Category Archives: Knock, Knock

More on the Knock, Knock graphic novel series.

Character Profile: Jerry Owen

Name: Gerald ‘Jerry’ Owen

Age: Mid Fifties

Features in: KNOCK KNOCK ; HARBOUR HOUSE ; PURPLE RIBBON

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.

Church of St Wigan on Hathfield Bay Island.

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!

Tabitha was just as feisty as a youngster.

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.

The Baroness was quite the Holy shit stirrer.

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.

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Episode 40: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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

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

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

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

“I should speak to them,” suggested Julia.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julia could feel Glenn and Curtis close in on her.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another stone was launched. Glenn pulled her back.  

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

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

*** 

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

“I didn’t …” Buddy began. 

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

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

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

“Are you finished?” Buddy snapped.  

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

“You wanna ask that again?” he challenged. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I gotta speak to Julia,” he decided.  

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

“I’m in love, Mama!” he announced.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘That fucking bull hates me,’ Buddy mused.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get off the damn farm,” Curtis raged.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*** 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulloch’s shoulders hunched.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tinkers be crazy,” Buddy suggested.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you have some of your chat logs?”  

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

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

Cameron agreed. If It would help Reggie.  

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

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

“And you helped him?”  

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

“And you heard nothing from him after?”  

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

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

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

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

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

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

She patted Cameron’s shoulder.  

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

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

*** 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surveillance had been set up around the warehouse.  

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

Buddy nodded. “Sure.”  

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

Buddy shook him off. “Yeah I can.”  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BANG.  

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

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

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

“Who the fuck is this?” Asked Billy.  

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

Billy groaned. “Well that’s-” 

“A dick down your throat?” Buddy suggested.  

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

*** 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paddy managed a smile. “What?”  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*** 

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

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

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

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

“I hear wedding bells!” Annie had cheered.  

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

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

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

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

Both Alfie and Brendan had laughed at this.  

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

 

*** 

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

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Coming Next:

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

Knock Knock: Episode 39: Hot Seat

“Sam!” 

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.” 

Hetty blushed. 

“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. 

She nodded. 

“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. 

Agnes groaned. 

“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. 

“Fire!”

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.  


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Knock Knock: Episode 38: Thrill Ride

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.” 

BANG!

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. 

Susie cheered. 

“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 Spinner attraction. 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 Shooter is 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. 

ZIP. 

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 Shooter came to a rest with a gush of steam. 

Zip. 

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. 

“Jesus Christ, Paddy!” Kieran barked. “What happened?” 

“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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Knock Knock: Episode 37: The Good Gang

The visitor room of The Boss was bustling with people. It was a lot less subdued than the more secured wings where visitors were limited. Vincent Baines had frequent visits from David Finn offering updates on the search for Tawny.

The artist seemed dismayed at seeing his friend in prison so he would come, sit at the table and chat about current events. Sometimes he would forget himself and lift his feet up as though they were back in rehab again.

“What are you doing today?” he would ask.

Vincent would find himself smiling. “You know my routine. I’d much rather hear about what is happening outside.”

“They still haven’t found Tawn. Do you think she’s still living?”

David started to sob as he considered the worst. Vincent patted his back.

“David,” said Vincent. “David, lift your head,” he instructed.

With a struggle David listened to the former music teacher. He sat back up and wiped the tears on the sleeve of the shirt he wore.

“You know Tawny wouldn’t want you going to pieces. It’s not going to be easy but…” Vincent stopped himself. He was finding it difficult to finish his words smoothly. He took his spectacles off and started to clean. “I’m so sorry,” he said eventually putting the spectacles back on. “I wish there was more that could be done.”

“Tabitha is still in the Monte Fort,” David said.  

Vincent frowned. “Monte Fort? I thought she was…” he hesitated trying to find the best way to put it. “I thought she was gone,” he said delicately.

David was instantly cheered. “No man! Didn’t you see? She’s still alive. They faked her execution and now Judge Doyle is going ape shit. When Tabitha gets out she’s going to go nuclear on those Kappa So fuckers.”  

Vincent stopped David. He was familiar with the artist’s passion, his loyalty to his friends but he also knew of his habit of running his mouth. He was sure Agnes would have enough to deal with. The Boss Lady shouldn’t be getting that kind of encouragement.

David hunched at the table again but he kept his head up. “I know she didn’t believe in religion or anything like that but I just wish that wherever she is she could give us a sign, you know? That she’s okay.”

Vincent was nodding in agreement, still dealing with his own acceptance of what had happened. David looked past him. His eyes widened. A grin spread across his face.

“Holy fucking shit!” he exclaimed. “Thanks Tawn!”

Vincent frowned as David stood. He looked over his shoulder. David was already crossing the room to an inmate he recognised.

Winslow – former owner of Harbour House and now Coldford Correctional inmate – looked as though he was wishing upon wish that the ground would swallow him and chew the bones.

“David,” Winslow greeted, putting his head down.

David raised his eyebrows. “Oh, it’s David now is it?” he growled. “No more, Mr Finn you need help. Mr Finn, you shouldn’t be doped up. You’re a disgrace Mr Finn.”

“Water under the bridge,” Winslow tried.

“Is it fuck,” said David. “If I’m going to be thinking about everything you did for the rest of my life you are too.” He rolled up his sleeve and exposed his arm. There were no fresh track marks. “I’m sure you‘ll be pleased to know I’m clean. Months with you was enough to put me right off.”

“I can’t leave this table. If I do the guards will stop me,” Vincent was trying to signal a guard.

“Back to your seat,” a guard called.

David gave a parting shot. “Oh and by the way, Tabitha is still alive,” he said. “Just imagine what she’s going to do to you when she gets her hands on you.”

David returned to Vincent who was still watching from across the room. Tabitha was a huge concern for Winslow. If it was public knowledge that she was still alive it meant something had happened on the outside among the Law Makers.

Winslow spotted the teacher as they were being led back to their respective blocks. Winslow stopped him.

“Vincent,” he tried a familiar greeting. “I know we’ve had our differences but as men of intellect I’m sure we can stick together.”

Vincent stopped. “You let that psychopath, George Beckingridge, do whatever he liked with me. You knew I was trying to get my head straight and you let him hurt me and people that I loved. Those aren’t little differences, doctor.”

He observed Winslow more closely. He started to laugh. “Goodness,” he said. “They took your title too.”

The body language of the people he met told their story easily to Vincent. It was a keen insight he had had his whole life. The flinch Winslow made when he used the title coupled with the sweat that broke immediately after helped him deduce. Winslow couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

“We should stick together,” he said.

Vincent shook his head. “I don’t think so. I have enough trouble in here being an ex teacher accused of fondling his pupil. Lies, you sir, could have have stopped George spreading. I really don’t want to be associated with the likes of you. That being said I do have two friends in North Wing who will be absolutely delighted that you have joined us. You knew their mother, quite intimately. I learned that on the last day at Harbour House. You were so concerned with the bailiffs you seemed to have forgotten the journals you had on your desk. You burned them up afterwards of course but I’m an observant man and I like to read. Rita Penn trusted you. She trusted you when she thought she was pregnant and you aborted her baby without her consent. I am going to have to break that to Marcus and Simon gently. I want them to tear you apart for what you did to Tawny first because,” here Vincent gave a bitter laugh. “You sure as Hell are not going to survive what they do to you for hurting their mother.” Vincent was ushered on by an impatient guard. “Shower alone, Gregory,” he called. “It’s a principle I’ve come to live by.”

***

Tawny could hear the door open. She heard the voices. The one that rolled above the others was Buddy’s.

“Gave her the night of her life,” he was boasting to his bros. “Julia was like, ‘will you stay with me?’ and I was like sorry babe that’s just how I roll. Can get too much of good thing, right!?”

“That’s solid, brah,” Tawny could hear Chad Perry agree.

“I don’t think I could stay away. A chick like Julia Harvester throwing herself at you?” Cooper was saying. He must have thought about the farm girl a bit too much. “I’m jonesing, brah.”

The storage cupboard was opened. Tawny was seated with her legs crossed and arms folded.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she jested.

Tawny had managed to keep a brave face but in truth she was terrified. So far it had just been frat boy pranks but she didn’t know how far they would go to prove themselves. If Buddy was anything like his uncle things could turn real nasty, real quick. She was worried, without a doubt, but the more time that she did actually spend with them she began to realise they were nothing more than three juvenile minded boys whose families placed so much pressure on them that the only way they could escape was with drugs. They were messed up. They were looking for their place in the world and causing a lot of destruction trying to find it. They were…Tawny frowned. Was that a golden cock they were carrying?

They had another visitor with them this time. He was watching Tawny with a little bit of drool on his lips. His hair looked as though it had been chopped with a knife. He was carrying a stuffed mouse in his arms which, coincidentally, was wearing a matching Kappa So jacket.

“Hello, George, honey,” said Tawny. “Long time no see.”

The Beckingridge boy had been tormenting his former music teacher within Harbour House so they were already familiar. Vincent Baines had been a close friend of Tawny’s.

***

Jackson threw the newspaper down. The Filton Crier, owned by BeckingridgeFinancial Firm, had printed a story detailing the Owen family being suspected in the disappearance of Tawny, the Knock Knock Baroness.

