The past year has brought challenges for all of us, some challenges we never expected to face in our life time. One of my biggest challenges was being separated from my niece and nephews for such a long time. Normally where I would see them almost every week I became nothing but a pixelated face on a screen. It is tough, I don’t mind telling you. The use of modern technology is great and all but nothing can quite replace human contact.
This got me thinking about society in general. As we become such a distant bunch (global pandemic not withstanding) is the art of intimacy becoming a thing of the past? I call it an art because it really is an art form when you think about it. You need the right approach. You need the right mind set. Like a lot of other art though is it becoming far more digitalised? People are more comfortable sending a text message than chatting on the phone (admittedly myself included).
But then this crazy train we called life pulls into an unexpected platform and the option of physical contact is taking away from us. That’s when we miss it the most. That’s when we crave more than just a text message. Video chats give you the essence of speaking to another person but it is all virtual reality at the end of the day. We need that social contact no matter how introverted you may be.
What I have taken from this experience is that no matter how much we distance ourselves from human contact, when ironically it’s never been easier to connect with fellow human beings, we are all animals at heart. We need our loved ones around us, no matter who that is to us. After a long year of lock down in Scotland I know I will be wanting to hug my little babies.
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For me the best gifts are those given with real thought in mind. I have always valued sentimentality in presents over monetary value. I mean, precious gems, fancy holidays and the likes are not to be sneezed at but for me it is far more important that someone gives some thought to why the one receiving the gift would love it. This is something I try and keep in mind when I’m buying gifts for others. With that considered it made me think of some of the beautiful gifts I have been lucky to receive over the years.
There was a time in my life when I needed that sentimentality more than ever. I was in my second year of medical school, I was battling depression, exam stress and was isolated hundreds of miles away from my family and friends. Christmas came and on the morning in question my dad presented me with a hand drawing he had made for me of Frankenstein’s monster. To put you in the picture not only is my dad an amazing artist but Frankenstein is also my favorite novel, favorite movie and – dare I say it – one of the reasons I was inspired to study anatomy in the first place. Not only was this incredibly thoughtful but it was also something I could take back to medical school with me, pin to my wall and remind myself of what I was working towards (the degree I mean not the ghoulish experiments …)
You see for me it really doesn’t matter how much was spent on a present. It doesn’t need to be expensive or flashy. Some of the best gifts are those little things that you see and think, ‘so and so would love this.’ It’s a cliché platitude but it really is the thought that counts. A gift should be something that shows a person that you were thinking of them. When it comes to big events it is too easy to get swept up moving from shop to shop to find something that meets a financial expectation. Birthdays, holidays and general moments of sharing should be about what the other person means to you. In my humble opinion the best way to show that is to show that you have been listening. I guess what it all boils down to is showing how much you really know them and want to make them happy with your gift.
So, what was some of your most thoughtful gifts? Are you a sop like me and love the sentimentality or is it the shiny things you enjoy most?
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No matter how old you get, no matter how independent you are you will always be given advice. A whole manner of issues and events crop up in life when others will feel the need to advise you on what to do. I’m not detracting from the natural support group that it is important to surround yourself with. What I’m discussing here are those who give unwarranted suggestions or advise on issues that are of no consequence to them. Busybodies if you like.
We’ve all had our fair share of terrible advice. Most of it comes from a good place but it got me thinking about the worst advice I’ve ever been given.
“There’s an operation now that can make you taller. You should go and get your legs stretched.”
My five foot tall frame has never bothered me. I’m the short girl. It means about as much to me as my having blue eyes or brown hair. This came completely out of the blue and if I were to follow such sage advice I’d have put myself through unnecessary surgery as a teenager for the sake of a few extra inches, which if it really bothered me that much I’d wear heels to fix.
“Try your best to fit in with the other kids.”
I was never the bubbly child. Sure I was lucky to have lots of friends but what I always enjoyed most was time alone, reading a book. I interacted little with the children in my class and for that I was made to seem odd. Most people that know me would argue I am a little odd but when you’re still growing up and finding yourself being made to seem like you are misbehaving because you had a different view of how you wanted to spend your leisure time was not helping.
It’s best to know your own mind. We all make mistakes of course but at least mistakes can be made of your own accord. I guess what my point here is is don’t let terrible advice make you change who you are. Whether it’s your looks or your hobbies or even how others perceive you.
So what is the worst advice you have ever been given? How did you react to it?
A woman, middle aged, frizzy haired and full figured is brought before me. She is smiling despite her surroundings. She has an unlit cigarette in her hand. She knows she’s not allowed to smoke in the office but she clutches it for comfort. Behind that smile is perhaps a little nervousness. She is Tawny McKinney better known by some as The Baroness. She’s an old show girl from the Knock Knock club in the Shanties and if you had told her she looked nervous just a few short years ago she would have dismissed it with a laugh.
