All posts by Vivika Widow

Author, blogger and founder of the Ragdolls UK foundation who support children and young adults suffering from genetic disorders. Visit www.vivikawidow.com for more info

Knock Knock: Episode 26: Hot Date

It hadn’t escaped my notice that the Harvester Brand was spreading fast around the city. It was a swift spread that had happened over such a short space of time. While Julia Harvester hosted both Beckingridge and Owen proposals for investment she, essentially, was the only thing keeping the duelling titans at bay, the only thing keeping Buddy Owen on a low profile and the only thing keeping the city holding a tentative breath.  

“You got to watch her, man,” David Finn, the artist, told me. “You never know what she’s going to do next.”  

David would know. After he fell in love with her as his muse, he had become so engrossed by her that he failed to see two of his closest friends lose their child. The beautiful art work he produced with her image only brought him to Harbour House.  

Regardless of the warnings, I wondered if Julia knew anything about Sarah or Tawny. Perhaps she had heard her guest on the farm brag about the shooting as his brothers had. The very least I could do was make her aware of the kind of person Buddy was, if she wasn’t already. 

She was reputedly a beautiful woman, kind, shy seeming. 

“That’s how she gets you,” David had said. “Bam! Before you know it, she’s got you by the nuts and your saying sorry to her for the cramp in her hand.”  

David’s warnings were taken on board although they were coming from a time when his addiction was at its worst. Even he had to admit the memories were a little faded.  

The moment I saw her, however, I realised why she had caused such a stir. Beautiful she was, but with a natural allure. She even had sweat on her brow as she carried a box into the City Main Harvesters store. She was smiling and laughing with the girls who had come out to help her. I followed her inside.  

She laid the box on the counter. When she turned we were face to face.  

“Julia Harvester?” I put to her. “Sam Crusow. I’m writing a piece…”  

She stopped me with a smile and a gentle caress of my arm.  

“Yes, I know you. You used to write for the Daily. You’re a terrific writer. I was ever so sorry to hear what happened to your wife. Theresa, wasn’t it?”  

I hadn’t expected her to know so much about me. “Yes. Thanks.”  

“And still chasing the story? That’s either very courageous of you or proof that you reporters never give up.”  

Her smile smoothed. My own expression mimicked.  

“I want to finish what I started,” I said to her.  

“That nasty Knock Knock girl is gone now. I’m not sure what help I can be to you.”  

My story began the moment my eyes set sight on the Knock Knock Club sign for the first time but when the door of the club opened it was to the wider city. There was a much bigger story there.  

“I have some questions about your guest, Buddy Owen?” She looked to the phone I had slipped into my hand. “If you don’t mind my asking,” I added.  

She shrugged. “I’m really busy so it’ll have to be quick.”  

“Has Buddy ever mentioned to you about a little girl named Sarah?”  

Julia shook her head. “No.”  

“Has he said anything about the disappearance of Tawny McInney? The Baroness?”  

“No,” said Julia again. “Dreadful business though. I met her a few times in Harbour House. She was friendly with my dad who was a resident too. She was sweet, laughed a lot, really perked everyone up. Why would Buddy know anything about her?”  

“You know the history of the Baroness and Buddy’s uncle?”  

“I do,” Julia agreed. “But that was such a long time ago and Buddy isn’t his uncle. Buddy has been really sweet and helpful to me. That’s all I know. He’s overindulged and coarse but he’s just a big pet, really.”  

“There is reason to believe he is responsible for gunning down a little girl. You’ve heard the rumours that that is why Tawny was taken?”  

Julia stroked my arm again. This time her grip was a little firmer.  

“I would tread carefully, Mr Crusow. If there is a gunman going around you never know when you might step into his firing line.”  

I wasn’t given time to absorb her threats when she opened the box she had placed on the counter and drew out a meat packet. 

“With your wife gone you’ll be having trouble taking care of yourself properly.” 

“I have friends around,” I said.  

“That’s nice.”  

She passed me the meat packet. “Have this on the Harvesters. There’s more than enough to share with friends.” 

The meat was thick prime, tender beef. Succulent.  

“Thank you,” I said sincerely.  

“You’re welcome,” was her reply.  

Julia Harvester was truly a nice girl. 

*** 

With the bitterness setting in, Harvester Farm was being prepared for the winter chill. The coldness was always felt more harshly in the north and the animals and crops needed to be readied.  

Dr Nathan Watt was waiting in the kitchen. He had spent a very restless night in the guest bedroom and it was now early morning. That didn’t matter. Julia would be joining him soon enough. He heard her soft steps. He hoped she had slept well.  

A bowl of oatmeal and a slice of toast – lightly buttered – had been laid out for her. It was her preferred breakfast when a day on the fields beckoned. When she arrived in the kitchen she wasn’t surprised to see him awake but her focus was on a text message on her phone. She gave a giggle as she read. The glow of the screen highlighted her cheek bones, the softness of her eyes shone better then than in any of the images that artist, David Finn, had ever painted of her as far as Nathan was concerned.  

Still absorbed in her conversation, still failing to acknowledge him, Nathan cleared his throat. Julia giggled again as she started to compose a response.  

“I prepared breakfast for you,” Nathan informed her.  

Julia sat down at the table and picked up the cereal spoon. She laid the phone face down.  

“You’re so sweet,” she said, finally offering him a glance. “Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?”  

He hadn’t told her that Coldford General had ordered him on leave. Chief consultant Dr Ferrald had said he lacked enthusiasm.  

“It takes everything you got,” Dr Ferrald had said. “If your mind isn’t on the patients you are going to make mistakes. Take some time and gather yourself. For now though, take a leave of absence.”  

It didn’t matter to Nathan. When he and Julia were together, he could open a private practice. When she became pregnant the farm hands would handle the farm work. She wouldn’t be wanting to go back out onto the fields with the children to take care of and house to keep. Her mother and brother would of course still stay at the house. He supposed Nan Harvester would make a good grandmother for the children. Both of them, a boy and a girl. Hopefully the boy would come first. It would be nice to have a protective brother for his little girl. He would like to see the children to be close siblings. He was an only child. He only had his cousin Kelsey and they hated each other. He always wished it was different. 

He wanted to approach the subject of their being together again but he had to be delicate. She hesitated as she lifted her spoon. She caught his gaze. She smiled. Words were forming on her lips but before she uttered them her phone beeped its little jingle she favoured. She dropped the spoon he had set for her and lifted her phone. Nathan never thought he would ever find her voice irritating, so sweet it was to the ear, but as she laughed at the response to her text it grated on his nerves.  

“Who on earth is contacting you at his hour? It’s only just struck five.”  

Julia pursed her lips. She started to compose another text. “A friend. They’re in business so they have an early start too. Early bird catches the worm and all that.”  

“Oh?” Nathan wondered. “What’s their name?”  

Julia looked up with a slight smile. “It’s not a her, sweetie. It’s a him.”  

It was Nathan’s turn to frown. “I got up early. I made you breakfast. I am here for you presently and you barely speak to me? Instead, you spend your time messaging another man. That’s shameful behaviour Julia.”  

Julia spoke softly. “But I didn’t ask you to do any of those things.”  

Nathan started to become irritable. “I want to look after you, Jules. Why won’t you let me?” 

Julia cocked her head. She pouted. “You poor doe. You know I’m not in need of help. I have all the help I need on the farm.” 

“Eat your breakfast Jules. I made your favourite.” 

Julia pushed her seat out from the table and stood. Nathan stood too.  

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I have a busy day ahead, Nate. Perhaps you should go home.”  

“I’m not going anywhere,” he barked. “Stop texting other men and start showing me some appreciation for everything I do for you.”  

“Oh Nate,” she sighed. “Go home. I’m going to be on the fields all day and you are not needed.”  

“Why don’t we have dinner together?” he tried.  

Julia held her phone by her side. “I already have dinner plans. My friend is taking me to Delphine.”  

Nathan growled. “Isn’t it enough I have to watch that freak show, Buddy Owen, lust after you but now you tell me you have dinner plans with someone else? Why didn’t you tell me?” 

Julia remained calm. She knew his attention would fall to her chest as soon as she took a sharp intake of breath.  

“Don’t be so rude.”  

The phone bleeped again but before she could check it Nathan lunged forward. He tried to tackle her and snatch it from her hand. Used to the charge of angry cattle, Julia was too quick and pulled away holding her phone behind her back. He was leaning over her. His size was larger than hers but she was smiling.  

“Give me the phone,” he demanded.  

Julia raised an eyebrow. “I will not.”  

Nathan made another attempt to grab at it but her reflexes were too quick.  

“Curtis?” she called.  

Farm hand Curtis had been nearby, readying himself for a day on the fields. Nathan hadn’t heard him arrive. Nathan stepped back immediately, seeing Curtis appear in the door way.  

“You ready?” he asked. He took note of the way Julia was leaning back from Nathan and how he was looming over her but he said nothing.  

“I am. I want to get started. We have a long day ahead and I’m sick of oatmeal.”  

The winter preparations on Harvester Farm was an arduous task. Curtis glared at Nathan but he and the farm girl left. Nathan grumbled to himself as he cleared the table. That was when he noticed she had left her phone behind. It was a chance for him to warn this friend of hers off.   

MAKE IT A LUNCH DATE INSTEAD. He text as Julia. 

SURE. DELPHINE. 12PM. I’LL SHIFT RESERVATIONS. XXCX 

*** 

Delphine restaurant was well lit, a large chandelier sparkled down on the luncheon crowd. All of the tables were filled but an empty one for two by the window. Its view was of the Fullerton bridge. Water, escape, building. All of these things told that Julia would have chosen that spot.  

Nathan could see her tell her admirer, “a lovely spot for lunch.” 

She had no right making arrangements for dinner with other men. It was disrespectful towards him. They were going to be together and he demanded she begin by cutting out all other admirers starting with her dinner date. It was difficult enough with the Kappa So frat brothers. He knew Julia was just toying with them to keep them in line but he didn’t like the way that Buddy Owen looked at her. He didn’t like how comfortable he was becoming in Julia’s company. More than that he didn’t like that she was laughing with her dinner date as though he – Nathan – was of no consequence. He gave up everything for her. He devoted himself to her and this was the thanks he was given? 

It was approaching noon. First he would tell this new beau of Julia’s to back off and leave her alone then he would rid the farm of those frat brothers. Julia would see sense. Maybe a grand gesture like that would catch her interest again and show how much she meant to him.  

The admirer had said in his last message to what he thought was Julia. 

I’LL BE OUT OF TOWN UNTIL 2MORROW. I’LL C U AT LUNCH. XxCx 

Was the C a misspelling? Was that his name? He had been tempted to dig deeper but he had to be careful. A lot of information Julia would already know even if they had just met. Julia had her way of ingratiating herself to people quickly. Before long they wanted to offer her everything they had.  

He checked back on some of their exchange. Nothing sexual, thank God. That’s not to say there weren’t deleted messages though. From what he could read they were merely discussing life on a farm. He did ask her if she had ever masturbated a bull but she quickly laughed that off, changed the subject and he sweetened again.  

What kind of company was this for her to keep? Perhaps he was reading too much into it but it seemed like Julia was delighted at the prospect of having a meal with this creep. Nathan would set him straight. 

The time slipped to two minutes past noon. The date hadn’t shown up yet. He was either running a little late or Julia would have been stood up. She did say he was in business. Maybe business had kept him. Maybe that would be the end of it. Perhaps he had messaged again after Julia came in from the fields and took her phone back. Maybe she had learned all about Nathan’s little deception. But that couldn’t be it. She didn’t say anything about it. But then she wouldn’t. She would let him come to the restaurant and let him look a fool. She and her new ‘friend’ in business would be tittering behind their hands at Nathan’s expense. All he could do was return to the farmhouse, demand she call her friend and tell him they were no longer to be in touch. Then he would take her upstairs and show her how much he cared.  

Nathan watched the empty table. The Maitre’d stopped.  

“Sir, we are currently serving our luncheon course. If you don’t have a reservation, I really must ask you to leave.” 

Snobbish and with the slight hint of a Luen accent. Probably put on. She was a severe looking woman with large sagging breasts that tugged on the buttons of her white shirt. Nathan didn’t know what name the business ‘friend’ would have put the table under.  

“I’m meeting someone,” he decided to hang on for an extra few minutes.  

The Maitre’d was not impressed but she left him alone to watch the table longingly. If Julia liked that table so much he could book it for them. With his ordered leave from the hospital he wouldn’t be able to afford it for very long so he would have to act fast.  

A few more minutes passed. It wouldn’t be long before the Maitre’d would be onto him again. He sighed. Bitterly defeated, he resolved to leave.  

Long, pianist fingers clasped his shoulder. A man’s voice hissed in his ear.  

“You must be Dr Watt. I believe you’re here to see me.” 

Nathan was spun round to face a young man of about nineteen in a finely tailored dark, grey suit. His darkening fair hair was neatly parted. His full lips were stretched in a Cheshire Cat grin. His brown eyes were saucer like but devoid of any warmth.  

“George Beckingridge. You’ve been texting me. Let’s eat.”  

*** 

“We might as well use the table if Julia isn’t coming,” said George.  

Nathan said nothing. He followed the Billionaire Boy to the table and took a seat across from him. He watched the heir to the Beckingridge Tower closely. Not only was he the richest young man in Coldford, but if rumours were true he was also a brother murdering, puppy torturing psychopath. He had spent ten years missing when his music teacher kidnapped him. The teacher – Vincent Baines – had been a Harbour House resident along with David Finn and the Baroness. They had been close friends. Mr Baines was now in The Boss regretting the day he accepted George as a pupil. His Aunt Elizabeth was still interim CEO of the Tower but it was only the matter of time before the boy who most claim murdered his mother at age eight, became the controlling force behind the biggest fortune in the shady city, with a shark tank filled with hungry board members at his beck and call.  

“You look surprised,” George gave a nasally laugh. “Didn’t you want to meet for lunch? I had to change the reservations and everything. You text me from Julia’s phone.”  

Nathan could ask how George came about that information but Julia was always far more aware than she would let on. It wouldn’t surprise him if she had deliberately left her phone behind so that he could arrange this for himself. She and her new friend were tittering behind their hands at his expense after all.  

A highly trained silver service waitress approached them. Without rudely interrupting them she waited for George to acknowledge her.  

“Can I get something for you gentlemen to drink?”  

Petite, mid-thirties, skilled at her job. George looked at Nathan though, rather than the waitress.  

“A bottle of Cristal, I think. We’re going to celebrate.”  

Nathan lowered his gaze. “I should go,” he decided.  

“No!” George barked.  

If the waitress was taken aback, she didn’t show it. Some of the other diners looked up though. George gave his nasally snigger again.  

“A bottle of Cristal and we’ll have two of whatever the chef’s specials are today.”  

“An excellent choice, Mr Beckingridge,” the waitress agreed, collecting their menus. “Chef is simply a wonder with veal. You won’t be disappointed.” 

The waitress departed leaving George and his luncheon companion alone. “I come here a lot now,” he stated. “The chef at home is on my aunt’s staff. She might try to poison me. I know the chef here though. I know him very well.” 

“What do you want George?” 

“That’s Mr Beckingridge to you,” George snarled. “I didn’t arrange this. You did. I’m glad you did though. Julia told me what the look on your face would be like and it does look stupid.” Here George giggled boyishly. “I’m acquainting myself with the finer things in life. Julia is quite fine, isn’t she?”  

At first Nathan was speechless but then he managed a whimper.  

“I’m in love with her. She loves me too,” he said.  

George’s lip curled like he was a little boy who still believed girls were a sure way to catch cooties.  

The waitress returned with the bottle of Cristal and two finely chipped Champagne glasses. Nathan placed his hand over his before the waitress could offer him a sample.  

“I’m not staying,” he informed them as the waitress presented the bottle in a perfect silver service manner.  

“Yes, he is,” George insisted. “We’re on a date here and he’s not going to leave me to drink alone.”  

Nathan removed his hand from the glass. The waitress poured.  

George drank first. He sipped. He held the glass the way lessons in etiquette had taught him. He noticed Nathan looking up to stare at him.  

“Do you want Julia?” he finally asked.  

George settled the glass down. “You needn’t worry about me. My tastes lie…elsewhere.”  

“I shouldn’t have come here.” 

George pursed his lips. “Why? I liked the kisses in your text. I liked your sweet words.”  

Nathan couldn’t tell if the Billionaire Boy was being sarcastic. He fell to silence again. George started to laugh.  

“Drink the champagne, Nathan,” he instructed.  

Nathan took a sip of the expensive Cristal but he didn’t savour it.  

“Tastes like feet,” George grinned. “Doesn’t it?” 

“What do you want Mr Beckingridge?” Nathan asked.  

They had never met in person but he had seen him many times on the news. The kidnapping story, the death of his mother and brother, the rumours of psychopathy his aunt wasn’t shy in sharing. He had noted his cold stare through the television screen many times as though he had been addressing him directly. Now being sat across the table from him in person was unsettling.  

“Julia is my friend. She’s the best girl in the world. I like her. But she tells me you aren’t happy with the boys on the farm.” 

With Beckingridge Firm competing with Owen Inc. for a controlling share in the farm it occurred to Nathan that maybe the Billionaire Boy could be a way of ridding Julia of Buddy and his brothers for good. If Julia had befriended George maybe he could too.  

“I worry about those frat brothers around Julia. I’m worried that they will hurt her. Buddy Owen is…” 

Nathan curbed his words immediately when he noticed the soft expression on George’s face dissolve into a scowl. “Shut up!” he barked.  

Nathan’s lips pursed tightly. George saw how uncomfortable he had made the doctor and he relished it.   

“Buddy is a God,” he said. “He says things people are too scared to admit. He leads where most other tiny pissers are afraid to go. He’s a God and you should be thankful your mother opened her legs when she did so you could be there to see him on the farm.” 

If George had actually witnessed Buddy trying to work the farm, he may have felt a little differently. This was not for Nathan to argue though.  

