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Faith Abandoned

Adapted from the novel ‘Purple Ribbon’ coming this Spring

Act One 

Scene 1 

A small kitchen area. Night time.  

A caddy of pots hangs above. A malcontent young man, DOMINICK, sits heat a table. His arms are folded. His head is down. He appears to be crying. His father, GABRIEL, enters. He too has dark hair with salt and pepper speckles. He is wearing the cross of the Wigan church around his neck.  He kisses is as he takes a seat across from the boy.  

GABRIEL 

Stop crying. 

DOMINICK  

Looking up and appearing more frustrated now than upset.  

How could you replace her so quickly? 

GABRIEL 

A man needs a wife. You need a mother’s guidance.  

DOMINICK 

Scowling at him. 

She’s not my ma mother, nor will she ever be. Her two brats are not my brothers. 

GABRIEL 

Reaching out and slapping his son.  

You will treat my wife with the respect she deserves.  

DOMINICK 

I’ll treat exactly how she deserves to be. 

GABRIEL  

Standing from the table and removing the Wigan cross from round his neck. He places it around his son’s neck.  

I’m not going to tell ye twice. If ye like ye can spend the rest of yer days hiding down here in the scullery with the staff and the mice or ye can take yer place upstairs. I have taken Miriam as my bride. Yer ma is in St Wigan’s embrace now. She’s not coming back.  

DOMINICK 

Clutches the cross around his neck. 

GABRIEL 

You’ll be taking the oath to the church soon. Your life will be dedicated so start behaving as such and come upstairs and show some respect to Miriam and her sons.  

DOMINICK 

Managing a sardonic smile. 

I’d much rather stay here with the mice.  

GABRIEL 

Slapping him again.  

You are a disappointment. I have high hopes for ye so stop acting like a petulant wean! Your brothers are showing you up. 

DOMINICK 

His lips tighten and he appears angrier. 

They are not my brothers!  

GABRIEL 

Shaking his head with exasperation he reaches up and collects one of the pots from the caddy. He whacks his son with it causing DOMINICK to fall from his seat.  

Get up. 

GABRIEL starts to lose patience watching DOMINICK collecting himself.  

Get up! 

DOMINICK 

Finally, he gets back on his feet. He sits back on the stool rubbing the pain from his face.  

GABRIEL 

You’re a child of St Wigan. Start acting like it.  

DOMINICK 

Speaking sarcastically. 

What do we have if not our faith? 

GABRIEL 

A whack with steel about yer head is what ye’ll have.  

NARRATOR  

Have faith.  


Scene 2 

A small kitchen area. Day time.  

DOMINICK is holding one of the pots. He is sat on the floor tapping the steel against it.  

DOMINICK 

Speaking in a chant. 

We are the children of Wigan and our hearts are pure and strong. We praise our beloved saint and so we sing this song. We know, we know, we know we can’t be saved but repent and you’ll be in his embrace.  

Entering the scene is the sister of DOMINICK. She is a young woman but older than her brother. NATALIE seems flustered.  

NATALIE 

It’s time for me to go. I’m getting a long way away from here.  

DOMINICK  

You can’t leave me on my own here. 

NATALIE 

Your place is with the church. Pa decided that long ago. My place is to marry well. I couldn’t have married much better than James. I will have a good life. I suppose I’ll have to perform ma wifely duties but I can do that. Oh, Dom! I’m getting out of here.  

DOMINICK  

I’m pleased for ye my sister, but what about those of us ye leave behind?  

NARRATOR  

Have faith. 

NATALIE  

Take the oath. It’s your way out baby brother. Give yerself to the church.  

Drawing on her cigarette.  

I guess this is farewell Dom. I don’t know when I’ll be back. If I’ll ever be back.  

DOMINICK 

Do ye even want to marry this man? You don’t even know him. Ye’ve only met him once.  

NATALIE 

That doesn’t matter. I’m getting off this island.  

Looking at her brother she gives him a scornful look. She takes another draw of her cigarette.  

You look like a wean that’s been sat in the corner. Stand up.  

DOMINICK  

Why should I listen to you? 

NATALIE  

Voice fading. Lighting on her starting to fade too placing more focus on DOMINICK.  

You have to get up.  

DOMINICK 

You all abandoned me.  

DOMINICK stands. The lights continue to lower and put more focus on him as he moves to centre stage. The figures of his family loom as shadows in the background.  

I took the oath that day. I swore I would never abandon those who followed me. I took an oath that would save as many souls as I could. I took an oath that in the name of St Wigan I would burn any who resisted. They abandoned me. They left me with all but a prayer. But that was all I needed.  

He clutches his Wigan cross. He grins sardonically as he looks up.  

Scene 3 

St Wigan Church altar. Night time.  

DOMINICK is stood on a church altar. He directly addresses the audience as though they are his congregation. He is wearing full Wigan robes. He has a purple stole around his neck with gold detailing. He is invigorated. He is more mature in appearance now. A melanin streak has formed through his dark hair.  

DOMINICK 

Brothers and sisters. We have gathered here today because we don’t want to be abandoned. I’m here to tell ye that you haven’t been abandoned and you never will be for as long as I’m head of our church. For too long we have wandered, lost and forgotten. Across the sea, in the city lies a place of fornicators, thieves, whores and every possible vice you can imagine.  

It was written that when St Wigan first came to our shores, he told the natives that they could not be saved but if they were to follow him they stood a chance of being forgiven. With the city descending into chaos, my brothers and sisters, they bring their filth onto our beaches. It is time to remind the city dwellers that their actions will consume them in Hell fire. I will tell them now as Wigan told us then, you cannot … CANNOT be saved.  

Scene 4 

City street. Night time. 

A single reporter stands centre stage. The noise of cries, chaos and burning sound in the background. The reporter, SANDRA, fixes her blazer and poses with her mic as though she’s about to perform a live broadcast. The Coldford Daily jingle sounds.  

SANDRA 

Coldford fire department were rushed to City Main in the last half hour as an out of control inferno tore through the lower floors of the Weir Hotel, leaving fifteen dead and another eight seriously injured. Although the cause for this hasn’t been confirmed the police department are suspecting extremist activity. As the fire department continue their efforts to evacuate the building more details will emerge.  

I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily news. 

Coming 2021

Cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds, finds a loved one in the hands of St Wigan’s zealous leader, Dominick Cole. Time is ticking before they are lost for good.

Available now:

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responsibility to others

Turner’s Syndrome occurs in 1 in about 2500 live female births across the globe.”

I count myself blessed in life. It is a pleasure to be able to do what I love most. With those blessings comes a responsibility. I believe it is my responsibility to play my part and support my TS sisters in achieving their full potential. When I was a little girl, heading into hospital for my second surgery I was terrified. My gran knitted me a rag doll to cheer me up and keep me company. So it was the charity Ragdolls UK was born from this same sense of comfort and support we are hoping to bring to as many TS girls and their families.

As a small charity Ragdolls UK has raised awareness and provided support groups across the UK but there is still much to be done. 2020 provided its challenges to say the least and 2021 is still going tough. However, it has made us more determined than ever to extend our reach, expand the support we can offer and do our part in assuring girls with TS receive the friendship and advice they need. With your help we can fight against the restrictions caused by COVID19 and be there for any and all who need us.

Fundraising sponsors On The Merch with customised goodies to suit all tastes!

Despite occurring in 1 in about 2500 girls and women across the world there are still so many who have never heard of the condition. The doctor’s waiting room can be a terrifying place when you have been diagnosed. There are so many questions to ask. There may be so many things you are told you can’t or won’t be able to do. Ragdolls UK aims to be a friendly environment away from that where we look at what you can do because one thing I’ve learned over the years is that my TS sisters are some of the most resilient people there are.

“Turner’s Syndrome is caused by the partial or complete loss (monosomy) of the second sex chromosome.”

So whilst I am blessed I have a responsibility. I can’t do much but I can certainly do my part and be there for the TS sisters and family members who need me.


For more information visit www.ragdollsuk.com

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Managing Just Fine


It takes a little bit of extra pizazz to work the KNOCK KNOCK club and to be the manager you got to really have your wits about you. Here’s what our manager, DENNIS brings to the table:

GREET THE CUSTOMERS

There are a lot of regular faces returning to the SHANTIES for the best night in town but as the manger you really need to keep a keen eye out for strangers. The club is invitation only (by orders of the BOSS LADY). Given the nature of the joint there can be a lot of creeps hanging around. Your job as manager is to weed out the miscreants and send them packing. Except if one of those strange faces happens to be a reporter for the COLDFORD DAILY, the biggest publication in the city. Then he goes right on in.

049


KEEP THE BOOZE FLOWING

The KNOCK KNOCK girls are skilled at flirting with the customers and making them feel special. A horny man will part with cash quicker than his trousers if he thinks he’s getting something out of it. He’s not. Your job as manager is to keep those drinks flowing so the customers are sent home with a smile on their face one way or another.

052


CHEER THE ENTERTAINMENT

No one loves the BOSS LADY more than the BOSS LADY herself so when she takes to the stage it is always on the HEADLINING spot. As manager you have to make sure the crowds are wild and having a great time. It helps to throw in a little whoop and cheer yourself just to get the ball rolling on slow nights.

054


PREPARE THE GIRLS

Choosing the girls sounds like a dream job for any hot blooded man but there’s more to our KNOCK KNOCK lovelies than meets the eye. These kittens have got to have claws. There is no use bringing in a new flirty waitress only to have her pack it in a week later. That’s bad for business and its bad for morale. Get those girls prepared, pretty and ready to lash out because in a place like the KNOCK KNOCK club those kittens got to have claws. The SHANTIES are no place for damsels in distress.

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WISH YOU HAD NEVER COME

Alright so this one is specific for Dennis. We’re pretty sure anyone would just love to manage the club but when you have had to leave your family life behind and submit all power you once had it can feel more like a life sentence. Should have kept your hands to yourself then Dennis, you dirty fiend.

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Do you have what it takes to manage a place like the KNOCK KNOCK club? Have we made it seem like an appealing place for a night out?

After it all you can just sit back, relax and consider a job well done.

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COMING 2021

A mysterious illness and a desperate phone call sends Cult Deprogrammer Reynolds’ sights on the Wigan faith of Hathfield Bay island. Time to face the past.

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Character Profile: Dominick Cole

Features in: PURPLE RIBBON

Name: His Eminence Dominick Cole

Age: mid thirties

Occupation: Head of the CHURCH OF ST WIGAN

“We are the children of Wigan and our hearts are pure and strong!”

Dominick is a life long resident of the Wigan commune on HATHFILED BAY island. He was known among his people to be a spirited, intense young man and the Wigans have always adored him. He is dedicated to his faith and as such he was granted the leadership of the church. There isn’t much that can sway him from his oath and he is willing to go to ridiculous lengths to spread the word of St Wigan, also known as the Patron Saint of Sinners.

Although he is known to be wild in his pursuit of purity in the world around him he does also have a whimsical side which people usually respond to well. The Church is known as a cult in some circles and cult leaders tend to have a natural effervescence.

Dealing with the city dwellers over on the mainland can be a bit of a culture shock for Dominick. Luckily he is supported by a knowledgeable clergy who help steer him. The sinners would all be battered over the head with an iron cross if His Eminence was left to his own devices.

