A woman, middle aged, frizzy haired and full figured is brought before me. She is smiling despite her surroundings. She has an unlit cigarette in her hand. She knows she’s not allowed to smoke in the office but she clutches it for comfort. Behind that smile is perhaps a little nervousness. She is Tawny McKinney better known by some as The Baroness. She’s an old show girl from the Knock Knock club in the Shanties and if you had told her she looked nervous just a few short years ago she would have dismissed it with a laugh.
Interviewer: So how are you feeling today, Tawny?
Tawny: I feel good. Better than I have done in a long time.
Interviewer: That’s good to hear. You’ve settled quite well into the routine here. When you first arrived you were mute.
Tawny (laughing): Some people would say having me shut my gob was a good thing!
Interviewer: You were brought in here as a trauma resident. Do you feel you can talk about what happened that night at the club?
Tawny (laughing again but now nervously): You really want to hear about that?
Interviewer: It’s why I’m here. I’d like to hear your own perspective on it.
Tawny: A lot of people got hurt. A lot of people lost their lives.
Interviewer: It was a horrific attack.
Tawny: Yeah those bastards!
Interviewer: I’m not here to discuss the cause of the attack or the motives of the attackers. I would just like to help you open up about what you saw and how you felt.
Tawny: They were like family to me. How do you think I felt?
Interviewer: I think you feel somewhat responsible. Is that correct?
Interview terminated. Resident 0109 becomes hysterical and requires porters and nurses to calm her. Interview will continue when she is in more of a state of mind to face the reality of her trauma.
#amreading #thriller #harbourhouse2020 by @VivikaWidow
A beautiful and rich area of what is for the most part a Shady City. Time Line main is filled with boutiques, high class coffee houses and most importantly jewellers and diamond merchants. The notable Bergman family have been housed there for generations. It is a vibrant area for all corners of the city to flock to and acts as the main access to CITY FACE. When you walk down Time Line Main in the early morning when the traffic is quiet and before the bustling visitors have flooded the area you can hear the noise of the City Face clock.
TICK BOOM. TICK BOOM. TICK BOOM.
Although it is expensive to spend any amount of time there and rental prices in the area are some of the highest in Coldford it is still a highly sought after for tourists and Coldford natives to capture photos. A series of images titled TIME STANDS STILL by photographer DANIEL WEIR were awarded the Penn Photography Prize.
It is called Time Line Main because from the foot of the street which begins at the entrance into City Main lies modern stores such as Coldford City Sports stores and Rose Diamond but as you reach further you fall back in time to the golden age of diamond trading with the Bergman store until you reach City Face itself, one of the oldest pieces of established Coldford’s architecture.
Out Now. Daniel had turned his back on his life as the heir to the Weir Hotel empire in City Main. Sometimes its just hard to run from your true calling. His music teacher boyfriend, Vincent, knew that well and it led to those he loved being hurt.
Coming 2020. Despite its close proximity to the rest of the City, rehabilitation clinic Harbour House seems a world away. It seems the only way to get back to normality is to completely detach from it.
Kieran is the eldest Son of MACK AND SONS brewery. However, his age didn’t make him the natural successor of his father, BRENDAN MACK. Instead the distillery will pass to second born son, PADDY. The reason for this is that of his brothers Kieran is the most erratic. He has shirked responsibility for as long as he can remember and truthfully he too agrees that the lead of the distillery should fall to the more capable son.
The Macks had their reserved table at the Knock Knock waiting for them when a long hard day at the distillery had drawn to an end. Kieran would be especially excited when he heard favourite Knock Knock girl would be on hand. They called her Big Diane (or Double D) and her party trick was being able to serve drinks from underneath her large breasts. For Kieran’s 25th birthday THE BARONESS had treated him to having Diane use her breasts to break water melons on his chest, Kierans favourite part of the party piece.
That’s not to say that Kieran isn’t without his merit. The Mack and Sons form such a tight unit because of their loyalty to each other. Kieran may be the first to cause a headache for them but he is also the first there on hand to help when trouble arrives on Love Street. He will follow Paddy’s lead to the death if need be and should anyone believe he is a weak link in the Mack chain they would be mistaken. Brimming with the Mack spirit of fighting to the end Kieran may let his mouth run away with him most times but he will not go down without a fight.
It is no secret there is a strong bond between the KNOCK KNOCK club and theMACK AND SONS brewery. The Macks have supplied the booze and the club supplied the entertainment. For Kieran the bond was stronger than that. For him it was an extension of an already large family. As his father always told him, “yer an eejit but yer family and family is what is important.”
The Mack and Sons reserved table was filled. An attack on the Knock Knock club would leave the rehab facility HARBOUR HOUSE picking up the pieces.