“Did your dad have God balls Nathan?” The question was rhetorical. “Don’t worry. Mine didn’t either but Buddy is going to show me how to be a God. He’s my brother.” George opened the jacket of his suit to show a Kappa So badge on his shirt. “He’s my brother and we’re brothers for life.”  

*** 

George had insisted the doctor stay and have his lunch just like he had used Julia’s phone to arrange. He insisted the doctor be the one to drink the Cristal and finish it.  

“Finish the bottle. I bought it for you,” he said. 

He kept laughing as the doctor grimaced. He was drunk by one o’clock and feeling sick. Nathan tried to excuse himself but George was persistent. He tried to summon the Maitre’d to help but when she turned to the Billionaire Boy and asked, “Is this man bothering you, Mr Beckingridge?” Nathan knew it would be no use.  

George watched on with a grin as Nathan forced all three courses. He hated veal and despite the meat being succulent and well prepared it still caused his stomach to gargle. By the final bite he could barely speak.  

“Drink up,” George kept saying. “Eat up. Don’t play with your food. Don’t waste it.”  

“May I be excused?” Nathan asked. “Please let me go. I think I’m going to be sick.”  

George’s lip curled. He had chosen a large glass of Jolly Shopper soda pop for himself. It wasn’t usually what Delphine served their luncheon crowds but for their best customer they were happy to make an exception. George took the glass in both hands and brought it to his lips. He glugged, glugged, glugged so loudly some of the other patrons looked up at him.  

By the time he left Delphine Nathan’s head was spinning. He emptied the contents of his stomach at the foot of the street where he had parked his car. Luckily the town of Filton was quieter than City Main so he managed to get away without drawing too much attention to himself. He climbed into his car and drove the North route back towards Bournton. A CPD patrol approached but luckily they took the exit to Fullerton Bridge. They seemed in a hurry. They were in too much of a hurry to notice Nathan’s car swaying slightly.  

He did catch the attention of Curtis as the car screeched to a halt at the bottom of the east acre. Failing to park in any cohesive manner Nathan stumbled out of his car and vomited again.  

“Hey cunt!” Curtis yelled at him. “I hope you’re going to clean that up.” 

Nathan couldn’t give him any attention, he simply waved him off and started to stumble towards the farm house. The fresh air dancing around his face was helping clear his head. Julia was nowhere around. She would probably be out on deliveries or maybe she was going on to rendezvous with George so they could laugh about how much of a fool Nathan had made of himself.  

Buddy and his brothers were in the east acre tasked with preparing the ground for the winter. They stopped when they saw Nathan. Still drunk on a full guzzled bottle of champagne Nathan almost stumbled. Buddy emitted an uproarious laugh. His brothers followed suit. Chad cackled along with the chapter leader. Cooper watched with a smile on his face and his arms folded.  

“You’re wasted!” Buddy called to him. “You gotta get me some of your gear, bro!” 

He proceeded to hold his nostril and hop around the field. Chad was now in hysterics. Nathan was in no mood for their nonsense.  

“Can’t handle the Charlie?” 

Nathan rushed towards the farm house. Still Buddy and his friends taunted him.  

“Fucking coke head,” Nathan muttered bitterly when he got inside. He had a plan for ridding the farm of Buddy and his bros. Julia was clearly looking for the next best thing but Dr Nathan Watt could show her she already had the best she was ever going to have. It didn’t matter that Buddy Owen’s family had the chance to make something of the farm that Julia had worked so hard to protect. She would learn who was truly behind her, who truly wanted her and it wasn’t Buddy ‘goddamn’ Owen.  

Having just returned from school in the city, Susie was stood in the hallway. Her pink back pack was still over her shoulders. She was clutching a horse doll, playing with its hair nervously. As she watched Nathan she noted he was drunk. She didn’t like seeing people drunk. She saw her dad drunk once and it frightened her. He had been so frustrated with work and he had drunk too many beers. Grandma was yelling at him to get to bed. He calmed down when he saw Susie cry. He kissed her and said he was sorry he was just a big idiot. His breath smelled awful. He told her she would never see him in that state again and he kept true to his word.  

“You are better than your father,” Grandma reminded him.  

Susie knew no harm would come to her from her daddy no matter how drunk he got but with other drunk men she was not so sure.  

“Hi, Susie,” Nathan greeted. He was starting to stand a little straighter. The cloudiness over his mind was starting to dissipate as he collected his medical bag from a locked cupboard he kept it in.  

“Where are you going?” the little girl asked.  

How to explain it to a child. “I’m going away and I might not see you again.”  

“Oh?” The little girl was taken aback. Nathan had become such a feature at the farm house it hadn’t been what she had expected but she wasn’t too upset. She continued to play with the hair of her toy horse. Mimsy she called it because it looked a lot like the real-life Harvester horse named Mimsy.  

“Bye then,” Susie replied.  

She didn’t notice him reach into his medical bag.  

“We’re friends right?” he put to her.  

Susie managed a smile. He didn’t look as drowsy as he had before. He even looked a little sad.  

“Sure,” she shrugged. 

“And we both like Jules, right?” he asked.  

Susie nodded. She smiled again. Nathan wasn’t so bad. He was a bit of a blow hard – that’s what dad called him – but he was okay really. He wasn’t funny like Buddy and he was always trying to tell her off but that was just his way. Buddy didn’t tell her off. In fact, he found it hilarious when she said things she shouldn’t. He laughed so hard when she told Chad to ‘Fuck off’  

“She’s a feisty little critter cause she’s Kappa So!” he had cheered.  

Excitable, fun, with flowing blonde hair and an accent like a movie star. Susie couldn’t understand why Nathan thought Julia would ever choose him over Buddy. She guessed grown-ups looked for different things.  

“I’ll miss you,” he said sincerely.  

Maybe Nathan wasn’t so bad after all. Julia had always said he was a good friend and he was Susie’s friend too she supposed. He just liked Julia more than she liked him. Grown-ups were weird.  

“You’ll look after Julia for me, won’t you?” he asked of her.  

Looking after Julia and Kappa So mascot. Susie’s pride swelled with her responsibilities on the farm.  

“Sure,” she agreed.  

Nathan’s expression became softer. She still didn’t like the drunken look in his eyes.  

“Can I get a hug goodbye?”  

*** 

Buddy was returning a bucket to the stables like a good boy. He was laying low. His father would be on Coldford soil soon enough and those loyalist sons a bitches would pay for what they did to him and to Pops. Them and their Fleet scum ass kissers. He didn’t let the frustration boil over though. The farm work itself was humiliating but he realised the harder he worked, the more he pretended to care about dumb shit like the horses, the warmer Julia became to him. That and it kept fucking cave man farm hand Glenn off his back. Chad seemed to be taking a step further and prancing around the farm like he was one of them. He even had a beer with Curtis. He would have to be reminded he was a brother and they were brothers for life.  

He dropped the bucket on the shed floor. One of the horses, named Pippen, snorted at him. 

“Shut the fuck up!” Buddy snorted back. Pippen shook his head. The truth was Buddy wasn’t actually annoyed which surprised him. Given the circumstances and the fact that it was now day 7 without powder, he really should have been losing it. Maybe the farm air was doing him good. He never really made the most of ranch life as a boy. He just wanted to shoot the horses in the ass with one of the air rifles. He patted Pippen’s nose as he remembered how fast a little foal had run after he aimed. CRACK. The dumb ass foal tried to leap the fence, got caught and tore the tendon in its front right leg. It had to be shot with a real gun.  

“Ah,” Buddy sighed, still stroking Pippen. “Memories.”  

He had caught Hell for that one. Luckily not from The Cappy. He had been away on business as usual. But Uncle Walt was the best rancher of all of them. He made Buddy run across the enclosure and shot him in the ass with an air rifle. Buddy leapt that fence. He leapt that fence real good and he cleared it. He didn’t get caught like the dumbass little horse.  

Buddy scooped up some feed for Pippen. The horse munched angrily from his hand. Buddy laughed to himself as he remembered Uncle Walt dragging the wayward preteen back to the ranch house to nurse the wound.  

“I had mind to aim straight up your ass, son,” Walt had groaned, “but since I wasn’t going to see you spitting bullets I figured, what’s the point?”  

The air rifle had done enough damage. Buddy was rubbing the fleshy part of his left ass cheek. Walt was a cousin to the The Cappy. He was a prominent figure in Buddy’s life. He was the father when The Cappy himself was rarely around. Buddy suspected Walt was even banging his Mama but there was no proof of that. Buddy liked Walt. Walt knew how to get shit done.  

He thought of Julia. Now those thoughts were stirring. Wait a minute … Wasn’t there naked paintings of her somewhere? An immediate check ensued.

The barn was empty so it seemed no use to waste the quiet time. he reached his hands into his pants. There was a noise of someone stumbling in so he quickly turned.

“Hey, little mascot!” he cheered. “How was school? Shit, right?” 

Susie mumbled something but it was incoherent. It was then he noticed her already large eyes were even larger. They had reddened like she had ingested a zombie virus. Her pupils were hugely dilated. Her little body was trembling. Buddy was no doctor but he knew a lot about cocaine abuse.  

“Susie?” He tried to speak calmly the way the Kappa So coke whores would when they were trying to bring him on a come down. The little girl tried to leap excitedly but she fell on the floor.  

He remembered Chad once throwing ice water over home when it looked as though he was overdosing.  

“Who the fuck gave you coke?” he asked.  

Susie couldn’t answer.  

He lifted the water bucket. He had to act fast. Glenn would have seen his daughter wander towards the shed. He always had an eye on her no matter what he was doing. He was telepathic or something when it came to the kid. Who would get the blame? The fucking powder fiend.  

“Not touched any in fucking days,” he was growling. “What the actual fuck brah!” He poured water over the little girl but it didn’t seem to do much good. “Damn it, Susie!” he pleaded. He lifted her into his arms and gave her a firm pat to her cheeks. “Snap out of it.”  

If Cooper or Chad had given his little mascot coke, he was going to raise all kinds of Hell. There was no way they should have Charlie without telling him. He had been sober for what felt like forever. What the fuck! 

The tremors of the little girl’s trembling body became worse with the addition of the cold water. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit. She was his little mascot. She was Kappa So and someone had tried to hurt her. No powder in days and the little girl turns up three sheets to the wind. Ain’t no one going to believe he had nothing to do with it. Everything would be ruined. The little girl was sick, The Cappy would be furious but not before Glenn beat his ass. Julia would hate him and all along some asshole had powder on the farm this whole time.  

“Get off her!” Glenn came charging towards him like one of the bulls he was used to wrangling.  

Buddy tried to stop him moving her. She was now struggling to breathe.  

“You’ve gotta get a doctor, bro. She’s taken coke. She’s taken coke!” Buddy tried to warn Glenn. Normally when the coke whores or even one of the brothers had snorted too much they would just be thrown out on their asses. If the exposure got to them before they sobered up that was their own damn fault. This was different. Buddy needed that little girl to live.  

Glenn snatched Buddy by the throat, crushing his trachea. He punched him with a blow ‘The Bournton Blizzard’ would have been proud of. Buddy was sent backwards. The force almost broke a board on Pippen’s paddock.  

“She needs a doc, bro,” Buddy protested.  

Glenn snarled. “I’ll deal with you later.” He picked Susie up into his arms. “You better hope to Christ and everything he stands for that she’s okay.”  

Buddy hadn’t picked himself up yet. The hit from Glenn had removed any strength he had had in his legs.  

“Get her to a doctor, brah.”  

Glenn carried Susie away in a rush. He hoped he could catch Nathan before he left.  

*** 

Deliveries in the city had been more time consuming than Julia had anticipated. Her brother, Jonathan, had taken the City Main ones. Julia had gone further to Cardyne and then on to Swantin.  

Darkness was beginning to set in by the time she had arrived back on Harvester Farm. The lights were on in the dining room of the farm house. Her dinner plans with George were cancelled due to Nathan and she was famished. The fields were quiet. Glenn’s own truck was gone. Some of the farm hands were having a beer as they relaxed after a long day’s hard work. They acknowledged her with a smile. She waved back.  

A light was on in the milking shed where Buddy and his brothers were still stationed. Chick Owen had told them to remain where they were until he arrived from the Great States. The Owen estate could be unsafe and their Chapter House was still devastated after the combined loyalist/fleet attack.  

There was no laughter there which was unusual. Normally Buddy’s voice could be heard above the others. He was certainly nothing if not strong spirited. The warning from Reginald Penn, the loss of his much respected and admired grandfather hadn’t broken him. Why would it when he knew his father would be arriving any minute and would clear the mess in one fell sweep? The Cappy was a powerful man and whilst he was around the son would laugh at the attempts of their enemies to frighten them. But something had given him sobering thoughts. 

There was an eery silence as Julia stepped inside the house. There was no laughter, no merriment from the dining room.  

“I’m home!” Julia called. “My dinner plans were cancelled. I do hope there is enough for one more setting.” 

Julia looked in the mirror that hung by the door. Some strands of hair had escaped her pony tail. She fixed them and tidied her clothes.  

“Mummy? Jon?” she called.  

From the dining hall emerged Nan Harvester.  

“It’s good you’re home, buttercup.” Nan greeted with a warm embrace and a kiss of her daughter’s cheek. “Of course we will have a place set for you. There’s plenty to go around. As a matter of fact, we have a guest. So why don’t you go and get washed up?” 

“Who’s the guest?” Julia asked, taking note of her mother’s excitement.  

Nan patted her arm. “Just hurry and get cleaned. We don’t want to hold dinner back too long.” 

Julia agreed to her mother’s request. When she reached the foot of the stair case her mother added, “Use the new wash. It’s apple scented.”  

Julia paused for thought. Nan smiled sweetly as though the words were of no consequence.  

Julia changed from her Harvester shirt. Without knowing the importance of the guest, she chose a plain white blouse. She used the apple wash on her hands and face, enjoying how the sweet scent covered the smell of the Harvester van she had been riding in all day.   

Returning back downstairs, a warmth was now radiating from the dining room. She could hear voices now. Jonathan was offering their guest an anecdote of his trip abroad. He was telling the story heartily just like their father used to. Jacob could always tell a good story.  

“And here she is, the lady of the moment!” 

Jon’s story was had been interrupted by their guest. Sat at their father’s place at the table was Dr Winslow – eminent clinician, saviour of her father’s life initially and bullying force she had worked so hard to get rid of. 

“My darling Julia, you look so pale. I hope they aren’t working you too hard,” commented the doctor with an accommodating smile.

  

Julia smiled too as she took her seat. “Well, well Gregory,” she replied. “It’s been a while. How have you been?”  

“Terrific,” he replied. “Just terrific. Everything is getting back on track with Harbour House.” 

Julia gushed. “I’m so glad to hear that. It did give so many people hope of recovery.”  

Winslow’s head dropped slightly onto his left shoulder as he observed her more closely. “It’s just a pity one such person wasn’t my dear friend Jacob.”  

Julia’s eyes brightened. “We all have our losses.”  

“We might as well forget our losses and appreciate what we do have. Your mother was kind enough to invite me to join you for this lovely meal. I must say, Nan, it smells positively delectable.”  

Julia reached out and took her mother’s hand in hers. She gave it a gentle squeeze.  

“She’s such a treasure, isn’t she?” said the daughter. She looked across the table to Winslow. “Pass the potatoes please.”  



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Knock Knock: Episode 25: The Beautiful Game

The ranch greeted a new guest. Discretely shown to The Cappy’s main den. The Cappy was behind his desk making plans for what was to happen next.

Owen Ranch in the Great States was a much-storied fortress of power. The Owen family had been a Star State feature for generations, priding themselves on pioneering discoveries and using the wealth they had amassed to make their mark on the world. Their entrepreneurial spirit with political ambitions made them a force. Being an Owen was more than having a family name. Their biggest asset was their propaganda machine. Their ownership of many news outlets was brought into call whenever one of their overindulged family members brought negative press upon them. Gerald ‘Jerry’ Owen was one such user. After the attempted rape of Tabitha as a child, her Baroness aunt had caused such a backlash upon the Reverend Owen that all stories in the newspapers had to be shut down. The only ones allowed to circulate were those that suggested Tawny was an alcoholic with serious mental health issues and Tabitha was a whore in the making who had been removed from so many schools no district would accept her. That’s not to say there wasn’t some truth to this. Tawny did have a history of mental breakdowns and Tabitha led a violent life. But that was what the most effective propaganda was, wasn’t it? Take a little truth and exaggerate it to discredit your opponent. The Owens did that better than anyone. No one – not even the Law Makers – could compete on that level. They had the press – including my old newspaper The Coldford Daily – and whilst they had the press, they had public opinion. Public opinion won wars and when that failed there was always brute strength. There was another area in which the Owens were formidable; money. They had it in abundance and so anything could be theirs at a cost.

“The events in Coldford, sir, are disheartening. I am concerned and to much distraction.”

His guest was a patient listener. He was sprightly, cat-like with a solid spine carved from years of discipline and manoeuvres. His name was Ruud Van Holder. His purpose? His team were an anti-terror group called the Black Bands. They called Van Holder the wrangler and he had been known to bring order to parts of the world overrun by militants. Several dictating leaders had fallen at his hands. Enlisting the services of Van Holder was probably overkill for thug groups like Reginald Penn’s Loyalists and Paddy Mack’s Fleet, but The Cappy would take no chances when his family dynasty was at stake.

“Shameful, sure,” Van Holder remarked, referring to Reginald’s brutal slaying of Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen. He scanned the room, detailing its contents. Whilst his eyes were elsewhere his mind still remained on the task at hand.

On a screen played Van Holder’s curriculum vitae. Horse mounted patrols cut through rioting crowds, long standing rebel leaders brought to their knees.

His team were called the Black Bands. The Cappy didn’t mind admitting that seeing them brought into action would be thrilling.

“This will be quite a task you will be undertaking. I’m sure you are more than capable but first I must ask, who are you loyal to?”

