Tag Archives: noir thriller

Knock Knock: Episode 30: It’s All Over Now

The Browning house had a strange atmosphere. It had been inhabited for ten years and yet it felt like no one had dared crossed the boundary. There were some newer throw pillows on the battered old sofa but they too were filthy. The windows had heavy shutters. The curtains were dusty and thick with mould. ‘How could anyone have lived here?’ Winslow wondered to himself. Vincent Baines, his Harbour House resident, had described it to him many times but he never imagined it to be so filthy. The music teacher had thought to go there for safety but that hadn’t worked out so well for him, now had it? It didn’t work out well for the doctor either, trying to help George, and it wouldn’t work out for Julia. George was a special case. He wasn’t quite driven by his lust the way most young men were. He had his desires but they were different. He didn’t quite think with his brain either the way sane people would.

The doctor had come to the Browning house as instructed, he couldn’t stay in the city where the scope of an Owen’s gun could be on him at any time. He didn’t plan on spending much time there. He would be back on top soon enough and when he did he would be putting Julia out of the game for good.

His heart skipped a beat as the cheap phone he had bought at a store in Bournton rattled on the table. One of the chairs had been broken, no doubt by George in a temper. Micky Doyle was the only person he had given the number to in a message that read:

HAVE TO BE OUT OF TOWN FOR A WHILE. I AM NOT ABROAD SO YOUR COUSIN NEEDN’T WORRY. I CAN BE BACK IN THE CITY WITHIN THE HOUR. SINCERELY G WINSLOW.

The doctor quickly answered the phone. The remoteness of the house made everything seem so much louder.

“Yes Micky? Yes?” he welcomed.

“Good gracious Gregory, where are you?”

Winslow looked at a pair of white briefs that had been discarded on the floor.

“Never mind that,” he said. “I hope you have some good news for me.”

Micky chuckled. “I do indeed. My cousin has finished her investigation into Harbour House.”

Winslow clutched his chest. It was a much needed relief. “I’m so glad.” His stronghold was coming back to him. “I trust all was well?”

Micky replied, “If you hadn’t been hiding yourself away you could have been here to witness the entire thing. They found nothing. It was really quite splendid. Now Karyn is annoyed at the resources that were wasted. The keys of the facility are to be handed over but we need you here to sign the documents.”

It had been a long time since Winslow had felt so jovial.

“You’re sure it is safe?” he asked. “It all went well?”

His good friend Micky Doyle assured it couldn’t have gone better. He was Mayor Micky Doyle now and what was sitting on the Hot Seat of the Shady City if you couldn’t help your friends?

“I have an appointment for you with Karyn at one o’clock but you have to hurry. Do not be late, Gregory. You know she won’t reschedule.”

Gregory tried to remember if Karyn Doyle was an early or late luncher. One o’clock could be a time when her belly was full and she was pacified. It could also be the time when she was still waiting with a ravenous hunger.

“Yes, Micky. Of course. I’ll be there right away.”

After Micky rang off Winslow stepped out on the gravel drive way. He gave thought to Buddy. Surely, he wasn’t still watching? The Browning house was isolated but that didn’t matter. Buddy could be hiding anywhere, still with his scope following him. He almost ducked for cover when a blackbird took flight from a nearby tree. He slipped into his car like a snake and drove away. He had an appointment with Judge Karyn Doyle, arranged by his good friend Micky, and The Judge would not reschedule. He had to collect his Harbour House keys or risk losing them for good. As he drove back to the city, his eyes returning to the rear-view mirror contantly, he was still unable to shake that feeling of Buddy watching him. At least he would be safe when he got inside the Court House. He would retrieve Harbour House and he would deal with Buddy Owen then.

***

Things were changing in the Shady City. Things were changing for the dominant names: Penn, Beckingridge, Harvester, Owen. But things were also changing for individuals, those who had sought to make a name for themselves like Winslow and like Tabitha, even reporters like myself. It took a certain distraction from humanity, a certain disregard for the value of life, honour and morals to succeed. This was something the eminent Doctor Winslow had in abundance.

As he raced along the City Main streets, still fearing being caught in Buddy’s scope, he almost collided with a woman who was carrying a load of Harvester goods in Harvester tote bags. The typical snobbish attitude of the people of City Main caused her nose to upturn.

“Watch where you are going!” she barked as she tried to steady her bags again.

Winslow started to help her with her bags but the bang of a car back firing caused him to abandon that pursuit.

The Court House was the Almighty’s waiting room in Coldford. The smell of polish on the mahogany, the brightness of the shine on the marble floor, all screamed power to Winslow. She was a difficult mistress to please but if she allowed you to sample her sweet delights she could pleasure like no other. Winslow knew this and he salivated at the idea of having a taste, having his Harbour House back complete with the stamp of approval from Judge Karyn Doyle herself. He didn’t want to seem over eager, nor did he want to seem complacent. He hadn’t had the chance to groom properly or brush his teeth at the Browning house so he was a little out of sorts.

“Put your best foot forward,” Papa would always say. “No one likes a man who pays no care to his presentation.”

Winslow was in full agreement with that but there just hadn’t been time for him to present himself properly. He needed Harbour House back and then he would present. Then he would present to the entire city.

“Excuse me, sir,” a Court Clerk stopped him. Her name was Diane and it had been she who had been there to meet in him Luen. She was one of Karyn’s minions, clearly an admirer. She was well presented. In fact, she was so well presented she could be a body double for the Judge herself. Well Diane, it seems your attempts to discredit the good doctor didn’t bore much fruit. If Karyn was annoyed at the wasted resources, Diane may just find herself being to blame.

“I have been personally requested by Her Honourable,” Winslow stated with pride. He couldn’t help but enjoy the way Diane’s face dropped. It added years to her. “I’ll head right on in if you please.”

The hall was lined with well equipped men. They were not bailiffs nor were they clerks. They were members of the much fabled Black Bands. They had been brought together by Sergeant Major Doyle with the intention of creating an elite team capable of stopping rebellions, uprisings and extreme civil unrest. Upon sight of them Winslow slowed his walk to a stop. They weren’t paying him any attention but they cast a dark shadow. He was almost at the point of turning and retreating when Micky leaned out of the door to Judge Doyle’s office.