In the largest office of the Law Makers, adjacent to the COURT HOUSE, dwelled a figurehead that loomed over the city like a great vengeful deity. JUDGE KARYN DOYLE. She began her career as the youngest district court judge in Coldford history and the first woman to sit on the Children’s Services Committee. She was a pioneer in a lot of ways. Justice was always her objective but what did that mean? On the face of it, that meant wrongdoers were put behind bars. People like TABITHA and the HEADLINERS wouldn’t be tolerated in her city and she would stop at nothing until satisfactory justice had been served. Justice is a set of scales though. They had to weigh up and balance. Therefore, justice was also seeing families made homeless because of unpaid rent. Justice was tearing families apart because fathers didn’t have work permits. Justice was punishing someone for fighting to protect him or herself. Justice was having a young girl’s underwear on display because some depraved rapist took advantage of her. Justice could see a rich, powerful family using their influence to protect them from slander. After everything I’ve seen in the Shady City, nothing surprised me. Justice, however, was supposed to be blind. Cold facts and evidence were supposed to be the deciding factors. Tabitha had committed some horrendous crimes and she would pay for them, but how would those scales of justice weigh up against her? Would justice even listen to the truth or would the sight of the red dress and an unrelenting attitude blind them? Tabitha wouldn’t break easily. What worried me was the extent the LAW MAKERS, who had her in their grasp, would go to in order to make sure that she did. Justice loved breaking down those who would not follow her laws. She fed on it. Tabitha deserved punishment but who else would come to harm in the process? For the time being she still had two well-polished fingers held up at them and she taunted. “You know where to find me. Come and get me.” There was nothing they could do. There were rules to follow and what was justice without rules? But as AGENT LYDIA, relieved of her under cover duties at the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB and her supervising partner AGENT KIM climbed the steps of the Law Makers office the rules were about to change.
Chaos already had the attention of justice. When chaos is allowed free roam, mistakes can be made. BERNARD ‘BUDDY’ OWEN grinned. He was from an extremely powerful family who hailed from the Great States. Their influence in the Shady City was growing by the day. They arrived in Coldford with the luxury of money and pull. Hand in hand those things are often used to fill the scales of justice. Give a little money, a little politics and you find the scales never weigh against you.
Judge Doyle spat. “There was a little girl shot dead in the Shanties and there is talk that Kappa So was responsible.”
The little girl she referred to was Sarah. I had tried to take her from the club and mistakenly return her to the father. The truth was the little girl’s father, Kevin, had been selling drugs provided by Kappa So – a fraternity group founded by Buddy’s family generations before through Filton University. Kevin had become nervous. He revealed he was willing to speak to CPD but before he could he and his daughter were gunned down. Dead bodies littering the street through violence was not an uncommon sight in the Shanties but what caught Judge Doyle’s attention was that the shots had been delivered on both with pin point accuracy. The Owen’s had a reputation for being natural marksmen. They learned to handle guns on their many ranches from an early age. It was said that an Owen was handed a pistol before they were given their mother’s breast. Buddy in particular was so at home with gun in his hand it was a more like an extension of a limb.
Doyle took a seat at her long, mahogany desk. The room smelled of fresh polish. The office was a wide space, steeped in shadows. It was unwelcoming. A cold draught circulated. The Judge had a clear view of the world from behind that desk.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. He was still grinning, remorse lacking.
“It was a hit from someone who knew how to handle a gun.”
Buddy’s grin widened. His square set jaw tightened.
“I will keep my ears open for the culprit ma’am.”
Doyle surveyed him. The grin fell from Buddy’s face.
“If I do find out you were responsible Bernard, there will be consequences,” asked Doyle. Her voice was steady but the threat underneath weighed heavy.
Buddy softened. “If it was one of ma boys ma’am I will find out.” he insisted.
Doyle raised her chin. “See to it that nothing like that happens again. If I hear any more of drugs, violence or assault through your Chapter House I will shut it down.”
Buddy relaxed his shoulders and stood straight. “Yes ma’am.”
A buzzer sounded. Doyle answered the call from her secretary.
“Agents Lydia Lowe and Kim Adams are here to see you ma’am.”
“Send them in,” the judge ordered. She addressed Buddy. “You, get out of my sight.”
Buddy obliged. Before he reached the doorway she called him back. “And Bernard, there will be consequences for the death of that little girl,” she warned.
As he opened the door he came face to face with the two agents. Lydia was astute. She sensed the tension between Buddy and the Judge. Buddy held her gaze
“Bernard,” barked the Judge again. “Eyes on the exit.”
Buddy pushed past. The agents entered the office of the judge and the door closed behind them.
The agents stood before the large desk. The Law Maker symbols on the pillar behind her felt like the eyes of Gods watching. Judge Doyle remained silent until Buddy had cleared the room.
“Congratulations on your success,” the Judge broke the heavy silence. “I hear she is now in custody.” She referred to Tabitha, Boss Lady of the Knock Knock Club.
Kim responded, “Yes, ma’am. We have also taken the Penn triplets into custody.”
“A job well done then,” stated Doyle coldly. The mother of the triplets, Rita Penn, didn’t take much to do with the running of things ever since the father of the triplets, Reginald, left them the Auction House. It was their chance to bring order to both the Shanties, home of the Knock Knock Club, and City Main, the area that housed the Penn Empire.
“Agent Lowe,” the judge turned her attention to Lydia. “I will expect a full report by tomorrow. We need to move things along quickly whilst we can.”
Lydia nodded in agreement. “Yes, ma’am.” Lydia knew better than most how much of a slippery fish Tabitha could be so time was of the essence.
“The Bailiffs will take it from here but I do have a specific request for you, agent.”
Lydia looked to Kim first then back at the Judge to wait for her instructions. “I have issued a gagging order on the reporter, Sam Crusow. I can’t have him talking to anyone about what happened until trial is fixed. Am I correct in saying you formed something of a bond with him? You were the first to recover him from the club and you testified to his innocence in the death of his colleague, MADELINE LOWER.”
