“We are still having problems with him,” I overheard Tabitha tell Dennis as I sat at the bar sipping a whiskey quietly.
“What do you want me to do about it?” Dennis leaned back further along the bar from me.
Tabitha didn’t seem to care if I was listening. She knew I was pretty powerless against the whims of
the Knock, Knock club. Dennis was pretty guarded though. He had asked for my help in getting his ten year old son, Milo, to safety in exchange for his helping me escape the Knock, Knock club so he always kept me discretely informed. After luring my best friend, Madeline, to the club and to her death I wasn’t sure how much help I was willing to give him, even if it were for the sake of an innocent child. Still, I had to keep my options open.
“I don’t think you understand how big a problem this is,” said Tabitha sternly to the club manager. “He isn’t taking us seriously and if we let him away with it others will think they can get away with it too.”
“So what do you suggest?” Dennis hadn’t looked looked at her the whole time. His focus had been on the empty stage behind her. “Take him out?”
Tabitha laughed, a cold, callous cackle. “What benefit would he have to anyone dead?” She pursed her lips and her grey eyes shone with delight. “He has a daughter. Young girls are your speciality.”
Dennis sighed. “What age?”
“Six or seven,” answered Tabitha.
Dennis shook his head. His eyes finally rested on her for a few moments before he stood up straight, turned his back to her and leaned over the bar.
“Far too young,” he stated definitely. “The kid isn’t her father’s problem.”
“No but her father is our problem. He needs to know we aren’t messing around.”
“Maybe Sam could do it,” Dennis suggested.
They book looked at me. I almost spat the whiskey out like I had been caught doing something I shouldn’t have.
Thankfully, Tabitha dismissed the idea.
“He hasn’t the stomach for it. Besides, if the doors of the Knock, Knock were open to him do you really think he would come back?”
She cackled again. “Like everything else, if I need a good job done I will just have to do it myself.”
It was a pleasant enough day with a dry chill in the air. The Coldridge Park in the centre of the city was playing host to hundreds of children playing, their parents and chaperones standing close by, perhaps not paying as much attention as they should have been.
Tabitha sat alone on a wooden bench. She scanned through the crowd and spotted the little girl she was looking for.
Blonde pigtails, blue jeans and a pink sweatshirt with a sunflower logo, Sarah looked like something straight out of a children’s book. She was kicking a red ball back and forth, giggling excitedly as a golden retriever chased it. A boy in his early teens, her brother Kevin, was busy talking on his phone. He had his back turned to his sister. One hand was holding the all important conversation to his ear and the other was tucked into the pocket of his own sweatshirt.
“Rufus!” screamed a woman’s voice across the park.
The ears of the golden retriever perked up at the sound of his mistress’ voice. It took one last look at the shining red ball but quickly decided obedience was more important. It trotted along towards the voice that called it.
Sarah gave the ball another kick and it came rolling towards the bench. With a foot clad in a purple velvet, kitten heel shoe, Tabitha stopped it. As Sarah drew nearer she began to hesitate.
“You need to be careful,” Tabitha said to the little girl. “You wouldn’t want to lose your ball now would you?”
Sarah picked it up and hugged it close to her chest. “It’s my brother’s ball,” she admitted.
“Well you don’t want to make him mad do you? Losing his ball?”
Sarah nodded in agreement. “He’s going to take me for ice cream,” she volunteered casually.
Tabitha looked up. The boy was still on the phone. “That’s nice but it looks like he is still busy.”
It was Sarah’s turn to look back. She had so been looking forward to a bowl of strawberry ice cream.
“Why don’t we go and get the ice cream and maybe he’ll be done by the time we get back.”
Sarah stepped back. Alarm bells began to ring for her. “I can’t go away with strangers.”
“Very wise indeed, but I’m not a stranger,” said the woman with the grey eyes. “I know you, Sarah, and your brother’s name is Kevin. Your dad and I are old friends.” Sarah still looked at her suspiciously. “My name is Tabitha, so now we are friends.”
Kevin was still paying no attention. He was in the midst of on of those dramas that only teenagers can understand.
‘It can’t be bad,’ thought Sarah. ‘A stranger wouldn’t know my name,’ was her childish logic. Besides, the strangers she had been warned against were men in dark clothes who drove white vans and smelled of alcohol. The woman she was talking too had a kindly, round, maternal face. Her smile was pleasant, with a gap in her front teeth. She carried the scent of vanilla. The ice cream parlour was just across the street.
“We had better hurry before it closes!” Tabitha reminded her.
Sarah made up her mind. “Kevin likes mint,” she said.
Tabitha stood and took the little girl’s hand. “I know he does,” she said. “We’ll get him a big bowl.”
Kevin finished his phone call. He slipped his phone into his pocket. He turned to discover little Sarah was gone. The shiny red ball sat on an empty bench.
Check out the story from the beginning: