Across the city, detective Hicks of the Coldford City Police Department was surveying his case. Excitement was building around the station. Never had so much time and resources been spent on one case but finally it was proving fruitful. They had been chasing this for a long time.
“It’s been a while agent,” he said. “You’ve been to Hell and back for this but it looks like we’ve finally done it.”
Hell doesn’t even begin to describe it,” replied Lydia Lowe of the Inter City Task Force. “All that time undercover and it was that reporter who did the heavy lifting in the end.”
Hicks patted her shoulder affectionately. “I’m glad you got to him. He would probably have been dead now otherwise and we never would have gotten to her. When he was taken from here I thought for sure he was a goner.”
Lydia smiled. Hicks was pleased to see working undercover at the Knock, Knock club hadn’t dulled her humour.
“The last time I saw him he was leaving with Lisa’s girl. He was delivering her back to her home and then coming to here. I look forward to chatting to him when he comes in. I had to let him go. I couldn’t risk the kid getting hurt,” Lydia explained.
Lisa, the bubbly Knock, Knock bar maid would arrive at the club later that afternoon to learn of the tragedy that had occurred.
“She’s ran amok in this city for far too long,” Hicks said bitterly. Lydia wholeheartedly agreed. “I’ll call Judge Doyle at the Court House and let her know there is some solid evidence coming her way.” Hicks cheered. “Finally we’ve caught the bitch.”
Meanwhile, after divulging his story to me Dennis decided he was no longer safe at the Knock, Knock club. Either I was coming for him with everything I had or Tabitha was. He had backed himself into a corner leaving himself with few options. Men like Dennis have a way of working out of tight spots though.
He came to a familiar door. He knocked twice in an almost musical rhythm. A gaunt, skinny young girl answered.
“Chloe!” Dennis cheered. “I am so glad to see you.”
Chloe lowered her head. Her eyes fixed pitifully on the ground. “I can’t let you in,” she said meekly. “Please go away.”
She tried to close the door but Dennis stopped her.
“What do you mean? Come on, you have to let me in.” He flashed a handsome, charming smile.
Chloe shook her head, still not looking him in the eye. It seemed like tears were close.
“Come on kid,” Dennis pressed. “Please let me in. I’m in a lot of trouble here. People are going to be after me. Do you want me to get hurt?”
Chloe finally looked up. “I can’t Dennis,” she insisted. “Just go away.”
“Don’t you love me anymore?” he asked. His large, brown eyes pleaded with her.
Tears did spill from Chloe then. “Of course I do,” she sobbed. “More than the whole world.”
Dennis kept his expression soft. “Then let me in.”
He reached out to push the door open but someone else did it for him.
Dennis was greeted by the tall, imposing frame of Marcus.
“By all means Dennis,” he said. “Come in.”
Dennis dropped his head. He had no choice. Running would be no use. If Marcus was waiting on him chances were the other triplets would be somewhere nearby. The door locked behind him.
Over at the Knock, Knock club I was beginning to regain consciousness.
“You’re not a morning person are you?” Tabitha teased. “You look like shit.”
Everything that had happened came flooding back. The little girl lying dead in the street with a bullet wound in her head.
“What did you do to that kid!?” I roared
Tabitha raised an eyebrow. “What did I do?” she returned. “I was keeping her safe you stupid prick and you delivered her straight to the enemy.”
My stomach lurched. My vision was still a little blurry from the knock to the head I had received.
“There I was, standing there, carrying a bowl of ice cream, looking like a total fucking amateur and she was gone.”
“I thought …” I began but Tabitha didn’t let me finish.
“I know what you thought,” she said. “You know for a reporter you have no fucking clue. How long have you been in this city? Open your eyes to what is going on around you. Speaking of fuck wit reporters … ”
“A friend of yours came looking for you.”
“You remember Madeline, right? Sure you do. All the men like Madeline,” Tabitha said.
Madeline growled. I hadn’t even noticed her being so focused on Tabitha, bleary eyed and possibly concussed.
“Would you listen to yourself?” Maddy snarled. “Do you ever shut up?”
Tabitha ignored her.
“Let us out of here you crazy bitch!” I yelled.
“I’m actually hurt that you still think I’m the bad guy here,” Tabitha laughed. I couldn’t tell if she was being ironic or if she truly meant what she said. “There are much worse things in this city than little old me. I do what I can to fight against it. Do you have any idea what would go down if I didn’t keep a check on things? I’m like a fucking super hero. Some might even be grateful.”
She kicked a knife at her feet between her captives.
“Here’s a little lesson for you. I’m going to close that door and you are both going to fight it out. Let’s see how moral you are when your lives are on the line. Maybe then you will have some idea of the shit I’ve had to deal with.”
Either of us could have grabbed that knife and killed her then but we wouldn’t have gotten much farther after that. Tabitha strode with confidence. Inside the Knock, Knock club she had nothing to fear.
“That’s why you’re both in your undies by the way,” she said as a matter of fact. “It’s less of a mess to clean up that way. It would be even easier if you were naked but I’m not that sick.” She laughed at her own joke. “When one of you are dead I pinky promise to open back up again. One less God damn reporter in the world. In the meantime, I have a little kid to bury and it’s not even noon. Thanks for that by the way. Toodles!”
At that she was out of the door. Maddy and I were sealed inside the Knock, Knock club’s hold. I ran to the door and cried through it.
“Let us out!” I called hammering my fists against the door as though it would do any good.
“It’s no use,” Madeline said behind me.
“We’ll get out of here,” I insisted.
“It’s over Sam,” Madeline said. “I’m sorry.”
The full Volume 1 is free to read here at Vivika Widow Online:
It was a blazing warm day in the Shady City. Sarah came to the north side of Coldridge park with her dad, Kev. Since the sun shone brightly she was promised they would have some fun together then go for ice cream but when they reached the park some of Kev’s friends called him over. Whenever Kev suggested they go to the park there were always friends waiting for them.
“I thought we were going to kick the ball?” Sarah protested. The friends Kev met always held him up until it was too late and they had to go home again.
“I won’t be long,” Kev said.
Sarah patted Ricky. The dog panted appreciatively. She tried not to pout. Her dad always got mad when she pouted. He would go off with his friends regardless. Maybe they would still get ice cream when he was done if she kept quiet.
“Stay here,” he warned.
“Kev!” one of the men called to him.
Kev smiled and raised two fingers to them before wandering off and leaving his daughter behind.
Sarah smiled at Ricky and kicked the ball for him to chase but the dog chased its owner instead. Sarah grumbled and sat on concrete steps that led to a supply shed.
As she watched her father exchange with his friends she realised he wouldn’t be returning any time soon. She picked up the shining red ball she had brought with her and started to play around with it.
She hadn’t made any team in school that year but the coach, Mrs Watson, told her that she showed promise and if she practised maybe she could the following year. Sarah kicked the ball. She flipped it up, trying to a move a Coldford City player had made famous. Unlike him it didn’t land at her feet. It rolled away. She chased after it. It was stopped by a woman.
The woman picked it up. She was pretty but not like Sarah’s mum. The woman had a movie star quality with long blonde hair and designer sunglasses.
“You ought to be careful,” she said. She had a warm voice, smooth like honey. “You wouldn’t want to lose your ball now would you?”
Sarah smiled at her. “Thanks Lady,” she said.
“Is that your dad over there?” the woman nodded towards Kev. He was still engaged in conversation. He hadn’t noticed the woman approach his daughter.
“Yeah the bald one is dad,” Sarah giggled. “That’s my dog too.”
“We’re going to get some ice cream,” Sarah divulged.
“He looks busy,” the woman replied. “Perhaps you and I can go get some while you are waiting.”
Sarah’s face lit up. She had been warned not to talk to strangers but the woman wasn’t at all like the strangers she imagined. She smelled of sweet perfume instead of alcohol. She was glamorous and pleasant. She was not at all like the rough looking, gin soaked men she had been warned of. The way she passed Sarah’s ball back to her was engaging and fun. She really did want that ice cream. It was still early morning but the temperature was soaring.
“I’m not supposed to leave the park.”
The woman ignored her statement. “You know, I don’t even have a favourite flavour. Maybe you could help me pick one out. We could get some for your dad too. His name is Kev right?”
Sarah was surprised. “You know him?”
“Of course I do,” said the woman. “I know you too, Sarah.”
Sarah beamed. “Yeah, that’s right.”
The woman pulled her sunglasses down and smiled at the child. She had a prominent gap between her front teeth that gave her a girlish, almost whimsical appearance.
“How do you know my dad?” Sarah asked.
The woman put her arms around the child’s shoulder and the started towards the north east exit.
“Let’s get that ice cream and I’ll tell you all about it.”
“What’s your name?” Sarah asked.
“Tabitha,” was the reply.
When Kev finished talking to his friends – one of whom he sold Ricky to – he returned to the steps to find his daughter was gone and all that was left behind was a shiny red ball.
I had been so angered by Dennis’ story of how Tabitha had come to own the Knock, Knock club and how he came to be involved I didn’t sleep at all that night. I locked the door of the room I had been given and lay on the bed to rest. I gathered my strength and waited for the morning when I could take the evidence I had to CPD. I gave myself some time to shake off any suspicion or watch the club had over me. It was early morning when I emerged again. I was glad to find none of the staff were there yet. Dennis would be nursing his wounds. I didn’t have to worry about him. He wouldn’t admit he had been talking to a reporter anyway. Tabitha on the other hand could make things very difficult for me.
It was when I reached the main part of the club I saw little Sarah sat at a table. She was completely unaware of the danger she was in.
‘Damn it,’ I thought to myself. I couldn’t leave her there.
“Hey,” I said.
She looked up and smiled back at me. She was cute kid, with blonde hair and warm eyes. She seemed familiar somehow.
“Hey,” Sarah replied.
“What brings you here?” I took a breath and tried to sound as casual as possible.
“The lady told me I was to wait here,” Sarah explained. “She’s getting ice cream.”
I kept my distance, not wanting to scare her but I had a feeling I knew the lady she referred to. I was running out of time.
“Ice cream for breakfast? That’ll give you a stomach ache.”
Sarah shrugged with a smile.
“The lady that told you to wait here, was she tall, slim, gap in her teeth, kinda goofy looking?”
Sarah laughed. “Yeah, Tabitha,” she said.
Time was definitely running out.
“Listen to me kid,” I said, trying not to frighten her with my sudden seriousness. “My name is Sam. That lady is not your friend,” I said.
Sarah seemed confused. “I should wait here.”
I was filthy, unshaven and still stank of last night’s booze. I could see why the girl wouldn’t trust me over Tabitha.
“Where are your parents?” I asked.
“I was at the park with my dad,” she said. “Tabitha brought me here and told me to wait for her.”
“You can’t stay here,” I urged. Tabitha would be back any moment. “You are going to get hurt here. I’ll take you back to your dad but we have to leave now.”
Sarah blinked. She must have read something on my face because her instincts told her to believe me. She hadn’t felt quite right coming to the club without her dad knowing. She stood and followed me.
“Don’t worry,” I told her. “I’ll look out for you.”
We got to the exit of the club where we met Lydia.
“Going somewhere?” she asked. Her eyes locked on Sarah.
“I’m getting out of this place and I’m not leaving without this kid,” I said to the dancer.
Lydia remained calm. “You have to be careful, Sam,” she said.
I was exhausted and in no mood to argue. “You can’t keep us here,” I said referring to myself and the little girl.
“I’m not trying to,” Lydia replied. “I’m saying you need to be careful. When you get to the alley turn left. If you go right they will see you.”
I thanked her. My first priority was getting Sarah back to her dad and then I was going to CPD with everything I knew.
What I didn’t know was that as I made my way from the club, relishing daylight again, the pocket I had kept the evidence phone in was now empty. Lydia had retrieved it.
“Where do you stay?” I asked Sarah as we got onto the street.
She pointed to the park entrance.
“Just at the other side of Coldridge,” she explained.
I took a firm hold of her arm. “We better hurry,” I urged her and we made our way to the park at a run.
