Within the Shady City there are the shades. Everyone has their motives – greed, desperation, a selfless pursuit or the unwavering protection of others. There are the shades and then there are two colours that are so polar opposite you could never imagine them emerging into a pleasant picture. In Kingsgate, the ancient part of town, where the cobbled stones are engrained in centuries of law and order reside the Bergman family. They are owners of the Diamond Parade in City Main. They are wealthy and influential in Law Maker circles. Patriarch, Howard Bergman, is a kind man. He is a law abiding man and raises his son and daughter to always do the right thing when they are faced with challenges. He is a fine role model for his nephews. If you were to ask any in City Main they would tell you that Howard is an upstanding man. That is, of course, those who don’t have an agenda against him and by agenda I mean a complete lack of understanding that someone with such integrity could possibly exist.
Then, at the opposite end of such a spectrum, exists the Stoker family. Proprietors of the Stoker Circus they live an existence that sees them travelling here and there. They are not people of integrity. They are such that they will carry out any task, no matter the filth, if the pay is right. Their family is of a huge number not only of blood relatives but of circus stow aways they have picked up on their travels. They have three tents. First is the red, featuring the stunt shows and in ode to travelling performances of old, macabre freak displays. This lies under the control of Freddy Stoker. Freddy is ideal for leading the exhibit of oddities because he is something of an oddity himself. He is boyish and engaging in a car wreck sort of way. The blue tent is next and this lies in the hands of Freddy’s Uncle Valdrick or Val as he is more commonly known. The blue tent is ironically the holder of shows to cure your blues. The clowns, comedians and animals are generally what you will find on offer. Val himself is a juggler so he is adept at handling many things at once. He prefers to reside himself in the Rumilaw of City Main. If you aren’t familiar with this particular area, it is home to unlicensed dentists, cheap lawyers and to no surprise a villainous little juggler who operates a pawn shop. Val and his treasured wife, Gigi, are looking to make a home for themselves in Coldford but before your mind rings with, ‘that’s a terrible idea’ let me complete the tents with the great striped Big Top. Clasped tightly in the long fingers of Val’s younger brother and Freddy’s father, Irvine, The Stoker Big Top really is a site to behold. Even when she is raised among their struggling theme park in the Alford area she brings a glory of past days that will probably never be rekindled.
I’m reporter, Sam Crusow an
If you were to ask Howard Bergman how he managed to make such a name for himself, whilst not finding himself a target, he would tell you modestly that ‘doing the right thing,’ is his policy. He prides himself on his consideration for others and showing respect. What he wouldn’t tell you was that believing in that simple truth was what helped him cope with a traumatic experience he had many years before. He arrived in Coldford as a young child, seeking refugee from the Country of Levinkrantz. A political upheaval there had led to an event termed the bomb blitz that literally and figuratively tore young Howard’s life apart. He believes that had more people with integrity come together, such a disaster could have been avoided. When the Good Gang took shape it gave him great relief to see all that he had held onto through his darkest times step into the light.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for a sensational, inspirational, full in your face expectational show. I’m Adrien Stoker and welcome to Stoker Circus!”
The image was a little grainy but the advert was allowed to run in its entirety. Sat on the floor with the empty bowl in his lap Freddy Stoker smiled at the advertisement for an old Stoker show.
I’ve introduced the current Stoker players but allow me to take a moment to discuss Freddy’s grandfather. Adrien Stoker was known as the Amazing Adrien. His magic and escape acts as the Stoker ringmaster earned him this title. What also cemented the amaze that preceded his name was his commitment to bringing joy to the people of Levinkrantz even during their darkest time.
“We’ll be here for three weeks so be sure to come on down and check out our exciting new acts. It’s fun for all the ages and remember, there is only one rule for the Stoker tents and that is you are not allowed to leave sad.”
Adrien beamed a wide smile. The advert jingle played. The message was fun and clear but being spoken in the language of Levinkrantz added a coldness. The advert disappeared into the screen. Despite warnings against inviting undesirables into this tent, Adrien continued to play his shows. The brewing civil unrest caused everyone to live in a climate of fear. Adrien, with his circus spirit, broke it as best he could. The Amazing Adrien was a man to be admired.
Freddy smiled at the blank screen. Freddy was not the same as his grandfather.
A hand landed on his shoulder. He moved little as though he’d been expecting it. Behind him was Gretel Stoker better known as ‘the legless woman’. She was one of Freddy’s oddities. Gretel joined the family when her own well to do parents discarded her in a river as a child. I suppose in that respect it could be said that they are still doing their part in bringing people together. Freddy exploits his exhibits for the feel of a coin in his hand. That same coin keeps them loyal to him.
“We better go,” Gretel said.
Climbing to his feet he took off the glasses he had been wearing. Turning to the sofa he observed the body lying with his head resting towards his right shoulder. Freddy slipped the glasses back onto the corpse with gloved hands. He stepped back and observed a little closer this time. Leaning forward again he adjusted a few locks of the departed’s hair. He took the spoon from the cereal bowl, opened the corpses mouth and gathered DNA on it. The spoon and the bowl, with only a small dribble of milk left lying at the bottom was set aside but at an askew angle so that it appeared casually discarded.
He lifted a bag that was now filled with valuable possessions that had been found about the home. Nothing too large or ambitious. Small items such as jewellery or cash were easier to carry and when the circus was moving town you had to learn to be mobile. It had to look less conspicuous too when the police arrived and uncovered the body.
Freddy had not committed murder. The corpse was Mr Brewer. He had a middle class home in Swantin. He sat himself on the sofa with the intentions of enjoying the latest instalment of soap opera, MARCH OF OUR TIMES when he felt his heart flutter and he took his final rest. He had been lying there for so long a smell began to resonate with the neighbours. When attention was called to this, the telephone of the City Pest Control rang and who should answer but Ellard Stoker. Ellard listened to the neighbour suggestion that an animal of some kind had gotten trapped in vents and died.
It was only a matter of time before Ellard, pest controller by day and animal trainer by night, had alerted his nefarious relatives.
There was a pest in the building, that much was true and that pest had cleared the home of any viable loot. He was now taking one last look at the room to confirm it was exactly what the police would expect to find.
“Time to go,” said the legless Gretel again.
Freddy opened his arms. Climbing up his leg, Gretel rested into his clutch and he carried her from the house.
Falling from the Amazing Adrien, to scavenging the homes of the recently deceased is quite reflective on who the Stokers are. They have that hero in their family the likes of which Howard Bergman would be admiring of. However, they take their inspiration from that bag of loot. If only they watched those old adverts a little longer.
The effect Amazing Adrien had on those who came to see his show wasn’t completely lost on his eldest son, Valdrick. Val did admire his father. His Big Top was a symbol of joy in a war torn land. It would rise above the chaos that was being left behind with its vivid blue and red stripes. The problem was one man’s symbol of joy was another’s symbol of disobedience. Such are the way things go.
‘You were a real trooper there,’ Val thought of his father. But joy ain’t going to do jack shit when the real world starts to bite. Joy isn’t going to feed such a big family. No worries there kiddies, you might not have had a solid meal in days but we got plenty of joy. Grab a plate and we’ll spoon that shit out. Tastes great joy does but when that moments over you’re still hungry and still freezing your ass off in a tent because you can’t afford any warm clothe. Wow! Pass me another plate of that joy. That first one was so good I just to have me another before I blow my Goddamned brains out I’m so fucking ecstatic.
Money makes the world go round and it’s easy for wealthy people like the Bergmans to feast on a complete diet of joy. Who wouldn’t be joyful when their whole existence is diamond encrusted?
Money is the route of most problems and the biggest problem you can have is having no money. Where his nephew was scavenging from homes no longer required Val was accepting any item of value for pawn, an arguably more legitimate but no less despicable route. The gross mark downs offered and the money lending on the side made Val no less than a juggling little swindler. He knew this. He was okay with this. He knew his father would have expected better than him. He knew with the blood of the Amazing Adrien in him he could do great things. Think of all the joy you could get with that! Val knew these things and he thought about them more than he would ever care to admit. He should have had the Big Top. He was the head of the family but he just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t bring himself to be amazing. He had to think of himself and his beloved wife Gigi too of course. Val and Gigi had the blue tent but they had all but left the life behind. They wanted a quiet existence now. They actually wanted to do better things if what I’m told is true and that meant leaving the circus behind. There was only one thing holding them back and it certainly wasn’t a lack of joy.
“This is just getting worse, missus,” Val complained. He was staring into a mirror, adjusting a tie.
Gigi, who’s height towered a considerable amount above his own, was adjusting the collar of his shirt.
“I know, sugar,” she replied, looking over her husband’s shoulder, tidying her platinum blonde hair. “But we’ve got a whole lot of trouble coming our way and we can’t exactly pay our way out of it.”
The trouble was stirring from the motherland. It was a bit of baggage that should have long been left behind and never brought to Coldford. The money lending business had been proving quite fruitful but when the bills came in faster than you could fleece the suckers it left you with a very firm final reminder situation. They didn’t need reminding. They just needed to get themselves as far away from Coldford as they could. If only you could fly on joy.
“Good morning, Mr Whitley,” Val said into the mirror as though rehearsing. “I’m Mishokov Froraderick and this is my wife, Sue,”
“Hello!” Gigi yelled in a heavy Levinkrantz accent, leaning on Val’s shoulder and reaching her hand out as they she were shaking the hand of the unfortunate sap they clearly had their mark on.
“She doesn’t speak much English but we’re in the market for a new home and the more fancy pantsy the place is the better. Give me a whole lot of a joy with five bedrooms.”
“Do you have one with pool?” Gigi asked the mirror man in this rehearsal of misfortune.
Val broke character. He turned to his wife.
“Do you have pool?” He imitated her character’s accent.
“The leaflets that were made up said pool,” Gigi was certain.
Val shook his head. “Yes, I know, my dove, but you don’t speak much English remember? Why would you ask for a pool?”
“I could speak enough English to know to ask for a house with a pool,” Gigi surmised.
None of this mattered though. The byplay they were in the middle of was interrupted by a little jingle. That little jingle may as well have have been the sound of joy because through the doors of the pawn shop in shady city’s shadiest corner of Main stepped Diamond Daughter, Elsa Bergman.
Val and Gigi both turned to her like dancers on a music box. That joyish little tinkle lit a smile on their faces.
“I need to borrow some money,” said Elsa. She didn’t want to pretend she was in their domain for any other reason.
“Your daddy’s loaded,” Val frowned. “What would you need to borrow money for?”
“I’m in a spot of trouble,” Elsa admitted. “I’d rather keep my dad out of it.”
The word around the city was that Elsa was losing bad at gambling. That is certainly something the clean cut Howard Bergman wouldn’t want to become public.
