As the weeks went on the support for Tabitha outside the Court House began to gain traction. Those who were protesting against her and calling for her head began to hush. For the first time since the trial began it started to look as though there was a chance the jury would dismiss her of some, if not all, of the charges against her, putting her back on the street, furious at the inconvenience and more dangerous than ever. I heard that the Penn triplets were being set with their own charges but it would be some time yet before they would be held by Coldford Correctional – a large, gloomy prison at the tip of Bournton better known as The Boss because of the way it gazed down over the northern town.
Saving one of those closest to Tabitha for the last, Ronnie called Agnes to the stand. He hoped that a motherly perspective on his client would leave warmth in the Jury as his last bid for her freedom.
Judge Doyle: Presiding
Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen
Defendant: Tabitha MC
Witness: Agnes Wilde
Clerks and Bailiffs
Ronnie Owen: “You have known the defendant for most of her life, correct?”
AGNES WILDE: “I was there when Tawny got the call to tell her she had become an aunt. She had been estranged from her brother Rob for a few years. We had just set up the Knock Knock Club at the time.”
RONNIE OWEN: “Have you ever seen the defendant become violent?”
Agnes Wilde: “She can have a bit of a temper but no I have never personally seen her become violent. What people fail to realise is that she needs help. Her parents cared nothing for her. If she didn’t have something of a temper, who knows where she could have ended up? She fought off predators, dirty dealers, embezzlers and filthy swine of all descriptions. That wasn’t just for her, but for others too. If she didn’t have something of a temper she would have been lost in the filth of this city and countless other lives ruined too.”
Ronnie Owen: “Are you saying she truly cares?”
Agnes Wilde: “I have never known a girl who cares so much. She just has her way of doing things. When the talk of the bid to take over the Shanties first came to light, Tabitha did what she could to help the people. Mayor Feltz had sold out on his campaign promises. Already Swantin was unaffordable for the people of the Shanties and they would have nowhere else to go. Tabitha did as her aunt would have done. She protested against it. She fought so that those people, families, weren’t without a home.”
Ronnie Owen: “And what was the response?”
Agnes Wilde: “Power to the Shanties was cut. They said it was a surge but we all knew it had been deliberate. We were the only area affected. Tabitha brought them together. She used the resources of the club to warm them and feed them. Without that, the elderly and young babies could have perished. She held against them until the power was restored.”
Ronnie Owen: “No further questions.”
The City prosecutor was like a ravenous vulture. He observed Agnes for a few moments before beginning his cross-examination in the hope it would set her on edge. The Broker maintained her composure.
City Prosecutor: “It’s a pretty picture you paint for the jury. A noble hero the defendant seems. ‘Just has her way of doing things,’ you say. Tell me; are fifty-nine people dead at Beckingridge Tower just her way of doing things? Is the brutal murder of her own parents just her little bit of a temper? What criteria does she use to decide who is innocent because from what I can see for every person she has ‘saved’ another is dead or beaten and tortured in a most horrendous fashion.”
Agnes Wilde: “You don’t understand.”
City Prosecutor: “I don’t think you understand Miss Wilde. She is a sadistic, psychopathic monster who needs to be punished. Neither you nor your partner was ever fit to do so.”
Agnes Wilde: “How dare you!”
JUDGE DOYLE: “Order! Counsellor you will not antagonise the witness.”
City Prosecutor: “My apologies ma’am.” Turning his attention back on Agnes. “Did you know anything about the deaths of Rob and Linda McInney?”
Agnes Wilde: “No. I heard they had taken off after the investigation and left Tabitha behind.”
City Prosecutor: “Strange. We have a recording from HARBOUR HOUSE in which you are speaking to your partner. TAWNY MC INNEY clearly asks you to go the house and fetch the defendant. Did you fulfill that wish?”
Agnes Wilde: “Yes but there was no one there when I got there.”
City Prosecutor: “So you visit the house. The parents are gone and Tabitha has disappeared off the face of the planet?”
Agnes Wilde: “That’s correct.”
City Prosecutor: “Did you look for her?”
Agnes Wilde: “Of course I did. Normally when she was in trouble she ran to the Knock Knock Club to me or Tawny.”
City Prosecutor: “But she didn’t this time?”
Agnes Wilde: “No.”
City Prosecutor: “Why not?”
