The Chamberlain Docks were preparing for their buy over. Everything had been shut down but it was further into Swantin my story took me that day, to a small church of the Wigan order called St Rowans. I waited outside. That was when I saw him. He had completely lost his natural swagger. His clothes were ill-fitting. He had lost so much weight. His skin was grey. HIV positive. His life could end in two years, it could take fifteen. With modern care he could outlive all of us. Dennis Platt – former manager of the Knock Knock Club, husband of Olivia, but most importantly father of Milo – had been called upon. I had my own reasons for the hatred and spite I bore towards Dennis. I had not long discovered that he was the reason my wife Theresa had died. They had been having an affair but with everything that had happened the needs of the boy outweighed my own misgivings.
The light of St Rowan shone brightly as the afternoon sun caught the colours of the stained-glass windows. New enemies were arising every day. I was now the enemy of my old newspaper. Considered a threat to society and now under the gaze of an Owen Inc. scope. In order to combat that differences had to be put aside. Knowledge was key to completing my story and no one knew the darkest shades of Coldford better than Dennis.
He hesitated at first when he saw me. He stopped. I didn’t call to him. I didn’t say anything. My blood boiled but I reminded myself of the bigger picture. Dennis must have sensed this because he gingerly approached.
“Sam?” he said. “I didn’t think you would be here.”
What was he going to say? Sorry?
I continued to watch him until eventually he became more nervous.
“This has nothing to do with either of us,” I said. “She’s inside.”
Dennis took a deep breath. He started to make his way up the enlightened steps to the church’s main entrance. He stopped by the doorway. “I’m sorry, pal.”
“For which part?” I asked.
Dennis gripped the door. “All of it.”
“When this is over, I will tell your story,” I said in a way of warning. “Every little detail.”
He nodded his head. “You should,” he replied.
At that he pulled the door open and entered St Rowan’s good graces.
Olivia was seated at the front. She was a spiritual woman and seeking guidance.
“I invited you down today so we can talk in a calm, peaceful setting. I know you are not much for faith but I find comfort here.”
“How have you been?” he asked.
It was a silly question he knew, but Rowan’s embrace didn’t make him feel any better.
“I’m not good,” she said. “But I will be.”
“He’s such a strong boy. He’s stronger than either of us.”
Dennis smiled. “I miss him. I always have. I swear to God,” he jested raising his hand to the Lord.
Olivia smiled. “I never doubted that for a second,” she said. “He’s missed you too.”
Dennis looked to the altar. The Wigan cross hung prominently, representative of great sacrifice.
“Hickes was more of a dad to him than I ever was. A much better one than I ever would be.”
Olivia clutched his hand tighter. “Joel isn’t here anymore,” she said, not unkindly. “But you still are. That’s why I called you here. I want you to have the chance to know Milo. Milo should have the chance to know you before…”
Dennis refused at first. “I don’t know, Liv. He’s been through a lot. I’m not going to be around forever.”
“None of us are,” Olivia reminded him. “It could be tomorrow, next week, ten years from now, we don’t know. But don’t waste what time is left. Give your son memories of you to cherish. Give your son memories he deserves.”
If there was anything Dennis could do in life it was that.
“I need you to know, Dennis, that I forgive you. It wasn’t easy but I do.”
Dennis fell silent. He turned his attention back to the altar. His brow tightened; his chin quivered.
“Are you okay?” asked Olivia.
Dennis nodded but he couldn’t look at her.
Olivia drew a slip of paper from her pocket. “There’s something I want you to hear.” She began to read.
My dad did a bad thing. Somewhere along the road he went the wrong way. It might make the journey longer but he can turn back.
Written by Milo Platt.
Dennis reached his hand up to his mouth. He still couldn’t look at Olivia but the tears of regret began to spill.
“I can’t,” he began.
“Does it hurt?” asked Olivia. “Is it painful?”
Dennis gave into his despair. “Of course it is!” He resisted the urge to curse.
Olivia spoke softly again. “It should. You did harm to many people but that is your penance and as Milo said, you can still turn back.”
Dennis gathered himself. “He’s a smart kid.”
Olivia agreed. “Too smart sometimes,” she jested. “He’d like to know you.”
“I’d love to see him again,” Dennis stated genuinely.