Van Holder had lifted a whiskey glass from Chick’s desk. It wasn’t a used glass. It was purely for decorative purposes. On the glass was etched an image of the boat that brought Captain Henry ‘Hen’ Owen to his monumental discovery. Without a moment’s hesitation Van Holder answered. “Doyle,” he said. His lips traced a smile as he played with the words between his teeth. “We’re loyal to Doyle.”

Sergeant Major Doyle, the Judge’s father, had created the Black Bands. He recruited Van Holder personally when he met him living in the harsh jungles of Southern Subala. Taming large jungle cats was his speciality but for Van Holder any wild animal that struck with the bite of a bloody chain would do.

The Cappy smiled. He had directed his son Buddy and his brother Ronnie to a public video of Van Holder, showing him with a lioness he named Baba. In the beginning she was snarling, wild, and had taken swipes at him. She leapt upon him but he managed to fend her off before she could wrap her great teeth around his skull. By the end she was playing with her owner like she was no more than a house cat. Ronnie placed trust in his following Doyle’s command. Buddy returned with a range of emoji reactions that made little sense. Either way the Black Bands were going to make their way to Coldford and, like the Weeping King of Kilmaro, those responsible for the death of an Owen would be brought to their knees.

“You brought me here because I’m the best,” Van Holder had said. “The very fucking best.”

The Cappy hadn’t made his name by searching for mediocre.

“You know who is to be brought to account,” said Chick. “I’ll be following you ova’ in a week or so but I’d like you to make our move quickly and dispatch with an alpha team immediately.” He stroked his chin as he contemplated what was to come next. “At this stage we’re merely looking at containment. Should anything spark…well that’s a barrier we’ll break should it arise. In the meantime, on that there table is a blank cheque. Take it and find yourself whatever provisions you need.”

Van Holder turned to the table behind him. “You’re a determined man,” he said. The Cappy watched the confident bounce in Van Holder’s step as he crossed the room and collected the Owen Inc. cheque. “I’ll see that it’s put to good use,” he said.

Charles ‘Chick’ Owen, better known as The Cappy, grinned. “I know you will.”

***

“We’re here at Starkland Park for what promises to be a very tense game of football as Coldford Athletic take on their fierce rivals Coldford City. Tensions are already high in the City with the Mack Distillery having closed its gates in Bellfield and the City-sponsoring Auction House seized. We have a whole stadium here so those tensions are going to spill onto the park in what promises to be a very impressive game of football. I’m Henry Daly and with me in the commentary box today is City legend, Grant Miller. Can we expect the players to be putting in their full efforts today Grant? Given what is happening behind the scenes.”

“I think we can Henry. City will be out to prove something today on the pitch and I don’t think they will let what’s happening with the Auction House hold them back. A win today may be just what is needed to raise City Main spirits.”

“That’s true, Grant. We have a lovely game of football ahead and so let’s stay on the matter at hand. The players are lining up now. Athletic captain shakes the hand of the City skipper. They’re showing some sportsmanship here today. There has been so much trouble in the past it would be easy to let things get out of hand. It’s nice to see the players setting an example for their fans. We need some solidarity in the game.”

“The spirit of football is alive and well, Henry. City supporters have always been a spirited bunch but let’s just hope we can leave the trouble at the doors and enjoy the match.”

“Statements have always been made through the stadiums of Greater Coldford but this is one occasion where the fans may be best to just sit back, relax and let the battles remain on the field.”

“The air is thick here at Starkland Park as the players take their places. Sammy Connelly – Athletic’s Golden Boy – is looking super confident. I suppose he will be hoping for an easy day at the office.”

“Well, we’ll be back in just a few moments for kick off. It’s Coldford Athletic versus Coldford City.”

***

Late afternoon and the Doyle home in Kingsgate was quiet. Karyn Doyle had turned the television on and settled into an arm chair to watch. Her view didn’t take her to Hathfield Bay where Kingsgate Albion – her Sergeant Major father’s own team – took on the islanders. Instead, her interest was drawn to the south of the city where all the trouble resonated. The City Main team always brought trouble with them when they faced their main rivals at Starkland Park, and it was the first face off of the two largest teams since the Auction House had been seized.

Micky brought two cups of sweet tea. He laid them on the coffee table. He sat in silence watching his cousin’s reaction. Sammy Connelly of Athletic could be seen on screen patting his captain’s shoulder with a good natured smile as he took his place and prepared for kick off.

The Judge lifted her cup and took a sip of the sweetness. Her eyes remained on the match but her expression told nothing.

“I hope it all goes smoothly,” Micky commented.

“Why wouldn’t it?” was his cousin’s reply.

The cat, Margot, circled around Karyn’s legs. It locked it’s glowing eyes on Micky. She meowed and displayed her sharpened incisors.

He lifted his cup and sipped just as Karyn had done. The whistle blew. The ball was kicked.  

***

“Sammy Connelly is on the ball! He’s always a danger on that side of the park.”

“The City defence just keep letting him slip past them, Harry, but they’re up against it today. Connelly has come onto the park with determination in his feet and he’s been causing problems from the first blow of the whistle.”

“Oh that’s Sammy down! That seems a cynical tackle there, Grant. Brennan is complaining to the referee, Murphy, but he did charge in there with a lot of force. Probably more force than was necessary.”

“Brennan is a physical player, Harry. The way he’ll see it, if he allows Connelly a clear view of that goal the ball is going in the back of the net. He’ll be quite happy to take a warning from the referee if it means stopping him.”

“Oh wait! It’s not going to be a warning. Murphy is reaching for his cards. It’s going to be a booking. Red! Brennan has been given his marching orders. The travelling support are not happy.”

“That’s really harsh. It was a rough challenge but a warning would have been enough at this stage, a tentative yellow at best. What a terrible decision from the referee.”

“That’s true Grant but Murphy will be looking at the lateness of the challenge and he’s taking no prisoners today. Desperation has been exposed in the City defence. We now have a free kick in a very dangerous area of the park. The City support are still crying their frustration at being a man down in such a critical fixture.”

“They need the win today Harry. They really need that win.”

“Sammy Connelly steps up. He composes himself. The Athletic crowd has fallen silent in anticipation. There is still noise from the visitor stand but Connelly isn’t letting that intimidate him. He takes the shot. He scores!!!! What a beautiful finish!”

“That was a clinical finish Harry. Connelly isn’t the kind of player to let himself be fazed by the big occasions. He will step up and he will deliver.”

“The team from City Main are not happy. It’s all going wrong for them. Team Captain Lala is showing his concern to his players. They need to get their heads back in the game. It’s not good to be having to work damage control this early in the game and with one man down.”

“The spirited City support and their travelling loyalists are still burning from that red card decision from the referee which has ultimately put them one goal behind.”

“Well Grant, it’s a ridiculous decision by the referee and it could cause trouble not just on the pitch but off it too.”

“Back in my playing days, in a cup match against Bournton, Bournton were granted a penalty in the dying embers of the game. The cup competing side failed to pick themselves up after that. A decision like that can really affect a team, Harry.”

“City will have their chance to come back into this. It’s still early but the Loyalists are having none of it. I think we’ve tried to keep things inside the pressure cooker here, Grant, but they are starting to boil over. It’s taking a little while to get the game restarted as flares are thrown onto the pitch. City striker Andre Luis is calling something to the referee. Do you remember things being this tense at the football stadiums, Grant?”

“Oh yes, especially when the fixture was City and Athletic. Going to the games as a boy I remember things heating up really quickly. People in this city are passionate about the beautiful game.”

“Well, Grant, it looks like their enthusiasm is about to be curbed completely. The game is still waiting to restart. The referee has been asked to halt proceedings whilst the security here at Starkland Park is being heightened.”

“If we thought we were avoiding the drama we were very much mistaken. Things are erupting within the City support which is sad to see.”

“It is sad to see, Grant, with everything going on in the city at the moment we would hope that the game would be a way of coming together again. The referee continues to hold the match whilst the security steps up. They aren’t taking any chances today.”

“Definitely heavy handed, Harry and it appears to be making the crowd a little nervous.”

“It’s nerves all round, Grant. City are still one goal down after that terrific free kick from Sammy Connelly. The referee has now been given permission to restart the game.”

***

It was early morning in the Star State.

“I’m gonna be out of commission for a while. Hold all calls,” Chick Owen informed his executive assistant. She noted the orders. She was a beauty pageant girl, much like his wife. She too had been strutting around on stage in a bathing suit wishing for world peace. She was expertly trained in smiling, waving and following the instructions of coaches. She was the perfect P.A.

“How long should I hold them?” she asked.

“Until further notice.”

“Yes, Captain.”

When the assistant skipped out to the office to see that her boss was left in peace, The Cappy turned on his screen. The Coldford City European football fixture between Athletic and City was going to be an interesting one. He had already received notice that Van Holder and his Alpha team had brought in hundreds of suspected loyalists as well as Bellfield fleet members. They had been making their presence felt too at City Main rallies in support of Reginald Penn. There was a lot of loyalty built in the city through a mutual love of the sport so the soccer stadiums were a good place to start.

Reginald Penn was still at large He was still building a force in his support. A cold blooded murderer couldn’t be given much chance to flex his authority over City Main – not when there was a prominent spot available for Owen assets.

Coldford Athletic were already one goal ahead thanks to Sammy Connelly. The score didn’t matter. The winner of this game was always going to be the same.

The game commenced. The Cappy smiled.

***

“Another lash out from striker, Andre Luis, there Grant. He’s starting to show his frustration.”

“That’s the third time his shot has been stopped by the Athletic keeper. He’s a passionate player, Harry, and when he’s up against Connelly he’s going to want to show his worth. It’s not happening for him today though.”

“We’re now at the half hour mark. There’s still time for City to come into the match but to do that they’re going to have to start creating more chances.”

“It’s City’s centre mid, Fang, on the ball. He’s been doing well in dominating the midfield on behalf of City but his pass through to Andre Luis has been intercepted. Now Athletic are on the attack. It’s through to Brown. Connelly has picked it up. The defence are closing in but he’s finding his way through. It’s Connelly…GOAL!!! And Connelly makes it 2 – 0. What a magnificent goal. Starkland Park is alive with celebration.”

“Things are just hitting fever pitch here, Harry. When there’s only one goal difference there’s always a chance but Athletic will be glad to have given themselves that extra space. What a lovely goal.”

“I think the cheers here will be heard all the way up in City Main, Harry.”

“It’s richly deserved. Athletic have kept themselves composed, kept their mind on the game and now it’s paying off for them.”

“Sorry to interrupt you there Grant but Sammy Connelly’s celebration seems to have stopped abruptly. He’s calling something to the referee.”

“It looks like he’s spotted something among the City support there Harry.”

“The travelling support are venting their frustrations at the Black Bands security. A woman there is crying out to one of them. She’s going to get herself into trouble, Grant. The Black Bands have a no nonsense approach.”

“That’s true, Harry. It’s just as well we can’t hear what she’s saying because I’m sure the words she’s using wouldn’t be suitable for live television.”

“The City crowd are going to want to calm themselves here. The Black Bands are carrying out a zero-tolerance policy on violence and disruption at the games. The Fleet and Loyalists have been getting a really hard time lately. She tried to touch his shoulder! She should not have done that. The Black Band is forced to react. Did he just hit her with his truncheon? She’s down. It’s exploding now! The City fans are screaming their displeasure at the brutality but now the Black Bands are moving in. They’re not shy of holding the fans to account.”

“As we said Harry, it’s zero-tolerance and they’re just looking for any excuse to bring loyalists in.”

“Sammy Connelly must have gotten a good view of what was going on from the pitch. He’s still not celebrated his goal. The referees whistle isn’t drawing his attention. He’s still calling to the stands.”

“That’s a sad sight to see, Harry. Connelly has seen the Black Bands remove suspected loyalists from their seats. It will have been the screaming children left behind that will have caught his attention.”

“A little girl has fallen over the chairs! Sammy has left the pitch to try and help her. He’s crossed the fence and he’s now in the stadium. The Black Bands are beating the City crowd back. There’s blood, there’s tears and there’s no mercy being shown. I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“That is a chilling sight. We knew there would be scenes created here today but we could never have bet on anything like this.”

“What a disaster, Grant. Lala, the City captain, is trying to reason with the referee. Sammy Connelly is still among the rival fans trying to pull the fallen girl out before she’s trampled. It shouldn’t be left to one of the players to do that but the Black Bands are stomping over anything as they press in. In all my years of football commentary, never has it come to this.”

“Sammy Connelly has the little girl. He’s pushing through the City crowd. Most days they would be wanting to lynch him, jeering and spitting at him but today they are following him. The Black Bands have hit hard and heavy. The only place left to run is the pitch.”

“They are going to need to bring this into some kind of order, Harry. This can’t go on.”

“Where does it end, Grant? Sammy Connelly is carrying the little girl onto the pitch away from the brutality. If that was her father she was with, she has just seen him being beaten unconscious and dragged away. The referee, Murphy, is calling to Sammy. He’s showing a red card but in a real twist of events it is City midfielder Fang who is protesting it on Sammy’s behalf. The little girl is just covered in blood. Her own blood, her father’s blood, it doesn’t matter. The Black Bands have stained the City badge today.”

***

By the time I got there, the game had finished. The final thirty minutes were a complete farce. There were mounted patrols of Black Bands everywhere. The horses they used were larger, sturdier than CPD riot patrols. They were war horses.

The route leading to Starkland Park was filling fast. People had learned of the incident and came in search of loved ones they hoped had not gotten caught up in it. I have never been in a war situation before. I’m not a military man nor could I pretend to be, but as the crowd pushed around me, saying nothing, only expelling frosty breath, I got the sense of the kind of tension experienced before a first charge. The force was ill-equipped and outnumbered by their enemy.

The click of horses hooves along the freshly paved grounds of Starkland were like the ticking of a bomb. One passed. A huge man they called Monsta’. There was an unbearable hush. Click. Click. Click. A snort of the huge horse he rode. No one dared call to them. Live television had already entered homes around the city to show what the Black Bands were willing to do.

Monsta’ stopped his horse. I raised my phone. He turned his gaze to me.

Click.


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Knock Knock: Episode 24: Nice girls finish last

Lydia and Franklin’s apartment was quiet. The agents were gone, preparing for another mission and without my old newspaper to report to, it gave me cause to think. As I looked over the footage of the City Main woman talking about the arrest of the triplets, my attention was drawn to a group of Kappa So brothers in the background. ‘Had Mayor Feltz pledged?’ I wondered. It appeared everyone in the city with authority was a brother. Without Hickes’ presence it seemed even CPD wasn’t willing to hold them to account, not just for the shooting of Sarah or the disappearance of Tawny, but for a whole mess of cover ups that had been going on for years. That was when the latest issue of Coldford Daily dropped through the letterbox.

OWEN FAMILY STANDS STRONG.

On the front page were three Kappa So brothers – Chad, Cooper and Buddy Owen. The photo had been taken on Harvester Farm. The three brothers were smiling nicely. The article discussed the death of Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen. Buddy expressed his grief coherently. He was pleased to have his fraternity brothers with him for support. He was also pleased to be building friendships on Harvester Farm. It was what Pops would have wanted. Kappa So were good young men from prime stock with elite family names. They were future leaders. That nasty old Penn had attacked them. Those vulgar Macks – who were always causing trouble, mind – had set out to assault them. That was what the article would have the reader believe. An Owen-owned newspaper was never going to print anything else. I looked at the article writer. It had been composed by Eric Waddle, the Daily editor himself. It seemed none of the other journalists would do. I had recognised his writing style. I had read lots of Eric’s work before. The words Buddy was quoted as saying, his explanations, it had been Eric that had put them there. They were written to be clear on the Penn and Mack villainy and sketchy on the details as to why they attacked the Chapter House in the first place. That was why I had to write the truth. I didn’t set out to make anyone in particular look good or bad. I wanted to make clear the real shades of Coldford so that people could decide for themselves. Even with Tawny’s face everywhere people were starting to forget. They were forgetting about the missing Baroness, forgetting about the little girl that was gunned down in the street. I would not let Sarah be forgotten.

***

I caught up with Buddy Owen outside of the City Main Harvester store. He had been making himself useful to the brand by taking on deliveries, no doubt having had express orders to ingratiate himself to the Harvesters. At least that was how it seemed. The truth was he had come in search of powder. Most of his contacts had gone into hiding. He didn’t have his two companions in tow. Buddy was storming back towards the Harvester van, shoulders hunched and grumbling to himself. I managed to catch up with him.

“Buddy? Bernard?”

He stopped and offered a scowl.

“Yeah? What?” he returned. He seemed to recognise me which was surprising. We had only been in each other’s company once before. He and his father were touring their newspapers and they had come to the Coldford Daily. At the time he seemed to have been more interested in my fellow writer, Madeline. I would have been lucky if he even remembered my name. He hadn’t been lusting after Madeline though. He kept looking to her as though she was going to say something to The Cappy he didn’t want her to. Buddy’s uncle, Jerry Owen, had pulled Madeline from the story of an assault on the hotel heir, Daniel Weir, when it led her to his nephew. Madeline said nothing though. After that incident she had been relegated to nonsense stories and bottom of the barrel news. She had fought hard to get back on the upper floors, she wasn’t prepared to start again.

“You’re a reporter, right?” Buddy challenged.

“Something like that,” was my reply. “Can I ask you some questions?”

“No bro. I already said everything I have to say.”

I ignored Buddy’s refusal. “How are you coping with the death of your grandfather?” I put to him.

Buddy frowned. “How’d you think? Get out of my way.”

I had already hit record on my phone.

“Does your Uncle Jerry know his accuser has gone missing? Does he know the girl he tried to rape was given the death penalty?”

Buddy grabbed my by the collar of my shirt. I held my phone tight. It was still recording.

***

Buddy had just returned from City Main when he received a call from The Cappy.

“I’m still on Harvester Farm,” explained the son.

“So I can tell,” the father said.

“I was stopped by a reporter,” Buddy said.

Chick nodded. “They’ve swarmed the estate. I’ve had to send a crew to bring your Chapter House into order and take your grandfather’s body and have it buried proper.”

