Archive for the ‘Knock, Knock’ Category

The grey skies of Westcliff were fitting for its rugged and harsh landscape. It was a cold, windy island were it rained frequently. Upon a large hill, at the highest point on the island stood a manor house, viewed with awe and respect. Therein lived the Crusow family. No one on the island spoke of it but the Crusow patriarch – Samuel Crusow – had amassed a great deal of power within the community. Samuel had one daughter. His sons were long gone. Emily Crusow had been walking the halls, carrying a child in her arms, sobbing for so long that the very stone of the building was beginning to vibrate with her grief. She had managed to keep the father of her child secret for the first few months of her son’s life. She should have known she couldn’t have kept him hidden forever.

Her father had been summoned by the jingling of bells as servants began to lay the long table for two. Samuel Crusow sat himself at the usual spot at the head of the table. A plate of thick broth was placed under his nose. Samuel immediately set about breaking bread. He had built up quite a hunger that day as it happened.

Will you stop with that incessant crying!” he barked at his daughter. Bread crumbs fell onto his full auburn beard.

Please, just let me and my baby go,” cried Emily. “We are no use to you now.”

Samuel smiled with a mouth full. He swallowed the masticated bread and replied, “Even if the little boy is a half breed, he can still be of use. He bares my name and bares my blood. He could find himself at the very top of our food chain if he is raised correctly. He has the chance here to become a great leader. He could have everything he could want and yet you wanted to take him away so he could starve and fade away like the rest them? You lost all chance of being his mother when you made that decision. When he is finished nursing you can go and join the rest of them on the ash heap but the boy stays.”

One of the maids who was most sympathetic to Emily’s plight tried to urge her to sit at the table. Emily pulled her baby closer to her. “You have to eat something,” groaned Samuel as he turned his attention to a newspaper one of the maids had left for him. “It’s not good for the baby.”

In the cover of darkness, in the silence of the night, Emily carried her baby away from the only home she had ever known, the monstrous building she had only just seen the outside of. A small fishing boat was waiting for her on the coast. She had to hurry. Her father’s reach was long and far. She didn’t know who she could trust. Her life had been dominated by ‘The Group’. Until she met Perry – a simple fisherman – she couldn’t conceive of a life outside the group. She didn’t wish for her son to suffer the same. With the help of some of the staff she managed to reach the outside. She didn’t shy away from the cutting wind, she embraced it. For Emily it meant freedom.

Where are you going?” Tawny McInney had been watching the Crusow house for most of the night. She had been meticulously noting in her mind the changes in lighting through the windows and any shadows moving behind the curtains. Her face was reddened and weather beaten. Her mass of mousey brown curls were hidden beneath a hood.

Please don’t hurt Sam,” Emily cried, knowing that pleading with Tawny wouldn’t do her much good.

Tawny leaned over and moved the sheets that the baby was wrapped in away from his face. He was fast asleep. He smacked his lips and turned towards the heat of his mother. “Your father is shuddering under the weight of ‘The Group’. He has lost touch with the principals we were founded on.”

Emily looked towards the water edge where Perry’s brother, Peter, was waiting to take her to the mainland and to safety. “I have to go,” said she. “I have to get away from my father before he hurts Sam or hurts me.”

Tawny had never been much of a sympathetic woman. In ‘The Group’ she was probably the most blood thirsty, even more so than Samuel. Something was brewing. ‘The Group’ had been questioning Samuel Crusow’s leadership. Tawny would be the one to step forward and take his place.

The Group is about to change in terrible and glorious ways. You do not want to be caught in the middle. Take your child to the safety of the mainland. Care for him. Perhaps one day when he is a man we will call upon him.”

To allow Sam to fall into the hands of Tawny and the other’s was a worse fate than anything Samuel would have in store. However, Tawny was offering her something that Emily didn’t have – time. Emily’s immediate concern was getting Sam away from the island. He could grow up away from ‘The Group’. Maybe they would find him one day but in the meantime taking him to the city was the best chance Sam would have. There in Coldford no one had yet heard the name, Samuel Crusow.

***

So my grandfather was a lunatic and he began this group who felt they were so above the rest of humanity that they could kill for whatever reason they felt necessary?” I said, probably sounding a little more concise in my head than the nonsense that escaped my lips.

Tabitha leaned back against the bar. She had long finished her tall glass of gin and soda. I was still nursing the whiskey in my hand, having held it so long it was warm.

