What can we say about Father Gerald ‘Jerry’ Owen? He is the shame of his powerful family and he cares not a jot about that fact. Over the years his decadent behaviour is well documented. Most notably he stands accused of abusing countless young girls, using his place in the Church of St Wigan as a cover.
One of his victims includes the notable Boss Lady of the Knock Knock club, TABITHA. You will be pleased to note though that was where his life as a libertine came to an abrupt end. Details of his very disgraceful exit from society are still sketchy but it was confirmed he came to a grisly realisation he needed to stop thinking with his crotch!
Joining the church was something of a last resort for Jerry. His brothers, his father and his dear mother were all at their wit’s end. When the abuse started to surface more and more thanks to protests outside his church thanks to the Knock Knock Baroness, TAWNY, he realised his number was up. He was not immortal.
Jerry had an easy life in the Church. His family were huge benefactors so he had the largest parish and every luxury a Holy man could ever hope to indulge in. Things changed though. The Church fell to the new leadership who weren’t quite as sympathetic to his quirks. As with any cult It was time to follow or lose it all. When the purge came, Jerry Owen could not be saved.
Available May 14th
Jerry Owen was sent into the priesthood to be hidden as the family shame. When the Church of St Wigan decide on a zealous new leader it could expose everything.
Dan had arrived in his usual excitable way. He was waving a copy of Marble Mantle in his hand.
“Can I get a signature?” he asked laying the book before me.
With a spark of pride, I obliged him.
“What’s this?” Lydia asked lifting the book into her hand.
“Sam’s book,” said Dan. “Only the best read out there today.”
He was giving a lot of credit, but I was pleased he was enjoying my work.
“Awww,” Lydia chuckled. “Look at your picture. That’s so cute.”
“Well,” I mumbled, “I liked to try my hand at a bit of fiction.”
I watched nervously as the agent opened the pages and started to read.
“It was just for fun, really,” I added.
Lydia set the book down. Kim who had been working on a computer at the time leaned back.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Sam wrote a book,” Lydia called her.
I was beginning to blush by this point.
“A book?” Kim asked with some surprise. She took out her phone and within a few moments she announced. “Found it. I’m ordering a copy.”
“It was a passion project,” I started to say. “More a hobby than anything…”
Franklin passed. “Just downloaded it,” he cheered. “Start that tonight I think.”
I found myself giggling anxiously.
“It was a long time ago. It was quite experimental.”
Leaning on my shoulder Lydia asked Dan, “Can I borrow your copy? I prefer paperbacks.”
Dan agreed with a grin. “As long as you’re not a page folder.”
“Nope,” Lydia returned, “I’m purely a book mark girl.”
“I was just trying something a bit different,” I said.
“Just had a read of the first page,” said Reynolds. “Sounds real bomb!”
TO MY FRIEND DAN. I had signed. KEEP MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
As I was called to step back out into the city, it was time to take my own advice.
“Marcus?” Simon Penn whispered. “Marcus?”
He couldn’t see his brother. The prayer room required reflection and for that the sinner was placed in an all-consuming darkness. Marcus could stay quiet. Maybe he was reflecting but it drove Simon to frustration. Had it been days? Hours? Without any natural light it was hard to tell.
He reached out and he could feel his brother’s shoulder. It was unmoving and cold. Had he died? Was he the last triplet?
But alas, he felt Marcus’ hand pat his. Just as he did the door opened.
“Get up,” someone called.
Simon could see Marcus now. His expression was neutral as always. Simon wished he would show some anger or frustration so he could see a reflection of himself and how he was feeling. He made to leave but Marcus held him back.
“Get up,” the voice beckoned again.
Finally, a hand was extended to help them free of their prayers. On this occasion God hadn’t been at home. The hand was callused. The man himself was dressed in the garb of an inmate. Two guards were with him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said. “I’m Vincent Baines.”
Vincent Baines – ex music teacher of George Beckingridge – looked calm. Simon and Marcus had heard of him. They were curious as to why he would be there to greet them. There was no sign of the governor Avery West.
“Tawny was a dear friend of mine,” said Vincent. “As a favour to her I wanted to make sure you were okay. The governor doesn’t want the place spilling into riots so he’s agreed to put you in North. You’ll be safe there, for now.”
“Did they find Reggie?” Simon asked.
Vincent shook his head. “I wouldn’t know,” he gestured towards the guards that accompanied him. Trust was a tricky thing within The Boss.
Vincent had a cart of books. He had been assigned the duty of passing out reading material to the inmates. He handed a copy of a Liz Beck novel to Marcus who instinctively opened it at the page that had been folded. To a casual observer it would seem like a clumsy reader had closed the book incorrectly. Marcus took note of the words that had been underlined in faint pencil.
Mother. Safe. Your. Is.
He looked up at Vincent who pushed the spectacles nervously from the end of his nose.
“Thank you,” said the eldest triplet.
“I’m just passing on the message,” Vincent replied with a smile.
The Beckingridge Plaque had been salvaged from the wreckage of Pettiwick. Charles ‘Chick’ Owen had examined it closely. It would be returned. He had already allowed himself to fall to Elizabeth’s level of petulance. The site was still busy. The Fullertons continued on their task of breaking and building things.
“Mr Owen!” a woman was waving from the crowd of onlookers. She seemed eager for his attention. She had a warm, wide smile and rosy cheeks.
“It’s alright,” he said to his security.
He approached the woman and allowed her to say her piece. His father always taught him never to leave someone hanging who wished for his attention so badly. Good or bad, people needed to know an Owen never shirked comment.
“My name is Hetty Lynn,” she said. “My son received one of the Owen Scholarships to Filton.”
The woman was beaming with pride. She clutched his hand and was patting it affectionately.
“That’s mighty nice to hear,” said The Cappy. “What field has he chosen?”
Hetty was excited she had the CEO’s attention.
“Sports science. He’d like to work with one of the big football teams one day.”
“I’m pleased we could help.”
Hetty clutched his hand tighter.
“Without that scholarship he would never have been able to. You’ve given my son an opportunity he would never have had otherwise.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Chick replied. “I’m flattered but if the boy has the mind and determination to shoot for that opportunity it’s all down to his mama’s encouragement.”
“You’re a good man, Mr Owen,” she stated.
The Cappy thought of the plaque again.
“In a world where it ain’t easy, I try to do the best I can,” he stated honestly.
“Why you giving free rides?” he had been asked when the scholarship program had been set up. The truth was if Buddy was going to be put through Filton by the grace of his family name at least some of his classmates should be deserving of the place.
Buddy was overindulged. Chick knew that. He wouldn’t change that if he could. He wanted his son to have every opportunity he could. With the support of Ronnie he liked to put mind to those who weren’t so lucky. With Ronnie’s mind and Chick’s push, Owen Inc offered hundreds of scholarships to low-income families with the exciting option of studying abroad in the Great States.
“You tell your boy to keep his head down and continue to make us proud,” said Chick to Hetty.
“I will,” she said. “I will.”
He waved to the crowds, gave some insight into his vision for the school and shared a coffee and photo op with Filton Crier reporters, who couldn’t find a flaw, as desperately as they tried. When the day came to a close, he passed the plaque to an Owen Inc. Employee.
“Send this to Beckingridge Manor,” he instructed. “It’s no use to us moving forward and I’m sure Elizabeth would like to have it back.”
She had lived in Coldford her entire life but Elizabeth Beckingridge had never been in the Shanties before. She had heard many tales spill out from it and she used these tales as inspiration when trying to capture a gritty existence that she herself had never experienced.
“I suppose I should go check on this club of mine,” she had concluded.
She had been advised against taking her usual limo. It would have done her no favours appearing snobbish and car crime was rife in the area. Luxury vehicles that entered the Shanties stood little chance of leaving again. The exception was Tabitha’s red Porche. The personalised B055 L4DY licence plate was the warning.
It was a bumpy ride in Gramps’ old estate car. When Elizabeth finally climbed out, she exclaimed as she took it all in.
‘Wow!’ she thought to herself. ‘People actually live here?’
What had drawn her attention the most was the cries from around Coldford about the good that the Knock Knock Club had being doing under the Baroness and subsequently her sociopathic niece. In a quest to see this for herself, Elizabeth approached the reception of the shelter. A couple of volunteers were doing all they could to restore the facility. An older man was putting cheap flat pack cabinets together.
“I’m Elizabeth Beckingridge,” the financial dragon announced. “I bought over this place.”
A woman who was cleaning windows scowled at her.
“Well, it’s nice for Her Majesty to come down and join us,” she said with some frustration. “I hope you aren’t thinking of selling this place on.”
“I don’t need business advice from a window cleaner,” Elizabeth hissed back.
A woman named Margaret – according to her name tag – stepped behind reception and called, “Don’t listen to her. Andrea? Shut your mouth.”
She led Elizabeth to an open part of the hall. Elizabeth decided a call to Fullerton would be required. The place was badly needing fixed up. She looked to her phone only to find there was no reception.
“Argh,” she gasped. “Do you have some kind of telephone?”
“No,” Margaret explained. “The Law Makers cut our lines.”
Margaret watched the Beckingridge Dragon look around. It was no secret the Boss Lady had stoked that fire when she had fifty-nine people thrown from the tower. Ernest may have been the dragon with no puff but Elizabeth was quite a different character all together.
“Please don’t close the shelter,” she gave her plea. “People around her are passionate about it. We all take our turns to keep it afloat. We need this place here.”
On the walls hung photos of Knock Knock girls, shelter volunteers and some of the people who had found refuge there. There was also Agnes Wilde and Tawny, wearing Knock Knock t-shirts and posing with some of their rescues like they were family. Finally there was Tabitha, the lunatic.
“We need this place,” Margaret reiterated. “Please don’t shut it down.”
The truth was Elizabeth hadn’t really considered what her next step would be. She had only gotten so far as the look on Chick’s face when he didn’t win it. She had considered using its resources as a means to finding Tawny but then there was also Tabitha to consider.
“People fight for all kinds of reasons,” Gramps had once said to her.
This had been because of an altercation she had had as a youngster with some of the other Pettiwick girls but the words still held weight. Even Tabitha had been fighting for something. Wild creatures can become protective, sometimes viciously so.
“I want to help,” Elizabeth decided.
Her focus fell back on those the shelter had supported. Then she viewed Tabitha again. They had something worth fighting for. That didn’t mean there wouldn’t be differences along the way.
The Monte Fort in the far reaches of Cardyne was a lifeless building. Converted from an old prisoner of war camp it now held some of the most dangerous women in the Shady City.
Agnes Wilde had always known she would be a visitor to it one day. Whether it was to see Tawny or Tabitha was up to fate. Fate had decided on the latter. Agnes was glad of it none the less. After her stunt with the screens Tabitha had been moved back from the Annexe. The fallout from the office of Law Makers was still in discussions but for the time being they allowed Agnes to meet with her niece.
In a small room with a swarm of officers outside Agnes was given the opportunity she never thought she would have. Her first reaction was to pull Tabitha into her arms. Her second was to slap her.
“Nice to see you too!” Tabitha pouted.
Agnes hugged her tight again.
“I thought you were dead,” she said.
“So did most of Coldford. Nice to know what faith people had in me,” Tabitha mused. She smiled though. “You’re going grey,” she commented as they both sat at the table.
Agnes’ eyes widened. “I’m not surprised,” she replied. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through?”
“Were you sentenced to death though?” Tabitha asked.
“Were you though?” she pushed.
Agnes started to laugh. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “The entire city saw you call Judge Doyle a…” Agnes stopped herself before the foul word escaped. “There are still plenty who don’t believe it was real. They think it was a hoax.”
Tabitha giggled girlishly. “I wish I could have been on the street to see me,” she sighed. “Tee would have loved it. Do you think she saw?”
“Perhaps,” Agnes offered the chance. “She would be screaming.”
