When I was a child I longed for adventure. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Youth gives you a confidence to seek a challenge. Life embitters you along the way so when the opportunity of an adventure lands in your lap it is to be grasped with both hands.
When I first came to Coldford it was in search of an adventure. I was told the Shady City was where the story was to be found. Now I have the chance to seek much further afield.
Thanks to my good friend, Dan Larz – a documentarian and talented writer in his own right – I was approached with a story that would make any writer salivate. It had daring feats of skill, displays of courage and true tests of loyalty and friendship. These are the elements that make any adventure. It also had three powder addicted frat boys over which so much trouble had been caused and money spent. However, just imagine the adventure that was to be had.
Who would have known searching for three air headed, overindulged bros would open the pages to a story that goes beyond Coldford City. I am reporter, Sam Crusow, and this is the Good Gang Mission Great States.
Before we rush off to lands afar our story begins somewhere a little closer to home. The island of Hathfield Bay has become something of a place of infamy. It is home to the cult Church of St Wigan. Rumours of human trafficking, ghastly sacrifices and a brain washed congregation were rife. Agent John Reynolds was at a stalemate with the church’s zealous leader, Dominick Cole, at this time of writing so currently all was quiet on the rain-soaked beaches.
Our story begins with two Wigan members walking along the bay towards their commune. As a courting couple they were enjoying the star lit sky, unspoiled by Coldford pollution. Their wedding day was fast approaching so it was like St Wigan himself had told the moon to shine in the fat, romantic way that it did.
The Wigan girl took her husband-to-be’s arm.
“Isn’t the sky so pretty, Noah,” she said.
“It is beautiful, Judith,” Noah agreed heartily. “St Wigan has truly blessed us this night.”
“So pretty,” Judith cooed again. “Praise Wigan.”
“Praise Wigan,” Noah sighed.
They walked along a little further. They drew closer to the commune they called home.
“Judith?” Noah asked. “Is that music I hear?”
“I think it is,” Judith responded. “Is someone having a party?”
It sounded more like someone trying to break down a wall than it did playing an assortment of instruments. To an attuned lifelong City Dweller it would have given the impression of some kind of monster attack. I can only imagine how it would have seemed to two naive members of a religious cult who hadn’t stepped off the island a day in their lives.
Noah clutched Judith’s affianced hand. They started to retreat a little back towards the shoreline.
“In the name of St Wigan, his disciples and all that is Holy! What is that?!”
Judith was hit in the face with a dildo. Someone cried, “cock blocked!”
The commune was emptying and a crowd of people were pouring towards them. The thudding music grew louder as it led them.
“Is it sacrifice time already?” asked Judith.
“It can’t be,” Noah replied. “We were going to have a good old drowning after the wedding, remember?”
“Why does His Eminence look so upset?”
Dominick was leading the charge and tearing towards them with determination. If you had listened to Reynolds’ description of the man you would hear of his wicked temper, dangerous idealogies and his disciples spreading everywhere in the city. You would be forgiven for not believing this was the same man.
“Out ma way!” he cried, rushing past Noah and Judith.
It wasn’t that he didn’t look the part. He was dressed in his Wigan robes, his eyes were wide and wild but in his hands he was waving two glow sticks. What’s more, he was shaking those sticks like an air traffic controller with rhythm. A brain washed congregation was one thing. A horde of people following the church leader like they wanted to eat his brains was quite another. They weren’t zombies of course but something had made them stumble around groaning like the walking dead. My guess would be the hallucinogenic heether mushrooms found on the bay.
“I’ll remember ye fondly, brother,” Dominick called, waving the glow sticks at his church elder, trusted adviser and father figure, Peter Millicent.
You could scour every night club, prison cell and drug den in the city. You would not find anyone quite so far gone as Peter was.
“Oh dear, Judith!” Noah exclaimed. “Is that a crater on the beach?”
That, dear readers, was how it came to be known that the bay was the last known location of Kappa So bros Buddy Owen, Dale Cooper and Chad Perry. They were very much sought after and so the adventure began.
In a city troubled by corruption, where the highest offices can’t be trusted, who do the people have to turn to? Who can they rely on to help them in their times of need? Coldford City has the Hickes agency, better known as the Good Gang. They are a symbol of support and friendship. Most importantly when the Shady City is at its shadiest the badges beam a light that reminds us such a shine still exists. They are named after Detective Joel Hickes – a good man caught up in city violence and struck down in his prime. The Good Gang carry on his good name and function by helping those in need. A vision Joel had always sought to bring to life.
Agent John Reynolds, a cult deprogrammer and cold case specialist. He never gives up on anyone. Agent Franklin Rhodes – an infiltration expert. He is the most approachable and would find himself welcomed anywhere. Agent Lydia Lowe – found on the field with her specialised motorcycle named Kitty. Last but not least, Agent Kim Adams. Kim is a leader with a fearless disposition.
Their resources are limited but try as they might, they are making a difference. With the help of Beckingridge Financial and a keen interest from CEOs Chick Owen of Owen Inc and Howard Bergman of the Bergman Diamond Parade, eyes have been opened and ears have been pricked.
The person who had the Good Gang at their most imminent attention as our story begins was a man named Devon who was rushing along Time Line Main with a bag of jewels in his arms. The bells from Rose Diamond emporium were screaming their alert. Devon was running as fast as his legs would carry him because Kim Adams was in pursuit. She was the daughter of the famous heavy weight boxer Sonny Adams better known as the Bournton Blizzard, so Devon could only imagine how quickly he would hit the canvas when she did manage to get a hold of him. She was, after all, a champion boxer in her own right.
Howard Bergman was seated outside the parade at a little table, sipping his morning espresso when Devon and Kim zipped past.
“Seth?” he called to his son. “Rose Diamond has been robbed.”
Seth, who came to the entrance to check on the commotion, caught a shriek from Devon.
“You’re not human, woman!”
“Not to worry,” said Howard. “It seems Agent Adams has it handled.”
“Isaac will be sorry he missed that,” Seth commented.
Seth’s elder cousin had taken quite a shine to Agent Adams having seen her give statements to the news.
“She’s just so in control,” he had said.
Seth had been puffing a joint at the time so he didn’t ask his cousin to elaborate. I believe the sentiment was pretty clear anyway.
The Bergmans could still hear Devon shriek as he reached the top of Time Line. He stopped to catch his breath but he couldn’t stay stationd for long because Agent Adams was willing to go the full twelve rounds if she needed to. Devon sobbed as he took to his feet again.
“Stay away from me you fucking robot!” he was crying.
He found himself on the thoroughfare of City Main. He was going to take his chances with the Loyalists rather than continue to fight it out with Kim. Well, when I say fight it out, what I mean is run away from. He rushed into the busy streets, still clutching his loot to his chest. He had lost Kim it seemed. He kept looking behind himself though to check. He had been so distracted looking for the agent he hadn’t noticed a broad shouldered figure close in on him. Devon collided.
“What’s the dealio there Devon? You know robbery is whack.”
Shit! Agent Reynolds!
Devon cried and took to his heels yet again. He was starting to run out of puff. He heaved his way back along City Main, stepping dangerously close to the Penn Auction House.
“Fuck it,” Devon cried. “Just let the damn Penns take me.”
As luck would have it two of the three notorious Penn triplets were in prison anyway. Agent Rhodes was currently on protection detail for Penn mother Rita.
He managed to find a secluded spot. There were no signs of Reynolds or Kim.
“Ha ha!” Devon gasped with relief, the way one might if they had managed to outrun a cheetah.
That was when his transport arrived, that all important getaway car. It was a nondescript blue vehicle that was so close to scrap it could be ditched easily enough. The struggling exhaust was the sweet sound of freedom. That sound was spoiled by the purr of Kitty. Agent Lowe rode her bike to the edge of the alleyway.
The getaway driver was taking no chances. He leapt from the car and dashed off towards the financial district, leaving Devon behind.
“Come on,” Devon pleaded.
Lydia held his gaze. She smiled. She winked.
The getaway car was downgraded from scrap metal to simmering pile of junk that was no use to anyone.
Devon turned. His survival instincts were about all that was pushing him along at this point. The bag of jewels were pulled from his hand and a southpaw jab landed on his chin for good measure. Robbery in progress? No problem for the Good Gang.
“Good morning, Chloe,” was the polite welcome Harbour House constant Chloe Grover was given at the ‘Hill of Beans’ coffee shop in Swantin, just a short walk from the rehab facility.
Harbour House was a Beck financial property and thanks to the efforts of dragon Elizabeth Beckingridge, the Good Gang had been granted access to its support resources. Agent Reynolds had found himself a comfortable home there. His little office wasn’t much to look at but it had everything he needed. If it gave him the chance to help others well then, that was just groovy. Lydia and Franklin loved the views along the docks. Franklin had taken many a picture for his amateur photography group. Lydia felt there was no better place for Kitty to claw along than the scratching post of Chamberlain Harbour.
Chloe wasn’t an agent but she collected those coffees which Kim assured her was one of the most important jobs of all, especially when Elizabeth insisted on daily 8am progress reports.
“You keep us fuelled, pet,” insisted Kim.
Chloe prided herself on doing her part. She got the order just right every time.
A double shot Americano for Kim. A latte for Lydia – the cat liked her milk. There was an espresso for Reynolds who was always on the go and needed something sharp. Finally, it was a mocha for Franklin. He was fine with it until he started counting the calories again and then he would switch to low fat.
“Have you tried our new app, Chloe?” asked the barista, Kevin. “It can have your order ready for coming in.”
Chloe smiled in her shy, unassuming way.
“I like to come in and talk,” she responded. “I don’t have the app.”
“That’s no problem.” Kevin assured. “I’m happy you came in. I’ll get your order for you.”
Kevin was smitten with the lovely Chloe. Damaged, broken, he only saw her as the pretty young girl who liked to order her coffees in person.
“You agents got a real job on your hands.”
Chloe giggled. She wasn’t an agent but she had a job to do. She could do her part.
Mr Faddow at the florist next door always gave her the best bloomers. They wouldn’t sell but they would at least grace the reception of Harbour House with beauty and colour.
With the coffees in hand, Chloe returned.
“Thanks Chloe, I’m getting good vibes today,” said Reynolds as he accepted his beverage and tried to piece together the situation on Hathfield Bay.
“I’m going to regret this later but, girl, you are a saviour,” said Franklin as he took his full fat. Chloe figured he had nothing to worry about. Never before had she seen such a toned body.
Lydia had wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“Those flowers are so pretty,” she said.
Beverly, the Harbour House Matron, agreed. Chloe had done a good job.
Lydia had wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“Those flowers are so pretty,” she said.
Beverly, the Harbour House Matron, agreed. Chloe had done a good job.
Finding Kim Adams would take Chloe to one of the private rooms on offer. She was in the midst of one of her early morning updates via video call.
“It was all over the news.” Elizabeth reflected on the chase and eventual apprehension of Devon.
“Not my problem, Elizabeth.” Kim responded.
She accepted her coffee from Chloe with a polite, “Thanks, pet.”
“I’m trying to make something of your agency and I can’t do that when you’re throwing it out there like some kind of media whore.”
Kim scowled, “The CDN helicopter flew overhead. I told you it’s not our problem.”
Coldford Daily and Elizabeth’s Filton Crier were contenders. Kim had no time for her petty rivalries with the Cappy.
“I’m signing off,” said Kim, more of a warning than a statement.
“No, you are not,” Elizabeth retorted.
“The agency is getting a lot of press attention,” Elizabeth Beckingridge was saying.
“It’s hard not to draw attention when you’re having to chase robbers down the streets of Main.”
“It looked really good though,” Elizabeth grinned. “Devon gave you quite the run around, didn’t he?”
Kim frowned a little. “How did you know his name was Devon?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Just has one of those faces. He looks like a Devon don’t you think? Some people might have argued he was a Clive or a Steve even but no it was definitely Devon.”
Kim’s frown deepened into a scowl. “Did you stage that robbery?” Now that Kim thought about it, the getaway car did look like a prop that would have rolled out of central theatre.