We crossed the park to the south west entrance where a row of rundown buildings lay.
“There he is. That’s my dad,” Sarah cheered. Kev was on the phone I stopped her before she could run to him. I started looking around. I couldn’t see anything amiss. “Okay, go to him,” I pushed.
I watched as Sarah and Kev were reunited. He lowered the phone.
“Where did you run off to?” he growled angrily. “I was trying to phone your fucking mother.”
“The lady was going to get us some ice cream but the man brought me back,” Sarah explained.
Before Sarah could point me out, a shot cracked from somewhere in one of the buildings.
Kev cried out. Before he could catch his daughter another shot rang out.
It had come from what seemed like nowhere. My knees weakened. I had the strongest urge to vomit. My attempts to protect the little girl had brought her straight into the line of sight of a gun man with pin point accuracy.
When I left the Knock, Knock club I swore I would never let another kid get hurt. Creeps, murderers, degenerates. The Shady City had them all and she didn’t like that I was trying to fight back.
I will never forgive myself for what happened to that little girl that day. I was so overwhelmed with the sight of Sarah and her father being gunned down I didn’t hear steps approach me. I turned but before I could register the person behind me I was punched. Solid knuckle dusters caught me on the side of the head knocking me out cold.
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Tabitha climbed aboard the night bus that would take her into the city. The driver gave her a suspicious look but she turned and waved to a random woman on the platform. The woman – looking a little confused – waved back. Luckily the driver assumed she was a relative come to see Tabitha off and was drunk instead of confused. She paid for her ticket using Ma’s cash and sat herself at the back. The driver asked no questions.
When the bus arrived in Coldford she wasted no time. She dashed off to the Shanties where the Knock, Knock club lay.
When she finally reached the club the sky was starting to show early signs of dawn. The club was empty. It had been burned out. She stood in silent shock watching what was once her haven now reduced to an empty shell. She had had no idea something had gone down there.
The Knock, Knock club had been where her true family lived. Her aunt, Tawny, being the headliner. The feather dancing girls loved Tabitha too. They all kissed their fingers and tapped her forehead as the lined up to go on stage like Tabitha was their lucky charm. Tawny looked to her watching from the wings of the stage as she sang. Tabitha adored the sound of the cheering audience. She once peeked out from behind the curtain. The audience cheered for her too when they saw the young girl’s beaming face. She waved to them. They applauded in return. Tawny turned, laughed.
“My niece ladies and gents. Isn’t she a beauty?”
Tabitha was pulled back by Agnes, the stage producer. “Stay behind the curtain,” she warned.
Agnes was also Tawny’s girlfriend and the most level headed person Tabitha had ever known. She was the sensible driving force in a wonderful flurry of sequins, music and performance.
True to this Agnes always looked out for Tabitha. She came back stage one evening to find Tawny offering her niece a cigarette.
“You can’t give her that!” Agnes warned, pulling the cigarette away.
Tawny shrugged. “It’s just a ciggy.”
“She’s too young and it’s a filthy habit. Do you really want her picking that up? Jesus Christ Tawn!”
Tawny grinned and pulled the packet off the table. “Well if you’re going to get religious about it.”
“I’ll crucify you if you’re not upstairs in five minutes. Jack is just finishing up.”
“Well I mustn’t disappoint. See you in a bit Trouble.” She kissed Tabitha’s head and took Agnes’ arm. “Madame Dictator, lead the way.” She looked back at her niece and winked.
Agnes smiled at Tabitha too. “We’ll be back soon.”
But would they? It was all gone. Jack the pianist, the feather girls, the stern but loving Agnes, Aunt Tawny who they all called The Baroness. Someone had deliberately destroyed the club and Tabitha – still with the blood of her parents motivating her – would find out who.
The docks were close by so Tabitha made her way there. If something had gone down at the club Aunt Tee would have no doubt returned to the islands where she came from. She hadn’t been waiting long when a man approached her.
“Hey kid, are you lost?” he asked.
Tabitha shrugged and turned away from him. “Not really,” she said.
He stopped and surveyed her. Tabitha’s accent didn’t sound native to the Shanties. “You shouldn’t be out here. This isn’t a safe neighbourhood.”
“I’m waiting for the ferry. I’m going to my aunt.”
He looked out at the docks. “The ferry doesn’t come at this hour,” he said. “There won’t be another one until morning.”
Tabitha became impatient, the image of the burned out club still fresh on her mind.
“What are you? The ferry master?”
He ignored the comment. “Where are your parents?”
“They’re gone. That’s why I’m going to my aunt.”
“What age are you?” he asked.
“Old enough,” Tabitha returned coldly.
“What’s your aunt’s name?” the man pressed. “Maybe I know her. I do a lot of business over on the islands.”
“Do you know the Knock, Knock club?”
He smiled smoothly. He was very well kept and handsome. He seemed like an unusual figure in such a run down area of the city. “Everyone around here knows the Knock, Knock club. Did she work there?” Tabitha was hesitant to say any more. “Look, I’m going to call my wife, okay? She’s a social worker and she’ll help you get in touch with your aunt.”
He removed a phone from the inside pocket of the tailored suit he wore. He dialled, listened briefly before beginning the conversation.
“Hey Liv. Sorry did I wake you?” he asked. He listed to the response. “I’ve got a girl here. She says she’s trying to get to the islands.” Again he listed. He pulled the phone away from his ear and asked Tabitha, “What’s your name kid?” Tabtiha told him. “She says her name is Tabitha.” He listened to the response. “Sure,” he said before passing the phone to Tabitha.
“Hello?” Tabitha said hesitantly.
“Hello Tabitha. My name is Olivia. The man you are with is my husband. His name is Dennis. Are you in any trouble? You just have to say yes or no?”
Tabitha thought about it. “No,” she said.
“That’s good,” Olivia replied genuinely. “The thing is sweetie, where you are isn’t very safe. There are no trains, buses or ferries out of there at this time so Dennis is going to bring you to me. You don’t have to be worried. I’ll be waiting for you and I will help you get in touch with someone. Does that sound okay?”
Tabitha shrugged. “I’ll be fine, really.”
Olivia didn’t press nor did she give up. “Would you at least like a warm drink until transport starts running again?”
Tabitha decided it would be better. She hadn’t heard from Tawny since Pa had forced her from the house.
“What happened to the Knock, Knock? Tabitha asked when she climbed into a car beside Dennis.
“I don’t want to worry you but I heard there was some kind of explosion,” he replied. He kept his eyes on the road. “I’m sure your aunt is fine though. You would have heard otherwise, right?”
“Right,” Tabitha agreed. She glanced from the window just as they passed BOBBY’S LUNCH BOX. Tabitha’s stomach growled. The last thing she ate was Nanny Lynn’s toffees.
“That’s a pretty dress you’re wearing,” Dennis commented. “Were you at a party?”
As the woman on the phone had said she was waiting for them. They pulled into the driveway of a quaint but pretty home in the lower west, not far from where she had met Dennis. Olivia came rushing out to greet them. The headlights caught a heavily pregnant bump.
“Nice to meet you Tabitha,” she said. You aren’t hurt or anything are you?”
“No.” Tabitha felt a little overwhelmed at the concern from a stranger.
“Make yourself at home kid,” Dennis announced when they stepped inside.
“Are you tired?” Olivia asked.
Tabitha shook her head but she was busy taking in the home. She watched as Olivia closed the door to see how it was locked and bolted. She noticed some social work certificates in the name of Olivia Platt. They were signed by Judge Karyn Doyle.
“Do you know Judge Doyle?” Tabitha asked.
“She handles most of my cases,” Olivia replied. “Were you in her care?”
Tabitha shook her head and dismissed the comment quickly. “Just wondered.”
“What’s your poison?” Dennis asked. Olivia scowled at him. “What?” he laughed. “I meant tea, coffee, cocoa?”
“I’ll have some cereal. I’m kinda hungry,” Tabitha admitted.
“What kind do you like?”
“Queen Corn I guess …” the cereal advert still played on her mind.
Tabitha’s gaze started to take in the baby bump. “When are you due?” she asked.
“Any day now actually,” Olivia answered proudly.
“Boy or girl?”
“Boy. His name is Milo.”
Tabitha grinned. Olivia tried to hazard a guess at her age.
“Hi Milo!” Tabitha cheered waving at the womb. “I’m Tabby.”
Needless to say, Tabitha didn’t leave the Platt home the following day on the ferry. She tried to call her aunt on the last number she had but it was out of service. She tried Agnes too but with no luck. When Dennis discovered it was the baroness that Tabitha was related too (a well known figure in the area) he made some enquiries about the Knock, Knock club. From what he found out it was attacked by a group of youths and it was burned out. There was no word of anyone surviving.
Tabitha still wouldn’t discuss where she came from. Whenever Olivia tried to ask her about her home life she became bitter and closed off. Olivia was concerned but Tabitha continued writing letters to her aunt and sending them to any possible place she might be. Olivia fetched clothes for her, put food to her and even involved her in discussions on the imminent arrival of Milo. When the baby was born Tabitha fussed over him. She ran errands and when Olivia was tired offered to take him walks.
“She’s still not heard anything from her aunt,” Dennis said. “None of the hospitals have heard anything either.”
“What are we going to do?” Olivia asked as they watched Tabitha play with Milo.
“Well we can’t throw her out on the street, can we? She must have family somewhere. I have people all over looking for the baroness but nothing yet.”
More time wore on and Tabitha became like one of the family.
Olivia offered to alert Judge Doyle to her plight but Tabitha became angry.
“I like you Liv. You’ve been good to me but if you tell her I’m here I will put Milo in the fucking microwave and make you eat him,” she growled.
Olivia was shocked at the outburst. In all her years of working with troubled young people she had never heard such things.
“I just want to get you home, sweetie,” she managed.
Luckily Tabitha softened. “I wouldn’t hurt little Milo,” she giggled. “Unless someone made me,” she was careful to add. “Leave the judge out of it. I’ll find my aunt.”
More time passed and the young girl had firmly cemented herself in their home. Milo was growing fast. He adored Tabitha. Every time he saw her he gave a huge grin.
Dennis too seemed oblivious to the intrusion into their home. What began as inviting a young girl to safety became uncomfortable and stifling. Only Olivia seemed to notice this. Dennis enjoyed the young girl’s company and so did Milo.
Olivia was called to a conference in the city one weekend and she would spend the night there. Her intentions were to visit the Court House and find out more about who Tabitha was. Given her reaction to Judge Doyle that was where the answers lay.
Dennis had been speaking to some associates and when he returned he found Tabitha had put Milo to bed and was watching her favourite show. Relishing the quiet he joined her on the sofa.
“Whatcha watching?” he asked playfully.
Tabitha raised an eyebrow. “It’s right there on the screen,” she said.
He drew closer to her and reached an arm behind and rested it on the sofa. He felt giddy. With Olivia gone it was just the two of them.
“It’s fun having the house to ourselves,” he said. “We’ve grown close, haven’t we?”
Tabitha didn’t take her eyes away from the screen. “Too close. You’re in my space. Move!” she barked.
Dennis ran a hand softly along up her leg. “Come on,” he purred. “You and I can have some fun.”
He clasped her hand and pulled it towards his aching crotch. “Come on,” he said again. This time with a little more force.
Tabitha tried to pull her hand away but he had gripped her tightly.
“Get the fuck off me!” she snarled but Dennis paid no attention. He wanted her then and he would have her.
He grabbed her and flipped her over on the sofa. He pushed behind her with a leering grunt.
“You want this,” he said. “You know you do.”
Tabitha snarled. She bit down on his arm and he yelped in pain. She threw her head back catching his nose and bursting it. She climbed onto her feet and when she saw Dennis hadn’t fallen she punched him heavily on the nose causing a satisfying explosion of blood as it burst. Dennis tumbled to the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Dennis whimpered.
Tabitha laughed with a horrid mixture of childish giddiness and grown up scorn.
“Oh you fucking will be,” she said. “For the rest of your life you will remember this moment as the time you fucked up royally.”
She turned to the television. She pushed the button to change the output and on the screen flashed the scene that had just occurred. A concealed camera had recorded everything.
