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.”
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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September 10, 2017 | Categories: Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock EP 15: Down in the Dumps | Tags: author, blog series, club, cult, Knock, Knock, reporter, sam crusow, subscribe, thriller, vivika widow | Leave a comment
Tabitha opened the door. She stared at Maddy’s body like a famished fox in a hen house.
“Clever boy,” she said. “You shot her. I knew you could do it.”
I was still in a state of shock. “I didn’t,” I ground. “She shot herself.”
Tabitha’s expression changed quickly. The fox had now learned that it wasn’t the hen house after all but the hound’s kennel.
“Don’t say that to anyone else if you want to survive,” she warned. “She is dead, that’s all that matters.” Her vixen like smile returned. “Besides, watching her put the gun to her head without trying to stop her is as good as murdering her.”
I was going to tell her that I did try to stop her but I sensed it would fall on deaf ears.
My wife was gone, my best friend was gone and even the mayor of the town was gone. The bodies were piling up at the Knock, Knock club and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
When I was finally allowed to leave the room they had locked me in until Maddy was dead. I found Dennis still looking more morose than usual. There was no paying customers in the club at that time. Tabitha distracted herself with some of the girls who were begging her for advice and trying to win her favour.
I felt my body tense. I stood beside Dennis with one eye still on Tabitha.
“You can forget what help I was going to give you. You can rot in here for the rest of your life for what it is worth to me. The body of your boy can be thrown in the alley with the rest of them; along with my wife and my friend,” I spat. They were harsh words but the club was beginning to drain my humanity. Maybe I was a Crusow after all.
Dennis stole a quick glance at the others. “There was nothing I could have done. She came here looking for you and it was Tabitha who greeted her.”
I had heard enough. I wasn’t really interested in anything more that Dennis had been telling me.
“Why don’t I tell Tabitha about the little visit we had from Milo. I’m sure she could easily track him down,” I snapped.
I tried to walk away but he snatched me back. Tabitha craned her neck to examine the commotion closer. Dennis patted my shoulder with a smile as though we were having a brotherly scuffle.
He lowered his voice. “You wouldn’t do that.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Wouldn’t I?”
“You wouldn’t put an innocent child in danger. Milo has nothing to do with any of this. Unfortunately the same can’t be argued for Madeline. If I could have stopped her coming here I would have.”
I shook my head again. My temples were aching with anger. My emotions were beginning to burn in my eyes.
“If you don’t help me get out of here tonight, I will happily show the way to Milo. In fact, I will happily plunge the knife into him myself.”
“Don’t say things you can’t fulfil,” Dennis warned.
“Try me,” I urged. “After weeks trapped in this club who knows what I have become capable of. I am Sam Crusow after all. My grandfather started this whole nonsense. Since my arrival I have been pushed to be more like him. So there you have it. I’m now willing to murder a little boy to get some satisfaction.”
Tabitha called me over. I left Dennis with my threats to his estranged son.
“You mustn’t blame Dennis for the state Madeline found herself in,” said she, sensing the reason for my frustrated frown. “The club doesn’t need to look far for it’s next kill. Greed, desperation and jealousy are all reasons we are given by our members to rid of their nuisances. But don’t fret. It’s not all bad. Everything that Madeline had will now be shared amongst us and so the club continues.”
“I’m getting used to it,” I lied.
“Cheer up.” She patted my cheek. “It could be a whole lot worse. If it weren’t for you carrying your grandfather’s name you would be dead already.”
“I am grateful,” I said sarcastically.
Tabitha laughed. “It strikes me as odd that you seem more upset at the death of the lovely Madeline than you did your poor wife.”
I had no answer for that comment.
In my time at the Knock, Knock club I had witnessed them kill for money, kill as a warning and kill for fun. As night fell, I watched the body of my long time friend being removed to the alley from my window. She lay amongst the city’s waste where no police officer would care. The desperate residents of Coldford would remove anything on her person that was of value or could be made of use. This wasn’t very much after the club were done with her. I kept clear of the window after that. I couldn’t bare my view being the corpse of Madeline staring up at me. The horror and desperation of her final moments still remaining in her dead eyes.