“That hussy thinks she can walk all over us,” Jackson objected.

“The Cappy knows what he’s doing,” Billy put in.

Jackson scowled at his son. “I worry he no longer has the capacity. I was talking to the board and it is time he tendered his resignation.”

Ronnie raged. “You went behind his back?”

“That’s a low thing to do,” Billy assured his father.

Jackson maintained his stance.

“I had no choice. Since Pops’ death everything has been spiralling out of control.”

The Owen cousin spoke the truth.

“It’s not his fault,” Buddy spoke up. When they all looked at him he said nothing further.

“Who do you suppose would do a better job?” Ronnie asked. “You?”

“Naturally the board would look to me,” said Jackson. “I always worked closely with Pops.”

Ronnie shook his head. “You wouldn’t have achieved half of what Chick has and you know it. These are extenuating circumstances.”

Jackson had fallen cold at the insinuation that he couldn’t live up to The Cappy’sreputation. He spoke calmly.

“That’s what worries me,” he said. “With all that has happened Chick might be losing his nerve.”

At that the door to the den opened. Chick himself greeted them. His eyes looked a little strained as though he had been lost in thought for some time.

“Come in,” he said to his family. “I’ve made my decision.”

They joined him in his room and Chick took his seat behind his desk.

“Things here in Coldford are becoming more and more difficult by the day. It’s becoming more of a struggle for me to put things right,” The Cappy addressed them.

Jackson looked to Ronnie. To him it was confirmation that Chick was in fact losing his nerve.

“It doesn’t help that y’all keep fucking up at every turn and corner.” 

Jackson frowned.

“Ronnie,” he began. “You’re a good man but you let those pikey terrorists walk free. I cannot have that. Billy,” he addressed his nephew, “I brought you here on the understanding that you would bring that murdering nutcase with a chain in. He still walks a free man. Either you up your force or I find someone who will.”

Buddy’s eyebrows raised as The Cappy’s gaze fell on him. “You, boy. Don’t even get me started on you or we’ll be here all night.”

“All of this I could abide. Ya’ll are family. However, when the board turns to me and suggests I stand down because of your mistakes? Well, that about makes me so mad I could spit. Jackson? I know you’re behind it and if you eva’ question my leadership again I will knock your teeth so far down your neck you will shit them out in single file. Am I clear?”

Buddy’s lips tightened. His eyes widened. Then The Cappy stood.

Jackson nodded but The Cappy wasn’t satisfied he had made his point.

“I’m going to need to hear y’all sign off!”

“Yes, sir,” the all replied in synchrony.

Chick took his seat again.

“If I were to step down it would be through my own choice and Jackie, you would never succeed me. Now onto business. We are being pushed into a corner. The distillery has been removed from the playing board but whilst our pretty boy booze hustler is still at large it means nothing. Billy, I want so much CPD presence on the streets that that boy is unable to so much as breathe without having a badge waved in his face. The thieving from our outposts is affecting business. It stops now. It has also become more and more important that Reginald Penn is apprehended. That little bitch, Tabitha, crying curses across the city really got my back up. I want that son a bitch Reginald behind bars before the Law Makers decide what to do with her. If he ends up dead?” Here Chick spread his arms and shrugged. “Well that would be swell.” He took a large intake of breath. “I’m going to give y’all one more last chance to end this. I’m calling Kick Off.”

Buddy’s eyes widened. His grin spread.

“No way!” he gasped but buzzing with excitement.

“I’ve never been more serious about anything in my entire life.

Ronnie was shaking his head. He lowered his gaze.

“It’s kick off time boy!” Billy cheered. “A’body knows when you hear that whistle bitches better start running.”

He clapped his father’s shoulder.

They filed out of the den but Chick stopped Billy.

“Bill,” he said. “I want you to take Betsy.”

Billy beamed with pride. First Kick Off then having the honour of carrying The Cappy’s favourite rifle. It was a good day.

***

The agents and I received an invitation to Harbour House. We weren’t sure as to why but since Elizabeth Beckingridge seemed to have similar motives as ours we accepted.

David described life in Harbour House to me in great detail. When I visited Vincent he did too. It was like the home of a childhood friend. It was comforting and warm but you just couldn’t shake the feeling that something sinister went on between the parents behind closed doors. That was how the musician put it. His description was accurate, I observed, as I stepped inside. It was decorated in the style of a home but the winding corridors were cool and unwelcoming in places.

Elizabeth had been waiting for us in the reception. Her assistant, Mark, was by her side. She had tried everything she could with her money and influence to find Tawny. It had been her own private investigators that led CPD to the body washed up on the Filton Ford, at the foot of the Fullerton Bridge. The remains had been stripped and cleaned of any evidence. They were looking for car crashes reported in the area but it was a wide net to cast and very unlikely to produce anything solid. It was frustrating when the culprit was known but no Law Maker would help until evidence gave them reason to.

“Ta da!” Elizabeth sang.

Mark applauded. The rest of us all looked confused so he stopped.

“Perhaps I should explain to these people what we’re doing here,” she decided. Mark agreed.

“Well, I’ve been following Sam here for a while and I’m quite impressed with your progress. It can’t be easy for you cramped in your little apartment. So I gift you this…” She turned to demonstrate the entire facility.

It was Agent Kim who spoke first.

“You’re gifting us Harbour House resources?

Elizabeth nodded, pleased with her offer. “It’s everything you could possibly want. It has research facilities, secure rooms, space for whatever fight training it is you people do. It also has some lovely gardens. They were beautiful, weren’t they Mark?”

Mark again agreed. “They were. A little overgrown but I’ve got the gardeners coming in tomorrow.”

Elizabeth beamed. “Then it’s settled.”

The agents looked among themselves. It would make a difference.

“You,” Elizabeth pointed to Lydia. “The pretty one.” Kim turned with an exasperated frown. “Don’t you ride a motorcycle? There’s even space to store it.”

Lydia laughed. “My bike is out of commission at the moment. It had a bit of a face off with a bull. Kitty is going to be in repair for some time.”

Elizabeth smiled, girlishly. “Mark, note that she calls the bike Kitty.”

Mark took note.

“Fear not, Kitten,” she said to Lydia. “We’ll have it back together in no time. Anything you need just let me know.  I’ll supply whatever equipment you need, computers, weapons, licences. Oh that reminds me. Mark the agents will need licence from the Law Makers to act as private investigators. Memo to Judge Doyle’s office.”

Mark was busy noting whilst the rest of us were busy trying to comprehend what was happening.

“We‘ll need a name.” Elizabeth’s novelist spirit was taking over as she created the scene in her head. “What about the revengers? No that sounds too aggressive. The force for Justice?” She shook her head. “That’s even worse.”

Kim stepped in before Elizabeth got too carried away. “Thank you for giving us this opportunity. We just want to do some good in the city.”

“We’re the Good Gang,” Lydia chuckled.

It was a tongue in cheek reference but it seemed to have ignited Elizabeth’s excitement again.

“That you are Kitten. You’re the good gang and you should be named after a good person.”

There was only one person I could think of whose name and sacrifice was worthy of such an accolade.

“Hickes,” I said. “Hickes was the one who brought us all together.”

We all agreed. None of us had been expecting to form the Hickes Agency but given the state of affairs in the city it seemed that it was just what was needed. As the saying goes – evil prevails when good people do nothing.

As the agents began to scan the area Elizabeth took me aside. “Hickes is a fine suggestion,” she said. “I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a fellow writer. I read Marble Mantle by the way, we’ll discuss that later.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked her.

She stopped. With Mark aside and the agents inspecting it was just us.

“I put everything I had into finding Tawny. In doing that I learned so much about what was really going on. I spent my whole life in Filton. I had no idea what was happening beyond the manor walls. That was my mistake. Everyone told Ernest that he was naïve. I did too but I realise that I am no different. I don’t want to be naïve. I want to know everything that is going on so I can be prepared for it. Because experience has taught me that all the money in the world doesn’t give you wings when a pissed off bastard from the Shanties wants to throw you out of a hundred story window.”

She was feeling guilt for not having found Tawny. She was experiencing survivor guilt for outliving her brother when she could have pulled the Tower into order any time she chose. Most of all she was feeling guilt for never having given a second thought to the plight of the rest of the city until its troubles came hammering on the manor gates.

She beamed when Lydia returned. “That bike of yours,” she said. “Let’s get it repaired and functioning again.

“It may take a while,” Lydia admitted. “I am waiting for the upgrades.”

“What kind of upgrades?”

“Preparing her for combat situations. Increased torque, armoured body, weapons perhaps?”

Elizabeth clapped her hands with glee. “Yes!” She cried. “I’ll give you what you need because that is happening!”

“I know someone who could help,” I suggested.

She drew a bottle of champagne from behind the reception desk. “Let’s celebrate.”

“This lady is nuts,” Kim commented to me.

“I tried to warn you,” was my reply.

An author’s zeal with billions to back her whims made for a very interesting combination.

“Pretty one?” Kim teased. “Cheeky cow.”

“Well babe, some eyeliner and a touch of lippy wouldn’t be a complete loss on you,” Franklin jested.

When he saw Mark struggle to open the bottle, he offered his help. Their eyes met. Mark gave a wide smile. Franklin pulled the cork. Pop.