Agnes Wilde: “Because it was not much more than a pile of ash and rubble. It had been burnt down and there are people in this court today who know why that was and who was responsible.”
City Prosecutor: “Let’s not get off track. We’ll get back to the issue at hand. Were you aware of what Tabitha had done to Court Clerk Melanie Wallace?”
Agnes Wilde: “No I was not.”
City Prosecutor: “In the video she clearly berates the victim before delivering a death sentence. How do you feel about that?”
Ronald Owen: “Objection! How Miss Wilde feels about it is irrelevant.”
Judge Doyle: “You have already been warned about this Counsellor.”
Satisfied he had countered Ronnie’s ‘Saviour of the Shanties’ pitch, the City Prosecutor turned back to his bench.
City Prosecutor: “No further questions.”
“You took your feckin’ time!” PADDY groaned to his brother Kieran.
Kieran drew on a joint. “Calm yar tits,” he said. “We got ya didn’t we?”
“Cutting it mighty fine.”
Kieran passed the joint to Paddy who took a drag and let the calm wash off the stress of the CPD holding.
“Ma wanted you to say hello to Uncle Michael if you went down. Block H I believe he’s in. Guess that reunion will have to wait,” jested Kieran. When Paddy passed the joint, Kieran had one more puff before stubbing it out and slipping it into his pocket.
“We had better go,” Kieran urged his brother.
Paddy stretched out the tension in his muscles that had gathered from being held in a CPD transport van. The van had been stopped en route north.
“Is he raging?” Paddy asked.
Kieran raised his eyebrows. “Oh he’s really feckin’ raging alright.”
The rooftop of an industrial unit that was closed for the night offered a panoramic view of the city, from the dregs of the south to the grandeur of the north. The wind was cool.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
The first hit had been hard but it wasn’t a killing blow. It would have been better if it were. The chain rattled as it whacked again.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
CPD officer Gabe had no choice but watch knowing he would soon follow in a similar fate. Perhaps worse? Either way it had all come down to this.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
Hickes was a good man. He had so much to give the city. He wasn’t even meant to be on shift that night. He only came to lend extra support in the transporting of Paddy Mack. When the transport left CPD behind that’s when it all went awry.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
He finally finished with Hickes. His breath was heavy. Now that the heat of the summer had broken, a mist escaped his lips. Gabe closed his eyes as the click, click, click of the finely crafted shoes drew closer. Paddy and Kieran Mack stood behind him watching. The bloodied chain that had beaten Hickes to death was clenched tightly around his fist. Gabe opened his eyes again as the chain jingled close to his face. A tall, formidable figure was Reginald Penn. He caught his breath and pointed the chain at Gabe.
“Where’s my fucking boys?!”
Lydia sat across from me in my usual booth in BOBBY’S LUNCH BOX. She watched on as I sat in quiet contemplation. I dare say the entire affair, from the moment I received the invitation to the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB, was starting to tell on me. I believed then it was reaching a conclusion. If I had known then all that was still to come, I don’t know if I would have found the spirit to carry on but carry on we must and carry on I did. The fate of Tabitha and all those who supported her was under the hammer of the LAW MAKERS and that hammer was set to fall soon, smashing everything within its range.
“I wonder how long the jury will take,” I mused to myself more than the agent. We had already been waiting an hour and a half. I didn’t suspect they would take long in deciding. Tabitha was after all guilty as sin by her own admission.
As though Lydia could sense what I was thinking she said, “She needs to be put away.” Her bouncy accent from the northern town of Bournton did a lot to cover any bitterness that should rightfully have been there. She did go through a lot to bring the Knock Knock Boss Lady in. Tabitha was a mean queen who needed to be locked away.
“I know,” I agreed. Even now I still have no doubt she needed to pay for her crimes. “It’s just how it’s being done. It’s not right.”
The Law Makers were pulling everything they could from the woodwork in order to solidify their hold on Tabitha. They were campaigning to reinstate the death penalty in Greater Coldford, they were punishing her for shedding light on the dirty deeds of their friends in high places, they were going to kill her for it and her only defence was a man who shared the same elite family name as the ones Tabitha was calling out in the first place. It wasn’t right. Justice in this case was a big bad wolf and she had blown down two houses already. The MACKS were still licking their wounds from the raid on the club and the only Penn not in custody, Reggie, had disappeared. Now they had hungrily set their sights on the final one. The bricks of the Knock Knock Club had already been smashed through so it wasn’t likely it would hold.