“This will be a little memento in case you forget.”
“You set this up!?” he gasped.
Tabitha shrugged. “Let’s just say I know creeps like you,” she replied. She watched the screen and laughed again. “You are so fucking screwed!” she cheered with a tune hanging in her voice. “Just not the way you hoped.” She looked closely at her own image. “The camera loves me,” she grinned. “Look at your nose. I really cracked you good.”
The scene was interrupted by Milo crying. Dennis tried to stand to check on him but Tabitha shot him a warning glare.
“You stay here, perv. I’ll check on him.” She skipped across to the steps. “If you ever lay a finger on me telling Liv will be the least of your worries. I will cut your fucking balls off.” She looked back at the screen. “Actually, if I’ve missed my show because of this I may still cut your balls off.” She sighed with amusement at her own jest and finally started climbing the stairs. “Coming Milo,” she called to the crying child.
When Olivia returned she sensed something was wrong but Dennis wouldn’t admit it. Tabitha carried on as she always had.
Olivia had been unable to meet with Karyn Doyle. The district court judge and chair of the child services committee had been involved in an explosion too. A car bomb had left her critical in hospital.
“Do you think those two things are related?” Olivia asked Dennis but he didn’t seem to be listening.
“I don’t know do I?” he finally said.
“Maybe one of your associates would know?”
Dennis mostly ran couriers around the city and as such he came into contact with lots of different people. He didn’t ask any more questions about the Knock, Knock club though. Instead he distanced himself from his wife and child. Olivia noticed his being more subdued.
More time passed. Olivia tried to contact the judge when she heard she had made a miraculous recovery. Dennis finally spurred into action.
“Don’t do that!” he grabbed the telephone from her with a shaking hand.
Olivia remembered Tabitha’s threats on Milo but couldn’t believe that she should take them seriously.
“She needs help Dennis. She needs a home,” Olivia protested.
“She doesn’t want the judge to know she is here.” Dennis was almost pleading with his wife.
“Since when does Tabitha make the decisions around here?” Olivia returned with some venom. “It’s what is best for her.”
Given the urgency of Dennis’ plead Olivia left it. The judge would need time to recover from her ordeal anyway.
Time continued to pass. Tabitha grew older. Milo started to grow up. Until one day Dennis returned home to find Tabitha on the sofa with a packed bag at her feet and a coat on. Olivia was gone to places unknown with no intention of returning. She had taken Milo with her.
“Better get packed,” Tabitha said.
“Where are we going?” Dennis asked.
“To rebuild the Knock, Knock club.”
I stared at him for a little while after he told me this trying to process what it all meant.
“I’ve made some mistakes in my life but that was by far the worst and I’ve been paying for it ever since.”
Tabitha could handle herself whatever age she had been, that much was clear, but what I couldn’t get out of my mind were other little girls who hadn’t been so lucky. Frightened, trembling as Dennis’ long frame leaned over them. Their chances of first love gone forever in some sleazy hotel room with someone old enough to be their father. I could almost hear their painful screams.
“How long?” I growled.
“What do you mean?”
“How long before you met Tabitha did you have a fondness for little girls?”
Dennis’ eyes widened. There was still some self preservation left in him yet.
“It’s easy to condemn. It is sick, unnatural even, but you can’t fight it until you understand it,” he said.
The human part of me wasn’t interested in his excuses but that human part was shrinking more and more. All that was left was the reporter in me and that reporter was that story. It was a something that had to be told to warn others.
When he saw I wasn’t retreating he continued.
“At first I didn’t realise it was happening. There were lots of girls. The foreign ones fresh to the city were the best. They were always so eager to please in the hope you would help them make a home. I loved that vulnerability in them, that submissiveness. I couldn’t get enough so I started seeking them out. The more desperate they were the better. They started to get younger. Teenaged girls that knew what they were doing. After a while that didn’t satisfy me any more. They had to be fresher, easier to control. I didn’t want to feel that way. You have to believe me. It was like an addiction, a compulsion. The opportunity was always there, especially with Liv’s work. The grown ups of Shady City were too busy worrying about themselves. They left their daughters open and free for guys like me. The young girls were all that I lived for. Then Olivia fell pregnant. I began to think about how I would feel if someone did the things I did to those girls with my kid. So it ended. I still felt those impulses, attractions but I controlled it. I concentrated on my wife and I focused on my kid. We had it good. Then, when I saw Tabitha, it all came flooding back. She behaved like an adult but underneath all that make up and bravado she was just as ripe as the rest of them. She knew though, I don’t know how but she did. She knew what her knowing little smiles were doing to me and her touches.”
I had heard enough. My fists curled. I tried to walk away but he pulled me back. I’ve never been a violent man but I swung my fist and caught him a heavy blow on the face. He fell against the bar.
“You sick fuck!” I cried losing all of my usual composure, shaking the pain from my hand.
It wouldn’t be long before Tabitha joined us so I took a deep breath. I was getting out of that place and I was damned if I was going to let another little kid be harmed.
Ready to press on?
Our reporter has heard the story and he has his evidence. It’s time to bring the house down.
Volume 1 is free to read on Vivika Widow Online or download for Kindle by clicking HERE.
I composed myself. I didn’t want to give any clue that I had seen what happened to Mel. I didn’t trust DENNIS but I knew he was the only one who could shed some light on what was going on. TABITHA had mentioned a war. She had insinuated as much to me too. My goal was to find out what this meant and who exactly they were at war with. It would make it easier for me to decide what to do with the evidence I had.
He swallowed the whiskey in his hand. I observed him for a bit, not giving away my presence too soon. I watched him, gauging his mannerisms and judging how easily he would talk at this point.
“Something getting you down?” I asked as coolly as possible.
“You should be upstairs,” he said. “You don’t want to be down here right now, pal.”
I took the stool at the bar beside him. I said nothing at first, just continuing to watch him for a break in his persona that would make him open up to me.
“Seriously,” he said, becoming frustrated. “You really have to go.”
“I’ve been through a lot lately,” I said finally. “I just want a drink. This is a bar, isn’t it?”
Dennis shook his head. He still wasn’t opening up. For a guy who was very full-on most of the time, I suspected he was a tougher nut to crack than it would seem.
“You look like you need help,” I said, hoping to prompt him.
He gave me a reluctant look then, but I seemed to have sparked something in him. I guess it had been some time since anyone had ever suggested helping him. It sure as hell didn’t seem likely that Tabitha would.
“There’s no helping me,” he said, but he laughed as he did so. His Knock Knock persona was coming back. I was running out of time.
“Look, let’s just level with each other,” I suggested. “You don’t want to be here and neither do I. We can help each other but I can’t do anything unless you tell me what’s going on.”
Dennis looked behind him. He probably could have sworn he heard the click of those high heeled shoes.
“It’s too late,” he said, but this time he didn’t sound so sure.
“It’s never too late. I have to know what is going on here before anyone else is hurt.”
Dennis lifted his empty glass and spoke into it. “I wish I had never met her.”
He could have been referring to anyone but I felt it was safe to assume he meant Tabitha.
Then, with one final question, he threw all caution to the wind.
“What brought you to the Knock Knock club?”
“Tabitha darling, we’re leaving now,” called Mrs McKinney to her daughter. “Come and kiss Pa goodnight.”
The girl had been sat in front of the television in the lounge. An old show played. The comically mismatched couple had found themselves in another scrape as they juggled the babysitting duties of ten small babies.
Tabitha had no interest in Pa. She barely knew the man. She barely knew Ma either. The days they were at home were spent dressing for parties to which Tabitha was never invited. Tabitha learned quickly that neither of her parents were really interested in their daughter. She was dressed in pretty dresses and told to sit quietly, like she was part of the décor of their mansion home in the privileged town of FILTON.
The show ended. The audience were left in excited anticipation for what scenario they would find themselves in next. The screen replaced the show with an advertisement for Queen Corn cereal. A woman was singing and dancing on a beautifully illuminated stage. Her voice was sultry yet fun. The eye-catching leotard she wore underneath the grey gentleman’s blazer sparkled. The way her back-up dancers flocked around her, she looked as though she could rule the world. Tabitha’s heart began to flutter watching her and enjoying the music. The performer gazed at the camera with her smoky eyes, as though addressing the little girl directly.
‘You can have it all,’ her eyes seemed to say.
There was only one person in her life that encouraged her that way. Ma and Pa were strangers to her but her aunt, TAWNY, knew her. She had wanted to take her away from it all.
The week before, she had fallen asleep on the sofa when she felt a soft touch on her face. Her eyes opened to a beaming, round face with a sparkle in her eyes that was almost magical.
“Aunt Tee!” Tabitha cheered, throwing herself into the middle-aged woman’s arms. Her aunt hugged her tightly.
“Hello Trouble, how are you?”
“Good,” Tabitha replied. The house that had felt so empty and cold before was now warm and inviting with Tawny’s larger than life presence.
“Are you staying?” asked the niece.
“I can’t, honey. I just wanted to check on you. Where’s misery one and misery two?”
Tabitha shrugged. “At a party, I guess.”
Tawny shook her head. “They left you alone again?”
“I prefer it when they fuck off.”
Tawny laughed and shook her shoulder playfully. “Language, young lady.”
“Will you stay with me?”
Tawny beamed her wide, affectionate smile. “Of course I will.”
It had been a pleasant evening. They pushed the furniture aside. They danced and sang together across the open floor. They had been having so much fun that Tabitha almost forgot that Ma and Pa would return sooner or later.
Sometime around 2am Pa came charging in like a drunken bull. He pointed at his sister with a great, fat finger.
“You!” he spat. “Get to fuck out of my house.”
Tawny stood. “It’s as much my house as it is yours,” she remarked.
He waved his arms like a frustrated child. “Stay away from my family!”
Tawny laughed. Tabitha felt angry tears build in her eyes.
“Aren’t I family?” she asked.
Ma came tearing in behind Pa. “Just get out,” she ordered.
Pa sneered. A most hateful glare fell onto his fat face. “You are no sister of mine after what you did.”
“What I did?” Tawny reached into the black shirt she wore and produced a handful of instant photographs. “When you did this?” she started to throw them like a magician. “This? And this?”
They fell face down onto the floor, so Tabitha couldn’t see what the photos were of.
Pa grabbed her arm. “Just get out!”
Tawny relented. She raised her arms.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll go, but Tabby comes with me.”
Pa raged. “Out of the question.”
Tabitha ran to her aunt and wrapped her arms around her full waist.
“Please,” she begged. “Just let me go with her.”
Pa grabbed the child’s arm and threw her aside, spraining her arm and hitting her head against the wall.
Tawny lunged and slapped him.
“How fucking dare you!” she growled. “You don’t give a shit about that kid.”
Ma was screaming, “I’ve had enough of this.” The doorbell rang and she charged to answer it. She returned swiftly, accompanied by two CPD officers.
“I found out about your petition for custody,” Pa growled. His expression changed to a satisfied sneer. “Judge Doyle overruled it today. Tabitha ain’t going anywhere.”
“After what you did to her you both should be in jail!” Tawny screamed.
The police officers clutched the aunt’s arms behind her back to restrain her.
“I now have an order against you. You are never to see Tabitha again,” Pa continued, relishing the pained expression on his sister’s face.
“I love you Tabs.” The aunt gave a painful cry as the officers removed her from the house. “No matter what happens remember I love you and I won’t rest until you are away from those monsters!”
When the scene had quietened Pa threw a cloth at Tabitha.
“Clean your face,” he ordered.
Tabitha soaked up the tears and absorbed the pain in her arm.
“Tabby!” Ma screeched this time.
Tabitha sighed. She switched off the television.
She met Ma in the hallway. She was standing with a sturdy woman in a cloche hat and long coat.
“This is Nanny Lynn. She’s going to stay with you whilst Pa and I are out.”
“I hate her,” Tabitha glared at the nanny. “If she stays here I’m going to rip her fucking face off.”
“Watch your mouth,” Ma warned. She threw her arms in the air. “You’re going to be the death of me. I hope you realise that.”
