So I admit, it gave it more than a second thought. Holding the card tightly between my fingertips wondering ‘who was this woman from my home land who seemed to know me?’ I had left Westcliff at such a young age that I don’t remember meeting anyone there and they most certainly wouldn’t remember me. Then there was the club – The ‘knock, Knock’ club – that I had been invited to. I had never heard of it before that night either yet it seemed strangely familiar.
“Why don’t we go out and celebrate my new job,” I suggested to my wife.
She was apprehensive. “Where would you like to go?”
I raised my eyebrows and offered a wry smile. “I hear there is at least one club open in this town. I may even be on the guest list.”
Theresa slapped my shoulder playfully. She managed a smile. “That isn’t funny Sam. That woman threatened you. She was horrible!”
I put my arm around her. “Don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to me. It will give me the chance to find out what she wanted. Would you rather stay here?”
Theresa shook her head. “No I don’t want to be home alone again.”
“I’m sure you will find that it was all for nothing. They probably just have something to do with the mayor and are trying to scare me from the story.”
Theresa hesitantly agreed…
Around eight, Theresa and I wandered the rain lashed streets. Most clubs and restaurants in the town were closed but none of those open were called ‘Knock, Knock’ The rain had stopped so I carried a large black umbrella under my arm.
“Let’s just go home Sam. I don’t think we are going to find that club,” Theresa said.
A couple disappeared down an alley way. The woman clutched the man’s arm. She was giggling. She was dressed for a night out. Far more fancy than necessary for an alleyway tryst. I silently urged Theresa to stay as I followed them. The knocked on an old metal door. As the metal door opened a rush of music escaped. The couple went inside. It had to be the ‘Knock, Knock’ club. A lot of clubs had gone exclusive to avoid licensing that were crushing other establishments. Perhaps it was my own apprehension, or maybe empathy for my wife’s concerns but I found myself asking, “Are you sure about this?”
Theresa gripped my arm. “We are just going to see if we can find some information aren’t we?”
I smiled and sighed, the nerves gathered as a fluttering in my chest. We approached the heavy door. The main street seemed one million miles away. The door wasn’t particularly welcoming for a cabaret club. The sign above offered a light humming drown as the bulbs committed tirelessly to their duty.
I knocked heavily – twice for the irony. After a few tense moments the door was finally opened. A tall man with a cigarette between his lips greeted us. He was adorned in a sharp – well tailored black suit, a power red tie and a white shirt.
“Evening,” he muttered without removing the cigarette. “Table for two?” With a flick of his wrist a scantily clad young girl dashed over and ushered us to a vacant table. She offered us a menu each. They were simple, black with the name of the club on it. It was sticky and well used. A stage as the main focus of the club. The band was deep in their music. The chorus girls were dancing in a parade of sequins and feathers. The ‘Knock, Knock’ club was actually so homey it was a pleasant place to be. Theresa even began to settle. We ordered some food. It wasn’t fine dining but it was effective none the less.
The man who had greeted us at the door stepped onto the stage. He had replaced his suit jacket with one from an outfit of evening wear. His red tie was now a black bow.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” his voice boomed over the soft playing of the band. Most of the room looked up from their conversations and offered him their full attention – including my wife and I. “Welcome to the knock, knock club. It has now come to that part of the evening that we love. I know it’s my personal favourite. Please welcome on stage – knock, knock’s finest – Miss T.” In a rush of drums and wind instruments, like the welcoming flag parade of a queen, the man rushed from the stage. The spotlight caught a very striking woman in its clasp. She was met with a thunderous applause. I turned back to Theresa just as one of our waitresses laid down a plat of strange meat. I thanked her and she replied in the way of a well taught serving girl who can offer politeness without saying a word. I looked at Theresa. Her already pale face had drained of all colour.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
She reached her quivering hand out and pointed to the stage. “That’s her! That’s the woman who came looking for you.”
I turned back to the stage. Miss T was singing a melody with a touch of old school cabaret and the smallest hint of raunchiness. She wore a silver dress which glinted underneath the stage lights. Her voice was sultry and deep. It was a pleasant tone, soft and warm like honey.
Theresa remained frozen in her chair, staring at Miss T until the performance was over, complete with appreciative calls from the crowd. I stood.
“Where are you going?” Theresa cried gripping my arm.
“I’m going backstage to find out what she wanted.”
Theresa shook her head furiously. “Please don’t. Just leave it. Let’s go home.”
“If I’m not back in ten minutes alert the police.”
Theresa’s hand instinctively went to her mouth to conceal the true level of her grief.
I was surprised that no on stopped me as I slipped backstage. At the end of a long hall, carpeted in a very rich shade of purple, lay a door with the letter T on it. I assumed it to be Miss T’s dressing room. I knocked.
“Come in,” came the same silken sound to match the singing. As Theresa had said, her voice was sprinkled with the harsh but musical tones of West cliff accent. I pushed open the door. The cabaret singer was facing the mirror so she spoke only to my reflection.
“You are very lost, my man,” she said. A smile formed. There was a larger than normal gap between her front teeth which gave her an almost child like quality. She had removed some of the pins from her hair so her chestnut brown tresses were in disarray.
“I’m Sam Crusow,” I said with some severity. “You came to my house.”
She smiled. “You are mistaken. I don’t make house calls.”
I became more frustrated. “My wife is outside waiting on me. She recognised you. She told me you were from Westcliff.”
The woman’s smile widened. “I’m not the only one to leave dear old rainy Westcliff for the opportunities of the big city. Look at yourself.”
I could feel tension building in my shoulders. “Just stay away from me and stay away from my wife!”
As I proposed to storm away the singer finally turned herself to face me. She pulled me back with a ferocious grip. “Now, Sam, let’s not get excited. Your name, is it a family name?” she asked.
I found myself replying, “My grandfather was named Samuel.”
“My name is Tabitha. I’m sorry if I frightened poor little Theresa. I’m not going to harm you. I’m trying to protect you.”
“There are people out there who would seek to destroy what your father built.”
Having never known my father or anything about him, other than his name, this came as quite a shock. “What do you know about my father?”
Tabitha lowered her eyes. “Nothing that I can discuss with you now. I’m due back on stage in a few minutes. If you go outside you’ll find that Theresa has already left. I believe you told her to alert the police. She doesn’t mess around does she? I suggest you stop her before she does something childish like tattle to the authorities. If you come back to the club tomorrow I will give you everything I have.”
I managed to catch up with Theresa just outside the club. She embraced me tightly and kissed my cheek. “What happened?”
“Nothing, it’s fine. Like I said just someone playing silly beggars trying to stop me covering the story on Mayor Feltz.”
Theresa wrapped her arm around mine and brought herself close to me. She still seemed to be a little shaken but the crisp night air did some work in taking away our cares.
We found our bright green door lying ajar. We both stopped suddenly.
“Wait here!” I instructed, leaving her and venturing into the house to assess the damage.
The door hinges were broken. The furniture overturned. In the initial inspection it appeared that nothing had been taken. Someone had been just trying to shake me up. What was clear though was that whoever it was, they were relentless.
Wiley reporter Sam Crusow has gotten himself in way too deep.
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