Amber was thrilled. She had never been anywhere quite like the Knock, Knock club before. She was only seventeen so when the doorman stepped aside to allow her in she was exhilarated.
An invitation had come through the post. Her father was Mayor of the city so he was invited to all sorts of places. She brought the handsome Kevin with her. He was ten years her senior and she was sure Lacey – her elder sister – certainly wouldn’t approve. Lacey wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB. She had aspirations of taking their father’s office one day. Being seen in the Knock, Knock club and with the characters that frequented wouldn’t fit Lacey’s picture. Amber was more daring though. She fell in love with the club instantly. Even with the smell of stale beer and sticky floors. The neon flashing lights and empty stage excited her.
“You folks are looking a little lost.”
Amber felt a long arm slip around her shoulders. The sleeve of the man’s well tailored suit brushed against her.
“We’re new,” Amber said lowering her head so the man wouldn’t notice how young she was. She and Kevin were led to a table for two close to the stage.
“Since you’re first timers you can have be best seat in the house.”
Kevin seated himself first. The club manager pulled Amber’s chair out for her, swinging it slightly so she could have a better view of the stage.
“My name is DENNIS,” he announced. “I’ll send someone to take care of you but if you need anything give me a shout.” He said this directly to Amber.
Amber smiled, forgetting her caution under the lower lights. Dennis held her gaze. The manager role slipped momentarily and a brief flash of concern showed. Dennis was older than Kevin but much better looking.
“Times must be tough in this city if this dump is the place to bring a pretty girl,” Dennis jested.
Amber giggled. Kevin was not amused.
“Enjoy the show.”
The lights dimmed further. An in house band called the Knock, Knockers gathered at their instruments.
A woman walked onto stage. The chatter quietened.
“Good evening,” the woman introduced. She walked across the stage with all the ease she would have in her own home. “I see a lot of familiar faces out there,” she continued in a husky voice. “You would think you would be sick of our lousy food by now but we love having you,”
The audience reacted in good cheer.
“You didn’t come to listen to me spill my guts so let’s get started.”
She moved back from the edge of the stage in dance steps. The music fired up. The ground began to vibrate. The performer erupted into song.
A scantily clad serving girl brought them a watered down whiskey each and some meat and gravy. It wasn’t much but since the financial recession had hit the Shady City it was better than most people had that night. Kevin moved his meat around his plate with a disapproving sneer.
Amber was too busy watching the performance to eat. She was too busy enjoying herself to consider that her father – the mayor – had been responsible for the desperation so many people found themselves in. It was fine for Amber to enjoy the Knock, Knock when afterwords she could return to the large house she lived in in the Upper West. So many of the city didn’t have homes to go to.
When the performance finally ended the band changed their music to something a little more down key. The lights brightened, informing the patrons that it was time to leave. The performer came from backstage to mingle. She was wearing the same red dress. Her hair hung loosely around her pretty face. She stood at the bar with Dennis holding a gin and tonic, poured in a square glass. Kevin was impatient to leave but Amber wanted to meet the woman.
Her back was turned. She was in deep conversation with Dennis when Amber approached shyly. The manager notified her of Amber’s presence with a flick of his head. The performer turned. She greeted Amber with a grin. There was a large gap between her front teeth that offered her a girlish quality.
“It was my first time here,” Amber said. Under the woman’s gaze she found herself quite nervous. “I really enjoyed your performance.”
“Thank you,” replied the performer sounding a little exasperated. She turned to Dennis. “Who is this?”
“I would love to be just like you,” Amber blurted with childish awe, snatching her hand.
TABITHA laughed. Dennis remained stoic.
“Oh honey, there will only ever be one of me.” She pulled Amber closer to her. “Amber Feltz, right?” The Mayor’s youngest daughter?”
Amber tried to pull away but Tabitha kept a tight grip on her arm.
“I should go,” Amber tried pulling away again.
The club was clearing quickly and none of the patrons seemed to notice she was being held.
“So soon?” Tabitha asked. Her crimson nails started to dig into Amber’s flesh. “Join me for a drink won’t you?”
Amber was pushed onto a bar stool. Tabitha stared at her closely.
“It’ll have to be water for you though. You are too young for the hard liquor from what I read.”
Amber sobbed. Tabitha’s grin widened.
“Don’t worry.” Tabitha put her hand to her mouth as though speaking secretly. “Who am I to judge?” She turned to Dennis. “You like them young, don’t you?”
Dennis shook his head.
“I have to go,” Amber said. “Kevin is waiting.”
It wasn’t until then the mayor’s daughter realised Kevin had gone for their coats quite some time ago and hadn’t returned.
The door man closed the door on the last of the customers and left without a word. The club was now empty but for the manager, the performer and the mayor’s daughter.
“Please! I have to go,” Amber pleaded once more.
These were the situations she had been warned of. These people were the reason Lacey would never come to places like the Knock, Knock club.
“People will be looking for me.”
Tabitha leaned in close to her.
“Honey,” she said. “If you expect anyone to give a rat’s ass where you are right now you have come to the wrong club.
Amber was taken to a small room away from the club’s main floor. There were no windows in it and the lamp gave an irritatingly yellow glow. There was a plate on the table covered with a white handkerchief.
“What would your father say if we didn’t give you our best hopsitality?” asked Tabitiha.
Amber felt hands on her shoulders. Her gaze was focused on the covered plate. She was pushed down onto a small wooden chair. Tabitha pulled the handkerchief away. On the plate, basted in blood was Kevin’s hand. She recognised it instantly. Her stomach lurched.
“Take a bite,” Tabitha urged with a wicked laugh. “The food here is lousy but we do our best.”
Amber could try to run but she would feel silly for doing so. She was a silly teenager. A silly girl indeed. Suddenly the club that was so fascinating at first was Hell on earth, with its echo and it’s filthy, empty hall.
“She was missing for three weeks!” SAM CRUSOW gasped. He held a pad of yellow paper on his lap with a pen poised over it. “The police never said anything. When the mayor disappeared did noone thing to say, ‘Oh and his daughter has been gone a few weeks too.”
Eric Waddle, editor of the Coldford Daily crossed his arms over his chest. He glared at his best reporter.
“I’m warning you Sammy.” he said. “None of these details will be printed in my paper. If I see them elsewhere I will hold you responsible.”
Sam nodded hesitantly. He hated when his boss called him Sammy.
Eric went on. “I only tell you this because I’m a friend of the family and I want you to tread carefully. Mrs Feltz is speaking to no one else.
“How am I to cover the story when I can’t publish all the facts. How could no one care about a seventeen year old girl missing?
Eric ignored his first comment. “Amber always was an impulsive girl,” he replied to the second. “She was seeing some older guy. She’s probably sunning herself on a beach somewhere.”
“Do you believe that?” Sam put to the editor.