Tabitha glared directly at Nanny Lynn who stood in silent shock. “If you stay here I’m going to rip your fucking face off,” she repeated.
Ma stormed off to the kitchen to fetch one of her pills leaving the nanny alone with the child.
“You’re an angry little girl, aren’t you?” the nanny began hopefully. “If you give me the chance though, I’m sure we will become great friends,” she continued in a patronising tone that made Tabitha’s teeth itch. She reached a pack of JOLLY SHOPPER toffees out to her. “Would you like something sweet?”
Tabitha groaned. Sugar wasn’t going to solve anything. She raised her middle finger.
“Here’s what I think of your fucking toffees. Couldn’t even get the decent kind. Fucking cheapo.”
Nanny Lynn’s mouth was agape. A slur on her toffees was apparently worse than the threat of having her face ripped off.
Ma returned from the kitchen.
“You are staying here with Nanny Lynn whether you like it or not. I’m not having you ruin my night again. You are so selfish. Now come say goodnight to Pa.”
Pa was in a cloudy mood. Nanny Lynn fixed his tie. She stepped beside Tabitha and rested her hands on the girl’s shoulders with a gentle squeeze.
“Don’t pout girl,” Ma barked when she noticed the thunderous mood forming on her daughter’s face. “We’ll see you in the morning,” Ma started to explain but Pa snatched her arm and pulled her towards the door.
“Stop fussing,” he groaned. “I don’t want to be late.”
There was no kiss goodnight for Pa anyway. The little girl couldn’t understand why she had been pulled away from her shows just to watch them walk out the door again.
By the time Tabitha returned to the lounge the dancing woman was gone. It was during those lonely times that Tabitha missed her aunt the most. Aunt Tawny was a quirky woman with black hair and a laugh that always erupted from her stomach. She had a musical accent from the islands where she and Pa had grown up. Pa had lost his accent, striving to fit in amongst Filton society. Tawny wasn’t her aunt’s real name but that didn’t matter. They should have let her go. It wasn’t like they would miss her. Would they even notice she was gone?
That evening Tabitha kept singing and dancing like the woman from the cereal advert. As she did, a memory of Tawny came to her and the reason why her aunt made her smile so. Tawny always had a song on her lips. She wasn’t a graceful mover but there was a skip in her step that was enchanting. She was a cabaret singer and owned a club in the city. The Knock, Knock club sounded like such a magical place then.
“I love you Tabs. No matter what happens remember that.”
Tabitha couldn’t stand it any longer, she and Nanny Lynn alone in the big house, Ma and Pa never there.
“I won’t rest until you are away from those monsters.”
As the evening wore on she kept quiet, sitting in front of the television as Nanny Lynn read a magazine. She pretended to fall asleep on the sofa. Nanny Lynn got up to answer the door sometime after midnight. She heard someone look in on her. Tabitha closed her eyes tightly and pushed some light breathing through her nostrils. The door clicked closed again.
A few minutes later she heard the raised voices of her parents. Their slurred words were heavily laced with gin. Nanny Lynn sounded concerned. Tabitha couldn’t decipher their words but the tones were clear. Pa gave a hearty laugh. It was soon followed by stumbling footsteps up the stairs like a stampeding herd of cows. Ma was giggling.
“You’ll wake the child,” Nanny Lynn warned.
The door along the hall closed. Ma and Pa had gone to bed.
Tabitha waited patiently for an hour. She climbed onto her feet. She danced across the room like the woman from the advert and fetched a knife from the kitchen before creeping back to the bottom of the stairs.
Quietly, she crept along the hall to Ma and Pa’s bedroom. It was the one room in the expansive house that was forbidden to her. That didn’t stop her this night.
She opened the door as quietly as she could. There was movement from the bed. A lot of satisfied moaning filled the air. Pa was sat up. His bare back faced his daughter. Tabitha recited the tune from the cereal advert in her head. It slowed the charge of her heart. No one was paying attention to her. They hadn’t even noticed her come into the room. Ma had a camera phone and was filming Pa mounted onto Nanny Lynn like a breeding dog.
Finally, Ma looked over. She shrieked when she saw her daughter. Tabitha ran at them. She embedded the knife into Pa’s side. He didn’t scream. He emitted a gasp of air as though something heavy had fallen on him.
Ma screamed again as her husband tumbled onto the floor. Tabitha wielded the knife and slashed Ma’s face, leaving a red trace on her milky skin.
Tabitha leapt on top of Nanny Lynn’s naked frame and stabbed into her chest so deeply it was difficult to pull the blade back out.
With one last surge of strength Pa tried to grab at his daughter, but Tabitha curbed his enthusiasm by stabbing him ten more times.
Ma found her strength and charged at her daughter. She grabbed Tabitha around her neck and pulled her. They both fell to the floor.
Tabitha knew then she couldn’t overpower her, and the knife had slipped out of her bloodied hand. She wrapped her lips around Ma’s finger and bit down as hard as she could.
Ma was still locked around her so she reached up to her ear where she had had a recent injury. With an almighty tug Tabitha pulled the stitches and the rest of the ear came with it.
She picked up the knife. Tabitha had to finish the job. She charged at her mother and knocked her on top of Nanny Lynn’s lifeless body. She stabbed her twice. Ma still gasped. Her lips parted slowly. Her lungs had been punctured so she held on for a few moments like a fish out of water. Her last gaze upon her daughter showed she was smiling.
She switched on the lights. The blood-stained sheets were a tangled mess around the occupants of the bed. Tabitha found it quite comical actually. It looked like a sketch from a comedy show. She stifled her giggles.
A young girl wouldn’t get very far on her own. She had to make herself seem older.
She chose Ma’s favourite red dress and took it from the closet. Ma had been quite petite so it was only a little oversized. She pulled Ma’s make-up out of its usual hiding place. It spilled onto the floor. She wiped the blood from her face and sat at the vanity mirror.
The image of her parents and their reluctant lover reflected in the glass. She giggled again. She painted her face with the make-up, a little heavy on the rouge and the red lips but it made Tabitha seem older. With Ma’s clothes and a face of make-up she looked older than she was.
As she made her way to the front door her shoes clicked on the marble floor. This pleased her. She danced along it, singing the cereal song again. With her dress, heels and make up, little Tabitha could easily be the woman from the advert.
With only the cash Ma had in her purse the young girl ventured into the night, not really sure of where she was going yet.
“What happened after that?” I asked.
Dennis shook his head. His story had tired him. I wanted to keep him with me though. I needed him to tell me everything he knew so I poured him another whiskey to stop him sobering up.
“From what I heard the never found the bodies but Nanny Lynn’s husband was arrested on suspicion for the murder. They said it was some kind of jealous rage. Tabitha slipped through the system.”
“How did she get into the city?”
“You would be surprised how many people around here are willing to help a young girl dressed like a whore,” he said bluntly.
Ready to press on?
We’re not quite done with you yet. Dennis’ story continues.
Volume 1 is free to read on Vivika Widow Online or download for Kindle by clicking HERE.
With the gifted phone in my hand I saw an opportunity. Theresa had been killed. Others had no doubt lost their lives to this so-called club, but I couldn’t let what happened to my wife be in vain. I would seek out the truth and expose them all. Someone within the Knock, Knock Club knew who I was and was willing to help me. I didn’t have time to figure out who that was. Luckily, Tabitha had left the room door unlocked.
I followed the corridor to the other side of the club. I was confident I would hit a dead end quickly but the brick walls seemed to carry on deeper and deeper into the darker depths of Knock Knock.
I came to an ominous looking grey door. Was I supposed to find KNOCK KNOCK completely lacking security, or had the one who had given me the phone ensured the doors were open? There was something they wanted me to find. Something that would tell me who these HEADLINERS were.
At first, I could hear a smooth, male voice accompanied by a guitar and simple drum beat singing a gentle serenade. I heard other voices too, talking over the singing. Then I realised the singing was coming from speakers.
There was a light shining underneath a door that had been left slightly ajar. I crossed the wide, empty room to get a closer look.
I came to a window that looked out onto the alley that ran alongside the club.
I crouched down and looked out. Whoever gave me the phone, this was what they wanted me to find.
Tabitha was there with Dennis and a tall man wearing all black. He had a long ponytail. His name was MARCUS PENN. He was one third of the Penn triplets who owned the AUCTION HOUSE in the city. Marcus was rolling a woman onto the filthy ground.
“Oh, she’s wasted,” TABITHA laughed. DENNIS, on the other hand, didn’t seem amused.
“Yeah, on our booze,” he said.
I took out the phone and started to record.
Marcus looked up with a firm grip on the woman’s shoulders. Her head lolled and her eyes rolled.
“I’m sure we can spare a drink for our girl Mel here,” Tabitha continued.
Dennis looked away.
“Just get on with it will you.”
“That sounds like Dennis giving me orders!” she said to Marcus.
Dennis shook his head. “I’m just saying…”
Tabitha cut him off by snapping her fingers together in a ‘shut up’ gesture. “Remember this is my club, you useless prick.”
“Of course,” Dennis began to explain himself.
Tabitha gave a gasp of feigned shock. She again turned to Marcus.
“And yet still he doesn’t shut up!”
Marcus glared at Dennis with a cold stare while still clutching the young woman they called Mel. Mel gave a groan. She was trying to speak through a drunken slur. This turned Tabitha’s attention from Dennis back onto her.
“What’s that?” she asked, approaching Mel. “Dennis is a prick?”
She clasped Mel’s jaw and worked her mouth like a puppeteer.
“Yesh Tabifa, Dennis is a pwick,” she mocked. Mel’s eyes rolled.
Dennis arched his eyebrows, but said nothing in response.
“You see,” Tabitha returned to her normal voice. “She was retarded enough to walk in here with her demands and even she knows how much of a prick you are.”
She started working Mel’s mouth again.
“Yesh he is Tabifa. And might I say you look so pwetty today.”
Tabitha smiled a wicked smile.
“Isn’t she sweet! At least she has taste.”
Mel’s eyes rolled again. She was trying to defend herself or appeal for mercy, or maybe both, but she was so inebriated she wasn’t able to. Marcus said nothing throughout. His gaze remained fixed.
“Can we please just get on with this?” Dennis appealed. I sensed he was being careful not to sound too demanding.
Tabitha looked to Mel.
“He wants you to die. Isn’t that just charming?”
“If it were up to me, Mel honey, I’d keep you here for the rest of your natural life feeding you the shit straight from your own arse but business is business and I haven’t got time for a pet.”
“What if we just send her back?” Dennis suggested tentatively.
Tabitha disagreed, “And have the other side think they can just send people into my club and they will walk away? No. They declared war on us. It’s bad enough I have a fucking reporter of all things breathing down my neck.”
“I’ve had to drag Marcus in to oversee this mess and now…No! You know what? You have gotten me so pissed I need an herbal tea! Are you happy? Now I’m thinking about fucking tea of all things. Marcus, handsome, do your thing.”
Before I had the chance to react, Mel’s blood was spilled into the alley. Marcus took a sharp blade to her throat like an animal in a slaughter house.
I couldn’t give my position away. It was too late for the woman anyway. I had captured the whole thing though. I took as deep and silent a breath as I could.
“That was so satisfying I might not need the tea after all. Send the head to the Court House and remind that Judge bitch that I don’t mess around,” Tabitha was saying, as I retreated back into the club.
I was determined more than ever to get to the bottom of this. I had some pretty damning evidence that could see the whole place shut down, but before I did anything I wanted to speak to someone who could shed more light on what I was dealing with.
Ready to press on?
Volume 1 is free to read on Vivika Widow Online or download for Kindle by clicking HERE.
It was difficult to tell what time of day it was. The light didn’t shine in much from the outside of the club. TABITHA left me in the empty lounge room DENNIS had showed me to before. She told me to help myself to a drink and wait at the bar for her whilst she went about the club business.
I didn’t know what she had in store for me. She explained very little on the car ride there.
I drank and I thought about how much of mess my life had become after setting foot in Knock Knock. I don’t know how long it was – felt like hours, probably only minutes – until there was a playful tap on my shoulder.