“Those motherfuckers are gonna to pay,” Buddy groaned.

Chick Owen was staying on topic. “They seemed convinced we know where the one they call the Baroness is.”

“Didn’t find anything though, did they?” Buddy put to his father.

“That’s not the point. When the stink of her leaving the Harbour House facility so abruptly falls on our family it concerns me. Where is she?”

“How should I know? I never met the fat whore.”

“Is that so?” The Cappy was unconvinced. “That artist boy seems to feel differently. He’s been shouting his mouth off about her and he seems certain someone with our name took her.”

Buddy protested, “You’re listening to the opinion of some doped up scum from The Shanties over your own son?”

The Cappy paused. He was looking for the holes in his son’s protest of innocence. “I didn’t say he was from the Shanties.”

It was then Buddy who was given cause to pause. “You mean David Finn, right? He was in Harbour House too. Everyone here knows who he is. Didn’t finish rehab though. Probably still a fiend for the big H.”

Chick dismissed his son’s comments. “That may be but we have a bigger problem. I don’t know what concern finding that club bar clown is of Beckingridge Tower, but Elizabeth Beckingridge is making it her business. She is also making it her business to invest in that farm you now stand upon.”

Buddy was starting to become bored. “So?”

“So? Boy, do you have any idea how much that Harvester brand could be worth? The influence they could have in the city with the proper push behind them?”

Buddy just wanted to go home. The smell of manure was starting to give him a headache. The want for some powder up his nostrils was making him frustrated.

“You will stay on that farm and make yourself mighty useful. No more going into City Main until I arrive,” the father instructed. “Ingratiate yourself. Bring the Harvesters into the fold and perhaps you may find yourself worthy of my chair one day.”

‘You’ve gotta be kidding me,’ Buddy thought inwardly.

“Keep your brothers in line. Work hard.” It sounded as though The Cappy was signing off. “Oh, and Bernard, if I find out you are lying about the whereabouts of Ms McInney and your grandfather, my father, died as a result, you and I are going to go a long walk. If it weren’t for respect of my father and his wishes you would be on your way back to me right now. Lay low, charm the Harvester farm hands and make yourself useful to them in any way they need. Am I clear?”

“Yeah,” Buddy replied.

“Yes what?”

“Yes sir.”

Buddy closed the call. He looked across to the fields where he could see Julia tending to the meat herd. She looked up and caught him watching. She smiled and she waved. He waved back.

***

***

The milking sheds were where Buddy and his brothers decided they liked best. Buddy tried his hand at the farm work, more to impress Julia than to appease his father. It turned out that being the golden boy of a ranch and doing actual farm work were two completely different things. It was muddy, smelly and a complete pain in Buddy Owen’s ass.

“The milking herd needs dealt with,” Curtis warned him.

“I ain’t milking no damn cow,” Buddy protested.

Chad clasped his nipples. “It’s easy Bud. You just grab and pull. Coop? You try. Grab my nipples.”

Cooper, leaning against a fence with his arms folded, shook his head. “I ain’t tugging on your tits brah.”

Buddy shoved Chad in frustration. “You got milk? Are you a fucking cow?”

Julia Harvester, carrying an empty bucket of feed, approached them.

“Something wrong boys?” she asked in a sweetened tone as though she hadn’t noticed the commotion that was starting to gather between them.

Chad had stopped dead. He was still clasping his nipples. Buddy punched his shoulder again so he would stand straight.

“I grew up on a ranch,” Buddy stuttered. “My family own a ranch.”

Julia smiled. “So you must be at home here then?”

Buddy nodded his head smoothly. “I got it all under control. Don’t you worry ma’am.”

A Great States cowboy was surely impressive. Julia Harvester of the Harvester brand didn’t seem to be so sure though.

“That’s good,” she said. “You’ll know then that the milking herd can get a little uncomfortable if they aren’t milked.”

“Yeah,” Buddy agreed. “I was just telling my bros that. They gotta be juiced.”

Chad frowned. “He doesn’t know how to milk a cow. None of us do…”

Buddy shot him a warning glare.

“Don’t worry,” Julia assured. “You’ll learn. I bet you can ride a horse better than anyone though…”

Buddy beamed at the massage of his ego. “Yeah I ride. I ride really good. I ride better than anyone.”

Julia gave a coy giggle. “I’ll bet you do. Maybe later you can ride with me. But right now what we need is milking.” She took his hand and stretched out his index finger. She clutched it softly but firmly. “It’s easy,” she smiled, catching him in eye contact. “You just hold the teat firm.” She began to run her hand along his finger’s length. “And tug gently. The milk will come out.” Buddy’s mouth was agape. The brothers were staring at it to. “Milk,” she stroked. “Milk. Milk. Milk.”

Buddy was lost in the sensation of her grip. She dropped his hand. “I would do it myself but I’m just so busy.”

“I’ll milk those cows for you ma’am,” Buddy straightened his shoulders and stuck out his chest. “No worries there. My ranch, I grew up on a ranch, so I know cows.” He hoped he was having some kind of cowboy appeal. “Just leave it to me.” He turned to his brothers. “Okay, bros, didn’t I say we were to milk the cows?”

Coops nodded. “Sure, brah…”

Chad added an enthusiastic, “got your back, brah!”

Buddy stuck his chest out again. He tightened his shoulders hoping she would notice his natural swimmer’s build. “We’ll do thing you need.”

Julia giggled. “If you could do some milking we would appreciate it.”

Buddy watched her leave. A few paces ahead she stopped, turned and flashed him a smile.

“To the milking sheds!” Buddy announced.

Julia passed Glenn who had been watching the entire affair from a distance. She rolled her eyes. Glenn gave a laugh.

“Keep an eye on them,” she ordered.

***

Debs, Harvester Farm’s largest dairy cow, shuffled and groaned distractedly as Buddy clutched onto two of her teats.

“Milk. Milk. Milk,” he chanted as he squeezed and started to fill a metal bucket. Cooper found himself at the excretion end of the animal. Standing, underwhelmed he watched Debs relieve herself onto the shed floor. The Kappa So bro wrinkled his nose.

“Chad?” Buddy called to the brother on the other side of the cow. “What the fuck, brah?”

Chad was pulling on the teat vigorously like a porn star tugging on a throbbing cock. He stopped, spat on it and continued with gusto. Coopers eyes widened as he leaned over to inspect what was going on.

“Chad!” Buddy barked again.

Chad finally stopped.

“Sorry Bud,” he said. “I was just doing what the girl showed us.”

Buddy and Cooper shared an astonished look. “She didn’t fucking spit on it.”

“Mooooo,” Debs became restless. She took a few steps forward, almost knocking the bucket over.

“See,” Chad objected. “She was enjoying it.”

Debs shook her head and cried out again.

Buddy grinned. “Suck it,” he teased.

Chad looked at the teat. “No way brah. I’m lactose intolerant.”

“Just suck it,” Buddy pressed.

His facial expression dissolved into a mischievous grin. Chad looked to Cooper who said nothing but raised an eyebrow.

Chad giggled. He shuffled forward to reach Debs again. He gripped the teat and stuck his tongue out. Before he could close his mouth around it Buddy grabbed another teat and squirted the milk in Chad’s face.

“Ewww,” Chad complained. “It’s warm!”

The other two began to laugh. Chad joined in. Buddy had been laughing so hard he fell against Debs who started to object.

“Mooo!” She complained.

Buddy slapped her hind.

“Shut up or I’ll make you a steak.”

Debs tried to turn, knocking into Cooper who ended up with the rest of her faeces on him. She bumped into Buddy again too. Her strength almost knocked him from his feet and into the deposit she had left on the shed floor.

“Fuck! We gotta calm this cow down!” yelled the Kappa So chapter leader.

He snatched up a branding iron. There was nothing to heat it, but swung with enough force it could severely injure even a well-built animal like Debs.

“Bud, brah, I wouldn’t do that,” said Cooper.

“I’m gonna knock it out. That’s what you do, right? Put these things out their misery.”

The humiliation from Reginald Penn, the chastising from The Cappy, the missing golden cock. All of it boiled in Buddy Owen. He swung the iron. Luckily she had turned again and instead of cracking her skull he hit her hind quarters. The animal screamed in pain.

“Bud!” warned Cooper. “I don’t think that’s how you calm them.”

Chad who, had cleaned his face with an old rag, offered his expertise. “Yeah, brah, that’s just gonna piss it off.”

Between the three oh so genius minds they possessed they each suggested ways of calming Debs so they could get their milking done. All of which the poor animal objected to quite vehemently.

BANG. BANG. BANG.

The bros stopped dead. In the doorway glaring brutally was Glenn. He was clutching his cattle prod tightly by his side. If you may imagine the scene he uncovered you will understand why the farm hand was annoyed.

The brothers filtered out of the barn. Glenn watched them with his lip curled, keeping the doorway as blocked as his frame would allow so they would be forced to squeeze past him with their heads lowered.

When they had cleared the area he approached the animal and gave her a soothing pat on the neck.

“Don’t listen to them, lass,” he said. “They’re just assholes.”

***

She tried to run but she bumped into a bucket of manure, almost knocking it over.
“Whatcha doing?” Chad asked as he snatched the little girl by the arm. Chad estimated she was about six or seven years old.
“Get off,” the little girl growled. She lifted her foot and kicked him on the shin.
Chad lost his grip on her as he tried to massage his leg.
She squealed and she ran. Her exit from the stables was prevented by Buddy.
“Where are you going?” he asked with a grin.
“Let me go shit head or I’ll call my daddy.”
Buddy frowned. “Who the fuck’s your daddy?”
“Him.” The little girl pointed outside. Glenn was directing some of the farm hands in the west acre, as they stared to round up the meat herd.
Buddy thought about The Cappy’s warning again. He thought about Glenn’s reaction to the bros meeting his daughter. Mostly he thought about Julia’s tits.
“Hello, little lady,” he grinned. “My name’s Buddy.”

***

“We’ve got enough shit up our asses without the kid making a fuss,” Buddy reasoned.

Cooper sniggered.

“Shut the fuck up!” Buddy pointed at him. “You know what I meant. We will find the golden cock, we will get back to the Chapter House and I’m gonna bone that farm girl.”

“Sure Bud,” Chad agreed.

Buddy turned back to the little girl who had sat herself on a bale of hay.

“You’re alright little lady. He won’t hurt you.”

The little girl pursed her lips and folded her arms. “I’ll kick his balls if he tries.”

Buddy laughed heartily. To his brothers he said, “I like her. She reminds me of my mama. What’s your name?”

“Susie,” the little girl answered.

“You know the farm lady?” he pressed.

Susie frowned. “You mean Julia? Yeah. She’s my friend. She gave me a room in the farmhouse all to myself.”

“Cool,” Buddy replied. “If you talk me up to her and tell her what a stand up guy I am I’ll make it worth your while.”

Susie grinned. Her full cheeks reddened. “You fancy her?” She put to the Kappa So leader.

Buddy’s grin extended further. “You don’t understand, kid. When adults like each other they really want to bone. I want to bone that farm girl.”

Susie giggled and hid her mouth behind her hand. Buddy laughed too. He enjoyed playing big brother. His real sister, Beth, was a pain in the ass but little Susie, with her Bournton spirit, charmed him.

“She has lots of boyfriends,” Susie explained. “But I like you. I want you to be her boyfriend.”

Buddy cheered. “Sure you do!”

He lifted the little girl up and heaved her onto his shoulder. “Cause we are Kappa So little lady and you’re our new mascot. Any ya’ll wanna mess with my lil sis here you’re gonna have me to deal with.”

Susie giggled as Buddy paraded her around the barn.

“We are Kappa So!” He cried. “What are we?”

“Kappa So!” Susie replied in a cheer.

“Yeah we are.”

“Susie,” barked Glenn, who had taken note of his daughter’s disappearance from the farm house.

Buddy laid Susie down.

“I just came to pet the horses,” the little girl explained. “We were just playing, daddy.”

Glenn was unmoved. His focus was on Buddy although he spoke to the girl. “Get back to the house,” he ordered.

“But daddy, can’t I pet the horses?”

“Now,” Glenn barked. Susie said nothing further. She gave one last smile to Buddy before slipping off back to the farm house.

Glenn’s scowl was severe.

“Stay away from my daughter,” he warned the brothers. There would be no misunderstanding the serious of his statement.

Buddy raised his hands. “She came to us. She’s a cute kid. I was just playing around.”

Glenn took in all three of them. “Get on with your work.”

Buddy returned to work with a lighter air. Susie would be telling Julia how much she liked him. Buddy liked the little mascot. Like all mascots she was going to spur the team on to victory.

Susie came rushing into the Farm House where she found Julia at the kitchen table with Dr Nathan Watt. Nathan had been in charge of her father’s care before Winslow took over and confined the old Harvester to Harbour House. He and Julia remained close friends. She had expressed something of an interest in being a couple and sharing their life together. She had made it clear though that nothing could happen until she had secured stability on her farm. The stability was there now but the affections she promised were not. She was probably one of the most sought after women in the Shady City. Not only was she beautiful and alluring but she also brought a long established name with her. Julia Harvester had her fair share of suitors. Nathan could only continue to hope she meant to keep to her promises. He just had to hope a better option didn’t come along in the meantime.

“Jules! Jules!” Susie called excitedly. “I was talking to the man in the stables and he likes you.”

Julia laughed. “Now, now, buttercup, don’t go spreading stories.”

“He does,” insisted Susie. “Buddy said he’s my bro and he wants to bone you.”

Julia laughed again. Nathan was frowning though.

“Susie,” Julia chastised. “That’s not the way for a young lady to speak.”

“It’s true though,” Susie continued her protest. “I’m the new Kappa So mascot.”

“Keep away from those boys Susie,” Nathan warned. “Your father wouldn’t want you talking to them.”

Ignoring Nathan, Susie spoke to Julia. “I like Buddy. He’s funny. He should be your boyfriend Jules. Daddy said he’s a fucktard – whatever that means – but you like him, right?”

“Sure Susie,” Julia assured. “I like Buddy.”

Susie was content with this. She felt she had completed her duties well. Dr Nathan Watt wasn’t so sure though. He didn’t like that Julia was allowing Kappa So such leeway on the farm.

***

The rectory was silent. There were many candles lit, like sparkling little jewels but Nan Harvester – mother to Julia and head of Harvester Farm – lit another. A gust of wind caused it to dance as though it was taking a message to her dearly departed husband, Jacob.

She clasped the St Wigan pin on her chest and bowed her head in prayer. Her thoughts were soon interrupted by the door to the rectory clicking closed behind her. She looked up to find Dr Winslow. She smiled a pleasant smile.

“If my girl knew you were here, doctor, she would have some repercussions for you.”

Winslow raised his hands in submission.

“It wasn’t her I came to see,” he said. “It was your good self. How have you been my dear?”

“Just fine, doctor, just fine,” she replied.

“Being a widow suits you,” Winslow commented.

“Grief can always look becoming on a woman if worn a certain way. Right now my focus is on my children and my foundation.”

“I’d like to get involved with your foundation. The Owen’s owe me some support.”

“I knew the Reverend Owen very well. He was one of the charity’s biggest supporters. My little kiddies did so well from him.”

Winslow grinned. “You needn’t play any pretences with me, my dear. I know all about the girls the Reverend had shipped over using the foundation. I was the one to assess them.”

Nan clutched the Wigan pin on her chest again. She turned back to her candle.

“We’re the best of friends, doctor, but as I said my daughter would not be best pleased with you being here. A mother has to protect her little children.”

“Family is of the utmost importance,” agreed Winslow. “As you will know from your husband’s care, we are all like family.”

Nan closed her eyes as though in prayer. “What’s your point?”

“I have a generous donation to give to your foundation. It can be made available any time. I am trying to reopen Harbour House and I need your support in shooing off those pesky Law Makers. Your daughter could make trouble for me in doing this. She’s an ambitious girl and needs a mother’s loving guidance.”

Nan opened her eyes again but kept her focus on the altar.

“I heard that Micky managed to halt the investigation for the time being.”

“Things became – shall we say – difficult to manage. Julia busied herself trying to escape my grasp when all I ever wished to do was help her flourish.”

Nan blessed herself. “Yes, she told me all about what you wanted to do with her.” She tutted. “Looking for more of the same then, are you?”

“In exchange for a generous donation you can make sure your daughter plays nice whilst I clear the mess and have my facility reopened.”

Nan asked, “How generous?”

Winslow grinned. Keen that he was making headway. Winslow had some old scores to settle with Buddy Owen and it wouldn’t be Julia who would give him that opportunity, it would be Nan. With the Beckingridge Firm and Owen Inc. conducting a bidding war to become investors in the brand, he wanted a piece of that pie.

“As generous as it needs to be,” he said.

Nan took his hand in hers. Her long, bony digits clasped tightly. She closed her eyes, bowed her head and clutched her Wigan pin again.

“Pray with me doctor,” she said.

***

There were a few acres between the Harvester Farm and their nearest neighbours but as Nan drove the Harvester van towards the main farm route Mrs Pellman was passing the opposite way in her own pick-up truck and flagged her down. Nan pulled gently to a stop. Mrs Pellman did likewise and climbed out. The two women met at the side of a quiet, dusty road.

“How are you, Nan?” Mrs Pellman asked amicably.

Nan smiled sweetly. “Good. Good. As well as can be expected.”

Mrs Pellman gave a suitably sympathetic smile. “If there’s anything I can do to help please let me know.”

Nan reached out and took the other woman’s hand. Mrs Pellman took note of the tea length dress Nan wore. It wasn’t completely funeral black. There was a white feather pattern across it. The Wigan pin still sat proudly on her breast.

“When the ladies and I heard about poor Jacob dying in hospital we rushed right round to check on young Julia.”

“Yes. She told me about the beautiful basket the ladies gave her and how delicious Mrs Manny’s pot roast was.”

“We haven’t seen you around for a while,” Mrs Pellman commented. “Or your boy Jonathan.”