Interviewer: So how are you feeling today, Tawny?
Tawny: I feel good. Better than I have done in a long time.
Interviewer: That’s good to hear. You’ve settled quite well into the routine here. When you first arrived you were mute.
Tawny (laughing): Some people would say having me shut my gob was a good thing!
Interviewer: You were brought in here as a trauma resident. Do you feel you can talk about what happened that night at the club?
Tawny (laughing again but now nervously): You really want to hear about that?
Interviewer: It’s why I’m here. I’d like to hear your own perspective on it.
Tawny: A lot of people got hurt. A lot of people lost their lives.
Interviewer: It was a horrific attack.
Tawny: Yeah those bastards!
Interviewer: I’m not here to discuss the cause of the attack or the motives of the attackers. I would just like to help you open up about what you saw and how you felt.
Tawny: They were like family to me. How do you think I felt?
Interviewer: I think you feel somewhat responsible. Is that correct?
Interview terminated. Resident 0109 becomes hysterical and requires porters and nurses to calm her. Interview will continue when she is in more of a state of mind to face the reality of her trauma.
#amreading #thriller #harbourhouse2020 by @VivikaWidow
Trial day eight. They had covered the Free Fall massacre extensively. Ronnie argued that Tabitha had been there purely as a guest. He even presented an invitation as evidence. The time came to return to the issue of TABITHA’s parents and the video of the murder of MELANIE WALLACE that Lydia and I had risked our lives to obtain. The prosecutor took the lead. On a large screen at the front of the hall, a screen grab of the murder of Melanie was shown. She was on her knees, Tabitha holding her and MARCUS ready to deliver the killing blow. Dennis stood idly by, unable to do anything to stop it – lest he join her. Melanie Wallace was a clerk of the Court. She had been instructed to deliver a note of intent to the Knock Knock club and its supporters. Apparently Tabitha had taken it personally. ‘Send her back to Cyclops in a fucking box,’ she had said at the time. Mel had been nothing more than a runner in this on-going war. Her only crime had been declaring herself on the side of the Law Makers, whilst Tabitha declared herself to be fighting the good fight on behalf of the good side of the Shady City. I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as the good side.
City Prosecutor: “Please excuse the delay ma’am, but my next witness wasn’t present in court. I am to understand he has arrived now.”
Judge Doyle looked to the back of the room where the doors were being opened to allow a new arrival.
City Prosecutor: “The prosecution calls DENNIS PLATT to the stand.”
Dennis looked weary in morose clothing with blood shot eyes. Without his signature hat he seemed smaller, thinner. He gave a fleeting glance to Tabitha who scowled back at him. As the trial pressed on she was beginning to lose her composure more often. She was worried. Dennis took the witness bench.
City Prosecutor: “Can you state your position with the Knock Knock club for the court.”
Dennis Platt: “I was acting manager.”
City Prosecutor: “Did you try to stop the murder of Miss Wallace?”
Dennis was shaking his head.
Dennis Platt: “Not as much as I should have. I did warn her but she wouldn’t listen.
The prosecutor stroked his chin. He turned and observed the expressions on his jury.
City Prosecutor: “How did you come to meet the defendant?”
Dennis Platt: “I was organising some importing/ exporting at the time through Chamberlain Docks. One night I was coming home from a late delivery and I saw her. She was young, alone and in a dangerous area. I took her to my ex wife, who is a social worker, for some help.”
I had heard testimonies like it so many times over the years as a reporter. Dennis’ response was fixed, detailed just enough to avoid further question but limited to the point of not really telling anything. It was very rehearsed.
City Prosecutor: “What was she doing there at such a late hour?”
The prosecutor asked this as though that was the issue with the statement.
Dennis Platt: “She told me she was looking for her aunt. She was trying to get the ferry to Hathfield Bay.”
Dennis kept his focus ahead, without looking at anyone in particular.
City Prosecutor: “Just to be clear, her aunt being Tawny McInney? The Baroness of the Knock Knock club, correct?”
Dennis Platt: “Yes, that’s correct.” He nodded in agreement.
This time the prosecutor looked for the expressions of the gathering.
City Prosecutor: “Did she mention her parents?”
Dennis Platt: “Not at first. She wouldn’t tell Olivia why she had left home. All she would say was she wanted to find her aunt.”
The prosecutor interrupted him then, turning to the jury and addressing them directly.
City Prosecutor: “Would the jury please note that the aunt referred to is the elder sister of victim Rob McKinney and sister in law to victim Linda McInney,” Returning to Dennis and urged him to continue. “Please carry on.”
Dennis Platt: “She stayed with us for a while. Olivia tried to get her some help but she wouldn’t let her call Child Services.”
The prosecutor leaned on the witness bench and observed Dennis closely.
City Prosecutor: “She eventually admitted to you that she had murdered her parents and her nanny. Correct?”
