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Posts tagged “club

Knock, Knock: The story so far!

 

It’s been a great run so far and I am thrilled to see so many people tune in, enjoy and follow the Knock, Knock series.

It was a novel idea (no pun intended) when it first began and thanks to the success there will be more coming your way.

It is a story that is special to me. It began on a cold, winter Aberdeen night as I travelled home from med school and has been a story I have been itching to tell ever since.

To those of you who have subscribed, commented and simply tuned in to read I am extremely grateful. For those of you who haven’t read it yet Episodes 1 – 15 are now available on the site in handy little drop down menu so you can go straight to your favourite EP or read it from the very beginning.

We are reaching the conclusion of the story now so I look forward to hearing your responses to the ending.

Episode 16: Shots in a Glass will be live 6pm (UK ST) on Sunday 8th of October exclusively to vivikawidow.com

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Knock, Knock (Episode 15): Down in the Dumps

It was late at night when a soft tap at my door stirred me awake. I hadn’t even realised I had fallen into the swamp of my dreams until I stirred awake. I shuffled across the bare wooden floor. I opened the door and Dennis was stood in the shadows like a great ominous bird.

“If you are going, you have to go now,” he said.

I pulled a pair of oversized boots on. My coat hung on a stand by the door. I pulled it off and the coat stand came with it. Dennis snatched it before it toppled completely.

“Quiet,” he warned in a screaming whisper.

I was silent and still a little sleepy. Dawn’s early light was beginning to show. I followed Dennis down into the main body of the club.

“Promise me you will find Milo,” he urged.

I nodded my head dumbly. At any other time I would have said something along the lines of, “the boy will come to no harm under my charge,” but I was so taken aback by finally leaving the ‘Knock, Knock’ club I couldn’t find the words. We made our way across the shaky floor. Freedom was imminent. The outside air was going to be so crisp and so sweet.

A lock shuffled. A door handle shook. Dennis pushed me back from the main door . At the farther end, by the stage a little girl came skipping. She was followed by Tabitha.

“Now take a seat,” said Tabitha. The little girl – Sarah – obeyed. She pulled out a chair and sat at a table nearest the stage.

“Would you like some ice cream?” Tabitha asked. She leaned closer with a warm but mischievous smile.

The little girl wrinkled her nose. “I’m not allowed ice cream for breakfast.”

Tabitha’s smile widened like a great python ready to strike. “You are here.”

The kid’s eyes lit up then. It was like she had been told her birthday was coming twice that year. She had no idea the danger she was in. Her life was in the hands of Tabitha and if I left the little girl would surely die. If I stayed I could do something to keep her alive.

“See,” Tabitha continued. “It’s not so bad here is it? All that crying earlier was for nothing.”

Sarah agreed.

Tabitha crossed the floor towards the bar, behind which lay the kitchens. As she passed she muttered to Dennis, “Watch her.”

She stopped and did a double take when she noticed I was wearing boots and a coat.

“Going somewhere are we?” she laughed.

I knew then I wasn’t.

When Tabitha was out of sight Dennis pushed me back towards the door.

“Go now. Hurry!” he said.

“I can’t,” I stated. “If I go now you could get hurt or that little girl.”

Dennis growled. “What about Milo?” You said you would help him.”

“I did and I will,” I said. “But before I do I have to make sure no harm comes to that kid. You told me that if I left they would be watching me. I could lead them straight to Milo. That would be two dead kids on my conscience. Right now, Tabitha doesn’t know Milo is near. He is safe.”

I couldn’t believe my own sentiments. Since arriving at the club I had been seeking a way to escape its grasp. Seeing Sarah changed everything in an instant.

Although no one had ever said the words I was a prisoner at the Knock, Knock. If Dennis were to orchestrate my leaving, they would kill him, the little girl and then hunt me down. I couldn’t risk it. At least not yet.

Dennis stormed away. I could understand his frustration. I had been pushing him to help me. I even threatened to tell the club about his son if he didn’t. I didn’t have any time to worry about that. The only reason I was still alive was because my grandfather was one of the club’s founding members. I was walking a very thin line as it was.

Tabitha returned with an over flowing bowl of strawberry ice cream.

“Changed your mind?” she laughed when she saw I was pulling my coat off

“I was just a little cold. I’m fine now,” I replied.

“That’s just as well,” said Tabitha. “You would have been dead before you reached the end of the alley. Do you think it would be so easy as to walk out the front door? Even if Dennis opened that door for you? And without so much as oodbye? A girl could be insulted.”

She dropped the plate of ice cream down to the little girl. She gripped the spoon and immediately set to digging in.

“Don’t hurt her,” I warned for as much use as it could be.

Tabitha raised her eyebrows. “What kind of monster do you think I am?”

We paused. Tension rose. Her steel grey eyes stared right through me. Then her teeth began to tear through her ruby lips as a smile spread.

“It all really depends on her father cooperating now doesn’t it.”

When I first came to the Knock, Knock I was an enthusiastic journalist in search of a new story line. I had no idea the nightmare that lay behind the closed doors. Now, I was in deep. As the bodies began to pile around me I had to do something!