Tabitha smiled. She softened when she did so. It stood as a reminder that she wasn’t quite as mature as she could seem by looking at her. She was still a young girl playing dress up at heart.
“What’s happening with my club?”
“It’s our club, remember,” Agnes warned. “When the Law Makers seized everything, they brought in a buyer.”
“Who?” Tabitha asked with a severe frown.
Agnes raised her chin. “Promise me you won’t get upset.”
“Who bought it?” Tabitha pressed.
“Beckingridge,” she admitted.
Tabitha shook her head. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
“It was either that or Owen inc. Since Ernest Beckingridge is dead and buried it was his sister, Elizabeth, who took over.”
“The one that writes all those shitty books?” Tabitha scoffed. “That’s worse.”
Agnes disagreed. “No,” she said. “What would have been worse would have been it taken completely. That was a very real possibility. At least Elizabeth has agreed to leave it as it is.”
Tabitha folded her arms across her chest and huffed. “I suppose.”
Agnes stood. She crossed round the table and wrapped her arms around Tabitha’s shoulders.
“I’m so relieved your alive,” she said.
Tabitha reached her hand and rested it on Agnes’ arm. Agnes kissed her head. They both knew it was far from over. Tawny didn’t nickname the girl Trouble for nothing.
Of course Karyn hadn’t been at her office when he got there. Micky Doyle knew his cousin and it wasn’t likely she hadn’t seen the screens.
“Looking at you Judge Doyle,” Tabitha had said. “Cunt!”
Karyn was going to be furious. One of her clerks, Eileen, had taken a statement from him. He tried to explain the coercion he had faced. He tried to place the blame at the feet of Reginald Penn but Eileen only seemed interested in one thing.
“Why was the execution not carried out as planned?”
“You should bring Elizabeth Beckingridge in,” said Micky in response. “She helped Reginald. She’s aiding a known criminal.”
Eileen tapped on her computer keys with her long finger nails. She looked up from her screen at him.
He had no choice but to admit everything. He was taken to holding. He wasn’t too concerned. It was probably best for his own safety. At least it was the Bailiffs he was dealing with and not the Sergeant Major’s Black Bands.
Excruciating days passed. Karyn didn’t personally appear. Bailiffs and clerks attended him. They had him retell and retell his version of events until he was physically and emotionally exhausted. His tears and sweat and dehydrated him. All the while they asked, “Why was Her Honourable’s execution order not carried out?”
Eventually Karyn did appear. Her ghostly pale face didn’t seem real at first. Micky’s mind tried to wake him up from the nightmare but alas she was still there.
“I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Karyn. I made such a mess of things.”
Karyn said nothing. She watched him with a cool, predatory stare. “I realise how much of a mess this is. I didn’t want anyone to talk to Tabitha. Reginald Penn threatened me. He was going to kill me.”
Karyn’s expression didn’t change. There was no flicker of emotion on her lips or in her eyes. No anger. No pity. No sorrow.
“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this better. Please Karyn just say something.”
The Judge’s lips parted. Finally she spoke. “I’m here in the capacity of my office. We aren’t family in here. You will therefore address me with my proper title.”
“Your Honour,” Micky whimpered.
“You disgraced yourself. You disgraced your position as mayor and you disgraced the Doyle name.”
“I’m so sorry,” Micky tried again.
“Not only that,” Karyn went on, but you also have potentially allowed a dangerous criminal to walk free. A criminal my office, my agents and my clerical staff worked hard to bring to justice. Court Clerk Melanie Wallace was murdered. The reporter, Sam, was pit against his colleague. The entire South of the city has been torn apart and because of your ineptitude it could all have been for nothing. Quite a feat I must say, when you have only been in office a few months. So, I ask you, why was my execution order not carried out?”
Micky had almost fallen to the floor.
“I want to make it better,” he said. “Let me make it better.”
“You will begin by making a public address. You will inform the people of Coldford of what you did and why you did it. You will speak the truth to them regardless of how it makes you look.”
Micky agreed. He was finally removed from holding and taken to City Face.
Evening had fallen. City Face boomed its ticking across the lawns. Media feeds were set up relaying to all outlets and screens. Because of the part played by Coby Games, they had been sanctioned by the Law Makers. Joshua Colby was cooperative. The signed permission from the mayor was his protection.
The Black Bands had assembled under the control of Van Holder. Monsta’ was by his side. They crowd was held back. They dared not move any closer than the Black Bands would allow them. The football matches, the seizure of Mack Distillery by force, the very presence of the Black Bands was becoming enough of a deterrent.
Micky was brought to the podium. Like the stunt that brought him to the position he was in, Micky’s image was delivered to all parts of Coldford.
“People of Coldford,” he began. He hadn’t prepared a speech this time.
He felt it best the words come to him naturally. “It is with deep regret that I come to you with a confession. I, Michael Doyle, have abused my position as mayor. I have abused the trust you put in me. On advice of a doctor whom I considered a friend.” Here he stopped. He changed his mind. “I was given an opportunity to profit from the death of a criminal who was due for execution. I deliberately concealed this criminal, having you believe that she was already dead, so that the sale of her organs could be arranged. This is a criminal act of which I take full responsibility. I deeply regret my actions and I now throw myself on the mercy of the High Court and I ask for leniency.”
Micky looked through the crowd. His whole body trembled. Where was Cameron? There was someone he recognised though. The figure offered little comfort. Whimsical old-style clothing, long wig-like hair. Eugene Morris, aka The Tailor clutched his hat to his chest. There was a priest of the same order muttering a prayer. They called him the Holy Brother.
‘Why was he there?’ Micky wondered. Before he could enquire, The Judge took over proceedings.
“Michael Doyle,” she said. “You have given a confession here today witnessed by thousands. Your abuse of power has left me with little choice. What we see here today is a waste of talent, of potential and of lives. When I accepted my position in the High Court, I took an oath that said I would make no exceptions. I swore that if those of my own blood were brought before me, showing favouritism is something I would never do. The disgrace you have brought upon yourself and the city will be punished to the fullest extent of the law granted to me. Letting a criminal walk free after giving my signature to her execution is something I would also never do. I hereby invoke article 22 which states that should a member of high office be convicted of a capital crime sentencing can be given immediately without a trial of jurors. For authorising the unlawful killing of a convict you are found guilty. For trafficking human organs for print you are also guilty. For treason against the city by your own admission you are guilty. I hereby sentence you to death by firing squad.
The crowd had fallen so quiet, only the clicking hooves of the Black Band’s mounted patrol echoed, timing with the ticking of the City Face.
Micky screamed. “No! Karyn don’t do this!” His foggy breath trailed in desperation in front of him.
The Judge ignored him. “Due to the nature of your crime, because of the mistrust you have brought to the legal process and because of the obligations of my office, sentence will be carried out immediately.”
Micky was escorted to the killing fields. It was an area in front of the building that had been where the gallows stood in days of old. During the Great Wars it was the spot where those convicted of espionage were executed. It had fallen out of use as legal battles turned more to court rooms and offices but that day as eight gun men rounded on Micky Doyle there was a return to the past.
“Aim,” ordered Van Holder.
Now the clicking of guns seemed to drown out the clock and Micky’s screams.
Bullets erupted. One tore through Micky’s heart. With that, the second mayor of Coldford in such a short space it time lay dead on the lawns of City Face.
Tabitha had witnessed the execution. She watched Micky Doyle die and for the first time she had been lost for words. It appeared her future hadn’t been written by quite so friendly an author.
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The Beckingridge Tower reached lofty heights. It had been the first time I had crossed the courtyard since reading the details of the Free Fall Massacre. The last time I had been inside it had been to talk to Ernest about the apparent suicide of his wife, Alice.
ALICE BECKINGRIDGE: CHILD KILLER
BILLIONAIRE BOY MISSING.
Had been some of my early articles on the family.
The statue of Jeffrey Beckingridge AKA Gramps was clean and well kept. I wondered what he would have thought if he had to learn that 59 of his clients and staff had been thrown from the window. Would he have let things get that far?
The screen still showed the missing persons report, Tawny’s smiling face and a request for more information. It wasn’t easy to get myself an audience with the granddaughter, but Elizabeth and I had mutual interests and it was time we met in person to discuss them.
“Can I help you, sir?” asked the main receptionist. Poised, polite, welcoming.
“I would like to speak to Miss Beckingridge please.”
The receptionist frowned. She took her task as gatekeeper of The Tower very seriously.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No,” I admitted. “But I’m working on her missing persons case. She asked me to come in and catch her up.”
A text message. COME SEE ME WHEN YOU HAVE THE CHANCE. That was what Elizabeth had written. The receptionist eyed me suspiciously.
I passed her an I.D card. “Sam Crusow. Miss Beckingridge knows who I am.”
“Just a minute please.”
Taking care not to harm her manicured nails the receptionist lifted the phone.
“Hi Mark. It’s Marlene from front desk. I have a Sam Crusow here to see Miss Beckingridge.” She awaited the secretary’s reply. “Yes? Yes of course. I’ll let him know.” She put the phone back down again. “I’m sorry, sir but Miss Beckingridge isn’t in her office at the moment. May I take a message?”
“No,” I said. “I’ll catch her another time.”
The embalming fluid gave a clinical smell. Eugene Morris’ workspace was chilled. Not just because of the nature of his calling in life, but because of the character he was as an individual. Like death, whenever he was present people paid notice. Whimsical in the sense that he was never going to be escaped, so really should just be embraced. Most people chose to run from him as long as they could. Eugene was a friendly man but he was never overly familiar with his clients. It wasn’t in his nature, nor was it in his work.
The body of Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen was laid out on the table like a king of old, lying in state. He was already dressed in his best suit Ronnie had chosen for him from the luggage he had brought with him. With expert hands and patient due diligence the head injury that had taken his life was patched, powdered and presented as though the man was good as new. He looked as though he could have been in his prime days, ready to address the masses. He looked as though he was ready to be sent back to the heavenly plane he had descended from.
The Tailor observed the body. The son, Charles, was stood behind him. “It’s awful when death visits someone who still has so much to give. It’s even more terrible when someone else brings that death of their own accord.”
“He returned the body?” Charles Owen enquired. “What did he say?”
Eugene inspected the body closer. “It’s not for me to get involved in those kinds of affairs. I’m merely here to pick up the pieces and kiss the foreheads of those who may otherwise be forgotten.”
“What kind of man is he?” Charles asked, determined to get some kind of insight. He was referring to the king who had slain his father.
“Quite reasonable in his way,” Eugene responded. He pointed to a beautifully carved oak coffin. “He asked that the deceased be treated with the utmost respect. His carriage into the farther reaches was to be the best money could buy. If that there isn’t to your taste he will give you the cost of anyone you like. The coin for the ferry man would be from his own pocket.”
The Tailor drew Charles’ attention to the lining of the casket which was the finest velvet. The lining of the coffin itself was the thickest, purest gold.
“He said the man needn’t have died and on that I quite agree. Other than that I am not offering commentary. If I were to offer my two cents worth it would make matters much messier than they already are.”
Charles inspected his father’s coffin. It truly was of the best quality.
“He may be an animal,” Charles observed. “But at least he has some manners.”
The Tailor was in agreement with this too but he didn’t voice those opinions. Instead he adjusted Bobby’s tie. In every photo he had seen of Bobby this tie was slightly askew to the left. It was a small trait few people would even notice but Eugene’s job was not to decorate the deceased and strive for perfection. It was his job to make them worthy of memorial.
“People hunt for imperfections, son,” Robert had told Charles. “If all they can find is my tie then I’m doing well.”
Charles couldn’t help but smile when he noticed this little attention to detail.
The Owen Inc. CEO had never been inside the Penn Auction House before. With its damp smell and rustic architecture he couldn’t say he was particularly impressed. The auction hall was empty despite having many chairs laid out. It was empty save for Chick himself and an auctioneer named Jeremy.