“If I had I would be thoroughly disappointed,” was Elizabeth’s response. “That damn Coldford Daily captured it with their stupid helicopter.”
“That’s not my concern,” Kim assured again. “How did you know that kid’s name was Devon?”
Elizabeth, ignoring Kim’s question, continued musing over the CDN helicopter. “I mean anyone can have a helicopter these days. They’re a dime a dozen in Luen. It’s easy enough to get good footage when you’re in the air. How dare they cover my agents.”
“The news footage isn’t my concern,” Kim warned with a little more impatience.
“It should be,” said Elizabeth. “How the press tells your story will determine how you are accepted by the city. What’s more, that dratted helicopter had no business flying over my agents.”
“We are not your agents,” Kim explained heatedly.
When a Beckingridge had given money over for something unfortunately to them it was one in the same thing.
“We just want to do our job and help people,” said Kim. “My agents have a job to do and we don’t have time to care about which newspaper gets the exclusive.”
“Then next time perhaps you’ll do something about CDN following you around like a pervy priest.”
“I don’t know. Shoot the damn helicopter out of the sky for all I care. News helicopters are so cliché anyway. Try having a news tank or a news boat even.”
That was when Dan and I found Kim shaking her head so vigorously we were hesitant to approach.
“Good morning, Kim,” I tried hesitantly.
“We’re in the middle of a meeting,” Elizabeth called.
“This meeting is so over,” said Kim.
Elizabeth glared at Dan and I. “Shouldn’t you both be at work?”
“Not your writers, Liz,” I answered for us.
Such was the price we paid to use the resources of the Filton Press.
“The whole world’s gone mad,” Elizabeth complained. “Have Kitten call me. At least then I can talk to someone with some sense.”
Kitten was the pet name Elizabeth had given to Lydia. She reminded her so much of her main character in a series of novels she had written. At least there was one agent free of the dragon’s fiery breath.
“Nope, wait a minute,” Elizabeth interrupted herself. “I’m not going anywhere.”
What had held her attention was the reason for Dan and I’s visit.
“Hello Charles,” she grinned. If you can imagine the heat from that dragon fire the temperature of the room escalated exponentially.
Charles ‘Chick’ Owen, better known as the Cappy, held Elizabeth’s gaze.
“Elizabeth,” he responded.
He was a man who always stood with a natural air of confidence. He was particularly cock sure this morning because his legal team headed by his brother Ronnie had already fended off the Beckingridge sharks in their quest to sue them for the footage of the Good Gang. This was the kind of petty rivalry among the rich that Kim had no time for.
Directing his attention to Kim, The Cappy said, “Agent, I find myself in need of your services quite urgently. I am hoping that your team, with discretion, can help me in a matter of some importance.”
“No,” said Elizabeth.
“I will be most happy to compensate you for your trouble. I have done some research and I believe you are the most qualified to help me.”
“No,” said Elizabeth again with more force.
Kim turned to the screen.
“Goodbye Elizabeth,” she said.
Before Elizabeth could finish her speal the video call was switched off.
“What seems to be the problem?”
“Well, as you are aware a lot has happened. My son, Bernard, you are familiar with. I have been trying to keep him out of trouble. After his grandfather’s unfortunate demise, I requested that he keep his head low. He has a problem you see. A filthy drug habit which over the years I have been trying to remove from him. I can warn him until the cows come home but trouble still always seems to find him. Now, he has gone missing along with his Kappa So brothers, Chad Perry and Dale Cooper. This only spells more trouble. I am asking you to help a boy who is a penny short of the full coin and if you find him, perhaps you can take pity on him on account of his stupidity.”
Buddy Owen was already under suspicion for a host of crimes. After the attack at a Mack funeral the city was a particularly nervous place. The Cappy was keen on making sure his son hadn’t been caught up in it all. I was curious to find out how much of the mess they had been responsible for. This was why Dan had suggested the Good Gang as being the ones capable of finding him and his bros, ultimately bringing him back home. The bros were not the kind of figures you preferred out of sight and out of mind.
“If you can return him sober, I’m sure it will give us all cause for an easier sleep,” the Cappy surmised in his pitch to Kim.
That it would indeed. The first step was to trace the bros steps.
Hathfield Bay had been shaken a lot recently. The Church of St Wigan was gaining heavier support, they were being drawn further and further off the island spreading their word. They believed the City Dwellers were a sinful lot, Hell bound and damned. When it came to light exactly what had been brought upon them, I can’t help but gain a better understanding as to why they felt this way. Word of a great commotion there had given Kim reason to believe that was the most likely last place in the greater Coldford district the bros had been. In order to discover any information on the island one had to visit the Church which sat central, overlooking the shores.
“Well, they were definitely here,” Kim exclaimed to Lydia as the two agents climbed the dunes to the church’s entrance.
There was no mistaking it. A great graffiti on the side of the church read the letters K.S.O. The cock and balls sandcastle may also have provided a clue. The next clue for the agents was the cries of frustration from His Eminence.
“Those three walking curses. Look what they have done to our church!”
The pews were filled with party streamers.
Peter Millicent looked up when he saw the agents approach.
“This would be the agents who contacted us, Your Eminence.”
Dominick caught them in his gaze, still seething.
“Are you here to do something about this?” He asked, probably in reference to the mess left behind.
“The three frat boys. You said they were here?” Kim began, speaking to Peter who seemed the more reasonable of the two despite being on some kind of come down.
“They were here alright,” Dominick was the one to reply. “Thought they would start a party. A party!”
“He means they spread drugs and alcohol around the commune, agents,” Peter explained.
“The whole field of mushies gone. Do you realise how long it takes to grow those bastards?”
Peter nodded. “He means they devoured an entire crop of heethers. They are something of a staple over here.”
“They’re calling it a miracle,” Dominick raged. “They’re going to be seeing fucking colours for the rest of their lives.”
Kim raised her hand in warning to Dominick to take a step back.
“We’ve never known anyone to eat so much and survive. It was quite remarkable,” said Peter.
Dominick shook his head. He stomped forward again, still in a rage.
“When you do get a hold of them you can bring them back here. I want them to answer for the mess they made.”
Kim didn’t like Dominick’s attitude. Reynolds had warned her he may be a tough nut to crack. She warned him for a second time to take a step back.
“Where did you send them?” Kim asked Peter, assuming the Wigan Church had chased them off.
“Where did I send them?” Dominick interrupted. “I would have sent the three whore mongerers to Hell. Seven of our young lasses pregnant and until they pop the sprogs we don’t know which one did it!”
Peter maintained his calm demeanour. He was nursing a terrible headache. “Some of the girls really enjoyed their company.”
“Aye, a change of pace they said. Some folks thought they really were having a party. Ain’t that right Bart?”
Dominick scowled at the monk named Bartholemew who was at that point scrubbing a crude image of what was supposed to be Buddy Owen from their church wall. I would guess Buddy Owen given the blonde hair that had been scrawled on.
“So where did they go?” Kim asked.
“We believe they decided to go to the Great States. It would seem they couldn’t find what they were looking for here.”
“They couldn’t be saved!” cried Dominick. “They really couldn’t.”
He had stepped forward so Kim warned him. “Ye done?”
Dominick frowned most severely.
“Am I done? This is ma Church ya-”
With a swift punch Dominick was sent to the floor. She and Lydia had heard all they needed to. They removed themselves from the church not wanting to waste any more time.
Dominick continued to lay on his altar.
“Are you okay, Your Eminence?” Peter asked.
Dominick laid his hands on his chest. “I’m fine,” he replied in a surprisingly calm way. “I’m just going to lie here for a little while.”
“As you wish,” said Peter. He was starting to feel sick again anyway.
It was discovered by the Good Gang that the Bros had retreated to their home in the land of the Great States. What did they find there? What trouble could possibly befall them there? Well, all manners of trouble as it happened but in this instance their journey had taken them to a brothel that boasted BUDGET PUSSY. It wasn’t exactly a creative name for a brothel but since they were in the middle of nowhere, I suppose their advertising had to be straight to the point. The neon signs had been like a beacon to the bros, calling them home. From what had been last heard of them it seemed they had limited resources and Buddy – as the infacto leader of the trio of enlightened minds – had claimed some kind of dibs which meant he was the one to enjoy said whore.
“I’m all about the boning,” he was boasting. He gave a stretch, hoping it showed his swimmer’s body in its most glowing light.
The whore they had chosen was one named Peaches. Chosen wasn’t accurate. When they asked if the cost could be spread over three cards Peaches had been all the Madam would allow. She wasn’t much to look at. One eye kept closing over in a nervous twitch, she kept giving what she thought was a seductive laugh but really sounded like a chimpmuk being raped by a baboon – those were Buddy’s words, not mine. What was most stand out about Peaches was the pungent smell she gave off and it did not smell like any kind of fruit never mind peaches. It was like a urine smell, if urine could go sour like milk – again these are Buddy’s thoughts not my own.
Despite all this Peaches was keen to please her customer. She dropped a heavy bag on the bed between Buddy’s leg.
“Watch the God Balls!” he cried, but then he grinned and chuckled. “What you got in there?”
Peaches grinned. Her grin was supposed to be flirty he supposed. It made her eye droop like she had been hauled off the street for some back alley treatment. She continued her tease. From the bag she drew a feather.
“Ooooh,” Buddy giggled. “Naughty.”
She kept digging into her bag of delights.
“That looks like it’s going to hurt … Kinky!”
She kept digging. She had to stop to cough some phlem onto her palm but she kept pulling out treat, after treat.
Buddy’s face fell. His lips pouted.
“Where you going to put that?”
More chipmunk rapey giggles. More phlem.
Buddy’s face fell even further. It was almost as low as the boner kill he was now experiencing.
“Ugh!” he boaked. “That’s fucking disgusting.”
Meanwhile, downstairs Chad Perry and Dale Cooper had emptied every card they possessed.
“This is a library card,” the Madam warned, a buxom woman named Shotgun Sally and this was not because she rode in the passenger side of the car.
“What do we do, brah?” Coops whispered to Chad.
“Do you think he’s finished yet?”
You may be familiar with the dine and dash system? It seems the bros were operating something similar only with whorehouses. Fix that itch and ditch that bitch, I believe is what they called it. Sally was hearing none of it.
“If you’re bro’s dick has even so much as left his pants you son’s a bitches owe me.”
“Brah!” Coops panicked. “Buddy’s cock will most definitely have left his pants.”
It was too late. Sally had drawn the firearm she was most famous for.
“Bud!” screamed Chad.
Luckily Buddy came stumbling down the steps at that point. He was still heaving from whatever final trick Peaches had pulled from her bag.
“She pissed on me and it burned!” he was crying.
She pissed on me and it burned…if the Good Gang were to chase the bros across to the Great States that was going to have to be their mantra.
“I can’t believe this!” Dan was exclaiming as we arrived at Coldford Airport.
I was there to see the departure of the agents. Dan was present because he had been lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to accompany Lydia and Kim as they sought the three bros and, by The Cappy’s instruction, bring Buddy home sober. Thanks to Owen Air they were to travel in luxury. Any expenses or damage they met would be compensated by Owen coin.
Kim hadn’t been particularly keen on the idea of Dan joining them. Experience told her things could get dangerous. Dan was more than a civilian though. As previously mentioned, he was a documentarian and as such had a natural skill for keeping things documented. I had opted to remain in Coldford and follow from there as the story continued. Working together we would provide the tale of the Good Gang’s mission.
“I know you’re super busy Sam,” Dan had said. “But I really appreciate it. It’s going to be something working with Sam Crusow! You know if someone told me a few years ago that I’d be working with Sam Crusow I would never have believed them.”
Dan was something of a fan and I was flattered by his enthusiasm. In truth I was just as thrilled as he was to observe the Good Gang in action.
“I know how it sounds but I hope you don’t mind I asked you to water the plants.”
“It’s fine, Dan” I assured.
“Will you hurry, Dan?” Kim called.
“Good luck,” I told Lydia.
She winked. “I got it covered,” she said confidently.