Lydia shook her head. “Don’t let her get to you. I’ve seen her manipulate people. She is a murderer.”
I could understand Lydia’s concern. Tabitha did have her way of getting to people. It was how she had managed to function so effectively. Lydia had learned from Detective Hickes that had I managed to get an interview with her where she gave me her version of events. My concern then wasn’t for Tabitha. It was for the countless people that the club had protected, fought for. My concern was for the many still in power that wouldn’t answer for corruption, murder, paedophile rings and exploitation of the poor. With Tabitha gone their power would only grow. I had as much reason to hate Tabitha as anyone, for the position she put me in with Madeline, for what happened to SARAH, for all of it. However, every time I looked at her with her childish attitude, her girlish gap tooth grin, all I could see was a scared little girl begging her aunt not to send her back to parents that would sell her into prostitution. Society failed that little girl and many like her. Until I revealed the truth, it was all I was ever going to see and time was running out.
“My job was to get the information they needed and to keep you safe. What happens beyond that is out of our control. She put the nail in her own coffin with the murder of a Court Clerk not to mention the other bodies she has left in her wake,” Lydia explained.
I couldn’t argue with the agents logic. Even Ronnie Owen couldn’t declare the witnesses as liars. Tabitha had done all of those things and was accepting her charges like it was her C.V.
“It’s not what’s happening in the court that bothers me,” I said. Although, if they had been so sure of a clean cut case they wouldn’t be shutting down every law firm that would opt to defend her and planting their own. “They came in heavy handed to the club. They were after Tabitha but they brutally beat their way to her. They have placed a gagging order on me. What are they worried I’ll say? The truth? They have left her with an Owen as her last line of defence. The very ones who are calling to hang her in the first place.”
Lydia had pursed her lips. She was taking what I was saying on board but she was still unmoved by it.
“Ronnie is different from his brothers,” she said.
“I know that. You know that. But the public doesn’t. That kind of atmosphere eats at a jury. The Cappy has cleverly made it seem like they are playing a fair game by having his brother defend her, but their fear and respect for the Owen name would shut them down – guilty, done, no more questions. That has been the Law Makers play all along. A farce of a trial to make an example of Tabitha and anyone who would question their running of the city, leading to a decision that has already been made.”
Lydia sighed. Her phone had been laid down on the greasy table in front of her face down so she lifted it to check if the jury had returned. With no notifications she laid it back down.
“She can’t be saved,” she warned me.
At first, I hadn’t understood whom she had meant. My mind initially went to Sarah, an innocent kid gunned down in the street. I never thought of Tabitha has needing to be saved. When I realised who she meant I scoffed.
“My sympathy for her stretches as far as those who she will leave behind. Her Aunt Agnes will be a sitting duck and her Aunt Tawny has suffered plenty already from what I can tell. You misunderstand what I mean,” I assured her. “If they can do this to someone like Tabitha then where does it end? Exaggerated charges against anyone who doesn’t bow to their will? The Shanties torn down? The Owen family owning the entire city? What happens to people like you and me?”
“You really believe that she had that much influence?”
“If she didn’t the Law Makers wouldn’t be going to the extent of pushing for the death penalty.”
Lydia agreed; I know she did but she was a logical, formulaic thinker and to her it was a matter of one monster at a time.
Lydia smiled. She could see the tension of the trial, everything that had happened to me personally was beginning to take it’s toll. When I first entered the Knock Knock club I had expected to find a seedy club hiding the mayor. I had no idea it would have come to what it had.
“I bet she’s already planning on having her prison jump suit made in red,” she teased.
I laughed despite myself. She was jesting of course but nothing would have surprised me as far as the Boss Lady was concerned.
“She’s probably asked for long cuffs so she can stand with her hand on her hip,” I added.
Lydia laughed heartily. Her laughed eased the tension a little. It made what was to happen next a little easier.
Her phone bleeped. The rattle of it on the table caused a shudder down my spine.
“Whatever happens next we’ll be ready for it,” she said. She checked the screen. “The jury is back.”
A cold breeze blew through the courtroom that day. All the talking, protesting and explaining had been done. All that was left was for the decision to be announced and so with that the hall sat in uncomfortable silence.
