leaving he called back, “enjoy the painting ya bunch a heathen bastards!”
The could hear the cheers of his followers erupt as he stepped onto the streets.
“Praise Wigan!” the cried.
“I thought they were keen to get it back?” David said naively to Harper.
It would seem that they had no intentions on bidding for it. It was sacrilegious trash. Whomever would entertain such filth should be punished. You cannot be saved.
Chamberlain House on Hathfield was hearing the sound of rushing feet. Charlotte was running down the corridor. She hid from view as a man came after her.
“I know yer in here,” said Dominick. “I seen ye make yer way. I will get ye one way or another.”
With Peter having taken Francis to his tutor in Kingsgate, Charlotte was alone with her uncle. She emerged from the shadows and leapt onto his back. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Are you sure about that?” she hissed.
Dominick dropped to his knees and onto the ground.
“Alright,” he admitted, lying out on the ground. “Ye got me.”
Charlotte stood over him. “Here lies my beloved Uncle Dominick,” she said. “Gone too soon.”
Dominick had closed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest.
“He’ll be fondly remembered,” Charlotte went on. “Even though he only had one nostril.”
Dominck’s brow furrowed but he kept his eyes closed.
“It was amazing how high he could jump, even though he was only two foot tall.”
Dominick’s eyes flickered. His lips curled a little but he lay still.
“What we will look back on the most is the great thick unibrow he had.”
“Gah!” Dominick sat up.
Charlotte erupted in a shriek of laughter.
“Dom?” called the familiar voice of Bart.
“We’re in here, Bart,” Dominick returned getting up off the floor.
Bartholemew carried in a box. His eyes were still a little large from a mushroom trip. On the side of the box was the Harvester logo. The finest meat in the Shady City.
“A parcel sent to the commune,” the carrier explained.
Dominick spied the logo. “Did it come straight from the farm?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Bart admitted.
Dominick opened the box. Inside were fresh meat packets. The first appeared to be a flank cut. He dropped it on the floor. The second looked like tenderloin. He dropped that to the floor too. The next was thin. It was the cheek of a man. Dominick could still see a razor burn on it. There was a bite mark there too. Then there was a foot and a hand. There was a smaller foot. Charlotte lifted out the skin from the face of little Lord Francis.
At the bottom of the box lay a letter and Peter Millicent’s beads.
The letter read:
I want you to know I cried last night. You upset me. I cried because you hurt someone close to me. I had a teacher. He was the best teacher in the whole wide world. Yes he was! He helped me hear the sounds of the world. One day he was there and I could visit him any time I liked and then he was gone. You took him away from me. He was mine and you took him. I want you to enjoy your teacher. I want you eat every little bit. You took my teacher and made me cry. He was mine. He was so!
I can never see my teacher again and that’s your fault. I’m so angry right now. You did it. You made me angry.
Eat your teacher. Cook him well. Enjoy him. I’m going to make you cry. I will. I will so!
Wigan isn’t going to want them. Their severed heads sucked cock. You made me cry! I hate you!
I’m not crying anymore. I’m laughing. I’m laughing so hard my belly hurts.
Dominick dropped the letter. Charlotte was still holding the flesh of her brother’s face. Dominick said nothing.
“Dom?” Bart tried to urge gently.
Still the church leader said nothing. It was like he had fallen into some kind of feverish shock. Finally, he stirred and stormed from the room.
“Dominick?” Bartholemew cried after him. “Where are you going?”
Buddy Owen’s eyes opened. He was feeling a little drowsy after the beating but he could swear his dad was sat watching him.
“Mornin’ Bud,” he said.
Shit. The Cappy was sat watching him.
“I just wanted to stop by and let you boys know I won the auction.”
Buddy managed a smile. “The porno painting, bro that’s sweet.”
The Cappy laughed too. “An Owen never misses, no matter what target they set in mind.”
Chad and Cooper were awake too. Austin was sat by his own son’s bedside.
“I reckon you should donate it to the museum. It can hang right next to the armour of the Greatest Northsider,” Oz suggested.
They all chuckled.
Buddy and his bros had had a lengthy discussion on what the painting actually looked like, having had only talk to go on. The bros had created such an image in their head of Barbara Tulloch I fear they were going to be disappointed.