Whatever amount Elsa asked caused Val and Gigi to turn back round again.
“This is the big break we’ve been waiting for!” Val said in an aside.
Gigi wasn’t so certain. “She’s Howard’s daughter.”
“I know!” Val stated, thinking that was just about the cherry on top of the proverbial cake.
He had known Howard a long time. They were friends once. He decided the level he was bothered by this did not match his need to set he and Gigi up.
“Alright, Missy,” he said to Elsa. “I hope you know what you are getting yourself into.”
The deal was done, debts were reshuffled and Elsa left the Rumilaw with some easing of her shoulders. She was a little cash cow that was going to bring a whole lotta joy!
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for a knuckle whiting, nail biting, full in your face exciting show. I’m Irvine Stoker. Welcome to Stoker Circus!”
The ring master of the three tents was Val’s younger brother and Freddy’s father, Irvine. Irvine Stoker is a striking man and that is before he adorns his Stoker jacket and ring master garb. He has a looming, insect like frame that can bend into interesting shapes. He is full of charisma as you would expect. To meet him on the street you would find him odd but intriguing. His welcoming voice would catch your attention. The bright colours surrounding him would draw you closer and then before you knew it you were swept up in his arms and taken along for a journey you didn’t realise you had already paid for.
Irvine kicked the dust of the centre ring aside. One of the animals had shat there again. The whole place was falling to the pits. He reached his arms up and in a swift movement another set of hands clasped his from above. He was raised up and he went soaring towards where the audience would be seated later that afternoon. He clutched the arms of trapeze artist Eroll Easy, who with his sister, Ethel formed a duo called the Trapeezy Easys. Irvine was dropped in among the audience area and he skipped back towards centre ring. Before he reached there Ethel had swung down and collected him under his arms and they soared towards the middle. She dropped him back on his starting point. He landed in the animal excrement he had kicked dirt over.
“Eugh!” Irvine groaned. As if things weren’t shit enough. “You wanna watch were you’re dropping?” He called up to the easys.
“Sure thing, boss,” Eroll swung past.
Irvine shook his head, wiping his shoe in the sand and readied himself to start all over again. Rehearsals were cut short though because he received a call from his strong man, Otto.
“It’s time, boss,” he said.
There was a show to get going but Irvine took the time out of rehearsals to bid farewell to one of their own. They would expect him to say something.
Coming together in times of loss was something the Bergman family and the Stoker counterparts would share. The two Easys dropped down and they made their way to the back of the Big Top where a group of mourning Stokers were gathered. They parted when they saw their ring master. Irvine made his way to the front laying a consoling hand on Otto’s broad shoulder. He removed his hat and he turned to his family.
“She was a fine mare,” he said. “It’s always a tough one to take when one of us dies. Trot on Sparkles.”
“To sparkles,” the others sounded off. Sparkles was the leading Dressage horse of the Stoker Circus. They weren’t kidding when they said she was a sore loss. She was a beautiful animal. She was also the highest earner of the herd. This is where the Bergmans and the Stokers differ in their thoughts on loss.
After offering a respectful send off to the stables in the skies the carcass was dragged off to be disposed off. Luckily Olga the clown arrived on scene with her replacement. Olga had on her blue and red clown face paint on but was yet to complete with her wig.
“What the fuck is that?” Irvine asked.
“It’s what the Perry’s sent,” Olga informed him. It had been she who had brought the animal from Perry Zoo.
“We asked for a horse,” Irvine claimed.
“It is a horse,” Olga shrugged.
“That is not a horse,” Irvine growled impatiently.
“It looks like a horse,” Olga reasoned.
“That is a fucking donkey,” said Irvine, clasping the animal’s snout and shaking him. The donkey did not appreciate this in a slightest. He hee hawed his objection.
Olga handed him the rein. “I’m just passing it on. You’re the ring master, boss, you deal with it.”Deal with it? Teaching dressage to a donkey just about summed up the state of affairs for the Stoker family.
And those, dear readers, are the Stoker and Bergman families. One, a symbol of kindness and integrity. The other a symbol of greed and selfishness. However, like most things in Coldford there are the shades. The Bergman struggle could very well test their integrity and as the Stokers continue to keep themselves breathing above water it could offer them the chance the realise that whilst it is easier to con, fleece and sneak their way through life, in the long term doing the right thing will see them much better off. Joy, they would find, is a currency worth spending.
The Stoker Circus family and the Bergman diamond merchants have a long history. They finally find common ground when a cult group gathers popularity. They are very different though so deciding how to deal with it will prove problematic.
This is a difficult question. After all there are so many that would have been life changing to have been around to witness. The moon landing, the abolition of slavery, great battles of old (Bannockburn anyone?) but to chose but one you would have to consider which event draws your attention most. Perhaps it’s because this event had a huge impact on your own life. Perhaps it’s because it’s the one that simply fascinates you more than others. Taking all these things into consideration I think I would have to choose seeing Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ being played at the Globe Theatre for the first time.
Five years after the plague had closed theaters, The Globe took shape and performances of some of Shakespeare’s most notable works were played there. I choose Hamlet in particular because it is one of my personal favourites. It also has the tragic events of his son’s death and that of his father surrounding it so as a writer it stirs my morbid imagination with the dark beauty that the play became.
As a young child I was a bit of an odd ball. (I know, shocking, right?). I would much rather read than play games with the other children and the library was always my favourite place. One particularly gruelling day of primary school I was losing myself in books as usual when I came across a copy of Hamlet. As I opened it up and began to read I was completely overwhelmed with awe in the daring story telling, the dark ambience and those immortal words, “TO BE OR NOT TO BE.”
I was completely besotted just finding a dusty old copy of the play in the library. I can imagine the thrill of stepping into the Globe with the backdrop of London at that time and having the play brought to life by the actors as the Bard himself intended. Not to be all fan girl or anything but it was surely a thing of beauty to behold.
Honourable mention has to go to some historical events that do have a huge impact on my life. Women being given the right to vote is a victory that would have been amazing to have witnessed. It paved the way for little old me to make her way in the world and I am eternally grateful to the ones who made that happen. The work of Dr Henry Turner who first described Turner’s Syndrome in 1938 which is a cause close to my heart and opened up a beautiful sisterhood for me and other TS women.
So what would your choice be? If you could bear witness to a historical event which one would you choose?
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What can we say about Father Gerald ‘Jerry’ Owen? He is the shame of his powerful family and he cares not a jot about that fact. Over the years his decadent behaviour is well documented. Most notably he stands accused of abusing countless young girls, using his place in the Church of St Wigan as a cover.
One of his victims includes the notable Boss Lady of the Knock Knock club, TABITHA. You will be pleased to note though that was where his life as a libertine came to an abrupt end. Details of his very disgraceful exit from society are still sketchy but it was confirmed he came to a grisly realisation he needed to stop thinking with his crotch!
Joining the church was something of a last resort for Jerry. His brothers, his father and his dear mother were all at their wit’s end. When the abuse started to surface more and more thanks to protests outside his church thanks to the Knock Knock Baroness, TAWNY, he realised his number was up. He was not immortal.
Jerry had an easy life in the Church. His family were huge benefactors so he had the largest parish and every luxury a Holy man could ever hope to indulge in. Things changed though. The Church fell to the new leadership who weren’t quite as sympathetic to his quirks. As with any cult It was time to follow or lose it all. When the purge came, Jerry Owen could not be saved.
Available May 14th
Jerry Owen was sent into the priesthood to be hidden as the family shame. When the Church of St Wigan decide on a zealous new leader it could expose everything.
The people of Bellfield had crowded outside the Love Street Harvester store. They were banging on the windows and crying in words that Julia couldn’t quite hear or understand through the accents. They were using local dialects but given their tone it wasn’t difficult to decipher their sentiment.
She was glad Glenn and Curtis had accompanied her as they prepared to set up and have the store opened.
“It’s getting a little rowdy out there Jules,” Glenn warned. “I don’t like the look of them. They’ve got bloodshot eyes.”
Julia was nervous but she didn’t show it. She knew the people of Bellfield would be sensitive to a new name and brand being opened when they had just lost their identifying feature in the distillery. They had lost their beloved Macks and the Black Band presence was still being held on their street. The store needed to be opened and if it hadn’t been for the Black Bands nearby, she would have waited. Time was of the essence though and in order to cover the losses from the purchase of the docks all stores needed to be operational as soon as possible. She had been welcomed with open arms by the rest of Coldford. Even then, even as they called at her, she was certain that Bellfield wouldn’t be any different. Given what they had just gone through they would most likely require extra sweet-talking. The Harvester brand was about bringing people together. If there was any part of Greater Coldford that needed their home comforts it was Bellfield. It was an area that prided itself on community and the Harvester brand could provide them that.
“I should speak to them,” suggested Julia.
Glenn was hesitant. “Maybe we should just wait a little. They just lost their distillery. It doesn’t seem like they are keen on welcoming new outsiders. They got the funeral for the little Mack too. Now’s not a good time.”
“We can’t waste time staying closed. This store needs to open,” Julia had to admit.
Curtis was busy pulling shelves together. “If we open now, they’re just going to come in and wreck the place. Those gypos have laws of their own.”
“Then I really need to speak to them. I don’t want them thinking I’m the enemy. They will be welcomed as part of the Harvester family. Hiding in here and then staying closed is only going to confirm their fears. If I don’t speak to them then the purchasing of this store will be for nothing. We are their friends.”
Curtis moved and took a look from the window. “I don’t think those cunts got that message.”
Julia was becoming more sure. “They just need to know who we are.”
She opened the door. Glenn nodded to Curtis to be by her side.
“Thank you all for coming,” she said. “I am so glad to be here in Bellfield. We still have much to do but thank you for coming down.”
“How about you take your store and shove it up yer arse!” called one of them.
Julia could feel Glenn and Curtis close in on her.
“With recent events I can understand why you are so upset but I look forward to joining you and working towards a promising future.”
A brick was launched. It cracked the main store window. Curtis had drawn out his cattle prod.
“Back off!” he warned. “You better back off.”
Julia clutched his arm. She didn’t want to give up so easily. “We all want the same thing.”
“The smoke from the distillery is still in the air and you step over the ashes thinking you’re one of us? Feck off!” called one.
“We can rebuild,” Julia made one last suggestion.
Another stone was launched. Glenn pulled her back.
“Now’s not the time. We’ve got to pull back.”
Her bold move in purchasing of the docks had left the Harvesters financially vulnerable and now Owen Inc and Beckingridge Firm were rebuilding at a rapid rate. She not only needed the Love Street store to open but she needed it to be a success. Bellfield was going to be a tough nut to crack.