Nan needed to go. She had promised she would be around to check on the new arrivals.

“My foundation was keeping me busy abroad,” she said. “Jon was kind enough to come along and assist me.”

Mrs Pellman nodded consolingly. “I’ve been watching all the news about your charity. You are doing great work for those young girls.”

Nan beamed. “We’ve now reached more countries than ever, helping little girls get educated, setting them up, giving them a start in life. When Jacob and I did our little tour before Jon was born I saw all those little girls and the lives they were destined for. I just knew I had to do something.”

Mrs Pellman agreed. “You’re a kind soul. The ladies and I are having lunch next Friday at your Harvester Café in main. Do come along and join us. Bring Julia too. The ladies just love Julia.”

Nan began to put distance between herself and her neighbour. “That sounds lovely. I must dash. There’s still so much to be done.”

“Don’t let me keep you.” Mrs Pellman was apologetic. “Call me though if you need anything and I’ll pop right round.”

Nan opened the van door again. “Thank you. You are too kind.”

With a wave the two women parted. Nan drove the van along the long path that led onto Harvester farm and to the house. She parked the van in front of the entrance to the farmhouse.

In the main hall Jonathan was waiting for her with a phone in his hand.

“The new arrivals have just came in,” he stated.

Nan kissed his lips, long, lingering.

“Go check that those frat boys aren’t tearing up the fields again. I’ll look at the new arrivals from the study.”

“Yes mum,” he said.

The house was quiet. Everyone was busy. Nan locked the study door behind her. One couldn’t be too careful.

The home screen on the computer was a photo of her, Jacob and their two children, smiling widely, full of hopes, full of love. A happy family.

She clicked on the notification. She was more computer savvy than most people her age. She had taken some classes at Coldford Central library. William was a very patient and informative instructor.

The notification brought her to a series of photographs. They were of a girl. Aged twelve, black. She had full lips and a ripe young body. She was bound and gagged. Her eyes were rolling with the drugs they had given her. She was bruised badly. They had been violent in their extraction but never mind. Nan smiled. She lifted the phone. It was time to let the foundation supporters know the new arrivals were in place.


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Knock Knock: Episode 23: Reg3 online

The Penn triplets were high on the Judge’s list. The only thing higher was their father. As the Shady City darkened, I was conscious of what was to come next. They say all omens come in threes. Marcus – taken for the murder of Court Clerk Melanie Wallace – had already had his chance. He had been found guilty. Murder in the first degree would keep him behind the bars of The Boss for a long time. The video evidence I had provided was what confirmed that fate.

Then there was Simon. They called him ‘Punchline Penn’. When he crippled the Bournton Blizzard no one saw the humour in the joke. Anger issues, middle child anxiety despite being born on the same day as his identical brothers. Assault was what confined him to The Boss and would continue to do so for the time being.

Then there was Reggie, the baby of the group. His experience of life was unlike his brothers. He was privileged and over indulged like so many at the root of causing the problems but there was something that set Reggie aside. He had the Penn penchant for violence but he didn’t have the spirit to see it through alone. That didn’t matter. In the Shady City innocence was a difficult scale to comprehend. Who was innocent? I myself couldn’t claim that. Without his brothers though, Reggie Penn was in a tight spot. Like the rats he was fond of keeping, he would have to squeeze through.

City Main – the busiest part of Coldford – stood silent. Sure, there was the noise of the traffic and the movement of people but there was a calmness, like that after a storm. The seized sign on the Auction House was the wreckage left behind. I drew out my phone and began to take photographs. It wasn’t quite the aftermath yet. I could see bailiffs moving around behind the gates, taking note of everything from antique earrings to large pieces of furniture. Reginald Penn wouldn’t be returning to his castle any time soon. He and Paddy Mack were still combining efforts to flush Kappa So out of Coldford.

“It’s quite sad, isn’t it?” a woman stopped.

I smiled in agreement and took another photograph.

“I’ve known those boys since they were little. Rita Penn will be so upset.”

City Main people were always keen to talk and swap stories.

“Did you see the seizure take place?” I asked her.

“I saw them take two of the triplets away. I guess if you live by the sword you die by it. I blame Reginald. He raised those boys to be thugs. It was only a matter of time before they ended up in jail.”

I couldn’t disagree with that. I had witnessed first-hand what Marcus Penn was capable of and I had seen what Simon had done to Reynolds.

“Would you give a statement?” I asked her.

The woman’s interest ignited. “You’re a reporter? Which paper?”

“Independent for now,” I explained.

She turned her face towards the natural light of the midday sun. “On camera?”

“If you don’t mind,” I urged.

She smiled and waited as I held my phone.

“Go ahead,” I said. “When you’re ready.”

“I had been walking by. I had some bags from Harvesters, just down there.” Here she pointed towards the City Main Harvesters store. “I heard one of the boys shouting. He was complaining to CPD. The police were taking him and his brother away. They had Marcus, the one with the glasses. The other was Reggie. He was doing the screaming. He was yelling merry hell at CPD, at everyone. I don’t know what they were being taken in for but I can only imagine.”

My old sources at The Boss informed me that Marcus and Simon had arrived, been given their induction and now began their time but there was no Reggie. Two out of three was not bad results but if he wasn’t with his brothers it meant he had either slipped CPD custody or had been taken somewhere else entirely.

“Were the two triplets put in the same van?” I asked the woman.

“No,” she said. “They split them up. Marcus was taken in CPD transport. Reggie was put in a black van.”

***

Reggie Penn was lost. He was in a part of the city he didn’t know so he was physically lost. His triplet brothers were in The Boss so he was emotionally lost. He was…lost. It frustrated the hell out of him. Normally he’d be reliant on Marcus’ guidance but he wasn’t around. Simon would be second to step in but they had already picked him up when they raided the Knock Knock Club. Reggie had assumed they would put him in The Boss along with his brothers. He could handle that. It would only be a matter of time before their father, Reginald, would have them out again anyway. He wasn’t going to make a fuss as they removed them from their family’s Auction House. He was taking Marcus’ lead. The eldest triplet by a few minutes coolly followed the agents and accepted their custody, saying very little. Marcus was never one for much emotion showing. Reggie had planned on doing the same but when the CPD officers started to handle him roughly he became annoyed.

“You guys got a gaming room at The Boss?” asked Reggie. Some sarcasm, a little genuine wonderment.

“A gaming room?” the officer asked. “Will you listen to this one?” he put to his partner.

“I got some mad skills,” Reggie insisted with a grin. Marcus could show the officers they hadn’t broken him without uttering a word but Reggie couldn’t. He had to let them know.

“Reggie!” Marcus barked. “Stop.”

City Main was at its busiest. Reggie was sure the officers were deliberately making a show of him. They called the Penn triplets the Princes of Main, their father being the King. They were well known in the area and seeing two of them being escorted from their kingdom in handcuffs sure drew attention. There was a mixture of fear and relief on the faces of passers-by. The Penn name was equally feared and respected. A woman in an expensive coat pushing a buggy stopped. She was staring. Separated from his brother and being pulled towards a waiting task force van, Reggie stared back.

“Got a good look?” Reggie asked her. “Fuck off!” he warned.

“Reggie!” Marcus barked again.

“They’re deliberately making a show of this,” complained the youngest triplet.

More distance had been put between him and his brother. Marcus was being pushed into the back of a CPD prison van. It wasn’t black like the one they were taking Reggie to.

“Keep your mouth shut or I break your fucking knees,” one of the CPD officers warned him.

Reggie sighed, not caring for the warning. “Just get us to The Boss already.”

The officer tightened his clutch on his arm. “You think that’s where you’re going?”

Reggie frowned. “What’s he talking about?” he asked the other officer who was carrying out his duty quietly.

“Marcus?” he called to his brother. “What’s he talking about?”

It was too late. Marcus had been put inside the van. Reggie Penn was on his own.

With the Penns in custody the officers had no need to heed any warning from any of them.

“You ain’t going to The Boss,” the officer hissed in his ear with delight. “You ain’t even going to CPD holding.”

Reggie tried to shrug free. With Marcus now out of sight he felt so much more vulnerable. He no longer paid attention to the City Main crowds that were still passing.

“Where are you taking me?”

The CPD officer laughed. “We’ve got an appointment for you with the doc. You’re going to Harbour House.”

Reggie screamed, “No! You can’t take me there. I’m not a fucking druggy. You can’t take me there.”

The CPD officer laughed. “They’re going to dope you up so badly you’ll spend the rest of your life flicking your dick wondering what day it is.”

Reggie screamed again and tried to pull free but the CPD officer drew a taser from his belt and pressed it into his kidney.

“Paulson!” barked a woman. Her challenge made the officer stop dead. His partner maintained his hold on the prisoner but still said nothing.

The woman was Agent Kim Adams. It had been her team that had led the raid on the Knock Knock Club and subsequently brought in the triplets.

“They can’t take me to Harbour House. I’m not going to Harbour House,” Reggie protested but Kim ignored him. She kept her focus on her CPD support.

“We want this done cleanly and as quickly as possible. If I find you deliberately antagonising him again, I will pull you and bring you up on charges. Do you hear me?” she asked.

Paulson lowered his head but his grip on Reggie tightened.

Reggie didn’t expect much sympathy from Kim. She seemed the type who would dry hump her career if it meant promotion. Adding to that was the fact she was the daughter of Sonny Adams – better known as the Bournton Blizzard – a gentlemen boxer who stepped into the ring with Simon ‘Punchline’ Penn and was left paralysed as a result. She didn’t seem to be holding any personal grudges though. She just wanted to get all three little piggies safely into their houses by order of the big bad wolf, Judge Karyn Doyle.

Assault would hold Simon. He had left one of Kim’s agency friends beaten pretty badly during the raid. Murder was what would bring down Marcus. Footage I had obtained of him slaying Court Clerk Melanie Wallace had been the damning evidence.

There was no evidence against Reggie. That’s not to say he was innocent. He had helped Tabitha and his brothers orchestrate the rape and deliberate infection with HIV of club manager, Dennis Platt. That was just his most recent crime. There was nothing that would hold him though. There was no evidence against him but Judge Doyle was determined to complete the entire set.

Diagnosis of Conduct Disorder in his youth was a good place to begin. He was always deliberately violating social norms and the rights of others. With some manias thrown in for good measure, the obsession with keeping rats and the violence he was exposed to through his family name made him a perfect candidate for rehabilitation at the dock side clinic known as Harbour House.

“Not a psychiatric unit,” facility owner Dr Winslow was always careful to remind the public. “A rehabilitation centre for all manner of ailments.”

Reggie’s diagnosis was served up to Doyle on a plate and she wolfed down every last crumb. It wasn’t The Boss, but it would be better in a lot of ways. With the right treatment on hand, they could hold him more steadfastly and longer than the prison should that be her whim. No trial necessary.

Lock him away boys. Drug him up and keep a check on the vitals. The doctor said so.

Even though the eminent Dr Winslow was a good friend of his mother, Reggie was guaranteed nothing and the idea of being hospitalised – possibly for life – was a terrifying prospect.

He was pushed inside the task force van, trapped in a cage like one of his rats.

***

It shouldn’t have taken so long for them to get to Harbour House from City Main if they took the east bypass to the south east where Chamberlain Docks lay. Some work was being carried out on the Fullerton Bridge so the transport was diverted through the west instead. They made their way to the Shanties where they could use the south bypass instead.

Reggie tried to stay calm but all he could think of was who would take care of his rats. They were his pets. They knew him. If anyone else tried to handle them they would probably become irate. They would probably bite. Mother didn’t like them very much. She wasn’t a fan of rodents. What if they bit mother? He didn’t need Harbour House. He didn’t need rehab. He wasn’t a Shanties shooter. If they weren’t putting him in The Boss with his brothers then why weren’t they just letting him go?

The van rumbled to a stop. Reggie waited. He could hear the van doors open. It fell silent for a while. The other door opened. Before long the back doors opened and Reggie was exposed to the night air. A lone officer beckoned him forward.

“Hurry,” he said.

Reggie stood and went to the door hesitantly, waiting for the joke’s punchline to fall. They weren’t at Harbour House. They weren’t even at Chamberlain Docks. They weren’t even in Swantin. They had only gotten as far as the lower reaches of the Shanties. The officer helped Reggie out of the van and uncuffed him.

“What are you doing?” the Penn triplet asked.

The officer spoke low. “He’s gone for a piss,” he said. “Now’s your chance.”

Reggie rubbed the ache from his wrists. “You’re letting me go?”

“For the king,” he said. “Now run.”

“Hey!” Officer Paulson yelled, returning from relieving himself.

Reggie took to his heels just as a gun cracked into the darkening night air. Paulson had been shot dead. Reggie started to run towards the Knock Knock Club. No, he couldn’t go there. The Law Makers had the Knock Knock in their grasp. He turned towards City Main. He couldn’t go there either. Without his dad or his brothers, his kingdom was no longer safe. There was only one other option. The Shanties opened up to the south east entrance of Coldridge Park.

He planned to head out to the Mid East. Perhaps he could find some help there. Knock Knock owner Agnes – Tabby’s aunt Aggie – had a house there. If Knock Knock was shut down that’s where they she would be.

He managed to catch his breath. He walked a little slower so as not to seem out of place. The park stretched the entire length of the city. He wasn’t sure whether he was heading north or east he just followed the path to what he thought was the centre. For all he knew he could be walking right back into the hands of CPD custody. He had only the black t shirt he had been wearing when the Auction House was raided. The air was starting to nip as it darkened. He rubbed warmth back into his bare arms.

“Fuck it’s cold,” he mumbled to himself.

There was a bonfire lit not too far off. A couple of men in tatty clothes were warming themselves around it. They looked up as he drew nearer.

“You’re all right,” one said. He was old, bearded, black teeth. “You can warm yourself if you want.”

Reggie joined them, grateful for the warmth as the flames of the fire licked onto his face.

“Where you from, kid?” asked the other.

“City Main,” he said. “What about you? Where do you stay?”

The men laughed at the innocence of the question. “You’re in our home, boy,” the bearded one explained.

“Welcome to Hobo Hotel,” cheered the second. He was black, about mid-fifties and waving a cheap bottle of wine. “It’s damp, it’s cold but it’s free,” he grinned. “And e’body welcome.”

Reggie reached his hands out to the flames. “Why don’t you have homes?” he asked.

They both looked at each other and laughed.

“You really are a City Main boy, aren’t you?” the black man said as he passed the wine to his companion.

“We’ve all got our stories. Booze mostly,” he explained before taking his own taste of the wine. “I’m Chuck. This is Carl.”

Carl grinned. He was quite a warm spirited character despite his circumstances. His Great States accent told that he had travelled a far way to be homeless.

“I meant why aren’t you in the shelters. I thought the Knock Knock Club was helping.”

Carl nodded. “They were. We had a nice little bed each but the place had to be shut down when the club went. We had nowhere else to go.”

Carl reached into his sleeping bag and removed a smelly old jacket and a beanie hat. “It’s not much but it’s going to get cold so you had better wrap up.”

Reggie pulled on the coat and hat. He took the bottle. The wine tasted like vinegar but the burning in his stomach was welcomed.

“Do either of you have a phone?”

Chuck and Carl both laughed again. “Sorry, son,” said Chuck. “We don’t stay connected. We’re old school here. Real old school.”

It was Carl’s turn for the bottle. “So, what brings a City Main boy down here to warm himself with us?”

Before Reggie could answer two CPD park officers approached them.

“Don’t hassle us officers,” complained Carl. “Don’t you think we got it bad enough? We’re just trying to warm ourselves here.”

The first officer looked at Reggie. Having pulled the hat over his head and in Chuck’s jacket he wasn’t instantly recognisable.

“We’re looking for someone. He escaped custody earlier. He is mid-twenties, dangerous.”

Carl pulled the attention from the Penn triplet.

“Us three have been here all night and we ain’t seen nothin’. We heard some shootin’ though. Maybe you should go check that out.”

“What’s your name?” the officer asked Reggie.

Reggie lowered his gaze.

“That’s Pete. Pete Grove,” said Chuck answering for him. “You might recognise him from that old chocolate advert he did as a kid. Have you heard of him? He did great impersonations.”

The officer frowned. “I can’t say I have.”

“You’re a film star?” the other officer asked Reggie, obviously not convinced.

“Not any more but after he broke onto the scene as a kid in those adverts, he was everywhere. That’s what they do though. They use you up and throw you away. Been with us a couple of years now, ain’t ye Pete?”

Reggie nodded tentatively, trying not to look at the officer directly.

The second officer circled in on Reggie. “You do impersonations? Let’s see then.”

Reggie stared back. He could run but it seemed unfair to leave his new friends behind when they had been so welcoming. He had to think fast. He pursed his lips, furrowed his brow, glared at the officer and said, “I need a good shag to put a smile on my face because I’m Judge fucking Doyle.”

It was the first person he had been thinking of. It was probably unwise to mock The Judge in front of CPD but his impression had actually captured the essence of Karyn Doyle so well Freddy and Carl were rolling with laughter. Even the first officer cracked a smile. It seemed to make the other angry though. Mentioning Judge Doyle reminded him that CPD had allowed a valuable asset to escape and now an officer was dead. If they didn’t bring the situation in hand soon the Judge would feel compelled to correct it herself and none of them wanted that.

Another squad of CPD called to them, seemingly having found a trace of the missing triplet leading them elsewhere.

“Take it easy,” warned the other officer.

The walkie talkie of the second officer buzzed. It seemed they had apprehended Reggie’s noble rescuer. They rushed off to see what the dirty loyalist scum had to say for himself.

“You’re not dangerous, are you Pete?” Chuck asked when they were alone.

“Lock him away. He’s a danger to himself and others,” Reggie continued in his Judge Doyle impression.

Chuck wiped a tear of laughter from under his eye. “You had better stay with us for a little while,” he suggested. “They’re going to be everywhere soon.”

“I’m…” Reggie started to explain.

Chuck stopped him. “I didn’t ask and it’s none of my business. To us you’re Pete.”