Olivia patted his hand. “He’d love that.” She rested her hand on her stomach. “There’s something else you should know. Milo is going to be a big brother.”
Dennis eyes widened. Finally, he offered her his gaze.
“That’s…” he hesitated. “That’s brilliant Liv, it really is. I’m so happy for you. Can I hug the mum to be?”
Thinking about Dennis drove me to contact one of my old sources in Swantin. We had all only just met when I was given the assignment on the Mayor. I hadn’t had the chance to build trust between us but we had been on agreeable terms so I was hoping he would be willing to talk to me. He was operations manager at the Chamberlain docks and he had seen all of the ships come and go, bringing girls from afar. I wondered if perhaps Feltz and Waddle had been customers. Perhaps that was what they were running from. It was a mild lead at best, but one that was worth following up.
As the ringing buzzed in my ear I felt that thrill of the story again, that insatiable bite. I wasn’t at a desk in any big newspaper office but it was making all the difference. Ring ring. Ring ring.
I smiled. Reuniting with an old source was like reuniting with an old friend.
“Terry! So good to speak to you. It’s Sam Crusow.”
Buzzzzz. The line went dead. He had hung up on me. I held the phone out. “Well, that’s rude,” I muttered.
Agent Kim Adams took the phone from me. She redialled and after a brief wait, she said, “Agent Adams, Terry. The agent you spoke to when the docks were seized?” She smiled. “That’s right, Agent Adams. You just hung up on a friend of mine.” She cheered, “Yeah, Sam Crusow. He wants a little natter with you. Will you listen?”
She passed the phone back to me. “He’ll listen. Go ahead.”
“Sam? I thought you said Tam. We’ve been getting a lot of prank calls from those skater lads since the seizure.”
“Uh huh,” I agreed. There was no use arguing. With Owen Inc. continuing to make me look like public enemy number one he wasn’t the first of my old sources to refuse my call.
“I’m following up on my story on the mayor,” I said. “He and Waddle were friends. I chased Jim Feltz to the Knock Knock Club – well it just so happened to coincide with the Law Makers seizing the club. When I looked into why that was the case, I discovered the owner of the club has gone missing because she may have dirt on someone high up. Those high ups may very well have had dirt on Feltz and Waddle. That brings me back to you, Terry.”
The line had gone silent. I worried he had hung up on me again.
“Are you with me there, Terry?”
The operations manager groaned. “Yeah, I kinda follow you Sam but what use do you think I am?”
“I’m looking for any information I can get on a prostitute Dennis was close to. He took her to the Knock Knock Club. You remember Dennis Platt, right?”
Terry was becoming irate. “Yes, everyone around Chamberlain knows Dennis. Got a dose of aids up his arse I heard. What of him?”
“The prostitute’s name was Chloe Grover. She came to him from Harbour House.”
“Why don’t you talk to her herself then?” he asked.
“I already have. She told me all about what they did to her. It could be coincidence but the name Terry Wilson was one she remembered. That’s strange, isn’t it? What’s your surname again Terry?”
Terry groaned. “What do you want from me Sam?”
“Chloe’s story is unfortunately the same story a lot of girls down your way share. The Reverend Owen was a frequent purchaser of the young girls but I needn’t tell you that.”
“If you want me to testify against an Owen you must be cracked. What they’re doing to you now? That is just a warning. They’ll skin you alive.”
I agreed, “I know. I’m surer now than ever that that’s why the Baroness of the Knock Knock Club is missing but I’m not putting you in the firing line. Your confidence is important to me. I promise whatever information you have given me will be kept strictly confidential.”
“I haven’t said anything,” he objected. “I didn’t say anything about the Owens.”
I stayed the course. “But you agree with me that they are deliberately ruining my reputation to shut me up.”
“Stop putting words in my mouth!”
“Thanks for your concerns, Terry. They are giving me a hard time but being a powerful name, it’s hard for people like you and me to combat. We’re just average Joes really.”
“Dammit Sam. I never said anything about the Owens.”
I was just toying with him then for having hung up on me.
“If you are wanting to know anything about Chloe, you’d be best speaking to Gail. She was always the one to handle the call girls. She’s a high-class girl. She operates out of the Weir.”
Of course! The prostitute Feltz paid an obscene amount of money to.