“We got a lot of shit to take care of little bro,” said Billy Owen as he and Buddy drove the south bypass. It’s hard enough I gotta work my own tasks at CPD but now I gotta have you along with me, hanging from my ass like a dangler that just won’t shake off. When The Cappy asked me to keep an eye on you I thought you could at least lie low at the Chapter House for a couple of days.”
“I didn’t …” Buddy began.
“Shut the fuck up!” Billy barked. “Did I say you could talk? I’m commissioner remember? I know what they found. Jerry gone and be sat at the retirement home like a drooling vegetable and you are still doing his dirty work. Why can’t you be more like your old man?”
“You and me, Bud,” Jerry insisted. “The rest of them ain’t got nothing on us.”
“You’re treating me like your own personal cleaning crew and you’re making The Cappy look a fool. I ought to slam you in The Boss for that. Every powder house in Coldford closed down and you still manage to score. I’d admire your resourcefulness, cuz, if it didn’t make you such a dick head,” Billy was going on. “I hear from some of the brothers that you were as high as a kite when you promised The Cappy you wouldn’t touch none. You’re going to push his loyalty to the limit one day, if you don’t push mine first.”
“Are you finished?” Buddy snapped.
Billy slammed his feet on the brakes. He turned to Buddy with a scowl.
“You wanna ask that again?” he challenged.
Buddy had nothing to say. He stared straight ahead and the car started up again.
“I thought so,” Billy grumbled. “All this shit going down and I find you at Harvester Farm chasing that Julia chick around like a dog trying to hump her leg.” Billy gave a throaty laugh. “Didn’t take long in dropping your ass when a bigger cock was on offer though, huh?”
Buddy leaned huffily on his car door. He could see his scowl in the side mirror but he kept his curses inward. It had been his collection from the farm that had rendered Buddy angry. Billy had made a complete show of it as he liked to do, ever since they were boys.
“What’s wrong, Buddy?” Susie had asked him.
Buddy smiled at his little mascot. “I got some unfinished business kid.”
Susie nodded. She didn’t know what the unfinished business was but she sensed its importance.
“I gotta speak to Julia,” he decided.
He had come to the farm for that purpose. He had given himself three different whores to try and distract himself but it didn’t work and the itch he now had wasn’t worth it. The brief moment he had spent with Julia couldn’t be erased from his mind. He had been so distracted by it he even called home to star state.
“I’m in love, Mama!” he announced.
“Huh?” was Ida’s response. She had either been so surprised by her son’s statement that she was rendered dumb or she was already on her third cosmopolitan.
“Did my baby just say he’s in love?” she finally cheered. “Oh, Buddy boy!”
She started to ask all sorts of questions about Julia but her words started to slur. He could hear her the cork rattle on the stone floor of the ranch kitchen as she started to pour a fresh drink. Buddy became impatient.
“I’m gonna go,” he said. She had already dropped the phone in the sink anyway.
Buddy laughed. He patted Susie’s shoulder. “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.”
They had been leaning against the fence of the stud herd enclosure. Gordon was already on his way across the field to knock him off.
‘That fucking bull hates me,’ Buddy mused.
Gordon did seem to take personal issue with him. He didn’t seem to mind Susie leaning on his fence. Buddy’s backside, however, was aching for a horn as far as Gordon was concerned.
Buddy wasn’t looking to impress Gordon though. His focus lay on Julia.
“Julia!” he cried when he saw her arrive. He rushed across the West Acre to her. “Julia!” He hated how his voice sounded in that moment. It was almost singing. It did catch her attention though. She stopped and looked back at him with a smile.
“Have you been here all morning?” she asked.
“Just got here,” he replied. “Where’s the car?”
Realising he meant the green sports car he had gifted to her, she replied, “I parked it in the city. The pathways here aren’t really kind to low riders.”
There was his chance. “Speaking of riding,” he said shuffling nervously. “Maybe we can finish what we started. You know, the other day…”
Julia frowned at first. It was a statuesque frown. The forehead wrinkles were so delicately formed they still held a feminine beauty. When she realised what he meant she started to laugh.
“Oh sweetie,” she said. “I just get a little distracted sometimes. Never mind that.”
Buddy could see Susie watching eagerly, hoping it went well for him. She gave him a thumbs up. She was rooting for him. He wished he had brought Chad and Cooper with him though. Cooper was somewhat successful with women that didn’t require payment or powder. He took a deep breath.
“I like you Julia,” he said. It was brand new territory for him. Should he have bought flowers or something? “I don’t mean I just want to bone. I mean I do want to bone but like nice boning. I don’t know…”
Before Julia could reply her attention was caught by flashing lights. A single CPD car came tearing up towards the farmhouse. Glenn and Curtis were immediately on alert with their cattle prods. Julia shielded her eyes to see who was joining them. A man climbed out of the driver seat clutching a megaphone in his hand. He put it to his lips.
“Bernard Owen,” he cried. “You’re under arrest…for being a dickhead.”
“Is there trouble Buddy?” Julia asked seeming genuinely concerned.
Buddy couldn’t enjoy her concern. He was growling.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s my cousin.”
“Just y’all cool your jets there boys,” Billy warned the farm hands.
“Get off the damn farm,” Curtis raged.
Before he could wave his cattle prod a gun was in Billy’s grip and he had shot it from Curtis’ hand.
“I’m just here for my little cuz. Don’t make this something it ain’t.”
Julia rushed to approach Billy. “Can I help you, officer?”
Billy, who had keeping his attention and gun on the farm hands, grinned when his focus fell on Julia. He spun the sharp shooting pistol and slipped it into a holster on his belt.
“Well, hi there ma’am. I’m sorry if I upset your boys there. I gotta pick up my little bro.”
Julia gave an accommodating smile. “No harm done. You’re a fast shooter,” she noted.
Billy’s grin intensified. “Fast, hard and always hit the right spot.”
Julia giggled. “I’ll bet it takes a lot of practice.”
“Every day and night, ma’am,” Billy returned.
Buddy was aggrieved. His arms were clenched by his side like a school boy who had been sent to detention.
Julia stroked Billy’s arm casually. “The thing is, I don’t want any trouble.”
“No trouble ma’am, Billy assured. “I wouldn’t want to mess your pretty farm with all your nice animals here. I just want my cousin.” To Buddy he called, “You!” He brought the megaphone to his lips again. “Get in the car dickhead!”
He lowered the megaphone and spoke to Susie who had come running and was now clinging to her father.
“I apologise for my cussing, little lady. Now don’t you go repeating my words, ya hear? It’s just, when someone is acting like a dickhead, you gotta call them out as such.” Into the megaphone he spoke again. “Get in the damn car.”
Buddy started walking towards Billy’s car. When he was close enough Billy slapped him over the back of his head.
“I’m sorry if he’s been bothering you, Miss Harvester,” said Billy.
Buddy had slipped himself into the passenger seat and was glaring through the window.
“You got some experience with animals so you’ll understand that I gotta put this one back in his cage.”
“Daddy? Is that man going to hurt Buddy?” Susie pleaded to Glenn.
Even though Julia herself confirmed it had been Nathan who had given Susie the cocaine and even though Buddy’s affections for Susie seemed genuine, he hoped so.
“You’re a disgrace, little bro,” Billy reminded Buddy as they took the east exit from the bypass towards Northside.
Northside was a bitterly cold part of Greater Coldford. Wet, miserable and filled with industrial estates. Most of those were empty units waiting for the industry to return to them.
“You could’ve dropped me at the Chapter House,” complained Buddy.
Billy drew the car into what looked like an abandoned unit. The name Tulloch was on the sign.
“I’ll drop you alright, boy. You’ll go to the house when I’m good and ready to take you back there. Until then you’ll be glad I don’t whoop your ass. Stick by my side.”
The headlights of Billy’s car flashed in the window of one of the units.
As though summoned, the door of the unit opened and into the yard stepped a man with a weasel like face and close set eyes. His scrawny arms reached out to the car.
“Billy boy!” he cheered in a harsh Northside accent, the words of the people losing the musical intonation past Bellfield. “Is that you?”
Billy climbed out of the car. “Who else?” Billy asked.
The man seemed delighted. He gave a wide grin. Buddy was feeling anxious so he joined them. The man from Northside tried a Kappa So salute but Billy slapped his hand.
“Get yourself in order,” he said. To Buddy he made introductions, “This is Kez Tulloch. He’s a pathetic piece of shit but he’s the best we got to take The Distillery.”
Tulloch laughed as though it were a jest. Buddy knew Billy was serious in his sentiments. Tulloch was clearly made uncomfortable by Billy’s presence.
“This is my cousin, Buddy. He’s along for the ride but the less attention you pay to him, the less stupid you’ll be, so let’s get on with it.”
“Billy boy,” Tulloch said again. “You’re going to be impressed.”
From what Buddy could observe Tulloch was about one sweet word away from dropping to his knees and sucking Billy’s cock.
They followed him into the unit where a group of Northsiders were building weapons. They were primitive, the kind used in inner city gang fights, but they would be effective in the right hands. A group like the Black Bands wouldn’t have much trouble quashing them but they weren’t for use against the Black Bands. That would be suicide. Having lost The Distillery, their plan had been to pursue the Macks and complete the takeover of Bellfield that Northside had been looking to do for years. Centuries before, Northside and Bellfield used to be the same area. Religious disputes split the area in half and even though time went on both areas still bore their grudges. Billy’s plans had been to take advantage of the weakened force in Bellfield to appoint control of The Distillery to someone of The Cappy’s choosing.
“Preparing for something then?” asked Buddy, the sense of determination and nerves among the Northsiders started to cause a buzz to ring within him.
Tulloch grinned a mouthful of blackened teeth. “We’re going to hit them. Maybe hit them at the funeral.” He gave a callous laugh. “What you think Billy boy?”
“Damn shameful,” was Billy’s return. “Attacking a funeral? Y’all should be ashamed. Let them have their time to mourn. They ain’t going nowhere. They’ll get what’s coming to them.”
Tulloch’s shoulders hunched.
“The only good Mack is a dead one,” he said. He looked to Buddy. “Your cousin agrees. I saw what they did to your pops.”
“Quit running your mouth,” Billy warned. Both he and Buddy became a little testy at the mention of their grandfather. “That’s family business. You worry about The Distillery. We want it opened again and ready for business as soon as we can.”
“Sure boss.” Tulloch leapt, excited. “Follow me.”
He led them to benches where men were hard at work. Like the others they were fashioning make shift weapons. If they were taking over The Distillery the people of Bellfield weren’t going to be happy and the people of Northside were going in prepared. When the Black Bands removed their presence and left them to it, The Distillery needed to be held under the leadership of the Tullochs. Northside’s prominent family seemed the best option until a buyer for The Distillery could be found.
