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.
Judge Doyle: Presiding
Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen
Defendant: Tabitha MC
Witness: Agnes Wilde
Clerks and Bailiffs
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.”
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!
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!
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?!”
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.”
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.
Judge Doyle: Presiding
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
#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.
Trial day eight. They had covered the Free Fall massacre extensively. Ronnie argued that Tabitha had been there purely as a guest. He even presented an invitation as evidence. The time came to return to the issue of TABITHA’s parents and the video of the murder of MELANIE WALLACE that Lydia and I had risked our lives to obtain. The prosecutor took the lead. On a large screen at the front of the hall, a screen grab of the murder of Melanie was shown. She was on her knees, Tabitha holding her and MARCUS ready to deliver the killing blow. Dennis stood idly by, unable to do anything to stop it – lest he join her. Melanie Wallace was a clerk of the Court. She had been instructed to deliver a note of intent to the Knock Knock club and its supporters. Apparently Tabitha had taken it personally. ‘Send her back to Cyclops in a fucking box,’ she had said at the time. Mel had been nothing more than a runner in this on-going war. Her only crime had been declaring herself on the side of the Law Makers, whilst Tabitha declared herself to be fighting the good fight on behalf of the good side of the Shady City. I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as the good side.
City Prosecutor: “Please excuse the delay ma’am, but my next witness wasn’t present in court. I am to understand he has arrived now.”
Judge Doyle looked to the back of the room where the doors were being opened to allow a new arrival.
City Prosecutor: “The prosecution calls DENNIS PLATT to the stand.”
Dennis looked weary in morose clothing with blood shot eyes. Without his signature hat he seemed smaller, thinner. He gave a fleeting glance to Tabitha who scowled back at him. As the trial pressed on she was beginning to lose her composure more often. She was worried. Dennis took the witness bench.
City Prosecutor: “Can you state your position with the Knock Knock club for the court.”
Dennis Platt: “I was acting manager.”
City Prosecutor: “Did you try to stop the murder of Miss Wallace?”
Dennis was shaking his head.
Dennis Platt: “Not as much as I should have. I did warn her but she wouldn’t listen.
The prosecutor stroked his chin. He turned and observed the expressions on his jury.
City Prosecutor: “How did you come to meet the defendant?”
Dennis Platt: “I was organising some importing/ exporting at the time through Chamberlain Docks. One night I was coming home from a late delivery and I saw her. She was young, alone and in a dangerous area. I took her to my ex wife, who is a social worker, for some help.”
I had heard testimonies like it so many times over the years as a reporter. Dennis’ response was fixed, detailed just enough to avoid further question but limited to the point of not really telling anything. It was very rehearsed.
City Prosecutor: “What was she doing there at such a late hour?”
The prosecutor asked this as though that was the issue with the statement.
Dennis Platt: “She told me she was looking for her aunt. She was trying to get the ferry to Hathfield Bay.”
Dennis kept his focus ahead, without looking at anyone in particular.
City Prosecutor: “Just to be clear, her aunt being Tawny McInney? The Baroness of the Knock Knock club, correct?”
Dennis Platt: “Yes, that’s correct.” He nodded in agreement.
This time the prosecutor looked for the expressions of the gathering.
City Prosecutor: “Did she mention her parents?”
Dennis Platt: “Not at first. She wouldn’t tell Olivia why she had left home. All she would say was she wanted to find her aunt.”
The prosecutor interrupted him then, turning to the jury and addressing them directly.
City Prosecutor: “Would the jury please note that the aunt referred to is the elder sister of victim Rob McKinney and sister in law to victim Linda McInney,” Returning to Dennis and urged him to continue. “Please carry on.”
Dennis Platt: “She stayed with us for a while. Olivia tried to get her some help but she wouldn’t let her call Child Services.”
The prosecutor leaned on the witness bench and observed Dennis closely.
City Prosecutor: “She eventually admitted to you that she had murdered her parents and her nanny. Correct?”
Ronnie Owen: “Objection Ma’am, the prosecution is leading this witness.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled,” said she but she continued, “I do ask the prosecution choose their wording more carefully.”
The prosecutor stood straight, his spine like an iron rod.
City Prosecutor: “I do apologise ma’am.” He returned his focus to Dennis. “So what did she tell you about the night her parents died?”
Dennis Platt: “She gave me every detail.”
City Prosecutor: “She admitted to murdering them and the nanny?”
Dennis Platt: “In cold blood.”
Dennis went on to explain the event as he had told it to me. When he had finished the City Prosecutor gave a satisfied grin.
City Prosecutor: “No further questions.”
Tabitha whispered something to Ronnie. She was frowning severely. The lawyer remained focused. He stood and with a clear of his throat he took his turn to address Dennis.
Ronnie Owen: “Mr Platt, can you please tell the court how you came to be the manager of the Knock Knock Club, leaving a wife and young child behind?”
City Prosecutor: “Objection ma’am!” He barked. “Irrelevant to this case.”
Ronnie Owen: “It is very relevant ma’am. If the jury are to take Mr Platt at his word, they need to understand his connection to the defendant.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled. The witness will answer the question.”
Dennis Platt: “She was desperate to re-open the club. She threatened my wife and child if I didn’t help her.”
Ronnie Owen: “I find it difficult to believe that a young girl could hold you under duress and for so long, just by a threat.”
Dennis seemed to gather from a well of strength. He growled and snapped back at the lawyer.
Dennis Platt: “Then you ought to ask your brother what she’s capable of. Jerry, isn’t it?”
Ronnie ignored the statement. He had his angle for removing any legitimacy in Dennis’ statement and he wouldn’t be detracted from pulling on that thread.
Ronnie Owen: “Isn’t it true that you weren’t such a noble rescuer but simply took a shine to a young girl you found on the docks? What way was she dressed that night? Looking promiscuous, was she? Did taking her home seem like the sensible thing to do?”
Dennis Platt: “I told you, Liv was a social worker. She had experience with little girls in trouble.”
Ronnie had his bite. It was time to start reeling in the rod.
Ronnie Owen: “Little girls, troubled girls, you had experience in that too, didn’t you?”
City Prosecutor: “Objection! Counsellor is badgering the witness. He is not the one on trial here ma’am.”
Judge Doyle: “Sustained. Do get to your point counsellor.”
Ronnie Owen: “Apologies ma’am.” Returning to the witness. “Is it true that the only reason the defendant was able to coerce you into staying at the Knock Knock Club was because you attempted to assault her and she threatened to tell your wife?”
Dennis was becoming irate.
Dennis Platt: “She needs to be locked away.”
Ronnie still stayed calm. Dennis didn’t have anything to lose at that point but Tabitha did. Her best chance rested on a statement from a man who hated her, pulled forward from a man who shared the name of the one’s who had put her there in the first place.
Ronnie Owen: “Is it true that your business, the business at the docks, was bringing girls into prostitution?”
Dennis immediately denied. He may not have anything left to lose but it would take a long time for the virus coursing in his blood to destroy the survival instinct.
Ronnie Owen: “I could name some of your clients.”
Dennis’ eyes widened. He was deciding whether or not Ronnie would throw his own brother Jerry under a bus in order to bring an end to the Headliners. He had had dealings with Jerry in the purchasing of girls, foreign girls looking for a new life in the city, young girls, under age girls for particular parties with particular tastes, boys too. Ronnie wouldn’t want that kind of dirty laundry aired in court surely? The Cappy had fought hard to make sure that that kind of knowledge of his brother didn’t become public. Dennis wondered then how far Ronnie was willing to go to win the case for his client. Now that he had Dennis pulling back in fear Ronnie ended his questioning before the City Prosecutor could raise any objections.
Ronnie Owen: “No further questions.”
It seemed Ronnie wouldn’t bring it up. It was unlikely Judge Doyle would let it stand anyway but the expression on Dennis’ face was enough to plant doubt in the jurors. The women on the jury carefully selected by Ronnie were glaring at Dennis. Ronnie went on to detail Dennis attempted assault on Tabitha and how she overthrew him. It was now time to play another hand in the hopes of swaying more onto Tabitha’s side.
Ronnie Owen: “If the court will indulge me, I call CHLOE GROVER to the stand.”
Led by a surprisingly gentle Bailiff the nineteen-year-old girl, Chloe, took the stand. Her head was bowed and her shoulders hunched.
Ronnie Owen: “Good morning, ma’am. We’re going to discuss some things that may be a little difficult for you but we’ll keep it as brief as possible. Is that okay?”
Chloe Grover: “You can call me Chloe. That’s my name.” She smiled at Ronnie but bowed her head again when she noticed the jury were watching her.
Ronnie Owen: “What is your relationship with Dennis?”
Chloe looked up as though she didn’t understand the question so the lawyer rephrased.
Ronnie Owen: “How do you know Dennis?”
Chloe Grover: “I love him. I love him so much. Is he okay?”
Ronnie Owen: “He’s fine but I need you to tell the jury what he made you do.”
Ronnie spoke softly. Chloe responded well to him.
Chloe Grover: “You mean the friends he sent to my room?”
Ronnie Owen: “Exactly. What did those friends want from you?”
Chloe looked a little confused. She was a soft hearted, simple-minded girl.
Chloe Grover: “I had to give them special cuddles. Dennis needed money and I wanted him to be happy.”
Ronnie Owen: “Did you make money from the friends?”
Chloe Grover: “I didn’t need money. Dennis took care of me.”
Ronnie Owen: “How many of those friends came to your room?”
Chloe shrugged like a small child being chastised by a teacher.
Chloe Grover: “I don’t know. The man with the pony tail and glasses said it was five hundred but that’s a really big number.”
City Prosecutor: “Objection ma’am! Dennis Platt is not the one on trial here.”
Ronnie Owen: “It is relevant to the case here. I need the jury to fully understand the circumstances in which he met the defendant and his actions that brought them both to the Knock Knock Club.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled. I urge you to keep your questioning relevant though counsellor.”
A recess was called to allow the jury to catch their breath. The day was far from over.
With Tabitha’s words still ringing in my ears I went in search of Olivia. Word had it that she was at CPD working closely with them on some youth projects. I got a confused look from the receptionist when I asked for Olivia Platt. It seemed she no longer used her married name and I didn’t know what her maiden one was.
“Do you mean Liv Hickes? The social worker lady?” She asked. I smiled. “That’s right.”
I didn’t want to seem like Olivia and I had never met. Visiting the social worker to check on Chloe gave me some cover should the Law Makers question why I was at CPD.
On instruction of HICKES I was directed to the second floor at the end of a long narrow corridor where Fullerton Construction were adding renovations. It was well lit and inviting. It left the feel of a police station behind.
I knocked on the door. Olivia’s soft voice invited me in. She sounded calm and composed. When I opened the door I found Hickes was there too. He greeted me with a smile.
“Sorry to interrupt,” I said. “I was hoping to have a quick word with Olivia.” Olivia was the handsome, polite woman Dennis described.
“You’re alright Sam,” Hickes confirmed, easing Olivia’s suspicions of me. He turned to Olivia. “This is the reporter I was telling you about.”
Olivia still said nothing. Hickes laid a hand on her shoulder. “He’s been through a lot.” “I heard some of what you’ve had to deal with Sam,” Olivia spoke up. “I’m so sorry about your wife.”
“I hear you haven’t had it easy either. Dennis told me.”
Olivia’s eyes widened at the mention of her ex husband so I changed my angle.
“How is your son, Milo? Is he doing okay?”
Olivia eased off. “He’s fine. Thank you.”
“Speaking of,” said Hickes. “I had better go get little mister. He’ll be getting out of school.”
Olivia smiled as she looked up at him. “Thanks sweetie,” she said.
“I’ll see you tonight,” he offered her a quick kiss.
Leaving the room he stopped beside me.
“Get straight to your point and don’t upset her,” he warned. “The only reason I’m letting you in here is because Lydia trusts you.”
“I just want a quick word,” I assured.
“Just be careful,” he finished before leaving Olivia and I alone in her office.
“It’s not my intention to upset you,” I began. “I realise that I am putting us both at a lot of risk by being here but I wouldn’t if I didn’t think it was important.”
“Would you like some coffee?” Olivia asked pointing to a coffee maker in the corner.
