“So what happened?” asked the police officer, Coogan. He had already asked me the same question one hundred times at least.
“I told you!” I spat with venomous frustration that probably wasn’t helping my case. “The last thing I remember was that I returned home from the club and went to sleep. Theresa wasn’t at home. She was at her mother’s. I woke up and there she was beside me… dead.”
The image of my dead wife will be forever etched in my mind. The cold stare, the haunting paleness of her skin. I couldn’t begin to grieve because as quickly as I had discovered her corpse lying next to me, I was whisked off to the Coldford jail and accused of being the one responsible. With the finger of blame pointing in my face I couldn’t find a suitable excuse or explanation that would satisfy the wagging tongues of the town and the suspicious eyes of the Coldford police force.
Officer Coogan looked at the papers in his hands again. The statement that I had made on arrival was there in plain writing for him to read over and over again.
“So you say you were returning from the ‘Knock, Knock’ club?”
“Yes …” I grumbled. “Must we do this again?”
“And that was Thursday evening?”
“No!” I snapped. “It was Tuesday. Stop trying to trip me I up. I know what I meant and I meant what I said.”
Coogan’s stare narrowed on me. “The officer who attended the scene was called on Friday.”
My head began to spin with the information I was being dealt. Coogan continued, “That means that there are two days unaccounted for. The victim had been lying for two days. Do you care to fill us in?” I shook my head. I couldn’t handle Theresa being referred to as a victim. “Blunt force trauma to the back of the head. You did it, didn’t you?”
“No I didn’t!” I protested. “I have no idea what happened to her!”
Coogan folded his arms and leaned back in his chair, his lips pursed tightly. He had the slightest self satisfied grin that most coppers get when the think ‘I’ve got ya!’
There was a knock on the door. Coogan looked at his watch. He frowned to himself, scraped his chair back with a deafening screech and went to the door. He didn’t open it fully. He pushed his bald head through and spoke to the visitor in a hushed voice. When he came back to the table he held an expression that was akin to his wife having told him he had lost his manhood.
“You are free to go,” he groaned.
I was confused. Subjects of murder investigations don’t just walk free. “But what about my wife? Don’t you want to ask me more questions? What about the investigation?”
I had never known anyone outside the canine community to growl but that is what Coogan did then. “Do you want me to keep you here?” he tried.
I shook my head. My whole body was trembling. In some feat of unconscious acrobatics I was on my feet and out the door standing under the archway that was the main entrance to the police station.
“Mr Crusow?” I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to find Tabitha from the club. She wore a long grey coat and a hat, the brim of which cast a shadow over her steel grey eyes.
“What are you doing here?” I stammered.
Her painted lips stretched into a smile. “A simple thank you will suffice.”
“You had me released. How? I was being held for my wife’s murder.”
“They just needed to be reminded that you were Samuel Crusow. That is all.”
“Do you know what happened to my wife?”
Tabitha shook her head. “Sorry no. I can help you find out though and faster than the police I dare say.” She linked her arm through mine and walked me down the steps of the police station and onto the street like a child. “Go home and pack your belongings. Leave everything you can spare. Meet me at the club.”
If someone could break into my house and have my wife’s dead body lie next to me without my even realising there was no way I wanted to take any chance of living at home alone. I arrived at the club around noon bringing with me only a small bag of clothes. Dennis and Tabitha were waiting, as though they had anticipated the exact time of my arrival.
“Good to see you Sam!” Dennis beamed pulling my bag from my shoulder and handing it to one of the girls. This time she wasn’t scantily clad in sequins but in a long black dress with a man’s suit jacket over it. “Lisa, take this to Mr Crusow’s room.”
As the girl disappeared with everything I deemed important enough to bring with me the cloud of uncertainty began to break. A peak of informative sunshine shone through. “I have nowhere else to go,” I said.
Dennis patted my shoulder and drew me closer to him. “This is the only place that you need to be. We are so excited to have you with us where you belong.”
Tabitha disappeared behind the bar and began to pour three whiskeys. She sipped at hers, Dennis took a drink then wandered off to oversee preparations for that night leaving the rest on the bar. I swallowed mine in one gulp.
This was going to be my life now and I was damned if I even knew who they were…
I had been given a luxurious room considering the face of the club. It was a spacious room at the very top of the building with a vaulted ceiling and a window that looked out onto the street below. I could actually see my old home from there. On the night stand was a photograph of a man with auburn hair like mine, the same emerald eyes that I bore and a smile that looked all too familiar. It had to have been the original Samuel Crusow. My grandfather had been mentioned several times but not once had I been told where he was. Was he still alive? Dennis had mentioned me as a suitable replacement for him so I guess it was likely he was dead.
I couldn’t hear any of the music or frivolity downstairs. At around eight, the waitress, Lisa, came to my room with a freshly prepared meal. She spoke to me but I heard none of it. I gathered that she was inviting me downstairs but I was too busy writing a letter in my head to Theresa’s mother.
After the club closed I still couldn’t sleep. Given that they treated me like a celebrity I was sure they wouldn’t mind if I helped myself to the bar. The corridors upstairs were in darkness. It was like the whole club had gone to sleep.
As I pushed the door open into the main hall I discovered that the club had not been asleep upstairs but had merely brought itself to the belly of the building and quietened its noise to a sombre thoughtfulness. The house lights were down but the tracing lights twinkled like diamonds. Tabitha, Dennis and most of the staff were gathered. When Dennis saw me he darted onto the stage.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Samuel Crusow!”
They all turned to me and began to give an applause. Flabbergasted by the sudden attention when all I wanted was a quiet drink, I climbed onto the stage and said to him, “I am here now. I think you ought to start explaining to me what this club is all about.”
Dennis opened his arms. “Even better. I will show you.”
Tied to an office chair with wheels, the Mayor of Coldford was pushed onto the stage. His mouth was gagged. His eyes wide with alarm. His face was bloodied from a very severe beating. He was still wearing the same suit that he had had on when he first disappeared.
“You are responsible for this?” I gasped.
Dennis shrugged his shoulders. “Not me personally.”
I looked at the most powerful man in Coldford, now crying like a terrified infant. “You have to let him go,” I warned, hoping that some of their adulation for me would translate into obedience.
Dennis shook his head. “Sorry this came straight from upper management.”
“What is this place?”
“As I said before we are a group of the elite. We have been granted authority by a higher power to survive by any means necessary. This man has taken from the people of Coldford and embezzled their funds causing another depression. We could have let that go but then he embezzled the clubs funds. That we cannot allow.” Dennis saw that I had retreated so he gripped my arm and pulled me back.
Tabitha, sick of Dennis’ theatrics and my hesitation, pulled a gun and shot the Mayor through the back of his skull. “He can be thankful that I was feeling merciful today,” she griped.
I stumbled backwards. Blood had spattered over both me and Dennis. The rest of the staff began applauding again.
I tried to pull away. “I will go to the police!” I said as if they would have just let me go.
Dennis and Tabitha looked at each other and shared a laugh. “If the club could be stopped by being reported to the police do you really think we would have lasted for generations?”
I was finding it difficult to breathe. I could see the dead frame of Mayor Feltz in the corner of my eye. “His wife! I will tell his wife!”
Dennis removed a silver cigarette case from the inside of his pocket. He pushed one between his lips and fished out a petrol lighter. He sighed with satisfaction after his first draw. “Go ahead. Mrs Feltz is a member.”
What had I gotten myself into?
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EPISODE 5: BIG CITY GIRL will be live 6pm (UK time) Sunday 23rd April.