That’s a rather crude way of putting it but that is the gist. Although, I must profess, your grandfather wasn’t a lunatic. He was a great man but he had lost his way. In the midst of the first great depression the islands were a harsh place to live. There were three prominent families – yours and mine included. Your grandfather saw to it that the worthy ones were provided for. Space, money and even blood and flesh had to be taken from the lowers otherwise the worthy ones would suffer and the lowers would feast on them like parasites.”

That is awful!” I exclaimed.

Tabitha laughed. “Well listen to the righteous man with the Crusow name.” She shook her head. “This was at a time when there was no trade to the island, the land couldn’t be cultivated and there were far too many mouths to feed. Something had to be done. The lowers were dying at a rapid rate anyway and if left unchecked they would have brought everyone down with them. They were going to die anyway but their lives didn’t have to be in vain. Like cattle raised for the slaughter they helped provide food, shelter and provisions for the worthy ones. Life could go on much as it had before.”

So what does that have to do with me?” I asked, trying to comprehend how I fit into it all now.

Tabitha tipped her glass over and began to roll it on its edge. “Well you are the key to it all. You are the last remaining Crusow. One of the founding members. That is a pretty important role don’t you think? My aunt was right to let your mother leave with you. In doing that ‘The Group’ managed to grow from some miserable little island cult to something much grander. When your mother had a child with one of the lowers it caused the members to look at how things were run, how it was decided who was lower and who was worthy in the first place. It was dangerous to keep you around, my aunt saw that but your grandfather didn’t.”

Where is my grandfather now? Is he still alive?”

Tabitha stopped fidgeting with her glass and stood it back upright. “When your mother escaped a sort of civil war was born within ‘The Group’. My aunt and your grandfather made for pretty powerful allies. They both still believed that those of lesser importance should be sacrificed for the benefit of those in authority. Samuel’s blood had mixed with that of the lowers when you were born. Some didn’t like that. Whilst the others bickered over the purity of ‘The Group’ my aunt set about restoring it to its former glory. My family followed you to Coldford. My aunt had promised your mother that she would find you. When she came to Coldford she saw the corruption in high places, like your mayor friend, the miserable wretches that swamped the streets. She had only just bought the club and cemented herself in Coldford society when she died and the second depression hit. Some of ‘The Group’ followed my aunt and thrived in the city. Others stayed behind with your grandfather and died out.”

The weight of grief began to press down on me again as I considered the scale of the situation I was in. “My wife is dead because of this. Theresa had nothing to do with any of this.”

Tabitha raised her eyebrows. “I’m genuinely sorry for what happened to Theresa. It was not our doing. There are still some out there who don’t like the idea of ‘The Group’ being led by a man who was sired by a fisherman. Theresa’s murder was a warning.”

Where does the mayor come in?” I had pondered the question constantly from the moment Dennis pulled a gun to the mayor’s head.

Mayor Feltz was a stupid man. His wife had used her connections with ‘The Group’ to gain political office. He then treated his wife and child terribly. The aid we gave him in getting his job was in the understanding that we would have influence in his office. He wasn’t willing to share. He felt that now he was mayor he could get away with anything. No one is above ‘The Group’.”

How have you managed to get away with this for so long?”

It’s very simple really,” she answered. “If you approach someone in power and tell them they have the right to decide the fates of those lower than them they tend to jump at the opportunity. Flattery is a very powerful tool. When that fails there is always good old fashioned threat of violence.”

I knew then that it was never going to be so easy as to walk out the door of the ‘knock, knock’ club and leave all this behind. They had people everywhere and now they were trying to make me their leader because I had the same name as the man crazy enough to begin it all in the first place. I asked myself again, not for the last time … what had I gotten myself into?

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Catch up from the beginning:

Knock, Knock (Episode 1): Welcome to the Club

Knock, Knock (episode 2): Don’t Come Knockin’

Knock, Knock (Episode 3): Sleep Tight Sam

Knock, Knock (Episode 4): Take A Bow

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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Follow the story from the beginning!

EPISODE 1: WELCOME TO THE CLUB

EPISODE 2: DON’T COME KNOCKIN’

EPISODE 3: SLEEP TIGHT SAM

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EPISODE 5: BIG CITY GIRL will be live 6pm (UK time) Sunday 23rd April.

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.

Read the story from the beginning!