I turned and was greeted by the first friendly face I had met in a while. She leaned against the bar casually. Her leather jacket shone under the dim light.
“You have had a bullshit time of it but the looks of things,” she commented. Her accent was strong. She wasn’t a native to Coldford. She came from across the seas in the Misty City known as BOURNTON. She was attractive, strong and athletic.
“I think Tabitha is going to keep me prisoner here,” I said in jest but I have to admit it was a very real concern.
The woman laughed. “I wouldn’t put that past her.”
It was then I recognised her. I had seen her before. A couple of times.
“You’re one of the dancers!” I stated. She already knew that of course but I had to have confirmation.
“The name’s Lydia.” She shook my hand warmly.
“Sorry,” I replied. “I didn’t recognise you at first. With …”
“Clothes on?” she finished for me. She laughed again and despite everything I laughed too. I wasn’t going to be able to bring Theresa back but at least it gave me time to deal with it all.
“Sam,” I told her.
She raised her eyebrows. “I heard who you are. You have caused quite a stir around here. You ought to be careful. You might ruin things for us poor girls who are just trying to make our way in the world.”
I shrugged off her comment. “I don’t know. I don’t think a girl with your particular talents would be held back much.”
LYDIA laughed. She dabbed my arm with good humour.
I was enjoying the beginnings of what was the closest thing I had had to a normal conversation for some time. It was nice to feel human again. Just when I was about to feel human enough again to carry on Tabitha appeared beside us. It was almost like she had sensed our merriment.
“I hope you’re not feeling neglected,” Tabitha said to me, completely ignoring Lydia.
“Not at all,” I replied. “Lydia and I …”
Tabitha finally did acknowledge her dancer. She was smiling but her grey eyes were as cold as winter.
“Don’t you have a set to prepare for?” she barked.
“We were just talking,” I spoke up.
Lydia sighed calmly. I admired how cool she remained. She leaned off the bar and turned towards me.
“Don’t worry about her,” Tabitha groaned, becoming impatient. “She isn’t worth shit unless she’s taking her clothes off.” The words were harsh and venomous but she said them like an old friend teasing. She waited, with her hands behind her back like a scolding teacher for Lydia to react.
Lydia smiled and shook it off.
“Oh honey, they may come here to see you but we both know I bring the thunder.”
“Oh really?!” Tabitha whined like a petulant child.
Before it could escalate any further Lydia stood. She turned back to me.
“Enjoy the show, champ,” she said with a wink. She dabbed my shoulder with her fist playfully.
When Lydia was gone Tabitha was shaking her head. She pulled me closer like I was one of her toys she really didn’t want to share.
She shouted across to Lisa, the blonde bar maid, who had just come in.
“Gin and Tonic,” she said. “This time don’t be afraid to splash a little gin in the glass.”
The bar maid nodded in agreement.
“Stay away from her,” Tabitha warned me, referring to Lydia. “That girl is bad news.”
‘That’s rich,’ I thought. ‘Coming from you.’
She took a sharp intake of breath and fixed her smile again. In some lights she really could seem quite endearing.
“What am I doing here?” I asked.
“We can chat about that later. You are under the protection of THE HEADLINERS now, so don’t you worry your handsome face about anything.”
She grabbed my chin and shook my head.
“Come with me. I’ll take you somewhere you can get comfortable.”
The way she said it made it sound almost threatening. I didn’t know who these Headliners were or how much I could really count on their protection or what they were protecting me from.
I wasn’t sure just how comfortable Tabitha wanted me to get. The thought made me shiver.
“I can’t stay,” I protested. “I have to get back to the newspaper.”
“Sure you can,” she said. “The DAILY isn’t going to blow up without you.” She must have imagined the Daily building toppling because she laughed to herself and sighed.
She started leading me up a staircase at the back of the club to where some rooms lay.
“It’s not like you have a home or wife to go to any more is it?”
As strange as it sounds – despite how cruel her words were – I believe she genuinely thought she was being comforting.
Her heels clicked in a rhythm as we climbed to the second floor. When I saw the corridor darken I hesitated. Her lips puckered as she smiled. Her eye brows raised.
“Don’t go limp on me now,” she said. “I promise I’ll be gentle.”
I took a step back. Now I was really confused as to what she meant by getting comfortable. She laughed. It was a musical, girlish sound that made her lose her front and seem more genuine.
“Come on. I’m giving you one of the best rooms.”
I continued on down the hall. She opened a door at the end to a large room with simple furnishings.
It was eye catching but not because of the aesthetics of the place. It was dark and smelled like the rest of the club.
It was because on the farthest wall hung a full sized picture of the Boss Lady herself looking elegant in one of her signature red dresses. I looked to the real her but she was in a daze. Her head cocked to one side, doe eyed like she was in the presence of some kind of pop idol. I don’t think anyone has ever looked at a loved one the way Tabitha looked at herself.
“Great picture, isn’t it?” she awed.
I frowned. I wouldn’t dare disagree.
She squeezed my shoulder.
“Anyway, you get settled in and if you need anything I’ll send one of my girls up.”
“Yeah, thanks,” I replied.
Tabitha closed the door over. I listened as her footsteps disappeared back down the hall. The large poster her stared back down at me knowingly.
A short time later I heard more footsteps. They weren’t the determined and self-assured steps of Tabitha. Nor where they the clumsy, over-eager steps of Dennis. They were quiet, quick. Before I had time to react something was slipped underneath the door. It was a phone.
There was a note attached that read ‘keep records but keep it hidden’.
I opened the door but whoever had brought it was long gone.
I would keep records. My time in the Knock, Knock Club was only just beginning.
Ready to press forward?
Volume 1 is free to read on Vivika Widow Online or download for Kindle by clicking HERE.
“Do you think he did it?” asked CPD officer JOEL HICKES, as he and his partner watched me nurse my weak coffee through the observation glass.
His partner, Delaney, snorted with derision. “Come on Hickes,” he snarled. “He woke up next to the body. He barely remembers getting home that night. It doesn’t take a detective to work this one out. He and the little wife had a fight. He stormed out to the club he keeps talking about, got loaded up, came home in a rage and shot her.”
Hickes still wasn’t convinced though. Something still didn’t add up. There was little blood so the body had been brought from somewhere else and laid in the bed. A man who killed in a rage wouldn’t go to that kind of effort.
“So, what happened?” he asked when he returned to the interview room. He had already asked me this same question one hundred times at least.
“I told you!” I spat with venomous frustration that probably wasn’t helping my cause. “The last thing I remember was that I returned home from the club and went to sleep. I don’t really remember getting home. I must have had one too many.” I knew that wasn’t right. I only had one but I didn’t want to bring the Knock, Knock Club into the frame any more than I had already, in case it made matters worse. “I woke up and there she was beside me… dead.”
The image of my dead wife will be forever etched in my mind. The cold stare, the haunting paleness of her skin. I couldn’t begin to grieve because as quickly as I had discovered her corpse lying next to me, I was whisked off to the Coldford Police Department and placed under the microscope.
With the finger of blame pointing in my face I couldn’t find a suitable excuse or explanation that would satisfy the wagging tongues of the town or the suspicious eyes of the CPD.
Hickes ran over the details again. The statement that I had made on arrival hadn’t changed by a single word. I was an innocent man after all.
“No!” I snapped. “It was Tuesday.” He was trying to trip me up but I know what I meant and I meant what I said.
Hickes’ stare narrowed on me. He could see tears begin to form in my eyes but I took a deep breath. I couldn’t begin to deal with what had happened whilst I sat under interrogation. My head began to spin with the information I was being dealt. Hicks continued. Perhaps he recognised the real pain I was in because his face softened.
“I know this is difficult but we need to be as thorough as possible,” he said. “The victim was shot. Do you own any guns?”
I shook my head. I couldn’t handle Theresa being referred to as a victim.
“What brought you to the Knock Knock Club the night before?”
“I’m following a story for my newspaper. It took me there.”
There was a knock on the door. Hickes looked at his watch. He frowned to himself. The door unlocked and his partner, Delaney, joined us.
He gave me a scathing look that was akin to his wife having told him he had lost his manhood, before leaning over and whispering something into his partner’s ear that I wasn’t supposed to here.
“You are free to go,” Hickes announced, standing and scraping his chair back.
I was confused. Subjects of murder investigations don’t just walk free. “But what about my wife? Don’t you want to ask me more questions? What about the investigation?”
I had never known anyone outside the canine community to growl but that is what Delaney did then. “Do you want us to keep you here?” he tried.
I shook my head. My whole body was trembling. In some feat of unconscious acrobatics I was on my feet and Hickes was leading me down the corridor towards the main entrance of the station.
“Someone has come to pick you up,” he was saying but I wasn’t really hearing any of his words.
I then figured the message had finally reached MADDY and she had come to help. It wasn’t until we reached the reception area that I finally returned to reality.
“He’s all yours,” said Hickes, but not to me.
A woman in a fitted business suit with her hair pulled back neatly and a pair of thick framed glasses was just finishing a text message.
It wasn’t until she stood and smiled that I recognised her. The burning expression, the smile with the gap that gave her a predatory appearance. TABITHA had been the one to come and collect me. She was the reason I was walking away so easily.
“About time too. How long were you planning on keeping him here?” She beamed an accommodating grin. “You’re a cruel man detective.”
Hickes turned to me and said, “We’ll probably have some more questions for you. We’ll keep you up to date on the investigation.”
I protested. “I think I should just go home.”
The detective laid a hand on my shoulder. “I’m afraid you can’t. It’s a crime scene.”
“He’s coming with me.”
Hickes addressed Tabitha. I couldn’t tell if they already knew each other or not. “I can’t have him going far.”
“Don’t you worry your little bald head detective. I’ll not let him get away.”
She wrapped her arm around me and we made our way out towards the street. She gave one last glance back over her shoulder and flashed a smile to the detective.
“He’ll be made to feel so comfortable he’ll think he’s staying in some fancy-smancy hotel. You have a great day now detective.”
Hickes smiled back. He even thanked her.
Detective Hickes had shown a great interest in the Knock Knock Club. Every time I mentioned it he had an almost ravenous look in his eyes. His part in the story would become apparent to me later but in the meantime, I was in the clutches of the boss lady herself. My story was going to blow wide open and more blood would be spilled before the end.
As we walked down the street she pulled the elastic from her hair and let if fall onto her shoulders. She pulled off the glasses and threw them aside. She looked more like the woman I met on my first visit to the club.
“Where is Madeline?” I stammered.
“My friend, Madeline. Where is she?”
“How the fuck should I know?” Tabitha shrugged.
“What are you doing here?”
Her lips stretched into a smile. “Saving your ass by the looks of things.”
“I was a suspect in a murder investigation. How the hell am I walking away right now?”
“I’m a fucking miracle worker that’s how,” she maintained.
“I was a suspect in a murder!” I repeated trying to comprehend how Tabitha could be so nonchalant.
“Were you guilty?” she stopped and asked.
I shook my head. “No.”
She shrugged again. “Then what are you wadding your panties for?”
She started to walk again but I stopped her. “Do you know who killed my wife?”
Tabitha turned to look at me and in that brief moment I saw something in her grey eyes. A human resided in there.
“She’s gone, Sam. Can’t change that. Maybe you should just worry about keeping yourself alive.”
Before I could press her further a car drew up beside us.
“Let’s get you somewhere safe, shall we?” she said.
I pulled back. “I’m not going anywhere with you until you explain what the fuck is going on.”
Tabitha raised her eyebrows. “Look at you getting all upset.”
The frustration of the last few days vented. “My wife was murdered!”
She turned towards the car. “It isn’t all about you, you know.”
I shook my head. This girl was unbelievable. “Then what is it about?”
“You are one lucky son of a bitch because I’m willing to help you. They call us THE HEADLINERS. My club is the perfect place to gain perspective. Come with me and we’ll get to the bottom of things together.”
I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had no one to turn to. Madeline must have still been out of town pursuing another story. Eric, my editor, would sooner see me on the streets than help me. I only had Tabitha to rely on and let me tell you, that was no great position to be in.