“Thanks,” said Mark.

“You’re welcome,” replied Franklin.

Elizabeth took the bottle and glugged from it.  

“Here’s to a promising future,” she cheered.

In a city upturned by the bad, Coldford needed the Good Gang.

***

Excitement was in the air with the formation of the Good Gang. Amidst the struggles, the fears and the upset it offered hope that things could get better. The next stage of the journey brought us to the suburban town of Jameston, known by the locals as Jamestown on occasion. I was one such local and on this particular day I had brought the agents to a garage owned by my father, Samuel (or Sam Senior).

He was always pleased to see me return. When I first left for Coldford it had been he who had warned me against it. The idea of living in the city didn’t well with him. Considering what I had been faced with in that time I can’t really blame him.

My father was a cheery soul who loved good company and what better company on this day than the agents of the Good Gang. As pleasant as it was they had come for a purpose. The attention to that purpose was brought by Elizabeth Beckingridge.

“You must be Mr Crusow,” she said a little flirtatiously when she saw my father.

My father smiled at her. He seemed quite beguiled by her too. It was all quite horrifying for me.

Before my thoughts could wander onto the idea of having Elizabeth as some kind of twisted step mother figure Lydia was captivated by all the bikes and cars the garage had on offer.

When my father noticed he said cheerily, “I have something real special for you. It’s not been easy to get together and It’s not been tested yet but it’s really something.”

“When I was a little kid, I dreamed of a day I’d get to work on something like this,” he said with excitement. Lydia was excited too. We all were.

“I want to thank you for the opportunity,” he told Agent Lowe.

There she was. She was to be Lydia’s own personal transport. In tribute to this the formidable bike was named Kitty. We all gave an audible gasp.

“Terrific job!” Elizabeth cheered.

“That is far out!” gasped Agent Reynolds.

There was no more time to lose. It hadn’t been tested so all that was left to do was for Lydia to demonstrate what it was capable off.

***

“The city descended into anarchy last night as a wave of protests turned violent. The violence was sparked when Elizabeth Beckingridge of Beckingridge Financial firm deliberately destroyed a priceless heirloom of Kappa So,”

“Captain Charles Owen had called for a simple apology from Miss Beckingridge – who has a history of mental illness within her family. Miss Beckingridge refused and was believed to have taunted the destruction that she caused. Captain Owen had called for understanding after Miss Beckingridge’s childish behaviour but anger spilled over last night. Perhaps Miss Beckingridge will make that apology now. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily News.”

***

The service elevator of the Faulds Park building opened. The space was filled by a formidable figure. He was sleep deprived but still spurred on by anger and adrenaline.

“Reginald!” Rita shrieked. She ran from Franklin’s side to her husband who collected her in his embrace. Agent Kim was on her feet, Lydia followed her lead.

“Not one step further,” Agent Kim warned.

She was expecting confrontation, judging by the fury that was laced into his expression. Her estimations weren’t completely wrong. However, the King of Main had come alone. Belta’ slid from his sleeve. Franklin too was now armed.

“Rita, pet,” warned Kim. “I’m going to need you to step back.”

“Please,” Rita plead. “We don’t have to do this.”

Reginald kissed his wife, disregarding the guns aimed at him. “It’s okay, my love,” he said. “I would like to talk peace with the agents.”

At that Rita did let him go. Reginald slowly laid Belta’ on the table. Stepping back he raised his arms.

“I’m here because of my son, Junior. They have taken him and I have learned they are holding him at one of our warehouses. They are looking for me to go fetch him and if I do there will be more blood shed. That is what they have come to expect. Junior could be killed. I hear you agents are good at extraction and infiltration.” Here his lip curled. “My other two boys and Tabitha are testament to that.”

Agent Kim narrowed her gaze. “You want us to do your dirty work for you?”

“I’m asking you to save my boy. I trust you saw the video? You know what they did to him. Tawny was a good friend of mine too and she’s still missing. Will you help them?”

With a nod of her head Kim gestured to Lydia who eased off. Franklin followed suit.

“We’re still on appointment of the Office of Law Makers,” Kim reminded him.

Reginald gave a regal nod.

“I’m aware. That’s why if you agree to bring Reggie home I’ll hand myself into your custody.”

Rita sobbed. She tried to plead with her husband. With tensions eased he was able to take her into his arms.

“I promised I would do whatever it took to bring your baby back,” he told his wife. To Agent Kim he said, “I hand myself to you and your agents alone. I don’t trust CPD.”

“Good,” Kim agreed. “That’s something we can agree on.”

“Find Junior,” Reginald pushed. “Bring him home.”

***

“We’ll do what we can for you,” said Agent Kim to Reginald Penn. “But we have to go now.”

Reginald nodded. “Do what you can for Reggie. No matter what happens to me I need you to bring him home.”

The kick off riots had calmed a little but there was still a lot of tension on the streets. The Good Gang were hoping that whilst that distraction was there Reginald Penn could be brought in without incident.

The King of City Main said a fond farewell to his wife. He told her to give the boys his best. He promised her once again that her baby would be brought home.

A note I have made before on Reginald and one I wish to reiterate at this time was his noble nature. He was a noble man, that much has been noted too but as he departed the tower he gave his thanks and well wishes to his staff. He knew them by name. He commanded their respect.

“Long live the king!” they cried as he made his exit.

Through the bustle and noise of Main, even about the burning and crying of the rioters could be heard the sound of horse hooves.

The agents who had taken Reginald into their custody were closed in by none other than General Van Holder of the Subala Black Bands.

“I’ll take it from here, Agents,” Van Holder warned.

“He’s in our custody,” Agent Kim warned.

“Then I relieve you of your duty,” Van Holder insisted. “He’s under terror charges and that is my duty to the High Court.”

“It’s fine,” Reginald said to Kim. “I’ll go with him.”

If we are all honest with ourselves we would agree there was no other choice.

Through the streets of Main, the King was dragged behind Van Holder’s horse. The Kappa So present taunted and spat on him. The loyalists in support were pushed back as more Black Bands began to flood the area.

On the steps of the High Court, Judge Doyle waited. The law was the law and it was not above kings.

Van Holder brought the King to his knees.

“On King wrangled, Your Honour,” he said.


Enjoy this?

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? Tawny was last seen as a resident of the Shady City’s premier rehab clinic. Check out Vivika Widoow’s hit thriller Harbour House. Free on Kindle Unlimited.

Reggie Penn was always an odd duck. He liked go off on little adventures. His family knew he would return eventually. If he stayed away too long his father would come looking for him and no one wanted that.

Hathfield Bay island feels a world away from the city and Reggie keeps missing that damn ferry.

Available May 14th – pre order now.

Fixing Broken Things

I’m not the only kid who ever thought about running away from home, you know. But I can bet that there aren’t many who thought about it as much as I did. I was stopped so many times, brought back to the start. They couldn’t hold me forever. 

What was I running from? I don’t run from anything. It was what I was running to. I was running to a better life. I was running to people who could help me fix what was broken.  

The Knock Knock club. That was the place for broken things. Everyone went there, even me. It was for adults only but it was my Aunt’s place so they let me in. The door there was never closed. I wasn’t running from anything. I was running to the Knock Knock club.  

My Aunt Tee was a star. They called her The Baroness. Everybody liked her. They all loved her. She even saw it in her to love me. Even after everything I had done I knew she would still love me so I ran to the club. They were my real family anyway.  

When I got the club it was too late. It had been burned out. Aunt Tee had been taken to a place called Harbour House. She had completely flipped. She couldn’t say anything. Not a word. Not even to Aunt Aggie. The closed the curtains at the Knock Knock but Harbour House would help her. That’s what I was told. It was a rehab clinic. She wasn’t an addict or anything but they said they could fix her. 

At least she wasn’t in that place alone. She had a music teacher, Vincent, with her. Apparently he was a a real creep when they brought him in but captivity changes people.  

The things these must have seen. A stalker, a kidnapper. Those are the kind of things that Harbour House fixes. He was obsessed. Can they fix that? 

Is it important? Of course its important. Obsessions can get real bad. They make people act stupid then things end up broken.  

There are drug addicts in there too. They say don’t judge people until you walk in their shoes. I wouldn’t like to walk in David Finn’s shoes. If anyone should have ran away from home it was him. Now all he has to walk in is hospital issue flip flops. He’s an artist. He had it real good for a while but then he stumbled onto Harvester Farm. He didn’t like what he found there so they locked him in Harbour House too.  

Time is running out, according to the Harvesters. Time for what? Time for the slaughter? 5:02 is the slaughter time for them. That’s when the cut cattle throats and bash bull heads. Well it’s not 5:02 yet at least not for the residents of Harbour House.  

None of this would have happened if the Law Makers listened. They say justice is blind. It is at least in one eye.. What good were they in this dung pile of a city? What good are they for fixing broken things? There are broken things in every inch of This Place. What good are they to anyone when a place like Harbour House exists. 


Read the complete season 1 free here or click below to download for Kindle.


Rehabilitation is the promise. But for three residents, never seeing the outside world again becomes a grim possibility if they’re unable to face their troubles.  

Read Vivika Widow’s hit thriller free on Kindle Unlimited.

