I gripped the little girl by the shoulder.
“There isn’t much time!” I warned.
She stared back at me with uncomprehending brown eyes. She was afraid. Not because she had been kidnapped. I don’t think she even realised that. She was terrified of me. Even after Tabitha dragging her abruptly away from the park whilst her older brother was distracted she still had no idea the danger she was in. Tabitha’s round, motherly face had managed to pacify the kid. The kid had been stuffing her face with as much cake and ice cream as she could. The girl had been so engrossed in indulging her sweet tooth, she hadn’t noticed how closely Tabitha was watching her with cold, grey eyes, filled with malice.
There was a brief window of opportunity when the girl was alone. It was also my time to escape the Knock, Knock club. I had promised the club manager, Dennis, that I would find his estranged son, Milo and see him to safety too.
There was a small camera peering down from the corner. I had to pull one of the bar stools over and climb on top of it to reach it but it smashed with ease. Our time was even more limited now. If someone noticed the camera broken they would descend on us an army.
“I don’t want to go!” Sarah shrieked. “The lady said I was to stay here.”
I tried to gently coerce her from the table but she resisted. She swung her silver ice cream spoon at me.
“The lady told me I was to wait here until my daddy finds me,” she insisted.
I snatched at the girl with more force. “The lady lied to you,” I tried to explain. “She will hurt you if you don’t come with me now.”
Time was running out. Tabitha would be back soon. I wrapped my hand around the girl’s mouth to stifle her screams as I bodily lifted her from the table. She kicked and flailed in my arms but in the end my comparatively larger size and strength won. I couldn’t just walk out the door with her. My only chance was to hide and wait until someone made a mistake.
“Please,” I whispered. “I’m not going to hurt you. That lady is bad. She is going to keep you here and you will never see your family again. I will get you out of here but I need you to listen to me.”
The girls eyes blurred with tears. My rough, whiskey sodden breath, matted hair and unshaven face couldn’t compete with Tabitha’s in winning over a child but I had to try. I hid the girl in a small adjoining closet kept for bottles. Since the depression had hit hard it was empty. I broke the window and joined her. There was just enough room for the both of us. I watched Tabitha return through a crack in the wood. A vehement anger washed over her grey eyes. Sarah must have seen it too because she writhed beside me. I hadn’t expected my last minute plan to go off without a hitch but Tabitha saw the empty room, spied the broken window and assumed I had escaped into the alley with the little girl.
She growled at herself. She tore across the room to the main door. It was still locked. Only the key she kept on her person could open it. The ice cold chill of outdoors contrasted the stuffiness of the club so heavily it flushed through the room so completely I could feel the chill on my face.
She stepped outside but when she saw no sign of us she returned. Dennis joined her from backstage.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
I had never seen Tabitha so angry.
“I should have killed the little bitch when I had the chance!” she snarled. “She’s gone,” she admitted. “Sam is too.”
Sarah sobbed beside me. I tried to console her as best I could. We were still in a lot of danger and her sniffs would give us away.
“He can’t have gotten out,” Tabitha reasoned with herself. “Someone would have stopped him. He must still be in here somewhere.”
Dennis obviously agreed with her because immediately his stare fixed on our hiding place. He didn’t point it out.
“They won’t get far,” he said. “The alley is on constant watch. He would have to have went round the front if he wanted to get away without being noticed.”
Tabitha took this as a flippant statement of the obvious but I saw it for what it was. He was giving us a way out.
Tabitha stopped suddenly. She looked behind her towards the hiding spot. A wicked smile traced her lips. Dennis wrapped his long fingers around her arm and pulled her back before she had the chance to move any closer to us.
“They won’t get far,” he repeated. “Right now you are needed upstairs.”
Tabitha looked at him suspiciously but she did leave. As soon as the door closed Sarah tried to climb out of the hiding place. I pulled her back, put my finger to my lips and bid her to remain hidden until a few minutes passed and we could be sure we were safe to leave.
When I was certain that we were alone I ushered the little girl back out into the hall. I couldn’t be certain if I could trust Dennis but I had to take my chances. He may be distracting them and affording me the opportunity to escape or he was playing a cruel joke. It didn’t matter which. It was now or never. If had to at least try. I was as good as a dead man anyway.