“No thank you,” I replied. I had been drinking so much coffee from the hotel that I was starting to feel a little jittery.
“So you spoke to Tabitha?” It was the social worker that opened the dialogue.
“Yes,” I admitted. “She only has warm regards for you. It was she who urged me to speak to you.”
Olivia shook her head. “What happened to that girl was …”
I wasn’t sure if she meant the forced induction into a paedophile ring by her parents or the attempted rape by her ex husband so I tread carefully.
“When Dennis left with her did you know where she had gone and why?” Olivia’s brow tightened. Her swimming eyes clouded.
“I went to the Knock Knock club when it reopened. A dancer girl threatened me with a knife. She told me if I ever came back looking for Dennis or Tabitha, she would open my throat.”
“Believe it or not I think that was Tabitha’s way of protecting you,” I said. Olivia seemed to agree.
“She was a very troubled little girl. One of my biggest regrets in life was failing to help her.” It was time. I had to ask.
“Do you know what Dennis tried to do to her?” Olivia sighed. She was close to weeping but she held back.
“I had my suspicions that something had happened between them. I guess that was confirmed when they left.”
“Dennis was a prolific paedophile,” I confirmed. I was conscious of my limited time and as painful as it was for her I had to break through barriers quicker. “He tried to rape her and she enslaved him as a result. She took him away from you and Milo to protect you.” Here Olivia did become emotional.
“Those girls!” She cried. “I wanted to help them and instead I delivered them into the hands of a predator.”
I spoke softer. “You weren’t to know.”
Olivia would hear none of it.
“It was my job to protect those girls and I failed them. I failed Tabitha and I failed others. There was a girl in my care. Alana her name was. She was a sweet girl from the Shanties trying to improve her life. She was trying to leave drugs behind. She had been an addict since age twelve. At first she got along with Dennis really well. I remember being so proud of how good he was with her. They became so close. They had their own inside jokes and little skits they’d play out. Alana was such a loving girl. Her circumstances hadn’t broken her spirit but one day it all changed. She was fifteen. She had been clean for a while. She even began a course at City College. She was doing so well but something between her and Dennis changed. They were no longer close. When I asked Dennis about it he told me that she had come on to him strongly, mistaking his affection for lust. I tried to talk to Alana but she became angry with me and violent. She had to be moved on. She had a history of that kind of behaviour. When I think of what could have happened to the girls in my care, girls even younger and more vulnerable…”
“You mustn’t blame yourself,” I put in.
Olivia disagreed. “Why shouldn’t I? I was supposed to be their protector. Where does the blame stop if not with me?”
“We can’t change the past but we can learn from it and better equip ourselves to stop things like that happening again. The city needs people like you, people with compassion. It’s not for cold hearted monsters like Doyle or even lunatics like Tabitha to make changes, it is for people like us.”
Olivia gave it some thought.
“What is it you want to know?”
“I would like to know any details you have of Owen victims that came to you. Tabitha is likely going down for a long time but we can still find justice for the others. Will you support me?” Olivia smiled. “Of course.” I wanted to end on a more positive note. The discussion would have given Olivia a lot to think about, leaving a sour taste in her mouth. “As despicable a human being as Dennis was, there is something in his words that ring true. He loves his son.” Olivia took a deep breath. Her eyes glanced towards the window, which gave view of the wider city. “In the interest of telling the whole truth I would like to hear anything Tabitha told you about her parents.” “You can’t write anything just now,” Olivia reminded me. “No,” I agreed. “But when the trial is over there is nothing that will stop me.” Olivia smiled warmly. “Maybe you’ll take that coffee now then.”
PADDY MACK – head of the Mack clan since his father Brendan slipped into retirement – had heard from the CPD officer who brought him cigarettes that the LAW MAKERS were campaigning for the death penalty for Tabitha. The officer watched for Paddy’s reaction but he said nothing. His expression remained vacant. The CPD officer assumed he was worried about his own dynasty. If the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB fell, the DISTILLERY wouldn’t be far behind it. The closed sign across the Auction House was already sending chills resonating to the Shanties. The Mack leader was in the perfect position for negotiations to begin.
It was four pm, Paddy guessed. His room in CPD holding was windowless so it was hard to tell for certain. When the CPD officer stopped by he began to make arrangements to call home.
“It’s just for ma ma,” he told the officer. “She’ll be worried. I just want to let her know I’m still alive.”
The officer groaned. “Fine,” he agreed. “As long as it’s just your mum.”
The officer escorted him to the phones. He stood beside him the entire time.
“What’s he doing Frank?” asked another officer passing.
Frank grinned, leaning on the wall beside Paddy. “He’s phonin’ his ma,” he said, imitating the harsh BELLFIELD accent Paddy had. They both chuckled.
Paddy rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I really need you two cunts right now,” he mumbled sarcastically.
The phone only rang a couple of times before Annie Mack answered.
“It’s Paddy, Ma,” he said.
“Oh sweet baby Jesus! Are you okay?”
“I’m grand. I just wanted to let you know I’m fine.”
Annie was close to tears. He could hear it in her voice.
“I’ll be out soon enough,” the son replied.
“Yer father is just about going spare. He’s been calling CPD but they won’t entertain him.
He gave Kieran a right hiding for letting you get lifted.”
“It’s all going to be sorted Ma. I’ll just have to behave meself,” Paddy injected some humour and confidence to help raise Annie Mack’s spirits.
CPD officer Frank pointed to his wrist.
“Listen, Ma, I have to go but I’ll be home soon.”
Paddy took note of Officer Frank’s raised eyebrows, which suggested ‘not in this lifetime boyo’
Annie sobbed. “Are ya sure yar alright?”
Paddy smiled. “I told ya I’m grand. Tell Da to stop phonin’ or the filth are gonna have him too.”
Frank glared at him. Paddy smiled and raised a finger.
Annie giggled. “He won’t be happy until they wheel him in beside ya.”
Paddy was warmed at the image of his outspoken yet wheelchair bound father being brought in to CPD still shouting the odds.
“Ya bunch of wankers!” he would be yelling. “I’ll take the lot of ya!”
After hanging up and being taken back to his holding cell Frank made a phone call of his own.
“He wants back to his family,” he said. “The time is now.”
At five Paddy received another shadow. He rested his eyes on the doorway where a shadowed figure in a Law Makers blazer loomed. They were one of what was known as the Sharp Suits. They were special members of Judge Doyle’s Law Makers, authorised to dispense justice as they saw fit.
“Good afternoon, Mr Mack,” a cold, emotionless voice said.
“I’ve already told your lot I’ve nothin’ to say,” Paddy returned.
The figure was unmoved. “Then allow me to do the talking,” they suggested. “The Mack Distillery is a big concern in Coldford. We would hate to see it shut down.”
“You can’t do that,” Paddy retorted.
The figure continued to observe him.
“I’m afraid we can. With criminal activity flowing through the Knock Knock Club and your brand being one of its biggest suppliers we would have no choice but to shut the distillery down pending further investigation.”
“You would put hundreds of people out of work,” pleaded the Mack owner.
The shadowed frame loomed a little closer. A cold breeze charged in from the corridor outside.
“The unemployment situation in the city isn’t Judge Doyle’s priority at the moment. As head of the Mack Clan it is really up to you to protect those people and you can’t do that in here.”
Paddy scoffed. “This is were ya put me.”
Long arms spread from the figure, across its chest. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” they said. “You don’t have to sacrifice your own future and that of your own people. You do realise the club wouldn’t offer you the same courtesy if it meant saving themselves.”
“I’m in a bit of a hurry. I got places to go. Could you get to your point?” Paddy said with minimal amount of jest.
A citation was laid on the floor at Paddy’s feet.
“You are called to provide evidence against Tabitha and the Knock Knock Club.”
“You want me to take the stand against her?”
“It’s been a long time coming. Consider what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot.”
“She’d never let the distillery fall,” said Paddy, but he wasn’t sounding as confident.
“Are you sure about that? She’s already pointed fingers at your brother Kieran for violating licences in the hope of some leniency.”
Paddy refused to believe that. “You talk shite,” he said.
“It seems you don’t know your Boss Lady as well as you think you do. The south is in enough upheaval. The distillery is bigger than the Knock Knock Club. If you cooperate it can continue to produce the finest whiskey in the Shady City. Testify against Tabitha and you can return home to your family. You can continue to run the distillery and we all raise a glass of Macks in your honour.”
“You would let me go?” The hook was set. There was a bite.
“For your sake and for the sake of your workers it would be best. Call it letting one fish go to make a bigger catch. You’re not the one Judge Doyle wants at this point. Don’t put yourself on the rack.”
Paddy read over the citation.
“Fine,” he agreed.
As the trial drew on Judge Doyle sought to put the final nail in Tabitha’s coffin. She opened her courtroom with the promise that the Boss Lady would be broken before her bench. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Tabitha and the strong likelihood that she would be behind bars for a long time, the Judge was still not satisfied. She wanted to break Tabitha of the bonds she had in the Shanties. She wanted to show the people their queen was nothing more than a murdering sociopath who was leading them to lawlessness. She would start from the strongest top branches of Tabitha’s alliances and work her way down. The Auction House snapped. Next up was the longest spanning bond between the Headliners and the Knock Knock Club. The agreement between the Mack Distillery and the Knock Knock Club was the first one reached when the club opened. A photo of Agnes, Tawny, Brendan and Annie hung in the balcony area of the club. That was a different generation though. That was a long time ago. Things had changed. A lot had changed since those photos had been taken. A lot had transpired since the four smiled and the lens flashed. Tawny and Agnes were not their niece. Brendan and Annie were not their son. As Paddy was led to the stand, he offered Tabitha no eye contact.
Judge Doyle: Presiding
Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen
Defendant: Tabitha MC
Patrick Mack: Witness
Clerks and Bailiffs
City Prosecutor: Your family brand has been suppliers to the Knock Knock Club for a generation now.
Patrick Mack: That’s right. Agnes Wilde struck the deal with the distillery when the club first opened. My da was good friends with the Baroness. Tawny, I mean.
City Prosecutor: That arrangement continued when the defendant took over.
Patrick Mack: No reason that it wouldn’t.
City Prosecutor: Having such a close relationship with the club and the defendant I assume you saw a lot of the comings and goings.
Patrick Mack: I saw everything.
The City Prosecutor couldn’t help but grin. Never before had he had such a dish served up on a case. He could taste the verdict and it was sweet on his tongue.
City Prosecutor: Could you detail for the jury exactly what you saw?
Paddy did look over to Tabitha. She maintained his gaze but her expression was difficult to read.
Patrick Mack: I saw your lot ruin good people and Tabitha was the only one to pick up the pieces.
The City Prosecutor turned. He was frowning severely. This was not the statement they had prepared.
City Prosecutor: Mr Mack you are making a mockery of this court.
Patrick Mack: No. What is fecking funny is you think I will sit here and tell you that
Tabitha had no reasoning behind what she did. She’s a feckin animal yes, but you need an animal to fight against cunts like you.
City Prosecutor: Enough!
Judge Doyle slammed her gavel.
Judge Doyle: If you do not take this seriously I will hold you in contempt.
Patrick Mack: Then hold me in fecking contempt. I swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and that truth is you are all cunts. Especially you.
Paddy leaned forward and dared to address the Judge directly.
Patrick Mack: I saw Tabitha open up the club to the homeless, stop a deal that would see countless others on the street and protect those who needed it, which is more than you feckers ever did.
The gavel was slammed again.
Judge Doyle: Hold him in contempt.
The Bailiffs escorted Paddy from the stand. He tipped Tabitha a wink as he passed. Her lips formed a smile. Breaking the Mack bond with the Knock Knock Club was going to be harder than Judge Karyn Doyle thought.
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidow
Whilst I digested the information that I was uncovering and as the city readied itself for the trial of the KNOCK KNOCK BOSS LADY, the lady herself was still in custody at Coldford City Police Department. She wouldn’t be transferred to the MONTE FORT women’s correctional facility until after she had been served justice. The Monte Fort had homed such women as the Confessions Killer, Tracey Campbell, who murdered half of her anatomy class in a series of brutal killings throughout her second year at Filton Medical School. It was also where RUTH BROWING still resided. Ruth had slaughtered her daughter, born of incest to her father, and fed her body through a wood chipper. Tabitha was set to make home among such women and I dare say she would fit right in, but as always other plans were in motion.