“Gregory!” he called in a hushed but urgent tone. “Hurry. For God’s sake don’t keep her waiting.”

With his good friend Micky Doyle’s encouragement Winslow passed the Black Bands and entered the lair of The Judge. Karyn herself was sat behind her desk. Four pillars bearing the Law Makers symbol like eyes from above stood tall behind her. She had files placed before her.

Winslow took a seat. “It’s a pleasure Karyn. It’s so nice to see you.”

Karyn Doyle was unmoved. Her pale face expressionless. “I’m in office. You will address me with my proper title.”

“Yes, of course. I do apologise, Your Honour.”

The Judge lifted the first of the files. “On October 19th you were given notice to allow my bailiffs to audit your facility. You were also asked to deliver resident 0109 into my custody. Is that correct?”

Winslow looked to Micky first but the mayor said nothing.

“Yes, ma’am. That is correct,” he eventually replied.

“You refused to respond.”

The judge dropped the file on the table and collected the next.

“On October 25th the case was escalated further. You were served notice of audit and a warrant was given for resident 0109. Is that correct?”

Winslow blinked. They had already been through this. “Yes ma’am. That is of course correct.”

The second file was dropped. “Still you refused to respond.”

Winslow tried to explain, “It was a very busy time. I had so much to do and of course personal issues…Your office takes precedent but my residents were sick and in need of my care.”

The Judge scooped up the final file in her hand.

“On October 30th a full summons was granted and my bailiffs entered your facility by force.”

“I do sincerely apologise for that ma’am. I’m so sorry for any inconvenience that this issue may have caused. As I stated at the time I was under a great deal of pressure.”

Karyn Doyle narrowed her gaze. “Yes, we have documented that. We are also taking into consideration your assistance in the search for Tawny McInney. So now I am willing to move forward. After a thorough investigation of the facility my bailiffs found nothing.”

Winslow grinned. “We aim to heal, Your Honour. Harbour House is the greatest facility in Coldford and can help so many when it is reopened.”

The door opened without knocking. Van Holder of the Black Bands and a companion named Monsta’ – a huge man with an animalistic presence – entered. They stood by the door.

“My bailiffs found nothing. That was until one of your nurses, Beverly Myers, stepped forward,” Judge Doyle explained. “Gregory Winslow, you are under arrest.”

Monsta’ pulled Winslow from his chair.

“Wait!” Winslow screamed. “I’ve done nothing wrong! Beverly is a liar!”

Judge Doyle flicked open the last file. “Your charges are as follows. The torture and exploitation of at least thirty two victims including Martin Winslow and Alexander Ferrald. That number continues to grow. Also, for the murder of Mark McKenzie, Scott Cross and Laura Doyle. This number also continues to grow. Finally, multiple accounts of the rape of Julia Harvester.”

“Lies!” Winslow shrieked.”Micky! Tell her!”

“I’m also in the capacity of my office,” replied Micky. “That’s Mayor Doyle.”

Winslow wouldn’t be able to shake Monster’s grasp. After reading him his rights the Judge was not done.

“I hereby revoke your licence to practice medicine indefinitely. You are no longer to assume the doctor title and any attempts to re-register will be denied. You will now be remanded in custody until your trial. Given the nature and magnitude of your crimes no bail will be granted and I am authorising a full psychiatric evaluation.”

“Micky! Damnit all Micky! I am taking you down with me. I am taking you down!” Winslow shrieked as he was pulled from the office of The Judge.

The Penn Auction House, The Knock Knock Club, Harbour House. There were three down and one more to go. As Her Honourable Judge Karyn Doyle prepared for her next appointment her long shadow was cast over the map of Coldford plunging the Bellfield area into darkness, home of the Mack and Sons Distillery, provider of the finest whiskey in the Shady City and the current whereabouts of fugitive Patrick Mack.

***

The sailing was smooth, although Kumala had vomited a couple of times. She didn’t know how long she had been travelling for. Restless sleep had been intermittent. She and twenty other girls had been locked below deck. In the bottom of the boat was only darkness and the smell of rats. She was told she needn’t be frightened but she couldn’t help it. Her village had been celebrating her thirteenth birthday when they came. They took her and many of the other girls. They told them that they would have a better life. They would be like princess brides, similar to the ones she had read about in story books. Some of the girls didn’t want this. They disappeared through the night. The boat they had been crammed into didn’t seem much like the princess carriages from the books but maybe it would all get better when they reached their destination. One of the girls with them had been beaten by their escorts. She probably couldn’t speak their language. She had tried to comfort some of the other girls but communication was a problem. One of them – a twelve-year-old – had fallen unconscious. She was terribly dehydrated. The girl who couldn’t speak collected some of the rain water that was dripping down on them and rubbed it onto the girls dry, cracked lips.

Never had Kumala been enclosed with so many people and yet felt so alone. The boat continued to tear through the sea towards her destination. Kumala was told all of her dreams would come true in the City of Coldford. She hoped so.

***

It was early morning and the phone buzzing woke Nan Harvester. She leaned over and checked.

SHIPMENT 0612 has arrived.

She sat up. This was good. It had been the first shipment for a while. It was still dark outside. The farm would be stirring soon. She patted Jonathan lying beside her.

“Jonathan,” she whispered. “Jon? You have to get up. I have to go and I need you to keep an eye on things on the farm.”

Jonathan didn’t object. He sat up, stretched and slipped out of bed. Nan watched her son’s naked body as he disappeared into the adjoining bathroom. It was going to be a good day. Another shipment of nanny’s little naughties for the pot. She climbed out of bed herself and crossed to the window. She pulled the green curtains open and allowed the world in. The sun was just beginning to climb up to to the horizon.

She felt Jonathan’s arm slip around her waist, having returned from the bathroom. He was now wearing a beige pair of overalls that once belonged to his father.

“Have a good day, mum,” he said.

“I will Jon,” she replied. “The best day.”

***

By the time Nan arrived at Chamberlain Docks the daylight had dawned on Swantin. A beautiful warmth was glowing through the icy air. Nan met Harbour operator Anthony Runetti.