“I had a little chance to talk to him. Getting him on the inside is the thing that gave us what we needed to bring Tabitha in. She pitted his colleague against him and he defended himself. He’s a good man.” Lydia spoke warmly on my behalf.
Doyle pursed his lips. “Good man or not, reporters are dangerous. There will be enough fuss to shut out from the press because of this and I can’t have someone with his insight at large. He is a key witness and as such I want you to stay close to him. For his own protection of course and to make sure he does not under any circumstances violate my order. You have a rapport with him. Keep him calm and keep him safe.”
Lydia agreed, “Yes ma’am.”
So the agent was tasked with being by my side. As trial was set and events continued to spill out I would be glad to have her close by me.
As they stepped outside the Court House into the warm afternoon air Lydia felt ill at ease.
Lydia expressed her concern to her mentor.
“Something is a bit off about this,” she said. Her instincts were telling her something was wrong but until more motives revealed themselves she couldn’t quite put her finger on what that was.
Kim agreed. “I know, pet. Just keep your eyes open.”
“Tabitha will use any trick she has to get away,” added Lydia. She had seen some of the extents the Boss Lady had been willing to go to to get her way.
Kim shook her head. “Then let’s hope we’ve delivered her to the one person in the city who can put her away for a very long time.”
Judge Doyle was already aware of the questions that were formulating in my head. For example, where did this bad blood between the Boss Lady and The Judge first begin?
“Case file 03300347,” announced the clerk.
The room was almost empty. A woman sat at the back holding two boys close to her. Tabitha watched them. One of the boys looked up and managed a small smile. Tabitha returned with a similar gesture. None of the family looked like they had slept much in days. Their black skins were lack lustre and the mum’s eyes were blood shot.
“Case file 03300347. McInney. Step forward,” the clerk ordered.
Aunt Tee patted Tabitha’s arm. “Alright honey, it’s now or never.” She shuffled from the pew they were sat in, a few rows in front of the family. Tabitha waited patiently. A cold draught blew around her with her aunt’s curvy frame removed. She had been staying at the Knock Knock Club for the past few weeks. Her parents were of course furious, but they didn’t care enough to retrieve her. TAWNY, the old Baroness of the club swore to her that she didn’t have to go anywhere. Not at least until they had had their day in court.
Tawny saw that her niece was nervous that morning so she tried to fill her with confidence.
“It’s all about creating a good impression,” said the aunt. She held a pair of old spectacles to her face. “Business woman,” she pulled them away. “Gal on the go.” She put the glasses to her face again. “Business woman.” She pulled them away. “Party girl!”
Tabitha had giggled. Her smile calmed Tawny’s own nerves.
Before she faced the Judge she flashed her niece a confident smile. Tabitha could see the fear behind her eyes. There was so much at stake.
“Good morning, ma’am,” greeted Tawny keenly.
Judge Doyle offered an emotionless stare from behind her desk. She motioned for Tawny to come closer.
“I see you have raised a petition for custody,” began the Judge. “The child in question is your niece. Is that correct?”
Tawny answered smoothly. “Yes ma’am. That is correct.” She gave a fleeting glance back at Tabitha as though she was checking she was still there.
“Both of her natural parents are still living?”
Tawny agreed. “Yes, ma’am. They reside in FILTON.”
“I see,” Doyle mused. She flicked through some pages of notes that lay on her bench. “You do realise it is never the intention of this court to remove a child from their parents unless there are extenuating circumstances.”
Tawny remained cool but the emotion in her voice wavered a little. “There are circumstances, ma’am, really dire ones.”
Doyle pushed the notes aside. She wanted to address the petitioners directly. She leaned forward a little and fixed her gaze on the Baroness. Her eye and her neck were fine in those days. Her scars non-existent.
“Then why don’t you explain it to me.”
Tawny took a deep breath. She hadn’t wanted to discuss what had happened in such a public forum for Tabitha’s sake but she was left with no choice.
“My brother and my sister-in-law accepted money in exchange for the prostitution of my niece.”
Judge Doyle’s expressionless deportment fell into a severe frown. She reached for her notes and again flicked through them.
“That is a pretty damning accusation,” stated the Judge.
Tawny fidgeted with the blazer she wore in an attempt to seem official. “I was appalled when I heard ma’am. She’s just a little girl.”
The judge gave no clue to her thinking in her expression. “I see no police report here.”
Tawny had to admit. “It wasn’t reported.”
As the Judge rested back in her chair to observe Tawny clearer, a shadow cast across her eyes.
“Why ever not? Surely if you found out such a thing it would be your first course of action? A crime of that magnitude against the child should have been reported?”
“My brother has some pretty powerful friends. It wouldn’t have helped. That’s why I wanted to appeal to you directly, ma’am. I was worried it wouldn’t reach the right ears.”
“And you were there? You saw this exchange take place?”
“No,” Tawny had to admit. “But Tabitha told me about it. My sister-in-law’s family have been drivers for the Owen family for years. They were having a party one night and made Tabitha their centre focus like she was some kind of prize. Reverend Jerry Owen was the one who organised it. He was the one that gave them the money.”
“I know Reverend Owen personally. He is a very well-respected member of the community, a charitable man. Are you saying he raped her?”