Coming May 14th! From the Author of MAESTRO ; MUSE and HARBOUR HOUSE , step outside the Knock Knock club and head on over to Hathfield Bay Island for a nail biting, knuckle whiting , full in your face exciting glimpse into the lowest depths of humanity.

Pre order by clicking below.

Knock Knock: Episode 36: Rats in the Basement

The ascent to the top of the Faulds Park building in City Main was a journey all of its own. If I held my breath at the bottom I would have gotten dizzy – perhaps even fainted – by the time I reached the penthouse. Luckily, I didn’t have to test that theory.  

The elevator doors opened into a wide-open space with polished floors and classic paintings on the wall. It was chic, it was showy, it was the palace of the King of City Main.  

“How are you?” I asked Rita Penn who had been kept safe after being extracted from the airport by Agent Franklin Rhodes.  

She was still holding Franklin’s hand. She patted it fondly.  

“Franklin has been keeping me company,” she stated.  

Franklin beamed a cheery smile.  

“She’s been showing me the family albums,” he teased. “Seeing the triplets in a very different light.”  

Rita laughed. She looked calm and it seemed a connection had been built between them that suited them. There was always going to be a weight on our shoulders though until she had confirmed the safety of her boys.  

“Any word on Reggie?” she asked. 

I took a seat on the sofa across from her.  

“I’m not one of the agents,” I explained to her. “My name is Sam Crusow. I’m a reporter.”  

“Which paper?” she asked. 

This was a loaded question. In Coldford being a writer for the Daily in City Main or for the Express in the Shanties could make a world of difference.  

“I’m independent,” I told her. “Formerly of the Daily but I left.”  

Rita nodded. “Oh yes,” she said. “You wrote the piece on the Knock Knock Club. You were looking for Mayor Feltz.”  

“That’s correct. I’d like to ask you some questions about your family.”  

Rita didn’t seem too eager at first. Franklin sweeping her away from the airport had spooked her. Reggie’s ordeal had horrified her. Now that she had a reporter in front of her, I could see why she would be upset. She smiled politely though.  

“No,” she said. “I’ll not do that. I should speak to my husband.”  

“I want to do everything I can to help find Reggie. I can help piece things together if you work with me.”  

“Okay,” she agreed with a shudder. “What would you like to know?”  

*** 

“Whoooeeh boy! That cage is starting to stink,” Billy Owen announced with a grin. “E’body knows the smell of human shit really burns your nostrils.”  

Reggie Penn had been put into one of his rat cages in what Billy Owen’s cohorts would call the stress position. Reggie’s weight was concentrated on his hunched legs, one of which had an impacted fracture in the femur. He couldn’t stand or stretch out because if he did … 

ZAAAAP!  

The cage had been electrified. To touch any of the bars would send several volts through his already beaten body. Several broken ribs and a fractured skull made his hunched position even more painful.  

He hadn’t spoken any words since his capture. He had only given some cries of pain. They had brought him to a Penn warehouse located at the back of City Main, towards the northern farmlands. It was a lesser-known location, with the larger Penn warehouses being located in Luen.  

ZAAAAP!  

Billy was starting to grow bored.  

“I’m not surprised it stinks. He’s done nothing but shit himself since he got here.”  

It didn’t help that he had forced enemas down his throat. The diarrhea had left the prisoner further weakened and dehydrated.  

Reggie’s gaze was locked on the body of a rat he had named Smash. He was named after a character in the Coby Games Lonesome Nights franchise. Smash was being rotated on a spit, cooking thoroughly. Between the diarrhea and the cooking rat, the flies were beginning to gather.  

“Wooooosh!” Buddy came running through with all the enthusiasm of a boy on Christmas morning. He hopped up on top of the cage.  

Another rat named Jacket, so called because of the colouring around his torso, had been stuffed. A trusted taxidermist had attached propellers to the rodent so that it could fly around the room. Buddy was having a lot of fun working the propellers. 

“Look, Bill, I don’t give a flying fuck!” he was laughing.  

Billy had just come off the phone.  

“Bud?” he called to his cousin. “Buddy?”  

ZAAAAP!  

Buddy leaped from the cage clutching his rear end as volts shot through his backside. The rat fell out of the air.  

“You shocked my ass, brah!”  

Billy slapped the back of his head.  

“I got some work to do here,” he said. “I ain’t got time for your shit.”  

Reggie groaned a little. Billy turned to him. 

“What you say?” he asked.  

It hadn’t been words, mainly a grimace but Billy focused on his prisoner. He reached through the cage and pulled him against the bars. There was a collar around his neck which was used in method called ‘walling’, where it could be used to easily slam the prisoner’s head against the wall. It was a method that had been disbanded decades ago, but there were no rules to follow when Billy Owen had been given free reign over one of those responsible for the murder of the highly-regarded Pops.  

“I know you’re tired being passed around for a poking but you’re going to have to stay with me. I want you clear and lucid when King Daddy comes here so you can see what we’re gonna do to him.”  

Buddy had fallen quiet as he watched Reggie. He seemed unmoved. He was surely in a lot of pain.  

“Maybe we should at least take him out of there, brah,” he suggested. “He’s gonna pass out if he keeps more pressure on that leg.”  

Billy gave a deep sigh. “Now I know you did not just tell me how to do my job, little bro.”  

Buddy shrugged. “We could get him stuffed,” he suggested. He started to chuckle at the idea of a stuffed King of Main. 

Billy started to laugh too. “We could fly him over City Main. King’s gonna get ya! King’s gonna get ya! While your stuffed dead daddy is buzzing around, that there spit is just aching to pound and turn your mama.”  

Buddy took a moment to observe Reggie’s reaction. There was little but a slight grimace of pain.  

“First thing’s first,” he went on.  

He approached another one of the rat cages and pulled out a white female named Lorry. She squeaked quite fearfully in Billy’s grip.  

“What you doing, brah?” Buddy asked.  

Billy dug his knife into the rodent’s belly. With a death croak he pulled the guts free. He flicked them onto his prisoner.  

“I heard King Daddy called my Pops a hillbilly freak. That’s mighty unkind. You’ll find we’re hospitable people. So, you’re gonna enjoy this hillbilly buffet whilst we wait on him coming for ya.”  

Buddy insisted again. “He’s gonna pass out.”  

When Billy slapped him over the back of the head again he insisted, “I’m just saying.”  

“If I hear another word outta you I’m gonna put you right in there with him, little bro,” Billy warned. “Hush your mouth powder fiend or I’ll make you eat every rat in this damn place and that includes the ones that ain’t in cages.”  

When he noticed Reggie had been watching his exchange with his cousin, Billy asked, “What you looking at, rat boy? I’ll cut your little dick off. I don’t have to keep you with your dick intact you know. He’s my little cuz so I like to pull his pisser from time to time. It keeps him in line. You, on the other hand, I can have some fun with until your daddy gets here.”  

Billy stepped back. His nose wrinkled.  

“Agh!” he called. “How many enemas was he given? He’s shitting again.”  

*** 

‘City funds. City funds. City funds.’ 

Micky Doyle’s mind was focused on the financial future of Coldford as he was escorted to the top of Beckingridge Tower.  

Elizabeth’s assistant Mark eyed him with some distaste. At first Micky thought he had arrived late, but he hadn’t. He had arrived just in time. Perhaps Mark just didn’t like politicians.  

“Go right on through,” Mark beckoned. 

The penthouse office of Beck Tower was immense. It was so large and overbearing that it was uncomfortable, cold and lacking personality. It was very much like a dark cave. Micky himself was no stranger to it. He had been there to visit Ernest Beckingridge many times before. Ernest had tried politics but he didn’t really have the stomach for it. The run for the hot seat took a very specific kind of spirit. It was one that the Beckingridge CEO just didn’t have. There were manuscripts for a new novel on Elizabeth Beckingridge’s desk. The author turn interim CEO was not there. A draft charged across the room. Micky pulled his jacket closer. He crossed to the window. He looked down onto the courtyard below where fifty-nine people had tumbled to their deaths, including up and coming accounts exec Evan Heath. Evan had been a close friend of Micky. His wife Sonya had too. He shuddered again, glad he hadn’t been there that night.  

“Thanks for joining us, Micky,” Elizabeth called to him as she emerged from an adjoining room.  

He was about to correct her and suggest she use his proper title but the words caught in his throat when he saw she was accompanied by Reginald Penn.  

Reginald appeared calm but his chin had tightened. Belta slithered down from his sleeve. Micky backed off. He wasn’t much of a track star but he could try to run.  

“The door has been locked,” said Elizabeth, sensing what he was thinking.  

Micky looked towards the more direct route, the window. Hadn’t it been Marcus Penn who bid that heaving farewell to Evan? Simon Penn the hand that pushed Sonya?  

“I’m calling the police,” Micky stated.  

“Do,” Reginald suggested. “You can ask them where my boy is or you can tell me.”  

Micky’s mind spun quickly. The Boss, he remembered. Marcus and Simon were in The Boss. But that wasn’t it. There was the third. They were triplets.  

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Why should I know?”  

Elizabeth put in, “Because you’re Mayor, your cousin is head of the Office of Law Makers who CPD answer to. Take your pick Michael.”  