“Good to see you Nan,” he said. “I’ve got the Ferry Way heading to Hathfield at 11:40. It’ll be coming in to Port at nine. We’ll need your ship turned around by eight.“ Nan smiled sweetly. “I won’t even need that much time Anthony. I’ll be in and away before you know it, just like a little fairy.”

It was then he noticed the tote bag she was carrying. It was filled with fruit, vegetables and meat packets.

“This is for your mum,” she explained handing the bag over. “I’ve not had the chance to pop up and see her yet. You can give her this for me. I’ll be up to see her real soon. Let her know I haven’t forgotten her. I missed her at church last Sunday.”

Anthony collected the bag gratefully. He was supposed to oversee all shipments but he knew Nan. She stood as his confirmation sponsor at church when Uncle Roddy and his dad had a falling out. He supposed it would be no harm to let the sweet farmer’s wife through. Widowed, charitable, Christian woman. He had to take the groceries into the office and store them in the fridge anyway.

It wasn’t until she got to the gangway that the skipper opened the door. Light flooded onto the girls’ eyes. Kumala’s legs were weak. The mute girl offered her arm to help steady her.

Nan smiled at Kumala but it didn’t comfort her.

“I see the travel was a little snug girls. I’m ever so sorry. We couldn’t afford better, I’m afraid. We are a charity after all. But none of you should worry.” Kumala was pushed towards the skipper. “Separate the virgins from those sexually active. I’d like them put to work right away.” She rounded on the mute girl. “I don’t know this one,” she clutched the girl’s face. Exotic. Pure.

“A new addition,” the skipper explained. “She was last minute but we thought you would like her.”

Nan nodded. “I like her very much. She’s beautiful. What’s your name?” Nan asked the girl.

The girl looked to Kumala.

“Do you speak English?” Nan asked softly. She surveyed the other girls.

“The dummy has been thrown from the pram,” she said.

Nan frowned. “Excuse me?”

“Move! Move!” Cries were heard. A blockade was thrown down and a fleet of agents descended upon the scene.

Agents Kim, Lydia, Franklin and Reynolds were on the front line. There was nowhere to run.

Kim grabbed Nan’s arm. “Nan Harvester. I’m placing you under arrest for trafficking.”

Continuing to read her rights, the other agents looked to bring Skipper and the crew in.

Lydia took control of Kumala and the other girls.

“It’s okay. You are safe now,” she assured them. Franklin began to interpret in their native language.

“Well done, Agent Ragrag,” Kim congratulated the mute girl. Agent Ragrag was nineteen but given her youthful looks she had been chosen for the undercover mission. She had allowed herself to be taken and moved with the girls. She had been to hell and back but the girls were now safe. The mission was a success.

Like dominoes, the great pillars of Coldford continued to fall.

***

Having stayed away from the farm all day, it was well past dinner by the time Julia returned home. She dressed in something more comfortable and made her way back downstairs. As the door opened into the entry hall, she didn’t call a welcoming to any family or guests. She was expecting a quiet house that night. In a display of despair Jonathan came tearing from the lounge when he heard her footsteps.

“Jules!” he cried. “I’ve been trying to call you. Where have you been?”

Julia leaned casually by the window.

“I saw your missed calls. I just wasn’t answering.”

“It’s mum,” he explained. “She’s been arrested. They have her for trafficking. The Nan Foundation is closed pending further investigation. They won’t set bail. She’s going to prison. What are we going to do?”

“That is unfortunate,” said Julia softly. She took her brother’s hand. “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. Nothing. We’re going to let her rot in prison for the rest of her life.” Jonathan pulled his hand away. His eyes widened. Julia went on, “She let him back in here. You have no idea what it is like to have his disgusting, trembling hands touch you, to satisfy his depraved appetites whilst you watch your father imprisoned in hospital. Do you have any idea what it is like to look into the eyes of someone who knows you are just about to end their life?”

“Jules!” Jonathan sobbed. “She was our mother.”

Julia shrugged. “I don’t care. I have and always will do what needs to be done.”

Jonathan pressed, “What are you saying?”

Julia smiled her sweet smile. “I’m saying I gave the Court everything it needed to go after both of them. I’m saying I will bring you down too and I won’t bat an eyelid.”

Jonathan nodded.

She smiled her nice smile. Julia Harvester was a nice girl. She always had been. She took her brothers hand again. Her touch was softer.

“We’ll be fine with poor mummy and daddy gone. I’ll have to work extra hard but the farm will be just fine. It’s late now. I’m going to have some herbal tea and a nice hot bath.”

A tear spilled from Jonathan’s eye. His sob caught her attention. She turned and agilely crossed the hall again. She opened the window to let the stifling air escape the farm house.

“What’s all this fuss about?” she asked. She pinched his cheek. Her grip twisted. “What’s all the fuss about?”

Jonathan gasped. He had no answer for his little sister.

“I’m just putting everything back in its place. Everything is so much neater when things are in their place. Beck Tower, Owen Inc. and all the other little blocks laid neatly in a row. I have much to do Jon and I can’t have you holding me back. Whilst they all went on bickering among themselves, they failed to notice our farmland grow. They were so distracted with what they could have that our trucks slipped around the city unnoticed. They were all so concerned with protecting their own they hadn’t counted the amount of fresh new Harvesters stores all the way from City Main to our latest on Love Street in Bellfield. I’d very much like to take a walk up Love Street. All the little blocks neatly in a row and suddenly the city becomes a much nicer place. Goodbye Jon.”

BANG.

Jon was shot in the centre of his forehead. His body dropped with the weight of slaughtered cattle. She stepped over the body. She wanted to run a bath, relax and shake off all that had happened.

When I began my story into the mayor I had been warned away from it. My fellow reporters told me it would lead me to dangerous places. The events unfolded and now as the largest titans in the city prepared to face off they failed to notice a great monster rising in the north. What was most dangerous about the Harvester monster, was that it was a friendly face everyone welcomed into their home.