Scattered around were piles of black clothing Northside heavies had become associated with in their attacks on the Macks and Bellfield. The masks were chilling. CPD under Hickes’ influence had helped curb the violence between the areas. Under Billy it still had some use. On the walls were photos of an old Northside football team playing on a muddy, uncared-for pitch with a rain lashing down heavily. The glass was churned and the kits they wore were old fashioned. It was a commemorative image of when Northside beat Bellfield in a city-wide cup final. It was the first victory since the areas split. A promotional poster hung beside it. On the poster was a hand clutching a Macks bottle so tightly it was cracking. The slogan read A BITTER TASTE; LANDS TO WASTE
They were bitter, Buddy observed. Trust Billy to be not only using that to his advantage but to be organising them. He could beat what Mack support remained in Bellfield without Kappa So or CPD getting their hands dirty. If things didn’t work out all they had to do was have CPD scoop up the Tullochs and their Northsiders and be the city’s heroes.
While Billy began inspecting the preparations they were making for taking and holding The Distillery, Tulloch decided he wanted to engage Buddy. He stepped into Buddy’s space. Buddy was close to shoving him away when he said, “Your cousin is some man.”
“Yeah, he’s something alright,” Buddy replied.
“Those Macks are scumbags,” he said assuredly. “Absolute tinkers.”
Buddy had never heard the term ‘tinker’ used before but it amused him so he stored it in his vocabulary for a later date.
“I mean, the things they were saying about a golden cock they found at the Chapter House…” Tulloch went on.
Buddy really wished he would stop running his damn mouth. Billy stopped immediately what he was doing and frowned at his cousin.
“What’s he talking about?” Billy asked.
“Tinkers be crazy,” Buddy suggested.
Luckily Billy started to laugh. “They do be crazy.”
“I would have my cock fashioned in gold but no one would be able to lift it,” Buddy jested, hoping that if he prodded Billy’s humour, he wouldn’t think about it too much.
Billy laughed even harder. Luckily the humour in phallus shaped statues ran in the family.
“You are cock obsessed little bro. I oughtta knock that out of you.”
Buddy looked back at the rebel poster. ‘A good Mack was a dead one.’
Attacking a funeral was a low move but, Hell, it was a tinker funeral after all and they were going to wish they had kept their mouths shut about the Chapter House.
“Mum’s not here,” Cameron explained to Agent Lydia as she crossed the threshold into the Doyle home in Kingsgate.
She was greeted by a large hallway with a cascading staircase leading to shadowy floors above.
“It’s actually you I wanted to speak with,” she said, smiling to comfort the young man. “It’s about your friend, Reggie Penn.”
Cameron became nervous. “I, uh. We know each other,” he admitted.
“Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble,” Lydia assured. “I just need to know if you have spoken to him.”
Cameron eased off but only a little. He still wasn’t willing to open up to her. “We play a game together. Lonesome Nights. Have you heard of it?”
Lydia nodded. “I’m familiar with it.” It wasn’t the first time Coby Games had cropped up in her investigations.
“Reggie and I have played for years,” said Cameron. He checked his words and closed off again. “Just online. Just the game.”
“Do you have some of your chat logs?”
“Some of them,” he admitted. “I’m not supposed to but if he shares upgrades or coins or anything like that.” Cameron started to ease off a little further. “I heard what happened to him at The Boss. Did you arrest the ones that did it?”
“My priority is bringing Reggie home safely. We have a team together and we’re doing what we can to arrest the ones that hurt him but in order to stop Reggie getting hurt further or worse I need all the help I can get. Can you do that for me?”
Cameron agreed. If It would help Reggie.
“When did you last speak to him?” The agent asked.
“He had just escaped CPD. He needed help.”
“And you helped him?”
“He logged into Lonesome Nights. It was the only way he could contact someone. He wanted to go to The Boss because that’s where his brothers are.”
“And you heard nothing from him after?”
“I helped him get the bus to Bournton. I lost touch with him after that. Please don’t tell my mum that I helped him. She will be furious. I only told you in case it can help Reggie.”
Lydia nodded. “I’ll keep it between us. At this point your mum is only interested in what evidence we can bring her. I’ll keep you out of it as much as possible.”
Lydia’s phone beeped. She answered a call from Reynolds.
“Not much here,” she said to her fellow agent.
Cameron could hear Reynolds’ voice faintly. “We’ve checked out the warehouse. It definitely looks like that’s where they have him.”
“I’m on my way back,” Lydia said before closing the call.
She patted Cameron’s shoulder.
“Sit tight,” she advised. “We’ll bring him back.”
Cameron closed the door after the agent. Uncle Micky was gone, Reggie was hurt, his mum was holding the roof of her office up with steel arms. The house in Kingsgate was becoming colder and there was little even a strong young man like Cameron could do to help.
“Ain’t no woman alive gonna fuck you lil bro. Dead ones, maybe you stand a chance,” Billy teased as he cleaned Betsy. “That’s why you gotta pay them all the time. It’s like compensation for what they’re about to endure.”
Buddy was sat on Reggie’s cage. “I did bone her,” he insisted. “I boned Julia.”
Billy gave a guttural laugh. “Sure you did.”
“I’m telling you we boned and it was beautiful,” Buddy protested.
Billy zapped the cage but Buddy had been watching his hands so he leapt onto his feet just in time.
Reggie gave a groan that caught both their attention. Billy pushed Buddy out of the way to address his prisoner.
“Daddy going to be coming to get you any minute, boy, don’t you worry,” he teased.
Reggie Penn had been moved around the cage. He was no longer in the stress position and he was no longer reacting to the shocks from the electrified bars. It didn’t matter. The end game would be upon them soon enough. Bored of waiting for Reginald’s valiant rescue of his son, Billy leaked information to the loyalists through a brother who had slipped among their ranks of where they had Reggie.
‘Come and fucking get him, King Dick,’ was Billy’s thoughts on the matter.
Surveillance had been set up around the warehouse.
“Buddy,” Billy called to his cousin. “Buddy?” Buddy had been too busy watching Reggie. He hadn’t heard at first. “Buddy get your ass over here!” Buddy followed the instruction. “Watch him. I just saw a signal on the west mark. If you see anyone approach you holla’.”
Buddy nodded. “Sure.”
“You can do that right can’t ya?” Billy gripped his cheek.
Buddy shook him off. “Yeah I can.”
Some time passed. Another signal on the west mark was given again but this time a little closer to the warehouse. Through the window Buddy caught sight of Billy’s discrete signal back. It fell quite. Buddy cocked his gun.
Buddy looked to Reggie. Reggie looked up. Their eyes met. With unease Buddy headed to the entrance to assist his cousin.
Two more signals were given on the west mark. Even closer still they were to the warehouse now. Buddy spotted a figure dressed in black. Buddy tapped the butt of his gun on the floor twice. Loud enough for Billy to hear but not so loud it would startle the intruder. The two taps alerted Billy that he had a visual on one intruder.
Looking outside Billy processed through the cascade of signals that were being passed his way. One possible intruder. Not much of a rescue party for a so called Prince of Main. It was likely one of the agents wishing to slip in quietly. He could hear their footsteps. They were loud, crunching the debris of the forest floor. They crept towards the warehouse. He pulled a gun. They didn’t appear to be agency trained but trained none the less. They knew how to handle a gun but just didn’t appear to have done it too often.
Billy cocked Betsy. It appeared they were trying to pull the wool over their eyes with a discrete extraction. Not today. Billy watched as the noble rescuer edged towards the warehouse. They were trying to be quiet but the twigs kept cracking under their heavy feet.
They closed in on the warehouse, a gun in hand. They slid themselves along the building. They tried the first door but it was locked.
Billy tapped on the window closest to him with his finger tips. Loud enough to alert Buddy who had prepared his gun and aimed towards the door.
Billy confronted them. “Boy have you come on the wrong day.” The intruder was startled. Billy had the scope of Betsy on him. “Don’t move an inch or I’m gonna be forced to blow your god damn head off. Now drop your gun.”
The intruder clutched their gun tighter. With a shaking hand they raised it. They pointed it at Billy Owen.
There were few gunmen alive who could beat an Owen to the shot. When Buddy heard the gun fire he lowered his own weapon.
The shot had been fired just as he arrived at his cousin’s side. He crouched down to removed the mask off of the attempted rescuer. Billy frowned. He knew the agents. This wasn’t one of them.
“Oh you are so fucked, cuz!” Buddy exclaimed, unable to disguise his delight that he wasn’t the only screw up.
“Who the fuck is this?” Asked Billy.
“That’s Cameron Doyle, The Judge’s son and you just shot him with Betsy!”
Billy groaned. “Well that’s-”
“A dick down your throat?” Buddy suggested.
Billy punched his arm. “Help me get this little prick out the way. We’ve got some real trouble coming now.”
A Mack funeral was attended by every Mack regardless of circumstances. Because of the sensitive nature of the event, Brendan had been tagged and allowed to return to Bellfield. The Black Bands would give him the space to grieve. Alfie Mack was no concern of theirs. Afterwards he would be returned to their custody. With the distance given from the Black Bands, Paddy managed a call to his father.
“I’m coming in,” he said. “I’m coming home.”
“Don’t you fecking dare,” Brendan warned. “They’ll swipe you and that will be the end of it. It’ll all be for nothing. You stay put.”
Paddy scowled. “I’m coming to the funeral. I’m coming to say goodbye to the wee man.”
“Then you’re an eejit,” Brendan said. His attitude dissolved. “Don’t make me bury another son. I don’t think I could take it.”
Paddy drew back the tears. “It can’t not come, da. It’s Wee Alfie.”
Brendan had to hold it together. “Alfie would understand. Do you know what he said to me when I told him about you slipping The Distillery?”
Paddy managed a smile. “What?”
“They ain’t ever going to catch Paddy. He runs like lightening and punches like a boxer.”
Paddy laughed. He always had Alfie’s adulation. He just hoped he made him proud and gave him good reason for it.
“He’ll know you’re thinking about him. Just please stay away,” suggested Brendan. “It’s bad enough we’re trying to find Siobhan. You know what your sister is like. She’s gone off on some party tour of some kind. She still doesn’t know.”
“I’ll be there,” Paddy said. “One way or another.”
“For Christ’s sake be careful,” Brendan returned. “But tell your brother to get his arse home.”
Kieran frowned and slipped into the shot of the video call. “Thanks, da,” he said.
Brendan smiled. Seeing his two sons helped sooth the ache. “They won’t mind you. Come and be with us. Paddy, I’m afraid you’re going to have to sit this one out.”
Paddy closed his eyes. It was a difficult dish to swallow that he wouldn’t be able to walk in Alfie’s funeral with the rest of the family. It was one that was still difficult to digest.