First, I helped Sarah climb through the broken window. I followed after her. I pushed myself through the small space which was barely big enough to fit through. I was conscience more of time than of the broken glass tearing in at me. When I dropped into the alley of the Knock, Knock Sarah was inspecting the cuts on her filthy hands. I gripped her arm and we both started towards the front of the building. A busy street ran past so I hoped we would find some kind of refuge in a large crowd. I could hear voices calling out behind us as we ran. I couldn’t tell the emotion of them or distinguish any of the words clearly.
“Where are we going?” Sarah asked.
“I’m taking you home,” I told her. “Do you know how to get to your home from here?”
She nodded. I was surprised. Perhaps we don’t give enough credit to kids or maybe she was smarter than your average one but I couldn’t have found my way home at that point.
Coldridge Park was where Tabitha had taken her so her home must have been close by.
If Dennis had truly aided my escape I owed it to him to check if Milo was safe. I didn’t know where to begin looking for him. I was hoping Sarah’s father would offer me some sanctuary in exchange for bring back his daughter and from there find Milo.
“It’s just down here,” Sarah pointed excitedly.
“Wait,” I warned. “We’re going to have to get your dad on his own.
She lived in a terraced block of beautifully kept town houses. Just at the other end of the park. Most of the homes were empty but for a single room on the lower floor.
We waited at a distance. The shadows of night were beginning to fall. The main door of the home opened and a burly, middle aged man stepped out.
“That’s my dad,” Sarah said.
He collected a silver cigarette case from the pocket of the cardigan he wore. He extracted one and placed it between his lips. He lit the tobacco and sighed as he drew.
I instructed Sarah to wait. I approached her father.
“I have your daughter,” I said by way of introduction.
A guilty look sparked across him and the cigarette was left dancing on his lips.
“What do you want now?” he growled. “I’ll get your money.”
“Wait, you don’t understand,” I tried to explain.
His shoulders tightened and he loomed closer to me. He was a big guy. Much bigger than I was.
“You are from the Knock, Knock right? I’ve seen you there.”
“I am but I have your daughter,” I told him. “She’s safe.”
He shook his head. His strength dissolved. “I couldn’t tell anyone. Who could I tell?” he sobbed.
“Sarah!” I called. “You can come over.”
Her father looked out into the darkness. The light from the porch only illuminated so much of the lawn. The pressure the club was putting him under was beginning to show on his face.
Sarah’s nostrils flared as she ran to him. Her father’s lips widened into the most relieved smile I have ever seen on a man. He lifted her into his arms and showered her face with adoring paternal kisses. Content that I had reunited Sarah with her family safely I turned and left them to their reunion. I began to wonder what life would be life outside the club and how far I would have to go to be free of them.
A crack of a gun sparked. This was closely followed by a small scream from Sarah. Her father dropped her onto the porch. A red fountain began to spring from his forehead. Sarah tried to pull him to his feet but the shot had been too precise. He was gone. Throwing all caution to the wind I dashed to Sarah to pull her away but another shot fired. This time it was the little girl who slumped down. Her lifeless little body lay beside her father.
I looked in the direction of the gunman but there was no way I would be able to see them.
“Bastard!” I screamed at the unknown assailant. A third shot fired. Luckily it hit the ground at my feet. I was left with no choice but to run. A couple more shots came after me.
Running in no particular direction with no particular destination in mind and no hope I found myself back on the street. Someone snatched at me.
“Come with me.”
It was Tabitha. She was dressed in black trousers and an oversized red coat. She had pulled her brunette hair away from her shoulders into a pony tail that cascaded on her shoulders. She looked a completely different person away from the Knock, Knock stage. I began to follow her down a pathway that led through a small play ground before I even realised it was her.
Tabitha sat on a swing. She looked up at me and smiled. There was a hint of laughter on her lips. Without her make-up she looked much younger than I assumed her to be.
“Why don’t you just kill me,” I groaned. “I don’t want anything to do with you or the Knock, Knock. I never did.”
“After everything I have done to keep your ass alive this is how you repay me?” she replied.
“That little girl didn’t have to die…” I began.
Tabitha pushed herself back, kicked out and began to swing.
“If you had listened to me and left her where she was then she would be back at the club
safe and sound, gorging herself on ice cream,” she said.
I hated to admit it but she was right. The kid was dead because of me. Theresa and Maddie were dead because of me. Hell the whole damn thing started because of my megalomaniac grandfather.
Tabitha must have sensed what I was thinking.
