There it was, that familiar door. A dark spot in the loneliest alley way in the city. You wouldn’t even notice it if you weren’t looking for it. They told me I would never get away and like a fool I refused to believe them. Now the little girl – Sarah – was dead. Perhaps Tabitha was right when she told me she would still be alive if it weren’t for me. I took her away from the club and in my misguided heroism they were both gunned down. I as good as pulled the trigger on the innocent kid and her father.
“Just kill me,” I groaned when I was back in familiar surroundings.
Tabitha slammed a crystal glass onto my hand and poured a generous serving of whiskey. She gave a laugh more guttural than her usual.
“You will insist on ignoring my advice won’t you? Now that little girl’s blood is on your hands,” she said. She took a long drink from the neck of the bottle. She pulled it away from her full lips with a satisfying sigh. “You have a will to live in you yet,” she stated, narrowing her gaze on me. She flicked the brim of the grey hat she wore so it pushed back from her face and revealed more of her round features. “If you just play the game for a little while you will learn I’m not your enemy,” she said in a curious way. It was almost as if everything she had said until then had been a rehearsed line. In that brief moment the act ended and her true self stepped onto stage.
“If you aren’t my enemy, then who is?” I asked.
She smiled. The gap between her front teeth lent a girlish, innocent quality. Her grey eyes focused on mine like a snake charmer catching a serpent. The door behind the bar that led onto the back of the alley opened.
“Dennis!” Tabitha cheered. “Come and have a chat with our Sam,” she said. “After all this time and all of our hospitality he still doesn’t quite understand how things work around here. The club does a lot of good too,” she added. “We may have to shed some blood from time to time but we look after our own and we can the last thing standing between a family and complete destitution.” She pointed to Dennis. “We even reunited Dennis here with his son. Can you believe that? After all those years apart Milo has come back to where he belongs.”
Dennis gave a vacant stare. It was the cold stare of a man already dead but continuing on with the formalities of living.
His gaze dropped when the door from backstage opened and an eleven year old boy came bounding out bundled in an oversized black sweatshirt and the grey shorts he was wearing when I first met him.
Tabitha wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him closer to her planting an affectionate kiss on his head.
“He just loves his Aunty Tabby,” she said.
Dennis didn’t speak but the cloud that had gathered in his long face spoke volumes.
“Get off of him!” came a screeching voice.
A woman came tearing from back stage. Her fingers were splayed like the claws of a cat. A mane of auburn hair flowed behind her. Her teeth were gritted. Milo was pushed aside, bumping his shoulder on the bar. The woman grabbed Tabitha and dug her nails into the club performer’s face.
It all happened so fast. Before I could react I was also pushed aside. Dennis wrapped his arms around the attacker and lifted her away. She was still trying to scratch at Tabitha. No one had to tell me, I had already guessed who she was. From her appearance and her hatred of Tabitha I could only assume her to be Julianne – Dennis’ estranged wife and Milo’s mother.
“Mum, stop!” Milo cried as Dennis wrestled the woman behind the bar.
Tabitha reached two fingers up to her face. She checked them for blood.
“I ought to have that rabid bitch put down,” she said. She snatched Milo by his sleeve. “He stays with me,” she stated. Even Julianne didn’t argue.
Something was about to happen, something that all this had been leading to from the beginning. Tabitha took Milo backstage to prepare for the evening show.
“Help me,” Dennis called from behind the bar. He was holding Julianne’s head against his chest. She was convulsing in a seizure. Foamy saliva was escaping from the corner of her mouth. I had never seen anyone have a fit before. I gripped Julianne by her shoulders and restrained her so she wouldn’t hurt herself.
“What’s wrong with her?” I asked her husband.
Dennis shook his head. There was always a certain distance in Dennis’ face. Sure he would strut about the club like he was on top of the world but that wasn’t his true self, not really. The husband and father who had mistakenly took in the strange girl resulted in his father being killed and his wife fleeing with his son. That was the true him and it was lost that day. Milo had come looking for him but to what end? Julianne already knew what Tabitha was capable of. She had kept her child safe for so long. Why would she return now?
“What is wrong with her?” I asked again as the fit began to fade.
“I don’t know,” replied the club manager. “They gave her something.”
“Why would she come here?” I hoped Dennis could shed some light on his wife’s sudden arrival.
“She knows how to stop them, every last one of them.”
Like the ghost that haunted the Knock, Knock club I was left to wander around. I was given my own room back at the top of the building. Thankfully my attempts to escape hadn’t caused my privileges to be withdrawn so that was something. I was brought a plate of greasy meat and a warm mug of lemon tea. It was a better meal than most people in the city could find.
“I heard you had quite a night,” said Lisa, the girl who worked in the club with the flowing red locks. I must have been privileged for her to have brought me food. She rarely left Dennis’ side so smitten with him was the girl.
“Well I’m back now,” I said as the greasy smell danced under my nose causing my stomach to groan.
Lisa said nothing else. When she left the door lay ajar. The last crowd of the evening were gone. All was quiet. I ignored the protests of my yearning hungry body and decided to try and find out more about Julianne. My reporter’s nose was bothering me.
They wouldn’t leave her just to wander around the club, not after attacking it’s star. Dennis would know where she was.
A night club can be a surreal place after the patrons have gone home. Stepping onto the sticky floors and seeing those empty chairs that had been filled with bodies not moments before. It was truly like stepping into an apocalypse. Milo was sat at the bar. He was swirling a neon pink straw around a glass of watered down orange juice.
“It’s late,” I remarked. Truth be told I didn’t actually didn’t know what time it was but as the club was closed it had to be approaching dawn.
“My aunt asked me to wait here,” the boy replied. “She’s going to get me a room.”
“Mind if I join you?” I asked pulling the stool out beside him and not really giving him much of an option.
“It’s your club,” he said.
I hadn’t thought of it like that before. In a lot of strange ways the club did belong to me, thanks to my megalomaniac grandfather. I didn’t know how much had been explained to Milo.
“Where is your dad?” I asked. Milo shrugged his shoulders. A little more delicately I asked, “Where is your mum?”
For all I knew Julianne could be dead by now and Milo could have been there to witness the brutality of her final moments but I suspected Tabitha wouldn’t expose him to that.
He just shrugged her his shoulders again and went back to stirring with his straw.
“This isn’t a good place to be,” I tried to explain to him. He didn’t know me from the next man. I was a stranger to him so why should he listen to me?
“My aunt will take care of me.”
Tabitha had really gotten inside his head. He didn’t even seem to consider his dad. He spoke of her as though she were some kind of Almighty. To someone in the clutches of the Knock, Knock she may very well be.
He would have only been a baby in Julianne’s arms at the time she fled so he wouldn’t remember Tabitha but the still had a bond. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the club had known where he was this whole time and Tabitha had been keeping in touch with him.
Tabitha joined us from backstage. He put her arms around both of us an kissed Milo’s cheek.
“Isn’t this cosy,” she commented. “Two of my favourite boys.”
Milo’s face lit up. I was bemused.
“It’s getting late,” she said to Milo. Sun will be coming up soon and you need to get some sleep.”
Milo dropped the straw and slid off the stool.
“Come say goodbye to your mother first,” she instructed.
Milo didn’t seem worried by this but I knew that goodbye would be a final one.
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COMING NEXT WEEK: We find out what makes Tabitha tick and where her blood lust comes from.
Knock, Knock (EPISODE 18): No Kids Allowed – Live 6pm Sunday 19th of November