Annie Mack wrapped her arms around Mary Wilson – mother to Melissa.
“Oh Mary,” she cried. “It’s just terrible.”
“Pray to Jesus they find the ones that did it,” was Mary’s resounding reply.
Both women, dressed for a funeral, preparing to bid farewell to their children, allowed themselves to weep in each other’s arms. Melissa and Alfie had been friends since they were toddlers. Both mothers had all kinds of plans of what they would become. When they reached their teenaged years and their relationship developed the families were thrilled.
“I hear wedding bells!” Annie had cheered.
“Feck off, ma,” Alfie objected. “I’m only thirteen.”
“Don’t curse at yer ma!” Brendan chastised.
“Tell her to stop planning a wedding,” Alfie requested.
“Let the woman plan. You stop being a wee dick.”
Both Alfie and Brendan had laughed at this.
There would be no wedding. Instead, there was a funeral bidding farewell to a life that could have been. The procession began from the tip of Love Street.
“The area of Bellfield was shaken today when the funeral of Mack and Son’s youngest, Alfie Mack, was attacked by masked anarchists. A rain of petrol bombs, gun fire and knife blades left 34 dead and a further 30 severely injured. Reports from first responders confirmed that none of the Mack family were among the survivors. It is believed that the attack arose from an inflammatory rivalry between the areas of Bellfield and Northside. As Bellfield enter yet another period of mourning the rest of the city prepares for retaliation. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily News.”
Complete Season 1 of the Knock Knock series is free to read here on Vivika Widow. com or click below download for Kindle
Career conman, Dennis, is forced to change for the good when an attack leaves his days limited. Some people turn to religion. In the case of the Church of St Wigan, that’s the last thing he needs.
Dan had arrived in his usual excitable way. He was waving a copy of Marble Mantle in his hand.
“Can I get a signature?” he asked laying the book before me.
With a spark of pride, I obliged him.
“What’s this?” Lydia asked lifting the book into her hand.
“Sam’s book,” said Dan. “Only the best read out there today.”
He was giving a lot of credit, but I was pleased he was enjoying my work.
“Awww,” Lydia chuckled. “Look at your picture. That’s so cute.”
“Well,” I mumbled, “I liked to try my hand at a bit of fiction.”
I watched nervously as the agent opened the pages and started to read.
“It was just for fun, really,” I added.
Lydia set the book down. Kim who had been working on a computer at the time leaned back.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Sam wrote a book,” Lydia called her.
I was beginning to blush by this point.
“A book?” Kim asked with some surprise. She took out her phone and within a few moments she announced. “Found it. I’m ordering a copy.”
“It was a passion project,” I started to say. “More a hobby than anything…”
Franklin passed. “Just downloaded it,” he cheered. “Start that tonight I think.”
I found myself giggling anxiously.
“It was a long time ago. It was quite experimental.”
Leaning on my shoulder Lydia asked Dan, “Can I borrow your copy? I prefer paperbacks.”
Dan agreed with a grin. “As long as you’re not a page folder.”
“Nope,” Lydia returned, “I’m purely a book mark girl.”
“I was just trying something a bit different,” I said.
“Just had a read of the first page,” said Reynolds. “Sounds real bomb!”
TO MY FRIEND DAN. I had signed. KEEP MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
As I was called to step back out into the city, it was time to take my own advice.
“Marcus?” Simon Penn whispered. “Marcus?”
He couldn’t see his brother. The prayer room required reflection and for that the sinner was placed in an all-consuming darkness. Marcus could stay quiet. Maybe he was reflecting but it drove Simon to frustration. Had it been days? Hours? Without any natural light it was hard to tell.
He reached out and he could feel his brother’s shoulder. It was unmoving and cold. Had he died? Was he the last triplet?
But alas, he felt Marcus’ hand pat his. Just as he did the door opened.
“Get up,” someone called.
Simon could see Marcus now. His expression was neutral as always. Simon wished he would show some anger or frustration so he could see a reflection of himself and how he was feeling. He made to leave but Marcus held him back.
“Get up,” the voice beckoned again.
Finally, a hand was extended to help them free of their prayers. On this occasion God hadn’t been at home. The hand was callused. The man himself was dressed in the garb of an inmate. Two guards were with him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said. “I’m Vincent Baines.”
Vincent Baines – ex music teacher of George Beckingridge – looked calm. Simon and Marcus had heard of him. They were curious as to why he would be there to greet them. There was no sign of the governor Avery West.
“Tawny was a dear friend of mine,” said Vincent. “As a favour to her I wanted to make sure you were okay. The governor doesn’t want the place spilling into riots so he’s agreed to put you in North. You’ll be safe there, for now.”
“Did they find Reggie?” Simon asked.
Vincent shook his head. “I wouldn’t know,” he gestured towards the guards that accompanied him. Trust was a tricky thing within The Boss.
Vincent had a cart of books. He had been assigned the duty of passing out reading material to the inmates. He handed a copy of a Liz Beck novel to Marcus who instinctively opened it at the page that had been folded. To a casual observer it would seem like a clumsy reader had closed the book incorrectly. Marcus took note of the words that had been underlined in faint pencil.
Mother. Safe. Your. Is.
He looked up at Vincent who pushed the spectacles nervously from the end of his nose.
“Thank you,” said the eldest triplet.
“I’m just passing on the message,” Vincent replied with a smile.
The Beckingridge Plaque had been salvaged from the wreckage of Pettiwick. Charles ‘Chick’ Owen had examined it closely. It would be returned. He had already allowed himself to fall to Elizabeth’s level of petulance. The site was still busy. The Fullertons continued on their task of breaking and building things.
“Mr Owen!” a woman was waving from the crowd of onlookers. She seemed eager for his attention. She had a warm, wide smile and rosy cheeks.
“It’s alright,” he said to his security.
He approached the woman and allowed her to say her piece. His father always taught him never to leave someone hanging who wished for his attention so badly. Good or bad, people needed to know an Owen never shirked comment.
“My name is Hetty Lynn,” she said. “My son received one of the Owen Scholarships to Filton.”
The woman was beaming with pride. She clutched his hand and was patting it affectionately.
“That’s mighty nice to hear,” said The Cappy. “What field has he chosen?”
Hetty was excited she had the CEO’s attention.
“Sports science. He’d like to work with one of the big football teams one day.”
“I’m pleased we could help.”
Hetty clutched his hand tighter.
“Without that scholarship he would never have been able to. You’ve given my son an opportunity he would never have had otherwise.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Chick replied. “I’m flattered but if the boy has the mind and determination to shoot for that opportunity it’s all down to his mama’s encouragement.”
“You’re a good man, Mr Owen,” she stated.
The Cappy thought of the plaque again.
“In a world where it ain’t easy, I try to do the best I can,” he stated honestly.
“Why you giving free rides?” he had been asked when the scholarship program had been set up. The truth was if Buddy was going to be put through Filton by the grace of his family name at least some of his classmates should be deserving of the place.
Buddy was overindulged. Chick knew that. He wouldn’t change that if he could. He wanted his son to have every opportunity he could. With the support of Ronnie he liked to put mind to those who weren’t so lucky. With Ronnie’s mind and Chick’s push, Owen Inc offered hundreds of scholarships to low-income families with the exciting option of studying abroad in the Great States.
“You tell your boy to keep his head down and continue to make us proud,” said Chick to Hetty.
“I will,” she said. “I will.”
He waved to the crowds, gave some insight into his vision for the school and shared a coffee and photo op with Filton Crier reporters, who couldn’t find a flaw, as desperately as they tried. When the day came to a close, he passed the plaque to an Owen Inc. Employee.
“Send this to Beckingridge Manor,” he instructed. “It’s no use to us moving forward and I’m sure Elizabeth would like to have it back.”
She had lived in Coldford her entire life but Elizabeth Beckingridge had never been in the Shanties before. She had heard many tales spill out from it and she used these tales as inspiration when trying to capture a gritty existence that she herself had never experienced.
“I suppose I should go check on this club of mine,” she had concluded.
She had been advised against taking her usual limo. It would have done her no favours appearing snobbish and car crime was rife in the area. Luxury vehicles that entered the Shanties stood little chance of leaving again. The exception was Tabitha’s red Porche. The personalised B055 L4DY licence plate was the warning.
It was a bumpy ride in Gramps’ old estate car. When Elizabeth finally climbed out, she exclaimed as she took it all in.
‘Wow!’ she thought to herself. ‘People actually live here?’
What had drawn her attention the most was the cries from around Coldford about the good that the Knock Knock Club had being doing under the Baroness and subsequently her sociopathic niece. In a quest to see this for herself, Elizabeth approached the reception of the shelter. A couple of volunteers were doing all they could to restore the facility. An older man was putting cheap flat pack cabinets together.
“I’m Elizabeth Beckingridge,” the financial dragon announced. “I bought over this place.”
A woman who was cleaning windows scowled at her.
“Well, it’s nice for Her Majesty to come down and join us,” she said with some frustration. “I hope you aren’t thinking of selling this place on.”
“I don’t need business advice from a window cleaner,” Elizabeth hissed back.
A woman named Margaret – according to her name tag – stepped behind reception and called, “Don’t listen to her. Andrea? Shut your mouth.”
She led Elizabeth to an open part of the hall. Elizabeth decided a call to Fullerton would be required. The place was badly needing fixed up. She looked to her phone only to find there was no reception.
“Argh,” she gasped. “Do you have some kind of telephone?”
“No,” Margaret explained. “The Law Makers cut our lines.”
Margaret watched the Beckingridge Dragon look around. It was no secret the Boss Lady had stoked that fire when she had fifty-nine people thrown from the tower. Ernest may have been the dragon with no puff but Elizabeth was quite a different character all together.
“Please don’t close the shelter,” she gave her plea. “People around her are passionate about it. We all take our turns to keep it afloat. We need this place here.”
On the walls hung photos of Knock Knock girls, shelter volunteers and some of the people who had found refuge there. There was also Agnes Wilde and Tawny, wearing Knock Knock t-shirts and posing with some of their rescues like they were family. Finally there was Tabitha, the lunatic.
“We need this place,” Margaret reiterated. “Please don’t shut it down.”
The truth was Elizabeth hadn’t really considered what her next step would be. She had only gotten so far as the look on Chick’s face when he didn’t win it. She had considered using its resources as a means to finding Tawny but then there was also Tabitha to consider.
“People fight for all kinds of reasons,” Gramps had once said to her.
This had been because of an altercation she had had as a youngster with some of the other Pettiwick girls but the words still held weight. Even Tabitha had been fighting for something. Wild creatures can become protective, sometimes viciously so.
“I want to help,” Elizabeth decided.
