Tag Archives: horror

Character Profile: Sophie Bergman

“Ms Bergman will now ask some questions.”

Name: Sophie Bergman

Occupation: Law Maker (Hell Hound office)

Features in: PURPLE RIBBON ; KNOCK KNOCK

Sophie is the younger sister of Howard Bergman of the Bergman Diamond Parade in City Main. Like the rest of her family she is loving and kind. She is sharp witted and not easily fooled. Among her family she is the one that carries a reputation of being strict which is to be expected when she is a high ranker from the Office of Law Makers. Her two sons, Issac (the elder) and Elijah (the younger) are well mannered and law abiding thanks to their mother’s upbringing.

Sophie and her brother Howard were born in the country of Levinkrantz until the blitz. During the blitz they were offered escape. Their parents perished leaving young Howard with his little sister, to come to Coldford to start a new life. She has seen war. She had seen it at a young age and it gave her the determination to become the Law Making force she is.

Sophie is also congenitally deaf. She reads lips very well so rather than criminals trying to sing sweet words to her ears she can easily decipher the truth of the matter straight from the tongue. She is accompanied mostly by her interpreter, Dmitri Raminoff, better known as Golem for his protective nature and sheer size.

Upholding the law in the Shady City is a tough job but Sophie isn’t shy of it. She was just a little girl when the bombs began to fall on Levinkrantz. She escaped a war zone. She has little fear.


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It began so slowly. First there were meetings, then there was fighting and then there were soldiers on the streets. When the bombs started to drop it was all over. As the Church of St Wigan calls for the end of days, Howard Bergman wondered how long it would be before the bombs started to drop on Coldford.

Rule number 1: Don’t F’ with the warden

Gather round ladies and gentlemen, for a tale of four desperate men on society’s ultimate time out. We’ve got vagabonds of all descriptions behind these bars and someone has to keep them in line.

Coldford Correctional is better known as The Boss for the way it looms over the town. It’s the toughest place in the Shady City. Some even say it’s Hell on earth. It’s lucky that the warden they have guarding it earned the nickname ‘Cerberus’, the loyal hound of hades and guardian of the underworld.

Warden Gianni Remar has kept all kinds of monsters behind bars. The strongest prison in the Shady City seems like the perfect fit for him.

Coming April 2022

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Knock Knock: Episode 43: From the top Maestro

“We’ve just received word that Tabitha McInney, better known as the Boss Lady of The Knock Knock Club, has escaped custody in the last hour. Officers on scene were injured after a knife attack by what was described as rebellious supporters of the Shanties cause. Tabitha’s current whereabouts is unknown so the public is advised to be cautious. If you see anything contact the office of Law Makers immediately. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily news.” 

“No!” I cried. “This can’t be happening.”  

To most of the city, Tabitha was a deranged killer. To the people of the Shanties, she was a queen who was willing to do anything it took to protect them. There was a group in the Shanties named the Red Rebels who were loyal to her. I had to assume that the blades of the knife attack on the escorting officers had been in their hands.  

“They have to find her,” I said to no one in particular, pacing the floor. What if she came to find me? 

“What if she comes to find me, pal?!” ex club manager Dennis had said when I informed him.  

What ifs indeed! 

*** 

“She’s out!” Tawny cheered. 

The three bros looked among each other. They were still holding the Baroness but their trip to the Great States had left them a little drained.  

“Ye have to let me speak to your pa,” Tawny insisted. “Please, just let me speak to him. I have to get out of here. I don’t want Tabitha to get into any more trouble.”  

The three bros let the news of the Boss Lady’s escape sink in.  

When they first brought Tawny to Cooper Garages to hold her, they had no idea what they would do with her. A lot of shit went down, they went to the Great States leaving Tawny under the supervision of George. When they got back, they had expected George to have eaten her or some shit but she was still in one piece.  

“What we going to do, brah?” Cooper asked. “My dad will be over here soon and he’ll be opening the garage up for the new season.”  

“Let me speak to your pa,” suggested Tawny.  

Buddy took his gun. He had given it a lot of thought. He was an Owen and he had to do what needed to be done. 

*** 

*** 

“Captain Owen’s office, how may I direct your call?”  

“I need to speak to the Cappy,” said Buddy, still with the gun in his hand.  

“And who may I say is calling?”  

“It’s Buddy. I need to speak to him right away.”  

“Tell her it’s urgent, brah!” Chad suggested 

“I know,” said Buddy a little impatiently. To the secretary he said, “It’s urgent.”  

The secretary’s chirpy tones were replaced with the smooth Great States accent of The Cappy. He was seated at his desk and looked a little frustrated at the interruption.  

“Buddy,” he enquired. “This had better be good.”  

“Well,” Buddy began. “You know, like how you’re always telling me to make the family proud and to start acting like an Owen.”  

The Cappy became increasing skeptical.  

“What are you saying, Bud?”  

Buddy hunched. He tried a laugh. Chad joined him quite enthusiastically. Cooper watched on with his arms folded.  

“You are going to laugh your balls off,” Buddy assured.  

The Cappy didn’t look like he was going to laugh anything off. 

“What have you done?” the father asked.  

He was a powerful man. He was a respected figure. He had faced a lot, but he was never suitably prepared for the outcome when his son called him and told him he would laugh his balls off at something he had done.  

“I’m an Owen,” Buddy cried, his gun still in his hand. “I’ve been taking care of shit.” 

“Buddy?” the Cappy barked. “What did you do?”  

Buddy cleared his throat. He slapped Chad’s shoulder who was still enthusiastically preparing The Cappy for a real laugh riot. Buddy turned the camera. The Cappy almost choked when he saw Tawny. She was seated in a chair. She waved at him.  

“Hi there!” she said. “Remember me?”  

“You see!” Buddy cheered. “I Owened that shit.” 

Buddy and his bros had decided that if they acted like it was the greatest achievement in the world, The Cappy might see it that way too.  

“What in the entire nations is she doing there?” Chick asked.  

Their theory didn’t work but I suppose it was worth a try.  

“Chilling, as they say,” Tawny replied. “Your boys have been looking after me,” she teased. She reached up to her shoulder injury where the bros had been playing a game called ‘whale harpoon’. Buddy grabbed her hand and pulled it away.  

“What do you want?” Chick asked her.  

“I just want to go home,” she said. “A lot has gone down. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt on my account. I’m sure you heard about Tabitha.”  

Chick managed to smile but it was a cold one.  

“I just let you walk and I find myself with more hassle than I need right now. My father is dead.”  

“I’m sorry, honey. I really am, but don’t make me recite the list of dead I have because you wanted me to shut my gob. You know I was telling the truth.”  

The Cappy scowled.  

“I just want to go home. Let’s put an end to this.”  

The Cappy chuckled. “I would take your word for it but I’m a cynical man.” 

“I’m not wanting to cause any fuss, cross my heart,” she laughed. “But I’m not a complete nutter. I don’t want to be waiting for one of those bullets that seems to go astray with you lot. There’s still life in this old gal yet. When I was young my ma used to tell me that I’d make friends with the devil himself, so let’s bond. I wouldn’t take the word of an Owen but I know money talks.”  

“You want me to buy your silence?” The Cappy pressed.  

“I don’t need yer money,” said Tawny. “But there’s lots of people in the Shanties that could use it. Invest in my charity. Help me do what I do and there’s a bond I would never dare break. You wouldn’t either.”  

Chick folded his arms across his chest. He leaned back in his chair.  

“Buddy…” he said. “Good job.”  

The three bros looked at each other. “Huh?” 

*** 

*** 

A city-wide search was underway for Tabitha and Reggie Penn. Given he was still severely injured, the whereabouts of Reggie was a cause for great concern. In light of this I had arranged a visit to The Boss to speak to his brothers. Given the Good Gang agents had brought Reggie in safely, I was hoping Marcus and Simon would be willing to offer what help they could. Although it wasn’t much. 

“Have you heard from your brother?” I asked Marcus.  

“If he’s gone anywhere, it would be to Luen,” was Simon’s suggestion.  

Marcus, however, disagreed. “That would be the logical thing to do but he won’t leave these shores whilst we’re still here and mother hasn’t been buried.”  

Simon thought about what his brother had said.  

“I suppose. He’ll want to stay close by. He has hiding spots all over the city. It was how he managed to stay out of CPD hands for so long. Places we don’t even know about.” 

My experiences of the triplets before this were of violence and murder. The loss of so much seemed to have sobered them a little. At least it had Simon. Marcus’ expression was still indecipherable. He pushed the spectacles from the end of his nose and seemed to lose himself in thought.  

“What worries me is that Tabitha is also missing,” I explained. “The airport and the docks are all on high alert. They’ve set up check points on all city exits. They both need to be brought in before they get hurt, or worse. Do you think they would be together? Do you think they would know where to find each other?”  

A little personal concern was falling into my voice. Simon must have noticed this because he smiled a little.  

“Story isn’t quite so easy to write now, is it?” he teased. 

“Simon,” barked Marcus in warning.  

I took a deep breath. Agent Kim Adams and Agent Lydia Lowe were waiting close by but if they really wanted to, the triplets could lash out.  

“If Reggie is hurt, he needs to be found. He stands his best chance with the agents.” I paused for a breath. “As does Tabitha.”  

Simon frowned. “We have no idea where he might be right now but if you find him…”  

“I’ll do what I can for him,” I agreed.  

Marcus leaned back in his chair. In light of the death of his father, the people of City Main would be looking to him as their new ‘king’. Not much use in servitude to The Boss, but my concerns had to remain with Reginald Penn Junior and yet again the Boss Lady of The Knock Knock Club. 

*** 

Having been given Tawny’s share of Knock Knock, I turned to David Finn in the hopes he might have something to contribute. He had little information to offer but he did suggest I come to his apartment in the Mid West where Agnes was currently residing with him until the Bailiffs were done stripping the club apart.  

“I need to find Tabitha,” I said to the artist over coffee at Bobby’s lunchbox. 

“And Reggie?” the artist put in.  

“Yes, of course Reggie too,” I added.  

Reggie had to be found. That much was certain. Not only would it pacify his brothers and keep peace in City Main, but it could help bring those who attacked him to account. Tabitha could not be allowed to run loose in the Shady City. Reggie would likely lie low without his brothers. Tabitha though? She would be monumentally angry – with what happened to her aunt, to her club, to her friends – and that anger would turn towards those responsible. The city was being vigilant. I, myself, hadn’t slept a full night.  