EPISODE 1: WELCOME TO THE CLUB

EPISODE 2: DON’T COME A KNOCKIN’

So I admit, it gave it more than a second thought. Holding the card tightly between my fingertips wondering ‘who was this woman from my home land who seemed to know me?’ I had left Westcliff at such a young age that I don’t remember meeting anyone there and they most certainly wouldn’t remember me. Then there was the club – The ‘knock, Knock’ club – that I had been invited to. I had never heard of it before that night either yet it seemed strangely familiar.

Why don’t we go out and celebrate my new job,” I suggested to my wife.

She was apprehensive. “Where would you like to go?”

I raised my eyebrows and offered a wry smile. “I hear there is at least one club open in this town. I may even be on the guest list.”

Theresa slapped my shoulder playfully. She managed a smile. “That isn’t funny Sam. That woman threatened you. She was horrible!”

I put my arm around her. “Don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to me. It will give me the chance to find out what she wanted. Would you rather stay here?”

Theresa shook her head. “No I don’t want to be home alone again.”

I’m sure you will find that it was all for nothing. They probably just have something to do with the mayor and are trying to scare me from the story.”

Theresa hesitantly agreed…

***

Around eight, Theresa and I wandered the rain lashed streets. Most clubs and restaurants in the town were closed but none of those open were called ‘Knock, Knock’ The rain had stopped so I carried a large black umbrella under my arm.

Let’s just go home Sam. I don’t think we are going to find that club,” Theresa said.

A couple disappeared down an alley way. The woman clutched the man’s arm. She was giggling. She was dressed for a night out. Far more fancy than necessary for an alleyway tryst. I silently urged Theresa to stay as I followed them. The knocked on an old metal door. As the metal door opened a rush of music escaped. The couple went inside. It had to be the ‘Knock, Knock’ club. A lot of clubs had gone exclusive to avoid licensing that were crushing other establishments. Perhaps it was my own apprehension, or maybe empathy for my wife’s concerns but I found myself asking, “Are you sure about this?”

Theresa gripped my arm. “We are just going to see if we can find some information aren’t we?”

I smiled and sighed, the nerves gathered as a fluttering in my chest. We approached the heavy door. The main street seemed one million miles away. The door wasn’t particularly welcoming for a cabaret club. The sign above offered a light humming drown as the bulbs committed tirelessly to their duty.

I knocked heavily – twice for the irony. After a few tense moments the door was finally opened. A tall man with a cigarette between his lips greeted us. He was adorned in a sharp – well tailored black suit, a power red tie and a white shirt.

Evening,” he muttered without removing the cigarette. “Table for two?” With a flick of his wrist a scantily clad young girl dashed over and ushered us to a vacant table. She offered us a menu each. They were simple, black with the name of the club on it. It was sticky and well used. A stage as the main focus of the club. The band was deep in their music. The chorus girls were dancing in a parade of sequins and feathers. The ‘Knock, Knock’ club was actually so homey it was a pleasant place to be. Theresa even began to settle. We ordered some food. It wasn’t fine dining but it was effective none the less.

The man who had greeted us at the door stepped onto the stage. He had replaced his suit jacket with one from an outfit of evening wear. His red tie was now a black bow.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” his voice boomed over the soft playing of the band. Most of the room looked up from their conversations and offered him their full attention – including my wife and I. “Welcome to the knock, knock club. It has now come to that part of the evening that we love. I know it’s my personal favourite. Please welcome on stage – knock, knock’s finest – Miss T.” In a rush of drums and wind instruments, like the welcoming flag parade of a queen, the man rushed from the stage. The spotlight caught a very striking woman in its clasp. She was met with a thunderous applause. I turned back to Theresa just as one of our waitresses laid down a plat of strange meat. I thanked her and she replied in the way of a well taught serving girl who can offer politeness without saying a word. I looked at Theresa. Her already pale face had drained of all colour.

What’s the matter?” I asked.

She reached her quivering hand out and pointed to the stage. “That’s her! That’s the woman who came looking for you.”

***

I turned back to the stage. Miss T was singing a melody with a touch of old school cabaret and the smallest hint of raunchiness. She wore a silver dress which glinted underneath the stage lights. Her voice was sultry and deep. It was a pleasant tone, soft and warm like honey.

Theresa remained frozen in her chair, staring at Miss T until the performance was over, complete with appreciative calls from the crowd. I stood.

Where are you going?” Theresa cried gripping my arm.

I’m going backstage to find out what she wanted.”

Theresa shook her head furiously. “Please don’t. Just leave it. Let’s go home.”

If I’m not back in ten minutes alert the police.”