Reginald turned to her. She shrugged and gestured for him to carry on. Reginald started to close the distance between he and Micky. The tapping of his shoes on the marble floor echoed the pulsating of his heart.  

“Word is he was taken by CPD, frat brothers in uniform. Where would they take him?”  

Micky whimpered. “I don’t know.”  

He tried to edge towards the door. It was locked but at least he could step away from that damn window.  

“Where is he?” Reginald roared. “Where is Junior?” 

Micky looked to Elizabeth. Her faced had drained of colour. There was a pleading in her eyes that said, ‘for God’s sake just tell him what he wants to know.’ 

“I don’t know where he is,” Micky said. “He was supposed to go to Harbour House. He was supposed to be placed in Winslow’s care.”  

Reginald shook his head. Belta’s coils twisted around his hand.  

“No!” Micky pleaded. “Please no.”  

Suddenly the window was looking like the better option. Elizabeth put her hand to her mouth. It looked as though she was going to be sick.  

“I don’t know where he is.”  

Belta’ tightened further. She was determined to strike.  

“Not in my office, Reginald,” Elizabeth put him.  

“Do you know what they did to him?” Reginald asked the mayor.  

Micky had heard of the video but he hadn’t had the stomach to watch it. He needed some deniability in situations like this.  

“I don’t know where he is,” Micky sobbed.  

Reginald growled. “Then you’re no fucking good to me.”  

Elizabeth screamed, “Reginald!” as Belta’ swung.  

Micky threw his hands in the air.  

“Stop!” he squealed. “Tabitha is still alive. I know where Tabitha is.”  

Reginald lowered his arm. Belta’ swung with disappointment. The taste for blood was still tingling in her links.  

*** 

“You have to be kidding,” said Elizabeth.  

She looked a little more like herself again. The sickness seemed to have passed.  

“It’s true,” the mayor insisted. “When the Office of Law Makers pulled her execution date forward to crush troubles in the Shanties she was moved to a Monte Fort annex. They believe she was given the lethal injection but she’s still alive.”  

“Prove it,” Reginald challenged. “Let me speak to her.”  

“I can’t,” Micky said.  

Reginald growled. He swung Belta’ again and she wrapped herself viciously around the mayor’s neck. Micky gargled but Belta’s constriction was too tight.  

“Really, Reginald?” Elizabeth exclaimed, pushing herself against her desk.  

Reginald lowered himself so he was speaking directly into Micky’s ear.  

“You had better confirm what you’re saying is true or I end you right here and now.”  

“Not in my office,” Elizabeth insisted but Reginald ignored her. 

Micky tried to say something but asphyxiation was making it almost impossible.  

Belta’ loosed her grip.  

“She’ll still be executed. It was just time. You can’t go into the annex.”  

“Then get someone who can…” Reginald warned.  

“Faulty wiring,” suggested Elizabeth. “Send in Coby engineers to grab a quick video feed.”  

“Joshua Coby?” Micky exclaimed. “You can’t.”  

Reginald yanked Belta’ causing her prey to emit a gasp.  

“Do shut up Michael,” Elizabeth tutted. “It’s almost like you want the man to smash your skull in. If you can’t tell him where his son is then the least you can do is confirm what you’re saying.”  

Micky agreed with a nod. His face was starting to redden and hives were starting to break out.  

Micky made a call to Coby Games. As mayor he gave them the authorisation they needed to enter the Annex. Being based in Cardyne it was easily accessible for the Coby Games sparkies. Joshua himself was a survivor of the Free Fall Massacre. Through that he felt indebted to Tabitha, the details of which I would have to follow up at a later date. In the meantime, a tense half hour passed between the three at Beckingridge Tower. Few words were shared. Elizabeth poured herself a drink.  

*** 

“That’s it,” Elizabeth announced as she closed a call from Joshua. She collected a remote from her desk and switched on the screen. it was blank at first. She linked it to the feed that Joshua had given her. A body cam on the shirt of one of the Coby Games staff moved through a narrow corridor. There was a flash of brick wall, a dusty floor, a couple of engineers in Coby boiler suits. There was a very narrow window and then a young woman. She looked up, still blinking at the addition of light in her existence and wincing at the noise of the engineers’ footsteps. She started to adjust. Her hazy mind comprehended her new reality. It was Tabitha. The real Tabitha. When she saw Reginald Penn looking at back at her, her lips spread to expose her gap-toothed grin.  

“Reg?” she asked. 

Reginald sighed the first bit of relief he had felt in some time. 

“Are you okay?” he asked. 

Tabitha nodded weakly. “Can’t keep a good girl down,” she said.  

It was a phrase Tawny always used in times of trouble. It had been one of the first things the show girl had said to him.  

“Just hang tight, sweet heart,” Reginald said. “I’m coming to get you.”  

Tabitha nodded. “If you could do something about my living arrangements that would be fan-fucking-tastic.”  

“I’ll do what I can,” Reginald promised.  

*** 

“If you’re quite finished,” said Elizabeth. “Can you clear my office please?”  

Reginald had promised Elizabeth that in exchange for her putting him directly in touch with the mayor she wouldn’t have any trouble at the tower. The trembling body of Micky showed he was certain as soon as he stepped outside the tower, all bets would be off. 

Elizabeth led them to a service elevator that took them out onto City Main. The instructions to Micky were that once he was clear of the area, the mayoral security he had brought with him would meet him at the Weir Hotel. He was not to breathe a word of Tabitha or Reginald. After facilitating the entrance of Coby Games to the annex, he wasn’t wanting to have to explain himself anyway.  

“They are going to bring you in,” warned Micky.  

Reginald took no notice of the warning. He knew what he had to do. He let the mayor live and continued in his path to find Reggie.  

*** 

I had been in City Main at the time of the event I now wish to discuss. Lisa Luren from the Knock Knock Club had been given an old contact of Kev’s who used to supply Buddy Owen. Conveniently, he lived on the lower levels of the Faulds Park building. As I passed along Time Line where the boutiques, jewellery stores and chic cafés sat, screens everywhere were showing images of the still-missing Baroness.  

“Did you know her?” I had asked Lisa.  

“No,” Lisa said. “But I heard a lot about her. I heard so much it felt like she was my aunt too.” 

I was pondering over this when the screens started to flicker.

  

*** 

City Main was his kingdom, but his kingdom was under siege. Reginald Penn had pulled some of his Loyalist support from attacking Kappa So strongholds to help find Reggie. The destruction of the distillery lit fire to that powder keg. He had received word Rita was safe so at least that was something.  

A sudden darkness gave him cause to stop. It was like there had been a power surge. The Beckingridge Tower screen flickered on. Tawny’s image was replaced by Tabitha’s. 

The crowds of City Main stopped to watch. A woman who had been holding her son’s hand was pulled back. He pointed up. Staring straight into the lens Tabitha greeted the Shady City of Coldford with a brash, gap-toothed smile.  

“Hello tiny peoples of Coldford,” she said. “Those of you who matter know who I am. Those of you who don’t are going to by the time I’m done. I’m coming to you live from some Law Maker hole and in case you didn’t get the message, loud and fucking clear, I’m still alive…”  

*** 

Agnes had been returning to the Mid-East from a meeting with the agents. She had been heading towards City Stadium where the screens showed Tabitha as though she had appeared from beyond the grave.  

“You know something?” Tabitha was going on. “I’m not even pissed at the audacity of you cunts. I’m just going to smile and be the bigger person. They told you I was dead and if you believed them then you’re bigger cunts than they are.”  

Agnes clasped her hand to her mouth.  

“Oh God!” she said.  

A crowd had gathered behind her to watch too.  

*** 

As agreed, Micky’s security met with him in the hotel lobby. They could see he was a little shaken. He buttoned up his collar so as to hid the marks on his neck. The security didn’t ask questions. It wasn’t their job to. He wanted to return to City Face. It was starting to turn into a rather stressful day.  

The City Main masses were all watching in the same direction. Something was happening. Micky stepped outside of the Weir just in time to hear Tabitha’s voice booming over her captive audience.  

“They say they want us to follow the rules. What fucking rules? They keep changing those rules to suit their own. I stand here before you case and point.”  

Micky shook his head. He drew out his phone to call Karyn but before he could punch in the numbers Tabitha went on.  

“The Law Makers can suck cock for all I care. Every last one of them. What are they going to do? Kill me? They don’t have the balls.”  

Micky decided then it would be best to visit Karyn personally.  

*** 

The artist, David Finn, had been at Starkland Park in the Shanties, collecting tickets for him and a friend for the next Coldford Athletic game. He and Tawny being close friends in Harbour House, she had shown him many photos of his niece so he recognised her immediately.  

“Holy fucking shit!” he cried. 

He raised his hands above his head as though his treasured team had just scored.  

“I want the people of the Shanties to know that you’re not the vermin in the city. They are,” Tabitha was saying. “They look down on us as though we’ve shat in their shoes. They come to rape us, rob us, abuse our kids, kill us and we’re the ones out of order? Heavens fucking forfend we stand up for ourselves.”  

It didn’t stop at Starkland Park. All around the Shanties – shopping district screens, sports arenas, pub screens – they relayed Tabitha’s message.  