Tawny shook her head. “He didn’t get the chance to. She fought him off like a champ and ran to me.”
“So he never actually touched her?”
Tawny frowned, “What difference does that make?”
Judge Doyle waved for her to be quiet. “Suppose I accept your story and this is true. Are you fully prepared to accept responsibility for your niece?”
Tawny beamed, thinking she was finally getting through the icy exterior. “Of course.”
“Where would she be schooled?” asked the Judge.
“I … errr …” Tawny hesitated. “In the city I guess.”
The Judge leaned over and whispered something to the clerk. He took note.
“And what is it you do?” The Judge asked her.
“I’m a performer. I own a club in the city. The Knock Knock Club.”
Without looking at Tawny, Judge Doyle began taking notes. “I’ve heard of the Knock Knock club. It has quite the reputation. A night club isn’t exactly the appropriate place for a child.”
Tawny replied, “Maybe not ma’am but she has had more love and support there than she ever did at home. Ye have no idea what they’ve put that girl through!” As she became more desperate her Hathfield Bay accent started to creep in.
The judge read from the notes. “I see you have a partner.”
“Yes, a loving woman. Agnes.”
Judge Doyle looked up. Her focus locked on Tawny again. “I notice that she isn’t here with you. Is she also willing to accept responsibility for the child?”
Tawny tried to mask her frustration but it spilled into her words. “She loves Tabitha just as much as I do.”
Judge Doyle abandoned her notes and crossed her arms in front of her.
“Tell me something. Is your niece happy at home?”
Tawny frowned – an alien expression on her round, pleasant face. “Of course, she isn’t. Her parents are monsters.”
Judge Doyle returned to her notes once again. A silence washed over them as she read more. Footsteps in the corridor outside broke it. The woman at the back began sobbing silently on the shoulder of her eldest son, still wrapped up in her own drama.
Judge Doyle addressed Aunt Tee again. “I see here you had a mental breakdown – acute anxiety disorder. Is that correct?”
Tawny shook her head. She hadn’t prepared for that coming up. “That was a long time ago,” she explained. “I was overworked, setting things up with the club. I just want to protect my FUCKING NIECE! …” She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry ma’am. I just want to protect my niece. She’s just a little girl.”
The gaze of the judge narrowed. “I understand that emotions are running high but you will conduct yourself properly in my court or I will dismiss your case immediately. It is admirable that you want to protect her but let’s not forget that this is a troubled young girl. I see she has been in Jefferson Hall no less than five times. Assault and battery, mostly.”
Jefferson Hall was the juvenile detention center in Coldford for wayward children who were too young to be sent to the Monte Fort or Coldford Correctional.
Tabitha stood up. “You don’t know me!” She screamed, startling the family in the back. “You can’t say that.”
Tawny turned and tried to usher her to sit down. “Tabby, honey,” she said. “It’s fine. Just sit. It’s okay.”
Tabitha clamped her hands on her hips and scowled. “That cunt thinks because she’s sat behind the big desk in her big fucking chair she knows me! Because of a few bits written on a piece of paper.”
Aunt Tee tried again. “Tabby, please just calm down.”
Judge Doyle gathered the notes she had authoritatively tapped together on her desk. Her lip curled and her nostrils flared.
“Young lady, approach my bench,” she spat with venom. Tabitha obliged but she was still furious. When she stood before her The Judge said, “this court will not tolerate that kind of behaviour and for that I am dismissing your case indefinitely.”
“No!” Tawny lost her composure. “You can’t! Please just give us a chance.”
“From what I see, you are not fit to be a guardian.”
Tawny stepped forward. “I’m begging you, ma’am, please. She is not safe in that house. Please just let her come with me.”
Judge Doyle kept an icy stare on the aunt. She passed her notes to her clerk. “I’ve made my decision,” stated she.
Tawny started to sob. “She’s a good girl really. She has had her problems but she’s a good girl. They tried to buy her so she could be passed around society perverts. They stripped her down and put her on display. Please don’t send her back to that. Let her stay with me where she will be safe.”
Doyle’s arm dropped. She looked at Tabitha. The mother at the back pulled her boys closer.
“Given these accusations I have no choice but to raise it with my colleagues at the Child Services Committee. They will investigate. You are to return her to her parents within the next 24 hours until this investigation is complete. If you fail to comply, I will revoke the licence of your club and you will find yourself under charges. Do you understand?”
Tawny pulled Tabitha closer to her.
“This isn’t over,” Tabitha growled.
Well there you have it folks. We know how our Boss Lady can hold a grudge!
Next week it’s time to see why the unkillable Judge Doyle earned herself such a reputation.
In the meantime: Here’s the story so far:
Free to read HERE on Vivika Widow Online or you can download for kindle by clicking HERE.
“I love you Dennis.” CHLOE wept. “I love you more than anything. I really do.”
“Shut up,” REGGIE PENN – the youngest of the Penn triplets – shoved her dismissively away. Her thin, little body was unable to hold up against his strength. She fell against the wall and slipped down onto her bottom, weeping. MARCUS – the eldest triplet by three minutes – circled DENNIS like a hyena stalking its prey. Dennis should have known. Nowhere in the Shady City was safe from her. He had been so careful in hiding Chloe. One of the clients must have sung.