Ronnie Owen: “Objection Ma’am, the prosecution is leading this witness.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled,” said she but she continued, “I do ask the prosecution choose their wording more carefully.”
The prosecutor stood straight, his spine like an iron rod.
City Prosecutor: “I do apologise ma’am.” He returned his focus to Dennis. “So what did she tell you about the night her parents died?”
Dennis Platt: “She gave me every detail.”
City Prosecutor: “She admitted to murdering them and the nanny?”
Dennis Platt: “In cold blood.”
Dennis went on to explain the event as he had told it to me. When he had finished the City Prosecutor gave a satisfied grin.
City Prosecutor: “No further questions.”
Tabitha whispered something to Ronnie. She was frowning severely. The lawyer remained focused. He stood and with a clear of his throat he took his turn to address Dennis.
Ronnie Owen: “Mr Platt, can you please tell the court how you came to be the manager of the Knock Knock Club, leaving a wife and young child behind?”
City Prosecutor: “Objection ma’am!” He barked. “Irrelevant to this case.”
Ronnie Owen: “It is very relevant ma’am. If the jury are to take Mr Platt at his word, they need to understand his connection to the defendant.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled. The witness will answer the question.”
Dennis Platt: “She was desperate to re-open the club. She threatened my wife and child if I didn’t help her.”
Ronnie Owen: “I find it difficult to believe that a young girl could hold you under duress and for so long, just by a threat.”
Dennis seemed to gather from a well of strength. He growled and snapped back at the lawyer.
Dennis Platt: “Then you ought to ask your brother what she’s capable of. Jerry, isn’t it?”
Ronnie ignored the statement. He had his angle for removing any legitimacy in Dennis’ statement and he wouldn’t be detracted from pulling on that thread.
Ronnie Owen: “Isn’t it true that you weren’t such a noble rescuer but simply took a shine to a young girl you found on the docks? What way was she dressed that night? Looking promiscuous, was she? Did taking her home seem like the sensible thing to do?”
Dennis Platt: “I told you, Liv was a social worker. She had experience with little girls in trouble.”
Ronnie had his bite. It was time to start reeling in the rod.
Ronnie Owen: “Little girls, troubled girls, you had experience in that too, didn’t you?”
City Prosecutor: “Objection! Counsellor is badgering the witness. He is not the one on trial here ma’am.”
Judge Doyle: “Sustained. Do get to your point counsellor.”
Ronnie Owen: “Apologies ma’am.” Returning to the witness. “Is it true that the only reason the defendant was able to coerce you into staying at the Knock Knock Club was because you attempted to assault her and she threatened to tell your wife?”
Dennis was becoming irate.
Dennis Platt: “She needs to be locked away.”
Ronnie still stayed calm. Dennis didn’t have anything to lose at that point but Tabitha did. Her best chance rested on a statement from a man who hated her, pulled forward from a man who shared the name of the one’s who had put her there in the first place.
Ronnie Owen: “Is it true that your business, the business at the docks, was bringing girls into prostitution?”
Dennis immediately denied. He may not have anything left to lose but it would take a long time for the virus coursing in his blood to destroy the survival instinct.
Ronnie Owen: “I could name some of your clients.”
Dennis’ eyes widened. He was deciding whether or not Ronnie would throw his own brother Jerry under a bus in order to bring an end to the Headliners. He had had dealings with Jerry in the purchasing of girls, foreign girls looking for a new life in the city, young girls, under age girls for particular parties with particular tastes, boys too. Ronnie wouldn’t want that kind of dirty laundry aired in court surely? The Cappy had fought hard to make sure that that kind of knowledge of his brother didn’t become public. Dennis wondered then how far Ronnie was willing to go to win the case for his client. Now that he had Dennis pulling back in fear Ronnie ended his questioning before the City Prosecutor could raise any objections.
Ronnie Owen: “No further questions.”
It seemed Ronnie wouldn’t bring it up. It was unlikely Judge Doyle would let it stand anyway but the expression on Dennis’ face was enough to plant doubt in the jurors. The women on the jury carefully selected by Ronnie were glaring at Dennis. Ronnie went on to detail Dennis attempted assault on Tabitha and how she overthrew him. It was now time to play another hand in the hopes of swaying more onto Tabitha’s side.
Ronnie Owen: “If the court will indulge me, I call CHLOE GROVER to the stand.”
Led by a surprisingly gentle Bailiff the nineteen-year-old girl, Chloe, took the stand. Her head was bowed and her shoulders hunched.
Ronnie Owen: “Good morning, ma’am. We’re going to discuss some things that may be a little difficult for you but we’ll keep it as brief as possible. Is that okay?”
Chloe Grover: “You can call me Chloe. That’s my name.” She smiled at Ronnie but bowed her head again when she noticed the jury were watching her.