Her focus fell back on those the shelter had supported. Then she viewed Tabitha again. They had something worth fighting for. That didn’t mean there wouldn’t be differences along the way.
The Monte Fort in the far reaches of Cardyne was a lifeless building. Converted from an old prisoner of war camp it now held some of the most dangerous women in the Shady City.
Agnes Wilde had always known she would be a visitor to it one day. Whether it was to see Tawny or Tabitha was up to fate. Fate had decided on the latter. Agnes was glad of it none the less. After her stunt with the screens Tabitha had been moved back from the Annexe. The fallout from the office of Law Makers was still in discussions but for the time being they allowed Agnes to meet with her niece.
In a small room with a swarm of officers outside Agnes was given the opportunity she never thought she would have. Her first reaction was to pull Tabitha into her arms. Her second was to slap her.
“Nice to see you too!” Tabitha pouted.
Agnes hugged her tight again.
“I thought you were dead,” she said.
“So did most of Coldford. Nice to know what faith people had in me,” Tabitha mused. She smiled though. “You’re going grey,” she commented as they both sat at the table.
Agnes’ eyes widened. “I’m not surprised,” she replied. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through?”
“Were you sentenced to death though?” Tabitha asked.
“Were you though?” she pushed.
Agnes started to laugh. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “The entire city saw you call Judge Doyle a…” Agnes stopped herself before the foul word escaped. “There are still plenty who don’t believe it was real. They think it was a hoax.”
Tabitha giggled girlishly. “I wish I could have been on the street to see me,” she sighed. “Tee would have loved it. Do you think she saw?”
“Perhaps,” Agnes offered the chance. “She would be screaming.”
Tabitha smiled. She softened when she did so. It stood as a reminder that she wasn’t quite as mature as she could seem by looking at her. She was still a young girl playing dress up at heart.
“What’s happening with my club?”
“It’s our club, remember,” Agnes warned. “When the Law Makers seized everything, they brought in a buyer.”
“Who?” Tabitha asked with a severe frown.
Agnes raised her chin. “Promise me you won’t get upset.”
“Who bought it?” Tabitha pressed.
“Beckingridge,” she admitted.
Tabitha shook her head. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
“It was either that or Owen inc. Since Ernest Beckingridge is dead and buried it was his sister, Elizabeth, who took over.”
“The one that writes all those shitty books?” Tabitha scoffed. “That’s worse.”
Agnes disagreed. “No,” she said. “What would have been worse would have been it taken completely. That was a very real possibility. At least Elizabeth has agreed to leave it as it is.”
Tabitha folded her arms across her chest and huffed. “I suppose.”
Agnes stood. She crossed round the table and wrapped her arms around Tabitha’s shoulders.
“I’m so relieved your alive,” she said.
Tabitha reached her hand and rested it on Agnes’ arm. Agnes kissed her head. They both knew it was far from over. Tawny didn’t nickname the girl Trouble for nothing.
Of course Karyn hadn’t been at her office when he got there. Micky Doyle knew his cousin and it wasn’t likely she hadn’t seen the screens.
“Looking at you Judge Doyle,” Tabitha had said. “Cunt!”
Karyn was going to be furious. One of her clerks, Eileen, had taken a statement from him. He tried to explain the coercion he had faced. He tried to place the blame at the feet of Reginald Penn but Eileen only seemed interested in one thing.
“Why was the execution not carried out as planned?”
“You should bring Elizabeth Beckingridge in,” said Micky in response. “She helped Reginald. She’s aiding a known criminal.”
Eileen tapped on her computer keys with her long finger nails. She looked up from her screen at him.
He had no choice but to admit everything. He was taken to holding. He wasn’t too concerned. It was probably best for his own safety. At least it was the Bailiffs he was dealing with and not the Sergeant Major’s Black Bands.
Excruciating days passed. Karyn didn’t personally appear. Bailiffs and clerks attended him. They had him retell and retell his version of events until he was physically and emotionally exhausted. His tears and sweat and dehydrated him. All the while they asked, “Why was Her Honourable’s execution order not carried out?”
Eventually Karyn did appear. Her ghostly pale face didn’t seem real at first. Micky’s mind tried to wake him up from the nightmare but alas she was still there.
“I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Karyn. I made such a mess of things.”
Karyn said nothing. She watched him with a cool, predatory stare. “I realise how much of a mess this is. I didn’t want anyone to talk to Tabitha. Reginald Penn threatened me. He was going to kill me.”
Karyn’s expression didn’t change. There was no flicker of emotion on her lips or in her eyes. No anger. No pity. No sorrow.
“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this better. Please Karyn just say something.”
The Judge’s lips parted. Finally she spoke. “I’m here in the capacity of my office. We aren’t family in here. You will therefore address me with my proper title.”
“Your Honour,” Micky whimpered.
“You disgraced yourself. You disgraced your position as mayor and you disgraced the Doyle name.”
“I’m so sorry,” Micky tried again.
“Not only that,” Karyn went on, but you also have potentially allowed a dangerous criminal to walk free. A criminal my office, my agents and my clerical staff worked hard to bring to justice. Court Clerk Melanie Wallace was murdered. The reporter, Sam, was pit against his colleague. The entire South of the city has been torn apart and because of your ineptitude it could all have been for nothing. Quite a feat I must say, when you have only been in office a few months. So, I ask you, why was my execution order not carried out?”
Micky had almost fallen to the floor.
“I want to make it better,” he said. “Let me make it better.”
“You will begin by making a public address. You will inform the people of Coldford of what you did and why you did it. You will speak the truth to them regardless of how it makes you look.”
Micky agreed. He was finally removed from holding and taken to City Face.
Evening had fallen. City Face boomed its ticking across the lawns. Media feeds were set up relaying to all outlets and screens. Because of the part played by Coby Games, they had been sanctioned by the Law Makers. Joshua Colby was cooperative. The signed permission from the mayor was his protection.
The Black Bands had assembled under the control of Van Holder. Monsta’ was by his side. They crowd was held back. They dared not move any closer than the Black Bands would allow them. The football matches, the seizure of Mack Distillery by force, the very presence of the Black Bands was becoming enough of a deterrent.
Micky was brought to the podium. Like the stunt that brought him to the position he was in, Micky’s image was delivered to all parts of Coldford.
“People of Coldford,” he began. He hadn’t prepared a speech this time.
He felt it best the words come to him naturally. “It is with deep regret that I come to you with a confession. I, Michael Doyle, have abused my position as mayor. I have abused the trust you put in me. On advice of a doctor whom I considered a friend.” Here he stopped. He changed his mind. “I was given an opportunity to profit from the death of a criminal who was due for execution. I deliberately concealed this criminal, having you believe that she was already dead, so that the sale of her organs could be arranged. This is a criminal act of which I take full responsibility. I deeply regret my actions and I now throw myself on the mercy of the High Court and I ask for leniency.”
Micky looked through the crowd. His whole body trembled. Where was Cameron? There was someone he recognised though. The figure offered little comfort. Whimsical old-style clothing, long wig-like hair. Eugene Morris, aka The Tailor clutched his hat to his chest. There was a priest of the same order muttering a prayer. They called him the Holy Brother.
‘Why was he there?’ Micky wondered. Before he could enquire, The Judge took over proceedings.
“Michael Doyle,” she said. “You have given a confession here today witnessed by thousands. Your abuse of power has left me with little choice. What we see here today is a waste of talent, of potential and of lives. When I accepted my position in the High Court, I took an oath that said I would make no exceptions. I swore that if those of my own blood were brought before me, showing favouritism is something I would never do. The disgrace you have brought upon yourself and the city will be punished to the fullest extent of the law granted to me. Letting a criminal walk free after giving my signature to her execution is something I would also never do. I hereby invoke article 22 which states that should a member of high office be convicted of a capital crime sentencing can be given immediately without a trial of jurors. For authorising the unlawful killing of a convict you are found guilty. For trafficking human organs for print you are also guilty. For treason against the city by your own admission you are guilty. I hereby sentence you to death by firing squad.
The crowd had fallen so quiet, only the clicking hooves of the Black Band’s mounted patrol echoed, timing with the ticking of the City Face.
Micky screamed. “No! Karyn don’t do this!” His foggy breath trailed in desperation in front of him.
The Judge ignored him. “Due to the nature of your crime, because of the mistrust you have brought to the legal process and because of the obligations of my office, sentence will be carried out immediately.”
Micky was escorted to the killing fields. It was an area in front of the building that had been where the gallows stood in days of old. During the Great Wars it was the spot where those convicted of espionage were executed. It had fallen out of use as legal battles turned more to court rooms and offices but that day as eight gun men rounded on Micky Doyle there was a return to the past.
“Aim,” ordered Van Holder.
Now the clicking of guns seemed to drown out the clock and Micky’s screams.
Bullets erupted. One tore through Micky’s heart. With that, the second mayor of Coldford in such a short space it time lay dead on the lawns of City Face.
Tabitha had witnessed the execution. She watched Micky Doyle die and for the first time she had been lost for words. It appeared her future hadn’t been written by quite so friendly an author.
Complete Season 1 of the Knock Knock series is free to read here on Vivika Widow. com or click below download for Kindle
Care to discover the true whereabouts of the Knock Knock Baroness? The Macks kept the booze flowing and made the club what it was. Check out Vivika Widoow’s hit thriller Harbour House. Free on Kindle Unlimited.
On a Sunday evening I have a whole host of rituals I go through to make my week ahead more positive and more creative. I write out my to do lists, I tidy, set alarms and check out my clothes for the day ahead. All these little things help give me a restful sleep and by extension a good start to Monday morning filled with coffee, brilliant ideas and a strength that is ready to take on anything.
I have a motto in life. Knowing the little things are taken care of makes you ready for all the big things that might strike. It’s not the prettiest or hard hitting of mottos but it’s one that usually steers me well.
it seems no matter how much you prepare there are natural anxieties that are always get in the way. As the quiet of night set in there were those doubting voices.
“What good are you?”
“Who cares anyway?
“You are nowhere near where you hope to be.”
When you are alone in the dark these voices ring really loudly. You can’t sleep for them because they have caused your adrenaline to rush and your heart won’t slow. You can deny all these doubts but they don’t go away because they are your own doubts and you have to believe them, right?
With the result you finally drift off in the small hours resulting in very little sleep and waking the next morning not only feeling miserable, having battled yourself all night but feeling tired.
Everyone faces those self doubts. It is true that we can be our own worst critic. What is most important is how we handle them. Personally, I have had some real self destructive episodes over the years as a result of this. I have also seen loved ones fall foul to it as well. So, now when those niggling voices start to get louder I note to myself three things I am looking forward to doing that day. These don’t have have to be any major events. They can be something simple like taking a walk in the park, or reading a few chapters of a good book or having a chat with a partcular someone.
Knowing the little things are taken care of makes you ready for all the big things that might strike. That is my motto and knowing there are little things to enjoy throughout the day goes a long way to easing the stress.
So I urge you to enjoy the little things. I urge you to ignore those doubts and I hope you all have the best week ahead.
If you have been suffering from anxiety or depression visit mind.org.uk for more information on the support available.
Check out the latest thrillers from Vivika Widow.
As a cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds has brought many a lost soul home. When someone close to him joins the Church of St Wigan, every skill he has ever garnered will be called upon to face its zealous leader.
An invitation was granted for Owen Inc. and Beckingridge Firm to meet at Harvester Farm for a day of bonding and reuniting. Perhaps the nice farm girl, Julia, felt it was time to let bygones be bygones or, what was more likely was, she had some kind of divide and conquer strategy in mind. Either way no one would know for certain until that particular hour glass ran out of sand and needed to be turned again. The nice girl would just smile and say, “I just thought it would be good to have everyone together.”
Circumstances prevented Chick and Elizabeth attending personally but they both agreed in good faith to send along representatives. So, when I arrived on the farm myself I could see Beckingridge employees in their pin striped, well-tailored suits. Making their way through the fields were
the Owen Inc bodies who could be heard before they were spotted, booted and just itching to fire off some guns. I could also see Buddy, accompanied as always by Dale Cooper and Chad Perry. I was keen to observe him in something of a natural habitat. I was also hoping that chance would give me an opportunity to speak to one of the Kappa So frat boys on their own.
The Beckingridge crew did look somewhat out of place, sipping fresh fruit drinks and discussing their portfolios. There were children running around too. Their laughter rose into the air and it made quite a charming atmosphere. It was quite a breath fresh air and not just because of the crisp Bourton sunshine.
I kept my distance from Buddy. He looked a little subdued that day. His voice could still be heard cheering and trying so desperately to impress Julia but with a stern warning from The Cappy I could assume this was generally his best behaviour. Cooper had shown an interest in one of the banker girls. He was stood with arms folded. The girl was laughing at a joke he was telling her.
Buddy had wandered towards the shooting ranges set up courtesy of Stoker Circus on the east acre. Chad spotted where Buddy was heading so he danced after him, probably also under orders from The Cappy to prevent his son from doing something stupid.
Julia herself, I avoided. The hostess was busy circulating. Farm hand Glenn was stood by Gordon’s paddock introducing his favoured animal to a mix of the Beck employees and the Owen ones. I was enjoying the trip away from the city when I spotted Buddy pick up a rifle.
“Hit the target and win a prize!” a show runner from the Stoker Circus called. “Hit two targets and win one of our stuffed animals.”
Buddy lifted the gun. A grin spread across his face. Five targets. He judged them with a trained eye.
He fired off the rounds. Shot after shot. Five times.
The Stoker Circus man turned and checked the targets.
“Better luck next time,” he said. All five targets had been missed.
Buddy’s lips tightened. His eyebrows raised.
“What you say, brah?” he asked.
“No targets. Sorry. You want to try again?” the Stoker Circus man offered.
“Are you saying I missed them targets? I missed all five of your targets?”
The man with the attraction carried on, “Sorry, you must just have bad aim.”
Buddy’s eyes widened. Chad recognising what was happening stepped back.
“Brah!” he warned. “You don’t wanna go messing with my bro.”
Cooper who must have also caught some wind of the disruption had joined them.
“I have a bad aim?” Bernard ‘Buddy’ Owen wanted to be sure.
“Maybe just an off day,” replied the circus man, realising he was making a huge mistake but not quite figuring out how to fix it.
Chad hopped from foot to foot.
“He ain’t got a bad aim!” Chad insisted. “He’s Buddy fucking Owen. You better recognise!”
The Stoker Circus should have been familiar with the gun toting skill set the Owen’s possessed. They had after all worked with the Owen’s for years on various nefarious schemes but that is a story for another day. What I was observing at that point was Buddy exhaling breath. Chad was still warning the circus man. Cooper was stood with arms folded ready for whatever situation was about to arise.
Buddy had had enough. He fished into his belt and drew his own gun. In hindsight this was the most expected situation to arise. The gun he had named ‘Vaj Slapper’. I have no idea and I didn’t care to ask. What was most important was that the shots began to ring out.
Shoot one. Shoot two. Then three, four and five. All five targets were blasted to pieces.
“You see that, brah!?” Buddy yelled. “Who’s got bad aim? An Owen never misses a target!”
Credit in Buddy’s favour he had hit all five targets dead centre. The Beckingridge employees clutched pearls and gave an audible gasp. The Owen ones seemed to have fully expected this scene.
Julia approached him before anything further could occur. She laid a hand softly on his shoulder.
“Oh, Buddy,” she said coyly. “You’re such a boy sometimes.”
He looked at her. He smiled and pushed his chest out. He turned back to the circus man.
“I’ll take the giraffe,” he said, tucking his own gun away again.
Who was the Stoker to object? He passed the stuffed animal to Buddy, who placed an arm around Julia and passed it to Chad.
With Buddy’s ego reset again the afternoon continued on. I had to admire Julia’s ability to bring calm. She was very much in control of the situation.
I continued to watch Buddy as Glenn’s daughterSusie raced him towards another shooting range.
“Can I shoot your gun?” Susie asked him.
Buddy shook his head. “No way, lil mascot. It takes practice.”
Susie had been ever so impressed by Buddy’s natural skill. To be fair, it really was quite impressive.
“Will you teach me?” the little girl asked.
“First rule,” said Buddy. “Always make sure the safety is on.”
The noise made me shudder. Buddy’s eyes widened.
Susie roared with laughter.
“Oh? Did I just hit that target?”
With his back turned he had hit that target dead centre.
“Do it again!” she urged.
“No way. I’m all fired out. Wait a minute. I gottatie my laces.”
Buddy bent over and fired the gun from between his legs. Again, the target was hit dead centre.
“Ahhhh!” both he and Susie cheered.
He put his hand to his ear. “Was that target?” he asked.
“Owened!” Susie cried out with glee, pointing to it.
The little girl jumped onto his back, covering his eyes. Buddy spun around. Even with Susie fully concealing his gaze he managed to hit the target. He had gauged the distance and trajectory by counting steps and sensing wind direction. Ironically it was a skill honed by legendary Stoker Circus knife thrower, Felix Stoker.
Speaking of Stokers, the circus man’s companions were ushering him away before the gathering realised the games were rigged. The other Stokers were making sure he packed fast.
Buddy lifted Susie onto his shoulders and pointed to the show runner.
“You tell that son a bitch!” he yelled across the field.
“An Owen never misses a target.”
“Kappa So!” Buddy yelled, as he charged across the field carrying Susie.
I had caught the whole thing on film.
The set up for the agents at Harbour House was hugely beneficial. Doyle’s office granted the licence to function as the Good Gang and everything seemed to be falling into place. The dust from the Black Bands’ sweep of the Mack Distillery was beginning to settle. The search for Tawny continued but the agency had sparked a new lease of life into Coldford. As always, I was on hand to document everything and with Dan’s help at the Crier I was keeping ahead of the curve.
“This is great!” Dan cried when he saw the new facilities.
I looked through photographs of the Distillery I had recently captured. Black Bands still occupied the area. Even if a Mack stepped back in and rang those bells the town of Bellfield was never going to be the same again. They were strong willed people, but where was one to go from complete destruction of the empire that held them together?
Alford. A rural town past Bellfield. It was this part of Greater Coldford where Buddy found himself. He was feeling sickly and all of his usual powder suppliers in Filton had either been attacked by Reginald Penn or had been warned by the Cappy himself to stop providing his son. City Main was even more difficult to score in. After Tabitha’s stunt with the screens Kappa So had lowered their presence in the Shanties too.
“They have shit gear anyway,” Buddy had mused gloomily.
So to Alford he went to meet a new contact Cooper had provided. Marshal Cooper, Dale’s father, had quite the fondness for powder too. Travelling on the racing car circuits, the Cooper big dog didn’t like to find himself without his supplies. He had set up what he called pit stops with an ample supply. The bros had decided they would take advantage of this so to the rural town of Alford they went. Buddy wasn’t particularly enthused about visiting what he saw as the ‘ass end of nowhere.’ He especially was loath to be so close to ‘gypo country’. I believe this was a reference to the town of Bellfield.
It was his own fault really. He had let himself build up his hopes when he spoke to a bro earlier that morning.
“Yeah, I got some gear Bud,” he said confidently. “I’ll call you later brah.”
It wasn’t ten minutes when he called back.
“Yeah, no can do, brah,” he said.
“Why not?” Buddy demanded to know.
“I’ve been called back to Star State,” he explained.
The Cappy was systematically ruining his social life, so Buddy was forced to personally visit the ass crack of Coldford to get some third-rate powder from Marshall’s bottom barrel stores. By the time they reached Alford he was still in a cloudy mood.
They were told to meet at the Spinnerattraction. It was a simple tea cup ride for little kids. The muddy field reminded Buddy of Harvester Farm. He longed to return to Julia. He still pained at the image of her silhouette in the window as they were forced to part. She to head her Harvester brand, he to kiss the Cappy’s ass and hope he would never find out about the golden asset.
The morning after he had altered the asset, he’d awoken to the biggest come down he had ever felt in his life. As he had absorbed what he had done his heart skipped a beat and that wasn’t just because he had almost given himself a heart attack the night before with defibrillators from the medical school.
After an argument with the Cappy – well the Cappy yelling, Buddy forced to listen – he had made such a show of being able to do what he wanted. Chad still had his rant on film. He couldn’t go back on it and look weak to his bros so the best he could do was get the asset out of the way whenever someone of note came to visit, like Pops.
“I thought it was funny!” Buddy had complained to Chad and Cooper at the time as they assessed the damage.
“I hope you can fit that whole thing in your ass, brah, because that’s where it’s going when The Cappy finds out,” Chad stated the obvious.
“It’s always with ass with you,” Buddy noted.
Both Cooper and Buddy gave a befuddled look to their brother but they shrugged it off.
It started to rain in Alford. Buddy groaned. Of course it was raining. Why wouldn’t it? They were in a shitty part of a shitty city. It was a light rain, like an irritating dust. Their new contact had told them to wait by the ride whilst he fetched them their goods and the transaction could be complete. At least that was what they thought. They could barely understand a word he said.
“Buddy Owen!?” A harsh Bellfield voice was thrown at him.
A boy of about fourteen of fifteen was calling to him. He was wearing a Mack and Sons hoody. The sudden address caught Buddy’s attention.
The boy laughed. “I thought that was you. I’m surprised you could fit that chin through the gate.”