His church is steeped in history but his mind is set on the future. That future sees him tasked with purifying the Shady City. No easy feat …

“You cannot be saved but repent and you’ll be in his embrace.”


COMING 2021

A mysterious illness and a desperate phone call sends Cult Deprogrammer Reynolds’ sights on the Wigan faith of Hathfield Bay island. Time to face the past.

Available now:

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The Patron Saint of Sinners

It was written many years ago that Noah Wigan crossed from the mainland of what would have been Coldford City to the Island of Hathfield Bay. There had been three attempts but each time the Wigan boats approached and considered landing, the wary islanders gathered on the beaches to see what was heading their way. Ill-educated in the way of God they were a simple people. They mostly frolicked in their nakedness. The women wore garlands of flowers and the men were restless and curious. So Wigan retreated. That night through to early morning he sat in counsel with God.  

“God give me strength,” he prayed. “So that I may teach these people of your ways and bring them into your fold.”  

Deprived of sleep, Wigan heard the Lord speak to him. 

“They will follow if you lead,” said the Almighty. “For your heart is pure and strong. They will see your love for them. You must be prepared to bring the word and as any good father would you must punish the children who will not obey.” 

“We are the children of Wigan and our hearts are pure and strong. We praise our beloved Saint and so we sing this song…”

So, the following morning Wigan took the boats again and travelled to Hathfield. As before, the islanders gathered on the beaches to observe their arrival, but rather than retreat this time Wigan felt himself filled with the grandeur of God. He climbed from his boat. His feet were cooled by the waters of the bay. He crossed onto the sands and he fell to the feet of the first man he encountered. He kissed his feet as the islanders watched on in bewilderment.  

“My friend,” said Wigan. “I come with good news for you and for all of your people. My name is Noah Wigan and I am a messenger of God. Your people cannot be saved but I will show you how you may repent.” 

Wigan stood and looked around himself. His own people who had followed him from the boats were already in good cheer.  

“God has come to Hathfield!” they announced excitedly. “And you should rejoice.”  

The islander man bid him to stand  

“I don’t know of your God,” he said. “But you are welcome friend. Please stand so that we may become acquainted.”  

Wigan stood. He embraced the islander in sight of them all.  

“I’ll teach you of the one true God,” said Wigan. “So that you may find eternal happiness for you, your family and your people.” 

Quite enamoured by the spirit of the new arrival the islanders offered their hospitality.  

“You must be thirsty from your journey across the waters,” said the man whose name was Riley. “You must be hungry from your desire to visit my people,” he added and it was the truth. 

“We know we can’t be saved but repent and you’ll be in his embrace.”

Riley lived on the west of the island with his wife Anna and his two young daughters, Rowan and Willow. He opened his home to Noah and his companions and so for weeks Wigan spread his good word over the island and began to educate them in his ways. Most of them were intrigued and flocked to him to hear what he had to say. A great many of them decided that Wigan’s word – the voice of God on the island – was a path they now wished to follow but it would not be an easy path, Noah Wigan warned. It meant that the fruitful relationship they had always enjoyed with sands and the sea was no longer in their control. It meant that a higher power was what they owed their crops to and not the hard work of their own hands or their own toil. If they were to believe what Wigan was telling them it was a higher power to which they owed thanks to for the fruitful wombs of their women and not the women themselves carrying, birthing and feeding from their breast. That was where the problems for Wigan lay.  

His presence was no longer a novelty. The numbers he had gathered to him were starting to dwindle and the islanders who resisted the outsiders were starting to stir. But Noah Wigan was persistent. He knew the natives of Hathfield Bay would require a little more convincing. He needed to be patient in demonstrating the glory of God. So he gave it more time. He prayed. He began to fall in love with the daughter, Rowan. He began to lose his focus and in desperation he wrote letters home.  

The island is a blissfully happy place.  

The people don’t seem to show any penance for their sins. They fornicate and dance. A man will lie with another man. A wife will lie with a man who is not her husband. It is anarchy and I fear my journey here may have been a little misguided.  

After three more months the islanders were beginning to return to their own ways and those who had opposed Wigan were now preparing to usher him from their shores. Wigan began to lose his faith as his relationship with Rowan deepened.  

“Why would you send me on a fool’s errand?” Noah asked of the Lord as he prepared to leave the following day.  

But the Lord spoke to him again as he took slumber under the sound of the waves. 

“You misunderstand your mission,” said the Lord. “You must punish unruly children for it is said that the hand of the father should be loving but firm. It is for their own good. They will soon respond.” 

At that Wigan was awakened. The waves were now crashing. The people of Hathfield Bay were his children and they had to be taught. 

And so it was that his preaching became more frequent, more filled with rapture and more demanding.  

“Submit yourselves to God,” he warned them. “Or you will be punished.”  

The islanders who opposed him took up arms. It was time to remove the new comer from the sands.  

“I don’t wish to cause any bloodshed,” Wigan spoke of his concern to Riley. “Perhaps we can meet with them and I can explain my view to them. I love the people of this island. I’d like the chance to embrace them. Tell them to come together and I will provide proof of my God.”  

Riley then invited the non-believers to the east of the island. They gathered in the shack on top of the eastern hill that was Riley’s home.  

“Come inside,” they were beckoned.  

“He needs to go,” one non-believer named Yuri spat.  

Riley looked around his family. As any good father would he wanted to keep them safe. His wife Anna was by his side in whatever decision he was to make. His daughter Willow was prepared to follow. But where was Rowan?  

“We are the children of Wigan and we know we can’t relent, until the flesh of every sinner burns or they learn to repent.”

The shack was bolted closed from the outside. St Michael the Punisher, Wigan’s right hand, stepped forward and dropped the first flaming torch. God’s fury fell on them as flames of punishment tore through the shack. The non-believers were burnt in a fiery torment for their refusal. Rowan clutched Noah’s hands and knelt before him as  they listened to the screams of the heathens rise above the waves in a glorious triumph for God.  

Those who chose to believe and follow Wigan survived for God said it would be so. Upon the bones, teeth and ashes of the non-believers was built the first church of St Wigan.  


John Reynolds is an experienced cult deprogrammer. He has spent a lifetime bringing people to their sense. When someone close to him runs off to join the Church of St Wigan he has to delve into th darkest side of the City if he hopes to bring them home.

Coming Spring 2021

So, what now?

“This too shall pass.”

It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it?

For most people this Christmas has been something quite different. For me being unable to see my little niece and nephew has been tough. 2020 will be forever remembered as a year of struggling but I don’t want to dwell on that. What I want to do is look to the future and think of the positive changes that a new year always brings.

Has there been a year like 2020 where we have been able to see just how strong and resiliant we are? Not to my recollection anyway, so with that in mind let’s approach 21 with the knowledge that we are still standing.

Like every new year, every new month and every new day we are given the chance to strive for something better. Isolation, lockdown, Covid19 and social distancing are all words we will be sick and tired of hearing right now so lets change the narrative. Let’s make the words, family time, pyjama days, self care and mental space.

Targets for 2021 might be a little different but they are still targets none the less. The question then to ask is, what now?

Read more books.

Exercise more.

Start a new hobby.

Try a bold new look.

Although the possibilities might seem limited they are only hindered by our own imaginations. Despite the challenges, 2021 could still be the best year yet. I do wish you all well and for those of you who are struggling, remember to take care of yourself. Reach out. This digital age we live in makes communication much easier than it ever was.

Stay safe, live well and have a great New Year folks! I’ll see you on the other side.


“How far must a man fall before the climb back up becomes too steep?”

Coming Spring 2021

Knock Knock: Episode 28: Knock Knock. Who’s there?



“You can’t do this!” Knock Knock barmaid Lisa Luren was complaining. 

The club had been appointed its bailiff. The club’s assets were now being officially seized so that its starting price at auction could be given. 

The bailiff – a woman not much older than Lisa, named Colette – looked down her spectacles at her. “I’m sure you’ll find I can. I have been granted permission by the High Court. Her Honourable Judge Doyle’s signature is on all of it and I have been instructed to close this club and note anything that would be of value.” She raised her phone and took a photograph of a fresh bottle of Macks that had been sat on the bar. 

“You’re putting us out of work. What are we supposed to do for work?” 

Colette sighed. She took another photo of the bar. A fellow bailiff took note. 

“Not my problem. Put on some clothes, get yourself educated and maybe you’ll find yourself a real job. People might start to take you more seriously.” 

“Can’t you at least wait until the owner gets here? She needs to be here,” Lisa protested. 

Colette smirked. “I don’t think the owner is going to be here anytime soon.” 

“I think she means me,” Agnes Wilde stated. She had arrived in a hurry when she received Lisa’s text. 

Colette nodded to her fellow bailiff. He handed a copy of the High Court authorisation to Agnes. Agnes was known as The Broker of Knock Knock. She was partner to The Baroness and beloved aunt of Tabitha. The Knock Knock club was all she had left to hang onto. 

Agnes folded the document in a single sharp fold. She had a naturally ladylike composure, which she refused to drop. “Before she was taken, Tabitha signed her shares over to me. Unless you are here to arrest me, you can’t take anything.” 

Colette was disinterested. She had seen it all and had heard all manner of excuses.

“Check the details of the document I’ve just given you. You will see that I’m not here to collect on Tabitha’s shares. They were already forfeit the minute the investigation into the Headliner Fund was raised. I’m here to collect on part of Tawny McInney. Until she returns, she is considered a fugitive of the law and her name is the first on the Headliner Fund.” 

“What about my own shares?” Agnes protested. “I’m the controlling share holder in this club.” 

Colette took a photograph of the stage. “I’m sure basic maths will tell you that one third share is not the controlling one. Tabitha’s shares are void and Tawny’s are now seized. This club is going to auction.” 

“This is my club,” Agnes snarled. Her irritation was now beginning to show. 

“Then you’re most welcome to bid for those shares back. I’m happy to keep you informed as our collection proceeds.”

Lisa snatched Colette’s shoulder but Agnes stopped her. 

Colette shrugged her off. “I’m just doing my job. Do not add assault to the charge sheet. The court will have its dues one way or another.”

A group of bailiffs brought out a box of costumes belonging to The Baroness. Agnes’ chest tightened when she saw Tawny’s feather head band peeking out from the top. She loved that band. She had had it for years and despite it having lived its best days she refused to part with it. 

“Gives me a classy look, doesn’t it?” Tawny had said. 

Tabitha laughed. “It looks like you stole it from a fucking parrot with mange,” the niece teased.

Tawny laughed heartily. She pulled Tabitha onto her lap and squeezed her tight, kissing her head. Tawny looked into her dressing room mirror and saw Agnes watching them both. Tawny wrinkled her nose and kissed at her enjoying how Agnes’ elegant smile turned to a girlish giggle when she did so. Tabitha took her aunt’s head band and put it on her own. She flicked her glossy brunette locks and posed exactly the way her aunt would on stage. 

“What do you think Aggie?” the young girl put to her. 

“It could at least use a wash.” 

Tawny refused. “Not a chance, honey. You wash off all the luck from it when you do that. I got that feather all by myself. Do you realise how hard it is to pluck straight from a gull’s arse?”

Tabitha laughed heartily. “You talk so much shit Aunt Tee,” she taunted. 