“The way I see it,” Fred put in, “we help out a City Main boy, we got good things coming to us.”

That had been a few weeks ago but rather than things easing off they tightened even further. A group came one night and roughed them up. Reggie fought them off as best he could but there were too many of them. They weren’t CPD. Reggie guessed they were Kappa So.

Reggie had been sat on a bench one afternoon beside a woman. She was smoking a cigarette, busy reading the newsfeed on her phone – celebrity gossip rather than real news. Apparently, actor Laurence DuBoe was linked to an affair with his soap opera co-star Scarlett. Reggie sniffed the tobacco. Freddy and Chuck had showed him how to collect discarded cigarette ends and make whole cigarettes out of them but it wasn’t really the same.

“Can I have a cigarette?” he asked the woman. “I ain’t had a proper one in weeks.”

The woman looked at him. His filthy hat, his filthy jacket, his smell. The woman hoped to get rid of him as quickly as possible. She sniffed and tried to hide her disgust. She fetched the packet from her hand bag and passed it to him, along with a lighter.

“Thanks.”

She went back to her phone again. Reggie couldn’t remember any phone numbers off by heart. The line for the Auction House did ring in his mind but that would do no good. Suddenly it occurred to him where he could get some help.

“I couldn’t use your phone, could I? Just to send a quick message?”

The woman looked unsure. She was finding it harder to disguise her disgust. She was a little frightened now too. Wishing she had just walked off the moment he had sat down she reluctantly passed her phone. She had been robbed before. The CPD officer at the time had told her if it happened again not to argue. It put her life at risk.

He didn’t run away with the phone though. Instead, he scrolled onto her app store and started to download the Coby Games app. With the cigarette now between his lips he handed the phone back to her. “It needs your thumb print.”

The woman, still staring pressed her thumb to the device and the app started to download. He logged into the Lonesome Nights game she had stopped her son from playing.

Reg 3 Online it confirmed.

He opened the chat log.

NEED HELP. CAN YOU MEET ME?

The message confirmed as sent. Read. A reply bubble popped up.

***

Cameron Doyle closed the game down. Mum and her Law Makers were looking for Reggie. Sure, Reggie was his friend but that didn’t matter. Mum still wanted to put him away. He could try and explain Reggie Penn to them but he feared that might make it worse.

He agreed to meet Reggie. He cut the chat off quickly and deleted the log. Mum had the habit of making checks on his browser history without notice. It didn’t matter that Cameron was a grown man of nineteen now. Whilst he lived under the roof of the old Doyle home it was her house and her rules.

He filled a bag with some non-perishable foods, some of his old shirts and an outdoors jacket he never used. He pulled on an old sports jacket and slipped the back pack onto his back. He had to pass through the main lounge where mum was to get to the front door. He took a deep breath and braced himself.

Mum was in her favourite arm chair by the fire. Shadows were cast across her pale face, highlighting her torn eye which she refused to cover. The cat, Margot, didn’t seem to sense the tension. She purred in mum’s lap. The Judge stroked the feline gently. Margot looked up at Cameron as he passed through but she quickly lost interest.

“Where are you going?” asked the Doyle matriarch.

Cameron stopped cold. He clutched the straps of his back pack.

“I’m just going to meet a friend,” he explained.

“Where?” she asked. “What is their name?”

Cameron lowered his head. “Jackson. You know Jackson. He has some new games he wants me to see.”

Doyle continued to stroke the cat but her view was firmly on her son.

“What’s in the back pack?”

Cameron swung the bag back over his shoulder and unzipped it. He pulled out a bag of Jolly Shopper corn chips.

“We might be a while so I thought I’d bring some snacks.”

Doyle narrowed her gaze.

“Fine but be home by midnight. I don’t want you wasting your whole evening with junk food and video games.”

Cameron agreed, “Yes, mum.”

Cameron was glad to have escaped outside and feel the cobbled stones of the Kingsgate streets under foot. Kingsgate was a small part of town. It was also the oldest section of Coldford. Wrought iron fences surrounded a central garden where mum jogged most mornings.

A tall man in his mid-twenties stood by the Kingsgate entrance sign. A beanie hat covered his head. He was filthy and malnourished but Cameron recognised him as Reggie Penn from the Auction House that his mum had closed down.

“Reggie?” he enquired delicately to make sure.

They had been online gaming buddies for years but had never met in person. Reggie looked up and a look of relief washed over his face.

“Cam? Good to meet you finally.”

Cameron was nervous. He heard a car move on the opposite end of the gardens. “You can’t hang about here. My mum is looking for you. Everyone is looking for you. My mum will have you taken in.”

Reggie had walked into the lion’s den but where else was he going to go?

“I have to go to The Boss,” he told his gaming friend.

Cameron frowned. “Why would you go there?”

Reggie shrugged. “It’s where my brothers are. I need to get to them.”

Cameron passed him the provisions he had collected.

“There’s some food in there and bottles of water, some clothes and a tent too. It’s just a fishing tent but it it’s a start.”

“Thanks,” said Reggie gratefully. “You’re a true pal. Do you know where the bus station is? I need to get to Bournton.”

With both of them being accustomed to being chauffeured everywhere, the bus transport system of Coldford was a new experience for them.

“I have to be back by midnight,” Cameron warned.

The two wandered off in the direction of Kingsgate bus station.

***

Kingsgate bus station was small, but clean and well lit. it was tucked away at the far end of Kingsgate Main Street. A few spaces for buses and a small stand serving coffees was what was on offer. Reggie stopped to look at a schedule pinned to the wall.

BOURNTON – FILTON – FULLERTON BRIDGE – CARDYNE MAIN – KINGSGATE

Reggie groaned in despair.

“Was this written by fucking scientists? Does this make any sense to you?”

Cameron took a look too but from what he could tell the route was going the wrong way.

Frustrated Reggie turned away. “Maybe I could get someone to explain it,” the triplet decided. “0800. Does that mean when it leaves or when it gets here?”

Cameron could only shrug. He snatched Reggie’s arm though to stop him approaching a member of staff. “We can’t draw attention. If anyone recognises me here, they might tell my mum. They’ll recognise you too and if she learns I was here with you…”

A coach wheezed into station point 3. On its windscreen it read BOURNTON.

“That one,” Reggie pointed. “Maybe that’s it.”

When the last of the impatient passengers alighted, Reggie called up to the driver from the bottom steps.

“Are you going to The Boss?”

The driver looked perplexed. “The Boss?”

“Yeah, you know, Coldford Correctional?”

“I know what The Boss is,” replied the driver testily.

Reggie turned to Cameron. “Is he serious? If he knows what I’m talking about why the fuck is he looking at me like I’m crazy?”

Cameron shook his head.

“I go as far as Bournton Main Street. You’ll see The Boss from there. You can’t miss it,” the driver explained.

Reggie enquired, “How much?”

“Is it a return?”

“Return?”

The driver rolled his eyes. “Are you planning on coming back? Today? Tomorrow? Next month? After a ten year stretch?”

“I’m visiting my brothers. I don’t know when I’ll be back,” said Reggie.

“Of course you are,” the driver sighed. “It’s 10.99 one way.”

Both young men were used to automatically being extended credit wherever they went. Again, it was an alien concept to them.

“Shit!” Reggie fished into his pocket and drew out a handful of coins. His long fingers filtered through them.

“I got 5.20. Cam, what you got? Oh wait, 5.21.”

Cameron produced a Coby Games themed wallet. “I only got five,” he said. He looked in his wallet. “Oh wait, ten. Here.”

He gave Reggie the ten. Neither of them noticed the Bus Driver shake his head in exasperation.

Reggie hugged Cameron again. “Thanks pal. I’ll owe you.”

“Hop on,” the driver instructed.

“Will you let me know when we’re in Bournton?” Reggie requested. He had never been in the northern town before.

The driver positioned himself at the wheel. “Oh, you’ll know when we’re there,” he said.

With a hiss the bus doors closed. Reggie Penn was heading to The Boss after all.

#amreading #knockknock #graphicnovel series by @VivikaWidow


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knock knock: Episode 22: Deals, Feels and Election Steals

“A fine office. A very fine office indeed.”

Mayor elect Micky Doyle accepted the compliment from an old friend. He wasn’t really supposed to take up occupancy at City Hall until after proper inauguration but, with possible murder being the reason the last mayor vacated the office so abruptly, City Hall wasn’t quite so picky. Things moved fast in the Shady City and the Hot Seat could never be allowed to cool down.

“I think it suits me,” Micky grinned. “Some might even say it was what I was born for.”

“Indeed. We all have our callings in life. Political office was most definitely yours.”

The old friend was Doctor Winslow, chief clinician of the Harbour House rehabilitation facility. When the Knock Knock Boss Lady was sent down, the Law Makers demanded that the good doctor hand over her Aunt Tawny who was one of his residents. Custody of the Knock Knock Baroness was not forthcoming. Eventually she disappeared without trace from his keep. Winslow maintained that he had no knowledge of Tawny’s current whereabouts and even offered to assist in the search for her. That arrangement suited him just fine because when the Bailiffs were there to greet him in Luen it had looked as though he was running from something. They wanted to peek behind the walls of his precious clinic and he couldn’t have that. His good friend Micky Doyle just happened to be in one of the most prominent positions in the city. His good friend Micky Doyle just happened to be cousin to the fiercest sitting High Court Judge. Both of these things thankfully managed to smooth things over for Winslow. Karyn Doyle was no fool though. She knew his abrupt trip to Luen was no holiday but whilst he made himself useful, he kept himself out of immediate danger. At least until they found his missing resident.

“You keep that pesky cousin of yours off my back and I’ll scratch yours,” was what Winslow put to Micky.

“Gentlemen,” said another. “I would very much like to get to the matter at hand.”

The other cut an interesting figure. He had long curling hair that almost looked like a wig. He had an old fashioned presence complete with top hat – which he kept on whilst they conducted their meeting. His name was Eugene Morris. They called him The Tailor around the city and he was the premier funeral director in Coldford. He was more than that though. He was highly respected and catered to the deaths of so many from all walks of life.

“Yes, of course,” Winslow agreed. “Quite so. Filthy business this is gentlemen but business none the less. I met the girl on many occasions. I considered her aunt not just a resident of mine but a dear friend. Death is such a frequent visitor in my profession that one must put personal feelings aside. I need not tell you that though, Eugene.”

Micky looked across his desk. “So what is to happen?”

Winslow stood and turned his attention to a fresh skeleton. It had been fitted in the Boss Lady’s signature red dress. A wig of soft human hair had been draped on its skull and allowed to flow over the shoulder.

“Preservation is a must,” said Winslow observing the bones. “The bones are fine but I feel her organs – kidneys, liver, spleen – could all be put to good use.”

“Profiteering from her death is highly distasteful,” Eugene put in.

Winslow tutted. “I quite agree. Perhaps you misunderstand me. I don’t mean to profiteer. I’m merely stating the fact that Tabitha’s demise – warranted or not – could help many others live.”

Eugene stood and he too was examining the skeleton.

“Yes but you mean to use the fact the organs once belonged to a prominent figure to drive up the price.”

Winslow shook his head. “My dear friend, I admire your nobility but if I may be candid, profit is what makes the whole world circulate. Without it we may as well all just go straight to your good self for our final suit.”

“The skeleton itself,” The Tailor saw fit to comment. “Cheap sensationalism, unbefitting of a man in high office. What would Her Honour say?” He flicked the red dress and stared into the empty eye sockets.

Micky grinned. “If I am to be Mayor of this city I cannot hide in my cousins shadow. I need to make my own mark. That girl stood as a symbol against everything we were trying to build. Not only that, she was an extortionist and a murderer. Her death and the display of her remains will show others who look to step up to her place that the Shady City will no longer be a home for those who have such a blatant disregard for the rules. Not while I’m mayor.”

Winslow grinned. “Bravo!” he said. “Spoken like a true man of the Hot Seat.”

Eugene didn’t seem convinced but he said nothing.

“The skeleton will be a symbol,” he said, “but doctor, you will deal with the organs as tactfully as Harbour House will allow.”

Eugene nodded. Winslow clasped his hands together.

Micky’s telecom buzzed. He pushed the button to answer.

“Yes?”

“You’re campaign adviser, sir. He’s here to go over your inauguration speech.”

“Thank you. Hold him there for a few minutes.”

The Boss Lady skeleton would be stored away. The office would be tidied. The business of the city would go on.

***

Coldridge Park was home to an expansive cemetery. It was the final resting place of Detective Joel Hickes who had been bludgeoned to death during the transport of Paddy Mack from CPD custody to Coldford Correctional.

Hickes was a good man. He tried to keep a neutral head. I guess it was only inevitable that the tension in the city would catch him in the cross fire.

Lydia took my arm as we entered the gathering of mourners.

“You okay, Sam?” she asked kindly.

I wasn’t. After everything that happened I was far from it, but realising that there were many more worse off than me meant there was still a long way to go.

“I’ll be fine.”

Reynolds and Franklin were the first to greet us. Both of them were members of Lydia’s agency team. They had been particularly close to Hickes. Reynolds looked better. I hadn’t seen him since he had one knock out round with Simon ‘Punch Line’ Penn. He had tried to stop Tabitha escaping the Knock Knock club.

“It’s so sad,” said Franklin. “I never know what to do at these things.”

“Bid a fond farewell, I suppose,” was my suggestion.

Franklin gave a solemn nod of his head. In the distance I spotted Hickes’ wife Olivia. She was swarmed by well wishers and mourners. She seemed to be holding up well. She clasped the hand of her son – Hickes’ step son – Milo. The boy appeared to have garnered a strength beyond his age.

I released Lydia’s arm. “I’m going to speak to Olivia, see if there’s anything she needs.”

The three agents departed. Franklin put his arm around Lydia’s shoulder.

“C’mon babes,” he said with his usual extravagance.

The mourners that swamped Olivia parted as I approached. Releasing her son’s hand Olivia hugged me with a sombre smile.

“I just wanted to see how you were,” I said. It was silly enquiry. Is anyone ever okay with such a loss? Having faced a similar one with my wife, Theresa, I should have understood. I knew what she was going through but death was such a personal thing. I never would fully understand her experience.

“Thank you, Sam,” she said.

She turned to Milo.

“Milo, this is Sam Crusow. He was friend of Joel’s.”

I shook the young man’s hand. He had a strong grip. Just a child, forced to hold it together in an environment that would have broken people many years his senior.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I told him sincerely. “I just wish it could have been under better circumstances.”

Milo managed a smile. “Thank you, Mr Crusow. He was a good man.”

Milo spoke the truth for the adults. He spoke it for the city. Hickes was a good man and the fact of the matter was there would be many more good men and women lost before it was over.

“Mrs Hickes?” We were interrupted. The woman’s voice harsh but suitably sober for the occasion. Thin of face, with black hair and pale complexion. Her expression was severe but genuinely mournful. The Law Makers pin on her blazer glinted. Judge Karyn Doyle, destroyer of the Shanties, closer of City Main and breaker of the Boss Lady offered her condolences.

“Thank you, ma’am,” replied Olivia.

“We’re doing all we can to bring Detective Hickes’ killer to justice. He is a sad loss to the department and to the city.”

She drew a small box from the pocket of her coat. She opened it and a silver commemorative coin with the seal of the city was contained within.

“This rightfully should have been his to thank him for his service. Perhaps in his stead this young man could hold onto it as a reminder of the order we aim to bring to this city.”

She passed the coin to Milo. The little boy was in awe of it.

“Thank you, ma’am,” he said.

“Remember what it means and what your step father gave his life for.”

Milo nodded. He closed the box over and looked to his mother.

“This is Sam Crusow,” Olivia introduced me.

Doyle narrowed her gaze on me.

“I have been following your progress Mr Crusow. I assume now that the trial is over you will be returning to the Coldford Daily?”

“No,” I admitted. “Not right away.”

“The press is a difficult world to navigate,” said The Judge. “I do hope we can come together to bring the shade of the city into new light.”

I agreed. The press had power to topple those on top. It had the power to expose those in the highest positions for the true people underneath. I had to be a level head in a city torn. With those thoughts in mind we bid farewell to Detective Joel Hickes and the way the city used to be.

***

The apartment the agency had given Lydia was welcoming. Not much time had been allowed to make it a home but attempts by Lydia had made a difference. There was a photo of her and her sister on the table. Cynthia was homelier than Lydia but equally as pretty. Glasses, warm smile, a vet. There was also a photo of her, Franklin, Reynolds and Agent Kim. Before the camera captured their image Lydia must have said something to Kim that caused her to laugh. They were a close knit group and they had welcomed me with open arms. I was thankful for their support then and have been grateful for it every day since.

“Here you are,” Franklin said emerging from his room in the apartment carrying fresh bedding for me.

“Hurry. It’s about to start,” Lydia informed him. Franklin laid the bedding down and threw himself into the sofa, myself sat between the two agents. Lydia passed him a slice of pizza. He examined it.

“You’re a bad influence on me, babes,” he said but he ate it none the less.

On screen a broadcast had been set up outside of City Face, the Mayoral office. The large clock that gave the building its name ticked down on the gathering.

Normally I would have been among the press covering the story but recent events had left me in the need to distance myself. It was the only way I was going to be able to find my own perspective.

“We’re here at City Face where we’re about to welcome Micky Doyle as he takes his place as Coldford City Mayor. I’m Anna Baker from Coldford City News,” the reporter facing the camera explained.

The footage opened to show the lawns outside the building filled with reporters, public and security teams tasked with protecting the mayor.

“I’m surprised they didn’t ask us to run security detail,” Franklin commented.

The camera scanned the crowd. Karyn Doyle could be seen waiting by the side of the stage with her son Cameron.

“City Hall has its own detail,” Lydia answered still watching the screen.

“Didn’t do Feltz much good, did it?” Franklin put in.

Lydia raised her eyebrow. “Do you want to be following Micky Doyle around all day?”

Franklin’s hand raised to his chest. “Ugh, no,” he exclaimed. “The man gives me the creeps.”