Buddy looked to his bros. “Who the fuck is this little cock sucker?”
The boy answered for himself. “Alfie Mack. I shagged yer ma!”
Alfie, the youngest of the Mack sons was grabbing his crotch. His girlfriend, a teenaged girl with a mass of black hair, was laughing hysterically.
“Leave it Alfie,” she was saying but the pats on his shoulder were only encouraging him.
Alfie had been with his mother – an Alford native – when the distillery was seized. Annie Mack had sent Alfie and his girlfriend, Melissa, out of her way whilst she continued to wade through the mess. Alfie was a spirited boy with all of his father’s resilience.
“You inbred fucks!” Alfie continued. “Your weans are gonna have foreheads the size of Beck Tower.”
Buddy watched Alfie continuing to chide him. It was the girl’s laughter that irritated him the most.
“Leave it, Bud,” he could hear Cooper warn.
“Bud the fud!” was Alfie’s response.
Buddy’s body was shaking with rage. He took a deep breath.
“You are pissing me off, you little shit,” Buddy warned again.
“Then why don’t you take a walk up Love Street and see what happens?” Alfie challenged.
Just when Buddy thought matters couldn’t get any worse, he spotted a white Cooper SUV crossing the way towards them.
“Brah!” Chad was patting his arm.
“Yeah, I see it,” said Buddy.
“It’s Pearl,” said Chad.
“I can see it.”
“It’s Billy,” said Chad.
“Damn it, Chad, I can see, brah!”
The white Cooper car named Pearl was quite distinctive. She was Billy Owen’s car and if he had driven all the way to Alford from the city he was going to be pissed.
“Do you think he’s seen us?” asked Chad.
William ‘Billy’ Owen climbed out of his luxury vehicle. He removed his sunglasses and called to them.
“I’m here to pick up three retards,” he said.
“Yep, he saw us,” Buddy stated.
“What in all the Hells are you three doing down here?” Billy confronted. “You bitches better get in that there vehicle and not an ounce of complaint. I’ve had to drive all the way down here. I got so many damn bugs stuck to my windshield because of y’all.”
“Just thought we’d check out the shows,” Buddy tried.
Billy snatched Buddy by the chin and looked deep into his eyes.
“You better be sober, Bud,” he warned. “Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck on my windshield.”
“I am,” Buddy protested.
The little altercation with Alfie Mack had gotten in the way. When Buddy explained what had happened, Billy gave a throaty laugh.
“Why didn’t you smack the little shit about the head?” he asked.
“He had a little girlfriend with him,” Cooper said.
Billy glared at him as though he hadn’t fully understood at first.
“Then smack the little bitch too. Do I have to do everything? Where did the little pikey go?”
“Are you okay?” Melissa asked Alfie as they rounded the corner away from the bros after they watched Buddy storm off.
“I’m fine,” he replied. “Just seeing the look on his stupid face…”
Clearly Alfie was not okay. Why would he be? His entire family had been sent into turmoil. His legacy was lost and now it would be a long time before he saw his brother Paddy again, possibly Kieran too. The worst was his Ma. She was a tough woman. Annie Mack would have to be to keep the Mack clan in order but he knew she was struggling. That was why she had sent them away that day.
“Yer just gonna get under my feet,” she said pushing him and Melissa out of the door. Alfie knew it was so they didn’t see her weep again.
He had drafted a letter to Paddy letting him know how proud he was of him and what he was doing. If it wouldn’t give their Ma a heart attack,he would join him. Alfie – or wee Alfie as Kieran called him even though the teenager was almost as tall – could fight the good fight. He could contribute too. Alfie was ready for it.
“Here,” Melissa passed him a joint. “It’ll calm you down.”
Alfie drew Kieran’s lighter from his hoody pocket. It was one of those that if it was upturned the sexy female figure would lose what little clothing she was wearing. He had stolen it from Kieran the last time he had been home.
He inhaled. The calming effects washed over him.
“Do you want to go home?” Melissa asked.
Alfie shook his head. He knew his Ma needed to focus. The last thing she should have to worry about was her youngest. The bros had collected their coke and headed off anyway.
A roller coaster rushed past. Woosh!
Alfie was startled by the sudden noise but Melissa giggled.
“The line for the Sharp Shooteris down, she screamed excitedly. “C’mon. Let’s have a go.”
Alfie dabbed the joint against the fence. He slipped it back into his pocket. His mind was awash with cannabis, he had his girlfriend’s hand in his and the stupid look on Buddy Owen’s face was fresh on his mind. He was ready for the next thrill.
Melissa clutched Alfie’s hand. She was shaking. He asked her why she would ride roller coasters if they made her so nervous.
“It’s the adrenaline,” she said. “That’s the point. It’s fun because it’s scary. You know there isn’t any real danger but there’s always that chance.”
There was still a line at Alford’s most popular attraction but it was shorter than it had been all day. It was the ride that Melissa really wanted to see. She had been telling Alfie all week about it.
They slowly moved down a few steps at a time. Like the march of foot soldiers slowly approaching their enemy. The buzz of excitement among those that waited was infectious. Alfie began to feel it too as they drew closer to the entrance.
An Alford carny opened the gate. Melissa dashed excitedly in. The metal boards leading to the ride rattled. They took up their seats. Melissa had snatched up the front of the carriage. The safety bars pressed down tightly on Alfie’s chest. He tried to push it away to ease it a little but it had locked. He could hear the excited chatter and cheers of those behind them. A younger girl was crying, regretting her decision. It was too late for her now. The ride was locked, ready and starting up.
“This is it! This is it!” Melissa cheered.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
The ride turned towards a steep incline. Their body weights pushed back against the chair, relieving the tightness of the bar on Alfie’s chest. The grey sky filled with rain clouds was all they could see ahead. Alfie swung his legs. The floor below was far out of reach.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
The ride continued to climb. Melissa squealed with delight. When they finally reached the top, the ride shuddered to a halt. It slowly tipped over the edge. They could see the ground now. People below, so far away, were looking up at them. Some were calling to loved ones.
“This is it!” Melissa announced.
Alfie’s forehead exploded. The blood and brain matter splashed onto Melissa, carried by the heavy breeze that circulated so high from the ground. She screamed before the ride could inflict its thrills.
The carriage tipped over, falling down the steep hill at its fastest speed, slamming Alfie’s skull against his chair, his lifeless body unable to hold it up. Melissa, still screaming tried to waken him but her hands had to clutch her bars as the ride took a sharp corner. Some of Alfie’s blood was thrown onto onlookers. The couple in the seats behind them were trying to call to Melissa, still unsure of the reasons for her uncontrollable screaming. The rest of the riders were screaming too. Some of them were because of the speed of the coaster’s dips. Some because they were unsettled by Melissa’s sudden chilling shrieks. They knelled way more than a dose of adrenaline.
As the ride turned back along the track Alfie’s arms swung limp.
“That boy’s hit his head! Stop the ride!” a woman shouted.
Melissa was no longer screaming. She was now shaking uncontrollably. It did seem at first as though Alfie had hit his head really badly. The crowd was unaware that a gunman lurked nearby.
“How’d ya like that you little pikey shit,” Buddy grinned. “One down. Six to go.”
The ride had to complete its rotation. The emergency breaks would only have made it harder for paramedics to reach the injured.
Despite its death defying loops, its thrilling spills and its sharp corners, no one was screaming any more. By the time it rolled into the end track Melissa had gone almost catatonic.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
The Sharp Shootercame to a rest with a gush of steam.
Now Melissa fell forward too. That was when the screams erupted once again.
“What da fuck, brah!” Buddy was calling as the bros and Billy piled into Pearl.
Billy gave a cold, callous laugh. “A’body knows those gypos are a stain on society. You gotta cull them little bro.”
Cooper looked as though he was going to vomit. Chad was rocking in his seat as though he had been the one on the ride.
“Don’t think because you’re my cousin you’ll get special treatment,” Billy stated as he drove away. “If I need to drive down here again to fetch your ass, I put a bullet in all of you. Am I clear?”
Paddy rang off from his mother. Her tears were still fresh and in that moment he felt he would never be able to forget them. Kieran had been watching him anxiously. He knew from his brother’s tone and the look of grief that spilled into Paddy’s expression that something terrible had happened.
“What’s going on?” Kieran asked nervously. Paddy took a moment to catch his breath. Paddy could only shake his head.
“It’s Alfie,” he replied, unable to disguise the crack in his voice. “They got Alfie. They shot Alfie. He’s dead.”
It was now Kieran’s turn to shake his head. “No!” he cried. “Not the wee man!”
Paddy rushed across the room as Kieran sunk into his chair, giving himself into despair. He wrapped his arms around his brother. Kieran wept into his shoulder.
Paddy clutched Kieran’s face. “We can’t stay here. We need to keep moving.”
“We need to go back. We need to go to Ma,” Kieran suggested.
“We will but we have to be careful. They’ll be waiting,” Paddy tried to remain level headed through his grief.
Kieran’s weeps began to spill over again as the reality of the situation became clearer. “The wee man? I can’t believe it. They’ve got it wrong. Someone’s got it wrong. He’s just a little lad.”
Paddy wished that it wasn’t true. Shot in Alford was what he had been told. Alford was no longer safe.
Annie could hear her husband’s cry as she ran down the hospital corridor. She had asked that she be the one to tell him. Brendan had obviously found out. He was lying in his hospital bed chained to the bars with cuffs.
“Ya bunch of wankers!” he was screaming, rattling the chains. “You’ve got an old man in a wheelchair when you should be out there bringing in maniacs who are shooting innocent lads! Little fecking babies! Who’s the criminal? Aren’t you going to do something about that?”
His close friend Tawny, his distillery, his brother and now his son. Brendan Mack had loved and lost more than most. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing him break.
The two Black Bands that were stood by his bed were unmoved by his rage anyway. The dispenser bullet of Van Holder’s had hit Brendan in the chest. It was painful, already scarred there by third degree burns from the night the Knock Knock Club was attacked, but he lived. He outlived his son. He was now being kept in a secure wing of Coldford General, a section of the hospital seized by the Black Bands.
Judge Doyle promised justice in the Shady City. It didn’t always prove to be the justice we expect or want. Justice is, after all, blind.
That evening, Olivia Hickes lit a candle for Alfie in her church. The thousands of others were for the rest of the city.
“You hear that?! An Owen never misses a target!”
I checked the footage of Buddy I had gathered at Harvester Farm. With the licence from the Law Makers, we were granted access to their secure servers in the understanding that any evidence we found was to be submitted to them. The footage didn’t prove much. Sure, Buddy had skills with a gun but that didn’t place him at the scenes of the crimes, but at least it was something. So I clicked SUBMIT.
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