Little did I know, the worst was yet to come.
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We were locked in the room together. There was only the faint light from a single high window.
“What are you doing here Maddy?” I asked.
“I was worried about you,” was her reply. “The police were asking about you. Theresa is dead and suddenly it was though you had vanished into thin air. I had a sense you would be here. I had to find you.”
When I had told Madeline that I was investigating the Knock, Knock club she had said very little about it. Even after I had brought Theresa here just before her murder.
“Do you know what goes on here?” I had to ask.
“They use their connections to get away with murder. They make themselves rich by killing people and sharing the spoils. Usually they are also paid handsomely for it too.”
I was furious. Anger had been building in me given recent events.
“Why didn’t you say anything to me? Why didn’t you warn me? If you had said something I never would have brought Theresa here and she might still be alive.”
Madeline gave a heavy sigh. “I wanted to warn you but I couldn’t say anything.”
I was still frustrated. “Why not?”
“I’m a member,” she explained.
I had known Madeline for years. I considered her one of my closest friends as did Theresa but even when you are so close to someone there is still a deeper part were the true person lies that no one will ever know. Its that same part that in the absence of any rules or laws would run amok. The club played on this part of people, flattering them into believing they could get away with anything the wanted.
It had happened before I met Madeline. She was a young girl on her college path towards a career in journalism. Her life plans were upset when she found herself in the family way. Whilst she pondered over her future the father never gave so much as a backwards glance. Madeline’s prayers were answered when out of the blue she was approached by a handsome, charming man named Dennis.
“I know a girl in trouble when I see one,” he had remarked with a smooth smile she found quite appealing. It had been the only kind words anyone had uttered since discovering her pregnancy.
“It’s quite unfair that the father would get to trot off whilst the mother shoulders the responsibility alone. It is an injustice that even in today’s modern society stands to be corrected.”
Madeline was so drawn to him she found herself discussing her predicament with a stranger she had only met a few moments before when he joined her on the bench at the park where she had gone to clear head.
Dennis explained, “I’m a member of an exclusive club. If you were a member your baby would be taken care of until such times as you were ready to take her back. We’ve only just managed to pull ourselves out of a financial recession and it looks like we are headed towards another. It hits everyone hard but it must be an especially powerful blow to a single mother.”
Maddy sobbed and ran her hand softly over her womb. “I can’t.”
Dennis leant forward. She caught the scent of tobacco and whiskey from him. “Do the sensible thing kid,” he urged. “You won’t be giving up any rights to the child or anything. You would simply be making sure they were sufficiently taken care of.”
He gave her an invitation to the Knock, Knock club and a lot to ponder. Madeline was alone, desperate and financial straits. Giving her baby up was her only hope. She became a life long member that day. I met her the following year and no word of the little girl passed her lips.
“Do you know where your daughter is now?” I asked.
She shook her head. Tears were beginning to form in the corners of her eyes.
I asked, “What did they want with a new born child?” I wished I hadn’t because the thoughts of what could be possibly happening to the babies flashed into my mind. It sent a violent shiver down my spine.
“I’m so sorry,” Madeline cried.
“You should be,” I groaned. “Because of what you did Theresa was murdered and a little girl who didn’t ask to be born has probably been subjected to a life of unimaginable cruelty. That is if she is unlucky enough to still be a alive.”
“Take that gun. Kill me. It’s the only way out.” She pointed a shaking finger at the table.
I shook my head. “We’re getting out of this,” I assured her.
“It’s impossible,” she insisted. “You couldn’t shoot your way out. They will have only loaded one bullet.”
“Neither of us are dying in this hole,” I stated, hoping that my words would be final and she would stop feeling sorry for herself.