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Volume 1 is free to read on Vivika Widow Online or download for Kindle by clicking HERE.
After finding our home ransacked, Theresa decided to stay with her mother. She said she would be home the following afternoon. She pleaded with me to go with her but in desperate times, my job at the newspaper was important. Through the night I had been restless. I watched the quiet streets from my window until my eyes were burning. After falling asleep on the sofa for a few hours I left to meet MADELINE for lunch at the local diner. She was already waiting for me at a table by the window with a bowl of watered-down soup in front of her. An empty one left by the previous occupant had been pushed aside.
“Are you okay?” she asked as I sat on the booth bench across from her. She hadn’t seen me since the house breaking. She was filled with genuine concern. She had spent an hour on the telephone with Theresa the night before.
“I’m fine,” I said, not convincing anyone. “I don’t think they’ll be back.”
I tried a smile. Madeline shook her head sympathetically. A large middle aged, grey haired waitress with thick rimmed spectacles approached. “Just some coffee please,” I told her. She grunted and disappeared back to the kitchen to fetch the coffee. “She’s a charmer…” I commented.
“Are you sure you are okay?” Madeline asked again.
“I told you I am fine,” I insisted. “Unfortunately, these kinds of things are happening a lot these days.”
“Nothing was stolen though. If it was a robbery surely they would have taken something.”
“There isn’t much to steal at my place. We sold the best bits to pay the rent.”
“Theresa told me about your visit to the Knock, Knock club.”
“The woman I spoke to wasn’t much help.”
“What was her name?” Madeline couldn’t help but press like a reporter.
That evening I returned to the Knock Knock club. Perhaps my journalistic instinct was getting the better of me or perhaps I wanted to avoid the confinement of my empty home. Either way, there I was knocking on the door as the sign suggested. Dennis was the one to answer.
“Table for one?” he asked with an ironic smile. “Sometimes it is more hassle than it’s worth to bring the missus isn’t it?”
“I’m not staying,” I explained to him. “I just want to speak to Tabitha.”
“I shouldn’t let you in at all after the stunt you pulled the other night. Didn’t your mother teach you that it’s rude to barge your way into a lady’s room? Luckily for you, I hate to lose a customer.”
I tried to push past him. “I’ll be quick,” I said.
“Just a minute pal. Miss T isn’t here tonight.”
“Perhaps you can help. You manage this place right?”
Dennis raised his dark eyebrows. “I shouldn’t be talking to the papers.”
“Have you seen the mayor around?”
He shrugged off my question. “You see all kinds of faces in a joint like this.”
“Surely you would know the mayor of the city when you saw him,” I pushed.
Dennis’ expression softened. “When the lights go down they all look the same,” he said.
I stood my ground, refusing to be brushed off.
“I get it. You need to be quiet around here. I don’t want to cause anyone unnecessary hassle so the quicker I get some answers the sooner I can leave you to carry on doing whatever it is you do here.”
Dennis’ dark eyes widened. “You must have a death wish.”
“Why would you say that?”
“You say you don’t want to step on any toes and you have no idea just whose toes you are talking about. Let’s not stand around here talking about it though. Come in.”
The club seemed surreal lying empty. It was like the life had been drained from it.
“You have no idea the shit storm that would fall on me for talking to a reporter. Besides, Tabitha knows more than I do,” Dennis continued.
“Is this club hiding the mayor?” I asked.
Dennis laughed. “Not quite.”
“There is a connection here. It’s going to come out one way or another.”
“Don’t let the Knock, Knock club fool you. I mean I love the old girl like my own but she doesn’t look like much on the surface. Still you don’t want yourself caught up in what’s going on here.”
“So what is this about then?”
“We do whatever it takes to survive,” said Dennis matter-of-factly.
I knew times were desperate for the people of the city, but the way Dennis said it seemed as though there was more to it than that.
“I can keep your name off record if you tell me what you know,” I suggested.
Dennis shrugged his shoulders, unmoved. “It wouldn’t matter. You have no idea what they are capable of doing and how high this goes. You would be dead before anything got to print.”
It wasn’t the first time someone had threatened me to stay away from a story. It just made me bite down harder. Before it all got out of hand I admit I did think this was going to make one hell of a story.
I followed Dennis across the club. His lean frame was much taller than mine. He strode confidently with long legs. An older woman stopped him. She was dressed in a black dress and her raven hair was pulled severely back. She was the matron of the dancing girls and she had been an employee of the club since before Tabitha’s time. Her face was so thick with make-up it almost looked like a mud mask.
“She’s on the phone again,” she whined.
Dennis shook her off. “Not now Bette. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Bette was relentless. She continued pleading her case. “If your little whore is going to keep calling here I’m telling the Boss Lady.”
Dennis gripped both of her shoulders. He was clearly frustrated but he still spoke in a calm tone. “Listen, why don’t you tell T all about it when she gets back.”
Bette must have decided that it wasn’t such a great idea. Her expression changed from sour to fear.
“She just needs help okay. I’ll deal with it,” Dennis groaned.
Without another word the girl dashed off towards backstage. Dennis flashed me a charming smile.
He showed me to an empty room that appeared to be having some work done. He pointed over to the bar where Lisa – the blonde serving girl I met before – was playing a game on her phone. She looked up and beamed her pretty and engaging smile.
“I’ve gotta go,” Dennis said. “Tabitha told me to give you a drink and send you packing if you stopped by. I highly recommend you not be here when she returns pal.”
Dennis was ensnared by the club. If Tabitha wasn’t around I thought there was no point in me being there. I had hoped to nosey around but since there were few people in the club at that time I wouldn’t go unnoticed. By the sounds of how tightly Tabitha kept a hold on things, I doubted anyone would be willing to talk to me anyway. I could only count on Dennis’ support so far and that wasn’t much.
Lisa dropped her phone and hopped behind the bar.
“Nice to see you again sweetie,” she said.
Dennis nodded to her and disappeared deeper into the club to deal with the drama on the telephone. Lisa filled a glass with clear liquid.
Lisa is one of the smiling faces to greet at the Knock Knock club.
“How long have you worked here?” I asked.
“Oh long enough,” she replied.
“Do you like it?”
She shrugged her shoulders and giggled. “It pays the bills.”
I lifted the glass and sniffed it. There was no real detectable scent.
“What is this?” I asked.
Lisa tipped a wink and beamed. “It’s on the house is what it is honey. We don’t give much away for free in here you know. You may as well take it whilst it’s going.”
She was right about that.
I took the glass and gulped the liquid down. It did taste like very dry gin with little life left in it.
Lisa waved me off.
“Bye bye!” She called. “Come back later when we’re open. It’s sure to be a real hoot.”
Tabitha clearly hadn’t told her what I was.
The drink rested warm in my belly. As I left the club behind me and made my way from the ominous dark alley to the bright lights of the street I actually started to feel quite giddy. By the time I reached my home the giddiness had given way to haziness.
I fell in the door, barely able to hold myself upright. Theresa was home. I hadn’t expected her. Before I could question her I felt myself fall over. The last thing I remembered as my vision clouded was her terrified expression as she looked down at me.
The next morning, I awoke to a thundering headache. My mouth was filled with cotton. Slowly I came back from the land of nod into the land of reality. The questions that plague us every morning queued up like always. ‘Where am I? What has happened?’ I realised quickly that I was at home in my own bed. The sun was streaming through the window so I guessed it was around noon. As I turned I felt a heavy object beside me. The haze in my eyes cleared. I felt Theresa beside me. I shivered.
“I don’t know what happened last night,” I said. “I must have had way more than I should have.”
Theresa didn’t respond.
I looked beside me and that’s when I saw her. Stone cold dead. A bullet wound from an expert shot in her forehead.
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So I admit, I gave it more than a second thought. Holding the card tightly between my fingertips wondering, ‘Who is this woman and what does she know about the mayor?’ Then there was the club – The KNOCK KNOCK Club – that I had been invited to. I had never heard of it before but the story on the mayor was leading me to some strange places.
“Why don’t we go out and celebrate my new job?” I suggested to my wife.
She was apprehensive. “No SAM,” she returned. “I’ve had a long day. Can’t you see how exhausted I am?”
“Maybe getting away from the house will make you feel better?”
She shook her head and pursed her doll-like lips.
“You always do this!” she slapped my arm impatiently.
I took her in my arms.
“Fine, we’ll stay here.”
She looked back at the living room. She must have decided getting away from the house was a better idea after all.
“Where will we go?”
I raised my eyebrows and offered a wry smile. “I hear there is at least one club open. I may even be on the guest list.”
Theresa slapped my arm again, playfully this time. She managed a smile. “That isn’t funny Sam!”
I put my arm around her. “Don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to me. But I have to chase this story. It could mean big things for us. Unless you’d rather stay here?”
Theresa shook her head. “No, I don’t want to be home alone again.” She started to sob.
“I’m sure you will find that it was all for nothing. She probably just has some information on the Mayor.”
Theresa hesitantly agreed.
As I washed and freshened up I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of club the Knock Knock Club was and what I would find there.
Around 8pm, Theresa and I drove through the sun scorched streets. The summer looked as though it was nowhere near ready to give up the fight. There weren’t many people out though. The Shady City looked like a ghost town. The address for the club was in the South West, in an area known as The Shanties. The Shanties was the most deprived part of the city. It was normally over-crowded and the streets full but, on that night, it was like a ghost town. Mayor Feltz had helped in draining it of the last life it had.
“I want go home Sam. I don’t think we are going to find that club,” Theresa said.
I was just about to agree with her when I noticed a brazen neon sign flashing deep within an alley. ‘The Knock Knock Club’. Perhaps it was my own apprehension, or maybe empathy for my wife’s concerns but I found myself asking, ‘Are you sure about this?’
Theresa gripped my arm. “You are just going to ask some questions right?”
I smiled and sighed, the nerves fluttered in my chest. I was never this nervous of a story. Perhaps it was because Theresa was with me, but as we approached the heavy door I hesitated. The main street seemed a long way away. The door wasn’t particularly welcoming for a night club. The sign above offered a light humming noise as the bulbs committed tirelessly to their duty.
A man stood outside. He looked as though he was waiting for someone, leant against the wall like a school boy hiding from the teachers. When he saw us his expression changed from boredom to excitement in an instant.
“New faces,” he cheered.
“Is this the Knock Knock club?” I asked. It was a stupid question given the sign but I had to confirm.
His stare lingered on Theresa. She smiled back at him girlishly.
“The name is DENNIS,” he told her. “I’m the manager here. You just let me know If you need anything.” He took her hand and kissed it. “It’s always nice to see new faces.”
‘Yeah,’ I thought to myself, ‘as long as they’re women.’
Dennis pushed the door open and the music from the club flooded out on a wave of excitement from the patrons.
With a flick of his wrist a scantily clad young girl dashed over to Dennis’ side.
“A good table Lees,” he requested. The girl, blonde haired with a large beaming smile nodded.
“Sure thing,” she said. “Follow me hon.” Theresa gave one final glance back at me and headed into the darkness.
I made my way to follow her but Dennis put his arm out across my chest and stopped me.
“Not so fast buddy.” He flicked his fingers. “Invitation?”
I passed him the invitation with a glare and headed on in.
Lisa – the serving girl – offered us a menu each. They were simple, black with the name of the club on them. My menu was sticky and well used. There was a stage as the main focus of the club. The band was deep in their music. The chorus girls were dancing around in a parade of sequins and feathers. The Knock Knock Club was actually so homely it would be pleasant if the brick work walls didn’t make it seem like a prison. Theresa was still nervous. She kept turning back to look towards the door. We ordered some food. It wasn’t fine dining but it was effective none the less.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” the voice of the Knock Knockers band leader boomed over the soft playing. Most of the room looked up from their conversations and gave him their full attention – including my wife and I. “Welcome to The Knock Knock Club. It has now come to that part of the evening that we all love. I know it’s my personal favourite. Please welcome on stage – Knock Knock’s very own Boss Lady”
In a rush of drums and wind instruments, like the welcoming flag parade of a queen, the man rushed from the stage. The spotlight caught a very striking woman in its clasp. She was met with a thunderous applause. She was accompanied by two bare breasted dancers.