Chick dropped the golden asset onto the bed at Buddy’s feet.
“I want you to hold onto this,” the father said.
“I’ll put it right,” Buddy offered.
“I’m leaving the decision of what to do with it up to you. You can either put it right and cover up the past or you can keep it as is and see it as a reminder that you need to better. Whichever you choose you should know I’m proud of you. I ain’t told you that enough but I am. Your spirit is a pain in my ass more times than none but that spirit of yours is unbreakable. You’ve got it in you. If these golden balls right here ain’t a symbol of that Owen spirit I don’t know what is.”
“Good thing I made the golden cock then,” Buddy grinned, his unfaltering spirit being a pain in the ass all over again.
“Don’t push it,” The Cappy warned. But then he started to laugh.
He really was in quite a jovial mood.
Earlier that afternoon, The Cappy had spoken with Tabitha.
“Your boys are home, safe and sound,” he reminded her of the triplets. “You and I had a little agreement. You said there was someone who had embezzled funds in the Owen name. You promised me you would tell me who. I’ve kept my end of the bargain. So what do you say?”
Tabitha did consider being petulant. It was almost like an instinct with her. Chick had stuck to his end of their agreement. The triplets were home and getting Marcus from the Boss’ grip couldn’t have been an easy task.
“You should have a word with your rabid bitch, Marshall Cooper,” she told him. “Reginald always suspected he was running guns and drugs and all sorts. He needed money. He used your name through Beckingridge to open a new account. They wouldn’t object because they were told you agreed.”
“Do you have proof of this?” Chick asked.
“Isn’t fifty nine fucking dead bodies proof enough?” Tabitha returned.
“Not in this city,” said Chick.
Chick arranged for the Beckingridge Firm to send him all the information they had to him personally. He had left a message with Marshall saying he wanted to talk to him as soon as he returned from Tokashima. In the meantime, the bros appeared to have learned their lesson. At least they had learned some lesson.
“Crikey? Is that the time?” Austin put in. “We better go Chick.” He patted Chad’s leg affectionately.
Chick stood. “I’m proud of you,” he said to them. He paid special attention to Dale, who’s own father was absent from these discussions. “I’m proud of y’all”
“Kappa So!” the two elders cried as they were leaving.
“Kappa So!” the bros returned.
“Coops? Coops?” Buddy asked.
“Where am I going to hide this damn cock?”
Chick found himself at a van in North Coldridge. The van had collected the painting from the Auction House and It would make its way to Owen Estate.
“I asked that any tears, blood splatter or damage from being down in Northside wasn’t touched in anyway,” The Cappy was reiterating on the phone to Ronnie. When he approached the van it looked like it had been left behind.
“Those dumb ass boys gone and abandoned my painting,” Chick groaned. He made his way straight to the back. He pulled the doors open, noting that they had been left unlocked. Inside sat the painting that had caused such a fuss. The young Kappa So brothers who had been entrusted with collecting it must have hopped out to drain the snake, bless ‘em. He had a good mind to take the painting and have them believe it had been stolen. Teach the youngins a little lesson.
“Cappy!” A frat boy called from the front. “You had better come see this.”
Chick went back to the front where others were pulling the bodies of two Kappa So brothers out onto the park gravel.
“What the Hell?” Chick exclaimed. Both boys had been decapitated.
The rear of the van had been closed.
Chick had been following behind only to see half of a body fall back whilst the other half fell forward. Standing before them, with the flames of retribution tearing into the back of the van was St Michael. He steadied his great sword again. Breath escaped his helmet in a fine mist.
He knocked Chick to the ground. Chick tried to scramble. He drew his gun. The steel of the helmet would protect him. His vital organs were covered. He just had time to aim when the sword was driven through him. He gasped.
“You cannot be saved,” said the attacker.
Charles ‘Chick’ Owen better known as The Cappy, steadied his gun.
“Suck my God balls,” he said.
He caught the Templar in the femoral artery. His armour only allowed a small gap to wound. If it wasn’t treated right away it would bleed out.
Chick Owen coughed up his own blood. As he his mind slipped away to whatever afterlife there was waiting for him, he thought of his precious dynasty. Give em’ Hell, were his final instructions.
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