Theresa’s hand instinctively went to her mouth to conceal the true level of her grief.

I was surprised that no on stopped me as I slipped backstage. At the end of a long hall, carpeted in a very rich shade of purple, lay a door with the letter T on it. I assumed it to be Miss T’s dressing room. I knocked.

Come in,” came the same silken sound to match the singing. As Theresa had said, her voice was sprinkled with the harsh but musical tones of West cliff accent. I pushed open the door. The cabaret singer was facing the mirror so she spoke only to my reflection.

You are very lost, my man,” she said. A smile formed. There was a larger than normal gap between her front teeth which gave her an almost child like quality. She had removed some of the pins from her hair so her chestnut brown tresses were in disarray.

I’m Sam Crusow,” I said with some severity. “You came to my house.”

She smiled. “You are mistaken. I don’t make house calls.”

I became more frustrated. “My wife is outside waiting on me. She recognised you. She told me you were from Westcliff.”

The woman’s smile widened. “I’m not the only one to leave dear old rainy Westcliff for the opportunities of the big city. Look at yourself.”

I could feel tension building in my shoulders. “Just stay away from me and stay away from my wife!”

As I proposed to storm away the singer finally turned herself to face me. She pulled me back with a ferocious grip. “Now, Sam, let’s not get excited. Your name, is it a family name?” she asked.

I found myself replying, “My grandfather was named Samuel.”

My name is Tabitha. I’m sorry if I frightened poor little Theresa. I’m not going to harm you. I’m trying to protect you.”

There are people out there who would seek to destroy what your father built.”

Having never known my father or anything about him, other than his name, this came as quite a shock. “What do you know about my father?”

Tabitha lowered her eyes. “Nothing that I can discuss with you now. I’m due back on stage in a few minutes. If you go outside you’ll find that Theresa has already left. I believe you told her to alert the police. She doesn’t mess around does she? I suggest you stop her before she does something childish like tattle to the authorities. If you come back to the club tomorrow I will give you everything I have.”

***

I managed to catch up with Theresa just outside the club. She embraced me tightly and kissed my cheek. “What happened?”

Nothing, it’s fine. Like I said just someone playing silly beggars trying to stop me covering the story on Mayor Feltz.”

Theresa wrapped her arm around mine and brought herself close to me. She still seemed to be a little shaken but the crisp night air did some work in taking away our cares.

We found our bright green door lying ajar. We both stopped suddenly.

Wait here!” I instructed, leaving her and venturing into the house to assess the damage.

The door hinges were broken. The furniture overturned. In the initial inspection it appeared that nothing had been taken. Someone had been just trying to shake me up. What was clear though was that whoever it was, they were relentless.

Wiley reporter Sam Crusow has gotten himself in way too deep.

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EPISODE 1 

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EPISODE 3 (LIVE NOW)

 

 

Times are desperate for the people of Coldford. Once upon a time executives reduced to rummaging through their neighbours trash to find a meal. Hunting for shelter wherever they can find it – like stray cats. They’re once well tailored suits now hanging in rags. Its surreal to see proud captains of industry reduced to the indignity of soup kitchens. No where to go, no means of rising back up to their ivory towers.

My name is Samuel Crusow. When the depression hit, two industries were saved. Entertainment and news. People always need to know what’s happening in the world and people always need an escape from their reality. Luckily for me I’m with the former. I have been a freelance writer ever since finishing college. I realised quickly that no newspaper was willing to hire on a full time basis. They were fewer however, willing to buy any story I had written for them so It basically amounted to the same thing. I thought I had managed to successfully navigate through the choppy waters of recession until the day I made the discovery that beneath the harsh surface lay an even more terrifying truth.

But I get ahead of myself. I write these notes so that no one else has to suffer as I did. Chances are I will be gone by the time you read this. I will have taken my own life with the pistol I have perched at the edge of my desk. It will be my only way out.

It began just as winter was beginning to break. Autumn had held champion over the city long enough. It was time for the next season to bring its snow and hail.

The Mayor of the town – Gilford Feltz – had disappeared without a trace. That morning he had kissed his wife – a voluptuous and formidable woman named Silvia and his sixteen year old daughter, Olivia goodbye. He straightened his red power tie in the mirror and made his way to the office to wade through the city’s financial crises. If you were to believe the tabloids was largely his fault. Normally he would have been escorted to the office by some security of some kind. The citizens of Coldford riled and the very sight of the Mayor only made matters worse. However, that day he had braved it on his own. He never arrived at his office. Making his way down his street in his luxury silver car was the last anyone saw him. Some of the neighbours remembered hearing loud music blaring from his open windows as he passed which was most unlike the buttoned down, conservative man that he was.