She looked around her four bare walls and grumbled. She was angry, thirsty and loathed that they had taken her signature red dress from her to put her in prison garb. She noticed something small, black at her feet. She flicked it with the toe of the most hideous shoes they could ever find for her. It was the body of a roach. She wrinkled her nose in disgust and unnecessarily stepped on it, listening to the sound of it crunch underneath her foot. The door began to unlock.
“You gotta visitor Tabitha,” he announced free from expression.
“About fucking time too,” she groaned.
Hickes led her along a corridor. She was surprisingly quiet.
“Just five minutes, mind,” Hickes warned as he opened the door. “I’m taking a huge risk as it is.”
Inside the room sat a middle-aged woman with greying black hair and a stern expression on an otherwise attractive face. She was Agnes Wilde, the Broker and co-owner of the club, lover of the old Baroness and, to Tabitha, Aunt Aggy.
Tabitha smiled excitedly but she kept her movements slow and easy. She didn’t want to give any excuse to pull her away. Hickes stepped outside and left them alone.
“You took your sweet time,” complained Tabitha.
Agnes pursed her lips. “Believe it or not, no one in this city is willing to defend you. The LAW MAKERS are shutting down and revoking licences of anyone who even considers trying. This is a fine shitty mess you’re in. They are appointing someone of their own choosing.”
“So, whom have they got?” she asked.
“I’ve only heard through the grapevine but RONNIE OWEN seems to be the top contender.”
Tabitha gasped. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! An Owen? The last time an Owen came anywhere near me I just about cut his cock off.” She could see Agnes’ expression was not changing. “They think they’ve got me backed into a corner but when have you ever known me to not come out fighting.”
Agnes softened. Her eyes glazed. She tried to remain strong but seeing Tabitha in her current predicament wasn’t easy. “They could put you away for a long time Tabs. They are looking to bring back the death penalty.”
Tabitha shrugged. “They don’t frighten me,” she said with some childish impetuousness.
“Tabs!” Agnes shot her a warning glare.
Tabitha raised her eyebrows. “I’m not afraid of those fuckers,” she maintained.
Agnes’ frustration began to show. “Then maybe you should give some thought to those who are frightened for you. Do you think I like seeing you like this? What about Tawn?”
At the mention of the BARONESS Tabitha’s usual self-confident air clouded over.
“How is Aunt Tee?” She asked.
“I know this isn’t easy for you, but I need you to sign these,” said the Broker. She was surprised when Tabitha gave little resistance. If there was anything in the world precious to her other than Tawny, it was the club. That was how Agnes knew what she had to say next was not going to be received well. She waited until the signature – a curly, childish scrawl – was on the page.
“I’m thinking of selling the club,” she said.
Tabitha’s eyes widened. “Over my dead fucking body!”
Agnes returned the tension. “Yeah? Well carry on the way you are, lady, and that might just be exactly what happens. I’m not having that on my conscience. Enough is enough. I’m ending this.”
Tabitha folded her arms across her chest and pouted. She growled but her eyes pleaded in a way that was rarely seen.
“I’m stuck in here with those fuckers trying to do everything they can to get to me and you’re pissing your granny panties?”
Agnes shook her head. “I’m being cautious. We’ve already lost enough.”
Hickes interrupted. “Time’s up,” he announced.
Tabitha was still frustrated. “There’s no way that was five minutes, you bald sack of shit.”
Hickes refused to let himself be drawn in. “It’s as long as you’re getting.”
Agnes stood. “I wish I could convince you to be cautious,” said Agnes.
Tabitha returned her self-confident smile. “Just don’t sell my fucking club.”
Agnes stopped by the door and raised an eyebrow. “It’s our fucking club.”
Tabitha shrugged. She thought about it then she asked of The Broker, “talk to that reporter, Sam. If anyone is going to help, it will be him.”
She had a lot of faith in me. I just wanted to get to the truth. I wasn’t sure that would leave Tabitha in the best of lights.
Leaving, Agnes said to Hickes, “look after her. Please.”
When half the city wanted to throne her and the other half wanted to throttle her that would be no easy task.
“Oh, and Hicksey,” she called down the hall after them. “Call the exterminators. You’ve got a bug problem in here and it’s fucking disgusting.”
AGNES had been at the Knock Knock Club since its founding. It was she and the BARONESS who began the club. So, to me she was a person of great interest. With the gagging order issued by Judge Doyle’s office I was holding back on pressing her for an interview. Therefore, it came as a shock to me when she contacted me first on an unknown number. With Tabitha expressing an interest in opening up to me I couldn’t resist the opportunity in spite of the danger of the Law Makers.
There were a few topics she demanded stayed off the record. One was Tawny and another was the whereabouts of the mayor. “I don’t know where he is and I don’t much care,” she said over the phone. “If you can’t agree to those terms, I have nothing to say to you.”
She was tough. I couldn’t expect anything less from someone who brought a place like the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB to life. Tabitha claimed she had reasons behind her madness. My main objective was finding out what they were and if there was any truth to her claims.
I had been waiting in Bobby’s Lunchbox for about fifteen minutes. I decided to arrive early so that if any Law Makers surveillance were on me it would seem natural. I was watching through the window and sipping a cup of coffee when a middle-aged woman with greying, dark hair entered. She had a pretty face, vacant of expression.
The Mid East of the city seemed a whole world away from the rest. It was quiet, untouched like it had no idea what had just happened down in the Shanties. The Mid East folk didn’t care that Knock Knock club had been burnt out. Why should they care about a filthy cabaret club in a part of the city that was home to drug addicts, car thieves and whores? Perhaps if they read about it in the newspapers they would sigh a ‘that’s a shame’ when they learned that Jack, the old compère, had died along with several of the dancer girls. They might shrug a shoulder of pity if they read that many of the MACK workers from the DISTILLERY had perished in the fire. The dead included Orla Mack – cousin to the then head of the Mack clan, Brendan. That was, of course, if the papers printed the story – the proper story. The DAILY sure as Hell wouldn’t. None of them would tell that those dancer girls were gunned down on the stage. They wouldn’t tell that Jack – dear old Jack – caught a bullet in his right temple as he rushed to protect them. That was when the petrol bombs were thrown in.
‘KAPPA fucking SO,’ Agnes thought to herself bitterly. They were responsible but no one would ever know. She couldn’t tell anyone. She had already lost too much. She remembered screaming at TAWNY to get off the stage as bullets rained in from expert marksmen. The BARONESS was holding a dead dancer girl named Jill in her arms, refusing to move as the carnage intensified.
Now it was quiet. Apart from the occasional steps of the Macks, who had accompanied her to her Mid East apartment, it was silent. She had been sat on the sofa, trying to ward off a migraine when the phone rang. She sat up with a start and lifted the phone from the floor. The sofa and the phone were the only pieces of furniture there. The apartment was being leased out whilst she and Tawny lived at Knock, Knock. It took a little persuading from Agnes but luckily the tenant was able to vacate at short notice.
“Yes?” She answered. “Hello?”
She had only given the number to a few. She swallowed to contain her nerves. She was met by an automated voice.
“Yes,” Agnes declared. “Yes,” she added again for extra clarification. Holding the phone in one hand she reached up to her forehead with the other to continue easing her headache.
“Hello?” Came the musical tones of a HATHFIELD accent. “I can’t hear anything on this bloody thing,” Tawny complained to someone beside her.
“I’m here Tawn,” Agnes spoke up.
“Oh, thank God,” she declared. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I’m just a little shaken up. Some of the Macks are with me.”
“Listen, I need you to go and fetch Tabby,” she requested.
“I’ve tried to reach her,” said Agnes. “Rob wouldn’t allow her to come to the phone.” “No,” Tawny said urgently. “I mean I need you to go and fetch her. You have to bring her to the Mid East with you.”
Agnes shook her head. “After what happened the last time you took her away from that house…”
There were three things important in the life of the Baroness. One was Agnes, who she would give her life for, the second was the wretched club that she adored, and the third was her niece, Tabitha, who she saw as the most precious thing in the world. Agnes learned quickly that Tabitha was a handful. She was strong-willed, foul-mouthed and with all the makings of a sociopath, but one thing was clear; her aunt was everything to her. Through this, Agnes came to see a loving side of the would-be Boss Lady that not many others did. Whilst she couldn’t condone her behaviour, they grew close through their mutual love of Tawny and the damned club. Because it couldn’t be denied, Agnes’ blood flowed through Knock Knock too. Where most people only saw a seedy cabaret club, to her it was life. Kappa SO knew this; the Owens that sent them to destroy the place knew this also.
“Rob and Linda are never going to let me take her away,” Agnes tried to explain.
Tawny was sounding much better, much more like herself but she still wasn’t seeing the practicalities. Her worry intensified. “Please,” she cried. “You have to get her away from them. They will kill her. Offer them money if that’s all they really want.” Agnes sighed. “They aren’t going to murder her Tawn.”
“You don’t know that. If those filthy Owen pricks want to silence her, they will.” Agnes had grown used to Tawny being on the eccentric side. It was part of her charm. The BROKER was the sensible counter balance but given the lives lost already, it wasn’t complete paranoia that was speaking. It wasn’t outlandish to consider that something unfortunate could happen to the little girl who called the OWEN family out on their bullshit.
“I’ll go and speak to her and her parents,” Agnes offered.
“When you see my brother, tell him I’m going to string him up by the balls,” stated the Baroness.
Agnes laughed. “I’ll be sure to let him know.”
“As soon as I know you and Tabby are safe, they can do whatever they like to me in here. They can stick an electrode up ma arse or plug me into the national grid if they like.”
Agnes found herself shaking her head but with a smile on her lips. “They aren’t going to give you electro shock.”
“They think I’m off ma rocker,” replied Tawny.
“You are,” Agnes teased.
Tawny laughed. It was a comforting, melodic sound. “Maybe a little.”
A bleeping sound signalled the call was to end. “Oh, come on now,” said Tawny away from the receiver. “It looks like I have to go,” she added, her voice coming back clearer.
“It’s so good to hear your voice.” Agnes’ migraine was starting to ease off.
“Recorded for quality and training purposes,” Tawny imitated the automated voice. The phone bleeped again. “Alright. I hear ye,” she said to it.
“I’ll be in to see you soon,” said Agnes.
“Bring Tabby with you,” requested Tawny.
Agnes’ heart began beating a little faster. “I’ll do the best I can.” It was all she could promise.
“Love you, bitch,” Tawny teased.
Agnes returned. “Love you too, bitch.”
Agnes didn’t visit Filton much. She was a Mid East girl through and through. Even when she gave up the apartment to reside about the club, she was still an artsy woman at heart. Even for a Mid East girl, living in a fabulous place like Filton was like a dream. The beautiful mansion homes were like fairy tale castles. But fairy tale castles could be oppressive, even to foul-mouthed, uncontrollable little princesses like Tabitha. It didn’t matter what trouble she had gotten into, Agnes owed it to Tawny to at least discuss with Rob letting Tabs visit her aunt in Harbour House. But Rob was an unreasonable man from what Agnes could deduce – completely different from his sister. Agnes had brokered some tough deals over the years but this was going to be the most difficult. There was so much to ask for and so much at stake. Things were becoming worse for Tawny. Sometimes she would call and she would laugh and joke as though nothing had happened, other times she would sound so subdued and slurred from the medicine they were giving her to keep her calm, other times she would just weep. Rob’s home in Filton was a two-story building in a quiet corner. It wasn’t as elaborate as some of the mansion houses but the Beckingridge family lived not so far away. She didn’t want to arrive unannounced with some Macks in tow. It would only be met with aggression and deals aren’t made easily with angry people. This required a sweetened approach. So, she asked the boys to stay nearby. It was likely the Owens were watching. The last time Tawny had been at the house to check on Tabby, Rob and Linda had called the police. It was all Agnes could do to stop Tawny from going back and physically removing the girl with as many of the Macks as she could when the official notice from JUDGE DOYLE came through stating her petition for custody had been denied. It also stated that any investigations into the claims of a paedophile ring run by Jerry Owen were closed and wouldn’t be taken any further.