“I don’t deserve to leave this place. I handed my child over and never looked back. The things I did. The things they made me do.” She stood and began to pace the small room.
“What else aren’t you telling me?”
She became hysterical. “You can get out of here. Make sure everyone knows what goes on here!”
She was screaming. I tried to grip her shoulders to calm her down but she lifted the gun and leapt back before I had the chance to. She put the gun into her mouth.
I tried to stop her. She pulled the trigger and her body fell limp to the floor.
Madeline had known about the Knock, Knock club. If her daughter was still alive I would find her. My wife, my best friend and any future I ever had were all gone. It made me more determined than ever to expose the club for what it was and all of its members.
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July 9, 2017 | Categories: Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock EP 12: It's not me; It's you! | Tags: author, blog, blog series, crusow, cult, Knock, Knock, murder, noir, sam, suspense, thriller, vivika widow | 2 Comments
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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June 18, 2017 | Categories: Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock EP 9: The Daddy of Them All | Tags: author, blog, blog series, blogger, club, crusow, cult, Knock, Knock, sam, thriller, vivika widow | 5 Comments
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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Following my wife’s death I lived at the ‘Knock, Knock’ club. I spent most of my time in the spacious but neat apartment at the top of the building they had granted me. Someone had placed a photograph of the club founders in it. I only knew this was my grandfather, having never met the man, because of the striking resemblance he bore to my mother. From what I could understand of the club I was now at the mercy of, they paid homage to him as one of their founding members. I hadn’t gathered enough nerve yet to ask more than they had already told me. The club was no more than a cult. When my mother gave birth to me – the son of a lowly fisherman – she ran to the city of Coldford from her island home in Westcliff. As the last remaining member of the Crusow family, half of The Group wanted me dead and the other half, like the Knock, Knock club manager Dennis and the cabaret performer Tabitha, were striving to keep me alive.
Since my first visit my wife, Theresa, had been murdered by those trying to flush me out. Tabitha had put a bullet through the Mayor of Coldford’s head because his wife was a member of the club and his affairs, gambling and general wasting of the city’s money was beginning to bother her. I should have left then but I had nowhere else to go and that until I embraced the club’s protection I wouldn’t be safe anywhere. I didn’t fear that. I guess what kept me there so long was that I was a reporter by trade and this was a story too rich to let go. The club spread to very high places and if I kept quiet long enough I could blow the whole thing open. I realise now how naïve I was in thinking this but I had nothing else.
According to Tabitha, the club allowed protection for its members even through depressions like the one that Coldford was experiencing at that time. Times were desperate and the members need not suffer the indignity of poverty when there was so much of the flesh, blood and belongings of non members to go around.
I couldn’t really tell if I was being held prisoner or not. After all, having the same name as my grandfather, Samuel Crusow, they held me in such high regard. I never tried to leave. Tabitha – niece of The Group’s co founder, Tawny – made it quite clear that there was no point. Their influence spread far and wide. The police had already suspected me as being responsible for Theresa’s murder. All the club had to do was to call into their members at Coldford police department and I would snapped up and put in a cell for the rest of my life. Given the choice, my room at the club was much more comfortable.
The girl’s at the club kept me kept me supplied with food and drink.It wasn’t great quality. The meat was gritty and the cider was on the turn but it was better than anything outside and there was enough of it to feed a large family. When I looked out of the window I could see men, women and children scrounging in the alley for a decent meal. The Coldford depression being so severe even the soup kitchens couldn’t stay open. I had taken to putting what food I could into plastic bags and dropping them from the window so the wretched homeless would be able to find something to eat.
I started to become familiar with the patrons and staff at ‘Knock, Knock’ without actually getting to know them. I didn’t like being on my own so much so I loomed about the club like the ‘Knock, Knock’ mascot. One afternoon I wandered down into the main club floor. The last stragglers from the matinee sessions were beginning to clear out to make way for the dinner visitors. Dennis was leaning against the bar, overseeing the rush of staff, preparing for the biggest show of the day.