Few heard Tabitha laugh the way that she did when she and Tawn were backstage. That tatty old feather band had all the luck in the world for Tawny and now that luck was being carried out the door of the Knock Knock Club courtesy of agents of the High Court. 

“That’s not worth anything, surely?” Agnes stopped a bailiff carrying one of Tabitha’s signature red dresses. “Do you really need to be taking the clothes?”

Colette shrugged. “Why not? It’s not like she’ll wear them anymore.” Before she could reply the bailiff added, “Custom designed, product of Luen. It all makes a difference.” 

“What are we going to do Agnes?” asked Lisa. They had made plans to visit a friend of the barmaid who used to buy drugs from her boyfriend Kev. They had hoped he could shed some light on who shot her daughter, Sarah. 

“There’s nothing we can do,” The Broker was forced to admit. “I have to stay here but I’ll get you some help. We’re not done.” 

***

I had been in Lydia’s City Main apartment with Franklin when my phone began to ring with a disguised number. Franklin was preparing to leave to rendezvous with Agent Kim. He looked up from pulling on a jacket. 

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” 

It had been a while since any of my old story contacts fromr the Coldford Daily had been in touch.

“Hello?” I answered tentatively.

“Sam?” a woman’s voice, steady, calm, despite the sound of something of a commotion behind her. “Agnes Wilde. I got your number from a note you had left with Dennis.” 

“Yes, Agnes. How are you?” Agnes and I had met before. She had shed a lot of light on Tabitha’s motives. It had been interesting hearing the perspective of someone who loved the Boss Lady like a daughter.

“I’ve been better I’m sad to say. I was going to be helping one of my girls this afternoon but we’ve been met with a swarm.” 

A swarm was a common term in the Shady City for when the bailiffs arrived, due to the biblical plague nature of their descent.

“I’m sorry to hear that Agnes but I’m not sure what help I can be.” 

“I can’t get away at the moment and this girl really could use some support. One of the agents would be a better fit than I am. It’s the little girl, Sam. The little girl that was shot? I can’t contact the agency directly because I need to be discrete but could you put me in touch?” 

“I’ll do what I can,” I agreed. 

I owed it to that little girl to do what I could to find her killer.

I looked to Franklin first. Capable and approachable. He would put Lisa at ease. 

“Sorry,” he said. “Kim and I are heading to the Court House.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “I know someone who might fit better.” 

***

Whilst the bailiffs still swarmed their way through the club noting everything that could be of value down to the silver of the cutlery, Agnes opened the door to what little help there was available. 

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” Lisa growled when she caught sight of Agent Lydia Lowe. 

“We need all the help we can get,” Agnes warned. “Play nice.” 

“That slutty bitch took Tabs away!” Lisa protested. 

“I don’t have time for this. Tabs knew what she was getting herself into. It’s too late for her but if you want to find out what happened to Sarah you need to work with her.”

“Fine,” Lisa agreed, pouting.

A bailiff approached Agnes. 

“Miss Wilde, we need the key for the upstairs apartment.”

Agnes’ lips tightened. “I suppose my toothbrush is worth something, is it?” 

The bailiff didn’t answer. They just stood with their hand out waiting for their key. Agnes dipped into her jacket pocket and handed the key over. 

“Right now, I have to concern myself with who is going to buy into this club. When Tawn comes back she will be devastated that Tabitha is gone. If she realises this place is gone too…” Her voice trailed off.

“Miss Wilde?” another bailiff called. 

“I’m coming!” Agnes barked. 

When she left Lisa and Lydia alone the Lydia asked her to join her somewhere quiet where they could talk. Lydia spoke first. “I’m so sorry,” she said.

She was not apologising for the Boss Lady’s demise. As her own aunt admitted, Tabitha had sealed her own fate. Lydia was offering heartfelt condolences for the death of her daughter, Sarah. If she hadn’t afforded me the opportunity to escape the club with the little girl, she would never have run into the scope of the gunman. 

“Fuck you,” Lisa replied but she was starting to cry. 

“I can’t bring your little girl back but I want to help you. Work with me and we’ll bring in the one that did it.”

“I thought you were one of us, you fake bitch. You took in Tabitha. She treated you like family. We were all like family.” 

Lydia shook her head. She spoke softly. “I think you know that’s not true.” 

Lisa smiled a little. It was true that The Baroness, The Broker and The Boss Lady treated all the girls at the club like family but long before she discovered she was an undercover agent, Tabitha made no secret of a dislike for Lydia. Jealousy? Instincts? Either way, Tabitha was not a fan. It had been club manager Dennis who had managed to gain Lydia access to the club. 

“She’s good at what she does. She’ll draw in the crowds,” Dennis insisted – probably feeling like he could have a piece of Lydia himself.

“Fine,” Tabitha had agreed. “But keep her away from me. She looks like I might catch something.” 

Preparing the girls for the evening Tabitha would do her usual rounds. “Great Lisa,” she would say. “Keep those drinks flowing. We want them pissed before we bring out the tip jars.” To Bette, the matron in charge of the dancer girls she would grin, “Got enough make up on? It looks like you’ve applied it with a trowel!” Bette would laugh at the good-natured ribbing. When Tabitha would turn to Lydia she would sneer, utter an, “Ugh,” and move on. 

“I want to bring Sarah’s killer in. Will you let me help you?” Lydia put to the barmaid. 

“Fine,” Lisa agreed for Sarah’s sake. “I was going to speak to someone who used to buy from Kevin. He might know something.”

“Good,” Lydia gave a chirpy smile. “What’s the address?” 

“He lives in the Mid West now but he was Shanties born. He would never thank me for sending an agent to his door. I’ll go with you. I’ll talk to him first. Hopefully he will tell you all he knows.” 

“We’ll get him, Lisa,” Lydia assured. “One way or another we’ll get that shooter.” 

Lisa lowered her gaze. “I’m never going to have my daughter back. You lied to us. You lied to me. I thought we were friends.” 

Lydia spoke soothingly. “I know I’m the last person you want around right now but I’m good at what I do and I can help find the one who shot Sarah. Let me help you.”

Lisa sniffed. “You’re still a fake bitch and the only thunder you bring is out your arse.”

Lydia shook her head. “Tabitha told you to say that, didn’t she?” 

Lisa replied, “That’s the Boss Lady for you. But yeah, she did.” 

***

Lisa’s contact had done good from what Lydia could tell. It seemed he had managed to escape the poverty trap of the Shanties and was now resident in a clean, respectable apartment in the Mid West. 

“He’ll be a little shy of suits so let me do the talking,” Lisa instructed. 

Lydia wasn’t going to complain. She wasn’t bearing any badge or uniform. It wasn’t her intention to cause any trouble for the contact. She just wanted to bring Sarah’s killer to justice. 

A drug pusher was what Lydia expected from his association with Kev. He had clearly made a profitable business out of it. With bigger fish to fry she let Lisa take the lead. Lisa pushed the buzzer. Someone answered but they didn’t speak. 

“Hey, it’s me,” she said. 

The ring of the secure entry door sounded as it opened to them. Lisa stepped in first. Lydia was close at her back. She gave one last check for anything or anyone suspicious before she closed the door behind her. 

They were greeted by a pleasantly lit, carpeted hallway. It wasn’t quite the Faulds Park building in City Main nor the Beckingridge Manor in Filton but it was clean. It was a typical Mid West apartment with its soft pastel coloured walls and welcoming plants in the corners. They climbed the stairs to the second floor. Lisa crossed an open landing and knocked on the door of apartment 2F. Their informant had been expecting them so the door was answered quickly. 

“Agent Lowe,” Lisa introduced. “This is David Finn.” 

Artist David Finn was sleepy eyed and his hair was tousled. He had clearly dressed in a hurry, his trousers and shirt not matching. He looked to Lydia, his mind still resonating on the word ‘agent’. 

“Can we come in?” asked Lydia.

“Fuck,” was David’s reply. 

***

David let the women into his apartment. The hallway may have been clean and well kept but the apartment itself was not. Clothes, paints, sketches were scattered everywhere. The artist started to straighten up as best he could. 

While Lisa spoke to him Lydia took notice of a board that had been pinned to a wall. On it were photos of the Ferrald family who had raised David. There were also some photos taken from inside Harbour House, showing David with Tawny. She was clutching his face and kissing his cheek. David was smiling widely. His eyes were closed and his nose wrinkled. There was another with Tawny centre. She had one arm around David and the other round a well-groomed man wearing spectacles. Lydia assumed him to be the music teacher, Vincent Baines. Also pinned to the board was a photo of Tabitha as a girl. She was grinning, her two aunts standing proudly behind her. The photo was Tawny’s favourite and David had kept it for her. He knew she would be wanting it back when she was found. 

“Jesus fucking Christ, lady!” David gasped to the Knock Knock barmaid. “You brought the law?” 

“She just wants to ask about Kev,” Lisa explained. “She’s helping me.” 

David nervously watched as Lydia inspected his apartment. 

“Where did you meet her?” he asked. “She’s not CPD.” 

“She was under cover at the club as one of the dancer girls.” 

David’s nerves dissolved to a grin. “Really?” 

“David? David?” Lisa urged but he was now lost in the neatness of Lydia’s form. “David focus!” she snapped her fingers in front of his glassy eyes. 

“Sorry Lees,” he chuckled. “I was miles away there.” 

Lisa pouted with good nature. “I’m sure you were. Can you help?” 

“Of course,” David agreed. 

When Tawny caught wind of Lisa’s daughter, Sarah, being gunned down and it likely being an Owen bullet that had taken her life she had vowed to do whatever it took to expose the killer. David was sure her vow and her disappearance were not unrelated. When he left Harbour House he met up with the Knock Knock barmaid to offer his support. It turned out that when Tawny spoke of Lisa, she had meant Lisa Luren. She and David had gone to school at The Grange together. Lisa was a couple of years above David but she was bubbly, popular and very memorable for a teenaged boy. They hadn’t seen one another in years but they knew each other well. David hadn’t realised the Kev he occasionally bought needles from was Lisa’s boyfriend.

Having given the time to put David at ease Lydia turned away from the board and prepared for her questioning. David kicked a pair of pink lace knickers under the sofa. There was no good explanation for them. 

“So David,” Lydia asked. “When did you first find out about Sarah? What did Tawny tell you?”

“She heard from a friend that a little girl had been shot. That was nothing unusual in the Shanties but she insisted that it was an Owen that did it. The Kappa So creep Buddy Owen. He had been after Kev. He owed money to them.” 

“Did you know Kev well?” 

“Uh…” David turned to Lisa. 

Lisa urged him. “It’s fine,” she said. 

“I used to buy from him when the Kirkton apartments dried up. I haven’t touched anything since I came out of Harbour House though, honest! I’m clean and sober. I haven’t done anything illegal.” 

“It’s okay. I’m just here to try and find out what happened to Sarah,” Lydia assured. “Did Kev ever mention anything to you about owing money to Kappa So?”

“No,” David replied. “But he owed lots of people. He stiffed me a few times too.” 

“What made Tawny say it was Buddy Owen in particular?” 

“She heard he was bragging about it.” David laid a gentle, comforting hand on Lisa’s shoulder. “He told one of his Kappa So brothers that he had deliberately shot Sarah first so Kev could see her skull explode. Then he shot Kev too.” Lisa sobbed so David pulled her close to him. “I’m sorry Lees, but we have to find him.” 