I looked out of the window of Bobby’s Lunchbox and I couldn’t help but notice a hush. Things hadn’t been the same since the public execution of Reginald Penn but now something was else brewing. I was certain of it. Tabitha was biding her time and plotting her elaborate scheme. I have already detailed people pushed from high rise windows, throats being slit in alleys and butchered body parts circling greater Coldford, and that was just my first 24 hours of knowing her! She loved to make a scene and she had publicly called out those who stood in her way, calling Judge Doyle a cunt while she was still in prison.  

It had been sobering spending the afternoon with David Finn. No matter how much I tried to explain this to him he didn’t see Tabitha as anything other than magnificent because that was how Tawny had felt.  

“What about Reggie?” I asked him. 

“Reggie is sound, man,” he replied. “Been gaming with him for years before all this happened believe it or not. A vet friend of mine treated his rats. Reggie is a decent guy really. He’s just got that life I guess.”  

David was still coming to terms with what holding a piece of The Knock Knock Club entailed so I forgave him for his naïveté. His instruction manual had come from the Baroness herself who was well known for seeing Tabitha as her mischievous little Trouble and Reggie as the sweet triplet with a halo of blonde curls. Violent sociopaths, both of them!  

David insisted on paying for the coffees and as he did so I watched his transaction from afar.  

“They’re on the house,” Bobby said with a smile across to me.  

“No, man!” David urged. “I can’t do that.” 

He pushed some money across the greasy counter.  

“Your money is no good here,” said Bobby.  

David wouldn’t retrieve his money though.  

“Then keep it to cover a hot drink for someone who needs it then, man.” 

He was still reading from the Baroness’ manual. She was a charitable woman above all else and always spoke of how important helping others was to her Knock Knock Club. David Finn was taking his new position in the city very seriously.  

“Agnes is back,” David informed me when he returned to the booth after having checked an alert on his phone.  

With that we headed to the Midwest where I could ask the Broker about her wayward niece.  

*** 

“She’s been though a lot, man. I don’t want you to upset her,” David warned me as we climbed the steps to his apartment. “She’s already answered tonnes of questions to the Law Makers.” 

I was fond of Agnes too so I could understand his apprehension. If she didn’t want anyone to know the whereabouts of Tabitha then she would die before giving her location. I did want to check on her anyway and see how she had been doing.  

“I won’t keep you long,” I assured.  

As we got the second floor of the building where David’s apartment lay, we could hear voices. There was some laughter.  

“You must have visitors,” I said.  

David shrugged. “I get all sorts of people coming and going these days. Maybe Harper and Gabby stopped by.” 

David’s gallery-owning friends had become close to Agnes too. It suited both David and Agnes to surround themselves with people in times of trouble. A lot of the Knock Knock girls stopped by as well, much to David’s amusement.  

As David pushed open the door, he could hear the noise of a video game battle. Alex Ferrald – his vet friend – must have joined them.  

“Blam! Take that, cunts!” a young man cried.  

No! I shook my head. That was not mild-mannered Alex Ferrald. It was a City Main twang. David was just as perplexed as I because whilst the entire city had been torn apart, barriers put in place, Law Makers giving speeches at City Hall; one of the most wanted men in Coldford was sat on his sofa, playing a video game. Reggie looked up when we arrived, a cigarette dangling on the end of his lips.  

“Hey Finn! Good to meet you in person.”  

I would have scoffed at the youngest triplet’s cavalier attitude if it weren’t for the fact that my focus was now stolen by the one person in the city more sought after than he was. Next to him in the sofa, quite comfortably, was Tabitha.  

“Hello Sam,” she grinned at me, that gap between her teeth a menacing snarl. My absolute nightmare come true. I had been pursuing her, hoping she would be found and there she was, grinning at me like I was the intruder.  

“David! I can explain!” Agnes came dashing from the bedroom.  

“What’s going on?” David asked. Tawny’s manual must have accounted for her niece making a scene, surely.  

“I had to shower,” said Tabitha to the artist matter-of-factly. “I haven’t shaved my legs properly in months.” 

Focused back on his game, Reggie chortled. “It’s true. It looked fucking disgusting.”  

Tabitha slapped his shoulder coquettishly.  

“Fail to give you a razor in prison, did they?” I asked sarcastically.  

Tabitha scowled. “I’ve been through a lot, you insensitive cunt. Don’t act like you’re not glad to see me.”  

“Tabitha!” warned Agnes in her teacher tone.  

Tabitha pouted but she fell silent.  

“Go get dressed. You both aren’t staying here,” instructed the Knock Knock Broker.  

“Fine,” whined Tabitha. 

As she stood, she passed round the sofa towards me. Stopping, she raised herself onto the balls of her feet. Her cool grey eyes met mine.  

“I guess our story isn’t over,” she teased.  

“Tabs!” warned Agnes again.  

Tabitha danced off to the bedroom to check if Agnes had brought one of her signature red dresses.  

Agnes and I had never locked horns before but I had a feeling we were going to clash over her niece.  

“This place is going to be filled with Law Makers,” I warned. “And now you’ve brought David into it.”  

“I’ve already spoken to Ronnie Owen,” she explained. “He knows David had nothing to do with this. He’s already cleaned Dennis’ charges against Reggie providing he undergoes psych evaluation. Given the botched execution of Reginald and the fake execution of Tabitha, the Law Makers are willing to hold them under supervision providing your agency friends escort them, watch them and question them.”  

“No!” I protested. “I’m sorry Agnes but they should at least be held in the Harbour House lock down where they belong.”  

“House arrest is the standard procedure until the Law Makers complete their investigation.” 

I thought of Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Owen – Chick’s younger brother – who ironically had been the one to defend Tabitha on her murder charges. He was a decent man – selfless in his way and despite the history between his family and The Knock Knock Club, he had defended her with everything he could considering his client was clearly guilty. With the Owens getting involved it made me wonder if The Cappy had seen opportunity in the escape.  

The buzzer screeched. David opened the door to Agent Kim Adams and Agent Lydia Lowe. Tabitha emerged from the bedroom in some of Agnes’ clothes, disgruntled that she hadn’t been given her red dress. She scowled when she saw Lydia.  

“Seriously? You brought the skank?”  

Lydia shook her head, smiling. She brushed off the comment. Kim on the other hand was in no mood for her games. 

“The slightest bit of trouble out of either of you and I drop you,” she warned. “You!” here she pointed at Reggie. “My agents spent a lot of time and resources bringing you home. If you try anything I will hurt you.”  

Reggie raised his arms. “I just want to go home, like,” he said. 

Kim turned her attention to Tabitha. “And as for you,” she said. “There is still an execution order on your head. Step a foot out of line and that order is carried out.”  

Kim allowed her warning to resonate a little to see if she would have any back lash. There was none. With that Tabitha and Reggie, Boss Lady and Rat Boy, were taken home. 

“You would think we were the villains here,” Tabitha grumbled as they left. 

*** 

It all began when they were children. Tabitha – a preteen having not been long introduced to the triplets by Tawny – had found a friend in Reggie. She never really had someone her own age to spend time with before. She was close to Simon and Marcus too but with Marcus striving for efficiency in all things, he could be a bit of a cold fish. Simon being naturally abrasive, she expected they would fight a lot. She knew she was abrasive too. How they did fight in those first days of knowing each other, but a sibling bond formed and whilst they fought, they were protective of each other against outsiders.  

“Why hit a punch bag when you can hit his fucking face?” Tabitha encouraged as she accompanied Simon to the gym. The parents had hoped that Tabitha, too, might find an outlet for her frustration but she spent most of the time sat on a bike machine watching everyone work a sweat around her.  

Yes, Marcus and Simon were close to her but her full affection for the triplets had come when she met the one with all the rats. He had a black and white one he named Snuggles hanging from his shoulder. He had promised himself he wouldn’t name them but he couldn’t help it. Snuggles was just so affectionate and smart. She deserved a name.  

“Reggie,” he introduced himself. 

Tabitha inspected the creature closer. She reached out to pet Snuggles. Snuggles sniffed the tips of her fingers. 

“Like your dad?” She asked.  

Reggie plucked Snuggles from his shoulder. True to her name she tried to nuzzle his ear.  

“Nothing like my dad,” he admitted. “But, yeah, the name’s the same.”  

Reggie was the one Tabitha would spend all night speaking to on the telephone when things got really bad at home and she couldn’t escape to the club.  

Most of the trouble they got into they got into together. So, they found themselves an attic space just outside of City Main enroute to Filton. It was their half way point when they wanted to meet up and it had a little space that only they knew about. Fullerton reps sometimes came by during the day but it was usually to collect money from people in suits to keep the site untouched. They didn’t know who it really belonged to, but anytime anyone did come to visit it they wouldn’t hear the little rats scuttling around in the attic space.  

After escaping her custody, Tabitha had thought to lay low. It took her a couple of days to reach it on foot, avoiding populated areas as best she could. When she finally arrived, the building was empty. She climbed the broken fencing like she had as a girl, removed the loose bricks that would give her access to the building, climbed the rickety access to the attic space and hauled the door open. 

Reggie, still looking a little worse for wear, was huddled in the corner.  

She ran to him to hug him.  

“Careful!” he gasped. “I’m still a little delicate.”  

“I heard what they did to you,” Tabitha replied. “Going to The Boss? What were you thinking?”  

“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” Reggie shrugged. “There’s a lot of our crew in there.” He referred to the Loyalists of City Main, glorified thugs dedicated to the Penn family. ‘Long live the king’ was their motto.  

He reached beside him and snatched up a box of Jolly Shopper Queen Corn cereal and threw it to her.  

“Here,” he said. “You must be starving.” 

Tabitha pulled the box open, scooped out a handful of cereal and scoffed it greedily.  

“We’re going to have to go easy on the water. I’ve only got the one bottle.” 

Tabitha lay herself on the floor next to him, resting her head delicately onto his chest. He kissed her head and his body relaxed a little. He sat a phone he had acquired in front of them and they passed the night watching March of Our Times soap opera reruns. Agnes would have no doubt received some kind of word from the Red Rebels that Tabitha was safe but CPD, Agents and Law Makers would be watching closely. Contact would have to wait until it was safe to do so. 

*** 

David had been on the main club floor when he heard a noise. There was some shouting out in Clifton Lane. The place made him uneasy already but he felt he always had to be on alert for shit going down. He had a part of Tawny’s club now, and it was his responsibility to protect the place and Tabitha.  

He knocked on the Boss Lady’s changing room door.  

“Yes?” she replied.  

“You decent?” David asked.  

“What is it, David?”  

David pushed the door open. There he found Tabitha. She had her long, lean leg raised on a chair. It would have made quite a seductive pose, if it weren’t for the fact that it was because she was trying to hack off her Law Maker tag from her ankle. 

