Trial day five. I didn’t want to find myself there but, like some morbid car crash, I couldn’t help but take a closer peek at the carnage. I was at the COLDFORD CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT. Quietly and discretely Detective HICKES arranged for me to see the BOSS LADY, still held at CPD whilst her trial continued. I had passed AGNES in the hotel I was being held at but since she was also under police escort she could only offer me a pleading look. I thought about what Agnes had told me, so I started to look into some of the trouble TABITHA had been accused of when she was just a girl.
In order to get to the truth, I had no choice but to look into her cold, grey stare and ask her for her honest account of events. She had fought off a rapist as a child, she had stopped her parents selling her into a paedophile ring and she had watched her beloved aunt reduced to incarceration at HARBOUR HOUSE, but none of it gave her licence for what she did in response.
The KNOCK KNOCK club protected the innocent but it also brought carnage. When Hickes gave me entry to her holding, she was still wearing the confident expression she had when I first met her. The events that had occurred through the trial, the prospect of a death sentence that the LAW MAKERS were still fighting for, hadn’t completely removed her bravado.
“Well, well,” she said. “Look who finally decided to show up?”
I took the seat across the table from her. Anger and frustration was boiling over from everything that had happened to me since we first met. “I’m surprised you actually wanted to speak to me. The last time I asked you for an interview you told me nothing. I believe your words were, ‘your newspaper is a rag,’ ”
Tabitha laughed looking to the ceiling, as though remembering her comment made her chuckle all over again. “Well, circumstances have changed. I adapt to suit.”
“My friend is dead because of you,” I chastised her. “Why should I listen to anything you have to say?”
Tabitha frowned. “You mean the reporter girl? Mandy?”
“Her name was Madeline!” I snapped.
Tabitha was unmoved. “Whatever,” she replied. “Did I stab her though?”
“No but you gave her the opportunity. You caused it.”
“Did I stab her though?” She asked again. “As far as I saw it, you got a creepy killer look in your eyes and you went at her.”
I stood then. I had heard enough. “Officer!” I banged on the door and called to Hickes, “I’m leaving.”
Tabitha’s bravado dropped then. She reached out to grab my arm and hissed, “Sit down. Don’t get excited. You should be thanking me. The recording of her attacking you first is the only thing keeping your ass out of the room next to mine.” She grinned. “Wouldn’t that have been cosy?”
“Tabitha…” I warned like a father to a wayward child.
“Fine, maybe she wouldn’t be dead if she hadn’t put her nose in. She could have at least discussed it with you though. Not so much as a, ‘isn’t this weird Sammy? Why are we here in our undies Sammy? What does that gorgeous woman in red want with us Sammy?’ Nope, she was cold. I didn’t do that to her. This city did. I may have put the knife in her hand but she was a girl who knew what it takes to survive. At least she thought she did. It turns out you survived anyway so calm the fuck down. I have to be honest; I had hinged bets on you being long dead by now. REGGIE was rooting for you though. Bravo on proving me wrong. So you live to fight another day.”
I stopped her before she started rambling. “They are going to send you away for a very long time. As well they should.”
“I hear they are looking to have me executed. They wouldn’t have been able to if it weren’t for you sneaking about my club, aided by that rat-faced bitch from BOURNTON so the way I see it we are even, right?” TABITHA returned. “And I hope you are going to explain to the triplets’ dear mother that her precious boy is going down now too because of you.”
I folded my arms and shook my head in exasperation. “You expect me to have sympathy for MARCUS PENN?”
Tabitha shrugged. “I suppose not. He can be a bit of a prick.”
I needed to push forward. “Say what you have to say to me. I can’t stay here. I’m already risking a lot.”
Her expression changed then. There was something softer, something child like behind it. “Since you insist,” she began. “Yes, I murdered my parents but you cannot tell me that people willing to sell their daughter to a bunch of fucking pervos deserve to live.”
“They should have been reported to the authorities,” suggested I.
“Oh come on. You heard it from Aggie,” replied the Boss Lady with a laugh. “My Aunt Tee was sent away from Judge Cyclops’ court. They wouldn’t listen. So she took it into her own hands to let the city know how much of a creep Jerry Owen was. It turned out I wasn’t the only one he had tried it on with. There were hundreds of victims between Coldford and the Great States. This all must have happened when you were clearly living in a cave somewhere.”