The Good Gang did have it covered but as I watched the Owen Air plane take off, I couldn’t help but wonder what the Great States had in store for them.
“The captain has now switched on the fasten seatbelt sign as we make our descent into Derek Owen Airport. The weather is warm 80 degrees here in Star State and on behalf of our staff and pilots, thank you for choosing Owen Air.
“Did you know that Derek ‘Deek’ Owen was the first Owen to get his wings? It was at the turn of last century when aircraft was just invented,” Dan was asking excitedly.
Lydia, who had slept for most of the flight, was just waking up.
“The airport being named after him is a giveaway,” Kim said with some humour.
The sight of the sunshine was a welcome change to the rain of the Shady City.
“It was part of the air race,” Dan went on. “The Owen family sought to get the patent for commercial flights.”
This was an incredibly bold move when you think about it, considering man had only just started to take to the sky let alone carrying passengers. The Owens were determined to be the first though.
Lydia was stretching, having enjoyed her inflight nap. Kim was focused on the task at hand.
“We’ll group at the hotel and then we’ll set out to find the three targets,” she had instructed.
Dan was still a little giddy. He had never thought he would have the opportunity to accompany the agents on an honest to God mission.
“An honest to God mission, Sam!” he had cheered.
I have to admit I was a little jealous. The way the Good Gang operated and their dedication to their duty reminded me of the old Detective Roger serials I was obsessed with as a child. Each week I would dutifully tune in to find out how Roger and his heroes were coming along, and what new obstacles the dastardly villains threw in their way. Being on hand and experiencing it all was a real boon to Dan. I awaited back home tuning in to find out what was to happen next.
Trace, collect and return the three washed out frat boys sounded like an easy task for the agents. Little was to be known of the true danger that lay ahead.
A nondescript car was provided for them. Travel around the Star State was going to have to be understated.
“You don’t have to worry about a thing, agents,” said Dan. “I’m going to make your mission as easy for you as possible. You just do what you do best.”
Dan was aware Kim wasn’t so keen on having a civilian tag along but Elizabeth Beckingridge had insisted.
“I don’t trust those Owens. They are clearly up to something sneaky and Dan will keep everything documented,” she had said.
“If you don’t mind,” had been the Cappy’s sentiment, “I would rather have the young man appointed to take charge on communication detail. It keeps the information casualties contained. I will not lie to you, agents, I have not the heart to imagine what Buddy has left behind and the last thing anyone needs is Beckingridge making it a show piece for her own gains.”
The Cappy trusted Dan. Despite our own patchy history, he also trusted me to fact check and fill in the blanks. He was aware that I would not omit any details no matter what but as he put it, he would much rather deal with writers with integrity than a dragon with a grudge.
Dan was determined to earn his place with the team though. He may not have the on-field training, he may not have the experience but he could make the mission as easy as possible for the agents.
“It was a long flight,’ Dan was saying as he took to the driver seat of their discrete rental. “Sit back, relax and I’ll have us at the hotel in no time.”
Kim was checking her phone for local news that may give clue as to the bros’ whereabouts. There was an article of some interest. It seemed three similarly dressed young men had been spotted rushing down the main boulevard of Owensville Avenue. This would be a slow news day on any other occasion but when the article mentioned they had tried to purchase over the counter pharmaceuticals with fake I.D and even faker cheques Kim suspected the bros had been responsible for the chaos that ensued.
According to the article one of the most vocal suspects – who was not a middle aged Latina as his I.D suggested (discrimination, brah! That is not cool) – had been determined his brah was to be given what the report described as ‘anything that will buzz, bang or make his cock stand on end.’
It didn’t take Detective Rogers to deduce where all that nonsense had come from but it was offering a clue to Kim, exactly what they were up against.
“Dan?” asked Lydia from the back. “Should we be heading down this way?”
“Don’t worry agents. I’ve got it taken care of,” Dan said confidently.
Kim looked up. It seemed driving wasn’t an issue but ploughing into oncoming traffic very much was.
“DAN!!!!” the agents screamed.
In his haste to impress, Dan had completely forgotten the traffic flowed on the opposite side in the Star State. With the honking of traffic and screams from all three the mistake was corrected. Sorry Dan, but I did promise I would omit no details…
With Kim taking over driving, Dan was demoted to the passenger seat. It was not helping his case that he could be useful to the agents but there was still a job to do and now it looked like Rosita Bonita and her two chicas were last seen on Owensville Avenue.
At the hotel Kim hauled one of the large luggage cases that had been left for them. She opened it up and from the adjoining room. Lydia could hear her cry, “This is fucking ridiculous.”
Upon checking the reason for the exclamation Dan and Lydia found Kim pulling various items from the case. It wasn’t the items that were the problem. They were exactly what was to be expected. What Kim was objecting to was the firearms cases marked with property of Owen Inc. Notes in the local currency marked as property of Beckingridge Financial. Dragon stamps, target stamps, dragon stamps, more targets. It would have been easier to just stamp the foreheads of the agents and be done with it, but I digress.
Equipped with hand guns and more local news articles that had the actions of three out of control frat boys on a mission written all over them, Kim and Lydia set off to the brothel they had last been seen at to ask some questions. The beauty of the adventure was it can take you unexpected places. The beauty of the bros is for a writer like me, there seems to be no limit to the material they provide.
We are familiar with the brothel so there is no need for me to reiterate what you can expect there. However, what Lydia, Kim and Dan had found upon arrival was distinctly different from our last visit. There was a smouldering pile of clothes burning outside for instance which belonged to Buddy Owen. It seemed as he fled the brothel he had taken time to extract what little clothing he had left and burn anything Peaches had touched. Does urine burn? He had thrown down a lighter and seemingly sped off in his birthday suit when it wasn’t his birthday. Chad had thrown his jacket on him. This hadn’t helped in the slightest. They didn’t have much time worry anyway because the the shotgun blasts on neighbouring trees quickly follow.
“Yeah?” Shotgun Sally greeted the agents. She had been completely drained of any welcome a brothel Madam would normally provide.
Kim provided her credentials, Lydia did likewise. She then displayed a picture of the bros that made Shotgun Sally’s fingers twitch for her gun all over again.
“Have you seen these three men?” Kim asked them.
“Yeah, we seen them,” Sally replied. “If we see them again we’re going to have a problem,” she warned.
“Do you know where they went?” asked Kim.
“They had nowhere to sleep, no money and they left their library tickets behind. My guess would be they didn’t get far.”
Kim took a deep breath. This transatlantic run around was going to prove more troublesome than she had anticipated.
“We’re going to need to split up,” she said and that is what they did.
If the rumours were true and the three had fled the brothel in the state in which the Madam described they were going to need clothing, so the local thrift store was a good start.
A delicate little jingle danced above Lydia’s head. As she described it, the store was dusty and there was a damp smell from a pile of clothing that had been donated but not yet sorted. The man behind the counter was clearly upset about something so the bros had most definitely been there. His long frame hunched on the stool he sat upon behind his counter.
“Excuse me,” Lydia interrupted his weeping. “I’m looking for three men. I wondered if you have seen them?”
She showed him the photograph which caused him to sob harder.
“Those good for nothing, heartless fiends.”
Yep, the bros had been there.
“They told her he was gonna make her honest. He told her he had never met anyone like her,” here he heaved and sobbed some more. “He told her they would be together forever and now look at her!”
He pointed his arms sharply to a goat dressed in a bridal gown. I believe her name was Dotty. Dotty grunted her agreement. She was heartbroken. She was still dressed in the veil she had been left behind in. Mah!
Why a goat, I hear you ask? It seemed there had been some kind of miscommunication when the bros heard goats were traditionally bought as marriage gifts. Throw in a Tokashima visa and one-way tickets they thought they had their problems solved.
Lydia’s lower lip softened.
“Awww,” she said.
Dotty clearly deserved better anyway.
Having no money and no car, life was going to be especially difficult for the bros and they needed to find a way to get them onto their next destination. Cooper’s particular skill set meant that they could easily use parts and build themselves a whole new functioning car. This gave Dan and the agents a huge cause for concern. The closest garage was a place named Mickey’s. Before I discuss what Dan found there let me confirm the several ways in which you will find someone who has had a recent encounter with a bro. They will either be a raving lunatic such as Dominick Cole on Hathfield Bay or they will have unleashed firepower upon them much like Shotgun Sally. Sometimes all they can do is cry, like the thrift store clerk or alternatively there was the option which Dan experienced when they found Mickey himself sat in his garage office staring into space as though a recent event had drained him of all emotion.
“Have you seen these men?” Dan asked.
Mickey nodded slowly.
“Yeah, I seen them,” he agreed. “They were looking for some parts to try and make themselves a vehicle. I told them I don’t give nothing for free. That one on the right there (here he indicated Cooper), he told me he’d fix up my rides. He did a great job too. Then he told grandmaw he’d fix her scooter.”
“And did he?” Dan asked. “Did he get the parts he needed?”
Mickey shook his head slowly again. “Grandmaw dead now.”
He showed Dan footage then of the three bros standing by an invalid scooter. The scooter looked as shiny as a fresh car from Cooper Garages. She had a shine that would make even Sunny jealous. Then the footage showed Chad leading the old woman to the scooter. He was so gentle, so understanding. Cooper cars, now offering complete comfort for their geriatric customers. Chad patted the old woman’s hand with affection. He turned to the camera which I assume Buddy was holding. He gave the thumbs up. It was most definitely Buddy because the thumbs up that was returned was bandaged from the dalliance with Peaches.
The old woman was rested nicely on her seat. It was the most comfortable spot she had ever parked her rear. She smiled to Coops to confirm this sentiment. All there was left to do was to take a little test drive. She pushed the button.
The scooter went ploughing into the wall with a speed and force the best race cars would struggle to match. It could have broken records if it weren’t so tragic.
Dan’s jaw dropped when he saw what had transpired. The bros last seen dashing off with Buddy finally realising they could have just escaped on the scooter.
“Can’t fit three, brah.”
No matter what was next on the agenda for the bros they were going to need money from somewhere so Kim made her way to check out the local savings and loans deposit – a bank but not quite a bank.
There had been a robbery but it had gotten rather silly. The banker wasn’t quite sure what had come to blows. They weren’t minus any funds. They didn’t get away with anything really but as the man turned around to welcome Kim he had a lasting reminder of his oh so silly day.
“For fuck sake!” Kim exclaimed.
The banker had a large dildo stuck to his forehead. The security footage showed Buddy enter the bank with it slipped up his sleeve. He could be seen arguing with the banker. The banker had raised hands but when the dildo slipped from his sleeve and he realised it was not a gun, like a flash, his hand hit the alarm. Clumsy as anyone would be with a dildo up their sleeve, Buddy still made good use of his natural Owen marksmanship. He threw the dildo catching the banker on the forehead and causing him some whiplash.
Back at the hotel, Dan and the agents had gathered again to share their intel and move a little further on in their tracing of the bros’ steps. The Cappy and I had been given a run-down of their experiences so far and all the great businessman, CEO Chick Owen could do was shake his head. I suppose the actions of the wayward trio didn’t warrant much else.
Running his camera Dan took the opportunity to ask about Joel Hickes, the hero cop from whose ashes the agency had arisen, a man so well respected his very name had given rise to the Good Gang team, the Hickes agency.
“Joel was a real life and soul,” said Kim with a fond smile. He could fit in anywhere, amongst anyone. Swantin hailed him as one of their own but he was just as comfortable sitting in the Arms up in Bournton. He had a way with people. He was firm but he was fair. He always gave people a chance. He found himself dealing with some scum over the years but he never let it sour him. It was him that taught me to keep a level head. Boxing helped me channel my anger but Joel taught me how to use it to lead through tough situations. I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”
“He sounds like quite a guy,” Dan commented looking down his lens.
Kim nodded. “He’s a big name to live up to but I like to think he would be pleased with how far we’ve come. Still a long way to go yet Joel,” Kim said to the heavens with a smile and a raise of her hand. “But we’ll get there.”
Posing the same question to Lydia, her head fell a little towards her shoulder as she thought about it.