Chloe wasn’t a KNOCK KNOCK girl though. TABITHA shouldn’t have even known about her. Surely a stern warning for using the club as a venue for prostitution would be called for? A debt to pay for the money he had collected perhaps? Dennis wondered if they had found out he had spoken to me, a reporter. The Penns were only at two-thirds of their strength but the odds were still stacked in their favour.
“I’ll pay you half of anything I earned,” Dennis pleaded.
Reggie laughed. Marcus remained stoic. Reggie’s grin was sinister under a mop of blonde hair.
“Don’t hurt him. I liked doing it,” Chloe called out. “He wanted to make money and I wanted to make him happy.”
Marcus’ lips tightened. Reggie folded his arms. Dennis knew this wasn’t going to be a stern warning. Tabitha was sensitive on certain subjects. He should know that better than most.
Marcus and his brother Reggie show club manager Dennis how serious they are.
“Pack him up for the AUCTION HOUSE,” was Marcus’ decision for Dennis. “The girl will come with us too.” Dennis’ chances of survival were becoming even more limited by the minute.
The room in the Auction House he had been taken to only offered one route of escape. The smell of the perfume Chloe had generously sprayed on (perfume Dennis had given her) masked the odour of damp rot from the old artifacts that would normally be kept there.
“C’mon guys. See sense in this. You’re businessmen. The girl told you she consented to it. She consented to all of it. I kept her safe. I’ll cut you in, all three of you.”
“You talk so much bullshit I can smell it on your breath you slithering cunt,” Reggie grinned. Marcus turned to him and with a gaze – no gesture or words – his brother fell silent.
“You are telling me that she consented to hundreds of men?” Marcus pressed.
“She was given her share,” Dennis replied.
Chloe pleaded, “I did it because I love him and I wanted him to be happy.”
Marcus ignored her. “You are telling me that she consented to being bound, beaten and left bloody?” He kept his steely stare focused on Dennis. Reggie loomed behind him.
“It was what the client wanted,” Dennis explained. Normally a man of silver-tongued words, they were falling flat for the former Knock Knock club manager.
“What about what she wanted? You took that choice away from her.”
Chloe leapt to her feet. “Please don’t hurt him!” She rushed at Reggie, her tiny fists pounded on his chest. He grabbed her narrow wrists.
“Would you look at this?!” he jested, shoving Chloe’s malnourished frame back into the chair again. She dropped her head into her hands and started to weep.
“You took that choice away from her,” Marcus repeated, “just like you took that choice away from all those other little girls.”
Dennis’ eyes widened. ‘Shit!’ he thought. They weren’t really there about prostituting Chloe after all. It was about his taste for young flesh. Underage flesh. Tabitha had been biding her time, torturing him. Finally, she was ready to deliver her punishment. It didn’t make any sense that she would leave it to the triplets though. She made Dennis her whipping boy years ago. Surely she would have wanted to be there for the finale. Without the bitch in the red dress pulling the strings of her triplet marionettes it seemed even more chilling, more uncertain.
“That hasn’t been an issue for a long time. I gave up everything. I gave up my family. Just ask the Boss Lady!”
Marcus flanked his right side. Dennis had a clear view of the doorway. He could take his chances and run for the door, but had he become so heartless and self-preserving that he would leave Chloe in the hands of the Penns? She was a victim as far as they were concerned. But if Dennis fled, who knows what they would do to deliver their own brand of justice.
“I’m not a man like you Dennis,” Marcus stated, his voice booming an echo against the old walls of the Auction House. “I’m giving you a choice. Life or death?”
“Life Dennis! Live with me,” Chloe screamed.
Reggie grabbed her by the chin. His thick blonde hair concealed some of the spark behind his eyes. “If you don’t shut up and let us do our job, I’m going to cut you open from tit to toe.”
Reggie looked back at his brother. “She’s really grinding me. Her whining voice got on my last nerve about a half hour ago.”
“Let me go. I’ll go far away. You’ll never have to hear from me again. I’ll disappear,” Dennis put in.
Marcus needed confirmation. “So you are choosing life?”
Dennis hadn’t survived as long as he had without having his wits about him. He was shrewd enough to know that whatever the Penns had planned for him, death would be preferable. But he had his son, MILO, to think about. He hadn’t seen his boy in years. He would be so grown up by now. He wondered if the head of thick, dark hair he had been born with would have lightened or if it was still the same. OLIVIA, his ex wife, had wanted to change the world in her own little way, make it a better place. She thought she had been helping those little girls by bringing them into her home as a social worker. She didn’t know she had been bringing them into the clutches of a predator. Tabitha had been one of those girls. She had been the one to tame that predator, removing his sharp teeth and his appetite along with it. “Life,” Dennis agreed. Whatever horrors the triplets had to inflict would be nothing if it meant seeing Milo again. Marcus turned with raised eyebrows to Reggie. Reggie drew a phone from the back pocket of the black jeans he wore. He dialled. There were a few rings that seemed to echo the beat of Dennis’ heart. Ring ring, ring ring. “We’re going to need Big Cathie down here. Dinner for two.” “No!” Dennis cried out. “No, I changed my mind. I choose death. Please! I choose death!” “Too late,” said Marcus simply. With a whack Dennis was knocked out cold. When Dennis came to again they had stripped him naked. He tried to run towards Chloe who waited hysterically in the hall. They caught him and dragged him back.