This was news to me. I was only vaguely familiar with the OWEN family arriving in the city from the small suburb of JAMESTOWN where I grew up. The Owen propaganda machine had went into full force when the Knock Knock Club, led by the BARONESS, started making trouble for Owen Inc. on behalf of Tabitha and the other girls, so very little of the story reached public ears.
“So then what happened?” I pushed as though a reporter back on the story once again.
“Conveniently and surprising no one, my Aunt Tee’s petition to take me away from it all was refused. They should have just let me fucking go but those filthy Owen pricks play dirty. They had so many politicians, cops and lawyers in their pockets it didn’t matter what happened; they came out smelling like roses. Every one knew those roses were fertilised by bullshit but they were too afraid or too handsomely paid to do anything about it. They offered Aunt Tee money. She refused. She still wouldn’t stop calling them out so they burnt the whole fucking club down.
The Knock Knock Club was used to shelter the victims. Then it became a shelter for other victims of abuse, victims of corruption. Yes, the club isn’t exactly the Weir Hotel. Tits and booze and good times, but when you attract the filth of the city it gives you the chance to keep a closer eye on them.
Aunt Tee had a reputation in the Shanties. They loved her. They still do. She and Agnes did a great job but it was never going to last. Those dirty cunts attacked the club. They shot some of the dancer girls, some of the MACKS and even dear old Jack. He was just a compere for the club. What had he done? Just because he was on Knock Knock’s bill. He was an entertainer. He had nothing to do with anything. There was nothing I could have done. I hid out at Dennis’ for a while. Then when he started his shit it reminded me of why I was needed, why the Knock Knock was needed.”
I waited until she had finished. I listened quietly and noted her changes of tone, her true anger and outrage surfacing at the mention of the Owen name. Her true affections surfacing when she mentioned her aunts and even the old club emcee and the dancer girls.
“I’ll tell your true side of the story. I’ll make sure the public knows what you have told me today. It will be up to them to them to decide what to do with it.”
She shook her head and groaned. “Oh my God, with your holier than thou bullshit. Haven’t you been listening? Do you even know who owns the newspaper you work for?”
“You’re not suggesting …”
Tapping her skull she said, “Yes, fucking Owen Inc. Even without a gagging order down your throat they will never let you print anything that sheds light on how evil they are. Didn’t you think it strange that the mayor of the city went missing and the only outlet his wife would let report on it was the COLDFORD DAILY? It certainly wasn’t because of the high journalistic standard; I’ve read some of your shitty stories. Perhaps Madeline should have won the stab off. I’m sure she wasn’t as much of a naïve retard as you are.”
She must have realised she wasn’t going the right way about encouraging me onto her side. She changed her tone slightly. “The Owens wanted to keep the story running through their newspaper so they can control every little detail and get a closer look at what little old me was up to. Why do you think you were even in Knock Knock in the first place? You were an Owen stooge.”
“So what do you propose I do with what you’re telling me?” I asked her.
“I don’t expect you to take what I’m telling you in good faith. Whilst their focus is on me it gives you the chance to do a little digging. Speak to OLIVIA PLATT, Dennis’ ex-wife. She means well and had many Owen victims come through her office as a social worker.” That soft look came over her again, almost human behind the mask. “If you do find her and Milo is with her be discreet. He’s just a kid. He doesn’t have to know how much of a prick his dad is.”
It was a quiet night in the oldest part of town. Elmslie Court in KINGSGATE was taking a breath of cool night air. Micky Doyle had called around to his cousin at three that afternoon. The day had fallen into night. He and Karyn still discussed the spate of attacks that had occurred around the city, including an explosion at the Weir Hotel in City Main as well as the attempts on Karyn’s life. Before they knew it dinner was served.
“That’s why we need to take the hot seat and clean this city up,” Micky concluded. The reference he made was to the mayoral office in Coldford, at an intimidating building called City Face due to the large clock it bore.
Karyn was in complete agreement but given the danger she was in and Micky’s mentor – Derek Gainor – losing out on the election to Jim Feltz they had to be careful.