Ronnie Owen: “What is your relationship with Dennis?”
Chloe looked up as though she didn’t understand the question so the lawyer rephrased.
Ronnie Owen: “How do you know Dennis?”
Chloe Grover: “I love him. I love him so much. Is he okay?”
Ronnie Owen: “He’s fine but I need you to tell the jury what he made you do.”
Ronnie spoke softly. Chloe responded well to him.
Chloe Grover: “You mean the friends he sent to my room?”
Ronnie Owen: “Exactly. What did those friends want from you?”
Chloe looked a little confused. She was a soft hearted, simple-minded girl.
Chloe Grover: “I had to give them special cuddles. Dennis needed money and I wanted him to be happy.”
Ronnie Owen: “Did you make money from the friends?”
Chloe Grover: “I didn’t need money. Dennis took care of me.”
Ronnie Owen: “How many of those friends came to your room?”
Chloe shrugged like a small child being chastised by a teacher.
Chloe Grover: “I don’t know. The man with the pony tail and glasses said it was five hundred but that’s a really big number.”
City Prosecutor: “Objection ma’am! Dennis Platt is not the one on trial here.”
Ronnie Owen: “It is relevant to the case here. I need the jury to fully understand the circumstances in which he met the defendant and his actions that brought them both to the Knock Knock Club.”
Judge Doyle: “Over ruled. I urge you to keep your questioning relevant though counsellor.”
A recess was called to allow the jury to catch their breath. The day was far from over.
With Tabitha’s words still ringing in my ears I went in search of Olivia. Word had it that she was at CPD working closely with them on some youth projects. I got a confused look from the receptionist when I asked for Olivia Platt. It seemed she no longer used her married name and I didn’t know what her maiden one was.
“Do you mean Liv Hickes? The social worker lady?” She asked. I smiled. “That’s right.”
I didn’t want to seem like Olivia and I had never met. Visiting the social worker to check on Chloe gave me some cover should the Law Makers question why I was at CPD.
On instruction of HICKES I was directed to the second floor at the end of a long narrow corridor where Fullerton Construction were adding renovations. It was well lit and inviting. It left the feel of a police station behind.
I knocked on the door. Olivia’s soft voice invited me in. She sounded calm and composed. When I opened the door I found Hickes was there too. He greeted me with a smile.
“Sorry to interrupt,” I said. “I was hoping to have a quick word with Olivia.” Olivia was the handsome, polite woman Dennis described.
“You’re alright Sam,” Hickes confirmed, easing Olivia’s suspicions of me. He turned to Olivia. “This is the reporter I was telling you about.”
Olivia still said nothing. Hickes laid a hand on her shoulder. “He’s been through a lot.” “I heard some of what you’ve had to deal with Sam,” Olivia spoke up. “I’m so sorry about your wife.”
“I hear you haven’t had it easy either. Dennis told me.”
Olivia’s eyes widened at the mention of her ex husband so I changed my angle.
“How is your son, Milo? Is he doing okay?”
Olivia eased off. “He’s fine. Thank you.”
“Speaking of,” said Hickes. “I had better go get little mister. He’ll be getting out of school.”
Olivia smiled as she looked up at him. “Thanks sweetie,” she said.
“I’ll see you tonight,” he offered her a quick kiss.
Leaving the room he stopped beside me.
“Get straight to your point and don’t upset her,” he warned. “The only reason I’m letting you in here is because Lydia trusts you.”
“I just want a quick word,” I assured.
“Just be careful,” he finished before leaving Olivia and I alone in her office.
“It’s not my intention to upset you,” I began. “I realise that I am putting us both at a lot of risk by being here but I wouldn’t if I didn’t think it was important.”
“Would you like some coffee?” Olivia asked pointing to a coffee maker in the corner.
“No thank you,” I replied. I had been drinking so much coffee from the hotel that I was starting to feel a little jittery.
“So you spoke to Tabitha?” It was the social worker that opened the dialogue.
“Yes,” I admitted. “She only has warm regards for you. It was she who urged me to speak to you.”
Olivia shook her head. “What happened to that girl was …”
I wasn’t sure if she meant the forced induction into a paedophile ring by her parents or the attempted rape by her ex husband so I tread carefully.
“When Dennis left with her did you know where she had gone and why?” Olivia’s brow tightened. Her swimming eyes clouded.
“I went to the Knock Knock club when it reopened. A dancer girl threatened me with a knife. She told me if I ever came back looking for Dennis or Tabitha, she would open my throat.”
“Believe it or not I think that was Tabitha’s way of protecting you,” I said. Olivia seemed to agree.
“She was a very troubled little girl. One of my biggest regrets in life was failing to help her.” It was time. I had to ask.
“Do you know what Dennis tried to do to her?” Olivia sighed. She was close to weeping but she held back.