“I remember when I first met Joel. He was part of my combat classes back at the academy. I was the only female in a class full of men but Joel was the only one to treat me the same as everyone else. He helped me feel like I belonged. When I took the job at the Knock Knock Club I was confident because I knew he had my back.”
“I wish I had the chance to meet him,” said Dan with sensitivity.
Lydia chuckled. “He would have loved being in front of your camera. He was a bit of a goof that way. He made loads of home movies. He loved capturing the moments.”
“I think he would be astounded as we all are with some of the scenarios we have been presented with so far but he would be first to strip it down to its bare bones. It doesn’t matter that Chick Owen is a powerful figure and Buddy has always been one step away from disaster; he would see it that a father is worried about his son and wants him home. After returning the bros to Coldford then they would have to answer to him.”
“What do you think he would say about the search for the kappa so bros?”
For my own reflection on Joel Hickes my mind always takes me back to his arranging my interview with Tabitha of the Knock Knock Club. There was a young woman who had caused unimaginable grief. Joel had been tasked with assisting in bringing her in, which he did. However, he kept an open mind. He told me as he led me to her holding that it would do much more good to understand where people like Tabitha are coming from. He gave her that benefit of the doubt. Some people are born rotten to the core and a man like Joel Hickes could read that a mile off. Some people were victims of their circumstances. He realised sometimes circumstances can create monsters. He was a good man and it only seemed fitting the Good Gang would carry on his work.
“We’re still on their track,” Kim observed as they arrived at a local coffee house and could see the homeless man giving a statement to local police. Before they continued the agents decided to take a moment to try and piece together what a bro would do.
Dan stationed himself and began to send the updates to me. Kim and Lydia went inside to order some refreshments.
“Wouldn’t it be much easier for them to disappear if they just lay low?” Lydia asked the obvious question. Never had they had such a trail of destruction to follow.
“I think this is them trying to lay low,” Kim surmised. “Can you imagine if they really wanted to cause a scene?”
Lydia shook her head. That thought was terrifying. Another thought that was terrifying her was what they were going to have to face next.
“Poor Dotty,” she sighed.
Kim gave her a questioning glance.
The parts of those old serial adventures I loved the most was the dramatic fashion in which Detective Rogers would meet his latest friend or foe. The charged music, the slow panning from the tip of the boot to the top of the hat. This wasn’t one of those occasions but both Kim and Lydia had that same ‘can’t believe my eyes’ expression on their faces that Rogers had as he sized up the danger.
Dale Cooper and Chad Perry had returned to the coffee house. Not only was that a monumentally silly move on the part of the bros but, adding to the sheer nonsense of the situation, the two bros seemed to have no idea what they were walking towards with both agents watching them closely. They had managed to reclaim a phone so the two bros were in search of the WiFi password. They were driven, purely on anticipation of their next fix. The pitstop had the supplies.
Chad eyed Kim first. He paused for a moment. Then he looked at her shoes which game him a wry grin and nod that seemed to be commending her.
Cooper turned to Lydia. She smiled at him. He smiled back. She winked and there was suddenly a spring in his step.
“Brah, brah!” he whispered to Chad.
“Play it cool,” Chad suggested.
That was when the two proceeded to raise their shirts to display their behinds and strut towards the entrance in a move they called ‘The Cock Walk’.
Lydia and Kim obviously followed, still a little flabbergasted. The two bros assumed their cock walk was attracting the chicks. Dan, who had seen them arrive, came rushing in. As the bros passed Dan, Chad gave a challenging display to him which can only be described as a childish taunt that suggested he was some kind of pantomime dame.
Lydia and Kim continued to follow. Cooper was particularly pleased to see Lydia tailing.
“Is that..?” Dan asked.
“Yes it is,” Kim agreed.
“And they don’t realise..?”
“Not a clue.”
The agents followed the bros to an alleyway close by, where Buddy was in conference with the pitstop crew Cooper had managed to snare. The drug deal was almost complete.
“Bud!” cheered Cooper. “We brought pussy!”
Buddy was excited by this prospect. He gave a jockish cheer when he saw Lydia. I can only imagine what damage his lifestyle has caused his brain, because he had met Agent Lowe before. I suppose, outside the Coldford context, to him she was just a pretty girl heading towards where he planned on getting smashed and doing some smashing. She was a major upgrade from Peaches anyway. But then his expression dissolved when he saw Kim.
‘Ugggggh Chad!” he boaked, his stomach not really getting a break. “What’s the deal with the shoes?”
Kim Adams’ choice of footwear aside, just when Buddy thought he had it all made again his world came crashing down.
“Bernard Owen!” Kim barked.
“Oh fuck,” Buddy buttoned up.
He had his support with him though. The Cooper pit crew had the goods and they had a job to do. They didn’t have time for some bitches and Dan too apparently who was showing he was armed by actually holding up his gun.
“I think you better step away from the boy there, dike bitch,” warned a particularly vocal one named Juyvez.
Kim was not in the least bit interested. She kept her focus on Buddy.
“You’re coming with us.”
Now confident the pitstop crew had them covered, Buddy grinned.
“I ain’t going anywhere,” he said.
“That’s right. My boy is gonna do what my boy gotta do,” Juyvez went on. “And you ain’t gonna do nothing because I’m judge, jury, executioner you dumb whore!” He yelled as he pulled up the white vest he wore to display the firearm on his belt.
“Yeah!” Buddy cried. “Shoot her in the face.”
Kim glared at him. “Ye done?” she asked.
“Am I done?” Juyvez returned, always the wrong response in such a scenario.
Kim landed him on the ground.
“What the fuck!” Buddy exclaimed.
“She just landed that dude on his ass,” Chad offered commentary.
That was when all hell broke loose.
Lydia disarmed the pitstoppers that charged towards her.
“That tight little chick can move!”
“Whoah!” all three cried in synchrony as Kim disabled the pitstoppers who had charged on her.
“Why is that dude showing his gun?” they asked of Dan who was literally waving his firearm.
“That chick just dropped that dude!”
With a deflecting series of moves Lydia had pushed one of the pitstoppers towards Kim who gripped him around his waist and yes, pile drove him onto the bar.
“We better get out of here, bro!”
It didn’t matter which one of them made the suggestion, all three agreed with zeal. The three dashed off and the pitstoppers suddenly became the least of the agents’ concerns.
Every adventure meets its bumps along the way. It is where the real test of our heroes takes place. The agents weren’t in pursuit of Buddy and the bros for long. They hadn’t ventured too far into the boulevard when they were cornered in an alley. By the time Kim, Lydia and Dan found them again the bros were in the hands of a menacing team who brought a figurative and literal shadow to our tale. The three bros were on their knees, guns were drawn and the agents approached with caution.
“Those three are coming into our custody,” Kim said.
Stepping forward, a member of this group raised his chin. He caught Kim in a dark stare. For now, I will call him X.
“These three owe our boss a lot of money,” he said. There was a Latin accent in his tones.
“These are bad people,” Dan muttered under his breath.
They were bad people. They were owed a lot of money. The great Alpha boss X answered to was not one to be trifled with. His reputation would have even the Boss Lady envious.
“They are coming with us,” Agent Kim warned.
X was out of warnings. He drew the gun and pointed it at Kim’s head. Suddenly our heroes found themselves in a deadly position.
TING. TING. TING. TING. TING!
The guns of the shadow group were shot from their hands. This is where we had the tip of the boot to the top of the hat reveal that made those old serials so compelling.
“Are you clear agent?” came a voice that was local.
The shadow group disbanded quickly but it would not be the last time the Good Gang would find themselves face to face.
Their savour was a man who fit well into our thrilling escapade. He wore cowboy hat and boots. He kept his two pistols poised until they were sure of their safety.
“Aim big; aim high?” Kim quoted to him.
“An Owen never misses, ma’am,” replied the cowboy as he tipped his hat.
Theodore ‘Teddy’ Owen was cousin of The Cappy.
“Chick asked me kindly if I could come on down here and offer ya’ll some help to bring these boys home,” Teddy confirmed.
He had been the contact in the States that Kim had been expecting. He was to escort them to the Owen Express train which would take them to Owen Ranch in the Star State where the bros could be thoroughly prepared for their return home.
“Buddy,” said Teddy. “It’s been a while.”
Buddy pouted. “Teddy,” he said. “You’re a cock.”
Whilst we leave our hero’s pondering over the Owen’s use of cock as both an insult and praise to the highest honour we set to catch the Owen Express with Teddy Owen as our guide and the next stage of the journey awaiting.
Will you join the Good Gang for the next part of the adventure? What troubles will our heroes face next? Will the bros remain sober? What really happened to on Hathfield Bay?
Tune in next week folks!
A mysterious illness and a desperate phone call sends Cult Deprogrammer Reynolds’ sights on the Wigan faith of Hathfield Bay island. Time to face the past.
It had been a wild night. Most nights were wild for Buddy Owen and his bros but in search of some extra spice they had decided to leave their Filton haven, depart the Chapter House and head on in to City Main.
Buddy was excited. “We’re gonna fuck shit up!”
His Kappa So Frat brother, Cooper, was already on his phone looking for the best spot.
“What about the Diamond Lounge?” he suggested. “The casino?”
Buddy grinned. He already had an idea of in his head of what they’re weekend was to bring. He was high on cocaine already and with a pocket full of singles the casino was a good start.
“A lot of Loyalists go there,” Chad stated. “Let’s go make some new friends.”
The loyalists of City Main were the support of Reginald Penn of the Penn Auction House. He called himself the King of Main and for that Buddy decided someone should put things in perspective for him. He and his weirdo triplet sons had long been a headache to the Owen family. A family heirloom falling into the Penn’s hands had caused a deeply rooted feud.
“The Loyalists are all pussies, brah,” said Buddy.
By the time the bros arrived at the Diamond Lounge they were euphoric with powder and alcohol. Buddy’s reddening eyes burned under the glare of the harsh lights.
“I’m cleaning this place out” Buddy announced his arrival. “Get me some booze and bitches,” he requested at a casino worker. Chad lowered the Brad Schroeder branded sunglasses he still wore even though they were now indoors.
“Kappa So is in the house,” he exclaimed.
The casino worker did not need to be told this. It was very much evident by their full-on attitude and the Kappa So jackets they wore. She left to fetch but it wasn’t bitches or booze.
Buddy looked around. He wished they didn’t have to have such harsh lights. The racket from the slot machines was irritating where a line of geriatrics were feeding them with coins. It was quieter than it had been the last time Buddy and the bros had been in. Then again it was only four thirty in the afternoon. This didn’t ease Buddy’s disappointment though. Where were the girls clad in Diamonte bikinis the ads offered? Why were the craps tables crowded by coffin dodgers? And where the fuck was the bitches and booze so he could get his weekend started?
“It looks like care home in here,” Buddy commented. “Are they playing bingo? What the fuck Coops?”
Cooper shrugged. It wasn’t really living up to his last visit to the casino either, at least what he remembered of it. The ads claimed to be the hottest spot in City Main. Issac Bergman who ran the casino wasn’t living up to his end of the bargain. It wasn’t supposed to be the hottest spot for the pension patrol. Chad was already helping a giddy old woman to a seat at a vacant puggy.
Barging his way into a roulette table he dropped his money down.
“Chip me,” he demanded.
The casino worker raised her finger to her ear. The cameras were watching. The advice she was receiving was to exchange the money for chips as she would for any other customer. The powers that be were watching closely though.
“Red twelve,” Buddy threw some of the chips he was given down.
The wheel was spun. The bet was not met.
A little exasperated Buddy threw more chips down. “Red twelve,” he bet again.
The wheel spun a second time. Black fifteen.
Buddy scowled at the casino worker as she raked the chips away from him. He wasn’t giving in so easily so he took one last attempt. “Red twelve,” he requested again.
The whir of the wheel and the click as it slowed again was almost as irritating as the damn coins dropping from the slot machine two living fossils wearing what looked like tea cosies on their heads were celebrating over.
“Black thirty three.”
