Tag Archives: thriller

The Secret Life of Brady

The Boss prison is home of the Shady City’s worst. During my time in Coldford there were none such dark tales as those that belonged to the men behind those bars. They were blood thirsty, cruel men who committed atrocities beyond your wildest fears. This story is not one of those. I’m reporter Sam Crusow and this is the secret life of Brady.  


Coldford City High Court. Located in City Main

Inmate 2069, Ryan Brady, didn’t really belong in the cells of The Boss, in the sense he wasn’t like the other murderous fiends you would expect to find there. He did belong though in the sense the Office of Law Makers had told him so. The High Court had determined him to be a danger to himself and to others. He needed to be locked up.  

It all began at the Weir Hotel in City Main where Brady had joined his bros of the Kappa So fraternity for a celebration. Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen, known to them all affectionately as Pops, was visiting the city from the Great States. You couldn’t imagine the excitement in the air. The Brady family – manufacturers of fitness wear and protein pills for decades – would sure to be front and centre. Father and son duo – Cam and Ryan Brady were brothers for life and they took that shit real serious.  

Brady gushed at how much of an honour it would be to meet Pops and maybe shake the man’s hand so he put on his best Kappa So gear and made his way to the hotel in Main.  

“Are you saying you were already in an excitable mood?”  

“We were, Your Honour. We cock walked straight there to get that party started!”  

Brady didn’t deny things might have gotten a little out of hand. Stood in the office of Judge Karyn Doyle would make anyone realise that. He was nervous with the one eyed temptress staring at him ‘monocoly’. That was his word not mine. I believe he was trying to be intellectual. He had been forced to explain why things had gotten so out of hand.  

“We were a bunch of frat boys, high on life and having a great time. Who would have thought that would get out of hand?”  

That statement wasn’t going to cut any ice. God, that eye on him made him want to rip everything off. He probably shouldn’t. Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Owen, the lawyer tasked with defending his actions, wouldn’t want that. Brady supposed he could have Judge Doyle, with that freaky one eye, across the desk and make her feel glad he hit that reporter with the inflatable dong. Since I am that reporter, dear readers, I can assure you she would not, on any account.  

“Do not,” Ronnie warned as he felt his client reach for the hem of his cropped T to pull it off and expose some well crafted abs.  

For just 19.99 you can have 1 kilo of Brady Burners, guaranteed to burn that fat! 

It wasn’t time for an advert break. Doyle didn’t look like she was up for the ads. She wanted to skip right past that. She looked like a bit of a fitness freak herself. She was a freak. She wanted some freaky deeky! Yeah, with that one eye … Concentrate Brady!  

She had brought her sub bosses with her too to glare at him with disapproval. Sophie Bergman, Brady thought would be nice but when he tried to talk to her outside she just ignored him. He yelled and yelled at her but she kept her back turned on him. Ignorant beeatch! All he wanted to do was tell her it was great to see some chicks getting some recognition around this place. She ignored him so he slapped her ass. It was a firm ass. He only did it out of professional interest. Before he could ask her what her glute routine was the big Golem guy stepped in the way and started yelling at him. Way to put a sista’ down, brah! Can’t she talk for herself? Anyway, there was Sophie glaring at him beside her one eyed sista. That eye pierced the soul and shit.  

“This hasn’t been the first time you’ve received notice for breaching the peace,” Doyle was saying to him.  

“I do apologise, Your Honour,” Ronnie was speaking on his behalf. “I can confirm the Brady family did pay for any damages incurred. The stress to Mrs Riley over the bet …”  

Eighty year old Mrs Riley had been quite taken aback at first but Brady knew she was a freak. Once she got over the shock of the bros trying to French her she was all up in that.  

“Love has no age limit, brah!” Brady blurted out.  

Doyle frowned. Sophie narrowed her gaze.  

“Mrs Riley won’t be pressing any charges,” Doyle announced.  

Ronnie nodded. He had a calm, charming smile. He was like a movie actor. He was a dashing bro. You’re a dish Ron! You’re a dish! 

“I hate to be a fusspot …”  

Urgh. There was the dude on Doyle’s other side. He was like a Christmas elf without the charm or the tinsel. You’re smiling, brah, but I’m not really feeling it. It’s not very festive in here. Try some cardio and get in those running shoes. It will save Christmas.  

“Given the amount of previous notices that you have been served I strongly believe in this case an example has to be made.”  

Wolfgang Kutz. Wolfie. The wolf man. Woooooooooooh! The cutter. The bearer of pots of fuss. Oh shit! He’s looking right at me … 

“I admit things may have gotten a little out of hand,” said Brady.  

This was the only statement Ronnie had given him permission to say.  

“I’m no stranger to antics,” said Kutz. “I pledged Theta So myself.”  

Ronnie fired a warning glare at Brady when he heard him snicker.  

Theta So wasn’t a real frat. It was a bunch of other Christmas Elves singing songs and waiting out the long winter in Jole – the country, I should explain, that Kutz came from and his Theta So fraternity.  

“However,” Kutz went on. “We can’t excuse the trauma inflicted on the couple in room 401.”  

“Open the fifth floor,” Rodney Weir had told the receptionist when the Kappa chaos rose to an extent it could not be ignored.  

“Can you remind us of what you said to the receptionist?” Doyle pressed.  

“I admit things may have gotten a little out of hand,” said Brady.  

“Hey fatty boom boom. We need a room room,” Kutz recited. 

Wow Christmas elves have a Helluva memory! It wasn’t Brady’s fault the chick was huge. He had nothing against the big chicks. He didn’t mind flapping those fat folds sometimes. It was just the receptionist looked like Boom Boom, the Brady mascot they used as the before in their before and after ads for their fat burner pills.  

“Your Honour …” Ronnie began his spiel but Brady seemed to have a better idea.  

“Your honourable eye ball …” not a good start. He claimed he had meant that in the most attractive and alluring sense. “My bros and I decided to see just how many of us we could fit in the bathtub of the room. We got to twelve and it became a real tight squeeze. We were so proud of our accomplishment so we started celebrating, naturally. The floor cracked. Weir is a cheap bastard. How were we to know the tub would fall through the floor? How were to know the occupants of the room below us were doing the nasty.” 

“Mrs Wilson’s screams could be heard throughout the hotel.”  

“I told her she had a banging rack.”  

“Mr Wilson received some injuries.”  

“I just tried to high five him.”  

“That was all bad enough but I’m sure the couple didn’t need your tips and suggestions.”  

“I was making polite conversation whilst the rest of my bros climbed out their bathroom.” 

“I’ve heard enough,” said Judge Doyle. Her snapping tone brought an end to the back and forth between Brady and Kutz. “Mr Brady,” she went on. “Since this is not the first time you have been brought before me and given the damage and distress you caused throughout the hotel I am imposing a custodial sentence upon you.”  

“Your Honour?” Ronnie tried to object. “Is that really necessary?”  

“Yes,” Doyle decided. “I believe it is. Mr Brady, I’m hereby sentencing you to four months in the custody of The Boss.”  

‘Daaaaaaaammmmn,’ Brady thought. ‘That’s cold …”  


“Keep your cell clean. No disrespect or curse words towards our librarian. Observe meal times. No fighting. No contraband. Anything found will be confiscated and you will be put to hard labour. When lights out are called you had better find yourself on the right side of the bars. One last thing … do not fuck with the warden. You’re number is 2069. You are now in servitude.”  

Brady hadn’t given the processing guards any trouble as he was led through the busy hall. Guard Trevor Gould quite enjoyed it when they brought the frat boys in. They were an excitable bunch so it was always a treat to watch The Boss tear them down.  

“Strip,” he ordered. 

When he turned he found Brady was already naked. Gould didn’t have time to question how he had managed to shed his clothes so quickly. Before he called for a cavity search Brady had already bent over and spread his buttocks.  

“Not going to find anything in there, brah,” Brady told him.  

As frustrating as it was, Gould couldn’t exactly take the word of an inmate. The warden, Remar, pressed when he noticed Gould was hesitant.  

“What are you waiting for?” He asked. 

“He’s a …”  

“I’m cooperating, brah. Get that finger right in there and search me good.”  

Remar frowned. It was a long morning and he was already pissed off inmate 4444 had tried to make a break for it. He really didn’t need the frat boy shenanigans. He pulled a pen knife. He reached under and placed the point of the blade at Brady’s testicles.  

“Let the guard do his job or I do it for him and I’ll dig right in there, real deep.”  

‘The warden has no sense of humour,’ thought Brady. He was just trying to be helpful. He guessed Gouldy preferred him to play hard to get so he instead he said, “A cavity search? Is that really necessary?”  

“Get him searched and processed and get him in south where he belongs,” ordered Remar.  

Brady acquiesced but all the fun had been drawn out it by this point. He was fingered, shackled and sent packing and it wasn’t even BDSM night. They called the warden Cerberus after the mythological three headed dog of Hades. Guardian of the underworld. He was a yappy puppy Brady decided. He needed a run at the dog park. He needed to play fetch or something. Maybe he had already had his balls off and that’s what made him cranky. He should ask … 

Along at his new home in South Unit, Brady was met by another guard. He was huge! The guy had biceps upon biceps. It was like he had quads In his arms. He could run a marathon doing a handstand. He could … 

As a fitness enthusiast he became excitable. I had to interrupt Brady in his description of Damon Cosmos codename Hercules as he was inclined to lose focus. Damon was the head guard in south and he had the physique of his mythological namesake. Damon carried a boar club with him which he held across his shoulders with his arms draped.  

“Looking good brah!” Brady called his encouragement. “Body like a God. You are working it.”  

Damon raised his eyebrows. He caught his reflection in the steel of the bars. He nodded. He had to agree.  

Brady set about making himself at home in the South Unit. He greeted his fellow incarcerated bros with the Kappa So handshake. He had a special acquaintance to make. It was as exciting as the thought of meeting Pops Owen. Whilst he was on the inside he was going to be in the presence of true Godballs and Brady was ready for that. He had to stop though. He had to catch his breath. You don’t just go running up to Godballs like that. The shine off those bad boys would burn your eyes out like staring at a solar eclipse or something. He took a breath. He summoned the strength to approach, shielding his eyes a little by raising his arm up.  

“Glorious brother George!” He called. “Am I in the presence of the Glorious Brother George.”  