I had been covering the story as it developed. This meant that I had been spending more time at the offices of The Coldford Chronicle which had been lapping up my articles. The Coldford Chronicle was the premier source for news and the city’s largest newspaper. It was also the provider of food on my table. I guess hiring freelances had been their way of protecting themselves. It meant that they were only paying for the material they could use when the needed it without any full time mouths to feed.

I never liked Mayor Feltz. I certainly didn’t vote for him. As I pursued the story I uncovered gambling debts and a mistress at the far end of town. His political misdeeds had been just the beginning. When I interviewed his mistress she told me that he was planning on leaving his wife (which is probably what the all say). On the morning he disappeared he had been planning on visiting her. The mistress, Cindy, had waited for him for most of the morning in her lavish apartment which the city had paid for. She flipped between anger and worry as time drew on. By the afternoon the police swamped her, acting quicker for such a public figure than they would have for ordinary folk.

His wife, his mistress and his gambling associates could offer the police no idea as to where he went. On a frosty morning weeks later I made my way to the stretch of tower blocks that housed the newsroom. My mind was occupied by ways in which I could spin the same story or offer a new angle.

Close to the office the clang of metal bins falling over drew my attention. From behind the cans crawled a middle aged man. His greasy chin was covered in thick, black stubble. Like others forced to live on the streets he still wore a suit. It was long past its better days. His eyes were dulled by the effects of alcohol. He reached out with a gloved hand and sdug out the core of an apple from the spilled waste and made breakfast of it. Sights like these were shocking when the recession first hit but the mind learned to ignore them as they became more common. The mighty had fallen and those who could help were desensitised to their plight. With very little I offer him I carried on past and into the tall grey building with the large towering sign on top that read ‘Coldford Chronicle’.

The newsroom was hot and thick with the smell of coffee. Full time reporters had become scarce but those of them who did remain in work dashed back and forth trying to perfect their articles. The approaching deadline spurred them into action like bloodhounds that had caught a scent. The brown leather satchel I carried my writing was dropped on an unoccupied table. I rested at the desk, drew out my notes and began to review them. I had to ignore the hum and chatter around me to focus on the words.

Hey Sam,” came the voice of Madeline Lower. I looked up and briefly acknowledged my long term friend. Madeline and I had been friends since college. She too was a freelance writer although she would admit her stories weren’t selling as well. It wasn’t that my writing was any better than hers, its just that the editor, Eric Waddle, was a bit of a chauvinist and what articles of hers he did accept were probably grudged. Madeline was an athletic woman in her late twenties. Her long black hair was piled on top of her head In a messy bun. Her skin was a warm bronze like she had come from a sun kissed land. Her pale blue eyes were sharp and feline like. That morning she wore a black turtle neck with a pin striped grey skirt. She sat herself on the edge of my desk with the leap of a soccer player and no feminine grace. “Waddle was looking for you,” she informed me. “He told me to kick you into his office as soon as you got here.”

Thanks,” was my reply, still absorbed in my reviewing. I brushed my auburn hair away from my face. I was always pale but I trust in those days of hard work and little reward I seemed even paler. I gathered my strength. Discussions with Waddle took a lot of energy. He was the kind of man who didn’t talk to you but talked at you.

You look like Hell,” Madeline commented – ever the crusader for honesty. “Go see what he wants and I’ll get us some coffee.

Madeline slipped off the desk and made her way to the further end of the rectangular room where the fresh coffee was being brewed.

I knocked on the oak door of the editor’s office. I could hear Eric’s voice inside having a one sided conversation. He was either conducting a telephone call or some journalist was on the listening side of a hostage situation. I pushed the door ajar. I caught a glimpse of Waddle standing behind his desk. His back was to me. He had a black telephone receiver clamped to his ear. He heard me as I stepped inside because he swivelled round, smiled and waved at me, gesturing me to sit down.

I gotta go, sweetheart,” said Eric. “If I hear anything I will let you know.”

I took the seat across the desk from Eric laying my papers on top. True to his name, Eric Waddle was a colossal man. He was a giant at foot three and a barge at two hundred and fifty pounds.

That was Silvia Feltz,” he informed me even though I hadn’t asked. “Poor thing is still in shock. Trying to piece together what happened. Gil and I go way back. He never told me he was in trouble.”