Buddy raged. His disappointment peaked. He hated the lounge and he hated losing. The weekend of debauchery he had planned was starting to suck. “You Jew mother fuckers!” Buddy raged. “This game is rigged.”
No one had explained the laws of probability to the son of the Owen Inc. CEO. The racial slur was directed towards the Bergmans who owned the lounge. Issac should have known better. He was a Kappa So brother too.
Clang. Clang. Clang.
More coins started dropping from the slots.
The bros carried on with getting their night in Main started. It was looking quite positive until they heard a grumpy old man yell, “Keep it down, arseholes.”
The bros ignored it. If they paid attention to old people telling them to keep it down they’d never get anything done.
Buddy cheered when he won a spin on the roulette wheel. His powder high made him extra exhuberant and he could swear the casino girl was giving him the ‘I need to bone you right now, eye.’ For the casino girl it was more of a, ‘just how much powder have you snorted?’ eye. The boning eye and the drug disapproval eye tended to get mix up for Buddy.
“Keep it down,” an old man holding a single solitary chip barked at the excitable bros.
Buddy groaned. As he turned to see the old man he started to laugh. “I’ll be damned! He looks like what would happen if a bull dog fucked a turtle. Look at the glasses!” He pulled the man’s glasses off and put them on. Glaring at him through the corrective lenses he said, “get outta ma face old timer. You’re weirding me out.”
Cooper took note of how large the lenses made Buddy’s eyes when The Kappa So chapter leader turned to his bro. “Brah, you gotta try these. They’re better than pills.” Through the glasses he started to look around the casino at the odd shapes created by the tables and machines and the lighting caused by the bright colours.
As Chad and Buddy tried on the glasses and glared as though they were tripping Cooper suggested, “Maybe we should go somewhere else, brah?” The amount of old folk in the casino was starting to make him think of a zombie movie. Ever since he watched a terrible B movie called The Dead Walk he had been weirded out by too many old people in the place at once.
Buddy pushed the spectacles to the top of his head, shoving the old man away. “I’m not going anywhere. I got myself a fight with the Jews. They killed Jesus you know…”
Whilst Buddy’s voice could be heard above all the machines and Chad was trying to start some kind of mosh pit with the bingo players, from the manager’s office he had seen the triplet sons of Reginald Penn emerge. There was Marcus, a bespectacled, menacing young man with a long fair pony tail. Beside him was his brother Simon, better known as Punchline Penn. He was a professional boxer and reputedly a very angry young man.
“Must have a tiny cock,” Buddy had decided when he learned of this. “He’d only be that pissed off all the time if he had a tiny cock.”
Finally there was Reggie. He was the youngest of the three by a few minutes. He was the most vibrant of them and he looked the least interested in whatever business had brought them to the casino. He was busy looking to his phone.
“Well if it isn’t the whackos. What they doing here?” Buddy wondered.
Hearing Buddy’s voice rise above the others it had been Simon Penn who noticed the old man reaching out to get his spectacles back. Buddy was enjoying the trip looking through the lenses was giving him.
“You’ll get your turn, brah,” he told the old man waving his hands in front of his face and seeing his fingers grow really long. It was better than heether mushrooms.
The Kappa So uniform suggested a more ridiculous confrontation than even a Stoker Circus jacket would hint. The blonde hair of Buddy’s and his square set jaw confirmed an Owen on site.
“One of the mutants is causing a scene,” Simon said to Marcus. Marcus looked over and noted the old man trying to retrieve his glasses. He was now clutching at Cooper’s arm not really able to see properly. They decided to approach and intervene. No matter the location and no matter its owner, no hassle was allowed in City Main where the King reigned and his prince sons were around to keep order.
Marcus approached. Simon followed. Still not looking up from his phone Reggie was at their backs.
“I think the gentleman wants his glasses back,” said Marcus. “I give you only one warning.”
Buddy hadn’t expected to be confronted by the triplets so eagerly within the casino setting. Without saying anything the casino worker had departed her table. The cameras were still watching. Buddy couldn’t let his chest deflate too much. His coke high was beginning to wear off. He couldn’t help but take note of Marcus’ nostrils, just aching for a line. It was then he noticed all their nostrils were the same. Fucking weird. That meant they all must have tiny cocks.
Buddy pulled the glasses back over his eyes. The distorted view of the triplets hadn’t been quite what he had expected. It reminded him of a really bad trip where he was plagued by talking trees.
“We’re just playing, brah,” said Buddy.
“Yeah!” Chad confirmed enthusiastically. “Just a game, brah.”
Reggie had stored his phone away by this point. It was like they were deciding among themselves using some kind of triplet telepathic powers which one was going to have the joy of smacking the grin from Buddy Owen’s face. It turned out it was Reggie who won the coin toss. He pulled the glasses from Buddy, snatched his ear and with a sharp tug sent him falling to the floor. Marcus stepped on his chest. Before Cooper could intervene Simon had pushed him back with a shove to his solar plexus. Reggie gave the glasses back to the old man. He affixed them again and gave a swift kick at the bro.
“Ya arsehole!” He barked before storming off.
“Alright, let him up.” Finally someone had arrived on scene. A long featured, pale looking man wearing a black waistcoat with a diamond logo.
Marcus stepped off of him.
Casino owner Issac Bergman pulled Buddy to his feet.
“This ain’t over,” said Chad. “We’re gonna raise some tiny dick awareness for you.”
Reggie scowled. “Come at me and I’ll just drop you on your ass too, like.”
“Get out. The whole lot of you.” Issac barked.
Marcus nodded to his brothers. They had made their point. The bros? Well, they decided the party was better off taken elsewhere. It seemed he had to take that matter into his own hands and deal with the triplet beeatches.
“Thrown out by a brother,” Buddy was reiterating their treatment by Isaac Bergman. “Got a good mind to fuck his shit up. You don’t turn your back on a bro.”
Chad fell into excited planning mode. “We go in there, we wreck the casino and we piss all over the floor.”
Buddy and Coops looked at him. They didn’t know why but pissing on the floor seemed to be the most important part of his plan.
“There’s cameras everywhere,” Cooper reminded them.
He didn’t have to complete the sentence. Buddy’s father could be a little sensitive about the fraternity. He was especially sensitive when it came to anything involving the Penns. If he found out that Buddy was responsible in any way for making his dealings with Reginald any more difficult, he wouldn’t be forgiving.
“What if the Penns wreck it?” Chad continued his planning. “Then the elders are going to be pissed at them.”
“How do we get them to do that?” Asked Buddy. He was liking the sound of it but he needed his bro to hand out some more of the details.
“Duh!” Chad gasped. “We dress up to look like them.”
The other two nodded like it was the most brilliantly obvious plan in the world.
“You know Chad, you can be a bit of a genius sometimes. It’s like you’re a scientist or some shit. Those damn misfits don’t know who they messing with.”
Admiring his handy work in the mirror Buddy adjusted the cap over his feathery, blonde mass of hair that was supposed to give him the shaved head look of Simon Penn. In his black T-shirt and jeans – signature of the loyalists of Main – he would sure fool them.
The door opened. Buddy turned.
“No way!” He cried. Cooper had also adorned the cap to look like Simon. “You were supposed to be the spooky one!” Buddy complained. “Where’s the glasses and the rapey ponytail?”
The door opened again. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. We can’t all be Simple Simon!”
Chad too had opted to dress as the middle triplet.
“Does it matter?” asked Chad.
“Of course it matters,” insisted Buddy. “If we’re all the same one it’s going to look fucking stupid.” He looked to Cooper as though to ask, ‘can you believe this guy?’
Cooper was shaking his head as though to answer ‘no.’
“I’ll be the spooky one since I’m the leader. Madman Marcus or whateva’ he’s called. Coops you be simple simon because you’ve got the bod. I do too but I’m a bit out of swimming season.”
Chad groaned. “Does that mean I need to be the retard?”
“Yes, it does,” informed Buddy.
With the blonde ponytail and glasses, the cap and the wild frizzy wig (that was just a Stoker clown wig sprayed yellow) the bros were dressed and ready for their great heist.
They looked at each other. Buddy couldn’t help but laugh. The things they could do dressed as the triplets had his rather imaginative mind clambering for ideas.
“Triplet powers activate!”
They gave a leaping high five.
Meanwhile, at the Penn Auction House, Reginald Penn was overlooking the damage accompanied by his sons.
“Those Hill Billy cunts!” Reginald was growling.
The previous night someone had tried to drive a four by four into the Auction House. Luckily the fortified structure of the building hadn’t let them get very far. The small army of loyalists who had been on hand to guard it had drove them off before any real trouble could start.
“They were giving some trouble at ‘Diamond’,” explained Reggie. “They were thrown out and so were we.”
Reginald thought about it. It was time to address the Cappy directly.
“You will compensate for the damage your boys have caused,” Reginald insisted.
Still in his office in the Great States, Charles ‘Chick’ Owen held the King of Main’s gaze.
“You have no proof that my boys had anything to do with it. So might I suggest, sir, that you throw your accusations elsewhere.”
No proof perhaps. All that was seen by Reginald’s own team were three grown men dressed as parody’s of the triplets. The one imitating Reggie throwing rubber rats at them. He knew, however, it was Buddy and his bros. The Cappy knew too but pride would prevent him from admitting it.
“I suggest that if your boys come into my area I will cut their fucking balls off. If they come near my Auction House again I’ll send them back in boxes.”
The Cappy glared. “I will warn them. However, you will offer the same courtesy and tell your progeny that if he ever touches my son or any of my brothers there will be consequences.”
The call was ended. As predicted the long held feud escalated. Now the threats of violence were in the air.
The following morning gave for a huge headache. As Buddy began to come around he realised he had fallen asleep on the Kappa So Chapter House lawn. Someone turned beside him and laid his arm across his chest.
“Morning Bud,” Chad said sweetly.
“Aaaaah!” Buddy screamed. “I can feel your morning wood against me.”
He rolled over and he was offered a close up of Cooper’s face.
“Morning Bud,” Cooper said.
Buddy sat up. “What the fuck happened last night?” He finally thought to ask when he realised none of them were wearing trousers. Chad was wearing diving fins. Cooper’s feet were covered in cream. Buddy was wearing a pair of sneakers. That wasn’t so bad. Although when his eyes continued to adjust to sobriety he realised they were royal blue sneakers with black trimming. They had either been stolen from a Coldford City player or a Penn.
“I think I’m being called home,” Cooper said.
Buddy lay back on the grass. “Don’t listen to it Coops. Stay alive, brah.”
“No I mean I think I can hear my phone.”
Urging themselves to stand they could finally take in some of the debris left on the lawn from the last nights escapade. There was a Bobby’s lunch box sign, a whole collection of Kappa Si cheer leader uniforms one of them size XXXXL and a Cooper four by four which had left track marks on the lawn and was now totalled against the wall.
‘Wait?’ Buddy thought. ‘Was that the sign from the Auction House?’ He couldn’t read it properly. Whatever he had been taking the night before was leaving him with some blurry vision. When the blurriness suddenly dropped away, he realised it was because he was wearing spectacles not prescribed to him.
“What the fuck?”
Cooper had followed the noise of his phone and he managed to find it among a cow pat.
“Coops brah, you better check the bro cam.”
With so many lost nights the bros had decided to fit themselves with pro cams. The footage automatically uploaded to Cooper’s phone and it made for some interesting memories.
Wiping the bull shit away Cooper was happy to find his phone as good as new. He checked the bro cam. First there were the photos. A photo of Chad’s ‘Reggie’ fingering the backside of a rubber rat. A photo of Cooper’s Simon humping a donkey. A photo of Buddy’s Marcus with nipple tassels. Then there was the video footage.
“Triplets assemble!” Called Buddy as Marcus.
The other two leapt into frame. Cooper as Simon was scowling dramatically. Chad was still fingering the rat.
The next alert was a message from The Cappy.
HAVE BUDDY CALL ME IMMEDIATELY.
The bros are certainly in trouble this time. It is the Hickes Agency, better known as the Good Gang that are on their tail. September 18th we’re off to the Great States on an adventure!