Jeremy was loyal to the Penns but the Law Makers knew they needed a familiar face to smooth the transition. The Bailiffs removing items from the auction house had caused quite a stir. Jeremy stepped in to object on behalf of Rita Penn but somewhere along the line Reginald must have gotten word to him to allow the final auctions to go ahead because Jeremy’s mind seemed to have changed quickly. The auction items that day were not artefacts, nor where they ornaments or heirlooms. It was the very landmarks of the city that had been seized by the Law Makers that were placed on offer.
Chick looked about himself. The time had now struck two o’clock and he was the only bidder. Jeremy took his podium with a cough; the dust of the wooden floors was starting to catch his throat. “I guess we’ll just take an offer,” he surmised.
Chick nodded. “I would prefer to move things along.”
The doors opened. A suited man stepped inside and held the door open to allow entrance to a woman – close to middle age, slim, well dressed. Her pink hair hung with a neat parting.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said. “Traffic into the city was a bitch and those narrow roads just aren’t meant for limousines.”
She crossed the aisle. Her suited man waited by the door. She chose a seat next to The Cappy.
“Hello Charles. So nice to see you. How are things?”
Chick raised his lip in a smile but there was no humour in it. “Elizabeth,” he greeted. “Always a pleasure.”
Elizabeth Beckingridge – interim CEO of Beckingridge Financial Firm kept on her sunglasses.
“I believe the last time we saw one another was at a benefit for endangered birds, homeless dogs or some cause or another.”
Charles grinned. “You were quite intoxicated as I recall.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Well, if you can’t indulge yourself you kind of miss the point of the party, am I right? Anyway things are different now that I have the responsibility of the tower. I keep a clear head these days. It makes it easier to see when there are sharks in the water.”
“You are a fine adversary, Elizabeth, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your brother Ernest – God rest his soul – was a dear friend of mine. We worked together well for years.”
Elizabeth read through the auction item list that had been placed on the chair next to her.
“Ernest was a sweet man. He was everyone’s friend. That was his problem. He was too busy trying to be friends with everyone he didn’t see all the little bites that were being taken out of him. When that maniac Knock Knock girl took it upon herself to have fifty nine of my clients and staff escorted from the tower via the window, where were his friends? They buggered off back to the Great States and took any support with them.”
The Cappy stroked his chin. He wasn’t daunted by Elizabeth’s challenge. “The Free Fall Massacre was a personal attack on my family. I had no choice but to protect our interests.”
“Sure,” Elizabeth nodded. “If that shoe were on Ernest’s foot he would probably have done the exact same thing.”
Elizabeth finished scanning the list. She would no doubt have already made up her mind.
“Then we are agreed?” The Cappy put to her. “It would be best to work together?”
“No,” Elizabeth scoffed. She raised an eyebrow. “I’m not Ernest. You’ll find I won’t be bullied quite so easily.”
The Cappy looked back to the podium where Jeremy was waiting to begin.
“Just a moment, if you don’t mind, sir,” he called. To Elizabeth he said, “Your nephew, George, has already come into the fold. Very soon you will have no choice.”
Elizabeth quietened. She gave it some thought then she turned to The Cappy. “My nephew is a psychopath. Torturing kittens, eating babies, the whole nine yards. He’s cosying up with your boy who, word on the street says has a cocaine problem that makes my Aunt Liza’s one nostril look like a charming little party piece.” Before The Cappy could respond she patted his arm. “Rumours Charles. Only rumours.” She spoke calmly. “My point is, before that dynamo duo takes over what we’ve built I have interests to protect, too.”
“If we’re are speaking frankly, I must ask, why are you looking for The Baroness?” He referred to the city wide search that she had funded for Tawny McInney.
“Why not?” replied Liz. “She’s just a whacko old lady who disappeared from rehab. Her niece is gone so what concern is that of yours?”
Chick frowned. “I like you Elizabeth but don’t treat me like a fool. Do not make an enemy of me when I’d much rather be friends.”
Elizabeth pouted. “I perish the thought. The Baroness was in rehab with a friend of mine. George’s old music teacher? You may remember him from such stories as kidnapping and the death of the Weir Hotel boy. He asked me ever so nicely to help find her so I read up on the old show girl. Your brother Jerry was quite a piece of work, wasn’t he? Anyway, her attitude struck a chord with me. Maybe I’m getting old but I find myself feeling quite charitable these days. If you don’t know where she is then you’ll agree finding her would smooth things over in the south. They liked her. I saw some old videos of her and I quite like her too. You’ll see the number on all the of broadcasts should you hear anything. In the meantime let’s get down to business. Our auctioneer here is sweating buckets.” She patted his arm again. “Let’s see who has the bigger … erm … cheque book.”
The Cappy laughed. “May the best bidder win.” He addressed Jeremy, “Go ahead, sir.”
Jeremy cleared his throat. “Lot 0300 – The Penn Auction House.”
The Penn Auction house was hot property. It was home to the Penn power and if their sovereignty were to be given any credence the Auction House was their palace. Elizabeth didn’t want it. It meant nothing to her really. She had read the auction list and had set her sights on other prizes. But it was a prime city location. Some would argue it was the final stop before The Tower. If she let it go into Chick Owen’s hands who knows where he would proceed onto next. He had his reasons for wanting it. He wanted it so badly. Elizabeth decided to let him sweat.
Elizabeth Beckingridge had no need for the Penn Auction House nor did she have any loyalty to the Penns themselves. In fact, hadn’t it been the boys who had helped Tabitha commit the Free Fall Massacre? If she even made one bid it would purely be out of spite. Chick’s family heirloom, his very name, was at stake. The Penns stole the Captain Henry ‘Hen’ Owen’s compass. He would have that compass back in the estate where it belonged. To do that he would have the Auction House, no matter the cost.
Jeremy cleared his throat.
“Reserve price is 2.3 million.”
Liz raised her board. 2.4
The Cappy shook his head. She was playing spiteful after all. He knew she was deliberately drawing the price up because she wanted to clear him out before it reached some of the other items on the list.
2.5 million he bid.
2.6 million she returned.
2.7 million. Going in hard. The Penn Palace would be in the hands of Owen Inc. no matter what.
2.8 million. Elizabeth’s interest was waning.
3.2 million. The Cappy struck boldly.
3.7 million Elizabeth countered
3.9 million. The leaps showed The Cappy’s determination.
Elizabeth lowered her board. She had let him sweat long enough, throwing money away on items she wasn’t all that interested in.
Jeremy waited for a counter offer. It was not forthcoming.
“Going once. Going twice.” The hammer slammed. The Penn Auction House was now property of Owen Inc. Jeremy couldn’t disguise his distaste but he carried on.
“Lot 004. The Knock Knock Club.”
Another prime property that anyone with a good business mind could make work. It could become a trendy bar, revitalising the whole area. It could extend Owen reach in the south. With the Boss Lady gone it was the perfect time to make the move.
Elizabeth kept a poker face. The search for Tawny had drawn her to the club. She looked to what the Baroness had been protesting against. She had learned the reasoning behind targeting her firm. She had met with Agnes. Her and her girls were all that were left. The Knock Knock stood for something and for that reason it had to be kept away from Owen hands.
“The reserve price is 1.2 million. It also includes the attached Clifton shelter used for the homeless.”
1.5 million. Elizabeth began this time.
1.7 million countered The Cappy.
1.9 million. Beckingridge Tower was continuing its efforts.
2.1 million. The Cappy was tentative.
2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.9, 3.2, 3.5 the numbers continued to roll in. The club was well above its estimation.
4 million was Elizabeth’s final offer.
“Sold.” The Knock Knock Club was now in the hands of Beckingridge Firm.
Jeremy had no time to pause for thought. More items were available.
“Lot 005. Harbour House.”
The unique rehabilitation clinic had caused quite a stir of late. It had been the cause of scandal when its resident 0109 went missing. Control of the facility could mean a final shut down to the rumours of the Owens being responsible for that disappearance, coupled with the fact it was very profitable.
It was Elizabeth’s interests in finding the truth behind Tawny’s disappearance that pricked her ears.
“Reserve price is 3.2,” Jeremy explained.
4.5 million. Elizabeth jumped in right away. She didn’t care she was exposing her hand too soon.
Charles shook his head. He wasn’t even willing to combat it.
“Sold.” Harbour House was also now a Beckingridge Firm holding but the dragon had reared and exposed a weakness in its belly. Steel and determination could break those scales.
“Lot 006. Pettiwick School.”
The Salinger family had been in the control of the school for generations. Lewis Salinger was a friend of Ernest’s. Pettiwick had educated every Beckingridge since its founding. Even Gramps had walked the halls as a boy. Even George has his time there. Lewis was a complete moron and had been caught by Law Maker forensic accountants, skimming money from the school funds it seemed. The Law Makers dug their claws in deeper and discovered the Salingers had been doing it for years. It was now a seized property but that didn’t mean the children had to suffer. It was still the finest school in the city. Chick Owen had no reason to want it but it was home to the Beckingridge Wing, donated by Ernest. Charles’ poker face was indecipherable.
“Reserve price is 6.7 million.”
It was a big property and going cheap. Elizabeth was likely to fight tooth and nail for it but when the dragon had exhausted all of its flaming breath it made it easier to cut the beast’s head off.
7 million. The first Owen bid was tentative.
10 million. The Beckingridge bid was a strike.
20 million. Games were no longer being played.
25 million. The flames roared.
30 million. The shine of the steel returned.
Elizabeth broke the bidding. “Oh come on Charles. What use do you have for a school?”
Chick Owen said nothing. The dragon was down.
“Going once. Going twice …” said Jeremy.
45 million. The dragon was not done.
50 million. Neither was Owen inc.
55 million. The tower was beginning to shake.
70 million. There was still much to do.
Elizabeth had no choice but to bow out. It was a personal fondness that would have kept her fighting for the school but she couldn’t waste what fire power she had on personal fondness.
“Going once. Going twice. Sold!”
The finest school in the Shady City was to now have a Great States face lift.
“Going to ruin the damn thing,” Elizabeth grumbled to herself. Between the Chapter House in Filton and now Pettiwick, the Owens had way more power in Filton than she liked. There wasn’t time to rest on it though. There was more.
“Lot 006. Coldridge Park from the City Main entrance to the Mid East exit.”
For The Cappy it was the perfect addition to the Auction House. It held the area before the Faulds Park building where the Penns were normally resident. It also contained some sports fields used by Kappa So.
Elizabeth always loved that park. Well, she had spent an afternoon there once or twice. If Pettiwick was going to be used to push into Filton then the park could be used to flood the Owens out of City Main.
“Reserve price is 11.5 million.”
11.5 million. Beckingridge began with the reserve. No one was leaping in for an area that was essentially filled with drug dealers and prostitutes
11.6 million. Charles Owen was also being nonchalant.
12.1 million. Owen budget was depleting. He wanted that property but he couldn’t be silly about it. He bowed out gracefully.
“Sold.” Coldridge Park (from the City Main entrance to the Mid East exit) now belonged to Beckingridge.
“Lot 007. St Michael’s Cathedral.”
The parish hadn’t been the same since the Reverend Owen gave up his flock. No verifiable evidence in the rape of hundreds of little girls but the protests that had gone on outside it, led by the Baroness, had made it a very interesting spot indeed. There may have been no evidence then but what about underneath the cathedral’s floor boards? Structures could speak volumes. What would that old church have to say of the confessions the reverend himself had to make?
Proceedings were ending. As far as elder brother Charles Owen was concerned it was time to close the cathedral for good, throw it to the Fullertons as a chew toy for all he cared. With the cathedral gone the talk of Jerry would quiet to whispers before eventually fading away.