I have nothing new really,” I ventured.

Eric reached his heavy hand across and slid my papers towards him. “It doesnt matter. People can’t get enough of the story. They’re swallowing it down like buzzards and coming back for more.

I think I’ve spoken to everyone he ever met. That is everyone but you…” Eric had been quite adamant that he not be included in any of the articles but I didn’t become the reporter I was by not chancing my luck.

I have nothing to say,” Eric snatched up a glass bottle filled with whiskey and poured himself a generous share into a square shaped glass by his hand. “I asked you to come here because there is something that I wanted to talk to you about.”

Go on…”

As you know, times are tough. We can only handle best which is why they want you Samuel.”

Want me for what?” Normally I hated the name Samuel but in Eric’s case I made the exception.

I’m talking about full time,” Eric said. His face beamed with excitement.

I don’t know what to say,” I stammered.

Say yes!” he bawled before emitting roars of laughter. “These kind of opportunities aren’t easy to come by these days.”

I stood. My actions became subconscious. “That is a great offer. I am very grateful. Thank you.”

Don’t thank me, just do what you do best,” Eric dismissed, downing his glass of whiskey in one single gulp. The bottle was less expensive than he was used to but decent alcohol was difficult to come by. “You don’t have to be hanging around here all day. Go home and tell your wife the good news.”

My wife, Theresa, had studied journalism too. In fact that’s where we met. When Theresa and I married she gave up a career. Her mother blamed me for this but the truth was I had been the one tried to discourage her from dropping her changes of a job. Theresa didn’t want to take any chance on a writing career when housewife was the most stable job to be had. I never corrected my mother – in – law as to who’s decision it had been to give up. She already hated me anyway. She thought me too self absorbed to be a suitable husband for her daughter. Her concerns weren’t completely without merit. I was caught in my own world. Theresa was a large part of that world though. I couldn’t wait to tell her the news.

***

I was out of breath by the team I got home, my heart beating forcefully with exertion and excitement. The drums of anticipation crescendoed in my ears. In fumbled for my keys in the pocket of my oversized grey coat. The coat had been a kindly donation from a colleague when they saw I had nothing warm to wear through the winter. I leant against the door as I reached deeper into my pockets. The door creaked aside. It was very unlike Theresa to leave the door unlocked even when she was at home. She was a cautious little thing and home invasion robberies were on the rise.

Our humble home was on the outskirts of town. It was a small, one bedroom terrace amidst an array of similar granite buildings. What separated ours from the rest was the addition of an emerald green front door. Green was my favourite colour and it matched the shade of Theresa’s eyes. I called for my wife but there was no response. Heaps of blankets lay across the worn brown sofa which kept us warm without the cost of heating. The scent of baking apples danced from the kitchen. Theresa had been baking apple pie. She always did when she had had a rough day. The kitchen was a direct off set from the living room. I found Theresa in there lurched over the cooker. She was weeping heavily. Her mousey brown hair uncombed. When she heard my footsteps she gripped a knife that was close at hand. She stumbled backwards emitting a frightful shriek.

When she saw it was me she dropped the knife, ran at me and threw her arms around my neck. She didn’t ask why I had come home so early. It was I who asked the questions.

What happened?” My heart was now beating to a completely different rhythm.

I’m so glad you’re here. That woman was looking for you. She was horrible. Just horrible!”

Calm down,” I urged, more as a mantra to myself as I had tried to decipher what happened to get her so upset.

Theresa gathered her wits. She took a deep breath and a tear began to roll down her cheek. “A woman came asking for you…”

And who was she? What was her name?” I enquired, assuming it to be someone I had been questioning on the Feltz story.

Theresa shook her head. “She didn’t say. She had a Westcliff accent, same as yours.”

Westcliff was a small island a short distance away where I had been born. My mother had brought me to Coldford as a baby but I developed the harsh but musical tone that the accent carried listening to her.

What could she possibly have said that would have gotten you so upset?”

Theresa wandered into the living room and dropped herself amongst the blankets sobbing. “She told me that you were in danger. She told me that you would return to me one day in pieces.”

I sat beside her and put my arm around her shoulder. “That’s all nonsense, I promise.”

Theresa shuddered. “She gave me this.”

From the pocket of her skirt she gave me a card. It was a black business card. On the front read ‘Knock, Knock’ across an ominous grey door. It was a cabaret club from the look of it. One which I would visit that night and my life would be changed forever.

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EPISODE 2