“I’m brother George,” grinned George Beckingridge, possibly the last person I would describe as glorious. However, he had taken the heat for Buddy Owen so orders from The Cappy himself were the boy was to be treated like the royal bearer of Godballs he was. “This is The Beast,” George shook the chain that was attached to the neck of a creature Brady described as Cajun Cock. The Beast was badly burned, he drooled and he gargled. He used to be an eminent surgeon but thanks to his crimes he was now George’s pet. The Boss doesn’t favour many people but She found quite an interest in the Billionaire Beckingridge Boy from the financial empire.  

“Brady, reporting for duty, sir,” he cried.  

George’s grin widened. Brady tapped the head of the Cecil mouse. Respect was demanded for Cecil too. It used to be a common practice that the bros would kiss Cecil but he was a crusty little animal and infections started to spread so that brought an end to that practice.  

“I hear Jake Fullerton is in here. I want a word with him. Can you go find him?” 

And so Brady didn’t spend much time in his kit before he stripped again, dressed in a towel and made his way to the shower rooms with two completely naked bros.  

“Glorious brother George wants a word, brah,”  

“Brother George can stick his head up my arse. If he looks hard enough he’ll find the last fuck I gave about what he wanted,” had been the construction mogul’s reply.  

‘Damn, brah,’ Brady thought. ‘Cold.’ 

If he knew who George actually was he would probably not be suggesting any ass play. George Beckingridge had the habit of taking these things quite literally. However, they were old acquaintances. When Jake found out who the George they were referring to was he was going to be so surprised.  


“Fitness And Perseverance. The human body is capable of astounding things but when you FAP with Brady you are FAPPING to a better you. In fact, if you committed to a Brady FAP you’ll tell all your friends you’ve never felt better, guaranteed. Busy mum on the go? Try our quick FAP routine. It easily fits into your schedule. A little morning power FAP will set you up just right and you can FAP before you even start the school run. For our more intensive FAPPERS we have routines that will keep you FAPPING all day. You will FAP so much everybody will notice.  

“Jeez, brah? How much are you FAPPING these days?” 

“My body is carefully carved with Brady fat burners and an hourly power FAP.”  

“Wow, bro. Can I FAP?” 

“Of course you can. With Brady anyone can FAP.” 

Fitness And Perseverance Brady style. This ad was brought to you by Owen Inc.  

“Fitness and Perseverance?” Asked Captain Charles ‘Chick’ Owen asked as he switched off the advert.  

Before we continue in Brady’s servitude allow me to discuss how he became a part of the Kappa So frat legends in the first place.  

The Brady father and son were beaming with pride. Austin Perry was nodding but he was trying his hardest not to laugh. It seemed the euphemism of the word FAP, which to some people can be a connotation of self pleasure had completely washed over the Bradys heads. It had been Chick’s last birthday. The zookeeper had had a few pints too many and when the Brady’s brought their ideas to him he had jumped right on board.  

“That’s a goodun, mate,” he told them. 

Being slightly lower on the Kappa So food chain, the encouragement of the elder was like finding gold dust. It was the highest praise. It was a real honour. When Austin realised they weren’t seeing the innuendos that flooded their advertising strategy that made it even better. He liked the Bradys. He was sure it would get everyone talking about them and that was the purpose of advertising.  

So it came to be that Ozzy allowed some Kappa So funding for the ad and he just couldn’t wait to see the look on Chick Owen’s face. It really was a picture.  

“Ain’t no FAP like a Brady FAP,” the father stated.  

Ozzy chuckled. Really? They didn’t hear that?  

“What do you think Captain?” Carson Brady asked.  

“I think it is most definitely a commercial to be remembered,” he told them.  

“Kinda makes you want to FAP one out right now,” said Brady the son.  

“It will create a huge amount of revenue,” Austin explained. There was method to his madness. “The whole city is going to be FAPPING to Brady.” He was also a frat boy at heart and a Perry which research has shown is one of the wildest kind.  

“So the ad gets your approval?” Asked the Brady father.  

“Bless your heart,” said The Cappy. “You will have your ad. Maybe if everybody is focused on Fitness and Perseverance the boys will stay out of trouble.”  

“FAPPING,” Austin put in.  

“Yes, thank you Oz.”  

“Got your back, brah.”  

“I wish you well,” The Cappy told the Bradys. “It sure is a commercial to remember.”  

Kappa elder, Marshall Cooper, had been surprisingly quiet throughout the whole exchange. Usually his brazen attitude was always to be heard, especially when in the presence of lower level bros. He was probably feeling a little sour because the Brady ads were overtaking his own ones for Copper garages. He was worried more people would want to FAP than ride his fancy cars.  

The Bradys skipped out quite thrilled with meeting, when I say skipped, I mean they showed their FAPPING skills right away.  

“Shiiiiiiit,” Marshall groaned. “That is fucking stupid.”  

Ozzy raised an eyebrow. He really was sour.  

“I liked it,” he said. “I found myself FAPPING in me briefs just this morning.”  

Marshall shook his head. “You are an asshole Oz. You really think it’s a good idea giving the Bradys a platform for anything?”  

“They’re good guys. They’re true bros and when they told me they wanted to get everyone FAPPING I thought, why not? Those advertising boards are about go nuts and there’s nothing the Office of Law Makers can do, the bastards.” 

“It’s fucking stupid,” Marshall continued to grumble.  

The two noticed that Chick seemed to be contemplating something. The last thing he needed was more trouble. He pushed the button for his secretary.  

“Send the Bradys back in for a moment would you?”  

“Yes, Captain.” 

The Bradys returned with expecting expressions.  

“I am pleased to inform you that Marshall here has been so impressed with your advertising prowess he wants to have your Fitness and Perseverance on one of his cars of the next Coldford Circuit races.”  

The Bradys were thrilled to hear that. A Mad Dog racer with some Brady burn it had the makings of a monster movie. Or a disaster one …  

Marshall glowered at Chick but he said nothing.  

“That’s brill Marsh. You won’t be disappointed. I always thought Sunny looked like she FAPPED good.”  

“I heard Marsh gets her started on the routine but she always has to end up finishing with a solo FAP,” said Ozzy.  

“Woah! Brady burn is here to stay!” The father and son were really excited about the elder approval and Chick drew a smile as he watched them exit his office.  

Marshall punched Ozzy’s shoulder.  

“Crikey,” Oz cried with a chuckle. “You got no sense of humour!”  

“Fuck you Oz and fuck you Chick!” Marshall put to them but he was starting to loosen up at the idea.  

“They’re good people the Bradys. Their cornbread ain’t done in the middle but I like their intentions and I like their enthusiasm,” Chick decided.  

“You’re not the one that has to tell Miko she’s going to have FAP on the side of her car.”  

Miko was the driver of the yellow Mad Dog, Sunny. She was a temperamental sort. Maybe she just needed to have a FAP session, courtesy of Brady.  


It was all fun and games and Brady was a frat boy so he was familiar with the fun. He was well acquainted with the games. He was a seasoned professional at it.  

He had made his real mark on a day at the Kingsgate campus where their rivals Sigma So resided. It had been early days and Brady had only just completed his hazing. He was a bonafide bro now so he was called upon by Buddy Owen, their Chapter leader, to show Sigma just what the Kappa bros were made of.  

I’m sure that when Seth Bergman first started to pull the event together for his Alma mater he didn’t realise the mess that would be left to clean up. He was a smart man so you would think that would be exactly what he expected. He had had his experiences with the frat antics. His sister, Elsa, had really done all of the heavy lifting for the event. He was so proud of her achievement as he observed the many expecting faces, the happy families, the excited children running around. The poor unfortunate souls had no idea what was about to befall.  

It was a warm, spring day full of promise on the Kingsgate lawns. The palace of the Chamberlains looked over them with Majesty. The Bergman sponsored afternoon was drawing a crowd and the funds raised for the Verga Bergman foundation was sure to make a difference. What was also sure to make a difference was the bus that had arrived in from Filton.  

“Kappa So!” They could be heard chanting from the open windows.  

Joshua, Anthony and Michael of the Sigma rivals had waited in their own transport. They had arrived early from Cardyne but they insisted on making some kind of entrance too.  

“Can’t let Kappa think they’re going upstage us, playa,” Anthony had told Seth.  

“Just try to keep it friendly,” Seth urged.  

“Oh, I’ll keep it friendly,” Anthony assured. “I’ll keep it real friendly. When me and my boys see those Kappa colours it gets a mother fucker really riled up.”  

Brady was experiencing this too in the bus as Buddy was offering the rousing speech to his troops.  

“Those assholes think they’re better than us because they’re all smart and shit,” he said.  

“Yeah!” The bros replied with passion.  

“They think we’re dumbasses but we’re Kappa So and ain’t nobody gonna think they’re better than us!”  

Chad jumped in with an excitable addition.  

“We’re going to tickle their balls!” He cheered. “Then they’re gonna suck our balls!”  

Brady was so pumped. He was so steamed. He was so up for anything it didn’t really matter what Chad was suggesting.  

The bus shuddered as it hit the lawns. Buddy raised an eyebrow to Dale Cooper, son of Marshall and heir to the Cooper empire.  

“Coops?” He put to him. “Why the fuck are we on this piece of shit bus? We should have Cooper transport.”  

“We did,” Cooper sighed. “We did.”  

Buddy frowned.  

“I don’t remember that.”  

Cooper nodded. “I know. Sorry, Bud.” 

“Yeah, sorry Bud,” added Chad. 

“Sorry, Bud,” added Brady.  

“Sorry, Bud,” before long there was a chorus of repentance for the loss of the only Cooper bus ever made and for Buddy’s memories of the event that took her.  

It might have been a shoddy bus that they had been left with but Cooper managed to donut the big bitch right onto the Kingsgate lawns.  

“Kappa So!” They all cheered.  

Then every window of the bus cracked. Buddy looked among them.  

‘Wow,’ he thought to himself. ‘Sometimes I underestimate the Godballs. They just cracked the windows.’ 

“Oh, it is on!” Anthony cheered as he and the rest of Sigma praised their sonic boom simulator.  

Not to stoke any flames of these fraternity rivals but at least Sigma had aimed their device at their target. If it had been in the hands of Kappa then I suspect every window in Chamberlain Palace would have had to have been replaced.  

Brady and the Kappa So bros filed off what was left of the bus. They made a lot of noise, they called a lot of obscenities to Sigma that they probably shouldn’t have when families were present but the fact was, they had arrived and it was time for the games to begin.  