“Reserve price is 10.3 million,” Jeremy informed them. He wasn’t given much time before the first bid was raised.
10.4 million. Owen inc. threw their hat into the ring first.
10.5 million. The Beckingridge dragon roared.
10.6, 10.7, 10.8, 11, 12.
The bidding went on. It was starting to overreach what Chick had intended. The Cappy took a sharp intake of breath. Elizabeth spotted what was to come next. She was going to have to cut her losses.
“Sold.” The Cathedral was going back to the Owen family. The skeletons in the reverend’s vestry damned to Hell.
“Final lot for today,” announced Jeremy. “Lot 008. Chamberlain Docks.”
This was it. The dragon was ready to breath every last flame it had. Seized by the Law Makers due to the trafficking, soliciting and illegal trading. Harbour House would be far more use to Elizabeth with the docks. If they belonged to Owen Inc, the facility could very well be of no use at all. Chamberlain was the main access route to Hathfield and the prime spot for spreading wealth and expanding reach.
Owen Inc knew this too. Returning to the kingdom with the dragon’s head would mean little without it. Charles had the auction house; he had the school and he had his brother’s Cathedral. He could afford to take his time and let the dragon strike first.
The Cathedral didn’t matter when Elizabeth had the Knock Knock Club. Whilst the club still existed, the Owens could still be driven from Coldford. They may bite chunks from City Main but they would be enclosed by the pests from the Shanties and their main competitors in Filton. However, to close them in completely Beckingridge Firm needed to hold Chamberlain docks.
“The reserve price is 20.6 million. It includes the Ferry Way brand and terminal, the allotted sea area and surrounding businesses.”
Elizabeth turned to Charles. “Be my guest.”
Chick smiled and shook his head. “Ladies first.”
30 million. The first blow struck.
40 million. The Owen counter.
The dance continued and the bites were taken.
50 million. The Tower would not concede.
70 million. Owen Inc was not walking away.
100, 200, 400, 500 million.
‘Damnit Liz, don’t be so stupid,’ Chick thought inwardly.
600, 700, 750, 800, 825 million.
‘You know as well as I do the docks aren’t worth anywhere near that,’ Elizabeth thought. ‘Give up Charles. You are not having this one.’
The new algorithms at the firm were going to have to work extra hard. All hands on deck for the accounts team and the traders.
The Cappy made no further bid. The docks were a power play but not enough to exhaust his funds completely. He would find another way.
“Going once. Going twice.” Jeremy halted. The phone he had set on the table before him bleeped. He checked it. “We have a new bidder,” he announced. “The bid for the docks now stands at 1.2 billion.”
Chick and Elizabeth looked to each other. Both were equally as perplexed. Elizabeth couldn’t go any higher, not with the costs of the other properties, not without having to close the exchange for a few days causing a knock on effect for the firm.
“Going once. Going twice. Sold.”
The bidding was closed and neither Owen Inc nor the Beckingridge Firm claimed Chamberlain docks.
Chick and Elizabeth stepped outside into the hustle and bustle of City Main. They shook hands.
“Congratulations,” said The Cappy. “I do so admire your moxy. Things are so much more interesting with a worthy opponent.”
Elizabeth slipped her phone from her bag. “Thank you Charles. You fight dirty but I’ve never minded a bit of mud on my face.”
They separated. Chick watched as Elizabeth put her phone to her ear. Her walk started to become brisk. “Where is she parked?” he asked his driver.
“South street,” was the answer as The Cappy slipped into the town car.
“Get me Ronnie. I need to find out who in the Hell got Chamberlain.”
Meanwhile, the Beckingridge security were in a rush to keep up with their mistress.
“Mark?” she was saying on the phone. “I need you to go down to the exchange right away. Title deeds are changing for Chamberlain Docks. Watch them and message me the name of the new owner the minute they update and I mean stand with your finger on the button. Seconds are a delay too long. I’m on my way back now. I was outbid for the docks and I need to know who else in this city has that kind of money.”
Inside Jeremy signed over the deed of purchase.
“Congratulations, Miss Harvester,” he said.
Julia smiled. All the petty squabbles were nothing to her when she had the route to expansion. Owen Inc, Beckingridge firm, even the Penn and Fullerton names knew the Harvester brand was growing but that nice, sweet presence in homes up and down the city had grown far larger than they had realised. Julia was a nice girl and now if the Beckingridges or the Owens wanted to reach outside of Coldford they were going to have to ask her nicely.
By day Waldens in City Main was a wine bar serving expensive drinks to young people with important jobs in the city. It was a meeting place for young professionals looking to escape their responsibilities and drink alcohol in the afternoon. By evening it was something quite different. Decadence, debauchery, licentious behaviour but when twenty eight year old Beckingridge accountant, Raymond, stepped inside it was quiet and calm. The low lighting reminded him of the rectory room at Pettiwick where had gone to school. It had a calming essence. Light jazz music played.
“Good afternoon, Raymond,” barman Gill greeted. “A little pick me up after a long day then?”
“A sherry please, Gill,” Raymond ordered. He had been locked in the offices of Beckingridge Tower since six am working on new algorithms they had been given. He felt he had earned his wind down at the end of the day.
Gill passed the sherry, poured into a perfectly curved glass. Raymond took a seat at the bar, intent on having some quiet time. Liz Beckingridge had stationed herself in the accounting department and despite them all working hard to make the new algorithms profit, she was in a mood about something. Although Raymond could remember her presence being a headache even before she took her brother’s place as CEO.
“You go home, Raymond,” Ernest had said to him once. “If you have a headache you go home incase you’re coming down with something. Go and get better.”
With a similar complaint to Elizabeth she replied, “Headache? What are you four years old? This is your job Raymond and if you haven’t finished running these numbers by close of business you will experience what a true headache is.”
Raymond sipped the sherry. Maybe the accounts department needed Liz’s sharpened tongue. After all The Tower was now performing at the best rates it ever had and the accounts team on the eighteenth floor were what held The Tower up.
He savoured the sherry’s sweetness. His eyes were drawn to a woman sat alone in the corner. She was a little younger than he from what he could tell. Her face wasn’t heavily made up like a lot of the women who came to Waldens. She had a natural, earthy beauty. When he caught her eye she smiled and coyly dropped her eyes to the phone she held in her hand. Raymond absorbed the image of the green dress she wore. The green swirled with the watery blue of her eyes in an almost hypnotic embrace. Raymond lifted his glass and boldly opted to join her at her table.
“Waiting for someone?” he asked.
She looked up and smiled at him as he took a seat. A lot of women could be put off by over eagerness, so Raymond leaned back to prevent his body from being too much in her space.
“I just thought I’d stop by,” she replied. “The noise of the city was starting to get to me.”
“You’re not from around here?”
She shook her head to the negative. She looked shy, as though she shouldn’t be talking to strange men in bars. “I live on a farm so it’s all quite a change of scenery for me.”
“So what brings you all the way down here?” Raymond asked.
Her soft ruby lips stretched into a grin. “I’m collecting meat,” she said.
She giggled at the coy euphemism. Raymond found himself doing the same thing.
Raymond lifted his glass and took another sip. “I’ll have to keep my eye on you then,” he teased.
The farm girl watched him. “You probably should.”
“What’s your name?” asked he.
She reached our hand out to him. He shook it. “Julia,” she said. “Julia Harvester.”
“I know the Harvester brand really well. I work for Beck Firm and we’re just dying to have you on board.” Raymond could see her eyes glaze over. It wasn’t shop talk she had come for. It was a more personal interaction she was after.
“My name’s Raymond. May I buy you a drink?”
“I think I’ve had my fill for now, Raymond, but if you are so familiar with the city perhaps you could show me around. I’m sure you can look after me and see that I get home safely.”
Raymond swallowed what was left of the Sherry.
“I’d be honoured,” he said. “My friends all say that I make an excellent tour guide.” His eyes fell down to her breasts, to her slim stomach. “May I ask which designer you got that fetching dress from?”
Julia took note of her dress as though it were the first time she had noticed she was even wearing it. “Oh this?” she declared. “This was no designer. I made it myself.” Earthy, modest. Julia was like a cool glass of water on a baking hot day. His parents would certainly like her much more than Tatyiana. “I’m good with my hands,” she finished.
At this Raymond leaned in. His empty Sherry glass now rested under him, causing a shimmer of light to dance upon his chin.
“So what parts of the city would you like to see?”
Julia stood. She reached out her hand and took his. “I’d like to see all that it has to offer,” she stated. She pulled him to his feet.
She led him by the hand from Waldens wine bar. The bar man didn’t pay attention to the young woman Raymond had chosen to leave with. Perhaps he should have.
Julia Harvester liked Beckingridge Manor. Although it wasn’t intended to be, it felt as open as the Harvester Farm house. It had a cool draught blowing through it. The walls were thick. The ceiling was high.
“I love you Julia,” George Beckingridge stated. He kissed her cheek heartily. She discretely wiped the saliva from her face as he danced towards his bed where Raymond had been stripped and laid to rest under the sheets. He wasn’t dead yet but the Beckingridge accountant wouldn’t be throwing any resistance towards them anytime soon.
“He is quite sweet, isn’t he?” she replied.
George collected a comb from a chest of drawers. He dropped to his knees beside the bed and started to comb Raymond’s hair into a neat side parting.
“He looks just like him,” George said excitedly. “I said so didn’t I? He looks just like him but there’s something not quite right. He not wearing glasses. Mr Baines wore glasses.
Julia reached into the pocket of her coat and produced a pair of spectacles. She passed them to George and with a grin on his face he slipped them onto Raymond’s face.
He chuckled. “That’s better.”
“I’m glad he pleases you. I do try my best.”
George stroked Raymond’s face gently. “He looks like him. I’d like to pretend it’s him. You don’t mind that do you Mr Baines? Are you glad to be back with your best pupil?”
Julia wasn’t listening. Instead her attention was brought to stuffed animal that sat on a shelf looking down.
When she picked him up George’s eyes locked on her. He watched closely as Julia stroked the toy’s fur.
“His name is Cecil,” George explained. “I know I’m a man now but I still like to have him close by.”
Julia cradled Cecil delicately. “We all have things from childhood we like to hold onto now don’t we?”
“When I was five there was a little boy in my school named Cecil. He was pale, skinny and completely bald. I didn’t ask why. I just thought he didn’t want any hair. All the other children looked at him like he was strange. They all looked at me that way too so we became friends. Cecil was always the first to say hi to me in the morning and we called each other every night when we weren’t sleeping over. We played for hours in this very room. I can still hear him laughing sometimes. The music room was where he liked best. I still have the toy train he left here. One day Cecil just stopped coming to school. When I called his mum said he couldn’t come to phone. My mum wouldn’t let any of the drivers take me to see him. A week later Miss Matheson – our teacher – told me that Cecil had been sick for some time. He had died. He couldn’t come to the phone because he was dead. I never got the chance to say goodbye. So when I saw that toy and I realised it’s name was Cecil I had to have him. We are going to be best friends forever, just like we promised.”
A monitor whirred with the sound of a baby’s cry.
“That’s my niece, Vicky,” he informed the farm girl. “Catherine, my sister has gone to a party. She asked me to look after her. Will you check on her for me? She’s in the nursery just down the hall.”
Julia laid Cecil back onto his spot on the shelf. His beetle black eyes were watching Raymond in the bed. The fur around the stuffed mouse’s neck was sticky and matted where he had been held so often.
“Will you be having a sleep over with me and Mr Baines?” asked the Billionaire Boy.
“I’m afraid not,” she returned “I’ll check on the baby and then I have to go.”
George’s attention was now back on Raymond. He kissed his cheek. He knocked the glasses askew. Julia closed the door behind her. George dropped his trousers and stepped out of them. He removed the white briefs he was wearing too and climbed into bed with Raymond, wrapping himself around the accountant. He kissed him again.