“There’s some fuss going on outside,” the artist explained. “I think it’s Law Makers.” 

Tabitha gave up on her tag and clutched the knife. “If they think they’re coming in here again let’s go and say hello,” she said.  

“Tabs!” David followed after her.  

He was trying to warn her that coming at Law Makers with a knife was not going to do her any favours. When they got back to the main club floor, the shouting had gotten a little heavier.  

“What’s going on, man?” David wondered to himself.  

Before he could check the window Tabitha pulled him back. She turned him round and gave a glance over him for red marksman dots.  

On the bar, a tray had been knocked over. They were already inside.  

“What do you want, cunts?” Tabitha growled.  

The main lights cut off. The stage lights flashed on. Tabitha gripped her knife tighter.  

“They’re trying to shut us completely down,” she surmised.  

Music began to play. It was an old cabaret tune that always made Tabitha smile. It had been one which Vincent Baines had written with Tawny whilst they were in rehab.  

“Good evening folks, and welcome to The Knock Knock Club.”  

David and Tabitha were perplexed.  

“Put your hands together and welcome back on stage, the one, the only, the fabulous…”  

The curtains were thrown aside and strutting out as she had done many times before was… 

“Surprise!” Tawny cheered.  

“Aunt Tee!” Tabitha cried, dropping the knife and rushing on stage to the Baroness, leaping into her arms.  

“I missed you, Trouble,” Tawny said, showering Tabitha’s head with kisses.  

Tawny turned to David. He was speechless. The artist had been so taken aback at the sight of his friend he could only watch with tears falling down his face.  

“Awww, Davey,” Tawny cried, reaching her arm out. “Come here.”  

David rushed to her and the Baroness held them both close to her.  

“I thought you were a goner,” he sobbed.  

Tawny laughed. “I’m made of tougher stuff than that,” she said. “I’m a favourite of someone up there.” 

Later that evening, Agnes returned to the club. When she saw the looks on David and Tabitha’s faces, she knew something was up. She took a seat at the table and sat her designer handbag on top.  

“What’s with the grinning?” she asked. “Did I miss something.”  

She could hear footsteps behind her but before she could turn, a pair of hands clasped over her eyes.  

“Guess who?”  

Agnes didn’t have to guess. She knew the voice all so well. She knew the soft touch. She knew it all.  

“Tawn?” she cried.  

“That’s right!” Tawny cheered, removing her hands from her eyes.  

Agnes was on her feet. She threw her arms around the Baroness.  

“I can’t believe it!” she gasped.  

“You better believe it, honey,” Tawny teased. “It’s so good to see you again.”  

She squeezed Agnes tighter. She lifted her from her feet a little and kissed her. The both laughed heartily.  

David and Tabitha were still grinning. The Knock Knock Club was awash with merriment.  

*** 

“I never thought I’d be excited to see this place again,” Tawny jested as she and David walked arm in arm to the entrance of Harbour House.  

“I can’t wait to see the look on his face,” David grinned. 

The two had come along to the clinic in the hopes that they would catch Vincent Baines whilst he was there for a psych evaluation. They were hoping for something of a reunion before he was returned to his servitude.  

“I’m so excited,” Tawny cheered, feeling a little giddy.  

When they got to the reception the matron nurse, Beverly, was waiting. She had been manning the reception desk.  

“Hey Bev,” Tawny greeted warmly. “How are ye?”  

Beverly smiled but it looked a little subdued. She was probably overworked.  

“I’m good Tawn,” she replied. “It’s good to see you. We were all worried about you.”  

“Thanks,” Tawny returned with a smile. “We’re here to see music man. I hope we haven’t missed him. Any chance of five minutes?” 

Beverly stood. “Before you do anything, there’s someone I’d like you to talk to. Will you come with me?”  

“Sure,” said Tawny a little hesitantly.  

David was still excitedly contemplating their reunion so he hadn’t paid attention to the expressions of concern. Tawny took his arm again. She flashed him a warm smile and they followed Beverly to a small office. She knocked on the door and pushed her head in.  

“They’re here,” she said.  

To Tawny and David, she ushered, “Go on in.”  

Inside the office stood a kindly-faced man whose natural charm was managing to push through, despite the emotional toil time seemed to have taken on him.  

He reached out his hand and shook that of Tawny.  

“I’m John Reynolds,” he said. “I’ve heard so much about you.”  

He shook the hand of the artist too.  

“You’re the fella Simon mistook for a punch bag,” said Tawny. “I heard about it. I know he gets a little bit frustrated at times but he just thought he was protecting things. He’s a good boy really.”  

Reynolds smiled. “I don’t take it personally. We both did what we thought we had to do. That’s not why I asked to speak to you though.”  

“What’s this about?” asked David. “A friend of ours is going back to The Boss and we want to catch him before he does.”  

“Take a seat,” Reynolds urged gently.  

Tawny and David did so. Now David started to become a little nervous. “What is it, man?”  

“There’s no easy way to do this so I’ll just get down to the skinny. I’m afraid Vincent Baines is dead.”  

A silence dropped for a few moments. Reynolds let it lie.  

David shook his head. “No,” he said. “You’ve got it wrong, man. He was on his way back to The Boss. He was getting help here. You got the wrong guy.”  

“I’m afraid not,” said Reynolds.  

“You’re mixed up,” David insisted. “It’s someone else. Vincent’s still here. I’m sorry, man. They must be working you so hard you’re getting things confused.”  

“Davey,” Tawny soothed him. She took his hand in hers.  

“What happened?” she asked, as her heart began to thud in her chest.  

“He was murdered by one of the nurses here.”  

“Why?!” David demanded to know. The grief finally swept over him.  

“They’re treating it as a psychotic break on the nurse’s part. His father, who had been with him at the time, died too. Frederick Baines was found dead on scene with a severe shock reaction.”  

“This is not fucking right, man!” David had started to cry.  

Tawny pulled him closer to her. He rested his head on her shoulder.  

“I wanted to speak to you because I have reason to believe the father was the real target. You’re familiar with the Church of St Wigan, correct?” 

Tawny agreed, “I grew up with them on the bay.” 

“I know Vincent was adopted from the Wigan order as a boy. The nurse who carried out the attack had strong Wigan sympathies. They had written a lot about a ballet Frederick composed some time back which told a story of St Rowan and St Wigan. It was condemned by the church at the time as sacrilegious. Extremist following over the years has grown and I have reason to believe the attack was in response to this.”  

“Why wasn’t this all over the news?” Tawny asked. “Why are we just finding out?”  

Reynolds replied, “I’m a cult deprogrammer. That is my specialty. I’ve been focused on the Wigan church expanding its hold in the city. They are dangerous, radical and they’ve already caused a lot of destruction. There has been a press shield over most of the details but news is breaking now. I thought before it did, it may be best to hear it from me. The Daily has been spinning it that Reg Penn’s loyalists are the threat, but there is something much worse and it is already here. They’re preaching outside all of the major buildings and every ferry trip brings more of them onto the docks. I’ve done all I can to hold them back but I want you both to be aware.”  

“You don’t need to tell me, honey,” said Tawny. “They almost drowned me when I was younger trying to cleanse me.”  

“I’m so sorry about Vincent,” Reynolds said. “I’ll do all I can to get to the truth of the matter. I promise.”  

David sat up. “He had his problems,” he said of the musician. “He struggled every day but he was a good friend. He was there for us when no one else was…”  

Reynolds stood. “It’s a lot to take in. I’ll give you some space to deal. Take all the time you need.”  

*** 

I had just arrived as Tawny and David were leaving. They were both understandably upset. Beverly stopped them.  

“I have something you might want,” she said, reaching behind the reception desk and drawing out a pen drive. “It’s some of the recordings you made while you were here.”  

Tawny collected the drive with a smile.  

“Thanks, honey,” she said trying to keep her voice steady.  

I wanted to approach. I had begun believing there would never be the chance to meet the Baroness in person, but they had just been dealt a heavy blow and it wasn’t the time. David was struggling. He was clutching Tawny’s arm. His face had drained of all colour.  

“We have to go,” Tawny said to him, smoothing the bleached hair away from his face.  

She was the loving, caring person the stories told of. I could see why Tabitha was so close to her. I could see why Agnes loved her. She had stories to tell, but to impose my presence on them at that time would have been distasteful and disrespectful. For me, her stories could wait. There was someone though, who didn’t have such hang ups or consideration.  

“Hi, Tawny!” cried a thin, bony-faced woman with straight brown hair. She was wearing a peach skirt suit and matching neckerchief. She reached her scrawny claw with its long talons out. “Sandra Wake from the Coldford Daily. We had a chat just the other day when you returned home?”  

“Of course,” Tawny said, feeling a little flustered but still managing an accommodating smile.  

“Do you have any comments on the death of Vincent Baines?”  

“Woah, lady,” David growled.  

“Do you think he frightened the nurse? Do you think it could be self-defence?”  

“What the fuck?” David exclaimed.  

I couldn’t stand back any longer.  

“Hey!” I barked. “These people need some space. Can’t you see they are upset?”  

“Sam!” Sandra turned her plastic smile on me. “We’re missing you on the news floor.”  

“I’ll bet you are,” I replied sardonically.  

To Tawny, Sandra continued to press. “Did Vincent discuss his compulsions with you?”  

As she asked the question, she waved to her cameraman who raised his camera onto his shoulder, opened the lens and pointed it at Tawny. Tawny in turn frowned, but it was an expression of confusion rather than anger.  

I put my hand on the cameraman’s lens and pushed him back.  

“Sam, man…” David uttered a warning.  

Sandra grinned like a she-snake ready to strike her prey.  

“This is my story, Sam,” she said. “Why don’t you leave it to the real reporters with a real newspaper to write.”  

She adjusted her hair and neckerchief. She nodded to her cameraman and he raised his camera onto his shoulder again. I stepped in front of the lens.  

“Just let these people go. If they want to speak to you, I’m sure they’ll find you in whatever boggy hole you crawled out of.” 

Sandra still smiled but her nostrils flared a little.  

“You see, it takes a real reporter to want to get to the truth, as ugly as it may be. If you spent as much time reporting properly as you do decorating your little blog with pretty words, you would remember that.”  

“Truth!” I scoffed. “You really believe the drivel you spout is truthful? Which part of it? From what I read it’s all the work of fiction, terribly written fiction too I might add.”  

Sandra laughed a cold little laugh. “Terribly written? Those are bold words from the author of Marble Mantle.”  

“How dare you!” I snapped.  

