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Knock Knock: Episode 23: Reg3 online

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled in agreement and took another photograph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Independent for now,” I explained.

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

“If you don’t mind,” I urged.

She smiled and waited as I held my phone.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

“Reggie!” Marcus barked. “Stop.”

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

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

“Reggie!” Marcus barked again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you taking me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paulson lowered his head but his grip on Reggie tightened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

“Hurry,” he said.

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

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

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

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

“For the king,” he said. “Now run.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They both looked at each other and laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do either of you have a phone?”

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

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

Before Reggie could answer two CPD park officers approached them.

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

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

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

Carl pulled the attention from the Penn triplet.

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

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

Reggie lowered his gaze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Take it easy,” warned the other officer.

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

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

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

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

“I’m…” Reggie started to explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks.”

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

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

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

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

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

Reg 3 Online it confirmed.

He opened the chat log.

NEED HELP. CAN YOU MEET ME?

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s in the back pack?”

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

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

Doyle narrowed her gaze.

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

Cameron agreed, “Yes, mum.”

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

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

“Reggie?” he enquired delicately to make sure.

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

“Cam? Good to meet you finally.”

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

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

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

Cameron frowned. “Why would you go there?”

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

Cameron passed him the provisions he had collected.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

BOURNTON – FILTON – FULLERTON BRIDGE – CARDYNE MAIN – KINGSGATE

Reggie groaned in despair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you going to The Boss?”

The driver looked perplexed. “The Boss?”

“Yeah, you know, Coldford Correctional?”

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

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

Cameron shook his head.

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

Reggie enquired, “How much?”

“Is it a return?”

“Return?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hop on,” the driver instructed.

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

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

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

#amreading #knockknock #graphicnovel series by @VivikaWidow


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eugene stood and he too was examining the skeleton.

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

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

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

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

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

Eugene didn’t seem convinced but he said nothing.

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

Eugene nodded. Winslow clasped his hands together.

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

“Yes?”

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

“You okay, Sam?” she asked kindly.

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

“I’ll be fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, Sam,” she said.

She turned to Milo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, ma’am,” replied Olivia.

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, ma’am,” he said.

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

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

“This is Sam Crusow,” Olivia introduced me.

Doyle narrowed her gaze on me.

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

“No,” I admitted. “Not right away.”

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

“Good luck Uncle Micky,” Cameron had said.

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

The Sergeant Major had torn the cape from him.

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

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

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

Cheers. Applause. Respect. Appreciation.

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

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

Excellent start.

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

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

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

Give a few moments to absorb the applause.

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

Good use of word choice.

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

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

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

A Hot Seat isn’t occupied long.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Milo!” she called. “It’s on again.”

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

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

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

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


Enjoy this?

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

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

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

JUSTICE FOR TABITHA. 

FREE OUR QUEEN.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lydia giggled as I tried to hold the phone steady. 

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

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

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

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

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

“See ya!” was her cheery sign off.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Checking out.”  

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

“What’s the name?” she asked.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other brothers laughed.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*** 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddy stopped.  

”Thanks Chad,” he said. 

”Got your back, brah, ” Chad replied.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will Buddy,” she replied again dutifully.  

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

Buddy pointed to the door.  

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

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

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

Harsh headlights came charging towards her like a bull.  

WHAM! 

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

SMASH!  

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

*** 

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

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

Paddy Mack and his brother Kieran were among them.  

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

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

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

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

“Yer fecked now,” Kieran Mack cheered.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He raised Belta. Buddy’s sordid life flashed before his eyes. The drugs, the whores, the chaos.  

“I believe, sir, your quarrel is with me.”  

Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen arrived on scene, fresh from the Filton University spa. He had come as a matter of urgency. His shirt still hung open.  

“Leave the boys alone,” he ordered.  

Buddy had never been so glad to see his pops. 

“Bobby Owen,” the elder introduced. “This is my Chapter House you are trespassing upon and I do not care for the intrusion.”  

Reginald remained stationed. Buddy watched Belta swing from his hand like a hypnotist’s time piece.  

“If you are saying you are in charge then we have a problem,” Reginald warned.  

Bobby shook his head. “Your hooligans will not find what they seek here.”  

The elder Owen was surrounded by Loyalists. They took him into custody but Bobby didn’t resist. 

“He’s an old man,” Paddy protested but it did little good. With two of his boys contained within The Boss, another missing and now word spreading that the Owens had taken a good friend of his, the Penn father was intent on blood.  

Bobby Owen was pushed to his knees before the king.  

“Your maniac children belong behind bars. It isn’t afore long. You will join them soon enough. Your friend? I have no idea where she is and I care not. She and her lying whore of a niece are a stain on this city that needed to be wiped clean,” said Bobby.   

Reginald growled. Paddy clutched his arm. 

“Reg …” he warned but Reginald shook it off.  

Reginald took a deep breath.  

WHACK!  

The first blow of the chain sent Bobby Owen onto the grass. Loyalists lifted him back onto his knees. Already his consciousness was waning.  

WHACK! WHACK!  