She started to sing. Her voice was sultry but strong. The red dress she wore flowed perfectly across her modelesque body. When she smiled I noticed a gap between her front teeth that gave her a charm that she knew how to wield.
I turned back to Theresa. Her already pale face had drained completely of all colour.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
She reached her quivering hand out and pointed to the stage. “I don’t want to stay at some filthy show Sam!” she screeched. “You shouldn’t have brought me here.”
“I just have to find out who it was that came to speak to me today.”
I turned back to the stage. The Boss Lady was singing a melody with a touch of old school cabaret. The drum beat was reminiscent of a military march. Her red dress glinted under the stage lights. Her voice was a pleasant tone, soft and warm like honey.
Theresa remained frozen in her chair, staring at the Boss Lady, complete with appreciative calls from the crowd.
Dennis walked by so I stopped him.
“I need to speak to the one who owns the club,” I told him. “It’s urgent.”
Dennis narrowed his gaze on me but his handsome smile remained. He leaned over and pointed to the stage. “You’re looking at her pal,” he explained.
“Come on Dennis!’ cried one of the other patrons inviting him to a card game.
“Don’t worry my man. Just deal me in,” he replied over the music.
He turned back to us.
“Enjoy your evening folks but I wouldn’t go bothering her,” he said. His voice sounded different. His expression was softer.
A woman approached him and called something Into his ear. He put his arm around her and headed off to his card game.
Theresa stood. She threw her arms up in exasperation.
“Where are you going?” I asked, trying to grip her arm.
“I’ll wait for you outside!” she spat. “I’m not interested in this filth.”
I gave a glance back at the stage and the woman in red looked down on me knowingly. Her smile stretched before returning to her audience for the last piece of her song.
I was surprised that no one stopped me as I slipped backstage. At the end of a long hall, carpeted in a sticky well-used black, lay a door with the name TABITHA on it. I assumed it to be the Boss Lady’s dressing room. I knocked.
“Come in,” came the same silken sound to match the singing.
I pushed open the door. The cabaret singer was looking into her mirror so she turned to face me.
“You are very lost, my man,” she said. A smile formed. Her chestnut brown tresses flowed over her shoulder. Her lips were still painted a bold red. “Unless you are a waiter and bringing me the drink I asked for you shouldn’t be in here.”
“I’m Sam Crusow,” I said with some severity. “I am a reporter for the COLDFORD DAILY.”
“Then you really, really shouldn’t be in here,” she replied unmoved.
“I’m following the story on the mayor. I just wanted to ask you a few questions.”
“I wouldn’t talk to a rag like the Daily,” she said with a smile. “It’s pages aren’t worth putting down for a dog to piss on.”
I remained calm. “I was told the mayor was a regular here. Did you hear anything about where he might be going?”
Tabitha was still amused at her own jest about the paper. “Lot’s of people come and go here Scott. It’s hard to keep track of them all.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “What ever.”
“I would like to ask some of your staff some questions. Maybe they saw something you didn’t.”
Her smile widened. “I wouldn’t hold much hope on that.”
I pressed, “surely you would know the Mayor of Coldford has been here more than once. Surely you would notice such a high profile regular?”
She rolled her eyes. “I think when you are as naughty a man as Jim Feltz was, you are bound to make some enemies. It doesn’t take an ace reporter to crack that one.”
I noted that she referred to him in a past tense.
“Did you know him personally?”
She flicked her legs over and leaned back on her chair. “Not exactly.”
“How do you know he was a naughty man as you say?”
She gave that honeyed laugh again. “It’s not exactly a health spa I run here. The people that come here are looking to be discrete. It isn’t the kind of place men bring their wives.”
I thought of Theresa standing outside waiting on me so I made to leave.
“I have to go but I’ll be back. I hope you can give me some insight into what goes on around here. It could help trace the mayor’s last steps.”
“Discretion Mr reporter,” she said. “My clientele wouldn’t be happy if they found out I was advertising in a newspaper. It’s bad for business. I do have one question for you though.” She stood and drew closer to me. Her hands clasped behind her back. “This club is by invitation only. How the fuck did you get in?”
I kept her gaze. “I’ll come back,” I repeated. “Perhaps if you remember something it will help. I’ll keep your name off the record. Miss T is it?”
“If you are going to come visit me in my dressing room how about you just call me Tabitha.”
“My wife is waiting outside but If I come back will you give a statement? Will you answer some of my questions?”
“Pop quiz. You’re all about the fun.”
I turned to leave but she stood and pulled me back.
“I look forward to seeing your handsome face around here again then. Apparently we just let anyone wander back here these days,” she said.
As the door closed behind me I heard Tabitha’s voice.
“You are so fucking gorgeous!” she cheered. It seemed she had turned back to her own reflection.
A woman was wandering down the corridor. I recognised her as the topless dancer that had been to the left of Tabitha during her performance. The dancer smiled in acknowledgement as she passed me, as though she wasn’t almost as naked as the day she was born. It was no holds barred at the Knock Knock club and that was just the beginning.
I managed to catch up with Theresa just outside the club. She was laughing and talking with Dennis.
“Is everything all right pal?” It was Dennis who spoke first.
“Fine,” I replied coldly.
Theresa linked her arm around mine and brought herself close to me. She still seemed to be a little shaken but the night air was cooling and it did some work in taking away our cares.
When we arrived home we found our door lying ajar. We both stopped suddenly.
“Wait here!” I instructed, leaving her and venturing into the house to assess the damage.
The door hinges were broken. The furniture overturned. Upon initial inspection it appeared that nothing had been stolen. Someone had been just trying to shake me up. What was clear though, was that whoever it was, they were relentless.
Theresa followed me in. She cried when she saw the mess.
“What have you done Sam?” Theresa cried.
That was a damn good question.
Ready to press on?
Volume 1 is free to read on Vivika Widow Online or download for Kindle by clicking HERE.
Mayor Jim Feltz gave a lot to the city. Coldford was a demanding mistress though. It had earned its nick name as the Shady City not just because of the gloomy weather but because everything was there for the taking for anyone who wasn’t hindered by morals or conscience. Jim was such a man.
Whilst the city’s funds depleted he squirrelled away as much as he could. There was a war brewing on the city streets and he was damn sure he wasn’t going to get caught up in it. Things were going to implode soon. It was only a matter of time. The regeneration projects he had promised during his last campaign were halted by the LAW MAKERS in the city. The poorest area known as The Shanties had been left worse off than they ever had been. The Tradesmen of the city were fighting back.
People in high positions – people he considered friends – had pilfered the money away leaving those lower on the ladder high and dry.
As the class war raged it left no money for the expecting mothers the mayor swore he would help. School budgets were cut to compensate for any losses caused by riots and looting. Only the exclusive Alban’s Boarding School managed to weather the storm.
What did it matter? When campaign time came again he could blame the opposition. He was just dealing with the mess they had left behind. Half of the city would believe it and the other half wouldn’t care either way. But he was done with all that.
“Will you be home on time?” Sylvia Feltz asked her husband as he prepared to leave. “We have the Weirs coming to dinner,” she added. “I need you here.”
The plan to leave everything behind had been in the works for weeks. The day had finally come. He had enough money to start over now. When the finances of the city finally tumbled like a house of cards and the war spilled onto the streets he would be out of the picture. Sure his family would have to face the music at first but they would get out of it cleanly for the most part.
His eldest daughter, Lacey, kissed him.
“I’ll be by the office this afternoon,” she said. “We need to go over a campaign plan.”
Lacey was her father’s daughter in every sense – so like him she was. She had gotten involved in his political career right from the beginning. The day he announced he was running she was by his side. She had aspirations on becoming the city’s first female Mayor. She had a naïve view of politics though. A certain lack of compassion was required despite what many might argue. She would learn that soon enough.
He stepped outside of his building. People were becoming irate so he kept his security close. His silver town car wasn’t waiting for him at the entrance of the building as it always was. He trusted his driver, Shane. He was nothing if not punctual. He looked at the security guard he was assigned. He was expressionless with hands clasped on his stomach. His cold stare was masked behind spectacles. He recognised the man’s face. He had been with him before. His name was Marcus. He wasn’t a security guard all. He was one of Penn triplets who owned the AUCTION HOUSE. The car pulled up before he could ask him his business. Mayor Feltz looked at the door of his car. something had gone awry.
His heart increased the tempo of it’s beat as MARCUS PENN reached over and opened the car door. It was really happening. The car pulled close but Shane in the driver’s seat was covered by tinted windows. Marcus leaned over and opened the door. The mayor made to climb in but he hesitated. A woman was sat waiting for him. She shifted over and patted the seat beside her.
“Don’t be shy,” she said.
Her ruby lips curled into a pretty smile. The collar of the grey coat she wore was pulled up around her neck. Marcus pushed him in and sat beside him.
“Isn’t this cosy?” she remarked.
He tried to control his breathing. He called upon every political stoicism he had in the hope he didn’t look worried. The sweat gathering on his brow didn’t lie.
“What do you want?” he asked.
The woman looked out of the tinted windows and watched the city pass by at greater and greater speeds.
“I just wanted to give a proper farewell,” she replied. “Surely you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye to little old me?”
Fear erupted inside him. He didn’t care that he would be leaping from a moving vehicle. He clutched for a door handle but Marcus snatched his wrist and twisted it causing the bones to crunch together.
“Let me out!” he cried.
The woman laughed. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We’re not going far. The city wishes to thank you for your service.”
Her name was TABITHA and he should have known there would be no escaping.
The car stopped. The driver opened the door. It wasn’t Shane after all. It was a woman. She wore a plain white blouse and simple black trousers. She had a familiar face but he couldn’t place her. If he paid more attention to the people he threw money at he would recognise her as the scantily clad girl who spent some glorious time on his lap during his last visit to the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB. He had paid her extra to finish the job but that was all but a distant memory.
Tabitha stepped out first. They had parked outside an office block in the business district of City Main not far from his home in the North Side. Marcus pushed the mayor out onto the street.
He was escorted into the building. Tabitha was in front of him and Marcus loomed behind to make sure he wasn’t going anywhere.
Tabitha said nothing as they climbed the steps. The mayor was sobbing. Each time he thought they had reached the end of his torture they had another floor to climb. They finally reached the top. Tabitha fished a key from her coat pocket and unlocked the green door that greeted them. The Beckingridge Tower could be seen standing tall across the street.
“Your daughter wanted to say good bye.”
His youngest daughter, Amber, was tied to a table. Her arms and legs spread. She had been stripped to her underwear. Jim moved to run to her but Marcus grabbed him with great clenching hands and pulled him back. The room was empty save for a chair, a large machete blade that leaned against the wall and the table that held the seventeen year old girl. Amber’s mouth was covered but she was screaming. Her eyes were wide and terrified.
The BECKINGRIDGE FINANCIAL FIRM are one of the largest organisations in the city and had been for generations. When tensions rose between the north and south of the city the firm became collateral damage. The office across the street had remained empty ever since the FREE FALL MASSACRE. Fifty nine people lost their lives when several benefactors and staff fell from the balcony of the penthouse suite. No one dared take over the space again.
“Leave her alone!” The mayor cried desperately. “She’s done nothing to you.”
Tabitha clutched his face and rested her chin on his shoulder.
“You have really pissed me off Jim. You think you can abandon ship just like that? I have to take it out on someone.”
“I wasn’t leaving. I just needed time to think. The Law Makers are pushing me more and more. I could come back and be of more use to you.”
Tabitha slid her hand into his pocket and pulled out the flight reservations. She looked at them and dropped them on the floor.
“You see,” she said, “the thing is, I would love to believe you. I really would. This is a one way ticket though.”
“Let her go,” the mayor sobbed. Tears were rolling down Amber’s face. “I’ll pay anything.”
Tabitha shook her head. She stood up straight. “It’s not about the money,” she stated. “We have that already anyway. This is personal now.”