“Can you put me in touch with her?” I asked. Gail Wright was her full name. I called her and set up an appointment. It looked like I was returning to the Weir.
The last time I had been in the Weir it was overrun by Kappa So. This time it was so much quieter. Rodney Weir – a Kappa So brother himself – had been trying to keep a low profile. He was probably concerned his hotel would come under fire from the Fleet and Loyalist factions that continued to tackle the city. The receptionist who had checked me out was on the desk again.
“Ah, Sam!” she said remembering my name. “Couldn’t stay away? We do have the best suites in the Shady City.” She beamed. “Do you have a reservation?”
How does one ask for a prostitute’s reserved room without seeming like a customer? If I tried to explain I was covering a story even though my old newspaper was out to slaughter me it would only make matters worse. Luckily, before I had to give an explanation, I felt an arm around my shoulder.
“It’s alright, darlin’” said Rodney Weir. “I’ll get this.”
The receptionist beamed but she went back to her work.
“Here for an hour with Gail, right?” asked the hotelier.
“Eh, yes…” I had to admit.
“Come with me. We have the suite all prepared.”
As far as the Weir was concerned, being shown to Gail was like being shown to royalty. I was given the key to room 605. I didn’t use the key. Instead, I knocked on the door.
“Come in,” a woman beckoned.
When I slipped into the room it was warm. The scent of lavender was enticing but not overpowering. The water was running in the adjoining bathroom.
“I’ll be with you in a minute,” she called. “Just make yourself comfortable.”
“It’s Sam,” I said. “I’m here to talk about the article I’m writing.”
The water stopped. From the bathroom emerged a lean woman, flowing red hair and a freckle-filled face. She was dressed in a Weir bathrobe. She removed it to reveal a thin night dress underneath.
“It’s nice to meet you Sam,” she said. “Take a seat.”
Gail sat herself across the bed. The blinds from the window cascaded a pattern across her long legs. I choose to sit at the table.
“I’m here about a girl named Chloe Grover and her handler. A man named Dennis?”
Gail said nothing but her expression tightened.
“I shouldn’t really discuss the ins and outs with a reporter,” she said.
“I’m just looking for whatever you can tell me,” I pushed.
Gail agreed, “Well, I’ll answer what I can.”
“Do you remember Chloe? She was a young girl who came out of Harbour House.”
Gail nodded. “I remember her. She used to be taken to the Knock Knock Club. I found that quite odd. The Boss Lady was never one for allowing that inside the club, neither did her aunts. If she had known what age Chloe was at the time, she would have strung Dennis and the clients up. The girls who worked the Clifton Alleys had the club’s protection, but as for soliciting inside the club that was a no-no. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no angel but Chloe wasn’t given the best deal. She was overworked. I warned Dennis to leave her be. She was still really young. She didn’t have the savvy about her like the rest of us. I told Dennis to leave her with me. I was going to take her off the game. Maybe she could just help out with some of the other girls but Dennis just couldn’t leave her be. The money he was making from her was just too enticing. She said she loved him. How can you argue with that? But Chloe started getting hurt. Girls in my line have to look out for one another. Dennis wasn’t going to listen to me so I went over his head and to the Boss Lady herself. When I told her what was happening, I thought she would have torn him limb from limb there and then but she didn’t. She had a reputation for being a nasty piece of work but she was so calm. She gave me an address to take Chloe to and nothing more was said. I returned to the club to give Tabitha updates on Chloe, and Dennis was still working it. I thought Tabitha was starting to lose her nerve. I asked her about it and all she would say was, ‘I’ve got it taken care of. Just keep an eye on that cunt Feltz for me.’ So my attention turned to the mayor. We spent a lot of time together and he became one of my best clients. It seems Feltz had been one of Chloe’s biggest clients too. City money had been paid to hurt the poor girl. The things he did to her…”
“He had an appointment with you the day he disappeared, is that correct?”
“That’s true. But he never showed. Tabitha had let him come to me for weeks, letting him grow comfortable with his ongoing appointment and then she…well, then she made him disappear. Just when I thought Dennis was getting away with it, I heard he had been infected with HIV. Dinner with Cathy. The Boss Lady does have quite a sense of humour.”
“One last thing,” I asked Gail to indulge me. “The costs of your services are rather steep, even for a high-class call girl. 10,000 deposit. The rest on completion. Just what exactly are those services Feltz was so keen on?”