“Good night, Mr Baines,” he said.
Julia could hear the baby cry out as she approached the nursery. The door had been left ajar. Inside, the nursery was calmly lit with soft night lights flashing stars and planets on the walls and ceiling. Uncle George had left some classical music playing softly on an old stereo. It had lulled baby Vicky to sleep and she had only stirred again when it stopped. Normally her uncle would sing to her when the music stopped. Aunt Liz would sing to her too but that was only to distract her when she was getting changed or dressed. Liz’s voice was bouncy and fun. George’s soft voice always came through the darkness when it was time to close her eyes and bid farewell to the day. It was always gentle. Almost at a whisper. Tonight it was neither.
Victoria Beckingridge, third in line for the Beckingridge Tower looked up from her cradle with wide, engaging eyes. She had large brown ones like Uncle George. Julia had never met Catherine. Maybe she had the same.
The baby had been tucked perfectly for sleep. Her helpless little body had no room to wriggle.
“Gah!?” she exclaimed when she saw Julia. Julia lifted her from the cradle and into her arms. She carried her across to an armchair by the window. It offered a view of the manor’s lawns. She sat and settled Victoria into her arms, loosening the blanket so she could reach out.
“Hello, Vicky,” said Julia softly. “Uncle George is busy right now,” she caressed the little girl’s cheek. “You go back to sleep now, buttercup. It’s very late for you.”
Vicky’s lips twitched into a smile but her eyes started to get heavy as Julia began to rock her.
With it being Friday afternoon Beckingridge Tower exchange was hectic. Everything was beginning to wind down for the weekend closures.
“I’ve got 3.4!”
“I’ve got 6.5!”
“Going down. It’s time to pull out. Hurry!”
To pass the main reception of Beckingridge Tower you would find yourself on the stock holding floor. It was called the Execution Hall because it was where all the deals were cut and a lot of financial fates were decided.
Elizabeth was crossing the hall, keeping a personal eye on the weekend closures.
“Liz,” someone patted her shoulder for attention. She turned to be faced with Dr Gregory Winslow. Before the doctor could offer any further greeting Liz’s secretary, Colin, stepped in the way.
“Can I help you, sir?” he asked with a scowl.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “It’s fine Colin. Just carry on.”
Colin moved back onto the floor to continue to check on the traders and their final executions for the week. After the bidding those numbers were more important than ever.
“I’m busy doctor so …”
“I’m just here to have my weekly little chat with George so don’t mind me. Is he in his office?”
Winslow had been offering some tuition to George to prepare him for business school at Filton. He had also been talking the Billionaire Boy through his kidnapping, the death of his parents and the boy Kenneth. In truth the doctor’s influence was doing some good as far as Elizabeth could tell. There were moments when he even behaved like a real human being.
Liz Beckingridge wasn’t so naive that she didn’t realise Winslow was only taking her nephew under his wing because he had ulterior motives. No one liked to have to deal with George. Even his own father sighed relief when the music teacher took him away. Like many others Winslow probably saw him as weak. The doctor would see George as a way of gaining power himself in The Tower. Sure George would be sat on the CEO chair but it would be Winslow pulling the strings. George’s mouth would snap open and closed but it would be Winslow’s words he would be speaking. He would sound just like a real boy.
Elizabeth had no intention of ever letting George take control of the firm. She wouldn’t risk him ruining Gramps’ legacy by acting like a cruel child with a magnifying glass. But if the doctor was able to hold onto those strings in the meantime and have him behave she had no reason to stop him.
After all, it had been Winslow who talked George out of placing himself in the Penthouse Office.
“I think the Booker office may be more appropriate for you at this stage,” the doctor had said. George had scowled at first, until the doctor pointed out that it had actually been from the Booker office that the Free Fall Massacre had occurred.
“Yes,” Elizabeth agreed. “He’s upstairs. He’ll be expecting you.”
“Splendid!” Winslow cheered. He departed and allowed Elizabeth to return to the brokers.
The Booker office was still on the top floor but just didn’t quite reach the lofty heights of the Penthouse. As the elevator rose through the tower, Winslow began to wonder how he would look atop of the tower and with control at the firm. ‘Perhaps one day,’ he chastised himself. ‘One thing at a time.’
He didn’t fear George Beckingridge. He was well aware of his psychopathic tendencies. After all, it had been he who had signed the death certificate for his mother. He also handled the body extracted from the lawns of Beckingridge Manor. He had talked extensively with Vincent Baines when he was one of his Harbour House residents. Vincent detailed George’s behaviour and the fear that it had struck in the man who had taken the boy away thinking he was protecting him. Dr G Winslow wasn’t afraid of George Beckingridge because Harbour House had seen it all. Not a psychiatric institute but a rehabilitation clinic and that included rehab for all kinds of trauma.
“Good afternoon, doctor,” he was recognised immediately by George’s appointed secretary. A smiley young girl named Michelle. She too didn’t seem to fear George but that was through naivete bordering on stupidity. “Mr Beckingridge is expecting you. You can go right through.”
“Thank you, my dear,” he said.
He found George sat behind his desk. The doctor’s pride swelled when he noticed the business school text books he had bought the young CEO to be opened on his desk. George himself was dressed appropriately in a suit. The tie had a leaf pattern on it. It was a little more whimsical than anything he would have directed the boy to but at least he was starting to find his own style.
“I was going to call,” George began. “But I thought I would like to see you face to face.”
Winslow took a seat. “Something the matter? Are you having trouble with your studies?”
“I’m fine,” he replied. “I just decided I don’t like you.”
Winslow wasn’t sure he heard correctly but he maintained his composure and prepared to work through one of George’s outbursts.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” was the doctor’s response. “Was it something I said?”
“No. I just don’t like you.”
Winslow licked his lips. “That is a shame. We were such good friends.”
“No!” George barked. “I never did like you.”
This wasn’t going to be one of his outbursts after all. This was going to take a bit more calming.
“Whatever has upset you, I’m sure we can discuss it.”
“No,” George stated, softer this time. “I want you to leave and never come back. I don’t want to see you again and I won’t be giving any money to Harbour House.”
Winslow stayed steady.
“May I ask what has brought you to this decision? Surely after all we’ve been through you can offer me that much?”
George reached into the desk drawer and pulled out an expensive bottle of port and sat it on the table. It still had a gift bow on it from when Winslow gave it to him. It hadn’t been opened.
“Take this back,” George ordered.
“Please,” Winslow steadied his voice. “If you don’t tell me why it has come to this I’m just going to spend all evening worried about you.”
“I don’t need you,” said the Billionaire Boy. “You are just using me.”
“Now who would put that idea in your head? His tone snapped a lot more than he had intended it to. At first he thought it had been Elizabeth but she had little to no influence over her nephew and if she did feel that way about the doctor she wouldn’t have let him near him in the first place. “Who told you that George?”
From the adjoining room where a meeting of investment bankers was taking place emerged Julia Harvester.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Winslow stood. He scowled at the farm girl. “You?” he snarled. “You did this?”
“Did what?” she asked. “Tell you to take your poison and spit it in someone else’s ear? No, Gregory. Why would I do that? We’re still friends. It’s George here who says he doesn’t like you. He’s had enough of your pathetic, whining voice. He’s his own man. He’s big enough to make that choice. Who am I to say what happens in his tower?”
George was glaring at the doctor. Julia was smiling.
“You don’t and never will have a say in what happens at Beckingridge Firm,” George stated.
‘Neither will you, young man. Neither will you,’ Winslow mused bitterly.
Julia stepped behind George and rested her hands on his shoulders. She was the one pulling the strings now.
“Leave,” George insisted. “And when you do, take a route past Harvester Farm and remove every trace you had ever been there. Wipe every surface your wrinkled arse has touched and go.” He reached into the drawer again this time he drew out a long, rusted key. “This is the key for the Browning House. I loved it there. It was my home for ten years. A friend at CPD gave me it. You can have it. Go there and be forgotten about.”
“And if I don’t?”
George slammed his fists on the table. “You do it! You do what I say!”
Julia squeezed his shoulders. The strings were tugged. It was the puppeteer who spoke this time.
“Don’t test me, Gregory. I’ve sprayed for vermin like you before.”
“How dare you!” the doctor roared.
Julia raised her hand.
The bottle of port exploded. Gun fire. Why hadn’t Winslow noticed the window was open?
George was grinning excitedly. “Buddy Owen has his eye on you,” he cheered. “Buddy’s my brother and we’re brothers for life.”
Owen Inc, Beckingridge Firm and the Harvester Brand coming together would never be matched. It would be impossible for anyone to compete against that kind of influence in the Shady City. If anyone could make that happen it would be Julia. There was only one person who could step in the way of that and it was Elizabeth. But who was she going to listen to? The man who allowed the music teacher who she considered a friend to be treated abysmally by George whilst he was in his care, or the sweet farm girl who not only had her nephew dancing to a pleasant tune but also spent the night before cradling her great niece to sleep when the child’s own mother had abandoned her. Not to mention, it had been Elizabeth who had raised the interest in Harvester Farm.
Winslow fled The Tower, taking the Browning House key. If it had held George for ten years it still had its uses. He ran to his car. Every step he took, every corner he turned, he could feel an Owen scope on him. Even when he got into his car and drove away, he still didn’t feel safe. Buddy could be anywhere.
Julia clasped George’s head affectionately and planted a kiss on the crown. He giggled. She crossed to the open window, leaned out and took a deep breath of the fresh icy air. She looked across to the Weir Hotel. She didn’t know exactly where Buddy had placed his nest. She wouldn’t be able to see him with her naked eye but she brought her fingertips to her lips and blew a kiss. Either way he would still be watching.
Complete Season 2 of the Knock Knock series is free to read here on Vivika Widow. com or click below download for Kindle
Care to discover the true whereabouts of the Knock Knock Baroness? Tawny was last seen as a resident of the Shady City’s premier rehab clinic. Check out Vivika Widoow’s hit thriller Harbour House. Free on Kindle Unlimited.
Cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds is called to action when a close friend joins the Church of St Wigan.
With the help of a pandering con man, Reynolds uncovers a much larger problem as new Wigan Church leader, Dominick, sets his sights on cleansing the city.
We’ve all fallen into holes throughout our lives but do we have the strength pull ourselves out of it?
Dennis has managed the Knock Knock club and never was there a dirtier job. Would you believe me if I told you he had done worse? Does he now have what it takes to put his past behind him?
Coming 2021, from the Author of MAESTRO ; MUSE and HARBOUR HOUSE , step outside the Knock Knock club and head on over to Hathfield Bay Island for a nail biting, knuckle whiting , full in your face exciting glimpse into the lowest depths of humanity.
“You can’t do this!” Knock Knock barmaid Lisa Luren was complaining.
The club had been appointed its bailiff. The club’s assets were now being officially seized so that its starting price at auction could be given.
The bailiff – a woman not much older than Lisa, named Colette – looked down her spectacles at her. “I’m sure you’ll find I can. I have been granted permission by the High Court. Her Honourable Judge Doyle’s signature is on all of it and I have been instructed to close this club and note anything that would be of value.” She raised her phone and took a photograph of a fresh bottle of Macks that had been sat on the bar.
“You’re putting us out of work. What are we supposed to do for work?”
Colette sighed. She took another photo of the bar. A fellow bailiff took note.
“Not my problem. Put on some clothes, get yourself educated and maybe you’ll find yourself a real job. People might start to take you more seriously.”
“Can’t you at least wait until the owner gets here? She needs to be here,” Lisa protested.
Colette smirked. “I don’t think the owner is going to be here anytime soon.”
“I think she means me,” Agnes Wilde stated. She had arrived in a hurry when she received Lisa’s text.