“Reg?” Dennis tried the younger. “I thought we were pals? Haven’t I turned a blind eye to some of your depraved appetites over the years?”
Reggie’s tastes weren’t for flesh. Women or even men interested him little. What he had was a morbid fascination with cruelty, ever since he was a little boy.
“One thing I’ve learned,” Reggie replied. “People suck. And you are dregs of them all.” Abandoning reason due to the danger he was in, Dennis did try to run but like a rabbit caught in a trap there was no logic to his escape.
An excruciating hour later the security door buzzed. Reggie answered and allowed entry to a skeletally thin man who reached over six foot tall. He was the monster of a man they called Big Cathie. He was so called because of the catheter in his hand attached to a drip he pulled behind him.
He wasn’t long for the world. Cathie was an AIDS patient. He would be dead soon by some disease or other, but in the meantime the Knock Knock Club kept him in a life of luxury because they found him most useful. The HIV virus proved a useful tool in threatening enemies when they refused to cooperate, and when all else failed a way of inflicting a slow and painful death. There were treatments of course but the virus was still enough to elicit fear in the most stubborn.
Cathie was treated like a king on behalf of the HEADLINERS. In return he would oblige their wishes. Tabitha was a good woman as far as Cathie was concerned. Life had dealt him a harsh blow. He had two sons and a wife he would be leaving behind. His wife didn’t want to know him but he could at least provide something for the boys. Tabitha guaranteed that in exchange he would use his horrible virus to infect creeps like Dennis.
Cathie had only met the club manager once but his reputation preceded him.
“Little kids? That’s fucking disgusting,” Cathie had agreed. The Penns saw infection with HIV as something of poetic justice.
“Look guys. This is unnecessary. If the Boss Lady thought I was so dangerous she wouldn’t want me running around when I could infect young girls, would she?” Dennis played the only hand he had left.
“Are you suggesting that if we do this we won’t be teaching you a lesson?” Reggie put to him.
“It could make me dangerous,” stated Dennis.
Reggie brushed his hair back and grinned. “Who says we were going to let you go?”
Marcus gripped Dennis by the throat. “It’s a terrible thing, taking a young girl before her time. It can be painful for her but it is also damaging in ways that will never heal. Your filthy fucking stench will gnaw at her for the rest of her life. So you are now going to sample at least some of the hurt you inflicted on those innocents. This virus will eat away at you. Just like those little girls now afraid of anyone touching them, you will feel what that is like as disease courses through your veins. When you stole the innocence of those little girls you gave them a life sentence. The virus is going to steal a little part of you away every minute of every day. What will kill you? Measles? Rubella? Common cold? Who knows, but maybe then you will have some idea of the torture you have put your victims through. They will never get over what you did to them just as you will never recover and you will never come within sight of your little boy again.”
“C’mon Marcus. This is just a scare tactic. I submit okay. I submit!”
As Reggie spoke, Dennis heard Tabitha’s voice. “No scare tactic this time. So you can drop your pants and bend over or you can take that poisoned cock in your mouth. You see? Choices!”
“I know Tabitha is a spiteful bitch but please …”
Reggie pointed to Cathie’s flaccid penis. “You better get that thing fired up. This one is a wriggler.”
Dennis was laid across the table. Cathie hovered in the corner like the threat of a biblical play. Marcus set about securing Dennis to the spot. Reggie climbed up on the table and sat down.
“You see the game last week Cath?” He asked Cathie.
He was referring to a football match between Coldford City and the western town of Bellfield. City was the richest and biggest team in the area. The father of the triplets, Reginald, was a proud supporter of the team and now the Penn Auction House sponsored them.
“I didn’t watch the second half,” Cathie admitted. “Those Bellfield scumbags should never have gotten a penalty.”
Reggie nodded in agreement. “You are right there. Should have put four past them, if it weren’t for their fucking keeper.”
Cathie nodded consolingly. Meanwhile Marcus continued securing Dennis to the table.
When he finished, Reggie cheered. Dennis could feel the dirt and crumbs of the table against his bare stomach. Marcus was seated at the table’s end, watching with an expressionless, cold stare. Reggie was standing beside him. Chloe was still crying hysterically out in the hallway. She couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. All she could say was, “Special cuddles for Dennis because I love him.”
Big Cathie had his hands clamped around Dennis’ waist.
“I know he’s an ugly cunt,” Reggie commented to Cathie. “Just close your eyes and think of City.”
Reggie stepped outside the Auction House where the air was cooler. The interior always seemed so claustrophobic to him despite its high ceilings and open rooms. It was why he preferred the warehouse just on the outskirts of City Main. It was in this warehouse he kept thirty-three cages of rats. Ever since his father gave him a black rat on his thirteenth birthday he’d had a fascination with rodents – rats especially. Next to humans rats were the most successful species on earth, but unlike humans they still operated on an instinctual level. That spoke volumes for them as far as Reggie Penn was concerned. He liked to watch them, observe their behaviour patterns and apply that to his human interactions. He guessed he was a scientist at heart. If his mother hadn’t wanted him to take his share of their namesake Auction House he could have been in a lab somewhere, but there he was helping his brothers keep things running smoothly. Observing the rats he noted there was nothing they wouldn’t do for a little gratification. If you pierced them with electrodes that stimulated an orgasm every time they pushed a button they would keep pressing on that button, forgetting all else until they died of thirst or starvation. Their young followed soon after. In that sense the rats weren’t unlike humans Reggie decided. We too are always chasing gratification, whether it’s from a partner, alcohol, drugs or sugar. We always chase that feel-good.