Some of the brothers cried out seeing the skull of the God among them reduced quickly to a bloody mess. None of them saw fit to try and help. Paddy Mack turned away. Kieran laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. 

Reginald gasped, catching his breath again.  

WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! 

The highly respected Bobby Owen, the one the people of the Great States sang songs of, was dead. His blood dripped from Belta’s fangs.  

“You are an Owen, ain’t ya,” Reginald hissed at Buddy. “What’s your name?”  

“Buddy,” the Chapter leader replied, trying not to look at the body of his dead grandfather.  

“He’s the son of The Cappy,” Kieran Mack confirmed.  

Reginald swung Belta as he gave it some thought.  

“Get me a phone.”  

One of the loyalists passed a phone to their king who in turn threw it to Buddy. The KSO brother didn’t make a move to catch it. It bounced off his chest and onto the grass.  

“Pick it up,” ordered Reginald Penn.  

Buddy obeyed. He clasped the phone in a trembling hand.  

“Get your father on the phone. We need to talk,” the king proclaimed.

 

*** 

“Mr Owen’s office. How may I direct your call?” the secretary’s light voice answered.  

“Put me through to The Cappy right away,” said Buddy, still on his knees, still with a wary eye on Belta clasped tightly in Reginald Penn’s hand.  

“May I ask who is calling?” the secretary asked. She seemed distracted by something that was going on in her office.  

“It’s Buddy, you dumb bitch. Get The Cappy on the phone now.”  

“Oh Bernard. I’m so sorry. I didn’t recognise your voice. You sound a little different. Is everything okay?”  

Buddy was losing breath and losing patience. “Tell my father I’m in a bind. It was a phrase Buddy had been taught as a youngster. It would let his father know immediately he was being coerced.  

The secretary fell silent. Reginald scowled at Buddy.  

The secretary rang off. Within seconds the phone screamed a reply in the form of a video call directly from Chick Owen.  

“Answer it,” Reginald ordered.  

The screen opened to show the face of Charles ‘Chick’ Owen. He was in his office in the Great States and aggrieved at the disturbance. Buddy’s words to his secretary had placed him on alert.  

“Buddy?” he asked initially. “Are you hurt?” 

“No,” Buddy replied. “Pops!” The screen was turned to the battered and bloody corpse of Bobby. Reginald snatched the phone from Buddy and addressed Chick directly. The Cappy’s gaze burned through the screen. 

“I was wondering how long it would be before you reached out, Mr Penn.”  

“The old man didn’t have to die. My hand was forced. All I ask is that you hand over Tawny.”  

Cappy raised an eyebrow. “Who?”  

Reginald snarled. “You know who she is and word has it you know where she is.”  

Chick Owen remained calm. “If you are referring to the bar clown who owned the Knock Knock Club then I am somewhat familiar but as for where she is…her current location alludes me.”  

“You talk shite!” Kieran spoke up. Reginald turned to him with a warning stare. Kieran stepped back.  

“You have her and if you hurt her it’s going to be the last thing you ever do,” Reginald warned.

 

The corner of Chick’s upper lip raised. “You take the word of some junked up artist? I thought you were much smarter than that. I heard the rumours too but I challenge you to find any foul play in my Chapter House.”  

“If I find you are lying more of your blood will be shed.” 

Here Chick smiled but it was icy. “You realise we do not recognise any monarchy here in the Great States, self proclaimed or otherwise.”  

Reginald gripped Belta tighter. “This isn’t the Great States. Welcome to fucking Coldford. Have I made my point?”  

The Cappy raised his chin. “Loud and clear.” He reached over and closed the call. The screen fell to darkness.  

*** 

The night chill was setting in. It was sobering. The high Buddy had felt earlier was but a memory. He believed he had never felt so sober. The city was behind him. As they headed north they must have taken a wrong turn on the way to Owen Estate. The true north they called it. It was an expanse of farmlands and empty space. His feet were cold and wet as he and his bros skipped across open fields. None of them had the energy to complain anymore, except Buddy whose irritability was driving him on.  

“That son ‘a’ bitch is gonna pay,” he growled. “Him and his three stooge sons. Fuckin’ triplets. That’s fuckin’ weird.”  

Cooper stopped him.  

“We’ve taken a wrong turn, Bud. Where’s the estate?”  

“How should I know?” Buddy returned with a groan. “C’mon Coops, I’m freezing my balls off just as much as the rest of ya.” 

“I saw a barn about a mile back,” Chad stated. “Maybe we can rest up there and find out where we are.”  

Suddenly beaming lights spotted on them with a booming noise as though the Lord himself was laying down judgement. A voice echoed through the blinding shine.  

“You are trespassing,” it said. It was a deep voice, a man’s voice. It had the bounce of a Bournton accent.  

How far north had they come, Buddy wondered. 

“In these parts we have permission to shoot.”  

Buddy made a move to step forward. The crack of a gunshot warned him to stay where he was.  

Buddy reached his arm up to shield his eyes from the beams.  