Colette nodded to her fellow bailiff. He handed a copy of the High Court authorisation to Agnes. Agnes was known as The Broker of Knock Knock. She was partner to The Baroness and beloved aunt of Tabitha. The Knock Knock club was all she had left to hang onto.
Agnes folded the document in a single sharp fold. She had a naturally ladylike composure, which she refused to drop. “Before she was taken, Tabitha signed her shares over to me. Unless you are here to arrest me, you can’t take anything.”
Colette was disinterested. She had seen it all and had heard all manner of excuses.
“Check the details of the document I’ve just given you. You will see that I’m not here to collect on Tabitha’s shares. They were already forfeit the minute the investigation into the Headliner Fund was raised. I’m here to collect on part of Tawny McInney. Until she returns, she is considered a fugitive of the law and her name is the first on the Headliner Fund.”
“What about my own shares?” Agnes protested. “I’m the controlling share holder in this club.”
Colette took a photograph of the stage. “I’m sure basic maths will tell you that one third share is not the controlling one. Tabitha’s shares are void and Tawny’s are now seized. This club is going to auction.”
“This is my club,” Agnes snarled. Her irritation was now beginning to show.
“Then you’re most welcome to bid for those shares back. I’m happy to keep you informed as our collection proceeds.”
Lisa snatched Colette’s shoulder but Agnes stopped her.
Colette shrugged her off. “I’m just doing my job. Do not add assault to the charge sheet. The court will have its dues one way or another.”
A group of bailiffs brought out a box of costumes belonging to The Baroness. Agnes’ chest tightened when she saw Tawny’s feather head band peeking out from the top. She loved that band. She had had it for years and despite it having lived its best days she refused to part with it.
“Gives me a classy look, doesn’t it?” Tawny had said.
Tabitha laughed. “It looks like you stole it from a fucking parrot with mange,” the niece teased.
Tawny laughed heartily. She pulled Tabitha onto her lap and squeezed her tight, kissing her head. Tawny looked into her dressing room mirror and saw Agnes watching them both. Tawny wrinkled her nose and kissed at her enjoying how Agnes’ elegant smile turned to a girlish giggle when she did so. Tabitha took her aunt’s head band and put it on her own. She flicked her glossy brunette locks and posed exactly the way her aunt would on stage.
“What do you think Aggie?” the young girl put to her.
“It could at least use a wash.”
Tawny refused. “Not a chance, honey. You wash off all the luck from it when you do that. I got that feather all by myself. Do you realise how hard it is to pluck straight from a gull’s arse?”
Tabitha laughed heartily. “You talk so much shit Aunt Tee,” she taunted.
Few heard Tabitha laugh the way that she did when she and Tawn were backstage. That tatty old feather band had all the luck in the world for Tawny and now that luck was being carried out the door of the Knock Knock Club courtesy of agents of the High Court.
“That’s not worth anything, surely?” Agnes stopped a bailiff carrying one of Tabitha’s signature red dresses. “Do you really need to be taking the clothes?”
Colette shrugged. “Why not? It’s not like she’ll wear them anymore.” Before she could reply the bailiff added, “Custom designed, product of Luen. It all makes a difference.”
“What are we going to do Agnes?” asked Lisa. They had made plans to visit a friend of the barmaid who used to buy drugs from her boyfriend Kev. They had hoped he could shed some light on who shot her daughter, Sarah.
“There’s nothing we can do,” The Broker was forced to admit. “I have to stay here but I’ll get you some help. We’re not done.”
I had been in Lydia’s City Main apartment with Franklin when my phone began to ring with a disguised number. Franklin was preparing to leave to rendezvous with Agent Kim. He looked up from pulling on a jacket.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?”
It had been a while since any of my old story contacts fromr the Coldford Daily had been in touch.
“Hello?” I answered tentatively.
“Sam?” a woman’s voice, steady, calm, despite the sound of something of a commotion behind her. “Agnes Wilde. I got your number from a note you had left with Dennis.”
“Yes, Agnes. How are you?” Agnes and I had met before. She had shed a lot of light on Tabitha’s motives. It had been interesting hearing the perspective of someone who loved the Boss Lady like a daughter.
“I’ve been better I’m sad to say. I was going to be helping one of my girls this afternoon but we’ve been met with a swarm.”
A swarm was a common term in the Shady City for when the bailiffs arrived, due to the biblical plague nature of their descent.
“I’m sorry to hear that Agnes but I’m not sure what help I can be.”
“I can’t get away at the moment and this girl really could use some support. One of the agents would be a better fit than I am. It’s the little girl, Sam. The little girl that was shot? I can’t contact the agency directly because I need to be discrete but could you put me in touch?”
“I’ll do what I can,” I agreed.
I owed it to that little girl to do what I could to find her killer.
I looked to Franklin first. Capable and approachable. He would put Lisa at ease.
“Sorry,” he said. “Kim and I are heading to the Court House.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “I know someone who might fit better.”
Whilst the bailiffs still swarmed their way through the club noting everything that could be of value down to the silver of the cutlery, Agnes opened the door to what little help there was available.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” Lisa growled when she caught sight of Agent Lydia Lowe.
“We need all the help we can get,” Agnes warned. “Play nice.”
“That slutty bitch took Tabs away!” Lisa protested.
“I don’t have time for this. Tabs knew what she was getting herself into. It’s too late for her but if you want to find out what happened to Sarah you need to work with her.”
“Fine,” Lisa agreed, pouting.
A bailiff approached Agnes.
“Miss Wilde, we need the key for the upstairs apartment.”
Agnes’ lips tightened. “I suppose my toothbrush is worth something, is it?”
The bailiff didn’t answer. They just stood with their hand out waiting for their key. Agnes dipped into her jacket pocket and handed the key over.
“Right now, I have to concern myself with who is going to buy into this club. When Tawn comes back she will be devastated that Tabitha is gone. If she realises this place is gone too…” Her voice trailed off.
“Miss Wilde?” another bailiff called.
“I’m coming!” Agnes barked.
When she left Lisa and Lydia alone the Lydia asked her to join her somewhere quiet where they could talk. Lydia spoke first. “I’m so sorry,” she said.
She was not apologising for the Boss Lady’s demise. As her own aunt admitted, Tabitha had sealed her own fate. Lydia was offering heartfelt condolences for the death of her daughter, Sarah. If she hadn’t afforded me the opportunity to escape the club with the little girl, she would never have run into the scope of the gunman.
“Fuck you,” Lisa replied but she was starting to cry.
“I can’t bring your little girl back but I want to help you. Work with me and we’ll bring in the one that did it.”
“I thought you were one of us, you fake bitch. You took in Tabitha. She treated you like family. We were all like family.”
Lydia shook her head. She spoke softly. “I think you know that’s not true.”
Lisa smiled a little. It was true that The Baroness, The Broker and The Boss Lady treated all the girls at the club like family but long before she discovered she was an undercover agent, Tabitha made no secret of a dislike for Lydia. Jealousy? Instincts? Either way, Tabitha was not a fan. It had been club manager Dennis who had managed to gain Lydia access to the club.
“She’s good at what she does. She’ll draw in the crowds,” Dennis insisted – probably feeling like he could have a piece of Lydia himself.
“Fine,” Tabitha had agreed. “But keep her away from me. She looks like I might catch something.”
Preparing the girls for the evening Tabitha would do her usual rounds. “Great Lisa,” she would say. “Keep those drinks flowing. We want them pissed before we bring out the tip jars.” To Bette, the matron in charge of the dancer girls she would grin, “Got enough make up on? It looks like you’ve applied it with a trowel!” Bette would laugh at the good-natured ribbing. When Tabitha would turn to Lydia she would sneer, utter an, “Ugh,” and move on.
“I want to bring Sarah’s killer in. Will you let me help you?” Lydia put to the barmaid.
“Fine,” Lisa agreed for Sarah’s sake. “I was going to speak to someone who used to buy from Kevin. He might know something.”
“Good,” Lydia gave a chirpy smile. “What’s the address?”
“He lives in the Mid West now but he was Shanties born. He would never thank me for sending an agent to his door. I’ll go with you. I’ll talk to him first. Hopefully he will tell you all he knows.”
“We’ll get him, Lisa,” Lydia assured. “One way or another we’ll get that shooter.”
Lisa lowered her gaze. “I’m never going to have my daughter back. You lied to us. You lied to me. I thought we were friends.”
Lydia spoke soothingly. “I know I’m the last person you want around right now but I’m good at what I do and I can help find the one who shot Sarah. Let me help you.”
Lisa sniffed. “You’re still a fake bitch and the only thunder you bring is out your arse.”
Lydia shook her head. “Tabitha told you to say that, didn’t she?”
Lisa replied, “That’s the Boss Lady for you. But yeah, she did.”
Lisa’s contact had done good from what Lydia could tell. It seemed he had managed to escape the poverty trap of the Shanties and was now resident in a clean, respectable apartment in the Mid West.
“He’ll be a little shy of suits so let me do the talking,” Lisa instructed.
Lydia wasn’t going to complain. She wasn’t bearing any badge or uniform. It wasn’t her intention to cause any trouble for the contact. She just wanted to bring Sarah’s killer to justice.
A drug pusher was what Lydia expected from his association with Kev. He had clearly made a profitable business out of it. With bigger fish to fry she let Lisa take the lead. Lisa pushed the buzzer. Someone answered but they didn’t speak.
“Hey, it’s me,” she said.
The ring of the secure entry door sounded as it opened to them. Lisa stepped in first. Lydia was close at her back. She gave one last check for anything or anyone suspicious before she closed the door behind her.
They were greeted by a pleasantly lit, carpeted hallway. It wasn’t quite the Faulds Park building in City Main nor the Beckingridge Manor in Filton but it was clean. It was a typical Mid West apartment with its soft pastel coloured walls and welcoming plants in the corners. They climbed the stairs to the second floor. Lisa crossed an open landing and knocked on the door of apartment 2F. Their informant had been expecting them so the door was answered quickly.
“Agent Lowe,” Lisa introduced. “This is David Finn.”
Artist David Finn was sleepy eyed and his hair was tousled. He had clearly dressed in a hurry, his trousers and shirt not matching. He looked to Lydia, his mind still resonating on the word ‘agent’.
“Can we come in?” asked Lydia.
“Fuck,” was David’s reply.
David let the women into his apartment. The hallway may have been clean and well kept but the apartment itself was not. Clothes, paints, sketches were scattered everywhere. The artist started to straighten up as best he could.
While Lisa spoke to him Lydia took notice of a board that had been pinned to a wall. On it were photos of the Ferrald family who had raised David. There were also some photos taken from inside Harbour House, showing David with Tawny. She was clutching his face and kissing his cheek. David was smiling widely. His eyes were closed and his nose wrinkled. There was another with Tawny centre. She had one arm around David and the other round a well-groomed man wearing spectacles. Lydia assumed him to be the music teacher, Vincent Baines. Also pinned to the board was a photo of Tabitha as a girl. She was grinning, her two aunts standing proudly behind her. The photo was Tawny’s favourite and David had kept it for her. He knew she would be wanting it back when she was found.
“Jesus fucking Christ, lady!” David gasped to the Knock Knock barmaid. “You brought the law?”
“She just wants to ask about Kev,” Lisa explained. “She’s helping me.”
David nervously watched as Lydia inspected his apartment.
“Where did you meet her?” he asked. “She’s not CPD.”
“She was under cover at the club as one of the dancer girls.”
David’s nerves dissolved to a grin. “Really?”
“David? David?” Lisa urged but he was now lost in the neatness of Lydia’s form. “David focus!” she snapped her fingers in front of his glassy eyes.
“Sorry Lees,” he chuckled. “I was miles away there.”
Lisa pouted with good nature. “I’m sure you were. Can you help?”
“Of course,” David agreed.