“You know Mr Baines well. Our viewers would like to know more about the man behind the composer creep,” Sandra put to Tawny and David.  

“You’ve got it wrong,” David started to protest. “He was a good guy. He was just a bit confused.”  

“So confused he would kidnap a little boy and hold him for ten years?”  

“No!” David insisted. “You’ve got it wrong.”  

“So, he didn’t kidnap a little boy? Is that what you’re saying?”  

The cameraman moved around me to get a shot of David.  

“He was confused,” David said. “You didn’t know him or what he was going through.”  

“Your words are getting a little slurred Mr Finn,” said Sandra. “How are things with your drug addiction?”  

“David, don’t say another word. This interview is over,” I insisted, pushing the cameraman back once again. 

“He’s trying to steal my story,” Sandra laughed.  

“There’s no story here,” I told her. “You’re manipulating these people when they are dealing with grief. Vincent Baines was a real person and you will not feed on his corpse, you vulturous harpy.” 

I put my arm around David and led he and Tawny from Harbour House. Behind me Sandra had already began a story that made me seem like an interview thieving jackal. Her words weren’t particularly creative. Personally, I’ve heard better reporting from primary school projects.  

“No one is fooled, Sandra,” I could hear myself calling as we left.  

When we got outside Tawny and David were relieved.  

“So, you’re Sam,” Tawny said when she had gathered herself. “The reporter fella Tabby was seeing?”  

Seeing her to the inside her of her cage perhaps… 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” I said. “I’m sorry about Vincent,” I stated.  

“Thanks,” said Tawny with a sniff. “I’m still trying to process it.”  

“It’s best you go home,” I suggested. “Take care.”  

David nodded nervously. “You take care too, man.”  

He hugged me and the two returned to the Shanties. 

*** 

Back at the club, David put the pen drive into an old laptop and played the recordings.  

“Coming at you live from rehab,” was the opening from Tawny.  

“My voice always sounds funny recorded,” David could be heard speaking. “I bet I sound a real tool,” he jested.  

Tawny could be heard laughing.  

“Take it away, Maestro!” she cheered.  

“What should I play?” Vincent asked.  

“Something with a bit of bounce,” suggested the Baroness.  

The noise of a piano tinkled as Vincent ran his fingers along the keys.  

David and Tawny listened to the recording together. The Baroness held the artist in her arms. The tune that Vincent played offered hope and cheer. They had held onto it then as they had held onto each other listening later.  

“We don’t have much but we’ve at least got us,” Vincent sang.  

“And that’s a whole lot,” Tawny chimed in.  

The three laughed merrily when the tune ended.  

“Sounds good,” David could be heard assuring.  

“It still needs a little work,” Vincent was heard replying.  

“You’re too much of a perfectionist,” Tawny teased.  

Vincent could be heard chuckling.  

“It’s goodnight from me,” said Tawny.  

“And me,” David joined in jovially.  

“And it’s farewell for now from me,” Vincent added. “The Maestro is out.”  

He ran his fingers along the keys again. The recording closed.  

“Rest easy, man,” said David.  

*** 

*** 

“Thanks for letting me know,” Elizabeth Beckingridge said on a call to Reynolds. “I had a feeling something had gone wrong when I hadn’t heard from him. I’ll- I’ll have to go.”  

“If you need to talk just leave a message here. I’m heading over to Bellfield but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can,” Reynolds offered.  

“I’ve got to go…” said Elizabeth again. 

She rang the phone off abruptly. She raised her hands to her face. She took a deep inhalation and then she cleared her throat. She turned and she looked at her reflection in the mirror. She fixed a lock of her hair that had fallen across her face. She turned to the lounge.  

“George?” she called. “There’s something I need to tell you.”  

Her nephew was sat on the sofa in his shirt and underwear. He had Cecil sat on his stomach. The way he looked up at her, clutching the stuffed animal, his appearance was similar to the boy Vincent had met initially when he accepted George as his student. He looked every bit a deranged goblin then as he did these years later. He was mad. He was sick. There was one thing consistent in his life though, and that was his attachment to his old music teacher.  

“What?” George asked.  

The Beckingridge family had a strange living arrangement. Neither aunt nor nephew would leave the manor to live elsewhere. They were both stubborn, and I have to say Elizabeth could be just as manic as the billionaire boy when the right buttons were pushed. The manor was large enough to house them both comfortably. It was so expansive that should they choose to, they didn’t have to see each other. They just couldn’t resist getting under each other’s skin. Such are the mind games of the super wealthy.  

Elizabeth had no intentions of antagonising her nephew on this day. She was dealing with the news herself. The passing of Vincent was one of those rare sentiments she and George shared.  

“I’m afraid Vincent has died,” she said.  

George scowled at first. Then his lips tightened. He dropped his gaze and he clutched Cecil. He started to pick at the fur behind his ear.  

“How?” he asked.  

“He was murdered by a nurse,” Elizabeth explained.  

George hugged Cecil to his chest.  

“So, he’s dead? Mr Baines is dead?”  

“Yes George, dead. You should know what murder means. Are you not listening to me?”  

George’s scowl deepened. His lips pursed even tighter. “Mr Baines is dead!” he cried. 

Elizabeth nodded. “I’m afraid so.”  

“Someone murdered my teacher?!”  

“A nurse,” said Elizabeth. “They were a member of the Wigan church it seems, and didn’t like that his father had written a ballet about their damn saint.”  

“Cecil,” said George to the mouse. “They murdered Mr Baines. I’m so sorry Cecil.”  

Elizabeth watched him.  

“Are you going to be okay?” she asked.  

George hugged Cecil as though the stuffed animal were a weeping child. “It’s going to be okay.”  

“Is it?” Elizabeth asked. She honestly wasn’t sure.  

He raised the mouse to his ear as though it were whispering to him. To Elizabeth he said, “Cecil is angry.”  

Elizabeth folded her arms. “I can see why he would be.”  

George listened again. This time he made himself angry.  

“Mr Baines was my teacher!” he screeched. 

“George…” Elizabeth warned.  

“Get away from me!” he screamed throwing Cecil across the lounge and leaping onto his feet. 

“We really don’t need the extra dramatics,” said the aunt.  

George leapt forward and he snatched her by the neck. He squeezed hard with his long fingers. Elizabeth grabbed his left ear lobe and tugged firmly. George yelped, releasing his grip.  

“Mr Baines!” he cried. He lurched forward again but this time he fell into Elizabeth’s arms. 

“There, there,” said Elizabeth patting his back. Not really sure what else to say. “I know you’re upset, but grab me again George and you’ll join Vincent sooner than you think.”  

George sobbed snot and tears onto her shoulder. He squeezed her tighter. “I wish you would choke on one of your cigarettes.”  

“And I wish I had a normal nephew. That’s life. We don’t always get what we want.”  

George broke free of Elizabeth’s arms.  

“I miss him,” said George.  

“I know,” said Elizabeth.  

At that he stormed off to the music room where he and Vincent had first met.  

*** 

“The pure are the body of my church. Sinners, should they repent, will be welcomed. I will show them the way to paradise,” it was written that Noah Wigan had said.  

Finding one pure of heart or willing to repent in the Shady City was a tough ask – even for a Saint – but the ominous church on the bay was still seeking.  

The ferry to Hathfield landed ten minutes earlier than expected. It was a rain filled afternoon. Thick, heavy clouds hung in the darkening blue sky. A crowd of excited visitors wearing purple ribbons about their person were making their way along the promenade towards the ancient church on the dunes.  

Standing outside the church was a man in Wigan robes. His name was Peter Millicent. He was greeting the congregates warmly. He was shaking hands and offering well wishes as the visitors filtered inside.  

“Miserable day, father,” one older woman commented, removing her woollen hat to step inside.  

“It is that,” Peter agreed with a charming smile. “Not to worry though Mrs McConnell. I do believe the sunshine will break a little later.” 

As Mrs McConnell headed on inside to take her seat, Peter looked to me.  

“I don’t believe I’ve seen you before. Welcome to the Church of St Wigan.”  

I thanked him.  

Peter was the legal mind behind the order. His prowess in fighting for the rights of his church had played a huge part in building the reach they had. My focus wasn’t on Peter though. He was a reasonable man all things considered. He had a reputation for being quite a gifted mediator. I wasn’t needing a mediator. To get a better idea of the church, I wanted to wander among them and feel the raw emotion that was tearing through the city.  

Inside the church was standing room only and even that was limited. The pews were filled, the aisles were filled too leaving a small parting that led to the altar. There was the usual older sect you would expect to find in a church but I noted that there were a lot of younger attendants too. Most of them had come from the commune dressed in sombre, modest clothes. Their excitement was palpable. Their eyes were wide and pupils dilated. They were high on heether mushrooms, a hallucinogenic drug found naturally on the island. As they awaited the arrival of the man considered the living word of their beloved saint, the exhilaration was infectious.  

Ding ding. Ding ding.  

The congregation rose to their feet. A monk, also dressed in robes, with a hood pulled over his head carried an iron Wigan cross through. His name was Bart, named after the church’s patron saint of carriers. Bartholemew the Carrier had brought Wigan’s cross ashore as he set to convert the islanders. He had also carried St Michael the Punisher’s sword when he set to cleanse the city.  

Bart was an interesting figure but what my attention was most focused on was the man who followed closely behind him to the altar. The congregates gazed upon him with reverence like nothing I’ve ever seen.  

“Brothers and sisters,” His Eminence Dominick Cole called as he stepped onto his platform to face his followers. They remained standing in their eagerness. “It warms me to see so many of ye here today. So many new faces.” His wild, dark eyes scanned the crowd. They focused on me for a few moments, then he continued. He opened his arms to his followers and he smiled. He really was quite engaging.  

“I am so blessed that I’m able to stand before ye. I’m blessed that you would be so strong in our faith that you would come out here on such a miserable day to listen to the words of this humble man.”  

“Praise Wigan!” the congregates cheered like fanatics at a concert.  

Dominick took a few moments to absorb the admiration.  

“It’s good to welcome you but we’ve not had it easy of late,” he went on. His voice was strong in the Hathfield Bay accent which gave him a natural bounce to his tones that was quite musical.  

“We’ve had brothers falling from the sky above and I ask ye, what am I to make of that?” he paused to let his words absorb. “I’ll tell ye what I’ll make of that. The city is frightened, my brothers and sisters. They are lashing out with murderous intent. They think that it will stop us bringing our message. All the Law Makers and their rules couldn’t stop it. All the corruption in the city and their heretical ways couldn’t stop it. That message is simple.”  

I jerked as the congregates roared with chorus of, “You cannot be saved!”  