“I know,” Lisa sobbed. “I know.” 

Lydia remained collected. “Do you know the name of the brother that he had been bragging to?” 

“Thad or Brad or some douche bag name like that.” 

Lydia took note. “Thanks David,” she said. 

“So you’re going to arrest him, right?” the artist asked. 

“It’s not quite as simple as that I’m afraid,” Lydia admitted. “I need evidence or there’s nothing that can be done.” 

Memories of Tawny and being confronted with the image of Lisa grieving for his daughter had left David a little emotional. 

“And your looking for Tawn too?” he asked. “She’s loud, brassy, always flashing her tits at people,” he sniffed. “She can’t be missed, right?” he tried a cheerful spin. 

Lydia smiled. “If learning about Sarah is the reason she’s gone missing then hopefully it will lead me to her too,” Lydia assured. “Lay low and say nothing to anyone.” 

“Even CPD?” he enquired. 

“Especially CPD.” 

“The rich dragon lady wants to have a word with me. Can I talk to her?” 

“If you mean Elizabeth Beckingridge then let me speak to her first. I want to find out all she learned from your friend, Vincent.” 

David walked them to the door. 

“Take care of yourself, Lees,” he said to the Knock Knock barmaid with a hug. “I’m here if you need anything.” 

Lisa kissed the artist’s cheek. “I’m outta work just now so if you want a model give me a call,” she jested. 

David laughed, “I will.” 

Lydia shook his hand. “Thanks David. I’ll be in touch.” 

“Sure, agent.” He leaned against the door frame. “Call me anytime. The more models the better…” 

Lydia smiled. Her natural effervescence started to shine through her professionalism. She winked. “Stay safe.” 

As they rounded the stairs Lisa looked back to see David still watching on with a raised eyebrow. His eyes were wide. Lisa shook her head with an exasperated giggle when he exhaled. Lydia had made an impression on him.

***

Kim and Lydia met outside the steps of the Court House. The last time they had done so it had been to discuss the raid on the Knock Knock Club. The dust from the debris had settled and through the dust an underlying problem in the Shady City was discovered. It resonated from all four corners of Coldford but that morning it had been the Chapter House the agents were targeting. The icy winter chill was closing in fast. Lydia blew warm breath into her hands. Smiling, she watched Kim approach. She hugged her agency partner. Kim was the self-appointed leader of their group. She was also the sternest but with Lydia close a warmth danced into her eyes. 

“Let’s not waste time,” Kim suggested. “We need that signature.”

They headed on inside. An old building, the Court House had seen rulings from the first hanging two centuries before (ironically it had been Judge Jessica ‘Jess’ Owen who delivered the conviction. A man sentenced to death for thieving cattle. The cattle in question belonged to her family) right up to to death sentence of the Boss Lady. It had seen so much and still had so much to do. 

The agents were escorted by a clerk on duty. Several members of the black bands were present. They were quiet and structured but their presence was worthy of attention. 

Inside the office of The Judge, they found Doyle herself collecting documents. 

“I must make this brief, agents,” she said. “I’m due in court.” 

“It’s about an investigation I’d like to open,” said Lydia without haste. “With the help of my team.” 

Karyn continued to prepare for court. “What kind of charges are you looking to bring?” 

“Murder – first degree. Possibly several counts of rape, drug possession, whatever I can find.” 

Judge Doyle stopped. “This perp sounds like quite a character. Coldford is no longer your jurisdiction. Why are you doing this? Why not tell CPD everything you know and let them handle it?”

Lydia stood firm. “Ma’am, if I leave it in the hands of CPD it will be brushed away. There is a conflict of interest at the department now.”

“Who is this target?” asked Doyle. 

“Bernard Owen,” Lydia stated. “We have reason to believe he is responsible for the murder of Kevin Marsh and his daughter Sarah. We also have reason to believe he is responsible for the abduction of Tawny McInney.” 

“And these reasons are hunches?” the Judge put to them. 

It was Kim who had to admit. “It is just hearsay at this point, ma’am, but if we put it to CPD we will never discover the truth, not when the suspects cousin is now Chief of Police.”

Doyle gave it some thought. “I’ll grant you two weeks to find out what you can,” she said. 

Kim offered the document that required a High Court signature to open the investigation. Karyn used the same silver pen that had been used to sign Tabitha’s life away. Buddy Owen had now come under investigation. 

“If your enquiries bring up nothing, be prepared. The Captain will not stop at having your badges revoked.” 

“It’s a risk we’re willing to take,” Kim assured. 

“Good,” replied Judge Doyle. “Bring me whatever you find. We will see if a warrant is necessary.” 

***

With more Owens arriving for the funeral of Pops even a place as large as Owen Estate was starting to feel crowded. Billy was occupied by his father, Jackson ‘Jackie’ Owen and The Cappy, so Buddy and his brothers managed to slip their nanny and head off back to Filton. They had said they were to meet with a Fullerton representative to discuss bringing the Chapter House back in order and they were.

“I’ll handle the Fullerton contract,” Buddy had offered. 

Billy laughed heartily and shook his shoulder. “Shit for brains here still thinks he’s Chapter leader. You lost it boy.” 

“I can do this,” Buddy pleaded to his father. “I can make it right.” 

The Cappy scowled with a narrow gaze. “Close the Fullerton deal and then we’ll talk.” 

Billy cheered. He wrapped his arm around his cousin’s neck. “Who’s the leader, little bro?” he asked. 

Buddy could feel Cooper and Chad’s eyes burning on him. 

“You are,” he admitted. 

“Damn right I am. Who has the mighty big balls?” he asked. 

“You do.” 

Billy let him go. “Then let’s head out.” 

Luckily The Cappy interceded. “Let Buddy try this one. I would like to see him produce positive results for once in his life. Billy, you and I should talk on CPD.” 

“Sure thing Captain,” replied Billy. 

So Buddy and his Kappa So brothers returned to Filton but before any meeting with Fullerton could take place they had a stop off to make. 

Chad checked his phone. “Susie is out of the hospital.” 

Buddy gave a sigh of relief. “Thank the fucking Lord Almighty,” he said. “I should send her something.” 

Chad started to tap through his phone. “I have a flower guy I use,” he said. “What kind of flowers does she like? Orchids, lilies, tulips?” 

Buddy stopped and scowled at him. “Flowers? She’s a six-year-old little kid, she likes pony rides and fucking chocolate milk.” He looked to Cooper and scoffed. “Flowers? Can you believe this guy?” 

Cooper shrugged. Chad continued scrolling. 

“You liked the purple tulips, remember?” Chad put to Buddy.

Buddy groaned. “They brightened up the place. Don’t be saying that shit.”

They had arrived at Cooper Garage. Cooper opened up. The annual luxury car auction in Luen was taking place. The Deluxe Drive event was a big deal among the traders and the Coopers never missed it. The garage had been on lock down since before the Loyalist/Fleet attacks began. As they stepped onto the main show room floor motion sensor lights sparked on. 

Buddy stopped to admire a shining silver Bentley. 

“We’re gotta get back into the Chapter House before Fullerton gets there and find the golden cock. Then I’m going to the farm, find the one who coked up my little mascot and I’m gonna fire ten rounds right up their fucking ass.”

“Yeah!” his brothers cheered. 

“Then I’m gonna have my Chapter House back and I’m gonna make that sicko Penn eat my fucking dick.” 

“Yeah!” the brothers continued in their encouragement. 

“Then when I’m the new Cappy in town I’m gonna bang that farm girl because I’m Kappa fucking So!”

“Yeah!”

The cheer of the brothers rang through the garage. They climbed the steps to Cooper’s father’s office. 

“We are Kappa So! Brothers for life,” Buddy was still ranting. They started in on the Kappa So chant as Cooper opened the door to Marshal Cooper’s office. More motioned sensor lights came on. Buddy pushed him out of the way and stood in the doorway first. He sniffed. He could almost smell victory. 

“With everything that’s been going on I almost forgot we had this bitch!” 

In the corner, bound, beaten to within an inch of her life and weakening fast was Tawny, the one they called the Baroness.

George knew his aunt was looking for her but he always loved the thrill of a game of hide and seek. He especially enjoyed the admiration of his brothers when his Beck Firm informant was able to tell them exactly where Elizabeth was going to be looking next. 

Tawny’s blurry vision caught sight of Buddy and his brothers unlocking Marshal Cooper’s cupboard and helping themselves to a generous helping of powder her ordeal was only just beginning. 

Buddy took the first line. 

“I feel good!” he screamed. “I feel fucking good!” “So what are we going to do with her? “ Chad asked Buddy of Tawny.

“Throw a sheet over her, brah. She’s weirding me out.”

***

Agnes and I met in Bobby’s lunch box. Whilst the Knock Knock was seized, Agnes had been staying in her Mid East apartment. We had joined for a coffee, the chance to relinquish our breaths and to discuss the power grabbing that had torn through the Shady City since the delivery of the sentence on The Boss Lady. 

Agnes had gotten a text. 

CAN YOU COME DOWN TO KK. HURRY.

I couldn’t let her return alone. When we got to the Shanties the streets were filled. I had never seen the place so busy. Even on the nights the Knock Knock was in full swing there still weren’t as many people pressing towards the club. 

Lisa got talking to someone she knew in the crowd. She started to push through. 

“They killed her!” screamed one. “They’ve done it. They’ve killed her.” 

Mounted Black Band patrol pushed through. Agnes and I got crushed between them. Agnes fell into me but I managed to steady her on her feet. I had seen riot patrols before. I had seen them many times in fact but the crowd control that the Black Bands dealt was not the same. Their horses were larger. Thoroughbreds intended for war. A woman’s scream called out as she was crushed between two horses. A Shanties knife fighter pulled a blade and tried to plunge one of them. The horse reared. It’s horsemen came tumbling down with his baton at the ready. The knife dropped from the aggressor’s hands as the baton smashed against his skull.

“She’s dead! They’ve done it. They’ve killed Tabitha.” 

The Black Bands swept the crowd back like the ocean over a sandcastle. Agnes roared a cry of despair that still tremors in my ears on dark nights when I’m alone.

From a post outside the club hung that red dress, that red dress that meant so much to so many people in the area. The wearer of the dress was gone. A notice on the door of the club read that the execution of Tabitha had been brought forward. No more appeals. No more pleas. All Lydia and Kim could do was lead the people away from the path of the black bands. 

Paddy Mack comforted Brendan when they discovered the news. The Mack Distillery owner had known Tabitha since she was little girl. Kieran was pacing. He didn’t dry his tears. He let them flow freely. The bells rang in the distillery from behind the gates.

Agnes wept. It took both Lisa and I to try and usher her away. Don’t look, I hoped she would hear me think. For God’s sake don’t look.

Frequent Fliers: Coldford City Airport

Features in: KNOCK KNOCK ; PURPLE RIBBON

When your looking to escape and the Shady City is where you choose to go then flying in from abroad will bring you to Coldford City international airport. With arrivals from the Great States, Levinkrantz, Subala and Luen it is one of Coldford City’s busiest places. Located in the west of the CARDYNE if you can get there, you can get anywhere!

A recent arrival from the Great States.