Feltz had declared himself a friend of the south and a saviour of the Shanties. ‘Regeneration; Rejuvenation; Rehabilitation’ was his campaign promise. At the time the Coldford Express had called him a hope for the south. The chronicle went with ‘a breath of fresh air.’ The Coldford Daily was in support of his competitor. I remember writing a profile piece on Derek at the time. But like many, Jim Feltz felt the heat of the hot seat burn too fiercely. With Tabitha warning him to make good on his promises and Owen Inc. looking to push their own agendas with the might of the north behind them he panicked. He used city money to appease his northern overlords and tried to run before Tabitha and her Headliners found out. When AMBER FELTZ, the mayor’s youngest daughter, came calling at the Knock Knock Club she confirmed her father’s intentions.
“When election time comes around again I’ll be ready,” Micky said over the soft tapping of silver ware on fine china plates.
“If you are going to run for office there is just one thing you should be wary of,” Karyn warned.
The darkness had crept on them so subtly through their discussions that when Cameron switched on the lamp in the corner the light was wild and harsh. It took some time for eyes to adjust and the light to settle into smooth warmth.
“The business with Reverend Owen,” she went on to explain. “It will be brought up if you make a move for City Hall.”
Micky cocked his head as he watched Cameron move vegetables around the plate. “It’s already a problem,” he said. “If I can get on the hot seat I can shut them up for good.”
“Tread carefully,” warned his cousin.
“Do you believe what they say about him?”
“Not without any verifiable evidence, no. What I’m saying is that it will cause a political minefield and so you will tread carefully.”
Cameron looked up and his eye caught something moving outside.
“Mum?” he said. “I think there is someone at the window.”
He looked to Micky who frowned in confusion. Micky looked back over his shoulder to the window behind him. Karyn was already on her feet. She strode to the window and glanced out onto the lawns. Through the glare of lights Karyn could see a man lying out on the perfectly kept grass.
Karyn and Micky went outside. Cameron followed close at their heel.
A blonde man in a priest’s collar stirred. He was mumbling something to himself but the words were nonsense.
“What’s wrong with him mum?” Cameron asked.
Micky looked to his cousin. She was observing the figure in great detail. She was remembering every tortured wrinkle on his face, every detail of his dress, and the smell of his breath and the position of his body for future reference. Her lips tightened.
“Do you know him mum?” asked Cameron.
“Help him up,” she ordered. “It’s Jerry Owen.”
Cameron grabbed the priest by his left arm and Micky took the right. As they eased him gently onto his feet he gargled. Drool leaked from the left corner of his mouth. Blood ran down his face.
“Wait,” Karyn’s voice snapped into the night. “Stop.”
She reached up and brushed his hair back to reveal a hole had been drilled into his skull by someone who intended on rendering him dumb but didn’t necessarily have the medical know how. His genitals had been removed.
Karyn growled. Cameron looked to Micky again. In the pocket of the priests shirt was a note written in a childish scrawl.
A cure for a pervo.
I took care of it myself.
“Get him inside,” ordered the Judge. “I’ll call for a doctor.”
So many had come forward with accusations against Jerry Owen thanks to the efforts of the Baroness of the Knock Knock Club – Tabitha’s Aunt Tawny – but there was no evidence, no medical reports and no police findings.
When Jerry’s elder brother, Charles ‘Chick’ Owen, found out he requested that he be given the chance to take care of the situation.
“Little kids? Shit. If I had the sick fuck I would castrate him myself but he’s one of my own, and you don’t go against one of your own on the word of some fucked up little bitch and her boozy clown aunt,” said the eldest Owen, better known as the Cappy, to Micky.
To The Judge he said, “My son, Buddy, has taken over the Kappa So Chapter House. He’s a little erratic at times but he may be just what you need. I’m sendin’ him ova. He’ll make himself useful to you.”
There was no evidence and no confirmation but Judge Doyle knew who was responsible for Jerry Owen’s crude lobotomy. She also knew who had ordered the attacks on her, the recent surge of slander stories in the press about the Owen’s that they had to close down quickly, and the Freefall Massacre. It all resonated from the newly reopened Knock Knock Club and soon the Boss Lady of said club would be made to pay for all of it.
Judge Doyle promised to break the Knock Knock Boss Lady and she will start by removing those closest to her.