“You’re right,” Dominick responded, even more vigour gathering in his speech now. “You cannot be saved. Not your mother, not your children, not any of us. But fear not, for St Wigan is willing to accept you into his arms. He is willing to accept even the worst. All he asks of us is that we repent.”  

“Praise Wigan!”  

“Repent!” Dominick cried as he crossed his aisle. “And you may yet reach paradise.” He scanned his crowd again. “They tell us we’re disturbing the peace? Their peace should be disturbed, they’re all bound for Hell.”  

“They cannot be saved!” 

The sermon continued. Dominick Cole held his audience captive. They were enraptured by his words. I myself felt swept up by his impassioned speech. When the service had ended, I pushed through his adoring followers before they had the chance to swamp him.  

“Dominick!” I cried. “Dominick?” I finally caught his attention outside the church.  

“Sam Crusow,” I introduced. Bart had stepped in front of him.  

“Did you call for the death of Vincent Baines?” I asked.  

Dominick gave a scowl at first but then he smiled. “I have no idea what you’re talking about brother.”  

“Frederick Baines wrote a ballet piece on Noah Wigan. Don’t you think it’s a little hypocritical that your church is fighting for free speech when the great composer was hounded by your followers because of a piece of music? Did you see the piece yourself?”  

“I don’t get to the ballet as often as I’d like,” said Dominick in response.  

“Did you call for the death of the great composer and his son?” I asked again.  

Dominick laughed. “I’m a holy man,” he stated. “If someone has died it must have been Wigan’s will.”  

It was then Peter Millicent took over.  

“Are you press?” he asked.  

“Not exactly,” I explained. “I’m working independently.”  

“Yes, I know who you are,” said Peter. “You’re the blogger that was let go from the Daily.” 

“You owe an explanation to the Baines family and the friends left behind,” I continued to press Dominick.  

“Sam, did ye say yer name was?” Dominick returned to me. “I think ye’re needing to find some peace in yer life. You’re most welcome to pray with me and we’ll find that peace together.” 

“I’m an atheist,” I said to him.  

Dominick grinned. “That explains why you’re so uptight. Have some faith and you’ll see it will change your life. Let St Wigan show ye.”  

He reached out and grabbed my shoulder. I thought he was going to hit me at first but then he smiled.  

“Watch yer step there Sam,” he warned. Then he looked over my shoulder. “Those steps can be quite slippery.”  

Let Wigan into your life. Let a religious cult into the Shady City. Either way, dear readers, damnation was on the cards.  

Trauma, obsession and addiction are just some of the ailments that are being treated with rehab at Harbour House.

When a ballet depicting the love of St Wigan for a woman named Rowan the cultish church aren’t best pleased. What can the city expect when the church was built on the bones of non believers.

Building Bridges: Fullerton Construction

“We are Filton!”

Location: FILTON

Features in: KNOCK KNOCK  ; HARBOUR HOUSE ; MUSE ; PURPLE RIBBON

The biggest names in construction in the Shady City the Fullerton family firmly established themselves as the premier provider of construction and demolition services. With the monumental Fullerton bridge to their names no one can argue their reputation for knowing how to build sound structures. They are also responsible for the building of other notable buildings in Coldford such as the Faulds Park Building, the WEIR HOTEL and the BECKINGRIDGE TOWER.

A large family the Fullertons are known to have their fingers in a lot of different pies around the city. Brothers Jake and Caleb head the construction contracts, whilst their sister Jenna makes her name in the adult film industry. Until recently matriarch grandma, Lynette Fullerton sat the top of the family table but unfortunately she was one of the fallen 59 in the event known as the FREE FALL MASSACRE.

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Lynette Fullerton provides some tough negotiations for the Beckingridge Financial Firm.

They are an old money family from the wealthy town of Filton. Keen to show pride in their town they have ownership of one of the University teams. They aim of which is to build bridges between the two main institutions of higher learning in the city.

The construction empire currently in the hands of Jenna Fullerton

Whether it is tearing it apart or building it back up, Fullerton Construction are on hand in the Shady City.

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Lost Souls

A cult is quite often a religion with unorthodox practices. In a world where the court of public opinion is one which holds the most esteem, being swept up in cult like waves becomes easier and easier. When asked why someone would join a cult the most likely answer is that they can find something there that they can’t find anywhere else. Affection, acceptance, understanding, or a mixture of all those things. It isn’t always some sinister group hidden out of the way of civilised society. You can see it in the chanting of songs at football matches. It can be seen in a crowd of teenagers wearing the latest trends. It can be the way we are hooked to social media. 

For the moment allow me to examine the idea of cults in their most natural form. With the help of cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds, I was offered an insight into the depths of these cult groups. Before this interview I would have dismissed the cult idea as foolish people being brain washed. Reynolds helped me understand it better and it was more than that. It was more about a power struggle rather than brain wash. I am reporter, Sam Crusow, and I invite you to join me as we step inside the cults of Coldford. 

***

As I sat in my usual booth at Bobby’s lunchbox looking across to John Reynolds the first thing that became apparent to me was the brightness in his persona. When I had been told I would be meeting with a cult deprogrammer I must admit my mind went to a stereotypical assumption. I expected a brooding character. I expected a troubled soul. When he bounded into Bobby’s Lunchbox with a cheery, “I’m super stoked for the interview, Sam,” my presumptions were completely off. 

We took a seat and I began to record. 

“For legal reasons I understand that most of your cases are classified,” I began. “I’m not looking to press you. I don’t want to put anyone in a difficult position but I would love to hear your insight.” 

Reynolds smiled. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I guess it’s about time I talked about it. Get a load off, you know?” 

I nodded. “I am agreed that nothing will go to print without your say so so feel free to talk openly. Consider this entire thing off the record.” 

“What do you want to know?” Reynolds asked. 

“Why don’t you start with some of the cases that shaped who you are.” 

“Funny you should ask,” he said. “The first one that comes to mind, you reported on.” 

John took a sip of his water. Although he seemed calm I could see a little tension shake him just below his skin. Giving account of some of his experiences seemed to be taking a toll on him. I pushed stop on the recorder. 

“We can take five, if you like,” I asked. “This is your story to tell. It’s up to you how you wish to tell it or how far you want to go.”

I was going to remind him that his story deserved to be told as a way of urging him to open up but it seemed I didn’t need to. He had already decided that for himself. 

“No,” he said. “It’s fine. I’ll go on.”

I pushed recorded again. 

“You may remember a gnarly story In the Express some time back. It was about a girl named Eileen in her late teens. She had found herself in trouble. She was pregnant by her step father. Her mother was a drug user who accused her of seducing him. She was only a young girl and the step father was a real shitty dude,” John explained.

It was a typical tale of abuse, if you find yourself desensitised to such things. 

Eileen was forced to leave. She didn’t have enough money to buy a plane ticket. She didn’t have enough money to pay for a hotel room for the foreseeable future. She found herself on the docks of Swantin. A lot of unfortunate souls found themselves there. Their bodies were the last marketable product they had at their disposal so it stood as the best chance of survival. She had been real close to a small vessel called the ‘Lily Ann’. It was no ordinary boat. It was a floating brothel. She had been almost been at the point of climbing on board when she heard the ferry man calling,

“The 6:15 Hathfield Bay! All about the 6:15 to Hathfield Bay.”

Eileen approached the man.

“Excuse me, sir,” she interrupted. “How much for a ticket to the island?” 

The Harbour Master eyed her suspiciously. She had no bag with her, the leather of her shoes was bursting and she had a look in her eyes that suggested she would be drugged and whored before the night was out.

“I have been kicked out of my home and I have nowhere to go,” she went on to explain.

He passed her a ticket. 

“I’ll let you on,” he said. “You look like you need a break and I’d be honoured to be the one to give you that chance.” 

Eileen looked at her ticket. 

FERRY WAY LINE.

CHAMBERLAIN DOCKS, COLDFORD – HATHFIELD BAY ISLAND: ROYCE PORT.

She could see the Royal Chamberlain crest on the side. 

“Why are you doing this for me?” She asked. She wasn’t much used to generosity or kindness from strangers. 

“I said you look like you need a break. The Wigan commune is over there. If you go to them they will give you shelter. They’ll look after you. They don’t have much but they are welcoming.” 

Eileen had taken note of the Wigan pin the man displayed proudly, now it held a lot more interest. 

“Thank you,” she said. 

“Wigan bless you,” was his response. 

She had heard of the Church of St Wigan. She didn’t personally know any members but if they could offer her some shelter and sanctuary it was her best bet.  Better off in the hands of a religious commune than a brothel, right? Perhaps. 

***

The travel across the sea was freeing. The waves that lashed against the side of the ferry liner were like her problems being washed away. By the time she arrived on the island she was smiling again. Although the thin rain had soaked the clothes she arrived in. When she reached the entrance of the commune she was feeling a little feverish. Pulled the purple tasseled bell. She could hear the deep knelling ring. Before long she was a greeted by a woman not much older than herself. 

“I have nowhere to go,” Eileen said. “Please can you help me? I’m pregnant. I’m with child.” 

The girl looked at her blankly at first. Then she smiled. It brightened her freckled face. Her smile was natural and soft. Her hair was long and tangled. She had purple ribbons tied into her braid. 

“Wigan embraces all,” she said in response. Her island accent bouncy and warm. “What’s yer name?” 

“Eileen,” the young woman said. 

The Wigan girl introduced herself. “My name is River. Come in and rest. You are safe now.” 

Eileen entered the commune and the door closed behind her. 

***

The first days in the commune were quite pleasant actually. Eileen had no regrets in accepting the Harbour Master’s passage. She had been given clothes. They were real basic but they were warm and comfortable. They even had some elderly women check on her baby. They gave her a lot of old wives tales about the tell tale signs of it being a girl that she carried but they seemed to know what they was doing and according to them the baby was healthy and its heart was beating strong. The real world seemed so far away. Wandering onto the bay at the rear of the commune where she could hear nothing but the waves was her most favourite activity. On this particular day I now detail she had looked up at the sky first. The clouds were thick and grey. The rain wasn’t far off. There was a man sat on the sand, looking out onto the sea. He had drawn his knees up to his chest and was embracing his surroundings like he was seeing them all for the first time. He turned when he heard her. 

“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” she apologised. 

The man smiled. He had an engaging stare. She could feel herself smiling too. There was some white in his dark hair, despite his youth, just a streak. He reached his arm out beside him. 

“Ye might as well sit with me,” he said. “It would be nice to have the company.” 

Eileen took a seat, delicately at his side. He kept his attention focused out onto the sea. 