Gail gave a mischievous grin. “Why don’t you lock the door and I’ll show you.”
That was my cue to leave.
Keeping my eyes on the headlines at the Daily, it seemed the pages were becoming more and more propaganda filled by the day.
CAPTAIN OWEN DEMANDS PEACE IN CITY MAIN.
It was time for me to return and hit back at my old newspaper. If I truly wanted to finish what I had begun then I needed to return to that fateful day when I entered the Coldford Daily building and was given a lead to chase that would change my life forever.
That morning when I had been going to work I had passed by a homeless man. I gave him what coins I had. He didn’t look too dishevelled. In fact, he was comparatively fresh looking. His change in social status must have been recent but it gave commentary on how things had been in the city since the second recession hit. It was despairing times for most. My wife and I had spent many a night on the sofa wrapped in blankets because we couldn’t afford to heat our home. People were desperate and when desperate people are pushed they are driven to desperate measures, such as pulling a mayor from office or using a newspaper to place blame on every doorstep from Bournton to the tip of Swantin so that people wouldn’t look to the real trouble.
Being a journalist had always been tough enough but when your job is to shed light on so many shades it could become downright dangerous.
The Cappy would no doubt be pulling what resources he had at the Daily and appointing his own trusted writers to make sure the flow of information was to his satisfaction. I had turned to Elizabeth Beckingridge for help from the Filton Press. I still remained independent but she gave the opportunity to use the resources of the Filton Crier.
As expected, the main news floor of the Crier was bustling. There was a lot of news going around. There was still a whole day before deadline but there was writing to be done, stories to share.
“I have permission from Elizabeth Beckingridge to be here. I’m Sam Crusow.”
He gasped. “You’re Sam? Sam Crusow? I’m Danny Larz. You can call me Dan. I’m a huge fan!”
I was taken aback. “Thank you.”
He rested his hands on his head and gave an excited cheer. “I never thought I’d get this chance.” He tugged on his curls but then reached out a hand to shake mine, which he did with vigour. “It’s an honour. I’ve been following you ever since I was a student. I must have read everything you’ve ever written. I have a copy of your book MARBLE MANTLE. Would you sign it for me?” He gave another excited gasp. “I can’t believe it’s Sam Crusow.”
I grinned. Most of my career had been spent putting others in the spotlight. It felt strange being under that glare myself. My book had been purely a passion project. It had only sold ten copies. It seemed Dan was one of those.
“Thanks Dan. That’s always nice to hear. What’s happening here?”
Danny shook his head. “Miss Beckingridge is looking to push out the Daily. She’s declaring media war.”
It seemed the bidding war with Owen Inc wasn’t enough to feed the Beckingridge dragon’s hunger.
“Dan?” I addressed the Crier’s stand-in editor. “We don’t have a lot of time but I’m writing a piece on Coldford. Can I trust you?”
Dan beamed with pride. “Sure, Sam. You’re the man! Anything.”
“Come on now, Milo,” Olivia called upstairs to her son. “He’ll be here any minute.”
“Coming,” Milo called back down to her.
Eventually he wandered into the kitchen holding a box of photographs in his hands.
“I was worried about what I was going to say to him,” the boy explained, “so I thought I’d look out some old photos and give us something to talk about.”
Olivia kissed her son’s head. “It’ll be fine,” she said.
She pulled one of the photos of when Milo was a small infant. “Look at your little squishy face,” she teased.
Milo plucked his photo back. He shook his head with humour filled exasperation. The doorbell rang.
“That’s him mum!” Milo announced nervously.
“I know it is,” agreed Olivia. “Just relax.”
Milo sat the box on the table. Olivia went off to answer the door. Milo became even more nervous when he heard voices in the living room. His mother’s and his father’s. The kitchen door opened and there was Dennis. Milo had little memory of Dennis, only what the photos inspired. The man who entered the kitchen was not the man in the photos. They say photographs can obscure but the man in the photographs was on top of the world. He was confident and strong. The man in the kitchen was hunched, thin and more nervous than the boy was.
“Hi Milo,” said the father at first. “It’s been a long time.”
Milo nodded. “It has.” He thought about it. “Should I hug you?”