Reggie also observed that no matter what he did to the rats they would always see him as master. He could burn their tails, make them watch as he cut off the heads of their young, it didn’t matter because the minute he brought them a food pellet he was a God to them. Humans could be trained in the same way. It just took a bit more time. He even tried it with his brother. One night he climbed into bed with Simon and tried to masturbate him. Simon beat him bloody for his troubles, resulting in a hospital trip and their mother being very upset. Not every experiment was a success he supposed. For Reggie power over something was the gratification that he was chasing. Being an all-giving leader pleased him and he would push that button all day. It wasn’t easy being a triplet – especially the youngest. You were always seen as being only one third of a whole person. It didn’t matter that Marcus was in charge and Simon was the tough one because when he returned to his rat cages at the warehouse he could still be a God. He put a cigarette between his lips and drew his phone from his pocket. It seemed like an appropriate time to update his social media pages. He couldn’t tell his followers about Cathie – although in Reggie’s mind it was probably the thing they would love to hear about, something hilarious that they would all get a kick out of. But he would play nice. He had already had to set up several new profiles because his previous ones had been shut down due to ‘violation of the rules.’
He was scrolling through pictures of scantily clad young women pressing LIKE (a lot like an orgasm button he supposed) when the phone started to ring. The caller I.D was one of their agents, Jeremy.
Reggie answered. “Yeah?” he enquired.
The agent sounded a little flustered. It wasn’t unlike Jeremy to be uptight but he seemed more so than usual.
“The Boss Lady has been taken in,” he said. “A friend at CPD just told me. They’ve got Simon too”
At first Reggie was unsure he had heard correctly. “What did you say?” The noise of the City Main traffic seemed to drown out the agent’s voice.
“They’ll be coming for you and Marcus. The Boss Lady has been taken in. I’m at CPD now. Simon was taken too.”
The agent’s voice dipped away as he talked to someone. The harsh accent from the part of town west of Coldford suggested it was PADDY MACK of MACK AND SONS. They were both angry.
“The Boss Lady has been taken in. Let Marcus know. He isn’t answering his phone.” At that the agent rang off.
Just as Reggie prepared to head back inside and warn his brother a fleet of CPD cars pulled up. Led by Kim Adams. Before Reggie could move Kim was on him.
“I’m already having one hell of a day so are you going to test me?”
Reggie grinned and reached his arms up.
“You’re making a mistake,” he warned.
“Yeah, your brother said the same thing.” The CPD officers closed in.
Reggie Penn was taken into custody.
Marcus growled at the noise of the commotion. He sensed what had happened but it was too late to retreat. He hated the idea of being forced into retreat anyway. If they had managed to bring Tabitha in, the Penn dynasty was in immediate danger. Like a house of cards, the pillars of The Shady City were beginning to fall. Kim appeared at the door.
“It’s over,” she said.
“For now,” was Marcus’ cold reply. He came surprisingly quietly.
It could have been his imagination but Dennis could already feel himself becoming sick. Was that really the case or was his mind playing tricks on him? He couldn’t know for certain but he certainly felt weaker than he was before. Sure, the Penns hadn’t gone easy on him and Cathie had left him bloody but the disease, the virus was already raging around his body. If it was a placebo effect it was damn good one. Before Dennis had met Tabitha he had always been the man in charge, the go-to guy. She had stripped him of every bit of effervescence he had until he was a shadow of his former self. Was it a fitting punishment for the harm he had caused to little girls or the result of a mad woman’s psychopathic tendencies? It wasn’t my job to judge or to weigh up justice. Tabitha was behind bars and likely would be for a long time. Nothing was going to delete what Dennis had done to those little girls or his turning simpleminded, desperate girls like Chloe to prostitution. What mattered then was how he was going to use what time was left for him.
Trapped in the Auction House he had limited options but a guy like Dennis was never held back completely. He could at least make strides to protect himself.
“Chloe?” he called.
She had never left his side. The Penns weren’t exactly stopping her leaving but it wouldn’t be likely she could walk out of the Auction House so easily. She chose to wait with him. Wait for inevitable death? In the end maybe she would climb into the coffin beside him. It may be difficult to understand but she truly believed she couldn’t live without him.
“You have to go,” he said.
“No!” she squealed. She had been waiting on him asking this of her but it was the one thing she wouldn’t give. “I’m not leaving you.”
“You have to. I need you to find me a doctor. If you ask Marcus, he will allow it. Please. I need you to fetch me a man named DR WINSLOW.” Chloe blinked the tears away that were forming in her eyes. “Marcus will let him come here. He’s the only one who can help me. He’s the only one who stands a chance of helping me live long enough to see an end to all of this.”
“I’ll find the doctor,” cheered Chloe. “I’ll find him and he will make you feel better. I promise. I’ll give Marcus whatever he wants and Reggie too if you like.”
Dennis managed a smile. He shifted on the wooden panelled floor and winced in pain.
“Good. I need you to ask Marcus very nicely to bring me Dr Winslow. Can you do that?” Chloe nodded simply. She looked a little confused and upset still so he needed more confirmation. “Repeat it back to me, kid.”