Coldford City Airport also boasts being home of Dynasty, the personal jet of Captain Charles ’Chick’ Owen. The Cappy is no stranger to smooth landings so it’s always his first point of contact when he arrives in Coldford to deal with business, pleasure or his unruly family.

The Cappy greets his public.

So book your tickets. Come fly with us or sit in the foyer, enjoying some of the great cafes on offer and do some people watching. We’ve got some strange people passing through the gates! As if the Shady City wasn’t shady enough!

Enjoy this?

Complete Season 2 of the Knock Knock series is free to read here on Vivika Widow. com or click below download for Kindle

Care to discover the true whereabouts of the Knock Knock Baroness? Tawny was last seen as a resident of the Shady City’s premier rehab clinic. Check out Vivika Widoow’s hit thriller Harbour House. Free on Kindle Unlimited.

Knock Knock: Issue 27: Protect and Serve

“Central control.”

“Evenin’ central control. This is flight 118 Dynasty. We’re beginning our descent.”

“Copy that Dynasty. We see you. Nice and smooth as always.”

“Bring out the chilled beer, central. It’s been a long flight.”

Air traffic controller Rick Monroe smiled. He watched the blips and bleeps on his radar screen.

“It’s all clear for landing Captain. It’s a cold night here in Coldford but a clear one. The west runway is clear for a landing.”

“Copy that central.”

Rick pushed his chair back from the table. He lifted the phone from the wall.

“Get the landing party out on the west runway. We have incoming. Orders received. Time to greet flight 118 Dynasty. Notify hospitality, they’re going to want to be there.”

A buzz was sent through the airport. A privately commissioned jet was preparing to land and with an important guest on board.

The traffic directors were on the front line. The west runway was one of their longest. It was usually reserved for large commercial flights to the Great States or further afield. When controller Neil was told it was a private jet, he naturally assumed the kind of smaller air craft the privileged class, who found themselves in need of hopping from country to country, liked to use. His excitement lifted when he spotted a Boeing cast a shadow down upon them as it followed it’s directed pathway. The wheels dropped from its enormous body and it touched the ground with the smoothness of a bird of prey snatching its meal from the forest floor.

The hospitality staff were put on high alert. The airport lounge was buzzing with anticipation of the Great States arrival. A kettle of squawking reporters hopped around waving recording devices, ready to peck at the juicy meat of a story being thrown to them.

Freshly pressed uniforms, straightened backs, standing to attention. District manager of the Coldford City Airport, Rebecca, looked on in awe as the gangway slowly approached the craft. I arrived just as they were lining up to welcome the guest of honour.

“Best foot forward girls,” instructed Rebecca.

From the pilot’s cockpit and onto the gangway, wheeling a flight case behind him and in full uniform, stepped Captain Charles Owen. He looked rejuvenated after flying the sizeable aircraft from the Great States. Whilst he wore a black tie to show his family still mourned the loss of Bobby Owen, he beamed and waved to the waiting press core. Flanked by his co-pilot and two finely dressed stewardesses, The Cappy took centre stage.

“Welcome back to Coldford, Captain,” Rebecca stepped forward. As district manner she had the honour of greeting the Owen Inc. CEO. “I’m afraid the press has caught wind of your arrival so you won’t be able to escape discretely.”

Chick removed his hat. “I have no mind to,” he assured her, clutching his hat to his chest. “In fact, I believe I will have a few words.”

“Of course,” Rebecca agreed. She stepped aside to allow The Cappy and his staff to present themselves.

Without allowing himself to be overwhelmed by the flood of questions he had to wade though, Chick spoke to the reporters.

“It makes my heart mighty glad to see all these familiar faces. Peter?” he pointed to one of the reporters. “Nice to have you back. I hope you are well recovered.”

Peter giggled shyly but he still hungrily clutched his recording device. “I’m happy to answer some questions but given recent circumstances I’m afraid I’ll have to keep it brief.”

“Captain! Captain!” cried a feisty female reporter in a skirt suit, she was pushing her assistant who was holding her recorder in front of her.

“Yes, Margaret?” The Cappy chose her first. Sometimes it was best to start by feeding the hungriest of the animals. It stopped them getting too eager.

“Firstly, condolences on the loss of Bobby from all of us at the Coldford Express. He was a lovely man and a sad loss.”

“Thank you,” Charles returned. “Do go on.”

“Is it purely the loss of Pops that has brought you back to Coldford?” the reporter asked. The press had been left feeling sketchy on the details.

The combined loyalist/fleet attacks had been kept from public news as much as possible. Covered with stories of random violence that was nothing new to Coldford.

Destruction, asbestos, and rejuvenation of the area were all delivered to the news feeds (Owen Inc. owned) and these falsities were spat back out in the face of the public. Maybe they would learn the truth eventually but in that moment the truth did not suit The Cappy’s agenda. Given that the City Main King had to remain low key as best he could, as well as Paddy Mack, the Owens had the chance to control the information leaked to the public. They stopped their allies from having cause for alarm and their enemies having reason to be emboldened.

“It is my sad duty to bid farewell to a great man, a much-loved man and my father. He will be sorely missed but I do have business in this great city of ours. My family’s heart is at home here so I will always have cause to return.”

“Can you give us some details on your father’s death?” asked another reporter.

“I’m afraid at this time, Taylor, I cannot. I will brief you when the time is right, but for now I ask that you respect my family’s privacy and allow us to deal with our grief.”

Margaret pushed in again. “Will you still be continuing to pursue your investment into Harvester Farm?”

Chick nodded. “Of course, and whole heartedly. Pops would be the first one to say, ‘Boy, family is of the utmost importance and it is in business we pave the way for our family.’ I would be delighted to have Miss Harvester hear the ideas I have for the future of her brand.”

The stewardess to the left, a brunette with a sharply cut bob, gently tapped on his shoulder. She whispered into his ear.

The Cappy turned back to the reporters again with a smile.

“I’ve just been informed that my time is up. I thank y’all for coming out. I will provide a statement in a timely manner. But for now, there is much to be done.”

The reporters clashed as they hopped after The Cappy for one last morsel of meat. With some laughing with his co-pilot, he left them behind and his Boeing craft named Dynasty to be serviced and refuelled. It was to be housed in Coldford for the foreseeable future.

***

Owen estate would seem like a great monster hidden deep in the northern farmlands should one venture that far. Not a tall building but spread wide. It emerged from the wilderness on approach like a hungry predator, its windows like eyes locked upon its prey. A single light was on. The occupier was home.

Back in his natural habitat, Buddy Owen stood in his father’s den. His whole life he had been visiting the estate and he was only allowed in the den by his father’s invitation.

Buddy, Chad and Cooper watched on as The Cappy silently cleaned his gun. A favoured Ruger 10/22 with a hardwood frame. He called it Betsy. Buddy much preferred an AR15 for hunting but The Cappy had a fondness for an antique look. The Ruger was after all one of the most successful rifle designs in history.

The bros watched as Chick pushed the cleaning rod into the barrel. He was lost in thought as though he had forgotten he had even summoned them and asked them to stand to attention. When he finally spoke, Buddy’s heart leapt. He had been so drawn in by the silence. Behind The Cappy hung a musket rifle used by Corporal Arthur ‘Arty’ Owen. Above that were maps drawn by Archibald ‘Archie’ Owen as he and his wife rounded a group of islands called San Mojo. There was one blank space specially reserved. Its place was to be given to a compass belonging to Henry ‘Hen’ Owen on his pioneering mission that put Coldford on the map. It had been acquired by the Penn Auction House. The Penns would only return it at cost. Chick was adamant that it belonged in his family and was insulted that he would be asked to pay for such an item that rightfully belonged to him. The auction house insisted that such a historical item should be placed for auction to allow anyone with an interest the opportunity to own it. Lawyers had kept the matter at a stale mate for years. With the Auction House seized, there may still come a chance for The Cappy to complete his collection.

“Chapter House, ruined.” He cleaned. “Our brotherhood, humiliated.” The dampness was drawn out of the barrel. “My father, dead.”

“They caught us off guard,” Buddy explained. “It won’t happen again, sir.”

“It most certainly won’t,” was The Cappy’s reply. “I’ve already taken steps to bring the matter in hand. What I would like to know is which one of you geniuses thought it would be a great idea to give your muck powder to a six-year-old child. Weren’t my express orders for you to be on your best behaviour whilst you were on that farm?”

“Yes, sir,” all three brothers replied in synchrony.

“If that is your best behaviour then y’all are bigger dumbasses than I ever gave you credit for. Have you set a challenge with yourselves to disappoint me?”

“No, sir,” again all three replied together.

“Then which one of you did it?”

“None of us, sir,” Chad protested. “We ain’t had no powder since we left the Chapter House.”

Chick looked up from his gun cleaning. His eyes met those of his son.

“We ain’t,” Buddy agreed. “Been damn hard but we ain’t. After what happened to Pops, I wanted to stay sober. I want those mother fuckers to pay so I wanted a clear head. Someone is trying to make me look bad.”

“Every time you open that mouth of yours, son, it makes you look bad.”

“I didn’t do it. Someone is against me.”

“Just like those teachers were against you? Just like the local authorities were against you?” Chick’s attention returned to Betsy. He handled her with a gentle, loving hand.

“This time it’s true. I will find out who and I will deal with it,” Buddy resolved.

“See that you do. For now, I am paying for the child’s care privately. I’m told by her nurses that she will be just fine. Whatever the father wishes to do to you I’m not making any of my concern. So, if you aren’t responsible, I suggest you find out who was and fast before the father’s attention is no longer occupied by a sick child. That powder habit of yours may have been charming to some when you were a boy but you are a man now, Bernard. It’s time for you to start behaving like one. If you are unable to kick that habit, I am more than happy to find someone who can help you.”

“What do you mean?” The moment Buddy asked this he regretted it.

“Harbour House. I hear it can do some good. Their twelve step programme is proven to be 90% effective.”

“You wouldn’t put me in rehab,” Buddy gasped, but it was more a plea than challenge.

“I would if I thought it would do you any good. Prove me wrong. Start acting like a man.”

“I will,” Buddy agreed. He was already measuring in his head the monumental mess he was having to clean up. What The Cappy knew was but the tip of the iceberg.

“You are now stripped of any authority you had. If you wish to have the Chapter back you will have to earn it. I have ordered some help for you. You are thirty-four years old and I’m calling in a baby sitter. You should be ashamed of yourself.” The Cappy distracted himself with shining Betsy’s glossy body.

“Who?” asked Buddy.

“When I was last in Coldford I told you if you were to disregard my requests, I would send someone to fetch you proper.”

Cooper and Chad looked to Buddy. They could see his eyes widen.

“Who?” he asked again with a little more desperation. Judging by Buddy’s reaction, his Kappa So brothers guessed he already knew.

“The expected time of arrival for the flight is four pm. You will be at the airport to greet our guest,” said Chick. He laid Betsy down gently, admiring her glow, her shapely form, her willingness to be held. He took in the three Kappa So brothers. “Now get out. The sight of ya’ll is ruining my appetite.”

The three turned towards the door but Chick always had one last thing to say.

“Oh, and Bernard, speaking of Harbour House, while you are finding this mysterious stranger who gave the little girl cocaine maybe you can also find the Baroness bitch. The search for her is heating up and I have not forgotten the artist boy pointing the finger in my face. If you are in any way responsible for her missing status, you and I are going to go on a hunt.”