“You don’t have to put up with that shit. You don’t have to take a bit of what those cunts at the Court House have to say. And if any of those Kappa So wankers think they can talk, guess what? You don’t have to put up with that either.” 

As though the Almighty was speaking to them from above, a fire sparked in the people of the south.  

“Shit,” exclaimed one bro to another.   

Swarms of people would start to leave their homes and they would find themselves outnumbered. 

“Things are getting pretty shitty so it’s time for a little change,” said Tabitha. “Sometimes to make a point you got to give a bitch a real slap to the face. I’m looking at you Judge Doyle, cunt.”  

Vans filled with Kappa So bros departed the Shanties. Tabitha’s warning was resonating. The people of the Shanties were listening.  

“I must dash but you can rest assured the Knock Knock Club will open again. I’ll be joining you soon enough. In the meantime, keep fighting. Don’t let those cunts push you around. We’ll have them on their knees begging to suck our cocks because, you know why? The Boss Lady is back. Until next time…byeeee! Oh, and I want my dress fucking cleaned.”  

At that the footage cut out. The collective city fell silent.  

It seemed when Reginald had closed his contact to her Tabitha had held the Coby engineers behind for a performance of her own.  

“I always wanted to be on TV,” had been her sentiment. 

It was a performance the entire city had seen. It was a performance Aunt Tee would be proud of. It was a real show stopper. Where did that leave the rest of us? What in the Hell would she do next?  


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Knock Knock: Episode 35: Shooting Blanks

Opening a store in Bellfield was not going to be as easy as Julia Harvester had hoped. It certainly wasn’t as easy as taking a place in the city. By the time Julia returned to Harvester Farm she had all but given herself to a foul mood. She was a nice girl though and nice girls weren’t moody. So she tried her best to shake it off. The van pulled into the farm house. Glenn was driving. Curtis had fallen asleep in the back. Glenn had warned him he was going to steal his kidneys if he fell asleep but Curtis’ self-inflicted hangover won over the warning. 

Buddy and his bros were waiting for them. Buddy seemed excited about something. Julia tried to find the energy within herself to care. She was still trying to comprehend the situation in Bellfield. She had been warned the people of Bellfield were dedicated to the Macks. She had hoped her brand could fill the void, now that the distillery had been taken. She could be a friendly shoulder to cry on. It seemed the Macks weren’t so easily ousted and the store was under constant attack before it could even be opened. Julia Harvester was a nice girl. Why wouldn’t they want a nice girl to help put the pieces together? Why wouldn’t they let her help them? 

Instead, it was Buddy Owen who greeted her with warmth. 

He kissed her cheek clumsily. 

“It’s been a long day, Bernard,” she said. “I don’t really have the time.” 

“I’ve got a gift for you,” he said. “I figured after a day with the gypos you’d need some cheering up.” 

Parked by the farm house was a green Cooper car named Forest. Buddy dropped his arm around Julia’s shoulder. 

Julia didn’t really have much of a need for a sports car nor a liking for one but she smiled as any nice girl would. 

“That’s very kind of you,” said she. 

Buddy gave a nervous giggle again. His brown eyes sparkled with life. 

“Let’s go inside, shall we?” she propositioned, shaking his arm from his shoulder and taking his hand. 

She led him into the farmhouse and Buddy’s excitement intensified. He was positively giddy when she led him upstairs. 

“I haven’t had the chance to thank you for taking care of Nathan,” she said. 

Buddy followed her to the bedroom like he was ascending the steps to heaven. 

“He was an asshole,” Buddy said, but the hardness in his groin was beginning to take over the conversation. “Sorry about the fence.” 

Julia stopped one step above him. She turned back and smiled. 

“That’s okay. Gary is still safe and sound,” she said. 

The idiotic grin on Buddy’s face went a long way to giving the farm girl the validation she needed. 

When they got into the bedroom Buddy hesitated by the door. Julia walked towards the bed, shedding her clothes as she did so. By the time she lay across the bed she was in her most beautiful form. Buddy was wide eyed and eager but like a rabbit caught in the scope of the hunter’s gun he couldn’t move. 

“You want this, right?” she teased. 

Buddy nodded stupidly. 

He peeled off his shirt – swimmers build out of commission, sorry ma’am. He dropped his trousers, almost tripping over them as he leapt towards the bed. She dug her nails into his shoulder, turned him over and climbed on top of him. She slid herself onto him so he could savour the sensation. 

“That feels good,” he cheered. 

Julia balled up her panties. She gripped his prominent chin. His mouth opened and she stuffed the panties inside. 

“Shhh,” she said. “Don’t talk.” 

Buddy’s hardness was painful. Never before had he experienced such an intense erection. He didn’t want to disappoint her or mar such a splendid occasion by completing too early so he thought of every possible scenario to prolong himself. 

The Cappy’s ass. A cold shower. That time Nola Wong showed him her saggy tits. Frogs.

Julia bucked her hips and he was almost done there and then but he bit his lip. This wasn’t like fucking the Kappa Si coke whores. This was all romantic and shit. 

Julia’s phone on the bedside table rang. She stopped writhing. 

“Motha’ fucka’” Buddy exclaimed, muffled by the panties.

As though Buddy weren’t there, she answered the phone. 

“Yes?” she said. 

It was a contact she had left behind at the Love Street store in Bellfield.

“I know about the distillery,” she said. She bucked her hips and Buddy groaned. “That’s unfortunate. We were trying to make everything better.” 

Grandma spitting her teeth out. Lectures on muscle torque. Really fucking cold shower! 

She bucked again. 

Baseball. The body of a maggot infested racoon he found. His grandma’s saggy tits. 

None of it was helping. Buddy just wished she would get off the damn phone. He tried to touch her breasts but she leaned back, placing her erect nipples out of reach. 

Julia hung the phone up. Buddy’s excitement throbbed but she climbed off of him. 

“I have to go,” she said. 

Buddy was left alone, naked in her bed, still with a painful hard on. He spat the panties out. 

“Dick down my throat!” he complained. 

***

To discuss current events the Olivia had invited the agents to her office in Harbour House. They were also playing host to Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Owen. As a favour to Olivia, he had agreed to meet with us and discuss a way forward now that a temporary truce was in place between the Cappy and Elizabeth Beckingridge. 

“He’s going to pull the Black Bands back as soon as Reginald Penn is apprehended and the Loyalists are disbanded,” Ronnie was explaining to Kim.

“And will he?” Kim put to him. 

Ronnie maintained his station. “He’s a man of his word. The only reason he came here is because of the murder of our father.” I was taking note of all that Ronnie was saying. 

“He had the Daily slander me,” I reminded him. “What is he trying to cover up?” 

Ronnie was unmoved. “No newspaper would allow a journalist to bring it into disrepute, especially when they only have hearsay to go on. You accused his son publicly of murder, again with nothing to back you up. He took that personally.”

I had to admire Ronnie. He didn’t know what reception he would receive with myself and the agents given the current state of affairs in the city, but he approached the task with a dignity and poise that carried the respect of all those present. 

Olivia had vouched for him. They had worked closely together for years in her capacity as a social worker and his as a lawyer. It had been she initially who had put the task to him to defend Tabitha, which he did with everything he could. Even the best lawyers could only go so far when the client was clearly guilty. 

The door opened. I heard Bellfield accents talking excitedly. It was Paddy who emerged first. He stopped dead when he saw Ronnie. Ronnie was equally as flabbergasted. 

“Who the feck let this gobshite in!?” Kieran was close at Paddy’s back. 

Ronnie turned to Olivia. 

“He’s here to help,” she told the Macks. The Macks themselves there at Olivia’s invitation also. No one had expected them to arrive so soon. 

“My arse he is,” Kieran objected. 

“Kieran, shut yer mouth.” Paddy was still looking at Ronnie with mistrust but he was keeping a calm mind.

“I’m not here to cause trouble for anyone,” Ronnie told them. “I’m here as a peace maker. Reginald Penn was the one who murdered my father.” 

Paddy replied, “He had his reasons.” 

Ronnie nodded. “I’m sure he did.” 

“I couldn’t stop him,” Paddy added.

A silence fell between them that didn’t suit Kieran. 

“What kinda arse bandit is your nephew? You should see some of the gear we picked up at yer chapter house,” Kieran teased. 

Paddy slapped his brother’s shoulder. “Really?” 

Kieran shrugged. “Just wondering…” 

Ronnie hugged Olivia. “I’m going to go,” he said. No negotiations were going to be made and the agents had a job to do. 

“1015,” Kieran announced. “Is that the imaginary inches your nephew thinks he has?” 

“Where did you see those numbers?” 

Both Kieran and Paddy were taken aback by Ronnie’s sudden interest. Kieran fished into his bag and produced Buddy’s golden cock.

“We found it in Paddy’s van. We were starting to think he liked it up the arse.” 

Ronnie wasn’t listening. He was examining the item. On the bottom were still the numbers 1015. 

“The golden asset!” he gasped to himself. “Buddy, what have you done?” 

Kieran continued. “You freak shows keep the strangest things.” 

Paddy growled at him. Kieran shrugged but he quietened. 

I could tell from Ronnie’s expression that something had gone horribly wrong. 

“What’s the matter?” asked Olivia speaking for all of us as we tried to comprehend what had happened. 