“Take a load off Sam,” he instructed.
Normally only people who know me well enough called me Sam but Dennis was one of those types who treated everyone like they were life long friends. It didn’t matter if he had known them five minutes or five years. I had come to expect it from him.
The girl behind the bar, A flaming haired beauty barely out of her teens named Lisa, poured a whiskey and slid it over to me.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“Nothing more than the usual,” he replied.
Tabitha came tearing from backstage. She wore gents trousers, white shirt and black waistcoat. Her lips were tightened with fury. She was clutching a blood stained shirt in her hand which she threw at Dennis. Dennis barely flinched.
“One life for another. It’s only fair don’t you think?” he remarked.
“Am I missing something?” I asked. My reporter mind was ready to take note. If there was some division between Tabitha and Dennis I could exploit then perhaps getting away from them would be easier than I thought.
Tabitha just sneered at Dennis. “He was mine!” she snarled before storming backstage again.
Dennis turned into the bar. He threw the bloodied shirt to Lisa. “Trash that will you kid?” he instructed. The girl disappeared through a narrow door at the end of the bar that led onto the alley. No doubt the spot where the Knock, Knock club disposed of its evidence.
“Tabitha told me her story. She was born into this. How did you come to be involved?” I asked. I hoped Dennis would assume I was enquiring as a friend and not a nosey journalist.
Dennis relayed his tale to me. Before the ‘Knock, Knock’ club he lived in the small town of Millefort, outside of the city, towards the coast. It would have been the first piece of civilisation my mother would have met when she carried me in her arms from Westcliff.
Dennis and his father, David, were traders who thrived on their ideal location between the docks where exciting food, clothes and trinkets would arrive from foreign lands and the city of Coldford where there were (at that time) plenty of customers willing to spend on such treasures. They had a happy life – at least that was how Dennis described it. He was married to a beautiful, if not a little neurotic, woman named Julianne. She was carrying their first child. Perhaps a boy? Perhaps a girl? They didn’t care as long as the baby was healthy. David Platt had bid Dennis’ mother a heartfelt farewell as she ended a long suffering year of a disease doctors couldn’t combat but whilst David had his son and a grandchild on the way he wasn’t ready to join her yet.
As Dennis set the scene it made me consider that this kind of contentment was only the pleasant, sun drenched calm before the storm. After all, he had went from family man with everything most people would covet to a grotty back alley club in Coldford where murder is all part of the entertainment.
Ships had been arriving with new products and Dennis had been at the Millefort Harbour to greet them. As the deliveries were being carried from the ship to the waiting ‘Platt and Son’ van, one of the helpers allowed the crate he was carrying to slip from his fingers.
“Woah!” Dennis cried as some of the coffee beans it contained spilled out from torn packets. “Be careful with that or I’m going to have to charge you.”
“Sorry sir,” murmured the helper.
“Just get it loaded into the van,” said Dennis, checking his watch to see how much time had been wasted.
As the delivery men busied themselves loading the van, Dennis spied a girl sat at the edge of the pier. She had pulled her heavy fur coat close to her chin. Her white stockinged legs dangled over the edge.
“Are you okay kid?” he asked, approaching her slowly so she wouldn’t be frightened by the sudden appearance of a stranger.
She looked up at him. Her rich attire and the diamonds that sparkled in her ears were unusual for Millefort. It was a laid back town, with earthy people. Her eyes were a pale grey, her lips painted a vibrant red. “I need to get to Westcliff,” she said.
“They don’t have any passenger ships here,” instructed Dennis. The girl looked solemnly out across the water. “What is your name?”
“Where have you come from?”
“Filton. I’m looking for my aunt. She’s in Westcliff.”