Trouble or not, no little girl deserved to be sold like property to sleazy old men as far as Agnes was concerned. Tabs was no angel but she was like a daughter to Tawny, and for that Agnes loved her too and would do anything she could to remove her from such a home life.
As beautiful as the homes in the northern town of Filton were, it was in the grotty little cabaret club that Tabitha was safest and most at home. The Knock Knock Baroness had a reputation in the area. She was loved but not really what most people would consider a stable guardian. However, if things had been different for Tabitha she would never have been without the love and support a troubled little girl sorely needed. As it happened, Doyle’s refusal of the custody petition had been the beginning.
She rang the bell but someone had left the door open having pulled it closed behind him or her. It likely hit off the lock and bounced back open without them noticing. Filton was a safe area. People rarely locked their doors but Agnes felt it a little strange to be left ajar. She didn’t know if Rob and Linda had staff. Most Filton people did but from what Tawny had said they were merely playing posh. That could have been a little bitterness talking. Linda had lived in Filton her whole life. Her mother was an executive assistant at BECKINGRIDGE FINANCIAL FIRM. It wasn’t the top floor of BECK TOWER but respected enough to be a part of the family. Her father was a driver for the Owen’s. The father was handsomely paid and led the team of drivers required to carry the family from point A to point B. Linda had even made friends with some of them. It was how Rob and Linda had come to know Jerry.
Filton life suited Rob McKinney. According to his sister, to be hob-nobbing with the rich folk was all he ever wanted. When he and Tawny first came to the city from the Hathfield Bay island they parted on bad terms. She went south to the Shanties busking for her supper and he north, glass collecting in some of Filton’s most exclusive restaurants until opportunity presented itself with Linda and her family as they dined in Delphine – the finest Luen cuisine in the city. They didn’t speak again until an early morning call came to the club from Rob to tell her she had become an aunt. As Linda’s family flocked around, he must have realised his sister was all he had.
Agnes pressed the bell again. Its knell echoed inside the bell of the large house. A breeze charging through pushed the door open further.
“Rob? Linda?” Agnes announced her presence with a light knock on the door. “Agnes Wilde. I’ve been trying to call.”
She stepped inside a long, dark hallway listening for voices or life within. There was none.
“Tabs?” called Agnes up the large, open staircase for the Baroness’s niece. She first made her way to the Den. A television had been left on paused on the Jolly Shopper show. The remote control was discarded on the floor. The cushions from the sofa had been cast across the room. Agnes’ heart started to race.
“Tabs?” she called out again. “Tabs? Rob? Linda? I don’t want to cause trouble. I just want to take her to visit her aunt. I will bring her straight home.” Agnes attempted but there was no response.
In the kitchen a drawer had been pulled free of it’s resting place. A clutter of cutlery lay discarded on a shining, freshly mopped floor.
Agnes clamped her hand to her mouth. Something had happened. The cold house had the ache of death about it.
In Linda’s dressing room the wardrobe of expensive dresses had been left open. Some had been pulled from the hangers and they lay discarded on the floor. Tabitha was nowhere to be found
Now Agnes was really concerned.
The door of the master bedroom was open. There were three bodies. The slim, toned, naked frame of Linda lay across the bed. Her ear had been ripped off. The bulky frame of Rob with a knife wound in his ribs had fallen on the floor. There was a third Agnes didn’t recognise. She had a knife wound in her chest.
A large knife had been left behind. It almost looked ceremonial. Agnes, without thinking, lifted the weapon and hid it in her purse. She called the Macks in. They helped her dispose of the bodies and clean the scene to make it look as though Rob and Linda had gone on a trip.
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidow
In the largest office of the Law Makers, adjacent to the COURT HOUSE, dwelled a figurehead that loomed over the city like a great vengeful deity. JUDGE KARYN DOYLE. She began her career as the youngest district court judge in Coldford history and the first woman to sit on the Children’s Services Committee. She was a pioneer in a lot of ways. Justice was always her objective but what did that mean? On the face of it, that meant wrongdoers were put behind bars. People like TABITHA and the HEADLINERS wouldn’t be tolerated in her city and she would stop at nothing until satisfactory justice had been served. Justice is a set of scales though. They had to weigh up and balance. Therefore, justice was also seeing families made homeless because of unpaid rent. Justice was tearing families apart because fathers didn’t have work permits. Justice was punishing someone for fighting to protect him or herself. Justice was having a young girl’s underwear on display because some depraved rapist took advantage of her. Justice could see a rich, powerful family using their influence to protect them from slander. After everything I’ve seen in the Shady City, nothing surprised me. Justice, however, was supposed to be blind. Cold facts and evidence were supposed to be the deciding factors. Tabitha had committed some horrendous crimes and she would pay for them, but how would those scales of justice weigh up against her? Would justice even listen to the truth or would the sight of the red dress and an unrelenting attitude blind them? Tabitha wouldn’t break easily. What worried me was the extent the LAW MAKERS, who had her in their grasp, would go to in order to make sure that she did. Justice loved breaking down those who would not follow her laws. She fed on it. Tabitha deserved punishment but who else would come to harm in the process? For the time being she still had two well-polished fingers held up at them and she taunted. “You know where to find me. Come and get me.” There was nothing they could do. There were rules to follow and what was justice without rules? But as AGENT LYDIA, relieved of her under cover duties at the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB and her supervising partner AGENT KIM climbed the steps of the Law Makers office the rules were about to change.
Chaos already had the attention of justice. When chaos is allowed free roam, mistakes can be made. BERNARD ‘BUDDY’ OWEN grinned. He was from an extremely powerful family who hailed from the Great States. Their influence in the Shady City was growing by the day. They arrived in Coldford with the luxury of money and pull. Hand in hand those things are often used to fill the scales of justice. Give a little money, a little politics and you find the scales never weigh against you.
Judge Doyle spat. “There was a little girl shot dead in the Shanties and there is talk that Kappa So was responsible.”
The little girl she referred to was Sarah. I had tried to take her from the club and mistakenly return her to the father. The truth was the little girl’s father, Kevin, had been selling drugs provided by Kappa So – a fraternity group founded by Buddy’s family generations before through Filton University. Kevin had become nervous. He revealed he was willing to speak to CPD but before he could he and his daughter were gunned down. Dead bodies littering the street through violence was not an uncommon sight in the Shanties but what caught Judge Doyle’s attention was that the shots had been delivered on both with pin point accuracy. The Owen’s had a reputation for being natural marksmen. They learned to handle guns on their many ranches from an early age. It was said that an Owen was handed a pistol before they were given their mother’s breast. Buddy in particular was so at home with gun in his hand it was a more like an extension of a limb.
Doyle took a seat at her long, mahogany desk. The room smelled of fresh polish. The office was a wide space, steeped in shadows. It was unwelcoming. A cold draught circulated. The Judge had a clear view of the world from behind that desk.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. He was still grinning, remorse lacking.
“It was a hit from someone who knew how to handle a gun.”
Buddy’s grin widened. His square set jaw tightened.
“I will keep my ears open for the culprit ma’am.”
Doyle surveyed him. The grin fell from Buddy’s face.
“If I do find out you were responsible Bernard, there will be consequences,” asked Doyle. Her voice was steady but the threat underneath weighed heavy.
Buddy softened. “If it was one of ma boys ma’am I will find out.” he insisted.
Doyle raised her chin. “See to it that nothing like that happens again. If I hear any more of drugs, violence or assault through your Chapter House I will shut it down.”
Buddy relaxed his shoulders and stood straight. “Yes ma’am.”
A buzzer sounded. Doyle answered the call from her secretary.
“Agents Lydia Lowe and Kim Adams are here to see you ma’am.”
“Send them in,” the judge ordered. She addressed Buddy. “You, get out of my sight.”
Buddy obliged. Before he reached the doorway she called him back. “And Bernard, there will be consequences for the death of that little girl,” she warned.
As he opened the door he came face to face with the two agents. Lydia was astute. She sensed the tension between Buddy and the Judge. Buddy held her gaze
“Bernard,” barked the Judge again. “Eyes on the exit.”
Buddy pushed past. The agents entered the office of the judge and the door closed behind them.
The agents stood before the large desk. The Law Maker symbols on the pillar behind her felt like the eyes of Gods watching. Judge Doyle remained silent until Buddy had cleared the room.
“Congratulations on your success,” the Judge broke the heavy silence. “I hear she is now in custody.” She referred to Tabitha, Boss Lady of the Knock Knock Club.
Kim responded, “Yes, ma’am. We have also taken the Penn triplets into custody.”
“A job well done then,” stated Doyle coldly. The mother of the triplets, Rita Penn, didn’t take much to do with the running of things ever since the father of the triplets, Reginald, left them the Auction House. It was their chance to bring order to both the Shanties, home of the Knock Knock Club, and City Main, the area that housed the Penn Empire.
“Agent Lowe,” the judge turned her attention to Lydia. “I will expect a full report by tomorrow. We need to move things along quickly whilst we can.”
Lydia nodded in agreement. “Yes, ma’am.” Lydia knew better than most how much of a slippery fish Tabitha could be so time was of the essence.
“The Bailiffs will take it from here but I do have a specific request for you, agent.”
Lydia looked to Kim first then back at the Judge to wait for her instructions. “I have issued a gagging order on the reporter, Sam Crusow. I can’t have him talking to anyone about what happened until trial is fixed. Am I correct in saying you formed something of a bond with him? You were the first to recover him from the club and you testified to his innocence in the death of his colleague, MADELINE LOWER.”
“I had a little chance to talk to him. Getting him on the inside is the thing that gave us what we needed to bring Tabitha in. She pitted his colleague against him and he defended himself. He’s a good man.” Lydia spoke warmly on my behalf. Doyle pursed his lips. “Good man or not, reporters are dangerous. There will be enough fuss to shut out from the press because of this and I can’t have someone with his insight at large. He is a key witness and as such I want you to stay close to him. For his own protection of course and to make sure he does not under any circumstances violate my order. You have a rapport with him. Keep him calm and keep him safe.”
Lydia agreed, “Yes ma’am.”
So the agent was tasked with being by my side. As trial was set and events continued to spill out I would be glad to have her close by me.
As they stepped outside the Court House into the warm afternoon air Lydia felt ill at ease.
Lydia expressed her concern to her mentor.
“Something is a bit off about this,” she said. Her instincts were telling her something was wrong but until more motives revealed themselves she couldn’t quite put her finger on what that was.
Kim agreed. “I know, pet. Just keep your eyes open.”
“Tabitha will use any trick she has to get away,” added Lydia. She had seen some of the extents the Boss Lady had been willing to go to to get her way.
Kim shook her head. “Then let’s hope we’ve delivered her to the one person in the city who can put her away for a very long time.”
Judge Doyle was already aware of the questions that were formulating in my head. For example, where did this bad blood between the Boss Lady and The Judge first begin?
“Case file 03300347,” announced the clerk. The room was almost empty. A woman sat at the back holding two boys close to her. Tabitha watched them. One of the boys looked up and managed a small smile. Tabitha returned with a similar gesture. None of the family looked like they had slept much in days. Their black skins were lack lustre and the mum’s eyes were blood shot.
“Case file 03300347. McInney. Step forward,” the clerk ordered.
Aunt Tee patted Tabitha’s arm. “Alright honey, it’s now or never.” She shuffled from the pew they were sat in, a few rows in front of the family. Tabitha waited patiently. A cold draught blew around her with her aunt’s curvy frame removed. She had been staying at the Knock Knock Club for the past few weeks. Her parents were of course furious, but they didn’t care enough to retrieve her. TAWNY, the old Baroness of the club swore to her that she didn’t have to go anywhere. Not at least until they had had their day in court. Tawny saw that her niece was nervous that morning so she tried to fill her with confidence.