“I ask for Dr Winslow. I ask Marcus really, really nicely.”
Dennis managed a smile again. She was so glad she could cheer him up.
Speaking more to himself he said, “She thinks she’s got the last laugh. I’m going to fuck her up. If I’m going down, I’m going to make her sorry she ever crossed my path.”
Chloe blinked, perplexed. The bitterness in his voice wasn’t like him. He was normally so calm even under dire circumstances.
The point was moot anyway because CPD had already landed on the Auction House. Marcus was under arrest and as the officers burst into the room where Dennis was being held he and Chloe were separated. It seemed Dennis’ day of beating and questioning was far from over. As manager of the Knock Knock club and willing to talk against his Headliner masters, Dennis was an incredible asset for the Law Makers as the trial was set. Chloe looked up to Kim’s strong and protective face. It reminded her of a lioness she had seen at City Zoo when Dennis took her once to meet a client. The lioness had put herself in front of the cubs and watched the alpha male closely. The alpha male was intimidated. It wouldn’t approach the cubs whilst the lioness was around.
“Are you hurt pet?” she asked softly.
Chloe managed a smile despite herself. “I’m fine.”
Kim reached her hand out and clasped Chloe’s. “I’m going to need you to come with me. It’s going to be okay.” She spoke into her comm device. “I need some women officers in here.”
Thanks to Lydia’s international agency team, Chloe was taken to the safety of CPD.
Well that was a wild ride!
The themes in this episode were dramatised in order to push plot. For accurate and up to date advice on AIDs and HIV visit National Aids Trust at http://www.nat.org.uk
Next week we’re off the office of Law Makers. It’s time to put the Boss Lady and her support away for good.
In the meantime: Here’s the story so far:
Free to read HERE on Vivika Widow Online or you can download for kindle by clicking HERE.
She was told to arrive at the club around four pm. Emily thought she would be the only one but there was another woman there. She was standing outside the door. The Knock, Knock club sign hung high about her head. She was beautiful, with porcelain skin and a finely formed figure beneath the black t shirt and khaki trousers she wore. She was far prettier than Emily. Emily never saw herself as anything special. Her fair hair was brittle and no matter how many bottles of dye she put over it she could never get it the shade of honey blonde she had as a girl. It just made it even more brittle.
She was nothing special but when she danced she turned heads. She was trained in ballet and tap. She could be dancing at some of the biggest theatres in the city but when the recession hit the theatres were shut down. She had to find her bread somehow so she answered a mysterious ad at the back of the Coldford Daily. ‘Dancers wanted’ it said. It didn’t specify which type of dance but Emily was sure it wouldn’t be ballet. She called the number given. The man she spoke to didn’t give her much information. He just asked her what experience she had, gave her an address and asked her to come by the club at four pm. Looking at the exterior of Knock, Knock nerves began to flutter in her stomach like opening night jitters. If she hadn’t been so desperate she would never have gone through with it.
“Do you work here?” Emily asked the other.
“Not yet,” she replied with a friendly smile. “I assume you are here for the dancer job?” she enquired.
Emily felt more at ease. If she had to bring herself to this seedy club to pay her well overdue bills then at least she would have a friend.
“The manager will be round in a minute to let us in,” she explained. The other woman’s choppy, black hair was luscious and had a playful hint of blue through it. “My name is Lydia”
She took Emily’s hand and shook it. “Are you sure you want to be in a place like this?” she asked.
“I have to get the work where I can,” she replied. The nerves returned.
Lydia was going to say something but before she could get the words out the door was pulled open. A tall, lean man inspected them both from the door way.
“Dancers?” he asked.
“That’s right,” Lydia answered for them both. Emily found herself nodding stupidly.
“Come on in,” he beckoned.
The inside of the club was even grottier than the exterior made it seem. The tables on the club floor had their chairs piled on top of them, not ready for that evening’s performance. On one of the vacant tables sat a pile of money. The man lifted the money and slipped it into a white bag. Lydia watched him closely.
“I’m Dennis. I’m manage this place,” he said when the money was stored away. “We’re in a bit of a bind. Our last dancer didn’t get on with our main act. To cut a long story short we need dancers to start right away.”
He pulled one of the chairs down and took a seat. The women remained standing.
“I’m free to start,” Emily managed to get the words out.
Dennis flicked the black hat he wore to the back of his head and leaned forward.
“I don’t have much time so let me see what you got.”
Emily looked to Lydia.
“Look,” he said reaching into his shirt pocket and producing a cigarette. “I can’t have you getting shy on me. I’m not running a kid’s club here. If you are going to dance you are going to have to please the customer. Now strip.”
Lydia raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips. She pulled off her t shirt revealing a black brazier underneath. She unclipped the brazier and dropped the floor. She stood straight, bare breasted.
Dennis gave a sardonic smile.
“That a girl,” he commented.
He turned to Emily.
“So are you going to play the game or am I going to have to look elsewhere?”
Emily still hesitated. Dennis tapped his wrist.
“Time is money sweetness. Either you get the girls out or there is no work here for you.”
That day Emily peeled the clothes from her body under the leering stare of the club manager. The Knock, Knock club expected a lot from her. What else was she to do?
The graphic novel series is free to read here at Vivika Widow Online or download for kindle.