Dennis, looking back at the delivery men who were closing the van up, said to Tabitha, “A boat ain’t going to magically appear kid.” He reached out and helped her onto her feet again which were clad in crushed velvet shoes. “Why don’t you come home with me and we can get you sorted.”
Dennis had expected Tabitha to resist climbing into a large blue van with a man she didn’t know but she thought nothing of it. She rode in silence beside him. Dennis had many questions that he wanted to ask her but he followed her lead and said nothing.
When they reached his home he finally said, “Don’t worry, I’ll smooth it over with my wife.”
The van crawled in front of a whitewashed bungalow. It was early evening by then. Darkness was smothering the sun underneath a pillow of stars. The lights in the houses were beginning to illuminate the narrow street. A large window at the front bathed the dark, tidy lawn in an azure glow.
A woman came charging into the light of the headlamps. She was dressed in a thin nightdress and was barefoot despite the chill in the air. She was heavily pregnant.
Dennis grunted, brought the van to a complete stop and rolled down the window. He leaned out and called to her, “Julie, what the Hell are you doing? I could have ran you over!” He climbed out and Tabitha followed.
“What kept you?” asked Julianne. “I was worried.” She linked her arm through her husband’s and stared at the stray girl he had brought home.
“You know its a long drive. I found this girl. She was lost.”
Julianne reached her free hand out and took Tabitha’s in hers. “Who are you?”
“My name is Tabitha. I need to get to my aunt in Westcliff.”
“This is the wrong direction,” said Julianne coldly. “You won’t get far tonight. You had better come inside.”
“Tabitha’s grey eyes clouded. She pulled her coat closer to her frame. “I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you,” she said as she followed the couple heading towards their front door.
“My husband has brought his fair share of strange women into my home.” Julianne pulled her arm away from Dennis and entered the house first.
Despite Julianne’s obvious discomfort at having her there, Tabitha remained with them. The days rolled on and the weeks went by. Julianne avoided her where possible. Dennis managed to decipher that her parents whom she lived with in Filton had died in a terrible accident. The details of this accident were too painful to discuss. The only living relative she had left was an aunt (her grandfather’s sister) who lived on the island of Westcliff. The only worldly possessions she had were the expensive clothes she had been wearing when Dennis met her and a bankers note that would allow her to draw on her parent’s accounts which were extensive. She was hesitant to do this. She settled into the home of the Platt family and despite her eagerness to get to Westcliff on the first day, she never mentioned it again.
“What age do you suppose she is?” Julianne asked as she and Dennis watched the stranger from a distance. The stranger they had invited into their home for a night was now sat comfortably in their sofa – blue leather with delicately carved wooden trimmings that was Julianne’s pride and joy – watching their television.
“I don’t know. Sixteen, seventeen maybe?”
Julianne groaned and rubbed her swollen womb. “She said she was going to board a boat to Westcliff weeks ago. Why is she still here? The baby will be here any day now and we will need the room back.”
Tabitha’s explanation of her life in Filton was sketchy. She wouldn’t draw on her parent’s accounts to pay for her upkeep or find somewhere more luxurious to live. Judging by what clothes and jewellery she had with her she was wealthy. Filton was a haven for the rich. She did what she could to earn her board by helping David – who lived next door to his son – with the accounts for their trading. She did this with the meticulous detail of an expert. She didn’t pay for her food but she fetched whatever they needed and cooked it so that Julianne didn’t have to. She told them that she had written to her aunt, inviting her to the mainland to help her sort her parent’s affairs and was awaiting a response.
More time went by. A little baby boy with Dennis’ dark eyes and the soft wisps of Julianne’s chestnut hair was brought into the family. He was named Milo and even Julianne had to admit that Tabitha’s help in dealing with the infant was invaluable. Tabitha held Milo in her arms a lot. She sang to him, she danced around the room with him. Whenever he saw her face he would break into an adoring, gummy grin. David adored her too. At the end of the day Tabitha was quiet and solemn but when it came to people she was a vibrant performer. Times were bliss for the Platt family. Life was complete.