“It’s all about creating a good impression,” said the aunt. She held a pair of old spectacles to her face. “Business woman,” she pulled them away. “Gal on the go.” She put the glasses to her face again. “Business woman.” She pulled them away. “Party girl!” Tabitha had giggled. Her smile calmed Tawny’s own nerves. Before she faced the Judge she flashed her niece a confident smile. Tabitha could see the fear behind her eyes. There was so much at stake. “Good morning, ma’am,” greeted Tawny keenly. Judge Doyle offered an emotionless stare from behind her desk. She motioned for Tawny to come closer. “I see you have raised a petition for custody,” began the Judge. “The child in question is your niece. Is that correct?”
Tawny answered smoothly. “Yes ma’am. That is correct.” She gave a fleeting glance back at Tabitha as though she was checking she was still there. “Both of her natural parents are still living?”
Tawny agreed. “Yes, ma’am. They reside in FILTON.”
“I see,” Doyle mused. She flicked through some pages of notes that lay on her bench. “You do realise it is never the intention of this court to remove a child from their parents unless there are extenuating circumstances.”
Tawny remained cool but the emotion in her voice wavered a little. “There are circumstances, ma’am, really dire ones.”
Doyle pushed the notes aside. She wanted to address the petitioners directly. She leaned forward a little and fixed her gaze on the Baroness. Her eye and her neck were fine in those days. Her scars non-existent.
“Then why don’t you explain it to me.”
Tawny took a deep breath. She hadn’t wanted to discuss what had happened in such a public forum for Tabitha’s sake but she was left with no choice.
“My brother and my sister-in-law accepted money in exchange for the prostitution of my niece.”
Judge Doyle’s expressionless deportment fell into a severe frown. She reached for her notes and again flicked through them.
“That is a pretty damning accusation,” stated the Judge.
Tawny fidgeted with the blazer she wore in an attempt to seem official. “I was appalled when I heard ma’am. She’s just a little girl.”
The judge gave no clue to her thinking in her expression. “I see no police report here.” Tawny had to admit. “It wasn’t reported.”
As the Judge rested back in her chair to observe Tawny clearer, a shadow cast across her eyes.
“Why ever not? Surely if you found out such a thing it would be your first course of action? A crime of that magnitude against the child should have been reported?”
“My brother has some pretty powerful friends. It wouldn’t have helped. That’s why I wanted to appeal to you directly, ma’am. I was worried it wouldn’t reach the right ears.”
“And you were there? You saw this exchange take place?”
“No,” Tawny had to admit. “But Tabitha told me about it. My sister-in-law’s family have been drivers for the Owen family for years. They were having a party one night and made Tabitha their centre focus like she was some kind of prize. Reverend Jerry Owen was the one who organised it. He was the one that gave them the money.”
“I know Reverend Owen personally. He is a very well-respected member of the community, a charitable man. Are you saying he raped her?”
Tawny shook her head. “He didn’t get the chance to. She fought him off like a champ and ran to me.”
“So he never actually touched her?”
Tawny frowned, “What difference does that make?”
Judge Doyle waved for her to be quiet. “Suppose I accept your story and this is true. Are you fully prepared to accept responsibility for your niece?”
Tawny beamed, thinking she was finally getting through the icy exterior. “Of course.”
“Where would she be schooled?” asked the Judge.
“I … errr …” Tawny hesitated. “In the city I guess.”
The Judge leaned over and whispered something to the clerk. He took note.
“And what is it you do?” The Judge asked her.
“I’m a performer. I own a club in the city. The Knock Knock Club.”
Without looking at Tawny, Judge Doyle began taking notes. “I’ve heard of the Knock Knock club. It has quite the reputation. A night club isn’t exactly the appropriate place for a child.”
Tawny replied, “Maybe not ma’am but she has had more love and support there than she ever did at home. Ye have no idea what they’ve put that girl through!” As she became more desperate her Hathfield Bay accent started to creep in.
The judge read from the notes. “I see you have a partner.”
“Yes, a loving woman. Agnes.”
Judge Doyle looked up. Her focus locked on Tawny again. “I notice that she isn’t here with you. Is she also willing to accept responsibility for the child?”
Tawny tried to mask her frustration but it spilled into her words. “She loves Tabitha just as much as I do.”
Judge Doyle abandoned her notes and crossed her arms in front of her. “Tell me something. Is your niece happy at home?”
Tawny frowned – an alien expression on her round, pleasant face. “Of course, she isn’t. Her parents are monsters.”
Judge Doyle returned to her notes once again. A silence washed over them as she read more. Footsteps in the corridor outside broke it. The woman at the back began sobbing silently on the shoulder of her eldest son, still wrapped up in her own drama.
Judge Doyle addressed Aunt Tee again. “I see here you had a mental breakdown – acute anxiety disorder. Is that correct?”
Tawny shook her head. She hadn’t prepared for that coming up. “That was a long time ago,” she explained. “I was overworked, setting things up with the club. I just want to protect my FUCKING NIECE! …” She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry ma’am. I just want to protect my niece. She’s just a little girl.”
The gaze of the judge narrowed. “I understand that emotions are running high but you will conduct yourself properly in my court or I will dismiss your case immediately. It is admirable that you want to protect her but let’s not forget that this is a troubled young girl. I see she has been in Jefferson Hall no less than five times. Assault and battery, mostly.”
Jefferson Hall was the juvenile detention center in Coldford for wayward children who were too young to be sent to the Monte Fort or Coldford Correctional.
Tabitha stood up. “You don’t know me!” She screamed, startling the family in the back. “You can’t say that.”
Tawny turned and tried to usher her to sit down. “Tabby, honey,” she said. “It’s fine. Just sit. It’s okay.”
Tabitha clamped her hands on her hips and scowled. “That cunt thinks because she’s sat behind the big desk in her big fucking chair she knows me! Because of a few bits written on a piece of paper.”
Aunt Tee tried again. “Tabby, please just calm down.”
Judge Doyle gathered the notes she had authoritatively tapped together on her desk. Her lip curled and her nostrils flared.
“Young lady, approach my bench,” she spat with venom. Tabitha obliged but she was still furious. When she stood before her The Judge said, “this court will not tolerate that kind of behaviour and for that I am dismissing your case indefinitely.”
“No!” Tawny lost her composure. “You can’t! Please just give us a chance.”
“From what I see, you are not fit to be a guardian.”
Tawny stepped forward. “I’m begging you, ma’am, please. She is not safe in that house. Please just let her come with me.”
Judge Doyle kept an icy stare on the aunt. She passed her notes to her clerk. “I’ve made my decision,” stated she.
Tawny started to sob. “She’s a good girl really. She has had her problems but she’s a good girl. They tried to buy her so she could be passed around society perverts. They stripped her down and put her on display. Please don’t send her back to that. Let her stay with me where she will be safe.”
Doyle’s arm dropped. She looked at Tabitha. The mother at the back pulled her boys closer.
“Given these accusations I have no choice but to raise it with my colleagues at the Child Services Committee. They will investigate. You are to return her to her parents within the next 24 hours until this investigation is complete. If you fail to comply, I will revoke the licence of your club and you will find yourself under charges. Do you understand?”
Tawny pulled Tabitha closer to her.
“This isn’t over,” Tabitha growled.
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidow
She has firmly dug her nails into life in Shady City. She has crawled from the bottom of life’s heap to gain her position and she won’t give it up easily.
Little is known about Tabitha prior to the opening of the Knock, Knock Club but given what she is capable of it can only be assumed she came from no place good. Fortune smiled on her in the form of her beloved aunt – also known as THE BARONESS.
Knock Knock opened under her guidance and she has never looked back since. She isn’t without her support. Backing her with unshakeable loyalty are the powerful PENN family of City Main. The Penn triplets: Marcus, Simon and Reggie being her closest friends.
Tabitha is responsible for an event known as the FREEFALL MASSACRE which saw countless benefactors leap from the luxury BECKINGRIDGE TOWER in the business district to their deaths. Tabitha is a mean queen who is not an easy target to topple.
Tabitha is wily, nasty and comically self absorbed. She has few emotional triggers but they may be worth exposing if the Knock, Knock club is to ever be taken down.
The complete season 1 of the Knock Knock graphic novel series free to read here, or download for Kindle Unlimited.
When Tabitha is sent to Hathfield Bay to meet her estranged grandma, she is given an inside look at the Cult of Wigan of which granny is a member.
Available May 14th
The Knock Knock club was attacked and now the lovable Baroness is dealing with her trauma inside Harbour House. Safe haven or all part of the bigger plan?
Across the city, detective Hicks of the Coldford City Police Department was surveying his case. Excitement was building around the station. Never had so much time and resources been spent on one case but finally it was proving fruitful. They had been chasing this for a long time.
“It’s been a while agent,” he said. “You’ve been to Hell and back for this but it looks like we’ve finally done it.”
Hell doesn’t even begin to describe it,” replied Lydia Lowe of the Inter City Task Force. “All that time undercover and it was that reporter who did the heavy lifting in the end.”
Hicks patted her shoulder affectionately. “I’m glad you got to him. He would probably have been dead now otherwise and we never would have gotten to her. When he was taken from here I thought for sure he was a goner.”
Lydia smiled. Hicks was pleased to see working undercover at the Knock, Knock club hadn’t dulled her humour.
“The last time I saw him he was leaving with Lisa’s girl. He was delivering her back to her home and then coming to here. I look forward to chatting to him when he comes in. I had to let him go. I couldn’t risk the kid getting hurt,” Lydia explained.
Lisa, the bubbly Knock, Knock bar maid would arrive at the club later that afternoon to learn of the tragedy that had occurred.
“She’s ran amok in this city for far too long,” Hicks said bitterly. Lydia wholeheartedly agreed. “I’ll call Judge Doyle at the Court House and let her know there is some solid evidence coming her way.” Hicks cheered. “Finally we’ve caught the bitch.”
Meanwhile, after divulging his story to me Dennis decided he was no longer safe at the Knock, Knock club. Either I was coming for him with everything I had or Tabitha was. He had backed himself into a corner leaving himself with few options. Men like Dennis have a way of working out of tight spots though.
He came to a familiar door. He knocked twice in an almost musical rhythm. A gaunt, skinny young girl answered.
“Chloe!” Dennis cheered. “I am so glad to see you.”
Chloe lowered her head. Her eyes fixed pitifully on the ground. “I can’t let you in,” she said meekly. “Please go away.”
She tried to close the door but Dennis stopped her.
“What do you mean? Come on, you have to let me in.” He flashed a handsome, charming smile.
Chloe shook her head, still not looking him in the eye. It seemed like tears were close.
“Come on kid,” Dennis pressed. “Please let me in. I’m in a lot of trouble here. People are going to be after me. Do you want me to get hurt?”
Chloe finally looked up. “I can’t Dennis,” she insisted. “Just go away.”
“Don’t you love me anymore?” he asked. His large, brown eyes pleaded with her.
Tears did spill from Chloe then. “Of course I do,” she sobbed. “More than the whole world.”
Dennis kept his expression soft. “Then let me in.”
He reached out to push the door open but someone else did it for him.
Dennis was greeted by the tall, imposing frame of Marcus.
“By all means Dennis,” he said. “Come in.”
Dennis dropped his head. He had no choice. Running would be no use. If Marcus was waiting on him chances were the other triplets would be somewhere nearby. The door locked behind him.
Over at the Knock, Knock club I was beginning to regain consciousness.
“You’re not a morning person are you?” Tabitha teased. “You look like shit.”
Everything that had happened came flooding back. The little girl lying dead in the street with a bullet wound in her head.
“What did you do to that kid!?” I roared
Tabitha raised an eyebrow. “What did I do?” she returned. “I was keeping her safe you stupid prick and you delivered her straight to the enemy.”
My stomach lurched. My vision was still a little blurry from the knock to the head I had received.
“There I was, standing there, carrying a bowl of ice cream, looking like a total fucking amateur and she was gone.”
“I thought …” I began but Tabitha didn’t let me finish.
“I know what you thought,” she said. “You know for a reporter you have no fucking clue. How long have you been in this city? Open your eyes to what is going on around you. Speaking of fuck wit reporters … “
“A friend of yours came looking for you.”
“You remember Madeline, right? Sure you do. All the men like Madeline,” Tabitha said.
Madeline growled. I hadn’t even noticed her being so focused on Tabitha, bleary eyed and possibly concussed.
“Would you listen to yourself?” Maddy snarled. “Do you ever shut up?”