She sat across his lap and kicked her long, slim legs out.
“A girl could be insulted with a man running out on her like that. I thought you liked my little club.”
“I do,” protested the mayor of Coldford.
Tabitha grinned. There was a gap between her front teeth that gave her a quirky, girlish quality.
“Let’s see how much then, shall we?”
With a nod to Marcus he swung the blade and cut her left hand. The sharpened blade swiped through flesh and bone with ease. Her screams of agony were muffled by the cloth over her mouth.
Her father screamed too. He didn’t have time to gather himself when Tabitha pointed again for Marcus cut off her other hand.
“You’ve made your point!” said Jim. “Let her go!”
Tabitha gave a raspy laugh. “And miss the chance to see Marcus at work? The man is an artist, isn’t he?”
The mayor tried to push against the binds. Tabitha was on her feet again. She walked over to the table and took the blade from Marcus.
“I will give you a choice,” she offered. “Since your girl is going to die anyway I can either continue cutting her up into little pieces or just end it now for her. What do you want me to do?”
The mayor sobbed. “Please just leave her.”
“I didn’t quite catch that.”
“End it,” the mayor cried louder. “End it for her.”
He had averted his gaze unable to see the pained look on his youngest child’s face. Her eyes were hazy. She was going to pass out from the blood loss soon.
“I will if you tell me I’m pretty,” Tabitha teased.
“Just kill her! Just kill her now! Please!” the mayor roared.
Tabitha’s grey eyes widened. “That is your daughter!?” she gasped. She grinned. “You are a nasty piece of work Jim.”
She lifted the blade and centered it on Amber’s forehead. Before the point penetrated her skull there was a flash of realisation on Amber’s face.
The mayor cried. He knew he was playing a dangerous game but never would he have thought it would come to this. He was leaving his life behind for sure but not in the way he had intended.
Tabitha dropped the blade, circled behind him like a predator and began massaging his shoulders.
“Well Jim, we must dash. You know what it’s like when I’m away from Knock Knock too long. Well … Well it can be just murder!”
Times have been desperate for the people of Coldford, better known as the Shady City. Once upon a time executives now reduced to rummaging through their neighbours’ trash to find a meal. Many are hunting for shelter wherever they can find it – like stray cats. Their once well tailored suits now hanging in rags. It’s surreal to see once proud captains of industry reduced to the indignity of soup kitchens. Nowhere to go, no means of rising back up to their ivory towers.
My name is SAM CRUSOW. When the depression hit, two industries were saved – entertainment and news. People always need to know what’s happening in the world and people always need an escape from their reality. Luckily for me I’m with the latter. I have been a freelance journalist ever since finishing college. As the financial belt tightened it was harder and harder to get a full time position with a news paper so I (and most of my colleagues) went from story to story just trying to make it. Most of my stories sold to the biggest newspaper in the city – COLDFORD DAILY.
I thought I had managed to successfully navigate through the choppy waters of recession until the day I discovered that beneath the harsh surface lay a more terrifying truth. But I get ahead of myself. I write these notes so that everyone can know the truth. Chances are I will be gone by the time you read this. I am on borrowed time as it is.
It began just as summer was breaking. We were experiencing one of the warmest spells we had had in quite some time.
The Mayor – Jim Feltz – had disappeared without a trace. That morning he had kissed his wife, a voluptuous and formidable woman named Silvia, and his eldest daughter, Lacey, goodbye. He straightened his power tie in the mirror and made his way to wade through the city’s financial crises, which if you were to believe the tabloids were largely his fault. Normally he would have been escorted to the office by security of some kind. The citizens of Shady City, riled at the very sight of the Mayor, only made matters worse. However, that morning he never arrived at his office. Making his way down his street in his luxury silver car was the last anyone saw of him. Some of the neighbours remembered hearing loud music blaring from his open windows as he passed which was most unlike the buttoned down, conservative man that he was.
I had been covering the story as it developed. This meant I had been spending more time at the offices of the Daily. The Daily was the only source of news on the mayor by Mrs Feltz’s request and being area’s largest newspaper. It was also the provider of food on my table. Hiring freelancers had been their way of protecting themselves. It meant that they were only paying for the material they needed, without any full time mouths to feed.
I never liked Mayor Feltz. I certainly didn’t vote for him. As I pursued the story I uncovered gambling debts and a mistress at the far end of town. He must have been quite the charmer. When I interviewed his mistress she told me that he was planning on leaving his wife (which is probably what they all say). On the morning he disappeared he had been planning to visit her. They were going on a trip together, which is why he had wanted to be discreet. The mistress, Cindy, had waited for him for most of the morning in her lavish apartment that the city coin had paid for. She flipped between anger and worry as she did. By two in the afternoon the police swamped her, acting quicker for such a public figure than they would have for any ordinary citizen.
Neither his wife, his mistress nor his gambling associates could offer the police any idea as to where he went, so on that warm morning I made my way to the stretch of tower blocks that housed the newsroom in the North Side. My mind was occupied by ways I could spin the same story or offer a new angle.
Close to the office the clang of metal bins falling over drew my attention. From behind the cans crawled a man. He was young, filthy and with a mop of thick hair. Like many of the others forced to live on the streets. He sat with his back against the wall and brought his knees to his chest. His eyes were dulled by the effects of alcohol. He held a core of an apple and made breakfast of it. Sights like these were shocking when the recession first hit but they became more common and so you no longer noticed. The mighty had fallen and the rest of us became desensitised to their plight. I gave him what coins I had left. With very little I could do to help him, I entered the tall grey building with the large towering sign on top that read ‘Coldford Daily’.
The newsroom was hot and thick with the smell of coffee. Full time reporters had become scarce but those of them who did remain in work dashed back and forth trying to perfect their articles. Nothing quite so stimulating as a looming deadline. The brown leather satchel that I always carry my articles in was dropped on an unoccupied table. I rested at the desk, drew out my notes and began to review them. I had to ignore the hum and chatter around me to focus on the words.
“Hey Sam,” came the voice of MADELINE LOWER. I looked up and briefly acknowledged her presence with a smile. Madeline and I had been friends since college. She too was a freelance writer although she would admit her stories weren’t selling as well. I don’t think my writing was any better than hers, its just that the editor, Eric Waddle, was a bit of a chauvinist and what articles of hers he did accept were probably grudged.
‘Maybe if I slept with him he would change his mind,” she had said. She was joking of course but everyone had their motives in Shady City so it wouldn’t surprise me.
Madeline was an athletic woman in her late twenties. Her shoulder length brunette hair fell loosely around her shoulders. Her skin was a warm caramel colour like she had come from a sun kissed land. Her pale blue eyes were sharp and feline. That morning she wore a white shirt and a plaid skirt. She sat herself on the edge of my desk with the leap of feminine grace. “Waddle was looking for you,” she informed me. “He told me to kick you into his office as soon as you got here.”
“Thanks,” was my reply, still absorbed in my reviewing. I brushed my auburn hair away from my face. I was always pale but in those days of hard work I was even paler. I gathered my strength. Discussions with Waddle took a lot of energy. He was the kind of man who didn’t talk to you but talked at you.
“You look like hell,” Madeline commented – ever the crusader for honesty. “Go see what he wants and I’ll get us some coffee.”
Madeline slipped off the desk and made her way to the farthest end of the newsroom where the fresh coffee was being brewed.
I knocked on the door of the editor’s office. I could hear Eric’s voice inside having a one sided conversation which suggested that he was either conducting a telephone call or some journalist was on the listening side of a hostage situation. I pushed the door ajar slightly. I caught a glimpse of Waddle standing behind his desk. His back was to me. He had a black telephone receiver placed to his ear. He heard me as I stepped inside because he swivelled round, smiled and waved at me, gesturing me to sit down.
“I gotta go, sweetheart,” said Eric. “If I hear anything I will let you know.”
I took the seat across the desk from Eric, laying my papers on top. Eric Waddle was a tall man. He had a thick beard and always wore a long, black pony tail.
“That was Silvia Feltz,” he informed me even though I hadn’t asked. “Poor thing is still in shock. Trying to piece together what happened. Jim and I go way back and even I had no idea what he was up to.”
“I have nothing new really,” I ventured.
Eric reached his heavy hand across pulled my papers towards him. “It doesn‘t matter. People can’t get enough of the story. They’re swallowing it down like buzzards and coming back for more.”
“I think I’ve spoken to everyone he ever met. That is everyone but you…” Eric had been quite adamant that he not be included in any of the articles but I didn’t become the reporter I was by not chancing my luck.
“I have nothing to say,” Eric snatched up a glass bottle filled with whiskey and poured himself a generous share into a square shaped glass by his hand. “I asked you to come here because there is something that I wanted to talk to you about.”
“As you know, times are tough. We can only handle the best which is why they want you Sam.”
“Want me for what?”
“I’m talking about full time,” Eric said. His face beamed with excitement.
“I don’t know what to say,” I stammered.
“Say yes!” he bawled before emitting roars of laughter. “These kind of opportunities aren’t easy to come by these days.”
I stood. My actions became subconscious. “That is a great offer. I am very grateful. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, just do what you do best,” Eric dismissed, downing his glass of whiskey in one single gulp. The bottle was probably less expensive than the MACK AND SONS brand he was used to but decent alcohol was becoming increasingly difficult to come by. “You don’t have to be hanging around here all day. Go home and tell your wife the good news. You can start fresh tomorrow.”
My wife, Theresa, had studied journalism too. In fact that’s where we met. When Theresa and I married she gave up a career. Her mother blamed me for this but the truth was I had been the one trying to discourage her from doing so. Theresa didn’t want to take any chances on a writing career when housewife was the most stable job to be had. I never corrected my mother-in-law as to whose decision it had been to give up. She already hated me anyway. She thought me too self absorbed to be a suitable husband for her daughter. Her concerns weren’t completely without merit. When I was caught up chasing stories I often missed what was happening to the people closest to me. Theresa would be excited though. I couldn’t wait to tell her the news.
I was out of breath by the time I got home, my heart beating forcefully with exertion and excitement. The drums of anticipation rattled in my ears. I fumbled for my keys in my pocket. I leaned against the door as I reached deeper into my pockets. As I did so the door fell aside. It was very unlike Theresa to leave the door unlocked even when she was at home. She was a cautious little thing and home invasion robberies were happening a lot in our neighbourhood on the South West Side.
Our humble home was a small, one bedroom terrace amidst an array of similar granite buildings. What separated ours from the rest was the addition of an emerald green front door. Green was my favourite colour and it matched the shade of Theresa’s eyes. I called for my wife but there was no response. Heaps of blankets lay across the worn brown sofa which kept us warm without any extra cost. The scent of baking apples danced from the kitchen. Theresa had been baking apple pie which she always did when she had had a rough day. The kitchen was a direct off set from the living room. I found Theresa in there lurched over the cooker. She was weeping heavily. Her mousey brown hair was uncombed. When I pushed the swinging door open she gripped a knife that was close at hand. She stumbled backwards emitting a frightful shriek.
When she saw it was me she dropped the knife, ran at me and threw her arms around my neck. She didn’t ask why I had come home so early. It was I who asked the questions.
“What happened?” My heart was now beating to a completely different rhythm.
“I wasn’t expecting you so early,” she said. “A woman was looking for you.”
“What did she want?” I asked.
Theresa gathered her wits. “She gave me an invitation to a club.”
“And who was she? What was her name?” I enquired, assuming it to be someone I had been questioning on the Feltz story.
Theresa shook her head. “She didn’t say.”
Theresa wandered into the living room and dropped herself amongst the blankets. “She told me that this story on the Mayor could put you in danger. She said you were getting involved in something you shouldn’t.”
I sat beside her and put my arm around her shoulder. “That’s all nonsense, I promise.”
Theresa shuddered. “She gave me this …”
She gave me a black business card. On the front read ‘Knock Knock Club’ with two finely shaped female figures on either side. It was an exclusive club in town. A club I would visit that night and my life would be changed forever.
Ready to press on?
Volume 1 is free to read on Vivika Widow Online or download for Kindle by clicking HERE.