“That baby of yours must be keeping you up all night,” quipped one of the Coldford buyers when Dennis struck a deal much lower than he normally would.
“You’ve just caught me in a good mood,” Dennis laughed. “Don’t expect the same next month.
“Don’t let him kid you,” piped up another. “It’s that young girl writing the accounts that’s got him in such high spirits.” Dennis shrugged off the comment and made his way back home.
The house had been surprisingly quiet. Milo wasn’t crying. There was no bickering between Julianne and Tabitha. Tabitha was alone in the den. She was sat on the edge of the sofa wearing her coat. There was a large deep crimson blood stain across the wall as though something or someone had been whacked hard with a heavy blunt object.
“What happened? Where’s Julie?” asked Dennis.
“She’s gone,” murmured Tabitha. “She tried to hurt me. She tried to hurt Milo but I stopped her. She took him and now she’s gone.”
Dennis was breathless. His wife and child were gone. A thick blood stain was all that remained. He checked Milo’s room to see with his own eyes if what Tabitha told him was true. His instincts then drew him towards his father.
“David’s gone too,” Tabitha called after him as he darted next door.
Dennis found his father’s door open. His television was blaring loudly as it always did. There was a bullet hole in the back of his head. His eyes were wide. The image of the assailant still printed on the whites.
Tabitha had followed behind him and laid a consoling hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “It’s time I cashed my parents accounts. We can get out of here.”
Dennis shook his head, forcing back the sobs in intense breaths. “She murdered my father. She took my boy.”
“There’s nothing here for either of us. Come with me to Coldford. My aunt has written to me. She will meet us there. She will find Julianne faster than the police ever could.”
Dennis finished his story. I leaned back against the bar. I realised I was still holding the same empty glass I had had at the beginning of his tale.
“So you came to Coldford with Tabitha. You believed that your wife suddenly went crazy, murdered your father and ran off with your boy? Didn’t it occur to you that it was probably Tabitha – you know, the member of this ridiculous group who believe they have licence to murder.”
A smile crawled across Dennis’ lips. “Of course it did. It still does.”
“Then why come here?”
“I believed her when she said she could find my son. She loved Milo. I had no reason to think she would hurt him. Like you, I had nowhere else to go. The club replaced the family I lost. Now I can’t be without them. Whatever happened to Julianne, Milo is still alive. I know it.”
“How long ago was this?”
“About eight … no ten years ago. Milo will be ten now.”
“How can you look her in the eye? She could have been responsible for it all,” I felt the need to remind him.
Dennis emitted a cold peal of laughter. “Did it occur to you that she may have had something to do with the death of your wife too?”
I hadn’t really considered it before but Dennis’ words hit me like a bolt of lightening. “I guess she could have …”
“Like me you will always have that at the back of your mind but you will never leave this club. I am no founding member,” Dennis explained. “I don’t have any family name to hold on to. The club would rather see me dead than expend any effort in keeping me sweet. I have no choice but to play their game.”
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May 14, 2017 | Categories: Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock EP 6: Picking Up Strange Women | Tags: author, blog series, blogger, books, cult, Knock, Knock, novels, sam crusow, thriller, vivika widow | 9 Comments
The grey skies of Westcliff were fitting for its rugged and harsh landscape. It was a cold, windy island were it rained frequently. Upon a large hill, at the highest point on the island stood a manor house, viewed with awe and respect. Therein lived the Crusow family. No one on the island spoke of it but the Crusow patriarch – Samuel Crusow – had amassed a great deal of power within the community. Samuel had one daughter. His sons were long gone. Emily Crusow had been walking the halls, carrying a child in her arms, sobbing for so long that the very stone of the building was beginning to vibrate with her grief. She had managed to keep the father of her child secret for the first few months of her son’s life. She should have known she couldn’t have kept him hidden forever.