The man in question stepped up to the pulpit to give his first speech to the people of Coldford as their mayor.

***

“We’ll be ready for you in just a couple of minutes, Mr Mayor,” the campaign manager said.

Micky Doyle had never been nervous of public speaking in his life. Head of his debate team at Kingsgate Secondary, student class president for all four years of his undergraduate studies at the university, voted most likely to enter a career in politics. He was nervous then though. It was what Micky was built for. It was what the Doyle blood flowed for. Power. Position. Authority.

Mr Mayor. That was him now and he had the whole city at his feet.

“I will be a fair and just ruler!” he had cried as a boy with a red super hero cape tied around his neck. The D on it was for Doyle. The other boys said it meant Dwarf Dick. Who was laughing now though? You would have to reach beyond the Shady City and all her farthest regions to find a position of authority that was higher than the one he was about to assume. Dwarf Dick Doyle had come far.

Karyn watched him intently from the crowd. Without her father – Sergeant Major Doyle – around, it was to her the leadership of the family fell. Even Micky’s own father looked to the Sergeant Major’s command. Micky supposed some might say the High Court was an authority above the Mayor’s Office and Karyn’s presence in the crowd served as a reminder of that but he wasn’t about to split hairs.

“Good luck Uncle Micky,” Cameron had said.

Kindly boy, beaten down and squeezed below a very thick thumb. What was to be expected when his mother was reputedly the most ferocious sitting High Court Judge the city had ever seen. Micky understood Cameron’s position. The Sergeant Major was pretty much the same. He was always trying to toughen his nephew up. He only had the four girls – Karyn, Ashley, Leslie and Laura – so he saw it as his duty to make a man out of Micky.

The Sergeant Major had torn the cape from him.

“Superheroes are nonsense,” he spat. “It’s a pleasant fiction for children with no other hope or opportunity. They are created in boardrooms to sell toys to gullible fools and children with no one else to look up to. You are better than that. You are a Doyle.”

The Sergeant Major took his cape and disposed of it but he gave Micky something much better in exchange. He gave him the confidence to soar higher than the cape would ever have taken him. Now he was stepping up to the highest office in the land.

“We’re ready for you now, Mr Mayor,” the campaign manager beckoned.

Cheers. Applause. Respect. Appreciation.

“Thank you,” he began. This gave him the chance to remember the opening to his speech. From there the rest of the words would flow.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be in service of the city.”

Excellent start.

“But it is with sadness that I fill this role when my predecessor had made such a mark and had a fruitful career ahead of him. Jim Feltz was a great man.”

Need to stop referring to him in the past tense when no body has been uncovered yet.

“Jim Feltz is a good friend. He is sorely missed but let us stay positive. After all, what is Coldford if not able to stay positive through trying times. I owe it to Jim and to everyone else who has ever taken the Hot Seat to do the best I can. I owe it to all who voted for me. I am grateful for the faith you have shown in me.”

Give a few moments to absorb the applause.

“I will clear this city of the lawlessness and deprivation that it faces. Criminals no longer have a place here. We are good people and will no longer be held captive by corruption.”

Good use of word choice.

“Moving forward my office is open to those who need it most. Thugs, murderers and cop killers be damned. This is your warning. It is time to leave Coldford.”

Smile. Look determined. Look sad at the loss of Hickes. Breathe.

There was a thunderous applause. Even Karyn’s tight lips etched a smile. The Sergeant Major would be proud.

A Hot Seat isn’t occupied long.

***

“Where are you going, mum?” Milo asked.

“I just have a little appointment. I’ll be back by five,” Olivia assured her son.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Milo asked, taking his duty as the man of the house seriously.

Olivia smiled. She brushed his black hair back and caressed his cheek warmly. “I’ll be fine, Jiggles.”

Milo laughed and pulled himself away. “Mum…” he complained. He was too old now for the pet name used for him when he was a baby. It was a name that Tabitha had been first to grace him with because of the way his tubby belly jiggled when he laughed as an infant.

Olivia tousled his hair. “You’re getting too big for your own good,” she commented. “But you’ll always be little jiggles.”

Milo shook his head in exasperation but he was glad his mother was in good spirits.

“I need you to stay here and keep Chloe company.”

Chloe Grover, a skinny girl, simple natured, was a victim of Olivia’s ex husband, Dennis. Prostituted by the Knock Knock manager, Olivia gave her shelter after Dennis was taken in by the Law Makers. She was sat on the floor in front of the television. She was nineteen but Milo was more mature.

“Milo!” she called. “It’s on again.”

Her cheer had come as an advertisement for a new brand of Jolly Shopper Biscuits flashed on screen. Actor Laurence DuBoe was holding a long tailed Macaque named Omari, speaking to her as though they had been friends for years.

Chloe pointed to the screen. “It’s so cute. He can talk to monkeys.”

“I won’t be long,” Olivia kissed her son’s head.

The pregnancy test was positive. The visit to the doctor was all but a formality. The spirit of Detective Hickes would live on after all.


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Knock Knock: Episode 21: It ain’t over ’til it’s over

It was tough going. From the best seat at the Coldford Daily newspaper to packing up my make shift home at the Weir Hotel. A lot had happened in between then. I had witnessed murder, pleas of innocence and I had watched justice fall hard. Some would argue too hard but, in a city filled to the brim with murderers, thieves, rapists and drug addicts, what was too hard? 

I had seen the city quiet before on walks through the streets in the early hours but this was different. There was a chill in the air and not just because of the rapidly changing weather. Sure, summer had closed its door with a slam and cold winter opened its embrace, but the brittle air resonated from the discarded banners outside of the Court House. 

JUSTICE FOR TABITHA. 

FREE OUR QUEEN.  

The Boss Lady of the Knock Knock Club was gone, sentenced to death for her crimes. The club itself was now in the hands of the office of Law Makers and their Bailiffs.  

Justice was served swiftly but it wasn’t the justice the south of the city had wanted. Tabitha had fought for them. The blood she shed was for them.  

The CLOSED sign over the entrance of the Penn Auction House struck fear in City Main too. Two of the Penn triplets, Marcus and Simon, were resident of Coldford Correctional, better known as The Boss because of the way it loomed over the northern town of Bournton. The third triplet, Reggie, had slipped Law Maker custody and was currently missing. Their father, Reginald, was rumoured to have returned to Coldford. The man who many addressed as the King of City Main was set on retrieving his sons regardless of the consequences.  

Fear in the city was but a prelude to the fear felt in the western town of Bellfield when the gates of the Mack and Sons Distillery closed. This was something that hadn’t been known since the days of the Great Wars of previous generations. Second eldest Mack son, Paddy, had also escaped CPD leaving behind several dead officers including Detective Hickes, a good man caught in the middle of a deadly face off.  

Then there was Tawny, the old Baroness of the Knock Knock Club and Tabitha’s beloved aunt. She had been a resident of the Harbour House rehabilitation clinic after an attack on the club caused a complete mental breakdown. Being treated for trauma she had been safe within the clinic until Tabitha’s trial. As the Law Makers moved in to take her into custody she was gone. Owner of the facility, Dr Winslow, refused to give statement until he had placed himself in the good graces of the Law Makers. Beckingridge Financial Firm had funded a campaign which sent missing person’s reports all around the city and displayed on the screen at Beckingridge Tower, in the hopes of shaking whoever had her or knew of her whereabouts. Thanks to the financial muscle there was not a corner of Coldford that didn’t show an image of Tawny’s smiling face, as all those who knew her and loved her would remember her.  

I wasn’t sure what Elizabeth Beckingridge’s thinking had been behind this. At the helm of the financial giant it would have been her decision, but Tabitha had caused the death of 59 of her clients and staff at an event known as the Free Fall Massacre. Elizabeth had no reason, nor loyalties to Tawny. I could only surmise until her part of the story became more apparent.  

I spoke with a fellow resident of Harbour House, drug addicted artist David Finn. Time in the clinic for his addiction seemed to have done him well. He had been close to Tawny, was fearful for her safety and adamant that the Owen family where responsible for taking her due a long held grudge they had with her. He was willing to tell me all she had ever told him about the Owens and the club but the word of a recovering addict was little for me to go on.  

The room at the Weir was comfortable enough. The red and gold décor matched the hotel colours. I had been housed there ever since Tabitha was taken into custody and my own home became a crime scene. I couldn’t feel safe there though, locked in the centre of City Main. I would much rather have returned to my home in the sleepy suburban spot of Jamestown. But the story still lay in the Shady City and I wasn’t quite ready to abandon it when there was still so much to be told.  

My phone rang in a video call. Answering it brought me the pretty, warm and friendly face of Agent Lydia Lowe. She had been by my side and taken great personal risk to keep me safe throughout. It comforted me that she rarely allowed voice calls. She always requested video, forcing me to open up to her.  

“Hey roomie,” she smiled. “I just wanted to check on you and see how you were doing.”  

“Good,” I said. I tried to hold the camera steady offering her nothing but unflattering angles and a view of the roof. “Just packing up now.”  

Lydia giggled as I tried to hold the phone steady. 

“I’ll be back by the time you get here. I’m just wrapping things up with Kim at CPD.”  

Kim was the leader of Lydia’s agency team sent in to bring down the Knock Knock Club and its Boss Lady. She had kindly offered me sanctuary at her City Main home, giving me time and space to clear my own where the perfume of my dead wife, Theresa, still resonated.  

“We’ll get a pizza, a cold beer and figure out our next move. How does that sound?”  

I grinned. It sounded much better than another night alone at the Weir.  

“Sure,” I agreed. “I’ll be there soon.”  

“See ya!” was her cheery sign off.  

I took one last look at my room. I wasn’t sad to leave it.  

I pulled my suitcase into the old-fashioned styled elevator. Bell Boy, Ralph, was on duty wearing the gold and red uniform.  

“Allow me,” he offered, taking the burden of my case. “You might want to get checked out quickly. Things are getting a bit crazy downstairs.”  

Before I had the chance to ask him what he meant the lift doors opened again.  

The main foyer had been swamped by Kappa So brothers, a fraternity based at the University of Filton and founded by the Owen family. It was accusations against this brotherhood and its founding members that caused the city to be split in two in the first place.  

An excitable Kappa So brother leaping around bumped into me, almost knocking me from my feet.  

“Watch out the way, brah!” he yelled in a strong Great States accent even though he was the one who had fallen into me.

He must not have liked the scowl I gave him in return because he shoved me with a scowl of his own. Luckily one of his brothers screamed over to him and motioned for him to join them in the bar where more of his brothers were harassing a bar maid. Glasses had been smashed and cheers rang out. Chairs were over turned in the foyer. The receptionist looked terrified.  

“We are Kappa So!” chanted another group just arriving from a bus that had pulled up outside.  

Rodney Weir himself was filtering among them. He was wearing his Kappa So blazer to show he too was a brother, but was trying to bring some order to the chaos.  

“Checking out.”  

I handed my key to the receptionist. She was a heavy set girl, mid-twenties with a sweet face but completely out of her depth when it came to dealing with the chaos that was coming her way. She accepted the key gratefully but before she could say anything a jeer erupted in the foyer where one of the brothers had climbed on a sofa and knocked it over. He was now lying on the ground. His brothers fell into peals of laughter around him. A storm hit the hotel that day and I was caught in the middle of it. Trying to speak to the receptionist was difficult through the noise.  

“What’s the name?” she asked.  

I hadn’t heard her at first. I was hit on the head with an inflatable penis, the kind one may find in a hen party. One of the brothers, without apologising, grabbed it and waved it as though it was his own penis. He launched it back across the foyer like he was pitching a baseball. The group that had just alighted from the bus were now pushing into the reception desk. The one who had tipped the couch hadn’t gotten back up. A drug cocktail, it seemed, was keeping him down. One of them kicked him. The rest of them sauntered to the bar.  

“What’s the name?” the receptionist asked again.  

“Sam Crusow,” I explained. “Room 415.”  

She started to check the computer. Her manicured nails tap, tap, tapped on the keys. There was a scream from the bar. On a dare, one of the brothers was trying to french kiss eighty-year-old Mrs Riley. He was pushing into her with his tongue protruding and his hands reaching out for her breasts.  

“Thank you, Mr Crusow,” the receptionist said having checked there was no cost left on my room. “I hope you enjoyed your stay.”  

“Hey fatty boom boom we need a room room,” said one of the new arrivals.  

“Excuse me?” she replied. It would have been much easier if she had just given them the rooms.  

“No drama,” the brother cheered. “Can’t smell it.”  

The other brothers laughed.  

“Just give us our damn room,” groaned another, more irate brother. He was high on cocaine, or powder as it was known in the Shady City.  

“I’m just finishing with this gentleman,” she said.  

“It’s fine,” I assured her. “I’m done.” 

“Don’t piss her off, brah. She gonna eat ya,” said another, also high on powder.  

“Mr Weir?!” the receptionist called to Rodney.  

The hotelier’s attention was caught. It didn’t take much explanation for him to deduce what was happening.  

“It’s fine, darling,” he said. “Open up the fifth floor.”  

I checked out. I left the bedlam behind. I could still hear the screams as I stepped onto the streets of City Main. The anarchy and all the new arrivals were because Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen was touring the Kappa So Chapter Houses and his next stop was to be Coldford.  

I am reporter, Sam Crusow and my story is far from over.  

*** 

“Listen up bitches. My Pops is comin’ so this place better be ready to receive!” yelled Buddy Owen to his Kappa So brothers who were busy getting the celebrations started at the Coldford Chapter House located on the Filton University Campus.  

The excitement of meeting Bobby Owen wasn’t just Buddy blowing hot air. Despite Buddy’s father, Charles ‘Chick’ Owen – or The Cappy as he was respectfully titled – being the current CEO of Owen Inc, the grandfather was still seen as a deity among the Kappa So brothers. His portrait hung prominently in the main lounge of the house. His reputation as a founder and pioneer spread throughout all the Chapters across the world.  

“I’ve been buzzing all day brah,” stated Chad, one of Buddy’s closest brothers at the top of the Kappa So chain. He wasn’t the only one.  

Buddy went on to address the others. “We’re talking about the Commander in Chief himself coming to visit ya’ll! The great, the legendary, the much admired Bobby fuckin’ Owen. My pops. They sing songs about him in the Great States you know. He’s going to be walking in here any minute and the place smells like a vaj factory!”  

He addressed the lesser brothers, ”Ya’ll better recognise just how lucky you are to have him even want to look at ya. The world out there has gone to shit. You can’t call a nigger a nigger. You can’t call a whore a whore. People are changing gender like their fuckin’ dirty drawers and no one cares about tradition anymore. Our brotherhood survives because the monumental Bobby Owen said it was so. He gifted us our Chapter so we could follow tradition. He set foot in this shitty city so that the people here would see our yellow and black and know it meant something.”  

“We are here so that we can remind people of tradition. Thanks to the awesome and spectacular Bobby Owen we will let the Shady City know that there is an order in life and we are top of that order. We take our place at the top of that order before things get out of hand and we can’t say fuck noodle without offending some vegan, cross-dressing, feminist asshole who identifies as a fuckin’ tree. I am sick and tired of people telling me my words offend them. They should be offended. I got shit to say that people ain’t gonna like. The incomparable Bobby Owen didn’t make this brotherhood what it was so we would have to care about other people. Am I right my brothers?” 

A cheer rang out from the fraternity. Buddy grinned. His cocaine high buzzing even harder as he absorbed his brothers’ excitement.  

“The man in charge himself, my pops, will knock all ya’ll bitches into line. You better be ready to bow because the man is royalty. He is a God here at Kappa So and you should be thanking your mamma she had the good sense to open her legs in time for ya’ll to be here to witness this marvellous…fucking awesome occasion. And don’t forget, contained within his God balls is the essence that created me, your other God.”  

Here Buddy gave a raspy laugh and the other brothers cheered some more.  

“Those are great balls, Buddy,” Chad said, caught up in the excitement.  

Buddy stopped.  

”Thanks Chad,” he said. 

”Got your back, brah, ” Chad replied.  

On his right side, Dale Cooper, son of the legendary racing family, Cooper Garages, folded his arms across his chest and waited for Buddy to continue.  

Cheryl, a Kappa So cheerleader, honours student in the first year at Filton, now scraping by, was brought forth. She was so high on powder she could barely walk. She grinned as she was ushered forward and kneeled before Buddy.  

“Go forth,” he ordered, “and let all the whores know that there will be rich old cock to be sucked tonight.” He reached his hand out to Chad to summon him. “Chad?” he called. “Fetch me the golden cock!” 

Chad leapt excitedly. “I’ll get your cock, Buddy.”  

He turned his focus back to Cheryl. The aptly titled ‘coke whore’ was swaying. Her eyes were burning red with the blood vessels bursting through the whites. 

Chad returned and placed a penis made of gold into Buddy’s hand. It was generously proportioned and as anatomically correct as could be found gilded from precious metal.  

A sombre silence fell over the Kappa So hall as Buddy held the golden cock out.  

“With this cock you will summon the best whores,” he said as though a priest delivering mass.  

Cheryl bowed her head. “I will, Buddy,” she agreed.  

“You will treat it with the appropriate respect,” he said. 

“I will Buddy,” she replied again dutifully.  

He passed it into her outstretched hands as though she was accepting communion.  

Buddy pointed to the door.  

“Now go forth. Your task has been assigned.” 

Cheryl climbed onto her feet. Her drug addled stupor made it a bit of a task. She certainly wasn’t as agile then as she was on the cheerleading squads of the university. When she finally did get onto her feet she skipped off, taking the golden cock to the Kappa Si house. The sorority would see the penis etched in gold and the sisters would know that there was a sugar daddy available to please.  

The fresh air as she stepped outside hit her so hard she almost stumbled but the powder pushed her forward. She ran excitedly.  

Harsh headlights came charging towards her like a bull.  

WHAM! 

Cheryl collided with a black van. The van continued on its charge.  

SMASH!  

Kappa So Chapter House received a blow to its west side as the van crashed through.  