Tabitha ignored her.
“Let us out of here you crazy bitch!” I yelled.
“I’m actually hurt that you still think I’m the bad guy here,” Tabitha laughed. I couldn’t tell if she was being ironic or if she truly meant what she said. “There are much worse things in this city than little old me. I do what I can to fight against it. Do you have any idea what would go down if I didn’t keep a check on things? I’m like a fucking super hero. Some might even be grateful.”
She kicked a knife at her feet between her captives.
“Here’s a little lesson for you. I’m going to close that door and you are both going to fight it out. Let’s see how moral you are when your lives are on the line. Maybe then you will have some idea of the shit I’ve had to deal with.”
Either of us could have grabbed that knife and killed her then but we wouldn’t have gotten much farther after that. Tabitha strode with confidence. Inside the Knock, Knock club she had nothing to fear.
“That’s why you’re both in your undies by the way,” she said as a matter of fact. “It’s less of a mess to clean up that way. It would be even easier if you were naked but I’m not that sick.” She laughed at her own joke. “When one of you are dead I pinky promise to open back up again. One less God damn reporter in the world. In the meantime, I have a little kid to bury and it’s not even noon. Thanks for that by the way. Toodles!”
At that she was out of the door. Maddy and I were sealed inside the Knock, Knock club’s hold. I ran to the door and cried through it.
“Let us out!” I called hammering my fists against the door as though it would do any good.
“It’s no use,” Madeline said behind me.
“We’ll get out of here,” I insisted.
“It’s over Sam,” Madeline said. “I’m sorry.”
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidow
Tabitha climbed aboard the night bus that would take her into the city. The driver gave her a suspicious look but she turned and waved to a random woman on the platform. The woman – looking a little confused – waved back. Luckily the driver assumed she was a relative come to see Tabitha off and was drunk instead of confused. She paid for her ticket using Ma’s cash and sat herself at the back. The driver asked no questions.
When the bus arrived in Coldford she wasted no time. She dashed off to the Shanties where the Knock, Knock club lay.
When she finally reached the club the sky was starting to show early signs of dawn. The club was empty. It had been burned out. She stood in silent shock watching what was once her haven now reduced to an empty shell. She had had no idea something had gone down there.
The Knock, Knock club had been where her true family lived. Her aunt, Tawny, being the headliner. The feather dancing girls loved Tabitha too. They all kissed their fingers and tapped her forehead as the lined up to go on stage like Tabitha was their lucky charm. Tawny looked to her watching from the wings of the stage as she sang. Tabitha adored the sound of the cheering audience. She once peeked out from behind the curtain. The audience cheered for her too when they saw the young girl’s beaming face. She waved to them. They applauded in return. Tawny turned, laughed.
“My niece ladies and gents. Isn’t she a beauty?”
Tabitha was pulled back by Agnes, the stage producer. “Stay behind the curtain,” she warned.
Agnes was also Tawny’s girlfriend and the most level headed person Tabitha had ever known. She was the sensible driving force in a wonderful flurry of sequins, music and performance.
True to this Agnes always looked out for Tabitha. She came back stage one evening to find Tawny offering her niece a cigarette.
“You can’t give her that!” Agnes warned, pulling the cigarette away.
Tawny shrugged. “It’s just a ciggy.”
“She’s too young and it’s a filthy habit. Do you really want her picking that up? Jesus Christ Tawn!”
Tawny grinned and pulled the packet off the table. “Well if you’re going to get religious about it.”
“I’ll crucify you if you’re not upstairs in five minutes. Jack is just finishing up.”
“Well I mustn’t disappoint. See you in a bit Trouble.” She kissed Tabitha’s head and took Agnes’ arm. “Madame Dictator, lead the way.” She looked back at her niece and winked.
Agnes smiled at Tabitha too. “We’ll be back soon.”
But would they? It was all gone. Jack the pianist, the feather girls, the stern but loving Agnes, Aunt Tawny who they all called The Baroness. Someone had deliberately destroyed the club and Tabitha – still with the blood of her parents motivating her – would find out who.
The docks were close by so Tabitha made her way there. If something had gone down at the club Aunt Tee would have no doubt returned to the islands where she came from. She hadn’t been waiting long when a man approached her.
“Hey kid, are you lost?” he asked.
Tabitha shrugged and turned away from him. “Not really,” she said.
He stopped and surveyed her. Tabitha’s accent didn’t sound native to the Shanties. “You shouldn’t be out here. This isn’t a safe neighbourhood.”
“I’m waiting for the ferry. I’m going to my aunt.”
He looked out at the docks. “The ferry doesn’t come at this hour,” he said. “There won’t be another one until morning.”
Tabitha became impatient, the image of the burned out club still fresh on her mind.
“What are you? The ferry master?”
He ignored the comment. “Where are your parents?”
“They’re gone. That’s why I’m going to my aunt.”
“What age are you?” he asked.
“Old enough,” Tabitha returned coldly.
“What’s your aunt’s name?” the man pressed. “Maybe I know her. I do a lot of business over on the islands.”
“Do you know the Knock, Knock club?”
He smiled smoothly. He was very well kept and handsome. He seemed like an unusual figure in such a run down area of the city. “Everyone around here knows the Knock, Knock club. Did she work there?” Tabitha was hesitant to say any more. “Look, I’m going to call my wife, okay? She’s a social worker and she’ll help you get in touch with your aunt.”
He removed a phone from the inside pocket of the tailored suit he wore. He dialled, listened briefly before beginning the conversation.
“Hey Liv. Sorry did I wake you?” he asked. He listed to the response. “I’ve got a girl here. She says she’s trying to get to the islands.” Again he listed. He pulled the phone away from his ear and asked Tabitha, “What’s your name kid?” Tabtiha told him. “She says her name is Tabitha.” He listened to the response. “Sure,” he said before passing the phone to Tabitha.
“Hello?” Tabitha said hesitantly.
“Hello Tabitha. My name is Olivia. The man you are with is my husband. His name is Dennis. Are you in any trouble? You just have to say yes or no?”
Tabitha thought about it. “No,” she said.
“That’s good,” Olivia replied genuinely. “The thing is sweetie, where you are isn’t very safe. There are no trains, buses or ferries out of there at this time so Dennis is going to bring you to me. You don’t have to be worried. I’ll be waiting for you and I will help you get in touch with someone. Does that sound okay?”
Tabitha shrugged. “I’ll be fine, really.”
Olivia didn’t press nor did she give up. “Would you at least like a warm drink until transport starts running again?”
Tabitha decided it would be better. She hadn’t heard from Tawny since Pa had forced her from the house.
“What happened to the Knock, Knock? Tabitha asked when she climbed into a car beside Dennis.
“I don’t want to worry you but I heard there was some kind of explosion,” he replied. He kept his eyes on the road. “I’m sure your aunt is fine though. You would have heard otherwise, right?”
“Right,” Tabitha agreed. She glanced from the window just as they passed BOBBY’S LUNCH BOX. Tabitha’s stomach growled. The last thing she ate was Nanny Lynn’s toffees.
“That’s a pretty dress you’re wearing,” Dennis commented. “Were you at a party?”
As the woman on the phone had said she was waiting for them. They pulled into the driveway of a quaint but pretty home in the lower west, not far from where she had met Dennis. Olivia came rushing out to greet them. The headlights caught a heavily pregnant bump.
“Nice to meet you Tabitha,” she said. You aren’t hurt or anything are you?”
“No.” Tabitha felt a little overwhelmed at the concern from a stranger.
“Make yourself at home kid,” Dennis announced when they stepped inside.
“Are you tired?” Olivia asked.
Tabitha shook her head but she was busy taking in the home. She watched as Olivia closed the door to see how it was locked and bolted. She noticed some social work certificates in the name of Olivia Platt. They were signed by Judge Karyn Doyle.
“Do you know Judge Doyle?” Tabitha asked.
“She handles most of my cases,” Olivia replied. “Were you in her care?”
Tabitha shook her head and dismissed the comment quickly. “Just wondered.”
“What’s your poison?” Dennis asked. Olivia scowled at him. “What?” he laughed. “I meant tea, coffee, cocoa?”
“I’ll have some cereal. I’m kinda hungry,” Tabitha admitted.
“What kind do you like?”
“Queen Corn I guess …” the cereal advert still played on her mind.
Tabitha’s gaze started to take in the baby bump. “When are you due?” she asked.
“Any day now actually,” Olivia answered proudly.
“Boy or girl?”
“Boy. His name is Milo.”
Tabitha grinned. Olivia tried to hazard a guess at her age.
“Hi Milo!” Tabitha cheered waving at the womb. “I’m Tabby.”
Needless to say, Tabitha didn’t leave the Platt home the following day on the ferry. She tried to call her aunt on the last number she had but it was out of service. She tried Agnes too but with no luck. When Dennis discovered it was the baroness that Tabitha was related too (a well known figure in the area) he made some enquiries about the Knock, Knock club. From what he found out it was attacked by a group of youths and it was burned out. There was no word of anyone surviving.
Tabitha still wouldn’t discuss where she came from. Whenever Olivia tried to ask her about her home life she became bitter and closed off. Olivia was concerned but Tabitha continued writing letters to her aunt and sending them to any possible place she might be. Olivia fetched clothes for her, put food to her and even involved her in discussions on the imminent arrival of Milo. When the baby was born Tabitha fussed over him. She ran errands and when Olivia was tired offered to take him walks.
“She’s still not heard anything from her aunt,” Dennis said. “None of the hospitals have heard anything either.”
“What are we going to do?” Olivia asked as they watched Tabitha play with Milo.
“Well we can’t throw her out on the street, can we? She must have family somewhere. I have people all over looking for the baroness but nothing yet.”
More time wore on and Tabitha became like one of the family.
Olivia offered to alert Judge Doyle to her plight but Tabitha became angry.
“I like you Liv. You’ve been good to me but if you tell her I’m here I will put Milo in the fucking microwave and make you eat him,” she growled.
Olivia was shocked at the outburst. In all her years of working with troubled young people she had never heard such things.
“I just want to get you home, sweetie,” she managed.
Luckily Tabitha softened. “I wouldn’t hurt little Milo,” she giggled. “Unless someone made me,” she was careful to add. “Leave the judge out of it. I’ll find my aunt.”
More time passed and the young girl had firmly cemented herself in their home. Milo was growing fast. He adored Tabitha. Every time he saw her he gave a huge grin.
Dennis too seemed oblivious to the intrusion into their home. What began as inviting a young girl to safety became uncomfortable and stifling. Only Olivia seemed to notice this. Dennis enjoyed the young girl’s company and so did Milo.
Olivia was called to a conference in the city one weekend and she would spend the night there. Her intentions were to visit the Court House and find out more about who Tabitha was. Given her reaction to Judge Doyle that was where the answers lay.
Dennis had been speaking to some associates and when he returned he found Tabitha had put Milo to bed and was watching her favourite show. Relishing the quiet he joined her on the sofa.
“Whatcha watching?” he asked playfully.
Tabitha raised an eyebrow. “It’s right there on the screen,” she said.
He drew closer to her and reached an arm behind and rested it on the sofa. He felt giddy. With Olivia gone it was just the two of them.
“It’s fun having the house to ourselves,” he said. “We’ve grown close, haven’t we?”
Tabitha didn’t take her eyes away from the screen. “Too close. You’re in my space. Move!” she barked.
Dennis ran a hand softly along up her leg. “Come on,” he purred. “You and I can have some fun.”
He clasped her hand and pulled it towards his aching crotch. “Come on,” he said again. This time with a little more force.
Tabitha tried to pull her hand away but he had gripped her tightly.
“Get the fuck off me!” she snarled but Dennis paid no attention. He wanted her then and he would have her.
He grabbed her and flipped her over on the sofa. He pushed behind her with a leering grunt.
“You want this,” he said. “You know you do.”
Tabitha snarled. She bit down on his arm and he yelped in pain. She threw her head back catching his nose and bursting it. She climbed onto her feet and when she saw Dennis hadn’t fallen she punched him heavily on the nose causing a satisfying explosion of blood as it burst. Dennis tumbled to the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Dennis whimpered.
Tabitha laughed with a horrid mixture of childish giddiness and grown up scorn.