“I had my suspicions that something had happened between them. I guess that was confirmed when they left.”
“Dennis was a prolific paedophile,” I confirmed. I was conscious of my limited time and as painful as it was for her I had to break through barriers quicker. “He tried to rape her and she enslaved him as a result. She took him away from you and Milo to protect you.” Here Olivia did become emotional.
“Those girls!” She cried. “I wanted to help them and instead I delivered them into the hands of a predator.”
I spoke softer. “You weren’t to know.”
Olivia would hear none of it.
“It was my job to protect those girls and I failed them. I failed Tabitha and I failed others. There was a girl in my care. Alana her name was. She was a sweet girl from the Shanties trying to improve her life. She was trying to leave drugs behind. She had been an addict since age twelve. At first she got along with Dennis really well. I remember being so proud of how good he was with her. They became so close. They had their own inside jokes and little skits they’d play out. Alana was such a loving girl. Her circumstances hadn’t broken her spirit but one day it all changed. She was fifteen. She had been clean for a while. She even began a course at City College. She was doing so well but something between her and Dennis changed. They were no longer close. When I asked Dennis about it he told me that she had come on to him strongly, mistaking his affection for lust. I tried to talk to Alana but she became angry with me and violent. She had to be moved on. She had a history of that kind of behaviour. When I think of what could have happened to the girls in my care, girls even younger and more vulnerable…”
“You mustn’t blame yourself,” I put in.
Olivia disagreed. “Why shouldn’t I? I was supposed to be their protector. Where does the blame stop if not with me?”
“We can’t change the past but we can learn from it and better equip ourselves to stop things like that happening again. The city needs people like you, people with compassion. It’s not for cold hearted monsters like Doyle or even lunatics like Tabitha to make changes, it is for people like us.”
Olivia gave it some thought.
“What is it you want to know?”
“I would like to know any details you have of Owen victims that came to you. Tabitha is likely going down for a long time but we can still find justice for the others. Will you support me?” Olivia smiled. “Of course.” I wanted to end on a more positive note. The discussion would have given Olivia a lot to think about, leaving a sour taste in her mouth. “As despicable a human being as Dennis was, there is something in his words that ring true. He loves his son.” Olivia took a deep breath. Her eyes glanced towards the window, which gave view of the wider city. “In the interest of telling the whole truth I would like to hear anything Tabitha told you about her parents.” “You can’t write anything just now,” Olivia reminded me. “No,” I agreed. “But when the trial is over there is nothing that will stop me.” Olivia smiled warmly. “Maybe you’ll take that coffee now then.”
PADDY MACK – head of the Mack clan since his father Brendan slipped into retirement – had heard from the CPD officer who brought him cigarettes that the LAW MAKERS were campaigning for the death penalty for Tabitha. The officer watched for Paddy’s reaction but he said nothing. His expression remained vacant. The CPD officer assumed he was worried about his own dynasty. If the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB fell, the DISTILLERY wouldn’t be far behind it. The closed sign across the Auction House was already sending chills resonating to the Shanties. The Mack leader was in the perfect position for negotiations to begin.
It was four pm, Paddy guessed. His room in CPD holding was windowless so it was hard to tell for certain. When the CPD officer stopped by he began to make arrangements to call home.
“It’s just for ma ma,” he told the officer. “She’ll be worried. I just want to let her know I’m still alive.”
The officer groaned. “Fine,” he agreed. “As long as it’s just your mum.”
The officer escorted him to the phones. He stood beside him the entire time.
“What’s he doing Frank?” asked another officer passing.
Frank grinned, leaning on the wall beside Paddy. “He’s phonin’ his ma,” he said, imitating the harsh BELLFIELD accent Paddy had. They both chuckled.
Paddy rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I really need you two cunts right now,” he mumbled sarcastically.
The phone only rang a couple of times before Annie Mack answered.
“It’s Paddy, Ma,” he said.
“Oh sweet baby Jesus! Are you okay?”
“I’m grand. I just wanted to let you know I’m fine.”
Annie was close to tears. He could hear it in her voice.
“I’ll be out soon enough,” the son replied.
“Yer father is just about going spare. He’s been calling CPD but they won’t entertain him.
He gave Kieran a right hiding for letting you get lifted.”
“It’s all going to be sorted Ma. I’ll just have to behave meself,” Paddy injected some humour and confidence to help raise Annie Mack’s spirits.
CPD officer Frank pointed to his wrist.
“Listen, Ma, I have to go but I’ll be home soon.”
Paddy took note of Officer Frank’s raised eyebrows, which suggested ‘not in this lifetime boyo’
Annie sobbed. “Are ya sure yar alright?”
Paddy smiled. “I told ya I’m grand. Tell Da to stop phonin’ or the filth are gonna have him too.”
Frank glared at him. Paddy smiled and raised a finger.