“Cheer up, Sam,” she said. “You’ll always have me watching out for you.”
Something about those words left me feeling cold.
“I know something else,” she added. “I know where Milo is.”
‘Damn it!’ I thought. They really were everywhere.
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Harbour County Sheriff, Thomas Robinson, had awoken early that morning and expected everything to be like it always was. He was a small town man, always had been. He and his wife had been keeping up to date with the ‘Chaos Killings’ and the news had been regurgitating information on the New York attack. He never expected it to be a situation to reach his sleepy little town.
He had been in the office. His feet were on the desk and he was bouncing a ball on the ground that he had had since his college football days. He didn’t anticipate any trouble. Old man Granger getting drunk or chasing some of the local children from the reservoir was about as difficult as things got for him so the moment two men in black suits, flashing official badges came crashing into his office his feet were planted on the ground.
“We are from the FBI,” they explained. “We are transporting a high profile prisoner and we need to take control of your facility,” said the first agent.
Sheriff Robinson stammered for a moment. “Who is the prisoner?”
The second agent looked at the cell in the corner of the room. Drunks sleeping off their hangovers and petty thieves were all housed there but never before had he ever had a true prisoner. “We are not really at liberty to discuss that,” the agent told him. The second agent pushed papers the thickness of a book into his arms.
“They are heading to Hodlam prison,” Sheriff Robinson gasped to his young deputy.
The fair haired adolescent, Chuck Holden, shuddered, “Surely not!”
Sheriff Robinson put on his hat and smoothed his greying whiskers. “What about our own prisoners? If we pick someone up where will be put them?”
The first agent had lifted his communication device but before he spoke into it he said to the sheriff, “We have arranged with the local bank. They have cleared some secure rooms which can be used for the next twenty four hours. We will be on our way again at six am.”
“What do you need me to do?” asked the sheriff.
The first agent became impatient. “We must move fast. Keep the perimeter secure as best you can and our men will do the rest.”
“Bring him in,” said the second agent into the device with a slight crackle.
Most of the residents of Harbour stopped and stared as a convoy of five official FBI cars trundled slowly through their streets surrounding a heavily secured van. When they reached the sheriff base the FBI agents poured from their vehicles and formed a line from the van to the entrance of the station. They all had ear pieces and one hand was placed on their guns. Two stepped forward and opened the van door. More FBI agents spilled out before the prisoner was pulled into daylight.
“Who is that?” Chuck asked. “Who is this we are going to be housing?”
The sheriff laid his hand gently on the young boys shoulder. “That is Andrei Borkov, the Yugasov who killed all those soldiers,” the sheriff said. Some people may have been mistaken but there was no fooling good old Tom Robinson. He had seen Andrei Borkov’s face so many times on the news during the Russian conflict. He couldn’t blame anyone for being surprised though. The media had reported that he had been killed in Minsk.
Harbour had never been a highlight for tourists and the most exciting thing ever to happen was when the fair visited in the summer, but Thomas Robinson did his job and did it well. All the people of Harbour knew him and he had been elected Sheriff every year since he first ran. He had never expected to be faced with such a task. With his heart condition it was likely his wife, Beth, would have protested against it.
There was little movement Andrei Borkov could make because his hands and feet were shackled. Four of the agents stood close beside him with one hand on him and the other on their guns. As the Yugasov was moved past the Sheriff and the deputy, his gaze met theirs. He said nothing.
“Prisoner secure,” one of the agents announced when Andrei had been locked in the sheriff station cell. The FBI agents remained at the station and around the perimeter on high alert, swapping for fresh new eyes every hour or so. They were keen to keep curious onlookers, vengeful vigilantes and possible supporters at bay. So Harbour went about its normal simple routine with one eye constantly darting towards the sheriff office.
When Sheriff Robinson returned home his wife had a warm pot of soup waiting for him with freshly baked bread.
“What is all the fuss at the station Tom?” she asked right away. She had been so eager for him to return home so she could find out. The cell phone she had been given by the kids had never been used but that morning she had tried to call.
“They are moving a high profile prisoner and they needed a secure stop off point,” he told her feeling proud at being privy to such importance.
“I saw all the cars and agents … FBI aren’t they?”
By six am the following morning the agents and their prisoner were gone from Harbour and although things would return to what they always were, Sheriff Thomas Robinson would be left with a story to tell the grandkids.
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