A question was raised to me the other day that really does bear thinking about. And that question was, ‘do you think violence in movies, books and video games creates more violence?’ Given the nature of my own work this is an interesting concept.
Violence and a whole lot of curse words can flow quite readily in my books. When this kind of material is available not just in books but everywhere you turn does it desensitise folks? It would be difficult not to become immune to the horrible things you see in media. But for a moment let’s take a look at the real world. The news is filled with images of war torn countries. That’s not a video game or a movie. That is real life. Those people you see on the screen are real people, with real lives that have been destroyed.
There has been a trend lately where more and more people are becoming obsessed with serial killers and their antics. Those aren’t made up characters. They are also real people who committed real atrocities. To me that is true desensitisation. I’m not suggesting that the world shouldn’t have these things brought to their attention and I’m drawn to serial killer documentaries with as much morbid curiosity as the next girl but it is all violence isn’t it? The difference is, you can play Call of Duty and gun down fictional enemies in your own living room knowing you were immersing yourself in a digital (i.e. not real) world. Or you can switch on the 6pm update and see that same thing happening for real.
Shock and disgust are two very captivating emotions when you’re a writer. It turns heads and it gets the audience talking. It is with these same sentiments photo journalists opt for the most dreadful pictures they can get and why they will chase the stories that are sure to get people talking. Just as sex sells and always has, people will be more likely to be grabbed by a headline that reads something along the lines of:
TEACHER CAUGHT WITH SNUFF FILMS
than they would be for something that said:
TEACHER RECEIVES AWARD FOR TEN YEARS DEDICATION
I do believe that violence in fiction can have a detrimental affect on people. If you shut yourself off from the world and live nothing but a violent world where you know there are no real life restrictions on your behaviour it can’t help by make you a little less human in thinking. However, that being said, most people know how and where to draw the line between fiction and reality. I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’. Both the book and the television adaptation were fantastic in my opinion. I can be a bit fanatical about things myself and as much as I loved the character of Annie, portrayed beautifully by Kathy Bates, I’m not going to hobble anyone.
Yes, violence in the media can be a bit encouraging to those with an already violent disposition but to counter this my sister in law has taken to reading a lot of non fiction about medieval history. There was no internet then or video games but if those weren’t violent times to live in I don’t know what was.
As a writer I like to push boundaries. My books are dark, violent and horrific but when those pages turn and the book closes I would encourage it as a means to realise what damage we would do to our world if we let that violence take over. Be good to each other and give those journalists something nice to write home about.
What are your thoughts? How much influence to you think violence in media plays in our society?
“If you can handle that violence check out these titles.”
David Finn is a renowned artist in Coldford. From the first sketches he made to the images of Julia Harvester he created that will be forever etched in history, his work is synonymous with talent tearing through circumstances. He is a rare individual to meet in that he is genuine. Despite his struggles he is unspoiled by the ruthlessness that could have consumed him. He doesn’t see the might of the great towers of City Main. He doesn’t see law or religion. He sees the blend of colours that make up such a landscape and through the city’s eyes he paints them. I am reporter, Sam Crusow, and this is the ‘drowning boy’.
“Why don’t you swim?”
“Why can’t you swim?”
“Where you never taught to swim?”
“If you moved your body you could, you know.”
David lost himself in swirls of dark blue. He could feel the pressure pressing down on him.
“Just keep trying. There’s a surface to reach somewhere.”
The blue became darker as more black was added. The black was diluting the soft blue more and more as the swirls grew larger and larger.
“Why don’t you swim!?”
There was breathlessness as all colour fell to nothing. The black was so deep in the centre it reflected a little of the light above. You could reach up but what would you find? You had fallen into blackness now. It was too late. Even in a consuming mouth of water all roads lead to the same place in the end.
David finally took a breath. He looked up to observe his piece. The central figure was genderless and without feature. It could be anyone caught in the whirls of darkness. Even without features it was clear the figure was in distress.
“Can’t you swim?”
“Why can’t you swim?”
David could still hear the voices of his vision ask him. The sculpted heads on the shelves beside him had varying reactions to his latest work. There was one he called the screamer. They were always shocked at what was produced. What was art though if not shocking? There was the comedian who laughed through the worst of it. A great chuckle was their response no matter how black the paint got. Then there was the crier. They wept as the images revealed themselves on canvas. So beautiful, so tragic, so pleasant, it didn’t matter, it all brought a tear to their eye. Then there was the sculpture named Arthur who at full size stood watching over his shoulder with a contemplating hand on his chin and searching expression that seemed to change to suit the mood of the room.
“Well done, David,” the statue seemed to say.
It didn’t matter if he could swim or not, art was about throwing yourself in the deep end.
David had a strong vision but sometimes it become cloudy. His talent became apparent to a high school art teacher named Mr Cassell. Cassell could see the raw flare in David and he sought to encourage it as much as he could. He was worried that David would become a product of his environment and would be swallowed up in a poverty trap and the images he could produce would be forever unseen. He was already falling to drugs and it was only a matter of time before his loosening grip as a teacher would break completely and David Finn would fall into the pits of society, another lost soul.
“It would be a tragedy,” Mr Cassel had insisted at the time. “It would break my heart when I know what David Finn is capable of.”
For David though, travelling through a world if images the colour blends became blurry. Sometimes it was such a striking use of form it drew from its darkest depths. Needless to say, try as his art teacher might, David fell into those murky waters and started to drown.
Those murky waters of his life were cold and the current was strong but David had those around him who were willing to help pull him free. Having been raised in an almost feral environment by an uncaring mother David had spent his life seeking the positivity of life outside of his home. Luckily he found it when he stumbled upon the Ferrald family. Alex Ferrald was his closest friend. Alex was opposite to David in that he was raised in a caring home. Dr Graham Ferrald and his wife Stephanie welcomed David with open arms. He found the positivity he needed there and safety where his artistic vision could be nurtured.
“I cannot wait to see it,” Stephanie announced of his latest painting that was to be unveiled at the Dalway Lane gallery in Main that very evening.
David looked up from the stain he was trying to wipe off his shirt.
“You’ll need a good jacket,” Stephanie decided.
“This is my good jacket,” he stated.
“Hmmmm,” Stephanie was disapproving. “I’ll fetch you something of Graham’s. I know you artists like that no care aesthetic but it’s a big night. She took the shirt from him and looked over the stain. “What is that anyway?” She asked.
“Pizza sauce,” David assumed.
Stephanie shook her head with a smile of exasperation. “I’ll see what I can do with it.”
What she could do with it was throw it out. It was an old shirt but since it was what David had held his favourite it had some sense of sentimentality.
When Alex arrived on scene he was dressed in his best jacket. His hair was neatly combed.
“I forget just how handsome my boy can be when I get so used to seeing him look such a scruff,” Stephanie teased.
Alex rolled his eyes. A Coby games T-shirt and jeans was usually more his style. Stephanie went off in search for good jacket for David.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing this one,” said Alex.
Most times when there was a particular image David was wishing to create, Alex would be told to wait for a grand reveal when it was done. He didn’t like showing a working progress. More often than not though David would be so excited by his piece he would describe it and the young veterinarian would play a game with himself as to how close the image in his head matched the final product. David’s descriptions were apt but the only way to capture the true beauty was to see it with your own eyes.
“Thanks, man,” David said. “I’m nervous.”
Alex patted his arm. He would be nervous. He always was with any kind of unveiling but he had been clean now for a while. His body was rejecting those murky waters from itself and that caused a lot of psychical pain.
That was where the Ferrald family would find a suitable jacket for him. It would be thrown to him like a life jacket in a storm.
Now dressed in one of Dr Ferrald’s blazers but still carrying the grungy artist underneath, David had Stephanie’s arm around him as she pulled both he and Alex closer.
“Don’t the boys look so good?” Stephanie asked Dr Ferrald.
Dr Ferrald, eminent cardiologist, gave a smile of approval as he finished affixing his bow tie.
From the warm family home in the upper Mid West the murky waters flowed to City Main and the Dalway Lane gallery, passing underneath the tunnel of David’s career.
David Finn was a raw talent. There were many who had hoped to hone his skill but the artist felt it was best he be free from the restrictions of learned technique. He was a true artist in the sense that the only value he saw in his work was from people who appreciated the vision. There was no coin required. His friend, Harper Lane, did though. She was an artist of note herself but unlike David she had swam the waters of society a little more carefully, relying less on her vision and more on astuteness. Art fed the soul and that was okay by Harper but only coin fed the mouth so she was willing to accept the need for business in the art world. Showing David’s pieces was a boon to both of them. It was a fine balance of colours with each cup filled equally.
With warm embraces Harper met David and the Ferralds in the rotunda of her gallery. Her long, dreadlocked hair had been wrapped in a yellow and black Subalan head scarf.
“Everyone’s so excited,” she said to David in an aside. “It’s all that everyone’s talking about. I’ve heard there’s some Penn reps in tonight so … please no outbursts.”
David had been clean and sober for a while now but Harper was such the big sister type she would always show him which way the river was flowing so he wouldn’t waste time swimming against it.
David took a deep breath.
“I’ve got it. I’ve got it,” he said, more to himself than to Harper.
Harper smiled with a natural radiance. “I know you do,” she said and she kissed his cheek.
“I have some fan mail for you,” she said passing him two hand written notes.
The first read as follows:
I am sorry I can’t be with you tonight. I wish you every success. I’m so proud of you. Vincent.
The second was more scribbled.
I wish I was there, honey, but I’ll get up real soon. Take lots of photos. I love you. Tee
David smiled. He folded the notes and pushed them into his pocket. There were some other people like his rehab mates, Tawny McInney and Vincent Baines, who had their own murky waters submerging them but they were there for each other. Even just having their encouraging words made David feel a little better.
Harper led him inside.
“We’ll get you some orange juice,” she offered, noting he was looking a little sickly.
“Ladies and gentlemen. We’ve come to know David Finn’s work to be hard hitting, provocative and bold. His latest piece promises to be no different. Speaking to David earlier he said to me this particular piece could have been one of his longest to complete. It reflects life as a journey down a river from the calm pools to the rock filled rapids so it would never be truly finished for we’re always turning and changing and life flows on. That being said David felt it was time to climb out of those waters and find clearer, fresher ones, but the journey so far will be forever imprinted. I am most pleased to present, David Finn’s – Drowning Boy.”
The curtain fell. The observers gasped. Upon a large canvas a wash of blues and blacks fell upon them. The central figure reached out in such a way it was for the observer to decide whether it was pulling you in or pleading for you to pull it out. The image plummeted towards ever darker depths.
“Astounding!” Was one exclamation.
David, bashfully received his applause.
Alex and David had taken a return trip to gallery the day after the unveiling. They were looking at the drowning boy again. David was busy thinking of the true journey that the image represented. It fitted his own experiences well but there were so many people out there who he knew would understand. He maybe couldn’t pull all of them free. He couldn’t stop them drowning but he could express himself in such a way that showed without a single word uttered that he understood.
“Don’t get too keen on that hanging there. It’s off in the morning, like,” these were the words of Reggie Penn. He was bounding towards them quite excitedly.
Reggie had always been a fan of David’s work from when Harper Lane first displayed. The painting had been one called ‘This Child Bugs Me’. Reggie’s morbid curiosity of the great fat woman with a fly head throwing a baby had captivated him.
“I need to have that,” Reggie had told his influential family.
The image was one of horror but to look deeper there was a tale of inhumane selfishness that surrounds us at all times. It’s a greed that will never be filled. The child represented discarded potential so easily cast aside as the flies of society pick at the shit of what’s left behind.
“I know all that,” Reggie insisted, when Harper’s partner, Gabrielle, explained this to him. “I get the depth. It’s a real cool story but it draws your eye too.”
Drowning boy had caught his attention again but this time it was to be put to auction. He had come personally to see it in the gallery.
The Penn family had something of a notorious reputation. The patriarch Reginald Penn was hailed as the King of Main. Reggie and his two brothers were met with a reverence and respect and the Penn family responded in kind. They had a certain nobility about them that earned them their would be titles. In order to keep them their reputation was also a violent one. With this in mind, as Reggie greeted David with familiarity, Alex was rendered tense.
“How’s it going, Alex?” Reggie greeted the vet who had been responsible for treating some of the rats the quirky triplet kept.
Mild mannered, upper Mid West, Alex found Reggie intimidating enough but he was considered the most personable of the Penn Triplets. Alex was something of a deer in the headlights when he turned and noticed Reggie had been accompanied on this day by the middle triplet brother, the boxer better known as Punchline Penn.
“You’ve not been logged in in ages,” Reggie was saying of an online game he had been playing which he had invited Alex to.
Reggie considered he and Alex bonded over their mutual love of video games. Alex did love video games but he considered them bonded over his fear of the triplet and now his more muscular and aggressive counterpart, Simon, was in tow.
“I’ve been busy,” Alex said, “but thanks for the invite. I really look forward to it.”
The situation would probably have been much easier on Alex if it hadn’t been for David fanning the flames for his own amusement by saying things like, “I heard one guy beat Reggie in a game once and he ended up disappearing.”
“He did not,” Alex shook it off but there was always a ‘what if’. With the Penn triplets that was a big ‘what if’.
Simon was observing the painting. He leaned his head back to get a good look at it.
“It reminds me of the ‘Ripples’ by Gourdy that hangs in Luen,” he said. His upper lip tightened. His gaze narrowed. Then he nodded. “This is much better, like. It’s more real. ‘Ripples’ could be any old art you find but this one stands out.”
David beamed. “Thanks man, I appreciate it.”
“I knew you’d like it,” Reggie told his brother.
“I do,” Simon said. “It’s a good one. I’ll talk over the details with Gabby.”
The Penns went about his business, Reggie lingering a little behind his brother observing the paintings again as though it was the first time in seeing them.
Alex breathed a sigh of relief.
“You’re such a wimp,” teased the artist.
“I can’t help it. I think it would be easier if they were mad at me. Then I would know what to expect. For some reason it’s much worse when he’s trying to be my friend.”
“Reggie’s a good guy,” David assured. “Marcus is really to the point but he’s sound too. Besides, if they were mad at you do you really think you would know what to expect?”
Alex shuddered. “Better a friend …”
“I heard they once gave some guy the death by a thousand cuts treatment.”
Alex frowned. “Shut up. They did not.”
“I’m telling you man, it was brutal. The guy only asked for directions.”
Alex’s frown deepened. “They did not. Shut up!”
“I’m kidding,” David said. “It was because he tried to hit on their mother.”
Alex shook his head. “I don’t believe you.”
“You can take the chance if you like,” David offered.
Alex gave it some thought. There were worse things than having a Penn pal he supposed. Then he thought about it some more.
“Hang on,” he said. “If you’re so knowledgeable about that then you won’t mind discussing it with Simon.”
David shook his head. “Would I fuck, man. I’m liable to get my face smashed in. It’s different for me. I’m not one of the inner circle like you.”
Alex’s eyes widened. “That’s not how they see me.”
“Put it this way,” David explained. “They love my work. They’ve bought loads from Harper and Gabby but I still ain’t been invited to Reggie’s Lonesome Nights server.”
Alex gave another shudder.
When they returned to Alex’s home in Caroline Apartments, the vet made a point of accepting Reggie’s request. He had stayed offline since then but he was comforted in the knowledge that at least Reggie would know he was making effort in their seemingly blossoming friendship.
Alex and David lost themselves in other video games. Alex was forced to hit pause when his phone rang.
“Might be the clinic,” he said.
“Hello, Alex? It’s Reggie Penn.”
‘Oh, no, why?!’ He thought.
“I’ve been trying to get ahold of David but the number we have isn’t working. Harper said he’s probably with you.”
“He’s here,” Alex explained passing the phone.
The two engaged in a battle of whispers and expressions before David finally answered.
“Hey, man,” he said cheerily. “What’s been happening?”
“We had your auction,” Reggie informed him. “We got your buyer.”
“That’s cool, man. Who?”
“A City Main collector. He’d love to meet you. Could you maybe come in so he can say a few words before he takes the painting away?”
David agreed. “Sure. I’ll get up as soon as I can.”
“One of us will be here all day anyway so just let us know when you’re here. Oh, and tell Alex I got his acceptance. I’ll see him on the server soon.”
Ringing off from Reggie, Alex scowled at him.
“I’ve got no phone,” David admitted. “They couldn’t get me.”
When the details of the call had been divulged Alex said, “that’s good news about the auction. Maybe now you can get a new phone.”
“It’s never the first thing I think of,” David admitted.
The murky waters of life can carry us many different places. Beginning in the slums of the Shanties, David had struggled through the undergrowth to find himself in the great wide mouth of City Main. It was an unexpected journey and no knowing how the tides would turn but swim on he would. He had come too far to still be the drowning boy. The drowning boy was now to stand as a symbol of perseverance in the hands of a collector who’s eye it had caught.
The light and setting of the auction house made the ‘drowning boy’ painting seem more ominous. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and such a beauty as the grim desperation of the drowning figure was viewed differently depending on the mood. The darkness of the auction house store where it had been moved offered an abyss for the figure to fall into. On the other hand it could look as though the figure had managed to climb to the greatest heights. City Main was after all considered the greatest of heights in Coldford. There were many peaks but City Main was where it all came together. There ‘drowning boy’ could fall into concrete pools of aggressive business and ruthless politics. It was a different kind of murky water from the poverty of the Shanties but it was no less able to drown.
Looking at the painting again gave David some doubts. Should he maybe have waited for this piece? He had admitted that his journey was still ongoing. There were still struggles to be had and dangerous waters to swim.
“Good morning, David,” a familiar voice drew him from his thoughts.
“Mr Cassel! I haven’t seen you since …”
“Since high school, yes,” Mr Cassel said. “That’s longer than I care to admit.”
David had been so taken aback by seeing his old art teacher. He was flustered in a way that was akin to a child seeing their teacher outside the classroom. He looked different. He looked older, a little more casual in dress but he was smiling warmly.
“Did you come to see the painting?” He asked.
“I came to take it home. It now belongs to me,” the teacher told him with pride. “When you were my pupil I hoped upon hope that you would make a success of yourself. The success would of course fair you well but I hoped too because I just new people had to see your vision. It’s fearless, it’s encouraging, it’s humbling, it’s all those things and more. I promised myself that when you did I would have one of your paintings and here we are. Alex had mentioned this to Reggie Penn and he kindly gifted to me. I couldn’t not be more proud of what you became. I know it wasn’t easy but you got there didn’t you. This painting is even more significant to me because as your teacher I could only instruct you on how to swim. I always worried those waters would get far too choppy but you had it in you. You swam and you emerged. I can hang this painting with pride and know that you did it.”
David laughed with joy. He wrapped his arms around his old teacher and embraced him tightly. The emotion spilled from his eyes.
“I’m glad I did you proud, man,” he said. “I’m glad.”
We all have that drowning figure within us. The rivers that swamp us are different but struggle is a universal experience. We all struggle from time to time and the ‘drowning boy’ painting stands a vivid representation of that. The purpose of art is to provoke. It provokes emotion and it provokes discussion. Seeing the image had me thinking how our world would be if we acknowledged that we all struggle in the water of our lives from time to time. Drowning comes from our own being no longer being able to struggle. The water enters the lungs despite all resistance and we are consumed. But what if we stopped trying to struggle and we helped each other out of the water instead. What kind of picture would that paint then?
“No Davey, No!” where the last words he heard him cry. It took some time for him to remember his childhood but now the artist’s ‘tortured boy’ piece is ready, thanks to his latest muse.
Trauma, obsession and addiction are just some of the reasons to seek refuge at Harbour House rehab clinic. The world outside can be a scary place after all.
I received an email late one evening last week and the contents of it still continue to resonate. The email had come from a young girl who I’ll name Zoe for the purposes of this narrative. Zoe had contacted me because she had been looking into the work of Ragdolls UK. I set up Ragdolls in 2013 because as a sufferer or Turner’s Syndrome I felt it was important to help my TS sisters find the support they needed. The condition occurs in 1 in about 2500 females across the world but there are still so many who haven’t heard of it and when you are diagnosed with the unknown it can be terrifying. Zoe was one such young woman.
Diagnosed at sixteen, Zoe was told from a young age all the things she wouldn’t be able to do. In her email to me she stated that she ‘felt like a freak’ through school and felt like she wouldn’t be able to do any of the things ‘normal’ girls do. Then there’s that word that drives fear in many TS women – infertility.
She reached out to me and I was incredibly proud that she did so. As a woman who has never focused on what I can’t do and aimed for the stars I have always encouraged my TS sisters to value themselves and their contributions to society no matter what barriers health issues may throw up. Most importantly the work of Ragdolls UK is to encourage to achieve potential. My TS sisters are some of the most caring, loving, intelligent and delightfully creative women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
There are challenges to face living with a condition like Turner’s Syndrome but that’s why we work together and support one another.
I am glad Zoe saw fit to tell me her story because if just one girl realises there is support out there for her it makes it all worth it.
A huge thanks to all who support Ragdolls UK. We are making a difference.
Beckingridge Manor was a place that many would dream of living in. It was a beautiful old mansion house that had been in the family for generations. They were old money but Jeffrey Beckingridge aka Gramps was who made it really what it was. But behind those mansion walls lay skeletons. Like for instance, Alice Beckingridge. She had been accused of murdering her son. The boy had been born deformed. He had been hidden inside the manor, few even knew of his existence until his life was cut short and his body discovered buried in the Manor House lawns. She’s dead now too so plays little part in the following events.
Then there was Alice’s sister in law, Elizabeth. Growing up in the world of privilege she had never really learned what it meant to consider others. Spoiled and selfish as you would expect Elizabeth set herself apart from the rest of her family by having a conscience. She did try. What made her the same was she had her skeletons too. The became less over the years with Gramps no longer around to lock them away.
Then there was Alice’s daughter Catherine. School shootings, extorting teachers and running her aunt Elizabeth over with the car so that she now walked with a prosthetic leg. Young Catherine was quite the up and comer. The society pages of the Filton Crier were keeping a very close eye on her indeed. Now she had her own baby, little Vicky. Time would tell where Victoria Beckingridge would fit into her family.
Probably the most notable in terms reputation would be George. Elizabeth’s nephew and Catherine’s younger brother. He had hit first hit the headlines at age eight when it was he who had discovered his mother’s body. The already famous Beckingridge heir became even more so when he was kidnapped by his music teacher, Vincent Baines. Dead dogs, dead relatives, dead teachers were left behind. If there were a competition for the ûmost skeletons among the Beckingridge’s the safest bet would be George. Psychopathic tendencies is what they say about him but given his status in the city no one seemed prepared to do anything about it. The music teacher instantly regretted his decision to take the boy away from what he felt was a toxic environment. The Manor House was indeed toxic but stealing him away just gave George a whole new playground for ten long years. The musician’s life was made a misery but the family sighed relief being rid of little George for a while. When he was found they would have denied him if they could.
So quite a mess as I’m sure you will agree and it rested on the shoulders of patriarch, Ernest Beckingridge. Sweet natured Ernest didn’t have the bite of his sister, Elizabeth. He didn’t have the iron will of his wife, Alice either. Quite frankly he didn’t have what it took to lead the Beckingridge Empire or keep his son and daughter in line.
“Stop killing things!” Ernest cried in despair. “Why can’t you just act like a real boy?”
George grinned. It was only feeding his temperament.
“It’s okay, baby girl,” Ernest said to Catherine. “We’ll be fine.”
Catherine snuggled into her father’s arms. At her age she really should have been learning responsibility but it was easier to hug her and keep her quiet. Ernest wouldn’t be around forever and Catherine was in for a rude awakening when she didn’t have her billionaire father to protect her. Elizabeth tried to warn her brother of this. She had experienced the same thing when Gramps died.