The den door closed over. Buddy turned to his brothers with a sob.

“What does that even mean?!”

***

“Good afternoon, Charles. I trust you’re well and your flight was a good one?” greeted Judge Karyn Doyle as the staff of Owen Estate showed her to the den. Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Owen was already there. Chick’s younger brother had surprised the Coldford community when he was the one to step up and defend Tabitha during her trial. I myself had been surprised to hear it, when Tabitha’s murder spree had stemmed from the accusations that the Reverend Jerry Owen had attempted to rape her as a child along with countless other young girls. Judge Doyle had no evidence other than the word of the girls the Baroness was encouraging to step forward. Taking matters into her own hands, Tabitha had essentially ended her own life.

What I did observe through the trial was that Ronnie wasn’t there to proclaim her innocence. It was far too late for that. He wasn’t there to seek vengeance for his brother either. He knew what Jerry was. He merely asked the jury to take into account the events that had brought Tabitha to do what she did. They were the actions of a mad woman for the most part but they shed a light on a much bigger problem in the Shady City. Sexual assault was at epidemic levels and as difficult as it was to hear, a great many of these girls were still children. For her part Judge Doyle listened to both sides of the story but when the voice of the girl who called her out in her own court, murdered at least fifty-nine people, taunted the missing mayor and had a history of violence was up against a Reverend from a highly respected family, who had given a lot of charity to the city and had no physical evidence against him, that was how the scales of justice measured up. The Judge had heard the cries of those girls though. No matter how loudly they sang Tabitha’s praises she was not going to be forgiven her crimes. The sentence was death. I just hoped that in Tabitha’s death justice would be found for all those other girls she sought to protect.

“I am much obliged for you coming at such short notice. With the troubles we’ve been having, I fear I’m locked to the homestead for the time being.”

Karyn Doyle nodded. “It’s not a problem. The sooner we get things back on track, the better for all of us and for the city. The death of Joel Hickes and the escape of Reginald Penn Junior not to mention Patrick Mack being at large, has taught me that CPD needs to come under new management, immediately.”

Charles nodded. Ronnie also agreed.

“I recommended that this only be a temporary station,” put in the younger brother. “I stand by that. The Black Bands have been incredibly successful in bringing in known instigators but CPD must have a longer-term goal.”

Charles smiled. “Whilst the murderer of our father is at large I will stop at nothing. Are you agreed on that Ron? I would hate for us to move forward if we weren’t of the same mind.”

“I agree. Reginald Penn must face justice for his crimes. The city has already been torn apart enough,” said Ronnie.

“Then it’s time to do what needs to be done, starting with a stronger hold on CPD.”

Charles ‘Chick’ Owen, better known as The Cappy, slid a paper across the desk to her Honourable Judge Karyn Doyle. She supplied her signature. Ronnie witnessed. In a combined agreement between Owen Inc. and the High Court of Coldford City the police department were to be appointed a new commissioner.

***

“I think the first thing we should do, darling, is check into the hotel. We don’t want to be carrying our luggage around longer than is necessary, now do we?” Mr Johnson said to his wife as they waited in the airport lounge for notification from their transport to City Main. Mrs Johnson held a glass of Macks whiskey, on the rocks. It was early for hard spirits but it had been a bumpy flight and they were supposed to be enjoying themselves after all.

Mrs Johnson took a sip. “The exhibit closes at six. I would have really liked to have seen it. They are moving it on to Luen in the morning. This would be our only chance.”

Mr Johnson took out his notes. “It says here that the museum is just a five-minute walk from the Weir. It’s just gone four now. We’ll have plenty of time to check in, freshen up and pop along and still catch the exhibit.”

As she and her husband looked closer at the City Main tourist map he had brought up on his phone, she hadn’t realised her handbag had been kicked out from underneath their table. A man in filthy clothes who had been hanging around the airport for most of the afternoon, but not caused enough fuss for security to do anything about, closed in. He casually strolled towards the exit as though he had been intending to leave. As he passed Mr and Mrs Johnson he snatched up the handbag.

“My bag!” Mrs Johnson screeched.

Mr Johnson was on his feet but the thief was already at the exit door. As the door opened he ran into a broad man with a naturally muscular physique. His head was shaved. His eyes were heavy having just arrived on a private long-haul flight. He was brought to alert by the woman’s cry though. He snatched the man. He pulled his finger back with an aburpt snap. The man squealed with pain. The man picked up the handbag. He fixed the Kappa So uniform he was wearing.

“You damn near ripped my shirt you weaselling son ‘a’ bitch!”

The airport security swooped in and apprehended the thief. Mrs Johnson rushed up to the man to retrieve her bag.

“Thank you!” she stated sincerely. “How can I repay you?”

The man grinned. “It’s no worry ma’am. No yella bellied thief gonna get by me.”

“At least let me buy you a drink.” She turned to her husband. “Roger?” she cried. “Buy the man a drink.”

Mr Johnson had been so relieved for the return of his wife’s bag he didn’t hesitate. She had been carrying all of their reservations and travel documents.

The man followed her to the table she and her husband had chosen. He stopped her and spun her round so they could meet eye to eye.

“You’re a pretty thing,” his grin widened. “I’m mighty glad to have met your acquaintance.”

Mrs Johnson tried to smile too but he had pushed himself so close to her it made her uncomfortable.

He reached up and clutched her face with a rough hand. “You are mighty pretty,” he said again. “For a negress.”

Mr Johnson returned. He slammed the glass down on the table.

“How dare you speak to my wife that way.”

The man frowned. The wrinkles on his forehead deepened. “Can’t a man deliver a compliment these days?” He placed a hand on Mr Johnson’s chest and shoved him into a chair.

“Sir! I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

The man took a seat at their table, scraping it noisily across the floor.

“You invited me to drink and I got time to spare. Let’s drink.” He looked up to an aghast Mrs Johnson. Her husband hadn’t made any further movement. “Sit down, darlin’ and keep me company. Your pussy assed husband here might like to see what a real man looks like.” Mr Johnson was frowning severely but said nothing. The man gave a roaring laughter. “Where’s your sense of humour?”

“I’m going to call security,” Mr Johnson decided.

The man drank his whiskey. “Don’t bother. You’re just going to cut into your vacation time.”

“Who are you?”

“Billy!” a loud, Great States voice called across the lounge. Billy stood, throwing his chair back.

“Bud!” he yelled back as Chad, Cooper and Buddy Owen crossed to greet him. Billy swallowed the rest of the whiskey and abandoned the table. He charged towards his brothers, catching Buddy in a headlock.

“Little bro!” he cheered, rubbing his knuckles roughly on Buddy’s head. He let him go and turned his attention to Chad and Cooper. “So, this is the cream of the Kappa So crop these days. You look like a couple of fags. What’s with this?” here he imitated Cooper’s usual folded arm stance. Buddy laughed heartily.

William ‘Billy’ Owen was the son of The Cappy’s cousin Jackson ‘Jackie’ Owen. He was close to Buddy, but the Owen lessons over the years had given him a bullying nature. If anyone could hold Buddy to account it would be him. Whether that was a good thing or throwing petrol onto the fire remained to be seen.

“So The Cappy been chewing your ass, huh?” Billy put to Buddy as they started to exit the airport, leaving a flabbergasted Mr and Mrs Johnson behind.

All they could hear was Billy scream, “You lost the fucking Chapter House!”

Billy slapped Buddy over the back of his head. “You are a fucking moron. Pops would be ashamed – God rest his soul. We gotta spray the whole damn house now. A’body knows those gypos bring all kinds of diseases.”

***

Briefing room 40 was filled to capacity. The City Main precinct of the Coldford Police Department was brought together to meet their new commissioner.

“Bryant!” called Archer to old time detective Bryant McGregor.

Archer was younger, more energetic. Bryant was in his early sixties with wisdom etched on his brow. He was nearing his retirement. No one would have blamed him for wanting to rest easy and leave the force, especially after his close friend Hickes had been killed. Bryant wasn’t so easily swayed though. Like the others he waited in anticipation to meet the newly appointed chief of police.

Officer Ricky Marshall was also there. He had a warm hand shake and an embrace for Bryant. They hadn’t seen one another since Hickes’ memorial. Ricky had been partners with Hickes in their early days before he was moved on to a drug task force and Hickes gained his detective badge. Ricky looked stressed out. He always looked stressed. Matched with Hickes’ cool approach they had always made an effective partnership. His chestnut brown hair was greying. They were all getting older, Bryant had to admit. They weren’t newbies any more. Beside Ricky sat Lennon. He looked better than the last time Bryant had seen him. Lennon was a fine detective – probably one to rival Hickes in his prowess but he had been out of the force for a while in order to deal with a gambling addiction. He had lost his house, his car, but Joel Hickes had picked up on the telltale signs before he lost himself.

“Get your fucking shit together,” Joel had warned him. “Do you want your kids living in a fucking caravan? Do you want to lose those kids?”

If anyone else had put that question to Lennon he would have lashed out at them, but from Hickes it made a lot of sense. It was his shit and he did have to get it together.

I wasn’t given the chance to attend the briefing that day. It was internal only but from all I had heard of the fall out as explained to me by Bryant himself, Hickes’ integrity, his influence over his fellow officers had never faded.

The group looked to Bryant for his leadership as the longest serving. They trusted in him. They trusted that he would be true to Hickes’ example.

“Any word on the new chief?” asked Ricky.

Bryant responded, “All I could get was that it is a he and they have brought him in from abroad.”

Ricky shook his head. “I don’t like this,” he said. “They should be promoting one of our own. Bryant, that was your spot. It could have been Hickes’ place one day.”

“It should have been you,” Olivia Hickes had said to Bryant on the phone the night before. “But we’ll know better their thinking when we find out who this person is. You’ll know the right thing to do. I trust you.”

It didn’t sit well with any member of the police force to have someone come in from outside to lead them, especially when the privately-commissioned Black Bands were spreading farther and farther around the city – essentially taking the laws the CPD were sworn to protect and uphold out of their control. But the department had become flooded with corruption. Judge Doyle wasn’t leaving it up to a few good men like Bryant, Archer, Ricky and Lennon, to wade through. It would take someone with an outside perspective to clear the way.

Deputy Chief Michelle Crawly took the speaking spot. A hush washed over the nervous police officers.

“Okay, I know you’re all eager to meet the new chief,” she said, “and there’s a lot of work to do so we’ll be brief. Ladies and gentlemen, Police Commissioner Owen.”

A lot of the room erupted into an applause. Whoops and cheers rang out. The doors were thrown open and the overbearing presence of William ‘Billy’ Owen came sauntering through. He had a grin on his face and he could be heard muttering to Michelle, “I’ll take it from here darlin’.”

He clutched both sides of the podium and bared his teeth down on them.

“Well, well, well,” he began. “It’s good to be here. Time to whip y’all into shape. Am I right?”

“You’re right, brah!” one of the officers called back. Bryant shot him a fiery stare but Archer patted his arm and urged him to keep calm. Bryant couldn’t.

“This is not Kappa So,” he said.

Billy glared. “Whatcha say, old timer?”