Most of the day had been a show of who was better and that’s what a great portion of Coldford had come along to see.  

“Are catapults really necessary?” Seth asked Anthony.  

“Damn right, playa,” was Anthony’s response.  

Anthony was the designated competitor for Sigma. Brady had stepped up for Kappa So.  

“You can toss me as far as you like, brah. The further you toss me the better,” he had said to Chad.  

Normally Chad would be the designated one from Kappa to be tossed but he felt it was time for Brady. He had learned so much. He was ready. He was something of a protégé for him they way Cam Brady was for his dad Austin. Chad was so proud as Brady climbed into the catapult ball.  

Sigma fired and Anthony reached tremendous heights. The Bergman siblings showed their admiration. The gathered crowd applauded.  

It was time for Brady and the Kappa bros to show what they were really made of. They might have had their technology, their smarts, their looks, their money, their fancy window cracking guns – I had to stop Brady at this point as he was starting to lose track again. The point was Sigma might have looked impressive firing their catapult but they were up against the skills of a Cooper, the brazen ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to make a point’ of an Owen, the out of the box thinking of a Perry and a seasoned FAPPER ready to prove his worth.  

“You ready, Brady?” Asked Buddy.  

“Fire me up,” Brady urged.  


The catapult fired. At first the crowd were equally as impressed as they had been with Sigma. Then their eyes started to widen in wonder as Brady was catapulted much higher than Anthony had been. Then shock began to wash over them as he cleared the Kingsgate Lawns. There was no pullback.  

“Only pussies use pull back,” said Buddy.  

Medical staff eventually found Brady on the Chamberlain family’s croquet lawns. Lord John Chamberlain had been trying to practice when the Brady ball landed and tore up the grass.  

“I’m good,” he said with a thumbs up, real credit to Cooper engineering and attention to safety features.  

“Don’t fuck with our shitty bus, beeeatch,” Buddy teased.  

The two frats raced, they fought (with swords from the museum, medieval style), Sigma had Kappa believe they had fallen into an alternative reality, locking them in a simulator. Cooper had to take some time to be brought round. The idea of being trapped in a computer had really freaked him out. When the day came to an end Brady had been appointed the honour of thanking their host.  

Seth was busy assessing the damage that had been done and the cost of the clean up.  

“This is for the repairs,” Brady told him pulling an Owen Inc cheque from the bag he carried. It was a large bag. Seth couldn’t remember him arriving with it.  

Seth accepted the cheque graciously. 

“Thank you.”  

“This is for the dead chick,” Brady said giving him another cheque.  

“You mean my mum?” Seth put to him.  

“That’s the one, brah,” said Brady.  

Seth passed the cheques to Elsa which was just as well because from the bag next Brady removed a gun. Before Seth could react appropriately Brady fired the super soaker, leaving Seth completely sodden. Elsa stood beside her brother gob smacked.  

“That’s from Buddy Owen. He says you’re a wet pussy.”  

He reached into the bag again and when he drew his hand back out he had raised his middle finger.  

“That’s from Coops. He says, ‘sorry bro’”  

Seth was frowning now as one would expect with this charade. Brady dropped the bag on the ground. Whatever he was pulling out for Chad was really heavy and required both hands. Before whatever carnage Chad had cooked up could ensue Brady had caught sight of Anthony charging at him. He took to his heels, leaving the bag of tricks behind.  

“Don’t worry, playa,” said Anthony. “I’m just going to knock a mother fucker down.”  

They could hear Brady cry back over his shoulder.  

“That’s great form, brah. You’re really working it! Do you FAP?” 

“Will I get you a towel?” Elsa asked.  

“Please do,” Seth replied.   


“With some fitness and a little bit of Perserverance you can overcome anything brah.” 

“Excuse me, Brady,” I had to warn him. “Do you mind if I write my own sum up?” 

“Sure. You’re the reporter dude. You go ahead.”  

I sighed then. It was really quite an interview.  

So, with some fitness and a little bit of perseverance you can overcome anything. Held behind the bars of Coldford Correctional Brady learned that life still goes on. He had the opportunity to make decisions for the future. It was a luxury we shouldn’t take for granted inside The Boss.

Brady has a unique spirit that even The Boss has diffiuclty in breaking. How would you cope? Parts 1 and 2 of The Boss trilogy are available now.

Caution: Contains scenes and themes some may find distressing.

Character Profile: Brady

“I like a bit of the freaky deeky!”

Name: Ryan Brady

Age: Twenties

Occupation: Co founder of Fitness And Perseverance and brother for life.

Features in: THE BOSS

Brady’s natural preppiness and zeal for life can be infectious. The warm energy he brings to a room isn’t easily ignored. He has a natural head for mischief which can be a power used for good or for evil. Mostly it’s just used for mischief for mischief’s sake.

Having founded the Fitness and Perseverance wellness company with his father Carson, there is noone who can FAP like a Brady. They are only too happy to show the masses how they can have a good FAP session.

Brady is a kind spirit among the Kappa So frat. Like his brothers for life he is dedicataed. He can be called upon with trust and he his infectious attitude means he is well received by other fractions in the city, including the Loyalists of Main who have a long standing rivalary with Kappa So. Well, he’s received at least …

He finds himself inside The Boss prison but unlike the other inmates his crimes are … different.

We have murderers, thieves (and Brady). The Boss prison is home to the worst of the worst in the Shady City (and again, Brady).

Prayer Time In Solitary (an extract from The Boss Part 2 – Servitude)

The Prayer Room is located in the Herod Halls of the castle, just off the overpass. It’s an original part of the building where St Wigan, when he was in residence, would lock himself away seemingly with no food or water for days. He emerged when God had delivered his message. Normally this meant someone was burned, hanged, or buried alive in Gregor Court. God could be a nasty bastard if Noah Wigan was to be believed, and Francesca Chamberlain made the perfect nasty vessel to operate through. However, that’s another grisly tale for another grisly day. For now, our story focuses on the Prayer Room in more recent times. The room has no plumbing. It doesn’t have a bowl or sink on offer. You eat and drink very little whilst you’re in there so you find yourself with little to excrete anyway.  

As the famed monk said, “God provides the nourishment.”  

He may have been able to get a fat soul with conversations with a figment in sky, but for our inmates it drained what little will they had left. There are no windows. You are completely engulfed in darkness. You are left alone with only time to think and to say your prayers.  

Jake tried to keep himself awake for as long as possible. He didn’t know how long he would be left to rot. He had no means of counting the hours. He could only try and keep himself awake for as long as possible – not that he would find much of a cosy bed. It was a moss covered, granite floor. In fact, the dampness within the Prayer Room really attacked the lungs. It was common in the prison to hear the cough of an inmate that had spent some time in solitary.  

Jake had to keep himself awake. He wanted to stay alert should some of the ghoul guards come for him. That was what the inmates were calling the guards who lost their minds. Jake didn’t pray. He never was the praying sort but the voice inside his head was ringing loud. He tried to keep it ringing as his eyes started to feel heavy. He was slumped on the floor. His issue trousers were damp from the moss. He was in the most discomfort he had ever felt but he couldn’t resist sleep. Those beta brain waves were crying out to him.  

“Come on, Jakey. Just close your eyes. Sleep it away. Sleep. Sleep…”  

He was jerked awake by a sharp pain. Something had bitten him. He could hear a squeak and felt a draw of a long, worm-like tail across his hand. He pulled it away and as he did so he caught the feel of matted fur.  

“Fucking rat,” he grumbled to himself.  

There was another sharp bite on his lower leg where the trousers of his kit had slipped up. There was another one there. He could hear the hungry rodents squeak at each other. Then there was another bite at his hand. This one was harder than the others. The broken rat teeth must have pierced skin.  

Jake tried to kick his leg out to make them scurry away but they were brave and they were hungry so they took another bite. One ran across his chest, the worm tail drawing underneath his chin. Jake was on his feet by then, trying to shake them off. They finally did scurry away when the doorway was opened.  

Parts 1 and 2 of The Boss trilogy is available now.

Contains scenes and themes some may find distressing.

Lost Souls

A cult is quite often a religion with unorthodox practices. In a world where the court of public opinion is one which holds the most esteem, being swept up in cult like waves becomes easier and easier. When asked why someone would join a cult the most likely answer is that they can find something there that they can’t find anywhere else. Affection, acceptance, understanding, or a mixture of all those things. It isn’t always some sinister group hidden out of the way of civilised society. You can see it in the chanting of songs at football matches. It can be seen in a crowd of teenagers wearing the latest trends. It can be the way we are hooked to social media.  

For the moment allow me to examine the idea of cults in their most natural form. With the help of cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds, I was offered an insight into the depths of these cult groups. Before this interview I would have dismissed the cult idea as foolish people being brain washed. Reynolds helped me understand it better and it was more than that. It was more about a power struggle rather than brain wash. I am reporter, Sam Crusow, and I invite you to join me as we step inside the cults of Coldford.  


As I sat in my usual booth at Bobby’s lunchbox looking across to John Reynolds the first thing that became apparent to me was the brightness in his persona. When I had been told I would be meeting with a cult deprogrammer I must admit my mind went to a stereotypical assumption. I expected a brooding character. I expected a troubled soul. When he bounded into Bobby’s Lunchbox with a cheery, “I’m super stoked for the interview, Sam,” my presumptions were completely off.  

We took a seat and I began to record.  

“For legal reasons I understand that most of your cases are classified,” I began. “I’m not looking to press you. I don’t want to put anyone in a difficult position but I would love to hear your insight.”  

Reynolds smiled. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I guess it’s about time I talked about it. Get a load off, you know?”  

I nodded. “I am agreed that nothing will go to print without your say so so feel free to talk openly. Consider this entire thing off the record.”  

“What do you want to know?” Reynolds asked.  

“Why don’t you start with some of the cases that shaped who you are.”  

“Funny you should ask,” he said. “The first one that comes to mind, you reported on.”  

John took a sip of his water. Although he seemed calm I could see a little tension shake him just below his skin. Giving account of some of his experiences seemed to be taking a toll on him. I pushed stop on the recorder.  

“We can take five, if you like,” I asked. “This is your story to tell. It’s up to you how you wish to tell it or how far you want to go.” 

I was going to remind him that his story deserved to be told as a way of urging him to open up but it seemed I didn’t need to. He had already decided that for himself.  