*** 

Before they could react – most of them too drunk or drugged to do much anyway – the brothers of Kappa So were swarmed by thugs from the Coldford City football team. They called themselves the loyalists and they descended upon the brothers under the leadership of Reginald Penn, head of the Penn dynasty and the one they hailed as King of City Main.  

In an unprecedented coupling The Fleet from the Bellfield team had joined them. Normally fierce rivals, these two groups had put aside their differences in order to tackle a common enemy.  

Paddy Mack and his brother Kieran were among them.  

“Get the feckers together,” Kieran was calling. “They got some explaining to do.”  

A struggle, violence, bloodshed ensued. Buddy and his brothers were taken to the lawns of the Chapter House. On their knees, beaten badly and sobering fast the brothers looked about themselves, still trying to comprehend what had just happened.  

The loyalists were wrecking the house, whilst the Macks and their Fleet held the brothers to account. The air was tense. Buddy could only hear the noise of the search and the screams of some of the brothers they had found hiding upstairs faintly from the outside. He was in a dream like state and only taking things in in small captions.  

“The king!” cried out a City Main voice.  

“Yer fecked now,” Kieran Mack cheered.  

Buddy tried to focus through his powder high. Through the sea of bodies emerged a commanding presence. Tall, greying fair hair and with an Olympian magnetism, Reginald Penn’s patience was wearing thin. Buddy Owen and his brothers were a pestilence in his way.  

“I will speak to the one in charge,” Reginald said.  

The Kappa So brothers, including Chad and Cooper looked to Buddy. Buddy stared straight ahead and said nothing. Reginald took note of Buddy’s particular discomfort. 

“I’m here because rumour has it you took a friend of mine from Harbour House. A good woman. They call her the Baroness. If she is here we will find her so you might as well make it easier on yourself.”  

Still no brother saw fit to respond. Chad kept looking between Reginald and Buddy. Buddy still made no move.  

A Loyalist brought a thick chain to his king. Reginald accepted it.  

“I call this Belta,’” he said. Some of the loyalists were giddy with excitement. Paddy Mack was expressionless. “She’s going to bash in the brains of every last fucking one of you until you tell me where Tawny is.”  

“Bud, bro,” Chad whimpered, trying to urge Buddy to speak up for them.  

Reginald circled in on Buddy. He pointed Belta at him. She hissed through her coils.  

“You must be an Owen,” he said. “You’ve got that inbred look.” 

The Loyalists chuckled. Buddy still said nothing. “Where is Tawny?” Reginald snarled.  

He raised Belta. Buddy’s sordid life flashed before his eyes. The drugs, the whores, the chaos.  

“I believe, sir, your quarrel is with me.”  

Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen arrived on scene, fresh from the Filton University spa. He had come as a matter of urgency. His shirt still hung open.  

“Leave the boys alone,” he ordered.  

Buddy had never been so glad to see his pops. 

“Bobby Owen,” the elder introduced. “This is my Chapter House you are trespassing upon and I do not care for the intrusion.”  

Reginald remained stationed. Buddy watched Belta swing from his hand like a hypnotist’s time piece.  

“If you are saying you are in charge then we have a problem,” Reginald warned.  

Bobby shook his head. “Your hooligans will not find what they seek here.”  

The elder Owen was surrounded by Loyalists. They took him into custody but Bobby didn’t resist. 

“He’s an old man,” Paddy protested but it did little good. With two of his boys contained within The Boss, another missing and now word spreading that the Owens had taken a good friend of his, the Penn father was intent on blood.  

Bobby Owen was pushed to his knees before the king.  

“Your maniac children belong behind bars. It isn’t afore long. You will join them soon enough. Your friend? I have no idea where she is and I care not. She and her lying whore of a niece are a stain on this city that needed to be wiped clean,” said Bobby.   

Reginald growled. Paddy clutched his arm. 

“Reg …” he warned but Reginald shook it off.  

Reginald took a deep breath.  

WHACK!  

The first blow of the chain sent Bobby Owen onto the grass. Loyalists lifted him back onto his knees. Already his consciousness was waning.  

WHACK! WHACK!  

Some of the brothers cried out seeing the skull of the God among them reduced quickly to a bloody mess. None of them saw fit to try and help. Paddy Mack turned away. Kieran laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. 

Reginald gasped, catching his breath again.  

WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! 

The highly respected Bobby Owen, the one the people of the Great States sang songs of, was dead. His blood dripped from Belta’s fangs.  

“You are an Owen, ain’t ya,” Reginald hissed at Buddy. “What’s your name?”  

“Buddy,” the Chapter leader replied, trying not to look at the body of his dead grandfather.  

“He’s the son of The Cappy,” Kieran Mack confirmed.  

Reginald swung Belta as he gave it some thought.  

“Get me a phone.”  

One of the loyalists passed a phone to their king who in turn threw it to Buddy. The KSO brother didn’t make a move to catch it. It bounced off his chest and onto the grass.  

“Pick it up,” ordered Reginald Penn.  

Buddy obeyed. He clasped the phone in a trembling hand.  

“Get your father on the phone. We need to talk,” the king proclaimed.

 

*** 

“Mr Owen’s office. How may I direct your call?” the secretary’s light voice answered.  

“Put me through to The Cappy right away,” said Buddy, still on his knees, still with a wary eye on Belta clasped tightly in Reginald Penn’s hand.  

“May I ask who is calling?” the secretary asked. She seemed distracted by something that was going on in her office.  

“It’s Buddy, you dumb bitch. Get The Cappy on the phone now.”  

“Oh Bernard. I’m so sorry. I didn’t recognise your voice. You sound a little different. Is everything okay?”  

Buddy was losing breath and losing patience. “Tell my father I’m in a bind. It was a phrase Buddy had been taught as a youngster. It would let his father know immediately he was being coerced.  

The secretary fell silent. Reginald scowled at Buddy.  

The secretary rang off. Within seconds the phone screamed a reply in the form of a video call directly from Chick Owen.  

“Answer it,” Reginald ordered.  

The screen opened to show the face of Charles ‘Chick’ Owen. He was in his office in the Great States and aggrieved at the disturbance. Buddy’s words to his secretary had placed him on alert.  

“Buddy?” he asked initially. “Are you hurt?” 

“No,” Buddy replied. “Pops!” The screen was turned to the battered and bloody corpse of Bobby. Reginald snatched the phone from Buddy and addressed Chick directly. The Cappy’s gaze burned through the screen. 

“I was wondering how long it would be before you reached out, Mr Penn.”  

“The old man didn’t have to die. My hand was forced. All I ask is that you hand over Tawny.”  

Cappy raised an eyebrow. “Who?”  

Reginald snarled. “You know who she is and word has it you know where she is.”  

Chick Owen remained calm. “If you are referring to the bar clown who owned the Knock Knock Club then I am somewhat familiar but as for where she is…her current location alludes me.”  

“You talk shite!” Kieran spoke up. Reginald turned to him with a warning stare. Kieran stepped back.  

“You have her and if you hurt her it’s going to be the last thing you ever do,” Reginald warned.

 

The corner of Chick’s upper lip raised. “You take the word of some junked up artist? I thought you were much smarter than that. I heard the rumours too but I challenge you to find any foul play in my Chapter House.”  

“If I find you are lying more of your blood will be shed.” 

Here Chick smiled but it was icy. “You realise we do not recognise any monarchy here in the Great States, self proclaimed or otherwise.”  

Reginald gripped Belta tighter. “This isn’t the Great States. Welcome to fucking Coldford. Have I made my point?”  

The Cappy raised his chin. “Loud and clear.” He reached over and closed the call. The screen fell to darkness.  

*** 

The night chill was setting in. It was sobering. The high Buddy had felt earlier was but a memory. He believed he had never felt so sober. The city was behind him. As they headed north they must have taken a wrong turn on the way to Owen Estate. The true north they called it. It was an expanse of farmlands and empty space. His feet were cold and wet as he and his bros skipped across open fields. None of them had the energy to complain anymore, except Buddy whose irritability was driving him on.  

“That son ‘a’ bitch is gonna pay,” he growled. “Him and his three stooge sons. Fuckin’ triplets. That’s fuckin’ weird.”  

Cooper stopped him.  

“We’ve taken a wrong turn, Bud. Where’s the estate?”  

“How should I know?” Buddy returned with a groan. “C’mon Coops, I’m freezing my balls off just as much as the rest of ya.” 

“I saw a barn about a mile back,” Chad stated. “Maybe we can rest up there and find out where we are.”  

Suddenly beaming lights spotted on them with a booming noise as though the Lord himself was laying down judgement. A voice echoed through the blinding shine.  

“You are trespassing,” it said. It was a deep voice, a man’s voice. It had the bounce of a Bournton accent.  

How far north had they come, Buddy wondered. 

“In these parts we have permission to shoot.”  

Buddy made a move to step forward. The crack of a gunshot warned him to stay where he was.  

Buddy reached his arm up to shield his eyes from the beams.  

“My name is Buddy Owen,” the Kappa So leader spoke up. He was at the end of his tether by then. “I’m having a really shitty night, brah,” he sobbed. “My pops died. One of our whores is in pieces in the street. We had to walk here all the way from City Main.” He was almost sobbing then. “I lost my golden cock!”  

Cooper laid a comforting hand on Buddy’s shoulder.  

Silence fell. Two men walked towards them; their frames silhouetted in the bright light. One was a large burly man with swept back blonde hair. The other was shorter, dark hair and a long face. The both wore shirts with a Harvesters logo.  

The smaller one looked to his companion.  

“Did he just say he had a golden cock?”  

*** 

“I’m Glenn,” the blonde one explained. “You are on Harvester Farm.”  

Buddy whined, “I just want to go home, brah. I was trying to get to Owen Estate. It’s my family’s place.” 

Glenn still didn’t seem so sure.  

It was Cooper who made their plea next. “Dude,” he said. “We gotta get some help. We gotta get some clothes man. We’re freezing our asses off.”  

Buddy turned to Chad. “Will you stop flicking your dick? I can hear you tap, tap, tapping away.”  

Chad lowered his head. “Sorry, Bud.”  

“What do you say, man? Give a bro a break here.”  

“What the fuck was that about a golden cock?” asked the other farm hand.  

Glenn scowled at him. “Leave it, Curtis.”  

The one named Curtis shrugged.  

Glenn sighed. “Follow us up to the east acre. I’ll see what I can do.”  

Grateful for the sanctuary Buddy and his brothers followed the truck deeper into Harvester Farm. Curtis spun the wheels throwing mud onto the the already distressed brothers.  

Glenn laughed and punched his arm.  

“Leave them,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot. He said his grandad died.”  

Curtis shook his head. “The spoiled little cunt seemed more upset at losing his golden cock, whatever the fuck that was.”  

Glenn laughed again. “Let it go.”  

The brothers skipped across the gravelled pathway, yelping at the pain in their feet but they were presented with a large farm house. A light was on in the lower floor.  

Buddy beamed as he made his way towards the house. Glenn pulled him back.  

“Oh no you don’t,” he said. “None of you go anywhere near that house. Do you hear?’ 

“Yeah I hear you, brah,” Buddy relented. ”I need a phone,” he pleaded. “I need to call my dad. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Chick Owen? They call him the Cappy.”  

Glenn shook his head, not really listening. “I can’t say we’ve met.” He pointed towards a barn. “Take your brothers to the milking sheds. It will be warm enough in there. I’ll get some blankets and clothes to you.” 

Buddy’s powder high was well and truly gone by then and every pain in his body was magnified. The stench of the farm was already giving him a headache.  

Holding himself up on the fence, Buddy led his brothers to the milking sheds. Curtis was waiting on them, holding the door open.  

“MAAAH!”  

A scream ripped through the night breaking the solemn silence of the brothers.  

WHAM! 

Buddy had a blow to the side as he was knocked away from the fence he was trying to hold himself up on.  

“What the fuck is that!?” He yelped with despair.  

Sharp horns and small, glowing eyes charged at the fence again.  

WHAM! 

The fence rattled.  

“What the fuck is that!?” Buddy asked again, almost in tears.  

“It’s a goat,” Chad explained calmly taking a look over the fence at the animal beyond. “A Pygmy of an old Hathfield breed by the looks of it. Genus Caspar aegugrus.”  

The brothers were now staring at Chad, perplexed.  

Chad Perry was the heir to the Perry Zoo chain. Despite that, being a frat brother, it could be assumed his university degrees had come from special treatment. However, Chad had actually learned quite a bit about his field of zoology. 

“MAAAH!”  

WHAM! 

“Well do you know how to shut that god damn thing up?”  

“MAAAH!”  

“Fuck you, brah,” Buddy screamed at the animal. He stuck his leg through the fence to try and kick it but it skipped away. “You son ‘a’ bitch. You better run!” He yelled but this leg was caught. He tried to pull himself free again but fell into the mud. 

“Aaaah!” He screamed in frustration. “This night sucks dead dong!”  

Cooper helped Buddy up.  

“C’mon bro. They’re watching us.” 

As Glenn had said there was a warmth to the milking sheds. Having grown up on Owen Ranch the bros looked to Buddy as their authority on what to do next. All their leader could do though was kick over a bucket. Forgetting he was bare footed the pain rang through his toes.  

“Medic!” he bawled.  

A short while later the shed door opened and a woman came to them carrying a bundle of blankets in her arms. Buddy’s eyes lit like the beams from the trucks. A beautiful woman, firm bodied, healthy. Her brunette hair was tied back, serving to highlight her shining blue eyes and soft, naturally rosy lips.  

“Welcome to Harvester Farm, boys,” she said. “I’m Julia Harvester.”  


Enjoy this?

Complete Season 2 of Knothe Knock Knock series is free to read here on Vivika Widow. com or click below download for Kindle

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

Pioneering Dynasty: Owen Inc

Location: Great States

Features in: KNOCK KNOCK ; HARBOUR HOUSE ; PURPLE RIBBON

“An Owen never misses a target.”

Media control and wealth to spare makes Owen Inc. one of the most formidable presences within the Shady City. Owning the COLDFORD DAILY gives them the chance to tell the truth. Well, their version of the truth.

Reporters Sam Crusow and Madeline Lower join the Owen Inc. owned newspaper.

They may be from the Great States but they never let their position as outsiders hold them back. If truth be told they hold a lot more sway in Coldford than most of the others. The only one able to match their deep pockets successfully would the the BECKINGRIDGE FINANCIAL FIRM.

The Beckingridge Tower remains the home of Owen Inc’s largest rivals in Coldford.

Lead by CEO CHARLES ‘CHICK’ OWEN they have their work cut out for them. Not only does he have to fight to maintain his family’s position but he also needs to deal with disruption in their own ranks. That being said, Chick is respectfully titled The Cappy because knows how to steer a large ship.

Chick Owen – CEO of Owen Inc. – conducts business.

A huge Owen Inc. asset is the KAPPA SO CHAPTER HOUSE. Linked to FILTON UNIVERSITY the KAPPA SO fraternity was founded by Henry ‘Hen’ Owen, an ancestor who, as a Coldford native, had a huge hand in making the city what we know it as today. Take from that what you will.

The Chapter House is the Big House on Campus.

Founded on the principle of pioneering for the future, Owen Inc. is the most forward thinking of the power houses in Coldford. Still with a firm eye on tradition the company boldly pulls the city into the future and it pulls some of those much discussed shades.

#amreading #thiller by @VivikaWidow


The Mayor is missing, the violence in the city is getting out of control. Enter reporter Sam to get to the truth of the matter.

Complete Season 1 of the Knock Knock graphic novel series is free to read here. Or click below to download for Kindle.

Season 2 begins October 26th

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The Church of St Wigan

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

“You cannot be saved but accept His embrace and you may be forgiven.”

A centuries old religious sect that originated on the island of HATHFIELD BAY, the Wigan monks have spread further and further into the city of Coldford over the years but their presence goes largely unchallenged. They ring their bells and cry their chants but given the state of affairs in the city it would seem there were more important things to worry about.

Prominent members of the church include the mother of JULIA HARVESTER, Nan. Raised in the church was the BARONESS of the Knock Knock club. Tawny refused their teachings before departing for the island. They had a strict set of rules that she refused to follow. Speaking of their rules, to be a member of the church you must live your life in accordance with the teachings of St Wigan. Blasphemy, infidelity and homosexuality are just some of the misdeeds that will see you punished by the church.

The recognisable cross of St Wigan can be seen pinned to many a church member in the Shady City.

As an ancient group there are some practices of the Wigan faith that modern minds would consider barbaric but stepping inside their commune on the island leaves all trace of time behind. Upon the island it is their rules and the LAW MAKERS of the city struggle to hold them accountable.

The church is headed by His Reverence, Dominick Parson. Those of his church adore him because he speaks the truth to them. However, for some, the truth can be hard to hear.

#amreading a #thrillerbook by @VivikaWidow


COMING 2021

A mysterious illness and a desperate phone call sends Cult Deprogrammer Reynolds’ sights on the Wigan faith of Hathfield Bay island. Time to face the past.

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

Need to recover? Check out Vivika Widow’s latest thriller.

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Coming 2021

Dennis, a prostitute selling conman, is forced to look back on his life when an attack leaves him with little life left to spare. Addressing his sordid past, he asks himself, ‘how far must a man fall before the climb back up becomes too steep?’

Dennis’ past haunts him

Can you ever truly be saved? A cult deprogrammer, a despicable crook and a war criminal ask themselves as the Wigan Church of Hathfield Bay draw their attention.

Chloe comforts Dennis after his ordeal.

Coming 2021, from the Author of MAESTRO ; MUSE and HARBOUR HOUSE , step outside the Knock Knock club and head on over to Hathfield Bay Island for a nail biting, knuckle whiting , full in your face exciting glimpse into the lowest depths of humanity.

“If you think I’m the worst that’s out there then you ain’t seen nothing …”

Check out Knock Knock club manager Dennis. Last seen at the Penn Auction House having a chat with the Penn triplets …

My Life Changing Event

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

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

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

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

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