It was late at night when a soft tap at my door stirred me awake. I hadn’t even realised I had fallen into the swamp of my dreams until I stirred awake. I shuffled across the bare wooden floor. I opened the door and Dennis was stood in the shadows like a great ominous bird.
“If you are going, you have to go now,” he said.
I pulled a pair of oversized boots on. My coat hung on a stand by the door. I pulled it off and the coat stand came with it. Dennis snatched it before it toppled completely.
“Quiet,” he warned in a screaming whisper.
I was silent and still a little sleepy. Dawn’s early light was beginning to show. I followed Dennis down into the main body of the club.
“Promise me you will find Milo,” he urged.
I nodded my head dumbly. At any other time I would have said something along the lines of, “the boy will come to no harm under my charge,” but I was so taken aback by finally leaving the ‘Knock, Knock’ club I couldn’t find the words. We made our way across the shaky floor. Freedom was imminent. The outside air was going to be so crisp and so sweet.
A lock shuffled. A door handle shook. Dennis pushed me back from the main door . At the farther end, by the stage a little girl came skipping. She was followed by Tabitha.
“Now take a seat,” said Tabitha. The little girl – Sarah – obeyed. She pulled out a chair and sat at a table nearest the stage.
“Would you like some ice cream?” Tabitha asked. She leaned closer with a warm but mischievous smile.
The little girl wrinkled her nose. “I’m not allowed ice cream for breakfast.”
Tabitha’s smile widened like a great python ready to strike. “You are here.”
The kid’s eyes lit up then. It was like she had been told her birthday was coming twice that year. She had no idea the danger she was in. Her life was in the hands of Tabitha and if I left the little girl would surely die. If I stayed I could do something to keep her alive.
“See,” Tabitha continued. “It’s not so bad here is it? All that crying earlier was for nothing.”
Tabitha crossed the floor towards the bar, behind which lay the kitchens. As she passed she muttered to Dennis, “Watch her.”
She stopped and did a double take when she noticed I was wearing boots and a coat.
“Going somewhere are we?” she laughed.
I knew then I wasn’t.
When Tabitha was out of sight Dennis pushed me back towards the door.
“Go now. Hurry!” he said.
“I can’t,” I stated. “If I go now you could get hurt or that little girl.”
Dennis growled. “What about Milo?” You said you would help him.”
“I did and I will,” I said. “But before I do I have to make sure no harm comes to that kid. You told me that if I left they would be watching me. I could lead them straight to Milo. That would be two dead kids on my conscience. Right now, Tabitha doesn’t know Milo is near. He is safe.”
I couldn’t believe my own sentiments. Since arriving at the club I had been seeking a way to escape its grasp. Seeing Sarah changed everything in an instant.
Although no one had ever said the words I was a prisoner at the Knock, Knock. If Dennis were to orchestrate my leaving, they would kill him, the little girl and then hunt me down. I couldn’t risk it. At least not yet.
Dennis stormed away. I could understand his frustration. I had been pushing him to help me. I even threatened to tell the club about his son if he didn’t. I didn’t have any time to worry about that. The only reason I was still alive was because my grandfather was one of the club’s founding members. I was walking a very thin line as it was.
Tabitha returned with an over flowing bowl of strawberry ice cream.
“Changed your mind?” she laughed when she saw I was pulling my coat off
“I was just a little cold. I’m fine now,” I replied.
“That’s just as well,” said Tabitha. “You would have been dead before you reached the end of the alley. Do you think it would be so easy as to walk out the front door? Even if Dennis opened that door for you? And without so much as oodbye? A girl could be insulted.”
She dropped the plate of ice cream down to the little girl. She gripped the spoon and immediately set to digging in.
“Don’t hurt her,” I warned for as much use as it could be.
Tabitha raised her eyebrows. “What kind of monster do you think I am?”
We paused. Tension rose. Her steel grey eyes stared right through me. Then her teeth began to tear through her ruby lips as a smile spread.
“It all really depends on her father cooperating now doesn’t it.”
When I first came to the Knock, Knock I was an enthusiastic journalist in search of a new story line. I had no idea the nightmare that lay behind the closed doors. Now, I was in deep. As the bodies began to pile around me I had to do something!
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