Annie giggled. “He won’t be happy until they wheel him in beside ya.”
Paddy was warmed at the image of his outspoken yet wheelchair bound father being brought in to CPD still shouting the odds.
“Ya bunch of wankers!” he would be yelling. “I’ll take the lot of ya!”
After hanging up and being taken back to his holding cell Frank made a phone call of his own.
“He wants back to his family,” he said. “The time is now.”
At five Paddy received another shadow. He rested his eyes on the doorway where a shadowed figure in a Law Makers blazer loomed. They were one of what was known as the Sharp Suits. They were special members of Judge Doyle’s Law Makers, authorised to dispense justice as they saw fit.
“Good afternoon, Mr Mack,” a cold, emotionless voice said.
“I’ve already told your lot I’ve nothin’ to say,” Paddy returned.
The figure was unmoved. “Then allow me to do the talking,” they suggested. “The Mack Distillery is a big concern in Coldford. We would hate to see it shut down.”
“You can’t do that,” Paddy retorted.
The figure continued to observe him.
“I’m afraid we can. With criminal activity flowing through the Knock Knock Club and your brand being one of its biggest suppliers we would have no choice but to shut the distillery down pending further investigation.”
“You would put hundreds of people out of work,” pleaded the Mack owner.
The shadowed frame loomed a little closer. A cold breeze charged in from the corridor outside.
“The unemployment situation in the city isn’t Judge Doyle’s priority at the moment. As head of the Mack Clan it is really up to you to protect those people and you can’t do that in here.”
Paddy scoffed. “This is were ya put me.”
Long arms spread from the figure, across its chest. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” they said. “You don’t have to sacrifice your own future and that of your own people. You do realise the club wouldn’t offer you the same courtesy if it meant saving themselves.”
“I’m in a bit of a hurry. I got places to go. Could you get to your point?” Paddy said with minimal amount of jest.
A citation was laid on the floor at Paddy’s feet.
“You are called to provide evidence against Tabitha and the Knock Knock Club.”
“You want me to take the stand against her?”
“It’s been a long time coming. Consider what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot.”
“She’d never let the distillery fall,” said Paddy, but he wasn’t sounding as confident.
“Are you sure about that? She’s already pointed fingers at your brother Kieran for violating licences in the hope of some leniency.”
Paddy refused to believe that. “You talk shite,” he said.
“It seems you don’t know your Boss Lady as well as you think you do. The south is in enough upheaval. The distillery is bigger than the Knock Knock Club. If you cooperate it can continue to produce the finest whiskey in the Shady City. Testify against Tabitha and you can return home to your family. You can continue to run the distillery and we all raise a glass of Macks in your honour.”
“You would let me go?” The hook was set. There was a bite.
“For your sake and for the sake of your workers it would be best. Call it letting one fish go to make a bigger catch. You’re not the one Judge Doyle wants at this point. Don’t put yourself on the rack.”
Paddy read over the citation.
“Fine,” he agreed.
As the trial drew on Judge Doyle sought to put the final nail in Tabitha’s coffin. She opened her courtroom with the promise that the Boss Lady would be broken before her bench. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Tabitha and the strong likelihood that she would be behind bars for a long time, the Judge was still not satisfied. She wanted to break Tabitha of the bonds she had in the Shanties. She wanted to show the people their queen was nothing more than a murdering sociopath who was leading them to lawlessness. She would start from the strongest top branches of Tabitha’s alliances and work her way down. The Auction House snapped. Next up was the longest spanning bond between the Headliners and the Knock Knock Club. The agreement between the Mack Distillery and the Knock Knock Club was the first one reached when the club opened. A photo of Agnes, Tawny, Brendan and Annie hung in the balcony area of the club. That was a different generation though. That was a long time ago. Things had changed. A lot had changed since those photos had been taken. A lot had transpired since the four smiled and the lens flashed. Tawny and Agnes were not their niece. Brendan and Annie were not their son. As Paddy was led to the stand, he offered Tabitha no eye contact.
Judge Doyle: Presiding
Counsel for the Defendant: Ronald Owen
Defendant: Tabitha MC
Patrick Mack: Witness
Clerks and Bailiffs
City Prosecutor: Your family brand has been suppliers to the Knock Knock Club for a generation now.
Patrick Mack: That’s right. Agnes Wilde struck the deal with the distillery when the club first opened. My da was good friends with the Baroness. Tawny, I mean.
City Prosecutor: That arrangement continued when the defendant took over.
Patrick Mack: No reason that it wouldn’t.
City Prosecutor: Having such a close relationship with the club and the defendant I assume you saw a lot of the comings and goings.
Patrick Mack: I saw everything.
The City Prosecutor couldn’t help but grin. Never before had he had such a dish served up on a case. He could taste the verdict and it was sweet on his tongue.
City Prosecutor: Could you detail for the jury exactly what you saw?