“No,” he said. “It’s fine. I’ll go on.” 

I pushed recorded again.  

“You may remember a gnarly story In the Express some time back. It was about a girl named Eileen in her late teens. She had found herself in trouble. She was pregnant by her step father. Her mother was a drug user who accused her of seducing him. She was only a young girl and the step father was a real shitty dude,” John explained. 

It was a typical tale of abuse, if you find yourself desensitised to such things.  

Eileen was forced to leave. She didn’t have enough money to buy a plane ticket. She didn’t have enough money to pay for a hotel room for the foreseeable future. She found herself on the docks of Swantin. A lot of unfortunate souls found themselves there. Their bodies were the last marketable product they had at their disposal so it stood as the best chance of survival. She had been real close to a small vessel called the ‘Lily Ann’. It was no ordinary boat. It was a floating brothel. She had been almost been at the point of climbing on board when she heard the ferry man calling, 

“The 6:15 Hathfield Bay! All about the 6:15 to Hathfield Bay.” 

Eileen approached the man. 

“Excuse me, sir,” she interrupted. “How much for a ticket to the island?”  

The Harbour Master eyed her suspiciously. She had no bag with her, the leather of her shoes was bursting and she had a look in her eyes that suggested she would be drugged and whored before the night was out. 

“I have been kicked out of my home and I have nowhere to go,” she went on to explain. 

He passed her a ticket.  

“I’ll let you on,” he said. “You look like you need a break and I’d be honoured to be the one to give you that chance.”  

Eileen looked at her ticket.  



She could see the Royal Chamberlain crest on the side.  

“Why are you doing this for me?” She asked. She wasn’t much used to generosity or kindness from strangers.  

“I said you look like you need a break. The Wigan commune is over there. If you go to them they will give you shelter. They’ll look after you. They don’t have much but they are welcoming.”  

Eileen had taken note of the Wigan pin the man displayed proudly, now it held a lot more interest.  

“Thank you,” she said.  

“Wigan bless you,” was his response.  

She had heard of the Church of St Wigan. She didn’t personally know any members but if they could offer her some shelter and sanctuary it was her best bet.  Better off in the hands of a religious commune than a brothel, right? Perhaps.  


The travel across the sea was freeing. The waves that lashed against the side of the ferry liner were like her problems being washed away. By the time she arrived on the island she was smiling again. Although the thin rain had soaked the clothes she arrived in. When she reached the entrance of the commune she was feeling a little feverish. Pulled the purple tasseled bell. She could hear the deep knelling ring. Before long she was a greeted by a woman not much older than herself.  

“I have nowhere to go,” Eileen said. “Please can you help me? I’m pregnant. I’m with child.”  

The girl looked at her blankly at first. Then she smiled. It brightened her freckled face. Her smile was natural and soft. Her hair was long and tangled. She had purple ribbons tied into her braid.  

“Wigan embraces all,” she said in response. Her island accent bouncy and warm. “What’s yer name?”  

“Eileen,” the young woman said.  

The Wigan girl introduced herself. “My name is River. Come in and rest. You are safe now.”  

Eileen entered the commune and the door closed behind her.  


The first days in the commune were quite pleasant actually. Eileen had no regrets in accepting the Harbour Master’s passage. She had been given clothes. They were real basic but they were warm and comfortable. They even had some elderly women check on her baby. They gave her a lot of old wives tales about the tell tale signs of it being a girl that she carried but they seemed to know what they was doing and according to them the baby was healthy and its heart was beating strong. The real world seemed so far away. Wandering onto the bay at the rear of the commune where she could hear nothing but the waves was her most favourite activity. On this particular day I now detail she had looked up at the sky first. The clouds were thick and grey. The rain wasn’t far off. There was a man sat on the sand, looking out onto the sea. He had drawn his knees up to his chest and was embracing his surroundings like he was seeing them all for the first time. He turned when he heard her.  

“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” she apologised.  

The man smiled. He had an engaging stare. She could feel herself smiling too. There was some white in his dark hair, despite his youth, just a streak. He reached his arm out beside him.  

“Ye might as well sit with me,” he said. “It would be nice to have the company.”  

Eileen took a seat, delicately at his side. He kept his attention focused out onto the sea.  
“So you must be the city dweller they call Eileen.”  

Eileen agreed. “Yes, that’s me. I came for sanctuary and I have been given that. I will always be grateful.”  

The man nodded. “That’s good to know. I’m glad.”  

“Have you been here long?” She asked him.  

The man chuckled. “My whole life,” he said.  

Eileen was fascinated. “It must have been quite different from the city.” 

“They say not much could go on on a little island but you’d be surprised. You really would,” he explained.  

“My life was shit over in the city. My mum was a drunk. My step dad forced himself on me. The baby I carry is his. My mum blamed me and the Harbour Master took pity on me. Now I’m here.” 

The man turned to her. “Fear not,” he said. “You’re safe here. We are like a big family. We’d love for you to be part of our family.”  

“I’m not really a religious person,” Eileen was ashamed to admit. She felt ungrateful given how accepting they had been of her, no questions asked.  

“Maybe now’s the time to start,” the man suggested. “Ye can find out quite a bit about yerself.”  

Eileen made a vow to try. She really did want to show how appreciative she was. 

“What’s your name?” She asked.  

“Dominick,” the man returned.  

“Your Eminence!?” Came a cry from the commune. There was a monk standing by the entrance in robes.  

Dominick looked back. He nodded to the monk who went back inside.  

“Your Eminence?” Eileen questioned.  

Dominick stood. He reached his hand out and helped her onto her feet.  

“I’ve been blessed with the leadership of our church,” he explained. “We always welcome new members.”  

Eileen took a vow that very day. She vowed to learn what she could about her new family. Before the baby was born she took a bonafide vow.  


Reynolds had been based in City Main at the time. He was working out of the offices of CPD. He had been brought onboard when the Office of Law Makers brought their attention to the rise in missing person’s cases in the Coldford. Reynold’s specialty was people who weren’t necessarily missing. They just didn’t want to come home.  

It had taken a few months before Eileen’s mother began to show concern. The deadbeat step father had done the same thing with a neighbour so she threw his ass to the kerb and decided she wanted to reconnect with her daughter. A hand written letter had come to the mother with the stamp of the bay. In this letter it told of Eileen’s indoctrination so far. She was pleased to be where she was. She was turning her hand to all kinds of positive things. She was embracing a religion and it was bringing out the best in her.  What she made abundantly clear was the fact that she had absolutely no intentions of coming home sans step father or not. That ship had sailed and it had sailed off to Hathfield Bay carrying Eileen’s mother’s only daughter with it.  

Eileen’s mother, whom records had named as Lorna P, made an appointment with our investigator.  

“I want my daughter back,” she had plead.  

She was preaching to the converted in this scenario because Reynolds wanted the girl back too. The issue was as he looked at her she looked real spaced out. She said she had given up the drinking but she had been rad with it very recently. All the signs were there. Her bulbous nose was red with burst vessels. Her breath was putrid. She had made an effort to dress herself but the clothes had a smell of dampness about them. If this girl was to come back, what exactly would she be coming back to? For better? For worse? It wasn’t Reynolds’ decision to make but he had to make sure she understood.  

“I will do what I can to bring her back but you gotta level with me. Are you going to be there for her.”  

Lorna scowled. She looked as though she was about to give the usual, ‘are you telling me what to do with my own kid?’ speech but she retracted her statement before it was aired. She knew she had treated her daughter like shit. She should have stood by her daughter. She would be heavily pregnant by now if she hadn’t lost the child. The letter never mentioned either way.  

“I want to do better. I want to put the past behind us,” was her claim. “I got a job. I’m cleaning at the Lunch Box.” 

Reynolds leaned back in his chair.  

“It could get real rad,” he warned. “You need to be ready for that. If she does come back you need to be there for her. The process could take a long time.” 

Lorna P nodded. “I’m ready for that,” she assured.  

Rule number 88 of a Cult Deprogrammer: First contact with the lost soul could make or break a case. That first contact had to be made. 


The meeting had been set for four pm. The location was Bobby’s Lunch Box. With Reynolds’ consultation Lorna P had composed a letter of apology to Eileen. She wished her well. She was not to ask her to come home. She was not to make any demands of her. All the letter was to do was to let her know that the mother was open to meeting should the daughter accept invitation. No mention was to be made of the baby.  

In response to this letter Eileen accepted the invitation. She too said nothing of the baby. 

Lorna P was keeping an eye out for her daughter. The young woman who had come in her place was not her daughter, at least in everything but the physical sense.  She looked nothing like the way she had when she left. She had let her hair grow long. She wore a long, grey dress made from thick fabric. It spilled over her ankles. She had a purple ribbon tied around her neck and a Wigan pin on her breast.  

“Who are you?” She asked Reynolds at first.  

“I’m pleased to meet you, Eileen,” he said. “I’m John Reynolds. I was asked along by your mum. I was hoping we could have a chat.” 

Eileen eyed him suspiciously but she took a seat at the diner booth.  

“I don’t go by Eileen anymore,” she said. “I shed my city dweller name. They call me Heather now.”  

“Heather?” Asked the mother. “Why Heather?”  

Reynolds had encouraged her to ask questions as long as they weren’t asked in a challenging tone.  

“It’s my favourite plant. You would know that if you knew anything about me,” the girl responded.  

“We’re just here because we’re wanting to reconnect,” said Reynolds.  

Heather, formally known as Eileen, scowled at him. She turned back to her mother.  

“Been off the booze?” She asked her. “For how long this time?” 

“For good,” she said. “I promise.”  

Reynolds directed the conversation. “We’re stoked that you came,” he said. “There’s no pressure on you. Your mum told me about your letter. You seemed really thrilled over on the island.”  

“I am,” said Heather ney Eileen. She was beginning to wonder who this John Reynolds was. Why would he be associated with her mum? Surely he wasn’t a boyfriend. Although he looked like he was a bit of a boozer too so maybe that was how they were connected. Was he her sponsor? 

“When you left you were pregnant,” said Reynolds. “Would you like to share what happened? Are you well?”  

Eileen started to soften a little. No, not Eileen, her name was Heather now.  

“I had a little girl. I named her Ivy.”  

“Pretty name,” said Reynolds. “Your mum is glad to be a grandmother.”  