Her father had been summoned by the jingling of bells as servants began to lay the long table for two. Samuel Crusow sat himself at the usual spot at the head of the table. A plate of thick broth was placed under his nose. Samuel immediately set about breaking bread. He had built up quite a hunger that day as it happened.
“Will you stop with that incessant crying!” he barked at his daughter. Bread crumbs fell onto his full auburn beard.
“Please, just let me and my baby go,” cried Emily. “We are no use to you now.”
Samuel smiled with a mouth full. He swallowed the masticated bread and replied, “Even if the little boy is a half breed, he can still be of use. He bares my name and bares my blood. He could find himself at the very top of our food chain if he is raised correctly. He has the chance here to become a great leader. He could have everything he could want and yet you wanted to take him away so he could starve and fade away like the rest them? You lost all chance of being his mother when you made that decision. When he is finished nursing you can go and join the rest of them on the ash heap but the boy stays.”
One of the maids who was most sympathetic to Emily’s plight tried to urge her to sit at the table. Emily pulled her baby closer to her. “You have to eat something,” groaned Samuel as he turned his attention to a newspaper one of the maids had left for him. “It’s not good for the baby.”
In the cover of darkness, in the silence of the night, Emily carried her baby away from the only home she had ever known, the monstrous building she had only just seen the outside of. A small fishing boat was waiting for her on the coast. She had to hurry. Her father’s reach was long and far. She didn’t know who she could trust. Her life had been dominated by ‘The Group’. Until she met Perry – a simple fisherman – she couldn’t conceive of a life outside the group. She didn’t wish for her son to suffer the same. With the help of some of the staff she managed to reach the outside. She didn’t shy away from the cutting wind, she embraced it. For Emily it meant freedom.
“Where are you going?” Tawny McInney had been watching the Crusow house for most of the night. She had been meticulously noting in her mind the changes in lighting through the windows and any shadows moving behind the curtains. Her face was reddened and weather beaten. Her mass of mousey brown curls were hidden beneath a hood.
“Please don’t hurt Sam,” Emily cried, knowing that pleading with Tawny wouldn’t do her much good.
Tawny leaned over and moved the sheets that the baby was wrapped in away from his face. He was fast asleep. He smacked his lips and turned towards the heat of his mother. “Your father is shuddering under the weight of ‘The Group’. He has lost touch with the principals we were founded on.”
Emily looked towards the water edge where Perry’s brother, Peter, was waiting to take her to the mainland and to safety. “I have to go,” said she. “I have to get away from my father before he hurts Sam or hurts me.”
Tawny had never been much of a sympathetic woman. In ‘The Group’ she was probably the most blood thirsty, even more so than Samuel. Something was brewing. ‘The Group’ had been questioning Samuel Crusow’s leadership. Tawny would be the one to step forward and take his place.
“The Group is about to change in terrible and glorious ways. You do not want to be caught in the middle. Take your child to the safety of the mainland. Care for him. Perhaps one day when he is a man we will call upon him.”
To allow Sam to fall into the hands of Tawny and the other’s was a worse fate than anything Samuel would have in store. However, Tawny was offering her something that Emily didn’t have – time. Emily’s immediate concern was getting Sam away from the island. He could grow up away from ‘The Group’. Maybe they would find him one day but in the meantime taking him to the city was the best chance Sam would have. There in Coldford no one had yet heard the name, Samuel Crusow.
“So my grandfather was a lunatic and he began this group who felt they were so above the rest of humanity that they could kill for whatever reason they felt necessary?” I said, probably sounding a little more concise in my head than the nonsense that escaped my lips.
Tabitha leaned back against the bar. She had long finished her tall glass of gin and soda. I was still nursing the whiskey in my hand, having held it so long it was warm.