“This is not Kappa So and this is not your frat house. Isn’t it enough with the Black Bands?”

“Sit down, Mc Gregor,” Michelle warned.

Bryant could hear the rumble of chairs behind him. Like a virulent disease the Kappa So influence in CPD had been spread quickly. It was how it had been so easy to declare one of them as chief. That coupled with Billy’s special ops background, for some he was seen as the saviour the department needed.

Billy laughed, raspy and unkind.

“You let a pussy Penn triplet escape your custody. You failed to find him. You let a bitch in a whore dress murder, steal and call herself a queen. Ya’ll are a disgrace. Worst of all, you let one of your own have his brains splattered all across the side walk. And you have the audacity to wonder why I had to drag my ass all the way over here to put things right?”

Some of the officers cheered. Bryant and his companions were sickened.

“You didn’t know Hickes,” Bryant snapped back.

Billy shook his head in exasperation. “And now I never will. You lost the rat fingering triplet, you lost that hippy dyke they call the Baroness and to cap it all off where’s the god damn mayor?”

Bryant stepped forward but Archer stopped him.

“No hard feelings old timer. In fact, you remind me of my granddaddy. He spent his final days pissing himself and thinking he was an astronaut. You got balls, but you better watch yourself. If you can’t handle the heat then it’s time to drop your badge.”

Bryant growled. He stormed to the aisle and approached Billy. The new chief of police for Coldford held his hand up to prevent any of his Kappa So brothers among the force from intervening. Billy smirked. Their faces were close. Bryant pulled the badge from around his neck and dropped it onto the floor. He walked out but before he had reached the door, Archer, Lennon, Ricky and those others dedicated to Hickes joined him.

“Was it something I said?” they could hear Billy jeer sarcastically.

CPD had its failings but its human element was what gave it the heart it had. That heart was torn from its chest that day.

***

They called it the pride of the north. The Boss looms over the town of Bournton like a great, waiting crocodile. Contained within its maw was the Shady City’s most notorious criminals. Thieves, rapists, murderers all called it home. With the newly-appointed chief at CPD it was about to come under new management.

“Yo Monty!” greeted the new guard.

Monty turned, took his cigarette from between his lips and grinned.

“Ethan? Brah!” he cheered. “How ya doin? I thought you were still in the Great States.”

“Moved Chapter. Coldford needs all the help she can get.”

They shared a lengthy Kappa So hand shake.

“It’ll be good to have some brothers around,” Ethan admitted.

One of the inmates had been playing basketball nearby. He threw the ball but it bounced on the basket and came rolling towards Ethan and his brother.

“See what I mean about this piece of shit scum here?”

They both rolled eyes at one another. The inmate, Tommy, collected the ball.

“You struggling to shoot straight there?” asked Ethan but, given how close they had gotten to the inmate, Tommy was on the defensive.

“Get outta my face,” he warned.

Ethan looked to Monty. He sniggered.

“Would you check the balls on this one?” he teased. “It’s almost like he believes we won’t beat his ass.”

Ethan grabbed Tommy and slammed him against the metal railing face first. The force caused a rattle.

“You’re going to apologise for throwing your ball at my bro here,” Ethan urged. “It was damn disrespectful.”

“I didn’t,” pleaded Tommy. “It just rolled away.”

Monty sniggered. “Are you saying your ball control is shit?”

Ethan slammed his head against the fence again. This time it was his skull that rattled. “Then why the fuck did you throw the ball? You owe us both an apology?”

“Fuck you!” Tommy returned with a spit. “I didn’t do anything, cunts. I just threw the ball.”

Ethan spun him around. He pulled the baton from his belt. He smashed Tommy’s left knee. The inmate yelped in pain but they didn’t let him fall.

“Fuck you!”

Ethan grabbed Tommy by the hair. They dragged him to an enclosure.

“If you’re shit with the ball you ain’t gonna need to be running around. You better slow down.”

The truncheon crunched his right knee. Tommy cried out.

“I didn’t do nothin! I didn’t do nothin!”

He looked up to the guard tower where an armed guard was stationed. He was young, tanned. Tommy had been inside The Boss for five years. He knew most of the guards but the tower guard was new. He had a naïve look on his face but he had seen everything. He had seen that Tommy had done no harm. Police brutality. The tower guard pointed his gun down. The two ground guards – Ethan and Monty – looked up. Ethan grinned and gave him a gesture with his hand that resembled the letter K. The guard with the gun did likewise.

“If he tries to get away, shoot him,” Ethan called up.

The tower guard replied, “I got your back brah.” He steadied the aim of his gun.

“Brothers for life,” Monty said to Ethan.

Ethan swung the baton. The first hit only fractured the tibia of Tommy’s right leg. The pain fired through his entire body. The second hit broke the fibula. Monty cracked his own baton across Tommy’s jaw. Tommy could feel a heaviness in his throat that preceded the need to vomit. He couldn’t feel the pain – although every crack of bone crunched in his ears. He was mostly dizzy and sick now. Even if there wasn’t a gun on him, he couldn’t have fought back. None of the other inmates opted to help him. Even his buddy Carl looked on in awe but wouldn’t risk the tower guards shooting him. Any of them could be gunned down where they stood and no one would bat an eyelid.

Tommy wasn’t taken to the infirmary. Instead, his aching body was discarded in a room with a damp mud floor and thick metal door. It allowed no light. It was known among the inmates as the prayer room. Many had found Jesus in there. Tommy would only find the pain of his fractures and breaks failing to heal properly. Whether he would have proper use of his legs again remained to be seen. He could be left there in pain for weeks before having a doctor’s attention. It would all be determined by how long the brothers intended to keep him in the rotting hole in the deepest depths of The Boss. The new chief of police in Coldford was a Kappa So brother and they were all brothers for life.


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Knock Knock: Episode 25: The Beautiful Game

The ranch greeted a new guest. Discretely shown to The Cappy’s main den. The Cappy was behind his desk making plans for what was to happen next.

Owen Ranch in the Great States was a much-storied fortress of power. The Owen family had been a Star State feature for generations, priding themselves on pioneering discoveries and using the wealth they had amassed to make their mark on the world. Their entrepreneurial spirit with political ambitions made them a force. Being an Owen was more than having a family name. Their biggest asset was their propaganda machine. Their ownership of many news outlets was brought into call whenever one of their overindulged family members brought negative press upon them. Gerald ‘Jerry’ Owen was one such user. After the attempted rape of Tabitha as a child, her Baroness aunt had caused such a backlash upon the Reverend Owen that all stories in the newspapers had to be shut down. The only ones allowed to circulate were those that suggested Tawny was an alcoholic with serious mental health issues and Tabitha was a whore in the making who had been removed from so many schools no district would accept her. That’s not to say there wasn’t some truth to this. Tawny did have a history of mental breakdowns and Tabitha led a violent life. But that was what the most effective propaganda was, wasn’t it? Take a little truth and exaggerate it to discredit your opponent. The Owens did that better than anyone. No one – not even the Law Makers – could compete on that level. They had the press – including my old newspaper The Coldford Daily – and whilst they had the press, they had public opinion. Public opinion won wars and when that failed there was always brute strength. There was another area in which the Owens were formidable; money. They had it in abundance and so anything could be theirs at a cost.

“The events in Coldford, sir, are disheartening. I am concerned and to much distraction.”

His guest was a patient listener. He was sprightly, cat-like with a solid spine carved from years of discipline and manoeuvres. His name was Ruud Van Holder. His purpose? His team were an anti-terror group called the Black Bands. They called Van Holder the wrangler and he had been known to bring order to parts of the world overrun by militants. Several dictating leaders had fallen at his hands. Enlisting the services of Van Holder was probably overkill for thug groups like Reginald Penn’s Loyalists and Paddy Mack’s Fleet, but The Cappy would take no chances when his family dynasty was at stake.

“Shameful, sure,” Van Holder remarked, referring to Reginald’s brutal slaying of Robert ‘Bobby’ Owen. He scanned the room, detailing its contents. Whilst his eyes were elsewhere his mind still remained on the task at hand.

On a screen played Van Holder’s curriculum vitae. Horse mounted patrols cut through rioting crowds, long standing rebel leaders brought to their knees.

His team were called the Black Bands. The Cappy didn’t mind admitting that seeing them brought into action would be thrilling.

“This will be quite a task you will be undertaking. I’m sure you are more than capable but first I must ask, who are you loyal to?”

Van Holder had lifted a whiskey glass from Chick’s desk. It wasn’t a used glass. It was purely for decorative purposes. On the glass was etched an image of the boat that brought Captain Henry ‘Hen’ Owen to his monumental discovery. Without a moment’s hesitation Van Holder answered. “Doyle,” he said. His lips traced a smile as he played with the words between his teeth. “We’re loyal to Doyle.”

Sergeant Major Doyle, the Judge’s father, had created the Black Bands. He recruited Van Holder personally when he met him living in the harsh jungles of Southern Subala. Taming large jungle cats was his speciality but for Van Holder any wild animal that struck with the bite of a bloody chain would do.

The Cappy smiled. He had directed his son Buddy and his brother Ronnie to a public video of Van Holder, showing him with a lioness he named Baba. In the beginning she was snarling, wild, and had taken swipes at him. She leapt upon him but he managed to fend her off before she could wrap her great teeth around his skull. By the end she was playing with her owner like she was no more than a house cat. Ronnie placed trust in his following Doyle’s command. Buddy returned with a range of emoji reactions that made little sense. Either way the Black Bands were going to make their way to Coldford and, like the Weeping King of Kilmaro, those responsible for the death of an Owen would be brought to their knees.

“You brought me here because I’m the best,” Van Holder had said. “The very fucking best.”

The Cappy hadn’t made his name by searching for mediocre.

“You know who is to be brought to account,” said Chick. “I’ll be following you ova’ in a week or so but I’d like you to make our move quickly and dispatch with an alpha team immediately.” He stroked his chin as he contemplated what was to come next. “At this stage we’re merely looking at containment. Should anything spark…well that’s a barrier we’ll break should it arise. In the meantime, on that there table is a blank cheque. Take it and find yourself whatever provisions you need.”

Van Holder turned to the table behind him. “You’re a determined man,” he said. The Cappy watched the confident bounce in Van Holder’s step as he crossed the room and collected the Owen Inc. cheque. “I’ll see that it’s put to good use,” he said.

Charles ‘Chick’ Owen, better known as The Cappy, grinned. “I know you will.”

***

“We’re here at Starkland Park for what promises to be a very tense game of football as Coldford Athletic take on their fierce rivals Coldford City. Tensions are already high in the City with the Mack Distillery having closed its gates in Bellfield and the City-sponsoring Auction House seized. We have a whole stadium here so those tensions are going to spill onto the park in what promises to be a very impressive game of football. I’m Henry Daly and with me in the commentary box today is City legend, Grant Miller. Can we expect the players to be putting in their full efforts today Grant? Given what is happening behind the scenes.”

“I think we can Henry. City will be out to prove something today on the pitch and I don’t think they will let what’s happening with the Auction House hold them back. A win today may be just what is needed to raise City Main spirits.”

“That’s true, Grant. We have a lovely game of football ahead and so let’s stay on the matter at hand. The players are lining up now. Athletic captain shakes the hand of the City skipper. They’re showing some sportsmanship here today. There has been so much trouble in the past it would be easy to let things get out of hand. It’s nice to see the players setting an example for their fans. We need some solidarity in the game.”