“She couldn’t be a mother. What chance does she have of being a grandmother? Did she tell you who fucking knocked me up?” 

“Wigan opens his arms to the sinners. You cannot be saved. Your baby cannot be saved. Your ma most definitely cannot be saved,” Dominick had said to her.  

“I want to try, Eileen,” said Lorna P.  

“My name is not Eileen! It’s Heather.” The girl shrieked. “I am a child of Wigan and he accepts me for all of my sins. You cast me out and he found me.”  

Lorna P made to say something but Reynolds stopped her.  

“So you took the oath,” he said with a casual calmness that eased the tension. “Who was your sponsor?” 

Eileen was quite taken aback by Reynolds’ knowledge of it. Wait. No. Her name was Heather. She was Heather and she was a daughter of Wigan, not some drunk who let her step dad impregnate her.  

“You’re a Wigan?” She asked. He had no tell tale signs. He had no pin. His mannerisms were far too mellow for someone who had taken the oath.  

“I’m not,” Reynolds replied. “I am familiar with them though. Have you been to McIvor’s Ice Cream parlour over on the bay yet?”  

“I have,” she admitted. “I go there quite often.”  

“Do you have a favourite flavour?” He asked.  

“Strawberry,” she replied.  

“She always loved strawberry,” said Lorna P with some measure of pride.  

“Some days it was all you gave me to eat,” responded the daughter.  

“Family is more than blood. We are bound here stronger than any mother and child, any father and son, any brother and sister. We are the family of Wigan and we’re all here for each other,” said His Eminence.  

It was the family that Heather needed. When she took the oath she felt complete. It was fate that the Harbour Master gave her that ticket. It was fate that she fell in love with His Eminence.  

“The weather over there can be a little temperamental,” Reynolds said matter of factly.  

Heather smiled. “These clothes keep me dry. These clothes keep me warm.”  

The commune keeps you safe. The commune keeps you fed. 

“I’m going to call you Eileen,” said Reynolds. “It’s not to upset you. If you have shed that name then that is your decision but your mum wants some closure before you return to the commune and it’s the name she recognises. It could be her chance to shed it too if it is what you really want.” 

Lorna looked to Reynolds with some surprise. They hadn’t discussed the possibility of her never returning. That wasn’t part of the deal. She kept her mouth shut though. Reynolds seemed to have a handle on the situation.  

“I have nothing left to say,” she said. “You can call me what you like. I know what my name is.”  


Coming back the city was not going to be easy. She had seen way too much. Her life had changed.  

“If could just sit and maybe hear what your mum wants to say?” Reynolds urged.  

Heather, no Eileen, was held in her place.  

The smell of the burning flesh was stomach churning. At least it was at first.  

Dominick had been screaming, “you cannot be saved!”  

He was crazed but in that moment but as she watched him she could only think of how passionate he was and how much he loved his Wigan family. He was leading them into a future with furious fire. She had been so swept up she helped with the torches. The city dwellers screamed in pain but their cries for mercy were drowned out as the congregates began to sing.  

‘Eileen. I’m going to call you Eileen. That is your name. You are not Heather. Heather was a bayside lunatic who watched four city dwellers burn. Heather gave birth to a little girl named Ivy. Heather danced with the strangely named River, Autumn and April whilst Ivy was blessed into the Wigan faith. Eileen was still on the docks contemplating becoming a prostitute.  

You cannot be saved Eileen.  

“Yes you can,” John Reynolds reminded her.  


I pondered the question first before I voiced it. 

“Did she come home?”  

“It was one of those deals where you gotta count your blessings,” Reynolds said. “She was coming home. She had gotten as far as a little fishing boat she planned on rowing herself all the way over from the bay. She had Ivy with her.”  

“Then what happened?” I asked. 

“She disappeared.”  

“Did she return to the commune?” I questioned.  

“I don’t think so. She had made the resolve to leave. Rule number 36 of a cult deprogrammer: when the victim attempts to leave, the cult will use any force necessary to keep them.”  

The truth of the matter was the little fishing boat had been found, beached just a little while along the coast. The blanket she had wrapped Ivy in was discarded, wet and sandy. Ivy was carried by River back to the commune. The seasons changed and the little girl grew beyond infancy. She didn’t know her mother. She didn’t know Heather. She most definitely would never have recognised Eileen. The Wigan life was what she came to know. Praise Wigan!  


Discussing this case gave me a lot of food for thought. We can all find ourselves swept up in an ideology. It’s like an unstoppable force which in the hands of those who wield it well can be destructive. It takes people like John Reynolds to combat that kind of thinking. As he would say, ‘you can be saved. You can succeed. You can come back.’  

How far must someone fall though before they are merely a sandy, soggy blanket on a discarded boat? Or a victim of a complete stranger’s anger?  

John Reynolds will keep fighting on though until everything is groovy again.  

When cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds, has someone close to him leave to join the Wigan cult on Hathfield Bay island he must put every skill he has learned to the test to bring them home.

The Kingdom of Ashes

There once was a king, mighty and bold.

He was a beloved sovereign in a kingdom of gold.

He kept a watchful eye. He was fierce and fair.

But a monster with ill intentions was cruel enough to dare.

The king had three prince sons, brave and strong.

But their cries were the monster’s favourite song.

He snatched them, seperated them and inflicted pain.

The triplets with crowns would never be the same.

Of the three there was one wise beyond his years.

There was another with strengh, who ignored his fears.

The third was free spirited and refused to break.

Together they fought for their kingdom’s sake.

The King was put to death but the sons did survive.

Whilst the princes remained, the kingdom could still thrive.

The monster was defeated, showing its true horrific form.

From the ashes the kingdom was reborn.

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The triplet princes of City Main found themselves in the clutches of the most Hellish prison imaginable. Dare you take a look behind teh bars of Coldford Correctional, aka The Boss?

The Boss Part 2 : Servitude (extract)

The Prayer Room is located in the Herod Halls of the castle, just off the overpass. It’s an original part of the building where St Wigan, when he was in residence, would lock himself away seemingly with no food or water for days. He emerged when God had delivered his message. Normally this meant someone was burned, hanged or buried alive in Gregor Court. God could be a nasty bastard if Noah Wigan was to be believed and Francesca Chamberlain made the perfect nasty vessel to operate through. However, that’s another grisly tale for another grisly day. For now, our story focuses on the Prayer Room in more recent times. The room has no plumbing. It doesn’t have a bowl or sink on offer. You eat and drink very little whilst you’re in there so you find yourself with little to excrete anyway.  

As the famed monk said, “God provides the nourishment.”  

He may have been able to get a fat soul with conversations with a figment in sky but for our inmates it drained what little will they had left. There are no windows.  You are completely engulfed in darkness. You are left alone with only time to think and to say your prayers.  

Jake tried to keep himself awake for as long as possible. He didn’t know how long he would be left to rot. He had no means of counting the hours. He could only try and keep himself awake for as long as possible – not that he would find much of a cosy bed. It was a moss covered, granite floor. In fact, the dampness within the Prayer Room really attacked the lungs. It was common in the prison to hear the cough of an inmate that had spent some time in solitary.  

Jake had to keep himself awake. He wanted to stay alert should some of the ghoul guards come for him. That was what the inmates were calling the guards who lost their minds. Jake didn’t pray. He never was the praying sort but the voice inside his head was ringing loud. He tried to keep it ringing as his eyes started to feel heavy. He was slumped on the floor. His issue trousers were damp from the moss. He was in the most discomfort he had ever felt but he couldn’t resist sleep. Those Beta brain waves were crying out to him.  

“Come on, Jakey. Just close your eyes. Sleep it away. Sleep. Sleep …”  

He was jerked awake by a sharp pain. Something had bitten him. He could hear a squeak and a draw of a long, worm-like tail across his hand. He pulled it away and as he did so he caught the feel of matted fur.  

“Fucking rat,” he grumbled to himself.  

There was another sharp bite on his lower leg where the trousers of his kit had slipped up. There was another one there. He could hear the hungry rodents squeak at each other. Then there was another bite at his hand. This one was harder than the others. The broken rat teeth must have pierced skin.  

Jake tried to kick his leg out to make them scurry away but they were brave and they were hungry so they took another bite. One ran across his chest, the worm tail drawing underneath his chin. Jake was on his feet by then trying to shake them off. They finally did scurry away when the doorway was opened.  

“2011?” The voice of the warden came through the dark. “What’s the story?”  

“My daughter,” Jake began. His voice sounded hoarse having not spoken in some time. “My sisters. My cousin.”  

“I’m sorry about your family,” Remar told him sincerely.  

He had put in a call to Fullerton Villa to find out what he could. 

“Lucy’s with her mum, from what I’m told,” Remar said. “She’ll be fine. Lionel received a shot to his shoulder and to chest but from what i hear he’ll be fine.  I’ll let you have a call and catch up a little later but if you get out of here you don’t bring me any trouble are we understood?”  

Jake nodded. He cleared his throat. “Of course.”  

Cerberus held 2011 in his searching gaze. There was something going wrong with the guards and he needed people among the inmates he could rely on should the worst happen. 

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The Prayer Room

It’s damp and it’s cold.

It was a dungeon of old.

Many men have wept on Her floors, even the bold.

When the door closes you are absorbed in the dark.

At least you’ll no longer hear the dog’s bark.

You are all alone with only the company of rats.

Spending your time pondering over this or that.

It’s too late now for any sorrowful regret.

Your time has come. It’s all been set.

What you deserve is what you’ll get.

Just pray it’s not yet.

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Character Profile: Seth Bergman

“A lovely boy is Seth. A lovely boy!”

Name: Seth Bergman

Occupation: Diamond Merchant


As the son and heir of the Bergman Diamond Parade, Seth is known to carry himself with dignity and charm. He is much beloved in the community in which he lives and like his father, Howard, he enjoys a sterling reputation. Once head boy at the notable Kingsgate School where royals are taught, Seth has been preparing for most of his life to take his father’s place at the head of his family business.

Seth is intelligent, kind and has a talent for his work. However, diamonds require the sharpest tools to cut and Seth has a razor wit and a temper that certain things can provoke. Despite his naturally pleasant demeanour he can be temperamental when his family are in danger. His kindness is often mistaken for weakness. Seth may not be the most physically intimidating figure in the Shady City but should circumstances require he can be fearless and dare I say a little ruthless too.