“So you must be the city dweller they call Eileen.” 

Eileen agreed. “Yes, that’s me. I came for sanctuary and I have been given that. I will always be grateful.” 

The man nodded. “That’s good to know. I’m glad.” 

“Have you been here long?” She asked him. 

The man chuckled. “My whole life,” he said. 

Eileen was fascinated. “It must have been quite different from the city.”

“They say not much could go on on a little island but you’d be surprised. You really would,” he explained. 

“My life was shit over in the city. My mum was a drunk. My step dad forced himself on me. The baby I carry is his. My mum blamed me and the Harbour Master took pity on me. Now I’m here.”

The man turned to her. “Fear not,” he said. “You’re safe here. We are like a big family. We’d love for you to be part of our family.” 

“I’m not really a religious person,” Eileen was ashamed to admit. She felt ungrateful given how accepting they had been of her, no questions asked. 

“Maybe now’s the time to start,” the man suggested. “Ye can find out quite a bit about yerself.” 

Eileen made a vow to try. She really did want to show how appreciative she was.

“What’s your name?” She asked. 

“Dominick,” the man returned. 

“Your Eminence!?” Came a cry from the commune. There was a monk standing by the entrance in robes. 

Dominick looked back. He nodded to the monk who went back inside. 

“Your Eminence?” Eileen questioned. 

Dominick stood. He reached his hand out and helped her onto her feet. 

“I’ve been blessed with the leadership of our church,” he explained. “We always welcome new members.” 

Eileen took a vow that very day. She vowed to learn what she could about her new family. Before the baby was born she took a bonafide vow. 

***

Reynolds had been based in City Main at the time. He was working out of the offices of CPD. He had been brought onboard when the Office of Law Makers brought their attention to the rise in missing person’s cases in the Coldford. Reynold’s specialty was people who weren’t necessarily missing. They just didn’t want to come home. 

It had taken a few months before Eileen’s mother began to show concern. The deadbeat step father had done the same thing with a neighbour so she threw his ass to the kerb and decided she wanted to reconnect with her daughter. A hand written letter had come to the mother with the stamp of the bay. In this letter it told of Eileen’s indoctrination so far. She was pleased to be where she was. She was turning her hand to all kinds of positive things. She was embracing a religion and it was bringing out the best in her.  What she made abundantly clear was the fact that she had absolutely no intentions of coming home sans step father or not. That ship had sailed and it had sailed off to Hathfield Bay carrying Eileen’s mother’s only daughter with it. 

Eileen’s mother, whom records had named as Lorna P, made an appointment with our investigator. 

“I want my daughter back,” she had plead. 

She was preaching to the converted in this scenario because Reynolds wanted the girl back too. The issue was as he looked at her she looked real spaced out. She said she had given up the drinking but she had been rad with it very recently. All the signs were there. Her bulbous nose was red with burst vessels. Her breath was putrid. She had made an effort to dress herself but the clothes had a smell of dampness about them. If this girl was to come back, what exactly would she be coming back to? For better? For worse? It wasn’t Reynolds’ decision to make but he had to make sure she understood. 

“I will do what I can to bring her back but you gotta level with me. Are you going to be there for her.” 

Lorna scowled. She looked as though she was about to give the usual, ‘are you telling me what to do with my own kid?’ speech but she retracted her statement before it was aired. She knew she had treated her daughter like shit. She should have stood by her daughter. She would be heavily pregnant by now if she hadn’t lost the child. The letter never mentioned either way. 

“I want to do better. I want to put the past behind us,” was her claim. “I got a job. I’m cleaning at the Lunch Box.”

Reynolds leaned back in his chair. 

“It could get real rad,” he warned. “You need to be ready for that. If she does come back you need to be there for her. The process could take a long time.”

Lorna P nodded. “I’m ready for that,” she assured. 

Rule number 88 of a Cult Deprogrammer: First contact with the lost soul could make or break a case. That first contact had to be made.

***

The meeting had been set for four pm. The location was Bobby’s Lunch Box. With Reynolds’ consultation Lorna P had composed a letter of apology to Eileen. She wished her well. She was not to ask her to come home. She was not to make any demands of her. All the letter was to do was to let her know that the mother was open to meeting should the daughter accept invitation. No mention was to be made of the baby. 

In response to this letter Eileen accepted the invitation. She too said nothing of the baby.

Lorna P was keeping an eye out for her daughter. The young woman who had come in her place was not her daughter, at least in everything but the physical sense.  She looked nothing like the way she had when she left. She had let her hair grow long. She wore a long, grey dress made from thick fabric. It spilled over her ankles. She had a purple ribbon tied around her neck and a Wigan pin on her breast. 

“Who are you?” She asked Reynolds at first. 

“I’m pleased to meet you, Eileen,” he said. “I’m John Reynolds. I was asked along by your mum. I was hoping we could have a chat.”

Eileen eyed him suspiciously but she took a seat at the diner booth. 

“I don’t go by Eileen anymore,” she said. “I shed my city dweller name. They call me Heather now.” 

“Heather?” Asked the mother. “Why Heather?” 

Reynolds had encouraged her to ask questions as long as they weren’t asked in a challenging tone. 

“It’s my favourite plant. You would know that if you knew anything about me,” the girl responded. 

“We’re just here because we’re wanting to reconnect,” said Reynolds. 

Heather, formally known as Eileen, scowled at him. She turned back to her mother. 

“Been off the booze?” She asked her. “For how long this time?”

“For good,” she said. “I promise.” 

Reynolds directed the conversation. “We’re stoked that you came,” he said. “There’s no pressure on you. Your mum told me about your letter. You seemed really thrilled over on the island.” 

“I am,” said Heather ney Eileen. She was beginning to wonder who this John Reynolds was. Why would he be associated with her mum? Surely he wasn’t a boyfriend. Although he looked like he was a bit of a boozer too so maybe that was how they were connected. Was he her sponsor?

“When you left you were pregnant,” said Reynolds. “Would you like to share what happened? Are you well?” 

Eileen started to soften a little. No, not Eileen, her name was Heather now. 

“I had a little girl. I named her Ivy.” 

“Pretty name,” said Reynolds. “Your mum is glad to be a grandmother.” 

“She couldn’t be a mother. What chance does she have of being a grandmother? Did she tell you who fucking knocked me up?”

“Wigan opens his arms to the sinners. You cannot be saved. Your baby cannot be saved. Your ma most definitely cannot be saved,” Dominick had said to her. 

“I want to try, Eileen,” said Lorna P. 

“My name is not Eileen! It’s Heather.” The girl shrieked. “I am a child of Wigan and he accepts me for all of my sins. You cast me out and he found me.” 

Lorna P made to say something but Reynolds stopped her. 

“So you took the oath,” he said with a casual calmness that eased the tension. “Who was your sponsor?”

Eileen was quite taken aback by Reynolds’ knowledge of it. Wait. No. Her name was Heather. She was Heather and she was a daughter of Wigan, not some drunk who let her step dad impregnate her. 

“You’re a Wigan?” She asked. He had no tell tale signs. He had no pin. His mannerisms were far too mellow for someone who had taken the oath. 

“I’m not,” Reynolds replied. “I am familiar with them though. Have you been to McIvor’s Ice Cream parlour over on the bay yet?” 

“I have,” she admitted. “I go there quite often.” 

“Do you have a favourite flavour?” He asked. 

“Strawberry,” she replied. 

“She always loved strawberry,” said Lorna P with some measure of pride. 

“Some days it was all you gave me to eat,” responded the daughter. 

“Family is more than blood. We are bound here stronger than any mother and child, any father and son, any brother and sister. We are the family of Wigan and we’re all here for each other,” said His Eminence. 

It was the family that Heather needed. When she took the oath she felt complete. It was fate that the Harbour Master gave her that ticket. It was fate that she fell in love with His Eminence. 

“The weather over there can be a little temperamental,” Reynolds said matter of factly. 

Heather smiled. “These clothes keep me dry. These clothes keep me warm.” 

The commune keeps you safe. The commune keeps you fed.

“I’m going to call you Eileen,” said Reynolds. “It’s not to upset you. If you have shed that name then that is your decision but your mum wants some closure before you return to the commune and it’s the name she recognises. It could be her chance to shed it too if it is what you really want.”

Lorna looked to Reynolds with some surprise. They hadn’t discussed the possibility of her never returning. That wasn’t part of the deal. She kept her mouth shut though. Reynolds seemed to have a handle on the situation. 

“I have nothing left to say,” she said. “You can call me what you like. I know what my name is.” 

LET THEM BE CONSUMED BY FIRE! 

Coming back the city was not going to be easy. She had seen way too much. Her life had changed. 

“If could just sit and maybe hear what your mum wants to say?” Reynolds urged. 

Heather, no Eileen, was held in her place. 

The smell of the burning flesh was stomach churning. At least it was at first. 

Dominick had been screaming, “you cannot be saved!” 

He was crazed but in that moment but as she watched him she could only think of how passionate he was and how much he loved his Wigan family. He was leading them into a future with furious fire. She had been so swept up she helped with the torches. The city dwellers screamed in pain but their cries for mercy were drowned out as the congregates began to sing. 

‘Eileen. I’m going to call you Eileen. That is your name. You are not Heather. Heather was a bayside lunatic who watched four city dwellers burn. Heather gave birth to a little girl named Ivy. Heather danced with the strangely named River, Autumn and April whilst Ivy was blessed into the Wigan faith. Eileen was still on the docks contemplating becoming a prostitute. 

You cannot be saved Eileen. 

“Yes you can,” John Reynolds reminded her. 

***

I pondered the question first before I voiced it.

“Did she come home?” 

“It was one of those deals where you gotta count your blessings,” Reynolds said. “She was coming home. She had gotten as far as a little fishing boat she planned on rowing herself all the way over from the bay. She had Ivy with her.” 

“Then what happened?” I asked.

“She disappeared.” 

“Did she return to the commune?” I questioned. 

“I don’t think so. She had made the resolve to leave. Rule number 36 of a cult deprogrammer: when the victim attempts to leave, the cult will use any force necessary to keep them.” 

The truth of the matter was the little fishing boat had been found, beached just a little while along the coast. The blanket she had wrapped Ivy in was discarded, wet and sandy. Ivy was carried by River back to the commune. The seasons changed and the little girl grew beyond infancy. She didn’t know her mother. She didn’t know Heather. She most definitely would never have recognised Eileen. The Wigan life was what she came to know. Praise Wigan! 