Dennis took a seat at the table. “Not if you don’t want to.”
Milo nervously fished for more photographs. “Should I call you dad?”
Dennis eased a little. “That’s something I’ll have to earn, I think.”
Milo was content with this.
Olivia patted Dennis’ shoulder. “I’ll leave you two to it,” she said. “I’ll just be upstairs.”
Dennis started to look at the photos. “So, what do you have here?”
Milo gathered some and laid them out. They were mostly typical snaps people would have of their first-born child. Sleeping, walking, first steps and trips to the beach.
“I don’t remember anything from when these were taken. Maybe you can fill in the blanks for me.” Milo handed him a picture of Dennis holding Milo as a baby. Behind him was a large stadium.
“That’s the old Wiseman stand at Swantin Stadium,” the father explained. “It was pulled down not long after.”
Milo gasped. He hadn’t known that. It looked nothing like the new part of the stadium that had been built to replace it.
“Did you take me to the games often?” asked the boy.
“Not as often as I would have liked. You were really little and the noise got a bit much.”
Milo looked at the photo again before slipping it back inside the box.
“Maybe we could go again some time.”
Dennis beamed. His chest tightened. “I’d love that. Do you still go?”
“Sometimes,” Milo shrugged. “Mum takes me but she’s a terrible football fan.”
Dennis laughed imagining Olivia at a football match.
Milo imitated his mother’s voice. “Get right round their goals my son!”
He and his father shared a hearty laugh.
“It’s embarrassing,” Milo jested. “Speaking of embarrassing maybe you can explain this…”
He passed Dennis another photo. This one was again of Dennis holding Milo as a small child but this time Dennis was sporting a moustache and had a head of curls.
Dennis burst into peals of laughter. “Where did you find that one?”
Milo replied, “Among the others. Now explain that hair do.”
“It was the style then,” Dennis gave a protest. “It was fashionable.”
Dennis and Milo continued on looking through the photographs, sharing laughs and a bond between them began to grow with relative ease. The photos showed a rosy past. A picture captured in a single moment can’t even begin to tell the whole story. Dennis had taken Milo to football but that same afternoon a fifteen-year-old girl was given to a life of prostitution. A photo only captures a brief moment of sometimes forced smiles. It didn’t capture the bruises, the abuse or the drugs. The door opened with a struggle. Dennis stood.
“Dennis!” Chloe Grover came running and leapt into his arms.
“You know Chloe, dad?” asked Milo.
A shady past was not so easy to escape when it refused to let you go.
Mum had come downstairs quickly when she heard Chloe’s voice. Chloe wasn’t supposed to have been home for another few hours but the social worker who was spending the day with her had been called away on an emergency. Chloe thought nothing of it and came home. Milo had been told by his mum that his dad had made some mistakes. Was Chloe one of those mistakes? Now that he thought about it, it had been after Chloe came to live with them that mum had told him that he should take all the photos of his father and store them away.
Chloe had been abused badly. Had his dad done that to her? Had mum felt responsible for her because of what had happened? Milo was confused. He wanted to know his dad. But what if he couldn’t cope with the truth? He knew his mum had forgiven him but if he had hurt Chloe so badly, how easy would it be for the son to forgive him? Wasn’t it the father who taught their sons how to be men? Wasn’t it real men who protected the vulnerable?
It was. Milo knew this. He had seen it before. He reached onto the shelf and drew off the box that contained the commemorative coin that Judge Doyle had given him.
Joel Hickes. He was a man who protected the vulnerable. Milo lifted the coin from the box and enjoyed the shine of the silver.
COLDFORD CITY. SOULS SAVED. SACRIFICES MADE.
If Milo was to learn to become a man there could be no better role model. He always strived to do the right thing even when that wasn’t easy. He strived to do the right thing even when everyone else was telling him not to. Hickes would never have hurt someone like Chloe. But if Milo was to truly look to a good man, he would see that to be a man also meant forgiving when someone was truly repentant. That meant forgiving Dennis. His father.
Complete Season 1 of the Knock Knock series is free to read here on Vivika Widow. com or click below download for Kindle
Dennis Platt is philandering con man who is about the lowest of the low. When someone close to him is embraced by the cult Church of St Wigan he will learn whether or not he can be truly saved.Available May 14th 2021, Pre order now for kindle.