***

The Boss. Bournton’s pride. Now a Kappa So strong hold. For those bearing the name Penn it was not going to be an easy place to make home. Marcus Penn was introduced to this when Kappa So members flooded him in his cell and he was beaten badly. Simon they targeted in the showers. He was naked, he was outnumbered and they taunted him. He fought back but it was to no avail.

Governor Avery West stepped in. The prison he was placed in charge of had been assigned so many new guards since the arrival of Billy Owen to CPD that he barely recognised most of the faces as he crossed the halls of The Boss to his office. Guards, legal staff, even the medics and admin, all were different. There were so many new arrivals. It made the inmates uncomfortable but random outbursts of violence from the guards kept them pacified.

Inside his office Avery was met by two guards. They had in their custody two of the Penns. Their faces matched and their expressions matched too.

“Take a seat, gentlemen,” Avery invited.

Simon seemed hesitant at first but when Marcus took a seat he followed suit.

“Let me begin by apologising on behalf of my guards for the extra attention you’ve been getting lately. I wanted you to know that I am doing all I can to see that it doesn’t happen again.”

“Why?” Marcus wanted to know. This was his first audience with the governor so he was familiarising himself with the type of man he was.

Avery nodded to the guards. They both took a step back. “I want to make you as comfortable as possible,” he admitted. “When you are inside The Boss you are my responsibility. I take the responsibility of any of the inmates very seriously. I have been here a long time and I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen riots, I’ve seen contraband and I’ve seen men hang from the roof. When you both came in we expected a handful but you’ve caused little trouble and you’ve even kept some of the other inmates in line. If you are going to be with me for the foreseeable future we might as well keep our acquaintance friendly. As a matter of fact, in the token of our friendship I have a gift for you. If you will care to follow me.”

Simon and Marcus were escorted to an exercise yard. It was smaller than the main one the inmates used. Two guard towers were perched, each with a gunman to boast. “This is exercise yard B. The guard up there,” here Avery pointed to the left. “His name is Rukov. I’ve known him for years. If you continue to behave like gentlemen he’ll give you no trouble. On the right up there,” here he indicated the other. “His name is Gorvic. I hand picked him especially for my squad here. He will follow the same rules.”

“Why did you bring us here?” Marcus enquired.

Simon had already seen the reason. “Reggie!” he called.

On the other side of the fence sat the final triplet for them to be whole again. Forgetting the gunmen and the guards both the triplets ran to meet their brother at the barrier between them.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” asked Simon with snarl.

“I came to find you,” said Reggie. “You could show a little gratitude.”

Simon shook his head. “Do you have any idea the danger you have put yourself in?”

Reggie shrugged. He sat himself down on the ground.

“He’s right,” Marcus agreed. “You can’t stay here.”

Reggie folded his arms and remained defiant.

“Well I’m not going anywhere. If you two are in danger, I am too. So you might as well just leave it.”

Simon was still shaking his head but he had softened. “You are a fucking idiot.”

Reggie laughed, “Yeah I know, but I’m the idiot on this side of the fence.”

Marcus turned his attention back to Avery. Avery approached them. “No one else will be able to use this area. It’s not a long-term solution but at least you will have the chance to regroup.”

Marcus frowned. “Why are you doing this?”

“Help keep my prison in order and I will make life as easy for you as I can.” Avery took his leave. The two ground guards remained posted at the door. The tower guards kept their look out on the Boss’ rear approach.

The triplets were given the chance to talk.

“So what you’s been up to?” Reggie asked.

Simon frowned. “Well it’s been bed of fucking roses, Reg. What do you think?”

Reggie shook his head. “It’s not exactly been easy for me you know. It’s been no picnic.” This seemed to trigger something. “Marcus, I’ve got a pack of the Harvester Corn chips. You like those, right?”

He stood and with a great heave he threw the packet over the fence. They landed at Marcus’ feet. He scooped them up. “Thanks,” he replied. He inspected the packet. “It’s bacon flavour. Do you have any cheese?”

“What do I look like?” Reggie asked. “A fucking corner shop?”

All three laughed. The sound almost broke the barrier between them. Almost.

“There’s no pleasing you,” Simon put to Marcus. He closed in on the bars and tried to look behind Reggie into the small fishing tent he had set up. “Got any energy drinks?”

“Fuck off. You get your three squares a day. This is the only stash I have.”

Reggie was the most resourceful of the triplets. Like his rats, he was the most effective at squeezing from tight places.

“Have you heard anything about dad?” Marcus asked, peeling open the corn chips bag and dipping his fingers in.

“He’s been hitting and he’s been hitting hard. Snooker halls, dance venues and factories.”

“Why didn’t you go to him?”

“He’s not staying stationary. He’s moving all over the city, from Main to Bellfield. I don’t know where he is and if I did he’d be gone again by the time I get there. We’ll be fine here. He knows you’re both here so he’ll come and get us soon enough.”

“You’re going to get the stare treatment when he sees you’ve set camp up here,” said Simon.

The three remembered fondly. The triplets could be difficult to control but they were raised like gentlemen and taught to respect their mother and respect their family name. If any of them were found to get out of hand, all it would take from their father was the stare. A glance from Reginald Penn that reminded the boys there was a chain of command.

“I haven’t had the stare since that time I wore eyeliner,” Reggie said.

Simon started to laugh. Marcus continued to enjoy the corn chips.

“I already told you you looked like a tit,” Simon remarked.

“Do you remember that Marcus?” Reggie put to the eldest. “Remember, we were about eighteen. I had a bit of a faze going on.”

“You were friendly with the girl from the piercing parlour in those days,” Marcus mused.

“Yeah well I thought I’d try something different. Si, you were the one to start being a dick about it.”

Simon protested, “If you went out looking like that I would have been in so many fucking fights that day. And besides, when you wear make-up it looks like my face with make-up. I wasn’t having that shit.”

Marcus took another corn chip. He gave a shadow of a smile.

Reggie continued. “Yeah, well, I was just expressing myself,” he maintained.

Simon leaned over and fished for one of the corn chips. “You were expressing yourself like shit until you got the stare.”