Paddy did look over to Tabitha. She maintained his gaze but her expression was difficult to read.
Patrick Mack: I saw your lot ruin good people and Tabitha was the only one to pick up the pieces.
The City Prosecutor turned. He was frowning severely. This was not the statement they had prepared.
City Prosecutor: Mr Mack you are making a mockery of this court.
Patrick Mack: No. What is fecking funny is you think I will sit here and tell you that
Tabitha had no reasoning behind what she did. She’s a feckin animal yes, but you need an animal to fight against cunts like you.
City Prosecutor: Enough!
Judge Doyle slammed her gavel.
Judge Doyle: If you do not take this seriously I will hold you in contempt.
Patrick Mack: Then hold me in fecking contempt. I swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and that truth is you are all cunts. Especially you.
Paddy leaned forward and dared to address the Judge directly.
Patrick Mack: I saw Tabitha open up the club to the homeless, stop a deal that would see countless others on the street and protect those who needed it, which is more than you feckers ever did.
The gavel was slammed again.
Judge Doyle: Hold him in contempt.
The Bailiffs escorted Paddy from the stand. He tipped Tabitha a wink as he passed. Her lips formed a smile. Breaking the Mack bond with the Knock Knock Club was going to be harder than Judge Karyn Doyle thought.
#amreading the #thriller #graphicnovel #knockknock by @VivikaWidow
The route from the Shanties bus station, deeper into the poorest part of the Shady City was like an adventure. A thin veil of rain had started to fall and Tabitha’s hair was beginning to dampen. The darkness was heavy. The eerie monsters that haunted the area at night were casting shadows on the grey brick walls. Boarded windows. Broken doors. The whole place was so lifeless it seemed like no one actually lived there. It was when the Shanties opened up into Clifton Alley life sprang free. A buzzing sign read THE KNOCK KNOCK CLUB. Music was blaring within the belly of the benevolent beast of a building. Tabitha sighed. She was home.
She knocked on the door. A woman, scantily clad in the uniform of the Knock Knock girls answered.
“Over eighteens only,” she rhymed off.
As she started to close the door over TABITHA stopped her.
“I need to speak to my aunt.”
The Knock Knock girl narrowed her gaze on her. “We’re all someone’s niece, sweetness. That doesn’t mean we get in clubs underage.”
She attempted to close the door again but Tabitha stopped her once more.
“My aunt is the fucking Baroness,” she scowled. “Let me in.”
The woman raised her penciled eyebrows. “Tabitha?”
Her eyes widened. “I’m so sorry, sweetness. I had no idea. Come in.”
The Knock Knock girl opened the door and allowed entry to the kingdom Tabitha would one day inherit. The hall was hot, stuffy and stank of bad breath. The floors were sticky from spilled booze and the air surrounding her was smoky.
A delicate hand fell on her shoulder. “Tabs?”
Tabitha was greeted by a petite, pretty woman. AGNES WILDE was co owner of the club and partner to her Aunt TAWNY.
“Hey Aggie,” said the little girl.
“How did you get here?”
“I got the bus,” she admitted.
Agnes’ brow tightened. “You should have called and I could have come and got you. Those buses aren’t safe at night.”
Tabitha took in the rustic splendour that was the Knock Knock club.
“Is everything okay at home?” she could hear Agnes asking.
On the stage was her aunt in a gold sequinned dress and a feather band in her hair singing a song she had had on her lips often when they spent time together.
Tawny left the stage and was engaging her audience as the in house band kept the ambiance going. A spotlight followed her to a table near the front where she seated herself next to a man In a white shirt. He had removed his tie, unbuttoned the collar and rolled the sleeves to the mid point of his arms.
“How are you honey?” she asked.
The man smiled, giddy with nerves as all eyes fell on him.
“Fine,” he replied, still with a drunken grin on his face.
“Where are you visiting us from?” asked the Baroness.
The man gave another nervous laugh but he played along in good humour. “SWANTIN.”
“Swantin?” Tawny stood. “Jesus fucking Christ. We’ll let just about anyone in here.” She called to the bar. “Gemma? Lock that cash up we’ve got the Swantin folk in.”
The man laughed at the good natured teasing. She tipped him a wink. “Just kidding handsome. You have a good night.”
At that she moved on to another table. A young couple were seated, she in an elegant blue dress and he in a cotton shirt of similar shade.
“What about you folks? Come far?”
“From HATHFIELD,” the woman answered for them, enjoying the show and eager to get involved.
“The Bay?” Tawny cheered. “Haven’t been back in my old haunt in such a long time. McCurlies still there?”
The woman giggled. “Yes it is.”
“They have the best ice cream, right?”
The woman chortled and nodded.
“Get back on the stage!” Cried the compare from behind the curtain as part of the act.