***

Discussing this case gave me a lot of food for thought. We can all find ourselves swept up in an ideology. It’s like an unstoppable force which in the hands of those who wield it well can be destructive. It takes people like John Reynolds to combat that kind of thinking. As he would say, ‘you can be saved. You can succeed. You can come back.’ 

How far must someone fall though before they are merely a sandy, soggy blanket on a discarded boat? Or a victim of a complete stranger’s anger? 

John Reynolds will keep fighting on though until everything is groovy again. 

Knock Knock: Episode 33: Bull in a China Shop

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

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

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

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

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

“Come in. She’ll be home soon.”  

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

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

*** 

“Well, I’ll be a son a bitch!”  

Nathan tried to run. He struggled with the door but George had wrapped his arm around his neck. Nathan threw his arm back and caught George’s face. He tried to struggle but the bros overpowered him.  

Bound to the fence Nathan screamed. George’s nose wrinkled as the screech irritated his ears. Buddy shook his own head.  

“I ain’t even started yet, brah.”  

Nathan pleaded. “Julia would not approve. She would have none of this. Just let me go. I won’t come back.”  

Chad handed Buddy a cannister of gasoline used for the farm equipment. He splashed it on Nathan.  

“You coked up my little mascot, didn’t ya?” Buddy asked.  

“Yes,” Nathan admitted. “It was me.”  

Buddy growled, “You could have killed her. You’re a sicko.” He splashed more gasoline on him. “You almost got me my ass kicked and you had powda’ here all along?” Buddy started to become quite upset. “You’re a real piece of work, brah! I’ve seen some real sick shit in my time but you are something else. You see this guy?” Here he indicated George. “This guy wants to eat your face off but he still ain’t as sick as you.”  

“I’m sorry,” Nathan begged. “Please don’t do this.”  

“Maaaaah!” Gary the goat cried from his pen.  

“This is none of your God damned business Gary,” Buddy warned the goat.  

WHAM!  

“See?” Buddy said to Nathan. “I’ve been learning about these animals and that goat says you’re a dickhead.”  

“Maah!”  

WHAM! 

“I told him, Gary,” Buddy replied. Buddy calmed himself. “Nathan,” he said, “you messed with the wrong bro, brah. I got a ton of shit in my tank right now. For pissing me off you’re gonna sizzle right here on this fence.”  

Nathan cried. A wet stain spread across his crotch.  

“God damnit!” Buddy exclaimed. “He’s gone and pissed himself. Is piss flammable because I really wanted his balls to burn.”  

“No, it’s not,” George explained like quite the expert. “I pissed on my aunt’s cat once and she wouldn’t go on fire.” 

Cooper folded his arms and raised his eyebrows. Chad seemed to be picturing it. Buddy’s lips pursed at the image of a cat running away as felines do, soaked in urine. Buddy must have found this amusing because he started to laugh. The image of George chasing after it still trying to piss on it made him laugh even harder.  

“You see, Nathan? You see the kind of maniacs you’re dealing with here? I know he’s a bit touched but my bro here told you to stay away. You should have listened.”  

“Maaaah!”  

“Not now, Gary.”  

WHAM! 

Buddy’s phone started to jingle. He had no choice but answer.  

“Yeah?” he asked. “Kinda in the middle of something here, brah.”  

“It’s the crime scene, mucker,” came the voice on the other end. “Agents are investigating it.”  

Buddy had been such a bad boy lately he found himself having to ask.  

“Which crime scene?”  

“The shooting. The little girl and her deadbeat dad. It ain’t CPD who are looking. It’s the agents. This is a whole new breed of shit to deal with but we’re doing what we can to keep it clean.”  

Buddy groaned. “Dick down my throat!”  

He rang off. 

Impatient and eager to hear Nathan’s screams George threw the lighter that had belonged to his father and flicked it onto Nathan.  

“I didn’t say so yet,” Buddy complained. “I had a whole speech prepared and everything.”  

George lowered his head. “Sorry, Buddy.”  

Woooosh! The flames erupted, causing the bros to leap back. Buddy had been so enthused he hadn’t been paying much attention to how much petrol he was throwing.  

“Maaaah!”  

WHAM! 

Gary the goat was distressed. Nathan’s screams as he burned shattered the generally calm ambience of Harvester Farm. There was another cry but it wasn’t from the goat. It was the roar of the bull. Gordon wasn’t liking that fuss the bros were causing on his fields. The flames tore along the fence of Gary’s enclosure.  

“Shit!” Buddy exclaimed. “Get water before the whole place goes. Smells like barbeque.”  

“Are we going to eat him?” asked George. Buddy frowned. He turned slowly to Brother Beckingridge. “You got some real problems, brah.”  

Nathan’s screams softened. All pain and power dissolved from them when he gave himself to his end.  

Crack. The fencing broke. The panels holding Nathan were charred and weakened.  

They managed to douse the flames and pull Nathan’s body onto the field but the fencing was ruined.  

“Maaaah!” Gary ran at Chad, catching him in the crotch.  

“Catch that goat!” Buddy yelled.  

George leapt at Gary almost catching him by his hind leg. Gary turned, bit him and escaped, running towards the east acre.  

“God damnit! We gotta fix that fence. Chad? Coops? Find wood.”  

Before the sniggers could start, he said, “Not now, brah. George? Catch that damn goat. We’ve got an hour before Julia gets back. We gotta clear this mess.”  

“We’ll put him in the incinerator,” Chad offered.  

“Are you trying to get funny, brah? We already cooked him.”  

“It’s how Julia gets rid of the bodies – dead cows and shit.”  

Buddy gave a dreamy sigh. “That girl just makes me wanna…” 

Before chasing after Gary, George asked, “Can I keep a bit of him for my collection?”  

Buddy tousled his hair “Of course you can, brah. Go get the goat first.”  

Gordon snorted over his fence.  

‘I don’t like the way that bull keeps looking at me,’ he thought.  

As his bros rushed to bring the farm back into order he looked down at the body of Nathan. There was still a little life left in him. His mouth opened and closed, chomping his last, like a fish out of water. Buddy could have shot him and ended it for him then but he was in no mood for mercy. 

*** 

Buddy had returned to Owen Estate.  That morning he had received a call.  

“Just been down to the shooting site in the Shanties to get it cleared up.”  

Buddy sat forward. His head was pounding and his mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton wool.  

“Yeah? So?”  

“It’s already been cleared. The agents must have been there. Are you sure you left a milk bottle?”  

Buddy thought hard. “I did,” he said. “I had been watching for Kev for so fucking long I got thirsty, brah. I was still a little wasted.” 

CPD had always been looking for the shot from the left. The fake nest gave them everything they thought they needed. The trouble was now the agents were tailing Buddy. Big bro Billy couldn’t protect him from that.  

Buddy leaned forward.  

“This is a real shit show,” Buddy said to Cooper and Chad.  

‘Take the little girl out first. Kev gonna learn a God damn lesson,’ Buddy could still hear his instructions.  

Buddy had been so high. He could barely remember pulling the trigger.  

*** 

Lydia arrived waving an envelope excitedly.  

“It’s in,” she said. 

Lydia and Kim had sampled the bottle that had been collected from the shooting site. Blonde hair from Buddy Owen had been extracted from him.  

“This is it,” Kim said. “It’s sketchy at best pet, but it will at least let us bring him in for a closer look.”  

Lydia passed the letter to Kim. She watched her expression as she read.  

“This isn’t it,” she growled. “It says it’s not a match. I was so sure of it. My instincts were crying out!” 

“Maybe the hair wasn’t Buddy’s,” Lydia suggested.  

The hair sample they got had come from my coat, attached from the time I confronted him in main.  

DNA could have put him at the scene of the crime at least. As Kim said though, it was sketchy at best. A good lawyer like Ronnie defending his nephew would have found it easy to convince the judge to throw it out. It was a start though. No match it said. 

“We can’t bring him in with nothing to show for it. Doyle won’t go for that.” 

Lydia suggested, “Then I’m going to speak to him.”  

“Then tread carefully,” Kim warned.  

Word had it that he was on Harvester Farm. If she was going to be able to corner him it would have to be done whilst he was there.  

***

The alarms were screaming. Tawny grimaced with the noise as Cooper rushed around trying to switch them off. There were only seconds before CPD were alerted.  

“Hurry, Coops!” Buddy was calling. “The last thing we need is Billy down here.”  

415 – 29 – 4 – 11 – 12  

Cooper desperately punched the buttons. He managed to deactivate.  

“I want to speak to your Pa,” said Tawny as though she were telling off a neighbourhood child for running in the yard. She glared as though they were in a lot of trouble.  

Buddy was in a lot of trouble. A man hunt was now on for the Baroness, funded by Elizabeth Beckingridge.  

“You don’t know who I am lady,” said Buddy petulantly.  

Tawny pursed her lips. “Owen,” she said. “Obviously.”  

Buddy groaned. The Owens did tend to have a strong familial resemblance but that wasn’t what had caught Tawny’s attention.  

“It’s on yer back, honey. Your jackets…” She pointed to Coops. “Cooper. I’m assuming Marshall Cooper’s son.” She pointed to Chad. “Perry. Do your family own the zoo? That’s a nice zoo.”  

“Shut up, bitch,” Buddy warned. He was still trying to figure out what the Hell he was going to do.  

“Let me talk to yer dad.”  

“No way in Hell. Just shut your mouth. I’m a dangerous guy,” he said.  

Chad was nodding in fervent agreement. He pointed to Buddy. 

“You don’t wanna be messing with my bro, brah!” he warned.  

“Thanks, Chad,” said Buddy.  

“Got your back, brah.”  

Tawny shook her head. It seemed the plan of the frat boys had been so quick to action they hadn’t fully thought out their process. They had just gone along with it. This is no surprise when we’re dealing with three individuals who had spent a lifetime avoiding consequences.  

“Hide her away. I need time to think. I need powder,” Buddy decided.  

Coops looked a little fidgety. He was anxious. He very much needed some powder too.  

“Drugs aren’t the answer,” said Tawny.  

Buddy frowned. “Will you shut up or I’m gonna gag ya.” He glared at Tawny and then started to laugh. To Cooper he said. “We should totally put an apple in her mouth!”  

Tawny pouted. Cooper’s phone began to ring.  

“It’s my dad, brah,” he said.  

“Chad, put her away somewhere. I can’t think straight. Coops, try and find out where Marsh keeps the rest of his stash.”  

Chad gripped Tawny’s arm and led her to the secure storage cupboard.  

“So, Chad is it?” Tawny asked. “You know I had a close friend called Arthur. He knew a Chad. Or was it Brad?”  