Reggie nodded. “I was determined. I wasn’t going to listen to you. It was a new me and I had a new shag so I was doing it. It was bold but why the fuck should I care what people think? I grabbed my bag. The shoes were painful mind you. But I was going with it. I forgot I had to cross through the parlour didn’t I? Dad was in there every morning with his first cup of tea. I stopped. He lowered his newspaper. He took one look at me and there it was. The stare. ‘I don’t think that’s appropriate,’ he said. Yeah. I had to change that shit immediately.”

The three boys started laughing again.

Avery came back into the yard. He interrupted them.

“I can’t let you stay here long,” the governor said.

Distance was brought between the triplets again.

“We’ll come back,” Simon assured.

“I’ll just chill out here then, shall I?” Reggie called back.

***

The next day Marcus and Simon were taken to exercise yard B. This time the ground guards remained outside the door. It clicked closed but they all brightened when they saw each other. Reggie had kept his camp.

Simon was a few paces ahead of Marcus. Marcus looked up the left. The gunner was was not Rukov. He looked up to the right. The gunner was not Gorvic.

“Reggie,” he said. “Has anyone seen you?” he asked. “Has anyone said anything to you?”

Reggie shook his head. “No, it’s been quiet. The Warden was out but he just looked over and it was like he was just pretending I wasn’t there.”

The door open and the Warden in question stepped out. Avery was smiling. Pleased to see them.

“It’s nice to see family kept together,” he spoke warmly. “With so much going on.”

Simon agreed with an accommodating expression. Marcus however was unmoved.

“There’s nothing quite like brothers,” Avery said. “When you’re a brother you’re a brother for life.”

Simon’s eyebrows raised. Marcus turned to Reggie. “Reggie!” he screamed. “Run!”

Avery looked up to guard towers. Both the left and the right were pointed on Simon and Marcus. Ground guards flooded the area.

The air quietened. Reggie’s grunting could be heard as he tried to breathe. The views of his brothers were locked on him.

A voice could be heard calling above all of them.

“We are Kappa So,” he sang with a cold softness. “We are Kappa So.” The singing drew closer. “We are Kappa So and we make trouble where we go.” Billy Owen emerged from the CPD who had them surrounded. Buddy, Chad and Cooper were trailing close behind him.

“Well, hello, boys!” Billy grinned. He raised his hand in a gesture to the governor that resembled the letter K. Avery did likewise. “Fine night. Glad I get to spend it with y’all.” Buddy was quiet. He let Billy take the lead.

“I’m Billy,” he introduced. “Your father murdered my Pops. That was a motherfucking mistake that will haunt him to end of his days. Pray to Jesus that’s sooner rather than later. Right now, I’m here to make a little point of my own.” He snatched Reggie by the hair and slammed his face against the fence. Simon and Marcus tried to struggle from the guards.

He stroked Reggie’s hair this time. Marcus took note of the details of Billy’s face, from the deep set wrinkles in his forehead, to the dryness of his bottom lip.

“Fucking let him go!” Simon shouted.

Billy looked to Reggie with a satisfied grin. He resumed stroking Reggie’s hair softly.

“What did the daddy say to you after he had bashed our Pops’ brains in, little bro?”

Buddy was hesitant at first.

“What did he say?” Billy pressed.

“He told me I was a common whore, fucked by a king.”

Billy gave a deep exhale from his nostrils. “Is that so? Fucked you like a common whore, huh? That shit is just disrespectful. Why don’t we show this here whore what it’s really like to be fucked.”

Marcus grimaced. “Let him go.”

Billy stood. “You see, now it still sounds like you’re being disrespectful towards me. You will learn some manners.”

He grabbed Reggie’s trousers by the waist band and pulled them to his ankles. Simon shrieked. “Touch him and you die!”

Billy laughed a raspy laugh that almost verged on a cough. “I ain’t going near him. I ain’t no fag. This guy might be though!”

The one to step forward was not a Kappa So brother. They had brought out an inmate to do their bidding. Billy looked to Reggie’s expression as firm hands were clasped around his waist. He looked to his brothers’ expression as Reggie gave a squeal pain as the inmate pushed inside him. Billy grabbed his hair again and slammed his face against the fence.

“That’s what we like from the whores!” he taunted. “We like them to make a lot of noise.” He pulled Reggie’s head back by his hair again. “Tell your brothers just how much you love getting fucked like a whore. Earn your dollar!”

The inmate had Reggie. Brutally he pounded, keeping Reggie firm against the fence.

“Marcus,” he gasped. A tear began to roll down his cheek.

There was a tear in Marcus’ eye too. There was nothing he good do.

“Woooo! This boy is going at the whore good!” Billy cheered. “Look at him pounding that ass. Does he fuck whores better than big king daddy? I think daddy ought not to miss this.” He pulled a phone from his pocket and flashed it in Reggie’s face. “Beautiful darlin’ just beautiful. Look at the way he’s biting his lip.”

Reggie screamed in pain.

“Oh, he enjoying that shit!” jeered Billy. “What’s this guy in for?” he asked one of the companions of the inmate

“Rape,” was the reply.

Billy continued to taunt. “Give her some that ass slap action. Treat that little whore right.”

The inmate raised a hand. A stinging blow was delivered.

The roar of the Kappa So laughter shook the trees.

They all cheered when the inmate finished. Reggie was pulled away from the fence.

“Say goodbye to your little whore brother boys. This is the last time you ever gonna see him.”

Avery West turned to his guard. “Put the both of them in the prayer room.”

***

The Boss Lady was gone. That was what had been said. But if you go to the farthest reaches of Cardyne, you will find a building no one would care to call home. If you go down to the farthest reaches of Cardyne you will find a building you wouldn’t care to visit long. For this building had held Confessions Killer, Tracey Campbell. It had also held the Wood Chip Killer, Ruth Browning.

Confinement room 34. The guard opened the slot to check. He heard a scream but he closed the slot as quickly as he had opened it, drowning the cries of a desperate woman out.

Tabitha, Boss Lady of the Knock Knock Club, hadn’t spoken to anyone in weeks. It felt like forever. With the death penalty slicing ever closer to her neck like a great pendulum her access to anyone was limited. She exercised alone. She ate alone. She bathed alone.