Disfunction. A term used when a family unit is broken but carries on anyway. Blood is thicker than water. Money and entitlement make you even thicker than that to the ways of the world. But despite all their troubles life at Beckingridge Manor went on. Dinner was always served promptly at eight.
The salad course had only just been served. George hadn’t ate much of it. Instead he made a fuss of it with his fork then left the shredded pieces. He had spilled some of them onto the table. Catherine wasn’t paying much attention as usual. With one hand she was trying to feed her baby. Vicky was leaning forward in her high chair trying to catch the spoon in her mouth but her mother’s eyes were too busy reading her phone.
“George, will you take that disgusting thing off of the table!” Aunt Elizabeth barked.
It was a stuffed mouse she referred to. It’s fur was matted, the stuffing was crushed and for some reason it smelled like garlic. He named it Cecil and he took it wherever he went.
George glared at Elizabeth. “Cecil stays here,” he stated.
“You’re eighteen,” Elizabeth chided. “It’s ridiculous that you would carry that filthy thing around with you.”
Ernest looked up from his plate. He finally decided to speak up.
“Come on now George,” he said. “Take it off the table.”
Elizabeth wasn’t satisfied. “We’re trying to eat here and I need to look at those … stains? What even is that?” she wrinkled her nose. “Never mind. I don’t want to know, just get the damn thing away.”
George grinned. Seeing his aunt get upset made him giggle. Cecil tended to have that affect on people.
“May I be excused?” Catherine asked in what should have been a polite request but was instead laced with frustration.
“No you may not,” Elizabeth said. “If you didn’t have your face stuck in that blasted phone the entire time you would be done by now. Eat your salad.”
Catherine looked to her father. Ernest raised his eyebrows but said nothing. It wasn’t his problem. He had ate his salad.
“How is the tuition going, George?” He decided to attempt polite conversation with his son. “Are you coping with it?”
George wouldn’t be an easy pupil to teach. The general public scoffed at the idea of a grown man removing his pupil from his home only to become the kidnap victim himself but Ernest knew his son. It was indeed very plausible. The most unsettling thing about the whole scenario was how George had returned to the manor after all that time and it seemed like nothing had happened. The Beckingridges could adapt to any scenario. It was what helped them keep the flow of cold hard cash to the city.
George nodded. “It’s okay.” He looked at Cecil. In his mind Cecil must have said something he didn’t approve of so he knocked him over. He could see Elizabeth stifle a stomach lurch at the toy.
“And Kappa So?” Asked the father. “It’ll be pledge week soon.”
Ernest had been a member of the exclusive Filton Fraternity back when he was George’s age. He wasn’t exactly one of the in crowd but Charles ‘Chick’ Owen who was the Chapter Leader at the time accepted him as one of their own. The fraternity was now under the guidance of Chick’s son Buddy. George had taken a shine to him. He even started to imitate him quite a bit, using turns of phrases he wouldn’t normally.
“Kappa So!” He would scream, already wearing his blazer even though he hadn’t officially been accepted.
“Buddy said you’re a peg legged whore and the only time you shut up is when you have a dick in your mouth,” George gleefully announced to his aunt.
“George!” Ernest finally decided to intervene.
It was too late though. Elizabeth was already on her feet. He had her fork in her her hand, pointing it at her nephew like Satan with his trident. She decided against it. With a clang she dropped the fork onto her plate and lifted her glass of wine instead.
“Liz!” Ernest tried to stop her but it was too late. She emptied the glass into George’s face.
“That’s disgusting!” He complained. “It tastes like feet.”
Elizabeth sat back down. Her scowl had dissolved into a wry smile as she watched George try to dry himself with the table cloth, almost knocking his plate to the floor.
“Gah!” Vicky started to reach out for her great aunt.
“May I be excused?” Catherine asked again.
“No,” Elizabeth barked. “We’re a family and we have dinner together. Even if we must share the table with lunatic Larry over there.”
Ernest was shaking his head. “Can’t we just have one meal where someone doesn’t empty a glass of wine of another’s head. Don’t we deserve some quiet after everything the family has been through?”
“Oh Ernest do shut up,” Elizabeth barked.
Ernest sighed. He attempted to change the subject. It was always especially volatile between George and Elizabeth so he decided to engage his daughter.
“So Catherine,” he began. “Did Vicky sleep through the night? I don’t believe I heard her.”
Catherine shrugged. How would she know? If baby Victoria had been screaming merry hell from her nursery it still wouldn’t have been her mother to go and fetch her.
“I think she was trying to say da da,” Catherine offered.
Elizabeth was turning her empty wine glass in her hand. “It’s a pity she doesn’t know who Da Da is,” she commented.
“I hope you choke pills and die you cantankerous old shrew,” Catherine snarled.
Elizabeth gave a hearty laugh. “Oh Catherine, I wouldn’t have to be cantankerous if you didn’t leave your child for everyone else to look after.”
Vicky had woken up through the night as it happened. Catherine wouldn’t have known this because she had ignored the baby’s cries until Elizabeth had come to fetch her.
“Come to me my little darling,” she had heard Elizabeth whisper to her daughter over the monitor in a sweetened tone she used with no one else. It was so alien to her aunt that at first she didn’t realise who it was.
Catherine raised her finger at her aunt. George was giggling to himself, his fair hair still stained with red wine. Ernest was almost burying his face in what was left of the salad in despair.
“Can we leave the vulgarity please!” Ernest requested with a little more passion than they were used to. “It’s not for the dinner table.”
“May I be excused?” Catherine asked again.
“No.” This time it was her father who requested that she stay.
“I’m not hungry,” she tried.
“Maybe not,” said Elizabeth, interrupting Ernest. “But your baby still is.”
“I have a vulgar story,” George put in.
“No George,” said Elizabeth. “You don’t.”
Later that evening the Beckingridge manor quietened. Elizabeth had decided to take a walk around to try and tire herself out. She sensed that evening would be one where sleep would not come easily. As she passed by Vicky’s nursery she could hear singing. At first she thought it was a figment of her imagination it had been so soft and tender. She recognised the song but couldn’t quite place where from. It was a male voice. Ernest wasn’t an easy sleeper then either so perhaps he had gotten up to spend some time with his granddaughter. Was the song the lullaby their nanny used to sing to them as children? Elizabeth still couldn’t decide. She didn’t want to disturb the sweetness. She actually found herself enjoying the tone. She pushed the door open gently. The nursery was bathed in soft nightlights. Stars danced across the roof. Vicky had pulled herself up onto her feet in her cot. It wasn’t Ernest who was singing to her though. It was George. The lighting had subdued his normally sneering expression. At the least the light had provided some of the softening. Some of the serene look had been given from the way he was watching his niece.
He hadn’t heard his aunt behind him. His focus remained on his niece. Victoria tried to reach through the bars of her cot to Cecil.
“No,” said George, again surprisingly calmly. Normally he threw a tantrum when anyone tried to take Cecil. It was ridiculous to see a young man of nineteen who was supposed to lead the Beckingridge Tower one day throw a tantrum like a toddler over a stuffed animal. He smiled at Vicky though. It seemed the after dinner entertainment was called off.
“You don’t want Cecil,” George explained to the child. “He’s not a nice toy.”
It had been the first time Elizabeth heard George admit he was a toy. Every other time he was insistent that it was his friend. Elizabeth knew he had just being doing it to create a scene. What frightened her the most about that realisation was that she would have created a scene too if someone irritated her the way she seemed to irritate George.
George lifted a stuffed monkey and passed it to the infant.
“Here. You have ‘cheeky monkey,” he said.
Vicky grinned and clasped the monkey to her chest. Cheeky Monkey looked exactly like the little monkey on the pink onesie she wore.
“Cheeky Monkey is a much better toy for you,” the uncle explained. Vicky seemed to agree but she kept her eyes on Cecil.
“Cecil!” Vicky garbled in toddler language pointing to him.
“That’s right,” George agreed.
He seemed to take closer note of Vicky behind the bars of her cot.
“They won’t keep you in here all the time,” George went on. “I won’t let them. It was so easy for them just to lock that door and forget me when I was a little boy. I won’t let them do the same to you. I know it can get scary in here sometimes. The door is heavy and the windows are high up but you won’t be locked in here. You can’t let them see you get angry. That’s when they lock you in here.”
“Gah?” Vicky said almost agreeing. Her tantrum earlier had seen her banished to the nursery just like Uncle George said.
“Yeah, that’s right,” said George. “They just lock you in here, sometimes for days. They would always have you smile. They would always have you laugh. You can’t say anything no matter how much you want to scream and rip into someone’s belly. But don’t you worry Vicky. You won’t be like me. You won’t need crusty old Cecil. I won’t let them lock you in here.
He leaned over and kissed her head. “You are cute!” He gushed.
Vicky giggled. “Yes you are.”
“That’s enough George,” Elizabeth finally interrupted.
George turned round finally paying heed to his aunt’s presence.
“She was crying,” he said.
Elizabeth insisted. “Then I’ll see to her.”
“She wanted me,” George was adamant.
Vicky lay herself down in her cot, clutching Cheeky Monkey closely. She yawned. George and Elizabeth left her room to let her drift back to sleep.
“Good night, Aunt Elizabeth,” George said neither sweetly nor sneering. For a few moments he could be mistaken for a real boy.
“Good night George,” Elizabeth replied.
“Sleep well,” added the nephew.
Was that a threat? Was that a genuine request? Was he deliberately being a nice to essentially be an irritating prick? Elizabeth found Ernest in the lounge and when she had relayed to him the conversation she had overhead with Vicky it seemed to make him uneasy. They had locked him away often when he was a child but what choice did they have? He was out of control. Who’s fault was that?
George pulled the sheets up to his chin. Cecil sat balanced on his belly watching him with his beady black eyes. That was when he heard his door click, locked from the outside. Behind those mansion walls lay a whole host of skeletons. The Beckingridge family experts at locking them away.
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Standing outside the Church of St Wigan, FATHER VERGER is greeting his congregates as they leave. He is approached by DELORES and her daughter TAWNY. DELORES Is dressed in a sombre black dress with a Wigan pin on her chest. TAWNY is dressed in a cheerful red dress with white polka dots.
It was a beautiful service Father.
Thank you Mrs McInney. I trust you are keeping well?
Turning his attention to TAWNY.
I would have thought you would have worn a more mournful outfit on account of your father.
Pa hated to see people glum.
Still, show a little respect.
Not paying much attention to the priest her focus is caught by someone waving to her from offstage.
Hi honey! It’s good to see ye. When did you get back?
Speaking to Delores.
Excuse me, ma.
TAWNY exits the stage.
Shaking her head
I’m sorry Father. I thought with Reuben’s passing she would pray with me. Every week is a struggle to get her to come along.
Looking over in TAWNY’S direction.
She needs the church’s guidance now more than ever. As her mother it is up to you to take care of her. Her immortal soul is at stake. St Wigan will impart the strength you need to correct her.
I don’t want to lose her.
They both look towards offstage where TAWNY has just exited.
Still looking after TAWNY.
Delores’ lounge. Evening.
DELORES is sat at home. The home appears draughty and uncomfortable. She is seated at a table centre stage where lighting is focused on a single empty plate and a Wigan book. DELORES is holding her Wigan pin in her hand. TAWNY is not present but her voice can be heard off stagein a dream like sound as DELORES reflects on her words.
Sounding as though she was in some pain when the words were spoken.
I am who I am!
Rests her hand on the Wigan book.
I was worried about you. You were my daughter and you were putting yourself in mortal danger. I wish you could understand. If you turned to the Church maybe you could find forgiveness.
Why can’t ye just love me for who I am?!
Sighing she sniffs back the emotion.
I do love you. You’re my daughter. You wouldn’t listen to me and you made me angry. I was losing you and I had to do something. Ye were embarrassing yerself night after night like a wanton hussy.
If your church is asking you do this what kind of religion is it! Help me Ma!
DELORES raises a napkin to her lips.
it was for your own good.
She sniffs again and composes herself.
You cannot be saved …
When Tabitha is sent to Hathfield Bay to meet her estranged grandma, she is given an inside look at the Cult of Wigan of which granny is a member.