His pacifistic father, Howard, has raised him to stay clear of the corruption and violence that is common in the Shady City but as things close in on them Seth believes they can’t avoid it forever. Being lifelong friends with the infamous Penn triplets, Seth could very easily slip into a way of life he is just not cut out for!

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Character Profile: Queen Francesca Chamberlain

“Bring me this one, and that one. I want their heads for a stew.

That fat one cowering in the corner? I suppose he’ll have to do.”

Name: Francesca Chamberlain The First


Occupation: crowned queen five centuries prior to current events.

Painting of Francesca Chamberlain the first.

Despite her not living in current times the presence of Francesca Chamberlain is still felt, most notably in her castle in the northern city of Bournton. The call the castle The Boss because of the way it looms over the town below. It is currently a high security prison for the worst of the worst in the Shady City. It hasn’t changed much in the times since Francesca’s reign in that even then it was a dungeon that many feared to be held behind. Francesca was a bloody and merciless ruler taking great pride in the torture of her prisoners. They called her a witch because of the young maidens she drove to madness.

Francesca’s statue within The Boss

She may have been ruthless but most rulers in those days were. What she did hold dear though were her nephews, princes James and Edward. As sons of Francesca’s brother Henry, James was the rightful heir to Chamberlain dynasty. Having died in battle Francesca brought the princes to the castle for safe keeping. The intention was to rule in James’ stead until he came of age.

Whilst staying in the castle the younger prince, Edward, fell ill. Francesca believed a witch among them had cursed the little boy but luckily the arrival of a Holy man named Noah Wigan brought the boy back to health. From that moment Francesca was dedicated to the church Wigan was building. She heeded his advice above all and she became quite mad with her devotion.

Times have moved along since those days history books refer to as the Ballad of Blood. The modern Chamberlain family have left swords behind but bloodshed remains stained on the golden crown.

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Loadsa Bunce!

I have told the tale of many families in Coldford. I’ve discussed the dark, the dangerous and the ruthless. The Stoker Circus family encompass all three of things. I’ve never known such a group of people willing to stoop to the lowest levels to keep themselves riding high. Desperate times of recession had given them stiff competition but they never ceased to amaze.
They would stop at nothing for the almighty coin. They were a big family so when it came to them against the world the world stood little chance. When it came to being pit against each other there would be a clown parade.
Underneath the cotton candy, the organ music and the balloons there was a real heart beating. If only they could stop to hear it. I’m reporter Sam Crusow and this is what happens when a Stoker is offered loadsa bunce but they are asked to split it.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls! Step right up for an outrageous and sometimes dangerous show. I’m Adrien Stoker and welcome to Stoker circus!”
The fan fare erupted around the Big Top as the audience in Luen were drawn into the circus as it passed through town. Adrien Stoker beamed a huge smile. His excitement for his act was palpable. The audience grinned right back at him as the clowns in blue and red face paint danced whimsically around him, tying him into a strait jacket. His brother, Hanz, in red tails, joined him in centre ring, playing the role of the villain who had captured him. Hanz made a show of yelling at the clowns to restrain him tighter. They turned him to show the audience four tightly fastened restraints. They even carried Adrien across to the audience for a member to pull on the buckles and confirm it was in fact fastened tightly. A heavily made up woman tugged on them and yes they were secure.
When back in centre ring blue and red boards were pulled aside to reveal a tank of water, standing up right, not much larger than a coffin.
“The water cell has been banned in the orient. They say once you are submerged there is no escaping. Don’t be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen. I’m willing to give it a try and if I drown … that’s just show business.”
Hanz gave a show of his character being desperate to hurry it along. Adrien was lifted, and he was dropped into the water head first. Hanz secured the lid and he stepped on top of his brother’s watery coffin.
“Not so amazing now!” He cried theatrically. He accepted jeers from the audience with a wave of his arms.
A timer started. The view of Adrien in the water cell was concealed with the boards.
“The longest any one has ever held their breath was for eleven minutes. Let’s see how long the Amazing Adrien can last.”
The fan fare erupted again. The clowns made another showy dance around the ring as the sands on the timer dropped. The boards were pulled aside briefly to show Adrien still in the cell and seemingly struggling with his binds.
“Oh no!” Lady Margerite gasped, watching the show through a set of golden opera glasses.
She hoped Adrien would be okay despite what Hanz was suggesting, doing a little jig on top of Adrien’s coffin before leaping back down into the ring.
The sands in the timer continued to fall. It had now been minutes since Adrien was submerged.
Son’s, Valdrick and Irvine, watched on from the sidelines. The two boys were naturally born showman. Sometimes as the timer ran out Uncle Hanz called upon them to help keep the audience going. It meant audience appreciation. It meant becoming the face of the circus. It meant some coins being thrown their way.
“It’s my show, mucker,” Irvine had said.
He strongly believed he was the one to follow papa. Val disagreed.
“Get down with you,” Val replied with impatience. He had lifted his juggling pins and was waiting for the call.
Meanwhile, outside Hanz was saying to the audience of Adrien, “I hope he took care of his affairs …”
The timer ran out.
“This is it! This is it!” Irvine was muttering to himself.
The music cut. The lights focused centre ring. Hanz took a peek behind the boards. He started calling to the other performers. Something appeared to have gone dreadfully wrong. Lady Margerite sat forward in her chair.
“Oh no,” she gasped as she looked through the opera glasses.
The performers appeared to be in a panic. They pulled the boards back to reveal the tank was now empty. Spotlights danced around the audience and landed on the seat beside Margerite. Imagine her surprise when there stood Adrien Stoker, dripping wet, free of his binds and smiling warmly despite his struggles. He raised a glass of what was presumably water from the tank.
“To you and yours Madame,” he said.
The audience erupted in cheers as Adrien gave a bow and the spotlight followed him back down to the centre ring. Lady Margerite was thrilled.
Irvine and Val took a peek out the curtains but quickly retracted when Uncle Hanz came rushing in. He pulled off his tailed jacket and he threw it backstage.
“One of you,” he barked at the boys. “Move.”
That was when the baby started to cry. Both boys looked back.
‘Not now,’ seemed to be the collective thoughts of the brothers.
“The baby is crying,” Irvine stated.
“Yeah,” said Val. “I can hear that.”
“Move!” Hanz barked again as he headed on back out.
For Valdrick, concern over the infant won out. He had to check on his baby brother. Irvine was not so worried.
“Sucka,” he cheered as he headed out to centre ring.
The boards were pulled back again and to the audience’s amazement there was Hanz in the cell now wearing the strait jacket.
As they removed Hanz from the tank Irvine charmed the audience. Lady Margerite gushed over the boy’s charisma.
Valdrick was rocking the baby in his arms thinking of the bunce he had lost.
“Damn it, Felix,” he groaned. “You choose now to cry?”
The baby grinned a gumsy grin at his brother.
“You know you lost me an earner, right?”
Felix giggled.
“Never mind,” said Val. “When we’re older we’ll run the show together. We’ll make loadsa bunce.”
“It was a smashing show,” Lady Margarite told her driver on the way home.
Adrien Stoker was so attractive with his dark curls and expressive eyes. He was slim and tall and when she found him stood next to her she could hear the breath in his words from the struggle of his escape.
“To you and yours Madame!” He had said.
Stoker Circus, passing through Luen, had left a lasting impression.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls! Step right up for a swinging, stinging and full in your face ringing show. I’m Irvine Stoker and these are the trapeezy easys.”
The spotlight focused on centre ring as Ethel Easy – the female half the trapeze duo climbed a rope to the high wire. She was agile so she reached the top with ease. The music offered an encouraging beat. What audience there was watched her in awe. She gripped the high wire and spun herself round once, twice and three times before holding herself up in a handstand on the wire. She reached her legs out. She let herself drop and her brother Errol had come whizzing across from the high dale of the Big Top. The audience gasped as he caught her in his arms. The two swung across to the other side of the great tent.
Ringmaster Irvine stepped off the ring to leave the Easys to do their thing.
“We got some bad news, boss.”
Irvine had scraped some powder from an old metal box he kept in his coat onto his finger nail. He sniffed and leaned his head back a little.
“What bad news?” He naturally asked.
Strongman Otto, who was delivering said news, looked concerned.
“I’m afraid Aunt Margerite passed away,” said the muscle man.
Irvine gasped. He removed his hat and bowed his head.
“It’s always the good ones,” he said solemnly. “How did she go?”
Otto shrugged his broad shoulders. “Dunno,” he said. “Age I suppose.”
Irvine gasped again. “Time,” he said. “It’s cruel Otto. It’s fucking cruel …’
“Will you be alright, boss?” Otto asked sensitively.
“I will be,” Irvine said. “I just need to collect myself. I just need to figure out who the fuck Aunt Margerite is. Which one is she?”
“Dunno,” Otto answered. “But this letter said she left you a little something.”
Irvine stood up straight. He snatched the letter from the strongman.
“There’s a will? Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“I figured you would want to grieve first.”
Irvine’s eyes were already reading the statement to see just how long a mourning period he was going to need.
They heard the audience react as the Easys swung across the tent and swapped trapezes. Ethel swung above the audience blowing a kiss to an older gentlemen there with his grandkids. Errol threw a rose to an adoring young woman who snatched it up excitedly. The two met in the middle again. Ethel leapt from her trapeze to clasp her brothers feet. As they soared across she flipped onto the dale and climbed onto the tight rope.
“Yes!” Irvine cried out as he read the handsome amount dear Aunt Margerite had bequeathed to him. “Wait a minute,” he said as he read on. “This says I’m to split this with my damn brothers. I was Aunt Margerite’s favourite. She said so all the time … I think … this has to be wrong.”
Otto looked at the paper. He read it slowly.
“Looks pretty legit.”
Irvine snatched the paper away.
“Aunt Margerite was a sweet old dear and she sought to leave this money to her adoring and affectionate nephew. I will not have her wishes besmirched by those scoundrel brothers of mine trying to take what she wanted me to have.”
“Says here you’ve to split it,” Otto reminded him, running a finger across the words that said as such. “Equal … share…” he said slowly and carefully.
Irvine held the letter to his chest. “Who’s side are you even on?” He asked.
“Yours boss,” Otto stated.
“Then don’t breathe a word of this. Does anyone else know?”
“Don’t think so,” said Otto.
“Ooooh!” The audience cheered.
The Trapeezy Easys were wowing them as Ethel danced foot to foot across the tight rope as Eroll climbed hand to hand underneath her. Ethel tucked her foot under the rope and let herself drop. She caught Errol’s feet, flipped herself onto the wire again and spread her arms for balance.
“Whatever you do do not let Val hear about this.” To the heavens he said, “don’t you worry Aunt Margerite. I won’t let your memory be robbed.”
Otto nodded solemnly.
“RIP Aunt Margerite,” he said.
“Was she the one with the mole?” Irvine asked.
Otto could only shrug.
Eroll swung on his trapeze by his feet. He had his sister’s hands and he launched her towards the dale. Ethel landed on the dale and immediately threw herself back off catching her brothers hands again.
Irvine came skipping back to centre ring as the Easys came sliding down the rope as their act came to an finish.
“Wasn’t that something?” He said as he slipped his inheritance letter inside his pocket. “We don’t give half measures here at Stoker Circus.
The Trapeezy Easys took a bow. The audience applauded. It was a meagre audience but that didn’t matter. The whole time Irvine kept thinking of Aunt Margerite. Now If only he could remember who Aunt Margerite was. More importantly, he had to stop his deplorable brother finding out about it. Split it. Equal share. Yeah right!