She had always been a symbol. The Law Makers intended on smashing that symbol and any effect it ever had. From the moment the sentence was declared the people who supported Tabitha cried their dismay. These people needed to be reminded of what happened to those who took the law into their own hands. Using the skeleton ruse, they were led to believe the execution had already been carried out. The coffin even being removed.

“This is not over,” the Boss Lady warned.

But it was over. It was over for so many and yet there were still so many more waiting to stand and be counted.

All of this began for me the moment I stepped into the Knock Knock club and as long as Tabitha does still live it can’t be over. I am reporter Sam Crusow, and as I am writing this now, I take a deep breath and I prepare to describe what happened next.


Disclaimer:

If you have been affected by rape or sexual assault visit rapecrisis.org.uk for more information on support available.


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Knock Knock: Episode 29: Cold Hard Cash

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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.

“Name please?”

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.

***

The main entrance to Beckingridge Tower. Statue of founder Jeffrey Beckingridge AKA Gramps.

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.

SMASH.

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.


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Knock Knock: Episode 20: All Rise

25

As the weeks went on the support for Tabitha outside the Court House began to gain traction. Those who were protesting against her and calling for her head began to hush. For the first time since the trial began it started to look as though there was a chance the jury would dismiss her of some, if not all, of the charges against her, putting her back on the street, furious at the inconvenience and more dangerous than ever. I heard that the Penn triplets were being set with their own charges but it would be some time yet before they would be held by Coldford Correctional – a large, gloomy prison at the tip of Bournton better known as The Boss because of the way it gazed down over the northern town.

Saving one of those closest to Tabitha for the last, Ronnie called Agnes to the stand. He hoped that a motherly perspective on his client would leave warmth in the Jury as his last bid for her freedom.

ATTENDANCE:

Judge Doyle: Presiding

City Prosecutor

Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen

Defendant: Tabitha MC

Witness: Agnes Wilde

Clerks and Bailiffs

2

Ronnie Owen: “You have known the defendant for most of her life, correct?”

AGNES WILDE: “I was there when Tawny got the call to tell her she had become an aunt. She had been estranged from her brother Rob for a few years. We had just set up the Knock Knock Club at the time.”

RONNIE OWEN: “Have you ever seen the defendant become violent?”

Agnes Wilde: “She can have a bit of a temper but no I have never personally seen her become violent. What people fail to realise is that she needs help. Her parents cared nothing for her. If she didn’t have something of a temper, who knows where she could have ended up? She fought off predators, dirty dealers, embezzlers and filthy swine of all descriptions. That wasn’t just for her, but for others too. If she didn’t have something of a temper she would have been lost in the filth of this city and countless other lives ruined too.”

Ronnie Owen: “Are you saying she truly cares?”

Agnes Wilde: “I have never known a girl who cares so much. She just has her way of doing things. When the talk of the bid to take over the Shanties first came to light, Tabitha did what she could to help the people. Mayor Feltz had sold out on his campaign promises. Already Swantin was unaffordable for the people of the Shanties and they would have nowhere else to go. Tabitha did as her aunt would have done. She protested against it. She fought so that those people, families, weren’t without a home.”

Ronnie Owen: “And what was the response?”

Agnes Wilde: “Power to the Shanties was cut. They said it was a surge but we all knew it had been deliberate. We were the only area affected. Tabitha brought them together. She used the resources of the club to warm them and feed them. Without that, the elderly and young babies could have perished. She held against them until the power was restored.”

Ronnie Owen: “No further questions.”

3

The City prosecutor was like a ravenous vulture. He observed Agnes for a few moments before beginning his cross-examination in the hope it would set her on edge. The Broker maintained her composure.

City Prosecutor: “It’s a pretty picture you paint for the jury. A noble hero the defendant seems. ‘Just has her way of doing things,’ you say. Tell me; are fifty-nine people dead at Beckingridge Tower just her way of doing things? Is the brutal murder of her own parents just her little bit of a temper? What criteria does she use to decide who is innocent because from what I can see for every person she has ‘saved’ another is dead or beaten and tortured in a most horrendous fashion.”

Agnes Wilde: “You don’t understand.”

City Prosecutor: “I don’t think you understand Miss Wilde. She is a sadistic, psychopathic monster who needs to be punished. Neither you nor your partner was ever fit to do so.”

Agnes Wilde: “How dare you!”

JUDGE DOYLE: “Order! Counsellor you will not antagonise the witness.”

City Prosecutor: “My apologies ma’am.” Turning his attention back on Agnes. “Did you know anything about the deaths of Rob and Linda McInney?”

Agnes Wilde: “No. I heard they had taken off after the investigation and left Tabitha behind.”

City Prosecutor: “Strange. We have a recording from HARBOUR HOUSE in which you are speaking to your partner. TAWNY MC INNEY clearly asks you to go the house and fetch the defendant. Did you fulfill that wish?”

Agnes Wilde: “Yes but there was no one there when I got there.”

City Prosecutor: “So you visit the house. The parents are gone and Tabitha has disappeared off the face of the planet?”

Agnes Wilde: “That’s correct.”

City Prosecutor: “Did you look for her?”

Agnes Wilde: “Of course I did. Normally when she was in trouble she ran to the Knock Knock Club to me or Tawny.”

City Prosecutor: “But she didn’t this time?”

Agnes Wilde: “No.”

City Prosecutor: “Why not?”

Agnes Wilde: “Because it was not much more than a pile of ash and rubble. It had been burnt down and there are people in this court today who know why that was and who was responsible.”

City Prosecutor: “Let’s not get off track. We’ll get back to the issue at hand. Were you aware of what Tabitha had done to Court Clerk Melanie Wallace?”

Agnes Wilde: “No I was not.”

City Prosecutor: “In the video she clearly berates the victim before delivering a death sentence. How do you feel about that?”

Ronald Owen: “Objection! How Miss Wilde feels about it is irrelevant.”

Judge Doyle: “You have already been warned about this Counsellor.”

Satisfied he had countered Ronnie’s ‘Saviour of the Shanties’ pitch, the City Prosecutor turned back to his bench.

City Prosecutor: “No further questions.”

***

“You took your feckin’ time!” PADDY groaned to his brother Kieran.