Chad became alarmed. Arthur was a crossdressing performer who used to stop by the Knock Knock from time to time. The nature of Chad’s relationship with him I’ll leave open for interpretation, dear readers, but it did cause Chad to tighten the grip on Tawny’s arm and push her into the storage with a lot of intent.  

The door was closed. Tawny took a deep breath. She dropped to a seat on the floor.  

*** 

Lydia stopped in Bournton to have coffee with her sister, Cynthia, en route to Harvester Farm. Agent Lydia Lowe had wanted to wait until close to sun down when the farm hands had left and she would stand a better chance of finding Buddy. Cynthia had been telling her all about their father’s new hobby of watercolours. She showed her sister his first attempts as photos on her phone. Some time with Cynthia had been a breath of fresh air. It gave her a moment to compose herself before venturing on her task to corner Buddy.  

Refreshed, she felt ready as she passed the sign to Harvester Farm. She slowed her bike as much as she could so as not to disturb the animals too much. There was one farm hand lingering on the field. He had parked a Harvester van by the paddock of the stud herd.  

Curtis had been too busy in his own mind mumbling to himself. He hadn’t heard Lydia approach.  

“Whoah!” he gasped when he turned and saw her. There was still a little distance between them. “Stop there,” he ordered.  

Lydia stopped. The last thing she needed was to upset the farm hands.  

“I’m Agent Lowe,” Lydia explained. “I just want to ask a few questions.”  

Curtis raised his eyebrows in an instant mistrust.  

“We don’t like cops here,” he warned.  

He banged his fists against the side of the van. Lydia watched him as he crossed to the rear which was parked towards her.  

Lydia watched the sudden nervousness in him.  

“What’s your name?” she asked.  

Curtis started to become irate. He banged his fist on the rear of the van.  

“We’re working hard here and cops think they can wander onto the farm and ask questions? Let me tell you exactly why that’s not going to happen.”  

He crossed to the left side of the van. He clenched his fist again.  

BANG. BANG. BANG!  

He snatched a cord and pulled the van grate open.  

“Go get her boy!” he yelled as he skipped further around the side of the van.  

From the van emerged a huge black bull named Gordon. In a rage he charged, catching only Lydia in his sight. The agent ran as fast as she could.  

Gordon caught the shine of Lydia’s bike in his eyes. The gleam frustrated him. With his great horns, the bike was thrown and its rear wheel torn away.  

Curtis was now arguing with another farm hand. Lydia managed to swing back down from the ledge she had escaped to as Gordon charged towards the east acre where the dairy herd were kept.  

“Sorry,” Glenn said when he approached them. “We get a lot of our hands from The Boss. We don’t usually get cops here. It makes the hands nervous. “  

“I just wanted to ask about Buddy Owen,” Glenn said.  

Curtis, who was still excitable, said, “Why didn’t you say that?”  

“I never got the chance to,” she said.  

Curtis shrugged. His nerves were eased.  

“The way you came at me, I thought you were here to pick me up.”  

Lydia frowned. “Should I be picking you up?”  

Glenn slapped his arm. “You let Gordon out? Go and get him before he shags one of the dairies.”  

Curtis took rope from the back of the van and dashed off to fetch the bull and lead him back to his own paddock. Glenn led Lydia a little further up. They both leaned against the fence, freshly erected.  

“Sorry about your bike,” Glenn apologised.   

“I just want to ask some questions about Buddy Owen,” she stated.  

“He’s not here,” Glenn admitted. “You missed him. He’s gone back to his fancy estate. I’d watch yourself around him.”  

Lydia smiled. “I’ll keep an eye out.” 

“You’re a Bournton lass?” Glenn beamed when he caught a hint of her northern tones. 

“I am,” she admitted.  

Glenn seemed pleased by this. He looked up and watched Curtis trying to rope Gordon. Gordon shook the rope from his horns and charged at Curtis. The charge was without malice but it caused Curtis to leap the fence.  

“Sorry about him too,” Glenn said. “He’s just a dumb animal.”  

“No hard feelings,” Lydia replied. “I like cows.” 

Glenn frowned. He had been referring to Curtis.  

“Give me a hand, will you?” Curtis could be heard yelling to anyone who would helping.  

Gordon was feeling mischievous and charging anyone who came near him.  Curtis had been forced to leap the fence again.  

“You let him out. You can put him back in,” Glenn returned.  

“Fuck you, Gordon,” Curtis growled, raising his finger at the bull.  

Glenn shook his head. “I’d better help him. I’ll give you a run back home. I’ll tell you what I know about Buddy.”  

“Not a fan of him then?” Lydia asked.  

“This farm has seen more than its share of unwanted ludgers,” he said.  

With Glenn on scene Curtis leapt the fence and the two of them circled a disgruntled Gordon.  

She felt a nibble on her thigh that caused her to step aside.  

“Maaaah!” the pygmy goat named Gary pressed his head to her gently through the fence. She patted his head. Maybe before she left she could get a photo of him to send to Cynthia.  


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

When an artist meets the shy, unassuming farm girl Julia Harvester, he sees her true form and it is inspiring.

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Managing Just Fine


It takes a little bit of extra pizazz to work the KNOCK KNOCK club and to be the manager you got to really have your wits about you. Here’s what our manager, DENNIS brings to the table:

GREET THE CUSTOMERS

There are a lot of regular faces returning to the SHANTIES for the best night in town but as the manger you really need to keep a keen eye out for strangers. The club is invitation only (by orders of the BOSS LADY). Given the nature of the joint there can be a lot of creeps hanging around. Your job as manager is to weed out the miscreants and send them packing. Except if one of those strange faces happens to be a reporter for the COLDFORD DAILY, the biggest publication in the city. Then he goes right on in.

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KEEP THE BOOZE FLOWING

The KNOCK KNOCK girls are skilled at flirting with the customers and making them feel special. A horny man will part with cash quicker than his trousers if he thinks he’s getting something out of it. He’s not. Your job as manager is to keep those drinks flowing so the customers are sent home with a smile on their face one way or another.

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CHEER THE ENTERTAINMENT

No one loves the BOSS LADY more than the BOSS LADY herself so when she takes to the stage it is always on the HEADLINING spot. As manager you have to make sure the crowds are wild and having a great time. It helps to throw in a little whoop and cheer yourself just to get the ball rolling on slow nights.

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PREPARE THE GIRLS

Choosing the girls sounds like a dream job for any hot blooded man but there’s more to our KNOCK KNOCK lovelies than meets the eye. These kittens have got to have claws. There is no use bringing in a new flirty waitress only to have her pack it in a week later. That’s bad for business and its bad for morale. Get those girls prepared, pretty and ready to lash out because in a place like the KNOCK KNOCK club those kittens got to have claws. The SHANTIES are no place for damsels in distress.

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WISH YOU HAD NEVER COME

Alright so this one is specific for Dennis. We’re pretty sure anyone would just love to manage the club but when you have had to leave your family life behind and submit all power you once had it can feel more like a life sentence. Should have kept your hands to yourself then Dennis, you dirty fiend.

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Do you have what it takes to manage a place like the KNOCK KNOCK club? Have we made it seem like an appealing place for a night out?

After it all you can just sit back, relax and consider a job well done.

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COMING 2021

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.

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My Life Changing Event

We all have those moments in life where we are taken on a completely different path. Some life events have the potential to change our points of view and some have the opportunity to wipe us out completely.

With everything going on in the world at the moment it makes me nostalgic. Thinking back I take time to consider those life changing moments. For me it was when I was aged twelve and I was just starting my second year of high school. As per usual I had arrived late and the first session was P.E. Across the road from my high school were playing fields where most of the outdoor classes were held. The few other stragglers and I got dressed into our kits and headed across. Between the school and the playing fields is a very busy road. Already a little shaken by the speed of the traffic and anxious that I was already late I crossed the road and was (perhaps inevitably) knocked down.

I spent months in the hospital recovering from the injuries, watching the opening game of the 1998 World Cup from my bed. Even to this day I don’t remember what happened. All I can go on was the stories told by my family as they were given the news and my school mates who were there to witness the event. The point is that when I came round some weeks later I was in a strange hospital with absolutely no clue as to how I got there. It was strange to not recognise the hospital because as a youngster I had pretty much toured all the medical facilities of the city.

As I recovered I was reminded by the physical pain I was in, the reactions of my loved ones and by the gifts and well wishes I was inundated with that I had come so close to no longer being around. To this day I would have been but a memory of some little girl who had once been part of the family. This sounds really morbid and I do have a morbid fascination with death but In times of trouble or when things get me down I think upon that moment and remind myself that there is still much life left to live. I am still here and as such I can still contribute. It stops me from wasting time and it helps me gain the confidence to reach out when I need help.

So I put it to you to think about those moments that changed you or changed the world around you. Let’s use those moments to push ourselves to do better and to remind us to make the world around us a better place in whatever ways we can.

Character Profile: William ‘Billy’ Owen

Age: 37

Features in: KNOCK KNOCK

Start talking.

Murder, corruption and kidnapping. Fifty nine people thrown from the top floor of the Beckingridge Tower. It’s about time this City was brought to heel.

Billy Owen is former Special Ops with campaign experience in the most difficult terrains of Northern Subala. His natural ability with firearms made his name. His treatment of prisoners almost ruined it.

He’s a Kappa So brother  for life. He’s CPD by charge. If anyone is going to be bringing the justice it’s going to be this man. There are villains to catch and a name to make so step aside and let him do his thing.  

Billy is from the broken branch of the Owen family tree so when there are things to mend he’s the best man to call. Just remember folks, an Owen never misses a target and Billy has set his sights on The Shady City.

Billy is looking to make a name in the Shady City.

The Knock Knock Boss Lady has made an enemy of the Owen family but she’s ready for that challenge.

Complete season 1 is free to read here at Vivika Widow.com or click below to download for kindle.

The Baroness’ beloved cabaret club was attacked and the Owen family are the suspects. Just another day of covering up their misdeeds.

Tawny is now Resident 0109 of the Harbour House rehab facility. Will she recover from her trauma? 

Vivika Widow’s latest thriller is available now!

Knock Knock! Harvester delivery!

Skin and bone will set the tone!

Time is running out, according to the Harvesters. The Boss Lady might have been stripped of everything but there’s still a little something she can give.

5.02 is the slaughter time on the farm but it’s opening night at the Knock Knock club. Just what will become of it all?

Coming later this year the Knock Knock graphic novel series returns. Invitation only. See you on opening night!

#amreading Knock Knock by @VivikaWidow


Are you looking forward to the grand reopening?
Let us know your comments below.

Complete Season 1 is free to read here at Vivika Widow Online or click below to download on Kindle.