I was awoken by the noise of a gun shot somewhere deep in the club. It was faint but enough to wake me from my unsettled sleep.
My inner voice debated.
‘Stay where you are,’ the rational side said.
‘Go and investigate you coward!’ the bolder side teased.
Never one to shrink from a challenge, I got up and followed the noise. I found Dennis in the main room of the club. He was holding a gun and was as drunk as ever I’ve seen a man. He was sat on a stool, raised the gun with an unsteady hand and fired. Luckily the bullet hit the wall beside me.
“What the Hell!” I cried.
Dennis laughed. He put the gun to his head. He squeezed the trigger but the empty barrel clicked. He grimaced and threw the gun to the floor. I picked it up and laid it on the bar.
“You shouldn’t waste bullets on the wall,” I reminded him.
“I was trying to shoot you,” he growled.
I raised my eyebrows. “Good job!” I stated. I stepped behind the bar and poured us both a glass of very watered down whiskey.
I tried to stay calm but truthfully my heart was racing. The whiskey did little to help.
“So why am I on your hit list?” I asked. “What have I done?”
Dennis sighed. I knew he was stifling a sob and trying to bring his jack-the-lad persona back to the surface.
“I just can’t get away from her,” he said. “From the moment I felt sorry for her and brought her into my home It’s been like a curse. She won’t let me leave.”
I raised my shoulders and clutched the whiskey glass in both hands. I sat on the stool next to the club manager.
“She’s not an easy woman to run away from. I’ve tried,” I reminded him.
Tabitha was a vibrant personality. She had her way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world. She could convince you to do anything – even murder. Although most times I think she preferred to do the killing herself.
“It isn’t my fault you are stuck here,” I said. “I don’t want to be here any more than you do. I didn’t start this damn club. So why try to kill me?”
Dennis spun his stool and left his glass on the bar. He focused back on me. His stare was like that of a father trying to determine if I was good enough for his daughter.
“I found something out about you,” he said.
I wasn’t surprised. Ever since arriving at the Knock, Knock everyone seemed to know more about me than I did.
“Really?” I rolled my eyes, quite exasperated at this point. The missed sleep was starting to feel like sand on my eye lids.
“She loves you,” Dennis said.
This I hadn’t expected.
“She’s playing you, man,” I replied. “Tabitha only loves herself.”
“She does,” he insisted. “She told me.”
I took Dennis’ whiskey. Suddenly I felt I needed another drink.
“So that’s what your problem is? You think I’m going to steal her away from you? Trust me, I have had my fill of crazy bitches to last me a lifetime. Tabitha tops the lot.”
Dennis frowned. For a few moments he looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.
“I don’t care about her,” he spat. “She took something from me. She took my whole life. I am going to ruin hers.”
That was when Dennis explained what happened earlier that night that had caused him to spiral into this mania.
The customers of the club had started to filter out after Tabitha’s show. A few hung around to speak to the performer herself and she moved among them like a Goddess among mortals, relishing in their adoration. I had went upstairs at this point to be alone. The smile Dennis kept aside for the customers had fallen away. His colourful small talk became grunts and groans.
“If you’re not going to play your role you might as well leave,” Tabitha had spat at him when she pulled him aside.
“Where’s Milo?” the manager asked after his son.
“I’ve let him have a few moments with his mother,” the performer replied. “They’re downstairs.
She stopped and turned to the group by the door who were bidding her goodnight.
“I’ve had a great night!” said the man holding the arm of the girl who accompanied him tightly.
“We just love your show,” the girl agreed.
Tabtiha kissed her finger tips and blew it at them.
“You’re too kind,” she said. “Do come back soon.”
The man pulled his jacket tighter around himself.
“We’ll be back. It’s the only place in town where you can still get a decent meal.”
“Come back tomorrow and we’ll really cook things up,” Tabitha replied with a wink.
The couple departed. Tabitha slapped Dennis’ thigh.
“Take your sour face out of here before you bring the whole God damned place down.”
It wasn’t like Dennis to be so morose when the club was alive. Ever since his estranged son had turned up he had found it more and more difficult to keep up the act.
Tabitha wandered away to share a drink with some of the patrons who were still hanging around. Dennis went in search of his wife and son.
Julianne was more of a prisoner of the club than I was. I could at least wander around within its walls as much as I pleased. The red headed wife of Dennis’ had been confined to one of the small rooms below the club. Trying to attack Tabitha had been a huge mistake on her part.
Dennis tried the door of Julianne’s room but it wouldn’t budge.
“Dennis, is that you?” she asked. “I’m locked in.”
Dennis slid down and sat with his back against the wood that separated him from his wife and child.
“Did they hurt you?” he asked.
There was a lingering silence that made Dennis feel uncomfortable.
“Is Milo okay?” he followed up.
The silence continued. Dennis turned and banged his fist against the door.
“Jules!?” he called. He repeated his question. “Is Milo still in there with you?”
The silence on the other side of the door was broken by petrified screams.