Kieran drew on a joint. “Calm yar tits,” he said. “We got ya didn’t we?”

“Cutting it mighty fine.”

Kieran passed the joint to Paddy who took a drag and let the calm wash off the stress of the CPD holding.

“Ma wanted you to say hello to Uncle Michael if you went down. Block H I believe he’s in. Guess that reunion will have to wait,” jested Kieran. When Paddy passed the joint, Kieran had one more puff before stubbing it out and slipping it into his pocket.

“We had better go,” Kieran urged his brother.

Paddy stretched out the tension in his muscles that had gathered from being held in a CPD transport van. The van had been stopped en route north.

“Is he raging?” Paddy asked.

Kieran raised his eyebrows. “Oh he’s really feckin’ raging alright.”

The rooftop of an industrial unit that was closed for the night offered a panoramic view of the city, from the dregs of the south to the grandeur of the north. The wind was cool.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

The first hit had been hard but it wasn’t a killing blow. It would have been better if it were. The chain rattled as it whacked again.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

CPD officer Gabe had no choice but watch knowing he would soon follow in a similar fate. Perhaps worse? Either way it had all come down to this.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

9

Hickes was a good man. He had so much to give the city. He wasn’t even meant to be on shift that night. He only came to lend extra support in the transporting of Paddy Mack. When the transport left CPD behind that’s when it all went awry.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

10

He finally finished with Hickes. His breath was heavy. Now that the heat of the summer had broken, a mist escaped his lips. Gabe closed his eyes as the click, click, click of the finely crafted shoes drew closer. Paddy and Kieran Mack stood behind him watching. The bloodied chain that had beaten Hickes to death was clenched tightly around his fist. Gabe opened his eyes again as the chain jingled close to his face. A tall, formidable figure was Reginald Penn. He caught his breath and pointed the chain at Gabe.

“Where’s my fucking boys?!”

12

***

13
14

Lydia sat across from me in my usual booth in BOBBY’S LUNCH BOX. She watched on as I sat in quiet contemplation. I dare say the entire affair, from the moment I received the invitation to the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB, was starting to tell on me. I believed then it was reaching a conclusion. If I had known then all that was still to come, I don’t know if I would have found the spirit to carry on but carry on we must and carry on I did. The fate of Tabitha and all those who supported her was under the hammer of the LAW MAKERS and that hammer was set to fall soon, smashing everything within its range.

“I wonder how long the jury will take,” I mused to myself more than the agent. We had already been waiting an hour and a half. I didn’t suspect they would take long in deciding. Tabitha was after all guilty as sin by her own admission.

As though Lydia could sense what I was thinking she said, “She needs to be put away.” Her bouncy accent from the northern town of Bournton did a lot to cover any bitterness that should rightfully have been there. She did go through a lot to bring the Knock Knock Boss Lady in. Tabitha was a mean queen who needed to be locked away.

“I know,” I agreed. Even now I still have no doubt she needed to pay for her crimes. “It’s just how it’s being done. It’s not right.”

The Law Makers were pulling everything they could from the woodwork in order to solidify their hold on Tabitha. They were campaigning to reinstate the death penalty in Greater Coldford, they were punishing her for shedding light on the dirty deeds of their friends in high places, they were going to kill her for it and her only defence was a man who shared the same elite family name as the ones Tabitha was calling out in the first place. It wasn’t right. Justice in this case was a big bad wolf and she had blown down two houses already. The MACKS were still licking their wounds from the raid on the club and the only Penn not in custody, Reggie, had disappeared. Now they had hungrily set their sights on the final one. The bricks of the Knock Knock Club had already been smashed through so it wasn’t likely it would hold.

Lydia shook her head. “Don’t let her get to you. I’ve seen her manipulate people. She is a murderer.”

I could understand Lydia’s concern. Tabitha did have her way of getting to people. It was how she had managed to function so effectively. Lydia had learned from Detective Hickes that had I managed to get an interview with her where she gave me her version of events. My concern then wasn’t for Tabitha. It was for the countless people that the club had protected, fought for. My concern was for the many still in power that wouldn’t answer for corruption, murder, paedophile rings and exploitation of the poor. With Tabitha gone their power would only grow. I had as much reason to hate Tabitha as anyone, for the position she put me in with Madeline, for what happened to SARAH, for all of it. However, every time I looked at her with her childish attitude, her girlish gap tooth grin, all I could see was a scared little girl begging her aunt not to send her back to parents that would sell her into prostitution. Society failed that little girl and many like her. Until I revealed the truth, it was all I was ever going to see and time was running out.

“My job was to get the information they needed and to keep you safe. What happens beyond that is out of our control. She put the nail in her own coffin with the murder of a Court Clerk not to mention the other bodies she has left in her wake,” Lydia explained.

I couldn’t argue with the agents logic. Even Ronnie Owen couldn’t declare the witnesses as liars. Tabitha had done all of those things and was accepting her charges like it was her C.V.

“It’s not what’s happening in the court that bothers me,” I said. Although, if they had been so sure of a clean cut case they wouldn’t be shutting down every law firm that would opt to defend her and planting their own. “They came in heavy handed to the club. They were after Tabitha but they brutally beat their way to her. They have placed a gagging order on me. What are they worried I’ll say? The truth? They have left her with an Owen as her last line of defence. The very ones who are calling to hang her in the first place.”

Lydia had pursed her lips. She was taking what I was saying on board but she was still unmoved by it.

“Ronnie is different from his brothers,” she said.

“I know that. You know that. But the public doesn’t. That kind of atmosphere eats at a jury. The Cappy has cleverly made it seem like they are playing a fair game by having his brother defend her, but their fear and respect for the Owen name would shut them down – guilty, done, no more questions. That has been the Law Makers play all along. A farce of a trial to make an example of Tabitha and anyone who would question their running of the city, leading to a decision that has already been made.”

Lydia sighed. Her phone had been laid down on the greasy table in front of her face down so she lifted it to check if the jury had returned. With no notifications she laid it back down.

“She can’t be saved,” she warned me.

At first, I hadn’t understood whom she had meant. My mind initially went to Sarah, an innocent kid gunned down in the street. I never thought of Tabitha has needing to be saved. When I realised who she meant I scoffed.