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Knock, Knock (Episode 9) The Daddy Of Them All

After my failed attempt to escape the club I kept to the room they had given me. They revered me because I bore the same name as my grandfather who founded their murderous group. I didn’t know how long I could count on their loyalty and I wasn’t prepared to find out. It had fallen to evening. Normally, some of the girls working the club would bring me food and water but not that day. That day I was left alone. My stomach grumbled in protest. I made up my mind. If they hadn’t killed me by the evening show which was about to start I assumed they weren’t planning on killing me period so I might as well eat.

The club was busy so I hoped to scuttle around unnoticed like a mouse in a fancy kitchen. Dennis was stood at the bar watching the stage. The chorus girls were fluttering around in a parade of sequins and feathers. They were preparing for Tabitha – the club’s top act – to take the stage and entertain the evening audience.

Dennis caught my eye. He had been the one to stop me leaving. I got the sense that if he had to be stuck managing the Knock, Knock then I wasn’t allowed to leave either. After all, my family had created the club that caused the disappearance of his wife and child. He knew I had no involvement in that. Up until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know the Knock, Knock club existed. I don’t think he blamed me but he seemed keen on keeping me around all the same.

He smiled with that over familiarity he carried with everyone. He waved at me and ushered me to join him. As I approached he swung a vibrant red bar stool round.

Take a load off Sam,” Dennis urged but I chose to stand.

I am hungry,” I whined like a child. My frustrations were beginning to surface. I had remained calm – even after my wife, Theresa, had been murdered. I had decided that I would get the full story, take it to the newspaper I worked for in my previous life and expose the club and all its members. I wouldn’t let Theresa die in vain but it was becoming more difficult with each passing day.

Dennis leaned back over the bar. The girl tending bar lit up as he addressed her. “Have a plate of something brought out for Sam, will you kid?”

The girl abandoned her post immediately and danced off to the kitchens.

How long are you going to keep me here?” I asked. “What do you want from me?”

Dennis didn’t look at me. His large, doe like gaze remained fixed upon the stage. “It’s not my decision,” he stated. “I just run the place.  The order comes from upper management.”

The band had been sent into a flurry, introducing Tabitha to her audience.

Surely you don’t want to stay here either?” For someone who was overly familiar with everyone Dennis was a bit of a closed book so I tried my luck.

Dennis laughed and finally he did look at me. “Where would I go? Everything I had is gone.” He must have sensed he had said too much because his eyes turned back to the stage. “The club needs someone to lead. The need someone with the Crusow name. Until you are ready to deal with that or they find a replacement both you will be kept here,” he explained.

Tabitha was now on stage. She had been the one to introduce me to Knock, Knock. She had been there at the police station when I was accused of murder. She had done similar for Dennis. She was the reason we both were now in the clutches of the Knock, Knock club. She was an attractive woman with long, flowing brunette hair and a steely grey stare. Her face was soft, round and innocent in appearance but there was an underlying malice. On stage she wore a top hat and tales. Her lips were painted a vibrant shade of purple. Her singing voice was sultry but soft, deep but feminine.

We could both leave,” I boldly suggested to Dennis. “If we put our heads together they couldn’t stop us.”

Dennis stopped to wave to one of the regular patrons. “Almost eight, Frank. Getting better!” he called over jovially. The man laughed and waved back. He took a seat near the back, adjusting the button on his jacket so they wouldn’t be too strained over his ample stomach.

Dennis didn’t reply to my suggestion. I was almost at the point of repeating it when the bar maid returned with a plate of curling fries. The smell of grease caused my mouth to water. I took the plate from her with a firm thank you and laid it on the bar. I immediately set to digging in, using my fingers instead of waiting for eating irons.

I promise I will help you find your kid,” I told him.

Dennis suddenly seemed morose so I said nothing more. It was more his loyalty to Tabitha that kept him at the club. Until I found out why that was he was never going to help me.

Those were the unfortunate circumstances I had fallen into. I didn’t like Dennis and I suspected he didn’t like me much either but there we were, stuck together, watching Tabitha entertain.

We stood in silence. I finished the food and the bar maid slid a whiskey over to me to wash it down. One of the door men approached, leaning into Dennis but still speaking loudly over the music.

There is someone at the door looking for you.”

Dennis was disinterested. He was busy watching Tabitha engage with the audience. “If they don’t have an invite they don’t get in.”

The door man’s goon look made him a natural as bouncer. The goon looked confused as he tried to process too many words at once. “It’s a little kid,” he said.

Dennis straightened up his tall, lean frame. He groaned in frustration. He picked up a whiskey but there was nothing left but the glass. He slid it down to the bar maid. “Fill that, will you?” he instructed. “With the good stuff.”

I didn’t have anything to do. My stomach was now happily swimming in grease and whiskey so I followed him to the club’s main door that led onto the alley. Tabitha watched us from a distance. Dennis pulled open the door. Standing in the alley was a little boy of about nine or ten. He was wearing grey shorts and an oversized black sweatshirt which was made for a man double his size. He face was filthy and his knees scraped.