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Step right up for a dashing, crashing, full in your face smashing show. I’m Val Stoker and welcome to Stoker Circus.”
The audience for the matinee show in the blue tent wasn’t as filled as it used to be but Val let his voice boom to the rafters as if it were a full house.
There were a few scattered guests coughing away and giving a half hearted applause.
Val’s wife Gigi had felt it too. She tried to keep up enthusiasm as best she could but they were losing them. What little there were of them. The only one who was paying the real attention they would expect of a visitor to the Stoker Circus was a small baby who’s push chair had been pressed up to the front. A smile crossed its face as Val juggled three blue pins. His act was delightful. In bygone days it would have been well received but we live in an age of computer games and technology. The old school circus had stiff competition to work with. It was sad to see such old fashioned fun drip away. What was most despairing was the fact it meant the tents were making less bunce.
“We better pull out the big guns, missus,” said Val to his wife. The tall, leggy blonde was already on it. She passed him a set of metal pins. Val flicked them and the ends sparked on fire.
“Huh?” He put to his audience. “Impressed yet?”
The little baby cried with delight as Val danced in front of him. The flaming torches spiralled in a truly exciting fashion. He spun them higher. He spun them faster. He even got a chuckle out of his audience when he made a show as though his hands were burning and he blew on his palms between the throws.
“It’s just not the same these days,” Val commented to Gigi as they stepped out of their ring.
“It’s the end of an era, sugar,” said Gigi solemnly, dusting bits of sand off of his jacket.
“We’ll get by,” Val assured enough for the both of them. “We always do.”
The Stokers were in fact a resilient bunch. They had travelled through the generations and they survived. They survived because they were willing to sink to depths that even the most hardened of people would consider questionable. They robbed houses, they picked pockets, they washed away crime scenes and the tragedy of it all was their show, the thing that was important to all of them, wouldn’t be failing if they were to put their own greed aside and focus on it. Val tried to focus on it. He had loved the tents when his father was around. It was the golden age of the circus and Adrien had made their show one people for miles around would come to see. Now they were lucky if they had half of an audience at matinees. It wasn’t that the quality had dwindled over the years, they were always inventing creative ways to entertain. It was just that they had been so preoccupied keeping themselves on top they forgot the Stokers were a huge family and if they came together they could relive those glory days.
‘Nah! It’s all about the bunce,’ Val thought to himself. ‘What good is anything if you don’t have the cash? The tents would fill again if there was money in the place.’
Val felt a another hand on his shoulder. It was a heavier hand than Gigi’s. It was the hand of Cyril, the Stoker sad clown.
“Aunt Margerite died,” he said sensitively. The painted clown face complete with tears showing just how solemn and grief stricken he was.
“No,” Val gasped. “What took her. Was it her heart?”
“I don’t know,” said Cyril. “I heard Otto telling Irvine.”
“Which one was Aunt Margerite?” Gigi sought to ask.
Cyril shrugged. “I don’t know any Margerite but she left something. Irvine didn’t want you to know.”
Val gave him an affirming pat on the shoulder.
“You’re a good cousin for letting me know,” he told him. To Gigi he said conspiratorially. “That bastard thinks he can hide my inheritance. He thinks he can go against dear Aunt Margerite’s wishes? The scoundrel. The absolute …” He stopped to ask Cyril, “was she the one with the mole?”
Cyril shrugged. “All I know is she left you some inheritance and Irvine doesn’t want to share.”
“Damn that cheating bastard of a brother of mine,” Val exclaimed. To Cyril he asked, “how much was it?”
“Don’t know,” Cyril stated. “But we’ll soon find out.”
“I hope so,” Val said. “Because I need to know just how sad I am about Aunt Margerite’s passing… Did she have all the dogs?”
“That was Angelique,” said Gigi. “And he’s still in Luen.”

When there was a scent of financial gain in the air a Stoker is like a blood hound. As sad clown Cyril informed Val of the deception another deception was taking place. Main clown Olga was sneaking into the back room of the Big Top whilst Irvine was giving his all to his meagre customers.
“You’ll have to forgive me,” he was telling them. “But I’m afraid I’m mourning the loss of a beloved aunt who was as close to me as a mother. Dear Aunt Margerite, you will be sorely missed. But ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls she would have wanted the show to go on. She would also want you to put some extra tuppence in that bucket there to go to her favourite charity. It is what she wanted and what better way to remember such a generous woman.”
The coast was clear which was just as well because Olga’s shoes squeaked, squeaked and squeaked across the boards. There it was. Sat on the desk was the letter detailing the inheritance left behind by Aunt Margerite. Olga smiled as she reached out to collect it, her face paint making that smile ever so big. But just as she collected the letter a claw like hand snatched hers. It was tattooed, bony and the sharp yellowish nails dug in. Gretel, the legless woman from their freak show, heaved herself onto the table.
“Oh shit!” Olga cried.
Gretel Stoker may have been born without legs but she could sure pull her way around a room faster than most people with both legs could run. Gretel leapt onto her and tried to snatch the letter. Olga, was a burly clown. She could throw her rounded body for an audience’s amusement so she had quite the heave on her. She grabbed Gretel by her arms and hammer threw the legless woman across the back room. Gretel bounced off the canopy and came rushing across the boards.
“Give it back!” She warned.
Olga tore out of there with Gretel hot on her heel.
“Oh shit!” Olga cried out again as Gretel lashed out and tore a hole in her clown pants with her long, pointed nails.
Olga didn’t feel good about it, at least that was what she said afterwards, but the only way she was going to get out of there with the letter was if she took Gretel out. She could give her a kick worthy of an rugby player of course but she saw the fire hose and the clown in her couldn’t resist.
She turned the hose on Gretel and sent the legless woman sailing down a small but powerful river back into the back room. She turned on her heel and she bounced out of there. Her shoes were now sounding extra squidgy.
“Val?” She cried out when she returned to the blue tent. “I’ve got the letter.”
“Well done Olga, girl,” said Val.
Olga caught her breath. She leaned over, wheezing a little.
“I had to skoosh Gretel back into her box.”
Val had already started to read the letter.
“Getting Gretel to guard are you, I’m onto you Irvine. Don’t forget I’m the older brother. I’ve been on this planet longer. You can’t outsmart a smartass. Ain’t that right, missus?”
“It is, sugar,” agreed Gigi. “People say it all the time.”
“We’re rich!” Val exclaimed as he read the letter. “Thank you, Aunt Margerite!” He kissed the letter with a firm mwah! They were celebrating. They still had to get the money though.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Step right up for a slicing, dicing, full in your face enticing show. I’m Felix Stoker and welcome to Stoker Circus!”
Felix, the baby of the three brothers, didn’t mind the dwindling audiences so much. Whether it was five or five thousand watching he was thrilled to be entertaining. He didn’t want to think about the tents as a business. He believed in the magic that was bringing a smile to the masses just as his father had.
The music rumbled and the two fire breathers, Gisel and Silke, danced around the ring of the blue tent. They blew on their torches and flames around the fence lit drawing an audible gasp from the evening crowd.
Silke danced back to centre first. Her partner joined her. Gisel raised her torch. She turned the flames to her lips and she ate the fire. She turned to Silke, kissed her. They parted and it was Silke who blew out the flames like an angry dragon.
The thrills were a plenty even if the money wasn’t rolling in. Felix was a knife thrower. He threw them around Silke as she spun on a red and blue wheel. He threw them whilst blindfolded. He threw them whilst balancing on a beam and blindfolded. He always hit the target with those knives. He had so many planted up his sleeves that it just looked like there was no end to them. He would flip and spin and always the knives would stick exactly where they were meant to. Even with the fire breathers throwing flames around him his aim was as accurate as could be.
The audience applauded and he took a congenial bow. Behind the noise of the appreciation he could hear his brothers start to bicker.
“Thank you everyone for coming,” Felix was telling his audience.
“I’m going to ring your fat little neck,’ Irvine could be heard growling at Val.
“You have been a wonderful audience and I do hope you come back and join us again soon,” said Felix.
“You thieving bastard. You were going to cut me out,” was Val’s retort.
“Have a safe journey home and remember …”
“Ouch!” Irvine yelped as Val kicked his long shin.
He lurched towards Val but Val had decided to run at him with his shoulder. What resulted was a grapple that was worthy of a couple of clowns.
“Will you stop this?” Olga requested. “It looks ridiculous.”
Gretel had leapt onto Val’s back leaving Cyril no choice but to pull her off. She turned on him and then there were two ridiculous grapples going on.
They had been so busy with their petty feud it wasn’t until they both felt a knife at both of their throats they stopped. Both brothers took a step back and raised their hands.
“Someone want to tell me what is going on?” Asked Felix.
Cyril and Gretel both raised their hands too. Having no legs, Gretel just tumbled to the ground.
“We’re just upset,” said Irvine. “I don’t know how to tell you this …”
“You might want to sit down,” added Val.
“It’s going to be hard one to take mucker,” said Irvine.
“It’s really sad news,” said Val.
Felix frowned at them both.
“Aunt Margerite died,” said Irvine and Val together, both trying to be the first to break the news.
Felix sighed. Then he thought about it.
“We don’t have an Aunt Margerite,” he said.
“Turns out we do. She left us a little something as inheritance,” Val told him.
“Not much. Just a little token really,” Irvine explained further.
“We don’t even know why we’re fighting over it it is so minuscule,” Val saw fit to add.
“Feels silly now,” Irvine stated.
In that moment it there was an unspoken agreement made between the two elder brothers as the baby scrutinised them.
‘We cannot let him know he’s named on there too,’ Irvine would no doubt be the first to remind.
‘He’ll probably want to give the whole lot to some charitable cause like pox riddled cats or something,’ Val would consider.
This unspoken rule had formed and as untrustworthy as they could be they knew they both had to agree to this or they both would end up with nothing and most likely they both would end up with a sharp end of a knife making them really uncomfortable for causing upset to Felix’s act.
“She left something for you too,” Val decided to be honest. “She left you these.”
From his bag he removed a statue of two lions. He wasn’t being all that honest. The lions had been handed into his pawn shop. They didn’t look worth much and the word around the shop was they were cursed. The seller certainly seemed quite keen to get rid of them and Val’s little shop of costly curiosities seemed the perfect fit. Felix didn’t know any of this though. He took the lions and inspected them.
“She left me these?” He asked.
“She must have thought you the most special all,” said Irvine.
‘No need to ham it up. I got this. Then you and I get back to sorting our shit out,’ Val thought.
“Huh,” Felix smiled with a nod. “They are unusual aren’t they?” He said of his lions. “It was very kind of Aunt Margerite to leave these to me. I’d better take good care of them.”
“You do that,” Val urged. “In fact, you better put them somewhere safe before something happens to them.”
Or before the curse gets out.
“Will you stop fighting?” Felix asked.
Val made the decision for them. “Since it’s just pittance we’ve been given it might be better just to leave it to a charitable cause,” he said.
‘What are you doing?’ Irvine wondered. ‘It needs to be fucking believable.’
Felix was busy inspecting his lions again.
“Maybe pox riddled cats,” said Irvine.
“I don’t think Aunt Margerite would want you to be fighting. She would be really upset that the good thing she did for us, remembering us on her death bed, would cause an argument,” Felix told them sincerely.
“You are right,” Val nodded. He placed an arm around Felix’s shoulder and started to lead him away. “You know, Felix, you never cease to amaze me. Just when I think there are no good men left in this world you remind me of what a gem you are.”
“Thank you,” Felix replied.
Val stretched. “Well you have set us straight and I think it’s time to turn in.”
“Mmmhmmm,” Felix muttered as he departed, still captivated by his lions.
Made in Subala it said on the bottom. ‘I wonder when Aunt Margerite was in Subala.’
Gretel climbed up Irvine’s long legs and into his arms. He had Val looked at each other.
“So we’re agreed on an equal share?” Val put to the ringmaster.
“That sounds fair, mucker,” Irvine told the juggler.
Irvine carried Gretel away. Val led Cyril away. They both looked back over their shoulders because when you are such a devious individual you can’t help but expect everyone you meet to be just as sneaky.