“My sympathy for her stretches as far as those who she will leave behind. Her Aunt Agnes will be a sitting duck and her Aunt Tawny has suffered plenty already from what I can tell. You misunderstand what I mean,” I assured her. “If they can do this to someone like Tabitha then where does it end? Exaggerated charges against anyone who doesn’t bow to their will? The Shanties torn down? The Owen family owning the entire city? What happens to people like you and me?”

“You really believe that she had that much influence?”

“If she didn’t the Law Makers wouldn’t be going to the extent of pushing for the death penalty.”

Lydia agreed; I know she did but she was a logical, formulaic thinker and to her it was a matter of one monster at a time.

Lydia smiled. She could see the tension of the trial, everything that had happened to me personally was beginning to take it’s toll. When I first entered the Knock Knock club I had expected to find a seedy club hiding the mayor. I had no idea it would have come to what it had.

“I bet she’s already planning on having her prison jump suit made in red,” she teased.

I laughed despite myself. She was jesting of course but nothing would have surprised me as far as the Boss Lady was concerned.

“She’s probably asked for long cuffs so she can stand with her hand on her hip,” I added.

Lydia laughed heartily. Her laughed eased the tension a little. It made what was to happen next a little easier.

Her phone bleeped. The rattle of it on the table caused a shudder down my spine.

“Whatever happens next we’ll be ready for it,” she said. She checked the screen. “The jury is back.”

24

***

25

A cold breeze blew through the courtroom that day. All the talking, protesting and explaining had been done. All that was left was for the decision to be announced and so with that the hall sat in uncomfortable silence.

All that could be heard was the tapping of Sunday best shoes across the polished floors as the jury filtered back into their bench. Ronnie noted the concern on the foreman’s face. He had a fate in his hands and that can make some of us uncomfortable. The foreman was such a man but he dare not refuse the call of Judge Doyle.

Two large presences collided and only one of them would leave the Court House a victor that day. The stage was set but even with the odds stacked against her, Tabitha still fancied she would come out on top. She always did.

ATTENDANCE:

Judge Doyle: Presiding

City Prosecutor

Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen

Defendant: Tabitha MC

Clerks and Bailiffs

The first to break the cold silence was the judge.

Judge Doyle: “Will the foreman of the jury stand.”

The foreman obeyed.

Judge Doyle: “Has the jury reached a verdict?”

Foreman: “Yes ma’am.”

Judge Doyle: “How does the jury find the defendant?”

Foreman: “On the charges of embezzlement of city funds we the jury find the defendant guilty.”

Tabitha rolled her eyes. That was the least of her concerns. The Judge chose not to chastise her for not taking it seriously enough. She knew the worst was yet to come.

Foreman: “On the charges of murder in the second degree of Melanie Wallace we find the defendant guilty”

This wouldn’t have come as a surprise with the clear evidence I had provided. Dennis had managed to find himself some leniency for his part having objected to it at the time and for providing his testimony.

26

Foreman: “On the charges of murder in the first degree of Robert McInney, Linda McInney and Lynn Wilton we find the defendant guilty.”

There was no statute of limitations on murder charges in the City of Coldford.

Foreman: “On the charges of inciting violence and orchestrating the event known as the Free Fall Massacre we find the defendant guilty.”

What happened next will forever be on my conscience. I wasn’t there but reading the transcripts I can see the scene unfold. It was a long time coming but like death it is something you will never be prepared for. The time for sentencing had come.

Judge Doyle: “Will the defendant rise.”

Tabitha obeyed this command. She had no choice. The room hushed in anticipation.

Judge Doyle: “For too long you have run amok in this city without any consequences for your actions. Today you will learn that if you break the law you will be punished. You wished to stand as a symbol. I’ll allow that. I will hold you as an example to anyone who thinks that they are above the law. I have been granted power by the city to punish you to the fullest extent. I hereby sentence you to death by lethal injection.”

The courtroom burst into a noisy rabble broken only by the rhythmic slamming of Judge Doyle’s gavel. When the noise dissipated she continued.

Judge Doyle: “You will be confined to the Monte Forte until your date of execution has been confirmed.”

As I read through the transcripts my heart began to race. I knew there was no way Tabitha would not attempt to have the final say. My thoughts were correct because as she was being escorted away to her final resting place before death she scowled at the Judge.

Tabitha: “You can prick me with all the needles you want. You and I both know this isn’t over.”

The Judge engaged her but she remained cool and steady.

Judge Doyle: “It is over. This is my courtroom and my word is final.”

Tabitha: “You’re a cunt. You were born a cunt and you will always be a cunt!”

The bailiffs moved to put pressure on her but the Judge stopped them.

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Judge Doyle: “I am also revoking the care of Harbour House for Tawny McInney. She too will be brought before me to answer for her crimes.”

When the trial began I asked myself what it would take to break the Knock Knock Boss Lady. It seemed that was it. The Judge had her but broken things can have sharp edges. Tabitha grabbed a chair and launched it at the unkillable Judge Doyle. The immovable hand of justice didn’t budge as the chair crashed beside her.

TABITHA began screaming in a chilling, unprecedented display of fury.

Tabitha: “You fucking bitch! I will tear you apart if you hurt her! She has done nothing and you know it. I will rip your fucking lungs out!”

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The tirade continued. The Judge allowed Tabitha to scream and attempt to shake off the bailiffs like a child in the midst of an extreme tantrum. When she stopped for breath Doyle finally addressed her.

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Judge Doyle: “I told you that you do not get the final say in here. Sentence has been passed. Take her away.”

They thought they could hurt her but still she stands. They thought they could outsmart her but still she stands. They tried to kill her but failed. Justice is immortal and so still she stands.

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#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidow


Thanks so much for joining us for Season 1 folks. We hope you have enjoyed the ride! Stay tuned, follow us on social media, set your reminders and prepare yourself for season 2! Coming soon. We promise …

Trying to protect her little Trouble has led Tawny to rehab!

Bring me your sick. Bring me your troubled. Bring me those that society can no longer cope with. They will always have a home at Harbour House.