After finding our home ransacked, Theresa decided to stay with her mother. She begged me to join her but I remained behind alone. In desperate times, my new job at the newspaper was important. It was a restless night. I watched the quiet streets from my window until my eyes burned. After falling asleep on the sofa for a few hours I left to meet Madeline for breakfast at the local diner. She was waiting for me at a table at the furtherest end, a coffee in hand a poor excuse for a plate of eggs and bacon in front of her.
“Are you okay?” she asked as I sat at the booth bench across from her. She hadn’t seen me since the house breaking. She was filled with genuine concern. She had actually spent an hour on the telephone with Theresa the night before, calling from her mother’s.
The décor of the diner was a mix of bright red and clinical white. It was harsh on my tired eyes.
“I’m fine,” I said, probably unconvincingly. “I don’t think they will be back.”
Madeline shook her head sympathetically. A large middle aged, grey haired waitress with thick rimmed spectacles approached. “Just some coffee please,” I told her. She grunted and disappeared back to the kitchen.
“She’s a charmer,” I commented.
“Are you sure you are okay?” Madeline asked again.
“I told you I’m fine,” I insisted. “These kind of things happen all the time these days.”
“Nothing was stolen though. If it was a robbery surely they would have taken something. Theresa told me about your visit to the ‘Knock, Knock’ club. You were threatened!”
“It was just a bunch of crazies. The girl I spoke to seemed to think she knew who my grandfather was.”
“You should be careful Sam,” Madeline warned.
“Do you know the club?”
“I’ve been there once or twice,” she stated. “Its a strange place I was trying to get a story on it but the manager would give me nothing.”
“Well my mother left my father when I was small so I have no idea what he could have gotten involved in but now that I know Theresa is safe I’m going to have a talk with the performer, Tabitha. Maybe I will get you your story after all.”
“Don’t do anything stupid Sam.”
As if I would…
That evening I returned to the ‘Knock, Knock’ club. Perhaps my journalistic instinct was getting the better of me or perhaps I wanted to avoid the confinement of my empty home. Either way, there I was knocking on the door as suggested. The man who had greeted Theresa and I on our first visit was at the door again.
“Table for one?” he asked with an ironic smile. “Sometimes it is more hassle than its worth to bring the missus isn’t it?”
“I’m not staying,” I explained to him. “I just want to speak to Tabitha.”
“I shouldn’t let you in at all after the stunt you pulled the other night. Didn’t your mother teach you that it is rude to barge your way into a ladies dressing room? Luckily for you I hate to lose a customer and T isn’t here tonight.” I made to walk away but the man pulled me back. His long fingers wrapped around my forearm. “I’m Dennis. I manage the club. Perhaps I can help.”
I pulled my arm free. “No you can’t.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. You are Samuel Crusow, right?”
I blurted, “Why does everyone keep saying that like it is something sinister? What is all this nonsense about? You people – whoever you are – have been the bane of my life for the past few days. My wife won’t come home because she is so terrified. Is this about the mayor?”
Dennis raised his dark eyebrows. “The mayor? This is nothing to do with him. It is all about you. Let’s not stand here in the cold discussing it. Come inside.”
I followed Dennis across the club. His lean frame was much taller than mine. He strode confidently with long legs. A girl stopped him. She was dressed in a sequinned leotard. She had a large black bow in her blonde hair. Her face was so thick with make up it almost looked like a mud mask.
“Why can’t I have the headline spot? I am so much better than Meldra is,” she whined.
Dennis shook her off. “Not now Bette. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Bette was relentless. She continued to follow him, pleading her case. “You are showing clear favouritism to that no talent whore!”
Finally, Dennis stopped. He gripped both of her shoulders. He was clearly frustrated but he still spoke with a calm tone. “Listen kid, why don’t you and Meldra fight it out back stage. I will even throw in some knives and you can tear at each other’s throats. Whoever wins can replace T until she returns. It will give me one less whining woman to worry about.”
The girl huffed and pursed her lips severely before marching backstage. Dennis showed me to an office where he gestured for me to take a seat.
“It would be dangerous to tell you everything now. Besides, T knows more than I do,” Dennis began, pouring himself a glass of whiskey from the bottle that had been left on the table. “Your grandfather, Samuel Crusow Sr, was the founder of a group of elite members of society. It began just after the last great depression. It was a way of preserving certain statuses so that the members wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of poverty.”
“I never really knew my grandfather why should I care about any of this?” I asked.
Dennis swallowed the whiskey. “Because, Samuel is no longer with us which makes you the next to take his spot in the club.”
“So I get a birthday card, the odd invitation to a game of golf, that sort of thing?”
Dennis laughed. “Not quite.”
“Well if that’s the case then I’m really not interested,” I stated quite conclusively.
“Don’t let the ‘Knock, Knock’ club fool you. I mean I love the old girl like my own but she is an ugly old hag. Our base may not be much to look at but the power of this group stretches far and wide.”
“So what is this group about then?”
“We do whatever it takes to survive,” said Dennis matter of factly. “What we need is granted to us. We have the right to survive, even in such troubled times as these.”
“And what exactly do you want from me?”
“It would be good to have a namesake to take over from where Samuel left off but I will leave that decision up to you. Don’t let the desperation outside take hold of you. There is something here much greater than any of us and it can be yours if only you were to take it.”
“So you are a cult?”
Dennis shrugged his shoulders, unmoved by the term. “Call it what you want but don’t dismiss it until you have seen what we are capable of, what we are willing to do …”
In my head the voices were screaming ‘nutbag!’ but my hands were shaking. My arms were trembling.
The ‘Knock, Knock’ club was a front for the mysterious group. They held meetings at the club and I was invited to the next one. This was going to make one hell of a story.
That night I climbed into bed. My head was conjuring thousands of different ideas of what could possibly be involved at the ‘Knock, Knock’ club. I drifted off to sleep just after midnight because I heard the town clock chime faintly in the distance and before the twelfth stroke I had fallen into a deep sleep.
The next morning I awoke refreshed. Slowly I came back from the land of nod into the land of reality. The questions that plaque us every morning queued up like always. ‘Where am I? What has happened?’ I realised quickly that I was at home. The sun was streaming through the window. It was later than I would have liked to rise. As I turned I felt a heavy object beside me. The haze in my eyes cleared. I saw the wisps of my wife’s hair streaming out from underneath the wine coloured duvet. My initial thought was that she must have arrived home late and didn’t wish to disturb me. I peeled the sheets back. The bed was heavily stained with blood. Theresa stared up at me with vacant eyes. Her pretty and pleasant face that never had a sneer for anyone had been completely mutilated. Her throat had been cut and her mouth gaped open as though she was still trying to hold on to her last breath.
The police were alerted. I was arrested on suspicion of my wife’s murder. My visits to the ‘Knock, Knock’ club were not to be taken lightly. It was only going to get worse…
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Episode 4: MURDER 1 will be available exclusively on vivikawidow.com 6pm (UK time) 16th April.
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