I can’t help you, kid,” Dennis said without an introduction. “There’s nothing here for you. Over eighteens only. Try your luck at the Town Hall.”

The boy didn’t flinch. He was a tough little thing. I could see it but Dennis seemed to have overlooked the resemblance.

Are you Dennis Platt?” he asked.

Who’s asking?” Dennis was becoming suspicious.

I’m Milo,” he announced. “I’m your son.”

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For more thrillers click HERE to read the hit novella ‘Maestro’

Check out the story 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

Knock, Knock (Episode 5): Big City Kid

Knock, Knock [Episode 6] Picking up strange women

Knock, Knock: Episode 7 (A night cap at the club)

Knock, Knock: (Episode 8) Just a quick one

KNOCKKNOCK_vivikawidow_Blurb

 


Knock, Knock (Episode 7): A Night Cap At The Club)

I couldn’t take it any more. I had to get away. Killing the Mayor had been one thing. I decided to hang around and let the story unfold after that but for my own souls sake I had to escape Tabitha’s murderous intent. I had to distance myself from the ‘Knock, Knock’ club.

Tabitha insisted that killing those chosen by the club was the kindest thing to do. “Much like an antibiotic for society.”

I wasn’t swayed. “These people have lives and families. They have fallen on hard times. They need help.”

Tabitha rolled her eyes like I had said the silliest thing in the world. “Since the dawn of time we have operated on a ‘survival of the fittest’ basis. They are suffering and there are others out there who could benefit quite strongly from what little they have. Would you allow a lame dog to suffer or would you put a bullet in its head? On the way to the streets the people we dispose of through this club would have dragged the rest of us with them. With each kill we make, each death request our members put forward, society is now one step closer to functioning again. That’s what we do. That is what this club was set up to do. It’s what your grandfather aimed to do,” she had said.

I still wasn’t entirely sure what the club felt they were achieving. To me it seemed they were a bunch of wealthy psychopaths who felt their titles and positions gave them licence to murder. They seemed to think that were providing Coldford a great service. They believed it wasn’t murder, it was euthanasia. Tabitha enjoyed it way too much.

It’s not for me or you to make those kind of decisions,” I stated.

Tabitha shrugged her shoulders. “If you truly believe that then you are nothing like your grandfather.” She looked at her watch. “I’m due on stage in five.”

I’m leaving,” I said immediately regretted disclosing my plan.

Tabitha gave a throaty laugh. “The moment you step outside this door you will die. Someone will get to you sooner or later. Even if you make it a week, a month or even a year it will be just because our enemies are biding their time. We are better off sticking together.”

Tabitha walked off to the stage. The last I heard was her warming her singing voice.

That night I gathered what little belongings I had brought to the ‘Knock, Knock’. I had some ratty old clothes and a photograph of my wife, Theresa, that had been taken on the eve of our wedding day. That seemed a lifetime ago. In fact it didn’t seem like my life at all. That was someone else who had been happy. That was another man’s wife. He was a different Sam Crusow. I was a miserable wretch who knew nothing but the ‘Knock, Knock’ club.

The club was never empty. In my time staying there, no matter what hour I climbed out of my room at, there was always someone lurking around. I didn’t have much to carry so I shuffled to the bar as though a drink was all I wanted. I planned to slip out the door I had seen the bar tenders use often that led onto the alley behind the club.

The lights were out except for the low stage lighting. Dennis was talking to one of the girls, the red headed beauty named Lisa. I got the impression that she worshipped the ground that Dennis walked on. To him she was a pretty young girl deserving of attention but to her he was an all knowing deity that had chosen to walk among lesser mortals. Dennis looked up as my footsteps scraped across the ground. He squinted through the darkness, noticed it was me and waved. I waved back, not wanting to seem suspicious. I yawned – thinking I had missed my calling as an actor – and lifted one of the bottles. It was gin which I never drank but I had to create a distraction so they would carry on their conversation without paying me any further attention. I stole a quick glance at them. Lisa seemed to be sobbing. Dennis had his hand on her shoulder. I tried the door but it was locked.

‘damn it!’ I groaned. The rattle of the lock had caught Dennis’ ear. I had no choice. It was now or never. I leapt from behind the bar and dashed to the club’s main door. That door was locked too. I felt Dennis’ hand on my shoulder.

Not tonight bud,” he said, pulling me back. “There’s nothing out there for you,” he added.

I went to bed with no further protest. Drowsiness overcame me and my last thoughts were how to escape the clutches of the ‘Knock, Knock’. What I didn’t realise was they had plans of their own. They were going to make sure I would never leave.

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Check out the story 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

Knock, Knock (Episode 5): Big City Kid

Knock, Knock [Episode 6] Picking up strange women

KNOCKKNOCK_vivikawidow_Blurb


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.


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

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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Where will Sam go from here?

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EPISODE 2: DON’T COME KNOCKIN’

EPISODE 3: SLEEP TIGHT SAM

EPISODE 4: TAKE A BOW

EPISODE 5: BIG CITY KID