“The spirit of football is alive and well, Henry. City supporters have always been a spirited bunch but let’s just hope we can leave the trouble at the doors and enjoy the match.”

“Statements have always been made through the stadiums of Greater Coldford but this is one occasion where the fans may be best to just sit back, relax and let the battles remain on the field.”

“The air is thick here at Starkland Park as the players take their places. Sammy Connelly – Athletic’s Golden Boy – is looking super confident. I suppose he will be hoping for an easy day at the office.”

“Well, we’ll be back in just a few moments for kick off. It’s Coldford Athletic versus Coldford City.”

***

Late afternoon and the Doyle home in Kingsgate was quiet. Karyn Doyle had turned the television on and settled into an arm chair to watch. Her view didn’t take her to Hathfield Bay where Kingsgate Albion – her Sergeant Major father’s own team – took on the islanders. Instead, her interest was drawn to the south of the city where all the trouble resonated. The City Main team always brought trouble with them when they faced their main rivals at Starkland Park, and it was the first face off of the two largest teams since the Auction House had been seized.

Micky brought two cups of sweet tea. He laid them on the coffee table. He sat in silence watching his cousin’s reaction. Sammy Connelly of Athletic could be seen on screen patting his captain’s shoulder with a good natured smile as he took his place and prepared for kick off.

The Judge lifted her cup and took a sip of the sweetness. Her eyes remained on the match but her expression told nothing.

“I hope it all goes smoothly,” Micky commented.

“Why wouldn’t it?” was his cousin’s reply.

The cat, Margot, circled around Karyn’s legs. It locked it’s glowing eyes on Micky. She meowed and displayed her sharpened incisors.

He lifted his cup and sipped just as Karyn had done. The whistle blew. The ball was kicked.  

***

“Sammy Connelly is on the ball! He’s always a danger on that side of the park.”

“The City defence just keep letting him slip past them, Harry, but they’re up against it today. Connelly has come onto the park with determination in his feet and he’s been causing problems from the first blow of the whistle.”

“Oh that’s Sammy down! That seems a cynical tackle there, Grant. Brennan is complaining to the referee, Murphy, but he did charge in there with a lot of force. Probably more force than was necessary.”

“Brennan is a physical player, Harry. The way he’ll see it, if he allows Connelly a clear view of that goal the ball is going in the back of the net. He’ll be quite happy to take a warning from the referee if it means stopping him.”

“Oh wait! It’s not going to be a warning. Murphy is reaching for his cards. It’s going to be a booking. Red! Brennan has been given his marching orders. The travelling support are not happy.”

“That’s really harsh. It was a rough challenge but a warning would have been enough at this stage, a tentative yellow at best. What a terrible decision from the referee.”

“That’s true Grant but Murphy will be looking at the lateness of the challenge and he’s taking no prisoners today. Desperation has been exposed in the City defence. We now have a free kick in a very dangerous area of the park. The City support are still crying their frustration at being a man down in such a critical fixture.”

“They need the win today Harry. They really need that win.”

“Sammy Connelly steps up. He composes himself. The Athletic crowd has fallen silent in anticipation. There is still noise from the visitor stand but Connelly isn’t letting that intimidate him. He takes the shot. He scores!!!! What a beautiful finish!”

“That was a clinical finish Harry. Connelly isn’t the kind of player to let himself be fazed by the big occasions. He will step up and he will deliver.”

“The team from City Main are not happy. It’s all going wrong for them. Team Captain Lala is showing his concern to his players. They need to get their heads back in the game. It’s not good to be having to work damage control this early in the game and with one man down.”

“The spirited City support and their travelling loyalists are still burning from that red card decision from the referee which has ultimately put them one goal behind.”

“Well Grant, it’s a ridiculous decision by the referee and it could cause trouble not just on the pitch but off it too.”

“Back in my playing days, in a cup match against Bournton, Bournton were granted a penalty in the dying embers of the game. The cup competing side failed to pick themselves up after that. A decision like that can really affect a team, Harry.”

“City will have their chance to come back into this. It’s still early but the Loyalists are having none of it. I think we’ve tried to keep things inside the pressure cooker here, Grant, but they are starting to boil over. It’s taking a little while to get the game restarted as flares are thrown onto the pitch. City striker Andre Luis is calling something to the referee. Do you remember things being this tense at the football stadiums, Grant?”

“Oh yes, especially when the fixture was City and Athletic. Going to the games as a boy I remember things heating up really quickly. People in this city are passionate about the beautiful game.”

“Well, Grant, it looks like their enthusiasm is about to be curbed completely. The game is still waiting to restart. The referee has been asked to halt proceedings whilst the security here at Starkland Park is being heightened.”

“If we thought we were avoiding the drama we were very much mistaken. Things are erupting within the City support which is sad to see.”

“It is sad to see, Grant, with everything going on in the city at the moment we would hope that the game would be a way of coming together again. The referee continues to hold the match whilst the security steps up. They aren’t taking any chances today.”

“Definitely heavy handed, Harry and it appears to be making the crowd a little nervous.”

“It’s nerves all round, Grant. City are still one goal down after that terrific free kick from Sammy Connelly. The referee has now been given permission to restart the game.”

***

It was early morning in the Star State.

“I’m gonna be out of commission for a while. Hold all calls,” Chick Owen informed his executive assistant. She noted the orders. She was a beauty pageant girl, much like his wife. She too had been strutting around on stage in a bathing suit wishing for world peace. She was expertly trained in smiling, waving and following the instructions of coaches. She was the perfect P.A.

“How long should I hold them?” she asked.

“Until further notice.”

“Yes, Captain.”

When the assistant skipped out to the office to see that her boss was left in peace, The Cappy turned on his screen. The Coldford City European football fixture between Athletic and City was going to be an interesting one. He had already received notice that Van Holder and his Alpha team had brought in hundreds of suspected loyalists as well as Bellfield fleet members. They had been making their presence felt too at City Main rallies in support of Reginald Penn. There was a lot of loyalty built in the city through a mutual love of the sport so the soccer stadiums were a good place to start.

Reginald Penn was still at large He was still building a force in his support. A cold blooded murderer couldn’t be given much chance to flex his authority over City Main – not when there was a prominent spot available for Owen assets.

Coldford Athletic were already one goal ahead thanks to Sammy Connelly. The score didn’t matter. The winner of this game was always going to be the same.

The game commenced. The Cappy smiled.

***

“Another lash out from striker, Andre Luis, there Grant. He’s starting to show his frustration.”

“That’s the third time his shot has been stopped by the Athletic keeper. He’s a passionate player, Harry, and when he’s up against Connelly he’s going to want to show his worth. It’s not happening for him today though.”

“We’re now at the half hour mark. There’s still time for City to come into the match but to do that they’re going to have to start creating more chances.”

“It’s City’s centre mid, Fang, on the ball. He’s been doing well in dominating the midfield on behalf of City but his pass through to Andre Luis has been intercepted. Now Athletic are on the attack. It’s through to Brown. Connelly has picked it up. The defence are closing in but he’s finding his way through. It’s Connelly…GOAL!!! And Connelly makes it 2 – 0. What a magnificent goal. Starkland Park is alive with celebration.”

“Things are just hitting fever pitch here, Harry. When there’s only one goal difference there’s always a chance but Athletic will be glad to have given themselves that extra space. What a lovely goal.”

“I think the cheers here will be heard all the way up in City Main, Harry.”

“It’s richly deserved. Athletic have kept themselves composed, kept their mind on the game and now it’s paying off for them.”

“Sorry to interrupt you there Grant but Sammy Connelly’s celebration seems to have stopped abruptly. He’s calling something to the referee.”

“It looks like he’s spotted something among the City support there Harry.”

“The travelling support are venting their frustrations at the Black Bands security. A woman there is crying out to one of them. She’s going to get herself into trouble, Grant. The Black Bands have a no nonsense approach.”

“That’s true, Harry. It’s just as well we can’t hear what she’s saying because I’m sure the words she’s using wouldn’t be suitable for live television.”

“The City crowd are going to want to calm themselves here. The Black Bands are carrying out a zero-tolerance policy on violence and disruption at the games. The Fleet and Loyalists have been getting a really hard time lately. She tried to touch his shoulder! She should not have done that. The Black Band is forced to react. Did he just hit her with his truncheon? She’s down. It’s exploding now! The City fans are screaming their displeasure at the brutality but now the Black Bands are moving in. They’re not shy of holding the fans to account.”

“As we said Harry, it’s zero-tolerance and they’re just looking for any excuse to bring loyalists in.”

“Sammy Connelly must have gotten a good view of what was going on from the pitch. He’s still not celebrated his goal. The referees whistle isn’t drawing his attention. He’s still calling to the stands.”

“That’s a sad sight to see, Harry. Connelly has seen the Black Bands remove suspected loyalists from their seats. It will have been the screaming children left behind that will have caught his attention.”

“A little girl has fallen over the chairs! Sammy has left the pitch to try and help her. He’s crossed the fence and he’s now in the stadium. The Black Bands are beating the City crowd back. There’s blood, there’s tears and there’s no mercy being shown. I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“That is a chilling sight. We knew there would be scenes created here today but we could never have bet on anything like this.”

“What a disaster, Grant. Lala, the City captain, is trying to reason with the referee. Sammy Connelly is still among the rival fans trying to pull the fallen girl out before she’s trampled. It shouldn’t be left to one of the players to do that but the Black Bands are stomping over anything as they press in. In all my years of football commentary, never has it come to this.”

“Sammy Connelly has the little girl. He’s pushing through the City crowd. Most days they would be wanting to lynch him, jeering and spitting at him but today they are following him. The Black Bands have hit hard and heavy. The only place left to run is the pitch.”

“They are going to need to bring this into some kind of order, Harry. This can’t go on.”

“Where does it end, Grant? Sammy Connelly is carrying the little girl onto the pitch away from the brutality. If that was her father she was with, she has just seen him being beaten unconscious and dragged away. The referee, Murphy, is calling to Sammy. He’s showing a red card but in a real twist of events it is City midfielder Fang who is protesting it on Sammy’s behalf. The little girl is just covered in blood. Her own blood, her father’s blood, it doesn’t matter. The Black Bands have stained the City badge today.”

***

By the time I got there, the game had finished. The final thirty minutes were a complete farce. There were mounted patrols of Black Bands everywhere. The horses they used were larger, sturdier than CPD riot patrols. They were war horses.

The route leading to Starkland Park was filling fast. People had learned of the incident and came in search of loved ones they hoped had not gotten caught up in it. I have never been in a war situation before. I’m not a military man nor could I pretend to be, but as the crowd pushed around me, saying nothing, only expelling frosty breath, I got the sense of the kind of tension experienced before a first charge. The force was ill-equipped and outnumbered by their enemy.

The click of horses hooves along the freshly paved grounds of Starkland were like the ticking of a bomb. One passed. A huge man they called Monsta’. There was an unbearable hush. Click. Click. Click. A snort of the huge horse he rode. No one dared call to them. Live television had already entered homes around the city to show what the Black Bands were willing to do.

Monsta’ stopped his horse. I raised my phone. He turned his gaze to me.

Click.


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