When Tawny caught wind of Lisa’s daughter, Sarah, being gunned down and it likely being an Owen bullet that had taken her life she had vowed to do whatever it took to expose the killer. David was sure her vow and her disappearance were not unrelated. When he left Harbour House he met up with the Knock Knock barmaid to offer his support. It turned out that when Tawny spoke of Lisa, she had meant Lisa Luren. She and David had gone to school at The Grange together. Lisa was a couple of years above David but she was bubbly, popular and very memorable for a teenaged boy. They hadn’t seen one another in years but they knew each other well. David hadn’t realised the Kev he occasionally bought needles from was Lisa’s boyfriend.
Having given the time to put David at ease Lydia turned away from the board and prepared for her questioning. David kicked a pair of pink lace knickers under the sofa. There was no good explanation for them.
“So David,” Lydia asked. “When did you first find out about Sarah? What did Tawny tell you?”
“She heard from a friend that a little girl had been shot. That was nothing unusual in the Shanties but she insisted that it was an Owen that did it. The Kappa So creep Buddy Owen. He had been after Kev. He owed money to them.”
“Did you know Kev well?”
“Uh…” David turned to Lisa.
Lisa urged him. “It’s fine,” she said.
“I used to buy from him when the Kirkton apartments dried up. I haven’t touched anything since I came out of Harbour House though, honest! I’m clean and sober. I haven’t done anything illegal.”
“It’s okay. I’m just here to try and find out what happened to Sarah,” Lydia assured. “Did Kev ever mention anything to you about owing money to Kappa So?”
“No,” David replied. “But he owed lots of people. He stiffed me a few times too.”
“What made Tawny say it was Buddy Owen in particular?”
“She heard he was bragging about it.” David laid a gentle, comforting hand on Lisa’s shoulder. “He told one of his Kappa So brothers that he had deliberately shot Sarah first so Kev could see her skull explode. Then he shot Kev too.” Lisa sobbed so David pulled her close to him. “I’m sorry Lees, but we have to find him.”
“I know,” Lisa sobbed. “I know.”
Lydia remained collected. “Do you know the name of the brother that he had been bragging to?”
“Thad or Brad or some douche bag name like that.”
Lydia took note. “Thanks David,” she said.
“So you’re going to arrest him, right?” the artist asked.
“It’s not quite as simple as that I’m afraid,” Lydia admitted. “I need evidence or there’s nothing that can be done.”
Memories of Tawny and being confronted with the image of Lisa grieving for his daughter had left David a little emotional.
“And your looking for Tawn too?” he asked. “She’s loud, brassy, always flashing her tits at people,” he sniffed. “She can’t be missed, right?” he tried a cheerful spin.
Lydia smiled. “If learning about Sarah is the reason she’s gone missing then hopefully it will lead me to her too,” Lydia assured. “Lay low and say nothing to anyone.”
“Even CPD?” he enquired.
“The rich dragon lady wants to have a word with me. Can I talk to her?”
“If you mean Elizabeth Beckingridge then let me speak to her first. I want to find out all she learned from your friend, Vincent.”
David walked them to the door.
“Take care of yourself, Lees,” he said to the Knock Knock barmaid with a hug. “I’m here if you need anything.”
Lisa kissed the artist’s cheek. “I’m outta work just now so if you want a model give me a call,” she jested.
David laughed, “I will.”
Lydia shook his hand. “Thanks David. I’ll be in touch.”
“Sure, agent.” He leaned against the door frame. “Call me anytime. The more models the better…”
Lydia smiled. Her natural effervescence started to shine through her professionalism. She winked. “Stay safe.”
As they rounded the stairs Lisa looked back to see David still watching on with a raised eyebrow. His eyes were wide. Lisa shook her head with an exasperated giggle when he exhaled. Lydia had made an impression on him.
Kim and Lydia met outside the steps of the Court House. The last time they had done so it had been to discuss the raid on the Knock Knock Club. The dust from the debris had settled and through the dust an underlying problem in the Shady City was discovered. It resonated from all four corners of Coldford but that morning it had been the Chapter House the agents were targeting. The icy winter chill was closing in fast. Lydia blew warm breath into her hands. Smiling, she watched Kim approach. She hugged her agency partner. Kim was the self-appointed leader of their group. She was also the sternest but with Lydia close a warmth danced into her eyes.
“Let’s not waste time,” Kim suggested. “We need that signature.”
They headed on inside. An old building, the Court House had seen rulings from the first hanging two centuries before (ironically it had been Judge Jessica ‘Jess’ Owen who delivered the conviction. A man sentenced to death for thieving cattle. The cattle in question belonged to her family) right up to to death sentence of the Boss Lady. It had seen so much and still had so much to do.
The agents were escorted by a clerk on duty. Several members of the black bands were present. They were quiet and structured but their presence was worthy of attention.
Inside the office of The Judge, they found Doyle herself collecting documents.
“I must make this brief, agents,” she said. “I’m due in court.”
“It’s about an investigation I’d like to open,” said Lydia without haste. “With the help of my team.”
Karyn continued to prepare for court. “What kind of charges are you looking to bring?”
“Murder – first degree. Possibly several counts of rape, drug possession, whatever I can find.”
Judge Doyle stopped. “This perp sounds like quite a character. Coldford is no longer your jurisdiction. Why are you doing this? Why not tell CPD everything you know and let them handle it?”
Lydia stood firm. “Ma’am, if I leave it in the hands of CPD it will be brushed away. There is a conflict of interest at the department now.”
“Who is this target?” asked Doyle.
“Bernard Owen,” Lydia stated. “We have reason to believe he is responsible for the murder of Kevin Marsh and his daughter Sarah. We also have reason to believe he is responsible for the abduction of Tawny McInney.”
“And these reasons are hunches?” the Judge put to them.
It was Kim who had to admit. “It is just hearsay at this point, ma’am, but if we put it to CPD we will never discover the truth, not when the suspects cousin is now Chief of Police.”
Doyle gave it some thought. “I’ll grant you two weeks to find out what you can,” she said.
Kim offered the document that required a High Court signature to open the investigation. Karyn used the same silver pen that had been used to sign Tabitha’s life away. Buddy Owen had now come under investigation.
“If your enquiries bring up nothing, be prepared. The Captain will not stop at having your badges revoked.”
“It’s a risk we’re willing to take,” Kim assured.
“Good,” replied Judge Doyle. “Bring me whatever you find. We will see if a warrant is necessary.”
With more Owens arriving for the funeral of Pops even a place as large as Owen Estate was starting to feel crowded. Billy was occupied by his father, Jackson ‘Jackie’ Owen and The Cappy, so Buddy and his brothers managed to slip their nanny and head off back to Filton. They had said they were to meet with a Fullerton representative to discuss bringing the Chapter House back in order and they were.
“I’ll handle the Fullerton contract,” Buddy had offered.
Billy laughed heartily and shook his shoulder. “Shit for brains here still thinks he’s Chapter leader. You lost it boy.”
“I can do this,” Buddy pleaded to his father. “I can make it right.”
The Cappy scowled with a narrow gaze. “Close the Fullerton deal and then we’ll talk.”
Billy cheered. He wrapped his arm around his cousin’s neck. “Who’s the leader, little bro?” he asked.
Buddy could feel Cooper and Chad’s eyes burning on him.
“You are,” he admitted.
“Damn right I am. Who has the mighty big balls?” he asked.
Billy let him go. “Then let’s head out.”
Luckily The Cappy interceded. “Let Buddy try this one. I would like to see him produce positive results for once in his life. Billy, you and I should talk on CPD.”
“Sure thing Captain,” replied Billy.
So Buddy and his Kappa So brothers returned to Filton but before any meeting with Fullerton could take place they had a stop off to make.
Chad checked his phone. “Susie is out of the hospital.”
Buddy gave a sigh of relief. “Thank the fucking Lord Almighty,” he said. “I should send her something.”
Chad started to tap through his phone. “I have a flower guy I use,” he said. “What kind of flowers does she like? Orchids, lilies, tulips?”
Buddy stopped and scowled at him. “Flowers? She’s a six-year-old little kid, she likes pony rides and fucking chocolate milk.” He looked to Cooper and scoffed. “Flowers? Can you believe this guy?”
Cooper shrugged. Chad continued scrolling.
“You liked the purple tulips, remember?” Chad put to Buddy.
Buddy groaned. “They brightened up the place, brah.”
They had arrived at Cooper Garage. Cooper opened up. The annual luxury car auction in Luen was taking place. The Deluxe Drive event was a big deal among the traders and the Coopers never missed it. The garage had been on lock down since before the Loyalist/Fleet attacks began. As they stepped onto the main show room floor motion sensor lights sparked on.
Buddy stopped to admire a shining silver Bentley.
“We’re gotta get back into the Chapter House before Fullerton gets there and find the golden cock. Then I’m going to the farm, find the one who coked up my little mascot and I’m gonna fire ten rounds right up their fucking ass.”
“Yeah!” his brothers cheered.
“Then I’m gonna have my Chapter House back and I’m gonna make that sicko Penn eat my fucking dick.”
“Yeah!” the brothers continued in their encouragement.
“Then when I’m the new Cappy in town I’m gonna bang that farm girl because I’m Kappa fucking So!”
The cheer of the brothers rang through the garage. They climbed the steps to Cooper’s father’s office.
“We are Kappa So! Brothers for life,” Buddy was still ranting. They started in on the Kappa So chant as Cooper opened the door to Marshal Cooper’s office. More motioned sensor lights came on. Buddy pushed him out of the way and stood in the doorway first. He sniffed. He could almost smell victory.
“With everything that’s been going on I almost forgot we had this bitch!”
In the corner, hidden away from the rest of the city was Tawny, the one they called the Baroness.
George knew his aunt was looking for her but he always loved the thrill of a game of hide and seek. He especially enjoyed the admiration of his brothers when his Beck Firm informant was able to tell them exactly where Elizabeth was going to be looking next.
Tawny’s caught sight of Buddy and his bros unlocking Marshall Cooper’s cupboard and helping themselves to a generous helping of powder.
Buddy took the first line.
“I feel good!” he screamed. “I feel fucking good!”
“So what are we going to do with her? “ Chad asked Buddy of Tawny.
“Throw a sheet over her, brah. She’s weirding me out.”
Tawny shook her head. “You boys are in so much trouble,” she said.
Agnes and I met in Bobby’s lunch box. Whilst the Knock Knock was seized, Agnes had been staying in her Mid East apartment. We had joined for a coffee, the chance to relinquish our breaths and to discuss the power grabbing that had torn through the Shady City since the delivery of the sentence on The Boss Lady.
Agnes had gotten a text.
CAN YOU COME DOWN TO KK. HURRY.
I couldn’t let her return alone. When we got to the Shanties the streets were filled. I had never seen the place so busy. Even on the nights the Knock Knock was in full swing there still weren’t as many people pressing towards the club.
Lisa got talking to someone she knew in the crowd. She started to push through.
Mounted Black Band patrol pushed through. Agnes and I got crushed between them. Agnes fell into me but I managed to steady her on her feet. I had seen riot patrols before. I had seen them many times in fact but the crowd control that the Black Bands dealt was not the same. Their horses were larger. Thoroughbreds intended for war. A woman’s scream called out as she was crushed between two horses. A Shanties knife fighter pulled a blade and tried to plunge one of them. The horse reared. It’s horsemen came tumbling down with his baton at the ready. The knife dropped from the aggressor’s hands as the baton smashed against his skull.
“She’s dead! They’ve done it. They’ve killed Tabitha.”
The Black Bands swept the crowd back like the ocean over a sandcastle. Agnes roared a cry of despair that still tremors in my ears on dark nights when I’m alone.
From a post outside the club hung that red dress, that red dress that meant so much to so many people in the area. The wearer of the dress was gone. A notice on the door of the club read that the execution of Tabitha had been brought forward. No more appeals. No more pleas. All Lydia and Kim could do was lead the people away from the path of the Black Bands.