Ronnie shook his head. “Captain Henry had a whole series of golden artifacts created for the Coldford expedition. Map holder, gun, playing card holder, whiskey decanter – all of which we have – the compass and this. All of them were stamped with 1035. It was the time his ship set sail.” 

“Why would…” Kieran began to ask. “I suppose, a sailor and all that,” he decided. 

“Kieran if you don’t shut the feck up I’m going to belt ye,” warned Paddy. 

“It wasn’t like this,” Ronnie explained but to Olivia. “If this is truly the golden asset then it was Captain Henry Owen’s telescope. It has been in my family for over two centuries and if that fuck up has-” Ronnie stopped himself before he lost his temper completely. “The Cappy is going to be furious.” 

Kieran grinned. “Can we tell him?” 

“I’m keeping this,” Ronnie said to Paddy. “I’m going to assume that if you have anything to say to Olivia it’s for the good for the city. I’ll also assume that if I were to send the Black Bands to fetch you, you would be gone by the time they got here so I won’t bother. In exchange you will not breathe a word of this and let me handle it internally.” 

Ronnie stored the asset away. The agreement was struck.

***

The Chapter House was beginning to look a little like itself again. Most of it was still a construction site where Reginald and Paddy had led their respective groups to wreck the very building. 

Buddy was resting easy. Things were finally starting to get back to normal. 

“We just have to find the golden cock,” he said. “And I have a feeling I know where it is. Those gypo sons a bitches have it.” 

Chad stood behind him. He started to massage Buddy’s shoulders. Cooper was reading an email from his dad, Marshal Cooper. The father had sent an invoice for the cocaine they had taken from his stash. He was still at the classic car event in Luen but the Coopers had a very business friendly relationship. 

Buddy leaned his head back. Chad’s massaging hands moved down to his chest. Cooper looked up from his phone. Chad leaned his chin on Buddy’s head. Cooper frowned. 

“So, what’s the damage?” asked Buddy. 

“Two thousand,” said Cooper still looking a little confused at Chad who was resting comfortably. 

“What?” Buddy put to Cooper with a frown when he noticed him staring. 

Cooper shook his head.  

“Then give Coop his money, brah.”

Chad went back to massaging Buddy’s shoulders. Their plans were interrupted by Ronnie throwing the door open and storming in in a mighty temper. 

“Ron?” Buddy looked up. “What’s-” 

BANG!

Ronnie fired his gun catching Buddy in a fleshy part of his thigh. He fell forward in pain.

“You just shot me!” he exclaimed, clutching his leg. 

Ronnie pointed the gun at Chad and moved it between he and Cooper. 

“Don’t either of you dare move,” he warned. “I will shoot you where you stand and The Cappy will thank me for it.” 

Chad and Cooper said nothing. Buddy was still wincing in pain.

“What you do that for?” he asked his uncle. 

Ronnie dropped the golden asset. Buddy’s eyes widened with shock. 

The golden asset – the telescope of Henry ‘Hen’ Owen on his pioneering expedition – was the pride of the Owen name. Not only was it a centuries-old heirloom, it was a symbol of Owen power. It was kept at the Coldford Chapter House so that visitors of note like Pops could pay homage to it. Buddy – after a disagreement with his father – fell foul to the effects of powder. He started to boast that the Chapter House was his and he could do what he liked. The drugs, the angst and the brothers cheering him on caused him to make one of the poorest decisions he had made among a lifetime of terrible choices. He had the telescope reforged. 

“If The Cappy finds out about this I will not have what he does to you on my conscience. You’ve put us both in a mighty tough position Buddy and if you weren’t my blood I’d shoot you in the head right now and leave you a vegetable.” 

“Holy Mary, Ron,” Buddy grimaced. “My leg!” 

“I only grazed you. Consider it a warning shot. Get your shit together Bernard, for all our sakes.” 

Ronnie left his nephew. At least the asset was back in Owen hands. Buddy’s future, however, was reliant on the Macks keeping quiet and given their current struggle with the Owens it was likely they had a lot to say.


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Knock Knock: Episode 34: Whiskey Town


Buddy had returned to Owen Estate at The Cappy’s request.

The den seemed less closed off that day. It was unlike Chick to keep the door open when he was in but that day it was ajar. He was standing with his back turned to him. He was observing the various other family heirlooms. 

“You wanted to see me?” Buddy asked nervously. 

The Cappy turned. 

“The agents …” he began. 

Buddy took a deep breath. 

“I’ve had every agent from here to home fight tooth and nail to bring that compass back to me.” 

Buddy sighed with relief. He had meant acquisitions agents. Buddy looked to the space that was supposed to have been filled with the compass.

“I guess sometimes no matter how hard you fight you will always come to losses. Those losses can be great but we carry on. 

He stopped. He narrowed his gaze on his son. 

“Are you alright, boy?” 

Buddy nodded. A sweat was beginning to break on his forehead. 

“Losses and shit,” Buddy repeated. 

The Cappy growled. 

“Are you on powda’?” he asked. 

Buddy shook his head. Truthfully he was sober. His current situation would be a whole lot easier if he weren’t. 

“As I said, we all have our losses,” The Cappy went on “It’s the prickly nature of the competition. We are Owens and we always succeed, even if it takes generations. That is what being a dynasty is all about. That spot on that there wall perhaps wasn’t meant for something from our past. Maybe it stays open for the future. Which brings me to you.” 

Buddy clamped his mouth closed. 

“We’ve had our differences. We’ve had our problems. You were always closer to your mama but I’m to blame for that. I wasn’t there for you as often as I should have been. I had been too focused on taking our family forward. You were left behind with Jerry to teach you. I hoped you would follow my example but I realise now an example could only be set if I were there for you. You grew up to be a lot like Jerry and that’s my own fault. Times are changing. Times are going to get harder. We need to stick together and be on our A game. Can I trust you with that?”

Buddy nodded. The Cappy came from behind his desk and approached him. Buddy flinched as he put his arm out but Chick clasped his son with a grip behind his neck. 

“You are my boy, Buddy. I will do anything for you. A dynasty is carried forward not backwards. Make me proud. Leave stories for our future generations to tell. 

Buddy sighed. “I’m sorry the dragon lady smashed your compass.” 

Chick’s lips traced a smile. “As am I son. As am I.” 

Buddy couldn’t think of what else to say. He asked, “are you okay?” 

Chick’s smile spread. “I will be,” he said. 

Buddy flinched again as The Cappy pulled him closer but it was into an embrace with some warm pats on his back. 

“I love you, son.” 

These were words Buddy had never heard from The Cappy before. Mama said it all the time but she it to everyone. The Cappy on the other hand? He had probably never uttered the words before. Come to think of it Buddy had never said those words to anyone either. How does a bro respond to something like that? Luckily he didn’t have to 

The Cappy smiled again. 

“Besides, we still have the golden asset at the Chapter House. I’m going to have to lean on the Fullertons to make sure that site is cleared and returned to us.” 

“Sure,” Buddy agreed. 

“Alright, go,” he said. “Close the door behind ya.” 

Buddy pulled the den door closed. 

“What the fuck?” he muttered to himself.

***

***

There was an icy wind dancing across Owen Estate. It was time for Betsy to breathe some air. She felt snug, like an enthusiatic lover against The Cappy’s shoulder.

Van Holder watched as Chick took aim. The target cracked at Betsy’s bite. Van Holder applauded.

“Good shot,” he said.

“Are you a marksman yourself?” he asked.

Van Holder raised his chin as he took a better look at the target.

“Guns have uses but I’m more of a hands on man myself.”

Chick laughed. “That’s why I like. It’s good to let your hands get dirty from time to time.”

Van Holder agreed.

“I hear a lot of noise coming from our warehouses. I trust the investment is being put to good use?”

Van Holder’s lips traced a smile.

“Why don’t you come take a look.”

The Cappy gave Betsy to an assistant to be taken back inside. The warmth of Betsy’s body showed she was eager for more but that would have to wait. The two made their way to a warehouse on the Kingsgate Campus that Chick Owen had given for their purposes. When the warehouse doors were pulled open that he was not disappointed.

Hundreds of Black Band appointees were busy building a weapon of the most destructive kind. It would be fatal where necessary and unstoppable. Attention was being paid to a large cow catcher from an old locomotive. Thousands of pounds of power it held. There was not a wall in Coldford that could hold it back.

“Is this the weapon used in Kimaro?” The Cappy asked.

“It had to be brought in for parts. Assembly is taking time,” Van Holder explained.

The device that was used to make a King in Subala take to his knees and weep was but a prototype for what they had before them now.

Charles ‘Chick’ Owen was impressed. Van Holder was only too keen to display their success.

“With your generosity I will be able to make the upgrades we need to tackle the current problem.”

The Black Bands continued to busy themselves with assembly.

Both The Cappy and Van Holder looked at the weapon with admiration.

“She is mighty impressive,” stated Chick Owen.

“She’s called Game Changer,” Van Holder explained.

Chick grinned. “I do believe it is time for the game to change.”

***

Dan had set up the projector in the Filton Press archive room.

The old video played. It displayed shaky and grainy images of Old Bellfield over the last century, you to Brendan Mack as a young man when he took over. He was without his wheelchair then, standing tall and proud with his two elder sons, Paddy and Kieran. Paddy looked a lot like his father.