“What have I done?” she cried.
“Where is Milo?” Dennis asked for a third time. “Where is our son?” Emotion began to tremble through his voice.
“He’s dead,” she sobbed.
Dennis climbed to his feet in a swift move. He tried the door again but it only confirmed it was locked. He threw his shoulder against it a couple of times but it made no difference.
Julianne’s sobs became uncontrollable shrieks.
Tabitha wouldn’t have left Dennis too long, especially
Julianne. As soon as she was politely able to politely break away from the customers politely she followed him. She gripped his arm and pulled him back.
“What are you doing?” she demanded to know, assuming he was trying to break his wife free.
“Where is Milo?” he roared, gripping both of her shoulders and pushing her back against the wall of the corridor.
Tabitha pointed at the door. He’s in there with his mother. I had to lock him in. We couldn’t let our little Jules out.
It was then Tabitha shared Dennis’ concern. She reached into the pocket of her black waistcoat she wore and removed a key. She unlocked the door. Her hand struggled to place the key at first.
“Damn it!” she growled to herself.
Finally the door gave way. Julianne crawled along the floor away from the light of the hallway.
“Get a hold of yourself,” she screamed with a kick into Julianne’s side.
Dennis’ wife curled herself up and drew into the wall. Her long auburn hair fell into her face in matted strings.
Tabitha was pushed aside. Dennis grabbed Julianne.
“What have you done!” he roared. He gripped her by the hair and pulled her to her feet.
Tabitha looked behind her. Milo’s body was lying on the small metal cot Julianne had been given to sleep on. His skin had a bluish tint. He was dead. She knew this all too well. She had seen skin like that before.
“You killed him!” Dennis was distraught. His long fingers had looped into Julianne’s hair.
Tabitha had knelt beside the ten year old but all signs of life were gone.
“She straightened back up and drew closer to the husband and wife.”
Julianne pushed the hair away from her face. Her chest was rising and falling heavily as she tried to get her breath back.
“I had to,” she said. “I would never see my son end up in the hands of the likes of you.”
She pursed her lips and spat on Tabitha. Tabitha’s freckled nose crinkled. Sharp frown lines formed. On the milky skin of her forehead. She bore her teeth with the girlish gap like a ravenous wolf.
“Kill her,” she snarled.
Julianne stumbled backwards reaching a hand out to the wall to steady herself. She spat again at Tabitha.
“Kill her or I will,” Tabitha made the ultimatum.
Dennis was overcome with rage. He wrapped his fingers around his wife’s throat and began to throttle the life from her. Her tongue protruded from lips. She gargled and tried to tear her husband from her. She dug her nails into Dennis’ hand but two of the nails broke. Dennis didn’t even seem to notice the blood from the would she had inflicted. He bashed her head against the wall once. She gave an unintelligible moan. He did it again and her skull cracked. After a third time, life departed from her eyes and she breathed her last.
Dennis gave a sigh of despair and let her fall to the floor. Tabitha tried to console him but he turned on her.
“You did this!” he said. “You locked him in here with her and now he’s dead.”
Tabitha used her foot, clad in purple velvet, to flip over Julianne’s body onto its back.
“I didn’t think the manic bitch would kill her own son,” she replied.
Dennis growled but Tabitha still stared at him in the eye.
“I never would have allowed him in here if I thought she would hurt him,” she said. “You know I adored the boy.”
It was probably the most honest thing she had ever said to him.
“Have you ever lost someone you love?” he asked. “Do you even know what it is like to love someone more than your own life?”
Tabitha’s lips spread into a smile but before the did her grey eyes gave an involuntary glint.
“Sam!” he said. He began to laugh despite himself. “That’s why you’re going out of your way to keep him here. You love him.”
“You’re losing your mind,” Tabitha returned cooly. “He’s here because of his name. You know how important the Crusow name is to the club.”
Dennis continued laughing. He was almost hysterical. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, leaving a trail of blood from the scratch Julianne had made.
“One day,” he said. “I will make you feel what I feel right now. I will force you to endure what I have had to endure. I promise you that.”
That was when he left them. He trusted Tabitha would give Milo a dignified burial. She was fond of the boy after all. He found the gun and that was where I met him.
“I’m sorry about Milo,” I said sincerely. “Killing me isn’t going to solve anything. Tabitha would no more mourn me than she would anyone else.”
Both our wives were dead. His son was gone. My best friend took her own life. Our entire lives had been turned upside down and one woman was responsible – Tabitha.
“When Julianne came here she told you that she knew how to end it once and for all. Was she serious about that or where they the ravings of a mad woman?”
Dennis seemed a little calmer now. His voice was hoarse like he had been crossing a desert land without water. The emotions must have dehydrated him.
He said, “She was sincere.”
I pressed, “Did she tell you?”
He nodded. “You’re not going to like it,” he warned.
What could possibly be worse than letting the club continue?
Click HERE to check out the story from the beginning.
Knock, Knock (Episode 20) – The Final Curtain will be live 17.12.2017