Paddy Mack comforted Brendan when they discovered the news. The Mack Distillery owner had known Tabitha since she was little girl. Kieran was pacing. He didn’t dry his tears. He let them flow freely. The bells rang in the distillery from behind the gates.
Agnes wept. It took both Lisa and I to try and usher her away. Don’t look, I hoped she would hear me think. For God’s sake don’t look.
Complete Season 1 of the Knock Knock series is free to read here on Vivika Widow. com or click below download for Kindle
Care to discover the true whereabouts of the Knock Knock Baroness? Tawny was last seen as a resident of the Shady City’s premier rehab clinic. Check out Vivika Widoow’s hit thriller Harbour House. Free on Kindle Unlimited.
Quiet. The noise of the workers on Chamberlain Docks faintly resonated in the distance. The ferry from the Island of Hathfield Bay would be arriving in soon. The 11:15. It always left port on time and the crossing was always a precise 56 minutes. What would it be bringing? Who would be returning? It didn’t matter because all of that was behind the tall hedges obscured from view. You see, it wouldn’t do good for the residents of Harbour House to look at what went beyond the safe little world that had been created for them. No that wouldn’t do at all, according to DR WINSLOW. Harbour House was a place of rehabilitation. Maybe seeing what was beyond the hedges, fences and walls would do them some good? Maybe it would give them some hope of returning to normality, but they weren’t there to hope. They were there to get better. They were there to shed all kinds of ailments.
One such resident was music teacher, VINCENT BAINES. 1105 was the number he was given and obsession was his reason for being confined to Harbour House. The air of the place was fresher than he had ever sampled deeper in the city and for that he was grateful. The noise of the birds chirping formed a pleasant little melody to accompany the blossoming rhododendrons. He had circulated the gardens three times when he came to a stop again. The door leading back into the facility slammed as a woman joined him. She looked a little surprised at first to see that she wasn’t alone but she smiled at Vincent and wandered to a bench and sat herself. She was slim of face and body. Her soft eyes were like clear blue pools of water. The way she had hunched nervously gave Vincent reason to deduce that she was new to the ways of HARBOUR HOUSE. She had been crying. She was still in clothes one would have worn outside. An intervention staged perhaps? Her family refusing to return for her until she was ‘normal.’ What was normal? No one was normal. Especially not in the city of Coldford.
“It will take a while to settle in but you’ll get there,” Vincent decided to say to her.
The girl looked up and smiled. “Thanks. I’ll be fine.”
Vincent nodded. She wasn’t a drug addict. She wasn’t a victim of trauma. Something else had brought her to them. He checked himself though. Ever since he was a little boy he had been drawn to the vulnerable, to those who needed help. His obsession meant that he was in no position to help. His obsessions just made things worse. The girl just needed to be left alone. At least Harbour House was helping him with something.
“How long do you have to stay here?” The girl asked just as Vincent was preparing to make another stroll of the gardens.
Her face was soft. She was pleading to him. She wanted his help. He could help. He had to help. She needed him. What was her name? Should he ask? If they shared their names that connected them. That made them a pairing and when you know someone who needs help you should help, shouldn’t you? Her watery blue eyes were begging him. ‘Help me, please!”
Vincent took a deep breath. “As long as it takes I suppose.”
The girl nodded. “I thought so.”
Vincent pushed his spectacles further up his nose. “You’ll get the help you need here.”
That much was true and that was all he would have to say on the matter. He had to leave it at that. If he thought about it more and started to question her as to what brought her there he would set himself back and Harbour House had been doing him good.
The door was thrown open again. TAWNY, an a old show girl and fellow resident leaned out. She had a cigarette dangling from her lips.
“C’mon honey!” She called to Vincent. “We’re going out to the roof.”
She giggled as the artist, DAVID FINN, also a resident, pushed beside her in the doorway.
“I painted my walls with pudding and they think its shit!” He laughed.
Vincent shook his head. “Very mature, David,” he replied but he was laughing too.
He made his way to join his friends. He stopped at the girl on the bench. “You’ll be fine,” he said.
The girl smiled in return. “You think so?”
Vincent didn’t dare allow himself to ponder the question.
A matron of the facility, Beverly, was making her way to the gardens.
“I know that was pudding!” She barked at David, slapping his arm.
David and Tawny fell to laughter. “Had you going though!” David teased.
The three made their way to a quiet spot on the roof. Beverly called to the girl.
“Emily?” She said. “I need you on the floor.”
The girl nodded, took a deep breath and stood. Her family had left her there. They wouldn’t return until she was better but she wasn’t a resident. She was a nurse. Just like the residents she would be there as long as it took.
Vincent thought he had his life together. A loving partner, a thriving career and all the blessings life can offer. When he accepts a wealthy new pupil his obsessions threaten to derail everything.
Celebrating 4 years! Read the hit novella that brought Mr Baines to Harbour House.
Those little mind worms can wriggle deep. But you have an public persona that you need to keep. They wriggle, the squirm and they embed. You can’t get those thoughts out of your head. There’s one place obsession can meet its cure. In Harbour House, that I can assure.
I can’t believe it is here already! It seems like only yesterday I was sending my letter to Santa and getting ready to cry, “Happy New Year!”
2020 has sure provided it’s challenges so far. It’s been a full year. Coming this May I am excited to bring you a new novel that I hope you will love reading as much as I enjoyed writing. So without further adu here are ten things you can expect from HARBOUR HOUSE.
1 – Three times the charm.
MAESTRO (2016), MUSE (2018) and KNOCK KNOCK SEASON 1 (2019) all had one thing in common – they each had a character finding themselves in Harbour House rehabilitation clinic. Music teacher, VINCENT BAINES, was put there after sessions with his pupil GEORGE BECKINGRIDGE … well let’s not say too much we don’t want to spoil. After a struggle with a drug habit, artist, DAVID FINN, checked in too and found a new friend in the maestro. Finally in the Knock Knock series, beloved aunt of the BOSS LADY herself, TAWNY, was taken to Harbour House for treatment of trauma after an attack on the club. So three unlikely friends came together and at that Harbour House opens.
2 – Maestro missing days.
In the conclusion of Maestro there is a ten year time hop. A lot of what happened within that time scale will be explained.
3 – An artist’s struggle.
David is hapless, he can be frustrating to his friends but despite his terrible upbringing he has a good heart. Readers of MUSE will be familiar with his struggle but as enters Harbour House he may find it is the best place for him.
4 – What happened at Knock Knock?
In the Knock Knock series, TABITHA arrives at the club as a girl to find it burned out (sorry, spoilers). All that is explained is that it was attacked and caused a mental break down of our now Harbour House resident. As Tawny’s struggle to get well continues the details of what really happened that night will be revealed.
5 – Sex, drugs and some questionable decisions.
Early readers described it as the boldest book yet. It contains scenes that became the subject of discussions at interventions (no exaggeration). Whilst the shocks and the grimaces are there, there is also a lot of heart. Rehabilitation isn’t an easy journey after all and all the love and support in the world is required.
6 – Villains times three.
Speaking of questionable decisions: I had a poll with early readers to pick who of the three villains would be deemed the most despicable by the end. Yes, you read that right. Since there are three heroes there would naturally be three villains pursuing them as they aim to get well. According to the readers it was a close match because each were just as nasty as the last.
7 – Irrational fears.
A fear of breast milk, a fear of stripping in front of your lover, a fear of being rescued by a handsome lunatic or a fear of your corpse being violated. Yes … Erm … So there’s that.
8 – Knock Knock! Who’s there?
Whilst it can be read independently of the Knock Knock series, Harbour House will act as a bridge between Seasons 1 and 2, beginning where S1 ends and leaving where S2 begins.
9 – The promise of a cure.
DR WINSLOW is nothing if not a good doctor. When he promises cure to his residents, brought to him for addiction, trauma and obsessive disorder, it is a promise he intends to keep. How the residents will combat their issues and how it will leave them in the end remains to be seen but the promise of a cure is very real.
In order to bring that cure the characters and reader are taken away from the usual experience of the Shady City. Isolation is key to cure and when the doors close on the residents, the reader is held behind those walls too. Don’t worry, there are pretty gardens to enjoy and all the coffee you can drink.
10 – An escape.
Readers, viewers, audiences. We all look to fiction for an escape. Wether it’s an escape from stress, an escape from the mundane routine or even just an escape to worlds where anything is possible. We lose ourselves in fiction because it pushes the boundaries of reality. Opening it’s doors in May 2020 so that you can join our rehab residents and escape, ladies and gentlemen welcome to Harbour House.
All Shady City thrillers can be read and enjoyed without the others and there is no particular order that is needed but if you are looking for the bigger picture be sure to check out as many as you can. As always I am so thankful to all of you. Readers are what makes an author’s work all worth it. I hope you enjoy Harbour House when it is released. In the meantime let me know your thoughts on Maestro, Muse and Knock Knock. Don’t forget to tip your author with a nice little Amazon review 😉
Kieran is the eldest Son of MACK AND SONS brewery. However, his age didn’t make him the natural successor of his father, BRENDAN MACK. Instead the distillery will pass to second born son, PADDY. The reason for this is that of his brothers Kieran is the most erratic. He has shirked responsibility for as long as he can remember and truthfully he too agrees that the lead of the distillery should fall to the more capable son.
The Macks had their reserved table at the Knock Knock waiting for them when a long hard day at the distillery had drawn to an end. Kieran would be especially excited when he heard favourite Knock Knock girl would be on hand. They called her Big Diane (or Double D) and her party trick was being able to serve drinks from underneath her large breasts. For Kieran’s 25th birthday THE BARONESS had treated him to having Diane use her breasts to break water melons on his chest, Kierans favourite part of the party piece.
That’s not to say that Kieran isn’t without his merit. The Mack and Sons form such a tight unit because of their loyalty to each other. Kieran may be the first to cause a headache for them but he is also the first there on hand to help when trouble arrives on Love Street. He will follow Paddy’s lead to the death if need be and should anyone believe he is a weak link in the Mack chain they would be mistaken. Brimming with the Mack spirit of fighting to the end Kieran may let his mouth run away with him most times but he will not go down without a fight.
It is no secret there is a strong bond between the KNOCK KNOCK club and theMACK AND SONS brewery. The Macks have supplied the booze and the club supplied the entertainment. For Kieran the bond was stronger than that. For him it was an extension of an already large family. As his father always told him, “yer an eejit but yer family and family is what is important.”
The Mack and Sons reserved table was filled. An attack on the Knock Knock club would leave the rehab facility HARBOUR HOUSE picking up the pieces.
Shy vet, Alex, receives an unexpected patient. When he saves the lives of two of Reggie Penn’s beloved rats the triplet is eager to befriend him. Better keep your distance Alex. Better stick to online.
Complete season 1 of the Knock Knock graphic novel series is free to read HERE.
Fresh, up and comer from the Cardyne Area. Joshua has always been a computer geek and an avid gamer. From a humble background his game franchise LONESOME NIGHTS hit big making him one of the wealthiest people in the city. It also made him a prime candidate for the sharks of BECKINGRIDGE FIRM to invest his overnight fortune.
Joshua is as kind and good a man as you are likely to find in Coldford. Rumours are that it was seeing how genuine he was in wanting to use his financial blessings to help others that was the reason TABITHA spared his life.
Joshua still has a huge part to play in events to come to Coldford but in the meantime with DAVID FINN, REGGIE PENN and CAMERON DOYLE as avid players of his game he brings some unexpected company together.
Shy vet, Alex, receives an unexpected patient. When he saves the lives of two of Reggie Penn’s beloved rats the triplet is eager to befriend him. Better keep your distance Alex. Better stick to online.
Complete season 1 of the Knock Knock graphic novel series is free to read HERE.