“That’s a rather crude way of putting it but that is the gist. Although, I must profess, your grandfather wasn’t a lunatic. He was a great man but he had lost his way. In the midst of the first great depression the islands were a harsh place to live. There were three prominent families – yours and mine included. Your grandfather saw to it that the worthy ones were provided for. Space, money and even blood and flesh had to be taken from the lowers otherwise the worthy ones would suffer and the lowers would feast on them like parasites.”
“That is awful!” I exclaimed.
Tabitha laughed. “Well listen to the righteous man with the Crusow name.” She shook her head. “This was at a time when there was no trade to the island, the land couldn’t be cultivated and there were far too many mouths to feed. Something had to be done. The lowers were dying at a rapid rate anyway and if left unchecked they would have brought everyone down with them. They were going to die anyway but their lives didn’t have to be in vain. Like cattle raised for the slaughter they helped provide food, shelter and provisions for the worthy ones. Life could go on much as it had before.”
“So what does that have to do with me?” I asked, trying to comprehend how I fit into it all now.
Tabitha tipped her glass over and began to roll it on its edge. “Well you are the key to it all. You are the last remaining Crusow. One of the founding members. That is a pretty important role don’t you think? My aunt was right to let your mother leave with you. In doing that ‘The Group’ managed to grow from some miserable little island cult to something much grander. When your mother had a child with one of the lowers it caused the members to look at how things were run, how it was decided who was lower and who was worthy in the first place. It was dangerous to keep you around, my aunt saw that but your grandfather didn’t.”
“Where is my grandfather now? Is he still alive?”
Tabitha stopped fidgeting with her glass and stood it back upright. “When your mother escaped a sort of civil war was born within ‘The Group’. My aunt and your grandfather made for pretty powerful allies. They both still believed that those of lesser importance should be sacrificed for the benefit of those in authority. Samuel’s blood had mixed with that of the lowers when you were born. Some didn’t like that. Whilst the others bickered over the purity of ‘The Group’ my aunt set about restoring it to its former glory. My family followed you to Coldford. My aunt had promised your mother that she would find you. When she came to Coldford she saw the corruption in high places, like your mayor friend, the miserable wretches that swamped the streets. She had only just bought the club and cemented herself in Coldford society when she died and the second depression hit. Some of ‘The Group’ followed my aunt and thrived in the city. Others stayed behind with your grandfather and died out.”
The weight of grief began to press down on me again as I considered the scale of the situation I was in. “My wife is dead because of this. Theresa had nothing to do with any of this.”
Tabitha raised her eyebrows. “I’m genuinely sorry for what happened to Theresa. It was not our doing. There are still some out there who don’t like the idea of ‘The Group’ being led by a man who was sired by a fisherman. Theresa’s murder was a warning.”
“Where does the mayor come in?” I had pondered the question constantly from the moment Dennis pulled a gun to the mayor’s head.
“Mayor Feltz was a stupid man. His wife had used her connections with ‘The Group’ to gain political office. He then treated his wife and child terribly. The aid we gave him in getting his job was in the understanding that we would have influence in his office. He wasn’t willing to share. He felt that now he was mayor he could get away with anything. No one is above ‘The Group’.”
“How have you managed to get away with this for so long?”
“It’s very simple really,” she answered. “If you approach someone in power and tell them they have the right to decide the fates of those lower than them they tend to jump at the opportunity. Flattery is a very powerful tool. When that fails there is always good old fashioned threat of violence.”
I knew then that it was never going to be so easy as to walk out the door of the ‘knock, knock’ club and leave all this behind. They had people everywhere and now they were trying to make me their leader because I had the same name as the man crazy enough to begin it all in the first place. I asked myself again, not for the last time … what had I gotten myself into?
Enjoy this?Subscribe to the page and have each episode of the thriller blog series sent straight to your inbox!Catch up from the beginning:Knock, Knock (Episode 1): Welcome to the ClubKnock, Knock (episode 2): Don’t Come Knockin’Knock, Knock (Episode 3): Sleep Tight SamKnock, Knock (Episode 4): Take A Bow