Chapter 9

“What do you want? Go away.” Ruth Baxter tried to close the door on Ziggy but Ziggy wedged herself in. “I said go away Lady Ziggy. If anyone saw you coming here ...”

“They didn't. I don't get seen when I don't want to be.” Ziggy pushed herself into Ruth Baxter's back kitchen. “Arthur?”

“Arthur's sick, you know he is.” Ruth sighed. “Leave him be, please, Ziggy.”

“No chance. I need answers and only Arthur can give them to me.” Ziggy sat on the table.

“It's been ten years since Arthur was active in anything Ziggy. He's a sick man, leave him be.” Ruth said sadly.

“He wasn't a sick man when he was teaching Alicia the tricks of the trade.” Ziggy said bluntly. “I'm sorry to drag that up Ruth, really I am, but I need answers. Alicia's dead, gone. You have your man back, but only in the condition that she left him. You owe her, or her ways through Lavinia, nothing at all.”

“Arthur never ran the show, you know that. Alicia did.” Ruth objected.

“I wouldn't doubt it. She was an old sow. She was also an old leech. She used Arthur as a refined and intelligent man, took advantage of his skill, then left him broken. Those skills she tore from him are now being used by that troll of a sister of mine and she has you scared, Ruth. She'll never scare me.” Ruth started to cry. “Ruth, Arthur is the only one alive who knew Alicia. He's the only one who knows what she passed down to Lavinia. We just mentioned scared, Ruth. There's seven year old baby out there who'll be more than scared if that twisted bitch gets him. Seven years old, Ruth. He's Gary's friend.” Ziggy looked at the older woman in genuine anguish for Alex.

“But Lavinia ...”

“Is a vicious old relic. I'll hammer her arse for her. You know I can do it, Ruth. I have to know what I'm hammering. Look at the evidence. I've protected the O'Connors fully for two whole months without knowing what I'm protecting then from. Just think of the dent I'm going to make when I do find out.” Ziggy said darkly.

“I always suspected you were the stronger one.” Ruth smiled weakly. “Eric feeling the need to side with Lavinia tipped the scales for me.”

“Tipped the buggers over all together probably. Lard-arsed moron.” Ziggy sniffed.

“Ruth? Who's in?” Arthur Baxter came shuffling into the room on two sticks. “Ah I see. You shouldn't be here Lady Ziggy.” Arthur was only a shadow of the man he once was due to the rapid advancement of arthritis and diabetes. His joints were painfully swollen and his milky eyes saw only lines and blurs. But he knew Ziggy was there.

“My mother told me that quite a few times.” Ziggy shrugged. Arthur cracked a laugh.

“You're like your dad.”

“I'm very pleased about that too, given the alternative. Arthur, what's Lavinia up to?” Ziggy said quietly. “Whatever it is, she's planned it. Whatever it is involves newcomers. Whatever it is involves a seven year old child.”

“What makes you think I know Lady Lavinia's business?” Arthur narrowed his eyes and a million wrinkles sprang up around them.

“Because it was Alicia's business before that. What do me and Alex O'Connor have in common, Arthur?” Ziggy asked darkly. Arthur smiled and shook his head. “Whatever shit you helped Alicia with involved the psycho burning a marker into my neck. Lavinia's continuation of this involves a defenceless, ignorant, seven year old outsider. Do you want to explain to your grandson why his friend is being hunted by half the town? Believe me, if I've to find out myself then I'll make sure you're hunted by the other half.” Ziggy's low, menacing voice had never sounded so sincere. Ruth let out a terrified sob.

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