“My name is Buddy Owen,” the Kappa So leader spoke up. He was at the end of his tether by then. “I’m having a really shitty night, brah,” he sobbed. “My pops died. One of our whores is in pieces in the street. We had to walk here all the way from City Main.” He was almost sobbing then. “I lost my golden cock!”  

Cooper laid a comforting hand on Buddy’s shoulder.  

Silence fell. Two men walked towards them; their frames silhouetted in the bright light. One was a large burly man with swept back blonde hair. The other was shorter, dark hair and a long face. The both wore shirts with a Harvesters logo.  

The smaller one looked to his companion.  

“Did he just say he had a golden cock?”  

*** 

“I’m Glenn,” the blonde one explained. “You are on Harvester Farm.”  

Buddy whined, “I just want to go home, brah. I was trying to get to Owen Estate. It’s my family’s place.” 

Glenn still didn’t seem so sure.  

It was Cooper who made their plea next. “Dude,” he said. “We gotta get some help. We gotta get some clothes man. We’re freezing our asses off.”  

Buddy turned to Chad. “Will you stop flicking your dick? I can hear you tap, tap, tapping away.”  

Chad lowered his head. “Sorry, Bud.”  

“What do you say, man? Give a bro a break here.”  

“What the fuck was that about a golden cock?” asked the other farm hand.  

Glenn scowled at him. “Leave it, Curtis.”  

The one named Curtis shrugged.  

Glenn sighed. “Follow us up to the east acre. I’ll see what I can do.”  

Grateful for the sanctuary Buddy and his brothers followed the truck deeper into Harvester Farm. Curtis spun the wheels throwing mud onto the the already distressed brothers.  

Glenn laughed and punched his arm.  

“Leave them,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot. He said his grandad died.”  

Curtis shook his head. “The spoiled little cunt seemed more upset at losing his golden cock, whatever the fuck that was.”  

Glenn laughed again. “Let it go.”  

The brothers skipped across the gravelled pathway, yelping at the pain in their feet but they were presented with a large farm house. A light was on in the lower floor.  

Buddy beamed as he made his way towards the house. Glenn pulled him back.  

“Oh no you don’t,” he said. “None of you go anywhere near that house. Do you hear?’ 

“Yeah I hear you, brah,” Buddy relented. ”I need a phone,” he pleaded. “I need to call my dad. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Chick Owen? They call him the Cappy.”  

Glenn shook his head, not really listening. “I can’t say we’ve met.” He pointed towards a barn. “Take your brothers to the milking sheds. It will be warm enough in there. I’ll get some blankets and clothes to you.” 

Buddy’s powder high was well and truly gone by then and every pain in his body was magnified. The stench of the farm was already giving him a headache.  

Holding himself up on the fence, Buddy led his brothers to the milking sheds. Curtis was waiting on them, holding the door open.  

“MAAAH!”  

A scream ripped through the night breaking the solemn silence of the brothers.  

WHAM! 

Buddy had a blow to the side as he was knocked away from the fence he was trying to hold himself up on.  

“What the fuck is that!?” He yelped with despair.  

Sharp horns and small, glowing eyes charged at the fence again.  

WHAM! 

The fence rattled.  

“What the fuck is that!?” Buddy asked again, almost in tears.  

“It’s a goat,” Chad explained calmly taking a look over the fence at the animal beyond. “A Pygmy of an old Hathfield breed by the looks of it. Genus Caspar aegugrus.”  

The brothers were now staring at Chad, perplexed.  

Chad Perry was the heir to the Perry Zoo chain. Despite that, being a frat brother, it could be assumed his university degrees had come from special treatment. However, Chad had actually learned quite a bit about his field of zoology. 

“MAAAH!”  

WHAM! 

“Well do you know how to shut that god damn thing up?”  

“MAAAH!”  

“Fuck you, brah,” Buddy screamed at the animal. He stuck his leg through the fence to try and kick it but it skipped away. “You son ‘a’ bitch. You better run!” He yelled but this leg was caught. He tried to pull himself free again but fell into the mud. 

“Aaaah!” He screamed in frustration. “This night sucks dead dong!”  

Cooper helped Buddy up.  

“C’mon bro. They’re watching us.” 

As Glenn had said there was a warmth to the milking sheds. Having grown up on Owen Ranch the bros looked to Buddy as their authority on what to do next. All their leader could do though was kick over a bucket. Forgetting he was bare footed the pain rang through his toes.  

“Medic!” he bawled.  

A short while later the shed door opened and a woman came to them carrying a bundle of blankets in her arms. Buddy’s eyes lit like the beams from the trucks. A beautiful woman, firm bodied, healthy. Her brunette hair was tied back, serving to highlight her shining blue eyes and soft, naturally rosy lips.  

“Welcome to Harvester Farm, boys,” she said. “I’m Julia Harvester.”  


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Music teacher, Vincent Baines, let his obsessions get the better of him when he met his wealthy new pupil.

Artist, David Finn, thought he had found an inspiring new muse. Instead he found himself in need of rehab.

Coming 2020.

What do a disgraced music teacher, a failed artist and an old show girl have in common? They are all residents of Harbour House.