“Oh you fucking will be,” she said. “For the rest of your life you will remember this moment as the time you fucked up royally.”
She turned to the television. She pushed the button to change the output and on the screen flashed the scene that had just occurred. A concealed camera had recorded everything.
“This will be a little memento in case you forget.”
“You set this up!?” he gasped.
Tabitha shrugged. “Let’s just say I know creeps like you,” she replied. She watched the screen and laughed again. “You are so fucking screwed!” she cheered with a tune hanging in her voice. “Just not the way you hoped.” She looked closely at her own image. “The camera loves me,” she grinned. “Look at your nose. I really cracked you good.”
The scene was interrupted by Milo crying. Dennis tried to stand to check on him but Tabitha shot him a warning glare.
“You stay here, perv. I’ll check on him.” She skipped across to the steps. “If you ever lay a finger on me telling Liv will be the least of your worries. I will cut your fucking balls off.” She looked back at the screen. “Actually, if I’ve missed my show because of this I may still cut your balls off.” She sighed with amusement at her own jest and finally started climbing the stairs. “Coming Milo,” she called to the crying child.
When Olivia returned she sensed something was wrong but Dennis wouldn’t admit it. Tabitha carried on as she always had.
Olivia had been unable to meet with Karyn Doyle. The district court judge and chair of the child services committee had been involved in an explosion too. A car bomb had left her critical in hospital.
“Do you think those two things are related?” Olivia asked Dennis but he didn’t seem to be listening.
“I don’t know do I?” he finally said.
“Maybe one of your associates would know?”
Dennis mostly ran couriers around the city and as such he came into contact with lots of different people. He didn’t ask any more questions about the Knock, Knock club though. Instead he distanced himself from his wife and child. Olivia noticed his being more subdued.
More time passed. Olivia tried to contact the judge when she heard she had made a miraculous recovery. Dennis finally spurred into action.
“Don’t do that!” he grabbed the telephone from her with a shaking hand.
Olivia remembered Tabitha’s threats on Milo but couldn’t believe that she should take them seriously.
“She needs help Dennis. She needs a home,” Olivia protested.
“She doesn’t want the judge to know she is here.” Dennis was almost pleading with his wife.
“Since when does Tabitha make the decisions around here?” Olivia returned with some venom. “It’s what is best for her.”
Given the urgency of Dennis’ plead Olivia left it. The judge would need time to recover from her ordeal anyway.
Time continued to pass. Tabitha grew older. Milo started to grow up. Until one day Dennis returned home to find Tabitha on the sofa with a packed bag at her feet and a coat on. Olivia was gone to places unknown with no intention of returning. She had taken Milo with her.
“Better get packed,” Tabitha said.
“Where are we going?” Dennis asked.
“To rebuild the Knock, Knock club.”
I stared at him for a little while after he told me this trying to process what it all meant.
“I’ve made some mistakes in my life but that was by far the worst and I’ve been paying for it ever since.”
Tabitha could handle herself whatever age she had been, that much was clear, but what I couldn’t get out of my mind were other little girls who hadn’t been so lucky. Frightened, trembling as Dennis’ long frame leaned over them. Their chances of first love gone forever in some sleazy hotel room with someone old enough to be their father. I could almost hear their painful screams.
“How long?” I growled.
“What do you mean?”
“How long before you met Tabitha did you have a fondness for little girls?”
Dennis’ eyes widened. There was still some self preservation left in him yet.
“It’s easy to condemn. It is sick, unnatural even, but you can’t fight it until you understand it,” he said.
The human part of me wasn’t interested in his excuses but that human part was shrinking more and more. All that was left was the reporter in me and that reporter was that story. It was a something that had to be told to warn others.
When he saw I wasn’t retreating he continued.
“At first I didn’t realise it was happening. There were lots of girls. The foreign ones fresh to the city were the best. They were always so eager to please in the hope you would help them make a home. I loved that vulnerability in them, that submissiveness. I couldn’t get enough so I started seeking them out. The more desperate they were the better. They started to get younger. Teenaged girls that knew what they were doing. After a while that didn’t satisfy me any more. They had to be fresher, easier to control. I didn’t want to feel that way. You have to believe me. It was like an addiction, a compulsion. The opportunity was always there, especially with Liv’s work. The grown ups of Shady City were too busy worrying about themselves. They left their daughters open and free for guys like me. The young girls were all that I lived for. Then Olivia fell pregnant. I began to think about how I would feel if someone did the things I did to those girls with my kid. So it ended. I still felt those impulses, attractions but I controlled it. I concentrated on my wife and I focused on my kid. We had it good. Then, when I saw Tabitha, it all came flooding back. She behaved like an adult but underneath all that make up and bravado she was just as ripe as the rest of them. She knew though, I don’t know how but she did. She knew what her knowing little smiles were doing to me and her touches.”
I had heard enough. My fists curled. I tried to walk away but he pulled me back. I’ve never been a violent man but I swung my fist and caught him a heavy blow on the face. He fell against the bar.
“You sick fuck!” I cried losing all of my usual composure, shaking the pain from my hand.
It wouldn’t be long before Tabitha joined us so I took a deep breath. I was getting out of that place and I was damned if I was going to let another little kid be harmed.
#amreading the #thriller #knockknock by @VivikaWidow
Mayor Jim Feltz gave a lot to the city. Coldford was a demanding mistress though. It had earned its nick name as the Shady City not just because of the gloomy weather but because everything was there for the taking for anyone who wasn’t hindered by morals or conscience. Jim was such a man.
Whilst the city’s funds depleted he squirrelled away as much as he could. There was a war brewing on the city streets and he was damn sure he wasn’t going to get caught up in it. Things were going to implode soon. It was only a matter of time. The regeneration projects he had promised during his last campaign were halted by the LAW MAKERS in the city. The poorest area known as The Shanties had been left worse off than they ever had been. The Tradesmen of the city were fighting back.
People in high positions – people he considered friends – had pilfered the money away leaving those lower on the ladder high and dry.
As the class war raged it left no money for the expecting mothers the mayor swore he would help. School budgets were cut to compensate for any losses caused by riots and looting. Only the exclusive Alban’s Boarding School managed to weather the storm.
What did it matter? When campaign time came again he could blame the opposition. He was just dealing with the mess they had left behind. Half of the city would believe it and the other half wouldn’t care either way. But he was done with all that.
“Will you be home on time?” Sylvia Feltz asked her husband as he prepared to leave. “We have the Weirs coming to dinner,” she added. “I need you here.”
The plan to leave everything behind had been in the works for weeks. The day had finally come. He had enough money to start over now. When the finances of the city finally tumbled like a house of cards and the war spilled onto the streets he would be out of the picture. Sure his family would have to face the music at first but they would get out of it cleanly for the most part.
His eldest daughter, Lacey, kissed him.
“I’ll be by the office this afternoon,” she said. “We need to go over a campaign plan.”
Lacey was her father’s daughter in every sense – so like him she was. She had gotten involved in his political career right from the beginning. The day he announced he was running she was by his side. She had aspirations on becoming the city’s first female Mayor. She had a naïve view of politics though. A certain lack of compassion was required despite what many might argue. She would learn that soon enough.
He stepped outside of his building. People were becoming irate so he kept his security close. His silver town car wasn’t waiting for him at the entrance of the building as it always was. He trusted his driver, Shane. He was nothing if not punctual. He looked at the security guard he was assigned. He was expressionless with hands clasped on his stomach. His cold stare was masked behind spectacles. He recognised the man’s face. He had been with him before. His name was Marcus. He wasn’t a security guard all. He was one of Penn triplets who owned the AUCTION HOUSE. The car pulled up before he could ask him his business. Mayor Feltz looked at the door of his car. something had gone awry.
His heart increased the tempo of it’s beat as MARCUS PENN reached over and opened the car door. It was really happening. The car pulled close but Shane in the driver’s seat was covered by tinted windows. Marcus leaned over and opened the door. The mayor made to climb in but he hesitated. A woman was sat waiting for him. She shifted over and patted the seat beside her.
“Don’t be shy,” she said.
Her ruby lips curled into a pretty smile. The collar of the grey coat she wore was pulled up around her neck. Marcus pushed him in and sat beside him.
“Isn’t this cosy?” she remarked.
He tried to control his breathing. He called upon every political stoicism he had in the hope he didn’t look worried. The sweat gathering on his brow didn’t lie.
“What do you want?” he asked.
The woman looked out of the tinted windows and watched the city pass by at greater and greater speeds.
“I just wanted to give a proper farewell,” she replied. “Surely you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye to little old me?”
Fear erupted inside him. He didn’t care that he would be leaping from a moving vehicle. He clutched for a door handle but Marcus snatched his wrist and twisted it causing the bones to crunch together.
“Let me out!” he cried.
The woman laughed. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We’re not going far. The city wishes to thank you for your service.”
Her name was TABITHA and he should have known there would be no escaping.
The car stopped. The driver opened the door. It wasn’t Shane after all. It was a woman. She wore a plain white blouse and simple black trousers. She had a familiar face but he couldn’t place her. If he paid more attention to the people he threw money at he would recognise her as the scantily clad girl who spent some glorious time on his lap during his last visit to the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB. He had paid her extra to finish the job but that was all but a distant memory.
Tabitha stepped out first. They had parked outside an office block in the business district of City Main not far from his home in the North Side. Marcus pushed the mayor out onto the street.
He was escorted into the building. Tabitha was in front of him and Marcus loomed behind to make sure he wasn’t going anywhere.
Tabitha said nothing as they climbed the steps. The mayor was sobbing. Each time he thought they had reached the end of his torture they had another floor to climb. They finally reached the top. Tabitha fished a key from her coat pocket and unlocked the green door that greeted them. The Beckingridge Tower could be seen standing tall across the street.
“Your daughter wanted to say good bye.”
His youngest daughter, Amber, was tied to a table. Her arms and legs spread. She had been stripped to her underwear. Jim moved to run to her but Marcus grabbed him with great clenching hands and pulled him back. The room was empty save for a chair, a large machete blade that leaned against the wall and the table that held the seventeen year old girl. Amber’s mouth was covered but she was screaming. Her eyes were wide and terrified.
The BECKINGRIDGE FINANCIAL FIRM are one of the largest organisations in the city and had been for generations. When tensions rose between the north and south of the city the firm became collateral damage. The office across the street had remained empty ever since the FREE FALL MASSACRE. Fifty nine people lost their lives when several benefactors and staff fell from the balcony of the penthouse suite. No one dared take over the space again.
“Leave her alone!” The mayor cried desperately. “She’s done nothing to you.”
Tabitha clutched his face and rested her chin on his shoulder.
“You have really pissed me off Jim. You think you can abandon ship just like that? I have to take it out on someone.”
“I wasn’t leaving. I just needed time to think. The Law Makers are pushing me more and more. I could come back and be of more use to you.”
Tabitha slid her hand into his pocket and pulled out the flight reservations. She looked at them and dropped them on the floor.
“You see,” she said, “the thing is, I would love to believe you. I really would. This is a one way ticket though.”
“Let her go,” the mayor sobbed. Tears were rolling down Amber’s face. “I’ll pay anything.”
Tabitha shook her head. She stood up straight. “It’s not about the money,” she stated. “We have that already anyway. This is personal now.”
She sat across his lap and kicked her long, slim legs out.
“A girl could be insulted with a man running out on her like that. I thought you liked my little club.”
“I do,” protested the mayor of Coldford.
Tabitha grinned. There was a gap between her front teeth that gave her a quirky, girlish quality.
“Let’s see how much then, shall we?”
With a nod to Marcus he swung the blade and cut her left hand. The sharpened blade swiped through flesh and bone with ease. Her screams of agony were muffled by the cloth over her mouth.
Her father screamed too. He didn’t have time to gather himself when Tabitha pointed again for Marcus cut off her other hand.
“You’ve made your point!” said Jim. “Let her go!”
Tabitha gave a raspy laugh. “And miss the chance to see Marcus at work? The man is an artist, isn’t he?”
The mayor tried to push against the binds. Tabitha was on her feet again. She walked over to the table and took the blade from Marcus.