All that could be heard was the tapping of Sunday best shoes across the polished floors as the jury filtered back into their bench. Ronnie noted the concern on the foreman’s face. He had a fate in his hands and that can make some of us uncomfortable. The foreman was such a man but he dare not refuse the call of Judge Doyle.
Two large presences collided and only one of them would leave the Court House a victor that day. The stage was set but even with the odds stacked against her, Tabitha still fancied she would come out on top. She always did.
Judge Doyle: Presiding
Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen
Defendant: Tabitha MC
Clerks and Bailiffs
The first to break the cold silence was the judge.
Judge Doyle: “Will the foreman of the jury stand.”
The foreman obeyed.
Judge Doyle: “Has the jury reached a verdict?”
Foreman: “Yes ma’am.”
Judge Doyle: “How does the jury find the defendant?”
Foreman: “On the charges of embezzlement of city funds we the jury find the defendant guilty.”
Tabitha rolled her eyes. That was the least of her concerns. The Judge chose not to chastise her for not taking it seriously enough. She knew the worst was yet to come.
Foreman: “On the charges of murder in the second degree of Melanie Wallace we find the defendant guilty”
This wouldn’t have come as a surprise with the clear evidence I had provided. Dennis had managed to find himself some leniency for his part having objected to it at the time and for providing his testimony.
Foreman: “On the charges of murder in the first degree of Robert McInney, Linda McInney and Lynn Wilton we find the defendant guilty.”
There was no statute of limitations on murder charges in the City of Coldford.
Foreman: “On the charges of inciting violence and orchestrating the event known as the Free Fall Massacre we find the defendant guilty.”
What happened next will forever be on my conscience. I wasn’t there but reading the transcripts I can see the scene unfold. It was a long time coming but like death it is something you will never be prepared for. The time for sentencing had come.
Judge Doyle: “Will the defendant rise.”
Tabitha obeyed this command. She had no choice. The room hushed in anticipation.
Judge Doyle: “For too long you have run amok in this city without any consequences for your actions. Today you will learn that if you break the law you will be punished. You wished to stand as a symbol. I’ll allow that. I will hold you as an example to anyone who thinks that they are above the law. I have been granted power by the city to punish you to the fullest extent. I hereby sentence you to death by lethal injection.”
The courtroom burst into a noisy rabble broken only by the rhythmic slamming of Judge Doyle’s gavel. When the noise dissipated she continued.
Judge Doyle: “You will be confined to the Monte Forte until your date of execution has been confirmed.”
As I read through the transcripts my heart began to race. I knew there was no way Tabitha would not attempt to have the final say. My thoughts were correct because as she was being escorted away to her final resting place before death she scowled at the Judge.
Tabitha: “You can prick me with all the needles you want. You and I both know this isn’t over.”
The Judge engaged her but she remained cool and steady.
Judge Doyle: “It is over. This is my courtroom and my word is final.”
Tabitha: “You’re a cunt. You were born a cunt and you will always be a cunt!”
The bailiffs moved to put pressure on her but the Judge stopped them.
Judge Doyle: “I am also revoking the care of Harbour House for Tawny McInney. She too will be brought before me to answer for her crimes.”
When the trial began I asked myself what it would take to break the Knock Knock Boss Lady. It seemed that was it. The Judge had her but broken things can have sharp edges. Tabitha grabbed a chair and launched it at the unkillable Judge Doyle. The immovable hand of justice didn’t budge as the chair crashed beside her.
TABITHA began screaming in a chilling, unprecedented display of fury.
Tabitha: “You fucking bitch! I will tear you apart if you hurt her! She has done nothing and you know it. I will rip your fucking lungs out!”
The tirade continued. The Judge allowed Tabitha to scream and attempt to shake off the bailiffs like a child in the midst of an extreme tantrum. When she stopped for breath Doyle finally addressed her.
Judge Doyle: “I told you that you do not get the final say in here. Sentence has been passed. Take her away.”
They thought they could hurt her but still she stands. They thought they could outsmart her but still she stands. They tried to kill her but failed. Justice is immortal and so still she stands.
And so season 1 has ended not don’t worry folks. We’ve got plenty more where that came from. We’ll be back so keep your eyes peeled …
ut wait, there’s more!
Check in to Harbour House for relaxation and recovery in the explosive new novel.