What interested me the most was the great wars of last century when the Distillery gates had been last closed. Those walls were built to last.

The distillery had originally been gas works. The great wars brought about a ban on alcohol. There were riots and more violence as a result. Sean Mack who worked for the gas works at the time used a small shed on the site to brew his own booze. When the owner of the gas works discovered what he was doing he was delighted. Soon Sean was brewing booze for the entire city. He brought his sons Darragh and Callum in to help. On the grounds of the gas works began Mack and Sons distillery. The gates were closed to keep the authorities from ousting the booze runners.

Stubbon and refusing to move, the distillery built itself around the gas works, becoming the Bellfield monumental structure we know today. Generations passed but those gates still stood strong.

***

The bells started to ring. Brendan Mack and his brother Alan made their way to the gates. Alan was pushing Brendan’s chair.

The entrance created during the dry days of last century I previously discussed to allow the collection of bootleg booze were still there. Only one of their own would know of it. When Brendan and Alan arrived on scene Paddy and Kieran were being greeted by their workers.

“The scoundrels return!” they cheered.

Paddy was being clapped proudly on the back by some of the workers. Kieran was busy retelling their tales of heroism to the workers when Paddy spotted their father. He went to meet him. He wrapped his arms around him and squeezed him tight.

“You look good,” said Brendan holding back emotion.

“Born this good looking is a curse,” Kieran cheered pushing Paddy aside to hug Brendan too

“We had to pull back,” Paddy explained to the reigning Mack Boss. “We were making our way round to Cooper Garages in Reginald Penn was determined to head to City Main. We would have been crushed. I tried to warn him.”

“I heard what happened to Reggie,” said Brendan. “It’d be hard not to do the same if it were on of me own. It leaves us vulnerable though. Did you find anything on Tawny?” he asked with a little hope.

Paddy shook his head. “No,” he admitted. “Sorry.”

Brendan sighed.

“We’ll have to give some thought to our next move but the boys are raring to go.”

Paddy took over the pushing of Brendan’s wheelchair. They passed through the distillery’s main body. Cheers rang out when the saw Paddy home again. The tables had been turned and the distillery equipment was replaced by weaponry. When the distillery gates opened again they would be ready.

“We’re at war lads!” Paddy called to them as he pushed his father down the main aisle, flanked by Alan and Kieran. Cheers were the response.

“Are ye ready!?” Paddy called.

“I said, are you feckin’ ready!?”

The cheers grew louder. The spirit of the distillery was alive. It was boiling over. It was unaware of the danger that rumbled down Love Street towards it.

Kaboom!

***

“The Mack and Sons distillery was brought to ruin earlier today in a Law Maker sanctioned raid as the terrorist group faced off with the Black Bands of Subala. Forty three Mack workers died in the attack as they tried to open fire on the Black Bands. Mack and Sons leader, Brendan Mack, was shot trying to take aim. It is believed that sons Patrick and Kieran escaped and are now concealed somewhere within Bellfield. The distillery has been officially seized and the search for the fugitives continues. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily news.”

***

With help from the Bellfield natives, Paddy and Kieran had managed to escape the devastation at the distillery. They split just after love street. Paddy slipped into a house neary. He took a deep breath.

“I should ask why you’re breaking and entering but given the noise from the distillery the situation explains itself.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs Shepherd,” Paddy replied boyishly, recognising the old councillor for the Bellfield community. “I didn’t want to bring trouble to your door.”

“And yet here you are,” she replied. “Sit Patrick but wipe your feet first. I don’t want you trailing my garden across the floor.”

Paddy obeyed and he took a seat at a small wooden kitchen table. Mrs Shepherd began to brew tea.

“There’s no use going anywhere now,” she said. “You might as well have a cup of tea and wait for things to blow over.”

“I’m fine,” he said.

The old counsellor turned to him with a raised eyebrow. “It’s non optional.”

She made two cups of tea and brought them to the table.

“You’ve always been a troublesome one, Patrick,” she said. “But you’re a good boy really.”

Mrs Shepherd had seen all the Macks grow up. As a counsellor they had been both help and hinderance to her. She knew Tawny well too having met her through Brendan. They had a shared interest in helping the community.

As boys, Paddy and Kieran had spray painted all over the Love Street park. It was she who had marched the boys back and have them repaint it.

“That’s what ye get for being eejits,” Brendan had said when they returned covered in green paint.

“I’ll wring their necks,” Annie Mack had promised. A promise delivered – at least on Kieran.

Mrs Shepherd had also been there to witness Paddy being prepared to take over the distillery. He was cheeky but he had a lot of the Mack endurance.

“I’ll be gone as soon as I can,” Paddy promised.

“That you will,” Mrs Shepherd agreed. “But I wouldn’t forgive myself if I sent you out in that mess.”

Whilst the Black Bands maintained their focus on the distillery, CPD were moving in to catch any who may have ran.

Mrs Shepherd clutched the Albans beads around her neck. They could both hear voices out in the street. There were shouting in Bellfield accents. Paddy hoped Kieran had managed to stay safe. He hoped those left behind at the distillery had survived at least.

The table shuddered as an explosion rattled down Love Street.

Mrs Shepherd took a deep breath. She clutched her beads tighter.

Knock knock.

There was a bang on the door. Paddy stood. Mrs Shepherd stood too.

“Stay here,” she said

She went to answer the door and Paddy crossed to the kitchen drawer. He removed a knife. He hid himself behind the kitchen counter and listened as Mrs Shepherd answered to the caller.

“Roger Kramer, CPD,” he said. “This is Peter Finnegan. We’re looking for Patrick and Kieran Mack. Have you seen them?”

Mrs Shepherd closed the door over slightly but slowly so as not to be suspicious.

“I haven’t seen anything,” she replied. “I had to turn off the television with all that noise down at the distillery.”

Finnegan looked her. Mrs Shepherd closed the door over a little more.

“Can we come in and take a look around?” asked Roger.

“Do you have a warrant to search my property?” she asked. She knew they didn’t.

“We have been authorised to use force if necessary but we’d rather you cooperate,” she was warned.

“Maybe rather than hassling old women and the Mack boys you should do your job and go check out that pervert down Dalley Street that sells drugs to all the weans!”

Mrs Shepherd’s neighbour had come out and was leaning on her balcony.

“It’s fine, Josie,” said Mrs Shepherd. “They were just leaving.”

Roger and Finnegan stayed their ground. The neighbourhood didn’t much appreciate the officer’s presence. They were being scowled at. It was said among CPD and most of Greater Coldford that Bellfield should be fenced off and allowed to police themselves.

“I told you I haven’t seen anyone. I do, however, believe that some of the young ones are unscrewing the wheels of your car,” said Mrs Shepherd.

Roger looked back. “You little bastards!” he yelled.

A group of kids aged around eight scattered. The CPD officers charged towards the car. When they climbed inside the young Bellfield Fleet began to throw stones at them. The officers pursued them towards the Dalley street exit towards Coldford City.

Paddy was at Mrs Shepherd’s back.

“Thank you,” he said gratefully.

“Get out of here Patrick,” she warned but she smiled and hugged him.

“Are ya gonna move!” a voice called from across the street.

Kieran waved his brother towards him.

When Paddy joined Kieran on the boys antagonising the police came running back towards them.

“They went away in their motor,” he announced proudly.

“Good job,” Keiran said , patting the boy’s shoulder.

The three started to make their way briskly to the quieter part of Bellfield to regroup.

The boy explained, “me and my old fella are going to go down to the distillery. We’ll let you know what’s happening.”

“Thanks,” said Paddy with genuine gratitude. “Just don’t go anywhere near the Black Bands. They’re not like CPD.”

Love Street had quietened but it would hear a great noise again.


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Knock Knock: Episode 33: Bull in a China Shop

The moment Nathan learned about Nan Harvester’s arrest he made his way straight to Harvester Farm. Julia had a strained relationship with her mother. She had always been closer to her father but she would need someone with her. She would need someone to help her through. Harvester Farm was quiet and none of the farm hands were out on the fields, not even Glenn or Curtis. He was glad of that. The milking sheds the frat boys had made home were quiet too. He had seen Buddy in the news with his father back on Owen Estate. Hopefully he was out of Julia’s life for good.  

If Glenn and Curtis were out on deliveries it was likely Julia had stayed behind to overlook things. There was always one of them left in charge.  

He drove straight to the farmhouse. He hadn’t been back since that business with Susie. He was keen to check the fallout from it. Buddy may have been grinning for the papers but hopefully Glenn had put the fear of God into him. He would never dare step on the farm again. Susie could have died. 

He rang the bell. It was a deep chime that echoed around the house. Through the frosted glass he could see a someone approach. It wasn’t Julia though. It was a man. The door opened. A wide grin greeted. The man was wearing Kappa So attire. The man was George.  

“Hello Nathan,” he said. “Come to visit Jules? She’s not in at the moment.”  

“Come in. She’ll be home soon.”  

George stepped aside. Speechless, Nathan entered the hallway. George closed the door behind him. That was when he heard laughter in the dining room  

“Buddy!” George called. “Nathan’s home.”  

***