“I will give you a choice,” she offered. “Since your girl is going to die anyway I can either continue cutting her up into little pieces or just end it now for her. What do you want me to do?”
The mayor sobbed. “Please just leave her.”
“I didn’t quite catch that.”
“End it,” the mayor cried louder. “End it for her.”
He had averted his gaze unable to see the pained look on his youngest child’s face. Her eyes were hazy. She was going to pass out from the blood loss soon.
“I will if you tell me I’m pretty,” Tabitha teased.
“Just kill her! Just kill her now! Please!” the mayor roared.
Tabitha’s grey eyes widened. “That is your daughter!?” she gasped. She grinned. “You are a nasty piece of work Jim.”
She lifted the blade and centered it on Amber’s forehead. Before the point penetrated her skull there was a flash of realisation on Amber’s face.
The mayor cried. He knew he was playing a dangerous game but never would he have thought it would come to this. He was leaving his life behind for sure but not in the way he had intended.
Tabitha dropped the blade, circled behind him like a predator and began massaging his shoulders.
“Well Jim, we must dash. You know what it’s like when I’m away from Knock Knock too long. Well … Well it can be just murder!”
Times have been desperate for the people of Coldford, better known as the Shady City. Once upon a time executives now reduced to rummaging through their neighbours’ trash to find a meal. Many are hunting for shelter wherever they can find it – like stray cats. Their once well tailored suits now hanging in rags. It’s surreal to see once proud captains of industry reduced to the indignity of soup kitchens. Nowhere to go, no means of rising back up to their ivory towers.
My name is SAM CRUSOW. When the depression hit, two industries were saved – entertainment and news. People always need to know what’s happening in the world and people always need an escape from their reality. Luckily for me I’m with the latter. I have been a freelance journalist ever since finishing college. As the financial belt tightened it was harder and harder to get a full time position with a news paper so I (and most of my colleagues) went from story to story just trying to make it. Most of my stories sold to the biggest newspaper in the city – COLDFORD DAILY.
I thought I had managed to successfully navigate through the choppy waters of recession until the day I discovered that beneath the harsh surface lay a more terrifying truth. But I get ahead of myself. I write these notes so that everyone can know the truth. Chances are I will be gone by the time you read this. I am on borrowed time as it is.
It began just as summer was breaking. We were experiencing one of the warmest spells we had had in quite some time.
The Mayor – Jim Feltz – had disappeared without a trace. That morning he had kissed his wife, a voluptuous and formidable woman named Silvia, and his eldest daughter, Lacey, goodbye. He straightened his power tie in the mirror and made his way to wade through the city’s financial crises, which if you were to believe the tabloids were largely his fault. Normally he would have been escorted to the office by security of some kind. The citizens of Shady City, riled at the very sight of the Mayor, only made matters worse. However, that morning he never arrived at his office. Making his way down his street in his luxury silver car was the last anyone saw of him. Some of the neighbours remembered hearing loud music blaring from his open windows as he passed which was most unlike the buttoned down, conservative man that he was.
I had been covering the story as it developed. This meant I had been spending more time at the offices of the Daily. The Daily was the only source of news on the mayor by Mrs Feltz’s request and being area’s largest newspaper. It was also the provider of food on my table. Hiring freelancers had been their way of protecting themselves. It meant that they were only paying for the material they needed, without any full time mouths to feed.
I never liked Mayor Feltz. I certainly didn’t vote for him. As I pursued the story I uncovered gambling debts and a mistress at the far end of town. He must have been quite the charmer. When I interviewed his mistress she told me that he was planning on leaving his wife (which is probably what they all say). On the morning he disappeared he had been planning to visit her. They were going on a trip together, which is why he had wanted to be discreet. The mistress, Cindy, had waited for him for most of the morning in her lavish apartment that the city coin had paid for. She flipped between anger and worry as she did. By two in the afternoon the police swamped her, acting quicker for such a public figure than they would have for any ordinary citizen.
Neither his wife, his mistress nor his gambling associates could offer the police any idea as to where he went, so on that warm morning I made my way to the stretch of tower blocks that housed the newsroom in the North Side. My mind was occupied by ways I could spin the same story or offer a new angle.
Close to the office the clang of metal bins falling over drew my attention. From behind the cans crawled a man. He was young, filthy and with a mop of thick hair. Like many of the others forced to live on the streets. He sat with his back against the wall and brought his knees to his chest. His eyes were dulled by the effects of alcohol. He held a core of an apple and made breakfast of it. Sights like these were shocking when the recession first hit but they became more common and so you no longer noticed. The mighty had fallen and the rest of us became desensitised to their plight. I gave him what coins I had left. With very little I could do to help him, I entered the tall grey building with the large towering sign on top that read ‘Coldford Daily’.
The newsroom was hot and thick with the smell of coffee. Full time reporters had become scarce but those of them who did remain in work dashed back and forth trying to perfect their articles. Nothing quite so stimulating as a looming deadline. The brown leather satchel that I always carry my articles in was dropped on an unoccupied table. I rested at the desk, drew out my notes and began to review them. I had to ignore the hum and chatter around me to focus on the words.
“Hey Sam,” came the voice of MADELINE LOWER. I looked up and briefly acknowledged her presence with a smile. Madeline and I had been friends since college. She too was a freelance writer although she would admit her stories weren’t selling as well. I don’t think my writing was any better than hers, its just that the editor, Eric Waddle, was a bit of a chauvinist and what articles of hers he did accept were probably grudged.
‘Maybe if I slept with him he would change his mind,” she had said. She was joking of course but everyone had their motives in Shady City so it wouldn’t surprise me.
Madeline was an athletic woman in her late twenties. Her shoulder length brunette hair fell loosely around her shoulders. Her skin was a warm caramel colour like she had come from a sun kissed land. Her pale blue eyes were sharp and feline. That morning she wore a white shirt and a plaid skirt. She sat herself on the edge of my desk with the leap of feminine grace. “Waddle was looking for you,” she informed me. “He told me to kick you into his office as soon as you got here.”
“Thanks,” was my reply, still absorbed in my reviewing. I brushed my auburn hair away from my face. I was always pale but in those days of hard work I was even paler. I gathered my strength. Discussions with Waddle took a lot of energy. He was the kind of man who didn’t talk to you but talked at you.
“You look like hell,” Madeline commented – ever the crusader for honesty. “Go see what he wants and I’ll get us some coffee.”
Madeline slipped off the desk and made her way to the farthest end of the newsroom where the fresh coffee was being brewed.
I knocked on the door of the editor’s office. I could hear Eric’s voice inside having a one sided conversation which suggested that he was either conducting a telephone call or some journalist was on the listening side of a hostage situation. I pushed the door ajar slightly. I caught a glimpse of Waddle standing behind his desk. His back was to me. He had a black telephone receiver placed to his ear. He heard me as I stepped inside because he swivelled round, smiled and waved at me, gesturing me to sit down.
“I gotta go, sweetheart,” said Eric. “If I hear anything I will let you know.”
I took the seat across the desk from Eric, laying my papers on top. Eric Waddle was a tall man. He had a thick beard and always wore a long, black pony tail.
“That was Silvia Feltz,” he informed me even though I hadn’t asked. “Poor thing is still in shock. Trying to piece together what happened. Jim and I go way back and even I had no idea what he was up to.”
“I have nothing new really,” I ventured.
Eric reached his heavy hand across pulled my papers towards him. “It doesn‘t matter. People can’t get enough of the story. They’re swallowing it down like buzzards and coming back for more.”
“I think I’ve spoken to everyone he ever met. That is everyone but you…” Eric had been quite adamant that he not be included in any of the articles but I didn’t become the reporter I was by not chancing my luck.
“I have nothing to say,” Eric snatched up a glass bottle filled with whiskey and poured himself a generous share into a square shaped glass by his hand. “I asked you to come here because there is something that I wanted to talk to you about.”
“As you know, times are tough. We can only handle the best which is why they want you Sam.”
“Want me for what?”
“I’m talking about full time,” Eric said. His face beamed with excitement.
“I don’t know what to say,” I stammered.
“Say yes!” he bawled before emitting roars of laughter. “These kind of opportunities aren’t easy to come by these days.”
I stood. My actions became subconscious. “That is a great offer. I am very grateful. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, just do what you do best,” Eric dismissed, downing his glass of whiskey in one single gulp. The bottle was probably less expensive than the MACK AND SONS brand he was used to but decent alcohol was becoming increasingly difficult to come by. “You don’t have to be hanging around here all day. Go home and tell your wife the good news. You can start fresh tomorrow.”
My wife, Theresa, had studied journalism too. In fact that’s where we met. When Theresa and I married she gave up a career. Her mother blamed me for this but the truth was I had been the one trying to discourage her from doing so. Theresa didn’t want to take any chances on a writing career when housewife was the most stable job to be had. I never corrected my mother-in-law as to whose decision it had been to give up. She already hated me anyway. She thought me too self absorbed to be a suitable husband for her daughter. Her concerns weren’t completely without merit. When I was caught up chasing stories I often missed what was happening to the people closest to me. Theresa would be excited though. I couldn’t wait to tell her the news.
I was out of breath by the time I got home, my heart beating forcefully with exertion and excitement. The drums of anticipation rattled in my ears. I fumbled for my keys in my pocket. I leaned against the door as I reached deeper into my pockets. As I did so the door fell aside. It was very unlike Theresa to leave the door unlocked even when she was at home. She was a cautious little thing and home invasion robberies were happening a lot in our neighbourhood on the South West Side.
Our humble home was a small, one bedroom terrace amidst an array of similar granite buildings. What separated ours from the rest was the addition of an emerald green front door. Green was my favourite colour and it matched the shade of Theresa’s eyes. I called for my wife but there was no response. Heaps of blankets lay across the worn brown sofa which kept us warm without any extra cost. The scent of baking apples danced from the kitchen. Theresa had been baking apple pie which she always did when she had had a rough day. The kitchen was a direct off set from the living room. I found Theresa in there lurched over the cooker. She was weeping heavily. Her mousey brown hair was uncombed. When I pushed the swinging door open she gripped a knife that was close at hand. She stumbled backwards emitting a frightful shriek.
When she saw it was me she dropped the knife, ran at me and threw her arms around my neck. She didn’t ask why I had come home so early. It was I who asked the questions.
“What happened?” My heart was now beating to a completely different rhythm.
“I wasn’t expecting you so early,” she said. “A woman was looking for you.”
“What did she want?” I asked.
Theresa gathered her wits. “She gave me an invitation to a club.”
“And who was she? What was her name?” I enquired, assuming it to be someone I had been questioning on the Feltz story.
Theresa shook her head. “She didn’t say.”
Theresa wandered into the living room and dropped herself amongst the blankets. “She told me that this story on the Mayor could put you in danger. She said you were getting involved in something you shouldn’t.”
I sat beside her and put my arm around her shoulder. “That’s all nonsense, I promise.”
Theresa shuddered. “She gave me this …”
She gave me a black business card. On the front read ‘The Knock Knock Club’ with two finely shaped female figures on either side. It was an exclusive club in town. A club I would visit that night and my life would be changed forever.
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidow
Proud producers of quality whiskey for more than five generations. MACK AND SONS DISTILLERY is a vivid part of the landscape of Shady City.
Initially from the outlying western town of BELLFIELD the distillery was first set up in the deprived Shanties area of the Shady City. Mack and Sons were offered a generous buy over bid from the wealthy Beckingridge Financial Firm.
With a stern note from head, Brendan Mack, they refused.
“Mack and Sons is for everybody. We supply those who work hard and get their hands dirty. Those rich wankers think they can have it all,” he said.
The distillery now lies in the hands of second born son, PATRICK with support from his brothers – Aidan and Kieran. Mack and Sons protect their brand fiercely. The working class ethic still lies at the heart of what they do.
They are the main supplier to the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB so a bottle is always to be found, even as the city struggles. The recognisable shape of the twisted bottle can be spotted on most of the bars.
Life in the Shady City can be tough so pour yourself a glass of a Macks, put on your dancing shoes and prepare for a night you may very well be glad to have forgotten.
Come join us for a glass of Macks at the Knock, Knock Club!
Complete season 1 of the graphic novel series is free to read HERE.