The Rumilaw of City Main was where Val’s pawn shop lay. It was also home to dentists who weren’t necessarily fully licensed and to lawyers who weren’t necessarily sober all the time. However, that was where such people like the Stokers conduct their legal business.
Val and Gigi were making their way to the offices of Friggan and Moore. Moore was no longer part of that team for reasons that involved a suicide attempt with an axe but they kept the sign because Friggan and Moore sounded more of a legal powerhouse than just plain old Friggan. Stanley Friggan wouldn’t be tearing up the High Court of Coldford any time soon but for a moderate fee he could make sure Val got his inheritance.
“What are we going to do with that money?” Gigi was enjoying thinking out loud.
Maybe a trip to Luen? Maybe a nice meal at the Delphine restaurant?
Val had been thinking of the lousy matinees they had been experiencing. Fixing that would be a good place to start.
“I promised Felix when we were kids we would have the best show ever,” Val said to his wife.
“We do have that,” Gigi retorted. “We just need people to come along and see it.”
“I’ll fix that. I’d like to use some of the money to bring our show up to scratch. Make it something people around here really want to come and see.”
“That’s nice,” Gigi agreed.
“I thought so,” said Val. “Felix would like that. He’s a good kid.”
“You could give him his share,” Gigi suggested.
Val frowned. “I said he was a good kid not a fucking bank. Felix wouldn’t know what to do with that money. I’m the eldest brother so it’s best I make the decisions.”
“You are a smart man, sugar,” said Gigi.
There are wise men and there are smart ones. Often the two are not the same. Val was smart. He was very wiley but he was in competition with a creature just as smart and even more shameless.
“Irvine, you bastard!”
Just as they arrived at the office of Friggan and Moore they saw Irvine approaching too. A wise man would stop and have a civilised discussion with his brother as to the benefits all could have with such an inheritance. A smart one would dash in to be the first inside the office.
Irvine’s long legs gave him an advantage but Valdrick’s stocky frame could be carried like a leaping gazelle when there was money involved. The result was the two caught in the doorway.
“We agreed equal share,” Irvine growled.
“I was just checking on it for us,” Val assured. “What are you doing here?”
“The same. Just checking. I wanted to make sure we weren’t shaken by some huckster law man who can’t stay sober an afternoon,” said Irvine.
The finally managed to squeeze inside. Friggan came from his office to meet them.
“Come in. Come in!” He beckoned them in a drunken way that oozed relief that he had clients. “You’re brother is already here.”
Irvine and Val looked at each other. Before they could question it too much the were ushered into Friggan’s office. Seated already was Felix.
“Dear Margarite,” said Felix. “She was a splendid woman.”
“She was,” Val said solemnly but with a little hesitation.
“She was a one of a kind. You don’t meet women like that often,” said Irvine.
“I’ll get the final paperwork,” offered Friggan. As he bounced into his desk and over to his files the three Stokers had a score to settle.
“You rotten little cheat,” Val said to Felix.
“To cheat you would to take something that isn’t yours. I’m just here for what’s mine,” Felix maintained.
“You’re going to give it all away to poxy cats, aren’t you?” Irvine asked.
“Don’t you realise what we could do, how much better off we would be if we worked together?” Suggested the knife thrower.
“You’re too good a liar. I don’t like that,” said Val.
“We just need a signature and we can get the funds released,” the lawyer returned with some documents. “Friggan did good didn’t he? I mean this is a good pay out. You’re gonna want to buy a drink for your old pal Friggan.”
“You just need my signature don’t you, since I’m the eldest,” Val made a last ditch attempt.
“I’ll need all three,” said Friggan leaning over the paper and looking like he was going to hurl. He looked up and pointed at them trying to count to make sure there were actually three. Gigi’s presence confused matters momentarily.
When they finally departed with all the final details taken care of Val wrapped an arm around Felix.
“You know some days I wonder where you came from but you are definitely a Stoker.”
Felix chuckled. “I learned from the best and the worst.”
“We’re going to be alright, baby brother,” Val assured them.
“I do feel a little bad. Margarite left me the lion statue and nothing extra for you both,” Felix told them.
“Because you’ve always been special,” Irvine said, rolling his eyes.
He was still brooding about his payday being cut by two thirds.

The numbers flashed on the screen as the video played.
5 …
4 …
3 …
2 …
1 …

“You’re going to have the best day.
We’re here to take all your troubles away.
You’re going to dance and sing.
You’ll smile at everything.
Because Stoker Circus are on their way.”

The three brothers watched the old advert play out. The images burned away and were replaced by Adrien, who appeared to just be finishing adjusting his camera.
“Valdrick, Irvine, Felix, if you are seeing this then the chances are something has gone wrong for me. Don’t worry though. It was bound to happen. You can’t outrun the Devil forever. You will be grown men now but if you will still take advice from your father I want you to take a look around yourselves. Our tents and our name has stood the test of time because we are able to brace for toughest times like a slug to the gut. It’s admirable and Irvine you are better at that than anyone I’ve ever known. Just remember not everyone wants to throw a punch. I hope you know the difference. Felix, you have such a kindly nature and I am always proud of you. Sometimes even the kindest need to be armed with knives but don’t let it make you forget who you are though. Valdrick, I know you have always been nervous of the future. You were always worrying about what was to come next. Don’t let that stop you enjoying what you already have. The beauty of what is now is when it’s then it’s no longer now and what seems so important now isn’t such a big deal then.
You all have the chance to make people smile. No matter what goes on in the world what is the point of anything if you can’t make people smile? A Queen or a maid, a king or a pauper, it’s all same. They all need to smile. It’s worth taking those slugs in the gut for. I should probably tell you who Margerite was. She was a lady of the Luen Court. She was of noble birth and I captured her heart. She was your mother. That makes you royalty.”
Val and Irvine’s eyes both widened. Val’s lips pursed in an expression that suggested he had that figured all along. Irvine began flicking his collar wishing he had starched it more. Fuck it. He would have a man servant to do that if he was going to be Royalty.
“We’re the sons of a noble woman!?”
Adrien seemed to savour their expression for a bit. Then he pouted.
“Just kidding. Your mother was a trampolinist who drowned in a barrel of wine,” he told the camera. He smiled. “See? Tragic but you got to smile.”
“Grinning ear to ear,” Groaned Irvine sarcastically.
“My point is,” Adrien went on, “people like Lady Margarite need to smile and they are always appreciative of our own being able to make them. I hope you use her generosity wisely. Most importantly don’t forget to smile yourselves. There is only one rule in the Stoker tents and that is you cannot leave sad.”

There are many terrible deeds attributed to the Stoker family but I for one like to think of the true heart beneath it all. Adrien was an amazing man. Hanz was a war criminal. Felix was an honest hero always willing to help those in need. For Irvine everything had a price, even human lives. Where did that leave Valdrick? He seemed an explosive mix of all these things. His decisions would determine where the circus rolled to next and what kind of impression they would give.
With his father’s voice ringing in his ears Valdrick used some of the money bequeathed by Lady Margerite to improve his show. Not all of it, he wasn’t a complete nonce, but it did breathe life into their dying show. Time would tell just how far this would go but for now I have some hope that Stoker Circus could fulfil Adrien’s wishes and be on hand to make people smile through tough times. Then again, the Circus had rode into Coldford where clowns were right at home.

When the daughter of an enemy comes to Val Stoker looking for a loan, the circus performer thinks his luck as rolled in! He has a conscience though. Not much but it is there and there is a bigger problem brewing.

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