“In a minute,” Tawny returned. “I’m chatting with my old friends here.” She turned her attention back to the couple, tutted and comically rolled her eyes. “Say hi to McCurlie for me.”
At that she stood. The music erupted again and she returned to the stage for the last of her song.
Tabitha smiled. In a grotty little place like the Knock Knock club all the comfort of home was to be found.
“You better wait back stage,” Agnes said clutching her and leading her to the back rooms.
In the back room a group of dancer girls were clucking around a mirror, covering their faces in make up so the heavy stage lights wouldn’t give them too much of a shine on their skin.
One of them, a raven haired woman with long dancer legs who was already caked in make up, pushed through.
“Move out of the way bitches,” she growled.
Two of the other girls stood aside, hands on hips, scowling.
“You don’t own the fucking mirror,” barked one.
“That’s enough girls,” Agnes barked. “Bette, learn to play nice or I’m sending you home.”
The raven haired dancer dropped her gaze.
“Sorry,” she murmured. “I’m running late is all.”
“Well who’s fault is that? Get your face fixed and ready for the stage.”
That was when the girls noticed Tabitha.
“Is that little Tabitha?” one cooed. They surrounded her. “Oh we haven’t seen you in a long time.”
Normally when Tabitha spent time with her aunts they came to Filton. She usually only retreated to the club when there was trouble at home.
When she had gotten a little older Agnes tried to explain the relationship between she and Tawny. They had been lunching at Delphine – a Filton restaurant serving fine cuisine. It was the first time the two had ever been alone without Tawny despite knowing each other Tabitha’s whole life.
“Your aunt and I,” she began delicately. “We are …”
Tabitha stabbed her fork into her chocolate soufflé.
“Yeah I know,” she said dismissively. “You’re a couple of rug munchers.”
Agnes dropped her own fork. She knew Tabitha to be uncouth. Tawny found her foul mouth part of her charm. When Agnes told Tawny what she had said she almost spat out her tea.
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” she had said with laughter.
Tabitha could feel Agnes’ gaze still on her. She looked up with a forkful of soufflé to her mouth.
“That’s what you wanted to tell me right?” Not understanding what she had said wrong she added, “I don’t care. Aunt Tee loves you.” As harsh as she sounded at times that was all that mattered to Tabitha.
Agnes smiled warmly. “And I love her and you.”
“I guess that kind of makes you my aunt too,” said Tabitha with a mouthful of chocolate.
“I suppose it does,” Agnes agreed.
Tabitha grinned her distinctive gap toothed grin. “I like that.”
Agnes wiped her mouth with her napkin and picked her fork back up. “I do too.”
Pushing the dancer girls out of the way Agnes cried, “let her breath ladies.”
Bette took a lock of Tabitha’s hair and drew it through her fingers. “Doesn’t she have the most beautiful hair?”
From the door way a voice called out.
“Start pouring ladies. This gal is done!”
Tawny had a cigarette between her lips. As the dancer girls parted Tawny’s eyes widened at the sight of her niece. A broad, beaming grin stretched across her face. She snatched the cigarette from her mouth and reached out.
“Tabby!” she cried.
Tabitha ran to her and was enveloped in the show girl’s arms.
“You’re getting titty sweat all over me,” Tabitha giggled.
Tawny laughed too. “Sorry honey.”
With both hands on her shoulders she danced her niece over to a changing chair and sat her down. She picked up a brush and started to run it through the young girl’s hair. They both looked at each through their reflection in the mirror.
Tabitha asked, “can I stay here?”
“Of course you can,” was Tawny’s reply. “You know you’re welcome anytime.” She leaned over and kissed her head. “Is everything alright?”
It would be now that she was behind the walls of the Knock Knock Club.
Tabitha had been allowed to watch the club close from the balcony. It was a surreal place when everyone was gone. Broken glass was swept up, empty bottles were carried out to the industrial bins in Clifton Lane. The spirit of the place quietened.
In the apartment above the club where her aunts lived Tabitha was given a fold down bed in the lounge area. Whilst Tawny made it up for her and Agnes crossed the Shanties to an all night pharmacy to fetch a toothbrush and some other necessities, Tabitha locked herself in the bathroom. She had been given an oversized Knock Knock t shirt to sleep in. She pulled off the damp leggings she wore, grimacing as she did so.
The bruising on her inner thighs seemed to be growing. She gently touched the worst of it sending a spark of pain firing through her leg. She didn’t sob then. She had wept enough on the bus journey. As she pulled on the t shirt she was glad that it was long enough to cover the bruising. She didn’t want Aunt Tee to know. She wasn’t ready to talk about it.
Not ready then but the little Boss Lady would grow up to be a whole lot of trouble.
Delve deeper into the darker side of the Shady City with the hit graphic novel series Knock Knock.
Free to read HERE on Vivika Widow Online or you can download for kindle by clicking HERE.